By Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III, 24th MEU
KING FAISAL AIR BASE, Jordan — Standing post and hiking patrols are not the most glamorous work in an infantryman’s career. But these security measures ensured the safety of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Aviation Combat Element and forced those Marines tasked with providing security to get back to basics here throughout the month of May during Exercise Eager Lion 12.
This exercise allowed the Marines from 3rd platoon, Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, to reinforce their knowledge of defense while in a training environment, which is part of the Marine Corps’ train as you fight doctrine.
The U.S. Air Force maintained security for the aircraft throughout the exercise with vehicle checkpoints and periodic roaming vehicles. Despite this, the Marines confessed they felt safer with “boots on the ground.”
“The Air Force is great, but these Marines were very proactive of setting a defensive posture,” said Capt. Christopher Kupka, the anti-terrorism and force-protection officer for 24th MEU who was responsible for ensuring the air base had a robust security posture while the Marines were there. “They set up multiple defensive measures with entry control points, machine gun emplacements, and daily patrols.”
The defensive posture and capabilities increased immediately once the Marines with Charlie Company arrived.
“The Marines hit the ground running with nothing in hand but the commander’s intent,” said Kupka.
The Marines searched through the on-base dump to collect scraps and debris to build defenses. “We didn’t have any supplies when we got here so we had to salvage everything from the dump,” said 1st Lt. William J. Norris, 3rd platoon commander and Naples, Fla., native.
The Marines maintained a boundary of nearly 5,000 meters of concertina wire, as well as sand-filled barrels along the perimeter to stop larger vehicles.
After establishing the perimeter and various entry control points, the Marines moved into a steady schedule of eight hours on post, eight hours on patrol, and eight hours to rest and maintain a quick reaction force.
“The Marines are awesome, they’ve maintained 24-hour operations for a month straight,” said Norris.
The Marines also constructed machine gun posts to protect the ammunition supply point.
“We put up two M240D machine gun posts along with a MK19 (grenade launcher) to cover some of the additional dead space,” said Cpl. Ryan Kretschmer, 23, 3rd squad leader and Twin Lakes, Wis., native.
The posts were built from scrap metal, wood, sandbags and sweat as the Marines dug the gun emplacements into the embankments surrounding the ASP.
“They were made entirely out of garbage, and they look pretty good for being built out of garbage,” said Norris.
Kretschmer was given very little direction before being released to establish and maintain the machine guns.
“They told me what they wanted with and we just made it happen,” he said.
These patrols, posts and machine guns added that extra layer of security the Marines require for a Marine Corps installation.
“People see us on patrol and they see us on post so they know we are out here and we’re keeping this place safe,” said Lance Cpl. Jason O. Otero, 24, machine gunner and New York City native. “It’s safer because they see us always here, always on guard, always on patrol.”
While the Marines on post missed the training ranges from Exercise Eager Lion 12, they regarded their work here as more representative of the daily grind in a combat environment.
“I didn’t think it would be like this when we got out here,” said Cpl. Benjamin Young, 21, 2nd squad leader and Chattanooga, Tenn., native. “We usually do live-fire ranges during a training exercise but here, it’s been just like real world. It’s a good experience for the young Marines.
“We got here and hit the ground running,” said Young. “I’m really happy how the boys did.”
The extensive increase in security allowed the Charlie Company Marines to see what they are capable of in a short period of time. It also allowed the squad leaders to train their Marines in a real-world environment.
“We did a lot in four days when we didn’t have anything,” said Kupka. “We’ve made this place even 10 times better in security posture.”
The patrols and guard posts have worn on the Marines here as their morale struggled with the grueling pace of their security posture. Despite their weariness and burden, the Marines trudged on to ensure a secure workplace for the Marines throughout the exercise.
Eager Lion 12 was an international training exercise with more than 19 countries and approximately 11,000 participants designed to promote cooperation and military-to-military relationships among participating forces. The exercise scenario is intended to portray realistic, modern-day security challenges.
The 24th MEU is currently deployed with the Iwo Jima ARG to the U.S. Central Command area of operations as a theater reserve and crisis response force.