CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Minnesota National Guard Soldiers deployed here from the 34th Infantry Division "Red Bulls," conducted convoy escorting for 233rd Transportation Company, 3rd Sustainment Command, along with third country nationals to Victory Base Complex, Iraq, Nov.16.
The Convoy Escort Team "Earthpig 30" from Charlie Company 1/34th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, attached to 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team - deployed in support of Operation New Dawn - will be providing security in the final months of the drawdown in Iraq.
For a mission like this, preparation is key, because once a Convoy Escort Team crosses the border into Iraq, anything can happen - from routine breakdowns to being hit by an improvised explosive device - CETs must prepare for it all. "Earthpig 30" is no different.
The Soldiers met twenty-four hours prior to their mission start point time for their pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections - a routine that cannot be treated as routine.
They inventoried all their equipment in neatly matching piles while truck commanders went through a checklist making sure each individual Soldier had their equipment in working order.
Army Capt. Peter DeCrans, the commander of Charlie Company, walked through and did a personal check of everything himself after Soldiers' equipment was inspected by the platoon leader and platoon sergeant.
"After PCCs and PCIs is when we get our [start point] time," said Army Sgt. Mark Weekly, a truck commander for 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1/34th BSTB, attached to 1-94 CAV."
The day of the mission, the trucks of "Earthpig 30" moved to the staging lanes to prepare to head out on their mission. Prior to leaving, drivers conducted a preventive maintenance check and service to their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.
After doing PMCS on their vehicles, drivers loaded their MRAP according to a load plan set up by the CET commander prior to their mission. Every truck has an identical load plan, just in case of an emergency, so that equipment can be easily accessed without delay.
Once at the border of Kuwait and Iraq, which is known as Khabari Crossing (K Crossing) "Earthpig 30" mounted their weapons and met up with the 233rd Transportation Company, 3rd Sustainment Command, to conduct a safety brief. A prayer was said before putting on their body armor and mounting up.
Weekly commented, "I do my final inspection before the safety brief to make sure our MRAP's crew serve weapon (a machine gun) is operational and to make sure everything is strapped down."
Shortly after leaving the K Crossing, the convoy was brought to a halt for suspicious activity.
Weekly and another Soldier in the squad investigated the situation; they determined that there was no immediate threat and continued the mission to Camp Adder, Iraq.
Enroute to Victory Base Complex, the convoy was halted by two maintenance emergencies which set the convoy back several hours.
"You have to be prepared with maintenance issues, because they will happen from time to time," Weekly said.
At K crossing, the 233rd Transportation Company and the TCNs parted ways with "Earthpig 30" to go through border customs. "Earthpig 30" then fueled up their MRAPs and did a hasty tire change to move back to Camp Buehring, where they off-loaded their equipment, cleaned their weapons and recuperated.
"I think this is something I am going to look back on with mostly good memories, which I am grateful for," said Army Pvt. Denne, "I am going to look back [and] say I was a part of something big; I was with people I trusted and cared about, and even if I don't do anything for the rest of my life, I know that here, what we're doing now, we are actually accomplishing something that's affecting many people, American and Iraqi, in all sorts of ways."