AL ASAD, Iraq -- For all service members, and civilians’ here, their first line of defense for approaching enemy is the tower Marines on duty 24-hours a day. The Marines keep their eyes peeled for any suspicious activity from a few feet in the air that could be considered a threat to the aircraft and personnel of Al Asad.
A group of more than 200 Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit from Buffalo, N.Y., augmented by Marines from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing man the posts in eight-hour shifts; standing in the rain, sandstorms, extreme cold or brutal heat they are always ion watch. These Marines are attached to 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion which provides base security.
“Our Marines stand in those towers with no breaks, fighting the elements and not able to sit down,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Morgan, tower chief. “People play games and have movie nights without ever thinking about the fact that the only thing between the insurgents and them is an 18 or 19-year-old Marine standing a post, keeping them safe.”
Every shift begins with a brief where the marines get information pertaining to their towers each day. They also discuss enemy intelligence that may be important to each post. The Marines also receive their tower assignments and are shuttled to relieve the previous watch.
“We try to change things up for our Marines as much as possible,” Morgan said, an augment from Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C. “It is hard enough to stay interested in the desert for hours on end so we try to put them at different towers and pair them up with different Marines to break up the monotony.”
The augments from the 2nd MAW are all from aviation jobs and volunteered for duty in Iraq, serving as part of the security detail supporting the Global War on Terrorism.
“The Marines here from the 2nd MAW are all ordnancemen and aircraft mechanics just like the ones in squadrons,” Morgan said. “They just stepped up to the challenge, were willing to work outside their box, to do something different. Each of these Marines has taken on a little more responsibility to help out the Marine Corps when it needed a few extra Marines to secure the base.”
The main mission of the “tower” Marines is to stay vigil obsreving patiently for any insurgent activity. The Marines understand their role as a watchdog for the base.
“Our post is mainly an observation post,” said Cpl. Robert McGregor, an augment from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 out of MCAS Beaufort. “Our role is to watch the terrain. When we see headlights or something we can’t determine, we call it in and the Quick Reaction Force will check it out.”
India Company had been anxiously waiting to get in the fight since the war started in 2003. Everyday seemed liked it could be the day the unit would get the call to deploy, according to Lance Cpl. Justin Haag, 3/25.
The 3/25 Marines arrived in Iraq ready to rid the cities of insurgent activity, but after arriving they quickly became aware of their mission; it was nothing like they had planned.
“Our mission isn’t exactly what we thought, but it is vital to the overall goals for Iraq,” said Cpl. Nick Hennings, infantryman, 3/25.
“Any mission that we get is important to the stabilization of Iraq,” Haag said. “This might not be what we had in mind, but whatever the Marine Corps needs us to do we are going to do it to the best of our ability.”
The Marines who make up the tower detail are manning an important post to Al Asad. Keeping insurgent activity on the run outside is vital to the overall goals of the 2nd MAW.
These Marines stay alert and are always aware of their surroundings. Although many of their days pass by without incident, they maintain a watchful eye, constantly peering into the distant sands. Their presence alone sends a message to the enemy: Terrorists are not welcome, beware of the Marines here.
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