KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — With an emphasis on keeping Soldiers safe as they traverse along some of the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan, the 495th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion-Montana National Guard, is perfecting a new standard for their subordinate transportation companies.
During a three-day course known as ‘Gun Truck Academy,’ truck commanders and drivers with the 1487th Transportation Company, Ohio National Guard; 1048th Transportation Company, Connecticut National Guard and the 993rd Transportation Company, U.S. Army Reserve, Palatka, Fla., joined together to synchronize their convoy tactics and lessons learned in an effort to help build the best standard operating procedure for their Troops who travel to sustain the war-fighter.
The three companies—which support the 495th CSSB’s logistics operations in Regional Command-South—hail from separate commands throughout the United States.
Not every unit trains with the same equipment before deploying to Afghanistan, says Sgt. 1st Class Adam Bell, Gun Truck Academy facilitator with the 495th CSSB.
“As new units come in, what we are trying to do is have a smoother transition,” said Bell, a native of Helena, Mont. “There are things we can get complacent on throughout the deployment, and we cannot afford that, so (by hosting this class we can) ensure we are doing the right things to help the Soldiers be prepared.”
Bell taught the importance of pre-combat checks and inspections and demonstrated proper battle drills to those in attendance. First Lt. Dan Bushnell, current operations officer-in-charge with the 495th CSSB, said that the class will help orientate incoming units.
“We want to provide each company with all the right tools, so when they have to train the next company, the standard will be set,” he said.
The soldiers that attended the academy were mostly experienced transportation veterans and shared ideas with each other to get the best outcome.
“I think the Gun Truck Academy is a very great tool for us to use,” said Staff Sgt. Warren Barrett, a convoy commander for 1487th Transportation Company, and Franklin, Ohio, native. “This is my third (combat) tour, and it would have been nice to have this class before, so everyone is on the same sheet of music.”
There were 14 courses taught at the Gun Truck Academy, some of which were class-room discussions and others included hands-on instruction. Instructor Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Felton, a maintenance supervisor in 495th CSSB, taught the soldiers how to properly perform preventative maintenance checks and service on Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles.
“The importance of maintaining equipment properly is due to mission readiness,” said Felton, a Helena, Mont., native. “We don’t want to create more problems out on the road. There are certain things we can dictate; if we maintain the standard it will help with our overall mission.”
Along with unit readiness, the 495th CSSB’s goal is to minimize safety concerns. Since arriving to Afghanistan in January, the battalion has decreased safety violations by almost 80 percent. The Gun Truck Academy is predicted to aid the battalion in increasing that percentage even more, so long as Soldiers maintain the training they received.
According to Felton, the experienced soldiers already understand how important it is to have a good transition.
“It’s really critical that we develop a process that allows us to have a standardized hand-off,” he said. “Deployment is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to be physically and mentally prepared and able to maintain it the entire deployment.”
The 495th CSSB plans to host more Gun Truck Academy courses throughout their deployment.
“The Gun Truck Academy taught me some things today,” said Barrett. “And, it helped to get other units’ input on ideas and operations to make all of our units better overall.”