CAMP MERCURY, Iraq -- Appearing as dark silhouettes cast over the Iraqi desert by the setting sun, vigilant Marines stand guard over their resting brothers-in-arms as another day passes. For the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, safety and security lie in the hands of the few. For nearly six months, one platoon of Marines has provided for the safety and security of forward operating base Camp Mercury, outside of Fallujah, according to Staff Sgt. Emilio Hernandez, 33-year-old guard chief for the battalion. These Marines, the majority of whom come from the infantry companies within the battalion, provide 24-hour security. “We stand guard in the various posts along the perimeter of the base,” said Lance Cpl. Michael R. Turner, 22-year-old administrative clerk now serving with the guard force. “We’re also responsible for escorting any Iraqi or civilian personnel that come onto the base.” In addition to the sentries posted along the camp’s walls, the guard force also keeps a quick reaction force in wait for any possible threats. The QRF, consisting of a squad of Marines with considerable combat power including machine guns, anti-armor rockets and grenade launchers, wait to respond to any emergency that may arise. “Our QRF can react in minutes to any immediate threat outside of the camp,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin S. Smith, 30-year-old officer in charge of the guard force. The guard force is responsible for approximately 20 square kilometers of area in and round Camp Mercury, according to Smith, a native of Boston, Mass. To effectively protect the area, the guard force sends daily patrols around the camp and conducts improvised explosive device searches of the perimeter. “We do this to make ourselves a hard target,” said Hernandez, a native of McAllen, Texas. Although the patrols found no operable IED’s during the searches, ordnance and materials were found in various states of assembly, according to Smith. “The enemy likes to use multiple days to set up an IED,” Hernandez said, “Our daily searches keep them from doing that.” The battalion has suffered no casualties or damage from attacks on the base since their arrival in January, a testament to the effectiveness of their guard force. “These guys are motivated, always up for the job,” Smith said. “Even when it’s 115 degrees outside.” As the unit continues operations in country, the guard force is confident that Camp Mercury will remain a safe place for Marines.