Operation Tribute to Freedom

Faces From the Front for October 26, 2009 - Spc. Robert E. Mitchell

Specialist Robert E. Mitchell

Current Unit: 53rd Quartermaster Company, 286th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan
Current Position: Blue Force Tracker Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge/ Team Leader
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Kandahar, Afghanistan
Hometown: : Magnolia, Texas
Years of Service: 3

As the Blue Force Tracker (BFT) Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge (NCOIC) for the 53rd Quartermaster Company, Spc. Robert E. Mitchell is responsible for a GPS-enabled system that maps out the routes his team will travel through. The 286th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, Joint Sustainment Command- Afghanistan navigates some of the most difficult and dangerous regions of Afghanistan to deliver supplies to Forward Operating Bases throughout the Kandahar Province. They convoy through ever-changing conditions one to three times per week with patrols lasting as long as four days, making accurate information regarding their routes vital to their missions.

A satellite-based tactical communications system, BFT communicates with Army vehicles anywhere a satellite signal can be received. The tool helps Mitchell plan and monitor routes that are least likely to come under enemy fire. For the 53rd Quartermaster Company, it ensures they can get vital supplies to Soldiers on mission.

"We are always on the road," said Mitchell. "The only thing on the road that worries me is the Improvised Explosive Devices. They are everywhere out here."

Having Blue Force Tracker system in the convoy vehicles gives Soldiers and their commanders a platform to exchange critical communications and situation awareness. Mitchell uses the tool to update his command on what the convoy is experiencing on the roads and allows the Tactical Operations Center to relay updated battlefield conditions and combatant locations back to the group as they progress along their route.

Mitchell's job is as equally about avoiding hostile forces, as it is in ensuring friendly forces are not harmed. He can also update allies about plans to ensure they don't mistake his team for enemy forces.

Even with the technology, the patrols are dangerous because of the threat of roadside bombs, snipers and ambushes, particularly with the possibility of mechanical breakdowns or flat tires.

"Someone's got to do it," Mitchell said. "I don't mind coming out here and doing my duty, because I signed my name on the line voluntarily."

As a team leader, Mitchell leads by example, working hard to ensure his Soldiers are always ready for their missions. He strives to get the best out of everyone under his leadership and is proud of what they are accomplishing in Kandahar.

Mitchell says that his family back home in Texas is also very proud of the work he is doing. Both Mitchell's father and grandfather have served in previous wars. His father had always hoped one of his four sons would serve in the Army, and was thrilled when his youngest decided to join.

Mitchell will return home from Afghanistan in December.

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