Featured News

Darkhorse moves to new camp, better facilities

7 Apr 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

It’s not plush, manicured lawns and neatly-designed suburbia, but Darkhorse Marine are stepping up their standard of living.

The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment recently made a new home for its headquarters elements, leaving Camp Mercury behind and moving into newer accommodations here on Camp Fallujah.  The move comes as the battalion approaches its halfway point in the deployment.

“I think the move came at the right time,” said 1st Sgt. Scott Boyer, Headquarters and Support Company’s senior enlisted Marine.  “It gives the Marines an opportunity to make the camp their own.  Usually, you take over a camp that’s already there.  This time, we get to create something.” 

He said South Camp, which took months to prepare for the battalion’s move, was designed for the Darkhorse Marines’ needs.

“The staff is innovative, creative and truly about the Marines,” he said.  “They want to give them everything we can possibly give them.”

The new camp has larger, more centralized headquarters buildings, giving the Marines more space to do their jobs.

“Now the Marines have space to put their gear and weapons,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Brown, the motor transport platoon sergeant.  “On Mercury, they had to keep all their gear in their living spaces, which were cramped already.”

Even the creature comforts got an upgrade.  At Camp Mercury, Marines relied upon each other for haircuts.  Not anymore.

Camp Fallujah has professional barbershops, a post exchange, gift shops and other amenities found only on larger military bases in Iraq.

“There’s convenience,” added Boyer, a 38-year-old from Reading, Pa.  “Everything is more convenient.  It’s giving them that normalization, getting away from that isolation from being alone.”

Even the new battalion aid station is nearly twice the size of the one left behind on Mercury.

“Everyone likes it,” said Navy Lt. Thomas Kelly, the battalion’s medical officer.  “The main thing we enjoy is we’ve got twice as much space and are centrally located so the Marines can find us.”

Not only can the Marines find them, the BAS at South Camp is a 10-minute ride from Fallujah Surgical.  The 28-year-old doctor from Cincinnati explained that in an emergency, now the corpsmen don’t need to form a convoy and drive from Mercury, which has cut medical evacuation time in half.

During the first half of the deployment, the Marines grew accustomed to 20-man squad bays and using portable plastic rest facilities.  South Camp sports trailers with four-man rooms, air-conditioned shower and rest trailers and a dining hall with a wide variety of foods served fresh for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

“It’s a lot better than what we were living in,” said 29-year-old Brown, from Englewood, Fla. “Good showers, toilets, three good meals a day and now a better PT program because we can actually run somewhere on asphalt instead of running in circles on loose rocks.” 

“The new chow hall is amazing and the selection is incredible,” said 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Dave-Stefan Mandeng, a small-arms repair specialist for Combat Trains.  “I’m really happy about the move. I’m in trailer park heaven.”

Plans to build a new Internet center, phone center and improved gym are already underway, opening up a gamut of activities to the Marines and Sailors of Darkhorse to relax and decompress their minds between outings.

According to Boyer, the move goes beyond better living conditions and convenient logistics, citing the big picture of America’s presence in Iraq.

“We’ve been making great strides toward improving the security of this country and training the Iraqi Forces,” he said.  “Just by closing Mercury, that’s a stride too.  We’re giving that property back to the Iraqis, and coming one step closer to eventually turning this area over to them so we can go home.”