RAWAH, Iraq --
Marines, or “Warlords” as they are nicknamed, with Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 have recently been conducting proficiency-firing ranges at forward operating bases all over western al-Anbar province, Iraq. The cracks of rifles, the thumps of mortars and the clatter of machine-gun fire echoes through the camps some days.
For one machine gunner, it’s not the machine gun he hears daily, but the whirr of helicopter blades cutting the air.
Lance Cpl. Will Cumming, 20, a machine gunner with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, arrived here to find himself tasked with an unusual mission for a machine gunner. He took the responsibility of tracking anything and anyone traveling through Rawah by helicopter.
“Cumming gets personnel, equipment and supplies that enter COP Rawah logged in and taken to where they need to go on base,” said Capt. Travis Unser, 31, a forward air controller with the Warlords and Cumming’s supervisor on the flight line. “He also makes sure everything and everyone get out of here on time.”
Cumming directs forklift drivers as they load cargo on and off of aircraft while also ensuring individuals make their scheduled flights. Although Cumming treats both incoming and outgoing flights with the same sense of thoroughness, outbound flights present more room for errors.
“If someone is supposed to come to Rawah and they haven’t checked in with me, it will eventually sort itself out because they have to check in for billeting,” said Cumming, who is from Lexington, Va. “My main concern, though, is outbound traffic because once someone leaves here, they’re out of my hands.”
One of the commonalities of inbound and outbound flights that Cumming always takes into consideration resulted from a past experience that could have ended tragically.
“I try to get the birds off the deck as quickly as possible, because we received indirect rocket fire when we first got here,” Cumming said. “It hasn’t happened since, but I try to always keep in mind that it still could.”
Some days are slow for Cumming because of delayed flights or no flights at all, but every so often he runs the flight line for more than a day straight.
Cumming, although having no prior training, has made an impact on those with whom he works. Unser, as well as pilots that make frequent rounds through the area, have noticed his knack for the job.
“He’s been doing very well, and he’s a very smart Marine,” said Unser, who is from Tulsa, Okla. “We have received compliments from pilots on how smooth things run here. We’ve gotten pretty proficient at what we do, but eventually the Marine Air Wing will send personnel to take over our jobs.”
When an air wing Marine comes to replace him, Cumming hopes to go back to what he considers his true calling as a Marine.
“It’s been a valuable learning experience for me, but it’s not something I want to pursue,” Cumming said. “I would like to eventually get back to being a grunt and my original (Military Occupational Specialty), a machine gunner.”