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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Wars have been won and lost because of logistics. Logistics is an art form that, when executed properly, can mean the difference between life and death, glory and shame. As Benjamin Franklin commented on the importance of the logistician, “A little neglect may breed mischief. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; and for want of a horse, the rider was lost.”

The 426th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), eats, sleeps, and breathes logistics. After arriving in Iraq in early October 2007, the 426th BSB moved a staggering amount of crucial materiel to 1st BCT battalions in the Salah ad Din province. In their first 5 months in Iraq, the 426th BSB “Taskmasters” drove more than 89,000 miles on perilous roads to deliver their essential cargo—a feat that would make even the most seasoned United Parcel Service drivers wince. More than 1.5 million gallons of fuel have been delivered courtesy of these master logisticians, who take pride in knowing that they are at the heart of the fight for freedom in one of Iraq’s most volatile provinces.

“It’s critical to the overall mission here,” said Staff Sergeant Kalvin Newkirk, a motor transporter with A Company, 426th BSB. “We keep everything rolling. Without supplies, the infantrymen couldn’t move.”

In providing direct support logistics operations in a combat environment, the Soldiers of the 426th BSB realize that they are a critical link in helping to safeguard the people of Iraq. “It’s like a chain reaction,” said Specialist Michael Velasquez, a logistics specialist who provides security for logistics convoys. “I’m playing a role as a guardian for the convoy. To provide safety for them is to provide safety for the infantry so they get the supplies they need so they can support the Iraqi people. Together, we can complete the mission.”

One of the 426th BSB’s largest missions was supplying concrete barriers to an Iraqi police station in Ad Dawr, southeast of Tikrit. With a convoy of more than 30 vehicles that stretched over 3½ miles, the 426th delivered the much-needed ramparts in an effort to help secure the town and its residents. “We’re setting them up for success,” said Staff Sergeant Newkirk, who drove several hours to complete the mission. “The t-walls will provide the local nationals security and freedom of movement.
“Anything we can do for the Iraqis is a big help,” said Sergeant First Class James Faggart, a platoon sergeant in the BSB’s transportation section. “There’s a lot of good people here in Iraq, who really want to see change.” Faggart, who has seen multiple deployments, said that the most dramatic change comes from the people stepping up and securing themselves. “The concerned local citizens are out there securing their own areas,” he said. “I think it’s been a big change since 2005 when we were here last time.” Faggart said that the most rewarding aspect of being a combat logistician is being able to bring his troops home safely after each mission. He credits the battalion’s success to four key principles: discipline, accountability, training, and maintenance. “My guys are focused; they’re not playing around out there,” said Faggart. “Where the rubber meets the road is where the Soldiers get out there and make it happen.”
ALOG

Specialist Richard L. Rzepka is an Army journalist in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs Office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Western State College in Colorado.