CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Cpl. Daniel M. Dresch is a man with his head on a swivel.
Dresch, a 21-year-old security force commander from Colombia, S.C., is the man making the call for his Marines when it comes to shoot or don’t shoot. It’s a role that demands complete awareness, quick decisions and nerves of steel. It’s also a job that he knows keeps his Marines safe on Iraq’s roads.
“It’s my job to make sure no other vehicle comes into our convoy,” Dresch said. “Keeping the Marines safe is the most important thing.”
Dresch’s job as the lead man for security means he’s got to be aware at all times of all threats against his Marines. That means he’s the one keeping the keenest eye for tell-tale signs of improvised explosive devices, ensuring his Marines are prepared to react to small-arms attacks and ready to counter whatever the insurgents might throw at them.
It’s also a job that means Dresch has to make the right call every time. One bad decision could cost a Marine’s life.
“Making the right decision is the hardest part of the job,” he said. “If you go from your gut instinct, it makes it easier.”
Dresch’s importance to the patrols he rides with isn’t lost on his Marines. They know he’s got one of the most demanding jobs when they roll.
“It’s one of the most important jobs,” said Cpl. John M. Norton, a 22-year-old vehicle commander from Lumberton, N.C. “He’s supposed to be security of the whole convoy.”
Still, Dresch’s role as the convoy security commander means that he’s the one who sometimes makes the call to not unleash the full fury of the automatic weapons. It was one situation, though nerve-wracking, he found himself dealing with recently.
Dresch was a on a night patrol when an Iraqi was driving toward the convoy. The Iraqi turned off his headlights, but didn’t pull his car off the road. Dresch got out and began yelling to the driver to back off, but he didn’t budge.
Dresch took one shot with a tracer round in front of the car to show the Iraqi the Marines were deadly serious about their intentions.
“On almost every convoy, I have to use some escalation of force,” he explained.
So far, his demonstrations of intent have had their effect.
“I haven’t had to use the last step of escalation of force,” Dresch added, meaning the situation has never developed to a point where he needed to shoot to kill.
Dresch’s quick thinking and steady nerves in tense situations have earned him the respect and admiration of his fellow Marines. They know he’s the one putting himself out there, making the calls.
“It is important that his Marines trust him,” said Cpl. Bobby J. Kane, a 23-year-old vehicle driver from Greeneville, Mo. “If they didn’t, things wouldn’t run the right way.”
Dresch instills that trust even before he and his Marines leave the wire. He briefs his Marines before every convoy to make sure they are prepared for any situation. He doesn’t skip a beat, discussing the procedures for reactions to IEDs, small-arms fire and escalations of force.
“I think a lot of the briefs are reinforcement because repetition makes sure that everyone is doing the right thing at the right time,” said Cpl. Mark McElMurray, a 22-year-old vehicle driver from Forrestville, N.Y.
Dresch knows that he’s got a tough role, but it’s a job he wouldn’t trade. He likes being able to make the decisions for his Marine, steering them through the tough scenarios.
Making the right decisions is the hardest part of the job, he said.
“I just hope everyone goes back home,” Dresch said. “I want everything to run smoothly and go home.”