News: California Reservists provide security
CAMP ADDER, Iraq - A few minutes before their next combat logistics patrol, the Soldiers of 2nd Platoon, 250th Transportation Company huddle together under the desert sun to say a prayer.
"Heavenly father, we got some intel that there might be some IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] on the road," said Cpl. Francisco Campos, a truck commander, as the others bowed their heads in reverence. "We know that if we get hit we're just going to keep rolling.
We don't tell our families what we do because we don't want them to worry."
Scenes like this are common for troops of the 250th. The Reserve unit from South El Monte, Calif., has braved constant attacks to provide security escorts for contractors who are not allowed to carry weapons but who are vital for delivering food, water and fuel to installations throughout Iraq.
Less than two months into their tour of Iraq, 24 troops in a unit of about
160 have submitted packets for Combat Action Badges for incidents that occurred en route to Logistical Support Area Anaconda, Baghdad International Airport and other locations.
Spc. Alfred Velasquez of Merced, Calif., said he has already lost count of the number of missions he's been on with the 250th, but decided the total must be between ten and fifteen.
"The first few times I was a little bit worried because I didn't know what to expect," said Velasquez, who alternates being a driver and a gunner on missions.
"But after getting used to it and seeing that there are a lot of patrols â?¦
there are EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) out there doing their job, I don't worry so much."
Velasquez said that so far, his exposure to combat has been confined to being stopped by EOD that was destroying an IED in place, and having insurgents take a few potshots at his combat logistics patrol.
"Other than that we've been pretty lucky," Velasquez said before correcting himself. "Pretty blessed, I should say."
Staff Sgt. Ernest Paredes, a squad leader for the 250th, also considers himself to be lucky. He has been close enough to feel the concussions of several explosions while on the road.
On May 7, an IED detonated near his team's vehicle, causing major damage to a truck belonging to the contracting company Kellogg, Brown and Root.
His team returned fire at the small-arms fire that was coming from the right side of the road and quickly left the kill zone.
"Everybody did their job without hesitation," Paredes said. "Their reaction was quick and efficient."
Troops have learned that long hours of monotony can lead to more subtle dangers like boredom and anxiety.
When they are on the road the troops keep up small talk about things like music, things they want to do when they get home and movies they've seen.
For those who are on base, listening to music, spending time at the gym, and calling loved ones are preferred means of dealing with stress.
Capt. William "Dan" Bowman, the commander of the 250th, said he has been impressed by his troops" resilience to the long hours.
"They've kept their heads up and gone through it and were ready to go out on the next mission when they get back," Bowman said.
"They've taken it pretty well so far in the two months that we've been in theater."