9th ESB fortifies Fallujah pump house against insurgent attacks
January 3, 2007
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.”