CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -
The 164th Transportation Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard, has served as the main operational logistics drawdown force supporting Operation Responsible Drawdown throughout 2010 as United States Forces - Iraq transitions from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn in September 2010.
The requirements have been stringent and excessive, but the 164th and its dedicated Soldiers have provided their full support and capabilities through its forward operating element known as Operation Northern Lights. Currently, the 164th has hauled more than 9,000 loads of equipment and has logged in more than 300,000 miles in Iraq using the heavy equipment transport vehicle and leaving its mark within the history of the largest logistical drawdown since World War II.
Aside from supporting the overall drawdown mission, the 164th also supported Operation Northern Lights through the 1166th Combat HET Company, Massachusetts National Guard. Operation Northern Lights instituted the “spoke and hub” concept of a large scale logistical drawdown, by utilizing smaller convoy logistics patrols to haul large amounts of equipment from outlaying forward operating bases to larger, more centralized locations. This allows for long-haul transport missions to further transport the equipment out of Iraq, saving overall mission time and increasing drawdown volume.
The 1166th, were the prime movers, surging forward as a HET and Gun Truck security element with less than a week’s notice into Iraq from Kuwait. The goal was to make Operation Northern Lights happen and continue to drawdown the main theater of operation in record time. The 1166th completed more than 20 cargo missions, and logged in more than 630 loads moved from Northern spokes to theater HUBs in just over 30 days. The 1166’s overall assets and influence contributed to the successful drawdown of mobile retrograde property assistance yards at four different FOB locations in Northern Iraq.
The Soldiers of the 1166th demonstrated their overall initiative, motivation and perseverance with each task associated with Operation Northern Lights. The Operation Northern Lights Element traveled along dangerous routes in northern Iraq, encountering numerous improvised explosive devices small arms fire and a complex attack encompassing both IEDs and small arms fire.
Temperatures throughout the duration of the mission soared well over 120 degrees Fahrenheit daily. However, the standards and discipline of the 1166th Soldiers always prevailed and in-tact cargo, to include tanks and vehicles was safely delivered. As Operation Northern Lights continued throughout the height of Operation Responsible Drawdown, the cargo kept coming and the 1166th kept rolling, even in the midst of the conclusion of major combat operations in Iraq. Although all large-scale combat operations had ended, there was still cargo that had to be withdrawn from Iraq and sustainment items to be delivered within remote areas where U.S. Forces relied solely on the 1166’s hauling and short turn-around delivery capabilities.
During the planning phases of the mission, the overall drawdown was met with small elements of disbelief; “That much cargo cannot possibly be withdrawn in just 30 days”, or “They will not complete the mission within the specified timeframe.” However, the 164th Transportation Battalion and the 1166th did not just meet the intended standard; it was met and surpassed, quickly extinguishing the previous doubts at all levels expressed at the start with overall astonishment. The largescale professional and focused mission performance by the 1166th throughout the duration of Operation Northern Lights, as well as, the Soldiers’ tireless efforts, dedication and desire to not just accomplish the mission but excel far beyond the expectations many thought were not possible further put Operation Responsible Drawdown far ahead of schedule.
The overall success of the mission can be attributed to the tireless efforts and professionalism of the Soldiers of the 1166th. Their training and dedication truly symbolizes the strength and resolute determination of the American Soldier, placing them at the spearhead of logistics.