In the early hours of Nov. 20, soldiers from the 154th Transportation Company, 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade waited in the company motorpool for their convoy brief before setting off on a 300-mile round trip along Central Texas roads to earn their driver’s license and qualify on the M-1075, or Palletized Loading System.
“Operation Rising Star is designed to get your trucks out on the road, get your new guys some experience, and get them licensed up,” said Staff Sgt. Ralph C. Williams Jr., the truck master for the 154th.
For the past couple of weeks, the company’s soldiers were put through their paces at the Drivers Training Academy, learning how to competently handle various tactical vehicles before moving on to the loading system training.
“(The academy is) a two-week course. They learn the Texas laws and they get familiar with the pieces of equipment that they are going to be going to,” Williams said. “They also get licensed on the 1078 LMTV (Light Mobility Tactical Vehicle) and the Humvee coming straight out of (the academy) they get those licenses there,” Over the past few days, Williams and his senior driving instructors made the trip to Rising Star multiple times. As a result, they decided the convoy and convoy brief would be run by junior noncommissioned officers such as Cpl. James Schultz, the convoy commander for the trip to Rising Star.
“We will be traveling in the dark for the majority of the route, so make sure you keep an eye out for animals that will be a hazard on the route,” said Schultz, as he conducted his convoy brief. “We encountered three black cows in the middle of the road the other night.”
After the convoy brief, the soldiers headed out to their vehicles and conducted their final checks before hitting the open road. The drivers and truck commanders checked safety equipment, lights and hoses, and ensured the trailers were connected properly before giving the convoy commander the “thumbs up.”
At the very back of the convoy was the Bobtail truck, or recovery vehicle, normally manned by experienced drivers and designated to move forward if needed to tow any disabled vehicle back to the motorpool.
“I will be in the Bobtail and we will be making sure that if anyone breaks down we can recover the vehicle and pick up the soldiers,” said Spc. Esmeralda Ramirez, a motor transport operator. “I have been driving vehicles in the Army for three years now.”
Ramirez recently transferred to the 154th from the 96th Transportation Company where she gained vital experience during a tour in Afghanistan. She hopes to pass this experience on to the new soldiers in her current unit.