FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
Cpl. Rene Sotelo, the loadmaster for 2nd Platoon, Truck Company B, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, spends anywhere from six to eight hours preparing the trucks before each convoy. Eight stops later the Chicago native and his fellow motor transportation operators return to Forward Operating Base Nolay after driving through the night resupplying 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Deployed out of 33 Area, Camp Pendleton, Calif., the platoon runs combat logistics trains throughout the 1/5 battle space six nights a week. When not on the road, they are on standby to respond to the needs of the battalion by providing security, aiding the insertion and extraction of other convoys and conducting vehicle recovery.
“Every infantry battalion needs a support element and it’s important for us to be attached to them to get the supplies out there to the ground pounders,” said Staff Sgt. William D. Hanna, the motor transportation operations chief for Truck Company B. “Logistically; we are the backbone of the battalion. We allow the infantry to do what they do because the Marines [of Truck Company B] out here are diligently going on the road every night providing supplies.”
The platoon resupplies every company position with necessities – ammunition, water and chow as needed during their CLR trains. Those Marines rack up a lot of miles to ensure that that personnel, gear, mail and anything else moves fluently through the battle space to keep 1/5 on their feet, said Sgt. Daniel A. Arcuri, the logistics chief for 1/5.
“We get worn out. The most missions we have done in a day is six,” said Sotelo, 23, a 2006 graduate of Martin West High School. “Our whole mission out here is to support the grunts so that they can support themselves in combat operations. These all-night convoys make sure operations are sustained here in Sangin.”
Despite being tired the Marines know that their long hours are not in vain and that every mile they cover means that a rifleman does not have to remove from a squad to conduct internal resupplies. Fewer Marines at the companies would reduce the mission capabilities of 1/5.
“Any unit would be functional, but would be hurting if they had to support themselves.” said Cpl. Christopher E. Lucio, a mechanic for Truck Company, serving as the battalion’s unit movement control center’s watch officer. “The battalion would lose a lot of Marines. By pulling their own Marines to do the logistical needs, the companies would have to do fewer patrols because they have less to work with.”
“Truck Company keeps the battalion in that one track mind to get their mission accomplished,” said Lucio, 25, from Houston.
Like most staff non-commissioned officers Staff Sgt. William Hanna’s, the operations chief, mindset is also focused on mission accomplishment and making sure that his Marines and the Marines of 1/5 get home safe.
“We make things happen. The battalion calls on us to get people where they need to go and that is our job as motor-T operators,” said Hanna, 26, from Salt Lake City and a 2002 graduate of Uintah High School. “It is important for us to be available so missions are not hindered to allow the infantry to do their job more efficiently.”
Working towards that end the platoon always goes out when called upon, said Sotelo, who deployed to Iraq in 2009 to support 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, as a gunner for CLR missions.
“I am willing to do anything I can do for a patrol base or grunt out here,” said Sotelo. “We enable the battalion to keep going by just giving them the supplies and logistical support they need.”
Their dedication is seen by the Marines and sailors of 1/5 who are resupplied and transported within the battle space despite what is happening.
“Truck Company enables this battalion to efficiently function and continue combat operations without missing a beat,” said Arcuri, from Tacoma, Wash., and a 2005 graduate Wilson High School. “They are the wheels that keep us rolling out here.”
The district of Sangin is located roughly 300 miles southwest of Kabul, the nation’s capitol. First Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment’s mission is to conduct counterinsurgency operations, partner with Afghan National Security Forces and foster the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in their area as a unit of Regimental Combat Team 8.