ECP Marines keep dangers ‘outside the wire’

15 Aug 2007 | Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz,

Servicemembers came here to keep the dangers in this country out of their own and to help the Iraqi people. But to operate safely in Iraq, they also work to ensure dangers remain outside the premises of their bases, or what’s called “outside the wire.”

By increasing stability within Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, the threat of attacks at entry control points here has decreased, however the Marines regulating them will never be out of a job.

So what would happen if Marines didn’t take a position at the ECP?

Staff Sgt. Justin Booker, the 1st platoon sergeant with Battery K, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), said “it would be absolute chaos.”

Booker, a Baltimore native, added that there would be no accountability for Marines and soldiers and anyone could get on and off base, explaining their mission; to protect the personnel within the confines of the base here at all costs.

“It would be like being outside the wire,” said Cpl. Raymond G. Espinoza, a fire team leader with 1st Platoon, Battery K, 1st Bn. 11th Marines, 2nd MLG (Fwd). “If we’re slacking here and someone gets on base and people get hurt here, it’s ultimately our fault.”

The Marines with 1st Platoon traded a role with another platoon to begin working at the ECP. They all seemed to agree it was a good change from manning the watchtowers surrounding the perimeter of the camp.

Booker said the Marines in his platoon have been refreshed by the change. He expressed great confidence in their ability to take on the tasks they face at the ECP.

“I respect them as men and I respect them a great deal as Marines,” said Booker. “I can go to bed at night knowing my platoon is doing the best that they can.”

Espinoza, a San Antonio native, recalled an experience during his 2004 deployment to Ramadi; an incident he said “would not be at all likely” today.

Espinoza was inside the confines of Camp Ramadi when insurgents launched an attack on one of the gates. Personnel were prepared to reinforce the perimeter, but, in the end, were not required.

“They tried to get on the base but they never got past the ECP,” he said. .

Such attacks are rare today, but not unheard-of. According to recent reports, 75 Taliban militants coordinated an attack on Firebase Anaconda in southern Afghanistan Aug. 8. The attack was an attempt to overrun the base, leaving more than 20 militants dead. Coalition forces reported no casualties.

Lance Cpl. Clinton R. Smith III, a fire team leader with the platoon, said the primary mission of the ECP Marines is to protect the camp from attacks such as these.

Smith, a Philadelphia native, also explained that just doing his job enables his fellow Marines to leave the majority of dangers outside the wire.

“They can come back here and feel a little safer than they are outside the wire,” he said.

The mere presence of the Marines sends a clear message to enemies plotting to attack; don’t try it. Marines are winning the battle at the front gate and, in many cases, they’re doing so without having to fire a single shot.