FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, Afghanistan --
Enduring long days of intense heat and the dry, dusty air of the Afghan desert, U.S. Marines remain alert around the clock while watching over the city of Delaram.
Pfc. Dustin R. Hill, a radio operator by trade, is one of the many dedicated Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who are standing guard and making a difference here.
The general responsibilities of these guards are to protect the base and report anything unusual, according to Hill, a native of Thomasville, N.C.
"You must always be alert," Hill said. "Sometimes it can be pretty edgy up here, but security is definitely getting better," he commented after citing that one of the guard towers had received insurgent rifle fire just a few weeks ago.
Hill, who turned 21 yesterday, explained that he now understands how to discern normal from abnormal situations and is feeling more comfortable with the job after more than a month on post.
Staying attentive for several hours on end is one thing, but doing it in an environment with extreme temperatures is another.
"Sometimes you have to dig deep, especially on the hot days," said Hill who never takes a rare cool breeze for granted in this desert where temperatures reach into the 120s during the day.
Hill and the Marines in Delaram have also had the opportunity to work with soldiers from the Afghan national army. They often stand guard together and conduct combined security operations in Delaram. The two forces try to learn from one another and develop relationships in order to improve their ability to operate together.
"They have taught us some of their language, and that helps us to do our job," Hill said. "The ANA conduct the searches of locals at the checkpoints, and they are really improving," he said while describing the practices the Marines are teaching the Afghan soldiers.
The relationship Hill described between the ANA and the U.S. Marines here is a positive one. "Working with them shows us there are a lot of good people here," he said.
Based in Okinawa, Japan, Hill volunteered to join the Hawaii-based unit for this deployment, which is his first. "This is why I joined the Marine Corps – to go on deployments, to see the world and make a difference," he said.
That is exactly what Hill and his fellow Marines with 2/3 are doing – making a difference.
2/3 is an element of Regimental Combat Team 3, whose mission is to conduct counter insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan with a focus on training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces.