Military and Energy: The Convoy Drivers
week Marketplace airs a special series on the U.S. military and energy, and the
to "unleash us from the tether of fuel."
Among the most vulnerable Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan: truckers delivering petroleum to the troops. By one measure, U.S. forces and contractors took one casualty every 24 convoys in Afghanistan.
Robert Rowe drove 18 missions in Iraq, on behalf of military contractor KBR, before getting shot in the knee and returning to the U.S. On every single mission, Rowe says, his convoy was attacked, by insurgents or roadside bombs.
On the threat in Iraq. LISTEN TO THE EXCERPT
"We are considered
a soft target. And we were. Cause we didn't carry no weapons. We didn't have no armor on our
vehicles. We had to fabricate our own protection in our trucks. And the body armor: we had a really inexpensive, cheap helmet and a vest that really didn't cover the body."
On roadside bombs. LISTEN TO THE EXCERPT
"You're in their playground. So they used every method. They would even commandeer the Bedouin people's livestock -- sheep and camel -- and attach explosives to these animals and then herd the animals in front of our vehicles and blow them up."
On deadly games of chicken. LISTEN TO THE EXCERPT
"The golden rule of drivers over there -- among all the training we had -- was you never stop. You stop, you die, especially in the city. And these boys wanted you to stop. And if you stop, they would mob you. They would either shoot you in the vehicle, they would you out and beat you, or capture you. Plus if you stop, any vehicle behind you is gonna have to stop. That's when your morality comes into play. You know, you don't want to hurt these kids. And you're moving your hand, you know 'Get out of there!' And you just close your eyes and you hear a 'thump thump.' You ran over them. Oh man."
Fellow KBR driver Cindy Morgan served with Rowe in Iraq. She chronicled her experiences in the book Cindy in Iraq.
From her interview with Marketplace:
"We were taking gunfire, and I knew if we stopped, we're dead. So I pretty much grabbed a gear and started plowing cars. I didn't know, I had to ask how many cars I hit, because the first car I had had two kids in the back and I could see their little faces. You don't want to hurt children. I did my best to sideswipe them so that maybe I wouldn't hurt them. But after that I didn't look at any more cars."