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Marines of all stripes walk the line for Darkhorse battalion

5 May 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

There are no pencil-pushers at 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.  There are only extra trigger-pullers.

The Darkhorse battalion, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah, is making it a point that no one gets a free ride.  Everyone earns their campaign ribbons.  Administration clerks are pulling convoy security.  Legal assistants are truck drivers.  Everyone gets outside the wire and everyone earns their combat pay.

Some Marines never thought they’d see the field, even before arriving at their first duty stations.  Lance Cpl. David Reister was told at his military occupational specialty school that he could look forward to a job in an office.  He’s a legal clerk with the battalion.

“They said I’d be sitting behind a desk the whole time, and if I went to Iraq, I’d be sitting behind a desk here,” said Reister, a 19-year-old from Sacramento, Calif.  “Now I spend probably half my time with the grunts.  I get to see what it’s like through their eyes and get out and see the city, see the people.”

For that reason, Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, puts Marines from every occupation – from cooks to communication Marines – through rigorous field training packages during the months between deployments. 

“It doesn’t matter what technical skill they have, this battalion focuses on ensuring that all Marines are trained properly prior to deployment,” said 1st Sgt. Scott Boyer, Headquarters and Support Company’s senior enlisted Marine.  “So it doesn’t matter if I take a guy who does my legal work or one from the ‘comm’ shop and stick him in security, because they’re all briefed and ready to go.”

Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Hinkle worked as a legal administration clerk with the battalion’s administration section for four months before he was attached to the battalion’s civil affairs team.  He’s part of the team’s security for convoys through the city.

“It was looking pretty bleak, that I wasn’t going to get out there,” said the 22-year-old from Philadelphia. “I felt like I was pretty much going to be stuck on the base the whole time.” 

Now, Hinkle’s trouble is balancing the time from duties inside and outside the wire.

Boyer, a 38-year-old from Reading, Pa., said H&S Company’s goal is to take care of the warfighters on the ground, whether through logistical support, legal work, or with an extra rifle.  He said sending support Marines out helps them better understand their role back on base.

“It’s very important to see the rewards of their hard work back here on Camp Fallujah,” Boyer explained. 

Hinkle agreed.

“It’s good to get out there and do something different, to experience what everyone else has been experiencing,” he said. “It’s a good chance to get out and see what’s happening.”

Cpl. Fidel Richard Lucero, a motor transport mechanic with Combat Transportation Platoon thought he’d be turning wrenches under a vehicle in Iraq for seven months. Instead, he spent the last four months working as a vehicle commander and team leader with six Marines under his charge.  He averages several convoys every week to move supplies and Marines throughout the battalion’s area of operation.

“It’s an important job,” said the 20-year-old from Tucson, Ariz. “You have to make sure your Marines have all they need as far as gear and mission accomplishment.  Pretty much, it’s being an all-around Marine.” 

The increased responsibilities also help the Marines know that they actively contributed to the battalion’s success.   

“It’s going to give them a better deployment experience,” Boyer said.  “Now that we’re taking them out of the offices and putting them in the field, it boosts their morale and enables them to see what happens on a daily basis.”

Lucero said the change in assignment was a welcome surprise.

“I think that’s part of the reason I’m in the Marine Corps,” he said.  “It’s good to establish a leadership position and develop those qualities for the future.”