Table of Contents
:: TAG's Message
:: Ice Run
:: 177th CCMSgt Message
:: 108th Ravens Provide Security
:: NJNG Celebrates Unity Day
:: Exercise Trident Fury
:: Infantry Returns to Jersey City
:: If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Tikrit
:: Army Guard Needs More Warrant Officers
:: News Guard Families Can Use
:: Signals from the 250th

:: Short Rounds
:: Army and Air Enlisted Promotions
:: Last Round: GWOT Memorial Dedicated
:: Family Assistance Centers & Family Readiness Centers
:: Guardlife Information

Guardlife - Volume 31, No. 3

Ice Run: On the Road with the 50th MSB
Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA

Convoy commander 1st Lt. Scott Nemeth (right) goes over last minute instructions with (l-r) Specialists William Thornborrow, Patrick Calandrillo and Bill Desain. -- Click to EnlargeFOB SPEICHER, IRAQ - It’s a run they make day in and day out, pushing much needed supplies up to other Forward Operating Bases (FOB’s), but it’s never a “routine” mission for members of Alpha Company, 50th Main Support Battalion, 42nd Division Support Command, New Jersey Army National Guard. Vigilance is the word of the day for all the members of the team, including 1st Lt. Scott Nemeth, and active duty Soldier attached to Alpha Company.

“They’re just waiting for us to go to sleep at the wheel,” notes Nemeth, referring to the insurgency that permeates his area of operation. Nemeth is the convoy commander for this particular run from one FOB to another, a trip of approximately 70 miles that snakes its way through the heart of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s home district.

Rolling Thunder
This convoy, or combat logistical patrol, was comprised of seven vehicles: two gun trucks and three uparmored humvees, which carried 50 caliber machine guns and MK 19 grenade launchers, and two tractortrailer cabs, one hauling a refrigerated container full of ice. The goal was to get the ice up to the troops at the FOB. The problem was getting past the numerous improvised explosive devices (IED’s) that might possibly be buried along the way. Earlier, Nemeth sat in on a briefing where a map overlay showed that there were approximately eight to 10 IED’s that had been discovered or detonated along the route Alpha Company would be traveling, which was no surprise to him. This stretch of road is no friend to U.S. Soldiers.

“Any place that they want us to stop is a place that we don’t want to stop. We want to keep going,” says Nemeth. "Stopping on this road is the last thing we want to do.”

Combat Logistical Patrol start times are varied, so that they don’t fall into a routine. Alpha Company’s vehicles left the FOB at six that morning, making good time at speeds of up to 50 miles an hour.

Turret gunner Spc. Patrick Calandrillo removes his Kevlar helmet upon entering the safety of the FOB after completing the first leg of the combat logistical convoy. -- Click to EnlargeRunning the Gauntlet
After a quick run through downtown Tikrit, the convoy moved tactically, clearing the road before them of civilian vehicles in order to drive unimpeded to its final destination. The radio squawked as members of Alpha Company spotted the numerous craters left by previous IED’s. Some had been patched up but others were just holes in the ground.

The desolate countryside moved by at a fast clip as the convoy passed numerous
sheep herders tending their flocks. At one point they passed a herder standing
next to one of his sheep lying dead in the road, a normal occurrence in another
time and place, but something to be wary of for this convoy as they pass by.
IED’s can come in all shapes and forms, either buried in the ground, carried in a vehicle, or strapped to a suicide bomber. In one instance, a donkey was strapped with explosives. To members of Alpha Company, a dead sheep lying in the road could be another IED.

“This is usually a two and a half to three hour trip and we made it in a little under two hours,” noted turret gunner Spc. Patrick Calandrillo as they arrived at the FOB. “We were hauling ass today.”

The trailer was exchanged for an empty one and the tactical vehicles refueled for the trip home while the team members grabbed a quick meal out of MRE pouches. The Soldiers know that there is always a risk associated with traveling outside the relative security of the FOB and into the Iraqi countryside, but they understand that they are highly trained troops utilizing the latest “ Level II” up-armored vehicles and they understand their mission.

“We’re trying to do this hearts and minds thing where we’re trying not to make everybody mad, but at the same time we’ve got to watch them and in some cases you’ve got to point your weapons at them,” explains Spc. Bill Desain. “We don’t want to piss anybody off but we don’t want to leave anything open either.”

Nemeth agrees, with one caveat. “It is their country and we’re trying to help them but it is my convoy and I have a responsibility to protect my convoy and I will do that,” he says with determination.

Alpha Company Soldiers pause in their Level II up-armored vehicles after finishing the first leg of the combat logistical patrol to the FOB. -- Click to EnlargeWake-up Call
Twenty minutes into the trip back the lead truck reported a fresh crater and mounds of rubble covering the roadway ahead. Evidently some sort of explosive device had detonated since the convoy passed by about an hour earlier. This meant that the convoy would have to move off the road to go around the obstacle. The area to the side of the road could also have been mined, but the alternative of stopping the convoy and setting up a perimeter was just as dangerous. As it was, the vehicles had to slow down as they approached the obstacle.

“All convoy elements, keep moving as quick as you can,” Nemeth warned over the radio. Each vehicle circumvented the obstacle. About 500 meters ahead the convoy encountered another new crater. Again the seven vehicles were able to quickly move around the debris without incident.

After getting back up to speed, Nemeth reported the grid coordinates of the new craters to higher headquarters, where they would be recorded and would appear in the next brief.

An hour and a half later, the convoy arrived back at their home base without incident. Nemeth gathered his team around him for a quick After Action Review.
The new craters were discussed.

“We tracked the ones that we passed coming in, but this was different,” says Nemeth, referring to the two new holes in the highway. “There wasn’t any visible evidence of another bomb for us to stick around or take accountability of. We went through, we called it in. Obviously, some stuff just blew up there. I’m not going to sit there and see if the bad guys are still around. We’re not the gunners . . . we’re just the delivery guys. That’s exactly how we roll and let the hunters go hunting.”

Mission accomplished, the Soldiers prepare for another convoy tomorrow. Although it’s never “routine,” it’s still just another day in Iraq for members of Alpha Company, 50th Main Support Battalion, New Jersey National Guard.

Editors Note: All references to specific bases were removed for security reasons.