FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- The Motor Transportation Platoon, Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 26, 26th MEU, took 18 of the Corps' new seven-ton trucks and nearly an entire platoon of young Marines to their first field operation here, July 15 through August 2.
The new trucks were used to transport Marines and equipment of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (Rein) from one training area to another during the two-week training exercise in the Virginia wilderness.
"Anything that needs to be moved, we move it," said Sgt. Dakota Merson, the Motor Transport Platoon sergeant.
With only one 26th MEU Motor T Marine remaining from the last combat deployment to Afghanistan, relative inexperience operating in a dusty, mine-filled environment adds to the stress of learning the new vehicles.
With many Marines fresh from the Marine Corps Combat Service Support School, the new 7-ton truck offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
"Everyone here is new, so we pretty much had to start from scratch," said Cpl. Andrew Gilbert, the Motor Transport Platoon assistant platoon sergeant. "Slowly but surely, we are learning how to operate as a team."
Besides being capable of greater speeds, the new truck is equipped with buttons instead of levers. These allow the operator to set cruise control or change the way the wheels react to different terrain with a push of a button or two.
"This is really nice compared to the old five-ton," said Lance Cpl. Carlos Ramirez, a new operator to the unit. "It drives smoother because there is individual suspension on each axle."
The Marines not only learned how to operate the new trucks during exercises at Fort A.P. Hill, but they also learned how to defend a convoy. Armed with M240G and M2 .50 caliber machine guns, the Marines learned how to employ and integrate their fires to fend off any potential attack while on the road.
Although taller, the trucks are not measurably longer or wider therein making them very user-friendly for MEU planners who have to fit them in Navy ships.