CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Marines at this walled-in camp here rest easy knowing they’ve got another Marine standing strong and keeping all dangers at bay.
Marines from the Guard Force section, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, man several posts around the camp’s outer wall. They maintain a safe environment inside and allow the battalion to work without worry of enemy attack.
“I wouldn’t worry about anybody trying to get into the base,” said Lance Cpl. Rich Camacho, a 20-year-old field radio operator from Hinsdale, N.H. “We have enough posts and Marines manning them to make sure that whoever wants to try getting in here without our permission will not have a good day.”
The guards here man posts that cover the camp’s entire surroundings as well as every possible entry point.
“It’s one way in and one way out,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher A. Bartley, a 21-year-old field wireman, from Roosevelt, N.Y. “If an insurgent actually had the bright idea to even think about coming aboard this base, he would have one hell of a time doing it.”
Marines keep their vigil in bunkers and overwatch positions reinforced by sandbags, ballistic materials, and communication assets. They’re sturdy structures, but aren’t built for comfort for the long watches Marines endure, wearing sometimes upwards of 80 pounds of personal gear. With recent temperatures scorching well past the o100-degree mark, guards appreciate what they do for each others’ safety here.
“It’s just plain hot and sometimes it can be pretty nasty out here,” said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Seong H. Kim, a motor transport mechanic from Hewlitt, N.Y. “But we have an important job to do and the weather is not going to stop us.”
Having the freedom to walk about the camp is a privilege that many of the guards said is easy to forget about.
Lance Cpl. Ben D. Ways just recently transferred into the Guard Force and quickly learned that safety, doesn’t go without the hard work of many.
“Today is my first day on guard. I will say that until now I took for granted living inside the walls here,” said the 21-year Ways, from Beverly, Mass. “It is one of those things that is always in the back of your mind, but you never really pay attention to.
“It is almost like when you get paid,” Ways added. “You know that it is going to be there and that it happens, but you don’t really think about how it happens.”
The guards keep constant surveillance, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. While others are sleeping, the Marines here are watching.
Guard duties are more than standing post, though. The Guard Force resupplies Marines outside the camp walls manning entry control points with food, water, mail and whatever else they need.
“We pretty much take care of whatever needs to be done,” said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Nazzaro, a field radio operator from Jaffrey, N.H. “Especially because the other Marines here can’t always be out there and they deserve a break, so we pick up what we can to help out. If another section is out doing an operation, the Marines here head out to patrol while others still man the posts.”
It’s a job that many wouldn’t volunteer do to because of long hours, merciless heat on posts and little time for personal needs. But the Marines here do it because they know that without their eyes, those working inside the walls wouldn’t be safe.
“It is going to be a long next couple of months standing post,” Ways said. “But luckily there is a great group of Marines here who understand our mission and believe in it so it won’t be too bad.”