SAHL SINJAR, Iraq --
The versatility of Marines and the demand for them in any climb and place sends them off in all directions. Whether pushing out on missions, resupplying their fellow Marines, or anything in-between, the sporadic movement of the green machine resembles that of a thrashing, multi-tentacled beast.
At the heart of this beast, there needs to be a sense of order to control the flow and organize the movement in a sensible, practical and efficient way.
For Marines working at Sahl Sinjar, that heart is the Arrival/Departure Air Control Group of Combat Logistics Company 19, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
CLC-19 is part of the first Marine Air Ground Task Force outside of al Anbar province, Iraq, since 2004. They provide logistical support to forces committed to preventing arms smuggling across the Syrian border and deterring insurgent activity. All Marines and supplies in support of this operation fly through the A/DACG.
“Everybody has got to move through us in some way or another,” said Cpl. Nathan W. Strupp, the A/DACG noncommissioned officer in charge.
Strupp, 23, from Kent, Wash., and his Marines oversee multiple flights a day, getting equipment and supplies out to operating units or supplying replacement Marines to sustain the fight.
“It’s really a gatekeeper role,” said Lance Cpl. James P. Murphy, cargo preparer for the A/DACG. “A lot of it is knowing what’s supposed to go on and off the helicopter,” said Murphy, 23, from Santa Clara, Calif.
With passengers, it’s simple enough. They will sign them in, and count them off before walking them out to the aircraft.
Dealing with inanimate objects is a different story.
They face a variety of equipment that needs to be moved from one place to another. Broken fuel pumps needing repair, new fuel pumps to replace them, Humvees, palletized gear or anything else needed in combat operations; it all goes through them. With all of this gear, a lot of planning and communication is required with the pilots to ensure there is a space for everything.
But this isn’t hard for the Marines at Sahl Sinjar. With their experience, they have it down to a science, which is important when they only have 100 inches to play with and a Humvee standing 102 inches that needs to be loaded.
“Can you climb up on top?” asks Cpl. Troy N. Harris, day shift noncommissioned officer at the A/DACG, stretching a tape measure the height of the vehicle.
Finding the vehicle still too tall, Harris, 22, from Burien, Wash., deflates the tires enough so the vehicle will make the clearance.
When the plane arrives, there is no stress for the pilots who know their forces on the ground have ensured everything is in order.
“We do all the (preparation) work to make sure the chains are tight and everything is swept off,” Strupp said.
Ensuring the load will fit and is secure is only the beginning. The pilots also need to have a balanced cargo hold.
“We’ll say we have seven pallets,” explained Strupp. “(The pilots) do the math and tell me what order to load them up.”
Then it is up to the ground crew to ensure all of the gear is prepared for flight and organized on the flight line so it will ensure a fast and easy load.
Once all of the passengers and gear is unloaded and the outgoing are on their way, the process starts again for the A/DACG Marines.
Being at the forefront of key movement for combat operations may be a hectic experience but it can also be extremely rewarding for those involved.
“I know that I have a meaningful job because I can see what we’ve done,” Strupp said. At the end of the day it is easy to count their accomplishments when they oversee all of the people and gear they have moved.
“Everyone has somewhere they need to go,” he said. “Anytime crews are swapped out, Marines are sent on emergency leave, or going out on missions, everybody has to move though us in some way or another. It’s definitely meaningful.”
As operations along the Syrian border continue, Marines bring the fight to the front lines with help from the movers and shakers on the ground that ensure they get where they are going with everything they need to accomplish the mission.
Whether it is day or night, they are there, maintaining control of the beast and keeping the big green machine up and running.