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Marines maintain vigil for maturing Iraqi National Guard

1 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Assistance in building Iraq's National Guard isn't coming just from Marines on the ground.  It's also coming from Marines perched overhead, keeping terrorists at bay.

Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Weapons Company and Company K maintain a vigil for the Iraqi soldiers.  They are the safeguard for Iraq's future security.

"Our mission here is to provide compound security for the Iraqi National Guard," explained Sgt. Edgar O. Payan, the platoon guide for 2nd Platoon, Company K.  "We're going to make sure no threats could or would eliminate the Iraqis or Marines while training is going on."

The duty sounds mundane, but is fraught with dangers much like the rest of Iraq.  Marines find themselves fighting back the heat to maintain alertness, but the occasional gunshot, mortar impact or people traffic reminds them of the imminent threat while on duty.

"There are so many things going on in the mornings - a lot of activity from people carrying bags to cars driving fast," said Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Brechler, assigned to 2nd Platoon.  "We just never know if it's a bomb.  We've been hit with mortars quite a bit here, so it can get nerve-wracking."

Payan said the inability to detect the origin of indirect fire is most frustrating to Marines.  They want to counter the fire and improvised explosive devices, but without accurate indications of the firing positions, reactions can actually put Marines in greater danger.

"I do have a blind spot down the road where an IED was buried, which eventually blew up and wounded some Marines," said Lance Cpl. Dane R. Schaeffer and infantryman with 2nd Platoon.

Schaeffer explained it's frustrating for Marines to stand vigil and not actively pursue the enemy.  Their natural instinct is to follow their training and hunt down terrorists and kill them.  Still, he said the sooner the Iraqis assume greater responsibility for their own security, the more they can perform that mission.

"I'd rather be out on patrol, but this okay because I'd rather be here fighting the war providing security than on our own ground back home," Schaeffer said.

"Some of the Marines would rather be doing patrols," Payan added.  "But this is our mission for now."