CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Anthony S. Loftin has all the hallmarks of a working man. His blackened fingernails, grease-covered hands and dirt-smudged face are tell-tale signs of the work he does as a mechanic. Few know, however, of the contributions he has made toward keeping the Marines and sailors living and working here in the Al Anbar Province safe.
The 22 year-old Newport, Ark., native spends the majority of his time here using the welding skills he learned working at his grandfather’s auto shop to craft everything from the obscure to the obvious.
“I’ve gotten requests for all sorts of things out here,” Loftin said. “I’ve had so many people requesting things that I had to make a list and start prioritizing it.”
Loftin, a motor transport mechanic with Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division has assembled everything from shower curtain hooks to armor for the camp’s ambulance.
“The ambulance took me about a week to do,” Loftin said. “Every piece of metal had to be custom cut and fit for the back, sides and the top.”
Most of Loftins projects come straight out of his head. He cuts and shapes pieces of scrap metal and fuses them together based on the image he creates in his mind.
“I just listen to what people ask me to create and as they are talking I get a mental image of it in my head,” he said.
His genius lies in his ability to come up with simple solutions to complex problems. Daily mortar attacks left engineers needing a contraption that would allow them to easily cover many of the camps roof structures with sand to harden them against mortar blasts. Putting his imagination to work, Loftin quickly assembled a metal bucket with a trap door allowing workers to hoist the device to rooftops, pull a pin and let the buckets trap door unleash tons of sand to cover the buildings roofs.
“It’s a lot like a sand bagger used to filled sand bags only a lot bigger,” Loftin said.
Loftin has also used his expertise to build 10 large steel guard towers that house the various Marines who stand watch over the camp. Additionally, he has constructed 12 giant rolling gates that keep out the camps unwanted visitors.
His latest project is creating several gates to help lead Iraqi citizens into the Al Anbar Government Center to vote in Iraq’s elections this October.
“Hopefully, these gates will help make it easier for the Marines out there to keep people safe,” Loftin said. “I came out here to make a difference and I think I’m doing that.”
The project is just one more way Loftin says he is trying to do his part and to pay back what he says he owes.
“This is my first time in Iraq and I want to contribute,” Loftin said. “I spent two years at my old unit watching guys come over here and I feel like I owe it to every Marine who has been here before.”
Loftin volunteered for this deployment. The soft-spoken country boy was one of the first Marines to raise his hand when they asked for volunteers to deploy. His dedication and love for the Marine Corps prompted him to reenlist for three more years. It’s something he plans to do in October when his current enlistment expires.
“I’m going to stay in because everything I need is right here,” Loftin said. “The Marine Corps has helped me out so much.”
He cited his increased maturity level, compared to his years as a troubled teenager, as proof of the Marine Corps’ ability to instill discipline in anyone. He said it was the greatest benefit he has received from the Marines.
“I was headed in the wrong direction and I needed to do something different with my life,” Loftin said. “The Marine Corps helped me turn that around.”
The Marine Corps has given him the chance to get off what once looked like a predetermined path to working in a factory or on a farm in Arkansas, barely making ends meet. He wanted to make a difference with his life and said he feels like he has.
“Everything I’ve done over here has helped out in some way, shape or form,” Loftin said. “But everyone here has helped out a lot.
“Hopefully, over time, we’ll continue to make more progress and get everyone back home. Then we’ll all know we made a difference.”