Big wheels keep turning as transporters work hard day in, day out
With gumball-sized raindrops hitting the windshield of the heavy equipment transport truck, Spc. Viktor Guerrero, a HET driver with the 370th Transportation Company, smiles as he guides the the large truck through the rain and the storm. Chained on-board the 40-wheeled trailer hooked to his HET is a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle. All total, Guerrero controls 48 wheels as they churn the mud-stained roads exiting Joint Base Balad, Iraq, en route to their destination of Contingency Operating Base Warhorse.
The mentality of the 370th Transportation Company is that transportation spearheads logistical support in Iraq. That means no rain, dirt, sand, or flat tires will stop these soldiers from completing their mission.
The 370th Transportation Company, 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, is an Army Reserve unit out of Brownsville, Texas, and it’s their training and leadership that makes them one of the best transportation companies in Iraq.
For Guerrero’s truck commander Sgt. Jose Garza, also with the 370th Transportation Company, and a Houston, Texas, native, this is a return trip to Iraq.
“I was deployed from ‘06 to ‘07 with the same unit, and stationed at [Contingency Operating Base] Speicher,” he said. “The only difference is that Iraq is far advanced from the last time I was here.”
Garza explained that when they would convoy during his past deployment, they were mostly travelling at night because there was a curfew for Iraqis in the areas that they travelled. Even when they transported during the day, there were very few children or girls outside of their houses, and the quality of life was poor.
“Now I can see girls and women walking the streets and kids are playing outside,” he said. “There are brand new cars and minivans on the road, sharing the roads with our convoys.”
On his last deployment to Iraq, then Spc. Garza was a driver and a gunner with the 370th Transportation Company, he said. It was he experience and training he received as a junior enlisted soldier that he now teaches and imparts upon the soldiers under him—particularly his driver, Guerrero.
“I graduated from [advanced individual training] in May of 2010, then we went to [the National Training Center] and began our mobilization training,” said Guerrero.
For many soldiers graduating from basic combat training and AIT, they are afforded time to join their units and a chance to adjust to the Army life. With Guerrero, he found out shortly after AIT that he was deploying to Iraq.
“When I first heard that I was deploying, I said, ‘hell yeah’,” he said. “I was excited because how often does someone get to see a different part of the world? Since my arrival in Iraq in December, I’ve been able to see the deserts, the countrysides and even the cities.”
Drivers and truck commanders, or TCs, spend more time on the road than many other jobs in Iraq, as they are tasked to transport all types of different supplies and vehicles across the country. For Guerrero, in early January he got to transport something a little more special.
“When an M1A1 Abrams tank rolled up to our trailer, it was like a real dream come true,” he said. “Every truck driver wants to be able to say that they transported a real tank.”
With the re-posturing of forces and equipment throughout theater, the 370th Transportation Company has been hitting the roads even more, Garza said. “Depending on the mission and the equipment that needs to be moved, we might convoy twice a day.”
The drive of the 370th Trans. Co. is to get equipment to soldiers who need it, as fast as possible, he said. It’s also the drive to be the best that keeps these soldiers dedicated to performing their jobs during each mission.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Harding, a driver with the 370th Transportation Company, and a Tucson, Ariz., native, has deployed several times and understands the importance of a soldier getting the experience needed on the road as a driver.
“It’s good for the younger soldiers to get this kind of experience on their first deployment,” Harding said. “Because of our missions, they are getting the kind of chance to do their jobs on a steady basis.”
During the trip to COB Warhorse, one of the HET trailers’ tires was torn. Without missing a beat, soldiers of the 370th Transportation Company, provided security and went to work replacing the blown tire. It took less than five minutes to complete the tire change and load the soldiers back into their vehicles.
To Garza, being back in Iraq on certain roads reminds him a bit of his childhood back in Monterrey, Mexico, especially during the crossing of one of the rivers.
“The river reminds me a lot of a river where my grandparents used to take me when I was younger,” he said. “In Mexico, there are good parts and the bad, just like here.”
After arriving at COB Warhorse, the soldiers go to work as if they could perform this labor-intensive job in their sleep. Drivers and TCs work in tandem to unhook chains, lower the ramps on the back of their trailers, check the trailer’s hydraulics and then unload their cargo—a fresh MRAP.
But this is not the end of the day for these soldiers, they will get some water, food, and a bit of rest before they are back on the road.
With nothing but a single light to illuminate his work, Garza inspects the HET one more time after arriving back at JBB. He checks the dipstick, the oil and gas levels, and the battery. He checks his truck and makes sure that it is ready to go. Ready for inspection by his convoy commander and ready for the next mission. A task mirrored by every TC and driver in the 370th Transportation Company.
Whether the next convoy is tomorrow or the next day, the soldiers of the 370th Transportation Company, make sure they are ready. As long as a unit needs something transported around Iraq, they will keep their big wheels turning.
Article by Spc. Matthew Keeler, 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment