QAYYARAH WEST BASE COMPLEX, Iraq (March 8, 2006) -- Soldiers of the 454th Transportation Company own the roads when the stakes are high. They are responsible for logistical movements of supplies in northern Iraq. They sometimes like to up the ante and raise the 'steaks."
"I'll buy you a steak and cook it for you if we get hit by an IED and it stays there," said Spc. David Haynes, driver, challenging Spc. Jonathan Haslop, gunner.
The "it" in question was a steak that someone placed on the vehicle bumper before the convoy began. The 454th was bringing fuel from Q-West Base Complex to Forward Operating Base Warrior.
It is a mission they are familiar with because they do it often. It is also an unpredictable mission. On this trip, Haynes and Haslop rode with assistant convoy commander Sgt. Isaiah Loar.
"We pretty much live on nicotine and caffeine when we're on the road," Haynes said. "But we love being out there. I like the job, the responsibility of keeping everyone safe and making sure nobody gets hurt. I"d rather be out here doing this than be anywhere else."
Haynes said that he joined the military for the excitement which he found in his current job. He said he plans to extend his tour in Iraq with five of his friends in the company, including Haslop.
"I like to push myself and see how much I can do," Haynes said. "If I didn't join then I wouldn't know."
"It's a great job," Haslop said. He joined the military two-and-a-half years ago after deciding that he needed to do it. He is on his second tour in Iraq and said that he likes the camaraderie.
"I"d rather be on the road eating MREs [meal, ready-to-eat] rather than eating at the DFAC [dining facility] and staying on the FOB [forward operating base]," Haslop said. "I hate the safe jobs. It's a constant adrenaline rush. My last tour we got hit with IEDs over 200 times."
Haslop was involved in a huge firefight on Easter Sunday in OIF II.
"I don't remember flipping the S.A.W. [squad automatic weapon] off safe." Haslop said that his instincts took over when things started getting crazy.
These Soldiers are trained for it, starting with the convoy commander, who is the Soldier responsible for everyone and everything in the convoy. It is a demanding job because convoy operations can be unpredictable.
On this convoy, one of the trucks got a flat tire outside the wire. On the return trip, a tow bar broke in a tight turn. A convoy commander never knows when something like this will happen.
The company made a bonfire while waiting for the fuel to be off-loaded. They traded jokes and told stories of their adventures, making the bond between each member even stronger than it was. They let the fire burn down and then mounted up for the drive back and some much-needed sleep. The steak, by the way, made it back to base.