CAMP SMITTY, Iraq -- For the Marines and sailors living and working in remote locations in Al Anbar Province, three hot meals a day, flushing toilets and hot showers are considered a luxury.
In an effort to keep those Marines supplied with such amenities as soap, beef jerky and video games, three Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group operate a mobile PX that delivers convenient and enticing goods to forward operating bases in the Fallujah area.
It may not seem like much, but every two weeks when the truck arrives, Marines form an endless line to sift through items more appealing than sun-scorched water and “chow from a bag.”
The Warrior Exchange Service team consists of two Morale, Welfare and Recreation Marines and one dispersing clerk. They drive a MK48-14 Logistic Vehicle System, rigged to hold a storage container that resembles a condensed field version of a Wal-Mart isle.
“Going out there and bringing the PX to them and providing the little things that take their minds off of being in Iraq is a good feeling,” said Sgt. Jaxon M. Luhrs, who has been servicing the requests of Marines in Iraq for two months.
The WES team rotates delivery to the infantry battalions stationed in and around Fallujah, including 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (3/5), 1/1 and 1/25. The mobile PX stops at as many of a battalion’s forward operating bases possible within a 24-hour period. On April 12, the team visited 3/5 Marines at Camp Smitty, Ferris Town and Ameriyah, escorted by 3/5’s headquarters logistics convoy, known as the “combat train”. The Marines were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sgt. Luhrs and his team.
“I thought I was going to have a bad week because I only had one pack of cigarettes left, but I got to restock,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Yeaw, a rifleman with 2nd Platoon, I Company from Spokane, Wash.
Receiving soap and other hygiene necessities in care packages from mom is important, but there is something to say for the ability to buy your own digital camera or DVD from the mobile PX.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re still in boot camp here, but we still have our little freedoms, like buying snacks, movies, video games and music,” said Yeaw after buying a case of energy drinks to help keep him awake on duty.
From dawn to dusk, about half of the Marines from 3/5 spent about $15,000, almost clearing out the entire PX’s supply with the exception of some salt and vinegar potato chips.
Staff Sgt. John M. Austin the guard chief for Camp Smitty, from Houston, summed up the benefits of having a mobile PX come into the field.
“It’s nice to have the PX here,” Austin said, “because it’s got all the little knickknacks they want and it makes their lives a little more comfortable.”