Logistics unit Iraq-bound
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — 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 battalion’s six companies will deploy together and stay intact in Iraq, said Capt. Ronney Herrera, 32, from Fort Worth, Texas, commander of CLB 4’s Motor Transport Company.
The battalion’s mission will be to provide combat support — engineering maintenance, health services, transportation and other services — to Regimental Combat Team 2, a Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit, Herrera said.
“We exist to deliver goods to the war fighter,” he said. “If the war fighter is the tip of the spear, then CLB 4 is the supporting edge of that spear.”
Motor Transport Company’s mission will include delivering supplies, transporting personnel and providing escorts to allies and U.S. contractors, Herrera said.
“We’re like the wagon trains of the Old West,” he said. “We move in groups, use scouts and will circle the wagons if necessary. The main difference is that we have bigger and better wagons now.”
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.
“The convoy training in the desert was a lot better than here in Okinawa, where we could still see trees,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Kemperman, 26, from Saugatuck, Mich., who will be a lead vehicle driver on convoys in Iraq.
The desert training had “a lot more realism (and) I’m better prepared for what to expect in Iraq,” 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 he’s a little nervous.
But with all the training he’s had, Santos, who joined the Corps in October, said he knows he’s prepared for war.
Martinez said such confidence in the unit comes from the company’s staff noncommissioned officers and noncommissioned officers.
“All the SNCOs have been to Iraq before,” and they’ve freely shared their experiences and lessons learned, Martinez said.
“When I came here, I was just blown away how good the SNCOs and NCOs are,” he said.
One of those NCOs, Sgt. Charles Trask, 23, stresses “constant awareness of your situation and surroundings and the very real threat of [improvised explosive devices].”
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 unit’s first deployment to Iraq.
“It blew out my eardrums, and I was considered deaf for 21 days,” 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 “to pay attention to what’s not natural in the surroundings,” he explained.
Trask tells his Marines “you need to always be attentive and keep your training in mind,” he said. “They know what they have to do and how to perform it correctly because that’s going to save their lives.”
Staff Sgt. Charles McDew, 34, from Atlanta said he also emphasizes the importance of motor transport’s job.
His Marines “are more than just truck drivers loading up gear,” McDew said. “The people you see on the news and hear about, they can’t do their jobs without us.”