An exercise conducted in the backwoods of Kentucky
provided Soldiers of the 626th Brigade Support Battalion with
what they would need most in Iraq: confidence.
It is only 0800, but it already has been a long day. As
the heavy, expanded mobility tactical truck lumbers cautiously
at the head of the convoy, a powdery haze of white dust coats
everything in its wake. The truck’s gunner looks left
and right, straining to see through the maze of junked cars
littering the roadside.
Suddenly, the thunder of an improvised explosive device (IED)
shatters the air. Soldiers spring into action, returning fire
against the enemy, treating and evacuating casualties, and
crossloading equipment from the disabled vehicle. In a matter
of minutes, the convoy is on the move again.
This scenario sounds like those that occur all too often on
the battlefields of Iraq. However, it actually played out in
the backwoods of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Soldiers
from the 626th Brigade Support Bat-talion (BSB), 3d Brigade
Combat Team, 101st Air-borne Division (Air Assault), participated
in a force-on-force convoy training exercise in preparation
for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.
Not long before the exercise, the 626th BSB had implemented a new convoy standing
operating procedure (SOP). Battalion Command Sergeant Major Stephen D. Blake
developed the SOP, using the Center for Army Lessons Learned Web site to gather
the most recent tactics, techniques, and procedures used by units operating
in Iraq. “I simply compiled information that was already out there, then
tailored it to the types of missions our unit will run [in Iraq],” said
Soldier engages dismounted insurgents after his convoy
hit by an improvised explosive device.
Below: Before beginning convoy training, the platoon
leader of Company A, 626th Brigade Support Battalion
(BSB), checks the position of friendly forces on
a Blue Force Tracker (a digital system that uses
satellite signals from forces on the battlefield
to map out positions and improve communications).
The complex training exercise incorporated realistic
enemy tactics, civilian noncombatant role players, and numerous
manmade obstacles on a 5-kilometer route. The multifunctional
logistics convoy included Soldiers from all of the battalion’s
companies. For many of them, this was the first time they had
During the exercise, Soldiers were forced to react to ground and vehicle-borne
IED attacks, dismounted enemy attacks, and civilians needing assistance. Convoy
commanders learned to coordinate with adjacent units and to evacuate friendly
petroleum specialist with the 626th BSB scans the
roadside as his convoy negotiates the convoy training
Initially, the training was leader-focused; the offi-cers and noncommissioned
officers negotiated the convoy lanes to validate the new SOP. Units then reviewed
troop-leading procedures and conducted rehearsals and precombat checks.
The difficulty and intensity of the training was a confidence builder for Operation
Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans and new Soldiers alike. “The emphasis [was]
on rehearsals, coordination, battle drills, precombat checks and inspections,
rules of engagement, security—Soldiers have to think and rapidly solve
a series of problems,” said Staff Sergeant Tony Ringle, a cavalry scout
and OIF veteran who assisted the unit with mounted security techniques during
the convoy lanes.
a sergeant from the 626th BSB’s water and fuel
platoon evacuates a wounded comrade after an improvised
explosive device (IED) ambush along the convoy training
Below, a simulated IED is hard-wired to a detonator
buried along the roadway.
Individual Soldier medical training was emphasized during
the exercise. “[When
Soldiers] are more alert, they know what to do, and their actions will be really
helpful to medics,” said Sergeant Amanda Volker, a healthcare specialist
participating in the exercise.
Though the exercise had many Soldier, small unit, and collective objectives,
the most important among them was increased Soldier confidence. “This
training takes away the fear . . . ,” said Command Sergeant Major Blake. “Soldiers
learn to react—[they] don’t wait to be led—when the situation
happens, they know what to do about it and do it.”
The Army Logistician staff thanks Major John T. “Tom” Bryant, Public
Affairs Officer for the 3d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division
(Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for providing the information contained
in this article. The 3d BCT currently is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation