FORT DRUM, July 28 -- Moving supplies, equipment, and Soldiers is a critical aspect of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team's mission, and it's a job that is largely carried out by the truck drivers and transportation specialists of the unit's 427th Brigade Support Battalion.
The 427th's truckers are spending two weeks at Fort Drum, and on Wednesday were honing their skills as convoy crew members.
"We need to get the gunners to be alert and aware, and the drivers need to know how to react to the unusual," said Sgt. Jodie Brassard, an Allendale, NY resident and a truck driver with the 427th's A Company "Road Dogs." Brassard, a combat veteran of the 27th's 2008 tour in Afghanistan as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, was dressed as an Afghan Local National.
Brassard and Sgt. Guadalupe Garcia, of Roichester, another A Company combat veteran, were dressed in Afghan attire and waiting near two small buildings on the side of Fort Drum's Fusa Boulevard for a B Company convoy of five Humvees. The Humvee crews would have to deal with a distraction from Brassard, who came running out of a building, waving her arms, while Garcia hid by the side of the road until the first vehicle had passed.
When the second vehicle in the convoy neared his position, Garcia rose, firing blanks at the trucks. The vehicle's gunner spotted him and returned fire while the Soldier in the front passenger-side seat radioed the enemy contact to her convoy commander, Spc. Tyler Clough, a B Company truck driver from Geneseo, NY.
"It was good to work together as a team," Clough said after the blank-fire exercise was over. "Everyone [was] communicating, and that's good."
Sgt. Jason Knight, a driver with A Company from Churchville, NY, was working as an observer-controller for the exercise. He said the 427th's wartime mission makes it crucial for the battalion's drivers to have convoy skills down to the level of instinct.
"If we come under fire, they need to know what to do and what not to do," he said. "It's very important for everyone to know all the procedures."
Elsewhere on Fort Drum, A Company drivers were feeding live rounds into the M-240B machine guns mounted on their Humvees. Convoys of five vehicles each began down a looping road, using their radios to communicate with each other and with their headquarters, set up in the range tower. On the opposite side of a high dirt berm, infantry targets popped up and the gunners engaged, launching tiny geysers of dirt as their rounds hit the targets and the terrain around them.
When the dust settled, the convoy commander called higher headquarters on his truck radio.
"We are black on ammo, green on water and equipment," he said.
A voice from the tower headquarters crackled back, asking for information on any casualties. There were none.
"Proceed with mission," the radio instructed.
The A Company Humvee gunners brushed brass ammo casings and links from their turrets, and the drivers put the trucks into gear, heading back to HQ.
The 427th will continue training on Fort Drum through Aug. 7.