Watchful guards keep Iraqi air base secure

23 Sep 2004 | Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

The civilian and military personnel serving aboard the air base here can rest easier thanks to a group of dedicated Marines who guard its boundaries.

The Marines who man the entry control point at the front gate here have the large responsibility of preventing unauthorized personnel and contraband from getting on base.

Comprised mainly of military policemen from Security Battalion, 4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the security force at the ECP also consists of a variety of other military occupational specialties not usually associated with guard duty.

"Being an MP isn't exactly what the Marine Corps trained me to do," said Cpl. Jonathan W. Ivey, radio operator, Security Battalion, 4th LAAD Bn., "but I'm pretty confident I can do the job well."

Fortunately, Ivey's MOS in communications isn't the only experience the native of Augusta, Ga., had to prepare him for his newfound duties.

"I'm a cop back in the real world," said the 27-year-old reservist. "The training I have really helps in dealing with certain security situations out here."

Ivey's background as a civilian law enforcement officer is unique, because not every radio operator is qualified to perform the duties required at the ECP prior to receiving a detailed instructional class.

"Everyone (who wasn't an MP) went to a three-week training course before (being assigned to ECP duty)," said Ivey. "The skills taught in that course were especially helpful for the guys who don't do it all the time."

In order to guarantee security, each vehicle and person attempting to gain access to the base has to be thoroughly searched and verified, before permission to come aboard the air base is given.

"We search every possible area in and under the vehicles," said Staff Sgt. Allyn L. Uebel, military policeman, Security Battalion, 4th LAAD Bn. "We also have dogs to smell for any bombs."

According to one Marine, the exhaustive daily vehicle investigations are as demanding as they are detailed.

"It's a challenge to search every vehicle so thoroughly," remarked San Dimas, Calif., native Lance Cpl. James M. Flowers, military policeman, Security Battalion, 4th LAAD Bn. "There is usually a lot of (gear in the vehicles) and we have to go through all of it."

Drugs, alcohol and many other types of contraband are not allowed on base; however, the ECP guards keep an especially watchful eye for weapons and explosives.

"It's an extremely high risk job," said Flowers. "Every day is different and you never know what (types of ordnance) you might find in these vehicles."

"If something were to get on base it would be our fault," confirmed Uebel. "Our searches are very intensive to make sure that never happens."

A native of Winona, Minn., Uebel is the Marine in charge of operations at the ECP, which includes accounting for those entering and leaving the air base.

"We have several checkpoints that people have to go through," said the 35-year-old. "Everyone is given a badge and logged in to keep track of who's on base at all times."

With multiple checkpoints, meticulous searches, and strict accountability, the security at the ECP is extremely tight.

"We want to ensure that the base remains safe at all times," said Uebel. "We'll do everything in our power to make that happen."