Truck Company keeps 1st Marine Division rolling

27 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

They've got diesel running through their veins.  Their language is as raw as the throaty rumble of the huge engines on which they turn wrenches.  Skinned knuckles and faces smeared with grease are testament to the work that keeps the 1st Marine Division rolling.

Marines of Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division are taking on the task every day of keeping Marines and supplies moving across the Iraq's Al Anbar Province.  They chalk up hundred of miles a day moving through a zone as big as North Carolina and brave attacks just trying to keep the engines, and the division, in smooth running order.

"We usually have about 50 trucks in some phase of the maintenance cycle at any given time," explained Cpl. T.J. Maglio, one of the company's mechanics.

Maglio, of Madison, Wisc., said the mechanics have fixed "everything imaginable" since being here.

"In conditions like these," Maglio added, "anything that can go wrong with the vehicles will go wrong."

The company, comprised of four operations platoons and one mechanic platoon, is here providing vehicular support to various units operating from the Al Anbar Province in western Iraq.

Three of the operations platoons are attached to infantry units in the area. The fourth platoon is here providing support to Headquarters Battalion.

From transporting cargo and troops to other camps to revamping broken vehicles, Truck Company works round the clock to make sure its mission is met at the end of the day.

Some of the company's warriors serve as the drivers for the scores of convoys leaving here day-in-and-day-out. Others stay behind and use their truck-repairing know-how to keep the division's transportation assets up and running.

According to Staff Sgt. William J. Pinkerton, 4th Platoon Sergeant, between 25 and 40 vehicles are dispatched from the camp's motor pool everyday.

"The operations platoon makes sure the vehicles leaving here are in good condition before they go out," said Pinkerton, of Marion, N.Y.

Maintenance of the trucks is no easy task. The Marines must give each vehicle a thorough "quality check" everyday.

Those trucks classified as unfit for travel are left behind for the company's mechanics.

The mechanics see a lot of engine breakdowns and brake problems. According to Maglio, the malfunctions don't usually come as a surprise to the Marines.

"A lot of the vehicles have overheated engines because of the heat, so we expect it to happen," he said.

Each week the Marines go through about 30 gallons of oil and change more than 40 tires per week.

Still, not all the vehicles are brought in for common mechanical problems. Some need to be repaired following enemy attacks. Razor-sharp shrapnel from mortar explosions and improvised explosive devices shred rubber tires. But it's not just vehicles traveling on the roads that are affected. Even the trucks in the camp's motor pool are not spared from the effects of enemy action.

Maglio said a mortar round recently exploded near a seven-ton that had just been fixed. The mechanics had to replace several tires.

"It gets frustrating when we fix a truck and then something like that happens," he said. "But that's our job - to fix the vehicles." 

Once the trucks are ready for the road, they are used to transport troops and cargo to other camps in the province.

"We use humvees and seven-ton trucks to move Marines and supplies around the area of operations," said Staff Sgt. Gregory S. Britt, operations staff noncommissioned officer. "If a unit needs transportation support, we're here to support them."

Depending on where the convoys go, those convoys can last a few hours to an entire day. The Marines know leaving the security of the camp is dangerous work, but Britt said they are more than prepared.

Before leaving, the Marines rehearse procedures for enemy attacks.

"Every time we go out we do immediate action drills to make sure everyone knows what to do if we are attacked," explained Britt, of Goldsboro, N.C.

Marines like Lance Cpl. Lindsay M. Zella know how quickly things can go bad. She sometimes serves as a driver for the convoys.

She got her first taste of combat a few weeks ago during a trip to the eastern portion of Al Anbar Province. Her convoy was hit twice by enemy small-arms fire.

"We got hit on our way back here from (Baghdad International Airport)," said the Painesville, Ohio Marine. "The Marines in back of the truck, my assistant driver and the gunner all returned fire, but my mission was to drive."

Zella said she was pleased to get to put all her training to use. Fortunately, no one was injured during the attacks.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what your job is," she added. "The chance Marines here will see combat is just as great as any infantryman. Being a driver, I'm just as much of a target."

Maglio believes the mechanics and operators of Truck Company play an integral role in the division's mission in Iraq.

"When I see the vehicles pull out, I know without us the convoys wouldn't be able to leave," he said. "It's rewarding to actually get to see that what we do is important."