AL ASAD, Iraq -- In effort to keep the service members and civilians aboard Al Asad safe, one group of Marines has been dedicated to providing external and internal security.
2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion is currently assigned to provide security for all of Al Asad.
“We have got the external and internal security of the base,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Barnhill, the 2nd LAAD Bn. commanding officer. “We are doing patrols, entry control point work and manning the towers. Internally, we are doing the (Provost Marshal’s Office) duty and badging. I have got Marines on post 24-7.”
Unlike most of the units in the Marine Corps, a large majority of the Marines who are providing security with 2nd LAAD are individual augments.
“We have 18 different commands represented that are doing this mission attached to 2nd LAAD,” said Barnhill. “They are all fired up and doing a tremendous job. To take all these Marines from different units and merge them into a very cohesive unit in a certain period of time, it’s humbling to watch it happen.”
Although the Marines come from different units and military occupational specialties, they all work as a team under one motto, “Team Guardian: Deterrence through vigilance.”
“You have to look at it as seamless defense, and that is the way we have attacked this mission,” said Barnhill.
The battalion is broken into batteries that are charged with different missions.
Bravo Battery is responsible for an Entry Control Point, external security and a section of towers.
“(The patrols help) protect the base. I was here two years ago and we would find like two IEDs a week, this time around it’s a lot less,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Michael T. Jansen, the Bravo Battery gunnery sergeant for 2nd LAAD Bn. “We are basically out there to show enemy forces that we are still in the area and that they will not access this base on our watch.”
The Marines at the ECPs work eight hour shifts and ensure that nothing dangerous enters the base.
“It’s good getting to make sure that no one is sneaking stuff on base,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua A. Cheney, a 2nd LAAD gunner and ECP Marine. “We use the same scrutiny everyday and just try to make sure everything runs smoothly and safely.”
The Marines of 1st Stinger Battery are in charge of the rest of the watch towers on base, an
Entry Control Point and also conducts patrols to deter the enemy.
“The Marines are looking for anything suspicious, like vehicles, personnel or anything that is not supposed to be happening out there and they call in and report it,” Sgt. Dain Smith, the sergeant of the guard for a section of towers, 1st Stinger Battery. “If something suspicious is happening they have the Quick Reaction Force go out there.”
While the other batteries are responsible for the exterior security of the base, the Marines of Alpha Battery are busy ensuring the safety inside the base.
“Basically we are like regular MPs back in the states, we make regular traffic stops, although we are not out here just for that,” said Sgt. Todd W. Wegforth, a watch commander for PMO, Alpha Battery. “Our main job is internal security for the base. We go out and set up (vehicle checkpoints) throughout the base. We have multiple teams out there setting up checkpoints, walking patrols or just out looking for something (suspicious).”
Although the Marines of Alpha Battery know that all facets of security are important, they feel that the internal security they provide is key to keeping Al Asad safe.
“I think our job is very important, we are kind of like the last line defense,” said Wegforth.
Although most of 2nd LAAD’s Marines are dedicated to providing security, the headquarters battery Marines are the ones behind the scenes supporting the operations.
“I work on the trucks out here, but it’s a really good feeling knowing that we are part of the mission,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Butzer, electrical equipment repair specialist, currently assigned to Headquarters Battery. “Fixing the trucks, getting them out on time, making sure that the Marines are ready to go when they go outside the wire; I feel like we are doing a lot out here.”
For the 2nd LAAD Marines, teamwork is the key that opens the door to success, according to Sgt. Maj. Todd Parisi, the 2nd LAAD Bn. sergeant major.
“If I had to break it down beyond that, I would put it upon the mighty shoulders of our noncommissioned officers,” said Parisi. “Without that NCO link, the entire chain, from the CO down, would snap, but because it is strong and fortified, the process is unbelievable and the Marines are doing magnificent. They’ll leave you short of breath to watch them in action. To be able to catch on to those coattails and fly behind them in their vapor trail is something special and makes me very proud and honored to be their sergeant major.”