AR RAMADI, Iraq -- For many of the Marines and sailors deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it’s the little things that make the deployment bearable. Having a nice bed to sleep in at night, hot food for dinner and getting mail every couple of days can make all the difference for the troops. However, sometimes the difference is a magazine, a bag of potato chip or an alarm clock – and that’s where the Marine Corps Exchange comes in.
Filled with sweatshirts, toiletries, snacks and other goodies, the exchange is a place where the Marines and sailors can come to get the things that, while not necessary, are definitely desired, said Master Sgt. Lloyd West, staff noncommissioned officer of the Camp Ramadi exchange.
“This is really the Marines’ exchange,” said West. “They tell us what they want and we do our best to bring it to them. Sometimes, a Marine comes back from a patrol and all they want is a soda or a Gatorade, and we want them to be able to come here and get what they want. It’s worth it when we see them smile.”
The exchange organization is a system of satellite stores who get their inventory from the main exchange on Camp Ramadi. To facilitate this, the Camp Ramadi exchange staff travels to all the satellite bases here in Ramadi, bringing with them whatever they can to make the lives of the Marines here more manageable.
“If we have it at the main exchange, we work to bring it out to the Marines at Hurricane Point, Snake Pit and Blue Diamond,” West said. “We realize that these guys can’t just come by the store like the troops at Camp Ramadi, and I make it a point to make sure these guys get what they want.”
Over the years, what the Marines want hasn’t changed much, said West. They all want electronic toys, muscle supplements and an array of junk food to choose from.
“When I am choosing the inventory for the stores, I try and pick what they are going to want,” he said. “If something isn’t selling, we’ll ask the Marines who come through here what they want and try hard to get it for them. But on every deployment it’s the same things. Anything to make the deployment easier, we’ll do our best to get.”
With the exchange at Hurricane Point being so popular, they are extending the days of operation from three to five, said Lance Cpl. Christopher Hunt, exchange clerk. Being open more will keep morale up and allow the Marines to get what they want and need.
“I try to bring a little bit of home to the Marines out here,” said Hunt. “It’s a fun job and better than a regular old office job. It feels good to be able to help our guys who are going out on patrols. I think anyone would love to have this job, I feel lucky to be able to help.”