CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Whether during the blazing heat of mid-afternoon, or the cool darkness of night, Marines from Alpha Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, conduct continuous patrols to prevent attacks on Multi-National Forces and innocent Iraqis.
The Marines focus their efforts on locating and ensuring the destruction of improvised explosive devices, said Staff Sgt. Max A. Garcia, a section leader for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Co. They also conduct random vehicle checkpoints and set up temporary observation posts.
"We feel it is our responsibility to locate IEDs," said Cpl. Brent Buckley, a vehicle crew chief for the platoon. "They cause a lot of damage, not just to fellow Marines, but also to the Iraqis."
The "trackers" are currently performing a job that falls outside of their primary realm of responsibility. Usually when they conduct patrols, they carry a platoon of infantrymen with them, said Garcia. Patrols here are conducted sans grunts, but the trackers haven't missed a beat.
"These guys are always on their toes," said Garcia. "We just discovered another IED the other night. Luckily, the Marines have not become complacent, because after (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) blew it up, you could see the concrete would have seriously hurt some of the boys."
It is not always easy to help those who feel they are being inconvenienced, said Buckley, a Glasgow, Ky., native.
"You always hear pop shots," he said. "It keeps you on your toes. Then you come across an IED and have to stop traffic for these people's safety. They actually get mad at you because it is a traffic jam. They want you to leave their country because you won't let them get blown up."
Despite the scorn typically dished out by the older generations, Buckley has found fulfillment working with the youth of the country.
"When the kids come up to you smiling and wanting to play with you, it makes it OK," said Buckley.
Besides patrolling for IEDs to keep the roads safe for both Marines and Iraqis, Alpha Company has one other claim to fame: interdicting a record number of 60mm mortar rounds found by I Marine Expeditionary Force since they took the Al Anbar Province over from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in March.
During a vehicle search, the company discovered the mortars hidden in the bed of a blue KIA pick-up truck laden with bags of grain. The Marines' diligent search led to the discovery of 219 60mm mortar rounds.
The company has provided advanced training to Iraqi Special Forces working with I MEF. The training included martial arts, map reading and other military skills.