By Staff Sgt. Mike AlbertsNovember 30, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Four, 10-ton MRAP's hum in the dark.
As motors idle, Soldiers with headlamps crawl in and around each metal beast, conducting oft-performed pre-combat checks and inspections.
Moments later, approximately 20 Tennessee Army National Guard Soldiers of Troop G, 1st Battalion, 230th Air Cavalry Squadron, Task Force Wings, gather around their convoy commander for safety and mission briefs. Some participate in a brief prayer.
Within the hour, additional vehicles join the mission as the troop embarks on another Combat Logistics Patrol, one of dozens conducted since their arrival in Iraq in July, 2009.
The CLPs provide food, water, fuel and fresh personnel to a small outpost near the Syrian border called FOB Nimur where other Troop G Soldiers are engaged in forward arming and refueling operations for the region's military helicopters.
Major Daniel F. Pugh, commander, Troop G, and a 20-year military veteran and native of Franklin, Tenn., explained that his Soldiers provide all necessary ground support for over 600 Soldiers of the Tennessee ANG's 1-230th ACS, currently deployed to northern Iraq.
"We are the squadron's forward support troop which includes a maintenance, distribution and headquarters platoon," said Maj. Pugh. "Our maintenance platoon attends to the maintenance needs of all ground support equipment within the squadron, which includes everything from wheeled-vehicles to generators and pumps. Our distribution platoon is responsible for maintaining and operating our three forward arming and refueling points. Our headquarters platoon conducts the CLPs," he said.
Major Pugh's troop was constituted less than a year before the 1-230th ACS received orders to deploy to Iraq. It's a unit truly representative of his home state.
Troop G consists of about 175 Soldiers who hail from various locations to include Smyrna, Alcoa and Jackson, Tenn., among other cities and towns. Ironically, Maj. Pugh's Soldiers now find themselves similarly spread throughout northern Iraq, with Soldiers living and working in Mosul at Forward Operating Base Diamond Back, Tall Afar at FOB Sykes and near the town of Sinjar at FOB Nimur.
"Our Soldiers come from all over the state of Tennessee," said 2nd Lt. Cibeles Ramirez-Rodriguez, platoon leader, Troop G, 1-230th ACS. Second Lt. Ramirez-Rodriguez is a resident of Clarksville, Tenn. In Iraq, she's both Troop G's maintenance platoon leader and production control officer, ensuring that the unit receives the necessary parts and equipment to repair and replace anything related to ground transportation.
"Perhaps [being from all over] explains why we have such a wonderful variety of necessary skills," said 2nd Lt. Ramirez-Rodriguez. "That variety has proven to be helpful given the fact that our support mission in Iraq is so substantial," she continued.
"Whether it's maintenance or refueling, everything starts with the forward support troop. When we fix a generator, for instance, that generator powers certain equipment that's used to fix a helicopter. When we fix a fuel truck, it becomes capable of pumping fuel into a helicopter. And quite frankly, we do it all very well. We do it well because we've really bonded as a team which is a reflection of the quality of our Soldiers."
Two of those Soldiers are Staff Sgt. Danny Woods and Sgt. David Roach. Staff Sgt. Woods, the 39 year-old father of two from Chattanooga, Tenn., is a Troop G's platoon sergeant. Sergeant Roach, a 26 year-old native of Cookeville, Tenn., is a mechanic and truck driver.
Both have deployed before and both continue to serve in the Tennessee ANG for similar reasons.
"I do this out here for the love of duty," said Staff Sgt. Woods. "That idea was in me growing up and through high school JROTC," he said. "I think I just love serving my country, and being around other Tennessee National Guard Soldiers that I can help take care of and influence. I've been in this organization for awhile, and I can sympathize with the younger Soldier and they know it."
"I always wanted to be a Soldier, and I chose to stay in the Tennessee Guard because we're unique," said Sgt. Roach. "We're tight, and maybe even tighter than your active duty units," he explained.
"We really know each other. We went to high school together; we know each other's families; our kids go to the same schools; we go to church together, and it isn't just for a year, it's a lifetime. That's unique and that's special. If you ask around you'll find that a lot of us feel the same way about the Guard."
The 1-230th ACS deployed with more than 600 soldiers from units in Smyrna, Alcoa and Jackson, Tenn., back in July, 2009. The squadron is task organized with a Headquarters, Headquarters Troop. Troops A, B and C are equipped with the unit's OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, whose primary missions are reconnaissance and security operations. Troop D is equipped with Blackhawk helicopters used to transport troops and supplies.
Troops E and F handle the squadron's first level, minor maintenance, and intermediate maintenance, component and specialty repair work, respectively. Finally, Troop G provides ground transportation, downed aircraft recovery capability and fuel and ammunition supply in addition to other forward support functions.