Members of the Missouri National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, practice convoy operations around Fort Leonard Wood.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
By Matthew J. Wilson
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade spent part of their annual training recently concentrating on basic convoy operations.
About 30 Soldiers from the Fort Leonard Wood unit used 12 Humvees and two Light Medium Tactical Vehicles to take an hour-and-a-half trip through the outer areas of post.
Sgt. 1st Class Kevan Phillips, the company training and readiness noncommissioned officer, said convoy operations aren't as simple as hopping in a vehicle, lining up and moving out.
"It's not magic - it takes planning, preparation and practice," said Phillips, who lives in Farmington.
He said several factors for a good convoy include solid communications, maintaining proper intervals between vehicles and reaching start and finish time goals.
Phillips called the exercise a success.
"Communications were established, we negotiated the route and maintained our convoy speeds," he said.
Convoy operations are one of the check boxes on the unit's mission essential task list. This exercise was training in preparation for members of the unit to be evaluated at a later date.
Staff Sgt. Mike Jacobs, who lives in Swedeborg, was the convoy commander. He said for at least half the Guardsmen, it was their first time participating in a convoy operation.
"For a lot of people, it was their first time, so they all did well for first timers," Jacobs said.
Jacobs has plenty of convoy experience with three deployments to Iraq since Operation Desert Storm.
He said there were several areas that needed improvement.
"We had some issues with spacing between the vehicles and we need a little more training with our radios," Jacobs said. "They need more instruction on how to set the radios up and getting them ready, as well as what they should be looking for and what to report."
Jacobs said spacing is crucial because it prevents several vehicles from being damaged should the convoy encounter an improvised explosive device, which is the main weapon of today's enemies.
With it being his first time involved in a convoy, Spc. Kenneth Jones, who lives in Waynesville, said he feels more comfortable after the exercise.
"At first it was kind of intimidating to try to keep the spacing and everything right - it's a daunting task," Jones said. "But as you start getting into it, you get more comfortable with it and it's a nice, easy drive. It was all-round a good experience."
Jones said spacing seemed to be the most important piece of the puzzle.
"I learned that when you're in a convoy, it's very important to keep your spacing correct, because if you don't, you get a Slinky affect with everybody slowing down and then speeding up over and over again," he said.
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Missouri National Guard Staff Sgt. Mike Jacobs, left, goes over the route with Spc. Matt Beaty before members of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, go on a convoy around Fort Leonard Wood.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)