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Marines behind the lines dig in to help those on front

9 Apr 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Regimental Combat Team 1's Headquarters Company is pulling off a quiet but essential mission to help the infantrymen on the front lines of Fallujah.

Dubbed Operation Sandbags, Marines are filling and delivering thousands of sandbags to reinforce what grunts call home - fighting holes.

The Marines are carrying out the creed of Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, 1st Marine Division commanding general, of "everyone fills sandbags," and is helping reduce physical labor for infantrymen.

"You know, our brothers out there asked for empty sandbags, but I wanted to do better by giving the grunts filled sandbags," said Gunnery Sgt. Craig S. Morris, the company gunnery sergeant.

"They're the guys who should get whatever they ask for, so we're going to deliver as many sandbags we can," said 1st Sgt. Thomas L. Brown, the company first sergeant. "Why not?  We have the manpower back here."

In the last two weeks, Morris said the company has filled at least 7,000 sandbags, but expect a lot more will be filled in the near future.

"I was at a meeting and someone asked how many sandbags I planned on needing during the deployment, and I responded with half a million," said Morris, the 19-year infantry veteran.  "Everyone laughed and chuckled, but I was serious and mark my words."

Morris said the lifespan of a sandbag is short and through experience knows that many of them will need to be replaced with fresh sandbags.

"Some of the bags won't last too long, so we'll keeping making them because watch towers and some humvees also need to be protected," he explained.

While HQ Company spearheaded Operation Sandbags, tankers of 1st Tank Battalion are also lending a helping hand.  Marines of all ranks and roles pitched in, including officers, staff noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted.

"This was definitely a good thing," said 2nd Lt. Kevin G. Graves, Communications Platoon's assistant platoon commander. "It seems like the Marines felt they weren't contributing, but they are - so it's great."