Contractors on the CLP
By: Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner
15th SB, Public Affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Soldiers of the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Corps (Expeditionary) travel the roads of Iraq nightly; part of the vital logistics train that supports all coalition forces within the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area.
Running the gauntlet right along side them are civilian drivers as well. Contracted employees, crewing specially designed trucks, make convoy runs to support the 15th SB’s mission of supplying and sustaining the 25,000-plus combat troops currently on ground in MND-B.
Steve Mathis, from San Antonio, Texas, is no stranger when it comes to working with the military. After spending ten years in the Army infantry, he’s now the civilian convoy commander, in charge of making sure the massive freight haulers get where they need to be.
“[Being prior service] makes it easier for us to come out here and do what we do,” he said. “We understand what is going on and it helps us.”
Moving everything from heavy equipment to food and water, Mathis and his partner, Mike Winters, count on the armored International 5000-MV heavy equipment transporter to pull loads in excess of 180,000 pounds.
“I’ve put a lot of stuff behind it and it hasn’t bogged down yet,” said Mathis. “I’ve taken an IED (improvised explosive device) that ripped out the engine and I’m OK. I feel safe in it.”
Once outside the wire, within a 15th SB convoy, the difference between military and civilian doesn’t matter any more, said Mathis. The men are adamant about the fact that on the road, every one works together as a team; looking out for one another during the combat logistics patrol.
When a military vehicle rolled over during one mission, Mathis and Winters didn’t even think about what needed to be done. With fuel leaking from the over turned truck, Mathis grabbed a combat lifesaver’s bag and ran to help extract the Soldiers.
“Out on an MSR (main supply route), things change so quickly; you’ve got to be prepared to help,” said Winters. An Oklahoma City, Oak. native, both he and Mathis completed the Army’s combat lifesaver course; adding to the medical capabilities of a CLP.
For 15th SB troops out on mission, having contractors along affords extra benefits. More trucks mean more supplies hauled, which in turn equates to fewer runs per night. With basic math out of the way, Mathis and Winters bring additional communication and global positioning systems to the convoys.
While they can’t talk on military channels, their high frequency radios can reach in areas where troops have difficulties communicating. By placing hand held radios with each of the military security vehicles, Mathis can act as a relay station to contact the contractors’ dispatch hubs at either Logistics Supply Area Anaconda in Balad, or Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.
“You adapt to the situations as you need to,” he said.
By working with gun truck elements from 1060th Transportation Company or 1/115th Field Artillery, 867th Corps Support Battalion, he can assist calling in help from quick reaction forces, explosive ordnance disposal teams or for medical evacuation.
“Without [the gun trucks] we couldn’t get the job done,” said Mathis. They’re some of the most squared away units I’ve run with. Those guys got it together.”
Contractors play a crucial role on the battlefield said Col. Gregg Gross, Chief of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Distribution Management Center. “Contractors are part of our formation. They live, eat, work, pray, sweat, and sacrifice side-by-side with our Soldiers everyday, said Gross. A day without contractors is like a day without food, fuel, water, ammo, clean latrines…well, suffices it to say, it’s a lousy day.”
Mathis and Winters have logged more than 12,000 miles since getting their new truck in August, 2006. The routes they take can be some of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, but they would much rather be driving outside the wire; doing what comes as second nature they said. Both smile energetically when it comes to getting the next call that will take them back out on Iraqi roads.
“We love livin’ in this truck, we love workin’ in the truck,” said Winters. “I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
Nancy Chamberlain (Left), a transportation foreman from Rogers, Ark., talks with Steve Mathis (Right), a civilian convoy commander from San Antonio, Texas. Mathis has logged more than 12,000 miles on Iraqi roads in the heavy equipment transport truck behind him. Currently, Mathis and partner, Mike Winters, are assisting the 15th SB in their mission to supply and support the 25,000 plus combat troops in the MND-B area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner, 15th SB, PAO)