The 106th Transportation Battalion is now and always has been a battalion with a great vitality of spirit and a deep sense of pride in successful mission accomplishment. The battalion's soldiers are among the very best and the busiest in the entire Army. Since the 106th was reactivated in 1955, its most compelling characteristic has been decentralized operations. The battalion's companies and trailer transfer points (TTP) have been widely dispersed since at least 1958.
The 106th has led a nomadic existence since its reactivation. The battalion headquarters has had four “permanent” homes: Bussac, France (near Bordeaux: 1955 – 1958); Croix Chapeau, France (near La Rochelle: 1958 – 1963); Bremerhaven, Germany: (1963 – 1970); and Ruesselsheim, Germany: (1970 – present). In addition, the battalion has had two temporary homes. A significant element of the headquarters was based in Orleans, France from May 1966 – March 1967, during Operation FRELOC. The second was in Lee Barracks, Mainz, Germany, from December 1979 – December 1981, during the renovation of Azbill Barracks.
Possibly because of the frequent moves, the battalion's records are nearly nonexistent. The history which follows has been pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle with many lost pieces. Even though some details may be missing, the important thing is to capture the spirit and dedication or the thousands or young men and women who have been in the 106th Transportation Battalion throughout the years. Whether drivers, mechanics, cooks, clerks or communicators, they are all essential in providing a first class motor transportation service to the United States Army, Europe.
We have a sign in the battalion headquarters with pictures of our current soldier of the month and quarter. The sign says: “Welcome, soldier, to the 106th Transportation Battalion: The highest mileage truck battalion in the United States Army. These and many other dedicated soldiers have gone before you. It is your turn now. Hold your head high and make your contribution to our tradition."
Obviously, many things have changed since 1955. What certainly has not changed is the extraordinary dedication with which the soldiers of the 106th Transportation Battalion continue to serve our country.
Primus Inter Pares - First Among Equals
THE FLYING TRUCK WHEEL REPRESENTS TRANSPORTATION BY WHEELED VEHICLE, WHILE THE SCROLL REPRESENTS THE ROADS OVER WHICH THE UNIT IS REQUIRED TO OPERATE. THE MOTTO “PRIMUS INTER PARES” (FIRST AMONG EQUALS) REPRESENTS OUR RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENT HAULING OVER THOSE ROADS IN COMPARISON WITH SIMILAR ORGANIZATINOS. THE FIVE FLEURS DE LIS DENOTE THE FIVE CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDITS OF THE BATTALION IN WWII: NORMANDY, NORTHERN FRANCE, RHINELAND, CENTRAL EUROPE AND ARDENNES-ALSACE
“THE BRICK RED AND YELLOW USED IN THE DISTINCTIVE UNIT INSIGNIA (CREST) OF THE 106th TRANSPORTATION BATTALION ARE THE BRANCH OF SERVICE COLOR FOR THE TRANSPORTAITON CORPS. THE BLACK ENAMEL DISC SIGNIFIES CAMPAIGNS ON GERMAN SOIL.”
The ancestral parent of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 106th Transportation Battalion is the 522nd Quartermaster Truck Regiment. The 522nd Quartermaster was constituted on 25 February 1943 and activated 15 April 1943 at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
On 20 November, 1943, the regiment was broken up. Its elements were reorganized and redesignated. HBD, 2nd Battalion, 522nd QM Regiment became HHD, l06th Quartermaster Battalion (Mobile).
The battalion deployed to Europe and received participation credit for five World War II campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rheinland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The battalion was inactivated in Munich, Germany on 22 February 1946. While inactive, the unit was converted and redesignated the l06th Transportation Corps Battalion on 1 August 1946.
After World War II, Russia occupied the East European nations with the idea of establishing buffer countries between it and the democratic Europe. The constant threat of war between the Soviet Union and Western Europe created what was then known as the “Cold War.” In preparation for that the United States and European nations created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April 1949. The US Army established a comprehensive Communication Zone (COMZ) in France to support the defense of West Germany from an attack by the Soviet block armies. This COMZ included a line of communication that stretched from the ports of Northern France to Germany and supply depots scattered throughout France.
The 106th was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 106th Transportation Battalion (Truck) (Army) and allocated to the Regular Army, 1 February 1955. The battalion was activated at Landes de Bussac (near Bordeaux), France, on 18 March 1955. The early 1950s was the period of the buildup of the communications zone in France. Several truck companies were deployed to France as early as 1950. Others came from the assets of the 37th Highway Transport Command, then located in Turley Barracks. Mannheim. This was also a period when the World War II Reserve and National Guard units were being released from active duty and replaced by Regular Army units.
It is probable that, while no lineal relationship exists, the 806th Transportation Battalion was the forerunner of the l06th in Bussac. The 806th was an Army Reserve battalion called into active service in 1951 and deployed to France in late 1952. On 18 March 1955, the 806th Transportation Battalion was released from active service and reverted to Army Reserve status at Little Rock, Arkansas. With simultaneous activation/release from active service dates, it is almost certain that the l06th assumed the mission, task organization, personnel, equipment and facilities of the 806th.
The battalion's mission was to clear the port of Bordeaux and line-haul into another battalion's area of operations. The cargo then moved along the French line of communications into Germany for support of US Forces there. The next battalion to the east was probably the 2nd Transportation Battalion. The battalion's next higher headquarters was probably the 9th Transportation Group, and then located in Saran, France. However, the battalion could also have been assigned either to the Bussac General Depot, or directly to the Base Section, Communications Zone, Europe. At that time, Bussac was the headquarters of the COMMZ Europe.
Our estimate of the original task organization is based on inferences drawn from records of the 78th Transportation Company to personal correspondence and a 1959 battalion yearbook graciously donated to the l06th in 1983 by Colonel (Retired) Thomas L. Lyons. We gratefully acknowledge Colonel Lyons' contribution to this portion of our history.
The 55th Petroleum Company was part of the battalion from 1955 to 1958. It was detached when the Petroleum Command was formed. The 78th Transportation Company has been with the 106th since the battalion's inception. The 78th was activated on 3 April 1942 as Company H of the 46th Quartermaster Regiment, Camp Haan, California. In early 1943, the unit left New York aboard the USS Argentina for North Africa. In December 1943, the unit was redesignated as the 3488th Quartermaster Truck Company. Inactivated after the war, the unit was finally reactivated as the 78th Transportation Company on 21 October 1948 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. On 6 September 1951, the 78th was assigned to the 2nd Transportation Battalion, Camp Bussac, France. It was reassigned to the 9th Transportation Group on 21 November 1952. On 6 January 1953, the 78th became part of the 806th Transportation Battalion. There is no separate record of assignment to the l06th Transportation Battalion. While it is pure guesswork, there was probably also a trailer transfer point located in Bussac at this time.
The 67th Transportation Company, located in the Chateauroux Air Force Base complex, may also have been part of the battalion at this time. The battalion always had a company with a similar number. Based on correspondence, it is assumed that the 67th was assigned to the battalion from 1955 until sometime in 1958. Therefore, the initial task organization may have been:
The first battalion commander of the l06th was LTC Herbert N. Reed. Between his assumption of command on 18 March 1955 and LTC Thomas L. Lyons' assumption of command on 4 January 1959, there were three other battalion commanders: Major John R. Powell, Major Randall P. Smith and LTC Marcus A. Petterson. The exact command tenure of each of the first four battalion commanders is unknown.
Fall, 1956, was a time of change for the battalion. The 9th Transportation Group became part of the 37th Transportation Highway Transport Command on 1 October 1956 and moved from Saran to Nancy on that date. This marked the first time since World War II that all truck units in US Army Europe (USAREUR) COMMZ were under the jurisdiction of a single command the (37th THTC). The 9th's mission was to operate the intersectional highway transport service within the USAREUR COMMZ. On 1 November 1956, the 37th moved from Mannheim, Germany to Orleans, France. The 2nd Transportation Battalion at Etain and the 106th Transportation at Camp Bussac were assigned to the 9th Transportation Group on 1 October 1956.
The 77th Transportation Company (Light Truck) was activated on 1 May 1936. Except for a 15 month period, it had been on continuous duty in North Africa and Europe since arrival in Casablanca, French Morocco in 1943. In November 1950, the 77th deployed from Germany to Bordeaux, France. In France, they were attached successively to the 7711th Provisional Truck Battalion, the 109th Transportation Battalion (Truck), the 2nd Transportation Battalion (Truck) and, in November 1956, to the 106th Transportation Battalion, the 77th was located in Jeumont Caserne, La Pallice, France. La Pallice incorporates a modern sea terminal and is contiguously located just to the west of the historic sea port of La Rochelle. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Vieux Port (old port) of La Rochelle was the main embarkation point for thousands of French immigrants who sought their fortunes in the New World. Jeumont Caserne was dominated by a huge U-boat bunker built by the Germans in 1941 that housed the 3rd U-boat Flotilla during WWII. This bunker is still in place and was the filming location for the ending scene of the 1981 movie “Das Boot”.
The 583rd Transportation Company (Light Truck) was originally constituted in May 1936, activated in 1942 at Fort Bliss, Texas, and inactivated 12 April 1950 in Okinawa, Japan. The 583rd was reactivated on 9 February 1955 at Camp Bussac, France. It was formed with a transfer of personnel from the 480th Transportation Company, West Virginia National Guard. The" 583rd was under the operational control of Camp Bussac until 1 October 1956. On that date it was assigned to the l06th.
The 595th Transportation Company (Heavy Truck) was activated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on 5 October 1943. The unit arrived in England on 11 June 1944. It remained in Europe, stationed in both Germany and France (15 November 1950). The 595th was assigned to the 2nd Transportation Battalion from 1951 until 1954. When it was redesignated as a heavy truck company on 3 December 1954, it was assigned directly to Headquarters, 9th Transportation Group (Truck). On 1 October 1956, the 595th became part of the 106th Transportation Battalion.
Although it is again guesswork, both the 77th and the 583rd probably had trailer transfer points at this time. It is known that they did in 1959. The task organization in late fall 1956 was as shown:
Other than the 77th Transportation Company, very little is known about 106th activities in 1957. During the year, the 77th Transportation Company participated in the first test of' the experimental roll-on-roll off (RO-RO) vessel, the USNS Comet. In October 1957, they rolled 110,000 miles in a 15 day period while supporting a logistical support exercise named LOGSPEC. While not documented, all units of the battalion probably participated in the series of new off-shore discharge exercises (NODEX) which were taking place along the northern coast of France at the time.
During 1958, the 77th ran more than one million miles. On 30 May, the 595th moved from Braconne to Fontenet, France
In July 1958, the battalion commander, LTC Petterson, was notified that the 106th was leaving its home in Camp Bussac and moving north to Croix Chapeau Medical Installation, in the vicinity of La Rochelle. Croix Chapeau, a small village located about ten miles east of La Rochelle. Croix Chapeau was the site of a fairly new 500-bed hospital that housed the 28th General Hospital, of which only 50 beds were used to support the Army in Southwestern France. The move began on 5 August. The 78th and 583rd Companies moved as well; but not north. In July 1958, both units were alerted for deployment to Lebanon. They convoyed to La Pallice and sailed aboard the USS General George M. Randall on 27 July 1958.
During the Lebanon crisis, both units were attached to the 201st Logistical Command (A), American Land Forces, Middle East. They arrived in Lebanon on 3 August. On 9 August, the 78th moved to Adana, Turkey (in the vicinity of the present Incirlik Air Base). They were further attached to the 38th Transportation Battalion, Adana Sub-Command. It is not certain, but the 583rd probably remained in Lebanon during the entire time of deployment.
When the crisis ended, both units returned to the 106th. The 78th arrived in France to find that it had a new home. They arrived in Croix Chapeau on 23 October 1958. The 583rd arrived back in Camp Bussac (Bordeaux) on 1 November 1958.
Thus, by late 1958, the l06th had begun its long history of wide dispersion and decentralized operations which continued for four decades.
Coming from the Army War College via COMMZ Headquarters, LTC (later COL) Thomas L. Lyons assumed command of the battalion on 4 January 1959. It was to prove a very busy year.
The mission in 1959 included the now-familiar tasks of clearing the ports of La Pallice and Bordeaux, with subsequent line-haul from the western France Depot Complex to Orleans. Trailers were relayed by the 28th Transportation Battalion from Orleans to Nancy. The 2nd Transportation Battalion then moved the loads to Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they were delivered by the 53rd Transportation Battalion. A new task to clear the port of St. Nazaire was also added to the mission during 1959.
The battalion moved more than 110,000 tons of cargo; accumulating over 5 million miles in the process. The accident rate was a very low 7.76 per million miles. Battalion units participated in two exercises in the NODEX series during the year NODEX 20 and 21. NODEX 21 was the first ship-to-ship operational transfer of tow-away and drive-away cargo. The USNS Comet and the lighter USA John U. D. Page linked stern to stern while in stream. Vehicles from the l06th then drove from the Page to the Comet, picked up loads and returned to the Page. When the Page returned to the beach, the l06th drove to the nearest trailer transfer point.
During 1959, the l06th conducted a three level, Battalion Refresher Training School for officers, NCOs and enlisted members. The COMMZ Inspector General rated all l06th units excellent or above. The battalion rifle team placed second in the COMMZ competition.
There were also changes to the task organization. Not all the details are clear, but the 68th Transportation Company (Medium) at Ingrandes and the Ingrandes Trailer Transfer Point were attached to the l06th during 1959. The 1959 year book does not mention the 67th as being part of the battalion. Presumably, because of their close proximity in Ingrandes and Chateauroux, the OPCON of the 68th and 67th was changed at the time of the 68th coming into the battalion and the 67th leaving. Its guesswork, but the 67th may have been part of the Lebanon task forces in the summer of 1958. Upon return to France, the unit was assigned to another battalion (probably the 2nd Transportation Battalion).
This didn't last very long, however. In a separate letter COL Lyons stated that he had moved the 67th to St. Nazaire to accommodate the Comet RORO mission. The Comet shifted from a series of tests to a permanent port of call at St. Nazaire on 5 February 1959. The 67th move occurred later. The port of St. Nazaire, located north of La Rochelle, was familiar to many WWI doughboys since that was the first French soil they set foot on when they disembarked from their transport vessels.
The battalion also constituted a Trailer Transfer Point at St. Nazaire where 18 RO-RO operations were conducted during the year. Like its La Pallice counterpart to the south, the St. Nazaire Trailer Transfer Point was dominated by a huge U-boat bunker that was also built by the Germans in 1941. St. Nazaire was the home port for the 6th and 7th U-boat Flotillas during WWII. It is guesswork, but the chronological order was probably creation of the St. Nazaire Trailer Transfer Point, switch of the 68th and 67th and late in the year as the workload grew, regaining and moving the 67th to St. Nazaire. The 68th was probably detached from the battalion when the 67th moved to St. Nazaire. In a separate move the 595th moved from Braconne to Rochefort sometime during the year.
The task organization at the end of 1959 was:
During this period, the 67th, 68th and 78th had five-ton tractors and ten-ton semi-trailers. The two light companies (77th and 583rd) had 2 ½-tons. The 595th was equipped with M26 ten-ton tractors and tank retriever trailers.
On 15 January 1960, LTC (Later BG) Edwin B. Owen assumed command. The task organization in mid-1961 remained the same:
LTC Owen left the 106th on 30 June 1961 to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington D.C. He was succeeded in command by LTC Scheftel on 14 July 1961.
Under LTC Scheftel, the battalion’s primary mission remained unchanged: port clearance and line-haul to the 28th Trailer Transfer Point at Chateauroux. They were also heavily committed to other activities, such as NODEX. Roundout (support of Berlin troop buildup) and the relocation of ammunition depots.
The troops had some fun supplying trucks and extras for the filming of the movie "The Longest Day". There were also good runs to Spain, hauling rebuilt vehicles from the ordnance depots to the Spanish Army. There were also occasional support missions for airborne exercises in the Pyrenees Mountains.
During his tenure, LTC Scheftel gained the 62nd Transportation Company (Med). The 595th Transportation Company was deployed to Germany in the Fall of 1961 where it was later attached to the 28th Transportation Battalion. In addition, the 1st Platoon of the 583rd was deployed to Chateauroux. The rest of the unit remained in Bussac.
So the battalion remained widely dispersed, with about 250 miles between its furthest elements. The task organization was as shown:
LTC (later COL) Brown commanded the battalion from 15 July 1962 until 1 July 1963. During the summer of 1962, all activities involved with clearing the port of Bordeaux were eliminated. The 583rd was reassigned to the 28th Transportation Battalion at Ingrandes, and the 62nd turned its vehicles over to the 77th Transportation Company while it made preparations for redeployment to Fort Eustis, Virgnia where it would be transferred to the 6th Transportation Battalion. The Bussac Trailer Transfer Point was inactivated with key personnel disbursed to the St. Nazaire and La Pallice Trailer Transfer Points. The two remaining Trailer Transfer Points were assigned directly to the 37th Transportation Command (Motor Transport), as Detachment 1, 37th TRANSCOM (MT) (St. Nazaire) and Detachment 2, 37th TRANSCOM (MT) (La Pallice). Thus, during this period, and up until November 1963, the battalion was closer together than at any time since. Only 150 miles separated the two operating locations. The battalion had six elements, located as shown.
LTC (later COL) Brown commanded the battalion from 15 July 1962 until 1 July 1963. During this period, and up until November 1963, the battalion was closer together than at any time since. Only 150 miles separated the two operating locations. The battalion had six elements, located as shown.
On 24 July 1963, LTC (later MG) Del Mar assumed command. In the fall of 1963, French President Charles DeGualle ordered American troops out of his country. The subsequent rumor mill ran full throttle among HHD personnel as to potential sites where the battalion would be moved, with Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; and Bremerhaven, Germany most prominently mentioned. On 2 November 1963, the battalion received its orders to leave western France. Letter orders 241-1, Headquarters COMMZ Europe dated 2 November 1963, moved the battalion to Bremerhaven. Germany. An advance party comprised of key Communications Center personnel was the first to depart Croix Chapeau so communications would already be in place when the remainder of the HHD personnel arrived. Upon their arrival at the Bremerhaven Staging Area (later called Karl Schurz Kaserne), this party was surprised to find a small group of 106th enlisted personnel waiting to greet them. As it turned out, these troops had disembarked from a troop transport in Bremerhaven with orders for France, but the battalion actually came from France to them!
In the haste to move, the Army did not have time to approve funds for the move. LTC Del Mar left ahead of his convoys to arrange for government quarters for his soldiers and purchased food for the families with his own money. He authorized each bachelor one trailer and each family two trailers to load and haul their household goods. They loaded Privately Owned Vehicles (POVs) on trailers and covered them so they would not be seen. The last M52 tractor to cross the border had a white painted plywood sign on the back with a green frog and the words, “Never Again Froggie,” written under it. The Americans referred to the French as “Frogs.” Since American soldiers had fought in two wars for the defense or liberation of France, they felt insulted.
While not stated in the movement orders, the mission was to clear the Bremerhaven military ocean terminal and line haul to Giessen. The battalion headquarters and 78th Transportation Company moved from Croix Chapeau to Bremerhaven, where they were joined by Detachment 2, 37th Transportation Command (Motor Transport), which had moved from La Pallice to Bremerhaven. The 77th Transportation Company moved from La Pallice to Kassel military sub-post, Rothwestern AB, Germany. The 67th Transportation Company and Detachment 1, 37th Transportation Command (Motor Transport) moved from St. Nazaire to Bremerhaven. The 598th Transportation Company was detached from the 28th Transportation Battalion, attached to the l06th, and moved from Ingrandes, France to Kassel and was attached to the 106th in late 1963
LTC (later COL) Charles T. Forrester, Jr. commanded the battalion from 4 July 1964 until 1 February 1966. The Trailer Transfer Points were given alphabetic designations and the TTA had been the Trailer Transfer Point that moved from Bussac. In January 1965, the task organization was as shown:
Because the M52 5-ton was designed as a tactical vehicle it was not designed for high speed traffic on highways. This caused a lot of wear on the vehicles. Instead, the commanders pushed for commercial tractors. In 1965, 37th Transportation Command turned in their M52 tractors for the International Harvester 205H tractor.
LTC (later COL) Wanek assumed command on 1 February 1966. This was a bleak time for the battalion. The Army was focusing its attention on the Republic of Vietnam. Cargo on the Bremerhaven LOC dropped sharply. The battalion was rapidly losing drivers as part of Operation Drawdown. Because so many soldiers were leaving Europe, there was a huge glut of POVs in Bremerhaven waiting to be shipped home. The 106th was utilizing only 25% of its capability. Worse yet, beginning in February 1966, the 106th was committed to provide as many as 120 guards for ammunition ships arriving in Nordenham, Germany. In addition, POV shuttle details consumed another 50 soldiers per day. With the 106th becoming an "ash and trash" battalion, there was speculation that it might be inactivated. Events proved quite the opposite. The battalion was about to enter an extremely busy period in its history. It was a period in which the 106th again demonstrated its unparalleled resilience and productivity in the face of adversity.
In 1965, General de Gaulle and France made the historic decision to leave the military arm of NATO. This meant, of course, that US Forces had to leave French soil. The decision was made, not only to withdraw US Forces, but also to clear all US depots in France. The deadline was set at 31 March 1967.
In April 1966, LTC Wanek was given the mission to clear the depots in western France. The initial concept of operation was for the 106th to clear depots in the general vicinity of Orleans and line-haul to Toul in the vicinity of Nancy. The code name for the operation was FRELOC: an acronym for French Line of Comminations. However, the initial tonnage figures were seriously underestimated. FRELOC grew geometrically into an all-consuming monster of men and equipment. During the height of FRELOC, the 106th ironically found itself clearing its original home in France: Bussac General Depot.
To appreciate the enormity of the mission, one must remember that the battalion retained responsibility for the Bremerhaven-Giessen line of communication. Even though much of it was deployed in France for 10 months, the battalion headquarters officially remained in Bremerhaven. Thus, the 106th was responsible for an extra- ordinarily extended line of communication, stretching from the North Sea port of Bremerhaven to Captieux, near the Atlantic Ocean port of Bordeaux. There is no way of knowing whether or not any U.S. Army Battalion ever had such a line of communication. There certainly can't have been very many.
Like the men of Tennyson's brigade, the 106th didn't waste time or effort worrying about the problems; they simply rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. The cost was high. Three companies, the 70th, 77th and 598th, were heavily committed to FRELOC for the entire 10 months operation. Equipment availability was a constant, almost insurmountable, problem. The problem was exacerbated by the depot's daytime only duty hours. Initially, the 106th hauled loaded trailers during the day and spotted empties during the evening. This meant that trailers stood idle at the depots' docks all night. The equipment problem became so critical that LTC Wanek. reversed the duty day. Empties were spotted the first thing in the morning for loading. The drivers had "Reveille at Sundown" and hauled all night.
This innovation may have saved the entire operation. It certainly enabled the 37th Group to have assets available for missions other than FRELOC. During FRELOC, the battalion accumulated over 6.5 million miles. Because of its distinguished accomplishments during FRELOC, the l06th was given the honor of pulling the last trailer out of France. In keeping with its tradition, the l06th accomplished the mission on time and in good order. The last tractor was driven across the border by SP5 Wilson, 77th Transportation Company, with LT Hefferran as shotgun, during 'the late evening of' 31 March 1967.
The conclusion of FRELOC brought major changes to the battalion's task organization. The 900-mile long LOC shifted to a 600 mile long north to south LOC. The 598th Transportation Company moved from Kassel to Mannheim in early 1967. With the move, the company was detached from the battalion and again attached to the 28th in Mannheim. The 1st Transportation Company and Trailer Transfer Point Hotel (TTH) in Nuernberg were transferred from the 28th to l06th during the same period. The 70th Transportation Company moved from Kassel to Butzbach in support of the Army Depot Complex in Giessen. Upon leaving France, the 77th Transportation Company and TTE were relocated to Dachau, Germany, near the Austrian border. The battalion headquarters, the 67th, 78th, TTA and TTB remained in Bremerhaven.
The task organization in the summer of 1967 was as shown:
By late 1969, a long standing proposal to move the battalion headquarters to a more central location was approved. In January 1970, LTC (1ater COL) Conner moved the battalion headquarters and the 78th Transportation Company to their present home in Azbill Barracks, Ruesselsheim, Germany (between Frankfurt and Darmstadt).
Azbill Barracks was initially designated as Ruesse1sheim Kaserne. On 12 July 1967, it was redesignated Azbill Barracks in honor of Warrant Officer Roy Gorden Azbill. Azbill was an Army Aviator who died as a result of hostile action in the Republic of Vietnam on 10 December 1964.
Azbill was built in 1931. After the war it was used as a school and then for a civilian labor group unit. Few previous occupants of Azbill are known. However, in the 1961 - 1968 period it was occupied by HQ's 4th TRANSCOM and the 501st Transportation Company (Light).
The move left only the 67th Transportation Company and TTA in Bremerhaven. Two and a half years later the battalion left Bremerhaven completely. The 67th was inactivated in Bremerhaven on 1 July 1972. After 17 years, the 67th was no longer part of the battalion.
From 1971 to 1972, the 37th Transportation Command received the newer model International Harvester Commercial (IHC) tractors 4070 and 2000D models. The northern most battalion, the 106th, which had the longest run clearing cargo out of the Port of Bremerhaven received the IHC4070s. The IHC2000Ds had single axles and could not pull the 20-foot containers as well.
Two months later, on 31 August 1972, TTA was attached to the 78th Transportation Company in Ruesselsheim. Bremerhaven cargo was now cleared solely by rail.
Sometime after FRELOC, the 70th left Kassel and relocated in Schloss Kaserne, Butzbach. The unit later moved a few miles north to its present home on the Giessen Army Depot.
Another long time 106th Company, the 77th left the battalion in the same time frame. After 27 years of continuous service in the European theater, the 77th Transportation Company was inactivated in Dachau, Germany on. 25 June 1970.
By fall of 1972, the task organization was as shown:
The 78th was a light-medium company at this time. They had one platoon of 2 ½s which they used to support Rhein Main Air Base. Other than Rhein Main, business must not have been very good. On 1 October 1973, the 3rd Platoon of the 78th was attached to the 50lst Transportation Company in Kaiserslautern. This attachment lasted until July 1974, when the 78th turned in their 2 ½s and again became a medium truck company.
With the withdrawal from the Republic of Vietnam in the early 1970s, the national attention shifted again to Europe. This meant military highway assets were again needed in support of Bremerhaven-Giessen LOC. Initially, these needs were met by taking tractor assets of the TDA Refrigerator Platoon from the 53rd Transportation Battalion and assigning them to the l06th. In November 1974, the platoon moved to Bremerhaven.
Still, as the now of' cargo into Bremerhaven swelled, more assets were needed in the Bremerhaven area. By early 1975, the TDA platoon had been augmented to give it a limited maintenance capability. By March 1975, the battalion was actively looking for a site to reestablish a TTP in Bremerhaven. By this time, it was obvious that a full company was needed to service Bremerhaven-Giessen LOC. The 69th Transportation Company in Mannheim was detached from the 28th Transportation Battalion and attached to the 106th on 10 September 1975. It moved to Karl Schurz Kaserne in Bremerhaven. The tractors or the TDA platoon were moved to Giessen, with the personnel assets reverting to the 37th Group TDA.
The task organization in late 1975 was:
By 1975, it had become painfully obvious Azbill Barracks was a terrible place for a trailer transfer point. It was located in a residential area far from the autobahn. It also had a very small trailer storage capacity. Detailed plans were drawn up for a move to Wiesbaden Air Base as USAF units were withdrawn as part of operation "Creek Swap." The plan had still not been executed by July of 1976. It is not clear if the exit move was ever made or if it was overtaken by events.
In January 1977, the Air Line of Communication (ALOC) test program began. It has continued to grow ever since to where it is now the battalion's most important task. There are two aerial ports in Germany which receive air cargo: Ramstein and Rhein Main Air Bases. ALOC cargo is predominantly repair parts (Class IX) and other high priority cargo delivered directly to a direct support unit. In November 1977, ALOC became a permanent DOD Program.
When ALOC was begun as a test program, the decision was made to establish a temporary TTP on Rhein Main to clear the arriving cargo. TTA moved from Bremerhaven to Rhein Main. This created a terrible facilities problem, from which the TTP still suffers. The TTP was established without construction of any facilities or hardstand to support the 200 plus trailers needed to provide daily support to ALOC.
By early 1978, the battalion's task organization was unchanged, except TTA had moved from Azbill Barracks, Russelshetm, to Rhein Main Air Base.
From 1978 through 1983 the battalion continued to develop, working the Trailer Transfer Point concept into a responsive and efficient transportation system throughout all of the Federal Republic. In 1983, the Trailer Transfer Points were given numerical designations.
The task organization in the fall of 1983 is as shown:
The battalion's mission is, as always, to provide theater motor transportation service to USAREUR. The highest priority task is still port clearance. Although in 1983, the most important port was the Aerial Port of' Debarkation at Rhein Main Air Base. ALOC is the highest-priority, continuing program in the theater. Ninety-nine percent of' the loads originating at Rhein Main are priority one. The requirement is within 24 hours from the time of' receipt the battalion must deliver ALOC Cargo to its customer.
The MTHC Bremerhaven terminal continues to be a major customer, especially with the Army of the early 1980s in the midst of a fundamental program of equipment modernization. This program has brought about a sea change in workload. Workload in the early 1980's moved from merely very busy to nearly inundated.
The concept of trailer transfer points as pony express relay stations remains very similar to what it has been since 1950's. Each company now has an attached trailer transfer point. This is a significant additional tasking for each company commander.
One new wrinkle is battalion drivers receive TDY pay. In FY 82 the battalion TDY payments to drivers were over $565,000. Needless to say, this shifts a great financial burden from the soldier to the Government, where it belongs. The crushing emphasis on tons and miles was virtually eliminated during COL Ross' tenure as the TRANSCOM Commander. The policy has been continued by his successors, COL Lanzillo and COL Jack Piatak. There is still an enormous amount of work to be done, however. The battalion's four companies drove more than 7 million miles in FY 82 and more than 8 million in FY 83. This battalion's accident rate in mid-1983 was at its lowest ebb ever: 1.22 recordable accidents per million miles.
Since 1981, the 106th has had three overall priorities: becoming expert in the operation and maintenance of equipment; training; and assigned soldiers and their families. No matter what else was hot, the fire hose never shifted from these three fires.
The battalion places a great deal of emphasis on training, both individual and collective. Soldiers must know survival skills as well as primary MOS skills. The chain of command has not done its job if its soldiers cannot survive a night on the perimeter or a chemical attack. In the fall of 1981, a squad stand down program was begun. Each company stands down me squad for a week. The battalion directs at least one day be devoted to vehicular maintenance and one day to NBC operations. The rest of the week's training is determined by the company chain of command. All training is conducted by the squad leader.
During the 1981 Christmas holidays, the battalion headquarters moved back to its newly renovated building at Azbill Barracks in Ruesselsheim. In 1982, the battalion's strong maintenance program had a real chance to prove itself. In the USAREUR Excellence in Maintenance Competition, the 70th Transportation Company was the runner-up in V Corps and the 1st Transportation Company was the VII Corps winner. In July, 1982, the battalion represented TRANSCOM in the Nijmegen marches. Showing the "grunts" what truckers could do, the battalion team (under 1LT Keith Thurgood and SSG Dexter) placed 4th amongst USAERUR' s 52 teams
The battalion had a very strong showing during the Fiscal Year 82 Annual General Inspection (AGI). It continued to do well during 1983. So well, in fact, TRANSCOM paid the unit-the high compliment of canceling our FY 83 AGI.
The battalion's mission problem in the fall of 1983 was to continue feeding the ever hungry ALOC dragon. The program has been growing very rapidly since its inception.
During Operation Vital Link, Ramstein Air Base was closed from 1 May 1983 until 31 July 1983. This meant every ounce of air cargo arriving in the theater landed at Rhein Main and was cleared by the 106th. While the burden of the operation fell on the 78th Transportation Company, it was truly a battalion team effort. Shortly after Operation Vital Link was completed, the battalion received very heavy taskings for REFORGER 83. During the deployment phase the 106th was responsible for clearing both the Duesseldorf (69th) and Rhein Main (78th) APODs. In addition, the 70th Transportation Company was responsible for line haul from Giessen to the exercise area in the vicinity of Muenster. The battalion was solely responsible for all truck operations during the redeployment place. During September 1983, the battalion drove 801,507 miles. This was the most in any month since operation FRELOC in France in 1967.
During both Vital Link and REFORGER 83, the men and women of the battalion as they have so many times in the past, proved they could rise to any occasion and get the job done safely, on time, and in good order.
The year of 1984 brought numerous changes to the battalion both operationally, with the issuance of the new series M915A1 tractor, and in terms of unit changes of command, with the battalion receiving a new commander. Three of the battalion's four line haul companies received the new M915A1 Tractor as their primary task vehicle. The 1st Transportation Company, located in Nuernberg, kept the old series tractor due primarily to the excellent performance record their direct support maintenance unit enjoyed in reference to vehicle maintenance and responsiveness. Through Operation "Alley Cat" M915 tractors were swapped and convoyed to the 1st Transportation Company from the three other companies. The remainder of the old series tractors were turned in at depot. At the same time the 69th, 70th, and 78th Transportation Company received their compliments of the M915A1 series tractor.
On 26 June 1984, LTC Zikmund relinquished Battalion Command after three years to LTC Richard L. Fields. In Aug 84, after the 78th Transportation Company change of command between 1LT Sharon R. Duffy and CPT Deirdre L. Dillon, COL Ray Stearns, CDR, 37th Group, presented the 1st Annual Safety Trophy to the 106th for the safest battalion from July 83-Jun 84.
Operationally, the 70th Transportation Company successfully continued its unique theater Ammunition Mission, moving CAD's enroute to reaching 2 million accident free miles. As with the 70th, The CDR TRANSCOM, COL John Piatak, presented the 1st Transportation Company their award for 3 million accident tree miles. Along with this award the 1st Transportation was also presented the 106th Battalion's Safety Award for 1984. Additionally the 152nd Transportation Det (TTPH) received the 4th TRANSCOM's Maintenance Excellence Award (Light Category.) All companies successfully accomplished phased Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP) prior to the year’s end.
Exercise REFORGER 84 challenged the 106th and each of its companies from Aug - Nov. Held in Northern Germany, the exercise tested the battalion's ability to pull together and successfully operate as a team. As the battalion began implementation its Annual "Christmas Mail" mission, 1984 closed out with new challenges and another REFORGER Exercise to deal with. January 1985 brought REFORGER 85, the termination of "Christmas Mail" and planning for Wintex 85. All missions which were handled professionally and responsively. Back to back REFORGER exercises truly tested the transportation network in USAREUR. The 106th Transportation Battalion played an integral part in the successes of each. Centered in Giessen, REFORGER 85 cargo commitments were placed directly on the 70th Transportation Company and the 517th Transportation Detachment. Meeting the challenge, the 70th Transportation Company reached 3.5 million accident free miles and was subsequently nominated from the battalion as 37th Transportation Group's Company of the Year.
In March 85, the battalion began its normal training cycle. The 1st Transportation Company successfully planned and executed the first Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) ARTEP in 4 years in the German city of Langenzenn. Deployment of the 152nd Transportation Detachment on their first ARTEP marked a first. Each company, through an innovation phased ARTEP program planned and executed individual exercises using MILES equipment for realism and training. The strict coordination of mission requirements ensured the battalion’s theater mission was accomplished.
Another innovative training change implemented in 1985 was the 4th platoon concept of Army Motor Vehicle Instructors (AMVI's) who were responsible for training newly assigned 64C's upon graduation from the Primus Driver's Academy. This concept centralized training in one platoon, enhancing it and more effectively utilized training time to ensure qualified drivers in less time. To date this concept has been totally successful with proven results in better qualified and safer, more professional drivers.
All companies changed command during 1985. This change in leadership established a new group of leaders destined to meet the challenges offered only to commanders within the 106th Transportation Battalion.
Safety wise, the 69th's new commander CPT Steven Kerr, inherited a company which broke the 1,000,000 mile accident free miles driven within his first five days of command.
In training, 1985 found the 69th Transportation Company led by 1LT Doug McKay, representing the 37th Transportation Group in the Nijmegan marches in Holland. It was again proven Transporters could successfully compete with the Army's ground pounders. Successful Berlin Convoys were conducted by the 69th, 70th, and 1st Transportation Companies throughout the year. Each exercise ensured the surface corridor remained open for Allied traffic in addition to rewarding selected soldiers with a well deserved, unforgettable visit to the island city. Additional new equipment was issued to the European theater. In addition to the requirement to deliver most new vehicles to depots for further deployment, the 106th, itself, received the new CUCV, Which replaced the Army's standard-the jeep. The Group's trailer fleet was updated with the M872A3 trailer and the conversion of drop-side trailers which increased the trailer fleet's productivity. Trailer Transfer Points were issued 6,000 and 10,000 pound forklifts for trans-loading cargo. Sponsoring the 37th Group's Annual Truck Rodeo, the 106th ensured it was the best organized competition ever and then in turn brought home top honors.
International partnership activities saw the battalion participate with the Dutch in the Queen's Birthday Ball and a separate sports day competition. The 105th Royal Transportation Battalion was an idea host for all the activities. Thanksgiving saw local German neighbors of Azbill Barracks in Ruesselsheim invited to share with the soldiers of as a gesture of appreciation for continued relations and good will.
REFORGER 86, centered in the Nuernberg area, ushered in 1986 and as in REFORGER 85 with the 70th Transportation Company, multiplied the work load for the 1st Transportation Company and the 152nd Transportation Detachment. An unseasonably warm winter turned the exercise into a major Command Post Exercise (CPX), but the 106th Transportation Battalion again forged together to meet the challenges through safe and responsive cargo delivery and mission accomplishment.
Training again took center stage after ENDEX and the 1st Transportation Company conducted their now routine MOUT ARTEP. The 78th ran the Berlin Convoy for February 86 coupled with a totally female Convoy making the Brunson Mail Run to Belgium. Both were excellent training opportunities to show the US Transportation Corps to international customers. The issuance of LOGMARS equipment brought the automated world of metal bar code plates and an innovation cargo documentation/accountability system for military Cargo. The system will offer maximum benefits once it becomes totally operational. Another unique milestone for the 78th Transportation Company came on 14 February, when it hit the 1,000,000 accident free miles driven mark. The remarkable thing about this achievement is due to its unique mission, the 78th hit the one million mark 15 miles at a time. As in 1984, 1986 saw the Battalion and two of its companies change command.
On 26 June, LTC Richard L. Fields relinquished battalion command after two productive years to LTC Glynne R. Hamrick. Within 30 days of assuming command, LTC Hamrick received the same award LTC Fields received during his first days of command - namely the 37th Group's Safety Trophy as the Safest Battalion from July 1985 - June 1986. It marked the 2d time out of 3 years the 106th boasted the safest miles driven in 37th Transportation Group. Two of the battalion's companies continued their safe driving mileage records throughout 1986 - the 1st Transportation Company and the 69th Transportation Company both broke the 3,000,000 mile mark.
CAPSTONE training and interface with the reserves marked 1986 as a banner new year for new realignment and detailed coordination with soldiers and units from CONUS. The basic ground work performed during 1986 marked the future a challenging and demanding test for transition to war and basic Battle Book operational planning.
Heightened terrorist activities throughout Europe caused the cancellation of nearly all partnership and German - American activities. Inspite of the threat, one new program initiated in May 1985 made it possible for Azbill Barracks to adopt a local village - Bauschheim. Activities planned included the local mayor and installation commander with representation of both organizations enjoying the traditions and camaraderie of each. A close relationship and pistol range firing with the Ruesselsheim police department also began during the summer of 1986. With the end of FY 86 came planning and preparation for "Christmas Mail 87". The 106th stood ready to meet its greatest operational challenge yet.
Following the downsizing and reorganization of the US Army in the early 1990s, the 106th Battalion was inactivated on 15 September 1993. It was then reactivated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on 18 September 1998, where it became a part of the 101st Corps Support Group, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 1st Medium Truck Company and the 15th Trailer Transfer Detachment were transferred to the 53rd Battalion, the only theater level transportation truck battalion to remain in Europe. At the same time, the 69th, 70th and 78th Medium Truck Companies were inactivated. Because the 69th and 70th were two of the oldest truck companies in Germany their guidons were transferred to the 28th Battalion to reflag two of their companies.
While at Fort Campbell, the 106th Battalion picked up control of the following companies:
After Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took office, in 2001, he wanted to streamline the Armed Forces and particularly the US Army by reducing the “logistical foot print.” At the same time Army chief of Staff General Shinseki wanted to organize more Special Brigade Combat Teams built around the new Infantry Tactical Fighting Vehicle. Someone would have to pay the bill for the cuts and new programs. The Department of the Army level decision directed US Forces Command to identify which units to inactivate. USFORSCOM based their recommendation on installation support, readiness, OPLAN support and “Kentucky Windage” to determine which units to inactivate. In 2002, they identified the units to inactivate. The 53rd Movement Control Battalion (MCB) at Fort McPhearson, Georgia, the 57th Transportation Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, and the 106th Transportation Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were designated for inactivation as a result of Total Army Analysis 2009 (TAA-09) results. The US Army would go to war the next year realize its error in reducing transportation units. In fact, two of the three battalions slated for inactivation would deploy.
In July 2002, USCENTCOM sponsored Operation VIGILANT HAMMER from 10 to 31 July. The 7th Transportation Group wanted to download one Large, Medium Speed, Roll-on, Roll-off (LMSR) vessel, the Lotkins, from the Afloat Preposition Stock (APS) 3 at Port of Au Shuyabah in order to determine the download time and also how many Prepo vessels they could berth at the pier at one time. The planners of the transportation commands spent one day watching the download then loaded up in two buses and visited Camp Arifjan, which was still under construction, and the location of where the other staging camps would be. All were just empty spaces in the desert. MAJ Thomas Jones, 6th Battalion S-3, brought his operations sergeant, SFC Michael Aguilar. MAJ Craig Czak, 106th Battalion S-3, brought his operation sergeant, SFC David Munsey. MAJ Thomas Jones, 6th Battalion S-3, brought his operations sergeant, SFC Michael Aguilar, because of his institutional knowledge of the battalion.
At that time, no one had determined which truck battalion would extend the line of communication into Iraq. Since the 106th Battalion did not belong to the 7th Group, MAJ Czak believed that they would answer directly to the 143rd TRANSCOM. They thought that they would receive the mission to cross into Iraq. LTC Helmick was confident that his 6th Battalion would get the mission because the 143rd TRANSCOM and the 7th Group had a long established working relationship. On the last day of the planning conference, the transportation planners met at CFLCC headquarters. There MG David E. Kratzer, Commander of the 377th TSC, thanked everyone for coming then reassured them that they were going to war. From then on, the battalions made serious preparations for war. The problem was that the Army had identified three transportation battalion headquarters for inactivation and the 106th Battalion was one of them. As the clock clicked closer to going to war, so was time running out for the 106th.
The 106th Battalion, commanded by LTC Randolph “Randy” Patterson, received its deployment order during the second week in January 2003. Because of snow, the personnel of the HHD and 594th Transportation Company did not deploy from their home station until 15 January. Like the 6th Battalion, it was multifunctional transportation battalion but would operate as a pure truck battalion. Therefore, it would only take its organic 594th Medium Truck Company. After a 22-hour flight, they arrived at Kuwait International Airport (KIAP). The 6th and 106th Truck Battalions fell under the control of the 7th Transportation Group as theater movement assets. The original plan had the 106th establish its headquarters at the Port of Shuyabah, but the 7th Group changed their initial destination to warehouse in Camp Arifjan. They had rail loaded their equipment in December to sail by ship. It arrived in the third week, 26 January. The rest of HHD and its equipment followed on a C-5 in early February, a month after the 89th Medium Truck of the 6th Battalion. The initial mission of the theater trucks was to conduct Reception Staging and Onward Movement and Integration (RSO&I) of arriving units.
The original plan for the 106th Battalion in the OPLAN was port clearance and supervision of host nation trucks. However, the host nation assets were not ready by the first of February and the need for trucks exceeded the capability of the 6th Battalion. MAJ Craig Czak, 106th Battalion S-3, asked COL Jim Veditz, Commander of the 7th Group, to sign over part of the trucks for the 89th TC so his battalion could assist in the RSO mission. MAJ Thomas Jones, 6th Battalion S-3, told Czak, “No way in hell are we going to give you our trucks. We’ll let you right seat ride with us.” Within 36 hours of its arrival, the 594th TC, under the command of CPT Aaron Wolfe, started training up their drivers by having them ride right seat driver with the trucks of the 89th Transportation Company of the 6th Transportation Battalion. The 106th Battalion was eager to get to work. MAJ Jones suggested that Czak sign some trucks from Prepo. Czak asked the 7th Group for permission to draw the Prepo trucks and equipment of the 513th Transportation Company that would arrive later and belong to the 106th Battalion. Since the 513th TC would belong to the 106th Battalion when it arrived, this caused no conflict and the equipment would be ready and waiting for them. COL Veditz agreed and after a week in Kuwait, BG Vincent Boles, the AMC commander of Army Preposition Stocks (APS) 3, gave them permission to sign for the Prepo. The 594th TC then joined in on the 7th Group’s RSO&I mission.
Unlike the 6th Battalion, MAJ Craig Czak, the 106th Battalion S-3, felt that they could put more trucks on the road and get in more “flips” by running 24-hour operations in three shifts. One platoon would be on the road, another in maintenance and another resting. The 106th Battalion were treated like redheaded step children in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell so they were very competitive by nature. The 594th also had more of its drivers licensed than the 89th Medium Truck so it completed more missions each day. Wolfe also encouraged friendly competition within his company. It became a competition between platoons as to which one could get in more flips.
The medium trucks hauled Class I (food and water) from the Port of Swuayk to TAA NEW JERSEY, VIRGINIA, NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, COYOTE, FOX, Udari and Arifjan. The medium trucks also moved Class V (ammunition)from the Ammunition Supply Point at KNB to Ali Al Salam Airbase, Al Jabber Airbase, Camps Udari, Arifjan, COMMANDO, NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, FOX, COYOTE and Breach Point West. They delivered Classes II, IV, VII and IX to the various bases.
By the early part of February, 30 to 50 Host Nation truck assets were available. By the first week in March they had 200 trucks. The Host Nation trucks moved cargo from the TDC to the camps.
The 106th Battalion, like the 6th Battalion, picked up several more truck companies from other units. The 513th Medium Truck, commanded by CPT Nicole Humpheries, arrived from Fort Lewis, Washington. The 109th Medium Truck, commanded by CPT Todd Terrell, came from Mannheim, Germany. The 126th PLS, commanded by CPT Dennis Major; and the 483rd TTD, commanded by 1LT Chris Rogers, came from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 106th Battalion sent a platoon of the 126th PLS to carry the pipeline for the construction of the IPDS pipeline from Camp VIRGINIA to Breach point West.
The 233rd HET, commanded by CPT Larry House, arrived from Fort Knox, Kentucky, by mid-February and drew Prepo. Since there were only two HET companies in 7th Group, they moved heavy equipment from the SPOD and APOD to Camps Doha, Arifjan, Udari, NEW JERSEY, VIRGINIA, NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, COYOTE, FOX and VICTORY.
They also picked up the 567th Transportation Company from Fort Eustis, Virginia. The 106th Battalion received the 68th Medium Truck Company, commanded by CPT Edward J. Gawlik III, arrived from the 28th Battalion in Germany on 4 March and drew all its equipment by mid-March. On 19 March, they also received the 109th Transportation Company, commanded by CPT Todd Terrell, from the 28th Battalion in Germany.
During the planning for the invasion of Iraq, the 7th Group would extend the supply line from Kuwait up to the V Corps rear boundary as it advanced toward Baghdad. The 106th Battalion already had the responsibility for supervising the host nation trucks. Veditz assigned it the mission to establish the Convoy Support Center (CSC) NAVISTAR on the Kuwait/Iraq border. They also received the responsibility for the Theater Distribution Center and would push supplies from there up to NAVISTAR. The 6th Transportation Battalion would cross the border into Iraq and establish LSA ADDER where they would run a pull-push operation. Their trucks would run back to CSC NAVISTAR then push cargo up to V Corps rear, initially at BUSHMASTER. The plan called for the trucks of the 106th Battalion to stop at the Iraq border. Veditz gave Randy Patterson the arriving 494th Light/Medium Truck, 1454th and 1168th PLS Companies. Patterson already had the 126th PLS, the 513th and 594th Medium Truck, the 233rd HET, and his battalion would then total over 400 trucks in nine companies. The 1454th PLS, commanded by CPT William McCormick, arrived at the end of February. The plan also had the 32nd Transportation Group relieve the 106th Battalion when it came available and the 106th would jump forward of ADDER. Patterson had the 494th Medium Truck for two weeks before he attached it to the 101st Airborne Division on G-Day.
Patterson looked at his map of the balloon that encompassed NAVISTAR. It was off of MSR TAMPA, right along the border with Iraq. He liked the idea of setting up just north of the border town of Safwan, but could not cross to border to reconnoiter it. Marines owned the area. The 106th Battalion’s mission was to send 66 trucks with supplies up to the 6th Battalion at Tallil on G+3.
On 16 March, the 106th Battalion assumed command and control of the Theater Distribution Center (TDC) from the 11th Battalion and command and control of the Host Nation Vehicle Contract. Transportation units continued to move 3rd Infantry Division and 1st MEF to their staging areas near the border. Patterson assigned the 1168th Medium Truck to the TDC to make up the short comings of the Host Nation trucks. The Host Nation truck drivers would disappear for up to three days. Sometimes the drivers would drop off a load one day, then sleep for another day before returning the next day. Sometimes the units at the camps shanghaied the trucks. Patterson had the 1168th draw HMMWVs to escort the Host Nation trucks so that they would return on time.
On Monday, 17 March, Bush announced his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq with his entire family. That day, the 7th Group received a message from the 143rd TRANSCOM. It originated from CENTCOM 17 minutes earlier directing the 106th Battalion to occupy the UN compound as NAVISTAR. CW3 Michael Wichterman, in the Group S-3, realized that each headquarters had just passed it down without thinking through the consequences. He sent the email back up the CFLCC to verify if they could legally do that. Meanwhile he sent an email to LTC Patterson to go and check the compound out. LTC Patterson took MAJ Czak and CPT Chris Kirkman, Battle Captain, in his recon party. They spent four hours looking around. The 106th Battalion had to establish a control point and a TTP. Patterson needed a place to park convoys and provide security. This was his first visit to the site. He found an abandoned, UN compound that had buildings in a fenced-in compound. They asked a Kuwaiti Air Force colonel and retired general for permission to occupy it. The Kuwaitis told them they could have it.
On 20 March, the day of the ground assault, the 106th Battalion relinquished responsibility of the TDC over to the 406th Transportation Battalion of the 32nd Transportation Group. After the Marines vacated their camp on the border, the 106th Battalion “Jump” TOC and 594th Medium Truck Company arrived at 1830 on 22 March. Patterson’s NCOs started working on getting the water and electricity running. He established a 66-acre TTP motor pool. KBR contract engineers mixed clay, sand and gravel, wetted it and rolled it flat then sprayed a coating of oil to seal it. Anything up to including HETs could drive on it. As long as they kept oil sprayed on it, the vehicles would not break the seal and create pot holes. CSC NAVISTAR became the last US compound along MSR TAMPA before crossing into Iraq. MSR TAMPA led to CEDAR and VIPER.
The 106th Battalion had the task to send 66 trucks with the Marines and 3rd ID (M). The battalion headquarters only had one map that they had borrowed from the 6th Battalion. From this the staff drew strip maps for the drivers. CPT Wolfe tasked 2LT Erin Cornett and SFC Crader, of the 594th Medium Truck, to take a convoy with the 3rd ID (M) and 2LT Kathryn Mills to take a convoy up to VIPER with the Marines. She asked 2LT Sarah Parker, also of the 594th, if she wanted ride along. Parker did. Mills took a little more than 30 trucks up to Camp COYOTE around 0600 in the morning of 23 March to pick up the palletized loads of ammunition. She did not have a map of the area nor did she have MTS, only a commercial GPS that was not very accurate. The convoy was supposed to move up MSR TAMPA, which was a straight drive to VIPER. While at COYOTE, someone called over to inform Mill’s convoy that they could not drive on MSR TAMPA but had to use ASPEN. Early that afternoon, they fueled up the trucks and were ready to go. The Marines had several sections of maps and led them to Camp YOYO, which then stood for “You’re On Your Own.” Evidently, someone named the stopping point after the ADDER packages has passed.
Mills’ convoy finally found Breach Point West in the dark. Mills had no idea of whether she had crossed the border. Someone who provided fuel for the Marine HMMWVs informed her that she would know when she reached the border because she would see a Movement Control Team. She drove further and saw neither the MCT nor any MPs. She called back to the battalion headquarters and said, “It’s pitch dark. I don’t even know if I’m in Iraq yet or not. Can I park this convoy at Camp YOYO until daylight, and then move on in the morning, when I can see what’s going on?” They did not have any night vision devices. Battalion informed her, “No, that ammo needs to go now.” She said, “All right.” They finally figured out where they were and it turned out that they were two kilometers off from where the GPS said they were. 12 hours after leaving COYOTE, her convoy reached VIPER at around daylight in the morning of 24 March. VIPER was nothing more than a bunch of tents at that time with no berm for security. Mills’ convoy was the first convoy of the 106th Battalion to cross into Iraq. Cornett took his convoy with the 3rd ID (M) up beyond An Nasariyah and remained gone for 8 to 9 days.
MAJ Czak sent CPT Chris Kirkman up to VIPER to look for Mills’ convoy. It took him three hours to reach VIER and find them. They were waiting for the Marines to bring up the forklifts to unload them. The convoy was out of fuel, so Kirkman drove around and located a fuel tanker about four miles in the desert. He assumed that they were lost. They had about 1,200 gallons left in their 5,000 gallon tanks. After filling up the trucks, Kirkman then escorted the convoy back down TAMPA to NAVISTAR that night. They arrived around 0500 the morning of 25 March. Mills and Parker moved into tents, but no one had brought up Mills gear. She later drove back to pick up a couple of trucks and trailers from maintenance in Arifjan and brought back her personal gear.
The 106th Battalion established split based operations. Patterson and his S-3, MAJ Czak, ran the convoy support center at NAVISTAR with the 126th PLS and 594th Medium Truck Companies. The 567th CTC (-) ran the TTP. The 171st and 259th Movement Control Teams of the 53rd MCB provided movement control. The battalion XO ran RSO mission out of Arifjan. He had the vast majority of truck companies: 233rd HET, 513th and 1454th Medium Truck Companies.
On 25 March, the 106th Battalion finally received the 171st MCT form Fort Irwin, California, and on 29 March, would receive the 259th MCT from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The MCTs unfortunately had no communications. NAVSITAR did have a phone line running within 72 hours after the 106th Battalion had arrived, but they had no email capability for 45 days.
Czak tried to schedule the convoys from Kuwait so that they would arrive at NAVISTAR at night. Either he or 1LT Kirkman would brief the convoy commander on the mission and enemy situation. The convoy would rest overnight then depart the next morning. During the early part of the war, convoys could only drive during daylight hours in Iraq. From NAVISTAR, convoy supporting V Corps drove to CEDAR and those supporting the 1st MEF drove to VIPER.
On 26 March, the day after the mother of all stand storms, LTC Patterson and MAJ Czak drove up to CEDAR. COL Veditz was irritated that they had come up without his permission. They told him that they could not get him on the radio. This was the problem of Veditz remaining forward of his subordinate units. They had good communications with the 7th Group Rear at Arifjan but had to relay messages through them to Veditz. Due to communication limitations, only the 6th Battalion could talk with him. This made the 11th and 24th Battalion very happy, but not the 106th Battalion. With Stultz forward, Helmick pretty much took his direction straight from his theater transportation commander, not Group.
The two officers of the 106th Battalion met with LTC Helmick to discuss operations. Helmick had a functioning TTP at CEDAR. He did not believe that his tractors need to drive back to NAVISTAR to pick up trailers. Both truck commanders agreed that the 6th Battalion should get out of the pull business and the 106th Battalion convoys should push to CEDAR. The 106th Battalion would finally get to cross into Iraq and push cargo to CEDAR. There was still an air of friendly competition. Czak told Helmick that the 106th Battalion was deliberately holding back on mission so as not to overload the 6th Battalion. Helmick leaned back and put his hand behind his head and told the major, “Bring it on.” Czak accepted the challenge and was not content to just push supplies forward, he wanted to shove more trucks into CEDAR than Helmick could handle. He wanted to overwhelm the 6th Battalion and create a bottleneck. This kind of friendly competition would benefit the customers up the road.
Since Helmick no longer needed to haul heavy equipment, he turned the 96th HET Company over to the 106th Battalion on 30 March. He kept 2LT Delima’s platoon of HETs to move his KALMARs around since the 551st only had two organic HETs. They would also conduct recovery operations of other units’ heavy equipment. The two HET companies then went back to Arifjan to move the heavy equipment of the arriving 4th ID(M). In the spirit of cooperation, Patterson gave Helmick the 68th Medium Truck Company on 3 April. This brought the 6th Battalion up to four truck companies: the 68th and 89th Medium Truck Companies and the 15th PLS Company.
The 32nd Transportation Group would replace the 7th Group and eventually receive more trucks. It would organize them under three truck battalions instead of 7th Group’s two. The 346th Transportation Battalion (Motor) (USAR), out of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, would replace the 6th Battalion in Iraq and the 495th Transportation Battalion (Motor) (NG), from Kalispell, Montana, would replace the 106th Battalion at Camp NAVISTAR on the border. The 32nd Group would also pick up the 419th Transportation Battalion (USAR) out of Bartonville, Illinois. It would supervise the commercial contract trucks and the Theater Distribution Center (TDC).
The camp outside the United Nations compound was well on its way to completion anyway. Engineers had mixed sand, clay and gravel with a wet oil solution to form a hard pack that could support the weight of HETs. This 66-acre parking lot transformed into their trailer transfer point and motor pool. Patterson did regret losing the fine dining facility and having to move everything and everyone into tents though. By the middle of June, none the less, the new camp sported a dining facility that could seat 400 with running water, showers, fixed latrines and air conditioning in all tents. For recreation, they had built tennis, basketball and volley ball courts. They dubbed their new camp, NAVISTAR Oasis.
In late April, the 377th Theater Support Command instructed the 106th Battalion to move out of the United Nations Compound so that United Nations personnel could return. However, after the declaration of victory on 1 May, the United Nations did not return. None the less, the 106th had only expected to benefit from its fixed facilities until they had constructed their own camp outside the fence. This decision did not bother LTC Patterson much, since the 495th Transportation Battalion was replacing his battalion at NAVISTAR and he was in the process of jumping his battalion forward to CEDAR to replace the 6th Battalion as it relocated to Gharma. Patterson had brought the rest of the battalion forward to NAVISTAR to prepare for the jump forward. By Memorial Day, at the end of May, he had his entire battalion in one location for the first time.
With the 495th Transportation Battalion in place, the 106th Battalion was the last of 7th Group’s battalions to depart. The battalion had proudly driven 5,121,320 miles, hauled 467,870 tons of cargo and 49,980 pieces of equipment. It brought its companies back to clean their equipment and put it back in storage. As Patterson’s companies prepared to go home the word came down that National Guard and US Army Reserve units would have to stay. Patterson had to leave the 1454th Medium Truck Company. It hurt to leave companies behind that had done the same thing they had. Telling them that they had to stay was not as bad as telling the 109th, which was an active duty company from Germany. They unfortunately had been mission capable since March and had already cleaned their equipment and turned it in. Patterson had the unpleasant duty to inform them, “Unpack your stuff, you’re going to stay.” It was very demoralizing to come that close to going home then told they could not go. HHD, 106th Battalion redeployed on 12 July 2003 and just narrowly escaped being stuck there too. Just after its arrival at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the DA decision came down that all units in theater would remain in theater. Had HHD delayed just 15 days, they would also have been extended.
The war had only given the 106th Transportation Battalion a stay in execution, after it returned to Fort Campbell, the Battalion was once again put on the chopping block and this time the Army was serious. The unit headquarters was zeroed out on staff as it drew down to inactivate. Again the life expectancy of the 106th was extended but this time the battalion headquarters had to be resuscitated. In May 2004, HHD 106th Battalion received orders to deploy to the CENTCOM Area of Operations again. The headquarters would have to be built up with personnel from scratch and was slated to deploy once again to Kuwait. For that reason, a number of officers on the command list turned down the opportunity to command the battalion. LTC James Sagen was offered command and accepted on 21 June, arrived on 18 July and assumed command on 4 August 2004. The battalion deployed thereafter to Kuwait shortly on 24 September and coincidently was assigned to NAVISTAR, a camp built by the 106th during OIF1. The 106th Battalion again fell under the command of the 7th Transportation Group and on 15 October the 106th completed the Transfer of Authority (TOA) with the 812th Transportation Battalion and inherited the following medium truck companies:
This time transportation companies were organized by type and the companies performed long haul missions. The companies of this battalion ran the Sustainer Push mission from the TDC to either Logistic Support Area Anaconda or Mosul. These runs lasted anywhere from 8 to 12 days. The surge of deployment and redeployment took place during the months of February and March. The units assigned to Multi-National Force Iraq (MNFI) had their tours extended until the completion of the Iraqi national elections. Since these units wanted to retrograde as soon as they could, this placed even greater strain on the limited transportation assets. Through excellent movement planning by the 7th Group, the units met their redeployment dates. Drivers drove almost continuously during that two month period, sometimes without breaks. At best they had one day off to clean up and rest before they were on the road again for another 8 to 12 days.
The most unusual unit in the 106th Battalion was the 518th Combat Gun Truck Company, commanded then by CPT McLean-Burrell. The 375th Transportation Group, which had preceded the 7th Group, created this company in response to the series of ambushes during the April Uprising of 2004. The unit was built form volunteers throughout the group and borrowed equipment. CPT Robert Landry built the unit from nothing with the help of 1LT James McCormick II and SFC Cuthberson. Landry specifically recruited McCormick because of his reputation under fire. By the time McCormick left Kuwait, he had earned two Bronze Star Medals with V device for valor and three Purple Heart Medals for his wounds. At that time he was the most decorated transporter in OIF. Landry formed the unit because he saw a need to standardize the design of gun trucks and convoy security doctrine. They constructed 18 HMMV gun trucks, later called Combat Escort Platforms (CEP) by 7th Group, and four 5-ton gun trucks. McClean-Burrell assumed command in November so Landry could return to the United States with his parent organization, the 375th Group.
COL Jeff Miser did not like the state of discipline and “cowboy” attitude of the gun truck company. He tasked the new CO to instill a new standard of discipline with the new volunteers as the old ones rotated back home. In keeping with the new theater policy of providing a less aggressive posture, Miser directed a name changed to the company. It became the 518th Combat Escort Company. During the surge, the 1-178th Field Artillery arrived. It was a Field Artillery battalion reconfigured as a MP battalion for this deployment. Its HMMV gun trucks provided convoy escort for the convoys of the 7th Transportation Group and established its operations out of Camp Buerhing. To consolidate assets, COL Jeff Miser attached the 518th to the 1-178th FA and eventually disbanded the company altogether on 15 May 2005. The company formed platoons to be assigned to several truck companies and the remainder of the volunteers were sent back to their original companies.
Since the convoys of the 106th Battalion had to go back to the TDC at Arifjan to pick up their loads but the convoys did not need any escort until they crossed the border, COL Miser directed that the 106th Battalion relocate to Zone VI at Camp Arifjan and the 1-178th FA relocate to Camp Navistar. The 106th Battalion began constructing its new headquarters in February and completed its move by 1 April.
Early in the morning on 18 October 2004, three gun trucks of the 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, 518th Combat Gun Truck Company escorted SSG Robert Mata’s IRAQI EXPRESS convoy from the 1487th Medium Truck Company from SCANIA to ANACONDA. Eight green trucks were evenly spaced between every three “white” commercial trucks for a total of 20 white trucks. The third green truck back in the convoy was hauling ammunition and safety requirements required it to have appropriate panel marking on the rear of the trailer. The 5-ton gun truck, “Heavy Metal,” with call sign “Regulator One,” led the convoy with “Regulator Three” 20 trucks back and “Regulator Two” in the rear. SGT John O. Williams was the driver and NCOIC of 5-ton gun truck, “Big O,” SPC David Wallace was his radio operator and SPC Roger Bartz was his gunner. That 5-ton gun truck could get up to 82 mph so it could race ahead of the convoy to block any traffic. The 518th kept the HMMWV gun trucks in the rear because they could accelerate faster. CPL Richard Swenson III was the commander and driver of “Regulator Three,” SPC David Gregory was his radio operation and SPC Steven Lourigan was the gunner. SFC Stephen Mikes was the commander of “Regulator Two,” SGT Dale Harshbarger the driver and SPC Michael Robinson the gunner. SSG Mata positioned his command and control HMMWV, “Whiskey 11,” in the middle. He had an internal gun truck, “Whiskey 133,” out in lead of the convoy.1
By then, the insurgents had changed their tactics again. With experience, the Americans became much better at identifying IEDs. Once an IED was discovered, the instruction would go out over the sheriff net or MTS for all convoys to halt until EOD personnel came up to detonate the IED. Knowing this, the insurgents decided to set up IEDs and wait for the EOD personnel to arrive and kill them. Unfortunately, there is always that ten percent that does not get the word to halt.
As the 1487th convoy approached the turn onto ASR SWORD from MSR TAMPA around 0650 hours, “Big O” raced ahead and blocked traffic on the right side. In accordance with normal procedure, SFC Mikes called into Pegasus Romeo, the unit in charge of the area security and was informed that the route was clear. After the convoy proceeded up ASR SWORD, “Whiskey 133” ran into a security element of the 1st Cavalry Division on MSR patrol which had the road blocked off at an overpass. The MPs informed “Whiskey 133” that an IED had been found on the overpass and the EOD element was inbound. “Whiskey 133” radioed back to SSG Mata who stopped the convoy just short of the overpass. Likewise, Wallace in “Regulator One” radioed the information back to SFC Mikes. SSG Mata had the convoy wait in a linear formation. After talking with Mata on the radio, Mikes instructed his gun trucks to take up security positions for the convoy. “Regulator One” pulled to the right of the convoy for right security and started falling back to protect the ammunition trailer. The middle gun truck, “Regulator Three,” pulled out to the left and took up a screening position near a cross-over area in the median where the guard rails had been knocked down. Swensen and Gregory dismounted. “Regulator Two” pulled rear security with Mikes and Harshbarger dismounting to direct civilian traffic down a side road to the right of the convoy.2
Guard rails in the median separated the east and westbound lanes, but intermittently rails were either removed or knocked down for vehicles to cross over. Buildings flanked both sides of the road. Around 0655 hours, the HMMWV with the EOD personnel finally pulled up on the overpass. Suddenly the truck drivers heard an explosion. An RPG had hit the bridge. SFC Mikes and Harshbarger spun around towards the sound of the explosion in time to see the smoke trail of a second RPG streaking past the convoy toward the overpass. The RPGs were fired from outside a yellow two-story building near the end of the convoy on the left hand side. To everyone’s’ surprise the rockets had evidently intended to kill the arriving EOD personnel. An entire convoy was sitting in the open and the insurgents fired at the HMMWV on the overpass and the rockets exploded harmlessly on the bridge. This attack was immediately followed by small arms fire from the buildings across on the north side of the road.3
Immediately the crews quickly mounted their gun trucks while the truck drivers returned fire. “Regulator One” drove back around the convoy and headed down left side of the convoy to the ammunition trailer. Swensen and Gregory had mounted “Regulator Three” and Swensen drove his gun truck across the median into the westbound lane then turned west. He did not know where the fire was coming from. He could see the drivers returning fire and made contact with SSG Croley who pointed in the direction of the fire. Swensen positioned his HMMWV between the enemy fire and the convoy using his gun truck as a shield. Lourigan began pouring .50 caliber fire into the enemy in the houses. Swensen then radioed “Regulator Two” to let the crew know where they were.4
Upon mounting “Regulator Two,” SPC Robinson, the gunner, yelled down to Harshbarger, “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, I got them, Let’s Go, I got them.” He spotted the insurgents about 400 meters to his front. Upon a positive identification of six to seven insurgents in front of the tan building while on the move, he opened fire with his .50 knocking one down and the rest withdrew into the houses. Once in position in the middle of the convoy, he saw more muzzle flashes coming from the windows and doors of the tan house. While Robinson returned fire at the muzzle flashes, the rest of the crew dismounted and engaged the enemy. Robinson spotted one to two insurgents either hiding behind or trying to get into an orange and white car. He emptied the rest of his belt into the car, nullifying that threat. The crew saw “Regulator Two” driving up from the rear of the convoy and they automatically shifted their fire to the left. Robinson quickly switched to the SAW since the ammunition cans were down at his feet. So Williams drove “Big O” back to the rear of the convoy and fell in cover an ammunition trailer. He removed the ammunition placard so the enemy would not know which trailer had ammunition.5
Within a minute after the fight began, a flight of Blackhawk gunships, OH-58Ds and one F16 arrived. The gun truck crews continued to engage the windows and doors of the buildings until the enemy fire ceased. The entire fight ended three to four minutes after it started. All the gun trucks had essentially pulled out onto the road between the enemy and the convoy to create a gun shield for the trucks then returned fire. A sweep of the area provided several dead insurgents, numerous caches of bomb making materials, piles of weapons and ammunition.6
This provided an example of the detailed planning and rehearsal of the ambush and inflexible execution. They evidently did not know what to do when the convoy pulled up so they did what they had trained to do, fire at the overpass. They made the mistakes and the gun trucks took advantage of it. The truck drivers turned gun truck crew members of the 518th had been waiting for a chance to give the enemy back a little of what they had received in April. Three gun truck crews had their chance and acted without hesitation. The drivers and gun truck crews performed almost exactly as they had trained. The problem with the Army individual award system is that it rewards unit inefficiency. For individual heroism to occur there has to be chaos. Only SGT Williams earned the Bronze Star Medal with V device for the risk of defending the ammunition load. The 18 October ambush provided an example of efficiency
As the replacement crews for the 518th arrived in November, LTC Sagen wanted them to ride with the veteran crews as long as they could. They attended training at Udari Range under a few cadre members of the 518th and MPRI. Their first right-seat rides came in the middle of December 2004 and by January 2005, only a few of the old guys remained at NAVISTAR.7
Sagen was a compassionate commander who looked out for the welfare of his Soldiers. He held on to the old guys as long as he could because he knew they were hooked on adrenaline. Although adrenaline is a naturally produced drug by the body in cases of extreme excitement or fear, it can become addictive. Sagen knew could not send them back to routine driving after what they had been through. He feared that they would not be taken care of by their original companies and also wanted to wean them off adrenaline slowly. He wanted to come up with another mission for the old guys. 8
In Mid-December, McCormick visited Sagen in his office to say he could not work with McLean-Burrell any more. McCormick wanted out of the 518th but not the battalion. He then asked Sagen if he had ever thought about having his own personal gun truck force, something that would support him and he would not have to argue with the commander, like he did McLean-Burrell. What McCormick wanted was to take the remaining 18 members of the old 518th before they returned to their companies. McCormick had already heard some of his guys were not well treated in the 1450th and 172nd. 9
Since October, there had been an increase in criminal activity just across the border, especially the hijacking on 15 October. Locals would lay unexploded ordinance (UXO) in the roads to stop the convoys or metal spikes to cause flats then highjack some of the trucks. Some kid could drag an old artillery shell from the previous war out into the road and the MCT would shut the road down for hours to find out if it was a real threat or for EOD to clear it. The MCT would not immediately get the word the road was cleared and meanwhile, convoys sat on the road vulnerable to attack waiting for clearance to drive. Too much valuable driving time was lost. LTC Sagen felt this was ridiculous and he needed his own set of eyes out on the road to determine if the debris in the road was a real threat and to eliminate it. The 518th had discovered large quantities of ammunition and received small arms fire within a mile of the border. McCormick believed that the Iraqis were building up for something big. The road south of SCANIA had always been considered safe for traffic. The British had responsibility for the area but were spread thin. Their patrols came down to the midway point to Safwan. The Danish military patrolled Safwan but not aggressively so convoys were increasingly being fired on and hijacked just across the border. To assess the problem, LTC Sagen went out on that road with McCormick looking for an alternate route. At first, Sagen was impressed with the lieutenant’s intimate knowledge of the road networks throughout the town. Along the way, they saw RPGs stacked on the side of the road. Sagen anticipated that the insurgent threat was moving south. Since the Brits could not cover the entire area, he wanted his own route security patrols. Its mission would be to conduct day and night patrols on ASR CIRCLE/HEART and MSR TAMPA with the purpose of locating insurgents and protecting the flow of military convoys prevent any hindering of convoy traffic along the designated area of responsibility at all costs. LTC Sagen would place command and control of this element under MAJ James Brady, the S-3. This was a perfect assignment for 1LT McCormick and the old 518th members.10
Sagen realized that the 518th Soldiers had been away from their parent companies too long and might not be welcomed back. Many of them had been discards of their companies in the first place. After everything that they had been through in the 518th, this was no way to treat them. They were battle hardened, just the kind of Soldiers he needed for this mission. McCormick was the ideal leader for them. Besides his knowledge of the area, the Soldiers respected him. He was fearless and Sagen knew he could trust him to make the right decisions out there on his own. Sagen also knew that McCormick was an adrenaline junkie and it was not fair to make him to come off his addition by going “cold turkey” and sending him back to his parent company. Sagen wanted to wean McCormick and his 518th Soldiers slowly off adrenaline before they went home and this route security patrol was a good way to do it. It would get them back out on the road the way with great latitude but there should not be much combat this far south. The coincidence of the release of the old 518th and the need for the route security worked out best for everyone.11
On 1 January, a white truck was hijacked on ASR CIRCLE. The 1-178th FA escorting the convoy did not have enough assets to chase after the hijacked truck. MAJ Brady walked up and told McCormick, “Sagen wants you to go out and get that truck.” Brady informed McCormick that it looked like they were going to create the gun truck platoon to secure the routes. He told the lieutenant, “You would be working directly for me,” and added that Sagen would talk to him about later. “Right now find you some guys and go find that truck. I know you know the back roads, just go find that truck.” McCormick was elated for several reasons; he was getting away from McLean-Burrell and he was getting to take his guys back out on the road.12
Watching what happened to the 518th and his conflict with McLean-Burrell wore away at McCormick’s morale. The chance to get his guys back together and work directly for MAJ Brady and LTC Sagen brought new life to the lieutenant. There was one person he definitely wanted back on his team. Cut had been shipped to Arifjan but held no job for a couple of weeks. McCormick asked LTC Sagen for him and it just so happened that they had not moved him to the Group. He actually was assigned to the Battalion South TOC. It took McCormick two weeks to sneak him back to NAVISTAR and put him in the RSE. They then worked the 518th and recovered all their Soldiers back except SPC Ford, of the 227th.13
So McCormick and Cuthbertson had a new challenge to stand up, equip and crew this specialized unit. Sagen placed the RSE under his HHD, commanded by CPT David Boland, who picked up all maintenance and logistical support functions for the newly formed unit. The mission began on 1 January 2005. 14
Sagen really did not clear this with 7th Group. It was something that needed to be done and he just did it. There was some tremendous risk in that. Miser was strict on procedures. At first Sagen named it the 106th Convoy Escort and Liaison Team (CELT). In the first two days of operation, the CELT found thousands of unexploded rounds and due to these finds they developed a joint mission with British EOD. The British obviously did not like the name CELT and the 7th Group called down telling the 106th that they would not have CELTs any more. So Sagen changed it to 106 Route Security Element (RSE). Over the next five days, the RSE and British security force traveled up and down the roads finding all kinds of ammunition and bombs for the EOD to come along and destroy. During this time the criminals and Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) started to run when the RSE came up on them. About mid-January, the RSE patrols drove up and surprised Iraqis setting up ambushes at night, captured five Iraqis scared the rest away.15
7th Group became upset when they heard that Sagen had his own gun trucks out patrolling the roads. To Sagen’s surprise, 7th Group had no conflict with the mission just it was not the mission of the 106th. So Sagen made a deal with LTC Bacardi to officially attached the RSE to the 1-178th FA and changed their name to 178th Security Force so they could go out on missions, but unofficially would answer to Sagen. The 1-178th FA had authorization to patrol the area north of the border, but not enough assets to do it. Sagen’s solution worked for everyone including 7th Group. 7th Group just wanted everyone to stay in their lane. That was essentially 7th Group’s blessing on the operation. Unofficially, everyone in battalion referred to them as the RSE.16
On 23 January, two RSE HMMWVs were out on patrol looking for a hijacked truck. A red vehicle pulled up and several Iraqis with weapons stepped out and fired at the RSE. CPL Brian Noble and SPC Steven Lourigan shot two Iraqis. The RSE thwarted six hijackings and chased down the hijackers who had stolen trucks and equipment. One of Iraqis they captured had a cell phone that kept ringing. The RSE had a Kuwaiti interpreter with them that day. He answered the call and the Iraqis on the other end asked if he had the truck. He said they did and told them to come and get it. The RSE detained them when they arrived. The RSE found caches of weapons and detained over 48 Iraqis in less than a month. The RSE assisted convoys that had broken down, cleared the routes and maintained crowd control and stopped kids from throwing rocks. They also gave out food and water, as well as clothes, footballs and soccer balls to the children in Safwan. It was McCormick’s hope to win the hearts and minds and inspire fear in the enemy. It proved exactly what Sagen had hoped for. However, 7th Group saw it differently. After every incident with the capture of a hijacker or insurgents, LTC Ross would call down and ask what the 106th Battalion was up to. They were a transportation battalion and why were they running combat operations.17
The Route Security Element (RSE) ran two patrols a day. Cuthbertson ran the day missions and McCormick ran night missions. McCormick liked to go out at night because that is when most trouble occurred and he knew if there was trouble the RSE needed an officer to coordinate with the British who owned the sector. When the other was in, they would be the quick reaction force (QRF) for the ongoing mission. McCormick knew if he needed help he could count on Cut to rally the troops to get a QRF out there. Cut would not second guess whether he had permission to go or if it was the right thing to do. He would think only that his lieutenant was in trouble and he would let nothing stop him. That is the kind of trust that McCormick had in Cut.18
In Vietnam, the gun trucks remained uploaded and parked right next to the barracks at night so they could respond to attacks on the perimeter on short notice. Since the 106th Battalion could no longer keep the vehicles uploaded with ammunition, this lost time in getting the QRF ready to role. To reduce time, the RSE did not keep their vehicles in the motor pool which was a considerable distance but parked them on the barracks side of the battalion headquarters. They also stored the ammunition in a CONEX near the vehicles to reduce the upload time. In Vietnam, the gun trucks remained uploaded and parked right next to the barracks so they could respond to attacks on the perimeter on short notice.19
Each patrol normally consisted of two HMMWV gun trucks armed with SAWs. The night patrol usually left prior to dark, around 1800 hours. Normally, McCormick took eight people out on his mission, four for each HMMWV gun truck. Prior to departure, someone would pick up chow for everyone and the RSE Soldiers would sit around their vehicles and eat before they left. They would also take chow out to the other RSE shift and meet at the Bridge 1A where they would exchange information. Because of the elections, McCormick had sent out three vehicles that day with Cut. The extra HMMWV came in to pick up the dinner meals and would go back out with McCormick.20
All his soldiers were sitting around eating when McCormick noticed that SGT Kray Holloway was looking sick. McCormick walked over and asked, “What’s going on girl?” She told him that she was feeling sick and did not want to go out on patrol. She told the lieutenant that she had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. Upon hearing that another Soldier said he was sick also. That was very unusual. At first McCormick thought there might be a flu bug going around, but he remembered that Holloway was like a barometer for impending trouble. She always became physically sick before something bad happened. After what Holloway said, the lieutenant had a gut feeling that something bad would happen but not intense.21
Since each vehicle had an extra crew member, McCormick did not feel he really needed to find replacements, but he asked for volunteers from the third HMMWV. SPC Travis Stantz said he would go out and was volunteering for a 24-hour patrol. The others in his HMMWV said they were tired. Stantz was tired but did not want to sit around camp all night long doing nothing when he had a feeling that there might be some action because it was election night. If something did “go down,” he felt he could help protect other convoys.22
SGT Cray Holloway and SPC Travis Stantz had not been members of the original 518th Gun Truck Company but had volunteered to join the RSE from 1486th. CPT Doug Wilhelm, the commander of the 1486th, was very supportive of the RSE mission and offered McCormick his good Soldiers. Both of them had driven on gun trucks in their company. Stantz liked the responsibility of protecting other drivers and fighting against terrorism.23
Holloway was an assistant gunner on McCormick’s gun truck. The other guy was the driver on the other truck. PFC Timothy Parsons was the driver of McCormick’s vehicle and asked to replace Holloway on the SAW of the other HMMWV. Stantz replaced Parsons as the driver. Before they left Holloway warned them to be careful that something bad was going to happen. The RSE team consisted of 1LT James McCormick’s M998 crew (Bastogne 1) of SPC Travis Stantz, driver, and SPC Brandon Whisenant, SAW gunner, and SGT Steve Lourigan’s M1025 crew (Bastogne 2) of SPC Joseph Lane, driver, and PFC Timothy Parsons, SAW gunner.24
The night patrol met with Cut’s day patrol to discuss what they had seen that day. There were a lot of people out voting. Many of them were happy and had come up to his vehicle to show them the purple ink on their fingers. Cut said one Iraqi came up and told him there was white Chevy Capri with armed Iraqis just outside Safwan near Bridge 1A telling people not to vote. An Iraqi family that lived near the bridge that was real friendly with the American Soldiers. The RSE Soldiers had a great rapport with them. They called the parents “Mom” and “Dad” and gave the kids toys and food. The family was a tremendous source of information. After Cut’s patrol left, McCormick’s vehicles patrolled their sector watching for that white Chevy Capri. It usually took McCormick’s patrol two hours checking the route up to the last bridge in their sector. They found a few road spikes and trash which they picked but otherwise it was unusually quiet. For an election day they expected to see more people out and firing their weapons. The two HMMWVs then took up an overwatch position on Bridge 6A at the intersection of ASR HEART and MSR TAMPA. It was pitch black and cold that night. They could see no moon or stars making the night very spooky.25
Off in the distance on TAMPA north of their position, Whisenant saw a couple vehicles with his night vision goggles turn off their lights then approach to within a hundred meters of the bridge and halt. He told McCormick about them but the lieutenant assumed that they were either Iraqi Army or Iraqi Police since they patrolled the area. They turned around and backed to the other direction and drove off to the right into the desert.26
They then saw the lights of a HET convoy approaching in the distance. The 1158th HET had only been in country for only a few weeks and 1LT Kim Kleiman was the convoy commander on her first convoy. She had completed one right seat/left seat ride with the 1836th HET which they replaced. This was her first convoy on her own which consisted of 25 green HETs and 40 white trucks with four gun trucks. Since 7th Transportation Group was new to Iraq, it did not see the need for keeping the convoys smaller than 30 vehicles. Not only that but because of the shortage of gun trucks in theater, Group had not given her the recommended 1:10 ratio of gun trucks. With only four escort vehicles, Kleiman did not want to divide her convoy into two serials thus reducing the protection to only two gun trucks per serial. Her internal gun trucks were the last vehicle in the convoy. They also had three HMMWVs in the middle of the convoy from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment whose equipment they were hauling north to FOB Kalsu. While the unit rotation maintained good cohesion, it lost continuity. The new units arriving had not learned the hard lessons of the April Uprising. The biggest challenge facing 7th Group was accomplishing the surge with an extremely limited number of trucks. The replacement units had little comprehension of the intensity of what had happened before they arrived.27
The 1158th convoy had linked up with its escorts from the 1st Battalion, 178th FA at NAVISTAR. For this convoy the Field Artillery provided two M998 HMMWV gun trucks and the 1158th had two internal gun trucks. SSG Heggie, from the 1-178th FA, was the escort commander. The convoy pulled out of NAVISTAR at 1600 hours. After crossing the border, the convoy turned off of MSR TAMPA because of the burned out bridge and followed the detour along ASR CIRCLE through the border town of Safwan. Just a few miles across the border, the convoy stopped to change a flat on a Third Country National (TCN) HET. The convoy had just cleared the town of Safwan on ASR CIRCLE when it stopped to change 32 flats, just two miles short of ASR HEART, the last turn before rejoining TAMPA again. One TCN had abruptly halted splitting the convoy in two with nine vehicles in the rear. This left on 11th ACR HMMWV as front security and SGT Michael A. Olivas’ HMMWV gun truck from the 1158th covered the rear of the last part of the convoy. The two gun trucks provided security while the drivers and maintenance teams changed flats. The tires were flat because of road spikes. Some of the drivers said they had seen children throwing road spikes in the road. This was common practice to get trucks to halt so that thieves could highjack the tractors and trailers.
While the maintenance personnel and drivers changed tires, two or three unmarked white civilian pickups with unlit rotating amber lights approached the convoy from Safwan. New to the country, SPC Aaron J. Ingham, in the rear gun truck, had no intention of letting them pass even though it had been pounded into his head that the Iraqi Police and National Guard were friendly and to treat them as coalition forces. Ingham had too many Soldiers working on the ground and not enough security. He did not care who they were, he was not letting anyone pass his convoy. He told them to turn around. A short time later, the 11th ACR HMMWV called back saying that they had several pickup trucks up front wanting to pass from the other direction. The Cavalrymen thought they were either Iraqi Police or Iraqi National Guard. They wanted to let them through, but the rear security again said not to let them pass. The same Cavalryman called his squad leader in another HMMWV and asked if they could let the Iraqis pass. He said the Iraqis were a little pushy even attempting to drive past without permission. The squad leader answered, “I don’t care if he is the President of the f@#king United States, he ain’t coming thought my sector.” The 11th ACR HMMWV almost had to fire a warning shot to get them to leave.28
Once the tires were changed, the rear element joined up with the main convoy and SPC Bennet in the rear gun truck told Kleiman that the convoy was together again. She gave the order to move out. The lead gun truck of 1158th convoy came driving down HEART to make the right hand turn onto TAMPA but it took wrong turn on a dirt road right before the on-ramp. McCormick could see the lights of Kleiman’s convoy back about five miles on ASR CIRCLE. McCormick told the Lourigan to mark the turn with chemical lights. Lourigan drove down the ramp, broke some plastic chemical lights and threw them in the correct turn off so the convoy would see it. McCormick then had his crews put chemical lights on antennas so they could be identified as friendly and reported back to his battalion TOC that the gun truck was making the wrong turn. The lead gun truck had stopped and then one Soldier climbed out looking around as if he was lost. McCormick and his crews joked, “How are these guys going to find their way through Baghdad if they are lost out here?” After five minutes of waiting, the convoy caught up with the lead gun truck. The Soldier then climbed back in his vehicle and drove onto TAMPA across the strip of desert from dirt road and the convoy followed their exact trail. As they were slowly creeping onto TAMPA around 2100 hours, McCormick then sent an MTS message to the battalion TOC that the convoy had made the wrong turn but was getting back on TAMPA.29
Once on TAMPA, a white truck had problems with its trailer and Kleiman again ordered the convoy to stop. The lead gun truck continued driving further up the road. The rear gun truck with SGT Olivas, SPC Michael L. Bennett and SPC Ingham, halted about 100 to 200 meters from the off ramp. SSG Lane Wright in the last HET turned to see the headlights of another convoy approaching 1,000 meters behind him. Because of the blackout conditions and no illumination, Bennett and Ingham wanted to prevent a collision. They grabbed three breakdown triangles from Wright’s HET, hung three chemical lights from their body armor, told their gunner, SGT Olivas that they were going out to place the triangles and chemical lights in the road a few hundred feet behind them. Ingham informed Bennett that he was going to break the chemical lights at the last possible moment since he did not want to be walking down the road in the dark with a couple light sticks in his hands. Just as Ingham was setting up the triangles and lights, Olivas yelled at them that their convoy was getting ready to roll. The two Soldiers quickly picked up their chemical lights and triangles and returned to the convoy discussing how they were going to warn the rapidly approaching convoy of their presence and not violate light discipline30
After about a 20 minute wait, Kleiman was confirming the head count with her assistant convoy commander, SSG Carl “Mo” Morabito, when her handheld radio beeped indicating the battery was growing weak. Kleiman rode in the second green HET in the convoy and SSG Mo rode in the rear. She told Sergeant Mo, “My battery’s going.” He answered, “No problem, ma'am,” and within moments, had run up and threw her a new battery. Just as she caught the battery, the firefight began. At 2115 hours, she heard the whoosh of an RPG fired from the right side of the road that landed short of the convoy and exploded. Her rear internal gun truck also reported RPGs from the right. The RSE saw the explosion at the rear of the convoy. The RPG was immediately followed by lots of small arms fire from both sides of the road. The front of the convoy took fire from the left and the rear from the right, more like a Z-type kill zone. SSG Wright had just climbed back into the cab of the last HET in the convoy when the small arms fire broke out. This ambush caught everyone by surprise as no one expected any ambushes that far south on TAMPA. The area was considered relatively safe except from theft.31
In the rear of the convoy, the looked to their right to determine the source of the explosions. They saw a large amount of tracer fire and heard a heavy volume of small arms fire from the approaching convoy. That is when Bennett reported the small arms fire and approaching convoy to Kleiman on his SINCGARS. Upon hearing small arms fire, Olivas spun his turret toward the east side of the road and fired his .50 in the direction of the enemy fire. As tracers passed over the hood and turret of their HMMWV, Bennett fired out the passenger window and reported contact on the radio while Ingham fired over the hood of his gun truck. The muzzle flashes spread out over 100 to 125 meters from approximately seven to ten two to three-foot high prepared fighting position about 50 to 75 meters from the road and the enemy fire concentrated on the rear of the convoy.32
The drivers returned the enemy fire with a heavy volume of their own. SSG Wright remembered seeing the M88 tank recovery vehicles on the trailer ahead and behind him open fire with their .50s. With the lead gun truck further out front, her front was exposed and Kleiman did not have full accountability from her gun trucks. The lead gun truck upon hearing the gun fire turned around and headed back to the convoy. Kleiman knew her assistant convoy commander was still not in his vehicle. The Soldiers returned fire until SSG Mo told her he was unable to get back to his vehicle due to the volume of fire--from both the insurgents and the drivers. He was worried about getting hit by friendly fire.33
The second convoy came to a stop right behind the last gun truck of Kleiman’s HET convoy. The vehicle commander of the lead 5-ton opened his door, leaned out and yelled to Ingham asking if he was on TAMPA. The rest of the convoy continued to engage the enemy. Ingham answered that he was on TAMPA. The vehicle commander then asked if he was heading north on TAMPA. Ingham again said he was and asked if their destination was CEDAR II. The vehicle commander said yes and Ingham then told him that his convoy could follow then out of the kill zone as they were heading to CEDAR II. The guy closed his door and Ingham turned back to firing over the hood of his HMMWV. Then the convoy pulled out around the HET convoy and headed north not wanting to wait in the kill zone.24
As soon as the fight began, McCormick reported it to battalion and told his guys to mount up and go down to investigate. He saw muzzle flashes on both sides of the road, most of which came from his right. McCormick’s two HMMWVs met up with the rear internal gun truck, which was a HEMTT or 5-ton. As soon as the two RSE HMMWVs arrived, the drivers stopped firing although the enemy kept firing. McCormick’s vehicle pulled up next to the last gun truck of the second convoy. Whisenant yelled up at the gunner, “What’s happening?” Their gunner yelled back, “We’re taking fire from both sides.” The RSE fired flares at the muzzle flash to drop it behind the enemy. This would silhouette the enemy and McCormick had learned in an earlier ambush that the flares disrupted and confused the enemy. This time it did not. McCormick walked up to the rear of the gun truck and asked where the fire was coming from and the gunner said they were taking fire from the right and some from the left. James then fired some more flares at the enemy positions on the right. Off in the distance, McCormick saw a civilian pickup. Then the gunner in the last gun truck told McCormick, “Gotta go.” McCormick asked, “Everything good?” They exchanged thumbs up and the gunner answered, “Everything was good.” At 2120 hours the convoy was on the road again.35
When the lead gun truck had returned, SSG Heggie screamed at the top of his lungs over the radio for Kleiman to move her convoy out of the kill zone and that they were firing at friendly Soldiers at a rally point on the left. He did not realize that in the excitement, that he became confused about directions. Since he was traveling southbound, the rally point was actually on his right, but he would not stop yelling. Kleiman knew she had a rally point on her left, however, it was farther up the road and she was drawing fire from both sides of TAMPA. Her Soldiers returned fire until she realized Morabito might be hit. He was alternately ducking behind tires as he ran. Kleiman called “cease fire” over the radio twice, which caused the external gun truck to become extremely upset. It was her call, which may not have been right, but she could not live with herself if Morabito was hit by one of her own.36
The drivers began to cease firing but the enemy continued to fire at the rear of the convoy, but with not as much fury. The drivers hoped that they had inflicted some casualties on them. Olivas on the .50 and a few of the drivers at the tail of the convoy continued to return fire in spite of the order. Heggie’s gun truck drove the length of the convoy to the last gun truck. Heggie again called a cease fire citing friendly fire problems. Since the last gun truck only had one SINCGARS, Ingham advised Heggie that they were going to “toggle” back and forth between the internal frequency and Sheriff’s net. Heggie made contact with McCormick’s RSE who informed them that they had been watching the fight and their fire had not come close to them. They asked Heggie if he wanted them to send a spot report up the chain of command. He said, “No” About that time, the enemy quit firing. Morabito had called Kleiman that he had climbed into his HET. She got a full accountability and told everyone to roll. As the convoy pulled out, the crew of the last gun truck saw two HMMWVs with dim or no lights about 50 meters behind them popping flares. Ingham sent situation reports to Kleiman on what transpired in the rear. As they progressed a few miles up the road, they passed the convoy that had passed them. They appeared to be pulling wounded out of their trucks.37
The entire firefight had lasted no more than five minutes but the volume of fire was intense. Kleiman had learned from her drivers and the rear gun truck that what they thought was a convoy behind hers had left Soldiers in the kill zone. For a long time, she worried about those Soldiers left behind and wondered if they thought she had left them on purpose. To her relief, she learned a couple years later that it was not a convoy but McCormick’s RSE. That was only the beginning of the RSE battle that night.38
The RSE team remained in the area for about ten minutes to make sure the convoy was safely out of the area. The enemy fire had stopped after the convoy left. After the convoy was out of sight, the two HMMWVs drove back up on the overpass and then reported back to the battalion TOC that they saw four civilian trucks around ambush site. Around 2140 hours two white pickups approached down both lanes of the highway. The Iraqis may have thought that the two HMMWVs on the bridge were damaged and left behind. Both the pickups had unlit amber rotating lights so McCormick assumed they were Iraqi Police. One drove south on the northbound lane and stopped 50 meters short of the bridge and flashed his head lights. McCormick waved at them so the Iraqis knew they were Americans. The other pickup drove up and halted on the southbound on-ramp 80 to 100 meters from the HMMWVs and turned its lights off. Lourigan said this was spooky. At 2200 hours, the pickup in the northbound lane drove back to the on-ramp and halted 50 to 75 meters behind the other pickup. It then turned off its lights and people in the back of the truck got out. It was so dark that night that the Americans had difficulty seeing exactly how many Iraqis were in each truck, but generally they packed them with passengers with about five to six in the front as many as they could hold in the back. It was so dark that the Americans only saw silhouettes moving around. This activity caused McCormick to become suspicious and he worried that they might have an RPG. Suddenly the Iraqis opened fire with small arms on the RSE team hitting one of the HMMWVs several times.39
Whisenant suspected they were enemy all along and opened fire with his SAW without any hesitation. Parsons had never engaged the enemy before and fired his SAW a second or two after Whisenant. McCormick jumped out and took up a firing position over the hood of his HMMWV while Stantz jumped out on the enemy side and returned fire completely exposed to the enemy. Parsons fired controlled six to nine round bursts at suspected targets as he was taught to do in Basic Training. Whisenant just sprayed first hitting the vehicles then dropped to grazing fire sweeping in a zigzag pattern. McCormick believed that is what drove the enemy back from their trucks. The lieutenant searched in the dark through his scope for targets and fired off 27 aimed shots. The six Americans returned much more accurate and overwhelming fire than they received eliminating the enemy fire within a couple minutes. As soon as the enemy fire stopped, McCormick yelled, “Let’s go, let’s get on them.” He acted with a fighter’s instinct and did not want to give the enemy a chance to recover and attack again. The two HMMWVs were facing the other direction and the drivers spun them around in seconds then raced to the pickup trucks.40
Lourigan stopped in front of the first truck and Stantz drove past him to secure the second vehicle. When McCormick jumped out, Lourigan yelled, “Be careful, sir!” Only the interior lights of the pickups were on. McCormick walked around then noticed one man lying face down on the die of the road as if he was dead. He had a rifle close to him and then another man came out with his arms up and surrendered. The lieutenant almost shot him but pushed him down to the ground and had SGT Lourigan, who had followed him, take him into custody. Because it was so dark they searched the surrounding desert with a spot light and located seven more Iraqis hiding behind a dirt mound on the far side of the on-ramp. They immediately surrendered increasing the number of detainees to eight. One of the detainees spoke English and said that another was out in the field by a berm. McCormick then heard someone crying. He and Stantz walked over to what resembled a fighting position bermed up on three sides facing out about 50 meters from the on-ramp. They picked up numerous dropped weapons along the way and saw evidence of blood and lots of drag marks heading into the desert toward an industrial complex 700 meters to the northwest. At the berm, they found one Iraqi with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper torso. McCormick believed that there were more Iraqis from the vehicles that had escaped into the desert, but they carried the wounded Iraqi back to their vehicles and had Lourigan treat his wounds. They also picked up six AK47s and one RPK machinegun. Lane grabbed his video camera and started filming the detainees and weapons to remove any doubt about what happened. Since they always turned over the detainees and weapons to the British, they wanted a record of what happened that night. McCormick then ordered his vehicles to tighten up between the two pickups and dismount the SAWs to establish a perimeter around the nine prisoners. He estimated that with the overloaded capacity of the two pickups that there might have been as many as 15 Iraqis in this fight.41
Having trouble making radio contact with battalion, McCormick had to back walk up to the bridge to call battalion on his cell phone to report this incident. Lourigan also sent multiple MTS messages requesting assistance, but the only reliable source of communication with NAVISTAR was the cell phone and it was at the limit of its range. MAJ James Brady had reported to the TOC as soon as the TOC NCOIC notified him of the first Situation Report (SITREP). LTC Sagen was north on a convoy, so Brady was in charge of the battalion. Upon receipt of the initial SITREP, Brady called the British equivalent of their Rear Battle Command Post at nearby Basra on a land line number they had just for such situations. The initial call just informed them of the ambush. Upon receipt of the call for the quick reaction force (QRF), Brady sent a TOC NCO to wake the rest of the RSE and have them move to McCormick’s position. An RSE soldier who was pulling Charge of Quarters at the battalion TOC called SFC Cuthbertson on his cell phone and told him that insurgents had attacked a convoy and McCormick was requesting assistance. Having worked closely with McCormick for ten months, Cut knew if the lieutenant asked for assistance the situation was serious. Cut reported to the TOC to get briefed on the situation. After telling Cut all he knew, Brady told him to try to get the MTS working when he arrived. Cut assembled his standby RSE element of five Soldiers and had them load double basic load of SAW and M16 ammunition into their two HMMWVs then left.42
The 106th Battalion TOC then informed Sagen of the situation, sent an MTS message to all convoys, updated the Brits, notified 7th Group, alerted the NAVISTAR QRF, and requested their use since they were under CFLCC release authority. CFLCC denied the request since it was at the extreme range of the RSE QRF range and well outside the NAVISTAR QRF. While others debated over whether reinforce, Cuthbertson two HMMWVs raced to the rescue. He could not reach any one in McCormick’s party on his radio which only heightened his sense of danger. Brady monitored the battle all through the night. The battle belonged to the British as soon as they arrived on the ground, but Brady was prepared to send ambulances and fire rescue if needed.43
Around 2220 hours, six more civilian trucks came from the west and turned down the on-ramp toward their location. Usually friendly Iraqis came from the direction of Safwan not the desert. This was suspicious. McCormick popped flares in the sky to alert anyone in the area to come to his assistance. The civilian trucks drove away only to return twenty minutes later. Although McCormick was suspicious, he was not definitely sure they were enemy. He did not want to accidentally shoot up any civilians and yet if they were enemy, they already had the high ground and could overwhelm his men. In every other situation, he acted with a fighter’s instinct; this was the one time he was not sure what was the right thing to do. He halted them away from his perimeter. One Iraqi walked toward the Americans and stated in English that he was a fuel protection service worker and wanted the Americans to release the detainees and weapons to them. McCormick refused and told him to not approach any closer. McCormick said that the relief was on its way and he would turn the detainees over to them. The Iraqi returned to his vehicle and they drove off toward the industrial complex.44
2LT Power of the 2nd Prince of Wales Royal Regiment was the commander of the Rear Operations Battle Group (ROBG) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) commander that night. At approximately 2230 hours,45 he received orders that his QRF had been tasked so he went to the battalion operations room. There he was informed that an American convoy had come under fire along MSR TAMPA and that the RSE had left the junction of ASR HEART and TAMPA and also come under fire. He learned the RSE had inflicted two casualties and requested the QRF to bring an ambulance. His 20-man platoon in five Land Rovers under the call sign “30A” and one ambulance departed at approximately 2250 hours and rendezvoused with McCormick ten minutes later.46
They came down from the bridge and parked just above the RSE. As 2LT Power walked by the Iraqis, he said hello and they said hello in return. They appeared to be extremely friendly. Meanwhile, the British soldiers dismounted their vehicles and faced out in the direction of the desert. Power met with McCormick who briefed him on the attack on the convoy and this latest fight with the Iraqis. Since this was their area of responsibility, control of the fight belonged to the British, but Lieutenant Power, however, referred to 1LT McCormick as “Sir” and deferred to his advice. In the American Army, there is no rank among lieutenants. McCormick walked him out toward the berm to show him the blood trails supporting his belief that there were more out there. Suddenly they started receiving an intense hail of small arms fire from the direction of the industrial complex.47 The British lieutenant rushed back to his platoon while McCormick and Stantz ran for cover behind the berm. Both the Americans and Brits returned heavy and accurate fire. Meanwhile SGT Lourigan and SPC Lane maintained control of the detainees and administered first aid to wounded detainee. SPC Whisenant and PFC Parsons monitored the radio and blazed away with their SAWs. From the berm, McCormick could see everything in front and behind him. He was close enough to the on-ramp to yell instructions to his men and the gunners on the Land Rovers could fire over his head. Besides, the old infantryman in McCormick did like to give up ground to the enemy even if it was a few meters.48
The enemy fire came from two berms about 200 to 300 meters out from the on-ramp. McCormick saw silhouettes moving around. Suddenly rounds started to come in from the south as if the enemy was trying to flank them. McCormick and Stantz had nearly exhausted all their ammunition each firing six of their seven magazines. Running low on ammunition, Stantz asked his lieutenant what they would do next. McCormick fixed his bayonet on his rifle indicating that they were not giving up any ground. He was prepared for an all-out assault on his small perimeter that now had extended 75 meters. Stantz, however, was not looking at McCormick when he made his heroic gesture; the Soldier’s attention was on the enemy. McCormick was not too worried about being outflanked because there was no one he trusted better than Cuthbertson and the lieutenant knew Cut was on his way. After Stantz fired off his last round, he ran back under fire to the HMMWVs to pick up an ammunition can filled with loaded magazines.49
The RSE was outgunned, alone in the dark and yet Stantz entertained no thought of withdrawing from the battlefield. He later described what the rest of his team felt, “Americans don’t withdraw we stand up and fight. The flag on our right shoulder is backwards so it resembles us running into battle and not retreating. I would rather die for my country than to run from protecting it.” McCormick felt a great privilege in leading the finest caliber of fighting men that night.50
Suddenly two HMMWVs popped up over the on-ramp on McCormick’s left. One of McCormick’s radio operators yelled out, “That’s Cut, Sir! He’s on his way!” As Cut’s two HMMWVs drove up over the bridge looking for the RSE, they made the right turn down toward the other vehicles when a flare went up. Suddenly the two vehicles received fire from their left. The gunners immediately returned fire and while the flare burned out, Cut saw muzzle flashes and three to four personnel maneuvering to his far right. After receiving an ammunition, casualty and equipment (ACE) report over the radio from his other HMMWV, he repositioned his HMMWVs to the left of the last British vehicle to secure the flank. Wanting a clear view of the battlefield, he ordered his men to pop flares. As the battle raged, he ordered his men to aggressively return fire. SFC Cuthbertson had pulled his two HMMWVs up on line into a flanking position creating a perfect L-shape kill zone trapping the insurgents in between the cross fire. Cut had performed instinctively without any communication between him and McCormick.51
Cuthbertson ran down to the RSE to get updated on what had happened so far and issue them more ammunition. While the firefight continued, he ran out to McCormick’s position and landed hard on the side of the berm then immediately returned fire in the general direction of the enemy. While reloading his M16, Cut glanced to his left and noticed McCormick was sweating. Cut asked, "What the hell is going on?” He then saw the lieutenant had several empty M16 magazines on his right and as a flare illuminated the area Cut noticed the bayonet. “Oh shit, you got your bayonet on your rifle!" Right then and there Cut knew that there was no way he was going to convince or even try to convince McCormick to leave this fight. About that time the British lieutenant and his radio operator joined them. Through the British radio they heard that helicopters were on their way. McCormick and Cuthbertson then coordinated with the British Lieutenant to push out the line. Cut then returned to his vehicles and the enemy fire erupted again.52
The British grenadier came up with three rounds and started scanning for targets. They saw some Iraqis running between a gap in berms about 200 meters out. They were silhouetted by a light behind the berm. The next time the grenadier saw someone running past the hole, he fired. His first round hit the berm on the right and then his last two landed in the cut and just behind the berm, very accurate shooting. Stantz returned with more ammunition. They fired at the attackers while giving commands, directing friendly forces and redistributing ammunition and water to both the RSE and British platoon. The tenacity of the 11 American and 20 British soldiers’ return fire fixed the Iraqis in place.53
During the fighting, McCormick ran back to the HMMWV to answer some of the MTS messages that had come in but it was hit and miss and he had to walk out in the open to call back to NAVISTAR on his cell phone and ask Brady for additional assistance. Brady instructed McCormick to help the British forces if he felt he could. McCormick then started walking along their perimeter with Cuthbertson under intense fire repositioning their troops then McCormick returned to the berm where Stantz, the British radio operator and grenadier remained. Battalion then called the British on the phone for assistance. After quickly sharing information, the British launched another force. After the battle the British installed a secure radio system in our TOC.54
The first contact lasted for five minutes, then McCormick and Power gave the command to cease fire and the British lieutenant told his men to watch closely for further enemy activity. During the lull in the enemy fire, the British lieutenant and a corporal came up to the berm, kneeled down and told McCormick “Sir, I’m going to have my corporal take charge of the prisoners if that is all right with you.” McCormick warned him, “These guys are sneaking. They posed as Iraqi Police when they attacked us.” Corporal Mills responded, “Not a f@#king problem, sir.” McCormick then yelled back and told Lourigan and Lane that the British corporal would take charge of the prisoners. He told them that the prisoners were no longer their concern and they needed to focus on the enemy to their front. CPL Mills pulled the prisoners back to the ambulance that had just arrived and kept them on the ground while Power called in the contact report to his headquarters.55
About five minutes after the first fight ended, CT40 arrived with four Range Rovers. Just as they did, enemy fire erupted again from the same two positions. CT40 moved slightly north of Power’s position to flank the enemy. This fight lasted for approximately ten minutes and ceased again. Because Power was uncertain about the size of the enemy strength and also whether they had RPGs, he requested Warrior reinforcements.
A civilian vehicle approached from the north and CT40 took no chances and stopped the vehicle, removed the occupants and searched the vehicle. SGT Farenden then called Power and said there were open ground along the east side of TAMPA where the ambush had taken place that would make a good enemy approach. He wanted to take his force and reconnoiter along that route to establish a FUP for any possible attack. While this took place, the QRF came under attack from the same positions for a third time. Power called his headquarters to say that his force was prepared to move but he was told to stay firm that CT0A was enroute and would take command when he arrived.56
Each time the firing died down, McCormick and the British officer attempted to recover wounded insurgents they heard crying to their front, but every time they started to move forward the fire erupted again. The lulls usually lasted about 10 to 15 minutes. The battle continued with intensity in waves and each attack was driven back with accurate and intense fire. Stantz estimated from the muzzle flashes that between 20 and 25 insurgents were firing at their position. Power estimated considerably less, from six to ten. During the lulls in the firing the five men in the berm smoked cigarettes and passed around water. This type of fighting continued for a little over an hour. The fight had become a stalemate but the tenacity of the enemy indicated that they either desperately wanted to rescue the prisoners or expected reinforcement, because they knew the collation forces could always bring more forces up.57
Time seemed to drag then at 0015 hours, a company-sized British force arrived along with two helicopters. The British helicopters using thermal imaging reported seeing bodies directly to McCormick’s front and some fading heat signatures in the complex. After McCormick returned to the berm, he listened to the radio traffic between the ground and the helicopters and heard the pilot report, “I see three fading heat signatures and some trucks in the compound.” Then someone asked what was in front of McCormick’s position and the pilot responded, “Bodies are lying all around the area.” Then the person asked if he could tell if they were moving or not. He answered, "They look deceased.” Then someone fired a flare and the pilot cursed and said, “Stop firing the damn flares! It is messing up my IR.”58
McCormick heard the British were bringing up armor to assault the complex. MAJ Bedford, the British commander, asked McCormick if his RSE would remain and provide them flanking fire for their assault on the compound to which McCormick agreed. The British commander then asked them to tighten up their forces behind that berm and prepare to provide covering fire. McCormick called his RSE Soldiers over to the berm. At 0200 hours, the British assault force took up positions and spread out along ASR HEART and MSR TAMPA. McCormick remembered feeling the ground shake when the six Warriors rolled in and then he received the order to fire. The combined US and British force lit the compound up with small arms and flares while the armored and dismounted British troops of the British Prince of Wales Royal Regiment maneuvered across 700 meters of open terrain. Upon request from the British the supporting force shifted their fire as the assault force overwhelmed the compound. The British then called for a cease fire.59
The British captured 25 more insurgents with lots of weapons. The British lieutenant told McCormick that his lieutenant colonel wanted to meet him. When McCormick approached the British colonel was cordial, they shook hands. The lieutenant in front of the colonel presented McCormick with the 2nd Prince of Wales Royal Regiment crest and said how pleased they were with their courage and performance. It was a very good moment with them.60
The battle had lasted for a total of five hours. The insurgents clearly knew that the RSE was out there but conducted a hasty ambush on the stalled HET convoy. From there, the battle grew piecemeal and each side committed a larger force in an effort to destroy the other, very similar to the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861. The winner was the one who tenaciously held ground and reinforced the quickest. In that respect, the RSE, 106th Transportation Battalion and the British 2nd Prince of Wales Royal Regiment made no mistakes. Each acted without hesitation. The battle was initially fought by six American soldiers who held their ground while detaining nine Iraqis and fighting off over 50 well-armed and trained Iraqi insurgents for 40 minutes. McCormick performed as heroically as he always had. His seasoned crews of combat veterans had the utmost confidence in his leadership and never questioned whether they should withdraw. Like Stonewall Jackson, McCormick inspired his men to hold their ground against clearly superior odds until the arrival of a British platoon. Even then, the enemy force proved larger than the 26 defenders as they were about to flank them. Cuthbertson’s quick arrival and sound judgment caused him to instinctively deploy on the flank of the enemy snatching any hope the enemy had for destroying the small force of defenders. From then the fight turned into a stalemate as each side tried to inflict damage in the other. The final action destroyed the Iraqi force resulting in the capture of a total of 34 Iraqis as well as over 75 weapons. No one swept the area between the berm and the complex to count the “fading heat signatures,” but the next day local children said some people came by and picked up the bodies. As was his custom, Sagen conducted a detailed after action review and put together another of his “Green Tab AARs” on this battle. The 106th Transportation Battalion then briefed this fight all the way to CFLCC Commander, LTG Wickham, earning everyone’s praise. Because COL Miser did not like giving out valor awards, Sagen had to wait until 7th Group redeployed to award the participants any medals and then he could only issue them Army Achievement Medals and Army Commendation Medals, peace-time awards that are given out to Soldiers who do a good job but never hear a shot fired in anger. Ironically, while this RSE mission was supposed to wean McCormick off of adrenaline, this turned out to be his most intense firefight with the enemy.
McCormick returned to the United States in the end of February having earned a Meritorious Service Medal, two Purple Heart Medals and two Bronze Star Medals for Valor. He had already earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart during Desert Storm. Finally in 2006, the Ohio National Guard submitted him for the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the Battle of BIAP during April 2004 and the Silver Star Medal for his action during the firefight on 30 January 2005. These medals would make him the highest and most decorated living soldiers of OIF. SFC Cuthbertson was initially put in for the ARCOM for his actions on 30 January then was submitted for an upgrade to a Silver Star. At McCormick’s request, Sagen placed “Cut” in command of the RSE until he left.
On Good Friday, 20 March 2005, three HMMWVs of the 518th with add-on armor escorted an IRAQI EXPRESS convoy of the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, 1075th Medium Truck Company led by SSG Jeffrey M. Uhl. Uhl’s six M915A3 tractor and trailer systems and two bob tails accompanied 22 commercial rigs. This was a typical green and white convoy with a ratio of one green military truck for every four white IAP Worldwide Services contract trucks. These drivers were mostly speaking drivers hired from English speaking countries, but there were also Third Country Nationals (TCN) who spoke different languages. The convoy commander rode up front since the biggest fear was making the wrong turn and getting lost in downtown Baghdad. There was a recent policy change and escort vehicles could no longer test fire their weapons along the road across the border. In the past, they would stop along the section of MSR TAMPA known as the “Highway of Death” from DESERT STORM and test fire their weapons into the rusted out wreckage left over from the last war. Not only that but the all the soldiers were new. The last truck companies from OIF II had left and the 1075th was one of the new ones. In addition, the old 518th members had been replaced with volunteers from the other companies in November and only had a few right-seat, left-seat rides with their predecessors. Regulator 1 and 3 were manned by volunteers from the 567th Cargo Transfer Company. The crew of Regulator 2 came from a Reserve company. None had been blooded in combat yet.61
Leaving Convoy Support Center SCANIA, the convoy was assigned the eastern route to Logistic Support Area ANACONDA just north of Baghdad. Movement control changed the routes every few days so as not to be predictable. There were only three routes to choose from so the enemy was not confused. After the convoys quit running one route, the enemy knew it would be about seven days before they would return. This gave them plenty of time to prepare.
The convoy had just made the turn from ASR BISMARCK onto ASR DETROIT and was heading north. Most of the drivers did not pay attention to the Iraqis in the last town making the cutting gesture across the throat or bringing their hands together like they were praying then pointing to the drivers. The veteran civilian drivers in the convoy recognized the significance of the gestures. The first was obvious and the second meant that they were going to meet God soon. That meant there was something bad up the road.62
Around 1120 hours, the convoy had slowed down to pass through the Iraqi Point check point and then continued on up the four-lane road separated by a median. There was typical civilian traffic parked along the side of the road to let the convoy pass. The lead vehicles saw none of the indicators of an ambush when all of a sudden gun fire broke out from a two-story building to their left. SPC Higgins driving Regulator 1 announced on the radio, “Contact left.” She also hit the brakes causing SSG Uhl’s truck to come to slow to a halt, subsequently bringing the entire convoy to a halt. SPC Higgins then pulled Regulator 1 out into a blocking position as she had been taught. SSG Uhl told his driver, SPC Bos, to drive around the right of her when from the southbound lane an SUV came veering across the median slamming into a parked car in front of him. Uhl told Bos to keep going. What he did not know, that SUV was the lead vehicle in a southbound AFEES convoy escorted by the 3/3/B Battery, 1-623 FA, call sign Stallion 33. The two convoys had literally ran into each other in the middle of a large kill zone. Bos accelerated and rammed the SUV and spun it around. Uhl’s M915 cleared the kill zone as doctrine dictated and was about a mile down the road when he realized that no one had followed him.63
Regulator 1 was in the middle of the kill zone dueling with the enemy. SSG Van Roekel was firing the .50 but it kept misfiring. The timing was off. They would have known this if they had been able to test fire their weapons. He switched to the SAW. PFC Torres fired his M16 out the left side passenger window. This was their first time under fire they argued what to do. SFC Ramiro was the NCOIC of the gun truck and by coincidence was on his first right-seat ride. They held their ground in the middle of road for ten minutes waiting for the convoy to move out of the kill zone but nothing happened.64
The problem was that four white contract vehicles blocked traffic and the volume of fire was increasing. As Uhl’s M915 was leaving the kill zone, an AAFES bus tried to flee the kill zone by driving on the median where it was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and thrown thirty to forty feet before it came to rest on its side in front of the second M915 vehicle driven by SGT Terry Ricketts. Ricketts swerved his truck to the left of the burning bus and became mired in the mud that was in the median between the lanes. Immediately his truck became engulfed in small arms fire. Rounds began to ping off the door. Two armored piercing rounds hit the door, one penetrating Rickett’s left leg stopping short of his testicles. He screamed to his co-driver, SPC Ricky Delancey, “I’m hit.” Suddenly an RPG impacted on the hood of the M915 right where right in front of the windshield blowing the console into Delancey’s lap, knocking him out of his seat, searing his right shoulder, and temporarily blinding him while the shattered glass cut his face. As Delancey recovered his position, a round pierced the left front of his helmet, grazed the skin just above the left eye and exited out the back of his helmet. Seconds later another round punched through the right rear of his helmet. Hearing his friend scream, “This is where we die,” Delancey grew angry at the prospect of dying and thought he might take a few of the insurgents with him. He leaned back and kicked out the shattered glass then crawled out onto the hood where he could get a better view of where the small arms fire was coming from. He saw between four and five insurgents shooting at him from a berm. He opened fire with his SAW. Not as many fired back after that. He fired another burst with anger until there was no more return fire. Witnesses said he hit two to five insurgents.65
Further back, contract driver Ron Hart watched the spectacle ahead of him. He had seen a big cloud of dust and smoke ahead of him, probably the IED that hit the AFEES bus, then the convoy bunched up and came to a halt. He could hear the gun fire and see the beating the southbound AFEES convoy was taking. Suddenly, the mirror on left side and left side door window shattered. The round went through truck passing just an inch above his left shoulder. It was one single round so he knew it had to be a sniper. He thought, “I better lay down here.” He wanted the sniper to think he had hit him. “I was scared shitless.”66
Ron then saw Regulator 2 drive forward with SGT Delman firing its .50. The timing was also off on that .50 so he alternated between the .50 and the SAW. All the enemy fire seemed to be concentrating on the green trucks and gun trucks. SGT Kennedy, the NCOIC of Regulator 2, acknowledged the contact message and told his driver, SPC Hubbard to move into position to form a gun shield for the convoy. Regulator 3 took a beating from small arms fire. It had add-on armor and unlike the M1114s, there were gaps and one was in front of the dash. One round penetrated that opening and hit SPC Hubbard in the abdomen just below the body armor. The NCOIC, SGT Kennedy began checking him for the wound but could not find it. When Hubbard slumped forward the body armor covered it. Another round penetrated a gap in the armor and hit the fire extinguisher filling the compartment with white smoke and greater confusion. Kennedy made the decision to get his gun truck out of there. He told Hubbard to put the HMMWV in reverse, but Hubbard kept fading in and out of consciousness. Kennedy then reached over with his left leg, straddling the center of the HMMWV, and pressed the accelerator. Ron Hart saw the gun truck move back with smoke coming out of the turret. He thought to himself, “Where’s the gunner?” This was not a good sign he thought, “The shit is getting to hit the fan. Awe shit, what is going on now?”67
Bullets zipped through Ron Hart’s truck. He was drawing fire from the left, so he decided to drive around to the right and get behind the container trucks. The only trucks with containers were Army green trucks. The white trucks pulled vans. He pulled up and stopped beside the green truck but saw everyone behind him had followed. Where he had stopped left them exposed. He decided to drive further up to the forward most green truck so to allow the others to find cover behind the other trucks. He passed two green trucks and pulled up to Ricketts’ truck. He threw the air brakes on and climbed out of his truck and to get down behind the cover of the duels of the green truck, but ran into Delancey just as he was getting out of his truck. His face was covered with blood and he still had the SAW in his hand.68
When Hart saw Delancey, he lost his fear and forgot he was a civilian. It kicked in his head that he was a platoon sergeant again and that Delancey was one of his soldiers. The old retired infantry sergeant first class got mad and told Delancey to get his ass down. “Give me that SAW.” Delancey told him that his partner was still in the truck. Hart told him that there was nothing he can do with him right now, but “we need to kill these bastards before they kill us.” Hart then picked up the SAW and took up a firing position behind first set of duels on the tractor on the frame of the tractor and below the trailer. It gave him the best amount of protection and good field of fire. He fired at all windows of the two-story house where he thought the sniper was. He then fired at water tower. He fired at anything that he suspected anything looked like a sniper position69
After firing off the first 200 rounds, Hart asked Delancey if he had any more ammo. Delancey said, “Up in the cab.” Hart went up to the cab and grabbed one can of ammo and hoped it was not M16. He heard Ricketts moaning and told him “Just hang on. We will get you out as soon as we can. Don’t move around.” Hart then went back to his position and loaded the belt directly into the SAW. Delancey wanted to show him how to load the plastic on the side of the SAW. Hart said, “Don’t worry about that I already know how to do it. We don’t need to be pretty right now.”70
Six Iraqis popped up along the berm that paralleled the left side of the road and were running away toward where they could shoot at the rear of the convoy They were wearing the Iraqi police uniform: blue shirt, black Kevlar vest and black helmet. It puzzled Hart but he thought, “They are in the wrong location,” so he decided the fire them up. He then fired another 100 rounds. He did not know if he hit anyone, but when he stopped firing, “they weren’t running anymore.” He heard something going on to his right side and saw a soldier climbing into the cab of the truck. Hart continued to provide cover with the SAW. It was SPC Jenny Beck.71
SPC Beck was the driver of the next M915 in line behind Ricketts’. After SSG Uhl had cleared the kill zone, he realized that no one was following him. He could hear Ricketts screaming on the radio that he was hit. Uhl felt he had to do something so he turned his rig around and radioed the others that he was driving back into the kill zone. SPC Beck responded by telling him to stay where he was and they would come to him. That sparked Beck into action. She radioed the others to drive out of the kill zone. SPC Graff then drove around the convoy and out of the kill zone. He was shot in the arm and his co-driver, SPC Harris, received a wound to the head. Meanwhile, Beck drove her rig up beside Hart’s, climbed out and met a Third Country National who ran up to her showing her the wound in his arm. She told him to get in her cab. She then walked around to Ricketts’ truck under fire. Upon seeing her, Delancey ran around to her cab. Beck looked in through the passenger’s side of the cab and saw Ricketts lying helplessly on the floor board pinned under the wreckage of the console. She told him that there was no way she was going to leave him. She reached in and began pulling. He would not budge. She yelled at him to push with his good leg. He finally started moving.72
When Hart looked over again, Beck had pulled Ricketts out of the truck. Beck appeared excited but in control, but was out breath after dragging Ricketts out of the truck. She asked Hart if he could drag Ricketts around to the other side of his truck. So Hart laid the SAW down near the rear duels and started dragging Ricketts by the collar, all the while under fire. Ricketts then rolled over on his stomach and started to crawl so Hart could pull him a little faster.73
Beck then climbed half way in cab when she saw that her truck was full with three other people in the cab. She turned around and told Hart she had no more room in her truck. She said someone else would come and pick Ricketts up. She then asked Hart if he had picked up Ricketts M16. She did not want to leave any weapons around. He said no and she then asked if he could go get it. He answered, “Right, no problem.” She climbed in her cab and radioed the trucks behind her to pick up Ricketts. She then stepped again to tell Hart to hold that position until one of the soldiers behind her recovered SGT Ricketts. SPC Beck signaled to the civilian drivers behind her to get ready to go, mounted, and drove her M915 out of the kill zone with several other drivers following.74
After Regulator 2 withdrew to the rear of the convoy, Regulator 3 decided to move forward to join the fight. Regulator 3 had started to receive a heavy volume of fire from the left that flattened three of its tires. The crew could hear the fighting from their position in the rear of the convoy but could not see any insurgents to engage them. SGT Hernandez, the driver, yelled to SGT Brown, the NCOIC, that they had to get out of there. Brown told Hernandez to drive around the right side of the convoy using the truck as a shield. As they drove down the right side of the convoy they received gun fire from the field to that direction. They returned fire and kept going until they found a gap in the convoy. They nosed their HMMWV through and saw the berm of the access road to their right. They drove to it and saw several HMMWVs parked with their crews in a fight of their own with insurgents to the north of the road. This was the final act in the heroic fight by the MPs of the 617th MP Company.75
After Beck drove off, Hart went back to Ricketts’ truck, picked up the SAW and took up another firing position. He remained in the position for five minutes until he knew Beck was safely down the road. He picked up the M16 and threw it inside his truck. He then went over to check on Ricketts and give him water. A TCN had shown up and was sitting next to him. Hart thought it was taking too long for anyone to come up and pick up Ricketts, so Hart went over to Ricketts’ cab and found his Motorola. He called on the radio, “I’ve got a wounded soldier. I need someone to come up here and get him.” It seemed like forever as nothing happened. Then he got on the radio again and said the same thing. Someone asked who he was. Hart said, “I’m one of the Western drivers up here at the front of the convoy with a wounded soldier.” Finally they said someone was coming up there.75
By this time, many of the civilian drivers had dismounted their vehicles and were hiding in the ditch. SPC Sharples, the driver of the second-to-last M915, dismounted and ran the length of the convoy trying to get the drivers back in their trucks. Scared and unable to speak English, most of them did not respond to his orders and remained hidden in the ditch. He then ran back to the last M915 and told SPC Birkel, the TC, that they needed to get the civilian drivers back in their trucks. Birkel listening to the radio also knew that Ricketts had not been recovered. Prompted into action by Sharples, he radioed that he was going to get Ricketts and then dismounted his truck. SPC Schrad, his driver, also dismounted and with the help of SPC Detman, the gunner of Regulator 2, laid down suppressive fire on insurgent positions in a dune and a house to their left, killing or wounding two to five insurgents. Birkel and Sharples ran three to four hundred meters under fire to the front of the convoy, where they found SGT Ricketts and told Hart to drive out of the kill zone. Hart jumped up in the truck and someone assisted Ricketts into the sleeper, and then said, “Once you get him loaded, go on down to a casualty collection point.” The TCN opened the door and asked if he could ride with Hart. Hart recognized him as one of the IAP TCNs and let him ride. So Hart drove off. His truck only had a few flat tires.77
As Birkel and Sharples ran back to their trucks, they forced the civilian drivers back into their trucks. They saw that one tractor had its airlines damaged and switched it out with an undamaged bobtail. Birkel and Schrad then remained in the kill zone until the last of the civilian vehicles had cleared it.78
Over in the access road, SGT Hernandez, recognizing that the injured MP needed to MEDEVAC’d soon, mounted the MP’s M1114 and drove him to a casualty collection point that the 1-623 FA had set up at the Iraqi checkpoint south of the kill zone. SGT Brown told Hernandez to follow him there in Regulator 3 so that they could then move to the north casualty collection point, but he saw that Regulator 2 was still sitting in the kill zone behind the maintenance bobtail. SGT Brown pulled up to Regulator 2, where SGT Kennedy informed him that SPC Hubbard was wounded. Brown then called for a gun truck from the south casualty collection point to come and pick up Hubbard. SGT Brown and SSG Castro then pulled SPC Hubbard from his vehicle and put him in the FA M1114, and drove him to the south casualty collection point. Hernandez then drove back to the attack site, linked up with Brown in Regulator 3, and both gun trucks drove to SSG Uhl’s casualty collection point.79
An estimated force of 50 insurgents ambushed both a north-bound and south-bound convoy as they met in the kill zone. The 1-623 FA gun trucks cleared the kill zone and established a casualty collection point south of it where they repeatedly drove back into the kill zone to pick up wounded. A couple of their M1114s joined the fight in the access road with the two of the 617th MP that had been shadowing the AFEES convoy. The access road divided the kill zone in two parts with approximately 35 insurgents north of it and 15 south. The 1075th and 518th engaged the southern part of the kill zone. The sweep of the northern half recovered 27 dead Iraqis and one prisoner. There was no sweep of the southern half to determine the number of Iraqis killed or wounded, but the convoy of the 106th Battalion had made the enemy pay an equally high price. The 1075th convoy suffered five US soldiers wounded-in-action (WIA), three civilian WIAs, two destroyed M915s, and four destroyed civilian tractor-trailer systems.
Since the convoys of the 106th Battalion had to go back to the TDC at Arifjan to pick up their loads but the convoys did not need any escort until they crossed the border, COL Miser directed that the 106th Battalion relocate to Zone VI (former Camp ARLINGTON) at Camp Arifjan and the 1-178th FA relocated from Camp Beurhing to Camp NAVISTAR since its gun trucks linked up with the convoys there anyway. The 106th Battalion began constructing its new headquarters in February and completed its move by 1 April.
There were mixed reviews about the performance of the 518th during the Battle of Bismarck. None of the crews received any medals for their actions. In spite of COL Jeff Miser’s intent to do away with the “cowboy” attitude of the 518th by replacing the former members with new crews under the hand-picked leadership, the attitude persisted. The new volunteers had joined the gun truck company to belong to something elite, but without a combat record like their predecessors, the other companies looked down on the 518th. This just alienated them more and brought out more bravado. Still 7th Group saw the need for company and after the 106th Battalion completed its move to Zone VI at Arifjan and the 1-178th FA replaced them at NAVISTAR, the 518th would fall under the 178th and an extra convoy escort company. Miser felt that the new leadership and command environment would tone down the “cowboy” attitude. Keep in mind that the former “cannon cockers” of the 178th felt that convoy escort duty was not as prestigious as pulling lanyards on 155mm cannons.
Without any warning in April, Miser made the decision to inactivate the 518th. The date was set for 15 May. About the same time, 7th Group received a tasking at the direction of Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) at Fort Lee, Virginia, to organize and evaluate an internal escort platoon. 7th Group selected the 1864th Medium Truck Company from Nevada. It rolled the active duty platoon into the 1864th as the gun truck test platoon.80
The 106th Battalion continued long haul missions and by the time it was replaced by the 180th Transportation Battalion on 12 September 2005, it had completed 1800 missions, hauling 50,000 pieces of equipment and 300,000 tons of supplies over 30,000,000 miles. The battalion’s drivers had been attacked over 250 times and fought in three major ambushes with the loss of only one Soldier killed and 27 wounded having accounted for 27 insurgents killed, two wounded and taken 27 enemy prisoners. One of the Battalion’s longest lasting legacies was the Route Security Element. The 178th FA continued the Route Security Element along with each subsequent battalion.
The 106th Transportation Battalion, commanded by LTC Christopher Croft, returned to the war a third time in 2007 to conduct convoy escort out of Logistic Support Area Anaconda (LSAA), or Balad as the Air Force called it. The 106th had changed their nickname from “Spearhead” to “Spartans” because they assumed the 7th Sustainment Brigade would arrive in Iraq ahead of them and had adopted the name Spearhead (although it was really Resolute). The popular movie “300” also embraced the same warrior’s mindset that Croft wanted in his companies.
The 106th Transportation Battalion picked up the following companies:
The 418th Transportation Company was the only transportation company in the battalion and LTC Croft later admitted that this active duty company from Fort Hood, Texas was his worst company, because the Soldiers had bad attitudes. It had a chemical company commander take over command right before deploying, and the first sergeant had been relieved and sent home for sexual improprieties.
LTC Croft had an offensive mindset about convoys and encouraged his companies to come up with innovative solutions. He admitted his Infantry and Cavalry companies were his best, but the 106th was held back on some of its ideas by COL Leonhard, Commander of the 213rd Area Support Group, who believed convoys should just get from point A to point B. This rotation occurred during the surge of troops in the Baghdad area. Many subordinates felt the colonel was risk adverse because he did not want any unnecessary casualties to interfere with him getting his star. That and the combination of walling the routes with concrete barriers reduced the IED attacks on the convoys through the Baghdad area. The barriers eliminated most of the trash the enemy hid the IEDs in and the constant patrolling did not give the insurgents enough time to properly hide them. Consequently, casualties had dropped in that area, but attacks on the route north especially around Tikrit, the birth place of Saddam Hussein, were still high.
The original troop E Troop, 105th Cavalry had deployed with another unit, so the troop officially had not deployed. When the troop was alerted to deploy, most of its troopers had already deployed, so it had to be filled with augmentees. MAJ Mike Murphy was the rear detachment commander of the 120th FA when it deployed to conduct convoy escort in Kuwait. He was coming up for promotion and had not yet deployed and knew his chances of deploying as a lieutenant colonel were remote, so he volunteered to command E Troop. E Troop only had 20 troopers from the original unit because they had just graduated from AIT while their unit was deployed. The rest of the troop was recruited from 110 different cities and a number of MOSs. Murphy was an infantry officer. This meant the troop was not cavalry by training. The leadership came together in May and organized the platoons by plugging in Soldiers’ names at random. Only one Soldier asked to change units to be with another Soldier. The troop only had five days to drill together before they mobbed at Camp Shelby.
E Troop arrived in Kuwait on 10 August, in Iraq on 22 August and completed TOA with B Company, 1-16th Infantry on 7 September 2007. The TOA went well. They received training on driving the M1117 Armored Support Vehicle (ASV) and all the other equipment they would use on missions, none of which they had seen at Camp Shelby. E Troop, however, completed more missions between August 2007 and March 2008 than their predecessors had during their entire one-year tour. The recent surge in troops had increased missions. The standard tactic, technique and procedure (TTP) was to return fire and call the battle space owner. They liked to push on because to stop on the road invited enemy attacks. They questioned the number of “confirmed” kills by other companies since they were not confirmed by the battle space owner. The troop will be disbanded upon return. E Troop liked employed snipers and their own quick reaction force (QRF). They also liked running with dual scouts out front.
CPT Chris Miller commanded A Company, 3-144th Infantry from the 36th Infantry Division. This was an East Texas National Guard company with an aggressive gun slinger mentality. They claimed the wide open ranges of West Texas allowed cowboys to shoot long distances from horseback, but in East Texas cowboys had to be quicker on the draw. Consequently, 1LT Michael Geraci joked, “If you shoot at them, you just make them mad and they shoot back.” Geraci claimed his 1st Platoon had the most kills of the company. Most of the company had returned from Afghanistan six months before when the company was alerted for deployment to Iraq. All volunteered to deploy so they could stay together as a company. They were loyal to the company. They believed in taking the fight back to the enemy. Miller was here before as contractor with KBR. He assumed command of A Company in April 2007. The company mobed in May 2007 and went to Camp Shelby then arrived in Iraq during the second week in August. It replaced the D Battery, 1-5 FA, which did not have a combat mentality. They did not take personal weapons with them on the road. They were not prepared to be hit when they crossed the wire. Their mentality was, “If we get hit we get hit.”
The A Company, was the first replacement company in the 106th Battalion to complete transfer of authority (TOA) and established a more aggressive mentality for the next companies. The battalion commander put out his intent to maintain an aggressive and disciplined mentality. After a couple weeks in country, a convoy from A Company was hit by an IED on the way to Speicher, got off the road and raided a building looking for the trigger man. While LTC Croft had to encourage some of his companies to be more aggressive, he had to tell the Texans to slow down, fearing they might stumble in an ambush. When he advised them to take an offensive posture, he did not mean to dismount and kick in doors. He said, “Look at it; do you really want to do it.” LTC Croft then added tactical patience to his guidance. “Let the EOF [escalation of force] system work; don’t go straight to shoot to kill. Does that threat have to be eliminated or blocked?”
If the infantry could see the trigger man through their thermals then they could take him out. If they got hit with an IED, then they could scan for the trigger man and take him out. The Texan attitude was “If you get hit and you can eliminate the threat, he will not be around to hit someone else.”
The infantry ran with tow bars forward, which served a practical purpose and happened to identify them to the enemy. 80 percent of the company had been deployed previously to Afghanistan and had the same aggressive attitude. Miller claimed his company came up with the idea of employing snipers. He wanted to infiltrate snipers along MSR in traditional hot spots where they were often hit by IEDs, but the battle space owner did not want them to do it. B Company, 297th Infantry also asked to do it. The snipers asked what they could do. They ride in LMTVs and shoot from the top.
On 23 February 2008, A Company escorted a convoy returning from Convoy Support Center Scania with KBR tankers full of fuel with SSG Efrain Garcia as the escort commander. The convoy had two M1117 ASVs up front, followed by eight KBR trucks, then the convoy commander’s M1114 armed with an M240B, followed by eight KBR trucks, then the assistant convoy commander’s M1114 armed with .50 and 240B, followed by eight KBRs, then an ASV, wrecker, eight more KBR trucks and two M1114s armed with .50s and 240Bs. They had no fire truck. They liked putting the ASVs up front because they considered them more survivable.
SSG Garcia’s convoy rolled down ASR Sword close to Abu Graib just past the dip in the road near an apartment complex with thick concrete walls. As the rear M1114 gun truck was just moving up front to block the turn onto ASR Vernon, SSG Garcia heard a loud explosion at 2245 hours. He asked on radio if anyone heard or seen it. The ASV gun truck that had moved up front said he heard it was behind Gun Truck Number 2. A KBR vehicle went crazy saying they were taking small arms fire. From the lead gun truck to convoy commander’s gun truck, 11th vehicle back, took small arms fire from a group of buildings on the right hand side of road. SSG Garcia called on radio, “Contact right.” Their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) called for a gun truck to pull to the contact side and return fire. The gun truck in contact pulled to right side. The lead three gun trucks had cleared the kill zone, so SSG Garcia’s gun truck pulled over and the assistant convoy commander came up and joined fight. The gunner saw three guys on top of building on right hind side. Lindsey saw two on roof top and second story windows, and possibly five on the ground running from house to house.
SSG Shane Lindsey saw a KBR truck stopped in kill zone. Its brakes were locked up. So Lindsey’s gun truck pulled up to the right rear between the truck and the enemy. His M1114 started receiving small arms fire from north side (his right). He then saw two enemy insurgents with AKs on the north side. SSG Garcia’s also gun truck received automatic fire from an RPK.
As the ASVs were leading the convoy out of kill zone, the lead ASV called that they saw an IED wrapped in a bag in the median 300 meters from convoy commander. SSG Garcia told them not to stop. He knew if they stopped they would be trapped in the kill zone. They replied, “Roger we are not stopping; we are pushing left.” As the rear ASV with wrecker drove past the convoy commander’s gun truck, the IED detonated behind the wrecker with no damage to wrecker.
Only two gun trucks and the disabled KBR truck remained in kill zone and the rear M1151 gun truck was coming up. As soon as Lindsey’s gun truck received fire from both sides of the road, he called to say he needed “Six” (convoy commander) to come up. While waiting, Lindsey pulled further forward to the right side of the KBR tanker. The small arms fire sounded hail hitting his passenger door. Lindsey told the gunner to find where the most concentration of fire came from and suppressive it, “Find the f@#kers!” Lindsey was so mad at that point; he yelled, “Find me a f@#king target.” It pissed Lindsey off when they had blown the IED because that was the 12th IED that went off for this convoy. There were so many rounds hitting the side of his gun truck, they sounded like the popping of popcorn. When the enemy saw his door crack open, they concentrated even more fire on his door, which pissed him off even more that they did not want to let him out.
Gun Truck 6 pulled up to and the gunner, CPL Tanrrius Robinson, fired to the left killing two insurgents with his .50 and SGT Leonard Girramita opened his window and engaged with his M4 to right.
The IED detonated behind Garcia’s truck and he was trying to figure out what the rest of the convoy was doing. The KBR bob tail with “Medicine man” stopped behind the disabled vehicle. Garcia’s driver talked to “Medicine man,” who said, “I’m not getting out of this truck till the shooting stops.”
Garcia told the lead truck to stop and assess damage. Fuel was leaking everywhere. They would have been on ASR Vernon if they did not stop. “Lost boy” gun truck (the floater) was up front, he called Garcia and said he still saw heavy fire. He heard Garcia say we were getting ready to move. He saw trucks getting shot at. “Lost boy” made the decision to turn back into the kill zone leaving the three ASVs up there for security. Garcia told Hernandez, Gun Truck 1, an ASV, to stop then roll 10-15 mph to allow the recovery. PFC Jesse Henderson, “Woody,” drove “Lost Boy” zigzag through the convoy to fight traffic with police light on front grill to get the TCN and KBR drivers out of the way, the tankers that were shot pulled to the right so the fuel would go into median not road. The ones not shot to left. SGT Tony Robins yelled, “Don’t stop shooting!” The gunner, CPL Clinton Williams, was firing his M240B at the house that was engaging Garcia but his weapon jammed. He then switched to fire the SAW but it could not work. Robins yelled, “Shoot something.” Disgusted, Williams threw the SAW down into the truck yelling, “If you want to shoot the mother f@#ker you shoot it.” Robins took the SAW, got out of the truck and laid down suppressive fire. About that time Williams got the M240 working.
Lindsey was out firing M203 using the door for cover and a steady hold. He fired three to four rounds, the first one in window with two enemy then the others in the windows next to it. This quieted the fire from the house. He then shut door and walked around behind his gun truck to check on the KBR driver. His driver, SPC Miguel Velazquez, yelled, “Hey the damn KBR guy is out of his truck.” He had got out and hooked up a tow pin. Lindsey yelled, “Who’s ta f@#@k’n truck is that?” It was Robins, who was out of his truck using it as cover while he was walking and shooting his SAW. Lindsey asked, “What to f@#k you doing bringing your truck so close to mine?” Robins said, “There’s a guy out working on his truck out here.” Lindsey asked, “What f@#king guy?” It turned out “Medicine man” was under the truck trying to hook up a “D” ring so he could tow the disabled truck. “Medicine man” was cool under fire. Lindsey then went back his back side of his truck and fired more HE in the building and behind wall. There was a guy wearing the blue sweatshirt behind the mud wall that surrounded the house about 75 meters from the road. The .50 cal chewed him up. .50s from Lindsey’s and Garcia’s gun trucks worked the wall and fired at the guys running toward the four cars down the alley.
“H” had the convoy stopped up the road boxed up with an ASV front and rear and the third ASV was in middle. “H” got out. Garcia told “H,” “You got the front until we get out of here [kill zone].”
“H” dismounted and got with KBR convoy commander to do BDA [battle damage assessment] on their trucks. “H” told drivers and TCs to get on the ground and gunners scanning. Seven trucks had bullet holes. CPL Nichols and KBR convoy commander started patching holes with plugs. For high holes, Nichols had a KBR driver on his shoulders plugging. After the KBR driver was drenched in fuel, they switched. Nichols was also covered with fuel. “H” then checked drivers and found a driver who was shot in the head. He called that back
Garcia was getting all the messages on MTS. After receiving the message, “KBR was shot in the head,” Doc, who was in Lindsey’s gun truck, said, “We got to go; somebody’s shot in the head.” Lindsey got on MBITR (hand held squad radio) and asked, “What ta hell is going on up there? Is somebody shot in the head or not.” Doc was panicky. Lindsey told Velazquez, “Junior,” to find out what the f@#k is going on. Lindsey went back to shooting.
A round came in busted out his dome light ricocheted hit helmet and split it and grazed his head. “H” pulled him out of the truck and took him to his ASV gunner, SPC Jesse Vanegas, asked the guy if he is alright. Vanagas, who never talks, told him, “Drink some water,” not knowing what else to do for him.
By this time the small arms fire was slowing down. Gun Truck 6 concentrated on guys on roof. Lindsey’s gun truck fired at guys on the ground, with Lindsey firing his M203 into second floor. Garcia’s gunner, SPC John Armstrong “Strong,” was shooting stars and parachutes flares at the building, yelling, “Hey mother f@#kers shoot at me over here.” Lindsey could not see where the enemy was shooting from. Garcia had time to see where the firing was coming.
Garcia said, “Look at that mother f@#ker; I caught it on fire.” The building the flare went into. Their TTP was to shot flares at the enemy to catch them on fire. After third IED, they sat out at Scania and said this is what they would do. The next day it worked out. Lindsey said, “Gotta make a point. Recon by fire.” The truck that gets hit marks the site, pull over and find something to shoot at to draw fire. “Phalanx” Garcia’s nick name fires flares up and out behind, anywhere.
The bob tail was backing up the chain out. Lindsey was shooting flares on top of the building. A Stryker unit came up and the small arms fire stopped. When the convoy changed lanes on Sword, they passed the Strykers going in the same direction. The convoy had switched lanes after entering Sword, then pushed the third gun truck up to block the turn onto Vernon. For some reason it took the Strykers 20 minutes to catch up. The Stryker crews asked if the convoy needed help.
Later we talked more and Garcia told me that when hit by their first IED, they sped up and cleared the kill zone. The IED had scared them. The second time they reacted the same way but they were pissed. They discussed it and Garcia said they did not need to speed through the kill zone after an IED because it had already detonated. They needed to slow down and let everyone catch up. After the third IED, they wanted to do something about it to discourage further attacks. They decided to fire back at anything suspicious. They knew the trigger man had to be hiding out in the desert and if they fired out into the desert to scare them from further attacks.
On 18 March, Vice President Dick Cheney presented SSG Lindsey and a medic from the 106th Bronze Star Medals for their valor.
E Troop, 105th Cavalry first employed a team of four gun trucks to reinforce the convoy and A Company, 3-144th Infantry did the same in March. The traditional hot spot on the way to FOB Speicher was the “Golden Arches.” So many IEDs had detonated at the base of the arches that the structure was damaged. The battle space owner provided no overwatch there. Miller had three convoys running to Speicher and he would send a four gun truck lead element out as overwatch at the arches. After convoy passed, the overwatch would join the convoy. He wanted to leave them in place until the convoy returned but they did not have permission from the land owner. The 213th Group did not support this tactic either, but the Texans did it on the sly. The infantry guys were pissed about their job and felt restricted. They drove through the battle space where they knew they were going to get hit and the battle space owner would do nothing about it or let them do something.
COL Leonhard, Commander of the 213th ASG, would not let any part of the 1st Platoon convoy leave before its SP time, so the four gun trucks cut out ahead of the main body by ten minutes on16 March. They ran into an IED and small arms fire from a lone gunman on a roof top south of the “Arches” but did not find any enemy contact there. In effect the overwatch element initiated an ambush that was set for the main body. SGT Garrimeda with CPL Robinson, the gunner, killed the enemy on the roof with a .50. They confirmed the kill with thermal splatter. They continued mission after they killed him so no one recovered the body. There were no US loses.
The states began complaining they sent over intact National Guard battalions only to have them broken up and their companies sent to different battalions leaving the commanders in charge of nothing. In fact the other companies of the 3-144th were under the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Tallil, Iraq. They warned if this happened again then they would quite sending units to the war. Consequently, the 293rd Infantry in its entirety replaced the 106th Transportation Battalion in March 2008, making the 106th the last transportation battalion to conduct convoy escort mission out of Anaconda.
After LTC Marc Hamilton assumed command of the battalion in 2010, it ran the reception support battalion for returning brigade combat teams and provided all the transportation for all Soldiers during their reintegration process. With the 305th Quartermaster Company and 584th Maintenance Company both deployed, the 106th took rear-detachment Soldiers and some civilians to keep the Supply Support Activity (SSA) running.
As a result of Army transformation into modular units and the cost of maintaining 43 Brigade Combat Teams, the Army had to inactivate functional logistics battalion headquarters. On 15 September 2011, the 24th Transportation Battalion at Fort Eustis, Virginia; 57th Transportation Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington; and the 106th Transportation Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky were inactivated. The companies of the 106th Battalion were transferred to the 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
|LTC||Herbert N. Reed||18 Mar 55 - Unknown|
|MAJ||John R. Powell||Unknown|
|LTC||Thomas L. Lyons||03 Jan 59 - 03 Jan 60|
|LTC||Edwin B. Owen||14 Jul 61 - 17 Jul 62|
|LTC||Virgil G. Brown||18 Jul 62 - 01 Jul 63|
|LTC||Henry R. Del Mar||24 Jul 63 - 03 Jul 64|
|LTC||Charles T. Forrester, Jr.||04 Jul 64 - 31 Jan 66|
|LTC||Robert F. Wanek||01 Feb 66 - 24 Jul 67|
|LTC||Donald J. Opitz||25 Jul 67 - 03 Feb 69|
|LTC||Donald H. Conner||04 Feb 69 - 07 Aug 70|
|LTC||William H. Danzeisen, Jr.||08 Aug 70 - 08 Jun 72|
|LTC||David G. Baker||09 Jun 72 - 23 May 74|
|LTC||James W. Wallace||24 May 74 - 23 Nov 75|
|LTC||Grady L. Burleson||24 Nov 75 - 20 Jun 77|
|LTC||Raymond L. Stearns||21 Jun 77 - 25 May 79|
|LTC||Roy C. Berry||24 Jul 79 - 21 Jun 81|
|LTC||Robert L. Zikmund||22 Jun 81 - 26 Jun 84|
|LTC||Richard L. Fields||27 Jun 84 - 25 Jun 86|
|LTC||Glynne Hamrick||26 Jun 86 - Jun 1988|
|LTC||Mark E. Victorson||Jun 1988 - Jun 1990|
|LTC||Randolph L. Patterson||Jun 2002 - Jul 2004|
|LTC||James Sagen||Aug 2004 - Jul 2006|
|LTC||Christopher Croft||Jul 2006 - Jun 2008|
|LTC||Mary Beth Taylor||Jun 2008 - Jul 2010|
|LTC||Marc Hamilton||Jul 2010 - Sep 2011|
1 Summary of interview with SGT John O. Williams by Richard Killblane, 8 March 2005; SFC Stephen Mikes’ sworn statement, 21 November 2004; and “Firefight 1018,” Green Tab AARs, 106th Trans Bn.
2 “Firefight 1018,” Williams interview; Mikes sworn statement; SGT Austin John O Williams sworn statement, 22 November 2004; and CPL Richard David Swensen III sworn statement, 23 November 2004.
3 Mikes, Harshbarger, Swensen and Williams sworn statements.
4 Williams and Swensen sworn statements
5 “Narrative For Award of the Bronze Star Medal With Valor To SPC Michael E. Robinson,” and Williams interview.
6 Williams interview.
7 McCormick telephone interview, 23 July 2005.
8 Sagen interview.
9 McCormick telephone interview, 9 November 2006.
10 “101st Airborne Division, 106th Transportation Battalion, Route Security Element (RSE);” McCormick telephone interview, 23 July 2005; LT C James Sagen interview with Richard Killblane, 2 February 2006.
11 Sagen interview, 2 February 2006.
12 McCormick telephone interview, 9 November 2006
13 McCormick email, March 22, and July 23, 2005.
14 “106th Battalion RSE”
15 “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick email, June 6, 2005 and telephone interview, 23 July 2005 and 9 November 2006.
16 McCormick telephone interview, 23 July 2005, and 9 November 2006; and Sagen interview, 2 February 2006.
17 “106th Battalion RSE” and McCormick email, June 6, 2005 and telephone interview, 9 November 2006
18 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
19 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
20 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
21 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
22 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006 and Travis Stantz email to Richard Killblane, November 7, 2006.
23 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006 and Stantz email, November 7, 2006.
24 Power point presentation, Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight,” 106th Transportation Battalion and McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
25 McCormick telephone conversation 6 November 2006.
26 David Whisenant interview by Richard Killblane, 12 November 2005 and McCormick email, November 11, 2006.
27 1LT Kim Kleiman email to Richard Killblane, 30 April 2006; SSG Lane Wright interview by Richard Killblane at Arifjan, 8 March 2005; and SPC Aaron Ingham, “Report of Combat Action on 30 January, MSR Tampa at ASR Heart in the vicinity of ASR Circle, Safwan, Iraq,” no date.
28 Ingham, “Report;” and Ingham email to James McCormick, December 4, 2006.
29 McCormick telephone conversation, 3 May 2006; Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” and Ingham, “Reports.”
30 SSG Lane Wright interview by Richard Killblane, in Arifjan, Kuwait, March 2005; and Ingham, “Report.”
31 McCormick telephone, 3 May 2006; Whisenant interview; Wright interview; and Kleiman email, 30 April 2006.
32 Ingham, “Report.”
33 Kleiman email, 30 April 2006.
34 Ingham, “Report.”
35 McCormick telephone, 3 May 2006; Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” Whisenant interview; and Kleiman email, 30 April 2006.
36 Kleiman email, 30 April 2006; Ingham, “Report;” and Wright interview.
37 Kleiman email, 30 April 2006; and Ingham, “Report.”
38 Kleiman email, 30 April 2006.
39 “106th Battalion RSE;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” McCormick email, April 7, 2005; telephone interview, 14 November 2006; and Whisenant interview.
40 CPT James McCormick, “Description of events on Easter Sunday 2004 and January 30th 2005; Terrain, conditions and situation,” November 2006; “106th Battalion RSE;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” Whisenant interview; and McCormick telephone conversation, 8 and 15 November 2005.
41 CPT James McCormick, “Description of events on Easter Sunday 2004 and January 30th 2005; Terrain, conditions and situation,” November 2006; “106th Battalion RSE;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” Whisenant interview; and McCormick telephone conversation, 8 November 2005.
42 MAJ James Brady email to Richard Killblane, November 8, 2006; and Jody Cuthbertson email to Richard Killblane, November 13, 2006.
43 MAJ James Brady email, November 8, 2006; and Cuthbertson email, November 13, 2006.
44 McCormick, “Description;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” and McCormick, 8 November 2005 and telephone interview, 15 November 2006.
45 Power reported this as taking place at 2130 hours, however, the 106th recorded that they received the call from McCormick for assistance at 2220 hours. Both Kleiman and the 106th AAR recorded the ambush as taking place at 2100 hours. By adding one hour to Power’s times, all the times match.
46 LT Power, hand written after action report, no date. Power’s report has him meeting up with McCormick at about 2200 hours when the 106th Bn AAR has it more like an hour later.
47 LT Power reported this time as 2215 hours.
48 “106th Battalion RSE;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” Power, report; Stantz email, November 11, 2006; and McCormick telephone conversation, 14 November 2006.
49 “106th Battalion RSE;” Green Tab AAR, “ASR Heart Firefight;” and Stantz email, November 11, 2006.
50 Stants email, November 12, 2006.
51 “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick telephone conversation, 9 November 2006; and Cuthbertson email, November 13, 2006.
52 McCormick email, November 11, 2006; and Cuthbertson email, November 13, 2006.
53 “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick email, November 11, 2006.
54 MAJ James Brady email to Richard Killblane, November 8, 2006; and McCormick email, November 11, 2006.
55 McCormick telephone interview, 15 November 2006; Power report.
56 Power report.
57 “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick email, November 11, 2006; and Stantz email, November 12, 2006.
58 McCormick, “Description;” “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick email, November 11, 2006; and Cuthbertson email, November 13, 2006. Power also agreed that the British force arrived shortly after midnight.
59 “106th Battalion RSE;” McCormick, “Description;” and McCormick email, November 11 and 13, 2006.
60 McCormick, “Description.”
61 2LT Charles Gilkey, “Convoy 678N Engagement Narrative.”
62 Ron Hart telephone interview with Richard Killblane, 12 May 2006.
63 Gilkey, “Narrative.”
64 Torres interview and video, and Gilkey, “Narrative.”
65 Henry J. Dordes, “Nebraska Guard unit recalls ambush in Iraq,” World-Herald, May 29, 2005; and Gilkey, “Narrtive.”
66 Hart interview.
67 Hart interview and Gilkey, “Narrative.”
68 Hart interview.
69 Hart interview.
70 Hart interview.
71 Hart interview.
72 Gilkey, “Narrative.”
73 Hart interview.
74 Hart interview and Gilkey, “Narrative.”
75 Gilkey, “Narrative.”
76 Hart interview.
77 Gilkey, “Narrative.”
78 Hart interview and Gilkey, “Narrative.”
79 Gilkey, “Narrative.”
80 COL Jeff Miser informed David Haneslman that he made the decision in a conversation on 5 December 2006.