; COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, IRAQ -- For the average deployed Marine, the discomforts of the desert are a near-constant: being hot, dirty, and bored. Marines and Sailors like Pfc. Jon E. Combs, and Seaman Nolan J. Calhoun are trying to do something about it, and provide a few more comforts to their hard-working counterparts.
Calhoun, the religious program specialist with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, and Combs, the battalion’s assistant police sergeant, have been spending most of their time improving the combat outpost, also known as a COP, the battalion calls home.
“Hygiene and safety are our two primary goals,” said Gunnery Sgt. Efrain J. Montejano, the battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company gunnery sergeant and camp commandant. “After safety and hygiene, we do whatever it takes to improve the morale of the Marines around here.”
The three service members have spent the past two months improving the living conditions around the battalion’s headquarters.
To improve the camp’s safety, they have added large sand-filled bags called Hesco barriers around the fuel distribution point, and built up some of the barriers that protect the camp from indirect fire. The improvements didn’t stop there.
“We realize there isn’t much to do out here except work a lot, but one hobby we have noticed that a lot of guys share is the gym, so we focused on that first,” said Calhoun, a native of Chico, Calif.
They recently added shelves, painted the weights, and put up several mirrors in the gym facility. In addition, they built nearly half a dozen pull-up bars and dip bars around the camp.
“We know it’s not only improving the fitness around here, but it builds morale too. Out here that is all we have,” Calhoun said.
This isn’t the first time either of these two service members has built something. Combs spent most of his free time during high school working at his father’s construction business, and Calhoun spent nearly a year doing carpentry and construction before joining the Navy. In addition to his religious duties, Calhoun has tackled the job of improving the COP.
“I worked on stuff like this with my dad a lot,” said Combs, a Yuba City, Calif., native. “I have always enjoyed building things, and it feels even better now that I know I’m helping out everybody who comes to the camp.”
The duo also organized the ‘free-px’ where Marines can leave the extra supplies they get from care packages to help out other Marines who may need something. After that, they began working on a ping-pong table to add to the COP’s morale, welfare, and recreation center (MWR).
“We have some other ideas for projects still in the development stages,” said Montejano. “We want to make more improvements on the MWR, and someone had the idea of marking out a running course with exercise stations along the route.”
“We have so many ideas for improving this place,” Calhoun said. “I figure if we are going to be here for a while, we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible for the guys who are out in the desert most of the time and don’t get the more common comforts like we do.”
One of these comforts is showering on a regular basis.
“We are designing larger leach pits for the hygiene trailers so they can support showers. Right now we only have one shower area and we are trying to create a few more,” said Montejano, a native of Los Angeles.
The COP’s most recent addition was a permanent post-exchange (PX). Combs and Calhoun say they enjoy helping out, and improving the living space as much as possible.
“We are here to work for the battalion’s grunts and crewmen,” said Combs. “They are the most important element here and we consider it our job to make their lives a little easier each time we take on a new project.”