1st FSSG's MPs prepare for worst when escorting convoys

26 Mar 2004 | Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere 1st Marine Logistics Group

Marines convoying through Iraq delve into a risky business, where potential danger lurks along the roads beset on halting the lifelines of support and slowing the progress of coalition forces.

The guardian angels who strive provide a halo of protection for convoys of the 1st Force Service Support Group, and who push out supplies and other support to Marines in Iraq, carry a badge, somewhere, underneath their Kevlar.

Military police from Headquarters and Service Battalion's Military Police Company at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, as well as several companies from 2nd FSSG's MP Battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C., now spread throughout Iraq, shoulder the burden of protecting the numerous convoys, which truck Marines everything from their ammo to letters from home.

In the case of an enemy attack, whether it is an improvised explosive device or small-arms fire, the field MPs escorting the procession are trained to spring into action to eliminate any threat.

"(The convoys) are told to push through," said Staff Sgt. Don J. Sugden, 32, a platoon sergeant with the company. "It's our job to aggress the target."

Since arriving here March 9, 2004, the company has provided security for more then 15 convoys and in the process, encountered at least two homemade bombs and two mortar attacks.

"Our biggest threat right now are (improvised explosives)," said Cpl. Scott L. Patton, 24, one of the company's squad leaders.

One recent run-in that required immediate action involved a local motorist who was trying to split-up the convoy with his vehicle.

According to Patton, the MPs had to "kill the engine" by opening fire to disable the vehicle. The driver was left, unharmed, on the side of the road.

The MPs are a part of the 25,000 Marines under the command of I Marine Expeditionary Force deployed to western Iraq in support of ongoing security and stability operations safeguarding the country's peace process.

In addition to protecting convoys, the MP Company here also supports the reserve infantry Marines of 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, who defend the base.

At their home base of Camp Pendleton, Calif., the company has split duties, said Patton. Half of the company trains and acts as full-time field MPs. The other half of the company works for the base's Provost Marshal Office, where they serve as policemen who patrol the area and guard the gates.

The MPs' knowledge is critical for the infantrymen, who have to "shift gears" for their camp security role, which includes patrolling the perimeter and searching anyone who attempts to enter the camp, including civilian workers who hold jobs on base, said Maj. William C. Maples, the Group's force protection officer.

Prior to departing for the Middle East, the MPs received training in land navigation, patrolling, convoy operations and prisoner-of-war handling.

The training, said Sugden, leaves the MPs primed for the worst.

"We come out prepared to be aggressive and for them to lay an attack," the Elk Grove, Calif., native said. "And if they don't ... they don't."
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