The 1461st Transportation Company (Combat Heavy Equipment Transport), Michigan Army National Guard, is based in Jackson. The unit’s primary vehicle is the M1070A1, a heavy-equipment transport system which can haul up to 70 tons.
Capt. Ashley Dykes is the company commander and has served in the position for one year. The commander is a traditional, one weekend-a-month, National Guard assignment and leans on four full-time enlisted members to stay abreast of the details required to run a military transportation company. The 1461st has an authorized strength of almost 300 personnel who are assigned as truck drivers, mechanics, administrative specialists, cooks, supply, chemical operations, petroleum supply and automated logistic specialists.
Sgt. 1st Class George Bridge has served full-time for three years as the unit readiness noncommissioned officer and prior to that, in various positions throughout the battalion. On drill weekends he is the truck master and assists the operations officer to coordinate, supervise and control company mission operations. Bridge is an example of a Guard member who has “tenure” in a company and is considered an equipment subject matter expert.
“The heavy equipment transport company can provide a one-time lift of 96 tracked combat vehicles with one tracked vehicle per HET system,” said Bridge. “The company’s mission is port clearance, onward movement and tactical displacement of heavy maneuver forces,” he continued. “The 1461st also performs recovery and evacuation missions for equipment needing higher levels of repair. One HET company can relocate an armor brigade combat team maneuver force in one lift.”
Since the global war on terrorism began, the company has deployed twice as a unit and many 1461st Soldiers have augmented other units’ deployments.
In May 2006, the 1461st mobilized approximately 290 Soldiers to deploy to Iraq. The company was stationed on Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit. During the 2007 troop-surge, a platoon was sent to Taji to support the 1687th Transportation Company, Mississippi National Guard. The 1461st also provided squad-size elements for support at Forward Operating Base Q-West and Camp Diamondback. The 1461st took over convoy operations from the departing company and according to Maj. Scottie McCostlin, then a captain and the company commander, “the 1461st set the bar for transportation companies to follow.”
Some of the unit’s accomplishments were recorded on the narrative for the Unit Meritorious Citation awarded for outstanding service to the 25th Infantry Division. The 1461st was the only “Super HET Company” in the Multi-National Force-North area and supported 28,000 Soldiers throughout the 24,000 square mile area of operations. The 1461st Combat HET Company executed more than 300 combat logistical patrols and logged more than 1.5 million miles on a road plagued by insurgent forces as far north as the Turkish border and south to Baghdad.
One Soldier, Sgt. Matthew R. Soper, 25, was killed in action June 6, 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his gun truck. The tour of duty was Soper’s second deployment to Iraq.
At least one Bronze Star Medal, seven Purple Heart Medals, and 27 Combat Action Badges were awarded to the 1461st Soldiers.
In July 2012, the 1461st was activated for deployment to Afghanistan and mobilized out of Fort Hood, Texas. The 151 Soldiers were stationed at Camp Leatherneck and a platoon-size element was assigned to support operations with the 1487th Transportation Company, Ohio National Guard in Kandahar.
During 2012-2013, the unit also cross-leveled Soldiers within the 246th Transportation Battalion to provide truck drivers to other Michigan Guard organizations.
According to Bridge, the 1461st “main body” was in Afghanistan and provided combat logistical patrols and gun truck crew enhancement teams in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They completed more than 240 missions; traveling approximately 220,000 miles to deliver or retrograde more than 13,000 tons of mission critical equipment throughout Regional Command South, RC Southwest and RC West.
“The 1461st improved the operational equipment readiness to a high of 91.2 percent and completed 14 emergency recovery missions during a special Operation Guardian mission,” said Capt. Catherine Hodges who deployed with the unit as the execute officer. “The unit turned in more than $5.4 million worth of unused or underutilized equipment.”
The 1461st was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their service during the deployment. In addition, 13 members were awarded the Bronze Star Medal, three members received the Purple Heart Medal, 68 received the Army Commendation Medal, 23 received the Army Achievement Medal and eight Combat Action Badges were awarded.
The 1461st continues to support battalion operations by cross leveling Soldiers to support deployments and to the command and control (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) response element mission. During annual training 2014 at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, the unit conducted a heavy-equipment transport training school, qualifying 30 Soldiers to drive the M1070A1 HET vehicle. The M10700A1 replaced the M1070 system in November 2013. In the past, the 1461st Transportation Company has also supported security operations for the Mackinaw Bridge during the annual Labor Day bridge-walk in September.
“Every Soldier has played a critical role in the unit’s successful completion of all missions they were assigned, whether stateside or abroad,” said Hodges. “The 1461st members are true testaments to their dedication to their missions, their community and to each other.”