Hell on Wheels
January 3, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Jan. 3, 2012) -- Mondays were, as always, our day to perform preventative maintenance checks and services on our vehicles at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. This came with the task of having to drive halfway across camp to refuel our vehicles when necessary. I liked this task. I was a private first class, and doing anything that involved driving big vehicles was great.
One of my battle buddies recognized my eagerness to drive and volunteered to be my truck commander when an opportunity for me to get behind the wheel presented itself. After performing Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, I got the vehicle dispatch and headed to the fuel point. Along the way, my buddy and I talked about what we were going to do once we got home. I had a feeling this was going to be a great day.
After topping off my vehicle with fuel, we headed back to the motor pool. There was only one major road to and from the fuel point, but there were many side roads around the camp -- all of them feeding back into the main road. About 10 minutes out from the motor pool, I happened to notice a 5-ton troop carrier cruising down one of the side roads about to merge onto the main road I was traveling. I knew there was a stop sign posted at the upcoming intersection for the merging lane, but for some reason I had a feeling the troop carrier wasn't going to stop.
Anticipating a collision, I swerved onto the shoulder of my lane.
It happened quickly. The other truck didn't stop and we collided hard, with dust flying everywhere. The force of the collision knocked me out for a few seconds. When I came to, my buddy was gone. At this point, I was scared. After I hopped out of the vehicle, relief washed over me when I saw him safely sitting on the ground.
My next thought focused on the passengers in the 5-ton. Not surprisingly, it was totaled. After all, it was really no match against a 38,000-pound-plus HEMTT. The scene was a mess; there were fluids, vehicle parts and pieces strewn everywhere.
Understandably, everyone involved in the accident was shaken up a bit. We gathered our gear and started to discuss the accident. I learned the operator of the other truck was from another camp and not familiar with ours. He also ignored the stop sign, resulting in the crash.
Passersby stopped to assist us, and soon the military police were there too. Soldiers from my unit notified our battalion, and the safety officer showed up shortly thereafter. It was good to see familiar faces; something like this had never happened to me before.
I was relieved there were no serious injuries. My buddy did receive cuts on his hand and leg, but otherwise he was OK. Thankfully, everyone involved in the accident was wearing a seatbelt.
As a new driver, I learned a valuable lesson that day: Speed limits and traffic signs are there for a reason, so always obey them. I thank God I was driving the speed limit and was alert enough to anticipate the other driver's actions.
Today, as a sergeant, I always stress to my Soldiers that they need to drive for not only themselves, but for others on the road too. I feel fortunate that I am here to tell this story and able to serve my country in this great organization we call the U.S. Army.