Combined arms battalion convoys throughout Iraq
Photos and story by Sgt. Ryan Twist
139th public affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — A Soldier stands in the gunner’s seat of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle and scans the area in search of enemies or improvised explosive devices.
He is one of many stationed at Joint Base Balad with B Company, 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry, out of Poplarville, Miss., conducting convoy security for vehicles and supplies moving throughout Iraq.
“The overall mission is to provide combat logistics patrols going to and from different bases around Iraq,” said Spc. Steven C. Smith, a gunner with the unit and a Jackson, Miss., native. “Basically, it’s a convoy escort, making sure trucks and supplies get where they’re going and back safely.”
Staff Sgt. Michael W. Slaybaugh, assistant convoy commander for third platoon, and a Walla Walla, Wash. native, said the unit is there to protect Kellogg, Brown and Root, Inc. employees from insurgents and keep supplies moving.
“We conduct pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections and make sure our vehicle is ready all the time,” said Slaybaugh.
Smith said he keeps his truck maintained, makes sure his fellow Soldiers have everything they need and stays fit and mentally strong to prepare himself for success.
“I prepare for a mission by keeping my truck cleaned,” said Smith. “I like everything organized. I talk to people back home and just sit down and clear my head to get my mind right.”
He said on convoys he tries to be constantly mindful of the potential for danger.
“I just make sure I find the bombs before they find us,” said Smith.
Slaybaugh, who deployed with the 81st Brigade Combat Team out of Washington, but extended his deployment an additional six months to work with the 155th CAB, said he keeps focused on the mission, studying it every day. He said he reviews the mission with his troops every time they go outside the wire.
“These guys all have similar problems back home but you have to keep focused,” said Smith. “You got to remind yourself complacency kills, and every time you go outside the wire you have to remind yourself that just because you were safe last time doesn’t mean you are safe this time. Every mission is different; every street is different; every turn is different; you try to keep that in your head.”
Slaybaugh, who has been in Iraq for 11 months, said combat readiness ensures successful missions. To ensure this readiness, Soldiers check all equipment, weapons, vehicles and gear before they leave.
Slaybaugh said these Soldiers have adapted to their mission, a mission they take great pride in.
“You always want to do your best,” said Smith. “The better we do things, hopefully it will make it easier on the unit coming behind us.”
Spc. Randy J. Ladner, a gunner with B Company, 1st Battalion,155th Combat Action Brigade, out of Poplarville, Miss., dons on his harness in preparation for a convoy mission Sept. 5 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The unit performs convoy security missions throughout Iraq.