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January 31, 2006

Logistics units endure cold, snow during Camp Fuji convoy training

CAMP FUJI, Japan (Jan. 31, 2006) -- More than 150 service members with 3rd Marine Logistics Group endured the cold on Camp Fuji Jan.11-29, for Exercise Materiel Warrior, a three-week convoy operations exercise.


Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 2006131208
Story by Lance Cpl. Terence L. Yancey

The objective of the exercise was to increase the combat readiness of augments from the group’s 3rd Materiel Readiness Battalion, as well as detachments from Headquarters and Service Battalion, 3rd Transportation Support Battalion and 9th Engineer Support Battalion, in preparation for deployment in support of real-world operations, according to Col. R.R. Ruark, 3rd MRB’s commanding officer.

Throughout the three weeks the Marines and sailors trained and lived together, building teamwork along with their combat skills.

“The training has really built confidence and camaraderie within the unit,” said Lance Cpl. Stuart Dipaolo, an automotive organizational mechanic with 3rd MRB.

Along with convoy operations, the Marines and sailors received training in advanced marksmanship, crew served weapons, first aid and identifying and reacting to improvised explosive devices.

A tight training schedule, the cold weather and being away from Okinawa increased the difficulty and stress level of the training.

“Being here at Camp Fuji is the opposite of being in Okinawa,” said Lance Cpl. Omari Livingston, an automotive organizational mechanic with 3rd MRB, 3rd MLG. “Things are harder to do in the snow, but motivation remains high because everyone is out here to train so we all can come back (from Iraq) alive.”

The Marines and sailors received slide show presentations and classes from Marine instructors who served in OIF.

“(The Iraq stories) put relevance into the training,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Black, an electrical equipment repair specialist with 9th ESB, 3rd MLG. “Something from the heart will help (the students) feel the emotion and understand why they’re receiving the class.”

On the final day of training, the service members loaded onto their tactical vehicles and went out on a convoy through Camp Fuji’s ranges. They were tested on everything they learned and were confronted with numerous real-world tactical convoy scenarios by the instructors.

Trucking company will honor fallen Marine

Rolling memorials to Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Kenny will touch just about every U.S. highway.


Vehicles will bear decal of Emsworth soldier
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

By Milan Simonich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

American Road Line, a trucking company based in Moon, announced yesterday that it is placing decals of Cpl. Kenny on its 550 semi tractor-trailers, which haul goods to and from most major cities.

Cpl. Kenny, 20, of Emsworth, died Oct. 6 in a roadside bombing near Al Karmah, Iraq. Three other Marines were killed in the attack.

Ron Faherty, president of American Road Line, said Cpl. Kenny's short life and death in service to his country should not be forgotten. After talking with his sister, Cindy Lioi, who knows the Kenny family, Mr. Faherty proposed using his fleet for an ongoing tribute. The Kennys agreed.

"We'll never forget our son. But we're so humbled that others wanted to make sure he is remembered," Cpl. Kenny's mother, Tricia, said after a ceremony unveiling the decal, about the size of a car window.

It shows Cpl. Kenny in combat gear and carries a simple heading -- "Some Gave All."

Molly Kenny, 22, one of his three sisters, wept as the decal was made public. But she said she felt happy because the decals on wheels will help keep his memory alive.

"I'm overwhelmed. My worst fear was that people would forget about him," she said.

Mr. Faherty had the same concern. He said reports of a handful of war casualties each day can be numbing, causing the public to see the fallen servicemen as statistics instead of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

Relatives said Cpl. Kenny's ambition from boyhood was to serve in the military. So gung ho was Cpl. Kenny that he inspired his younger sister, Katy, to follow him into the Marine Corps.

She completed boot camp about two weeks before he was killed. Katy Kenny now is a private stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

In addition to American Road Line's fleet, Emsworth's five fire trucks will carry the decal of Cpl. Kenny. He lived across the street from the firehouse.

Bumper stickers depicting Cpl. Kenny also are available for purchase through American Road Line and the Emsworth Volunteer Fire Department. All proceeds will go to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

Cpl. Kenny's father, Chuck, said helping injured Marines is a cause his son would have embraced.

Mr. Kenny said people usually want to talk about the politics of the war in Iraq, but he refuses to discuss that topic.

"The question I get most is 'What do you think of us being over there?' I say it doesn't matter. We're there and our young men and women aren't coming home until it's over."

20-year-old Pendleton man succumbs to injuries from Iraq explosion

English teacher Gayle Smith could always count on Hugo Lopez to come around to see her, first as a student at her Fullerton high school and later as a faithful volunteer who showed up every Friday morning to help drive other teens to volunteer jobs at a nearby elementary school.


By: ERIN SCHULTZ - Staff Writer

So when Lopez told her he wanted to join the Marines, and when he visited again after boot camp, she tried to fight off her worries about his safety with thoughts of the strength of his spirit.

"He was a bighearted guy, always responsible, always a leader," said the teacher from her classroom at La Vista High School, a campus of about 350.

"He was everyone's big brother, everyone's best friend," she said. "Whether it was a kid with special needs or a teen trying to stay out of gangs, Hugo was always there."

On Tuesday, Smith and other people that Lopez touched during his 20-year lifetime were mourning the loss of their friend. Lopez, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton and shipped out to Iraq last year, died Monday of burns and other injuries he sustained when an improvised bomb exploded during a patrol.

Lopez, who was born in La Habra, died at a military hospital in San Antonio, where he was being treated for burns from the explosion, which happened just before Thanksgiving, according to the Pentagon.

He was burned over 90 percent of his body, Smith said, adding that his injuries were so serious that "it was probably selfish of us to want him to live."

He leaves behind his parents, several brothers and sisters, and a number of kids for whom he was a role model, Smith said.

"He was like a son to me," she said softly.

Lopez was part of Pendleton's 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. His unit fought with East-Coast based Marines last year.

His death brings the number of locally based Marines killed in the war to 272. According to the Defense Department, 2,242 American service members, including six Pentagon workers, have been killed in the Iraq war.

At La Vista, Lopez was the first ---- and teachers hope the last ---- to die as a result of the war. Six other former students of Smith are in Iraq, she said.

"It's been hard here," she said of the mood among school faculty members Tuesday.

"He saw the Marine Corps as a way of helping him secure a future when he thought he could do good," she said of Lopez, who joined the Marines in 2004 and had won a number of medals during his short career. "He was a loyal Marine. He really felt like he could make a difference."

President Bush acknowledges family of fallen Pensacola Marine during his State of the Union address

WASHINGTON - President Bush singled out a fallen Marine from Pensacola in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, using the words of Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay to bolster his case for staying the course in Iraq.


[email protected]
Posted on Tue, Jan. 31, 2006

Clay, who was killed by a roadside bomb in December, left behind a letter to his family, Bush said, ``but his words could just as well be addressed to every American.

' `I know what honor is,' '' Bush said, quoting Clay. ' `It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. . . . Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.' ''

As Bush spoke, Clay's parents, Clarence and Sara, and his widow, Lisa, were among First Lady Laura Bush's guests in the gallery, watching Bush deliver the address.

Clay, 27, was among 10 Marines killed in an insurgent explosion in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

''Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices -- and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear,'' Bush said. ``They know what it is like to fight house to house in a maze of streets . . . to wear heavy gear in the desert heat . . . to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes.''

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, spoke of Staff Sgt. Clay in remarks on the Senate floor days after his death, which at the time was the deadliest attack against American troops in four months.

'Knowing the danger he faced, knowing the unpredictability of war, Staff Sergeant Clay wrote a letter to his family to be opened only in any event of his death. He wrote, in part, `what we have done in Iraq is worth any sacrifice. Why? Because it was our duty.' ''

The Marine, who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, was a member of the Junior ROTC program and enlisted shortly after his high school graduation in 1996.

At the time of his death, the Pentagon said Marines were inside an abandoned flour factory being used as a patrol base when the so-called improvised explosive device detonated on Dec. 1.

They were all based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

At least 102 Florida service members, including active military, reserves and National Guard, have died since the start of hostilities in Iraq. Another 13 have died in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Michael McGraw Marine’s Actions Help Save Platoon

There they were, moving into an area known to be a hot spot for insurgent activity when it happened Oct. 2, 2005. Gunfire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades began flying around them as they took cover and started their assault on the enemy’s position in Karmah, Iraq.


By Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos
2nd Marine Division

Lance Cpl. Michael A. McGraw, a 20-year-old automatic rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, stood up early on in the attack to begin the movement on the enemy when he was struck in the lower leg by heavy machine gun fire.

McGraw was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a combat "V" Jan. 25 in a ceremony here for his actions in the face of danger.

“I thought I was fine when it first happened,” explained the native of Clarence Center, N.Y. “I thought I had gotten hit by a brick or something until I tried to get up and my leg crumbled beneath me.”

McGraw knew what he had to do when they were attacked, he said. He stood up and began providing suppressive fire as the enemy was attacking his platoon’s position.

McGraw’s bravery enabled his platoon to move safely away from the main sectors of fire and mount a counter offensive.

“When I stood up, I took a round through my lower leg that ended up shattering both bones in my leg,” the 2004 Clarence Central High School graduate said.

McGraw’s actions permitted his fellow Marines movement to close with and destroy the enemy. He was pulled off the line of fire by his squad leader and was tended to by his corpsman during the first few moments of the firefight.

Currently, McGraw is recovering and walking with a cane, and remains thankful to be alive, he said. He is hoping for a full recovery from his wounds and continues enjoying his job as an infantryman, he said.

“I have always known that I was supposed to be here doing this,” McGraw said.

Many of McGraw’s commanders praise him and his fellow Marine’s efforts fighting the global war on terrorism.

“It’s the (privates first class) and lance corporals who are out there doing the job and getting it done,” explained Maj. Christopher Dixon, executive officer, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. “I am impressed with his (McGraw’s) actions out there.”

January 30, 2006

Sensational Country Music Romance Is Hot as Jessica Hawthorn's "High Heels" Album

Hollywood . Nashville . New York . Palms, CA -- Marine Corps Base (PRWEB) January 30, 2006 -- Jessica Hawthorn's a country music singer from Texas. Justin Hawthorn is a Marine Corps veteran with two tours of duty in Iraq. They met and fell in love. They were married and then Justin was immediately deployed to Iraq for another tour of duty. For seven long months, Jessica has anticipated what his homecoming is going to be like.


Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

Marine Corps veteran's homecoming to coincide with release of Jessica Hawthorn's new album entitled, "High Heels."

“Thank goodness, he’s finally coming home,” Jessica said as she packed her car for the drive to meet her husband in California this week. *See www.jessicahawthorn.com

The 22-year-old Jessica Clark-Hawthorn is about to throw herself into the arms of her handsome Marine Corps husband, home from a brutal war. Homecoming is going to take place on January 30th, at 12:30 p.m. at 29 Palms, California on the Marine Corps base. The Second Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, of the 7th Marines are about to land in California and see their loved ones again after a long hard tour in one of the most dangerous hot spots in Iraq, the city of Fallujah.

Justin’s parents, Gilbert and Beverly Hawthorn are glad their son is back from serving our country. Justin’s two brothers, Jared and Tim, and two sisters Jennifer and Tina are praying for his safe return. "Justin is the type of guy who would go in first, just to make sure none of his guys got hurt.” He has been a Squad leader for the past year or so and the lives of his men are very important to him. *See www.capitolmanagement.com

Jessica Clark-Hawthorn has been in Nashville recording her first country music album for Platinum Plus Universal Records while her husband has been in Iraq. Mikel Gore, the Senior Editor of Entertainment Headline News got a chance to speak with Jessica as she left for California with high hopes of an incredible homecoming celebration.

Q: During the long months that your husband was in Iraq, what were you feeling during that time?

A: While Justin was gone, I just felt so empty inside. It felt like my heart had been torn from its roots. I love my husband. I missed him terribly. I did a lot of letter writing. I wrote him at least once a day and sometimes twice a day just to keep him up to date on what was going on with my music career. Of course they didn’t send the mail from Iraq over here very often and when I heard from Justin, I got a lot of his letters all at once. I didn’t care about that. All I cared about was that he was safe, he loved me and that he was coming home. I literally ached inside for him to be next to me. I woke in the middle of the night and reached out for him and he wasn’t there. The loneliness is an awful feeling, gnawing inside of you.

I would send my husband all sorts of silly stuff such as pictures of me and the dogs, or house plans that I liked for our dream house. I just wanted to keep our love alive with thousands of miles between us. I took photos of the dogs with a sign that said, “We love you daddy!” I just wanted him to know how very much we all missed him.

I sent him an autographed artist photo that he hung up on the wall of his room in Iraq. His Marine buddies would come in and ask, “Who is that?” He would proudly tell them that was his wife was a country music singer that was recording in Nashville. They just wouldn’t believe him so he showed them a copy of the marriage photos. I plan on giving Justin his own private listen to the album when he gets home with me and we’re alone together.

Q: What are your plans for your husband’s homecoming celebration?

A: I just can’t describe how much I want to be able to hug him after all this time. There are no words for it. After seven months apart, each day seems like an eternity. Roses, candlelight, and music would be nice, because after we were married it felt like we were robbed of our honeymoon together. There is no explaining how much you miss your husband’s touch, the gentle caress of his hand on your face, just hearing his voice, knowing everything is going to be all right. No one can fill that void in your life but the one that you love so deeply.

I have dreamed about this reunion for so long now. I’m going to have to restrain myself from crying like a baby when I run up to him and jump in his arms. I want to look my best and most women will understand this. I have had my outfit picked out for month that he will see me in when he gets off that Marine Corps bus. I saw it in a dream one night. I bought new perfume. I want him to cherish this moment with me as much as I cherish seeing him safe and home again. I know it will be the little things that are going to mean a lot to him. He wants a Sonic double hamburger. He’s starving for Sonic. Amazing isn’t it what we crave about this country? Did you know over a million people a day eat at Sonic?.” I want to just be able to be beside him, look into his face and hold his hand in mine. *See www.sonicdrivein.com

Q: Where are you on the album project that you started last year?

A: The album is finished, the product has arrived and you can buy it at music retailers everywhere. The title of the album is “High Heels.” I’ve always had a thing about heels since I was just a little girl. You can buy the album on my website, at www.amazon.com or other music retailers this month. My producer, Legends Hall Of Fame member, Robert Metzgar says that I sound just like Tammy Wynette. She and Dolly were my idols in country music. I just know that the album is worth every effort that went into the project. There were hundreds of man hours, musician hours, engineer hours, and finally manufacturing the product. I’m so glad I can give my husband the first autographed copy of the album when he gets home. *See www.robertmetzgar.com

Jessica was born in Sherman, Texas and later moved to Celina, Texas where she lived with her parents, John and Donna Clark. Jessica’s dad and mother are extremely supportive of her musical quest and have always been behind her in the many goals that she has in country music. See www.obu.edu

Her producers and surrounding entourage of people who have assisted her in the project is like the Who’s Who of the music business. Platinum Plus Universal Records is one of the largest development labels in the world and also boasts some of the most successful artists in the country music business. See www.platinumplusuniversal.com

Contact: Jessica Hawthorn
Capitol Management Group
1214 16th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212-2902
800-767-4984 (toll free)
615-321-0600 (wk)
615-321-0182 (fax)

Or: Robert Metzgar, GM
Platinum Plus Universal Records
1214 16th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212-2902

Contact Jessica Hawthorn

This article written by: Mikel Gore
Entertainment Headline News Senior Editor
Nashville, Tennessee

Please feel free to use, reprint, amend or copy this article in your newspaper or media guide. Written and distributed free of charge to all media sources.

The call of duty ~~Marine squadrons deploy to Iraq

Members of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, the Hawks, and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 made the long walk to a transport plane Sunday as they prepared for the long trip to Iraq.


Published Mon, Jan 30, 2006
The Beaufort Gazette

Family members embraced while their Marines, toting rucksacks and rifles, walked down the runway toward seven months at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, near the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

"I have two brothers who were down there," said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Brown. "They'll both have two tours on their belt, and I'm just getting my first."

Brown's enthusiasm wasn't matched by his wife, Tonia, who shrugged when asked about the day.

"I don't want him to go," she said while 2-year-old Kyler sat on his dad's backpack.

"He was hiding in it the other day," Brown said.

The Hawks, an F/A 18D squadron, will replace the Moonlighters squadron in western Iraq as the principle air support for Marines on the ground.

In most cases, they'll escort convoys providing close air support and scout roads before land units roll, said Capt. John Bussard.

"Often the very presence of air support is enough of a deterrent to keep insurgents at bay," he said. "Sometimes the sound of the jets is all it takes."

Eighteen-year-old Ashton Agan didn't want to hear any jets or planes Sunday. The newlywed buried herself into her mother's side when her husband, Matt, joined his squad.

"They were married in September," said Ashton's mom, Leslie Lipscomb.

Matt's mother, Lorri Gauthier, dried her own eyes.

"We expect that he'll be safe," she said. "Many prayers go out to the whole squadron."

The Marines learned of their departure more than a year ago and spent weeks in California and Arizona running mock missions, dropping real bombs and acclimating to sand and heat.

"They're ready for this," said

Lt. Col. C.J. Mullin, who'll be the ranking squad officer in Iraq. "I'm anticipating in the next seven months having an oversight and support role as the Iraqi defense forces step up and take more of the defense tasks and secure their own cities."

Contact Michael R. Shea at 298-1057 or [email protected]

2/6 Marine recognized for superior leadership

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 30, 2006) -- First Lt. Martin B. Keogh from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment was awarded the 2nd Marine Division Association’s Tarawa Award.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062140849
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Keogh, the platoon commander for Combined Anti Armor Team 4, was selected to receive the award because of his outstanding leadership ability.

As the platoon commander of 3rd Platoon, Company F, Keogh served on deployments to Okinawa, Japan and Guam. Following his tour on the Unit Deployment Program, Keogh was moved to Weapons Company and became the 8l mm Mortar Platoon commander.

Keogh's time in Weapons Company has been anything but predictable. This year alone, he has served as a platoon commander in three different capacities and in two separate deployments.

From February to April 2005, Keogh served as a watch officer at the United States Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan while on an anti-terrorism mission in support of operation Enduring Freedom. From May to August 2005, Keogh was the 8l mm Mortar Platoon commander leading his platoon through a rigorous pre-deployment training program including Revised Combined Arms Exercise and Stability and Support Operations training. From September to the present, Keogh has been a Mobile Assault Platoon Commander in the Al Anbar province of Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Each of these billets were a distinctly different assignment, complete with all of the leadership challenges that necessarily accompany such endeavors.

Lieutenant Col. Scott D. Aiken, the battalion’s commanding officer, had this to say in his endorsement of Keogh, “Throughout his tour in the 2nd Marine Division, Keogh has demonstrated unparalleled excellence, maturity, and remarkable agility of mind and focus. To call him an outstanding platoon commander would be a gross understatement.”

Keogh credits all his success to the Marines he is in charge of.

“The bottom line is that anything good I have ever done has been entirely because of their performance,” added the 27-year-old, Wilmington, Del., native. “I wish there was a way that I could truly thank them for the awesome job they are doing.”

Keogh’s platoon sergeant shares his attitude for the Marines.

“Lieutenant Keogh is the best lieutenant in the battalion and the best lieutenant that I have ever worked with,” said Staff Sgt. Roy L. Rose, the platoon sergeant for CAAT 4.

January 29, 2006

Help for East Africa

SANKABAR, Ethiopia - This is the war on terrorism that most Americans haven’t heard of:
A few days after Christmas, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Adam Reed rode into the parched, hungry village of Sankabar with a present: A new water pump. This month, Reed returned to the village, where elders gleefully showed the soldier from Sidon, Miss., what the simple irrigation system had brought: budding green fields of corn, bananas and oranges, the most promising crops in years.


Help for East Africa

By Shashank Bengali
Knight Ridder Newspapers

A small U.S. military task force in East Africa is installing water pumps, rebuilding schools and health clinics, making medical house calls and training national armies - all part of a mission to stabilize a region that’s seen as a potential breeding ground for terrorist groups.

"We are coming out of drought because of the pump," said Omar Ahmed, a Sankabar elder. "So we say thank you, America. And thank you, Mr. Reed. He is the first guy to give us help."

What’s going here provides a glimpse of the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism, which is being fought - mostly in the shadows - elsewhere in Africa and across the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia using different combinations of military, covert, economic and diplomatic weapons.

Separated from the Middle East by only a narrow waterway, the Horn of Africa is home to 90 million Muslims, many of whom live in crushing poverty and political isolation. Al-Qaida has had success in the area, bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, attacking the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000 and nearly shooting down an Israeli charter plane over Kenya in 2002.

The 1,500 troops of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa have been stationed since 2002 at Camp Lemonier, a former French base on the Red Sea in the tiny coastal nation of Djibouti. They were sent to hunt down al-Qaida operatives in East Africa, but there are few known terrorist cells working in the vast area - two-thirds the size of the United States - and the troops haven’t made many arrests.

Instead, theirs has become a humanitarian mission, with public relations benefits. By bringing aid to remote villages, commanders say, they help alleviate the poverty and alienation that foster terrorism and score image points against terrorist recruiters who would paint the United States as a villain.

"We are in a generational fight for hearts and minds," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley, the task force commander. "We do water projects and build schools that help a poor child in a village, and in 20 years that child will remember us."

Ghormley, who as a young Marine in Vietnam helped train militias to fight Viet Cong, likes to boast that his troops haven’t fired a single shot. Made up largely of engineering and construction units, the task force has built 52 schools, 23 medical facilities and 25 water wells. It’s also trained military forces in six countries, including Uganda and Ethiopia, to shore up their border security.

Though far smaller, it’s the most significant U.S. military engagement in Africa since 25,000 troops went to Somalia in 1992, an operation that ended after 18 were killed in the infamous "Black Hawk Down" episode.

The emphasis on Africa in the U.S. war on terrorism has grown in recent years. Last year, the American military launched a $500 million program to train the armies of nine West and North African countries in counterterrorism operations. A similar $100 million project began in East Africa in 2003.

The Horn of Africa task force covers 11 countries: Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. But there’s no troop presence in Somalia - the place analysts think is the most likely terrorist haven in the region.

Without a functioning government or security force, Somalia has devolved into a quasi-nation of warring factions where Islamic militants have strong ties to al-Qaida. No one has asked the United States to come in, so Ghormley says the task force’s limited manpower and modest $11 million budget are directed at countries that have welcomed the assistance.

Ghormley’s troops are a rare foreign presence in Ethiopia’s Ogaden desert region, a drought-stricken area in which most people are poor, ethnic Somali and, officials think, susceptible to Islamic extremism.

American troops - including Army well-drilling units, Navy construction teams and Marines - arrived in the Ogaden last fall, setting up camp in a hotel in the hamlet of Gode, so cut off from the rest of Ethiopia that at first some of them worried they’d be a target.

Until recently, the massive cargo planes that roared into Gode to deliver supplies didn’t even shut off their engines. They made quick, combat-style landings, then disappeared back into the sky within minutes.

But troops say the locals have welcomed them. When their dirt-spattered SUVs rumble into a village, children in tattered clothes run to greet them and elders shake their hands warmly, like old friends.

"Before they came, some people were giving us bad information, that the Americans kill people without reason, that Americans hate Africans," said Wali Aden, the tall, thin mayor of the village of Goderay, where the troops installed a $1,400 water pump last fall.

"But we believe now. They are the only guys who give us assistance."

The troops say they don’t ask villagers for intelligence or place any conditions on aid.

"I’m not here to fish for information," said Army Sgt. Dave Hoffner of Manahawkin, N.J. "If they want to give us information, we’ll pass it up" the chain of command.

In villages where the troops have worked, the feel-good factor is unmistakable. But the region is huge and complex and the mission’s budget limited, and some experts wonder whether the military is willing to remain in the region long enough to have a serious impact.

Even the small irrigation projects need ongoing attention. Villagers in Sankabar love their new water pumps - bearing the logo of a Chinese manufacturer - but they used up 55 gallons of diesel fuel in two weeks and had to ask the American troops for more.

If the pump fails, it’s not clear that anyone in the village will know how to fix it; a secondhand pump that farmers bought themselves broke down several months ago and now sits alongside the new one, rusted and forgotten.

"It’s nice that we can do these things, but this isn’t long-term development," said Princeton Lyman, the director of the Africa task force at the Council on Foreign Relations, a research center in New York and Washington. "It’s good for our image ... but it doesn’t substitute for general development because the troops come and go."

Still, Ghormley sees hope in his mission.

"If we fight this battle here well," Ghormley said, "we won’t have to fight battles like we do in Iraq and Afghanistan."

War Dogs come back from Iraq, return to new lives

The Combat Center's Victory Field was filled with high spirits Sunday afternoon when the families and friends of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, gathered to greet their returning heroes.

The celebration called for balloons, ribbons, flags, cheering, banners and posters that read, "Welcome home".



Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Combat Correspondent

Most of the excitement came from wives and parents. Friends and other Marines with the battalion who returned a month earlier also shared in the excitement. But, certain loved ones could not express their joy like others because many were new born babies.

In July 2005, more than 700 Marines and Sailors from 2/7 departed the Combat Center to support the ongoing global war on terrorism. Along with their loved ones, some of the service members left behind a new life, which later became a new member to their families.

Jennifer Shultz waited seven months for her dream to come true, she said. Shultz, along with a 4-month-old new family member, waited anxiously for the battalion's buses to arrive.

"The deployment was really hard for me because I was pregnant for most of the time," said Shultz before her husband returned. "After the birth, it was hard for me to recover without my husband. He couldn't call much during the beginning of the deployment but then he was able to call more and more toward the end. I'm so excited to see him. I'm even more excited for him to see his son for the first time. The truth hasn't hit me yet. The day I've been waiting for is here and it doesn't seem real. It seems like I'm still dreaming."

The Marines and Sailors with the battalion arrived at Victory Field at 3 p.m. and were greeted by a large mass of excited family members. Many overwhelmed family members couldn't hold in their tears as they reunited with their Marine or Sailor.

For Lance Cpl. Eli L. Shultz, a mortarman with Golf Company, his return home was more enjoyable when he met his 4-week-old, baby boy, Evan, along with his wife.

Cpl. Benjamin D. Vaughn, a mortarman with Golf Co., also came home to a grand, yet small, enjoyment.

Four-month-old Benjamin Vaughn Jr., and his mother Caitlin, awaited their returning Marine Sunday afternoon also.

"It was very hard for me knowing that I couldn't be there for her troubles when she was pregnant," said Cpl. Vaughn. "I know she missed me and I'm glad she and my son were OK. Being with them now feels amazing. I feel like a dad for the first time. I was very excited to come home but I was much more anxious to see my son and wife the most."

Vaughn's wife shared the feeling.

"It was nerve wrecking knowing he was out there," she said. "I'm glad this day came. I just couldn't wait for them to meet. As for now, I plan to spend a lot of time together - just the three of us. We are going to go home and do a lot of catching up."

This was the battalion's second combat deployment to Iraq.

The rest of the battalion returned to the Combat Center Monday.

Cherry Point unit returns from Iraq deployment

CHERRY POINT — There were balloons, banners and a brass band, but the warmest welcome the 115 or so returning Marines received on Saturday came in the form of hugs from family members.

The VMAQ-1 “Banshees” Tactical Electronic Warfare squadron returned to Cherry Point following a 6 1/2-month stretch in Iraq.


January 29,2006

Their absence from home has impacted not only their lives, but the lives of their spouses as well.

“You have to plan pregnancies,” said Christy Hancock. “Q1 deploys too much. They either miss the pregnancy or the delivery.”

Fortunately for Hancock, who is expecting in April, the squadron is not expected to deploy again for another year.

Col. Mark Wakeman said Saturday’s return was long anticipated.

“The biggest adjustment between here and Iraq will be getting up in the morning and not having to worry about being shot at,” he said.

The stint abroad represented the first deployment for some Marines, such as Capt. Patrick Amato.

He said conditions in Iraq were hot and he missed his wife.

“We had a good mission and exceeded expectations,” he said.

Cpl. Matt Langdon, who deployed for the third time, shared the longing for home.

“You get used to deploying, but it still takes a toll on your body,” he said. “It’s good to be home.”

Sixteen Marines in the squadron are still overseas and will be making their return in the weeks to come.

NCO recognized for outstanding leadership

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 29, 2006) -- A Marine from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment was awarded the 2nd Marine Division Association’s Lt. Gen. Julian C. Smith Award for his leadership excellence while serving as squad leader for 1st Squad, 4th Platoon.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200621474420
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Sergeant Mindo D. Estrella, a 22-year-old Erie, Pa., native was presented the award here, Feb. 3.

Estrella has served with the battalion since February 2003. He assumed the billet of squad leader as a lance corporal, and his knowledge, skill level and leadership ability, even at that grade, were easily evident and led to him being meritoriously promoted to corporal.

As a corporal, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 where he showed his ability to adapt to any mission. He led numerous combat patrols in support of the embassy security mission, participated as a leader and instructor in all platoon live-fire ranges and was the key small unit leader on the ground during a security mission in support of the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense attended.

He trained his squad in the unfamiliar mission of embassy security. He also took time to ensure they never lost their basic infantry skills. His attention to detail enabled his squad to excel in a demanding environment.

He received the Navy Marine Corps Achievement medal for his actions in Afghanistan.

His motivation, dedication, and devotion to his squad significantly impacted its readiness for the company’s upcoming deployment. Estrella constantly supervised his Marines to ensure they acted in accordance with the commander's intent. His supervision allowed for extensive learning to occur during all training evolutions, including participation in the Revised Combined Arms Exercise and Stability and Support Operations Training at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.

Throughout his deployment to Iraq in 2005, he continually displayed his hallmark tenacity and uncanny leadership abilities. From the period of Sept. 1, 2005 until wounded on Nov. 12, 2005, he led his squad on more than 50 combat patrols, numerous house searches, and a variety of intelligence-based operations.

His leadership abilities enabled his squad to successfully pursue and capture numerous insurgents, along with collecting viable intelligence to be utilized in the development of target packages of suspected insurgents, within Company F's area of operations.

The impact that Estrella, as a leader, had on his squad was readily apparent when he was wounded and evacuated back to the United States. While on the way back from patrol, he was maintaining security as his Marines crossed through a danger area. As he began to move out of his security position, he noticed someone out of his peripheral vision. As he raised his weapon he felt something hit him in the shoulder, heard it bounce off the wall of the house beside him, and land at his feet.

Displaying outstanding situational awareness while gaining distance from the threat, Sgt. Estrella was shouting to alert his squad that a grenade had been thrown. Despite his evasive efforts, the grenade exploded, sending numerous pieces of shrapnel that impacted his back, upper legs and knees.

Once dragged to safety and while being worked on by the corpsman and combat lifesavers, he still maintained control of his squad. He directed efforts to secure the area, and provided them with information on what had happened, along with courses of action to take. He continued to relay information to his superiors regarding the attack after being evacuated to the company aid station.

His unselfishness was demonstrated by his concern for the well-being of his squad, even while wounded.

“The fact that his squad didn’t miss a beat tactics wise, that they were able to step up and take over the mission, is the true display of his leadership,” said 1st Sgt. Howard L. Kreamer, company first sergeant for Company F.

“He is an outstanding Marine in every way, a true professional. He is the epitome of motivation and esprit de corps. To this day his primary concern is still his squad, and never himself.”

Estrella’s squad members feel his absence but know that they have to continue on and when they return home he will be there waiting for them.

“I’ve been with him since the School of Infantry. We have always been in the same squad, platoon since then,” said Sgt. Leroy O. Butler, the squad leader for 1st Squad, 4th Patoon. “We were both raised in the Marine Corps the same way, so I just try and do things like he would, follow in his footsteps.

“I try and call him as much as I can to let him know how the squad is doing. Every time I talk to him, he wants to be back here with the squad, and I know he isn’t lying. He said he would be there at Cherry Point waiting for us when we got home though.”

“The best quality Sgt. Estrella displays is that he really cares about the welfare of his men,” said 2nd Lt. Kevin M. O’Donnell, the platoon commander for 4th Platoon. “He’s a motivator, his attitude carried over to the squad after he left. They’re still going strong even though he isn’t here, it’s like they don’t want to let him down.”

Such dedication and leadership was simple to achieve, Estrella merely stuck to the basics.

“It’s real easy for a squad leader to get too high-speed and try to do too much,” said Staff Sgt. James R. DeBerry, the platoon sergeant for 4th Platoon. “He kept it simple, and got things done.”

Before he was wounded, Estrella re-enlisted for another four years, with the goal of being sent to a Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team company. He is currently back at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., undergoing extensive rehabilitation and awaiting the day he will be reunited with his squad.

Some stay, some go, all proud

As the final year of a Marine's enlistment approaches, he or she may be unsure whether or not to stay in the Corps. What some Marines may not take into consideration is that there are benefits in staying Marine.

Combat Correspondent.

However, for riflemen with three combat deployments in their first enlistment on active duty, the stress and burden they carry may be enough to consider ending their honorable service.

Third Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, became the first Marine battalion to deploy to Iraq three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when they returned to the Combat Center July 31.

Two Marines who were with the battalion for all three deployments are Sgt. Myles G. Compton, a Tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missle gunner with Weapons Company, and Cpl. James M. Foley, a rifleman with Lima Company.

The two enlisted before ground elements were deployed to Iraq. Both Marines' intentions when joining were to protect America from terrorism.

Compton is currently serving as platoon sergeant with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1. He entered the Marine Corps when he was 20 years old and living in Springfield, Mo.

“College wasn't working out the way I wanted it to, so I was thinking about the Marine Corps a lot,” said Compton. “The attacks on September 11 made my decision.”

Unlike Compton, Foley knew he wanted to be a Marine right after high school. He is currently a squad leader in 1st platoon.

“My father is a retired master sergeant and my uncle is a retired gunnery sergeant,” said Foley, a Sturgis, S.D., native. “I had the influences my whole life.”

“I had no clue what to expect going into my first deployment,” said Compton. “It all happened really fast.” Compton said after the initial push into Baghdad he began to enjoy the Marine Corps more and more.

When Compton, Foley and 3/4 liberated Baghdad, they were lead by Lt. Col. Brian McCoy, battalion commander, and they made history in Firdos Square pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein there.

“I was ready to deploy for the first time,” said Foley. “I felt like we accomplished a whole lot when we got there too.”

When the battalion came back from their first deployment, they trained for six months, deployed again as part of a Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa, Japan, and ended up deploying to Iraq again.

“OIF 2 was completely different from our first deployment for the most part,” said Compton. “Our tactics and techniques were changed, and we were under strict order of conventional warfare. All in all, OIF 2 was more dangerous than OIF 1, which made our mission frustrating and difficult.”

After Compton and Foley's safe return home from OIF 2, they did not expect to be training for a third deployment, they said.

“I thought ‘three combat deployments in three years might be pushing it,'” said Compton. “I felt like we were playing with fire now. But as a section leader, I knew it needed to be done. Still, I felt lucky when we returned.”

“I was OK and ready for the second deployment but worried about the third one,” said Foley. “I wasn't looking forward to it.”

The experience Compton gained during the three deployments could not be matched anywhere else, he said.

“I am not as naive as I used to be about the world now,” said Compton. “My peers can never have the knowledge that I gained being a Marine.”

Compton feels his time serving in the Marine Corps was worthwhile, but has different plans for the future.

“I'm ready to go home and try something different,” he said. “I plan on taking everything I learned here and applying it to a career.”

Compton wants to work as a civilian contractor for the military and deal with infantry weapons systems.

After four grueling years in the Marine Corps, Foley reenlisted in October 2005.

“I am pretty proud of my accomplishments,” said Foley. “I became used to deployments and training. It's hard to adjust when arriving to Iraq and returning home. It just takes time. Speaking for myself, the Marine Corps hasn't impacted me negatively. I look forward to serving more.”

Although he is proud of serving three combat deployments, the life was difficult on Foley's family. The deployments were hard for his wife, Kathleen, when his daughter, Liz, was born while he was in Iraq, he said.

Foley has arranged to become an instructor at the School of Infantry.

“I need a break,” said Foley. “I want to spend more time with my family. I love what I do but I need some time away from the infantry.”

Compton is scheduled to end his active-duty service in April and is looking forward to working in the civilian world.

“I appreciate what the Marine Corps has done for me,” said Compton. “But, I'm ready to move on. Being deployed three times was stressful for my family, in particular my wife, Kacey. The Corps is not for me anymore, and I'm ready to move on.”

Both Marines are aware of the benefits of staying in the Corps. The battalion's career planner, Sgt. Bonel Pierre, speaks with every Marine about the benefits of “staying Marine.”

“I sit down and talk to them on how they feel about staying in,” said Pierre. “I think it's better to do it one-on-one. I tell them there is more out there in the field than just deploying.”

Pierre's job is to mentor and look out for the young Marines. He shows them what the Marine Corps has to offer, he said.

“Infantry Marines automatically rate a bonus for staying in after their first enlistment that can reach past $20,000,” said Pierre. “They can go on permissive temporary additional duty for 21 days or even get duty station incentives - just in case they'd rather not be with a deployable unit. All of this depends on their rank and time of service as well.”

Compton, Foley and Pierre understand why Marines choose to stay in or get out, they said. There are many reasons for their choices - all of which reflect on their experiences, said Pierre.

“A lot of guys get stressed out from combat and being away from home,” said Foley. “Some say ‘it's time to throw in the towel' and move on to different things.”

“Deployments to Iraq aren't a pleasant experience most times,” said Compton. “Some Marines may think a combat deployment is the only thing guaranteed in the Marine Corps so they may choose a different path. I wouldn't suggest anything to a Marine debating what to do. It's all up to the individual and what they want in their future.”

“I think I'll go career,” said Foley. “I can't see myself doing anything else. I have the support of my family about this. But for other Marines, staying in may not be what they want after serving multiple combat deployments. But, it's not like this everywhere. Eventually you get a choice of what you want, such as a B-billet. But it's the nature of the beast to serve three combat deployments in one enlistment. I think every Marine in this battalion is proud of that whether they stay in or not.”

January 28, 2006

ESG 3 Ready to Deploy

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 is now certified to deploy in support of the global war on terrorism in February, after successfully completing its 14-day Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) Jan. 26 off the coast of Southern California.


Story Number: NNS060127-06
Release Date: 1/28/2006 12:02:00 AM
By Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

A team of evaluators from Strike Force Training, U.S. Pacific Fleet, embarked the strike group’s flagship, USS Peleliu (LHA 5), and reported favorably on ESG 3’s performance during the training to commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet.

“ESG 3 is really at the top of their game and is a well above average group compared to others we have seen,” said Rear Adm. Mark T. Emerson, commander, Strike Force Training, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who embarked Peleliu for JTFEX. “This is a very impressive group and I’m very proud of their performance.”

JTFEX, the third and final at-sea training evolution ships must complete before deployment, prepared the six ships and more than 6,000 Sailors and Marines of ESG 3 for future operational requirements.

The exercise incorporated operational simulations and the theoretical challenges that U.S. forces in cooperation with coalition militaries might face. The training team had small boats, Lear jets, Cessna propeller aircraft, the Swedish diesel submarine HMS Gotland and other U.S. Navy vessels simulate enemy forces during the training. The scenarios included non-combatant evacuation, humanitarian assistance, maritime interception, amphibious assault and daily flight operations.

“I have to expose this group to almost everything we think that [they’ll] see on deployment,” said Emerson, who headed the Senior Officer Observer Team (SOOT) during JTFEX.

“We stack these events slowly on top of each other to add an intensity to the exercise so you have every single warfare area, every single entity in this group, engaged in many things all at once,” said Emerson. “That’s our final test: to see if the group, the staff, the individual units, the warfare commanders, (everyone) all the way down to the console operator and the rifleman, can put it all together, and this group has done very, very well.”

ESG 3 Commander, Marine Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen said he is “very proud of the continuous and steep improvement ESG 3 made made every step of the way. The training and long hours of preparation really came together in JTFEX and I couldn’t be more proud of the team’s performance.”

“Absolutely” certain of ESG 3’s readiness to deploy, Jensen said he expects the strike group to “make a positive difference wherever she sails, whether that involves actual combat operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian assistance, or anything in between.”

“Like every Sailor and Marine on board, I’m tremendously proud of this opportunity to serve our nation in a combat arena,” said Jensen, who is embarked aboard Peleliu with his staff.

During their upcoming Western Pacific deployment, ESG 3 will be “our nations best hope,” said Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Amphibious Group 3, who embarked Peleliu during ESG 3’s Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX). “They soon will carry the flag of the United States forward, anywhere in the world, because of the great maneuverability afforded [to] naval forces, who can go anywhere with unimpeded access, where the scene of action is. So, they have a heavy responsibility that lies ahead of them.”

Internal communications division officer Lt. j.g. Greg Kurtz said he’s ready. Standing the officer-of-the-deck (OOD) watch has prepared him “very well” for the deployment, he said. When on watch, Kurtz had the ship’s Small Craft Action Team (SCAT) respond to and simulate an engagement against a small boat attack .

“The training prepares us for situations that might actually happen and we learn from our mistakes here,” said Kurtz. “We can’t [make] mistakes when we deploy because lives are at risk. The training is giving us the chance to understand how to deal with the threat.”
Emerson said ESG 3 was “very, very proactive” in approaching the situations and did “exceptionally well.”

Kurtz added that these simulated emergency situations brought the bridge team together.

“You put everyone … of these watch standers on edge, as if dealing with a real situation, so they’re prepared if it actually happens,” he said. “This way they won’t freeze up and not know how to handle the excitement.”

While Kurtz and other OODs are responsible for the ship’s navigation and the safety of the crew from the bridge, the tactical action officers (TAO) work in the Combat Information Center to defend the ship and employ weapons systems.

One of five TAOs on Peleliu, Lt. Cmdr. Chris White, said this training has “been great for the strike group.

“We’ve definitely got the building blocks,” said White, who is also Peleliu’s navigator. “Every mission is different but we definitely have the foundation laid for a wide variety of situations. We’ve worked out the bugs.”

While ESG 3 did well during the work-ups, Emerson said the group needs to “never stop practicing, rehearsing, exercising, and learning.”

ESG 3 completed its first work-up, ESG Integration Exercise (ESGINT), Nov. 18 and its COMPTUEX Dec. 16. The group is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 3, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Peleliu, the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), the guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzales (DDG 66) with the crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758) participated in the training but will not deploy with the strike group.


January 27, 2006

PTSD effect pervasive among Iraq vets, civilians

When it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder, the war in Iraq is affecting everyone — civilians and soldiers, males and females, Iraqis and Americans — said doctors at a panel at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday


By Kelly Kennedy
Times staff writer

But this time, as opposed to wars in the past, doctors know to look for the symptoms of PTSD as well as how to treat it.

“We feel we’re reaching a higher proportion of veterans than in the past,” said Antonette Zeiss, deputy chief consultant for mental health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Zeiss said she thinks more soldiers are seeking help because they know the services are available. During the Vietnam War, doctors and soldiers did not know to look for the symptoms of PTSD, which include flashbacks, nightmares, lack of emotions, difficulty sleeping and irritability.

Zeiss said 120,000 soldiers have sought health care, and that 31 percent of them are being reviewed for possible mental health disorders, the top diagnosed being PTSD. A big difference from previous wars, she said, is that 13 percent of those soldiers are women.

“We need to think not only about women veterans, but about women warriors,” she said.

Many of them, she said, have dealt with sexual trauma.

Soldiers are also living through trauma that, in previous wars, would have killed them, such as head wounds, Zeiss said. Doctors are just beginning to understand what those soldiers need.

“They’ve lived through something profound in terms of emotional experience,” Zeiss said. “How much rehab will they need?”

In Iraq, the Ministry of Health has worked to make sure doctors can help civilians deal with the same symptoms soldiers have, but Saddam Hussein’s government kept no records of mental health issues, and psychiatrists did not study specific areas, such as children’s mental health or forensics psychiatry, under Hussein’s rule, said Dr. Sabah Sadik, national adviser for mental health for the Iraq Ministry of Health.

Since the war, Sadik said health officials have kept records of mental health issues, encouraged people to participate in field research, begun a mental health needs assessment study, and begun two studies specific to PTSD. They have also begun integrating mental health into primary health care, trained 30 general practitioners in mental health issues, and talked with health care workers about ethical treatment of mental health patients.

“This is a probably a drop in the ocean for what Iraq needs,” Sadik said. “Iraq did not develop as much as the rest of the world over the last 30 years.”

Some of their work has become moot, though, as doctors continue to flee Iraq following threats from terrorists and the deaths of colleagues.

“With the ongoing violence, especially when intellectuals and doctors are targeted by terrorists, it has been a very difficult time,” Sadik said. “It is a huge problem we hope we’ll overcome.”

Artillery Marines return to firing

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 27, 2006) -- As the week began Jan. 23, Marines were rolling out to start Exercise Firestorm.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200612713405
Story by Lance Cpl. Zachary W. Lester

Marines from 2nd Marine Division conducted the operation against simulated terrorist activity in the town of Impact City in the made-up country of Katruna, in reality, a training facility here.

“The purpose of Exercise Firestorm was to get us back in the artillery mindset,” said Maj. Kevin J. Keating, 10th Marine Regiments assistant operations officer.

For many of the Marines, this was the first exercise in which they praciced their primary military occupational specialty.

“A lot of our units have been going to Iraq as provisional infantry battalions, doing everything but artillery,” Keating said.

Cpl. Ryan P. Pedroza, assistant firing chief, F Battery, had to adjust to being an artilleryman again after spending seven months in Iraq in a provisional infantry battalion doing convoy operations.

“At first, it was cool to change and to do a different job, but it is always nice to be able to come back and do your original job,” Pedroza said.

An exercise of this type hasn’t been done since the middle of 2003.

“This is the first time we’ve had two battalions on deck in a long time that were able to fire artillery,” Keating said.

Along with other battalions and regimental combat teams, personnel from the 10th Marine Regiment all displayed their own specialties.

The regiment’s mission was to provide accurate, timely, massed cannon fires and fire support for the 2nd Marine Division in order to disrupt and destroy the enemy in Impact City.

“We came up with a scenario that was similar to the things going on in Iraq,” Keating said. “We set it up to fight them how we would fight as a regiment.”

Upon arriving to their destination in the training area, Headquarters Battery quickly set up to start giving direction to the artillery batteries.

“We ran fire support for the grunts,” stated Staff Sgt. Jack O. Hendrix, fire chief, F Battery. “Anytime they got in trouble, we came out and provided fire for them. We also destroyed any hard targets they couldn’t get to.”

The artillery Marines rode in seven-ton trucks to the site of the exercise, pulling the massive 155mm Howitzer cannons behind them.

“The seven-ton took us to our position, where we set up the gun and started the process,” Hendrix said.

Running the huge weapon seemed like a daunting task, but the Marines of the regiment appeared to do it with timeliness and ease.

“To run the gun, you need one section chief and six men, but the more, the merrier,” Hendrix said.

On Hendrix’s team, there was a gunner, assistant gunner, recorder, an ammo team and a plugger.
The ammo team deals with the rounds and the propellant, preparing them to be fired and loading them into the tube. The gunner and assistant gunner make sure the cannon is firing on target, while the recorder takes note of all the information taking place.

“The number one man, or plugger, puts the gun powder in after the ammo team loads the round into the tube,” Hendrix said. “He then closes the breach, puts the primer inside the hole, pulls the lanyard and shoots the gun.”

The cannons are extremely accurate, sending rounds to a distance of up to 18 miles.

Hendrix looks forward to the near future when the Marines will be working with a new gun, the M-777 ultra-lightweight field howitzer.

“They are smaller and it takes less Marines to man them,” Hendrix said. “It shoots the same size round the same distance.”

The Marines worked hard to complete their exercise.

“It turned out better than expected,” Keating said. “I know what I have to work on to make it quicker paced for the firing battalion. This exercise is a stepping-stone toward our next exercise.”

During the week-long field exercise, the Marines were able to go out and complete the mission assigned to them. The training will help the Marines in preparation for upcoming deployments to Okinawa and in fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

Beaufort Marines heading to Iraq

(Marine Corps Airs Station Beaufort-AP) January 27, 2006 - About 110 Marines from the Air Station in Beaufort are heading to Iraq this weekend.
The squadron - known as the Hawks - will be heading to western Iraq. They will be joined by members of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31.


The unit's dozen Hornet jet aircraft are set to leave later in the week.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps says that in all, about 250 Marines will be heading to the area in western Iraq. They will be there for seven months.

Another Beaufort unit, the Moonlighters, are due to return home in mid-February.

Posted 12:45pm by Bryce Mursch

Slain Marine honored, buried

Carmel grad abducted by Navy man posing as an investigator, authorities say

CARMEL, Ind. -- A Marine Corps color guard escorted the casket carrying Justin Lee Huff's body to the foot of the pulpit at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.

By John Tuohy
[email protected]

The "Marine Hymn" played as 175 mourners, many dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs, stood in the pews silently. The coffin, with a folded U.S. flag on top, came to a stop in front of Cpl. Huff's parents, Blaine and Theresa Huff, seated in the first row.
"Justin honored his country, his family and his church,'' said the Rev. Ted Rothrock.
Three rows of about 20 Marines sat off the altar to the priests' right.
Huff, 23, served two tours in Iraq after graduating from Carmel High School in 2001 and was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy Presidential Unit Citation.
He had just re-upped his four-year commitment and was studying at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Center in Virginia Beach, Va., when he went missing Jan. 2.
His body was found Jan. 13. He had been stabbed, burned and buried in northeast North Carolina. Navy investigators have charged a classmate, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 22, Boones Mill, Va., with the killing.
Authorities would not reveal a motive for the slaying but said Jackson impersonated a Navy investigator, handcuffed Huff and abducted him in a pickup truck.
Enid Baines, Huff's English teacher during his senior year at Carmel, remembered him as a student who always seemed focused on his work.
"He was pretty quiet and kept to himself, but he was not someone anyone would dislike," she said. "He was always polite and personable. I can't imagine anyone disliking him (or) him making enemies. I was surprised that anyone would want to harm him."
Huff was assigned to the Brigade Services Support Group 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
Other survivors include his wife, Rebecca Huff, who is three months pregnant, and two sisters.
A support group called Marine Moms is offering consolation to the Huff family, said Melanie Smith, a Carmel High teacher whose son, Cpl. Lance Thompson, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Huff was buried with full military honors at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens, Fishers.
Call Star reporter John Tuohy at (317) 444-2606.

Star reporter Lisa Renze-Rhodes contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved

Future leaders show initiative

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 27, 2006) -- More than 25 Marines from different sections within 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) received their Corporals Course certificates here Jan. 25.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier
Story Identification #:

At garrison bases, Corporals Course is held over a two week period and comprised of uniform inspections, sword manual, drill, physical training and numerous hours of academic instruction.

It is not much different here in Iraq, according to Gunnery Sgt. Thomas E. Clough, 8th Engineer Communications Detachment commander and chief instructor for the Corporals Course.

“We do the same things here,” Clough said. “Except here we don’t have the same uniform inspections because all we have are our [camouflage utilities].”

Other minor differences include drill, PT and the length of the course, according to Clough.

“It is hard to get Marines away from their shops,” Clough admitted. “We shortened the course from 14 to eight days because we all have demanding jobs that directly support our mission here.”

Although the schedule was shortened, this did not mean all the materials pertinent to the course were not covered, according to Cpl. Roy G. White, data network specialist with Marine Wing Communication Squadron-38, 2nd MLG (Fwd), and Corporals Course graduate.

“We were here everyday from [7 a.m. – 8 p.m.]. Although the schedule was intense, I learned a lot,” White said. “There is a lot that goes into this course than what I originally thought.”

In the rear, uniform inspections are part of the schedule, where Marines are judged by their attention to detail. Here, there are few changes to the uniform inspections, according to Sgt. Matthew A. Phelps, who was one of three squad instructors working with the junior Marines during the course.

“We don’t have the [service A uniforms] here,” Phelps said. “All we have are our cammies, which we have been wearing everyday since we have been here. And because we wear them all day we don’t try to focus as much attention on uniforms compared to other things such as drill or periods of instruction.”

Some Marines, like Cpl. Richard S. Jackel, believe the class here will benefit them here in Iraq and when they return to the states.

“Because we are in Iraq, we not only learned how to become leaders in the Corps but also learned time and stress management,” said Jackel, who is an engineer with MWCS-38, 2nd MLG (Fwd). “Corporals Course is vital to becoming a great leader. Setting the right example through consistency is the best thing some of us have learned here.”

Bond of wounded defies age

"Hey doc, when am I going upstairs? Hey doc, this bed is uncomfortable, when am I going to be admitted?"

A feisty elderly gentleman we'll call Morris (name changed for confidentiality) was in Bed 3 of Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, one of the busiest emergency departments in the military. He kept a constant barrage of running commentary on how long he had been waiting to go upstairs to complete his chest pain work up.


by Capt. Sean Meadows
American Forces Press Service

Morris was an 80-year-old retired World War II veteran. After I had spent a grueling afternoon shift seeing dozens of sick and injured people of all ages, his relentless haranguing was wearing me out.

I am a second-year resident in a three-year training program in emergency medicine. And that day, this man's incessant jawing had me at the point of exasperation. Then, like it has many times before, the arrival of troops wounded in Iraq changed the mood in the department.

The constant chatter and hum of a busy emergency department halted in an instant as soon as the doors opened. The sight of bandaged and burned Soldiers brought in on field stretchers accompanied by flight docs and medics wearing desert camouflage brought conversation to a standstill.

You could hear the whispers: "Are those guys from Iraq?"

Previously summoned specialists arrived in droves to get these Soldiers, Airmen and Marines admitted or taken to operating rooms. The whole hospital hums with activity when a transport comes in. No one ever wants to be remembered as the one who didn't give aid and comfort to a wounded comrade.

Battle-hardened desert veterans, as well as those not yet tested, surround the newly arrived with greetings and encouragement. Some well-intentioned family member of a patient in the department went out to the waiting room to spread the news of wounded Soldiers in the department.

People waiting with sniffles and minor complaints looked embarrassed when they heard the news, some left. Complaints about wait times usually don't happen on days like this.

Some startled patients stared with visible discomfort at the sight of war wounded. The nurses and techs closed the curtains to raise a shield of privacy for the wounded Soldiers and normalcy returned to the emergency department.

My trance of observation was broken by the sounds of the formerly complaining Morris trying to climb off of his gurney. "Get me out of here!" he yelled. I turned and saw Morris trying to get up and off of the gurney. Before I could ask, he said: "Give my bed to one of those Soldiers. I'm not taking a bed away from one of those guys!"

Morris had tears in his eyes and was overwrought with emotion looking at the line of Soldiers waiting in wheelchairs and on stretchers. The incoming Soldiers could see Morris and heard this old veteran of Normandy and Bastogne trying to give up his bed for them.

Morris was reassured numerous times that the wounded Soldiers would be cared for, and after extensive negotiation he agreed not to leave. And we never heard another complaint from him.

Compared to Soldiers from the Vietnam era, these recently wounded Soldiers will have a very different homecoming story to tell future generations. I'll never forget Morris, and I doubt they will either. Different eras, but the bond of warriors crosses generations.

As an Army emergency medicine resident, I am reminded every day that we are a country at war. From the staff physicians in constant rotations, to Iraq and Afghanistan, to the wounded warriors who fill our wards and rehabilitation centers at Brooke Army Medical Center, the thought of war and its consequence permeates my experience as an Army physician. I see the news reports of wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hours later they come through the doors, flown in for intensive and sometimes long-term care.

An intangible benefit this Army hospital offers to men and women wounded on today's battlefields is contact with other veterans. I have seen Soldiers from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Desert Storm, and assorted other conflicts talking to and encouraging these young warriors.

One of the most poignant memories of my residency was when I saw a young burned Soldier with a right leg amputation and a badly broken left leg being confronted by a boisterous man in his 50s saying, "Hey, did you lose your leg in Iraq?" The Soldier mumbled "yes," and the man said, "Hey, look, I lost my arm in Vietnam." He produced his stump, and they spent the next 30 minutes talking together in a way I could never connect with either one.

I am ever aware of the consequences of war and how life changes in an instant by my daily encounters with these patients. I have never heard a combat wounded patient say they wish they hadn't gone to war. Even the most horribly burned and wounded I have met want to rejoin their buddies and go back. Their strength sustains me as I tend to them in the intensive care unit and on the wards.

My lack of sleep and long schedule gets put into perspective as I see why I train. It's hard to grumble when you see a man with extensive injuries battle pain and infection and endure multiple surgeries without complaint.

Many people are unaware that we are taking care of wounded Soldiers here at Brooke Army Medical Center. More than 2,400 wounded, burned and injured servicemen and women have been treated here since the global war on terrorism started. For some of them the battle is far from over; they face life-threatening infections from bacteria indigenous to Iraq as well as the burns and trauma they have suffered.

Though we weren't there when they were wounded, we join them on their new battleground committed to restoring them. We do anything we can for them. As we all are reminded daily, they fought for us, now we fight for them.

(Meadows is assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio.)

Iraqi Army Division Takes Security Lead in Two Provinces

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2006 – The 8th Iraqi Army Division now has responsibility for military operations across two large provinces, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters in Baghdad yesterday.


By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

"Today is the day that the 8th Iraqi Army Division assumed control of battlespace inside of Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said.

The 8th division is one of 10 such Iraqi army units now formed and will take the lead for counterinsurgency operations in both Diwaniyah and Wasit provinces, Lynch said. Those provinces make up a combined geographical area of about the size of the state of Kentucky.

Since 2005 the 8th Division's Iraqi soldiers have trained under Polish, Salvadoran, Bulgarian and U.S. military instructors, Lynch said. "They have transitioned through all the levels of capability," he said. "And today it was declared that they are now proficient enough in counterinsurgency operations to have the lead in two provinces."

Lynch said coalition forces will be available to provide support for the 8th Division, if needed.

Today, about 227,000 Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped, Lynch said, noting that's a 100,000-person increase in security personnel compared to a year ago. There are now about 138,000 U.S. forces serving in Iraq.

According to projections, about 8 of the 10 Iraqi Army divisions will be in charge of their areas of operations by next fall, Lynch said. Forecasts also say that 75 percent of smaller Iraqi army brigades will control their battlespace by the summer, Lynch said.

"So that is magnificent progress in growing the Iraqi security force," he said, noting that the goal is to field Iraqi security forces that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists.

"That's what we're seeing happening every day," Lynch said.

The 8th Iraqi Army Division's assumption of military operational authority in Diwaniyah and Wasit provinces represents "a significant, significant event for the people of Iraq," Lynch said.

International Coalition Strong Heading into Fifth Year

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 27, 2006 – Just one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nations around the world mobilized and formed a military coalition. Their goal: to combat global terrorism.


By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the coalition, which is headquartered at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Today, CENTCOM officials said, 63 nations are supporting the global war on terror. Since the coalition's inception, 27 nations have deployed more than 22,000 troops to Iraq. In Afghanistan, coalition nations have deployed more than 3,000 troops hailing from 42 nations. These figures exclude U.S. forces.

Twice weekly, coalition senior leaders -- or senior national representatives, as they are officially called -- meet to discuss operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The "SNR roundtable," as it has been unofficially tagged, is one of many meetings the coalition holds to keep abreast of progress on the global war on terror. In between these roundtables, working groups for maritime operations, humanitarian service missions and other groups meet to coordinate and plan their militaries' efforts in the war on terror.

The room is filled with uniforms as varied as the people who wear them. Flags from various nations -- France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Britain, Pakistan and Germany, to name a few -- adorn uniforms.

Danish air force Brig. Gen. Soren Falk Portved is the senior coalition officer, overseeing operations of the coalition partners. "Everything here is developed by bilateral agreement," Falk said. "Here we're talking about military strategies."

Coalition partners offer what they can to the global war on terror, Falk said. And coalition forces have made important contributions in the war against terrorism, CENTCOM officials said. They have provided intelligence, personnel, financial support, equipment and assets for use on the ground, air and sea. Coalition members also have provided liaison teams, participated in planning, provided bases, and granted over-flight permissions, as well as make sizable contributions of humanitarian assistance.

Coalition partners have provided about $3 billion in financial assistance Iraq and about $217 million for Afghanistan. Coalition countries have been involved in more than 1,700 reconstruction projects in Central Command's area of responsibility.

The liaison officers link their governments and their deployed troops to CENTCOM. Their presence here enables each nation to be a proactive contributor to global anti-terrorism operations.

Coalition military personnel make personal sacrifices to serve in the war on terror. Many are separated from their families for months serving combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and others are away from loved ones for extended periods as they serve the coalition in Tampa.

Azerbaijani army Lt. Col. Akbarov Ilham's family traveled with him to the United States. Their adjustment has been relatively smooth since his wife is an English teacher in Azerbaijan.

Ilham said his nation and the United States share a common thread that brought both nations together. "We're suffering from terrorism in our own country too," he said. "We're faced with these problems, so we're willing to do this for the global war on terror."

Ilham said he keeps his government informed of developments in the war. But he also serves soldiers on the ground, he said. "We try to resolve any of their problems from here at CENTCOM," Ilham said. "We try to facilitate things for them."

In addition to serving as a vital link for their home nations, coalition officers here work on helping coalition forces adapt to ever-changing environments on the battlefield, handling complex logistical and tactical issues. "One of the things we're constantly worried about is the (improvised explosive devices)," Falk said. "It is a grim weapon. We're constantly seeking ways to improve our tactics to stay ahead in the game."

Falk said officers from countries directly influenced by the conflicts help the coalition better use forces because of their cultural, political and geographical awareness of the region.

"We're targeting bad guys and we want the bad guys off the streets," Falk said. "We can fight all the terrorists in the world, but it's just buying us time to win hearts and minds."

At the senior national representatives roundtable today, the outgoing German representative addressed the coalition. In his final words to the group he said: "Only if we stay together can we rid the world of terrorism. Similar attacks (like 9/11) can happen to us anywhere."

Miramar air group heads for Iraq

MIRAMAR ---- Gunnery Sgt. Gail Saylor returned home from a Middle East deployment 10 days ago.

On Thursday, she and 10-year-old daughter were saying goodbye to her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Stuart Saylor, who left Miramar Marine Corps Air Station for Iraq, his seventh deployment since 9/11.


By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

"The life of a Marine," Gail Saylor said.

"This is my last trip," Stuart Saylor said as he and about 300 other troops attached to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station queued up outside a base armory to retrieve their sidearms and rifles, do a final check on their sea bags and exchange tearful farewells with friends and family.

Kayla Saylor, a fifth-grader at Poway's Highland Ranch Elementary School, said she was glad her mom was home and had mixed feelings about her dad's heading to a war zone yet again.

"I'm kind of glad about what he is going to be doing for our freedom," Kayla said. "But I'm kind of sad because I will really, really miss him."

The deployment of parts of the 3rd Aircraft Wing's Marine Air Control Group 38, Marine Aircraft Group 16 and Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron Three represent part of the aviation component of the I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton and Miramar.

About 25,000 local Marines and sailors attached to the force are now deploying for the Anbar region of Iraq to relieve the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Those who left Thursday, including a cadre of medical corpsmen, helicopter and jet pilots and crew and support teams will be stationed at Al Asad Airfield, the second largest U.S. air base in Iraq, about 110 miles west of Baghdad.

For Saylor, this deployment will be his last as he is slated to retire in September. An intelligence unit leader, he was first deployed to Guam three days after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, he has been to Afghanistan once, and Kuwait on two occasions. This is his fourth time in Iraq.

"It's been real tough on the family," he said as fighter jets roared from a nearby runway every few minutes. "I don't know how my daughter deals with it, but she does."

The frequency of deployments, which now average about every seven months for most active-duty Marines, and the overall demands on all U.S. forces have come under increasing national scrutiny.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disputed that U.S. forces were overextended. But on Thursday, the top general in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, expressed a differing view.

"The forces are stretched," Casey told The Associated Press. "I don't think there's any question of that."

Despite the debate over the strength of the force, Miramar Lt. Col. Jeff Koffel said his troops and their families were well-prepared.

"We're more than ready," said Koffel, a Ramona resident and the man in charge of many of the troops attached to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron Three. "We spend a lot more time these days focusing on the families and preparing for days like this.

"Our most important assets are our people, and we make sure they and their families are ready."

The deployment will last at least seven months for most of those who flew out Thursday, although some said they expect to be in Iraq for 12 months.

Among the medical personnel who left was Corpsman Jason Cahill, a Fallbrook resident who was saying goodbye to Stefany, his wife of four months.

"I'm just out there to do my job," said Cahill, who took part in numerous medical missions during the seven months he spent in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004.

Like several of the young wives and girlfriends on hand Thursday, Stefany was too distraught to talk about her husband's mission.

Corpsman Jared Ziers was primed to go on his second deployment. His first was in Afghanistan, where he said he mostly treated wounded and sick Afghanis.

"This time I will be able to do a lot of good for my guys," said the West Palm Beach, Fla., man, who was singing a version of "Happy Birthday" to himself in recognition of his 32nd birthday today. His version was, "Happy birthday to you, you're going to Iraq ... "

Ziers said he believes the U.S. is making significant progress in Iraq, and he was critical of what he termed mostly negative stories in the news media.

"No one ever hears the good stories like in Afghanistan where we have eliminated the Taliban and liberated the people there," he said. "They want us there. It's the same in Iraq ---- we're there to do good, and I hope my experience is the same as it was in Afghanistan."

Kelley Nicholson of Yuma, Ariz., was for the most part stoic about the departure of her husband, Harrier jet pilot Capt. Chris Nicholson, who will miss the birth of his second child due in June.

"It's a tough day," she said. "It's never easy."

The Nicholsons' son, 2 1/2-year-old Vickery, wore a shirt that read "My dad ... One of the few, the proud, the Marines." He said he "was going to take care of my Mommy and the baby."

Capt. Nicholson was succinct about what lies ahead. "We've got a job to do, and we're going to go do it."

As for the just-returned Gunnery Sgt. Gail Saylor, she summed up her husband's seventh and final deployment in three words:

"Tag, you're it."

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or [email protected] To comment, go to nctimes.com.

On the Web:



Lance Cpl. runs admin shop for three months in boss' absence

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (Jan. 27, 2006) -- Marines pride themselves on being able to lead Marines, no matter who it is - at any time another Marine can step up and take over without lacking in performance.

Submitted by: MCRD Parris Island
Story Identification #: 2006120103113
Story by Cpl. Brian Kester

That theory was put to the test when Lance Cpl. Victor Perez checked in to his new duty station as a 3rd Recruit Training Battalion administrative clerk in April 2005.

For three months at the end of 2005, Perez was unexpectedly given the reigns of his shop when the administrative chief needed to take emergency leave. His actions during this time earned him a Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

"I had to leave with no warning," said Gunnery Sgt. Tammie Allen, 3rd RTBn. administrative chief. "[Perez] took care of this office with no turnover. It reduced a lot of stress knowing I had the backing of my command and also knowing I had a Marine that was getting the job done."

Perez was able to fill Allen's shoes in all duties expected of an administrative chief, as well as completing his own job.

He attended meetings and dealt directly with the first sergeants from each company in regards to their administrative concerns for their drill instructors and recruits. He also had to take care of any non-judicial punishments and emergency leave requests that occurred over the three-month period. In addition, he processed five company graduations along with the promotion warrants and rifle certificates for each.

"I spoke to all of the staff and they all sang his praises," Allen said, referring to the staff at each company in the battalion.

That was a tremendous relief. If I didn't have him here, then I would probably be torn over what was going on in the shop, said Allen.

The transition was short, but Perez was expected to perform and did just that.

"At first it was tough, but after a while I adapted," said Perez, a native of Dover, N.Y. "It was a lot of multi-tasking, but I had the support of everyone at the battalion. That made life easier, because I was stressed out the first week."

On occasion he called Allen, who provided him with guidance and standard operating procedures that put his mind at ease, said Perez.

Even though the task may have seemed daunting, his prior experiences from Okinawa left him confident in his ability to handle the job. Perez also had his gunnery sergeant and various Marines around the Depot to lean on for support and guidance.

"My wife is also a Marine [working in the administrative shop] at 6th Marine Corps District, and I could rely on her for information as well," Perez said.

Perez said this task was overwhelming in the beginning, but when he stood in formation to receive his medal, he saw the effects his support had on Allen, as well as on the battalion.

"I was proud," he said. "I didn't expect it, but it is nice to know people see what I do."

The proof was definitely in the pudding when the Allen returned and found the shop running like a well-oiled machine.

"When I got back, I found my box empty, and it was as if I had never left," said Allen.

She also now knows when it comes time for her to retire, the shop will be in good hands.

"I know when I get out [of the Marine Corps] he can keep the show running," she said.
Perez should be picking up rank in the next month or so, said Allen.

"If not, he will be going on the next meritorious board," she concluded.

January 26, 2006

MWHS-1 Marines land on Iwo Jima

IWO JIMA -- Forty service members with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1 conducted a period of military education Dec. 5-7 on what most Marines consider the most hollowed spot on earth - Iwo Jima.


by Capt. Robert S. Burrell
MCB Camp Butler

Maj. Richard T. Wolfe, MWHS-1 Frag officer, arranged for two C-9 aircraft flights to Iwo Jima from Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa, Japan. Before departing Okinawa, Marines were given the biographies of battle veterans to study and identify with.

Iwo Jima was the site of the most horrific amphibious assault of World War II and perhaps modern warfare. Approximately 70,000 Marines from the Vth Amphibious Corps (made up of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions) fought 21,000 Japanese in a brutal contest that left about 28,000 American casualties with nearly 6,821Americans dead. The battle remains the most costly in Marine Corps history.

Iwo Jima literally means "Sulfur Island" in Japanese, and as the planes landed on the island, the pungent smell of sulfur filled the air. After donning their 782 gear, Marines made the 5-mile trek from the airfield to the 565-foot towering summit of Mount Suribachi - the sight of the famous American flag-raising and the second most recognized icon in the world.

On the top of Mount Suribachi, Capt. Robert S. Burrell, MWHS-1 executive officer, delivered an address that centered on the selfless acts that Marines and sailors demonstrated during the conflict.

After a walk down the mountain and onto the landing beaches, GySgt Richard Deuto, MWHS-1 intelligence chief, explained how the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions assaulted the island on D-day. Then, after a stirring walk on the black volcanic sands of Red Beach 1, Marines departed again for Okinawa.

Former NFL football player, Staff Sgt. Steve Whipple, was excited to study former NFL football star and Medal of Honor winner 1stLt Andrew Jackson Lummus.

"It puts all my accomplishments in perspective," Whipple said. "There is no substitute for visiting this battle-field first-hand and learning about the veterans who fought here."

Staff Sgt. Karlo Mendoza's enthusiasm to learn about the battle was contagious.

"I'm so happy to be here," said Mendoza, an MWHS-1 network security chief.

Cpl. Imelda Dominguez, a supply clerk with MWHS-1 remembered her family during the event.

"My Grandma always taught me not to be selfish," Dominguez said. "The Marine I was assigned (Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole) exemplified selflessness. He died for his Marines."

The ghosts of Iwo Jima had many lessons to impart to the Marines of MWHS-1. The MWHS-1 commanding officer, Lt. Col. Sam C. Nelson III, declared that it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and he was very proud his Marines had a chance to take it.

300 Marines Deploy For Operation Iraqi Freedom

Hundreds of local Marines deployed from MCAS Miramar Thursday.

Three hundred members of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing left San Diego to head to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Last Updated:
01-27-06 at 7:23AM

The troops said goodbye to their loved ones before leaving for Iraq.

Many of the soldiers said they are eager to fulfill their duty, but leave home with a heavy heart.

For many marines, it is their third deployment to Iraq.

The troops will be gone for at least seven months, and some will be gone for more than a year.

Board member advises Marines on promotion preparation

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.(Jan. 26, 2006) -- In a career which promotions don’t just fall into your lap, Marines need to take time to prepare a competitive package for submission to a staff noncommissioned officer board.

“Marines should take ownership of their career,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. William O. Nix, Marine Corps Base Quantico’s personnel division chief. “They have to realize that they are their best advocate when it comes to preparing themselves for promotion.”


Submitted by:
MCB Quantico
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Susan Smith
Story Identification #:

Nix was a member of the fiscal year 2006 master sergeant through sergeant major selection board. He briefed more than 220 packages for the board and has underlined different aspects of what the board looks for to help SNCO better prepare.

Resident and non-resident courses

Guidance from the commandant of the Marine Corps directed the board members to select the best and most fully-qualified Marines for promotion, Nix said. With this guidance in mind, the members reviewed each Marine’s book to see if he or she met the minimum requirements for Period of Military Education courses. Although there is a waiver in place to excuse Marines from meeting the requirements due to the increased operational tempo, the board members looked to see who was able to complete them and who went even further with their education.

For a variety of reasons, some Marines do not have the opportunity to attend resident courses, Nix said. If that is the case, the board members reviewed the packages to see if they took advantage of the available non-resident courses.

“I made a distinction between Marines in a deployed operational unit who had completed their non-resident course, but hadn’t been able to attend the non-resident course,” Nix said, “and I compared that to Marines who had not been deployed where they stood as far as PME completion.”


Some packages were submitted without a photo, and guidance from the commandant required that in the absence of a photo the board members look through the records to determine the Marine’s height, weight and body fat percentage.

“We had deployed Marines in a combat environment who submitted digital photos in their cammies, and then we had Marines stateside who didn’t submit a photo at all,” he said. “This showed what the Marine did for himself or herself to prepare for promotion.”

Nix advises Marines to take a peer with them to make sure they look squared away in the photograph.

Fitness reports

Not every Marine has the opportunity to go to combat, but some have multiple combat tours.
“When it came to fit-reps, I looked at what the Marine was required to do by the Marine Corps and how well that Marine accomplished whatever the mission he had,” Nix explained. “Bloom where you are planted.”

The Marine Corps promotes based on the ability of a Marine to perform at the next higher grade, and one of the only ways for a promotion board to judge that ability is by reviewing past performances as recorded on performance reviews. Because of this, date gaps between fitness reports, especially in-grade, make that Marine less competitive compared to other Marines with full records.

Although the board had the ability to request the status of the missing fitness reports through HQMC, so did that Marine. Instances like this showed the board who took the time to thoroughly review their records, and who did not, Nix said.

Duty assignments

The board members looked for Marines who might be “homesteading.” A Marine may be considered to be homesteading if they have been stationed in one area for an extended period of time. For example, a Marine serving a full tour at Quantico who transfers to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington for a tour and then to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 at Marine Corps Air Facility Quantico could be considered homesteading, Nix said.

“There are Marines who are on a second or third deployment who need a break, and then there are Marines here who are not moving.”

In their after action report, the selection board highly recommended Marines avoid homesteading.

Letters of recommendation, explanation

Letters of recommendation are most commonly submitted by past or present commanding officers, executive officers and senior enlisted Marines who have worked with the leathernecks competing for promotion.

Letters of explanation are a way for Marines to explain any adverse material or perceived adverse material that may be in their record. One letter of explanation helped a Marine defend herself from what appeared to be homesteading.

“This Marine seemed to be spending a lot of time at Quantico,” Nix said. “She would go overseas for a year and then come right back.”

The letter from her former commanding officer explained that the Marine’s mother was a member of the Exceptional Family Member Program. By being stationed at Quantico, her mother was able to receive the care she needed from the surrounding medical facilities.

Other Marines submitted letters simply stating that they are happy to serve and ready to accept the responsibility of the next grade.

Official Military Personnel File

An OMPF is the complete history of a Marine’s service record. While HQMC maintains the files, it is each Marine’s responsibility to make sure it is current and correct.

“I prepared two packages with derogatory or adverse material in their OMPF that was not theirs a page 11 entry and a (non-judicial punishment),” Nix said. “It was their names, first and last, but not their social security numbers.”

Quantico Marines can obtain a copy of their OMPF by stopping by the Personnel Management Support Branch at Building 2008. All Marines can request a copy by e-mailing MMSB at [email protected]

Marine Corps Special Ops Will Add to Military Capability, Commander Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2006 – The Marine Corps Special Operations Command, the newest addition to the special operations community, will be a complementary force that will ease the strain on other services' elite units and will contribute to the nation's readiness in the global war on terror, the new unit's commander said here today.


By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

"I firmly believe that this is the right thing to do for the country at this time," said Marine Brig. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commander of Marine Corps Special Operations Command. "This irregular warfare is here to stay. If we don't start to go that way, where the force is more joint and more capable across the spectrum, that's not a good thing."

The Marine Corps Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, will formally stand up its headquarters Feb. 24 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. In addition to the headquarters, Camp Lejeune will be home to the Marine Special Operations Support Group, several foreign military training units, a Marine special operations battalion, and the Marine Special Operations School, Hejlik said. Another Marine special operations battalion will be stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., he said.

Over the next five years, MARSOC will grow to an end strength of 2,600 people, Hejlik said. This will include 24 foreign military training units that will deploy worldwide in support of U.S. Special Operations Command and the various combatant commanders, he said. MARSOC already has three FMTUs that will deploy in 2006 and 2007, he said.

The Marine special operations battalion will include four Marine special operations companies, each with 97 to 118 people, depending on mission requirements, Hejlik said. The core of these companies will be experienced force reconnaissance Marines taken from the mainstream Marine Corps, he said.

"There's a lot of capability there, because they're a little bit older; they're a little bit more mature," he said.

The Marine special operations companies will deploy with Marine expeditionary units, Hejlik said. Once deployed, the companies will under operational control of the special operations commander in theater, but be available to support the MEU if needed, he said.

"The intent is not just to rip the guts out of the MEU," he said. "We like to say that they're not separate, but separable."

The focus of MARSOC at the beginning will be the foreign military training units and their missions, Hejlik said. These units will complement the work being done by similar units in other special operations forces and will fill gaps that have arisen due to the recent high demand on special operations, he said. The Marine FMTUs will support all five geographic combatant commanders, with the first scheduled to carry out a mission for U.S. European Command, he said.

The first Marine special operations company will not be formed until May 2006 at Camp Lejeune, Hejlik said.

Marines will only spend three to five years in MARSOC and then will be rotated back into the regular Marine Corps, Hejlik said. This rotation will benefit the entire force, because young Marines will be trained to a higher standard in MARSOC and will bring those skills to other units, he said. It will also prevent Marines from becoming stagnant in one unit and give them opportunities for advancement and education, he said.

"If you take a quality Marine and you bring him up to a little higher standard using (special operations forces) standards, and you give him the right equipment, he is unbeatable," he said.

Marines revamp training after learning what works, what doesn't in Iraq

TWENTYNINE PALMS – The last time Lt. James Richardson went to war, his men trained in abandoned military housing not far from an outlet mall in Riverside County.

Despite the unlikely venue, the Marines thought the training program would give them an edge against insurgents in Iraq. (1/7)


By Rick Rogers

January 25, 2006

But once Richardson and the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines reached Iraq in August 2004, they learned that much of their preparation was useless and even dangerous.

Their patrolling techniques, for example, bunched them up on street corners, where they were easy targets for snipers and hidden bombs. Their training had also focused too much on complex attacks and too little on street fighting. As for their cultural training, it was inadequate to nonexistent.

Richardson, a platoon commander who will again lead Marines to Iraq in March, shakes his head at the memory.

"We practiced techniques last time that we literally couldn't use," said Richardson, 24. "The urban training we got before really didn't work."

His was not an isolated experience. Across Iraq, U.S. military commanders discovered fatal flaws in their counter-insurgency tactics.

Back in the United States, the Marine Corps and Army set about devising more thorough, customized and realistic training programs. Some of their revamped methods will get a big test with the latest major round of deployments in Southern California. About 25,000 Marines and sailors, most of them from Camp Pendleton, will head to Iraq in the coming months.

The Army, convinced that its urban combat strategies are on track, has focused on beefing up its cultural programs. Hundreds of Arabic speakers now populate its training sites in Germany, Louisiana and California.

"We moved to another phase of operations in which the cultural aspect was important," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Harms. "It is no longer close in and destroy the enemy. We have to build relationships with Iraqis on the street."

While the Army remodeled, the Marine Corps rebuilt.

The result is Mojave Viper, a little-known national training program based at Twentynine Palms. The monthlong course in urban combat and cultural awareness gives commanders unprecedented flexibility in tailoring training to best suit their units' needs.

About 8,000 Marines and sailors – including Richardson's men – have finished the course, which is held at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center on the Twentynine Palms base. Nearly all of the Southern California-based troops shipping out to Iraq for the next rotation are expected to be Mojave Viper graduates.

Though not battle-tested yet, the training system is being described in historic terms.

The program is "possibly the most realistic and comprehensive instruction ever introduced by the Marine Corps," said Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, who is leading Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Division back to Iraq. "Mojave Viper not only equips the Marines to meet the rigors inherent in combat, but it also imparts skills integral to the conduct of humanitarian operations so the Marines can best assist the Iraqis in fostering their new democracy."

He added: "The feedback I have received from my commanders . . . is very encouraging."

The last time around, Richardson and his battalion trained on a few acres at March Air Reserve Base with a handful of role players.

This time, the training is on a scale worthy of a Hollywood epic. It includes almost 400 buildings in two villages set on 252 acres of desert, as well as nearly 350 actors, including about 50 Iraqi nationals, who play out scenarios typically found in Iraq.

Richardson and his Marines, many of whom are heading to Iraq for the first time, got their initial exposure to Mojave Viper recently.

Breaking down doors and searching buildings are routine tasks in Iraq, so much that Marines consider them as fundamental to their combat duty as blocking and tackling are in football.

Yet the maneuvers are much more nuanced than they seem, as Staff Sgt. Jerry Rogers pointed out during a Mojave Viper session.

For instance, Rogers told the Marines that it matters how close they are to one another when they enter a house.

And it matters which foot they use to step through a doorway and how fast they do it.

And it matters which direction each Marine follows once he's inside the home.

And it matters how each person holds his weapons.

And if someone is waiting for the troops on the other side of a door, responding correctly might mean not instinctively firing at that individual.

So many little things matter, Rogers said, and each element has to be executely rapidly and flawlessly.

"Sweep the room," Rogers told the young Marines gathered around him in a Mojave Viper setup. "Get dominant position. Don't get stuck in one part of the room. Make sure you get it right. Your speed will come later."

Some Marines entered the dwelling too far apart from one another. Others literally got off on the wrong foot. Some turned the wrong way or looked in one direction while pointing their rifle in another.

But after 30 minutes, the Marines were quick, efficient and ready to try it with real bullets.

Richardson reflected on how the preparation for duty in Iraq has evolved.

"It's just a lot better. Before, it was just general urban training. Now it is keyed to our specific area and what we are going to see," Richardson said as his men squatted in the sand below Bullion Mountains.

Mojave Viper gives officers like Lt. Col. Nicholas Marano, commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, a much bigger say in how their men are trained.

After making a trip to Husaba, the city in western Iraq where his battalion will be based, Marano returned to the United States knowing what training would be necessary.

The beauty of Mojave Viper, Marano said, is that commanders select the training and their units are offered customized critiques based on those regimens.

Each exercise is also free-flowing, meaning the fates of the Marines rise or fall depending on their actions.

"If I am able to project the right tone in meetings with sheiks and imams, things will go better than if I say things I shouldn't," Marano said. "I'd rather we make mistakes here than there."

Because of Mojave Viper, improved intelligence from Iraqi cities such as Husaba and an emerging Iraqi military, Marano called this next deployment round "Our bid for success."

Richardson shared the optimism. "I've never seen senior Marines so excited about going back," he said.

The 1st Battalion, 7th Marines were last in Iraq from August 2004 to March 2005. Richardson remembered battles that took place almost daily, but he said recent intelligence reports suggested a change in the attitudes of many Iraqis.

"It's not that (the Marines) want to get out into the fight. It's just a very exciting time because it feels very positive in Iraq," he said.

And what about his youngest Marines?

"They are just so excited to get over there," Richardson said. "And this time, I know they are ready."

January 25, 2006

Sailor charged in Marine’s kidnapping, death

NORFOLK NAVAL BASE, Va. — The Navy on Tuesday charged a petty officer with the kidnapping and murder of a Marine found dead Jan. 13 in Currituck County, N.C.

Engineman 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 22, of Boones Mill, Va., was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with one count each of premeditated murder, kidnapping, impersonating a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and obstruction of justice, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic announced.


By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer

The victim, 23-year-old Cpl. Justin L. Huff of Indianapolis, Ind., was reported missing Jan. 2 after failing to report to class at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Virginia Beach, Va., where both men were students. NCIS agents found Huff’s body and an investigation led agents to Jackson, Mid-Atlantic Region said.

The cause of death was homicide, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Greenville, N.C.

Huff was permanently assigned to Brigade Service Support Group 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1 Marine Expeditionary Force. He had deployed twice in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and had been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

Jackson has been held since Jan. 13 at the Navy Brig at Norfolk Naval Station. He will be scheduled for an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in the civilian justice system, and the investigating officer will recommend whether or not to court-martial the sailor.

If convicted at court-martial on all charges, Jackson could be sentenced to death, Mid-Atlantic Region said. The mandatory minimum penalty would be life in prison with the possibility of parole; forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction in rate to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge.

NCIS agents continue to investigate the details of Huff’s disappearance and death.

William H. McMichael is the Hampton Roads bureau chief for Navy Times. Reach him at (757) 223-0096.

More help arriving for Marine and family

Ellenville - There's an answer for the concerns of the mid-Hudson, and the answer is that Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan and his family have a way for people to help.

Chris Ryan, Eddie's dad, has been fighting every day for his son, who was wounded in Iraq.


By Paul Brooks
Times Herald-Record
[email protected]

Angie, Eddie's mom, is at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw. That's where Eddie is in rehabilitation for the bullet to the brain he took April 13. But time is running out at the hospital. Eddie is on track to come home in weeks.

The family house on Wintish Road outside Ellenville needs work to accommodate Eddie and the care he will need at home.

The mid-Hudson has stepped up to help one of its finest.

"I would send money for Sgt. Ryan, but I have no address," Nancy Sears of Middletown wrote in an e-mail. Angie says the family has an M&T; Bank account in Eddie's name where people can send donations for him.

It's M&T; Bank, Ellenville Branch, 80 N. Main St., Ellenville, NY 12428. The Web site for Eddie - www.helpeddieryan.com - will be up and running in a day or two as well. Donations can be made there, according to family friend Christy Hodus.

Judy Ting of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Monroe said the store wants to raise money for Eddie. Proceeds from the traditional "Run Like the Wind" race in Ellenville May 21 will go to help Eddie Ryan.

"We are looking for any and all sponsors to help make this a great fundraising event for the Ryan family," said Rob Baxter, race director.

Ben Salzano of BuiltRite Construction stands ready with Marines he knows to help. So does builder Tim Eavens of Eavens Contracting in Walden.

Marine Staff Sergeant enters not guilty plea in connection with recruit's death at Parris Island

(Parris Island) Jan. 25, 2006 - Marine Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez has been on trial for the drowning death of Jason Tharp. News 10 has learned she entered a not guilty plea Wednesday morning at Parris Island.

She also requested and received a judge only trial.


Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez is accused of ignoring signs that 19-year-old Jason Tharp, of Sutton, West Virginia, was having trouble in the pool and continued to push him, leading to his death last February.

WIS was at the Parris Island training pool the day before Tharp died. Our cameras caught his senior drill instructor elbowing Tharp after he refused orders to get in the pool. Lt. Randy Brown, the officer on duty, watched.

The individual seen in the video striking Tharp has been honorably discharged.

Five Marines have been given immunity for their testimony. Lopez's attorney asked for immunity for six Marines, and five of them were granted protection from prosecution by Major General Keith Stalder, commanding general for training and education based in Quantico, Virginia.

Officials would not release the names of the Marines given immunity. A Parris Island spokesman says all five were investigated and punished. Because of privacy laws we don't know what those punishments are, but they could range from docking pay to ending a Marine career.

The spokesman says the Marines were punished appropriately, "Absolutely. I think the process worked."

The trial date is set for February 21-23, which is pushed back almost a month from original date. It will be held in Beaufort County, either at Parris Island or at the Beaufort County Courthouse.

The trial will likely include testimony from swim instructors who were in the pool at the time, pathologists and psychologists.

The reason for the judge only request by Lopez is because the individual who would pick the panel (similar to a jury) is also the same person who had the person honorably discharged and they feel they couldn't get a fair trial.

Posted 10:07am by Bryce Mursch with AP

Staying Marine in Iraq

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 25, 2006) -- Reenlisting or separating from the Marine Corps is a decision each enlisted Marine reaches at some point in their career.

Gunnery Sgt. Antonio M. Hardy, the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) career retention specialist is on hand here to assist Marines considering “re-uping” while forward deployed.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Wayne Edmiston
Story Identification #:

When reenlisting while deployed, you can receive federal and state tax-free reenlistment bonuses, Hardy explained.

This means getting the full cash amount on the paper, which you would not be able to receive in garrison.

Hardy also explained that some military occupational specialties are short handed and offering especially large reenlistment incentives.

Some of these MOS’s include counter intelligence specialist, imagery analysis specialist, Arabic cryptological linguist, legal services reporter and career retention specialist.

The incentives can be anything from parachutist school seats, choice of duty stations and permissive temporary additional duty days.

When considering reenlisting, Hardy offered some advice on preparing for the process.

“It’s important to have a current [physical fitness test], all training up to date, medical and dental records up to date, service record book up to date and the paper work is processed through your chain of command,” Hardy explained.

One Marine, Cpl. David J. Swaney, an administrative clerk with 2nd MLG (Fwd) described his process of reenlistment.

“My reenlistment went very smoothly,” Swaney said. “The benefits I have gained are a location preference, [lateral] move, 14 days [permissive temporary assignment of duty] and the ability to continue adding to my retirement.”

Generally, reenlistment for Marines is anywhere between three and five years, Hardy said.

Hardy reminded Marines, that not every Marine can reenlist. Many things are considered, such as proficiency and conduct marks. Another factor is the availability of a “boat spaces.”

“Boat spaces” are job slots available for each MOS. Acquiring one of these slots can be very competitive, depending on the availability of the occupational field.

For more information concerning the advantages of reenlistment Marines can contact their career retention specialist through their appropriate chain of command.

Hardy concluded with his motto, “Stay Marine. Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

'Wild Goose' hosts 4th MAW leaders in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq(Jan. 25, 2006) -- Marines and Sailors from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 recently received a very personal message of appreciation.

Brigadier Gen. R. David Papak, the commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, and Sgt. Maj. Jimmy D. Cummings, the Wing sergeant major, visited the Wild Geese of HMM-774, Jan. 18, at Al Asad, Iraq. The visit was much more than just a trip to inspect the front lines, Papak said.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Micah Snead
Story Identification #:

"I came to see my Marines," Papak said. "I don't want these guys out here having all this fun by themselves."

The Wild Goose, a reserve CH-46E Sea Knight squadron based at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va., is deployed to western Iraq for the second time in less than two years. The squadron provides transportation support for personnel and equipment with missions ranging from re-supply and detainee transfers to insertions and casualty evacuations.

During the visit, Papak attended a squadron formation, held a question and answer session with the squadron, participated in awarding combat aircrew wings, dined with Marines and flew a mission with the squadron's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Leo Kilgore. Kilgore, a Yukon, Okla., native, said flying a mission with senior leadership members is positive for everyone involved.

"What I find is that they really like getting out and flying with the aircrew and seeing the area," Kilgore said. "I got the opportunity to spend time with the CG and accomplish the mission. He was very excited to get to fly in Iraq and he really enjoyed the opportunity to see and do what we do over here."

Kilgore said connecting leadership with the daily tasks accomplished on a unit level can be beneficial for both sides.

"I think it is important for our senior leadership to participate in some of our tasks," Kilgore said. "It gives them an appreciation for what is required to do our jobs. The crew and I had a great time picking his brain on several subjects during the flight."

Corporal Matthew Sender, an intelligence specialist and Marietta, Ga., native, briefed Papak on current intelligence information prior to his flight. Sender said Papak is the type of leader Marines enjoy being around because they can tell he cares about their welfare.

"I've been around him before and I really like him," Sender said. "We're the only reserve squadron out here, so he came all this way just to see us. That means a lot to people and really shows that he cares."

Master Gunnery Sgt. Cordie W. Glover Jr., Wild Goose maintenance chief and a Norfolk, Va., native, was onboard for Papak's flight. He said Papak delivered more than just a morale boost to the squadron during his visit.

"It is always good for Marines to hear from senior leadership how much they are respected and revered," Glover said. "(Papak) understands and appreciates the job his Marines are doing and telling them personally means a lot to the Marines. These are hard times and the sacrifices made by all Marines and especially the reserves component are incomputable."

However, the visit wasn't just a pat on the back for the squadron's younger members. Kilgore said everyone in the squadron took pride in hosting the Wing leaders.

"It means a lot," Kilgore said. "We are one of the last of the flying squadrons in Marine Forces Reserve to be activated and deployed in combat in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Making the trip to Iraq to see us means a great deal to the squadron and myself. Personally, I want to show off the squadron. I know that HMM-774 is a great group of warfighters and he has seen us in action."

Papak also used the opportunity to recognize members of the squadron who show their support stateside.

"He was especially thankful for the unconditional support the families and friends back home have shown us," Kilgore said. "He emphasized that the families have the toughest jobs right now and he made sure the Marines and Sailors knew that he appreciated everything that the entire HMM-774 family was doing."

Glover said the visit was a good reminder of the impact and role of reserve Marines, no matter where or when.

"The Marine Reserves have and continue to play a vital part in the Global War on Terrorism," Glover said. "The Marine Reserves are part of a team. No team is made up of one person or part. It takes everyone working together to win at anything. The Marines Reserves are proud to be part of a winning team, the United States Marine Corps."

Marine Death

BEAUFORT, S.C. (AP) - Five Marines have been given immunity for their testimony for a swim instructor charged with negligent homicide in the drowning death of a recruit at Parris Island last year.


Associated Press
WSAV News 3
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez is accused of ignoring signs 19-year-old Jason Tharp, of Sutton, West Virginia, was having trouble in the pool and continued to push him, leading to his death last February.

The court-martial for Lopez is scheduled next month, but could change because her attorney may have a scheduling conflict.

Lopez's attorney asked for immunity for six Marines, and five of them were granted protection from prosecution by Major General Keith Stalder, commanding general for training and education.

Officials would --not-- release the names of the Marines given immunity.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Public gives area Marines big sendoff

With gentle pats and kisses, Rose Jackson comforted her 5-month old granddaughter Destinie as the infant, clad in a pink sleeper, peered at a group of U.S. Marines at the D.A. Carson Marine Corps Training Center.

The baby may not have been able to find her uncle, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Justin William Jackson, amid the other camouflage uniforms, but she was in the crowd of other family members, friends and well-wishers gathered to offer handshakes and encouraging words to Jackson and 29 area Marines during a Tuesday afternoon departure ceremony.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006 12:01 PM CST

By Greg Bischof

Texarkana Gazette

The group, which is part of the center’s Bulk Fuel Platoon, will leave on a bus this morning bound for Camp Pendelton, Calif. They will be deployed sometime next monthas a supply unit in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the ceremony, Texarkana, Ark., Mayor Horace Shipp offered the Marines encouraging thoughts and prayers as everyone assembled expressed hope for their safe return.

“I find myself saying it’s a privilege and an honor to be at different events throughout the months and years, but let me assure you that today is indeed a privilege and an honor to speak to these 30 Marines before they leave,” he said. “ I appreciate being part of this ceremony because being here is the very least I can do. I want to thank you personally and I want you to know that your nation thanks you and the people you are going over to help thank you.”

Shipp then spoke to the Marines about the Oct. 15 train derailment and explosion at the downtown railway yard and the emergency it involved.

“Because a lot of police officers, firefighters and other public safety officers remembered their training, the problem became far less of an tragedy than it could have been,” Shipp said. “Had they not remembered what they learned in their training 15 or 20 could have been killed.”

Shipp used the incident to focus on the high level of training the Marines undergo to ensure the safety and freedom of people throughout the world.

“I start my day every day with a prayer for the president, our commander and chief, and for you. We all want to pray for you and we want to be here to welcome you back and thank the Lord for your safe return.”

Capt. Jeremy Davis, inspector and instructor for the Bulk Fuel Platoon of the USMC’s 6th Motor Transport Battalion, based at the Texarkana, Texas, Training Center, opened his presentation by recognizing that of the departing 30 Marine Corps men and women, six were newlyweds.

Davis then assured the departing Marines that their seven-month stay in Iraq wouldn’t be a never-ending adventure. He said six and a half of those months will likely be boring.

“But then there will be those days and times that you will remember as dangerous and intense,” he said.

Davis then reminded the Marines of the three most important U.S. Marine Corps vows: Honor, courage and commitment.

“Our first vow is of honor and I have no doubt that many of these Marines who are about to leave, will come back with medals, which they will earn through hard work and dedication,” Davis said.

He went on to describe Marine Corps courage as being two fundamental types: moral courage and physical courage.

“Our moral courage can be found in the oath we took when we joined the Corps, to defend the United States against all enemies.”

He described physical courage as something they all know well.

“Physical courage means running three miles. Some of us may not like it, but it keeps us fit.”

Finally, Davis addressed Marine commitment as being to God, country and Corps, with commitment to family as one that is understood and goes without saying.

“As they leave today, pray for our Marines and keep them in your prayers as they keep us free and keep these immortal words in their hearts, my God, my freedom, my country and my Corps.”

Marine reserves prepare to fill ranks in Iraq

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif(Jan. 25, 2006) -- As another rotation of Marine forces are deploying to Iraq, Marine reserves from around the country will be filling the ranks and heading to combat operations with their active-duty counterparts.


Submitted by:
1st Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Stephen Holt
Story Identification #:

One such group of Marine reservist from the 4th Landing Support Battalion gathered on Camp Pendleton recently to familiarize themselves with some of the weapons and gear they will carry during their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Approximately 100 members of the 4th LSB traveled from cities like Seattle, Savannah, Ga. and Charleston, S.C., to cross-train in skills like enhanced marksmanship, rear area security and life-saving techniques to ensure a successful deployment.

The Marines will serve under the banner of the 1st Marine Logistics Group when they deploy next month to the Al Anbar Province and provide logistical support for the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

"We facilitate the movement of gear and personnel (in Iraq)," said Gunnery Sgt. Terry T. Henderson, operations chief with the Charleston, S.C.-based reserve unit.

As the lines between the frontline and rear area continue to blur in Iraq, these Marines are preparing themselves for any combat situation they may find themselves in.

Combat service support Marines could easily find themselves in situations that force them to call upon combat skills they need to have mastered, said Gunnery Sgt. Shane M. Duhe, the operations chief with Brigade Service Support Group 1 and two-time Iraqi Freedom veteran.
By being a mobilized reservist, the Marines no longer drill one weekend a month, but assume the role of active duty Marines.

The training these Marines are receiving gives them the chance to hone techniques like shooting the M-16A2 service rifle with gas masks and other skills not easily available to be arranged when conducting weekend drill.

Easily distinguishable from other Marines by the 1-by-1-inch red cloth patches sewn onto their digital uniforms, the landing support specialists play key roles in logistics operations by performing tasks involved with the reception and distribution of critical supplies.

The history of the red patch dates back to World War II, when Marines of the Pioneer Battalion stated the need of a distinct marking or uniform to distinguish the support personnel working on the Japanese beaches from the troops who were moving inland on the assaults, according to the Marine Forces Reserve Web site.

More than 60 years later, the 'red-patch' Marines are now also responsible for external helicopter lifts, operating sea and airports used for embarkation and ensuring inbound and outbound equipment arrive at its destinations.

As these 'red-patch' Marines are in the midst of their training, they are excited to participate in the Global War on Terrorism.

"The mood of the Marines I'm attached to is high. They work hard," said Cpl. Jacob A. Mintz a landing support specialist from Charleston S.C.

The mission of the I MEF is shifting from combating anti-Iraqi forces to supporting the security and self-governance of Iraq. Many Marines, including the landing support specialists, will find themselves working alongside and training their Iraqi counterparts during their deployment.

"The commander's intent across the board is to train and mentor the Iraqi forces. Our logistics Marines in theater will mentor and teach them how to support themselves (logistically) and conduct combat service support roles," Duhe added.

A busy schedule is still ahead for the Marines from 4th LSB as they continue to prepare for Iraq. A variety of pre-deployment briefs, gear checks and more training will keep them busy in the coming weeks.

The reservists will be broken up and assigned to units within the 1st MLG and perform a variety of missions once in Iraq.

A Marine by any other name is still a Marine

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Reservist from Valdosta has grown used to the funny looks and sarcastic questions.

No, there is no mistake on Gunnery Sgt. Mike Marine's uniform. His last name really is Marine.


Published on: 01/25/06

"I get double-takes all the time," said Marine, 43, a native of Setauket, N.Y., who works as a private security guard at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.

He said his family name, Marinkowski, was shortened to Marine when his grandparents immigrated to the United States from Europe many years ago.

"I guess when they came through Ellis Island, they decided the name was too difficult to pronounce and they cut the 'kowski' off. That's the rumor," he said.

Marine is among about 50 Marine reservists from a new Marietta-based unit that is headed to Iraq next month. The unit's mission is to collect the remains of U.S. service members, catalogue them and prepare them for transport back to the States. Marine will lead several Marines from his unit at Camp Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

When Marine gets there, he will likely report immediately to the personnel office. He does that each time he gets to a new base so he can introduce himself and let the Marines there know he is for real.

He doesn't want a repeat of the problem he had in the early 1980s when it took about a year for his promotion from lance corporal to corporal to finally go through. Marine said the military kept throwing away his promotion papers, believing they were samples.

During boot camp, he said, Marine drill instructors teased him mercilessly and refused to call him by his last name. Instead, they referred to him as "Laundry 32," the number assigned to his laundry bag.

In his 25 years in the Corps, Marine has come across others with unusual names. He recalls the time he was attending a conference at this base a few years ago and he met a Capt. America in an elevator
"I told him, 'Sir, you don' have to say a word to me. I feel your pain,'" Marine said.

Of course, Marine, whose middle name is Sven, knows it could be worse. Just think of the teasing he would get if his first name started with a U.

Reservists Begin Journey To Iraq

The long trip to Iraq started early Wednesday morning for some Marine reservists in Orlando.


It's the second trip overseas for some of the reservists, but family members said it never gets easier to say goodbye, WESH 2 News reported.

The long trip started with a bus ride to Camp Pendleton, Calif. Thirty members of Company A, 6th Motor Transportation Batallion, 4th Marine Logistics Group departed around 3:30 a.m. It's the largest group to leave Orlando in a year.

Family members either stayed up or got up early and found it hard to let go as they took advantage of every last second to say their goodbyes.

Marines are known for their tough battle skills, but the goodbyes expose their softer side.

"It is heartbreaking. I'm not going to lie. But also at the same time, this is what we've signed up to do, so we're here to do the job," Marine reservist Joseph Olivero said.

"Right now, it feels wonderful. I want to hold him long enough so I'll never forget it," mother Cindy Trowbridge said.

"It's a big deal for the families and also for the Marines. I've been through this before, so it's nothing new, but everytime you see that, it gets to you," Capt. Erwin Wunderlich said.

The reservists will train for about six weeks at Camp Pendleton before shipping out to Iraq. They'll provide ground support for the troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They're scheduled to be in Iraq for seven months.

To comment on this story, send an e-mail to Joe Oliver.

Marines' somber duty

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. — Family photos are the hardest part. Pictures of smiling spouses, young children and newborn babies.

Marines find them in the pockets of their dead comrades. They are trained to not focus on them. Count them, catalog them and place the pictures facedown, they are told.


Cox News Service
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lance Cpl. John H. Allen plans to resist them when he arrives in western Iraq next month. He is among about 50 Marine reservists heading there to collect the dead under a new system.

In past wars, most Marine units recovered the remains of their own troops, even the bodies of their enemies. But in September, the Marine Corps formally activated a unit specifically for this mission.

The military predicts this new company, the first of its kind, will allow other Marines to continue fighting and not have to collect the remains of their buddies, an emotionally draining job that can distract them from their missions.

Allen, a 21-year-old waiter and bartender from Alpharetta, is assigned to a Marietta-based detachment of the new company responsible for what the Marines call "personnel recovery and processing." The unit recently trained at this sprawling base for its mission in Iraq. Much of that training focused on coping with death.

In Iraq, the Marines will place the troops' bodies, their family photos and other belongings in metal cases packed with 40 pounds of ice each. They will drape the cases with American flags and send them back to the United States, where the military will officially identify them and prepare them for burial or cremation.

No stranger to death

This will be Allen's first deployment with the Marines. He has never been in a combat zone. He has never carried a body. He has never sorted through the tiny details of a dead stranger's life.

But he knows about death. In the past five years, an aunt and both his grandmothers have died. His mother succumbed to cancer about a year ago. His girlfriend was killed in a car crash a month later.

"There is no telling what my reaction will be when I see my first remains," the Milton High School graduate said during a break from training. "I'm hoping and praying I will come back normal and even more full of God than I am now and make it a spiritual experience."

For about seven months, Allen and the others will be spread out among three bases in restive Anbar province of western Iraq. They are military police, cooks and supply clerks. They come from Georgia, the Washington, D.C., area, Missouri, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In civilian life, they are police officers, firefighters and mechanics.

All volunteered for this job. Some, like Allen, believe the mission could open doors in the FBI or CIA. Many signed up out of a sense of duty.

"I see this as a very honorable and respectable job," Allen said. "When someone dies, what the family wants is closure. And if they don't get closure, it will be harder for them to heal."

To keep focused, the Marines have been taught to shun emotional connections with the soldiers they "process." Some Marines suggest covering the faces of the dead with towels. That could help them avoid looking into the eyes of the dead, studying their faces and perhaps identifying with them.

Lance Cpl. Catlin Coleman couldn't resist, despite the admonition she got from her trainers not to look at family pictures. She said she remembers the photo she found in a Marine corporal's left breast pocket several months ago. He had been killed in a helicopter crash in western Iraq. The photo was of the corporal's wife and newborn baby he never had a chance to hold.

"For me, that was the hardest one I did out there," said Coleman, 19, of Berryville, Va. "I don't think it's humanly possible not to look at the photos."

Coleman is heading back to Iraq with Allen at a time when insurgents' bombs are becoming more devastating. The explosives are so powerful they are destroying U.S. tanks and obliterating armored Humvees.

Troops react differently to the remains they find after these attacks. Some are shaken by the severed limbs and gore. Others are traumatized seeing bodies that appear unscathed, almost as if they were sleeping.

One of the toughest challenges for Sgt. John Belizario was coping with the stench of burned corpses and decaying bodies. He washed his boots with bleach and sprayed his uniform with Lysol so he could feel clean.

Belizario said he processed hundreds of bodies of enemy combatants, U.S. and Iraqi troops and civilian contractors in Fallujah in 2004, including two Marines he had served with in Iraq. He said he had to take a break when he saw his two buddies. And then he went through a "long period of prayer."

"You have to set everything aside and look at it as just the job. It's remains," said Belizario, 24, a former Motorola salesman from McLean, Va. "Our guys need a way home. They need people to get them home."

The mission has attracted some intensely spiritual people. Belizario wants to become a military chaplain. Staff Sgt. James Morris said he is close to receiving his Master of Divinity degree. He spent several months retrieving bodies recently in Taqaddum.

"When you see death, you start questioning, 'What will happen to me?'" said Morris, 27, a martial arts instructor from Duluth.

Allen is a volunteer youth counselor at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church, where his mother's funeral was held in December. Sitting in the front pew, he tried to keep his emotions in check as he wore his dress blue Marine uniform. But Allen couldn't hold it all in. He wept openly during the funeral.

Now he bears a large tattoo of a winged heart on his chest with "Mom" inked in its center along with her birth and death dates.

A search in a field

In the last few days of his training, Allen came as close as he could to experiencing the real thing in Iraq. His instructors dismembered mannequins, splattered them with fake blood and planted them in remote locations of this base. They created make-believe scenarios for Allen and the other students, telling them several fellow Marines had been killed by bombs. They were given map coordinates. And then it was up to them to find their way to the blast sites.

Under gray skies, Allen and seven others piled into trucks and rolled away from their barracks to a lonely, soggy field of yellow weeds, not knowing exactly what to expect. An eerie fog hung low in the trees. The air was wet. Red Virginia clay sucked at the Marines' boots. Gunshots from a nearby firing range echoed in the distance.

Two Marines played dead in the field. They were on their backs, their eyes closed. One of Allen's comrades reached for a digital camera and started clicking photos. It was a crime scene and the photos could later help them reconstruct what happened.

Allen slipped on some latex gloves. He walked gingerly, sticking a small blue flag into the moist ground next to a soft green Marine cap, another blue flag beside a black address book and a red flag next to a body.

A short drive away in another field, a second group of Marines was tackling a more complex job. They were seeking the bodies of two Marines killed by a bomb. A pair of mannequin torsos lay among the weeds. A leg was nearby. A head lay on its side a few feet away. The Marines placed the body parts in plastic bags and then tucked them away inside larger green pouches.

Allen wonders how his experience will change him. He worries how people will perceive him when he returns home. "I don't want to be an outcast," he said.

He and the others picked up the two Marines who had been playing dead and placed them on stretchers. They carried them feet first as they have been taught to do out of respect for the dead. "One, two, three," they counted in unison before lifting the stretchers and sliding them into the back of a truck.

Then Allen and the others stood at arm's length from each other and started walking slowly back through the fog. With their heads hung low, they peered through the tall weeds. They didn't want to leave anything behind.

© 2006 Cox Ohio Publishing - Oxford Press

January 24, 2006

Marine now shows improvement

TWIN FALLS -- The Marine isn't out of the woods yet, but his doctors say his vital signs look good.

"His color is improving, the swelling is continuing to subside and all his vital numbers are looking pretty normal," said Terry Greene about his son, Marine Cpl. Travis Greene, in a phone interview from Bethesda, Md., on Monday.


Greene, 24, a 1999 Twin Falls High School graduate and a star on the Bruin track and field team, lost both of his legs in an explosion Dec. 7 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, just west of Baghdad. One Marine was killed and three other Marines and one Navy corpsman were badly injured. All are recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

Greene's improved condition might allow him to be taken off the ventilator Tuesday. Terry Greene said doctors believe the improvements are due to steroids doctors prescribed to Greene.

"The scare is if they remove the steroids, it can return," Terry Greene said.

Greene was put back on a ventilator Saturday morning after developing acute respiratory distress syndrome -- the rapid onset of respiratory failure due to an inability to oxygenate the blood. But by Monday, Greene's fever was down and his other vital signs looked good, his father said.

"The doctors say he's doing better than expected," Terry Greene said.

Doctors operate on Greene every couple of days to clean his wounds and change his dressings. He had surgery again Monday morning.

"The surgery went pretty well," Terry Greene said. "There was nothing unexpected."

The Marine might be in critical condition, but he still remembered the Denver Broncos were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Terry Green said his son pointed to his wristwatch and then pointed to the TV before the game came on.

He said he and his wife, Sue, appreciate all the support they've received from their community back home.

"He's sure fighting and we appreciate everybody's prayers," Terry Greene said.

Times-News writer Sandy Miller can be reached at 735-3264 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Mourners remember Crownsville Marine who died in Iraq

Cpl. Justin James Watts, 20, was a Marines' Marine, say the men who served with him. The weather never got so hot, nor the packs so heavy, that the Crownsville man wouldn't volunteer to help buddies who became exhausted.


By EARL KELLY, Staff Writer

Cpl. Watts served two tours of duty in Iraq. Lance Cpl. Angel Millan, of Staten Island, N.Y., went through boot camp with Cpl. Watts at Parris Island, S.C., and called him one of his best friends, served with him during his first tour, when they both manned heavy machine guns.

Cpl. Watts didn't finish his second tour. The 2003 graduate of Old Mill High School and well-known athlete died on Jan. 14 of what the Department of Defense described as non-hostile gunfire.

"I would go to the depths of hell with that man because I would know that he had my back (covered)," Cpl. Millan told the overflow crowd of mourners yesterday at the Robert E. Evans Funeral Home in Bowie.

Yesterday's 300 or so mourners included not just Marine Corps buddies, but also Cpl. Watts' elementary school teachers and high school friends.

"We taught him a lot about love, and I guess it showed," James Watts, Cpl. Watts' father, said at the reception following burial at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.

Mr. Watts said his son called him from Iraq, whenever a phone was available. He always sounded upbeat and happy.

"The calls came about 3 a.m., but we didn't care. We were always just glad to hear from him," Mr. Watts said.

Some of Cpl. Watts' old friends from high school were overcome during the service and had to step outside to regain their composure. One of them was Sarah Jennings of Annapolis.

"Everybody loved him to death," Ms. Jennings said. "He always put a smile on everybody's face."

A competitive swimmer and lacrosse player who enjoyed racing BMX bikes, Cpl. Watts attended events such as Ms. Jennings' volleyball games, just to cheer on the team.

"He was an awesome kid," she said.

Ms. Jennings said she had to step outside because the funeral became too nerve-racking.

"I have a lot of friends in the military - there may be more (deaths) and it hurts. I don't need to see that," she said.

In the crowd of mourners who went to the cemetery were Rick and Linda Wiles of Millersville - she taught Cpl. Watts in second grade, and he taught him physical education in elementary school.

Mrs. Wiles remembers when Cpl. Watts, who had two older sisters and whose mother volunteered at the school, visited her classroom as a toddler. He liked to wear a police officer's cap she had on hand.

"I called him Chief Watts," Mrs. Wiles said laughing as she recalled the memory. "He was just a nice young man. He had charisma."

The details of Cpl. Watts' death remains unknown, Mr. Watts said.

"They've not told us anything, except it's still under investigation," Mr. Watts said.

Cpl. Watts was found dead at a forward operating base in Haditha, Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. A Marine Corps spokesman said yesterday that no additional details were available.

Cpl. Watts joined the Marines in September 2003.

He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. His unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Blake Sutherland Jr., of Millersville, was Cpl. Watts' best man when he married his high school sweetheart, Nicole Seaton Watts, on May 18, 2004.

Visibly shaken yesterday, Mr. Sutherland told mourners how much Cpl. Watts meant to him and a lot of other young people.

"Justin was a big brother to everyone," Mr. Sutherland said. "We looked up to his strength."


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Published January 24, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2006 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Chandler family loses Marine son in Iraq war

A Chandler man who broke bad news to countless families in his previous career as a cop knew what had happened as soon as he opened his door Friday night.

Three Marines in full dress uniform were there to tell Mark Dewey that his son, Brandon, had been killed by a car bomb earlier that day in Iraq.


Jim Fickess
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 24, 2006 01:05 PM

The 20-year-old lance corporal was serving his second Iraq tour.

"I have been there on the other end so many times," said Dewey, 53, who moved to the Lexington Place neighborhood with his wife, Shelly, in December 2004 after he retired from the Union City, Calif., police department in the Bay Area. "I had to give people the horrible news of their loved ones. It's not easy."

Dewey said he could tell a couple of the Marines hadn't had much experience on the notification detail, but "they put me at ease. They did a very professional, compassionate job."

Although his son first became interested in the Marines as a Boy Scout, Dewey said his personality belied the dour look on his official Marine photo.

"He was a happy, good-hearted, good-natured, squared-away, always smiling kid," his dad said. "In many ways he was a man but in other ways he was still a kid. He was addicted to video games and he loved to read. He was waiting for the paperback version of the Da Vinci Code to come out" so it would be light enough to carry in the field.

Brandon was in a Boy Scout troop that was run by Marines in Tracy, Calif. He signed up for early entry while he was in high school and enlisted shortly after graduating from Merrill West High School in 2003.

His first tour in Iraq ran from June 2004 until January 2005. His second tour began in September and was to end in April. Brandon planned to follow his father into law enforcement when his Marine enlistment ended in 2007.

While spending a couple of weeks in Arizona last summer before returning to Iraq. Brandon and his dad talked at length about a law enforcement career.

Although he never lived in Arizona, Brandon loved the state, Mark and Shelly said, including partying with childhood friends at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Details from Friday's car bomb in the Haqlaniyah region, which killed Brandon and another Marine, are still coming in. But this wasn't the first time he had been involved in an Iraqi car bombing, Dewey said.

In the first incident, two cars exploded within about 20 yards with Brandon receiving shrapnel wounds to his hands and neck, as well as damage to his hearing. Brandon, who received a Purple Heart, was back in battle in a week.

Brandon called shortly after that attack.

"We were driving through Quartzsite at about 2 a.m. when we got a call from Brandon," Dewey recalled. "Because his hearing was affected, he was yelling into the phone. He said "Dad, I just wanted to tell you I'm OK. You will be getting a call in a few days from the Marines telling you that."

This time, Mark Dewey received the dreaded knock on the door.

Brandon Dewey is survived by his father and stepmother, Mark and Shelly Dewey, of Chandler; his mother, Julia Conover, of Tracy, Calif.; and sister, Elyse, who is Navy seaman in cryptography (message decoding) training in Pensacola, Fla.

A memorial Web site has been established at http:brandondewey.remembering-you.org.

Catoosa soldier killed in Iraq

Joshua Scott, a 24-year-old Marine who lived in the Keith community in Catoosa County, was killed Sunday in Iraq when the driver of a Humvee he was riding in lost control and the vehicle overturned.


Kevin Cummings

Joshua Scott

To post condolences, see ext. link

His wife, Mendy, said Marines knocked on her door Monday morning to deliver the terrible news.

“It’s hard. It doesn’t seem real yet,” she said Tuesday. “I didn’t think anything would happen to him. You never think it’s going to happen to you.”

Joshua and Mendy had been married for about 18 months and had a 7-month-old daughter together.

“He was a wonderful husband and a great dad,” she said through her tears. “He loved his kid more than anything.”

Scott was a 2001 graduate of Ringgold High School and a member of the Ringgold wrestling team.

He was a lance corporal in the Anti-Terror Battalion Catt 3 and stationed at Camp Fallujah.

Mendy said one other soldier also lost his life in the wreck and three were seriously injured.

She said her husband’s body will be returned to the family in 7-10 days, but services had not been set as of Tuesday. Scott will be buried at the Keith Baptist Church cemetery.

How Mainers greet troops: hugs, fudge and 41 cellphones

BANGOR, MAINE – It is well after dinnertime for Kay Lebowitz, but she hardly notices - she has hundreds of American troops to greet.


By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
January 24, 2006

Here at Bangor International Airport, she bustles about, sliding next to them at the snack bar. "I always ask them if they have children," she says. "They love to talk about their babies."

A planeload of US Marines, heading to Iraq, files in line to board. She strives to hug all 263 of them. "See you on the way back," she tells them.

"Kay, let 'em go," shouts a fellow volunteer at the front of the queue. "You're holding up the line." But the 90-year-old hardly notices that, either.

Ms. Lebowitz is a member of the Maine Troop Greeters, a community group that has dutifully gathered at this tiny airport in central Maine since May 2003. At the close of this night last Tuesday, the group had tallied 1,403 flights, filled with 260,927 men and women in uniform.

Of the dozens who show up regularly, many are veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. But local residents with no formal military connections like Lebowitz have joined their ranks, too. They assemble whether it's morning or midnight, whether an important figurehead is in town - like Bill Clinton, who appeared this month - or whether there are more greeters than soldiers scheduled to arrive.

They first formed during the Gulf War. This time, the job is different, as months have become years. Some are driven by a sense of patriotism; others by volunteerism. Above all, they say they are determined not to repeat the icy welcome that Vietnam veterans received 30 years ago.

"We made up our minds that we would never let that happen again, if we could help it," says Bill Knight, a veteran of World War II and Vietnam, who relocated from his farm 30 miles away to a trailer home four miles from the airport so that midnight arrivals would not be so daunting.

On this particular night, 936 troops - some heading to Iraq; others heading home - stride down a jetway feeding into the airport lobby, where greeters line them on either side. This night, 35 of them show up about 6:30 p.m., and few have left by the time the last plane lands 3-1/2 hours later.

Big hugs - and big grins

When the planes arrive, greeters yell to one another to get ready, bursting into cheers and thunderous clapping. The clamor attracts the notice of two passengers on domestic flights, who come over to see what's going on. They soon join the handshaking, back-patting, and hugging.

"See you on the way back," the greeters say to those leaving. "We'll be waiting for you." To those coming back: "Welcome home. Thank you so much for your service." Some troops can't hide big grins as they shuffle through the greeters' embraces; others seem self-conscious. And some run through the crowd, giving out high-fives to their boosters.

In all, the airport's sleepy lobby is transformed, with Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army soldiers all waiting to reboard, continuing their journeys home or to Iraq.

One Marine captain, who had flown through Bangor the year before, pulls out his digital camera to post the experience on his blog.

"It's unbelievable," says Capt. Jon Bonar, who is heading to Iraq to advise its fledgling military. "These are the same people I saw a year ago. Some of them are even in the same sweatshirts."

The troops pack into the Maine Troop greeters "office," an old duty-free room decorated with American flags and photos of other units coming through. Many head right to a cellphone counter: At any given time, there are 41 charging on the wall. Tables are stacked with Twizzlers and Dubble Bubble gum, cookies and, on most days, homemade fudge.

Across the country, troops receive hearty welcomes from other volunteer groups. At airports in Dallas, Atlanta, and Baltimore, where troops on two-week leaves fly, veterans and other community members hand out candy and phone cards. Much of the work is organized through local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the United Service Organizations.

Troops here say the Maine Troop greeters have become almost legendary among rank and file. US Army Spec. Matthew Hardee, who was on his way back from Iraq, says he was hoping his plane would fly through Bangor. "It's awesome, especially since they are guys who were doing the same thing 40 and 50 years ago," he says. "Some other guys didn't have anything like this. They had to go searching for a payphone."

When an incoming flight is confirmed, the passenger services department calls Mr. Knight, who carries a tentative weekly schedule in his shirt pocket. He calls a half dozen people to set off a phone tree.

He never had a cellphone before this, but he couldn't do his job without it now - proved by a $266 bill two months ago.

Betty Buckingham and her husband, John have met planes at all hours. "It brings such a warm feeling to your heart," Ms. Buckingham says. "Once you do it once, it's habit forming."

Politics off-limits

Bangor International Airport was not always primarily used by US military planes to refuel and change flight crews. It used to be a bustling international stopover for European charter flights, says Heidi Suletzki, the supervisor for passenger services. But when longer-range jetliners were built, the need for stops en route diminished. Today, it's where many returning troops first touch US soil, or where departing soldiers say their last goodbyes.

Whether night or day, one topic is always off-limits. "We don't bring politics to what we do here, we try not to talk about it," says Pete Perry, who works full-time as a plane mechanic, and volunteers at the airport whenever he can. Last week, he met some 20 flights.

For the airport staff, emotions still run high, even after nearly 1,500 flights. "I still get choked up when I see them," says Ms. Suletzki. "When we feel reluctant to come in at 2 a.m., I look at [the greeters] and they have a smile on their faces."

As Lebowitz puts it: "Work? This isn't work. Well, I guess my arms hurt a little bit," she says, flapping them as if she were doing the chicken dance. "This is fun."

Military Culture Must Change for 'Long War'

As the United States confronts terrorism, military personnel have to make a cultural shift as they fight what officials now call "the Long War," senior DoD officials said.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that the generation of servicemembers entering the military today must focus on how the United States will deal with extremist networks that threaten America and its allies.


by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

Odierno said the situation is analogous to the situation confronting servicemembers who fought the Cold War. The Cold War was a generational conflict that started after World War II and only ended with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"This generation of servicemembers will be in what we're calling the Long War," the general said. "Our estimate is that for at least the next 20 years, part of our focus will be on how do we deal with the extremist networks that will continue to threaten the United States and its allies."

While conventional forces must remain robust and their capabilities must remain second to none, the military's focus will broaden to include a greater emphasis on special operations. "We have to be able to respond conventionally if necessary, but we must provide more focus on irregular warfare missions," Odierno said.

Even after the defeat of al Qaeda, extremists groups will remain a problem, Odierno said. This will be complicated because terrorist networks are "non-state actors" that may be operating in friendly nations. The mission will not be to confront armies, navies or air forces, but shadowy groups.

The Long War will require different military capabilities and require U.S. leaders to develop a holistic concept of how to defeat these networks. Odierno said this entails being able to coordinate the military aspect of the fight with the efforts of diplomats, financial experts, police officials and others. It also will entail countering propaganda and misinformation extremists release.

Another piece of the Long War for servicemembers is cultural awareness, Odierno said. Young leaders must understand what drives extremists. "We have to try to understand why they do the things they do, because you have to understand your enemy," he said.

Troops will also have to understand countries U.S. forces will operate in. "You have to understand what their cultures are, what's important to them," Odierno said. "We have learned a lot in the last three or four years, but we have a long way to go."

As part of the Long War mindset, the military is moving more toward an expeditionary force. "With ground forces we are moving back to the United States, so we are able to react around the world quickly and rotate forces quickly," he said.

All ground forces are going to have to work more closely with special operations forces and must enhance their capabilities to work in irregular environments. Special operations forces must also develop new capabilities, and the United States must develop more special operations personnel, Odierno said.

While the changes affect ground forces most, the Air Force and Navy are not spared. The Air Force global strike capability will be crucial in shaping the battlefield. The Navy, while maintaining its skills in the open ocean, known as "blue-water capabilities," will move more into littoral, or coastal, warfare.

"Even after we win in Iraq, even after we win in Afghanistan, there will be extremist groups that will threaten us," Odierno said. "Military personnel must be ready for whatever confronts them in this Long War."

Buckeye Marine participates in 24 MEU work-ups.

Fort A.P. Hill Va. (Jan. 24, 2006) -- Eleven months ago if you asked Pfc. Michael Parnell, a native of Canton, Ohio, where he’d be in a year, he probably wouldn’t have told you, Fort A.P. Hill, Va., wrapping up the Mechanized Raid Course. Yet, almost exactly eleven months after he enlisted in the Marine Corps, Pfc. Parnell found himself here in the middle of winter conducting training with Bravo Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines as a part of their pre-deployment training package with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20061249293
Story by Cpl. Matt Lyman

During the Mechanized Raid Course, Parnell and the rest of the Marines from Bravo Co. learned all of the basics of conducting a raid on an objective with the aid of Assault Amphibian Vehicles and the M1A1 Main Battle Tank. The course also served to refresh some skills that the Marines already knew and paint a clearer picture of where they, as an individual Marine, fit in the scheme of not only a mechanized raid, but also their place during combat. This training was more intense than that at the School of Infantry, but this is also training Marines that have already been to Iraq wish they had received prior to their first trek overseas.

A lot of the training was meant to give the Marines a new perspective on old ideas. They were taught new techniques for room clearing, how to enter a building through a window and how to split your squad to enter the house simultaneously from two different entry points.

Each platoon took a turn being the assault element, support element, or the security element. The Marines made sure they knew how to do each of the missions because combat can change a platoon’s role in a raid quickly. You might have the support element and the assault element switching roles due to enemy position or any number of reasons.

Parnell’s squad leader, Lance Cpl. Jason McKay, 24, from Snellville, Ga., is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran with a tour in Iraq under his belt.
“A lot of the stuff I already know, but it’s good practice,” said McKay. “If you don’t use these skills you will lose them and they have taught us some new tricks.”
The course wrapped up with the Marines conducting a number of raids each with less and less instructor involvement. Two of the raids were done at night, and each time the Marines were given a new objective. The objectives ranged from simulating the rescue of an Iraqi official to blowing up a weapons cache. Each time the Marines’ training and techniques took over and got the job done.

Now that the nine-day course is complete, Parnell and his fellow Marines will move on to the next block of training in their pre-deployment package preparing them for an upcoming deployment.

‘Untouchables’ fuel, arm ‘Gunrunners’ at TLZ Bluebird

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (Jan. 24, 2006) -- The distinct heartbeat of rotors echo in the distant sky, catching the attention of waiting Marines. Tall brush surrounds them for half a mile in every direction and seems the only friend to the “Untouchables” who keep their eyes trained on the horizon – frozen in anticipation for their “birds” to break the unbroken tree line of evergreens.
(2nd MAW)


Submitted by: MCAS New River
Story Identification #: 2006124102136
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel D. White

Suddenly, an AH-1W Super Cobra bursts into view, causing the Marines to grab their headgear and spring into action; with every Marine knowing what must be done to get the bird on the ground, reloaded, refueled and back in the air as fast as possible. The slower these Marines move, the slower the Cobra is to provide support to those who need it. Every second counts - it’s go time.

This scenario was practiced by 38 Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron-272, along with several other Marine Corps Air Station New River and Cherry Point squadrons, who participated in a forward arming and refueling point exercise on Jan. 11 at Landing Zone Bluebird, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune.

According to 1st Lt. Robert F. White, MWSS-272 operations officer, the exercise was arranged to give the Marines real-life, hands-on experience while awaiting deployment.

“Anytime Marines can get out in the field and participate in a two-point hot (FARP) is going to be good training,” said White. “Marines need this experience because it’s basically the same as we do in Iraq.”

The FARP training exercise has undergone several changes to make the process more realistic for the Marines, White explained.

“To do a hot (FARP) in the past, you would have needed a waiver, which is hard to get,” White added. “So instead of keeping the helicopters running, they would shut them down, refuel and rearm them and then start them up again.”

The old process typically took an hour to complete, but now that the helicopters stay running throughout the entire procedure, that time has been cut to 15 minutes.

“The training has been constantly improving to better (educate) the Marines,” said White. “The opportunities have only been getting better and better.”

Participating alongside the “Untouchables” were Marines from MWSS-271 aircraft rescue and firefighting, MWSS-271 augments, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-29 ordnance and Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269.

“I love being in the field doing what I was trained to do,” said Lance Cpl. Corey W. Smith, MWSS-272 bulk fuel specialist. “It’s nice to get away from the shop and get away from cleaning gear all day.”

Some of the Marines compare this exercise to the operations they performed while in Iraq.

“Minus the fueling truck, everything else is the same,” said Cpl. Tyler A. Love, MWSS-272 bulk fuel specialist. “The exercise, the way we perform, it’s all a lot like being in Iraq - just less sand.”

With the training constantly improving, MWSS-272 Marines are receiving more hands-on experiences and are better prepared to meet the goals while deployed, said White.

“It’s important for us to do these training exercises so the real thing isn’t such a big surprise when we get over there,” said Sgt. Glen R. Schoot, HML/A-269 ordnance technician. “Grunts are counting on us; lives are counting on us, to get these birds back up in the air as fast as possible and this prepares us to accomplish those goals.”

Nashville admin-warrior tells how the other half lives

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Jan. 24, 2006) -- In cosmopolitan metro areas across the world, people come in contact with myriad ethnicities, faiths and lifestyles. Often times, their preconceived notions about one group or another quickly crumble upon realizing that stereotypes are anything but a “one size fits all” idea. (1/6 Marine)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Mike Escobar
Story Identification #:

Lance Cpl. Richard Pharris of Nashville, Tenn. realized firsthand how especially true this was in a diverse organization like the U.S. Marine Corps. His eye-opening moments occurred when many of his brothers-in-arms also find themselves maturing: in times of war.

Upon enlisting in the Corps in Sept. 2002, fresh out of Hunters Lane High School, Pharris said he expected to come into a desk job after completing recruit training and his administration clerk schooling. However, he soon realized that the Marine Corps’ adage of “Every Marine is a rifleman, first and foremost” was anything but a cliché. In March 2003, he was assigned to the infantry unit, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s, administrative shop, or S-1 section.

“I came into the S-1 and was shadowing everyone else doing their job, because they all had designated tasks already,” 22-year-old Pharris explained. “Because of that, I was also the guy picked to go into the field and do grunt training whenever things like that came up.”

The chance soon arose, as Pharris was sent to train alongside the grunts in June at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Underneath a downpour that lasted nearly three weeks, he fired the Corps’ arsenal of machineguns. These included the MK-19 automatic grenade launchers and the M240G 7.62 medium machineguns.

Pharris excelled in operating these weapons systems, and his battalion commander personally offered him the chance to train with one of the battalion’s Combined Anti-Armor Teams, highly mobile infantry units proficient in operating medium and heavy machineguns. Prior to that, he had been primarily serving as his unit’s mail clerk.

“I’ll never forget one time up in A.P. Hill,” Pharris said, recalling one particularly ironic moment. “I’d been blasting away on the 240 all day long, getting soaked in the rain just like everyone else, and later, I overhear this grunt corporal saying, ‘Man, I was I was a ‘pogue’ (non-infantry Marine) right now. It’d be awesome to be behind a nice, comfortable desk.’”

“I told that corporal, ‘Hey, I’m a pogue, and I’m still here,” Pharris continued. “I realized how many misconceptions there were out there.”

Later, Pharris was sent to the battalion’s Company A to be their clerk, where he would once more often dive into field training, sometimes quite literally.

“I’d be getting soaked during beach assaults,” he stated. “While I was all doing all my field stuff, though, I was still performing the admin clerk side of the house.”

This constant training would help him prepare for his unit’s deployment to Afghanistan from February through September 2004. There, Pharris worked primarily as the unit’s mail clerk, along with performing a few voluntarily picked extra duties.

“In Afghanistan, I’d have to travel on convoys and helicopters just to deliver mail, because we were so spread out all over the place,” he explained. “When I went to drop off mail to the guys at Alpha Company, I volunteered to go on patrols through the market areas and local town meetings with them since I knew them from before. I was issued a SAW (squad automatic weapon), so they saw me as extra firepower.”

Having proven himself as competent an infantryman as an administrator, Pharris would spend little time in the S-1 office before being assigned to another infantry platoon shortly before his unit deployed to Iraq in March 2005.

“When they told me I was going to be part of the (main) camp’s guard force, I was like, ‘Here I go again,’” he said. “A lot of the people here already thought I was a grunt.”
The long days and nights spent standing posts and performing perimeter patrols were far from thankless. Instead, Pharris’ leaders recognized his expertise as a seasoned machine gunner and entrusted the training of several younger, less experienced infantrymen to him.

“It was really crazy, because here I was, an admin guy, being the lead machine gunner and teaching grunts how to do their own job,” Pharris recalled. “I was like their squad leader, teaching them all about the SAW and the 240G.”

Currently, Pharris, a combat veteran with two overseas tours of duty underneath his belt, reflects on his experiences as a Marine and having “walked a mile in another man’s shoes.”

“I’ve never been someone who judges others without getting to know them first, but I know that there are a lot of misconceptions out there,” he said. “Grunts might think we have it easy sometimes, just like ‘pogues’ might think a grunt’s job doesn’t require lots of thinking. But I’ve realized that it takes a lot of nerve and thinking skills to do the equations guys like mortarmen do to hit their targets accurately, and the split-second decisions grunts have to make when fighting in an urban environment.”

As Pharris’ multi-faceted Marine Corps enlistment draws to a close, he looks forward to attending Middle Tennessee State University or Tennessee State University. He will soon end his term of service, but not leave behind his Corps values.

“This has been a really big stepping stone in my life, and I don’t regret doing it at all,” Pharris said. “I’ve definitely matured because of it, and I’ve realized that you can’t ever judge a book by its cover.”

Newlywed Iraq bound

Marriage, fatherhood, then Marine service for policeman

By the time Sgt. Kenny Bates is able to hold his 3 month old son again, his son will be over a year old.
Sgt. Bates began active duty for the Marine Reserves on Dec. 1. On Jan 1, he headed down to train at 29 Palms with the First Battalion, Fourteenth Marines stationed out of Alameda. He is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq sometime in early spring.


Although he and his wife of only seven months, Heather, get to talk on the phone every day, they may not be able to see each other until Dec. 1, when his year long tour of duty ends. They are hopeful that Bates will get at least a couple days off before he is deployed, but there are no guarantees.

The newlyweds welcomed Michael into their family on Oct. 17, just two and a half months before the new dad had to leave. Although the separation is tough on this new family, they are confident that Sgt. Bates is fighting for a good cause.

“I support him,” said Heather. “I’m very proud of what he does.”

Sgt. Bates had been in the Marines for nine years already when he re-enlisted with the Reserves in November 2005 and signed up for a 20-year career. (The nine years he’s already served count towards the 20 years of service.)

His wife, Heather, said that it was his dedication and passion for the Marine Corps that led him to re-enlist.

With a military family like his, its not hard to believe. His grandfather, William Bates was in both the Army and Marines, and served in World Wars I and II. His uncle, Harry Bates, and father, Thomas Bates both served in Vietnam with the Army and Marines. His brothers James and Robert Bates served in the Gulf War for the Army.

Sgt. Bates is a military police officer, and in his civilian life, serves as a San Francisco police officer. He served in the Mission District before he left and will come back to serve in the Bay View District.

It is the extensive training that keeps Heather from worrying too much about her husband’s dangerous careers.


Staff reporter of the

Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Humboldt Marines link up in Iraq

It's a small world.
Three Marines who graduated from Humboldt County high schools in three different decades have ended up working together in Iraq. (2/11 Marine, MHS 466 Marine)


Chris Durant

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Combs, Lance Cpl. Derek Weatherbee and Cpl. Joseph Nunez work on different aspects of Marine helicopters.

According to Nunez, Combs graduated from Eureka High School in 1985 and joined the Marines two years later. He's currently an Aviation Life Support Systems division chief and specializes in special mission equipment survival gear and all the life support systems inside the CH-53E helicopter.

Weatherbee is an Arcata High School alumus, graduating in 1999. He joined the Marines in 2003 and is an aerial machine gun observer, but also has collateral duty as an aviation life support systems inspector.

Nunez is part of the Eureka High School class of 2001 -- the year before he joined the Marines. He's a logistics chief for Heavy Medium Helicopter Squadron 466 and makes sure Marines are fed and housed. He also is in charge of logistical movements for the squadron and structure upgrades.

It also isn't the first time Nunez has run into someone from Humboldt County in Iraq. Last year, his younger brother, Danny Nunez, who is in the 2nd Battalion 11th Marines, paid him a surprise visit when the convoy he was in met up with his brother's squad.

Helo team provides essential supplies to earthquake victims

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Jan. 24, 2006) -- The colossal earthquake that violently shook Pakistan Oct. 8, 2005, destroyed more than buildings and homes.

The earthquake wiped out critical supply routes to Pakistanis. The open skies offered the only unobstructed route. (3rd Transportation Support Bn 3rd MLG)


Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 2006123202744
Story by Lance Cpl. Lance Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti

Five Marine landing support specialists with Landing Support Company, 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, based in Okinawa, Japan, have assisted in the delivery of more than 6.5 million pounds of supplies to Northern Pakistan since Nov. 16.

“We never expected to handle such a large number of (operations),” said Staff Sgt. Victor R. Robinson, the sling-load chief for the helicopter support team with Combined Medical Relief Team 3. “However, when the call came to use the Marines to amplify the help, the call was answered with this small team.”

Robinson attributes the high number of operations and stellar safety record to two highly motivated on-sight noncommissioned officers and all the individuals who helped them.

“Everyone involved in our operation has acted highly professional,” Robinson said. “I’ve challenged all of them to leaving here with no injuries and no accidental drops or mishaps. They have accepted and continue to set an example every day.”

Robinson said the mission of the team is to get food and supplies to Pakistanis who are high in the mountains or who have been cut off from populated areas. Their homes and roads were ruined and the Marines are ensuring they have food and shelter, a necessity, especially amid the harsh winter.

The team contributes to the supply delivery by manually connecting supply-loads, or sling loads, to hooks underneath Army CH-47 Chinook Cargo Helicopters.

“We do this because there are places that are not practical for helicopters to land,” Robinson said. “We hook-up external loads to make it convenient for the helicopters to drop them safely.”

Since about 10,000 pounds of supplies can be carried by one helicopter and released by a push of a button, sling loads are the most effective method of delivery, according to Robinson.

“We have met every mission that we were asked to complete,” Robinson said. “The team hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down since.”

It was also a learning experience for the Helicopter Support Team since they have never trained or dealt with Chinook helicopters before.

“I didn’t know if we were even going to do external lifts when we got here,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Radcliff, a landing support specialist with LS Co., 3rd TSB, 3rd MLG. “At first, working with the Chinooks was a little intimidating because the hooks are connected directly to the body of the helo and they have to come within inches of us for us to connect the load.”
After more than 700 lifts to their credit, the team is confident in their abilities and said they are happy that they could make such a difference.

“When I think about the total number we’ve done, I can’t believe it,” Radcliff said. “We came here unsure of exactly what we were going to do, but we will leave knowing that we supplied millions of pounds of food to people in need. It feels really good to do what we do.”

U.S. field hospitals in Pakistan pass 23,000-patient mark

Shinkiari, PAKISTAN (Jan. 24, 2006) -- Navy physicians with the U.S. Field Hospital Shinkiari officially treated 23,000 patients Jan. 18 when they tended to an 11-month old girl suffering from pediatric sepsis, high fever and severe loss of appetite.


Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 2006123233223
Story by Lance Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti

Treatment for the child included weight-based Motrin to reduce her temperature, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. She was subsequently medically evacuated to District Headquarters Mansehra hospital for extra treatment.

“The little girl should feel much better by tomorrow,” said Navy Lieutenant Robert Barrett. “I have two boys of my own, and it breaks my heart to see sick children. I’m just glad I can help.”

The rapid and timely response of U.S. military field hospitals in Shinkiari and Muzaffarabad provides the earthquake-stricken people of Pakistan with medical care that includes splinting fractures, providing emergency medical stabilization, appendectomies, and a host of other life-saving procedures.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team set their hospital up in Shinkiari while the U.S. Army’s hospital was set up in the city of Muzaffarabad. Between both hospitals, U.S. forces brought medical capabilities to include operating rooms, x-ray equipment, pharmacies, laboratories, and many other assets all in an effort to supplement organic Pakistani medical facilities, which were hit hardest by the earthquake.

Surgeons, general medical officers, nurses, dentists and other support Marines and sailors started treating patients since October.

The medical and support staff are extremely well trained and experienced as many took part in the humanitarian aid provided to Indonesia and Sri Lanka after the tsunami last year.

31st MEU has 'Super' power

ABOARD USS ESSEX (LHD-2) (Jan. 24, 2006) -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has increased its flight, airlift and aircraft defense capabilities this deployment cycle with the addition of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters as part of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element.


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 20061240344
Story by Cpl. Will Lathrop

For the last couple of years, the ACE has been supporting the MEU with CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters, and while they are reliable aircraft, they don't possess all of the capabilities as the newer version, according to Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Gauthier, an Argentinean native and quality assurance representative for the ACE.

"The Echo (CH-53E) has three times the lift capability as the Delta version," he said, "And with almost double the fuel load (of the CH-53D), has a longer range."

Of course, power and endurance aren't the only advantages of the Super Stallion, it's tactically a better aircraft due to an added gun mount on the rear ramp and ballistic matting that is spread throughout the aircraft for added protection against small-arms, said Staff Sgt. Victor Fusco, an East Windsor, Conn. native and ACE maintenance controller.

"The added mount for the M3M .50-caliber heavy machinegun allows the rear gunner to support either side of the aircraft, as well as put rounds straight out the back," Fusco explained.

The MEU is a rapid-response force, and the Super Stallions enhance the MEU's capabilities by lifting more and traveling farther, directly affecting the shock-troop effect of helo-borne raids and expediting tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions, added Gauthier.

The Super Stallion's return to the MEU has been a smooth transition for the shipboard sailors who transfer the large helicopters below decks and also launch and land the aircraft from the flight deck of the USS Essex.

"The 'Yellow Shirts' have been really capable and flexible working with the Echos," said Gauthier talking about the sailors.

"We thought the refueling probe that sticks out from the nose (of the CH-53E) might present a problem to the sailors who taxi the birds around, but we haven't had a single incident."

Gauthier also stated that it was much easier to work on the aircraft on ship because all of the supplies and parts they needed were right below decks, not across a flight line or the other side of an airbase.

"This isn't like other Marine bases where you have different squadrons dipping their hands into the same supply jar," he said.

The maintenance crews who work on the helicopters have added to the novelty of the Super Stallions by reassembling them in a short amount of time upon the aircraft's arrival to Okinawa, Japan.

"Four of these birds were disassembled in Miramar, Calif., then boxed up and flown over here, and in what would normally take four weeks, these guys did in less than three," Gauthier said proudly. "These are a great group of guys who work well together."

Most recently, the flight crews and their Super Stallions have been performing deck landing qualifications off of the USS Essex.

The USS Essex , along with the rest of the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Readiness Group are currently in Guam where the MEU will disembark and conduct its exercises called "Training in an Urban Environment" or "TRUEX" and "MEU Exercise" or "MEUEX" from 23 January - 13 February at various locations on the island of Guam.

Euless, Texas, brothers work together in Iraq

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq(Jan. 23, 2006) -- A Marine is never alone because around them at all times are fellow Marines taking care of them, watching their back and making sure they get home. Every Marine is a brother or sister to another Marine. (14th Marine Reg attached to 3/6)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander

Story Identification #:

In the case of Lance Cpl.’s Michael and Brian Huber of Euless, Texas, not only are they brothers through the Marine Corps, they are brothers in life.

“It’s nice to have family here,” said Brian. “It makes the deployment easier.”

Both Marines are reservists with the 14th Marine Regiment. Michael, 21, is a ballistic meteorological specialist and Brian, 24, is a heavy equipment operator. Currently, the brothers are attached to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s Motor Transport Section.

Coming to Iraq was something both Marines wanted to do, so they decided to do it together, according to Brian, who is a pre-law student at the Tarrant Community College.

As far as their family is concerned, Brian stated, “It’s hard on them, but they kind of figured we’d do it. It also makes it easier on them at the same time because they know we’ll take care of each other.”

Back home, Brian’s wife, Kathlee, recently gave birth to a baby girl.

“It was tough on her, me being gone for the whole pregnancy period,” he said.

According to Michael, however, both his girlfriend and Brian’s wife have become very close friends and help each other out.

Working with motor transportation, they both go out on convoys, but don’t ride in the same vehicle.

“The toughest part is the worrying,” said Brian.

“It can get tough when you know he’s out on a convoy then a (medical evacuation helicopter) goes out,” said Michael.

Back aboard Camp Al Qa’im, they run into quirky little identity problems.

“People don’t believe we’re brothers,” said Michael. “They say stuff like ‘you can’t have a brother with you in Iraq.’ Well, here we are.”

According to Brian, some people can’t tell them apart.

“The other Marines have taken to calling us ‘Big Huber’ and ‘Little Huber,’” he said.

They’re not entirely alike, however.

“I can’t sleep next to this guy,” said Brian. “He snores.”

Marines remember Woodlawn, Ill., native

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq(Jan. 24, 2006) -- A memorial service was held in a crowded chapel here, Jan. 17, for Lance Cpl. Jonathan K. Price who was fatally wounded while conducting operations in Al Anbar’s provincial capital city four days earlier.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton
Story Identification #:

Price deployed to Iraq in August 2004 with Battery L, Headquarters Battalion, as part of a security detachment providing security for the Marine camp here.

Many who spoke during the service characterized the 19-year-old Woodlawn, Ill., native as a selfless, dedicated and caring Marine with a big heart and an ever-present smile that had a positive effect on everything he touched.

“He was a solid Marine,” said 1st Lt. Brian W. Schweers, Price’s platoon commander. “He was unselfish and had a good heart. He will be missed by all and this world will be a little bit darker from his absence.”

While deployed to Iraq, Price took on many roles within his platoon. He served as a rifleman and conducted more than 150 combat patrols to root out insurgents and weapons caches in the surrounding area. Additionally, Price served as a spotter for U.S. military working dog teams when they accompanied his squad on patrol or during operations. He operated the squad’s metal detector when conducting weapons cache searches. Price also served as the squad’s dedicated combat photographer, capturing images of suspected insurgents and their safe houses as well as other imagery for intelligence gathering purposes.

He contributed his linguistic skills to the platoon by becoming its unofficial “talker” when they did not have an interpreter. Devoted to his work, Price became proficient in Arabic and with his self-taught language skills he often aided his fellow Marines as a translator during operations. Price used his knowledge of Arabic to build friendships with local Iraqis, allowing him to gather actionable intelligence against the insurgency here.

“In each of these capacities he excelled. Rarely have I seen a young man give so much and excel in every endeavor,” said Capt. Ryan E. Crais, Price’s commanding officer. “Price was a consummate war fighter. Like the flip of a switch, he could go from a friendly conversation with locals on a patrol to quickly shifting gears, snapping up every vehicle he saw and capturing insurgents. He had that special balance, the kind required for an insurgency, a compliment to him as a war fighter, and an inspiration to every Marine here.”

Many said that the most valued contribution Price brought to his platoon was his ability to boost his fellow Marines spirits and his dedication to the mission here and the men he fought with. Price would often be seen handing out candy to Iraqi children while on patrol or providing a smile to a fellow Marine whose morale was low.

“He really believed in what he was doing over here regarding helping out the local Iraqis and their children,” Crais said. “He was selfless with a big heart and he was always thinking of other Marines and how to help them, both personally and professionally. He was friendly to everyone; one of those people that did not have any enemies.”

Experience pays off for Destin, Fla., native

FALLUJAH, Iraq(Jan. 24, 2006) -- “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror; I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote. (2/6 E. 4th Plt)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn
Story Identification #:

For one Marine, past experiences have developed him into a capable team leader. Drawing on what Marines he served under taught him, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey M. Roberts, a 21-year-old Destin, Fla., native, has become a team leader for 3rd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

Since being assigned to the battalion in February 2003, Roberts has deployed four times. He went straight to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and stayed in Iraq for three months as security in Baghdad. After Baghdad, he went back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., for four months and then went to Okinawa for seven months as part of the Unit Deployment Program. Upon rotating back to Lejeune, he deployed to Afghanistan for three months.

“This deployment is better than previous ones,” said Roberts. “The living areas are better, we get hot chow every day, plus we finally get to do what we have been training to do. It’s like we have been studying for three years to take a test and now we finally see what it’s all about. We did all that training in Lejeune to come here and now here we are.”

The deployments have forced him to grow up fast, to be mature beyond his years.

“I couldn’t buy a beer less than a year ago,” Roberts said intensely. “But I come over here and hold the lives of two Marines in my hands and we could all possibly die. You just never know. So you have to think about that all the time, worry about snipers, grenades, your Marines, all that. You can’t let it overwhelm you. It’s crazy.”

Roberts says the constant stress of daily patrolling and looking for random attacks can be a heavy burden after time. To relieve some of the burden, he relaxes by hitting the gym and keeping some music blaring.

“Music can bring you back home; it can help you unwind after a long day,” he added. “You got to have a good sense of humor and stay loose.”

Joining the Marine Corps hasn’t left an unsavory impression on him. Even though he plans to get out after his enlistment, he still stands by his decision to join.

“The Marine Corps was the best option. I knew back in ninth grade that I was going to enlist,” he said. “I would do it all over again if I knew that I was going to deploy so much. It makes the time fly by. No matter how much I complain, it was worth it. I’m just now starting to realize that.”

To any Marine who is on his first deployment, or is scheduled to deploy, Roberts offers some advice.

“Pay attention,” said Roberts. “Soak up as much knowledge as you can. Try to get that childlike mentality out of you before you come out here.”

Outpost to raise Iraq’s border security prospects

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, January 24, 2006

COMBAT OUTPOST SOUTH, Iraq — Right now it stands like a ghost town in the vast khaki expanse of western Iraq, but in the coming days this newly minted outpost could play a critical role in Iraq’s future security, U.S. military commanders said. (II MEF)

To continue reading:


January 23, 2006

U.S., Coalition Efforts Helping Improve Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2006 – Humanitarian efforts continue in Afghanistan as coalition forces helped remove snow from impassable roads and built "hygiene facilities" at a small school. In addition, international diplomats visited a provincial reconstruction team Jan. 21.


American Forces Press Service

U.S. troops from Task Force Sword have stepped in to help clear roads that are nearly impossible because of snow and ice, Combined Forces Command Afghanistan officials said.

"It's a joint effort between the (U.S.) military, Afghan government and contractors hired by the provincial reconstruction teams," Lt. Col. Jud Cook, Task Force Sword deputy commander, said today.

This joint team has successfully cleared roads in Sharona, Orgun-E and various forward operating bases around Afghanistan. Task Force Sword has used equipment from its road construction projects to clear the ice and snow. By next month, the task force also will have 20 sand and salt spreaders attached to 5-ton trucks to help clear the roads.

The snow and ice removal helps accomplish the military mission by allowing trucks to travel to remote locations. It also makes these same roads available to civilian and commercial traffic, Cook said.

In Uruzgan province, Afghan construction workers completed male and female hygiene facilities and a fresh water well at a local boy's school in central Afghanistan over the past week. U.S. forces funded the projects, which cost more than $30,000 and employed eight Afghans for a period of two months. The hygiene facilities were built over existing hot springs, allowing local residents to enjoy hot water in a building where electric water heaters are not available.

"The construction of these facilities not only provided jobs and much needed currency for the local residents, but they also show the Afghan people that coalition and U.S. forces are here to help," said Army Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, Combined Joint Task Force 76 spokesman.

More then 90 construction and renovation projects are currently under way in the Uruzgan province, totaling more than $6 million.

Diplomats from around the world visited the provincial reconstruction team in Panjshir province Jan. 21 to witness reconstruction efforts of Combined Joint Task Force 76 and the newest PRT. Before visiting the Panjshir PRT, CJTF 76 commander Army Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya briefed government officials from 13 nations and the European Union about reconstruction projects.

"The day highlighted how coalition military and civilian agencies, whether coalition or not, can and should provide effective mutual support on the security and humanitarian fronts," Richard Smyth, the task force's political adviser, said.

The first of its kind, the Panjshir PRT is a joint effort between the members of CJTF 76 and the U.S. Embassy. Fletcher Burton, a U.S. State Department civilian, is its commander.

"Today we had a very interesting visit to Bagram Airfield and then to Panjshir to see how the American PRT is doing," Regis Koetschet, French Ambassador to Afghanistan, said. "Two months ago, we had a meeting with (CFCA Commander Army Lieutenant) General Karl Eikenberry, and he talked about this new type of PRT here in Panjshir. This was an excellent opportunity to see how it worked on the ground.

"The visit was a good opportunity to see this new type of integration of military and civilian agencies," Koetschet said. "I'm quite impressed by this new type of PRT."

(Compiled from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news releases.)

America Supports You: Virginia Group Supports Wounded Troops, Families

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2006 – Wounded servicemembers have an extra helping hand thanks to Operation First Response, a group specializing in providing them supplies and funds during their recuperation.


By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service

"We're kind of an extension. Where somebody will fall through the loops, we try to pick it up," she said.

As a member of America Supports You, a Department of Defense-sponsored effort to support the troops, the organization has found ways to provide a variety of services to show troops "they are heard, cared about, and honored," Baker said.

One way the group supports America's servicemembers is by collecting frequent flyer miles to allow family members of wounded troops to reunite with them, she said. It also provides a car service that picks up families at Washington-area airports and brings them to Walter Reed Army Medical Center here or the National Naval Medical Center, at nearby Bethesda, Md., as well as financial support for those families during their stay here.

Since its inception in August 2004, the group has provided similar types of aid to troops in other places. Baker said Operation First Response has developed connections to military installations across the country and beyond, including Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Germany; Fort Bliss, Texas; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Naval Medical Center San Diego; Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"We help anywhere," Baker said.

The group's volunteers have sent thousands of backpacks full of supplies to wounded troops at combat support hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending them "where they are most needed," she said. Volunteers pack the bags themselves after receiving donations, including hygiene items, T-shirts, socks, underwear and even handmade quilts for cots.

When contacted by family members of wounded servicemembers, the group often goes into action before wounded troops return to the states, facilitating phone calls and taking care of other needs, Baker said.

"We have a nurse at Landstuhl in Germany who takes care of our guys and gives them our information," she said. Landstuhl is often a stopping off point for servicemembers medically evacuated to the United States.

Baker, whose son is an Army specialist, said she founded OFR after she noticed a need while helping a friend. "My girlfriend's boy lost his leg, and I went into Walter Reed to meet with her to help her because she was from Iowa, and just saw a lot of things that we could actually do as citizens," she said.

Filling the gaps for servicemembers and families in need is what her group does best, Baker said.

"If they let us know what their needs are, we try to meet them," she said. "Whatever they call us with, we try to pick it up."

Bush: Progress Continues in Terror War, But Threat Remains

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2006 – President Bush said today he will listen to military ground commanders, not polls or focus groups, when making decisions about force levels in Iraq.


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

The president spoke at Bramlage Coliseum, Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., to some 9,000 students, faculty, guests and soldiers from nearby Fort Riley. He then answered questions from the crowd for nearly two hours, covering a full range of issues involving the war on terror. Topics ranged from the rationale for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to successes already achieved and challenges still ahead.

Combat operations were used as a last resort in both countries, Bush told the crowd. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and coalition launched Operation Enduring Freedom only when the Taliban failed to oust al Qaeda operatives that were basing their operations there, he said.

Similarly, in Iraq, U.S. troops intervened only when former dictator Saddam Hussein refused to relent to U.N. resolutions, fueling widespread international suspicion that he harbored weapons of mass destruction, the president said. These weapons in the wrong hands represent "the biggest threat we face," he said.

The president said he fully understood the consequences of committing troops and putting them in harm's way, calling it "the hardest decision a president can make." But even more so, he said, he understood the consequences of not doing so and recognized that he would not have been doing his job of protecting the country if he hadn't.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States proved once and for all that the country's citizens can no longer rely on the oceans to their east and west to protect them, Bush told the crowd.

"Threats must be taken seriously now because geography doesn't protect us and there's an enemy that still lurks," he said. As a result, "the United States must confront threats before they cause us harm."

"I resolved on (Sept. 11) to do everything I can for the American people," he said, calling the job of protecting the American people "my most important job."

As operations continue in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush pointed to ongoing progress on the political, security and economic fronts. Afghanistan is building its new democracy free of Taliban oppression and no longer providing a safe haven for terrorists, he said.

Similarly, Iraq's people are forging free of the dark shadow Saddam left on the country and the rest of the world for decades, he said. "There is no doubt that the world is better off without him," Bush said.

During the question-and-answer session, an Iraqi-American Kurd in the crowd who had several family members killed under Saddam's regime and now has two family members serving in Iraq's new parliament praised the president for his actions in Iraq.

"It was the best decision anyone could take, freeing 27 million people," she said." I would like to salute you and salute all the troops for freeing 27 million people. They are free."

Despite progress, the terrorist threat remains, the president told the audience. And as the memories of Sept. 11 fade in some people's minds, Bush said he's committed to ensuring that the day's tragic lessons aren't forgotten.

"There's an enemy that still wants to harm the American people," he said.

That enemy can't beat the United States militarily, Bush said. "The only way we lose is if we lose our nerve or will," he said.

News Archive

Iraqi, Coalition Forces Continue Operation Koa Canyon

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq, Jan. 23, 2006 – Eight days of back-breaking searches through villages and fields along the western Euphrates River Valley have yielded thousands of pieces of ordnance as Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines continue Operation Koa Canyon in Iraq's Anbar province. (22nd MEU)


also see for pics:


American Forces Press Service

Aimed at isolating insurgents and their weapons, the combined Iraqi and U.S. force began the latest sweep Jan. 15 and have uncovered a staggering amount of weaponry. The soldiers and Marines are making their way inch by inch through caves, fields, wadis and islands in an attempt to disrupt the insurgents.

So far, the combined force has found and destroyed more than 4,300 artillery and mortar rounds, rockets and mines; 590 pounds of explosive powder; 10,000 rounds of various types of ammunition, ranging from small-arms to tank main gun rounds; 300 blasting caps; about 100 feet of detonation cord; and several working machine guns and mortar systems.

"Every piece of ordnance that is uncovered is one less potential IED that may be used against Iraqi civilians, and Iraqi security and Coalition forces," Marine Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), said.

McKenzie also said that the future of the Iraqi army is bright, based upon the individual courage of Iraqi soldiers. "The basic ingredient is courage, and these Iraqi soldiers are showing it," he said.

The Iraqi soldiers are with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, and the U.S. Marines are with the 22nd MEU.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

PTSD, combat stress are not career ending

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- (Jan. 23, 2006) -- Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force are returning from combat tours in a physical sense. However, for some, clashes with insurgents may have been replaced with a mental battle against paranoia, anxiety and the stress of re-acclimating to the environment at home. The Navy and Marine Corps team has assistance available -- organizations such as the Community Counseling Center and the naval hospital can assist Marines and sailors in overcoming these issues and get them back in the game.


Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200612392542
Story by Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

“Seeking help for combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t mean a medical board and being kicked out of the military; not at all,” said Cmdr. Thomas C. Armel, assistant director for mental health services at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “There isn’t a commander out there who doesn’t want their people to be at 100 percent, ready to go – who doesn’t want their folks to get the help they need.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological condition a person may experience when they have confronted a stressful, disturbing or unpleasant experience. It can manifest itself through sleeplessness, nervousness and a laundry list of behaviors best summarized by being “on-edge.” However, the PTSD experience is unique to every individual, whether they are firefighters, police officers, combatants or victims of a crime.

A little “shell shock” and symptoms of stress don’t automatically qualify a Marine as having one of the most talked-about side effects of the war in Iraq.

Combat stress is different from PTSD. According to Armel, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who has been working in mental health for more than 22 years, “Combat stress is normal -- approximately 90 percent of service members returning from combat deployments will experience some form of combat stress.

“It’s expected there will be an adjustment period after coming back from a combat zone,” said Janice Kight, a clinical social worker at the Marine Corps Base Community Counseling Center. “The expectation is that there will be noticeable improvement after a certain amount of time. With PTSD, the symptoms don’t go away so quickly.”

II MEF is working to support its warriors with a robust campaign which encourages communication, identifying issues, counseling and eliminating combat stress before it gets out of hand.

What PTSD is … and isn’t
“PTSD is an actual diagnosis that means you meet certain criteria, and it has been going on for a length of time,” said Kight. “There are other people who are experiencing symptoms that are combat stress related but are not actually post-traumatic stress disorder. Our goal here is to help them not end up with a diagnosis by treating the symptoms.”

According to Rebecca Haga, a victim advocate at the counseling center, PTSD manifests itself in several abstract forms.

“Families may notice changes in their sleep patterns and anger outbursts. A lot of people tell me that when they hear a loud noise, they want to run for cover,” said Haga.

“One of the things we try to stress is that a lot of these things will be going on in the family, and so, they come in for marital counseling, or their command will send them in for anger management,” said Kight, explaining how PTSD can manifest itself in abstract forms. “They’ll say, ‘My husband won’t talk to me, he’s not communicating, and he wants to spend more time with his friends,’ and really what it is, is the post-traumatic stress disorder coming out.”

The disorder is not the result of a pre-existing mental disturbance but rather a direct reaction to a specific event or events. In other words, a person who is otherwise mentally stable may experience disruptions in their life due to one traumatic event.

Living with PTSD

Retired Chief Warrant Officer Hartman Slate served in the Marine Corps for 17 years and currently lives in San Antonio. He has vivid memories of the earth shattering 1983 barracks bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, as well as deployments to all ends of the earth, including Nicaragua and Somalia. He was diagnosed with PTSD in September and is currently seeking treatment through a therapist and psychologist.

Slate can rattle off several combat-stress related effects he has felt for so many years, he said, “it feels like those symptoms are a normal part of life. I had difficulty sleeping, memory loss, inability to concentrate, guilt, and irritability.”

“Every October, I would kind of get into a funk and later come out of it,” he said. “But I also had to deal with other losses along the line, and after a while, they just build up and build up.”

Slate patiently watched over the years and identified deeply with current events. The Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, the Iraqi car bombs on the nightly news, and occurrences in his own life stacked up against his resolve.

“It was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

As the symptoms weighed on Slate's mind, they also took a toll on his life.

“All those symptoms make you a difficult person to get along with,” he said objectively. “It can cause you to have bad relationships, and you almost begin to anticipate loss. One of the biggest, overwhelming thoughts I had was the realization that I was always expecting to lose everything good I had.”

Slate recalled a prominent example of his depression when he had purchased his first house.

“I was really proud of my new house, and I wanted to paint it,” he said. “I went to the local hardware store and spent some time figuring out which paint I wanted to use, and I bought all the brushes and rollers and things like that, but I never painted my house. I figured, ‘Why bother if I’m just going to lose it?’”

Slate had no reason to believe he wouldn’t keep his house, but he said he harbored the overwhelming thought that something that nice couldn’t last … it was too good to be true.

“I don’t really know what it was that caused me to seek treatment,” he remembered, stating he had gone to a counselor and immediately announcing “I’ve got issues.”

“I was always kind of taught that if you went to mental counseling, you were nuts and had no business being in the military,” said Slate. “I was told you’re not supposed to feel this way, and then, I really had no choice.

“However, you shouldn’t really care what other people think about you,” he said

“Getting help doesn’t mean you’re weak,” he emphasized. “That attitude needs to be taken from the command to the small-unit level and be recognized at the sergeant and corporal level,” he said.

Slate is able to talk about his experiences with PTSD, which is a benchmark sign of improvement. However, he acknowledges his recovery period isn’t over yet.

“It was really helpful to me to talk to a counselor outside of the military. They were really able to put some things in perspective for me. I learned a lot about myself,” he said. “I think there were things I could have done better in life if I sought out help sooner.”

The most important message Slate sends to young Marines with emerging combat-stress related issues is, “Go see someone. If you feel like you have any of these issues, at least they’ll be able to validate what you’re going through. Not getting help hurts all aspects of your life. After you talk to someone and know what you’re dealing with, you can learn how to deal with it.”

Slate best explains his PTSD survival method as “Improvise, adapt, overcome, and get help.”

Reaching out as a community

“There are various ways someone can receive help (at the naval hospital). The most important to emphasize – Anyone who has been in a combat environment and wants to see someone about combat stress can self refer,” said Armel. “However, we get most patients after they have gone through their (primary care manager) and they have been referred to us.”

“A lot of Marines are apprehensive about coming in to get help, or they don’t want to tell us everything, because they’re afraid they’ll get discharged from the active duty military,” said Kight. “The thing is, that’s not what we’re here for. Our mission (at the counseling center) is force readiness and mission accomplishment, so it benefits us more if we can address the issues and send them back to their units ready to do their jobs.”

According to Armel, the clinic at the naval hospital offers services ranging from single-counseling sessions to long-term counseling, referral to other sources like the chaplain or family service center and sometimes even medication and more intense services for some individuals. He also stresses documentation.

“This is what most are afraid of. However, that documentation will help later in life. Veterans Affairs, for example, needs to have the documentation in your record book to correctly process your paperwork,” said Armel.

“It’s ok to get help,” said Kight. “Not everybody has the same symptoms, and there are so many, that what you may not think is a symptom really is.” Kight added that any symptom that interferes with daily life could be a possible trigger of larger issues.

Kight also noted that commands have been highly supportive in referring Marines who may have to get something off their chests.

“Chain of command from here to Washington is 100 percent behind this,” said Armel. “The bottom line is we need people to get the help they need, at the level of help that they need.”

Dealing with combat stress is the responsibility of the Marine Corps community, the individual Marine, and their command. However, with the proper knowledge and treatment, Marines can leave the war behind them. For more information or services contact the clinic at 450-4700 or the CCC at 451-2864.

31st MEU's MSPF and III MEF's SOTG arrive in Guam

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (Jan. 23, 2006) -- “The Marines have landed.” The initial elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Special Purpose Force and members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group from Okinawa, Japan, touched down here via a KC-130 Hercules aircraft Jan. 23, to participate in the MEU’s urbanized training called Training in an Urban Environment Exercise 06-1 or “TRUEX”.


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200612394547
Story by Capt. Burrell D. Parmer

The MSPF, comprised of MEU assets, provides a special operations capable force that can be quickly tailored to accomplish a specific mission, and is employed either as a complement to conventional Marine Air Ground Task Force operations or in the execution of a selected maritime special operations mission. The MSPF is not designed to duplicate existing capabilities of special operations forces, but is intended to focus on operations in a maritime environment.

Urbanized training such as TRUEX provides an opportunity to integrate unique individual and small unit’s skills in conjunction with the MEU’s increased proficiency in the Rapid Response Planning Process.

The coordination of the training is the joint responsibility of the III MEF’s SOTG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Special Agent assigned under the Training Assistance to the Marine Corps Program.

The training, which will end Feb. 13, has been conducted in various cities since 1985 and offers MEUs a realistic urban setting not available at Marine Corps bases.

Beaufort Marines Return

More than 30 Beaufort Marines with the All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 advance party are back home with their families and friends tonight. On Sunday, their families have waited a long ime to welcome home their Marines after a seven month deployment in Iraq. (2nd MAW)


"It's the best day of my life," said Savannah Crisologo, "because my mommy's coming home."

"It's a big anticipation for her to come back from Iraq," explained Gunnery Sergeant Manuel Crisologo, who was waiting with his children for his wife, Sergeant Melissa Crisologo, to return. "Normally, it's the other way around. It's a role reversal for me to be the stay at home spouse and playing Mr. Mom."

The wait is finally over for the Crisologos as they welcomed home Sergeant Melissa Crisologo. She said the homecoming tops anything she could have imagined.

"It was absolutely great," she said. "We were looking out the window pulling up on the flight line. Everyone was beside themselves. It's like a thousand Christmases. That's the only way I can explain it."

Sergeant Gregory Pegues will never forget this homecoming, either. It was the first time he got to see his two month old baby boy.

"I just feel so overwhelmed," he said, smiling at his new baby, "so happy."

Although being apart has been hard for these families, most will tell you they're proud to have done their part.

"We accomplished a lot," explained Sergeant Crisologo. "We got the Iraqi citizens through two elections, pretty much incident free. When you see the pictures come back and see it on the news, it makes all the difference in the world."

During their deployment, the Moonlighters supported security and stability operations throughout Iraq. One hundred and fifty more Marines with the squadron are expected to return home next month. The Marines who are now home are preparing for their homecoming.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, [email protected]

Camp Lejeune's newest commander is a lady

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The first female commander in Camp Lejeune's six-decade history takes over Monday at the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast.


January 23, 2006, 9:55 AM EST

Col. Adele Hodges, 51, takes over as commander after more than 27 years of experience as a logistics officer.

"As a Marine, I don't look at myself as a female," she said. "I want to be a role model for the female Marines, but not just the females. Everybody."

Hodges enlisted in 1978 at her sister's urging with the plan of serving for four years and then returning home to Bridgeport, Conn. But the admittedly shy Hodges discovered during her first assignment at Camp Pendleton, Calif., that she wanted to lead Marines.

She already had a degree from Southern Connecticut State College and was accepted into the Enlisted Commissioning Program to become an officer. She became a second lieutenant in 1980.

"I was shy and still am to some degree, but the Marine Corps forced me to come out of my shell a bit," Hodges said.

Organizational changes within the Marine Corps means a colonel is taking over for Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson, the previous commander of Camp Lejeune who had the duty since August 2003. He was placed in charge of seven East Coast installations, including Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station, which are now all commanded by colonels.

Hodges said her role will be very similar to Dickerson's, except that her predecessor will represent a layer of oversight above her team.

She comes to Camp Lejeune from a stint at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway. She's also served in Hawaii and Okinawa. In 1991, she deployed with the 2nd Marine Division to Operation Desert Storm.

Hodges also has earned master's degrees in business administration, military art and science, and strategic military studies.

She said her goal while running the base will be simply to take care of those under her command.

"The Marine Corps is all about camaraderie, brotherhood and commitment. More so than other services, there's this link between one Marine and another," she said.


Information from: The Daily News, http://www.jdnews.com


Information from: The Daily News, http://www.jdnews.com

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

2nd Supply Battalion trains its Marines for the inevitable

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Jan. 23, 2006) -- If you entered or exited the base via the Piney Green gate between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon Jan. 19, the sounds of dozens of gunshots might have shaken your vehicle as you drove passed Range F11A. (2nd Supply 2nd MLG)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker
Story Identification #:

You may not have taken it seriously, because the sounds of gunfire is something Camp Lejeune inhabitants are accustomed to, but the handler’s of the M-16A2 service rifles that fired those rounds were taking it very seriously.

Marines with Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were participating in an Enhanced Marksmanship Program course – arguably the most important pre-deployment training a Marine can receive before going to Iraq, according to Cpl. Gregory S. Canevari of Redford, Va., a primary marksmanship instructor with the company.

“This training is one of the more crucial pieces of training a Marine can receive before entering the theater,” said Canevari. “This course teaches a Marine everything he needs to know to survive a hostile encounter with the enemy.”

The course teaches Marines the three steps to successfully tending to a hostile, according to Canevari. In order, the three steps are as follows: locate the enemy, close with the enemy and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuvering.

To achieve these steps, the instructors teach target discernment, muzzle discipline and how to attain the confidence to engage a target if and when it becomes necessary.

Since most firefights in country primarily occur within an urban environment, the EMP course stresses close quarter combat skills with quick and precise actions.

This is how it is accomplished …

After completing a battle site zero and running a few drills without ammunition, each Marine is given 200 rounds to load into 5 magazines.

Then, they approach the line and begin walking toward their specified target until the coach directs them when and where to fire.

The coach may tell them to conduct a failure drill, which is two shots to the body and one shot to the head. Then again, he may instruct the line to fire after executing a pivot exercise. This is where the Marine either pivots from his strong side, his weak side, or with his back to the target before engaging it.

The course of fire also focuses on reloading drills.

When reloading, Marines are instructed to yell, “Down!” before taking a knee and grabbing his magazine. This tells the man next to him to cover his line of fire as well. Then, without taking his firing hand off of the pistol grip, the Marine must reload his weapon and yell, “Standing!” to let everyone know he’s back on line.

“Quick reloads can mean life or death in a hostile situation,” said Canevari. “Reloading as quickly and as efficiently as possible is extremely important, and is something we stress highly during the course.”

Overall, the course utilizes presentation, engagement, and pivot drills to teach Marines the importance of situational awareness and enemy discernment to ensure they get the most out of the course, according to Canevari.

“Every Marine should utilize every aspect of their chain of command to ensure they get on an EMP range before they deploy,” said Canevari. “It will give them confidence, a chance to learn their weapon and the opportunity to become a better shooter.”

Hidden Combat Wounds: Extensive, Deadly, Costly

Psychiatric Times January 2006 Vol. XXV Issue 1

No Purple Hearts are awarded for the often hidden wounds of posttraumatic stress disorder, but ultimately those wounds can be deadly--linked to suicides, accidents and, over the long term, increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases and cancer (Boscarino, 2005). Aware of the risks, government agencies, veterans groups and the U.S. Congress in recent months have grabbled with identification, treatment and benefit issues for the growing number of troops and veterans afflicted with PTSD.


By Arline Kaplan

"Studies indicate that troops who serve in Iraq are suffering from [PTSD] and other problems brought on by their experiences on a scale not seen since Vietnam," according to one report (Robinson, 2004). The National Vietnam Veterans' Readjustment Survey (from 1986 to 1988) found that 15.2% of male and 8.5% of female Vietnam War veterans suffered from current PTSD (Schlenger et al., 1992).

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the visible manifestations of the mental health toll of U.S. combat operations include suicides and medical evacuations. Official Army statistics from March 19, 2003, through July 31, 2005, indicated that 6.4% of the 19,801 soldiers evacuated from Iraq and 7.2% of the 1,733 evacuated from Afghanistan had psychiatric problems. Among the 1,275 psychiatric disorder evacuations from Iraq, 596 were for depression, 109 for suicidal ideation and 91 for PTSD. There have been 53 suicides among service members fighting in Iraq and nine among those fighting in Afghanistan, as reported in a review of suicide data from 2003 to July 19, 2005 (Ireland, 2005).

Yet most suicides, according to veteran groups and media accounts, occur after troops return home. One highly publicized case was that of Marine reservist Jeffrey Lucey, deployed to Iraq for five months. When he returned home to Belchertown, Mass., he began drinking heavily and suffering from insomnia, night sweats, hallucinations and panic attacks. He received treatment at a Veterans Affairs facility, where he was described by one physician as having PTSD, depression with psychotic features, suicidal ideation and acute alcohol intoxication. One day, Lucey's father came home to find his son had hung himself in the cellar. On Lucey's bed were the dog tags of two unarmed Iraqi prisoners he said he had been forced to shoot (Srivastava, 2004). A recent Associated Press story (2005) reported that three men who had served with the Army's 10th Special Forces in Iraq returned home and committed suicide shortly thereafter.

Other statistics and surveys are equally revealing. The Figure illustrates medical surveillance data obtained from the Army's Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine on health assessment responses completed between January and August of 2005 by 193,131 troops returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Col. Charles Hoge, M.D., chief of psychiatry and behavior services at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, told the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Health Subcommittee last July that 19% to 21% of troops who have returned from combat deployments meet criteria for PTSD, depression or anxiety. Of these, 15% to 17% of troops who served in Iraq and 6% of those who served in Afghanistan had PTSD symptoms when surveyed three to 12 months after their deployments. In general, PTSD rates were highest among units that served deployments of 12 months or more and had more exposure to combat.

The numbers are similar to those published in another study (Hoge et al., 2004). Researchers studied the prevalence of mental health problems among members of three Army units and one Marine Corps unit before deployment or three to four months after returning from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The rates of PTSD were significantly higher after combat duty in Iraq (18.0% for Army units and 19.9% for the Marine group) than before deployment (9.4%). There was a strong relationship between combat experiences-such as being shot at, handling dead bodies or killing enemy combatants-and the prevalence of PTSD. The study also found that the fear of stigmatization deterred some active duty personnel from seeking mental health care even when they recognized the severity of their psychiatric problems.

A survey of 1,300 paratroopers three months after they had returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., after spending a year in Iraq found that 17.4% of the soldiers had PTSD symptoms (Associated Press, 2004). In another study comparing the mental health of men and women in violence-prone jobs (e.g., medics, mechanics, drivers) in Iraq, researchers found that 11% of the men and 12% of the women had PTSD symptoms when they were screened three months after their deployment ended (Elias, 2005).

What Is the DoD Doing?

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) officials in charge of mental health services for service personnel and their families testified before Congress in July 2005 about efforts to identify and treat service members experiencing mental health problems. Every year, service personnel are screened for mental health problems during a preventive health assessment. Prior to deployment, they receive another screening. Those with unremitting mental health disorders are not deployed, William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., M.B.A., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Those for whom a mental health condition has resolved are permitted to stay on maintenance medication during deployment.

Deployed military units embed mental health teams, unique to each service, to support the needs of each service. Military members and their families may also use Military OneSource--a confidential, around-the-clock information, education, referral and counseling service.

In an interview with Psychiatric Times, Michael Kilpatrick, M.D., deputy director of the DoD's Deployment Health Support, explained that just as service members are leaving the Iraq or Afghanistan theaters, or within a few days of their returning home, they are asked to complete a four-page, post-deployment health assessment "that asks them about a full spectrum of medical symptomatology, both physical and mental health, as well as environmental concerns they may have." That assessment includes a face-to-face discussion with a medical provider in the military (e.g., physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and documentation of the individual's responses to the health assessment questions.

"The health care provider who goes over the assessment with the individual does not make a diagnosis but refers the individual to clinical areas for further evaluation and workup to determine if, in fact, there is a diagnosis because of the symptoms or concerns," Kilpatrick continued. For example symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems and anger management issues may be indicative of possible PTSD. In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee in July 2005, Kilpatrick noted, "Of the 138,000 troops who returned in 2004 and received a post-deployment health assessment, 16% have been referred to mental health providers for further evaluation."

Individuals with mental health referrals have options. "They can go to the base support area that may have counselors and chaplains to deal with it. They can also go to our primary care facilities, and many of those facilities are enhanced with behavioral health specialists, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, working with a primary care physician," Kilpatrick said. Additionally, they could go to a mental health clinic, where they would see a psychologist or psychiatrist.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel in October 2005, Winkenwerder recognized that "no one who goes to war remains unchanged." In response, he announced that DoD is instituting a short interview questionnaire (Post-Deployment Health Reassessment [PDHRA]) to be filled out by all service members, including those serving in the Reserves or National Guard, three to six months after they return home. The assessment is designed to identify health concerns and conditions that may have emerged following the service member's most recent deployment and to determine the types of information and assistance the individual would like to have. A credentialed health care provider (e.g., physician, physician assistant) reviews the assessment with the service member, discusses health concerns and makes referrals when needed. Active duty members can be referred to their primary care provider or mental health community support. Members of the Reserves or National Guard and separated veterans are referred to TRICARE, the DoD's worldwide health care program, or the VA.

The PDHRA is scheduled to be used broadly by January, according to Kilpatrick. It was initiated because the Army looked at the mental health stressors troops were experiencing while deployed and after they got home, and its research data indicated that "at the three- to six-month period people were subscribing to more symptomatology than they had either at the time they just came home or while they were in the theater."

To create the PDHRA, medical providers from DoD and VA with expertise in developing assessments used questions from standardized, validated survey instruments, Kilpatrick told PT. The PDHRA includes screens for anxiety, PTSD symptoms, interpersonal conflict, alcohol abuse and depression. Implementation of the program also has involved leadership and clinician education and training as well as outreach and education for service members.

The PDHRA is undergoing pilot-testing for active duty personnel at three locations, for the National Guard in Arkansas and for the Army Reserve with the 88th Regional Readiness Command with units in six states. In the preliminary trials at active duty sites, researchers found that the percentage of returning troops referred for follow-up medical or mental health treatment was between 30% and 35%, and "it is a 50/50 split between mental/behavioral health and the physical health problems," according to Kilpatrick.

The goal of both the post-deployment assessment and reassessment is to get service members early access to health care, Kilpatrick said, thereby eliminating the risk, for example, of PTSD symptoms developing into chronic PTSD. If care is needed, military and VA providers use jointly developed clinical practice guidelines for acute stress, PTSD, depression, substance use disorders and other health concerns.

Importance of Early Intervention

Studies of Vietnam War veterans underscore the importance of early treatment of PTSD symptoms to prevent emergence of other psychiatric and medical disorders. One recent study concluded that Vietnam War veterans with PTSD may be at increased risk of death (Boscarino, 2005).

The national study examined the causes of death among 15,288 male U.S. Army veterans 16 years after they had completed a telephone health survey, which included questions related to PTSD symptoms and substance abuse, and 30 years after their military service. The study confirmed that PTSD was associated with an adjusted all-cause mortality for both Vietnam War era and theater veterans. For PTSD-positive theater vets, the postwar mortality for all-cause, cardiovascular, cancer and external causes (e.g., deaths from suicides, homicides, accidents) was about twice as high as that of Vietnam War veterans without PTSD.

The study was not a sample of patients who show up at VA hospitals, "it was a random sample of all U.S. Army veterans, some of whom got PTSD from Vietnam and some of whom got PTSD from life, and they die after a significant period of time," the study's author, Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., told PT. The study results point to the importance of prevention and treatment, Boscarino noted.

"If we can prevent or reduce the anxiety levels, we can prevent the long-term psychological sequelae … and we can also reduce [physical] disease outcomes," he said. "We know there are effective treatments for PTSD, the combination therapies are effective and the drug therapies are effective. Cognitive-behavioral therapy appears to be one of the most cost-effective methods, in my opinion, but there are other methods out there that have been effective."

Boscarino acknowledged that various institutions might be concerned about the cost, compensation and disability issues connected with PTSD's link to medical conditions. "I got a call from a military person who said this kind of study is going to affect the nation's defense budget. I responded that it might be the case, but we have an obligation to the men and women in the Armed Forces. We can prevent [PTSD] from happening and if we do so, we will have lower costs, better quality of life and more productivity."

Boscarino also believes that because of efforts by the DoD and VA, outcomes among troops experiencing PTSD who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be much better than those for Vietnam War veterans. "When I was doing my postdoctoral fellowship at the West Haven [Connecticut] VA Hospital in the late 1970s, they were diagnosing many of the combat veterans as being alcoholic and psychotic. They probably were, but it likely had a lot to do with their undiagnosed PTSD," he said, explaining that the PTSD diagnosis was first included in the DSM-III in 1980. The VA, he said, now has the tools to screen, diagnose, refer and treat PTSD that it did not have 30 and 40 years ago.

Is the VA Ready?

In September 2004, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised questions as to whether the VA could meet an increase in demand for PTSD services at its facilities, emphasizing, "The VA does not have a count of the total number of veterans currently receiving PTSD services at its medical facilities and Vet Centers." It also pointed out that at six VA facilities investigators visited, the staff said they were able to keep up with current number of veterans seeking PTSD services, but might not be able to meet an increase in demand (GAO, 2004).

One year later, Gordon H. Mansfield, deputy secretary of the VA, testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, "The VA is aware that there has been particular interest about mental health issues among OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan] and OIF veterans and VA's current and future capacity to treat these problems, in particular PTSD," he said. "First, I want to assure the Committee that VA has the programs and resources to meet the mental health needs of returning OEF and OIF veterans. Second, in regard to PTSD among OEF and OIF veterans, I want to assure you that the PTSD workload that we have seen in these veterans has been only a small percentage of our overall PTSD workload. In [fiscal year] 2004, we saw approximately 279,000 patients at VA health care facilities for PTSD and 63,000 in Vet Centers. Our latest data on OEF and OIF veterans indicate that as of February 2005, approximately 12,300 of these veterans seen as patients at [VA medical centers] VAMCs carried an ICD-9 code corresponding to PTSD. It is important to note, however, that this represents approximately 4.5% to 5% of VA's overall PTSD population. Additionally, more than 3,500 veterans received services for PTSD through our Vet Centers. Allowing for those who have received services at both VAMCs and Vet Centers, a total of approximately 14,600 individual OEF/OIF veterans had been seen with actual or potential PTSD at VA facilities following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan. This figure represents only about 3% of the PTSD patients VA saw in FY 2004."

PTSD Benefits Controversy

A controversy over benefits exploded last August when the VA, acting on its Inspector General (IG)'s report, said it would audit files of 72,000 veterans who were receiving full disability benefits for PTSD alone or in combination with other conditions. That announcement generated a widespread backlash. Some veterans groups protested that the review of PTSD cases was an excuse to cut benefits for older veterans and toughen qualifications for future ones. The Senate passed an amendment to a military/VA appropriation bill seeking to restrict the audit. Press reports linked one man's suicide to the impending review (Benjamin, 2005). In November 2005, the VA dropped its full-scale audit plans, stating that most of the problems came from administrative errors and not fraud.

The focus on VA benefits for PTSD originally grew out of complaints from veterans about regional inequities in disability ratings and payments. For example, less than 3% of Illinois' disabled veterans are rated 100% disabled for PTSD, as compared to almost 13% in New Mexico (VA Office of the IG, 2005). Because of those complaints, in May 2005 the VA Inspector General examined the files of 2,100 randomly selected veterans with PTSD disability ratings. It found that 527 (25%) lacked documents to verify that a traumatic service-connected incident occurred before compensation benefits were granted. That 25% error rate equates to $860.2 million in questionable compensation payments in FY 2004, the IG report said. The IG also cited a dramatic increase in veterans filing for disability compensation for PTSD since 1999 (Table).

After the VA conducted its own review of the 2,100 cases cited in the IG's report, VA Secretary R. James Nicholson released a statement saying, "The problems with these files appear to be administrative in nature, such as missing documents, and not fraud. In the absence of evidence of fraud, we're not going to put our veterans through the anxiety of a widespread review of their disability claims." Instead, the VA plans to improve its training for personnel who handle disability claims and toughen administrative oversight.

"Not all combat wounds are caused by bullets and shrapnel," Nicholson said. "We have a commitment to ensure veterans with PTSD receive compassionate, world-class health care and appropriate disability compensation determinations."


Associated Press (2005), Special Forces suicides raise questions. Oct. 19. Available at: www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,78508,00.html. Accessed Nov. 17, 2005.

Associated Press (2004), Survey: soldiers suffer stress disorder. Aug. 10. Available at: www.armytimes.com. Accessed Nov. 17, 2005.

Benjamin M (2005), The V.A.'s bad review. Available at: www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/10/26/suicide/index.html. Accessed Oct. 27, 2005.

Boscarino JA (2005), Posttraumatic stress disorder and mortality among U.S. Army veterans 30 years after military service. Ann Epidemiol Aug 11 [Epub ahead of print].

Elias M (2005), Stress equal for female soldiers--Women do no better, no worse than men. USA TODAY Aug 18, D5.

GAO (2004), VA and Defense Health Care. More Information Needed to Determine if VA Can Meet an Increase in Demand for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Available at: www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-1069. Accessed Nov. 16, 2005.

Hoge CW, Castro CA, Messer SC et al. (2004), Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. N Eng J Med 351(1):13-22 [see comments].

Ireland RR (2005), Suicide Prevention and Suicide Rates. Washington, D.C.; Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Robinson SL (2004), Hidden Toll of the War in Iraq. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress. Available at: www.americanprogress.org. Accessed Nov. 17, 2005.

Schlenger WE, Kulka RA, Fairbank JA et al. (1992). The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in the Vietnam generation: a multimethod, multisource assessment of psychiatric disorder. J Trauma Stress 5:333-363.

Srivastava M (2004), Swallowed by pain. Dayton Daily News. Oct. 11. Available at: www.daytondailynews.com/project/content/project/suicide/daily/1011lucey.html. Accessed Nov. 17, 2005.

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Tracy Marine Killed In Iraq

(CBS 13) TRACY A Marine from Tracy has died in a suicide bombing. He is the fifth person to die from Tracy since the war began. (Video footage of LCpl Dewey at ext link)



Charlotte Fadipe

Marine Lance Corporal Brandon Christopher Dewey died in a car bombing Friday Northwest of Baghdad. This was the 20-year-old's second tour of duty.

During his first tour Dewey was injured in Fallujah, that was during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Commentary: Bond of Wounded Warriors Crosses Generations

BROOKE ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Texas, Jan. 23, 2006 – "Hey doc, when am I going upstairs? Hey doc, this bed is uncomfortable, when am I going to be admitted?"


By Capt. Sean Meadows, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

A feisty elderly gentleman we'll call Morris (name changed for confidentiality) was in Bed 3 of Brooke Army Medical Center here, one of the busiest emergency departments in the military. He kept a constant barrage of running commentary on how long he had been waiting to go upstairs to complete his chest pain work up.

Morris was an 80-year-old retired World War II veteran. After I had spent a grueling afternoon shift seeing dozens of sick and injured people of all ages, his relentless haranguing was wearing me out.

I am a second-year resident in a three-year training program emergency medicine. And that day, this man's incessant jawing had me at the point of exasperation. Then, like it has many times before, the arrival of troops wounded in Iraq changed the mood in the department.

The constant chatter and hum of a busy emergency department halted in an instant as soon as the doors opened. The sight of bandaged and burned soldiers brought in on field stretchers accompanied by flight docs and medics wearing desert camouflage brought conversation to a standstill.

You could hear the whispers: "Are those guys from Iraq?"

Previously summoned specialists arrived in droves to get these soldiers, airmen and Marines admitted or taken to operating rooms. The whole hospital hums with activity when a transport comes in. No one ever wants to be remembered as the one who didn't give aid and comfort to a wounded comrade.

Battle-hardened desert veterans, as well as those not yet tested, surround the newly arrived with greetings and encouragement. Some well-intentioned family member of a patient in the department went out to the waiting room to spread the news of wounded soldiers in the department.

People waiting with sniffles and minor complaints looked embarrassed when they heard the news, some left. Complaints about wait times usually don't happen on days like this.

Some startled patients stared with visible discomfort at the sight of war wounded. The nurses and techs closed the curtains to raise a shield of privacy for the wounded soldiers and normalcy returned to the emergency department.

My trance of observation was broken by the sounds of the formerly complaining Morris trying to climb off of his gurney. "Get me out of here!" he yelled. I turned and saw Morris trying to get up and off of the gurney. Before I could ask, he said: "Give my bed to one of those soldiers. I'm not taking a bed away from one of those guys!"

Morris had tears in his eyes and was overwrought with emotion looking at the line of soldiers waiting in wheelchairs and on stretchers. The incoming soldiers could see Morris and heard this old veteran of Normandy and Bastogne trying to give up his bed for them.

Morris was reassured numerous times that the wounded soldiers would be cared for, and after extensive negotiation he agreed not to leave. And we never heard another complaint from him.

Compared to soldiers from the Vietnam era, these recently wounded soldiers will have a very different homecoming story to tell future generations. I'll never forget Morris, and I doubt they will either. Different eras, but the bond of warriors crosses generations.

As an Army emergency medicine resident, I am reminded every day that we are a country at war. From the staff physicians in constant rotations, to Iraq and Afghanistan, to the wounded warriors who fill our wards and rehabilitation centers at Brooke Army Medical Center, the thought of war and its consequence permeates my experience as an Army physician. I see the news reports of wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hours later they come through the doors, flown in for intensive and sometimes long-term care.

An intangible benefit this Army hospital offers to men and women wounded on today's battlefields is contact with other veterans. I have seen soldiers from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Desert Storm, and assorted other conflicts talking to and encouraging these young warriors.

One of the most poignant memories of my residency was when I saw a young burned soldier with a right leg amputation and a badly broken left leg being confronted by a boisterous man in his 50s saying, "Hey, did you lose your leg in Iraq?" The soldier mumbled "yes," and the man said, "Hey, look, I lost my arm in Vietnam." He produced his stump, and they spent the next 30 minutes talking together in a way I could never connect with either one.

I am ever aware of the consequences of war and how life changes in an instant by my daily encounters with these patients. I have never heard a combat wounded patient say they wish they hadn't gone to war. Even the most horribly burned and wounded that I have met want to rejoin their buddies and go back. Their strength sustains me as I tend to them in the intensive care unit and on the wards.

My lack of sleep and long schedule gets put into perspective as I see why I train. It's hard to grumble when you see a man with extensive injuries battle pain and infection and endure multiple surgeries without complaint.

Many people are unaware that we are taking care of wounded soldiers here at Brooke Army Medical Center. More than 2,400 wounded, burned and injured servicemen and women have been treated here since the global war on terrorism started. For some of them the battle is far from over; they face life-threatening infections from bacteria indigenous to Iraq as well as the burns and trauma they have suffered.

Though we weren't there when they were wounded, we join them on their new battleground committed to restoring them. We do anything we can for them. As we all are reminded daily, they fought for us, now we fight for them.

(Army Capt. Sean Meadows is assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio.)

Local Marine Sergeant Returns From Third Tour Of Duty

Sonora, CA -- A local Sonora resident has returned from duty in the Middle East.

Marine Sergeant Lance White returned home from his third tour of duty January 12th. White served his first tour in Afghanistan followed by two in Iraq.


Monday, January 23, 2006 - 02:05 PM
Eric Nelson
MML News Editor

White says he feels that the troops mission the region is a positive one. He says there are numerous school and medical facilities being built and brought on line due to efforts of American forces.

White adds that support from home makes a huge difference in maintaining troop morale. He says letters and correspondence make a huge difference in lifting the spirits of the troops, many of which are away from home for the first time.

White says anyone interested in communicating with members of the military should contact their local office of the Veterans Administration.

White plans to spend the next three years working as the local area Marine recruiter.

Written by [email protected]

Marine unit departs for Iraq, many on third tour

Marines say their final farewells at Miramar before departing for Iraq today.
MIRAMAR MARINE CORPS AIR STATION – For many of the 200 or so Marines and sailors scheduled to deploy early Monday to Iraq, it was business as usual. (3rd MAW)


By Angelica Martinez

11:59 a.m. January 23, 2006


But for Lance Cpl. Kathleen Price, it was different. This was her first deployment and her family wanted to wish her good luck and farewell on her mission.

"I'm proud and I'll worry about her," said her mother, Barbara Price of Tracy. "But, she's prepared me for this by talking to me a lot about it ahead of time and telling me what she's going to be doing."

The family has known for about a week that this would be her day to leave. Price's 13-year-old brother, Jonathan, and her grandparents, Esther and Bill Taber of Valley Springs in Calaveras County, also saw her off. Her father was the only one missing because he was at work, she said.

"This will be an experience she'll always remember," said Esther Taber.

Taber knows first hand. Her husband was a Marine during WWII at the same time she was an Army nurse, she said.

Despite the family's familiarity with departures, they still made the seven-hour or so drive from Tracy to Camp Pendleton to see Price off.

She and the fellow troops with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were preparing to depart to relieve their East Coast counterparts in Iraq. For many of the troops, it was their third deployment to Iraq.

The Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd MAW is the aviation combat element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. It is assigned to security in Al Anbar Province for about 14 months, said Lt. Paul L. Croom.

They were bused from Camp Pendleton to Miramar, where they waited for their flight overseas.

Marine Sgt. Alicia Avellaneda was glad to have the extra time to spend with her new husband, Cpl. Alexander Avellaneda.

"I'm not ready for him to leave," she said.

The couple just got married on January 7. They may be assigned to the same base. But, in the meantime, she has to stay in Camp Pendleton.

The unit returned from its last deployment in February.

January 22, 2006

The Fewer. The Proud. The Corpsmen.

Wherever Marines go, there are corpsmen following, guarding and watching over the wellbeing of the Marine unit. Seaman John Bradley was the corpsman with the notorious 28th Marine Regiment who raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi during the invasion of Iwo Jima. (3/11)


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Combat Correspondent

There is no question that corpsmen uphold the highest traditions of serving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps when treating Marines, Sailors and all other casualties of war on the front lines today. Their stories might seem unsung, but it is the Marines who thank them and commend them for their own lives and the lives of their comrades that make their stories travel.

Seaman Patrick E. McWilliams, preventive medical readiness corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is recognized by the Marines in his battalion as more than the active corpsman who serves alongside the Marines.

"The man has pulled Marines out of a burning humvee that was hit by an improvised explosive device; he has walked in front of enemy fire to save Marines; he has patched up Navy Seabees; he is handy with the tourniquet, he puts all other Marines and Sailors in front of him and he loves his job," said Cpl. Joshua J. Owens, artillery fire control maintenanceman with Mike Battery, 3/11. Owens served with McWilliams in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 as they conducted combat operations from Al Asad.

"I respect him because he always looks out for everyone around him," continued Owens. "And it's unusual for a man to be against insurgents one year, and patching them up the next year when he worked in a detention facility in OIF 3."

The Navy and Marine Corps even recognized McWilliams as valiant awarding him the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat "V" in 2004.

He received the award for his actions while serving as a corpsman with Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 from Feb. 22 to July 31, 2004.

McWilliams participated in more than 70 combat missions and was the primary medical caregiver for 41 Marines during that time. He also provided medical assistance to Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Iraqi civilians who were injured from IEDs, direct fire and indirect fire, according to the award citation.

An example of McWilliams' great initiative was when his sense of duty extended beyond the care of the Marines that he served with. After witnessing a civilian vehicle veer off the road in Al Anbar and flip several times after sustaining a blown tire, McWilliams, exercising sound judgment, quickly moved to the scene and provided medical assistance to the injured passengers.

Before joining the Navy, McWilliams, a 23-year-old San Bernardino, Calif., native, an associate degree from Victor Valley. He joined to leave his commonplace life of being a student and working two jobs to become a service member, he said. His interest was in medicine and in the Marine Corps, so his recruiter informed him of the position as a Navy corpsman.

"After I joined the 'green' side of things, I began to love what I do more and more every day," said Williams. "It's a great job where I get to play Marine and corpsman. It's the best of both worlds, and the camaraderie is like none other with this battalion."

During one of these missions, McWilliams was assigned as the corpsman with Lima Battery reconnaissance element and tasked with scouting the road in front of the main convoy.

"This was the time when I saw the most use of myself and other corpsmen during my deployment," said McWilliams. "The convoys ran into many IEDs and small arms attacks. I saw some horrific and tragic incidents, which shook everyone that I was with. But, I never hesitated to patch up anyone in need of help. I served with some valiant Marines and corpsmen in Iraq. It became second nature for me to follow their valiant lead."

McWilliams has strived to be the best corpsmen for his unit, he said.

"I've never been hurt or received a Purple Heart, but I excel to be the best corpsman who fixes any man," McWilliams said. "I was never worried about myself-just my Marines."

McWilliams wishes he could be serving in Iraq today. He feels the Navy and Marine Corps is better off with him serving alongside his Marines and Sailors, he said.

"It's a good feeling when you get back to the States though," said McWilliams. "I'm overwhelmed with pleasure when I see a Marine walk up to me and say 'thanks' or 'glad to see you back' when I come home. I know I do my job well."

Recently, McWilliams has been teaching younger corpsman the knowledge he gained in Iraq. He hopes to implement more medical training with his Marines and corpsmen, such as trauma courses and field exercises.

Marine gives life to save others in Iraq

Soon, a little boy will be born and he will be named for the soldier who saved his father's life.

Mrs. Robert Paul of Enterprise said sacrificing himself to save another is something her grandson would have done, and indeed did on Jan. 5 when he died in Ramadi, Iraq. Just before a suicide bomber detonated the explosives in his vest, 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann threw himself between the bomber and his fellow soldier, a friend whose wife is expecting a little boy.


Jan 20 2006 12:00AM By By Kay Kirkland Managing Editor

Though the young fellow soldier was seriously injured, he is now expected to recover and return home to his wife, Mrs. Paul said Monday.

"They're going to have a little boy and they're going to name him after Adam," Mrs. Paul said.

She was to be with her daughter and Adam's mother, Betsy Paul Bebe, in Arlington, Va., today for Cann's burial in the cemetery where military heroes rest.

Mrs. Paul said she and Cann's family are heartbroken.

"He was precious and so sweet," she said. She wasn't surprised that he tried to save other when he realized a suicide bomber was in their midst. "That was just Adam. He was such a loving, caring person."

The last time Mrs. Paul saw her grandson was in September, when he came to visit her, as he did often, before he left for Iraq. It was his second deployment to Iraq and Mrs. Paul said he planned to go back for a third tour.

"He believed in what he was doing," she said. "He loved what he was doing."

Mrs. Paul said she asked him why he wanted to go back and he said that most everyone in his unit was married with children.

Cann, a native of Davie, Fla., was attached to the 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Force Services Support Group. He was an MP dog handler who was serving with his trusty German Shepherd Bruno. Cann and Bruno had reportedly been together for five or six years and had served on a tour to Afghanistan together.

Bruno was injured in the attack that killed his handler along with Army Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin, 27 Iraqi police volunteers and two Iraqi army soldiers, according to Marine Corps reports. Two other handlers, including Cann's friend and expectant father, and their dogs were also injured.

According to reports, and the details Mrs. Paul said the family has been given, Cann was helping to control crowds outside an Iraqi police recruitment center at the Ramadi Glass Factory. Apparently, warning shots had been fired at an approaching vehicle and that a suicide bomber made his way undetected toward the building.

Mrs. Paul said her understanding is that the suicide bomber wanted to get inside the building, but that Cann's dog "alerted" on a man. Apparently when the bomber felt that he had been detected, he detonated the explosives in his vest, Mrs. Paul said.

"There is no telling how many other lives he saved; we don't know what would have happened if he (the bomber) had gotten into the building,"

Mrs. Bebe, of Destin, Fla., and Cann's dad, Leigh Cann of Davie, on Monday received Purple Hearts awarded to their son.

In addition to his parents and grandparents, Mrs. Paul and the late Robert Paul, Cann is survived by two brothers, Justin Paul Cann, who is also a Marine, and Stephen Leigh Cann Jr.

Mrs. Paul said Cann spent much time in Enterprise while he was growing up and since. In fact he lived for a while with Mrs. Paul and her husband, a member of the World War II Air Corps who became a prisoner of war. Cann was keenly interested in his grandfather's war experiences.

Cann joined the Marines just shortly after graduating from high school in Davie.

"Adam was so proud of his granddaddy, and now his grandaddy is proud of him," Mrs. Paul said.

An article in "Stars and Stripes" last week quoted friends who described Cann as dedicated and knowledgeable, and happiest when he and his dog were hard at work in the field, working with and helping to protect his fellow soldiers.

Local father proud of son's dedication to military, service to country

Frank Sadler always thought his son would make good football coach. He never realized Shaun Sadler would make such a great Marine. (3rd MAW)


By Matt Clower, The Messenger

Frank, retired after 41 years coaching football including some time as the head coach at Charles Henderson High School, has spent the past 20 years watching his son climb the ranks of the United States Marine Corps.

Lt. Col. Shaun Sadler is preparing to leave for his fourth tour of duty in Iraq on Wednesday, and Frank said he couldn't be more proud of his son.

“I'm real proud of him and all our military people here in Troy who have served,” frank said. “I am proud of Shaun because of how much he has advanced in his service. He probably could have made a good football coach himself, but he chose to fly, he chose to make the Marines his career, and he'll probably retire a lot better off than his old pop after he's finished.”

Shaun has spent his career as helicopter pilot for the Marines, earning numerous decorations along the way. Last year, Shaun ended a nine-month deployment as the commander of the 267 Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron.

Under Shaun's command supported ground troops and became the only squadron to plan and execute simultaneous support of all three West Coast Marine Expeditionary Units and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on Okinawa, Japan.

Frank said Shaun has now opted to re-enlist for another six month tour in Iraq, at the end of which Frank said his son is likely to be promoted to a full Colonel.

And although Shaun will be in danger during these next six months, Frank said his son has a good attitude about facing the risks.

“He's got a great disposition about it, he said ‘Look momma, I f I die, that was just the number of days that I was supposed to live on this earth. I'm going to go and do my job and get back to see my boys,'” Frank said. “And that's what you have to do, you have to do the job. I know it will be hard on him being away from his family for six months, but I am really proud of how much he has served his country.”

And while his son is fighting overseas, Frank said he'll doing what he can to help - by enlisting prayer.

“I don't want him dying, so at the same time I am going to make sure that he is on the First Baptist prayer list and hopefully they will pray for him nightly and the Lord will spare him,” Franks said.

Frank said Shaun made the decision to join the Marines right out of college with out any prompting from home.

“I never influenced him in any way. This is what he decided to do,” Frank said.”It makes me proud to know that he is guarding our country while we are sleeping.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Raul Mercado, 21, Monrovia; Killed by Roadside Bomb

The biggest disappointment in Raul Mercado's young life was not getting into the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. After spending a decade in Mexico, his SAT verbal scores weren't high enough.


By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer

Still, Mercado had big plans: He wanted a career that would enable him to buy his mother — a domestic worker at a hotel — a home in Monrovia, where he went to high school. With a 3.5 grade-point average, he was accepted at several universities. But the way to achieve his goal, he insisted, was through the military — even if it meant going to Iraq.

In 2004, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he hoped to garner enough recommendations from superiors to get into West Point.

"We tried to discourage him. He had so many other options," said Erica Lopez, a longtime family friend. "But his mind was made up."

Mercado was killed Jan. 7 when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle while on patrol near the village of Karmah, in the south of Iraq, near Basra. He was 21.

Mercado was assigned to the 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He had risen to the rank of lance corporal.

A funeral service was held Wednesday at Immaculate Conception Church in Monrovia, where Mayor Rob Hammond called Mercado "one of Monrovia's heroes." Mercado is the first serviceman from Monrovia to be killed in Iraq.

"This was a young man whose sense of his own personal self was very strong," said Hammond, who as mayor had handed Mercado his diploma when he graduated and whose son was on the same track team as Mercado. "He was very determined. He didn't make decisions lightly. Monrovia weeps for one of its sons."

The city of 40,000 residents has planned numerous memorials for Mercado. Officials named Jan. 18-25 as Raul Mercado Week, during which the flags at public buildings are being flown at half-staff. A living memorial, with artifacts from the Marine's life, will be established at a local public library, Hammond said.

Mercado was born in the Los Angeles area but moved with his family to Mexico at the age of 7 to his father's town of Ixtlahuacan, near Guadalajara, in the province of Jalisco.

When he was 17, family members returned to California and he enrolled in Monrovia High School as a sophomore. He initially struggled with English. But within one year he had improved to the point that he could join the school's regular curriculum.

Mercado was a member of the school's Spanish Honor Society and competed in several sports. At 5 feet 11 and slender, he played basketball, track and field and was a cross-country runner. He also liked to draw and was fascinated by mathematics. Friends considered him a prankster, Lopez said.

Oscar Ibarra, a college advisor at Monrovia High, recalled how hard Mercado worked on his English to score well enough on the verbal portion of the SAT to get into West Point. He was tutored and studied on weekends and late at night.

"That's what he had his heart set on," Ibarra said. "He was disappointed. So he saw enlisting in the Marines as a way to achieve his dream."

Lopez said the family tried numerous tactics to discourage Mercado. They told the young man that he would suffer in boot camp. But Mercado thrived at Camp Pendleton.

Lopez recalled that soon after he graduated from boot camp, Mercado attended her wedding dressed in his Marine Corps uniform.

"We were so proud of him that he had made it," she said. "He looked so good in that full uniform. He was so happy. This is what he wanted."

In Iraq, Mercado called and wrote his family regularly. He never wavered from his conviction that he had made the right choice.

"He knew that was the way to buy his mother the house he wanted," Lopez said. "I remember the day he visited my parents' house, and he asked his mother, 'Mom, do you want a house like this? I'm going to get you one.' "

Mercado is survived by his mother, Celia; his father, Raul, who lives in Mexico; two sisters, 22 and 14; and a brother who is a sophomore at Monrovia High.

Students at Monrovia High have so far collected $1,500 to help pay for Mercado's funeral costs. His body will be buried near Guadalajara, Mexico.

While speaking at the Marine's funeral service last week, Mayor Hammond addressed Celia Mercado. He told her that Monrovians would never forget her son. "Raul Mercado," he said, "will remain in all of our hearts."

Facility will aid injured heroes

WASHINGTON -- The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a non-profit based in New York City, hopes to raise $35 million to build a physical rehabilitation and burn treatment facility for wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.


Sunday, January 22, 2006
By Bill Cahir
[email protected]

The organization, sometimes touted by Don Imus during his morning radio show, needs roughly $10 million to get the job done. Construction began Sept. 22 and is still under way.

Why isn't the federal government paying for the new health care facility needed by disabled veterans? Bill White, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, understands the question but doesn't want to answer it.

"There are significant numbers of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in this state of being catastrophically disabled -- through their injuries, severe burns and the like -- and there has been a need to find a way to better rehabilitate them than the Army has at Walter Reed and Brooke Medical Center," White offered.

The Pentagon has confirmed that 7,625 service personnel in Iraq and another 400 in Afghanistan suffered injuries too severe to allow the soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines to return to duty.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund until 2004 had provided grants to family members of U.S. personnel killed in action. The money helped them make ends meet.

However, Congress two years ago dramatically increased the death and life-insurance payments to dependents of military personnel. That change prompted the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to alter its mission. The fund now is attempting to jump-start the financing and construction of a new state-of-the-art health care facility for military amputees and burn survivors.

"The goal here is to provide them with the resources to regain their lives," said Nelia Schrum, spokeswoman for the Brooke Army Medical Center.

The fund's facility will provide 65,000 square feet of treatment space over four floors. It will include a computerized "gait lab" that will identify flaws in the way wounded servicemen and servicewomen walk.

The fund also will pay for the construction of two handicapped-accessible residences for use by wounded service personnel and visiting family members.

The Army, which is not paying for the erection of the new facilities, will provide the medical and administrative staff and the funding to operate all of the medical and residential facilities, Schrum said.

Phil Budahn, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, says the VA already has in place a health care system for wounded service personnel. The VA provided veterans with about 11,000 artificial legs and 1,800 artificial arms last year alone.

Responding to the new, more severe injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA also has created four new trauma centers to handle injuries caused by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Overall, the VA plans to create 21 so-called "poly-trauma centers."

"Many of those veterans have missing limbs, burns, brain trauma and spinal cord injuries -- all in one veteran. We're in the process of creating 21 regional poly-trauma centers to provide care closer to home for these veterans," Budahn said via e-mail.

For information about the Intrepid Fallen Heroes project in San Antonio, see www.fallenheroesfund.org/fallenheroes/index.php; contact the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, One Intrepid Square, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, New York, NY, 10036; or call (800) 340-HERO.

Iowa Marine receives Bronze Star for rescue

Marine Corps Col. Rickey Grabowski, a southeast Iowan, received a Bronze Star on Friday for leading a battalion in Iraq involved in the March 2003 rescue of soldiers from the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch.


Grabowski, 48, the son of Harry and Judy Grabowski of Farmington, is a 1976 graduate of Harmony High School. He was honored Friday at U.S. Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Va., for his command in Iraq of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, which fought for 17 hours under heavy fire to take two bridges and the Iraqi town of an-Nasiriyah.

Along the way, Grabowski and his Marines rescued Army soldiers from the 507th, many of whom had been seriously wounded. Later, a tank platoon from Grabowski's battalion assisted special operations forces when they rescued Lynch, who was held hostage in an Iraqi hospital.

"Rescuing an Army element of about 16 soldiers in chaos and a high stress environment, Grabowski did an exceptionally good thing in a very orderly and professional way," said Marine Maj. Gen. Jon Gallinetti, who spoke during Friday's ceremony. Grabowski, who is married to the former Barbara Troja, a Fort Madison native, was also promoted Friday from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Actor Discusses Support for Troops, Iraqi Children

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2006 – When not appearing on the CBS show "CSI: New York" as Detective Mac Taylor, actor Gary Sinise devotes much of his time to raising support for U.S. troops.

Sinise, who is planning his third trip to Iraq with the United Service Organizations, appeared on ABC's "This Week" today to talk about his new venture to help the children who have felt the effects of the war in Iraq.


By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

On his last trip to Iraq, Sinise accompanied a U.S. military unit that remodeled an Iraqi school. He watched the troops transform what had been a cinder-block, dirt-floor structure into a building with concrete floors, windows and fans, he said.

"It was not much, but to these kids and those Iraqis who had been living there with this school, it seemed like a brand new place," he said.

Sinise said seeing the school being remodeled and witnessing the gratitude of the Iraqi children at the school and when he rode with troops on convoys motivated him to come home and found the program, Operation Iraqi Children.

Operation Iraqi Children provides a way for Americans to send school supply kits to Iraqi children. Sinise and author Laura Hillenbrand founded the program in March 2004.

"It's a way for you to support the children by sending pencils, beanie babies or soccer balls," Sinise said. "That all started because of one of those convoys I was on."

Sinise said his experience playing Lt. Dan, an injured Vietnam veteran, in the movie, "Forrest Gump," helped him identify with the troops he met with in Iraq.

Servicemembers today have much more support than during the Vietnam War, he said, noting that it's important to maintain that support because military service is a sacrifice that should not be taken lightly.

"It's an honorable thing to serve your country," he said. "We need those volunteers; we need those defenders."

Operation Iraqi Children is a partner in the Defense Department's America Supports You program that showcases America's support for the men and women of the armed forces and the myriad ways the country is expressing that support.

January 21, 2006

Wake for an Indian warrior

Oglala Sioux bestow a lasting tribute - a name - to first tribal fatality in Iraq

KYLE, S.D. - Two miles from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the car radio crackled, then locked onto the signal.


By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
January 21, 2006

"I understand they are currently escorting Brett's body back," the disc jockey said. "There are several police cars, followed by the hearse and vans filled with Marines. We'll let you know when they are on the reservation."

Inside their rental car, two Marines from Colorado stared out at the road, winding through the rolling brown grass of the desolate Badlands. A few cars ahead, through the back window of the hearse, they could see the flag-draped casket of the first Oglala Sioux fatality of the war in Iraq.

A few minutes later, the disc jockey broke in again.

"Right now they are at the reservation line with the body of Corporal Brett Lundstrom," she said. "I've got eight songs queued up here, and we will play them back to back. So here they are, going out to Corporal Lundstrom . . ."

She started with a spoken word piece that began just as the procession rolled across the reservation line.

"Throughout time, American Indians have had to defend themselves and their way of life," said the solemn voice of songwriter Wil Numkena. "American Indian warriors have a long tradition of protecting their families, tribe and nation . . ."

The Marines listened as they drove past weather-beaten wooden houses and lone mobile homes, through the second poorest county in the United States, toward the geographic center of the 2 million-acre reservation.

"By tradition, American Indian people have always embraced their warriors upon their return from battle," the voice on the radio said. "Embraced them in heart, embraced them in spirit . . ."

Since arriving at the home of Cpl. Lundstrom's mother in nearby Black Hawk to inform her of her son's death, Marines from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora had spent two days helping with plans for a nonstop, 42-hour wake on the reservation - the beginning of nearly five full days of traditional honors.

As the procession advanced, residents poured from their homes. The hearse passed families sitting on the hoods of their cars, their children wrapped in colorful blankets. One couple stood at the side of the road, their heads bowed. A boy on horseback watched with his dog near a barbed-wire fence. A man in a rusty pickup stared from atop a grassy hill.

The procession continued to grow as cars from the side of the road pulled in, stretching the line for more than five miles.

On their car radios, the tribute continued.

"We mourn, but honor the warriors who have given of their lives in the field of battle. We embrace their spirit, for they are our very breath of life.

"Great Spirit, we ask of you to receive our warriors."

From hearse to wooden wagon

Three tribal chiefs in feathered headdresses waited on horseback off to the side of the road, along with a dozen other riders and a small empty wooden wagon.

The procession arrived from over a hill, and as the Marines got out, the two bands of warriors nodded to each other.

The Marines lifted the flag-draped casket from the new Cadillac hearse, transferred it to the old pinewood wagon, and fell in line, issuing clipped commands under their breath. They stood at attention in spotless dress blue uniforms, white gloves and shiny black dress shoes.

The Oglala Sioux escorts wore blue jeans, Windbreakers and dusty boots. They spoke to their horses in the Lakota language.

"Unkiyapo," someone said. "Let's go."

They walked together, the Marines marching in crisp formation behind the chiefs. The last horse in the procession - an old paint - ambled along behind them all. In a funeral tradition that goes back generations, its saddle was empty.

The procession was quiet, other than occasional war whoops and horse whinnies, until it reached the gym at Little Wound High School. At the parking lot of the school, one woman sat alone in her car, crying.

Then the drumbeat began.

Inside the gymnasium - "Home of the Mustangs" - a 30-foot-tall tepee dominated one end of the hardwood floor.

The Marines brought the flag-draped casket to the front of the tepee, then two of them took their post at each end, beginning a shift that would last for the next two days.

Several rows of elderly men moved forward slowly, some supported by gnarled canes. Many had pulled their hair into dark gray ponytails, framing faces that looked like the landscape.

Many of them wore old caps and uniforms emblazoned with distinctive patches: Airborne, Special Forces and the revered combat infantry badge - along with dozens of gleaming medals. On the back of their caps, some also wore a single eagle feather.

At the front of the tepee, a funeral director opened the casket.

Descendant of Chief Red Cloud

Cpl. Brett Lee Lundstrom grew up in the wake of warriors.

Among his distant relations was Dewey Beard, also known by the Indian name Iron Hail, who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and who also survived the 1890 massacre at nearby Wounded Knee. A grandfather on his father's side was Red Cloud, one of the great Lakota leaders of the 1800s.

More recently, his great-uncle, Charlie Underbaggage, was killed at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Another great-uncle, Alfred Underbaggage, was killed in Korea. He has relatives at Pine Ridge who served in Vietnam and Desert Storm. His father, Ed, was a career Marine, and retired recently as a major.

At the time of Brett's death, his brother, Eddy - his only other sibling - was serving in the Army, stationed in the Iraqi hot spot of Tikrit.

"He was born to be a Marine," said Philip Underwood, who first met Brett when they were teenagers. By then, Lundstrom had long since decided to join the armed forces. The two friends spent the bulk of their time razzing each other, rarely serious - until it came to the Corps, which spawned a conversation that's rarely spoken, even among the best of friends.

"As a friend, he told me one time, 'I will die for you,' " Underwood said.

Lundstrom's parents grew up on and around reservations - his father at nearby Rosebud, his mother at Pine Ridge - but due to Ed Lundstrom's job with the Marines the family moved around the country, spending most of their time in Virginia.

Though the family returned to the reservation only periodically - primarily when Brett was young - Brett retained an interest in Indian tradition.

In January 2003 he enlisted, not only in the Marines, but in the most dangerous job in the Corps - one that would almost certainly send him into battle.

"I always told him he volunteered twice. Not only did he volunteer as a Marine, he volunteered to be infantry," Ed Lundstrom said.

"I tried to talk him out of it. He had so many other options besides enlisting. But he knew what he was getting into. He went into it eyes wide open," he said.

Brett served three months in Afghanistan in 2004. Nine months later, in September 2005, he headed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

One result of his frequent moves to new towns: The strapping 6-foot-2-inch tall Marine with the wide grin had no problem making new friends. The last entry on his Web page - written from Iraq - said, "I'm outta here in three months and I can't wait to come to Colorado."

His parents recently divorced, and his mother, Doyla Underbaggage Lundstrom, planned to move to the Denver area this month. After his hitch was up with the Marines, Lundstrom had talked of settling near her, and becoming a Broomfield police officer.

On one of his last nights in Colorado, Brett had spent the night in his aunt and uncle's home in Thornton, in the same room as his cousin, 13-year-old Richard Munoz.

Before he crashed on the couch that night, Richard said, the Marine left him with his last words.

"He said, 'Live life while you can,' " the boy remembered. "Then he went to sleep."

Cpl. Lundstrom was killed by small-arms fire Jan. 7 in Fallujah. He was 22.

His people bestow feather

Next to the casket in the Pine Ridge gym stood a tall staff crested with buffalo hair and lined with eagle feathers to represent local members of the tribe stationed in Iraq. The middle of the staff was pinned with photos of their faces.

A similar memorial was set up in the school's cafeteria, by mothers who formed a support group. Every Wednesday, they huddle in a sweat lodge, where they pray for their deployed children.

"Sophia Young Bear" . . . "Jason Brave Heart," their names read, in part, "Kimberly Long Soldier" . . . "Lisa White Face" . . .

Atop them all was the photo of Brett Lundstrom.

Upon their return from Iraq, tribe members receive the highest honor for bravery: an eagle feather. If they are injured in combat, the feather may be stained red with blood.

Before the first night's ceremony began, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran named John Around Him looked at the staff, and then at Brett Lundstrom's flag-draped casket.

"He earns the American flag from his government," he said. "He earns the eagle feather from his people."

Near 11 on Saturday night, the gymnasium fell silent. Along with his first and last eagle feather, Cpl. Lundstrom was about to receive something even more enduring.

"This evening I want to take a few minutes of your time to name my grandson," said Birgil Kills Straight, Cpl. Lundstrom's great-uncle.

"Before he enters the spirit world, it's important for him to have an Indian name, because that's how the ancestors will know him," he said.

Earlier that night, Kills Straight had gone to an Inipi, a sweat lodge, to pray for the name, and to ask the spirits to guide the fallen warrior.

After the ceremony, long after midnight, the Marines would take Lundstrom's body into the tepee, where Lakota beliefs hold that the spirits of Lundstrom's ancestors would communicate with his.

First, Kills Straight said, they needed to know who he was.

"His name is Wanbli Isnala," Kills Straight said, and then translated: "Lone Eagle."

With that, he took the eagle feather, walked to the open casket, and placed it on the Marine's chest.

"He, alone, above everything else, is an eagle," Kills Straight said. "He will fly to the highest reaches of the universe. He may bring back news to us in our dreams."

He looked to the stands of the stadium, and spoke of Lundstrom's well-known warrior ancestors.

"The blood of these people you've probably heard of runs in the blood of Brett . . . this is who Brett is," Kills Straight said. "He is a warrior."

After placing ceremonial grasses in the casket and offering prayers in Lakota, he turned again to the crowd.

"Now I want to name my other grandson," he said.

From the back of the room, Pfc. Eddy Lundstrom walked in wearing his desert camouflage uniform, the one he was wearing only a week earlier in Tikrit, when told of his brother's death. As the only surviving son in the family, he had the option to spend the rest of his tour stateside.

Instead, he plans to leave Tuesday to go back to Iraq.

In the days leading up to the naming ceremony, as Birgil Kills Straight searched for the proper names to bestow on the two brothers, he said he specifically wanted a name that might help ensure Eddy's safe return.

As the 21-year-old private stood at attention, his shoulders straight, his fingers curled slightly at his sides, Kills Straight took out another eagle feather.

"His name is Wicahci Kailehya," he said finally.

"Shining Star."

Anguished cry wonders why

American Indians have the highest per-capita participation in the armed services of any ethnic group. According to the Web site icasualties.org, 23 American Indians and Alaska Native Americans have died in Iraq as of the end of last year.

"People always ask, why do the Indian people, who were treated so badly, step forward to serve their country?" said James Shaw Sr. during one of the ceremonies. "It's that good old nation pride."

For John Around Him, an Army combat infantry veteran who served in Vietnam and whose son recently returned from Iraq, the bond is more tangible.

"In 1876, the Lakota Sioux took that flag from Custer," he said, nodding toward the U.S. flag near the casket. "So that flag is ours, too."

Still, after so many centuries of battle, they also know the consequences all too well.

"I saw his name on CNN and I let out a war whoop," said Velma Killsback - whose daughter served in Iraq - as she looked at the casket that held Cpl. Lundstrom. "I sat here in disbelief, wondering why. For a war that shouldn't go on."

On the reservation, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-1, the war in Iraq is largely unpopular. The men and women fighting it, however, never are.

"When we would have late-night talks, he would tell me how he was fighting for me to do the things I do in everyday life," said Brett's cousin Amanda Munoz. "No matter how much I was against it, I gradually understood. No matter how much I hated it, and said, 'Please Brett, don't go,' he was doing what he wanted to do. It was his calling."

Generosity of the star quilts

By the time the wake entered its 30th hour, eyes had begun to sag, clothes had rumpled and stubble covered the faces of many male mourners. The energy level never waned.

Periodically, drum groups formed circles that pulled the drowsy from the bleachers. Visitors ate buffalo soup and fry bread.

While most tribe members left each night to return home, some slept near family members on the floor of the gym, or under the bleachers, refusing to leave the man few of them had ever met.

All the while, the group of 12 young Marines from Colorado - most of whom had never visited an Indian reservation - continued to post watch in 30-minute shifts.

They stood without flinching, listening to relatives cry over the open casket, and as friends and family members placed letters, a rose and sports jerseys alongside his body.

On Saturday night, while many of their friends back in Colorado concerned themselves with the outcome of the Denver Broncos playoff game, the Marines watched as the family showed childhood photos of Brett Lundstrom's life, projected on a screen next to his open casket.

After the ceremony on the reservation, they would head back to Colorado for Lundstrom's burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

"I hope they will take this message back, that they'll say, 'We went to Pine Ridge, and it was one of the greatest honors we've ever seen,' " John Around Him said. "They're witnesses, to take this honor and share it."

According to Staff Sgt. Kevin Thomas, they have no choice.

"I was a history major. I learned about the Western expansion, I learned about the Indians," Thomas said. "But I never really understood."

As the ceremony progressed, many of the mourners brought handmade gifts, including elaborate dreamcatchers, miniature illuminated tepees and traditional star quilts. By Sunday night, more than 50 of the quilts - which can take weeks to make and can sell for between $300 and $600 each - lined an entire wall of the gymnasium.

Then, as is customary, the family gave them all away.

"Value doesn't mean nothing to the family - earthly property, it doesn't mean nothing right now - it's life that has worth," said 82-year-old Sylvester Bad Cob, a World War II and Korean War veteran. "They give it out now, but they'll get it back someday."

One by one, the family called up everyone who had helped organize the ceremony, and presented them with one of the elaborate star quilts.

They began with the Marines.

"I had a picture of this in my mind, but to actually see it . . . It's just overwhelming," said Capt. Chris Sutherland, shortly after Doyla and Ed Lundstrom wrapped him in one of the quilts, and - as they did with each of his Marines - sealed their gift with a hug.

"If you think about it, in our culture, we give thank-you notes," Sutherland said, shaking his head. "Just thank-you notes."

Once the gifting ceremony was over, however, the Lundstroms found out that Sutherland also had something to return.

As the gym once again quieted, Sutherland took out a small red velvet bag, and walked toward the Marine's parents.

He dropped to one knee and tilted the bag. He then pulled out a watch - the same one that the corporal was wearing when he was killed. He handed it to Ed Lundstrom, who hadn't slept for the past 36 hours, while remaining near his son's casket. The former Marine major held tight to the watch, then crumbled in tears.

Sutherland tipped the bag again, and softly folded the remaining contents into the hands of Brett Lundstrom's mother:

Her son's dog tags.

Sunday night near midnight, 65-year-old Regina Brave stood up from the bleachers and made her way to the floor.

"As a rule, I don't go to wakes, I don't go to funerals. But for some reason, I had to come to this one," she said. "After I heard about him, I knew I had to be here. I walked for a long time."

Two days earlier, Brave had hitchhiked more than 100 miles across the reservation to attend the wake. For the entire journey, the Navy veteran carried one of her handmade star quilts, in memory of her son, a Marine who served during the first Gulf War. Earlier that night, the family gave the quilt away with all the others.

"My father told me, 'Everywhere you go, you're there for a reason,' " she said. " 'You're either there to help somebody, or they're there to help you.' "

Inside the gymnasium, Brave joined more than a hundred men and women who lined up behind the Colorado Marines, for the last official ceremony of the wake, the "Final Roll Call."

She was soon joined by men and women from all services, ages 19 to 90. Some hobbled in walkers, others stood in desert camouflage, some wore the same clothes they had for the past two days. As Sunday stretched into Monday, they came to attention.

For the next 15 minutes, they all waited for their name, and then barked the same response:

"Here, Sir."

"Here, Sir."

"Here, Sir . . ." each of them said, one after another, until they reached the last veteran in the building.

"Corporal Brett Lee Lundstrom . . .

"Corporal Brett Lee Lundstrom . . .

"Corporal Brett Lee Lundstrom."

Finally, Capt. Sutherland answered for the Marine who never would.

"Not here, Sir," he said.

As the Lakota warrior songs began, John Around Him took the microphone once more.

"This ceremony will continue on - because in the past, in our history with our great warriors, and how they defended our land, their culture and their way of life - it passes on, generation after generation," he said.

"These veterans, they love us. They care for us."

He looked over at the groups of old men and women, the groups of young ones, and thought of all the wars in between.

"To all the veterans who are here tonight, welcome home," he said.

He then looked over at the open casket at the man with a feather on his chest, and said it again, "Welcome home."

A solemn goodbye: Family, friends mourn the loss of local Marine killed in Iraq

WOODLAWN - A strong breeze blowing across the flat lands of rural Jefferson County made a red, white and blue blur of the U.S. flags that lined the route to Woodlawn Friday.



But the strong wind could not compare to the blow suffered by family and friends of the late Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price, the 19-year-old Woodlawn Marine who died Jan. 13 while serving in Iraq. Price was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

More than 800 mourners filled Woodlawn Christian Church to say their last goodbyes to Price, including his friend Brent Loyd.

Loyd thanked God for "every hot tear" and for the "grown men weeping" in the overflowing church. The sadness and tears showed "There is still love in this dark world, and it is this same love and this same compassion that Kyle carried with him to Iraq to spread these sentiments around the world. Kyle was there to bring hope to people who had no hope, Kyle was there to protect families that he did not know, but they were families who feared the dangers of tomorrow," Loyd said.

"Kyle was there to spread freedom and love to an oppressed world - one piece of candy to a little Iraqi child at a time."

Harold Engle, senior minister of Woodlawn Christian Church, spoke of respect, service and self-sacrifice.

"Tears come to rise as we see our nation's flag now. We know again now that faith, family and freedom are worth fighting for, indeed they are worth dying for. Kyle believed that and he acted on that," Engle said.

"Kyle's service reminds us that public service is to be selfless and not selfish. Kyle Price was human.

"He wasn't perfect, but on the day that he laid down his life for his fellow Marines, and his country and for you and I, as well, he reflected his Lord, Jesus Christ. He offered himself as a sacrificial gift for his friends and we honor that today."

As the funeral service came to a conclusion, a Purple Heart was awarded posthumously to Price and the familiar tune of U.S. Marine Corps Hymn was played.

Family and friends filed out of the church quietly and slowly to begin a processional to Knob Prairie Cemetery where Price was laid to rest.

The silence accompanying the walk out of the church was in stark contrast to the mourners' entry earlier in the afternoon. As people arrived at the church for the funeral service, they heard the nearly constant rumble of motorcycles. About 100 cyclists lined a street on the east side of the church, hoping to drown out the noise made by a small group of protesters who have become nationally known for disrupting the services of fallen troops.

Daniel Brymer rode his motorcycle from Johnston City to attend the Woodlawn event. Brymer, of the American Freedom Veterans Awareness Organization, said he has attended several funerals where the protesters have also been in attendance. "We are here to pay our respects to Jonathan Kyle Price, a fallen brother," he said. "They can say whatever they want to; we don't all have to agree with it. That's what Jonathan fought for, their (protesters) freedom and ours."

[email protected]

(618) 927-5633

Mass. Marine Veteran Posthumously Awarded Bronze Star

CHICOPEE, Mass. -- An 18-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Chicopee killed in Iraq was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor Friday in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif.


Maloney Killed In Iraq While Operating Humvee

POSTED: 9:21 pm EST January 21, 2006
UPDATED: 9:42 pm EST January 21, 2006

Capt. John Maloney, 36, was killed in June when a homemade bomb exploded under his Humvee.

The citation for the medal said that his unit came under enemy fire while returning from patrol. As one roadside bomb detonated, Maloney maneuvered to protect his men and was leading them away from gunfire when he was killed by a second bomb.

The medal was pinned on Maloney's 6-year-old son, Nathaniel. Maloney is also survived by his wife, and 2-year-old daughter, three brothers and his parents.

His mother, Lydia Maloney, said she's not suprised by the award.

She said her son always put others ahead of himself.

Why Tour Length Differs

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the length of time you’ll spend there depends on which service you are in and, to a lesser extent, what you job is.


January 21, 2006:

Most of the troops over there are army, and they stay for twelve months. But navy and marine personnel are there for six or seven months. That’s because the U.S. Navy (which transports the marines), deploys its ships overseas for six months at a time. The ships can stay out longer, and often do when there is an emergency, but this causes more damage to the ships, and the morale of the sailors and marines. The U.S. Air Force sends it people over for four months at a time, because this long a tour has the least negative impact on morale. The army prefers the longer tour because when the troops first arrive, they have to spend more time and energy getting up to speed on what’s going on, and what their predecessors were doing. The marines are not there to do as much civil affairs work as the army, but to just fight. So they don’t have to deal with “getting acquainted” as much. All services have some people, usually those on high level staffs or senior commanders, who do a twelve month tour. Makes for better continuity and all that. This time around, the impact of the different tour lengths is being studied more intensively, and some long term changes may come out of all that.

250 depart for duty in Anbar province

CAMP PENDLETON – About 250 troops from the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment left the base yesterday to begin a seven-month deployment in Iraq.


January 21, 2006

The Marines and sailors are headed to Anbar province in western Iraq. They're part of a spring and summer rotation that will send some 25,000 Marines and sailors in Southern California to Iraq.

Last year, the battalion was one of the first U.S. units to help provide disaster relief after a tsunami struck South Asia.

Then the battalion went to southern Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its members conducted security patrols and established vehicle checkpoints, among other tasks.

– Rick Rogers

Marines honored at Bob Hope Classic

Bob Hope would have been proud.

The late, legendary star and Palm Springs resident was renowned for entertaining U.S. troops through four wars and six decades. On Friday, his namesake PGA golf tournament, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, continued the tradition.

Some 80 U.S. Marines and their families stationed in Twentynine Palms were special guests of the tournament and corporate sponsor Marriott Vacation Club International.


Keith Matheny
The Desert Sun
January 21, 2006

The Marines watched a who's-who of professional golfers from a skybox suite overlooking the lakeside 18th green of the Classic Club, feted with food, drink and all of the amenities.

Many of the Marines are home from tours in Iraq. Many others are scheduled to go later this year. But on Friday, they put that aside and enjoyed themselves, Sgt. Maj. James Ricker said.

"It's just a great way for them to kick back and relax for a day," he said. "It means a lot to the Marines to know how much the desert community supports them."

Cpl. Brian Gilmore of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines finished his third tour in Iraq on July 31.

Transitioning from the fighting in places such as Fallujah and Baghdad to life back home wasn't easy at first, he said. In Iraq, Gilmore spent every day for months on constant alert, he said, watching for insurgents trying to kill him.

"You get home that first day and you realize you're still doing it," he said. "You think, 'I don't have to do this anymore.' It takes weeks to adjust."

Gilmore's wife is also a Twentynine Palms Marine, Lance Cpl. Kelly Gilmore. The couple enjoyed a special day at the Bob Hope.

"I think it's really wonderful," Kelly Gilmore said. "It's something I never dreamed I would get to see, except on TV."

One Marine got even closer to the action. Lance Cpl. Kyle Wawrzynek was recruited to caddy for one of the amateurs in professional golfer John Senden's group.

Lance Cpl. Erik Weesner, a self-professed huge golf fan, followed Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III around the course for much of the day.

"It's amazing - kind of like a dream come true," he said.

Weesner said he was struck by the fluidity of the pros' swings - "how easy they make it look."

Weesner is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the next few weeks, he said.

"That's what we are called to do, so that's what we do," he said. "It's the best job in the world. The camaraderie, the esprit de corps we have, is unmatched anywhere else I've seen."

Even for those Marines without a passion for golf, the atmosphere and relaxed pace Friday was a welcomed respite.

"It's definitely good to get a day off," Sgt. Ryan Pauly said.

Wayne Bargren, vice president of owner marketing for Marriott Vacation Club, said the company was "very honored and happy" to sponsor the Marines' suite.

"It's just our way of saying thanks - we appreciate what you do," he said. "We just want to take a back seat today and make the day about them."

Marine captain killed in Iraq is awarded Bronze Star posthumously

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Minutes after a Bronze Star Medal with Valor was pinned on the shirt of the young son of a Marine captain and company commander killed last year in Ramadi, Iraq, 1st Sgt. Michael Brookman stooped and delivered a message to the boy.

"Your father is a hero," Brookman told 6-year-old Nathaniel Maloney, son of Capt. John W. Maloney. "Don't ever forget it."


By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

Brookman's message was delivered during an award ceremony Friday afternoon at the base's Camp San Mateo, the home of Marines from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

The fallen Marine died in Ramadi on June 16, 2005. He was leading a patrol when his truck was blown up by a roadside bomb.

For Brookman and members of his unit known as the 1/5s Charlie Company, Maloney's death hit hard because of the respect he had earned through what several said were his caring ways and leadership.

"Marines know that people like him are special," Brookman said after the outdoor ceremony at San Mateo Memorial Park. "We respected Capt. Maloney and losing him was a big loss for the entire company."

Maloney, 36, had been featured last spring in a Marine Corps-written story that told of how he and his troops had taken extra steps to keep a Ramadi hospital stocked with medications and supplies.

In a quote from that story, the native of Chicopee, Mass., said the hospital effort "shows the Iraqi people that the Marines mean well."

One month later, Maloney died.

Lt. Col. Eric Smith said Friday's event was intended as a celebration of Maloney's life and his heroism in leading numerous patrols and directing his Marines during several firefights in Ramadi. Earlier memorials took place in Iraq, at Camp Pendleton and at Arlington National Cemetery.

"This is an award which he earned," Smith said. "John Maloney did valorous things in Ramadi and this is an opportunity to remember those acts. Ramadi is a tough place and it's even tougher to be a platoon commander out there."

In a citation accompanying the Bronze Star, Maloney was recognized for "heroic achievement as the commanding officer of Charlie Company."

He had led the company while in Iraq from March until his death. On March 18, he had a close call when another roadside bomb was detonated while on patrol.

About a dozen family members attended Friday's ceremony at the memorial park, which is surrounded by markers of legendary Marine battles around the world. The most recent addition includes an arrow pointing east and reads "Baghdad 2003, 7701 miles."

Maloney's widow, Michelle, did not speak to reporters at the ceremony. But some of the dozen other family members did, including his brother-in-law, Mike Keil of Simi Valley.

"I don't know if there will ever be closure," he said. "But it's an honor for his son to know that his dad did not die in vain."

One of the Marines he had led, Lance Cpl. Brandon Phillips, said Maloney stood out as a commander.

"He was an officer who really looked out for all the young guys like me," said Phillips, who returned to Camp Pendleton in October. "He helped us out, and in Ramadi, he always showed how much he cared about us."

Brookman, who called Maloney his best friend, said he will carry his memory with him for the rest of his life.

"Because of what he did there, I was able to bring 150 Marines home."

Maloney is survived by his wife and son, as well as a young daughter, McKenna.

As the ceremony was taking place, about 250 members of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were preparing to say goodbye to their loved ones as they headed for the Anbar province of Iraq for a seven-month deployment.

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or [email protected] To comment, go to nctimes.com.

Struggling Back From War's Once-Deadly Wounds

PALO ALTO, Calif. - It has taken hundreds of hours of therapy, but Jason Poole, a 23-year old Marine corporal, has learned all over again to speak and to walk. At times, though, words still elude him. He can read barely 16 words a minute. His memory can be fickle, his thinking delayed. Injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, he is blind in his left eye, deaf in his left ear, weak on his right side and still getting used to his new face, which was rebuilt with skin and bone grafts and 75 to 100 titanium screws and plates.


Published: January 22, 2006

Even so, those who know Corporal Poole, say his personality - gregarious, kind and funny - has remained intact. Wounded on patrol near the Syrian border on June 30, 2004, he considers himself lucky to be alive. So do his doctors. "Basically I want to get my life back," he said. "I'm really trying."

But he knows the life ahead of him is unlikely to match the one he had planned, in which he was going to attend college and become a teacher, get married and have children. Now, he hopes to volunteer in a school. His girlfriend from before he went to war is now just a friend. Before he left, they had agreed they might talk about getting married when he got back.

"But I didn't come back," he said.

Men and women like Corporal Poole, with multiple devastating injuries, are the new face of the wounded, a singular legacy of the war in Iraq. Many suffered wounds that would have been fatal in earlier wars but were saved by helmets, body armor, advances in battlefield medicine and swift evacuation to hospitals. As a result, the survival rate among Americans hurt in Iraq is higher than in any previous war - seven to eight survivors for every death, compared with just two per death in World War II.

But that triumph is also an enduring hardship of the war. Survivors are coming home with grave injuries, often from roadside bombs, that will transform their lives: combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Alexander Stojadinovic, the vice chairman of surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said, "The wounding patterns we see are similar to, say, what Israel will see with terrorist bombings - multiple complex woundings, not just a single body site."

[American deaths in Iraq numbered 2,225 as of Jan. 20. Of 16,472 wounded, 7,625 were listed as unable to return to duty within 72 hours. As of Jan. 14, the Defense Department reported, 11,852 members of the military had been wounded in explosions - from so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, mortars, bombs and grenades.]

So many who survive explosions - more than half - sustain head injuries that doctors say anyone exposed to a blast should be checked for neurological problems. Brain damage, sometimes caused by skull-penetrating fragments, sometimes by shock waves or blows to the head, is a recurring theme.

More than 1,700 of those wounded in Iraq are known to have brain injuries, half of which are severe enough that they may permanently impair thinking, memory, mood, behavior and the ability to work.

Medical treatment for brain injuries from the Iraq war will cost the government at least $14 billion over the next 20 years, according to a recent study by researchers at Harvard and Columbia.

Jill Gandolfi, a co-director of the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, where Corporal Poole is being treated, said, "We are looking at an epidemic of brain injuries."

The consequences of brain injury are enormous. Penetrating injuries can knock out specific functions like vision and speech, and may eventually cause epilepsy and increase the risk of dementia. What doctors call "closed-head injuries," from blows to the head or blasts, are more likely to have diffuse effects throughout the brain, particularly on the frontal lobes, which control the ability to pay attention, make plans, manage time and solve problems.

Because of their problems with memory, emotion and thinking, brain-injured patients run a high risk of falling through the cracks in the health-care system, particularly when they leave structured environments like the military, said Dr. Deborah Warden, national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a government program created in 1992 to develop treatment standards for the military and veterans.

So many military men and women are returning with head injuries combined with other wounds that the government has designated four Veterans Affairs hospitals as "polytrauma rehabilitation centers" to take care of them. The Palo Alto hospital where Corporal Poole is being treated is one.

"In Vietnam, they'd bring in a soldier with two legs blown off by a mine, but he wouldn't have the head injuries," said Dr. Thomas E. Bowen, a retired Army general who was a surgeon in the Vietnam War, and who is now chief of staff at the veterans hospital in Tampa, Fla., another polytrauma center. "Some of the patients we have here now, they can't swallow, they can't talk, they're paralyzed and blind," he said.

Other soldiers have been sent home unconscious with such hopeless brain injuries that their families have made the anguished decision to take them off life support, said Dr. Andrew Shorr, who saw several such patients at Walter Reed.

Amputations are a feature of war, but the number from Iraq - 345 as of Jan. 3, including 59 who had lost more than one limb - led the Army to open a new amputation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in addition to the existing center at Walter Reed. Amputees get the latest technology, including $50,000 prosthetic limbs with microchips.

Dr. Mark R. Bagg, head of orthopedic surgery at Brooke, said, "The complexity of the injuries has been challenging - horrific blast injuries to extremities, with tremendous bone loss and joint, bone, nerve, arterial and soft tissue injuries."

It is common for wounded men and women to need months of rehabilitation in the hospital. Some, like Corporal Poole, need well over a year, and will require continuing help as outpatients. Because many of these veterans are in their 20's or 30's, they will live with their disabilities for decades. "They have to reinvent who they are," said Dr. Harriet Zeiner, a neuropsychologist at the Palo Alto veterans center.

No Memory of the Blast

Corporal Poole has no memory of the explosion or even the days before it, although he has had a recurring dream of being in Iraq and seeing the sky suddenly turn red.

Other marines have told him he was on a foot patrol when the bomb went off. Three others in the patrol - two Iraqi soldiers and an interpreter - were killed. Shrapnel tore into the left side of Corporal Poole's face and flew out from under his right eye. Metal fragments and the force of the blast fractured his skull in multiple places and injured his brain, one of its major arteries, and his left eye and ear. Every bone in his face was broken. Some, including his nose and portions of his eye sockets, were shattered. Part of his jawbone was pulverized.

"He could easily have died," said Dr. Henry L. Lew, an expert on brain injury and the medical director of the rehabilitation center at the Palo Alto veterans hospital. Bleeding, infection, swelling of the brain - any or all could have killed someone with such a severe head injury, Dr. Lew said.

Corporal Poole was taken by helicopter to a military hospital in Iraq and then flown to one in Germany, where surgeons cut a plug of fat from his abdomen and mixed it with other materials to seal an opening in the floor of his skull.

He was then taken to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. His parents, who are divorced, were flown there to meet him - his father, Stephen, from San Jose, Calif., and his mother, Trudie, from Bristol, England, where Jason was born. Jason, his twin sister, Lisa, and a younger brother, David, moved to Cupertino, Calif., with their father when Jason was 12.

His interest in the Marine Corps started in high school, where he was an athlete and an actor, a popular young man with lots of friends. He played football and won gold medals in track, and had parts in school plays. When Marine recruiters came to the school and offered weekend outings with a chance to play sports, Corporal Poole happily took part. He enlisted after graduating in 2000.

"We talked about the possibility of war, but none of us thought it was really going to happen," said his father, who had to sign the enlistment papers because his son was only 17. Jason Poole hoped the Marines would help pay for college.

His unit was among the first to invade Iraq. He was on his third tour of duty there just 10 days from coming home and leaving the Marines, when he was wounded in the explosion.

A week later, he was transferred to Bethesda, still in a coma, and his parents were told he might never wake up.

"I was unconscious for two months," Corporal Poole said in a recent interview at the V. A. center in Palo Alto. "One month and 23 days, really. Then I woke up and came here."

He has been a patient at the center since September 2004, mostly in the brain injury rehabilitation unit. He arrived unable to speak or walk, drooling, with the left side of his face caved in, his left eye blind and sunken, a feeding tube in his stomach and an opening in his neck to help him breathe.

"He was very hard of hearing, and sometimes he didn't even know you were in the room," said Debbie Pitsch, his physical therapist.

Damage to the left side of his brain had left him weak on the right, and he tended not to notice things to his right, even though his vision in that eye was good. He had lost his sense of smell. The left side of the brain is also the home of language, and it was hard for him to talk or comprehend speech. "He would shake his head no when he meant yes," said Dr. Zeiner, the neuropsychologist. But he could communicate by pointing. His mind was working, but the thoughts were trapped inside his head.

An array of therapists - speech, physical, occupational and others - began working with him for hours every day. He needed an ankle brace and a walker just to stand at first. His balance was way off and, because of the brain injury, he could not tell where his right foot was unless he could see it. He often would just drag it behind him. His right arm would fall from the walker and hang by his side, and he would not even notice. He would bump into things to his right. Nonetheless, on his second day in Palo Alto, he managed to walk a few steps.

"He was extremely motivated, and he pushed himself to the limit, being a marine," Ms. Pitsch said. He was so driven, in fact, that at first his therapists had to strap him into a wheelchair to keep him from trying to get up and walk without help.

By the last week of September, he was beginning to climb stairs. He graduated from a walker to a cane to walking on his own. By January he was running and lifting weights.

"It's not his physical recovery that's amazing," his father said. "It's not his mental recovery. It's his attitude. He's always positive. He very rarely gets low. If it was me I'd fall apart. We think of how he was and what he's had taken from him."

Corporal Poole is philosophical. "Even when I do get low it's just for 5 or 10 minutes," he said. "I'm just a happy guy. I mean, like, it sucks, basically, but it happened to me and I'm still alive."

A New Face

"Jason was definitely a ladies' man," said Zillah Hodgkins, who has been a friend for nine years.

In pictures from before he was hurt, he had a strikingly handsome face and a powerful build. Even in still photographs he seems animated, and people around him - other marines, Iraqi civilians - are always grinning, apparently at his antics.

But the explosion shattered the face in the pictures and left him with another one. In his first weeks at Palo Alto, he hid behind sunglasses and, even though the weather was hot, ski caps and high turtlenecks.

"We said, 'Jason, you're sweating. You have to get used to how you look,' " Dr. Zeiner said.

"He was an incredibly handsome guy," she said. "His twin sister is a beautiful woman. He was the life of the party. He was funny. He could have had any woman, and he comes back and feels like now he's a monster."

Gradually, he came out of wraps and tried to make peace with the image in the mirror. But his real hope was that somehow his face could be repaired.

Reconstructive surgery should have been done soon after the explosion, before broken bones could knit improperly. But the blast had caused an artery in Corporal Poole's skull to balloon into an aneurysm, and an operation could have ruptured it and killed him. By November 2004, however, the aneurysm had gone away.

Dr. H. Peter Lorenz, a plastic surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, planned several operations to repair the damage after studying pictures of Corporal Poole before he was injured.

"You could say every bone in his face was fractured," Dr. Lorenz said. The first operation took 14 hours. Dr. Lorenz started by making a cut in Corporal Poole's scalp, across the top of his head from ear to ear, and peeling the flesh down over his nose to expose the bones. To get at more bone, he made another slit inside Corporal Poole's mouth, between his upper lip and his teeth, and slipped in tools to lift the tissue.

Many bones had healed incorrectly and had to be sawed apart, repositioned and then joined with titanium pins and plates. Parts of his eye sockets had to be replaced with bone carved from the back of his skull. Bone grafts helped to reposition Corporal Poole's eyes, which had sunk in the damaged sockets.

Operations in March and July repaired his broken and dislocated jaw, his nose and damaged eyelids and tear ducts. He could not see for a week after one of the operations because his right eye had been sewn shut, and he spent several weeks unable to eat because his jaws had been wired together.

Dr. Lorenz also repaired Corporal Poole's caved-in left cheek and forehead by implanting a protein made from human skin that would act as a scaffolding and be filled in by Corporal Poole's own cells.

Later, he was fitted with a false eye to fill out the socket where his left eye had shriveled.

Some facial scars remain, the false eye sometimes looks slightly larger than the real one, and because of a damaged tear duct, Corporal Poole's right eye is often watery. But his smile is still brilliant.

In a recent conversation, he acknowledged that the results of the surgery were a big improvement. When asked how he felt about his appearance, he shrugged and said, "I'm not good-looking but I'm still Jason Poole, so let's go."

But he catches people looking at him as if he is a "weird freak," he said, mimicking their reactions: a wide eyed stare, then the eyes averted. It makes him angry.

"I wish they would ask me what happened," he said. "I would tell them."

Learning to Speak

Evi Klein, a speech therapist in Palo Alto, said that when they met in September 2004 Corporal Poole could name only about half the objects in his room.

"He had words, but he couldn't pull together language to express his thoughts," Ms. Klein said. "To answer a question with more than one or two words was beyond his capabilities."

Ms. Klein began with basics. She would point to items in the room. What's this called? What's that? She would show him a picture, have him say the word and write it. He would have to name five types of transportation. She would read a paragraph or play a phone message and ask him questions about it. Very gradually, he began to speak. But it was not until February that he could string together enough words for anyone to hear that he still had traces of an English accent.

Today, he is fluent enough that most people would not guess how impaired he was. When he has trouble finding the right word or loses the thread of a conversation, he collects himself and starts again. More than most people, he fills in the gaps with expressions like "basically" and "blah, blah, blah."

"I thought he would do well," Ms. Klein said. "I didn't think he'd do as well as he is doing. I expect measurable gains over the next year or so."

With months of therapy, his reading ability has gone from zero to a level somewhere between second and third grade. He has to focus on one word at a time, he said. A page of print almost overwhelms him. His auditory comprehension is slow as well.

"It will take a bit of time," Corporal Poole said, "but basically I'm going to get there."

One evening over dinner, he said: "I feel so old." Not physically, he said, but mentally and emotionally.

On a recent morning, Ms. Gandolfi of the brain injury unit conducted an exercise in thinking and verbal skills with a group of patients. She handed Corporal Poole a sheet of paper that said, "Dogs can be taught how to talk." A series of questions followed. What would be the benefits? Why could it be a problem? What would you do about it?

Corporal Poole hunched over the paper, pen in hand. He looked up. "I have no clue," he said softly.

"Let's ask this one another way," Ms. Gandolfi said. "What would be cool about it?"

He began to write with a ballpoint pen, slowly forming faint letters. "I would talk to him and listen to him," he wrote.

In another space, he wrote: "lonely the dog happy." But what he had actually said to Ms. Gandolfi was: "I could be really lonely and this dog would talk to me."

Some of his responses were illegible. He left one question blank. But he was performing much better than he did a year ago.

He hopes to be able to work with children, maybe those with disabilities. But, Dr. Zeiner said, "He is not competitively employable."

His memory, verbal ability and reading are too impaired. He may eventually read well enough to take courses at a community college, but, she said, "It's years away."

Someday, he might be able to become a teacher's aide, she said. But he may have to work just as a volunteer and get by on his military benefits of about $2,400 a month. He will also receive a $100,000 insurance payment from the government.

"People whose brains are shattered, it's incredible how resilient they are," Dr. Zeiner said. "They keep trying. They don't collapse in despair."

Back in the World

In mid-December, Corporal Poole was finally well enough to leave the hospital. With a roommate, he moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Cupertino, the town where Corporal Poole grew up. His share of the rent is $800 a month. But he had not lived outside a hospital in 18 months, and it was unclear how he would fare on his own.

"If he's not able to cope with the outside world, is there anywhere for him to go, anyone there to support him if it doesn't go well?" asked his mother, who still lives in Bristol, where she is raising her three younger children. "I think of people from Vietnam who wound up on the streets, or mental patients, or in prison."

He still needs therapy - speech and other types - several times a week at Palo Alto and that requires taking three city buses twice a day. The trip takes more than an hour, and he has to decipher schedules and cross hair-raising intersections on boulevards with few pedestrians. It is an enormous step, not without risk: people with a brain injury have increased odds of sustaining another one, from a fall or an accident brought about by impaired judgment, balance or senses.

In December, Corporal Poole practiced riding the buses to the hospital with Paul Johnson, a co-director of the brain injury unit. As they crossed a busy street, Mr. Johnson gently reminded him, several times, to turn and look back over his left shoulder - the side on which he is blind - for cars turning right.

After Corporal Poole and Mr. Johnson had waited for a few minutes at the stop, a bus zoomed up, and Corporal Poole ambled toward the door.

"Come on!" the driver snapped.

Corporal Poole watched intently for buildings and gas stations he had picked as landmarks so he would know when to signal for his stop.

"I'm a little nervous, but I'll get the hang of it," he said.

He was delighted to move into his new apartment, pick a paint color, buy a couch, a bed and a set of dishes, and eat something besides hospital food. With help from his therapists in Palo Alto, he hopes to take a class at a nearby community college, not an actual course, but a class to help him to learn to study and prepare for real academic work. Teaching, art therapy, children's theater and social work all appeal to him, even if he can only volunteer.

Awaiting his formal release from the military, Corporal Poole still hopes to get married and have children.

That hope is not unrealistic, Dr. Zeiner said. Brain injuries can cause people to lose their ability to empathize, she said, and that kills relationships. But Corporal Poole has not lost empathy, she said. "That's why I think he will find a partner."

Corporal Poole said: "I think something really good is going to happen to me."

January 20, 2006

4thMarDiv CG links up with units at Combat Center

Maj. Gen. Douglas V. O'Dell, 4th Marine Division commanding general, speaks with his Marines from Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment Jan. 13 aboard the Combat Center.
(1/14 and 1/25)


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Combat Correspondent

Fourth Marine Division's 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and 1st Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, were activated in December, recalled from Marine Corps Reserve Centers across America and arrived here Jan. 4.

Maj. Gen. Douglas V. O'Dell, 4th Marine Division commanding general, came to the Combat Center to observe and interact with them Jan. 12 and 13.

To some, the visit put an edge on the day by giving the Marines and Sailors a chance to interact with their commanding general and gave a good interruption to the pattern of the training, which has been non-stop since they arrived here, said Lance Cpl. Brian K. Davidson, rifleman with Charlie Company, 1/25.

"It's a good thing that our general came out here to see us," said the Freehold, N.J., native. "It's the first time most of us saw him in person, and it's nice to know that we all are in his thoughts."

This will be Davidson's first deployment to OIF. He is a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey on the road to majoring in economics. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Division, after completing all of his initial training three years ago. Roughly 41 deploying positions were open in 1/25 and Davidson, along with 40 other reservists with 2/25, volunteered to fill in the positions with "New England's Own."

Based in Devens, Mass., 1/25 will operate in Al Anbar province. Based in Alameda, Calif., 1/14 will be tasked as Task Force Military Police, also operating in Al Anbar province.

While aboard the Combat Center, the training will consist of range training exercises and participation in Mojave Viper, a month-long training evolution - concentrating on assault courses and military operations in urban terrain.

Cpl. Jonathan B. Kahn, rifleman with Charlie Company, 1/25, who deployed with 2/25 for his first deployment to OIF, also filled a position with 1/25.

"We're very fortunate to have higher-ups that take care of us," said Kahn. "It puts us Marines at ease when our commanding general shows up and asks how we are doing and how's our gear holding up. He spoke to us about personal issues as well. He told us to focus on our training and the command would take care of all our problems at home. He took an interest in all Marines on an individual basis."

On the first day of his visit, O'Dell traveled to the training area to speak with Marines and Sailors who were exercising rushing drills at the time. He also met with 1/14's Headquarters Battery formation on the following day. Marines and Sailors of the battery gathered in a "school circle" around O'Dell as he spoke to them about his expectations this year. He spoke of the responsibilities 1/14 will be tasked with in Iraq, and he asked the Marines and Sailors to keep unit cohesion and awareness during their deployment.

"Spend every waking minute focused on training here," said O'Dell. "There will be some realistic, aggressive training going on here that you probably have never seen in most of your Marine Corps careers. So stay aware of your training, share with all Marines of what's on your mind and don't lose focus."

O'Dell offered a deal with the Marines and Sailors as well.

"We cannot afford for Marines and Sailors to be looking over their shoulders at what's going on at home during this training and deployment," explained O'Dell. "So if you let your higher-ups know of any concerns or issues that need to be dealt with at home, we'll take care of it, as long as you put 100 percent focus on training and operations."

"Furthermore, you will see occurrences out in Iraq that could break your heart one morning," continued O'Dell "But in the afternoon, you will realize that you've been heroic throughout the day."

O'Dell's presence and words brought perspective to the Marines and Sailors who have never deployed to Iraq. He concluded his speech with two commands:

"Prepare yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually," he added. "Take care of each other and look out for the Marine who seems to be struggling in his mind or heart. We're a band of brothers here, so we only have each other."

Marines enjoy family and friends one last time before deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Jan. 20, 2006) -- Marines from Camp Pendleton enjoyed a day of rest and relaxation during an afternoon, lakeside barbecue here Jan. 20 as an impending deployment to Iraq creeps up on them in the coming weeks.


Submitted by:
1st Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Stephen Holt
Story Identification #:

With so much focus on training and preparing for combat operations in Iraq, the Marines from Brigade Service Support Group 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, took time out of their busy schedules to play hard after working hard for so long.

"(The barbecue) gives single Marines and families a chance to interact and have some social time in a nice environment before we head out," said Col. Ritch L. Rodebaugh, assistant chief of staff for the 1st MLG's operations and training department.

The day's events at Lake O'Neill, a recreational area aboard the base, came complete with a DJ playing a wide range of music, from hip-hop to contemporary rock, a magician wowing 9-year-olds with his slight of hand, and volleyball on a clear, warm Southern California afternoon. The scene was almost reminiscent of a 4th of July outing with sizzling steaks and burgers cooked by Marines from the unit.

"The barbecue (lets) me sit down with my friends and family one last time, joke around and see other people's kids and family," said Sgt. Jonh A. Saracay, a platoon sergeant for Communications Company, BSSG-1.
The barbecue was more than just chicken legs and potato salad.

"It gives my family a chance to see the people I work with and let them know I am in good hands," said Saracay, who will leave his two children and fiancé here when he deploys.

The gathering at Lake O'Neill was not only about getting together one last time, but it was also about taking a break from the stresses of an upcoming deployment.

"It gives the Marines a chance to kick back and put their feet up before they have to lace up their boots and hit the ground running," said Sgt. Amina T. Clay, Saracay's fiancé and the chief instructor for a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement Course, where she trains Marines how to operate the Marine Corps' large transportation trucks.

The small talk shared was also an excellent opportunity for some seasoned family members to ease the tension for new military family members whose spouses and parents were deploying for the first time.

"I got the chance to help the people who aren't in the military understand what is going on and what to expect. You just got to stick through it," said Clay.

As babies laughed and spouses shared advice, the Marines of BSSG-1 enjoyed the time away from work to spend time with loved ones and prepare for another tour in Iraq.

Recruits get physical for graduation

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Jan. 20, 2006) -- The physical fitness test is one of the many events demanded from each recruit on the depot.


Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification #: 2006120114057
Story by Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner

In order for a recruit to proceed to the School of Infantry, he must first pass his final inspection, complete field training, pass rifle qualification and meet minimum requirements for the Marine PFT.

The PFT is a three-part assessment that tests their physical conditioning and endurance. Three pull-ups, 44 crunches and a three-mile run in 28 minutes are the minimum requirements to pass the PFT.

Every recruit is monitored during his time on the pull-up bar. If at anytime he touches the ground or the sidebars, he will not be allowed to continue. A recruit’s body cannot be used to help him over the bar. Every pull-up assisted with a leg motion or rocking will not be counted. A recruit must do at least 20 pull-ups to get a perfect score.

The running event trails the pull-ups. Either a series or company of recruits will run the timed three-mile event. Drill instructors and officers run with the recruits throughout the course to motivate them and push their abilities. To receive a perfect time on the three-mile run, a recruit must cross the finish line in 18 minutes or less.

After the run is completed, drill instructors give their recruits a minute or two to cool down before they pair up and complete the crunches. Before the crunches begin, recruits are lined up facing each other. One side will go at a time while the other recruit positions himself on his partner’s feet to anchor his legs. This will stabilize the recruit during his exercise. To complete a proper crunch, a recruit must bring his elbows or forearms to his legs and keep his bottom on the ground.

The goal is 100 crunches in two minutes. The other side will pick up where they left off as soon as an instructor blows the starting whistle.

Throughout the test, a corpsman is on sight to ensure that medical support is available and safety procedures are followed.

“Events like these let us know where their physical condition is,” said Sgt. Carlos Mancio, G Company drill instructor.

Recruits will be given a final opportunity at the end of their training to raise their PFT score from their first phase score. Recruits are separated into groups based on their individual scores. A perfect score is 300.

A superior score is a 285 or above. First-class PFT scores range between 225 and above. A second-class PFT score starts at 205 and the third-class is between 135 and 204.

January 19, 2006

Marine Found Dead in Barracks

A Marine found dead of a gunshot wound in his barracks at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was under investigation Thursday.


Thu Jan 19, 3:29 PM ET

Sgt. Francisco D. Aquino, 25, of Hidalgo, N.M., was declared dead in his room at 8:32 a.m. Tuesday, according Sgt. Nathan LaForte. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service was handling the probe, LaForte said. Aquino was an auto mechanic assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, he said. Aquino was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from February to March 2003, and later in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, from March to June 2003, LaForte said.

Sniffing out Danger: Barstow military working dog team deployed to Iraq

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. (January 19, 2006) -- "We were looking for weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and mines. That was our primary job," said Sgt. Neil Fucci, MCLB Barstow dog handler. Fucci and his Belgian Malinois, Rambo spent the majority of last year deployed to Iraq. While most Marines would try to avoid IEDs and mines, Fucci and Rambo, were searching specifically for them.


Submitted by: MCLB Barstow
Story Identification #: 200611911106
Story by Cpl. Jenna Cook

In April 2005, Fucci and Rambo deployed from MCLB Barstow and arrived in Al-Asad, Iraq in mid-May.

Forward Operating Base Camp Gannon in Husaybah, a town that sits very near the Iraqi and Syrian border, became their new home. Abandoned buildings became their new living quarters. And training, to stay at an elevated level of readiness, became their new daily routine while India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines became their new family.

In June, Fucci and Rambo set out on their first of many raids.

"I didn't really know what to expect. We would go out at night and search buildings. Rambo and I would sweep the buildings while the assault element would secure it. It was very exciting."

In September, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines rotated into Camp Gannon and 3/2 rotated out. Fucci and Rambo had to familiarize the Marines of 3/6 with Rambo's skills.

"Grunts are not used to working with dog teams, so we would do demonstrations and practice work-ups to get them familiar with us and we would could get familiar with the way they worked," Fucci said.

In October, Fucci and Rambo set out on a clearing operation, Operation Iron Fist. During Operation Iron Fist, Marines would make a large sweep of a designated area, clearing everything in their path. After the clearing was complete, battle positions were set up and patrols were done to ensure the area continued to be free from insurgents, Fucci explained.

During the sweeps Fucci and Rambo would search for weapons caches, and IEDs.

"Rambo performed really well. It was so hot out there sometimes, I was amazed at how long he was able to work and the quality of work I was getting out of him," Fucci said.

During (Operation Iron Fist) we had a total of about 12 finds, just from Rambo," he said.

"We had a good turn out, he was a champ."

In November, Fucci and Rambo participated in another similar clearing operation, Operation Steel Curtain, which met a lot of resistance from insurgents.

Operation Steel Curtain was a larger operation with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, a U.S. Army battalion, and more than 1000 Iraqi soldiers joining with 3/6 for the sweep, said Fucci.

"It was good to work with the Iraqis, we were two totally different cultures working side by side and being effective," explained Fucci.

After Operation Steel Curtain, there was an obvious positive change in the environment.

"Before the operation, the only people on the streets were insurgents. After we had cleared the area, people came out again, they opened up their shops. Children were playing on the streets and people were coming up to us and thanking us. It was a great feeling," Fucci said.

Toward the end of November, Fucci and Rambo departed Iraq to return to the States.

"I felt like we definitely made a difference over there, and I would enjoy going back. It was good to get out of (Barstow) and do what we actually train for. We spend so much time training to search for explosives and now I had the opportunity to do it. This type of thing is what I came in the Marine Corps for."

Marines talk tactics to tackle trafficking in persons

U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES, PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii (Jan. 19, 2006) -- A team from the Department of Defense Inspector General brought together Marines from all over Oahu to conduct a trafficking in persons sensing session at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Chapel, Jan. 11.


Submitted by:
Marine Forces Pacific
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
Story Identification #:

These sessions, which evaluate Marines’ knowledge and understanding of trafficking in persons, also provide information on how to prevent this worldwide crime.

“This is coming straight from the president. He wants to know how you all are being educated on the subject and to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to stop it,” said Air Force Maj. Richard Higdon, an evaluator for the DoDIG.

“Trafficking in persons is defined as being an act by one individual who transports, sells, or trades another person against there will into either sex trade or physical labor,” said Higdon.
The Marines, from various ranks and occupational specialties, split into four separate groups to further discuss this issue.

During these discussions, questions were asked focusing on just how much Marines know about trafficking in persons and how to identify it.

“By a show of hands, how many of you could recognize the signs of trafficking in persons?” asked Higdon, as nervous hands slowly raised throughout the room. “There is no reason to be worried, these meetings are confidential.”

Due to the confidentiality of these sessions, the Marines are not quoted by name.

“I’ve been to several places where trafficking in persons occurs on a regular basis,” said one of the Marines. “The problem is the laws of the countries in which it happens do nothing to stop it or prevent it.”

Some media reports over this issue point the finger at the military, saying it is a major contributor to the problem.

“In South Korea, especially near military installations, this crime runs rampant,” said Catherine Moon, a college professor in South Korea. “The military seems to do nothing about it and their presence continues to encourage it.”

Most of the Marines agree the U.S. military presence does seem to attract traffickers, but most servicemembers do not get involved.

“Wherever there is a military presence, there are going to be women who strip or solicit sex for money, but the military does not encourage it,” added another Marine.

Many of these women are forced into this lifestyle.

Most victims are young women and children who are promised money, education and support for their families back home if they come and work for the trafficker. When they arrive, or are delivered into the country, their passports are taken away and they are forced into a form of modern day slavery, according to a DoD trafficking in persons report.

Some Marines argued this problem is blown a little out of proportion.

According to Higdon, the military still does not support this “business” in any way. Whenever the U.S. military is in a location with a high rate of trafficking in persons, special patrols are designated to prevent DoD personnel from participating in illegal activity.

The problem in many countries is that the law allows these people to stay in business, and the U.S. patrols can only take action against the U.S. personnel.

“It seems to me that this problem is far bigger than the military,” interjected a Marine. “It is going to take some political reconfiguration to fix this problem.”

According to Higdon, and most of the Marines in the session, the only thing the military can hope to do is continue to educate Marines on the severity of this situation. Knowledge of the
problem may prevent DoD personnel from becoming part of the problem.

“We have to do our best as Marines to ensure we don’t make a big problem an even bigger monster,” a Marine

Cherry Point Marines moonlight as firefighters

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C.(Jan. 19, 2006) -- It’s 3:30 p.m., Monday, and Gunnery Sgt. Joe Kelly, a Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 weather forecaster, is right at home. Inside the cavernous garage of the Havelock Fire Department, he’s walking between the fire trucks, inspecting the equipment and wearing an expression of a man quietly mulling over a detailed mental list. Kelly, who stands several inches taller than six feet, is imposing from a distance, but up close, the trajectory of his gaze seems to level with the person he’s addressing. His handshake is firm, his eyes are steady, and his disposition – though softened slightly by a degree of warmth and fatherliness – is serious.


Submitted by:
MCAS Cherry Point
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. J.R. Stence
Story Identification #:

Kelly, whose wife and kids live in Virginia, spends every weeknight here with his second family. As a captain in the fire department, he is doing what he loves: leading men, operating the crash truck and, in doing these things, preparing for the future. He is one of 19 Marines who volunteer more than 40 hours per week to the Havelock Fire Department, a unit comprised of 28 full-time members. Of the department’s total staff of 56 members, about are Marine volunteers, said Richard Zaccardelli, the fire chief.

“I grew up wanting to be a fire fighter,” said Kelly, “and I just enjoy giving back to the community.”

Kelly has been a fire fighter since 1998, when he worked as a volunteer for a department in Quantico, Va. He is in his thirteenth year in the Marine Corps and plans to continue in firefighting at the end of his military career.

Now, Kelly and company respond to an average of three emergency calls per day. They live in the firehouse after their Marine work is done. They constantly check equipment, they conduct refresher training ever Wednesday, and they abstain from alcohol to maintain a constant state of readiness.

They practically live in the firehouse, and at a glance, it looks like a Spartan existence. Up through a narrow staircase, on the second floor, five bunks are crammed into a small, white-walled room. The ceiling is about seven feet high and the room is about 70 square feet of featureless space. Conspicuously absent are the television and the video games. It’s easy to stick your head through the door and imagine the stark room as a prison cell of scowling misfits in orange jump suits, doing endless sets of push-ups and arguing over whether Biggie Smalls or Tupak Shakur was the better rapper.

Then, on a waist-high dresser, you spot a photo. The person is on liberty, wearing a light pink polo shirt and a spotless, white cowboy hat cocked back to reveal a classic medium-fade haircut, shaved to stubble on the sides to conform with Marine Corps regulation. You look at it and think, maybe this place is alright.

Downstairs, through a door leading out from the garage, a gathering of volunteers, Marine and civilian, are lounging on couches around a large tv set, probably 50 inches wide. One of the civilians, a former Marine, is eating a plate of corn on the cob and steak, which spreads a savory aroma through the room. The only feature that differentiates the kitchen/lounge from that of a normal person’s house is the large police intercom sitting on the varnished kitchen countertop.

Here, in the social hub of the fire department, are all kinds of Marines. On one extreme there is Kelly: the strong, silent gunnery sergeant; a man who is universally liked for his proficiency and dedication. Then there’s Lance Cpl. John D’Amico, an administrative clerk with Marine Wing Support 27.

Above the hum of the television and the scraping sound of the civilian carving away at his steak, D’Amico Assistant Fire Chief George Corbin are engaged in what appears to be a regular good-natured smack-talking session. D’Amico, a well muscled but slightly short Marine of about 22 years, is arguing with Corbin -- also short but paunchy and balding -- about who is better looking, more intelligent and, in short, more of the ladies man. Surprisingly, it seems to be a battle of attrition. After about five minutes, Corbin says D’Amico is the younger version of him -- a concession that seems to satisfy the friendly rivals -- and the bout ends.

It could be said that D’Amico, with his hair gelled to the limit of Marine Corps regulation and his flamboyant, extroverted personality, is Kelly’s foil. Beneath his Dawson’s Creek exterior, however, is another Marine who simply loves fighting fires.

“I pretty much grew up in a fire house,” said D’Amico, “and as soon as I became old enough to volunteer, I became a volunteer firefighter.”

D’Amico, who grew up in the outskirts of Philadelphia, aspires to continue a tradition begun by his grandfather, a full-time firefighter. His dad volunteered as an engineer, and D’Amico started his career as a volunteer for a local fire department at the age of 16. D’Amico, who is engaged, plans to get married and start fighting fires professionally after finishing his first enlistment, which ends next February.

Paid members of the Havelock fire department said the support of Marines like D’Amico and Kelly has a tremendous impact on community.

“It makes it a lot easier on the paid crowd to have these volunteers, and without the Marines here, I don’t know what I’d do,” said Phillip Laxton, one of six paid paramedics/firefighters from Havelock emergency medical services who often work with the fire department.

“Today, we had an (emergency) call, and while the truck was out, we had a fire call,” said Laxton. “If both of the paramedics had been on the (first) truck, we wouldn’t have been able to respond to the fire call,” said Laxton.

He explained that at least two staff members are required to respond to each emergency call, but no more than two paramedics are on duty at a time. A Marine volunteer was able to ride along with Laxton, allowing the other paramedic to remain behind in case the fire department received more emergency calls.

Kelly added that the Marines volunteer work will help them in their future careers. A former volunteer firefighter for Havelock listed Kelly as one of his references on an Ohio State Police Patrol job application. The police department called Kelly and asked him a question.

“One of the questions was, would you trust this man with you life,” said Kelly.

Kelly’s answer was, “Well, if you’re going in a fire with him, you’re going to trust him.”

For D’Amico, Kelly and other volunteer fighters, there’s just something about their line of work that goes deeper than a salary.

“When I was one leave for 10 days, I missed these guys,” said D’Amico. “When I’m not with my girlfriend or not at work, I’m here.”

Tonight, Marine volunteer firefighters – maybe D’Amico or Kelly – will settle into their bunks in the little room on the second story of the Havelock firehouse. They’ll flip off the lights and pull up the sheets, eager to retire after another day of service to the Corps and community but ready to leap back into action at a moment’s notice.

Married to the Military: Spouses Need Own Identity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2006 – Military life is full of ups and downs. But for it to be a more positive experience, military spouses have to know themselves, Amberlynde Graham said.


By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Amberlynde Graham has been a Navy wife for nearly six years. She said through six changes of station and her husband's two deployments, her enthusiasm for military life has not been dampened. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley (Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Graham has been a married nearly six years to a Navy fire controlman - he operates, maintains and repairs weapons systems' control mechanisms.

In that time, the couple and their four children -- the youngest is now 22 months old -- have had six changes of station in five states and gone through two deployments. They are currently stationed in San Diego.

Through the moves and separations, her enthusiasm for military life has not been dampened. She attributes this to sense of self beyond her role of military wife, she said.

"If you don't now who you are, you can't be a military wife," Graham said. "Not a happy one anyway."

Those with jobs or volunteer positions are much more likely to successfully weather deployments and separations than those who live only for their husbands, she said.

"If you don't know who you are when your husband's there, what are you going to do when he's gone?" she asked. "You're going to have (periods of separation), ... and you can't sit there eating ice cream and crying the entire time. You have those days, trust me. But you can't do it all the time."

While Graham stays home with her children, she has a clear picture of who she is apart from military life.

Her journalism degree from the University of Texas has served her well as an editor for an outdoor sportsman magazine, a job she does from home. She's also in contract negotiations with a publishing company regarding a novel she's writing.

She also wishes that others knew who she and other military wives are. People often believe that when a woman marries into the military, she's the "little wife" and will never be anything else, Graham said.

"It bothers me, the negative connotation (that) follows all of it: You can't be your own person," she said. "There's no reason why anybody has to let that happen." She suggested spouses seek help from service family assistance centers to further their education or find a fulfilling job.

Higher visibility of spouses satisfied with their military lives would go a long way toward dispelling stereotypes and misperceptions, she said.

"The spouses everybody sees are the housewives dragging four kids to the commissary screaming at them," Graham said. "The reality is that I've met ... literally somebody from every single walk of life."

Just because a military spouse has her own career and identity doesn't mean she doesn't have to deal with issues related to military life, though. Graham has had to answer her children's questions about where Daddy is and when he'll be home. Sometimes the answer isn't what a child wants to hear.

Graham's daughter is in elementary school and had a solo in her school's Christmas program this year. Her father missed it for the second year in a row because he was at sea.

Graham said her husband works to make the time he does spend with the children count.

The children also realize the importance of what their father does, she said. "You take them to the ball games and stuff, and my daughter -- she's 7 -- she'll cry at the national anthem already," Graham said, noting that the children's father, uncle and grandfather have all served in the military. "So, I think, as they've gotten older they've actually had more respect for (military service)."

Graham and her husband recently decided that he would become a career sailor. She said the decision made sense after they compared military and civilian pay and benefits for similar jobs.

"If you look at the cash on the paycheck, it doesn't come out to much," she said. But, after comparing salaries, housing and health insurance costs in the civilian world, it was an easy call, she said. "We actually make more than someone with a degree in his field (in the civilian sector)," she said.

While the majority of her life in the military has been good, there have been some true frustrations for Graham. Getting her degree was a challenge, she said, and her husband's deployments have sometimes made her a single parent.

These frustrations, along with the good times, are all part of military life, Graham said. And with the knowledge that she is more than what her husband does for a living, she is enjoying that life.

Hard as nails, Fighting Griffin competes for meritorious staff sergeant

AL ASAD, Iraq(Jan. 19, 2006) -- Since December 1997, he has flown off the coast of Macedonia and over the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, during four deployments. He has progressed from a lance corporal to a sergeant who holds all the flight qualifications and designations of the CH-46 Sea Knight. He is trusted as the most dependable crew chief instructor by his squadron’s commanding officer.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
Story Identification #:

Sergeant Daniel Wilson, a quality assurance representative with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266, is currently serving in a staff noncommissioned officer billet and represents the Fighting Griffins for combat meritorious staff sergeant at the Marine Expeditionary Force level. He has already completed the competition in the Marine Aircraft Group and Marine Aircraft Wing levels at Al Asad, Iraq.

“Ever since I got to the fleet, I’ve been surrounded by good Marines who have taught me a great deal,” said Wilson, an Allen Park, Mich., native. “They wouldn’t let me fly until I could turn a wrench, and now I’m filling a mechanics billet. As a crew chief, I’ve flown more than 2,000 hours, and more than 300 have been in Iraq.”

Wilson said the best time he spent here was when he was stationed at Al Qaim supporting Operation Steel Curtain. At Al Qaim, he participated in troop movements, casualty evacuation and supply missions for more than a month with a high operational tempo.

“I loved doing my job and supporting the Marines on the ground,” said Wilson. “The best feeling was flying hot food out to the Marines on Christmas. We took food to the outskirts of Fallujah, and a couple different places around Al Qaim. You could tell the Marines really appreciated it.”

Wilson said he loves doing what he has been trained to do in a combat environment and wants the added responsibilities and bigger impact that comes along with being a SNCO.

“Not only is Wilson ready for the responsibilities of serving as a SNCO, he is already employed that way,” said Lt. Col. Joseph E. George, the commanding officer of HMM-266 and a Norfolk, Va., native. “As a crew chief, Wilson is as hard as nails. He runs circles around the Energizer bunny. In our preparations for this deployment, we required quite a bit of training for new crew chiefs and aerial gunner observers. Wilson was the go to instructor for all of that training. We deployed to Savannah, Ga., to use the gunnery ranges and then to Yuma, Ariz., for Exercise Desert Talon where we executed gunnery training, night vision goggles syllabus training and tactics training. He flew every day, he’s unstoppable.”

The quality assurance division is where the most experienced and senior SNCO typically serves in a squadron.

“Since each one of the maintenance divisions are led by a SNCO, the QAR is responsible for inspecting their work and maintenance practices,” said George. “The QARs must be able to approach the SNCOIC to correct deficiencies and inspect for proper performance of maintenance actions.”

Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Oakley, the quality assurance division chief with HMM-266, and an Orlando native, said Wilson is the type of Marine who leads by example and always strives to be the best at everything.

“Wilson representing HMM-266 for the MEF Meritorious Staff Sergeant Board was a no brainer,” said Oakley. “Not only does he already serve in a billet of a SNCO, he’s the one guy who always takes on the toughest of tasks. He is the only certified tail gunner weapons instructor trainer in our unit. He’s all about doing the right thing and leading from the front.”

Oakley said Wilson is a full systems QAR, meaning he is the guy you can ask the hardest questions for all aspects of maintenance, and he will find the answers.

“He has what it takes to be tasked with the highest of responsibilities as a crew chief instructor,” said Oakley. ”Wilson is ready to be a SNCO and has been for some time. Wilson has been doing the job of a SNCO by leading the Marines in the flight line division. He has proven that he has what it takes to be at the tip of the spear.”

Gunnery Sgt. Franklin W. Barnes Jr., the quality assurance department assistance SNCOIC, and a Suffolk, Va., native, described Wilson as a motivator, a leader, a teacher and an all around outstanding Marine.

“Wilson is a go to Marine throughout the maintenance department,” said Barnes. “As a weapons and tactics instructor, he’s able to teach the weapons system on the CH-46 to the younger crew chiefs within the Fighting Griffins.”

Barnes said Wilson’s ability to compete at the MEF level gives every Marine in the Fighting Griffins a sense of pride.

Wilson credits all this accomplishments to the SNCOs who taught him every single piece of the CH-46 and how to be a Marine. Although he loves deploying, he said it’s hard being away from his 4-year-old son Kenneth and 2-year-old daughter Sharon and not being there to watch them grow up. But, he said ever since he was a child he’s wanted to be in the military, and he’s glad to be here with the best.

“When I heard that there would be competition for meritorious staff sergeant, I knew there was no need for a squadron board,” said George. “Wilson is hands down the most knowledgeable and valuable sergeant in the squadron. He’s an expert on the entire aircraft. He flies as a crew chief, understands how to repair all the systems, and he sought this knowledge on his own. He is an expert on the CH-46E because he works hard.”

George said when Wilson was a young crew chief, he would not walk away from any aircraft discrepancy until he was satisfied that it was fully repaired. Now, through his vast experience and knowledge, Wilson will be able to serve capably as a staff sergeant, said George.

Local reservists to be deployed

About 20 members of the local Marine Corps Reserve Unit have been activated for deployment. The Marines are members of Charlie Company, 4th Landing Support Battalion.


The Marines, who are from across South Carolina, will attend training in California in preparation for overseas deployment in a few weeks.

This is the third time reservists from Charlie Company have been activated in recent years in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For the majority of the troops, this is a second deployment. The unit currently has a small detachment, which has been deployed in Iraq since this past summer.

Injured military dogs back on duty, but without handler

Sgt. Adam L. Cann was killed in attack on Ramadi police station

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, January 19, 2006

BAGHDAD — The three military working dogs injured in this month’s deadly suicide attack on a Ramadi police recruiting event have been treated and returned to duty, medical officials told Stars and Stripes this week.

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1,000 Marines slated to get corrected W-2 forms

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, January 19, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — About 1,000 Marines will be receiving corrected W-2 forms, according to the Marine Corps.

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Drum beats soldier's passing

Tribal members memorialize Marine corporal killed in Iraq

With clenched fists, Doyla Carol Underbaggage Lundstrom pressed a folded American flag against her chest and stared blankly at the oak casket in front of her.


By Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News
January 19, 2006

The wind blew her brownish-gray curls toward her 22-year-old son's burial plot in Fort Logan National Cemetery. Four Lakota men began beating the elk hide of a ceremonial drum, chanting a memorial song in their native tongue.

"Lone Eagle, you have left," the men sang Wednesday afternoon, referring to the Indian name of Brett Lee Lundstrom, a Marine corporal who was killed Jan. 7 by small arms fire in Fallujah, Iraq. "Your relatives are here remembering you."

Before the end of the first verse, the Lakota mother started to shake and sob, covering her face with a white handkerchief.

Even though her son wasn't from Colorado, relatives said Doyla Lundstrom wanted him buried at Fort Logan because she is moving to the Denver area and would be closer to him here.

Brett Lundstrom, widely known by his nickname, "Lundy," was buried with an American Indian ceremony and full military honors at a service attended by Gov. Bill Owens.

The young Marine had planned to move to the metro area, too, at the end of his tour of duty.

The funeral culminated several days of services, including a 48-hour wake at the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Mass was celebrated before the funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Northglenn, where the Marine's aunt worships. Numerous relatives live in the Denver area.

The Rev. Joy Mathew Vazhackapara said Brett Lundstrom loved life and was devoted to the Catholic faith, reciting the rosary daily while in high school.

"Why Brett? Why at this tender age? Maybe these are the questions that linger," Vazhackapara said, adding that loved ones should take comfort in the young man's accomplishments.

"Brett died as a hero. He lived as a hero. He died for the country and above all he died for a good cause."

When the priest said a prayer over the coffin near the end of the Mass, the Marine's father, Edward Daniel Lundstrom, looked at the floor and swayed back and forth, shaking with tears.

Relatives recalled the young man's bright smile and kind spirit.

Born in Vermillion, S.D., he moved numerous times because of his father's career as a Marine officer. As he was, Brett Lundstrom's parents, who are divorced, are members of the Oglala Sioux tribe, which members prefer to call Oglala Lakota.

While in high school in Stafford, Va., Brett Lundstrom was a cross country runner. He loved sports and was a fan of the Washington Capitals hockey team. He especially loved playing pool, his cousins said.

As a testament to his love of sports, Brett Lundstrom was buried with an array of sports paraphernalia, including an Oakland Raiders headband, a Washington Capitals jersey and beanie doll, and a Nebraska Cornhuskers bobblehead.

His casket also contained letters from and pictures of loved ones, said cousin Amanda Munoz.

The young man's brother, Eddy Lundstrom, 21, flew home for the funeral from Iraq, where he serves in Army.

Relatives said the younger brother plans to return to Iraq.

"He doesn't want to leave his fellow troops behind, and he knows that's what Brett would want," said Joe Lundstrom, an uncle.

During the Mass and most of the funeral, Eddy Lundstrom held his hands on his lap, showing little emotion.

But when he heard the muted sound of taps and watched as six Marines held up the flag that had draped his brother's casket, he dropped his head into his hands and sobbed.

After the ceremony, relatives watched the release of 21 white doves, which circled several times above the crowd before soaring west toward the mountains.

Before leaving the cemetery, Doyla Lundstrom stroked the coffin and kissed it lightly. She placed a Marine Corps token at the head and walked away, holding her son's Purple Heart.

After the family departed, Lakota spiritual adviser Lee Plenty Wolf approached the casket holding an abalone shell that held burning sage. He chanted a song, looking toward the sky, and waved the smoking sage above the casket as a form of purification.

Minutes later, he went to the burial site and rubbed the sage on the ground for further purification and "to let the ancestors on the other side know that he's coming."

[email protected] or 303-892-2361

Army secretary: Troops to get more armor

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, January 19, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. soldiers in Iraq could be wearing an extra 5 pounds of armor as soon as next month, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said Wednesday.

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Iraqi Army confident in the future of Iraq

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Jan. 19, 2006) -- Twenty-five-year-old Iraqi Army 1st Lt. Hussin, who’s been a soldier for five years, smiled at the thought of a promising future for Iraq and the hopes of defeating terrorists which plague his country. When asked if he thinks whether the country will divide or remain together he responded, “Together, but not just Iraq…all of the world.”


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

Story Identification #:

Despite the presence of insurgents throughout the country, Iraqi soldiers are hopeful their training will help rebuild a peaceful Iraq. With assistance from coalition forces the growing Iraqi Army continues to recruit and train men.

The army was developed under the Iraq Ministry of Defense after the 400,000-man army of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein was disbanded. The army is nearly 100,000 troops-strong, but the goal is to have 135,000 properly trained soldiers.

The East Fallujah Iraqi Camp, a location originally set up for operations during Operation Al Fajr, is the site of a new class of recruits ready to take on the challenge to become Iraqi soldiers.

“We were hoping to get 700 [recruits] in here, but when they found out they were going to the Al Anbar province only 420 got on the buses,” said Col. Mike Lentz, EFIC camp commandant.

The main recruiting stations are located in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. According to Multi-National Force--Iraq, the men range between ages 18-35 and were recruited from Al Anbar province via advertisements and word of mouth. Upon completion of training the soldiers must serve their country for two years.

Until now, training was conducted at one of two Iraqi Military training bases –Kirkush or An Numiyah, however the growing need for soldiers called for other training grounds.

“The Kirkush military training instructors are very professional and very thorough,” said Lt. Col. Scott Lystad, Ministry of Defense Coordinator, Iraqi Security Forces Directorate. “They have high standards. They’re strict on the recruits, and the recruits seem to respond to it very well.”

Kirkush instructors are known to be self-sufficient, however, coalition forces comprised of Marines and Soldiers will advise them.

The training is condensed into a four-week course. Normally soldiers undergo a standard eight-week basic training program that includes basic soldiering skills, weapons marksmanship, individual tactics, physical training, soldier discipline and drill and ceremony. Later they enroll in advanced courses in infantry tactics, heavy weapons, land navigation and other operational training both before and after joining units in the field.

“It’s a little more advanced than what we would be teaching at a regular course because of the current conflict,” said Army Staff Sgt. Travis Case, military advisor, Advisory Support Team. “We want to give them as much information as we can in a short period to get ready.”

Army cadre such as Case train Iraqi soldiers in high volumes anywhere from 500 to 1,000. Although the regular training bases have better training resources than what is available here instructors make do with what they have because of the current demand to fill immediate requirements.

“They want to become part of something,” said Case, referring to the Iraqi soldiers. “They’ll endure throughout the whole course on a promise that they’re going to do something for their country.”

The ultimate goal for coalition forces is to turn the Iraqi recruits into effective combatants. Instilling in the recruits self-sustaining discipline that will endure after their training is complete will take strong officer and noncommissioned officer leadership to enforce it. To better train recruits, coalition forces recruited soldiers who served under the old regime. Such officers and NCOs proved to be invaluable to the mission as they provided input and advice.

“In the old army, all they knew was suffering,” said Hussin. “There is a big difference between the old and new, and we try to do everything we can for these soldiers so that together we can build a new army and a new Iraq.”

Although there are several differences in military eras, one noticeable difference is the amount of respect within the soldiers. Members of tribes and sects are treated equally. Notable differences in training between U.S. forces and former training under Saddam’s regime include schooling in human rights, the laws of land warfare and tolerance in a multi-ethnic team.

“There is a big difference in armies,” said Iraqi Army training instructor, 1st Lt. Bashar, who’s been a soldier for 12 years. “We cannot even compare it. Here we provide our soldiers with everything they need.”

The army’s performance is crucial to plans to draw down the number of U.S. troops in the country. Iraqi Army officials still find the need for coalition force presence.

“The coalition forces work with us together and help us to build a new Iraq,” said Hussin. “Every country hopes to be left alone without anyone to help them. Us…not yet, not Iraq. We need them here. We cannot handle everything. We need support from any country willing to help Iraq.”

“We have nearly 450 soldiers to make good Iraqi Army to finish terrorists,” said Bashar. “God willing, we will do anything for Iraq. God willing, all of us can work together under coalition forces to make good soldiers to fight for our future.”

Hashem admits he has not seen much improvement in Iraq, but he is confident they will be able to put out quality soldiers in the city and the army will eventually defeat terrorism in their country.

“God willing that will not be a problem for long,” said Bashar, referring to the terrorists. “And if there is, every problem has a solution. We will find the solution and finish it.”

Confident in their training, the two Iraqi instructors are proud to don their uniforms, although fear for their lives.

“There are too many terrorists out there, but we don’t care,” said Hussin. “It is our duty and we have to work on that. This is my country. If I don’t fight for it no one will.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

8th ESB hosts mess night

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The commanding officer of 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), gives an order to one of his Marines to dance. Without hesitation the Marine starts “busting a move” to the hip-hop music that blares through the speakers.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier
Story Identification #:

Normally this kind of order would be considered unlawful, however, this kind of behavior is not only accepted, but expected during the Marine Corps tradition known as the mess night.

Usually mess nights are held at officer clubs or other suitable places either on or off base where Marines can suit up in their dress blues. Staff noncommissioned officers and officers with 8th ESB did not don their blues or sit in a fancy restaurant, but rather ate their food off plastic plates inside a tent while wearing the same desert camouflage utilities that they have worn for months on end.

“It [was] a chance for us to enjoy ourselves,” said Lt. Col. Daniel W. Elzie, commanding officer for 8th ESB. “Traditions like this are what separate us from other [military] branches.”

The evening started with an order directed to all the members of the mess to enter the tent in order to kick off the evening. Marines march in line one by one to their designated seats and remain at attention until the maintenance chief, Staff Sgt. David J. Lerner says, “Mr. President; all members of the mess are present.”

The junior Marine, known as Mr. Vice, controls the tempo of the night. If members of the mess want to do or say anything, they must ask permission from Lerner, who was acting as Mr. Vice, in order to speak to Elzie, who was the president.

When someone asks a question the president can either hear them out or deny their request in addressing the room.

In the middle of the room rests a large punch bowl. Unfortunately for the members of the mess, it is not punch but a concoction called the gorg that is composed of orange soda, Tabasco sauce, non-alcoholic beer, crushed up protein bars and many other oddities.

“I don’t care what’s in it,” Lerner said laughing as he poured a bag of beef jerky into the mix. “I’m not going to have to drink of any of it because I’m the vice.”

Once the plates from the meal are cleared, the floor was open for anyone in the mess to fine their fellow Marines for anything from uniform discrepancies to humorous rivalries. The president hears both sides of the situations to determine who deems the punishment. The punishments included drinking from the grog, singing a cappella, dancing to random songs or anything else that resides in the imagination of the president.

Once the fining is finished, the president has the capability to fine anyone he deems necessary for any occurrence during the mess night.

“How come there was no desert on our table,” Elzie asked Lerner. “Go ahead and drink from the grog.”

Only the president can order Mr. Vice to drink from the grog. At this mess, not even Lerner could escape a trip to the punch bowl.

The units mess night gave the Marines a chance to have a good time and enjoy the camaraderie and esprit de Corps that took place during the evening.

Twelve toasts were dedicated throughout the night to the Marines who fought for our nation during historic battles and wars, fallen comrades who died bravely and a toast to the success of the Marine Corps.

The commanding officer of 2nd MLG (Fwd), Brig. Gen John E. Wissler, who was the guest of honor during the mess night, provided the Marines of 8th ESB with some words of encouragement and motivation as the Marines near the end of their tour here.

“A pessimist sees danger at every opportunity while an optimist sees opportunity at every possible danger,” Wissler said. “The challenge is becoming that optimist while deployed here [in Iraq]. This battalion took that challenge and greatly succeeded.”

Marine wanted to Make Colorado Home

Brett Lundstrom and his mother, Doyla, planned to move to the Denver area by April after he returned from Iraq.

The native of Vermillion, S.D., was serving as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and wanted to move to Colorado because he loved the mountains and wanted to be closer to relatives, family members said.


By Katherine Crowell
Denver Post Staff Writer

But Doyla Lundstrom must now make the move alone.

Brett Lundstrom, 22, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, was laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery just south of Denver on Wednesday

During the funeral, Lundstrom's mother accepted the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon that her son was awarded for the fatal gunshot wounds he received from enemy fire during combat in Fallujah. Lundstrom died Jan. 7 in Iraq's Anbar Province.

Joe Lundstrom, Brett's uncle, said his nephew knew he was going to emulate his father, Edward Lundstrom, by serving as a Marine.

"Like any young kid, he was nervous," Joe Lundstrom said. "But he was doing what he loved."

Brett Lundstrom joined up in January 2003 when he was 19, and served in Afghanistan from September through December 2004.

Lundstrom came home briefly before being deployed to Iraq in September 2005, said cousin Victoria Munoz of Thornton.

Munoz said she talked to him on Dec. 26 about his plans to come home and go on vacation to Cancún, Mexico.

"He had the most amazing smile, and his laugh was contagious," said Victoria's sister Amanda Munoz. "He loved playing pool and everything was kind of a bet for him."

The funeral service was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Northglenn, where members of the Rocky Mountain Christian Motorcycle Association, the Patriot Guard Riders, several veterans and at least three mothers of Marines Corps officers stood outside waving American flags in the high winds.

The service at the cemetery incorporated the traditions of both a military funeral and Native American culture.

Gov. Bill Owens paid respects to the family, and Denver's Plenty Wolf Singers performed two drum chants. They burned sage, said performer John Edwards, which represents "purification and prepares the spirit for entering the spirit world."

Edwards said the group chanted a memorial song and a warrior song to celebrate Lundstrom's native heritage as a warrior of the Lakota people.

"It is about bringing him home," Edwards said. "He is coming home to his people and family."

Staff writer Katherine Crowell can be reached at [email protected]

Marines, sailors celebrate Christmas with local school children

HAMAHIGA ISLAND, OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 19, 2006) -- Seventeen Marines and sailors with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, played miniature golf, shared a Christmas dinner and sang Christmas carols with Hama Junior High School pupils Dec. 9 on Hamahiga Island.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Butler
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Terence L. Yancey
Story Identification #:

“I enjoyed spending time with the Okinawan students,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Metzger, a logistics/embarkation and combat service support specialist with 9th Engineer Support Bn. “We played games, which helped break the language barrier and ease the nervousness on both sides.”

The afternoon began with a miniature golf competition. After the game, service members set up the dinner in the school cafeteria and everyone dined on traditional holiday food like turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and various pies.

After dinner, the service members and pupils discussed the Christmas holiday cultural differences and sang Christmas carols.

“Even though we couldn’t speak the same language, we communicated like we knew each other,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Lott, a bulk fuel specialist with 9th Engineer Support Bn.

The first activity 9th Engineer Support Bn. organized with Hama Junior High School was Thanksgiving dinner in 2003, according to Seaman Travis J. Fowler, a religious program specialist with the battalion. The battalion participates in approximately two community relations events a month and visits the junior high school about six times a year. The next activity at Hama Junior High School is a five-kilometer run scheduled for January 26.

“Our Marines and sailors love to interact with the children in the local schools,” said Lt. Stephen D. Fisher, the 9th Engineer Support Bn. chaplain. “Often I’ll find myself having to practically drag them away from the school at the end of the event. They’re having such a great time they don’t want to leave.”

U.S. And Iraqi Forces Go On The Offensive Against Terror

Baghdad, Iraq (AHN) - U.S. Marines are working with Iraqi soldiers to conduct counterinsurgency operations in Iraq's Anbar province. (22nd MEU)


January 19, 2006 2:31 a.m. EST

Matthew Borghese - All Headline News Staff Writer

According to officials, almost 1,000 U.S. Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are engaged in "Operation Koa Canyon," whose mission is to both, "capture or kill insurgents and to locate and destroy their weapons caches in the western Euphrates River Valley."

The mission was launched January, 15, and will operate between the Jubbah/Baghdadi region and the city of Hit.

According to the American Forces Press Service the combined operation involves 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Division, and the 22nd MEU's ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

Servicemembers receive new benefits for severe combat injuries

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 19, 2006) -- Service members who suffer traumatic injuries in combat will be eligible for financial compensation Dec. 1 thanks to a new program under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Butler
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Sarah M. Maynard

Story Identification #:

The Traumatic Injury Protection Insurance program was part of Public Law 109-13, which President George W. Bush signed May 11. Injuries covered under the TSGLI must be sustained in combat, and include loss of speech, sight, hearing, arms, legs, and other similar seriously debilitating wounds.

“The purpose of the program is to provide compensation to service members during their recovery period from a serious traumatic injury,” said Jeffery A. Shattuck, a Marine Corps

Traumatic SGLI representative. “It is not intended to serve as a long term income replacement.”

“That could be something like loss of sight in one eye, loss of a hand at the wrist, or third degree burns covering 30 percent of the body or face,” Shattuck said.

The Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance determines payment amounts. These amounts are based on how severe the combat injury or loss of ability is and how it affects the performance of specific daily living activities, according to Shattuck.

The new coverage will be automatic automatically added to those service members who have SGLI coverage.

“All service members covered by SGLI will automatically receive TSGLI coverage through an increase of one dollar to SGLI premiums,” Shattuck said.
Service members who were injured before the initiation of the program will be included.

“Retroactive coverage will be available to any service member, with or without SGLI coverage,” Shattuck said. “The service member must have been injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom on or after Oct. 7, 2001, but before Dec. 1 2005. After Dec. 1, a service member must have been enrolled in SGLI to be eligible for TSGLI payments.”

More information about the new TSGLI program, including a complete list of injuries covered under the TSGLI and amount paid for each is available at http://www.manpower.usmc.mil/tsgli.

Secrets to eating more and maintaining a lean body

CAMP FALLUJAH, IRAQ (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The trend across camp is apparent; as service members redeploy back to the states, more and more are attempting to physically burn off those extra servings from the chow hall to produce a leaner, meaner body. It may be too late to burn off the junk food received inside care packages from mom, but it’s never too late to begin the proper exercise program needed to meet personal fitness goals.


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre
Story Identification #:

A good exercise program includes consistency in exercise, moderation in diet by eating more times but smaller portions throughout the day and some knowledge of exercise physiology, according to Cmdr. Steven Galeski, group surgeon, Group Aid Station, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD).

“If you do a little bit of each [types of exercises] building muscle mass and spread your feeding out so you put less calories into your body, you’re going to lose weight,” said Galeski. “I guarantee it’s really that simple, but you have to be motivated to do it and you got to know how to do it.”

Knowledge of exercise physiology is essential to obtaining successful goals in the battle against the bulge. One ounce of muscle is approximately four times smaller than one ounce of fat and the same ounce of muscle burns approximately four times as many calories as an ounce of fat, according to Galeski.

In addition to aerobic exercise, Galeski recommends anaerobic exercise through resistance or weight training, arguing the muscle breakdown and buildup which occurs, increases our Basal Metabolic Rate—the thermostat for burning calories.

“When you exercise to lose weight, the first thing that’s going to happen is your going to gain weight,” he said. “But that is the transition from burning up fat to making lean muscle which burns up more calories.”

The other factor to meeting personal fitness goals is proper dieting. Galeski recommends a daily caloric intake spread out in five meals instead of three and eating more of your food earlier in the day to allow daily activity and exercise to burn calories.

“Research has proven conclusively that if you eat more frequently than three squares a day, you will put fewer calories in your mouth,” he said. “If you don’t eat breakfast usually most people starve and will eat a big lunch, and if they skip lunch then the hunger builds up which almost guarantees a big dinner. And what do most people do after dinner? They sleep.”

Understanding how the human body functions and combining consistent exercise and proper dieting will help anyone meet their fitness goals.

“Using the techniques that Cmdr. Galeski teaches, it is a definite, safe, effective way to lose weight,” said Staff Sgt. James D. Tunis, ammunition chief, logistics section, II MHG, II MEF (FWD). “Proper diet and exercise to build lean muscle mass will strip the fat away. I have been using the techniques taught to me by Cmdr. Galeski and have lost over 30 pounds.”

Galeski recommends increasing your BMR through proper exercise. Physical fitness increases the thermostat and helps burn calories at a higher rate hours after the physical activity. Anaerobic exercises burn calories for 8-12 hours after the workout and aerobic exercise burn calorie for approximately 12-18 hours.

A combination of increased muscle mass which burns calories faster than fat and proper dieting of meals is a recipe to fighting off extra weight gain.

“Spread the amount of food you eat in one days’ time into four or five feedings and our brain will not want you to binge,” said Galeski. “Resistance workouts increase more muscle mass plus your Basal Metabolic Rate increases. With moderation in exercise, eating and a little bit of knowledge, you should be a success.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

`Marlboro Man' is home, living, coping and healing

LONG FORK, Ky. - The steep mountainsides in western Pike County are painted in the drabbest of winter browns and grays now, but already there is a feeling in the air that the land is ready to break out with spring color in a few weeks, bringing new life, new hope.


Posted on Thu, Jan. 19, 2006

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Maybe that's a good omen for a young man back home after surviving the meat grinder of Iraq but still struggling to cope with the psychological shocks of all he's seen and done, shocks that ultimately cut short his career in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Millions of Americans remember him only as the "Marlboro Man" - the grubby, exhausted Marine lance corporal with a cigarette dangling from lips in a famous 2004 photograph from the battle for Fallujah. The picture has become one of the iconic images of the Iraq war.

Around Pike County, though, he's just plain Blake Miller, 21 and a civilian again. Today, he's intent on getting over the black-outs and the nightmares, and building a new life with his new wife, Jessica.

And the young man whose image became a symbol of the war now grapples with his own feelings on the conflict and questions the continued U.S. presence in Iraq.

Today, he doesn't look much like that 2004 photograph. He's clean-cut, with brown hair and a thin mustache, still close to his high school football playing weight of 155. He still smokes a little over a pack of Marlboros per day but has cut down from the five packs or more he was burning through every day at the height of the Fallujah battle.

He still carries some shrapnel scars, and some scars you can't see.

"I could tell you stories about Iraq that would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck," he said. "And I could tell you things that were great over there. But that still wouldn't tell you what it was actually like. You had to be there and go through it to really understand."

Miller said he began having problems soon after returning from Iraq early last year _sleeplessness, nightmares, times when he would "blank out," not knowing what he was doing or where he was. Then, just after Hurricane Katrina last fall, Miller was sent to New Orleans, where he and other Marines waded through flooded neighborhoods, recovering bodies. Somewhere along the way, all the stresses piled up, and they boiled over a few days later while Miller was on board the USS Iwo Jima, a Navy ship on hurricane duty off the Gulf Coast.

"I was coming out of the galley, when this sailor made a whistling noise that resembled the sound of a rocket-propelled grenade," Miller said. "You had to have heard that sound to duplicate it. I don't know why he did it. Maybe he was just poking fun at Marines. But something just triggered and I flipped out.

"They said that I grabbed him, threw him against the bulkhead and put him down on the deck, with me on top of him. But I have no recollection of it whatsoever."

There had been some other incidents as well. Eventually, three military psychiatrists diagnosed Miller as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a set of serious psychological symptoms that afflict many who have been in life-threatening situations. The Marines, concluding that Miller could be a threat to himself or to his teammates in any future combat situation, granted him an early but honorable discharge.

Miller became a civilian Nov. 10 - on the 230th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1775, and the one-year anniversary of the date when the photograph from Fallujah hit the newspapers.

"At first, I was irate because I wanted to stay in, and make a career out of it," he said. "I liked being a Marine; it was the only thing I had known for the better part of three years. But I decided that this is what I'm stuck with, so I've got to deal with it."

Now, Miller regularly sees a therapist (the government is picking up the bill) and he says he is doing well. He says he wants the public to better understand post-traumatic stress disorder and realize that those who have it don't deserve any public stigma.

"The biggest reason I did this interview is because I want people to know that PTSD is not something people come down with because they're crazy. It's an anxiety disorder, where you've experienced something so traumatic that you were close to death.

"A lot of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD, but nobody took the time to understand or help them. Now, some of those guys are living on the street. You look at their situation, and you think about what they did for their country and where they are now ... that hurts."

He has gone through other changes as well, including doubts about the war.

"When I was in the service, my opinion was whatever the commander in chief's opinion was," he said. "But after I got out, I really started thinking about it. ... The biggest question I have is how you can make war on an entire country, when a certain group from that country is practicing terrorism against you. It's as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew up some stuff, and Iraq started a war against us because of that.

"I agree with taking care of terrorism. But after terrorism was dealt with, the way it was after Fallujah, maybe that was the time for us to pull out. That's just my opinion. It blows my mind that we've continued to drag this out."

James Blake Miller grew up in Pike County, the oldest of three active, athletic brothers. He decided very early that, like his grandfather, he would become a Marine.

Greg Napier, Miller's freshman homeroom teacher at Shelby Valley High School, recalls that when he asked new students to list their career goals, Miller wrote: U.S. Marine Corps. Napier also became Miller's football coach and for three years watched him use heart and hustle to make up for his lack of size. Miller worked so hard that, after his junior year, he severely injured his shoulder lifting weights and had to give up football.

"I think that was the saddest I ever saw him," Napier said. "He was afraid he wouldn't get into the Marines because of his shoulder, but they did take him."

David Bowling, who taught Miller in shop class, recalls him as a "go-to" guy, who could be relied on to take responsibility and finish projects, traits that the Marine Corps values.

Miller joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 2003 and was assigned to the infantry. He went to Iraq the next year with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines and became a part of the Marine force assembled to clear insurgents out of Fallujah. The monthlong operation still is remembered as perhaps the toughest of the war.

Even now, Miller struggles trying to describe it.

"It's not exactly something I like to talk about. You see movies where somebody gets shot. It's nothing to see somebody get shot, that's just a movie.

"But when you see it in real life, it's completely different ... the feeling you have afterward is completely different. Even when you're being shot at, and you're returning fire ... whether you've hit anybody or not ... it's knowing that you're actually shooting at somebody. At the time you don't think about it ... but afterward, it's mind-boggling, it really is."

On the second day of the battle, Miller and some buddies found themselves on the roof of a building, under heavy sniper fire. Into the action rushed Luis Sinco, a Los Angeles Times photographer who was embedded with Miller's outfit.

"We had no idea he was coming up the stairs; in fact, we almost shot him," Miller said. "But when he got up there, he decided to snap some pictures."

Sinco recalls that he took cover behind a wall, and that a Marine came over, sat down beside him and lit a cigarette. It was Miller. Sinco raised his camera and fired the shutter.

When Sinco got ready to electronically transmit his photos back to the Los Angeles Times later that night, he wasn't very impressed with the picture. It was just another shot of another Marine. Indeed, it was the last picture he selected to send to the paper that day. It turned out to be perhaps the most memorable picture of the war so far.

Sinco, who has stayed in touch with Miller ever since, said he thought his editors would be more interested in action pictures of Marines shooting, running and kicking down doors.

"But somehow that portrait just resonated with everyone who saw it," Sinco said. "It's as if all the emotions of the war converged on Blake's face at that moment: bravery, doubt, hope, fatigue, despair. It's all written on his face."

The photo was carried in more than 100 U.S. newspapers, put on national television, and published all over the world. Miller's name didn't become public until a few days later, though family members and friends back in Pike County immediately recognized him. By then newspapers were calling him the Marlboro Man - a title Miller was never totally comfortable with, believing that he was no more deserving of attention than any other Marine at Fallujah.

Shortly after the photograph appeared, he was told that Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was on the way to see him.

"The general said, 'You're a pretty famous Marine today,'" Miller recalled. "I said, 'With all due respect, sir, I don't understand what's going on.' He said, your picture is all over the United States right now. They were saying the picture would go into history books, and I thought that they were joking."

Luis Sinco says the Marine Corps offered to pull Miller out of the Fallujah battle then and there, not wanting the suddenly famous Marine to be injured or killed. But Miller refused to go.

He did receive tons of mail: gifts of Marlboro cigarettes from all 50 states, even gifts sent by President Bush - plus a lot of ribbing from fellow Marines.

Miller kept a low profile when he came home to Pike County on leave early last year, after his unit's return from Iraq. His mother said that he insisted he was no hero and wanted no hoopla. He has continued to decline interviews until an appearance on CBS earlier this month.

Miller began dating Jessica Holbrooks, a girl he had known since both were children, not long after getting home. A long-range romance developed, with Miller driving 700-mile round trips from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to see her each weekend. He said that after running up more than $2,600 worth of speeding tickets, enough was enough. He and Jessica married last June.

Problems with post-traumatic stress have cast a cloud over what has been an otherwise joyous time for the two. Nevertheless, they are looking to the future. Jessica has completed her bachelor's at Pikeville College and hopes for a career in psychology. Blake is waiting for his Marine benefits to fully kick in and is thinking of starting a business.

He and Jessica now live with her grandparents on Long Fork in western Pike County. They plan to build a home of their own nearby.

"Right now," Miller says, "I'm just glad to be here."

Indianapolis Marine slain in N.C., sailor held

Investigators on Friday found the body of Cpl. Justin L. Huff, 23, of Indianapolis, in a wooded area of Currituck County, N.C., just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Huff had been missing since Jan. 2 from the Dam Neck Annex of Oceana Naval Air Station. (1st MLG Marine)


Associated Press
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A sailor is being held at Norfolk Naval Station in connection with the murder of a Marine from Indiana who went missing two weeks ago, Naval investigators said Wednesday.

Huff was murdered, but investigators wouldn't release details on how he died or the circumstances surrounding his death.
Navy investigators identified Petty Officer 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 22, of Boones Mill, Va., as a suspect in the case. Beth Baker, spokeswoman for Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said formal charges against Jackson will be brought soon.
Both men attended the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Virginia Beach, Va.
Huff was assigned to the Brigade Service Support Group 1, First Marine Logistics Group, Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, Calif.
He had served two combat tours in Iraq.

Copyright 2006 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved

24th MEU brings out the big guns at A.P. Hill

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Jan. 19, 2006) --
With a deployment on the horizon for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 8th Marines, is making the most of a three-week field exercise at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 2006120105233
Story by Cpl. Matt Lyman

The latest training evolution focused on the BLT’s big guns. The Marines of Sierra Battery, wielding their M198 155mm Medium Howitzers, conducted direct fire training at one of the many ranges here.

Traditionally howitzers are positioned with their barrels pointed at an elevated angle and fire indirectly at their targets, which are generally over the horizon and don’t know a round is coming until it’s too late. With a direct fire set up the barrel is lowered so it’s parallel to the ground and fired straight at the enemy who is generally within a mile of the gun emplacement.

”Rather than have the howitzer positioned to use indirect fire which is shooting several kilometers away,” said 2nd Lt. William Soucie, battery executive officer. “You depress the tube to a zero elevation for instance and you are able to engage targets coming right at you … you can see the impact. It’s an interesting venture and it’s a good time.”

The Marines fired off, volley after volley, of high explosive and white phosphorous rounds at the various, rusted out hulks of long since retired tanks and personnel carriers that littered the artillery range. The shoot was arranged as if the howitzer position was coming under attack from the direct front and the Marines had to adjust fire to not only shoot, but hit the closer than usual target. The Marines were broken down into their teams so the Marines that fired together during the training would be the Marines that they would fire with during an actual fire mission.

These howitzers have been in service since the 10th Marine Regiment received their first ten in January 1982. Since then many advances have been made to make them as lethal and accurate as possible. The oddity of these direct fire drills is that these guns are capable of accurately destroying targets almost 14 miles away with a conventional 155mm round. The range increases to almost 19 miles if rocket assisted ammunition is used. So, engaging a target that is operating within a mile of the gun position certainly is good training.

“There is no comparison to the training we can do here to Camp Lejuene,” said Sgt. Antonio Beezer, section chief for Sierra Battery. “First of all Lejuene is a little bit smaller and is more restrictive…” “For example…we don’t have a direct fire range at Camp Lejuene so this is the first time that 90% of these Marines have ever done this sort of training.”

The Marines of Sierra Battery will continue training while they are at Ft. A.P. Hill and have yet to be told what role they’ll be playing in the upcoming training cycle, but whatever it is they will be there with the big guns. The BLT is scheduled to pull out of Fort A.P. Hill at the end of the month as they continue their pre-deployment training package.

Marines get glimpse of new gear at expo

CAMP PENDLETON – A record number of vendors hawking everything from Amazing Pooh-Powder to socks to virtual convoy trainers packed the 14th annual Marine West Military Exposition yesterday.


By Rick Rogers

January 19, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Scott Preston stood in the turret of a Humvee-style combat simulator at the Marine West Military Exposition at Camp Pendleton yesterday.

Though the two-day event has no theme, most of the 140 companies represented sought to cater to the Marines from this base who are heading to Iraq. About 25,000 Marines and sailors, mostly from Camp Pendleton, are deploying.

After the expo's opening ceremony, Marines browsed the stalls looking for items to make them more comfortable – or just keep them alive – on the battlefield.

"What I would love to find is something to slow down (improvised explosive devices)," said Sgt. Maj. Melvin Roundtree, the top enlisted man in the 5th Marine Regiment. "That is the thing that keeps people up at night."

No luck there. But that didn't mean every Marine walked away empty-handed or lacking in ideas for dream-ticket items.

A virtual combat trainer by MPRI, priced at nearly $2 million, was a big draw.

Marines stood in line for a chance to climb aboard a Humvee that went on virtual patrols in Iraq or Afghanistan. The simulations included scenarios involving ambushes. The Marines would respond by firing blanks that emitted a laser to register hits and misses on insurgents.

"Very realistic. The sites, the smells, everything," said Staff Sgt. Robert Trenum, a drummer in the Marine band from Western Port, Md. Trenum is headed to Fallujah, where the band will provide security at Camp Fallujah. It will be his second tour to Iraq.

"This is by far the best simulation I've seen," Trenum said before a company official pigeonholed him to ask how it could be made better.

It's such give-and-take that makes the expo popular with Marines and manufacturers, said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead, national chairman of the Marine Corps League Exposition Committee.

"The exhibitors enjoy the opportunity to talk to Marines. That's why 80 percent of them come back," Olmstead said. "Here, a buck sergeant can make a difference by pointing out a problem with a piece of equipment or suggesting how something might be done better, and the vendors will listen because they know the Marine is an expert. This is a place where the Marines aren't afraid to say (something) is a piece of crap."

One company that might not take total exception to that description is NRS, inventor of the Amazing Pooh-Powder. One scoopful of the product can gel 60 ounces of waste, neutralizing odor while speeding decay.

The exposition also gives Marines the chance to buy equipment. Roundtree said the average grunt spends about $400 of his own money on equipment before deploying. Such out-of-pocket expenses used to be higher before the Corps started furnishing more gear, he said.

Cpl. James Gonzalez of Plano, Texas, was amazed by the high-tech items available for the battlefield. He was impressed by advances in body armor, particularly for the turret gunner in a Humvee, a job that he described as dangerous from firsthand experience.

"I think this (event) gives us a good idea of what we can ask for," said Gonzalez, who bought a small, high-powered flashlight and an infrared beacon.

Cpl. Andrew Liebhard of the 1st Marine Logistics Group also noted the advancements in body armor. "A lot of (it) is designed against improvised explosive devices," he said.

Gonzalez and Liebhard will be in Taqaddam, Iraq, within the month.

The exposition began at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County. The number of participating vendors grew 10 percent annually until last year, when the total jumped 25 percent. Vendor attendance also increased 25 percent for this year's event.

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212; [email protected]

January 18, 2006

Operation Trifecta takes weapons, insurgents off streets

ZAIDON, Iraq (Jan. 18, 2006) -- During Operation Trifecta the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, with support from surrounding units, performed house-to-house searches and wide spread cache sweeps here, Nov. 14 through the 18.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2006227256
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen

The Marines detained more than thirty suspected insurgents and located more than 1,000 mortar, artillery rounds and rockets; 20,000 rounds of ammunition for small arms and over a dozen weapon systems, including AK-47’s and Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, according to Maj. Timothy M. Bairstow, the battalion’s operations officer.

“The Marines in the battalion did a superb job with the operation, reducing the insurgent’s ability and spirit to fight,” said Maj. Christopher Dixon, Battalion Executive Officer. “Targeted personnel and numerous weapons caches were discovered and destroyed.”

The five day operation included Company E, Company F and Weapons Company from the battalion and two squads of Combat Engineers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. The main effort for these Marines was house searches and large cache sweeps through the farm land and fields surrounding three target areas in Zaidon.

The other units involved acted as blocking forces for the raids on day one of the operation. These units included Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, elements of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, elements of 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Team Traveler (part of Regimental Combat Team 8’s headquarters company and U.S. Army B Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment.

“The supporting units were instrumental in not letting the insurgents leave the areas we were hitting on the first day of the operation,” Bairstow stated.

One platoon from each of the companies was inserted by helicopter on Nov. 14. The ground-based forces left their respective staging areas and began the search inside the cordon elements.

After half a day of rigorous house-to-house searches and vehicle searches, 15 men were detained and sent to the battalion detention facility. At the completion of day one, the surrounding blocking forces returned to other tasks while the Marines and sailors continued with the operation.

Over the next four days, infantry squads, reinforced with combat engineers, were sent on sweep missions into the fields and houses in the areas surrounding the first day’s objectives. They also searched vehicles for weapons and possible insurgents as they searched the county side.

Trudging through the mud of freshly irrigated fields and along the edges of numerous canals, the Marines pressed forward every day to deny the insurgents the ability to fight against Coalition Forces. The Combat Engineers, with metal detectors in hand, successfully helped unearth several tons of enemy weapons that would have been used in future attacks.

“This operation was one of the most successful for the battalion and Regimental Combat Team 8,” said Dixon. “We accomplished every task we had set up and took large amounts of enemy material out of their hands disposing of it on the spot. With more operations like this the country of Iraq is well on its way to being a free democratic nation.”

2nd MLG Marines are first to train Iraqi Logistics Regiment

AL ASAD, Iraq(Jan. 18, 2006) -- More than nine Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward)are members of the first Marine unit to begin training one of the two first Iraqi logistics regiments in the new Iraqi Army.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Wayne Edmiston

Story Identification #:

This small distinguished group is called a military transition team, and is responsible for training the new soldiers and officers of the new Iraqi Army for nearly three months to prepare them for the rigors of a logistics unit in a combat environment.

“We are teaching them standard convoy procedures, such as security, dispersion, security halts,” said Cpl. Jeff L. Jayne, a motor transportation operator, and MTT instructor.

The unit of the Iraqi Army that is being trained is called 2nd Motor Transportation Regiment, and for the past year has been trained by an Army MTT team.

Now the unit is being turned over to the Marines to complete their training on navigating the roads in Iraq, Layne said.

The Marines who are participating in the operation know that they are part of the history of the new Iraq, and forming a complete and self-sufficient Iraqi military.

“It feels good to be a part of Iraqi history,” Layne said. “It’s great to see them wanting to learn and have their own military.”

One thing the MTT instructors notice is the intuition of the Iraqi students and their willingness to try new things.

“They ask a lot of questions,” 2nd Lt. Kyle B. Opel said. “They really want to learn, and be good Iraqi soldiers.”

In the past, coalition forces have been largely responsible for training the ground combat side of the Iraqi military but now is they have began training the logistical side with CLB-8 at the forefront.

“If you don’t have logistics you can’t re-supply the infantry,” Opel explained. “This operation is one step closer to them operating independently.”

Having a self sufficient Iraqi military is one of the main goals to aid in the independent government of Iraq, he said.

“This Motor [Transportation] unit is pivotal to the success of their military,” Opel said. “Until now, coalition forces have had to act as the logistics for Iraqi infantry units.”

The looks on the faces of the Iraqi’s showed optimism that the success of the new government and Iraqi military is coming soon.

“They are really happy to be here,” Layne said. “I look forward to working with them even more.”

Southern Illinois community remembers fallen Marine

WOODLAWN, Ill. - The high school in this tiny southern Illinois town will close Friday so students and staff can attend the funeral of a 2004 graduate killed last week in Iraq.


Associated Press

Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price, 19, was on guard duty on Jan. 13 in Ramadi, Iraq, when he was killed, reportedly during combat. Price, who was set to return home on Feb. 20, was planning to marry his pregnant fiance.

"He was just a great man," said Kelly Owens, a technology coordinator at Woodlawn High School. "He was a really important part of our community."

Alan Estes, the high school's superintendent, remembers Price as "a cooperative young man who had a goal and a purpose each day" as he walked, smiling, through the hallways.

"You can't have enough Kyle Prices in your school," Estes said.

Shane Witzel, Price's former baseball coach, called Price the consummate team player, "always willing to do whatever it took to make the team better."

"He wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself," Witzel said.

Around this community of 630 residents west of Mount Vernon, ribbons are tied to signs and posts - yellow sashes signifying support for the U.S. war effort, black ones representing a fallen soldier.

"There is a sense of togetherness here, a feeling of trust and caring for each other that you may not find in bigger towns or cities," Owens said.

The high school's Web site features a color photo of a uniformed Price against a black backdrop, along with other photos of Price as a student. An animated U.S. flag flutters at half-staff.

Signers of the Web site's guestbook include Price's Spanish teacher, Debbie Wilson, who wrote that "if I were in any battle, I would have wanted Kyle by my side, and somewhere a mother is whispering a prayer of thanks that Kyle was there."


Woodlawn High School: http://www.woodlawnhs.org/

Scammers Posing As Marines Offer Mountains of Cash

Computer security experts say the old Nigerian "prince" scam is making the email rounds again, but this time the deposed "prince" has been replaced by a U.S. Marine. They say the objective is the same – to get recipients to reveal bank account information.

Scammers Posing As Marines Offer Mountains of Cash


January 18, 2006

Officials at the Internet security firm Sophos say they have intercepted a sudden burst of spam emails, purportedly from a Sergeant Richard Murphy of the "Military Engineering Unit" in Iraq.

In a variation of what’s known as the standard 419 scam, the email promises the recipients mountains of cash if they turn over bank account information, and pay some "processing" fees along the way.

"We have about $15 Million US dollars that we want to move out of the country. My colleagues and I need a good partner, someone we can trust. This is a risk free and legal business (oil money)," the message reads.

In years past, anyone with an email account could count of getting regular correspondence from a Nigerian "prince," whose family had been deposed in a coup and who was desperately trying to smuggle the family loot to the U.S. Security experts say scammers simply "freshen" their approaches from time to time, and often follow the headlines.

A one-stop, online shop for stress guidance

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - (Jan. 18, 2006) -- Stress is something almost every person on the face of this planet has to deal with on a regular basis – Marines are no exception. With the ongoing deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the War on Terror, Marines have already begun returning to Camp Lejeune with symptoms of Combat and Operational Stress.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Lejeune
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston
Story Identification #:

But combat stress isn’t the only problem Marines have to contend with. Other stressors include things such as marital problems, substance abuse and suicidal behavior, to name a few. After two years in development, the Marine Corps released the Leaders Guide for Managing Marines in Distress on Nov. 16, 2005.

The guide provides an exciting new web-based tool for leaders of Marines, from fire team leader to commander, to maximize personal and unit readiness when a Marine is confronted with a potentially distressing situation, according to MARADMIN 582/05.

“It was designed as a quick-access, one-stop tool for leaders to use in helping their Marines handle and overcome problems,” said Lt. Cmdr. Aaron D. Werbel, a behavior health affairs officer with Headquarters Marine Corps, and key developer of the project.

Problems Marines face can occupy a significant amount of a leader’s time and can have detrimental consequences for both the Marine and the unit if the issue is not quickly addressed and handled effectively, according to MARADMIN 582/05.

“The best benefit of the tool is the ability to have instant access to more than 40 different problems in one place,” said Werbel. “Marine leaders have always been able to provide the support for, and instill confidence in, their Marines. With this resource, they no longer have to waste valuable time searching for information on the subject.”

The guide was developed based on the Air Force Leader’s Guide for Managing Personnel in Distress. Though similar to the Air Force’s template, the Marine Corps’ version includes a few new features.

“The Navy and Marine Corps originally wanted to do a joint product, but they quickly realized that it wouldn’t be very efficient,” said Werbel. “Marine Corps culture and Navy culture are totally different.”

The guide is a dynamic Web site tool that will be expanded and updated on a daily basis or as needed, according to Werbel. On an annual basis, subject matter experts will review the Web site and recommend changes and/or additions that need to be made.

“In about a month or so, we will be ready to launch an exact version of the Web site, not including external links, that leaders can download onto their computer’s hard drive,” said Werbel. “This will enable leaders out in the field a way to access this information.”

For more information on the Leaders Guide for Managing Marines in Distress, go to http://www.usmc-mccs.org/leadersguide.

Crownsville Marine fatally shot during second tour of Iraq

A Marine corporal from Crownsville described by friends as "one of the above-and-beyond guys" died in Iraq this weekend.

Cpl. Justin J. Watts, a 2003 graduate of Old Mill High School and a versatile athlete, died on Jan. 14 of an apparent non-hostile gunshot wound, according to the Department of Defense.


By EARL KELLY, Staff Writer

Cpl. Watts, 20, was found dead at a forward operating base in Haditha, Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. His death is under investigation.

Cpl. Watts was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. His unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

A Marine spokesman said no additional details were available.

Cpl. Watts' wife, Nicole Seaton Watts, declined to discuss her husband's service or death, but a friend of the Watts family read from a prepared statement.

The spokesman, who declined to give her name, said Cpl. Watts married his high school sweetheart in May 2004.

Cpl. Watts joined the Marines in September 2003 and served a tour of duty in Iraq from June 2004 to January 2005, the woman said.

"We are extremely proud of Justin and will miss him," she said.

The family spokesman said Cpl. Watts was a competitive swimmer and lacrosse player who enjoyed racing BMX bikes.

In his senior year at Old Mill High School, he was a founding member of the school's ice hockey team.

"He was definitely one of the above-and-beyond guys," said his hockey teammate Mike Urgo. "I was only a sophomore and he definitely took me under wing. We were getting shut out 10-0, and he kept my spirits high."

Mr. Urgo's father, Don, coached the hockey team.

Don Urgo described Cpl. Watts as "a big guy" who was "very mild-mannered."

"He had a huge following of fans who would come to the game just for him - people liked him," Don Urgo said.

"We heard about his death (this weekend) and the e-mails started going around," he said of Cpl. Watts' many friends.

Don Urgo went on to say that Cpl. Watts was "a silent leader."

"He was very honest, had a lot of integrity. Hockey has some bad boys, but he was very good at quelling them (teammates and opponents alike) and keeping them focused."

Cpl. Watts' lacrosse coach at Old Mill, Steve Spence, described him as "very respectful, super responsible. He was a great kid."

Published January 18, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2006 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

New Iraq Operation Launched

Baghdad, Jan. 18 (Prensa Latina) About 1,000 US troops, backed by Iraqi soldiers, have launched an operation in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar, said US sources. (22nd MEU)


The US troops, which have lost 2,221 soldiers in the 34 months of war, continue attacking alleged insurgency bases eastward and north-eastward.

US forces, some 1,000 from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit with support of mechanized divisions, have been in combat since Sunday in the western Euphrates River Valley.

The Wadi Aljundi Operation is taking place between Jubbah and Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, where soldiers do house-to-house searches in cordoned-off areas looking for weapons and insurgents.

Occupation forces give great importance to Al Anbar Province for its location within the uncontrollable Sunni triangle and its nearness to the border of Syria.

Civil affairs continues making positive difference

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Jan. 18, 2006) -- Marines assigned to the 6th Civil Affairs Group, 2nd Marine Division, prove there is another side of the story to tell as they continue to carry out their missions to provide guidance within Al Anbar province, the largest province in Iraq.


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo
Story Identification #:

“The stories that we don’t hear enough about – the good news stories about making lives better and a nation stronger – that’s what the civil affairs Marines do every day in Iraq,” said Col. Paul Brier, commanding officer, 6th CAG.

The group arrived in September to help rebuild the infrastructure and assist in facilitating the transition into a self-governing people.

“We’re helping the people of Iraq, and I honestly believe it’s come a long way from where we were,” said Sgt. Richard F. Litto, team chief, Team 3, Detachment 4, 6th CAG. “Schools have been built, roads are being repaired, water supplies are coming back into the neighborhoods, and people are actually smiling at us. That’s pretty good.”

Recently, members of Litto’s team visited the site of one of their first projects, a school the team adopted in Fallujah.

“We followed it right through several different phases as far as assessing it, finding a contractor, obtaining funds and making payments,” said Litto, a reserve Marine and native of Boston. “We went through the whole process from start to finish, and we became very friendly with administrators, teachers and students. It was pretty awesome to go from beginning to end.”

The team returned to the school after the renovation process was complete to drop off supplies.

“It was like we went to school there as kids,” said Litto. “When I look at these kids, I can see my kids. We can all see our children there. That’s the innocence and it makes it all worth it.”

During their visit, the team also visited families in need medical care and handed medicinal supplies for treatment. Navy Lt. Troy J. Handojo, medical officer, battalion aid station, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, interacted with local residents he came across who needed medical assistance.

“Although we are not always able to provide extensive medical care we can provide basic initial therapies,” said Handojo, a Covina, Calif., native. “We’ve seen a number of cases. It’s always satisfying to be able to help the Iraqi people, and they have expressed gratitude toward us. I think, however, bigger impact in improving health in this country will come when the infrastructure is strengthened. For example, having clean, potable water, reliable waste disposal, education, health and safety regulatory agencies, and of course healthcare will all have a greater role in ensuring public health.”

Litto said there is a notable difference in the attitudes of residents who come in contact with the civil affairs team, and it’s a gratifying experience for the Marines who visit the markets and see people shopping and walking down the street not having to look over their shoulder in fear.

“People are coming out,” said Litto. “Maybe some people don’t express it as openly as they’d like to. I spoke to a man who said, ‘America is good. Thank you for being here.’ But he said it in a whisper.”

Litto remembers an enlightening moment while on a mission in Fallujah. The team was visiting a neighborhood when he noticed a woman holding a baby in her hands at her gate. He contemplated whether or not he should walk over and give her supplies.

“You can’t approach women,” said Litto. “You have to stay in your lane and we’re taught that with civil affairs training as far as cultural differences. I didn’t make eye contact with this woman because I didn’t want to offend her. I saw her child, and I walked over there with a big bag of toys and handed them to her three or four-year-old child. The husband came running over and I thought, ‘Oh no, what did I do wrong?’ He thanked me and shook my hand.”

Litto politely asked the husband if he could take a picture with his family and the mother took her baby and placed him in Litto’s arms.

“That was just an incredible situation to be in,” said Litto. “It was something I’ll never forget. That to me was them showing respect to me.”

The civil affairs team continues to improve the local environment on a daily basis leaving their footprint in the road to democracy.

“There have been some tough times in Iraq, and yes things are getting progressively better,” said Litto. “But if you show people that you care about their families and that you’re willing to help their families it changes people. They can see the sincerity in it. Sure there are problems and there will be problems, but they’re far and few between, which is a good thing.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

January 17, 2006

Marine leaves behind wife, daughter in Illinois, grandfather in Martinsville

Although Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price's daughter will never know her daddy, there is one thing she will know - he died doing what he believed in.

Woodlawn, Ill. resident Kyle Price, 19, son of Cheryl Hunsell and stepson of John Hunsell, died Jan. 13 after coming under enemy fire while on guard duty near Ramadi, Iraq.


Special to The Reporter-Times

Tuesday January 17, 2006


Price, whose daughter Madison is expected to be born in March, is the first Jefferson County, Ill. soldier to die in the war in Iraq.

He was set to return home in three to four weeks after completing his tour of duty, said family friend Ron Riley, acting as spokesperson for the family.

A 2004 graduate of Woodlawn High School, Price was assigned to a security detail Friday in which he and other soldiers were to protect Marine engineers, Riley said.

"He was doing what he was supposed to do," Riley said. "He was put between the Marine engineers and the enemy, and when they were being attacked, he was forward of all of his men. He died protecting others."

Riley said all the specifics have not yet been released, but Price is the only casualty to be announced so far from the attack.

Nearing the end of his tour of duty, Price was to return to American soil in North Carolina, where he was to be met by his expectant fiancee, Brea Tate, daughter of Robby and Jane Tate, and other loved ones.

Price had always wanted to be in the military, according to friends of the family. He joined the local Young Marines organization when he was a sophomore in high school.

He joined the Marines as soon as he was of age, entering boot camp in the spring of 2004. He was dispatched to Iraq last August.

Woodlawn Mayor Beth Hassler described Price as a person "everybody loved."

"Kyle got along with everybody, and he made friends so very easily," she said. "I have never, ever heard anyone have anything bad to say about him.

"He was so proud to be a Marine. He was proud of what he was doing. He truly believed, and rightly so, that he was serving God and country."

Price was a highly involved member of Woodlawn Christian Church and attained the rank of Eagle Scout, Riley said.

"He had such a love of country and was truly a fine young man," said Riley, who had known Price since he was a youngster. Riley coached him in Little League and was his scoutmaster.

Price's fiancee is the daughter of Jane Tate, executive assistant to Mt. Vernon's mayor and city manager.

A fighter's farewell

Emotions run high and memories are vivid when a fallen Marine is memorialized.

POQUOSON -- Mark Slatton goes home to Northern Virginia today as part of a caravan that will include the flag-draped casket of Pfc. Kyle Brown


[email protected] press.com 247-4633
January 17, 2006

Slatton, a sergeant first class stationed at Quantico, began his mission Friday when he accompanied Brown's body from Dover, Del., to his family in Poquoson.

"My job is to make sure that everything is done just right," said Slatton, who read Brown's obituary during a 35-minute funeral service Monday. "It's a volunteer detail. A lot of people won't volunteer, but these kids don't volunteer to be killed."

Brown died when he was shot by a sniper on Jan. 7 in Fallujah, Iraq.

In front of a congregation of about 150 people, his casket was flanked by the flags of the United States and the Marine Corps. Brown's boot camp portrait, with the stern look so many adopt after coming out of Parris Island, was on an easel alongside.

"Freedom isn't free, and Kyle paid for it with his life," Katheryn Brown told an assembly that included U.S. Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News. Katheryn Brown is a cancer patient and was recovering from surgery when she learned her grandson had been killed.

As the service ended, she collapsed, sobbing on the front row of the church, overcome with grief while "God Bless America" was being sung. Brown's father, Rodney Bridges, consoled his mother, helping her down the aisle in exiting the church.

"I've learned three things," said Lt. Cmdr. David Cromer, from the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, during his eulogy. "His family loved Kyle. Kyle loved his family. And the family loved the Marine Corps because Kyle loved the Marine Corps."

Listening, Penny Kowalchick of Chesapeake nodded. Her son, Joe, served with Brown during both of their tours in Iraq and one deployment in Afghanistan.

"They've been together since boot camp," she said. "When they were home, my husband and I and Rodney and (Carolyn Byrd, Bridges' fiancee) took the boys to Busch Gardens together."

"When Kyle was killed, Joseph was about 1,200 yards away," she said. "He called me that Sunday and told me."

On Thursday, he sent an e-mail.

"He told me he wasn't sleeping, that he couldn't stop thinking about Kyle," she said.

"I called Rodney and gave him Joseph's number. They talked, and then Joe e-mailed me back that it was difficult."

Bridges told Kowalchick by telephone that he had to concentrate on his job because "we don't want any more body bags here."

On Sunday, Penny Kowalchick saw a Web camera picture of her son.

"I know that Rodney helped," Penny Kowalchick said. "Joseph looked rested. He looked like he felt better."

Joe Kowalchick is 22 today, and part of his birthday will be spent in a memorial service in Fallujah, where Marines will line up in front of a rifle and boots to pay their respects to Brown.

"He's due home in April. He's getting out in June," his mother said, relief plain in her voice.

Also in the church Monday, Ingrid Slonsky was having difficulty. She taught Brown government during his senior year at Heritage High School and described him as quiet, almost shy.

"When he got back from boot camp, it was like a man came back," she said. "He was confident. It was a completely different Kyle."

Heritage is hanging a picture of Brown and a plaque about him on an honor wall.

For nine days now, stories of Brown's youth have been traded among family and friends. Of his going to his first rock concert.

Of his first car, with flames painted on the side, and later his motorcycle.

Of his love for computer games.

"He loved candy, especially Sweet Tarts," 12-year-old Daine Brown said of his brother.

Daine will miss class today to ride with the family to Arlington National Cemetery, where Brown will be buried with full military honors.

The flag that has been draped over the casket will be folded and presented to Brown's mother, Theresa St. Pierre, who is in Virginia from her home in Oregon because of her son's death.

A second flag will go over the casket. It will be folded and given to Bridges.

Taps will sound.

"It will be hard," Bridges said. "Everything about this has been hard."

And then Slatton will drive to his office in Quantico to deal with paperwork.

"As soon as he's laid to rest, my mission is fulfilled," Slatton said.

Until the next time. Volunteering is his way of serving in a war he can't fight because of a spinal injury three years ago.

It's also his way of keeping in touch with old friends.

"My first unit out of boot camp was the same unit Pfc. Brown served in," Slatton said of the Second Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

"Being in the Marine Corps so long, I know a lot of first sergeants and a lot of company commanders. When I escort someone from their commands, I send them an e-mail to let them know."

New Amputee Center to Open

WASHINGTON - Construction is expected to begin this spring on a state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility for amputee Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center even though the venerable military hospital is scheduled to close in five years.


Associated Press | January 17, 2006

The $10 million Military Amputee Training Center - originally expected to open last month - was caught in limbo during the Pentagon's base closing process. Ground was broken in 2004, but construction had not yet begun last May when the Army ordered a hold on all projects that could be affected by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

"We were too quick with the ceremonial groundbreaking," Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Augsburger said. "We hadn't even awarded a contract."

A waiver was granted in September to continue work on the project. A contractor should be selected for design and construction by the end of March, with construction to be completed in September 2007, Augsburger said.

Walter Reed officials still expect the 30,000-square-foot addition to the military hospital to include a running track, a climbing and rappelling wall and a virtual-reality center, as well as a military vehicle simulator to help some Soldiers return to the battlefield. It will combine both new and existing counseling, occupational and physical therapy services for amputees.

But the amputee center is now considered temporary, to serve Soldiers for only five to seven years due to the BRAC decision, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Only the Defense Department could really have done this," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who argued for months that the long-needed amputee center was a good reason to keep Walter Reed open. "This kind of cosmic change would stop any other agency from moving forward."

Walter Reed is supposed to move to an expanded suburban military hospital in 2011, under the BRAC recommendations President Bush signed last year.

"The transitional center is necessary to provide the best possible care for our amputee patients in the five years between now and 2011, when Walter Reed is scheduled to move to Bethesda (Md.) and merge some functions with the National Naval Medical Center," Walter Reed officials said in a statement.

The federal government has expressed interest in taking over the Walter Reed campus. But the expected $2 billion price tag for a new hospital facility in Bethesda will probably delay the closure of Walter Reed for many years, Norton said.

"Congress is not going to appropriate money when it already has a working hospital," she said, adding that the expanded amputee center is needed now. "We are simply talking about the need to accommodate many more seriously wounded Iraq and Afghanistan Soldiers than anybody contemplated."

To date, Walter Reed has treated about 315 amputees from both combat zones, according to the hospital. Its services are available to nearly 3 million active-duty service members, family members and retirees.

The budget for the hospital expansion was not affected by the BRAC decision, but because the project has been delayed, the government will probably pay to rush construction, Norton said.

"We're dealing with people who this country feels strongest about," Norton said. "You will not find a single voice in the Congress saying that's a waste of money."

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

January 16, 2006

3/1 Marines and Iraqi Army unearth weapons caches

BARWANAH, Iraq (Jan. 15, 2006) -- The day is chilly and windy in the middle of a wadi on the outskirts of Barwanah where aside from the view of the city, there is nothing except barren desert. (3/1)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200611523225
Story by 1st Lt. Rob Dolan

Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines with 2nd Platoon, L Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, were conducting routine security patrols roughly 500 meters east of southern Barwanah Jan.14 and heading back to their base after a long day’s work.

That is when Friday, one of L Company's interpreters, noticed a discoloration in the dirt.

It appears that the bad weather depressed the dirt and, because of the recent rain, left it a different color. After digging around in the dirt, they started finding ordnance.

“It appears that these munitions were hastily buried within the last couple of days,” said Capt. Shannon Neller, commanding officer of L Co.

The Iraqi soldiers and Marines conducted a thorough search of the area and unearthed a total of 11 buried weapons caches within a 300 meter radius that terrorists planned to use during attacks in the area.

When all 11 caches were unearthed, they contained 139 artillery rounds, 56 mortar rounds, 47 122mm rockets, 94 14.5mm armor piercing incendiary rounds and 19 100-pound bags of propellant.

“There were 12 Iraqi Army soldiers directly involved in finding and digging up these caches. This gives them a sense of ownership and pride in what they’re doing,” said 2nd Lt. Geoff Meno, 2nd Platoon Commander with L Co.

Although these caches were found by Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers patrolling, citizens of the Haditha region have increasingly provided information to disrupt insurgent activities so their community will be safe from insurgent attacks.

Insurgents utilize weapons caches as a means of convenience, hiding weapons and bomb making material in various locations so Iraqi Army or Coalition Forces don’t catch them. If not found, these weapons are employed to kill Coalition Forces and innocent Iraqi civilians. For example, the day following the Iraqi National Parliamentary Elections insurgents targeted a polling site in Barwanah with indirect fire, only to kill four children and wound two others playing soccer.

“Taking these caches out of the hands of insurgents puts a tremendous dent in their logistics. Every round that the Marines and Iraqi Army take off the streets is one less (improvised explosive device) … one more saved life,” said Meno.

The Marines proudly piled the cache findings so the explosive ordnance disposal experts could destroy them on the spot.

“It is going to take between 2-3 satchels full of C4 to blow all this stuff,” said Chief Petty Officer Brad Bundy, EOD team leader.

After moving to a safe distance, the Marines were able to see the culmination of their labor with the destruction of the cache findings, totaling more than 4,000 pounds of high explosives taken out of the hands of insurgents.

A massive cloud of smoke and fire rose high above the surface of the earth as fragments from the ordnance littered the area with remnants of attacks never to happen, thanks to the efforts of the Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers.

“This is a testament to the vigilance of the Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines. They’ve been doing a hell of a job out here. It is nice for them to see what they are doing occasionally comes with a tangible pay off,” said Meno.

Norwalk, Calif., native keeps commander safe

HADITHA DAM, Iraq(Jan. 16, 2006) -- The job of lead vehicle gunner for a convoy in Iraq is one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs for a Marine, as insurgents continue to place roadside bombs aimed at injuring Marines, Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Story Identification #:

Norwalk, Calif., native, Cpl. Jason M. Farias, isn’t just the lead gunner on some convoys, he is the first line of defense for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment’s commander as he travels to visit Marines in the area.

With his M-240G machine gun, he sits high above the lead vehicle to provide fire support for the convoy and protect the convoy from roadside bombs and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices used to attack the convoys. With his bird’s eye view of the road ahead, he is responsible for stopping the vehicles when he feels the convoy is in danger.

“I have to make sure I stop any vehicles coming toward us and watch for IEDs and people in the streets,” commented the 21-year-old Farias.

Farias and the rest of the battalion’s Personal Security Detachment are on the road everyday escorting the battalion’s commander, sergeant major and other VIPs traveling to areas in the region. The detachment sometimes spends the entire day on the road traveling to the battalion’s bases so the commander can talk to his Marines.

“Some days, we have to go to each of the bases,” Farias said. “During the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we spent a lot of time on the road.”

On a recent mission through the desert to see Marines on an operation, the PSD had to make their own path and Farias acted as the eyes of the convoy. He helped them make a safe passage through the rocks and hidden ditches as the vehicles crossed the unknown desert terrain.

Like many of the Marines in PSD, Farias was assigned to the battalion after serving on Marine Security Forces duty. Farias was with Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va., where he went on a couple deployments and performed much of the training he uses today.

“This is my second time to Iraq, but I have also been to Chile and Cuba,” commented Farias. “In Chile we trained with their military; that was an unforgettable experience.”

Before deploying to Iraq, the PSD conducted training to improve their skills while operating in the area as the commander’s security.

“Most of us had the same training in Marine Security Forces, so applying that training to our PSD was the way to go,” commented Farias.

With less than eight months left on his active-duty contract, Farias is still undecided on what is in his future. But the time spent working as personal protection in Iraq is something that Farias would like to make a career, whether in or out of the Marine Corps.

“If I get out, I’d like to continue to do something like PSD as a civilian,” Farias said. “I’ll probably be back here as a civilian contractor providing personal security for the military.”

January 15, 2006

Thrice-hurt Marine undeterred

PROUD PARENTS — Leslie and Doyle Perkins look at a photo album and read letters from their son, Lance Cpl. Preston “Cody” Perkins, pictured in foreground. Cody Perkins, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, also known as the “Thundering Third,” has been a Marine for just 21/2 years but has already been awarded three Purple Hearts. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR


By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
Saturday, January 14, 2006 11:47 PM CST

When Marine Lance Cpl. Preston “Cody” Perkins was stationed in Iraq more than a year ago, his mother constantly watched the driveway to make sure official cars weren't coming to deliver bad news.

“The first time he got hurt, we hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks, and honest to goodness, whenever the dogs barked I would look out the window to make sure nothing was coming down the driveway,” Leslie Perkins said. “It got so bad. It was terrible.”

Cody Perkins has been a Marine for 21/2 years. He enlisted while in his junior year of high school at West Lauderdale Attendance Center. He is a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, also known as the “Thundering Third.”

Perkins was recently injured for the third time in Iraq, making him the recipient of three Purple Heart medals. The Purple Heart is awarded to those who are wounded or killed while serving in, or with, the U.S. military.

Perkins said a Marine is not required to continue service after receiving four Purple Hearts.

Perkins was first injured in August 2004, when an improvised explosive device exploded near the vehicle in which he was riding. He received shrapnel wounds to his back, sides and buttocks. His spleen also was punctured by a rib and had to be removed.

His second injury came two months later - the result of a land mine. The injuries were not serious, he said: a concussion and facial cuts. But the third and most serious injury came Nov. 16, when yet another IED exploded near the Humvee in which he was serving as javelin gunner.

That explosion left him with broken ribs, a concussion, a fractured pelvis and a broken hip. He is recovering at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

And even though his injuries are somewhat discouraging, Perkins said, they are not enough to make him want to leave the Marine Corps. He plans to re-enlist if he fully recovers from his injuries.

“I'm doing it for my family and for my guys I have here with me,” Perkins said. “I didn't want them to go back without me. We're all a team.”

Perkins was honored as an “Unsung Hero” in The Meridian Star's 2005 Profile edition, “A Letter From Home.” He was nominated by a Meridian High School student who met him while he was working as a recruiter in Meridian.

Perkins' father, Doyle, a line foreman for East Mississippi Electric Power Association, said he doesn't know where Cody got his fervor for military service, but Dad is proud of all his son has accomplished.

“He has always talked about the military, but his junior year he really got serious about it,” Doyle Perkins said. “I remember before he enlisted he was concerned about what the Ten Commandments said about ‘Thou shalt not kill.' That was the only concern he had about joining the military: his Christian beliefs and what he might have to do.”

The Perkinses have traveled to California several times to see their son, and Mrs. Perkins was able to care for him in a hotel over the Thanksgiving holiday. She is a clinical nurse at Rush Foundation Hospital.

Cody Perkins' wife, Paula, is in California with her husband.

And while his family wishes he would not re-enlist, Perkins said he sees the benefit of what U.S. troops are doing in Iraq and wants to remain a part of it.

“I have seen them hold elections,” he said. “I see that the people are less intimidated, the government and the democracy is getting up and running, the insurgent level has decreased and Iraqi forces are more trained.”

24 MEU and Iwo Jima ESG commanders visit Marines at A.P. Hill

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Jan. 15, 2006) -- This month Marines and sailors of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group have been training in preparation for the ESG’s upcoming deployment.


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200611520823
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

Following the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s first at-sea integration exercises aboard USS Iwo Jima, the commander of the 24th MEU, Col. Ron Johnson and Iwo Jima ESG Commodore, Navy Capt. Sinclair Harris, spent time visiting Marines and viewing training here.

The two commanders were able to see a variety of training being conducted by all of the MEU’s major subordinate commands. They also spent time talking to Marines about their upcoming deployment and soliciting ideas for better training or equipment the Marines could use during their pre-deployment training program.

Long arm of military law reaches Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan. 15, 2006) -- Standing guard against insurgents and writing speeding tickets for service members is all in a day's work for military policemen at Al Asad, Iraq. 5/14


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 2006115114741
Story by Cpl. Micah Snead

Military policemen and augments from across the Marine Corps and Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard have come together to create Iraq's first Provost Marshal's Office, in support of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) at the western Iraq airbase.

The Marines and Soldiers at Al Asad's PMO are a mix of military occupational specialties and civilian backgrounds. The MPs are part of Marine Wing Support Group 27's support to the Aviation Combat Element of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd).

"We provide interior security and basic law enforcement," said Gunnery Sgt. Susan R. Anderton, the PMO provost sergeant and customs officer-in-charge and an Overton, Texas, native. "We came in here with the mission of establishing a PMO, the first in this area."

With no military policemen assigned to the group's subordinate squadrons, MWSG-27 turned to Marines from 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd) and 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment. Less than a dozen military policemen from 1st MLG took charge of the 5th Bn., 4th Marines augments to form Al Asad's PMO.

"The augments did go through basic law enforcement training together before deploying," Anderton said. "I think that training was very beneficial because it helped them come together as a team."

The members of the reserve artillery battalion have a wide range of MOSs. Although they probably never expected to deploy to Iraq as MPs, they took to their roles with enthusiasm, Anderton said.

"I would be happy to work with these Marines in a stateside PMO," Anderton said. "They have really exceeded all my expectations."

The importance of providing military police support at Al Asad requires the best Marines MWSG-27 could get, said Col. Scott M. Anderson, the group's commanding officer.

"It's a pretty important aspect of running a camp this size," Anderson said. "We have a lot of people coming together, including different services, contract civilians, third country nationals and Iraqi civilians. It's important that we are safer on base than off, especially in this environment. These Marines have done a tremendous job of providing the support we need."

That support can be demanding on the Marines because it entails so many different tasks, Anderson said.

"Interior security and law enforcement are two very different aspects of their job," Anderson said. "Being able to switch your head from focusing on suspicious vehicles and force protection to watching for people following vehicle and security regulations requires a lot of mental agility. A lot of these Marines have run the gamut, from guarding the vice president to writing speeding tickets, and they've performed very well at everything."

The mission has been a learning experience for Marines with no background in civilian or military law enforcement, said Cpl. Bill Acuna, a field radio operator and Irvine, Calif., native.

"You really learn the finer points of military law and how it differs from civilian law enforcement," Acuna said. "People would be surprised how much planning and work goes on behind the scenes of an operation like ours. We aren't just about keeping people under the speed limit in their Humvees, we also have to plan, promote and execute security in an environment that demands it."

Earning the respect of trained military policemen was one source of motivation for the augments, said Sgt. Jeffrey Bartlett, a rifleman and Londonderry, N.H., native.

"Some of our leaders have said it's become hard for them to tell the MPs from augments," Bartlett said. "That gives you a sense of pride because it shows you're doing the right things. You've made yourself flexible enough to accept something new and excel at it."

Some of the junior PMO augments recently had a chance to show how far their experience and training had brought them when a new platoon of augments joined the MP force.

"The lance corporals really stepped up and helped train the new joins," Acuna said. "It was impressive to see them make the full circle of being introduced to something new, picking it up and passing it to other Marines."

The support and encouragement of the Marines' senior leaders has also helped instill them with a sense of confidence, Anderton said.

"That is a big boost to their confidence," Anderton said. "They know they are doing good things because they hear it from us, the group leaders and our battalion leaders in Fallujah."

Anderton said the Marines have already surpassed the goals she set for them when Al Asad's PMO first went into operation.

"I did not want anyone on this base to see MPs as the bad guys," Anderton said. "I always want my Marines to be perceived as professionals. I want people to know that when an MP is making a decision, he is making a good one. I think those goals have been achieved because of the positive feedback we've received."

The versatility of the Marines, combined with their positive attitude and professional demeanor, has made them a powerful force, Anderson said.

"That they are coming from an artillery battalion to do military police work says a lot about their character and work ethic," Anderson said. "They have proven they work very well with all the units on base and make a great team. I don't think there is anything they cannot accomplish as a team. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with."

Marines will no longer guard crypt

Annapolis, Md. - A Naval Academy tradition that lasted 155 years has come to an end: The Marine Corps sentries who guarded the gates and the crypt of Revolutionary War Capt. John Paul Jones have been withdrawn and sent to war.


Sunday, January 15, 2006
Associated Press

The four dozen Marines were released from their security duties in a ceremony on Friday and are being replaced by Navy enlisted personnel.

"Pray for them, for many of them are going into harm's way," a chaplain said in an invocation for the departing members of the Naval Academy Company, Marine Barracks.

The Marines have provided security at the gates and for dignitaries' visits and special events on the academy campus since before the Civil War. They also performed largely ceremonial duties, including standing guard outside the crypt of Jones, one of the founders of the Navy.

"They've done much more, in their ability to look tough but remain pleasant," said Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy superintendent.

Dozens of military installations across the nation have turned to civilian security officers in recent years, and the Navy is leaving that option open for the academy.

The sentries will bolster U.S. forces stretched thin by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

© 2006 The Plain Dealer
© 2006 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

Marine keeps tradition of Corps, service

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 15, 2006) -- Many families have traditions that extend for multiple generations. For some families, it may be a holiday event or a religious celebration, but for some it’s the tradition of serving in the United States Marine Corps. (2nd CSSG 2nd MLG)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Wayne Edmiston
Story Identification #:

For Cpl. John P. McKay, a refrigeration mechanic with Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), this tradition has continued for three generations and he is proud of each day of service here in Iraq.

“It’s been a huge family tradition to join the Marine Corps,” the Orlando, Fla., native explained. “My father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, they were all in the Marines.”

McKay’s grandfather, Paul Long, served during the Korean War with the 6th Marine Regiment. He graduated recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina exactly 50 years to the date prior to his grandson.

McKay’s father was also a ‘utilities’ Marine. His father, Jeff Netznik, served as a generator mechanic with 2nd Combat Service Support Group, the predecessor of 2nd MLG.

“My father served on [Camp] Lejeune before I was born and in the same unit,” McKay said. “I think it’s pretty cool we have that in common.”

Being a part of a gigantic brotherhood is McKay’s favorite part of being a Marine.

“I love how you can just sit down with an 80-year-old former Marine and strike up a conversation about the Corps and talk for hours,” McKay explained. “In the Marine Corps it is our responsibility to pick up where every former Marine left off.”

Also, being a Marine gave him a special bond with his grandfather, and enabling the two the ability to swap stories; Marine to Marine.

“When I was growing up during [Operation] Desert Storm, I was always curious and asking my grandfather what it was like to be in a conflict. He would never tell me,” McKay said. “When
I graduated boot camp it was like the flood gates opened. We had a connection we never had before.”

Helping Iraq build a free society is something that McKay is also very proud of alongside his family heritage.

“It’s great knowing my efforts are contributing to a piece of history,” McKay said. “It’s awesome knowing you are giving freedom to a country that is so blind to the concept of it.”

McKay often thinks about his future, considering his accomplishments and the lessons learned from his time in the Marine Corps.

“Whether I stay in for 32 years or eight years, I got everything and more from the Marine Corps,” McKay explained.

He also looks to his wife Tracie and his son Jacob, 1, for constant support, while he is away.

“I can’t wait to get back and see them,” McKay said. “I have another one on the way, and I want to [get] back to see [him] born.”

McKay’s family is just one example of service that extends as deep into the history of the Marine Corps like the roots of a large tree, and it’s those roots that serve as an inspiration for McKay to this day as he continues the fight in the Global War on Terror.

Woodlawn Marine Dies While Serving in Iraq

A 19-year-old Marine Corps lance corporal from Woodlawn in Jefferson County has died while serving in Iraq. Lance Corporal Jonathan Kyle Price died Friday of injuries suffered while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq.


Family members say they learned of his death Friday. They say Price was scheduled to return home next month and was committed to marrying his fiance, who is expected to give birth to their baby in March.

Price's stepfather, John Hunsell, says the 2004 graduate of Woodlawn High School went to Iraq to fight for his family and his county and felt strongly about his country and what he was doing.

Price enlisted in the Marines and was deployed to Iraq in August of last year. Prior to enlisting, he was active in the Heartland Young Marines, had earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, was active in his church and community, and played baseball at his high school.

Memorial arrangements for Price are pending. Jefferson County Board Chairman Ted Buck says he will started a fund drive this week to provide a tombstone on the memorial wall at the courthouse.

January 14, 2006

Baldwin, Wis., native works alongside Iraqi troops

AL TAMAL, Iraq (Jan. 14, 2006) -- The last time Corporal Matt D. McGee was deployed to Iraq he was responsible for finding and destroying the enemy and maintaining his personal weapon and light armored vehicle.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200611321210
Story by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

This time the 21-year-old scout team leader with Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion has those responsibilities, but he is also responsible for mentoring and providing an example for Iraqi troops.

It’s not as simple as it may sound. There is a significant language barrier even though Iraqi and American warriors are slowly learning enough of each other’s language to communicate. Still, most communication is done through hand-and-arm signals or an interpreter.

In addition, an American commander would define a “professional soldier” differently than an Iraqi.

But to this a Baldwin, Wis., native and 2002 graduate of Baldwin-Woodville High School, that is changing.

“We work with the Iraqis about once every two weeks,” he said.

Today, McGee and fellow Marines from 3rd Platoon and Iraqi Army soldiers are rolling through Al Tamal, a small community of shepherds in western Iraq. The patrol, which is a combined show of force and a security sweep through an area not seen much by Coalition Forces, is in the area due to reports of heavy insurgent and criminal activities, such as smuggling.

McGee and his team ride over the expanses of desert between each house, dismounting to approach each objective and clear the structures there.

Entering a house is extremely dangerous, especially when the Iraqi soldiers going into the same house through another door don’t speak your language. But McGee isn’t concerned about this.

“At first, I was a little hesitant about them stacking up on the same house I was, but I’m really impressed with this group,” he said. “They’re starting to do the right things automatically now, and they are technically proficient.”

Once he leaves Iraq, McGee is confident the Iraqi soldiers will be well-equipped to continue taking the fight to the enemy.

“They have lots of intensity, they’re organized, intelligent and seem honest,” he said.

Kenai, Alaska, “doc” confirms calling in Iraq

AL TAMAL, Iraq (Jan. 14, 2006) -- Seaman Bryan W. Stocks, a 20-year-old Kenai, Alaska, native and platoon hospital corpsman for 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, had a tough choice to make when he was considering enlisting into the Navy: nuclear physics or medicine


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200611321543
Story by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard


One involves high mathematics and accounting for the behavior of atoms; the other, calculating medicinal dosages and accounting for the behavior of human beings. Two equally demanding and difficult jobs suitable for only the most trustworthy and intelligent of enlistees. Ultimately, though, the decision came down to a question of what Stocks could imagine doing for the rest of his life.

“When I first went to the recruiter’s office, I signed up for nuclear technology,” said Stocks, a career that meant spending significant amounts of time at sea in a submarine, keeping the nuclear-powered war vessels underway. “But that came with a six-year enlistment, and I never really liked calculus and trigonometry in high school anyway.”

Instead of backing out of the contract completely, he said, he took an offer from the Navy light years away from working in the bellies of some of the most powerful machines on the earth.

“I chose to be a (hospital corpsman) instead. I got a two-year active duty contract for volunteering to be a fleet corpsman,” he said. The agreement also calls for two years as an obligated reservist and four years in the Individual Ready Reserve.

The decision to spend his time in the Navy as a “doc” in the Fleet Marine Force led him here today, to Al Tamal, a small community of shepherds in the flat, expressionless desert of western Iraq. This dusty, windswept village seems to sprout out of nowhere, more than an hour away from the nearest city, which makes it a perfect place for insurgents and smugglers to use as a base of operations.

It is to disrupt these operations that brought Company A, 1st LAR here, and Stocks, a 2004 Kenai Central High School graduate, accompanies his Marines everywhere they go, medical bag and trauma shears strapped to him, ready to react to any injury.

The Marines of 1st LAR are broken down into two categories: scouts and crewmen. The crewmen operate the vehicle and its weapons systems, and the scouts do just what one might imagine from their name. They depart the vehicle to reconnoiter, assault and secure objectives.

“As a corpsman, I’m required to do everything a scout does, including clearing houses,” Stocks said standing behind one of the Light Armored Vehicles.

Today, closing with and securing an objective brought Stocks into a room crowded with Iraqi women and children, a family whose father was arrested for suspected insurgent activity. Stocks discovered, through a translator, that two of the children had been coughing a lot and one of them has a sore throat.

“Let me have a look here,” he said, kneeling. He reached into his medical bag and pulled out his stethoscope to listen to the breathing of an Iraqi girl. Seeing the nervousness in her face, Stocks put the earpieces from the device into her ears and tapped lightly on the drum to show her what it was and how it worked. Listening to the tapping, the girl turned her big brown eyes to Stocks and smiled tentatively.

“Breathe in,” he said, making a rising motion with his hand. “Ok, breathe out.”

Examination of the girl complete, Stocks repeated the process with the boy who was also complaining of a sore throat. After listening to his lungs and peering into his throat with a flashlight, Stocks said, “It sounds like they’ve got an upper respiratory infection, and this one has a nasty sore throat. It looks like he’s developing some sores back there.”

“Doc” Stocks encouraged the mother to keep the children indoors and have them drink plenty of fluids.

“Two kids with an upper respiratory infection and a sore throat. There’s just not a whole lot I could do for them,” said Stocks. “They just need some (decongestant), rest and plenty of water.”

Once the medical treatment was complete and the house secured, Stocks and his Marines moved back to their vehicles ready to move on to the next objective.

Almost unbelievably, in the next house the Marines entered, they were approached by a woman who said one of her family members had just given birth and was not feeling well.

“She had actually given birth about three days ago, but when I first walked in I thought the kid had (just been born),” he said, laughing. “When I examined the new mother, her blood pressure was very low since she had lost a lot of blood, so I started an IV on her to get her blood volume up.”

The family was grateful for the treatment.

“They brought out some bread, chai and yogurt,” recalled Stocks. “The yogurt kind of tasted like sour cream but I tried it anyway.”

The gratitude and hospitality didn’t stop there.

“They actually wanted to slaughter a lamb for us but we had to tell them we didn’t have time, that we had to go.”

Stocks said the opportunity to treat civilians who might have little or no access to trained medical assistance is invaluable. He plans to submit an application to the U.S. Naval Academy this year to pursue a career in medicine.

“I’m getting a lot of hands-on experience that a lot of guys won’t have going in to medical school,” he said.

His experiences have also been a confirmation of what he calls his “calling” to medicine.

“This is so emotionally gratifying. It really proves that I love what I do,” he said.

Operation Hedgehog unearths insurgent explosive caches

HIT, Iraq (Jan. 14, 2006) -- For four long, backbreaking days, Marine combat engineers and infantrymen unearthed cache after cache of insurgent ordnance and weaponry in and around Hit, Iraq during Operation Hedgehog. (22nd MEU)


Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification #: 200611462421
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

Marines from the Combat Engineer Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines kicked off the operation with a search of long-suspected hide sites throughout Hit and soon began unearthing treasure troves of insurgent arms.

“This was our biggest find to date,” said 1st Lt. Antonio Agnone, the combat engineer platoon leader for BLT 1/2. “We’ve uncovered numerous, and significant caches the insurgents have hidden in Hit in places where they thought they would have easy access to them.”

Agnone and his Marines unearthed nearly 500 rockets and artillery and mortar rounds, along with approx. 100 tank rounds and substantial quantities of rocket propellant, fuzes, and blasting caps. Such supplies are the components insurgents commonly use to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two of which were also found. Also discovered was a stockpile of assault rifles and ammunition of various caliber.

According to Agnone, what amazed many of his Marines was the lengths the insurgents would go to hide the caches, going so far as to defile a local cemetery.

Acting on a tip, the Marines carefully searched the cemetery and found caches in grave spots adorned with both head and foot markers.

“We went over the area very carefully with mine detectors,” explained Agnone, a native of Columbus, Ohio, “and that led us to the sites. We were very careful and didn’t disturb any civilian graves in the process.”

Shouldering the bulk of the effort were the individual combat engineers like those led by squad leader Cpl. Jeffrey R. Wass, an Erie, N.Y. native who deployed with most of the CEB platoon to Afghanistan in 2004.

“Corporal Wass and all the Marines did a superb job,” said Agnone. “They were really excited about the finds because engineering is such a broad field and by doing this we’ve had a direct impact on insurgent operations instead of just preparing defensive positions.”

As usual, the Marines aren’t planning to rest on their laurels.

“We’re pushing ahead to do more of the same,” added Agnone, commenting on future operations planned by the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in and around Hit. “We’ll continue looking for more hide sites and suspected caches to deny these weapons to the insurgents.”

In addition to BLT 1/2, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The MEU is in Iraq’s Al Anbar province conducting counterinsurgency operations.

For more information on the MEU’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.

Fiber optic needs met by former ball player

CAMP FALLUJAH, IRAQ (Jan. 14, 2006) -- The tall, soft spoken Texan joined the Marine Corps at the late age of 27. The married father of three children was looking for job stability to support his family, but he also wanted to somehow serve his country after it went to war. (8th COMM)


“When the war started, I saw the military’s men and women in Iraq, and I asked myself, ‘Why am I too good to be over there?,’” said Cpl. Jack R. McNellie, a Mansfield, Texas, native, assigned to Electronic Maintenance Platoon, Charlie Company, 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD). “They’re [serving] so why am I not doing it?”

It had been a long road for McNellie since graduating in 1995 from Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Texas. The computer fiber optic technician attended college, and pursued minor league baseball for the San Francisco Giants organizations’ farm team, the Shreveport Captains, in Shreveport, La., prior to joining.

He left baseball in 2000 after a shoulder injury. Nearly three years later when he could have joined any branch of the military, McNellie, with his family’s support, decided the ideals and high standards of the Marine Corps was what suited him and his family best.

“I like the standards and structure of the Marine Corps,” said the 29-year-old. “What you get out of it is what you put into it. I like the fact that you can set yourself up for success if you do the right thing.”

McNellie arrived to the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based, 8th Comm. Bn., last February and less than six months later deployed for his first tour to Iraq.

At Camp Fallujah, the former high school athlete helps out by maintaining computers and lines of internet communication on the base—vital work for a 21st century modern military force.

“Corporal McNellie has learned much in his short time with [the battalion], applies his knowledge and teaches it on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Michael F. Reddy, 28, of Georgetown, Mass., and assistant head for the computer fiber repair section, Electronic Maintenance Platoon, Company C., 8th Comm. “His demand for excellence drives himself as well as other Marines to become better.”

Meritoriously promoted to lance corporal nearly two years ago during Marine Combat Training, McNellie continues to advance professionally as he serves both at home and abroad. During his time here, the central Texas native became the honor graduate during a Corporal’s Course held on the base.

“Corporal McNellie is the type of leader that Marines can come to with their problems as he never turns his cheek to a Marine in need,” said Reddy. “A saying that he learned at Corporal’s Course was, ‘If everybody in the Marine Corps was like you, what would the Marine Corps be like?’ Every section, platoon or unit should have more Marines like Corporal McNellie.”

The hard working and humble Texan takes praise in stride. He understands his technical role is just one small part in the Marine Corps team getting things done for 230 years.

“I grew up in a family based on traditions and the traditions of the Marine Corps appealed to me,” said McNellie. “I didn’t even look at the other services.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

BR Marine’s life celebrated

Final 'OOHRAH' given for McCurdy

Polly Mose, left, with the Choctaw Detachment of the Marine Corps League, salutes as a Marine Honor Guard removes the flag from the casket of Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan McCurdy during interment services Friday. Seated is his mother, Jan McCurdy, and saluting is his brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Grant McCurdy.


Advocate staff writer
Published: Jan 14, 2006

The last time Marine Lance Cpl. Grant McCurdy saw his younger brother, they stayed up most of the night talking.

It was the day Grant McCurdy arrived in the United States after eight months in Iraq; his brother met his plane. It was just weeks before his brother, also a Marine, would leave for Iraq.

“The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, keep your head down or I’ll kick your butt,’” Grant McCurdy said in a eulogy Friday for his brother, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan S. McCurdy, who died Jan. 5 in Fallujah, Iraq.

Ryan McCurdy, 20, of Baton Rouge, died from wounds from small-arms fire in combat. McCurdy was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Friends and family gathered Friday morning for the younger McCurdy’s funeral at Christian Life Church and his interment at Resthaven Gardens of Memory mausoleum.

Marine officers presented the young Marine’s mother, Jan McCurdy, with the Purple Heart, an award given by the president to any member of the armed forces who is wounded or killed in combat outside the United States.

Grant McCurdy’s eulogy drew laughter from the mourners as he described his younger brother’s personality.

He described his brother pretending to preach while holding the TV Guide.

And he talked about why his brother’s nickname was “Dirty.”

“By the time he got to high school, he wanted to play every sport that involved dirt and physical contact,” he said.

Grant McCurdy, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., expressed pride for his brother’s legacy of service.

“Ryan died doing something he loved,” his brother said.

As he closed his eulogy, Grant McCurdy yelled out, “Marines!” twice, and the sanctuary echoed as the Marines present responded, “OOHRAH.”

One of Ryan McCurdy’s best friends, Brandon Webb, also spoke at the funeral.

Webb talked about what he and his friend had planned after McCurdy was out of the Marines.

“He said we were going to coach forever,” Webb said, “In his last e-mail, he promised he’d come home. He’s back here now.”

The Rev. Jere Melilli, pastor of Christian Life Church, referred to the slide presentation that showed Ryan McCurdy at all stages in his life.

“I could connect with almost every area of his life. I remember when he was born,” Melilli said.

McCurdy was a 2004 graduate of Christian Life Academy. He was a 2nd team all-district catcher, a member of a state championship Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 2A baseball team and also played football and soccer.

“At times like this, I ask, ‘God, why do you take the best?’ We hardly see Dirty McCurdy as a saint. His life had a different kind of message,” Melilli said.

McCurdy was interred at the mausoleum at Resthaven Gardens of Memory after a seven-gun volley and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

In addition to his mother and brother, McCurdy is survived by his father, Stan McCurdy; grandparents, Elizabeth and Clifford Hanson of Minneapolis, Minn. and aunts, uncles and cousins.

Artillery to MP's, 1/14 trains aboard Combat Center

Regardless of a Marine's military occupational specialty, filling the needs of the Marine Corps is the number one priority. One recently activated battalion is well aware of this priority. They are training for a mission outside their MOS.


Cpl. Evan M. Eagan
Combat Correspondent

First Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, an artillery battalion by trade, arrived at the Combat Center Jan. 2 and began training to serve as military police for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Based in Alameda, Calif., the battalion will deploy under the auspices of Task Force Military Police, which consists of Alpha Battery from Aurora, Colo.; Bravo Battery from Joliet, Ill.; Hotel Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, from Richmond, Va.; Tango Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, an active-duty unit from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and MP Charlie Company, 4th Force Service Support Group, from Dayton, Ohio.

According to Sgt. Maj. Enrique R. Borgzinner, 1/14 battalion sergeant major, the battalion is here for two main reasons: to conduct range training and to participate in Mojave Viper.

Mojave Viper is a month-long training evolution, which replaced the old combined arms-exercise and consists of range training and military operations in urban terrain.

The Marines in the battalion bring a variety of skills from their off-duty professions, which will be helpful in their upcoming deployment.

"Most of the Marines are reservists except for Tango 5/11," said Borgzinner. "We come with a lot of different skills and trades - from electricians to school teachers to civilian police officers."

Although this will be the battalion's first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there is combat experience within the task force.

"Alpha Battery activated for OIF 1, and we have quite a few Marines who are on their second and third deployments," said Borgzinner. "I would say that 15 to 20 percent have been there at least once."

The battalion, which will be stationed in Al Anbar province, will conduct detention operations, assist the Iraqi police in operational matters, and conduct other military police missions when they arrive in country.

With a rigorous training schedule still ahead of them, Borgzinner says the Marines are more than ready to get to Iraq.

"They're biting at the bit," he said, adding, "They all want to get over there and get into the game. If they had the chance, they would be there today."

A family mourns a fallen Marine

Kyle Brown's father has slept little since his son was killed in Iraq. Now, support is pouring in.


January 14, 2006

POQUOSON -- The hardest part was a week ago, when four Marines stood in front of the fireplace in Rodney Bridges' living room and told him the news.

Or maybe it was Friday night, when his son came home in a flag-draped casket.

Or maybe it's yet to come, on Monday when "Amazing Grace" is played at his funeral in Poquoson.

Or Tuesday, when seven rifles fire three shots each to punctuate the service in Arlington National Cemetery.

It's been hard every day at 4 a.m. for Rodney Bridges since he learned that son Kyle Brown, 22, had been killed by a sniper while on patrol at Fallujah, Iraq, on Jan. 7.

"I get up early," Bridges says. "I don't sleep much, and then I take a shower.

"That's when I bawl."

And then he adjourns to a bedroom and turns on the computer to see what e-mails have been posted on the Marine family Web site during the night. Into Friday, there had been 75, most from other parents offering sympathy. Many elicit more tears.

"He's at that thing all day and all night," says Carolyn Byrd, Bridges' fiancee. "When he's not out, he's at the computer."

The day and often the night are broken by telephone calls from around the country, even from around the world.

One was from the mother of Joe Kowalichick, a Marine who was with Brown in Iraq.

"She said that he was having problems, that he couldn't sleep, thinking about it," Bridges says. "She said he couldn't do anything. That he couldn't concentrate."

Then Kowalichick himself called, one of three Marines who have contacted Bridges from Iraq.

"I told him, 'Joe, you've got to talk to somebody, a chaplain, your first sergeant, somebody,' " Bridges says. "You've got to be able to concentrate. We don't want any more body bags back here."

Other calls come from Marines who are dealing with details: the casualty officer about the logistics of getting Brown back from Iraq; choosing the casket; paperwork concerning money and medals; the budget for the funeral; reading a medical report of the incident.

Or from other people wanting decisions: When is the funeral? Where? How do we get to Arlington?

Bridges has learned that support is everywhere.

"I was at the store, buying a suit, and the man selling it there was from Israel," Bridges says. "He said he knew about first-borns, how important they were. And then he prayed with me."

A telephone call Friday helped.

Rich Schumann lost his Marine son near Fallujah almost one year ago. He and his wife, Mary, have been learning to cope ever since.

"That first contact, those words, you don't ever forget them, ever," Schumann says of the visit from the Marines to tell him that Darrell was dead.

Two fathers who have never met but who know each other's pain.

Flowers and plants are delivered. Pictures are being assembled for a collage.

Another Bridges son, Daine, tells them of questions he gets in sixth grade. He can't answer many of them.

"He's in denial," Bridges says.

They all cope with stories, some of them bringing gales of laughter, such as the one about the aerosol cans that exploded when they were accidentally thrown into a trash fire.

"You heard a BOOM," Bridges says, laughing.

"And then you saw him run," adds Katheryn Brown, a cancer patient who learned of her grandson's death only a day after undergoing surgery. She's laughing, too.

"I told him, 'There, you can see what can make a Marine run.' "

Then the tears return.

The weekend ahead is daunting.

"The finality of it all," Bridges says, then stops, overcome.

That finality, that's the hardest part of all.

Tiny reminders

Baby's smile, special blanket and last letter home keep spirit of war widow's husband alive

Katherine Cathey holds her son, James Jr., during a recent doctor's visit. Katherine's husband, 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey, was killed Aug. 21 in Iraq. Katherine, 24, is trying to save as many things as possible to show her son. "I hope he asks a lot about his dad," she said of "Jimmy," who was born Dec. 22. "I'm sure he will."


Photos By Todd Heisler © News
By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
January 14, 2006

When she awoke in the maternity ward on Christmas morning, Katherine Cathey knew her husband would not be at her side.

Even before 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey left for Iraq last summer, she understood that he would be deployed until at least February. The day after she kissed him goodbye, Katherine created her own calendar, circling the days he might call, marking everything he would miss - birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas. She noted what they both considered the most important day of their lives: the birth of the baby that doctors once told them was nearly impossible.

One month after Jim Cathey left for the war, a Marine major and Navy chaplain showed up at Katherine's door. There was an explosion, they told her. He didn't make it. Since then, she's been saddled with constant reminders of his absence. For nearly five months, she had prepared herself.

Then Katherine awoke on Christmas morning, looked to the crib and, in a way, there he was.

"That cowlick - he has the same cowlick on the right side of his head," she said of James J. Cathey Jr. "He has the nose. One of his ears sticks out more than the other like his dad. He has these really long fingers and feet like Jim.

"And he smiles. He smiles a lot."

Gifts from around the world

On her handmade calendar, the 24-year-old war widow had marked all the things she had planned to send to Iraq this month: "Congrats on baby card, Baby pictures, Cigars, Candy."

The baby wasn't due until Jan. 1, but that changed during a visit to the obstetrician last month.

"They were able to get a heartbeat from him, but when they did the ultrasound, they couldn't see him moving," Katherine said.

Doctors decided to induce birth, but "his heartbeat went from 160 to 60. It was scary. All of the sudden they're saying, 'He's decelerating and we have to do a C-section.' All of the sudden there were 20 people running in and out of the room."

For the past nine months, the baby's safety was a frequent concern. Not long after Jim and Katherine married, doctors told the couple that for medical reasons it was unlikely that Katherine would ever get pregnant. After she found out they were wrong, Jim sent her a Mother's Day card early, while he was training in the desert in California.

"I can't wait, baby!" he wrote inside.

After Jim deployed, Katherine would spend hours with her hands on her belly, talking to the baby about his father. Though he would never feel the baby kick, Jim Cathey also tried to remain as close as possible.

"Jim sent me an e-mail that he had this dream that he was holding the baby, but that it was really tiny, like he was able to hold it in his hand," she said.

"The last time Jim was alive, the baby was so tiny."

Following the emergency Caesarean section, "Jimmy" Cathey was born Dec. 22 at 7 pounds, 10 ounces. After spending the first two days in the nursery, he was allowed to spend Christmas eve in Katherine's room, their first night together.

The next day, Katherine and her parents arrived back in Brighton and found presents sent from around the country and around the world. Among them, Katherine found a special gift from one of the men who served with her husband in Iraq.

"I opened the box and just started crying. It was a tricycle. I could just picture him riding it when he was older," she said, as the tears fell again. "And his dad wouldn't be there."

A last letter, with love

Since the day the Marines showed up at her door, the periodic reminders of Jim Cathey's life - and death - never seemed to end. It started in late August, the day Katherine returned from the funeral, walked to the mailbox and found a letter sent only a few days before her husband died.

She opened it - and heard his voice.

"Hey baby," the letter begins. "I want you to know that you are continuously on my mind. I know that I should be concentrating on the job I am doing here, but it is impossible for me not to wonder what you are doing every minute of every day."

Soon afterward, a care package was returned unopened. She had sent it two weeks before Jim's death. It sat on the counter for the next four months, until Katherine's mother finally asked if she could put it in a closet for safekeeping.

"It's hard to throw stuff away. Even little notes I jotted down while he was still alive; I don't want to throw them away. I'm doing my best to save everything I can. I want to go through it with Jimmy.

"I hope he asks a lot about his dad," she said. "I'm sure he will."

The last letter arrived, along with his desert camouflage uniforms, in a footlocker delivered from Iraq. At the bottom of the footlocker was the last shirt Katherine wore before Jim left for Iraq. It still smelled like her perfume.

"My Love," the letter begins,

It's been a fairly quiet week. We still continue to do good things . . . Well as of today I've been gone for exactly a month. Kind of weird, huh. I really don't think it feels like it's been that long."

Inside the living room, Katherine looked down at the baby to regain her composure. By now, she has memorized all of Jim's letters. She knew what came next.

"Have I told you how excited I am to be a daddy?" she read. "You should find out this week what we're going to have and that is flippin' amazing . . . I think I'm going to write a journal while I'm over here so that one day our kids can read it and see what their dad did."

Days before Jim Cathey died, his sister sent him a stack of photos of their time growing up together in Reno, Nev. It was where he also would be buried.

"All the pictures of me with my dad hunting and fishing made me think of how much fun it will be to do stuff like that with our family," he wrote.

Many of the same photos were printed on his funeral brochure.

As the weeks wore on, Katherine began to expect the reminders from Iraq, wondering what would arrive next.

She never expected the call that came in late September.

When she picked up the phone, she heard the voice of Maj. Steve Beck, the Marine casualty assistance calls officer who first knocked on her door and who presented her the folded U.S. flag at Jim's funeral. He was the one who later delivered Jim's footlocker and the one who helped guide her through the stacks of paperwork.

"Major Beck called the week before Jim's birthday," Katherine said. "He said, 'There's no easy way to say this. Remember how you checked the box that said you would like to be notified if more of Jim's body was found?' "

Another decision to make

Second Lt. James Cathey was killed Aug. 21 in Karmah, on the outskirts of Fallujah, when a booby-trapped door exploded as his unit searched an abandoned schoolhouse. The explosion was so powerful that it also blew off an arm and leg of the corporal who went in behind Cathey. The corporal survived.

As she spoke with Beck a little more than a month later, Katherine learned that morticians at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware had identified a leg that belonged to her husband. Though the situation is rare, the military says, it's not always possible to transport all the remains of a dead serviceman at once. Sometimes, DNA testing is required first.

It was up to Katherine to decide the next step: She could leave the leg with the mortuary affairs team in Dover, she could have it cremated, or she could have it interred with her husband's body.

"He said, 'I'll give you some time. Do what you think is right.' "

The decision didn't take long.

"I decided I'd like to have part of him here with me."

The process begins anew

For the Marines, transporting the ashes-filled urn was no different from their original mission to bring Jim Cathey's body back to his family from Iraq. An extension of the "never leave a Marine behind" mandate, a Marine was required to escort the urn each step of the way.

At Katherine's request, the Marines called upon 2nd Lt. Marcus Moyer, who trained with Jim Cathey in Quantico, Va.

"I never really looked at it as escorting a box or escorting ashes. I treated it as though he was with me," Moyer said. "I never left it alone."

As crew members on the airplane to Denver discovered the Marine's mission, they asked to shake his hand. One flight attendant wrote him a heartfelt thank- you note on a United Airlines napkin.

"As we were coming into Denver, the pilot came on the loudspeaker and announced that we had a special passenger onboard," Moyer said.

The pilot then read the information about Jim Cathey and requested that passengers remain seated until Moyer left.

"As I was walking forward, people said things. 'Oo-rah,' if they knew I was with the Marines. Or 'Thank you.' Or, 'You're our hero.' Or they would clap . . . Regardless of their feelings about the war, they all seemed very supportive. People would come up and thank me for my service. They would call me a hero."

Moyer paused for a long time, then sniffled.

"Whenever I could do it without crying, I would tell them that . . . that I wasn't the hero, but that I knew a lot of them."

That night, after Moyer met up with Beck, the Marines once again pulled up to Katherine Cathey's home, clad in their formal dress blue uniforms.

"It's another notification," Beck said. "Jim doesn't die all over again, but it's the introduction of more pain. And another whole difficult process we need to go through. And everything starts over.

"In a way, it was like walking up to that porch for the first time."

Plans for a distant reunion

The bronze, box-shaped urn is emblazoned with the Marine Corps logo. Beneath it is an inscription: "2nd Lt. James J. Cathey October 8, 1980 - August 21, 2005."

Katherine Cathey picked up the urn and sat, cross-legged, on her bed. Before he left for Iraq, the couple never talked about death.

"I remember in Lejeune (N.C.) trying to bring something up about it," Katherine said. "He just started crying and said, 'I don't want to think about it. You don't know how scared I am.' I think he had a feeling that he wasn't coming back."

When she's out in public, Katherine says she shies away from bringing up the story of her husband's death, worried mainly about making others uncomfortable.

"Everyone says the same thing: 'I don't know what to say,' " she said. "I can't imagine being on the other side of it. I don't know what I'd say, either."

She stopped and thought.

"I guess I want them to say, 'Wow, what an amazing husband you had.' "

With the birth of her son, Katherine says she soon plans to move into her own home, where there will be an area dedicated to her husband's memory. By fall, she hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado to study anthropology - the same subject Jim Cathey graduated in, with honors, a year ago.

Eventually, she says, she plans to be buried with her husband, along with his ashes.

"I kind of feel like I have part of him with me," she said. "And it may sound silly to some people, but since I've decided to have the urn buried with me, it will be like all of Jim will be back together once I am with him."

She placed the urn back on the shelf, near the baby's bassinet. On one side of the bronze box, she had inscribed a quote from one of her favorite letters.

"I am here for you even when I am not, and that's the way it will always be. Semper, Jim"

Gifts from 'grandmothers'

In November, a month before Jimmy Cathey's birth, five sets of grieving parents and one expectant mother gathered in the childhood home of Lance Cpl. Thomas Slocum.

The modest, ranch-style home in Thornton was the first place in the state where men in deep- blue uniforms visited with the news of a fallen Marine, the first place where the war in Iraq came home to Colorado.

The sun streamed through the living-room window, through a stained-glass replica of the Gold Star flag that, since World War I, has represented a loved one lost in the war.

Katherine didn't know it, but she was about to have her first baby shower.

"It's nice to see this new life," said Terry Cooper, the mother of Tommy Slocum, who was killed March 23, 2003. "She has her husband's spirit in her child."

Just as the Marines are a small, close-knit group, many of their parents also have formed a tight circle, meeting regularly, sharing stories, frustrations and tears. The group was formed last year, primarily by Jane Rund, whose son, Greg, died Dec. 11, 2004, in Fallujah.

"I just had this desire to get to know the families of the men that my son is going to spend eternity with," she said.

Before surprising Katherine with baby gifts, Terry Cooper handed her containers of sand from Iraq and Kuwait - something she's given each of the parents - "so you have a piece of where they were," she said. "It's something you can share with your son."

Then the mothers and fathers who had each lost a son quietly watched as Katherine opened baby gifts.

"Tommy used to pass out whenever we put him in the car seat," Terry Cooper said, as Katherine opened a box of car-seat toys.

"Sam used to spit up on those," said Mary Holder, whose son died on Veteran's Day 2004 in Fallujah. Soon afterward, she began to cry.

"I thought I was over this," she said.

"It doesn't matter when it happened, how long ago," Terry Cooper said.

"Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and sometimes it seems like forever ago," Mary Holder said.

Before Katherine left, Terry Cooper left her with instructions to call as soon as the baby was born.

"Include us whenever you can. You're definitely part of us," she said. "You're as much a part of this family as you want to be."

Later, as she watched from the back of the room near a photo of her son, Tommy Slocum's mother looked at Katherine and smiled.

"She has more grandmothers than she'll ever know," she said.

Comfort of an old soul

The soft green baby blanket no longer smells like 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey.

"The night before he left for Iraq, I asked him to sleep with the blanket, so that when the baby was born, he would know how his father smelled," Katherine said, holding up the blanket she knitted while her husband was stationed at Camp Lejeune, preparing to deploy.

"I can still see him there that night," she said. "He just held the blanket and slept with it. He went to sleep before I did, and I remember watching him, crying, thinking about how much I was going to miss him, and that he wasn't going to be there when the baby was born."

She then lifted the blanket, leaned into the bassinet and wrapped it around her son.

"The blanket smells more like a baby now," she said softly. "But there's something about Jimmy that also smells like his dad."

She nuzzled her nose with the infant's.

"I don't know what it is, but I feel like he's an old soul," she said, staring into his eyes as he fell asleep.

"I don't know what it is, there's just something about him that makes me think that he's already experienced a lot of life."

War Dogs' advance party comes home

After seven grueling months of carrying out combat operations in Iraq, more than 40 Marines of the advance party of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, returned to the Combat Center Wednesday to reunite with their loved ones and lives left behind.


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Combat Correspondent

The party arrived to Victory Field in the afternoon where they were met by their families, friends and fellow Marines who expressed their enthusiasm by holding up banners and posters that read "welcome home."

It was a long and nerve-wrackingwait for some wives and family members for their loved one's return. Tragically, the battalion lost 11 of its members who were killed in action during the deployment. For those who kept in contact with the Marines and Sailors of 2/7 who were serving in OIF 3, the deployment grew more and more difficult for them.

"It was hard to hear about what was happening on the front," said Pvt. Robert R. Ribinskas, rifleman with Golf Company. Ribinskas, a Ft. Worth, Texas, native, remained behind with 2/7's Remain Behind Element. An important role the RBE played during 2/7's deployment was supporting the wives and families of the battalion by giving information of the battalion's whereabouts and helping out with any other issues the family members dealt with.

"All of us in the RBE wishes we were there with them for the deployment," continued Ribinskas. "Still, I'm glad that they are coming home now. It feels like yesterday they left this field. I've actually been having dreams about them coming back."

The wives and family members of the Marines and Sailors who were returning arrived on Victory Field early as they anticipated the party's return.

"It was a long wait, and it was a bit harder for me than his first deployment because of our newborn son," said Teneyia Wilson, wife of Cpl. Darnel Wilson, field wireman with Headquarters and Service Company. Present with Wilson was her 4-month-old son, Darius, and 3-year-old son, Darnel Jr.

"I was more worried for his wellbeing than his last deployment," added Wilson. "But, the RBE kept me informed of what was going on out there, and they answered all of my questions. I know he is hurt right now because he lost some of his friends. I can't imagine what that was like. As for now I am glad he is home and is able to spend time with his children, one whom he has never seen. We plan to go back to our hometown in Denver to spend time with the rest of our families."

The experience was new for Marissa Silva, wife of Staff Sgt. Melvin Silva, Headquarters and Service Company. Present with her at the homecoming ceremony was their 3-year-old son, Alejandro, and her in-laws.

"It was me and my husband's first deployment," said Silva. "The time away from him was nerve-wracking. I was always thinking about him and what he was doing. I did keep in contact with him mainly through e-mails. He assured me that he was doing well but in the back of my mind I knew he wasn't telling me everything. I am just really glad that I will see him here today. I can't sit still. We plan to go back to the Bay Area where we can relax and spend time together."

The homecoming event was a success, and all who came out to see their loved ones return were filled with joy when the advance-party bus rolled up to Victory Field. The rest of the battalion is scheduled to return to the Combat Center and reunite with their loved ones in the near future.

Illinois Marine dies in Iraq

WOODLAWN, Ill. - A 19-year-old soldier from this southern Illinois community has died of injuries suffered while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq, his family confirmed Saturday.


Associated Press

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jonathan Kyle Price, a 2004 graduate of Woodlawn High School, is the first soldier from Jefferson County to die in Iraq, the Centralia Sentinel reported. Price's family learned of his death on Friday.
"He wanted to go over there and fight for his family and his country," John Hunsell, Price's stepfather, told the newspaper. "He felt strongly about his country and what he was doing."

Family members and friends gathered late Saturday morning to remember a man they described as having character, integrity and compassion.

"He always wanted to be in the military," said his mother Cheryl Hunsell. "From the time he was a little boy."
Price, who was set to return home on Feb. 20, was planning to marry his pregnant fiance.

"He couldn't wait to come home and be with me and the baby," said Brea Tate. "He would have made the best father in the whole world."

January 13, 2006

Los Angeles native trains Iraqi soldiers

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2006) -- Any drill instructor can tell you that making warriors out of young men and women fresh from the civilian world is challenging, but ultimately a rewarding task. The long hours, the high expectations and the cost of failure all weigh heavily before the ultimate day of graduation and the turning over of their charge to the wide world mark their success.


Los Angeles native trains Iraqi soldiers
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2006112233014
Story by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

Marines from D Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., can perhaps understand a little more clearly exactly what kind of challenge it is to train men in such a way.

They were tasked with training a unit of Iraqi soldiers in urban fighting techniques here to bolster the Iraqis’ confidence in their abilities and allow them to take an ever-increasing role in combating the insurgency. Specifically, their task was to perform rehearsals for a raid on a gas station squatting beside a stretch of highway known for improvised explosive device emplacement and other insurgent activity.

This responsibility gives Marines like Lance Cpl. Jose D. Hernandez, a 21-year-old Los Angeles native and scout team leader with 3rd Platoon, D Company, a chance to both work with a foreign military, as well as show them the “tricks of the trade” in urban warfare.

“We’re trying to get them some hands-on experience with our techniques so they’re comfortable with them,” said Hernandez, a 2002 Birmingham High School graduate.

It was a cool, windy day along the stretch of road, straddled on either side by flat desert. Only a cluster of pale yellow buildings, severely damaged in an attack of indeterminate origin, poked out of the surface of the ground. It was there Hernandez and his fellow Marines would be working with the Iraqis.

“This is our combat prep and rehearsals. You can’t go just off what you rehearse, but you want to know what the guys to your left and right are going to be doing,” Hernandez said.

The Marines use the “teach by example” method. They demonstrate the proper way of patrolling, closing ground once contact has been made, then flooding the house with violence of action and communication with each other. Then they have the Iraqis perform, squad by squad, an assault on the same building.

“We’re showing them how to communicate and have control in (military operations in urban terrain),” said Hernandez. “That includes how to set up cordons and the right way to do room clearing.”

Hernandez said he has seen a lot of improvement in the Iraqi soldiers since the first time his unit worked with them.

“This is my second time training the Iraqis, and they’re starting to take it seriously. They like to learn,” he said.

A lot of little things have improved, according to Hernandez.

“They didn’t used to pay attention to little things, like having a cover man when they were searching people,” he explained.

Hernandez holds out hope that this kind of training shows exactly what kind of future Iraq has. Instead of doing all the heavy lifting, the Americans are stepping back and letting the Iraqis take the lead.

“Now they’re getting to do things for their own country,” Hernandez said, “and playing their own role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

ESG -3 Starts Final Work-up Before Deployment

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Six ships and about 3,500 Sailors and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 started their Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) Jan. 13 off the coast of Southern California.


Story Number: NNS060113-03
Release Date: 1/13/2006 6:00:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

JTFEX is the third of three at-sea training evolutions designed to prepare the strike group for its scheduled six-month Western Pacific deployment in support of the global war on terrorism in the spring.

Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Amphibious Group 3, said the work-ups are “absolutely essential.”

“When you send a strike group on deployment, over the horizon, they represent the Navy, the Marine Corps and our nation. They may be called upon at any moment to perform a variety of missions,” said Ames, who embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), ESG 3’s flag ship, during the last exercise, Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX). “They must be prepared and these work-ups ensure just this. National prestige rests upon their shoulders. More importantly, the Sailors and Marines who fight these ships depend upon excellence in combat preparedness for their safety and survivability at sea.”

The training will prepare ESG 3 for its deployment by creating a realistic simulation of real-world operations and the operational challenges faced by U.S. forces in cooperation with coalition militaries.

“The exercises are designed to pressurize you to throw a lot of things at you at once," said Capt. Pete Morford, commodore, Commander Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, who works aboard Peleliu. "That way, if you can do all these things out here, the theory is you’ll be that much more successful when you go forward. When you deploy you’re ready for whatever comes.”

Staff assigned to Commander, Strike Force Training, U.S. Pacific Fleet, are embarked aboard Peleliu for the final evaluation and grading of the strike group, certifying that it is ready to deploy.

ESG 3 is comprised of COMPHIBRON 3, Peleliu, the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), the guided missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), the guided missile destroyer USS Gonzales (DDG 66) with the crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), the 11th MEU, Tactical Control Squadron (TACRON) 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.

For related news, visit the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lha5/.

Search for weapons near Hit yields a big haul

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, January 13, 2006

U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers have completed a three-day sweep near the Euphrates River Valley city of Hit, rounding up “hundreds” of mortar and artillery rounds, rockets and other weapons, officials said Thursday (22nd MEU, BLT 1/2)

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Radio operator knows no barriers

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Jan. 13, 2006) -- Cincinnati native, Cpl. Tasha M. Monz is on her third deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, proving the war in Iraq has become yet another major milestone for women in the military. (CLB8 MLG)


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II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

Story Identification #:

This time around, Monz, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (FWD), serves as the battalion commander’s radio operator and often finds herself in volatile areas as her job takes her beyond the camp’s concertina wire and into the streets of Iraq.

“I love it,” said the 22-year-old, referring to the weekly convoys she rides in. “We went on two convoys yesterday. I thought it was going to be an issue out here at first because I thought they weren’t going to let females off base. As long as I know what I’m doing I’m not worried about it.”

When this deployment is complete Monz will have spent just under two years in the Middle East in the course of three years; two months in Kuwait and 20 months total in Iraq.

“I like being deployed,” said Monz with a smile on her face. “Honestly, the whole purpose of me coming back here is for the junior Marines. I don’t mind being out here. It’s not a big emotional thing for me. I just make sure my Marines are ready to go and give them a heads-up on what to expect out here.”

A wealth of knowledge and experience gave Monz an advantage, and she was able to walk into this deployment ready to take charge.

“Corporal Monz is one of the best radio operator/communicators that I have worked with in 23 years,” said Lt. Col. Francis X. Carroll, commanding officer, CLB-8.

“As a noncommissioned officer, she seeks responsibility and looking out for other members of the vehicle crew and the platoon. The fact that she is on her third tour in Iraq and she has orders to 1st Marine Logistics Group (which means she will likely be back for a fourth tour), speaks volumes about her dedication.”

The blue-eyed corporal is confident in her military occupational specialty proficiency and she’s certain that is the reason why she holds the position on the commander’s security team.

“In September 2005, the battalion S-6 told me that he was giving me his best communicator as my radio operator,” said Carroll. “Cpl. Monz has exceeded all expectations. Particulary when operating outside the wire. [She] facilitates my ability to command and control the battalion operating across a large battlespace.”

During the December Iraqi national elections, CLB-8 had six different units operating in and around the cities of Fallujah, Kharmah, Ameriyah and Ferris. Monz opened the lines of communication resulting in situational awareness and ability to influence the battalions operations.

“I can take someone outside and show them the ins and outs of a piece of equipment,” said Monz with confidence. “I think that’s a good quality to have. I want these Marines to take back with them the MOS knowledge that’ll get them further. If they know the job when they come out here they can teach someone else.”

But the enjoyment of her deployment was abruptly overshadowed three months into her tour. Monz received word that her 42-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It seems that every time I come out here something happens to my mom,” said Monz. “It was hard and I worried, but I knew my mom was a strong person and my step dad and sister were taking good care of her. She reassured me she was going to stick through it and she’d be fine.”

Monz secluded herself from others to find relief after she received news of her ill mother.

“When I first found out I didn’t want to be around anybody,” said Monz. “I figured I’d lay low for a while. She’s good now. She had surgery and radiation to remove most of the cancer.”

Although her mother was fighting a personal war against cancer, Monz refused to let it dampen her spirit and instead focused on her mission here in Iraq. Upon her return, Monz plans on treating her mother on a trip to Las Vegas.

“We’re more like best friends, and I definitely look up to her,” said Monz. “We’re big Jean Claude Van Damme fans, and when I went on leave I bought every movie there ever was with him. I think we only got through two of them. She looked fine and was doing well. I still talk to her every single day.”

After three tours in the Middle East and various obstacles she overcame while deployed, Monz plans on a future deployment and also hopes to be a career Marine.

“I think retiring at 38 sounds really good,” said Monz.


Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

Troops Give Work Animals Free Medical Care in Yemen

AMRAN, Yemen, Jan. 13, 2006 – More than 780 animals received free medical care recently during a veterinary civil action plan event here.

While the number of animals treated was lower than in past VetCAPs held by the task force, team members said they felt the mission to assist local villagers was a definite success.


By Sgt. Brian E. McElaney, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

"The neat thing about this is that we made a big difference for probably 700-plus families, each with their own work animal," said Army Maj. Jim Riche, veterinarian and civic action team leader, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion. "Each animal was extremely valuable to the owner, so we had a larger effect on the human population owning these animals than we originally expected."

In addition to having the opportunity to assist the Yemeni villagers, team members had the chance to share and learn new techniques with local veterinarians who worked alongside them.

"They were a lot of fun, even if communication was a little difficult at times," said Riche. "There were a lot of tools we use that they weren't familiar with, and techniques they use we've never seen before, so the experience improved the profession on both sides."

This was the second VetCAP conducted in Yemen, and it is part of a larger humanitarian aid effort being conducted by CJTF-HOA at the request of the Yemeni government. Local and national government leaders invite civil affairs teams into various areas to nominate projects that range from medical civil action plans and VetCAPs to school and hospital renovations, said Billy Wilkins, team leader, Civil Affairs Team A 611.

"These are exactly the kinds of projects we're most capable of doing," Wilkins said. "As a civil affairs organization, it's what we're designed to do -- to help better our relations with the Yemeni people."

Relationships formed among the owners, the civil affairs teams and local vets are the most important result of the project for the health of the animals involved, said team members. More than that, they said they appreciated the chance to learn about Yemen and to share a little about America at the same time.

"I was honored to be one of the few Western faces they will ever see," said Army Capt. Anthony Evanego, civil affairs officer, Civic Action Team, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion. "It's an honor knowing that their perception of you will be the perception of the entire United States. It's an opportunity not many people ever get."

Relationships formed were also important because the effects of the project will be temporary, said Riche. Medicines given during the event will improve the animals seen for about six months. But without further treatment, parasites and dietary problems will eventually cause health problems to return.

"We boosted their general health, but the project needs to be repeated for a long-term impact on health and the economy," said Riche. "The real importance is more than what we did for any individual animal, ... it's that we helped gain trust and friendship and proved our intent to good for the people of Yemen. We've broken the ice for future projects to go to the region.

"Hopefully, the word will spread about what we did," he continued, "and someone like (the U.S. Agency for International Development) can make it back and continue these kinds of programs."

(Marine Corps Sgt. Brian E. McElaney is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa public affairs.)

A commanding figure, at home and in Iraq

On the day before Marine Reserve Col. Mike Pannell returned to one of the most important jobs in Iraq, Gahanna’s Lincoln Elementary kids, sitting crisscross applesauce, took a shot at him in the auditorium.

They asked whether he was able to take a shower, whether he got sunburned, whether he saw snakes.

If only those were his biggest problems.


Friday, January 13, 2006
Jeb Phillips

President Bush has said for months that U.S. troops won’t pull out of Iraq until that country’s military can survive on its own, until it can put down insurgents and guard the borders and police the cities. In a way, U.S. troops can’t leave until Pannell, of Jefferson Township, is successful. He’s in charge of training guards along Iraq’s western border — two brigades, about 2,500 Iraqi soldiers, who some call the Desert Wolves. The brigades are to patrol much of the Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian boundaries. They’ll try to keep insurgents from coming in.

And this is something that he’s learned while training those troops:

"Anyone who wants to set a definite date when we can leave is a fool."

Pannell was in Iraq for six months and has been on a two-week leave. Today, he leaves Columbus for another six months in Iraq. He said his brigades are at least eight months away from being able to function on their own. He can’t speak for other units in other parts of the country.

But there are clear reasons it’s taking so long, at least in the western edge of the country, he said. It’s desert out there, a 3½-hour helicopter ride from Baghdad. Electricity comes from gas-powered generators. The only phones are satellite phones, and sometimes those don’t work. There’s no civilian e-mail. The U.S. troops are resupplied every 10 days.

The Iraqi troops are used to working 21 days on, 21 days off. It’s anathema to Marines who work all day every day, but the border patrol won’t have it any other way. So training an Iraqi brigade takes at least twice as long as training a U.S. brigade.

The Iraqis aren’t always familiar with staff meetings or following military lines of communication. They want a peaceful country, but they don’t always trust the Americans.

There’s a lot to work on.

"They’re not Marines," Pannell said. "They’re never going to be Marines. We just want them to be better than the killers who are coming across the border."

Pannell commands 100 Marines, split into 10 teams; each team advises an Iraqi unit. They all live about 100 yards from the border. Pannell, a colonel with almost 30 years of active and reserve experience, sleeps in a tent with about 10 other people. He eats boiled mutton and rice, just like the Iraqi soldiers.

"We’re trying to gain their trust and understand their culture," he said. "That doesn’t work if you go back to a safe haven while they’re out there."

The Iraqi brigades are in charge of 18 border forts, about 20 to 40 miles from one another, and Pannell moves from one to the other frequently. The length of the border is about the distance from Columbus to Atlanta.

Smugglers come across the border constantly, he said. Some have cigarettes and sheep. Some have bombs. There’s no way the Iraqi border patrol catches them all.

This is Pannell’s second deployment since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He spent several months in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 2002 and 2003, then commanded a base in Africa until January 2004.

His father was a Marine who was wounded at Iwo Jima during World War II. Pannell, 50, graduated from Whitehall-Yearling High School in 1973 and Ohio State University in 1978. He went immediately into the Marines and was on active duty until 1984. He joined the reserves the next year and has been in ever since.

He’s married to Clarisa Pannell, with a grown daughter, and two more young ones at Lincoln Elementary School. A lot of those students wrote him while he was in Iraq. He felt he had a debt to pay, which is why he came by to answer their questions yesterday.

The only shower he gets is from pouring a bottle of water on his head, he told them. He’s never seen a snake in Iraq. He doesn’t get sunburned, because he wears long-sleeve shirts and a helmet or hat everywhere he goes.

They asked whether he had been shot (no), whether he’s scared when he goes to sleep (no), whether there’s quicksand (no, but there are holes that can swallow a vehicle).

They asked him what he did for fun, too. Pannell said he watched DVDs and read the letters they had sent him.

One of the best things they could do for him, he said, would be to write him again. At the edge of a dangerous desert, it would make him feel a little more at home.

[email protected]

War follows soldier home on leave from Iraq to his campus here

As an assistant principal at Woodlawn High, Reginald Williams wrote up a few students during the 2004-2005 school year. But when shirt-tail offender Chris Smith saw Williams walk into the Shreveport school's library Thursday, the 17-year-old had nothing but big smiles for the major in the Marine Corps Reserve who is on leave for two weeks from Iraq.


By Mary Jimenez
[email protected]

"He's great," said Smith, a senior. "I think he's brave. It was sad to see him go."

Williams, an English teacher who was called to active duty in the spring, took time on one of his first days home to visit Woodlawn High faculty members and students. Hugs and warm welcomes greeted him around every turn as he walked the campus grounds.

"He made such a strong impression on these kids," said Katrina Dooley, an English teacher at Woodlawn High who taught in the room next to Williams'. "They really miss him."

Williams, who expects to complete his mission and come home for good in May, will go before his boards in an effort to be promoted to lieutenant colonel next month. The promotion may force a choice of returning to teaching or staying a full-time soldier.

Right now, however, he's certain what he wants to do. "I'll come back to teaching," said Williams, adding that teaching initially was just following in the footsteps of his parents but became much more.

"It's a desire to make a difference. It doesn't make you rich, but (making a difference) is the richness of it."

Williams sees similarities in his teaching and military careers. "They're both a public service and not always easy. You have to have a passion for both to get through it."

In Iraq, Williams' unit armors military vehicles, a mission he said is about 60 percent complete. Focusing on the mission helps pass the time away from his family, but it's tough, said the father of three ages 6-16.

"We write and call a lot, but missing your family is the hardest part," said Williams, who dreams of writing short stories and gospel music. "But at the same time, it's also what keeps you going."

The reality of war followed Williams to Woodlawn High. The school has added two more names to its memorial to the war dead. George Ray Draughn Jr. and Troy Ezernack, both U.S. Army staff sergeants, were memorialized on the school's sundial in November. Draughn, 29, was killed in a bomb blast Sept. 1 in Iraq. Ezernack, 39, died in a grenade attack Oct. 9 in Afghanistan.

"It just reminds you how dangerous it is and the sacrifices being made," Williams said.

Protective gear keeps Marines safe

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2006) -- When someone jumps from an aircraft thousands of feet above the ground, you never see them without a parachute strapped tightly against their backs. Wearing the proper gear to ensure a safe landing is paramount for skydivers. The same rule applies to service members in Iraq. (8th ESB 2nd MLG)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier

Story Identification #:

On Jan. 6, Marines with Security Detachment, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), came across one of the greatest threats in Iraq, an improvised explosive device.

Four Marines and one sailor were performing a routine patrol mere miles outside the base in an RG-31 Cougar, which is commonly used by Explosive Ordinance Disposal units to assist them in locating and neutralizing IED’s.

“It was like every other time we went through this area,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael T. McRae, a corpsman assigned to 8th ESB. “I was in the back when the driver said to hold on because there was a bump in the road. That bump turned out to be an IED.”

The IED detonated directly under the vehicle; however, because they were driving an RG-31, the blast was pushed outward instead of directly straight up due to the vehicles unique “V –shaped" undercarriage.

“The blast briefly threw the vehicle into the air,” said 1st Lt. Brandon S. Davis, the 8th ESB assistant Security Detachment commander. “Fortunately, everyone survived with few, minor injuries.”

Of the five service members in the vehicle, two received concussions and two others received minor burns.

The Marine who was in the gun turret was injured the worst and received minor burns above his mouth because it was the only exposed area on his entire body.

“The blast entered the cabin area for only a moment,” McRae said. “I felt like I was being burnt to death. Who knows what would have happened if it wasn’t for all the gear I had on.”

Personal protective equipment serves as a barrier between military personnel and many hazards that can be found in Iraq. Whether traveling in a vehicle outside the wire or assisting in an operation off base, Marines and Sailors are required to wear their Interceptor vest with small arms protective inserts, groin and neck protectors, Kevlar helmet, ballistic-proof eyewear, polypropylene neck protector and gloves.

When a skydiver is falling to the Earth at 150 mph, he depends on his parachute to open to guide him safely to the ground. Like skydivers, service members depend on their equipment as well as their vehicles to keep them as safe as possible when traveling outside the wire.

“I have always told my Marines that our PPE gear is made for a reason,” Davis said. “You can never be sure when there is an IED attack. They do not discriminate.”

News distribution system makes its MEU debut

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2006) -- Perched high atop one of the buildings that is currently home to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), a small satellite transmitter dish is the first step in a process used to keep the American public informed of the unit’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


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22nd MEU
Story by:
Computed Name: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks
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As part of a network dubbed the Digital Video Imagery Distribution System, or DVIDS, the satellite transmitter enables the MEU to send video footage, photographs, and stories to media outlets in the United States without tying up tactical communications networks.

A small group of MEU Command Element Marines were trained on the system prior to the unit’s deployment in November, and are the first step in getting the MEU’s story told.

“We send the data via the transmitter to a satellite that pipes it to a civilian communications company in Atlanta acting the hub,” said Sgt. Richard D. Stephens, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a combat photographer assigned to the 22nd MEU (SOC) Command Element.

Once there, Stephens says marketing specialists put out feelers to news networks throughout the country to try to get the MEU’s story told, and either distribute the MEU-supplied footage or facilitate live interviews through the system. In those cases, the live feed ‘bounces’ from the company in Atlanta to the news station taking part in the interview.

These interviews are revolutionary in that they provide the MEU the ability to immediately respond to news queries or provide one-on-one interviews with practically any member of the command.

The first live use of the system involved an interview between Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the MEU’s commanding officer, and Emma Zak, a general assignments reporter with WWAY News Channel 3, an ABC affiliate based in Wilmington, N.C.

“The system [DVIDS] is great,” said Zak, commenting after the interview. “It allowed me to tell your story in a more colorful way. Colonel McKenzie’s interview through DVIDS added a liveliness to our story and for our views.”

“Before DVIDS, our interviews could only be recorded by telephone and we would edit a still picture over the voice,” Zak continued. “DVIDS made everything come alive … the video and audio from your unit allowed us back home to see what goes on in your day.”

Zak went on to say that WWAY News Channel 3 also used stock video footage transmitted through DVIDS by the MEU to better tell the unit’s story to the eastern North Carolina audience.

According to Stephens, the transmission end of DVIDS, which includes the satellite dish and a computer-based control system, can be set up within minutes, and is remarkably easy to use despite its complexity.

“It’s amazing when you think about it,” said Stephens, commenting on the complex, yet easy to operate system. “The signal goes from here to a satellite, down to Atlanta, then back to another satellite, and then down to the receiving station, and back to us here.”

“After all, it’s thousands of miles your signal is going, but there’s only a second or two delay in the audio.”

The 22nd MEU (SOC)’s DVIDS setup is one of more than 50 fielded by the Department of Defense, and the first to be employed exclusively by a unit of its size. More information on the DVIDS, and footage submitted via the system by the MEU, can be found at http://www.dvidshub.net.

In addition to its Command Element, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The MEU is conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.

For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.

10th Marines honor tradition of patron saint

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Jan. 12, 2006) -- Artillerymen from the 10th Marine Regiment held a banquet Jan 12 honoring St. Barbara, the patron saint of field artillery.


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson
Story Identification #:

The history of St. Barbara and the traditions are widely known among the artillery community, but the same stories aren’t common knowledge throughout the Marine Corps. The archaic roots of St. Barbara’s celebration have been modified today and replaced with non-religious ritual, but the values of the artillerymen remain intact.

“The regiment has gone through changes, and we all know artillerymen can do much more than just artillery ” said Col. Glen Starnes, commanding officer of the regiment, “but now is the time to get back to our artillery roots.

With that said, the Marines commenced a celebration of their profession. The risks, the sacrifice, the pride, and the humor were all entailed in a skit performed by the Marines entitled “The History of Artillery.”

Staff Sgt. Patrick Rinok, a field artillery fire control man with Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment, said being in the Order of St. Barbara means, “you’re part of a select few of people who contribute to the artillery field somehow as a whole.”

“You can come up with new (Standard Operating Procedures) or new ways of doing things or getting things done better,” said Rinok, who was in attendance of his first St. Barbara’s observance since receiving this award for distinguished service, and thus being invited into the Order.

According to the legend still honored today by the Order of St. Barbara, St. Barbara lived approximately 700 years ago and was raised by non-Christians or “heathens” as they have been referred to. Her father didn’t want anyone else to see how beautiful she was, so he locked her in a tower and ordered a bathhouse to be built for her while he was away.

In her father’s absence, Barbara became influenced by Christianity and instructed the builders to put three windows in the bathhouse, instead of two, to honor the holy trinity. When her father came back and saw she had been converted, he became outraged and chopped off her head.

As Barbara’s father headed home from the execution, he was struck by lightening.

Over the passage of time, Barbara came to be known as a martyr and was invoked for protection against accidents involving explosions, fire and sudden death.

Early artillery weapons would sometimes blow up instead of firing their projectile, which made St. Barbara the choice patroness for field artillerymen. Both Marine and Army artillery units observe her legend similarly with a ritual called “The Mixing of the Punch.”

Units throughout the U.S. and foreign countries have similar knowledge of the patroness. The observance is generally held around the first week of December. 10th Marines pushed their ceremony back a month due to recent movements and changeovers within the unit.

According to retired Master Gunnery Sgt. John McIntire, guest speaker at the ceremony, there are two orders of St. Barbara, one being the original order itself, and the other is the Ancient Order of St. Barbara, whose members have contributed to the artillery field for a prolonged amount of time.

McIntire explained being a member of the order is good-luck omen that artillerymen will have, “luck, goodwill, accurate, timely and on target,” fire every time they send rounds down range.

Facing deployment to war, Marines arrested

Two U.S. Marines pled guilty Tuesday in court to charges stemming from their Jan. 5 arrests when they established an illegal campsite at the Tuckahoe Management Area.

The men were scheduled for deployment to the war in Iraq.


By Enoch Autry/Publisher

Christopher David Dickey, 19, of Rifle Road in Sylvania, and Jimmy Titus Joyner, 21, of Jacksonville, N.C., were released from the Screven County Jail into the custody of the Marines' military police Wednesday morning and transported back to their unit at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina.

Dickey and Joyner were sentenced by State Court Judge Grady Reddick on civilian charges of criminal trespass and obstruction of officer. Dickey originally was charged by Screven County Sheriff's Office officials with pointing a gun at another after the Marine allegedly displayed a .22-caliber rifle in the direction of a fisherman on the state wildlife management area, but that charge was dismissed in court.

Dickey's attorney Tony Bazemore said the gun charge lacked sufficient evidence.

Both men were ordered to pay $1,022.50 in fines and are subject to two 12-month probations run concurrently. Because of the misdemeanor charges, both men could have faced a maximum of two years in prison.

Colorado Funeral Set For Fallen Marine

PIERRE, S.D. -- Flags in South Dakota flew half staff Friday in memory of a Marine killed in Iraq.

The funeral for Cpl. Brett Lundstrom, 22, was scheduled next Wednesday in Colorado.


Oglala Sioux Tribe Member Killed In Iraq

POSTED: 4:59 am MST January 13, 2006

Lundstrom and four other members of the North Carolina-based Second Marine Expeditionary Force were on a combat mission when they were attacked on Jan. 7.

Lundstrom was born in South Dakota and was an Oglala Sioux Tribe member. He attended high school in Virginia.

"He was very proud to be a Marine. Like any other kid, he had his worries, too, but he knew he had a job to do. Here's a kid that didn't ask why," said his father, Joe Lundstrom. "He believed in what they were doing. He loved doing what they were doing, and he died doing it. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He's a hero in my eyes."

His mother is from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where wake services will take place Saturday and Sunday.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Horan & McConaty Funeral Home in Denver, with a 7 p.m. rosary service. A funeral Mass will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Northglenn, Colo. Burial will be in the Fort Logan National Cemetery, with military honors by the Marine Corps.

Copyright 2006 by TheDenverChannel.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Lejeune identifies Marine found dead in barracks

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - The military said Friday it is investigating the cause of death of a Marine from Pennsylvania who was found dead in his barracks room at Camp Lejeune.


Associated Press

Lance Cpl. Howard E. Johnston, 22, of Berks County, Pa., was found Wednesday morning after he didn't report to work, according to a statement from Camp Lejeune.

Johnston was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was classified as a rifleman, but had been temporarily assigned as a battalion armory custodian.

Keep on trucking after the Marine Corps

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.(Jan. 13, 2006) -- Five years ago, the California Career School decided to take their truck driving courses to service members on military bases throughout the Southern California area. Since then, more than 2,500 veterans have gone through the training and have received lifelong job placement assistance from the school. There have been more than 250 former Marines and Sailors from the Combat Center in this statistic, said Ken Enfinger, military representative, California Career School. (1/7 Marine interviewed)


Submitted by:
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz
Story Identification #:

More than 70 percent of manufactured products are distributed through trucking, keeping the demand for truckers high and the job almost recession-proof, said Enfinger. The pay steadily rises each year, going from $38,000 to $44,000 per year in 2005 to $41,000 to $48,000 per year as starting pay in 2006. In five-to-six years, truck drivers could possibly earn a six-figure income annually.

“Whether you’ve never had a license, or your military occupational specialty is motor transportation driver, the course is straightforward enough for anyone to accomplish,” he said.

The cost of the nationally accredited school allows service members to use the tuition assistance program and their Montgomery G.I. Bill to pay for the tuition costs of $4,295 to $5,370, depending on the types of endorsements wanted on the license. Endorsements are certifications for truck drivers to transport or handle specific items and equipment. Those available from the school include passenger, double and triple trailers, and hazardous materials, explained Enfinger.

The course lasts four to six weeks during evening hours Monday through Thursday and in the morning on weekends. The class is all hands-on learning with five to 12 students per class, enabling more individual attention.

“It’s a good backup plan to have at your disposal,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Forest, anti-tank assaultman, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I decided to go to college, but I still want to have this in my background to use at any time. There is always a need for truck drivers.”

Anthony O. Hall, course instructor, went through the course more than two years ago before retiring as a gunnery sergeant from the Combat Center. Hall was a motor transportation driver during his career in the Marine Corps.

“Having the background in driving helped a little, but anyone who applies themselves can successfully complete the course,” said Hall. “Students who have never driven a manual transmission learn how to drive a 10-speed and double clutch in three weeks.”

“It’s a great opportunity to learn an easy skill that is always needed in the job market,” he said. “It’s for anyone who loves to drive.”

The license doesn’t lock in a long-range trucking career, meaning not all licensed truck drivers will be employed to drive across the nation. That doesn’t mean there aren’t big bucks working locally, where you go home every night. There are plenty of local and part-time jobs available everywhere in the country. A former Marine, who took the course two months ago, is now employed by a contractor on this base earning $40 per hour, said Enfinger.

The school also offers a 40-hour behind-the-wheel skills-refresher course for those who have already graduated the course and need to brush up on the skills and laws before entering the civilian work force.

Report On 3/25 Marine Deaths To Remain Classified

Kucinich Hopes To Get Answers For Marine Families


POSTED: 1:46 pm EST January 13, 2006

CLEVELAND -- Military officials have changed their minds about declassifying a report, and now the families of Brook Park Marines killed in Iraq last August may never know exactly what happened to their sons.

A recent NewsChannel5 exclusive investigation uncovered information that terrorists who killed six Marines on Aug. 1 may have been taken into custody.

The Marine Corps promised families that it would find out if the fallen were betrayed by Iraqi security forces, and would share the investigation after it was declassified.

Now, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich was told the report will remain classified.

Kucinich is angry and released this statement saying, "Those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country do not deserve to have their families stonewalled by their government."

Kucinich said he will meet with Marine Corps officers in the coming weeks to find out why the report will remain a secret.

Cutting-edge way for Marines to connect

New York, N.Y.(Jan. 13, 2006) -- If one were to Google “U.S. Marines” one would find that somewhere in the approximate 19 million sites that appear, one site seems to be a niche for the Marine Corps’ tightly-knit family.


Submitted by:
New York City Public Affairs
Story by:
Computed Name: Gunnery Sgt. John S. Jamison Jr.
Story Identification #:

Whether a Marines’ service is present or past, TogetherWeServed.com is a site that has reunited many Marines and allowed them to keep in contact with each other through e-mail, photos, blogs and other personal information.

“TWS was conceived to meet the objective of being a Marine-only website, devoid of any commercial advertising,” explains Joe Armstrong, a retired Marine SgtMaj. and Administrator/Advisor for the site. “The site is specially created to allow members to not only locate lost Marine Corps friends (brothers) and interact with other Marines, but also provide a place to tell their personal Marine story.”

The site was brought on line on Nov. 10, 2003 and since then has signed more than 33,000 profiles – 20,000 of those in the past six months. Which, in comparison, rivals the number of active duty Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

TWS members include active, reserve and retired Marines and, of course, Navy corpsmen and chaplains. Family members of Marines who are deceased, fell in the line of duty, or are POW/MIA are also invited to join TWS for the purpose of posting a remembrance profile.

TWS’s oldest member was born 93 years ago and members’ ranks range from private all the way to lieutenant general. The current membership roster includes hundreds of veterans of WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and hundreds who are still on active duty and/or serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

New profiles are being added at an average of 120 per day. “The primary means of membership growth is by invitation from an existing Marine member,” said Armstrong. “Very little advertising is done for the site which results in only about 30% of membership growth, the other 70% of Marines that join almost every day are invited by other Marine members.”

Each of these individuals has the opportunity to post as much personal and professional information as they wish. All of which is cross-referenced with the incalculable amount of information already entered by other members. If there is a match to someone else’s entries, say, their platoon number in bootcamp, it will alert all members that also attended at the same time.

New members may search the entire website in more than 30 different variables to locate the Marine for whom they are looking.

"I really like the TWS web site. Last week I spoke to one of my Drill Instructors after 36 years,” said Joe Lisi, a Marine who was discharged as a corporal in 1972. “I was able to locate him through Marines on the TWS web site. What a thrill it was to hear his voice after all this time. And, he wasn't yelling at me to boot."

There are plenty more kudos from other satisfied customers on the “Forum” pages of the site. These 34 different pages offer an area for Marines to comment on current events, professional issues, sports and hobbies and many other subjects to include a reunion forum that gives dates and places of unit get-togethers.

“It reminds me of sitting on a footlocker in an open squadbay with a bunch of Marines and telling stories,” said Bob Heise, a Marine Sgt. who served from 1965-68 in Vietnam. “In the open forums there is an opportunity to speak with active Marines which keeps you not only informed but feeling as though you are still tied in.”

Not all of the members posted are legitimate and they are soon found out using the Profile Dispute System. “The Profile Dispute System is a way for the other members of the site to call into question or verify any service history data posted by another member,” said Armstrong.

When an item is disputed or verified, the members are notified and provided an opportunity to clarify and/or remove the data that may be incorrect, or to acknowledge the verification posted for them. “In this way, the website has become ‘self-policing’ with the integrity of service data becoming a primary feature.”

“Additionally, since the website is profile driven, and those profiles are continuously reviewed, verified and/or challenged by other members, there is no such thing as an anonymous profile on this site that are common on other sites,” Armstrong explained.

Armstrong is not the only person dedicated to the accurate perpetuation of the Corps’ Marines and stories. “TWS is supported by a very enthusiastic TWS Advisory Group (TAG) which consists of 11 volunteers, Marine and Navy, representing the entire rank structure and multiple eras of Marine Corps history,” he said.

As it is entirely devoid of any advertising, which is in keeping with the sanctity of the site, TWS relies solely on membership upgrades in order to meet its debt as well as promotional and operating expenses.

Armstrong explains that, “all Marines can join TWS as ‘Free Members’ and enjoy a great many of its unique features. ‘Full Membership,’ has been deliberately set to be in the reach of most at a very nominal $14.95 for 12 months.”

An exception is made for all members who are currently on active duty in combat areas. They are given complimentary membership upgrades, as are those who are seriously disabled.

“It is the goal of this website to eventually chronicle the service history of 250,000 Marines or more, covering all recent eras, within the next five years,” Armstrong said. “If this website is able to accomplish this goal, it will ensure that the site becomes not only a prolific Marine locator, but more importantly, it will ensure that the living history that the Marine members represent …will be recorded for posterity in the words and pictures of those that were there and who ‘Served Together.’”

Tampa Bay, Fla., native helps protect Marines in Iraq

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2006) -- Lance Cpl. Alex Fox volunteered to deploy here in hopes of to make a contribution vice caught up in working parties at Lejeune. When Fox returned from his six-month tour in Iraq conducting security operations in the Walleed area along the Iraq-Syria border in March 2005, he decided he wanted to return. (3/10)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200611223330
Story by Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton

After watching the news and listening to reports of the conditions here, the 20-year-old Tampa Bay, Fla., native thought his desire to be involved in the combat operations would be fulfilled. When he arrived in Al Anbar’s provincial capital city of Ramadi in August 2005, he was surprised at what he found.

“I volunteered to come here the second time. From what I can tell, things have calmed down a lot since March,” Fox said. “It wasn’t what I expected, but it’s a good thing for the Iraqi people.”

For the last four months, Fox and his fellow Marines from the Camp Security Force here have manned the various security towers along the camp’s walls providing a barrier between insurgents here and the camp residents Fox has developed a keen insight into the lives of the Iraqis in the neighborhood he watches over.

“After doing this for a period of time you know when something is out of place,” Fox said. “You know when something is there and it shouldn’t be and you know when something is not there and it should. Usually, everybody just goes about their daily lives. They are getting used to our presence.”

Fox doesn’t just speak from his experiences manning the security towers. He often gets much more than a bird’s eye perspective.

In addition to manning the camps security towers, Fox and his fellow Marines frequently conduct patrols at night. They look for insurgent activity, make contact with locals, search homes and buildings for terrorists and their weapons caches, and enforce the city’s curfew in the area surrounding the base.

The contact he has made with the people here is mostly positive and the consistent patrols and interaction with the people have helped diminish the threat of violence here.

“Most of the people we see are pretty friendly,” Fox said. “For the most part, they seem to like us. As they get more used to us, they come up to the towers and give us information and it’s done a lot to lessen the rocket and small arms attacks.”

The improvement he has seen since his first deployment and what he observed in the last four months has made him optimistic about Iraq’s future. A general drop in the level of day-to-day violence - in addition to the lack of violence during what many had expected to be a violent Iraqi Constitutional Referendum in October - and an even calmer and more successful Iraqi National Election in December, showed Fox that the people here are moving in a positive direction.

“The people here are definitely changing their minds and getting a sense of their own country,” Fox said. “They are starting to get the idea. I can see that what we’re doing here is for something. We’re improving the country.”

Marine Corps committed

The Marine Corps continues its commitment to provide the best possible body armor solution to our Marines while adapting to an ever-evolving enemy threat. There is simply no way of anti-cipating all enemy tactics and preparing for every eventuality. (Related: Our view)


By William D. Catto Fri Jan 13, 6:45 AM ET

The Marine Corps commissioned a report in December 2004 by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology that outlines areas of vulnerability resulting in Marine fatalities during the war. We requested the data from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and collected information from individual Marines and operational commanders to identify areas for armor enhancements.

The challenge of body armor design is to balance the desired payoff in additional safety against the loss of combat effectiveness due to mobility challenges, potential heat exhaustion and fatigue caused by too much weight. Nothing in this report, however, addresses the large number of lives saved by the body armor our Marines wear today, and that number is significant.

At the start of the war in March 2003, the Marine Corps ensured that our infantry Marines who went into harm's way had the latest body armor. This commitment to individual protection has continued through the next Marine rotations to
Iraq, including improvements to Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI), extremity body armor, new helmets, ballistic goggles, etc. Since March 2004, 100% of Marines have this equipment.

As threats have increased, we have provided enhancements to our body armor system, such as the side SAPI. Once the decision was made to field side SAPI protection, we provided interim-solution side SAPI plates to our Reconnaissance Marines within 30 days (July 2005); fielded a production model in three months (September 2005); and will have completed side SAPI fielding (of 28,800 sets) in April 2006. We now have more than 9,200 sets of side SAPIs delivered into theater.

The Marine Corps remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence in war-fighting acquisition and sustainment. The lives of America's Marines depend on it.

Maj. Gen William D. Catto is commanding general of the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

Academy ends a 155-year tradition

When Lance Cpl. Edward Voumard, 20, signs off after his shift early Sunday morning guarding an entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy, he will be one of a handful of Marines who close the book on a 155-year tradition.


By Bradley Olson
sun reporter
Originally published January 13, 2006

Voumard, who has been stationed at the academy since completing initial training after enlistment, said he would miss Annapolis very much. As for the shift:

"It's just another day," he said yesterday.

Since just a few years after the Naval Academy's founding in 1845, Marines have guarded the military college and performed ceremonial duties. They were initially quartered on ships stationed at the sea wall off the Severn River.

The 48 Marines of the U.S. Naval Academy Company, Marine Barracks, Washington, are being reassigned to installations at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Twentynine Palms, Calif. They will be replaced by enlisted Navy personnel and possibly additional federal security forces if a threat level is raised, officials said. A ceremony marking their departure will be held this morning at the academy.

The decision to remove them was made at the highest levels of the Navy and the Marine Corps, officials said, as part of a program to reposition Marines to the combat units. The decision was partly influenced by the global war on terrorism but had been in the works before that, said Marine Corps spokeswoman Lt. Elle Helmer.

"The Marine Corps has always been looking for ways to remain a premier fighting force and use their Marines wisely to add to our mission accomplishment and successes," she said. "This was a positive way that Annapolis would benefit from having sailors operate the gates and the Marine Corps would benefit by sending these Marines to the operating forces."

Troops who guarded bases all over the country have been similarly repositioned in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sometimes replaced by military police and sometimes by private security companies, such as at Fort Meade. But the decision to remove the Marine company from the academy was a harder one because of their tradition in guarding the college, performing ceremonial duties at funerals, raising flags and guarding the crypt of John Paul Jones.

"Marine officers and enlisted [personnel] will still work here in other capacities, so there will be that Marine service presence here for midshipmen and for the rest of the faculty and staff," said Cmdr. Tom McKavitt, who manages operations at the 160-year-old institution. "It just won't be at the gate."

The size of the unit has fluctuated during its history, sometimes reaching as many as 150, and at other times decreasing - often during war time. An example was during the Spanish-American War in 1898, when the Marines from the "barracks" marched off to war, according to an academy history.

The mission of the unit has also changed over time. The Marines began guarding the gates in 1987 after a long hiatus. They had not manned the gates since the Spanish-American War. After the Sept. 11 attacks, they began focusing exclusively on security measures to deter potential attacks. The Marine guards began requiring identification for all who entered the academy. That policy led to a confrontation between a Marine guard and then-Superintendent Richard J. Naughton at Gate 3 on New Year's Eve 2003, which triggered a military probe that led to Naughton's resignation.

When the decision was announced last April, Annapolis officials mourned the Marines' parting. U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat who represents Anne Arundel County, said he was "extremely disappointed by the decision."

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer also expressed disappointment. "I would feel a lot better if the Marines were there guarding the base," she said.

McKavitt said midshipmen assigned to stand at the gates to monitor the appearance and behavior of other midshipmen coming and going from the academy have enjoyed interacting with the Marines.

"I've talked to some mids who have been out there and have really enjoyed the interaction because midshipmen really don't see junior enlisted personnel very much, in either the Navy or Marine Corps," McKavitt said. "They're typically dealing with junior and senior officers. And I look forward to my sailors enjoying the same relationship."

[email protected]

January 12, 2006

Climax Marine mourned Lance corporal killed in Iraq was `where he wanted to be'

CLIMAX -- When Don Bailey's phone rang at 6 a.m. Sunday, he thought it was his usual weekend wake-up call from his buddy in Iraq.


Thursday, January 12, 2006
By Tiffani Blade
[email protected] 388-8526

Instead, it was Jason Little's mother, Jacqueline Little, of Climax, who told him through tears that his best friend had been killed.

``I just broke down,'' Bailey, 22, said. ``He was more than a friend, he was my brother.''

Lance Cpl. Jason Little, 20, was killed near Ferris, Iraq, on Saturday when his tank was attacked with an explosive device, according to the Defense Department. He had been in Iraq about five months.

The two men became fast friends three years ago when they worked together at a Meijer store. They talked about entering the Marines, but later agreed that Bailey would stay home and save lives as a Burlington Township firefighter and Little would go save lives in Iraq.

``He always told me not to worry about him,'' Bailey said.

On a warm, clear summer night last year in the Upper Peninsula, one of Little's favorite places, he and Bailey sat on a beach and talked about the future.

``We talked about getting married and having kids,'' Bailey said. ``We hoped our kids would be as close as we were.''

Little graduated from Climax Scotts High School in June of 2003 and joined the Marines a year later despite his parents' efforts to get him to go to college, his sister Stephanie Little said.

Stephanie Little, 21, and Jason were only a year apart in age and shared a unique bond.

``He would come in my room and we'd talk about things we couldn't tell other people,'' Stephanie Little said. ``We understood each other.''

They were able to share one last conversation the Monday before his death. Stephanie, excited about returning to Michigan State University after Christmas break, and Jason, excited about being in a different country, shared ``I love yous'' a final time.

Jason Little was serving with the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He came back to Climax on leave last August and left for Iraq shortly after.

``He wasn't scared to go,'' Stephanie Little said, recalling a time when they watched a TV special on the war in Iraq. ``He said, `that's where I want to be,''' she said.

Teachers described Jason Little as ``quiet'' and ``personable.''

``He wasn't an all-A student, but he was a great student,'' said Judi Kingsbury, a high school guidance counselor.

Doug Robinson, who had been Jason Little's algebra teacher, said Jason's brother Derek, 16, would often come into his class and show off pictures of Jason in uniform.

``He was obviously very proud of him being a soldier,'' Robinson said.

The family said in a statement, ``He was exactly where he wanted to be in life, a United States Marine.

``We gave him to the Marines, he is handed to God now,'' the statement said. ``If all service members love their country as much as him, then we are the most fortunate country in the world.''

In addition to his brother and sister, Jason is survived by his parents, Thomas and Jacqueline Little of Climax.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Seasoned corpsman grabs Sailor of the Year title

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif.(Jan. 12, 2006) -- When Navy Petty Officer First Class Joseph Topp, corpsman, graduated from high school he knew he wanted to do two things, be a pilot or a corpsman. He decided to enter the medical field and that has led him to his current point in his life, standing out above everyone else as the sailor of the year.


Submitted by:
MCLB Barstow
Story by:
Computed Name: Pfc. Quentin Grogan
Story Identification #:

Growing up in a small mining town, Martins Ferry, Ohio, Topp was eager to get out and see the world and saw the military as a way to do that.

"There were no jobs in my town, all the mines were closing down. I did not want to work at a McDonalds," said Topp, "I wanted something more."

He then started talking to recruiters about his possible future in the military. After realizing the Marine Corps did not have a medical field, he turned to the Navy.

Making his decision to join the Navy, has led Topp to experiences that living in a small town would not have given him.

"I joined the Navy to see the world," said Topp, and has done just that.

During his tour in the Navy, Topp has been to Kuwait, Guam, Japan and Thailand. While stationed at Naval Hospital Guam, from 2002 to 2004, he experienced two typhoons and an earthquake measuring 8.6. After the earthquake, Topp was a member of the team that participated in aid for the victims.

Topp's first experience with the Marine Corps was while he was attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines at Marine Air Ground Task Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

While attached to 3/7, Topp attended the Field Medical Service School, which led him to working with and gaining the most of his experience in dealing with Marines, to include his deployments to Japan and Kuwait.

In March 2004, Topp was assigned to Branch Medical Clinic MCLB Barstow. Since his arrival, Topp has been proving how valuable he is. In January 2005, he was named sailor of the quarter.

"It has been tough with the staff shortages we have experienced, but I have been able to hold [the clinic] together," said Topp.

In January, Topp is scheduled for another deployment, this one being his first to Iraq in support of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.

Currently, Topp is the senior enlisted sailor for the clinic. He has become the leading petty officer, senior enlisted leader, government purchase cardholder, supply petty officer, operations management petty officer, computer information system specialist and educational services officer. He has received many responsibilities.

In November 2005, Topp was named sailor of the year due to his success and ability to carry out his many duties.

"[Topp] is an outstanding sailor and an extreme pleasure to work with. We are sorry to be losing him when he gets deployed to Iraq," said Lt. Cmdr. George Cullen, clinic commanding officer.

Topp's dedication and love for his job, the Navy, and his country has led him this far in his life. He plans on making the Navy his career.

Purple Heart received after 55 years

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Jan. 12, 2006) -- Private First Class Frank Albano, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was injured by shrapnel at Inchon, South Korea in 1950, just two years after enlisting in the Marine Corps. More than five decades later, the 76-year-old veteran was awarded his Purple Heart.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Lanessa Arthur
Story Identification #:

During a Dec. 15, 2005 ceremony at Camp Horno, 55 years after being injured, Albano stood in front of Lt. Col. David J. Furness, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment to be recognized for his sacrifices.

“There were Marines with worse injures,” said the resident of Mission Viejo, Calif. “I continued with my unit until the end of our deployment.”

Albano joined the Marine Corps out of New Orleans in June 1948. He attended recruit training at Parris Island, S.C. and was stationed at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas shortly thereafter. Two years into his contract, Albano found himself in the Korean War.

Albano landed at Inchon with Company C, and they fought their way to the capitol city of Seoul. Albano said their orders were to seize the train station there, Sept 25, 1950.

Soon after securing the station, Albano, fire team leader for 3rd squad, 3rd platoon, headed forward to seize surrounding buildings.

Upon leaving the train station, the Marines were fired upon from the second story of a building by mortars, Albano said.

Albano and others were forced to low-crawl their way back to the train station, clutching their rifles in the bend of their elbows. Although they were moving as fast as possible, it wasn’t fast enough to escape shrapnel fragments.

“The shrapnel was flying right in between our arms and over our heads,” said Albano.

Albano received injuries to his right forearm and shoulder but refused treatment at the time due to more serious injuries to Marines in his squad.

Despite his wounds, Albano continued to serve with Company C for 10 months and went through the Chosin Reservoir Campaign as a corporal. He was promoted to sergeant upon returning to the United States and was assigned to Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla. There, he was promoted to staff sergeant one year later. Albano was again transferred to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, N.C., where he was medically discharged from the Marine Corps.

After years of waiting and writing the Purple Heart off as something that wouldn’t happen, Albano made inquires as to what it would take to get the award approved.

“It was harder to get awards back then because so much was going on and everything happened so fast,” said Albano.

He needed two eyewitnesses that could describe the event and make notarized statements. Two years after submitting the award Albano was approved for the Purple Heart Medal, along with the Korean War Service Medal, which was approved by the Department of Defense on Aug. 20, 1999, 49 years after the start of the war.

Retired Capt. Don Greenlaw, who served with Albano in the Korean War, arranged the paperwork for the award.

Albano is active in Marine Corps organizations like the Chosin Few, Disabled Veterans Association, 1st Marine Division Association and now the Purple Heart Association, which gives Albano the opportunity to wear the trademark purple tie with the medal embroidered on it.

Like father, like son for 2nd AAB Marine

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Jan. 12, 2006) -- As a young boy, Chris P. Holman II looked up to his Marine father, an amphibious assault vehicle mechanic. He went to work with his father occasionally and was around AAVs most of his childhood.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel
Story Identification #:

It’s no wonder that a few years later, Holman found himself following in his father’s footsteps.

Lance Cpl. Holman, a Sneads Ferry, N.C. native, is a mechanic with Maintenance Platoon, Company B, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, the same unit his father was with during his Marine Corps career.

After graduating from Dixon High School in 2003, where he played football, basketball and baseball, Holman decided it was time to make a change in his life.

He enlisted in the Marines Feb. 9, 2004, then headed off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

“I joined the Corps to instill discipline in myself while learning a trade, hoping eventually to go to college,” the 20-year-old Holman explained.

Upon graduating recruit training, his father came to see him for the first time as a Marine.

“My dad came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Congratulations devil dog,’” Holman said.

Holman said he chose to be an AAV mechanic because he was around them most of his life. He arrived to his first duty station and reported to his unit, the same unit from which his father had retired.

“A lot of my superiors served under my father, and I always get compared to him,” he explained with a grin. “They always say things like, ‘If you mess this up, I’ll call your dad.’”

Growing up around the Marine Corps, Holman always knew one day he would join. He said his father inspired him, and he knew the Corps would help him get a head start in life.

In March 2005, Holman made his first seven-month-long deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, an experience he claimed changed his life for the better.

“A lot of growing up happened out there,” he said. “ I became more mature and understanding of how the world works. I’ll take that with me the rest of my life.”

He returned to the United States in October 2005 more focused than ever and having a plan for what he wanted to do in life.

“After my first enlistment is over, I plan on using the Montgomery G.I. Bill to go to college and get a business degree,” he continued. “When my father retires, I would like to take over the company (his father’s mechanic company) knowing what I’m doing, not just being daddy’s little boy taking over.”

Holman said that what he has enjoyed most about being a Marine is deploying and doing his job.

“I’ve meet a lot of new people and friends,” he explained. “I’ve traveled to foreign countries, seen a different culture and done what I like to do.”

Two years have gone by since Holman made his journey to become a U.S. Marine, and he said now he can appreciate what his dad did for 20 years.

“I truly understand everything my dad went through in his career, from the long working hours to being away from his family a lot,” he explained. “I’ve gained a lot of opportunities and good experiences, but I’ve also gained an appreciation for what my dad did and sacrificed.”

Boone, N.C. native lives childhood dream, follows in family footsteps

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Jan. 12, 2006) -- The right to wear the eagle, globe and anchor and be considered among the world’s finest is a privilege that is hard earned. (2/6)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200611120295
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Lance Cpl. Josslyn D. Selzer, a 19-year-old Boone, N.C., native with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is living out that dream.

“I have always wanted to be a Marine, since I was about 8,” said Selzer, an ammunition technician for the battalion. “My sister, Deadra, is in the Marines; she joined a year-and-a-half before me, but I knew I wanted to join long before she ever did.”

His dream of being a Marine was fueled by his father, Scott, who was in the Corps from 1981 to 1984 and got out as a corporal.

“When I was younger, he said that it was great; the best thing he ever did,” Selzer said. “When I was 16 or 17, however, he said that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t be a Marine, so I proved him wrong.”

Selzer enlisted in September 2004 and was assigned to the battalion in March 2005. In the short time he has been a Marine, he has made deep impressions on his chain of command.

“He’s doing a great job for a Marine as junior as he is,” said Cpl. David J. Moore, a 31-year-old Pittsburgh native and ammunition technician. “I would take him on any deployment, anywhere, anytime. He works relentless hours with a smile on his face and a positive attitude.”

In fact Selzer’s upbeat attitude is the defining feature to those who work with him.

“He’s a funny guy,” said 1st Lt. James K. Puzz, the camp commandant for Camp Baharia and who works in the same logistics shop as Selzer. “He’s always in good spirits, even when he is going through rough times. He affects the senior leadership, as well. When we are having a bad day, he always brightens us up a little.”

Selzer has his own reasons for going out of his way to make people smile.

“A sergeant I knew told me once that motivation is contagious,” he said. “I could be in a bad mood and if someone walks by me and gives me an 'OOH-RAH,' I will give it right back to them. It’s contagious, plus I think you should always try to make the best of a bad situation.”

Another example of how much his command thinks of him is the lance corporal chevrons he has pinned to his cammies.

“Two months after I got to the fleet, the fist sergeant noticed I was doing a good job,” said Selzer. “I was recommended for a meritorious promotion board. I won the competition easily and got promoted the next month. I was also on a Marine of the quarter board, even though I didn’t win. The sergeant major asked me what I wanted to do in the Marine Corps and I said I wanted to be an officer. He looked at the first sergeants on either side of him and said ‘he wins.’ Everyone started laughing, including me, which is probably why I lost.”

Selzer still wants to be an officer but says that he wants to remain enlisted for a while. He doesn’t know if he wants to do a whole career in the Marines. “I have only been in for a year; it’s too early to be making that decision.”

If he does go the officer route, his fellow Marines think he can do it.

“He’s a good kid, he has a good work ethic,” said Sgt. Delford L. McDonald, a 24-year-old Grantsville, W.Va., native and ammunition chief. “He follows orders well with little to no supervision. I think he has what it takes to be an officer, he is in shape physically and he is a smart kid.”

“He gets stuff done,” said Puzz, a 28-year-old Biloxi, Miss., native. “He is one of those Marines you don’t have to ask twice to do something. I think he can get accepted for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Program, his package looks really good.”

Above all else though, Selzer just enjoys being a Marine.

“It’s the one thing I have always wanted to do and now I am doing it,” he said with a big smile on his face.

Marines share hometown roots

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 12, 2006) -- For two Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, the pain of being away from home is eased by the memories they can share of growing up in the same area.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2006111202547
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Gunnery Sgts. Larry J. Harrington and Darren Stewart grew up in small towns in North Carolina. Harrington hails from Gastonia and Stewart is from Bessemer City. The two towns are neighbors to each other, separated by less than 10 miles.

The friends initially met through a friend of theirs in high school.

“We knew each other through acquaintances before we joined the Marine Corps, but not as well as we do now,” Stewart said.

“There was this girl that we were both kind of sweet on back in the day, and we met each other through her,” said Harrington.

The rivalry that was sparked there carried over to the football fields and basketball courts.

“We had a mutual friendship after that,” added Harrington. “We played against each other in football and used to always go to Brian Berger Park to play basketball. That was like the hangout spot so we always ran into each other there.”

The road after graduation led to the Marines for both men.

“I joined up first, probably about a year earlier,” said Stewart. “I didn’t even know he had joined up until about five years later when I ran into him again.”

“We were both drill instructors at Parris Island when we next saw each other,” said Harrington. “I was with 3rd Battalion, and he was with Second.”

Stewart says that Harrington didn’t have much influence on him as far as joining the Marine Corps. Harrington, however, says Stewart did affect him.

“When people you know join up, you always wonder how it will be,” said Harrington. “It’s cool having people you know in the military, especially when you are a junior Marine.”

Their careers led them to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, where they are the company gunnery sergeants for Company F, Harrington and Company E, Stewart.

“We bounce ideas off each other all the time,” said Stewart. “I support him, he supports me. Sometimes he has better ideas than I do, well most of the time actually.”

Jarhead Red: A wine Marines can call their own

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – Need a hearty red to go with that MRE? How about a glass of “Jarhead Red?” That’s the name of a cabernet red wine developed by two former Marines and bottled by Firestone Vineyard, a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley town of Los Olivos.


By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

Adam Firestone, a former Marine Corps captain and Desert Storm veteran-turned CEO, developed the stout wine about five years ago which he bottled and distributed in limited amounts for “birthday balls,” tournaments and other events. “Wine is a great way to get a conversation going and get people talking and chatting,” said Firestone, who served on both active duty and in the Reserve from 1984 to 1991.

Firestone tossed the idea of a leatherneck wine around with friends and associates and one day said to his secretary, “Call it this, call it that, call it ‘Jarhead Red.’”

She didn’t understand, he said.

Firestone wanted to make wine that would please the palates of Marines, whether wine connoisseurs or wine amateurs. “I said we’ve got to find a batch that’s strong and red,” he recounted. And he wanted its sale to be a fundraiser for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which helps the children of Marines killed or wounded.

With the help of Ruben Dominguez, a former Marine sergeant and his vineyard foreman, Firestone made his first batch in 2001 with a combination of cabernet and merlot grapes, and he bottled it with specially-designed red-and-white labels. Jarhead Red became an instant hit. Each year has brought a new batch, and last month, the company decided to offer the wine to the general public.

Since then, the $10 the winery gets for each bottle sold is given to the charity, which he said recently awarded a $10,000 scholarship.

Firestone said at times he’s surprised by the growing popularity and response he gets about the wine. “All the doubters from the beginning said that Marines don’t drink wine,” he said. “They like to pretend they aren’t cultured, but (not so) at the end of the day.” Interest in the wine is coming all across the board. “An Army paratrooper emailed me the other day and wanted a case,” Firestone said.

They’re having some fun with it. While some orders might be sent out with basic instructions on uncorking the bottle, he said, for some Marine buyers the instruction included, “return Ka-bar to sheath.”

“We just ran out, and we’re packaging right now a whole new batch,” he said.

Firestone said he didn’t set out to make a brand with the wine, but he wanted to help the cause and spread the word about the scholarship foundation. The wine’s popularity, he noted, “was supposed to be an afterthought.”

Want your own bottle? You can order it online from Firestone Vineyard.

January 11, 2006

2nd Marine Division admin-warriors keep war-fighting machine well oiled

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 11, 2006) -- From automotive plants to assembly line manufacturers, corporations worldwide rely on behind-the-scenes personnel administration support to keep their people paid and their company functioning.


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Mike Escobar
Story Identification #:

Nowhere is this more evident than in the United States Marine Corps, where hundreds of warrior-clerks work tirelessly to keep the war-fighting machine well oiled.

The 2nd Marine Division’s Personnel Administration Center is one such shop that, according to the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ guidance, meets and exceeds the administrative needs of today’s expeditionary forces in readiness.

Recently, the DPAC staff aced their Marine Corps Administrative Analysis Team (MCAAT) inspection, during which a team of personnel appointed by Headquarters Marine Corps evaluates the shop’s timeliness and accuracy in paying the leathernecks their allowances.

According to Chief Warrant Officer-4 Reginald Howell, DPAC’s officer-in-charge, PACs must score at least 90 percent to pass, an arduous task that requires the combined efforts of dozens of Marines from various sections.

“The inspectors take everything that affects a Marine’s pay into account, such as our unit’s effectiveness in paying their housing and food allowances,” said Howell, whose PAC scored 92.19 percent. “Things like reenlistment bonuses are also taken into account. They (inspectors) basically make sure we’re running all of a Marine’s entitlements in the system
(personnel database) quickly and accurately.”

For this division’s PAC, passing this inspection is especially noteworthy because of the number of personnel these administrators oversees, Howell said. While an average PAC in the Corps serves approximately 3,000 Marines, this one currently takes care of nearly 19,000, he continued.

“During this past summer, we were also providing reach-back support to many deployed Marines, bringing our total number up to almost 20,000,” Howell added, explaining how his DPAC Marines also service those fighting the Global War on Terrorism overseas. “We always make mission, though, ensuring that a Marine’s paycheck goes into their account.”

The DPAC’s sections as a whole contribute to this massive endeavor, said Master Sgt. Matthew Mulvihill, pay and promotions section staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. Every payday, his troops oversee the payment of approximately $20 million dollars across the division.

“These Marines do an outstanding job, especially considering the workload they have to deal with,” Mulvihill explained. “During this holiday season alone, they processed about 1,500 sets of leave papers. The volume of work these folks do is intensive, and they do it very well.”

In the service record book maintenance section nearby, clerks like Lance Cpl. Ernest Cayemitte also embody this dedicated work ethic.

“Here, we issue meal cards everyday to replace ones that were lost or destroyed,” Cayemitte said. “It sometimes gets to be a lot of work, so the Marines around here help one another out to get it done.”

Cayemitte was instrumental in helping 2nd Marine Division’s PAC recently consolidate their meal card records that had been previously contained in more than 40 log books into one comprehensive database.

This allows admin clerks to print out and replace meal cards on the spot, thus making DPAC more self-sufficient and saving the Marine Corps thousands of dollars, said Staff Sgt. Walberto Luciovelasquez, admin chief within SRB maintenance.

“Something that allows the Marines to work so efficiently is that everyone is cross-trained in each others’ specialties,” he stated. “If one person leaves, the other can fill in. The team concept is really in play in this shop.”

Even those Marines leaving the military can count on this proper administrative support until their very last day in the Corps, added Sgt. Andres Diaz, separations section NCOIC.

“Here, we let Marines know how to properly check out (of the Corps), and we make sure everything is accurate on their record before they do,” Diaz continued. “You come to us if you have any last-minute admin questions, and all the Marines here are trained to answer them. We take care of Marines separating as best as possible.”

It’s this sort of positive attitude that enabled DPAC’s staff to excel in their MCAAT inspection and service thousands of Marines’ needs day in and day out.

“To take care of more than 18,000 Marines is quite an accomplishment,” Howell stated.

24 MEU Marines train for night ops

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Jan. 11, 2006) -- On a cold foggy morning in the back woods of Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Marines of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines arrive at their training site here. Their mission is to sharpen their skills in nighttime fire and movement operations. This is only one of many training courses Alpha Co., will be conducting during their month-long stay here.


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200611217456
Story by Lance Cpl. Joshua Lujan

Moving and engaging targets during the day is hard for some Marines, at night its gets even hairier for those who lack the experience of hitting targets at night. In Alpha, there are many new joins who are just starting to fit into their units, and their lack of experience in night operations will soon be remedied as the day progresses.

“This course will give the Marines confidence in their shooting abilities at night, it also gives them a chance to get a sense of familiarity with their peers,” said Capt. Nathan Perkkio commanding officer of Alpha Co.

Like any other range in the Marine Corps, the Safety officer, 1st Lt. Douglas Bahrns began by giving the range safety brief. Soon after that, the plans were formed and the dry runs began.

Squad after squad combat rushed trough the course, engaging mock targets with their unloaded rifles. All the while, the platoon sergeant critiques every movement and blunder the squad falls upon. At the end of every assault the Marines reflected on how their assault was done and how they can improve.

As the day advanced the Marines became fluent in fire and movement tactics. Their platoon commanders can see the confidence in their squads, as they made the final judgment that their platoons were ready for the night ops. However, as soon as live rounds are in play the ‘pucker factor’ is turned up a notch.

The clouds begin too darken, and the rain starts to fall, but the Marines of Alpha Co. are not phased. The constant drills of combat rushing and fire and maneuver techniques are ingrained into the heads of the Marines, soon it will become second nature.

“This is basic infantry stuff,” said 1st Sgt. James Cully, Alpha Co., first sergeant.

As the day ends, the Marines will become masters of one more basic infantry tactic. Shedding more light on operating in the night, and further advancement.

Chicago native keeps Marines, computers talking

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (Jan. 11, 2006) -- It can be said communications is one of the central ingredients of modern combat operations in Iraq. Marines must be able to communicate with one another through the use of secure technology in order to plan, coordinate and execute missions vital to the success of the overall mission here. (3/6)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander

Story Identification #:

This is where Sgt. Leonard C. Murray, tactical data networker and data chief, Communications Platoon, Headquarters & Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, comes in.

Working with a team of eight Marines, Murray’s responsibility is management of the communications networks on Camp Al Qa’im and various battle positions Marines of the battalion operate from.

“I’m in charge of various networks to include NIPR, SIPR and the EPLARS,” said the 33-year-old native of Chicago’s South Side, referring to the internet protocol routing network, the secure internet protocol routing network and the enhanced position and locating reporting system.

“We build it as we go and it’s constantly growing. We have to run the wire and have to monitor it,” Murray said.

His job also takes him out of Camp Al Qa’im. On a routine basis, Murray and the Marines under his charge head out to the various battle positions to install and troubleshoot the EPLARS, Enhanced Precision Locating And Reporting System.

“The EPLARS is a redundant link between the (battle positions) and the headquarters,” said Murray. “They have the ability to call in (medical evacuations) and other reports over it.”

The job, however, is not without its challenges.

“The biggest thing is the training of my Marines to be proficient in the gear we use out here,” he said.

Added to this challenge is the fact that Murray originally started out in the Marine Corps as a machine-gunner.

“I went to the school but out here it’s been kind of a ‘learn-as-you-go’ sort of thing,” he said.

Murray doesn’t let this affect him, however.

“Success comes to those who become success conscious,” he stated.

According to Murray, the civilian equivalent of his job and responsibilities is that of a corporate network administrator, which has a salary anywhere from $60,000 up to $150,000.

So why does Murray stay a Marine?

“I love being a Marine because here I get to do this job in a combat environment,” he said. “It’s all about the uniform; I couldn’t see myself in a suit and tie.”

31st MEU closes out 2005

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan(Jan 10, 2006) -- As the nation’s only permanently deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 31st MEU found itself occupied with a myriad of different scenarios throughout 2005. (BLT 1/3,
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced)

Submitted by:
31st MEU
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Will Lathrop
Story Identification #:

January found the Marines and sailors of the MEU’s 23rd Cycle in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province working, not only to provide stability in an unstable region, but also to provide security during Iraq’s first free democratic elections.

The MEU’s Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, set up security in the town of Hit during the elections. The MEU Service Support Group 31 worked at three separate polling stations inside and around Al Fallujah.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced) spent their time in Iraq flying in support of the 3rd Marine Air Wing, flying assorted missions ranging from escort and surveillance to troop transport and resupply missions.

The MEU left Iraq in February, and after a brief stay in Camp Virginia, Kuwait, embarked aboard the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group for the float back to Okinawa.

A quick, four-day port call was made in Thailand, giving the Marines and sailors a taste of another Asian country.

The friends and families of the MEU gave them a very hearty welcome upon their return to Okinawa after a near eight-month deployment, at both White Beach and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The turnover of units for the MEU’s subordinate elements began in May with BLT 1/3 being replaced by the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and HMM-262 (Rein) taking over for HMM-265 (Rein).

The 24th Cycle began with acclimatization for the new arrivals, getting them used to the tropical climate of Okinawa. That training was coupled with interoperability training to get the different elements accustomed to working with each other in order to operate smoothly.

During this training, the MSSG rehearsed convoy security operations, non-combatant evacuation operations, and medical civic action projects, to name a few.

The BLT fine-tuned its helicopter-borne, mechanized, and amphibious assaults, as well as providing extra security for special missions.

The Aviation Combat Element, HMM-262 (Rein), flew in support of air operations involving the MSSG, the BLT, and the Command Element. A notable fact was their incident-free time spent on Okinawa.

The Command Element focused its efforts on practicing the Rapid Response Planning Process, a method which expedites the planning and execution of missions. In addition, the different sections of the Command Element trained for their particular mission roles by establishing communications within the other MEU elements, providing coordination between the BLT, MSSG, and the ACE, and supplying reconnaissance teams for certain missions.

All of this training was brought together during the Training in an Urban Environment Exercise conducted during the month of August. The TRUEX was part of the MEU’s advancement towards its Special Operations Capable certification.

September brought another step towards certification with the MEU Exercise. The threat of a super typhoon hitting Okinawa forced the MEU to relocate from Kin Blue to Camp Hansen, where the exercise continued as if it hadn’t been interrupted.

In between MEUEX and the next exercise, the MEU bid farewell to its sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. David Evans, and welcomed aboard Sgt. Maj. James McKay, formerly the Camp Hansen sergeant major.

But the highlights for many were Exercise Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (Fiscal Year) 2006, a series of joint military training evolutions involving the Philippine Marine Corps, the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force held during the bulk of October on the island of Luzon. Not only were military exercises practiced, but there were several community relations projects that contributed computers to schools and medical treatment to the Filipino citizens living near the exercise areas.

"I am most proud of the way the Marines and sailors worked so hard to open the door for future training opportunities in support of the Global War on Terror," said Col. Walter L. Miller, the MEU commanding officer. "The seamless integration of the Philippine Marines into the MEU throughout PHIBLEX-06 proved that they are our brothers in arms."

Since its return in the beginning of November, the service members of the MEU have spent their time catching up on basic Marine Corps skills such as the pistol range and the gas chamber. In addition, the majority of the Marines and sailors prepared to rotate back to their parent commands in Hawaii, California and Iwakuni, Japan.

"Throughout both cycles, the Marines and sailors performed a variety of complex missions flawlessly," said Miller. "Whether the unit was conducting nighttime raids on suspected insurgent hideouts in Iraq, seizing an airfield, or putting a new roof on a primary school in the Philippines, they stayed focused and intent on accomplishing their assigned tasks."

Miller added that he looks forward to the 25th Cycle, and has high expectations for how his Marines and sailors perform.

"I believe the 31st MEU's aggressive yet balanced approach to training and deploying will significantly enhance our ability to pursue the Global War on Terror in our area of operations in the years to come, and am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with such warriors as these in our ranks."

Memorial remembers fallen soldiers

INDIANAPOLIS - The names and photos of 77 military personnel with Indiana connections killed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been placed on a memorial at the state capitol Monday.


From staff and wire reports

For Greg Thompson, father of the late Marine Cpl. Lance Thompson, a 2001 Eastbrook graduate who was killed in Iraq in November 2004, the event was like opening an old wound.

"It was an emotional day to say the least," Thompson said. "Governor Daniels gave a very emotional thanks ... for those who had died for the freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States. That got a few tears going again. To walk up to the panel and see your son looking you in the eye - the tears flowed freely."

Thompson was on hand as 30 families of fallen soldiers gathered Monday to dedicate the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freed Memorial Wall, inside the Indiana Government Center South.

"Traditionally, monuments to fallen soldiers aren't normally erected until 30, 40, 50 years after (the war)," said Tom Applegate, director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. "This was something that needed to happen right now."

The photos were arranged in three panels; a fourth panel tells viewers how to find a particular image.

For Thompson, seeing the memorial and realizing it was paying homage to his son, as well as others who had died serving their country, was a humbling experience.

"Needless to say, it's satisfying to know that he did not die in vain, that is sacrifice remembered, will be remembered and, as Governor Daniels said, will never be forgotten," Thompson said.

The family of deceased Spc. Raymond L. White, 22, of Elwood, attended the ceremony.

"We have good days and bad," his mother, Sharon White, 48, said about her family's life since her son died. "His faith and 'gung-honess' gets us through."

White died from small arms fire during patrol in Baghdad in November 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

It took about six months to construct the wood-and-Plexiglas plaques, and the project's total cost was less than $1,000.

Originally published January 11, 2006

Mail brightens Marines' dreariest days

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (Jan. 11, 2006) -- Few things are as important to deployed Marines and sailors in Iraq as knowing there is a world outside the dust and danger they face day in and day out. (22nd MEU)


Submitted by:
22nd MEU
Story by:
Computed Name: - 22nd MEU (SOC) Public Affairs

Story Identification #:

That is why mail call holds a special place for everyone serving on the front lines in Iraq’s Al Anbar province with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). Normally transported in gaudy orange bags, news of its arrival spreads like wildfire and can brighten the day of even the most downhearted service member.

The 22nd MEU (SOC) is in Iraq conducting operations with the Second Marine Division, and consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced).

For more information on the MEU’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.

Ex-JSDF chief warns against moving Marines off Okinawa

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A former Japan Self-Defense Force leader has cautioned against any deep cuts in the number of Marines stationed on Okinawa.


By David Allen and Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, January 12, 2006

That some 13,000 Marines are assigned permanently to Okinawa, with 2,000 to 3,000 more there occasionally for temporary training, keeps China from invading Taiwan, Fumio Kyuma, former SDF chief, said during a recent visit to Washington, D.C. Kyuma now chairs Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party general affairs council.

He was in Washington at the same time Japanese defense and foreign ministry officials were to meet with their U.S. counterparts on a plan to realign U.S. troops in Japan. Part of an interim report released Oct. 29 calls for 7,000 Marines to transfer from Okinawa to Guam and elsewhere in Japan during the next six years.

If China occupied Taiwan, “there would be no Taiwan between China and Japan,” Kyuma said. “China would move right over to Okinawa.”

Residents of Ishigaki and Miyako, Japanese islands between Okinawa and Taiwan, “would grow extremely nervous, resulting in Okinawa having no alternative but to ask for the military to stay,” he said, according to Japanese news reports.

Kyuma praised increased joint training by U.S. and Japanese troops, noting that a small contingent of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers now trains with Marines in California on how to respond to an enemy invading Japan’s southern islands.

Kyuma was in Washington discussing the need for a mutual aid pact to let Japan repair top-secret U.S. military equipment based in Japan, including Aegis guided missile destroyers. He said he spoke with high-ranking U.S. defense officials, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state.

He told Japanese reporters Diet members would visit America in May to discuss such a pact with U.S. defense officials.

Meanwhile, all three candidates for the Jan. 22 mayoral race in Nago oppose the interim plan to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with a smaller airstrip on Camp Schwab.

A mountain separates rural Camp Schwab from Nago’s urban area. The original plan was to build a much larger airport about two miles offshore, to be used jointly by civilian aircraft. The new plan does not include such joint use.

U.S. defense officials have stated that moving the 6,000-troop III Marine Expeditionary Force command element to Guam was contingent on building the facility to replace air operations now based on MCAS Futenma.

Of the three candidates, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 59, backed by the LDP and outgoing Mayor Tateo Kishimoto, insists the Schwab plan should be revised to include input from the local business community.

Candidate Yoshitami Oshiro, 65, backed by anti-base groups, opposes either plan and insists a replacement for Futenma be found outside Okinawa.

Munehiro Gakiya, 59, backed by the Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party and Okinawa Social Mass Party, said he strongly opposes the Camp Schwab plan, although he originally supported the offshore facility.

West Michigan Marine killed in Iraq

(Update, Washington, January 11, 2006, 12:12 p.m.) The Department of Defense announced Wednesday that a West Michigan Marine was killed Saturday in Iraq.


Twenty-year-old Lance Cpl. Jason T. Little of Climax was killed when his tank was attacked with an improvised explosive device, while conducting combat operations near Ferris, Iraq.

Little was assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He graduated from Climax-Scotts High School in 2003.

"His brother is currently a student and I had him last year in class," said Doug Robinson, a math teacher at the school. "He talked about his brother a lot. He'd come into my class before school and talk about how his brother is running tanks. He was very proud of his brother and the things he does."

Little is being remembered as quiet but dependable person.

Marine recalled as outgoing and funny

Christopher Best was fulfilling his dream in service. (3rd LAR)


Matt Wagner

Just 12 hours before he was killed in a military vehicle crash a week ago in San Diego, Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Best had been visiting his wife and 5-month-old twin sons in Mansfield.

The Springfield native died Jan. 4 when a light armored vehicle, or LAV, carrying several Marines veered out of control on a freeway bridge and smashed into a railing. Best, 20, and Navy Corpsman David S. Sotelo, 22, of California fell to their deaths in the canyon below.

Best had just returned to California after 15 days of holiday leave, during which he celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his 19-year-old wife, April.

Best's friends and family members in the Ozarks are still reeling from the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death, which occurred just two months before he was scheduled to ship out to Iraq.

April Best said she was concerned about her husband's safety overseas but not at home. The stay-at-home mom received the news of her husband's death after returning home from a doctor's appointment for the twins, Christopher Jr. and David Lloyd.

"I couldn't believe it," she said in a phone interview Monday. "I didn't expect him to get killed in California. ... It was a freak accident."

Best and the other servicemen involved in the crash were members of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, based at Twentynine Palms, elements of which were preparing for a third deployment to Iraq since U.S. forces invaded the country in March 2003.

California authorities have said eight servicemen were riding in the rear of a 12-ton light armored vehicle that was towing an unoccupied, 14-ton armored vehicle equipped with a 25mm gun mounted on a turret.

As the convoy crossed a bridge along Interstate 15 in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo, the driver lost control.

For Best, joining the military was a boyhood dream that came true Aug. 17, 2004, the day he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Recruiters from the Army and Marines paid Best a home visit on the same day, competing for his desire to serve his country.

His mother, Pheobe Best, lives in Drury, a small town in eastern Douglas County.

She said a friend of her son's who was a nine-year Marine veteran played a big role in Chris deciding to pledge Semper Fi.

"He told Chris stories, and Chris was impressed with it because he was young," she said. "And they offered him a better deal."

Pheobe Best said her youngest son was outgoing, and he had an athletic flair that spanned the football field, baseball diamond and basketball court. And he wasn't afraid to be silly, she said, recalling the time he donned a dress and wore a mop on his head for Halloween.

"It was so funny," she said, laughing at the memory.

Pheobe Best also reminisced about the "little Christmas tree," a pitiful-looking shrub that Chris and a friend dug up with her kitchen knives.

Chris' father, David Best of North Little Rock, Ark., used words such as "mischievous" and "clown" to describe his late son, who once wore his older brother's boots to tromp around in the mud rather than mess up his own pair.

Chris is survived by two brothers and two sisters.

Pheobe Best — who raised Chris on her own after divorcing his father — said her daughter-in-law has a tall chore ahead.

"It's rough being a mommy and daddy," she said. "I've been there."

Chris Best also has a 2-year-old daughter in Mountain Grove.

Best's visitation will be 7-8 p.m. Friday at Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Mansfield. A funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in the funeral home chapel.

The young Marine will be buried with full military honors at the Hensley Cemetery north of Mansfield.

Family members said it may be another 30 to 45 days before they know exactly what caused the crash that killed the man who was husband, son and brother.

Military officials at Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton would not comment further on the investigation or the condition of others riding in the military vehicle when it crashed.

Pheobe Best said no explanation will soothe the anguish of losing a son she adored.

"The easiest way to deal with it is it was meant to be," she said. "It was his time to go. (At least) he wasn't shot up in Iraq. We may not like it, but it was his time."

Marine from Kalamazoo County killed in Iraq

CLIMAX, Mich. (AP) — A Marine from Michigan was killed when his tank was attacked with an improvised explosive device, the Defense Department said Wednesday.


1/11/2006, 10:58 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

Lance Cpl. Jason T. Little died in the explosion near Ferris, Iraq. He was one of five Marines killed Saturday in separate incidents, the statement said.

Little, a 20-year-old from the Kalamazoo County community of Climax, was serving with the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He was a graduate of Climax-Scotts High School, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.


Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
© 2006 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

Marine from Climax killed in Iraq

Lance Cpl. Jason T. Little, a 2003 graduate of Climax-Scotts High School, was one of five Marines killed Saturday in the war in Iraq. (2nd Tanks)


The Enquirer

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Defense, Little, 20, was killed when his tank was attacked with an improvised explosive device near Ferris, Iraq.

Little was assigned to 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He was among five Marines who died Saturday in Iraq under different circumstances.

Little is the second serviceman from the Battle Creek area killed while serving in Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Craig Watson, a 2003 Union City graduate, was killed Dec. 1 by a roadside bomb in Fallujah.

Originally published January 11, 2006

Help for Military Spouses Going Back to School

A college degree may lead to better job opportunities and better pay. In fact, earning a bachelor's or graduate degree increases one's average hourly wage compared to those with only a high school diploma, according to a Rand Corp. survey.


However, going back to school for military spouses is a sizeable time commitment and an expensive financial obligation. What's more, constant relocation may cause a spouse to lose credits if he or she transfers to another college. But there are financial and credit-transfer programs available to spouses to help spouses get an education.

Here are a few programs that offer financial assistance:

* The Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) offers partial tuition assistance (50 percent of course tuition with a maximum of $1,500 per academic year) to spouses of active-duty servicemembers stationed overseas.
* The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program provides $1,500 in grants to selected children of active duty service members and Navy spouses stationed overseas. To qualify, the spouse must be a full- or part-time student studying for a vocational certificate, undergraduate degree or graduate degree. The funds granted range from $1,500 a year for an undergraduate degree to $1,750 a year for a graduate degree.
* The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program (CGMA) offers a supplemental education grant of $150 per year. This grant is applicable to any family member's educational expenses. However, CGMA does not cover tuition expenses.

These programs assist with transferring class credits:

* The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOCAD) program is a consortium of more than 1,500 colleges and universities that offer associate and bachelor's degree in the United States. This program transfers credits between the colleges allowing the student to continue with his or her education and not retake any classes. SOCAD is ideal for military spouses who might have to relocate several times.
* The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges for the navy (SOCNAV) is similar to the SOCAD, but offers associate and bachelor's degree programs on or accessible to Navy installations.

Each program varies from service to service but all provide the proper resources to help military family members obtain a high level of education.

© 2006 Military.com. All rights reserved.

Military Divorce Rates Spurs Action

The rise in military divorce rates raised a red flag in the armed services. In 2004, nearly 10,477 military couples divorced, according to a Department of Defense report. What's more, military couple divorces steadily increased from 2002 (7,000 divorces reported) to 2003 (more than 7,500 divorces). Army officials speculate that the reasons for the increase range from alcohol misuse to anger-management issues for troops returning from deployment, reports Stars and Stripes.


In an effort to fortify the military family the Army, Marine Corps and Navy created support groups and outreach programs to help decrease the divorce rates. The programs range from mental-health counseling to weekend family retreats. Most offerings vary from service to service but all are designed to use divorce as a last resort.

The Army's programs include:

* Deployment Cycle Program - includes briefings for soldiers on how their absence and return affects family relationships and how to cope with subsequent changes.
* Building Strong and Ready Families Program - this is a weekend retreat that develops couples' communications skills.
* The Strong Bonds marriage education program - focuses specifically on issues that affect Reserve and National Guard couples.
* The Pick a Partner Program - helps single soldiers make wise decisions before choosing a mate.

The Marine's program includes:

* The Marine Corps' Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program - a two-day workshop that helps couples manage conflict, solve problems, communicate effectively and preserve their friendship.

The Navy's program includes:

* The Marriage Enrichment Retreat - this is a weekend retreat designed to enrich and strengthen a Navy couple's marriage.

Divorce is commonplace in the United States but it's rare to find an institution like the military service willing to help couples work at marriage. Programs such as the ones offered by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps might help decrease the divorce rate among military families and set an example for the rest of the nation. Visit Military.com/spouse for more information about the military family and spouses.

© 2006 Military.com. All rights reserved.

Childcare Help for Military Families

Affordable childcare is hard to find. For civilian families, the average cost of childcare tuition exceeds $3,300 per child and is over $5,000 per child in 20 states, according to a 2002 U.S. House Ways and Means committee report.


What's more, a Rand Corp. survey found that childcare in a military child development center (CDC) ranges from $12,133 for infants to $4,595 for school-age children.

However, military families do have options. Operation: Military Child Care (OMCC) and Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood (MCCIYN) are two prominent resources that provide access to affordable childcare.

OMCC provides financial assistance for eligible military families who don't have access to the Department of Defense's on-base childcare options. Additionally, OMCC assists families of all military personnel serving in the Global War on Terror.

MCCIYN - OMCC's sister program - also supports active duty servicemembers who don't live on military bases but still need access to childcare. The focus of MCCIYN is to locate and subsidize childcare comparable to what a servicemember would receive on a military installation.

These programs, both launched earlier this year, are the result of the DoD's effort to provide relief for military families who are already coping with the deployment of a parent, in addition to finding the monetary means to provide childcare.

"A childcare provider can play an integral part in any military family - particularly when one or even both parents are deployed, the strong need to find quality childcare can be an emotional and financial burden," says Linda Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, in a company-issued press release.

Finding affordable childcare doesn't have to be an inconvenience. If active servicemembers utilize either the OMCC or MCCIYN program, they can ease the weight of deployment on their families.

© 2005 Military.com. All rights reserved.

3/11 Kilo prodigies prepare to deploy

Cannoneers with Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, take advantage of some down time behind their M198 Towed Howitzer aboard the Combat Center's training area Dec. 8. Kilo Battery switched from the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and began training with the M198 Towed Howitzer in preparation of their upcoming deployment to Okinawa, Japan.


By Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Combat Correspondent

The cannoneers of Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, are scheduled to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program, to demonstrate their presence in the Pacific Ocean and the Western Hemisphere.

The battery has been training and preparing for this upcoming deployment using their old weapons system - the M198 Towed Howitzer. Kilo and Lima Batteries were the Corps first two artillery batteries to field and fire the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and were notorious in doing so, said Lt. Col. Douglas H. Fairfield, 3/11's commanding officer. However, Okinawa does not have the M777, so Kilo Battery began fielding their M198 to refresh their skills in firing the weapon.

"Kilo Battery is the most experienced artillery battery in the Marine Corps with the M777 Lightweight Howitzer," said Fairfield. "They've been training with them ever since they were brought to us in May. Their skills in the artillery field are proficient, so using both weapons systems isn't a problem to them."

Kilo Battery set out for the Combat Center's training area Dec. 8 to conduct a live-firing exercise. The Marines displayed their skill in mounting and dismounting the M198 Towed Howitzer weapons from their seven-ton trucks and firing them.

Most of the Marines in the battery learned both weapons systems in their military occupational specialty school in Fort Sill, Texas. But until Dec. 8, the battery hasn't used the M198 since they got the M777.

Lance Cpl. Sean Charles Bradford, field artillery cannoneer with Kilo Battery, came to the unit in February of 2005. He learned both weapons systems in his MOS school but accredits his leaders for the proficiency and versatility his unit has in their field.

"Aside from being well-educated in the artillery field, I am very proud to be with this battalion, and more so, this unit," said Bradford, a Chico, Calif., native. "I think this is the strongest battery in the strongest artillery battalion in the Marine Corps. We have the finest cannoneers leading us and their finesse rubs off to all Marines under them.

"Having to field the M198 today to prepare us to use them in Okinawa doesn't worry us at all. We are so great with both weapons systems that we can shoot 20 rounds, back-to-back, with the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and one second later turn to the M198 Towed Howitzer and fire another 20 rounds and have no problem at all. We are so confident in ourselves, our knowledge of the weapons, and our leaders, that we cannot fail."

As Bradford said, the confidence in proficiency the Marines contain stem from their leaders, who directly are their section chiefs. Sgt. Eric R. Lowinski, artillery section chief with Kilo Battery, attributes his section's success with his higher-ups.

"Our battery wouldn't be as skilled as we are today if it weren't for direction from our platoon sergeants, battery sergeants, executive officer and commanding officer," said Lowinski, a Deleon, Texas, native. "It's the way they lead us through morale that makes us want to do better. For the most part, I want to demonstrate good leadership by passing on good morale and being knowledgeable in my MOS. I make certain that the Marines know they can come up to me for anything or to talk about anything. Once you establish a good relationship between each other, missions will get accomplished better and quicker. Tasks are easier when I talk to my Marines rather than barking orders at them."

As the deployment approaches, tasks and missions need to be completed in order to verify their capability as cannoneers in an artillery battery, skilled in operating both weapons systems.

"Personally I love the M198," said Bradford. "It's a beast. It's heavier and causes more ruckus when it's fired. I'm glad we're still involved with both weapons systems. For most of us in the battery, this will be our first deployment, and I wouldn't want to deploy with any other unit than the Marines I'm going with now. My gun chief, Sgt. Lowinski, assures us of our success."

Kilo Battery will continue training with the M198 Towed Howitzer until they embark on their expedition to Okinawa.

"The deployment will make us stronger as a unit," said Lowinski. "We will be living together for the whole deployment and have only each other to count on. This is my fourth time deploying to Okinawa, and I want to make it a great experience for the new Marines."

January 10, 2006

American Airlines extends fares for military

United States Marine Corps

Press Release

FORT WORTH, Texas -- American Airlines has extended through June 1, 2006, several special offers that are available exclusively for active-duty members of the U.S. military. These offers include discounted airfares, relaxed advance purchase requirements and preferred boarding privileges.

Press Release
Public Affairs Office
American Airlines ; Vanessa Gallegos;
[email protected]


Release # 0111-06-1445

Jan. 10, 2006

"We appreciate and admire the courageous efforts of U.S. military personnel around the world to keep our country safe and strong," said Dan Garton, American's Executive Vice President of Marketing. "And we recognize the great sacrifice that their family members also make. As a result, American Airlines is pleased to extend these special offers to military members and their loved ones."

Active-duty members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard and Reserves who are on leave or furlough (including those who are traveling within seven days of discharge from active service), and their spouse and dependent children, are eligible for the special military fares. The fares are available for travel to domestic and various international destinations.

In addition, the discounted military fares may be purchased up to a week after reservations are made - versus 24 hours for most non-military discount fares - making it easier for military personnel and their families to make travel arrangements.

Here are samples of American's great low fares for the U.S. military. Fares shown are each way, based on a round-trip purchase:


City Pair

Fare Each Way
Chicago O'Hare - Denver $79
Dallas/Fort Worth - Kansas City $79
Atlanta - Chicago O'Hare+ $129
Raleigh/Durham - St. Louis++ $129
Dallas/Fort Worth - Washington, D.C. $129
Nashville - New York City $129
Colorado Springs - Dallas/Fort Worth $129
Dallas/Fort Worth - Norfolk, Va.+ $169
Dallas/Fort Worth - San Diego $169
* Fares shown are each way based on a round-trip purchase for Economy Class travel, and are in U.S. dollars. Fares are valid for travel through June 1, 2006. Fares do not include government-imposed taxes and fees.

+ Travel may be on American Airlines or American Eagle/AmericanConnection®.
++ Service operated by American Eagle/AmericanConnection®.


City Pair

Fare Each Way
St. Louis - Cancun, Mexico $175
Miami - Tegucigalpa, Honduras $190
Fort Lauderdale - San Juan, Puerto Rico $245
Boston - London Heathrow $249
Miami - Madrid, Spain $255
New York Kennedy - St. Maarten, Neth. Ant. $285
Chicago O'Hare - Frankfurt, Germany $305
Los Angeles - Montego Bay, Jamaica $305
San Jose, Calif. - Tokyo Narita $310
Dallas/Fort Worth - Santiago, Chile $420
*Fares shown are each way based on a round-trip purchase for Economy Class travel, and are in U.S. dollars. Fares are valid for travel through June 1, 2006. Fares do not include government-imposed taxes and fees.

Travel arrangements can be made at American Airlines ticketing locations or by calling American's reservations number at 1-800-433-7300 (en Español 1-800-633-3711) within the United States and Canada. Outside the United States and Canada, call the local reservations number. Military ID must be presented at the time of airport check-in.

These military fares are not available via the Internet. Other restrictions apply. For complete rules and restrictions, see the terms and conditions below.

As a thank you to U.S. troops, American is also continuing to invite uniformed military personnel to pre-board with First-Class passengers, or at any time during the boarding process.

Also, U.S. military men and women who are participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom are welcome to be American's guests at Admirals Club facilities between flights when they are on emergency or Rest and Relaxation (R&R;) leave from their overseas duties. This invitation for complimentary access has been extended through June 1, 2006, at all airport locations that do not have USO facilities. Eligible military personnel in appropriate uniform need only present their emergency or R&R; leave forms from Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom to access an Admirals Club location. In addition, the Admirals Club welcomes family members and relatives accompanying military personnel who are part of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

American's commitment to the military continues in other ways as well. Since February 2003, American has operated 383 missions transporting U.S. troops. These flights have been piloted, staffed and serviced by American's employees. In addition, employees have also helped welcome troops home from overseas as they arrive at U.S. airports, and are involved in organizations supporting U.S. troops.

*Terms and Conditions
Fares shown are each way based on a round-trip purchase for Economy-Class travel, and are in U.S. dollars. Fares shown are valid for travel all days of the week. Fares are subject to change without notice. International fares are subject to government approval.

Fares do not include (a) a federal excise tax of $3.30 per U.S. domestic flight segment, defined as one takeoff and landing, of a passenger's itinerary; (b) up to $18 per round trip in local airport charges; and (c) September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 per enplanement originating at a U.S. airport, up to $5 per one way or $10 per round trip. For international and Puerto Rico destinations, government taxes and fees of up to $125, varying by destination, are not included and may vary slightly depending on currency exchange rates at the time of purchase.

Advance purchase requirements do not apply, but ticketing must occur within seven days of making reservations.

Fares are valid for travel through June 1, 2006. A one-night minimum stay is required and a 30-day maximum stay is allowed.

Advertised fares are valid only on American Airlines, American Eagle, and AmericanConnection® and do not apply to other codeshare flights. Seats are limited. Fares may not be available on all flights. Schedules are subject to change without notice.

Fares are nonrefundable and nontransferable. Changes to your ticket may be made if you cancel your reservation before the original departure time, meet the restrictions of the new fare, and pay any fare difference. When you cancel your ticketed flight prior to departure time, the ticket will be valid for one year from the date of issue on an unused ticket or one year from travel origination on a partially used ticket. If you do not cancel your flight before departure time, the ticket has no value.

A portion of or all travel may be operated by American Eagle, American's regional airline affiliate, or by AmericanConnection® (Chautauqua Airlines, RegionsAir, or Trans States Airlines). American Eagle and AmericanConnection are registered trademarks of American Airlines, Inc.

American Airlines, AAdvantage, and AA.com are registered trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. American Airlines reserves the right to change the AAdvantage program at any time without notice and to end the AAdvantage program with six months' notice.

About American Airlines
American Airlines is the world's largest airline. American, American Eagle and AmericanConnection® serve 250 cities in over 40 countries with more than 3,900 daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 1,000 aircraft. American's award-winning Web site, AA.com, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworldsm Alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members serve more than 600 destinations in over 135 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle Airlines, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com and AAdvantage are registered trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: AMR)

Southern Calif., Marine keeps Light Armor Recon running

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq(Jan. 11, 2006) -- Without a continuous flow of supplies, combat-ready units within the Marine Corps would cease to function. This is where Marines like Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Bourbon, a supply administration and operations clerk, play a big role in ensuring that does not happen. (1st LAR)


Submitted by:
2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

Story Identification #:

“I order everything from parts for (light armored vehicles) to Simple Green,” said the supply clerk, assigned to the supply section of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. “We get the equipment for others to do their job.”

A 2004 graduate of Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, Calif., Bourbon did not have a desire to attend more classes after high school. The Redondo, Calif., native yearned for adventure and service to his country instead.

“After Sept. 11, I decided that I wanted to serve in the military,” said the athlete, active in football and baseball during high school. “I joined the Marines because I wanted to be the best of the best.”

More than a year after joining the Marines, Bourbon and his unit, 1st LAR, arrived in this arid, dusty corner of Al Anbar, Iraq, in support of combat operations here. The 19-year-old Marine has served as a machine gunner for various convoy missions in addition to ordering and tracking the supply needs of the battalion.

“This job keeps you busy and there’s always more to learn,” said Bourbon of his experience as a Marine and supply clerk. “Supply is the way to go.”

Marines in the supply section have taken note of the positive role Bourbon—who was meritoriously promoted to his current rank—takes on.

“He’s a junior lance corporal filling in for a task usually done by a corporal,” said Cpl. Rob E. Diaz, 20, of Chicago and fiscal chief with supply section, 1st LAR. “He’s doing now what it takes Marines at least a couple of years to do in the Fleet and he’s doing it in the combat zone.”

Bourbon, currently on his first tour to Iraq, is considering a career in the Marine Corps at the end of his current enlistment.

'Rest in peace' law would ban funeral protests

Fueled by revulsion over a religious group's demonstrations targeting the families and funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, legislation will be introduced in the next month that would make such protests illegal in Illinois, officials said today.


By Charles Sheehan
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 10, 2006, 2:58 PM CST

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has picketed scores of funerals for soldiers, including at least six in Illinois, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said at a downtown Chicago news conference announcing the bill.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Norris City) would keep protesters 300 feet away from funerals and memorial services for 30 minutes before and afterward.

At least four other states are pursuing similar laws banning such protests.

Kansas already has a law in place, and today a legislative panel in Indiana endorsed a bill that would make disorderly conduct a felony if it occurs within 500 feet of funerals or memorial services.

The bill was also formed in response to a protest by members of the church who dragged U.S. flags on the ground and hurled insults at the family of Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Doyle, an Indianapolis native killed in Iraq.

The laws raise sticky constitutional questions that legal experts say are likely to reach into the highest levels of the U.S. judicial system.

Though the proposed "Let Them Rest in Peace Act" in Illinois does not mention the Westboro church by name, Quinn acknowledges protests by the followers of Pastor Fred Phelps were the catalyst.

Phelps' family has also targeted the funerals of gays, and on Sunday, the group plans to picket a memorial service for the 12 West Virginia miners who died in an accident last week.

The Westboro Baptist Church, which is made up mostly of people related to Phelps, say the U.S. is doomed because it condones homosexuality, said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps' daughter and an attorney for the church.

The explosives that kill American soldiers are a manifestation of God's wrath against the country, as was the mine blast, she said.

"This is a nation of idolatry that is run rampant with adultery and fornication," Phelps-Roper said.

The church has vowed to challenge any legislation that it believes infringes on First Amendment rights protecting religion and free speech.

Battle lines over state legislation will likely be drawn on whether such laws are "content-based or content-neutral," said David Hudson L. Hudson Jr., a research attorney for the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

If a law is considered to be content-based, meaning that the law favors one opinion over another, it is subject to the highest form of judicial review, he said.

"Strict scrutiny leaves few survivors, and since these laws seem to be targeting a particular subject matter, they seem to be content specific," Hudson said. "The kicker is that even if something is content-based, it doesn't necessarily mean it's unconstitutional, it just means the government has to advance a government-based interest in a very narrow way."

Phelps-Roper said she would contest any law that is passed in Illinois or elsewhere that restricts the movement of the church.

[email protected]

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Operations Security and Internet Safety

OPSEC- great thing to reaccquaint yourself with.


There are new Operations Security (OPSEC) guidelines that have been put forth by DoD and the Army regarding Internet safety. Whether it is a family web page or a personal blog, safety and security measures must be strictly observed. Sensitive DoD information must not be divulged to the public at large for national security reasons. Here are some facts regarding security and important links to sites that provide valuable and timely information regarding this important topic: (1) Photography is prohibited in most DoD facilities. Do NOT post any photographs on any websites; (2) Be careful never to divulge information regarding official DoD information; (3) Even if DoD information is unclassified it may not be appropriate for use of the web; (4) Do not give information regarding the job you do for DoD; (5) Log on to AKO to see an important message from the Chief of Staff of the Army regarding OPSEC Security; (6) If you have any questions or concerns regarding the posting or dissemination of certain information, do not hesitate to contact your security or OPSEC manager.

3/11 Mike Battery causes chaos with new howitzer

During Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 in January 2003, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, provided artillery support crucial in allowing I Marine Expeditionary Force to penetrate deep into Iraqi territory and bring down Saddam Hussein's regime in 21 days of major combat operations, according to the 3/11 Web site.


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Combat Correspondent

Right after the fall of Baghdad, the battalion took up the mission of a provisional infantry battalion and assisted in civil and military duties as well as conducting security and stability operation patrols in the capital city, securing hospitals and other important infrastructure.

Though that fight took place more than two years ago, elements of 3/11 continue the fight in 2005.

The battalion served as a military police force in OIF 3. The batteries separated into platoon-sized units and dispatched throughout the country in 2005.

After seven demanding months of executing their mission, Mike Company, 3/11, returned to the Combat Center Oct. 6 to pick up their mission as cannoneers.

The battery was introduced to the Marine Corps' new artillery weapon system, the M777 lightweight howitzer, upon their return. Even though the Marines hadn't served as an artillery battery in the past two years, their skills were refreshed and brought up to par with their new weapons system.

Mike Battery set off on an expedition to the Combat Center's training area to execute a firing exercise with the M777 for the first time the week of December 17.

The purpose of the exercise was to validate the training they received by the New Equipment Training Team on the M777 and prepare for combat operations in order to support a maneuver force with both accurate and timely artillery fires, said Gunnery Sgt. David E. Reid, battery gunnery sergeant.

The NET Team from Fort Sill, Okla., met with Mike Battery two weeks prior to the firing exercise. The team prepared the battery section chiefs on the duties during firing missions and the weapons system's maintenance.

After two weeks of dry firing, the battery was ready to fire live ammunition from the M777.

The battery conducted firing missions upon their arrival to the training area throughout their last day in the field Dec. 21.

"The missions with the new gun are tedious but important," said Cpl. Jeffrey R. Alford, cannoneer with Mike Battery. "Coming back to shooting howitzers again is a very important deal for us. It's tough to get back in the swing of things, but nonetheless, we are ready for any of it."

Sgt. Octavius L. Stone, section chief, led Alford and the rest of the sections' crewmen throughout the exercise.

"We haven't shot a howitzer in over a year," said Stone. "Now, we are just getting back in the gist of things. We're picking back up with our MOS and where we left off as cannoneers. The battalion wants to make sure we're on the same sheet of music as other batteries so we will follow Kilo Battery in fielding this gun and become the sixth Marine Corps firing battery to use the new weapons system. Most of us have been together with the battalion since 2003 so we all know our comforts with each other. But, as Marines leave the battery, new Marines take their place, earning an important task with an important weapon."

More Marines Home from Afghanistan

(KHNL) It was a happy homecoming for many local families.

Monady morning, about 200 marines and sailors with the 2nd battalion, third Marine regiment, arrived in Hawaii, after serving an eight-month deployment.


Jan 10, 2006, 05:12 AM PST

Shervonne Clarke says there’s a simple reason why she’s looking forward to her husband's return.

“So I don’t have to be a single mom,” she said.

For the past eight months, she's been juggling everything.

“It's been hard trying to run a household, a child, all the bills, having a husband takes the pressure off,” said Shervonne.

It's been especially difficult on her little daughter, Destiny.

“I have not stopped hearing for eight months, 'when's my daddy coming home'’, said Shervonne.

That question was finally answered when Sgt. Cameron Clarke was reunited with his family.

He was one of hundreds who came back from Afghanistan; marines and sailors, who defended the country, are now returning home, to a different role.

“It's good to be home, nice to see family and kids, eight months gone, so it's been a long time,” said Sgt. Clarke.

Now it's time to play catch-up. Time to relax and time to enjoy what Sgt. Clarke and the rest of these men and women have missed, for so very long.

While one group of military men and women returned, another group from Hawaii departed.

The last group of marines and sailors from the first battalion, third Marine regiment, deploying to Afghanistan, left Monday morning.

Many tried to deter teen from war's shadow

Kyle Brown, the Newport News man killed in Iraq, had concerns about this deployment.


January 10, 2006
NEWPORT NEWS -- He was a small, skinny kid.

A nice, quiet kid.

A kid who was lost in many of his classes.

The last thing Ingrid Slonsky wanted was for the kid in the front row of her 12th-grade government class to join the Marine Corps, and she told him so.

"I love that boy," she said Monday of Kyle Brown, 22, who was killed by a sniper's bullet Saturday morning in Fallujah, Iraq. "I tried to talk him out of going into the Marines."

She wasn't the only one at Heritage High School.

"I tried to talk him into the Air Force, the Navy," said Mike Gardner, a retired Navy chief and ROTC instructor at Heritage. He and Tom Smith, a retired Navy commander, taught Brown for four years.

"That last year, he was determined to be a Marine, so he worked out and got stronger," said Gardner, who admitted tears Monday morning. "Some days, the Marine recruiter was here working with him."

Ever try to tell an 18-year-old boy not to do something?

"They tried to talk him out of it because they thought he couldn't make it because he was so slender," Katheryn Brown said of the grandson who lived with her all through high school. "I told him, 'If you want to do something, you can do it. Don't let anybody stop you.' "

She told him just that over and over at Heritage, where he struggled as a special education student. He read at the fifth-grade level as a freshman and could not write his name in cursive when Sylvia Braxton, a special education teacher, took him under her wing.

Braxton, now retired and a missionary in South America, put Brown on a reading program and allowed him to go to some classes twice to make certain that he understood the material.

Their mission was to get him a general diploma instead of a certificate of attendance.

Mission accomplished.

"When he went up the steps to the stage, it was like he was leaving his old problems behind," Braxton said in a 2002 story in the Daily Press. "When he came down the steps to the stage, it was like his slate was clean.

"I know what it meant to his grandmother. He had no idea what it meant to me. It was a miracle."

There remained qualifying for the Marine Corps, as his uncle had several wars ago. Katheryn kept a picture of her brother, Gene Lowe, on a shelf at home. It showed him just after boot camp, just before his first of two tours in Vietnam.

Brown took the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Board twice to qualify and was sworn in shortly after graduating from Heritage.

After Parris Island, there was a new picture on the shelf at Katheryn Brown's house.

"He pushed mine back and said he was taking over now," said Lowe, who lives in Salina, Kan. He'd also tried to talk his nephew out of joining the Marines. "He would send me e-mails (from Iraq) and say I was the old man, I was the old Corps and he was the young Corps. I looked for them today and I guess I've deleted them. I wish I'd saved those e-mails now."

More e-mails are streaming in from members of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, to Rodney Bridges, who was still struggling with the loss of his son while talking to Corps representatives Monday at his Poquoson home.

Brown - he was going to change his name to Bridges upon returning to the United States - was on his second tour in Iraq, split by one in Afghanistan. He had spent much of his four-year hitch in war zones, riding Humvees or walking and always carrying a rifle.

"He had struggled after the first deployment (to Iraq)," Bridges said. "He had some problems, some anxiety. He would wake up at night in cold sweats."

Brown got better with time, then went to Afghanistan, according to his father.

And then to Iraq again.

"This last one, he kissed me on the cheek, and he didn't usually do that," Bridges said. "Then after he walked away, he turned, smiled and gave me a thumbs up.

"I didn't know he had told Carol (Bridges' fiance) that he had a bad feeling about this deployment. He said, 'I've been in a lot of them, but I feel bad about this one.' "

That was in September.

The family awaits the return of Brown's body, which could take a week or so, before having a local funeral with a song Katheryn said he loved: "Amazing Grace."

Brown then will go to Arlington for burial.

"He was doing what he loved," his grandmother said, "but the thing that breaks my heart is that he was so young. He was only 22, and his life was just starting."

January 9, 2006

Corpsman risks life, saves lives of two Marines

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq(Jan. 9, 2006) -- Retired Marine Maj. Gene Duncan once defined Navy hospital corpsmen as, “Usually a young, long haired, bearded, Marine-hatin' Sailor with certain medical skills, who will go through the very gates of Hell to get to a wounded Marine.” (RCT-2)


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2nd Marine Division
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

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Though “long haired” is open to subjective interpretation, beards have officially gone the way of bell-bottomed dungarees in the Navy and levels of disdain for their brothers in green vary from Sailor to Sailor, most Marines and corpsmen find a level of truth in Duncan’s definition.

Take, for example, Petty Officer 3rd Class William Ojeda, a Miami native and the platoon hospital corpsman for Regimental Combat Team-2’s Jump Team. Young? Check. Ojeda shipped off to Navy boot camp at 16, having skipped a grade in elementary school. At only 21, he has racked up five years of service and three combat tours, two to Afghanistan and one to Iraq.

Long-haired and bearded? Well, as stated, the long hair is up for debate. However, no first sergeant would pass up the opportunity to take a pair of clippers to his head. As for the facial hair, Ojeda barely looks old enough to vote, let alone grow a beard.

Hating Leathernecks, especially those under his charge? That is unthinkable, considering how he used his medical skills when he walked through Hell to rescue fallen Marines.

On Nov. 9, Ojeda was sitting in the trail vehicle in an uneventful convoy when a roadside bomb ruptured the vehicle to their direct front. The deafening boom and rain of debris from the explosion caught them off guard.

“Everyone (in my vehicle) just kind of froze for an instant when it happened,” said Ojeda, a 2000 Miami Beach Senior High graduate. “But we responded within seconds.”

The explosion had a devastating effect on the up-armored vehicle.

“The front half of the vehicle was gone, the only thing left was the two back doors and the trunk, and it was burning,” he said.

The two passengers in the back emerged shaken and covered in diesel fuel, but with relatively minor blast injuries. The danger from the improvised explosive device, however, was far from passed.

“When I walked up to the vehicle, there was still an unexploded 155mm shell poking up out of the dirt. I guess (the insurgents) didn’t wire that one right,” Ojeda said.

Unexploded ordnance is an enormous threat. While faulty wiring prevented the shell from detonating in this instance, the age and unstable condition of the ammunition available to insurgents meant it could explode in Ojeda’s face any minute. Despite having a virtual time bomb only a meter or so from his position, the corpsman continued to orchestrate the triage and evacuation procedures to get the wounded on a medical evacuation flight.

First in line for Ojeda’s triage was the driver of the Humvee.

“I look down at him, he’s laying on the deck, and his legs are gone. I grab him by the handle on the back of his flak jacket and start to drag him,” recalled Ojeda.

The main and most serious consideration for this act is concern for the unexploded ordnance. No amount of lifesaving measures would have mattered much if they all suffered a secondary blast.

The drag to the opposite side of the remains of the vehicle was an effort. Ojeda stands about 5 feet, 7 inches, 150 pounds, he said, and “(the wounded Marine) is a big guy, over six feet, maybe 230 pounds. I got him about 10 feet then had to say, ‘Good enough.’”

While Ojeda applied tourniquets to the traumatic amputations and administered morphine, the gunner in the vehicle in front of the destroyed Humvee doused the flames in the charred husk of the destroyed vehicle. Another Marine, Cpl. Robert B. Schlafly, a Nashville, Tenn., native and gunner with the Jump Command Team, put his combat lifesaver skills to use, assessing and stabilizing to the best of his abilities the other two casualties.

The Marine in the turret got ejected from the vehicle while the other, sitting in the passenger seat, sustained broken cheekbones, two punctured lungs and multiple shrapnel wounds, according to an account of the events.

“Once I’d triaged all of them, I went back to (the driver) and just talked to him, reassured him everything was all right,” he recalled.

It was about this time that a second fire started burning in the vehicle. Ojeda looked to his left and saw what looked to be a brand-new fire extinguisher from the overturned Humvee lying in the dirt. He picked it up and began to fight the blaze that threatened the ammunition in the still-intact trunk.

“You know, with all the (injuries), I was pretty calm. But I really started freaking out about extinguishing that fire,” said Ojeda.

With the blaze doused, Ojeda resumed calling out orders, establishing a casualty collection point and communicating what he needed in the nine-line brief used for medical evacuation missions.

“It all happened so quickly. It was probably five minutes at the most,” Ojeda said.

The evacuation helicopters arrived quickly, about 10 minutes between the nine-line transmission and having their skids on the deck, said Ojeda. When they touched down, the pilot told Ojeda where he needed which patients. Though the two passengers in the back suffered relatively minor injuries, they would still need to be evacuated.

“The pilot comes out and goes, ‘I need two over here and three over there,’” Ojeda recalled. “The (litter-bearers) had already consolidated so I just told them which helo to head to.”

Schlafly reflected on his “doc’s” actions.

“Anybody who can keep their composure when they’re putting a tourniquet on their buddy’s legs … I don’t even know a word for it,” he said. “I guess I didn’t really expect corpsmen to be up there dragging Marines basically through a minefield.”

Attempting to put Ojeda’s actions in a historical context, Schlafly said, “I think its right up there with stories you hear about corpsmen in World War II and Vietnam, dragging guys out and saving their Marines under fire.”

Despite taking charge of a mass casualty evacuation and saving the lives of two Marines under his charge, Ojeda is at once extremely humble about his activities that day and fierce in asserting that he was just doing what corpsmen do.

“In Field Medical Service School and Hospital Corps School they instill this stuff into you. Plus, I’ve done mass casualty evacuations before,” Ojeda said, referring to his other tours to Afghanistan and Iraq.

When asked what it’s like being exposed to follow-on attacks while stabilizing seriously wounded Marines, Ojeda said, “I’d die saving one of these guys. I’ll be damned if I die sitting in my seat.”