View Full Version : The 'keepers of cold steel' maintain Marines' primary weapons

08-03-09, 08:19 AM
The 'keepers of cold steel' maintain Marines' primary weapons

8/3/2009 By Cpl. Triah Pendracki , Multi National Force - West

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — In one of the many dark, seemingly abandoned bunkers aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, two Marines sit and wait. It’s quiet … almost. Lance Cpl. Travis Richard and Sgt. Derrick Martin stand post inside the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward) armory.

“Two people have to be in the armory at all times,” said Richard, an armorer with II MHG (Fwd). “It’s not like back in the states when we could just lock up and leave.”

With all the time the seven Marines who maintain the armory spend together, they have become a family.

“Since we’re all away from our families, these guys become your brothers,” said Richard.
“We all support one another,” added Martin, a motor transport mechanic serving as a custodian at the armory.

The armory custodians are all from different military occupational specialties, but they work hand-in-hand with the armorers, issuing weapons and inducting them into the armory for transition teams and other members of the II MEF (Fwd) command element.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re the forgotten ones down here in a bunker,” joked Richard.

While the Marines are secluded in the armory, they find ways to pass the time with inside jokes and playful banter between one another.

“One of the other armorers, Lance Corporal [Edward] Vitale, used to walk around the armory compound at Camp Lejeune and yell ‘dup,’” explained Richard. “It honestly has no meaning, but it stuck with us.”

“Now it’s almost like a password in here,” added Martin. “When we hear someone coming into the armory, if we say ‘dup’ and they respond, we’ll know it’s an armorer. But, when they don’t answer, we’ll know it’s someone who needs assistance in the armory.”

Since taking over the armory from I MEF (Fwd), the seven Marines, dubbed “the keepers of cold steel,” have kept the armory at 100 percent readiness.

“When we take weapons into the armory, we break them down and conduct a limited technical inspection,” said Richard. “If there is something wrong with the weapon system, we fix it as soon as possible.”

“If we get transition teams in with broken weapons, we need to get them fixed before they have to leave base to go back to their border forts or camps,” said Martin. “It can be a race against time, but we get things done the correct way as fast as we can.”

Without a doubt, these Marine “brothers” have found a way to balance both the hard work and the light moments of their deployment, maintaining both superlative work efforts and close personal bonds.