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Forward Support Company Comes Through for Spartan Infantrymen

Story and photo by
Army Spc. Jon H. Arguello
22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

An Echo Company, 710th Brigade Support Battalion convoy delivers ammunition, food, mail and other supplies to the frontline. The Soldiers from Echo Company have consistently driven the Pech River Road, one of the most dangerous roads in eastern Afghanistan, to deliver supplies to Task Force Spartan's infantrymen.

Of all the long, dusty, barely-paved roads through eastern Afghanistan, few are as important as the artery a distribution platoon travels regularly to bring essential supplies to infantrymen in small patrol bases in the Pech Valley. The road that runs along the Pech River also happens to be one of the most dangerous.

Still, the Soldiers from Echo Company, 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division negotiate the long road for 20 hours at a time, delivering ammunition, food, water and other supplies to the Soldiers of 1st Battal ion, 32nd Infantry Regiment.

“The convoy keeps itself busy providing logistical support to all the patrol bases and (forward operating bases) in Chosin’s area of operations,” said Army 1st Lt. Vanna Nhem, Echo’s executive officer and a native of Cranston, R.I.

But the convoy is far from a leisurely ride. The long line of 5-ton trucks, humvees and trailers has been attacked several times during the rotation, giving the Soldiers of Echo more than their share of combat experience.

“Many people see support Soldiers and they think they are all in offices,” said Nhem. “But we are doing combat logistics. In a lot of cases these convoys have outside security; they have infantrymen pulling security. But we pull our own security.”

At first sight, the convoy may seem like a vulnerable target. But a closer look reveals a heavily armed convoy with alert gunners ready to fend off anything the enemy can muster.

“A lot of times convoys like these are soft targets,” Nhem said. “But we are no soft target. We don’t project that. These are well-trained, well-equipped Soldiers ready and willing to engage the enemy. We’ll shoot back and we’ve already proved that a couple of times.”

These Soldiers don’t drive just to get off the FOB. The supplies they carry are a serious matter; and due to poor weather, location and the heavy burden already placed on air assets, road convoys are as essential as the supplies they deliver.

“Because of how the (1-32 Infantry) is spread along the area of operations, there are a lot of places air assets can’t get to,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Felder, the “distro” platoon sergeant from Orangeburg, S.C. “But you can definitely get there by ground.”

The route is not only dangerous because of possible enemy attacks, rock slides and other natural events also present a hazard.

“On my first mission back from leave I had an accident,” said Army Spc. Lourdes Castillo, a gunner and driver from Los Angeles.

“I went into a ditch because of collapsing rocks and we spent three or four hours trying to get the truck out,” he added. “Every time out it’s different. You’d think because it’s the same route or because you’re going to the same places, it would be the same. But there are so many new experiences every time we go out.”

The task of delivering the supplies via the dangerous route is one that gives the Soldiers a sense of pride.
“We do it because we have to,” said Felder. “Because we have to and because they need it – it’s important. They need that ammo, that food, that water to keep them in the fight and we’re going to do our part.”

“I’m proud,” Castillo said. “I’m one of the few females to go on missions outside of the wire. At first I was nervous but I overcame my fear. I know I’m doing something important by making sure those Soldiers get what they need.”

The gratification these Soldiers get comes from the appreciation the war fighters have for them.

“We live here on the airfield and we have a variety of things to eat but they only eat what’s there,” Felder said. “They know me and my guys are doing it and they appreciate it. They know we work hard to get them the stuff they need and we feel good about it and that’s what makes it worth it.”