Mississippi Guardsmen convoy all night, work all day

Story and Photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — If they were scared, they never showed it.

Instead, the Soldiers with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, prepared for their convoy from Joint Base Balad to Contingency Operating Location Seitz, Iraq, Jan. 16, gathered around the convoy commander, Sgt. 1st Class David J. Cage, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, with the 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Mississippi National Guard, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), for the convoy briefing. Afterward, they conducted last minute vehicle maintenance, cleaned weapons, grabbed food, or napped before the mission.

Sgt. Bryan Fuller, a combat engineer serving as the lead vehicle's commander, said he has more than 50 missions under his belt.

"It's nothing new to me," said Fuller, a Columbus, Miss., native.

He ate his dinner out of a Styrofoam tray on the front of his vehicle while his gunner, Spc. Dustin Donald, a diesel mechanic on the civilian side, sat near by and smoked a cigarette.

As go-time approached, Fuller had Donald reviewed the steps leading up to the convoy's departure.

"First, we do the pre-mission brief and then we do the last minute checks and put our gear on," said Donald, an Independence, Miss., native. "We head over to the staging lanes, and then, once the other trucks are ready, we head out the gate."

At the last minute, they learned they would have to run the mission one gun truck short because the truck needed maintenance.

"Usually we take care of vehicle maintenance before the mission, but this just came up last minute," said Sgt. Markie Jones, a vehicle commander with 2/198 Combined Arms.

The unit prepared for its mission well in advance, at home, in Kuwait and at JBB.

"Back in March, we did pre-mob training at Camp Shelby, (Miss.)," said Jones. "We did (improvised explosive device) training, convoy security training, and some weapon familiarization. It made the guys a little more aware of what we'd be doing here."

The NCOs stressed teamwork and cooperation in their briefings and said those two qualities would be required to successfully accomplish their mission.

"You have to be able to depend on the truck in front of you or behind you," said Jones. "But the Soldiers of this unit are really good about that. They run to help each other."

When the mission is to run convoys throughout Iraq, often in dangerous areas, including a "known area of interest: Vile Executioner," where one of the unit's convoys was hit by an explosively formed projectile Nov. 13, it comes down to relying on every Soldier, said Cage.

Cage said the Jan. 16 convoy went off without a hitch.

news photo
Sgt. Bryan Fuller, a combat engineer serving as the lead vehicle's commander, with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, with the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), does pre-mission checks and inspections with his gunner and driver prior to a convoy Jan. 16 from Joint Base Balad to Contingency Operating Location Seitz, Iraq.

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Sgt. 1st Class David J. Cage, convoy commander with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, with the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), does the mission brief Jan. 16 for a convoy from Joint Base Balad to Contingency Operating Location Seitz, Iraq, with Sgt. Bryan Fuller, a combat engineer serving as the lead vehicle's commander.

 

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Maintenance personnel with 2nd-198th Combined Arms, with the 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Mississippi National Guard, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), check a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle Jan. 16 prior to a convoy from Joint Base Balad to Contingency Operating Location Seitz, Iraq.

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Sgt. 1st Class David J. Cage, a convoy commander with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, with the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), dons his improved outer tactical vest prior to a convoy Jan. 16 from Joint Base Balad to Contingency Operating Location Seitz, Iraq.