Traveling Afghanistan's lawless roads: JSC-A Soldiers convoy needed supplies
July 20, 2009
- CLPs move supplies to outposts and forward operating bases in austere locations
- CLPs are dangerous but necessary
- JSC-A moved needed supplies to Marines in Helmand province through combat logistics patrols
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -Forced by unforeseen construction to find an alternate route, gun trucks escorting the Afghan "jingle trucks" and military cargo trucks maneuvered through the narrow city streets of Qalat, Afghanistan. Gun truck two radioed the news back. The lengthy Afghan flat-bed trucks cannot make the turn ahead. The combat logistics patrol halted, radio chatter quieted and gunners warily surveyed the curious local populace as the lead gun truck found another route. Riding in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles they call "gun trucks," Soldiers of the 286th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion escorted "jingle trucks" and military Palletized Load System trucks, all loaded down with U.S. military cargo, to Forward Operating Bases Lagman and Wolverine June 25.
As military focus turns to Operation Enduring Freedom, the number of troops moving into Afghanistan will grow to more than 60,000 by the end of the year. With increased numbers of troops comes an increased demand for supplies. Because of austere and often mountainous terrain, Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, the U.S. logistics command here, often moves large cargo to FOBs through logistics convoy missions, called combat logistics patrols.
"There is a war-fighting effort going on in this theater, and someone has to get supplies and things a front-line soldier needs to him," said Sgt. 1st Class Byron T. Mills, a 286th CSSB transportation platoon sergeant from Temple, Texas.
The 286th CSSB, a JSC-A element and National Guard battalion, runs CLPs to many locations in Southern Afghanistan, such as FOBs Lagman, Ramrod, Wolverine and Ghazni.
Cargo sent includes building materials, mail, ammunition, vehicles and food supplies.
"Anything to sustain the maneuver units up front," said Mills.
Once a unit's supply level diminishes to a certain point, the JSC-A plans a CLP. Due to the increase of U.S. Marines in Helmand province, lately numerous CLPs have delivered essential supplies and equipment there.
Recently, Soldiers of 286th CSSB conducted a four-phase CLP to deliver needed equipment to Marines at FOBs Dwyer and Leatherneck. During the first phase, troops delivered power generation equipment to FOB Leatherneck, where they rested overnight. The next day, they drove to FOB Dwyer, delivered fuel system supply point equipment and slept for the night. The third day, the CLP returned to FOB Leatherneck, loaded special operations equipment and departed to KAF as their final phase.
The JSC-A also met a critical need by two separate missions the 286th CSSB took to move approximately 60 MRAPs to Marine units stationed in Helmand Province. Improvised Explosive Devices are responsible for the majority of U.S. and coalition forces deaths in this war. Because of their resistance to IEDs, the MRAPs are critical to troop safety.
Soldiers of the 286th CSSB generally convoy one to three times a week. Some CLPs may last as long as four days, said Mills.
Besides MRAPs and cargo trucks, CLPs contain at least one wrecker. A wrecker's usefulness was evident by recent missions in Helmand, when JSC-A troops found and employed alternate routes through the desert, using a wrecker when necessary to pull cargo trucks out of loose sand. Wreckers are also used if cargo trucks have difficulty ascending a steep hill.
Before a CLP, Soldiers must prepare their vehicles, individual and crew-served weapons, and personal equipment by completing pre-combat checks.
Troops also ensure that cargo trucks have adequate fuel and that the freight is strapped down securely.
Usually, on a CLP each gun truck carries at least a driver, truck commander, gunner and assistant gunner.
"We have a defensive posture," said Mills. "But if someone were to have hostile intent against our movement, we are equipped to eliminate or reduce the threat."
Even with precautions, CLPs are necessary but dangerous because of IEDs, snipers or ambushes.
"Someone's got to do it," said Spc. Robert Mitchell, a 286th CSSB assistant gunner from Treeport, La. "I don't mind coming out here and doing my duty, because I signed my name on the line voluntarily."
Besides the danger of enemy attacks, troops often face looming obstacles, such as mechanical breakdowns and flat tires.
As more American troops arrive in country and move out to permanent locations, CLPs remain crucial to transporting necessary supplies to them.