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Marine wrecker crew keeps roads clear in Fallujah

20 May 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Twenty-four-hour towing centers can learn a few things from the mechanics from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

They do it all – while getting shot at.

Marines from the battalion’s Motor Transportation Section proved their worth recently when they cleared a suicide car bomber’s vehicle that smashed into a barrier on a bridge.  They cleared the suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and debris, opening the vital link into Fallujah.  They did it all while maintaining security against further insurgent attacks.

On top of all that, they’re keeping every humvee and truck in the battalion ready to roll.

“It is very important for us to be ready when the call comes in,” said Gunnery Sgt. Randall H. Boga, the motor transportation section’s operations chief.  “Whether it be changing a flat tire or clearing downed vehicles out of the road, the Marines here are ready.”

It was that sort of readiness they relied on when they got the call to respond to the attack on the bridge.

“We were dispatched to a site that involved two downed vehicles and a lot of debris on one of the bridges in the city,” said 38-year-old Boga.

A seven-ton wrecker and a flatbed truck were placed into position to clear the obstacles off the bridge.  Traffic to and from the city was blocked, choking a vital link for both military and civilian vehicles.

“My team showed up to see which vehicles needed to be lifted out and we quickly learned that it was a little more challenging than we thought it was going to be,” said 23-year-old Cpl. Scott C. Baker Jr., a motor transport operator.

An Iraqi Army truck was destroyed in the blast and the immobilized vehicle was sitting halfway up the bridge, blocking most of the roadway.  What was left open was barely wide enough for two-way traffic.

Baker and his recovery team climbed over the smoldering hulk and cleared the way for the seven-ton truck to squeeze by the charred wreckage.  They maneuvered the wrecker’s lifting hook to the roof of the bomber’s wrecked car. Two chains were used to pull the destroyed vehicle away from two dirt filled barriers it was pinned against.

“Every time we go on a recovery mission, it is a learning experience,” said Baker, from Pitcairn, Pa. “It took a few ideas to get it off the ground, but we got it out of there.”

“We had to drag a few pieces of debris out of the way too,” added Boga, from Erie, Pa. “The engine block and the front of the bomber’s vehicle were still on the bridge.”

The section not only takes care of problem vehicles that come into the shop, they are completely self-sufficient.  They react to any situation with their own security team and full line of recovery vehicles.

“Providing our own security allows us to be a lot more independent and alleviates other Marines from being taken out of the fight,” said Cpl. Trevor E. Grondin, a 24-year-old motor transport operator from Sabattus, Maine.

The Marine are acting as a quick reaction force, refueling and re-supplying the Marines assigned to the forward operating bases, and continuing to replace needed parts.

“If it’s in the battalion, we try and fix it,” Baker said.