3 Mar – 23 Mar
We left for Kuwait on 3 March; it took us close to 48 hours to finally get there. We had to do a lot of sitting and waiting. We where put up in Camp Virginia and were without a tent and vehicle of our own until about the 14th of that same month.
Here are a few pictures of Camp Virginia, Kuwait.
We worked out of 7th CSG TOC until we finally broke down and got our own tent set up. We didn’t start 24 hour OPS until shortly before the war started. I think it was about the 17th or 18th. While in Kuwait the plans section prepared the unit as best possible by planning our movement and different courses of action. I took it upon myself to talk to the different sections of the CREAR and CMAIN CP to get to know the different points of contact, shake hands with them and gather the email addresses and telephone numbers to ensure that it would be easier to get information when needed. I worked with the plans section to ensure that the NBC Reporting and Warning System; Joint Warning and Reporting Network (JWARN) was installed on the Commander’s computer (it was the only one available) and all the units that were supposed to be at LSA Bushmaster (our first logistics base) along with all new map data were put into the JWARN system. I also took part in the planning and preparing of the NBC Defense plan for Camp Virginia.
22 Mar – 20 Apr
We left Kuwait shortly after G-day as part of a convoy of 900+ vehicles that when looked at night looked like an unending snaking necklace of headlights. I don’t think anyone has nor will I ever see anything like that again in my life. We moved through Brigade area alongside the 3 BCT of 3ID. We where at times as near as 3-4 miles from the front lines. I would have never thought that such a daring push of CSS unit was possible. We were so close to the fight that we had artillery firing over our heads and were being passed by several tank companies.
Some pictures I took with little VGA camera during the Convoy
It took us close to four days to move 300 km. We had to stop and go stop and go, moving about 1-2 km wait 30 min to an hour, every inch we traveled having been cleared first. We set up in some of the most unfriendly areas you could imagine. Force protection became a true life thing here and played a bigger role this time than it ever did in any field exercise that we have ever been a part of.
The first place we set up was at LSA Bushmaster a logistics base that was operated by the 7th CSG south of An Najef. On the very first night there one of our best troops, SGT Travis Watford hurt his back real bad and was evacuated the next day to a hospital. He messed up his back real bad when he fell in a hole while setting up the TOC tent in a wild sandstorm.
This was the worst weather that I ever experienced. We moved into location and automatically set up a 360 perimeter so that we could secure the area. The storm was so bad we were only able put up the TOC tent and the sleep tents we didn’t put up until the next morning. And it seemed like after that we always jumped TOC during a sandstorm.
One part of our mission there was force protection and base defense. All the bases there had to complete a NBC defense Plan as a part of the overall base defense plans. We had base defense meeting every morning at 0500Z. All the bases would have to explain there base defense plans in detail. As a part of the overall base defense plans they were tasked to sketch and explain their plan of how they were setting up their chemical detection equipment in their sector sketches. Including a detailed Chemical Defense Equipment (CDE) report, this was a report of all their chemical defense equipment. We did this to make sure that the units within the bases had enough decontamination assets to do their own decontamination in case of an attack (which thank God never occurred).
At one time during the fight through the Karbala Gap we were attached to the 101st ABN DIV for 5 -6 days to work the terrain management and force protection. We co-located with their DREAR. About 5-6 days later we were told to re-attach to the 7th CSG, so we tore down and re-located with them, 10 m from where we were originally. Every time we tore-down or set back up we did it during sandstorms. Some of the equipment we used during this time was the DNVT telephone, the Dell Inspiron laptops, two 5K generators one older than the other, and the office supplies we stocked ourselves with before we left. Of all of the equipment we had with us these things were most important for doing the operations part of our mission.
20 Apr – 29 May
We were told that supposedly we were to set up a logistics hub base there at LSA Bushmaster. I think the higher headquarters were constantly looking for a better place to complete this mission due to the living conditions there. It more than likely would have cost the Defense Department way too much money. This is the main reason (so I think) that we moved to an old Iraqi airbase near Balad, about 50-60 km north of Baghdad, now called LSA Anaconda. We left for Bushmaster in support of the 7th CSG convoying in four different serials some anywhere from 3 days to almost a whole month apart from each other. First the advanced party moved, and then it was a small group including myself, afterward was the main body and lastly one section of the BDLT. One part of the BDLT section had to stay in LSA Bushmaster to continue base defense operations while the rest of us moved to LSA Anaconda. A good 95% of the 7th CSG units that were with us at Bushmaster were then re-located to LSA Anaconda. The first thing our advance party did upon arrival was to take account all of the units there and organize the first of many base defense/force protection meetings.
I want to say at this point that this is our unit made the biggest contribution to Operation Iraqi Freedom. At this time I worked in the Operations cell as the night shift NCOIC (an E-7 position) for about four weeks we were responsible for the terrain management and force protection of this base during the first few months. The operations there were somewhat of a different nature than that of LSA Bushmaster. We have been used to dealing with a much larger area with many different bases. Now we were in charge of a much smaller area with a lot more units than before. It slowly became a garrison-type force protection assignment which we could no doubt handle. One of the biggest problems that we had to overcome was the guard force. In the beginning, before a light infantry unit was responsible for securing the base, we dealt with a number of units that were each responsible for a certain sector of the base. Due to the mission of the CSS units on the base there was no one unit able to completely guard the entire perimeter. The issues, such as poorly trained Sergeants of the Guard, no real communication assets available, and the different shifts in which the separate units would use for their guard force, caused our unit to take a more direct and active role in the training and preparing of the separate unit’s guard forces. Eventually we were outfitted with enough of one kind of radio, the Motorola Walkabouts, to enable better communications between the guards and their SOGs. It all turned out good with very few incidents overall. After a while the 309th became a well known unit on the base. We were the one stop information shop for anything from telephone numbers to where the next aid station was located. I think we did an outstanding job with the people and assets we had. Throughout the time there even after we received the infantry company to secure the base, our unit’s responsibilities were taken piece by piece by units such as the 3rd COSCOM STB (terrain management) and the 220th MP Battalion (force protection) who were better staffed and equipped to handle the mission. We worked along side both parties to ensure that all work was handled and nothing was left out. After things were looking up of the base as a whole our higher started looking for other fitting jobs for us to do. And sure enough we were off to Falluja…
28 May – 6 July
After being re-attached to the 16th CSG, 3rd COSCOM, we arrived in FLB Pecan and immediately started reconstructing the base defenses. We were again responsible for the terrain management and force protection of this forward logistics base. Four of our soldiers and I were placed in two teams to augment the night-time quick reaction force, although we were always on call and ready to react, we patrolled the area from 2100 till 0400. We used M998s without the rear canvases and with make-shift M249 SAW mounts. This gave us enough fire power to be able to react to any Class I threat. The area was much easier to handle because it was only occupied by one Combat Support Battalion and a heavy engineer unit. The heavy engineer units we tasked intensively to fortify the base with earthen berms with triple-strand concertina wire. The most outstanding point about this base was the amount of munitions stored there. I don’t think that the Army could have afforded not leaving someone there to guard it. My mission there was to augment a quick reaction force, check the guard force, and conduct terrain management duties not unlike a BDLT team member. The job here wasn’t as hard as it was in the last few bases we’ve set up.
6 July – 30 Jan 2004
Our unit was re-assigned to the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) to support the training of the New Iraqi Army (later known as the Iraqi Army) at Camp Caldwell and Kirkush Military Training Barracks (KMTB) near Balad-Ruz, Iraq. Although we worked directly for CMATT, CMATT could not support us logistically so after about a week or so higher attached us to the 4th ID for logistical support. Our duties were much different than they were anywhere else. We broke the unit down into staff sections in order to best fit our new job description. This new job was very diverse in content. We still had the main functions of force protection and terrain management, but our focus was to support any activity that supported the overall mission of training and outfitting the Iraqi Army. The command tried to troubleshoot all support operations before they were actually broken to ensure that there was always a contingency plan for the support of the training of the Iraqi Army. I was the NCO-in-charge of the S4 section of our unit. My duties were among others; ensuring all Class II property that came on the installation was accounted for, in charge of accommodating the training barracks with newly acquired furniture, ensuring enough Class I was on-hand to back-up any training and back-up requirements. All I had was two laptops one in the TOC and another of my own in my room. I had one in my room so that I was able to work on my own time to get some jobs done. I traveled around all day in an M998 and made contact with practically everyone on the base. During this time I worked intensively with the Laudes Corporation, they were responsible for the direct support of the Iraqi Army. I worked alongside many Iraqi nationals and had at time as many as 30 that worked with me directly to move and set up the furniture for the Iraqi training barracks. This enabled me to make lasting relationships with all of the people I directly worked with. After the training barracks were finished my duties made a drastic turn.
At this time the Office of National Security Affairs (ONSA), Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was establishing the new Iraqi Ministry of Defense and various supporting agencies such as the Defense Support Agency (DSA). The DSA provides all administrative and logistical support to the Iraqi Armed Forces at Army bases country wide, through its Base Support Units (BSU). The initial BSU was established at KMTB and I was the NCO-in-charge of the advisory team who helped them. My duties there were to train an all-Iraqi civilian workforce in the following competencies and duties: personnel finance and pay, administrative management, motor pool operations, and various other record-keeping functions. I did this from 1 December 2003 through 29 January 2004, after which I was sent to BNCOC in Ft. Lewis, Washington.