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Marines embrace the night

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“We just hit checkpoint two,” reported Lance Cpl. Joseph S. Holder, a field radio operator with 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, to the command operations center as he called in his position. “We’re about to go black out, over.”

Holder, a Roxboro, N.C., native, who went by the call sign “Goose,” held his handset close to his ear and waited for a response.
“All right, let’s do it,” he said.

The driver killed the vehicle’s lights, and the convoy set out as darkness swallowed the road ahead.

The Marines with 2nd Supply Bn. peered through the curtain of black as they cautiously rolled through the deserted roads at Camp Lejeune’s Home Station Training Lanes in Holly Ridge, N.C., Jan. 16.

“Most of my guys have been deployed, so they’ve done this sort of thing before,” said 1st Lt. Brett W. Roberts, a platoon commander with the battalion who helped organize the unit’s night convoy training. “If you haven’t done it in a while, it’s good to brush up on it, especially when driving with [night vision equipment].”

The road ahead transformed into a narrow tunnel of grainy, green images as the drivers turned on their night vision devices and accelerated toward a simulated village filled with rubble and wrecked vehicles.

Radio operators maintained constant contact with each vehicle in the convoy and reported back to command.

“[The COC] tells you where the waypoints are and where you are going to end up,” said Lance Cpl. Joel M. Bumgardner, a motor transportation operator with the battalion, who drove the second vehicle in the convoy. “In case a vehicle goes down, they need to know as soon as possible to make sure everyone is keeping up.”

The team at the COC plotted the convoy’s positions based on reports from the vehicles. They then relayed instructions to guide the drivers through a 45-minute ride through unmarked gravel roads that emptied out onto city streets.

The drivers maintained a predetermined speed to keep the six-vehicle convoy from bunching up along their route.

“You lose a lot of depth perception out there,” said Bumgardner, a native of Grants Pass, Ore. “Without the depth perception, you have to know what speed you are supposed to be going so you’re not creeping up on the guy [in front] too quickly or backing up into somebody.”

It has been a while since the servicemembers used night vision during convoy operations, and this training is designed to keep them familiar with the equipment, said Roberts.

The vehicles passed through the final waypoint at a bend in the road and neared the unit’s staging area. Holder radioed his command.

“COC, this is Goose. Come in,” he said. “Requesting permission to enter.”

Light from the unit’s base camp washed over the vehicles as the Marines reentered the site, killed power to their engines and disembarked.

Article by Cpl. Paul Peterson, 2nd Marine Logistics Group