February 27, 2008

Va. Guard Transportation Company in final stages of preparation for Iraq deployment

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs


Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company review the operator's manual for the M915 tractor truck as they perform preventive maintenance checks during their drill weekend Jan. 12. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 1710th Transportation Company are fine tuning their preparations for mobilization to Iraq during a three-week annual training period from Feb. 18 to March 4 at Fort Pickett. After their annual training period is complete, the unit will depart for Camp Atterbury, Ind., for a month and a half of final training and preparations before heading to Iraq.

The 1710th headquarters is in Richmond and also has elements in Emporia, Va.. Detachment 2 of the 1173rd Transportation Company from Onancock will also deploy as part of the 1710th.

“We are ready to do it,” said Capt. Brett Layton, the unit commander. “Our morale is very high, and we are excited about the mission. Our Soldiers are ready to go out and do their jobs.”

Layton just returned from Iraq a year ago. He served as the executive officer of the Virginia Guard’s 654th Military Police Company from October 2005 to January 2007.

The unit’s mission in Iraq will be to provide line haul truck support that will move critical supplies from logistical support areas out to different forward operating bases in theatre. The unit is organized with about 170 Soldiers in a headquarters section that provides administrative, maintenance and logistical support, and three truck platoons each equipped with 20 M915 tractor trucks and 40 flatbed trailers.


Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company conducted driver training during their drill weekend Jan. 12. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The unit’s trailers are 40 feet long and can haul up to 64,000 pounds of cargo, explained Sgt. 1st Class Terry Moody, the truck master for the 1710th. The Richmond native is no stranger to Iraq, having served there from December 2004 to December 2005 with the Virginia Guard’s 1173rd Transportation Company. Moody estimated that about 60 percent of the Soldiers deploying for this mission have served in Iraq before.

Moody said that one of the unit’s biggest challenges will be integrating new Soldiers into the unit, but having so many people with experience in Iraq will be a huge help. Soldiers from all over Virginia will be joining the unit, a larger number of them being volunteers.

“We have a lot of volunteers from all over the state, and I think that speaks highly of the Virginia National Guard,” Layton said.

Some volunteers are joining the unit from North Carolina. Six Soldiers from the North Carolina National Guard requested interstate transfers to the Virginia Guard in order to be able to mobilize for the mission.

“I have always wanted to feel like I was doing my part to serve my country,” said Spc. Christoper Roach of Winston-Salem. “I wanted a chance to do my part.”


Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company were able to take online training classes at the Fort Picket Distributive Learning Center during their drill weekend Jan. 12. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Spc. Tess Smith, also of Winston-Salem, echoed Roach’s feelings. “This is what I enlisted for,” she said. “I am always up for an adventure, and this seems like the ultimate adventure.”

Soldiers in the unit had the opportunity to hone their skills behind the wheel during driver training conducted during the drill weekend. Both Smith and Roach agreed on one of the toughest challenges of their job: backing up the big 40-foot trailer. The training course they went through had several stations where they practiced backing down a simulated alley and up to a simulated loading dock.

Smith just graduated from her Army training school in May, but welcomed the chance to build her skills. “I get excited every time I get behind the wheel,” she said. “The more we practice, the better we get.”

The unit’s training plan emphasizes getting as much training accomplished as possible before hitting their mobilization station. Layton explained that the more general tasks they can accomplish before they reach Camp Atterbury, the more they can focus on theatre-specific tasks once they get there.

One way the unit is accomplishing their training objectives on their general tasks is by using the Fort Pickett Distributive Learning Center. A number of training classes covering topics such as first aid, risk management, operational and computer security and the Army Code of Conduct can be taken online at the DL Center.

“By doing as much training as we can through online classes, we are able to shorten our time at the mobilization station and increase our boots on the ground time in Iraq,” Layton said.

In addition to the preparations for the Soldiers, Layton explained that his unit is also organizing Family Readiness Groups for the mobilization. Staffed by volunteers, FRGs can help assist with information and coordinating for support and assistance during times of need. Layton said that he plans to have FRG volunteers working in Richmond, Emporia and Onancock, along with the unit’s full time rear detachment at Emporia.

“FRGs are a vital resource for families and friends of deployed Soldiers, and we are committed to taking care of our Soldier’s families during the deployment,” Layton said. “We are fortunate to have people who are willing to step up and volunteer their time and energy to help with this important effort.”

The unit is scheduled to conduct a departure ceremony March 11 at the Emporia armory.

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