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CSSD-16 prepares convoy commanders for possible future confrontations

By Pfc. Dustin M. Rawls | | January 22, 2004

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     Combat Service Support Detachment-16 and other elements of the 1st Force Service Support Group have run several unique convoy training exercises during Exercise Desert Talon. Monday's convoy stretched over 80 miles and held a small surprise for the convoy commander and his Marines.

Eight Marines with CSSD-16, waited patiently along County 13 using cover and concealment to their advantage in preparation for an ambush of the convoy. The ambush gave the convoy commander a chance to take action in one of many possible situations that could be encountered in combat.

"We're seeing what happens and how the convoy commander reacts," said Chief Warrant Officer-3 Phillip K. Tomac, maintenance officer, CSSD-16, and coordinator of the ambush.

Although the simulated ambush was not designed to resemble a specific event, it was designed to put Marines in a random combat situation in which reaction would be mandatory for survival.

Maj. Robert D. Dasch, commanding officer, CSSD-16, said, "You try to simulate the uncertainty that goes along with taking a convoy out the front gate. You may get hit, you may not get hit."

The exercise was executed well by both the convoy Marines and the aggressors.

"There were some hesitations, but that's why we train before going into an operation," explained Tomac. "In training, you can die as many times as you need to until you get it right," said Tomac.

Convoys will continue to run throughout the remainder of Desert Talon, including some into the streets of Yuma to ensure the combat readiness of possible convoy commanders.

"We ask that anyone who has the potential of being a convoy commander be sent out here," said Dasch. "Mainly those folks that don't do it all the time, so they can refine their skills and learn something new about talking with the Marines in the air."

According to Dasch, communication between convoys and close air support hasn't been utilized to its full potential in recent times, but now it will have to be.

"They're going to be in the same area, and they will have to rely on each other," he said.

Convoy drivers are also getting some much-needed training. The 1st FSSG is stationed at Camp Pendleton, and some of its Marines are returning to Iraq. For some, it will be their first time.

"What better way for them to practice driving in the desert," said 1st Sgt. David Knutson, CSSD-16. "We're the experts of the desert here."

Running these convoys in and around Yuma is ideal in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, according to Tomac.

"From the orchards to the canals, the terrain almost simulates the country of Iraq to a "T," explained Tomac. "There's waterworks everywhere on the outskirts of Baghdad and on into Baghdad. The entire country is a vast network of farm land, so there's canals everywhere."

As Desert Talon winds down, Marines are looking at it as a great training experience in preparation for possible deployments to Iraq.

"It's good training for my Marines, but it's better training for the Marines that are headed back to Iraq," said Tomac.

With the success of Desert Talon, Marines on station shouldn't be surprised if they see it again.

"I believe they plan on doing this again, and they're just going to continually work it into a schedule," added Tomac.

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