AL ASAD, Iraq -- When the explosive ordnance disposal team gets a call to investigate or remove an improvised explosive device, they aren't the only ones who roll out in the face of danger to eliminate the threat.
The Immediate Reaction Team from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271's is right in the mix, providing security for the EOD technicians as they respond to calls in and around Al Asad, air base, Iraq.
"My Marines are highly motivated and willing to lay it all on the line to get the mission accomplished," said Sgt. Ryan C. Thomas, IRT platoon sergeant and native of Knoxville, Tenn. "They have a never quit attitude and are loyal to each other and the mission."
"Our mission is to provide a capability to neutralize the hazards associated with explosive ordnance," said Chief Warrant Officer Bradley A. Garfield, EOD officer-in-charge, and native of Colchester, Vt. "The IRT provides us with a means to safely travel to a volatile area, and provide security that allow us to focus on our mission."
The IRT affords the EOD techs with communications vehicles and armored Humvees armed with machine guns and automatic grenade launchers.
"We provide a 'comfort zone' for them to operate in," said 1st Lt. Myles H. Baer, IRT commander, and native of Shooting Creek, N.C. "We are like their guardian angels outside the wire."
Although their primary responsibilities are in direct support of MWSS-271 and the airfield here, the EOD technicians have been busy responding to calls for unexploded ordnance and IEDs in the areas surrounding Al Asad. Since their arrival here three weeks ago, they, and the IRT have responded to more than 50 calls.
"We've had our baptism by fire with the high operational tempo," Garfield said.
"Our Marines are working and training hard," Thompson said. "They are up first in the morning and they go to bed last. I am really impressed by what they have accomplished so far."
Whether they are training or on a mission, the Marines and sailors of IRT and EOD never forget how essential their work is to the overall mission.
"The days are long and hard," said Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Kondziella, machine gunner and native of Fonddulac, Wis. "However, its worth it. We aren't out here for ourselves; we are here to ensure the people of Iraq and America stay free."
The IRT is a select group of Marines and sailors from various sections of MWSS-271. From welders and engineers, to administrative clerks and motor transportation Marines. Taken from their primary job fields, the IRT has been training in the basics of infantry tactics for one year in preparation of this deployment.
"The biggest challenge is to mold them into one mindset because they come from such diverse backgrounds," Baer said. "We have re-molded their thinking, and created a combat mind set."
Prior to deployment, the Marines of IRT attended courses such as the Squad Leaders Course and Machine Gunners Schools at Marine Corps Base Camp, Lejeune's School of Infantry, and participated in several field exercises..
"These men have put in a lot of long hours and late nights," Baer said. "Now that we are in theater, all that hard work they put in is paying off. We are truly reaping what we sowed."
One day after the writing of this story the IRT and EOD team from MWSS-271 responded to an IED call in the city of Hadithah, where they neutralized two 100mm artillery shells. Their quick reaction, and technical expertise may have saved the lives of an infantry unit who were to patrol past the bombs the next day.