Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
Life as a motor transport operator in Afghanistan doesn’t just consist of driving around all day, transporting personnel and equipment.
In fact, the Motor-T Marines supporting Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), pitch in beyond the driver’s seat to keep the unit rolling.
New York City resident Pfc. Norberto Ariza works as a Motor-T operator and helps his section complete numerous tasks they face on a daily basis in support of RCT-8. He’s one of six Marines in the RCT-8 Motor-T section working diligently to support Marines across their battle space.
“A lot of the time we have to multi-task and do the best we can do here,” said Ariza. “Whether I’m driving or turning wrenches, I know what I’m doing is helping the Marines out in the fight.”
Ariza starts off the daily routine with an inspection of the monstrous storage lot, full of everything ranging from mine resistant ambush protected vehicles to refrigerators and air conditioners. He and the team of Marines must sort through all the combat equipment to see what needs to be fixed, what needs to be disposed of, and what’s ready to roll back onto the battlefield.
Nowhere in their billet description does it require them to do this.
Under normal circumstances, vehicle operators leave parts and repairs to the mechanics and repairmen, but Ariza and his Marines are bolstering an undermanned repair section to help get things done.
Gunnery Sgt. Gregg Bellucci, RCT-8 Motor-T chief and a native of Smithfield, R.I., said his Marines don’t have to be told what to do. He said they work hard to make sure the units they support remain operational and have the vehicles they need to accomplish their missions. Sometimes that means a little extra work from Bellucci’s team.
“If we weren’t here to [help] maintain the vehicles, refuel them, order parts for the damaged or broken ones, the units would be inoperable,” explained Ariza. “Without transportation, supplies wouldn’t be delivered and Marines wouldn’t have what they needed.”
Ariza also assists in providing minor repairs for the vehicles that come in and distributes any transportation equipment the units need. The Motor-T section has received and distributed more than 60 mine rollers and upgraded about 130 vehicles with independent suspension systems since arriving in Afghanistan in December.
When subordinate units have an overflow of work, Bellucci’s Marines are more than willing to lend a helping hand by taking some of the work off their plate. Even if it means staying in the shop for a few more hours or filling out the several pages of paperwork to order much-needed parts, the Marines do their best to support.
“I feel like I can count on these guys for anything,” said Bellucci. “Ariza and the boys’ initiave is flawless and I often joke with them by telling them they make my job too easy. I never have to tell them to do something twice, and I’m lucky if I even have to tell them once.”
Ariza and his team do their best to stay one step ahead of Bellucci whenever possible. Bellucci shared an example when he told Ariza, “We need to order those parts by tonight.”
“We did that already, gunny,” he replied.
“We also need to finish getting rid of all the broken … ,” said Bellucci before being cut off.
“All done, gunny,” Ariza countered with a small chuckle.
“These guys just keep on amazing me,” explained Bellucci. “Whether we’re assisting the Georgian battalion, a civilian contractor, or the Marines in our [area of operations], I am confident they will leave our lot satisfied.”