HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- As the old saying goes, every Marine is a rifleman first.
A squad of Marines of Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment left their offices July 12 to aid security efforts in a volatile area near Habbaniyah known as the “Shark’s Fin.”
Infantry Marines of L Company had spent several days setting up observation posts along the main highways in the area to stop improvised explosive device emplacement and provide a springboard for combat operations there.
The H&S Company Marines provided relief as two platoons from L Company returned to Camp Habbaniyah for a shower, shave and change of uniform before returning to the company’s command post and resuming operations.
“Some of the Lima Company guys needed a break, so they rounded up some H&S Marines, loaded us up in trucks, took us out there and held security on the CP for a night,” said Lance Cpl. Andy Puckett, a nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist.
The squad was assembled on short notice.
“I had about half an hour’s notice,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Hess, a supply clerk. “We did some patrols up and down to street to make sure it was all clear, did some dismounts, got to the OP and set up a perimeter.”
Puckett, who is six months into his second deployment to Iraq, said his job has kept him close to base this time around.
“It was nice to get out and do something different for a change,” said the 22-year-old from Trenton, Ohio. “I didn’t really mind it too much.”
He said it felt natural enough to don his battle gear, thanks to the extensive training all hands underwent back at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, Calif. prior to the deployment.
“We went through the whole workup this year,” Puckett said. “When we did battalion ops, they usually attached us to line companies to train with them.”
The relief Marines, whose military occupational specialties ranged from radio operators to legal administration clerks, made no complaints allowing the grunts a brief respite from the field.
“They were excited to allow Lima Company the chance to come back and have the luxuries afforded to them here at Camp Habbaniyah,” said Capt. Jacob Evans, the battalion’s assistant operations officer. “They know what that means to be out there, and if they could provide security for a few hours to allow those Marines time to take care of their own personal business, they know what that meant to them.”
He said it showed the battalion’s ability to respond to a short-order request for additional security.
“You really don’t complain too much when you’re told to do something,” said Hess, a 24-year-old from Bethalto, Ill. “Even though Habbaniyah is pretty comfortable, it’s nice to get out and see what’s out there. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
After taking care of business aboard Camp Habbaniyah, and a few short hours of personal time, the Marines of L Company returned to find their command post exactly as they left it.
Evans pointed out that not every Marine in the battalion is a graduate of the School of Infantry, but that all Marines still must be equipped with infantry skills.
“It just shows that you don’t necessarily have to go to SOI,” said Evans, 30, from St. Louis. “Every Marine is a rifleman, and 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines proved that by assembling a squad to provide security for a combat outpost, and they did it flawlessly.”