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A Day in the life...I Co. 3/24

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 4/15/2004

Story by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 15, 2004) -- The morning light conquered darkness at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, as reserve Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment prepare for their mission: protecting the camp's perimeter.

Dawn. The Marines exit a seven-ton truck into a haze formed by the sun's rays filtering through the dusty landscape. For now, they are a part of the Quick Reaction Force - ready to respond to any threat.

The Nashville, Tenn. reservist's responses have resulted in the seizing of looters and the neutralization of an insurgent attack, since they took the helm of force protection from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division on March 13.

"That's the thing about reserves," said Lance Cpl. Woody Maddox, from Nashville, Tenn. "We're pretty impressive in the fact we can transition from our civilian lives to our military ones from just stepping off a plane."

The Marines, donning armored vests and helmets, walked to their chariots. They began to clean and prepare the tactical vehicles for their shift.

Lance Cpl. William Harber, a machine gunner with the outfit, links strands of machine-gun rounds. When done, Harber, a native of Dickson, Tenn., said, with a thick southern draw, "Are we fixn' to get some chow?"

Approaching the chow hall, a long line of fellow Marines, sailors and soldiers confronted the team. They stepped in front of the line like they were celebrities entering a hot nightclub in Los Angeles. Force protection personnel have that privilege for being on call 24-hours and seven-days a week.

"It's our humor and strong sense of camaraderie that keep us motivated everyday," said Sgt. Joseph Pyadon, a platoon commander and Murfreesboro native. "Everyone is a joker out here."

The Marines scarfed down their food, and then headed back to their staging area. Dismounting the vehicles, they entered their ready room.

They began playing cards - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers lightly filled the room's air. They waited for the call to spring into action and defend their base.

"Every time I sit down and start to put that first piece of chocolate cake in my mouth," said Lance Cpl. Neal Griffy, a Unionville, Tenn., native. "We get called. It's inevitable."

This time it was not the chocolate cake, it was the hand of cards that fell to the table when the Marines dashed to their vehicles. Time blurred, the team exited the camp's perimeter to react to a call received from one of I Co.'s security posts.

Approaching locals in the midst of a massive burial ground of Iraqi military equipment, the Marines motioned for them to drop their bags and raise their hands. They were collecting scrap metal to sell.

After searching the Iraqis and their bags, the Marines snapped photos of them and warned them not to return. If they do, the photos will help identify them.

"The (Iraqi) people out here are extremely nice, said Lance Cpl. Eli P. Stuard, a Chapel Hill, Tenn., native. "They wave. All they want us to do is wave back. It's only a few who don't wave - the one's against our presence here."

It was those few the Marines encountered.

One of their security posts was taking fire. The team assembled and reacted to the threat in the same manner they respond to any - fast.

"Whether it's looters or a more serious threat," said the Nashville State sophomore Maddox. "It's time to get serious and neutralize it to keep the personnel safe."

The Marines successfully secured the area during the nearly three-hour evolution, Pyadon said.

When the Marines finished their shift, it was time for the reaction force to recharge their bodies with sleep. The incoming team from I Co. took the helm.

The mission for this team will continue until the fall of 2004, when the team is scheduled to revert back to their civilian lives.

"It's going to be an awesome homecoming," said Stuard. "I'll be seeing my second newborn, Chloe Grace. I'm going to be like, 'Girl, where you come from, you weren't here when I left.'"



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