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Added Combat Multipliers

The roles of our sustainment Soldiers are constantly changing in the Global War on Terrorism. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 07–09, forward support companies did not provide internal gun truck security for presence patrols, combat replenishment operations, recovery operations for damaged vehicles, or escort operations for missions. However, coalition forces took a different approach in OIF 07–09. As part of an air assault battalion that emphasized combat training in addition to traditional sustainment roles in preparation for deployment, I can attest that, while it was a challenge taking the time to train sustainment Soldiers in combat arms-specific skills, the dividends were immense during our first 100 days in Iraq.

Determining Our Training Needs

After graduating from the Quartermaster Basic Officer Leader Course in March 2007, I was assigned as a platoon leader for the distribution platoon in F Company, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). My sponsor had informed me of our brigade’s imminent deployment to the OIF theater of operations. However, not until I met my company commander did I learn exactly how much training my sustainment Soldiers and I had in store. He informed me that not only did he expect me to train, lead, and maintain a transportation section to provide logistics support for the 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, but he also expected me to train sustainment Soldiers to perform internal gun truck security. I then took a look at the military occupational specialty 92F (petroleum supply specialist), and 88M (motor transport operator) skill sets in order to come up with a training concept for performing simultaneous combat and support missions with one distribution platoon.

We had to overcome many obstacles before beginning our mission. Building a gun truck section with logistics Soldiers meant that we needed to undergo a complete change in the way we conducted business. In April, we conducted Eagle Flight I/II at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Although resources were scarce, my Soldiers and I conducted numerous missions. This allowed us to find out what our strengths and weaknesses were and how we needed to improve in every aspect of this new role. We were afforded opportunities to perform joint missions with our combat arms counterparts, which allowed us to incorporate their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) and standing operating procedures (SOPs) into our agenda. At this point, I was still undecided as to which of my Soldiers would have transportation platoon duties and which would have gun truck platoon duties. It was still too new for us. I knew that our upcoming deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, would allow me ample time to prepare my plan and brief my concept of operations to my leaders.

Using the JRTC Experience for Planning

Once we arrived at JRTC, we were able to overcome some of the lack of resources we had experienced previously. We were issued four M1114 high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, thereby allowing us to conduct all of our own security operations with oversight from observer-controllers. Many of the observer-controllers had experienced at least one deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq. This gave them the knowledge and experience needed to help us refine our TTP and SOPs.

We were allowed plenty of time to determine our load plans and what equipment we would need in addition to the standard basic issue items. At this point, I identified five teams for my new gun truck platoon.

After our rotation was completed at JRTC, I sat down and talked with my platoon about our mission. Afterward, I felt that we had overcome our “predeployment jitters,” and I was more confident in our ability to perform internal security and transportation missions.

Training in Kuwait

In October 2007, my battalion deployed through Kuwait to Iraq. While in Kuwait, we were able to spend more time on the range. This was extremely beneficial to my Soldiers’ confidence in their abilities to employ the M2 .50-caliber machinegun and the M249 squad automatic weapon. Before departing Kuwait, we went to a training lane in which my Soldiers had to react to adverse situations, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), explosively formed penetrators, small-arms fire, indirect fire, and hostile crowds. We improved our traveling formations and incorporated new skills into our TTP, such as setting up landing zones for aeromedical evacuations. After months of training, we were ready to begin our mission as a gun truck platoon.

Establishing Operations in Iraq

We arrived in Iraq in late October 2007. The unit with which we conducted the relief in place and transfer of authority had seven gun trucks; however, the unit primarily relied on its combat arms counterparts to conduct many of its missions. This was not part of our plan; we intended to conduct our own security. We decided that we wanted not only to provide security for combat replenishment operations but also to provide the same gun-crew support to the mission as our combat arms counterparts.

When I completely understood what my concept of support would be to Area of Operations Naples, I determined that I needed another senior noncommissioned officer. I explained this need to the company commander, and he agreed. I requested a sergeant first class with whom I had served in a platoon leadership capacity and who I knew had the tactical knowledge and expertise to spearhead my intent. He later became the gun truck platoon sergeant.

After the new sergeant first class came on board in late November, I allowed him to build his teams as he saw fit. He explained his need to have a compound of his own, with enough living space for him and his Soldiers to facilitate our goal of becoming mission ready in the least amount of time. We obtained control of a compound that had originally been built to house Iraqi Army soldiers. The six vehicle commanders ate together, worked out together, and slept in the same area. They were constantly discussing new TTP and planning the concept of support for the next mission. During our 14-month deployment, the gun truck platoon provided security for 208 combat replenishment operations, 27 recovery operations, 12 fortification operations, and 11 presence patrols.

Providing Escort Security

The battalion S–3 selected our platoon over 18 other gun truck platoons to provide escort security for an Iraqi Army demining team. This mission required us to link up with a coalition force element at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kalsu and escort the demining team approximately 75 kilometers to FOB Scania. There, we conducted a handoff with the 1st Brigade, Georgian Army. Being considered for this high-visibility tasking was a major accomplishment for our sustainment Soldiers. They conducted the mission with extreme professionalism.

Because of its ability to handle this high-visibility operation, the gun truck platoon was selected to perform personal security detachment operations for various State Department officials working as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team. In addition to these personal security detachment missions, the gun truck platoon conducted joint security operations with the 511th Military Police Company, a Lithuanian personal security detachment platoon, the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi National Police, and Georgian Army elements. The platoon’s ability to work with these various coalition force partners enabled them to conduct a variety of security operations. The gun truck platoon’s ability to accomplish nothing less than laudatory results was just cause for their selection to perform a joint security operation with elements of the El Salvador Army task force to provide in-transit and on-the-ground security for the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador.

The roles of our sustainment Soldiers are constantly changing in the Global War on Terrorism. The success of this 41-Soldier distribution platoon in creating a gun truck and transportation platoon was known throughout Area of Operations Naples. Though creating the gun truck platoon was training intensive, it increased the distribution platoon’s flexibility and made the platoon an additional maneuver asset to accomplish the battalion’s mission. Although the training was tough on the Soldiers, they were proud of their readiness to take on any mission. Their ability to remain vigilant and prove their warrior ethos in everyday actions downrange deserves accolades from every level. ALOG

First Lieutenant Randy S. Heath is the distribution platoon leader of F Company, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which deployed to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland University College–European Division and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Basic Officer Leader Course.