Force protection Soldiers increase base safety measures
Story and photo by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq — Soldiers with the Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) implemented and installed new safety measures at Contingency Operating Base Marez, Iraq, April 15.
Aside from the daily duties of force protection, Soldiers with the RFS face additional duties in relation to overall base security. Capt. Brian McCord, the force protection officer in charge with the RFS, Base Defense Operations Center, 278th ACR and a Seymour, Tenn., native, said their job is to provide perimeter and barrier security within the gates.
"I do the coordination with various groups within the private security sector, contractors and meet with the intelligence community and relay information down to all the units," he said.
McCord said they inspect entry control points, living space areas and sometimes meet with the local population directly outside base.
"Since the reports of the kidnappings recently, we have tightened up our security measures; but security was already tight," he said. "We've tightened our tactical procedures and now do a 100 percent search of all non-military vehicles that enter or leave the COB."
In Iraq, it is better to be safe than sorry, he said
McCord said the Soldiers are working on two big projects that should take a few days to complete.
"We have one Soldier with a team of local nationals moving T-walls to protect a building where the (quick reaction force) team is, and another Soldier at the flight line putting up HESCO barriers," he said.
Sgt. Robert Bernstorf, the barrier force protection sergeant with the RFS, 278th ACR and a Kingston,Tenn., native, said they moved the T-walls from an unused shop.
"We had to move 16 T-walls from there at 13,000 pounds each," he said. "It took about two weeks to get the assets to move this, so we are a bit behind and we will be very busy for the next few days."
Bernstorf said the QRF team is housed in a wooden building instead of a hardened structure and, even though the chance is remote, the building could be hit. They did not want to take any chances.
"We took care of the T-walls, with blast mitigation for the building," he said.
Sgt. Keith A. Scott, the perimeter sergeant with the RFS, 278th ACR and a Canada, Ky., native, explained improvements being made to safety and security on the flight line.
"If they were to hit one of those T-walls, the steel and other fragmentation could possibly hurt service members on the flight line," he said. "We are putting up HESCO barriers in their place because they are just filled with sand, and nothing deadly can come out of them.
Scott said it took him three days to build the 20-foot-tall barriers.
"(In one day), we have put in and filled over 1,200 feet of HESCO barriers," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Donald Hineman, the force protection noncommissioned officer in charge with the RFS, 278th ACR and a Chatanooga, Tenn., native, said they are responsible for the 18 miles of barriers and perimeter that encompass Marez and Diamondback.
"We have close to 10,000 personnel that we have to keep it a safe haven for," he said.
Hineman said force protection is one of the most important aspects of security.
"We keep people from being attacked periodically," he said. "This allows people to be more at ease, so they can conduct their daily mission."
With more than 31 years of military service and two deployments to Iraq, Hineman said a lot has changed for the better. He said the last time he was here, there was no running water for miles and the streets of Mosul were blacked out.
"Now people aren't afraid to come out of their houses anymore and roam the city," he said.
Hineman credits the good rapport and friendship with the local nationals to his Soldiers.
"It's not me, it's my Soldiers that make this job happen," he said. "The cooperation between the local nationals, civilian employees and the Soldiers make this a great and rewarding job."
Sgt. Robert Bernstorf, the barrier protection sergeant with the Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Kingston, Tenn., native, and a local national worker watch as a crane moves a T-wall closer to the building to provide barrier protection, April 15 at Contingency Operating Base, Marez, Iraq.