AL HASA, Iraq -- Locating and counteracting improvised explosive devices is part of a normal day for the Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). During those missions, they may encounter IED blasts, small-arms fire or rocket-propelled grenades.
When the enemy manages to disable one of their vehicles, the battalion relies on a dedicated small group of Marines to come to the rescue: the wrecker operators.
“We are very vital to 9th ESB’s operation,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse W. Harrison, a wrecker operator with Support Company, 9th ESB. “If a vehicle is damaged in any way, it is up to us to get it out of the danger zone and back to base.”
“We can’t complete our mission without them,” said Staff Sgt. Kain Van Holland, 27, commander of Security Team, 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 9th ESB, and a native of Peru, Ind. “Our wrecker team is always there for us when we need them most.”
The four-man crew is divided into two teams. The Marines alternate from one mission to the next, avoiding fatigue and constant exposure to danger.
“Whenever you are put into a situation recovering a vehicle and ensuring the area is clear, it makes you understand your capabilities as a Marine,” said Cpl. Jason A. Caldwell, a wrecker operator with Support Company.
“Going into a dangerous area and operating under extreme conditions is worth it,” said Caldwell, 22, native of State College, Pa. “It’s our goal to get the vehicle out safe and keep the operation going.”
According to the wrecker operators, the pressure and stress of the job provides an adrenaline rush with every mission.
“If somebody tells me there is no way to recover that vehicle, I love it,” said Harrison, 19, a native of Tacoma, Wash. “No matter how bad the condition is, we will find a way to recover that vehicle.”
The wrecker operators will continue their efforts to recover damaged vehicles until they return to the United States in spring 2007.
“I’m always going to be there for those Marines,” said Caldwell.