CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- It was the mission from hell for Hades.
This week Hades Mobile, the security detachment for Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 5, moved heaven and earth to safely escort a series of Army convoys bearing 201 concrete “Texas” barriers from Ramadi to Fallujah.
“Texas barriers are the sturdiest stuff you will find out here,” said Sgt. Austin Moore, the assistant convoy commander and a 22-year-old saxophonist in the 1st Marine Division Band from Claxton, Tenn. “We know we’re going to protect people.”
“The barriers are needed for force protection in our area of operations. These will protect other Marines,” agreed Staff Sgt. Michael Maschmeier, the convoy commander and a 36-year-old euphonium musician in the 1st Marine Division Band from Eureka, Mo.
The barriers, more than 10-feet tall, cut imposing silhouettes. They were transported in Army logistics carriers. Marines manned Hades’ gun trucks stalking thoroughfares for insurgents and their weapon-of choice, improvised explosive devices.
“We’re here to provide security for you,” Maschmeier said to the soldiers repeatedly in his convoy briefs before each run.
The mission, however, soon proved to be a road paved through hell. Unexpected events crept into the plan and Hades Marines hurdled barriers nearly as tall as the ones they carried. Loading the massive concrete barriers took more finagling than anticipated and forced Marines to adapt their plans.
But Marines maintained their optimism, gritted their teeth and were prepared to step off whenever the barriers were properly loaded.
“I’ve got nowhere to go,” said Cpl. Daniel Rains, a 25-year-old armorer from Thorndale, Texas.
Marines took it all in stride. Delays, adjustments and improvising to complete the mission wasn’t something new for the Hades team, comprised of mostly Marine bandsmen. They do the same thing when they’re gearing up for a performance back at Camp Pendleton.
“When we prepare for band commitments, we prepare for contingencies, so we are not surprised when they happen,” Maschmeier said. “Problems are going to happen.”
And they did.
The second night of the operation was punctuated by a thundering crash many Marines and sailors aboard the convoy mistook for an IED detonation.
Seconds later, events registered, and the Marines in the turrets reported that one of the Texas barriers had toppled off its truck and was lying on its’ side on the desert floor.
Master Sgt. Robert Hufford, a 39-year-old bandmaster from Pleasanton, Calif., quickly seized command of the situation and directed Marines in his vehicle to harness the barrier to a humvee and to drag it off the road so it wouldn’t obstruct traffic.
Once the obstacle was removed, the convoy resumed the first leg of its nighttime journey.
Delayed schedules and toppled barriers aside, the Hades Mobile team continued to safeguard the Army trucks, ensuring every one of the barriers was transported to Camp Fallujah.
“We have all of our guys, all of our trucks,” Machmeier said the first night. “Everyone is safe. That is the bottom line.”
“It was an evolution that allowed us to stretch our legs a little bit and to test the new people,” said Capt. Jason Freeby, the 32-year-old commanding officer of Headquarters Company from Houston.
The evolution also served to satisfy the Marines’ travel lust.
“I’m glad we got a chance to go to Ramadi,” said Pfc. Shawn Stettin, a 21-year-old radio operator from Seven Hills, Ohio. “I like it because we get to see new things.”