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Behind the scenes crew keeps base buzzing

4 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery P. Jones has what some Marines call his "seven little dwarves."  They're magical too.

They build, billet, police, rewire, run Internet cafes, fill sand bags... just about whatever it takes to keep Regimental Combat Team 7's base camp - Camp Ripper - running.

"You name it, we do it," said Jones, company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Service Company from Bourbonnais, Ill.  "We're in charge of taking care of the whole camp."

His "dwarves" are the group of Marines, running in tan blurs all over the base, keeping up with the maintenance and behind-the-scenes chores it takes to keep the lights on.

They come from different backgrounds.  Some are infantry and others are administration clerks, but every one of the less than a dozen Marines pitches in fixing, patching and sometime fabricating what needs to be done.

"I run the Ripper Hotel," Jones joked.  "Whenever the battalions move in, we need to get them billeting and I'm in charge of that."

The regiment's new gym and Internet cafe are also responsibilities of the Marines in the company, according to Cpl. Jairo Gonzalez, an administrative clerk from Cranbury, N.J.  It's one of the more pleasant duties.

"They just recently pulled us from Internet duty," Gonzalez said.  "People always thanked me for helping keep it open, means a lot to them.  The café was our favorite duty.  Kept us busy but was a big break.  It is much better than filling 20-foot deep holes with rocks all day.  We've done that and it wasn't fun."

According to Lance Cpl. Donald J. Hall, an administration clerk with the company from Thomasville, Ga. they don't have working hours, but are on call at all times of the day.

"We just work at odd times," Hall said.  "Like our jobs, our times are always different."

The team, assembled at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., is in a rebuilding stage of sorts after losing many of its Marines to different units.

"They sent someone to drive buses in Kuwait and we even have guys on guard and the chaplain's security team," Hall explained.  "We have only three people right now, but we're still doing all the camp's working parties."

However, the company has pulled attachments from other units to help balance the loss, according to Jones. 

Often the hard work the Marines do is unnoticed.  

"A lot of what we do, others don't even see," Gonzalez said.  "I don't think it's because they don't care, but they often have too many other things to worry about than what we do."

The company's command however realizes the hard work and dedication involved in keeping things going.

"I'm an infantryman," Jones said.  "I'm not used to this stuff.  My guys deserve all the credit.  Takes them a while sometimes, but when they get going they're some of the hardest workers.  They really are a great bunch."