HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Fuel is a mission essential commodity that can affect operational tempo, and when fuel levels at forward operating bases run low, Afghans are often contracted to refill their tanks.
Marines and sailors with General Support Motor Transport Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion (-) (Reinforced), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) prepped and screened local nationals who were selected to participate in a fuel delivery mission to northern Helmand Province, May 13.
Each local national passed an individual inspection that verified the driver was not a member of the insurgency, and each vehicle had to pass its own series of tests administered by the Marines.
“We go through and make sure there is no critical maintenance needed or damage to the truck,” said Cpl. Thomas Adams, quality control and modification noncommissioned officer, Headquarters Platoon, GSMT Co.
Before motor transport mechanics assessed the readiness of the fuel trucks, a separate inspection was conducted to check for contraband.
Cpl. Seth Sheppard, military police canine handler, Military Police Support Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force, inspected the truck with his military working dog, a German shepherd who is trained to identify dangerous substances by their odors.
Once the truck was cleared by the military working dog, Marines took flashlights and inspected the cab of each truck as well as any compartments located outside of the vehicle. They also checked areas under the truck and trailer where contraband could be hidden.
Though illegal items pose a significant risk to the success of the fuel mission, mechanical issues that could grind a tanker to a halt are just as problematic. As a prevention measure, the mechanics popped the hoods and checked each truck for any possible problems that could arise.
“If they are not mission capable, they don’t go on the movement,” said Adams. “If a truck breaks down, it stops the whole convoy. It slows down our mission and makes us vulnerable, so we check everything before going out.”
The mechanics inspected everything– tires, wheels, brakes, transmissions, frames, suspension and fluids – a full vehicle inspection reduces the possibility of problems on the roads of Helmand Province.
Meanwhile, the Afghan nationals went through their own screening process. Using the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, Marines with Security Plt. checked each driver in the system.
“The general idea of the HIIDE is to get every local national that Marines encounter into the system,” said 1st Lt. Joe Ware, intelligence officer, 1st Main. Bn. (-) Rein. “The HIIDE allows us to identify any individuals linked to nefarious activity.”
The HIIDE is used to take a photograph of a person. The machine scans their iris, facial features and their fingerprints. Then the person’s information is run through a database to check if the individual is flagged for security reasons.
“It’s an operational security measure, and it ensures that our Marines are safer because we aren’t taking out bad guys on our fuel runs,” said Ware.
After each driver and their truck was cleared, they prepared to fill up with more than 200,000 gallons of fuel before setting off on the mission to support those FOBs in need.