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Shining Bright Blue In A Sea Of Green

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Air Force Airmen perform Combat Convoy Duty with Army Soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq.

Air Force Airmen perform Combat Convoy Duty with Army Soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq.


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  • 1. Combat Truckers: Shining Bright “Blue” in a Sea of “Green”By Lt Col Derek Oliver CONVOY TRAINING Training begins with the Basic Combat Convoy Course (BC3) atAs the United States Armed Forces continue to transform to meet Camp Bullis, Texas. All Airmen tasked to fill combat convoy dutythe challenges of the Global War on Terror, Airmen find themselves “in lieu of” soldiers attend this mandatory five-week training course.frequently deployed to accomplish a wide variety of missions. One Many of them, led by a captain and a chief master sergeant, are onsuch mission is executed by the 320 “Combat Truckers” of the 70th their second, third or fourth rotation for the six month line-hauland the 424th Medium Truck Detachments among nearly 8,000 sol- deployment. The unique training environment at BC3 givesdiers in the Persian Gulf region, in the U.S. Central Command Airmen the opportunity to transition through the “Forming-Area of Responsibility. The Detachments fall under the tactical Storming-Norming-Performing” phases of group development quick-control of the U.S. Army, and the administrative /operational con- ly while they gain critical combat skills and build a solid foundationtrol of the U.S. Air Force’s 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness in convoy fundamentals. Airmen receive a full complement of skillsSquadron. during the physically demanding and academically rigorous fiveSince September 2005, deployed Airmen have executed the line- weeks of BC3. First, they learn how to communicate with the line-haul mission with Soldiers and continue to deliver extraordinary of-sight U.S. Army Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radiocombat success with every subsequent rotation. It is no accident System used in the M915A3 tractors, and the movement trackingthat these little known combat logistics warriors inside our Air system that provides a text messaging capability, and visible routeForce epitomize “Excellence In All We Do.” Their training, prepa- tracking, between M915A3 tractors and inside tactical operationsration, execution and assessment are beyond compare and allow centers.them to shine bright “Blue” in a Sea of “Green.” 64 FA L L 2008
  • 2. Next, they learn navigation and combat medical techniques.Airmen are trained to program and utilize the precision light-weight ground receiver, a handheld global positioning systemdevice that provides accurate navigation to and from variouslocations, along with basic map reading skills and plotting of gridcoordinates. Every Airman completes the U.S. Army’s CombatLife Saver program and is capable of rendering intermediate levelmedical care in a combat environment.Finally, Airmen complete weapons qualification, learn vehicleroll-over procedures, practice casualty evacuation and spendhours behind the wheel of the M915A3 tractor. All of theseskills are brought together, and evaluated, in an end of coursestudent training exercise. Here, at about the four week point,the Airmen replicate combat convoy operations as closely as pos- USAF combat trucker about to enter the cab of an M915A3 tractor.sible for the final week on the Camp Bullis training groundsbefore they graduate and head to the USCENTCOM AOR. Airman) are certified by the experienced convoy team and approved to execute missions on their own.C O N V O Y P R E PA R AT I O NUpon arrival in the Persian Gulf Region, the detachment of approx- CONVOY EXECUTIONimately 160 Airmen will enter into a three week process called At D-2, the convoy team will assemble to conduct preventativeRelief-In-Place/Transfer of Authority. This RIP/TOA gives the out- maintenance checks and services, or PMCS, to ensure that eachgoing unit the time required to prepare the incoming unit for suc- M915A3 is mechanically sound and ready to endure the rough roadscess through a very structured process. At this point, experienced on the main and alternate supply routes throughout Iraq.U.S. Army truck companies and/or U.S. Air Force truck detach- At D-1, the convoy commander, called C2, will conduct a briefingments will take on the responsibility to orient new “Combat that begins with the latest intelligence for the route being traveled,Truckers” to specific tactics, techniques and procedures in theater. covers new threats and highlights any changes in enemy tactics.A new Air Force detachment, divided into eight, 14-person convoy The C2 will brief the team, including external security elements (orteams and an S-Staff (for personnel, intelligence, operations, logis- “gun trucks”) on the rules of engagement, communication frequen-tics, training and communications) may receive AOR specific train- cies, the route, escalation of force procedures, expectations for theing sanctioned by the U.S. Army, or move directly into “Right- team and other pertinent details of the mission. Next, the assistantseat/Left-seat” training rides on actual combat convoy missions convoy commander will take the team through a set of battle drillsthroughout Iraq. After two or three of these training rides, the new with miniature wooden M915A3 models (positioned on a mockconvoy team leadership – convoy commander (typically a highway) to reinforce proper actions to be taken in the event of anTechnical Sergeant), assistant convoy commander (typically a Staff improved explosive device detonation, insurgent small arms fire orSergeant) and the lead vehicle commander (typically a Senior other incident. Finally, the lead vehicle commander will physical- ly walk the team through the route on an over-sized wooden map of Iraq pointing out key locations, bridges, traffic control points and other important elements of the chosen route. On D-day, the C2 assembles the team approximately half an hour before the mission is scheduled to depart and conducts a safety brief- ing. The C2 will reiterate key aspects of the mission, assign por- tions of the team to execute different tasks, remind everyone of per- sonal protective equipment requirements, reinforce safety and weapon security, and stress professional behavior at forward operat- ing bases (FOBs). Unit leadership will also take this opportunity to wish their Airmen well, and make mention of any essential points to remember as their Airmen depart. The safety briefing concludes Continued on next page...Convoy Commander, TSgt Scott Neu, donning his Individual Body Armor. EXCEPTIONAL RELEASE 65
  • 3. action report (AAR) and forwards it to the detachment leader- ship. After review, the detachment sends the“GREEN” AAR through the TACON chain of command for further OF review and action by the joint logistics taskSEA force. The AAR rec- IN A ommendations are taken very seriouslyE R : C O M B AT T R U C K E R S : S H I N I N G B R I G H T “ B L U E ” and often lead to changes in tactics, techniques and proce- dures. CONCLUSION This was just a quick Army and Air Force combat truckers praying together prior to combat convoy mission execution. glimpse into the world of the “Combat with a prayer by the unit Chaplain for the safety of all Soldiers Trucker.” They are in and Airmen about to embark into ground combat. one of the most frequently deployed, highly-stressed career fields. Before they even reach the USCENTCOM AOR, they are away from home-station for over a month at BC3. They routinely CONVOY ASSESSMENT transport mission essential cargo over hostile, unimproved roads Combat convoy missions move throughout the entirety of Iraq brimming with insurgent activity. They overcome that insurgent and can be as short as four days, or as long as two weeks. activity while delivering front haul and returning back haul Numerous contributing factors will make a mission longer or add cargo for units deploying and redeploying in support of the more complexity than normally expected. Global War on Terror. Many are on their second, third or forth The C2 is faced with the tremendous responsibility of coordi- deployment for this very same mission. For what amounts to nating all the transportation movement request details with joint nearly eight months, these Airmen are downrange, standing logistics task force customers. The C2 must be a master planner shoulder to shoulder with Soldiers, accomplishing a deadly mis- and negotiator because the very nature of planning convoy mis- sion with pride each and every day. Despite the challenges, they sions in a combat theatre requires flexibility and ingenuity. The do not complain. They have established an impenetrable bond C2 is also challenged with overcoming language barriers, dealing amongst themselves because only they can really understand the with time consuming upload/download issues, and working to shared experiences. They are true combat heroes within the identify alternative routes if the environment suddenly changes. logistics community and the U.S. Air Force. They have The C2 relies heavily on the convoy team to fulfill their various answered their nation’s call and they are shining bright “Blue” in roles while en-route and upon arrival at FOBs. The team must a Sea of “Green.” work together to support deploying and redeploying units await- About the Author: Lt Col Derek Oliver is the Commander of the ing multiple cargo containers and rolling stock. Ultimately, the C2 must have the skill to balance information requirements and 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Altus AFB, OK. He is cur- work issues in an always chaotic, often deadly, combat environ- rently deployed to the Persian Gulf Region as Commander of the ment. Upon mission completion, all of the events that took 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron. He is a gradu- place during a convoy mission are reviewed. The C2 leads this ate of the Basic Combat Convoy Course, a Joint Specialty Officer, session with the members of the convoy team to critique how and has logistics experience at the tactical, operational and strate- well they performed as a unit. The goal is to identify any train- gic levels. Derek.oliver@altus.af.mil or Derek.m.oliver@ ing shortfalls, capture lessons learned, incorporate new ideas or avoid mistakes on the next mission. The C2 generates an after kuwait.swa.army.mil K 66 FA L L 2008