After Iraq bombings, 210th FSB soldiers work to recover vehicles
January 17, 2005
BAGHDAD— When a roadside or car bomb badly damages a vehicle, soldiers from Company B, 210th Forward Support Battalion, receive a call.
The battalion’s 10-member vehicle recovery team is responsible for collecting inoperable vehicles in the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s operating area around much of Baghdad.
“Most have been around central Baghdad,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McDiffitt, vehicle recovery team noncommissioned officer in charge. “Fifty to 60 percent have been on Route Irish (the road from central Baghdad to the airport), the rest were north and northwest Baghdad.”
All told, the team has recovered more than 40 vehicles since the battalion arrived in Iraq last summer.
“The majority were (damaged) from IEDs or VBIEDs (roadside or car bombs),” McDiffitt said.
At best, these bombs have heavily damaged the vehicles; at worst, they’ve destroyed them. Either way, the soldiers have to go out and pick up what’s left.
“They’re pretty much blown up,” said Spc. Brandon Beechler. “They’re non-mission capable — tires flattened, doors missing, windows blown out.”
Some have burned into nothing more than large hunks of twisted metal. The recovered vehicles will be sent to Kuwait for repairs or, if damaged beyond repair, kept at Camp Liberty.
Beechler drives the team’s M1098 truck and “lowboy” trailer for many of the recoveries.
The unit keeps two wreckers and one lowboy on standby. They can also call the battalion’s Company A to bring a pallet-loading truck for smaller vehicles.
Wrecker driver Spc. Terrence Valis said one trailer they recovered had 1,600 155mm artillery rounds in it. Some had fuses installed, so when they lifted the trailer for its trip back, Valis naturally worried. “If one had a fuse and falls we’re gonna be suckin’,” he remembered thinking.
The unit is able to carry any wheeled vehicles or trailers — tracked equipment, like a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, is picked up by another unit.
They can be ready to leave their Camp Liberty base within about 30 minutes, McDiffitt said. Most recoveries don’t take very long.
“If you've got good NCOs, when you get to the scene and they assess it pretty well, it’ll take about 30 minutes,” Beechler said.
Valis has attended the Army’s formal vehicle recovery school. “There’s a lot of stuff out there they can’t teach you, so you have to (learn it as you go),” he said.
The unit doesn’t provide its own security, so it is dependent on other units for protection. And because they’re headed to a scene of a previous attack, there’s usually a good possibility that there are still enemies nearby.
“I get kind of a rush — you don’t know if you are going to get shot at or get hit by an IED,” Valis said. “We’ve had a couple of shots popped off at us.”
Even when they aren’t shot at, the missions aren’t usually pleasant — especially those involving suicide car bombers.
“I got a piece of [body] stuck in my boot and didn’t know it,” Valis said about one mission. “I looked down and there was a piece of the dude.”