AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The Marines of 2nd Marine Division conducted operations across the hundreds of miles of Al Anbar province to rid the country of the terrorist threat and make the streets safer for Iraqis again. But if the fuel doesn’t flow and the ammunition doesn’t get there, none of that happens.
Major John W. Harman, material readiness officer for the 2nd Marine Division and Poolesville, Md., native, and his Marines here ensure ground forces receive what they need to accomplish their mission and quell the insurgency.
Material readiness deals with, but is not limited to, issues involving supply chain management, distribution, equipment maintenance and supply support. Harman, a 1990 Poolesville Junior/Senior High School graduate and 1994 graduate of North Carolina State University, manages the distribution pipeline “from the factory to the foxhole” for the 2nd Marine Division, making sure the right gear is at the right place at the right time.
“Everything we push is transparent to you as a customer,” Harman said. “That commander on the battlefield whose trying to do his mission shouldn’t have to worry about where his box of (meals ready-to-eat) is sitting or how long it’s going to take to get fuel pushed to his location or equipment replacement for the up-armored humvees.”
To accomplish this, Harman has eight Marines under his supervision operating as a material readiness logistics team. The team pushes out from Camp Blue Diamond to the regiments and the brigade regularly to determine each commander’s needs and how they can improve logistics support.
So, for example, while Operation Steel Curtain was driving Al Qaeda in Iraq-led insurgents out of Husaybah, Karabila and Ubaydi, Harman and his teams were working behind the scenes, silently ensuring the Marines had the support they needed to take the fight to the insurgents’ doorsteps.
“Once he got here, he picked up the ball and ran with it, taking on the responsibilities of keeping things moving and that continues on to this day,” said Lt. Col. James C. Johnson, deputy G-4 logistics for the 2nd Marine Division. “And he is doing an exceptional job.”
But as Harman sees things, it all boils down to protecting the Marines.
“The three main priorities we have for supporting the war-fighter is the up-armored hummers, handling personal affects for Marines, and then providing sufficient personal protective equipment,” Harman said. “Making sure every Marine has the right piece of gear that he needs to be safe while operating in this environment.”
Harman has deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism before, but this is his first time in Iraq.
In March 2002, Harman deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for seven months with Joint Task Force 170, where he was the director and deputy director for logistics in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In December 2002, Harman deployed for another seven months to Kuwait as part of the landing force support party, 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward), in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Now in his third deployment to as many countries in support of the Global War on Terrorism, Harman is glad to have the opportunity to serve his country.
“One of the most noble acts anyone can do is defend their country,” the 33-year-old husband and father of two said. “People who don’t understand what you do can sleep at night knowing that America’s sons and daughters stand ready to come out here and protect their freedom.”
Harman’s job requires him to prioritize the movement of material, but, as he puts it, his heart is his family. And they are behind him 100 percent.
“If you were to ask my family, I wear this cape with a big ‘S’ on the back of it.”
Jodi, Harman’s wife, and his children, Nathaniel, age 10, and Timothy, age 5, understand he has a lot of pride in what he does and that gives them a sense of pride in what he and his Marines do in return, Harman says. It’s hard, but they do their part, too, and pray not only for his safe return, but for all the Marines and their families.
“My mother is her own USO,” Harman says laughing. “Everyone wants to do their part and it’s her way of doing something for the Marines that are out here.”
While it may be hard to be away from family, Harman says he will be a far better officer for having been here. He will eventually take this experience back to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., where he will continue as a material readiness and distribution analyst and member of an integrated distribution team that looks for ways to improve distribution across the Marine Corps.
“To be the best at what you do, you have to work with the best and that’s what I have here with my Marines,” Harman said. “I have the cream of the crop when it comes to professionals and what they do best.”