HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Thirty five civilian trucks carrying approximately 340,000 gallons of fuel left the outskirts of Camp Leatherneck to deliver fuel to forward operating bases in northern Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 13.
In addition to the fuel trucks, Marines and sailors with General Support Motor Transport Company, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Support Battalion 11.2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) accompanied the Afghan drivers to ensure the fuel was delivered without incident.
“Our mission is to provide an armed escort for the local nationals,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Baldwin, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, GSMT Co. “We provide fire support to ensure the trucks make it to the FOBs unharmed.”
The Marines of 2nd Platoon have been conducting fuel escort missions since September and have successfully delivered more than one million gallons of fuel throughout Helmand province.
Escorting fuel tankers on routes monitored by the enemy is no easy feat, but that’s not the only hurdle the Marines have to overcome.
“One of the main challenges we face during these missions is the mechanical readiness of the local nationals’ trucks,” said 1st Lt. Mariela Pena, 2nd Plt. Commander, GSMT Co. “The Marines conduct maintenance inspections on the trucks prior to the mission, but there are still issues that come up.”
Whether the trucks get a flat tire or have engine problems, Marines ensure the vehicles are able to get to their final destination.
“The trucks always seem to break down at the worst possible moment, but the Marines are there to keep the convoy moving,” said Pena, a 34 year-old Walnut Creek, Calif., native. “We will be taking fire, but the Marines will dismount to get the trucks moving again and to keep the local nationals safe. Their courage is amazing.”
Working with local civilians has been an experience the 2nd Plt. Marines have enjoyed.
“It’s been incredible,” said Pena. “We get to know the drivers, and they get to know the Marines. It makes for a really good experience for us all.”
The Marines and 35 local Afghans returned to Camp Leatherneck on March 18 after successfully delivering more than a quarter of a million gallons of fuel to five forward operating bases. This escort marks one of the final missions for the GSMT Marines. They will return home soon after an approximate seven-month deployment.
“This run, like all of them, was outstanding,” said Baldwin, the 29 year-old Meriden, Conn., native. “This is the best platoon I have ever worked with. Everyone works together.”
“The mission is to deliver fuel and keep the local Afghans safe.” Pena said. “The Marines understand this and get the mission accomplished every time.”