Air Force truckers from the 70th Medium Truck Detachment and convoy escort team soldiers of B Troop, 1-94 Cavalry, Pine City, Minn., Army National Guard, met for the first time on Oct. 26. Only hours later, these men put their lives in one another's hands as they convoyed throughout Iraq, hauling out cargo as the U.S. withdraws from the country.
A U.S. Air Force M915 tractor from the 70th Medium Truck Detachment leads a convoy of 43 vehicles through Iraq with a load of equipment and supplies. They traveled 1,100 miles in seven days. (Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The 350 airmen of the 70th and 424th MTD are on the roads in Iraq every day, transporting cargo and other items out of the country in support of the Dec. 31 deadline for U.S. forces to be out of Iraq.
In recent months, the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron has increased its amount of missions trucking out cargo from Iraq by approximately 200%.
"When we first got here last month, the squadron was averaging about 11 missions per week," said Lt. Col. John O'Connor, 387th ELRS commander and native of Albany, Ga. The squadron now is on track to average about 35.
Commanding convoys alongside their Army brethren, airmen here have been carrying out the trucking mission in Iraq since November 2005.
Convoying from base to base in Iraq is no stroll through the park. Three hours before every leg of the trip, preparation begins. Airmen line up their contracted drivers, making sure their vehicles are ready for the ride. The gun trucks mount their weapons and conduct radio checks. Finally, the gun truck and convoy commanders brief their troops on their upcoming day and hit the road.
During the next six nights, these service members will travel through 1,100 miles of desert, city roads and highway, with every inch of every mile possibly hiding a bullet, roadside bomb or rock meant for one of these young men.
During their trip, the convoy faced a variety of problems. An airmen's truck caught on fire, yet a soldier was there within 90 seconds to help him put out the flames. The Army's radios wouldn't communicate with the truckers, so an airman reprogrammed their radios so everyone could communicate. Teamwork prevailed and the success and safety of the mission are reflected in the numbers.
"During the mission, we extracted about 250,000 pounds of cargo," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Perez, convoy commander and native of Santa Fe, N.M. The cargo that Perez refers to came from two different locations in Iraq and consisted of vehicles, uniforms, equipment, etc.
The six nights the two teams spent together brought both services together. "Look me up on Facebook," said one airman to a soldier as they parted ways on their final day.