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End of the Road

End of the Road

End of the Road

 

CAPT. NATHANIEL A. SAPP
1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment
West Virginia Army National Guard
Fairmont, West Virginia

 

Several years ago, I was one of several convoy commanders providing security in Iraq between Camp Cedar II and Camp Scania. Our mission routine was five days of moving military transportation or third-country national truck convoys up to Camp Scania and then another convoy back to Camp Cedar II, about 150 miles each way. On the sixth day, we went out as the quick-reaction force (QRF), patrolling up and down the road until the last convoy in our battalion returned from Scania. The seventh day was for rest and recovery.

At this point in our mission, we traversed Main Supply Route Tampa, which still had about 40 miles of unpaved surface. However, the route was under construction, with about a quarter-mile being paved each day. With the construction, jersey barriers were placed out to separate the active traffic from construction vehicles. To say that our unit knew those 150 miles of road well is an understatement. The only changes that ever occurred were within the construction area.

On this day, my squad, consisting of three trucks with three Soldiers per vehicle, was the QRF just north of the paved section of road (closer to Scania).We started our vehicles and headed south on Tampa just after the last convoy in our battalion rolled past. During the return trip, I lined up as the last vehicle. As usual, within several feet of hitting the unpaved part of the road, dust kicked up, limiting visibility between our trucks to about 10-15 meters. We increased the distance between the trucks and maintained our speed per our usual standard operating procedures.

About 30 miles into the unpaved area, a familiar line of jersey barriers appeared just to the left of our vehicle. I heard the lead vehicle announce over the radio that one of the barriers had been knocked over and was in our lane. Immediately afterward, I felt our vehicle slam to a sudden halt as my driver quickly applied the brakes. As I put my arm forward to brace my momentum, I noticed the middle truck’s rear lights just 2 or 3 feet in front of us. My first thought was to get out of the truck and have a word with my second-squad NCO for stopping so suddenly in the middle of the road. With the limited visibility, there was a high risk of being rear-ended by another unit. When I got up to the truck commander’s (TC) door, I noticed the entire front end of the vehicle was off the ground. I quickly called out for help as I opened the TC’s door to check on him, the driver and gunner.

Fortunately, the driver and TC were wearing their seat belts, and the gunner had on his safety strap. The gunner suffered the worst injuries, breaking his arm upon striking it against his mounted weapon. As we treated the gunner and checked the vehicle, I noticed the entire front axle was smashed in and sitting on an overturned jersey barrier in the middle of the southbound lane.

On this day, I let complacency cause one of our Soldiers to be injured. Because we’d traveled that same stretch of road countless times before without issue, we continued the maneuver at the same speed and vehicle spacing even though we had limited visibility. I should have adjusted our movement to the visibility and ordered my lead vehicle to limit our convoy speed. It was an important lesson learned that we carried with us the rest of our deployment.

 

 

  • 27 February 2022
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 335
  • Comments: 0
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