U.S., Iraqi Transportation Network work together during drawdown

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

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — As U.S. military assets are consolidated throughout Iraq, Iraqi national trucking companies have joined in the transportation effort – experiencing safer travels than their U.S. counterparts.

The Iraqi Transportation Network is an Iraqi civilian-operated, commercial organization that regularly conducts missions supporting the drawdown of personnel and equipment throughout the country, said Capt. Scott Poznansky, operations officer with the 49th Transportation Battalion, Commercial Movement Division.

In roughly the last three months, the 858th Movement Control Team and the ITN have coordinated, increasing the capabilities of the ground movement portion of their mission of transporting military assets, said Pfc. Brian Johnides, a transportation manager with the 858th MCT and a Grosse Woods Point, Mich., native.

“The Iraqi Transportation Network incorporates ground, rail and sea movement types,” said Johnides.

Upon the ITN’s arrival at their destination, they go through strict security inspections of their identification credentials, vehicles and cargo, including checks for contraband, said Pfc. Joesph Holland, an ITN security escort with the 699th Maintenance Company and a Columbus, Ohio, native. Entry control point personnel then search the drivers and allow them on base, he said.

The trucks are then escorted by Soldiers of the 699th Maint. Co. and taken to the central receiving and shipping point, where they upload or download their cargo, said Holland.

The ITN has operated in Iraq for roughly a year and a half and continues to develop, said John Ariaza, an ITN liaison and a Brooklyn, N.Y., native.

The idea was started in al-Anbar province, said Ariaza. As it showed potential for growth, it expanded to the central, southern and eastern regions, he said.

The network is composed of tribes throughout Iraq, said Ariaza. The ITN business incentive helps the tribes peacefully interact with each other, to work together instead of fighting, he said.

“They’re being led by somebody in their own community and not an outsider,” said Ariaza.

The company employs 16 subcontractors, Ariaza said. When the military sends work or transportation movement requests to the ITN, a travel adviser speaks with local shaykhs to coordinate which subcontractor gets the job, he said.

Local nationals view ITN drivers differently than military personnel, he said. Although ITN convoys do not travel with security teams, they have had no hostile incidents in the time they have operated, said Ariaza.

The ITN is a means of getting the Iraqis to work to better their country and offers secure areas of transportation, said Ariaza.

“Everything is logistical,” Johnides said. “It needs to go from point A to point B. If you don’t have an efficient or organized way of doing it, you have no shipping infrastructure.” 

This infrastructure will be important as U.S. forces leave Iraq, he said.

“The idea is to set up the economy for success, to provide and leave behind a middle class,” said Ariaza.

ITN offers jobs and helps its workers provide for their communities while setting positive examples, Ariaza said.

“It’s more of a strategic partnership that the military has with ITN – not only to support the 13th SC(E) and its subordinate units (as they) move things across the country, but also to help Iraq build an infrastructure,” said Poznansky.

 

news photo
Spc. Edwin Ronquillo, an Iraqi Transportation Network security escort with the 699th Maintenance Company and a San Pedro, Calif., native, stands by as an Iraqi flat bed is loaded for an ITN convoy, at the central receiving and shipping point Sept. 30 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

news photo
Spc. Edwin Ronquillo, an Iraqi Transportation Network security escort with the 699th Maintenance Company and a San Pedro, Calif., native, stands by as an Iraqi flat bed is loaded for an ITN convoy, at the central receiving and shipping point Sept. 30 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.