Cavalry Guardsmen provide convoy security

Story by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION SPEICHER, Iraq — Logistic convoys move supplies throughout northern Iraq, under the careful protection of Mississippi Cavalry Guardsmen.

The 1st Squadron, 98th Cavalry, provides convoy security escorts to military and civilian logistics convoys in northern Iraq, said Lt. Col. John Nipp, the 1/98th Cav. commander. The 1/98th was a scout unit, but it has adapted to its new mission in support of sustainers and their convoys, he said.

Nipp, a Saltillo, Miss., native, said the 1/98th Soldiers began training for the convoy security mission prior to their deployment. Their knowledge and experience aids the mission, he said.

 “Traditionally, we are a cav. squadron,” said Nipp. “Our mission is to observe and report. We find the enemy, maintain contact with the enemy and report back on the enemy. We use those skills in this mission also.”

The 1/98th provides security for sustainer convoys leaving Contingency Operating Location Speicher, as well as Kellogg, Brown and Root, Inc. and third-country national convoys traveling to neighboring military installations, said Maj. Michael Dykes, the 1/98th operations officer, and a Waynesboro, Miss., native.

The unit has been in Iraq for roughly two months, and in that time has conducted more than 170 escort missions and driven an excess of 2,500 miles, said Dykes.

The often lengthy missions require extensive preparation and coordination by the Soldiers, said 1st Lt. Roger Pate, 1/98th support plans officer.

“Most missions last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours, but it takes just as much time for the guys to prep for them,” said Pate. “It takes a lot out of our Soldiers, but they’re doing a great job.”

The mission-essential preparation includes several thorough inspections, said Sgt. Brian Nugent, 1/98th vehicle maintenance supervisor.

Soldiers perform preventive maintenance checks and services on the vehicles, going through all the system functions and ensuring vehicles work properly before missions, said Nugent.

The maintenance personnel then re-inspect the vehicles to further mitigate risks, he said.

Another mission transition for the unit was learning to use Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, said Nugent.

The 1/98th received MRAP training prior to the deployment and gained additional technical training from the unit they replaced – making maintenance and repairs routine, said Nugent.

Once on the road, if the Soldiers spot improvised explosive devices, they take action to ensure the safety of the convoy, said Staff Sgt. Fairrah Shumpert, the 1/98th assistant convoy commander and a Tishomingo, Miss., native.

“My guys do the right thing while scanning the terrain,” said Shumpert. “You are less likely to be hit if you’re doing all the techniques you should be doing,” he said.

Performing equipment checks and avoiding complacency while on the road is vital, said Spc. Justin Atkins, 1/98th lead-vehicle gunner.

“It’s situational awareness,” said Atkins. “You got to keep your head up at all times, and try to not get your battle buddy hurt in any way.”