Photo Information

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Joe Plank, an operator with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's motor transport section, installs a run-flat low-profile tire at the tire shop here June 8. The battalion's Motor 'T' Marines service several military trucks' engines, transmissions and electric systems, along with freighting fuel and water to locations throughout the camp and Fallujah.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Virginia native’s team keeps their Marines truckin’

8 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

It is literally driven mercilessly into the dirt.  Weighed down by hundreds of pounds of bullet-proof armor and numerous men, it lumbers along the shoddily paved roads of Iraq.  And after an entire day operating underneath the sweltering sun, it’s time to go on a nighttime patrol.  No rest for the machine.

That is a day in the life of a truck here.  Men like Cpl. Michael Morgan ensure these vehicles, which are expected to perform as efficiently as the Marines who operate them, are fit to handle the daily hardships of operations in Iraq.

“The heat here is really hard on the trucks,” explained the 21-year-old Burke, Va. native, who currently serves as a mechanic and safety noncommissioned officer-in-charge for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment motor transport section.  “The engines run pretty hot as it is, so we had to find ways to mess with the coolant to cool them down.”

That’s only one problem the 2002 Lake Braddock High School graduate and his teammates tackle here everyday.  Morgan helps man what he calls the camp’s “full-service garage,” where Marines bring in their trucks for repair and restoration.

“We pretty much work here from sunup to sundown,” he stated.  “Our day starts here at 0700, and it usually doesn’t end until 2100.  We basically spend it turning wrenches.”

Here, he and fellow mechanics pass the time conducting everything from routine oil and air filter changes, to servicing transmissions and replacing starters.

“This shop can be both like a Jiffy Lube and a full-service garage, depending on the individual Marine’s level of experience,” Morgan said.  “I’d say it’s more full-service, though, because we do some third echelon maintenance around here.”

He referred to how the Marine Corps categorizes types of vehicle service.  First echelon consists of routine maintenance, such as oil changes.  Second echelon refers to servicing a vehicle’s brakes and springs.  Third echelon requires a Marine mechanic to service engine and transmission components.

These highly trained mechanics repair the normal wear and tear vehicles obtain from the environment they are operated in. The battalion’s Marines drive their trucks through Fallujah’s pothole-ridden roads and take them off the beaten path through the surrounding rock and crater-laden fields on a daily basis. This wear and tear puts a beating on a vehicle, no matter how rugged it is.

“The sand here messes up the brakes a lot,” Morgan explained.  “The bumpy roads, terrain and weather definitely play a role in breaking down the vehicles quickly.”

Morgan’s shop services approximately 15-20 trucks everyday, many of which he said are “15 to 20 minute long quick-fixes.”

The Motor ‘T’ Marines also support their infantry counterparts in providing security and stability to Fallujah’s people.  Several operators, or drivers, are attached to the battalion’s infantry companies throughout the city, where they serve alongside their fellow Marines by ferrying the troops and their supplies during operations.

Additionally, Motor T Marines conduct several trips every week to refill the Marines’ supply of water and fuel, both in Baharia and in bases throughout Fallujah.

“We get the guys out there as much as possible to do these types of re-supply missions,” explained Staff Sgt. George Ferguson, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s motor transport maintenance chief.  “The mechanics also go out on the road to fix the vehicles at the bases out in town.”

At least once per week, Morgan or one of his fellow Marines travel in a convoy that provides infantry Marines administrative, logistical and technical support.  At every stop, the mechanics inspect the infantry Marines vehicles and perform on-the-spot maintenance.

“When we go out in town, we keep up our awareness and try not to get complacent,” Morgan stated.

The days for Morgan are spent doing more than driving and turning wrenches, however.  He added that although he has been a Marine for approximately three years, this first deployment has taught him valuable lessons.

“You learn that it’s more than what you see in the U.S.  I never really thought about the people here, how they’re just normal guys like we are, living day-to-day life.  It’s opened up my eyes to see that people who complain in the U.S. really have no right to, because we have it made.”

Several more months of hard work await his unit, but the team keeps their spirits as high as a topped-off tank of fuel.

“We’re having a good time here in Baharia, but at the same time, we’re all ready to go home,” Ferguson stated.  “My mechanics have been doing an outstanding job.  We’re looking forward to finishing up here and coming home.”