CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Helping to pave the way for a self-governing Iraq, Marines armed with dump trucks and other construction equipment recently repaired rough roads around an infantry outpost on the edge of Fallujah, Iraq, that will soon be home to a battalion of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
The engineers of Combat Service Support Company 113 completed the necessary work - which required almost 20 dump trucks worth of dirt and gravel - in less than a day April 24, 2004, leaving them with enough materiel and time left to resurface a rutted road that wound through a nearby village.
The support company made the repairs in direct support of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which currently occupies the compound in order to keep insurgents from entering Fallujah and threatening coalition efforts to bring stability to Iraq.
The road repairs were only part of the Marines' mission, however.
Along with their own heavy construction equipment, the engineers brought with them vital supplies for the grunts. This essential mission is being mirrored in locations throughout Iraq by the numerous combat service support companies and battalions charged with ensuring Marines on the front lines have all they need.
"They're doing an outstanding job. They're pushing me stuff when no one else can. They really know the meaning of combat service support," said Capt. Jeff R. Stevenson, 30, G Company's commander and a resident of Oceanside, Calif.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jim B. Ficklen, the heavy equipment operations platoon's commander, explained that his unit is the lifeline of combat.
"Whether it's ... staying up all night long, getting a convoy full of ammo, plus chow and water ready, whether we have to drive it in or fly it in, whether it's safe or unsafe, we're going to get it to them, so they can keep doing the things that they need to do to win this fight," said the 33-year-old native of Buford, Ga.
Ficklen often adds additional comfort items to his supply convoys to make the grunts' lives a little easier - everything from fresh fruit to cigarettes. He says his desire to go the extra mile comes from a deep respect for the infantry's mission.
"They're the ones in the fight. They're the ones in need," said Ficklen.
Sgt. Marty S. McHenry, the engineers' platoon sergeant, said he agrees with Ficklen's attitude of putting the grunts first.
"They're doing everything you can think of for us, and all they do is live in that hole, constantly guarding, while I'm over here at 'TQ,' with a PX ... and hot chow," 26-year-old McHenry said.
Since their mission brings them right up to the front lines, the Marines of CSSC-113 potentially see as much action as the grunts, especially with logistics convoys being a common enemy target. And while they completed their road resurfacing mission without hostile incident, several of the Marines agreed it was not the norm.
The last time they were in G Company's area - clearing obstacles and helping build stronger defenses - they started taking small-arms fire and were inundated by mortar and rocket blasts.
While they couldn't safely operate the unarmored engineer equipment while under fire, it didn't mean they were out of a job. Whoever isn't running the engineer equipment mans the lines with the grunts.
"We don't just sit in the corner," said Ficklen.
In one instance, this support went so far as actually integrating their troops and vehicles into a combat patrol to take the place of G Company vehicles that had been damaged by mortars, rockets and improvised explosives.
"We were fortunate to have a few hardback humvees with crew-served weapons and the Marines trained to operate those weapon systems. They were short Marines and equipment, so we helped them out as much as we could," said Ficklen, who added that some have referred to his Marines as 'cowboys,' for being willing to go out so often and put themselves on the line for the grunts.
While on the patrol, the combined infantry and engineer Marines came under attack three different times.
"We dismounted and then we swept through and we cleared houses," said McHenry, a native of Grants, N.M., who lead the engineers on the patrol.
Though most of the engineers had never been in this type of situation before, they conducted themselves admirably. The patrol even secured a truck full of enemy rockets and mortars, which they later destroyed.
"Everybody did what they were supposed to ... nobody got hurt and we got the bad guys," said Lance Cpl. Ashlee R. Wright, 20, a heavy equipment operator from Kansas City, Mo., who was deployed to Iraq last year, but came under fire for her first time on the patrol.
Working under the direction of the 1st Force Service Support Group's Combat Service Support Battalion 1, the support company assists in accomplishing CSSB-1's six-sided mission to provide ground troops in Fallujah with supplies, maintenance, transportation, engineering, health services and general support.