COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq -- Combat Outpost Rawah and the Marines who call it home, recently received a permanent post-exchange here.
The COP, which is 150 miles northwest of Baghdad and 50 miles east of the Syrian border, has recently undergone numerous changes to improve safety, hygiene, and quality of life. Prior to the permanent exchange, the outpost would get a visit from a mobile exchange about twice each month.
“We are here to provide the Marines, soldiers and sailors with the basic necessities, as well as a few niceties, of home,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Daugherty, a retail Marine with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2.
The exchange offers a wide variety of hygiene items, operational gear, electronics, CDs, DVDs, snacks and drinks.
“Knowing we are always here gives them a peace of mind. They know they don’t have to worry about running out of something,” said Daugherty, a native of New Castle, Penn. “Plus it has a huge impact on morale because now they know they don’t have to wait two or three weeks for things they need.”
“It’s always good to have a PX around,” said Pvt. Phillip A. Fowler, a scout with the battalion’s quick reaction force. “It improves morale and everyone’s everyday attitude. Most of us don’t get a lot of packages, so it’s nice to have somewhere to go where we can get the same things we have access to at home.”
The Marines who work at the exchange say they can see the difference they make on the outpost.
“You can see it on their face. It’s like driving an ice cream truck: when people see us around their eyes just light up,” said Sgt. Alex R. Soto Lopez, the battalion’s retail manager. “We are so isolated here in the desert, the small comfort of being able to buy something that you can get back home has a tremendous impact on your mentality. It can’t help but improve the mood and performance here.”
The Marines who work at the exchange say they take pride in providing whatever comforts they can to their fellow brothers-in-arms.
“Unlike shops in the civilian world, this place isn’t here just for the dollar. It’s our responsibility to make sure we provide whatever we can to the troops,” said Soto Lopez, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “We make sure we get out to even the most remote TCPs (traffic control points) so that everyone is taken care of.”
The PX Marines say although they know the comforts they provide are no substitute for being home, they hope the things they offer help bring home a little closer to the desert.