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This Veteran’s Day Weekend, consider Tampa from another perspective

By Steve Geary | 11/09/2013 | 7:37 PM

My pal “T” just had a kid.  I have to confess that I qualify for AARP, so families starting out, so full of promise, cause me to smile.  It’d be nice if “T” and the family made a visit to Tampa, play on the beach, get a little sun one of these days, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

More on “T” and Tampa in a bit.

I was on the phone with another friend, chatting about the long weekend.  Unlike “T,” he was heading for Tampa on Friday with his family, flying home Tuesday night, making the long weekend even longer. 

After I hung up, I thought about Tampa.  It’s a name that resonates with military logisticians, but not because of Florida.  There’s another Tampa. 

When you go to war you can’t rely on Interstates.  You can’t talk about the 405 or I-90 when planning a move, because reliable names don’t exist.

Instead, route names get assigned by the military, and for those Veterans who served in Iraq, some of those names do not trigger pleasant memories.  Mobile, Irish, or for many the nightmare they’d choose to forget is Route Tampa.

MSR Mobile was route that got you from Fallujah to Ramadi, something like 35 miles each way.  Except, during the dark days, if you weren’t terrified of that road you were in a coma.  If you needed to go to Ramadi, you had to make the drive because in Ramadi things were so hot helicopters couldn’t risk it in the daylight.

You got that?  It’s not safe enough to fly, so we’ll take a Sunday drive down a predefined route that’s a six lane highway across a desert plain where anything moving is a target.  I think they call that a gut check.

This is the work that logisticians did.  Iraq wasn’t World War II’s Red Ball Express.  It was Mad Max on steroids.

Anbar Province – where Fallujah and Ramadi are located - was run by the Marines, and those guys aren’t subtle.  The last thing you saw when you rolled out the gate was a giant sign that said, “Complacency kills.”

Al Qaeda didn’t care that the logistician was a not in a direct combat role.  Uniforms riding in military vehicles were targets.  Period.

And then there is the endearingly named Route Irish.  It sounds like the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day, but during the dark days it was anything but.  According to the Washington Post, “It was a white-knuckle ride, coming or going. To reach Baghdad or leave it, you had to survive the airport road first.” 

On the outskirts of Baghdad, Route Irish crossed Route Tampa, the Main Supply Route from Kuwait through Baghdad all the way to Iraqi Kurdistan, which brings me back to my pal “T.” 

“T” hung up the uniform years ago, started a career, picked up a college degree, followed by a masters, got married, and like I said at the start of this piece is now embracing the joys of parenting. 

But, back in the day, (named changed to protect my pal’s privacy) Tammy was a military logistician.  She served, and she served on Route Tampa.  For 21 months Tammy pulled convoy security as a gunner from Kuwait to Baghdad, womaning – not manning - a .50 caliber machine gun, sitting out there and exposed on those long lonely runs.

I don’t think Tammy wants to go back to Tampa for the long weekend.

Today, Tammy is a huggable young mother who looks like she belongs in a Doris Day movie, but the kid has the Bronze Star.  The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest individual military award in the US Military.  It’s awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Tammy is a hero, and I don’t care what the politicians say about women serving in combat roles, heart and soul do not discriminate by sex and warriors are both men and women.  Just think about Tammy and her Bronze Star.

Tammy is a Veteran and Monday is for her, and millions like her.  All Veterans – men and women - put it on the line for the rest of us, and we need to honor that.  On this Veteran’s Day, think about the people you know who served, and make the effort to thank them.

And if you can find it in your heart, reach out to Veteran’s community in a tangible way by making a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, or the Fisher House Foundation, the USO, Hero Dogs, or any of the many other worthy charities who are trying to make a difference for our Veterans.

- authors note:  A friend pointed out that Mobile was six lanes, and I went back to my photos and sure enough, six lanes.  I also made improper use of the term non-combatant and in so doing may have caused offense.  I apologize for the errors.



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About Mike Rudolph

Mike Rudolph

Mike Rudolph is a recently retired Marine Colonel with over 30 years of operational experience, proven leadership, and management success in the logistics and supply chain management fields. He is an executive consultant with ROSE Solutions and the Supply Chain Visions family of companies - consultancies that work throughout the government sector. Mike led the Marine Corps Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management Center at Marine Corps Logistics Command - responsible for supply chain and life cycle management of all ground weapon systems, equipment, and reparable components, the depot maintenance program, and equipment prepositioning program. During 2004-2008, he served two tours of duty in Anbar Province, Iraq as the G-4 for Multi-National Force – West, supporting all combat operations and coalition efforts to revitalize Iraqi economic development and stability. Mike's efforts were recognized with the Bronze Star for his first tour and the Legion of Merit for his second. He was widely recognized as a visionary and innovator in the Marine Corps logistics community.


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