AL ASAD, Iraq -- Armed with an M16A2 service rifle and body armor, Lance Cpl. Kristopher A. Ivanov stands tall behind a small, green-maze wall of worn and dusty sandbags.
At this fortified 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters building, the outpost is the front line of the war on terror in the western Iraqi desert.
He could be preparing to begin another new semester amidst the temperate halls of a college like many his age back home. Instead, he chose to be a Marine.
The 20-year-old Gilbert, Ariz., native said he takes being a Marine very seriously. While serving in Iraq, he is ready for anything.
At the moment, another Marine in sun-bleached digital camouflage desert utilities exits the building and slides out into the sweltering heat. He bids Ivanov goodbye, who politely returns the greeting before his steel blue eyes come back to the terrain in front of him.
Next, a warrant officer approaches Ivanov with his security badge in view attached to his left sleeve pocket.
"Ooh-rah, sir, have a good day," said Ivanov to the officer in a solid voice after looking at his badge and then his face.
Wiping beads of sweat from his tanned face, Ivanov said he hopes his younger brother-who just joined the Marines-learns the values of integrity, doing the right thing, accountability and motivation like he has during his short time in the Corps.
"I play the trumpet in the (3rd MAW Band) and I have learned a lot from our band director," said Ivanov. "He is a former drill instructor and he really motivates me. He is strict with the rules, but he is fair and I like that."
Band members, like Ivanov, have been working long hours at various posts around Al Asad, ensuring the security of the base and protecting the lives of the Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and civilians who, for now, call this base home.
A phone line rings and Ivanov enters the cooler halls of the building to answer the call. A few seconds later he resumes his standing post beside the sandbags with a liter of water, his weapon and his honor, courage and commitment; ready for anything, ready to do his part.