CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Keeping more than 1,000 men fed and supplied to fight in Iraq's austere desert environment may be no easy task, but it's one vehicle operators like Cpl. Jesus Valles gladly tackle.
From freighting tons of food and evacuating critically injured troops, to helping sort hundreds of pounds of mail and supplying camps with thousands of gallons of water, this 25-year old Pecos, Texas native and his team of mechanics and vehicle operators service every logistical need their infantry brethren have.
Valles is one Marine with 2nd Platoon, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division who works nonstop to keep 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment fit to battle the insurgency in Fallujah and the nearby rural province of Saqlawiyah.
"We pretty much do all the supply runs around here, and we're always prepared for anything," said Valles, a 1998 Pecos High School graduate.
Together, he and his 42 platoon mates traveled from their home station of Okinawa, Japan to help the North Carolina-based battalion fight terrorism.
Their journey from Far East to Middle East began aboard their island duty station last year, when these Marines first came together. Marines, many of whom had volunteered to deploy to Iraq, from four different commands within 3rd Marine Division formed into 2nd Platoon and commenced training for their seven-month security and stability mission.
"I was excited when I found out I was coming to Iraq, because I'd enlisted to come over here and take part in the war," Valles said. "We started to do a lot of the same training the grunts did, like taking apart different weapons systems and taking IED (improvised explosive devices) classes. They placed a really strong emphasis on convoy training for us, too, because of our jobs."
In January, Valles' unit traveled stateside for their first training evolution with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, their future comrades-in-arms. They participated in a combined arms exercise and urban security and stability operations training in California to prepare them for their upcoming mission in Iraq's turbulent Al Anbar province.
It was time well spent for these Marines, Valles stated. Soon after arriving here in mid-March, Valles and several other Truck Company Marines started operating side-by-side and living with the battalion's infantrymen.
"Everything I did on the line was something I had done during training," Valles stated, referring to how he conducted hundreds of convoys, vehicle check points and raids alongside his infantrymen. "We made a good team. We (vehicle operators) helped the grunts by bringing them chow and saving them a lot of time and energy by not having to walk with all of their gear on some missions. They helped us by constantly patrolling our convoy routes and keeping them free of IEDs."
While working as part of the battalion's Company B, Valles helped evacuate a Marine who had been shot in the finger to a nearby military hospital.
Currently, he works out of Camp Baharia, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's headquarters.
While the battalion's mechanics and their Truck Company counterparts service the vehicles, Valles and his fellow operators perform daily supply runs for camp personnel and the grunts living within Northern Fallujah.
These supplies include transporting approximately 18,000 gallons of bulk fuel and 36,000 gallons of water per week.
"We supply all of the water and fuel to the bases, and we even have some of our Marines working as part of the camp's guard force and helping man the ECPs (entry control points, stations outside Fallujah where Iraqi police and Marines search vehicles and personnel entering the city)," stated Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Shamy, 2nd Platoon's staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "The Marines work from sunup to well past sundown to keep the trucks running and the supplies flowing, and they do it without complaints. I couldn't be any prouder than I am of my guys.”
The Truck Company Marines' hard-working ethic is embodied in individuals like Valles. Shamy said Valles was recently meritoriously promoted to his present rank for his devotion to duty.
"Corporal Valles is a hard-charger," Shamy continued. "He takes charge of his fellow Marines to get them working, not by yelling and cussing, but by leading by example. He's self-driven, and the Marines listen to him."
Shamy added that this sort of team spirit is not unique to Valles, but seen in 2nd Platoon as a whole. They will continue working together to help secure Iraq.
"When I first came here, I thought I'd be nervous, but with all the training we did before, I think we prepared for this mission pretty well," Valles stated. "We're all just doing our jobs out here, working hard, and things are running smoothly."