MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- When it comes to combat, no Marine is exempt from enemy engagements, not even support Marines.
Sergeant Thomas Reed, a training noncommissioned officer serving with Truck Company Alpha, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, has attended both the M240B machine gun and Mk-19 grenade launcher course at Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, to prepare himself and his Marines for a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
“Many of the motor transportation Marines, especially the junior ones, who deploy to Afghanistan may find themselves manning a mounted gun on a patrol,” said Reed, a native of Wooster, Ohio. “It is my job as the training NCO and as a sergeant to be able to instruct Marines and give them a basic understanding of how to use a weapon system if they are going to have to use it in combat.”
Reed is expected as a senior NCO to return to Truck Alpha after graduating the courses to be able to teach everything he learned to his junior Marines.
“By sending a sergeant like Reed to learn about those weapons, we are now able to be self-sufficient with those weapon systems because he can give classes on it when we need it,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Marquez, a platoon sergeant serving with Truck Co. Alpha. “Having Marines come back who graduate from those courses allows us not to have to rely on outside sources to teach our Marines.”
Reed constantly engages himself with his Marines whether it be with help working tactical vehicles, or keeping standards high in his unit.
“He is a sergeant who conducts himself as a staff NCO,” said Marquez, a native of Oceanside, Calif. “He is always asking if anyone needs help with anything and is fixing any problems that occur. If someone is doing something wrong, he will take them aside and take the time to show them how to do it right. He always has time for his Marines. I have never heard him say he doesn’t have time to help someone out.”
As for any Marine deployed to a combat zone, enemy engagements are always a possibility. Many support Marines have been ambushed by an enemy force at unlikely times and have had to fight their way out of it to stay alive.
“Anybody at any given time, no matter what your job is, can be put onto a crew-served weapon,” Reed said. “I’ve seen it in combat when I was just walking around loading up some crates onto a truck when suddenly we received enemy contact. Moments like those you don’t care, you just grab the Marines to the left and right of you and man a gun.”
Reed and other Marines serving with Truck Alpha become more well-rounded Marines after attending schools outside of their military occupational specialty, making them a more effective force.
“I highly recommend these courses for Marines, especially for anybody who is an NCO,” Reed said. “Courses like these make you better as an individual, better for your unit and make it better for everyone else you may serve with. After attending a course outside of your MOS, it opens your eyes to how much more there is to learn in the Marine Corps such as how to operate a radio or call in for artillery fire.”
For Reed, going to courses outside of his MOS also benefits him for when he is put on promotion boards. Showing he is willing to train outside of his MOS makes him a more competitive Marine because he is learning a skill that will not only benefit his unit, but it will also benefit the entire Marine Corps.
Reed plans to continue training and working with Truck Alpha before his platoon deploys to Afghanistan early next year.