There's No Place Like A Patrol Base

Story by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Reece Lodder

Publish Date: Feb. 29, 2012

PATROL BASE BURY, Afghanistan — Their humble home is exceptionally primitive, but it’s all the deployed infantrymen need.

Patrol Base Bury, a tiny base contained by concertina wire and giant Hesco barriers, is the humble home of Marines with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during their seven-month deployment to Helmand province’s Garmsir district.

This deployment has brought them far from home in both distance and circumstance.

At Bury, the 3rd Platoon Marines live and work with the Afghan National Police. They mentor the ANP in a partnered combat operations center and patrol with them in and around the nearby Safar Bazaar, Garmsir’s busiest commercial center.

Every moment of every day, Marines protect the base by standing security posts. Their duties are challenging, repetitive and tedious. When they complete a day’s work, they can’t return home to their families, a home-cooked meal or a hot shower. They return to Bury.

“When our work is done, we look forward to coming back here and enjoying each other’s company,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy Landers, a 21-year-old rifleman with 3rd Platoon, and native of Tucson, Ariz. “We’ve been here for a while … it’s home now.”

Safe within their slice of heaven, the grunts unwind.

“Things get repetitive at this point in the deployment, but we find things to kill time and stay levelheaded,” Landers said. “Refreshing helps us stay concentrated and focused on getting everyone home safely.”

Several Marines filter into a ragtag gym, pumping iron to the sweet sounds of a fast-paced melody which they claim as rock music. A group of four stands in the makeshift kitchen, joking and reminiscing about their last deployment.

“We spend a lot of our down time just standing around talking,” said Lance Cpl. Tom Morton, a 23-year-old team leader with 3rd Platoon, and native of Nashville, Tenn. “You think we’d run out of things to talk about after spending four months with the same people, but somehow we always find something new.”

Though Bury’s combat kitchen is a popular place for the Kilo Company Marines to converse, it’s also the grounds for one of their favorite downtime activities. Here they concoct creative cuisine using items they’ve drawn from Meals, Ready to Eat and care packages.

“I grew up having only a little; a lot of us did,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Hogan, a 20-year-old rifleman with 3rd Platoon, and native of Columbus, Ohio. “We’re used to doing the best with what we’ve been given.”

Seated on his green fold-up cot in an unheated tent, Hogan relaxes by disappearing into his sketchpad, penciling down an idea for his next tattoo. Three of his friends huddle around a glowing laptop on a cot behind him, chuckling at a cheesy comedy show.

Even though they don’t have the comforts of showers, internet, phones or even a port-a-potty, the Marines are happy. They don’t whine about what they don’t have; they take pride in their humble circumstances.

“Life may be simple here, but it’s fulfilling,” Morton said. “We learn to adapt and solve problems; to use whatever we’ve got to make the best life we can.”

They are masters in contentment, cleaning themselves with only water bottles and baby wipes, handwriting letters to their loved ones and using the rare opportunity to call home from a nearby combat outpost.

“Things like not being able to take a real shower become part of life here,” Hogan said. “I don’t take things like this for granted anymore.”

The 3rd Platoon Marines may have little in tangible form, but they are rich in shared experience. Without fail, they have the men to their left and right.

“I’ve got the best friends I’ve ever had with me here at Bury,” Hogan said. “Living like this sometimes sucks, but at the same time, it makes us smile. We’re building memories.”

At night, they lay their heads to rest in their dusty tents. They sleep, rise and repeat the grind of an infantryman— together.“The kind of bond you develop on deployment is hard to express to someone who hasn’t experienced something like this … nothing can compare to the camaraderie we build here,” Morton said. “We spend so much time together on a consecutive basis that we learn each other’s tendencies, habits, and preferences to the degree. No matter what situation I’m in, I know my fellow Marines have my back.”

In this challenging cycle, the Marines of PB Bury — a mishmash of races, cultures, experiences, and personalities — have formed an unbreakable bond.

“When we move on, we’re going to scatter to the wind all over the country and many of us will lose contact … but we’ll still remember the times we had here,” Morton said.

Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.