Thursday, July 22, 2010

COMMENTARY>>Vehicle operators deliver vital supplies downrange

By Tech Sgt. Lindsey Maurice
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA – While most people lie asleep in their beds, he must remain awake and vigilant. Hands grasping the steering wheel of the 18-wheeler carrying vital supplies for fellow troops downrange, his eyes are intent on the road ahead. He knows the importance of his mission and getting there safely and on time.

This is just another day in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for Airman 1st Class Victor Despradel, 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 70th Medium Truck Detachment vehicle operator, and his fellow “combat truckers” who conduct the line haul mission in and out of Iraq.

Airman Despradel, a native of the Dominican Republic, deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., spends his days downrange transporting cargo, armor and supplies to and from forward operating bases in Iraq from an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, as well as providing security for foreign national truck drivers delivering cargo.

“We risk our lives here driving over some of the most dangerous roads in the world,” he said. “The supplies we deliver are critical to front-line warfighters. It’s important that we keep the FOBs supplied. Without convoys moving cargo between FOBs, it would be hard for the military to perform its mission.”

Those days downrange that Airman Despradel is on the road usually run long, some missions spanning over a period of days.
“[Mission days] start with a truck inspection and communications check,” he said. “Then I pick up the necessary supplies for the team, receive an intelligence brief, gear up and get a safety brief before heading out. Outside the wire we must remain alert and vigilant on the road. Once we reach our destination we refuel and upload or download cargo.”

As with all jobs in the U.S. Air Force, Airman Despradel said his has its perks and challenges.

“I really enjoy driving on convoys and doing well at my job,” he said. “It gives me satisfaction knowing I am making the job easier for my teammates. The most challenging aspect though is going outside the wire and expecting the unexpected to happen – looking out for improvised explosive devices and knowing something can happen at any time to you or one of your teammates.”

Serving on his second deployment here as part of the line haul mission, Airman Despradel said he is glad he volunteered for a second tour.

“I like doing this mission and feel excited because I volunteered to do it,” he said. “I know I’m supporting our country and we are making Iraq a better place. It gives me a sense of pride. I see how I fit into the big picture.”

The three-year Air Force veteran said he has learned a lot of lessons during his time in the Air Force and through his deployments with the combat truckers.

“You have to be more than a team player in this job and treat your coworkers like you treat your family because [they are your family] downrange,” he said. “You also have to have a lot of patience and work how you train so you’re prepared for anything.”

As Airman Despradel’s squadron title changes from 586th ELRS to the 387th ELRS as part of the 586th Air Expeditionary Group’s deactivation later this month, his team will continue to execute the mission moving forward. In that continuing spirit, he offers his fellow Airmen and combat truckers a few words of wisdom as their mission rolls on.

“Keep a positive attitude and respect your job and fellow Airmen,” he said.

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