CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- A faded and torn desert MARPAT blouse lies atop a pile of others like it, awaiting an imminent demise faced by many before it. Though now tattered and beaten by the sun and Afghan heat, the blouse is familiar to this warehouse, as just a few months before it was freshly folded and stacked in a crate with all the other size medium regular’s awaiting issue.
The seemingly simple process of exchanging new for old may appear easy enough from the outside looking in, but for the Marines of the Task Force Belleau Wood supply office, the sorting, distribution and issuance of every piece of coalition gear in the unit is a full time job.
“It’s our job to handle anything from admin supplies to vehicle repair parts to (consolidated issue facility) gear and uniform items,” said Cpl. Joel Lewis, an Atlanta native and the due and status file non-commissioned officer for the supply office. “By the time we get the previous load sorted out and issued, we have another one coming in on a truck.”
With such a large volume of gear, vehicles and miscellaneous items needed to make the headquarters element function, the Task Force Belleau Wood supply account accrues a net value that is in excess of $200 million at any given time.
This price tag includes every meticulous item including computer paper, camera gear, windshield wipers and personal protective equipment for the individual service member.
Even the most obscure items are in constant demand and orders must be met in order to match it. In neatly stacked crates and boxes, these items wait until needed to fulfill their purpose.
“If I told you we ordered 500 bags of dog food you would think that’s crazy, right?” said Lewis. “But once you actually found out how many dogs there are out here and how much food they go through in a week you would realize it is a valid request.”
In order to manage the largest supply account in Helmand province, it takes an entire team to effectively supervise the costly logistical assets of the task force. Billets are assumed by each Marine so that the office can cover every facet of the supply mission.
“If we aren’t all on the same page then things aren’t going to flow right and stuff can get messed up pretty easily,” said Cpl. Christopher Chapman, the office’s administration chief and a native resident of Hogansville, Ga. “Everyone has to work with one another so that the place runs smoothly.”
As the shipments continue to roll in approximately three or four times per week, every Marine works seamlessly together in order to accommodate every unit in the command, regardless of which branch or service they are supporting.
For supply Marines like Cpl. Paul LaCroix, the shop’s Theater Provided Equipment non-commissioned officer, working to support another branch of service is the sole purpose of his duty in Afghanistan. As the TPE NCO, LaCroix’s position exists exclusively in a deployed environment to provide fingerprinting, imaging, security and surveillance equipment to the Army.
With everyone in the shop working to support the unique challenges and logistical obstacles that a deployed supply element faces, the common goal of sustaining every operational unit within the task force motivates some to execute their duties with pride.
“Anything we can do to support our guys- that’s what we are here for,” said Lewis.