News: Holding up the brigade, holding up the world
Story by Spc. Anita VanderMolen
AL ASAD, Iraq - Task Force Atlas, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, conducted six convoy security missions from Al Asad, Camp Korean Village, and Victory Base Complex. They secured convoys of more than 100 fuel and water trucks called super convoys. The task force logged more than 2 million miles since arriving in Iraq in July 2009. They also escorted convoys on 'spoke' routes from Al Asad to Ramadi, Falujah, Taji, Taqaddam Air Base, Tallil, Joint Base Balad, and Mosul. As part of the responsible drawdown and stability to Iraq, TF Atlas has moved theatre equipment to different areas as bases close.
"We covered more country than any other task force," said Task Force Atlas Commander Lt. Col Brian James. "We so general support: third country nationals and large convoys, and direct support: heavy equipment trailers that haul equipment to the different spokes to the east."
As the mission was convoy security, TF Atlas did not expecting to do maintenance. B Company was able to use their military occupation skills benefitting the Soldiers. Their improved maintenance standards aided the success of the missions.
"Our maintenance posture allowed us to not be a security risk out there on the road," said James. "That was a big success for the support battalion."
TF Atlas improved the traffic conditions by working with the local Iraq police to improve road communication with the local nationals.
"We were able to do the 'share the road concept' right away," said James. "We met with Col. Hameed, the Iraqi chief of police, An Bar province and discussed how we could share the road better using green lights and different technologies to allow the local nationals to pass us."
The green flag, flares and lights are used to give the message to the other drivers when it is safe to pass the convoy.
Building relationships with the local Iraqi highway patrol resulted in a project that improved efficiency and safety for those traveling on the road. The re-construction of the Rutbah Bridge, destroyed and unusable from terrorists attacks, diverted traffic from going through the town of Rutbah. It saved time for the convoys and made it safer for the local residents.
"The completion of the Rutbah Bridge project saves several hours one way. It allowed us to get to Camp Korean Village and Jordan quicker," said James. "There were a lot of safety and traffic issues going through Rutbah all the time."
TF Atlas was able to upgrade their fleet from older vehicles to vehicles with more armor and also improve their improvised explosive devices defeat devices.
"We got rid of all our old legacy MRAPs and armored security vehicles, 76 in all, and were able to get up-armored MRAPs, the MaxxPro Plus and Caiman Plus," said James. "We were able to upgrade our CREW systems. We have the current threat loads. It is better protection for our Soldiers."
The Soldiers also learned and developed new skills. Many were pulled out of their everyday duties and were put into positions of responsibility to support the brigade.
"That sergeant or staff sergeant has more responsibility that ever before in the recent history of the Army," said James. "The non-commissioned officer corps has been empowered because of the way we break up the convoys. There is only one lieutenant and several sergeants and staff sergeants who can step up as squad leaders and actually become convoy commanders. That will make our leadership in the Oregon Guard stronger."
The Soldiers of TF Atlas are combat lifesaver certified, have had casualty/medical evacuation training and have worked with the latest maintenance equipment and tools. As a support battalion, they are a multi-faceted unit with one purpose.
"You've got 100 different military occupations working together. They all have something in common: they support the brigade. That's the reason we are called TF Atlas," said James. "Atlas holds up the world, we hold up the brigade."