CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Ramadi, Iraq -- Corporal Jessica L. Curtis knows the roads here like the back of her hand.
The 21-year-old San Francisco native should. She travels them daily in convoys taking supplies back and forth through the western region of Iraq several times per week.
Curtis said she’s been on more than 100 convoys since she got here seven months ago. As the communications chief for Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, she is responsible for ensuring the Marines driving in the convoys can talk to each other and coordinate their movements. Traveling the various improved and unimproved roads presents a challenge for Marines maneuvering their vehicles through traffic. Vehicles strung out across long stretches of highway and along city streets provide an easy target for insurgents. The vulnerability of convoys makes synchronizing their movements vital to the safety of the Marines.
“People don’t understand how important [communications] are out here,” Curtis said. “No one thinks about it until they don’t have it. Then it sinks in.”
Curtis also maintains the systems that block and prevent the detonation of roadside improvised explosive devices. She’s logged more than 6,000 miles on the roads and said she never feels unsafe. She finds solace in the fact that her fellow Marines are providing security on each convoy. She’s encountered numerous IED’s while on the road, but said that each convoy’s security element has always identified them.
“We always catch it before anything happens,” Curtis said. “We’re either really good or we’re lucky.”
Curtis said if it’s the latter, she isn’t worried about her luck running out. Her confidence in her fellow Marines ability to handle any situation keeps her calm and collected on the road.
“Everyone out here works together,” Curtis said. “I know if anything happens I’ll be okay because everyone knows how to react and they’ll all do their jobs. So I’m not worried when I’m out there. I’m not complacent. I just have faith in my security team and the people I work with.”
The Marines in her unit form a tight-knit group. They rely on each other for support and work together as a team. She acknowledges the importance of her job but said she also realizes the role she plays is just one part of a larger effort.
“I feel like I’m doing something for the team here,” Curtis said. “We all work together to get things done. [Truck Company] does a lot of background work. If the power goes out, it’s because we didn’t refuel the generators. If people don’t get their repair parts, it’s because we didn’t pick them up. We have a pretty important role here.”
Curtis said what is truly important to her is not what she does, but what she is a part of. She wanted to be a Marine since she was 14-years-old. She attended an all-girls catholic school in the Visitation Valley area of San Francisco. Mercy High School was a far cry from the Marines, but she said she has always wanted to do something different.
“Ninety percent of the girls I went to high school with graduated and went to college.” Curtis said. “I wanted to do something adventurous; I guess it was because I watched too much Discovery Channel.”
Curtis’s need for adventure keeps her on the road. She said it’s the same reason she plans to make a career of the Marines.
“I’ve had good days and I’ve had bad days, but there have been a lot more good ones.”