Providers share the road
Story and Photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — As United States Forces-Iraq prepares for the strategic reposturing of equipment and personnel in theater, Soldiers of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) are already working to share the roads with the Iraqi population.
In previous years, service members' main focus was to ensure the convoy's security and integrity remained intact, said Staff Sgt. Robert Young, the noncommissioned officer in charge of safety for the 13th SC(E). Now, while maintaining integrity within the convoy, Soldiers have learned to move through Iraq without causing damage and allowing Iraq's civilian population to move freely on the roads, he said.
"Before, they might have gotten run off the road," said Young, a Hernando, Fla., native. "That caused problems and hurt our relationship. With the new Share the Road policy and guidelines, we're building a better relationship and allowing them to get back to their life."
The 13th SC(E) created the new Share the Road policy in an effort to mitigate the erosion of the U.S. - Iraqi relationship, by reducing hazards to the civilian population that may be caused by U.S. military convoys, said Staff Sgt. Alfred Salazar, a force protection noncommissioned officer with the 13th SC(E).
"The policy is simple," said Salazar, a Houston native. "Be considerate to the Iraqi drivers."
The guidelines that have been put into place are commonsense measures, he said.
"Basically, it allows the troops to stay vigilant while allowing the Iraqis to see the convoys are not a threat," said Salazar.
In a broader sense, the 'Share the Road' policy will help U.S. forces move towards the strategic reposturing of equipment and personnel.
"It absolutely supports the mission we're in from a counter-insurgency standpoint," said Lt. Col. Wade Wallace, command judge advocate for the 13th SC(E). "We're in a position to move this to the next stage."
On the ground, troop commanders are implementing new strategies to reflect the 13th SC(E)'s guidelines.
"Run hard, run clean; that's our motto," said Lt. Col. John Krenson, commander of 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th SC(E), with the Tennessee National Guard, and a Nashville, Tenn., native. "Run hard means to create a hard target for the enemy to engage, but we understand the impact on the Iraqi population, so run cleans mean to be safe. It's a difficult balance to achieve."
This strategy requires leaders at the lowest levels to ensure their Soldiers understand the rules of the road and the possible implications of accidents.
First Lt. Matthew Wallace, a platoon leader with F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 278th ACR, 13th SC(E), prepared a special pre-mission briefing for his Soldiers.
"It's my intent to conduct a successful convoy-logistics patrol in support of (Operation Iraqi Freedom). We will do this by maintaining an aggressive and constantly vigilant posture while still showing restraint and respect for the local populace," said Wallace, a McMinnville, Tenn., native, in his mission brief. "In doing so, I intend to take away the enemy's initiative with the support of the non-combatant populace with which we may interact."
In 2005 the 278th's mission was focused on combat patrols, but now they're focused on providing convoy security while alleviating the tension which previously defined of Iraqi civilian and U.S. military relations.
"We're shifting away from a threat standpoint and moving to a partnership standpoint," said Wallace, a native of Greenwood, Ind.
During the 278th's mobilization training at Camp Shelby, Miss., Wallace said their training was based upon reaction to contact, whether small-arms fire or improvised explosive devices. Upon arriving here in Iraq, the Soldiers had to adapt to the rules of engagement, and now they are implementing the Share the Road policy, as well, he said.
"There's going to be a learning curve because we're a new unit," said Wallace. "Training always depicts a worst-case scenario, but the Soldiers have learned to adapt. They've been doing very well and I'm confident they'll continue to do so."
'Share the Road' rules
Sgt. William Rhinehart, a team leader with F troop, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Hendersonville, Tenn., native, observes as Spc. Hulon Holmes, an infantryman also with F troop, 2nd Sqd., 278th ACR, and a Murfreesboro, Tenn., native, conducts a functions check on his weapon during pre-mission checks and inspections prior to a convoy-logistics patrol March 24 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The 13th SC(E) put out a new Share the Road policy, which aims at mitigating the erosion of the U.S. - Iraqi relationship by reducing hazards to the civilian population that may be caused by U.S. military convoys. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th SC(E) Public Affairs)
Spc. Jonathan Piccone, an infantryman with F troop, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Gallatin, Tenn., native, hands his night vision sight to Sgt. William Rhinehart, a team leader with F troop, 2nd Sqd., 278th ACR, 13th SC(E), and a Hendersonville, Tenn., native, during pre-mission checks and inspections prior to a convoy-logistics patrol March 24 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Leaders at every level conduct multiple checks and inspections prior to missions in order to ensure success.