Risk worth taking … twice

| July 02, 2006

Kevin Storm sits in the driver’s seat of his armored Mercedes rig. Storm, whose handle is “Joker,” drove a convoy in Iraq from October 2004 to November 2005 and went back for another year this past June.

Many truckers say they love the freedom and adventure of the road. But the placid highways of the United States weren’t enough for Kevin Storm. He wanted to go where the action was, so he signed up for not just one but two yearlong contracts to drive in war-torn Iraq.

At age 35, Storm has been a disc jockey, a college student, a hash slinger at Huddle House, a trucker and a soldier in the United States Army. As a company driver for six years, he drove a flatbed for Werner Enterprises, a truck for Sherwin-Williams and hauled Mercedes-Benzes for Centurion Auto Transport.

But now he has a much more dangerous and lucrative job on his resume – driving a truck in Iraq for KBR Transport, a subsidiary of the military contractor Halliburton.

Storm says he was first enticed to go to Iraq because of the different viewpoints he heard from friends and the news. “I always have to see things for myself,” he says.

His ex-wife Sondra agrees. The two were still together when Storm left for Iraq the first time. “It was very, very emotional, but I was not about to stand in his way,” she says. “For as long as I’ve known Kevin, he has just needed to do things for himself. It’s not something macho or ego-driven in any way.”

Storm’s desire to see the war firsthand has put him face to face with both the thrilling and the disturbing. He says in his first year in Iraq, he was impacted by the way people would swarm around the convoy when it pulled into its destination. He grows quiet as he tells the story of four other drivers who got killed after their convoy accidentally turned down a dead-end street.

Numerous civilian truckers have died since the United States invaded Iraq in April 2003. Nevertheless, Storm says he is ready for his second round, which began in June.

He spent his first 14 months in Iraq, from October 2004 to November 2005, driving a Mercedes rig with a European transmission, a truck he describes as “fantastic to drive.” Sent to haul fuel, he ended up pulling a 10,000-gallon water tank. “It doesn’t go boom, but the insurgents know that water is perhaps more important than fuel,” he says.

Often driving the lead truck in the convoy, Storm’s responsibilities include not only driving but also conveying the convoy commander and making sure drivers of other vehicles get out of the way while the convoy passes down the center of the road. He says he is sometimes forced to get entirely in the left lane to make those drivers get at least two wheels off the road, keeping them from making any drastic movements to threaten the trucks.

Storm is knowledgeable on the topic of combat and defense. Tall with an athletic build and a shaved head, he says he has been informally teaching hand-to-hand combat for 15 years, what he calls “a nasty mix of Bruce Lee, Tony Blauer stuff and Israeli knife fighting.” He says he even taught the members of the 101st Airborne and a group of soldiers in his spare time.

“Everything for me is athletic in one way or another,” he says. Because of this, his biggest fear is not dying but losing a limb. He says one day he looked at the armor covering his head and chest and realized, “They’re protecting all the wrong stuff.”

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