FACETIME- Heavy traffic: Local soldier trucks on in Iraq
If you ask Shane Wood why he decided to join the Army, he won't talk about a sense of duty, or patriotism, or even the fact that it paid for his college education. "Honestly, they got me with all the big toys," he says in a telephone interview from Doha, Qatar.
The Charlottesville High School grad and newly minted Second Lieutenant arrived at Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq to take charge of hundreds of armored Humvees, tactical vehicles, and tanks.
From Mosul to Baghdad to Basra, it's Wood's job to make sure the Army gets what it needs from point A to point B. While FedEx can drive its trucks on smooth interstates here at home, in combat zones, fierce fighting and desert sandstorms can make it tough to move cargo.
"Getting it to the right yard used to be a feat itself, and locating someone to find the actual piece of cargo was like moving planets," says Wood, the officer in charge of highway traffic for the Army's 27th transportation battalion.
He says that a new computerized tracking system saves lives. "If cargo's dropped, we know where it's been dropped,"he says. "We're doing a better job, and we're keeping soldiers off the road."
As an officer forced to look at Iraq as a whole, Wood sees the war's big picture better than most soldiers. For instance, the most lethal weapon the Army has encountered in Iraq is the so-called improvised explosive device, or IED, but Wood says troops have become more savvy about them.
"We're seeing fewer IEDs overall, but the locations where they happen are getting more concentrated," he says. "It's the same old tricks, but we're getting better at catching them."
The experience has fostered a new understanding between Wood and his father, James, himself no stranger to war. "My dad served in Vietnam, but it was never something he openly discussed," says Shane. "I think he has a new sense of pride. I'm going through a similar type of training and brotherhood."
"I think it has more to do with him than me," says the elder Wood, "but he's a good soldier, and a great kid, and his mother and I are very proud of him."
What's the first thing 22–year-old Wood plans to do when he gets back to Central Virginia? "I'm going to have a bottle of wine from White Hall Vineyards and go watch some good old football," the young soldier says.
And if any of the fans watching the gridiron "warriors" that day need a reminder of what a real soldier looks like, they need only glance over at the guy with the close-cropped haircut cheering right along with them.
Shane Wood tracks Army cargo all over Iraq from his post at Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq.
COURTESY OF JAMES WOOD