FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A grunt’s work in Fallujah is never done.
When they’re not patrolling the streets or ridding the area of anti-Iraqi forces, they’re watching over fellow Marines to make sure that they can do the same.
Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, spend long hours providing overwatch positions for their fellow warriors at Observation Post Fenton.
The post lies in the heart of the city, where Marines and coalition forces continue to be attacked by enemy forces.
“We basically provide route security to ensure that nobody places improvised explosive devices or tries to coordinate an attack against the Marines here,” said Sgt. Grant L. Emde, squad leader, from Cohasset, Mass.
Security missions aren’t always easy missions. Teams of Marines trade hours of their day to man several positions in the building, sometimes without much sleep and in temperatures reaching into triple digits.
“Watch positions are harder than they sound,” said Cpl. Andy Melendez, a machine gunner from Utica, N.Y. “It takes a lot of discipline and dedication to be able to sit or stand up there for hours at a time and scan the area.”
Both military and civilian traffic pass along the roads surrounding the OP. Marines here use their best judgment when calling into higher headquarters about what vehicles may be suspicious or dangerous to Coalition Forces.
“It is almost like a game,” explained Lance Cpl. Anthony B. Dineen, an infantryman from Hudson, N.H. “We know that they are watching us and they know that we are watching them.”
Several stories tall and a few rooms deep, the now Marine-occupied house in the middle of the city is often picked by insurgents as a place for attack.
Several days ago, Marines here were exchanging gunfire with the insurgents. They were just a few days from rotating out with another team when the firefight broke out between AK-47 assault rifles and M-16s.
“Rounds were coming in from all over the place and they actually seemed like they wanted to stand up and fight,” 20-year-old Dineen said. “We got into our positions and the lead started flying. It was an all out shoot-out.”
Marines quickly had the insurgents on the run. Before the enemy could come close to pinning the defensive Marines down, they were fleeing from incoming rounds that were fired from the OP.
“It’s no vacation being out there,” said Melendez, 25. “The Marines know that at any time someone could try and hit them, just like when they are on a patrol.”
After shift changes and Marines take over for one another, it’s a waiting game.
Stacks of old magazines, boxes of dug-through meals ready-to-eat and military style cots are bunched throughout the house. It’s a bastion of safety, and it affords a few creature comforts that Marines revel in when they’re not on duty.
“We are pretty safe here,” Dineen said. “When you’re not up watching the city, you have to find something to pass the time.”
Conversations of what type of beer is the best, which celebrity is better looking and stories of their times spent in Fallujah chatter throughout the small rooms. Marines smile and joke as if back home, only they bear camouflage uniforms, dirty from the week’s events and weapons loaded with ammunition to fight off insurgents.
“It’s not a bad gig,” said 28-year-old Emde. “It could always be worse.”
“Besides when you are not on post, you really get to know the guys you are with, just from the stories everybody shares from back home,” Melendez added. “Some of the best times in the deployment come when it’s just you and your fellow Marines blabbering about the good times and bad.”
Marines rode back to their firm base to rest and take showers before heading out again. Soon enough, though, they will head back into their OP to become the eyes and ears for their fellow Marines.
“It’s all worth it because we know that it is paying off for us and it will continue to for the other Marines,” Emde said. “We have been able to detour anyone possibly trying to place in anything that will harm coalition forces.”