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Seaman Nicolaos Vassiliades, corpsman for Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5, does a set of seated dumbbell curls at the Traffic Control Point 3 gym in Rawah, Iraq, Oct. 25. Vassiliades and the Marines of PRP-3 use their free time to stay fit and combat ready.::r::::n::

Photo by Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Marines adapt to keep morale high

4 Nov 2008 | Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Since an idle Marine is an unhappy Marine, the leathernecks with Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5 have discovered ways of keeping busy, even if the facilities at Traffic Control Points 3 and 4 are limited.

With a makeshift gym and Internet and phone connectivity in place, the Marines from PRP-3 were able to fall in on some equipment that would make recreation possible. However, there were some other amenities the resourceful Marines had to adapt to their needs.

"It's not a big forward operating base, but I don't think that's a bad thing," said 2nd Lt. Randall Blowers, 25, platoon commander, PRP-3, from Vernon, Conn. "If Marines were looking for comfortable living, they wouldn't have joined the Corps."

The facilities at TCP 3 and 4 may not have been homey when the PRP-3 Marines moved in, but they've made it their temporary home by cleaning and repairing the posts.

"The Marines here have done a lot to help themselves," Blowers said. "They've improved their own quality of life with all the hard work they've done to the camps."

The freezers are stocked and the Marines receive two hot meals per day. A small oven and microwave are available to keep the Marines fed. Ice cold water is available to keep Marines hydrated for patrols, and hot water is available to keep the warriors warm at night and in preparation for the cold days ahead.

There is a washing machine and clothes dryer to take care of the Marines’ laundry, and a water heater provides warm showers to keep the Marines clean, which they prefer to a "baby-wipe shower." Marines skilled in "barracks" haircuts use electric shears to keep the Marines’ appearance tidy.

There is also a Morale, Welfare and Recreation room for the Marines that has a big screen television with local satellite transmission that plays movies. The MWR room provides a place for the Marines to gather and relax while not on duty or on patrol.

Perhaps the amenities that the Marines like the most, though, are the gym and the Internet and phone area.

"Everyone is real generous with the computers and the phones, since they know when someone is waiting and are ready to share," said Sgt. David A. Lara, 30, a squad leader with PRP-3 from Stafford, Texas. "I've been able to talk quite a bit with my wife, and it keeps my morale up by keeping in touch with my family."

"It's nice because the television, the Internet and the phones are never busy because everyone rotates their duties," said Lance Cpl. Ramon Villa, 22, an infantryman with PRP-3 from Modesto, Calif. "I get good rest before the missions, and I'll get online in my free time."
The Marines also have an outdoor gym that may not look like much, but helps keep the Marines in shape. With an assortment of free weights and benches, the cast-iron weights may bear the coloration of rust and sand, but they provide plenty of resistance for Marines trying to get stronger.

"The weight rooms in other places may be more hooked up, but this is better because you don't have to wait," said Villa of the gym area at TCP-3. "It meets our standards and works pretty good for as many people as we have here. I'm trying to improve myself and my fitness, so it's very important to make time to work out between posts."

The facilities here have been enough to keep the Marines happy, and the PRP-3 leaders recognize that happy Marines are those who will work harder and better.

"If the Marines are happy, then they'll want to work; if they want to work, then there's no limit to what they will accomplish," said Lara, noting that if a mission comes up, the Marines drop what they're doing and respond quickly. "They go the extra mile when they're happy, and I'm happy because the work gets done right."