FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- The dual threats of improvised explosive devices and ambushes make conducting a convoy one of the most dangerous missions in Iraq.
But without them, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit would be unable to move troops and supplies to the places they need to be.
Despite all the dangers lurking on the roads of Iraq, the drivers of MEU Service Support Group 24 think convoy runs are the best part of their day.
"The only time [being here] is fun, is when I get to drive," said motor transportation operator Lance Cpl. Ryan Krieger, 20, a Bloomingdale, N.J., native with the Motor Transportation Detachment, MSSG-24. "I don't have to see the same place all day."
With incessant danger up and down these treacherous paths, the drivers of MSSG-24 take every precaution necessary to ensure their mission is completed with as few casualties as possible.
"We [come across] a suspected IED almost every day," said Lance Cpl. Patrick Gerke, 21, a logistical vehicle system driver with the Transportation Support Detachment, MSSG-24. "Most of the time it's nothing, but I'd rather stop and take time out [of the] convoy than drive through."
To combat the hazards of the Iraqi roads, the 24th MEU put all of its drivers through several convoy live-fire courses in Kuwait prior to arriving in Iraq. The MEU also installed up-armor, steel plates on all of its vehicles offering more protection for the Marines inside the vehicle. Prior to their departure, the Marines participated in Training in an Urban Environment at Camp Dawson, W.Va. There they practiced driving with night vision goggles, and the proper response to threats such as IED's and ambushes.
Another key defense against potentially lethal incidents is the attention to detail inherent to every Marine.
"The drivers and gunners keep their eyes open for anything unusual," said Cpl. Paul Rivera, 24, the chief dispatcher for the TS Detachment. "If they suspect something, they'll use their communication [assets] to halt the convoy and inform [their command]."
Reactions such as these have become second nature to these Marines as they fearlessly deliver packs, laundry, ammunition and supplies such as food and water to some of the most dangerous places in Iraq.
Preparing for the worst is half the battle in a combat zone, but it's that foresight that the Marines believe will make it possible to return home to their families when their mission is done.