On the road again: Convoys lead the way for ground cargo in Kuwait

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chad Padgett
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
With drives that can last 16 days under the constant threat of attack and convoys up to two-miles long, Airmen deployed from the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron performs a unique mission in Kuwait.

All ground cargo transportation for Iraq originates in Kuwait with the 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"These convoys include gun trucks, contractor vehicles as well as our own M915 trucks, so some of these convoys would involve over 30 vehicles and be two-miles long," said Lt. Col. Carlos Camarillo, 436th LRS commander. "We would have a technical sergeant in charge of all the vehicles as the convoy commander. He was responsible for the entire convoy."

The convoys had to remain vigilant for Improvised Explosive Devices or small-arms fire as they travelled from checkpoint to checkpoint.

"My crew never hit any IEDs, but we did hit pretty intense small arms fire," said Airman 1st Class Rebecca Avers, 436th LRS vehicle operator dispatcher. "It was my last run and the enemy was on foot with AK-47s. All four of our gun trucks had to engage shooting nearly 1,500 rounds to suppress fire. Small-arms fire isn't really accurate and with all the armor on the trucks it just sounds like popcorn popping, but it's still a rush. There's chatter on the radios and the gun trucks engage, but no matter what, you just keep going."
To prepare for the demanding mission of running the convoys, Airmen must first complete the Basic Combat Convoy Course (BC3) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where they learn a variety of skills such as combat life saving, navigation, small-team management, emergency procedures and casualty evacuation.

"I was trained to be a gunner at BC3," said Senior Airman Raul Lezcano, 436th LRS vehicle operator dispatcher. "For six weeks we trained with security forces members. We learned what to do if our gun jammed, if we were under attack or if someone was hurt. For nine weeks we trained on convoys."

The training came in handy for Airman Lezcano when he was one of the first on the scene during a vehicle accident with two fuel trucks.

"Two fuel trucks collided when one had to stop quickly and the other one hit it from behind," said Airman Lezcano. "The trucks flipped and all the fuel both trucks were hauling spilled everywhere. I had my Combat Life Saving bag with me, so we drove up to the accident. I kicked out the window and took the first individual about 1,000 yards back. He didn't have any major injuries so I left him with a maintenance guy from our convoy. The second individual had blood all over the front windshield where he hit his head. I relied on my training and made sure to move him carefully not to injure his back or neck. He had serious cuts on his head and we were able to bandage him and stop the bleeding. They both lived and the medical training from BC3 made it possible for me to do that."

Another danger of being on the road was from other motorists driving through Kuwait .

"You really have to be on your toes driving over there," said Colonel Camarillo. "They will drive on the shoulder, over curbs, try to fit five lanes of traffic into two lanes, it can really be a challenge. You have so many heavy trucks driving 45 mph, then other vehicles are going over 100 mph and you only have so many lanes of traffic. You have to watch for the slow traffic ahead of you and keep an eye on the rear view mirror so you don't get rear ended."

With more than 300 Airmen from 30 locations around the world, Colonel Camarillo spent many days knowing that at any moment, anything could happen.

"There are so many teams out on the road, and of course, you knew about every attack," said Colonel Camarillo. "These are people you trained with. We had an IED attack just south of Baghdad-- the driver saw it at the last minute, but the truck still hit the IED and it detonated, damaging the rear axle. It disabled the vehicle, but thankfully, everyone was OK. These were Airmen I had trained with and knew personally, so it was difficult."

While many of the 436th LRS members have deployed to Kuwait on more than one occasion to participate in the unique mission of being the only Air Force ground cargo transportation into Iraq, they continue to be ready for the challenge.

"It was demanding, long hours, nerve wracking driving in the dark, but it made you proud," said Airman Avers. "Every member on the crew has a responsibility and role to make sure that we all get back safely. It's not just one person."