Soldiers with the 724th Transportation Company, 264th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, conduct driver's training Dec. 31, 2009 at Contingency Operating Location Speicher, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith VanKlompenberg, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs)

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION SPEICHER, Iraq - Soldiers with the 724th Transportation Company came to Iraq to carry out a mission unlike any they had done before and find themselves adapting as their mission changes once again in the middle of their yearlong deployment.

Traditionally a fuel tanker unit, the 724th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit out of Bartonville, Ill., trained for a year to deploy as a security element for convoy recovery missions, said Staff Sgt. Jacob Ista, a motor transport operator and a squad leader with the 724th's second platoon.

Ista, a Peoria, Ill., native, said most of the Soldiers in his platoon were used to driving fuel tankers and flatbed trucks, but trained to deploy driving gun trucks such as Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles and Humvees.

Then the mission changed again.

"Second platoon is now a line haul unit," he said.

Ista said he welcomed the change and did not care which type of vehicle he drove, as long as he continued to drive.

"I joined to be a truck driver," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Melvil Lail, platoon sergeant with third platoon, 724th Transportation Company, said the mission is changing as the U.S. prepares for the upcoming drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq.

"Our mission is to move most material out of the north section [of Iraq]," said Lail, a Maysville, Ky., native.

Lail said the Soldiers with the 724th will now move excess cargo and vehicles instead of driving gun trucks, but the change in mission is something they are prepared for.

"As a Soldier, you will be faced with many tasks," he said.

One of the ways the service members prepare for the change is by conducting drivers training with the flatbed trucks.

The Soldiers have improvised practice lanes in an empty lot at Contingency Operating Location Speicher, to practice maneuvers such as alley docking, parallel parking and serpentine backing, said Lail.

"Not everyone has the same skill level," he said. "This gives you a measuring stick."

Ista said he was confident in his unit's ability to adapt to any mission it is given.

"We exceeded the standard on that mission and we'll exceed the standard on this mission," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16