An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Convoy ops takes training, readiness, communication

Tech. Sgts. Rogelio Ponce, Joseph Ilsley and Christopher Hann maintain a 360-degree security perimeter around an explosive ordnance disposal team's detonation site June 13 outside of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The sergeants, with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, are deployed from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

Tech. Sgts. Rogelio Ponce, Joseph Ilsley and Christopher Hann maintain a 360-degree security perimeter around an explosive ordnance disposal team's detonation site June 13 outside of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The sergeants, with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, are deployed from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

Senior Airman Carlos Moreno keeps a close eye on his field of fire while helping maintain a 360-degree security perimeter around an explosive ordnance disposal team's detonation site June 13 outside Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.  Airman Moreno, with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, is deployed from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

Senior Airman Carlos Moreno keeps a close eye on his field of fire while helping maintain a 360-degree security perimeter around an explosive ordnance disposal team's detonation site June 13 outside Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Airman Moreno, with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, is deployed from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- One key to successful convoy operations is preparation and if practice makes perfect, then the goal of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron is perfection.

A refined tactical security escort program devised by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Ilsley, is one way the security forces here hope to reach that goal.

"Sergeant Ilsley has taken a convoy concept and turned it into a convoy program," said Maj. Kenneth Ohlson, 455th ESFS commander. "He has thought through every detail and has the distinct ability to relate those details to the troops who must execute the mission. Every mission is meticulously planned and executed ... he has set the standard and the program will endure because of his hard work."

No mission just happens on a whim; meetings are held, briefings are given, jobs are assigned, leaders take accountability of assets and personnel, intelligence is exchanged and current threat conditions are analyzed.

"Our training is really repetitive, so that it becomes second nature ... that's the goal, so when it comes down to it, we're ready," said Senior Airman Michael Madden, 455th ESFS fire team leader.

A security forces Airman must not only know his job, but he must know everyone else's as well. Every Airman on the convoy has a job to do and each position has a primary and alternate position; there is no single point of failure.

The ability to communicate with the other members of the convoy is crucial. In order to communicate in any situation, convoy team members have hand signals, verbal commands and radio communication.

"When I'm outside the vehicle, we make sure everyone's in contact, we're communicating and our eyes are on each other, looking out for each other," Airman Madden said.

When a convoy is moving, or is in a fixed position, the 360 degree perimeter of security is maintained at all times. This point is foot-stomped constantly in training and briefings.
"I trust my guys to do the job we are sent out to do without question," said Tech. Sgt. Rogelio Ponce, 455th ESFS patrol leader. "We train and constantly reinforce this training to the point where we don't have to think about what we are doing, we just act."

Each Humvee in the convoy consists of a fire team: fire team leader, vehicle driver and turret gunner.

Leading by example is something the fire team leaders exemplify; they are the first ones out of the vehicle and spend the entire time out on foot concentrating on their field of fire as well as ensuring the remaining fire team members are performing their duties.

These young leaders, mostly senior airmen, stand at the ready scanning the horizon for threats, while the gunner and the rest of the HUMVEE is on alert as well.

"While out of the Humvee it's just a constant evaluation of the situation out there," said Sergeant Ponce. "It's not our first time, but I have to ensure that we don't get complacent on these missions, anything can happen."

Letting their guard down during convoy operations is not an option. These Airmen know too well from lessons learned the hard way by their brothers-in-arms that things can go bad in a matter of seconds. That has been an integral part of the program's preparedness, learning about other bases in the area of operations and applying their experiences to the security forces operations here at Bagram.

"We have monitored the Army's convoy conops section and they update us on current enemy tactics, training and procedures," Sergeant Ilsley said. "We also constantly update the program with the lessons learned from each hot wash."

After a successful mission return, kudos are not exchanged, there are no mutual appreciation speeches given. It is time for the hot wash.

"We are not looking for pats on the back. We want to know what is wrong so the issue can be addressed and the program will be enhanced after each mission," said Sergeant Ilsley.

Honest feedback and workable solutions are key to improving convoy operations.

"In essence we would be failing as NCOs by hindering our own abilities to properly mentor, train, discipline and protect the Airmen we are responsible for," Sergeant Ilsley said.