Convoy escort team assists in drawdown
Story and photos by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — A convoy appears as shadows in the night. It is halted along its route through Iraq, waiting hours for a roadside bomb to be cleared. Infantryman peer deep into the darkness; their vision and alertness an impenetrable shield for fellow Soldiers.
That can be the setting for an action-packed movie, but it is a typical mission for Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), who provide security for theater assets being moved from base to base.
“Our job is to protect base supply lines,” said Staff Sgt. Gabrial Rhodes, convoy commander with B Company, 3rd Bn., 156th Inf. Regt., and a Shreveport, La., native.
As the upcoming responsible drawdown in Iraq approaches, more equipment used in Operation Iraqi Freedom is reallocated to different areas in the United States Central Command theater of operations, while some is sent back to the United States. The U.S. military ensures the safe delivery of mission essential equipment to its final destination. Third Bn., 156th Inf. Regt. is one of the units that provides security to facilitate the safe accomplishment of such missions.
“As we pull resources out (of theater), we consolidate them to the collection point,” said 1st Lt. Donald R. Bolton, platoon leader with B Co., 3rd Bn., 156 Inf. Regt. and a Pollock, La., native. “We escort the trucks that haul the resources, so we directly affect the drawdown.”
Because of the impending responsible drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq, the mission of 3rd Bn., 156th Inf. Regt. is evolving.
During the last few convoy escort missions the unit conducts, it will incorporate training with the unit taking over its mission.
The transition represents an adequate change of pace. It symbolizes a halfway point of our deployment. Soldiers with the battalion have been performing convoy missions for the first half of their tour, and now they have a new mission for the second half. The guys are excited about doing something different, Bolton said.
With the change in mission, the unit is responsible for turning in all the equipment they will no longer need. The 256th IBCT has been tasked with turning in more than 17,000 pieces of equipment and 3rd Bn., 156th Inf. Regt. has a role in that process, he said.
“Our unit specifically has to turn in all the equipment we’ll no longer need,” Bolton said. “That’s one of our big tasks. We have to turn in all the equipment units have been using for years. It’s a huge part of our transition.”
Although convoy security missions are coming to a close for Soldiers with 3rd Bn., 156th Inf. Regt., it is critical to stay cautious of the dangers of the roads, Rhodes said.
Fortunately, his convoy escort team has never been hit by a roadside bomb. The Soldiers have covered thousands of miles, remaining aware and vigilant and constantly rehearsing combat drills to stay disciplined and prepared.
“I constantly remind them of how real it is,” Rhodes said. “Bad things happen when you are in a war zone. I remind them of that. They know it’s real. They don’t get complacent that way.”
Soldiers with B Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) prepare to depart Contingency Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, May 23, providing security for a convoy carrying mission essential supplies through Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson)
1st Lt. Donald Bolton (center), platoon leader with B Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Pollock, La., native, adjusts his improved outer tactical vest May 23 as his platoon prepares to depart Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, providing security for a convoy carrying mission essential supplies through Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson)