Convoys: Going where no one else can

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A low hum quickly grows to a roar as huge, 5-ton trucks and Humvees charge by, one after another, staying close in formation while tearing apart the dirt road. With each passing truck, dirt is thrown into the air, creating a swirling dust cloud. And as quickly as they arrived, they fade into the horizon, leaving the dust to settle long after they’ve gone.

Their mission is a smaller piece of a whole, but is critical to the strength of the Air Force. They take resources and people where no one else will.

Airmen from the 726th Air Control Squadron offer an inside look on what makes a successful convoy while supporting Hardrock Exercise 19-2 July 14, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

“In a deployed location, sometimes it's too dangerous for a plane to land at the final destination,” said Senior Airman Shawn Chilcutt, 726th ACS electrical power production journeyman. “Convoys can take those risks head-on and bring the fight to the heart of enemy territory.”

To do this, a convoy has to be meticulously planned and perfectly executed.

The structure of a convoy never varies. Convoys consist of scouts, a wrecker, a command truck and everybody else.

“Scout trucks lead the convoy and scan the horizon to make sure the path is clear of any potential threats,” Chilcutt said. “Their job is crucial to the success of the mission because they identify the safest route and avoid threats like an improvised explosive device.”

The wrecker is at the back of the convoy and provides towing capabilities if a truck has mechanical issues along the way.

In the middle of the convoy is the command vehicle where all of the mid-mission decisions are made including the control of the rest of the trucks.

Although a convoy's structure is consistent, each is unique in size and duration--Chilcutt has been on over 40 convoys with some lasting as long as eight hours--and the success of each depends on a foundation of preparation, focus and endurance.

“Down-range you can’t afford to be bored,” Chilcutt said. “Convoys aren’t necessarily fun. Real threats are out there, but keeping vigilant during training ensures that we are ready to perform in real-life scenarios.”

The 726th ACS has made enhanced readiness a commitment by designating each Monday as “Convoy Monday.” Each week, Airmen new to the convoy concept are given an opportunity to gain the experience and training necessary to successfully complete a convoy.

“Safety of Airmen is our first priority,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Delia, 726th ACS signal core flight commander. “After that is taken care of, we worry about the equipment. Our consistent training ensures both of these objectives happen.”

Convoys may not always be thought of as an integral part of the Air Force, but the necessity of their role is significant, Chilcutt said.

Delia further explained, “Convoys are the life-line while down-range. They transport personnel and resources where no other means can reach, granting military clout into previously inaccessible territories.”

A successful convoy has a direct correlation to the success of the mission, Delia said.

So, as Hardrock Exercise 19-2 is underway and trucks tear up dirt roads, there's a certain confidence that whether Air Force convoys support adaptive basing, resupply or allow resource access to Airmen serving in adversarial areas, Airmen from the 726th ACS are ready to complete the mission.