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thedrifter
03-05-03, 06:38 AM
Safety saves lives at Camp Fox
March 03, 2003
FREEDOM ENC

CAMP FOX, Kuwait — What is a 25-year-old philosophy major from the University of Virginia doing in the middle of the desert?

Capt. Marta Levries is the headquarters and services company commander and camp commandant of Transportation Services Battalion of 2nd Force Services Support Group.

She left Camp Lejeune on Feb. 1. Like everybody else here, she’s not sure when she’ll be back, but she is engaged to be married in November. Her fiancĂ© is in Okinawa, Japan and she hopes she will be back by then.

“As for my responsibility, I really don’t think about it to be honest,” Levries said. “Once in a while, when I realize the gravity of my responsibility, it hits me. Then I remember somewhere out there, there is an 18-year-old Marine who is charge of the lives of three other Marines, and pretty soon they will be going into battle.

“It’s their time,” Levries said. “It’s the younger generation’s time to do what they were trained to do and to serve this country.

“During the Gulf War, I wasn’t too aware or concerned about it. I was in eighth grade, and I was interested in dance class and cheerleading. Now, I’ve told my Marines when you start feeling down, because you left Sally at home or you left Johnny at home, think all of us are in the same boat. We all left someone at home. We all left a loved one and a life behind. But this is what we signed up to do, and we are not alone.”

One of the captain’s responsibilities is 19-year-old Angela Koepke, a lance corporal who handles administrative and mail tasks.

“I’ve never been away from home, so this is exciting,” the Racine, Wis., native said. “My Dad was OK with it, but my Mom was upset. Â… I know she’s kind of proud of me.”

The landscape at Camp Fox here in the Kuwaiti desert is dotted with pre-fab concrete bunkers that are reinforced with sandbags. The specific number can’t be released for security reasons, but more have been coming in. At TSB, every bunker has been reinforced with sandbags, and some of the bunkers have been buried partially in the sand.

Levries clearly takes the safety of her Marines and sailors seriously.

“I have the responsibility to the commanding officer of TSB to ensure his Marines have a place to store their equipment, work on their equipment, sleep, eat and shower.

“We take safety seriously, and that’s how we’re going to save lives. It’s difficult for the Marines, because unlike an exercise, they don’t know when they are coming home.”

Vehicles are parked far away from everything else. It’s a pain, but there is a good reason for it.

“It’s for protection if a Scud (missile) hits,” Levries said. “If you put them all next to each other, you could have sympathetic explosions. You try and minimize the damage of something like that, and distance is the best way to do that.”

While it makes sense, it also means drivers must walk a long distance through soft sand to get to their vehicles. That’s only part of the problem. Imagine if you went to a mall parking lot looking for your green Honda Accord and everybody else drove the same thing. One green truck looks just like another green truck out here in the desert.

The decision was made not to repaint the olive green trucks tan to match the desert. It was determined that it would take too long and the advantages wouldn’t be worth the time. Levries points out it’s hard to hide a 7-ton truck in the desert no matter what color it is.

For Levries, doing her job right means nobody notices.

“It’s a thankless job,” Levries said. “People will only talk to you about logistics when it’s not happening the right way and it’s not seamless.

“The thing about logistics is you’re always supporting, you don’t practice support. You might be supporting an exercise instead of an operation, but you’re always supporting. You can never say, ‘Oops, we didn’t get the fuel right,’ because there are actual consequences with everything we do.”

The members of her unit wear the distinctive red patches on their helmets and on the outside of each knee. It’s a sign that on a beachhead, they are in charge of an off-load.

“We will be loading Marines on planes when this is all over, then we will be loading their equipment on ships. So really, the red-patchers are here the longest. They get here first to unload the gear, and they are the last ones to leave.”



Peter Williams is on assignment in Kuwait for The Daily News and Freedom ENC. He is editor of The Liberty, a Jacksonville-based weekly newspaper that covers military life in the area.


Sempers,

Roger