By Capt. Vinnie Cerchione, 260th CSSB AdjutantOctober 8, 2009
Baghdad, Iraq- It was just before sunset. Soldiers were heading to the dining facility for dinner, the night shift had begun to come to work and units were beginning to stage for upcoming convoys. Operations were being conducted as they were every day for the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, deployed as the 260th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, from Hunter Army Airfield.
However, on the evening of Sept. 26, the 260th CSSB came under a different kind of fire.
At approximately 5:45 p.m., smoke alarms screamed loudly as black smoke began to find its way out of the attic and into the headquarters building's offices and command section hallway.
Leaders hurried Soldiers out of the building, grabbing computers and sensitive information along the way. The fire spread quickly, creating a black plume of smoke that could be seen throughout Victory Base Complex.
Soldiers from throughout the battalion came running with fire extinguishers, but the fire wouldn't be put out that easily. Within moments, firefighters were at the Tactical Operations Center putting out the fire and attempting to save as much computer and electrical equipment as possible. The fire was extinguished quickly with no injuries.
"I felt kind of sad," recalled 260th CSSB Command Sgt. Maj. Dwight Williams. "It had become our home, and we were making so much progress with our systems, but our Soldiers have done such a great job with everything that has happened and haven't complained yet. They just execute and move out."
The fire couldn't stop the convoys from rolling. With assistance of 1/82 Cavalry Squadron, Oregon National Guard and the 260th CSSB's partner unit for logistics missions, the S2/3 (intelligence and security, and operations) shops and the Support Operations sections were able to keep all missions on the road.
The fire affected more than just the headquarters building, damaging connectivity throughout all the battalion's sections. However, all were able to temporarily displace to the company areas to continue their missions.
"The fire was actually a benefit, as it allowed the battalion to inadvertently practice a 'Jump TOC' exercise, since we were displaced by the fire," said Capt. Steven Smith, the battalion's S3 (operations) Officer. "We were up and running again within two hours and showed how proficient the Soldiers are at making things happen."
Fire Officials determined that the cause of the fire was electrical wiring in the attic of the headquarters. Dry timber from the extreme Iraqi heat exacerbated the initial flames, enabling the fire to spread quickly throughout the attic. Soldiers tried to save as many computers and equipment during the fire, however, due to smoke and water, there was damage to over half of the battalion's electronic equipment. Other units and sections offered up computers and equipment to assist the displaced sections.
Currently the 260th CSSB is split between two locations on Camp Liberty. Some staff sections, like the S6 (communications), have already began their move to the new facility. Once the rest of the new facility is inspected and completely prepared, the rest of the battalion staff will move within the next week.
"I am very proud of our Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Joe Dixon, the 260th CSSB commander. "Our Soldiers came together in a time of adversity and proved what they are truly capable of. Our leaders accounted for and ensured their Soldiers were safe, and we were able to continue our operations without any degradation of mission."