CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- High above the street, Lance Cpl. Hunter L. Parker stands watch over the neighborhood below. In his view to the east is a carwash frequented by local residents. To his south is a small bridge that spans the Euphrates River.
The 19-year-old, Darlington, S.C., native is part of the defense that separates the insurgents operating in Al Anbar’s provincial capital city and the Marine camp here.
Since their arrival in August, the burden of protecting the Marines living and working inside the walls of the camp has been firmly placed on the shoulders of Parker and his fellow Marines from Security Detachment, Headquarters Battalion.
“I take what I do very seriously,” Parker said. “It’s our job to keep the people working on this camp safe.”
After nearly four months of being the eyes, ears and guardian for the camp, Parker has the various watch posts aboard the base memorized. He and his fellow Marines rotate positions frequently, swapping posts to give every Marine exposure to the various areas both on and off camp. With a keen eye for detail and through daily observations, he’s become accustom to the routines and nuances of the people who live in the city.
“You get to know the areas you watch over pretty well,” Parker said. “You know what’s normal and what’s not. You start to notice things like if there aren’t any cars here, or there are too many cars or people there, and you get to know when something is about to happen.”
Often Parker and his fellow Marines get more than just a bird’s eye view. When not manning the camp’s security towers, they regularly conduct patrols through the city. While patrolling the streets, they make contact with local Iraqis, search homes and buildings for insurgents, and enforce the city’s curfew.
“We do a lot to show them that we are trying to help them,” Parker said. “It’s working because they are turning against the insurgents here and giving us tips on how to catch them. They want their country to get better and they see that the insurgency is wrong. They know that innocent people are getting killed by insurgents.”
Parker and the guard force are constantly on duty. When they’re not manning security towers or conducting patrols, they’re on standby as the camp’s reactionary force, designated as reinforcements in the event of an attack. The need for constant vigilance by Parker and his fellow Marines is required.
Parker said. “We all work really closely together and there is a lot of camaraderie which gets you through it.”
Parker said, the strain of being away from his family is most burdensome but is offset by the knowledge that he is making a difference in the lives of millions of Iraqis.
“Being away from my family and my wife Ashley is the hardest thing,” Parker said. “But I know that I’m doing something good. It’s amazing to be part of a country being built up and a people getting the help that they need.”