« July 2006 | Main | September 2006 »

August 31, 2006

Marine recruits head to basic training, military life

Devin Chambers (from left), Ben McCorkle and Pacheco Perez, new Marine recruits departing for basic training, pose for a photo.

SAN DIEGO - An opportunity to get an education, to see parts of the world they’d only heard about or serve their country attracted 16 passengers here last evening aboard American Airlines Flight 1961, and ultimately, to 13 weeks of boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.


Thursday, August 31, 2006
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

The 16 Marine Corps recruits, most from Texas, displayed the expected range of emotions as they boarded their flight at Dallas⁄Fort Worth International Airport, leaving behind civilian life to become Marines. Nervous laughter rippled through the group as the airline attendant called out their boarding sections, although most tried to retain a level of nonchalance as though they were taking a bus ride to the local mall.

Nineteen-year-old Devin Chambers, from Marietta, Okla., sat in seat 32B and explained that he’s always wanted to be a Marine. After a year at Murray State College, an endeavor he said he didn’t really enjoy, he felt ready to give his dream a shot.

''It doesn’t really scare me,'' Chambers said of the prospect of deploying to Iraq after he’s finished his training as a Marine Corps engineer. ''The odds (of getting hurt) are about the same as driving in a car.''

For Ben McCorkle, 18, from Wichita Falls, Texas, the opportunity to serve in Iraq was actually the big drawing card that led him to enlist immediately after high school. ''I want to go,'' he said from his seat in the last row of the plane. ''That’s why I chose infantry.''

McCorkle said he figures he’ll go to college after serving in the Marines, tapping into the educational benefits he’ll earn through his military service. ''I’ll do college later in life,'' he said. ''For right now, I need the discipline and structure first.''

Twenty-one-year-old Pacheco Perez, McCorkle’s seatmate and one of the oldest members of the group, said he, too, was attracted to the Marines because he wants to go on to college to study either computers or medicine.

Born in Queretaro, Mexico, and now a legal resident of the United States living in Dallas, Perez said he hopes to smooth the path toward U.S. citizenship, too. He said he chose the Marines because he’s heard it’s the toughest of the military services. ''I want to prove to myself that I can do it,'' he said. ''I know it will be hard, but it will help me grow.''

Perez expressed more trepidation about his mastery of the English language than anything the Marines might throw at him in basic training. ''I’m a little nervous about it, but I’ll do okay,'' he said.

Like his fellow recruits, Perez said he’s not overly concerned that he’s likely to end up deploying to Iraq in the not-too-distant future. ''I’m not really nervous because I know they’re going to train me for that,'' he said, adding that he’s also putting a lot of stock in his faith. ''God will take care of me,'' he said. ''I’m sure of that.''

Still sporting the long blond hair he knows will get buzzed off minutes after arriving at the recruit depot, McCorkle acknowledged that a bit of old-fashioned patriotism also attracted him to the military. ''Freedom isn’t free,'' he said. ''And if I can have it, then everyone else should, too, right?''

It’s the same patriotism McCorkle said he felt when his entire high school class and their guests gave him a standing ovation at his high school graduation ceremony. ''My friends are all supportive,'' he said. ''They think it’s awesome.''

McCorkle admitted that his mother is ''extremely nervous'' about his decision and his father also has some misgivings but is ''proud to have a son who’s a Marine.''

Chambers said his family is ''a little sad'' that he’s leaving, ''but happy too, and proud of me.''

Perez said his mother is sad to see him shipping off to basic training but pleased at the doors the Marine Corps will open to him. ''She’s sad about the separation, but recognizes that it’s a good thing for me,'' he said.

Like his fellow recruits, Chambers said he found strong support among his friends, many who already serve in the Marine Corps. They’ve shared stories about what he will soon encounter in basic training, but Chambers said he’s not worried. ''I’ve heard a lot,'' he said. ''But I’ve been playing football since third grade, so I’m used to getting yelled at.'' He said he’s looking forward to seeing how he performs during ''the Crucible,'' the last, difficult rite of passage that recruits must endure before graduating from basic training.

As the group arrived in San Diego, they had directions to call a phone number and to gather together and await their bus ride to boot camp and their new lives as Marines.

''All of us are pretty excited,'' McCorkle said. ''I think we’re ready.''

CAAT and Snipers conduct live-fire training at Fuji

COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, Japan (Aug. 31, 2006) -- When heavy fire power is needed quickly, combined anti-armor teams are the ones who are called to action. The CAAT provides heavy fire power at a moment’s notice in the heat of battle. Two combined anti-armor teams and a sniper element with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team, spent a day conducting various live-fire exercises here Aug. 31.

Aug. 31, 2006
Story ID#: 20069615447
By Lance Cpl. Kevin Knallay, 31st MEU

“Our goal was to sharpen our immediate action drills, heavy machinegun skills and target suppression,” said 1st Lt. Juan R. Plascencia, a CAAT platoon commander.

A CAAT is a mobile assault team consisting of humvees mounted with weapons such as M2 .50-caliber machineguns, M240G medium machineguns and tube launched optically tracked wire guided (TOW) missiles according to Sgt. Freddie Cavasos, a CAAT section leader. The team’s purpose is to be a very mobile unit with a large amount of firepower to counter threats from enemy armored personnel and vehicles.

Through the exercise, the team fired their machineguns while mounted on humvees while the sniper element employed their M40A3 sniper rifles and M82A3 .50-caliber special application scoped rifles.

“Working with the snipers was a new learning experience for us,” Plascencia said. “The training exercise was more productive because their involvement allowed us to participate in more scenarios.”

During one scenario, snipers would find targets and request permission to fire upon them; however, the snipers were not allowed to engage their targets until a CAAT team was in place for support to provide suppressive fire. Once the simulated engagement was finished, the Marines were extracted out of the site.

As the teams progressed through the scenarios and provided suppressive fire with crew-served weapons, the training became more difficult as they engaged undersized targets. This allowed the Marines to improve their accuracy throughout the course, explained Staff Sgt. Robert A. Chute, the platoon sergeant of CAAT-1.

“The smaller targets at this range work for our benefit,” said Chute. “We need to be precise and accurate in firing. It’s essential for us to function properly and do what needs to be done. It may be frustrating for some of the gunners, but it makes them try harder.”

Great effort was put into teamwork during the scenarios, which allowed personnel to improve unit cohesion.

“Small unit leadership really shines during training like this,” Cavasos added. “Guns are going off and everyone is screaming, but it’s the leaders that control the confusion and get the task done quickly.”

“There is a great burden of responsibility lying on the shoulders of these Marines and sailors to support the line companies with heavy firepower,” Cavasos said. “Whether if they are old blood or new blood, the training was helpful for preparing the entire platoon for whatever mission they get handed.”

Marines and sailors of the BLT, arrived to Camp Fuji, Japan Aug. 23, to conduct training for heavy weapons, maneuvering and tactics until Sept. 14 when they are scheduled to return to Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.

Marines Establish 2nd Osprey Squadron Bound For Deployment

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -- The Marine Corps activated its second non-training squadron flying the MV-22 Osprey, the tiltrotor aircraft that can take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane.


August 31, 2006

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 quit flying the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in December to begin training to fly and maintain the craft long-delayed by fatal crashes and rising costs.

"The Osprey is the present and it is the future," said Lt. Col. Karsten Heckl, the squadron's commanding officer. "This airplane is going to be phenomenal."

Heckl said he'll start the squadron with 50 Marines and reach full strength around November. The squadron will have all its aircraft around February, Heckl said. The unit then will begin a six-month period of further training to prepare for deployment.

Heckl praised the new aircraft's range and fuel efficiency. He said during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, his squadron flew CH-46 choppers to evacuate casualties. Some Marines died from injuries because those helicopters could not perform at the level of the Osprey, Heckl said.

The Osprey can carry more cargo then the CH-46 and fly five times farther at speeds around 300 mph.

The aircraft has been in development since 1986. Flights were stopped for about 18 months after a pair of crashes near Tuscon, Ariz., and Camp Lejeune killed 23 Marines.

Last summer, the Osprey passed its operational evaluation. In September 2005, the Pentagon approved the aircraft for full-scale production. The Marine Corps plans to buy 360 at about $71 million apiece.

The first deployable Osprey squadron was established in March. There are about nine aircraft and 250 people in the New River-based squadron.

The aircraft is scheduled to deploy sometime next year.


Information from: The Daily News, http://www.jdnews.com

"America's Battalion" dedicates make-shift gym to fallen warrior in Iraq

HADITHA, Iraq (Aug. 31, 2006) -- Marines who knew Staff Sgt. Jason C. Ramseyer will tell you that he loved three things – his family, his Marines and going to the gym.

Ramseyer, 28, died April 21, 2006, in the western Al Anbar Province of Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded near him.


Aug. 31, 2006; Submitted on: 08/31/2006 07:53:52 AM ; Story ID#: 200683175352
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle, Regimental Combat Team7

To honor the fallen warrior, Marines from Ramseyer’s unit, the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which arrived in Iraq in March, dedicated the make-shift gym in the Marines’ headquarters – the Haditha Dam – in honor of the Lenoir, N.C., native.

In a simple ceremony Aug. 20, 2006, the Marines named the gym “Ram’s Dam Gym.” The small gym, which consists of various workout benches, free weights, televisions and a radio, features new equipment and enclosure around the facility.

Since the Marines’ arrival in Iraq, they have honored their fallen by naming facilities after them. The Marines assigned to the battalion’s Weapons Company named their forward operating base “Camp Lueken,” after Cpl. Eric Lueken, 23, who also perished in a roadside blast, just one day after Ramseyer was killed.

On the highest level of the Haditha Dam, the Marines’ communications shop at the dam was named after Cpl. Andres Aguilar, 21, who died in a vehicle accident April 2, 2006. Aguilar, from Victoria, Texas, and Lueken, from Dubois, Ind., were both assigned to 3rd Battalion.

The Marines hung a plaque near the gym’s entrance, officially commemorating it to Ramseyer’s memory.

A partially completed painting of Ramseyer is just below the plaque.

“Staff Sgt. Ramseyer loved his job and the gym,” said Sgt. Michael Ferguson, 23, who served as a platoon sergeant on the Jump CP, the battalion commander’s personal security element, with Ramseyer. “He went to the gym every chance he could get.”

Ramseyer was the platoon commander for the battalion’s Jump CP. He was hand-selected by Lt. Col. Norman L. Cooling, the battalion’s commanding officer, for this position – a duty his Marines say he performed with consummate professionalism and unparalleled valor.

Ramseyer was responsible for providing security to the commanding officer and his staff. He and his Marines served as a quick reaction force that was equipped to respond to combat situations on a moment’s notice.

He frequently traveled Al Anbar Province’s roads, and was exposed to small arms fire and roadside bombs.

Although Ramseyer, a nine-year veteran of the Marine Corps, was a common site in the dam’s gym, Marines say they will remember him as a family man who would never put his Marines in a dangerous situation that he was not willing to put himself in first.

“His Marines respected him because he treated them, regardless of rank, with the respect and dignity they deserved. He was a great friend and a great Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Kiernan, 33, company gunnery sergeant for the battalion’s Weapons Company. “We all miss him.”

Kiernan wears a “Hero Bracelet” on his right wrist bearing Staff Sgt. Ramseyer’s name - something he said he “will never take off.”

Ferguson said he and Ramseyer would often have competitions on the bench press and motivated each other to keep physically fit.

“When we were not on missions, we were in the gym,” said Ferguson. “He knew how to motivate all his Marines. He was a true leader and it is just not the same without him.”

Now, as long as Marines are in Iraq and living in the Haditha Dam, they will be reminded of Ramseyer every time they enter the gym, said Ferguson.

Marines here agree that the naming of the gym was the best way they could honor Ramseyer because he spent most of his off-time in the gym.

“We all miss him,” said Ferguson. “Now we will be reminded of his sacrifices every time we go to the gym. He will never be forgotten.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, descriptions, and credits.

Reserve Marines activated

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Aug. 31, 2006) -- For the first time since the beginning of the war in Iraq more than three years ago, Marines in the individual ready reserve face the possibility of pulling their uniforms out of their closets, dusting them off and stepping off with their packs for another deployment.


Aug. 31, 2006; Submitted on: 09/02/2006 08:24:48 AM ; Story ID#: 20069282448
By Pvt. Andrew S. Keirn, MCB Quantico

The Marine Corps was authorized by President George W. Bush July 26 to activate as many as 2,500 Marines back into service.

Individual Ready Reserve Marines will begin receiving involuntary activation orders to report for a year of active duty beginning in October, said Lt. Col. Francis P. Piccoli, public affairs officer for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. He added that each activation will last around 12 to18 months.

According to Piccoli, during the past couple years the number of volunteers to fill requirements for the IRR has had a steady decline but the requirements have stayed the same. This has made it necessary to issue involuntary activation orders, he added.

The IRR has approximately 60,000 Marines. Only approximately 35,000 of those Marines will be affected. Marines in their first or fourth year of their IRR status will not be considered for activation, said Piccoli.

Marines who receive involuntary activation orders to report for active duty service will be used in support of the Global War on Terrorism in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

Each Marine called up will receive ample time to prepare once notified. They will be notified five months in advance before reporting for active duty and “by giving them sufficient future time before having to report, we allow them to get their affairs in order,” Piccoli said.

A Marine can request a delay, a deferment or an exemption from the IRR activation. A Marine can request a delay if he can report but may not be able to make it on the exact date required. A Marine can also request a deferment to another rotation if a situation arises such as a spouse’s death or they can request an exemption if a circumstance forbids the Marine from being able to deploy now or in the future.

There have been reports that low recruitment levels have initiated the IRR activation.

“The reason for the activation is not due to a recruiting problem,” Piccoli said. “According to the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, recruiting goals are consistently being met. This is more about meeting the requirements that come to the Marine Corps to fill joint and Marine Corps billets in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The Marine Corps is looking at grade and MOS requirements and then trying to match them up with the positions needed to fill.”

Military Occupational Specialties needed are broken down by rank. From the officer ranks, the most needed MOSs are infantry, logistics, intelligence, artillery, staff judge advocate, communications and engineers. On the enlisted side, aviation, infantry, intelligence, motor transport, logistics, communications, linguists and military police are the most needed specialties.

“These folks are filling forward deployed positions,” Piccoli said. “We’re not calling them up to fill positions in places such as Quantico-they are not needed there.”

This initiative has an open ended window and it will continue indefinitely. The Marine Corps is planning to have three rotations during a minimum time frame of two years.

“This is not just for the reserve side of the Marine Corps,” Piccoli said. “The Marine Corps operates with a total force mentality. This is just another indication we mean business. Whether it is the reserve or active components, we’re coming together to get the job done.”

'Red Lions' hone lifesaving skills

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Aug. 31, 2006) -- “Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.”

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Red Lion 98 and 99 in midair collision over West Field with 48 total souls! Losing control of A/C!”


Aug. 31, 2006; Submitted on: 09/01/2006 05:30:39 PM ; Story ID#: 200691173039
By Lance Cpl. Edward C. deBree, MCB Hawaii

Those were the words that blasted over the radio call received by the air traffic control tower at Marine Corps Air Facility here, Aug. 25.

Those words all set the tone for Marines and Sailors assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 who were participating in a mass casualty/mishap drill at West Field.

The drill served to prepare HMH-363 squadron members for their upcoming deployment to Iraq where they will deploy in support of Operation Iraq Freedom and to teach them how to save lives and their aircraft.

“We had three goals that we wanted to achieve during this drill,” said Navy Lt. Peter Lombardo, flight surgeon, HMH-363, Marine Aircraft Group 24. “We wanted the corpsmen and combat lifesavers to practice combat casualty care. We wanted the squadron to practice ready room mishaps, and we wanted the MAG aid station to conduct a mass casualty drill – all of which we accomplished.”

Aircraft Rescue Firefighters arrived on scene to extinguish fires on the two aircraft and to help transport crash victims to a safe area where they could be examined and treat the wounded.

“We extinguished the flames on the two aircraft and quickly went into the medical aspects of our jobs,” explained Staff Sgt. William B. McCormick, section leader, Section Two, ARFF. “We were able to recognize the injured and the dead.
“Our main priority was to find the people who needed the most help.”

Marines and Sailors identified and treated 39 Marines, all role players assigned to HMH-363 and MAG-24. The hospital corpsmen and combat lifesavers treated ailments such as broken limbs, open wounds and head trauma.

“The combat lifesavers performed admirably,” said Lombardo, a native of Guam. “This training will prepare them well for any mishap that might occur.”

The Marines and Sailors went through classroom training to learn how to treat patients – which can be challenging enough, he added.

“To get out there and actually apply what you have learned is invaluable,” Lombardo continued. “They’ve proven that they can treat any major combat injury.”

Combat lifesavers are trained to treat wounded personnel in a combat situation until a hospital corpsman is available to tend to the service member’s wounds.

“We need to expand combat lifesavers in the unit,” said Lombardo. “It’s good training for anybody to have. We need to train as many Marine combat lifesavers as we can

Injured Marine missing in park, Search to resume for Boulder climber on leave from Iraq

BOULDER - A Marine visiting home on leave from Iraq remained missing Wednesday night, one day after he injured his head in a climbing accident.


By John C. Enslin, Rocky Mountain News
August 31, 2006

About 40 searchers with dogs, horses and a helicopter scoured the steep trails and creek beds in Eldorado Canyon State Park, five miles south of Boulder.

Lance Hering, 21, of Boulder, had been "bouldering," or freestyle climbing, with friend Steve Powers, 20, also of Boulder, when Hering fell about 10 to 15 feet. Hering slid another 30 feet down a steep slope before coming to rest, Powers told Boulder County sheriff's deputies.

"It's very ironic that he survived all the combat that he saw and that he's injured here at home doing the thing he liked to do best," said his father, Lloyd Hering, who was at a command post waiting with his wife, Elynne, for news about their son.

Hering was unconscious for about four hours after the fall, according to Powers, who remained with his buddy.

Later, Hering came to, but he appeared to be disoriented, Sheriff Joe Pelle said. "Lance was described as what I would call 'loopy,' " Pelle said near the command post that had been set up outside the park's visitors center.

"He knew Steve and he knew he was hurt, but he would keep repeating things," Pelle added.

Neither man had been wearing a helmet, the sheriff said. The pair used fabric torn from Hering's black T-shirt and fashioned a bandage for his head wound.

Hering fell about 10 p.m. Tuesday. When he began to regain consciousness about 2 a.m. Wednesday, Powers said, he decided to get help.

"Steve told Lance, 'I need you to stay here. I'm going to get help,' " Pelle said.

It took Powers about 90 minutes to two hours to hike back down the trail. The 911 call to sheriff's deputies came in around 5:15 a.m., Pelle said.

Deputies quickly assembled a rescue team that returned to the point where Hering had last been seen on a trail that runs between Eldorado Canyon and Boulder County's Walker Ranch Open Space Preserve.

"They found Lance's climbing shoes - he's wearing sneakers. They found some blood and they found a water bottle," Pelle said. "They couldn't find Lance."

Searchers from Rocky Mountain Rescue, the Boulder Emergency Squad and the Boulder City Park rangers took part in the daylong effort.

Deputies also utilized five dogs and three horses, plus a helicopter that the sheriff's office had hired. Hering is described as about 5 feet 8 inches tall.

His parents were at the command post fielding calls from relatives and friends, and helping authorities to make calls to area hospitals on the chance that their son had wandered out of the park.

"He's in terrific physical condition," his dad said. "He's a very determined, very self-reliant young man. He's not in the habit of calling for help. I wished he'd stayed where he was.

" 'Lance, if you're out there please make yourself known. Don't be embarrassed.' My gut feeling is he'll get out. He's tough."

The search ended at 8 p.m. and was to resume at dawn. Pelle said he planned to keep a small crew of deputies on the trails in case Hering wanders out on his own.

"Your heart bleeds for the parents. They're brave people," Pelle said. "I hope we can deliver for them."

Hering's parents said their son had returned from Iraq about a month ago, and he had returned to his Boulder home during the last week. Hering is familiar with the area where he fell because he had climbed it when he was attending high school in Boulder, his parents said.

"He's a very self-sufficient person," his father said. "It would be like him to hike out and try to take care of his wound. We're afraid he might be confused in walking around."

August 30, 2006

Local group provides keys to van for wounded Marine

NORTH KINGSTOWN -- Thanks to a special lady from Rhode Island, a quadriplegic Marine from Wisconsin will receive heartfelt cheers -- and a set of keys -- when he's wheeled on the field at halftime of the Naval Academy-University of Massachusetts football game.


01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Former Sgt. Jason Wittling, of Mason, Wis., will be on the 50-yard line Saturday, Sept. 9, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., to take the keys to a specially equipped van.

With a Marine escort, and a general or two at his side, Wittling will receive the $60,000-van courtesy of Wheels for Warriors, a division of the North Kingstown-based Operation Support Our Troops, which is supported by donations and in-kind services from the public.

"There are a lot of good people on this earth and they seem to find me," said Mary Kay Salomone, who heads Operation Support Our Troops out of her home in North Kingstown.

Salomone comes from and has an Army family (a son is in Iraq and another served there). She launched Operation Support Our Troops soon after the start of the war in Iraq. Now a national organization, she mails tons of comfort items each year to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She started Wheels for Warriors two years ago after visiting severely wounded servicemen and women at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

The war in Iraq, of which Salomone is no fan, has produced at least 8,000 severely injured service members, she said, with many missing limbs from the explosive devices the Iraqi insurgents used against the Americans.

Wheels for Warriors gave out its first van in April. Sgt. Wittling will be the second recipient of America's generosity.

Wittling was injured on May 3, 2003, when he and a group of Marines were blowing up a cache of captured RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). They had set their charges, and attempted to make a quick getaway in their HMMWV (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), better known as the Humvee.

As the Humvee sped around a corner, the Marines were suddenly confronted with an embankment they didn't know was there. The Humvee rolled over. Sgt. Wittling suffered a broken neck.

"He has a little movement in an elbow and a wrist," Salomone said. "But he's not going to get better."

Jason Wittling, 32, lives in Mason with his wife Maureen and their two children, Cody, 9, and Emily, 6. Mason is in rural northwestern Wisconsin. "There's Jason, the family and the moose," Salomone said, with a laugh.

But, she noted, the rural setting provides a serious reason for her board awarding the Wittlings the van. It's a long, long way to rehab and doctors' appointments.

The van cost Wheels for Warriors $38,000. It paid for such "extras" as leather seats, making it easier to slide Jason in and out of the van. The van will also have a DVD player for those long trips.

"Jason and the two kids can watch movies while Maureen does the driving," Salomone explained.

Wheels for Warriors may also have to shell out $22,000 for the van's wheelchair lift.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs normally pays for wheelchair lifts, but the VA has lost Jason's paperwork, Salomone said.

She said dealing with VA is "a nightmare."

"If the VA doesn't come up with the $22,000, Wheels for Warriors will pay and hopefully get reimbursed some day," Salomone said. "I'm not going to take the van away from this kid."

Referring to Jason's case as "one small case," Salomone asked, "What's happening to the rest of our vets. They are making it so difficult for veterans to get what they deserve. That's a disgrace."

Said Salomone: "The VA is underfunded, understaffed and overtaxed, but that's not the fault of the young soldier or the young Marine. A wounded veteran should not have to wait six, ten or eleven months for something he's entitled to."

While Wheels for Warriors' fundraising efforts produced the first two vans -- and has a third that's on the way -- the flip side is what others provide.

Jason Wittling and his family will be spending a week in the Annapolis-Washington area. Hotels are donating the rooms for their stay.

They'll be flying first class -- thanks to Northwest Airlines and one of its pilots.

Steven Middleton, who heads the Wheels for Warriors board, is a 1974 Naval Academy graduate. He graduated with the Northwest pilot. He contacted the pilot to see if he could get the Wittlings' tickets.

Northwest agreed to fly Mr. and Mrs. Wittling. The pilot said he would send Salomone a check for the other two seats. She expected $600. He sent $5,000, and told her to put what's left over in the van fund.

Salomone said Annapolis was picked as the delivery site because of the connection between the Navy and the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates can opt to be officers in the Marine Corps.

And, she said, "The Marines are part of the Navy. They're close to the Navy guys."

On the Friday before the game, the Wittlings will have lunch with the midshipmen. Then, Salomone said, "They'll get their van Saturday in front of the whole stadium."

A Marine general will stand with the Wittlings on the 50-yard-line, and the commandant of the Marine Corps may also make an appearance, scheduling permitting.

In Washington, the Wittlings have asked to visit Arlington Cemetery and the Marines' Iwo Jima monument.

"They will have a Marine escort the whole time," Salomone said. "The Marines are taking care of one of their own."

With help from an Army brat in North Kingstown.

Donations can be made to Wheels for Warriors, PO Box 404, North Kingstown, RI 02852.

Dave McCarthy is the Journal's South County regional editor.

August 29, 2006

Marine from Irmo dies in Iraq, Roadside bomb kills David Weimortz, 28, who attended Dutch Fork, USC

A photograph of Weimortz exchanging a handshake with an Iraqi child was featured in a magazine.

Cpl. David G. Weimortz was killed in Iraq on Saturday, just days short of his 29th birthday, when a roadside bomb went off while he traveled in his Humvee.


[email protected]

The Marine and Irmo native was on patrol in Al Anbar province, nearly 45 days into his second tour of duty in Iraq as an assault man.

This tour was to be his last before the Marine was to return home in February and study law, his father, Terry Weimortz, said.

David Weimortz is the 41st member of the U.S. military with S.C. ties to die in the Iraq war and the second this month.

Saturday, 29-year-old Marine Sgt. John Paul Phillips was buried in Moncks Corner. He died Aug. 16 in a Texas military hospital of injuries suffered in March near Fallujah.

Weimortz graduated as a golf standout from Dutch Fork High School and then from the University of South Carolina, where he majored in history.

Weimortz was stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., but kept a room at his sister Kelly Weimortz’s house in Columbia, his father said Monday from his home in Crestview, Fla.

Before leaving for Iraq in mid-July, Weimortz visited family and friends, including playing a round of golf with his father.

“I kissed him, gave him a hug and that’s the last time I saw him,” Terry Weimortz said. “He died like a man. He’s a hero as far as I’m concerned.”

Weimortz said that though his son claimed his Christian faith had prepared him for death, he was still scared of the upcoming mission in Iraq where he was trained to fire heavy weapons that can destroy tanks and bunkers.

“What was so eerie was that he started giving me things,” Terry Weimortz said, listing a pair of sunglasses, a Tommy Bahama shirt and a uniform.

As a boy, he played many sports, his father said, and his first word was “ball.”

“He was 6 feet 6 inches, 225 pounds — solid man,” Terry Weimortz said.

After college, he worked for a publisher in Raleigh, for a car dealer in Charleston, and modeled products at NASCAR races before enlisting.

Weimortz joined the Marines in March 2003 and graduated from boot camp at Parris Island. His commendations included the Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal, said Marine spokesman Lt. Barry Edwards.

In June 2005, Weimortz was attached to the headquarters section of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, and participated in Operation Sword.

The operation aimed to drive out insurgent fighters in Hit, located along the Euphrates River in the Al Anbar province.

A story published by Infoline Marine, an online service of Marine Corps public affairs, quoted Weimortz as saying the troops also tried to connect with the local citizens and show they were liberators, not conquerors.

The publication featured a photo of Weimortz exchanging a handshake with a local child outside Camp Ripper in Iraq.

“We not only flushed out insurgents, but we also helped the people so they can build the infrastructure of their society,” Weimortz said in the story.

Fighting in Iraq’s most volatile province helped him put life at home in perspective, he said.

“From the simplest things such as getting milk, to being stuck in traffic, or even going to college football games, it all comes to the surface and you realize how fortunate you are,” Weimortz said.

Weimortz also believed his efforts would help the Iraqis.

“This entire operation reminds me of a Boy Scout saying, ‘Leave your camp better than you found it,’” Weimortz told the publication. “Not only will I leave this base in better shape and more secure, but we will have left this country in a greater shape for their future.”

Weimortz joined the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division in June.

Terry Weimortz said his son warned him before his redeployment not to expect as many e-mails during this campaign because of his remote location.

Terry Weimortz also didn’t expect the hysterical call from his daughter on Saturday telling him of David’s death.

“She’s suffering, I’m suffering his mother’s suffering. It’s just unbelievable.”

Weimortz is also survived by his mother, Fran Fellers of Irmo, a stepbrother, Jody Weimortz Harley of Lexington, and a grandmother, Helen Asbill of Aiken.

Staff writer Chuck Crumbo contributed to this report. Reach Ryan at (803) 771-8595.

Click on photo for credits, and descriptions.

'Thunderbolts' prepare to strike in Iraq

VMFA-251 to deploy.


Aug. 29, 2006; Submitted on: 08/31/2006 07:19:25 AM ; Story ID#: 200683171925

By - MCNews, MCNews

ARABIAN SEA (Aug. 29, 2006) -- Marines assigned to the "Thunderbolts" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 prepare to deploy to Al Asad, Iraq, from the flight deck aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Enterprise and embarked Carrier Air Wing One are currently underway on a scheduled six-month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Click on photo for description and credit.

Wounded, but not out; Cullman Marine returns from bombing injuries to support platoon

Marine Cpl. Rowdy Zane Burney's hands, face and eyes were blasted with shrapnel May 6 when the Humvee he was riding in was blown up by a bomb hidden under a road in western Iraq.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006
News staff writer

The driver, a friend, was killed and three other Marines were injured.

After recuperating for a month at his camp, the Cullman County native hit the road again. He could have stayed at camp with the Purple Heart that he was awarded. But he chose to go back out despite lingering health problems from the blast and a plea from his mother.

"I want to be with my platoon ... because that's my family out here," Burney said in a telephone interview from Iraq.

Burney, 21, is a combat engineer with Charlie Company second platoon Combat Logistics Battalion 5. The unit fills road craters caused by improvised explosive devices and builds things such as checkpoint stations and temporary housing for infantry.

Burney mans the .50-caliber machine gun on a Humvee turret while his platoon travels to and from work sites.

Burney, who arrived in Iraq in March, said he was going out with his platoon on four or five such convoys a week until that day in May. The convoy was heading along a road in Al Anbar Province to repair two bomb craters. Ahead of the convoy were large vehicles that sweep the road for bombs.

But as Burney's vehicle passed, someone hidden nearby triggered an IED - five 122 mm mortar rounds bundled together and placed in a culvert under the road.

"As soon as it blew up, the Humvee stood straight up, and I hit my face off the .50 caliber," Burney said. "As it came back down, it threw me out of the turret, and I hit the road about 20 feet in front of the Humvee."

The vehicle's front end and turret were blown off. "Marines in the convoy behind us say they saw shrapnel and pieces of Humvee fly at least 40 to 50 feet high," Burney said. With shrapnel in his face, eyes and hands, Burney crawled toward the Humvee, where his lieutenant was leading the effort to get everyone out of the vehicle.

His friend, Lance Cpl. Leon B. Deraps, who was driving the Humvee, was killed. The lieutenant and two other Marines also were injured.

Burney was treated in the medical facility at Abu Ghraib prison and then taken to the Camp Fallujah hospital, where he was checked out by doctors and released to his barracks to recover.

A month later, still with a burst left eardrum and a right thumb that he couldn't fully move, Burney decided he was ready to rejoin his platoon on missions.

"I begged him not to go back out," said Becky Burney, his mother. But she wasn't surprised by his decision. "He's been that kind of person his whole life. ... He believes in helping his buddies," she said.

Burney admits that first convoy back with his platoon in early June was tough. "All you could think about is being blown up again," he said.

In recent days, Burney's platoon hasn't been going out as often as it prepares to return in seven days to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where it is based.

Burney still has 1½ years to go on his hitch with the Marines.

When he gets home, Burney wants to go to school and become a diesel engine mechanic. He said he's been home less than 60 days since he enlisted 2½ years ago.

"I miss my family more than anything," Burney said.

His mother said her son plans to visit his family in Good Hope in October. When he returns home, Burney will have the Purple Heart he was awarded for his combat injuries.

"I'd give it back if I could have my friend back. I'd give anything to change that day," Burney said.

E-mail: [email protected]

2nd Recon Battalion Marines stir the hornet’s nest in Operation Rubicon

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 29, 2006) -- Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion kicked over the hornet’s nest during Operation Rubicon in Mushin, Iraq, west of Habbaniyah. What they found underneath was a lot deadlier than a stinger.


Aug. 29, 2006; Submitted on: 08/31/2006 05:05:51 AM ; Story ID#: 20068315551
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

They battled insurgents in running gunfights lasting nearly an entire day and scored hundreds of weapons finds in a several-day operation.

Recon Marines, working in support of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, uncovered hundreds of weapons, artillery and mortar rounds, improvised explosive device-making material, small arms and ammunition.

In all, they recovered more than 500 mortars rounds, nearly 100 artillery rounds, more than 130 rocket-propelled grenades, more than 120 grenades, 22 mines, 10 mortar tubes, 20 rifles and machine guns, 18 sets of body armor and various other items including binoculars and bayonets.

“This area was definitely an insurgent stronghold,” said Cpl. Brandon M. Stair, a 25-year-old team leader from Utica, Ohio, assigned to the battalion’s B Company. “They had stuff for the long fight and they had stuff for tomorrow. There were initiator systems ready to go.”

Recon Marines found themselves in the thick of the hive from almost the moment they set foot into their operating zone.

Soon after inserting, they found a lone berm, which Marines scanned, according to Stair. They got a hit indicating something was buried underneath. They didn’t dig far to find buried weapons.

“It was big,” said Sgt. Joshua D. Cross, a 26-year-old team leader from Forestville, N.Y. “It was about 12-feet long and two-feet wide. It had a disgusting amount of stuff.”

Among other weapons, Marines uncovered rocket-propelled grenades and a complete mortar system at the first cache site. It was a sign of things to come.

Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth A. Westgate, a platoon sergeant for B Company, said all his team leaders are second-tour veterans for Iraq. They’ve learned to read the land and find the sites that harbor weapons caches. Their experience paid out.

“The whole platoon can walk and pick out sites,” said Westgate, a 35-year-old from East Wareham, Mass. “They’ve gotten to that level of ability where about 50 percent of the time, they’re right.”

Later that same day, Cross’ team uncovered another large cache site. This one was buried in a 250-gallon water container. It took them well into the night to get all the insurgent weapons out.

“We couldn’t reach down that far to get it all,” Cross explained.

So, he improvised. He stripped off all his gear and jumped into the buried container to get the last few pieces.

“I ended up sitting down inside and handing stuff up,” Cross said.

The mission continued, and that platoon set up a firm patrol base in their sector only to come under intense fire within a couple hours. Rocket-propelled grenades and mortars slammed into their patrol base. Insurgent machine gun fire raked the walls. Marines returned fire in a withering hail of bullets and pounded the attackers with artillery, sending insurgents fleeing.

“For the first day, it was non-stop,” Stair said.

The firefights started about 10 a.m. and lasted in running gun battles until nearly sunset.

“I thought it was going to be a long haul the first day,” said. Cpl. Peter H. Garguilo, a 21-year-old platoon communicator from Naugatuck, Conn. “It was pretty heavy fire. You knew these guys were going to stick around for a fight.”

Still, cache sweeps continued. These finds, however, were more than Marines expected. Marines moved to another location to start sweeping again. They didn’t get far.

“We thought we’d cover a lot more distance,” Stair said.

“We didn’t make it 100 meters and we started finding stuff,” Westgate added. “We had a problem.”

Westgate said the amounts of munitions they were uncovering was greater than the ability they had on hand to destroy it. They called in explosive ordnance disposal teams to assist.

The area was so littered with caches that they accidentally uncovered some. A demolition charge on one cache site ended up catching fire to some reeds. As the reeds burned, four or five more caches exploded in the flames.

“They just blew themselves up in the next 200 yards,” Westgate said.

Garguilo manned the radios for the platoon reconnaissance operations center. The information, he said, was overbearing. Teams were uncovering caches so quickly they were getting swamped trying to track them all.

“We had trouble in the ROC trying to keep up with the stuff coming in,” he said.

Cross said his team had to shorten their patrols. They simply couldn’t move as far as they planned without having to stop and dig up more buried weapons.

“We’d plan to patrol for two hours and six hours later, we’d end up coming in,” he said. “We pulled in some of the guys from 81’s Platoon to help. You’d get so smoked digging, you didn’t know your name.”

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s Combined Anti-Armor Team and 81 mm Mortar Platoon assisted the Recon Marines. The task was becoming much bigger than they could have imagined.

It was while combining efforts with CAAT Marines a vehicle struck a mine, killing one Marine from the CAAT section and wounding several others. It came on the heels of Recon Marines setting a time-charge on one of the cache sites. The fuse was burning and Marines were wounded laying in the blast zone.

Westgate explained Recon Marines rushed to the site to find several Marines nearby the wrecked humvee. They dragged the wounded Marines to a nearby ditch. The humvee was burning and munitions stored inside were beginning to explode. The fuse on the cache site was also still burning.

Recon Marine again grabbed the wounded and carried them to another ditch, further away. The blasts from the humvee and cache site sent debris and shrapnel flying in all directions.

“In many instances, we feel we were lucky to be alive,” Westgate explained. “There was so much stuff going on and so much stuff blowing up all around us.”

The blasts didn’t slow the Recon Marines, though. They continued their hunt.

Another cache yielded 500 blasting caps, each one capable of setting of a single IED. Another, mortars. In yet another was a stash of modified-silenced insurgent sniper rifles. Still, Marines found something they hadn’t yet seen. They’ve been operating primarily in Zaidon, south of Fallujah, where they came across their fair share of buried weapons. But not like this.

“Every cache was a separate set-up,” Westgate explained. “We usually find just mortars or just guns. These had a mix of everything.”

Stair said it appeared as if insurgents staged the weapons so they could easily fall back from one to the other. Some were found just thrown into the high grasses edging farm fields. Others were buried. Caches appeared to have weapons stored for bigger fights, and others bore 155 mm artillery shells with detonation cord and explosives already rigged so they could be placed along roads.

“You could tell that most of this stuff was still fresh,” Stair explained. “These guys were staging stuff.”

Marines even found AK-47 assault rifles in pristine condition.

The cache finds kept coming. They uncovered anti-aircraft guns at one more site. Then Marines found more rocket-propelled grenades. More than 50,000 rounds were captured. Stacks of artillery shells were gathered.

“The engineers would turn on the metal detector and it would go off almost immediately,” Westgate said. “Wherever the engineer went, we got a hit.”

“It was slow moving,” Cross added. “We could only make a couple hundred yards progress and we were finding more stuff.”

By the third day of constantly uncovering cache sites, Marines were cursing the mission they could have only hoped would be so successful.

“I knew we’d be busy, but not like that,” Cross said. “It was a straight-up kick-in-the-nuts.”

Cross said Marines knew immediately they put a dent in insurgents’ abilities to carry out attacks against Marines and Iraqi Security Forces. The areas they once considered a safe haven to hide weapons and refit are now the stomping grounds for Marines and soon for those Iraqi soldiers and police who will take over. Cross talked to one local man who told them operations were wreaking havoc on insurgents.

“He was real grateful for what we were doing there,” Cross explained. “That’s gratifying to hear that kind of result. We put a hurting on them. We slowed them down for a couple of months.”

Stair said this most recent operation was rewarding more than many of the others. He said Marines could see an immediate result. Every mortar, artillery shell and mine they dug up saved Marines’ lives. They are weapons no longer in the insurgents’ hands and the area is no longer under insurgent control.

“We’ve cleared 144 houses before and saw no result,” Stair explained. “I felt better coming off of this operation more than any other.”

“We poked that hornet’s nest a little bit,” Cross said. “We poked it with a two-foot stick.”

Click on photo for MORE pictures, descriptions, and credits.

Randy Lee Newman

Lance Cpl. Randy Lee Newman, of Bend, died Aug. 20 of injuries from an improvised explosive device in the Al Anbar province of western Iraq. He was 21.


To View/Sign Guest Book:

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Des-chutes County Fairgrounds.

Mr. Newman was born May 25, 1985, in Bend to Jerry and Ramona (Dahm) Newman.

Mr. Newman served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq for nearly seven months. He was a member of Christian Life Center. He enjoyed muscle cars, sports, wrestling, hunting and fishing.

Survivors include his parents and two brothers, Dan and Ken.

Memorial contributions may be made to Mountain View ROTC or the Mountain View wrestling program.

Autumn Funerals of Bend is in charge of arrangements.

Adam Galvez

Adam Galvez 1985 ~ 2006 Beloved hero, son, brother, nephew, uncle, grandson and Marine Cpl. Adam Galvez, age 21, ended his tour of duty in Iraq on August 20th, 2006.


To View/Sign Guest Book:

He was born in Loma Linda, California on April 2, 1985. He lived in Hemet, CA. until he was seven when his family moved to Salt Lake City. He attended West High School and graduated in 2003 from Horizonte in Salt Lake City Utah. He served in the United States Marine Corps assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division as an LAV mechanic, driver and scout. He was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California and deployed to Iraq in March of 2006. Adam enjoyed playing baseball, skateboarding and snowboarding but more than anything, he loved to work on cars. Visitation is open to the public on Tuesday, August 29th from 5-8 p.m. at McDougals Funeral Home located at 4330 S. Redwood Rd., Salt Lake City, UT. Services for Adam Galvez will be held Wednesday, August 30th at 2:00 p.m. at Calvary Chapel located at 460 West Century Dr. (4350 South), Salt Lake City. He is survived by his parents Tony and Amy Galvez of Salt Lake City; brother, Travis Galvez; sister, Sarah Galvez; nephew Drew; and nieces Rilee and Jaye; grandparents, Tom and Anne Gierhart and Eugene Garber, all of Salt Lake City, Utah; and many uncles, aunts and cousins. We express deep gratitude to our friends, local churches and the community for the sincere love, care and support that you have shown us through this difficult time. We say a very special thank you to Adam's friends for being part of his life. We deeply appreciate the United States Marine Corps for allowing Adam to proudly serve his country and for providing support and strength to his family during this time. Another Marine has reported for duty. Semper Fi.

August 28, 2006

Local girl who befriended Iraq-deployed Marines, sailors needs immediate surgery to live, U.S. military doctors say

CAMP AL QA'IM, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2006) -- After befriending Marines and sailors serving in this region of Iraq, a 12-year-old Iraqi girl who is in need of a kidney and liver transplant is now in a life-or-death struggle.


Aug. 28, 2006
By Cpl. Antonio Rosas, Regimental Combat Team7

Hadael Hamade, a young Iraqi girl from Karabilah, Iraq, a city of about 30,000 near the Iraq-Syria border, desperately needs life-saving surgery in order to live, according to U.S. Navy physicians who have treated her on occasion in recent months.

The girl befriended Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment – the U.S. military unit assigned to provide security in this portion along the Euphrates River – months ago when the Marines were on patrol in the city.

“When we first saw Hadael several months ago, she was walking,” said Navy Lt. Mark D. Rasmussen, an anesthesiologist with the surgical suite here. “Now she can’t move much. The Marines needed to carry her from her house to the humvee, and from the humvee to the surgical suite here.”

Since then, U.S. military forces here have regularly checked-up on the girl, evaluating her condition.

Hadael’s father, Ahmed, a 46-year-old school teacher, sought the aid of Marines and sailors, stating that doctors in his country cannot help his daughter, according to Navy doctors here.

After losing four children to kidney disease, he’s not ready to let his 12-year-old daughter suffer the same fate as her brothers and sisters, he said.

“If I need to go to outside of Iraq to help my daughter, I will go,” said Ahmed through an interpreter. “I will do anything to help my daughter stay alive and I am thankful for anyone that wishes to help me in any way.”

But that’s not enough to save the girl. She needs immediate surgery, and regular medication, to sustain her. That procedure and follow-on care, though, could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – money Hamade’s family doesn’t have, and medical treatment Iraqi doctors are unable to provide, according to Ahmed.

Hadael recently received medication which doctors say will prolong her life a bit, medicine donated by several U.S. non-government agencies.

But the medicine is a temporary fix to a much larger problem. Without a kidney transplant and further treatment, Hadael will die, according to Navy Capt. H.D. Elshire, the officer-in-charge of the Marines’ medical facility at their camp at this border city – headquarters for the southern Calif.-based battalion.

The surgery is just the start, as Hadael will require life-long medical care if the kidney-liver transplant is successful. That, the Marines say, will require a life-time of medication, and plenty of funding to purchase that medicine.

“If she doesn’t get it soon, her chances of survival are pretty dismal,” said Elshire, 55, a Huntington Beach, Calif. native. “There is no help for her here in Iraq as the doctors in Baghdad don’t have the resources to help her.”

Hamade’s case has recently garnered attention in the U.S. after several non-profit organizations and a congressman from California learned of her situation. Her case was first brought to their attention upon the death of a Marine killed here, who just days before his death vowed to help the girl by bringing it to the attention of his chain-of-command.

Lance Cpl. Aaron W. Simons, a rifleman with the Marines serving in Karabilah, met the dying girl during a midnight security patrol through the city, according to the girl’s father.

Simons befriended the family and wanted to help Hadael’s father find help for his daughter, according to Simons’ best friend, Cpl. Ian Kutner, who also visited the family several times.

“I remember the young Marine (Simons) and how he was interested in getting help for my family,” said Ahmed. “I am very sorry for his death. Without him I would have never gotten help for my daughter.”

Several months ago, Hadael had become very ill in the middle of the night and her father ran out into the street for help. He knew the Marines were near-by, said Ahmed. A few days later she was taken hundreds of miles east to a medical center in Baghdad, but the doctors there could do nothing for her, he said.

“She was evaluated, and they (doctors) basically said, ‘The prognosis is too poor, you’re too sick,’ and they sent her home,” said Lt. Col. Larry White, director of a civil military operations center for the Al Qa’im region.

Due to a lack of medical resources in this region capable of handling cases of this nature, four of Hadael’s siblings have died from the very same hereditary kidney failure now claiming her life, said Ahmed.

The disease, called “Oxalosis,” began in Hadael’s liver, where it limited her liver’s metabolizing capabilities. That began a chain reaction of deterioration, affecting her other organs - specifically her kidneys, causing permanent kidney failure. The disease has caused Hadael to appear small for her age, ill-appearing and has zapped her energy – she is too weak to walk, U.S. doctors say.

The disease is prevalent in the Middle East and is the leading cause of renal (kidney) failure in Iraq, according to Elshire.

Nevertheless, concern for this region’s healthcare system have been expressed. The governor of Al Anbar Province, an area roughly the size of South Carolina, made a pledge to improve local medical resources in the area, including the construction of a new hospital, when he made a tour of Al Qa’im last month.

Ahmed has sought the aid of the Americans because professionals in Iraq have already given up on saving his daughter’s life, he said.

When Ahmed learned that his daughter had the same disease his other children died from, he took her to the local hospital in the nearby city of Husaybah, where doctors there told him that they could do nothing for her. He went to Baghdad where Iraqi doctors gave him the same story – they could do nothing.

Without treatment, Hadael’s health began deteriorating. That is when Ahmed sought the help of the Marines.

“She is alive right now because of the Americans,” said Ahmed. “My other children died because there is no medicine here in Iraq.”

Of the few U.S. medical centers with the facilities to handle special circumstances like Hadael’s, two have turned her case down, according to White.

“They’re explanation was that aside from the fact that the cost of treatment would be extreme…this would put this girl and her family through a tremendous ordeal to get them to the States and transplanting organs and still might have pretty low odds of success with the case,” said White, a 39-year-old from St. Paul, Minn.

“Their point is that, do we put these people through this? Do we spend this kind of money on a case that in all likelihood is not going to be successful?” he said. “That’s the hard calculus that they made.

Hadael has enough medicine for the next six months, thanks to donors in America. Now, a permanent solution is a race against time – finding an answer to her problem may take years – something her family can’t afford, according to the medical personnel here.

“She needs a kidney-liver transplant now,” said Elshire. “The longer they wait for a donor, the less chance she has of living.”

Even if Hamade receives a financial sponsor and medical institution willing to perform the surgery, there is also the likelihood that her whole family may have to relocate outside Iraq for her to receive the long-term follow up care that she will require, according to White.

For now, Hadael will make regular trips to the Marines’ base to receive her weekly medicine which is intended to raise her blood count, until a solution can be found through the work of non-profit organizations around the world.

The Marines say they will continue to visit Hadael’s family from time to time.

“Hadael doesn’t move around much because she is tired all the time,” said Kutner when he and other Marines visited the girl recently. “Other than sit in the living room watching T.V., she can’t do much.”

Hadael’s father says she doesn’t play with the other kids in her neighborhood and doesn’t smile much anymore, although when the Marines come around she smiles a bit more.

Staring at his daughter as she lies on a green stretcher, receiving medication inside the Marines’ medical facility in Al Qa’im, Ahmed says that now, “all that is left to do is wait.”

Email Cpl. Rosas at [email protected]

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits and descriptions.

Prowler squadron sets flight-hour milestone in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2006) -- More than 30 years have passed since the first EA-6 Prowler flew into combat during the Vietnam War. Today, it continues to provide lifesaving electronic warfare support to U.S. service members during Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Aug. 28, 2006
Story ID#: 200682932557
By Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), reached the milestone of 3,000 combat flight hours during a mission high above the Iraqi desert in Al Asad, July 13.

According to the official Marine Corps fact file, the Prowler is normally assigned to assault support and attack strike missions in hostile territory. The Prowler's mission is to defeat deadly anti-aircraft systems and collect electronic data on the battlefield.

The Prowler dominates the electronic battlefield and the safe return of thousands of aircraft and crews makes obvious the need to field the aircraft. The EA-6B exhibited its abilities during conflicts in the Middle East and Balkans, where aircraft losses were much lower when it was in the air.

While the capabilities of VMAQ-2's Prowlers may be unmatched in the aviation world and though the squadron recently made its own entry in the history books, they might as well be 34,000-pound paperweights without the Marine maintainers and aircrews who keep the "Death Jesters" airborne daily.

"This is a really old aircraft. It is amazing we can fly the amount of flight hours that we do," said Capt. Mark S. Gombo, an electronic countermeasures officer and Purke, Va., native. "The amount of maintenance hours is unbelievable, but the fact is, we continue to fly this airplane. I am and a lot of others are impressed with the people who built this airplane and those maintaining it."

The engineers and assembly line workers at Grumman Aircraft Corporation, which manufactured the EA-6B, were commended by several VMAQ-2 Marines for their quality design and construction.

However, the people receiving the most praise from their superiors in the squadron are the "Death Jesters'" maintainers.

"The maintenance department has busted their butts, adapted and overcome supply issues, a nonstop flight schedule and a difficult work environment," said Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan L. Falcon, maintenance control chief and a Fayetteville, N.C., native. "These aircraft were left here by VMAQ-1 and have been in Iraq for nearly a year, flying in a sandy environment that is not good for them. I'm not surprised though that (the Prowlers) go up. It all goes back to the maintainer."

Although the maintainers take pride in the recent milestone, safety has been the focus of their efforts.

"I try to do everything as safely as possible and follow all the publications and guidelines, because there's no point in accomplishing 3,000 flight hours if someone gets hurt along the way," said Lance Cpl. James R. Elmore, a power plants mechanic and Houston, native. "I imagine that any aircraft takes a lot of work, but to accomplish 3,000 hours with this one, means a lot to me. I always sit down to watch them take off, and it's a good feeling to watch something I put a lot of work into go in the air."

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions

24th MEU Marines find ‘Dead Zone’

DIJIBOUTI, Africa (Aug. 28, 2006) -- At the top of the world, cloaked in ice and blinding snow, rest more than 100 permanent residents of Mt. Everest’s “Dead Zone.” They wait there at 26,000 feet like castle guard, their stunned silence an unspoken warning to passing travelers concerning the thin air that lays claim to new residents each climbing season -- including 11 souls this year. Those lucky enough to pass through their frozen neighborhood, unscathed en route to the summit, generally have three common characteristics: safety, stamina and Sherpas, or guides.


Aug. 28, 2006
Story ID#: 2006828131032
By Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola, 24th MEU

For Marines waging war on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism – and in the mountain ranges where madmen hide – safety, stamina and “sherpas” are also key ingredients to their mission’s success. Recently, in Dijibouti, Africa, Marines with Alpha, Charlie and Weapons companies, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), participated in a mountain assault course taught by the MEU’s assault climbers, a group of Marines trained to scale challenging terrain and “guide” a follow-on force to the fight.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Kanaley, a squad automatic weapon gunner and assault climber instructor with 2nd Platoon, Charlie Co., said that the purpose of the course is to teach infantry Marines sporting a “full combat load” the basic skills needed to move through a pre-established course and reach the top of the mountain ready to engage the enemy. Kanaley, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., explained that in addition to the information taught in the course, safety is paramount, because “people’s lives are hanging on ropes.”

“The idea is to move quickly, but to move up and down safely,” added Kanaley, whose job as a MEU “sherpa” could ask him to negotiate any difficult terrain in support of a raid force ranging from platoon-sized to battalion-level invasions. “This is a good course and gives the guys a general idea on how to use these installations.”

Course instructors set up three rope-climbing stations on a rocky slope – simple, fixed and semi-fixed – to give the Marines a hands-on class illustrating the techniques they’ll need to know for mountain combat. Cpl. Victor Rodriguez, a team leader and course instructor with Charlie Co., and a native of Brownsville, Texas, said the idea was to have them “go through the systems” that were set up for them in order to “become familiar and gain experience.”

“Our job, as assault climbers, is to make their job easier in getting up the mountain and getting to the fight,” said Rodriguez. “We show them how to get through.”

Ascending a mountain in full combat gear is a task that demands a great deal of stamina, a feat that Lance Cpl. Richard Gosch, a machine-gunner with Charlie Co. and a class participant, said was the toughest part of the course. Gosch said that climbing the unstable incline in Dijibouti’s searing heat gave each of the Marines an appreciation for the endurance needed for sustained operations in mountain warfare.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to do this in a mountain environment,” said Gosch. “I didn’t realize how tough climbing the actual mountain is on your body. After this we’ll be better prepared.”

For now, Marines are probably safe in the knowledge that they’ll most likely never scale Mt. Everest in pursuit of a fight. However, as madmen and jihadists continue to run out of places to hide, the day may come where – armed with safety, stamina and their “sherpas” – Marines will turn a battlefield “Dead Zone” into a high-altitude graveyard, complete with the stunned silence of terrorists who thought they were safe.

Click on any picture for credits and descriptions.

Programs help prepare, support families through deployments

Programs help prepare, support families through deployments

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- As members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit here make last-minute preparations for their upcoming deployment, Staff Sgt. Danny Sava and his family are getting their own affairs in order so they're ready for another long separation.


United States Marine Corps, Public Affairs Office
American Forces Press Service; Donna Miles
Release # 0830-06-0758
Aug. 28, 2006

The Sava family - Danny, a seven-year Marine, his wife of two years, Julia, and their children, Anthony, 10, and Alyssa, 18 months - offer insights into what a "typical" military family faces during deployments and the importance of the services the military provides to help them.

Less than three weeks before Danny and 2,300 fellow Marines leave here for six months of duty as U.S. Central Command's theater reserve, the Savas told American Forces Press Service they've got a handle on their family affairs.

Sava, the 15th MEU's data chief, is drawing up a list of details and contact information for Julia. The family bill-payer, he set up automatic online payments and is making sure she knows where to find his will, power of attorney, Social Security card and other important documents. "We're trying our best to get everything together and get squared away," Julia said.

The Savas already have endured one deployment as a family - when Danny was in Iraq and Julia was experiencing a difficult pregnancy until Alyssa's birth two months before her daddy's homecoming. The family lived off base during the last deployment, and Julia's doctor warned her not to drive. Fortunately, her parents didn't live far away and were able to pitch in when she needed it. "That's what kept me going," she said.

Danny made his presence felt at home the best he could by calling whenever possible, sending frequent e-mails and photos and picking up souvenirs for Anthony during port calls. "Frequent communication let me know he was OK and gave me peace of mind," Julia said. "It made a big difference."

Now that they have one deployment under their belts, the Savas say this time they pretty much know what to expect.

With the family now living on base and Julia serving as a key volunteer for the 15th MEU's family support network, they're hoping the deployment will go a bit easier than the last one. In her volunteer role, Julia will serve as a conduit between the unit and other Marine spouses, keeping the information channels open and helping steer families to any help they might need during the deployment. "We pass information to them and let them know what's going on," she said.

A vast volunteer network is just one part of the array of resources and services Camp Pendleton offers its 18,000 families to help them cope during deployments, explained Veronica Largent, assistant branch manager for the base's Family Team Building and Community Support effort.

The program has grown by leaps and bounds since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the launch of the war on terror and the corresponding acceleration in the Marines' deployment cycles.

The program's offerings span the full deployment cycle, from pre-deployment briefings to prepare families for what's ahead to support groups during the deployment to a Warrior Transition Briefing that helps redeploying Marines transition back to their roles at home, Largent explained.

In addition to committing more resources to family support, the Marines are fine-tuning their support network to make it more proactive to families' needs, she said.

For example, "family readiness officer" was once an additional duty that rotated between Marines as they came and went. Now the base has hired full-time civilian employees, such as Bill Bonney, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's family readiness officer, to bring experience and continuity to the job.

The base also established task-organized response teams, made up of professional counselors and other family experts, to bring families together and assist them through bumpy spots during deployments. "It was an opportunity to bring spouses together and allow them to vent and express their concerns, with counselors able to take that discussion and steer it in a constructive way," said Lisa Stehle, team leader for the base's LINKS program.

The program, better known for its acronym than its full name -- Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills program -- has proved to be invaluable in bringing Marine families into the fold of the base support program, officials said. They describe LINKS as "Marine Corps 101," an eight-hour workshop that teaches families about the Marine Corps, how it's organized and what services it provides. "It's the single most important program we have," said Bonney, noting that this knowledge empowers family members to tap into programs offered to help them.

Like many family support programs here, LINKS is run by volunteers who shoulder the largest share of the load in taking care of families. Last year alone, this network of Marines, spouses, military retirees, base civilian employees and members of the local community, clocked 180,000 volunteer hours, said Emily McKinley, the volunteer program coordinator.

In addition to steering families toward the resources and services offered to help them, Camp Pendleton's programs aim to ensure they understand the family dynamics that take place before, during and after a deployment, explained Deborah Smith-Porter, a readiness support coordinator and key volunteer trainer.

"There's an emotional cycle of deployment, and a lot of times spouses don't realize that," said Smith-Porter, a Marine wife who's held down the homestead during her husband's three deployments. "They might fight a lot just before the deployments and have doubts about their marriage. They might go through a stage where they are mad at their Marine and mad at the whole Corps. We teach them about this cycle and let them know that this is all perfectly normal."

As spouses of deployed Marines support each other, they form bonds that officials said many simply can't find outside the base network. Frequently families like the Savas, who counted on their extended family for support during the deployment, begin seeking that support from their Marine Corps family, Smith-Porter said.

"At home with your parents, the same support system of understanding just isn't there," she said. "Military spouses are a special breed who understand what you're experiencing. The Marine Corps family is a very small family, but we are very supportive of each other."

"We are spouses, and we are in this together," agreed Stehle. "So we circle the wagons and take care of each other."

Rebecca Rider, a family member employment assistance specialist and Marine wife, said he's proud of Camp Pendleton's programs and the support it offers families. "If spouses grab hold of these programs, they won't be disappointed," she said.

As the base's family support program has evolved, a new level of cooperation has developed between the base's operational side and its support side. "We're working more closely together and understand each other better," Largent said. "We're synchronizing our efforts and, as a result, ensuring we are providing the services needed."

"It's really part of taking care of our own," said Lloyd Thorne, supervisor for Marine Family Team Building and a retired Marine. And that, he said, ultimately boils down to supporting the Marine Corps mission. "It's so they can do their job and keep their head in the game," Thorne said. "That's what it ultimately comes down to."

Col. Brian Beaudreault, the 15th MEU commander, praised the support services being offered to his Marines and their families. He noted with pride that on his past deployment, he didn't have to send a single Marine home to take care of a family problem. "There wasn't an issue that arose that my key volunteers couldn't handle," he said. "I have total confidence in them."

As Beaudreault's unit prepares to deploy in early September, he said he's counting on the family support network to look out for his Marines' families. "A commander can't do this alone," he said. "We count on them and the support they offer."

As the Savas prepare for the MEU's deployment, Julia said she knows she has to be extra strong once again - not just for her children, but also for her husband, who's counting on her so he can focus on his mission. It won't be easy, she acknowledged, particularly knowing that he'll be gone over Christmas and for both of his children's birthdays.

But Julia said she's determined to make the deployment a success. "We'll make it," she said. "We'll be OK."

For now, little Alyssa toddles around base with an infectious ear-to-ear grin, blissfully unaware that her father will soon be leaving. Ten-year-old Anthony understands all too well what's ahead, keeping a brave face as he promises to be a big help to his mother while his Marine father is deployed. "I get used to it," Anthony said of Danny's absence, "but I kind of miss him."

As he utters the words with a brave smile on his face, a tear forms in his left eye and slowly rolls down his cheek.

Summer Reading Program wraps up with 'Pirate' party

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Aug. 28, 2006) -- This year’s Summer Reading Program, coordinated by Marine Corps Community Services here, and the Base Library, officially came to end Aug. 12 during an official Wrap Up Party held in the Reading Room of the library. The festivities began at 1 p.m. and ended at 2 p.m.


Aug. 28, 2006; Submitted on: 08/21/2006 02:48:10 PM ; Story ID#: 2006821144810

By Lance Cpl. Ryan Trevino, MCB Hawaii

During the party, certificates of completion were handed out to program participants who completed at least one reading log during the summer months. A book drawing and give away, using books donated by library patrons, was also held during the event.

The Summer Reading Program is geared toward encouraging children, from infants to 18 year olds, to become more active readers, according to Program Coordinator Merri Fernandez, MCCS. Even if the child is too young to read for his or herself, the parents or older siblings of that child are encouraged to read to them as much as possible. According to Murray Visser, head librarian, if children have positive reading experiences when they are young, then they are more likely to become lifelong readers.

“We hope to instill a love of books that will stay with them the rest of their lives,” said Fernandez. “We want children to realize reading is not a chore, it’s a great adventure.”

“The earlier a child starts to read, the better student they will be later in school,” added Visser.

MCCS decided to play on the phrase, “reading is a great adventure”, by declaring this year’s theme, “Voyage to Bookaneer Bay.” Keeping with the pirate theme, the children were given a treasure map used to keep track when and what they read during the passing weeks, according to Fernandez.

“Each week they put a sticker on their map and were then able to choose a prize from our treasure chest,” she added.

McDonalds of Hawaii, the program’s sponsor, also chipped in and provided the children with coupons, good at participating McDonalds, as an added incentive to read.

According to Fernandez, the reading requirements for completing a reading log depended on the child’s age and reading ability. Young children needed at least 15 books read to them, she explained, and the older children were required to read a certain amounts depending upon their grade level.

Prizes were awarded to the top readers in five age categories, which included: 0 - 3, 4 - 6, 7 - 9, 10 - 12, and 13 - 18.

Now in the program’s 15th year, participation is at an all-time high with more than 200 children signing up for the program, declared Fernandez.

“I really enjoyed our theme this year, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s program.

For more information on the Summer Reading Program and other events contact the Base Library at 254-7624.

For credits and description of photo, please click on the picture

Company B Ready For Active Duty In Iraq

A group of U.S. Marines based in South Bend is preparing to go back to the front lines of the war in Iraq.



Members of Company B have been training at Camp Pendleton in California. This is the second time in three years they've been called on to serve in Iraq.

The Marines will clear routes in that country so coalition forces can safely get through. That means anything from breaking down barricades to finding and dismantling landmines and other explosives.

“They’ve got a very special IED identification mission over there,” Maj. Mark Boone, the commanding officer, told WSBT News. “So these Marines are going to be at the top of the sphere for the U.S. and our cause.”

The 135-member company leaves Saturday. And with less than two days until they ship out, they say there is little down-time.

“As soon as we got here it was hit the ground running and just a non-stop continuous training schedule,” said Sgt. Scott Leeper from Mishawaka.

Company B has been training for five weeks, and is scheduled to stay in Iraq for at least seven months.

Lance Corporal Bo Ennis, a 20-year-old from Walkerton, says this is what he’s been training for and he’s excited to put his training to use.

“It’s about time,” Ennis said Thursday. “The other Marines and I have really just been waiting to get over there and do our job and we finally get to do it.”

August 27, 2006

S. Dade Marine injured in Iraq

Patrick Howard was determined to become a Marine as a teenager in South Miami-Dade. After being seriously injured in Iraq last month, he hasn't lost his will to fight.

Patrick Howard heard his blood dripping onto the floor. He was on a mesh stretcher, a doctor leaning over him. His right arm was motionless, and he struggled to speak. Only a year out of high school, the 20-year-old Marine from South Miami-Dade faced his mortality last month on the battlefield in Iraq.


Miami Herald Writer
August 27, 2006

''Am I going to die or what?'' he asked.

Doctors tore off his bloodied uniform and rushed him to a hospital in Ramadi. The last thing he remembers is screaming in pain.

Across the world in Orlando, Wallace Howard got a call on his way to work. He recognized the number and thought he knew what was coming. A voice on the other end stiffly asked him: Is this the father of Lance Cpl. Patrick Howard?

''I really contained myself,'' he said. ``I was getting ready to lose it.''

But instead of hearing about the death of his son, Wallace Howard was told that Patrick was seriously injured. He had been hit by two 82 mm mortar rounds while on one-man guard duty. It was July 18.

Thirteen hours passed before Howard and his wife, Bertha, found out that their son was in stable condition. Of course, ''stable condition'' could mean anything.

''The important thing was that we understood that he was alive, and that's all that mattered,'' Howard said. Patrick was quickly sent back to the United States and woke up from a drug-induced coma four days after the attack to see his parents by his side.

A young man who many describe as brave and determined, Howard made his own decision to join the Marine Corps. His friends and family are supporters of the military but were apprehensive about his choice. His parents were frightened for his safety, and his fiancée thought too many young men were risking their lives in a war ``blown out of proportion.''

But throughout his teenage years in Miami, Howard knew he wanted to serve. He signed up for duty in November 2004, during his senior year at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in West Kendall and entered boot camp two days after graduation in May 2005.

''I wanted the experience of going over there and doing something,'' he said by telephone from his hospital bed at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Maryland. ``It was something that I thought was cool.''

Howard was deployed to Iraq in March, spending four months there before he was injured. Now, he has a laundry list of injuries: one lost kidney, lacerated liver, bruised lung, broken arm and leg, broken ribs. At one point he thought he might lose his right arm. He already has had 12 surgeries -- another is scheduled for Tuesday -- and months of rehab are ahead.

Despite his frustration at being temporarily confined to a hospital bed and a wheelchair, he sticks by his decision to become a Marine. He is proud to serve his country.

''I wouldn't change it for anything, to be honest,'' he said.

He's optimistic about his recovery, and his family is just glad he's home. On Aug. 1, President Bush visited Bethesda and personally placed the Purple Heart on his chest. Miss America, Miss Virginia, Ozzy Osbourne and an aide to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all came to visit.

He was especially honored when Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, came by; As only one out of 180,000 Marines under Hagee's command, Howard was amazed that he warranted a visit.

JoAnna Rodriguez, his fiancée, said she was actually relieved when she first saw him in the hospital days after he was injured, even though his body was covered in tubes and he couldn't move his arm.

''You expect the worst when someone tells you he was basically blown up,'' Rodriguez, 18, said. ``Honestly, I was relieved to see he was in one piece.''

The couple met at Carroll High School during Howard's senior year. His teachers describe him as a gentleman who is shy but enthusiastic and focused. Rodriguez had to introduce herself. The two got more serious throughout the school year. Howard talked constantly about becoming a Marine.

''It was something I saw that really motivated him,'' said teacher Nikki Gantz, who taught both students British literature. Although she didn't want him to go, she encouraged him to do what he wanted.

Carroll High is a small Catholic school. Howard's graduating class numbered 123. Like at many Miami high schools, the military comes to career fairs and encourages students to join. But most Carroll High students opt for college.

So when Howard told his history teacher, Lissette Hernandez, that he was going to become a Marine, she was furious. He was like many of her students, she said, bright but not excited about his schoolwork. She knew he was capable of doing anything but the only thing he was passionate about was being a Marine, she said.

''He's very brave, very headstrong, and he was very determined to go in,'' she said.

Since hearing about his injuries, students and teachers at the school have sent him cards and kept up on his progress.

Howard also received letters from people he doesn't know. His father wrote about his son's injuries on www.MarineParents.com, a website where parents of Marines can get information and support. Soon, dozens of parents from all over the nation posted that they were praying for Howard's recovery and sent letters to the hospital. The website's founder, Tracy Della Vecchia, constantly talked to Wallace Howard and posted updates on Patrick's condition.

''It actually feels pretty good,'' Patrick Howard said. ``A lot of times out there in Iraq, sometimes you wonder if people forgot about you. Sometimes you feel so lonely and wonder if people really care.''

He faces a long road ahead. Within the next two weeks, he will be airlifted to the VA Hospital in Tampa to begin intensive rehab. For a while, he'll have to travel back to Bethesda for more surgery. Eventually, he will live with his parents outside Orlando and commute to Tampa while Rodriguez attends Miami Dade College.

As Rodriguez describes the future she and Howard are planning -- living in Miami, having children, going to college -- she gets a call. It's him. He got the homemade cookies she sent.

The two constantly talk, and she has stayed as confident as him throughout the ordeal.

''You know what?'' she said. ``Sometimes in life you get things that are unexpected, and you have to deal with it in the moment.''

Dancers Land in Iraq. Marines Offer No Resistance.

HADITHA DAM, Iraq — One by one, the marines took the stage for one of the most coveted photo opportunities of the war. Tanea sat on a knee of an eager marine while Laurie rested on the other.


Published: August 27, 2006

Hands on their miniskirted hips, Amber and Renee posed at each side. Dani stood behind and held the marine’s rifle as the camera snapped the photo. Some of the young marines who lined up for the memento were so mesmerized by the experience that they had to be reminded not to leave their weapons behind.

The Haditha Dam is in a hostile stretch of the Euphrates River 140 miles northwest of Baghdad where the marines do battle with insurgents in the oppressive heat. But for a few hours this summer, the chow hall inside the dam was transformed into a theater for five shapely dancers who seemed to embody many a young marine’s fantasy.

It was all part of a program to keep up morale in a war that is more dangerous than ever. There is a long history of providing entertainment for troops in war zones, including performances by attractive starlets. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell toured with Bob Hope in Korea, who delighted troops during four conflicts. Raquel Welch and Ann-Margret performed in Vietnam.

But at Haditha Dam, the marines have the Purrfect Angelz, as the dancers are known. Their tours, which organizers say are paid for by the military, have occasionally stirred some controversy. During the group’s 2005 visit to Baghdad, a female Air Force officer complained that the dancers’ wardrobes and routines encouraged insensitive attitudes toward women in the military.

On the group’s third tour of Iraq, there were no complaints from the boisterous crowd of male marines at the dam or the solitary soldier in the audience from Azerbaijan, who mistook the Oklahoma-born Tanea for a Russian. A small group of Iraqi Army officers who are being trained by the marines were so enthusiastic they all but rushed the stage and filled their digital cameras with this sampling of American culture.

Sgt. Dale Gooden, 31, a Marine reservist from Jacksonville, Fla., who is assigned to the dam security unit, saw the show as a sign that the American public had not forgotten about the troops. The most impressive part of the show, he said, was “just the fact that they came out here to see us.”

Certainly, Haditha Dam seems an unlikely venue. The 10-story hydroelectric dam, which was built in the 1980’s, was captured in the opening weeks of the American-led invasion. The secret Delta Force destroyed much of the Iraqi defenses near the dam, while Army Rangers swooped in later to seize the structure.

The Americans said the dam had to be taken to prevent Saddam Hussein from destroying it as part of a scorched-earth policy, though there is no indication that Mr. Hussein ever had such a plan. It was a firefight at the dam, in fact, that initially put it at risk. After discovering that the poorly maintained dam was damaged in the fighting, a sergeant in an Army civil affairs unit flew to the site and worked with the Iraqi engineers to keep the dam functioning.

During a multimillion-dollar repair project by the Army Corps of Engineers, the dam’s turbines were rehabilitated. In addition to generating electricity, the dam also serves as a headquarters for the Marine battalion that is charged with securing the Haditha area and is home to a small contingent of troops from Azerbaijan who are helping the marines guard the structure.

For the Purrfect Angelz, it was a stop on a tour that also took them to bases like Al Qaim and Taji. The dancers, former cheerleaders, calendar models and aspiring actresses, have an active schedule in the United States, much of which consists of events for motorcycle riders. By design, the routines at Haditha are a bit tamer than the biker fare.

“We want to make it more about talent than being risqué,” Tanea Brooks said. “We are not going to boost every part of the morale.” Her credits include a three-year stint as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, a role in a country music video, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by Trace Adkins, and a turn as quarterback for the New York Euphoria, one of the teams that established the Lingerie Football League, in which models played football dressed in underwear.

But for marines who deploy for seven months at a stretch, are forbidden to consume alcohol, have no real opportunities for social interaction with the Iraqi population and routinely travel down roads seeded by roadside bombs, the performance was exciting enough. “Servicemen are our best audience,” said Ms. Brooks, who gave her age as “21 forever.” “They are so appreciative. We love touring for them. They always get excited.”

[David Chavez, the president of Pro Sports MVP, which organized the tour, said that it was paid for by the military and that the expenses consisted of travel costs and small stipends. A Pentagon spokesman said he had no immediate information on what the tour cost or the financial arrangements.]

A recent show began with an entreaty by a diligent sergeant who saw the event as an opportunity to appeal to the marines to re-enlist. He was loudly shouted down. An announcer who was traveling with the dance group told the marines not to pay attention to news media reports that the American public did not support the war. The nation, she said, was solidly behind them.

Then the dancers, in revealing outfits, energetically performed dance routines that were more rousing than most Super Bowl halftime acts — wardrobe malfunctions notwithstanding — but far less provocative than Las Vegas shows. At one point, one of the Angelz sang Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA,” a veritable anthem for many of the troops.

The event wound up with the photo and autograph session. Then it was on to the next stop.

The troops’ verdict on the tour seemed to be summed up by an e-mail message that an Army captain later sent the dancers from the base at Taji. He thanked them for helping to “make us forget about our jobs for a little while.”

Thank you, Lance Cpl.Toben Medeiros

The war in Iraq doesn't have one face. It has many.
Readers of The Standard-Times gazed into one of them Tuesday when they read about the injured Marine Lance Cpl. Toben Medeiros, 21, of Dartmouth, who is among the 19,323 service personnel the Department of Defense says has been wounded in the more than three years that U.S. troops have fought in Iraq after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein's government. Other groups say the number of Americans wounded is much higher. These wounded are in addition to the 2,601 servicemen and women who have given their lives during the Iraq war.


Lance Cpl. Medeiros was wounded in one of the most common ways to get hurt or killed in Iraq: a roadside bomb that exploded while his squad attempted to evacuate a building under fire. His best friend, a member of the same squad, was killed in the blast.

Lance Cpl. Medeiros suffered serious wounds to his arm and hand, and his legs. He also lost an eye, which was replaced last week with a prosthetic. He has lost sensation, muscle control and flexibility from the injuries, and he will undergo long months of rehabilitation as he recovers. Stitches run across his body.

The Iraq war is far away, but it has come closer to home this year with three local service personnel killed in combat or accidents.

All of us take pride in Lance Cpl. Medeiros, and the other men and women from SouthCoast and elsewhere across the country who put their lives on the line each day because they chose to serve in the military, electing to do their part on our behalf.

We all know that, but we don't remember to say thank you often enough. Regardless of our individual opinions about the war and its justification, we must remember that when we decide to use force to accomplish political objectives, it is not only planes and tanks and missiles that we send into combat, but our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers.

Some of them do not come back whole. Some do not come back at all. We must honor them and their families, and do everything within our power to restore them.

Thank you, Lance Cpl. Medeiros, and all those who have sacrificed so much for what you believe in.

Chadwick Thomas Kenyon

Chadwick Thomas Kenyon January 4, 1986 - August 20, 2006 Gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country while serving in the US Navy in Iraq and is now in the presence of the Kingdom of God.


the Tucson
View/Sign Guest Book: http://www.legacy.com/tucson/Guestbook.asp?Page=GuestBook&PersonID;=19000001

Beloved son of Charmaine Wright and Douglas H. Kenyon, Jr. Also survived by numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Preceded in death by maternal grandparents, Major (Ret.) and Mrs. Arthur J. Alley. Chad graduated from Mountain View High School in 2004 and enlisted in the US Navy through the delayed entry program. He was a Navy Hospital Corpsman and was attached to the Third L.A.R. Battalion, First Marine Division, 29 Palms, CA and succumbed to injuries suffered in an IED explosion during combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Chad was an avid U of A Wildcat fan, had a passion for music and the Boston Red Sox. In his brief life he accomplished many things and served his country with great pride. Chad's military commendations awarded were Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) pin, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He was loved and will be missed by all who knew him. Services Saturday, September 2, 2006, 1:00 p.m. at EVERGREEN MORTUARY, N. Oracle & W. Miracle Mile. The Chadwick T. Kenyon Memorial Fund has been established at Alliance Bank of Arizona, 4703 E. Camp Lowell Dr., Tucson, AZ 85712 Account # 801001 "What children take from us, they give...We become people who feel more deeply, question more deeply, hurt more deeply, and love more deeply." Dear Chad, my hero, My heart is forever broken. I will love and miss you forever until we are reunited again. With Great Pride and Love Always, Mama.

Stockings filled with care

PEORIA -- Every first Thursday of the month, the Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines meet to swap stories, offer advice and share the indescribable feeling of having a loved one serve in the Marine Corps.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saturday, the group and various volunteers met at Northwoods Community Church at 10700 N. Allen Road to cut, pin and sew 600 stockings for Marines serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. They hope to complete 10,000 stockings filled with food, toiletries and DVDs by November.

Patti Smith, president and co-founder of CIPFM, is the mother of two Marines. Her sons' involvement with the military taught her for the first time how much a gesture from home can mean to the troops.

"I just became aware of so many needs that I couldn't handle alone," Smith said. "It's an honor and a privilege to help."

Smith formed CIPFM in October 2005 after her sons Jesse, 26 and Josey, 24, joined the Marines. The pair signed up within six months of each other and were deployed to Iraq.

At the time, Smith had little knowledge of the military, so she researched and sought out people who also had family in the Marines. Her search led to the creation of CIPFM.

The group provides packages and support to troops, wounded, veterans and military families. But it also provides a place for families of Marines to find camaraderie.

Sue Pagel had trouble finding people who understood her situation when her son Jason Pagel, 31, left for 15 months with the Marines in Afghanistan. By the time he came home this March, however, Pagel had the kinship of CIPFM members.

"Until this group started, it was like you were on your own," Sue Pagel said. "There was support, but not this sisterly thing."

Pagel needs the understanding of Marine families now more than ever. Her son currently is at an undisclosed location in the Middle East with Marine special forces.

Pagel's niece, Michelle Reed, and Reed's fiance, both Army soldiers, are in Iraq.

Reed assured Pagel the stockings will be appreciated when they are sent in November.

"When my niece was in Korea, she said, 'You don't have a day where you don't wonder if everyone's forgotten you're here,'" Pagel said, wiping a tear from her eye.

Tom Elliott of Pekin hasn't had a child overseas yet. His son Matt Elliott, 24, just graduated boot camp. But he's already firmly committed to letting overseas troops know they're in his thoughts.

"We just want to support the men and women who are there (in Iraq and Afghanistan)," Elliott said. "It's like Patti said, let central Illinois know we haven't forgotten them."

Vicki Dobrinsky, a member of CIPFM, hopes the stockings will boost morale while troops are away for the holidays. Dobrinsky's son PFC Anthony J. Dobrinsky, 20, is stationed in Virginia Beach, Va.

"I'm hoping it lifts their spirits and gives them a taste of home," Dobrinsky said.

"Life over there isn't quite what they're used to and hopefully this will brighten their day."

Emily Anderson can be reached at 686-3114 or [email protected]

‘Gators’ prowl highways near Fallujah

'Team Gator' Marines manuever their amphibious assault vehicle around a corner as the start of a patrol down the highways surrounding Fallujah, Iraq. Team Gator, built around D Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, patrols the highways to keep them clear of improvised explosive devices and insurgent attackers. The roads are vital to move forces and supplies throughout the area of operations.

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 26, 2006) -- Forget murky swamps or backyard swimming pools. Regimental Combat Team 5 has “Gators” stalking the six-lane highways surrounding Fallujah.


Aug. 26, 2006; Submitted on: 08/27/2006 05:34:11 AM ; Story ID#: 200682753412
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines from D Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, RCT-5, are skulking the main roads surrounding Fallujah. They’re on the hunt, looking to clamp down on anyone trying to shut down the well-traveled routes for Coalition Forces. Their favorite prey is improvised explosive device emplacers and the roadside bombs they employ.

Team Gator, built around D Company, is tasked with keeping the main routes in the area open for Coalition and civilian traffic. Marines drive their 27-ton amphibious assault vehicles constantly. Day and night, the amtracs, a holdover nickname when earlier generations of the vehicle were called amphibious tractors, keep the main routes clear. It’s a mission that’s taxing physically and mentally, and requires an alligator’s thick skin to endure.

“We’re out there looking for IEDs and possible ambush sites,” said Staff Sgt. Justin K. Mayville, a 28-year-old section leader from Killeen, Texas. “The ‘amtracs,’ are well-suited for this kind of mission. They’re good on open-terrain and highways and stand up well against IEDs. They just get hot in the daytime.”

Nighttime isn’t much better. On a recent patrol, Marines loaded their amtracs, or “hogs” as they affectionately call them, and churned off into the inky-black moonless night. It was a ritualistic hunt. The roads they haunt are their hunting grounds, and they know them well.

“If we’re not doing this, another section is doing it, every day,” Mayville explained. “Marines know this area well and they know what to look for.”

That’s because Team Gator creeps their beasts along the roads at a patient, persistent pace. Headlights on, the lumbering amtrac beasts chug down the road, bellowing diesel smoke in a throaty groan. Marines ride high, perched in their stations or stand in the back, heads and rifles poking out from the open hatches.

“We’re looking for anything out of the ordinary,” said Lance Cpl. John D. Darmody, a 20-year-old amtrac crewman from Allen Park, Mich. “We’re looking to see something new in the road that we haven’t seen before.”

Darmody explained Team Gator has traveled up and down the same stretches of highway so often, they know the identifying features. They can pinpoint patch jobs on the road surface from repairs to craters left from previous IEDs. Pieces of trash, canisters, even shrubs that didn’t seem to be there the day before are tell-tale signs that something is amiss. That’s when Team Gator gets ready to pounce.

“That’s one of the main things about patrolling,” explained Cpl. Manuel A. Castellanos, a 24-year-old crewman from New York City. “You get out there and mastermind you’re whole area and patrol your whole area. That’s how you know when something’s not right.”

The patrol of amtracs hefted their armored vehicles onto the highway and for hours scanned every possible spot to hide a roadside bomb. The pace was painstakingly slow, as they rumbled their way down the asphalt. Choking acrid diesel smoke mixed with the syrupy-sweet odor of transmission fluid and oil. The vibration was enough to shake loose dental fillings, and the heat wafted up from the belly of the machines to the point that the warm summer night breezes were a welcome escape.

“It wears a lot on the Marines,” Mayville explained. “I try to break the monotony of the road noise. I try not to take the same path. I change the routes.”

Marines steered their hulking amtracs in long, flowing loops. They traveled one side of the highway with their eyes glued to the roadside landscape under the dim headlights. The turned around and the metal tracks ground against the pavement, sometimes sending up tiny sparks as they headed back in the opposite direction.

Patrols like this seem to last forever. Darmody said he’s been on patrols such as this that lasted 12 hours.

“The patrols are pretty hard,” he said. “It’s the length and the heat that get to you.”

“It’s more than being awake,” Castellanos added. “You have to constantly be on guard. You can’t get complacent.”

Marines resorted to a few tried methods to keep aware when they’re on a Gator hunt. Darmody slipped below his turret to light cigarettes every so often, as much to keep himself awake as to pass the time. Occasionally, he smacked his helmet, jolting himself from the drowsiness that settled in.

For Castellanos, it was the radio that kept him focused. It maintained his awareness and the voice he heard in his ear was a reassurance he’s not on this hunt alone.

“We do a lot of talking over the radios,” he said. “Knowing you can talk to your guys on the ‘trac’ and in your section, you know you are going to make it through the night.”

Mayville said he’s got a simple solution. It’s a cooler packed with ice and water.

“It’s a big morale booster,” he said. “In the evening, it’s not so bad, but you can count on it being 20-30 degrees hotter inside the ‘trac.’ We push a lot of water.”

The glow of headlights filled the horizon several hours into the patrol. Marines edged their amtracs off the road to make room for the passing convoy. Nearly 70-vehicles large, the convoy rolled by. They carried everything from complete humvees loaded on flatbed trailers to fuel trucks and supplies.

The fact the convoy rolled through, unhindered and unscathed, was proof to Team Gator they made a difference.

“This job is very important,” Mayville said. “That’s a main supply route we’re on.”

“That let’s us know we’re doing our job when they can move freely,” Castellanos added.

Team Gator Marines nosed their vehicles back into Camp Fallujah after several hours and dozens of loops up and down the highway. Back inside the safety of the camp, they edged their hungry “hogs” to the camp’s fuel farm, where Army soldiers were refilling fuel bladders. They were likely the part of the same convoy they watched passed hours earlier.

“It makes you feel good knowing they’re replenishing everything from fuel to food for the chow hall,” Mayville explained. “We kept that road open for them so they could bring the stuff here that keeps Marines happy.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions

Scouts roll up mother-lode in cache find

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 26, 2006) -- Cpl. Joshua D. Milligan’s first words when he uncovered his largest weapons cache can’t be printed.

He used the word “holy,” but there was nothing religious about the second word.


Aug. 26, 2006; Submitted on: 08/27/2006 06:10:47 AM ; Story ID#: 200682761047
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

Scouts from TOW Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, recently uncovered their largest weapons cache yet. They found the enormous stash of weapons in the back of a blue “Bongo” truck while conducting snap vehicle checkpoints along one of the regularly patrolled roads near Fallujah. They detained two insurgents along with confiscating hundreds of munitions and weapons.

TOW Platoon is attached to Team Gator, centered around D Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion. They are serving in the Fallujah area with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“I told the other Marines to get over here, I needed them to flex cuff these guys,” said Milligan, a 22-year-old from Greenville, S.C. “It seemed like such a dumb place to hide it.”

Milligan and his team of scouts were conducting routine operations along a main highway near Fallujah when they pulled the blue Bongo truck over to inspect it. Initially, they had nothing to suspect there would be any weapons. Bongo trucks are driven by many Iraqis, especially farmers.

Marines approached the truck and asked the drivers to get out.

“They were really calm,” Milligan said. “I asked them to open the back and they didn’t hesitate. Inside, there were rice bags, covered in blankets and plastic chairs. It looked like they just threw them in.”

Milligan said that caused him to raise an eyebrow. It appeared to him that the rice bags were being intentionally covered. Marines started to question the Iraqi men.

One man produced an identification card, titled “National Counter-terrorism of Iraq,” according to Sgt. Thomas W. Busch, a 26-year-old from St. Paul, Neb. He said he never heard of any organization such as that and his suspicions were soon borne out.

Milligan continued his search while Marines spoke to the two Iraqi men. He reached his hands under the blankets and felt what he thought was a handle to a rocket-propelled grenade launcher inside one of the rice bags. That’s when he uttered the two words that can’t be printed.

Milligan cut open the bag and had proof. Inside were several RPG launchers, rusted, but otherwise usable.

“Not even the Iraqi Army is allowed to have RPGs, so we knew we had something,” Busch said.

Marines got to work getting the loot from inside the truck. They only grew more amazed.

Cpl. Andrew C. Lumbard, a 22-year-old from Canton, N.Y., described the truck as being about 15-feet long and six-feet wide. It was filled with the white rice bags.

“We started unloading from the front, and that part was all mortars,” said Cpl. John R. Morris, a 21-year-old from Chapel Hill, N.C. “We could tell everything was something bad. We pulled out mortars, ammo and flaks with plates.”

In addition to the other items, Marines uncovered more than 150 mortars, more than 100 pounds of TNT, binoculars, thermal sights, plastic explosives and nearly 40 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Multiple parts for making improvised explosive devices were also seized.

“There were probably more than 30,000 small-arms rounds in there too,” Busch added. “It took almost an hour to get it all unloaded. I couldn’t believe how much was in the back of that Bongo.”

Busch added that the most they usually found on a snap-VCP was an occasional pistol. This was the find of their deployment.

“It was a pretty sweet time for us,” Busch said.

“It probably made it worth it, sitting out there and sweating your butt off for two-and-a-half months,” Lumbard said.

Milligan said there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing they put a dent in the insurgents’ supply of weapons. They know that each weapon taken out of their hands means another Marine’s life saved.

“It feels good to be out there and find something,” Milligan said. “It helps with morale.”

It’s not the first time this team of scouts came up with strong results. They’ve found 13 IEDs and another two detonated, but yielded no harm, according to Busch. They’ve shot a couple of IED emplacing teams, killing at least one, wounding another and capturing still one more. Last deployment, they caught another team of insurgents moving IEDs.

This find, though, takes the cake.

“That’s in there for the high point of the deployment,” Busch said. “The recruiter never tells you you’ll go through three years of bull to get 10 minutes of fame.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

August 26, 2006

Marines in Iraq memorialize two Marines, sailor killed just weeks after deaths of four others from same unit

RAWAH, Iraq (Aug. 26, 2006) -- Just more than two weeks after memorializing four Marines killed in action, Marines serving in this region of Al Anbar province gathered to remember three more – two Marines and a sailor – who died last week during combat operations in Iraq.


Aug. 26, 2006
By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, Regimental Combat Team7

In a somber ceremony on the Marines’ outpost in this Euphrates River city Aug. 26, Marines and sailors from the southern California-based 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion memorialized: Cpl. Adam A. Galvez, a 21-year-old from Salt Lake City, Utah; Lance Cpl. Randy L. Newman, a 21-year-old from Bend, Ore., and Seaman Chadwick T. Kenyon, a 20-year-old from Tucson, Ariz.

All three men were part of the battalion’s Company D, which spent three months living out of their eight-wheeled, armored troop carriers – Light Armored Vehicles – combating insurgents and roadside bombs in Fallujah earlier this year.

The unit also conducted humanitarian missions in Kharma and Habbaniyah, large towns on Fallujah’s outskirts, and they provided security for a raid which resulted in the capture of a high ranking terrorist in Haditha, according to a July 7 report from Cpl. Graham A. Paulsgrove, the battalion’s combat correspondent.

For weeks at a time, the company lived out of their vehicles, slept inside or next to them, seldom returning to a base for a hot meal or shower, according to Paulsgrove’s report.

“They were Dragoon’s warriors. They were real warriors,” said 1st Sgt. Willie T. Ward III, of Galvez, Kenyon and Newman during the ceremony. Ward, a 38-year-old from Warner Robins, Ga., is the company’s senior enlisted advisor. “They were Wolf Pack. They were my brothers. I loved them.”

The deaths of the three men came on the heels of the deaths of four other Marines from the very same platoon within Company D: 2nd platoon. Sgt. Christian B. Williams, a 27-year-old from Winterhaven, Fla.; Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, a 28-year-old from Wolf Creek, Mont.; Lance Cpl. Anthony E. Butterfield, a 19-year-old from Clovis, Calif.; and Lance Cpl. Jason Hanson, a 21-year-old from Forks, Wash., were all killed due to combat operations here Aug. 2.

They were memorialized in a similar ceremony here Aug. 10. Galvez, Kenyon and Newman attended that ceremony.

During all of their exploits in eastern Al Anbar province, no one from Company D was killed. All six of the battalion’s deaths occurred during combat operations in this region of western Al Anbar province.

“It’s too soon since the last time we were remembering the loss of another group of Marines from the same company, from the same platoon, which has borne so much of the share of our losses during this fight,” said Lt. Col. Matthew L. Jones, the battalion’s commanding officer, during the service.

“These men – Adam Galvez, Chad Kenyon, Randy Newman – they lived for a lot more than just what was going on over here,” said Jones.

During the ceremony, Marines from Company D’s 2nd Platoon took turns speaking about their fallen comrades before a final roll call of the company’s men, and the playing of Taps.

Lance Cpl. Gary M. Cassen, a 19-year-old from Cofax, Calif., remembered Kenyon as a “person of principle, who did everything he could to the best of his abilities.”

Kenyon, who joined the Navy in August 2004 and 3rd LAR Battalion in May 2005, was someone who would “put his life on the line for others,” said Cassen. In fact, he was “glad to do it.”

“The Marine Corps and the Navy were lucky to have a person of this caliber,” said Cassen. “Chad loved his Marines as much as he loved his Navy.”

While Company D was in Fallujah, Kenyon treated several casualties, including one Marine who was shot in the chest. Luckily, the Marine’s body armor stopped the enemy round from penetrating.

“Rounds would start going off and Chad would be in the front running and gunning,” said Cassen, who also spoke in remembrance of Butterfield during the unit’s Aug. 10 memorial service. “After everything had calmed down, we would be like, ‘Hey Chad, you need to stay in the vehicle until someone gets hurt.’ But he would look you dead in the eyes and say, ‘And what? Let you have all the fun?’”

Less than three weeks before his death, Galvez was promoted to his current rank in Al Asad, Iraq – a large, U.S. military airbase southeast of Rawah – where he was recuperating from previous combat injuries.

An LAV mechanic by trade, Galvez, who joined the Marine Corps two years ago this month, was transferred from the battalion’s Headquarters Company to Company D as a replacement driver while the unit was in Fallujah. He was “always willing to go the extra mile” to help others, according to Lance Cpl. Alberto Garcia, a 22-year-old from Corpus Christi, Texas, and scout for Company D’s 2nd Platoon

“He was a real motivator when he came to us,” said Garcia. “He was our driver and our mechanic, but most of all he was a great friend.”

Garcia recalled when Galvez was injured – a roof fell on him and several other Marines after a suicide bomber detonated a truck laden with explosives near a U.S. military outpost in Rawah. Galvez told Garcia that he believed his ankle was broken, but when Garcia went to get help, Galvez freed himself from the rubble, ignored his pain, and tried to help others injured from the blast, according to Garcia.

“He grabbed his weapon, hobbled around, he helped me dig the rest of the Marines out,” said Garcia. “Even after help got there, Doc Kenyon had to force Cpl. Galvez to get (medically evacuated) on the vehicle.”

Moreover, Garcia said Galvez was a person of strong character, and turned down the opportunity to return to the U.S. after he was injured.

“He decided to stay side-by-side with his platoon until this deployment was over,” said Garcia. “This goes to show you what kind of person, and more importantly, what kind of Marine he is.”

“I think I speak for everybody – we love you, we miss you, take care, God bless,” said Garcia.

Cpl. Benjamin T. Bosse, a 25-year-old from Coopersville, Mich., and LAV “gunner” for 2nd platoon, said Newman was “from Oregon, and damn proud of it, but yet, he was even prouder to be a Marine.”

“He wasn’t just any Marine, he was a brother to us. He joined our family,” said Bosse, who was Newman’s roommate back in the U.S. “He will be remembered, not as a Marine, but as a brother.”

Newman was also a man with goals, said Bosse, who always had dreams of “becoming this, or becoming that.”

“I remember him ... telling me, ‘You know, I may be a driver, but I’m gonna be a gunner,’” said Bosse. “And it happened – he was a gunner.”

Following the ceremony, the 100-plus Marines, sailors and soldiers in attendance filed off to pay final respects to the fallen Marines’ and sailor’s memories, represented in true military fashion at the service – military helmets set atop three rifles, stuck bayonet-first into a wooden pedestal and adorned with each fallen Marine’s dog tags draped around each rifle’s hand grip.

“We can’t look at this as though we’ve lost two Marines and one Navy corpsman,” said Cassen. “But as if we’ve gained three guardian angels.”

“What’s important to remember, is that they weren’t just Marines and sailors,” said Jones. “They were your friends, your brothers.”

Third LAR Battalion, which is based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., is part of Regimental Combat Team 7, and arrived in Iraq in March.

RCT-7 is the U.S. military unit responsible for providing security and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces in western Anbar – an area more than 30,000 square-miles in size which stretches from the Jordanian and Syrian borders hundreds of miles east to Hit, a city about 70 miles northwest of Ramadi.

This is the battalion’s third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The battalion will be replaced by another Marine unit later this year.

Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: [email protected]

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

1/5 conquers the ‘mountain of warriors’

MOUNT FUJI, Japan (Aug. 26, 2006) -- Mount Fuji was once used as a Samurai training area, named by the Japanese as the “mountain of warriors.” The warrior tradition was upheld Aug. 26 when approximately 220 Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team, trekked nearly 4,300 feet to the mountain’s summit.


Aug. 26, 2006; Submitted on: 08/29/2006 05:29:07 AM ; Story ID#: 20068295297
By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

The combination of steep rocky slopes, cold weather and high altitude made the hike one of their most challenging and strenuous physical training activities, said Lance Cpl. Edward Wilson, a Weapons Company mortarman with the BLT.

“If there is ever an example of perseverance and strong-willed performance to tackle a personal challenge, it is to climb Mt. Fuji,” said the Niceville, Flor., Native.

Fuji walking sticks ornamented with Japanese flags and bells added to the color of the parade, as hundreds of hikers accompanied the battalion up the mountainside. Throughout their climb, many of the service members proudly displayed their walking sticks with stamped seals to track their progress through different stations along the trail.

There were many non-tangible benefits that were gained from the climb, explained Capt. Stephen Fiscus, the Weapons Company commanding officer with the BLT.

“There are certain things that you never get to see when you are training in a foreign country, so this hike was an opportunity for the Marines and sailors to experience something amazing – one of Japan’s greatest highlights – while simultaneously conducting training,” Fiscus continued. “As much as this hike was a personal challenge for each Marine and sailor, it also had a cultural and spiritual significance that they were allowed to experience.”
The hike up Mt. Fuji also aloud the service members to bond with the indigenous people, Fiscus added.

“One of the great aspects about this mountain is that there are no cultural barriers, which is often not experienced in populated areas,” said that Carlsbad, Calif., native. “Experiencing that with them crosses cultural paradigms and truly helps you understand and bring you closer to a different culture.”

Besides the optimistic interaction with the Japanese people, Wilson said the hike fed his inborn craving for a hard-hitting challenge, as he charged up and down the mountain in less than nine hours.

“It was a beautiful and interactive hike, but I enjoyed the physical challenge the most because it encompasses everything that is inherent to an infantry Marine,” said Wilson.
Approximately 290 Marines and sailors with the BLT are in Camp Fuji, Japan to conduct heavy weapons and live-fire sustainment training from Aug.23 to Sept. 14, 2006.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Christmas gifts for troops

While Christmas is still about four months away, one local group is already making sure those serving our country will have some holiday cheer.

Dozens of people with Operation Santa pulled out their sewing needles and scissors and got to work today.


By Nishi Gupta
Posted: Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 6:32 PM

They hope to send 10,000 stockings to troops from Central Illinois that are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many Operation Santa volunteers are parents of Marines.

They know how important it is for troops to feel remembered during the holidays.

“It's going to be tough for them over there, it's going to be tough being away from home, being away from loved ones. Hopefully this will give them a little bit of knowledge that there are people over here that are thinking about them, that do love them, who are behind them,” said Terry Kallmbah, mother of a Marine.

“I just want our military to know that Central Illinois has not forgotten about them this Christmas,” said Patti Smith, an event organizer.

Organizers got a good head start on the stockings today -- about 600 were made.

They will start to send them out in early November.

Operation Santa will host it's kick-off party on Sunday at the Michael's on Big Hollow in Peoria from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Click on photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions

August 25, 2006

24th MEU arrives in Africa for training

Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare to board a CH-46 helicopter on their way to the East African nation of Djibouti Thursday to begin their first training exercise since returning to the Central Command area of operations. The Marines, members of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 24th MEU, will spend the next several days firing an array of weapons aboard desert training ranges.

ABOARD USS IWO JIMA (Aug. 25, 2006) -- Nearly 1,000 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fresh from duty in Lebanon, arrived in the East African nation of Djibouti Thursday to begin their first training exercise since returning to the Central Command area of operations.


Aug. 25, 2006; Submitted on: 08/25/2006 07:54:27 AM ; Story ID#: 200682575427
By Capt. David E. Nevers, 24th MEU

The Marines moved ashore by helicopter and air-cushioned landing craft dispatched from two amphibious assault ships in the Gulf of Aden, the USS Iwo Jima and USS Nashville.

They’ll spend the next several days firing an array of weapons aboard desert training ranges in the small but strategically important country, situated just north of Somalia at the base of the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is home to the headquarters of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a key component of U.S. strategy in the Global War on Terror.

The Marines of the 24th MEU, who returned to the CENTCOM theater Sunday after spending most of the past month off the coast of Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea, welcomed the chance to emerge from the confines of the ship.

“We’ll take every opportunity we can to sharpen our tactical skills,” said Col. Ron Johnson, the MEU commander. “Preparation for combat is continuous, and we want to be at peak proficiency if and when we get the nod.”

Most of the Marines training ashore are with the MEU’s ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. Joined by leathernecks from the MEU’s other elements, the Marines will fire the gamut of individual and crew-served weapons in their inventory, from small arms to heavy machine guns to mortars. Additionally, pilots and crew from the MEU’s aviation combat element will fire a variety of precision-guided munitions, honing their skills in providing close-air and deep-strike support.

The training in Djibouti is the first opportunity the Marines have had to fire and maneuver in open terrain since mid-July, when they cut short a training exercise in Jordan to assist the departure of American citizens from Lebanon.

The 24th MEU, the landing force for the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, consists of its command element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced); and MEU Service Support Group 24.

Click on photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

‘America’s Battalion’ helps turn Abu Ghraib Prison to Iraqi Army

Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Anderson, of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Iraqi Army Training Cadre responsible for preparing Iraqi soldiers to take over security of Abu Ghraib Prison. Behind him is one of the notorious prison cells used to house Iraqi criminals under Sadaam Hussein and later to house insurgents under Coalition Forces control. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment are assisting the Iraqi's 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division in setting up a permanent presence in the prison to use it as a forward operating base.

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (Aug. 25, 2006) -- Editor’s note: Maj. Riordan is the executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.


Aug. 25, 2006; Submitted on: 08/26/2006 02:55:23 AM ; Story ID#: 200682625523
By Maj. Sean Riordan, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines are helping Iraqis take control of an infamous icon of their past.

Marines from “America’s Battalion,” 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are helping Iraqi soldiers set up their newest forward operation base at Abu Ghraib Prison. Iraqi Army soldiers are moving into the facility permanently as they continue to grow and expand their independent areas of operation.

The prison was used for years by Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former dictator, where he locked up political prisoners, tortured and killed them. Standing near the Al Khandari Souk, or market, on the western fringes of Baghdad, Abu Ghraib Prison was a Coalition Force prison from 2003 until it recently closed. The prison was at the center of a prisoner abuse scandal that affects the way both Iraqis and Americans view this place.

The move into the prison will expand the zone of operation for 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division. They currently operate in battlespace independent of that of Marines.

“It’s easy to forget that the Iraqis are the main effort,” said 1st Lt. Cameron Browne, a 24-year-old from Arlington, Texas, assigned to G Company. “We are not the future of Iraq. They are.”

Browne is leading a platoon of Marines on the specially-organized mission. Marines aren’t going to run the prison, or even guard it. Their mission is to train the Iraqi Army to do it for themselves.

This mission is particularly important because of the iconic value of the prison to the Iraqi people. Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Anderson explained the historic and cultural significance of Abu Ghraib by comparing it to a well-known American landmark.

“It is a historic site to the Iraqi nation; they can’t lose it,” explained the 29-year-old from Alexandria, La. “The insurgents can’t take it back from them. It’s something like the Alamo to many Americans.”

This will be the first opportunity for many of these Marines to train Iraqi soldiers, and they all seem prepared for the challenges. “America’s Battalion” has been on the ground in Iraq for just more than a month.

Browne said it was an opportunity to “increase the Marines’ cultural and language proficiency.” Anderson said he hopes to “develop a sense of discipline and pride in the Iraqi soldiers.”

Still, he knows the answer to solving Iraqi problems must be an Iraqi solution. It’s something Anderson knows well. He’s no stranger to assisting Arabs in security missions.

Anderson was brought into this mission because of his Marine Corps Security Force background and his experiences working with other Arab Armies. He said he’ll focus on the basics, engage Iraqis on a personal basis and develop a training program that works for the Iraqi soldiers.

Anderson said that his unit can help the Iraqi Army be fully capable of securing and managing Abu Ghraib within a matter of weeks.

Marines of this training cadre understand the gravity of their mission and are committed to enabling the transition of the prison to Iraqi control. The prison, and to a greater extent, the Iraqi control over their future, carries far greater value than just the walls from which they will operate.

“This is decisive terrain,” Browne said.

Click on any Photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions

26th MEU adjusts to ship life during ESGINT

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Aug. 25, 2006) -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed its Expeditionary Strike Group Integration Training here, August 24. The training, part of the 26th MEU's six month pre-deployment training cycle, was the first time the elements of the MEU loaded their equipment and personnel aboard the ships that will make up the Bataan ESG.


Aug. 25, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock, 26th MEU

The MEU practiced and refined its rapid response planning process, planned and conducted multiple raids, and practiced beachhead onload and offload procedures, all while the MEU adjusted to conducting operations aboard the ships of the ESG.

The exercise was important to both the 26th MEU and for the Sailors of the Bataan ESG, said Colonel Gregg A. Sturdevant, commanding officer of the 26th MEU.

"It allows us to get a better understanding of each other's capabilities and helps us to do our job," he said, adding, "It helps us to take the blue-green team training and take it to the next level."

The ESGINT is an escalation of the training the MEU's elements began at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and involved almost 2,300 Marines and Sailors from the MEU.

"It brings together everything in a more complex environment and there are more moving parts," said Capt. William A. Keller, assistant air officer for the 26th MEU.
The 26th MEU's administration office bore the responsibility of keeping track of personnel movements and numbers.

Personnel constantly moving around and embarking and debarking the ships in the ESG are some of the biggest challenges, said Gunnery Sgt. Ingrid N. Dorer, the 26th MEU administration chief.

"A.P. Hill basically involved a morning report for us, there wasn't the kind of movement involved like there is here," she said. "There are people coming in and leaving on different days, on [Landing Crafts, Air Cushioned] and aboard aircraft."

The technological limitations of being at sea are also one of the concerns the administration shop has encountered, Dorer said.

"With all the software and technology we need and the level of connectivity we have on the ship, it can be difficult," she said, adding, "Exercises like ESGINT let us find out what works, what doesn't, what we need to improve, and what we need to reinvent, while still maintaining the integrity of the job we're doing."

The maintenance of the communications systems and technology falls upon the 61 Marines of the MEU's communication section, which ensures the systems are installed and working properly.

The ESGINT allows them to integrate the command and control systems into the MEU's communications architecture, said Capt. Johnnie D. Jones, assistant communications officer for the 26th MEU.

"It allows us to take what we learned at A.P. Hill and use it to improve communications for the staff," he said. "We're refining the network to support the command staff's information management requirements."

Jones said his Marines provide communications that allow the command to collect and process the data and useful information they receive, which in turn allows them to make timely decisions during mission planning and execution.

The ESGINT forced the MEU to refine its communications networks, which is especially important aboard ship, said Sturdevant.

"When you go aboard ship and [the commands] are spread out among decks, it forces us to make sure our communications systems are functioning properly," he said. "It is more difficult to coordinate across three different decks."

Overall the MEU has improved greatly since the unit was activated and throughout the exercises during the workups, said Sturdevant.

"Across the board, the planning, briefing, and execution of the different raid packages has improved," he said. "We have come a long way; I'm extremely pleased with the progress we've made."

The 26th MEU is approximately halfway through its pre-deployment period designed to facilitate the merger of the disparate elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force. The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for a scheduled early 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.

Click on photo for credits and description.

Red Lions' families prepare for deployment with family day

Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay (Aug. 25, 2006) -- “The strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of its home,” said the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius.


Aug. 25, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Edward C. deBree, MCB Hawaii

As Marines and Sailors of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 prepare for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the squadron is taking steps in order to prepare the families for this deployment.

Red Lion families have participated in a pre-deployment brief and a family day to help prepare them for their loved ones’ deployment.

“We had awesome spouse volunteers from HMH-463 to help us out at these events,” said Lt. Col. Allen Broughton, commanding officer, HMH-363. “They helped set up the brief and the family day that we held. The brief covered where we are going to be at while we are there, how to communicate with the Marines and Sailors, what services are still available here at base including the exchange and commissary. The largest portion of the brief was to introduce the key volunteers and the key volunteer program.”

After the brief, each spouse received a binder with information on how to contact the Key Volunteer Program, Base Housing, Base Legal, and their Marine or Sailor in Iraq.

On Aug. 19, HMH-363 held a family day picnic at Bellows Air Force Station, Waimanalo, Hawaii, in order to allow the spouses to get to know one another.

“It was another great Saturday for us as a unit and our families,” said Broughton. “We had bouncy houses, slip and slides, and a dunk tank where Marines or Sailors could dunk any (staff noncommissioned officer) or officer that they chose. We have fourteen key volunteers and a very strong Key Volunteer Program.”

The Lemoore, Calif., native said he plans on having the Key Volunteer Program hold a family event every month in attempts to building a strong support system for families.

Broughton said that the Key Volunteer Program, headed by Casey Robbins, is doing an outstanding job at building the team and network of volunteers who will stay in touch with the families while their loved on is deployed.

One scheduled event is the haunted helicopter on Halloween, which will be hosted by Marine Aircraft Group 24; something that Broughton said is what makes his unit special.

“The best part about this MAG is the tight family feeling that it has,” he said. “MAG-24’s headquarters will act as the rear detachment and help with any family issues that may arise while we are in Iraq. It’s great that they are helping as the Red Lions are currently preparing for this deployment. We are living by our motto, ‘train as you fight.’ We will soon be transitioning it to, ‘fight as you train.’”

Click on photo for credits and description.

Iraq-Bound, Without Reservations

The Danger Level Is High, But So Is D.C.-Based Marine Unit's Determination

The Marines already are saying their goodbyes. The 4th Civil Affairs Group, a reserve unit based in Washington, is leaving for Iraq -- again.


By Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 26, 2006; A01

Lance Cpl. Norman Tompkins Jr., 26, knows the drill by now. This will be his third trip to Iraq in four years. He has taken leave from his jobs as a fire alarm inspector and volunteer firefighter and loaded his iPod with 4,500 songs.

Cpl. Jennifer McNamara, 30, is double-checking her "Gucci gear" -- the upgraded boots and other equipment her husband urged her to buy. Todd McNamara was in Iraq last year as a member of the Navy Reserve. This time, he will be the one waiting for a military spouse to come home.

Staff Sgt. Paul Abila, 39, is trying to spend time with his eight children, ages 2 to 12. They will grow a lot in the months he is gone. The older girls already seem so serious and mature.

"They have asked me everything from am I going to shoot anybody to is somebody going to shoot me," Abila said. "And I tell them, 'Now if I have to kill somebody just so that I can stay alive, you understand that's part of what I have to do, as being a Marine?' "

There is no easy way to do this, to leave behind family and friends and careers, the comfort of soft beds and nonperilous routines, to enter a conflicted land where peace seems elusive. This will be the third deployment to Iraq for the unit, which is pulling out in a few days, but for most of its 200 or so members, it will be their first or second deployment.

Although trained for combat, the 4th CAG is charged with helping the civilian population. About a third of its members are residents of the D.C. area -- police officers, computer technicians, federal employees. The unit's operations officer, Lt. Col. David Bunn, is a lawyer; its executive officer, Col. Erik Grabowsky, is Arlington County's chief of solid waste. They are leaving from the Anacostia Naval Station, where they are based, expecting to be gone a year.

With each deployment of the 4th CAG, the dangers in Iraq have increased. Even as this unit and others are being asked to shoulder a mission that carries a soaring amount of risk, top U.S. military leaders are telling Congress that they fear Iraq is sliding into civil war. Even as many here at home are wondering if the sacrifice has been worthwhile, these Marines speak earnestly of their patriotism and duty as they prepare to say goodbye to everything they love.

"More than anything else, if there's anything I'd like people to know, we would certainly love their support," said Col. Mario LaPaix, the unit's commanding officer. "We would want people to know that Marines have always gone in harm's way to do what has to be done for America. We would like their prayers and, hopefully, their well wishes.

"If I can offer a political statement, that would be it."

The War-Toughened Veteran

It was a rainy day in Combat Town, and that meant mud.

In a clearing deep in a forested area at Quantico, the Marine training grounds, members of the 4th CAG were staging their last field exercise before leaving for Iraq. The Marines were good-natured about the downpour: "If it ain't rainin', we ain't trainin.' " Several repeated the old military saw during breaks, laughing as mist and smoke from grenades swirled around them.

Lance Cpl. Norm Tompkins, who has a calm air and an economy with words, is a field radio operator. On this morning, the half-dozen concrete-block buildings of Combat Town were standing in for an Iraqi village. Some of the Marines played the part of Iraqis, even speaking in Arabic as they watched from open doorways and strolled the "marketplace."

When three Humvees of Marines rolled into the village to check the safety of the market, a band of insurgents attacked and a brief, fierce fight was waged on the puddled streets. Tompkins's job was to call in "the sit reps" -- or situation reports -- and arrange for medics as needed, amid the sounds of gunfire and the cries of "the Iraqi women."

"That was pretty true to life," Tompkins said after the hour-long exercise, a pile of hand-held radios at his feet.

A volunteer firefighter and horror-movie fan who lives in Landover with his mother, Tompkins finds himself, in his mid-twenties, the war-toughened veteran in the group, one of only two returning to Iraq for a third time. Other Marines have asked him what to expect: What are the living conditions? Are people friendly or hostile? How dangerous is it?

When his superiors asked him if he would go back, Tompkins hesitated "a little bit," he said. He could have declined.

"But I wanted to go back for myself," he said. "I felt like I wasn't done over there. We're not done building that country back up, so we've got to go back there and help them out."

Tompkins, a graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, studied forensic science at Prince George's Community College. When he was first deployed to Iraq, in 2003, things were relatively quiet. "It was hot -- I definitely remember that," he said. "But it wasn't dangerous at all."

On his second tour, in 2004-05, "it was a little more intense," he said, singling out the roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices. "They had the IEDs and things of that nature. But it worked out well -- we got the job done."

It was during that tour that the 4th CAG suffered its only serious injury: A bomb hit the Humvee that Sgt. Luke Cassidy was driving, and he lost part of his leg.

Tompkins does not dwell on the incident. He describes himself as "laid-back." As long as he has his music, from the rock band Stone Sour to country legend Johnny Cash, he will be all right, he said. "It calms your nerves and takes you away."

His friends and co-workers wonder at his cool.

" I think about him all the time and how he's going out there, voluntarily," said Steve Stuber, Tompkins's boss at Siemens Building Technologies in Beltsville. "For the third time. When he doesn't have to do it."

The Daughter in a War Zone

Cpl. Jen McNamara's mother, Mary Crawford, already has a specific list of treats her Daughter the Marine wants included in her care packages to Iraq: Baby Ruths. Gummi Bears. HoHos. Devil Dogs. Little Debbie Zebra Cakes.

Reading that list makes Crawford, a retired teacher from Lorton, think of McNamara as a little girl again. And that is a painful thought as she watches her daughter prepare to go to a war zone.

McNamara had never imagined herself a Marine. But what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, left her questioning her purpose in life.

Although she was employed at the Pentagon as a civilian budget analyst, she did not know anyone killed or wounded that day. And she is embarrassed, she said, to admit that her only personal hardship was the result of leaving behind her keys and identification when she fled her office. But she was deeply affected. "She told me she didn't feel like she was doing anything important," Crawford recalled.

Growing up in suburban Virginia, McNamara felt that her "whole life was kind of sheltered and boring," she said. She went to work full time at the Pentagon after graduating from James Madison University and, three years ago, married Todd McNamara, a longtime family friend. A Navy Reservist, he understood his wife's need to do something concrete, "to give something back."

"I'll just work more hours while she's gone," said McNamara, 30, a project manager for a general contractor.

Todd McNamara was in Iraq for seven months in 2004-05, helping repair airfields and reconstruct damaged buildings. He called the experience "meaningful" and "rewarding." The time passed quickly for the couple.

"I think a lot of people expected me to be the pining wife at home who was so worried, but actually, it was pretty okay," Jennifer said. Now, she said, she uses her husband "as the perfect resource -- he knows everything." He advised her, for example, that she need not pack foot powder, because she can find it at the PX.

The couple, who live in Alexandria, often keep the conversation on that level. Both are trying to be "stoic," and what good does it do to fall apart now?

"When you go through the training, like we have, when you have prepared this much, you want to put your training to use," she said. "I guess it's a good thing, because if we were both really emotional, it would be too much to bear."

Their Father the Hero

At the Abila home in Dumfries, Saturday mornings will not be the same without "Dad's special pancakes." Neither will Thanksgiving, when Dad won't be there to dance the turkey around the house before settling it into the roasting pan. Or Christmas, when Dad won't be there to hog the pecan pie -- although, to be fair, the only presents he ever wants for himself are socks.

The oldest of the eight Abila children -- Lara, 12, Juliana, 11, and Ciara, 9 -- are trying to imagine life, temporarily, without their father. They hate the prospect of him leaving them, having to go somewhere so far away and full of danger. But they have responsibilities and little brothers and sisters to attend to, and they do not want to worry anybody, certainly not their Dad.

Juliana, a sixth-grader, knows what she will miss most about her father: "His kind and loving heart," she said, frowning hard to control her feelings.

Staff Sgt. Paul Abila is the administrative chief for the 4th CAG, responsible for personnel processing and payroll. Originally from Oklahoma, he met his wife, Scarlett, when both were active-duty Marines in the D.C. area. "We got married at the Arlington County Courthouse on our lunch hour and went back to work," Scarlett Abila said of their 1993 wedding. "We were good Marines."

Their children arrived at steady intervals -- three girls, three boys, then the twins, now 2. On a recent morning, Natalie, the twin with the curly hair, and Martina, the one with the straight hair, took turns hurling themselves at their father as he sat on the living-room floor of their impossibly neat townhouse.

As a former Marine, Scarlet Abila understands what her husband is about to do. She certainly does not think that he should be spared from deployment, his first to Iraq, because so many young children are depending on him.

"Our children were a choice and a gift from God, and we would never use them as an excuse not to serve," she said. "I would not want my children to think, 'My Dad was a Marine, but in wartime, because there were eight of us, he was allowed to stay behind.' What about the two children of deployed Marines or deployed soldiers? What about the families with three or four children?"

And so the Abilas prepare to say goodbye. They will pray every day for his safe return. They will send him the best care packages any Marine has ever received. They will miss him terribly, but they know he has a job to do.

"I think he's not just some big, bad Marine," said Lara, a seventh-grader. "I think he's kind of a hero."

Camp Pendleton Marines make final preparations for deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Just three weeks before they deploy for six months as U.S. Central Command's theater reserve force, Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit here say they're ready to get on with the mission despite pulls at their heartstrings over leaving home.


United States Marine Corps
Press Release, Release # 0825-06-1217
Public Affairs Office, American Forces Press Service; Donna Miles

Aug. 25, 2006

The heavy lifting is over. Six months of intensive training recently wrapped up with an 11-day joint task force exercise aboard USS Boxter that earned the unit the critical "special operations capable" designation.

"The operating tempo has been unbelievable," said Staff Sgt. Tracie Kessler, the MEU's public affairs chief. "But no MEU wants to go out not being special operations capable."

Col. Brian Beaudreault, the MEU commander, said the unit's operations tempo has been "as high as it's ever been," but has paid off in a big way. "We're prepared to execute any mission we're assigned as the theater reserve," he said. "We're ready for everything from sustained combat operations ashore to humanitarian relief operations and everything in between."

Unlike the MEU's last deployment, when its members knew they were headed to Iraq, this time that's not a given unless CENTCOM requests the support. "As far as I know, that's not going to happen this time," said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Benjamin. "But then, that could all change any time."

With its pre-deployment training wrapped up, the pace at the MEU's command headquarters has come to a near halt -- the proverbial calm before the storm.

A sign at the top of a stairwell marks the days until the deployment -- E-21 yesterday for "Embarkation minus 21." When the sign reads "E-0," 2,300 Marines will leave here aboard three ships: USS Comstock, USS Dubuque and USS Boxter. The contingency will include the battalion's combat landing team, its logistics battalion and air combat element.

But for now, there's a sense of quiet here, with most of the Marines on block leave and a skeletal staff wrapping up last-minute details.

"We're now in a decentralized mode of operation. Each section knows what has to be done. It's a matter of setting those Marines loose to get it done," Beaudreault said.
"Right now, the emphasis is on maintenance of equipment and quality time for families."

Staff Sgt. Dwayne Benjamin, the unit's purchasing chief, is processing last-minute orders to ensure the Marines have all the gear they need while they're away. Cpl. Juan Juarez, an administrative clerk, is double-checking travel vouchers to make sure they've all been settled and unit members paid. Chief Warrant Officer Mike Chaney, working as a action officer in the MEU's operations section, is planning the training the unit will conduct during its deployment, as it awaits a call for a real-world mission.

Maintainers were turning wrenches, checking times and ensuring the MEU's aircraft and vehicles are ready to go. Sgt. Bobby Savicke, a motor transportation mechanic, was checking transmission fluids and "making sure nothing goes out the door broken." The unit supply administration chief, Cpl. David Choe, was rechecking boxes of desert camouflage uniforms and other supplies to make sure nothing was inadvertently left behind. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Jucutan, a corpsman preparing for his eighth deployment with the Marines, was packing medical equipment in new medical bags the MEU recently received.

Meanwhile, other Marines from the MEU were on Camp Pendleton's Red Beach testing a new tactical water purification system to make sure it will operate properly during the deployment.

Most of the Marines are veterans of multiple deployments and said the operational preparations tend to go smoother each time. "For me, it gets easier," said Benjamin, about to leave for his fourth "float" and his third with the 15th MEU. "It doesn't seem as stressful as the first time around. Everything starts to become second nature, especially if you work with the same people."

"This deployment is a lot easier than the last one," Chaney agreed. "We knew what to expect in the work-up cycle. It's still painful, but it's not new."

Juarez said he's applying lessons learned from his last deployment this go-around. "Last time, I learned so many things that I'm using to mold this deployment to help myself, my shop and my fellow Marines," he said. Those lessons range from better ways to pack a backpack to knowing what equipment and supplies need to go and what ones will simply take up space on the ship.

As important as these last-minute details will be to success during the deployment, Beaudreault said, an equally important priority right now is ensuring the Marines get their personal affairs in order and, most importantly, spend time with their families.

Cpl. James Johnson, the MEU's postal clerk, is giving up his apartment while he's gone and moving everything he's not taking with him into storage. He's already assigned power of attorney to a buddy who will watch over his car.

Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, the unit data chief, is drawing up a list of details and contact information for his wife, Julia. The family bill payer, Sava set up a lot of automatic online payments and is making sure Julia knows where to find his will, power of attorney, Social Security card and other important documents.

"We're trying our best to get everything together and get squared away," Julia said.

After four deployments with the MEU, Sava has control of the tangible preparations but admits the emotional ones are a bit tougher. He missed the birth of his daughter, Alyssa, now 18 months old, during his last deployment, and this time he'll miss her second birthday as well as his son Anthony's 11th birthday and Christmas.

"We'll celebrate it late," Julia said, quickly filling the silence left after her husband acknowledged the lost landmarks.

Chaney is busy preparing for them as well, writing letters and wrapping birthday and Christmas gifts that he'll leave behind for his 3- and 6-year-old children for his wife to present on the appropriate days. "I'm trying to do that now, so everything is pre-staged and I know it will be there, instead of worrying about getting them here in the mail," he said.

In addition to making sure household expenses are in order, Juarez said he's devoting every spare moment possible to his wife of two years. "We're spending a lot of time just talking to each other," he said.

After his last deployment, Juarez said, the two already know what's ahead, but he's not sure that's going to make it any easier. "We already know what to expect of each other, but I think this one is going to be a little more difficult," he said. "I think we're going to feel the sense of separation more this time."

Benjamin is busy getting his personal affairs in order and making sure his wife and three children, ages 13, 12 and 6, are ready for his departure. He plans to take a week of leave at home, relaxing with the family and enjoying his favorite foods, "especially a good steak."

Deployments are never easy on families, Benjamin said, but experience has shown him that his family can make it on their own while he's away. "We've done this before," he said with a shrug. "When you do this over and over, things tend to get -- not easier, but simpler."

When embarkation day comes, Benjamin said he knows he'll be ready to go. "You have a job to do," he said. "My head is always in the game."

Juarez, too, said that although he hates to leave his wife behind, he's ready for the deployment. "I don't stress out about it. I know I have to deploy, so I don't worry. I just stay focused on my job," he said. "It's going to be a good deployment. I'm looking forward to it."

Johnson, a single Marine, doesn't share his comrade's conflicts about the upcoming deployment and said he's more than ready to go. "I love it. I'm excited," he said. "It's where I want to be."

"At this point, it's almost, 'Let's go,'" Chaney agreed. "You do all this training, so you just want to get out there and get the deployment going. We're Marines, and we're just ready to go."

RCT-5’s Headquarters Company makes trip to Hades and back

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 25, 2006) -- It was the mission from hell for Hades.


Aug. 25, 2006
By 2nd Lt. Lawton King, Regimental Combat Team 5

This week Hades Mobile, the security detachment for Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 5, moved heaven and earth to safely escorted a series of Army convoys bearing 201 concrete “Texas” barriers from Ramadi to Fallujah.

“Texas barriers are the sturdiest stuff you will find out here,” said Sgt. Austin Moore, the assistant convoy commander and a 22-year-old saxophonist in the 1st Marine Division Band from Claxton, Texas. “We know we’re going to protect people.”

“The barriers are needed for force protection in our area of operations. These will protect other Marines,” agreed Staff Sgt. Michael Maschmeier, the convoy commander and a 36-year-old euphonium musician in the 1st Marine Division Band from Eureka, Mo.

The barriers, more than 10-feet tall, cut imposing silhouettes. They were transported in Army logistics carriers. Marines manned Hades’ gun trucks stalking thoroughfares for insurgents and their weapon-of choice, improvised explosive devices.

“We’re here to provide security for you,” Maschmeier said to the soldiers repeatedly in his convoy briefs before each run.

The mission, however, soon proved to be a road paved through hell. Unexpected events crept into the plan and Hades Marines hurdled barriers nearly as tall as the ones they carried. Loading the massive concrete barriers took more finagling than anticipated and forced Marines to adapt their plans.

But Marines maintained their optimism, gritted their teeth and were prepared to step off whenever the barriers were properly loaded.

“I’ve got nowhere to go,” said Cpl. Daniel Rains, a 25-year-old armorer from Thorndale, Texas.

Marines took it all in stride. Delays, adjustments and improvising to complete the mission wasn’t something new for the Hades team, comprised of mostly Marine bandsmen. They do the same thing when they’re gearing up for a performance back at Camp Pendleton.

“When we prepare for band commitments, we prepare for contingencies, so we are not surprised when they happen,” Maschmeier said. “Problems are going to happen.”

And they did.

The second night of the operation was punctuated by a thundering crash many Marines and sailors aboard the convoy mistook for an IED detonation.

Seconds later, events registered, and the Marines in the turrets reported that one of the Texas barriers had toppled off its truck and was lying on its’ side on the desert floor.

Master Sgt. Robert Hufford, a 39-year-old bandmaster from Pleasanton, Calif., quickly seized command of the situation and directed Marines in his vehicle to harness the barrier to a humvee and to drag it off the road so it wouldn’t obstruct traffic.

Once the obstacle was removed, the convoy resumed the first leg of its nighttime journey.

Delayed schedules and toppled barriers aside, the Hades Mobile team continued to safeguard the Army trucks, ensuring every one of the barriers was transported to Camp Fallujah.

“We have all of our guys, all of our trucks,” Machmeier said the first night. “Everyone is safe. That is the bottom line.”

“It was an evolution that allowed us to stretch our legs a little bit and to test the new people,” said Capt. Jason Freeby, the 32-year-old commanding officer of Headquarters Company from Houston, Texas.

The evolution also served to satisfy the Marines’ travel lust.

“I’m glad we got a chance to go to Ramadi,” said Pfc. Shawn Stettin, a 21-year-old radio operator from Seven Hills, Ohio. “I like it because we get to see new things.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Marines' night river cruises in Iraq are no joy rides

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, August 25, 2006

RAMADI, Iraq — It was well after dark and the musty waters of the Euphrates River had taken on the color of greased gunmetal as they skirted the city.

To continue reading:


Click on any photo for credits and descriptions.

August 24, 2006

Slain Marine loved God, his family and the Corps; Iraq - The Bend-area man, due home in September, was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday while on patrol

BEND -- A day before Lance Cpl. Randy Newman was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, he talked to his dad about what he wanted to do when he returned home on leave in late September.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Marine was hoping to take his sergeant elk hunting in Oregon and his 8-year-old brother, Ken, to Disneyland. "He was upbeat, encouraged," said his father, Jerry Newman.

But the younger Newman was killed Sunday by a bomb while patrolling with his unit in a light armored vehicle in Iraq's northern Al Anbar province.

"We are brokenhearted," Jerry Newman said Wednesday.

Holding back tears, he and his wife, Ramona Newman, stood with friends in front of their home amid the junipers and rabbit brush east of Bend as U.S. and Marine Corps flags hung at half staff behind them.

Randy Newman, 21, was committed to his family, God and his fellow Marines, they said.

"I realize when people die we only remember the good things," Jerry Newman said. "But I don't remember a week that went by that he didn't honor me."

Newman was a member of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marines Division based in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

He joined the Marines a year after graduating in 2003 from Mountain View High School, only waiting that long at his father's request. "He felt he needed to do something," his father said. "His friends were going off to college."

Newman was injured twice before by roadside bombs since deploying to Iraq in March, his family said. Sunday's attack also killed Cpl. Adam A. Galvez of Salt Lake City.

"It doesn't surprise me that he was in a very precarious place and doing it very willingly," said Les Combs, his high school wrestling coach.

Newman was passionate about physical fitness, first as a high school wrestler and then as a Marine, his father said.

After a long day's labor in Iraq, when other Marines were looking to rest, Newman would do sit-ups or push-ups, his father said. He even did squats with his vehicle's driver loaded on his shoulders.

He hoped to become a personal trainer after his time with the Marines concluded, his father said. He even sent his dad a weight-loss book from Iraq "and he told me to read it cover to cover because he didn't want to lose his dad," Jerry Newman said. "That was Randy."

The family thanked the community for its outpouring of goodwill. "We've had more support than is possibly imaginable," said Jerry Newman.

In their last conservation, Ramona Newman said she asked her son, a born-again Christian, if he was praying. He told her: "Mom, God and I are so tight right now," she recalled.

A public service for Newman is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond.

"Remember my son as a great and valued warrior," Ramona Newman said.

Matthew Preusch: 541-382-2006; [email protected]

Marines in Fallujah take time to relax as re-deployment nears

Lance Cpl. Nicholas S. Strickland, a 22-year-old motor transport operator from Winston County, Ala., cools off with a drink while watching the flag football tournament and cheering on his fellow Marines with Combat Logistics Company 115, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd). Strickland was one of many service members gathered from all over the battalion to relax, enjoy the physical competition and entertainment of “Fun day.” According to Sergeant Major Shelley D. Sergeant, sergeant major of CLB-5, it was a way for their command to reward them for a successful deployment. Photo by: Pfc. Ryan L. Tomlinson

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug 24, 2006) -- The day was full of friendly competition when service members here were given a break from their high operational tempo.


Aug 24, 2006
Story ID#: 2006824123640
By Pfc. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group (FWD), participated in a series of organized physical fitness events called “Fun Day.”

“We wanted to have time for the Marines to let their hair down a little bit , still keep their focus, and just have a good time,” said Sgt. Maj. Shelley D. Sergeant, sergeant major of CLB-5.

She added that even though the battalion is in a combat zone, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t want to continue to build unit cohesion.

The battalion’s mission is to provide combat service support to the ground fighters of Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division, to include delivering supplies such as food, fuel and equipment, in addition to ensuring that medical care is readily available.

The event provided a well deserved break for the servicemembers, allowing senior leadership to reward them for their continued success during this deployment, said Sergeant.

The “Fun Day” was a series of events held from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., which started with a soccer tournament and ended with a talent show. Laughter filled the air along with some sweat and tears.

“It has been a nice break from a normal operational tempo,” said 1st Lt. Michael S. Linebach, a Kansas City, Mo., native, during the morning soccer tournament. “It gives Marines a chance to come out and play a few games.”

Linebach is a 25-year-old platoon commander for Combat Logistics Company 115, CLB-5.

The events featured were soccer, flag football, basketball, dodgeball, a tire flip, a humvee pull and the traditional tug-o-war. It was put together as a competition between the eight companies that make up CLB-5.

“I took it as not just about winning, but mainly to boost the Marines morale and work ethic as we head toward the end of this deployment,” said Lance Cpl. Fernando L. Figueroa, a 21-year-old Miami native serving as a motor vehicle driver with CLB-5. “We also get to know a little more about each other as a unit and as people.”

Water, sports drinks, sun block and medical personnel were on hand to counteract the high temperatures here, regularly well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the Marines and sailors from the battalion were not able to attend because of ongoing missions taking place in the Al Anbar Province; and although they were not in attendance, they were at the front of everyone’s mind.

“We have Marines going on missions all the time, but we (tried) to work around it,” said Sergeant, a native of Bronx, NY. “If we could (have gotten) all of the Marines in the battalion (there), we would (have).”

The Marines of CLB-5 work vigorously, transporting supplies in and around the Al Anbar area of operations also providing medical support and the continuous equipment upkeep, but at the day’s end, the unique exercise proved worth while.

“Although it was good work out lifting a tire, I still feel that it (was) a good time to relieve myself from work for a day,” said Lance Cpl. Jose Lopez, a 26 years old Bronx, NY, native.

The “Fun Day” was used to strengthen camaraderie within the unit and sustain the Marines’ strong work ethic through the end of the battalion’s deployment.

“A one-day breather, whether your sitting watching a movie, hanging out at the chow hall or even out participating in a little competition, is always good,” said 1st Lt. Autumn D. Swinford, a 24-year-old motor transport platoon commander from CLC-115.

The native of Fredericktown, Mo., explained that the Marines are going to be heading home soon; the “Fun Day” was a way for some of them to say their good byes in a competitive way.

She added that military families were able to relax as well, knowing the fact that their Marine or sailor’s only mission for the day was to compete and have fun.

The Marines grew tired from the heat and the exercise, but the fun they had outweighed their fatigue. The sun had set; the physical activity wound down while the day slowly came to a close as the battalion prepared to continue combat operations the next day.

“Although that we were able to kick back and have fun, we still were able to focus on the mission we were handed,” added Sergeant.

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

California: Marine reservists uneasy about recall risk

Tracy Della Vecchia talks about the possible call-up of her son, Derrick Jensen (right), on Wednesday in their Columbia, Mo., home. Jensen, who has already seen three tours of combat duty, still has three years left on his eight-year contract, making him eligible to be called up for another tour of duty.
L.G. PATTERSON / Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- After spending six months in Iraq, Marine reservist David Morgan figured he was done patrolling the dangerous streets and could focus on building his biotech business.


By THOMAS WATKINS Associated Press

He may be wrong.

Now Morgan could be returned to active duty as part of the first involuntary call-up of reservists since the early days of the war.

"It would be devastating to my career," said Morgan, 37, vice president and general manager of Irvine, Calif., -based US Labs, a medical diagnostic company with 700 employees.

The call-ups, announced Tuesday, will begin in the next few months. Most of the Marines are expected to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No more than 2,500 Marines will be recalled at any one time, but there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service for up to two years.

Morgan, a lieutenant colonel, said he believes in the U.S. mission in Iraq, but fears another deployment would hurt his company.

"We have a highly specialized work force," Morgan said. "If leaders leave, workers could get skittish."

The call-up will affect Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve, a segment of the reserves that consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still

have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations.

In Columbia, Mo., Marine families are buzzing with questions about the latest call-up order, said Tracy Della Vecchia, who oversees MarineParents.com and whose son is in the ready reserve.

"You think you're done," said Della Vecchia.

She's also concerned that problems may be brewing elsewhere in the world -- perhaps in North Korea. She says people "never know the whole story until it hits us front and center."

Her son, Derrick Jensen, is a 23-year-old Marine who has already seen three tours of combat duty as an infantryman and communications specialist, including stints in some of Iraq's most volatile war zones. He still has three years remaining on an eight-year contract.

Even though Della Vecchia and her son knew he made a long-term commitment, neither was prepared for the roller coaster of emotions created by repeated trips to the battlefield.

"He was home. He was starting his life. He was going to make up for four years of lost time, catch up with his friends and his wife," she said.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of Votevets.org, said the recall is a sign that troops are drastically overextended and it is "the last thing that happens before the draft."

Paul Hackett, an attorney from Cincinnati, thinks his background as a civil affairs specialist makes him a prime candidate for an involuntary recall, as there is a shortage of Marines like him. Two weeks ago, he received a packet from the Navy requesting updated information for a security clearance -- a sign, he believes, that a recall order could be coming.

Hackett, a major, returned in 2005 from a combat tour in Iraq. Soon after, he ran unsuccessfully as an anti-war candidate in a key Senate race.

If he is forced back to Iraq, Hackett, 44, said it would be hard to be away from his wife and three young children, but he wants to fight with his fellow Marines.

"Even in this miserable excuse of a war that this administration has gotten us into, the Marine Corps is a great operation," he said.

DSST testing now computerized

Cpl. William Getty, ground radio repairman, prepares to take a DANTES Subject Standardized Test at the Lifelong Learning Center Aug. 15.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Aug. 24, 2006) -- Beginning this fall, Marines pursuing an undergraduate degree may find the newly computerized administration of the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support Subject Standardized Tests helpful in reaching their goal.


Aug. 24, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams, MCB Quantico

The DANTES program is an extensive series of examinations in college and technical subjects. Essentially, the DSST tests are achievement exams, each of which is standardized on a sample of civilian students who successfully completed a comparable college course.

Each DSST measures knowledge, basic concepts, principles, relationships and applications involved in a course, which has the same or a similar title.

Normally, a student took the test and waited for the results that would, in turn, determine which classes he or she would register for.

“Formerly paper-based, the older testing system slowed the students down because they had to wait so long for the results to come back,” said Susan McIntosh, education services officer at the Lifelong Learning Center here. “Sometimes people would not register for a class thinking they passed the DSST and the results would come back saying they did not pass.

“That means that those people would have to take the class and could have registered but were not able to because registration time was over,” McIntosh said.

With the computerized testing, results are available immediately, which saves time, McIntosh said.

DSST tests save tuition assistance money because passing one eliminates the need to take a formal course. The tests are free for active duty and reserve personnel. Family members pay $60.00 for the test and an additional $20.00 sitting fee.

If passed, each examination awards students with college credits of three semester hours.

Click on photo for credits and descriptions.

Some Beaufort Marines to return as others prepare to leave for Iraq

(Beaufort-AP) August 24, 2006 - About 165 Marines from the Beaufort air station are to come home Thursday as another 450 Marines get ready for a similar deployment to western Iraq.


(Beaufort-AP) August 24, 2006 - About 165 Marines from the Beaufort air station are to come home Thursday as another 450 Marines get ready for a similar deployment to western Iraq.

The returning Marines are from the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31. The two units were based at Camp Al Asad, located near the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

The Marine Corps says the Marines' FA-18 jets provided close air support and aerial reconnaissance for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and other units in the region. They flew more than 2,300 combat missions during their seven-month deployment.

About 450 Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 are to depart for the same Iraqi base in the coming weeks.

Posted 11:47am by Bryce Mursch

On to Iraq; Richmond mother shares pride, anxiety about 19-year-old son's deployment

RICHMOND — For Karen Seigars, the mo-ment would have been ironic if it wasn't so scary.

On Tuesday, the day that the Mid-coast region buried one 19-year-old soldier who died fighting overseas — Army Pfc. Andrew Small of Wiscasset — another 19-year-old soldier — Seigars' son, Mat — arrived in Iraq to start a tour of duty.


[email protected]

Andrew Small and Mat Seigars both graduated from high school in 2005, Small from Wiscasset High School and Seigars from Richmond High School. They come from small close-knit communities, where families look out for each other and whole towns take pride in the accomplishments of their young people.

Karen Seigars is proud of her son, just as she was when he enlisted in the Marine Corps while he was still a student at Richmond High School. But, as was the case when Mat told his mother of his plans to serve in the military, that pride is mixed with anxiety — fear that her son's call to duty will place him in harm's way.

He's now in a place where she can't look out for him.

Mat Seigars was back in Richmond a little more than a week ago, one last trip home before his unit shipped out to Iraq. Karen Seigars said goodbye to her son at 4:30 a.m. Aug. 16, on the day he re-turned to his Marine Corps base in North Carolina.

Karen couldn't sleep after Mat departed for his flight out of Portland. She has had moments during the past week when she has been fine, then burst into tears.

A day before Mat's departure, she almost got into her first bar fight. A man at the Old Goat pub on Main Street started to tell her about how his nephew had died in Iraq after getting shot in the head.

Karen said she didn't want to hear it.

The man kept talking.

Karen wanted to hit him to make him shut up, but, instead, she clenched her fist and walked away.

Mat, a private, is serving at the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. He was one of more than 250 Marines who left for Iraq on Sunday as part of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, according to the Web site for Marine Corps Air Station New River, www.newriver.usmc.mil/. He and his fellow Marines will support ground operations with their UH-1N "Hueys" and AH-1W "Super Cobras."

Because he will be working on the helicopters, Mat's assignment will keep him on the air base, not on patrol with other Marines in Iraq.

"But it still tears me up," Karen said.

She got a call from Mat in Iraq on Wednesday night. He told her the heat he had heard about was no exaggeration and that he was tired of carrying his gun around with him.

During the 270-day assignment, he plans to take a number of self-taught classes, including "Math For Marines" and terrorism awareness.

"He's really motivated," Karen said. "He wants to be a door gunner. And I wanted to punch him in the head when he told me."

Mat's stint in Iraq will consist of 12-hour shifts doing helicopter maintenance and repair, along with his studies. As one of the newer members of the crew, he often hands tools to fellow Marines. If no mechanical work is being done, he sweeps.

"You never stand around. Always busy," he said. "I've never seen cement get so clean."

Mat told his mother about his deployment a couple months ago. He stayed in Richmond for a week during his leave, grew a goatee and shaved it off before leaving for his base in New River, N.C. From there, he left for Iraq.

Mat is scheduled to return home on leave in the early spring of next year.

Karen gave him a haircut on the Monday before he left. She is a barber at Brunswick Naval Air Station and said many people on the base have asked her about her son and his upcoming assignment. She and Mat went shopping at the Navy Exchange the same day, and she bought him everything from toothpaste, shampoo to Tylenol for his new assignment.

Packing is simple. Before he left, Mat said he would not be taking any civilian clothes with him. He planned to pack a portable DVD player, but no DVDs because he will either buy them or borrow ones from fellow Marines.

Another item he said he would pack is a jack of spades he received when he signed up for the Marines last year. The playing card has "Hue, Vietnam, February 1968" written on it. The man who carried the card made it back to the United States alive while serving in the armed services during the Vietnam War.

Mat did not know Staff Sgt. Dale James Kelly Jr., the 48-year-old Army National Guard medic who died in May when a roadside bomb went off near his armored truck while he was on convoy duty in Iraq.

He does know Anthony Marson, who is serving in the Army National Guard on convoy duty in Iraq. They went to Richmond High School together and were friends. Another Richmond graduate, Chris Buchanan, is serving in the Army in Iraq as well.

A fellow Marine and member of the Richmond High School class of 2005, Andrew Blake, may serve on the same base as Mat, later this year, Karen said. Blake helps repair jets.

Mat and Blake were among seven members of the 37-person Richmond High School class of 2005 to join the armed services as active duty members or in the reserves.

Bikers say 'thanks' to Marine

Motorcycle club donates $1,300 to aid in recovery from his injuries in Iraq
A Picatinny Arsenal worker's stepson, who suffered life-threatening shrapnel injuries to his head while serving as a Marine in Iraq, got a boost recently when he visited the Rockaway Township Army base.

The Tri-County Motorcycle Club presented a $1,300 donation on Aug. 2 to Sgt. Jacob Knospler of East Stroudsburg, Pa., Picatinny officials said in a statement released on Wednesday. The arsenal employs his stepfather, Jacob Wood.


08/24/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom

At the time of his injury on Nov. 12, 2004, Knospler was a corporal in Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Patty Wood, Knospler's mother, said her son had taken the lead while clearing a house in Fallujah, where an insurgent unleashed a grenade that exploded near him, ripping shrapnel through his face and across his body.

The shrapnel entered his face approximately one inch in front of and one inch below his left ear, she said. It passed though the bones of his face and exited through his right cheek, just above the corner of his mouth.

Wood said that as a result, all the bones in her son's face and jaw were broken or blown away, and he lost his upper palate, as well as all but three of his upper teeth.

Wood explained that either a piece of shrapnel or a piece of bone passed upward behind her son's right eye, striking the eyeball, rupturing the retina and lodging in the right frontal lobe of his brain.

In addition, Wood said Knospler had numerous shrapnel injuries on his legs and arms.

In all, he received loss of hearing in his left ear, loss of sight in his right eye, loss of upper palate and upper teeth, a collapsed lung, a right frontal lobotomy and seizure activity, Wood said.

Despite Knospler's injuries, Wood said he was able to walk to medical evacuation transportation and even joked to his buddy about not being "pretty" anymore.

However, his brain soon started to swell, and he required emergency brain surgery in Baghdad.

Medically evacuated

After the life-saving surgery, Knospler was medically evacuated to Germany and eventually was transported to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to recover from his wounds.

Wood said it was at Bethesda, on Knospler's 23rd birthday, that he received the Purple Heart from President Bush.

Knospler was the focus of a March 20 Newsweek article that said the Marine travels to Bethesda once a month from his Pennsylvania home for continued treatment.

Before he was hit, Knospler had pulled an injured gunnery sergeant from the streets as snipers fired continuously at them, Picatinny officials said. Sgt. Ryan Shane received injuries to his legs and abdomen that made it impossible for him to move himself.

The motorcycle club found out about the injured Marine because Knospler's stepfather is a longtime friend of fellow Picatinny employee Walter Wurster, a member of the motorcycle club.

When Wurster told the motorcycle association of Knospler's condition, its members decided to do something to help the wounded Marine and his family.

'Basket of cheer'
To raise money to assist with expenses, Wurster said the association raffled off a "basket of cheer," which contained crackers and $300 worth of liquor. They raffled the basket for $1 per ticket and also accepted personal donations.

In all, they raised $1,300 to present to Knospler.

"We wish it was more, but we're just glad we could do something," said Tri-County Motorcycle Club President Bill Johnson.

Marine 1st Sgt. William Meisinger spoke at the ceremony, and Gerald Schreck, a Picatinny sergeant major, presented Knospler, Wurster, Johnson and Gordon Meyer, another member of the motorcycle club, with commander's coins.

About two dozen members of the motorcycle club, Marines from the 2/25 Marine Reserve Command, and Knospler's family, including his wife, Sheena, and daughter, Jahna, attended the ceremony.

'Thank you'

"I would just like to say thank you, to all who participated in the fundraiser and ceremony for Jake. This experience is just overwhelming," Patty Wood said at the ceremony, according to the press release from Picatinny.

"When people who don't know us give their time and monies so that Jake's life might be a little easier, 'Thank you' just isn't enough," she said. "I have the advantage; I know what Jacob did in Iraq. I know what an honorable Marine he is. I know the extent of losses suffered by his company, and I am eternally grateful that he is with us today."

She said, "He is my hero. For Tri-County and Picatinny to recognize and honor him, it reaffirms my faith in the American people. Thank you to all."

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Marines from Camp Hansen to relieve comrades in Iraq

400 from 9th ESB deploying this week to Anbar province

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, August 24, 2006

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — The more than 400 Marines deploying to Iraq this week are well-prepared for their mission, said military leaders Tuesday.

To continue reading:


Marines head into harm's way

The daughter of Maj. Joseph McCloud pleaded with her father to stay as he and members of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii left for Iraq yesterday. The battalion is bound for an area that includes Haditha, where tension between Marines and civilians is high.

KANE'OHE BAY — In a case of deja vu, the first of nearly 1,000 more Hawai'i Marines said goodbye to family and boarded buses for flights that will take them to one of the most dangerous places in Iraq.

Yesterday, it was the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. In late February, it was the 3rd Battalion saying goodbye.


Posted on: Thursday, August 24, 2006
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Many of the 2nd Battalion Marines who will be leaving in the next several weeks deployed to Afghanistan in June of 2005, but are on their first tour to Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Jason Paul, 20, said he is "living life" and excited to go to Iraq to do his part. But Paul, of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, also sees Biblical overtones to the Middle East conflict.

"I'm a Christian. I think it's beginning Revelation. Muslims and Jews are fighting. It's starting. It's a holy war," he said.

At 18, Lance Cpl. Mikey Trejo is making his first combat deployment. The Detroit man joined the Corps when he was 17, arrived in Hawai'i about a half year ago "and I'm already deploying," he said yesterday.

Trejo admits going to Iraq scares him.

"You never know what can happen," he said.

For Alex and Emily Jackson, ages 2 and 5, the uncertainty of dad Staff Sgt. Calvin Jackson's deployment to Iraq took on a different perspective.

Alex wanted to get on the bus with dad, and cried when he couldn't.

"Daddy's gotta go, Bubba," Calvin Jackson said as he hugged his kids and wife, Melissa. "I love you guys."

The area the Marines are deploying to includes Haditha, where a Marine unit out of California was accused of shooting 24 unarmed civilians out of frustration.

According to an Associated Press report out of Haditha, U.S. commanders have said privately that a military solution to the insurgency in western Anbar Province is impossible, and what's needed is a political deal between the Sunni Arabs and other ethnic groups.

"We're in a recruiting war with the insurgency," said Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, the deputy Marine commander in western Iraq, in the AP report.

Even with reports from the region pointing to worsening relations, Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, the Hawai'i-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment commander now in Iraq, continues to paint a positive picture of what's happening on the ground, despite Marine injury and death.

In his task force, which consists of just over 1,700 personnel, 10 Marines have been killed, 61 have been wounded in action, and 14 were injured seriously enough to require evacuation from the theater, he said.

It's into that environment, characterized in different ways, but one of the most daunting in Iraq, that 1,000 more Marines are headed to replace the Hawai'i unit there now.

"We're doing what Marines do, and we're doing it very well," said Capt. Brian Moore, 33, an aviation adviser heading to Iraq. "I think it's up to the Iraqis to decide what kind of country they want. Only the Iraqis can win this."

Cooling said by e-mail that the Hawai'i Marines "recognize that they have made a difference here. After six months, they can see tangible differences in the capabilities of their partnered Iraqi units."

Those units have fought side by side with U.S. forces in multiple firefights and "have performed exceptionally well," Cooling said.

But there also is the acknowledgement by Cooling that the future of Iraq is in Iraqi hands. Some Marines have complained about Iraqis not taking responsibility for security in their own country.

Building capable security forces is "unquestionably the key" for the people to rebuild their infrastructure and run viable local government services, and that must be enabled by good governance at the national level, Cooling said.

Statistics provided by U.S. military commanders show that the two Iraqi divisions in Anbar Province are about 5,000 short of their authorized strength, and some 660 soldiers are AWOL, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper said there are more attacks on Americans in Anbar on a per-capita basis than in any other part of Iraq.

Although there have been reports that the Sunnis who dominate in the Haditha area don't trust the largely Shiite-populated Iraqi Army, Cooling said the soldiers "are viewed by both themselves and the local population as being Iraqi first."

A few have joined fringe militias that are sectarian in nature, but "the Iraqi soldiers serving with us are often more effective than we are in engaging with the population because they share the same language and culture, and they are Muslim," Cooling said.

Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, is part of an area that includes Barwanah and Haqla-niyah called the "Triad."

In Baghdadi nearby in late July, a speeding truck loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives attempted to break through a Hawai'i Marine base's protective barriers.

Cpl. Jeff Globis, manning an observation outpost, saw the truck, warned others to take cover and opened fire, according to a Marine report by Sgt. Roe Seigle. The truck exploded and part of the outpost roof collapsed, but no Marines or soldiers were killed.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 out of Kane'ohe Bay will replace HMH-463, and more than 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers are starting a year of duty in northern Iraq.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

100 more isle marines deploy to Iraq

The Brown family deals with two sons' deployment to Iraq

For the second time in a year, Mary Brown said goodbye to her to son, Timothy, as he left to serve in the Middle East.


By Robert Shikina
[email protected]

But it will not get any easier for her, because her son-in-law will be deploying to the same area next month.

"It's hard, it's never easy," said Mary Brown, 41. "I never thought I would set him in harm's way."

About 100 Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, departed yesterday from Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe for a seven-month deployment to Iraq. An additional 900 Marines from the same regiment will join them next month in Al-Anbar province. Also, 30 Marines with the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 deployed to Iraq.

The Brown family has a father, son and son-in-law who are all active Marines. Both Timothy Brown Jr. and brother-in-law Allen Lee serve in the same battalion. Brown's father, Master Sgt. Timothy Brown Sr., works for the Combat Services Support Group 3 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The Brown family has lived in Hawaii for 11 years.

In January the battalion returned from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl. Brown introduced Sgt. Lee to his sister shortly afterward.

"He gave the blessing for us to start going out," Melissa Lee said, joking that they nicknamed her brother "the Don" afterward. Melissa and Allen were married on July 28.

"With my mom being a spouse, she's actually helped me become mentally prepared for my brother and my husband getting ready to be deployed," Melissa Lee, 24, said. "You never truly get used to it. It's just something that you kind of adapt to."

Mary Brown, a Marine spouse for 24 years, said, "You learn to adapt and go with the flow, and turn to the families and build that camaraderie back here. We are a very tight group."

Brown's sister said, "He'll get on the bus and that's when it'll actually hit."
Allen Lee, 23, said his wife is going to be sad after her brother's deployment.

"It's going to be a bad night," Lee said. "I'll keep it nonmilitary for the night."

But Timothy Brown, 21, said he looks forward to having Lee with him overseas again.

"You can double up in brotherhood because you have brother-in-arms and now he's also a brother-in-law," he said.

"He actually was pretty shaken up," Brown said. "One of his buddies got hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). He was supposed to be the driver of the vehicle, but he got pulled off in the last minute," Brown said.

"I'll be honest with you, you don't want to see your son go," Brown said. "I'd rather be going."

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Purple Heart recipients appreciative of their protective equipment

Machine gunners Cpl. Charles J. Trask, 22, and Cpl. Jimmy D. Miller, 20, with Security Platoon, Combat Logistics Company 117, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd), stand by a weapon mount similar to the ones they manned in separate incidents when the vehicles they were in encountered improvised explosive devices during operations in the Al Anbar Province. Trask, a Kansas City, Mo., native, said he believes personal protective equipment saved his hearing. Miller, a Huntsville, Ala., native, recovering from shrapnel injuries to his wrist, said he believes that personal protective equipment he wore prevented serious injuries

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (Aug 24, 2006) -- Snapping awake, the Marine realized it was all a dream. The improvised explosive device his vehicle had just hit was only imagined. Shrugging it off, he went back to sleep.


Aug 24, 2006
Story ID#: 2006824123026
By Pfc. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Days later, while traveling the treacherous roads of the Al Anbar Province, Cpl. Charles J. Trask, a machine gunner with Transportation Company, recalled that dream just moments before it became a reality.

Trask said he would miraculously walk away with only minor injuries, thanks to the personal protective equipment (PPE) all Marines here are required to wear.

Three Marines with the Combat Logistic Company 117, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group (FWD), were awarded Purple Hearts for injuries sustained after their encounter with improvised explosive devices.

The Marines give credit to the PPE that they were wearing for the fact they are alive to talk about their experiences today.

“PPE has proven that it does, in fact, save Marines lives,” said Gunnery Sgt. Leo E. Lechuga, company gunnery sergeant of CLC-117.

PPE is usually the traditional Kevlar helmet and an outer tactical vest, referred to as a “flak jacket,” equipped with Small Arms Protective Inserts, known commonly as “SAPI” plates. Although this equipment offers great benefit, the smaller pieces of gear, such as hearing protection, help as well.

“If the ear protection hadn’t have been there, I wouldn’t have been able to hear today,” said Trask. The Kansas City, Mo., native had damage to his hearing caused by the noise produced from the blast. The 22-year-old, known as the “Gnome Warrior”, is currently listed in full-duty status. He said he is concluding his deployment as rear security element and misses his duty as a machine gunner tremendously.

“Since the event, I haven’t been able to be a gunner,” he said. “I had to wear ear plugs for 21 days and I couldn’t go anywhere without them, and all I wanted to do during that time was jump back on the gun.”

Flight suits play a legitimate role in personal protection and it worked for Cpl. Jimmy D. Miller, a 20-year-old machine gunner for a scout vehicle.

The flight suit is a newly added personal protection item mandatory for use by all 1st MLG Marines who regularly participate in off base operations in the Al Anbar province. The flight suit is designed to protect Marines from high heat.

“I am pretty grateful that I was wearing that flight suit, because my wound would have been a lot worse than it was,” Miller said. The Marine, known as “Home-Grown,” added that if the sleeves from the flight suit weren’t made with Meta-Aramid fibers, the shrapnel would have caused grave damage to his arm. Meta-Aramid fibers are a Nomex brand fiber that resists temperatures up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit but also serves as a thicker fabric for shrapnel resistance.

“I just looked over the turret to see what was around us and then we got hit,” said Miller. “I couldn’t hear anything and I felt this sharp pain in my arm, it was shrapnel that deflected off of the flight suit.”

The Huntsville, Ala., native is currently reassigned working his school-trained skill as a radio operator.

All Marines featured agreed lives were either saved or prevented from further injury, because of the effectiveness of their PPE.

“They would have suffered a lot worse injuries without that equipment,” said 25-year-old 1st Lt. Marykitt B. Haugen, company commander of CLC-117. “PPE, no matter how uncomfortable it is or how hot it is, it saves your life.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Hard work pays off for motivated corporal

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (August 24, 2006) -- Marines go through recruit training and specialty school before entering the Fleet Marine Force and while some Marines may lose their motivation, the majority of them find their own way to overcome that.

This Marine is one of them…


August 24, 2006; Submitted on: 08/24/2006 11:26:30 AM ; Story ID#: 2006824112630

By Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (August 24, 2006) -- Marines go through recruit training and specialty school before entering the Fleet Marine Force and while some Marines may lose their motivation, the majority of them find their own way to overcome that.

This Marine is one of them…

“I’ll tell you right now, he’s the hardest working Marine in the platoon,” said 2nd Lt. Rano J. Mariotti, platoon commander, Company B, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “He’s always eager to get in there and do what he has to do to get the job done.”

Corporal Brian N. Wente is a combat engineer with the company and he will be the first to list the reasons he enjoys his job.

“I love to work with my hands,” said Wente. “Whether it’s swinging a hammer or pouring concrete, I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when it’s finished. Nothing compares to it.”

Wanting to join the Marine Corps to travel the world, Wente got what he wanted when he deployed to Iraq from February through September 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I did pretty much the same job there as I do here, but things in Iraq are different,” said Wente. “You’re not training anymore. You have to realize it’s for real and you’re abilities as a combat engineer directly affect the warfighters out there. That’s why I take training so seriously.”

Wente also came to realize how much building new structures for Marines to sleep and dwell in were important. He quickly noticed the level of morale rise with the level of comfort. That is one of the reasons he likes what he does.

Overall, staying motivated and enjoying one’s job is something Marines need to achieve for both personal and professional success, said Wente. People always get more done when they are content with their work and enthused by the situation before them.

When his enlistment expires July 18, 2008, Wente plans on attending college and pursuing the structural engineer or architectural fields.

Wente is scheduled to return to Iraq during February 2007 for a seven- month deployment in support of OIF.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

August 23, 2006

24th MEU trains for ‘high-noon showdown’

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (Special Operations Capable), Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, lock, load and conduct a live-fire exercise aboard the USS Iwo Jima. The purpose of the live fire exercise is to hone Marines’ shooting skills, making their technique second nature.

ABOARD USS IWO JIMA (Aug. 23, 2006) -- In the old American West, heeled gunslingers sought the morbid truth in black cordite smoke, often finding it lodged in the small, deadly spaces separating the quick from the dead.


Aug. 23, 2006
Story ID#: 200682305214
By Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola, 24th MEU

Today, living amongst a new generation of gunslingers, the task of settling quarrels still falls to tough men with guns – and is still fought in small, deadly spaces. It’s no longer the time of the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s now left to the skill of the few, the proud, the Marines.

To ensure that today’s leathernecks are as skilled as their legendary predecessors, Marines with Alpha and Weapons Companies, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), have continuously honed their close-quarter battle skills by participating in numerous small arms ‘shoot-outs’ in the hangar bay of the USS Iwo Jima.

Deployed as the Ground Combat Element of the 24th MEU, each infantry Marine may be called upon to enter a number of chaotic battlefields that could compel them to meet the enemy at distances of less than 20 yards. While not exactly “high noon,” making sure that each Marine survives these showdowns means that training needs to be constant, with hundreds of repetitions cultivating an instinctive action.

The training is specifically designed to simulate these close-quarter encounters in urban environments -- a scenario calling for Marines to engage their targets quickly and with pinpoint precision, said First Sgt. James Cully, Alpha Company first sergeant.

Cully said that regardless of the setting, whether in a hangar bay or on a battlefield, no matter what the target, the end result for his troops is consistency and making certain that “everything becomes automatic.”

“The training keeps our muscle memory sharp,” said Cpl. Lee Wadsworth, a BLT 1/8 scout sniper from Wayland, N.Y., who recently participated in the range. “There should be no thinking involved; you concentrate on your target and everything becomes second nature.”

To build these skills and instincts, Marines fire their weapon from standing, kneeling and prone positions, dropping their target with various aiming techniques. Working on fast reloads, magazine changes and remedial action in case of jams -- all while changing firing positions -- Marines are trained to perform without wasted movement in the maelstrom of a rapidly deteriorating situation.

With this type of training and persistent attention to detail, Marines with the 24th MEU will continue to maintain a sharp-edged expertise while handling any gunslinger foolish enough to set foot in their part of town. In the end, it will be their mastery of the small, deadly spaces – and their weapons systems – that will allow them to operate without fear and walk the earth as cammie-clad undertakers sorting the righteous from the dead.

Currently, the 24th MEU is in the midst of an expected six-month deployment to the European and Central Command theaters of operation. The MEU is now in the Red Sea, having departed the Mediterranean Sea on Aug. 20 after completing a 35-day mission in and off the coast of Lebanon, where Marines and sailors facilitated the departure of nearly 15,000 Americans from the war-torn country.

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Every Marine pitching in for duties in ‘America’s Battalion’

Pvt. Cryspin P. Nystrom stands his post behind an M-240G machine gun. Nystrom is a field wireman serving in the guard force. He is attached to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, G Company to keep an observation post secure.

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 23, 2006) -- No one gets a free ride in 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.


Aug. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 08/26/2006 01:58:24 AM ; Story ID#: 200682615824
By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, Regimental Combat Team 5

“America’s Battalion” Marines who were formerly a part of Headquarters and Service Company are now attached to G Company to provide security. They are responsible for keeping Observation Post Riviera secure from any attacks.

“This is an example of every Marine being a rifleman,” said Pvt. William A. Rosales, a 24-year-old field wireman from Rialto, Calif. “I am supposed to do communication and now I am guarding Marines.”

The guard force is responsible for many different posts within the OP. The guard’s main mission is to protect the observation post from any attacks. Their job is important because G Company did not have enough Marines to run patrols in the area of operations and keep the post secure.

“Our job is important because the company has platoons going out on patrols or resting from patrols,” said Pvt. Cryspin P. Nystrom, a 19-year-old field wireman from Warren, Pa. “Guard force keeps the main post secure, while the infantrymen take care of the AO.”

The posts are set-up to ensure that no one can enter the OP without permission. Marines standing watch are armed with rifles or machine guns. Theirs is the first and last word on who gets into the post.

“I make sure that no one comes in,” said Lance Cpl. Mark A. Hamilton, a 20-year-old food service Marine from Brunswick, Ga. “It’s military personnel in this OP only, so I know what to look for.”

Inside the posts, Marines watch areas where insurgents can attack. Any suspicious cars or people are immediately reported and tracked. Nothing goes unnoticed. The posts are manned 24 hours-a-day. They keep their vigil in the heat of the day, and during the quiet hours of the night, they maintain their watch under the green haze of night vision goggles.

It’s not all just straight watch duties for Marines guarding the OP here. The guard force also helps around the post with the knowledge of their specific specialties. When wiremen aren’t on post behind their weapons, they’re fixing radios and helping with communications. All members of the security team assist G Company in their off time.

They even cook.

“I help in preparing the food and work my post,” Hamilton said. “The other Marines on guard do the same thing.”

The adjustment for the Marines from headquarters duties to that on the front line has been easy. That’s because they’re working with their brothers – fellow Marines. The hiccups and stumbling blocks of assuming new duties were smoothed over and their role is as regular as clockwork. They don’t miss a beat and the OP is as safe now for Marines as it’s ever been.

The guard force isn’t resting on its’ heels, though. They’re looking to take on greater responsibilities, hoping to offset some of the burden shouldered by the infantry Marines they’re supporting.

“We might be doing patrols soon,” Rosales said. “Anything that comes up we’re ready for it.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Marines recover bomb-making chemicals in Sulu

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Marine soldiers recovered a huge cache of suspected Abu Sayyaf chemicals used in the manufacture of homemade explosives in the province of Sulu, officials said on Tuesday.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006
By Al Jacinto & Bong Garcia

Officials said soldiers were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf when they found at least 10 sacks of ammonium nitrate in the hinterland village of Darayan in Patikul town over the weekend. "The chemicals are believed owned by the Abu Sayyaf and is main component of IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," said Lt. Col. Susthenes Valcorza, spokesman of the Southern Command.

Troops were still tracking down members of the Abu Sayyaf and two leaders of the Jemaah Islamiya, Umar Patek, and Dulmatin, who were reported to be with the group of local terrorist leader Khadaffy Janjalani in Sulu, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

"The operation is still ongoing and our troops are tracking down the terrorists," he said.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, the island's military commander, said soldiers continue to hunt down Janjalani and Patek and Dulmatin in Jolo's hinterlands.

"We are still tracking down the terrorists -- the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya -- and the hunt is centered on the mountains of Indanan and Patikul towns. Our operation is relentless and we will get them dead or alive," he said.

Tightened security

The Philippine military tightened security in Jolo island after soldiers last week seized 6,000 blasting caps believed owned by the Abu Sayyaf group.

Mujahiri Malik, the man who was allegedly transporting the explosives, was arrested, but his companion, a woman, had escaped and is being hunted by security forces. Security forces seized 3,000 blasting caps from a ferry in Jolo and another 3,000 blasting caps left on a pedicab at the busy port of Jolo last week, he said.

The United States offered as much as $10 million bounty for Dulmatin and $1 million for Patek's capture and another $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also put up P100 million rewards for the capture of the group's leaders and their members dead or alive. Both Patek and Dulmatin were linked to the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.

Imported materials

Another military official expressed doubts that the P.7 million blasting caps will only be used for blast fishing.

Col. Reynaldo Saelana, chief of the Army's 104th Infantry Brigade based in Jolo, Sulu, said he refused to believe the revelation of the arrested courier that the blasting caps will be used for dynamite fishing.

Saelana said it would be very expensive to use the blasting caps in dynamite fishing, saying the explosives are imported from India. The estimated value of the blasting caps is P.7 million.

He said what is important is that the blasting caps "will no longer go to the hands of lawless elements" whose intention is to sow terror and chaos.

Modjahiri Malik, 45, who was arrested at Jolo port last week for trying to smuggle 6,000 blasting caps to Tawi-Tawi, denied he owns the explosives.

Malik said the blasting caps belonged to his friend, whom he only identified as Hajin.

He said Hajin requested him to carry the two backpacks full of blasting caps to a passenger ferry when they met at Jolo port since both of them are going to Tawi-Tawi.

"Kung alam ko lang kontrabando ang laman ng mga bag hindi ko dadalhin yon (Had I known that the content of the bags were contraband items, I would have not carried them)," Malik said. He insisted the blasting caps would be used for blast fishing.

He also denied being a member of the Abu Sayyaf or Jemaah Islamiyah but admitted he was a former rebel.

(August 23, 2006 issue)

Marines to reactivate thousands in reserves

WASHINGTON - The Marine Corps said Tuesday that it would begin calling thousands of Marines back to active-duty service on an involuntary basis to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan — the latest sign that U.S. armed forces are under strain and a potential signal of the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war among young veterans.


Aug. 23, 2006
Los Angeles Times

Marine commanders will call up formerly active-duty service members now classified as reservists after the Corps failed to find enough volunteers among their emergency reserve pool to fill needed jobs in combat zones. The call-ups will begin in several months, summoning as many as 2,500 reservists at a time to serve for a year or more.

The military has had to scramble to meet the manpower requirements of the Iraq war, which have not abated in the face of a continuing insurgency and growing civil strife.

•Earlier this year, the military called forward its reserve force stationed in Kuwait, sending one battalion to secure Baghdad and two to Ramadi.

•Last month, the yearlong deployment of the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade was extended by four months in order to provide extra troops to roll back escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad.

For much of the conflict, the Army has had to use "stop-loss orders," which keep soldiers in their units even after their active-duty commitment is complete, and involuntary call-ups of reservists to supplement their forces.

The call-ups and the stop-loss orders have been criticized as a "backdoor draft" and are unpopular with service members, many of whom believe they have already done their part.

"You can send Marines back for a third or fourth time, but you have to understand you are destroying their lives," said Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "It is not what they intended the all-volunteer military to look like."

Typical enlistment 8 years
Marines typically enlist for eight years. Most serve four years on active duty then enter the reserves, either as part of a unit that has a monthly drill or as a part of the "individual ready reserve."

The ready reserve was designed to be a pool of manpower that the armed services could draw on in a time of national emergency. But the Iraq war has forced the Army, and now the Marines, to rely on the ready reserve to fill holes in the combat force.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the call-up of the Marine ready reserve was an example of the wear and tear inflicted by Iraq on the armed services, a stress that could hurt the military in the months and years to come.

"The right way to address the issue is to increase the size of the military so you do not have to rely on the call-up of the individual ready reserve," Reed said. "We should have raised the strength of the Army and Marine Corps three years ago."

Although the Marines have for the most part avoided forcing reservists to serve in Iraq against their will, as the war has dragged on, volunteers have been harder to come by.

"We have been tracking our volunteer numbers for the last two years," said Col. Guy A. Stratton, the head of the Marine Corps' Manpower Mobilization Plans section, who briefed reporters Tuesday on the reserve plans. "If you tracked it on a timeline or a chart, you would see it going down."

The Marines last did an involuntary call-up of members of their individual ready reserve before the initial invasion of Iraq.

Although 2,658 involuntary orders were issued at the time, far fewer Marines ended up serving in Iraq.

The reservists in the new call-up will be drawn from a pool of 59,000 members of the individual ready reserve.

The Corps will exempt Marines who are in the first and last year of their four-year reserve obligation.

Stratton said the manpower needs were the greatest in the fields of communications, engineering, intelligence and military police.

Family urges war support

Tony and Amy Galvez, parents of Lance Cpl. Adam Galvez, hold a photo of their son, who died Sunday in Iraq. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune )

Many in her country had turned against the war. The mayor of her city was organizing a protest against the president. And the insurgents in Iraq, Amy Galvez feared, were growing bolder by the day.


By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune

Galvez decided she had heard enough.

Hoping her words might persuade those who support the president, the war and the troops in Iraq to assemble in a great demonstration of patriotism and support, Galvez sat at her computer and began to type.

"My son, who is a resident of Salt Lake City, is now in Iraq," she wrote in an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday. "American lives have been lost in this war because the enemy has been emboldened by our own words, actions and lack of support for our own mission."

Galvez was still sitting at her computer when she heard a car door close outside her northwest Salt Lake City home. Peering through the window, she saw two Marines coming up the walk.

Adam Galvez, 21, was killed Sunday in Iraq's volatile Al Anbar province in a roadside bomb attack that claimed the life of two other members of his battalion.

His death, the 2,607th U.S. fatality confirmed by the Department of Defense, comes as his hometown is bracing for the arrival of President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who are scheduled to address the national convention of the American Legion next week at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

The city's mayor, Rocky Anderson, has pledged to protest the visit and has invited Cindy Sheehan, a prominent war protester who lost her son in Iraq, to speak at an anti-war demonstration.

Inside her home, now adorned by a flag at half-staff, on Tuesday, Amy Galvez said she was more determined than ever to ensure the mission for which her son fought and died is supported back home.

"I don't want Cindy Sheehan and Rocky Anderson to be the only voices the world hears," Galvez said Tuesday evening from the living room of her home in northwest Salt Lake City, not far from the airport where Air Force One is scheduled to touch down next week. "I want our voices to be heard. I want the world to know that our troops are wonderful."

And, she said, she wants people to know that her son made a choice to serve his country and was proud of his mission in Iraq.

The day after Adam Galvez was killed, family members were given a copy of a letter, written to a close friend, in which the Marine confirmed his support for the war in Iraq, Galvez's parents said.

That support remained, they said, even after Adam Galvez - trained as a mechanic but often assigned to patrols of Anbar's dangerous streets - stood above the rubble of a U.S. military post struck by a suicide bomber and listened as, one by one, the voices of several fellow Marines fell silent.

Galvez told his parents he was suffering from nightmares about the July 29 attack, in which he was injured and four others were killed.

Still, the parents said, their son remained confident that his mission was just.

And Tony Galvez said he had remained confident his son, the second of three children in the Galvez family, would return home safely.

"I had no doubt he was coming home," the grieving father said. "It never crossed my mind that he wouldn't come home."

Adam Galvez, who attended West High School and the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, where he graduated in 2003, was due back from Iraq next month.

But Tony Galvez also believed, as his wife did, that the insurgents his son was fighting were growing more dangerous. And he, too, believes that those who question the justness of the war have gone too far.

"You can't support the troops but be against the war," he said.
"It just doesn't work."

[email protected]

For photos credits and descriptions- please click on any picture

Some 100 Kane'ohe-based Marines leaving for Iraq today

Some 100 Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are scheduled to leave Hawai'i today for a seven-month deployment to Iraq's Al Anbar province


Posted at 10:09 a.m., Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Advertiser Staff

The battalion returned from Operation Enduring Freedom in Jan. 2006.

Yesterday, the Marines announced that about 30 Kane'ohe-based Marines from the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 will leave for Iraq this afternoon for a seven-month deployment.

MALS-24 will merge with MALS-16 to maintain and support the CH-53Ds from MAG-24 already operating in Iraq.

There is no scheduled return date for the unit.

Tucson sailor had earned the respect of 'his' Marines, Chadwick Kenyon was 3rd Mountain View H.S. graduate killed in war

Navy Hospitalman Chadwick Kenyon posted his thoughts online about his tour in Iraq as a combat medic with the Marines.


Tucson Citizen

"Comin home soon. words can't describe how good it's gonna be. this deployment sucked. never look forward to coming home because that's when (it) goes down hill. lost 4 of my marines/friends in a truck bomb, God rest their souls. and then not even a week later an (bomb) hit my vehicle again and this time my block got knocked off and i was out cold..."

On Sunday, the 2004 Mountain View High School graduate was killed when an improvised explosive device blew up the truck he rode in. Kenyon was 20. He had been in Iraq since March.

On Tuesday, his mother, Charmain Wright, recalled one incident typical of Chad.

A pipe burst and flooded his bedroom while he was stationed in southern California. She told him what happened and he hung up. Ten minutes later he was back on the phone.

"Good news, mama," he said. "I'm coming home."

He'd gone to his commanding officer and gotten permission to drive to Tucson and help his mom.
"He was very protective of me," she said.

A Navy chaplain showed up at her door Sunday to bring her the news that her only child was dead - the 11th Tucsonan to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and the third Mountain View graduate to die serving his country. Army Pfc. Sam Huff was killed in April 2005 in Iraq. Army Sgt. Kenneth Ross died in September in Afghanistan.
Wright described her son as a shy and nice kid who blossomed in high school.

That's when he decided to become a medic in the military, and he joined the Navy during his senior year in a delayed-entry program that allowed him to finish school before starting boot camp.

"He was perfect for the Navy," Wright said. "He was very disciplined and sharp."

Kenyon shipped out in March. And even though he was a sailor in the Navy, he was attached to the Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of the First Marine Division.

He served as a corpsman to the troops who were performing combat sweeps against insurgents.
"He wanted to take care of his Marines," Wright said.

What he was really proud of was how others in his unit took him as one of their own, even though Kenyon was a sailor and not a Marine, his mother said.

"He was very proud to have earned their respect," Wright said. "He was a Marine to them."

The Internet spread word of Kenyon's death and proved a cyber-grief circle for those who knew him.

His MySpace.com page chronicles the typical back-and- forth and inside jokes that ended abruptly Monday.

"As unreal as unreal can be," one of his friends described it. "We have been best friends since elementary school. We had ups and downs and so many unbelievable adventures. No one has ever had my back the way you did."

Twin sisters embrace deployment in Iraq together

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 23, 2006) -- When two sisters from Jefferson, Ga., walked into a Marine Corps recruiting station and decided to join, they had no idea the entire experience of a four-year enlistment would be spent together.


Aug. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 08/24/2006 07:29:12 AM ; Story ID#: 200682472912

By Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Cpls. Leenorta and Renota Washington are electrical equipment repair specialists with the Utilities Platoon of Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and have not been separated once since leaving home for recruit training.

"We joined the Delayed Entry Program on the same day," said Renorta. "We worked to get into the same platoon during boot camp."

Being able to feed off the each other's energy and motivation helped make the training a little easier, but the two had no idea how close they would remain after graduation, according to the 22-year-old siblings.

"We knew we would get the same platoon in boot camp, but we also got put in the same platoon at (Marine Combat Training) too," said Leenorta. "We really wanted the same one and we just got it."

Once they completed MCT and their military occupational specialty school at Camp Lejeune, N.C., they were assigned to their first duty station, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

"We had the same MOS and we were stationed at the same base, with the same unit, in the same shop," said Renorta. "Everyone was very helpful with getting us transitioned into our Marine Corps fleet life."

After nine months of working in the states, the shy sisters were informed that they would be deploying to Iraq in March and they would be there for six months.

"At first our parents didn't want us to deploy," said Leenorta. "But now, after they thought about it, they are glad that we are doing this together."

While deployed to Iraq, the two have achieved MOS proficiency and excelled in every aspect of their lives and jobs.

"The two are a great example of what a Marine (non commissioned) officer should be," said Sgt. Matthew J. Howe, Utilities Platoon noncommissioned officer-in-charge, MWSS-274. "They are constantly learning and showing the want to excel in their jobs and lives."

With less than a month left in their deployment, the sisters will be returning to Cherry Point to finish out their enlistments and head towards nursing careers in the medical profession. No matter what their futures have in store for them, one can bet it will be done as a team.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

August 22, 2006

Kane'ohe squadron leaving for Iraq

About 30 Kane'ohe-based Marines from the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 will leave for Iraq tomorrow afternoon for a seven-month deployment.


Posted at 11:07 a.m., Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Advertiser Staff

MALS-24 will merge with MALS-16 to maintain and support the CH-53Ds from MAG-24 already operating in Iraq.

There is no scheduled return date for the unit.

Locked and Loaded: MCCIC gives Marines ammo for training warriors

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C.(Aug. 22, 2006) -- Fingers wrap around the pistol grip of the M-16A2s carried by the night sentries. The nothingness of sand dunes has been replaced by the emptiness of darkness. Suddenly, something is moving – location, size, direction all unknown. Rockets disturb the peace of the night as the base camp takes enemy fire. Time moves slow, but still too fast to think. Marines fall back on reflexes, knowledge ingrained in their minds from their earliest days in the Corps.


Submitted by: MCAS New River
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Randall A. Clinton
Story Identification #: 2006822113716

They rest on the foundation of combat skills taught at the Marine Corps School of Infantry by instructors who have passed through the Marine Corps Combat Instructor Course.

“Regardless of your (military occupational specialty) you can be in a convoy when your convoy gets ambushed,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy McMillan, a rifleman going through the course.

While the students at SOI are broken up into infantry (Infantry Training Battalion) and other MOS’s (Marine Combat Training), the instructors for both schools go through the same instructor course together.

During the seven week course, Marines from all corners of the Corps learn the fine details of teaching combat to fresh Marines.

What the course produces are finely tuned teaching machines who can mix real world experience with structured lesson plans and help mold the Corps’ future fighters.

Each training company inside MCT receives a mixture of both infantry and non-infantry instructors to teach students, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Wolken, MCCIC senior instructor.

While non-combat arms Marines may not have the day-to-day training of the average rifleman, their experiences in the Marine Corps add another level for the students, said Sgt. Josh Stephens, Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 heavy equipment operator.

“My first deployment was a month into the fleet, and I found myself behind a crew served weapon,” he added.

Reinforcing the idea that every Marine is a rifleman is an important aspect of having a mixture of Marines teaching students, said Staff Sgt. Davohn-Lee Correa, MCCIC instructor.

Correa explained that instructors need to be able to break past the “it’s never going to happen to me” mentality.

Stephens, who spent his second deployment as a security element, putting his primary military specialty on hold, said he will have no problem explaining to Marines of any MOS how easily they can find themselves in a combat zone.

For non-combat arms Marines, their training here at the hands of the graduates of MCCIC could be their most extensive combat training before a deployment.

To make sure all the soon-to-be instructors are familiar with the material in the classroom and in field, they hit the ranges and make the hikes doing exactly what they will be expecting out of their Marines.

As the MCCIC students traveled from range to range, Correa bluntly explained the reality of dealing with students and live ammunition: “the grenade and fire and movement ranges are the most stressful day as an instructor.”

“It’s easy for a Marine to make a mistake that you can’t stop,” she added.

But hands-on experience with the weapon systems and equipment is the only way to provide these students with a key to success – confidence, said McMillan.

Another tool MCCIC offers their students is help dealing with all the “what ifs” and “whys” that frequently come up in a school environment.

“Not only do they teach you the knowledge, but how to teach it,” Stephens said.

In the end, the training companies get a myriad of diverse, knowledgeable instructors ready to help turn the next group of Marines into warriors.

Please click on any picture for descriptions and credits

Battalion commander keeps promise, delivers soccer gear to Iraqi kids

MUDIQ, Iraq (Aug. 22, 2006) -- “Betio Bastards’” top officer stuck to his word.


Aug. 22, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, Regimental Combat Team 5

Lt. Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, battalion commander for 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and his Jump Platoon Marines brought two soccer goals and armfuls of soccer balls to the kids of Mudiq Aug. 22.

“We promised to bring them, so we’re going to bring them out,” said Desgrosseilliers, from Auburn, Maine.

He guaranteed the sports supplies as a reward for transforming a local trash dump into a soccer field during a community assistance mission there ten days earlier.

The Iraqi children got excited about the soccer field as soon as Marines started unloading the gear. A recreation area like this is rare in an urban neighborhood such as Mudiq.

“You should have seen the kids,” said Cpl. Mario O. Huerta, a 22-year-old from Dallas, who serves as platoon sergeant for Desgrosseilliers’ jump team. “I was patrolling up and down the street and the whole town was happy.”

Huerta said he could relate to the young soccer stars. He shares their passion for game.

“Soccer is my life,” he said. “I’m a soccer player, so if someone did that for me when I was a kid, I know it would make my day.”

Huerta and his cousins used to play soccer as children during Easter gatherings at a park near his childhood home.

“I would always be ready for that,” he said. “I’d be ready to show off.”

Iraqi children were ready to put their skills on display too. Kids were more than anxious to kick around the checker-patterned inflated ball the Marines had in hand.

Children grabbed for the “footballs,” as they call it, but the Marines didn’t mind.

Marines said the new gear will not only keep the kids busy, but also help keep the kids out of the street where insurgents hide improvised explosive devices.

“It gives them a place to play, which is good,” said Lance Cpl. Idoroenyin O. Etokakpan, a 22-year-old member of the Jump team from Bronx, N.Y.

Etokakpan, a motor transport operator, said watching the children reminded him of when he and his brother played soccer back in the grasslands of his homeland of Africa before he immigrated to the United States.

“I looked at them and I thought, ‘I used to do that as a kid,’” Etokakpan said. “That’s the only game I played in Africa and back in the states.”

2nd Lt. Jon R. Mueller, Desgrosseilliers’ Jump Platoon commander, said the gesture is bigger than delivering a luxury to Iraqi children.

“It shows Iraq that the United States follows through on its promises,” said Mueller, a 29-year-old ground intelligence officer from Jacksonville, N.C. “Both large and small scale.”

Etokakpan said it’s because it puts good credit on America and on Coalition Forces.

“It gives them more trust in the troops that if we make a promise it will come true,” he said. “The only way were going to win the war is by gaining the locals’ trust.”

With the kids’ uproarious reaction to the gifts, the Marines are coming closer to gaining the locals favor.

Mueller had no doubts that his commander would follow through.

“You can tell by talking to him that he was going to fulfill his promise,” he said.

Huerta can’t disagree.

“I’ve never seen him not do what he said,” Huerta said. “He’s always going to do what he says.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

U.S. Marine Corps: Educators' Workshop, Part II

Have you ever wondered what our young men and women go through to become a United States Marine?


KTEN News Special Assignment
Aug 22, 2006

In part two of our Special Assignment report on the Educators' Workshop, KTEN's Meghan McDermott gives us an in-depth look at their experience... as they watched young men transform from civilians into members of America's elite fighting force.

When most people think of San Diego, Calif. they think of rows of palm trees lining the sandy beaches of the pacific coast. But what they don't realize is just beyond those beaches, lies the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot where aproximately 17,000 men come every year, for boot camp.

A group of local educators spent one week on the depot learning what it takes to survive the 13-week training program. The educator's trip began as every recruit before them, with the 'Yellow Footprints.' This is when recruits are first "welcomed" to the next three months of their lives.

Over the following days, the educators were exposed to nearly every aspect of military training and way-of-life. And drill practice was no exception. From martial arts-- to water safety training-- Marine Corps history-- and even a little P-T, the educators began to see what their own students experienced.

Shelley Ebert, a former Junior/Senior Counselor at Broken Bow High School says, "I just wanted to go and see exactly what these students wre going through, because whenever they would come back to see me, I would see such a big change in them. In the way that they walked, the way that they talked, just their whole manurisms."

In phase two of boot camp recruits are taken to Camp Pendleton for the excruciating 54-hour training exercise-- the Crucible. Part of which includes a live, simulated combat course. Teachers watched as recruits navigated through various obstacles, while simulated grenade explosions and gunfire filled the sky.

Educators practiced with the M-16 rifle, and then saw recruits handle the "real thing" on the range. From there it was off to see the Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for their ability to travel seamlessly from water to land and vice versa.

Lt. Col. Brian kerl, Commander, 1st Recruit Training Batallion says, "I just think the educators need to walk away with information, because knowledge is power."

After days spent on training fields and in classrooms, it was time for the educators to experience an Emblem Ceremony. At the Emblem Ceremony recruits receive the eagle, globe and anchor. The symbol of a warrior.

On the final day of the trip the educators attended a graduation ceremony. It is a day of celebration, admiration and reflection, as the educators thinik back to what they've seen recruits endure.

Stephen Smallwood, an 11th grade English teacher at North Lamar High School in Paris, Texas, says, "Never until this, when i actually observed, first-hand, what these young women and young men go through, and the commitment they make to us as the common citizen to protect us... that embodies all that i consider to be American. I have just experienced an intense pride in observing what has gone on."

By the end of the week the educators have the ability to help their students seeking opportunities past high school graduation, and have the privildge of being one of the few to see first-hand, what it takes to become a part of the few, the proud, the marines.

For more on photos please click any picture (for credits, descriptions, etc)

Video can be found at the external link above

Charleston Southern's defensive lineman goes from Iraq to Big South

(North Charleston-AP) August 21, 2006 - Football coaches and players often use military terms to describe the game.


Charleston Southern defensive lineman Dennis Justiniani would know more about that than most of them.

Justiniani spent three years in the Marine Corps before moving from his California home to Charleston Southern to play football.

He's happy to talk about football, or the move. Not so much about his time in Iraq.

He served with the 1st Force Service Support Group, backing the Marines in the first wave heading toward Baghdad at the beginning of the war more than three years ago.

He says he reacted as anyone else, when he was shot at, he fired back.

Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills says he learned about Justiniani's time in the service early on and saw him as a potential leader for his Division I-AA team. Mills says players have been drawn to Justiniani.

Posted 2:28pm by Bryce Mursch

Marine Corps to start involuntary troop recalls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Marine Corps will start ordering what could be thousands of inactive service members to return to duty in the coming months to counter a steady decline in the number of such troops who volunteer, the service said on Tuesday.

Marine Corps to start involuntary troop recalls
Tue Aug 22, 2006 4:36 PM ET


By Kristin Roberts
Col. Guy Stratton, head of the Marine Corps' manpower mobilization plans, said the service is short some 1,200 volunteers over the next 18 months to fill roles in the war on terrorism. The total shortfall fluctuates regularly, he said.

Stratton said President George W. Bush authorized the Marine Corps to issue involuntary recall orders to members of the Individual Ready Reserve, part of the non-active force. It will be the Marine Corps' first involuntary recall since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The authorization limits the number of Marines who can be activated involuntarily to no more 2,500 at any one time, out of a pool of about 35,000, Stratton said. The length of each activated service member's duty is capped at 24 months but will likely last 12 to 18 months.

Under a general contract, a Marine serves four years on active duty and four in reserve. While on reserve, Marines may volunteer to return to active duty to fill needed roles.

But the number of Marines volunteering outside their active-duty service requirement has been steadily declining for two years, according to Stratton, who said could not offer an explanation.

The Marine Corps' authority to involuntarily recall Marines for jobs in the "Global War on Terror" -- a war whose parameters remain largely undefined -- has no expiration date.

"The authority is until GWOT is over with," Stratton said. "Until we're told to do otherwise, we'll use it."

The Marine Corps' move comes almost five years after the September 11 attacks that led the United States to declare a war on global terrorism and more than three years after the Iraq war began.

Many Marines have performed three tours of duty in Iraq since March 2003. While the U.S. Army has provided most of the ground forces fighting an insurgency there, the Marines have carried a heavy load and been deployed in one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq, Anbar province.

Beyond Iraq, which the Bush administration considers part of the war on terrorism, the broader war is expected to last many years, defense officials regularly say.

The Marines and Army have been meeting monthly recruiting goals. But some analysts have questioned the military's ability to sustain long-term operations with its all-volunteer force.

Involuntary recalls and other steps taken to stop the loss of personnel have been criticized by some as a back-door conscription and a threat to the volunteer nature of the force.

"What's really worrisome about involuntary recalls is they put even more of the burden on the handful of people who voluntarily join the military, and thus undermine the long-term viability of the whole volunteer force," said Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson.

"In some ways this is worse than a back-door draft because it penalizes the handful of people who had the inclination and the courage to volunteer in the first place," he said.

Stratton, however, said the Marines' involuntary recall was not a back-door draft and that Marines on nonactive status should always expect that they may be called when needed.

2nd MLG Engineers aid recruit depot, build training structures

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (July 2006) - Combat Engineers with Company B, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, work on the roof of a South East Asia hut used for recruit training at the depot. The Marines refurbished 14 South East Asia huts and built four new huts on training areas crucial to recruit training at the depot. Photo by: Courtesy of Co. B, 8th ESB, 2nd MLG

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Aug. 22, 2006) -- Company B, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, sent 105 Marines to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., July 24 through Aug. 5, to assist in renovating and rebuilding training area structures


Aug. 22, 2006
By Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The Marines refurbished 14 South East Asia huts and built four new huts on training areas crucial to recruit training at the depot.

South East Asia huts are 2,048-square-foot, temporary, wooden structures used as sleeping quarters for recruits during both Basic Warrior Training and The Crucible.

“One of the big reasons they needed this done was to support changes in recruit training,” said 2nd Lt. Rano J. Mariotti, platoon commander. “It seems they are beefing up The Crucible and the training in general.”

Before the construction commenced, trees and debris were cleared and the ground was leveled. Then, four concrete pads were laid as foundation for the new buildings.

The Marines lived in the old SEA huts while they built the new ones, said Capt. Walter G. Carr, the company commander. This mission was like their final exam in field construction.

Once the structures were built, they moved onto another task, creating a berm at one of the ranges.

“The Marines worked incredibly hard,” said Carr. “There was a black flag every day but one, and the Marines worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days. They really impressed me.”

Three-thousand cubic yards of dirt, the equivalent of approximately 330 dump truck loads, was used in the making of the berm. Now, the range can support M249 squad assault weapons and AT4 capabilities.

They also took a survey team with them to survey all the ranges and ensure they were up to par, said Carr. They also built a declination station where Marines could calibrate their compasses.

“Overall, the operation was a success,” said Master Sgt. John Schobel III, operations chief. “We completed the project five days early and the quality of work for the level of experience was nothing short of exceptional. We were all very impressed.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

'Operation Movie Drop Off' a soaring success

A 'Wounded Warrior' opens up his care package that includes a movie, letter of appreciation, candy and several other items from citizens that wanted to show their appreciation for their sacrifices. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Samuel D. White

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (Aug. 22, 2006) -- Soaring through the cloudy sky, an H-18 Beechcraft from Baltimore, Md., slowly descended toward the watching crowd. Cameras were rolling as everyone, including Col. Darrell L. Thacker, waited for the occupants to emerge.


Aug. 22, 2006
By Pfc. Rebekka S. Kramp, MCAS New River

Operation Movie Drop off had passed the point of no return. Three men emerged: John Cutcher, the key to getting on New River, Paul C. Kelleher, the president of Beacon Management Group who started the operation, and Steven W. Oxman, the pilot.

The three have been working their way through red tape and disappointments in their quest to help Beacon Management Group, a small business out of Washington D.C., give Marines care packages.

A movie, candy, popcorn, calling card and a handwritten letter of appreciation are in every care package, said HM1 Alisa A. Cutcher, a Navy Corpsman with the Medical unit here and Mr. Cutcher’s daughter.

“What started out as a small project where all 20 employees of Beacon Management Group would make a care package expanded into 300 care packages and four sets of the 100 greatest movies of all times donated by the American Film Institute,” said Kelleher.

“The employees came up with the idea of having their children’s classes make care packages also,” said Kelleher.

Some packages handed out August 11 had long letters of appreciation, while others simply said, “Thank you” in a four-year-old’s handwriting.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming how much people care,” said 1st Lt. Christopher B. Warner, the platoon commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Wounded Warriors platoon.

The Wounded Warriors received 100 of the packages and one set of the 100 greatest movies.

“It is a good reflection on our society,” said Warner. “After Vietnam we didn’t have this care. People want to help out in any way they can.”

The Marines who received the packages appreciate knowing that society has not forgotten them.

“It’s nice for people to take time out of their day. Bringing it down personally shows they really care,” said Cpl. Nicholas D. Scalf, a Marine who was injured by shrapnel in his right thigh and arm.

The Single Marine Program on New River is the only reason we were able to bring the care packages to these Marines, said HM1 Cutcher. All the red tape that is involved in getting a civilian plan to land on base and then there was no guarantee who will receive the movies, until the SMP got involved, she added.

The remaining movies and packages will be sent to Marines overseas. One set of movies is going to Marine Light/ Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, one is going with a squadron that will soon deploy and the last will be sent to Afghanistan, she added.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Mr. Cutcher to the Marines in the Wounded Warriors barracks as he left them to watch their movies and continue to support Camp Lejuene.

Click on photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Marine Corps stretched thin by wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching the U.S. Marine Corps, forcing the service to take extraordinary measures to bolster both manpower and equipment.


By Drew Brown
McClatchy Newspapers
Aug. 22, 2006

On Tuesday, the Marines announced plans to recall as many as 2,500 inactive reservists to involuntary active-duty service to meet manpower needs, the first such call-up since nearly 2,700 Marines were recalled to active-duty before U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003.

The announcement coincided with a report to be issued Wednesday by two military experts who say that the Marines are having to borrow equipment from non-deployed units and pre-positioned stockpiles to replace tanks, trucks, armored vehicles and other hardware worn out by more than three years of combat duty in Iraq.

The two events are the latest signs that the U.S. military is having difficulty maintaining its combat readiness with the Iraq war well into its fourth year.

A Marines spokeswoman denied that the Marines are having difficulty finding recruits or volunteers for war-zone duty. Instead, Maj. Gabrielle Chapin said the service is looking to deepen the availability of Marines with specific training. "What we do need is a pool of very specific skill sets to fill critical job specialties," she said.

Yet the call-up is a rare one for the smallest of the country's four military services, which has always prided itself on its recruitment and retention record. Less than 180,000 Marines serve on active duty, but the Corps has consistently met or exceeded its recruiting and re-enlistment goals for years, even as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drag on.

Those expected to receive involuntary activation notices include infantry and other combat specialties, communications and intelligence specialists, combat engineers and military police, the Marines said. Marines in their first and last years of inactive reserve status will be excluded from the recall. Those recalled to service will get at least five months' notice.

The Marines currently have about 59,000 men and women serving in what's officially known as the individual ready reserve - former active-duty service members who still have time to serve on their mandatory eight-year commitment. Marine officials said they don't expect to activate more than 2,500.

Democrats, who have been pushing for a change of course in Iraq, said the announcement illustrates again how the war is straining U.S. military forces.

"After bravely serving our nation, often for more than one tour, these men and women are being asked to once again shoulder a heavy burden," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent critic of Bush administration policy on Iraq. "The drain on our soldiers, their families and the military's resources caused by today's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be addressed immediately or there will be severe long-term consequences for the nation and our military."

The move follows similar call-ups by the Army, which has recalled about 5,100 former soldiers back to service since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Most of those have been activated since 2004, and 2,100 remain on active duty, according to Army officials.

The Iraq war also has put unprecedented wear and tear on the Marine Corps' trucks, tanks and other combat equipment, according to a report by the Center for American Progress and the Lexington Institute, two policy research groups that frequently study national security issues.

The war has forced the Marines to keep about 40 percent of its ground combat equipment, 50 percent of its communications gear and 20 percent of its aircraft in Iraq, the report says.

Helicopters fly two to three times more hours than they should, tanks are being used four times as much as anticipated, and Humvees are being driven an average of 480 miles a month, 70 percent of which is off-road.

The harsh desert and combat losses are chewing up other gear at nine times their planned rates. Humvees that were expected to last 14 years need to be replaced after only four years in the extreme conditions of the Iraqi desert, the report says.

"This war in Iraq, in addition to the human cost, has a very heavy equipment cost, and this bill is going to have to be paid for years to come," said Larry J. Korb, a former Pentagon official and co-author of the report.

Because of the situation, the Marines, like the Army, have been forced to take equipment from non-deployed units and pre-positioned stockpiles in Europe and elsewhere to maintain sufficient combat gear for units in Iraq, seriously hampering their ability to respond to a crisis elsewhere, said Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

"If, heaven forbid, Korea breaks out or something like that, you wouldn't be able to do as well as you should," he said.

Korb and co-author Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, estimate that the Marines will have to spend at least $12 billion to replenish their ground and aviation equipment. That figure will grow by $5 billion for every year the Marines remain in Iraq.

Korb and Thompson reached similar conclusions about the Army in a report issued in April.

Marines to Recall Troops to Active Duty

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Marine Corps will soon begin ordering thousands of its troops back to active duty because of a shortage of volunteers for Iraq and Afghanistan _ the first involuntary recall since the early days of the war.


August 22, 2006

Up to 2,500 Marines will be brought back at a time, and there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service as the military helps fight the war on terror. The call-ups will begin in the next several months.

The number of troops in Iraq has climbed back to 138,000 _ the prevailing number for much of last year. Troop levels had been declining this year, to a low of about 127,000, amid growing calls from Congress and the public for a phased withdrawal. Escalating violence in Baghdad has led military leaders to increase the U.S. presence there.

This is the first time the Marines have had to use the involuntary recall since the beginning of the Iraq combat. The Army, meanwhile, has issued orders recalling about 10,000 soldiers so far, but many of those may be granted exemptions.

Marine Col. Guy A. Stratton, head of the manpower mobilization section, estimated that there is a current shortfall of about 1,200 Marines needed to fill positions in upcoming deployments.

Some of the military needs, he said, include engineers, intelligence, military police and communications.

As of Tuesday, nearly 22,000 of the 138,000 troops in Iraq were Marines.

The call-up will affect Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve, a segment of the reserves that consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations.

Generally, Marines enlist for four years, then serve the other four years either in the regular Reserves, where they are paid and train periodically, or in the Individual Ready Reserve. Marines in the IRR are obligated to report only one day a year but can be involuntarily recalled to active duty.

To date, about 5,000 Army IRR soldiers have mobilized, and about 2,200 of those are currently serving, according to Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman. Of those 2,200, about 16 percent are volunteers, he said. A typical Army enlistment obligation is also for eight years.

According to Stratton, there are about 59,000 Marines in the IRR, but the Corps has decided to exempt from the call-up those who are either in their first year or last year of the reserve status. As a result, the pool of available Marines is about 35,000.

The deployments can last up to two years, but on average would be 12 to 18 months, Stratton said. Each Marine who is being recalled will get five months to prepare before having to report.

President Bush authorized the recall on July 26. It is the first such recall since early 2003, when about 2,000 Marines were involuntarily activated for the initial ground war in Iraq.

"Since this is going to be a long war," said Stratton, "we thought it was judicious and prudent at this time to be able to use a relatively small portion of those Marines to help us augment our units."


2 Station squadrons receive CNO awards

Major Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr. (Front row, left) kneels beside the most junior enlisted Marine as Marines from HMM-266 pose with the safety placard the general presented them moments before. Photo by: Pfc. Rebekka S. Kramp


Aug. 22, 2006; Submitted on: 08/22/2006 11:30:06 AM ; Story ID#: 200682211306

By Pfc. Rebekka S. Kramp, MCAS New River

Major Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr. (Front row, left) kneels beside the most junior enlisted Marine as Marines from HMM-266 pose with the safety placard the general presented them moments before. Photo by: Pfc. Rebekka S. Kramp

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (Aug. 22, 2006) -- Marines from two New River squadrons were recently awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 2005.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 received the CNO Safety Award Aug. 8 in recognition of the squadrons’ outstanding contributions to fleet readiness, commitment to professionalism and competent risk management that lead to safe and effective operations and the economic use of resources, said Lt. Col. Michael G. McCoy, HMM-264 commanding officer.

“Most importantly, this award recognizes the all-hands commitment to the principles of aviation safety, our proactive commitment to the principles of operational risk management, superior leadership at all levels and superb airmanship,” he added.

By earning this award these squadrons have proven that every Marine in their squadron, from the most junior enlisted to the commanding officer, is committed to safety, said Maj. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., 2d Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general.

“It takes constant attention to detail and awareness by all hands for a unit to accomplish its mission and to operate in the safest manner possible,” said Col. David J. Mollahan, Marine Aircraft Group 26’s commanding officer. “So this award is a remarkable achievement for the entire squadron, given that a good portion of the period that this award covers was while the squadron was deployed in a combat zone where they were required to sustain continuous operations at an extremely high tempo in a particularly challenging operating environment.”

Glueck first presented the award to MAG-26 for HMM-266, which recently stood down to become an “Osprey” squadron, where he reminded those who were able to attend that what they did yesterday doesn’t make them great, it’s what they do today.

Later that day Glueck presented HMM-264 their award.

“Great job,” said Glueck when he present HMM-264 the award.

The "Fighting Griffins" of HMM-266 had 5,353.5 class-A mishap-free flight hours including their deployment. The HMM-266 team amassed 2,487.1 flight hours during the day and 2,866.4 at night, carried 13,701 combat troops or passengers and lifted 677,885 pounds of cargo and equipment in 2005.

The HMM-264 “Black Knights” succeeded in obtaining a total of 5095.5 class-A mishap-free flight hours by the end of 2005. Not only did HMM-264 fly a total of 5095.5 hours, they lifted 1,035,459 pounds and transported 16,346 passengers.

The goal for the “Black Knights” and the entire 2d MAW is to be ready to deploy and 100 percent combat ready by the end of this year, said Glueck.

These awards prove that from the most junior Marine to all the commanding officers, they will be ready.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Hundreds of mourners give Marine final salute

Kyle Donnelly returned home to Lambertville last week to spend time with friends and family before the Marines deployed the 19-year-old private to Iraq next month.

His mother said she had braced herself for the dangers of his pending assignment, but not for the tragedy that claimed Donnelly's life Thursday night when his Jeep crashed on a narrow, heavily wooded road in West Amwell.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

"He was less than a minute from home" Wendy Schmutz Don nelly said yesterday during her son's wake. The service was held at a church across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania to accommodate hundreds of mourners.

Donnelly, a Marine for almost a year, graduated from South Hunterdon High School in 2005. Dozens of his fellow graduates, as well as current students, came to St. Mar tin's of Tours Roman Catholic Church in New Hope, Pa., to say farewell.

"I don't want to believe it. He had a lot to look forward to," said close friend and fellow graduate Rob Brown, 19, who was among many struggling with Donnelly's death.

Police said Donnelly was driving a 1994 Jeep on Goat Hill Road in West Amwell, which leads into Lambertville, around 11:40 p.m. Thursday when he appeared to swerve. He may have been trying to avoid a deer, said West Amwell Police Lt. Stephen Bartzak.

Bartzak said Donnelly lost control of the Jeep, the vehicle left the road, rolled over several times and struck a tree. Donnelly was flown by helicopter to an area hospital, where he died early Friday, police said.

"He had driven up and down that road hundreds of times, be cause he's lived there all his life," Wendy Schmutz Donnelly said. She said her son was on his way home after a night out visiting friends.

Donnelly played baseball and football while in high school. He ex celled in history classes, and planned eventually to go to college, his mother said. But that would be after serving in the Marines, which he had longed to join since he was in the fourth grade, she said.

As a child, Donnelly played manhunt games while wearing military-styled face paint and fatigues, she said. Schmutz Donnelly be lieved it was only a phase until years later, when her son expressed interest in the military during his junior year at South Hunterdon.

"We knew he wanted to join the Marines. We just thought we could talk him out of it," she said, admit ting she dreaded allowing her son to join during a time of war.

But Donnelly, she remembered, had a message for anyone who questioned his motives: "You tell them I'm doing this so that their kids don't have to do it," she recalled her son saying. He came home on leave last week and was to be deployed to Iraq in early September, she said.

Donnelly was in his dress uniform in an open casket yesterday, with a leather-bound Bible under his gloved hand. There also was a dagger left by one of several of his fellow Marines who stood guard be side several bouquets of roses.

"The reason he wanted to be a Marine was because he wanted be part of the best, and he was," said Pfc. Thomas Ennis, a childhood friend who attended boot camp with Donnelly.

Mourners, who wrote messages and sympathy cards sent to the family, and left at the crash site, expressed how much they would miss Donnelly's dry sense of humor, and a caring spirit he had toward oth ers.

"These kids are pouring their hearts (out) over how much they looked up to him. It's so comforting that so many people thought so highly of him," said his mother. "I just hope he knew that."

Donnelly also is survived by his father, Kevin J. Donnelly; sister, Megan E. Donnelly; and paternal grandmother, Roseann Donnelly.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Lambertville. Burial will follow at Holcombe Riverview Cemetery in Delaware Township.

Ralph R. Ortega may be reached at [email protected], or at (908) 429-9925.

VMA-513 Marine uses creativity to cope with deployed life

Cpl. Joshua M. Peterson (left) and Lance Cpl. Kyler Buckner pose in front of a sign created by Peterson Aug. 18, at Al Asad, Iraq. Both Peterson and Buckner, ordnance technicians, Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, helped create the sign and the porch in front of the ordnance Marines' living quarters.


August 21, 2006; Submitted on: 08/22/2006 04:13:45 AM ; Story ID#: 200682241345

By Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

AL ASAD, Iraq (August 21, 2006) -- Throughout the air base at Al Asad, Iraq, certain things don't change. Dust covers the land, chow is served at the same time everyday and most people live in the same living quarters, without many comforts of home. However, one ordnance Marine has gone out of his way to make the living conditions for himself and his Marines more comfortable.

Cpl. Joshua M. Peterson, ordnance technician, Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, has increased the value of life and morale for all the Marines in his shop, and many Marines throughout the squadron.

"During this deployment Corporal Peterson and Lance Corporal Kyler Buckner have built a patio for their entire row of (living quarters)," said Staff Sgt. Alfredo Topete, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, ordnance section, VMA-513.

"The deck is great," said Sgt. David K. Averill, aviation ordnance technician, VMA-513. "It makes ordnance stand out from the rest of the squadron."

"Buckner started the patio by putting some plywood in front of his door and stacking sandbags around it," said Peterson, a native of Chicago. "I thought the porch was a good idea, so I made one, and we connected them together. It just got out of control after that."

After the two porches were connected, the Marines next to Peterson and Buckner wanted a porch, so the two Marines decided to make the whole row a deck.

"After everyone had a porch, we stacked sandbags at the ends of the row," said Peterson. "We then covered the row with (camouflaged netting), and our families started sending us weird stuff to put out on the porch."

The ordinance Marines have added a flock of ornamental pink flamingoes, an inflatable palm tree, numerous ornamental lights, security features including, barbed wire and a sign, to let everyone know who lives there.

"I just wanted to make the whole area more homely and comfortable," said Peterson. "Everyone kept saying the porch was like home, so I spray painted the sandbags red and painted gray lines in between to make them look like brick. It's just another way to make everyone comfortable."

"The porch is a sanctuary for many of the Marines to just hang out and talk about home, family and complain like all Marines do from time-to-time," said Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Coty, SNCOIC ordnance shop, VMA-513.

Building porches is not the only way Peterson raises morale through his shop, according to Topete, a native of Pacoima, Calif.

"Peterson has a unique personality," added Topete. "He is always smiling or joking, regardless of the workload. It's that mentality that makes him a valuable asset to this shop."

"Cpl. Peterson has a great work ethic," said Lance Cpl. Ian L. McCormick, ordnance technician and Peterson's roommate. "He works hard at everything he does, from his day-to-day job to the porch he built. His work ethic really impressed me. His hard work benefits the whole shop and he always makes sure that everyone is having a good time."

The Chicago native has done more than just raise the morale of the shop. He has also been working hard to improve himself.

"When Peterson came out here he had a tan (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) belt, the belt you receive in boot camp, now he is a green belt, which is a two belt level increase," said Topete. "He has also been certified in many areas of his job since we touched down in country."

"Corporal Peterson has gone through the process to become a Collateral Duty Inspector, which allows him to verify the work of other Marines," said Coty, a native of Raymond, Wash. "He also has his Gas Turbine Starter/Auxiliary Power Unit qualification. Both of these qualifications are highly regarded at all levels in the maintenance department. You can only go to the corral and get the same workhorse for so long. If you don't trade off on the duties and responsibilities you'll break the (Marines) spirit, and then you're forced to find another workhorse anyway."

In the end, Cpl. Joshua M. Peterson is a motivated Marine making the best out of a less than perfect situation, which he thanks his mother for.

"I have a Mexican mother," said Peterson. "She taught me to excel at whatever I do, even if I was a toilet bowl cleaner, I would push myself to be the best toilet cleaner there is."

For MORE photos, credits and descriptions, please click on the picture

Mattis: Success in Iraq now a test of wills

General James N. Mattis, commander of Marine forces in Iraq and new commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force.

CAMP PENDLETON -- The war in Iraq is now a test of perseverance, the commanding general of Marine Corps forces in the Middle East said Monday.

"It is mostly a matter of wills," Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis said during an exclusive interview with the North County Times. "Whose will is going to break first? Ours or the enemy's?"


By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

Mattis said he has no doubt of U.S. resolve but no clear idea how long it will take to root out the insurgency. He said he plans to go to Iraq soon to talk with Marine commanders and frontline troops to get a complete picture of the war.

"Let me get more time over in the theater for a better feel for how long this is going to take," the general said during the 45-minute session in his new office at Camp Pendleton where he commands the I Marine Expeditionary Force as well as overseeing Marine forces in Iraq.

The general said he understands Americans' increasing impatience with the war and frustrations over repeated deployments, but said establishing a date for withdrawal would send the wrong message.

"If we put a timeline on it, than the enemy knows exactly what we are going to do and will wait until the deadline comes," he said. "Marines don't know how to spell the word 'defeat.' We will stay sturdy and we will continue to fight and protect the Iraqi people no matter what is thrown in our path."

Mattis, who led the Marines in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and led the 1st Marine Division in the invasion of Iraq and march to Baghdad in early 2003, said he was once asked by an Iraqi when he would leave that country.

"I said I am never going to leave. I told him I had found a little piece of property down on the Euphrates River and I was going to have a retirement home built there.

"I did that because I wanted to disabuse him of any sense that he could wait me out."

'Extremely complex fight'

The debate has long passed as to whether the Iraq war can be won on a strictly military basis, said Mattis, who also led Marines forces in the battle for the insurgent stronghold city of Fallujah in April 2004.

"A military solution is not possible," he said. "This has been vigorously debated and resolved among Marine and Army senior leadership. We have never thought this would end with a military solution and that is why the need for ... diplomats is just as important as expeditionary military forces."

Understanding the ordinary Iraqi, for instance, remains vital to U.S. success, he said.

"It's not that difficult but without it you can't win the will of the people, and if you don't at least neutralize their support for the enemy, than all you are doing is fighting and fighting. You don't really have a purpose to your fighting if you can't connect with the people."

Today's Marines are the best educated and trained in the history of the service and part of his job is to make sure that continues as the conflict in Iraq goes on, Mattis said.

"Wars like this are winnable but you have got to have a sophisticated approach and you've got to have very sturdy and spiritually sturdy Marines who can keep their balance in the face of an extremely complex fight."

As an example, Mattis talked of a Marine unit that had just seen several of its members wounded in a roadside bomb explosion yet took the time to wave to Iraqi children after the dead and injured were evacuated and it was leaving the area.

"It's not a small issue to wave to kids after just seeing your buddies blown up, but that shows on the most pedestrian level the kind of sturdiness that is needed in what is just a morally bruising environment where the enemy hides among the people."

New goals

Mattis assumed command of Marine Corps Forces Central and the I Marine Expeditionary Force last week from Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler following a two-year stint at Quantico, Va., as commander of combat development.

Once Sattler handed over those commands eight days ago, Mattis said, his foremost obligation became delivering to Gen. John Abazaid, commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, whatever he needs from the Marines.

His second obligation, he said, is to the more than 25,000 Marines and sailors who make up the I Marine Expeditionary Force, a force whose units are now returning from Iraq following their third assignment there since 2003.

"For the I MEF, it is to ensure that the force which has carried a very significant part of the fight in this war has what it needs so that in an uncertain world we're all certain of one thing: if there's trouble, the I MEF can handle whatever is assigned to us to do."

Among the challenges he faces at Camp Pendleton is helping decide the fate of seven Camp Pendleton Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of premeditated murder and kidnapping in the death of an Iraqi man in April.

Pretrial hearings for those men are slated to start soon, and as commanding general, Mattis will determine whether their cases should move forward to courts-martial. If that happens and they are convicted, the 55-year-old general will also help decide the appropriate punishment.

He also will help decide whether Marines from another Camp Pendleton unit will face criminal charges in the deaths of 24 civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha in November. Because the general is the "convening authority" under the military justice system for those cases, that subject matter was off-limits during the interview.

New battlefield manuals

Until now, the Marine Corps and Army have been conducting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan using a more than two-decades-old manual for fighting an insurgency. That's about to change with the introduction of a pair of manuals, one written by Mattis, the other co-written by him.

Last month, the Marine Corps published a Small Unit Leaders Guide to Counterinsurgency he authored. Later this year, a 250-page updated version of the "Small Wars Manual," written by Mattis and Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, will be published.

"The Small Wars Manual has stood the test of time, but much of our thinking was directed against a communist insurgency," Mattis said, explaining the rationale for the updated version.

"War's fundamental nature hasn't changed since Alexander the Great fought, but you must adapt to different techniques and what we have written and largely completed is a new approach to counterinsurgency that addresses the specific characteristics of what we face today."

As the military establishment is in the midst of conducting an assessment of the war and identifying mistakes that have been made in preparation for future conflicts, Mattis said, the degree of cooperation between the Army and Marine Corps today is unprecedented.

"We have never had a closer relationship with the Army, never," he said. "The circumstances and the shared approach to war fighting and the integration of units in each other's formations has never been greater. As a result, we now approach many of the problems with the same experiences and same goals."

Cultural and geographic sensitivity

Another hallmark of Mattis' most recent work at Quantico that is now being implemented under his direction as a force commander is greater training in cultural awareness and sensitivities and language skills.

"We have to be able to make a cross-cultural connection," said Mattis, whose personal library once numbered more than 2,000 books before he gave at least half away.

Mattis has been involved in the development of a Center for Advanced Operational and Cultural Learning for officers and senior enlisted men and woman. The center has divided the world into subregions that Mattis said are referred to as the "arch of instability."

By the time an enlisted Marine makes sergeant, he or she will be expected to have taken at least 300 hours of instruction, he said.

"We now have the same expectation of our noncommissioned officers as we do of our field-grade officers -- that they will be able to read the cultural terrain," he said. "It is more important now in a time when you don't seize terrain and when the army against you doesn't come at you in mass formation."

Leadership changes?

Mattis said he has not decided whether he will make any immediate changes in the command structure among Marine forces in Iraq, where Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer is the current leader of the I Marine Expeditionary Forces Forward.

"I need to get back out there and get my own personal situational awareness," he said during the interview, where his personal effects such as plaques and awards remain lined up on the floor waiting to be hung. "I will be going out soon and will be all ears."

The dangerous western Iraqi province of Anbar, the region where the Sunni Arab insurgency is the strongest and where the Marines have been on station since the invasion, is his destination. The Defense Department on Monday reported that two Marines and sailors were killed in combat operations there on Sunday. To date, nearly 7,000 Marines have been killed or wounded since the 2003 invasion.

Despite the continued attacks against U.S. forces from insurgents, many of whom are linked to the al-Qaida terrorist group, Mattis said, those opposing U.S. forces know they face a formidable foe.

"Al-Qaida is confronting a very difficult challenge and is daily paying a bloody price as they try to terrorize the Iraqi people into some sort of acquiescence to their rule."

Re-equipping on pace

A report being issued on Wednesday by the Center for American Progress in Washington is expected to outline shortfalls in Marine Corps equipment, including armored personnel carriers, aircraft and other major components used to move and protect Marine forces.

Mattis said he is optimistic that as long as Marine leaders clearly identify their needs, congressional appropriators will provide the money to replace aging hardware and pay for more modern equipment.

"We have to keep pace because this is going to be a long fight," Mattis said, adding he does not expect the Marine Corps will go lacking for materials it needs.

Thanks to the community

Mattis said there was "no place I'd rather be than back here with the I MEF where we have the best training and best-led Marines and sailors in the world."

He also said he is particularly grateful for the support shown by ordinary North County residents, merchants, church and support groups for the troops and their families.

"We live in a community that supports us and our Marines deeply appreciate the support that comes from all quarters," he said.

His assignment back to Camp Pendleton marks the return of Marine commander whose reputation as an aggressive battlefield commander and a blunt-talking leader preceded him.

"We keep on charging and we will continue to do so," he said. "I have no doubt about that whatsoever."

-- Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or [email protected]


Gen. James N. Mattis

Born: Richland, Wash.

Schooling: Attended Central Washington University; graduate of Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the National War College

Years of service: 1972 until the present

Battles: Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom

Last assignment: Marine Corps Combat Development command and Deputy Commandant for Combat Development at Quantico, Va.

Current assignment: Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command and all Marines in Iraq and commanding general of the Camp Pendleton-based I Marine Expeditionary Force


'It's not a small issue to wave to kids after just seeing your buddies blown up, but that shows on the most pedestrian level the kind of sturdiness that is needed in what is just a morally bruising environment where the enemy hides among the people'

'Whose will is going to break first?'

'Marines don't know how to spell the word 'defeat'

'The I MEF can handle whatever is assigned to us'

'We have never had a closer relationship with the Army, never'

'A (strictly) military solution is not possible'

'Wars like this are winnable'

'This is going to be a long fight'

-- Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.


August 21, 2006

Marine who died from IED burns remembered on Okinawa

Marines at Camp Hansen on Okinawa hold a memorial service Monday for Sgt. John Phillips, who died after a five-month fight to survive burns suffered in Fallujah, Iraq, in March. During his recovery, Phillips married his girlfriend and was on the mend when infections set in and took his life.
Megan McCloskey / S&S;

By Megan McCloskey, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Sgt. John Phillips was a man other Marines would go to for guidance because of his honesty and his intelligence, but mostly because he lived life from the heart, those who served with him said at a memorial service Monday.

To continue reading:


For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

3/4 begins SASO basics at Range 215

Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Middleton demonstrates the proper procedures for searching a hostile person, using Lance Cpl. Ahmad D. Dennis as an example at the Combat Center’s Range 215 Aug. 8

Third Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, rolled into their third week of Mojave Viper, a month long training evolution combining the Revised-Combined Arms Training Exercise and Security and Stability Operations training.


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment

At company levels, the battalion began SASO training Aug. 7, at the Combat Center's Range 215, a military operations in urban terrain facility known as Wadi Al Sahara. Prior to any live runs in the mock Iraqi city, the Marines and sailors of the battalion attended classes given by Tactical Training Exercise Control Group instructors.

The instructors, nicknamed Coyotes, taught and reiterated to the Marines what they would come into contact with in the MOUT facility, which is meant to also give the Marines an idea of what they should expect in Iraq.

The majority of Headquarters and Service Co. Marines who underwent the training will be deploying to Iraq for the first time. The classes taught the Marines and sailors an array of material they would need to know for their upcoming seven-month deployment.

They began Monday by familiarizing themselves with the kinds of weapons the enemy uses in Iraq, and how to use, assemble and unload the weapons.

Cpl. Sam L. Minor, a TTECG instructor, deployed with 3/4 for all three of their deployments to Iraq. He now teaches Marines, using the knowledge he gained from his experiences.

“The Marines are definitely going to come across many of the weapons we have shown them here,” said Minor. “Through these classes, I can share my knowledge of what I picked up the last three deployments, and share with all the Marines who can use it.

“I dealt with an AK [Avtomat Kalishnikova] at least once or twice a week over there,” added Minor.

H&S; Marines and sailors were taught in depth SASO, involving role players aboard Range 215. They underwent classes Tuesday morning on vehicle checkpoint procedures, contact and non-contact searches of individuals, and a short class on customs and languages in Iraq, taught by an Iraqi role-player.

Lance Cpl. Octavio E. Campuzano, a forward observer with H&S; Co., has been in the fleet since April and awaits his first combat deployment.

“Everything that the Coyotes taught is very beneficial to all of us who haven't deployed,” said Campuzano. “The standard operating procedures that we were taught here in searching a vehicle, a person or a home is something I am definitely going to have to remember and follow when I get to Iraq.

“I also learned some very important words and gestures from the Iraqi role player,” added Campuzano. “It's very necessary to learn. It's important to have a key to breach the language barriers in Iraq. It is important that we are able to understand the customs, language and gestures, because we want to build a good rapport with the Iraqi citizens. The Coyotes and role players were very helpful to us. The next step is to use this knowledge here in this city. The ultimate test will be in Iraq. There's no telling what exactly we will see there, but the Coyotes are giving us everything they know.”

As the third week of Mojave Viper continues, the Marines and sailors of the battalion will continue to hone their SASO skills. During the fourth and final week of Mojave Viper, the training will culminate with a final exercise, where the Marines apply everything they have learned.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

VMU-1 named Air Command and Control Unit of the Year

Lance Cpl. Katelyn A. Knauer A RQ-2B Pioneer UAV takes off from an airfield south of Camp Wilson during a training mission. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 was awarded the 2006 MCAA Edward S. Fris Award.

Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 was recognized by the Marine Corps Aviation Association for their achievements in support of training exercises and combat operations from May 2005 until April 2006.


Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz
Combat Correspondent

The squadron was awarded the 2006 MCAA Edward S. Fris Award, established in honor of Maj. General Edward S. Fris, a pioneer in the development of Marine Corps Command and Control.

“The award means a lot to all of us here at VMU-1,” said Staff Sgt. Abelardo Platas, internal pilot instructor. “Not a lot of people know what we do, so it's great to receive some recognition.”

The Watch Dogs, the squadron's nickname, serve as a second set of eyes for ground troops, he explained.

“We provide overhead security, support for raids, and set grid points for a fire mission, among other things,” Platas said.

When the squadron is not deployed, they support Mojave Viper exercises, familiarizing infantry units with UAVs and their effectiveness on the battlefield.

During the squadron's latest deployment, from August 2005 until March, they flew 780 RQ-2B Pioneer UAV sorties, air missions, which added up to 3,215 flight hours. It was the most flown by a squadron equipped with a Pioneer during that time period, said Platas.

Also, during their deployment, VMU-1 supported Regimental Combat Team 2 in more than two combat operations, including Operation Iron Fist, an operation to disrupt insurgent activity in various Iraqi cities.

During Operation Iron Fist, the Watch Dogs detected a cave complex the enemy used as a weapons cache and bomb-making facility. This allowed Marine snipers to kill four insurgents and confiscate small arms, explosives and other bomb-making materials, Platas said.

The squadron also helped coordinate numerous air strikes during Operation Steel Curtain with RCT-2 in November 2005.

VMU-1 supported more than 40 types of direct actions against the enemy during the deployment and detected many improvised explosive devices that were destroyed by explosive ordnance disposal Marines, said Platas.

“We've done so many things in the background that isn't seen, and it's good to know other people view our work as important and effective,” he said.

Other Watch Dogs, like Sgt. Nicolas Padron, UAV internal operator, felt a boost of morale when told the squadron won an award.

“It feels good to get this award as a squadron,” he said. “We work hard, and it's rare to get recognized outside of your command.”

The Marine Corps only has two VMU squadrons that must trade off to provide support in Iraq. VMU-1 is deployed for seven months and returns for five months before they are deployed again.

“We're consistently deployed,” said Padron. “So an award like this gives our Marines something to strive for and work toward.”

Cpl. Clayton Lagesse, UAV internal operator, sees the award as opening the door for UAVs, he said.

“We are in the early stages of UAV technology and advances,” he explained. “Not a lot of people, even in the military, know us and what we do. So to receive this recognition is a big step in awareness of our capabilities.”

The squadron is in the midst of preparing for their next deployment, scheduled for the end of August, where the Watch Dogs will add to their list of achievements, and serve as the Air Command and Control Unit of the Year

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Waterfront Ops conduct search and rescue exercises

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Aug. 21, 2006) -- Around 9:30 a.m. the call came in over the radio at the Waterfront Operations command deck Aug. 9. The caller said two boats had collided in the bay near Coconut Island leaving four passengers stranded in the water. The location of the wreck, severity of the injuries and time of the collision were unknown.


Aug. 21, 2006; Submitted on: 08/21/2006 02:13:18 PM ; Story ID#: 2006821141318
By Lance Cpl. Ryan Trevino, MCB Hawaii

Waterfront Ops was quick to respond. Two boats were dispatched into Kaneohe Bay to search for the location of the wreck and rescue the passengers. The Federal Fire Department here and its team of paramedics were also contacted and on standby to take in any or all of the passengers rescued.

The site of the wreckage was spotted within 10 minutes of the call. The driver of the rescue boat deployed a small team of Navy rescue swimmers to assess the casualties and bring them aboard.

The swimmers quickly noticed the victims were suffering from a variety of injuries. Two were unconscious, one with a major head trauma. The other two were awake, but suffering from a broken leg and a puncture wound.

The two unresponsive passengers were quickly brought on board and given the immediate care they required. The team of swimmers quickly plunged back into the water to rescue the others who were crying out in agony.

The second boat arrived on the scene soon after and assisted with the rescue operation. As both boats were conducting the search and rescue, another obstacle was thrown into the equation. The boats were now drifting dangerously close to the coral reefs by the shore, which would have caused them to get stuck and require a rescue operation themselves.

Fortunately, the boats were able to avoid the reefs and quickly rushed the victims back to the docks where the paramedics were standing by with stretchers to get them off the boats and an ambulance to rush them to a local hospital as needed.

“We are there to provide any type of medical assistance Waterfront Ops may need,” said Jason K. Montgomery, acting captain, Federal Fire Department here.

Although this was just a training exercise conducted as a collaborative effort by Waterfront Ops and the Federal Fire Department here, this scenario plays out more often than the two units would like.

According to Marc B. Tinaz, officer-in-charge, Waterfront Operations Ensign, a search and rescue operation occurs about once every ten days in Kaneohe Bay.

Tinaz has decided to implement a training regimen that will require the Sailors of Waterfront Operations to conduct a new search and rescue operation once a month.

“These exercises will allow us to train and be more proficient in our search and rescue capabilities,” said Tinaz, who added that his team of Navy swimmers are considered a valuable asset for both the Coast Guard and Honolulu Rescue for the Kaneohe Bay area.
Tinaz admitted the training exercise went well except for a few shortcomings.

“Timing is critical,” said Tinaz. “It should take less than 10 minutes to arrive anywhere in the bay.”

He said he was pleased with the communication between the boats and the command deck throughout the exercise and with the treatment of the victims.

Tinaz explained to his Sailors during the exercise debrief, he wanted them to pay more attention to the details.

“It’s the little things that can eat us up,” he said.

For more photos, descriptions, and credits please click on any picture

Iwo Jima photo remains an icon for the Marine Corps

NEW YORK (AP) — The most famous photograph of World War II, and maybe of all time, rests in a box in a locked steel cage at The Associated Press photo library in New York. The death of Joe Rosenthal, the man who took it, was an occasion to bring it out for a rare examination.


8/21/2006, 5:59 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

Donning white cotton gloves, AP chief photo librarian Charles Zoeller opened the box marked "Iwo Jima 1945, Joe Rosenthal, O negs." Inside were 31 4-by-5-inch negatives from the Speed Graphic camera that Rosenthal had carried through one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War — including The Picture.

Zoeller flipped the switch on a light board and held up the negative. There it was — the black and white image of five Marines and one Navy corpsman pushing a flagpole upward in what would become the ultimate symbol of that conflict.

The Picture was taken Feb. 23, 1945 on the top of 545-foot Mount Suribachi, the dormant volcano at the southern end of Iwo Jima — "Sulphur island" in English — as Marines battled to dislodge entrenched Japanese forces. A plaque today marks the site.

Made famous by the shot, Rosenthal later left AP and worked 35 years as a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle. He died Sunday in that city at age 94.

Zoeller noted that in recent years, the Marine Corps has sent small groups of officers to spend a day at various news organizations, a program designed to familiarize combat leaders with the media they may encounter in the field.

At The Associated Press, a final stop at the photo library has become the piece de resistance of the yearly visits.

"The Marines see that shot and sometimes they burst into tears," Zoeller said. "It is really a Marine Corps icon, part of their culture, and it's a very moving experience for them to see that actual negative."

Capt. Angel M. Torres, an artillery instructor at a Marine base in California, recalled in an e-mail on Monday "the awestruck moment ... of being able to view Joe Rosenthal's original negative" during last year's visit.

The Picture has been called the most-published photograph in history, but even the news agency is not sure how often it has been licensed over the past 60 years. "It's almost impossible to reconstruct that," Zoeller said. "About the best you can say is `countless.'"

The AP photo library, among the world's largest, contains "upwards of 10 million images," by Zoeller's estimate — catalogued by subject matter in brown envelopes on shelves eight levels high, and climate controlled at a constant 65 degrees.

Inside the cage are boxes containing other important news photos — from the blazing dirigible Hindenburg in 1937 to a burning monk in Saigon in 1963 to an exploding space shuttle Challenger in 1986.

Many of the others also won Pulitzer Prizes, but none carried the timeless impact of The Picture by Joe Rosenthal.

Rosenthal last visited AP headquarters in New York in 2003. "As far as I know he never came up to see the negative," Zoeller said.

'Wounded hero' showered with gifts for baby

Marine Miguel Delgado honored at fund-raiser

WINTHROP HARBOR — Marine Sgt. Miguel Delgado headed back to duty at Camp Lejuene, N.C. on Sunday with his arms full of baby supplies, clothes and toys.


By Chris Brenner [email protected]

The Marine, still healing from wounds suffered a year ago in Iraq, was honored and showered with baby gifts Saturday for his expected newborn daughter during the Wounded Heroes Foundation fund-raiser held at Stone Creek Grill.

The event included "lots of people", food, drink and music, he said. "They had it all."

The foundation gave him many needed baby items.

Anna Sherony of Wadsworth is the co-founder of the Wounded Heroes Foundation that financially helps wounded servicemen and women throughout the country.

"They have ensured our American dream with their sacrifices and it is our duty to ensure their American dreams," she said.

The Saturday event honored four other "wounded heroes" from Peoria and Chicago.
Each received a $500 grant, Sherony said.

The party was supported strongly by the VFW post in Winthrop Harbor, the village of Winthrop Harbor and Tim and Ron Kaiser from Stone Creek Grill, she said.

The Purple Hearts motorcycle group held a bike run with proceeds going to the foundation. More than 100 bikers participated, she said.

Delgado is heading back to the Marine base after a three-day leave to await the arrival of his first child "in a few days," he said Sunday.

Delgado, 25, and his wife, Cristhian, are expecting a daughter that they will named Ohani.

He said he was wounded by an IED (improvised explosive device), or booby trap, on Aug. 6 last year. He suffered severe injuries to his left leg and has undergone 20 surgeries. The last was two weeks ago.

"I'm still in the healing process," he said.

Delgado, son of Miguel and Carmen Delgado of Waukegan, is a 1999 graduate of Waukegan High School.

He was on his first tour of duty in Iraq with an engineer support battalion when he was wounded.

He will be discharged from the Marine Corps in three months.

Delgado praised the work of the Foundation.

"I thank them for what they are doing," he said. "There is no way we can ever repay them. Thanks for everything."

Sherony said that many people attending the event "were in tears because of these wonderful heroes."

"Many people can say they support our troops, but many can't say how," she said. "These people can now say how."


Bush: U.S. Will Assist U.N. Stabilization Plan In Lebanon

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2006 – The United States will provide funding and other assistance to support a U.N. plan to end warfare between Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas and Israel, President Bush said here today.
Recently passed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 has authorized a 15,000-strong international force to deploy as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah. A brokered cease-fire has reduced fighting between the two antagonists after they fought a month-long trans-border battle using rockets, mortars and ground troops.


By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

“America will do our part. We will assist the new international force with logistical support, command and control, communications and intelligence,” Bush told White House reporters. “Lebanon, Israel and our allies agree that this would be the most effective contribution we can make at this time.”

The deployment of the international peacekeepers, Bush said, will also facilitate delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to Lebanese and Israeli civilians who’d been caught in the crossfire.

Bush said the United States already has distributed more than half of its $50 million pledge of disaster relief for the Lebanese people who’ve lost their homes during the conflict. And, 25,000 tons of U.S. wheat will be delivered to Lebanon in coming weeks, the president added.

America will provide additional aid to support humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon, Bush said, for a total of more than $230 million. These funds, he said, will be used to rebuild Lebanese homes, schools, roads and bridges.

The president said he’s also proposing an additional $42 million to be used to help equip and train the Lebanese armed forces.

Bush said he’d also work with the U.S. Congress to secure loan guarantees to help rebuild Israel infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged by Hezbollah rockets during the war.

America is helping the people of Lebanon because all people deserve to live in a free, open society that respects the rights of all citizens, Bush said. Hezbollah is a radical Islamic militia group that’s backed by Syria and Iran, who both are pledged to destroy Israel.

The conflict was touched off when Hezbollah operatives kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Syria-backed Hezbollah claims to be Lebanon’s the true military organization. The Lebanese army is considered ineffective and riddled with Hezbollah supporters.

“We reject the killing of innocents to achieve a radical and violent agenda,” Bush said.

Hezbollah’s leaders and their sponsors, Syria and Iran, “are working to thwart the efforts of Lebanese people,” Bush said, “to break free from foreign domination and build their own democratic future.”

The terrorists would like Lebanon to become a satellite of Islamic fascism and a base of operations from which to continue deadly attacks on Israel.

However, “the Lebanese people have made it clear they want to live in freedom, Bush said, “and now it’s up to their friends and allies to help them do so.”

Rotarians bring lunch, laughs to Wounded Warriors

The Wounded Warriors Barracks brings together injured heroes to help each other heal, but the barracks has also become the gathering place of a community’s heart.

Since the barracks’ dedication in November 2005, celebrities, civic leaders, business owners and families have stopped by with gifts and blessings, grateful to have a place in which they can express their love and admiration of our troops.


Rotarians bring lunch, laughs to Wounded Warriors
August 21,2006

The scene was no different Aug. 16, when members of the New Bern Rotary Club brought lunch — courtesy of local restaurant Hilda’s — and spent some time with the young service members.

“My wife and I pray for them every day,” said Doug Brewbaker, president of the New Bern Rotary. “We pray for them, but we didn’t ever go thank them in person.”

With fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans sizzling nearby, about a dozen Rotary members mingled with the young troops. They talked about hometowns and sweethearts, explained where they’d been injured and what they’d been doing in the Middle East.

“It’s good to know the community cares,” said Lance Cpl. Briscoe Brown, 26. “It’s good to have people come around and visit with us,” said the third-generation Marine from Louisiana.

Brown said his unit, 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, Lima Company, came across a terrorist- booby-trapped school in Iraq. After clearing the school of the explosives, the Marines patrolled it, protecting the kids inside. They delivered school supplies and soccer balls.

Brown would help to open at least five schools and three medical centers inside the Sunni triangle before he was seriously injured by an IED while on foot patrol.

The blast, which also injured five other Marines, sprayed shrapnel into his shoulder and left him with brain damage, Brown said. He smiles easily, though, and makes mild jokes.

“I’m impressed with their positive attitude,” said Joe Bach, a retired Army colonel, combat veteran, and New Bern Rotary member.

For Rotary member Tammy Childers, the visit to the Wounded Warriors Barracks was just as personal. Her 20-year-old son, Kenny, is an airman apprentice with the U.S. Navy. He left in July to serve aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, stationed in Japan.

“We want the community to rally around our troops,” said Childers, who hears from her son several times a week. “It’s our privilege to support them.”

After lunch — eaten around Foosball and air hockey game tables — Gunnery Sgt. Ken Barnes gave the Rotarians a tour around the Barracks, including a progression of photographs in the main hall and a peek at an empty bedroom suite. When asked how individuals could help, Barnes swept his arm toward the lunch area.

“Things like this right here,” said Barnes.

Rotary International’s broad mission is to bring humanitarian and educational programs to communities around the world. This year, the New Bern Rotary has adopted a town in Mexico and will build a library and medical facility there, much like American troops are doing all over Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Rotary is about international peace,” said Brewbaker, “about exchanges between foreign countries.”

Family, friends give troops extra protection

These Marine moms are on a mission.

That assignment? To raise money to pay for helmet liners for Marines.

So far this year, they have held an ice cream social and spaghetti dinner. Through those fundraisers and other efforts, their support group of about a half dozen mothers, fiancees and family members of Marines, known as Operation Enduring Deployment, has raised about $9,500 for helmet liners.


Family, friends give troops extra protection
Standard helmets only `fair,' so group chips in
By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

The group raised $1,343 at an ice cream social in Hudson in July and another $2,000 at the spaghetti dinner in May.

``People have been unbelievably generous,'' said Joan Zigler of Stow, the mother of Marine Cpl. Joseph Zigler, 23.

Zigler started Operation Enduring Deployment.

``Once people realize this need, they just get very interested in helping,'' she said.

Each helmet liner costs about $71 and is purchased by the nonprofit group Operation Helmet.

Money raised is given to Operation Helmet, which then provides the helmet liners to troops.

Zigler said she heard about Operation Helmet after her son came home from Iraq the first time.

So far, her son's entire unit has received helmet liners.

``This is really a labor of love,'' Zigler said.

One of those receiving a helmet liner, Zigler said, was Marine Cpl. Joseph Tomci, 21, of Stow, who served with her son.

Tomci was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Aug. 2 and was buried last Monday.

Operation Helmet was started in March 2004, when Dr. Bob Meaders of Bentwater, Texas, a retired Navy captain and Vietnam veteran with 23 years in the Medical Corps as an eye specialist, learned of the need of the liners through his Marine grandson.

According to the Operation Helmet Web site, the helmets worn by Marines and many other U.S. troops only have ``fair protection from blast forces and fragment impacts from IEDs and other types of newly appreciated combat dangers.''

The liners purchased by Operation Helmet are a shock absorbing pad suspension system, the Web site said.

Zigler said her group is now ``determined to outfit our other Marines being deployed in the near future.''

Operation Helmet provides helmets for Marines and soldiers and other U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another Marine mom involved in the group is Mary Rose Arnold of Akron, mother of Marine Pfc. Mason Arnold, 20, a 2005 honors graduate from Ellet High School.

Arnold said her son is expected to be deployed to Iraq next year for his first tour.

``As our Marines are banded together in brotherhood, we Moms, fiancees, parents and siblings are banded together in an ongoing effort to support our Marines and each other,'' said Arnold, a decorative painter.

The group's goal is to raise enough money for helmet liners for 200 Marines in her son's unit, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Kilo Company at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 4, the group will hold a craft show to raise money for helmet liners at Firestone Park VFW Post 3383, 690 W. Waterloo Road, Akron.

For more information on Operation Enduring Deployment, e-mail Zigler at [email protected]

For information on Operation helmet, go to www.operation-helmet.org.

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or [email protected]

Philly Marine kick-starts soccer in Iraq

A Marine who grew up in Mayfair has been in the thick of the formation of a soccer league in western Iraq - part of a resurgence of the game all over the country.


Posted on Mon, Aug. 21, 2006

Philly Marine kick-starts soccer in Iraq

[email protected] 215-854-5900

Each of six towns - Karabilah, Sadah, Rumana, Jerijeb, Ubaydi and Husayba - have recently developed soccer fields, complete with grandstands, with U.S. government money. The towns are in western Al Anbar, the largest province in Iraq.

Each team is playing at least one game a week. Rosters list about 20 players - military-age males 16 to 20 years old - as spectators arrive.

Marines are on hand to give radios to the kids. There are also a host of side games such as tug-of-war, soccer-ball kick, three-legged races and scorpion races.

"Soccer is the biggest sport here," said Lance Corporal Sean Ryan, 24, who grew up in the city's Mayfair section. "It is something they live off of."

During the 1970s and '80s, Iraq's national team was a competitive force in the world, and competed in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Soccer continued even during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the sport shut down because of violence and lack of money.

While soccer resumed in parts of Iraq last year, the sport's comeback developed slower in Al Anbar Province, which borders on Syria.

A major U.S. offensive - "Iron Fist" - was launched in Sadah and quickly spread to Karabilah and Rumana, two towns on the Euphrates River.

The offensive was a success and created a quieter Al Anbar, setting the stage for soccer.

Ryan said it took about five months to plan and organize the league. The first game was about a month ago.

"We basically came up with funds from the U.S. government," he said. "We had a contractor from each area, and they designed the field and built the bleachers."

The Marines supervised and made sure everything got done, he added.

"And the Marines have been in charge of security," he said.

The league is open to military-age males from 16 to 20 years old.

Insurgents haven't bothered the soccer games.

"They are mainly into roadside bombings and rocket attacks," Ryan said. "We catch a lot of stuff before it happens. And we're finding a lot of weapons caches."

Ryan's wife, Michelle, 24, lives in California with their daughter Aleesa, 1.

Evacuation efforts complete, 24th MEU ends Lebanon mission

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Monday, August 21, 2006

Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have left the waters off Lebanon and returned to the Red Sea after helping evacuate Americans from Lebanon, said 24th MEU spokesman Capt. David Nevers.

To continue reading:


24th MEU sails on from mission in Lebanon

Lance Cpl. Corey Chiappazzi, a native of Erie, Penn., scans the horizon over the sights of his M240G Medium Machine Gun on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima as it sails through the Suez Canal on its way to the Central Command area of operations Aug. 20. Chiappazzi is a member of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 8th Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

ABOARD USS IWO JIMA (Aug. 21, 2006) -- After assisting in the departure of nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens from Lebanon, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned today to the Central Command area of operations.

Forces assigned to the U.S. European Command have moved in to replace the MEU and are now providing support to the U.S. embassy in Lebanon.


24th MEU sails on from mission in Lebanon
Aug. 21, 2006; Submitted on: 08/21/2006 12:56:48 AM ; Story ID#: 200682105648

By Capt. David E. Nevers, 24th Marine Expeditionary Force

“We’re needed elsewhere,” said Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th MEU, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “Though we hadn’t seen this mission coming when we left North Carolina in June, we were ready for anything, and it was well within our capabilities.”

The MEU and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group had rushed to the Mediterranean Sea last month to help with the departure of U.S. citizens from Lebanon after fighting broke out between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah.

When the crisis erupted on July 12, the MEU’s 2,200 Marines and sailors were in the middle of a training exercise in the Jordanian desert. Three days later, with the international airport in Beirut closed, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon authorized the departure of some embassy personnel and requested military assistance in transporting other American citizens who wished to leave the country.

A detachment of more than 100 Marines and three CH-53 transport helicopters immediately launched from Jordan to the island of Cyprus to prepare for evacuation operations and to pave the way for the arrival of the rest of the MEU.

On July 16, two CH-53s flew to the embassy to insert a security platoon and to air-lift the first group of U.S. citizens to Cyprus. The trip marked the first deployment of Marines to Lebanon in more than 20 years.

Within 10 days, working closely with the embassy and using a combination of helicopters, landing craft and chartered commercial vessels, the 24th MEU and Iwo Jima Strike Group had helped move more than 14,000 Americans to safety.

With the MEU and Strike Group now back in the Red Sea, CENTCOM has more flexibility to respond to other contingencies in its area of responsibility. Over the next couple of months, barring other orders, the MEU will participate in a series of planned training exercises throughout the region. As always, the MEU remains capable of rapidly shifting course to respond to an unforseen crisis or to support ongoing operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The 24th MEU consists of its command element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced); and MEU Service Support Group 24. The MEU is more than two months into an expected six-month deployment.

Joe Rosenthal, Photographer Who Shot Iwo Jima Flag-Raising, Dies at 94

SAN FRANCISCO — Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94.

Rosenthal died of natural causes at an assisted living facility in the San Francisco suburb of Novato, said his daughter, Anne Rosenthal.


Joe Rosenthal, Photographer Who Shot Iwo Jima Flag-Raising, Dies at 94

Monday , August 21, 2006

"He was a good and honest man, he had real integrity," she said.

Rosenthal's iconic photo, shot on Feb. 23, 1945, became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The memorial, dedicated in 1954 and known officially as the Marine Corps War Memorial, commemorates the Marines who died taking the Pacific island in World War II.

The photo was listed in 1999 at No. 68 on a New York University survey of 100 examples of the best journalism of the century.

It shows the second raising of the flag that day on Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island. The first flag had been deemed too small.

"What I see behind the photo is what it took to get up to those heights — the kind of devotion to their country that those young men had, and the sacrifices they made," Rosenthal once said. "I take some gratification in being a little part of what the U.S. stands for."

He liked to call himself "a guy who was up in the big leagues for a cup of coffee at one time."

The picture was an inspiration for Thomas E. Franklin of The Record of Bergen County, N.J., who took the photo of three firefighters raising a flag amid the ruins of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Franklin said he instantly saw the similarities with the Iwo Jima photo as he looked through his lens. Franklin's photo, distributed worldwide by the AP, was a finalist in 2002 for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography.

The small island of Iwo Jima was a strategic piece of land 750 miles south of Tokyo, and the United States wanted it to support long-range B-29 bombers and a possible invasion of Japan.

On Feb. 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines landed on the southeast coast. Mount Suribachi, at 546 feet the highest point on the island, took four days for the troops to scale. In all, more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen died in the five-week battle for the island, and the 21,000-man Japanese defense force was virtually wiped out.

Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote that he almost didn't go up to the summit when he learned a flag had already been raised. He decided to up anyway, and found servicemen preparing to put up the second, larger flag.

"Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don't come away saying you got a great shot. You don't know."

"Millions of Americans saw this picture five or six days before I did, and when I first heard about it, I had no idea what picture was meant."

He recalled that days later, when a colleague congratulated him on the picture, he thought he meant another, posed shot he had taken later that day, of Marines waving and cheering at the base of the flag.

He added that if he had posed the flag-raising picture, as some skeptics have suggested over the years, "I would, of course, have ruined it" by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen.

Standing near Rosenthal was Marine Sgt. Bill Genaust, the motion picture cameraman who filmed the same flag-raising. He was killed in combat just days later. A frame of Genaust's film is nearly identical to the Rosenthal photo.

The AP photo quickly became the subject of posters, war-bond drives and a U.S. postage stamp.

Rosenthal left the AP later in 1945 to join the San Francisco Chronicle, where he worked as a photographer for 35 years before retiring.

"He was short in stature but that was about it. He had a lot of nerve," said John O'Hara, a retired photographer who worked with Rosenthal at the San Francisco Chronicle.

O'Hara said Rosenthal took special pride in a certificate naming him an honorary Marine and remained spry and alert well into his 90s.

Rosenthal's famous picture kept him busy for years, and he continued to get requests for prints decades after the shutter clicked. He said he was always flattered by the tumult surrounding the shot, but added, "I'd rather just lie down and listen to a ball game."

"He was the best photographer," said friend and fellow Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Nick Ut of The Associated Press, who said he spoke with Rosenthal last week. "His picture no one forgets. People know the photo very well."

Ut's 1972 image of a little girl, naked and screaming in agony as she flees a napalm bomb attack during the Vietnam War, stoked anti-war sentiment. But Rosenthal's photo helped fuel patriotism in the United States.

"People say to me, yours is so sad. You see his picture and it shows how Americans won the war," Ut said.

Rosenthal was born in 1911 in Washington, D.C.

He took up photography as a hobby. As the Depression got under way, Rosenthal moved to San Francisco, living with a brother until he found a job with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1930.

In 1932, Rosenthal joined the old San Francisco News as a combination reporter and photographer.

"They just told me to take this big box and point the end with the glass toward the subject and press the shutter and `We'll tell you what you did wrong,"' he said.

After a short time with ACME Newspictures in San Francisco in 1936, Rosenthal became San Francisco bureau chief of The New York Times-Wide World Photos.

Rosenthal began working for the AP in San Francisco when the news cooperative bought Wide World Photos. After a stint in the Merchant Marine, he returned to the AP and was sent to cover battle areas in 1944.

His first assignment was in New Guinea, and he also covered the invasion of Guam before making his famous photo on Iwo Jima.

In addition to his daughter, Rosenthal is survived by his ex-wife Lee Rosenthal, his son Joseph J. Rosenthal Jr., and their families.

Flight surgeon looks to future while deployed to Al Asad

Navy Lt. Stacey R. Black stands in front of a CH-53E Super Stallion shortly before flight Aug. 20, at Al Asad, Iraq. Black is a flight surgeon for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a native of Huntsville, Texas


Aug. 21, 2006; Submitted on: 08/22/2006 03:31:51 AM ; Story ID#: 200682233151

By Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing


AL Asad, Iraq (Aug. 21, 2006) -- Colds and broken bones take up many hours of each day while deployed for Navy Lieutenant Stacey R. Black, flight surgeon, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Ironically, for someone who has been driven her entire life, deploying to Iraq has been another stepping stone for her future plans.

"I think it's important to think about what's ahead of me while I am in Iraq, because even though I am out here, life still goes on back in the States," said Black. "When we deploy, it seems like we enter a time bubble, where everything stops, but it really doesn't. I always remember that I have goals to reach and things I still want to do."

Black has already done a lot in her life, but wanting to accomplish more keeps her motivated to expand her seemingly already impressive life.

"I have been flying since I was 16-years-old, and I have had my fixed-wing license since I was 17," said the Huntsville, Texas native. "I have a long family military history, so that gave me the inspiration to join."

Black's father was an Air Force pilot during Vietnam and her grandfather was a Marine pilot during World War II. Her grandmother also served during WWII with the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

"My family did not expect me to join the military, but it was encouraged," said the University of Texas graduate. "I just felt the need to serve my country and with the Health Professions Scholarship Program, provided by the Navy, I had the opportunity to combine two things I really enjoy; flying and medicine."

Pursuing her first career path in college, Black focused on engineering, but after some time, she realized that it just wasn't for her. She remembered getting a few orthopedic procedures done during her youth and decided to look into the medical profession.

"After seeing a few surgeries and following patients during their physical therapy, I saw the end results," said the petite pilot. "The personal gratification that the surgeons got from their job had me immediately hooked."

After graduating medical school from the University of Texas Medical Branch in May of 2004, she went to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and completed her orthopedic surgery internship.

"During my internship I applied to be a flight surgeon," said the 27-year-old Texan. "I had to go through extensive physicals and a selection board, because not everybody can be a flight surgeon."

Once the internship was complete, she went to the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Fla., for aircraft water survival training, familiarization flights in several types of aircraft and ground training in addition to all the medical training involved.

"I loved flying the helicopters because it was so different from everything else I have flown," said Black. "My dad has a (T-36 training jet) so I was used to flying those already."

Black was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 16, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., upon her completion of the six-month training in January of 2006.

"I was then assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 as their acting flight surgeon," said Black. "Within six months of arriving, we were deployed to Al Asad, Iraq for seven months."

While deployed, Black and three Navy corpsman ensure the heath and well-being of the pilots, aircrew, maintainers and support staff within the squadron.

"I am the primary care provider for the pilots and aircrew," she said. "I have had special training in order to take care of them so they are flight ready."

Besides spending most of her time making sure that the Marines in the squadron are healthy, she reads, goes to the gym, occasionally flies different missions with the squadron and also spends time making sure that life back home is ready for her return.

"My time here lets me plan my future a little better," she said. "I know that I have a normal life to go home to and things to look forward too. That makes this deployment much easier."

For a woman who never seems to have enough challenges in her life, she makes sure that she will have full schedule and busy life upon her return.

"I don't know if I see myself in a military career," said Black. "Having fewer doctors joining the services each year means more deployments. That would take away from time near family and friends."

Although Black is more than 7,000 miles away from life in the United States, she continues to keep a positive outlook by working to fulfill her dreams.

"I want to be a doctor back in Texas as well as own my own ranch," she said. "I ride horses competitively, and I enjoy the hard work and challenges that come with owning a ranch."

With another deployment in sight, Black continues to pursue everything that she wants with confidence and motivation while doing her part to serve her country and support the people that need the help of the U.S. military.

Fore more pictures, credits, descriptions- click on photo

Marine completes career, never regretted a minute; Harding grad Braddy enjoyed chance to give President Bush training

MARION - First Sgt. Grady L. Braddy Jr. has no regrets for the 22 years he served his country. Braddy retired Aug. 11 in ceremonies held at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center Anacostia, Washington, D.C.


The Marion Star
August 21, 2006

"The military is an awesome place to start your life, to become mature, serve your country and also get an education if you choose to do so," he said. "I've never regretted it a minute."

Neither has his mother, Tiny Braddy, who drove to Virginia for his retirement ceremonies. Also attending were Grady's sister, Veronica Huffine and her husband, Chuck, and brother Garret, wife Deborah and granddaughter Jada Elliott.

"I am just so proud of him," Tiny said, smiling. "To hear his commanding officer say all the good things they had to say about him just puffed my chest."

She was a little bit prouder when she heard how her son had coordinated President Reagan's funeral. But her proudest moment came when her son got the chance to say a few words.

"I want to thank my mother. If it hadn't been for her, I would have dropped out of school."

Tiny acknowledged that keeping Grady in school as a single mother was a chore, but she was persistent.

"I told him and I told his principal he was not quitting school on me," Tiny said. "He went to summer school, night school, day school but we got him through it and then he went into the Marine Corps."

Offering congratulations as he also reminisced about having Braddy in high school was Mike McCreary, principal at Harding High School. McCreary said his fondest memories of Braddy were his talents as a wrestler.

Braddy's awards

Meritorious Service Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star in lieu of second award; Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with two gold stars in lieu of third award; Navy Unit Commendation with bronze star in lieu of second award; Marine Unit Commendation with two bronze stars in lieu of third award; Good Conduct Medal (7th award); National Defense Medal with bronze star in lieu of second award; Global War on Terrorism Medal; Armed Forces Service Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three bronze starts in lieu of fourth award; and drill instructor ribbon.

August 20, 2006

The Recall of U.S. Troops

CAMP ANACONDA, Iraq - Spc. Chris Carlson had been out of the U.S. Army for two years and was working at Costco in California when he received notice that he was being called back into service.


Associated Press | August 20, 2006

The 24-year-old is one of thousands of Soldiers and Marines who have been deployed to Iraq under a policy that allows military leaders to recall troops who have left the service but still have time left on their contract.

"I thought it was crazy," said Carlson, who has found himself protecting convoys on Iraq's dangerous roads as part of a New Jersey National Guard unit. "Never in a million years did I think they would call me back."

Although troops are allowed to leave active duty after a few years of service, they generally still have time left on their contract with the military that is known as "inactive ready reserve" status, or IRR. During that time, they have to let their service know their current address, but they don't train, draw a paycheck or associate in any other way with the military.

But with active duty units already completing multiple tours in Iraq, the Pentagon has employed the rarely used tactic of calling people back from IRR status, a policy sometimes referred to as a "backdoor draft."

According to the U.S. Army Reserve, approximately 14,000 Soldiers on IRR status have been called to active duty since March 2003 and about 7,300 have been deployed to Iraq. The Marine Corps has mobilized 4,717 Marines who were classified as inactive ready reserve since Sept. 11, and 1,094 have been deployed to Iraq, according to the Marine Forces Reserve.

The 1st Squadron of the 167th Cavalry RSTA, which is based in Lincoln, Neb. and oversees the New Jersey guard unit here in Iraq, has about 40 IRR Soldiers within its ranks of roughly 1,000 Soldiers, and officers in the squadron say the troops have merged into the unit without any problems.

Jason Mulligan, 28, of Ridgefield, Conn., left the army back in 2002 after two years in the infantry. He was working as a painting contractor while studying wildlife conservation when he received his letter last fall alerting him that he'd been mobilized.

The letter was followed up by another warning to Mulligan that if he didn't comply, the government would prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

"My family and my fiancee were telling me 'Don't' report. Don't show up,' said Mulligan, who also serves with a New Jersey National Guard unit as a gunner on a Humvee helping patrol the territory around Camp Anaconda, a base about 50 miles north of Baghdad. "And I thought, 'Well I got that nasty letter saying they were going to put me in jail if I don't show up.'"

Anthony Breaux, 24, from La Place, La., said he had a feeling that eventually he would be recalled to service after hearing of so many other Soldiers who were pulled from IRR status. Breaux, who left active duty in September 2002, said he knew it was part of the bargain when he joined the army.

"Well, I signed up. I signed the papers. So you know what? I got to do what I got to do," Breaux said, before getting ready for a reconnaissance patrol around Camp Anaconda.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said part of the reason that the military has called up so many people who were on reserve status is that certain skill sets such as military police or civil affairs were concentrated in the reserves after the Cold War ended.

But he said the sheer numbers of IRR Soldiers being mobilized also are a sign that the military doesn't have enough people to fight this war, now in its fourth year.

"It seems clear in retrospect that the active-duty force wasn't big enough to sustain a 'long war' against global terrorism, and also lacked the proper mix of skills to wage that war with maximum effectiveness," Thompson said.

That thought is echoed by many of the IRR Soldiers. Mulligan said the military's reliance on IRR Soldiers shows how "desperate" the services are for troops.

"Maybe it says something for maybe the way the military is treating the people that are over here, because they're just not wanting to stay on," said Mulligan.

Some of the IRR Soldiers, such as Carlson, still will have time on their military contracts when they return from this deployment, meaning they could possibly be called back another time. But others will end their IRR status around the same time their deployment in Iraq ends next spring or will have so little time left that they would not be deployed again.

Spc. Mark Wiles, 27, of Phoenix, said his 6 1/2 years of active duty and the time he'll have served on this deployment mean that his reserve status will be over when the unit gets home. The only way that the military could keep him is if they extended the unit's stay in Iraq.

"Those of us who are IRR are seriously hoping they don't do that," Wiles said.

Marines awarded Silver Stars for actions in Iraq

COLUMBUS, Ohio --A Marine killed last year in a gun battle in Iraq and another who was wounded in a roadside bombing that killed two of his comrades were awarded Silver Stars at a ceremony Sunday.


Marines awarded Silver Stars for actions in Iraq
August 20, 2006

Cpl. Mark Camp, 25, is a member of Lima Company, the hardest-hit unit of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, as was Sgt. David Wimberg, 24, of Louisville, Ky. Of the 48 members of the reserve battalion, based in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park, who were killed, one-third were from Columbus-based Lima Company.

Camp, who grew up in Maine, was awarded the Silver Star for helping clear insurgents from a house where they had wounded four Marines, and for trying to pull from a burning troop carrier a Marine who later died from his wounds.

Camp, who was in the vehicle May 11, 2005, when the explosion went off, made the rescue attempt despite suffering severe burns to his hands and taking shrapnel in his leg.

Wimberg was killed when he rushed to break up an ambush May 25, 2005, in Hadithah.

While Daddy’s Away

“Daddy, Daddy!”

Eight-year-old Morgan Czerwinski shouted it every time she saw American troops on the news.


August 20,2006
chrissy vick

Tears streamed down her cheeks.

At the time her dad, Anthony, was fighting in the battle for Fallujah, she was 6 years old.

“We had to stop watching the news,” said Jacque Czerwinski, Anthony’s wife. “We had to ban it from my house. The kids would get too upset.

“(Anthony) lost a lot of men. Every day I pray that he can get through that.”

Jacque knows the stresses of being a Marine wife — particularly when Anthony is deployed. He missed the birth of their two children while being gone. Though married, she knows the stresses of being a single mother.

“You have to be the mom, the dad, the grandparents,” she said. “It’s very demanding. You don’t get any breaks.”

Jacque’s husband, Anthony, has been deployed four times in his 10 years in the Marine Corps.

When Marines deploy, leaving their families is not easy. They leave behind the ability to counsel their kids when they’ve messed up or to provide a big bear hug when they’ve had a bad day. They can no longer be involved as a spouse in daily activities, including lending emotional support, Jacque said.

And the wives and husbands left behind are forced to fulfill all of the roles their spouse once did.

Juggling these roles becomes second nature. But it doesn’t always become easy.

As the new school year approaches, Marine moms have to look at incorporating their role as counselors, housekeepers, cooks, parents, best friends and taxi drivers. They have to prepare to take their kids to school and to soccer matches, all while being involved in the PTA or the Key Wives Network.

Some work full-time jobs, while others take care of newborn babies. That’s not to mention the stress of knowing their spouse is in a war zone — and the constant changes like moving or readjusting to having them home.

“With the guys coming in and out of the house, it puts a strain on you,” Jacque said.

So, just how do they do it?

Jacque said it starts with a friend. For her, that lifeline comes in the form of Marine mom Vicki Self, her next-door neighbor.

“Even after they come back you need support because it’s a hard transition for the kids and the wife,” Jacque said.

“It is for the moms, too,” Vicki added. “Not many are out here doing what I’m doing.”

Vicki went from being a grandmother to a mother in a matter of days. She quit her job working at a resort in Tennessee to come aboard Camp Lejeune and take care of her two grandchildren — Kylie, 3, and Brandt, 6, while her son, Tracey, serves in Camp Fallujah.

“It’s just been a struggle getting used to taking care of the kids,” Vicki said. “They miss their dad.”

But the bond that Jacque and Self have formed has helped bear such burdens, they said.

The two stood in a long line with a number of other Marine families Saturday morning at Camp Lejeune waiting for free school supplies. They were donated by the Armed Forces YMCA during a back-to-school event organized by Marine Corps Community Services.

Many said receiving free school supplies helps with the financial burden that military families sometimes face — especially this time of year.

“It’s hard buying the school supplies and shoes and all that,” Jacque said. “It’s hard because I can’t work to bring in that extra money I need. I can’t rely on my husband to help me at night even when he’s home because of his schedule. Sometimes he can go to work and not come home until the next day.”

Marine wife Lianna Lotthammer has found the same struggle to be true.

“Even though they get paid more when they’re in combat, I could make twice that,” she said.

But Marine wives always seem to make it through — they say they are the best at “stretching a paycheck.”

For Lianna, it’s sleeping at night that is difficult. Every time she rolls over, her thoughts turn to her husband, Mark. He is currently serving with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in Iraq.

“It’s hard not to worry,” she said. “It’s stressful.”

Mark has been deployed three times in their two years of marriage — once to Cuba, and twice to Iraq.

The family has also moved five times since then, which is hard on all of them, Lianna said. Their son, 7-year-old Dominick, is starting fourth grade at Tarawa Terrace II Elementary School — for him, one of many new schools.

“But he makes new friends pretty easy. I like the school year because it gives you structure,” she said. “You just keep your days busy, visit family and try to leave the house as much as possible. What helps you get through is that you feel like he is accomplishing something over there.”

Marine wife Anne-Marie Wiley said focusing on that helps her make it through.

“Believe it or not you can enjoy (the military life),” she said. “You just have to have the right attitude.”

She and best friend Jackie Bond have been lucky, they say. Their husbands have been deployed at the same time, which has allowed them to be there for one another.

“It’s great, because then we need each other at the same time,” Jackie said.

The two met through their husbands, who also found a friendship through the Corps.

“They talk about blended families a lot these days, where step families come together as one family — I think we’re like a blended family,” Jackie said. “It’s more than a friendship.

“If something important happens, we call each other first. We share the holidays when our husbands are away. We do it for ourselves, for our kids and for our husbands — so they know we have each other.”

Some, like Jackie, have to get through deployments while working a full-time job. And as the school year approaches, it’s a daunting thought just to make it through the morning.

“My biggest challenge is I’m going to have to get her to school, I’m going to have to get her to day care and me to work by 8 a.m.,” Jackie said, pointing to her two daughters — 5-year-old Leslie, who starts kindergarten this week, and 1-year-old Gabriella.

That’s not to mention what happens after school.

“There is one parent to bathe the kids, feed the kids and take care of them,” said Jackie, who works as a guidance counselor. “I have one weekend to clean, shop and spend time with them.”

Such juggling, she says, takes organization and a lot of adapting.

“The Marine motto is ‘Semper Fidelis — Always Faithful.’ Our motto is ‘Semper Gumby — Always Flexible.’” said Anne-Marie with a laugh, brandishing a green Gumby figure on her keychain. “You can’t be too rigid or you’ll break.”

Jackie agree, saying flexibility is key. It’s something she knows all about.

At 37 years old, she decided to marry a Marine. To do so, she gave up an established career and a lifetime of memories in her hometown in Pennsylvania to make her first-ever move.

That was just two and a half years ago.

“I left my church, neighbors we love and a great house,” Jackie said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got here.”

But she says she quickly learned to adapt and prioritize — something she’ll need in the coming school year. Her ability to do so brings comfort to her husband when he is away.

“My husband knows I am capable to take care of the family when he’s sleeping on a cot with a gun between his legs and a knife under his pillow,” Jackie said. “I know he can focus on his training, staying safe and Lord-willing making it home safe.”

Every night, Leslie and Jackie say a prayer before going to bed.

“Thank you God for keeping daddy safe in Iraq,” Leslie prays when her dad is home.

But when Brian is away, Leslie’s prayers turn to, “Please, God, keep daddy safe in Iraq.”

In February, Leslie’s prayers will again include the latter. Brian, with 8th ESB on Camp Lejeune, will be deployed again. Anne-Marie’s husband, Patrick, will also deploy with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in January.

But Anne-Marie is no rookie to deployments. Patrick was sent away two weeks after they were married for a one-year tour in Okinawa.

“I knew what I was getting into,” Anne-Marie said with a laugh. “I was a Marine myself.”

Between the two of them, they’ve been deployed at least 15 times in total, she said. But with the school year approaching, she hopes their two children Jacob, 7, and Jolene, 4, will be able to get into a routine.

“I know this is a little bit harder because they’re older,” Anne-Marie said.

Jackie, Anne-Marie and the kids have projects planned for the upcoming deployment, including sending packages, letters and photos to Patrick and Brian, who will miss birthdays and anniversaries.

“We have talking picture frames that help a lot,” Anne-Marie said. “Patrick records a message for each of us. The kids listen to that every day. We write letters and I keep journals of everything that happens.

“It’s almost as if he doesn’t even miss it.”

Contact staff writer Chrissy Vick at [email protected]

Daniel Travis Krebs

MANSFIELD -- Daniel Travis Krebs, 20, of Windsor Road, died Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006, at MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital.


Travis was born in Mansfield, Feb. 7, 1986, to Steven J. and MaryLou Peters Krebs. He was a graduate of Madison Comprehensive High School, the class of 2004. He worked as a machinist for Ashland Precision Tooling and most recently at Aerial Manufacturing, Mount Vernon.

Travis joined the United States Marine Corps in October of 2004. He was a Lance Corporal of the United States Marine Corps Reserves Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. He served a term in Iraq from May 2005 to October 2005 where he was awarded meritorious mast for his efforts and actions during hostile conflict, demonstrating selflessness, courage and heroism. Travis attended St. Mary's Catholic Church, was a member of VFW Post 5101 and enjoyed riding motorcycles.

Travis is survived by his mother MaryLou Peters Krebs of Mansfield; brothers and sister-in-law, Joshua and Tracy Peters and their son, Caleb, TJ Krebs of Weapons Company 325 of Akron, Jared Krebs of Shelby; maternal grandparents, Ron and Ruth Peters; paternal grandparents, Mike and Agnes Krebs, all of Mansfield; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Friends may call at Herlihy-Tinsman Funeral Home, 173 Park Avenue West, on Monday from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Interment will be in Mansfield Cemetery -- Veteran Honor Grounds.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Three Deuce Five Foundation.

Originally published August 20, 2006

'Rules' of war limit Marines

We call it "the war in Iraq." But to many of the Marines here, it's not really a war – at least not on their side.


Register columnist
August 20, 2006

"They are fighting a war," a Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment tells me – "they" meaning the insurgents lurking "outside the wire" of a Marine forward operating base in the Euphrates River town of Barwanah, in western Al Anbar province.

"But us?" the Marine goes on. "We aren't fighting a war. We're just doing a police action."

The young Marine is right. While the insurgents here and throughout Iraq battle American Marines and soldiers with deadly weapons of warfare – IEDs ("improvised explosive devices," or roadside bombs), sniper attacks, mortars, two of which exploded near this forward operating base just the day before – the Marines have to respond under "rules of engagement," or "ROEs," that would be familiar to any cop in America.

Are the Marines catching sniper rounds from a cluster of buildings in the city? In a conventional war, that would be reason enough to light up the buildings with suppressive fire.

But under the Iraq ROEs, unless the Marines get "P.I.D." or "positive identification" – eyes on a guy with a rifle, or a muzzle flash, something very localized and specific – they can't fire back.

Do the Marines see four young males fleeing the scene of an IED attack? The Marines can try to chase them down in vehicles or on foot – this while the Marines are carrying 60 or 70 pounds of equipment on their backs – but they can't even fire warning shots from their M-16s, much less lethal ones, to try to make them stop.

Under the rules, if the suspects are running away, if they pose no direct and immediate threat to the Marines, the most the Marines can do is shoot "pyro," small flares, as a warning – a warning that Marines believe simply leaves the fleeing enemy laughing.

And so on. By tradition and temperament, a Marine infantry company is a blunt instrument, designed to storm a beach or take a building with force and violence that overwhelms the enemy; it's a hammer, not a scalpel.

But in the confusing world of urban counterinsurgency warfare, Marine infantrymen here find themselves bound by rules that often seem more appropriate to the streets of an American city than to an actual combat zone.

True, in the rare event of an all-out firefight, a direct confrontation with the enemy, the rules change. When faced with a conventional attack by insurgents, Marines can respond conventionally, with overwhelming firepower.

But in routine, day-to-day operations, every single shot fired by Marines here must be documented and reviewed by higher command.

Let me repeat that: Every single shot fired by Marines is reported to and reviewed by higher command – regimental level or above – to make sure that it conformed to the ROEs.

The rules are unquestionably well-intentioned, and in the long and bloody annals of warfare, almost uniquely American.

They are designed to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties – and in a conflict that is as much or more political as it is military, at the upper levels of command perhaps the rules make sense.

But to the grunts on the ground, where the wounding and dying is, they are a source of endless frustration.

"Seems like you can't even spit around here without getting investigated," says one young Marine – although of course he didn't actually say "spit."

"It's absurd," says a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines. "It makes the bad guys think we're weak."

Even senior Marine officers, whose job it is to see the big picture, and to enforce the rules of engagement established by higher command, understand only too well how hard it is for a 19- or 20-year-old lance corporal to be shot at or IED'd day after day and not be able to shoot back at enemies who hide behind and among civilians.

"It's a tough, tough thing for them," says 3/3 battalion commander Lt. Col. Norm Cooling. "I always tell them (the junior Marines) that fighting a counterinsurgency is a lot harder, mentally, intellectually and spiritually, than fighting a conventional war. ... The (insurgents) know that they can play by a different set of rules than we can, and they take advantage of it."

It wasn't always that way. Young Marines on their first tour in Iraq are often astonished – and even a little envious – when I tell them about being with a Marine infantry company in OIF I (Operation Iraqi Freedom I), the initial march up to Baghdad in the spring of 2003. There were rules of engagement then, too, but it was also an actual war – and the basic, unwritten rule of engagement was that for every enemy round that came in, the Marines would send a thousand rounds back.

Did that sometimes cause Iraqi civilian casualties? Yes, unavoidably. But it also saved American lives – and you could argue that in the long run it saved Iraqi lives as well, because it left the enemy either intimidated or dead, and shortened the initial conflict.

But no longer. The Marines here know they are under close scrutiny – by the press, by the politicians and by the often fickle American public. And that knowledge permeates almost everything they do.

For example, I sat in with Marine officers and NCOs planning a night raid to capture a sniper who had been taking potshots at Marines in Barwanah. Aware that a reporter was present, and not sure how their comments might be interpreted, some of the Marines were careful to describe the sniper not as simply "the sniper," but as "the alleged sniper."

These are tough, brave men, American warriors. But sitting in that briefing room, it was almost as if the Marines saw the ghost of Johnnie Cochran hovering in the corner, just waiting to sue them for violating the sniper's – that is, the alleged sniper's – civil rights.

Still, while the Marines may gripe about the ROEs, they are Marines – which means they also obey them. Anyone who thinks American troops are running wild in Iraq, recklessly shooting at anything that moves, has probably never been to Iraq. For every charge of excessive force by American troops, such as the allegations about the killings of civilians in Haditha, there are hundreds of unreported and unheralded examples of American Marines and soldiers showing astonishing restraint in their use of force.

Again, in counterinsurgency warfare, where battle is waged not only in the streets but in hearts and minds and TV news broadcasts, perhaps that is sound policy. If the goal is to win over the people, and not just to kill the enemy, perhaps there is no alternative.

But no one should doubt that American Marines and soldiers are paying for their restraint, and for the American concern about civilian casualties.

They are paying for it in blood – their own blood.

The day after I spoke with those Marines in Barwanah, an IED hit a Marine 7-ton truck that was on patrol in the town, fortunately causing only minor injuries, and insurgent mortar rounds again landed near the Marines' forward operating base.

The enemy was continuing to wage war.

And the Marines were continuing their police action.

CONTACT US: Gordon Dillow has been a Register columnist for 10 years. A graduate of the University of Montana journalism school, he served as a U.S. Army sergeant in Vietnam in 1971-72. Contact him at 714-796-7953 or at [email protected]

Weary campers

Quick snack: Matt Shipp takes a moment to cool down and eat rations during day one of the Crucible at Camp Pendleton. The Crucible, which occurs during the eighth week of basic training, puts Marines to the ultimate test, with 20 hours of physical challenges per day. Since starting basic training, Matt says he's lost 18 pounds.

Hauser Lake twins enter the Crucible at boot camp, a 54-hour exercise that 'just smokes their body physically'

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Robert Shipp died twice at boot camp Wednesday.

Once was during a training exercise that had him swinging by a rope while wearing a gas mask. A few hours later, the young Marine recruit from Hauser Lake was again killed in action while scrambling across a cable bridge that had come under heavy attack by fake machine guns and simulated mortar fire.


Story by James Hagengruber  
August 20, 2006

Sgt. Brennan Kriner, a drill instructor seasoned by a combat tour in Iraq, watched from the sidelines, shaking his head.

"You're dead, Shipp! Get up!" Kriner yelled. "You failed twice. That's garbage!"

Robert Shipp finished the obstacle course, then jogged over to a pile of wooden pallets, where his twin brother and the rest of his squad had been granted a few minutes to sit, catch their breath and wolf down a portion of the one meal they would be allotted for the day. It was barely 9 a.m., and the air was cool and damp thanks to the nearby Pacific. The grease paint-smeared faces of the Marine recruits, however, were already covered with clear beads of sweat.

This was the start of the Crucible, a 54-hour training exercise near the end of boot camp meant to stretch the recruits to their limits and provide a sneak preview of what they could face several months from now in Iraq or Afghanistan. Along with one meal a day, the recruits were allowed just four hours of sleep a night. Bathing was done with a moist towel. A rain poncho provided cover at night.

"This is fun. It's what we came here for," said Robert's twin brother, Matt, during a hastily arranged four-minute interview between obstacle courses Wednesday morning. A Marine sergeant stood a few feet away listening to his every word.

Matt and Robert Shipp fulfilled a longtime dream by enlisting in the Marine Corps in June, shortly after graduating from high school. The young men are nine weeks into the 13-week basic training course, but are already galaxies apart from their relatively carefree upbringing along the shores of a North Idaho lake. Marching in tight formation has now become second nature. They're learning how to conduct ambushes in pitch darkness, as well as several different ways of killing a man. Their eyes have been seared by tear gas. Their hands have memorized the grip of an M-16 rifle, which was issued to the recruits several weeks ago and now carries a label listing their blood type.

The Shipps have also learned what it feels like to sleep on a bunk in a hot barracks crowded with dozens of other young men. They are no longer called by a first name. They've lost all privacy – including in the bathroom. They've learned that nothing tastes better than brownies baked by their mom, certainly not the cold chow eaten out of a plastic sack in a dusty desert. They were told boot camp wouldn't be easy, but the toughest part of the training hasn't been the pushups, the wall climbs or the long marches.

"Being away from home," Matt Shipp replied, when asked about the most difficult aspect of basic training.

Anything specific?

"Everything," Robert answered. A few seconds later, he narrowed his answer to: "This recruit's mom's homemade food."


Robert and Matt Shipp are in Kilo Company, Platoon 3019. They share bunks with another set of twins, the Studer boys, from Iowa. After basic training, the Shipp twins will be given 10 days leave, then they will fly their separate ways and be apart for the first time in their 18 years. Matt will go on to receive additional training as a forward observer. Robert expects to return to Camp Pendleton for infantry training. One of their recruiters said the young men have a "95 or 96 percent chance" of being sent to Iraq. The Shipp twins want to go to war and fight for their country.

In letters home to their family in Hauser Lake, the Shipps have admitted to initially being "terrified" of standing out in basic training because of being twins, but about the only difference between their experiences has been if one twin gets into any sort of trouble, the other is often assigned pushups. The same is true for others who enlist under the military's buddy system option.

"Our drill instructors always show us off, and we don't get shit for being twins, either," Matt wrote in a recent letter to his mother, Leslee Shipp. "I figured it would be hell."

Robert wrote to his mother, "Me and Matt get to talk all the time. Our racks are right next to each other. Sweet, huh?"

These letters home provide a glimpse of how the Shipp twins are responding to their new world. There are ample references to the boredom of military life, but not one of the many letters expresses regret over enlistment or anxiety over deployments to come.

Matt wrote about the "great feeling" of finally being issued an M-16 rifle and of seeing the Pacific Ocean at Camp Pendleton. "It is never ending." His spirits were also lifted by the nights when he could see fireworks explode over the nearby Seaworld theme park, and the time when he and other recruits were cheered by passers-by while they rode on a Marine Corps bus.

Early on, Robert wasn't quite sure what to include in his letters. "Hey mamma, what you been up to?" Robert began one of his first letters from boot camp. A few lines down, he admitted, "I don't know what to write 'cause I ain't written letters before." It was obvious the words were jotted quickly – if they're lucky, recruits are given an hour of personal time per day.

The letters from San Diego carry the twins' longing for the cool forests and lakes of Idaho. "There ain't nothing here except concrete and sand and all the hills have houses on them," Robert wrote. But more than homesickness, the letters are filled with pride over the accomplishments of Platoon 3019, which currently has the highest performance ratings out of seven platoons now going through boot camp.

Before joining the Marines, Robert had no intention of ever going to college. He struggled through high school, dropping out at one point. Now he is writing home about one day studying for a business degree or a pilot's license, courtesy of the GI Bill. Matt, who has a stronger academic track record, is also considering college or flight school.

For now, they just want to earn the right to be called Marines. If everything goes well, the Shipps will be given the military branch's globe and anchor pin in about four weeks. Their parents, younger brother and older sister will fly to San Diego for graduation. Both Robert and Matt have made repeated requests in their letters that a pan of their mom's brownies also attend the ceremony. Most of their recent letters also include menu proposals for their short leave: prime rib, lasagna, barbequed ribs, twice-baked potatoes, tall glasses of milk, chocolate cake and trays of homemade brownies.

Their parents are ready. Leslee has plans for more food than her sons will have time to eat. Dennis has also prepared for their return. He was planning to wait until after graduation, but Dennis recently had his arm tattooed with "Proud father of two Marines." The Shipp twins have struggled, but their dad has never doubted his sons' abilities.


On the morning of July 18, 1918, Sgt. Louis Cukela crawled through a forested battleground in France. His fellow Marines warned him to stay back, but Cukela pushed forward, eventually crawling into a German machine gun nest and bayoneting its crew. Cukela then captured another machine gun, plus four prisoners.

On Wednesday, the Shipp twins and 23 other Marine recruits were told the tale of how Sgt. Cukela earned his Medal of Honor. They were then ordered to crawl over a 15-foot-wall bearing his name. Matt Shipp was placed in charge of a makeshift team. It was his job to make sure the four other men made it over the sheer wall.

The obstacle was one of at least 30 stations in the Crucible, which is considered the most physically challenging portion of basic training. Recruits march about 50 miles, including a final hike up the 10-mile hill known as The Reaper. They bayonet dozens of dummies, crawl under low-hanging webs of razor wire, jump walls, hunker into foxholes and navigate mock battlefields at night.

"It just smokes their body physically, then they're sleep deprived. They get beaten down. But they need to know they can do it," said Gunnery Sgt. Scott Forth.

It's where recruits are taught to work as a team, said Sgt. Jason Harbison, a drill instructor. The results are usually dramatic.

"It's a world of difference, just the way they march, the way they carry each other back on base," he said. "It's pretty impressive."

Matt Shipp's first decision for his team was to hoist the lightest person over the wall to a ledge near the top on the other side. The lightest recruit was Robert. From the top, Robert helped haul the other recruits up the wall. The last couldn't make it, however, prompting Matt to slide back down the wall to help.

"Get your platoon over! You're wasting daylight," Sgt. Kriner barked. It was 7:55 a.m. and the recruits had been awake at least four hours.

After finally scaling the wall, the team laid belly-first on the ground in a half-circle, their rifles aimed into the Southern California desert. They were also ordered to keep one boot in the air. If a foot suddenly drooped, the recruit would be assured a swift visit from Kriner.

"That's how we can tell if they're asleep," Kriner explained to a visitor. He turned to the squad and, in a booming voice asked, "What would happen if I threw a grenade in the center of you right now?"

The team replied, "Killed, sir," then shimmied apart.

Although drill instructors say the core skills learned at boot camp have changed little over the years, minor adjustments have been made to better prepare the young men for deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. The recruits are now given some training with AT-4 rocket launchers, as well as the squad automatic weapon, which can spit out 725 bullets a minute.

After the wall, the recruits marched, then were given a few minutes to sit in the dust. A gut-shaking rumble came out of the distance, likely from an artillery range. About a mile to the west, just across the interstate, hovercraft rode clouds of mist as they shuttled Marines from ship to shore for amphibious landings. Helicopters always seemed to be thudding above.

The recruits never looked up from their precious few minutes of rest. They continued gulping water and chewing crackers with gobs of peanut butter from their meal packets. The air around them smelled of sweat, dust and canvas. Kriner ordered the men to clean their rifles. "A Marine can do more than one thing at once," he said.

Matt and Robert continued eating from their meal pouches. Robert chewed on a disc of lemon poppyseed cake.

"This recruit's favorite MRE is meatloaf," Robert admitted, after receiving permission to talk.

Both Robert and Matt wear blue "double rat" tags on their uniforms, which gives them access to extra rations. They barely had a gram of fat between them before basic training. Matt has dropped 18 pounds in the last eight weeks. Robert lost 15 pounds but has since regained 5. Keeping their pants hitched around their bony waists is a constant battle.

Kriner said hunger and sleep deprivation define life for a Marine in combat. He was with the first Marines to invade Iraq in 2003. The advance was so fast the supply convoys couldn't keep pace. The Marines kept moving forward, though.

Although the recruits were eager to hear actual stories from combat, Kriner and the other drill instructors kept them focused on the obstacles at hand, such as the proper way to conduct a patrol: Look around constantly, use hand signals, keep the butt of the rifle against the shoulder for quick shooting. When one of the instructors shouted "Contact left!" the recruits faced to the left, stopped moving and began shooting blank cartridges.

The instructor's face reddened. He wanted them to continue advancing. "Marines take the fight to the enemy!" he screamed. "You understand that? Is there any confusion over that?"

During one exercise, they were ordered to retrieve and drag a supposedly wounded comrade. One recruit quietly shuffled past a drill instructor, dragging a mangled battlefield-torn mannequin known as "Dead Fred" – in most other exercises, the dummies were subjected to countless bayonet jabs or face smashes from M-16 rifle butts. The silent drag prompted a drill instructor to shout, "Talk to him! Keep him alive! Tell him a story!"

The recruit deadpanned a reply, saying, "He can't hear. He doesn't have a head, sir."

A group of nearby drill instructors tried to stifle laughter. One stuck his face in front of the recruit, heaved his shoulders and opened his mouth as if he was going to roar. The recruit slumped and waited for the verbal pounding. A few moments later, the young man was again dragging Dead Fred through the sand, but was now chatting with the headless mannequin like a long lost friend.

Between exercises, the recruits were given a few seconds in a portable bathroom. The plastic units were built for one, but the recruits squeezed in two at a time. Those standing in line had their pants unzipped and ready for their 10 seconds, or so, at the trough. Meanwhile, drill instructors shouted and pounded the thin plastic wall. "Piss and go! Piss and go!"

The recruits didn't flinch. They jogged out of the portable bathrooms with the same expressionless faces as when they entered. Only their reddened eyes carried a hint of the exhaustion brought on by the weeks of training. Staring out of grease paint and dust-covered faces, these eyes offered reminders of the young men who only weeks ago were wearing graduation gowns and kissing their girlfriends and mothers goodbye.

Despite seeing familiar faces from home, Robert and Matt Shipp knew better than to risk any attempts at conversation. Like the other recruits, their goal is to fit in, follow orders and contribute to a larger cause.

But Robert, always a bit of a rebel, stepped out of his leatherneck-in-training persona for a brief moment Wednesday. When a drill instructor's back was turned, he whispered in a hoarse voice to a photographer visiting from his hometown, "Say hi to my family, please."

Click on photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Female Iraq vet is home but still haunted, Post-traumatic stress invades daily life years after return from front

There are times when Trinette Johnson's life seems to stall, when she finds herself staring at the ceiling fan in her bedroom, watching the blades spin, her mind hung on nothing -- not her receptionist job, not her fiance, not her ailing father or her four children.


By Donna St. George
The Washington Post
Updated: 3:53 a.m. CT Aug 20, 2006

Not even the war.

The war, of course, is always there somewhere, she said, an unseen force in her life, sometimes producing moments of blank detachment, sometimes stirring up anger like nothing she has ever known.

More than two years after returning from duty in Iraq, she has found herself yelling and cursing at other drivers on the road. Panicked in crowds. Seized with fear at the sight of highway overpasses and tunnels that might suddenly explode.

Doctors gave the 32-year-old Johnson, who served in the D.C. National Guard, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which has plagued thousands of U.S. troops after combat in Iraq -- bringing on flashbacks, numbness, rage and anxiety and leaving many at odds with their old lives, families and jobs.

• More health coverage

How women are affected after combat is only starting to be probed. This is the first war in which so many women have been so exposed to hostile fire, working a wider-than-ever array of jobs, for long deployments.

"This is a really unique experience, and we just don't know," said Ronald C. Kessler, a Harvard University professor and author of a landmark study of post-traumatic stress disorder.

'It's not the same mommy'
For women who are mothers, combat-related PTSD may have added significance. Often, after war, "it's not the same mommy who left," said Yale University associate professor Laurie Harkness, who runs a Veterans Affairs mental health clinic in Connecticut. Although the same can be said for fathers, she said, "mothers in general are the emotional hub of a family."

For Johnson, it was a doctor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who first uttered the letters P-T-S-D, a defining moment that came after she spent nine months working the bomb-blasted roads near Baghdad. Her job with the 547th Transportation Company was hauling -- troops, supplies, equipment -- and security. At one point, she helped transport dead Iraqis to their wailing relatives.

In one particularly bad period, a roadside bomb claimed the life of a 21-year-old soldier in her unit, Spec. Darryl T. Dent. Later, another bomb severely wounded Johnson's best friend, Spec. Antoinette Scott, a mother of four.

That fall in 2003, Johnson was riding in a truck with her M-16 rifle pointed out the passenger-side window. Out of nowhere came a deafening blast. Her five-ton vehicle swerved and nearly flipped. There was fire. White smoke. Flying debris. A bomb, hidden along a guardrail, had detonated.

Johnson received a Purple Heart for hearing loss in her left ear but stayed in Iraq for several more months, working the same roads. "It seemed like once every other or three days somebody was getting hit," she recalled recently.

But the enemy was elusive. She never fired her M-16.

Unexpectedly, in January 2004, she was shipped home three months early, sidelined with severe kidney stones. Later, at Walter Reed, the dreams started: violent dreams, with exploding mortars and hordes of barking dogs. She mentioned them to a doctor.

This was while she was living on the hospital grounds, seeing specialists and worrying about whether anyone in her unit had been injured or killed. She called her unit in Iraq every day. But she had not seen her kids.

A counselor prodded her to visit them -- three were being cared for by Johnson's sister in Falls Church, and one was in Richmond with the child's paternal grandmother. None of the children lived with their fathers.

"Mommy! Mommy!" her youngest daughter, then 2, shrieked during a visit in Falls Church, climbing all over her.

Johnson had been a mother since she had her son at age 14. Now she felt overwhelmed. She rose to leave.

"I can't do this," she told her sister.

In her car, she sobbed, wondering how she could feel so disconnected. "I realized that I just walked out on my babies."

Unprecedented risk
In nearly 3 1/2 years of war, more than 137,000 female troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some exposed to the most profound stresses of combat: ambushes, mortars, bombs, fallen comrades. They have fired M-16s and grenade launchers, killed people and been shot at.

As these women have returned home, Army researchers studying the psychological fallout of Iraq have noted a surprising trend in early studies: Women appear to be showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health troubles at roughly the same rates as men.

If this result holds true, it would stand out because women studied in the overall population show markedly higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than men -- about twice as much.

"It's not definitive, but it's encouraging," said Patricia A. Resick, director of the Women's Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD, part of the Veterans Affairs Department. Resick said more research is needed.

While studies of the war's effects continue, one fact is clear: A generation of U.S. military women is at risk of combat-related stress disorder as never before.

A recent study showed that, overall, more than one in three U.S. troops sought mental-health care in the year after returning from Iraq. An earlier study found that about one in six showed signs of PTSD, major depression or anxiety after Iraq.

"From our data, what it looks like is that women serving in combat have the same risk as men of getting PTSD or other mental health conditions," said Charles W. Hoge of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

For Johnson, treatment at Walter Reed made things better, with group sessions, art therapy and combat-stress counseling. "You're in there with other people who are going through the same things," she said, "and you kind of feel like, 'Okay, now I don't feel crazy.' "

The most wrenching day, as she remembers it, was when she was sent home: Oct. 3, 2004. No longer did she have the supportive environment of the hospital. She was on her own, medically discharged from the military because of the stress disorder.

Outwardly, Johnson looked much the same: bright eyes peering through delicate glasses, big smile, always seeming on the verge of a laugh. "Dee," everyone called her. But much had changed. "I don't even know this life," she said one day.

Some people told her: "I couldn't have left my kids like that."

The comments upset her because they implied a choice she did not have. She was a National Guard soldier, a job she took in 1997 as a steppingstone to more financial stability at a time when she was a single mother of three. The Iraq war did not seem a possibility then. Her father had served 26 years as a guardsman without seeing battle.

In 2003, Johnson left for war as her youngest was learning to talk.

Her eldest daughter was nearly 12 when Johnson returned. The girl seemed different -- dressing in black, skipping school, no more smiles, no hugs. She wondered: Was it because of her absence?

She recalled, "I'm looking and I'm trying to figure out, 'Where is my child?' "

Life off balance
Even now, there are times Johnson feels uncomfortable talking about post-traumatic stress disorder. It's an invisible wound in a war with daily bloodshed. At Walter Reed, she said, she saw soldiers with missing arms or legs, paralysis, shrapnel scars.

She is not so physically injured.

Still, her diagnosis scares her.

It took her six months after she left Walter Reed to make herself go to a VA office and stay for an appointment. She put it off at first, then became overwhelmed by the sight: veterans with glazed looks, some seeming at loose ends with nothing else to do.

"I would see some of the older vets sitting there," she recalled, "and I would be like, 'Lord, have mercy. I do not want that to be me.' "

She gave up alcohol. Some veterans drink a lot, she said, and she does not want to "self-medicate," as she called it. "It doesn't make Iraq go away," she said. "But obviously, if you pass out, then there's nothing bothering you at that time."

Johnson understands the danger of alcohol partly from her fiance, Mark Branch, who was her battle buddy in Iraq. He was driving the five-ton truck the day the bomb went off along the guardrail.

After Iraq, he drank so much Rémy Martin cognac that she lined up all of his empty liquor-bottle boxes along the top of their kitchen cabinets.

"How many fifths did I go through?" he asked her one day as they thought back.

He checked into a treatment program at Walter Reed, too.

The way Branch sees it, "a lot of us, we come back, and we have to go back to work because we have families, we have jobs, we have houses." Finding time to pursue counseling seemed impossible.

"You're never going to be healed from it," he said. "They just teach you how to live with it."

In her own life, Johnson finds herself off balance in ways that have surprised her.

One day she banged up her car but could not recall how. She heard the smack, yes. But how did she get up on the curb? Did she swipe a fire hydrant? "It's almost like I'm there but I'm not there sometimes," she said.

Another day, she recalled, it was the usual Washington traffic as she drove her Chrysler Concorde with the Purple Heart license plates. Along a snarled street, a bus driver blared his horn at her.

She yelled, cursed, then hurled an empty Coke cup at the bus before she even knew what she was doing. "You don't realize what you're doing until after, or sometimes a lot after," she said, later reflecting: "My temper is on a whole other level."

Then there was the time she got stuck in traffic near a highway overpass in Prince George's County. In Iraq, overpasses could conceal bombs. She felt a crushing sense of danger -- and traffic was at a dead stop.

"I was just losing it," she recalled.

In hysterics, Johnson phoned her fiance, who told her: Put the car in park and walk away until you settle down. When the traffic starts to move, climb back in your car.

Little help from VA
More than 2 1/2 years after her return from war, her sense of safety has not returned. She worries as never before about terrorist attacks and suicide bombers.

"I always make sure I'm armed, regardless," she said, mentioning a knife she keeps around. "I always make sure I have something to defend myself."

She has had a hard time with the VA.

She applied for disability compensation, but it took 14 months, and there are still problems. She started mental health sessions but wound up disappointed. She said the VA canceled her appointment in October. In November. In December. Each time, there was a different reason, she said. Her therapist was sick. Her name was not on the schedule. All of that, she said, has added to her stress.

"I haven't been there in four months, and they haven't even noticed," Johnson said early this year. VA officials declined to discuss her case but said that, overall, veterans get the PTSD care they need.

In February, Johnson said, her social worker made some calls and got her a 30-minute session March 8. But problems at work so consumed her that she could not remember what to tell the doctor. Usually, she makes a list of things to bring up.

Once, she asked: How long am I going to be like this?

"It could stop today, or it could go on for years," she said she was told, which brings her to this: "That's what scares me. I just get scared that I'll be one of those homeless people that you see holding the signs because I've lost my mind."

For now, her fate is nothing like that. She and her fiance bought a house this year, a brick rancher with a big back yard in Clinton. Her children seem happier, planted. Her eldest daughter is 14, an honor student and soccer-team captain.

Her youngest, now 5, is still focused on Mommy, and Johnson is glad -- though sometimes she still finds herself overwhelmed. On weekends, she and her fiance often have six or more children around, hers and his and often a niece or nephew.

After Iraq, she rarely goes out anymore -- not to clubs, not to movies. She passed up a chance to apply for a higher-paying job in her office because she felt she could not manage additional pressure.

Some days, she feels perilously close to the edge.

If she is home, she may retreat to her bedroom. There, she can collect herself. Or she may, for a moment, lose her connection to everything, as the ceiling fan turns, as her mind goes blank.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tony Butterfield, 19, Clovis; Among 4 Killed in Gasoline Tanker Blast

Not long ago, Marine Lance Cpl. Tony Butterfield sent his parents in the Central Valley city of Clovis a disposable camera that he had used to take pictures while serving in Iraq. When the pictures were developed, one stood out.


By Joe Mathews, Times Staff Writer
August 20, 2006

In the photo, Butterfield faced the camera in front of the most barren of landscapes in the Iraqi desert. But the preternaturally upbeat Marine wore a huge grin and carried a handwritten sign that read: "Hi, Everyone. Welcome to Paradise."

"Wherever he was," said his mother, Robin, "he was always trying to make somebody laugh."

Butterfield, 19, was killed July 29 in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad, along with three other Marines "while conducting combat operations," according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

In an e-mail to his own family that was shared with The Times, another soldier in Butterfield's unit, Pfc. Gary M. Cassen, wrote that Butterfield died while trying to prevent a suicide bomber from detonating a gasoline tanker filled with explosives. The tanker exploded, but Butterfield's actions saved the lives of some nearby Marines, Cassen wrote.

In Butterfield's hometown of Clovis, one memorial wasn't enough. Students at Buchanan High School — from which he graduated in 2005 — organized a candlelight vigil Aug. 4 that drew more than 300 people, and his funeral Aug. 8 could not be held in his home church, New Hope Community, because it was not big enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to attend. Instead, more than 1,200 people packed into Clovis Hills Community Church.

"His blue eyes would light up a room," family friend Dusty Estabrooke said at the funeral, according to an account in the Fresno Bee.

Butterfield was the third Buchanan High alumnus to die in the war in Iraq. Jared Hubbard and Jeremiah Baro, both Marine snipers and members of Buchanan High's Class of 2001, were killed in Al Anbar province in November 2004.

The Butterfield family has deep roots in Clovis, a city of more than 86,000 on the outskirts of Fresno. Butterfield's father, Tony, is a chiropractor who grew up in the area, and his mother, who teaches home economics to seventh- and eighth-graders, moved there from Fullerton as a youngster.

They raised their son in a home on two acres. The third of four children, he attended public schools and played soccer before switching to volleyball during a growth spurt — 11 inches in one year — that saw him reach 6 feet 4. He played on a team that won the state championship in his sophomore year, said his coach, John Jay.

Butterfield was a motorcycle enthusiast who went for long rides into the Sierra with his father and grandfather. A voracious eater, Butterfield revered his grandmother's cooking — turkey soup, mashed potatoes, gravy, chicken and noodles — and often took food to bed as a fast-growing adolescent.

Butterfield, family and friends say, had a rare gift not only for humor but also for candor. At the age of 11, he approached a fire marshal — without prompting — to take responsibility for a blaze started by fireworks in a nearby field. If he transgressed at school, he didn't argue; instead he asked politely what the punishment would be.

Butterfield was popular, but kind to those who weren't. He stayed on good terms even with former girlfriends. Friends trusted him with their problems. "His phone would ring off the hook," said lifelong friend David Davis, 19. "When he went to boot camp, I got to use his phone. I honestly didn't want that phone because it would not stop ringing."

Not always a strong student in school, Butterfield nevertheless took a serious interest in history and often wrestled with his siblings and parents for the TV remote so he could watch the History Channel. He enjoyed biographies and military stories. In addition to a career in the Marine Corps, he talked of becoming a police officer or history teacher.

When he was 17, Butterfield approached a military recruiter on his own during his junior year in high school. To reassure his parents, he invited the recruiter to the family home. "By the time the recruiter left that night, we had given him permission," his father said. "Tony was so adamant and positive."

Butterfield joined the Marines last summer and deployed to Iraq in March. He often asked his mother to send him things — dozens of ChapStick lip balms, Jolly Rancher hard candies — so he could hand them out to Iraqi children.

In addition to his parents, Butterfield is survived by a brother, Jeremy of Clovis; two sisters, Bailey Butterfield of Clovis and Britney Hunt of Fresno; and his brother-in-law, Glen Hunt. The family asks that any donations in his memory be sent to the Wish Upon a Star Foundation, P.O. Box 4000, Visalia, CA 93278.

At Butterfield's funeral, the Rev. Tim McLain Rolen described a scene from Butterfield's favorite movie, "Hook," a 1991 updating of the Peter Pan story starring Robin Williams. "Tony wanted pixie dust when he saw that movie," his mother said, "and he was so disappointed when it didn't make him fly."

'Nightmares' hold field meet, raise morale

Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, compete in a tug-of-war Aug. 6, at Al Asad, Iraq. The tug-of-war was just one event at the field meet. The Marines also had a barbeque and music, adding to the morale-boosting excitement of the day.


Aug. 20, 2006; Submitted on: 08/22/2006 02:52:53 AM ; Story ID#: 200682225253

By Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 20, 2006) -- A field meet was held by Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 6, to boost morale and strengthen unit cohesion.

The field meet was the idea of Capt. Carlton A. Wilson, Harrier pilot, and 1stLt. Anemia Godwin Eddie Utuk, assistant aircraft maintenance officer, both with VMA-513.

"We decided to hold the event to compensate the Marines for a superb deployment," said Utuk, a native of Columbus, Ga. "This squadron has been through a lot together. We had an inspection of all of our shops and went through Exercise Desert Talon, all prior to our deployment."

Field meets are common at garrison commands, but the excitement and team building seemed to be a perfect way to relieve some stress from a very hardworking squadron.

"The squadron has been working very hard this last year, especially here in Iraq," said Wilson, a native of Austin, Texas. "The squadron has had very little time on this deployment to do any group activities."

The field meet had shops throughout the squadron competing in three different events.

"There was a tug-of-war, dizzy izzy and a Leadership Reaction Course challenge called the spider web," said Utuk. "There was also a 5-ton truck pull planned, but we canceled it due to operational commitment and time constraints."

The field meet wasn't all athletic competitions. Food and music added to the excitement of the day.

"We had a cookout with steak, ribs, hot wings and ice cream," said Wilson. "Add a DJ and some friends and it was a pretty good time to be had by all."

Morale, Welfare and Recreation provided the DJ and all the equipment necessary to provide music for the Marines.

"My idea was to bring some of the recreational package available for the main-side units to this end of the air base," said Utuk. "I coordinated all the details with Crystal Nadeau, MWR supervisor, who was a huge help. I remember when I discussed this with her initially; she was really animated and excited about the whole event. I was really impressed with how aggressive she was in activating her staff members to get them involved. Bottom line, their presence here made a huge difference."

It was only fitting to show the Marines of VMA-513 that they are truly deserving of a function like this to commemorate their accomplishments and to ensure morale is high for the last leg of the deployment, explained Utuk.

"One of the biggest challenges in a combat environment for a small unit leader is to build camaraderie and minimize boredom," said Utuk. "Throughout the deployment, it has been imperative to break the everyday maintenance monotony and create events focused on competition and esprit de corps which sharpen our Marines' combat mindset."

For MORE photos, descriptions, credits please click on any picture

August 19, 2006

Hundreds say goodbye to fallen Marines at Camp Pendleton ceremony

Marines start to stand up after placing a pair of boots in front of each of the eight memorials for the Marines with the 3rd battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, who were killed in Iraq, during a memorial service at Camp Pendleton on Friday.
Photo by Hayne Palmour IV

CAMP PENDLETON ---- One Marine after another filed onto the stage of a Camp Pendleton theater Friday to bid a final farewell to eight of their comrades who died in Iraq during the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's most recent deployment to Iraq.

(there is a slide show of the service, just click on the original link)



CAMP PENDLETON ---- One Marine after another filed onto the stage of a Camp Pendleton theater Friday to bid a final farewell to eight of their comrades who died in Iraq during the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's most recent deployment to Iraq.

As part of a memorial ceremony for the men, eight rifles stood on the stage, each topped with a helmet and draped with dog tags. A young man's photo stood in front of each rifle.

At the end of the ceremony, after most of the 700 Marines and sailors had left the auditorium, dozens of others stayed behind and climbed onto the stage to stand or kneel before the photos of the their fallen brethren. Some just bowed their heads. Others kissed the dog tags or patted the helmets in farewell.

But one Marine lingered on the stage longer than most, his eyes squeezed shut in silent reverence. Finally, Lance Cpl. Scott Kelly, 22, rose, kissed the helmet and dog tags of his friend, Lance Cpl. Rex A. Page, and limped out of the auditorium. Outside, he leaned on the cane he uses after being wounded by a roadside bomb in March. Kelly spoke of the young man he had come to know in Iraq.

"He was my younger Marine; I trained him," Kelly said. "He was an outgoing, happy kid, always willing to help out. He always had a smile on his face."

Page was a 21-year-old rifleman from Kirksville, Mo. He died from combat wounds in late July in the violence-ridden Anbar province.

The other fallen Marines honored Friday were Pfc. Sean T. Cardelli, Cpl. Ross A. Smith, Pfc. Javier Chavez Jr., Lance Cpl. Benito A. Ramirez, Staff Sgt. Raymond J. Plouhar, Cpl. Jason W. Morrow and Lance Cpl. Geofrey R. Cayer.

The Marines who served with the honored troops said they had lost friends and brothers.

After the memorial services, at which he participated as part of the four-man color guard, 18-year-old Cpl. Humberto Soto said he was hit hard by the death of Ramirez, who died fighting in Anbar.

"It's hard to lose a friend, a terrible feeling," Soto said.

Before the men left for Iraq, they took a road trip together to visit Ramirez's family in Edinburg, Texas, Soto said.

"We got to be close," Soto said.

His friend had "lots of plans," he said of Ramirez, who told him he wanted to go to work in his father's trucking business after he got out of the Marine Corps.

Soto said Ramirez was finishing up his third tour of duty in Iraq when he died in combat in May in Anbar province.

"He was about to get out," Soto said. "The morning (he got killed) I saw him wallking to chow ---- he was all happy."

The seven-month deployment was not without controversy. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment suffered a blow when eight of its members were recently charged with kidnapping, murder and related charges in the death of an Iraqi civilian.

The Marines are alleged to have kidnapped 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home in the Iraqi village of Hamdania and bound and shot the man before staging a death scene to make it appear he was planting a roadside bomb.

The first of the initial hearings related to the charges are set to begin next month.

After Friday's memorial service, company Cmdr. Cpt. Monte Powell said he seriously doubted whether the allegations will overshadow the heroic performance of Marines in the regiment.

"People understand ---- the truth will come out," Powell said.

Among the other men honored Friday was 19-year-old Hanford resident Chavez, who had just married his childhood sweetheart when he left for Iraq last New Year's Eve for his first tour of duty. A few weeks later, he was killed by a roadside bomb, according to military officials.

Around the same time, the life of Smith, 21, was also cut short by a roadside bomb. Smith, who was from Wyoming, Mich., was on his third tour in Iraq.

Cardelli, 20, was killed during a small-arms fight near the city of Fallujah in early February, according to the Pentagon.

Cayer was 20 years old when he died in July in what military officials called a "nonhostile incident." He was a native of Fitchburg, Mass., a small city near Boston. In an interview with the North County Times around the time of his death, lifelong friend Chris LeBlanc said, "he was proud to be a Marine, and he knew he had a job to do."

The 27-year-old Morrow called Anaheim his home. He was on his third tour when he was killed. Before heading out on his final deployment, the longtime Angels fan received a standing ovation for throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in October.

Plouhar, 30, died from wounds suffered in combat in June, according to Defense Department officials. After his death, The Associated Press reported that he was one of the recruiters featured in a segment of Michael Moore's scathing anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Father Raymond Plouhar told reporters his son willingly participated in the movie but didn't know the movie was critical of the war. His father also said his son, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996, took four years off from active duty to serve as a recruiter after donating one of his kidneys to his uncle.

Plouhar told reporters at the time that he was steadfast in his opinions on the war.

"If we walk out now, my son died for nothing and that will make me mad," he said.

After Friday's service, Maj. Gen. Jay Paxton stood at the edge of the stage offering his condolences to family members as they made there way up the stairs.

Afterwards, the 1st Marine Division's Paxton said that the memorial service was "a most appropriate and fitting recognition of the valor of service of these eight Marines.

"They made us all better, lifted us all up," Paxton said.

His feelings were echoed by Temecula resident Cpl. Ryan Hapney, who said that most of the Marines in 3/5, as it is known, live together, play together and fight together.

This is "like a final goodbye; it's very touching," Hapney said.

Marine Corps officials said family members of the men asked not to be interviewed by the press.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Marines, city toast their union of 54 years

Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Ray Wilburn laughs Friday while celebrating the commemoration of the Marines at Twentynine Palms.

Jay Calderon, The Desert Sun

When Sgt. Major Ray Wilburn was stationed on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base in 1954, trailers were the only housing and the doorways and bathtubs would fill up with sand whenever the wind blew.
Since joining the Marines in 1939 - for $20.80 a month - 87-year-old Wilburn served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Then after 35 years of retirement, he donned a new uniform Friday and returned to active duty. For one day.


Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
August 19, 2006

He was ordered to report to the 54th birthday celebration of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms and became part of the event's symbolic link of the past and present.

Wilburn joined other Marines and civilian community members to dedicate 29 newly planted palm trees to commemorate the history of the Marine Corps and the city of Twentynine Palms.

A Marine and a civilian VIP stood in front of each tree Saturday morning, and when a a cannon fired at about 10 a.m., they simultaneously snipped 29 ribbons.

"It's a really nice connection between the community and the Marines," said former Twentynine Palms mayor Jim Bagley.

Community members included the mayors of Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley and other elected officials, business leaders and representatives from service organizations.

"They in their own right represent the history of the Marine Corps and the history of the community," said Brig. Gen. Douglas Stone.

In front of each palm, a sign lists a battle in Marine Corps. history, from Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Marines in 1775, to the Iraq war battle in Fallujah - a battle in which many Twentynine Palms-based Marines fought.
"We tried to put a lot of subtle symbolism here that those who think that way will find," Stone said.

For example, Wilburn helped dedicate the tree representing the battle of Sai Pan, where he fought in 1944. He celebrated his 25th birthday in a Sai Pan cane field.

Stone said the 29 chosen battles were the most representative of the Corps' history, not necessarily the most notable.

Other details were carefully thought through, even down to the type of tree.

The specific species of Washingtonian palm trees planted along the entrance to the base is native to the area.

Even giving Wilburn a modern uniform was meant to be symbolic. "The uniform may change, but the Corps' values don't," Stone said.

Though Twentynine Palms officially has a row of 29 trees, Marines won't change their nickname for the base - "Twentynine Stumps."

"Still the Stumps," said Cpl. Brian Tuthill, 20. "It's always referred to as the Stumps, that will never change."

"What we are today is a product of what we were yesterday," Stone said, adding that the past can offer insights into the current war in Iraq.

Stone also said that because of the nature of American democracy, American citizens will make the difference in the outcome of the war.

"It is you who decides whether we win this war," Stone said.

He said he is not worried about the Marines, even though some based at Twentynine Palms are approaching their fourth tour of duty, because they want to be there and they know they will win.

His concern is that Americans may not share that idea.

"Americans, regardless of how they feel, they need to be engaged," Stone said. "You can disagree with how (the war) is being fought but don't give up on it."

Southern Calif.-based Marines memorialize Sun Valley, Nev., native, killed in Iraq

ZELLA, Iraq (Aug. 19, 2006) -- Marines and sailors stationed at a small, dusty outpost along one of Iraq’s main highways in Al Anbar Province gathered to pay their final respects to one of their own Aug. 19, 2006.


Aug. 19, 2006
Story ID#: 20068279305
By Cpl. Antonio Rosas, Regimental Combat Team7

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Z. Long, a rifleman with Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment lost his life Aug. 10, 2006, while conducting combat operations through a Euphrates River village near the Iraq-Syria border.

Long, an 18-year-old from Sun Valley, Nev., was about a month shy from returning to the United States with his battalion when he died.

The Marines based out of the outpost here, named “Veracruz,” provide security for villages along a stretch of road and encounter deadly roadside bombs on a regular basis – sometimes finding up to three in any given week.

At the time of his death, Long had already endured more than five months of service in Iraq, which he spent mentoring Iraqi Security Forces and conducting daily security patrols in 110-degree weather.

In the hours between conducting daily security patrols, Long kept himself busy reading the Bible. His goal was to read the entire Bible during the deployment, according to his platoon commander.

“I remember that he was a religious man and that he read the Bible often,” said 1st Lt. Craig O. Davis, platoon commander with Company A and Long’s commanding officer. “He was reading the Bible since the beginning of the deployment when we were sitting at March Air Force Base, waiting to leave the country.”

Marines here often carry religious icons and charms with them while they’re conducting security patrols, some for good luck -- others for Divine protection. Long carried a medal of St. Christopher. It stayed with him at all times, according to the Marines here.

As the members of Long’s squad stood by for a final roll call from their commanding officer, silence marked the absence of the young rifleman who often talked about his family to the men in his squad.

“He would tell us stories about his sister and his brother and how he looked after his mother,” said Lance Cpl. James E. Brewer, a 19-year-old rifleman from Purcell, Okla. “He loved his family and that’s what he always talked about.”

Brewer, one of Long’s closest friends, spent nearly every day of his “Marine Corps career” with Long – the two went to boot camp and infantry school together. They were assigned to their first duty station together with the battalion at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Pfc. Michael A. Phillips, a 20-year-old rifleman from Richardson, Texas, recalled Long as a person who spoke frequently about pro wrestling, and enjoyed playing video games.

“He was too nice to complain about anything,” said Phillips. “Even though he appeared to be quiet and shy, once you got to know the guy he was a total jokester and was very playful.”

For the Marines of Company A, who spend the majority of the day providing security for several Euphrates River villages near the Iraq-Syria border, there are few options for “passing the time” in between conducting security patrols.

To avoid the pitfalls of boredom, Long kept close to his two friends Brewer and Phillips, and they talked about everything from plans to attend college after their time in the Marines, to one day raising their own families.

“He planned to go to college in Nevada after the Marine Corps,” said Phillips. “He said he’d like to have a son someday.”

Phillips and Brewer recalled one of the last moments they shared with their friend and “brother in arms.”

They were putting on their roughly 60 pounds of body armor in order to conduct a security patrol in a nearby village. Someone had a camera and Long struck a funny pose with all of his gear on.

“That was just him,” said Phillips. “He was always doing something to crack you up.”

The battalion is scheduled to return home to the states within the next several months and will be replaced by another southern California-based unit.

Email Cpl. Rosas, at [email protected]

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

Meeting cute girls, seeing future Marines

SAN JOSE, Calif. - On a warm spring Tuesday, a 19-year-old girl walks into the Marine Recruiting Office and flings herself into the fake leather chair, adjusting a spaghetti strap on her skimpy tank top.


Posted on Sat, Aug. 19, 2006

Associated Press

Marine Corps Sgt. Edward Green, in a pressed and neat uniform, greets her warmly, with a genuine smile and a handshake. Green has long dark lashes, tight shoulders and the chest of a wrestler. He's 23, opens doors for women and remembers everyone's names.

If girls are flirting with him, he says he doesn't notice. And he certainly doesn't respond.

This girl had filled out an online form from the Marine's recruiting web site asking for more information. Green called her up and invited her in.

For the next hour, an intense conversation ensues. She talks fast, her voice shaking at times as she explains that her father is urging her to enlist, that he wants her to have some structure in her life.

"I want the courage to stand up for myself," she says. "I never looked up to my mother. She was nothing. She never did anything. I don't want to stay at home like my mother. But I can't do a push up, just to let you know. I don't know how. Can you teach me?"

She slouches forward onto the table, leaning her chin onto her folded hands and pouting for a moment.

He asks why she wants to be a Marine.

"I just want to be hot. I just want to be buff. I want to be fit," she says. "Do you think I'll lose a couple of pounds in boot camp? Do you think I will?"

Green loves the Marines. He loves the institution, the public service, the noble tradition dating back to the American Revolution. He even loves his uniform. He's done two tours in Iraq, and is now putting in a few years as a recruiter, which is one way to increase his chances of being promoted.

Like his fellow military recruiters around the country, Green spends hours a day making cold calls to high school students whose names are on lists provided by high schools as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

He also walks around high school and junior college campuses, and has one-on-one meetings in the recruiting offices with potential enlistees.

It's far more stressful than it sounds. The military calls it one of the toughest assignments a servicemember can have. There is immense pressure on recruiters to meet their mission, their numbers. In Sgt. Green's case, this means two new recruits each month.

Increased hostilities in Iraq make it tough to persuade young people to join. Further, Defense Department researchers estimate that more than half of the people in this country between 16 and 21 don't meet the military's eligibility requirements.

Recruiters who fail to meet their mission can be yelled at, harangued and humiliated. They rarely take vacations, and they are often isolated, living off base in the communities where they recruit.

Half of the recruiters in this country say they are dissatisfied with the job and three out of four say they would choose another assignment if they were allowed to, according to a 2005 internal Defense Department survey of recruiters, released in part last week in a General Accounting Office report.

Suicide, drugs and alcohol are a problem among recruiters in all branches. So is sexual misconduct.

"Look," says Green, grabbing a quick sandwich between recruiting sessions. "It's easy to stay out of trouble at this. All you do is stay professional. Every day, all the time. I'm a Marine all the time, not just sometimes. I take that very seriously."

August 18, 2006

Marine Corps dedicates 29 palm trees in Twentynine Palms

Some of the 29 palm trees dedicated this morning on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. Each tree is paired with a significant battle in Marine Corps history.
Michelle Mitchell, The Desert Sun

Members of the Marine Corps and civilian community members dedicated 29 palm trees to celebrate the birthday of the Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms this morning.

The trees are meant to commemorate both the history of the Marine Corps and its connection to the community.


Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
August 18, 2006

At the sound of a cannon around 10 a.m., a Marine and a civilian VIP cut a ribbon set up in front of each tree.

The community members included the mayors of Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley, councilmen, business leaders and representatives from service organizations.

In front of each tree a sign lists a historical battle in Marines history, from Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Marines in 1775, to the Iraq war battle in Fallujah.

“History has always been a part of the Corps and history will always be a part of the Corps,” said Brigadier General Douglas Stone.

Stone said the 29 chosen battles were the most representative of the Corps history, not necessarily the most notable.

“It’s a really nice connection between the community and the Marines,” said former Twentynine Palms mayor Jim Bagley.

Drill instructors teach advanced methods of self-defense, martial arts

Company C drill instructors Staff Sgt. Jose M. Mariscal, left, and Sgt. Timothy Brown demonstrate counters and chokes. Both drill instructors have taken the Martial Arts Instructors Course. Photo by: Lance Cpl. James Green

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Aug. 18, 2006) -- Since August 2005, almost every drill instructor who has graduated from Drill Instructor School here has attended the Instructors’ Course at the depot’s Marine Corps Martial Arts Program facility.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/17/2006 12:08:26 PM ; Story ID#: 200681712826
By Lance Cpl. James Green, Marine Corp Recruit Depot San Diego

The course is designed to give drill instructors more knowledge and experience with the materials taught in MCMAP before they teach it to the recruits.

“Instructors’ courses are recommended for all drill instructors to make them more proficient in MCMAP to help the recruits out,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff J. Vandentop, course instructor on the depot.

A minimum of a gray belt, the second of five belts that can be earned in MCMAP, is required to attend the class. If a Marine does not yet have his gray belt prioir to the class, he will first go through a week-long gray belt course before starting the instructors’ class, said Vandentop.

The course is comprised of numerous fast-paced, but thorough, lessons. Instructors must ensure each Marine who leaves the class is proficient in the material he learns. Marines are tested on their knowledge of MCMAP before receiving their instructors’ tab, which allows them to teach other Marines martial arts so they can upgrade their belts as they excel through the belt system from tan through black.

However, an instructor is not able to advance a belt user past his own belt. For example, a green belt instructor cannot certify a belt user higher than a green belt.

Because of the amount of time spent with each Marine, the material is understood and enjoyed by the students who attend the course.

“It’s a good course,” said Staff Sgt. Jose M. Mariscal, Company C drill instructor, Platoon 1021. “It took away the comfort zone by pushing us beyond the limits that we mentally set.”

Although MCMAP is a martial arts-based program, a lot more is put into the making of a warrior than just physical training.

Aside from the physical discipline necessary in the Instructors’ Course, Marines who attend the class are taught two other MCMAP disciplines.

“We teach mental and character discipline as well,” said Vandentop. “The synergy of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is based on these three disciplines. They are the backbone of the program.”

Developed over years, MCMAP spawns from a variety of different martial arts styles and disciplines and remains available to Marines in the fleet who desire to upgrade their belts and become more knowledgeable and proficient in the unique fighting style.

“It’s our history,” said Mariscal. “MCMAP has helped Marines before me and will continue to serve them after me.”

The Instructors’ Course is offered to all noncommissioned officers and above.

For more information on the next course, call the Martial Arts Facility at (619) 524-5114.

For MORE photos, credits, and descriptions, please click on the picture.

Reserve Marines train with Colombian Marines

TOMACO, Colombia - (Aug. 18, 2006) -- Marines of from Tucson, Ariz., Bulk Fuel Company Alpha, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, arrived in Tomaco, Colombia, from Tucson, Ariz., for their annual training exercise Aug. 3. This excercise focused on the Expedient Refueling System (ERS) training and assistance to the Colombian Marines’ Riverine Battalion No. 70.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/18/2006 11:47:27 AM ; Story ID#: 2006818114727
By - Staff Report, Marine Forces Reserve

Tomaco, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, is located in the state of Narino and approximately 22 miles north of Ecuador. The battalion was collocated on an island with the Colombian Coast Guard. Together, they control the seas off the coast and the rivers within the southern part of Colombia.

As the first bulk fuel training mission to Colombia, Marines from Bulk Fuel Company Alpha introduced and instructed Colombian Marines in Marine Corps bulk fuel systems, fuel testing, quality control, boat refueling operations, proper equipment maintenance, Helicopter Support Team (HST) operations and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).

The additional capability of expedient refueling and bulk fuel operations to the Colombian Marines riverine operations will enable them to sustain their missions and effectively support the maintenance efforts. Together, Bulk Fuel Company Alpha and Riverine Battalion No. 70 were able to spearhead this pioneer program in order to improve the Colombian Marines’ mission in drug- and narco-terrorism interdiction.

Bulk Fuel Company Alpha Marines and Colombian Marines were able forge a new partnership and friendship between their respective countries’ war on drugs and terrorism.

2nd MLG Supply gears Marines for deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEGEUNE, N.C. (Aug. 18, 2006) -- A crucial piece of the deployment puzzle lies in the ordering and distribution of gear for Marines preparing to head to Iraq.

That responsibility is placed on the Marines of 2nd Supply Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/18/2006 09:55:06 AM ; Story ID#: 20068189556
By Pfc. Kendra A. McKinny, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The comptroller’s office is given a budget for Operation Iraqi Freedom which they disperse between each unit gearing to deploy. Once they have calculated and taxed out the funds for each company in the regiment, company commanders compile a list of items they need and research quotes from vendors and businesses for the equipment.

They send the lists to Supply Company where the items will be looked at for acceptance. Supply then sends the lists to the comptroller’s office for the final approval. Supply personnel receive the lists back and begin to order and compile the ordered items.

“Supply supports approximately 700 Marines in the regiment,” said Sgt. Robert S. Blake, property noncommissioned officer, supply, Headquarters Co., CLR 27, 2nd MLG.

Blake is gearing up to deploy to Iraq after the new year. He recently returned from a six-month deployment to Iraq earlier this year.

Supply will spend between $500,000 and $1 million on gear for Marines preparing to deploy. Gear distribution ranges from ballistic goggles and camouflage utilities to bulletproof vests and helmets, said Blake.

The supply shop has also ordered maintenance parts for the motor transportation company and items for 2nd MLG food service such as food containers, said Blake.

“My main job here is to oversee and control all assets of property belonging to CLR-27,” Blake said.

His job also consists of tracking the items each company has ordered through their accounts to ensure everything has accountability.

It takes approximately seven months to prepare gear for the regiment, said Blake. With the processes taken for deployment through supply, Marines can ensure they receive the proper gear to help them overseas.

Red Lions prepare for deployment

Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 perform routine maintenance on CH-53Ds, Aug. 9, at Marine Corps Air Facility here. The Red Lions are currently preparing for a upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/18/2006 06:49:17 PM ; Story ID#: 2006818184917
By Lance Cpl. Edward C. deBree, MCB Hawaii

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Aug. 18, 2006) -- As the days of each week quickly pass, Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, prepare for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to the Marines in the squadron, they must train for their jobs that they will be doing while in Iraq, as well as complete their annual Marine Corps training.

“Not only are we training to do our jobs out there, we’re also doing out basic Marine Corps training such as the rifle range, gas chamber, (physical fitness test), and swim qualification,” said Capt. Roy Taylor, flight line officer, HMH-363. “Doing all these pre-deployment steps takes away from maintaining our aircrafts. So what we are doing is scheduling them for all their qualifications so they don’t have to worry about it and just do their jobs. We want them to focus on repairing flights.”

Preparing for a deployment means that Marines will be training harder so they will not have any flaws during the deployment, said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Sanders, flight line chief, HMH-363.

“We’ve been working long, hard hours for the past few weeks,” said the 36-year-old Sebring, Fla. native. “We’ve been looking at twelve to fifteen hour working days. It sort of takes a lot out of you because all you concentrate on is work. By doing nothing but work, we hope to eliminate any flaws that may occur while out in the desert.”

Though the Marines have been working hard on perfecting any glitches they may have now, in order to prevent problems in Iraq, they are all still motivated to step off, said Capt. Daniel Fritz, air frames officer, HMH-363.

Fritz said the younger generation of Marines that have arrived on island less than three or four months ago are more than eager to support OIF.

“All we are going to do while we’re out there is our jobs,” said the Toledo, Ohio native. “All these Marines are focusing on is being Marines. They are working ridiculous hours, doing their jobs, and getting in the right state of mind so when we step off, they are motivated to go. I’m blown away by their performance.”

The Red Lions have recently conducted training in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. in the Desert Talon Exercise, and have been preparing for the day for when they take off for Iraq.

It has been a six month process of training beginning with Desert Talon, and ending with the final date when they leave.
Through all the training the Marines are bonding, and realizing that they will have to and can rely on each other when they enter Iraq.

“We are building a solid network with in the ranks of the Marines,” said Maj. Thomas Witczak, executive officer, HMH-363. “Every Marine is critical, from the most junior to the most senior, in making success. No one is more important than the other. We’re going to have to depend on each other when we deploy.”

Though going to a war zone is not at the top of everybody’s list, the Marines of HMH-363 are very motivated and dedicated to go.

“I’m looking forward to be doing my job,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey S. Young, crew chief, HMH-363. “It’s an exciting challenge that I want to do. This will be my first time in Iraq, and I know that all my training will pay off when I’m out there.”

Rowdy kid now a Marine, thanks to St. Joseph's Villa, Fresh from boot camp, he stops by the facility to thank his caregivers

Michael Saunders was 11 when he first showed up at St. Joseph's Villa for Children. Over the years, the rough-edged kid would throw chairs and punches at the people trying to help him.



He showed up at the Villa again this week, the edges dramatically smoothed. He greeted women he didn't know with "Good morning, ma'am" instead of spitting curses. Introduced to strangers, he shook hands firmly and said his name proudly. He was clean-cut and polished in his Marine uniform, a young man of 19 with a wife, an infant son and a bright future.

He was as glad to be back as the Villa was to see him.

"The Villa is my comfort zone," Saunders said. "It's taken care of me. The Villa is my home."

"It's an incredible story," said Craig Hedley, director of community partnerships at the Villa and a longtime mentor and friend of Saunders.

But it's the type of story those who work at the Villa -- which provides a variety of services to Richmond-area children and families -- hear too seldom.

In Saunders, Hedley and the rest of the Villa staff were able to stare squarely in the face of success. Three dozen of them showed up to greet Saunders and then eat lunch with him. When Hedley asked how many had worked with Saunders, almost all raised their hands.

"The Villa handled me, and I was hard to handle," Saunders told the gathering. "I just want to say thank you."

The only consistent aspect of Saunders' childhood was its inconsistency. He had been in and out of the Villa's emergency shelter by the time his mother died when he was 13. As the only child of a single-parent household, he made most of the funeral arrangements.

In the next few years, he lived in foster homes, group homes, even residential treatment facilities. The one constant was the Villa. Whenever he needed shelter -- which turned out to be fairly often -- he knew he could turn to the Villa.

"I wasn't an angel," Saunders said. "I was a pistol. I was a bad kid. But the Villa always had a place for me. They never turned me away."

For a kid emerging from such a muddled past, he sure had a clear vision for himself.

"Some kids want to be a doctor, some kids want to be a lawyer," he said. "I wanted to be a United States Marine."

Saunders kept bugging the Marines; they kept telling him to get his high school diploma, which he did this year. He shipped out to Parris Island, S.C., in May. He graduated from boot camp last week.

Hedley made the eight-hour drive to South Carolina to see Saunders walk across the stage. After the ceremony when the new Marines were officially dismissed, most ran directly to their families. Saunders ran straight for Hedley, who had encouraged Saunders about the Marines but also expressed skepticism along the way.

Beaming, Saunders said, "I told you so!"

Avionics Marines ensure insurgents have 'Nightmares'

Cpl. Michael Top (left) and Lance Cpl. Erik Meza check and make sure that the new aviation interior utility light works onboard an AV-8B Harrier jet at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 15. The light is used by pilots to read maps while in flight. Top and Meza are both AV-8 communications technicians for Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and are responsible for maintaining every electronic system onboard the Harrier.

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 18, 2006) -- Mile and miles of wires and advanced electronics are tucked into every available space of the $30 million AV-8B Harrier jets. One group of Marines is entrusted to make sure every component functions properly for flight.


Marine Corps News

Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/19/2006 07:38:49 AM ;
Story ID#: 200681973849

By Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The avionics shop Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, have the tedious task of ensuring the Harriers, packed with high-tech equipment, can perform flawlessly for the pilots on every mission tasked.

"We are in charge of everything electrical on the aircraft, which is about 90-95 percent of the bird," said Sgt. William R. Baggett, AV-8 communications technician, VMA-513.

The avionics shop maintains and repairs the weapons, navigation and communications systems. They also do a lot of work with the other shops throughout the squadron, according to Baggett, a native of Cocoa Beach, Fla.

"There isn't a shop here that we don't work with," said Baggett. "With so many electronic systems on the aircraft, we have to keep a constant work relationship with all the other shops in the squadron."

Working on an aircraft that is so dependant upon its electronic devices means a lot of work for the Marines tasked with its' maintenance.

"I think most of the pilots and avionics Marines are very similar," said Capt. Carlton A. Wilson, Harrier pilot, VMA-513. "Most of us were probably the kids in high school who were always on the fringe of being geeky. You would probably find both groups playing sports, but behind that facade were kids who took calculus and always had the newest computer games."

Avionics top priority is maintaining the AN/AAQ-28 Litening Pod II.

"The Litening Pod is the most important piece of gear we are responsible for," said Baggett.

The pod is a wing-mounted device that allows pilots to see ground movement from 25,000 feet in the air in addition to other vital intelligence features.

Along with giving the pilots the ability to scout the terrain ahead of ground forces, the Litening Pod also grants pilots pinpoint accuracy with laser-guided munitions.

"With the pod, pilots can target a building and then place the crosshairs on any part of that building and the bombs will follow," said Baggett. "They can put them through a window if need be."

The pilots of VMA-513 appreciate the hard work the avionics shop does to keep them flying and fighting.

"The avionics Marines are instrumental to what makes the Harrier the best aircraft for close air support," said Wilson, a native of Austin, Texas. "If it wasn't for the systems they maintain, like our radios, the Lightening Pod, and our new mission computer software, H2.0, we would be ineffective in the current fight taking place on the ground. The requirements for precision munitions and information gathering in support of the Marines on the ground continue to make avionics and essential shop in the squadron."

DoD tightens parameters on Web logs

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – (Aug. 18, 2006) -- Before “blogging” was a household word, Marines and sailors used word-of-mouth, underground newsletters or television interviews to discuss concerns and state their sentiments for their beloved Corps. Today, some service members are using Web blogs on the World Wide Web to converse on several topics, including personal views on the war and opinions about their chain of command. Devil dogs and seamen must know the guidelines just released by the Department of Defense before typing their next blog entry.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/18/2006 01:30:09 PM ; Story ID#: 200681813309

By Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Blogs are an online diary or a personal chronological log of thoughts usually updated daily on a Web site and can be used to influence a reader’s position on a specific subject.

Businesses, political candidates and world leaders have used blogs to gain awareness in hopes of fostering favorable opinions.

Earlier this year, the New York Times reported Wal-Mart tried to get select bloggers on their side by sending out positive news about itself while its’ workers were protesting their lack of health insurance.

Greensboro, N.C., democrat Jeff Thigpen decided to use a Web log during 2004 to converse directly with voters and constituents any time he desired, at virtually no cost, as did Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Likewise, the use of blogs by military personnel has increased and has lately come into question.

According to a recent DoD message, “personal blogs may not be created/maintained during normal duty hours and may not contain information on military activities that is not available to the general public.”

Information that should not be discussed involves military activities or operations, morale of units, specifics on some equipment and any information that may be beneficial to American opposition.

Lance Cpl. Christina C. Williams, administrative clerk, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF, said she uses Web logging as a way to meet people and pass time.

Williams said that her blogs are never about the Marine Corps, nor does she talk about her work environment.

“I ask questions and people e-mail me their answers,” she said. “It’s a way to get other, interesting points of view on things.”

Williams stated her family also has a Web page, on which they post current events, photographs and family trivia questions.

“My aunt posted a question, ‘What was my nickname as a kid?’” she said. “It’s stuff only our family would know.”

Williams updates her weblog twice a week, but constantly surfs the Internet and reads other peoples’ blog entries, she said.

Times are changing and people are getting information from places other than the traditional newspaper. There is an obvious threat in the world and some seek to destroy freedom and the American way of life. Blogs about the Corps could help these adversaries put together pieces of the puzzle and pose grave danger to warriors around the globe. The eyes of terrorism are on the Internet, and could be searching for intelligence and any information they could use against the United States.

August 17, 2006

Recruits test Corps knowledge, practical application skills

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Aug. 18, 2006) -- Before the recruits of Company M were dismissed by their drill instructors from recruit training, they were challenged both in mind and body while making the three-month transformation into Marines.


Aug. 18, 2006; Submitted on: 08/17/2006 12:02:58 PM ; Story ID#: 200681712258
By Lance Cpl. Robert W. Beaver, MCRD San Diego

When they weren’t conducting some form of physical training or field exercise, recruits were learning in the classroom.

As early as one week after they began training, they learned about Marine Corps customs and courtesies, rules and regulations, uniforms and history. Further into training they learned basic first aid techniques such as how to clear the airway on someone who is choking and apply dressings to wounds.

“Everything they learn here will help them with their career as a Marine,” said Staff Sgt. Johnny Robinson, an academic instructor with Academic Instruction Platoon.

Near completion of recruit training, the recruits are tested on everything they learned. The test includes a 152 multiple choice question exam on the knowledge they learn and a practical application test where they perform life saving techniques.

“These recruits will be in Iraq soon,” said Staff Sgt. James Brooks, drill instructor with Company M. “The corpsman may not always be around during an emergency so they have to know how to save other Marines’ lives on their own.”

Currently, the first aid portion of the test is done indoors at eight different stations. Each station has a different technique recruits must pass. The Marine Corps plans to change this within the next few years by creating a more realistic environment.

By the year 2008, Robinson says the first aid portion of the practical examination will be taken in a simulated combat environment. With gunfire sound effects in the background, recruits will have to low-crawl from station to station to test their skills on dummies that have different injuries.

According to Robinson, a 32-year-old native of Savanna, Ga., the training is better now than it was when he was in recruit training and it will continue to advance in the future.

As the Marines of Company M leave the depot and continue their careers as Marines, the knowledge that was instilled in them during bootcamp will not only make them successful Marines, but better Americans

Fore more on photos (description, credits) please click on any picture

Marines, sailors return home to Miramar

MIRAMAR, Calif. – Lance Cpl. Jose Carranza (center), avionics electrician technician, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, Marine Aircraft Group 16, surrounds himself with loved ones during his homecoming Aug. 15. Carranza and approximately 250 Marines and sailors returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after a six-month deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Western Pacific and Middle East Region. Photo by: Cpl. Skye Jones

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2006) -- Approximately 250 Marines and sailors deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar early afternoon Aug. 15, after a six month deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East Region.


Aug. 15, 2006; Submitted on: 08/17/2006 06:08:01 PM ; Story ID#: 20068171881
By Cpl. Skye Jones, MCAS Miramar

When the formation of CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters flew by, the families of the Marines and sailors erupted in cheers as they crowded the front of the hangar, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their loved ones.

“I couldn’t sleep today,” said Evelyn Carranza, the mother of Lance Cpl. Jose Carranza, avionics electrician technician, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “I’ve been waiting so long for this moment. It’s the first time that my son has been gone for this long and I can’t wait for him to get back so I can spend as much time as possible with him and cook him all of his favorite foods.”

Carranza, who just turned 21 years old on Sunday, surprised his family by coming through the back door of the hangar, where he was immediately smothered by his two siblings and girlfriend.

“It feels great to be back home and with my family,” said Carranza, a Rialto, Calif., native. “Overall, it was a good first deployment and I really learned a lot over there.”

In addition to performing several aviation and amphibious operations, Carranza and the rest of the deployed Marines and sailors conducted sustainment training in both Townsville, Australia and in Kuwait, maintaining mission readiness throughout the deployment.

After training in Kuwait, approximately 50 Marines from the MEU headed to the American Embassy in Doha, Qatar, in support of Exercise Eagle Resolve, a joint military exercise involving the members of the Embassy’s United States Liaison Office, Consular Section, Marine Security Guards, the Regional Security Office, and American citizens living in Doha.

During the simulated non-combatant evacuation exercise, the Marines escorted the American citizens to the CH-46s outside the Embassy. The exercise ensured the event of a real-life evacuation, the U.S. citizens would be safe and the Embassy would be ready.

“This was the first time in 13 years that I’ve ever experienced something like this,” said Maj. Kurt Strange, future operations officer, HMM-166. “This was a great morale booster for the younger enlisted aircrew. It also gave the American citizens a great feeling and everyone left feeling very appreciated.”

According to the Pineville, La., native, the MEU suffered zero fatalities or mishaps, and successfully completed all of their missions.

“We had a lot of odds stacked against us,” Strange said. “We had several new lieutenants and crew chiefs that just checked in during our pre-deployment training and had only nine months to train before our composite with the MEU, but in the end, we pulled it off.”

The Carranza family is just happy to have the Marines back home safely.

“I’m so thankful, not to just have my son back home safely, but all of the Marines,” said Carranza’s mother. “We’re all so very proud of each of them.”

MIRAMAR, Calif. – Sgt. Derek Hayden’s wife holds up a photo of the T-64 engine mechanic from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, during a homecoming celebration at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Aug. 15. Photo by: Cpl. Skye Jones

Military exercise in Tanzania benefits villagers

By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, August 18, 2006

MSATA, Tanzania — Howling village dancers and U.S. troops, along with a young man clenching a snake in his mouth, helped mark the climax of a regional anti-terrorism and disaster relief exercise in East Africa on Thursday.

To continue reading:


An Ocean apart, a birthday together

Juan Castellanoz and son Sergio, interact with mother Tristeza Castellanoz, who’s in Iraq, via a video conference, Aug. 10. The family was able to celebrate Sergio's first birthday.

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Aug. 16, 2006) -- During a deployment, Marines often miss out on memorable moments, priceless memories and occasions, such as holidays, weddings and birthdays, that many people take for granted


Aug. 16, 2006
Submitted on: 08/17/2006 10:11:13 AM
Story ID#: 2006817101113
By Cpl. Josh Cox, MCAS Cherry Point

One aviation operations specialist serving with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3 was able to attend her son’s first birthday party in North Carolina, all the way from Al Asad, Iraq.

Cpl. Tristeza Castellonoz was able to say "happy birthday" to her son in Jacksonville, N.C., Aug. 10, via video conference.

The Freedom Calls Foundation made the video conference possible for Tristeza, her husband Juan, and 1-year-old son, Sergio.

According to the Freedom Calls Foundation Internet site, www.fre edomcalls.org, "We are deploying state-of-the art technology to transform the experience of soldiers on extended deployments to war zones. U.S. service members may now attend and participate in milestone family events such as graduations, births, birthdays and weddings etcetera via video conference over the Freedom Calls Network."

The video conference made a huge impact on the Castellonoz’s, enabling them to communicate in a completely new way. "It was so great to be able to see my Sonny," Tristeza said, referring to her son. I loved being able to see my husband when I told him that I loved him, she said.

"It’s difficult to have left them but that’s the life of a Marine," she added. "It was a bit emotional for a moment, but we were ok; I guess it’s only natural. This being my first deployment has been a bit hard, but I’ve done pretty good being apart from my boys."

Juan agreed with his wife, and said the video conference was an emotional experience, but also a great moment for the family. "It felt pretty good," Juan said. "She pretty much got to be a part of his birthday."

The Castellanoz family spent 45 minutes celebrating Sergio’s first birthday, complete with birthday cake and streamers. Tristeza said her son touched the screen, and smiled at her during the conference. Juan said later in the evening, his son slept better than he has since his mother departed for Iraq.

Prepare to March: 7th Marine Regiment marks 89 years of history, heritage

Col. W. Blake Crowe, commanding officer, 7th Marine Regiment, addresses Marines, sailors and soldiers during a ceremony Aug. 14, 2006, in recognition of the unit’s 89th anniversary. The Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based unit, designated Regimental Combat Team 7 while deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, was formed during World War I in Philadelphia, Pa. The recent ceremony included a cake cutting, a reading of the regiment’s history and lineage, and Crowe’s comments. “What was the first regiment who came over here in ’91? 7th Marines,” said Crowe. “What was one of the first regiments who got called out during OIF I? 7th Marines.”

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 14, 2006) -- It wasn’t a formal birthday ball with all the bells and whistles, but Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller would have been proud.


Aug. 14, 2006
Submitted on: 08/16/2006 09:57:35 AM
Story ID#: 200681695735
By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, 1st Marine Division

Hundreds of Marines, sailors and soldiers currently serving in Iraq’s Anbar province with the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based 7th Marine Regiment, paused for a couple hours Aug. 14 to honor the unit’s 89th anniversary.

The ceremony included a cake cutting, a reading of the regiment’s history and lineage, and comments from Col. W. Blake Crowe, the regiment’s commanding officer.

“Battle of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and others that this regiment participated in…you can sit up here for hours and talk about the valor that was demonstrated there,” said Crowe.

Still, the regiment’s heritage, history and traditions is more than just the achievements of past Marines who served, fought and sacrificed, said Crowe.

“The people who carry out those orders every day are those nameless Marines who sometimes don’t get recognized,” said Crowe. “This regiment belongs to the Marines. This is your regiment.”

Part of 1st Marine Division, the regiment, designated “Regimental Combat Team 7” while deployed to Iraq, and its subordinate units have spent the past seven months combating insurgents, mentoring Iraqi Security Forces, and providing security in western Al Anbar Province.

The regiment’s area of operations encompasses more than 30,000 square miles, stretching from the borders of Syria and Jordan, east hundreds of miles along the Euphrates River and to Hit – a city about 70 miles northwest of Ramadi.

Crowe spoke of the regiment’s past achievements through major wars and small conflicts alike. He also noted the 27 U.S. service members who’ve lost their lives serving with the regiment during the current deployment, as well as the unit’s achievements since arriving in February of this year.

“We have 2,000 Iraqi police out there right now, and when this regiment got out here ... in February, there were zero,” said Crowe. “What was the first regiment who came over here in ’91? 7th Marines. What was one of the first regiments who got called out during OIF I? 7th Marines.”

Formed in Philadelphia in 1917 during World War I, 7th Marine Regiment has participated in every major war in U.S. history since its inception. More than 30 Marines and sailors received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in various wars and conflicts while serving with the regiment.

Such Marine notables as “Chesty” Puller, John “Manila” Basilone and Mitch Paige all served with the regiment.

“These battalion colors, regimental colors, all they represent is the history, traditions…and lineage, which belongs to every Marine in this room,” said Crowe. “At the end of the day, these colors are yours.”

7th Marine Regiment Lineage (from the 7th Marines’ official website):


* Activated Aug. 14, 1917 in Philadelphia, Pa., as the 7th Regiment
* Deployed during Aug. 1917 to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
* Participated in the occupation of Cuba, August 1917-August 1919
* Assigned during December 1917 to the 3rd Provisional Brigade
* Detached during July 1918
* Assigned during December 1918 to the 6th Provisional Brigade
* Detached during June 1919
* Relocated during August 1919 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
* Deactivated 6 September 1919
* 1st Battalion, 7th on active duty in San Diego Calif., 1 April 1921 until deactivated 1 September 1924.


* Reactivated 6 September 1933 at Quantico, Virginia as the 7th Marines
* 2ndBattalion, 7th deployed in Cuban waters
* Regiment deactivated 17 January 1934


* Reactivated 1 January 1941 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and
* Assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade
* Reassigned during February 1941 to the 1st Marine Division
* Relocated during April 1941 to Parris Island, South Carolina
* Relocated during September 1941 to New River, North Carolina
* Attached during March 1942 to the 3rd Marine Brigade
* Deployed during April-May 1942 to Samoa
* Detached during August 1942 from the 3rd Marine Brigade and
* Reassigned to the 1st Marine Division
* Participated in the following World War II campaigns:
* Guadalcanal, 18 September 1942 - 5 January 1943.
* Eastern New Guinea, 9 - 13 October 1943
* New Britain, 26 December 1943 - 1 May 1944,
* Peleliu, 15 September - 30 October 1944.
* Okinawa, 1 April - 30 June 1945.
* Participated in the occupation of North China
* September 1945-January 1947
* Landed at Tangku, 30 September 1945.
* 3rd Battalion deactivated at Peitaiho, China - 15 April 1946.
* 7th Marines departed China 5 January 1947.
* Relocated during January 1947 to Camp Pendleton, California and
* Assigned to the 1st Marine Division
* Deactivated 6 March 1947
* 7th Marines reactivated 1 October 1947 at Camp Pendleton.
Its composition consisted of only four companies.
* Deployed in Alaska, 26 January - 18 February 1949
* Company "C" deployed to China 2 May - 23 June 1949 to safeguard the withdrawal of Americans and was the last element of FMF to depart China.


* The Regiment minus the 3d Battalion reactivated 17 August 1950 at
Camp Pendleton, California and assigned to the 1st Marine Division
* 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines reactivated 11 September 1950 at Kobe, Japan.
* Deployed during September 1950 to the Republic of Korea
* 7th Marines landed at Inchon, Korea 21 September 1950 and began active combat operations against enemy forces.
Participation in the Korean War, continued until 27 July 1953. Operated from:
* Inchon-Seoul
* Chosin Reservoir
* East Central Front
* Western Front
Participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, July 1953-March 1955
The Regiment departed Korea on 10 March 1955 relocating to Camp Pendleton, California on 24 March 1955.
The 1st and 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, 27 October - 14 November 1962.


* Deployed during July - August 1965 to the Republic of Vietnam
* The 7th Marines sailed for Okinawa 23 May 1965 arriving between 9-18 June, 1965.
* The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines landed at Qui Nhon, Republic of Vietnam 1 July 1965. The first unit of the Regiment to commence operations against the enemy in Vietnam.
* The rest of the Regiment entered the Republic of Vietnam between 7 July - 14 August, 1965.
Participated in the war in Vietnam,1 July 1965- 13 October 1970, Operating from:
* Qui Nhon
* Chu Lai
* Duc Pho
* Dai Loc
* Da Nang
* Fire Support Base Ross
* Landing Zone Baldy
* Quan Que Son

The 7th Marines departed the Republic of Vietnam and relocated during 23 September - 23 October 1970 to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was reassigned to the 5th Marine Amphibious Brigade.

Reassigned during April 1971 to the 1st Marine Division.

Relocated during January 1990 to Twentynine Palms, California

Participated in Operations Desert Shield And Desert Storm, Southwest Asia, August 1990 – March 1991

Participated in Operation Restore Hope, Somalia, December 1992 - April 1993

* Participated in Operation Warrior, October 1995
* Participated in Operation Vigilant Sentinel, August – November 1995

January 2003 – Present

* Participated in the Global War on Terror
* Participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Col. W. Blake Crowe, commanding officer, 7th Marine Regiment, passes a piece of birthday cake to Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Wilson during a ceremony Aug. 14, 2006, in recognition of the unit’s 89th anniversary. Marine tradition dictates during such anniversary celebrations for the oldest Marine present to cut the cake, and pass it to the youngest Marine present – symbolizing the passing of the unit’s history and traditions from one generation to the next. The Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based unit, designated Regimental Combat Team 7 while deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, was formed during World War I in Philadelphia, Pa. The recent ceremony included a cake cutting, a reading of the regiment’s history and lineage, and Crowe’s comments. “What was the first regiment who came over here in ’91? 7th Marines,” said Crowe. “What was one of the first regiments who got called out during OIF I? 7th Marines.” Crowe, 48, was the oldest Marine present, while Wilson, an 18-year-old field radio operator from Danville, Va., was the youngest. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin

For more photos please click on any picture

OP Phoenix rises again

Marine from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Headquarters and Service Company pick up torn sand bags. They picked up useless sand bags and and debris left from a suicide bomber attack. They picked up the trash as part of an effort to start to demilitarize recently renamed Observation Post Phoenix.


Aug. 14, 2006
Submitted on: 08/17/2006 06:56:42 AM
Story ID#: 200681765642
By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, 1st Marine Division

Marine from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Headquarters and Service Company pick up torn sand bags. They picked up useless sand bags and and debris left from a suicide bomber attack. They picked up the trash as part of an effort to start to demilitarize recently renamed Observation Post Phoenix.

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 14, 2006) -- The message 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was trying to send to insurgents Aug. 14 was clear, “you can’t stop us.”

Marines of Headquarters and Service Company cleaned and demilitarized an observation post in Saqlawiyah formerly known as OP Stature. The clean-up was called Operation Clean Sweep. The new name for the post… OP Phoenix, and like the mythological bird, OP Phoenix rose from the ashes. The headquarters Marines performed the mission for their fellow Marines in G Company.

“The mission was to demilitarize a residence,” said Capt. Paul C. Teachey, a 31-year-old company commander from Clayton, N.C. “We also cleaned up debris of a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.”

The observation post was built around an existing Iraqi home, fortified by sandbags and large earthen barriers. Marines tore down most of the security features they built to start to return it to civilian use.

Marines set up security around the operating post before they got to the business of the clean-up. Humvees with M-240G machine guns mounted on them covered the front of the post, while dismounted Marines covered the rear and the flanks. Security was important because the area received a lot of sniper and small-arms fire.

“The security was set up fast,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy C. Hirata, 19-year-old rifleman from Orlando, Fla. “We had the post completely protected from all sides.”

Work began once security was set in place. Marines walked around the post picking up all the trash they found and all the metal on the ground. They carried large pieces of metal, a broken sink, a useless stove, barbed wire and anything else that didn’t work or wasn’t needed. They loaded the debris on a seven-ton flatbed truck.

Much of the debris was leftover scraps of the SVBIED that attacked the post more than a week ago. It was a visible reminder of the dangers that lurked in the region.

“While we cleaned the area we had to worry about sniper fire and small-arms fire,” said Lance Cpl. Rosendy E. Gabriel, a 19-year-old rifleman from Elmont, N.Y. “That made the work more stressful and harder.”

Marines worked quickly. The only trash that remained from the incident was large pieces of the destroyed truck’s engine. Marines also gathered up excess military equipment that could be used elsewhere at other outposts.

Torn sand bags and wrappers from meals, ready-to-eat were emptied and thrown away in trash bags. They soon found they cleared enough garbage to fill their trash bag, so Marines improvised; they used undamaged sand bags to stuff away trash.

Marines restored the Iraqi home so it was clean for the resident to return. It was a display of gratitude by Marines to be allowed to use the home for security operations.

“We don’t want to make the owner of the home mad,” Gabriel said. “Since we were in his house, I think its right to leave it in good order for him.”

Marines completed the operation in about three hours. They were sweaty and exhausted at the end of the effort. Marines marveled at their accomplishments. The final product was a marked improvement over the destruction caused by the suicide bomber.

“The Marines did well,” Teachey said. “They were asked to do it for a company they don’t belong to. They did what they had to – to help their Marines.”

Click on any photo for MORE pictures, credits, and descriptions.

35 Marines return home from Iraq

MAJ. DARRY GROSSNICKLE holds his three-week-old son Zachary Wednesday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma after returning from a seven-month deployment in Iraq. Grossnickle was the officer in charge of Marine Air Control Squadron 1, which conducted air traffic control operations and support in Iraq. Grossnickle had never met Zachary before Wednesday.

Thirty-five Yuma Marines returned from a deployment in Iraq to exultant family members they had not seen for seven months or, in one case, at all.


By Jeffrey Gautreaux, Sun Staff Writer
Aug 16, 2006

Members of Marine Air Control Squadron 1, who handle air-traffic control, were glad to be home after being the "eyes in the sky" for the military planes at Al Asad Air Base since February, said Maj. Darry Grossnickle, officer-in-charge for MACS-1.

Wednesday was the first time that Grossnickle had met his three-week-old son Zachary David. Zachary never left his father's arms once the proud father stepped off the bus and hugged his family.

"This is the first one I didn't get to see born because of a deployment, so that was unique. But I thought it went well," he said.

Many of the Marines had spent the seven months without seeing their loved ones. Although Cpl. Jose Verdugo did get to make a short visit home, while he was deployed, to see his wife and infant son after the birth.

While in Iraq, Verdugo drove a flatbed truck that transported equipment to different locations in Iraq. He said there were no problems for him or his unit with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and overall, the deployment was a safe one.

MACS-1 is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing that operates out of Al Asad. Members of the squadron have been deployed several times since 2003 for Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The squadron received the Commandant’s Aviation Trophy for the best aviation unit in the Marine Corps for 2004. It was only the second non-flying unit to receive this honor.

Verdugo said even the Yuma heat was welcome, because it was cooler here than in the Mideast, especially Kuwait. He said the deployment went well because the Marines stuck together.

Gunnery Sgt. Robert Cooper had lots of things he was excited about after returning from his first deployment since Operation Desert Storm 15 years ago. "Just being back here — real food, real sights, being with the family in a nice, cool house again," he said.

Cooper, who did support administration and logistics for the air-traffic controllers, said he missed his daughter Amanda's birthday, but otherwise he will be home for many important family dates. His son, Bobby, said the seven months had gone quickly, but Amanda disagreed.

Their mother, Paula Cooper, wasn't sure. "I don't know. I'm in shock. I may send him back on the bus to do it all over again," she said, laughing.

Adriana Clemons and daughters Marci and Madalyn were well-equipped for Ryan Clemons's return from Iraq. They brought one sign Wednesday morning, but they had made another as well.

"We've got another one at home. He just hasn't been home to see it yet," Adriana Clemons said. "It's on the garage."

Grossnickle applauded the good work by the Marines and said from an operational standpoint the deployment went well. He was ready to get back to being involved in the lives of his children and his wife, Nancy.

"I know my wife can do fine without me," he said. "It's when you know that your kids are going without a parent that they depend on, that's where we notice the impact most."

ADRIANA CLEMONS and her daughters Marci (far left), 4, and Madalyn, 16 months, wait for her husband to exit the bus Wednesday at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Thirty-five Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 1 returned to the base Wednesday after a seven-month deployment in Al Asad, Iraq, where they conducted air-traffic control operations and support.

MARINE DAVID CRITTENDON stands among fellow Marines Wednesday at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma after returning from a seven-month deployment in Iraq. Crittendon said he plans to keep the hat as a souvenir because a number of Marines from his squadron signed it before they left Iraq

'Ironmen' keep fuel flowing, support flight operations

Lance Cpl. Castulo Lopez waits for a UH-1N Huey to complete fueling Aug. 9, at Al Asad, Iraq. Lopez, a native of Spartanburg, N.C., is a bulk fuels specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 16, 2006) -- As the scorching sun pounds on the tarmac and the blistering winds rip across the desert floor, the Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274's fuels section know that without them, flying in Iraq would not be possible.


Aug. 16, 2006
Submitted on: 08/17/2006 01:12:09 AM
Story ID#: 20068171129

By Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Throughout the last six months, these Marines have operated in a secluded section of the base refueling rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Our mission is to provide the best fuel possible as fast as possible," said Sgt. Shawn M. Parris, fuels embark specialist, MWSS-274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "Doing this the best we can ensures that everyone's operations run smoothly."

When an aircraft makes its way to the refueling area, known as the hot pits, the Marines rush out and prepare the hoses and pumps to execute a hot fuel.

"A hot fuel is when the aircraft comes to our re-fueling point and the engines continue to run while we fill their tanks," said Parris. "This is done in case they have to leave quickly."

With roughly 180,000 gallons of fuel in one section of the refueling point, the Marines have their work cut out for them when maintaining the area.

"We have a routine that the Marines have gotten down," said Sgt. Carlos I. Castillo, bulk fuels specialist crew leader, MWSS-274. "We always have things to do, which makes the time pass by quickly."

Each of the two shifts consist of approximately 15 Marines and when they start their 24-hour shift they go over all of the fuel lines and fuel bladders to ensure that there is no cracking or leaking.

"Our biggest enemy is the lines dry rotting," said Parris. "The harsh conditions dry out the lines and the outside of the fuel bladders, which can cause small leaks."

Although always on the move, both inspecting and repairing equipment, testing fuel to maintain quality, or fueling birds, these motivated Marines know that their mission is to support OIF.

"Every person's mission out here is just as important as the next persons," said Parris. "We all have to complete our jobs in order to effectively help Iraq."

Having more and more flights coming in and out of Al Asad, the Marines find themselves working harder to keep the aircraft fueled and in the air.

Some Marines train their whole careers for that moment they may have to face the dangers of combat. The fuels section of MWSS-274 knows that for those Marines outside the perimeter of Al Asad, their support comes from the aircraft refueled here.

"We came over here to make a change," said Parris. "If I have to do that by pumping fuel into these birds, then that is what I will do."

Sgt. Carlos I. Castillo (left) and Lance Cpl. Castulo Lopez decompress the fuel lines, gather the information on fuel used and check their equipment after fueling a UH-1N Huey Aug. 9, at Al Asad, Iraq. Castillo, a Bronx, N.Y., native is a bulk fuels specialist crew leader with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Lopez is a bulk fuels specialist with MWSS-274 and a native of Spartanburg, N.C.

Car searches bring safety to Iraqi villages

Lance Cpl. Dirck H. Moize, a 21-year-old rifleman from Berton, S.C., and Pfc. Timothy R. Hitzman, a 19-year-old rifleman from Midlothia, Va., check an Iraqi man's car at a vehicle checkpoint in Sadiquiyah, Iraq, Aug. 17. Moize, Hitzman and other members assigned to I Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up VCPs to deter insurgents from transporting weapons in vehicles. Moize is a team leader. The Marines are currently serving a seven-month deployment in the Habbaniyah area under Regimental Combat Team 5. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis


Aug. 17, 2006; Submitted on: 08/22/2006 05:21:19 AM ; Story ID#: 200682252119
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Divisio

SADIQUIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 17, 2006) -- Marines here don’t care if it’s a Mercedes or a beat-up Opel. The “Bastards” are kicking the tires and checking under the hood.

The “Betio Bastards” of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up vehicle checkpoints to protect Iraqis from insurgents who transport weapons in cars.

“VCPs are important out here because it lets the insurgents know that we’re checking everything,” said Cpl. David M. Frank, a team leader assigned to the company.

The 27-year-old squad leader from Hillsborough, N.J., said the VCPs are saving lives.

They’re also having a noticeable effect. The battalion has been on the ground a little more than a month and is already seeing their efforts put a dent in insurgent activity.

“We quit getting potshots and mortar attacks in the city,” said Lance Cpl. Dirck H. Moize, a 21-year-old rifleman from Berton, S.C. He added the local Iraqis are cooperative with Marines at the checkpoints.

They often comply with Marines’ request even before they direct them. They open up the cars and step away so Marines can carry out their duties.

“We don’t have to say nothing to them,” said Cpl. Brandon D. Shreves, a 22-year-old from Harrison, W.Va.

“They know to open their doors, trunk, hood, or whatever so they can go about their day,” Shreves said. “They put up with it because they know that we’re trying to help them out.”

The VCPs put insurgents on the run. They no longer have free and open access through the village streets. If they try to move through the area, they risk being caught, which has disrupted their actives.

“With VCPs they think twice,” Frank said.

It’s because the Marines check two, three times if needed. The checks are proving fruitful. Large cache finds hidden in vehicles are now rare. The insurgents have to resort to other means to move their bombs to avoid detection.

“They know we’re out there so it’s harder for them to move from point ‘A’ to ‘B,’” Frank explained.

Marines gain an edge every time Marines make insurgents adjust their tactics. They expose themselves to other risks. They do not gain rest and must turn to more complicated and exhaustive measure to avoid capture.

Still, Marines don’t stop with just checkpoints.

They patrolled Iraq’s rocky roads from dusk till dawn. They work the back roads and alleys in the villages and the highways cutting through the region.

The results, so far, can be measure in more than just weapons confiscated and insurgents captured. The mood of the locals in the region is changing. They know there is safety from intimidation with Marines out in force.

“Now kids and adults have been talking to us,” Moize said. “They don’t ask for anything because they’re always being watched.”

Moize said one Iraqi woman ventured forward to speak to Marines, an act that would have been rare in the past. Now, it’s more common and her comments are being heard more often.

“She did say that she was glad we were here, setting up these VCP’s through the city,” Moize said. “It makes them feel safe.”

For more photos, credits, and descriptions- please click on any picture

August 16, 2006

Navy Christens New Amphibious Assault Ship Makin Island

The U.S. Navy will christen Makin Island, the newest and last ship in the Wasp-class of amphibious assault ships, on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Miss.


August 16, 2006

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi will deliver the principal address at the ceremony. Silke Hagee, wife of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael W. Hagee, will serve as ship’s sponsor. The ceremony will be highlighted by the time-honored Navy tradition of the sponsor breaking the bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

Makin Island is named for the daring raid carried out by Marine Corps Companies Alpha and Bravo, Second Raider Battalion, on Japanese-held Makin Island, in the Gilbert Islands, on Aug. 17-18, 1942. The raid was launched from the submarines USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut and succeeded in routing the enemy forces based there, gaining valuable intelligence. Twenty-three Navy Crosses were awarded for actions during the raid, including to the raid’s leader, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, and executive officer, Marine Corps Maj. James Roosevelt (son of President Franklin Roosevelt). Marine Corps Sgt. Clyde Thomason was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroism during the raid and was the first enlisted Marine to be so honored during World War II.

One previous ship, a Casablanca-class escort aircraft carrier (1944-1946), has borne the name Makin Island, and received five battle stars for World War II service.

The United States maintains the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world. Second only to the Navy's aircraft carriers in size, the Wasp-class ships are the largest amphibious war ships in the world. These ships are specifically designed to remain off shore near troubled areas of the world, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and landing craft air cushion (LCAC) hovercraft. As the centerpiece of a Navy expeditionary strike group, Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are fully capable of conducting and supporting amphibious assaults, advance force and special purpose operations, non-combatant evacuation, and a variety of humanitarian missions.

The Wasp-class ships embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a marine expeditionary unit of about 2,000 Marines. Makin Island can accommodate three LCACs, Marine Corps fixed wing aircraft such as existing AV-8B Harrier II and future F-35B Lightening II aircraft, as well as a full range of Navy/Marine Corps helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and amphibious vehicles to perform sea control and limited power projection missions. Additionally, the ship is equipped with a robust medical capability - second only to the Navy's hospital ships in afloat capability.

Capt. Robert G. Kopas, U.S. Navy, born in Cleveland, Ohio, raised in Phoenix, Ariz., and a graduate of Purdue University, is the ship’s commanding officer. The ship has living areas for nearly 3,200 crewmembers and embarked forces. Makin Island will be homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Built by Northrop-Grumman Ship Systems, the ship is 844 feet in length with a 106-foot beam. Makin Island is the first amphibious assault ship to incorporate “all electric” auxiliary systems and a hybrid gas turbine - electric propulsion system. With a combined 70,000 horsepower, this hybrid propulsion system will drive the 42,800-ton ship to speeds in excess of 20 knots. These advanced auxiliary and propulsion systems will reduce ship manning, maintenance and operating costs compared to the seven previous Wasp-Class amphibious assault ships. More information on Makin Island can be found at http://www.makin-island.navy.mil .

For more information about Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, visit http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid;=400&ct;=4 .

Tankers honor a fallen comrade

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 14, 2006) -- Marines from A Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 paused their operations to honor one of their fallen, Aug. 14.


Aug. 14, 2006
Submitted on: 08/16/2006 05:33:38 AM
Story ID#: 200681653338
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, 1st Marine Division

Sgt. George M. Ulloa Jr. was killed in action Aug. 3 while conducting security and stabilization operations near Habbaniyah. He was memorialized by his fellow Marines at the camp’s chapel. He was 26-years-old and from Jacksonville, N.C.

Col. Larry D. Nicholson, RCT-5’s commanding officer, said Ulloa was a member of a special team of tankers that led Marines from the front. Ulloa fought during Operation Al Fajr, the offensive to take Fallujah nearly two years ago and was back in Iraq leading Marines again through dangerous missions.

“It was while supporting these vital missions, in support of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, such a very gifted and rising star was taken away from us,” Nicholson said. “This is where we needed the ‘Masters of the Iron Horse,’ to support 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in the most challenging mission; to open the road between Fallujah and Habbaniyah, something not accomplished in the three years of this fight. This mission is now accomplished and Sgt. George Ulloa gave his precious life in its accomplishment.”

Nicholson said Ulloa’s leadership of his Marines in combat operations earned him the highest accolades from his fellow combat-hardened veterans. He said Ulloa was a hero in every sense of the word.

“Heroes are not athletes, rocks stars or movies stars,” he explained. “They are mortal men who perform immortal deeds— Men like Sgt. Ulloa. Sgt. Ulloa is in fact worthy of this title so often casually and undeservedly bestowed upon others. He will certainly, forever, be one of mine.”

An inverted rifle was placed in Ulloa’s honor. A tanker’s helmet balanced on top with identification tags hanging from the rifle. Just in front, an empty pair of boots was placed. Behind the memorial, the national and battalion colors hung.

Ulloa was described by the Marines who knew him best as a man of intense dedication to his trade and tremendous pride in being a Marine. He was “professional” and “confident” in nearly every task he took on, from earning his instructor’s status in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program to learning Arabic prior to deploying to Iraq.

“It was a role, that of the unsung hero, that he was ideally suited,” said Capt Edward Y. Blakiston, A Company’s commander. “Perhaps more so than the rest of us. Sgt. Ulloa did not need the praises of others. He did not need his actions justified. He did what he did because it was his duty and it was the right thing to do. He possessed an inner strength and confidence that guided him through the turmoil that sometimes trip the rest of up, so he was a very special person in that respect.”

Blakiston said Ulloa was a mentor and teacher to his Marines around them, pushing them to achieve greater goals and improve their own abilities. It was a trait he carried with him off duty, as well.

“I remember going to a soccer game on base once ... and seeing Coach George teaching and mentoring those young soccer players on his son’s team,” Blakiston recalled. “He was that kind of a person. It did not really matter to him if you were a 20-year-old highly-trained killer or a six-year-old soccer player. He was always available to teach and mentor you. I know I for one learned a great deal from him and I’m a better person for simply having known him.”

Ulloa enlisted in the Marine Corps Sept. 13, 2002, and attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Feb. 10, 2003, graduating May 9. He attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry, completing his instruction in June before reporting to Fort Knox, Ky., for training as an M-1A1 tank crewman.

Ulloa graduated from the U.S. Army Armor Center Sept. 19, 2003, and was ordered to 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was assigned to C Company and deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he participated in combat operations, including Operation Al Fajr.

Ulloa moved to A Company where he became the Headquarters Section leader. He again deployed to Iraq in March 2006, leading his Marines on more than 70 combat patrols. In May, he was given his assignment as tank commander and section leader for A Company’s 2nd Platoon.

“Sgt. Ulloa had tactical instincts well beyond his rank that made it all the more hard to believe he was a new TC,” said Capt. Tom Montgomery, Ulloa’s platoon commander. “He wanted to be in challenging roles and situations. Time and time again, he proved himself capable well beyond his rank and experience.”

Montgomery said Ulloa was moved into his section late in the deployment and made the transition to his new role as a tank commander smoothly. He demanded excellence from his Marines, leading them from the front, even until the day he was killed. The training he instilled allowed them to maneuver from the danger areas, keeping the rest of the crew safe.

“In the couple of short months as a tank commander, Sgt. Ulloa left his legacy, evidenced by their performance,” Montgomery explained. “And I know that Sgt. Ulloa would have been especially proud of his crew that day.”

Sgt. Alexiou C. Higgs said although Ulloa was a serious and intensely-focused Marine, he bonded well with his Marines. He shared their concerns and their laughter. He was recalled as a loving husband and father to his three children.

“He didn’t joke around too much, but once you got him laughing, he couldn’t stop,” Higgs said. “And for those who actually had the chance to see him around his children, you would never see him in a better mood. He was always happy to be around them and he cherished every moment he had with them.”

Lance Cpl. Ronald A. DiazMichel came to value Ulloa’s friendship and steadfast mentoring. He said Ulloa – who dreamed of joining the Marine Corps Boxing Team – gave of himself, offering advice, counsel, a listening ear and stern leadership.

“He always tried his best and expected nothing less from his Marines,” DiazMichel said. “You could talk to him about any problems, maybe because he was a father of three. He always seemed to know what to say. He would help you and put you back on track.”

Marines filed past the memorial placed in honor of Ulloa, pausing for moments of prayer and reflection. Some reached out to touch the empty boots. Each took one last moment in private with the Marine they admired.

Ulloa’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award.

“He is your brother, now and forever,” Nicholson told the Marines gathered in the chapel. “Our brother did not die in vain. He died freeing a nation for decades enslaved under the oppressive yoke of a tyrannical dictator and coveted by terrorists from which to launch a Global War of Terror. Our quest for victory in liberating and freeing the people of this ancient and historic land from all agents of oppression and fear is indeed noble.

“The sacrifice of our dear brother will long be remembered as part of the most important struggle of our generation and his sacrifice will forever be a part of the timeless combat legacy the Fighting Fifth Marines, the most-decorated regiment in our Corps,” he added.

For more photos, descriptions, credits please click on any picture

Tank mechanics crucial to Marines’ efforts in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 16, 2006) -- Leaning on an American tank in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, Cpl. Manuel Morangomez says he doesn’t need any medals or “atta boys” to help him get through a seven month deployment.


Aug. 16, 200
Submitted on: 08/16/2006 10:39:26 AM
Story ID#: 2006816103926

By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, 1st Marine Division

The satisfaction of helping Marine infantrymen stay alive in arguably Iraq’s most dangerous region is all the reward the 26-year-old Marine needs while serving in this combat zone.

“This tank is saving lives,” said Morangomez, a tank mechanic with the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Company C, 1st Tank Battalion. “This keeps grunts from getting killed. When we send these back into the fight, that’s the reward.”

The Dallas, Texas, native, along with the half-dozen or so other mechanics on this sprawling U.S. military air base, spend 12-plus hours a day, usually six or more days a week, repairing and maintaining the company’s fleet of M1A1 Main Battle Tanks.

C Company is currently attached to Regimental Combat Team 7, the U.S. military unit responsible for providing security and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces in western Anbar – an area more than 30,000-square miles in size, or about the size of South Carolina, according to the Marines here.

Working in blistering heat, the mechanics have spent nearly two days now tearing apart one of the company’s 68-ton, tan-colored tanks to find a damaged component, hidden well within the tank’s underside.

The task seems tedious, but the mechanics seem used to spending countless hours tinkering and handling thousands of metallic parts to reach one broken component.

“If the mechs don’t do their job well, these tanks don’t roll – period,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey W. Hyrne, a 32-year-old from Louisville, Ky., and Company C’s maintenance chief. “It could cost someone, or a crew, their lives.”

In addition to supporting the regiment ’s infantrymen with massive amounts of firepower on the battlefield, C Company's tanks and their crews are considered an invaluable asset to Marines “on the ground” – they add an extra layer of protection for patrols and convoys traveling Iraq’s bomb-laden roads.

They also provide added protection for U.S. and Iraqi military posts and patrols throughout the region, not to mention the “intimidation factor” a 68-ton tank rolling down a road can instill in insurgents.

But Iraq’s blistering summer temperatures and rough terrain can take their toll on military vehicles, even tanks. C Company is also charged with conducting resupply missions, adding more wear and tear on the tanks.

The mechanics collectively stated that for every hour a tank is operated, about six hours of regular maintenance is required to keep the tank operable, “give or take.”

“There will always be something to fix, and when there are problems with it, troubleshooting can be extremely difficult,” said Cpl. Travis P. Bellamy, one of C Company’s tank mechanics who works with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

“For example: a wire harness with 200 wires in it. If one of those wires is faulty, you have to figure out one by one which wire it is that’s bad,” continued Bellamy, a 22-year-old from Heppner, Ore.

As tank crews roll their tanks back onto the Company’s wide-open lot, commonly referred to as “the ramp” by the Marines who work here, it’s the mechanics’ responsibility to perform both routine maintenance and assess and repair damage.

But working on a tank is not like cracking open the hood of a car and going to work, according to the mechanics.

An M1A1 has thousands upon thousands of various components and systems, which mean the mechanics are constantly learning as they work.

“The manual’s not always going to tell you what’s broke and how to fix it,” said Lance Cpl. Robert S. Collins, who says he “learns something new every day” as a mechanic. “These tanks are logging in some time, and you are constantly working.”

At 25, Collins is the group’s junior Marine, and mechanic. He joined the Corps in October 2004, after returning to high school to earn his diploma – “The day I had all my credits in my transcript, I went to the recruiter’s office,” said Collins, a native of Atlanta, Ga.

Aside from “the Gunny,” Morangomez is the crew’s senior man – he serves as the “ramp chief” noncommissioned officer – a billet normally filled by a sergeant or staff sergeant. As such, he’s responsible for the facilities and equipment used on the large, open lot where C Company houses and maintains their tanks and other vehicles.

Serving his third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Morangomez says he’s worked on about 60 tanks in his four-plus years in the Corps. Like the rest of the mechanics, he said he couldn’t imagine doing anything else in the Marines.

“Where else can you go and work long hours?” he said. “Yeah, we’re work-aholics, (but) I love it. There’s no other way to describe it.”

By the end of their third day tearing apart this particular tank, the mechanics have discovered that the root of the problem – a dented fuel cell – is repairable, which saves the company from losing the tank entirely.

Tanks which can’t be repaired by the mechanics have to be shipped elsewhere for repairs, or replaced all together. That means one less tank on Iraq’s roads, which is unacceptable to the mechanics.

“These boys did a good job assessing it,” said Hyrne, a 14-year Marine veteran and the mechanics’ immediate supervisor. “We have to be able to get her up and running. You don’t want a tank out there and it breaks down.”

“The maintenance is required and cannot be put off like you can put off maintenance on a car,” adds Bellamy. “If the work is not kept up daily the tank will not run.”

Hyrne gave a bit more blunt example – “If they (mechanics) made even little mistakes, the engine could blow-up, and the tank would not operate at all.”

In addition to maintaining the Company’s tanks and various other military vehicles, they’re also responsible for recovering tanks, trucks, and other vehicles which break down “outside the wire” – Marine-speak for pretty much any location outside the protection of a base or outpost.

Utilizing a large, treaded, tank-like vehicle fitted with a large tow crane and cable, the mechanics can tow a broken-down tank or other vehicle back to their base so they can asses any damage and immediately begin repairs.

Peering over his shoulder and breaking just long enough from his work on the tank to get a few words in, Cpl. Stephen R. Uniszkiewicz, of Center Reach, N.Y., recalled the time the crew had to recover a tank which hit a mine and lodged itself into the side of a hill.

“It was brutal – 10 hours to get that tank moving,” said Uniszkiewicz, a 21-year-old who is slated to marry his girlfriend in New York next year. A first-time deployer to Iraq, he tries not to worry his family with too many details of what he’s seen while serving in Iraq, he said.

“I’m not worried…but it’s harder for the family,” he said. “I’ve seen IEDs go off, and you get nervous, but your training kicks in. It’s hard to explain that to the family, though.”

About five months into a seven-month deployment, C Company's mechanics all have family and friends back in the States eagerly awaiting their return – girlfriends, wives, mothers, children, parents.

But these Marines, whose once-tan coveralls and combat boots now carry grease stains and worn spots, try not to think about home too much or what they’re missing back in the U.S. Instead, they stay focused on the task at hand – keeping the Company’s tanks up and running, so the Marines “on the ground” who daily combat a seemingly ever-present insurgency in western Anbar have a bit more firepower and protection.

After all, tanks, and lives, are at stake.

“I don’t keep track of time out here,” said Morangomez. “I keep track of how many tanks we fix.”

For lots more photos, descriptions, and credits click on any of the pictures

Tank mechanics work around clock to keep tanks running, Marines safe

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 17, 2006) -- Tank mechanics with the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based C Company, 1st Tank Battalion log in 12-plus hour days, usually six or more days a week, turning wrenches and repairing parts to keep a fleet of 68-ton M1A1 Main Battle Tanks operational.


Aug. 17, 2006; Submitted on: 08/20/2006 06:05:59 AM ; Story ID#: 20068206559

By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, 1st Marine Division

C Company is currently attached to Regimental Combat Team 7, the U.S. military unit responsible for providing security and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces in western Anbar – an area more than 30,000 square-miles in size, or about the size of South Carolina, according to the Marines here.

In addition to supporting the regiment ’s infantrymen with massive amounts of firepower on the battlefield, tanks and their crews are considered an invaluable asset to Marines “on the ground” – they add an extra layer of protection for patrols and convoys traveling Iraq’s bomb-laden roads.

The mechanics say that for every hour a tank is operated, about six hours of regular maintenance is required to keep the tank operable, “give or take.”

“If the mechs don’t do their job well, these tanks don’t roll – period,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey W. Hyrne, a 32-year-old from Louisville, Ky., and Company C’s maintenance chief. “It could cost someone, or a crew, their lives.”

Editor’s note: for the full story and additional photos on Company C’s tank mechanics, please visit:

Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: [email protected]

For lots more photos, desciptions, and credits please click on any picture

Tank mechanics work around clock to keep tanks running, Marines safe

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 17, 2006) -- Tank mechanics with the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based C Company, 1st Tank Battalion log in 12-plus hour days, usually six or more days a week, turning wrenches and repairing parts to keep a fleet of 68-ton M1A1 Main Battle Tanks operational.


Aug. 17, 2006; Submitted on: 08/20/2006 06:05:59 AM ; Story ID#: 20068206559

By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, 1st Marine Division

C Company is currently attached to Regimental Combat Team 7, the U.S. military unit responsible for providing security and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces in western Anbar – an area more than 30,000 square-miles in size, or about the size of South Carolina, according to the Marines here.

In addition to supporting the regiment ’s infantrymen with massive amounts of firepower on the battlefield, tanks and their crews are considered an invaluable asset to Marines “on the ground” – they add an extra layer of protection for patrols and convoys traveling Iraq’s bomb-laden roads.

The mechanics say that for every hour a tank is operated, about six hours of regular maintenance is required to keep the tank operable, “give or take.”

“If the mechs don’t do their job well, these tanks don’t roll – period,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey W. Hyrne, a 32-year-old from Louisville, Ky., and Company C’s maintenance chief. “It could cost someone, or a crew, their lives.”

Editor’s note: for the full story and additional photos on Company C’s tank mechanics, please visit:

Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: [email protected]

For lots more photos, desciptions, and credits please click on any picture

August 15, 2006

*Once a mystery, 9/11 rescuer unmasks self amid publicity for new film

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, authorities wondered about the identity of a U.S. Marine who appeared at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, helped find a pair of police officers buried in the rubble, then vanished.
Even the producers of the new film chronicling the rescue, World Trade Center, couldn't locate the mystery serviceman, who had given his name only as Sgt. Thomas.



The puzzle was finally solved when one Jason Thomas, of Columbus, Ohio, saw a TV commercial for the new movie a few weeks ago as he relaxed on his couch.

His eyes widened as he saw two Marines with flashlights, hunting for survivors atop the smoldering ruins.

"That's us. That's me!" thought Thomas, who lived in Long Island during the attacks and now works as an officer in Ohio's Supreme Court.

Thomas, 32, hesitantly re-emerged last week to recount the role he played in the rescue of Port Authority police officers Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, who were entombed beneath 20 feet of debris when the twin towers collapsed.

Back in New York to speak of his experience and visit family, Thomas provided the AP with photographs of himself at ground zero. As further proof of his identity, the movie's producer, Michael Shamberg, said Thomas and Jimeno have spoken by phone and shared details only the two of them would know.

Thomas, who had been out of the Marine Corps about a year, was dropping his daughter off at his mother's Long Island home when she told him planes had struck the towers.

He retrieved his Marine uniform from his truck, sped to Manhattan and had just parked his car when one of the towers collapsed. Thomas ran toward the center of the ash cloud.

"Someone needed help. It didn't matter who," he said. "I didn't even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, 'My city is in need.'"

Thomas bumped into another ex-Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes, and the pair decided to search for survivors.

Carrying little more than flashlights and an infantryman's shovel, they climbed the mountain of debris, skirting dangerous crevasses and shards of red-hot metal, calling out "Is anyone down there? United States Marines!"

It was dark before they heard a response. The two crawled into a deep pit to find McLoughlin and Jimeno, injured but alive.

Jimeno would spend 13 hours in the pit before he was pulled free. Thomas stayed long enough to see him come up, but left due to exhaustion before McLoughlin, who remained pinned for another nine hours, was retrieved.

Thomas said he returned to ground zero every day for another 2½ weeks to pitch in, then walked away and tried to forget.

"I didn't want to relive what took place that day," he said.

Shamberg said he apologized to Thomas for an inaccuracy in the film: Thomas is black, but the actor cast to portray him, William Mapother, is white. Filmmakers realized the mistake only after production had begun, Shamberg said.

Thomas laughed and gently chided the filmmakers, then politely declined to discuss it further. "I don't want to shed any negativity on what they were trying to show," he said.

As for his story, Thomas said he is gradually becoming more comfortable telling it.

"It's been like therapy," he said.

Marines give insurgents no time for rest

GHARMAH, Iraq (Aug. 11, 2006) -- Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are demonstrating to insurgents there is no safe passage through their area of operations.


Aug. 11, 200
Submitted on: 08/15/2006 05:31:39 AM
Story ID#: 200681553139

By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, 1st Marine Division

Marines from the battalion’s Weapons Company performed mounted and dismounted patrols in Gharmah, Aug. 10, to interrupt insurgents moving in the area. The aim was to disrupt insurgent activity, interdict insurgents and weapons being transported through the area and maintain security in the region.

“Vehicle checkpoints are important because, although, we don’t always catch people, it shows we are out here,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Upton, a 20-year-old assaultman from Mooresville, N.C. “We’re still constricting the flow of supplies from the north to the south.”

Marines stopped vehicles along a road in the area, searching the drivers and passengers. At the same time, Marines checked every corner of the vehicle – peeking under hood, into trunks and even in the fold in seat cushions – for hidden weapons or insurgent paraphernalia.

Most times, searches went without incident. Identifications were returned. Marines thanked the Iraqis for their patience and they were sent on their way.

Still there was one intense moment

One Iraqi driver approached the checkpoint and stopped his car. He hesitated a moment, drove in reverse and stopped once more. Then he approached the checkpoint one more time, passing the first Marines guarding the checkpoint.

Another Marine grabbed a signal flare and shot it over the top the Iraqi’s truck. He stopped immediately as Marines approached the truck.

The vehicle was inspected and nothing was found. The driver told Marines he was in a hurry.

“Popping the pop-up was the right thing to do,” said Sgt. Tim C. Stellhorn, a 23-year-old section leader from Batlimore. “It was the correct step in the escalation of force.”

The outcome could have been worse for the driver but the Marines did not lose their nerve. They kept their composure, holding their fire and keeping an innocent Iraqi from getting harmed.

“They did what they were trained to do,” said Gunnery Sgt. Shawn M. Dempsey, a 33-year-old platoon commander from Jersey City, N.J.

Marines collapsed the checkpoint and moved along into the city to patrol through the maze of buildings. They stopped to search homes and speak to Iraqis, learning of their needs and concerns and asking about insurgent activity in the region.

Dempsey said he planned to continue conducting checkpoints to interfere with insurgents’ plans. The checkpoints and patrols, he explained, remind the insurgents Marines are always on the prowl, never allowing the insurgents a chance to get established and launch attacks against Marines, Iraqi Security Forces and terrorize local residents.

“I think checkpoints are effective as long as we don’t set a routine,” Dempsey said.

Stellhorn said he was pleased with his Marines’ actions from the day’s activities. He said they kept their wits about them and maintained their awareness despite the heat and long hours of walking through the city.

“The patrol went well,” Stellhorn said. “The VCPs looked good. The Marines are tired but they are working real hard.”

The battalion is serving with Regimental Combat Team 5 near Fallujah.

For more photos along with descriptions and credits for all photos, please click on any picture.

Justice Department Presents Web Site to Explain Military Rights

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2006 – The Department of Justice has launched a Web site to protect servicemembers’ rights, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez said yesterday.


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Gonzales, speaking to the Disabled American Veterans annual convention in Chicago, said the Justice Department has made it a priority to enforce civil rights laws for American servicemembers.

“The law recognizes that although we can never thank you enough for your service, we can take away some of the worries that soldiers might face when they are deployed,” he said in prepared remarks.

The government promises that servicemembers’ jobs will still be theirs when they come home and that they cannot be discriminated against by their employers because of their military service. The U.S. vows that servicemembers will be able to vote and that their vote will be counted. And it promises that servicemembers “will have procedural protections in civil actions, like lawsuits or property re-possessions, when serving overseas.”

The Justice Department Web site, www.servicemembers.gov, outlines the rights servicemembers have under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

“These basic civil rights are enforced by the Department of Justice, and I can assure you that the department's staff and prosecutors are deeply committed to these enforcement efforts,” Gonzales said. “We feel that it is an honor to serve those in uniform in this way. It is our way of saying thank you for your service.”

The attorney general said these are not just “pie in the sky” rights, but issues that directly affect people.

In one case, Justice Department officials filed its first complaint alleging that American Airlines violated rights of employees who also serve as military pilots. The case was brought on behalf of three military pilots employed by American Airlines. It states that the airline reduced the employment benefits of pilots who had taken military leave, while not reducing the same benefits for pilots who had taken similar, non-military leave, Gonzales said.

“In another vivid example of the people for whom we enforce these laws, the department recently won a consent decree from an employer who terminated employment of a serviceman named Richard White the very same day that Richard told his boss he was being called to active duty,” the attorney general said. “The consent decree requires the employer to pay back wages to Mr. White.

“What leads an employer to treat a soldier like an inconvenience is something for a higher power to judge. But here on earth, we have USERRA, and we'll use it for Richard White and for soldiers like him, as often as is necessary.”

Voting is another servicemember right the Justice Department guards. “Earlier this year, … (the department) addressed long-standing structural issues affecting uniformed military personnel posted both in this country and overseas who wished to vote in North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama,” Gonzales said.

These states had run-off elections too close to the primary elections to allow these voters to receive and return ballots. With cooperation from state election officials, the department was able to redress each of these violations. “As the 2006 general election approaches, we will continue vigilant protection of the voting rights of servicemembers, their families and other overseas citizens,” he said.

Gonzales also addressed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. “Thanks to this law, men and women currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have procedural protections in place that will allow them to be less distracted by litigation back home -- by someone trying to repossess a leased car, evict their spouse and children, sell their house at an auction or run up penalties on credit cards with 21 percent interest rates,” he said. “It's hard to respond to a civil lawsuit while you're focused on improvised explosive devices, and the law protects servicemembers for that reason.”

Enforcement of this law is a readiness and morale issue, he said. “Men and women in uniform, like all Americans, have to honor their obligations,” he said. “However, Congress long ago decided, wisely I think, to provide protections to them against lawsuits while deployed overseas on active duty.”

Gonzales urged any servicemember with questions to go to the Justice Department Web site. Military lawyers can help servicemembers and their families navigate through the laws.

3/11 Mike Battery deploys to Okinawa

More than 100 Marines and sailors from Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, departed the Combat Center for a six-month deployment to Okinawa, Japan, Monday.


Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz
Combat Correspondent

The deployment is part of the Unit Deployment Program, where the artillery unit will support 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, in firing exercises in various locations on the island, as well as take part in other training exercises.

“It's a great opportunity for our Marines to train and fire at places they never could if they stuck around here,” said Capt. Neal Fisher, Battery M commander. “We'll be shooting off of Mount Fuji and taking part in the jungle warfare training exercise.”

Fisher explained what other opportunities the troops will have on this deployment.

“It's a time for us to catch up on a lot of training,” he explained. “There's plenty of downtime where we can allow our Marines to take part in a sergeants course or off-duty education. We're able to work on our leadership skills with primary military education classes as well.”

The battery recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq in March. This will be a break from what the troops have been doing for the past couple years, said Fisher.

“Our battery has been out of the UDP cycle for a while and this will be a nice break from the rotations in and out of Iraq they've been doing,” he said.

Actually, a lot of the Marines stepping out to Japan have said they would rather be going to Iraq, said Sgt. John Albert, section chief.

“Most of them almost feel guilty for going to Japan, where it's almost a vacation, instead of serving in Iraq,” he said.

Albert, who has been deployed to Japan twice under the UDP, encourages the troops to enjoy Japan and take advantage of all it has to offer.

“It's great to get away from here,” said Albert. “Especially for the young Marines to experience the cultural diversity and see the things only Japan can offer.”

This could be the best deployment for a troop's first deployment, said Albert.

“Iraq and Okinawa are two different animals,” he explained. “But going to Okinawa can prepare a new Marine for the distance and some circumstances similar in Iraq.”

But some of the Marines, like Lance Cpl. James Fehr, a19-year-old native of San Manuel, Ariz., still would rather go to Iraq for his first deployment.

“Yeah, I'm excited because I'll be able to go to the gym more often in Okinawa,” he explained. “But I'd rather go do what I've been trained to do in Iraq.”

His wife, Maria, holding their 13-month old daughter, Kassidi, shook her head in disagreement.

“I feel more at ease knowing he won't be on the front lines of Iraq,” she said. “But I know that time will come eventually. I'm just happy he's going somewhere neat for now.”

There's a similar sentiment among all the family members of the Marines and sailors, such as the mother of Pfc. Ramon Martinez, Margie Martinez.

“This is his first time so far from home,” she said. “At least he's going to Japan.”

The unit makes family top priority by order of their commander, Fisher said.

“I have a family, and I ensure that every Marine's family is part of the unit,” he said.

In keeping with that tradition, the senior enlisted Marines in charge of Martinez talked to his mother to tell her what to expect.

“The Marines are great,” she explained. “They have made me feel real at ease. I know he's in great hands.”

The Marines and sailors were scheduled to depart Aug. 4, but due to flight delays, the unit departed Monday. They are scheduled to return in February.

For more phtoos, descriptions, and credits please click on any picture

Guard Force constantly watching to safeguard camp

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Marines at this walled-in camp here rest easy knowing they’ve got another Marine standing strong and keeping all dangers at bay.

Marines from the Guard Force section, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, man several posts around the camp’s outer wall. They maintain a safe environment inside and allow the battalion to work without worry of enemy attack.


Aug. 12, 2006; Submitted on: 08/15/2006 06:09:55 AM
Story ID#: 20068156955
By Cpl. Brian Reimers, Regimental Combat Team 5

“I wouldn’t worry about anybody trying to get into the base,” said Lance Cpl. Rich Camacho, a 20-year-old field radio operator from Hinsdale, N.H. “We have enough posts and Marines manning them to make sure that whoever wants to try getting in here without our permission will not have a good day.”

The guards here man posts that cover the camp’s entire surroundings as well as every possible entry point.

“It’s one way in and one way out,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher A. Bartley, a 21-year-old field wireman, from Roosevelt, N.Y. “If an insurgent actually had the bright idea to even think about coming aboard this base, he would have one hell of a time doing it.”

Marines keep their vigil in bunkers and overwatch positions reinforced by sandbags, ballistic materials, and communication assets. They’re sturdy structures, but aren’t built for comfort for the long watches Marines endure, wearing sometimes upwards of 80 pounds of personal gear. With recent temperatures scorching well past the o100-degree mark, guards appreciate what they do for each others’ safety here.

“It’s just plain hot and sometimes it can be pretty nasty out here,” said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Seong, H. Kim, a motor transport mechanic from Hewlitt, N.Y. “But we have an important job to do and the weather is not going to stop us.”

Having the freedom to walk about the camp is a privilege that many of the guards said is easy to forget about.

Lance Cpl. Ben D. Ways just recently transferred into the Guard Force and quickly learned that safety, doesn’t go without the hard work of many.

“Today is my first day on guard. I will say that until now I took for granted living inside the walls here,” said the 21-year Ways, from Beverly, Mass. “It is one of those things that is always in the back of your mind, but you never really pay attention to.

“It is almost like when you get paid,” Ways added. “You know that it is going to be there and that it happens, but you don’t really think about how it happens.”

The guards keep constant surveillance, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. While others are sleeping, the Marines here are watching.

Guard duties are more than standing post, though. The Guard Force resupplies Marines outside the camp walls manning entry control points with food, water, mail and whatever else they need.

“We pretty much take care of whatever needs to be done,” said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Nazzaro, a field radio operator from Jaffrey, N.H. “Especially because the other Marines here can’t always be out there and they deserve a break, so we pick up what we can to help out. If another section is out doing an operation, the Marines here head out to patrol while others still man the posts.”

It’s a job that many wouldn’t volunteer do to because of long hours, merciless heat on posts and little time for personal needs. But the Marines here do it because they know that without their eyes, those working inside the walls wouldn’t be safe.

“It is going to be a long next couple of months standing post,” Ways said. “But luckily there is a great group of Marines here who understand our mission and believe in it so it won’t be too bad.”

For more photos, descriptions, and credits please click on any picture

Marine keeps convoys secure

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Cpl. Daniel M. Dresch is a man with his head on a swivel.

Dresch, a 21-year-old security force commander from Colombia, S.C., is the man making the call for his Marines when it comes to shoot or don’t shoot. It’s a role that demands complete awareness, quick decisions and nerves of steel. It’s also a job that he knows keeps his Marines safe on Iraq’s roads.


Aug. 12, 2006; Submitted on: 08/15/2006 05:49:34 AM
Story ID#: 200681554934
By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, Regimental Combat Team 5

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Cpl. Daniel M. Dresch is a man with his head on a swivel.

Dresch, a 21-year-old security force commander from Colombia, S.C., is the man making the call for his Marines when it comes to shoot or don’t shoot. It’s a role that demands complete awareness, quick decisions and nerves of steel. It’s also a job that he knows keeps his Marines safe on Iraq’s roads.

“It’s my job to make sure no other vehicle comes into our convoy,” Dresch said. “Keeping the Marines safe is the most important thing.”

Dresch’s job as the lead man for security means he’s got to be aware at all times of all threats against his Marines. That means he’s the one keeping the keenest eye for tell-tale signs of improvised explosive devices, ensuring his Marines are prepared to react to small-arms attacks and ready to counter whatever the insurgents might throw at them.

It’s also a job that means Dresch has to make the right call every time. One bad decision could cost a Marine’s life.

“Making the right decision is the hardest part of the job,” he said. “If you go from your gut instinct, it makes it easier.”

Dresch’s importance to the patrols he rides with isn’t lost on his Marines. They know he’s got one of the most demanding jobs when they roll.

“It’s one of the most important jobs,” said Cpl. John M. Norton, a 22-year-old vehicle commander from Lumberton, N.C. “He’s supposed to be security of the whole convoy.”

Still, Dresch’s role as the convoy security commander means that he’s the one who sometimes makes the call to not unleash the full fury of the automatic weapons. It was one situation, though nerve-wracking, he found himself dealing with recently.

Dresch was a on a night patrol when an Iraqi was driving toward the convoy. The Iraqi turned off his headlights, but didn’t pull his car off the road. Dresch got out and began yelling to the driver to back off, but he didn’t budge.

Dresch took one shot with a tracer round in front of the car to show the Iraqi the Marines were deadly serious about their intentions.

“On almost every convoy, I have to use some escalation of force,” he explained.

So far, his demonstrations of intent have had their effect.

“I haven’t had to use the last step of escalation of force,” Dresch added, meaning the situation has never developed to a point where he needed to shoot to kill.

Dresch’s quick thinking and steady nerves in tense situations have earned him the respect and admiration of his fellow Marines. They know he’s the one putting himself out there, making the calls.

“It is important that his Marines trust him,” said Cpl. Bobby J. Kane, a 23-year-old vehicle driver from Greeneville, Mo. “If they didn’t, things wouldn’t run the right way.”

Dresch instills that trust even before he and his Marines leave the wire. He briefs his Marines before every convoy to make sure they are prepared for any situation. He doesn’t skip a beat, discussing the procedures for reactions to IEDs, small-arms fire and escalations of force.

“I think a lot of the briefs are reinforcement because repetition makes sure that everyone is doing the right thing at the right time,” said Cpl. Mark McElMurray, a 22-year-old vehicle driver from Forrestville, N.Y.

Dresch knows that he’s got a tough role, but it’s a job he wouldn’t trade. He likes being able to make the decisions for his Marine, steering them through the tough scenarios.

Making the right decisions is the hardest part of the job, he said.

“I just hope everyone goes back home,” Dresch said. “I want everything to run smoothly and go home.”

For more photos, descriptions, and credits please click on any picture

Through pain, a healthy smile; Local Marine retains humor through tough recovery

BETHESDA, Md. — The cost of war is counted in young men like Marine Lance Cpl. Toben Medeiros.


By BRIAN FRAGA, Standard-Times staff writer
Aug. 15, 2006

The Dartmouth native lies immobilized in a hospital bed at a Bethesda, Md., military hospital, his entire right side mangled by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"I'm in a lot of pain. A lot of pain," said Cpl. Medeiros, 21, who was recovering from leg surgery last Thursday to attach a new brace that takes the weight off his right leg when he stands.

Cpl. Medeiros, a 2003 graduate of Dartmouth High School, showed a visitor the wounds he sustained in the June 22 insurgent attack in Ramadi, located in the volatile Al Anbar province of Iraq.

His right arm and hand were grafted with skin taken from his stomach, groin and thighs. Stitch marks traversed his arm like railroad tracks.

His right leg, badly blistered and bleeding, required periodic dressing changes.

Underneath the visor of a Boston Red Sox hat, his right eye was gone. Later that day, doctors gave him a prosthetic eye, an acrylic lens that perfectly matched his natural hazel eye color.

Getting the color right was not easy, as eye specialists stared for what seemed like hours into his left eye to reproduce it.

"It was like a deep glare, an intense look. It's as if they wanted to fight or something," Cpl. Medeiros said, eliciting laughter from Donald and Eileen Medeiros, both of whom have spent a lot of time with their son since he arrived at the National Naval Medical Center.

"Toben's come a long ways," Mr. Medeiros said. "Sometimes these high-energy blasts have a lasting impact on people. But so far, so good. He's been making a pretty good comeback."

Cpl. Medeiros was slated to be transferred this week to a military hospital in Tampa, Fla., for the next stage of his physical rehabilitation and recovery.

It will not be easy as the improvised explosive device also took a chunk out of his right leg near the knee, exposing nerve endings and tissue. He pointed to the wound, and showed his sense of humor that helped him get through seven weeks of a grueling recovery process that will likely take many more months.

"I call it my shark bite," he said.

His mother Eileen said she feared the injuries would be a lot worse when she first got the telephone call that her son was hurt.

"I'd rather have gotten that call than hear a knock at the door," she said. "The Marines don't give you a good description how severe the injuries are. You don't really know until you get here. You're worried. You just want to get here and see what's what."

Cpl. Medeiros, who shipped off to Marine boot camp a month after graduating Dartmouth High, recalled the events that led up to the ambush that left him badly injured and killed his best friend, Cpl. Riley Baker, 22, of Missouri.

It was their unit's second deployment to Iraq. Assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., their scout and sniper platoon (which provides cover for infantry units) spent seven months in Fallujah last year. No one was injured during that tour, but things turned out differently the second time around after the unit redeployed to Iraq in March.

The roughly two dozen members of the platoon were atop a building in Ramadi when insurgents fired at them. Cpl. Medeiros said the attack lasted "for a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity."

After calling for reinforcements, his six-man sniper team left the building to board the arriving trucks. Cpl. Medeiros and Cpl. Baker and Richard Levine, a Marine medic, were on foot when the IED exploded right next to them.

"Right as we got out the door, I got to the corner and then all I remember is blacking out and hitting the ground," he said. "Then I woke up in the back of a seven-ton (truck) screaming like crazy."

"Doc" Levine is recovering from his injuries at the Bethesda hospital. Cpl. Baker was standing atop the IED when it detonated. He was killed instantly.

His death hit Cpl. Medeiros hard.

"He was like my brother," he said. "We ate dinner together. We watched movies together. We got in trouble together."

Cpl. Medeiros believes he heard Cpl. Baker call out to him when they got hit. However, the other scout team members said that was unlikely because Cpl. Baker died immediately.

Still, the close bond forged in combat between Marines is evident from what Cpl. Medeiros recalled.

"I remember hearing Baker's voice when I got knocked out," he said. "I remember him screaming my name. He was saying 'Toben, are you OK, man? Get up."

The memory momentarily left Cpl. Medeiros searching for words, and regret that he missed his friend's funeral.
"Miss you, Baker," Cpl. Medeiros said.

Although his friend is gone, Cpl. Medeiros is not left behind. The other members from his scout and sniper platoon, who are still in Iraq, regularly call to check up on him and give updates on their latest mission.

Cpl. Medeiros' hospital room was decorated with pictures of his Marine scout and sniper team, as well as photos of his family and girlfriend.

Next to the family pictures on a bulletin board was a large autographed poster of Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant. Gen. Hagee visited the wounded Marine weekly.

"Thanks for your service. Semper Fi," Gen. Hagee wrote Cpl. Medeiros, including the Marine Corps' official motto, Latin for "always faithful."

Cpl. Medeiros even had a surprise guest: President Bush, who swung by his room earlier this month during a routine visit. The encounter with his commander-in-chief left an impression with the young Marine.

"I was excited," Cpl. Medeiros said. "Not everybody gets to meet the president. I felt like Forrest Gump, kinda."

Anyone who watched that movie will remember that Private Gump had to recover from a "million-dollar wound" he sustained in combat. For Cpl. Medeiros, the injuries are real, serious and demand true grit to overcome.

"It's very painful," Cpl. Medeiros said, describing how he felt last week. "All my joints are stiff from not moving for awhile. Especially my shoulder. My shoulder's the worst."

He can move his right arm up and down, but cannot make a fist. He thinks he also suffered nerve damage in his wrist. In daily therapy sessions, doctors manipulate his wrist and have him do "finger crunches" to regain use of his hand.

Cpl. Medeiros is certain he has damaged nerves in his right foot because he cannot feel his toes.

"You know how you can pick up your toes to the ceiling? I can't do that," Cpl. Medeiros said. "I can only step on the gas, as they call it. So I guess I definitely now have a lead foot."

Driving his car is one thing he dreams about doing when he returns home to Dartmouth after his physical therapy is done. So is becoming an environmental police officer, and completing his four-year obligation to the Marine Corps.
"The Marine Corps has been great to me since I've been here," he said. "They're just a bunch of hard guys. All the support they've given me is unbelievable. I'm amazed. I only saw the tough side of them. Now I see both sides."

Contact Brian Fraga at [email protected]
http://www.SouthCoastToday.com/multimedia/audio/tmedeiros.wma [Hear clips of Brian Fraga's interview with Toben Medeiros]

Date of Publication: August 15, 2006 on Page A05

August 14, 2006

2nd MSOB Activates, Force Recon Evolves

MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C. - Another moment in military history was written Friday as the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion activated and 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company deactivated during a ceremony at Ellis Field here.


Marine Corps News | Cpl. Ken Melton | August 14, 2006

For the Marines of the new unit, it was bittersweet as they saw their former colors cased, but also witnessed the evolution of Force Recon into a key element of the special operations community.

“I compare this to when the cavalry gave up their horses,” said a senior member of Charlie Stack, Company “G”, 2nd MSOB. “I believe that we must adapt and change with the times, and in the long run, this will be the best for everybody.”
Second MSOB is the second unit activated in Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The Foreign Military Training Unit, activated last year.

Plans call for five companies in 2nd MSOB on the East Coast and four companies under 1st MSOB on the West Coast when it activates. “I’m excited for the chance to work for SOCOM and so are my Marines,” said a senior member of Delta Stack, Company “G”, 2nd MSOB. “It’s great for the Marine Corps, those who are a part of this and for those who will be after we leave.”

Marines have been involved with United States Special Operations Command since 1987 when it was established, but never officially became a part of the organization until this year. In February 2006, when MARSOC activated, the wheels of change began moving to include Force Recon in this new unit.

“This is just part of a good idea coming together,” the senior member of C-Stack said. “We never thought we would be left out. Including us is the only realistic answer.” “The Corps is used to accomplishing a lot with very little,” said the C-stack senior member. “Now with all the SOCOM assets and training, we will excel to the next level and we’re tackling it with great enthusiasm.”

The Marines receive training from Special Mission Training Branch tailored to what a mission will be like in the future. Second MSOB has every bit of confidence in their learning abilities and instructors. “This is a great opportunity for us to get newer training as well as deployments,” said the senior member of D-Stack. “Besides that, it’s going to be business as usual.”

Some might view this as an end of an important chapter in Marine Corps history, but 2nd MSOB Marines see this as the newest page in the book.
“Since most of us come from Force Recon and are currently becoming MSOB, our standards and our traditions will continue to be passed down to the next generation,” the D-Stack, senior member said. “We continue to serve in the image set for us and they will never be forgotten.”

Teams from 2nd MSOB continue to train and prepare until their first SOCOM deployment this winter.

Marine’s quick thinking saved lives, comrades say

BAGHDADI, Iraq (Aug. 14, 2006) -- The quick thinking, coupled with a series of well-aimed shots, by a Marine on post saved lives July 27, 2006, according to Marines and Iraqi soldiers serving here.


Aug. 14, 2006; Submitted on: 08/14/2006 01:05:37 PM
Story ID#: 200681413537
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle, Regimental Combat Team7

Cpl. Jeff Globis’ split-second decision to verbally warn near-by Marines and Iraqi soldiers of an approaching suicide bomber while he was standing post at a military outpost here allowed others to avoid a potentially life-threatening explosion.

Manning an observation point at the combat outpost, the 23-year-old infantryman saw the speeding truck break through the base’s protective barriers. Globis opened fire on the vehicle, which was loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives, and warned others to take cover – acts which many here say saved their lives

Globis, a team leader assigned to the Hawaii-based Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, said he knew the truck was a suicide bomber as soon as it turned a corner and attempted to drive through the outpost’s protective barriers.

“I only had a few seconds to act, so I fired four shots through the windshield as soon as he crashed through the first protective barrier,” said Globis, a native of Wynthrop Harbor, Ill. “When the truck stopped, I warned all the Marines and soldiers to move as far away from the front of the building as possible.”

Globis’s determinations were soon confirmed – the truck detonated and part of the roof of the outpost collapsed. No Marines or soldiers were killed because they had time to move away, avoiding the brunt of the blast, thanks to Globis’ verbal warning.

However, Globis, a 2002 graduate of Zion Benton High School, refuses to take credit for saving the Marines’ and soldiers’ lives that day because he “was just doing what any Marine would have done in that situation.”

Staff Sgt. Richard Charley, 29, disagrees with Globis and says that many Marines and soldiers are still alive because of his quick thinking.

“Globis saved several peoples’ lives that day,” said Charley, a platoon sergeant. “He eliminated the driver of that vehicle before he could penetrate further into the compound and completely destroy the building.”

Globis will be awarded for his actions that day, but it is undetermined which award he will receive, said Charley, a native of Bishop, Calif.

This is not the first time Globis has potentially saved other Marines’ or soldiers’ lives since he deployed to Iraq in March.

A few weeks prior to the suicide bombing, Globis was riding in a humvee during a patrol through the city. Moments before the humvee drove over a pressure-detonated improvised explosive device, Globis said he noticed it from the corner of his eye and had the driver stop.

Upon inspection, Globis and the other Marines noticed the front tire of the vehicle was literally inches away from the roadside bomb.

“Globis has been exposed to a lot of danger since he arrived in Iraq, but he has remained dependable and mature,” said Charley. “Because of this, his subordinates and I have the utmost confidence in him.”

Recently, Globis was selected to be an infantry advisor for the Military Transition Team here. Now he spends his days training Iraqi soldiers – who are making notable progress as they continue to progress towards operating independent of his unit’s support, he said.

“The soldiers are stepping up and taking charge when we are on patrol,” said Globis. “They want to succeed.”

“Ahmed,” a soldier who was slightly injured in the blast from the suicide bomber said Globis is a great leader and motivates the soldiers to fight the insurgency. He also said that he is alive today because Globis saved his life that day.

“I would have been killed if Globis did not give that warning,” said Ahmed. “Marines like Globis have earned our loyalty and respect and we feel privileged to fight along side them.”

Globis said he enjoys working with the soldiers and has learned good leadership skills, like patience and mentoring, because there is a language barrier between them and sometimes he has to teach the soldiers the same task more than once.

“The reason we selected Globis to work with the soldiers is because he is one of the most dependable and mature Marines in the company and accomplishes difficult missions, like leading soldiers on patrols, with little or no supervision,” said Charley.

Globis, and the rest of the Marines in 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, also known as “America’s Battalion,” are scheduled to return to Hawaii this fall and be replaced by another Hawaii-based unit.

August 13, 2006

Female Marines train for Iraq border security

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (Aug. 13, 2006) -- To strengthen the fight in the War on Terrorism, female Marines have been implemented at tactical control points along the Iraqi borders to stop insurgents from using women smugglers to gain funds or weapons to support their efforts.

(Lots of pictures are posted with the original article, click on the link)


Aug. 13, 2006
Submitted on: 08/14/2006 04:20:41 PM
Story ID#: 2006814162041
By Staff Sgt. Raymie G. Cruz, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (Aug. 13, 2006) -- To strengthen the fight in the War on Terrorism, female Marines have been implemented at tactical control points along the Iraqi borders to stop insurgents from using women smugglers to gain funds or weapons to support their efforts.

Eight female Marines from different units within 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing volunteered for the Lioness Program and will conduct security searches of women crossing into Iraq.

"I wanted to do something different," said Sgt. Alice Dunne, electrical equipment repair specialist, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and an Oxford, Wis., native. "In Al Asad, you never feel like you're in the fight, you are just doing your job."

The Lioness Program was born of necessity when commanders saw a troubling situation during raids and other missions, according to Sgt. Maj. Brian K. Jackson, sergeant major, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW.

"The men they sent charging into the city, often into private homes, made Iraqi women uneasy," said Jackson, a Gary, Ind., native. "Searching the women proved difficult, as Muslim culture dictates that men are not to touch women they don't know."

To prevent violations of the culture and the smuggling of arms and funds into the country, the Lioness Program was implemented.

During the 30-day rotation of the Lioness Program, the selected Marines received briefs and appropriate training from Regimental Combat Team 7 personnel, before going to Camp Korean Village, Iraq. They were briefed on the program, in addition to what their duties would entail.

"This is a good opportunity for female Marines to do something outside of their Military Occupational Specialty and get a chance to work with the infantry," said Master Sgt. Scott R. Zaehler, operations chief, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, RCT-7, and a McHenry, Ill., native. "A big part of what they do is showing their presence. Just being seen by insurgents works as a deterrent and keeps them off balance."

Upon arriving at Camp Korean Village, the Marines received more intense classes on procedures and how to properly handle themselves in various situations. The training included everything from proper search techniques to shooting from supported firing positions.

"The training put you in the combat mindset that every Marine is a rifleman, regardless of gender," said Lance Cpl. Hollye K. Meeks, motor transport vehicle operator, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and a Houston, Texas native. "It was realistic training to help familiarize you with your gear, and your weapon. I don't know what to expect, but I'll expect the worst, hope for the best and rely on my training."

The program has been operational for three months and their role has helped win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

"The Lioness Program has worked very well," said Reyna, a Murrieta, Calif., native. "They are doing a good job and are getting to know the people very well. Some of the families seem like they almost want to adopt (the Marines) into their own family."

"I wanted to see a different part of the Marine Corps," said Lance Cpl. Katheryn A. Saldarriaga, nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist and Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear response team member, from Glendale, Calif. "I wanted to see the culture and the people."

Although most of the volunteers are from different units and military occupations, they have bonded as a tight-knit team and have learned to count on each other in the short time they have trained together.

"I have confidence in the rest of the team," said Cpl. Valerie Gavaldon, combat engineer, Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, MWSG-37, and El Paso, Texas native. "I'm confident they can handle the mission. We're showing people that females have a special mission in this war as well."

For several other photos, along with descriptions and credits please click on any picture

Uganda and U.S. Military Team up to Provide Humanitarian Assistance

SOROTI, Uganda - More than 40 United States military medics and engineers joined forces with several dozen members of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) this week to begin a series of humanitarian assistance projects in the rural Soroti District of Central Uganda.


August 13, 2006
U.S. Air Force Major David Westover
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

The projects are part of Exercise Natural Fire, a 10-day multilateral exercise involving approximately 1,000 military personnel from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.

During the first three days, more than 1,200 people received medical care from a combined team of medical specialists from the UPDF and various U.S. Air National Guard units as part of a Medical Civil Action Project (MEDCAP). The U.S. military medics worked side-by-side with their counterparts from the UPDF.

“I am very impressed by the cooperation, professionalism and knowledge of the Ugandan medics,” said Major Jose Cabrera, a physician with the 146th Air National Guard, Channel Islands, Calif. “Without them, it would have been impossible to facilitate this project.”

“We are so grateful that we are receiving free treatment,” said Emitu Nathan, a primary school teacher from Serere Township. “In fact, some people have been waiting their whole lives to receive care.” Hundreds more are anticipated to attend similar medical civic assistance projects during the coming week.

Lejeune Marines bid farewell to a comrade in arms

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Aug. 13, 2006) -- The Camp Lejeune, N.C., based Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment gathered at Hurricane Point to honor Cpl. Joseph A. Tomci, one of their fallen heroes, in a memorial service Aug. 5.


Aug. 13, 2006; Submitted on: 08/17/2006 03:44:23 AM ; Story ID#: 200681734423
By Cpl. Joseph DiGirolamo, I Marine Expeditionary Force

Tomci was killed Aug. 2 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar province. Tomci, 21-year-old from Akron, Ohio, was a squad leader in 2nd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company L, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines, which is currently deployed to Ar Ramadi, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tomci was described by many as a role model who pushed himself to be the best in everything he did.

“He could be found leading from the front. He brought the best out of everyone including myself,” said Cpl. Daniel J. Tarantino. “Many of us would not be here today without his guidance.”

“I joined the Marine Corps to lead and fight next to Marines like Corporal Tomci,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan M. Hub, 4th platoon commander. “I say lead but more often then not I found myself learning from him. He made my job look easy. He took so much pride in his Marines and in himself.”

During the service, the Marines put together the traditional rifle memorial of a helmet resting on a butt stock of a rifle, dog tags hanging from the rifle’s pistol grip, and a pair of boots placed alongside a recent photo of Tomci. Cpl. Matthew E. Bucceri played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, his platoon read Psalm 23 in unison and Lance Cpl. William L. Taylor offered a single reading of the Marine’s Prayer.

Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, the Battalion’s commanding officer, described why Tomci joined the Marine Corps.

“He joined following 9/11 because he believed he was equal to the emergency our country was facing,” said Neary, 40, from Boston, Mass. “He believed he could do anything and in the process he won the confidence of his fellow man.”

“He had a lot of meaning to his life. Meaning is doing for others, meaning is risking your life for others, meaning is leaving the comfort of your home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for you, your family, your nation and free men and women everywhere,” he said.

Capt. Carlos M. Barela, the commanding officer of Company L, said Tomci had a choice stay home or to deploy to Iraq for a second time.

“One of the strongest squad leaders we had in this Company,” said Barela, 36, from Sandoval, N.M. “He chose to go on this deployment and to make one more trip with his brothers rather than going to Recon Battalion.”

“I remember watching him coming to the COC [command operations center] with some of his young Marines that he was training to take over COG [corporal of the guard] and squad leaders,” he said. “He took the time and would accept nothing but the best from each individual Marine in his charge. But more than that across, the company, he looked out for his brothers.”

“I never had a doubt that he would bring his Marines home,” he said.

During the ceremony Hub read a classic quote of Edmund Burke written on the back binding of Tomci’s squad notebook.

The passage read: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

“Cpl. Tomci was more than just a good man and he decided to do something,” said Hub, 25, from Calhoun, S.C. “He was a symbol of strength in our platoon both physically and mentally. I felt fortunate to have known him and to have fought with him. His personal strength helps guide us today and will help guide us tomorrow as we continue to fight.”

Tarantino described his best friend as the single greatest example of what a Marine should be.

“It is said you can tell a lot about a man from his friends, and no one had more friends then Joe Tomci,” said Tarantino, 21, from Hall, Ga. He continued to say that Tomci brought the squad and platoon together, not just as a squad or platoon, but as friends.

Tomci attended Marine Corps recruit training in 2003. He graduated from the squad leaders’ course in 2005. He has deployed to Haiti in 2004 and Fallujah in 2005 with the battalion. His awards include the Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

for photo description and credits please click on it

August 12, 2006

CBIRF firefighting Marines test their skills in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (August 8, 2006) -- Imagine being high up in a burning building; exits are blocked and the heat is intense. You know there is no way out. Then you hear a voice through the smoke say, “It’s going to be OK. I’ll get you down. You just have to trust me.”


August 8, 2006; Submitted on: 08/09/2006 10:30:55 AM
Story ID#: 200689103055
By Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Chances are you will never face that scenario. However, for those who do, the split-second decisions of the first responders to the scene may make the difference between life and death, and your trust in their abilities may be the difference in your survival.

Within II Marine Expeditionary Force’s Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, the technical rescue platoon’s firefighters train extensively to become a well-oiled machine, confident in their equipment and skills – all in the name of saving lives and surviving the day.

“All of these Marines come from a crash, fire and rescue background,” said Sgt. Ruben Acosta, of El Paso, Texas, who is team leader for the tech rescue platoon. “Now we train together and do a lot of cross training with other agencies like (New York Fire Department) and Los Angeles Fire Department. We have to be prepared for any situation.”

Though relatively young – the average age on the team is 21 – they have garnered the respect of fellow firefighters.

“Most civilian firefighters, like in New York, have more than six years of experience before they can get on an urban search and rescue team like our crash, fire and rescue,” said Cpl. Matthew Bachman, a Boston native and rescueman with the team. “They see us and I would think they’d be thinking ‘they are young.’”

“But what they see is Marines and our confidence in our systems and our proficiency because of all our training,” he continued.

Acosta stressed the importance of inter-agency training not simply to hone skills, but to keep key players and responders on the same sheet of music.

“We call it cross-pollinating, and there was a bit of awkwardness at first,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Andrew J. Hilliard, Emergency Services Officer, of this training evolution with the St. Louis County Fire Department, “but as they learned what each other can do, they were amazed.”

Hilliard, who has been in the Corps 21 years and with aircraft rescue and firefighting for more than 18, also compared the joint training to a community toolbox. “Every member has skills that they can share because all need the training and certification. You throw those all in the toolbox and everyone takes what they need and gives something back.”

The St. Louis County firefighters were eager for the Aug. 9 training.

“We don’t have as much opportunity to do this type of training. This has helped me gain confidence in the equipment,” said Tony Taylor, firefighter with St. Louis County Fire Department, after his turn on rappel became a bit harrowing when his Prusik knot locked. Acosta and his team had to talk Taylor through correcting the problem as he dangled nearly 100-feet above the pavement. “The Marines’ confidence and proficiency allowed me to work it out.”

Cpl. Lewis Meza, an Air Force brat from Tucson, Ariz., and the team’s rope noncommissioned officer, shrugged it off and said, “He trusted his gear. If you trust your gear, you know you’re safe. When someone is counting on you, that’s everything.”

CBIRF will continue to support St. Louis first responders in a series of training and exercises Aug. 9-12.

For more photos, along with descriptions of all photos and credits... please click on any picture.

Marines open ‘House of Pain’ on Camp Habbaniyah

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are calling, tough guy. Step into their “House of Pain.”


Aug. 12, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

Marines here opened a combat conditioning gymnasium for their unit in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 12. It’s a gym built in a refurbished British barracks. Make no mistake, though. There’s nothing refined about the place. It’s a gym of cold steel, ringing iron, sweat, blood and tears. It’s perfect for Marines.

“It’s called the ‘House of Pain’ because when you come here you feel the pain,” said Staff Sgt. Oscar X. Gomez, supply chief with the battalion. He headed up the project to build the workout center.

The 28-year-old from Queens, N.Y., said in order to improve physically, Marines must overcome physical obstacles.

Here, Marines use the gym’s weight area, cardio area or the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program area. There’s one common theme throughout the whole gym: This will hurt.

Gomez said he first thought of the gym back when he served as a drill instructor and used spare time for his recruits’ physical training sessions.

“When I was a DI, I had the idea of a ‘House of Pain,’” Gomez said. “I use to make recruits do exercises on different things in the squad bay to improve their PT.”

Gomez said recruits would do exercises on footlockers, racks or anything they had.

Now, with a little bit of help from the battalion’s command, he’s built a shrine to physical improvement for Marines in a combat zone. Weight benches, machines of nearly every physical description and even an open area for hand-to-hand sparring await anyone willing to spend time and sweat for physical strength.

“I want to help the Marines accomplish their goals,” Gomez said. “I remember when I first started working out in the gym, I didn’t know what to do. I want to help out Marines in the same situation.”

Gomez said he wanted to assist Marines and sailors get bigger, lose weight or just stay in shape. It’s important to him because Marines must pull their own weight in combat. It requires strength, stamina and agility – all attributes that can be earned in the House of Pain.

“It might come a time when you might have to carry your fellow Marines if something were to happen to them,” Gomez said “If you can carry your own weight than you can carry someone else’s.”

It’s not just Marines who are taking advantage of the new gym. The battalion’s hospital corpsmen are right alongside their Marine brothers, jacking steel with the best of them.

“A corpsman should be strong,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leonardo E. Benitez, who can be seen pumping iron at the “House of Pain” on a daily basis.

The 36-year-old hospital corpsman from Bronx, N.Y., said strength is important because he and others must lift up a Marine in battle.

Just building the House of Pain was a feat of strength and endurance.

Gomez worked with about a dozen Marines for an average of 13-hours-a-day for a week. They did it on top of their regular duties.

His Marines were just glad the gym is done.

“It feels good because when you look around this place you see what you did,” said Pfc. Josh M. Hodges, a 19-year-old supply administrative clerk from Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I built that frame, that cable-cross machine, put those mats down and put that bike together.”

The gym is one-of-a-kind for a workout spot in Iraq.

“The setting makes me feel right at home,” explained Pfc. Jesse R. Keezer, a 19-year-old supply administration clerk from Delmar, N.Y. “The mats on the floor, the bikes, the radio, the T.V., everything.”

The gym is an opportunity for Marines to do something different. It allows the Marines a break from the routine of the day, offers goals and a way to relieve stress.

“This means we don’t have to run every day,” said Keezer, who wants to be more toned and in better overall shape like he was wrestling for his hometown high school. “I’m happy because I have a place of my own to work out.”

Ultimately, Gomez said the gym is for his warfighters.

“I know the gym makes my guys feel good so it makes me feel good,” Gomez said. “Hearing people say the gym is nice makes all the hard work worth while.”

More photos of 3/2 pertaining to this article, as well as all descriptions and credits are available by clicking on any picture.

August 11, 2006

Church helps recruits combat stress

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2006) -- Throughout recruit training, recruits endure a tremendous amount of mental, moral and physical stress.


Aug. 11, 2006; Submitted on: 08/11/2006 03:30:18 PM
Story ID#: 2006811153018

By Lance Cpl. James Green, MCRD San Diego

Among the options of dealing with the pressure they are faced with on a day-to-day basis is the choice of going to church on Sunday.

During four hours on Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., recruits have the options of writing letters or preparing their uniforms and other items for the next week of training, however, many choose to attend a religious service of their choice offered on the depot.

Going to church relieves a lot of the stress recruits endure by letting them know God is still in charge, said Lt. Cmdr. James E. West, chaplain, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. It reminds them that there is a bigger world outside of the depot.

“We offer many services from Catholic, Protestant and Latter Day Saints, to Lutheran, Islamic, Jewish and more,” said West.

There are six chaplains on the depot who administer Sunday services for the recruits. Due to the relatively small number of chaplains, it’s hard for them to minister and meet the spiritual needs of the hundreds of recruits in boot camp.

To help with the process of informing recruits about religious services and to help minister to others, platoon prayer leaders are picked by drill instructors at the beginning of each training cycle.

Two recruits from each platoon are picked to be prayer leaders. They are there to lead other recruits in evening devotion, a time when recruits meet in groups with their respective religions for a short prayer before going to sleep.

“We act as counselors and friends to the other recruits,” said Pvt. Guillermo Guzman Jr., a prayer leader for Platoon 2006, Company H. “Sometimes they come up to me and ask me to pray for them.”

Guzman said that going to church and participating as a prayer leader helped him deal with his stress by getting his focus off of his own problems and taught him to help with his platoon mates’ spiritual issues.

Before boot camp, Guzman was an usher and youth group leader at his church in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. It was during that time he learned the skills he passed on to the other recruits and taught them about prayer and how to get closer with God.

“It motivates me as a prayer leader to know I am doing a good job,” said Guzman. “Here, I learned I could help those in need, as well as myself, by doing so.”

Church allowed the recruits to keep track of the days. Recruits would count down the days until Sunday so they had a reason to stay motivated, Guzman added.

Many recruits are grateful for the opportunity presented to them through religious services.

“The appreciation becomes apparent when the graduating company attends church on their last Sunday, “ said West. “They come and thank us, telling us how they couldn’t have made it without us.”

For some recruits, church is the number one way to combat stress. Even though religious services only run once a week, it gets the recruits through each day in between Sundays by giving them something to look forward to during the week.

Rappel tower tests recruits’ will, guts

A drill instructor with Company H holds the rope for a recruit to ensure his safety as he slides down the depot’s rappel tower.


Aug. 11, 2006; Submitted on: 08/11/2006 03:31:45 PM
Story ID#: 2006811153145
By Lance Cpl. Robert W. Beaver, MCRD San Diego

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2006) -- As a young recruit peeks over the rappel tower’s edge, his forehead begins to perspire and his limbs begin to shake. The recruit knows he must face his fear of heights as he knows the only way off this obstacle is straight down.

He gets into position with his toes on the edge and his heels facing away from the tower. In a matter of seconds, he rappels safely to the ground.

With a little more than a week left until graduation, recruits are challenged with the depot’s 60-foot-tall rappel tower. Recruits get the opportunity to become familiar with rappelling through a basic course.

“During this training evolution, the recruits learn the basics of rappelling,” said Staff Sgt. Rafael Trevino, an instructor with instructional training company. “This also helps some of them overcome their fear of heights, and it allows them to gain trust in their equipment. This obstacle is definitely a confidence builder.”

Recruits learn the proper techniques for rappelling as well as how to create the safety harness that will hold them safely when rappelling.

The harness is made using a six-foot rope that is wrapped around the legs and hips. Then it is secured by a series of square knots.

On the modern battlefield, wars are fought in urban areas. The best way to secure a building is from the top to the bottom as it throws the enemy off, according to Sgt. Juan Lopez, an instructor with Instructional Training Company.

Recruits get the opportunity to learn several different rappelling techniques. Fast roping, wall rappelling and descending a simulated helicopter hell hole are the three different training scenarios featured on the tower.

Fast roping, a method used for quick insertion on an objective from a helicopter, is the first technique recruits learn during this training phase. Sliding down 15 feet of rope to the ground, the fast technique is similar to the way a fire fighter slides down a pole during an emergency.

The recruits must do their part when sliding down the rope to quickly clear the landing zone to prevent being landed on by the following recruit.

Each recruit has the opportunity to experience fast roping during boot camp; however, they may not have the chance to do both of the other methods due to the short amount of time for the training evolution, according to Trevino.

Like the fast rope technique, the hell hole is used for fast insertion from a helicopter. The term hell hole refers to the hole in a helicopter’s fuselage. But unlike fast roping, hell hole insertion is used with safety equipment and is done at a higher altitude. This version of rappelling is a vertical drop from the top of the tower.

The other technique recruits may learn is the wall rappel. This method is also used with safety equipment, and simulates rappelling down the side of a building.

Recruits are issued the respective safety gear prior to the training evolution. With the assistance of a tactical helmet, gloves, ropes, carabiner and a spotter, recruits make their descent safely to the ground.

Although this training only gives recruits the basics, it will benefit them later when they continue this training while they are in the Fleet Marine Force, according Trevino.

During the one-day course, recruits learn three different techniques of rappelling. Although some recruits will not be in combat units, there’s always a chance they may be called to fulfill the duty of every Marine and be a rifleman.

For more photos along with all descriptions and credits please click on any picture.

Co. H Marine graduates after injury hinders training

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2006) -- Despite an injury one-third of the way through boot camp the first time, a Company H recruit, who was set back in training, reunited with the same company after an entire cycle of recruits graduated.


Aug. 11, 2006; Submitted on: 08/11/2006 03:42:03 PM
Story ID#: 200681115423
By Pfc. Charlie Chavez, MCRD San Diego

Private First Class Justin D. C. Ninde, Platoon 2003, from Apple Valley, Calif., left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on Jan. 23, after his grandfather, who was his inspiration to join, passed away April 21, 2005.

His grandfather was a medic in the Army and had triggered his interest, from the age of 13, in the armed services after sharing his military experiences. After he passed away, Ninde focused on the Marine Corps as the most challenging service, and enlisted.

Four weeks into his training, Ninde developed a hernia – the inside layer of the abdominal wall weakened causing a bulge or tear and a balloon-type sac, which can contain a loop of the intestine or abdominal tissue causing pains and problems – that required medical attention and resulted in surgery.

Dropped from Co. H and placed under the care of Navy medical doctors at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Ninde underwent surgery on March 23. It was a success and he returned to training with the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon on the depot.

During the healing time with MRP, Ninde encountered mental obstacles about finishing training and the road to successfully completing Marine Corps boot camp.

“There were times when I thought that I wasn’t going to make it through,” said Ninde. “The doctors would ask if I wanted to still be a Marine or if I wanted to go home. I just couldn’t bring myself to quit.”

As a pillar of strength, Ninde relied on his family to encourage his spirit and keep him from allowing himself to quit.

Ninde remained positive about recruit training until the end of the first four weeks and toward the time of his injury.

“I helped him as much as I could with positive reinforcement and scriptures,” said Christine L. Ninde, mother. “I just put my faith in the Lord and prayed for him.”

Recruits who are injured can be in MRP for a long time. The Marine Corps provides them with rehabilitation, physical therapy and help as long as they maintain the physical standards expected for a full recovery. For Ninde, he spent three months in MRP.

The recruits who still want to train after injuries are the reason drill instructors at MRP are there, said Staff Sgt. Roger L. Escamilla, drill instructor, Physical Conditioning Platoon.

Brought back into training June 16 with Co. H, Ninde was reunited with his previous company and a drill instructor from his previous platoon, whom he requested to be placed under.

“I told him that we would look out for him and that he was going to graduate with Co. H,” said Sgt. Orlando E. Castillo, drill instructor.

Due to his physical condition, Ninde experienced problems during the hikes on the field portion of boot camp. Not allowing him to give up, Castillo reassured him and helped him.

After Ninde completed the final obstacle of field training, an infamous steep hill known as the “Reaper,” his struggle to continue training was validated upon his accomplishment.

“At the top of that hill I knew that this is where I was supposed to be,” said Ninde. “I thought to myself, ‘Why would I have ever wanted to quit?’”

Ninde’s dedication to the Marine Corps is exemplified by his never-quit attitude and his goals in the Corps to be an aviation mechanic. He will move on and continue to work hard to accomplish his goals, added Castillo.

With an injury behind him and the rest of his Marine Corps career ahead, Ninde has started his journey having earned the title Marine.


Young men eagerly join the Marines

Casey Jones graduated from Dundalk High School in June in the top 5 percent of his class. He posted a 3.8 GPA on a transcript dotted with advanced placement classes and scored 1800 on the SAT exam.


by Bill Gates

He could have gone to college. He could have gone to a lot of colleges. But, last month, Jones left for Parris Island, S.C., along with his buddy, Harry Lang, to begin Marine Corps boot camp.

It's only the grads with no real options who join the military, right?

“A lot of my friends told me I was an idiot,” Jones said before leaving for boot camp. “But this is my choice. A lot of people didn't think it was the right choice, but I didn't make the choice for anyone but myself.”

Making their choice

It's not unusual for students from Dundalk high schools to enter the military after graduation. But, with the increasingly unpopular and divisive military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan in their fourth year, and casualties steadily mounting, enlisting is no longer just a way to “learn a trade, earn money for college.”

For the first time since the Vietnam War era, enlistees know the chances are good they eventually will be in a combat zone. But, unlike then, there is no draft to face.

In addition to the ones interviewed for this story, the following people enlisted in the U.S. Marines this summer: Dundalk High grads Joe Bathgate, Chris Chavis, Jason Muir, Chris Coffman, Ron Waugh, Josh Dean and Justin Yuhase.

“My friends pretty much felt I was crazy,” said Jones's buddy Lang, who also just graduated from Dundalk High. “But they're supporting me. They know it's what I want to do.”

Brian Lawson, Dundalk High Class of 2005, enlisted in the Marines on March 25 and returned from boot camp two weeks ago for a brief visit before shipping out to Camp Lejeune to resume his training.

“Of course, with everything going on, going to war has to run through your mind,” Lawson said. “My family is a little bit nervous, especially with me being in the Marines, which are usually the first to fight. But my family has always supported me in every decision I've made.”

Sparrows Point High graduates Ryan Yeatman and Nick Swenson left for Parris Island last week. They'll be joining another member of the Pointer Class of 2006, Chris Kerntke, who shipped out in early July.

“That I might be sent to Iraq made me think about [enlisting] a little bit,” Yeatman said. “But people don't join the Marines to avoid a war; they join to serve their country. If I have to go to Iraq, I will. Marines are there for the guys next to them, looking out for each other.”

As they enlisted under the buddy system, one of those guys next to Yeatman could be Swenson.

“I've always wanted to be a Marine, and the possibility of going to Iraq doesn't affect me,” Swenson said. “Everyone has a job to do, and that will be my job. My friends tried to talk me out of it, but I want to get on with my life, and this is what I want to do: protect my country and serve.”

For Robert Preisendorfer, a 2002 Dundalk High grad who finished Marine boot camp in late July, the scary world situation and its implications for America and its soldiers was the clincher.

“It's what made me want to [join the Marines] even more,” Preisendorfer said on Monday, one day before shipping out for Marine combat training at Camp Lejeune. “It's a job you have to do.”

Family tradition of service to country

Yeatman's grandfather, William Yeatman, is a retired Marine and a Korean War veteran. Jones's father, Casey Sr., is a retired Marine, as is his uncle, Danny. Lang has a brother-in-law in the Marines.

Swenson's father, Harry, served in the Navy, while his uncle, Dean Coffman, is in the Air Force.

“My father kept asking me, ‘You sure you want to go into the Marines?,'” Swenson said. “When I get back, I'll probably call him a squid and he'll call me a jarhead.”

Preisendorfer's grandfather, Robert A. Preisendorfer, is a World War II Navy veteran, while his father, Charles Coburn, and his stepfather, Bill Howell Sr., both served in the U.S. Army.

Preisendorfer opted for the Marines over the Army because the Marines “are the best of the best,” he said.

A long road to enlist

Preisendorfer overcame two obstacles in his determination to be a Marine. He was out of shape. Then there was the 30-month probation he received for a crime (possession of an explosive device) he committed four summers ago.

Preisendorfer and three other male youths, who were all minors at the time, discovered that a certain combination of chemicals mixed in a plastic two-liter bottle would expand and explode when left in the heat.

The four tested their science project in a series of mailboxes along Robinwood, Longpoint and Stansbury roads on Aug. 7, 2002. They were arrested soon afterward and received probation.

“That hindered me a lot,” Preisendorfer said on Monday. “It kept me from talking to any branch of service for two and a half years.”

The probation took patience. Getting back in shape took work.

Preisendorfer finished boot camp in late July and left for Camp Lejeune on Tuesday to begin his Marine combat training.

He needed one more month than normal to complete boot camp, for the same reason he was free to join the Marines during the summer of 2005 but had to wait a year.

“I weighed 315 pounds [in 2005],” Preisendorfer said. “I had to get down to 263 pounds to enlist in the Delayed Entry Program, and had to get down to 249 pounds for boot camp.”

Preisendorfer, who now weighs 202 pounds, lost the required weight by “cutting out all fast foods and working out at Gold's Gym.”

He was still lacking in strength, however, and couldn't do one pull-up when he reached boot camp (two are required). That put him in the physical conditioning platoon until he was able to do two pull-ups and join a normal boot camp platoon.

Now, he said, he can complete from three to six pull-ups, “depending on the day.”

Preisendorfer, by the way, had his own deck-building business: Done Right On Time Construction. It's not like he didn't have any options, either.

Making a career of it

Jones has his eye on applying to the Naval Academy and becoming an officer. Lang, Preisendorfer and Yeatman have set Officer's Candidate School as a potential goal, while Lawson and Swenson are leaning toward going career, but will assess how they feel at the end of their four-year stint.

Jones is going into aviation ordnance, with becoming a pilot his eventual goal. Lawson is being trained as a tank crewman, while the other four men interviewed are going into the infantry.

“Infantry is the toughest,” Lang said. “At first, I was going to try avionics, be an electrician. But I thought about it and decided infantry would be more my thing.”

Jones, who described his duty as “basically, loading bomb racks onto planes,” said he will go to Virginia Tech under its ROTC program if he doesn't get admitted into the Naval Academy.

“The goal is to be an officer,” he said. “Ordnance is just something that was available at the time and close to what I want to do: fly.”

Lawson will be trained for every position of an M1A1 Abrams tank crew: driver, gunner and loader.

In harm's way

Of course, every Marine is trained as a rifleman. And a rifleman see combat.

Staff Sgt. Nathan Natchke, the U.S. Marine Corps recruiter for this area, doesn't shy away from telling recruits what they can expect in the future.

“I tell them they'll be going to Iraq,” Sgt. Natchke said. “We always talk about how bad things really are in Iraq. When you discuss things a little bit, you show them it's not as bad as they've seen. Yes, there's danger, but there's danger walking through Baltimore City.”

These young men are aware of the risk.

“Yes, we could die,” Lang said. “But, really, you could die anywhere. I'm doing something for a cause. I get butterflies, like I would before a football game. I'm not scared, but anxious to see what happens.”

Lawson said he really doesn't dwell on potential danger.

“Every Marine earns his paycheck,” Lawson said. “When you get [to Iraq], you really feel like you're doing something worthwhile.”

But they're all realistic.

“I'm not sure how I'll react in combat,” Yeatman said. “No one really knows until that first bullet flies by. I'll just do my job.”

Why they serve

In the 1992 movie A Few Good Men, the character played by Demi Moore is asked why she likes the Marines, even the one she is defending on a murder charge.

“Because they stand on a wall,” she replies. “And they say ‘Nothing's going to hurt you tonight. Not on my watch.'”

Whether it's to be a pilot or a grunt, to find a career or just serve a short stint before getting back to civilian life, young people who enlist in the military understand it's something that someone has to do.

“There's duty and responsibility,” Preisendorfer said. “And there's seeing that my godmother, mom, brother and girlfriend can all go to the mall without something happening.”

“A lot of my friends really don't understand,” Yeatman said. “I tell them I'll keep them safe, so they can party in college. I have my freedom and my privileges in life, so I want to serve my country.”

For more photos from this article along with descriptions, and credits please click on any picture.

‘Bastards’ encounter enemy fire during community assistance mission

MUDIQ, Iraq (Aug. 11, 2006) -- A recent mission to hand out soccer balls turned into one of trading gunfire for Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.


Aug. 11, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

The “Betio Bastards” of the battalion’s Jump Platoon came under enemy fire on their way to greet local Iraqis here Aug. 11. It was a mission Marines hoped to build friendships and good will with the local community. Insurgents, however, thought differently and took potshots at Marines.

It was a clear demonstration insurgents have no positive agenda for the Iraqi people. The battalion is serving with Regimental Combat Team 5 in the Habbaniyah area, west of Fallujah.

“I didn’t expect that to happen,” said Cpl. Mario O. Huerta, a 22-year-old from Dallas serving as platoon sergeant for Jump Platoon. “You never know in Iraq.”

Marines just finished disposing of unexploded ordnance when they started receiving direct fire from a nearby cemetery.

“It was one of those ‘oh shoot’ situations,” said Pfc. Robert G. Jewell, a 19-year-old from Ventnor, N.J.

Jewell and other Marines quickly took cover behind their vehicles and readied themselves to return fire.

They didn’t get a chance to shoot back, though. Soldiers from the Iraqi Army were in the area within minutes to hunt down the insurgent attackers.

Coalition Forces were not hurt in the incident.

Marines remounted their vehicles within minutes. The mission resumed. They continued with their goal of interacting with locals, passing out soccer balls and listening to the concerns of the citizens.

“I want to show them that were not bad people,” Jewell said. “We’re good people trying to help the other good people.”

Jewell wasn’t alone. His platoon wanted to accomplish the same goal.

A loud crowd of kids crowded the platoon as soon as they climbed from their vehicles. There was a bustling crowd of eager children, all wanting to talk to Marines. They swarmed around, each taking their chance to talk and collect toys.

“I like the kids,” said Cpl. Bradford W. Price, a 21-year-old turret gunner from Sneads, Fla. “The kids are the ones who will change their country.”

Apparently, the kids liked the Marines also. Children openly asked the platoon’s Marines questions and were curious to learn about American culture.

Some kids were so excited they attracted more kids and adults to the group.

A local elder was one of them. He spoke to the battalion commander through an interpreter about society issues.

The gunfire that punctuated the start of the mission gave way to smiles as Marines wrapped it up, climbing in their humvees to return to their camp.

“I actually feel like we’re helping the community,” Huerta said. “From what I heard, the more we help the people, the more the locals keep the insurgents out. They’d say just go away.”

But the Marines didn’t halt there.

They stopped at a fruit stand with even more people than the last location. They struck conversation with Iraqis there.

“It takes away any preconceived notions about who Marines are,” Price explained. “We’re just guys here to make a change and secure our spot in history.”

Price said they were also there to show Iraqis they can be “no better friend.”

Marines discussed helping locals transform a nearby trash dump into a soccer field for neighborhood kids.

They started by giving the kids there a brand new soccer ball.

Many couldn’t help taking a liking to the children who were kicking around their new toy.

“They’re the same as my nieces and nephews,” Jewell said. “They’re just regular kids.”

“I feel for the kids,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class George K. Grant, a 25-year-old hospital corpsman from Long Island, N.Y.

Grant had an instant liking to the children who flocked to them. He grew up a foster child, experiencing hardships that paralleled those of children in Iraq.

“I took care of other kids growing up, so I know how it is,” Grant said.

He said his Marines are making a difference.

“I think were changing the Iraqis views,” Grant said. “When we meet them I think they think we’re not so bad after all.”

Jewell said that makes the hazard all worth while.

“Every time we go out we have to deal with dangerous situations,” Jewell said. “But there’s a purpose behind what we do, so I’m willing to do it.”

“They’ll see that were not after our own agenda,” Grant added. “They’ll see that we’re people putting ourselves at risk just for them.”

Future naval officers launch Marine Corps EFV from USS Cleveland

More than 30 midshipmen, who embarked aboard USS Cleveland (LPD 7) last month helped launch the Marine Corps' newest weapon system, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.


by MC3 Nathaniel Bates
Northwest Region Fleet Public Affairs Center
August 11, 2006

The vehicle is designed to allow troops greater mobility on land and higher speeds on the water, bringing the Marines to a new level of combat readiness.

"It was pretty neat," said Midn. 1/C Christopher Over. "Being able to come aboard and see the Navy today was a real positive experience."

The EFV will phase-out the older Amphibious Assault Vehicles and become the latest generation of combat vehicle for transporting troops from ship to shore. Currently there are two separate designs being built; the EFV Personnel (EFVP1) and the EFV Command (EFVC1).

The EFVP1 is designed to house a crew of 21 Marines, and haul more than 5,000 pounds of cargo. It is equipped with a 30mm cannon, 7.62 coax machine-gun, and enough armor to bounce a rocket propelled grenade off its side from point blank range.

The EFVC1 is a command design with specifications to house a commander and give him an overall battlefield perspective. With a more advanced communication system than has ever been carried into the battlefield before, the EFVC1 can have real time contact with every vehicle in its area of operation.

"Seeing the Navy and Marine Corps team working together lets me know I can depend on them to get the job done," said Midn. 1/C Joseph Manaloto about the teamwork necessary to accomplish a mission.

Cleveland is an amphibious landing dock ship homeported in San Diego. She is currently on a regularly scheduled training operation with the 1st Division 3rd Battalion Marine Corps.


WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - The unemployment rate of the youngest veterans returning from war zones is double that of their civilian counterparts, something that puzzles and alarms federal and local officials.


Associated Press

The latest numbers from the Department of Labor show that, for the soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the employment picture appears bleak.


The jobless rate for veterans who have gotten out of the service in the past four years -- now 6.9 percent -- is 50 percent higher than the national average. And of those who are 20- to 24-years old, 15.6 percent are jobless, a rate 79 percent higher than nonveterans the same age.

Nobody knows why young vets are struggling. The U.S. departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs are working on a survey of young veterans "to gain a better understanding of the reasons for this higher rate," said Charles Ciccolella, assistant secretary of labor for Veterans Employment and Training.

Some officials hypothesize that vets may be returning to school, while others say they may not be looking very hard for work, wanting time to recuperate from their combat experiences. Some wonder if young soldiers are overestimating their job skills in seeking employment they are not qualified for.

Some of those looking for work, though, think it's more than that.

Jose Mirabal, at 35, is older than the average veteran who is looking for work. But he says coming home in 2005 after being deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves to Iraq in 2004 was a difficult transition and one that he feels affected his job search.

He says depression and a facial fracture caused by an altercation with a prisoner derailed him. And he believes the skills he had learned in law enforcement and at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, such as interviewing people and writing reports, have been ignored by potential employers. He said a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder has kept him from law enforcement jobs.

The best he's been able to do is a sales support position for a uniform company.

"A lot of people discriminate against veterans," said Mirabal, whose resume includes 13 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and as a police officer job with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "The first thing people think is 'You're crazy. You're a killing machine.'"

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., sponsored legislation setting up a $3 million program to identify at least 10 occupational specialties within the military and match them up with the licensing requirements for similar professions in the civilian world.

The idea is to make sure service members are getting out prepared to use their military skills in the civilian workforce. For instance, a soldier who drives a supply truck would be qualified to get a professional truck driver's license.

The Labor Department program will likely look at other occupations that require civilian licenses, like computer specialists and nurses.

Today, ex-soldiers must start at the beginning of civilian credentialing processes even if they have been doing similar work in the military -- sometimes for years.

"For far too long, many employers have overlooked one of the most skilled segments of the workforce," said Brown-Waite, who is on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The Department of Labor recently announced $25 million in grants for the agency's Veterans Workforce Investment Program, which helps veterans transition into the workforce. The agency also runs programs to help vets learn everything from how to dress in an interview, write a resume and translate their military skills to a civilian job.

Officials at those programs didn't have answers for the high unemployment rate but said they don't think employers are discriminating.

"My gut tells me if they want to work, there's work out there for them," said Barry Stanley, administrator of the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center in Orlando, Fla.

Mirabal, meanwhile, now gives his phone number out to other vets, hoping to lend peer-to-peer support as they return and face some of the same issues.

And after serving 13 years in the Army Reserves, including active duty, Mirabal thinks he has a solution to his employment woes.

"Given I can't find a job that suits my skills, I'm considering going back on active duty," he said. "I have a lot of great experience. That's one thing I would never regret."

Osprey gets ready for combat

Despite its long and troubled history, the V-22 could be sent to Iraq in fall 2007

JACKSONVILLE - The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor could be ready for combat in a matter of months.
The job of making the Osprey ordinary -- as ordinary as an aircraft can be that trails a notorious past and can rotate its engines to fly like a helicopter or an airplane -- has fallen to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, the first "operational" Osprey unit.


Jay Price, Staff Writer

The Thunder Chickens -- a resurrected Vietnam-era nickname for the squadron -- got its ninth Osprey this week, enough to deploy. At Marine Corps Air Station New River, the unit is smoothly working through the required series of training milestones, said Maj. Wes Spaid, a pilot.

The loose plan has been to send the squadron to Iraq next fall, though some defense officials have said that, if ready, it could be sent to Afghanistan or Iraq sooner.

When the squadron will be ready depends on the mission it is assigned, Spaid said Thursday. For the most basic mission -- transporting troops and supplies -- the unit could theoretically be ready by early winter. For the full range of tasks, including raids, it could be ready by spring, he said.

The Marines may have cause to send the Thunder Chickens to war sooner: They're running short of helicopters as the crashes, shoot-downs and normal wear of five years of war deplete the supply of helicopters. The Ospreys are supposed to replace them.

With the Thunder Chickens preparing for flying duty, the Osprey is close to a turning point in its long history that some had thought it might never reach: shifting from development to standard operations.

It has been a two-decade slog, lengthened in part by two fatal crashes in 2000 that led the Pentagon to ground the V-22 until 2002. Twenty-three Marines were killed in those crashes. Four civilians and three Marines died in 1992 when a test version crashed into the Potomac River.

At times, the program has come close to being canceled. Now, though, the Pentagon and the builders of the aircraft, Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing, are reportedly close to a multi-year deal for 183 Ospreys.

Critics still say the craft is not only too expensive at $70 million each but dangerous and too ungainly for tight combat maneuvers.

Many Thunder Chicken pilots have flown helicopters in Iraq, though, and they say the Osprey will do fine there.

Capt. Drew Norris said there is no question which aircraft he would rather fly. For a mission like a raid, the Osprey is better, he said. It is quieter and faster, so targets will have less warning as it swoops in going more than 100 mph faster than a chopper.

"By the time anyone figures out we're in the area, they won't have time to call their buddies on the phone," he said. "We'll already be there."

Because of its speed, Norris said, the Osprey is especially suited to evacuating casualties from the combat zone for quick treatment.

In Iraq, he said, the V-22 would typically fly in airplane mode and higher than helicopters to avoid threats. Its range and speed would dramatically cut the times for long missions, so it could move more troops and equipment by flying more often.

When the squadron went to Iraq in 2004, it took a month aboard ship. Ospreys can fly to Iraq in two days, Norris said.

The squadron may not reach its full complement of 12 Ospreys until after it deploys. One reason is that the Marines will start handing over aircraft to a second operational squadron, which is expected to "stand up" at New River this month. Six months later, a third squadron will be started. The plan then is to pause for a year, then start three more squadrons also at New River, though there is talk of putting them on the West Coast.

A storied squadron

The squadron dates to 1952, one of the world's first to fly helicopters. It was once called the Thunder Eagles. Unit lore has it that the chicken name came after a struggle to translate "eagle" into Vietnamese. After it was transformed into an Osprey unit, the Marines embraced the nickname again.

The current Thunder Chickens mixes Marines with heavy Osprey experience, who transferred from the testing and training units, and those from the old helicopter version of the 263. They volunteered to stay on and bring combat experience from a deployment to dangerous western Iraq in 2004 and 2005.

All 155 members of the squadron are volunteers, something that can be said of only a handful of military units.

"For me ... there is pride in flying a new aircraft, and we're going to to take the Marine Corps to the next level," said Capt. Chris Kotlinski, a former helicopter pilot. "But I'm an assault pilot, and my job is to provide support to the Marines on the ground. That's still the same."

Sgt. Dan Herrman, a crew chief, said his role won't change much from his time in Iraq in helicopters.

Still, he said, surprises are probably inevitable, given the harsh conditions in Iraq and the newness of the Osprey.

"I think our biggest challenge is the unknown," Norris said. "No one has ever deployed with this aircraft before, and every [aircraft] is different. When you're doing something for the first time, there are bound to be growing pains."

Staff writer Jay Price can be reached at 829-4526 or [email protected]

Prosthetic eye, Purple Heart for young wounded Marine

Marine is first in military to try experiment to preserve vision

The path from Iraq to Gilbert for Marine Corps veteran Brent Phillips was long, painstaking and earned him a Purple Heart.


Cary Aspinwall
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Phillips was one of several Purple Heart medal recipients honored this week at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix.

Phillips, 24, was seriously wounded in Iraq in June 2003 when his unit was ambushed with rocket-propelled grenades while delivering diesel fuel. The troops commandeered a van and drove themselves to a hospital despite their wounds.

Phillips' body was blasted with shrapnel, and he nearly lost the use of his right eye. His sight has been restored through an experimental prosthetic eye that doctors implanted after other options were failing, he said.

Phillips is the first one in the military to have the experimental eye surgery.

"I was like, 'Why not?' " he said. "Most of the time, I don't notice it. At least I'm not setting off metal detectors anymore."

In the first few months of his recovery, the shrapnel in his body would set off airport metal detectors. In his good eye, he still has about 10 pieces of glass.

He said his recovery has involved months of hospitals, surgeries and prescriptions.

The VA Medical Center celebrated Phillips and several Valley Purple Heart recipients Monday, the anniversary of the day in 1782 when George Washington wrote the orders for the award.

Swapping war stories and experiences with some of the older vets at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix has been fun, Phillips said. He said he often is the youngest at Marine veterans meetings.

For Phillips, the best thing about being back in the United States is being able to share his experience with others, he said.

He wants people at home to know about all the good that soldiers in Iraq have accomplished, he said.

"Yeah, there's days that are tougher than others," he said. "But I didn't go there to find weapons of mass destruction. I went there to take a tyrant out of office, and we accomplished that."

Since retiring from the Marines, he has settled in Gilbert with his wife and 7-month-old son.

He said he is working in construction but hopes to become a Gilbert police officer.

Wounded warriors get new home

CAMP PENDLETON ---- It was a sniper's bullet. Caught Cpl. Jackson Luna in the back, right underneath his body armor. The round ripped up his gut before exiting through his stomach.


By: TERI FIGUEROA - Staff Writer

Sgt. Timothy Kerrigan was there that day in Iraq, June 10, near the village of Habbaniyah.

Kerrigan went to help the 23-year-old Luna. And the way the two men figure, it was the same sniper who then fired off the round that nearly destroyed Kerrigan's right forearm.

Wounded together, the two Marines spent part of their convalescence together, first at a hospital in Germany, then in Bethesda, Md.

The two Marines have been reunited to continue their healing. This time, they are at Camp Pendleton. But this time, Luna is there as the first resident of the newly opened Wounded Warrior Center for Marines recovering from battle wounds. He moved in Wednesday.

The right-handed Kerrigan, who still wears bandages on his badly wounded right arm, is one of the center's first employees.

About a quarter-mile from the base hospital, Camp Pendleton's Wounded Warrior Center is a place for up to 26 Marines, men or women, from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to live while they recover from injuries that pulled them off the battlefield.

Until now, single Marines or those with spouses elsewhere stayed in the base barracks while they recuperated, living among Marines in their own units.

The center's grand opening came with a ribbon-cutting Thursday. At the ceremony, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the outgoing commander of Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force, said the center "says we care, we give a damn about you and your family."

Once serving as the live-in site for drug rehab ---- now in Point Loma ---- the Wounded Warrior Center is more than just a barracks. It is a place for the injured to share in their healing.

The place is quite a change from the barracks, too. Take the rec room, which comes complete with a large-screen high-definition TV, and two sofas with individual arm rests and cup holders. The next room over features a computer lab and game room, and down the hall is a kitchen of sorts, with a refrigerator, two new microwaves and two new toaster ovens.

And unlike the barracks, each room is large and comes with not only a TV and a DVD player, but also queen-size beds for each of the wounded Marines.

Of the 15 bedrooms, two are single rooms equipped for residents in wheelchairs.

The center's second resident ---- only two Marines live there thus far; more will move in next week ---- is Lance Cpl. Joshua Rynders, who lost 20 percent of each thigh when a mortar exploded just 10 feet behind him in the Iraqi town of Karma, he said.

He lost four pints of blood as he lay on the battlefield, and he credits a gunnery sergeant with saving his life, despite that man's own injuries.

When Rynders first returned to Camp Pendleton ---- after three days in a hospital in Germany and three weeks in the Bethesda hospital ---- the infantryman moved into the barracks in Camp Horno, on the northern end of Camp Pendleton. The building was within earshot of war-training exercises.

"All the explosions and helicopters taking off? It's just a constant reminder that the war is still going on," Rynders said.

A 20-year-old who is now using a cane, Rynders said he heard about the center and "decided to give it a chance."

"It's unbelievable how amazing this place is," he said Thursday as he sat at the foot of his bed. "It's like living in a hotel suite. I was just hoping for a small little room with a bed. I was like, 'Wow!' I'm still in awe."

With Rynders, a two-time Iraq war vet from McHenry, Ill., was Cheryl Lawhorne, a therapist from the Military Severely Injured Center at Camp Pendleton.

"This will allow him to heal in a healthy environment," Lawhorne said of the center, adding that Rynders had also suffered a serious concussion from the mortar blast.

Calling the newly opened center "a fraternity for the injured," the therapist said the opportunity for the Marines to live with others who have suffered battle wounds will help them mentally and emotionally.

"It does make a difference," Lawhorne said. "(The wounded Marines) don't understand the scope of their injuries. They are just glad to be back."

Even the men tapped to staff the center will be a part of that brotherhood. They understand the guilt many of the injured say they feel after a wound forces them out of the battle action.

The wounded Sgt. Kerrigan will work in the center ---- although he's not totally sure what his job there will entail, since Thursday's grand opening marked his first day. He will live not in the center, but with his wife and their two young boys elsewhere on the base.

The Marine Corps spent about $100,000 to alter the center to accommodate the wounded who will now live there, said Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commanding general of the Marine Corps Installations West, western bases that include Camp Pendleton.

That money, he said, doesn't include all the donated items that fill the joint. Hours of volunteer labor also helped turn the old building around to fit its new purpose.

Col. James Seaton, who addressed a crowd of more than 200 at the dedication ceremony, said the new center is a manifestation of the Marine Corps ethic to leave no man behind.

The center, he said, will help close the gap in support for Marines who are well enough to leave the hospital but still dogged by their injuries.

"They'll help each other heal and turn this into a home," Seaton said.

The center is the second of its kind in the Marine Corps, and is modeled after a similar center at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which opened in November.

"We owe a great deal to these vets," Lehnert said of Pendleton's wounded, some of the nearly 20,000 U.S. troops who have been injured in Iraq.

Lehnert said he looks forward to meeting one goal in particular.

"My fondest hope is that one day, I will walk in and it will be empty," he said.

For description of photo- as well as credits, please click on the picture

August 10, 2006

Marines Embed With Mongolian Troops

FIVE HILLS TRAINING CENTER, Mongolia -- The Five Hills Training Center is about an hours drive through the countryside outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The name, at first glance, almost seems misleading because for as far as the eye can see the site is surrounded by more than five hills.


Story by U.S. Army Sgt. Catherine Talento
Posted August 10, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006

Five Hills is the site of this year's Exercise Khaan Quest. Mongolian troops have been furiously working to prepare the site for more than 1000 troops from the U.S., South Korea, Fiji, Cambodia and other nations that are set to arrive here next week.

Members of the Mongolian 150th Peacekeeping Battalion are working to clear patches of grass for vehicle checkpoints. The 150th is one of Mongolia's most deployed units and many of them have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, they are using picks and hand shovels to clear the ground, but it's not the sight of the Mongolians working that draws the attention, it's the digital camouflage mixed in with all the green tiger stripped uniforms that draws the eye. Two United States Marines are working alongside the Mongolians, clearing rocks, grass and dirt.

GySgts Bruce Montoya and Jean-Yonel Ulceus are embedded with the 150th. For the past three months they have lived with, worked alongside and trained with their Mongolian counterparts.

"It's a very structured life," said Montoya. "We get up, do PT, which is usually a run followed by a series of stretches and then after morning formation we find out what the work detail is, we run to the site. Actually, we pretty much run or march everywhere."

The embed process is a part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, a five year program managed by the U.S. Department of State to address gaps in international peacekeeping operations. The two Devil Dogs are learning and sharing ideas and techniques with Mongolian Non-Commissioned Officers.

Although, in the U.S. military NCOs are mostly responsible for the daily training and day to day operations. In Mongolia an event like this one, is designed and overseen by officers.

"It's been interesting to see their willingness to learn," said Montoya. "Previously the older Soviet mentality was don't ask questions, but learning from us it's interesting to see how they are willing to absorb information...how their minds and imaginations work."

"They are incredibly hard working," added Ulceus. "We are mostly working with NCOs and even here this group is all NCOs. Before, there would have been an officer overseeing all of this, telling everyone what to do, but they are out here and they took control of the assignment."

It hasn't all been easy. While several of the Mongolian troops speak English, neither Marine speaks Mongolian instead they rely on interpreters and facial expressions to get the information across.

"We've become pretty good at reading faces," said Montoya. "We can pick out the different subtle expressions and understand a bit more what they are trying to say."

Another obstacle the Marines have had to overcome is the Mongolian cuisine. "It's very good," said Montoya. "Just very hot, boiling even."

Montoya and Ulceus demonstrate a technique for getting through the meal without burning their mouth. Each takes a spoonful of soup then asks someone nearby a question. This gives the food time enough to cool down before being eaten. The meal is then washed down with a bowl of salty milk tea before the platoon heads to formation and the afternoon's mission.

This afternoon's mission is a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies of Khaan Quest which officially begins Monday, 14 August. While U.S. troops will participate in the exercise the two Marines will still continue their embed, participating in Khaan Quest not as Americans but as Mongolians.

The unit, Montoya explains, could be called upon to provide vehicle checkpoint security or play the role of terrorists trying to infiltrate the compound. Whatever the mission the two Americans will work shoulder to shoulder with their Mongolian allies.

Montoya and Ulceus will stay with the 150th for nearly five months before heading back to their units. Both say they will leave Mongolia with a greater appreciation for the training and responsibilities of the Marine Staff Noncommissioned Officer. Their the hope that the seeds of change they helped inspire will take hold not only in the 150th but throughout the Mongolian Armed Forces.

Marine Corps Marathon set for Iraq in October

The Marine Corps Marathon is coming to Iraq this October with parallel races scheduled for Arlington, Va., and Anbar province, Iraq, organizers said.

To continue reading:


Instant information from Iraq changes the way military trains

Soldiers run toward a "just-bombed" vehicle during a drill for troops at the Champion Main field at Fort Dix.In Haditha, an edgy town in western Iraq, a roadside bomb struck a humvee carrying Marines from Kilo Company, one of countless attacks that almost seem routine during the war.


Inquirer Staff Writer
TOM GRALISH / Inquirer
Thu, Aug. 10, 2006

A Marine communique the next day said the Nov. 19 blast had killed a 20-year-old lance corporal and 15 Iraqi civilians. Eight insurgents died in the aftermath, it said.

The incident, thousands of miles away, reverberated through the Pentagon, now investigating the possible wrongful deaths of civilians in Haditha. And it was also felt at Fort Dix and other military posts, which quickly adjusted the training for soldiers.

Changing as rapidly as the headlines, military training now uses Internet images from the war zone, high-tech communications, and DVD footage of battlegrounds.

The speedy adjustments have made the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unlike any others fought by the military.

"We want to get inside the cycle," said Army Reserve Maj. Christopher Hingley, a Northeast Philadelphia resident who trains troops for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Everything is happening quicker in real time. Now we can e-mail a video clip of what's happening. It shows us: 'Don't teach soldiers this. Teach them that.' It's faster than the news."

Haditha, for instance, "immediately had an effect on the theater [of operations] and the highest command," Hingley said. "Within 72 hours, enforced mandatory training was sent to every unit."

Information on the enemy's latest tactics is often sent to American bases in Kuwait, then transferred by Internet to U.S. bases where troops learn to stay alive and avoid killing noncombatants. An online Center for Army Lessons Learned also provides information for deploying soldiers.

The Internet has had "a huge impact" on training, said Hingley, of the 78th Division, Second Battalion, 309th Regiment. "We learn what works and what doesn't work. We don't make assumptions. We know this is not Hollywood, gung-ho, kick-the-door-down stuff."

The major, who said he kept the military's rules of engagement in his helmet, pulled off a Velcro Army emblem from his uniform.

"You have to remember you represent the U.S. Army," he said. "You feel sick in your stomach as human beings" if an action has gone wrong.

In a steamy, sun-washed field at Fort Dix called Champion Main, Hingley watched scores of gear-laden troops last week learn how to survive their deployment.

The trainees crawled over the makeshift battlefield while mock explosions went off around them and smoke obscured the view of a machine-gun chattering away at them with blanks from a hillside. They were trying to avoid mock improvised explosive devices and mines, and provide cover for one another while scaling obstacles, said Army Maj. Scott Fitzgerald, 36, of Vermont.

"The enemy is very adaptive and smart, so we are constantly updating," said Army Sgt. First Class Kenneth Washington, 45, an Iraq veteran and trainer who lives in Philadelphia's West Oak Lane section.

The military has sometimes learned the hard way. In June 2004, four members of a New Jersey National Guard unit were killed on the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. Two died when an insurgent's rocket-propelled grenade hit their humvee. Two more were lost the next day when a roadside bomb blew up their vehicle.

All incidents are studied, and countermeasures are quickly devised and introduced into the training. Not every situation calls for the same response. Some convoys may continue barreling through a town to get out of crossfire, while others may choose a different strategy.

"If I can share my experience, it's a privilege, and I will gladly do it for my country," said Staff Sgt. Dwyanne Wood, 40, a trainer who lives in New York City. In Iraq, "I was involved in a few convoys that encountered fire, and I've given them my experience. There are different signs of when that might happen and how you should react.

"Once you know an area, you know when anything is strange or out of place. Your spider sense should tingle."

First Lt. Pedro Torres, one of those overseeing the exercise at Fort Dix, was offered the training job when he got back from Iraq and immediately accepted, he said.

"We got hit in a lot of different ways," said Torres, a member of the National Guard in Puerto Rico who served with a military police unit. "We know their M.O. We change scenarios [during the training] so they know what they might face, and we have after-action reviews and let them ask questions. We tell them how to make their own decisions."

Spec. E-4 Guillermo Echevarrid, 28, a trainer who lives in Puerto Rico, noted that "things are changing out there constantly, and we have to keep up with it. This is my family, and we have to rely on each other to survive. You stay alert, and you stay alive."

Echevarrid served with Torres and Spec. E-4 Ricardo Ayala, 22, another trainer from Puerto Rico. "It's a buddy thing. We went to Iraq together, and we're doing this training together."

In another part of the sprawling Fort Dix reservation, other troops were preparing for an exercise in a mock Iraqi village nicknamed Bilad. Role players, including native Arabic-speaking Iraqis with AK-47s, added a sense of realism.

The trainees began their exercise in the so-called glass houses - differently-shaped, waist-high stalls - where they learned to check for the enemy. The height of the walls allowed trainers to observe four-man teams clear the rooms.

Nearby were signs printed with Arabic words and phrases: "Surrender" (Isteslim), "Are there weapons in here?" (Feeh selah?), "Get back" (Irjah), and "Drop your weapons" (Dheb sla-hak).

"These are infantry tactics," said Lt. Michael Williams Jr., 34, an Iraq-bound Center City resident. "I feel more prepared and feel we will be successful."

In a few minutes, the troops would face a new challenge. They would enter Bilad in search of a bomb-maker - a "high-value target," said Sgt. First Class Jose Cintron, 45, a Pennsauken resident overseeing the exercise. The chief political figure of the town would tell them where he was, but they were to be hit by enemy gunfire.

The troops "have knowledge when they come here," Cintron said, "but they're rusty, and we knock off the rust."

Walking through the village, Hingley said the soldiers must be "focused on what they're doing and respond in a positive way. We take all of this very seriously."

For description and credits on photo, please click on picture.

Corps exceeds recruit shipping goals in July

By John Hoellwarth
Staff writer
August 10, 2006

The Marine Corps surpassed its shipping goal for both active-duty and Reserve recruits during July, sending a total of 358 more recruits to boot camp than it was aiming for, according to an Aug. 10 Defense Department release.

To continue reading:


Recruits processing into military defy misconceptions, myths

Fort Meade, Md. - A step through the doors of the Military Entrance Processing Station here blows away the myths that the military is struggling to get enough recruits, dropping its standards to get those it does, or glossing over the fact that it's recruiting into a wartime force.


by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
August 10, 2006

July 31 was the last day of a month in which all the services had already met their quotas for recruits. It was a relatively slow day at the station -- one of 65 dotting the country. Yet the station buzzed with activity as 102 men and women processed through en route to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

"It's pretty quiet today, but we're always busy," Station Commander Army Lt. Col. Robert Larsen said. "People come in and are always shocked to see how many people are processing into the military. And what amazes them most is the fact that we do this every single day."

The military has gone through a 13-month stretch during which every service consistently met its active-duty recruiting goals. There's never a down day at the station, especially during the busy summer season.

Over the course of fiscal 2006, the Baltimore station will send almost 8,000 new members to their entry-level military training.

The station sends soldiers, the largest group processed, to basic training at forts Leonard Wood, Mo.; Benning, Ga.; Jackson, S.C.; Knox, Ky.; or Sill, Okla. Sailors, the second-largest group, all go to boot camp at Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. Marines recruits from the station go to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Airmen will go to the Basic Military Training course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Coast Guardsmen, the smallest group to process through the MEPS station, go to Training Center Cape May, N.J.

But before they can start their training, all recruits process through a MEPS station. The Baltimore station, one of the three busiest in the country, serves as the link between the military and recruits from Maryland, the District of Columbia and parts of Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. Recruits enter as civilians and leave as new members of the armed forces who have signed their military contracts and taken the oath of enlistment.

Recruits arrive at the station before 5:30 a.m. to begin a flurry of tests -- a medical exam, drug test and HIV test, among them -- to ensure they're fit for duty. Another test, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, ensures they meet the military's aptitude standards.

Military-wide, more than 60 percent of all recruits come from the top half of the aptitude categories, and more than 90 percent are high school graduates, David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said during a Pentagon news conference in July.

"Typically, we see an above-average high school graduate" processing through the Baltimore MEPS, Larsen said.

Army Master Sgt. Mark Schoeppner, an Army liaison with the station, bristles at talk that military standards have dipped. "There's a perception that we will allow anybody in, and that's absolutely wrong," he said.

Schoeppner pointed to big improvements he's seen in the force during his 19 and a half years in the military. "It's way better than when I came in, and I feel very comfortable sleeping at night, knowing that we have not lowered the standards," he said.

The quality of new recruits "gets better and better every day," agreed Marine Gunnery Sgt. Derrick Benton, a Marine Corps liaison who meets one-on-one with Marine recruits as they process through the station.

A high score on the ASVAB equates to the broadest choice of jobs opened to recruits. "I can pick any job I want," 19-year-old Corey Robinson, from Boonesboro, Md., said of his score as he processed for a four-year stint in the Army. But Robinson didn't have to consider his options; he already had his heart set on infantry, then becoming an airborne Ranger.

"There's no question that that's what I want to do," he said. "I want something exciting and fast-paced, definitely not a desk job."

Career counselors at the MEPS station sit with recruits to review their options and help steer them to the military job that most closely matches their interests and aptitude. "We want to ensure that when we put you in a particular field, that we are setting you up for success," Army Sgt. 1st Class Todd Dreeszen, an Army Reserve liaison, said.

"The overall concept for us is retainability," he said, emphasizing that a good initial "fit" is a good indicator of how long a service member will stay in the military. "We're not looking at a single enlistment," Dreeszen said. "We're looking for 20 years."

Finally, after all their testing is completed and their job specialty selected, recruits sit with a career counselor and review their contract line by line. "We review the contract with them so they understand it fully and to ensure there are no surprises," Larsen said.

Part of that review includes a frank discussion about the possibility -- even probability -- of being sent into a combat zone. "Especially if they're going into the ground forces, they need to understand that for all practicability, a year from now, they could be in the desert," Larsen said.

"We make it clear to them that everyone -- from the flute player to the infantry soldier -- has a chance to go to Iraq," Schoeppner said. "There are no false pretenses."

"We remind them that this is not the Salvation Army," Dreeszen agreed.

"We reiterate what's already been said to them and remind them that their primary mission is to wage war. There's a reason that even if you're a mechanic, you carry an assault rifle."

"They are fully aware that they could end up in Iraq," Benton said.

"They know exactly what they are getting to, but they really want to serve their country."

Asked their views about going off to war, recruits processing through the Baltimore MEPS expressed a range of reactions, from nonchalance to anticipation.

"It's not a factor," said 22-year-old Salvador Goines, who was processing for a four-year-stint in the Army under the Delayed Entry Program and expects to go to basic training in January. After growing up in "a rough neighborhood" in Wilmington, Del., Goines said he there's not much he might encounter that he hasn't seen before.

"It doesn't bother me," Robinson said of going into combat. "I know I'll be with people who are well-trained and that I will be fine."

"I'm not scared," said Jeremy Gardner, 20, who was processing to go into the Navy. "People die here on the streets. There are no guarantees."

Seventeen-year-old Bethany Wade, a high school senior joining the Marine Corps through the Delayed Entry Program, said she has no trepidation about going to war after she graduates from high school in January, five months ahead of her classmates.

"If they told me today that I had to go, it wouldn't bother me," she said. "I feel that everybody should be willing to go and fight for their country. We lost so many people on 9/11 that I think if you live here you should be willing to support your country."

At the end of their day at the MEPS station, Larsen reminds recruits of the seriousness of the decision they're about to make as they take the oath of enlistment and begin military careers. "If there is any perception that they're apprehensive about what they are getting into, we won't swear them in," he said.

He recalls one time when he refused to enlist a recruit, despite the fact that she was scheduled to ship that day to basic training. Instead, Larsen sent her home to think about her decision. She returned the next day, convincing him that she was sure she wanted to join the military.

On July 31, as 28 new Marine Corps and Navy recruits assembled to take their oath of enlistment, Larsen reiterated his reminder. "This is a monumental day in your life, and I want you to make sure it's what you really want," he told them.

Larsen offered one more tidbit of advice -- about teamwork -- to the recruits as they lined up in formation in front of a line of flags. "Not one of us can get through basic training as a lone wolf," he told them.

"You won't make it by yourself. You have to take care of each other -- that person to your left and right -- and they will take care of you."

Then, Larsen told each recruit to raise his or her right hand and began the oath of enlistment. "I, your name, do solemnly swear...."

No matter how prepared they were for the moment, the new service members said they recognize the importance of the step they're taking. They marched out of the room silently, breaking the tension with giddiness only after taking seats in the adjoining room to sign their military contracts.

"This is a change of life, a change of direction," Samuel Blevins said after taking the oath of enlistment and just before heading to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to catch a flight to Navy boot camp.

"This is a big step for me today. It's a part of growing up," Blevins said. "You feel the chills."

August 9, 2006

Darkhorse Marines find, capture Jill Carroll's kidnappers

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq - Jill Carroll’s kidnappers are now locked up.


Aug. 9, 2006; Submitted on: 08/09/2006 01:22:45 PM ; Story ID#: 200689132245
By Cpl. Mark Sixbey, 1st Marine Division

Marines captured four members of an insurgent kidnapping cell responsible for the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor.

Marines of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment captured and detained three members May 19, in a small village west of Fallujah. A fourth member of the same kidnapping cell was detained later by Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

Both battalions operated as part of Regimental Combat Team 5.

Carroll was held hostage by insurgent captors for 82 days between January and March 2006.

“We went out west of Fallujah and went off key indicators and identified some specific things that led us to believe this was the place,” Cusack explained. “Based on what we’d seen, we knew we had a small window of time to get this guy.”

The next morning, Cusack rode with L Company’s personnel security detachment to return to search the house.

They met enemy resistance on the way to the house. Two improvised explosive devices detonated near the convoy.

“The lead vehicle got hit twice,” said Cpl. Estafanos Getahun, a scout-sniper with L Company PSD. “Getting there was more interesting than getting to the hit. It was beginning to look like a hard hit.”

Sgt. Jeff Bell, a platoon sergeant assigned to Headquarters Platoon, L Company, said he didn’t know the mission would make headlines when they made it to the house.

“Once I set foot in the front door, I was told what was actually going on in the house,” said the 27-year-old from Littleton, Colo.

Marines didn’t go in guns blazing. They talked the owner into allowing them into the house. It became clear; they were on target.

Marines gathered the family into one room while Marines searched the remaining rooms for evidence of Carroll’s detention. Every corner, every drawer, every shelf was searched.

“We methodically went room-to-room and searched the cupboards, pulled everything out,” Bell said. “If it was there, it got searched.”

Inside, they found a number of items that confirmed the identities of the insurgents, including incriminating documents and $3,600 in American paper currency.

Marines had what they needed to take the three into custody. Still, they lingered. The three weren’t exhibiting any outward signs of nervousness, and Marines took a few minutes while several from their team were fixing the IED-damaged humvee.

“We were still fixing a flat tire from the IED,” Cusack said. “As soon as it was fixed we put everything together.”

“While the Marines were fixing it, people thought it was a normal thing they were doing,” said Getahun, 27, from Las Vegas. “It gave them some peace, because they thought it was a different thing. Then they arrested them.”

“As we were leaving, we said, ‘You’re coming with us,’” Cusack said.

Marines didn’t realize until a couple weeks later the significance of their seizure of the kidnappers. They took in those responsible for targeting an American for kidnapping and also found out that they were key members of a cell responsible for local attacks against Marines.

“A couple weeks later on we heard they were connected to some cells that were setting IEDs and firing rockets in the area,” Getahun said. “It did help us secure the route to Habbaniyah.”

“It’s a pretty good feeling knowing you got the guys who did such a horrible thing,” Bell said. “Hopefully it keeps that particular cell from repeating the kidnappings. Hopefully we can kind of quell that with this huge cell getting taken down and the other guys take note of that, knowing there’s nowhere to hide.”

Cusack said although the Darkhorse battalion arrested numerous insurgents during their seven months in Iraq, this raid held special meaning.

“We detained lots of bad guys over here, lots of kidnappers,” he said. “But this one connects with an American, someone people back home knew about. That makes it satisfying to have that direct connection to something people can relate to.”

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment have since redeployed to the United States, finishing a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

For more photos, as well as all descriptions and credits please click on any picture.

5th Anglico Marines tackle IED course, test new humvees

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan (Aug. 11, 2006) -- Cpl. Nathan Miller scans the area around him as he begins a long, routine patrol down the dry-gravel trail in the midst of thick forest. The weight of Miller's equipment is taking its toll on his body, but he stays vigilant and steadfast, looking for signs of an improvised explosive device.


Aug. 11, 2006; Submitted on: 08/10/2006 07:57:56 PM
Story ID#: 2006810195756
By Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay, MCB Camp Butler

Spotting a suspicious pipe along the path, he quickly alerts his fellow Marines. As they take cover, the enemy detonates the IED.

Miller's quick identification and split-second decision making would have probably saved lives in a real scenario, but this IED drill is just that.

Marines from 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company learned how to recognize and counter IEDs during training in the Central Training Area Aug. 2.

The Marines also familiarized themselves with Humvees equipped with Marine Armor Kits, also known as MAK, during the training. MAK is armor designed to protect service members from the effects of IEDs and other ballistic battlefield dangers.

The course began with a display of the armored Humvees. The Marines rehearsed loading and unloading the vehicles carrying a full combat load.

After working with the vehicles, the Marines geared up to take on the IED course. The Marines were trained on possible dangers they could face while on patrol and how to handle them.

"This was our first time going through an exercise where we actually had threats along our path," said Lance Cpl. Jacob Hickenbottom, a fire support man with the unit. "It helps set us in a vigilant mindset to be aware of our surroundings."

Around the first bend in the IED course, a simulated IED was detonated, and the Marines took action, quickly setting up a 360-degree security perimeter and radioing a report to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Small, an EOD technician with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, evaluated the Marines and debriefed them during the training.

"Everyone performed greatly," Small said. "You saw the possible danger ahead and did exactly what you needed to do."

The Marines continued through the course and faced three more intense situations, surviving each.

"Our mechanics of patrolling have definitely improved: the pace, the space between each other and keeping an eye on everything around us," said Cpl. Nate Garens, a fire control team chief.

"This exercise was a real eye opener to IEDs," said Gunnery Sgt. Richard Castro, a platoon sergeant. "It really helped to show us that (IEDs) can be defeated if we apply the skills we learned."

For more photos please click on any picture- also to see descriptions and credits

Marine mechanics fix trucks while making life easier for operators

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 9, 2006) -- Working in a series of massive tents erected on an open corner of this desert camp surrounded by baby powder fine sand, a group of Marines responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of vehicles have been playing a crucial role in making sure logistics operations continue uninterrupted.


Aug. 9, 2006; Submitted on: 08/09/2006 08:43:59 AM
Story ID#: 20068984359
By Cpl. Stephen Holt, 1st Marine Logistics Group

The Marines of Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, have the task of ensuring the battalion’s battle ridden vehicles remain in top running condition and are able to support the Marine infantry units scattered throughout the Fallujah area.

The battalion provides direct support to Regimental Combat Team 5 and conducts a variety of operations that helps keep their grunt brothers in this volatile section of Iraq. Daily combat logistics patrols – as the Marines call their convoys – take place around the clock with missions like resupply convoys, road repair and engineer work to build and fortify combat outposts for U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Without the stock of well running vehicles made possible from Maintenance Company, Marines would have to go without this support for extended periods of time.

“If it wasn’t for mechanics, a lot of these trucks that go on the road wouldn’t be (operating),” said Gunnery Sgt. Ruben Sanchez, the company’s maintenance chief, and 35-year-old native of Aurora, Ill.

To date, the company has replaced more than 20 humvee engines, performed countless hours of everyday maintenance required to keep vehicles moving in such a harsh environment, and are even tasked with installing vehicle armor and protective gun turrets.

“A lot of people think that all (we) have to do is change the oil, change the filters and put air in the tires,” he continued, but most of the work takes place behind the scenes and away from the public eye.

An example of those behind the scenes efforts is evident in the company’s metal working department where welders and machinists work long shifts that keep their shop open 24 hours a day.

Most people think that welding is only operating a blow torch, said Lance Cpl. Jeffery D. Autin, a metal worker with the maintenance company and a 23-year-old native of LaPlace, La.

What people don’t see is all the measuring, cutting and metal grinding that must be done before welding take place, explained Autin, who plans to open his own welding shop once his Marine Corps service is complete.

The Marines of Maintenance Co. are doing more than just simply making sure the equipment operates efficiently. They are also taking the initiative to improve the life of vehicle operators traveling the dangerous roads of Iraq.

Sanchez and his fellow maintenance Marines recently developed a new stand for turret gunners who brave roadside bombs and enemy ambushes while sticking out the top of the cab of the Marine Corps’ hefty seven-ton transport trucks.

Due to the cramped space of a seven-ton’s interior cab, truck drivers repeatedly hit their elbows while turning the steering wheel on the machine gun platform where the gunner stands. With the help of Marines like Autin, Sanchez developed a small, more convenient mount they call the A. S. Stand, using Autin and Sanchez’ initials.

The improved machine gunner’s stand, still in the developmental stages, aims to make the truck driver and machine gunner jobs' easier. Its design also enables turret gunners to exit the vehicle faster in the event of an emergency, making the stand safer for Marines.

The project reflects the caliber of Marines performing critical maintenance on the vehicles, said Warrant Officer Julio O. D’Trinidad, the officer-in-charge of maintenance.

It shows a great deal of initiative and desire by the Marines to improve existing products in use throughout the Marine Corps, he added.

Nearing an end to a seven month deployment doesn’t mean an end to the maintenance mission. With ongoing security operations pushing the battalion’s vehicles to the brink in such an austere environment, keeping them well maintained and ready for the next mission will continue to be a responsibility until the day Maintenance Co. leaves.

The Marines in the unit continue to impress their company commander, Capt. Sean J. Collins, who said his Marines support combat operations in the Al Anbar province by keeping trucks on the road and continuing to improve the equipment used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For more photos please click on any picture (as well as descriptions and credits)

Family Visits Tinley Park Marine Injured In Iraq, Frequent Flyer Donation Program Helps Family Visit

(CBS) CHICAGO A Marine from Tinley Park is hospitalized overseas. The decorated hero was seriously hurt for the second time in Iraq last week.


Aug 9, 2006

CBS 2's Katie McCall reports on how his wife and new baby will soon be with him, thanks to the generosity of strangers.

The Marine Corps says Staff Sgt. Michael Mendoza has proven he's a hero, not once but twice.

"He's probably the bravest person I know," his wife, Kelly Mendoza said. "He believes in what he is doing and he does such a good job at it."

His wife and his 3-month-old-son, Seth, are getting ready to visit Mendoza at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, where for the second time he is recovering from injuries sustained in combat.

Thanks to a program called Operation Hero Miles, their airline tickets will be free.

"I know that he'll be so much better when he sees me and our son so something like that to relieve that financial burden from the families is just priceless," Kelly Mendoza said.

On Thursday, just two weeks into his second tour of duty in Iraq, the Tinley Park native was struck by a grenade. Despite massive internal injuries, he kept fighting and even led a medevac unit to help others in his platoon.

"The courage that he has and the drive that he has to do his job and do his job well it just makes me proud," Kelly said.

His family is now in a familiar place, praying for his full recovery, and proud of what he did.

"You can depend on him you know he's gonna back you up no matter what and that's what it's all about," said his father, Julio Mendoza.

Mendoza already earned the Silver Star -- the military's third highest honor -- and the Purple Heart, after going into heavy fire to rescue his friends and fellow marines two years ago.

And now it's time for someone else to look out for him.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn visited Mendoza at a hospital in Germany and is asking citizens to donate their frequent flyer miles to a charity called Operation Hero Miles so families like his can go visit loved ones in military hospitals around the world.

"This is a ticket it costs a lot of money, $1,800 or so, to go to Langstul Germany," Quinn said.

Kelly Mendoza and little Seth can't wait to see Michael this weekend. And they want to see other families of heroes to have that same luxury.

For photo descriptions and credits please click on picture

BLT 1/5 sharpens security support for MSPF

NAVAL COMPUTER AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS STATION, Guam (Aug. 8, 2006) -- The security element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Special Purpose Force practiced blocking positions techniques near a simulated target site here Aug. 8 as part of Training in an Urban Environment Exercise or “TRUEX.”


Aug. 8, 2006; Submitted on: 08/09/2006 12:42:43 AM ; Story ID#: 20068904243
By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

The MSFP is a composite unit made up of Marines and sailors from the MEU’s Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and the command element’s Deep and Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoons. It is task organized from MEU assets to provide a specialized capable force that can be quickly tailored to accomplish a specific mission.

With a platoon of the BLT tasked as the security element, one of their tasks is to provide additional support and blocking positions on enemy avenues of approach around the target site for the direct action platoon to enter the site, said Gunnery Sgt. Cole Daunhauer, the MSPF’s security element commander.

To ensure the security Marines can proficiently execute their mission, the personnel rehearsed providing blocking positions and additional support for the assault element, while applying their standard operating procedures.

“It is important to practice this because the security element must establish blocking positions and isolate the area to keep the enemy from coming in or leaving the target site once the direct action platoon has exploited the area,” explained Daunhauer.

“The training also helps us to establish SOPs and how to move into positions, provide security and engage the enemy properly. These Marines also need to know how to facilitate the support needed in case something should go wrong or if the assault element needs additional support”

Staff Sgt. Jimmy Misa, the MSPF’s 3rd Platoon sergeant added to Daunhauer’s comments.

“These rehearsals are vital,” said Misa. “There is a lot that can go wrong, so it’s better to make our mistakes here than anywhere else.”

Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group observed their actions to provide helpful feedback on their performance for a more productive exercise.

In the upcoming weeks, Marines and sailors with the MSPF will be participating in variety of dynamic urban scenarios to prepare them for a number of urban operations they may be called to respond to in an urban environment.

For more photos as well as descriptions and credits please click on any picture.

August 8, 2006

Tankers roll out 68 tons of reassurance to entry control points

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 8, 2006) -- Tankers with Regimental Combat Team 5 know how to send a message. They simply show up.


Aug. 8, 2006; Submitted on: 08/10/2006 03:27:13 AM
Story ID#: 200681032713
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, 1st Marine Division

Marines from A Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, RCT-5, reinforced an entry control point on the outskirts of Fallujah, an operation they conduct on a regular but erratic schedule. The tankers roll a section of M-1A1 Main Battle Tanks to the ECPs surrounding Fallujah to boost security, provide overwatch and give the Marines on the ground a greater sense of safety.

“We provide them cover and firepower superiority,” said Sgt. Crescencio T. Padilla, a 21-year-old tank commander from San German, Puerto Rico. “We’re guardian angels for them.”

They’re guardian angels who wield a pretty big stick. Along with the 120 mm main gun, each tank carries two 7.62 mm machine guns and a .50-caliber machine gun. Top that off with state-of-the-art targeting systems and sights, and they can hit whatever they can see. And they can see farther than any of the infantry on the ground.

“I can see the car before it gets to the ECP,” Padilla said. “The gunner is able to identify a threat before anything happens.”

Cpl. Orasee D. Russel, Padilla’s gunner on his tank, said he has all-weather capability and can scan for targets in the worst of conditions. If infantry equipment fails, they have theirs to back up the grunts.

“We’ve got the night vision and the thermals,” explained Russell, a 22-year-old from Apple Valley, Calif. “If their NVGs stop working, our thermals work. They give us a clearer picture.”

And if a tank does shoot, they’ve got ammunition to spare. Boxes of ammunition are stashed in nearly every open space and the coaxially-mounted machine gun has a belt of rounds so long, it doesn’t appear to have an end.

“We carry more that 10,000 rounds of ‘7.62,’” said Lance Cpl. Brandon C. Pollock, a 19-year-old from Bainbridge, Ga. “We can resupply the infantry with whatever we have to keep them in the fight.”

It’s not just the clearer sight or big guns, though. Tanks send a serious message.

“We provide presence,” Russell explained. “There’s an intimidation factor. People see a tank and they know all games are over. Insurgents see tanks and they think again.”

That intimidation factor was evident. The ECP tanks arrived at this particular day had been hit by sporadic small-arms attacks and improvised-explosive devices recently. The morning tanks arrived, nothing happened.

“It’s awesome to see those tanks,” said Sgt. Leo A. Robillard, a 25-year-old infantryman from Cheshire, Mass., assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. “They have a huge psychological effect. It’s a show of force. It lets them know we have something up our sleeve.”

Robillard is the sergeant of the guard at an ECP outside the city limits of Fallujah. He said he breathes easier when tanks are on the scene. They not only boost the firepower of his outpost, but give him greater flexibility if he’s attacked.

“They give us an immediate reaction force,” Robillard said. “If we get hit with something farther out, all we can do is run a humvee up there. The tanks give you something to throw back at them.”

Lance Cpl. Devin J. Anderson is Robillard’s corporal of the guard, assisting him in all his duties with security at the ECP. He said having the tanks in scene makes him and his Marines walk a little taller.

“The Marines aren’t as timid when they’re here,” said the 25-year-old Anderson from Southington, Mass. “They are more daring to come out, because we know… no one’s going to mess with us today.”

It’s not just the Marine, though. Anderson said the Iraqi Police and Iraqi soldiers who man the post alongside Marines get a boost from the visible increase in lethality.

“You see them start to work harder” he said. “It’s a big, big reassurance. It’s like having the ultimate overwatch.”

The appreciation of the infantry Marines on the ground isn’t lost on the tankers, either. During this operation, Marines manning the posts offered to bring out ice water and food to the tankers, dividing up what supplies they had for themselves.

“It’s easy to see they like having us around,” Pollock said. “There’s usually a lot of flash photography.”

For more pictures as well as descriptions and credits- please ckick on any picture.

Tankers feel the heat in Iraq’s dog days of summer

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 8, 2006) -- There’s just no denying it. It’s hot here. But hot takes on a whole new meaning deep in the turret of an M-1A1 Main Battle Tank.


Aug. 8, 2006; Submitted on: 08/10/2006 04:08:53 AM
Story ID#: 20068104853
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines from A Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 battle not just insurgents every time they climb into their tanks. They fight a scorching heat that just melts Marines inside.

“At the end of the day, I can take off my skivvy shirt and ring it,” said Cpl. Osaree D. Russell, a 22-year-old from Apple Valley, Calif. “It’s painful in there.”

Temperatures already topped 118 degrees Fahrenheit near Fallujah this summer, and there’s still several weeks of the hot summer days left. Average temperatures hover around 115 degrees, and in any line of work, it makes life miserable. But for tankers, it takes misery-by-heat to an art form.

“You could probably add 10-15 degrees inside that turret and maybe another five degrees for the flak,” Russell explained. “You can stand on the turret and just feel the heat rising.”

At 6 a.m., when the morning air is relatively cool, the tank is still hot enough from the day prior to sting exposed skin. The flat, angular panels of heavy steel absorb the heat all day and it continues to radiate. To make things worse, radios and sights kick out heat from the electricity they require for operation. Then there’s the 1,500-horsepower giant turbine engine encased in the rear. If the wind is just right, it blows the oven-like blast of air right back over the tankers.

“If you aren’t drinking water, you’re done,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon C. Pollock, a 19-year-old from Bainbridge, Ga.

Russell said the worst it felt so far this summer was in early June when tanks moved to Habbaniyah, west of Fallujah, to support 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. They relieved an Army armor unit. The threat of insurgent snipers and improvised-explosive devices mean the tankers “buttoned up,” or closed their overhead hatches. It was like putting the lid on a pot ready to boil.

“That was no fun,” Russell explained. “We were in full gear. The Army was looking at us like we were crazy because they just had on Second Chance vests.

“I drank all the water I had,” Russell added. “That was in the first 20 minutes of a six-hour mission. I almost went down as a heat casualty.”

A misconception most Marines have of the tank is that it has air conditioning. In fact, it doesn’t have anything close. Arguably the most technologically-advanced piece of ground fighting equipment ever produced by the United States doesn’t have what comes standard on most automobiles.

In fact, humvees and nearly every other vehicle in Iraq have air conditioning. Tankers are left to swelter.

“I actually asked once why we don’t have A/C,” Russell said. “We had these officers come in and explain our new sight systems to us. We can make a cooling system that freezes our sights, but not air conditioning.”

Still, tankers aren’t without their own tricks for staying cool. They take along coolers of ice-cold water, just as every other convoy in the area. Sweat towels for mopping off sweat-streaked faces are a must. And when they deployed the tanks to Habbaniyah, Sgt. Crescencio T. Padilla, a 21-year-old tank commander from San German, Puerto Rico, said they improvised.

“We got little fans,” Padilla said. “The Army had them in their tanks and we put them on the inside. It was still hot, but at least we had some air.”

That’s not all they do though. On particularly hot days, Padilla said they’ll open the breech to the 120 mm main gun, allowing the wind to blow down the barrel and through the turret.

In a pinch, they put to use the tank’s nuclear, biological and chemical overpressure air system. Each Marine’s station has a green hose and when the tank commander flips the switch, tankers shove the hose under their flak vests.

“It’s not cold air, but you mix air with sweat under a flak, and it works,” Padilla said.

But even that’s only a quick fix for a short duration. The NBC system can easily overheat, so they use that option only when they absolutely need it.

“At the end of the day when we’re done, we’re completely covered in sweat,” Padilla added. “It runs into your boots, your suit— and your flak is completely soaked. And when it dries out, it’s just white salt rings all over.”

Tankers argue over who has it the worst inside the turret too. Pollock said he suffers most in the driver’s compartment, where he lays nearly horizontal, encased in steel. Russell, the tank’s gunner, said at least he has a fan, even if it does just blow recirculated hot air. His position, deep inside the turret gets next to no air.

“I’ve gotten out the gunner’s hole and took off my gear and got chills,” Russell said. “That’s how much cooler it is on the outside of the tank.”

The loader and the tank commander can take advantage of an open hatch, allowing the breeze to pass by as they roll down the road.

It takes a toll on the crew too.

“It’s rough on everyone,” Russell said. “Everyone gets pissed. Everyone’s aggression goes up. No one wants to talk. It gets so hot, your body just doesn’t want to put up with it, and you start to fall asleep.”

Still, they don’t think much of the heat, even as it nags and wears on nerves and depletes their bodies of several quarts of water in a couple hours.

“Some people come to Iraq and get acclimatized to the heat,” Russell said. “We get acclimatized to the turret. It’s all different. You’ve never felt heat like that.”

For More photos as well as descriptions and credits please click on any photo

Missing WWII Marine is Identified

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a U.S. Marine missing in action from World War II has been identified and is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.


August 08, 2006

He is Sgt. John H. Branic, U.S. Marine Corps, of Madera, Pa. He is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Branic was a platoon leader for L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division on Aug. 19, 1942, when a Japanese force overran his defensive position on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. During the attack, Branic was killed, but the Marines of L Company counterattacked and succeeded in driving the Japanese back. The location of Branic’s remains was not reported to headquarters, as the L Company executive officer was also killed.

In February 1992, the U.S. Embassy, Solomon Islands, reported to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) that remains believed to be those of an American had been recovered at a construction site on Guadalcanal. JPAC took possession of those remains the following month, and excavated the site where they found additional remains. In the same general area, they found World War II-era ammunition, but no additional remains.

In 2004, an American researcher with the First Marine Division association reported to JPAC that a Solomon Islander had possession of a ring with the inscription “JHB” on the inside. The ring was found at the initial burial site.

JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory specialists used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to help identify the remains. Laboratory analysis of dental remains also confirmed the identification.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

'America's Battalion' scopes out new area of operations

Regimental Combat Team 5's newest battalion got a good look at the new neighborhood, thanks to the veteran battalion they're replacing.


By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, went on a mounted patrol through part of their new battle space with Marines from C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment Aug. 2.

Grunts from both battalions worked together to get the new Marines associated with the area of operation they will be inheriting.

"The vehicle patrol went very well," said Staff Sgt. Gerardo C. Ybarra, a 30-year-old platoon commander with G Company. "Whenever there's no contact, it went well."

The patrol not only went well, but all the objectives for the patrol were met.

"We accomplished everything we set out to do today," said Gunnery Sgt. Joshua S. Smith a 31-year-old platoon commander with C Company.

The goals for the patrol were to familiarize Marines from "America's Battalion" with the area of operations. Marines took a closer look at the battle space and conducted a rolling vehicle checkpoint.

Cpl. Stephen T. Reagan, a 24-year-old squad leader, was impressed with the battle space. He's confident in his company's ability to run the area after looking at the space for which they will soon be responsible.

"It will take a lot to work the battle space, but I think we've got enough people to control it," Reagan said.

The confidence the Camp Lejeune-based Marines have shown and the advice the veteran 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment passed along has made the transition go smoothly. The outgoing Marines did everything they could for the Marines arriving, sometimes repeating instruction three and four times, Ybarra said.

They've got big shoes to fill. Marines of 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment worked the region vigorously. They've operated in regions north of Fallujah for nearly seven months, training Iraqi police and soldiers and hunting down and killing insurgents.

Ybarra and his squad leaders have been impressed with the job done in the battle space. They have used the directions given to them by outgoing leaders to prepare for their actions in the AO.

Smith was equally impressed with how receptive 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment has been to the advice given to them. Squad leaders have been asking many questions to prepare for any scenario they may face.

"It's a lot of information they are trying to soak up in a short amount of time," Smith explained. "It's seven months of information being passed in six days."

Source: Multi-National Force-Iraq

[email protected]

August 7, 2006

U.S. troops endure 125 degrees in Iraq

RAMADI, Iraq - After a long day searching homes in suffocating Iraqi heat, Lance Cpl. Mike Young saw a most surprising source of relief — a sprawling Wal-Mart had appeared in the distance.


By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writer
Mon Aug 7, 9:01 AM ET

"No joke — looking through the haze I thought I saw a Wal-Mart. I said to myself, 'I bet they got some cold water in there,'" Young said, recalling a mission last year in a rural area west of Baghdad.

He contemplated running over to fetch water for fellow Marines who were "staggering like dead men." Three of them had collapsed in the heat.

Young soon stirred from his heat-induced hallucination and returned to the struggle of enduring summertime in Iraq.

Daytime temperatures in the Iraqi summer usually range from a low of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit to about 125. Though most bases have added air conditioning, grunts must still venture out to man their posts or patrol steaming streets under an unrelenting sun.

"It's been hotter and hotter than I ever thought I'd be in my life," said Cpl. Eduardo Warren, 20, of Turner, Maine, sweating even as he left for a night mission. "We still get it done."

Besides making conditions miserable for troops, the heat also changes the war itself. Marines in some areas say they patrol less during the hottest hours because fewer insurgents also venture out, creating a siesta cease-fire. But temperatures at night can hover over 100 degrees.

"I feel like I'm in someone's mouth," said Navy medic Kyle Gribi, 22, of Santa Cruz, Calif., as he patrolled beside Iraqi soldiers on the humid riverbanks of the Jazeera area in western Iraq.

Though the sun had set, Gribi sweated through his uniform as he trudged down fields and jumped over canals.

For infantrymen, the sweat rarely stops flowing in the summer, leaving many with heat rash. Troops complain that they sweat through their clothing, their wallets, and even their boots. Some remember awful mornings where they awake with polyester panchos stuck to their bodies.

In some outposts where washing machines are not available, troops hang their soaked uniforms in the sun — leaving them stiff and marked with large salt stains from dried sweat. Some find clumps of salt inside their pockets.

On sprawling logistics bases, support troops in offices are mostly immune to the heat. "Hey, it's only 106 today," cheerfully said one Marine as he walked to a dining hall on the Taqqadum air base in western Iraq.

Though most U.S. infantrymen now have air conditioned Humvees, the insurgent threat has also added to the array of clothing they must wear. Many Marines are now required to wear flame retardant suits, gloves and goggles to protect themselves from roadside bombs.

To some troops, the outside danger is less grating than the temperature.

"Everything else doesn't bother me. It's the heat threat gets to me," said Lance Cpl. John Ursery of Raleigh, N.C., as he stood in the shade of a sand barrier in Ramadi, one of Iraq's most dangerous cities.

Some Marines claim to have seen the rubber on their Humvee tires start to melt. But the heat also helps create barracks lore that stretches the boundaries of reality.

Warren, the Marine in Ramadi, claimed he'd once seen the temperature hit 150 degrees in Karma, a city just west of Baghdad. He also purported to have been in a portable toilet that reached 187 degrees.

According to the NASA Web site, the hottest temperature ever recorded was 136 degrees in Libya in 1922.

Regardless, many troops voiced similar complaints — including many directed toward common portable toilets that trap in heat.

"You can tell people how it is, but they don't experience it until you go into one of those," warned Young, a native of Princeton, Ky., now serving his second tour in Iraq in Ramadi.

Troops have learned to combat the heat with an array of tactics. On the Habaniyah military base, commanders made new Marines patrol around their base in full gear to acclimate themselves.

Many Marines have their own solutions, such as drinking as much water as possible the day before big missions or pre-freezing water bottles before patrols. Others said simple measures such as idle chatter to divert your attention helps — along with frequent changes of clothing.

"Changing your socks is important. Change them everyday whether you're on patrols or not," Warren said.

Combat zone ingenuity protects Marines, earns $5,000

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 7, 2006) -- Seven Marines were presented with a $5,000 award for their combat zone ingenuity in designing and creating a protective armor kit for military forklifts and front end loaders, commonly called TRAMs, at a ceremony here Aug. 6.

Aug. 7, 2006; Submitted on: 08/07/2006 12:55:30 PM
Story ID#: 200687125530
By Cpl. Daniel J. Redding, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Those awarded - welders and mechanics assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) - were selected for the recognition by the Marine Corps' Beneficial Suggestion Program after fabricating from scratch a steel cover, complete with protective glass windows, that fits over the cab of the TRAM.

TRAM is the Marine Corp's acronym for "Tractor, Rubber-tired, Articulated steering, Multi-purpose."

Awarded were:

- Staff Sgt. Andrew N. Zabel, the project's team leader, and 27-year-old from Batavia, Ill.

- Cpl. James A. Carrillo, 23, from Chicago.

- Cpl. Kelsey S. Marshall, 23, from Anchorage, Ala.

- Lance Cpl. Jonathan C. Elkins, 20, from Moorehead, Ky.

- Cpl. Adam L. Schroeder, 22, from Platteville, Wis.

- Cpl. Rogelio De La Graza, 21, from Premont, Texas.

- Cpl. Jonathan M. Rakestraw, 22, from Pittsburgh.

Brigadier Gen. David G. Reist, commanding general of the 1st Marine Logistics Group, came from nearby Camp Fallujah to recognize the Marines and thanked them as he presented the award.

"You Marines are saving lives, and that's what it's all about," said Reist, who currently serves as the deputy commanding general for support of Multi National Forces-West.

In May of this year, as extra forces were being called on to secure Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar province, Col. David M. Richtsmeier, the 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) commanding officer in Iraq, ordered the men to come up with an armor kit for the TRAMs, which were planned to be used to build new combat outposts throughout the city.

With Ramadi the setting of some of the fiercest fighting in the struggle to stabilize Iraq, the slow-moving TRAMs needed something that would protect the operators if they came under enemy attack while fortifying the outposts, said Richtsmeier, who recommended the Marines for the award after seeing the results of their efforts.

The goal was to create a replicable force protection system with blue prints that other units could use to add armor to TRAMs anywhere in Iraq.

Detailed schematics were created for each piece of the adapted armor, including precise measurements and clarification on which part of the original humvee armor kit the pieces came from.

Combat Logistics Battalion 7, a 1st MLG unit located northwest of here at Al Asad Air Base, used these schematics to build an armored protection system for one of their own TRAMs.

Over the course of two weeks, the seven-man team worked around the clock developing the system, using leftover armor designed for a humvee and an air conditioner built for another vehicle system to complete their makeshift product.

Fueled by energy drinks and music, the Marines were inspired by the unique mission they were tasked with and the benefits of their final product to others.

"Our motivation came from the ever-present rebuilding mission that the Marines of the I Marine Expeditionary Force have been given," said Zabel, the team leader. "I tried to make it a point every day to emphasize the fact that by building this armor shell, we were (potentially) saving the life of a heavy equipment operator."

Adapting parts intended for a completely different machine - and overcoming the tight spaces and sharp angles of the TRAM - were some of the major frustrations they met head on, said Schroeder.

Carrillo and Marshall, vehicle mechanics used to fixing engines and transmissions in humvees, helped overcome some of these frustrations when they adapted a larger alternator to power the air conditioning unit for the new cab.

The challenges of building something with no prior design to gauge off of kept the Marines working almost non-stop until they completed the project, said Rakestraw, who drafted the blueprints of the design.

As heavy equipment mechanics, Rakestraw and De La Garza added their expertise of working on TRAMs and other large military vehicles to the team.

senior personnel involved in the project encouraged the Marines to submit their final product to Marine Corps Logistics Command for their Beneficial Suggestions awards program.

"(The Marines) went beyond their 'normal job expectancy' to quickly and effectively neutralize a very dangerous situation for heavy equipment operators," said Shirley P. Stiles and Robin G. Wimberly, who work with the Beneficial Suggestion program and helped get the Marines approved for the $5,000 gift that was split between the seven.

The Beneficial Suggestion Program, run by Marine Corps Logistics Command in Albany, Ga., is designed to take advantage of the creativity of military and civilian personnel who contribute practical and innovative ideas for improving and maintaining productivity, economy, efficiency, and mission effectiveness for Marine Corps programs and operations.

"It's like winning the lottery, only in the Marine Corps way," said Elkins, who along with his fellow metal worker, Schroeder, was responsible for the precise cutting and welding to form the new cab cover.

The seven Marines played a big role in ensuring the TRAM operators were protected as they supported combat operations in Ramadi, said Richtsmeier.

Feeling protected made it easier for the TRAM operators in Ramadi who endured sporadic enemy attacks while operating in Ramadi, said Pfc. Michael E. Jordan, a heavy equipment operator who helped build some of the new combat outposts in the city.

Email Cpl. Redding at [email protected]

For more photos as well as descriptions and credits please click on any picture.

26 Marine Heroes Presented With Medal of Honor Flags

Marine Barracks, Washington D.C. - Twenty-six Marine heroes were honored at a Medal of Honor flag presentation ceremony here yesterday.


American Forces Press Service
Cpl. David Revere
August 07, 2006

A crowd of more than 1,000 friends, family members and patriotic spectators watched as Marine Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee and Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, presented flags to 16 Medal of Honor recipients and family members of 10 other Medal of Honor recipients.

"On behalf of all Marines, thank you for your service and example for the thousands of Marines that followed you," Hagee told the recipients. "Your legacy is these Marines."

Both houses of Congress approved the concept of the Medal of Honor flag and President George W. Bush signed it into law in October 2002.

The Medal of Honor flag commemorates the sacrifice and blood shed for freedom and emphasizes the Medal of Honor's place as the highest award for valor that can be given to a U.S. military member. The flag's light blue color and white stars match the colors found on the Medal of Honor ribbon.

At the ceremony, each MOH recipient or family member accepted a flag from Hagee. As Vietnam War MOH recipient former Sgt. Maj. Allan J. Kellog Jr. was presented with his flag, the final presentation of the evening, the crowd gave the honorees a standing ovation.

Cpl. Amber T. Chavarria, a Marine Barracks Washington protocol non-commissioned officer who assisted in presenting the flags, said she felt proud just to be in the presence of such heroic individuals. "It's hard to describe how it feels being a part of this," Chavarria said. "These gentlemen did so far above and beyond what they were asked, and they did it in order for me to be able to do my job."

"Being in the presence of these Marines is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Lance Cpl. Sean J. Sorbie, a training NCO, said. "I am proud just to have been a part of it."

The parade ceremony concluded with the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps' playing of the “Marines Hymn” and a pass in review. The pass in review brought the crowd to their feet as nearly 200 Marines of the oldest post in the Corps saluted.

"Nobody does it up like the Marine Corps," said World War II veteran Jack H. Lucas, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions against Japanese forces on Iwo Jima. "To have these young men here in our presence -- it just rejuvenates this old heart of mine. I love the Corps even more knowing that my country is defended by such fine young people."

Marine Taekwondo Team Busts Heads Throughout Corps

MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C. - Two opponents stand, facing each other like masterless ronin. Fists clench as one swings his foot upright towards his adversary’s head faster than the eye could perceive. The adversary, however, spins the opposite direction, raising his rear leg to counter the oncoming strike.


Cpl. Joel Abshier
Aug. 7, 2006

This was the scene August 2, at the base boxing gym, otherwise commonly known as “Hells kitchen.” With no air conditioner or even a simple breeze, sweat pours off Marines while they practice their taekwondo.

Marines aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., come together three to four times a week to hone their taekwondo skills for tournaments and personal gain, according to Staff Sgt. Tyson Yoon Ho “Hollywood” McCoy, training chief with Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.

“Martial arts emphasize mental focus, flexibility and balance, not to mention the warrior spirit,” McCoy said. “Not too many events in the world will give you that kind of insight to help you figure out how much warrior spirit you really have.”

The team recently returned from their first out-of-state tournament held outside the city limits of Birmingham, Ala., said Christy Alvarez, the teams certified athletic trainer and 4th degree black belt who was also a competitor in the tournament.

“Although our team had a smaller number or competitors, everyone still placed,” she said. “Everything the Marines have gone through has brought them one step closer to becoming better at taekwondo.”

The next tournament for the team will take them to Pennsylvania, where they will participate in an all-military tournament to determine who will become part of their branch’s official taekwondo team.

“Most tournaments are just based on individual performance, unless you go to a special tournament where it's team versus team,” said McCoy, who has been studying many disciplines other than taekwondo, such as kempo karate, muay Thai kickboxing, isshin ryu karate, Brazilain jiujitsu and choy li fut kung fu. “The point system for team versus team is usually based upon which team receives the most medals and what kind of medals, such as gold, silver and bronze. In individual competition, points are scored during the match. One point (is awarded) for a kick, a hard punch to the body or to the kidney area, and two points for a head strike with the foot. No hand contact to the face is allowed.”

Although the team practices many times a week, they still have no official place to call home, Alvarez said.

“We are just thankful that we even have a place to work out,” Alvarez admitted. “Luckily, everyone is dedicated to the team. You just have to do what you can, and these guys definitely are doing just that.”

The head instructor, Master Gunnery Sgt. Freddie McDonald, the maintenance support chief with Material Readiness Section, Assistance Chief of Staff, CLB-27, 2nd MLG, routinely ensures the techniques of the Marines do not falter during training. He attends every practice to provide mentorship and the occasional authoritative guidance for the team.

After the practice in “Hells kitchen,” the Marines listened intently to their head instructor when he concluded the practice by saying, “You are Marines. That alone should scare anyone you are about to compete against. I want all of you to show them how we do it.”

Iraqi police unearth weapons caches; conduct ‘solo’ operations in Iraq

KARABILAH, Iraq (Aug. 7, 2006) -- Coalition Forces are not the only ones taking bomb-making material and other weapons out of insurgents’ hands – Iraqi police in this city bordering Syria recently found two hidden stashes of munitions and weapons.


Aug. 7, 2006; Submitted on: 08/07/2006 02:30:36 PM ; Story ID#: 200687143036
By Cpl. Antonio Rosas, 1st Marine Division

The police discovered the two caches, which consisted of multiple rockets, mortars, and hundreds of machine gun rounds, while on a security foot patrol through their city.

Thanks to months of training and mentoring by U.S. Marines and soldiers, Iraqi police in this portion of Iraq’s western Al Anbar province, are now operating independently out of their own police station.

“The Iraqi police are beginning to provide security on their own,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas F. Marano, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “The work that Marines have been doing over the last couple months is starting to show.”

Just a few months ago, there were no police here. Now, they have dozens of officers who provide local security for the city’s 30,000 residents.

“The Iraqis finding weapons caches means they’re progressing towards becoming more independent,” said Marano.

Moreover, Iraqi police in this city, as well as throughout many border cities along the Euphrates in northwestern Iraq, are now operating independently, thanks to months of training and working with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Just one week before the discovery of the caches, Iraqi police also assisted in the discovery of two suicide-bomb vests which could have been used by insurgents against the Marines and Iraqi Security Forces here, officials say.

Marano’s Marines are responsible for conducting security operations in one of the largest areas of operations in western Al Anbar Province, which begins at the Iraq-Syria border and covers thousands of square miles both north and south of the Euphrates River.

While Marines from the southern California-based unit maintain outposts near the Iraqi police stations, the Iraqis and Marines often work on entirely different operations independent of each other.

Iraqi Security Forces have made steady progress throughout Iraq with some provinces’ security entirely in the hands of the Iraqis, according to senior U.S. officials.

“We’ve been very successful with the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a press interview at the Capitol July 27. “Particularly the Ministry of Defense forces are doing increasingly an excellent job.”

Rumsfeld pointed out the current number of Iraqi Security Forces, which are trained and equipped at about 275,000.

“This is a milestone for the Iraq Security Forces,” said Marano. Just several weeks ago, the Iraqi police were conducting combined patrols alongside Marines and Iraqi soldiers.

Although the Iraqi police are working on their own now, Marano maintains close contact with all of the police commanders and meets with them on a regular basis to address any security issues and check progress in the area.

In Karabilah, the police chief there has already noticed a significant increase in the amount of civilian traffic after Coalition Forces opened a new bridge over the Euphrates River. The bridge gives villagers living north of the river easier access to that city.

“There is more trading now and more people bringing their sheep and cows to the market for sale,” said Karabilah’s police chief, who chose to remain anonymous for this interview.

The police presence in Karabilah means more to the locals than the Marines’ presence, according to some Marines there.

“The people see the police in their uniforms and they are more willing to talk to them and interact with them,” said Sgt. Patrick J. Huwiler, a rifleman from the battalion’s Company C.

Still, U.S. forces are always close-by Iraqi police to help provide additional security. Anytime the police patrol their cities, the Marines know at all times when and where the Iraqis in blue are at, said Huwiler, a 23-year-old from Hales Corner, Wis.

A bonafide police force in this region was unheard of just three years ago, the Marines say. The lack of security made this border-city a hangout for terrorists until Marines conducted a large-scale operation in 2005 to clear the area of insurgents.

Today, there are nearly 600 policemen in this border region, according to Marano.

A 40-year-old local Karabilah fisherman who lives just minutes from the Euphrates River said he has seen a lot more people crossing the river since Iraqi Security Forces set-up positions near the river’s edge.

“I think the people here feel safer with all of the police and soldiers around,” said the fisherman through an interpreter. “Just a few months ago it was not safe to be near the river after dark.”

During foot patrols through the city, Iraqi police often stop by local shops and markets to speak with the people, who are hospitable. Sometimes the people offer them a glass of water or a piece of fruit during the encounters.

For Huwiler, who is on his second deployment to this same region, the changes he has witnessed from his first deployment are “phenomenal.”

On a visit last month by the Al Anbar Province governor, city officials here lauded the improved security thanks to the work of Iraqi Security Forces and Marines. Better security meant the governor could give the green light for construction projects to commence such as a refueling station and a new hospital.

This is the battalion’s second consecutive deployment to the same area of operations near the Iraq-Syria border. This year the battalion focused more on building Iraqi Security Forces due to the region’s improved security according to the Marines here.

“Our job is easier now from when we were here last,” said Huwiler. “Last year we would go on raids and that was it. Working with the Iraqis this year has paid off.”

Karabilah and the nearby city of Husaybah were the sites of some of the heaviest fighting in western Al Anbar province last year when Marines conducted several counter-insurgency operations to hamper the terrorists’ control of the area.

Email Cpl. Rosas at [email protected]

For more pictures as well as descriptions and credits please click on any picture.

Pendleton to do 'the right thing' for wounded

New barracks will assist Marines, sailors in recovery

The first West Coast barracks for Marines and sailors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will open Thursday at Camp Pendleton.

Much more than a roof and walls, the Wounded Warrior Center is designed to give troops a sanctuary where they can recuperate while planning for the next step in their lives.


By Rick Rogers
August 7, 2006

Base officials said the center, less than a quarter-mile from the Camp Pendleton hospital, could accommodate 26 service members. They expect half of its rooms to be filled by next week.

“This is a way we are going to give back to the Marine Corps and the civilian communities,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commander of the seven bases that make up Marine Corps Installations West.

The goal, he said, is to help woun