By Sgt. 1st Class Kap KimDecember 28, 2006
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq, Dec. 27, 2006 - While most soldiers are asleep, a small contingent of the 15th Brigade Support Battalion carries out the mission of supplying the rest of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Almost every morning, even before zero-dark-thirty, soldiers from the "Gambler" Battalion mount up to deliver fuel, food, auto parts and any needed supplies to the surrounding base camps in a mission they call "The Clip," or Combat Logistical Patrol.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Vieira, 15th BSB's commander, said that the supplying of other bases is a "deliberate" process and is at the forefront of the battalion's list of missions in theater.
The supply mission, which comes with its list of dangers, is done quietly - because they want to limit the hazards and be able to get the necessary supplies to the soldiers as safely as possible, according to 2nd Lt. Desiree Breaux, one of the convoy commanders and the Headquarters Company, 15th BSB executive officer.
There are, however, those who have the title of convoy protector: the gun truck crew members.
Soldiers like Spc. Joshua Greves, a heavy equipment operator with Company B from Auburn, Calif., push the thoughts of danger to the side in order to get the precious cargo to its final destination. Greves serves in the top of humvee turret as the gunner.
Greves said there is extra pride in what he and others in the Gun Truck Platoon do, not only because of the inherent dangers associated with it, but also because the job itself isn't a traditional Army occupation, and in most cases, it was something the platoon had to train for before their deployment.
"For the entire gun truck platoon, we take great pride in what we do because we do come from all over," he said. "This is not an MOS (military occupational specialty)."
Yet, what ended at pride didn't start off that way.
"In the beginning, it was hard," said Greves. "Everyone here is new; everyone was bringing little things they learned from other units [they've been assigned to]."
Then, he said, they got together and started doing it their way, created their own standards, and now they are making it work.
"We still have our gripes and grievances, but as soon as your rhino crosses that gate, it's about protecting everyone in the truck, in front, behind ... because we are the PSD (personal security detachment) for the CLP," said Greves.
For Greves, who finds himself in his second Iraq deployment, ensuring that his platoon sergeant has zero worries about vehicle maintenance is also tops on his list.
His fellow soldiers in the platoon joke that he is very attentive to his humvee. Yet, Greves takes that to heart.
He said he babies his "truck" like he does his real truck back home.
After the afternoon mission brief, Greves goes back to his humvee and spends a few hours examining it from bumper to bumper. It's a ritual he has come to call his "quiet time."
Listening to my truck to see if it has any problems, that's my quiet time," he explained. "I use that time to go through the entire truck. I do a lot of tests with the turret. When it comes down to it, it's just PMCS (preventive maintenance checks and services)."
During the hours of darkness on the different roads the CLPs go through, Greves keeps a roving eye on every part of the road he can. The one addition he made to the outside of his humvee, makes it stand out a little more than most the ones in his platoon. He has outfitted almost every side of the humvee with big, bright halogen lights.
"My biggest thing is lights," he said. "If I don't see it, it might get me."
Greves' way of thinking has proven safe throughout dozens of missions during the time the Black Jack Brigade has been in Iraq. Yet, he also credits his buddy, Spc. Joshua Boal, a machinist assigned to Co. B from Olanta, Penn., with keeping a good eye on things in the lead vehicle.
Boal, who also is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, said he jumped at the chance of going back on a gun truck when the battalion was forming the teams up.
"I just feel comfortable on the road," he said. "A lot of people say it's more dangerous ... but when I get in the turret, I'm in a zone. I'm in the lead gun truck."
He attributes his love for the job to one thing: saving lives.
"I've been on over 100 convoys, firefights ... I've been the spear point of a lot of the convoys," he said. "Scared' I don't think about it. I'll handle it in the rear. I figure, I can't control it."
For Boal, who has only spent a total of three hours working in a machinist workshop, along with the prestige of riding in "truck one," he has assigned it with a huge responsibility.
"I know, in my heart I do my best [when I'm out there]," he said. "If it means I die - then I die, but at least I'll have saved other people."