Engineers set the stage for a safer Iraq

19 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle 1st Marine Logistics Group

The stage constantly changes during a theatrical performance and relies heavily on the crew behind the curtains to set up for the next scene.  

The Iraqi theater is no different.  Before the war-fighters take the spotlight, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 5-2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), prepares the stage. 

“The one-and-only Alpha Company,” as some of the unit’s combat veterans call it, works mostly at night, taking full advantage of the Iraqi curfew. The curfew takes effect from 9 p.m to 6 a.m. and gives coalition forces “a magic window” to conduct operations free of civilian vehicle traffic, said Chief Warrant Officer Anthony J. Reiter, commander of Operations Platoon.

Engineer Company is made up of Marines from at least 10 different specialties who display a wide range of technical skills. They build and repair roads, install force protection barriers and maintain utilities for outposts and vehicle checkpoints in, and around, Fallujah.  As the theater around them changes, so does the company’s objective.

All the missions, however, have one thing in common – danger. Improvised explosive devices, small arms, as well as mortar and rocket-propelled-grenade fire, pose constant threats to the company’s operations.

Just another night

On the morning of Sept. 26, while most at Camp Fallujah were silencing their alarm clocks for a few extra minutes of sleep or toting a towel to the showers, Marines and Navy corpsmen with Engineer Company were returning to camp.

The troops unloaded vehicles and inventoried their gear. After a few hours of sleep they would come back to the lot and re-stage for another mission in the city.

Iraqi Army soldiers providing security at Fallujah’s dam bridge had been receiving small arms fire, and Engineer Company was tasked with setting up a row of Texas barriers (5-ton concrete walls) to mitigate the threat.

At nightfall, their 15-vehicle convoy began traveling to Fallujah, but minutes after exiting the gates, an IED hit the security patrol a few kilometers ahead. No one was injured in the blast, and after an explosive-ordinance-disposal team detonated a second IED threat, the convoy continued. 

“We’ve definitely taken some extra (safety) steps on this mission due to the size and scope of the operation,” said Reiter, moments after receiving news of the IEDs. “It looks like we were right in doing so.”

They reached the dam bridge and began placing the force protection barriers. 

This particular mission relied heavily on Marines from Operations Platoon. Heavy-equipment operators with Ops Platoon used TRAMs (tractor, rubber-tired, articulated steering, multi-purpose vehicles) to lift the barriers off flatbed trucks and place them in the desired locations.

Because of the delays, the operators had to move quickly to finish the project before dawn. Working with minimal light due to the threat of enemy snipers, they finished at sunrise and began their short trip back to Camp Fallujah.

After setting the stage for another day in the ever-changing Iraqi theater, Marines with Engineer Company would once again have a few hours of sleep before waking up to do it all again.

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1st Marine Logistics Group