Photo Information

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq - Marines of Headquarters Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment perform supply and logistics runs, keep communication assets working, and maintain personnel accountability for their company. The 21 Marines have been assisting their infantrymen conduct counterinsurgency operations since mid-March.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Alpha 1 6 HQ Marines keep the line ready to fight

8 Sep 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

In post-war Iraq, prolonged firefights and urban house-to-house conflict are uncommon. The country's roadways, however, remain perilous as insurgents continue lacing them with homemade roadside bombs to target passing U.S. and Iraqi military convoys. It's a danger that comes with the territory for Marines like Cpl. Daniel McNeill and his fellow warriors with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Twenty-one-year-old McNeill and 20 other personnel comprise their company's Headquarters Platoon, a contingent of troops whose job skills range from mortar men to radio operators to truck drivers. Together, these Marines and Navy corpsmen support their infantry brethren as they conduct counter-insurgency operations in Saqlawiyah, a farming community on the outskirts of Fallujah. "We've done well over 500 convoys during our time (six months) here, during which we've been 'IEDed' three times," said McNeill, referring to insurgent attempts to attack the platoon's supply and logistics convoys using improvised explosive devices. "It happened to us twice while we were on a run to get morning chow." Everyday, these Marines risk their lives as their convoys take them miles away from rural Saqlawiyah to their battalion's headquarters outside Fallujah to pick up food, mail and supplies for their company. McNeill said providing logistical support is only one of Headquarters Platoon's multiple functions. "We go on every company-sized operation and every raid the company does," the Marianna, Fla. native continued. "Not only do we add an extra rifle platoon to the mix, but we provide a detainee handling team, casualty evacuation capabilities, and re-supply runs during certain missions." While the company conducts operations, they are monitored by their headquarters element. "It's our job to keep the company COC (combat operations center) running," the 22-year-old Sacramento, Calif. native continued. "We keep comm up with the battalion, troubleshoot our radios, and assist the watch officer to track patrols that are out. If a squad on patrol is having problems with their comm gear, we'll troubleshoot them via radio." Communicators like Alvarez also played a pivotal role in helping their company set up their base of operations when they arrived here in April. As the infantrymen filled sandbags and stretched concertina wire to fortify their position, Alvarez laid out wire for communication from various outlying guard observation posts to the base COC. Now, he said, rooftop and perimeter sentry posts are equipped with field telephones directly connected the company’s command center. While the communicators help monitor the battle, Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Mannick oversees the company aid station. Inside this makeshift hospital, corpsmen can treat injuries ranging from skin infections and colds to gunshot and shrapnel wounds. "Marines can come in here any time of day, because this station works as a 24-hour hospital," Mannick explained. "We meet all their basic care needs here. Normally, though, the corpsmen on the line take care of everything. My docs are on auto-pilot when it comes to taking care of Marines." Personnel within Headquarters Platoon also keep accountability of the company's troop strength and help process intelligence data gathered by Marines in the field to forward on to higher for further analysis. Many of the Marines performing the platoon's assorted tasks are mortar men by trade. Though they stay ready to rain destruction on the enemy from afar, these infantrymen primarily serve as augments for Headquarters Platoon. Their job is to perform general purpose and miscellaneous tasks to keep the company operating smoothly, McNeill explained. Through their tireless support, this 21-man platoon has played a huge role in enabling Company A's operational success, and will continue to do so during their last several weeks in Iraq, McNeill said. "We're working hard, just like everyone else here, to keep things running," he added. "If we weren't here, it would be a lot rougher on the line platoons, because they would have more duties to perform and watches to stand. The fact that we’re here enables everyone in the company to get a little extra sleep."