Skip to comments.Training on the border: Marines practice building fences, repairing roads and being a team
Posted on 09/05/2003 6:15:42 PM PDT by SandRat
Marine Lance Cpl. Eduardo Velez welds together a portion of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border near Naco, Ariz., on Thursday. (Mark Levy-Herald/Review)
BISBEE -- The Marines have landed.
Although they are not taking a beach from an enemy, they are working along the border to help slow drug smugglers from entering the United States from Mexico.
Nearly 60 members of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 from Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California arrived late August for a monthlong deployment.
Their mission is to improve a portion of the border road and install more fencing in support of the Department of Defense's Joint Task Force Six program that helps agencies, in this case the U.S. Border Patrol.
Capt. Carl Northcutt, who commands the wing's Engineer Company, said his unit was not called upon to deploy to Iraq. When the opportunity came along to keep their construction skills honed by doing work for the Border Patrol, they applied for the job.
Some of the Marines are learning new skills.
Lance Cpl. Eduadro Velez, 24, said learning to weld is difficult.
"It needs a steady hand and a good eye," he said Thursday, taking a break from welding old airfield metal matting to steel poles. "It's harder than it looks."
Marines who do construction have to be able to do as many jobs as possible, especially if they are in a combat situation, Velez said.
Cpl. Jerry Kline, 22, said the importance of doing as many different type jobs in a Marine engineering unit cannot be underestimated.
"We learn to work as a whole team," he said.
Armando Carrasco, spokesman for the Defense Department's task force at Fort Bliss, Texas, said there were many projects agencies such as the Border Patrol wanted to do. Due to the deployment of many active-duty, National Guard and reserve units to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, projects were canceled.
The border project is costing the Defense Department $300,000, Carrasco said.
The cost of materials and rental equipment, which is not known, is paid for by the Border Patrol.
The Marines are getting the ability to do an important training mission while protecting the people of the United States from drugs.
When the opportunity came about to re-start some projects, the active-duty unit from California was eager to participate, he said.
By federal law, all of Joint Task Force Six projects are anti-drug operations.
For Border Patrol agent Dana Thornhill, it is important to make sure there are ways to stop the flow of drugs into the United States.
But there is a side benefit, too.
The additional fencing and improvements to the road will be an extra deterrent to illegal immigrants who want to cross the border into the United States, he said.
There are two types of fencing being put in east of Naco, Ariz.
One uses the airfield matting, welding them to poles that also act as vehicle barriers.
The other is Bollard fence, which is designed to allow water to flow through. The 20-foot-high sections are separated, but not enough to allow a person to get through.
Five feet of the each section of the fence, that weighs 5,000 pounds, is put in concrete. About 800 cubic yards of concrete will be poured to anchor the Bollard areas in a project where the total fencing portion is about two miles long.
As for the road portion of the project, Staff Sgt. Derrick Washington, 32, the noncommissioned officer in charge of heavy equipment, said about 1,300 cubic yards of concrete will be poured.
While most of the road will remain graded dirt, four special low-water crossing areas that will be protected from erosion by concrete, he said. Those areas will be near the Bollard sections.
One crossing will be 800 feet long. The others 500, 400 and 200 feet long. The road is 28 feet wide.
The Marines work day and night shifts, six days a week.
They relax on Sunday in their base camp at Bisbee Municipal Airport, where Northcutt said they can have liberty passes to go to places such as Bisbee, Tombstone and Sierra Vista.
The Marines are not allowed to go to Mexico. They do not carry weapons.
The Border Patrol provides security for the Marines at their base camp.
While working along the border, Northcutt said there have been no incidents involving his unit.
Some boys will occasionally come up to the border on the Mexican side to watch. In the distance, there are sightings of other groups who may be looking for a place to cross the line illegally, Northcutt said.
But, the captain added, the Marines' business is construction, not law enforcement.
You're right! Tancredo should pay attention to matters at home and stop grandstanding.
Hundreds? Billions! And he gives them beers and knives while Rove plays an accordian and spits on the US.