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"There I was": We shared a relentless desire to get the mission done

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eduardo Flores
  • 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron
It is very impressive how a small team of disciplined, mission-oriented, and well-trained Airmen can execute many complex tasks in short periods of time.

During the preparation for our deployment at the Basic Combat Convoy Course (BC3) in Camp Bullis, Texas, we were presented with many different challenges. Overcoming these adversities taught us invaluable keys for success for our tour in Iraq. Our very first challenge was that every single one of the Airmen in our convoy team were from different bases around the world; each with different backgrounds, hobbies and interests.

At the time, even though we had numerous differences, it became clear that we all shared one crucial trait: our relentless desire to get the mission done. Everyone on the team learned the basics in Camp Bullis. As we became combat life savers and worked hard around the clock on a wide variety of combat drills, we learned to work as a team and improved our ability to perform under pressure. We all did our very best during the training, and by the time we jumped on the plane to our deployed location we had an idea of what it was going to be like to work in a combat zone.

Our convoy team was part of the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 70th Medium Truck Detachment located on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (AJ). Our mission was to transport cargo from numerous forward operating bases in Northern and Southern Iraq and bring them back safely, efficiently, and quickly. Our number one priority was always to come back home safe. With the conclusion of each mission, it was no doubt a success when every single person returned safely to AJ. Communication, mutual support during critical times, and trust were all keys to ensuring our various successes in Iraq.

Each member in our team was assigned different specialties within the convoy. Early on at BC3, my convoy commander (C2) assigned me as his driver along with the task of Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Such a task consisted of carefully managing classified cryptographic information to program numerous Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) on each mission. My job also included administering and conducting inspections on multi-million dollar computerized movement tracking systems. It was a sensitive job with significant responsibilities, and it demanded that I stayed alert to face any challenge each time there was an issue.

I recall vividly the first time we were at the Kuwait-Iraq border. We all gathered in a circle to have a prayer before crossing the perimeter. This practice became a tradition which reminded me of the story of a Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) who decided to burn his ships before his enemies, therefore making the retreat of his troops impossible. Cortés declared that "they will defeat the enemy or die" meaning there was no turning back. When our prayer was completed, we returned to our trucks, mounted up and with some anxiety we headed out into the unknown pass that border. That first time crossing that Kuwait-Iraq border is so memorable in my life because I didn't know what to expect. I found myself in limbo, a state of uncertainty I never experienced before. Although we didn't have to burn our trucks as Hernán Cortés had to burn his ships, we succeeded as he did.

Overall, our convoy team crossed the border eight times and performed a total of six missions into Iraq, traveled five thousand four hundred miles, and delivered ten thousand tons of cargo for the Iraq draw-down mission. In support of the Afghanistan theater re-distribution, we hauled twenty thousand pounds of Class Five cargo two hundred miles to the main ammo supply point. As we shutdown numerous bases in Northern and Southern Iraq, it became obvious that our initial efforts during our combat training, in addition to our experience gained in previous missions, had an excellent repercussion in our results.

As one of the last Air Force Detachments to have boots on ground in Iraq, I believe that these events not only became a memorable period in our lives, but also marked a transition in the history of the United States of America. For my performance on this deployment I received the Army's Commendation Medal on January 10th, 2012. However, I know it was due to the actions of my team that ultimately led to me getting recognized.

I will never forget how important it was for us who played a part in this mission, to have such a sense of purpose and commitment to our country. Our motivation to succeed kept us alive and focused on the mission done. We shall always remember that we are all in one team, one string, and that we are part of one unique force we all must protect, defend, and remain victorious.