FALLUJAH, Iraq -- It seems that even in a combat zone, there’s still housework.
Combat engineers assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, are working around the clock to keep the battalion’s area secure by building and improving guard posts for the Marines and their counterparts.
“If we are not building, we are out on an operation. It’s a never ending mission,” said Sgt. Mark E. Thorne, a combat engineer from New Market, N.H.
With several forward operating bases and entry control points spread throughout Fallujah and the battalion’s outlying areas of responsibility, manned posts are a must.
Posts range from defensive positions to checkpoints, with sand bags triple-stacked for protection.
“It all comes down to protecting guys,” said Staff Sgt. Kim Rowland, a platoon sergeant with the engineers. “We put the posts up to increase the survivability of the people in them.”
Engineers constantly hammer into new projects from their base here. Most of the time, they’re prefabricating a new and improved guard position to be setup in the battalion’s operating area.
Hours of precise cutting, measuring and nailing go into each post before the Marines stand inside of them.
“It’s not really our main focus, but it is definitely our job,” Thorne said. “Something that could stop the enemy from penetrating is always important.”
The well-built and sturdy posts have been tested by enemy fire and insurgent attacks many times while the engineers have been here.
During a recent incident, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a post manned by Iraqi Army soldiers. The insurgents scored a direct hit on the bunker built by Marines. When the dust cleared, the soldier walked away with no injuries to report and the post was still standing.
“The Marines know that and get satisfaction in knowing that they are saving Iraqi Army, police and other Marines’ lives,” Rowland said, from Tillamook, Ore.
The engineers recently built a new fortified post for the Marines of A Company outside the city, who were quite appreciative of the handy work. The post replaced one that stood on the roof of a building overlooking the Marines area and providing security for their base.
The new post is a welcomed addition by the Marines who stand duty in it.
“The improvements between the two are pretty much night and day,” said Cpl. Alex du Houx, an infantryman with A Company, 28, of Brunswick, Maine. “The new post is much safer and provides better firing positions and protection for the Marine standing guard.”
The Marines agreed that replacing old posts with the engineers’ new ones is a step forward in assisting them with security operations.
“You wouldn’t want to be caught in a fishing shack when you take contact,” Thorne said. “Not saying that the old post weren’t any good, but ours are more suitable for today’s needs.”
Multiple sand bags, wire and reinforced-ballistic glass can be seen throughout the city and surrounding areas. Marines and Iraqi security forces are safe behind the walls of the engineer built “shacks.”
No matter what insurgents throw at them, they’re ready to fix, replace and reinforce their work when needed.
“We can handle it all, whatever the enemy throws at us,” 21-year-old Thorne said.
“We are always ready. They can knock one down, but within a few short hours we will have another one right back up there,” added 21-year-old Lance Cpl. David A. Stehlic, a combat engineer from Avon, Ohio.