An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Airman endures tours as convoy commander

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Although he served three consecutive tours of duty in Iraq, with most of that time spent as a convoy commander, one mission will remain a vivid memory for the rest of Master Sgt. William Geiger Jr.'s life.

Sergeant Geiger, who serves in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron here, had departed for Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad, with a supply convoy of tractor trailers and gun trucks. The trip was supposed to take less than three hours.

They arrived at the joint Army/Air Force base 13.5 hours later, with many of the trucks riddled with bullets, hundreds of rounds of ammunition expended and Sergeant Geiger's face black with smoke. The convoy was attacked seven times that night, which was a record at that time.

Sergeant Geiger used his 9mm handgun, while leaning out the window of the truck, to shoot an insurgent he had spotted with a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, launcher. He and others chased the wounded insurgent under a bridge where they engaged in a battle with several insurgents in a Suburban sport utility vehicle loaded with AK-47 bullets and RPG launchers. Sergeant Geiger and his allies killed four insurgents and took two others prisoner.

Sergeant Geiger's own truck survived a direct hit from a roadside bomb, and Sergeant Geiger said the truck's protective armor is the reason he is alive today. He was told later that for two or three seconds after the blast, the tractor-trailer he was in couldn't be seen because it was engulfed in a fireball.

The radio traffic during that trip was so gripping that at Camp Anaconda, Army and Air Force personnel poured out of their barracks to listen to radios in vehicles around the base. When the convoy finally arrived, not a Soldier or a truck had been lost.

"There was a whole group of people out there clapping their hands and whistling," Sergeant Geiger recalled. "They were shaking my hand and congratulating me. They were really happy that we were able to bring in every single truck."

Sergeant Geiger was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his efforts on that mission, his second Bronze Star in Iraq.

He was also recently chosen for another honor. The National Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Va., wanted to do something to honor the role of Air Force units in Army transportation. A historian started asking around for someone in the Air Force with a compelling story and the historian was directed to Sergeant Geiger. The Airman agreed to donate his uniform from his third deployment to the museum and the uniform currently is on display.

"I consider it an honor to be the one to represent the Air Force in an Army museum," he said.

Senior Master Sergeant Kim Harper, who also served with Sergeant Geiger in Iraq, ordinarily would have been with Sergeant Geiger on the night of the seven attacks. However, Sergeant Harper had left two hours earlier with another convoy. His instinct was to turn around and go back to help when he heard about the attacks over the radio, but procedures didn't allow for that. He went on to Camp Anaconda and waited with everyone else.

"Sergeant Geiger handled it perfectly but that's been common for him throughout the years," Sergeant Harper said. "I can tell you that down to a man, the people on that convoy will tell you they got through it because of Sergeant Geiger."

That harrowing night was one of a dozen attacks Sergeant Geiger endured during his three tours. He never lost a man or even had an injury serious enough to require a medical evacuation.

That's a source of great pride for him, Sergeant Geiger said, but he doesn't take the credit.

"I've had some awfully good people who have worked with me and contributed to that success," he said. "It makes it a lot easier for a convoy commander to have the group of folks that I've been lucky enough to have traveled with."

He won't be serving in Iraq again. At the urging of his wife, he plans to retire in November.

"I don't really blame her," he said. "My family has to come first this time."