MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan. (September 9, 2012)
For Soldiers at an entry control point at Camp Marmal, it is very important to get
Afghan drivers escorted onto the base as soon as possible.
Not only do the Afghans transport vital military cargo from location to location, but
they must meet mission deadlines as well.
If a driver is not escorted on to the base within 72 hours of their arrival, the U.S.
government must pay them an additional $140 in demurrage costs.
Imagine how much money is wasted if hundreds of drivers cannot get their cargo
to the proper destination.
If the cargo doesn't get on base, everyone from the driver to the Soldiers suffer,
so for the Louisiana reservists there is no time to waste.
The 540th Movement Control Detachment processes paperwork for Afghan
drivers at Camp Marmal.
"Our unit is not only responsible for making sure the drivers link up with the
carrier, but we also have to make sure they get a memo to get paid," said Sgt.
Jamion J. Anderson, a national afghan trucking coordinator with the 540th MCT.
"We have usually dealt with over 100 cases a month where drivers are missing
paperwork and can't get paid."
The Soldiers must act as the middleman, making sure both the driver and
carriers communicate to ensure the readiness of future convoy operations.
"Even a mistake in paper work can delay a truck getting on base, which can
affect everyone on base from the Post Exchange to the dining facilities,"
Anderson said. "We don't want any mistakes on our end causing a missed meal."
Not only do Soldiers on the base rely on the cargo that is on the back of the
truck, but the Afghan drivers depend on the cargo being delivered in order to get
Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Hayner, an entry control point non-commissioned officer
with the 540th MCT, said it's funny how communication isn't the problem between
the Soldiers and Afghans, but it's tracking down the carrier who has to pick up
the load that's the hard part.
"Our interpreters taught us phrases that help us do our job, but hunting down the
carriers is the hardest part because most of the time we'll have phone numbers
that don't work," Hayner said. "Even if we're trying to provide the best customer
service to the drivers, they know the universal sign language for 'pay me.'"
The Soldiers understand the hardships drivers may have to endure, which is why
the government compensates them. Hayner said drivers have shared stories of
paying off Taliban fighters at make-shift check points in order to get to the base.
Once a driver arrives, they have to spend additional money on food while
they wait for an escort, which can sometimes take more than three days.
"Doing this job has given me a new perspective on the war because I'm starting
to see that most of these drivers aren't combatants," Hayner said. "We try to
make the drivers feel comfortable enough to come back and do more convoys for
us, which is a part of the counter insurgency doctrine."
As surrounding forward operating bases start to shut down due to U.S. Forces
pulling out, there are still Soldiers out in the field who depend on convoys to get
"Our mission is to help sustain the war fighter and cargo can't make it from camp
to camp if we don't do our jobs," Anderson said. "Anything we can do to make
sure that the drivers don't lose money and the government doesn't spend more
money, we're going to do."