FORWARD OPERATING BASE ROBINSON, Afghanistan --
It takes a lot of heavy lifting to transport the tons of food, water, ammunition and other supplies needed to sustain warfighters on the frontlines, which is why heavy equipment operators are so vital to the counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan.
To keep critical supplies moving from the supply lot to the battlefield, heavy equipment operators use a multitude of vehicles, such as Tractor, Rubber-tired, Articulated steering, Multi-purpose vehicles, or TRAMs, capable of loading, unloading and transporting thousands of pounds of cargo at a time.
“We move it all,” said Sgt. Austin T. Wurmb, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of heavy equipment with 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “Motor [transport] Marines use us to load up for convoys, and on a flightline, we load and unload all the mail, ammo and food going to the troops.”
The heavy equipment Marines also accompany motor transport Marines on combat logistics patrols, and if a vehicle becomes immobilized, whether from mechanical failure or enemy fire, heavy equipment vehicles can assist in moving the vehicle out of the danger zone.
“If HE is on a convoy, it can help recover a downed vehicle,” said Wurmb, 26, from Grey Summit, Mo. “They can quickly get it out of the kill zone if it has been hit by an IED.”
The heavy equipment Marines not only move cargo, but they are also responsible for supporting engineers who build and improve forward operating bases throughout Helmand province. Heavy equipment vehicles, such as bulldozers, are used for earth moving, grading and filling Hesco barriers, making it possible to construct a FOB from the ground up in just a few days.
“You can’t build a FOB overnight with shovels,” said Wurmb. “With HE you can put a berm around an area in just a few hours. Without HE, you would be living in a fighting hole.”
In addition to helping build FOBs, heavy equipment operators assist with road improvements, laying gravel and leveling out uneven roads, aiding in the movement of both coalition forces and local Afghans.
“I’m with engineers so I build and improve a lot FOBs,” said Lance Cpl. Colin M. Williams, a heavy equipment operator with 1st Platoon, Charlie Co., CLB-2, 1st MLG (FWD). “Our brethren in 8th Engineer Support Battalion are improving roads, and the HE guys on the flightline are loading and unloading cargo.”
For some heavy equipment operators, driving TRAMs and bulldozers is a dream come true.
“Every child loves playing with Tonka trucks,” said Wurmb. “We get to live that dream and move the earth.”