Soldiers convoy building materials, support FOB expansion
December 6, 2009
- The 286th CSSB supported the first Afghan build-up by transporting equipment, supplies and building materials to FOBs.
- Currently, the 286th CSSB runs regular convoys to FOB Leatherneck, Helmand, in support of the U.S. Marines and westward expansion.
- With additional forces on the way, these missions, having started weeks ago, are timely.
- Convoys face multiple dangers from roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices.
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - During 2009, troops from the 286th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion supported the first Afghan build-up by transporting equipment, supplies and building materials to numerous forward operating bases. Although planning to redeploy by January, they show no signs of stopping. An element of Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, the 286th CSSB runs regular convoys to FOB Leatherneck, Helmand province, in support of the U.S. Marines and westward expansion.
With President Obama's recent decision to send 30,000 more troops here, the 286th CSSB's current FOB Leatherneck missions, having started weeks ago, are timely.
Anticipating future growth, JSC-A senior-level leadership planned these missions based on strategic objectives of where U.S. forces should be, said Lt. Col. Diane Dunn, 286th CSSB commander.
"Additional troops may not go west," said Dunn. "But for troops who do go there, this will be important."
However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose troops largely operate in Helmand, asserts Western Afghanistan is exactly where many additional servicemembers will go. Up to 1,000 Marines could arrive by January.
Besides moving materials for tents, buildings and perimeter fortifications by military cargo trucks, called Palletized Load System vehicles, troops under the 286th CSSB also provide convoy security through armored gun trucks, called Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles.
Convoys face multiple dangers from roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices. The MRAPS and PLS trucks roll through Afghan towns and cities while local traffic races in and around the convoy.
With the summer arrival of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Dunn noticed a decline in IED attacks on Highway 1, the country's main road from its second largest city, Kandahar, to its largest and capital, Kabul.
"There was a time that [troops] knew when they left, that they might very likely get hit," said Dunn.
The scarred route to FOB Leatherneck bears both old and fresh gouges and holes from roadside bombs. The 286th CSSB convoys bypass the charred vehicles and rubble, driving off-road, often up inclines through dirt and desert.
On any given day, the 286th CSSB could have more than 150 Soldiers on the road, said Dunn. The Leatherneck missions combine several transportation companies under the 286th CSSB, including the 737th and the 154th. One company supplies the PLS vehicles, while another provides the MRAPs.
Over the last nine months, these convoys have moved building and electrical materials needed to expand numerous FOBs, including Lagman, Spin Boldak, Tarin Kowt, Frontenac and Wolverine.
The 286th CSSB also convoyed water and food to FOB Dwyer, Helmand, when the Marines commenced operations there.
"We're making sure that stuff is out there where the war fighters are," said Dunn.
Maintenance is another aspect of frequent missions. When vehicles drive daily, they need constant upkeep to keep running.
"We all are contributing," said Sgt. Sean Tait, a 737th Transportation Company team leader from Tollhouse, Calif. "Our Soldiers and local nationals need their supplies, so we have a mission, and we all feel good about it."
While the 286th CSSB, a Maine National Guard unit, prepares to return to the U.S., they begin a new undertaking to help the 5-2 Stryker Brigade follow Gen. Stanley McChrystal's directives to protect population centers. As the 5-2 Stryker Brigade moves to new locations closer to Afghan cities and towns, the 286th CSSB will convoy their equipment and supplies to the new localities.