BAGHDAD — Recent media reports have suggested elements from the 1173rd Transportation Company abandoned civilian contractors charged to its care during a Sept. 20, 2005, ambush. According to Multi-National Force-Iraq senior officials, such ideas lack the pertinent details and are false and inaccurate.
A U.S. military investigation into the convoy attack determined the U.S. military unit did not abandon the convoy and, instead, responded properly to repel the insurgents, protect the civilians involved, and assist casualties.
On Sept. 20, 2005, a vehicle convoy of 12 Halliburton trucks and a security element consisting of five HUMVEES departed from LSA Anaconda en route to Forward Operating Base MacKenzie. The HUMVEES belonged to the 1173rd Transportation Company of the 457th Battalion of the 507th Corps Support Group.
During the mission, inaccurate map data caused the convoy commander to make a wrong turn and ultimately led the convoy into an ambush with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. Unfortunately, three civilians employed by the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root were killed during the attack. Three other KBR civilian employees and one Soldier were also wounded.
Immediately following the attack, the 507th Corps Support Group (ABN) based at LSA Anaconda conducted an investigation into the incident, and completed the results in October 2005. The investigation determined military personnel responded properly to events on the ground, and did not abandon the convoy as it came under attack. Although the convoy commander conducted thorough pre-combat inspections and checks in accordance with standard operating procedures, the investigation report recommended that convoy rehearsals be more comprehensive in the future.
During the course of the ambush with small arms fire, RPGs and hand grenades, gun trucks continued to lay suppressive fire and several of the KBR drivers were wounded and their vehicles disabled. At one point during the ambush, the convoy commander ordered his vehicle to move forward and assist the KBR personnel in the lead convoy vehicles that were disabled and under fire. This was likely the gun truck pictured in a video provided to the media by Preston Wheeler, a Halliburton employee who was injured during the ambush.
MNF-I officials said although they have not seen the video in its entirety, it appears that the gun truck moving forward in the video was not fleeing the kill zone but instead was moving to contact the disabled KBR trucks in front of it (outside the camera angle). This gun truck stopped at those KBR trucks and laid down fire; eventually it proceeded out of the “kill zone” to the rally point established by the lead gun truck, calling in close air support, a quick reaction force and medical evacuations en route and later preparing a landing zone for the inbound MEDEVAC helicopter.
The other gun trucks (in the rear of the convoy) remained in the area directly behind Wheeler’s vehicle and continued to return suppressive fire. A combination of those escort military gun trucks and KBR vehicles moved up the line of KBR vehicles rescuing drivers in two vehicles, including Wheeler. Attack aviation helicopters responded to the attack, and the quick reaction force arrived within approximately 30 minutes to repel the insurgents. Two individuals were medically evacuated from the scene.
MNF-I officials said the actions of the 1173rd Transportation Company saved numerous lives during this attack, and at no time did U.S. military personnel abandon the convoy. The 1173rd Transportation Company bravely returned fire and protected the convoy while waiting for reinforcements and attending to casualties. U.S. military personnel, as well as KBR truck drivers, demonstrated valor and level-headedness during the attack. Their actions were honorable and should not be depicted otherwise. The investigation recognized the noble actions of one Soldier and one civilian and recommended they be submitted for awards commensurate with their actions.
Despite the valiant actions of the 1173rd Transportation Company, three KBR civilian employees lost their lives. MNF-I officials said civilian contractors are a vital part of Coalition efforts to develop a peaceful and democratic Iraq, and the MNF-I deeply regrets their loss.
The events of Sept. 20, 2005, were tragic, but at no time did the 1173rd Transportation Company abandon those charged to its care. Its actions saved lives.
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