RAWAH, Iraq --
The number of forward operating bases occupied by Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5 is decreasing as the battalion moves toward a state of operational over watch in their area of operations.
Construction is underway to improve accommodations for servicemembers at some bases designated to remain operational for the time being. How long Marines will be at COP Rawah is unknown, but the camp will get several improvements over the next few months that will improve the quality of life for the Marines there.
“This construction has been going on since April,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Matthews, 30, the assistant battalion logistics officer. “We're improving the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center, chow hall and the gym.”
Each facility will expand and feature more equipment to accommodate a greater number of users at any given time, including extra computers and phones to stay in touch with friends and family.
“The MWR Center will be in the existing chow hall,” said Matthews, who is from Milaca, Minn. “The internet center will increase from 700 square feet to about 2,800 and feature more phones, computers, pool tables and televisions.”
As the MWR Center moves into the existing chow hall, a contracting company will build the new dining facility and serve twice the amount of hot meals daily. The Marines currently have two hot meals a day and cold-cut sandwiches, fruit and snacks for lunch.
"The chow hall will support nearly twice as many Marines as before," Matthews said. "The biggest improvement so far is that we will go from two hot meals per day to four."
With all the good food to come with the new chow hall, the Marines will be able to burn off calories at the new gym that will expand to nearly three times the current size and hold a variety of manufactured exercise machines and free weights. Through the ingenuity of servicemembers on Rawah, the gym currently holds various improvised pieces of exercise equipment.
"When we got here, we hardly had any equipment in the gym," Matthews said. "Another unit loaned us some machines, and Army maintenance welded bars for us. All units helped out to make the gym as nice as it could be."
Over the long days of a deployment, some Marines choose to relieve their stress at the gym. With a variety of machines at their disposal, they will be able to add different exercises to their workout routines and stay enthusiastic.
"The gym gives Marines something to look forward to and something to do," said Sgt. Damien Robinson, 26, the administrative chief and linguist manager with Headquarters and Service Company, from Benton Harbor, Mich. "It's a good way to let go of stress and extra energy. The new gym will open up a lot of equipment for more people and they can get in and out of the gym quicker."
After an intense workout at the gym, Marines can take advantage of the new hygiene facilities, and the new living quarters are a step up from the previous accommodations.
"There are now more flushing toilets and shower trailers," said Matthews. "A lot of the permanent personnel were living in tents, and now they live in hard structures, which improve their quality of life quite a bit."
From the time the servicemembers wake up to the time they go to sleep, they will be able to take advantage of these new accommodations. In several months when all the improvements are done, Marines will be able to make life a little more enjoyable for themselves during their time at Combat Outpost Rawah.