'Road Warriors' make surge a reality in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Of the many missions in a war zone, none is less glamorous, or so critically important, than the role of the supply convoy.

Virtually everything a fighting force requires to operate in a deployed environment usually arrives behind a semi-trailer over dangerous roads.

Recently, two Moody sergeants were recognized with medals for their outstanding contribution to this logistical effort.

Tech. Sgt. Reagan Ross, 23rd Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations supervisor, was presented with the Bronze Star for his role as a convoy commander for the 424th Medium Truck Detachment.

Staff Sgt. Robert Stemcosky, 23rd LRS vehicle operations shift leader, was also recognized for his outstanding service while deployed. He received the Meritorious Service Medal for his accomplishments as Sergeant Ross' lead vehicle commander.

Together, the two sergeants led 13 convoys into Iraq, covering more than a half-million cumulative in-country miles without a single accident, injury or delay due to enemy action.

"I can attribute our success to one single factor; teamwork," said Sergeant Ross. "Everyone was willing to do anything for anyone to accomplish the mission. Every Airman put their role in the convoy above their personal issues and were ready to roll, no matter what."

In March 2007, five Airmen from the 23rd LRS deployed to Camp Bullis, Texas, and met with the other 155 members of the 424th MTD. Once assembled, the team of security forces Airmen, communications specialists, supply troops, vehicle maintainers and vehicle operators went through five weeks of training at the Air Force Basic Combat Convoy Course.

The Air Force training was provided by transportation and security forces instructors that had first-hand knowledge of the dangers they would face. As a result, BC3 was up-to-date and applied the latest techniques to real-world convoy operations, said Sergeant Stemcosky.

"The training we received was a big improvement," he said. "My last deployment was learn-as-you-go, after we had arrived in Iraq. This time around, we had the latest methods taught to us, as a team, before we even got (to our deployed location)."

Once deployed, the 424th MTD and another all-Air Force sister unit; the 70th MTD, began its mission of supplying units throughout Iraq.

Every vehicle that left with them was with them for the duration of the trip. For Sergeants Ross and Stemcosky, their shortest mission was 52 hours, the longest; 19 days.

Each day on the road they would be sleeping at a different forward operating base or camp, all through the heat of an Iraqi summer. 

While on the roll, a combat convoy is an imposing sight, said Sergeant Ross. Some convoys could be as large as 55 vehicles long and was accompanied by a team of 'gun trucks.'

"If we ever got into trouble, it would always run off as soon as any gun trucks rolled up," he said. "They were as mean as they looked and the Army units tasked with protecting us never let us down. They were just awesome."

This one-team mentality extended to the third country national drivers they were paired up with as well.

"Every single mile we drove inside Iraq was in the danger zone," said Sergeant Ross. "There was absolutely no sleeping in the truck, everyone's eyes were open and scanning the entire time."

Most runs would last between two-14 hours; depending on how bad a trip you were having. Delays could include rerouting traffic to avoid high-risk areas, possible explosive device investigations, mechanical breakdown and slower convoys blocking their only route.

Despite the risks and difficulties, Sergeant Ross sees his time in Iraq as the highlight of his career.

"I am most proud of the fact I went into Iraq with 14 crew members and we all got out alive without anyone getting the air let out of them," he said. "We did this because everyone worked together to make it happen.

"I know my wife is going to hate this, but I would love to go back," he added. "Commanding convoys with these Airmen was the best experience I have ever had in my 17-year Air Force career."