Supply unit is ‘Wal-Mart of western Iraq’
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq — Most of the logistics Marines don’t lament the fact that their combat comrades, who are outside the wire hunting down the bad guy, get more attention.
They’re a modest bunch.
But without them, the infantry and combat soldiers and Marines wouldn’t have the supplies they need to survive.
“It’s not as sexy as kicking in doors … and taking down the bad guy, but these guys work their asses off,” said Maj. Tiffany Harris, commander of Supply Company, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
“Everyone has their place in this fight, and this is ours,” Harris said. The supply company has about $133 million worth of inventory stored at Camp Taqaddum, the logistical hub for all forces serving in Anbar province. “We are the Wal-Mart of western Iraq,” joked Capt. Sean Murray.
The stock is divided into 25,000 categories — everything from uniforms and fire-resistant Nomex gloves to screws, bolts, bullets, bottled water, toilet paper, transmissions, engine parts, tires, radios and radio parts — all stored in roughly one square mile of Camp Taqaddum.
The list of what they don’t supply is much shorter: chow.
Marines have developed a well-orchestrated method of supplying troops at both large facilities and smaller outposts that extend to the Syrian and Jordanian borders.
A key facility is the ammunition supply point, with an inventory of $91 million in ammo, said Gunnery Sgt. Walter Andrews.
Not all of those in the logistics field are “fobbits,” slang for those who stay on bases and rarely, if ever, cross into the “red zone” outside the wire.
The supply runs are risky. Troops and civilians making them are susceptible to roadside bombs, car bombs and snipers.
It took some five hours to make a recent supply run from TQ to Camp Fallujah, a city only 14 miles away. But the direct route once was heavily mined and is often laden with roadside bombs. For safety, supply runs use alternate routes. The recent 50-plus vehicle convoy included security Humvees and up-armored heavy transport trucks.
Civilians, mainly employees of KBR, now make a preponderance of the supply runs, with the military transportation companies doing double duty of hauling goods and providing security.
“For every KBR driver we’ve got, we can take four of these kids and leave them at home,” said 49-year-old Tony Poling, on his second year as a civilian big rig driver in Iraq. “Most of us are older, we’ve got kids who are grown up. A lot of these kids haven’t even had a chance to get started. So if we can do this, why not?”
“Being scared is one thing, being terrified is another,” said Jack Marten, 37, also on his second year. “Scared keeps you awake, alert … Being terrified, you freeze and don’t know what to do. You have to overcome being terrified.”
The workload at the logistical hub is about five to six times greater than what the Marines push when in the States — and they’re doing it with fewer Marines than usual. Half of the battalion has remained home to work inventory and supplies from that end, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 John “Mojo” Simpson, the company’s operations officer.
Marine logistics leaders work on ways to keep as many of the troops and civilian drivers off the roads. “With air assets, we’re saving 600 to 800 trucks a month on the road,” Simpson said. “That’s incredible.”