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HADITHA DAM, Iraq (Jan. 12, 2006) - Norwalk, Calif. native Cpl. Jason M. Farias, lead vehicle gunner for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment Personal Security Detachment spends each day working as the first line of defense for the battalion's commander as he travels to visit Marines in the area. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)

Photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Norwalk, Calif., native keeps commander safe

16 Jan 2006 | Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

The job of lead vehicle gunner for a convoy in Iraq is one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs for a Marine, as insurgents continue to place roadside bombs aimed at injuring Marines, Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians.

Norwalk, Calif., native, Cpl. Jason M. Farias, isn’t just the lead gunner on some convoys, he is the first line of defense for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment’s commander as he travels to visit Marines in the area.

With his M-240G machine gun, he sits high above the lead vehicle to provide fire support for the convoy and protect the convoy from roadside bombs and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices used to attack the convoys. With his bird’s eye view of the road ahead, he is responsible for stopping the vehicles when he feels the convoy is in danger.

“I have to make sure I stop any vehicles coming toward us and watch for IEDs and people in the streets,” commented the 21-year-old Farias.

Farias and the rest of the battalion’s Personal Security Detachment are on the road everyday escorting the battalion’s commander, sergeant major and other VIPs traveling to areas in the region. The detachment sometimes spends the entire day on the road traveling to the battalion’s bases so the commander can talk to his Marines.

“Some days, we have to go to each of the bases,” Farias said. “During the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we spent a lot of time on the road.”

On a recent mission through the desert to see Marines on an operation, the PSD had to make their own path and Farias acted as the eyes of the convoy. He helped them make a safe passage through the rocks and hidden ditches as the vehicles crossed the unknown desert terrain.

Like many of the Marines in PSD, Farias was assigned to the battalion after serving on Marine Security Forces duty. Farias was with Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va., where he went on a couple deployments and performed much of the training he uses today.

“This is my second time to Iraq, but I have also been to Chile and Cuba,” commented Farias. “In Chile we trained with their military; that was an unforgettable experience.”

Before deploying to Iraq, the PSD conducted training to improve their skills while operating in the area as the commander’s security.

“Most of us had the same training in Marine Security Forces, so applying that training to our PSD was the way to go,” commented Farias.

With less than eight months left on his active-duty contract, Farias is still undecided on what is in his future. But the time spent working as personal protection in Iraq is something that Farias would like to make a career, whether in or out of the Marine Corps.

“If I get out, I’d like to continue to do something like PSD as a civilian,” Farias said. “I’ll probably be back here as a civilian contractor providing personal security for the military.”