AL-QAIM, Iraq --
AL-QAIM, Iraq – It wasn’t the improvised explosive device which detonated on the patrol route, or the add-on mission that had Sgt. Kevin W. Fennel impatient at 8:30 p.m., Aug 4.
Fennel, convoy commander, just wanted his interpreter back.
Despite unforeseen delays and the ever-changing nature of Marine Corps missions in the al-Anbar Province, Fennel and the “Misfit” Marines of 1st Squad, Security Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group successfully and safely delivered a group of tank operators and their M-88 Tank Retriever to al-Qaim.
Eventually the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines who responded to the IED extracted enough information from nearby Iraqi Police, and returned Fennel’s interpreter. That wasn’t until the “Misfit’s” five gun trucks had posted security for approximately 45 minutes.
“At least they caught the trigger man,” Fennel, 27, Glenn St. Mary, Fla., said.
Fennel and his Marines run security missions almost every day. Security Co., handles everything from route reconnaissance, to personal security, to regular resupply operations. This run in particular carried a somewhat unique cargo.
“We’re heading up to (Al Qaim) to drop of two trucks full of tanker guys and an M-88,” said Lance Cpl. Axel G. Alicea, 24, Berlin, Conn. The tanker Marines used Transportation Support Co., for a ride and Security Co., to ensure their arrival near the Syrian border.
The border is a “key point for insurgents,” said Lance Cpl. Marc T. Prudom, 21, East Rochester, N.Y. “They could easily get through the border in some places, so by pushing out and making these outer posts, (the tank operators) can keep an eye on the border to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Without the M-88, the other half of the squad’s mission, the tankers would have a harder time keeping insurgents and weapons from crossing into Iraq.
“(The M-88) directly corresponds to combat readiness,” said 1st Lt. Jeff M. Holt, 29, Camp LeJeune, platoon commander, Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division. “If the tanks are not up to speed, maintenance-wise, we are completely ineffective.”
The M-88 and its operators can repair a damaged tank in the field, on the spot, without calling back for support. Without it, tank operators would have to dismount their vehicles to perform awkward field maintenance, exposing them to enemy small arms fire. The M-88 indirectly protects Marines and enables timely mission accomplishment.
But first, the Marines of Security Co., have to make sure it gets to the fight.
“Our primary mission is the safety of this convoy,” said Fennel, “so that the M-88 and the tankers can successfully conduct counter insurgency operations, running missions out of al-Qaim to help keep insurgents away from the border.”
Executing the mission is the “Misfits” bread-and-butter, Fennel said. Preparing for the mission is tedious, but once they’re out on the road, everything comes naturally, he said.
“Get up early, test fire, and get all the trucks ready for the day. Get all the radios in the truck, get them working,” said Alicea, listing his pre-mission duties. As soon as the unit leaves the wire, it’s all business.
“Run into any problems, get through it, finish the mission, get to the next base, and call it a day,” said Alicea, radio operator, Security Co.