Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Jose E. Garcia, the communications chief for Alpha Co., 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, uses Training Exercise Straps of the side of his vehicle the deserts of Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 16. The vehicle was not only their home and gym over the battalion’s five-month deployment, but it also served the battalion’s combat operations center.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly

2nd LAR Marines call Afghan desert ‘home’ no more

24 May 2010 | Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly

Cpl. Brandon T. Templeton, a team leader from Garden City, Mich., lived out of his vehicle for five months, conducting security operations in the deserts of Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Templeton, along with more than 140 Marines and sailors of Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, deployed in December and began desert operations in the cold Afghan winter. Their deployment took them through May, when they worked under the Afghan sun day in and day out.

Living out of a vehicle sounds better than it was for the service members. For the Marines of 2nd LAR, it meant sleeping in the dirt on whichever side of their vehicles wasn’t being pounded by the unforgiving desert winds. Their vehicles were laden with backpacks containing all their gear everything they had while roaming the desert. The company combat operations center was housed in one vehicle and only had three seats for Marines to sustain operations throughout the deployment.

“It was like a long family road trip,” stated Templeton.

Most family road trips include rest stops and nights spent in hotels. Templeton and his comrades had no showers or bathrooms. Baby wipes and a bottle of water were considered a good shower out in the desert. The Marines had no running water sources, so their water was strapped to the side of a vehicle in makeshift Hesco crates. Resupplies were conducted internally every three to four days. This was when they received their Meals, Ready-to-Eat, mail, vehicle parts and more water until their next resupply.

LAR came and left during an interesting timeframe. They battled the winter chills for the first few months of their deployment. Then they rolled right through the spring and into the soaring summer temperatures. Insects became their closest friends and worst enemies, keeping them awake at night and buzzing around them throughout the days. With just a vehicle in the middle of the desert, the Marines had to rely on camouflage netting and the vehicle to provide any shade.

“The living conditions were horrible, but it had to be done,” said Sgt. Peter T. McEntee, a section leader with Weapons platoon, who preferred the cold over the flies.

Marines are known around the world for physical and combat fitness, and LAR was no exceptions. With no weights or equipment available, they found ways to work out off the side of the vehicles with Training Exercise Straps. Bicep curls were performed with ammunition cans on a pipe. Staff Sgt. Jose E. Garcia, the communications chief from Sweetwater, Texas, made his own medicine ball out of duck tape and had developed a workout regimen. Other Marines opened the back of the vehicles and used the entrance handgrips to perform pull-ups. For sit-ups, Marines sat on top of a tire and used the vehicle’s leverage to hold them in place.

The only time that the Marines were able to go back to Camp Dwyer to shower and use a computer was when their vehicles needed to be serviced beyond what their mechanics could do in the desert. This only happened maybe once a month for the Marines of 2nd LAR.

The Marines turned over with Echo Co., 1st LAR, May 19, after five months and returned to Camp Dwyer caked in dirt as they readied to re-deploy to Camp Lejeune, N.C.