AL ASAD, Iraq -- Challenges in a combat zone come in many different shapes and sizes, but the Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 battle these challenges head-on and always get the job done.
While deployed, MWSS-274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, has taken on several tasks that have been postponed due to the obscure nature of their missions, but they never give up on finding solutions to the problems they are presented with.
The most recent of these challenges brought to the "Ironmen" of Al Asad, was to install helicopter-landing pads at forward operating base Al Qiam.
"This was a mission like no other we have ever done," said 1st Lt. William Anderson, motor transportation operations officer, MWSS-274. "We needed to haul enormous amounts of gravel from a pit outside the perimeter of the base quickly and safely."
The only problem with this task was that there is no equipment in the Marine Corps capable of hauling extra-large amounts of gravel. The Marines began thinking of different options to get this job done efficiently.
After weeks of planning and coordinating, the Marines got the approval to use Logistic Vehicle Systems and 40-ton trailers to haul the rock. Their plan was to fill Hesco barriers loaded on the LVS's for transport to the site.
"It took us five to seven hours per load of gravel we brought in from the quarry," said Staff Sgt. Frank Bongiovanni, heavy equipment section leader, MWSS-274. "We convoyed to the pit and then loaded the Hescos with rock. Once they were full, we convoyed back very slowly so that we wouldn't run into any problems with the vehicles."
Some of the problems they could potentially have faced while working this six-day mission were blown tires, blown engines or transmissions, and the constant threat of insurgent activity.
"As old as these trucks are, every single one ran great with limited problems," said Bongiovanni. "When not on missions, the Marines ensure that each vehicle is at its peak performance level."
Once back to the site, the equipment operators pushed over the barriers, dumping the gravel to the ground so bulldozers could move it to where it was needed.
Three thousand Hesco cells and 1,094 cubic yards of gravel later, the "Ironmen" completed what could have been their final big mission with ease.
"Our deployment ends in September," said Bongiovanni. "Even though we are all looking forward to going home, we still give 100 percent everyday we are out here."
As the Marines count down the days until they get to return to their families, they know that while they were deployed to Al Asad over the summer of 2006 they made a difference during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"All the Marines did a great job out there," said Lance Cpl. Derek M. Myers, logistics vehicle system operator, MWSS-274. "We worked our butts off and got the job done."