CAMP COYOTE, Kuwait -- The Marines are happy. They are happy because in a few short weeks, their stay in Iraq will be over. They are happy because they get to return to their families and relax. They are happy because they don't have to worry about how their combat equipment gets back to Camp Pendleton. The last job belongs to the small detachment of Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force Surface Cell.
These Marines inventory the equipment and make plans, then load onto ships all the vehicles and organic equipment that goes back to the United States, whether it works or not.
"This is all gear that was in support of the war," according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Young, Team Embarkation Officer, 1st Force Service Support Group. "A lot of this gear is in pretty bad shape. It's been rode hard. Currently, we roll on most of the gear that's able to roll, anything that's running under its own power. Then all the destroyed vehicles and such that are going back to Albany or Barstow (Marine Corps Logistics Bases) we go ahead and lift on with a crane."
The Surface Cell works 24 hours a day, both before the ship arrives and while it is in port, to get it loaded and shipped home as quickly as possible. This is a big job for a small group of Marines, most of whom working outside their regular job.
"Our crew right now, that we have on our day crew, there are only about 18 of us loading. Its not a real big crew," said Sgt. Drew Bombick, I MEF Surface Chief, one of only six Marines on the day crew with military occupation training in embarking gear and equipment.
"We've been fortunate to have a bunch of good guys that work (hard) and get everything done. These guys are smart, and they're picking up on it, because most of these guys are working out of their MOS, but they've been doing a great job."
"I like it a lot. This is not my MOS, I am a motor transport operator," said Cpl. Adrian Manso, deck NCO, I MEF Surface Cell. "It's challenging to try to get everything on the ship. It lets me take pride in my job and when I do a good job I hear about it."
There are 17 ships scheduled to take Marine Corps gear back to the United States, to both the east and west coasts. Most have already come and gone, but there are a few left. These Marines will stay to the end and be among the last to leave.
"I like it a lot, this is my 11th ship." said Manso, a reservist with 6th Motor Transport Battalion from Orlando, Fla. "I came out here, I volunteered to stay back when my unit left. I didn't really know what I was getting into; I just knew I was coming to the port. Then I got put on the ship loading team."
Most of the people that benefit from them probably don't know these Marines, but their mission allows thousands of Marines, sailors and even some soldiers to get back to their families, jobs and normal lives a little bit earlier. They do this by taking extra time to make sure units don't have to wonder whether their equipment will make it back safely.