RAMADI, Iraq -- For the most part, the work of Sgt. Derrick L. Hicks is hidden. What he contributes to the 2nd Marine Division would go completely unnoticed as long as he kept doing his job.
The 26-year-old Pataskala, Ohio, native provides the electricity that keeps the 2nd Marine Division’s Communications Company, which is the main conduit for all internet, phone and radio communications flowing into and out of the camp, up and running. Hicks provides power to the computers, radios and computer servers that keep the division and all its Marines functioning.
“Our primary mission out here is providing power for Communications Company,” Hicks said. “Without the power, you wouldn’t have communications and without communications, you couldn’t call in air support or artillery or any [medical evacuations].”
He has been busy since his arrival in late February. In addition to helping his fellow Marines from Headquarters Battalion maintain more than 40 generators the Marines use during daily operations, he helps several other units on the camp with their electrical needs. He also set up the generators that supply the electricity to the flood lights illuminating the camp’s entry control point, giving the guards better visibility. Not to mention the generator that powers the air conditioning units for the camp’s military working dogs’ kennel.
Additionally, Hicks played a key role in consolidating the majority of the camps communications assets that were once scattered across the facility, a process that took nearly two months.
“We rewired the entire building,” Hicks said. “It was a huge undertaking. We had to run all the Romex (wiring), install all the breaker boxes, circuits and switches in the building.”
Since communications are imperative to the success of the Marines, Hicks and his fellow Marines have installed a system to provide several alternate power sources in the event the primary generator is disabled.
“Communications are imperative so we can’t afford to have them go down,” Hicks said. “That’s why we have a back-up, an alternate and a back-up to the back-up. If all that goes down then I guess it would just be destiny.”
Hicks spends the majority of his time maintaining the systems that are in place. The harsh desert climate with its heat and sand wreaks havoc on the generators’ mechanical and electronic components. He finds himself constantly changing the generators’ numerous belts, fuses and air filters.
“To keep these things running, it takes constant upkeep,” Hicks said. “In this environment, it takes a lot of work and in the heat of the summer, it was even worse. Of course, during that time, we were also moving and setting up all the gear so it was a worse case scenario.”
He said the worst is now over. As Iraq moves into its rainy season, the temperatures are dropping significantly, reducing the frequency of over-heating radiators and tripped circuits.
"Now it’s just a matter of maintaining the gear,” Hicks said. “Now it’s easily managed; every few days we go around and change out the filters and the oil.”
Hicks is definitely on the down slope of his year-long deployment here but he said he does not know what is next. His contract with the Marines expires in late January 2006 but he is still on the fence about his career in the Marine Corps.
“It’s a tough decision,” He said. “On the one hand there are a lot of benefits to being a Marine but at the same time being away from family and friends is difficult. I’m still weighing my options.”