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Lance Cpl. Ben Martin operates an excavator on loan from the Seabees. The 9th Engineer Support Battalion from Okinawa recently fortifed the water pump house facility with a perimeter of Hesco barriers to better protect it from insurgent attacks.

Lance Cpl. Ben Martin operates an excavator on loan from the Seabees. The 9th Engineer Support Battalion from Okinawa recently fortifed the water pump house facility with a perimeter of Hesco barriers to better protect it from insurgent attacks. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

Lance Cpl. Ben Martin operates an excavator on loan from the Seabees. The 9th Engineer Support Battalion from Okinawa recently fortifed the water pump house facility with a perimeter of Hesco barriers to better protect it from insurgent attacks.

Lance Cpl. Ben Martin operates an excavator on loan from the Seabees. The 9th Engineer Support Battalion from Okinawa recently fortifed the water pump house facility with a perimeter of Hesco barriers to better protect it from insurgent attacks. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

Lance Cpl. Dustin Baller, a reservist serving with Engineer Support Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion out of Okinawa, fills Hesco barriers with dirt.

Lance Cpl. Dustin Baller, a reservist serving with Engineer Support Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion out of Okinawa, fills Hesco barriers with dirt. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Broaddus walks through the gate that used to be the outermost perimeter of defense for a water pump house, before the installation of Hesco barriers and additional access gates.

Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Broaddus walks through the gate that used to be the outermost perimeter of defense for a water pump house, before the installation of Hesco barriers and additional access gates. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

Early-morning fog hangs over the water pump house near Fallujah, Iraq. Ninth Engineer Support Battalion Marines have fortified the pump house compound to protect it from attacks by insurgents, who often pull up on the other side of the canal and launch grenades at the facility.

Early-morning fog hangs over the water pump house near Fallujah, Iraq. Ninth Engineer Support Battalion Marines have fortified the pump house compound to protect it from attacks by insurgents, who often pull up on the other side of the canal and launch grenades at the facility. (Megan McCloskey / S&S)

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Capt. Dev Spradlin put it well when he said, “We’re making a castle out of it.”

It’s an apt phrase for much of the work the 9th Engineer Support Battalion does in Anbar province. Fortifying structures, such as the water pump house Spradlin was speaking about, is a key job for the battalion.

The 9th ESB Marines essentially make a structure securer, making it harder for insurgents to attack it, whether it’s a police station, a guard tower or some other important facility.

The battalion’s executive officer, Maj. Patrick Hittle, described the upgrades as “the bread and butter of what we do.”

Undoubtedly the job involves putting up protective barriers called Hesco — such a common sight in Iraq these days it’s often the punch line of jokes.

The water pump house, which pumps water from a canal that’s an offshoot of the Euphrates River near Fallujah, is a good example of the fortification work the 9th ESB Marines do.

Before they worked at the site, it was pretty much sitting in the open without much protection. Insurgents often tossed grenades at the facility and took sniper shots at the Marines manning the pump house.

The engineers put in a large gate at the entrance with jersey barriers on the road to create a serpentine approach, removed reeds the insurgents used to hide and knocked down a berm that caused a blind spot in the watch towers’ view.

“The towers couldn’t see the underpass, and insurgents were stopping right there and planting (roadside bombs),” Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Broaddus said.

They also put up a wall of Hesco around the entire perimeter, which clearly marks the boundaries of the compound.

“The Hesco barriers make it easier to distinguish who’s a threat,” said one of the pump house watchmen, Cpl. Joseph Bonner, 20, of Boston, who is with 9th Communication Battalion out of Camp Pendleton. “It also lets the villagers know how close they can come.”

Locals use the open fields surrounding the pump house to herd sheep. One recent afternoon three herds roamed the immediate area.

The tall Hesco barrier encloses the driveway and parking lot in the front and the burn pit used for trash in the back.

“Now they can essentially walk out both their back door and their front door without fear of getting shot,” Broaddus said. “Well, be less likely of getting shot, I should say.”


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