KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Continuously scanning the terrain Marine scouts remain alert watching for the slightest peculiarity as they provide security for the flanks and rear of a Light Armored Vehicle on patrol here December 26, 2001.
Scouts from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Light Armored Reconnaissance Company have taken on many tasks during Operation Swift Freedom.
During patrols over the area around Kandahar International Airport the scouts stood popped out of hatches on the top, rear of the vehicle. With enough firepower to arm an infantry squad, they watched as the convoy of LAVs drove past inhabited town ruins, burnt out tanks and groups of children. Reporting anything they saw out of the ordinary, they supplied the vehicle commander with vital information.
"They're more valuable than a million dollars to me," said Staff Sgt. Craig W. Magee, 35, a vehicle commander from Chicago. "They're like eyeballs in the back of my head. My line of sight is limited, so they are responsible for watching a big chunk of our surroundings."
The scouts' main purpose is vehicle security. Whenever the LAV stops the scouts pile out of the rear doors and setup a hasty perimeter, but they have many other responsibilities too. The scouts are riflemen by trade, but they receive abundant training with their LAR company that the typical rifleman doesn't get.
"As a scout on a LAV we must know much more than the regular infantrymen," said Sgt. Geoffrey Marquez, 25, the senior scout in the company and an Anaheim, Calif. native. "We have to know route reconnaissance, bridge and tunnel reconnaissance plus we need to know how to drive the LAV just in case something happens to the driver. We still do the squad rushes and long humps, but the training we get goes beyond that."
Scouts are taught how to assess grades of slope, angles of curves and the integrity of the ground. Complex formulas are learned to determine if a vehicle can make it up a hill, round a bend or through some soft sand.
"When we're on low ground and we have to crest a hill we get out and check out the other side before the vehicles come over," Lance Cpl. Joshua Fish a scout from Bowling Green, Kent. "We do the nitty-gritty stuff."
Scouts laugh when Marines with rifle companies make comments about how easy it must be to ride around in a LAV all the time, Fish said. "It is like packing four, fully-geared guys in a refrigerator - especially when it is cold."
The scouts with 1st LAR have been busy over the last month. They've seen hundreds of people lining the streets in numerous towns as they patrolled for two weeks from Forward Operating Base Camp Rhino. They setup a barricade on a road termed Route 1, which was eventually hit by a vehicle with seven armed men. They spent a freezing night popped out of the hatches as they drove by armed men in the middle of the night on their way to secure Kandahar International Airport.
"That was a cool night," Marquez said. "You only get to see something like that once in a life time. It was pretty hairy, but all the scouts did a great job. They're ready for anything, and they showed it here."