Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Public Affairs NCO
RAMADI, Iraq – Great hulking beasts, or mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles are lined up outside the platoon area. They look like giant mechanical rhinoceros with their heads lowered, ready to charge. Their backs are open revealing a soft green light illuminating the night. Paratroopers mill about, waiting for the convoy brief and conducting their last minute personal checks.
The mission patrol leader, 1st Lt. Jeremy LaFountain, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, reviews the rules of engagement, and scope of the mission. The Soldiers look comfortable with the orders as they take notes. These paratroopers have conducted missions like this many times before.
Soldiers from Co. A had been given the mission to provide safe passage for a convoy from 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division who were scheduled to rotate out of Iraq as part of the continued drawdown of U.S. forces.
It was a long day for many of the Soldiers. The company rolled out from Al Asad Air Base in the predawn hours of Aug. 19 as the sun was reaching out over the desolate landscape. They took up positions at different choke points along the route in western Anbar and waited.
For many providing security, it may not have been the most glamorous of jobs— ensuring no roadside bombs were emplaced—but it was an important one. As the convoy came rolling through, the Soldiers stopped traffic with the help of the Iraqi Army while working for hours in the hot sun. But the paratroopers went about their work as if they were not subject to the harsh conditions of Iraq.
Most of that day was spent waiting and watching. It was a show of force to keep the cavalry convoy safe.
During the day a small truck veered off the road to avoid an Iraqi Police checkpoint and was stopped by Soldiers with Co. A’s 3rd Platoon. Two men in the truck had no identification and a concealed weapon in their vehicle, Hunt said. Accordingly, the men were turned over to the Iraqi Police for questioning.
This is a unique and complex mission compared to previous operations, said Staff Sgt. Paul Williams, with Co. A and a native of Baltimore.
As the day drew to a close all the vehicles in the convoy passed all the checkpoints and the Soldiers with Co. A waited for permission to head back. The go ahead was given and Soldiers conversations turned to midnight chow.
“Our paratroopers conduct any mission to a high standard, it’s what we do as paratroopers,” Hunt said. “Helping our sister unit leave Iraq safely is a honor.”