Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Engine roars burst under the sunny morning sky from the monstrous trucks and off they go outside their protected walls, where potential threats are constant and the terrain is unforgiving. From sunrise to sunset, these hard-working Marines are always on the move. It’s their mission to roll through the rough roads of Afghanistan from patrol base to patrol base, supplying their fellow warriors with the food, water and any other supplies they need.
The motor transport section for 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, brave the all-too-real threat of roadside bombs to serve as the logistics train for the Marines and sailors throughout their battle space.
More than 14,000 miles have already been logged, ridden, and traveled in the four months they have been supporting the hundreds of service members in the unit. The team of motor transport operators travels these miles to provide food, water, fuel and any other essential supplies to keep the Marines in the fight.
“My guys have been outstanding, especially with the resources they’ve had to work with,” said 29-year-old Sgt. Carlos Perry of Baltimore. “They willingly risk their lives every day to make sure the infantry Marines, who in turn are risking their lives for us, are supplied with what they need, and they do it with a smile.”
Perry, a vehicle commander with the unit, added that smiles can quickly turn to straight faces, come game time, as they take their jobs quite seriously. Since March 11, when they already had about a month in Afghanistan, they’ve delivered more than 18,000 cases of food, 250,000 gallons of fuel, and about 1,400 pallets of water throughout the entire unit’s area of operations. In fact, they were able to supply 68 pallets in a single day. That’s nearly 50,000 bottles of water delivered across the Musa ‘Qala district in 24 hours.
Pendleton, Ind., native Lance Cpl. John Gaw is a motor transport operator with the logistics train and drives a 7-ton vehicle that carries thousands of pounds of supplies on a daily basis. The 20-year-old Pendleton Heights High School 2009 graduate has driven more than 600 miles on his truck alone and delivered in excess of 5,000 boxes of food.
“The numbers go on and on,” he said. “All this work, the driving and loading and unloading, takes a toll on your body, but we always stay alert for any type of improvised explosive device threat on the road.”
The bumpy, unpaved roads send the Marines bouncing back and forth, despite their vehicle safety belts. Still, they must remain vigilant and cautious with every push on the gas pedal. Explosive devices still lurk through some parts of their area of operations and are the leading cause of casualties for these Marines.
Marines like Longmont, Colo., native Cpl. Seth Soutiea-Burch has experienced the full force of an IED blast. After being struck, not once, but two times during the deployment, he still believes his experience has been a good one.
“The first one knocked me unconscious. So I guess I reacted pretty slow, but the second one I was ready for,” said the young gunner with a smirk. “I still think Afghanistan has been a nice experience overall. I’ve been to a lot of areas around this place, and it’s nice to know we’re helping them out and making a difference.”
The Marines have helped keep the Betio Bastards, as the unit is known, from ever going without, food, water, fuel and even generators. They understand the risks that come with being out on the road every day and traveling through routes that put them in vulnerable positions for the enemy to attack. Perry continues to stand by his Marines, however, and has full confidence in their abilities to successfully accomplish any mission.
“They do (their job) fearlessly, and a lot of them are more valiant then I’ll ever be,” said Perry. “One thing they’ve taught me was to never take life for granted because you can be here one day and gone the next. My guys have shown me what true courage is all about, and for that I am grateful.”
Editor’s note: The battalion is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.