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Laying a new line Quartermasters take on Convoy Security duty during deployment to Afghanistan

Feb 18, 2011
By Spc. Michael Vanpool
101st Sustainment Brigade

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- "Pipeman" Pete stands proudly outside the headquarters of the 109th Quartermaster Company here as memento of their lineage.

The metal figure, made of pipes and valves, is a symbol of piping companies and deployed to Afghanistan with the 109th Quartermaster Company, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, this past June. He reminds the Soldiers of their history, even though their mission changed when they deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Soldiers of the 109th QM Co., are based out of Fort Lee, Va., and are assigned to the battalion and the 101st Sustainment Brigade during their deployment. They have moved outside of their immediate Military Occupational Skills as pipe fitters and are performing a convoy security mission here.

The quartermasters include fuelers, cooks, laundry service and mortuary affairs. "We have these guys running convoys and being gunners, which is out of their element," said Cpt. William Bauserman, commander of the 109th QM Co.

The company escorts Host Nation Trucks, including fuelers and flatbeds with military equipment. They were also the first company to use the Joint Recovery and Distribution System, a new vehicle recovery system currently being tested by the 101st SBDE.

"This mission is good because quartermasters and logisticians get a bad reputation because people think they just sit on the FOB," Bauserman said. "By having them run convoys, it helps them feel better about their efforts."

Prior to deploying eight months ago, the Soldiers performed 90 days of counter improvised explosive device training. During their weekly Sergeant's Time Training, they improve their skills on moving radio and communication equipment, said Spc. Matthew Needler, platoon armorer and scout truck driver for the 109th QM Co.

Needler, whose military occupational specialty is a petroleum supply specialist, used his past experiences to mentor the newer Soldiers on conducting convoy operations. He performed convoy security missions during his first deployment to Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas.

"Several Soldiers came into the unit within three months with a bunch straight out of school," Needler said. "I tried to mentor them as much as possible, and the Soldiers picked up the new mission quickly."

Staff Sgt. Elias Chargualaf, a platoon sergeant for the 109th QM Co., is currently on his third deployment, with the previous two being to Iraq. Even though he is a petroleum supply specialist by trade, he performed convoy security on his previous deployments as well. Chargualaf said he used the knowledge gained from the past to guide his Soldiers.

"I pulled upon past experience and lessons learned, that way we don't run into the same problems as before," Chargualaf said.

Chargualaf and other leaders of the company helped guide their Soldiers, many of whom joined the unit straight from Advanced Individual Training. They ensured that the new Soldiers would be trained on their mission overseas, which is completely different from the skills taught in training, he said.

"AIT was all pumps and valves. Now it's convoy security," said Pfc. Jay Waterson, a gunner for the 109th QM Co. Waterson deployed with the unit within three months of graduating AIT as a petroleum supply specialist.

The company built solid bonds to help them take on the mission of convoy security. "We're more close-knit than other platoons, because we know each other better," Needler said. "When it comes to get the mission done, it helps when you know the people and trust them."

The company will redeploy to Fort Lee in a few months and is slated to deactivate soon after. The company is one of the last active duty pipeline companies in the Army.

When the 109th QM Co. furls its guidon for the last time, "Pipeman Pete" will also retire from active duty. Bauserman hopes to give him a new home at the Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Va.

Bauserman plans to have the Soldiers of the 109th QM Company sign "Pipeman Pete," as well as the Soldiers of the 267th Quartermaster Company, the unit's sister company, which deactivated last year. The 109th QM Co. replaced the 267th QM Co. this past June.

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