Soldiers rest, learn from locals at Habur Gate

Story and photos by U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Twist
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

HABUR GATE, Iraq — As convoys escort trucks across the border between Turkey and Iraq, Soldiers take advantage of one of Iraq’s most accommodating cities to rest between missions.

Service members and local nationals at Habur Gate operate a former hotel building, converted into a place where Soldiers eat, sleep, relax and recover while they wait for their next convoy mission.

“(Our) mission is to provide communication for the convoys coming in and out of (Contingency Operating Location) Q-West and other parts of Iraq … (give Soldiers) a resting home for overnight stays and make sure everybody gets supplies,” said Pfc. Andre R. Taylor, a central processing mode operator with the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), out of Fort Hood, Texas. “Convoys stop here to pick up their trucks from the (Movement Control Team) yard and head back to where they came from.”

Capt. Estan N. Davis, commander of the Logistical Task Force 15, with Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 15th Special Troops Battalion with the 15th Sust. Bde., said the building operates on a 24-hour schedule.

“We are here to provide a safe, secure, stable environment for the Soldiers that are coming in from the road,” said Davis, a Waterford, Vt., native. “We provide a secure place that they can remain overnight, refit, refuel, re-supply and then head back out.”

Spc. James L. Prince, a convoy driver with 2nd Brigade, 114th B Battery out of Kosciusko, Miss., with the 155th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th SC(E), said he escorts trucks to ensure their secure arrival to their destination.

“Everybody is somewhat excited to come up here,” said Prince, a Madison, Miss., native. “Basically, it is a place where we can chill, hangout and lay low.”

Davis said the building the Soldiers stay in has a 24-hour dining facility, a Morale, Welfare and Recreation center, a Post Exchange and a gym. The MWR has a TV to watch movies rented from the PX, a pool table, a foosball table, and board games. There are also places to sleep and shower, as well as 24-hour Internet access.

Outside, service members have access to a basketball court and soccer field, on which they challenge the local nationals to play, he said.

The Soldiers running the building try to make it feel as close to home as they can, he said.

Davis said they run a facility sick call twice a day, and 24-hour communications support out of the building as well.

The Soldiers also get opportunities to go outside Habur Gate occasionally, said Taylor, a Killeen, Texas, native.

“We get opportunities like once a month to get out and see the actual city of Zakho,” he said.

Taylor said the morale of the Soldiers is high and the stress is low at Habur Gate because Kurdistan is a low-key area.

Stress also stays low because the Soldiers did not have to train on new jobs like other service members aiding in the drawdown, he said.

“For most of the Soldiers, this is the first time they’ve interacted with anybody outside of the United States on a daily basis,” said Davis. “For the local nationals, some have been here five or six years working here in this building. They have been around Americans and our culture. They understand it and it is easier for them to help the Soldiers relate to being in a foreign country.”

Davis said the Soldiers and local nationals interact well because they both want to learn from each other and make the rotation a success.

“They are mentoring and coaching youngsters that haven’t been here to experience a deployment before,” he said. “It’s really easy to see the kind of impacts that we make here, working in such a tight-knit group.”


news photo
Capt. Estan N. Davis, commander of the Logistical Task Force 15 with Headquarter and Headquarters Company 15th Special Troops Battalion attached to the 15th Sustainment Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, watches his Soldier drive a fork lift to pick up cargo from inside the truck. Davis, a Waterford, Vt., native, helps run a former hotel building, which was converted into a place where Soldiers eat, sleep, relax and recover while they wait for their next convoy mission.
(U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Ryan Twist)