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Convoys in Iraq give new meaning to fast food

25 Mar 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

It's not a drive-through lane, but Marines convoying chow to outposts in Iraq are giving fast food a new meaning.

Convoys from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, based in Ar Ramadi, Iraqi, are much like the rest of the 1st Marine Division's effort to get everything from hot chow to combat resupply to the Marines beyond the main camps' perimeters.

Marines wake up hours before the crack of dawn and are prone to enemy assault every time they drive along the roads here to ensure at least two meals are delivered to their fellow warriors.

Their day begins after a convoy brief, where they receive intelligence updates and go over immediate action procedures should they encounter enemy attack. They then load up their gear and weapons onto their vehicles, prepared to handle any missions during the convoy.

"The Marines at the outposts are on guard or on patrols 10 to 12 hours a day sometimes," said 2nd Lt. Parker Burke, contracting officer and one of the battalion's convoy commanders.

"It's crucial for morale to get these guys hot meals in order to maintain a fast-paced operational tempo."

The combat outposts are not equipped with fully operational dining facilities, so food and drinks must be brought in from larger military posts in the area.

Burke, of Atlanta, added, "Sometimes the Marines get breakfast and dinner, sometimes
breakfast and lunch. It just depends on what's going on and when the convoys can run."

Whatever meal is not brought is replaced with leftovers from earlier feasts or Meals, Ready-to-Eat.

"When we deliver the food to the Marines, they're always very appreciative," Burke explained.  He knows from first-hand experience.  He's personally led a half a dozen convoys.

"Even if we're late, it doesn't bother them because they're just glad to have hot chow," he added.

The Marines working the convoys also have the secondary responsibilities of delivering and picking up mail and transporting other Marines to the different camps.

"We joke that the convoys are the Ar Ramadi mass transit system since we take people to and from the camps," Burke said.

The groups of Marines who man the convoys change day-to-day. Everyone belonging to the battalion takes a turn lending a hand to make sure the trips run smoothly.

Pfc. Jerry L. Pickron, motor transport operator, said he has been on "too many" convoys to remember the exact number, but is glad to get the opportunity to get out and help fellow Marines.

The 20-year-old also explained that he is quick to remember how dangerous being on the convoys, which can last nearly 18 hours, can be.  There is always the threat of random improvised explosive devices, small-arms and mortar attacks.

"I was on a convoy that got hit by an IED," Pickron said. "It hit the vehicle in front of mine. I remember the loud explosion and a cloud of smoke.  Luckily, none of the Marines were injured."

Lance Cpl. David B. Harris, imagery interpretation specialist, was also involved with that convoy. It was his second logistics convoy.

"I can still hear the IED go off in my head," Harris explained. "It definitely makes me pay more attention to what's going on outside the vehicle."

After the explosion, the Marines on the convoy ran through the list of responses for defense of the convoy, countering a threat.

The Marines conduct rehearsals before leaving on the convoys so everyone knows what to do should things take a turn for the worst.

"We've trained long and hard for these convoys," Burke explained. "Even before leaving for Iraq, we were doing immediate action drills to better ourselves for these kinds of operations."

The training has come in handy for the Marines and has eased their fears about being hit by IEDs or small-arms fire.

"I don't really worry about being attacked because we've trained so much for this kind of stuff," Pickron said. "We just have to keep on going and get all the food and mail and stuff delivered."