Guard drives 'friendship' mission


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Twenty-four Hawaii National Guard soldiers recently had a brief change from normal convoy security runs from Kuwait to Iraq.

This time, the soldiers and four gun trucks belonging to the 29th Infantry Brigade Team's 1st Squadron, 299th Calvary Regiment, escorted 60 trucks carrying equipment from Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to the Saudi border.

The 130-mile trip took four hours each way, a brigade spokeswoman said by e-mail.

The equipment was needed for operation “;Friendship One,”; a field training exercise hosted by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Army, in a news release, said “;Friendship One”; was one of the first missions involving the movement of troops into Saudi Arabia in more than 15 years.

Lt. Col. Jack McLaughlin and his 1st Theater Sustainment civil affairs team were charged with coordinating the movement of the guardsmen's more than 60 truckloads of equipment, the release said.

“;We have a running relationship with the border police at the Iraqi border,”; McLaughlin said, “;but we have had really no dealings with the border police and customs procedures on the Saudi side.”;

The team met with Col. Mohammad Al-Mutairi, chief of Convoy Security, first to provide the necessary escorts for this sizable convoy.

Capt. David Hatcher, a member of the 29th Brigade's 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, served as an observer and trainer for the exercise, which ended Monday.

“;Working with our Saudi counterparts from the Royal Saudi Land Forces was an incredible experience,”; said Hatcher, who lives in Nanakuli, in an e-mail.

“;We worked side by side as observer controllers during a 10-day brigade FTX (field training exercise) for the RSLF (Royal Saudi Land Force) 6th Armored Brigade. From food, culture and military exchange, we gained a wealth of knowledge, understanding and experiences that will last a lifetime.

“;We made some great friends as well.”;

“;We handled this the same way we would a mission traveling throughout Iraq,”; said 1st Lt. Sean Smith, a 1st Squadron, 299th Calvary Regiment Convoy Escort Team Leader. “;There is always the potential that you are going to run into obstacles, so whether it's a maintenance halt, which happened on this mission - and with the large numbers of vehicles in convoys, this is a typical issue - or a possible (improvised explosive device), I want to make sure my guys are prepared.”;

Accompanying Hawaii's soldiers was a team of Kuwaiti security police.

“;It's always a good experience when CETs (convoy escort teams) are on the road. Each of our missions constantly challenges and develops each of us into better leaders and soldiers,”; Smith said.

“;It's always good to return to the forward operating base after a successful mission. Now the first thing after mission is to get all this road dirt off my weapon, my vehicle and finally myself.”;