News: Q-West force protection company shows flexibility with convoy escort
Story by Capt. Murray Shugars
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq — In a continued effort to draw down excess equipment, a Mississippi Army National Guard unit conducted a convoy mission from Contingency Operating Location Q-West to Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Nov. 9.
Soldiers with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, a mechanized infantry unit out of Hernando, Miss., serving as COL Q-West's force protection company, escorted 40th Transportation Company tractor trailers loaded with vehicles and equipment.
A Co. Soldiers have been conducting force protection missions up to now, but they performed well during their first convoy escort mission, said Capt. Drew Clark, company commander from Madison, Miss.
The planning process resembled previous mission in terms of organizing and assigning tasks, said Clark.
"We follow a standard procedure the planning process of every mission outside the wire, and planning for this convoy security mission wasn't much different, said Clark. "The platoon leader and convoy commander develop a concept of the operation, which is a one-page representation of the mission drawn on a map. This is one of the visual tools they use during their mission brief. They also build a patrol manifest and risk assessment packet. They submit all these to me for my review and approval. I send them up to battalion for review and approval."
The convoy security mission had one significant difference from previous missions outside the base, said 2nd Lt. Jeffery T. Watkins, 2nd Platoon Leader.
This mission went well I believe because of the prior route recons that my crews had executed.
"The biggest differences in the planning were including convoy support center yard operations and mastering the briefing process," said Watkins, a Biloxi, Miss., native. "My fellow platoon leaders from other companies assisted me greatly by sharing samples of their briefs. Also, I did a leaders recon of the CSC yard and studied the procedures required before you can exit the base."
Watkins said that he learned how position the military tractor trailers (also called "green trucks") they were to escort, crews and vehicles from the 40th Transportation Company, 57th Transportation Battalion out of Fort Lewis, Wash. He said he also determined where he needed to position his beach master, the non-commissioned officer in charge of positioning vehicles in the yard. His beach master, Sgt. Dreamus Harron, ensured the correct disposition of green trucks and platoon's gun trucks, allowing the convoy to exit the yard in the correct order of march.
Watkins said that his job was to coordinate between the gun trucks and the green trucks. The convoy commander was Staff Sgt. Kenwith Scott, he said.
"We did a rehearsal of everything the day prior to the mission's execution," said Watkins. "Staff Sgt. Scott and his assistant convoy commander, Sgt. Claybon Turner, went through the brief for me and Cpt. Clark, and we gave him suggestions for revising and for briefing. Staff Sgt. Scott lined his squad trucks up in the company area as we do before every mission, and Cpt. Clark and I inspected their vehicles to ensure everything was in place for the next day."
The mission was routine and uneventful, said Clark
"The convoy had to stop a couple times because of issues with the green trucks," said Clark. "One truck had an overheating engine and another truck had to hook up to the load. We also stopped because a green truck had to readjust its load tie-downs. Otherwise, we had no issues."
During these halts, the A Co. gun trucks performed their security duties according to well-rehearsed battle drills, said Watkins.
"Once we got on the road, the mission was basically the same as other missions we've done, such as route reconnaissance," said Watkins. "During the halts, my Soldiers secured the convoy and got a good accountability. We had no issues."
Clark said that one reason for their success is that they are versatile learners, adapting quickly to changes in tactics, operations and missions.
"We sent out the quick reaction force once to round up 19 civilian trucks stranded in Mosul without military security," said Clark, "but that wasn't a full blown convoy escort. We went out there and brought them back to Q-West, and we didn't go through the longer planning process for normal convoy missions."
The Soldiers have to stay flexible, said Watkins.
"We constantly have different missions," said Watkins. "Besides being the QRF, we've done route reconnaissance, perimeter patrols, security for missions to the Qayyarah pump house and along the water pipeline and patrol base operations out of the pump house. We come from the infantry, and convoy escort is similar to patrolling. We might have to plan differently, but we have a lot of experience with patrolling."
The range of missions is good for morale, said Watkins, because it keeps the Soldiers fresh—not doing the same thing every day.
The diverse missions also help to build confident and competent leaders, said Clark. Squad leaders and team leaders must step up and help plan and execute the missions, and this develops them professionally, he said.
"The Soldiers adapt real quick to changes in tactics, operations and missions," said Clark. "The key to our success is the noncommissioned officer leadership in this company."
One Soldier who has seen his responsibilities increase is Sgt. Claybon Turner, assistant convoy commander on the mission and veteran of the 155th HBCT's 2005 deployment to Iraq.
"This is my first time as assistant convoy commander on a big mission," said Turner, a Eudora, Miss., native. "We had a lot of planning to do, and that's the biggest difference between this deployment and my last deployment to Iraq. Back then, I wasn't an NCO and didn't have as much responsibility. I had to make sure I was ready for missions, and now I have a crew to manage. This time, I've learned a lot about mission planning and administrative paperwork."
Sgt. Dreamus Harron, a vehicle commander from Brookhaven, Miss., is another veteran of the brigade's last deployment who has shouldered greater responsibility.
"During the last deployment, I wasn't a team leader, so this time I had to mature a lot," said Harron. "There's a lot I didn't understand before. Now I know the big picture, all the things that go into preparing for missions."
Harron also finds himself nurturing future leaders in the company.
"My crew is totally new, just out of basic," said Harron. "Before we deployed, they were scared. I had to work with them to build their confidence. They didn't know what to expect, but now they know and they step up. My crew has come a long way and grown tight. The whole platoon has really come together over the last months."
Staff Sgt. Kenwith Scott, convoy commander from Rosedale, Miss., said that the deployment has developed him as a small unit leader.
"I am a stronger NCO now," said Scott. "I had to learn more about personnel and administrative paperwork. I've also learned more about planning operations. All of these are good management skills and will help me in the future."
Scott said that he believes in the importance the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"What I want people back home to know is that the U.S. military is doing important work over here," said Scott. "We're here to help give Iraqis something Americans take for granted — the right to have a choice in their government and in their lives."