724th Trans. Co. reflects, looks forward
October 31, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - On April 9, 2004, Soldiers with 1st Platoon, 724th Transportation Company out of Bartonville, Ill., were ambushed as they traveled across Iraq on a refueling mission during their deployment to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, then called Camp Anaconda.
The 724th Trans. Co. lost two Soldiers that day, Sgt. Elmer Krause and Spc. Gregory Goodrich. A third Soldier, Pfc. Keith "Matt" Maupin, was taken prisoner. The unit returned to Iraq for the first time since 2004, Sept. 29, 2009 to Contingency Operating Location Speicher.
Staff Sgt. Craig V. McDermott, the senior transportation movement request manager for the 90th Sustainment Brigade out of Little Rock, Ark., then Spc. McDermott, was on his first deployment, serving as a crew-served gunner for the 724th Trans. Co. in 2004. He was also in the convoy April 9.
McDermott, a Taylor, Mich., native, who is now on his third deployment to Iraq, said the worst part for him was not knowing what was going on outside his truck and the fear he felt for his fellow Soldiers.
"The guys that are there with you are family, and all you know about is what is going on in your truck, especially when you are separated like we were," said McDermott.
In 2006, at that time Sgt. McDermott, chose to return to Iraq as the noncommissioned officer in charge of a convoy support team with the 336th Transportation Brigade.
"It was my choice, and I was actually looking forward to being here," said McDermott, "to get a little more access to information that you don't get back home. Specifically, at that time, if there was anything new on Matt, Sgt. Maupin."
Maupin was promoted three times while he was missing, making him a staff sergeant.
First Sgt Christopher L. Haines, with the 724th Trans. Co. and a Washington, Ill., native, was also with the 724th in 2004, and has returned with the unit for this deployment.
Maupin's remains were located March 29, 2008, shortly after Haines found out the unit would return to Iraq. While this brought some closure to the survivors of the April 9 attack, some questions still remain about the incident, he said.
"I would just like for them to account for one more, one more missing American (KBR, Inc. contractor Timothy Bell) from that day," said Haines. "Then I will be able to be at peace."
Haines said he was impressed with the courage and perseverance his Soldiers showed on their last deployment.
"We knew we had a mission the next day," said Haines. "The commander came down and talked to us, Capt. Jeff Smith, asked for volunteers to go out on the next mission. Every one of us ... raised their hand and said 'we are going out.' It stayed, you know, in our hearts and weighed heavy on us when we rolled out the next day, still not knowing the whereabouts of two of our Soldiers and what had happened."
Maj. Sean F. Counihan, commander of the 724th Trans. Co., and a Norwich, Conn., native, said Iraq has changed since 2004 and so has the mission.
"We have a dual mission," said Counihan. "We are doing convoy recovery security, so we are pulling security for recovery missions for KBR (Inc.), and we are also doing line haul missions. It is a viable mission and it is one that we have been training for, for the last six months."
Haines, who was a sergeant first class and a platoon leader for the unit in 2004, said the mission was different on the last deployment.
"Last time we were here, we came under the premise of being a fuel transportation unit that brought petroleum and we ended up escorting KBR (Inc.) civilian fuelers throughout the mission," said Haines.
Counihan said he would like his unit to take from the loss of those three Soldiers that, even though the enemy actions have decreased since the last deployment, the Soldiers need to remain vigilant and not become complacent.
"It gives them more of a sense of urgency toward the training environment, and ... when they get ready to go out on a mission," said Counihan. "So if something good does come out of what happened, that is it."
Haines said he is proud of his unit's endurance, despite losing Soldiers in the past, and looks forward to the successful completion of its new mission in Iraq.
"We endure, the unit has endured," said Haines. "That is just one chapter, it does not define who we are. Coming back over shows that we are still professional, we are here to do our job and we are answering the nation's call again."