HIT, Iraq -- In the days following the sweep of the town of Hit during Operation Iron Hammer, the Marines of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, began concentrating their efforts on one aspect of the evolution that will eventually lead to a secure location from which to conduct security and stability operations: cooperation.The ground combat element for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), recently completed an assault on various portions of the Euphrates River Valley here, and is preparing to conduct ongoing security and stability operations in anticipation of the upcoming Iraqi democratic elections.Marines from Company G, MEU Service Support Group 13 and Iraqi Security Forces moved about the construction site filling sandbags, sawing wood and running communications wire.Staff Sgt. Eric Misenhiemer, platoon sergeant, 1st platoon, Co. G, gave his opinion on the scope of cooperation shortly after pitching in and filling sandbags alongside his Marines.“Everybody is doing their part,” he said, “a job needs to be done and we’re all coming together.”The next step in the operational command of the project was Capt. Jackie Carter, a native of Rifle, Colo., and MSSG-13 Engineers detachment commander. Carter and her Marines arrived on site at the firm base about a week prior to Co. G Marines. While the first priority was perimeter security, Carter said the detachment began work immediately.“The perimeter (security) was pretty challenging, because of its length,” Carter said. “In addition, the terrain has made it difficult to move our vehicles to either side of the FB.”Carter added that the firm base setup was a textbook example of combat engineering at work, demonstrating three of the four aspects of combat engineering.“First you have mobility, which is mostly what (engineers attached to BLT 2/1) have been doing. Mostly demolitions and clearing paths,” Carter began, “But we’re working on counter-mobility, allowing no one to enter the base.”Carter also pointed out the survivability structures that were being built, in the event that insurgent forces fired mortars or rockets into the camp. The survivability structures give the Marines a safe shelter to duck into while they coordinate a counter-attack, she said.“And then there’s general engineering,” she added. According to Carter, general engineering involves the basics of sustaining a force in a location for any amount of time. Hygiene facilities, generated electricity and perimeter barriers, Carter said, are all examples.At the individual Marine level however, the task of securing a firm base consists of one daunting, dirty task: filling sandbags. Lance Cpl. Franklin E. Stevens was one of the lucky Marines from 1st Platoon, Co. G, who was filling sandbags.Stevens, a native of Tucson, Ariz., explained the effectiveness of the monotonous task.“We fill sandbags because it provides security for us,” he said. “They can stop rounds, mortars, and they’re effective in preventing Marines’ injuries.”Stevens worked alongside Iraqi Security Forces who had attached to the platoon throughout the duration of the offensive stage of Iron Hammer, and said he was impressed at how much so few personnel could help out.“The Iraqis have been very helpful,” said Stevens, a graduate of Amphitheatre High School, “and they always are willing to provide whatever they have to help.”With cooperating forces like BLT 2/1, MSSG-13 and Iraqi Security Forces all working together, the firm base is likely to provide a safe and valuable location for coalition operations in the months to come.For more information about the 13th MEU (SOC), or BLT 2/1, visit www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.