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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Perez, convoy commander, 70th medium truck detachment and Santa Fe, NM native, briefs his team on convoy tactics during a "rock drill" before departing on a mission to transport equipment out of Iraq on Oct. 22, 2011. Perez is responsible for moving a convoy of 43 vehicles and 60 passengers more than 1,100 miles through Iraq. Members of the 70th MTD are hauling equipment out of Iraq to meet the deadline for the U.S. military transition from Iraq. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
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Air Force truckers haul U.S. out of Iraq

Posted 11/12/2011   Updated 11/22/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Correspondent

11/12/2011 - UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, Southwest Asia -- Air Force truckers from the 70th Medium Truck Detachment and convoy escort team Soldiers of B Troop, 1-94 Cavalry, Pine City, Minn. Army National Guard met for the first time Oct, 26, 2011. Only hours later, these men put their lives in one another's hands as they convoyed throughout Iraq, hauling out cargo as the U.S. withdraws from the country.

The 350 Airmen of the 70th and 424th MTD are on the roads in Iraq every day, transporting cargo and other items out of the country in support of the Dec. 31st deadline for U.S. Forces to be out of Iraq.

In recent months, the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron has increased its amount of missions trucking out cargo from Iraq by approximately 200 percent.

From January to June we were averaging 11 missions per month said Lt. Col. John O'Connor, 387th ELRS commander and native of Albany Ga. Now we're doing 34 to 40 missions per month and 60 next month, he said.

Commanding convoys along the side their Army brethren, Airmen here have been carrying out the trucking mission in Iraq since November 2005.

Convoying from base to base in Iraq is no stroll through the park. Three hours before every leg of the trip, preparation begins. Airmen line up their contracted drivers, making sure their vehicles are ready for the ride. The gun trucks mount their weapons and conduct radio checks. Finally, the gun truck and convoy commanders brief their troops on their upcoming day and hit the road.

During the next six nights, these service members will travel through 1,100 miles of desert, city roads and highway, with every inch of every mile possibly hiding a bullet, roadside bomb or rock meant for one of these young men.

During their trip, the convoy faced a variety of problems. An Airmen's truck caught on fire, yet a Soldier was there within 90 seconds to help him put out the flames. The Army's radios wouldn't communicate with the truckers, so an Airman re-programmed their radios so everyone could communicate. Teamwork prevailed and the success and safety of the mission are reflected in the numbers.

"During the mission, we extracted about 250,000 lbs of cargo," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Perez, convoy commander and native of Santa Fe, Nm. The cargo that Perez refers to came from two different locations in Iraq, and consisted of vehicles, uniforms, equipment and various items.

The six nights the two teams spent together brought both services together -- each mile on the road cementing the Airmen and Soldiers in their joint mission. They may have started their trip segregated by their services, but by the end of the trip there was no dividing line and they were a band of brothers. Soldiers and Airmen would play catch before missions. Pre-mission rituals were shared and taught to one another, and friendships were made.

"Look me up on Facebook," said one Airman to a Soldier as they parted ways on their final day.

For the first time to the entire group, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sielski, NCO in charge of the gun trucks, praised the 70th and 424th MTD.

"You guys have been the best we've worked with," Sielski said. "If we can be with you guys every mission, then lets figure it out."

11/24/2011 10:49:12 AM ET
@Susan I think the point he is trying to make is the number of missions is decreasing over time.
Jason, Diego Garcia
11/15/2011 8:17:54 AM ET
Article says 'When we first got here last month the squadron was averaging about 11 missions per week' said Lt. Col. John O'Connor 387th ELRS commander and native of Albany Ga. before going on to say that the squadron is on track to average about 35 missions per month. So 11 missions per week is over 47 missions per month. They're on track to run 12 fewer missions per month I think something is confused here.
Susan, Wright-Patterson AFB
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