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Marine Security Mission in the Anbar Province (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Day and night, US Marines from the Al Asad Air Station check those who enter and leave the base. It may not be their "regular job" in the Corps, but then there is no single role for Marines.
(AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq) - For Marines at the Al Asad Air Station in Iraq, running base security is a never ending mission. Calling it serious would be a grave understatement, and anyone who attempts to cross these warriors treads on dangerous ground.
It's a job normally performed by military police, but today the roles are filled mostly by Marines with other military occupational specialties, or MOS's, primarily related to aviation.
Sgt. Michael Delrosario is one of the Marines charged with security at this important military installation.
"It's a lot of different kid of training, a lot of different things going on, it takes a lot of getting used to. It's a lot of really different MOS's from air crews, from bulk fuel, some people are drill instructors that just came off the drill field, so it's kind of different.
Part of that job involves working with the Iraqi people, both soldiers and police and civilians. The Marines gave different reviews of this unique culture of people, and the assessments were wide ranging.
'Hard' does seem to be the operating word in Iraq in 2008; the people live a hard life, it is hard to know who to trust Marine Sergeant Kyle Lewis says the communication barrier does not help matters.
"Very frustrating, we have our terps but they can't be everywhere all the time. Lots of hand signals, sign language." A asked him if they are they pretty good to work with overall, and he answered, "Yes."
Lance Corporal Cecelia Vest has been in the Marine Corps for less than a year, and has mastered skills not part of her intended duties as a Marine. She agrees that the communication problem has an impact.
"A lot of them don't speak English and they try to sneak stuff on, and if they don't understand you they try to give you the 'I don't know' look. Usually you can try and talk to them, we've got terps and stuff, but a lot of them try to sneak stuff on, so we just have to make sure they don't take things they aren't supposed to onto base."
Sgt Jason Paul has a different perspective, citing time as a friend in these type of relations. "Once you get to know them, its pretty neat to get to talk to them a little bit. When they're here waiting to get onto the base you go ahead and chat with them a little bit. You find out if they are married, if they have children and stuff, and they'll ask us the same thing."
Another Marine, Lance Corporal Billy Harrison, says the most important thing is to simply have a good attitude.
An old slogan in the Corps is that aviation Marines 'swing with the wing', but there is no swinging in a security role. Some of these Marines explained the difference between an easy day and one that is more challenging.
Humberto Arauz, a Corporal of Marines, says the days can have a lot of contrast.
"A good day is a boring slow day, a bad day is just probably when you lose somebody, when somebody goes down, that is always a bad day."
While the nation's military today is an all volunteer force, there are those who choose to reenter the civilian world, only to be called back to the Corps for a deployment to Iraq. Robert McVoy is a Melsrose, Massachusetts firefighter who had an unexpected letter just when he thought it was safe to open the mail. "Very unexpected, I was just one day out before they couldn't call me, but they got me. I feel obligated to do it; I'd be less of a man if I didn't fulfill a contract. You know I did sign the papers. To try to weasel your way out of it is just cowardice you know."
Sergeant Gabe Stall is another Marine who received that last minute contact, advising him that he would have to go back to Iraq, after spending two years as a civilian.
"I was here at Anbar, Al Asad '04/'05. You were lucky if you went out on convoy and didn't find an IED, or multiple IED's. Now we're lucky if we find one at all."
Michael Patton is another Marine who served a previous tour in Iraq.
It's a lot more relaxed than it was 2006 over here, no mortars, no attacks, it is a lot more laid back."
Another perspective comes from the Iraqi interpreter who works with these Marines. Jakope Al Salim is sold on the mission of the Corps here, and says the Marine Corps presence in Anbar Province is something the local people have come to count on. Some he says, wish the Marines had come twenty years earlier.
"Well when you're on the ground, facing these things very close, it's different than if you hear about it from overseas. Because when you come here you find out how much they need to be dealing with the Marines and the military."
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__________________________________Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.
Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: email@example.com
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