Why I Serve: Trucker, Gunner Jobs Both Good Fit
By Master Sgt. Jack Gordon, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, BALAD, Iraq, Nov. 5, 2004 "I wanted to join the Army since I was young," said Sgt. Lisa Phillips, 630th Transportation Company, from Washington, Pa.
When she isn't pulling duty on a .50-caliber machine gun,
Army Reserve Sgt. Lisa Phillips is a tractor-trailer driver in the 630th
Transportation Company, now on duty in Iraq. Photo by Master Sgt. Jack Gordon,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I knew I couldn't go full-time, but it was always something I wanted to do," he said. So seven years ago, Phillips enlisted in the Army Reserve. Before being mobilized with the 630th in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she was assigned to the 223rd Transportation Company from Norristown, Pa.
Many Army Reserve soldiers select an occupational specialty closely aligned with their civilian career, but not Phillips, who works as a security officer for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg, Pa. In the Army she is a trained truck driver, and not just a pickup, but rather a 915-series tractor-trailer.
"I like driving," she said, "so that's why I'm in transportation. Transportation is the best. I love moving the supplies that everybody needs all the other things cannot happen unless we keep things moving."
The 630th's mission here is moving supply convoys from here to Forward Operating Base camps throughout Iraq. Anaconda is the centralized hub for supplies in the theater and home to some 23,000 soldiers, service members and civilian contractors. Once used by Saddam Hussein as a premier Iraqi air force base, Anaconda hosts the largest concentration of troops in Iraq. Dozens of convoys depart and return here every day, and all convoys must be escorted by gun trucks in accordance with security and force-protection policies.
Phillips said she switches off between driving or serving as a machine-gunner in the unit's gun trucks.
"It's nice to have the change," she said, adding that life as a soldier is also a big change. "I'm doing it full time now and it isn't bad. It's going pretty well but I had set my expectations very low. When I got here and saw we had air-conditioned tents and showers, it had gone beyond my expectations."
The .50-caliber machine gun is a time-tested weapon in the Army's weapons inventory for decades, and is still considered a weapon of choice to engage enemy in vehicles or buildings. It has recoil like a jackhammer and muzzle control takes a lot of arm and body strength. On the 630th's gun trucks, Phillips mans the .50-cal.
"It's a very heavy weapon," she said. "It makes me feel good to know that the other soldiers can fall back on me if they need me. I'm comfortable with it and I'm comfortable with all of our weapons. If I'm not, it could be my buddy who gets hurt, so I'd better be comfortable with it."
During the missions, Phillips said she has one thing on her mind. "I'm focused on the mission," she said. My main focus is staying alive and seeing that everyone else here is safe. I'm not in denial about getting hurt, but I keep away from the negative thinking or I guess it's more preparing yourself but I'd rather not prepare myself for that.
"We've been through (improvised explosive devices) and sniper fire. You have to be observant of everything. There's so much going on when you're driving down the road, so I'm constantly watching," Phillips said.
Like many soldiers, Phillips attributes some of her patriotism to the tradition established by others in her family, and their earlier service to the nation's call to duty.
"My father and my uncle were both in the service, but the main reason I joined was my grandfather Anthony Marciano," Phillips said. "He was my hero. He was my stepmother's father, so there was no blood relation, but he always treated me as if I were his own granddaughter. remember eating mussels in tomato sauce in front of the TV with him. I went with him wherever.
"He was in the Army in World War II. He was wounded by shrapnel in Germany," she continued. "The doctors told him he could go home but he didn't. He went back. He just kept going that means a lot to me. I hope to have 10 percent of the courage he had. He was kind and fair with people. I'd like to be the kind of person he was. He died two years ago. I know he'd be very proud of me."
Phillips said her family realizes the risk of her service here in Iraq. "My family misses me I was always 'daddy's little girl,' so my father misses me a lot," she said.
"I have a big family and they're proud of me. They know the reason I'm here is because of all the other soldiers who are here. There are risks involved, but our unit is trained. If it happens it happens, but we're going to keep driving on," said Phillips.
(Army Master Sgt. Jack Gordon is a member of the Army Reserve Public Affairs Acquisition Team.)