AR RAMADI, Iraq -- As Marines and Iraqi Security Forces on the ground protect the community by providing safety and security for the citizens here, it is the Marines of Detachment 2, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) who provide strong defensive positions for the protectors.
The heavy equipment operators with the detachment are responsible for placing force protection measures such as concrete barriers around the city’s numerous observation posts and delivering vital supplies such as Meals Ready-to-Eat and water.
Lance Cpl. James R. Armstrong, a heavy equipment operator with the detachment, said the equipment they use varies for each mission.
The Marines mainly use either the Tractor Rubber Tire Actuated Multipurpose forklift known simply as a TRAM, or the Military Millennium Vehicle.
Corporal David J. Francis, a heavy equipment operator with the detachment, performs these types of missions daily.
“We load the barriers at Camp Ramadi, then offload them when we get out into the city,” the Denham Springs, La., native explained. “Wherever you see a concrete barrier in Ramadi, it had to be put there by us.”
Many observation posts in Ramadi are former homes of Iraqis now occupied by Marines. Prior to the emplacement of the barriers these houses provide minimal protection for the infantrymen who inhabit them.
Today’s mission is Observation Post Gunfighter. Besides having an intimidating name, the observation post is controlled by 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and overlooks streets in which insurgents have been known to lurk.
The heavy equipment operators are not intimated and a have a mission to perform – keeping their fellow comrades safe.
“Whenever we are there operating, it’s great to know we are helping them out,” Francis continued.
Since being with the detachment, Francis said he has gotten to try all sorts of mission types, which include night missions and lifting anything the Marine Corps needs them to.
The operators’ missions can last for days. When they are not operating, they switch “hats” to riflemen, providing security in the observation posts with the troops on the ground.
“My favorite types of missions are the ones when you get to scoop something,” he said with a smile. “What I mean by that is getting to pick up a strange and awkward item can be fun.
Lifting metal Conex boxes or Quadcons is what we do in the States and it gets boring.”
Boredom is something the heavy equipment operators do not experience often because of the long hours they spend working, Francis said.
“We do missions non-stop and many units don’t understand our capabilities and our gear. A lot of the time units will call and be surprised on what we can actually do for them.”
Armstrong explained that his job has some personal satisfaction at the end of day.
“Seeing a finished product at the end of the day is hugely rewarding,” the Elkhart, Ind., native continued. “It’s also great to help out fellow Marines in combat. That is what we are here for.”