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FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 25, 2008) –Marines of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines suffered a fire June 25 that destroyed Entry Control Point-5 (ECP-5), a post where Marines and Iraqi Police control traffic and safeguard entrants into the city of Fallujah. After four weeks, the company rebuilt and received an outpouring of support from people back home, neighboring units and local Iraqis. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines) (RELEASED)

Photo by Cpl. Chris Lyttle

A mixed blessing

20 Jul 2008 | Cpl. Chris Lyttle

After roughly four weeks, the Marines of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines have a new housing compound at Entry Control Point-5 after a fire destroyed it June 25.

Marines worked alongside the Fallujah Fire Department to subdue the fire. While no one was injured, the fire destroyed several wooden buildings and much of the Marines’ personal possessions and military equipment.

After the incident, the company received overwhelming support from neighboring units, Iraqi local nationals and stateside supporters.

1st Lt. Travis Bowden, executive officer of the company, said the company received such an outpouring of support that the fire feels like it came in the form of a mixed blessing.

“Even though it’s unfortunate that the Marines lost a lot of things, it turned out for the better in the long run,” Bowden said. “We have new buildings and it gives the Marines a fresh start.”

Bowden said the rebuilding process was supported by Iraqi locals, Combat Engineer Battalion-1 and Combat Logistics Battalion-1.

“Local sheiks sent their men to level the ground and spread gravel before we began rebuilding,” said Bowden. “CEB came out and rebuilt the (buildings) within four or five days, and now it looks like the fire never happened. In fact, (the compound) is even better.”

Bowden said toiletries and comfort goods sent by people back home is still arriving. The company received enough items to last them beyond their current deployment, so much that many of the items are being offered to other Marines within the battalion.

“The USO, Red Cross, families and churches from across the country started pouring in support … all the basic stuff to get us through the interim,” Bowden said. “As you look around, there are stacks and stacks of everything the Marines ever needed. The outpouring (of support) from the community back home was overwhelming.”

Though the fire damage was a set-back, Bowden said operations at the ECP ran as usual.

“We didn’t miss a beat,” Bowden said. “We were able to fulfill all of the obligations that were tasked from higher (command) and we’ve been able to fulfill all the things we needed to do out in town with local sheiks and IPs (Iraqi Police).”

Bowden said the only task difficult to keep up with is being able to personally thank every supporter who has contributed to the relief effort.

“I think one of the biggest problems we’re having is that we can’t keep up writing letters to say thank you,” Bowden said. “We’re definitely appreciative, and for those people we couldn’t write back to I’d like to say thank you. The Marines acknowledge the support and they’re very thankful.”

Cpl. Joseph Williams, the training noncommissioned officer for headquarters platoon, is one of several Marines who lost nearly everything in the fire. He said many of the Marines who live and work at the ECP-5 compound had to adjust to living in close quarters and endured a brief but difficult period during the rebuilding process.

“It was cramped, it was hot and there wasn’t a lot of room at all, but we got by,” Williams said, describing their short stay in temporary quarters with no air conditioning and only cots to sleep on.

Williams said it was hard to watch as Marines with CEB-1 bulldozed the burnt compound.

“It was kind of tough to see CEB come and bulldoze everything. Then for about three or four days (before rebuilding began) everyone was thinking, ‘When are they ever going to get it rebuilt,’” Williams joked. “But once they started, the engineers threw it up fast and suddenly everything was done. It was awesome.”

Compared to the previous compound, Williams said the new buildings are more comfortable for the Marines.

“We have brand new ACs that are kicking out nice and the roofs are insulated,” Williams said. “Everything here is brand new and the Marines love it. We have a lot more room, it’s homier and it’s all around just a lot better.”

Williams said the company now has more than everything they will need for the deployment and the Marines can’t get over all of the help they have received.

“Members of my parents’ church (in Hadelhurst, Ga.) sent me five packages of stuff I could give to everyone and there’s still stuff coming in,” Williams said. “We have bins full of anything you could imagine. There’s nothing that you need to get by with that (we don’t have).”

Williams said the Marines are living better now thanks to people who have not forgotten about them.

“We really don’t have enough words to say how thankful we are,” he said. “It’s great to know that we are not forgotten over here. The Marines are all appreciative of the support because it makes your day a lot better when you can get up in the morning and shave, shower and brush your teeth. It’s the simple things that make your day a lot better and your deployment a lot easier.”

Editor’s note: This article is a follow-up to “Fire destroys post, Marines persevere” submitted July 3, 2008.