CAMP BABYLON, Iraq -- Marines of Detachment C, 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company can be spotted on occasions buying souvenirs, or, if they’re a little more daring, pet scorpions inside a local Iraqi market at Camp Babylon.
During off time, the Marines are able to bask in the ancient lands and local people surrounding the headquarters of the Multi-National Division Central-South, led by the Polish army.
A little more than two months ago, the leathernecks were at home on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean - residing close enough to make their drill weekends at the West Palm Beach, Fla., reserve center.
But duty called and now these weekend warriors are full-time Marines, busy supporting foreign militaries in Iraq coordinating air strikes to destroy enemy targets.
The news did not come as a shock to these Marines though; they knew replacements were needed for 4th ANGLICO’s previous detachment. Their number was plucked; it was time for them to make good on their promise of serving their nation.
Maj. Stephen D. Danyluk, the unit’s air officer, admitted, activation does add a strain on reservists because they are pulled away from their civilian jobs and families.
For him, it was not difficult. He still has ties to active duty, simply because his wife is a lawyer with the Marines. While she’s working at Quantico, Va., Danyluk is flying commercial airlines out of Washington, D.C., between drill weekends.
Another family ANGLICO is separated from is the Green Machine.
“One of the more difficult parts is being away from other Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Jose L. Jimenez, a team chief from Miami. “We are it out here. We’ve had to be chameleons to adapt to all the different foreign nations and services. But being alone like this has built our camaraderie really high.”
The activation does have one perk - the location the team is operating from in Iraq.
In their idle moments, the Marines have the luxury of touring through the ancient ruins of the famed city of the bible – Babylon or Babel, which means gate of God.
First stop on the service members’ tour of the reconstructed city is the Istar Gate. The entrance into the reconstructed palace of Nebuchadnezzar II is detailed with mosaic drawings of Babylon deities. Troops appear to be ants while walking through the massive arched gate.
U.S. and foreign troops wander through the maze of corridors and take photos for their scrapbooks. Some mill about or simply find a tree to relax under and read a book.
The best vantage point of the ancient land is the view from Saddam Hussein’s former palace. The palace was constructed on the highest elevation in the vicinity. On the rooftop, nearly seven stories high, one can easily see the canal - drudged from the Euphrates River - snake its way through the camp and the thousands of palm trees that line its banks.
“It’s been a bonus to be stationed here,” said Lance Cpl. William Meyer, a field radio operator from Indianapolis. “I’ve gotten into the history of the land by reading up on it.”
Even in this historical land, the Marines have etched out their own space and brought pieces of American culture.
Cpl. Jon Dearolf’s room is smothered wall-to-wall in surfing pictures.
“My roommate and I decided to start hanging up the magazine pictures as soon as we got here,” said the forward observer from Tampa, Fla. “It’s just a little taste of home and what we miss.”
The only objects interrupting this University of Southern Florida graduate’s surfing display is pictures of his wife. The two exchanged vows only a couple of months before he departed for Iraq.
“It’s really difficult to be away from her right now,” said Dearolf, who is considering pursuing a commission in the Corps. “But you know what they say, the hardest job in the Corps is being a Marine’s wife.”
Missing family members is a natural reaction for all Marines on deployment; it is one of the toughest challenges to overcome, but “I feel the Marines have adapted real well,” said Lt. Col. Thomas R. Morgan, the commanding officer, and a native of Orlando, Fla.