KIRKUK, Iraq – Protecting the convoys that supply and equip the 101st Airborne Division is an important mission, and one group of Soldiers understands that importance and experiences the reality of protecting convoys every day.
Soldiers of the “Gun Platoon” A Company, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division risk their lives to protect vital supply lines and to ensure that the efforts of coalition Soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom continue.
“We don’t want to rely on combat arms to protect us; it takes them away from their mission,” said Sergeant 1st Class Mark Jordan, platoon NCOIC.
The platoon acts as protection for the combat logistics patrols and also performs duties as a quick response force. The QRF duties include being on call for all recovery missions and being prepared to respond quickly to a myriad of calls while on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior. Platoon members are also trained in first aid and act as aide and litter teams.
Platoon members represent the many different military occupational specialties taken from the entire battalion, including re-fuelers, equipment operators, logistical specialists and medics.
Soldiers rotate in and out of the platoon every three to four months, with the rotation staggered to provide continuity. Some Soldiers, like Spc. Adam Holt, have spent more time in the platoon than with his regular MOS.
“Once we get back to the FOB, we also can work with the Soldiers from our regular MOS, like for instance I am a re-fueler, so I can go back to help those guys,” said Holt.
“When we are back on the FOB, we pitch in to help, all the different MOS Soldiers work together to make the whole operation smoother,” said Army Sergeant Douglas Tolliver.
Soldiers from four different companies have contributed to the team, so the gun platoon represents the entire battalion. Frequently the platoon represents the battalion at all hours of the day or night.
“Even on a off day, we can still go out as QRF,” explained Tolliver. “So we are always working.”
“I tell them on their off day to get some rest,” said Jordan.
Getting enough rest is an important order when considering the amount of work this platoon has done while in Iraq, as well as the training required prior to deploying.
The platoon’s training began at Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La. and then continued with a more intense period of training in Kuwait before the final deployment to Kirkuk.
The training has prepared the gun platoon for many of the situations they have been tasked with during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We’ve secured numerous IED scenes,” said Jordan.
The platoon has also apprehended suspicious individuals, some of whom were carrying weapons. “We can also break off from the CLP [convoy logistics patrol] to chase someone down if need be,” added Jordan. “We are typically out of the gate within an hour of being called.”
“The convoys are important because they keep the equipment coming, and we protect the convoys,” said Spec. Don Nottingham.
426th Battalion Command Sergeant Major William Maben said, “Our gun platoon is why we have been successful with the CLPs. We are out there with a physical, visible presence.”