Support squadron wore many hats during 15-month tour
VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Stryker Regiment’s Support Squadron braved roadside bombs to deliver supplies, helped create jobs for Iraqi civilians and ran a detention facility during 15 months in the desert.
RSS commander Lt. Col. Danny Tilzey, of Manchester, England, said more than 700 soldiers in the unit, including 270 women, provided maintenance, supply, logistics and food services for the regiment in Iraq.
The squadron also focused on building the Iraqi army and Iraqi police and on creating jobs, said the dual U.S.-U.K. citizen, who served in the British Army before becoming an American officer.
In Baghdad the RSS was headquartered at Camp Striker, part of the massive Baghdad International Airport/Camp Victory complex, he said.
"We pushed out logistic sustainment teams, made up of maintenance, supply, transport and food service soldiers, to the (2nd Cav infantry) squadrons," he said.
RSS soldiers conducted daily convoys, braving bombs and explosively formed penetrators, which are able to blast holes in the strongest armored vehicles.
"Ten RSS soldiers were wounded by roadside bombs during convoys in Baghdad. One vehicle (a Humvee) got hit with eight EFPs at the same time," Tilzey recalled.
Miraculously the soldiers in the Humvee survived the blast, he said.
When they weren’t on the road the RSS soldiers did their best to get Iraqis working.
One job-creation scheme sponsored by RSS involved 40 Iraqis at Camp Liberty cutting up U.S. military scrap such as damaged vehicles or broken equipment for recycling, Tilzey said.
The squadron worked with an Iraqi private investor to build a petrol station — where contractors could buy fuel on the installation — and a large four-star hotel for people waiting for flights at Baghdad International, he said.
The projects employed dozens of Iraqis and will endure after the U.S. Army leaves Iraq, he said.
In May the unit moved to Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baqouba to support the regiment’s move north to Diyala province.
The roads in Diyala were relatively safe compared to Baghdad but Warhorse was a target for enemy rockets, Tilzey said.
RSS soldiers worked with the Iraqi police in Diyala, teaching them to drive and maintain vehicles, fix generators and provide first aid, he said.
The squadron also worked with the 5th Iraqi army, sister unit to 2nd Cav, that was responsible for security in Diyala, he said.
Iraqi soldiers joined RSS units as apprentices and RSS soldiers spent time with 5th Army units teaching Iraqis maintenance and medical skills, Tilzey said.
"Most of the Iraqi soldiers couldn’t read so we would draw pictures to show them what to do," he recalled.
The RSS started job creation schemes at Warhorse too, getting 200 Iraqi laborers to make signs, build driveways and move sandbags, he said.
RSS soldiers were responsible for the base dump, sometimes finding unexploded ordnance among the debris, he said.
An unexpected challenge involved running a detention facility at Warhorse that held detainees captured by the regiment and other units working in the area, Tilzey said.
Capt. Andrew Smith, 34, of Brea, Calif., who commanded the RSS’s Headquarters Troop responsible for the detention facility, said his soldiers didn’t get pre-deployment training in detainee operations.
The problems at Abu Ghraib, where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi detainees, were always in the back of Smith’s mind, he said.
"It (the detention center) is a zero-defect facility. You have to make sure everything is done correctly. The priority was safety of the troopers followed by the health and welfare of the detainees," he said.
Detainees were held for 14 days at Warhorse, and then transported to a larger facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, Tilzey said.
2nd Cav RSS combat statistics
- 520 detainees processed, 900 detainees transferred
- 2.2 million meals served.
- 330 tons of ammo stored, moved or issued
- 4 million water bottles moved or stored.
- 4,500 repair parts received.
- 4 million gallons of fuel delivered
- 1,700 equipment movement requests answered
- 3,000 wheeled vehicle maintenance jobs
- 360 vehicle recoveries
- 44,000 patients seen
- 1,700 dental appointments
- 269 trauma and evacuation patients cared for
- zero negligent discharges
- zero accidents