CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — All deploying units have to make adjustments, but perhaps no unit has had to face and overcome a bigger change in environment than the 109th Transportation Company.
Based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the 109th TC, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), is currently deployed to Kuwait, where this summer’s temperatures have topped 129 degrees Fahrenheit.
“A lot of people don’t understand the sun, because over there the sun is not as hot,” said Master Sgt. Alma Murillo, senior truck master with 109th TC.
“It’s not as direct heat as it is here. Over here you walk out, and you’re blinded by the sun. It’s a vast difference between the two areas.”
During their time in Alaska, drivers looked out for moose and dealt with blizzards. In Kuwait, drivers watch for camel crossings and sand storms.
“We’re used to driving in snow and ice,” said Murillo, who’s from Dimmitt, Texas. “During winter, it’s snow and ice, so you get used to those kind of conditions. Over here, you’re trying to get [air conditioning].”
Before the deployment, the 109th TC trained at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, where they prepared for driving in Kuwait’s soft sand. The soldiers of the 109th TC Soldiers had to adapt quickly, because they are needed to move supplies throughout theater.
“When it comes to supplies in theater, we’re the primary transportation company for getting them to the warfighter,” said Capt. Cameron Gilmore, 109th TC commander.
Since their deployment began in March, the 109th TC has moved over 14 million pounds of supplies by convoys traveling more than 200,000 miles. Their cargo has included all classes of supply and supported service members in Kuwait and other countries.
Along with the heat, 109th TC drivers also face the challenge of driving vehicles like the Army’s Heavy Equipment Transporter, which is more than 50 feet long with wide turning radiuses. The HETs are big enough to carry trucks, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, and even tanks.
With a top speed of just over 40 mph, the HETs are difficult to drive on Kuwaiti freeways where the speed limit is usually 75 mph and lanes aren’t marked the same way they are in the United States.
“HETs are a challenge,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus McGriff, a squad leader with 109th TC, who’s from Hawkinsville, Georgia. “Once you drive it, you don’t want to drive anything else. You have more confidence in yourself when you learn what the vehicle can do.”
Despite these challenges (and heat that occasionally pops tires), 109th TC Soldiers find inspiration in the importance of their job, regardless of the temperature they do it in.
“(I have) a sense of pride knowing that we’re out here in the heat, working hours at a time, to transport goods that are really needed,” said Greene.