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Airmen train for convoy duty in Southwest Asia

by Senior Airman Susan Penning
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/29/2005 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN) -- Twelve 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operators here are preparing to leave in early September to support convoy operations in Southwest Asia.

These predominantly first-term Airmen will undergo rigorous training at Camp Bullis, Texas, before immediately deploying for six to eight months with an Army truck company in Southwest Asia, said Capt. Whitney Sherrill, 20th LRS vehicle management flight commander.

Since 2003 when the Army chief of staff requested base operating support augmentation, Airmen have been supporting convoy operations in the war on terrorism.

Since that time, more than 500 vehicle operators and maintainers per air and space expeditionary force rotation have assisted with daily convoy and security operations, mainly in Iraq.

"These Airmen are truly at the tip of the spear, performing a critical function in support of coalition forces," Captain Sherrill said. "The bottom line is, without their support, supplies don't get where they need to go."

He said although the training Airmen receive prepares them to complete their missions successfully, it is always dangerous to be on the road.

"Insurgents plant improvised explosive devices all along the highways over there and car bombs are also a threat,” Captain Sherrill said. “These Airmen constantly have to rely on their instincts and training.”

Senior Airman Randy Shamblin is one of the 20th LRS Airmen here who will be leaving in early September, but it will not be his first trip downrange.

In 2003, he was among the first Airmen in about 30 years included in combat-situation convoys. He said his time over there was unforgettable.

"We were on our last convoy in Iraq when an IED hit the truck in front of mine,” Airman Shamblin said. “We had a few injuries, but no one was killed. Over there you have to know what to look out for and always be aware of your surroundings.”

Airman Shamblin's first trip to Iraq earned him an Army commendation medal, an honor other Airmen who will be joining him on this trip aspire to.

"I see this mission as an opportunity to do something not everyone in the Air Force gets to do,” said Airman 1st Class Maurice McCormick of the 20th LRS. “I know the training will be intense, but I feel ready. When I tell friends and family about what I'm going to be a part of over there, they say they couldn't do it. But I'm not scared. This is just part of my job."

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