It all seemed to be going so smoothly.
Sure, the unit was an hour late to pick me up. But you gotta be ready for that when traveling in a war zone. They don't work on your schedule over here.I made it down to the command post for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines -- a Hawaii-based unit that's been here since August. The plan was to head out with them in a town called Karmah for a couple days to see how security has improved since some tough fighting this past summer.
I met a few of the guys, loaded my gear (way too much of it, of course) into the "high-back" Humvee (the pickup truck version with a big box of thick steel armoring its cargo compartment) and we headed toward the back gate of Camp Fallujah. During the first part of the ride, we made small talk, getting to know where each other was from and how things had been since they got here.Then I asked them how their Humvees had been holding up.
"Pretty good," one of the Marines replied.The Humvee is a real workhorse here. But for the last few years new units coming in have been falling in on the same jeeps left here by other battalions heading out. That means these Humvees have taken quite a beating. And it's a real tribute to the maintenance Marines -- and Soldiers, for that matter -- who keep them running.
No sooner had we left the back gate on our way to Combat Outpost Delta, where 3/3's Lima Company is based, than the vehicle commander radioed his team leader: "Gunny, you know your Humvee is smoking?"
Though we tried for another 100 or so yards, pushing on for the rest of the five-mile trip was not an option. We had to tow it back to Camp Fallujah for repair or a switch of Humvee.I was wishing I hadn't asked anything about the jeeps...
A blown radiator, a screwy Chameleon anti-IED system and a Blue Force Tracker on the fritz, kept us at Fallujah for eight more hours. Each time we thought we were free to go, a new problem cropped up. Murphy was on the attack.The maintenance guys told me many of the earlier problems with the Humvee had been fixed. With new suspensions, more powerful engines and a rebuilt power steering system, major problems are kept at bay. Problem is, it's the minor ones that'll keep you from getting to your destination most of the time.
They told me Marines at the forward bases sometimes put oil in the power steering system, or brake fluid in the radiator. "One time I had to drain the gas tank and I found anti-freeze," one of them said.There's no evidence this kind of routine Jiffy Lube snafu was the cause of our problems. But one thing's for sure. These Humvees do Herculean work. But if you put the wrong fluids on the wrong place, Murphy could be lurking behind you just around the corner.
-- Christian(Cross-posted at Christian's "From the Front" blog.)