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Corporal Christopher E. Gregory, a heavy equipment operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, extends the arm of his Millennia Military Vehicle to lift supplies for Marines here, April 11, 2012. Gregory, a native of Kimble, Neb., uses several large machines to move heavy loads around the base. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Reiriz)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Reiriz

Nebraska Marine bears big burden on deployment

27 Apr 2012 | Lance Cpl. Tyler Reiriz

When a big job calls for a big machine, the Marines call on the expertise of a heavy equipment operator to get the job done.

Corporal Christopher E. Gregory, 23, a native of Kimble, Neb., is one of the few heavy equipment operators here. That means whenever heavy equipment is needed, he needs to be ready.

“There is never a set schedule out here,” said Gregory, who is with Combat Logistics Battalion 4. “I’m really the only one, so sometimes I have to be up as early as 2 or 3 in the morning. I have had to adapt.”

But for Gregory, the long hours are just part of the job - a job in which he said he is dedicated, to help his fellow Marines.

As a heavy equipment operator, Gregory has many duties, operating several types of equipment, including backhoes and bulldozers.

Gregory said the main tool of his trade is the Millennia Military Vehicle, a forklift capable of maneuvering on rough terrain. One of Gregory’s main responsibilities is using the MMV to load supplies onto convoys and aircraft to be delivered to Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, at positions across Kajaki.

Gregory said safety is key in heavy equipment operations. Some of the crates he moves weigh as much as 10,000 lbs.

“Without a heavy equipment operator, it would be impossible to unload our aircraft quickly,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Beranek, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4. “It would take way too long and make everyone on the base and in the helicopters more vulnerable to attacks.”

Gregory’s job isn’t just to operate heavy machinery. When the base is threatened, he lives up to the adage that every Marine is a rifleman.

In early spring, insurgents attacked FOB Whitehouse. In the ensuing firefight, a Marine Gregory worked with was shot in the leg. Gregory and Beranek applied first aid and returned to the fight once a corpsman arrived to tend to his wounded friend.

Gregory said it doesn’t matter if he is fighting off insurgents or unloading cargo, he is proud to be helping his brothers in arms.

“Out here you know that everything you do is for a greater purpose,” he said. “It’s a big responsibility, but I know it’s what I need to do to help others, so I get it done.”