Friday, November 27, 2009

203rd Soldiers Stay Safe on Roads

3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Regardless of the mission, the situation or the experience levels of the Soldiers, no one is completely immune from being attacked or having something go wrong. The leaders of the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion have that thought continuously in their minds.

While the number of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq is down considerably from past years, 2nd Lt. Charles Van Dyke and his fellow leaders in the 203rd BSB still want their Soldiers alert and ready outside the wire, he said.

Despite leaving the Forward Operating Base almost every day to supply the various forward operating bases and combat outposts in the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division's area of operation, Van Dyke, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., still treats every patrol like it's his unit's first.

"I never take my job lightly," he said. "Security has to be the first thing we concentrate on. Nothing moves onto the road until I'm sure that everyone knows how we are going to react if something goes wrong."

While many Soldiers in the 203rd BSB are combat veterans, leaders in the battalion are still concerned whenever their troops leave the wire.

"Complacency is my biggest worry," said Staff Sgt. Fred Keon, a squad leader in B Company. "As a leader, you want everyone to take patrols seriously and not just take things for granted. It's my job to ensure that we are all on the same page no matter what happens."

For Keon, a native of Tallahassee, Fla., that means going over emergency procedures before every mission and quizzing all of his Soldiers on what they will do if certain situations arise.

Before the convoy rolls out, everyone in the convoy, from the lowest ranking private to the highest ranking officer, is asked what they will do if a vehicle breaks down, if a Soldier is wounded or if the convoy is attacked. Sometimes they answer correctly. Sometimes they forget part of the answer. Many times, the Soldiers don't know the answer. Whatever happens, Keon uses it as a teaching moment for the group.

These questions aren't meant to embarrass anyone, Keon said. In his mind, everyone is responsible for the safety of the convoy. If one person is unable to perform a part of the mission, then the safety of the whole convoy could potentially be in jeopardy.

The pre-mission questioning is designed to ensure his Soldiers know the information and help others remember it.

"I tell my Soldiers to make sure they are always taking care of one another," he said. "Outside the wire, we need to keep each other alert so we can all stay alive. These missions are important. We need to be able to stay safe and keep rolling. "

Leaders like Staff Sgt. Edrik Torres, a platoon sergeant in A Company, understand how important these logistic patrols are in keeping the 3rd HBCT running smoothly.

"Trucks don't run without fuel, Soldiers have to eat, FOBs need power: we ensure all that happens," Torres said. "Before every patrol, we have to be aware of what is going out, why it is going and who will be receiving it. There are a lot of pieces we have to get right."

Torres's job as a platoon sergeant is to ensure everyone underneath him is doing the proper checks to ensure safety and accuracy.

"We check and double-check everything that rolls out on these convoys," said Torres, a native of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. "We have to ensure that something essential isn't lost or delivered to the wrong place."

Even when all of that is done, the most important cargo his trucks carry are the troops transporting all of these materials, Torres said.

"It is important we implement what we learned in training," he said. "A lot of that is learning to trust the people around you and communicating with your peers. Before and after every patrol we need to keep talking and learning from our experience."

Torres cross-trains all of his Soldiers to ensure that if one Soldier is injured or sick, another can step up and take that place on a mission.

"It's about being prepared," he said. "Our whole time out here we will keep learning, keep drilling and keep working until we can get our patrols as close to perfect as we can get them. I think that is what will make us successful at the end of this deployment."

A logistics convoy navigates the roads in Iraq as it makes its way from Forward Operating Base Kalsu to Forward Operating Base Scania, Nov. 20. Soldiers assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion go out on frequent logistics patrols to ensure that the Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have all the supplies they need at the various patrol bases in the Sledgehammer Brigade's area of operation.
Spc. Justin Camper, a mechanic in B Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, gives his part of a safety brief to his fellow Soldiers before leaving Forward Operating Base Scania, Iraq, on a logistics patrol, Nov. 20. Soldiers like Stamper, a native of Lexington, N.C., go out on daily logistics patrols to ensure that the battalions of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have all the supplies they need to conduct operations efficiently.

Spc. Somkuan Promchote, a driver in B Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, checks the communications equipment in his vehicle before a logistics patrol at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 20. Promchote, a native of Lawrenceville, Ga., frequently does checks on all of his equipment to ensure that his patrols run smoothly and safely.

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