Reservists Return Home Proud of Work Done in Iraq
By Staff Sgt. Les Newport, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Oct. 23, 2006 When asked how it feels to return from a yearlong deployment to Iraq, soldiers of the 655th Transportation Company have a unified response: big smiles.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Anazia Patterson welcomes home Birmingham resident Staff Sgt. Christopher Baker at Indianapolis International Airport. The two soldiers were deployed to Iraq with the Jasper, Ala.-based 655th Transportation Company and recently returned to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for processing before returning home. U.S. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
When asked what they accomplished while deployed, the answers vary. But it quickly becomes apparent that the U.S. Army Reserve unit with headquarters in Jasper, Ala., accomplished a lot.
The approximately 160 soldiers of the 655th were responsible for logistical support of U.S. Army personnel in Iraq, as well as that of coalition and Iraqi security forces. That meant driving lots of trucks for lots of miles -- more than a million miles throughout the country, Army Sgt. 1st Class Anazia Patterson said.
Patterson, a Lafayette, La., native and the unit’s operations and training noncommissioned officer, said moving supplies kept the 655th plenty busy.
"We moved equipment, food and water, the mail," Patterson said. "The trucks would leave with loads, pick up loads in one sector, drop it off in another, pick up another load and bring it back to Camp Adder.”
The company was stationed at Camp Adder, part of Tallil Air Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Drivers could spend anywhere from five to 15 days re-supplying and repositioning equipment for coalition forces as military installations are turned over to Iraqi security forces.
"I know we served forces from El Salvador, Italy, Poland and Russia," Patterson said.
The unit drove more than 1.5 million miles through the hostile areas of Iraq and had multiple contacts with roadside bombs and complex small-arms attacks.
“We had several damaged vehicles, but zero injuries or casualties,” Patterson said.
The unit also conducted about 260 combat logistics patrols, processed about 80 plus Combat Action Badges for direct enemy contact, and received about 95 Driver and Mechanic Badges for a minimum of 8,000 miles per soldier.
The supply section spent countless hours deploying and redeploying equipment to and from the theater of operations by keeping accountability of all assigned equipment in the amount of $10.5 million.
The administration section also worked long hours making sure that all soldiers’ personnel actions were completed and soldiers were paid and promoted throughout the deployment.
Patterson said the 655th is returning as a tight-knit and confident unit, an admirable accomplishment considering the unit is populated with Army reservists primarily from other units. Patterson said soldiers came from California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North and South Carolina.
In addition to its transportation missions, the 655th kept current on training requirements, qualifying regularly on individual and crew-served weapons systems. Many of the soldiers attended schools; the unit left with 15 qualified combat medics and returned with more than 50.
"Some want to have careers in the medical field, others just want to have that extra set of skills," Patterson said. "They were all motivated to be able to help if necessary."
On several occasions those skills were needed. At least twice, members of the 655th helped provide medical assistance at the scene of accidents. Air-assault-qualified members of the unit were able to guide rescue helicopter landings for medical evacuation of injured personnel.
Patterson also pointed to the countless hours put in by support personnel from the unit as good indication of how busy the unit was. Maintenance supervisor Army Staff Sgt. Lona Townsend ran day and night shifts to keep up with a constant need for repair of trucks and trailers.
"There was a lot of upkeep to keep them on the road," Townsend said. "We have 17 mechanics, as well as admin clerks and tool room clerks who took care of the trucks and command maintenance (of) vehicles for the whole unit."
Townsend said the section did everything from minor repairs to complete rebuilds of Humvees. "I'd let any one of them work on my car, … and I have a Mustang," Townsend said.
"Our goal was to keep those drivers on the road and as safe as possible," Townsend said.
The 655th had one final responsibility before returning here, and that was to orient the unit that replaced them. The 655th spent the last several weeks with the 593rd Transportation Company, with headquarters in Nevada, transferring responsibilities and doing their best to set up the 593rd for a mission of equal success.
About 20 soldiers of the 655th volunteered to stay on for an extra tour with the 593rd and other units located at Camp Adder. Patterson said she feels those experienced soldiers will help make a big difference for the 593rd, a unit she says is already on the right track.
"They came in with a good attitude. They wanted to take over; they were willing to learn," Patterson said. "They're going to be OK."
After about five days of personnel processing, the 655th will host a homecoming celebration for family and friends here before they begin to report to their home stations.