News: Truck talk
Story by Sgt. William Parsons
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Army truckers are an interesting bunch. They work long hours, receive none of the recognition, but live for the ride.
Soldiers with the 298th Transportation Company are hauling fuel across the eastern seaboard as part of the Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Training Exercise (QLLEX), the most significant petroleum distribution operation in the Army. I have arrived at a training outpost in the woods of Georgia to cover the event.
With the modernization of our Army comes the need for more energy to sustain military operations. This is why – despite the public perception of GIs as men who storm beachheads in France – the vast majority of Soldiers serve in some kind of support role. Truck drivers being one of them.
It is oftentimes a thankless job, but somebody has to get fuel and water to the troops, or our military would fall apart.
“Without fuel nothing runs, without transportation, nothing moves,” Several truckers explain, as they escort me to the 298th Headquarters. This is the perspective of a trucker.
We approach a canvas tent, and the first thing to be noticed is a large sign which reads:
10 June – hot,
11 June – hotter,
12 June – ridiculous.
This is an accurate assessment of Georgia. Inside is a meager setup for an office: in the far corner sits a radio communication system manned by two perspiring Soldiers, and to the left is a foldable table with several laptops. Strategically placed fans buzz with the constant stream of air to combat the heat.
These are the type of living conditions the 56 truckers of the 298th will have to deal with during QLLEX. When they are not on the road ensuring the delivery of fuel, truckers are stuck with the heat.
As the outpost begins winding down for the day, a dust-caked tanker rolls to a stop outside, and the 298th Truck Master, Sgt. Arthur McDonald, dismounts the vehicle. He rips off his soaked ACU top and plops himself down in a seat next to me.
“This is somewhat similar to running in Iraq,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow. “Today we hauled 50k.”
With the massive fueling exercise underway, the Penn. based 298th has found themselves on the road quite a bit. A map on the table highlights refueling operations being conducted all over the south: from Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina.
“This is the farthest we’ve hauled petroleum south,” added McDonald, who coincidentally, hails from Oil City, Pennsylvania.
If it was not for annual training, most truckers would not get enough driving time, McDonald said.
“They want to drive. That’s why they joined.”
That sentiment appears to be what motivates these Soldiers through the heat.
McDonald looks over to the headquarters platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Nikolai, and asks if showers have been delivered to the outpost yet.
“Yup,” Nikolai responds.
A slight smile then lights up McDonald’s face. There will be showers now, a small bit of relief.
Delivered, of course, by truckers.