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Marine steps outside job, assists in successful Afghanistan arrival

Cpl. Aaron Rooks

CAMP BARBER, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – May, 2009

Toward the end of 2008, Gunnery Sgt. Carl Thorpe was fluent in the testing and maintaining of communication and navigation systems in all Marine Corps aircraft, just as he had for most of the prior 12 years.

Everything changed in January 2009 when he became responsible for ensuring that equipment, supplies and personnel reached Afghanistan later in the spring to support the operational deployment of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan to the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command (South).

“I knew I would have an impact, but not one this significant,” said the Savannah, Ga., native, of his role in the brigade’s journey from North Carolina to southern Afghanistan. “We’re currently setting the foundation for the Marines in Afghanistan and all those who will follow us in the future.”

Thorpe, who’s now working with the brigade’s Deployment Distribution Operations Center, submitted for a special duty assignment near the end of 2008, hoping to “get out in the dirt” and develop a different perspective of how non-aviation Marines operate in a deployed environment.

Thorpe said he had no idea what job he would eventually be assigned, but maintained the mentality to take on anything the Marine Corps would throw his way.

Before joining MEB-A, he worked at Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-31, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., where he supervised the maintenance and testing of communication and navigation systems on about 84 fighter jets.

Thorpe said he knew his future job wouldn’t be easy when he later learned he would be dealing with every piece of equipment the Corps had to offer. Because of this, he dedicated much of his time in the months prior to the brigade’s departure to learning the systems associated with logistics and becoming familiar with equipment such as humvees, 7-ton trucks and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.

The task kicked into motion in March as Thorpe and his fellow Marines with the MEB-A logistics advance party departed for Afghanistan, two months before the brigade’s main force.

Before boarding a bus March 27, Capt. Perry Smith, the brigade’s strategic mobility officer, said the toughest part of their mission would be making sure that the right people get the right gear when they arrive at their destination. He said it would be a “tough, time-consuming task,” but when they accomplished that task, it would make a difference.

Thorpe said he feels he and his team have made a difference, stating that they have tracked more than 5,500 brigade members, as well as hundreds of thousands of pounds of gear, from the time they left their place of origin to when they arrived in Afghanistan.

“I’ve learned a lot, but I couldn’t have done it without my team. They made it relatively easy,” Thorpe said, crediting the team’s success to Staff Sergeants Timothy Morquecho and Jason Sherwood, strategic mobility chief and mobility control center chief, respectively, as well as Corporals Courtney Quinn, Christopher Burnett and Timothy Fletcher. “Their knowledge of their military occupational specialties and their job skills has helped me get up to speed. So without them, I wouldn’t have been able to lead them.”

Morquecho, who has dealt with logistics throughout his career, said his responsibility in the early months of preparation was to ensure Thorpe was at the same knowledge and performance level as himself. By doing so, he said, the team was able to develop a smooth working relationship in no time and accomplish the missions they’ve had so far.

“It’s all about in-transit visibility,” Morquecho said. “If a unit leaves the states, we have to maintain in-transit visibility. We always have to know where the gear and personnel are.” Morquecho said personnel and gear are still coming. He said they expect another several thousand brigade members and more gear to arrive.

Thorpe said he is satisfied with the results his team has achieved so far, noting that the team is maintaining the confidence that helped them achieve their success so far.

From here, he said, they will oversee the departure and arrival of units from both Afghanistan and the U.S. until the brigade eventually leaves after completing its tour.

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