CAMP SNAKE PIT, Iraq -- Anyone stopping by this small camp in Ar Ramadi can thank Cpl. Joey R. Barnes for keeping the lights on for them. Even though he's never had any formal electrical or plumbing training, the 26-year-old machine gunner manages to keep the camp's lights working and water running.
Barnes, assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is the go-to handyman here. He's a self-proclaimed country boy, grew up in Sand Springs, Okla., a stone's throw from Tulsa.
He said, "In the country, if it breaks, then you fix it."
That way of life helped Barnes develop the skills he's used to keep this camp up and running, and the Marines here couldn't be any more grateful.
"He keeps this camp going," said Cpl. Kevin B. Olech, infantryman from Martinsville, Ind. "Without him there'd be no water or power."
During a recent patrol through the streets of Ramadi, Olech jokingly ordered Barnes to "not get hurt or blown up" because the camp might shut down without him.
That seems to be the general sentiment here.
According to 1st Sgt. Timothy Weber, Barnes has become everyone's best friend.
"He's just one of those guy's who knows how to fix anything," the company first sergeant said. "He has made life much better for us here."
Since arriving in Iraq earlier this year, Barnes has concocted, built, repaired and renovated almost everything on the camp.
He single-handedly constructed and sandbagged all of the machinegun positions aboard the camp, but his handiwork didn't stop there.
"I fixed the whole camp when I got here," explained Barnes, in his thick southern drawl. "It's a round-the-clock job. Marines wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes if a generator or something goes down."
Barnes has also repaired the camp's water heaters, shower pumps, air conditioners, electrical systems and plumbing.
But he's proudest of his most creative invention.
"My Redneck Engineering Award of the Year would definitely have to go to the ice machine I made," he said with a laugh.
When the company received an icemaker for the dining facility, the Marines were disappointed to learn that they didn't have a clean source of water to use. They thought cold drinks were going to be a distant memory from home.
That's until Barnes scraped together a few scraps most folks toss in the back of a tool shed.
Barnes hooked up one of the camp's water storage units to the ice machine using a basic garden hose. What happened next, Barnes said, was simple physics, but Weber doesn't believe there's anything simple about it.
"It's just amazing that he knows how to do this stuff. He's a good, old country boy who got his knowledge just from growing up," Weber said. "It's just awesome."
Barnes said his motivation for being the company handyman developed from his respect for his fellow Marines.
"I remember when we were at Twentynine Palms, California, and it used to get hot there. We didn't have air conditioning. It was bad," Barnes explained. "That's when I realized if I can keep the Marines cool and comfortable then they won't fight as much with each other as they did."
So far his beliefs have proven to be true.
Barnes said he's always been good with his hands. Prior to joining the Marine Corps, he was a welder in Oklahoma for six years and built oil heat exchangers, which served as integral parts of the oil refining process. Out of the blue one day, he decided he wanted to pursue something new.
"I don't know what made me join the Marines," he explained. "I went in to work one morning and quit my job. Three days later I was on my way to boot camp."
Now he's a machine gunner in Iraq but still finds time to fix generators or air conditioners.
"It's a juggling act," Barnes said. "I still do all of my Marine duties on top of being the company repairman. Usually I work until the middle of the night, and I'm up by 6 a.m."
Still, he said he wouldn't want it any other way.
"A few days ago, we were without power for almost five days," Barnes recalled. "Marines were sleeping outside with signs that said, 'Will work for electricity.' I hated seeing that. I'll do anything, anytime to keep the Marines happy and comfortable."
According to Weber and Olech, Barnes has done just that.
"The Marines appreciate Barnes' work," Olech explained. "They know without him they probably wouldn't have a lot of the stuff we have here."