Welcome to my random muses of being an aspiring banjo player, a Battalion Commander, a student of Army War College, and my admiring observations of Soldiers. It's all to the tune of yet another deployment to this country called Iraq.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Final Two Convoys

"I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq" - Stephen Colbert
Over the past nine months we have safely completed over 1,000 convoys in support of Operation New Dawn. Our transporters have driven everywhere from Habur Gate on the Turkish border in the north all the way south to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. Our battalion came to close Iraq and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. It almost seemed as though the end of operations in Iraq was tied to our progress in closing all of the various bases from north to south as we continued to jump our TOC. It was no coincidence that our final two convoys completed in the last four days of the war. Both of the convoys crossed their starting points (SP) at COB Adder and reached their release points (RP) at Camp Buehring. The two convoys were a microcosm of the diversity of missions we were assigned throughout. One of the convoys was an “operational retrograde” that not only relocated our own transporters to Camp Buehring, it also assisted another unit in getting south for its eventual redeployment home. The other was a pure retrograde cargo mission, in which we were assigned cargo destined southward out of Iraq and we planned and dispatched a convoy to get it done. The first of our final two missions – the operational retrograde – would be conducted by our hard charging “Road Warriors” of 68th Transportation Company. One platoon from the Road Warriors had still been operating out of Adder but with the end of mission so close they were tasked to convoy south to Camp Buehring. Early on the morning of December 12, 2011, they loaded up cargo from another unit also on its way out and then crossed their SP. Back at Camp Buehring we kept a close watch on their progress. About an hour prior to their arrival we stopped what we were doing and headed out to the Entry Control Point to welcome them. Every available Soldier in our battalion came out with banners and Company Guidons. As the Road Warriors entered Camp Buehring they were met with a celebration of cheers. Our cordon of Soldiers led them all the way to their motor pool. CSM and I were there to shake the hands of every single Road Warrior as they completed their final mission. Now their only mission was to turn in their equipment and wait for their flight back to Fort Bliss, TX. Job well done Road Warriors!

Then came our final convoy. The mission was assigned to the 89th Transportation Company “Road Masters”. These transporters had been with us throughout our deployment. It was only appropriate they would have the last mission. As a matter of fact, they volunteered for the mission as soon as the tasking was given to us. As chance would have it, CSM and I were able to see them in action while they were conducting this final mission while we were at Adder for our final battlefield circulation. The same convoy we watched SP on December 13th headed south to Kuwait turned out to be the last one. The Road Masters hauled their retrograde cargo to Camp Arifjan and then returned to Camp Buehring on December 14th. Just as we had for the Road Warriors two days prior, we lined the road inside the ECP to welcome our heroes. It was a repeat of the previous celebration. Our Soldiers cheered, Company Guidons waved, banners were displayed, and the trucks honked their horns. Once the Road Masters parked their trucks there was nothing left for them to do except prepare for their trip back to Fort Eustis, VA. As a Battalion, we were still on mission but now it was a matter of counting down the hours. Job well done Road Masters!

There was electricity in the air. Every single Soldier in our battalion was energized. Not only were we at the doorstep of our end of mission, we were on the eve of the end of the war in Iraq. The announcement would come the next day in a ceremony held in Baghdad. Now the unrelenting momentum is the emotional rush of knowing we are headed home. Our historic mission – the largest combat retrograde of forces the United States has conducted since World War II – was hours from being complete.

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