By Staff Sgt. Jim GreenhillJuly 11, 2007
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Army News Service, July 11, 2007) - For many Soldiers of the Arizona National Guard's 222nd Transportation Company, the Fourth of July was just another day of driving supplies into Iraq.
But for at least two members of the "Triple Deuce," Independence Day had more meaning than usual. They were alive.
Sgt. Robert Buckley, 29, and Sgt. Donald May, 33, were still celebrating their escape from an IED that blew up beneath the tractor-trailer cab Sgt. May was driving April 19. Both walked away from the fire that engulfed their vehicle without serious injury.
The Triple Deuce delivers supplies to sustain Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom - everything from Meals Ready to Eat and helicopter parts to retail items for sale at post exchanges.
Sgt. May, lead vehicle commander, and his partner, Sgt. Buckley, serve as scouts, searching for possible IEDs or other hazards. They travel in an M915A3 tractor, which, according to unit members, goes first because it can withstand an IED better than other vehicles.
"You've got first sight on everything. We're looking for anything out of the ordinary. If it doesn't look right, we'll stop right there," Sgt. Buckley said. "If anything happened, we preferred it to be us, because if somebody died behind us from something that we missed, neither one of us could live with that."
Spc. James Wise and Spc. Heidi Matthews were in another vehicle in the convoy when Sgt. Buckley and Sgt. May were hit on Main Supply Route Tampa in Iraq.
"I saw the blast," Spc. Wise said. "I saw the flame come out of the ground and wrap around the truck."
On his second deployment, Spc. Wise said he immediately started monitoring the perimeter of his truck, scanning for threats, while Spc. Matthews listened for radio transmissions. Sometimes an IED presages a secondary attack, and they wanted to be ready.
Ahead, Sgt. Buckley's door had blown off, and the truck's front end was on fire. Fumes stung Sgt. Buckley's eyes and sinuses. "It was miserable," he said.
Knowing they would roll if the vehicle went off the road into a drainage ditch, Sgt. May fought to control the truck. After bringing it to a halt, Sgt. Buckley grabbed his weapon, chambered a round, jumped out and dropped into the prone. He briefly returned to the truck when his driver appeared to be hung up in the flames, caught in the narrow space between the steering wheel and his body armor.
Sgt. May eventually worked himself free and both Soldiers were rescued.
"It wasn't our time," Sgt. May said.
Members of the Triple Deuce say they've had a successful deployment, measured by missions completed, esprit de corps and minimal casualties.
"We haven't lost anybody," Spc. Matthews said. "We're all going home. We've done really well."
They attribute their success to good leadership and supportive Families and employers. Having such personal goals as education and physical fitness have also helped.
But all the Soldiers have made sacrifices. Spc. Wise questions whether his two young children will recognize him. And Spc. Matthews' regrets spending most of her daughter's two years away from home.
"I've missed everything," she said. "I wasn't there for her first birthday. I wasn't there for her first word. I wasn't there when she started learning how to crawl. She almost didn't recognize me when I went home on leave."
Sgt. Buckley attributes bad dreams, headaches and lower back pain to the IED, but he says he is grateful for more than being alive. He's grateful for a second life.
"It's a trip to walk away scratch-free," he said. "I've got a whole new life perspective. I used to do a lot of stupid stuff. I'm still going to skydive, but all the dumb things I did as a kid that I thought were really cool, I don't see the point of it anymore. I'm more family oriented. I value life a whole lot more. This is my second chance."
(Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill writes for the National Guard Bureau.)