FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Marines and corpsmen huddle around a TV watching the 2006 film “Blood Diamond,” one of the few DVDs they have on hand at Observation Post Burgess. Marines not engaged by the movie are either catching up on sleep, writing letters home or, more importantly, manning one of the many required duties within and around the observation post.
OP Burgess, riddled with holes from gunfire from years of attacks, is located in the heart of Fallujah. The building Marines occupy is surrounded by large cement barriers, and its windows are barricaded by sandbags. Marines with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, live and work out of the OP to maintain overwatch within their designated area of operation. They keep an eye peeled both for insurgent activity and to cover the backs of the Iraqi Security Forces operating in the city.
Working directly with the “Spartans” of 2/6 are Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Daily tasks for these support Marines include, but are not limited to, fortifying structures and providing routine maintenance in the area surrounding both the compound containing the Fallujah district Iraqi Police headquarters, or the Joint Command Center, and OP Burgess.
“This area of Fallujah is a very valuable piece of real estate,” said Capt. Siu K. Cheng, Echo Co. commander. “It is because the OP is close to the JCC.”
Other than Coalition Forces, the JCC, across a courtyard from OP Burgess, houses many prominent individuals such as the mayor of Fallujah and Iraqi Police chief Col. Faisal. Living and working from the JCC, Marines attached to RCT-6 also train hundreds of Iraqi Police officers to patrol and work within the streets of the city.
“This place is definitely a high (profile) target,” said Warminster, Pa., native Lance Cpl. Joseph V. Mahon, Jr., a food service specialist with 2/6, who has been at the OP for nearly one month. “Marines move in and out of here a lot. I’ve been here so long because Marines have to eat, right?”
Traditionally, observation posts don’t have warm food prepared by their very own cook; however, since the Ready Battalion took over this area, many “remodeling” changes occurred.
“You should have seen this place before we got here,” said 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Lourenco, a mortarman with Echo Co. “There was nothing here. Since we arrived, we have installed air conditioners as well as hooked up a chow hall.”
The East Hanover, N.J., native continued to explain that a lot of Marines are going to their bases’ gyms, dining in their respectively large dining facilities and showering regularly. At OP Burgess, the Marines are not so fortunate. Portable toilets are a luxury here.
“You get used to it after awhile,” said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Adams, a machine gunner with the company, who hasn’t had a shower in over 10 days. “That is why we have these,” he said, as he held up a package of baby wipes.
The dining facility, dubbed “Chow Hell,” was run solely by Mahon before another Marine from RCT-6 showed up to help with the work load. Getting one hot meal a night is more than many leathernecks receive when sitting on one of the many other observation posts scattered throughout Fallujah.
Although air conditioners and warm chow are now regular features at OP Burgess, they are still vulnerable to power outages.
One minute, during the film, a Marines commented, “Jennifer Connelly is definitely in my top ten,” and the next minute the power went out. The audience of Marines erupts in unison in disdain.
Life may not be as normal at OP Burgess as the Marines may want, but Lourenco summed up the situation by concluding, “It’s not about where you are. It’s about who you’re with. And we have a good group of guys here.”