Logistics unit Iraq-bound
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa â€” More than 900 Marines and sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 4 are scheduled to head to Iraq over the next few days for a deployment in Anbar province lasting six or seven months.
Unlike a 2006 Iraq deployment in which CLB 4 Marines augmented other units, this time the battalionâ€™s six companies will deploy together and stay intact in Iraq, said Capt. Ronney Herrera, 32, from Fort Worth, Texas, commander of CLB 4â€™s Motor Transport Company.
The battalionâ€™s mission will be to provide combat support â€” engineering maintenance, health services, transportation and other services â€” to Regimental Combat Team 2, a Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit, Herrera said.
â€œWe exist to deliver goods to the war fighter,â€ he said. â€œIf the war fighter is the tip of the spear, then CLB 4 is the supporting edge of that spear.â€
Motor Transport Companyâ€™s mission will include delivering supplies, transporting personnel and providing escorts to allies and U.S. contractors, Herrera said.
â€œWeâ€™re like the wagon trains of the Old West,â€ he said. â€œWe move in groups, use scouts and will circle the wagons if necessary. The main difference is that we have bigger and better wagons now.â€
Motor transport Marines have been preparing for this deployment since January, said Dallas native 1st Lt. Nicolas Martinez, 25, a platoon commander with the company.
In addition to training on Okinawa, the company went to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., for the monthlong Mojave Viper exercise in May.
â€œThe convoy training in the desert was a lot better than here in Okinawa, where we could still see trees,â€ said Lance Cpl. Michael Kemperman, 26, from Saugatuck, Mich., who will be a lead vehicle driver on convoys in Iraq.
The desert training had â€œa lot more realism (and) Iâ€™m better prepared for what to expect in Iraq,â€ said Kemperman, who joined the Corps in November 2004.
Pfc. Jonah Santos, 24, also will be deploying to Iraq for the first time, and the convoy driver from Kauai, Hawaii, admits heâ€™s a little nervous.
But with all the training heâ€™s had, Santos, who joined the Corps in October, said he knows heâ€™s prepared for war.
Martinez said such confidence in the unit comes from the companyâ€™s staff noncommissioned officers and noncommissioned officers.
â€œAll the SNCOs have been to Iraq before,â€ and theyâ€™ve freely shared their experiences and lessons learned, Martinez said.
â€œWhen I came here, I was just blown away how good the SNCOs and NCOs are,â€ he said.
One of those NCOs, Sgt. Charles Trask, 23, stresses â€œconstant awareness of your situation and surroundings and the very real threat of [improvised explosive devices].â€
He should know.
The Kansas City, Mo., native earned a Purple Heart for wounds he received July 3, 2006, when his truck was hit by an IED during the unitâ€™s first deployment to Iraq.
â€œIt blew out my eardrums, and I was considered deaf for 21 days,â€ Trask said.
In addition to IED training from explosive ordnance disposal experts, Trask set up IED lanes in the motor transport area, he said. He placed everything from sandbags to paper clips on a mock road to train Marines â€œto pay attention to whatâ€™s not natural in the surroundings,â€ he explained.
Trask tells his Marines â€œyou need to always be attentive and keep your training in mind,â€ he said. â€œThey know what they have to do and how to perform it correctly because thatâ€™s going to save their lives.â€
Staff Sgt. Charles McDew, 34, from Atlanta said he also emphasizes the importance of motor transportâ€™s job.
His Marines â€œare more than just truck drivers loading up gear,â€ McDew said. â€œThe people you see on the news and hear about, they canâ€™t do their jobs without us.â€