FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
The typical American may wake up, drink their coffee along with a small nutritious breakfast, and then head out the door to their nine to five job, with expectations of being home by six p.m. every evening. Life is much different for two Marines attached to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
Cpl. Samuel Penaloza, a basic electrician, and Lance Cpl. Andrew Fuller, a generator mechanic, work as a team and must respond to service calls anytime, day or night, to keep the more than 30 forward operating bases using generators, running.
In order to succeed in their mission, 1/9 must depend on generators to power up most of their electrical equipment.
Penaloza, a Centerville, Va., native and Fuller, a Germantown, Md., native are on a very difficult schedule to make sure that power keeps flowing throughout the patrol bases and combat outposts.
“When we first got here there was a lot of chaos,” said Penaloza. “The [Marines] who were here before us did their best with what they had, but we definitely had our work cut out for us when it came to fixing these generators.”
When they receive a call from a patrol base, the Marines are convoyed out to wherever they are needed as quickly as possible.
Sometimes they have to return to a location they just left because another generator goes down or a flood light stops working.
Their work load can get pretty heavy since they are the only two Marines in the unit who handle power related issues. Fuller said it may be a difficult job, but it’s worth doing.
“It’s long hours and tiring, but it’s always good work,” explained Fuller. “Plus, it helps make the deployment go by a lot faster.”
The two Marines have a long way to go with less than a month into their deployment, but they’ve been able to cover a lot of ground since their arrival. In fact, they successfully responded to 30 service calls in their first 11 days.
“It definitely takes work,” said Fuller. “It could take anywhere from one to four days just to troubleshoot a generator.”
Penaloza and Fuller both know they will probably be two of the busiest Marines in the unit throughout the deployment. For most who don’t know, there is rarely a day off in a deployed environment.
Penaloza, a 28-year-old and 2000 graduate from Centerville High School, said he is happy and lucky to be deployed because of the high demand of people who want to deploy in his unit.
“I’ve been a reservist for six years now and because of the large number of people who wanted to deploy, I didn’t think I was going to be the lucky one to deploy,” explained Penaloza. “Although I’m a basic electrician, I still don’t mind coming out here to do another job. It’s a great way for me to learn a new trade and learn from the expert himself.”
Penaloza and Fuller have become quite close since before they became attached to 1/9. The two Marines are both from 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, a Marine Corps reserve unit out of Baltimore, Md.
The two reserve Marines managed to successfully serve all of the unit’s area of operations despite all the dirt, sand, and blazing heat that can cause several problems with the generators, air conditioning units, and flood lights. In fact, the longest anyone has gone without power was three hours, a feat not many deployed Marines in their job field may get to say.
Editor’s Note: 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward). The division serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations to secure the Afghan people, defeat insurgent forces, and enable ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.