Security paramount in 301st Chemical Company visit to Baghdad orphanage

Story by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTIGENCY OPERATING LOCATION PROSPERITY, Baghdad — Members of the 301st Chemical Company visited the Dar Al Zuhor orphanage in Baghdad Jan. 16 and handed out packages and gifts to the children.

Their goal was to observe and improve the quality of life at the orphanage, a place they had never been before, said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph K. Gilliam, shift leader with the 301st Chem. Co, 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and Morehead, Ky., native. The personal security detail team has not been on a humanitarian mission like this in two to three months, he said.

Even for humanitarian missions, preparation to ensure the safety of team members is paramount, he said.

"We do communication checks with the handhelds; plan the route on Blue Force tracker, mount weapons on the vehicles and check the cleanliness of the vehicle," said Gilliam. "We have two M1151 Humvee's we call limos – we take pride in keeping those vehicles extra clean."

He said the personnel they escort, nicknamed the principals, ride to the venue in the limos.

Gilliam said driving through the streets of Baghdad can be hectic.

"When we drive out to the city we have to follow the traffic laws, be obedient of the Iraqi's and not press too hard on getting through traffic," said Gilliam. "We work with the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army and that makes our life a whole lot easier."

Because Army personnel can no longer do route reconnaissance, they followed the map to this particular venue, Gilliam said.

Sgt. Larry J. Hoppius, personal security officer, 301st Chem. Co. and a Southgate, Ky., native, said he is the liaison between the shift leader and the principals.

"We deal with a lot of civilians and I act as a buffer between them and our team," said Hoppius.

He said he is personally responsible for their security and takes pride in his job.

"They have to be confident enough to want to follow you," said Hoppius. "I try to give my team direction on what they do so there are no surprises at the venue."

He said he has a lot of interaction with the officials on all of his PSD missions and wants to establish a rapport and show charisma with them immediately.

"If you are calm and collected, they will probably be (calm) if something ever happens," said Hoppius. "It just makes the job easier in the long run."

Gilliam said his team is one of only four U.S. Department of State military PSD teams in country and the 301st Chem. Co. has all four teams.

"I think we are one of a few units that still run through the streets of Baghdad," said Gilliam.