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Long-haul truckers pull double and triple duties for battalion

12 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Motor transport Marines with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are proving they’re just as comfortable behind the wheel as they are behind the gun… and everything else in between.

The truck drivers continuously learn new jobs to adjust to the ever-changing war in Iraq.  Motor transport Marines must know how to supply, fix, protect and if need be, gun a truck.  It’s an adaptability required of nearly every Marine with Regimental Combat Team 5. 

“Hang out with us for a week, guaranteed you’ll see us do about five military occupational specialties,” said Lance Cpl. Avery E. Lavoy, a motor transport operator with Headquarter and Service Company.

The 23-year-old turret gunner from Plano, Texas, said driving a truck isn’t enough with frequent convoys traveling through dangerous terrain.

“There isn’t one guy in Motor T that just drives a truck,” explained 2nd Lt. Jordan R. Northrup, a motor transport officer attached to Headquarters and Service Company. “They’re ‘jacks of all trades.’” 

The 26 year old from Lima, Ohio, said he’s sure his Marines can do whatever it takes to facilitate the battalion’s needs.

“I never thought I would be fueling trucks,” said 26-year-old Lance Cpl. George A. Gomez, a motor transport operator from Stanford, Conn., assigned to Headquarters and Service Company.  He’s got the oil-stained hands to prove it.  He always can be spotted filling the big trucks’ gas tanks.

Gomez said he gets a rush trucking around thousands of gallons of fuel.

Other truckers get their blood pumping putting boots to the ground.

Lance Cpl. Richard P. Fortner, a 20-year-old motor transport operator from Powell, Wy., said truck drivers fill the role of provisional infantrymen.  They man the automatic weapons mounted on the vehicles and dismount with their rifles to keep dangers at bay.

Many are thrilled with the “jack of all trades” concept.

“To me, that’s the way everybody should be,” said Sgt. Jason B. Foust, a motor transport operator with Headquarters and Service Company.

The 23-year-old turret gunner and maintenance shop chief said all Marines should know a bit about everyone else’s job.

“They better know their stuff and everybody else’s stuff too,” Foust said. “I know if someone goes down I’ll know how to change channels, jump in a turret or whatever. Who knows when I’ll have to work the machine gun if I’m in the humvee with five people? Someone’s going to have to work the machines.”

Foust credited predeployment training for what he knows.

“I’m glad I went through the schools,” said Foust who has been a turret gunner for three deployments. “It helped me associate myself with what other Marines do. When Marines come in from a hard day in the turret, I understand.”

The training isn’t just for Foust. It’s for all truckers who transport goods to their fellow Marines, from bullets to air conditions to some of the comforts of home.

“We’ll bring them generators, electricians, water, A.C., wood or anything they need,” Foust said. “If my Marines want ice cream and we can fit it on the truck, they’ll get it.”

These Marines are long-haul truckers too.  They regularly log 18-hour days, moving equipment and supplies throughout the battalion’s battlespace.

“Sometimes we’ll go out in the day, then get back at six or seven in the morning and be off ‘til noon, then still have to work that night,” Foust said.

The long hours, skinned knuckles from repairs and sweat-soaked uniforms from hours in the Iraqi summer sun are a matter of pride to the motor transport Marines.  They count them as a badge of honor, an outward display that they’re doing whatever it takes to assist Marines in their battalion.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to help out my Marines,” Fortner said.