News: Heavy equipment operator picks up heavy workload
Story by Lance Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan –A day in the life of Cpl. Patrick Wantuch, who drives a forklift in support of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. He is the only forklift operator on base and is in high demand.
A thin layer of dust covers his uniform. In the corner sits his Kevlar helmet and a hard hat - his daily headgear. It’s not even 9 a.m., but he’s already needed in three different places.
A voice barks out commands from a radio, and the walls begin to shake. The sound of rocks and debris pelting the sides of his office echo inside, and like an alarm, lets the Marine know it’s time for work.
He grabs his Kevlar and flak jacket, and in one fluid motion throws on his gear.
For Cpl. Patrick Wantuch, heavy equipment operator, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), the sound of propellers – and the debris they kick up, means taking cargo off or putting cargo on aircraft. The time sensitive job takes priority over all the others.
Wantuch, from South Bend, Ind., drives a forklift in support of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. He is the only forklift operator on base and is in high demand.
“I do at least one run for 12 different shops a day,” said Wantuch. “I support almost every section on this (base) with cargo such as water, chow, removing trash and anything else they need.”
After Wantuch put cargo onto the MV22 Osprey, he drove to the mess hall to take three loads of garbage to the burn pit.
“I don’t know what I would do without him,” said Cpl. Peter Espinoza, food service chief, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
Wantuch will help the mess hall staff with different chores, including bringing heavy pallets of food from storage.
Espinoza added Wantuch doesn’t have to help the food service specialists, but is always willing. After the mess hall, Wantuch continued down his list of calls. Next was fuel for Lima Company.
He maneuvered his forklift between the tents and buildings, always staying in control while avoiding potholes and tent spikes.
“Whenever I think he’s going to get stuck, he somehow manages to slide through,” said Espinoza. “I think I need to help him by moving something out of the way, but before I can get there, he’s already past it and continuing on his way.”
Wantuch brought fuel to different sections in the company, and to the Battalion Aid Station. The fuel goes to generators powering the tents the Marines and sailors work in.
“He transports fuel to all the generators on base pretty much nonstop,” said GySgt. Steven Pyle, camp commandant, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “We are talking about thousands and thousands of gallons of fuel on a weekly basis.”
Pyle said he’s impressed with Wantuch’s work ethic and willingness to help the Marines.
“He’s just a good (non-commissioned officer) who’s here to help anyone and everyone in anyway he can,” said Pyle. “He is an instrumental part. If we didn’t have him, things would be much more difficult.”
For Wantuch, helping just makes the most sense.
“If I didn’t bring the fuel, then we’d have Marines rolling around barrels of fuel. Or if I didn’t deliver water, we’d have Marines having to walk a long ways just to grab a drink,” said Wantuch. “If one truck delivers cargo, it could take Marines several hours to unload all of it. It takes me a couple minutes.”
After he finished helping Lima Company, Wantuch went back to his office. He knows it won’t be long until someone else calls for his services, and he wants to be ready when they do.
Editor’s note: First Battalion, 7th Marines is a part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.