Gun Trucks have been a part of the Transportation Corps for a long time. Their history and those that operate them set them apart from all transporters. In Iraq, force protection is now provided by Army transportation units driving gun trucks-5-ton trucks modified with M60 machine-gun mounts-with a truck in the front, middle and rear of each convoy. Each truck has a driver, assistant driver and a gunner who must stand in the back of each truck on the lookout for trouble.
A gun truck is designed for convoy security. A ring mount allows the Soldier who is firing the weapon to move 360 degrees. Rather than just firing out of the front of the vehicle, he can turn and engage targets all the way around. The weapon mounted in the truck depends on the type of unit and what the Department of the Army authorizes it to use. The maintenance companies usually have the M60 and the M2, while many transportation units uses a SAW and a Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher. In a regular combat situation a transportation unit would use generally one gun truck per 20 vehicles in a convoy.
After March 2003, when an Army maintenance unit was ambushed by Iraqi forces and many of its Soldiers were killed or taken prisoner in An Nasiriyah, the Army made a priority of training support units to defend themselves a priority. During that incident, 11 soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, were killed and five others, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were taken prisoner of war.
Built on experience gained on the ground in Vietnam, in August 2003 the 253rd Transportation Company from Cape May Court House, designed and built six gun trucks. They are a 5-ton cargo trucks (M923A2 for those who care) with armor plating and sandbags all around the cargo bed. The cab's passenger side contains a ring mount with either a .50 caliber machine gun (a.k.a. "50 cal") or a Squad Automatic Weapon. The cargo bed contains either an additional mounted .50 cal. or a MK19 grenade launcher. "Oh my God" typically rolls out of the lips of those seeing them for the first time. The five soldiers who operate the trucks are carefully screened volunteers with a high dedication to protecting the convoy. They have been trained to operate every position. The driver stays focused on the convoy and maneuvers within it to afford greatest visibility for the crew and provide maximum protection for the mission at hand. The other soldiers scan their surroundings for potential hazards. Since the trucks provide little relief from the intense heat, volunteering is not for the weak at heart.
Logistical convoys cannot always depend on military police support or added firepower. To provide more firepower for a convoy, units developed the gun truck. The purposes of a hardened gun truck are to provide a base of fire, help counter enemy attacks, and increase survivability of the convoy. The gun truck is equipped with a crew-served weapons system, preferably in a protective position. In Vietnam this principle worked well and provided convoys a means of self-defense.
Commanders deploy the gun truck in the convoy where it can best provide the needed firepower. If adequate communications assets are available, they should be located with the gun truck and the convoy commander. This enables the convoy commander to call the gun truck forward when needed. (A predesignated signal is required to bring the gun truck forward and inform the crew-served weapon system personnel of the enemy location.) If communications assets are not adequate, pyrotechnics may be used to signal the gun truck to move forward.
The gun truck should not be pulled up right on top of the enemy location. The crew-served weapons on the gun truck can cover a significant distance. Therefore, the vehicle should be situated where it has a clear field of fire to engage the enemy with the maximum effective range of the weapon. If necessary and if available, multiple gun trucks can be used. When using multiple gun trucks in a convoy, overlapping fields of fire greatly increases the convoy's chance of survival.
Based on availability, types of weapon systems, and size of the convoy, the placement and number of gun trucks may vary. With company-size and larger convoys, a minimum of two gun trucks should be used to provide overlapping fire. One gun truck for every eight vehicles in the convoy is recommended.
In Iraq convoys use a "road-guard" concept (similar to conducting PT runs) in which a front gun truck speeds up to and past the overpass, then sits in overwatch with the gun trained on the overpass as the rest of the convoy passes under. The rear gun truck then relieves the front gun truck in overwatch until the convoy is out of small-arms range, then speeds up to resume rear security.
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