FALLUJAH, Iraq --
On the outer perimeter of Camp Baharia there are vigilant eyes and ears that never rest — Marine sentries manning guard towers alertly in their desolate surroundings with miles of open desert and roadways in the distance.
Working as a sentry on Guard Force may seem tedious and uneventful to some, but it’s arguably one of the most important jobs in terms of securing a military compound.
Cpl. Luke J. Weber, a sentry with Guard Force, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, walks his post and patrols with other Marines several hours each day. He described how sentries frequently change assignments to master multiple jobs and avoid combat complacency.
“The majority of the day I stand post, but we alternate people around different posts so we don’t get complacent,” said Weber, a native of Austin, Texas. “We keep a lookout over the area and watch for even the littlest things.”
Weber, an avionics technician by military occupational specialty, said he remembers his deployment last year when terrorist activity was reported almost daily. Now that Iraqi Police are filling the security role in Fallujah and the level of violence has decreased, sentries must ensure they do not become idle, he said.
“The fact that there is less violence makes it harder not to be complacent,” Weber said. “That’s why we have to stay on our toes. If something were to happen, we have to be ready and expect it. Stuff doesn’t happen nearly as much as it used to, but we still have to look at everything as a potential threat.”
Lance Cpl. Michael Smith, originally a mortarman with the battalion, stood out on post with Weber on what they described as one of the quieter days. The only thing that breaks the total silence around their post is walking, reporting to each other or radio traffic. Smith said any activity seems to make the shifts go by faster, but the days of their deployment often feel like they blend together.
“Time passes by faster when there’s a lot of military traffic passing through,” said Smith, a native of Coatsville, Pa. “When there’s nothing going on, we always find a way to keep ourselves occupied. Plus we have to stay in the mindset that something could always be out there.”
Smith and Weber said there have been a few incidents when the battalion has sent quick reaction forces out to investigate suspicious activities, but on this deployment, no major incidents have occurred.
Smith described only a few minor incidents during their deployment when people accidentally approached their post.
“Actually, we’ve had a couple of people (Iraqi local nationals) come down here and they couldn’t read, so they (weren’t aware of the rules),” he said. “I actually saw one guy park his car and try to walk up here. He kept saying, ‘Meeting meeting, Fallujah,’ so apparently he had to get to a meeting. We always get them turned away before anything happens.”
Minor situations like this could be something to be thankful for, but sentries must stand post with the mindset that today could be the day an enemy wants to attack. While terrorist activity has reached a lull without the opportunity and perceived glory of combat action, the significance of the sentries’ duty still remains.
“There’s not a lot of glory, that’s true,” Weber said. “But people have to understand it’s one of the most important jobs because everyone inside is relying on us to keep them safe. The (senior Marines) tell us that all of the time. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it’s definitely important.”