By Army Spc. Sean Mcguire
4th Sustainment Brigade
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq (4/18/11) - As the deadline approaches for all U.S. troops to exit Iraq, units like the 163rd Combined Arms Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, are playing a pivotal role in the drawdown.
Since November of last year, the 1-163rd CAB has sent its infantry soldiers on numerous convoy escort and security missions.
The soldiers of Company Bravo, as part of this ongoing mission, safely guide the drivers of fuel trucks and vehicles carrying ammunition from Contingency Operating Base Adder to COB Kalsu.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Erik R. Frey, lead non-commissioned officer for the 4th Sustainment Brigade, accompanied them to see his 163rd CAB counterparts in action.
"I'm very impressed by these guys, and know our units that will be on the road with them during our mission here, will be in good hands," said Frey.
Army Sgt. Scott Leimkuehler, a truck commander with the 1-163rd CAB, said he and his teams mostly escort fuel trucks and transportation units throughout southern and central Iraq.
Leimkuehler said they expect to see a spike in missions throughout Iraq as the drawdown inches closer to completion. They will help other units bring equipment to and from Adder.
Army Spc. John York, a gunner with Company B, 1-163rd CAB, said between escort and security missions, the soldiers of Bravo Company conduct weapons and medical training, with continual rehearsal drills on reaction to improvised explosive devices.
When they're on the road, humor contributes to a relaxed atmosphere, all while maintaining a serious outlook on the mission.
"We all know our positions and jobs very well," Leimkuehler said.
"I don't have to worry about my driver or my gunner,” he said. “When we have to make a stop, I know York is up and is completely on top of things. But we are always cracking jokes and having fun together."
Army Sgt. Kelly Skurupey, a truck commander also with Company B, 1-163rd CAB, said what his team sees on the roads is very different from what he saw during previous deployments between 2007 and 2009.
"I used to be active Army for four years, and I deployed during the surge and the climax of the war here," he said.
Skurupey said that at that time, there were more than 200,000 troops on ground and today there are fewer than 50,000 troops.
“Things were a lot more aggressive back then," Skurupey said.
While recognizing the changes, he still knows the risks of his unit's missions.
"Attacks have balanced out in accordance with the amount of troops out here," he said. "Even if there isn’t much talk of what's happening in Iraq anymore back home, we're still here doing our jobs."
Army Spc. Apollo Child, a 50-caliber machine gunner with Company B, 1-163rd CAB, said his interactions with the Iraqi people have left a lasting impression on him.
"When we roll through towns and markets, we always see kids waving and smiling at us,” he said.
Child said that he knows people at home still have a negative outlook on Iraq, but he says we’re only “helping the people of this country."