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Old 10-19-2005, 02:38 AM   #15
**jdazmum**
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Transport Marines

'Motor T' Marine Feels the Heat Early in Corps Career
Marine Corps News | Joe Lindsay | October 14, 2005
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - “Our trucks are like fighter jets, our drivers like pilots. We may not be up high in the sky, but we feel like pilots on the ground.”
— Lance Cpl. Carlos Johnson, motor transportation operator

Many Marines will tell you their “Welcome to the Marine Corps moment” occurred when they took their first perilous steps onto the “yellow footprints” at boot camp in either San Diego or Parris Island, S.C.

For one 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Marine, Lance Cpl. Carlos Johnson, a Motor Transportation operator from Atlanta, that moment occurred a little further down the road — but not much further.

“The first day I arrived at K-Bay (Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay), my first duty station, I was checking in with one of my staff sergeants, and he said, ‘I hope you’re ready to see the world Johnson, ‘cause you’re going to Iraq.’ My jaw just kind of dropped,” said Johnson. “That’s when I realized, ‘Yeah, I’m really in the Marine Corps now.’ This is what they were talking about in boot camp, at MCT (marine combat training) and MOS (military occupational specialty) school. This is for real.”

Soon, it would get a lot more real.

“A little more than a month after graduating from MOS school, I found myself on the USS Juneau in the Gulf, getting ready to debark for Kuwait and then Iraq,” said Johnson. “Coming out on the deck, the heat just hit you like a punch. When I hear the Marines talking about the heat here at Twentynine Palms, I just kind of shake my head to myself, ‘cause I’ve seen real heat. The kind heat that you can fry an egg in — I promise you.”
While in Iraq, Johnson was a “green” private first class who learned fast. Then again, he really didn’t have any other choice.

“For someone basically straight out of MOS school, he was given a lot of responsibility right off the bat, in Fallujah,” said Sgt. Kevin Hawkins, a 1/3 motor transportation operator from Cleveland who served alongside Johnson during some of the heaviest fighting the war has seen. “It was his job to get supplies — food, water, weapons and ammo — to the Marines on the front lines. He also had to transport Marines back and forth from the combat zone. Myself, as his NCO (noncommissioned officer), his Staff NCOs and the officers over him had the confidence that he could handle the job, or we wouldn’t have put him in that position. He really stepped up to the plate.”

For his part, Johnson said his motivating force was taking care of the Marines with whose care he was entrusted.

“Whenever Marines are in the back of my truck, I feel so much responsibility, ‘cause if anything happens to them where I could have done something to prevent it, then it’s my fault,” said Johnson. “The main thing I always thought about when I was over there was, ‘It’s my fault if these Marines don’t come back to their families.’ That would be something I don’t think I could live with.”

Fortunately, despite numerous rounds and mortars whizzing by and countless roadside improvised explosive devices strategically placed to inflict maximum casualties, Johnson and the Marines in his care made it through his transport runs unscathed.

“The Marines of one-three are all about mission accomplishment first — no matter what,” said Johnson. “I am proud being a part of this battalion. I like the pressure. The more responsibility they give me, the better. I just want to do the best job possible for myself, my family, and most importantly, the Marines.”

That type of selfless attitude had earned Johnson high praise from his superiors and peers.

“As the senior lance corporal in ‘Motor T,’ he is someone we, as fellow lance corporals, can turn to for advice on how to fix a problem or better accomplish the mission,” said Lance Cpl. Jared Neal, a 1/3 administrative clerk and Humvee driver from Tracy, Calif. “He knows his job inside and out and is a motivated Marine. Most importantly, though, he constantly reminds us of the importance of our jobs and keeps us focused on our upcoming deployment to Afghanistan by letting us know that one small mistake from a Motor T operator can cost a lot of Marines their lives. He takes his job seriously and we follow his lead.”

According to 2nd Lt. Joseph White, 1/3 Motor Transportation officer and a native of Barstow, Calif., “Lance Corporal Johnson is more than just a hard worker; he is a leader of Marines. A lot of new Motor T Marines just out of MOS school can go down one of two paths — the right one or the wrong one. As an officer, it is important to me that I know I have Marines like Lance Corporal Johnson at that level to help steer them down the right path. He is a positive influence on his peers.”

Sgt. Christopher Rivera, a 1/3 logistic vehicle system operator from Hollywood, Fla., said he couldn’t agree more.

“As an NCO, it means a lot when we know we can count on a hard-charging lance corporal to take charge at his level and do the right things for the right reasons,” said Rivera, a two-tour Iraq veteran. “If given orders, Lance Corporal Johnson follows them and gets the job done. In the absence of orders, Lance Corporal Johnson makes sound decisions in the aid of mission accomplishment. I have no doubt he will make an outstanding NCO someday.”

That may well be true, but for his part, Johnson said he plans on attending college on the Montgomery G.I. Bill when his hitch is up in 2007.

“I love the Marine Corps, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but I think I’m going to stick to my original plans when I first came in and go to college at the University of Georgia back home when my enlistment is up,” said Johnson. “Part of the reason is that I come from a real tight-knit family, and I want to be closer to them. After I got back from Iraq, they threw me a party and on the cake was written, ‘Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas & Happy Birthday,’ since I had missed all three occasions that year.

“The hardest part about being a Marine is definitely being separated from your family, but to me it was all worth it, because I did my part for my country. My mom and my family are proud of me for my service, and I will be proud of being a Marine until the day I die.”
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