MARINE COMBAT HEAQUARTERS, Central Iraq -- Eight separate convoys carrying everyone and everything the I Marine Expeditionary Force' command and control needs, battled through incoming fire and dense dust clouds on its way up Main Supply Route Tampa, April 5-6.
The I MEF Command Element's combat operations center (COC), which controls more than 80,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom, moved from its initial position in southern Iraq to an area known as Staging Area Chesty, within 65 miles of Baghdad.
As has become standard operating procedure, the first two convoys were reconnaissance elements. The self-sustained groups surveyed several locations before relaying a thumbs-up to Lieutenant Gen. James T. Conway, the I MEF commanding general.
The next three units then headed north to the designated location. Along with the recon elements, they designed a layout for the planned encampment. Security measures were finalized and a small command post was established.
Back in southern Iraq, I MEF tore down and packed up the rest of its tents, trailers, communication equipment and many computers. They handed control off to commanders at Camp Commando, Kuwait, and headed out.
The final set of convoys, which are much longer and therefore slower, took more than 20 hours to reach Chesty. Along the route, which passed through several populated areas, Marines tossed humanitarian rations and exchanged smiles with Iraqi civilians. At least one convoy took fire at a refueling point. There were no injuries.
Without any sleep, upon arrival, the Marines erected a high-tech COC, low-tech mechanical shelters and no-tech fighting holes.
The camp was up and running less than four hours later. The Marines in Kuwait immediately passed control back to those in central Iraq.
General Conway and his extensive staff are capable of planning and commanding all combat operations in which his forces are involved throughout the region.