FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Every day, these young men toil under a blazing sun in temperatures that would fry an egg left on the sidewalk.
As they sweat underneath body armor and helmets, stretching wire and erecting bunkers, combat engineers like Cpl. Allen Ryals are also building strong bonds with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.
On May 26, the 23-year-old Tylertown, Miss. native, his teammates, and Iraqi soldiers further fostered this camaraderie as they fortified an Iraqi operational headquarters here.
Elements from Ryals’ Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, worked alongside the soldiers to stretch protective concertina wire and set up pre-fabricated barriers around the camp.
“Basically, we’re just helping build up the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) base,” stated Ryals, the 2nd Squad leader with 2nd Platoon. “Before, a lot of this area was just wired off, but it was out in the open. In the event that they take contact (come under fire) now, they have something to take cover behind and return fire.”
The 2000 Tylertown High School graduate referred to his team’s role in helping the soldiers set up Hesco barriers, which are wire and canvas cages that are stretched out, propped up, and filled with dirt. These barricades serve as protection from small arms fire and shrapnel blasts, both issues the soldiers face as they provide security to the previously embattled city.
Many Iraqi bases throughout Fallujah are based out of former schools, thus lacking any walls or natural protection. For this reason, Ryals and his fellow engineers teach the soldiers how to build bunkers and strengthen their camp.
The Iraqi commanders and Marines assessed this base’s security to determine what areas needed fortification. Under Ryals’ Marines supervision, the Iraqis stretched out the Hesco barriers and concertina wire to build the needed fortifications.
Afterward, a Marine bulldozer operator would scoop dirt into the wire cages.
The goal of these operations are two-fold, Ryals said. Along with affording the soldiers better protection, working with Marine combat engineers prepares the Iraqis for the day when they will completely manage their country’s security.
“They’re able to see how to do these types of things, along with how and where to properly set out the Hescos and wire,” he continued. “The better the job we do in helping train them to protect themselves, the better it will be for their future.”
Since Ryals’ unit arrived in mid-March, they have been working with the soldiers to prepare them for this mission. Soldiers conduct every patrol, raid and humanitarian operation alongside the infantrymen of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, the unit Ryals’ Marines support.
During their remaining months here, the combat engineers will continue helping fortify the Iraqi soldiers’ bases. Day-by-day, the uniformed men of this war-torn country are grasping the reins of their nation’s security tighter, and paving the way for a brighter future for its citizens.