Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Flagship of the Fleet

On my way back from the armory, I stopped by the MHG Motor Transport Office to speak with 1stLt Frank Cardamone. Lt. Cardamone is a Marine Corps Logistics Officer, currently assigned as the II MEF (Fwd) Headquarters Group (MHG) Motor Transport Officer. A native of upstate NY and the son of a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, he'd always had an interest in the Marine Corps. That interest in service was put into action following the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Receiving his commission in 2003, he was assigned to Camp Lejeune, NC, where he serves with the II MEF Headquarters Group.

At Camp Fallujah, Lt. Cardamone's unit is tasked with the dangerous mission of providing convoy escorts and conducting security patrols throughout the city of Fallujah. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lt. Cardamone last November and noticed a unique item hanging on the wall of his office, a plywood shack located in the middle of Camp Fallujah. The item was a piece of melted aluminum/metal residue curiously formed in the shape of a camel. Noticing my interest in the item, Lt. Cardamone explained that the metal was a melted remnant from an up-armored USMC HMMWV (UAH) that was involved in an IED strike last July. The HMMWV, serial number 217300, was part of his Motor Pool fleet, a level one armored vehicle designed to protect its occupants from small arms fire and explosions. Though no amount of armor is guaranteed to mitigate the explosive force of an IED, the introduction of UAH's has invariably saved the lives of hundreds of Marines and soldiers patrolling the city streets.

Equipped with a communications suite that allowed it to be used as a command and control vehicle, the vehicle was referred to as the "flagship of the fleet." However, the title was short-lived. On July 29, 2005, 2nd FAST company was conducting a mobile presence patrol with several HMMWV's, one of which was vehicle #300. Traveling on a dirt road between Camp Fallujah and Al Fayil, the vehicle struck an IED planted by the insurgency and was quickly consumed by fire. Fortunately, the upgrades in armor saved the lives of all of her occupants, who amidst the confusion of the incident, were able to retrieve several important items of gear from the burning vehicle before she was completely engulfed in flames. The gunner escaped with 3rd degree burns to his hands and was the only occupant injured during the IED strike.

Later that day, Lt. Cardamone sent a recovery vehicle to the scene to remove the remnants of the damaged vehicle. Efforts to lift the burned hulk onto a flatbed 7-ton MTVR met with little success, as the unidentifiable remnants kept breaking into pieces every time the wrecker attempted to lift the charred hulk. The intensity of the fire was so great that the UAH frame had melted, leaving pools of liquid metal on the ground beneath the wreckage. The piece provided by Lt. Cardamone is proof-positive of the incredible destructive power of an IED.

Lt. Cardamone has donated the remnant of his "Flagship" for accession into the Marine Corps Museum artifact collection. It will be brought back to Quantico alongside a host of other unique items I have collected throughout this deployment. A former Motor Transport Officer myself, my hat is off to the courage of Lt. Cardamone's crew, the "Motor-Grunts" of the MEF.

I am once again heading to the field. I will post again upon my return.


Samantha West said...

Hi Craig,

What a testament to the power of an IED. I'd like others to read this and so I'm going to link it on Capt B's comments. He gets a lot of action at his blog.

Godspeed on your journey,


Gypsy said...

Thanks to Sam and Capt B's blog, I just found you and look forward to reading through your archives.

FWIW I loved the P-O-J post! :) God love and bless our Marines!

Stay safe Sir, and thank you for your service to our great Country.


Thank you Sir,

We back home appreciate the "inside scoop" as our loved ones and friends are there too. I just found The Daily Grind today on Capt B's blog, and I will be checking in regularly.

God Speed and Semper Gratus,



GunnNutt said...

I drove past the new museum site this weekend. I can't wait 'till it's finished and open. It looks beautiful even in it's partially built state.

Stay safe LTC, and I'm looking forward to reading more living history.

Anonymous said...

I too am coming from Capt B's blog.
Thank you Sir for your Service to our Country.Look forward to reading your posts.
Thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
Stay safe and God Bless
Massachusetts Soldiers Angel

Samantha West said...


I plan to read the entirety of your blog and have finished February 2004. I can't wait until I have the time to read it all. Anyone else reading this should also take the time to read all of this blog. It will certainly help to complete the picture of Iraq for you.