CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, JAPAN
CAMP HANSEN, Japan - U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit must transport thousands of pounds of equipment all throughout the Asia-Pacific.
The force under this weight is a group of Marines with the muscle to move it known as heavy equipment operators.
Take Cpl. Abraham Defreitas and Lance Cpl. Reymundo Gonzales for example. Both are heavy equipment operators with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU.
Abraham Defreitas, the “youngest buck” in his family, grew up in Brazil and always wanted to become a Marine, to be “the person that everyone looked up to and respected.”
Reymundo Gonzales, from Los Angeles, California, lives his life “taking the road less traveled.”
Both joined the Marine Corps hoping for a combat engineering contract but were assigned as heavy equipment operators instead.
The muscle of the Marine Corps.
“If anyone needs anything lifted, moved, or they need a berm built, they’ll call HE operators,” said Gonzales.
These Marines specialize in operating vehicles like the Light Capacity Rough Terrain Forklift (dubbed the 5k), the Millennia Military Vehicle, the Tractor, Rubber-Tired, Articulated Steering, Multi-Purpose (TRAM), the backhoe and other equipment in order to build roads, level them, lift heavy objects and transport ammunition and explosives.
“Our vehicles go on ship with us and go everywhere with the MEU, like the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Australia,” said Gonzales. “You could say our vehicles are the saltiest on the island.”
HE operators can be called upon at any moment to help out their fellow Marines which means that there are no real set work hours. Whenever needed, they respond, according to Cpl. Abraham Defreitas, an HE operator and section head with engineer platoon, CLB-31, 31st MEU.
“Life as an HE operator is very demanding,” said Defreitas, from Rio Casca, Brazil. “You work long hours, it’s stressful. Sleep and chow comes second to getting the job done and you always have to remain vigilant and make sure you don’t hurt or destroy anything or anyone around you.”
Staying true to the battalion’s nickname, the HE operators carry a big weight on their shoulders.
“We’re nicknamed Atlas Battalion and HE has a slogan,” said Gonzales. “HE is the muscle of the Marine Corps and if Atlas is holding up the heavens, we’re holding up the Marine Corps.”
||CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, JP
||RIO CASCA, MG, BR
||GARLAND, TX, US
||LOS ANGELES, CA, US
||PEYTON, CO, US
||WILMINGTON, DE, US
This work, The Muscle of the Marine Corps, by LCpl Tyler Ngiraswei, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.