JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq, - When deciding to enlist into the Louisiana National Guard in July 2001, Sgt. Daniel Butts didn’t realize that he would be entering military service just 45 days prior to the worst acts of terrorism ever carried out in the United States.
Nine years after that event and with much of the enemy activity drastically reduced, he was finally called to help transport commodities throughout the war-torn provinces of Iraq.
Butts is assigned as an assistant convoy commander with the 199th Forward Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). He and Sgt. Derick Woods, a convoy commander with the 199th FS Company, supervises 21 soldiers, six Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles, a recovery element, and up to 45 civilian-driven tractor trailers.
“Communication and teamwork are the keys to the delivery of commodities and the safe return of all members of any convoy,” said Woods, who has three deployments to his credit.
Butts relied on Woods’ prior experience in the beginning, but held his own after getting a few missions under his belt.
“We work as a team on this CET, and everybody has a role assigned to them,” said Butts.
Some soldiers in the company call Woods and Butts “Batman and Robin,” clearly a reference to the way they function during missions. Together, they have accumulated more than 60 missions and thousands of miles of dangerous territory in support of the responsible drawdown of troops.
Although there has been a heavily publicized withdrawal of combat troops within the region, the duo is adamant about not letting the change affect them.
“Nothing will change concerning the way we conduct business,” said Woods.
“It doesn’t matter if there are 200,000 troops or 20,000 troops, CET 1-1 will operate the way we were trained,” added Butts. “The goal is to get all of my soldiers back home safely.
"Even with the troop drawdown, we still will maximize our ability to sustain by integrating lessons learned from other units and sharpshooting our soldiers’ minds for alertness before, during and after missions.”
They have only a few months left to carry out their duties, but the duo refuses to celebrate too early.
“My job for the rest of our time here is not to let anyone become complacent,” said Butts.