Virginia National Guard Historical Society, Inc.

Preserving Virginia National Guard History

1173rd Transportation Company

Note: this history of the 1173rd Transportation Company is for its existence as of when this document is being prepared in December 2011. Since 1959 two other units have used this designation at some point in their service; only one piece of either has any connection to the current command.

In a state-wide reorganization of the Virginia Army Guard in 1959, South Boston’s Company F, 116th Infantry was reorganized, redesignated and converted to become the 1173rd Transportation Company (Staging Area). The company continued in this location until being reorganized as Battery C, 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery in 1971. One of the commanders of the 1173rd in this period was Captain Carroll Thackston, who would later serve as the Adjutant General of Virginia (1994-1999).

The second use if this designation came on 1 September 1997 when the 1173rd Transportation Company was created from the reorganization, redesignation, consolidation and conversion of Company B (inc. it’s Detachment 1), 170th Infantry in Manassas. At the same time Detachment 1, 1173rd Transportation Company was created by the reorganization, redesignation and conversion of Detachment 1, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry in Rocky Mount. The parent company had a Federal Recognition (FR) date of 5 May 1954 and the Detachment has an FR of 29 Nov 1954. Effective on 1 December 2000 the parent company of the 1173rd was reorganized, redesignated and converted as the 1710th Transportation Company*, with a FR date of 5 May 1954 and still home stationed in Manassas (separate lineage from this point). Concurrent with this action a new 1173rd Transportation Company was organized in Martinsville, gaining the Detachment 1, 1173rd Transportation Company from Rocky Mount as its Detachment 1.

* It should be noted the then existing 1710th Transportation Company in Virginia Beach was eliminated on this same date without any successor unit.
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The 1173rd Transportation Company (TC) was organized as a new unit at Martinsville, Virginia, on 1 December 2000. It took charge of Detachment 1, 1173rd Transportation Company already stationed at Rocky Mount. The total unit was authorized four officers and 162 enlisted personnel as of January 2001. The parent company received its FR on 8 March 2002 and the Detachment 1 retained its 29 Nov 1954 FR date. Its higher headquarters support came from the 91st Troop Command in Richmond.

During its first annual training in the summer of 2001 the 1173rd, teamed up with the 1710th TC, helped to move tons of supplies and equipment to support the Boy Scout Jamboree held at Fort A.P. Hill, VA. To do this the two units drove missions to Fort Bragg, NC, and Fort Drum, NY, first to pick up the materials being loaned by the Army (tents, generators, etc.) and then to return them after the Jamboree ended. That autumn, following heavy rains in the western portion of the state and in West Virginia the two units, again working as a team, moved tons of food, water, engineer materials and other vital supplies to the impacted areas, including portions of West Virginia. In supporting first the Jamboree and then the flood relief mission the two TC’s racked up 146,000 accident free miles.

War came to American unexpectedly on 11 September 2001. Almost immediately some of the soldiers of the 1173rd were called to active duty to help secure the Martinsville Airport against possible terrorists’ attacks. Others were placed on longer tours of duty in support of Operation Noble Eagle, securing vital infrastructure and military posts around the state.

For its annual training in 2002 the 1173rd TC supported elements of the 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division (the 116th Infantry) during its annual training at Fort A. P. Hill. During this period the company drove hundreds of miles, many of them at night, while always prepared to repel ‘enemy’ ambushes. As events would soon show, it proved good training for the future.

The beginning of 2003 witnessed the United States Army preparing to invade Iraq in the belief it held Weapons of Mass Destruction that could be passed on to terrorists for attacks on America. Although the 1173rd TC itself was not mobilized it supported several units that were preparing for the war. To help fill the ranks of the 1032nd Transportation Company for its tour in Iraq in 2003 about 50 members (mostly qualified truck drivers) of the 1173rd were mobilized as individuals and assigned to the 1032nd. (See separate 1032nd history for the story of this unit in Operation Iraqi Freedom.) At about the same time other members of the company were individually called up to help fill in the gaps to reach the required strength for the 1710th TC when it was mobilized (but not deployed) in the spring of 2003. Those not mobilized conducted their annual training with the Troop Command at Fort Pickett, VA.

2004 would be a milestone year for the 1173rd TC. The company underwent a minor reorganization in May 2004, adding one warrant officer for maintenance accountability. In August 2004 both elements of the company were alerted for probable mobilization for duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Because so many personnel from the company had already served on active duty tours within the previous six-years and could not be required to redeploy again, this left the company short nearly 75 soldiers. To solve this shortage of personnel and get the company to its required strength of 171 soldiers several other non-deploying units from around the state were levied to cross-level and fill in the 1173rd. Among these were eight soldiers from the 1032nd Transportation Company in Gate City (recall the 1173rd had contributed about 50 soldiers for the 1032nd’s deployment in 2003), a large number of personnel from the 229th Chemical Company (then in Roanoke) and some from the 1710th Transportation Company (then home stationed in Bowling Green). Some of these soldiers, mostly those from the 229th Chemical Company, had to quickly attend a two-week truck driver’s course before the unit entered active duty. Once the required of number of soldiers were incorporated it took time to set up teams and have the new personnel ‘blend in’ with the old hands of the unit. Of the 171 soldiers deploying with the company, 25 were women; two of whom would set “firsts” for the Virginia Guard.

On 23 October 2004 the unit was mobilized at its home stations and soon moved to Fort Dix, NJ, to begin its post-mobilization training in preparation for deploying to Iraq. Almost immediately a major problem became apparent. When the unit was alerted for mobilization in August it was told to expect to drive it own trucks hauling cargos in theater but when the company arrived at Dix it was informed the mission requirements had changed and it would was now tasked to provide gun truck escort for civilian drivers and trucks. This change of mission meant a number of changes within company. Most of the soldiers had little or no heavy weapons (i.e. machine gun) training, especially firing one from a moving vehicle. In addition, most received the new M-4 short (carbine) version of the M-16 rifle for the first time and had to qualify on it. And most of the team leaders and vehicle commanders were supposed to have 9mm pistols but there was a shortage at Dix. The commander of the unit, Captain Michael Waterman, notified state headquarters and soon enough pistols to meet the need were gathered from non-deployed units across the state and sent to the unit at Dix.

Training soldiers in the cold and snow of winter time New Jersey for duty in the sand and heat of Iraq was only one of the apparent disconnects the troops encountered at Dix. It was found that many of their instructors had little knowledge of the subject matter being taught. To correct some of these deficiencies, lessons were developed and taught by members within the unit itself following the limited guidance it could get from its gaining headquarters in Iraq. Through it all, the cold and disconnects the soldiers persevered and things began to fall into place; the company was becoming a strong team.

The unit left Dix on 29 December 2004 and after a short stay and some additional training at Camp Virginia in Kuwait the 1173rd finally moved by convoy to its permanent station, Logistical Support Base (LSB) Anaconda, north of Baghdad. Arriving in late January 2005 it was assigned to the 457th Transportation Battalion on 3 February. Almost immediately the company began conducting convoy support missions across Iraq.

For the next eleven-months elements of the company were on the road every day protecting convoys usually composed of civilian drivers in commercially-owned trucks. To do this 1173rd soldiers mostly relied upon the M-1114 uparmored humvee, with a machine gun ring mount on the roof, manned by a gunner capable of laying down effective suppressive fire long enough for the convoy to clear the “kill zone” of an ambush. The unit also used a number of M-923, 5-ton, heavily armored trucks mounting several machine guns capable of firing on both sides simultaneously. At the time the 1173rd served in Iraq, gunner protection was not yet developed where the entire soldiers’ body was protected from enemy fire. Most gun turrets only had a front shield, leaving the gunner’s sides and back completely exposed.

But insurgent ambushes were not the only danger the truckers faced. The trucks proved susceptible to roadside bombs often referred to as “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs), the biggest single killer of American personnel in the Iraq war. Several unit vehicles were totally destroyed by IEDs and most of the twelve Purple Hearts earned by Virginia Guard soldiers in the 1173rd came from wounds suffered in these bomb attacks.

While each mission was unique in its own aspects two in particular are important to note historically. On 20 September 2005 a convoy escort mission was the subject to a complex attack combining IED’s, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s) and small arms fire in the Iraq town of Ad Duluiyah. Twelve civilian tractor-trailers were being escorted by five 1173rd gun trucks when the assault was sprung from buildings on both sides of the road. Almost immediately the lead two gun trucks moved forward at high speed as called for in the units’ training, so they could clear the kill zone as quickly as possible, call for support and set up a rally point out of danger. Unfortunately, the first two civilian trucks had been disabled in the attack and were unable to move, blocking the road and preventing the other trucks from getting around them. One civilian driver was dead and a second was trapped in his cab by incoming fire. However, he continued to operate his video camera and recorded some of the action as it unfolded. A year after this attack his video was shown on the ABC News program “20/20” where he accused the escorting members of the 1173rd of “abandoning” the convoy to save themselves. However, the Army investigation conducted immediately after the attack detailed several important aspects of this action not caught on the tape. While it is true the first two gun trucks at the front of convoy appear to be leaving (as per training doctrine) the other three remained, with their gunners returning suppressive fire on the enemy. One soldier, Staff Sergeant David Woolwine, ordered his driver to straddle an unexploded grenade with their humvee as he, at the risk of his own life, left the relative safety of his armored vehicle to pull a wounded truck driver out of his burning cab and stuff him into the humvee. Woolwine next told his driver to use their humvee as a block so he could again leave the vehicle and repeat the process to save another driver (uninjured) trapped in his truck. By this time the first elements of the Quick Reaction Force (called in by the convoy commander in the first humvee) began to approach and the insurgents broke off their attack. While three civilian drivers were killed and three others wounded, no soldiers lost their lives and only two were wounded. One of these, Specialist Ryan Totten, in addition to Sergeant Woolwine, was each awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for their heroic actions during this engagement. Following the Army investigation each member of the convoy team received some recognition for their part in the action. The Army investigation clearly shows the team performed exactly as trained and never ‘abandoned’ the convoy as charged. It should be noted ABC News never corrected their story after all the facts were released by the Army.

Just four-weeks later, on 26 October 2005, another convoy, this time composed entirely of Army trucks and personnel, was being escorted by a team from the 1173rd. And like the mission highlighted above, this one too was ambushed in a complex attack, with IED, rifle, machine gun and RPG fire coming from both sides of the road. One non-Virginia Guard soldier assigned to the 1173rd was killed when an RPG passed through his humvee’s door and exploded. He is the only member of the company killed in action during its tour. During this attack the unit gunners were again busy laying down suppressive fire. One of these, Specialist Monica Beltran, though wounded in the left hand by shrapnel, continue working her .50 caliber machine gun, effectively directing her fire on enemy locations. She maintained her fire until the insurgents broke off their attack. Beltran is the first Virginia Guardswoman to receive the Purple Heart for a combat wound. In addition, her courage and determination to maintain firing her machine gun earned her the award of a Bronze Star Medal for Valor, making her the first woman in the Virginia Guard and second woman in the history of the U.S. Army so decorated. In the narrative submitted for her award, written from compiled witness statements, her actions are credited with saving the lives of 54 fellow soldiers of her convoy.

The 1173rd left Iraq on 10 December 2005 and its soldiers were released over the next few weeks as they finished their periods of leave at home; however, the unit itself was not released from active duty until 20 April 2006. For its wartime service the company earned its first campaign streamer embroidered “Iraqi Governance”. However, historically the 1173rd has other ways to mark its tour. It has the highest number of individual valor awards of any Virginia National Guard unit (serving both in Iraq or Afghanistan) since the end of World War II. Out of a company of 171 soldiers, 25 earned the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device. Among these was Sergeant Ashley N. Wagoner, the Virginia Guard’s first female member to earn any valor award. And as noted above the unit had three members earn the higher award of a Bronze Star Medal for Valor; one of them, Specialist Beltran, the Virginia Guards’ first female recipient of this award. She was also awarded a Purple Heart Medal, again a first for a woman in the state force. In fact, with twelve soldiers receiving the Purple Heart the 1173rd had the highest number of combat wounded personnel of any single company deployed by the Virginia Guard since World War II.

Once the unit was back in state service it soon resumed its peacetime duties. It was now assigned as an element to the 1030th Transportation Battalion (see separate history). In 2007, the unit received several new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) 5-ton tractors plus the Mobile Tracking System for their trucks. Also in this year, on 1 Sept 2007, the 1173rd TC grew in scope with the addition of a Detachment 2, home stationed in Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore (see Annex I for complete history). As per Permanent Orders 226-001, TAGO-VA, dated 14 August 2011, effective 1 October 2011 the parent element of the 1173rd in Martinsville and Detachment 1 in Rocky Mount were consolidated and reorganized into only the parent element at Martinsville. From this consolidation the parent unit now ‘picks up’ the FR date from the older Rocky Mount unit, 29 Nov 54. This consolidation neither gains nor losses any unit campaign streamers as both units earned the same award in Iraq Freedom and carried no others. Detachment 2 in Onancock was redesignated as Detachment 1. The entire company has an authorized strength of 166 personnel.

During its annual training for 2009 the 1173rd TC, along with the 1032nd TC, supported the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, NY, by transporting its equipment from Drum to Fort Polk, LA, for a training exercise. The two units then returned the materials back to Drum, in total logging more than 2,400 accident free miles. The successful completion of this is mission, along with others performed by elements of the 1030th Transportation Battalion, earned the battalion the General Walter T. Kewin Award as the “Outstanding Army National Guard” unit in the entire United States for 2009.

Campaign Streamers

Operation Iraqi Freedom

“Iraqi Governance”

Decorations

None

Researched and written by:
John Listman
Historian
VA NG Historical Collection
13 December 2011
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Annex I
Detachment 1, 1173rd Transportation Company
Onancock

As part of the state-wide Army Transformation reorganization, effective on 1 September 2007 the 1173rd Transportation Company was expanded with the addition of a Detachment 2 in Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore (the parent company and Det 1 remained in their original armories). This new detachment was created by the reorganization, redesignation and conversion of Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery. With a Federal Recognition date of 1 July 1947 it is by far the oldest element of the company; in fact, it is the only element of the 1173rd to pre-date World War II. The unit was originally organized on 27 June 1921 as Company K, 1st Virginia Infantry. By the time of the mobilization for World War II in February 1941 it was Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 176th Infantry. It saw no combat during the war and was inactivated at Fort Benning, GA, in 1944. The unit was reorganized and Federally Recognized 1 July 1947 as Battery D, 691st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. After several other reorganizations and redesignations over the intervening years on 1 November 1972 it was organized as Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery which it remained until joining the 1173rd.

Although the Onancock unit has never deployed overseas it has served on many occasions on tours of State Active Duty, usually in the wake of hurricanes striking the Eastern Shore. For example, in September 1936 the company was called to state duty following an unnamed hurricane which entered Chesapeake Bay and struck Norfolk. Its outer wind and rain bands swamped large areas of the Eastern Shore, cutting roads and downing power and telephone lines. Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Virginia (later 176th) Infantry was the only Guard unit on the Shore and it worked around the clock for several days evacuating persons from flood areas and moving vital supplies in its only two trucks. The descendant units of this company have performed similar missions many times over the intervening years.

On 9 March 2008 approximately ten soldiers from Detachment 2 were mobilized as individuals and assigned as fillers (along with soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve and even soldiers from the NC ARNG) to the 1710th Transportation Company as it prepared for deployment to Iraq. They served until the company returned home and was released from active duty on 12 April 2009. None of these soldiers suffered any combat wounds. Since the detachment itself did not get mobilized it earns no campaign credit for the service of its soldiers.

As per Permanent Orders 226-001, TAGO-VA, dated 14 August 2011, effective 1 October 2011 the parent element in Martinsville and Detachment 1 in Rocky Mount were consolidated and reorganized into the parent element only at Martinsville. Detachment 2 in Onancock was redesignated as Detachment 1. The entire company will have an authorized strength of 166 personnel.

Campaign Streamers

None

Decorations

None

Researched and written by:
John Listman
Historian
VA NG Historical Collection
13 December 2011