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Photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Redding

Communication during convoys a must for Marines in Iraq

30 May 2006 | Cpl. Daniel J. Redding

As the sun goes down, a convoy pushes across the treacherous roads of the Al Anbar province performing combat operations under the cloak of the settling darkness.

Vehicle after vehicle drive on as their machine gunners scan the desert landscape with a steady eye, staying on the lookout for anything suspicious.

Towards the front end of the convoy, the scout vehicle spots something suspicious further down the road. The vehicle commander immediately assesses the situation and radios an alert to the rest of the long trail of vehicles fading into the darkness behind him. Everyone is now aware of the possible threat.

With an ever-present danger from roadside bombs and enemy ambushes, being able to pass this type of information throughout a convoy is extremely important in this insurgent-plagued region west of Baghdad.

With around 300 convoys and other trips successfully conducted throughout the Fallujah area, Marines with the Communications Platoon of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 are running strong, if not better than ever, said Platoon Sergeant Sgt. LaRoyce M. Broom.

The battalion directly supports the Marine infantry unit in the Fallujah area, Regimental Combat Team 5, by making daily re-supply runs to the different camps and outposts scattered throughout the city and its surrounding communities.

Communication is critical for convoy commanders like 2nd Lt. Autumn D. Swinford, a 24-year-old native of Fredericktown, Mo.

"The more information that I have, and the ability to pass that information, can completely change a situation," said Swinford, the officer in charge of 1st Platoon, Combat Logistics Company 115.

Having a communications Marine by her side "makes it so much easier to make decisions on the spot," Swinford said.

The communications platoon has been providing Marines for an average of three convoys a day since it arrived at Camp Fallujah in late February. Each convoy relies heavily on their communications capability and always makes sure they have a Marine who specializes in communications along for the ride.

Some Marines in the company have been on 40-plus convoys in the last three months, said Gunnery Sgt. Raymond E. Adams, Communication Platoon's chief.

When a convoy heads outside the security of camp, a communications specialist will be with it to help the Marines monitor their ability to communicate not only within the convoy but also to ensure the gear is working and relaying information back to the base.  This ability allows Marines to call for assistance for situations like encounters with improvised explosive devices, or vehicle repair should one of their armored trucks break down.

If the convoy is large enough, the platoon will send additional communication Marines in case major needs arise, such as malfunctioning radios, Broom said.

For Broom and his Marines, their mission is a success every time a convoy returns to the safety of camp.

There are "a lot of lives" directly affected by how quickly and efficiently a communications Marine receives and relays pertinent information, said Lance Cpl. Michael J. Valentine, serving his second tour in Iraq.

While out on missions personnel within the unit must be kept up-to-date, and the convoy must be in constant communication with other units operating in the area to avoid any confusion, Swinford said.

There is a strong foundation of experience in the platoon, said Broom, given that more than a dozen in the company have deployed two or more times.

Broom, a 25-year-old native of Dallas, is currently on his fourth deployment, having served more than 26 combined months in this area.

Some of those who deployed previously served elsewhere in Iraq under different commands. This collection of varied knowledge aids the platoon, Broom said.

"The experience (we have) makes the operations go a lot smoother," he said.

Serving her first tour in Iraq, Sgt. Diana V. Fabian has handled the responsibility of keeping communication lines open for upwards of 30 convoys so far this deployment. Two of those convoys have endured improvised explosive device attacks.

As the favored weapon of the insurgency, IEDs are bombs often buried on the treacherous roads Fabian and her fellow Marines travel on a daily basis.

Not deterred by the dangers, the 20-year-old Chicago native says her primary motivation each time out is supporting those Marines who serve on the frontlines.

Email Cpl. Redding at daniel.redding@cssemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil.
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