MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The trucks rumble along through the cool air like an armored procession of steel and rubber. The gunner in the final truck reaches up to remove his sunglasses as the sun disappears behind a blanket of grey clouds.
It’s been an easy run so far - nobody’s shot at them, and without the sun, the temperature is almost enjoyable.
The truck cuts over a scattering of rocks on the road, and that’s when it happens. Lance Cpl Durrell D. Coleman hears a loud boom, then pain sears through his shoulder. He gasps, and slips into unconsciousness.
Although he’s not awake to notice, the Dinwiddie, Va. native is pulled out of the turret, where his squad members quickly wrap a bandage around his shoulder. When the convoy reaches its destination, he’s rushed to the medical unit. The news isn’t good. With fragments from the improvised explosive device embedded in his shoulder and his left lung rapidly filling with fluid, he’s not going anywhere for a while.
Not until the next exercise, at least.
In preparation for their upcoming deployment to Iraq, Coleman and his fellow Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment have begun a wide range of training exercises designed to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. They have recently been performing convoy simulations, where the Marines travel set routes through Camp Lejeune, responding to ambushes and similar situations.
“They’ve done a really good job on these simulations,” said Coleman, a field wire repairman attached to the battalion. The 2003 Dinwiddie High School graduate spent a lot of time in convoys while deployed to Haiti with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment from March to July 2004. “Even though you’re rolling around the roads of Camp Lejeune, you’re so busy you don’t notice.”
According to Coleman, one of the most important things the Marines must work on is their endurance.
“In Haiti, the longest you might ride was four-to-six hours. In Iraq, it’ll be much, much longer. You have to be able to sit in a hot, cramped truck for extremely long periods of time.”
Although Coleman has been deployed before, he’s still nervous about Iraq.
"It’s ridiculous to think that just because you’ve been overseas once you’ve seen it all. It was a very different environment in Haiti. Who knows what we’ll face in Iraq?” he said, shrugging as he gathers his gear for another convoy simulation.
Coleman and the rest of 3rd Battalion will continue to hone their skills until February, when they will put their training to the test on the roads of Iraq.