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Standing atop a humvee, Lance Cpl. Josh Martin, a 19-year-old from St. Louis, Mo., throws his protective vest on in preparation of manning a machine gun June 2, 2006, as he and his fellow Marines provide security for a re-supply convoy in the Fallujah area. Part of Combat Logistics Battalion 5, Security Company is responsible for making sure the battalion?s supply convoys get to their destination safely. The unit also provides security for explosive ordnance disposal teams and vehicle recovery missions.

Photo by Cpl. Stephen Holt

Security Marines rely on small-unit leadership to guard convoys on the roads of Fallujah

20 Jun 2006 | Cpl. Stephen Holt

Braving roads frequently emplaced with improvised explosive devices is part of the job for a group of Marines who are crucial to the transportation of supplies here.

Guarding explosive ordnance disposal teams who are out neutralizing deadly IEDs, providing overwatch for missions recovering damaged vehicles, and protecting the daily re-supply convoys of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 are the responsibilities of Security Company.

Operating in the Fallujah area, a consistent hotbed of enemy activity for coalition forces, keeps the Marines of Security Company well employed.

With such a variety of tasks and operations happening 24-hours-a-day, the company relies on its junior leaders to get the job done.

The company's noncommissioned officers are in charge of making sure everyone is prepared for the mission and are frequently faced with situations where on-the-spot decisions must be made in the heat of battle, said Cpl. Brad M. Buckman, the leader of 6th Squad, 2nd Platoon.

“Anything that needs to happen, we take care of,” said Buckman, a 22-year-old native of Russellville, Ark.

The small-unit leaders are assigned jobs ranging from ensuring vehicles are in working condition, radio communication is functioning properly and weapons are clean and ready, said Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. Charles, a bulk-fuel specialist and 28-year-old native of West Seattle, Wash.

The duties the Marines in leadership roles go beyond checking equipment and accounting for troops. The Marines maintain their skills on the radios and machineguns by practicing daily and conducting classes that are supervised primarily by the small-unit leaders, said Capt. Brian M. Cannan, Security Company’s commander.

This training is put to the test every day while Cannan’s Marines are braving IEDs and ambushes delivering critical supplies to U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Aside from taking care of their Marines on the battlefield the NCOs also have the mission of making sure Marines under their charge personal lives are taken care of, said Buckman adding that he makes sure his Marines have contact with loved ones back in the United States.

Traditionally, the NCOs and Marines who serve with security companies are made up of military police. Because of the current need for this job specialty stretching the resources thin throughout different units, CLB 5 had to draw on the manpower of other specialties to provide sufficient convoy security.  

A breakdown of the company reveals that there are less of the formally trained MPs, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the company than other specialties outsourced to the security detachment. Only a third of the company are formally trained MPs. The rest come from various vocations like mechanics or communication specialists from units at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

This predicament presented the MP Marines with the challenge of getting to know and “spin up” their counterparts on the finer details of being an MP deployed to Iraq, said Cannan.

“It was like a football team going to the Super Bowl with the coach knowing one-third of the players,” said Cannan, a 28-year-old native of Maplewood, N.J.

Cannan answered the challenge by assigning the formally trained MPs among the platoons in the company to integrate their experience and leadership.

“If it wasn’t for noncommissioned officers and squad leaders, this company would be dead in the water,” said Cannan. “You could have the best company in the world, but if you don’t have the small-unit leadership, the company would be dysfunctional.”

Missions are almost a daily occurrence for all of the squads in the company, said Cannan. During a three-month period, the company has completed more than 400 missions, averaging more than four missions every day.

The long hours are welcomed even though the work can be difficult. Tasks such as making sure paperwork is properly completed and delegating smaller duties such as vehicle repairs falls on the shoulders of NCOs, said Buckman.

“Even though it’s demanding to be in a leadership billet, I wouldn’t trade it. It’s an honor to lead Marines,” he said.

The responsibilities and work done by the company’s NCOs is not being overlooked by their superiors.

“My NCOs set the example for (all) Marines to follow,” said 1st. Sgt. Richard T. Smith, the company first sergeant. “When they get outside the wire they are all business because it’s a serious job.

“I don’t think there is anyone from the battalion who would hesitate to ride with my Marines outside the wire,” added the 42-year-old native from Butte, Mont.
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