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Convoy demonstration puts visitors in Airmen’s shoes

Master Sgt. Mike Keeler, 62nd Security Forces Squadron, speaks to civic leaders here Tuesday before a convoy demonstration as part of Rodeo 2007.

Master Sgt. Mike Keeler, 62nd Security Forces Squadron, speaks to civic leaders here Tuesday before a convoy demonstration as part of Rodeo 2007.

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A bus rumbles down the dirt road, plowing through a cloud of dust created by the Humvees leading the convoy. A sudden explosion and bursts of gunfire bring the convoy to an abrupt stop. When the action subsides, two insurgents lay on the side of the road next to a sport-utility vehicle.
 
Such was the scene Tuesday as more than 50 civic leaders from the local area and Air Mobility Command bases around the nation got the chance to experience a demonstration simulating a convoy trip in Iraq. The demonstration, just south of the base runway, was provided by the 62nd Security Forces and Logistics Readiness Squadrons. 

It provided a couple of examples of what Airmen working convoy duty are going through on a daily basis in Iraq, said Master Sgt. Mike Keeler, 62nd Security Forces Squadron.

Every Airman participating in the demonstration had been deployed at one time or another in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant Keeler said. He said he wanted to give the civic leaders a taste of what's going on in deployed environments. 

The convoy featured simulated improvised explosive device detonations and Airmen posing as insurgents fired blanks at the convoy. 

"When I saw the IEDs exploding, it really put a lump in my throat," said Carlene Joseph,a visitor representing Harborstone Credit Union who sat on the lead bus. 

Each visitor got the chance to wear a 25-pound flak vest and helmet during the ride, adding to the realism of the experience.
 
"The gear is to show the weight the troops are dealing with ... and that's without adding another 25 pounds of ammunition," Sergeant Keeler said. 

He also encouraged the visitors to take into account the 100-plus degree temperatures the troops deal with, in addition to carrying the weight of a vest and ammunition. Throughout several stops on the convoy, the host Airmen made it a point to illustrate the different procedures and strategies that go into getting the convoy and the transported goods to where they need to be in one piece. After each action sequence, Tech. Sgt. Gregory Howell, 62nd LRS, explained how Airmen in the convoy react to each situation. 

"Communication is key when it comes to the convoy," Sergeant Howell said after the Airmen manning the guns on top of the Humvees fended off the insurgents. 

"If a vehicle gets its engine or tires shot and can't go on, our number one priority is to make sure we don't leave anyone behind." 

After arriving at a remote location south of the runway, visitors got off the buses and watched another convoy simulation featuring insurgents charging out of the brush, a suicide bomber and a combat lifesaver rescue. 

The action-packed demonstration left an impression on the wideeyed visitors. 

"It was pretty realistic being up so close to the big guns mounted on the Humvees," said a visiting civic leader. "It's amazing what our troops are doing each day."