Photo Information

Sgt. Justin A. Hauser radios the guard shack to report a vehicle entering the Tactical Air Command Center compound at Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 21. Hauser is the sergeant of the guard with TACC Security, Alpha Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). He is a 28-year-old native of Albany, N.Y.

Photo by Cpl. James B. Hoke

Command Center security remains ready, alert to keep compound safe

28 Sep 2006 | Cpl. James B. Hoke

Opening and closing a gate 1,000 times a day to let vehicles pass by would be enough to drive any sane man crazy. However, for a certain group of Marines, it is their job and nothing -- heat, stress, boredom or long hours -- will keep them from completing it professionally and vigilantly.

The Marines with Tactical Air Command Center Security, Alpha Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), man different posts around the TACC compound at Al Asad, during their seven-month deployment.

"TACC Security is an internal security post pretty much like a guard post that you would man back in the States," said 1st Lt. Andrew D. Sweatman, platoon commander, TACC Security. "We have several static posts. We have sergeants and corporals of the guards who do posts and relief. We do searches for weapons or any materials that are not authorized on (local nationals) or (third-country nationals) coming into the TACC area."

Conducting everything from searching vehicles and checking identifications to escorting local and third-country nationals, these Marines work 12 hours a day, everyday.

"The junior Marines take the blunt of the work," said Sweatman, a 28-year-old Muscatine, Iowa, native. "The Marines are working 12-hour shifts, so we have two crews. We switch it up often and rotate (the crews), so we can get the Marines on different times. This way, they don't get settled into the same shift all of the time. While they are on shift for 12 hours, they are standing post for six hours, and the other six hours they are performing other duties that are required for the posts."

Although the Marines switch their hours often, standing post for the length of time that they do can be taxing on the mind and body. According to Sweatman, they haven't had any problems with the Marines, but they still conduct training drills randomly to keep alert.

"We've been really fortunate in that we have a really strong group of Marines," said the San Francisco State University graduate. "We haven't had any discipline issues whatsoever. We run drills from the guard shack. It seems boring while they are out there, but they know there is a reason why they are out there.

"We will do (communication) drills and procedures, and reaction drills," he explained. "We take a piece of (communications) gear away from them and see how long it takes the guard shack to figure out that they don't have (communications) with a post. Then, how do they react to it? How do they get a reaction group out to the post?"

For a lot of the Marines, it is their second time to Iraq, as well as their second time manning the posts for TACC Security.

"I feel a lot more comfortable this time around," said Sgt. Justin A. Hauser, sergeant of the guard, TACC Security. "I mean, we have a (Burger King) and Pizza Hut out here this time.

"A lot of people who have already been here are out here again," the 28-year-old Albany, N.Y., native continued. "It's a lot more relaxed. The Marines aren't getting complacent, but they know what to expect and what's going on. They don't have to anticipate all kinds of new things, because they have been here before."

Others have used their time deployed and manning posts to better themselves as Marines.

"It helps a lot with holding onto your leadership skills as a (noncommissioned officer)," said Cpl. Ian H. Petri, corporal of the guard, TACC Security, and a West Windsor, N.J., native. "I just got promoted to corporal, and it helps me with becoming a better NCO."

According to Sweatman, manning the security for the TACC compound wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the motivation of his Marines.

"There are a lot of hours that they spend standing out there on post, and it wouldn't work if they weren't motivated," Sweatman concluded. "They are doing an outstanding job, and they've pulled the mission to a balance between what could happen and what will happen. They've done a really good job at staying motivated and realizing that the threat is still out there. Without them keeping that mindset, we wouldn't be able to do it."