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Lt. Col. Drew T. Doolin, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group, stands proudly alongside the Marines of Headquarters Company March 30, 2006. Aside from their primary mission to provide logistical support to Marine and Iraqi forces in places like Ramadi, Hadithah, and Al Qaim, the battalion is also training Iraqi soldiers to carry out their own logistics operations.

Photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Redding

Battalion commander: Logistics Marines ‘key to the fight’ for independent Iraq

13 Apr 2006 | Cpl. Daniel J. Redding

“If the American public could see what these young service members do every day (in Iraq) it would bring a tear to a grown man,” said Lt. Col. Drew T. Doolin, the commanding officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 7. Although he has served as the first Marine aide to the vice president and will soon work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., the pinnacle of his career, he says, has been serving here in Iraq as a commander in war, leading his Marines on a daily basis. The battalion of nearly 1,200 Marines and sailors provides food, ammunition, medical supplies and other logistical and combat engineering support to Marine forces operating in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province and are key to the fighting and rebuilding ongoing in Iraq, said Doolin.The battalion arrived here in February as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s forward deployed element, a force of approximately 23,000 Marines and sailors, and has been working non-stop ever since. The battalion specializes in what they call ‘consumable logistics’, which include resources, like vehicles and generators, and supplies, like construction materials and food, Marines need to conduct their operations throughout this far reaching territory that borders Jordan and Syria.In this wartime environment, logistics Marines are critical to the fight given the sheer distance that must be traveled to deliver all the supplies needed by service members carrying out these daily operations, Doolin said.As the fighting in Iraq continues, the overall understanding of the importance of logistical support continues to grow, making the infantry and logistics units increasingly interdependent of each other, said Doolin, a native of Peotone, Ill.“If you like to be in the middle of a cyclone, logistics is a great place to be,” Doolin said, because, “the entire mission stops without logistics.”Aside from their primary mission to provide logistical support to Marine and Iraqi forces in places like Ramadi, Hadithah, and Al Qaim, the battalion is also assisting with training the Iraqi soldiers to teach them how to carry out their own logistics operations. This is Doolin’s second tour leading CLB-7 in Iraq, a unit based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. He previously deployed with the logistics Marines from August 2004 to February 2005, when the unit was known as Combat Service Support Battalion 7. With the experience of the last deployment under his belt, Doolin says he is eager to see his battalion maintain a high level of safety and operational tempo for the duration of their time here, now that they’ve adapted to new co-workers and improved tactics and procedures.“The advantage of coming out again is that I know where this battalion needs to be (so that we are) at the highest proficiency of mission accomplishment and safety,” he explained.The downside to this second deployment, Doolin said, is that the Marines are under intense pressure to quickly adapt to a changing battle space and “reach their peak proficiency early on.”On their last deployment, CLB-7 handled several million pounds of cargo via convoy and air transportation, while their convoys traversed more than a million dangerous miles throughout Iraq, according to the unit’s records.The battalion is maintaining this track record with their current deployment by driving more tactical miles than any other similarly sized unit in the Marine Corps, said Doolin.Tactical miles are the same distance as a regular mile, but U.S. military personnel have tacked on the word “tactical” to describe the harsh road conditions and potential dangers they face while driving their humvees and trucks on Iraq’s uncertain roads.So far during this deployment, the battalion runs anywhere from one to five convoys a day, called combat logistics patrols, covering more than 20,000 tactical miles a week. A convoy can involve upwards of 70 vehicles, both civilian and military, although numbers are generally not that high for normal operations.While covering so much terrain in Iraq’s far reaching areas, the Marines often encounter locals in some of the towns and villages they drive through.Interacting with the local populace allows them to help maintain a positive view of the American service members in the area, said 1st Lt. Marykitt B. Haugen, the executive officer for Truck Company, CLB-7.“Our mission has evolved to not only deliver supplies, but to win the hearts and minds (of the Iraqi populace),” said Haugen.Another evolution for the battalion over the last several years is the roll of civilian contracted trucking, particularly with the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown and Route Services, Incorporated.KBR’s trucks are carrying more of the logistical load here, Haugen explained. A key benefit to this change is the size of the contractor’s trucks, which can carry upwards of three times what the Corps’ capabilities are, she said.Within the battalion’s 1,200 personnel, more than 900 of which from other units throughout the Marine Corps, Doolin has sought to implement a “focus downward” leadership mentality to guide the battalion molded from all over the world, he said. For Doolin and his Marines, this downward focus amounts to the higher-ups, the civilian equivalent to mid-and-upper level management, continually keeping the needs and concerns of their personnel in mind as the mission is accomplished.“If you take care of your Marines, everything else will take care of itself,” Doolin explained.Now a month into their deployment, the unit has responded well to the high expectations of their commanding officer, said Sgt. Maj. Larona Armstrong, the battalion’s senior enlisted Marine who was deployed with Doolin in Iraq in 2004. “I think at first, they didn’t understand (the pressure). They might have thought that he was pushing kind of hard,” Armstrong said. “Once they realized what it was for, that it was for their safety and their success, they fell right in on his philosophy.” For Haugen and her Marines, as they adapt to their commander’s intensity, the experience of those deploying for a second time has played a key roll.The experience of the Marines deployed before allows for the unit to better respond to an ever-changing enemy, said Haugen, a Gillete, Wyom., native.Improvised explosive devices, more commonly known as IEDs, continue to be the biggest threat to convoys. With the knowledge gained from previous deployments, CLB-7 is gamely opposing the insurgency in their area, still considered one of the most active in the country, added Haugen.Roadside bombs are not the only threat the Marines have encountered. Unpredictable weather claimed the lives of eight Marines and has left one sailor missing after the seven-ton truck they were riding in rolled over during a flash flood April 2.As of this story’s release, the Marines are continuing their search to find the missing Navy corpsman.Although the accident was a tragic loss for the battalion, Doolin and the rest of his staff are continuing to press forward and stress safety as no mission matters more than giving the Marines of CLB-7 every possibility of returning home safely.“The things that I am directing and the way this battalion is operating is all behind the premise of getting (my Marines) home alive,” Doolin said.Many of the CLB-7 Marines will be deployed for seven months after which a new rotation of troops will replace them.
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