HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — When Marines and Sailors are deployed in remote locations, they don't take much for granted. The basic hygiene items that most people just pick up at the local convenience store are not always readily available for these service members.
A platoon with Regimental Combat Team 3's MRAP Company, which is named such for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles it operates with, has been co-located with Marines from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, RCT-3, at several distant combat outposts for the last few months, according to Gunnery Sgt. David R. Hickman, 4th platoon commander.
The MRAP Company Marines, who normally operate Amphibious Assault Vehicles, are attached to RCT-3 from Company D, 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
To bring the Marines at these outlying posts some much needed items, the company transported the Mobile Post Exchange and Dispersing from Camp Dwyer to six different COPs along Route 605 in Nawa District.
"We brought the PX and dispersing to the Marines because they were starting to run low on necessary supplies like razors and toothpaste," said 1st Sgt. Mike Sparkman, company first sergeant.
In the absence of a PX, the Marines usually purchase items from the local bazaars near the COPs. According to Sparkman, this is a good way for the Marines to get what they need and help the local economy at the same time. The only problem is the Marines eventually run out of cash, so the dispersing services were just as important as the PX.
MRAP Company also delivered cold-weather and personal gear for their Marines spread out between six COPs.
"They were very happy to get the PX as well as their personal gear," said Sparkman, a Homestead, Fla., native. He explained that most people never realize how much they miss these things until they don't have them.
The mission also had an additional benefit — the MRAP drivers gained valuable experience during transit, according to Hickman.
The route they took to the COPs brought them down narrow farm roads and across several bridges spanning irrigation canals in the area with very little room for error.
"Up until now, we have always driven in the open desert," said Hickman. "This allowed the drivers to experience operating in different terrain and helped them learn the capabilities of the MRAPs."
He added that they also gained some familiarity with 1/5's area of operations, which is helpful for a unit that conducts frequent ground movements.
After the MRAP Marines completed their mission at the COPs, they did not waste any time. Within in hours, they were on the road once again.