Torch party lights the way for First Team troopers as they head to Iraq
January 27, 2009
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- When Greek soldiers during the time of Alexander the Great moved toward a combat zone, they marched by day and camped by night, sending ahead of them a small group of soldiers called a torch party. They would set up camp and light fires which would guide their main body of troops to their campsite.
Much like those torch parties of old, the mission of the torch party for the Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, involves guiding the battalion's main body into the combat zone by making sure things are ready for their arrival.
As DSTB Soldiers, encompassing members of the headquarters command and staff sections of the 1st Cav. Div., continue arriving to Kuwait from Fort Hood, Texas, over the next few days on their way to their final destination in Iraq, the torch party has been ensuring that troops on main-body flights have transportation from the airfield to Camp Buehring and that preparations have been made to feed and house the new arrivals.
During the main body Soldiers' stopover at Camp Buehring, the torch party schedules them to take improvised explosive device classes, weapons ranges and other final refresher courses which are instructed by Camp Buehring personnel. In addition to that, they work with the transportation offices at Camp Buehring to ensure the battalion's main bodies are scheduled on flights to Iraq.
"It doesn't stop; we can get flights at any time during a 24-hour period. We can't control when they land, and we have to schedule our missions around that. Sometimes, you don't get a lot of notice and you get a short notice tasking and personnel have to be ready to go so we go through an alert process," said Capt. Seth Gould, operations battle captain for DSTB and a member of the battalion's torch party from Covington, Ga."Things have been going very smoothly, and we haven't missed a pick up on any flight out."
The torch party doesn't just pick up and then push troops to Iraq. They also ensure that deploying Soldiers get their equipment from Kuwait to Iraq.
"We're also involved in logistical management, ensuring that when equipment, such as vehicles and other major pieces of equipment, comes into the port [on ships] that it gets sent up [to Iraq]," Gould said.
If Soldiers are missing pieces of uniform equipment, such as a piece to their tactical vest, the torch party assists them in getting what they need before they hit the ground in Iraq.
"When you give Soldiers equipment like protective gear that they may not have been issued in the states, it feels like we're doing something great for their safety and well-being as they go out," said 2nd Lt. Memorina Barnes, executive officer for Headquarters Service Company, DSTB, and a support operations officer for the torch party.
With the assistance of the battalion's human resource personnel, the torch party also helps Soldiers in getting final paperwork completed such as filling out forms to get their family separation pay for the deployment started.
Since first hitting the ground here in December, the torch party has been working non-stop preparing for the DSTB's January arrival in Kuwait by getting phone and computer systems on line among other tasks to make the battalion's transition in theater a smooth one.
"Our first priority was to become mobile -- acquiring vehicles and setting up communications and establishing a command post," said Gould. "We also spent time with the Camp Buehring mayor's cell finding out what resources were available and building networks with support agencies here to make sure the battalion has what it needs."
Although there have been a lot of challenges and long hours with little sleep involved in working on the torch party, Gould said the torch Soldiers are dedicated to their mission.
"They're good at what they do, and you can't keep them down," said Gould. "They're happy as long as they're making an impact in doing the battalion's mission. I never have heard a complaint from any one of them."
Spc. Mathew Samson, an infantryman with Headquarters Service Company, DSTB, from Haddamneck, Conn., volunteered to work for the torch party, which he calls a far cry from his relatively slow-paced job as a schools clerk at Fort Hood.
"I'm learning a lot; I really didn't realize it took this much work to get everyone in theater," said Samson, who is serving his first tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Here it's a lot more demanding and much more fast paced than it is [back at Fort Hood], but it's also been a very rewarding experience."
He added that although he works long hours, the job never becomes tedious.
"One minute, I'll be escorting vehicles from the airfield, and the next I'll be getting paperwork, driving people from ranges or waking people up late at night to let them know that they leave [on a flight to Iraq] in the morning," Samson said.
Spc. Alexander Kaufmann, a satellite systems operator maintainer for Company C, DSTB, from Killeen, Texas, said he, like Samson, also enjoys his role in assisting the torch party by standing guard in the torch party's operations center or participating in various assigned details.
"There's nothing we can't handle, and we contribute just a small piece to the bigger picture of the overall deployment," said Kaufmann, who served in DSTB during the battalion's last rotation to OIF 06-08. "But it's a very fulfilling feeling knowing that you're helping to set your fellow Soldiers up for success prior to their getting into Iraq."
The torch party will leave Kuwait for Iraq after all of the DSTB's main body flights arrive at their Forward Operating Bases in Iraq. Nearly 1,100 DSTB troops to include the torch party will be in Iraq by early February.