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Tikrit Airmen focused on the job at hand

by Master Sgt. David Reagan
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/19/2005 - TIKRIT, Iraq (AFPN)  -- As danger mounts and the chances of coming into contact with enemy insurgents and explosive devices greatly increases with each passing mile, Airmen protecting critical resupply convoys throughout Iraq are remaining focused on the job at hand.

From cold, desolate stretches of highway near the Turkish and Syrian borders all the way to neighboring Kuwait, the more than 140 Airmen assigned to Detachment 1058 of the 732nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron here said they know their job is absolutely essential.

Without them, supplies flowing to sustain coalition forces and others would slowly grind to a halt along with all the daily progress being made during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The missions are long, dangerous and new to the Air Force, but the Airmen of the 1058th Gun Truck Detachment based at Forward Operating Base Speicher have adapted well to their new role providing protection for Army sustainment convoys.

That is because they realize the importance and magnitude of what they do, said 1st Lt. Mark Ducksworth, Detachment 1058 commander.

"They definitely understand the magnitude and sheer necessity for us to help these convoys survive as they move along these perilous highways," he said.

Detachment Airmen were quick to expand on the convoy-protection training they had been given in the United States and Kuwait before deploying for this new and dangerous mission.

"We were all open minded and learned on the run while capitalizing on the unique talents of each person assigned here," said Master Sgt. Rob Tavalero deployed from the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. These same individual talents were relied heavily upon to enable the 732nd ELRS rack up more than a million miles on the treacherous highways here.

In fact, the detachment's Airmen experienced explosive devices their first day on the job.

"They learned very quickly what life on the road here was all about," Sergeant Tavalero said of the Airmen from 31 Air Force installations worldwide whose convoy support missions last anywhere from eight hours to two weeks.

When they have the opportunity, detachment Airmen occasionally take time-out while on the road to drop off school supplies, clothing and shoes to Iraqi adults and children.

With each new visit, the Airmen said they can tell they are making positive and profound effects on the young and old, and generations of Iraqis to come.

"I never thought I would see this side of the fence again," Staff Sgt. Philip Payton said of the difficult mission his detachment people are undertaking. Sergeant Philips joined the Air Force in November 2002 after spending more than seven years in Army transportation and infantry units.

"This is something I expected to do in the Army; however, I did not expect to do it as part of my life in the Air Force," the vehicle operator deployed from Eglin AFB, Fla. said. "The missions I ended up doing in the Army turned out to be humanitarian missions like supporting refugees who arrived on Guam from Haiti. Now I'm here, and what we are doing is very exciting and rewarding. Everyone does a bit of everything, and everyone knows each other's job whether they are a gunner, communications specialist or a driver in the detachment. Together we are a team, focused on each mission like it is our first."

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