FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq -- It takes a lot of gear and moving parts to keep an infantry battalion operating at full capacity. Be it parts for the vehicles or gear for the individual Marine, a lot of work is put into acquiring the equipment to keep the battalion ready.
The responsibility of this falls to one section – supply.
On any given day here, Marines from the supply section of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, can be found doing a great number of things to aid in the battalion’s mission of conducting security and stability operations in the Iraqi Province of Northern Babil.
“People say the infantry is the backbone of the Marine Corps. If that’s, true then we are the backbone of the infantry,” said Lance Cpl. Harold A. Alexis, 21, a Boston native and a warehouseman with Headquarters and Service Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, as he spoke about the importance of the supply section. “Without us they wouldn’t have or get the gear they need to do their job properly.”
Making sure the right people have the right gear sums up simply their not-so-simple job.
“Basically what we do is, if the battalion requests supplies or parts from us, then it is our job to get them what they need,” said Gunnery Sgt. Johnnie M. Hughes, 34, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and supply chief.”
“We keep the gear moving,” added Cpl. Salvador Lopez, 21, a San Antonio native and a mechanical-allowance-listing clerk. “If something breaks, we get it fixed. If something comes in, we push it out to the companies.” Lopez added, "I know every Marine is a rifleman, but they can’t be a rifleman without gear.”
However, ordering parts and pushing out gear aren't the only tasks these Marines perform here. Standing guard and joining convoys to protect their logistics train is something they do on a regular basis.
“These guys provide security for the convoys,” said Hughes. “I have two [M-240G] machine gunners and two Squad Automatic Weapon gunners. We contribute a lot to protect our log train.”
Just last week, a few of the supply Marines were put to the test when their convoy was attacked in Al-Musayyib. “I had a lieutenant and two corporals out there helping suppress fire,” said Hughes. “They get right in there without missing a beat.”
“After every single attack, we go right back to work and do the same thing we (usually do during the day),” added Lopez.
To prepare the Marines to deal with situations like this, a lot of attention was paid to training prior to the unit's deployment to Iraq.
“We did training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and at Camp Dawson, W.Va.,” said Hughes. “We did live-fire convoy [operations], convoy rehearsals and other things like [setting the sights on] our weapons.”
Hughes also took five of his Marines with him to California to train in security and stability operations just before departing for Iraq.
There never seems to be a dull moment around the section.
“We wake up every day and something is happening,” said Hughes. “There is either gear coming in or we are working with our number-one contractor. There are parts constantly flowing around here. The Marines also (serve on the) guard force making sure insurgents don’t cross the wire.”
“We put in a lot of hours,” said Cpl. Anthony W. Jovel, 21, an Inwood, N.Y., native and a warehouseman. “Our average work days are 14 to 16 hours. We are out there on guard, doing convoys and anything to support every company in this battalion.”
One reason for the section's success is that the Marines have learned to trust each other.
“We try to make this like a family atmosphere,” said Alexis. “That makes it easy to trust one another. If we can’t trust each other, then we are bound to fail.”
“We have a pretty damn good section,” said Lopez. “To handle a BLT this size, some units have more people to do the same thing we do.”