By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 6, 2008 - "Stay alert and stay vigilant," shouted a chiseled-face soldier during an Oct. 4 pre-convoy briefing at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan. Army Staff Sgt. Carlos Padilla was one of five servicemembers charged with securing the safe passage of troops from Camp Eggers to Bagram Airfield. Like the fingers on a hand, each member of the five-man team is paramount to today's mission, said Padilla, who proudly ferries troops across perilous Afghan roads.
Moments later, Army Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Curiel ordered the three soldiers and the Navy sailor on his team into their respective positions, loaded the passengers aboard an armored bus known simply as "the Rhino," and set off on their journey from Kabul to Bagram.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Hildebrand of Tallmadge, Ohio, drove the Rhino as Padilla rode 'shotgun' and served as the team's eyes and ears. Meanwhile, the convoy commander, Curiel, rallied Army Staff Sgts. Ruben Rosas and Eddy Rosales to provide security and blocking positions during the trip.
"We've got to be watchful and ready to act at all times," said Curiel, who explained that an ever-present threat of vehicle bombs and other threats exist from enemy forces.
Curiel's team is a hinge pin to allow servicemembers ground transportation between the bustling missions of Combined Joint Task Force 101, with headquarters at Bagram Airfield and at the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, with headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Despite the vitality of their mission, not a single member of Curiel's team is a transportation servicemember by military specialty. Curiel, Padilla, Rosas and Rosales all proudly proclaimed their "11B" roots as Army infantrymen. Hildebrand normally is an administrative specialist on the USS Boxer, homeported in San Diego.
Still, the infantry soldiers and administrative sailor take their job of security and troop transport very seriously, they said. They know well that they cradle the lives of many servicemembers in their arms on each trip they make.
"We know we've got to keep everyone alive, and nothing else matters out here except that," said Curiel. "We drive aggressively, stay vigilant and keep watch over each other."
Bringing everyone to their destination unscathed and breathing is the mission -- it's that simple, he explained.
Bagram Airfield serves as the command and control and air operations hub for coalition forces in the region. Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan plans programs and implements reforms to develop a stable Afghanistan, strengthen the rule of law, and deter terrorism.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 101 Public Affairs Office.)