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Marine following in her father's footsteps

Name: Lance Cpl. Twila Curtis

Age: 27

Hometown: Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Branch: Marines

Job: Bulk fuel specialist and security


NEAR THE KUWAIT-IRAQ BORDER—Lance Cpl. Twila Curtis stands watch, staring at the horizon, watching the Iraq border.

"You have to be on alert at all times," says Curtis, a bulk fuel specialist. "I've overcome the fear. Basically, it's from talking to other Marines. That keeps my morale up."

She's assigned to the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, based at Camp Solomon Islands in Kuwait. The 1,400-person battalion, made up mostly of reservists, has built this forward staging point. There's nothing but sand between her post and the Iraqi border.

Four weeks ago, there was nothing here. Now, there are protective berms, ditches, pup tents, showers, crude outhouses and other equipment.

Curtis has been here for five days, doing a security rotation.

"I have my days when I'm miserable and don't want to be here, but at the same time, I'm going to go home and be proud that I had a part in this operation," she says.

On some nights, she looks at the border and the sky glows orange from fires in Iraq.

On other nights, during sandstorms, she can't see a thing. "It's kinda freaky," she says.

If there's a war, her battalion will play a critical role maintaining supplies for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "I'm nervous," she says. "I think everybody is feeling the same thing. It's just a matter of knowing you can do your job and not hesitating."

Curtis is from Fort Defiance, a Navajo reservation in Arizona. Her father, Andrew Watchman, 61, did a tour in the Marines during the Korean War. "I wanted to be like my father," she says. "I wanted to have the experience that he did. I think he's very proud. I'm the last of my generation to be a Marine."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): iraqfaces+curtis