FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan – Logistics. To some, just the thought of this word can conjure images of miscommunication and inefficiency. However, platoon sergeant for Combined Task Force 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment (CTF 1-6 FAR) Logistics Support Team (LST), Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Rovaris, and the soldiers of the LST produce the exact opposite reaction; teamwork and unit cohesion. Shipping and receiving equipment on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Spin Boldak in Afghanistan on a frequent basis, the LST understands that the only way to successfully complete their large uploading and offloading of materials is to work together. This becomes even more impressive when learned that the team is composed of soldiers of various MOSs, not just 88Ms (Motor Transport Operator). “Working with soldiers of different MOSs, for example a 91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic, was hard at first. But after giving them the proper training it turned out OK,” said Rovaris, who has been in the Army since September, 2000, as a 88M. “I gave them a clear understanding that 88Ms do more than just drive like some think.”
Spc. Andre Plummer, a 92F soldier (Petroleum Supply Specialist) in the LST, is an example of the cross-training present on the team. Plummer states “It’s very different than what I’m used to doing. I’ve learned a lot and it has given me more knowledge about different jobs in the Army. It’s making me a better soldier; NCOs (noncommissioned officers) that have done this before have taught me, and it has been a pretty smooth transition so far.” Another example is Spc. Ruben Guardado, who is a 91B (Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic). “It definitely has been different, but I’ve adapted pretty quickly, and have learned a lot,” says Guardado. “I’ve learned about using different equipment and the convoy operations (uploading/offloading). I do feel this will help me out in my military career as a leader. As a future NCO, I now have good and bad experiences including what to do and what not to do as a leader. That’s one of the greatest things I’ve taken out of this deployment.”
Not only are the soldiers of the LST coming from different backgrounds, some of them also had to learn to operate new equipment, which the team uses to upload and offload equipment from the convoy trailers. “A LST convoy usually consists of LHSs (Load Handling Systems) with trailers that carry CONEXs, vehicles, and boxes just to name a few,” said Rovaris. “We also use a Kalmar RTCH (Rough Terrain Container Handler) and a Forklift or Compact Track Loader for uploading and offloading.”
Being able to complete the offloading and uploading process without a hitch is not something that the LST accomplishes without practice and taking necessary precautions. Rovaris stated that “What I do before each convoy is hold rehearsals on what is going to happen and how things are going to be laid out. Also, we make sure to wear Kevlar and eye pro. PT belts are worn during night convoys to identify my team.” The same thoughts were expressed by Sgt. Curtis Marshall, squad leader for the LST. Marshall says “The main thing we try to keep in mind, especially when large convoys come in, is safety. We don’t want a soldier to get hurt. We have multiple vehicles operating at one time and a lot of traffic coming in. We have large loads to upload or offload at one time, so safety is at the front of our minds when we are performing our tasks during our mission.” Marshall added, “I’m the NCOIC of the LST squad, and it’s very demanding because we have no set schedule. Every day we perform different tasks around the FOB; at one time I can have three elements going out with minimum supervision because aoldiers perform at an outstanding rate.”
Through Oct. 5, 2013, the Combined Task Force 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment Logistics Support Team has manned twenty-five convoys and uploaded and offloaded approximately 4,000 pieces of equipment each in support of Operation Enduring Freedom XIII-XIV in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The LST has many more convoys ahead of them as FOB Spin Boldak continues its retrograde process, but if anyone was to see this team in action they would think the same thing – there is no task and no mission too difficult for the CTF 1-6 FAR Logistics Support Team.