CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Leaving behind the small island of Okinawa, Japan, a small group of Marines is now navigating the dangerous roads of western Iraq to keep a steady flow of supplies to troops on the frontlines.
As the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based, Combat Logistics Battalion-5 prepared for their deployment to Iraq last year it was decided they needed more troops.
When a request for an additional motor transportation platoon was sent, a detachment from the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, headquartered in Okinawa, answered the call to help their counterparts in the treacherous Al Anbar Province.
They are now the 3rd Platoon of Combat Logistics Company 115, and are serving alongside their California comrades of CLB 5.
Their mission is somewhat comparable to civilian truck drivers stateside as they transport supplies throughout the Al Anbar Province. The difference for 3rd Platoon is the always present danger of attack as they brave the deadly roads while conducting daily supply runs to ground forces operating in and around Fallujah, .
Supporting these ground forces has been a constant and steady workload for the platoon.
Since arriving in late February, 3rd Platoon has conducted more than 40 convoys traveling over 2,000 miles. Essential supplies like 77,000 gallons of fuel, 76,000 gallons of water, and 200 high-volume containers full of water and gear have been pushed out to Marines in need. More than 500 Marines and Iraqi recruits have made it to where they needed to be thanks to 3rd Platoon's troop movement missions.
Nearly 400 concrete barriers used for protection at military buildings and outposts throughout the region have also been transported through the platoon's efforts.
Essentially borrowed by their new company, the Marines could have easily been separated and reassigned to other platoons within CLC 115, said Capt. Ronney Herrera, the platoon's commander. Instead, they were kept together and have remained a tight-knit group of Marines.
Herrera is grateful to still have this direct control over his Marines given the history they have as a unit and the familiarity the platoon has with him as their commanding officer, he said.
"No one knows your Marines better than you do," said Herrera, a 31-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas.
The leadership already in place within the platoon along with the quality training the unit had conducted in Japan prior to deployment quickly convinced the company commander that his new Marines were a solid addition, said Capt. Scott A. Zelesnikar, CLC 115's commanding officer.
It was "a very easy decision" to leave the platoon intact, Zelesnikar said.
"You train together, you live together... you know each other," said the 33-year-old native of Rome, N.Y.
The bulk of the platoon's pre-deployment training in Japan took about six months, beginning with combat skills such as machine gun handling before focusing on the basics of convoy operations like pre-convoy briefings and effective communication between the vehicles during the operations.
The Marines then performed longer, more realistic convoys at Camp Fuji, located on Japan's mainland, where they familiarized themselves with properly organizing and controlling convoys.
There was also a lot of mental preparation by Herrera's Marines in anticipation for "the reality on the ground," he said. While performing the role of a truck driver in combat may not seem like a heavy burden to bear, the threat of the insurgency is real and continually evolving.
Sergeant Willie T. Carr, a convoy commander for 3rd Platoon, experienced this threat first hand when he escaped unscathed from a recent insurgent attack.
The assault came in the form of an improvised explosive device, a favored weapon among insurgents. These tools of the enemy are makeshift bombs often found partially or completely buried along the uncertain Iraqi roads.
A 25-year-old native of Dublin, Ga., the compassionate Carr has been given the moniker "Uncle Willie" by his fellow Marines, as he is often found lending a listening ear or giving a comforting word to whoever needs it.
Carr preaches the simple truth of not getting 'laxidazy' here. He reminds his Marines to continually sharpen the skills they have and to perfect their standard operating procedures.
"This isn't a game out here," said Carr quietly, as his Marines prepared to head out on another convoy, this time to provide food for Marines training Iraqi soldiers at a small camp on the outskirts of Fallujah.
Herrera has stressed to his Marines to view their deployment as a learning process, applying lessons learned from each and every convoy they conduct to the next trip outside the security of the camp.
"There is no halfway point (to a deployment)," Herrera explained. "You reach a peak at the end."