Story and photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gino Flores
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The Motor Transport Platoon of Task Force Belleau Wood plays an essential role in security as well as the supply lifeline of the forward operating bases near Camp Leatherneck on a day-to-day basis.
The Motor Transport Platoon, often referred to by Marines as “Motor- T,” is tasked with being ready to transport supplies, equipment and personnel as needed throughout the unit’s areas of operations in Helmand province.
This Motor-T Platoon is different, and must be almost entirely self-sufficient, said Staff Sgt. Bryan Thrift, the platoon’s assistant convoy commander.
“We run our own trucks, security and communications independently, whereas other logistics platoons operate with the combined support and coordination of other units in order to stay on mission,” said Thrift, a native of North Umberland, Va. “We [manage] everything internally that is organic to the platoon.”
The platoon transports the supplies that sustain Task Force Belleau Wood’s detachments and personnel at forward operating bases. The convoys move essentials such as food, water, fuel and ammo.
“You can’t go anywhere or can’t do anything; lots of things can’t happen if you don’t have motor transport [deliver],” said Thrift.
The Motor-T platoon uses a combination of cargo and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected tactical vehicles in its convoys. They pre-plan their missions to identify the least hazardous routes and potential hot spots of insurgent’s activity.
“We gather the latest Intel, analyze and plan the routes prior to going outside the wire,” said Staff Sgt David Yeingst, the platoon’s convoy commander.
“We are also involved in escorting VIPs and other operations where we do our own security foot patrols,” added Yeingst, a native of Liverpool, Pa.
The unit has also conducted searches in villages in its area of operations and found weapons caches and detained insurgents, he added.
The hazards of the area means the Marines must always practice situational awareness. Their convoys shake, rattle and roll off the beaten path in the desert between villages and fields, always on the lookout for IEDs and suspicious activity.
“We make our own path out here,” said Lance Cpl. Gary Weisgerber, a turret gunner and driver with the platoon, and a native of Pasadena, Md. “This is my first tour of duty, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
On the average mission the platoon encounters three to five suspicious items or potential IED’s that get reported for further investigation, Yeingst said.
While every mission is planned, sometimes the path leads to a road less traveled.
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