CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- It’s a dirty job but these ‘Bastards’ are willing to do it.
The ‘Betio Bastards’ of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are doing a little home improvement. And it needs it. The buildings they’re moving into are nearly a century old and it seems like no one’s tended to them in about the same length of time.
“Basically we're going by our motto, ‘leave it better than you found it,’” said Cpl. Jeffrey A. Weaver, an infantryman assigned to Weapons Company.
The camp was built by the Royal British Army in the 1930’s during their Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I. The British Mandate in Iraq lasted from 1918-1932 and the buildings still stand, weathered by heat and tethered with weeds.
So the junior Marines went to work, moving mounds of ground and bunches of branches, while hacking blades of tall grass all over the camp.
Weaver, a 24-year-old from Kinston, N.C., said the camp is now starting to look a little more like home.
“We definitely are making the best of a bad situation,” he said.
Lance Cpl. Kasey J. Martin is well acquainted with making good of a bad thing.
“I just don’t have a negative attitude because there’s a reason why we do anything,” said the 19-year-old radio operator from Dallas.
He credits his mentality to his upbringing and can frequently be seen smiling whether he’s riding inside of a humid humvee or outside shoveling sand.
One of his friends and fellow Marines says Martin always brightens everyone’s day whatever task is at hand.
“When everybody had to paint a wall the other day, Martin was the first one to pick up the brush and joke about painting,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon C. Ebanks, an assaultman assigned to Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company.
The 19-year-old from Bronx, N.Y., said Martin’s high spirits rallied the Marines to the messy task with renewed enthusiasm.
Still, some Marines see the task in very practical terms. Clean living means a clean bill of health for Marines. They know if they clear away brush and get rid of excess dirt and dust, it means less trips to see the platoon’s hospital corpsman.
“Keeping our place clean keeps Marines from getting sick.” said Staff Sgt. Raphael Iturrino, a platoon sergeant assigned to Weapons Company.
The 29-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., said “hygiene is very important out here so we have to keep our place clean.”
The place is shaping up, but there’s still mounds left to move. It’s a chore they get to when they’re not doing their regular duties; assisting and training Iraqi soldiers and police and hunting down insurgents.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and time,” said Sgt. Christopher Ellision, a 22-year-old mortarman from Winsboro, Texas, assigned to Weapons Company. “But we’ll get it done.”