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September 30, 2006

Friend: Marine had plan to disappear

BOULDER, Colo. --A Marine who went missing in the Colorado mountains had a plan to avoid returning to duty and had hoped to be presumed dead so he could collect insurance money from his brother, the beneficiary, his girlfriend said.


September 30, 2006

Lance Cpl. Lance Hering, 21, has been missing since Aug. 30, when he and a friend fabricated a story about Hering falling while they were hiking in Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, sheriff's officials have said. Hering was missing when the friend came back with help.

Hering was on leave from Iraq when he disappeared. He was due back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Sept. 18.

According to court documents released Thursday and reported on Friday in the Daily Camera of Boulder, Hering's girlfriend, Kaley Sutton, told authorities he had talked about disappearing. She said he had come up with a "great idea, an amazing plan" about a year ago and had planned to tell only her and his brother, Air Force Lt. Brendan Hering, about it.

Sutton said Lance Hering intended to fake his death and assume a new identity in another country. He planned to use insurance money by naming his brother as a beneficiary and having the money funneled to him, Sutton said.

Marines Capt. Jay Delarosa, a Camp Pendleton spokesman, said all troops are offered life insurance when they enlist. He said it was likley that Hering had a policy.

Hering's father, Lloyd Hering, said that Brendan Hering knew nothing of the plot and that the stress from his younger son's time in Iraq -- not the notion of the insurance money -- led to his disappearance.

"This is a very young man who just finished seven months of stuff nobody should have to go through," he said. "We believe he deserves our respect and help."

Boulder County Sheriff's Cmdr. Phil West said authorities were still investigating leads. Last week, they announced they had obtained video of him buying a bus ticket in Denver a day after his reported disappearance.

West said investigators have taken a computer from the home of 20-year-old Steve Powers, who is suspected of helping Hering stage the accident. Powers, who was ticketed for false reporting, told authorities that he didn't know where Hering was headed but that he had planned to be in contact by Internet.

September 29, 2006

Some 60 Lima Company Marine Reservists Have Left U.S. For The Mideast

Some 60 U.S. Marine reservists from Gray-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment, have left the United States for eventual service in Iraq, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed on Thursday.


By: By BILL JONES/Staff Writer
Source: The Greeneville Sun

Responding to an inquiry from a Greeneville Sun reporter, Maj. Steve Bickford, the unit’s instructor-inspector, said that approximately 60 Lima Company Marines had departed a California base for eventual service in Iraq.

“They are either en route to or at their destination,” Maj. Bickford said.

However, Bickford said he could not disclose the destination to which the Lima Company Marines were traveling initially.

Local Men Included

Marine reservists from the Greeneville area who are among the group being deployed to Iraq are Lance Cpl. Nick Fillers, of Greeneville; Lance Cpl. Brandon Ward, of the Glendale community; and Cpl. Steven Levasseur, of Telford.

Maj. Bickford said the Marine Corps will issue a news release once the unit to which the Lima Company Marines is attached reaches its final destination. That, he said, likely will not be before next week.

The 60 Lima Company Marine reservists had left the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Gray on June 7 for training in California with elements of their sister unit, the Detroit-based 1st Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment.

Maj. Bickford said in June that the local Marine reservists were expected to be deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar province for a seven-month tour of duty after training in California.

During an April press conference at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Gray, Maj. Bickford said the Lima Company Marines would “augment” the Detroit-based 1st Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment in Iraq later this year.

About 25 percent of the Marines who are deploying to Iraq this time served there in 2004 when the entire company deployed, and they volunteered to return, Major Bickford said.

“They (the Iraq veteran Marines) have volunteered to provide their leadership to help these new junior Marines as they go to Iraq,” he said then.

The Lima Company Marines spent seven months in Iraq in 2004.

*Hickman grad shot for third time in Iraq

Marine who was shot in head was awarded another Purple Heart

Lance Cpl. John McClellan, 20, has a tattoo of shamrocks below his belly button. The image symbolizes the nickname his fellow Marines gave him, “Lucky,” after he was shot in his right arm twice in one week last October, while serving with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Echo Company in Afghanistan.



September 29, 2006

Tuesday, while serving his second tour overseas, this time in Haditha, Iraq, the 2004 Hickman High School graduate was shot a third time. McClellan was injured when an AK-47 bullet entered his head over his left ear and exited the back of his neck, his mother, Connie McClellan of Columbia, said. During a five-hour surgery at a hospital in Balad, Iraq, doctors removed bone fragments and some brain tissue. He was then transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Lance Cpl. John McClellan, 20, was on duty in Iraq. (Courtesy photo) His mother said McClellan’s brain swelled as a result of the injury, requiring a low-flying flight to Germany so the air pressure wouldn’t further damage his brain. McClellan is scheduled to arrive today at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. His parents and sister, Jane Bowman, 32, of Chicago, will meet him there.

Connie McClellan said she was thankful for the military’s assistance in taking care of her family’s travel arrangements.

“We’ve been very impressed with the Marines on how they’ve been taking care of us,” she said.

Doctors at the Balad hospital called Connie McClellan and her husband and McClellan’s father, Carl McClellan, around 1 a.m. Wednesday to tell them their son had been shot. His mother said it was the first time she had received the dreaded phone call from a third party, because the two previous times her son had been shot, he was less seriously injured and able to call his parents himself.

Connie McClellan said that when the doctors first called, the prognosis was that if her son survived, he would probably be a vegetable. Thursday morning, however, she said the doctor who called was “jubilant” because McClellan’s condition had improved. Although he was still unconscious, he was responding to commands and his vital signs were good.

“It was an antithesis of the report (Wednesday),” she said. “So what do you think made it happen? I call it a miracle.”

Allison Cooper, 20, who graduated from Hickman with McClellan, said he’s “invincible,” and that she and their other friends “knew if anyone would pull through, he would.”

McClellan left for Iraq on Sept. 11 of this year.

“That was his job, that’s what he signed up to do, and he is a great Marine dedicated to serving his country,” Cooper, who is a junior at MU, said.

Allen Johanning, 20, who has been friends with McClellan since they were 5 years old, thought McClellan will probably want to return to Iraq if he can.

“There’s no telling with him,” Johanning said. “But he’s very devoted to it and committed to what he does,” Johanning, a junior at MU, said.

Wednesday night, more than 120 people gathered at the McClellan home on Blue Ridge Road to pray for the Marine’s recovery.

“It was just unbelievably moving, and I just believe God heard our prayers and he answered them,” Connie McClellan said. “They met at (Oakland Park) and filed single-file with candles. It was really quite something.”

She said her son’s friends from high school came, as well as her friends and her husband’s friends, including “people that I haven’t seen in 20 years that were here for us.”

The vigil was organized by Sam and Tammy Boyce, friends of the McClellan family. Tom Leuther, the pastor of the McClellans’ church, Family Worship Center in Columbia, led the service. Leuther said he also dedicated the church’s Thursday morning prayer and Thursday evening midweek service to pray for McClellan.

“It was such an honor to be asked to lead,” Leuther said. “And I was so touched by the community support. So many different people that I didn’t know came for the cause of lifting up this prayer. It was just very heartwarming.”

Leuther said Carl and Connie McClellan seemed “encouraged” and “had a tremendous amount of hope” at the vigil.

McClellan enlisted in the Marines when he was 17 and a junior at Hickman, his mother said. In his year on inactive duty and two years active, he has earned three Purple Hearts, awarded to members of the American armed forces injured while deployed. His unit is based at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

His mother said that Carl McClellan, McClellan’s father, served in the Army during the Vietnam War, which may have played a role in her son’s decision to enlist.

Connie McClellan said her biggest concern right now is McClellan’s vision and speech, as the condition of each cannot be judged until he’s conscious.

She was looking forward to greeting her son in Washington.

“Our biggest thrill is being there with him, especially when he opens his eyes and says ‘Hi, Mom and Dad,’” she said.

September 28, 2006

*Heartache on the home front — Reservists’ families ‘can’t help but worry’

Although it’s only been a few days, it’s been a tough few days, said Jake Draugelis.


By Christopher Nagy

“We’re not soldiers ourselves. We’re the family of soldiers,” he said. “You can’t help but worry. Every day you have to take five minutes and worry, but you have to be strong for them because they’re being strong.”

On Friday, his older brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Nick Draugelis, a 2003 graduate of Brighton High School, left the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., for a seven-month deployment in Iraq.

Along with Nick Draugelis was Lance Cpl. Ryan Taylor, another 2003 graduate of Brighton High School, the son of Bob and Jan Taylor of Brighton Township.

Both are members of the 1/24 Marines — the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment, an infantry unit of the Marine Corps Reserves based in Lansing.

A third former Brighton High School student, Markus Hillman, who graduated in 2005, was deployed to Iraq earlier this month.

Ryan and Nick grew up together in the Ridgewood subdivision in Brighton Township. In high school, Ryan was a member of the Brighton varsity football team. Nick played varsity basketball at the school. The pair were virtually inseparable in high school, Jake said.

“As a little brother, I did a lot of tagging along in high school,” Jake said. “They were just a lot of fun. If I wanted a fun Saturday night, I would do whatever my brother was doing — and nine times out of 10, Ryan was there with him.”

Nick signed up as a Marine reservist roughly six months before Ryan. Both were 18 years old when they joined. Ryan, said his father, had wanted to join right out of high school, but his parents wanted him to experience college first, as well as sign up on his own when he turned 18, which would allow him to do so without his parents' approval.

“He’s hugely patriotic,” said Bob Taylor.

“He’s a patriot at heart,” added Jan Taylor. “He believes it’s his duty to serve his country. One of the last things he said to me before he left was, ‘I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.’”

The 1/24 Marines are a unique group. Most come from Michigan, and because they’re reservists, they come from all walks of life.

“They are professionals. These are doctors and lawyers,” said Jan. “A lot of them have families.”

The same could be said of Ryan and Nick.

Right now, both should be attending their senior year of college, with Ryan at Central Michigan University and Nick at Grand Valley State University.

“Both were accepted to college, but they both wanted to go into the reserves,” said Bob. “It wasn’t a case where (the military) was an avenue of desperation.”

However, college has been on hold since last April. Since that time, the pair have been training in the Mojave Desert for the last seven months of their lives. The military training area in California attempts to simulate scenarios to give troops a feel for not only the situations they may experience overseas, but also helps acclimate troops to the customs and culture of the Middle East.

“They want them, when they go overseas, to feel like they’ve been there before,” Jan explained. “It’s so it won’t all be new to them.”

“It’s real-life training,” Bob added.

Ryan, for one, has said he’s ready, according to his parents. That’s not surprising, his father, noted.

“Ryan’s always been pretty strong and very mature,” Bob said. “We’ve always said he has an old soul.”

“He knows his path,” Jan added.

Going overseas is what he’s been working toward since his intensive military training began in the spring.

“He has said it would be like training all season on a football team and then not playing,” Jan said. “Ryan has said to me, ‘Mom, I’ve trained with the best, and I’m ready.’”

Nick is also ready, yet there has still been some natural hesitations, according to his brother.

“I had a lot of talks about this with my brother,” Jake said. “He has mixed feelings. It’s still a war, and he’s nervous.”

And although Ryan has given his parents assurances that’s he’s both willing and ready to serve, assurances can’t stem the tide of innate parental worry. For Jan, speaking about her son’s service can still quickly bring emotions to the surface.

“That’s the scary thing about being a parent,” she said, struggling to hold back tears. “You’re afraid if you say certain things that you’re jeopardizing their safety.”

Still, there is something for each family to hold onto: April 28, the tentative date when Ryan and Nick will come home.

In the Draugelis home, Jake said his mother keeps a tote board on the refrigerator counting down the days.

“I imagine when he does come home, she’s going to be one happy lady,” he said.

For Jan Taylor, the anticipation for that day in April is almost beyond words.

“That’s what keeps me going,” she said. “It will be unbelievable. We rely on our faith, but we still miss him.”

*Marines return home to Twentynine Palms

Another group of Marines is back with their families tonight after a happy homecoming at Twentynine Palms. The Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion just got back from Iraq.


By Sheryl Kahn
NewsChannel 3

The Marines that arrived at Twentynine Palms today spent months on the front lines in Iraq, sometimes going weeks without talking to their families. Tonight, they're making up for lost time.

After too many months of waiting and worrying, it took a few more hours of standing by before these families got to see their Marines again. Some held babies that had never met their fathers. Many held welcome home sings. Most were nervous.

"I can't sit down, I'm so nervous."

January Silva waited for her fiancé, Brian, with her eight-year-old son, Brian's parents, and niece. They say it was a long, scary seven months spent not always know if Brian was okay. They heard that some of his fellow Marines were not.

"It was a good day when the white van didn't show up. What does a white van mean? It means they're bringing you news you don't want to hear," Marine dad Darrell Bottoms. But these buses brought only good news and on one of them was 26-year-old Lance Corporal Brian Bottoms.

January and Brian will be getting married in November. But between now and then, they've got a lot of catching up to do

The family will be able to celebrate tonight before Brian and his fellow Marines head back to base.

*Welcome home, troops

About 227 Marines and sailors returned to Twentynine Palms Wednesday afternoon after a seven-month deployment in Iraq's strife-torn Al Anbar Province.


Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
September 28, 2006

Family and friends traveled from near and far to welcome the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion back to the United States.

Sally Deykerhoff from Pacific Grove and Margaret Lott of Traverse City, Mich., talked as they waited for their sons.

They met months ago online at MarineParents.com, a Web site that helps parents spread information about their Marines overseas and acts as a support network.

"It gets us through our son's deployment," said Deykerhoff's husband, Peter.

Though they had been waiting for seven months for the moment, the last hours were full of emotion for many.

"It's like my wedding day," said Jennifer Nakonieczny as she waited with her two children, Emily and Mikey.

When the crowd caught sight of the motorcycle motorcade that preceded the buses of Marines they cheered, grabbed their signs, balloons and cameras and lined up to meet the buses.

Lance Cpl. Ross Yoder said it was difficult to explain his feelings about returning home.

"It's the best feeling in the world, really," he said. "I've never felt this good before."

"It was a rough deployment," said Lance Cpl. Jonathon Almeida. "We finished strong for them."

Seven Marines and one sailor in this battalion were killed in action during this deployment.

The 3rd LAR worked to discover intelligence, defend against insurgency and support Iraqis.

Now that they are safely back, the Marines and sailors of the battalion have 72 hours off and then the option to take leave for up to three weeks before returning to training.

*Military Police Battalion deactivates after five years of dedicated service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 28, 2006) -- Second Marine Logistics Group’s Military Police Battalion officially deactivated during a ceremony at Geottge Field House Sept 25.


Sept. 28, 2006; Submitted on: 09/28/2006 03:18:21 PM ; Story ID#: 2006928151821
By Pfc. Kendra A. McKinny, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The deactivation is a part of a planned reorganization of the combat logistics element, transforming 2nd MLG to more effectively support the Marine Corps’ current warfighting requirements.

While relinquishing his command, Col. Richard A. Anderson, MP Bn. commanding officer, said the 5-year-old battalion was experimental from the very beginning. Their mission was to defend law and order operations, investigations and utilize a number of military working dogs.

Anderson noted the battalion’s mission evolved to a higher level of support than first realized.

During the ceremony, Anderson reflected on some of the memorable moments of the unit, both at home and abroad, paying tribute to four Marines lost in support of the Global War on Terror.

The battalion was comprised of two individual companies. Both were in attendance for the ceremony, marking yet another first for the unit’s short history.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Chris Burgess, 2nd MP Bn., battalion sergeant major, noted that due to the current operational tempo and deployment rotations, Marines from the unit were always deploying.

“This is the first time both companies of the (Military Police Battalion) have been on deck at the same time,” Burgess said.

The companies will remain intact and become part of Combat Logistics Regiment 27 under the reorganization.

September 27, 2006

*On the home front, fighting the uncertainty; Families of Marines help one another with events, Web site

Karen and David Marks once anguished for months not knowing whether their sons away at military boot camp were safe and well.


12:27 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 27, 2006
By LAUREN D'AVOLIO / The Dallas Morning News

During boot camp, the brothers – both Plano East Senior High School graduates – could send only infrequent letters by snail mail to their Plano home.

Mr. and Mrs. Marks found others living with the same uncertainty by visiting Marine Parents.com and joined the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of a support group for parents of Marines. The Web site was established in 2003, and the local network has existed since 2004. It meets the first Saturday of each month at various locations, with up to 45 parents attending.

"They helped us get through not being able to communicate with our sons," Mr. Marks said. "Not knowing what our sons were doing and how they were doing – really the most difficult part – the Marine parents kept us motivated and supportive of each other."

Mrs. Marks once received an e-mail from Matthew Marks, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, saying that he would be out of the country for several days. He'd contact her when he returned.

"I can understand for security reasons that's all I need to know. But you're sitting there looking up stuff on the Web sites and looking up stuff on the news that might give you a hint of what your son is going through," Mrs. Marks said. "Where is he, you ask yourself."

She logged on to Marine Parents.com to gather advice from the site and to see what other parents had heard from their children. That helped.

The Markses' Plano home teems with military pride, its jumbo Marine Corps flag flapping and Mrs. Marks' battery-powered earrings frenetically flashing red, white and blue. Recently, the Markses invited other parents of Marines – and the Marines themselves – to a bash at their house.

Saturday was one of Michael Marks' last days in town. In October, he will begin eight months of training in Pensacola, Fla., as a mechanic on helicopters and airplanes. For now, he's training in San Diego.He said he likes the Marine brotherhood and insists he wanted to join regardless of his older brother's service. He said the Marines support each other no matter what.

"People are born to go to college or do their own thing," he said. "Serving in the Marines is something I was born to do."

Merlla Scott, who lives in Savannah, Texas, said her son, 18-year-old Cory Purl, was a "punker" while at Plano East. The group for parents has given her a soft place to fall – and the Marines straightened out her son.

"My kid was going down the path of self-destruction," she said. "The change is nothing short of miraculous."

Diane Flowers of Dallas is a moderator for MarineParents.com, managing the recruit message board. She's also on the board of directors for Marine Parents.com and has been a member of the local network since 2004. Her son, Cpl. Michael Flowers, 23, is in the Marine Corps Reserve. He's served two tours of duty in Iraq, she said.

Free care packages for Marines can be requested through the Web site, she said.

The organization tries to ensure that every wounded Marine who is home and hospitalized receives at least 100 cards and letters.

Ms. Flowers said she looks forward to the group's monthly meeting to share stories with fellow parents.

"I feel like I've made some lifelong friends, and I just enjoy sharing with them news about our sons who are either deployed or about to come home," she said. "We celebrate each other's homecomings as if it were our own sons' homecomings."

Military Intelligence — Counting the months

For families of the 120 Marines who bused out of Frederick early Monday to deploy to Iraq in October, it's not yet time to plan a May return party.


Published on September 27, 2006

The Department of Defense's announcement this week of changes to two units' deployment dates means military servicemembers and their families are forced to take news of sped-up deployments and delayed returns in stride.

About 120 Marines in the Frederick-based reserve unit, Dam Support Unit 3, will deploy from North Carolina. Officials have said the tour is expected to last seven months, putting them back in the United States in May.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Keller of Frederick plans to attend his brother's wedding in late June, but when asked when he thought the unit will return, he said, "I expect to come home when they tell me it's time to get on the plane."

The parents of Lance Cpl. Frank Moran of Westminster, Cecilia and Frank Moran, said they expect their son to return from Iraq within seven to 10 months, but they recognize the possibility his tour could be extended at any time.

Monday, the Department of Defense said the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, based in Friedberg, Germany, will remain in Ramadi, Iraq for an additional 46 days.

The unit was scheduled to return to Germany in mid-January but now won't come home until late February.

The Pentagon also said Monday a Fort Bliss, Texas-based brigade will deploy to Iraq 30 days earlier than its scheduled deployment of late October. The 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division will relieve the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Relieving the Alaska unit could mean its soldiers leave Iraq before Thanksgiving. In July, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had approved a request to extend the brigade's deployment through mid-December.

For a Lisbon family in Howard County, an extended deployment had disastrous consequences. U.S. Army Sgt. David Davis of Mount Airy died in Iraq on Sept. 17.

A member of the 172nd's 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regimen, Sgt. Davis was scheduled to return home from Mazul, Iraq, in late July. His unit was redirected to Baghdad at the last minute, his brother James Andrew Davis of Emmitsburg told the News-Post on Sept. 20.

Sgt. Davis, who will be buried Thursday, deployed to Iraq in August 2005.

September 26, 2006

*Marines depart for duty, Local reserve unit says goodbye to friends and family; deployment to Iraq in October expected to last seven months

FREDERICK -- Though the Marines who left Frederick early Monday would soon don uniforms and deploy to Iraq, for a short time that morning they weren't only Marines, but also sons, husbands, brothers and friends.


By Alison Walker-Baird
News-Post Staff
Published on September 26, 2006

Dressed in street clothes, the Marines said their goodbyes and hugged family and friends -- even a golden retriever -- at the Pfc. Flair U.S. Army Reserve Center before dawn.

About 120 Marines in the Frederick-based unit boarded a bus and van for the seven-hour ride to North Carolina, where they will complete administrative procedures before deploying in October. Officials in the unit have not yet released the exact departure date and location.

*Marines practice for combat in Iraq

An Iraqi gestures and shouts out the window of his black pickup, the truck creeping up the road toward a squad of Marines hunkered behind a ruined car. An Iraqi soldier working with the Marines attempts to translate.


September 26,2006
daily news staff

The truck keeps moving forward. The Marines, their rifles trained on the vehicle, are having none of it.

“We already gave him a warning shot,” a Marine yells to his comrades behind him. “If he keeps coming, give him a mobility kill.”

These Marines, taking part in a training scenario Monday at Camp Lejeune’s military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) town are facing a situation they will most likely encounter when they deploy to Iraq. It’s a scenario they have repeated countless times in previous exercises and in their heads.

It’s different this time. Now, the man in the truck is actually an Iraqi speaking a language the Marines don’t understand. Building signs are written Arabic. Calls to prayer echo through the streets. Blasts from improvised explosive devices and pops of sniper fire fill the air.

It’s part of the Marine Corps’ goal to make training as lifelike as possible before sending units into harm’s way.

“It puts a bit of realism with it,” said Capt. Brad Carr, commander of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. “It’s very difficult to replicate (war). The ability to actually incorporate interaction with Iraqis and Iraqi culture into training is a huge aspect. It’s about as real as you can get around here.”

That realism starts with having more than 50 Iraqis — many former soldiers — role play as insurgents, Iraqi soldiers, police or common civilians. They were spread out about MOUT town, sitting at tables and eating, playing dominoes, listening to music.

Waiting for the Marines to come through on patrol.

“It helps the guys going on their first deployment,” said Cpl. Chris Martin, a 22-year-old with Kilo Company from Maryville, Tenn., who is training for his second deployment to Iraq. “It would have helped me a lot. When I first went over there I didn’t know what to expect. Every Marine needs to be able to communicate with other Marines and our Iraqi counterparts.”

During his first deployment, Martin’s unit operated with Iraqi soldiers. Despite the language classes and other cultural training, it took Martin a long time to be able to communicate and operate effectively with those soldiers.

“It wasn’t enough at that time,” he said.

But this training is giving Marines like Kilo’s Cpl. David Arrendt, 21, of Port Washington, Wis., who is preparing for his first deployment to Iraq, an opportunity to not only see actual Iraqis, but to learn about them before they encounter them on a hostile street in an alien country. To that end, the Marines were able to converse with the Iraqis over a meal of kabobs, rice and lentils, chickpea soup and pita bread. Some Marines gathered around a hookah pipe, smoking with the Iraqis.

“IEDs and direct fire, we can do that anytime,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Frost, 29, of Kilo Company and Talais, Maine. “But being able to converse and view their culture is a help. This is going to give them a taste of the Iraqi culture. They can look at them not so much as the enemy.”

Kilo Company is spending 48 hours at the MOUT, where the company’s squads will set out on regular training patrols, Carr said. The training is part of a 14-day evolution as the unit prepares for an upcoming tour in Iraq.

Many Camp Lejeune-based units are preparing for the same deployment as II Marine Expeditionary Force prepares to take control of operations in Iraq’s Anbar province sometime early next year.

As these Marines — many of them one- or two-time veterans of Iraq — prepare for another plunge into the breach, cohesion at the small-unit level is particularly important, Carr said. Placing squads into realisticl and chaotic situations in training will only help them and their units survive.

“This is a squad fight,” Carr said. “This is where the small unit leader is at his optimum. This is a thinking man’s game. That young corporal or sergeant has to be on his toes.”

The squad leader dealing with the black truck is definitely alert. The truck is backing in front of a nearby building. Another Iraqi sits on a small porch, watching the Marines as they watch him. The driver exits the vehicle and walks into the house.

The squad leader calls another team up, ordering them to position themselves to the left of the building. As they approach, an insurgent pops up on a nearby roof and shoots down into the advancing team, his AK-47 firing bursts of pyrotechnic lights. The Marines shoot him “dead.”

Eventually, the Marines advance toward the house, moving over a series of small walls toward it. Suddenly, a simulated explosion rips up through the center of the squad, spewing grey smoke into the air. An exercise facilitator hands out “casualty cards” indicating what injury they received to various Marines.

That grim reminder is reason enough for the Marines to appreciate the detailed training.

“When we came out to MOUT town, it was almost like being back over there,” said Martin. “I think it gave some of us a little wake up call and gave the new guys something to expect when they head to country.”

September 25, 2006

Marines Test New Body Armor

MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C. - Body armor can be traced back to before the Roman Empire, when war was waged with sword and spear and the battlefield rang with the clash of steel on steel. Since then, mankind has upgraded its self-preservation skills, and the steel armored suit is replaced with Kevlar and flak jackets.


Marine Corps News | Lcpl. Ryan C. Heiser | September 25, 2006

Lance Cpl. Steven A. Garner was chosen to try out the next generation of body armor. Marines have used flak jackets for years and now it is time for the next improvement, the Modular Tactical Vest, or MTV. Garner was part of a group of Marines selected from various units, world-wide, to test new flak jacket designs.

In the early stages of development, there were 19 designs, and one-by-one they were eliminated in favor of prototypes which better suit the Marines’ needs. Three designs remain.

“The new flak designs are definitely an improvement,” said Garner, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. “You feel safer because it provides a larger area of protection.”

Garner has tested the flaks by participating in hikes, and simulated jumping out of “crashed” helicopters, planes, amphibious assault vehicles, and going through obstacle an obstacle course while firing at targets. These tests were designed to represent various needs of the Marines in combat.

The new flak designs feature integrated side SAPI plates, increased load-bearing capabilities, rifle holsters and a quick-release.

“The exercises definitely represent a broad range of the Marine Corps,” Garner said about the large scope of needs a flak jacket must meet.

Garner, as well as the others, was paired with a flak to test in all the events, and gave it a rating based on how it met the Marine’s needs. The next week the Marines tested a different prototype and rated it and did the same with the last prototype and rated it. This schedule allowed each Marine to test every design in every event, and provided a more accurate rating of the improved flak jackets.

“About 96 Marines and sailors from each Marine Expeditionary Force and every Military Occupational Specialty have tested the new flaks in order to provide a good example of what will work and what won’t,” said Capt. John T. Gutierrez, the project officer-in-charge of the testing.

Garner and the other Marines put themselves through the rigorous testing over the course of three weeks in order to save lives. There will always be a need to upgrade body armor to protect warriors as long as people continue to wage war.

Copyright 2006 Marine Corps News. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.


ABOARD USS IWO JIMA – The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s AV-8B Harriers flew the last of 136 combat missions over Afghanistan Sept. 21, ending a short but productive stint in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Release Date: 9/25/2006
Release Number: 06-09-02P

Using just four of its jump jets per day, the MEU’s Harrier detachment dropped a total of 17 precision-guided bombs over 13 days on behalf of NATO forces battling a resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

With the MEU and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group positioned in the Arabian Sea, and with NATO forces in daily contact with insurgents, coalition commanders were happy to have the Harriers’ help.

“Our Harriers were invaluable in filling the gaps of coalition air cover,” said Maj. Pete “Chumly” Lee, who led the first section of Harriers into Afghanistan on Sept. 9. “We would regularly show up when no other aircraft were on station and coalition forces were engaged with the Taliban, and we would deliver lethal fire on the enemy. Our presence on more than one occasion resulted in the destruction of the Taliban and their weapons.”

By opting to openly challenge coalition forces determined to assert control in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have frequently exposed themselves to waiting bombers and jets loitering above.

The Harrier’s weaponry includes a 25 mm cannon and a mix of precision-guided, all-weather Joint Direct Attack Munitions and laser-guided bombs. Additionally, the Harrier is equipped with a targeting pod that provides considerable standoff range, allowing the pilot to spot and fire on the enemy while remaining undetected himself.

While the Harriers operated mostly from the deck of the USS Iwo Jima, the MEU sped up their turn-around time between missions by inserting a small detachment of maintainers and bomb-loaders into a coalition-run airfield in Kandahar.

The Harrier’s ability to take off from short runways and to land vertically allows it to operate both from its ship at sea and airfields ashore, greatly enhancing the aircraft’s responsiveness.

“By using Kandahar Air Base, we nearly doubled our sorties,” said Lt. Col. Robert Barr, commander of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced), the 24th MEU’s air combat element. “The versatility of the Harrier allowed us to rapidly refuel, rearm and get back in the fight. Our jets truly made a difference these last two weeks.”

The 24th MEU is the landing force for the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. Based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the 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.

For more information, contact Capt. David Nevers at [email protected]

*‘Mountaineer’ prepared for demanding trek

COMBAT OUT POST RAWAH, Iraq (Sept. 25, 2006) -- Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd LAR) officially began their months-long deployment in western Al Anbar, Iraq.


Sept. 25, 2006
Story ID#: 200692511916
By Pfc. Nathaniel F. Sapp, 1st Marine Division

A ceremony marked the event as 2nd LAR assumed responsibility for providing security and training Iraqi Security Forces, from the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (3rd LAR) Sept. 21, 2006.

3rd LAR will soon return home after wrapping up their seven-month deployment in support of the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7).

RCT-7 is the Coalition Forces unit responsible for providing security and developing Iraqi Security Forces in western Al Anbar — an area of more than 30,000 square miles, which spans from the Syrian/Jordanian borders hundreds of miles east to the Euphrates River.

When 3rd LAR arrived in March, the battalion, also known as “Wolfpack,” trained Iraqi Security Forces while providing security from the Syrian and Jordanian borders and east through hundreds of miles of parched desert landscape.

Within this large span of territory sits Ar Rutbah, Iraq — a city of about 30,000 located about 100 miles east of the Jordanian/Iraqi border.

Throughout their deployment, 3rd LAR played a crucial role in fighting the insurgency by restricting access into the city from terrorists and foreign fighters who made their way across the Jordanian/Syrian borders.

While 3rd LAR boasted one of the largest areas of operation in western Al Anbar — it got larger.

On July 29, 2006, Iraq’s top Coalition Forces command, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, announced the relocation of Coalition units to Baghdad from other areas in the country to quell the sectarian violence plaguing the capital city.

One of those “other areas” was the Euphrates River-city of Rawah — a city of about 20,000 located 150 miles northeast of Ar Rutbah.

Wolfpack filled the gap in Rawah to continue training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security where the previous Coalition unit left off, prior to making its way to Baghdad.

Starting today, 2nd LAR, also known as “Mountaineer”, intends to capitalize on the successes of their West Coast counterparts, according to Marines here.

“In order for us to do our job effectively, we’re going to need to build on the successes of 3rd LAR,” said Lt. Col. Austin E. Renforth, battalion commander for 2nd LAR. “In the short time that they’ve(3rd LAR) been here, they did a great job of setting us up to take it to the next level.”

That “next level” is one critical to the overall mission that Coalition Forces face in Iraq. Ultimately, it will allow the areas of Iraq that Coalition Forces operate in to confidently turn over safe locations to Iraqi Security Forces.

For 2nd LAR, it means putting more of the battalion’s Marines into cities like Rawah and Anah — a small town about 10 miles south of Rawah — to work with the Iraqi Security Forces and their people.

“Coming together with the Iraqi Security Forces is our number one priority. We need to be training and working side by side with them in order for our objective to be reached,” said Renforth.

"Ultimately, we want to make sure the Iraqi forces have the knowledge, and the ability, to confidently police their own," added Cpl. Joshua Young, a 20-year-old from Howell, Mich., and clerk for Company H&S.;

Through extensive training both in the field and in the classroom, the Marines of 2nd LAR have been given the tools and information needed to complete their mission, while maintaining the high standards set for them.

"Our command did a great job of preparing the whole training package," said Cpl. Steven Oakes, a 22-year-old Light Armored Vehicle gunner for the battalion’s Company A and Longview, Wash., native. "They wanted to make sure that everyone was proficiently cross-trained to handle any situation."

Although this deployment is not the first for many in the battalion, the Marines of 2nd LAR are aware of the ever-changing environment in Iraq where the “seen it once, seen it all” attitude does not apply, and all they can expect is the unexpected.

"We have to be prepared for this to be different than last time," said Cpl. Chris McGathy, a 22-year-old vehicle commander with CO. A. "We’re in different areas with different types of people, people who constantly have to deal with upheaval in their lives."

While the reaction of the Iraqi people is uncertain, the battalion has an extensive amount of tools at its disposal in order to maximize their effectiveness in the region.

An LAR unit employs Light Armored Vehicles along with infantrymen, increasing the range of their abilities and allowing them to self-sustain easier than other infantry units might be able to, said Renforth. The Marines can also work separate from the vehicles, making them able to conduct dismounted patrols and thorough sweeps of an area.

"We have more maneuverability and speed, more firepower available, and more overall versatility," said Oakes. "We pretty much have the whole package."

"There's a lot of confidence of our abilities within the battalion," added McGathy, a Cedarville, Kan., native. "We're definitely ready, and going to hit the ground running."

'Mountaineer' Prepared for Demanding Trek

Combat Outpost Rawah, Iraq - Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd LAR) officially began their months-long deployment in western Al Anbar, Iraq.


Marine Corps News | Pfc. Nathaniel F. Sapp | September 25, 2006

A ceremony marked the event as 2nd LAR assumed responsibility for providing security and training Iraqi Security Forces, from the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (3rd LAR) Sept. 21, 2006.

3rd LAR will soon return home after wrapping up their seven-month deployment in support of the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7).

RCT-7 is the Coalition Forces unit responsible for providing security and developing Iraqi Security Forces in western Al Anbar — an area of more than 30,000 square miles, which spans from the Syrian/Jordanian borders hundreds of miles east to the Euphrates River.

When 3rd LAR arrived in March, the battalion, also known as “Wolfpack,” trained Iraqi Security Forces while providing security from the Syrian and Jordanian borders and east through hundreds of miles of parched desert landscape.

Within this large span of territory sits Ar Rutbah, Iraq — a city of about 30,000 located about 100 miles east of the Jordanian/Iraqi border.

Throughout their deployment, 3rd LAR played a crucial role in fighting the insurgency by restricting access into the city from terrorists and foreign fighters who made their way across the Jordanian/Syrian borders.

While 3rd LAR boasted one of the largest areas of operation in western Al Anbar — it got larger.

On July 29, 2006, Iraq’s top Coalition Forces command, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, announced the relocation of Coalition units to Baghdad from other areas in the country to quell the sectarian violence plaguing the capital city.

One of those “other areas” was the Euphrates River-city of Rawah — a city of about 20,000 located 150 miles northeast of Ar Rutbah.

Wolfpack filled the gap in Rawah to continue training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security where the previous Coalition unit left off, prior to making its way to Baghdad.

Starting today, 2nd LAR, also known as “Mountaineer”, intends to capitalize on the successes of their West Coast counterparts, according to Marines here.

“In order for us to do our job effectively, we’re going to need to build on the successes of 3rd LAR,” said Lt. Col. Austin E. Renforth, battalion commander for 2nd LAR. “In the short time that they’ve(3rd LAR) been here, they did a great job of setting us up to take it to the next level.”

That “next level” is one critical to the overall mission that Coalition Forces face in Iraq. Ultimately, it will allow the areas of Iraq that Coalition Forces operate in to confidently turn over safe locations to Iraqi Security Forces.

For 2nd LAR, it means putting more of the battalion’s Marines into cities like Rawah and Anah — a small town about 10 miles south of Rawah — to work with the Iraqi Security Forces and their people.

“Coming together with the Iraqi Security Forces is our number one priority. We need to be training and working side by side with them in order for our objective to be reached,” said Renforth.

"Ultimately, we want to make sure the Iraqi forces have the knowledge, and the ability, to confidently police their own," added Cpl. Joshua Young, a 20-year-old from Howell, Mich., and clerk for Company H&S.;

Through extensive training both in the field and in the classroom, the Marines of 2nd LAR have been given the tools and information needed to complete their mission, while maintaining the high standards set for them.

"Our command did a great job of preparing the whole training package," said Cpl. Steven Oakes, a 22-year-old Light Armored Vehicle gunner for the battalion’s Company A and Longview, Wash., native. "They wanted to make sure that everyone was proficiently cross-trained to handle any situation."

Although this deployment is not the first for many in the battalion, the Marines of 2nd LAR are aware of the ever-changing environment in Iraq where the “seen it once, seen it all” attitude does not apply, and all they can expect is the unexpected.

"We have to be prepared for this to be different than last time," said Cpl. Chris McGathy, a 22-year-old vehicle commander with CO. A. "We’re in different areas with different types of people, people who constantly have to deal with upheaval in their lives."

While the reaction of the Iraqi people is uncertain, the battalion has an extensive amount of tools at its disposal in order to maximize their effectiveness in the region.

An LAR unit employs Light Armored Vehicles along with infantrymen, increasing the range of their abilities and allowing them to self-sustain easier than other infantry units might be able to, said Renforth. The Marines can also work separate from the vehicles, making them able to conduct dismounted patrols and thorough sweeps of an area.

"We have more maneuverability and speed, more firepower available, and more overall versatility," said Oakes. "We pretty much have the whole package."

"There's a lot of confidence of our abilities within the battalion," added McGathy, a Cedarville, Kan., native. "We're definitely ready, and going to hit the ground running."

September 24, 2006

*Brothers in Arms part IV: Two good men

After graduating from boot camp, twin brothers Robert and Matt Shipp, from Hauser Lake, know they have what it takes to be Marines

A closed sign hung in the window of the little Coeur d'Alene barber shop when Matt and Robert Shipp arrived Tuesday afternoon, a day after returning home from boot camp.


James Hagengruber, Staff writer
September 24, 2006

Although their hair was barely longer than toothbrush bristles, the 18-year-old twin brothers from Hauser Lake needed a trim. Not just any trim, but the trademark "high and tight" buzz cuts worn by U.S. Marines.

After 13 sweaty, grueling weeks, the Shipp twins had earned the right to be called Marines. They wanted to look the part during their few days at home.

Richard Bird, owner of the Best Avenue Barber Shop, kept his business open for the twins. "I'll stay late for these guys," said Bird, who served in the Marine Corps four decades ago. He also refused payment.

For the twins, this is all part of realizing their dream of becoming Marines. It will be at least another four months before they are deployed overseas to begin the hard work of fighting the nation's wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. For now, they are simply enjoying unexpected doses of respect and gratitude – the free haircut, the standing ovation at a San Diego Padres baseball game, the modest military discounts, the thumbs up gestures and back pats from strangers.

"It feels good," Robert said, after recounting some of these instances he and his brother have experienced since graduating from boot camp Sept. 15.

The twins are happy to be home but eager to get on with the business of training for war. On Tuesday, Pfc. Robert Shipp will return to California for infantry training at Camp Pendleton. A week later, Pfc. Matt Shipp will arrive at the base to begin learning how to direct artillery fire. For the first time since birth, they will be separated, but they expect to be able to see each other on Sundays. Both are hoping to try out for reconnaissance training, the toughest offered by the Marines.

According to their recruiter, the twins have a "95 or 96 percent" chance of being deployed to Iraq once they finish training. Although the American public is divided on the merits of fighting this war, the Shipps are eager to serve their country. Like countless generations of young men before them, the twins want to prove themselves in combat. If anything, boot camp only boosted their desire to experience battle.

"I want to see action," Matt said.

By joining the Marines during a time of war, that's almost a given. The Marines, the smallest branch of the military, make up about 15 percent of U.S. armed forces personnel serving in Iraq. They've served in the toughest battles. This fact is borne out in Pentagon statistics: Nearly one in three Americans killed in Iraq has been a Marine.

Like countless generations of mothers, Leslee Shipp doesn't like hearing her sons talk about going off to war. She chokes up with every little reminder that her twins – whom she still calls "my babies" – could soon be sent overseas with rifles and helmets. She even got teary when the family visited SeaWorld and her sons were applauded for their service in the military.

But Leslee and her husband, Dennis, are also immeasurably proud. Their sons seem tougher and much more serious. They have a sense of direction, Dennis said. Both boys are talking about making a career out of the Marine Corps. Matt is thinking about eventually becoming a helicopter pilot. Robert aims to earn his sergeant's stripes within four years, then go to officer candidate school and eventually learn to fly fighter jets. Lofty goals, for sure, but Dennis and Leslee are thrilled.

"I think they're going to go far," Dennis said.

Not that long ago, Robert wasn't even going to finish high school. He dropped out for a while but returned when he learned he needed a diploma to enlist alongside his brother.

Dennis Shipp, who had previously scorned tattoos, has been so impressed by the transformation, he had the Marine Corps logo and his sons' names inked permanently on his bicep. Although the twins didn't earn the right to be called Marines until finishing boot camp, Dennis had no doubts. He got the tattoo several weeks before they graduated.

This pride is always competing with fear. Leslee tries to avoid news of the war. Dennis said he now follows the news intensely, hoping to learn what his sons might soon face. Months of training remain before any overseas deployment. For now, Dennis and Leslee are embracing the sliver of a chance the boys might not end up on the front lines in a desert halfway around the world.

"They want to go to Iraq. I don't want them to. I'd rather see them go to Japan or someplace like that," Dennis said.


Leslee and Dennis, along with their younger son, C.J., first-born daughter, Lacey, and Matt's girlfriend, Jessica Whetstine, traveled to San Diego earlier this month to attend boot camp graduation. All flavors of families filled the metal bleachers to watch the 631 recruits in Company K, 3rd Battalion – nicknamed "Killer Kilo" – receive the Marine Corps eagle, globe and anchor emblem. Many, like the Shipps, who operate a restaurant and resort on Hauser Lake, were solidly middle class. One set of parents arrived in the back of a gleaming black limousine. Others wore the deep, dark tans of people who spend their days picking fruit or working fields.

As the families waited, the recruits assembled on the opposite side of the massive sea of asphalt known as the parade deck. Girlfriends stood impatiently, chewing gum and twirling locks of streaked hair. An American Indian man with a fresh straw hat towered above many in the crowd. He stood silently staring at the distant recruits.

When the young men began marching in double time past their families, a silver-haired grandmother started sobbing and nearly collapsed. A dry, hot breeze blew over the asphalt parade deck, carrying the faint odor of sweat and canvas and prompting a young woman to proclaim, "Ooh! They smell so good!"

Leslee Shipp was in tears when she spotted the flag of platoon 3019. Out of seven platoons graduating that week, platoon 3019 was named honor platoon. They did better than the others at things recruits must master, such as shooting, climbing walls, running, swimming, marching and reciting Marine Corps history.

Even though all the recruits were nearly bald and wore the same uniforms, Leslee had no trouble spotting Matt and Robert. "There's my babies!" she shouted, barely audible over the roar of the crowd. Dennis pumped his fist high into the air. "Yeah! Yeah! That's my boys!"

In the days leading up to graduation, Leslee grew increasingly anxious that her sons would become not just Marines, but robots. This fear evaporated seconds after she reached her sons. She hugged them. They hugged her back.

"I'm sorry," she said, wiping mascara from the lapel of Robert's crisply ironed shirt, "Just look at your uniform."

"We made it," Matt said.

"We've been reborn," Robert added. "It's weird, you look at the new recruits now and you feel years older than them."

Dennis beamed. After a few minutes, he called Robert and Matt to his side and rolled up his shirt sleeve, revealing the large tattoo. Robert's jaw dropped. "That's badass!"

The twins announced they are also planning to get matching "Brothers in Arms" tattoos.

Later in the afternoon, Matt and Robert were given several hours of "liberty" to walk the base with their family. Matt escorted his girlfriend. Leslee reached for Robert's right arm for an escort. He pulled it away and offered his left. "I have to salute with my right hand, Mom," Robert explained.

As they passed an office, a sergeant shouted through the open doorway. He ordered Matt to stop. "How did they teach you to escort a young woman?" he yelled.

Matt's face reddened. He quickly corrected his elbow to the required 90-degree escort angle. It was a reminder that even while on leave, the twins were now Marines and would be for every second of at least the next four years. Escort stumble aside, Matt couldn't be happier about finally becoming a Marine. It didn't really sink in, though, until a few hours after Matt received his Marine Corps pin. Matt was walking back to his barracks when a platoon of new recruits jogged past. The recruits yelled out to Matt, "Good afternoon!" Recruits must acknowledge any Marines they see.

Matt was all smiles. "That felt good," he said.

Robert and Matt wolfed down double cheeseburgers that afternoon. They began to loosen up and tell stories from their training, like the time they met a Marine who was injured while fighting in Iraq. He dove atop a grenade to save his fellow Marines. He survived, but "lost 70 percent of his blood supply," Robert said.

Leslee sighed. "I don't want to hear that," she said.

Matt and Robert Shipp aren't the only members of their family changed by the Marines. Their parents and siblings – like hundreds of thousands of other military families across the nation – must cope with the intense joys of reunions while dreading inevitable departures to unknown, possibly dangerous places.

"I don't want them to leave," Leslee said less than an hour after her sons became Marines. "I'm freaked. Those are my babies."

C.J., the twins' 14-year-old brother, sat quietly, occasionally patting the backs of his big brothers. "I missed you guys," he said repeatedly.

After boot camp, the twins spent the weekend with their family at a beachside hotel in San Diego. They slept on soft mattresses and enjoyed not being awakened with a shout or having to make their beds each morning. Robert, despite repeated pleas from his mother, promptly resumed his chewing tobacco habit – during boot camp, he secretly indulged by sticking a wad of coffee grounds between his lip and gum.

Tuesday was their first morning back at home. The twins woke at sunrise for a run around Hauser Lake. Then they followed the orders of their drill instructors and returned to high school to thank their teachers and mentors.

Matt's shop class teacher at Lakeland Senior High School in Rathdrum, Corey Pettit, briefly paused class to talk with the twins. He shook their hands and asked about boot camp and what happens next. Robert and Matt smiled and, in characteristic fashion, kept their answers short.

"It's been great," Matt said. "We love it."

"It's easy," Robert said, grinning.

Pettit had a serious look when he said goodbye to the Shipps. "Take care of yourselves, all right?"

When Robert returned to his alma mater, Mountain View Alternative School, he was mobbed by old friends and teachers. Lara Carr, who works at the school, hugged Robert. Her son, Lance, is also in the Marines and was expecting to be deployed to Iraq late last week.

"Please be safe," Carr told the Shipp twins, who were standing ramrod straight with their hands clasped behind their backs. They nodded and smiled.

Robert and Matt are fairly quiet. They're known more for listening than talking, but the young men become animated when they discuss their recent training or their growing eagerness to use their new fighting skills.

At a community potluck Thursday night at the family's resort on Hauser Lake, the twins were approached and congratulated by a stream of older men who once served in the Marines. Some of the men pulled the twins aside, leaned in close and told stories of past battles, of good times with fellow Marines.

By the looks they wore, Robert and Matt were enthralled. They sucked up the war stories and probed for details. Meanwhile, the twins' parents stood nearby holding each other tightly and keeping a close watch on their boys.

Trainers pass on hard lessons of combat

Vets draw on war background

When the men of the 1/24th Marines go into Iraq, they'll be led by quiet heroes and schooled by savvy veterans.


September 24, 2006

Honing these 1,000-plus men into the sharp point of U.S. foreign policy in the so-called Sunni Triangle in Iraq, the Marine Corps has turned to the likes of Capt. Michael Mayne and Warrant Officer Brenden Reilly of the Australian Army.

Reilly taught the men in the Mojave, and Mayne, just one of more than a dozen combat veterans assigned to help the unit as it first faces fire, will lead them in action by example.

On Oct. 11, 2004, Mayne was a first lieutenant and a platoon leader in Iraq when he and his men were ambushed by attackers positioned across a canal. Mayne set up a fire base and then waded across the canal, killing two enemies as he led the pursuit of the routed ambushers.

A month later his platoon was attacked by 100 insurgents, and, in the face of 4-1 odds, he led a charge to clear the enemy from a house. In the fight he killed one enemy and captured three others. Then the insurgents counterattacked with rockets and machine guns. From a new position, Mayne coordinated the platoon's defense and broke up the assault.

"His efforts defeated the enemy attack and killed 40 insurgents," according to Marine records. Mayne won a Bronze Star for his actions.

Also pitching in with the Michigan unit's training are a handful of Australian soldiers, who share the hard-learned lessons of brushfire wars in Somalia, the Balkans, East Timor and Rwanda.

One of them is Reilly, who showed the Marines how to survive and prevail in close-quarter gunfights.

As Marines armed with M16s -- and firing 9mm paint ammo with enough force to break unprotected skin or leave a welt through clothing -- assaulted a building held by instructors posing as insurgents, Reilly shouted encouragement and warnings.

"Take that window! Cover it, cover," he yelled.Reilly directed a gruesome bulky ballet of sweating, swearing armored men piling through hallways and rooms.

"You're dead, you're dead," he shouted in a Crocodile Dundee-like accent to a Marine suddenly tattooed red by paint-filled ammo fired by the AK47s of their opponents.

He focused on Marines ready to grenade their way forward: "Look and throw! Look and throw -- fast!"

A final burst of pop-pop-pop and curses, and the building was taken.

"An urban setting like this is the most dangerous environment for infantry to fight in," said Reilly. "This is the place to make your mistakes and fix them. Here, you can get up and walk away."

Contact JOE SWICKARD at 313-222-8769 or [email protected]

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.

*Michigan's band of brothers


Flip through any Michigan phone book and you'll find the likes of the 1/24th Marines.

Note: There is a video associated with this article, click on the original link for viewing, as long as the link continues to work


September 24, 2006

Chuck McCall is a Ford assembly worker weighing a buyout. Jade Tanguay and Paul Kraus are a pair of Detroit cops. Rudy Mendoza of Newberry -- by way of Pontiac -- was stocking grocery shelves when he decided to join up because he was "sick of seeing things on TV and not doing anything myself."

When the unit ships out, it will be the largest single Marine Reserve deployment from Michigan in the war on terror.

The military is wary of releasing exact numbers, destinations or timetables, but the battalion's core is made up of more than 700 Michiganders, along with another few hundred from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee. This month, those men found themselves running through a realistic mock-up of an Iraqi village in the Mojave Desert -- humping 40 pounds or more of automatic weapons, miscellaneous gear and ammo in 110-degree heat.

But they weren't thinking of sowing democracy as they dived through windows, kicked in doors and charged up stairways to face snipers, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

No, it's personal for these firefighters, salesmen and managers from places like Lansing, Dearborn and Livonia who strapped on Kevlar helmets and armored vests, bedded down in the dirt, bathed with baby wipes and went through weeks of sweat-soaked training that lasted from before dawn till long past dark in preparation for a seven-month deployment to Anbar province in Iraq's Sunni Triangle.

"It comes down to getting your buddy's back," says Lance Cpl. Craig Brightwell, 20, of Paw Paw.

The First Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment ended almost five months of intense preparation this month with Mojave Viper 19-06, a massive three-day around-the-clock maneuver. The 1/24th -- supported by armor and other units -- was pitted against insurgent fighters in a replicated Iraqi town called Wadi al Sahara. About 400 villagers, sheikhs, officials and merchants holed up in about 500 homes, offices, markets and mosques all constructed at full-scale using steel shipping containers stacked up to three stories tall.

Most of the Wadi al Sahara roles were filled by Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans so that the troops would learn how to deal with a civilian population -- plus insurgents -- with a different language and culture in the midst of chaotic action and explosions.

Mojave Viper was the payoff for weeks of exhausting ambushes, searches and close-quarter gunfights.

It's hoped that Wadi al Sahara and the role-players, many of them from metro Detroit, would give the regiment a true tactical and cultural immersion for their Iraqi assignment, said Col. Ron Baczkowski, a Hamtramck native who heads up the training in the Wadi al Sahara.

"When they deploy, I want them to feel like they've been there before," he said. "They're going to hear the Muslim call to prayers five times a day and they are going through the souk -- the marketplace -- so they'll hit the ground ready to operate."

After weeks of go-go-go training, suffocating heat and sandstorms broken by epic deluges, the men are straining to lunge into action.

"Yessir, yessir," said First Sgt. Chedrick Greene, a Saginaw firefighter and union official. "Waited too long to turn back."

Bonding among neighbors

With a roaring bear's head insignia proclaiming itself Terror from the North, the 1/24th is Marine Corps, no doubt about it. Yet it significantly differs from most outfits, say the men who lead it.

Instead of teenage recruits from across the country, Maj. Christopher Kolomjec said the 1/24th is made up mostly of older Marine Reserves, often neighbors, bonded by years of drills and training. Their service is bolstered by lives and careers established outside the Corps, Kolomjec said.

The unit was headquartered at the Brodhead Armory in Detroit near Belle Isle for about 50 years and transferred to Selfridge Air National Guard Base outside Mt. Clemens in 2003. Its component companies also are based in Saginaw, Lansing and Grand Rapids, as well as one in Perrysburg, Ohio.

"They're just a snapshot of everyday life in Michigan," said Kolomjec, a 38-year-old Grosse Pointe Farms lawyer with three kids at Richard Elementary School. "We are older, we are more mature and we chose to be here," he said.

In this complex and dangerous war "we need thinking Marines, we need smart Marines," said Kolomjec, adding that Marines with jobs and families can "address the problems over there with a perspective that I think is more effective."

Yes, said Brightwell, but you can't train to leave your family.

Winston Farrow, who swapped his Detroit Fire Department lieutenant's bars for Marine master sergeant stripes, said his three kids got a preview when he was called to help with hurricane relief in the South last year.

Farrow said he has tried to prepare the kids with regular talks "about obligation, dedication and service." But they are kids, and he thinks even model kids can get stressed after a few months.

Catching a breather after running through medical evacuation drills to practice treating and carrying the wounded to a helicopter under battle conditions, Gunnery Sgt. Paul McGowan, said he became a Marine because he wondered how he would have handled Vietnam.

Twentynine Palms, said McGowan, is a 934-square-mile area of barren desert and mountains, but it's not empty. It's a harsh crucible that "tests and tests the limits" of men and their commitment. "It builds camaraderie."

McGowan, like most of the other Marines, spoke during quick breaks in their hard-charging training. The men were eager to share their thoughts about their neighbors and workmates and the dads in the group all knew they were missing their kids' first days of the new school year -- but taking five from combat drills doesn't allow for deep reflective introspection and detailed autobiographies before armoring up and pushing on.

Still, they shared what they could.

At 44, McGowan, from Jackson and in the industrial and commercial lighting business, is one of the older men in the outfit and is now on the fifth deployment of his Marine career. And with a salesman's easy rapport, McGowan, who has a son and two daughters, schooled some younger Marines about coping with fear of the unknown and separation from families.

McGowan, who marked his 19th wedding anniversary and 20th Marine anniversary on Sept. 12 in the California desert, said his family "can't believe I have to go back" but understand his need not to sit this one out.

Also heeding the call is Lance Cpl. Mohammed Sayied. Always drawn to the military life, Sayied joined the ROTC at Detroit Cass Tech High School.

An Oakland Community College student and a bartender at Logan's Roadhouse in Livonia, he joined the Marine Reserves, a move that distressed his Bangladesh-born parents. He said he has been pushed to conquer "stuff I never would have. I never could have imagined living on a mountain, but we did."

A practicing Muslim who made his pilgrimage to Mecca, Sayied, 24, said he has explained his faith to his buddies.

"Islam is peace and serenity," Sayied said. "Nowhere in the Quran does it say to go out and kill people. A true Muslim just wouldn't go out and do that."

Sayied's data networking assignment is at odds with his go-getter urge for action: "If I wanted to play with computers in an air-conditioned room, I could have done that at Best Buy."

Unlike some Marines, he didn't rush to get married when called up. "It's bad enough with Mom and Dad," he said. "There's enough worrying without a wife."

Mendoza, the 22-year-old from Newberry, joined the Reserves at the same time his brother Jeremy joined the regular Marines.

"Mom kind of freaked" about the enlistments and potential dangers, he said, but now "she's hanging up our certificates and awards."

The latest certificate came in July for an Urban Breaching Course.

"That's blowing up doors," Mendoza said. "It is an adrenaline rush."

'Nobody's not scared'

Kolomjec said that once in Iraq, even routine duties will put his men in harm's way. It's probably unrealistic to think all of them will make it back home without casualties, he said.

So his goal, Kolomjec said, is for the men to "rise above their fears, rise above themselves and do something that they didn't think they could do."

The unit's hometown connections, he said, provide motivation but with a cost.

"I think everyone has their own individual fears and anxieties and limitations and weaknesses," he said. "You don't want to let each other down and you don't want to let the people back home down. And it is different because you are going back home and you have to, I guess, explain yourselves.

"An active unit goes back to another base, but we're going back home. So people are going to know what we did and what we didn't do and whether we failed. We have to account for that and that's an added stress."

Pfc. Mike Brasic of Ortonville, who married just before desert training, said service is a balancing of his life. "I'm 21 years old and it seems like I've been given a lot from my family, friends and America in general," Brasic said. "And when I get back, America's going to give me a lot more and so maybe this is a way of giving something back."

The men often fall into sports imagery for their coming task -- Iraq is their game time, and they're ready to play. But they know, too, success won't be marked with touchdowns or walk-off homers as the crowd goes wild.

Success comes "on a smaller scale," said Brightwell. "You got to take it piece by piece, making sure you've got your buddy's back and your buddy's got your back."

The thought of combat, he said "is a big weird gut feeling" with worries for the safety of "the guy right next to you that you've come to love or whatever."

"Nobody's not scared," he said.

Hearts pound with automatic weapons fire and explosions during the training; reflection comes in the sudden silences.

Lance Cpl. Ronnie Julian is a machine gunner who said that when "you put 1,000 rounds down range, it's intense. It gets your adrenaline going."

Barely pausing, Julian, 23, of Bay City continued: "I think it's going to be completely different scenario, though, when rounds come back at you."

Kolomjec said he has seen his men toughened under the harsh desert sun, but they haven't hardened.

"You take any one of these guys with a rifle -- and they're trained to be the most violent, the most aggressive, the best warriors that America has -- and you pull him aside and he's worried about his wife," Kolomjec said. "He worries about his kid, his mom; about if everything's OK because he's not there."

Wounded soldier welcomed home as hero

Candia – Marine Lance Cpl. Louis Stamatelos Jr. doesn't think he's a hero, but his hometown begs to differ and gave him a hero's welcome this weekend.


Special to the Sunday News, 15 hours, 2 minutes ago

Stamatelos, the 21-year-old son of Candice and Louis Stamatelos Sr., was wounded by sniper fire July 21 in Iraq. After two months in military hospitals, he returned home Friday night, just in time for yesterday's Old Home Day celebration. The theme, chosen months ago, was "Hometown Heroes."

Stamatelos showed up yesterday morning at the Candia Volunteer Fire Department Pancake Breakfast, an annual tradition with him.

In past years he would have been flipping pancakes or dishing out sausage. This year, he came for breakfast, but had to stop every few minutes to shake the hands of supporters.

Stamatelos took the sniper's bullet in his shoulder and lost the use of his right hand. "Fortunately, I'm left-handed," he said.

After growing up in Candia, Stamatelos knew his community had a heart, but even he was shocked by his welcome.

About 200 people showed up Friday night at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. A "Welcome Home" sign was the first thing he saw when he came off the off-ramp at Exit 3 in Candia.

"My dad told me there were 800 flags around town," he said. "I was shocked people went to that extent."

Stamatelos said he has warm memories of Old Home Days of his childhood.

"I loved the parades, playing in the park, being around the fire trucks at the breakfast. I always had a 'thing' for the fire department," he said.

He later joined, and worked as a volunteer firefighter until he joined the Marines in 2004.

According to Stamatelos, the doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland told him he could get 80 to 90 percent of his right arm use back in a couple of years.

"I'm motivated," he said. "I want to start mountain biking again, rock climbing, riding a four-wheeler."

In the Marines, Stamatelos is an Infantry 0311/combat aidsman. "I'm an EMT for combat," he explained. "When people have burns or gunshot wounds, I help them survive long enough to get to surgery."

He's always wanted to pursue a career in fire and rescue, he said, and his military experience gave him a clearer view of what emergency workers go through.

Conversely, his experience with Candia Fire and Rescue helped him in Iraq. "People were impressed at how I dealt with the situation," he said. "Even while I was wounded, I was still trying to make people laugh."

But he still doesn't think he's a hero. "The true heroes aren't here. They're the ones who passed away. I'm just a guy who got shot," he said as he used his good left arm to help the firemen fold up chairs.

The Candia Old Home Day continued despite the rain. Vendors set up shop under tents and locals strolled around under umbrellas. Loud swing music blared from a sound system.

"We have a knack of picking the wrong days," Selectman Tom Giffen said. The fair was rained out last year.

The 11 a.m. parade went on schedule and included fire trucks, horses, a color guard of veterans, and Miss New Hampshire Emily Hughes. About 100 people in rain gear lined High Street.

"Hey, at least it's not snowing," Selectman Fred Kelley said.

*Marines in Fallujah provide eyes and ears for battalion

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 24, 2006) -- A grunt’s work in Fallujah is never done.

When they’re not patrolling the streets or ridding the area of anti-Iraqi forces, they’re watching over fellow Marines to make sure that they can do the same.


Sept. 24, 2006; Submitted on: 09/27/2006 05:21:55 AM ; Story ID#: 200692752155
By Cpl. Brian Reimers, 1st Marine Division

Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, spend long hours providing overwatch positions for their fellow warriors at Observation Post Fenton.

The post lies in the heart of the city, where Marines and coalition forces continue to be attacked by enemy forces.

“We basically provide route security to ensure that nobody places improvised explosive devices or tries to coordinate an attack against the Marines here,” said Sgt. Grant L. Emde, squad leader, from Cohasset, Mass.

Security missions aren’t always easy missions. Teams of Marines trade hours of their day to man several positions in the building, sometimes without much sleep and in temperatures reaching into triple digits.

“Watch positions are harder than they sound,” said Cpl. Andy Melendez, a machine gunner from Utica, N.Y. “It takes a lot of discipline and dedication to be able to sit or stand up there for hours at a time and scan the area.”

Both military and civilian traffic pass along the roads surrounding the OP. Marines here use their best judgment when calling into higher headquarters about what vehicles may be suspicious or dangerous to Coalition Forces.

“It is almost like a game,” explained Lance Cpl. Anthony B. Dineen, an infantryman from Hudson, N.H. “We know that they are watching us and they know that we are watching them.”

Several stories tall and a few rooms deep, the now Marine-occupied house in the middle of the city is often picked by insurgents as a place for attack.

Several days ago, Marines here were exchanging gunfire with the insurgents. They were just a few days from rotating out with another team when the firefight broke out between AK-47 assault rifles and M-16s.

“Rounds were coming in from all over the place and they actually seemed like they wanted to stand up and fight,” 20-year-old Dineen said. “We got into our positions and the lead started flying. It was an all out shoot-out.”

Marines quickly had the insurgents on the run. Before the enemy could come close to pinning the defensive Marines down, they were fleeing from incoming rounds that were fired from the OP.

“It’s no vacation being out there,” said Melendez, 25. “The Marines know that at any time someone could try and hit them, just like when they are on a patrol.”

After shift changes and Marines take over for one another, it’s a waiting game.

Stacks of old magazines, boxes of dug-through meals ready-to-eat and military style cots are bunched throughout the house. It’s a bastion of safety, and it affords a few creature comforts that Marines revel in when they’re not on duty.

“We are pretty safe here,” Dineen said. “When you’re not up watching the city, you have to find something to pass the time.”

Conversations of what type of beer is the best, which celebrity is better looking and stories of their times spent in Fallujah chatter throughout the small rooms. Marines smile and joke as if back home, only they bear camouflage uniforms, dirty from the week’s events and weapons loaded with ammunition to fight off insurgents.

“It’s not a bad gig,” said 28-year-old Emde. “It could always be worse.”

“Besides when you are not on post, you really get to know the guys you are with, just from the stories everybody shares from back home,” Melendez added. “Some of the best times in the deployment come when it’s just you and your fellow Marines blabbering about the good times and bad.”

Marines rode back to their firm base to rest and take showers before heading out again. Soon enough, though, they will head back into their OP to become the eyes and ears for their fellow Marines.

“It’s all worth it because we know that it is paying off for us and it will continue to for the other Marines,” Emde said. “We have been able to detour anyone possibly trying to place in anything that will harm coalition forces.”

September 23, 2006

*Combat cooks serve it up to Marines at outposts

OBSERVATION POST FALCONS, Iraq (Sept. 22, 2006) -- If the Marines can’t come to the mess hall, then the mess hall will have to go to the Marines.

Food service specialists assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up a field-food facility so Marines can have a daily hot meal here.


Sept. 22, 2006; Submitted on: 09/28/2006 05:06:44 AM ; Story ID#: 20069285644
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

“If Marines don’t get a good meal, they don’t have the energy to complete their tasks,” said Cpl. Melvin D. Carson Jr., a food service specialist with Headquarters and Service Company.

The 26-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., is one of three self-proclaimed “combat cooks” who serve with the battalion under Regimental Combat Team 5.

Carson is the leader of the bunch.

He and his men make sure everyone at OP Falcons and other outposts have hot chow in their bellies.

Carson and his cooks wake up every morning to prepare food like steak, eggs and hash browns for hundreds of Marines and sailors. It’s not so much a duty as it is a chance to help out those Marines facing hostile fire every day.

“It’s our honor to cook for Marines, whether they’re in the rear or in the front lines,” Carson said.

He said the honor doesn’t come without a little sweating though. It’s a daily test of skill and leadership for Carson.

“I had to prove that I can run things without my staff noncommissioned officer here,” he said. “I try to teach my guys how I do things so they can learn it and pass on what I do.”

“I like cooking out here,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Magnuson, also a food service specialist. “This gives me a chance to apply what I learned when I was training in cooking school.”

The 20-year-old from Puyallup, Wash., said it’s a hard-working but rewarding job.

“Having them come back from chow and tell you chow was good feels good,” Magnuson said, “especially when I get a compliment on a certain food that I made for a large crowd. It makes me feel like I did what I was supposed to do.”

Magnuson isn’t the only one who feels that way. The cooks have been told on many occasions how much the Marines enjoy their food.

“They put love into the food, good portions,” said Cpl. Nicholas J. Lindsay, a squad leader in the battalion.

The 22-year-old mortarman from Paramus, N.J., knows the importance of a wholesome meal after an operation.

“It's one thing coming off patrol, tired and having a No.12 Meal, Ready-to-Eat,” Lindsay said. “But tasting steak and eggs or chicken parmesan deliciously seasoned makes that much difference.”

Lindsay spends more than a week at a time here. He sees the work the combat cooks accomplish.

“They take care and pride into what they do even though they cook for other OPs,” he said. “I have respect for them in every aspect.”

The combat cooks stay humble. They’re just glad to make their fellow Marines happy.

“It feels good to know that after sweating in the kitchen making food that they appreciate our meals,” Carson said.

*Marines become big brothers to Iraqi children

HUSAYBA, Iraq (Sept. 23, 2006) -- Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment paused a combat patrol through a neighborhood here to spend time with local Iraqi children Sept. 22.


Sept. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 09/30/2006 11:28:02 AM ; Story ID#: 200693011282
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

“They’ll grow up, see Americans and say, ‘I remember this one guy that was nice to me, so I’ll be nice to them,’” said Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco, a hospital corpsman with Weapons Company.

Blanco said it shows a different side of them.

“We got all that gear on, so I’m sure were intimidating,” he said. “It shows them that were human and not machines.”

As soon as the Marines put boots on the ground, kids were eager to meet them.

“Even though we were patrolling, they wanted to play and talk to us,” said Pfc. Ryan L. Ward, a mortarman with Weapons Company.

The Marines kept moving, but some kids still tried to join the patrol. They were particularly drawn to the Marines’ corpsman.

“They always like him a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew M. Woody, a 19-year-old from Indianapolis, Ind., who is a mortarman with Weapons Company.

Woody thinks it is Blanco’s calm demeanor.

The kids greeted Blanco with open arms, hugging and snuggling the surprised sailor. Blanco said the experience was unique.

“Usually they’re stand-offish,” he said. “That was the first time they were like all over me. That time made me feel like they trusted me.”

Even the parents were surprised. Even they couldn’t help but to crack a smile. Many of the Marines were convinced that both parties left with a different perception of each other.

“I think it’s good that they finally have someone to talk to and take care of their needs as a father figure,” Woody said.

Blanco thinks interaction with the kids is one of the most important things Marines and sailors do in Iraq.

“It’s gratifying,” he said. “I got a nephew back home about their age, and I know if their current situation was reversed I’d want somebody to show compassion towards me.”

Ward agreed.

“In the long run it’ll slow insurgency because they’ll see that were trying to help,” he said.

*Not for glory or fame, post gets fallen Marine’s name

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 23, 2006) -- Sgt. Matthew J. Fenton continues to watch over Marines in Fallujah, even after he died from wounds sustained in combat Apr. 26. That’s because his fellow Marines named an observation post that serves to protect Marines in his honor.


Sept. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 09/28/2006 04:49:06 AM ; Story ID#: 20069284496
By Cpl. Brian Reimers, Regimental Combat Team 5

Observation Post Fenton, located in the heart of Fallujah, was recently built and named by the Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. Its purpose is to provide overwatch positions for Coalition Forces traveling throughout the area.

Fenton, an administrative supply clerk who was serving as a turret gunner for Headquarters and Service Company, died of his wounds suffered on the streets of Fallujah soon after the battalion deployed here.

“He was a great Marine and a great leader,” said Lance Cpl. Gene M. Porcelli, a 21-year-old supply warehouseman from Hauppage, N.Y. “He was the kind of leader you genuinely looked up to.”

Although Fenton was laid to rest, his name will carry on for the Marines here and for those who operate in the city.

The battalion constructed the new observation post on the city’s main road to provide increased security in the area, close to where the noncommissioned officer was wounded.

“We talked long and hard about it,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Landro, the battalion’s commander from Kennesaw, Ga. “The leadership chose to name the OP after Sgt. Fenton because he was the first Marine from the battalion to die from his wounds in the city.”

Attacks against the new OP started the first day it began construction. Enemy forces fired rocket-propelled grenades and dozens of rifle rounds at the position. But the Marines pushed through, fought off attackers and carried on with their goal.

“Marines don’t give up ground,” said the 46-year-old Landro. “There was no question in our minds that we would establish the OP and that it would be successful.”

The story of the attacks against the OP is similar to that of Fenton’s battle for his life. After he was wounded, he fought for days before succumbing to his wounds in a hospital in the United States.

“He wasn’t one to give up, never,” said Lance Cpl. Eric T. Shaw, a close friend and fellow supply Marine with Fenton. “He fought until he couldn’t fight anymore. That is the kind of man he was.”

The post now stands strong with Marines constantly watching the streets of the city, providing route security for fellow Marines on foot and in convoys passing through.

“It’s just like Fenton,” said Shaw, a 22-year-old from Leicester, Mass. “He was a leader, one to always look out for his fellow Marines. Taking care of them and making sure they had what they needed to get the job done.

“His OP serves the same purpose – look after those who are trying to accomplish the mission and keep them safe,” he added. “It truly is Fenton’s OP.”

The OP has served well for the battalion. Most here agree that the area it watches has become increasingly safer for travel.

“I feel that he is always watching over us from his post in heaven, but now even more so with his post here,” Shaw said.

“As long as there are Marines operating in Fallujah, Sgt. Fenton will be in overwatch,” Landro added.

*1/7 Marines return from third deployment to warm welcome

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Sept. 23, 2006) -- The police vehicles rounded the bend with their sirens blaring, but there were no accidents or fires in sight. Following the sirens came three white buses, packed full with Marines who were leaning out of the windows with grins on their faces and disposable cameras in their hands.


Sept. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 09/29/2006 02:31:57 PM ; Story ID#: 2006929143157
By Pfc. Nicole A. Lavine, MCAGCC

The crowd of families waiting on Victory Field erupted with joyous yelling and colorful, waving banners.

The Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, returned Sept. 21 through 23 from their third deployment to Iraq.

The second wave of 300 Marines from 1/7 returned home, escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders.

The PGR is a motorcycle group which was established in 2005 to help protect the families and loved ones from protesters at military funerals. The PGR lead the Marines from March Air Force Base all the way to Victory Field. The thunderous rumble of motorcycle engines and sea of billowing American flags attached to the bikes added an even more patriotic edge to the occasion.

While deployed, Marines conducted operations in An Najaf Province, Al Qaim, Al Anbar province, and several other Iraqi territories.

Since the battalion’s initial deployment to Iraq in 2003, the Marines and sailors have left their mark on the history of a newly self-governed Iraq.

During their first deployment, Marines helped Iraqi law enforcement agencies identify former Ba’ath members by helping create the Ba’ath Party Investigation Committee. They also assisted with operations for the Legal Aid Society in An Najaf, a society created to give under-privileged Iraqi citizens free legal guidance, while also providing opportunities for underused Iraqi lawyers.

The second deployment began in August of 2004. It was there that the Marines served as security along roadways and in cities, did urban patrols, border security and sweep operations.

The objective of their third deployment was to help re-build Iraqi Army Police units while assisting in eliminating insurgents in Al Qa’im territory.

The Iraqi Army units learn the same material Marines learn prior to deploying. This includes patrolling, security check points, and responding to improvised explosive devises. The Iraqi units proved very useful in aiding with interaction among the locals in the region.

"The big difference between other units and this one is that you can see what changes these Marines did," said Lt. Col. Nicholas F. Marano, battalion commanding officer in his speech to the crowd before the Marines stepped onto the field.

The families agreed and shared their appreciation and enthusiasm.

"This is his third deployment," said Yang Johnson, wife of Staff Sgt. Phillip Johnson, mess chief and native of Jewett City, Conn. "What really got me through were the phone calls. We would talk once a week," she said.

Tyler Johnson, their son, could hardly contain his excitement as he kicked his legs and shifted constantly on the wooden bench he sat on. Then, half-standing on his seat, he said, "When he gets here, I want to play golf with him over there," as he pointed to the golf course to his right.

Christine Gibson, mother of Cpl. Chris Gibson, sat at another table with three friends and clasped her hands together in anticipation.

"The first thing I’m going to do is bring him home and feed him some country fried steak," said Gibson with a chuckle.

September 22, 2006

*MEU BLT preps for nighttime boat raids

KIN BLUE, Okinawa (Sept. 22, 2006) -- More than 100 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's battalion landing team rehearsed boat landing raids Sept. 11 at Kin Blue.


Sept. 22, 2006
Story ID#: 200692582018
By Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler

The daytime rehearsals helped prepare the A Company Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, for a difficult nighttime operation at Camp Schwab later that day, according to 1st Sgt. Tracy Offutt, the company first sergeant.

"We need to be able to sustain our capabilities in over-the-horizon small boat amphibious operations," Offutt said. "Practicing during the day will provide us the necessary time to work out any kinks we have before going out at night."

When the operation received the go ahead, the Marines and sailors quickly embarked on their combat rubber reconnaissance crafts and motored 500 meters from the beach.

After a quick roll call and gear check, the Zodiacs moved another 600 meters offshore and the troops prepared the assault.

A team of scout swimmers rode in the Zodiacs back to the 500-meter mark where they splashed off the side and swam to shore to clear the beach.

"Once the swimmers clear the area of any enemies or obstacles, (they) place a marker to indicate whether it is safe for the rest of the coxswains to approach or not," said Staff Sgt. Martin Buck, the chief coxswain for A Company.

The Marines and sailors have been practicing boat raids since February, making it often appear second nature, Offutt said.

With approximately half the company being new, the constant rehearsals have brought the Marines to a synchronized level where the new Marines can not be distinguished from the veterans, he said.

Boat raids are one of the stealthier methods of insertion, said Cpl. Martin Lambaria, a coxswain for the company.

"This is a great element of the BLT," he said. "It's another way to get the guys in the fight without the enemy knowing what's about to happen."

The boat raid training was part of the 31st MEU's overall Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise, which is designed to help the unit refine its tactics and perfect the rapid-response planning process.

This MEU-specific planning process enables the unit to launch a crisis response within six hours of notification.

According to unit leaders, this type of training also helps the MEU maintain its maritime capability to respond to any contingency in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Global War on Terrorism.

September 21, 2006

Troops to arrive home from Iraqi-Syrian border

TWENTYNINE PALMS - About 800 Marines and sailors from Twentynine Palms are returning from Iraq, where they have been deployed since March.


10:13 PM PDT on Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The Press-Enterprise

The troops, from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, will be arriving today through Sunday at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. They have been stationed near the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The unit has seen extensive action since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, conducting combat operations, foot and mechanized patrols and house searches of suspected insurgents. The outfit has fought in Baghdad, Najaf and cities along with Euphrates River.

September 20, 2006

*1/6 mortarman ‘content taking care of Marines’

RAMADI, Iraq(Sept. 20, 2006) -- Whether it’s providing timely, indirect fire to support the Marines on the streets or bringing cold water to his Marines on post in Ar Ramadi, Lance Cpl. Mark R. Britton is content to be “taking care of Marines.”


Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.
Story Identification #: 20069256487

Britton, currently a roving guard for Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, spends his days touring security positions at the government center in central Ramadi.

Serving as the extra “arms and legs” of the sergeant of the guard, the 20-year-old native of Elliotsburgh, Pa., provides ammunition, water, coffee, radio batteries and anything else needed to the Marines on post.

Britton’s presence allows both the Marines on guard and their leaders to stay focused on the security of the center.

“We can’t be around the posts all the time,” said Sgt. Gilbert J. Hernandez, 25-year-old squad leader. “(Britton) gives us flexibility.”

Britton also takes time to talk to the Marines on post, helping enliven the routine of standing watch and raising the morale of the Marines, according to Hernandez, a resident of West New York, N.J.

Although a far cry from his usual duties as a gunner in a mortar team, the two different jobs share one important purpose.

“I’m still supporting Marines,” said Britton. “I’m taking care of my boys.”

Britton’s motivation and good attitude toward his duties as a Marine have been a credit to the company, according to Hernandez.

Last year in Fallujah, Britton taught himself Arabic while standing post, and now has the ability to work as a translator for the unit.

“We have been especially impressed with his good attitude towards his work,” said Hernandez.

With his history of a good work ethic and reliability, Britton has been called upon to shoulder additional responsibilities as needs arise, according to Hernandez.

Britton also serves as a humvee driver for the company and as a machine gunner in the same posts he tours.

“Britton is really our jack-of-all-trades,” said Hernandez.

The small-town Pennsylvanian has welcomed the challenge of his added responsibilities and continues to enjoy his work, said Britton.

With plenty of time left in his current tour, Britton meets every day until the battalion leaves with the same thought.

“No matter what happens here, I’ll be there for them,” said Britton.

General: Iraq Deployments To Continue For Years, 7-Month Stints Set For Next Few Years

SAN DIEGO -- Unless there's a dramatic improvement on the ground in Iraq, Camp Pendleton Marines will likely spend the next few years deploying for seven-month cycles


September 18, 2006

That's the word from Major Gen. Mike Leonard, who is in charge of the West Coast Marine bases.

He told the North County Times that Camp Pendleton's Marines will face cycles of seven months in Iraq followed by seven months at home for at least the next few years.

The news didn't surprise military officials at the base, who are taking the news with grudging acceptance. But to Marines who are already into the fourth Iraq deployment, it's not a pleasant subject.

Len Hayes of the 1st Marine Division Association said the seven-month schedule will be sustained for as many as four deployments but will be tough for many Marines and civilians.

"[It's] very tough. Americans don't have a history of liking long wars," Hayes said.

Still, some people like Kristin Plant, who is married to a Marine, are trying to look on the bright side, especially because seven months is much less than the 12-month deployment schedule used by the Army.

"I wish it wasn't that way, but there's nothing you can do about it," Plant said. "It's much better than a year. A year is too long. Seven months feels like it's too long but it'd be much too long for a year."

But for many civilians like Oceanside resident Howard Collison, the constant deployments are a hardship that seems to compound the frustrations in Iraq -- and have some unpleasant allusions to the Vietnam War.

"We're not going to have another Vietnam," Collison said. "We just can't afford it, because what about the next war down the road."

Although Marine recruiting efforts are running into resistance, Corps officials said the retention rates are holding steady and Hayes said that's because most Marines are dedicated to their job.

"From a Marine perspective, and as a career officer, I'd say we're professional enough to fight the war until our president tells us to come home," Hayes said.

September 19, 2006

*The Marine meets the Marines

It was a muggy, rainy, buggy day on a rural island of South Carolina’s Lowcountry coast when WWE Superstar John Cena was put to the ultimate test by some of the United States’ greatest heroes – the Marines.


By Kara A. Medalis
September 19, 2006

“I got my ass whipped,” Cena admitted.

As the star of the upcoming WWE Films release, “The Marine,” Cena wanted to get a taste of what the brave young men and women who enlist as Marines must endure at boot camp at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot Eastern Recruiting Division at Parris Island, S.C., and WWE.com was there with Cena for the intense day.

“I am here to learn a little about what these men and women go through and hopefully try to kick a little ass,” Cena said. “I play a Marine in the movies. This right here, this is the real sh*t. This is where it goes down. These are the men and women keeping it together.”

Cena started his day at Parris Island during the late morning meeting Marines personnel and chatting with a few Marines at the base’s newspaper, The Boot. Cena changed into a Marines uniform, complete with boots and a USMC T-shirt, and was whisked away for an autograph signing at a chow hall on the base. Several hundred WWE fans, including Marines and their families, waited in a long line to see the Superstar. Cena posed for photos; signed 8-by-10s, “The Marine” posters and copies of WWE Magazine; hugged a few female WWE fans; put a few male WWE fans in headlocks and even picked up an excited youngster and lifted him in his signature FU pose. During the autograph signing, WWE.com caught up with some of the Marines who were overjoyed to meet Cena.

“It means a lot that John Cena is here today. It helps motivate all the Marines and keep them focused that there’s people out there who respect them and appreciate what they’re doing. And for him to take the time out to come and share that with us, especially after starring in ‘The Marine,’ representing us, it shows a lot of love to us,” said Sgt. Stephen Mitchell.

At Parris Island, a recruit endures 13 weeks of training before graduating to become a Marine. During the fiscal year 2003, 16,831 Marines graduated from Parris Island. It’s the only training facility for female recruits and all males east of the Mississippi River. Training began on the island in 1915, and more than half of its 8,095-acres is covered in salt marshes. The island is also home to a Marines Drill Instructor school and an average of 600 Drill Instructors or “hats.”

After signing autographs, Cena was off to the firing range. The Superstar attended a short weapons conditions training class and shot several rounds of a 9mm pistol with Drill Instructors as many Marines looked on. Then Cena learned how to shoot a M16 A2 service rifle at unknown distance targets while lying on the ground behind sandbags. The M16’s great force even rocked the 240-pound body of Cena. It was obvious that Cena was genuinely curious about how the rifle works, as he shot off 200 rounds with a Marine by his side. After visiting the firing range, the WWE Superstar was pumped, and ready for a tougher challenge from the Marines. He had no idea what he was in for next.

During a Marine recruit’s 13-week stay on Parris Island, he or she must complete the Crucible, which is a rite of passage for all Marines. During the 54-hour event, the recruits travel 42 miles on foot, complete 29 problem-solving stations, carry 50-pound ammunition cans, 100-pound dummies, gear and a M16 A2 service rifle, all while eating only three meals and just a few hours of sleep. Due to time constraints, Cena was only able to complete two of the tough exercises of the Crucible – the Combat Assault Resupply and the Bayonet Assault Course – and it’s during those events when Cena experienced just a taste of the harsh realities the Marines face.

“They are physically exhausted when they’re doing this. They’re tired by the time they get here. It’s very physically demanding,” WWE.com’s host for the day, Maj. Canedo, said.

The Combat Assault Resuppply course is a one-hour event in which teams resupply water, ammunition and MREs. Along with three Drill Instructors (two males, Sgt. Campbell and Staff Sgt. Davis; and one female, Sgt. Richardson), John ran through the woods while carrying heavy ammunition boxes and a M16. He navigated through large concrete pipes, over wooden walls and most treacherous of all, under barbed wire, all while ear-piercingly loud mock gunfire, combat noise, five Drill Instructors’ barking encouraging orders and smoke filled the stagnant air. A determined Cena pushed through the harsh course with the help of his team. When one of the soldiers became a mock casualty, Cena dragged his lifeless body through the sand and under the barbed wire that was cutting his hands. The scene was deafening, intense, graphic and scary, and after the course, Cena was sweaty, sandy and bloody.

“My body is numb. My hands aren’t even up, I’m holding them in my pockets. I’ve got the fatigue lean going on here with the one strong leg and the one leg I can’t feel. I’m cut a few times. I’m covered in sand. But all in all, I’m still proud to be here. It’s a very good day for me,” Cena said. “The hardest part was just keeping going. You reach a point of failure. Your body just shuts off. For a second you take a deep breath and you’re not moving, then you keep moving, and that’s what keeps you going.”

Cena soldiered on to the Bayonet Assault Course, where he ran over hills and logs, while carrying a M16 through the thick, muggy afternoon air. Drill Instructors continued to yell at him to push harder and dig deeper, and Cena showed tough determination throughout the grueling course. By the end, the WWE Superstar was drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted.

Cena acknowledged that if it wasn’t for the Drill Instructors who completed the courses with him, he wouldn’t have been able to endure. The Marines work as a team, and no solider is ever left behind.

“I swear to you, if it wasn’t for these guys, I wouldn’t have gotten through it. This very, very much emphasizes teamwork, whereas in the WWE scenario – all eyes are on you, and you have to show intensity, but it is nothing, absolutely nothing that compares to being out there. Only the people next to you get you through it,” Cena said.

With less than an hour left at Parris Island, Cena chose to tackle his fear of heights by rappelling off a 47-foot tower. Cena was given a helmet, thick gloves and was tied and wrapped in tight ropes for rappelling. Like the true Superstar he is, Cena overcame his fear of heights and his exhaustion from the previous exercises, and despite receiving rope burns on the way down, Cena completed the rappel tower.

“It’s on fire – my hips, my hands, everything – they’re on fire. It is fun, but I’m scared of heights. But everything burns. I wasn’t even afraid. Once it started burning, I just wanted the Tabasco to go away,” Cena joked.

“Today I have been the most fatigued that I have ever been. [In the past,] I’ve been covered in my own blood, I’ve been stuck in cages, I’ve been put through every object that you could imagine, but in a matter of a 45 minutes [with the Marines], I am at zero. I have nothing left. So that says a lot about every person that gets to wear these colors,” the WWE Superstar admitted.

Before his day at Parris Island was over, Cena took a few moments to sign more autographs and thank the Marines for being his host and more importantly, for all they do to protect the citizens of the United States and other places around the world.

“This is a message to all the recruits and servicemen and women involved in the United States Marine Corps: I, John Cena, want to thank you for the opportunity to have a portion of the respect that it is to be a Marine. Being in the WWE Films movie, ‘The Marine,’ is an honor. Coming to Parris Island is a privilege. Even seeing the sign, walking in, it gets you hungry. I’m the type of guy who likes to get out there, get after it. It was an honor and privilege to be here among the men and women who are sweating it out and earn it right here on Parris Island. We love you,” he said.

So what did the Marines think of Cena? Who better to ask than the Drill Instructors who spent the day with the WWE Superstar.

“John, just the way you see him on TV, he’s an intense ball of fire. The whole way through the course he never quit, he never gave up, and that says a lot about a person,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “I think John’s happy playing a Marine and I think the Marines here are happy that John’s playing a Marine because he came down here and tested his mettle with things that Marines do. And you don’t get that very often.”

NH Marine is home to recover after being hit by enemy sniper in Iraq

CANDIA – A young man wounded this summer during Operation Iraqi Freedom says the support of his family, excellent medical care and the prayers of his community have helped answer his wish.

Louis Stamatelos Jr., who celebrates his 21st birthday in a week, will be headed home in three days for the upcoming celebration of Candia's Old Home Days festival, and friends say he may also attend the Deerfield Fair.


Union Leader Correspondent
Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2006

But the long-anticipated trip home for the festivals almost didn't happen for the Marine lance corporal: on July 21, he was nearly killed when a sniper shot him through the right shoulder while he was on guard duty in the city of Karmha.

"It's been about 10 months since I've been in New Hampshire, and I'm just very excited to be headed home and out of the heat," he said yesterday from his hospital bed at the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Center in Tampa, Fla. "I haven't been to the Old Home Days in a long time because it was (on hiatus) when I was in high school - but I'm really excited to be going.

"My mother has been right here with me (in the hospital) through this whole ordeal" and (the community support) has just been tremendous.

"And the prayers have been great," he added.

The son of Candice and Louis Stamatelos Sr. and a 2004 graduate of Jesse Remington High School, Stamatelos joined the U.S. Marines in April 2005. Yesterday, school Headmaster and carpentry teacher Jeff Philbrick and other staff members recalled events from Stamatelos' four years at the school as they made preparations to welcome him back.

"He's funny; he's a character - but he's always willing to help,'' said administrative assistant Dianna MacDonald. "We went on this trip to Washington, D.C., once, and I remember he wound up fixing the van a couple times. We might not have made it back without him. That's the kind of man he is: always looking out for everyone else."

"When he was here, he'd usually be the leader of a (school) project," said Philbrick. "I remember one year, we were doing a maple-sugaring project, and he was more capable at that than I was. He's a very hard worker."

While Stamatelos appeared to be in good spirits yesterday, he acknowledged that his recovery and rehabilitation have been painful. The sniper's bullet left him with nerve damage and only partial use of his right arm, at least for now.

"I can flex my bicep and tricep muscles, but that's about it," he said. "I'm lucky if I can hold it (my arm) up."

The shooting is still an emotional topic in Candia, where residents say the community of about 3,000 people is in many respects an extended family.

"Oh my goodness, we were so shocked," said school administrative assistant Sharon Packard. "Candia is a small town, and this really hit close to home. Everyone was concerned because his injury was very serious, and we had an immediate call to prayer."

"There was a terrible feeling of sadness, because we'd almost lost a young man who is a good friend, a role model," said Philbrick. "But if there is anyone out there who can recover from a serious injury like that, it's Louie."

Stamatelos is expected to return to town Friday, and members of his local parish, the Candia Congregational Church, plan to greet him. A reception in his honor has been scheduled at the church, on High Street, Sunday at 6 p.m.

‘America’s Battalion’ makes midnight run to aid seven-year-old Iraqi girl

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 9, 2006) -- “America’s Battalion” Marines made a midnight run to rush to the aid of a seven-year-old Iraqi girl after she fell from a three-story building Sept. 9.


Sept. 9, 2006; Submitted on: 09/11/2006 06:02:37 AM ; Story ID#: 20069116237
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, 1st Marine Division

Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment rushed the girl to Camp Fallujah’s surgical center for treatment after local police were unable to get her proper medical attention.

The battalion is serving with Regimental Combat Team 5.

The incident occurred late at night in Gharmah, a small city north of Fallujah. Iraqi police there tried to rush the young girl to the Jordanian hospital in Fallujah, but had difficulty getting to the hospital, according to 1st Lt. Joshua R. Rosales, a 25-year-old platoon commander who responded to the call for help.

“We got the call from the commanding officer to link up with Iraqi Police at the police station,” explained Rosales, from Raleigh, N.C. “We met up with them in Gharmah, and they had the little girl. They wanted us to be careful.”

Rosales said the girl was accompanied by her uncle. She was crying, suffering from waves of pain from her injuries. She was scared, and then Marines were loading her into the back of a humvee. Rosales’ hospital corpsman, Navy Seaman Royce A. Ross, a 23-year-old from Houston, got to work immediately checking his tiny patient.

“I was making sure all her vital signs were good,” Ross explained. “Everything looked good enough to move her. I saw right away she was going to be OK.”

Ross saw that she already had an intravenous tube inserted into her arm, but the tubing wasn’t put in properly. He spoke through his broken Arabic and the girl’s uncle’s broken English to get permission to start another.

“The blood clotted at the IV,” he explained. “I wanted to start another but her uncle didn’t want me to.”

Ross kept on with his preliminary examination. He said he saw a large contusion to the girl’s left wrist and possibly a fracture. The girl’s breathing was labored. Ross said he was concerned there were possible injuries to her chest affecting her breathing.

“It sounded like she was snoring,” he said. “What we had then was a possible broken wrist, possible problems with her torso, but she was crying, so she was breathing. We knew she’d be okay.”

Still, Marines couldn’t be sure until they could get the young child to the trauma center at Camp Fallujah to have a thorough examination. Ross, the girl, her uncle and Cpl. Jared S. Nelson, a 21-year-old from Salisbury, Md., climbed into the back of the humvee for the sprint from Gharmah to Camp Fallujah.

Nelson said he made similar runs last time he was deployed to Iraq, but it was always to rush a Marine to safety. This time was a little different.

“I provided security in the back,” he said. “They couldn’t all get down low, so I kept watch over them while we drive. It was pretty bumpy.”

Nelson watched his passengers from the corner of his eye. Ross continued to tend to the girl, and her uncle repositioned her stretcher every time the humvee jolted over a bump.

Rosales, Ross and Nelson delivered the Iraqi girl to Fallujah Surgical where Navy doctors and corpsmen took over. They continued with more in-depth examinations.

“They did as good as they could by bringing them in,” said Navy Capt. David Norman, a 51-year-old nurse anesthetist from San Diego assigned to Fallujah Surgical. “The corpsman did an excellent job. She was a challenging case. Her injuries were beyond our abilities to diagnose.”

Norman said doctors identified the left wrist fracture Ross discovered and suspected she might have suffered possible head injuries and a pelvic fracture. Doctors decided to medically evacuate the girl along with her uncle to Coalition treatment facilities in Baghdad for more extensive care.

“If she did sustain head injuries and a pelvic fracture, she could have died if they didn’t respond like they did,” Norman added.

“This was my first time working as an ambulance for Iraqis,” Ross said. “It was good to be able to treat someone you see on the streets all the time.”

“It’s nice because you know the kids are innocent,” Nelson added. “I’m always talking to the kids.”

Nelson and Ross didn’t think much of their actions. They said it was part of the job, just a little more satisfying because it demonstrated to that family and the community in Gharmah that Marines are here to help them, no matter what the case.

“It’s hard to show we’re working for hearts and minds in the infantry,” Nelson said. “This was an example of it tonight.”

“This shows the people we’re out here for them. In our line of work, that’s sometimes hard to do,” Ross said. “It shows that when someone gets hurts, we can step out and let that other side shine.”

Rosales said he was proud of his team’s reaction to the call for help. They maintained cool heads and were able to adapt from combat operations to the midnight mercy run without missing a beat.

“They put themselves at risk for this little girl,” Rosales said. “That’s something I see all the Marines doing. They put themselves at risk for the Iraqi people.”

This mission, though, is more rewarding than some of the routine operations. They were able to ease the pain of a little girl, help a family and do something good for the community.

“You want to do things like this, especially for the kids,” Nelson said. “The little girls are always the sweet, shy ones that come up and ask for candy.”

Please click on photo for description and credits.

September 18, 2006

Friends, families celebrate 2nd ANGLICO homecoming

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 18, 2006) -- Families and friends of 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, celebrated the Sept. 18 homecoming of approximately 150 Marines and sailors returning from a seven-month deployment in Iraq.

Sept. 18, 2006
Story ID#: 200692614555
By Pfc. Christopher D. Lyttle, II Marine Expeditionary Force

For many of the Marines, this was the second or third time they returned safely to their loved ones. Food, tents, lighting and bagpipe music were all prepared to set the evening scene for the returnees of 2nd ANGLICO. People gathered on the sidewalk with balloons and posters, eager to reunite with their Marines and sailors when they stepped off the buses.

“I’ve never seen such an impressive homecoming. Everyone did a top notch job in giving the Marines a warm welcome,” said Capt. Michael G. Bradford, firepower control team leader, 2nd ANGLICO. With the exception of Capt. Christopher T. Pate who was killed in action July 21, all the Marines made it home safe to their families, and some greeted their newborns for the very first time, he said.

Bradford mentioned that much of 2nd ANGLICO had previous deployment experience, which helped eased the minds of worried families while waiting for their Marines’ safe return.

Among the families in the crowd were Robert and Leslie, parents of a forward observer for 2nd ANGLICO. Leslie said this was her son’s second deployment. She noted that it’s easier to handle emotionally when understanding the duty he serves for our country and how he was well prepared for this past expedition.

Unit leaders proudly gave kudos for unit missions carried out in areas such as Al Asad, Ramadi and Fallujah.

“During our deployment, we were spread out all across the II MEF battle space,” said Capt. David P. Snipes, a firepower control team leader for 2nd ANGLICO. “Our basic mission was to provide fire support on any level while maintaining a bird’s eye view of everything.”

Bradford expressed his content with the way unit tasks were carried out during their deployment, even when working with other services.

“As an infantry team leader, I think we did a phenomenal job with providing support for the Army as well. The way the war is working now strongly involves air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said Bradford.

The mission of 2nd ANGLICO requires them to be constantly ready to deploy. While stateside, they will continue training to be readily available to support troops currently serving in Iraq. For now, families can celebrate this time with their Marines in the safety and comfort of home.

Marine Cpl. Rides At The Door praised and honored in BTBC ceremonies.

Already having served two tours of duty in Iraq and earning the Purple Heart via a roadside bomb in 2004, Browning High School graduate Jonas Rides At The Door was honored in ceremonies Friday, Sept. 8, at Blackfeet Tribal Headquarters in Browning.


By John McGill, Glacier Reporter Editor
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 5:30 PM MDT

Already having served two tours of duty in Iraq and earning the Purple Heart via a roadside bomb in 2004, Browning High School graduate Jonas Rides At The Door was honored in ceremonies Friday, Sept. 8, at Blackfeet Tribal Headquarters in Browning.

A U.S. Marine Corporal, Jonas' first tour with the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines began in February of 2004, earning the Purple Heart when he was wounded by a roadside bomb where he was serving in Al Anbar Province. Jonas returned to Iraq July 4, 2005, and served in and around Fallujah.

A heavy machine gunner, Jonas is a heavy gun truck commander in his squad. He visited his family in Browning for two weeks, but is headed back for pre-deployment and expects to return to Iraq sometime this fall.

Blackfeet Chairman and Chief Earl Old Person presented an eagle feather to Jonas, and the “Old Rawhide Orchestra” performed honor songs for him.

Jonas' mother is Marla Rides At The Door and his father is Sean Lewis.

Please click on photo for description and credits.

Marines Adopt 7-Month Deployment Schedule

7-Month Stints Set For Next Few Years

SAN DIEGO -- Unless there's a dramatic improvement on the ground in Iraq, Camp Pendleton Marines will likely spend the next few years deploying for seven-month cycles.


POSTED: 8:22 pm PDT September 18, 2006
UPDATED: 8:37 pm PDT September 18, 2006

That's the word from Major General Mike Leonard, who is in charge of the West Coast Marine bases.

He told the North County Times that Camp Pendleton's Marines will face cycles of seven months in Iraq followed by seven months at home for at least the next few years.

The news didn't surprise military officials at the base, who are taking the news with grudging acceptance. But to Marines who are already into the fourth Iraq deployment, it's not a pleasant subject.

Len Hayes of the 1st Marine Division Association said the seven-month schedule will be sustained for as many as four deployments but will be tough for many Marines and civilians.

"[It's] very tough. Americans don't have a history of liking long wars," Hayes said.

Still, some people like Kristin Plant, who is married to a Marine, are trying to look on the bright side, especially because seven months is much less than the 12-month deployment schedule used by the Army.

"I wish it wasn't that way, but there's nothing you can do about it," Plant said. "It's much better than a year. A year is too long. Seven months feels like it's too long but it'd be much too long for a year."

But for many civilians like Oceanside resident Howard Collison, the constant deployments are a hardship that seems to compound the frustrations in Iraq -- and have some unpleasant allusions to the Vietnam War.

"We're not going to have another Vietnam," Collison said. "We just can't afford it, because what about the next war down the road."

Although Marine recruiting efforts are running into resistance, Corps officials said the retention rates are holding steady and Hayes said that's because most Marines are dedicated to their job.

"From a Marine perspective, and as a career officer, I'd say we're professional enough to fight the war until our president tells us to come home," Hayes said.

Copyright 2006 by NBCSandiego.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Big day for 1/7's advance party as they return from Iraq

The notorious Mojave Desert sun shined bright on Victory Field, but showed compassion in keeping the heat to a minimum.

Sept. 6 was the perfect day for more than 100 people aboard the Combat Center. Two hours past noon and a section of Victory Field was full of life. The energy level of family members and friends was above normal for a Wednesday as they awaited the arrival of their loved ones after a 7-month Iraq deployment.


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Combat Correspondent

At 2 p.m., the energy increased as 50 advance party members from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, strutted onto Victory Field to reunite with those awaiting them.

Excitement overwhelmed the Clark family who were waiting on Sgt. Michael D. Clark, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 1/7. Clark arrived on his son, Scott's, third birthday.

"I cannot put these feelings I have into words," said Nikki, Clark's wife, as she waited for the 2-bus convoy to arrive at the Combat Center. "I'm ecstatic that he's coming on Scott's birthday. It's wonderful."

Nikki made a DVD of her husband that Scott watched almost every night, she said. That afternoon, Scott was able to see the man behind the screen, a birthday present that will not be matched throughout his life, said Nikki.

"He never forgot Daddy's face," she added.

As Clark walked away from the white, unmarked buses, he entered the west gate of Victory Field where he scanned all families and friends who waited and cheered. By surprise, he was showered by hugs and kisses from his family who ran up from beside him as he searched the field. Saying "happy birthday" wasn't necessary for Scott, - the moment implied the phrase.

"It makes coming home that much better," said Clark, a Reno, Nev., native. "I've been looking forward to this day as much as my family has."

Clark's plans are to relax, unpack and catch up with his family. For the past seven months, his battalion operated in Iraq's Al Anbar province with their firm base in Al Qaim. Their mission was to get the Iraqi Army up to par with being a self operated force in the country, he said. By the time 1/7's advance party departed, the Iraqi Army were patrolling by themselves and accomplishing vital missions like finding weapons caches.

Despite their success in Iraq, the families and friends who waited at home weren't thinking about the missions in Iraq, but their loved ones' safe return home.

Cpl. Jason J. Christlieb, a rifleman with “Suicide Charley,” and Cati his wife, were married two months before the deployment. It was tough being away from her new husband, she said.

"I'm very sad that I had to let him go to a dangerous place right after we married each other," said Cati moments before the advance party arrived. "But since he left, I've been keeping very busy. I moved into our first place that we'll live together in and I got a dog for us.

"I couldn't wait any longer," she added. "I'm getting my newlywed back. We're going to be a family now. I am so excited now, I'm beside myself."

Please click on photo for description and credits.

MWSS-374 returns to Combat Center

Over a period of seven months, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 carried out aviation support missions in Al Anbar Province of Iraq. During that time the Marines and sailors of the battalion developed an experience on the frontlines only deployed service members can understand.


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Combat Correspondent

Some of those experiences were a sense of yearning for what they left behind on American soil - grass, music, cable television, Mexican food, pizza, their friends - but mostly their families and home.

Likewise, the families and friends, who remained on the safely kept home front, longed for their loved ones' safe return. Some counted the days gone as others counted the days left.

Most of these families and friends reached the culminating point of the deployment Sept. 6. They gathered at Combat Center's Victory Field early that morning with "Welcome Home" signs and balloons. A feeling of anxiety, nervousness and excitement blended in the atmosphere as the morning sun began to heat the field.

At approximately 10 a.m., the feeling of restlessness overwhelming the Marines, sailors, families and friends came to an end as the battalion members, nicknamed the "Rhinos," pulled up to Victory Field in a convoy of four white buses - perhaps golden chariots to those who awaited, watched and cheered.

The animated crowd of family and friends enveloped the 146 Rhinos and welcomed them home with firm hugs and a barrage of kisses.

While the Rhinos' operated in air bases in Ar Ramadi, Al Taqaddum and Fallujah, they refueled aircrafts, maintained runways and went on convoy missions throughout the entire province.

Both parties - the deployed and the waiting - sensed that what they had left behind in February was simply their light at the end of the tunnel. That recent September day brought a feeling of daylight and joy, and for some Marines, a new source of light - newborn children waiting to meet their fathers for the first time.

Four and a half months ago, Kinsey Giles was born as her father, Staff Sgt. Jason D. Giles, an engineer equipment operator with the "Rhinos," was serving in Iraq. The morning of Sept. 6 was the first time they met.

"It was love at first sight," said Staff Sgt. Giles, an Annapolis, Md., native, holding his bright, blue-eyed daughter dressed in pink. "This is so much that makes up for the time I've been gone. It feels amazing. It was tough being away from the family but it's something Marines' got to do."

"Where are we going now that Dad's home?" Giles asked his, 4-year-old daughter,Jensen, and 3-year-old son, Michael.

"Hawaii," they answered simultaneously.

Danielle Redtfeldt, wife of Lance Cpl. Joshua T. Redtfeldt, combat engineer with the battalion, was also waiting to greet her husband with a new member of their family, 4-month-old Carmen.

Danielle, a Selah, Wash., native, and her daughter arrived on Victory Field three hours before the buses came. She picked up Carmen out of her stroller as soon as she reached the shaded area of Victory Field. She did not put her back until her father arrived.

"I am so nervous," said Danielle anxiously pacing back and forth before the buses arrived. "I'm nervous for him to see his daughter for the first time. The pregnancy was hard for us. Him being away made it very difficult, but we got to talk a lot. He tells me that he cannot wait to have her in his arms.

"Him and Carmen are going to get to know each other really well as soon as he gets here," she added as baby Carmen kept smiling in her arms. "I am so excited and nervous. I can't believe he'll be here soon. I've been waiting for this day since before he left."

The Rhinos had to leave some Leathernecks behind due to injuries. Nonetheless, they maintained cohesion during the deployment. Some Rhinos, such as Cpl. George Houle, from Manteca, Calif.; Cpl. Christopher Sims, from Lubbock, Texas; and Lance Cpl. Phillip Tallent, from Kennett, Mo., never lost touch when their fellow Marines set off to Iraq.

The three aircraft rescue firefighters waited for their buddies to come home.

"I know it was a successful deployment for them over there," said Houle. "They started a corporals course in TQ [Al Taqaddum]. So, for the most part, it was a very productive deployment. It's like getting another tool to add to their toolbox.

"I kept up with most of them out there through e-mails," he continued. "I know what they want when they get back - some decent food, cold beers and to spend time with their wives or girlfriends. We're going to show them a good time when they get back - and they're buying."

Tonya Edwards, wife of mechanic Cpl. Adam W. Edwards, counted the number of days her husband has been gone. She constructed a chain using paper links for each day with a small journal entry on each link.

"Today is day 194," said Tonya, an Estes Park, Colo., native. "I am absolutely thrilled. I've been up since 5 a.m. I am also thrilled that this is his last deployment."

The excitement did not cease as the Rhinos walked off Victory Field with their families. What they desired and longed for over the 7-month period is now reality.

Please click on photo for description and credits.

Lima 3/12 readies for war

Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, conducted a re-familiarization shoot Sept. 6 and 7, at the Combat Center's Lead Mountain training area to prepare for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom later this month.


Cpl. Evan M. Eagan
Combat Correspondent

Because they have been using the new M777 Lightweight Howitzer since last year, the battery headed to the field with six M198 Howtizers, the gun they will be using in Iraq.

"We held this shoot to get re-familiarized with the one-niner-eight [M198 Howitzer] because it's been a while since we shot these," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Demosthenous, section leader. "Since we're going to be using these in Iraq, they wanted to get us back into the swing of things."

In addition to reacquainting the Marines with the M198, the battery also conducted split battery operations, where two separate fire direction control centers were set up to control different gun sections, said Demosthenous, a Long Island, N.Y., native.

On the first day, the Mojave Desert sun relentlessly beat down on the Marines and sailors, however, the evening was filled with rain, and an electrical storm eventually made them stop firing for more than four hours.

When the inclement weather passed the Marines of Lima Battery were back at it, sending rounds down range from four of the six guns used to conduct the shoot.

"It went pretty good," said Cpl. Mike Jones, a section leader from Sonora, Calif. "It was slow at times, but that's just the way things go sometimes."

Although the battery has been deployed to Iraq in the past, many Marines currently with the battalion have not.

"This will be the battery's second time to Iraq, but a lot of the guys who went are gone now," said Demosthenous, explaining that with permanent changes of station and Marines getting out of the Corps, many of his Marines will be getting their first taste of combat.

And some of those Marines have been in the fleet less than two months.

Pfc. Robert W. Allison graduated from the Marine Corps Cannon Crewman Course at Fort Sill, Okla., recently and checked-in to Lima Battery Aug. 12. This shoot was his first training exercise with his new battery.

Allison and eight other Marines who checked-in to Lima Battery at the same time have been doing on-the-job training, trying to learn the ropes before heading overseas.

"I feel like I'm ready to go," said Allison, a Placentia, Calif., native. "As far as artillery goes, I'm prepared. I'm ready to get over there and get it over with."

With the deployment right around the corner, Jones feels confident in the abilities of the Marines on either side of him.

"A lot of the new guys are ready to go," said Jones, who will be returning to Iraq for his second time. "Senior lance corporals and corporals are ready to take on whatever leadership positions they are faced with. We're ready to get over there."

The battery is scheduled to depart later this month.

*TSB Marines return after nearly seven months in Iraq

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 18. 2006) -- Lance Cpl. Erin O'Hearn held back tears of joy in front of a Camp Foster barracks Sept. 7 as she awaited her husband's arrival from a near seventh-month Iraq deployment.


Sept. 18. 2006; Submitted on: 09/18/2006 01:45:50 AM ; Story ID#: 200691814550
By Lance Cpl. Kuan D. Alfonso, MCB Camp Butler

When her husband, Lance Cpl. Jason O'Hearn, finally arrived, she introduced him to his son for the first time, and she stopped holding back the tears.

The O'Hearns, both motor vehicle operators with 3rd Transportation Support Battalion's Motor Transportation Company, were among several families reunited that day when 111 Marines and sailors with 3rd TSB, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, returned to Okinawa from Asad Iraq.

Most of the returning Marines and sailors were assigned to Motor Transportation Company, and friends and family members welcomed them home in front of the Company's barracks.

The Marines were involved in a two-fold mission in Iraq, according to 1st Sgt. William Mayo, Motor Transportation Company's first sergeant.

The majority of his company, whose primary mission was to provide security for convoys, was attached to Combat Logistics Company 117, Combat Logistics Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

"We would act as forward scouts for all convoys," Mayo said. "We'd go out there and find (improvised explosive devices)."

Mayo said the motor transportation Marines also supported the mission of explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Despite this dangerous mission, no TSB Marines were lost to IEDs. Mayo attributed that to strong pre-deployment training.

"We did our own company training," he said. "We got together with several units here on Okinawa, pulled a lot of good information and did a lot of IED recognition and lane training."

According to Lance Cpl. Joshua Frye, a heavy equipment mechanic with 3rd TSB's Support Company, Marines augmented from Support Company also contributed greatly during the deployment, setting up new facilities and improving the quality of life for future units in Iraq.

The returning Marines made a significant contribution in the fight against terror, according to Mayo.

"(They) did more than an outstanding job," he said. "They went above and beyond what was expected."

Marine commander: Deployments to continue steadily for a few years

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Though the pace of deployments of local troops has slowed a bit, North County Marines will probably continue to be deployed to Iraq every seven months or so for "the next few years," the Camp Pendleton-based commander of the Marines' western bases said last week.


Monday, September 18, 2006
Last modified Sunday, September 17, 2006 8:40 PM PDT
By: JOE BECK - Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Though the pace of deployments of local troops has slowed a bit, North County Marines will probably continue to be deployed to Iraq every seven months or so for "the next few years," the Camp Pendleton-based commander of the Marines' western bases said last week.

Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commander of Marine Corps Installations West, said last week in an interview with the North County Times that he sees no more changes to the rate of deployments in the near future.

"It's down slightly,'' he said of the deployment rate. "In the aggregate, it's slowing down."

But Lehnert said the slowdown hasn't been sharp enough to be noticed by many rank-and-file Marines, about 75 percent of whom are on their first enlistment.

The pace of military deployments in and out of Iraq is determined in Washington by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and any more slowing of the tempo depends on decisions made in the Pentagon, Lehnert said. Attempts to obtain a number for the rate of deployments through Camp Pendleton officials and staff members of the House Armed Services Committee were unsuccessful.

The proper numbers of Marines and soldiers required in Iraq has been the subject of intense debate in Washington since before the beginning of the war.

At that time, Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army's top commander at the time, told Congress that the war would require several hundred thousand more Marines and soldiers than the roughly 130,000 that the war's architects included in the original war plans. Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy secretary of defense, denounced Shinseki's assessment as "wildly off the mark."

The disagreement on troop levels continues today.

The National Defense Authorization Act making its way through the House of Representative calls for an expansion of the Marine Corps and the Army. The bill calls for 3 percent more Marines than President Bush requested in the budget he proposed to Congress. Marine Corps strength would increase from 175,000 under Bush's proposal to 180,000 under the version passed by the House. The Marines currently have about 179,000 troops.

Many involved in military policy say the war in Iraq has stretched the military too thin. They cite deployments in and out of Iraq at higher rates than the military normally tolerates as evidence of their concern.

Josh Holly, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, said the Marines use a rotation schedule of seven months in Iraq and seven months off for refitting equipment and retraining. Holly said the Army's rotation schedule in Iraq is one year away for every year spent in Iraq. The committee's chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, has said he is concerned that the military priorities spend too much for development of weapons systems far off in the future and not enough on manpower and equipment to win the nation's current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A pair of former top officials from the Defense Department who served under a Republican and a Democratic president said they agree that current troop levels are forcing deployments at rates that undermine the military's effectiveness.

"Basically, they are deploying at a rate 25 percent higher than what the Pentagon considers acceptable,'' said Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary under President Reagan. Korb now works with the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank that advocates a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

Philip Coyle, who worked as an assistant defense secretary under President Clinton, said the United States is caught between conflicting pressures to leave Iraq or increase troop levels to cope with the increasing violence in the face of polls showing that public opinion has soured on the war.

The inability to reach a clear decision on which course to take is a prescription for continuing higher-than-normal rates of deployments, he said.

"Certainly, there's lots of pressure for the numbers to go up, but we also have lots of disillusioned families and Guard and Reserve members who have been called back several times, and it's hard for anybody to do anything about it right now," Coyle said.

The military is reluctant to release many details about troop deployments from Camp Pendleton and other bases. Families of deployed Marines have used their own Web site, Marineparents.com, to assemble data about the comings and goings of specific units from their bases, including Camp Pendleton. Tracy Della Vecchia said she founded the Web site in 2003 as a place for family members of Marines to discuss their feelings and share information as the war began.

Information about specific units typically surfaces as buzz or rumor on the site's message board, then volunteers try to confirm the message board chatter through official Marine Corps channels available to Marines' family members.

"We don't put information up on the Web site until it's a done deal,'' said Della Vecchia, who lives in Missouri.

She said information isn't released until after troops have left for or returned from Iraq, a policy that has allowed Marineparents.com to avoid friction with the military over the need to guard secrets pertaining to the whereabouts of combat units.

Message boards and chat rooms are checked by trained volunteers for information or opinions that could endanger troops in the field, Della Vecchia said, adding that she is unmoved by complaints from some users about censorship.

"Operational security comes first,'' she said.

Information about units includes the base from which they were deployed, the date and location of their deployment, length of the deployment and the phone number of the Family Readiness Officer, a person assigned to each unit who remains at the home base to help family members verify the mailing addresses of deployed Marines. Della Vecchia said the officers are one of the official Marine Corps sources used to verify unit information on the Web site.

Contact Joe Beck at (760) 740-3516 or [email protected] Comment at nctimes.com.

Official Marine Corps Web sites and Marineparents.com offer advice to family members and friends of Marines who are about to head overseas. The steps recommended for those seeking information on the whereabouts of a specific Marine or wanting to send mail and packages include the following:

Use the address the deployed Marine gave prior to departure. It should work for the duration of the deployment. Be sure to include the unit identification code included in most overseas mailing addresses.

Verify the address through Motomail.us, a U.S. government Web site that requires the correct unit identification number.

Call the family readiness officer assigned to the deployed Marine's unit. Phone numbers for family readiness officers assigned to specific units are available at Marines.com

Those married to a Marine should attend predeployment briefings held for spouses about a month before departure. Those unable to attend should contact the Key Volunteer Network for Marine families to learn about help available during the Marine's deployment. Contact information is available through usmc-mccs.org/kvn/index.cfm and Marineparents.com

September 17, 2006

War vets' mental health has police on alert

Colorado Springs - After returning from Iraq, Jason Harvey, a combat soldier with the Fort Carson-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, raced his car at speeds of more than 100 mph on Squirrel Tree Road and played paint ball to replicate battle situations.


By Erin Emery
Denver Post Staff Writer

"You have no idea what stress is until you've been in combat. When you're in combat, the adrenaline rush, it becomes fluid, you're used to it all the time. Then when you come back, it's not there anymore and you have to find something to get back to how it was," said Harvey, 23, who was diagnosed with post- traumatic stress disorder. "I know a lot of guys who started going sky diving or rock climbing; for me it was street racing. ... It might sound strange, but for me, when I was driving fast, it made me calm again."

Harvey was kicked out of the Army after he was found driving with a loaded gun on Fort Carson. He now lives in Wellington, Fla. He is among the untold number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have found themselves in what law enforcement officials increasingly realize are crisis situations - situations that often prove deadly.

While there is no hard data on whether high-risk or violent behavior is increasing, studies show the death rate for veterans returning from Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm was higher than for veterans who had not served in either theater.

"We expected it to happen, and it is now happening," said Steve Robinson, director of government relations for Veterans for America, a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.

Colorado has seen the following in the past two months:

On July 17, after an El Paso County sheriff's deputy stopped a pursuit that began when he saw two men on motorcycles popping wheelies and screaming up Academy Boulevard at speeds of more than 80 mph, Army Spec. Kelon Jones slammed his Kawasaki into a car. He flew 85 feet and later died. Jones, 20, had served in Iraq with the 43rd Area Support Group.

On Aug. 7, Robert Ziarnick, 25, was accused of shooting at Greenwood Village police and carjacking a 2005 Acura before fleeing to Cherry Creek State Park. Seven months earlier, Ziarnick used a knife to cut the words "kill me" into his abdomen. His wife told police he had served in Iraq and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two days later, in Colorado Springs, a police officer found Reisom Markose, 25, dead of an intentional overdose of bupropion, an antidepressant. Markose served in Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and recently had become a U.S. citizen.

More than 1.36 million Department of Defense personnel have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Surveys show that 19 percent to 21 percent of troops who have returned from combat deployments meet criteria for PTSD, depression or anxiety, Army Col. Charles Hoge, chief of psychiatry and behavior services at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, told a House subcommittee last year.

That war veterans may be in need of mental-health help is becoming increasingly clear to law enforcement.

In Massachusetts, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating developed "Beyond the Yellow Ribbons: PTSD and Veterans," a training video for first responders. The DVD has been provided to police, fire, probation and court personnel to help them understand when a veteran is having trouble readjusting from the combat zone to the streets and what resources are available in the community.

"This is going to become, in my mind, one of the major, major issues to deal with in this war: the aftermath," Keating said.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization with more than 17,000 members, said that in the future, it may issue guidelines - or helpful hints - on how police officers can help veterans in crisis.

In Colorado Springs, police Sgt. Kerry Duran said he has advised officers to be aware that thousands of soldiers from Fort Carson have returned from war. Duran tells his officers to protect themselves at all costs but also to understand that the soldiers are trying to adjust.

"They can be verbally aggressive to officers," Duran said. "Some of them are very angry."

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, scientists noted that returning vets had a 9.4 percent higher death rate than other active- duty personnel from 1991 to 1993. The increase was caused mostly by accidents such as car wrecks, according to a Veterans Affairs study published in 1996 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Vietnam veterans had a 7 percent higher death rate after discharge than veterans who did not serve in a theater. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found higher rates of motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides during the first five years after deployment to Vietnam.

So far this fiscal year, 156 sailors and Marines have died in off- duty accidents, said Cmdr. Edward Hobbs, a CDC spokesman.

"This has been one of the worst years in recent history," Hobbs said.

The fatality rate among sailors and Marines in off-duty motor vehicle accidents is 25.6 per 100,000 personnel - the highest since the war started and nearing the highest rate in more than 14 years, when the rate was 25.74 per 100,000 personnel in 1992.

For the Army, the number of off-duty soldiers killed has risen since the war started, with 150 off-duty deaths reported in 2005, compared with 135 deaths so far this fiscal year, statistics show.

After Desert Storm, in a 1996 article in Injury Prevention magazine, Dr. Niki Bell proposed possible explanations for increases in injuries, including depression, PTSD and symptoms of other psychiatric conditions developed after the war. Traumas experienced during the war may result in the postwar adoption of "coping" behaviors that also increase injury risk (for example, heavy drinking) and others, she said.

"It struck me that there clearly could be a lot of ways in which injury fatalities, intentional and unintentional, could be related to the experiences that one has when you've been in a war situation," Bell said. Testing her theories has been difficult, she said, because there is a lack of strong data.

In July 2005, Defense Department officials told a House subcommittee that military mental- health efforts include a yearly preventive assessment and pre- and post-deployment screenings. Also, mental-health teams are embedded with units, and military personnel have access to a confidential counseling and education service.

However, a Government Accountability Office report in May found that eight of 10 soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who showed signs of PTSD were not referred for further mental-health treatment.

Military research shows that 35 percent of Iraq war veterans accessed such services in the year after returning, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The high rate ... highlights challenges in ensuring that there are adequate resources to meet the mental-health needs of returning veterans," the Journal concluded.

Robinson, of Veterans of America, agreed.

"People are coming home, and their bodies may be in Fort Carson, Colo., but their adrenaline, their heart and their mind are still in Iraq. So they are in survival mode," Robinson said. "They can't just turn their adrenaline off after 365 days of surviving."

Staff writer Erin Emery can be reached at 719-522-1360 or [email protected]

September 16, 2006

Wounded Warrior Center has list of needs

CAMP PENDLETON – Therese Thomas is calling sewing groups across the country to round up a few more quilts for the beds of injured Marines.


By Linda McIntosh
September 16, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON – Therese Thomas is calling sewing groups across the country to round up a few more quilts for the beds of injured Marines.
Others are buying coffee makers and dinner plates for wounded service members recovering in the base's new Wounded Warrior Center.

The 26-bed center, which opened last month, is geared to service members in long-term rehabilitation who are out of the hospital but not well enough to return to their units.

“We're trying to make it more like home instead of military barracks,” said George Brown, executive director of the Camp Pendleton Armed Service YMCA.

The center needs household items such as wastebaskets, pictures for the walls, barbecue grills, ceiling fans and steel shelving along with sports equipment, hand tools and some furniture.

“They're not pie in the sky wishes. They're just things to keep morale up,” said Thomas, a retired police officer whose late husband served in the Navy.

Over the last few months, Thomas sewed two quilts, one featuring Marine Corps red patches along with other multi-colored squares.

“Little bits help. I'm just trying to do what I can,” Thomas said.

In a wish list put out by the center, Gunnery Sgt. Mel Greer Jr., who was wounded in 2004 and works at the center, wrote, “Everything is of value to us. Your volunteer time, any items you would like to donate or even a simple visit just to say 'Hi' is greatly appreciated.”

Thomas is trying to get the word out to community groups, schools and individuals who might want to donate items.

“Sometimes the wounded feel like they're left by the wayside and nobody cares. This is a way to show our respect and appreciation,” Thomas said.

Noncash donations for the wish list are coordinated by the Camp Pendleton YMCA.

Cash donations are handled by Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and checks should reference the Wounded Warriors Center.

Before purchasing something on the wish list, it is advisable to call the Wounded Warrior Center to confirm what they need.

Wounded Warrior Center: (760) 725-9805.

Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund: (760) 390-4930.

Camp Pendleton Armed Service YMCA: (760) 385-4921.

*Passing the torch in Ramadi

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Sept. 16, 2006) -- In the complex and dangerous city of Ar Ramadi, local knowledge and first-hand experience are valuable tools, and the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are looking to gain those tools early.


Sept. 16, 2006
Story ID#: 200692475046
By Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr. , I Marine Expeditionary Force

As part of the “Relief in Place” of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the Marines of 1st Bn., 6th Marines are taking every opportunity available to learn the ins-and-outs of the city from their departing brothers.

“We are acting like a sponge,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Luis H. Hernandez, 48-year-old operations chief for the battalion. “We’re gleaning as much knowledge from our counterpart as we can.”

As soon as the Marines’ boots hit the sand at Camp Ramadi, they begin classes concerning intelligence and operations in their new area of responsibility.

The Marines are informed of the more dangerous areas in the city, the range of enemy tactics, historical trends in enemy activity, the latest advances in enemy armaments and various other necessary tactical advantages.

Each brief is given by an officer from 3rd Bn., 8th Marines’s operational and intelligence sections.

“We could not have asked for a more thorough and professional turnover from 3/8,” said Lt. Col. William M. Jurney, 42-year-old commanding officer of the battalion.

As the Marines of 1st Bn., 6th Marines complete their classes, the companies are placed alongside their counterparts in the city where they begin the next step of the turnover.

Line companies, watch officers, guard forces and every other element of the battalion begin working alongside the Marines of 3rd Bn., 8th Marines in Ramadi.

For the initial portion of the training, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines lead the way as Marines of 1st Bn., 6th Marines observe the tactics and procedures refined through seven months of combat operations.

Though 1st Bn., 6th Marines is a veteran battalion on its third deployment in support of the war on terror, the experiences of 3rd Bn., 8th Marines offer a different look at situations in the city, according to Hernandez, a resident of Coral Gables, Fla.

“A set of eyes that has been here for seven months will see things a little differently,” Hernandez said.

As the Marines adapt to the city and become more comfortable with their posts, the veterans of 3rd Bn., 8th Marines will step aside and observe as Marines of 1st Bn., 6th Marines take the lead.

The “left seat, right seat” training provides the oncoming Marines with tools that cannot be taught in a training environment, according to Hernandez.

“Day in and day out we’re seeing the Marines of 3/8 passing along vital information and experience to the Marines of 1/6,” said Jurney, a resident of Statesville, N.C. “It’s truly reflective of ‘Marines taking care of Marines.’”

During their tour the Marines of 3rd Bn., 8th Marines killed and captured hundreds of anti-Iraqi forces, created an Iraqi police station in Western Ramadi, turned over one of their forward operating bases to the Iraqi Army, and financially disrupted the insurgency, according to Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Despite their many successes, Neary is confident that 1st Bn., 6th Marines can take the city even further.
“(1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment) is an experienced and disciplined unit,” said Neary, a resident of Boston, Mass. “They will make this city better and take the fight to the insurgency.”

The primary mission of 1st Bn., 6th Marines during its stay in Ramadi will be to support and assist the development of the Iraqi government in any way possible, according to Jurney.

However, the Marines of 1st Bn., 6th Marines “Hard” are poised and ready to carry out the true purpose of a Marine battalion, alongside their Iraqi brethren.

“Our Marines and sailors will continue to work side by side with the Iraqi Security Forces as we hunt down those terrorist and criminal elements that choose to try and harm us, the ISF, and the good people of Ramadi,” said Jurney.

September 15, 2006

*Ironmen finish deployment, prepare to head home

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 15, 2006) -- The Marines of the Incident Response Platoon, Engineers Platoon, Expeditionary Airfields, Hot Pits and many other aviation ground support platoons within Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 have been in the slow transition of turning their jobs over to their replacements.


Sept. 15, 2006
Story ID#: 20069169946
By Cpl. James B. Hoke, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The squadron conducted their Transfer of Authority with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), at Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 12 after spending nearly two weeks preparing their replacements to take over the mission.

"Our main mission was to provide aviation ground support to 3rd MAW," said Sgt. Maj. Vincent Claxton, sergeant major, MWSS-274, MWSG-27, 2nd MAW. "I think the Marines have done a great job out here. They were successful. They are definitely looking forward to getting back to their families and their much-deserved leave."

Spending roughly seven months spread out across Al Asad and Western Iraq, the Ironmen of MWSS-274 were able to keep to their motto of Aeternus Adjuvo, "Eternal Support."

"Our biggest accomplishment is that we got a chance to really apply our full team (aviation ground support) function, with everything from refueling and electrical to engineering and motor (transportation) assets," said Claxton, a 46-year-old native of Savannah, Ga. "We don't get to do that as much in garrison. Over here, our services are very much in demand, as we support every flying squadron out here."

One of the main attributes that allowed the squadron to accomplish so much was the leadership they received from their noncommissioned officers, according to Lt. Col. Daniel B. Conley, commanding officer, MWSS-274.

"NCOs leading squads, fire teams and sections accomplished missions across the spectrum of aviation ground support, ground support and combat service support on base and outside the wire that would normally be assigned to staff noncommissioned officers or officers in garrison," said Conley, a 39-year-old native of Falmouth, Mass.

At the end of their deployment, the days of the week seem to grow longer as anticipation edges into the Marines, according to Cpl. William N. Wolbert, licensing instructor, MWSS-274.

"The process of leaving is long," said Wolbert, a 23-year-old native of Sykesville, Md., with a 9-year-old son waiting at home for him. "The flight doesn't come soon enough. There's a lot of moving around and sea bag shuffles. I'm looking forward to seeing my son though and spending time with him."

Although the Marines are looking forward to going home, the imminent departure is bittersweet.

"I'm going to miss the extra pay and dealing with the different nationalities, as we get to see people from all over the world out here," said Wolbert, a South Carroll High School graduate.

The squadron has no doubts their predecessors will be able to support 3rd MAW just as they have.

"MWSS-273 has a great reputation as talented, dedicated professionals," concluded Conley, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. "They are on their second tour at Al Asad and are fully ready and more than able to assume responsibility of providing (aviation ground support) to the MAW. As squadrons before them have done, they will make improvements and hand off a better product than was given to them."

*Hard-headed Marine walks away from headshot

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 15, 2006) -- Cpl. Daniel M. Greenwald knows that being hard headed isn’t always a bad thing.


Sept. 15, 2006
Story ID#: 20069203327
By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran, 1st Marine Division

Greenwald, from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was shot in the head by a sniper while conducting vehicle checkpoint operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. He’s now an expert at explaining just how good his helmet works.

“I was the greeter on one of the ends of a vehicle checkpoint,” said Greenwald, a 24-year-old assaultman from Rockland County, N.Y. “I was doing a double check on my vehicle, turned in and that’s when I got shot.”

The bullet’s impact knocked him out for a short moment. When he woke, he was wondering what sort of 18-wheeled truck just hit him.

“Everything went black,” he said. “I knew I got hit with something. It sounded like a grenade or a small improvised explosive device.”

Greenwald jumped behind his humvee for cover as soon as he got to his feet. Still dazed from the impact, he radioed his Marines that he was hit.

Marines set up security to block the area they believed the round originated.

“We wanted to make sure he was alright and get him out of there,” said Cpl. Daniel J. Kelley, a 25-year-old squad leader from Centerville, Tenn. “The squad reacted well. They set up the cordon automatically.”

The squad’s hospital corpsman rushed to aid Greenwald.

“When I first got up there I thought he was dead because blood was running down his face,” said Navy Seaman Jared D. Condry, a 20-year-old corpsman from Jacksonville, N.C. “Then I started talking to him and he was responsive.”

Condry began to assess Greenwald’s injury and discovered an inch-long gash on his head. He put a patch on the wound and loaded him into a humvee that transported him to Camp Fallujah.

Doctors there took a closer look at Greenwald’s injury.

“They got me back in like 20 minutes,” Greenwald said. “It was a quick evacuation. The Marines’ performance in the situation was great.”

The Kevlar helmet was inspected more closely at the camp’s medical center. The bullet never penetrated through the helmet. It hit the night-vision goggles mount, rode the inside of the helmet and flew out the right side. A screw flew out of the helmet and caused the gash on Greenwald’s head.

Marines who know Greenwald have been letting him know how lucky he was to walk away from the incident with only a gash.

“You have to wear you’re PPE,” Greenwald said. “You never know what can happen. I was doing a regular VCP. I didn’t expect to get shot in the head.”

Greenwald is currently waiting to be medically cleared so he may rejoin his fellow Marines on the front lines.

“I’m just anxious to get back out there,” Greenwald said. “I want to help out the squad.”

*2nd MLG activates forward element

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 15, 2006) -- Hundreds of them came, but they represented more than 3,800 Marines and Sailors. Under a bright North Carolina sky, they took the first major step in forging a new identity for themselves, an identity that will be refined and tested with intense training and a deployment to Iraq.


Sept. 15, 2006
Story ID#: 200691582643
By 2nd Lt. Philip Klay, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The Marines and Sailors of 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) formally activated during a ceremony at Soifert Field, Sept. 13.

Commanded by Col. William M. Faulkner, the 2nd MLG (Fwd) was activated to deploy to Iraq and conduct combat logistics operations in support of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

This will mark the first deployment of the 2nd MLG (Fwd) under the new Marine Corps MLG reorganization. The restructured unit is designed to have better cohesion, improved deployability and be able to more quickly transition to combat operations. The assets will be used to help achieve the Marine mission in Iraq, a challenge clearly understood by the speakers at the ceremony.

Citing the historic import of our nation’s effort in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brig. Gen. James A. Kessler, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, confessed to being envious of the Marines and Sailors gearing up to deploy.

“You will do great things out there and come back American heroes,” he said, later adding that he already considered them heroes.

The 2nd MLG (Fwd) will be composed of 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Bn. 2, Combat Logistics Bn. 6, 8th Engineer Support Bn., Headquarters Company, Service Co. and Communication Co. During the ceremony, new flags were brought forth and unfurled by the commanders.

“A significant amount of training, planning and coordination has already gone into ensuring success during our upcoming deployment ,” said Faulkner. “I am completely confident in the Marines and Sailors and we are excited about the challenges and the mission that awaits.”

Overall, the mood was one of confident anticipation.

“I’m a little scared, a little excited,” said Lance Cpl. Kristopher L. Shelby, a logistician with supply for whom this will be his first deployment.

He then added, “Our unit is a great unit … (we’ll) make sure we accomplish all of our missions.”

However, the Marines and Sailors still have much work to do before deployment.

Family readiness programs will be progressively strengthened and organized to help take care of the families left behind by the deployment.

The forward commanders have developed training plans that cover everything from basic warfighting skills to carrying out complex combat logistics operations in support of other elements of II MEF (Fwd), said Faulkner.

“Our focus of main effort now until the day we get on the airplane is , training,” he said.

With demanding training and a deployment to Iraq ahead of them, the Marines and Sailors are rearing to go, said Sgt. Maj. Cherry A. McPherson, sergeant major, 2nd MLG (Fwd). “All the Marines and Sailors are proficient in their (Military Occupational Specialty),” she said. “They’re excited, motivated and I’m privileged to be going with them.”

Those skills and that motivation will soon receive its test in Iraq, a test those at the ceremony feel the 2nd MLG (Fwd) will pass with flying colors.

Address available for injured Ada marine

ADA — The family of the injured marine, Cody Hill, 23, Ada, has requested that any cards and letters sent to Cody be directed to the guest facilities at the Brooke Army Medical Center. LaDonna Hill, Cody’s mother, said “The address of the guesthouse is where to send mail to Cody to keep from overloading the medical center staff.” The address of the guesthouse is: Powless Guesthouse, 3298 George C. Beach Road, Fort Sam Houston, Tx 73234-7569.


September 15, 2006

Hill sustained burns over 50 percent of his body and shrapnel injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Al Anbar Procince of Iraq. A graduate of Ada High School, 2002, Cody was transferred to the burn center in Texas after being stablized in Germany. Three other marines from Cody’s unit, Marine Forces Reserves 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division out of Broken Arrow were killed in the vehicle. Hill was scheduled to return from his tour in Iraq in four to six weeks when the explosion occurred.

September 14, 2006

*Last of Marine battalion ships out

KANE'OHE BAY — The last of about 1,000 Hawai'i Marines destined for western Iraq left yesterday with a mixture of pride in mission, hope for democracy, quiet reservations and belief in one another.


September 14, 2006
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

About 300 Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment said goodbye to family and friends and boarded seven blue buses for Hickam Air Force Base.

The Hawai'i battalion's headquarters is at Haditha Dam, northwest of Baghdad, but Marines will be spread throughout the "Triad" of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana near the Euphrates River and down to the Baghdadi-Jubbah-Dulab region.

The unit is replacing the Hawai'i-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, which had 12 fatalities since March.

"One of my buddies just got back two weeks ago and he said there are a lot of people doing good over there," said Navy corpsman Jacob Allen, 20, from Ruidoso, N.M., who is heading out on his first combat tour.

But Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cox, 21, who previously served in Afghanistan, said, "I'm not really thinking too much (about Iraq)."

"If I think too hard (about it), it's just going to be a bunch of bad things in my head," the Nashville, Tenn., man said.

A new Marine security report paints a bleak picture of the insurgency in Iraq's Anbar province, with the classified assessment finding prospects dim for securing the western region of the country, the Washington Post reported.

"We're in a recruiting war with the insurgency," Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, the deputy commander in western Iraq, said in August.

A government report in response to the assessment said different parts of Iraq have different security environments, and that is important to recognize. The buildup of Iraqi security forces in Anbar province has not worked as well as in other parts of Iraq because of Sunni Arab resistance, officials said.

Hawai'i Marine deployments had included rotations to Afghanistan, but that has ended as tours to Iraq have continued. The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which got back from Afghanistan in May and fought house to house in Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004 and early 2005, is expected to deploy to Iraq for seven months in the spring.

Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Bellivan, 38, who left yesterday, spent all of 2005 in western Iraq with two other Marine units.

"The country's goal is to become a democracy," he said. Asked how probable that is in Iraq, Bellivan said, "Anything's possible." More time is needed with U.S. assistance to make it work, he said.

"Anything that important is definitely worth making it happen time-wise," he said.

Christa Allen, 19, who married Navy corpsman Jacob Allen in January, said she is proud of what the military does, "and I'm ready to see more Americans not just be behind our troops, but be behind freedom (in Iraq). I believe in the reasons that they are going."

First Lt. Timothy Merkle, 24, spent 20 days in western Iraq in June on a pre-deployment site survey.

"It's a pretty undeveloped area, obviously open desert," the Allendale, Mich., man said. "There were children waving at convoys going by, there were adults waving. It was a lot more receptive than I thought it would be. What their intentions are, I can't tell you."

Nine members of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Andrew Hill's family came from Maryland to see him off. His father, Ken Hill, said, "I'm a little nervous. I've been trying to keep up with everything in the news."

A friend of the Marine is in Barwana. "He said (to my son), 'I can't wait for you to see it,' it's just a mess over there," Ken Hill said. "He said you can't trust anyone."

Ken Hill said he's proud of his son being in the Marines. "He's got his head together. He's a good kid," he said.

Andranita Dogan had a 2-year-old son on her shoulder and was trying to juggle a digital camera to take pictures of her husband, Cpl. Edgar Dogan, 24, before the Houston man boarded a bus.

"He wants to go get on the bus," she said of the toddler, who had been sobbing minutes before.

Andranita Dogan said she is scared and nervous, even though others have told her "it's going to be fine, that they have good armor, and they are going over with good gear and good training."

"That doesn't really matter," she said. "I just don't want him to be over there."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

President Bush Pays 4TH CAG Marines and Sailors an Honorable Visit on The Night They Deploy to Iraq

Naval District WashingtonNAVAL DISTRICT WASHINGTON, Washington D.C. – Marines and sailors of the 4th Civil Affairs Group (CAG) were surprised by a visit from President Bush on Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland the night of their deployment to Iraq.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

After lining up outside to watch Air Force One land, the Marines and sailors stood by as he approached them to shake their hands and thank them for their service to their country.

The President thanked the Marines on an individual basis while shaking their hands. Lance Cpl. Steven G. Gillespie was honored to personally have the President of the United States of America thank him for his service.

“Look, I still have goose bumps,” said HN Jan R. Maddela after President Bush’s departure.

The Marines appreciated the surprise visit by the president on the night of their deployment.

“I think it’s great someone that important and that busy can take the time and come see us,” said Cpl. Jason Voorhees, a Marine with the 4th CAG.

“The support from the president enhanced the morale of the Marines and was an honor, giving them more motivation in preparation of their third deployment,” said HM2 JoseDaniel Perez.

President Bush was not the only VIP to visit the 4th CAG. Major General Cornell A.Wilson Jr. also made an appearance to support the Marines and see them off.

“I support them in every aspect and I want to say Godspeed and Semper Fi,” Said Wilson.

This is the third deployment to Iraq for the 4th CAG. The CAG serves as a liason between commander and the Iraqi civilians working to provide civil-military operations in the western provinces of Iraq.

The unit is made of over 200 Reserve Marines that have been activated since June 15 to deploy to Iraq for seven months to a year.

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

Eat a burger, help Marines keep their heads

A call was placed.


September 14, 2006

"John Manning."

You are the owner of the Windy City Inn tavern and restaurant at 2257 W. Irving Park.


QT understands you are throwing a party this Saturday.

"In fact, it's going to be a block party. We're closing off Oakley from Irving to the alley."

Explain why you are throwing a party.

"We hope to raise at least $8,000 for Operation Helmet."

You are referring to Operation Helmet at operation-helmet.org, which is trying to get modern helmet liners, which help protect against bomb blasts, to our soldiers in Iraq.

"We'd heard something about it, and then we saw your column. Carolyn Jerger, who works here, came up with the idea. You know, some Army soldiers have the helmet upgrades, but the Marines don't have them at all."

The Pentagon is moving slowly, much as it did getting enough armor to our troops.

"Quite a way to fight a war."

So you're raising money.

"We know a young Marine serving in Iraq, a good friend from the neighborhood. He just arrived there, in fact. He has one of the old helmets."

The helmet liners cost $100. Why the $8,000?

"I'm a former Marine myself. And the way it is in the Marine Corps is nobody gets something unless everybody gets it. So we're trying to equip at least his company."

What kind of party will it be?

"We'll have it from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. We'll have bands. The Emerald Society, the pipe and drum guys, will be here. We'll have drawings and silent auctions -- a poster autographed by the cast of "Wicked," baseballs signed by Mark Prior, Ryan Theriot, Ramirez, Zambrano . . ."

Sounds like a good party.

"You donate $2, you get a hamburger, and all the money goes to helmets. A buck gets you some nachos and it goes to the helmets. A $2 donation for a Miller Lite, and it goes to the helmets."

Where is your Marine friend?

"Kuwait, waiting to find out where he'll go."

Best of luck with this party.

"Thank you."

And more than the best to the Marines with bad helmets, waiting to find out where they'll go.

September 13, 2006

*'Moon Dogs' implement new fueling process

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 13, 2006) -- The Marines at Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3, Marine Central Command, have implemented a new refueling process to support the aviation mission in Iraq. This process is designed to get their EA-6B Prowlers back into the air with minimal delay.


Sept. 13, 2006
Story ID#: 200691494544
By Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

"To ensure mission success, our aircraft need to land, refuel and get back into the air quickly," said Sgt. Tony A. Grimes, an EA-6 fixed-wing mechanic and quality assurance representative for VMAQ-3.

The Moon Dogs evaluated the situation upon arriving in country and devised a plan to speed up the fueling process when jets come in.

"We opened a refueling station near our hangar," said Sgt. Keith A. Reitz, an EA-6 fixed-wing mechanic for VMAQ-3. "It allows us to cut hours off of our refueling time.

"Our new method has the aircraft landing and then taxiing over to the refueling area. Once the jet gets close, our ordnance Marines run out and safe all the aircraft's armament," added the Salem, Ohio, native. "We then safety the landing gear, and have the pilot shut down the right engine. After all that is done, we fill up the aircraft. As soon as it's full, we send it out again. This new process takes approximately 30 minutes."

The old refueling process took nearly eight times as long as the current process, according to Grimes, a native of Venice, Fla.

"The old process had us shutting down the entire aircraft and then performing a cold refueling," added Grimes. "After the fueling we had to do a preflight inspection and check the whole jet from head-to-toe again. It took nearly four hours before the jet was ready to go back up."

The Marines throughout VMAQ-3 realize this new process is an essential time saver and will ultimately make their squadron a more effective weapon in the war on terrorism.

"With this new method of refueling, our aircraft is more efficient and makes us more effective," said Reitz. "With the hot fueling, we are able to keep our birds in the air and effectively impede the enemy's progress. That's what the Moon Dogs do."

*Strike Group Five departs for Persian Gulf

SAN DIEGO – Some 6,000 U.S. sailors and Marines sailed out of Naval Station San Diego Wednesday morning under an overcast sky that seemed to reflect the mood of the families who watched them leave.


By Debbi Farr Baker
September 13, 2006

The six ships are part of Expeditionary Strike Group Five, which is beginning a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of the war on terrorism.

Several hundred friends and relatives stood along the dock next to the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship and flagship of the group, as they said their goodbyes to their loved ones.

Sandi Wotring from San Diego looked like she was never going to let go of her 21-year-old son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Wotring. He didn't seem to mind.

She said she just wanted to hold him and touch him before he left, and that she was nervous because she didn't know what was going to happen.

“My stomach's upset,” she said as she put her head on her son's shoulder.

Kyle Wotring's dad and two sisters as well as a couple of friends were there to see him off.

His sister Kaelyn, an 18-year-old college student who was having a hard time not crying, said, “I feel like I'm giving my best friend away to the Navy.”

“You never get used to it,” Susan Rivera said as she wiped tears from her eyes while standing with her two daughters and 2-year-old granddaughter alongside her son, Corporal Ryan Briones of San Leandro.

The 23-year-old Marine, who is stationed at Camp Pendleton, is on his second deployment after already spending several months in Iraq.

“I'm excited but a little sad at the same time,” Briones said about his mission.

David and Bunny Dixon came all the way from Dallas to say goodbye to their son, 26-year-old Marine Lt. David Dixon, a Cobra helicopter pilot.

“It's humbling to realize what they're willing to do for us,” Bunny Dixon said. “This is the best of what America has to offer,” she added, her husband nodding in agreement.

They said they plan to have a big Texas barbecue for their son when he gets back.

Dixon's friend, Kris Miller from La Jolla, also came to see him off. She said she made up a package of homemade cookies as well as Bible verses and daily devotionals for him to take. “Stuff to keep him grounded,” she said.

Miller stood on the dock and chatted with Dixon on her cell phone as he and his buddy, 1st Lt. Julio Gonzalez, stood along the flight rail.

“I'm excited and ready to serve my country and my president,” Dixon said as he looked down from the deck of the ship, some seven stories high.

Lisa Adams from Murietta was saying goodbye to her Navy husband Sammie T. Adams. Even after 20 years, she said, she never gets over having to say goodbye.

She said the first thing she thought when she woke up in the morning was that she was not going to see her husband that night, and it made her cry.

Her son, 9-year-old Samej, said he was going to help his mom while his dad was gone.

The Boxer pulled out at precisely 9 a.m. as sailors and Marines lined the 844-foot-long flight deck, standing at attention in the tradition known as “manning the rails.”

Spectators waved flags, held up signs and shouted goodbye as the ship moved out of sight.

The Boxer, which is on its fourth deployment in as many years, was the second of six ships to leave San Diego Wednesday.

The others include the Dubuque, an amphibious transport dock; the Comstock, a dock landing ship; the cruiser Bunker Hill; and the destroyers Benfold and Howard.

The group is to travel first to Hawaii, then to Southeast Asia and finally, to the Persian Gulf. Its mission may include everything from combat to boarding and seizing other vessels to providing disaster assistance and humanitarian aid.

2nd Recon Battalion Marines keep insurgents on the run during Operation Matador

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 13, 2006) -- Recon Marines stepped out onto the streets of Fallujah with the keys to the city – bolt cutters and sledge hammers.


Sept. 13, 2006
Story ID#: 200691442939
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines from B Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion cut hundreds of locks, searched hundreds of stores and cleared dozens of buildings in their sector of Fallujah during Operation Matador, Sept. 13. Recon Marines, Iraqi Army soldiers, Iraqi Police and Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, partnered for the operation, cordoning off the Andaloos district of Fallujah to disrupt insurgent activity.

All forces are serving under the command of Regimental Combat Team 5.

“We had to have broken more than 200 locks easy,” said Sgt. Jason Salvog, a 27-year-old Crystal, Minn. “Some of the doors we got through had five locks on them. We dulled our bolt cutters.”

Recon Marines walked onto Fallujah’s streets while Iraqi Police, backed by Marines in tanks and amphibious assault vehicles, cordoned the surrounding streets. They crept along the roads, slipping inside the first building they planned to clear.

The two and three-story buildings loomed over the Marines, hundreds of rooms to clear. Gated and shuttered storefronts lined the roads. The normally bustling business area of the Andaloos district was quiet. Only the sounds of Marines’ boots on the pavement broke the morning air.

That was until they got to work with the sledge hammers.

“Working in an urban environment is really different than some of the other things we do,” said Cpl. Lynn Westover Jr., a 25-year-old from Pinehurst, N.C. “There are so many places people could be. They live there. They know every room. It’s like going to your own hometown where you grew up. You just know all the areas.”

Marines fanned out throughout the buildings, rifles pointing in all directions. Along the storefronts, others got to work. They pounded locks and cut through steel with bolt cutters to gain access inside. Everything needed to be searched and Recon Marines wouldn’t be stopped.

“The toughest part of this operation was the amount of breeches themselves,” said Sgt. Chris Zimmerman, a 28-year-old from Austin, Texas. “Every door had locks and it just takes time to get those opened.”

At one point, an Iraqi policeman approached Marines as they were breaking locks and spoke for a few minutes. He walked back out to his post on the cordon, toting his AK-47 assault rifle. It was a moment that embodied the combined-forces approach to the operation.

Reconnaissance Marines have worked with Iraqi Army and Police before, in areas including Ameriyah, Ferris, Zaidon and Habbaniyah. They’ve watched the growing Iraqi Security Forces gain strength and skill to the point where they work right alongside Marines.

“The toughest part is the language barriers,” Salvog said. “We also have to keep in mind that they’re not Marines. They’re working at a different standard.”

Salvog explained Iraqi police and soldiers don’t have the in-depth training Reconnaissance Marine endure and don’t have the same tools at their disposal. Still, the Iraqi’s stood the line on the cordon allowing Marines to work unhindered in their sector. Police vehicles rolled through the streets, lights flashing on their patrol cars.

The operation lasted several hours. Marines consolidated their position with nothing significant to report for insurgent activity. They sent a clear message to the citizens and insurgents alike. There wasn’t anywhere in city Marines wouldn’t go to ensure insurgents don’t have a safe haven.

“The only clear area is the one you’re looking at,” Westover explained. “Once you leave it for a second, it will change.”

31st MEU takes to the deep blue of Kin Blue to practice boat raids

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, September 13, 2006

KIN BLUE, Okinawa — Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit took to the temperate waters off of Kin Blue to practice boat raids Monday as part of a larger MEU exercise.

To continue reading:


September 12, 2006

*HMM-364 continues CASEVAC tradition, replacing HMM-268

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Sept. 12, 2006) -- The Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), assumed authority from the Red Dragons of HMM-268 at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, Aug. 29, for providing casualty evacuation, general transportation and raid flights.


Sept. 12, 2006
Story ID#: 20069149108
By Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The turnover of responsibilities is the second go around for the Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., based squadrons and held few hurdles for the experienced Marines and sailors.

Within hours of the official turnover, Marines and sailors with HMM-268 were headed for their living quarters to pack up their gear. At the same time, their HMM-364 counterparts were hard at work fixing the aging CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters left by HMM-268 or racing out to the helicopters at the sound of the CASEVAC bell.

"This is the seventh cycle in the CASEVAC mission. There are only three units that do this right now, so the transition was very smooth and methodical," said Maj. Stephen M. Griffiths, executive officer, HMM-364. "(HMM-268) told us about the changes since we were last here in 2005. Really, it's pretty much the same except that we're flying more general support missions during the day."

The previous combat experiences of the Purple Foxes enlisted and officer ranks are making the nonstop flight schedule easier to handle, according to Griffiths.

"We are a pretty young squadron. We have junior officers and enlisted Marines, but a lot of those lieutenants and lance corporals are on their second and some third tours," said the Santa Ana, Calif., native. "We are able to have a good mix of experienced and new air crews."

One of the experienced crew members, Sgt. Brian D. Kraatz, on his second deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Purple Foxes, said the squadron began their preparations for this deployment at Exercise Desert Talon in Yuma, Arizona.

"Many of us are pretty much used to how things work out here, but we use that experience to train the new guys who haven't," said Kraatz, a CH-46 Sea Knight crew chief and Rescue, Calif., native. "The biggest thing for us now is fighting complacency."

With the Purple Foxes in the air, evacuating casualties and ferrying cargo across Western Iraq, the Red Dragons packed up and reflected on the events of the past six months.

"It has been a trial by fire; a good test for me to see if I can handle being a corpsman," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin L. Fugate, a corpsman with HMM-268. "I am taking home with me an experience and new friends I could not have gotten anywhere else.

"Most of all, I have gained respect for the Marines. These guys out here are great," said the Fremont, Calif., native. "Whether they're wing or ground, they moan and complain, but always get the job done."

On the eve of their return to Camp Pendleton, members of the Red Dragons could be seen and heard playing musical instruments and singing songs about their time in Iraq and planned activities in the United States.

"We're ready to go home, this is our third time out in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Patrick A. Gramuglia, commanding officer, HMM-268. "A high-tempo flight operations schedule, the weight of the mission and being away from family resulted in a strain on all the Marines.

"It's nothing that isn't manageable, but it doesn't matter what you're doing for six months. With only five days off, there will be fatigue, but we were motivated by the mission," said Gramuglia, a San Diego native. "We have flown more than 5,800 hours and evacuated almost 400 urgent casualties -- that's where it counts."

The thousands of passengers and hundreds of casualties the Red Dragons transported only saw the corpsmen, crew chiefs and pilots, but on the ground behind the scenes, hundreds of Marines toiled 24 hours a day in the maintenance and staff sections to get the mission accomplished.

"They did their jobs without complaint, with outstanding results and with great attitudes," said Gramuglia. "I am very proud and honored to be part of this great group of Marines, and they have my heartfelt thanks, respect, and life-long admiration."

Hawaii Marines deploy to Iraq

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Oahu -- Approximately 300 Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment will depart Hawaii tomorrow, Sep. 13, for a seven-month deployment to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terrorism.


The Marines of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment comprise of a group from the main body and will prepare for the rest of the battalion’s arrival throughout September.

The battalion returned from Operation Enduring Freedom in Jan. 2006. They will participate in the continuing stabilization, security and counter-terror efforts currently underway in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

News media wishing to cover the departure should RSVP by 11 a.m. tomorrow and plan to be at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Main Gate (H-3 Gate) no later than 12 p.m. for escort to the staging and departure area.

No date has been set for their return.

Cody Hill continues fight for life

ADA — Marine Lance Cpl. Cody Hill is fighting to recover from severe burns and wounds from shrapnel he sustained in Iraq on Sept. 4. The three other riders in the vehicle struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) were killed. Hill’s father Carlyle Hill is very emotional as he stays with his son at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.“Cody needs your thoughts and prayers. The families of the other three boys that didn’t make it also need prayers,” Carlyle said.


Published: September 12, 2006 11:51 am
By Liz Brewer

It’s difficult for Carlyle to discuss the condition of his son, which is between critical and serious. He said he has been getting lots of phone calls, and while there are many wanting to know more about Cody, it’s taking its toll on him to talk about it. Cody is able to talk at times between medications and according to his father will have months of hospitalization ahead of him.

“Cody’s friends can send him cards here at the burn center to let him know they are thinking of him. He’s in good spirit, he’s fighting,” Carlyle said.

The burn center staff and facilities are the absolute best, according to Carlyle. “The medical chief and lieutenant have been here constantly to see to Cody’s needs,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the military doing everything possible to help us.”

For those that want to send cards, mail them to Lance Cpl. Cody Hill, Brooke Army Medical Center, 3400 Brooke Drive, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, 78234-6000. For those wishing to donate to a fund for Cody, First American Bank of Stonewall has an account in his name which was set up at the request of marines from Cody’s unit out of Broken Arrow.

*More Yuma Marines deploying

Tuesday's deployment was the first time Wendi Whitaker had to say goodbye to her Marine husband, who was leaving to serve in the Pacific Ocean.

"There is really nothing you can do about it," Whitaker said. "But I'm holding up so far."


Sep 12, 2006

About 100 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron-311 left Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Tuesday for a seven-month long deployment in support of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of San Diego.

"I'm excited to get out there and see the world and do my job," said Pvt. Philip Fildes, a Rapid City, S.D., native who was being deployed for the first time. "The whole point in joining the military is to serve and fight for your country."

Accompanying the Marines from VMA-311 is a small detachment of Marines from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-13, which will provide maintenance support.

The Marines spent an hour and half with their families and friends inside VMA-311's hangar before eventually boarding the buses that would take them on the three-hour trip to Camp Pendleton.

Wendi Whitaker, who is the wife of Lance Cpl. Steven Whitaker, said she thinks first deployments aren't as hard as later ones.

"You really don't know what to expect, so in a way it makes it easier," she said. "The hardest part will be not having him home for the holidays, but I have friends and family, so I will be fine."

"I don't really know what to expect either, so I'm just planning to try and make it fun and learn how to do my job better," Steven Whitaker said.

The Whitakers said they spent a lot of time together the night before and visited family members in Phoenix this past weekend.

For Sgt. Jose Cardenas, Tuesday was his fourth deployment.

"I hate it, I'm tired of them," said his wife, Kellie Cardenas. "I wish they would end already."

"We are so used to being together and depending on each other on a daily basis that it's going to be hard to be apart," Sgt. Jose Cardenas said.

All the Marines' families said they plan to stay in touch through e-mails, letters and packages during the deployment.

After arriving at San Diego's Camp Pendleton, the Marines will board the USS Boxer, a U.S. Navy Wasp class amphibious assault ship, which they will call home for the next seven months while deployed to the Pacific Ocean area.

© Copyright, YumaSun.com

Boxer, ESG 5 to deploy

September 12, 2006
By Gidget Fuentes
Staff writer

SAN DIEGO — The amphibious assault ship Boxer, flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group 5, and its eight-ship force will head west Wednesday for Hawaii with 6,000 sailors and Marines on a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf regions.

To continue reading:


*Shane Patrick Harris

Marine Lance Cpl. Shane Harris, 23, of Las Vegas died Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006. He was serving his country in operation Iraqi Freedom.


Shane was born at 5.01 a.m., April 15, 1983, in Plano, Texas. He made his appearance with a squeak of joy —not a loud cry. Shane went home to be with Jesus at 10:22 on Sunday morning, Sept. 3, 2006. Knowing Shane the way we do, he was singing as he left.

He loved spending time with his family and he loved the Lord with all his heart. He also loved hunting, fishing, skiing, backpacking, and gunsmithing among many other activities. Shane enjoyed playing the banjo and was always singing. He was home-schooled and graduated in May 2001. Shane then attended Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo. He was a member of Meadowland Christian Church in the Las Vegas area.

Shane achieved a life-long dream of serving his country by becoming a Marine. He enlisted in February 2005. He excelled at all he did as a Marine. His lieutenant said that Lance Cpl. Harris was the best driver and rifleman in the Corps.

Shane will be terribly missed by his family, friends, and brothers in the Marine Corps.

Surviving family include his parents Pat and Carol Harris, brothers Logan and Ryan Harris, sister Tiffany Harris, sister-in-law Rebecca Harris, nephew Caleb Shane Harris (on the way), grandparents Louvena Harris, and Charles and Rose Mary Rogers, as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was preceded in death by grandfather Hugh Harris, and nephew Elijah Logan Harris.

In lieu of flowers there has been a Shane Harris memorial fund established at First National Bank of Las Vegas. Proceeds will go the "Casa Por Christos," a ministry supported by Shane's family

Tracy Della Vecchia, Founder and CEO of MarineParents.com, has been invited to visit the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, KS

September 12, 2006

Columbia, MO - Tracy Della Vecchia, Founder and CEO of MarineParents.com, has been invited to visit the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, KS this Friday, September 15, 2006. This Command Center is the headquarters of the Individual Ready Reserve units of the Marine Corps.

Della Vecchia started the online website, MarineParents.com, in 2003, when her son, a United States Marine, was on his first deployment - Operation Iraqi Freedom I. The website features some great information from recruit training, to MOS/SOI training, deployments, homecomings, Care Package Project, and more. It also has two message board forums - one for recruit families and one for Marine families - and it features a chatroom.

Because of the recent Individual Ready Reserve call-up notification, Della Vecchia is looking forward to the visit with Brig. General Darrell Moore. She hopes to be able to provide information to the members of the website on this topic.

*Sept. 11 homecoming for Yuma Marines

About 100 Marines returned to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma after a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq on Monday, the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the global war on terror.

The Marines from Yuma's Marine Air Control Squadron-1 unit work with the tactical air operations center, but in Iraq they worked on security details, said Capt. Jeff Meeker.


Sep 11, 2006

"It goes along the lines that every Marine is a rifleman," Meeker said. "They left their equipment here, grabbed their rifles and they were security."

During their seven months in Iraq, the Marines provided convoy protection and conducted local area patrols around the Al Asad Airfield, the second largest airbase in Iraq located in northern Iraq about 100 miles west of Baghdad.

The Marines came home to throngs of teary-eyed spouses,, mothers, children, parents and other family members in a hangar decorated with flags, balloons and banners at MCAS Yuma. Refreshments were available, and some Marines sipped from cold cans of beer after their 23-hour flight from the Middle East.

Marines hugged and kissed their significant others and reunited with friends and family.

For Sgt. Phil Shirts and his wife Leslie, the day couldn't have come sooner. It was the second time Shirts had been deployed since marrying Leslie about two years ago — and it will be his last, he said.

Constant deployments can wreak havoc on families, and Shirts said he will be leaving the military when his enlistment expires in the near future.

"You either pick the Marines or you pick family," Shirts said. "And I chose family."

Leslie Shirts agreed.

"We haven't spent more than a couple months at a time together since we've been married," she said. "Now we'll actually get to know each other. This is more exciting than our wedding day."

Other Marines like Sgt. Joshua Estep, 25, knew that another deployment was in his future because of the continuing war in Iraq.

With a heavy pack strapped on his back, Estep said he won't miss what he's seen there.

"I'm glad to leave it behind, but I know I'll be back," he said.

Cpl. James Fiore turned 21 while in Iraq, and said it felt good to be back.

"We were pretty busy in Iraq," he said. "I won't know what to do with myself here."

While keeping an eye on their two red-haired daughters, Cpl. Eric Lunson and his wife Erika both said it is "wonderful" to be back.

"It's hard to put into words," said Erika. "I don't think the deployment really hit home until today with him coming back."

More Okinawa Marines due back from Iraq

Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, September 11, 2006

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — About 70 more Marines who deployed with the 3rd Transportation Support Battalion are expected to return here Saturday and Sunday.

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September 11, 2006

*Marines tag team ground support equipment

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Sept. 11, 2006) -- Marine helicopters in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, are an absolute necessity. The whirling mechanical wonders spirit cargo and passengers from place to place, providing nearly immediate firepower to ground troops or quick evacuation of casualties.


Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 200691291332
By Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Helicopters don't take to the air without the efforts of dozens of maintenance Marines. A critical part of the Al Taqaddum helicopter squadron's upkeep efforts while their helicopters are earthbound are the myriad of devices aptly named Ground Support Equipment.

Providing the aircraft maintainers the necessary equipment used to support the helicopters is the responsibility of two GSE professionals, Staff Sgt. Dean J. Francini and Sgt. Luis C. Cardenas.

"We have 115 GSE assets the squadrons use to test, troubleshoot and transport the helicopters," said Francini, the GSE staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge and member of the Detachment A, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

The high percentage of equipment in good working condition is a point of pride for the two veteran equipment experts.

"Usually a logistics squadron's GSE section has 40 Marines and about 600 GSE assets. We're running 115 pieces with two," said Francini, a Berea, Ky., native. "It's a 24 hour a day job. We start at 7:30 a.m. and sometimes work through 10:00 p.m., but the squadrons will come wake us if they need something."

The reason the squadrons can quickly reach Francini and Cardenas is that the two live inside the GSE maintenance bunker just a few steps from the squadron's workspaces.

"We don't have a pool of equipment that can just be switched out for a broken piece, so we have to fix it right then and there," said Francini. "That's why we live here in the bunker."

Living in the midst of the equipment they are responsible for means work is never far away from the two Marines.

"We are both experienced and qualified collateral duty inspectors and quality assurance representatives. That's why our (GSE staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge) launched us down here," said Francini. "He knew just the two of us would be able to fix something on any of the equipment in a fast-paced environment. We have the ability to multi-task, think fast and find solutions to make things work."

Long hours spent working in a hot bunker, toiling over fried electrical systems or busted hydraulic hoses might burn some Marines out before their seven-month tour is finished, but not these two wrench-turning friends.

"We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Our communication is awesome," said Cardenas. "We choose to work long hours. Keeping busy burns the days up and makes them go by quicker."

It's not all about turning wrenches and replacing hydraulic lines for these two though, as they also act as instructors.

"A Marine has to be qualified to run the equipment before they can check it out and use it on an aircraft," said Cardenas, a hydraulic mechanic and Houston native. "We just finished qualifying 95 Marines with one of the squadrons and there will be more because we will get new equipment in or new squadrons will check in. Plus the licenses are only good for three years."

Keeping maintainers trained, equipment operable, working long hours and waking for late-night maintenance calls is all part of the job for Francini and Cardenas, and they wouldn't have it any other way in the months ahead.

*Challenging lateral moves can prove lucrative

Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 2006911202036
By Lance Cpl. Ethan Hoaldridge, Marine Forces Pacific

U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES, PACIFIC, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii (Sept. 11, 2006) -- Intelligence Marines, linguists, reconnaissance Marines and Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians are harder to come by these days, but the Corps is trying to fix that.

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*31st MEU leads training surge in water survival

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 11, 2006) -- To decrease the probability of casualties from helicopter mishaps over water, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has placed an emphasis on water survival and aircraft emergency and escape procedures.


Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 200691111034
By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

For two days, instructors of Survival Systems USA based out of Camp Hansen here, trained 31st MEU Marines and sailors with classroom instructions and practical application at the camp’s “helo dunker,” also referred to as the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer or MAET.

“This training has been embraced by the 31st MEU commanding officer, Col. John Mayer,” said Robert Smith, site manager, Okinawa Training Center. “After having undergone the training himself, Col. Mayer felt his Marines and sailors needed to go through this course.”

Inside the MAET, resembling the troop areas of a CH-46 and CH-53 rotary-wing aircraft, students were strapped into a seat wearing their utility uniform and helmet. The Marines and sailors then adopted a crash position with their feet flat on the deck, hands grasping the seat, and bent at the waist. As the helo-dunker was lowered into the water, the instructor's call of "ditching, ditching, ditching" was their cue to gulp a final breath of air before they were spun upside down underwater.

While underwater they were forced to locate the closest emergency exit and push out a window before making it safely to the side of the pool.

“It was intense because you don’t know what’s going on when you get under the water,” said Cpl. Christopher Arriola, a 21-year-old Spokane, Wash. Native. “Although I was definitely out of my element at first, I know what to do now – Everybody needs to go through it.”

The complete rotation is designed to replicate what would occur when a top-heavy helicopter strikes the water and turns over. The MAET was only a portion of the training. The Marines also used a Shallow Water Egress Trainer (SWET) which resembled a floating chair with seatbelts and had a removable window. Here they practiced egress procedures while turned upside down in the water.

The students were also taught how to use the Intermediate Passenger Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device which looks like a small self-contained underwater breathing apparatus that provides approximately 2 minutes of air.

Another part of the training was the floating chain formation where individuals interlocked their legs behind each other to form a floating chain. Another formation, called the carpet formation, had the students again interlocked but instead facing each other in two columns. The formation has several advantages such as providing individuals a 360-degree view, greater warmth and a larger footprint in the water for rescuers to see. Lastly, the Marines and sailors learned the protocol of deploying a raft and how to function while in the raft daily.
It was evident that after the service members completed the training, their confidence was increased.

“I’m not a good swimmer so I think this training is real useful,” said PFC Jason Soliz, a 20-year-old Layton, Utah native assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 31. “It’s given me a new confidence because I was able to practice the procedures allowing me to know what to expect.”

Meanwhile, Smith feels this type of training should be indoctrinated in the most basic of Marine Corps training in one form or another.

“It’s the type of training that is important to the individual,” Smith said. “I think this training will evolve into something as intrinsic as firing the rifle.”

The water survival and aircraft emergency and escape training, along with numerous other training events, are being conducted during MEUEX 06-2. MEUEX is an opportunity for the 31st MEU to evaluate its core capabilities before commencement of its final training phase. The primary focus is to refine the MEU’s standard operating procedures and its rapid response planning process.

Police, Marines provide more than security

GHARMAH — Iraqi Police in Gharman provide more than a safe community—they are also helping some of the area’s most needy children.


Monday, 11 September 2006
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva
1st Marine Division

Gharmah’s Police force, along with U.S. Marine Police Transition Team members, recently pitched in to pass out clothes, school supplies and sports equipment to under-priveleged youths in the city.

“I feel very happy to give to the children,” said Iraqi Lt. Col. Dalaf Rasheed, the police chief here. “These are my children. I like these children.”

Dalaf explained the clothing drive will continue to bond the Iraqi Police to the citizens they protect. It’s a growing relationship that six months ago didn’t exist. Now, through actions such as this, the resident's of this community see the Police as their protectors and providers.

“The people here love the Police,” Dalaf explained. “More Police are bringing safety to this area. This gives trust between the Police and the people.”

Dalaf said there is an immediate need for the donated goods. He worked with the city’s mayor to identify families that were among the neediest and expected the clothing to go to nearly 300 children.

“Sure there’s a need,” Dalaf explained. “The children who will get these clothes will be very happy. We want to do more of this in the future.”

The clothing was donated by Marine families in the United States, according to Marine Staff. Sgt. Mark A Tyson, the PTT chief for Gharmah. He explained the needs of the community became obvious to him as he patrolled the city.

“We saw the same kids wearing the same clothes each time we went out there,” said Tyson, from Orting, Wash. “These were the same kids we gave candy and would toss around a ball. These are the kids we’re trying to reach.”

Tyson said the idea wasn’t an original one. He explained he saw an article written about a Marine who did this sort of thing in Fallujah in the past. After he talked with his Marines, they called home to their wives and families.

Tyson also sat down with Gharmah’s mayor and Dalaf to gain their support. They wanted the donations to come from the Iraqi Police.
“They asked why we would want to do something like this,” Tyson said. “I told them it was just as important for us as it was for them to take care of the local people. I told them as Christians, charitable giving was important, just as it is for Muslims. They were grateful and shocked that we’d spend our family’s money to help out this community.”

The families of the deployed Marines started their own drives, cleaning out closets of outgrown children’s clothes, buying up school supplies and sports gear, and even hitting close-out sales. They mailed them to Iraq where Tyson and his crew were busy consolidating and cataloging the items.

“A lot of credit has to go to Corporal Jason Howell and Corporal Michael Dalhstom,” Tyson said. “They were the ones inventorying everything and getting it ready to pass out.”

the organization was no small feat. Dozens of boxes filled with children’s shoes and clothing filled nearly half of the Gharmah Police station’s jail. The Police had nowhere else large enough to store all the items before they passed them out.

Staff Sgt. Jefferson S. Baker, another PTT Marine, said the donated items ranged from baby’s clothes to shoes, soccer and sports equipment, even soccer uniforms.

“We had clothes for infants all the way through 12 and 14-year-olds,” said Baker, from Stuarts Draft, Va. “We even had hats and coats - all the winter clothes they’ll need when it gets cold again.”

The Iraqi Police filled their patrol pick-up trucks with all the donated items.

This sort of community outreach wasn’t conceivable here less than half a year ago, Tyson explained. Then, Police didn’t patrol the city. Local residents didn’t trust the force.

“There was no local activity here then,” Baker added. “There were no cars on the streets and people would run from house-to-house. People didn’t go to the market.”

Times have clearly changed. Gharmah is now a bustling city, with full marketplaces. Cars clog the city’s narrow streets and the Police are walking their beat every day.

“The Police are now better-trained and equipped to fight,” Baker said.

“They’re doing joint operations with the Iraqi Army,” Tyson added. “More civilians are coming into the Police station to offer information. A lot of time and patience has been spent to get us here to be able to do something like this.”

The growing level of trust between the locals and the Iraqi security forces is what Tyson and Dalaf hope to encourage still further with the clothing drive.

“The Police are providing security for the people here,” Tyson said. “Now they’re providing for their other needs. This is another way to reach out (to) the community.”

“Every day, my Police help the people here,” Dalaf said. “Our patrols take people to the hospital. The Police help the people and the people help the Police. The people can see us giving to them and understand that we’re here to help.”

*MACS-1 Marines return home safe and sound

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- More than 100 Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 1 returned home to the hugs and handshakes of family, friends and fellow Marines at the Marine Attack Squadron 513 hangar here Monday.


Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 200691502142
By Pfc. M. Daniel Sanchez, MCAS Yuma

The Marines of MACS-1 were able to add a ray of light to a day known for its tragic events. Despite being the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the MACS-1 Marines lifted the spirits of several dozen family members and hundreds of Marines on station by returning home to Yuma safely.

The Marines returned to station after a seven-month deployment to Al Asad, Iraq, in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The Marines acted as security personnel for convoys and conducted security patrols around the towns near Al Asad.

Essentially, the Marines performed the duties of the infantry, said 1st Lt. Troy Peterson, platoon commander. It shows the versatility of the MACS- 1 Marines because the majority of them have not conducted security patrols since Marine Combat Training and yet they still performed as expected, said Peterson.

Another equally important aspect of the mission was that all the Marines who left with MACS-1 also returned with the squadron, which says a lot about the quality and caliber of the noncommissioned officers MACS-1 has, said Peterson.

“This unit is very top heavy in regards to rank, and sometimes the NCOs don’t have the chance to lead Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Fernando Huerta, MACS-1 logistics chief.

Despite that, they were able to step up to the challenge and lead like NCOs should, said Huerta. Because of the outstanding leadership displayed in Iraq, four Marines were nominated to receive Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and one Marine was nominated to receive a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Sgt. Wilfredo Salgado-Perez, the MACS-1 Marine nominated for the commendation medal, said he was proud to be recommended for the award but felt he was only doing his job and pointed out the outstanding work of the squad leaders and Marines in the unit.

The thing that enabled these Marines to be so effective while in Iraq was their emphasis on attention to detail, said Peterson. Attention to detail is also one of the most important things Marines need while in the field because it is the small things that can make or break a squadron.

MACS-1 rose up to every challenge it was faced with and still accomplished its mission, said Huerta.

During the welcome home, the sounds of applause, laughter and the slap of handshakes could be heard as the Marines greeted their girlfriends, wives, husbands, children and friends.

One couple even celebrated the return with some humor. Marine spouse Darlene Scott said it was a difficult transition for her to make while her husband, Lance Cpl. Christopher Scott, MACS-1 motor transportation operator, was deployed because she didn’t have anything to clean.

Since he’s been gone there hasn’t been any dirty laundry, dirty dishes or a dirty house to take care of to pass the time, said Scott. But seriously, it was actually the small things, like cleaning up after him, that are remembered the most.

It’s just a relief to have him back here safe and sound where he belongs, said

The Marines will spend the rest of the week checking back in and then proceed on a 96-hour liberty weekend.

Marines are always putting their lives on the line and this is just another testament to the Marine Corps and the Marines of MACS-1 for upholding the standards of the Corps and proving every Marine a rifleman, said Huerta.

Beaufort Marines begin deployment to Japan

The first group of Marines from Fighter Attack Squadron 122 have departed for a six-month deployment to Japan, a Marine spokeswoman said Monday.


September 11. 2006 12:58PM
The Associated Press

The squadron, known as the Crusaders, will be based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for about six months.

The squadron's dozen F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets and its 185 Marines will be deploying in several groups through Thursday, said Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Kansteiner.

During the deployment, the squadron will participate in training exercise "Operation Cope Tiger" in Thailand.

They also will conduct air-to-ground and air-to-air training while in the Philippines and at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, the spokeswoman said.

The squadron is the second from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to deploy to Iwakuni in recent months. About 150 Marines and aircraft with Fighter Attack Squadron 115 left for a six-month deployment to the same air station in July.

*9/11 more than just a day of remembrance for Marine 'Tankers' in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 11, 2006) -- It’s a mission his Marines have made many times during six months in Iraq, but for 1st Lt. Anthony Bariletti, today’s resupply convoy to a nearby U.S. military outpost is a little special.


Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 20069139473
By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, 1st Marine Division

After all, it’s Sept. 11.

Five years ago today, the 26-year-old Bariletti, a native New Yorker, watched on television as terrorists crashed two passenger airliners into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. A native of Queens, he was in college when the “Towers” fell, and just months away from beginning service in the Marine Corps.

“I had a late class that day, and I was getting ready,” said Bariletti, who had already completed basic training to become a Marine officer when “9-11” occurred. “My mother called and told me to turn on the T.V. I couldn’t believe it.”

Like many Americans, Bariletti watched what he thought seemed like a scene from a movie – two commercial airliners exploding as they crashed into the World Trade Center’s towers, the towers’ eventual fall, and the grim aftermath that followed.

“Is it a little personal for me? Yeah, it is,” said Bariletti. “But even more personal – I’ve lost four (Men) out here.”

The four Marines Bariletti referred to were all killed in action while serving in Iraq – a former roommate, a best friend, and two subordinate Marines, one who was killed in April near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Today, Bariletti is the executive officer for the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Company C, 1st Tank Battalion. He and the rest of the company’s Marines have spent six months in Iraq supporting the 5,000-plus U.S. and Iraqi troops spread throughout the country’s western Al Anbar Province.

Company C 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 Marine officials here.

Equipped with 68-ton M1A1 Main Battle Tanks, the company’s tank crews provide security and protection to the Marine infantrymen who spearhead counterinsurgency operations and mentor Iraqi Security Forces in this region, quite arguably Iraq’s most dangerous province.

Huddled around a table inside a wooden shack on this sprawling U.S. airbase, a dozen or so Company C Marines listen to Bariletti brief today’s mission – the delivery of vital supplies, such as food, water and fuel, via convoy to a nearby U.S. military post.

After 20 minutes of talk on security procedures, how to react to enemy attacks, communication frequencies, and other essentials, Bariletti reminds the Marines that despite the significance of the day’s date, it’s the same as any other mission for them to complete.

“It’s September 11, but does that mean anything? No,” said Bariletti to his Marines.

“It’s not the (expletive) Tet offensive out there, but watch out,” said Bariletti reminding his Marines to maintain awareness on the road as they do for every mission no matter what the date may be.

The Marines have a saying in Iraq – “Complacency Kills.” Awareness, and following procedures, is perhaps the greatest counter to the threat of improvised explosive devices – roadside bombs used by insurgents to target U.S. and Iraqi forces, and often credited as the number one killer of Coalition Forces troops in Al Anbar Province.

“These guys (insurgents) aren’t stupid,” adds Capt. Jarred R. Duff, Company C’s commanding officer, during the brief. “They know if they attack you from the front, they’re going to die.”

Instead, insurgents plant IEDs, never having to face off with Company C’s Marines – or their heavily-armed tanks.

After checking straps on trucks, securing machine guns and ammunition to their vehicles, the Marines hit the road. During the trip, Iraqi children wave at the passing American trucks.

Minus clouds of dust kicked up by the Marines’ tanks, nothing significant seems to happen during the Marines’ convoy. They arrive at the U.S. military outpost without a hitch.

Still, they leave nothing to chance.

“As long as we all stay vigilant out here, no one will get hurt,” said Cpl. Andrew T. McDaniel, a 21-year-old from Golden, Colo. McDaniel is a Marine motor transportation operator – a truck driver.

On today’s convoy, he’s driving a seven-ton truck carrying boxes of fruit, sodas, and sports drinks. On Sept. 11, 2001, McDaniel says he was in high school – “a junior or a senior,” he recalls while driving his truck, keeping his eyes on the road, and occasionally looking at the sides of the road.

“I wish we’d get some today,” said McDaniel. “Get some” is Marine speak for coming into contact with the enemy – getting into a gunfight. “I think it’d mean a lot to everyone if we could get some today.”

The insurgents apparently had other plans. No one jumped in front of the Marines’ trucks or tanks wielding a machine gun or rife. Then again, none of the Marines expect them too.

Still, they’re prepared either way, says McDaniel – “It’s kinda like, you gotta see them before they see you,” he said.

But once the convoy arrives to the U.S. military outpost, McDaniel and the rest of the Company C Marines on the convoy focus on off-loading the truckloads’ of food, water, fuel and other supplies which provide the bulk of logistical support for U.S. forces operating there.

A few hours later, the Marines are covered in dirt and their camouflage uniforms are soaked with sweat from offloading hundreds of boxes.

In the past six months, they’ve delivered “about a million pounds” of supplies to the outpost, said Bariletti. Company C has delivered nearly everything which makes up the outpost, from the barriers which form the post’s perimeter, to even the large barbecue grill inside the compound.

Despite the road’s dangers, Company C delivers the goods, according to Bariletti, no matter what the mission calls for – delivering supplies to an outpost, using tanks to provide security to Marine infantrymen, or recovering broken-down U.S. military vehicles.

“If the call comes in, ‘Boom!’ the Marines have to have their gear on and they’re out the door,” said Bariletti.

After another brief, the Marines, who have finished offloading the supplies, mount up in their trucks and tanks and head out for the return trip to Al Asad.

During the drive, McDaniel admits he can’t believe Company C has been in Iraq for six months already. He says he tries not to let the thought of any possible dangers on the road bog down his mind.

Married less than a year, McDaniel admits he’s going to reenlist in the Marine Corps, even though there’s a good chance he’ll return to Iraq again.

“Shoot, I’d come back again, as long as it’s not during football season,” he jokes, driving his now dirt-covered seven-ton truck back to Al Asad with the rest of Company C’s convoy. “It’s tough on my marriage, but I’ve got a lot of pride serving out here.”

While Americans back in the U.S. hold memorial services and reflect on the events of five years ago, Marines like McDaniel are driving trucks, patrolling Iraqi cities, training Iraqi soldiers and police – helping a nation stand on its own two feet.

But before they can go home to friends and family back in the States, the Marines of Company Co still have missions to complete, a war to fight. September 11 is a special day for these Marines, but not just because of the events of five years ago. It’s another day scratched off their calendars, another “mission complete” with no one injured – a day closer to going home.

“I try not to think about it too much,” said McDaniel. “We’ll be alright, though, if we can get through this month.”

Email Staff Sgt. Goodwin at: [email protected]

From sea to land, Thunderbolts transition to Al Asad

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 11, 2006) -- From the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, a carrier based squadron from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. took to the sands of Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 29 for a shore based detachment.


Sept. 11, 2006
Story ID#: 200691211527
By Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

"This is the first time for the squadron to have the opportunity to conduct land-based missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously supporting Operation Enduring Freedom," said Lt. Col. Michael Orr, commanding officer, VMFA-251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve.

The squadron has been to the Arabian Gulf several times before aboard an aircraft carrier to conduct OIF and OEF missions. It's exciting for the Marines to get this Al Asad experience, according to Orr, a native of Jacksonville, Fla.

"Our mission right now is to provide air support for Marines, soldiers and other coalition forces on the ground here in Iraq," said Orr.

When the squadron was packing up in Beaufort to go aboard the carrier, some were hesitant to bring 782 gear, according to Sgt. Maj. Michael Gonzales, sergeant major, VMFA-251.

"I had every Marine bring their packs, all their gear and made sure we had enough rifles and pistols to equip the squadron. I had it packed away in the carrier's armory," said Gonzales, a Los Angeles native. "There were many people that questioned the idea, saying we were only going to be out at sea. I knew what we were doing -- being prepared for any situation. Now, I'm even happier that we brought everything with us."

It took a lot of teamwork between the Enterprise staff, Carrier Air Wing One, Marine Aircraft Group 16, and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in order to complete the detachment, according to Orr. The squadron conducted rapid planning, focusing on the logistics and maintenance requirements ashore. Marines had to quickly work with their counterparts here in Iraq to help put together a plan. Normally, this planning process takes months, but the Thunderbolts compressed it down to about 10 days.

"It was hard to pack the shop up to come out here in short notice since we are a big shop," said Cpl. Courtney Keeler, airframes mechanic, VMFA-251. "Then to transit most of the squadron and keep track of everything was a challenge."

The overall transition went well, and the squadron appreciated the support received by the personnel aboard the carrier and in Al Asad. Marines and cargo were transported without delay and all the aircraft took off on time. It was a dedicated professional effort by everyone, according to Gonzales.

"Within 24 hours, these Marines had everything up and running," said Orr. "We had all our jets up and ready to conduct combat missions the next day."

After four months out to sea aboard an aircraft carrier, the Thunderbolts now prepare for the changes and challenges of operating in Iraq.

"We always train for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions," said Orr. "While aboard the carrier we were able to flex between the two missions, but here it's all about the battlefield and close air support."

While temporarily land based, the squadron can be more flexible because they are not attached to a carrier launch and recovery cycle, and maintenance can be conducted as required.

"The changes here, compared to being on the carrier, will be similar to what it was like back in Beaufort, South Carolina," said Keeler, a native of Townsend, Tenn. "We don't have to request parts and certain things that we may need through the ship. On the carrier we have to launch and recover jets at the same time, which creates constant movement and preparing jets in between each flight. We don't have to worry about that here."

The operations tempo here will remain the same, with slight modifications, according to Gonzales. The Marines have switched to working 12-hour shifts from noon to midnight and midnight to noon. This allows the Marines to share some of the daylight each day, letting no one specific group of Marines work under the hot sun all day.

"The hours are not a big change from the carrier," said Keeler. "It will be tough keeping the jets running and clean of dust and dirt. Yesterday was our first day of flying, and we already had a couple of our jets have maintenance problems. We'll definitely be busy."

This is the first time Keeler has deployed to Iraq and she explained that one of the reasons she joined the Corps, was to be able to come out here and have the chance to experience Iraq.

"I'm enjoying the environment and being off the carrier," said Keeler. "It also gives us a little more freedom and room to breathe out here."

With the change of locations, there are many benefits and opportunities for the Marines ashore.

"In their off-duty time, the Thunderbolts are able to physically train -- whether it be outside running or at great gym facilities -- and enjoy the chow hall, the Post Exchange, as well as the recreational facilities," said Orr.

According to Gonzales, the squadron has pilots from both Navy Strike Fighter Squadrons 86 and 136 out here alongside the Thunderbolts as part of the Carrier Air Wing One detachment. The pilots and Marines that remained aboard the carrier are continuing to fly operations with other squadrons in OEF and will be rotating to Al Asad to allow them the opportunity to participate in OIF sorties.

"By rotating pilots, it allows to complete our mission while maintaining our carrier landing proficiency," said Orr.

This past July, Orr assumed the role of the commanding officer of the Thunderbolts and expressed that having the opportunity to lead his Marines into Iraq has been truly motivating.

"I couldn't ask for a better experience as a commander," said Orr. "This is everything I wanted for the squadron to be able to do. We are ready to get down to business and do what we do best - supporting forces engaged in the daily struggle here in Iraq."

*Marine 'gave his all' before dying

Benson had just two months to go in his second tour of duty in Iraq when a bomb exploded under his vehicle on June 17. He died Saturday night from his injuries.

Moments after Marine Cpl. Johnathan Benson's bomb-wracked body endured a second stroke, his mother knew the end was near.
"His goal as a kid was to serve in the military," Marjorie Benson said Sunday from Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where she and her husband, Steve, were making funeral arrangements for their 21-year-old son. "Even lying in the bed the Marines here asked him, 'Are you a Marine?' He said, 'Yes sir, I'm still a Marine. I want to go back over."


Last update: September 11, 2006 – 7:52 AM
Kevin Giles, Star Tribune

Benson, of North Branch, Minn., died Saturday night, nearly three months after a roadside bomb tore away his left leg and most of his left arm while he was on patrol in a Humvee near Habbaniyah, Iraq. He fought for life all summer, and his courage won a visit by the Marine commandant, who personally pinned a Purple Heart on him.

"He gave his all," his mother said. "There's not any more he could have given."

When the bomb hit under his vehicle on June 17, Benson was two months away from completing his second tour of duty in Iraq. He joined the Marines in 2003 after graduating from North Branch Area High School.

His two best friends, Cory Mueller and Peter Johnson, both of North Branch, affectionately described him Sunday as an "attention junkie" who played the guitar. "He was one of the best singers I've ever heard," Johnson said. "He always played songs that he thought the girls would appreciate, would swoon over."

Brian Meskimen, a fellow 2003 North Branch graduate, said he remembered walking with Benson at a friend's farm, laughing and looking at the northern lights.

"John was an all-around good guy," he said. "He was very friendly with everyone around him. He never had a beef with anybody."

Benson was the youngest of six children, said his father, Steve. He and Marjorie said Johnathan as a boy was known for his high energy, and although he acted in plays and participated in sports, he was known best for socializing.

"He had an infectious smile," his mother said. "He loved laughter. Sometimes too much, his teachers would say. He was mischievous but serious about his [military] job."

In his MySpace.com web page, Johnathan wrote: "I'm a fun outgoing guy with a great personality. I'm a Grunt in the Marines. I'm over in Iraq right now for the 2nd time but I'm coming home soon."

His last log-in was on June 14, three days before his injury.

"I believe in God and everything he's done for me," he wrote, and said he was looking for a woman who "can help me with my walk with Christ."

Under "heroes," he listed three fellow Marines.

Benson served with K-Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Division and had received his first Purple Heart during his first tour. He had been at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, since June 21.

He was the second North Branch man to die in the war in Iraq and the 46th person with strong Minnesota ties to die in the Middle East since the Iraq war began.

John Pinsonneault, 39, a former Marine who was working as a civilian security consultant, was killed Oct. 14, 2004, inside the Green Zone in Baghdad after suicide bombers set off explosives at a market and cafe.

Pinsonneault was believed to be the first Minnesota civilian killed in Iraq since the war began. He was a former mayor of North Branch and a much-loved coach of the town's bantam hockey team.

Steve and Marjorie Benson said that they're trying to schedule funeral services next weekend in North Branch, with burial at Fort Snelling.

"He's a North Branch, Minnesota, hometown hero," his mother said.

Johnathan Benson also is survived by his birth mother, Dawn Schubert.

Mueller and Johnson said Benson had talked about joining the military since they were kids. "I know he was really proud that he was a Marine," Mueller said.

Kevin Giles • 612-673-7707 • [email protected]

©2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

*Capo stages 9/11 salute to 1/11 Marine regiment

San Juan Capistrano will mark its adoption of a Marine battalion today with a cannon ceremony.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – The city today will formally adopt the 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment – marking the occasion with a booming ceremonial cannon salute.


The Orange County Register

The 7 p.m. ceremony will also include a Marine color guard, a youngster singing the national anthem and a moment of silence for victims of 9/11.

"We want to support those that provide the freedoms we enjoy," said Councilman Wyatt Hart, about the adoption. "They will be part of the extended San Juan Capistrano family."

Adopting the battalion means residents, businesses and faith-based organizations can provide year-round assistance to military personnel and their families. Last month, the city awarded $2,500 in seed money to help an adoption committee launch its nonprofit status.

The program may mean hosting dinners and helping with medical expenses – even helping to repair a water heater at a home. "It could be anything," Hart said.

"This is going above and beyond," said Lt. Col. Phillip W. Boggs, 1/11 commanding officer. "We will continue to nurture this into a great relationship."

The artillery battalion has roughly 600 personnel assigned to it. It has served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and most recently in Iraq, Boggs said.

He said the unit plans to carry the San Juan Capistrano flag around the world. "It's a great city, a small community and a nice one. I think they will do a lot for us," Boggs said.

During the one-hour event, two of the Marine Corps' primary artillery systems will be on display.

The city is one of a handful in Orange County to initiate adoption programs.

"We wanted to let them know they can carry our city flag wherever they go," Hart said.

Orange County adoptions

San Clemente: 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. Adopted 10 years ago.

Newport Beach: 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Adopted 2003.

Huntington Beach: 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. Adopted March 2005.

Laguna Niguel: 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. Adopted February.

Mission Viejo: Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Adopted March.

San Juan Capistrano: 1 st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. Adopted today.

CONTACT US: 949-454-7335 or [email protected]

September 10, 2006

Bats take over in Iraq, Hawks return to U.S.

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 10, 2006) -- Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 arrived at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 13, taking responsibility from VMFA(AW)-533, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and allowing them to return to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.


Sept. 10, 2006
By Staff Sgt. Raymie G. Cruz, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The VMFA(AW)-242 Bats will provide close air support to friendly forces in Iraq just as the Hawks of VMFA(AW)-533 provided during their seven-month rotation in Iraq.

"I've flown with every Hornet squadron in the Marine Corps and have never seen it this good," said Maj. Robert C. Boyles, executive officer, VMFA(AW)-533.

"We've flown more than 7,500 hours in the past six months. That's more than what we would fly in two years in the States. The maintenance crews have done a truly outstanding job. They are responsible for producing 99 percent of our mission launch rate."

Adding to the missions flown in Iraq, the Hawks extended their limited resources to provide leadership training to Marines in and outside their squadron.
"From the officers to the junior maintenance Marines, the tour was outstanding," said Boyles, a Cherryville, N.C., native. "Just look what a handful of noncommissioned officers have done out here. We had five sergeants who ran a corporals course and had 66 graduates, which included Marines from other squadrons."

Having served in Iraq before, the Bats know that taking over responsibility from the Hawks carries with it a constant life and death mission.

"Winning or losing this war is not decided by us," said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Mahoney, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-242, and a Cohasset, Mass., native. "The Hornets aren't going to win this. We are here to support that 19-year-old lance corporal with a rifle and bad attitude on the ground."

The Transfer of Authority from the Hawks to the Bats is just one of several scheduled rotations of Marine aviation squadrons in Iraq. The Bats prepared for the tour with training at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., prior to their anticipated return to Al Asad.

"We rolled right out of Exercise Desert Talon and into the Fourth of July holiday to say goodbye to loved ones before moving out," said Sgt. Maj. Clifford W. Grant, sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-242. "We have about one-third of the Marines that we had on the last tour and the team concept is rolling in good. The Hawks welcomed us with open arms and even with a lack of resources, they bent over backwards for us."

Just like their predecessors, the Bats know constant maintenance and the drive to carry out the mission will lead to their success.

"We have a lot of eager people here to get the support to those ground troops who need us," said Grant, a Los Angeles native. "Our objective is to support them. We will be there."

After providing a solid turnover to the Bats, the Hawks are heading back to their families in the United States.

"I know for a fact that the commanding officer and I could not be more proud of the Hawks and what they have accomplished," said Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Mykoo, sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-533, and a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "Believing in what they were doing really made a difference in the rebuilding of Iraq and in the War on Terrorism."

A meeting of heroes

N.Y. firefighters visit troops in military hospitals, many of whom say are carrying on the fight against terrorism

Every couple of months, carrying 9/11 in their hearts, New York City firefighters pay a little-noted visit to badly wounded American troops at Washington-area military hospitals.


By: Lisa Hoffman/Associated Press

In the wards, these dozen or so current and former firemen find a powerful - and reciprocal - connection with the young soldiers and Marines who have come back battered by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forget the political debates about whether the Iraq war, in particular, has anything to do with the nation's "war on terror." Theirs is a mutual belief that the troops - many of whom say they enlisted because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - are carrying on the fight against terrorism begun when the World Trade Center towers fell nearly five years ago.

"Our part's over," said retired New York Fire Department Lt. John Stack, 60, who lost about 10 "really good friends" and 25 acquaintances that day. "They're trying to prevent it from happening again."

On the eve of a late-August visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., the firefighters - who normally shun publicity for their self-financed pilgrimage - said they are always surprised by the troops' reaction.

The GIs, they said, view them as heroes, and thank the firefighters for their sacrifices. "They're telling us how sorry they are for our loss," said an incredulous Stack, a Marine Corps Vietnam vet. "We were just doing our job."
And that's exactly what most troops reply when the firefighters thank them for their sacrifices at war. "They say it was a privilege" to serve, said retired fire Battalion Cmdr. Richie Hickey, another Vietnam veteran.

"They want to get back" to their units.

For the wounded, the firefighter visits are inspirational, said Army Maj. John Kallerson, a chaplain who ministers to the hospitalized.

"It's a huge morale boost," Kallerson said.

With another attack anniversary approaching, and the war in Iraq losing favor in public opinion, several firefighters said the country must unite in a common front against terrorism.

"Another attack, it's a matter of when. It's coming," said retired Fire Capt. John Vigiano, who lost two sons - John, a New York City firefighter, and Joe, a New York City police officer - in the World Trade Center conflagration. "We are at war."

September 9, 2006

Police aim to arrest Marine, Warrant is from probation violation

Boulder authorities issued an arrest warrant Friday for a missing Marine who they believe, with the help of a friend, staged his disappearance to avoid returning to duty and possibly another tour in Iraq.


By David Montero And Bill Scanlon, Rocky Mountain News
September 9, 2006

In addition, the Boulder County district attorney's office authorized a nationwide extradition order, should Lance Cpl. Lance Hering be found outside of Colorado.

The warrant stemmed from Hering's violation of the two years' probation he and his friend, Steve Powers, received in 2004 after pleading guilty to felony burglary.

A massive search followed Powers' Aug. 30 report that Hering fell and injured his head while they were hiking in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

Hering and Powers were charged this week with filing a false report, a misdemeanor that would be a violation of their probation.

Hering had just come back from his first tour in Iraq - a seven-month deployment. The Marines said that Hering's unit was not scheduled to deploy to Iraq "anytime soon" but made no other comment.

Hering was due to report to his unit at Camp Pendleton next week.

Greg Brown, chief probation officer for Boulder County, said that both men were three weeks away from being clear of their probationary status. Had they made it, the felony convictions would have been wiped from their records.

Instead, Brown said that if they are caught they could face a maximum of three years in prison after a probation hearing.

"If only they had waited," Brown said.

According to Brown, both Powers and Hering were under unsupervised probation - a status Hering achieved in November 2004. Brown said it is likely that Hering presented a plan to the judge that included a desire to enlist in the military.

The burglary happened early Aug. 4, 2004, according to an arrest report.

An alarm went off at Savers discount store in the Table Mesa Shopping Center. Two law enforcement officers went on the roof and saw two young men, later identified as Hering and Powers, wearing ski masks.

The officers ordered the men to stop, but they fled, jumping down about six feet to a lower portion of the roof, then another 15 feet to the ground.

Hering then gave up. Officers noticed that someone had tried to cut through the padlock of the roof hatch.

Hering was carrying a flashlight, a folding pocket knife and a green mask. Powers was caught nearby, trying to walk away casually.

Family members of Powers and Hering did not comment Friday.

Boulder County sheriff's spokesman Phil West said that Hering's family has remained cooperative as they try to find the Marine. The latest information has been tough on them, he said.

"They were pretty much stunned by all of this," he said.

West said his department has "a couple of detectives" working to try and find Hering and that the case is "very active."

He said that there is some anger among those in the search-and- rescue units because two people were injured looking for the Marine.

Care packages

Sometime in the next few weeks, 1st Sgt. Charles Delcourt of the First Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, stationed in Iraq, will receive a care package that will almost certainly bring a smile to his face.


By Douglas Karlson/ [email protected]
Friday, September 8, 2006 - Updated: 03:14 PM EST

It’s not just any care package. Decorated with an American flag, Delcourt’s is the 1,000th such parcel a 13-year-old boy from Brewster named Dylan DeSilva has sent to troops serving oversees.

"It’s pretty amazing, he’s taught us a lot," said Dylan’s mother, Michelle DeSilva. When it comes to patriotism, she said, "We should be teaching him, instead he’s teaching us."

On Wednesday, family and friends arrived at the East Harwich post office to celebrate as Dylan, the founder of Cape Cod Cares for the Troops, unloaded his most recent batch of parcels.

Also on hand was Cynthia DesLauriers, of Eastham, whose son, Army Sgt. Mark Vecchione, was killed in Iraq on July 18.

"I think it’s very admirable because our troops certainly need these, and I know there are a lot of troops who don’t get letters," said DesLauriers. She said she was sure the soldiers stationed in Iraq appreciate the packages, and the fact that people don’t forget about them.

Dylan has been sending care packages since November 2004, after getting the idea from his Boy Scout troop. He estimates he puts in 15 to 20 hours a week packing boxes, and shows no sign of slowing down. Asked for how long he plans to send care packages, Dylan replied, "Until they get home."

To find the names of lucky recipients, Dylan relies on contacts from friends, and suggestions from people he meets at events like the Support the Troops rally held in Orleans Aug. 20. He sometimes writes to unit commanders for the names of soldiers who don’t get many packages.

"It’s sad that after three years there are still so many soldiers who don’t receive letters," said his mother, Michelle DeSilva.

Dylan chose Delcourt, a reservist who works at Shepley Building Products in Hyannis, after Delcourt volunteered at a fund-raiser for Cape Cod Cares for Our Soldiers in Hyannis last summer.

The 20 or so parcels sent Wednesday went to the First Battalion of the 25th Marines. Dylan has friends in the first battalion, and has sent between 50 and 100 care packages to that unit alone.

Included in the shipment was one large box filled with soccer balls for children. Toys are often sent, though usually they’re small, like matchbox cars and Beanie Babies. The soldiers and Marines give them to children while on foot patrol.

Dylan has even dispatched dog food and biscuits for a K9 unit in Afghanistan after learning that the dog handler was short of dog food.

Most parcels, whose average value is $100, contain a bag of toiletries and a bag of snacks, as well as socks and T-shirts. Last Christmas, Dylan sent donated portable DVD players in care packages worth closer to $300.

The items are either donated, or purchased with contributions. At a fund-raising even in May, Dylan raised $13,000 in cash to help fund the project. He estimates he’s spent close to $20,000 so far.

Because the packages go to Army post offices, continental U.S. postage rates apply. The cost averages about $12 per parcel, said Harwich Postmaster Glenn Cook.

The 1,001st package was sent to an Iraqi soldier who works with the Marines. Not all parcels go to Iraq. Dylan has sent care packages to Afghanistan, Alaska and to a helicopter task force in Djibouti.

Dylan has received hundreds of thank-you letters, which he saves in an album. In some of the thank-you notes, said Dylan’s mom, soldiers write that they know they think they’re losing support at home. That has inspired Dylan to work even harder, she said.

"It’s really cool, it’s really humbling, because these guys are over there fighting and they’re saying thank-you to us," said Dylan’s sister, Torri, 15, who helps with what she calls the "secretarial work."

To recognize Dylan’s efforts, next Monday afternoon, Republican congressional candidate Jeff Beatty, of Harwich, is flying Dylan, his mother and DesLauriers to Washington, D.C. They’ll attend a football game between the Redskins and the Vikings Monday night, and on Tuesday, they’ll meet with top brass at the Pentagon, and then take a tour of the White House.

Beatty said he wants to help duplicate DeSilva’s program nationwide, and said instructions about how to organize similar programs will be made available on Dylan’s website, CapeCod4thetroops.com

"For a young man he’s quite a leader. He’s done a good job," said Beatty.

*CLB-7 returns home after big role in OIF

Family and friends gathered at the Combat Center's Victory Field Sunday to welcome home more than 130 Marines and sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 7 after a seven-month tour in Iraq.


Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz
Combat Correspondent

As part of Regimental Combat Team 7, CLB-7 monitored and conducted logistical convoys to provide troops' needs, managed explosive ordnance demolition and operated a surgical hospital, said Sgt. Jessi Warthen, motor transportation specialist.

The largest part of the unit's overall mission was to transport supplies, such as water, food, ammunition, letters from home and fuel, to more than 135,000 troops in Iraq, she added.

The unit also participated in the rebuilding of Iraq roads, facilities and buildings while training Iraqi soldiers to carry out their own logistics operations, according to an article written April 13 by Cpl. Daniel J. Redding, combat correspondent for the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

CLB-7 convoy vehicles traveled more than 2,000 miles per month on dangerous roads, where improvised explosive devices and insurgent attacks are continuous threats. The unit had received more than 37 Combat Action Ribbons and 10 Purple Hearts as of Aug. 7, said Lt. Col. Drew Doolin, CLB-7 former commanding officer, during an interview with Gordon Dillow, a reporter with the Orange County Register.

Sgt. Vince Barrientos was hit by an IED three weeks after the unit's arrival in Iraq and received one of the 10 Purple Hearts. His wife was faced with one of a military spouse's biggest fears, she said.

The first thing I asked was ‘do you have everything?'” said Barrientos' wife, Jessica. “Luckily, he said ‘yes.'”

Barrientos recovered and continued supporting combat operations with his unit.

I think that's what wives worry about the most,” said Jessica. “Because their husbands reassure them that they're going to be alright and nothing is going to happen to them.”

Barrientos was just happy to get into some clean clothes, he said, with the memory of the IED attack far out of reach.

Troops of CLB-7 were greeted with homemade signs, ear-to-ear wide grins, hugs and kisses from family members and friends that traveled from states all over the country to meet their loved ones.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kurt Wiese's family traveled from Spokane, Wash., to welcome the corpsman back from his second deployment with CLB-7.

There are 11 of us that came up to see him,” said his sister Karmen Cecil. “We're very proud of him. He's always been someone to stand behind his men, do his job and makes sure he and his Marines get home safely.”

His family was looking forward to spending the rest of the Labor Day weekend doing “whatever Kurt wants to do.”

“We're probably going to take him to get a good old-fashioned American meal,” said Cecil.

Almost as soon as Marines and sailors stepped onto Victory Field, they stepped off to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend with their families and friends.

*The ‘Darkside' is at it again

3/4 deploys for fourth Iraq tour

They are modern day heroes. They have fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and spouses and kids. They are part of the elite, adored by many and criticized by others. They lay their lives on the line day in and day out serving amongst the best. They miss holidays and birthdays and that first step their child took. They are by no means ordinary.


Lance Cpl. Katelyn A. Knauer
Combat Correspondent

They're at it again, with their bags packed and their goodbyes said; more than 800 "Darkside" Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, set off to Iraq's Al Anbar province for a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Marines and sailors departed Aug. 31- Sept. 3.

Some are on their first deployment, while others are on their second, third or even fourth tour. The battalion is no rookie to deployments with this being their fourth time over.

They are famous for several reasons and are a force to be reckoned with. They were the first Marine unit to enter Baghdad. They are known for assisting in tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein and were the first Marine Corps ground unit to accomplish three, seven-month tours in Iraq.

With a near 60 percent of the battalion deploying for the first time, the senior leaders exude a great deal of confidence in the Marines they are in command of and vice versa with the Marines on their first deployment being confident in their leaders.

"We're a hundred percent ready," said 1st Sgt. Robert J. Mims, Headquarters and Service Company first sergeant, who is on his first Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, but fought in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. "Our training with Mojave Viper got them ready, because it was good training. I have no doubt in the abilities of any Marine. They all know their job and I believe the Marines themselves are confident in what they need to do."

Eighteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Jared Placensia of Los Angeles, is deploying with 3/4 for his first deployment and seems intrigued by the fact that he will get to serve next to Marines with past deployments.

"I am extremely confident in the Marines above me," said Placensia. "I have already learned so much from them. They know what they are doing, when it comes to their jobs, I wish to attain their level of skills."

Marines who have confidence in their abilities accredited it to their pre-deployment training.

"I feel that the training in the past months has properly prepared us for this deployment," said Greenwood, S.C., native, Lance Cpl. Adam Bice, of H&S; Company, who is deploying on his second tour.

Marines with 3/4 trained with Mojave Viper, division schools and also completed their annual training. They have been trained in ways to deal with different scenarios they may encounter while overseas.

"Mojave Viper training was immaculate," said Salem, Ore., native, Sgt. Benjamin Sundell, H&S; Company, who is serving on his fourth deployment. "During Mojave Viper we did well on a squad level, a platoon level all the way up to company level. We pushed through it, and we did well with it."

Sgt. Ryan Goode, Communications Platoon H&S; Company 1, serving his third deployment spoke highly of the training received in comparison to what Marines would do in Iraq.

"It was a good training facility," said Goode. "A lot of guys who are new had the chance to get a feel for what their job would be like over there. I would say the training was worse than Iraq, at least we have air conditioning there."

Many Marines who have had previous deployments have seen changes in several things pertaining to training and equipment.

"We're changing the way we fight," said Goode. "Our gear has improved along with the technology we have available to us now."

As for others, the opinion seems to be the same saying they see an upgrade in the amenities every time they return to Iraq.

"Our living quarters are not bad at all," said Sundell.

As for the family and friends of the Marines deploying, busy work seems to be the best way for them to pass the time.

"You just got to keep yourself busy," said Jenna Sundell, Sgt. Sundell's wife of two years. "First deployment is always the worst."

Newlywed Janelle Bice, wife of Lance Cpl. Bice plans on furthering her education while her husband is gone.

"I'm going to concentrate on school work and that kind of stuff to stay busy," said Janelle. "I'm going to try to stay as busy as possible, and write tons of letters."

As family members waved bye, the Marines loaded the bus, some nervous, others excited, but with an illuminating confidence on what they were about to embark on.

The reality hits home for a family

In their nearly 14 years of marriage, Marine Maj. Joseph Atherall and Tina Atherall have been through four deployments.

The fifth begins today.


September 09,2006

“The first three were a piece of cake compared to now,” said Tina Atherall, noting that early MEU floats and a stint in Somalia were just another absence to get through. “Now, it’s play by play on television, the reality that your husband may not come home.”

Joseph Atherall, the operations officer of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, will leave for his second tour in Iraq this weekend. About 800 of 2nd LAR’s Marines are also headed out this week — two companies left Wednesday; two more were scheduled to head out early this morning.

It’s the fourth time in-country for the battalion.

“We have a lot of guys that are returning lettermen,” said Lt. Col. Austin “Sparky” Renforth, commanding officer of 2nd LAR. “It’s a double-edged sword (since) it’s always changing over there.

“Certainly the veterans do help, but sometimes being new is good.”

Second LAR will spend the next seven months in the Al Anbar province. Their focus will be on counter-insurgency, training Iraqi security forces, interacting with the local population, ensuring the urban governments are stable and able to control their areas and ridding the region of insurgents.

“It’s not known to be very stable right now, which is why we’re going there to stabilize it,” said Renforth, 43.

The challenge, he said, is staying up to speed with what’s happening around them and not getting complacent. Things can change in an instant — “from nothing happening to the craziest 10 minutes where you lose two guys,” he said.

The Marines will be stationed in what he described as a “Spartan” area, but Renforth said they will have intermittent e-mail and phone access.

“We do a pretty good job making sure Marines are calling home, getting contact back home. That’s real important,” Renforth said.

It’s just as important, he said, to know that people back home are supporting the Marines.

“We need the support. We’ve gotta fight for something,” Renforth said. “If the people aren’t behind you, it doesn’t seem much worth it. But I think they are, certainly from my vantage point.

“The battalion has never been hurting for support.”

That support, according to Renforth, extends to the families — not just spouses — back home.

“We try to get the parents involved, make sure it’s not just the wives but the parents,” he said.

Tina Atherall, the battalion’s Key Volunteer coordinator for the past two years, has since added parents to her e-mail list to keep them updated as well.

“The Key Volunteer Network is not supposed to have anything to do with parents,” explained Atherall.

But Renforth gave Atherall the OK to reach out to them as well.

“I worked them in because Sparky said I can,” said Atherall. “I get the most pleasure working with them. I love the wives, but the parents, they appreciate every little bit we can give them.”

Atherall herself got involved in Key Volunteers as a way to meet people and pass the time while her husband was gone.

“It saved me. It became my family,” she said.

Over the course of her military spouse career, the Marine Corps itself has stepped up its family support in programs through Family Team Building and LINKS, for example.

“There’s more information out there,” said Atherall, who has since added working with Officers Wives Club and Run for the Warriors — in addition to taking care of her four children — as ways to stay busy and connected.

“The key is keeping busy,” said Atherall, who added that she and her husband have made a conscious choice to live on base, which comes with a built-in support network.

“It really is about the network,” Atherall said. “Being in the military community is the No. 1 thing.”

Contact city editor Cyndi Brown at 353-1171 ext. 224 or [email protected]

MARSOC Marines to recieve pay increase

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Sept. 7, 2006) -- The Marine Corps has authorized Special Duty Assignment pay for Marine corporals through gunnery sergeants assigned to the Marine Corps Special Operations Command.


Sept. 7, 2006; Submitted on: 09/07/2006 05:22:19 PM ; Story ID#: 200697172219
By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel T. Garcia, MCB Camp Pendleton

According to a Marine Administrative message 398/06, a change to Marine Corps Order 7220.12N on the Special Duty assignment program, Marines assigned to MARSOC who have been selected and assessed through Marine Special Operations School and who are filling authorized SDA pay billets are authorized anywhere between $150 and $375 more in monthly pay.

This change in SDA pay, which became effective June 1 and was released Aug. 24, could effect 1,200 Marines assigned to that command.

“This is special pay for Marines in arduous assignments and in duties with increased responsibility,” said Capt. Phillip Bonincontri, compensation policy chief with Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va. The different levels of pay correspond to “what level of arduousness and stress” each of the jobs is subjected to.

Previously, Marines serving as recruiters, drill instructors and in other “B” billets could receive SDA pay.

The Marine Corps order outlining SDAP shows many levels of special duty pay ranging from $75 to $450 per month.

September 8, 2006

31st MEU infantry practices maneuver warfare tactics

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 8, 2006) -- Infantry Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit emphasized becoming an agile, fast-moving force during a recent training exercise in the Okinawa Central Training Area.


Sept. 8, 2006
Story ID#: 20069863658
By Lance Cpl. Eric D. Arndt, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

III Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group and B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, trained in the combat doctrine of maneuver warfare Aug. 21 to Sept. 1. The battalion is currently serving as the 31st MEU's battalion landing team.

The platoon practiced mounted patrolling tactics using the Interim Fast Attack Vehicle and advanced communication techniques to operate more efficiently as a distributed operations platoon.

The distributed operations platoon concept is a maneuver warfare tactic the Marine Corps is testing, said 1st Lt. David T. Russell, a platoon commander with B Company. The platoons trained to adapt instantaneously to deadly force threats and attacks, operating with increased agility to counter enemies who use dispersion tactics rather than brute strength.

Rather than amassing at one location, distributed operations units spread out over a larger area and use advanced communication and hasty transportation to quickly assess threats, regroup and respond to the enemy in full force, Russell said.

"It's a new way to train for a new fight, so that in the future (the Marines) will be able to perform (both direct and indirect combat missions)," Russell said.

The speed and maneuverability of the Interim Fast Attack Vehicles makes the vehicles a reasonable choice for jungle operations and open-desert missions, said Russell.

The Marines practiced several skills with the vehicles, such as obstacle avoidance, crossing submerged terrain and vehicle formations and defensive postures.

The Marines also practiced airborne insertion and extraction options with CH-53D Sea Stallions from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265. The ground troops and air crew practiced picking up and dropping off the vehicles.

The Marines also learned about advanced communications systems, which allow for more flexibility within widely dispersed units.

For the final three days of the exercise, the distributed operations platoon patrolled the central training area, encountering ambushes, obstacles and improvised explosive devices. The exercise culminated with the platoons conducting a nighttime raid on Combat Town on the last day of the exercise.

September 7, 2006

Welcome to wounded warriors, A veteran's idea to treat them to an Angels game leads to an outpouring of donated generosity.

ANAHEIM - Roy Hoyt wasn't asking for anything when he decided to treat wounded Marines to a limo ride, Angels game and lunch.


The Orange County Register
Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Orange resident, a Marine veteran, just wanted to give back, but everyone he approached about the idea wanted to contribute, too.

When he went to buy tickets, team employees handed them over at no charge. The team threw in the Diamond Club lunch. When Hoyt booked a limo, Allways 24-Seven Transportation charged nothing for a Humvee trip from Camp Pendleton to Angel Stadium.

And when the Marines showed up in the stands, a fan offered to buy them all a beer.

Hoyt's gesture is indicative of the widespread generosity that Orange County residents are spreading to the troops, especially those who have served in the Middle East over the past few years. Some residents say they are making up for the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans. Others say they are reacting to the patriotic surge since 9/11.

A Santa Ana woman started an organization to send packages to the troops and opened a family center for those they left behind. An Orange high school student collected millions of letters to mail to U.S. service members.

Cpl. Sean Webster, 21, of Charlottesville, Va., said he has been overwhelmed by hundreds of calls made to the new Wounded Warrior Center, where he works. A custom pool table, DVDs and refrigerators have all come, as well as Padres, Chargers and fishing-trip tickets.

Webster said he probably would have stayed at the center if it had been open when he was hit by shrapnel on patrol in Iraq last year. His right arm from the elbow down was shattered. He got a skin graft on his right thigh.

"It was almost death," Webster said.

So, gifts, like an Angels game, mean more than ever. "I'm just really grateful," Webster said from the stands.

When 15 Marines and veterans arrived via limo Wednesday, more treats were in store. Announcers Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc invited them to the broadcast booth. Angels owner Arte Moreno, a Vietnam veteran, came by during lunch. A few upgraded tickets were offered.

"These young people, they gave their time to keep us safe. So, for me, being a vet, it's really emotional. I recall being a young vet. It wasn't the most popular war," Moreno said.

Sgt. James Gutierrez, 23, of Santa Ana got to see his favorite baseball team beat the Baltimore Orioles, 8-4. Gutierrez, who went to Iraq twice, was hit by shrapnel outside Saddam Hussein's palace.

"I can't believe someone actually did this for us. Somebody is actually thinking about us," said Gutierrez, a 2001 graduate of Santiago High School in Garden Grove.

Hoyt, 77, said he wanted to give back for the same reason he might eat ice cream twice a day: He likes it. Previously, he gave Disneyland tickets to military families. This time, when others kicked in for his idea, Hoyt bought a fax machine for the center, as well as stuffed Rally Monkeys and programs for each Marine.

"It's easy to do something you like. And they are so deserving," Hoyt said.

For descriptions and credits, click on any picture.

Hampton Marine killed in N.C. crash, Marty Banks, 19, was on his way to visit family just days before a scheduled deployment to Iraq.

HAMPTON -- Nineteen-year-old Marty Banks spent three years preparing for a chance to fight terrorism.


September 7, 2006

At 16 - and after begging his parents for permission - the Hampton native withdrew from high school and enrolled in the Commonwealth ChalleNGe, a nearly six-month residential program that provided a GED and military discipline. He finished first in his class.

At 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and trained to be a machine gunner.

He told friends and family that he wanted the responsibility. He wanted to go to Iraq, to be in the middle of the fight and do what he had trained to do, he told them.

But on Friday, barely a week before he and his company were scheduled to deploy to Iraq's dangerous Al-Anbar Province, Banks died after a rollover crash along a two-lane road in North Carolina.

Banks, a Marine lance corporal, was heading home to Hampton for a final weekend visit with family when his friend lost control of their sport utility vehicle and crashed, his relatives said. The driver survived. Banks was thrown from the SUV and pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

His death marked a devastating loss for his family and 123 comrades in the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion's Alpha Company, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Many of them plan to gather today to honor Banks as he's laid to rest at Parklawn Memorial Park in Hampton.

This week, relatives reminisced about Banks' smile, his knack for cracking jokes and his gift for doing "right-on" impersonations. But it was his intensity toward achieving goals, they said, that most distinguished the young man.

"Everything he ever did was like from an inner strength," said his mother, Karen Banks. "He was driven."

Marty Banks was nearly 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. He had a relentless work ethic that helped him accomplish whatever he wanted, his family said.

"You couldn't tell him he couldn't do something," said his sister, Shay Whitlock.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inspired Banks to serve in the military, and he desperately wanted to withdraw from high school and enlist, his family said.

After garnering awards and praise during his time in the Commonwealth ChalleNGe, Banks weighed which military branch he wanted to join. He chose the Marine Corps for the challenge and the camaraderie, said his father, David Banks.

Marty Banks' passion for weightlifting, his willingness to work and his positive attitude soon made him a role model for fellow Marines, said his platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Andrew Kinard.

"Marty was the sort of individual that would take any sort of task we would give him, cheerfully," he said. "He really affected the others in the platoon."

After finishing his Marine Corps duty, Banks hoped to embark on a career in a different type of public service: firefighting. He also wanted to earn a degree in sports medicine, which he hoped would qualify him for a second job as a personal trainer, his father said.

"He cared about his family, and he cared about his country," David Banks said. "He was a good young man."

POW/MIA Rememberance Scheduled

MCLB Albany, GA. - Beneath the comforting branches of billowing oak tress and perfectly-aligned white tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., lie the remains of thousands of America’s war dead.


Marine Corps News | Pat Fisher | September 07, 2006

But for the families of almost 88,000 other Americans who remain missing from foreign wars, there is no body to honor, no buried remains on which to place flowers upon.

In remembrance of those American veterans missing or unaccounted for, and to honor returned prisoners of war, National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies are held annually in September by military installations, civic organizations and various other local, state and national groups. Also, each year in September, the president signs a proclamation commemorating the day.

A POW/MIA Remembrance Breakfast and Ceremony will be held here Sept. 8 at the Crossroads Restaurant banquet room starting at 7:30 a.m. The keynote speaker for the event is Col. Michael E. Kampsen, chief of staff, Marine Corps Logistics Command. Kampsen served as the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Full Accounting, whose mission was to search for the remains of Americans missing-in-action from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

On Aug. 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag and designated it as “the symbol of our nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the nation,” according to the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/ Missing Personnel Office Web site.

The POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where it stands as a powerful symbol of national commitment to America’s POW/MIAs until the fullest possible accounting has been achieved for U.S. personnel still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Other than “Old Glory,” the League’s POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever to fly over the White House, having been displayed in this place of honor on National POW/MIA Recognition Day since 1982.

The format for the remembrance ceremony has been standardized and its symbols are powerful.

As you enter the dining area, you can see a table at the front, raised to call your attention to its purpose; it is reserved to honor our missing loved ones.

The table is round, to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.

The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

A single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and their loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.

The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share this morning’s toast.

The chairs are empty — they are missing.

31st MEU hones non-lethal tactics

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 7, 2006) -- Marines and sailors from A Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, conducted a three-day non-lethal weapons training exercise Sept. 5-7 during MEU Exercise 06-2. The training was conducted in preparation for possible contingencies throughout the Asia-Pacific theater.


Sept. 7, 2006
Story ID#: 20069912334
By Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin, 31st MEU

More than 120 service members of the ground combat element honed their skills in the use of non-lethal weaponry such as shotguns designed to shoot bean bags and rubber balls along with the proper usage of foam batons. The company also practiced proper foot-movement after being called in to quell a mob of angry rioters during a training scenario.

According Staff Sgt. James Hussey, the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon and a Poughkeepsie, NY native, command and control was a challenge. The Marines overcame potential problems by remaining calm and keeping their thoughts clear.

The 31st MEU is comprised of nearly 2,200 Marines and sailors who perform a variety of combat-related missions to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The focus of MEUEX is to refine the MEU’s standing operating procedures and enhancement of the rapid response planning process.

Friend of missing Marine arrested for false reporting

BOULDER COUNTY - The friend of Lance Hering was arrested Wednesday night on charges of false reporting less than a week after the massive search for Hering was called off.


September 7, 2006

Steven Powers, 20, was arrested at the Boulder County justice center after he had been brought in for an interview with authorities. Investigators were looking into discrepancies and inconsistencies in his story.

Powers reported to police on August 29th that Hering, 21, had fallen during a climbing accident in Eldorado Canyon and had a head injury. Powers says once Hering regained consciousness he left the injured Marine and went for help. However, when Powers returned with rescue teams, Hering had disappeared.

Search crews officially called off the search for Hering Monday morning after more than a hundred people spent five days looking for him.

The Boulder County Sheriff's office says Powers' story regarding the timeline of events was improbable and left many unanswered questions. Additionally, authorities say it was suspicious that repeated searches of the area where Hering disappeared by search dogs came up without any evidence.

Detectives were also concerned after learning Hering had access to $2,000 cash and had discussed "disappearing" in the past.

Hering was on leave from the Marines, but was scheduled to report to Camp Pendleton in California on Sept. 11th.

Deputies say Powers admitted Wednesday night he helped Hering stage his disappearance.

Authorities say the motive for Hering's disappearance appears to be his reluctance to return to duty as a Marine.

Hering's whereabouts are still unknown. However, Powers gave investigators several clues they are following up on.

Hering is currently classified as "unauthorized absent" because he left before the official approval of a request for leave. If he does not return by Sept. 11th he could face more serious federal charges.

The Boulder County Sheriff's office says he also faces local charges.

Anyone with information about Hering's location is asked to contact the Boulder County Sheriff's office at 303-441-4444.

*900 Marines head to Iraq

Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy Collins is going to have a hard slog through his deployment to Iraq, but his wife Elizabeth may have a more critical assignment.


September 07,2006

She’s the one who has to take care of their six-week-old identical twins, Gavin and Hayden, while Collins is off fighting the good fight in al Anbar province for seven months.

Collins, who deployed Wednesday from Camp Lejeune with the rest of his unit, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, said he was happy he got to witness the birth of his sons before he departed, yet it made the yearning to stay home stronger. He spent Wednesday afternoon outside Goettge Memo-rial Field House aboard Camp Lejeune holding his sons as he waited for the buses to take them to the airport.

“I’m not as excited to go,” he said.

Elizabeth, cradling one of her sons, said it was going to be a challenge raising the newborns with her husband gone.

“My mom is going to help me,” she said. “But it makes it harder.”

About 900 Marines from 1/6 are deploying to Iraq in waves over the next few days. Their mission will be to conduct counterinsurgency operations and support the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can gain more of a grip over that volatile province.

“It’s a good challenge for us,” said Maj. Daniel Zappa, the battalion’s executive officer. “Our primary mission is providing security so the Iraqi Security Forces can take a larger role.”

Zappa, who deployed to Iraqi with the battalion in 2005 and served as a company commander, said the Marines are ready to make a difference in Iraq.

“It’s been a pleasure for me to get to know them, to admire their determination and their skill,” he said. “I’m just proud to be here, proud to be in 1/6. I’m glad we got this opportunity and look forward to coming back here in seven months.”

Many of the battalion’s grunts will be going to Iraq for the second time. Some will be embark-ing on their third deployment since 2001; the unit served in Afghanistan with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2004.

Collins, who’s heading to Iraq for the second time, said the second deployment is easier in one respect because he knows what to expect. Then again, he’s in more of a leadership position this time, and he said it’s his job to be a good example for the younger Marines, especially those guys on their first tour.

But other Marines are deploying for the first time. Brittany Sharkey, the wife of Pfc. Cory Sharkey of Newark, Ohio, said she doesn’t really know what to expect.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s just hard not knowing what he’s doing or where he’s at. That’s the thing that bothers me. I know he’ll be okay, it’s the seven months of being apart.”

That separation began Wednesday when the five charter buses pulled up. Families hugged their sons or husbands, and then stood silently, some waving, others wiping away tears, as the buses drove away.

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at [email protected] or 353-1171, ext. 229.

Patriot Day, 2006 ; A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we recall the fire and horror at the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. America will always remember the thousands of innocent lives taken by the enemies of freedom that morning.


Office of the Press Secretary
September 7, 2006

In the face of these unspeakable attacks, we were reminded that the great strength of America is found in the hearts and souls of our citizens. We witnessed firefighters, police officers, other public safety officials, and ordinary Americans demonstrate extraordinary courage, risking their lives to save innocent victims. We saw our country united in compassion as Americans came together to provide relief and bring hope to others.

Today, America is fighting a war that is testing our Nation's resolve. We are once again answering history's call with confidence, and we know that freedom will prevail. Our brave men and women in uniform have stepped forward to fight our enemies abroad so that we do not have to face them here at home, and we are grateful for the courageous individuals bringing terrorists to justice around the world.

We are also confronting the extremists in the great ideological struggle of the 21st century. September the 11th made clear that, in the long run, the only way to secure our Nation is to advance liberty and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. By working together with our friends and allies, we are helping spread the blessings of freedom and laying the foundations of peace for generations to come.

The events of September 11, 2001, will always be a defining moment in our history. We hold the victims and their families in our hearts, and we lift them up in our prayers.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2006, as Patriot Day. I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half staff on Patriot Day. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services, to display the flag at half staff from their homes on that day, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.


Sheriff Says Missing Marine Staged Disappearance, Hering's Friend Arrested, Faces False Reporting Charges

BOULDER, Colo. -- After five days of searching to no avail, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office now believes that the Marine who was lost in the mountains was never missing and may have staged his disappearance.


September 7, 2006

Lance Hering disappeared just days before he was set to return to his unit in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He had just returned from Iraq in July.

His friend, Steve Powers, told authorities that Hering fell and hit his head while both were rock climbing on Tuesday, Aug. 29. Powers said he hiked out of Eldorado Canyon State Park to get help while Hering was told to remain where he was. When rescuers returned three hours later, Hering was nowhere to be found.

Powers, 20, was arrested Wednesday night after he admitted during police questioning that he made up the story about the hiking accident and helped Hering stage his disappearance, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said.

"There were a number of inconsistencies in his story and as we pursued that with him in an extensive interview last night, he ultimately confessed that he and Mr. Hering had colluded in staging this whole event," Boulder County Sheriff's Lt. Phil West said.

Powers faces a misdemeanor charge of false reporting. However, the sheriff said he also plans to seek restitution for the tens of thousands of dollars expended in the search effort -- which was the largest search effort in Boulder County's recent history.

Massive Search Cost Thousands

The massive search started last Wednesday morning and ended on Sunday. The search included county officials, retired Marines and an Air Force ROTC group.

Powers was brought in for questioning Wednesday when investigators began to notice discrepancies and inconsistencies in his story. For example, Powers' timeline of events was improbable and left many questions unanswered, West said.

Also investigators thought it was suspicious that the repeated searches of the area where Hering was supposedly last seen, including several searches by canines, failed to turn up any evidence. And, when authorities learned that Hering had $2,000 cash with him and had discussed "disappearing" in the past, detectives grew concerned.

The motive for Hering's disappearance appears to be his reluctance to return to duty as a Marine, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said. The 21-year-old was part of the 1st Marine Division and has been on leave from his duties. Authorities at Camp Pendleton said he will not be considered AWOL until his scheduled date to return to his unit at Camp Pendleton has come and passed.

"Essentially (Powers) was trying to keep (Hering) from having to return to service as a Marine," West said. "That's Powers' version. Powers has lied to us repeatedly, so we take what he says with a grain of salt."

Hering's whereabouts remain unknown, though Powers gave investigators and military officials a number of leads on which they are following up. The sheriff said that they believe Hering is in another state, but they are not saying where.

Sheriff Joe Pelle said that authorities are shocked and angry about the way that the search has ended and the fact that the false report prompted an expensive but ultimately needless search.

"We are certainly a little embarrassed that we were duped -- angry," said West.

"The appropriate charge that we filed against Mr. Powers is a misdemeanor and that doesn't go anywhere near toward accounting for the cost that these two put the taxpayers through. So, the sheriff has already made an appeal to the district attorney to seek restitution from both of them as part of any plea considerations," West said.

West said the cost of the search has not been calculated yet but includes 7,000 man-hours, the use of a Denver police helicopter and other support costs such as fuel and additional deputies who were on the case.

According to Marine Corps officials, Hering is currently classified as "unauthorized absent" because he left before officials approved of his request for leave. If he fails to return by Sept. 11, he faces potentially much more serious federal charges.

He currently faces local charges.

Hering's Family Reacts

Pelle and Division Chief Dennis Hopper met with Hering's parents Wednesday night to inform them of the developments in the case. They have repeatedly denied that their son could be AWOL. In fact, when authorities called off their search on Sunday, Hering's family and friends continued to look for him.

His family is stunned and are still concerned for Hering's welfare and whereabouts, West said.

Brendan Hering, Lance's brother, has said it was an "insult" to suggest that his brother staged his own disappearance to avoid military duty. Air Force Lt. Brendan Hering, was on leave in Colorado from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

"He doesn't run from his problems," Brendan Hering told the Daily Camera in Boulder for a story Wednesday. "He doesn't have any problems with the military."

Hering's parents, who helped in the search, have said they believed Lance's head injury may have caused him to lose his memory and become disoriented, possibly walking out of the park or asking for a ride.

State authorities were comparing DNA from human blood found at the scene where Hering was reported to have fallen while rock climbing to samples from Hering and Powers.

Brendan Hering said that about 10 years ago, Lance Hering hit his head and temporarily lost his vision and speech. A few days later, he suffered some short-term memory loss. He said his brother could be suffering a similar injury.

"My first take is this is a man who apparently has served our country in a combat situation in Iraq and he needs help," said marine veteran Rick Baum. "This man is hurting and he needs, really, a haven to come back to."

Baum was instrumental in the volunteer search effort for Hering. He said he is concerned about Hering's state of mind.

Anyone with information about Hering's whereabouts is asked to contact the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office immediately at 303-441-4444.

Desertion In The Military

The Pentagon has said simple desertion has been decreasing in the military in recent years -- about 2,500 troops last year didn't show up for work, down from almost 5,000 in 2001.

But groups that run the GI Rights Hotline, which helps servicemembers interested in getting out of their required service, have reported receiving more than 36,000 calls in 2005, and about 19,000 in the first six months of this year, up from fewer than 1,000 in 2001, two years before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Certainly, the numbers of people who are opposed to the war are going up," said Steve Morse, GI Rights coordinator for the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors. "Many people are going (absent without leave), more and more, some who are back from the war with post-traumatic stress disorder and many facing going back again say they are not going to go."

There have been several high-profile cases of people who refused to return to Iraq in recent years.

Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, an Arabic translator, faces two desertion charges after Navy investigators concluded he fled Camp Fallujah in Iraq in June 2004 and then failed to arrive at his base in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in January 2005. Hassoun is still missing.

Last week, Army Spc. Mark Wilkerson surrendered to authorities at Fort Hood, Texas, after being declared absent without leave a year and a half ago before his second deployment to Iraq. He said he wanted to turn himself in rather than "live in constant fear" of being arrested.

Wilkerson said his request for conscientious objector status was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq, and he decided not to return from two weeks of approved leave after learning his appeal would not be considered until he returned from another deployment.

Toronto attorney Jeffry House, who represents Army paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman, who is seeking political asylum in Canada, has said about 20 Americans have fled the military and applied for refugee status in Canada. House also has estimated 200 others were hiding in Canada awaiting the outcome of Hinzman's case.

September 6, 2006

31st MEU starts MEUEX with CMO exercise

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan (Sept. 6, 2006) -- As the Marine Corps’ “911 force” in the Asia-Pacific region; warfighting isn’t the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s only capability. The MEU is capable of carrying out civil-military operations as well.


Sept. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 200697104042
By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

To prepare for future humanitarian assistance missions, Marines and sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, the combat service support element of the MEU, along with members of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the MEU’s ground combat element, conducted a civil-military operation exercise here Sept. 6 during MEU Exercise 06-2.

“This was a realistic training exercise that allowed us to practice many facets of CMO, ranging anywhere from planning and execution to providing medical and dental services,” said Navy Lt. Jay Choe, the MEU surgeon.

Arriving at Landing Zone Swallow, approximately 120 service members set up medical and dental stations to include triage and pharmacy tents under the heat of the Okinawan sun, while infantry Marines with the BLT posted security around the compound. Once the compound was established, military police with CLB-31 controlled the entry point and escorted role players through each station.

Faced with townspeople portraying to be injured, sick, and crying for medical assistance, the Marines and sailors of CLB-31 responded rapidly to the needs of the people. Role players sought after different medical needs, such as broken legs, heat exhaustion, dehydration, poor dental health and various illnesses, allowing the medical officers, dentists, and corpsmen to put their skills to the test, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Sharmee Anderson, a CLB corpsman.

“Providing assistance in a cultured and friendly manner is an effective way to build that working trust with a local and national government and provide assistance to the people who need it,” Choe said.

Civil-military missions can include performing disaster relief operations, providing food distribution, law enforcement, medical and dental services or rebuilding public structures.
The training event along with numerous others during MEUEX is designed to hone the skills necessary for Marines and sailors to accomplish various real-world operations. Because the MEU is comprised of separate units, interoperability among the elements is the key to simultaneously carry out multiple missions.

Marine Corps 2-year-old UAV provides stealthy combat surveillance

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (Sept. 6, 2006) -- There isn't a whole lot of jobs that can go unmanned in the battlefield, but one of the more significant jobs for the Marine Corps is completed by an unmanned aerial vehicle.


Sept. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 20069610126
By Cpl. James B. Hoke, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Operated by Marines and civilians with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), the ScanEagle has provided the Marine Corps with aerial surveillance since 2004 for the troops on the ground.

"It's a joint Boeing and The Insitu Group project, and we are on a service contract for the Marine Corps," said Bud Stallman, field service representative for Boeing. "The ScanEagle is a small, autonomous remote-control airplane with a stabilized camera. It generally flies itself, but we have operators to tell it where to go."

The ScanEagle's long-endurance capabilities and small size make it the ideal plane for aerial surveillance, according to Stallman.

"It's one of the smallest UAVs to have a stabilized video camera in it," said the Wentzville, Mo., native. "With the engine it has, it can stay in the air, orbiting a certain point for up to 15 plus hours.

"The small size makes it stealthy," he added. "It's very difficult to detect by enemy forces. We can be over a place for a long amount of time and gather (details), and they'll never know that we were there."

The ScanEagle is launched by Insitu's patented "SuperWedge" launcher, which is a pneumatic wedge catapult system. Then a 50-foot-high pole called the "Skyhook" retrieves it.

"Using the (global positioning system) antenna, the aircraft comes in and finds the rope on the 'Skyhook' itself," Stallman said. "There is a hook on the end of the wing, and when it touches the rope, the rope slides down the wing and latches into the hook. The aircraft will just hang there."

The retrieval of the aircraft can be somewhat intense, as it brings the aircraft from its minimal speed to a dead stop in less than a second.

"Because the capture can be so violent on the aircraft, we have to make sure all surfaces on the aircraft are undamaged," said Jason C. Breedlove, a field service representative for Boeing and native of Phoenix. "Sometimes in high winds we have trouble maintaining stability on the aircraft. We want to make sure we bring it down safely."

Able to fly more than 15 hours, the ScanEagle can provide consistent coverage for the troops on the ground.

"You are talking about nine to 11 hours of video per day, plus whatever imagery I can pull off of that," said Sgt. Richard M. Evans Jr., imagery analyst, VMU-2. "We also have multiple planes up at one time, and we have numerous sites."

The ScanEagle is the future of Marine Corps war fighting, according to Evans, a 28-year-old Flanders, N.J., native.

"Most of the units that we support are a little upset if there is a day that they don't get us," concluded the Mount Olive High School graduate. "It's an easy way for the troops on the ground to look around that corner without having to hop up and look around it. We are their eyes. We can see a broader picture of a city or an area that they might not be able to see. It's definitely become a main asset for the United States Marine Corps."

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

Squadron returns from Iraq

Joyous occasion: Capt. Samuel Dabney, left, and Capt. Ben Beach reunite with their families — Tiara Dabney and 2-year-old Malia and Jamie Beach and 10-week-old Kendall — upon HMLA-269’s return from a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

Deployments don’t freeze time. Kids get bigger. Sometimes they get born


September 06,2006

Cpl. Mark Comer returned Tuesday from seven months in Iraq to see Trey, his 4-month-old son, for the first time. His other son, 3-year-old Shawn, is bigger. His wife, Erin, has seen things that he never will. And vice versa.

“It’s overwhelming, almost,” said Comer, who returned to New River Air Station with more than 200 fellow members of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. “It’s something you don’t get to experience very often.”

The Comers are not the only ones to experience bittersweet feelings. Every deployment leaves behind pregnant wives or young children who will look much different when dad comes home. Although there’s intense joy in first holding a child, there’s no way to reclaim lost time.

Capt. Sam Dabney savored the chance to hold his daughter, Malia, who turned 2 a month ago.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Dabney said of holding Malia. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for the last seven months.”

Dabney has been deployed twice during Malia’s life — for 14 of her 25 months. “It’s hard watching them grow up,” he said. “I missed both her birthdays and she’s growing like a weed.”

During their tour in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, HMLA-269 participated in operations such as convoy escorts, medevac escorts and reconnaissance missions, said Lt. Col. Scott Jensen, the squadron’s commander.

“They worked pretty hard, 24 hours, 7 days a week,” Jensen said, adding that many of his Marines had been to Iraq two or three — even four — times.

Now, those combat veterans must get reacquainted with their families and the lives they put on hold seven months ago.

“It’s weird coming home,” Comer said. “So much changed while you’re gone. It’s almost like starting over again.”

Click on photo for description and credits.

Marines welcomed home from Iraq

About 146 Marines returned from duty in Iraq to the waiting arms of friends and families this morning.


Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
September 6, 2006

The Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 arrived around 10 a.m. after seven months in Iraq and almost 24 hours of traveling.

“Its great,” said Corporal Hector Gomez. “It’s good just being home.”

Thirteen members of Gomez’s family greeted him wearing yellow shirts printed with welcome home messages - even his 8-month old niece sported a customized welcome home outfit.

“I really admire what he’s doing and admire all the service people,” said Enrique Quintero, Gomez’s cousin.

County man dies in Iraq

A San Miguel County man died Sunday while serving in Iraq — in what local leaders say was the first combat death of a county resident since the war began.


September 6, 2006
By David Giuliani

Marine Lance Corporal Shane Harris, 23, was killed during combat operations in Iraq's Anbar province, the Department of Defense reported this morning. He was the 22nd member of the military from New Mexico to die in the war since its March 2003 beginning. As of today, 2,657 soldiers and Marines have died in Iraq.

He was assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1 Marine Expeditionary Force. He was based in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

The military didn't provide any details about what led to Harris' death.

Harris was a firefighter with the Cabo Lucero Volunteer Fire Department, which is southwest of Las Vegas.

"He was a terrific firefighter," said Jim Nix, a department dispatcher. "Anytime we had a fire in this area, he was a responder."

Cabo Lucero's fire chief, Larry Franken, said this morning that the department hadn't been successful in getting in touch with Harris' parents, Carol and Pat Harris, who live in the Las Vegas area. He said Harris' father and the Marine's brothers, Ryan and Logan, also serve with the department.

"They are a very hard-working family," Franken said. "This is a tragic loss. They are all willing to do what they need to do for the department."

He said Shane Harris lived in the San Geronimo area 12 miles west of Las Vegas. He said he believed the family had come from Oregon.

"He'll be dearly missed. There's nothing worse than parents losing their child," Franken said.

*Guard force uses residence for combat simulation

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 6, 2006) -- Pink, purple and yellow grenades exploded upon the guard posts as Marines scrambled for cover from the enemy attack, a different war was upon them.


Sept. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 200696133741
By Cpl. Paul A. Robbins, 2nd Marine Division

More than 60 Marines with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s guard force conducted a simulated combat exercise Thursday at the battalion barracks.

Aggressors in Arabic garb tested the defenses of the guard force with guerilla tactics during the ten hour event.

“This was a mission rehearsal for what we’ll be doing in Iraq,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas D. Day, 27-year-old staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the battalion guard force, “Our mission is to provide security at (the main encampment) and the entry control points in the battalion’s area of operations.”

To help simulate their role in Iraq, the guard force occupied the battalion’s three barracks buildings, setting up numerous guard posts and a small command center in each.

From their posts on the second and third levels of the barracks, the Marines kept watch on the activity around the area as water balloon and water gun carrying role players harassed their position.

But despite the constant presence of civilians and suspicious persons, attacks were few and far between, said Cpl. Aaron G. Roman, 20-year-old squad leader for the guard force.

“Each Marine stood post for six hours and were engaged for about ten minutes,” Day said.

The sporadic activity served as a good demonstration of the vigilance that will be necessary in a fully populated city, said Day.

The aggressors, pulled from the battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company’s personal security detachment, used sniper attacks, improvised explosive device attacks, ambushes and various other deceptions during the exercise.

The different scenarios tested the skill, communication, teamwork, discipline and decision making of the Marines involved, said Roman.

“The attacks were good enough to open the Marines’ eyes to the possibilities of what might or might not happen over there,” said Roman.

At its conclusion, the exercise was considered a successful rehearsal and beneficial for all involved, said Day.

And with each Marine coming from within the infantry battalion, there leaves little doubt to the guard force’s readiness for the task, said Day.

“The guard force is more than prepared for the task at hand,” said Day.

Prior to the exercise, the guard force also received classes in escalation of force, rules of engagement, force protection, media relations and more.

But one of their more important lessons was on the importance of their mission, said Day.

“We protect the Marines when they get R&R;, so they can rest up, go back out and effectively combat the enemy,” said Day.

The guard force deploys along with the rest of the battalion in two weeks, where they will conduct security and stability operations in the Sunni Triangle for approximately seven months.

*R.I. Marine hurt in Iraq

NORTH KINGSTOWN -- A 23-year-old Marine reservist from Rhode Island was injured in an attack in Iraq Monday and is being transported back to the United States, according to his father, North Kingstown Fire Chief David Murray.


Wednesday, September 6, 2006
projo.com staff writer

Murray wouldn't comment on the extent of his son's injuries. But he said that Patrick Murray, who was studying business at the University of Rhode Island when he was called up, would be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital later this week, though he wasn't sure where.

Patrick Murray serves in the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, weapons company, which was deployed to Iraq in March. Another soldier from the unit, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Eric Valdepenas, of Seekonk, Mass., was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq's Al Anbar province the same day that Patrick Murray was injured.

Both soldiers graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick -- Murray in 2001 and Valdepenas in 2003. Patrick Murray is the middle child of David Murray's three children.

David Murray said he wasn't sure if his son was injured in the same attack, but that he was sure that the two young men weren't travelling in the same vehicle.

September 5, 2006

WWII Hero Gabaldon Dies

MIAMI - Guy Gabaldon, who as an 18-year-old Marine Private single-handedly persuaded more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers to surrender in the World War II battle for Saipan, has died. He was 80.


Associated Press
September 05, 2006

Gabaldon died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in Old Town, his son, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Hunter Gabaldon, said Monday.

Using an elementary knowledge of Japanese, bribes of cigarettes and candy, and trickery with tales of encampments surrounded by American troops, Gabaldon was able to persuade soldiers to abandon their posts and surrender. The scheme was so brazen - and so amazingly successful - it won the young Marine the Navy Cross, and fame when his story was told on television's "This Is Your Life" and the 1960 movie "Hell to Eternity."

"My plan, as impossible as it seemed, was to get near a Japanese emplacement, bunker, or cave, and tell them that I had a bunch of Marines with me and we were ready to kill them if they did not surrender," he wrote in his 1990 memoir "Saipan: Suicide Island."

"I promised that they would be treated with dignity, and that we would make sure that they were taken back to Japan after the war," he wrote.

The 5-foot-4-inch Gabaldon used piecemeal Japanese he picked up from a childhood friend to earn the trust of the enemy, who believed his story of hundreds of looming troops. In a single day in July 1944, Gabaldon was said to have gotten about 800 Japanese soldiers to follow him back to the American camp.

His exploits earned him the nickname the Pied Piper of Saipan.

The Private acknowledged his plan was foolish and, had it not been pulled off, could have resulted in a court-martial. His family suspected his initial disobedience - though they say officers later approved - might have kept him from receiving the Medal of Honor.

"My actions prove that God takes care of idiots," he wrote.

Born March 22, 1926, in Los Angeles, Gabaldon signed up for the service on his 17th birthday and arrived on Saipan on D-Day. His military career was cut short after two-and-a-half years by injuries from machine gun fire. He spent the years that followed running a variety of businesses, including a furniture store, a fishing operation and an import-export firm, and the unsuccessful pursuit of a California congressional seat in 1964.

Services for Gabaldon were to be held Tuesday in Cross City, Fla.

Marines And Sailors Return/Deploy

SAN DIEGO, CA - (9-4-06) 230 Marines and Sailors assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Miramar are scheduled to deploy Monday morning. They are heading to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


San Diego Headline News

Marines and Sailors assigned to Medium Helicopter Squadron 268, the Red Dragons, will return to Camp Pendleton on Tuesday. The are returning from Iraq.

Military families provide insight on adjusting to constant change

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — U.S. service members and their families have to do double duty when adjusting to repeated deployments, but Purdue University researchers are providing information to help the government support the more than 1.3 million families of active duty and reserve personnel.


Shelley MacDermid
September 5, 2006

Two studies were conducted by Purdue's Military Family Research Institute. Shelley MacDermid, the institute's co-director, said the research was motivated by the need for data about the changes families must deal with each time the military members are deployed.

"Repeated deployments mean that the post-deployment period is also a predeployment period," said MacDermid, director for Purdue's Center for Families and associate dean in the College of Consumer and Family Sciences. "Members and families have a dual set of tasks: getting their daily lives re-established at home and also preparing and training for their next time period away from home."

"Coming Home: An Army Reserve Unit Returns from War" contains data gathered from interviews conducted over a one-year period. These interviews consisted of 16 members who returned home from a deployment in 2004 and 20 parents or spouses. A second study, called "Global Perspective on Deployment and Reunion," assembled information gathered from focus groups made up of 256 active-duty members and military service providers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

One of the most universal experiences associated with deployment is that relationships go through a complex set of transitions that can take considerable adjustment time when members return home to their spouses, MacDermid said.

"About half of the participants in the study on the reserve unit reported a 'honeymoon' in well-being following return from deployment, which was actually a smaller proportion than we expected," MacDermid said. "They often took several weeks following return for spouses to relearn how to depend upon and accommodate one another. There were new expectations involving routines and responsibilities that affected the amount of time it took to make the transition."

MacDermid said no data were gathered from children, but parents and service providers reported children experienced similar issues involving the transition. Members reported they find it more emotionally difficult to return home from a deployment to children who have changed substantially in appearance or behavior.

"Supervising children during deployment is complicated not only by parental absence, but also by the limited programs for children," MacDermid said. "It's especially difficult to know how to reintegrate returning military members into children's lives when the timing of redeployment is uncertain."

The studies were funded by the Office of Military Community and Family Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense.

"The department's Social Compact recognizes the fundamental reciprocity that exists between the service member, the military family and the mission of the Department of Defense — 'families also serve,'" said Jane Burke, principal director to the deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. "The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University has provided valuable insights in support of policy and program development."

Other findings include:

• The most active times for changes in well-being were in the weeks immediately prior to departure and following return. Levels of well-being before deployment did not appear to strongly predict later levels.

• Most of the reservists interviewed became more focused on career goals during deployment. Reservists who held leadership positions during deployment sometimes felt frustrated about their lack of influence in their civilian workplaces.

• Six months following return, half of the reservists reported mild symptoms of combat stress.

• Twelve months following return, participants reported that they had recovered to predeployment levels of well-being.

MacDermid said, in general, participants demonstrated poor awareness of military policies and of the programs available to them. Most of the reserve participants who were deployed early in the war in Iraq experienced difficulties accessing military services, including receiving pay, dental insurance, renewing ID cards or using the commissary.

MacDermid said she hopes the research will result in finding better ways to prepare troops and their families for returning from deployments. She recommends future research to investigate other areas of concern, such as accessibility to support services and the impact of gradual versus abrupt returns to family and work life.

Writer: Maggie Morris

Art helps heal their wounds

BELFAST, Maine — The roadside bomb exploded as Michael Jernigan, a young U.S. Marine, drove down a street in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Shrapnel shredded his left knee, right hand and both eyes. The bomb left him blind and disfigured.

A scar runs across the top of his head, one ear to the other, just one of the many reminders of his nearly 30 surgeries since 2004.


September 5, 2006
By Bob Keyes Maine Sunday Telegram

When he returned to the United States to begin his recovery, his wife left him. He took the nine diamonds from his wedding band and had them imbedded in a sky-blue prosthetic right eye, which sparkles as he speaks.

"I figured I might as well use the ring for something," said Jernigan, whose other eye socket is sealed shut.

At 27, Jernigan is one of the thousands of U.S. veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan maimed, their lives forever changed. For these men and women, learning to live without limbs, without vision or with some other disability is the physical side of their recovery.

But there are emotional and psychological wounds as well that an arts program in Belfast is working to heal. This summer, educators from the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped worked to sharpen the writing and communication skills of two dozen veterans of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in hopes of helping them work through their emotions and feelings of loss.

Jernigan came to midcoast Maine in July to enroll in a theater writing class to find his voice, to give words to the turmoil that swirls inside his head.

He was among 12 young veterans in his group. Another dozen arrived last week for a two-week session.

Many are missing limbs. Some walk with a limp. Others use wheelchairs.

Some, like Jernigan, use walking sticks.

The program is not designed to turn the veterans into playwrights or thespians, although that would be a welcome development. The goal, said the program's founder, is to make the veterans whole again by restoring the power of their own voice.

It's an opportunity to use art in the healing process while teaching life skills that will benefit these men and women as they learn to live with their injuries.

The workshop consists of intense one-on-one writing sessions, where veterans tell their stories to writing coaches. The writers then help the veterans put their thoughts on paper, by crafting short monologues that express a point of view or recall an episode from the war.

The private sessions often are quiet, with hushed tones and tears. Some are exuberant, with raised voices.

At the close of each session, the veterans have the opportunity to read their writing in a public performance. A few do, but most turn the public-performance aspect over to workshop actors who are most accustomed to being on stage.

Brother Rick Curry, a Jesuit, founded the theater workshop in New York nearly 30 years ago to help people with disabilities learn communication skills necessary for careers in theater and to enhance workplace opportunities.

He has operated the workshop in Belfast for the past decade, in the former Crosby High School on Church Street. He bought the building for $200,000, then invested nearly $4 million to renovate it to make it better suited for people who spend much of their lives in wheelchairs.

The building includes housing for 50, a 500-seat theater, as well as a bakery that produces bread and dog biscuits to raise money for the theater.

Curry runs programs in the former high school year-round. This summer is the first time he actively recruited U.S. veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan for the program.

He dubs his new crop of students the Wounded Warriors.

"All of these guys and gals are dealing with loss," he said.

"I was born with a birth defect," said Curry, who has no right forearm. "I've never dealt with loss. These guys are dealing with loss."

The program gives injured veterans the opportunity to meet and talk with civilians who have lived with disabilities for longer periods of time, Curry said.

Usually, participants must wait three years after they've become disabled to enroll in the theater workshops. Curry waived the waiting period for the wounded warriors.

"We asked ourselves, 'How can we help these guys?' They're so desperate to tell their stories," said Curry.

Like the others, Jernigan came to Belfast to empty his head, process his thoughts and learn to cope with the new realities of his life.

Jernigan is determined to turn the turmoil that's going around in his brain into something useful. Before he began expressing himself, he felt that he was sitting alone in the dark, his eyes forever closed, with stories zipping through his head.

"These people have given me the skills to take what's here," Jernigan said, tapping the side of his head with his index finger, "and put it on paper. This program is a rehabilitation program for me. It helps me get all the feelings and emotions that are locked up inside me and put them out there."

He titled his story "Full Circle." In it, he recounts words of advice his military father gave him before Jernigan shipped out to Iraq in 2004.

His dad, still active as a counter-terrorism analyst, recently shipped out himself, to Afghanistan. Just as they did before Jernigan left for Iraq, father and son got together for a meal.

In the story, Jernigan writes about the mealtime advice he gave his dad: "This isn't a regular war, dad, this is Jihad."

Another veteran wrote about how life's priorities have changed since coming home. Before the war, she worried about her appearance and expensive perfumes. During combat, she was dirty and grimy all the time. She called her essay "Guns and Perfume."

Jernigan's goal is to write a book of short stories.

"The book will be fiction, but based on true life," Jernigan said. "I've got what we call float stories - half are based in truth, half are based in lies and half are complete b.s."

Jernigan's instructor for the just-completed session in Belfast was Michael Conforti, an MFA student at Columbia University in New York.

He encouraged Jernigan to tell his stories into a tape recorder. Together, the two edited Jernigan's words into a monologue, which Conforti performed July 23.

"I believe in language, and I do believe in the power it has to transform personal experience into knowledge and what's painful into what's powerful," said Conforti.

Jernigan remains committed to the military, and thankful for the support the Marines have given him since his injuries. He does not blame the military for his condition, nor does he regret serving his country.

"I joined after Sept. 11. I knew what I was getting into," said Jernigan.

He credits his military experience for his ability to cope with his injuries.

In the military, they call such ability to adapt and overcome. Assess the situation, then devise a plan, he said.

That's how he's treating his injuries.

"This is just a test. My goal is to go out and prove to the world that my wounds aren't going to hold me back," Jernigan said.

His wants to enroll in college and become an educator. He's begun motivational speaking, and also participated in a program called Paws for Patriots, which places guide dogs with visually impaired U.S. veterans.

He intends to live a full life.

"I'm trying," he said.

As he speaks, Jernigan is seated at a long table in a large community dining room in the former high school. It's Sunday morning, and many of the program participants have just woken up. The night before, many were on stage presenting monologues, or listening as others read their work.

An after-show party followed.

Jernigan is surrounded by other students and teachers. Some are seated in wheelchairs. Others occupy wooden chairs.

On his breakfast plate are sausage links and pancakes. A bowl of scrambled eggs sits off to the side, to be passed among his tablemates.

The room is alive with energy. This is the next-to-last morning of the session, and there's a sense of finality in the conversations.

Bryan McBride, a 34-year-old actor from Portland, is seated next to Jernigan. McBride came up to Belfast to watch the performance on Saturday night.

He participated in the program in 2003 and 2004 as a way to gain self-confidence. He was born with deformed feet, and also lives with a learning disability.

McBride came to Belfast as a show of support for new military peers. He tells them they have made friends for life.

The program participants may not know each very well, but they are brothers in spirit, McBride tells them.

"The thing about this program is that it gives you friends that you can talk to, friends that will be connected to you forever," he said.

Curry's summer sessions with the wounded warriors has drawn widespread exposure.

The New York Times, The New York Post, Time magazine, People, and CNN all have covered the story, and HBO also has proposed making a documentary.

James Gandolfini, star of "The Sopranos" on HBO, is a favorite of the military, because of his USO tours in Iraq. He also happens to be a friend of Curry's and has helped bring the wounded warriors program to the attention of HBO.

Curry is confident the summer writing program will be the first of many creative outlets for the veterans. All have stories to tell. And while all are unified by their military experience, their stories are unique, he said.

The goal of the program is to make them comfortable as storytellers, and also to make them comfortable with their disability.

Curry and his staff talk to them about how they will be treated in public, and why it's important for them to stand up for themselves and not allow others to exploit their condition.

"Disabled is what they are, not who they are," Curry said. "I don't believe the disabled have been placed on this earth to make able-bodied people feel good about themselves."

It frees their mind, frees their soul and, at least in the case of the wounded warriors, helps them rid the demons that haunt them, he said.

"The arts are precisely what the disabled need. The imagination has no physical boundaries."

Searchers won't give up on Marine

Volunteers will continue an informal search today for a Boulder Marine who went missing in Eldorado Canyon State Park one week ago.

By Sara Burnett, Rocky Mountain News
September 5, 2006

The family of Lance Hering also plans to distribute fliers with the 21-year-old's photo to area businesses in the hopes Hering will see the picture and recognize himself, or that someone else will spot him and call authorities, said Hering's father, Lloyd Hering.

"Our feelings right now are of persistent hope and love for our boy," he added.

Boulder County sheriff's officials called off the official search for Hering on Sunday, saying they had given the effort everything they could and that they were confident Lance Hering was no longer in the area.

Hering and friend Steve Powers went bouldering and rock jumping in the park last Tuesday.

Powers told authorities that Hering lost his balance and fell about 30 feet down an embankment, injuring his head, as they were hiking back around 10 p.m.

Hering was unconscious for a few hours. When he woke up, Powers went for help, but when searchers returned about five hours later, Hering was gone.

Sheriff's officials said Sunday that Hering could be wandering around outside the park, disoriented and confused.

On Sunday, dozens of volunteers turned out for an informal search.

There were a good number of "people we don't know from Adam," Lloyd Hering said. "It means a lot," he added.

Also on Sunday, the Hering family stood in their front yard and tied a yellow ribbon to a rope that Lance Hering used to practice climbing on as a kid.

Each day that Lance was in Iraq, the family tied a ribbon on the rope and said a prayer for his safe return, Lloyd Hering said.

By the time Lance came home, there were more than 200 ribbons on the rope. Lance's family cut them down as part of the celebration.

Lance Hering is 6 feet 1, 180 pounds with close cropped blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a ripped black T-shirt and light-colored pants.

He had a bandage made from the fabric of his T-shirt wrapped around his head wound.

Anyone who sees him should call the sheriff's office at 303-441- 4444.

Marine goes grunt for higher calling

OBSERVATION POST BEARS, Iraq (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Most Marines are called to the Corps by a recruiter, but one Marine here believes he was called by God.


Sept. 5, 2006
Story ID#: 20069672456
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

Lance Cpl. Joshua T. Potts said he believed God would take his experiences as an infantryman and use them to prepare him for service as a Navy Chaplain in the future.

“I did it to gain more respect for ‘the infantry world,’” said Potts, a mortarman with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

The 31-year-old infantryman from Boca Rotan, Fla., said becoming a “grunt” will help him better understand the struggles Marines go through on the forward edge of the spear.

Then he can take his experiences and apply them to his sermons when he becomes a chaplain.

Potts didn’t figure this overnight. He gave God credit for redirecting the course of his life and setting him on the path to serving others.

“I was working banking as a financial advisor,” Potts explained. “I had a job with a flexible work schedule and a house, but my religious calling was stronger.”

Potts’ fiery desire ignited when he saw flames and smoke billow from the twin towers on television during the 9/11 attacks.

He became drawn to seeing heroic images of Marines coming to America’s rescue, risking their lives for freedom.

“I would think about joining the Marines daily until that’s all I would think about,” Potts said. “Then God helped me make my decision.”

So after a year of hard thinking, he left the easy life behind and headed for the recruiter’s office.

“I went to the recruiter and told him that I wanted to join the Marines,” Potts said. “I want to serve with Marines in combat.”

The two talked about the infantry option. While speaking they established common ground.

“I found out we were the same age and we were both borne-again Christians,” Potts said.

Soon they became good friends.

“He thought it was great that I wanted to go enlisted,” Potts said. “He didn’t even try to convince me to join the Marines.”

That’s because he was already had his mind made.

“A few weeks later I found myself at Parris Island,” Potts said. “That’s when I was thinking, ‘What have I done?’”

He said he has no regrets though.

Potts is proud to sweat in the Iraqi heat alongside his fellow Marines.

He is now working towards his bachelor’s degree and has plans for a master’s degree.

A lot of people think he’s crazy for giving up his comfortable life, but Potts said he’s just answering the call to serve others.

“That’s what God called me to do,” he said.

Click on photo for description and credit.

September 4, 2006

Search is off for missing Boulder Marine

The official search was called off Sunday for a 21-year-old Marine from Boulder who disappeared after injuring his head while hiking in Eldorado Canyon State Park.


By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News
September 4, 2006

Searchers had scoured the rugged terrain for five intense and often grueling days.

Family and friends of Lance Her-ing vowed to continue looking for the man who may be disoriented and hundreds of miles away by now because of a head injury. Authorities also are considering the possibility that Hering has reverted to a military mindset and gone for cover.

"We feel we have given the effort everything we could," Boulder County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Phil West said. "We're confident Lance is not in the area. There's still a lot of heart in our searchers, but they're tired."

West said a nationwide missing person bulletin would be put out as soon as Hering's photograph could be scanned.

Lance Hering's father, Lloyd, jeans dirtied from wandering trails and difficult terrain for days, made a direct plea to his son.

"Lance, if you can see this, you're not in trouble, man," he said. "You're a climber who hit his head. Lance, come home. It's cool . . . Lance, it's your dad, honey, please come home."

Hering was supposed to return to active duty at Camp Pendleton in California in a couple weeks. He had completed his first tour of heavy combat in Iraq one month ago. His family said he was in good spirits and seemed to be handling the stresses of war very well.

Investigators don't believe Hering intentionally disappeared to avoid a return to Iraq. Still, they're considering the possibility.

Hering went bouldering and rock jumping with friend Steve Powers on Tuesday afternoon in the canyon. On the darkened trail back about 10 p.m., Powers hurt an already sprained ankle and yelped. Hering, who was walking in front, turned around and lost his balance, tumbling 30 feet down an embankment. He hit the back of his head during the fall, Division Chief Dennis Hopper said.

Hering is 6 feet 1, 180 pounds with close cropped blond hair and blue eyes. Anyone who sees him, should call the sheriff's office at 303-441-4444.

"As days go by and we have not found him, the chances of finding him in good, healthy condition are diminished," Hopper said. "We would have seen him by now if he was out walking around. He's either out of the area or down somewhere."

A joyous return for Marines

Friends, family welcome 86 home from duty in Iraq

Sherrie Steely's one-year wedding anniversary was on Aug. 27, and she celebrated by spending time with friends and enjoying a phone call with her husband.

It was fun, but she plans to make up for it right away now that her husband is back from Iraq with 85 other members of Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Seventh Marine Regiment. They returned to Twentynine Palms on Sunday after a six-month deployment.


Colin Atagi
The Desert Sun
September 4, 2006

"I'm so excited; I'm going to give him a big hug," the 19-year-old Roswell, N.M. wife said about an hour before her husband, Casey, arrived.

Sherrie Steely was one of at least 200 people who awaited the Marines' return Sunday. She was also one of a handful of people who held signs and shouted as the bus transporting the Marines passed by on its way to an armory.

The Marines were sent to Iraq to provide support for frontline troops. It was their job to make sure they had adequate food supplies and any paperwork was filed properly.

Crowd members wished the Marines could have gotten off the bus right away, but they understood it was necessary for them to return their weapons first.

"Are we ever going to get there," Lance Cpl. Casey Steely, 21, thought on his way home, he said.

Some girlfriends, wives and husbands of the Marines are used to loved ones being gone for so long. Although they're capable of living independently, it's still a joy for the Marines to come home, said 47-year-old Washington resident Jo Olson.

"It's good when (her husband) leaves, it's good when he's gone, it's better when he comes back," said Olson, whose husband, Navy Corpsman Jay Olson, came home.

Not everyone had a loved one to provide a hug. That's why there was a group of "Official Huggers," made up of Marines' wives.
"We try to make sure no one sneaks off by themselves," hugger Monica McBroom said.

But when the Marines finally got off the bus, there was no shortage of hugs and kisses. The celebration was complete with silly string and air horns.

"Comings are just like Christmas when you're 5," Jo Olson said.

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

Marines Arrive Back On U.S. Soil

(CBS) TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. About 200 people greeted the Marines when they returned Sunday.


Sep 4, 2006 10:22 am US/Pacific

The marines, who provided meals and mail to frontline troops, were part of the Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 7th Marine Regiment stationed out of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

A group of "Official Huggers" composed of Marines' wives made sure no Marine stepped off the transport bus without receiving an embrace.

The troops dropped off their weapons at an armory and then given time with their loved ones.

September 3, 2006

Search for missing climber called off

BOULDER COUNTY - The fifth day was the last day of a search for a missing Marine in Eldorado Canyon.


written by: Jamie Kim Producer/Reporter
posted by: Jeffrey Wolf Web Producer
updated by Quynh Nguyen 9NEWS Reporter/Producer

Sunday evening the Boulder County Sheriff announced that search teams had already combed a perimeter of several square miles and they do not believe 21-year-old Lance Hering is in the area.

More than 100 searchers followed up on a possible clue Sunday after a pair of socks was found Saturday.

However, it is not clear whether the socks actually belong to Hering. Dogs were sent in to check out the socks, but they came back with inconclusive results.

Rescuers including a group of active and retired Marines, went over areas of the park that have already been covered. They wanted to make sure they did not miss anything.

Hering's friend told authorities Hering fell while climbing a rock face Tuesday night. According to the friend, Hering lost consciousness, but woke up before his climbing partner went to get help. When his friend returned, Hering had disappeared.

Another friend of Hering's, Garrick McComas, says he has climbed with Hering several times and remains cautiously optimistic.

"At this point we're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said McComas.

Hering's family believes he suffered memory loss from the fall, and that he is wandering around with no idea of what happened to him. Sunday Lance's father said his son could be hundreds of miles away, unaware of where he is or what he should do.

"Lance is too strong to be gone yet," said Lloyd Hering, Lance's father. "He's with us somewhere. He may be out in public somewhere in Colorado and does not know what is going on. If he is, find him, bring him in."

"Physically, if anyone could do this, it would be Lance. He could survive this," said McComas.

"I'm not giving up, there's no reason to give up," said Lloyd Hering. "He is a strong young Marine and we have not found him dead. We just haven't found him. And so he's out there. There's no question of giving up at this point."

Lance Hering was on leave from the Marines during the accident. He is supposed to report to Camp Pendleton, Calif. in mid-September.

Engineers clearing the roadway

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Sep. 3, 2006) -- Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a constant threat to military forces and Iraqi civilians in the Al Anbar Province. Marines, who search for road side bombs, said they are playing a positive a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).


Sep. 3, 2006; Submitted on: 09/03/2006 12:43:36 PM ; Story ID#: 200693124336
By Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Marine combat engineers with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, do their part in an effort to neutralize IEDs in the Al Anbar Province, the battalion is currently attached to 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

“Our main focus is securing the roads,” said Cpl. George T. O’Donnell, lead scout vehicle commander with 1st Platoon. “We do this so the (civilians) can drive and walk down the road without getting hurt.”

Improvised explosive devices have become an developing threat to coalition forces throughout OIF.

“The IED threat is so much more now,” said Staff Sgt. Michael R. Leisure, platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon. “Back in Operation Iraqi Freedom I (OIF I), I would be driving a soft-top humvee with no small arm protective insert (SAPI) plates in, but now we actually go out and look for IEDs.”

The platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Kirk A. Whittenberg, organizes vehicle patrols to ensure the roads are safe for all local civilians, U.S. and Iraqi military forces.

“The job itself is stressful enough,” said Whittenberg, a Chester, Ill., native. He stated the majority of all hostile deaths in Iraq come from IEDs, adding that their job is to locate and examine potential IEDs.

The featured Marines agree that the job is worth the effort despite the stress.

O’Donnell, an Auburn, Ill., native explained the most rewarding factor is to know the Marines are actually helping the people.

Seeing the local children and adults smile and wave at the Marines is a priceless feeling, expressed O’Donnell, 24.

This is 9th ESB’s first tour to Iraq after two deployments to Korea. Whittenberg, 24, added that the unit has formed a bond from working with each other while based out of the 3rd MLG, Okinawa, Japan.

The platoon’s diversity is the foundation of their mission’s success.

“The reason that they work together so well, is because of everyone’s background,” said Leisure, 33.

“The feelings and the interaction…I am closer to these guys more than anybody ever in my life,” said Lance Cpl. Jason H. Gerstner, 31, a member of the rear security element with 1st Platoon.

According to the Irwin, Pa., native, he felt he wanted to pursue something in his life that was more meaningful than the one he had. When he joined the Marines, he knew that his contribution to his country would take sacrifice, like leaving his 8-year-old son behind.

“I just put the trust in the rest of the Marines in the truck because we make a good crew,” said Cpl. Nathan M. Treichel, 21, a gunner with 1st Platoon and a New Oxford, Pa., native.

Whittenberg explained that 1st Platoon, in addition to securing the roads for Iraqi civilians and the combat units, also builds living quarters for the service members in Camp Ramadi and Camp Taqaddum, Iraq.

The platoon will remain on course with their everyday mission until replaced by Bravo Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion Marine reserve unit out of South Bend, Ind., who will be assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion. The battalion is scheduled to remain here until spring 2007.

Gerstner said he has been focused ever since he went on a mission for the first time. “I had my flack and Kevlar helmet on,” said Gerstner. “(And) I knew right then, it was game on.”

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Marine battalion heads to Iraq for fourth time

Tears flow as loved ones bid goodbye to unit members in Twentynine Palms

In a parking lot baked by the desert sun, a young Marine stands in line waiting to get on a bus. A young woman walks with him. They hold hands. They stare intently into each other's eyes, trying to communicate something that cannot be said. Her hand grips his arm, her knuckles white. Finally, they reach the door. He gives her one last kiss.


John Koopman, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 3, 2006
(09-03) 04:00 PDT Twentynine Palms -- Sometimes, there are just no words.

It's a long kiss, but the men behind him say nothing. They are not in a hurry. The bus, painted white with no markings, will take the young lover and his buddies to an Air Force base. They will board a passenger jet and make their way to Kuwait. And then, Iraq.

It's a scene played out regularly at the world's largest Marine base, on the southern edge of the Mojave Desert. The war in Iraq has been going on for less than four years, but this is the fourth time these Marines -- members of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment -- will be deployed there.

"This is the second time we've gone through this," said Jaime Pater, 28, the wife of a Marine warrant officer. "It doesn't get any easier."

Pater is pregnant with the couple's second child, due in October. Her husband, Frank, will miss the birth.

"I just can't imagine him not being here when the baby is born," she said, holding her tummy with both hands. "When our first son, Matthew, was born, Frank left a week later. But at least he was there for the birth."

Kelli Coehlo is also pregnant. She's 19. She's saying goodbye to her husband, Joseph Coehlo, a 22-year-old lance corporal on his way to Iraq for the first time. The baby is their first, a girl to be named Kaylee.

"This is hard, really hard," she said, her face stained with tears. "It's harder than I thought."

As the war in Iraq winds through its fourth year, more and more soldiers and Marines are cycling in and out of that country. It's difficult to find a Marine at Twentynine Palms who has not been there at least once. Many have been there twice or more.

The battalion, known by its numeric designator "Three-Four," is among the first to go back for a fourth tour. During its first three tours, it lost 11 men.

Three-Four was with the 1st Marine Division when the United States launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The unit saw a lot of action, first at Basra, then Diwaniya, Kut and later in Baghdad. The battalion led the fight for a key bridge over the Dyala Canal, a waterway along the southeast area of Baghdad, which was key to allowing the rest of the division to cross into the city. On the way, it lost four men -- one to an accident and three to hostile fire.

This was the Marine battalion that helped pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein, effectively marking the end of the fight for Baghdad.

After the fall of Baghdad, two more Marines from Three-Four lost their lives. One was killed by an Iraqi and another by a Marine sniper in a "friendly fire" accident.

The battalion left Iraq in June 2003 and returned again at the beginning of 2004. The Marines fought in Fallujah when that city erupted in violence in April 2004, following the horrific assassinations of four American security contractors. Three-Four lost four Marines there.

Three-Four returned again in 2005 with a different commanding officer. On that tour, the battalion provided security and stability operations in and around Fallujah, and helped with the Iraqi elections late that year. They lost one man.

More than 2,600 U.S. troops have lost their lives in Iraq since the beginning of this conflict.

On Thursday, the battalion's headquarters company assembled at a parking lot and prepared to move out. About 200 men formed lines to board the buses. They wore their desert camouflage uniforms and carried nothing but their weapons. Their other gear was packed separately.

The other companies, India, Kilo and Lima -- whose names mean nothing other than letter designators -- were to go through the same drill in the following days.

It's become a bit of a routine. Nearly everyone has gone through this before. If not departing to Iraq, then Afghanistan, Africa, Okinawa or Korea. Leaving is never easy, but repetition allows Marines and their families to know what to expect.

There were a couple of dozen family members at the headquarters company departure. Mostly wives. Some girlfriends. A handful of kids.

Some wives and mothers are "Key Volunteers," serving as a liaison between Marines overseas and families in the states. Several showed up Thursday to console weeping moms and support Marines.

"We've got a grandma who needs some help," said one Key Volunteer to a group of her colleagues who were chatting. The women converged on an older woman who was crying uncontrollably. They stood close and spoke in hushed tones, reaching out to place a consoling hand on her shoulder. The woman squatted down, trying to catch her breath in the 102-degree heat, tears dripping down her cheeks and neck.

Some of the women had Marines leaving; others have Marines currently serving in Iraq.

"We want to make sure every Marine has someone to see him off," said Nikki Clark, 34, of Reno. "A lot of these guys don't have wives. A lot of them, their families are far away and they just can't make it out here."

The Key Volunteers wear T-shirts that say "Official Hugger." Marines seldom ask for a hug, Clark said. But when offered, she said, they usually take it. And like it.

The battalion is led by Lt. Col. Scott Shuster, a 40-year-old career Marine from Camarillo (Ventura County). He said the unit is headed to the border area of Al Qaim, currently under the control of a sister unit, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. Al Qaim has been relatively peaceful in recent months, even as Baghdad and Ramadi have exploded in violence.

Al Qaim is technically part of Anbar province, but it's different geographically and demographically from its neighbors to the east. The people are more tribal and less religious. But it still sits next door to Syria, and occasionally is visited by some of the most hard-core jihadists in the region.

Out of the 1,000 or so Marines in Three-Four, only one or two have been with the unit since the invasion. It is the nature of the military that people move in and out of units and duty stations. Shuster said 20 percent of his men have been in the battalion for two previous tours; 60 percent will be going with Three-Four for the first time.

It's impossible to know how many of the Marines have been there before, but it's safe to say a good number know what the sands of Iraq taste like.

"Each tour has been significantly different from the last," Shuster said. "It's good to have men in the unit who've been to Iraq, but the truth is, if you've been out of country for two weeks, the situation has changed and you're pretty much starting fresh."

This fourth tour in Iraq comes at a time when the war is increasingly controversial among Americans and support for President Bush's policies is rapidly slipping.

None of that seems to matter to the Marines. Which is not to say they don't know or care about public opinion. But they operate under a different code. If their commanders say "go," they go.

"The war is something these guys definitely talk about," said Capt. Patrick Faye, the 30-year-old commander of Lima Company, who grew up in San Francisco. "These guys aren't stupid or uninformed. They read the papers. In the chow hall, the TVs are always tuned to Fox news and CNN. So they know what's going on."

They just usually don't take their comments or criticisms public, he said.

Faye is a graduate of St. Ignatius High School and the U.S. Naval Academy.

"I'm looking forward to getting over there," said Faye, whose brother is currently in the San Francisco Police Academy. "We have a chance to do some good for the Iraqi people. It's an important job, and it will help the Iraqi people."

Some civilians wonder why more troops don't question the war, the president, their orders. Certainly, some soldiers and Marines have deserted; many have gone to Canada to get out of deploying to Iraq.

A lot of the Marines do question the war and the reasons for it. But their reasons for going in spite of other options are as individual as the men who make up the battalion.

Many consider themselves professional Marines, and so they do what they are ordered to do.

Others do it for the excitement and adventure.

Most go because they have a sense of brotherhood, and they want to be there for their buddies.

"I extended my enlistment so I could go," said Cpl. Anthony Powers, a 22-year-old sniper from Sebastopol who got married last weekend. "I want to be with my guys and help lead them. I know these guys better than I know my own family."

His buddy, Cpl. Dave Knaub, 21, of Phoenix, said he just wants to get the tour over with so he can get out of the Marines and study at Arizona State University. That, he said, is where the girls are.

Sgt. Charles Whitehead, 22, of Warrensburg, Mo., is on his way to Iraq for the third time in his three years in the Corps.

"I didn't expect this," he said. "I mean, I knew what was going on and all, but I wouldn't have thought I'd be there three times."

Whitehead could have opted out of this tour, but he said he chose to go again.

"I love my Marines," he said. "They're going, so I want to go with them, to protect them and to make sure they all come back alive. I've got a little experience, so I know what to expect. But some of these guys are going for the first time. You can't really prepare for that if you haven't been."

It's early evening and Sgt. Benjamin Sundell is in a booth at Denny's, just a few miles from the front gate at Twentynine Palms. He's supposed to leave in the morning, and he's catching a few last moments with his wife, Jenna.

They sit side by side. She clings tightly to his arm.

Sundell, 22, grew up around Salem, Ore. He says he's a farm boy. He grew up hunting, fishing, playing football. He wanted to be in the military since he was 9, and he wanted to be a Marine since he was 14. He enlisted while still in high school, just before the Sept. 11 attacks. He accelerated high school so he could go to boot camp early.

Sundell is probably the only Marine in Three-Four who has been with the unit since the invasion of Iraq. This will be his fourth tour there. He says he'll go back again and again if need be.

"I'll go 10 times if the Marine Corps asks me to," he said. "I see this as an opportunity to serve my country. I love my country, and I love serving it."

Sundell is an infantry Marine, as are the majority of the men in Three-Four. Infantry Marines are called "grunts," and they wear that title with pride. A lot of them look down on the mechanics, drivers, technicians and administrative types who are their comrades. It sounds cliche to some, but grunts are often the true believers. They join because they want to be there, and if there's a shooting war going on, they want to be part of it.

"It's definitely a pride thing," Sundell said. "I wouldn't want to be with anyone else."

He has a tattoo of Chinese characters on the underside of his right arm. The characters translate to: "I Fear No Man." It's not quite as macho as it sounds. Sundell said it reflects his feelings about life and war and spirituality. He's seen the best and worst of humanity, and while he subscribes to no organized religion, he believes in God.

"Man can only do so much to me," he said. "I know my eternal soul rests somewhere else."

Sundell met his future wife after his second tour in Iraq. He was at Camp Pendleton, just south of Orange County. They were engaged three months later.

"I respect him more than I can ever imagine," Jenna Sundell said while her husband was off to the bathroom, what the Marines refer to as a "head call." "He's the best man I could ever ask for."

E-mail John Koopman at [email protected]

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September 2, 2006

Recruits learn to lead at 12-Stall Crucible course

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Sept. 1, 2006) -- Throughout boot camp, recruits learn what it takes to become leaders.

Many hours are spent studying Marine Corps knowledge such as leadership traits and principles, but recruits also get the opportunity to act as leaders in the field.


Sept. 1, 2006; Submitted on: 09/01/2006 12:58:12 PM ; Story ID#: 200691125812

By Lance Cpl. Robert W. Beaver, MCRD San Diego

Covered in mud and physically and mentally fatigued, recruits are faced with challenges during the Crucible, a 54-hour field training evolution that tests recruits’ stamina, leadership and teamwork abilities.

“The purpose of this obstacle is to instill leadership and get the recruits to work together to accomplish a mission,” said Sgt. Rosell Floresmartinez, field instructor, Weapons Field Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

With several different obstacles spread throughout the Crucible training area on Camp Pendleton’s, mountainous terrain, the 12-Stall obstacles challenge recruits to another level. 12-Stall derives its name from a series of small obstacles, each in an area that looks similar to a horse stall.

Each obstacle may be different in design, but all have a similar task of transporting recruits and their equipment across an area with the aid of minimal props such as ropes, metal bars or wood planks.

Some areas of the obstacles are marked in red to simulate hazardous areas. If equipment touches the red area it becomes out of play. However, if a recruit touches red, he becomes a casualty and is eliminated from the obstacle. As a result, he must drag a dummy a short distance to simulate a casualty evacuation before he is able to continue the 12-Stall.

Drill instructors hand pick individuals to be leaders throughout boot camp. However, the recruits who aren’t usually leaders are placed in charge during the 12-Stall. The new squad leaders are given 20 minutes to devise a plan and a course of action for each obstacle and to accomplish the mission.

“This gives recruits who aren’t normally the guide or squad leaders a chance to lead,” said Sgt. Kabirum Labaran, drill instructor, Platoon 1009, Company A. “This also gives them the chance to feel the pressure that comes when being in a leadership position. In turn, it will make them better followers.”

Recruit Eric D. Currie, Platoon 1009, Co. A, got the opportunity to lead other recruits on a 12-Stall obstacle when his company went through the Crucible Aug. 3, marking his first time in a leadership position during boot camp.

His mission was to get a barrel and all the members of his squad across a simulated body of water using only two metal poles and a horizontal plank of wood that was positioned five feet above the ground and went across the water.

“It took a lot of thinking to do this. I got a lot of help from the other recruits,” said Currie, an 18-year-old native of Saginaw, Mich. “But I got a deeper sense of confidence in myself when we accomplished the mission.”

The 12-Stall is only the beginning of the leadership challenges Currie and his fellow recruits will face throughout their Marine Corps careers. When they find themselves in leadership positions, they will be expected to finish assigned tasks and missions quickly and with good results, which is why the 12-Stall obstacle is designed to help them think on their feet in tough conditions.

Marine gets to see Tigers

Ed Holmgren of Ishpeming, left, greets Cpl. Neil Frustaglio of Ishpeming during a spaghetti dinner benefit at the Ishpeming Armory recently. Frustaglio planned to take a break from rehab this weekend at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Thanks to a group called the Wounded Warrior Project, he was offered a trip to today’s Detroit Tigers game. (Journal file photo)

ISHPEMING — Wounded Marine Cpl. Neil Frustaglio of Ishpeming Township will get a chance to take a break from his rehabilitation activities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. — even if just for a few days — to attend today’s Detroit Tigers game against the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park.


By STEPHEN STACY, Journal Ishpeming Bureau

Frustaglio, 22, was wounded Dec. 7, 2005, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated under the Humvee he was a passenger in. Three Marines from the vehicle, including Frustaglio, suffered such severe leg injuries that double amputations were required. The fourth Marine, 22-year-old Cpl. Joseph Bier of Centralia, Wash., was killed.

The three-day trip, made available to Frustaglio and three other Michigan Marines, is being provided courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project and the Detroit Tigers.

Trip organizer Jo McDaid, a mother whose son also serves as a Marine, said she has been looking for ways to help wounded servicemembers.

“I wanted to support our military any way I could think of,” McDaid said. “I got a chance to meet Neil in March at Walter Reed and happened to be exploring different opportunities to facilitate for the guys to show them a good time.”

McDaid, who lives in downstate Paw Paw, said the Marines will be provided with a private suite to watch the game, courtesy of the team, and will also get a chance to mingle with the players and spend some time with them for a few hours before the game starts.

The WWP, best known for their Wounded Warrior backpack program, which provides wounded servicemembers with backpacks that contain necessity and comfort items such as clothes, phone calling cards, personal CD players and magazines, provided funding for airfare.

“We’re here to help service members get back to some kind of normality and let them know they’re appreciated,” said Tiffany Calhoun, Wounded Warrior Project administrative assistant.

The nonprofit organization, headquartered in Roanoke, Va., helps servicemembers that have been severely injured during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations around the world, and is designed to ease the burdens of the wounded and their families and smooth their transition back to civilian life.

“These are great therapy trips, but they are also a lot of fun for Neil,” Frustaglio’s fiancee, Pam Glenn said. “Just getting out and having a chance to experience life as a normal person — they don’t get a lot of that down in rehab, it’s a lot of work.”

Glenn said the family was originally told that Frustaglio would need 12 to 15 months of rehabilitation — after seven months, however, he’s already learned to run with the help of his prosthetic legs.

The most recent statistics, according to www.icasualties.org, show that more than 20,000 U.S. service members have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and approximately 2,900 have been killed — more than 900 have been killed as a result of IEDs.

Combat train hauls and protects Iraqi recruits

Cpl. Daniel M. Dresch closes the ladder to a seven-ton truck behind Iraqi recruits. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment's Combat Train One transported recruits from the Iraqi Police Station in Saqlawiyah to a processing center in Fallujah. The mission was completed with only minor problems.
NewsBlaze, Daily News

"America's Battalion" Marines recently conducted a mission that had them transporting an unusual cargo in unfamiliar terrain.


Judyth Piazza
Sept. 2, 2006

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment's G Company provided security for an Iraqi Police station during an Iraqi Army recruiting drive. Marines from the battalion's Combat Train Two also transported Iraqi Army recruits from the station to the processing center in Fallujah. It was a journey that took Marines from the rural dusty farm roads they usually travel around here to the bustling urban terrain of Fallujah.

"Our mission was to take the Iraqi recruits from the IP station to their training area," said Lance Cpl. Diego A. Corrales, a 19-year-old driver from Phoenix, Ariz. "After we dropped off the first group of recruits we had to wait for another call on when to pick up more."

The pick-up point was within a marketplace. The convoy rumbled in to make their pick up and all eyes in the marketplace went to the hulking armored trucks. Vehicles stopped and pedestrians halted to watch with curiosity.

"It was intense going through the marketplace," said Lance Cpl. John V. Trew a 21-year-old driver from Ten Mile, Tenn. "There were so many cars in the streets. I was thinking that any one of them could be a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device."

Three Marines escorted Iraqi recruits to the convoy to be transported to Fallujah for further processing. The convoy security force commander exited his humvee and escorted the recruits to the seven-ton truck they would ride in.

"It was nerve wracking," said Cpl. Daniel M. Dresch, a 21-year-old security force commander from Columbia, S.C. "It was my first time in the city like that. I thought something was going to happen, but everything went well."

Marines didn't receive any problems from the Iraqi people. The only problem the convoy faced in the marketplace was making the turn to get out. They had to make a U-turn in a cluttered area to get out the way they came.

"The turn was pretty tight," Trew said. "I had to back up to complete the turn. I was nervous that I might hit one of the civilians because there wasn't a lot of room to make the turn."

Marines made it out of the marketplace and continued the mission of transporting the recruits to the processing center before they were sent to Habbaniyah for their boot camp.

Fellow Marines join park search

Third day ends with injured Boulder climber, 21, still missing

A group of fellow Marines joined the effort to find Lance Hering, and his mother donned a Semper Fi shirt Friday before heading up a mountain trail, but the third day of searching ended with the 21-year-old still missing.
Lloyd Hering believes his youngest son could be anywhere in the state -– disoriented and just trying to get by.


By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News
September 2, 2006

More likely, the Marine lance corporal from Boulder who returned from a tour in Iraq one month ago is lying unconscious somewhere in the steep, craggy terrain of Eldorado Canyon State Park outside Boulder.

"I believe he's out there alive, but he may be lying down," Lloyd Hering said as 100 people fanned out in the park. "He's a climber. He loves to stop and boulder.

"He could scale a freaking rock then stop and lay down," Lloyd Hering said.

He pushed a photograph in front of news cameras of his son laughing at a birthday party he attended four days before he went missing after being injured on a hike.

Lance's older brother, 23-year- old Brendan, an Air Force lieutenant stationed in Louisiana, flew to Boulder on Thursday to join the search along with his father and mother, Elynne, a teacher.

His father answered a question many have been asking themselves: Could Lance Hering have been trying to get out of returning to the Iraq war?

"No," Lloyd Hering said. "He may be on the run from his own confusion, but he is not on the run from Iraq."

Lance Hering was scheduled to be shipped off to Camp Pendleton in California in a couple weeks.

Lloyd Hering, a Vietnam veteran, said he checked his son closely for signs of stress when he returned home from the Middle East after seven months.

Since he's been home, Lance Hering has spent his time climbing, hanging out with friends and talking positively about his role as a Marine.

"He sees himself as a Marine," Lloyd Hering said. "I think he came back healthy - physically and mentally."

Marine staff Sgt. Benjamin Steck helped recruit Hering. He recalled how Hering approached him at a table at Fairview High School a couple years ago and immediately did 30 or 40 pull-ups on a bar that was part of the exhibit.

"He was the perfect applicant," said Steck, who joined the search Friday with other local Marines. "He excelled academically and was physically fit."

Steck helped prepare the recruit for boot camp. He said Hering would lead the three- or four-mile runs and take his new friends to his favorite climbing gym, The Spot Bouldering Gym.

Steck and a group of 10 Marines wore their camouflage fatigues, hoping that Hering would feel comfortable approaching them after being in combat recently. They were hoping to be the ones to find him.

"It's stressful knowing he came back from Iraq and now he's missing," Steck said. "You expect the worst and hope for the best."

Lloyd Hering described his son as "thoughtful, curious, very bright and very much his own person."

He also said his son is independent and passionate about climbing. "Our family motto is, 'If you're looking for Lance, look up,' " Lloyd Hering said.

Lance Hering and friend Steve Powers went bouldering and rock hopping Tuesday afternoon on South Boulder Creek in the park, then stayed to watch the sunset.

At some point on their hike back in the dark, Lance Hering fell more than 30 feet off the edge of the Eldorado Canyon Trail and tumbled over a short cliff. He hit his head on a rock.

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September 1, 2006

3/14 finishes Mojave Viper, prepares mentally for Iraq

Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III A Marine with 3/14 aims in on suspicious activity during his watch into the first night of the final exercise during Mojave Viper on Monday.

Marines from various active and reserve units across the country joined to supplement Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, as they prepared to deploy to Iraq as Provisional Military Police Battalion, Task Force MP, 3/14.


Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III
Combat Correspondent

Marines from various active and reserve units across the country joined to supplement Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, as they prepared to deploy to Iraq as Provisional Military Police Battalion, Task Force MP, 3/14.

The unit was activated in April and finished their training with the final exercise of Mojave Viper Thursday.

"We have a little bit of everybody," said 1st Lt. Jason Kaiser, executive officer. "It's a unique situation. We joined together about a month ago, but we've come together to go to combat."

The unit was largely supplemented with military policemen from 1st Marine Division, MP Company, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, while others came from 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, in Grand Prairie, Texas; and 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, in Seal Beach, Calif.

As Marines from units across the country were joined to fill 3/14's ranks, no military occupation specialist was spared - artillery, supply, military policemen - Marines from all walks of life in the Corps were taken into the unit.

"We're a mutt company," said Pfc. Philip Lawrence, military policeman, and Birmingham, Ala., native. "We're all just stuck together, but it works out."

Many of the Marines among the unit say they are prepared to go to Iraq, and some of them look forward to the day their boots hit the dirt.

"The anticipation is killing me," said Lance Cpl. Luis Corro, supply with Battery G, 3/14, and Newark, N.J., native. "At first, I didn't want to deploy with this unit. I wanted to deploy with my own unit, but we've really come together in the last month."

While most of the 3/14 anticipates landing in Iraq, not every Marine is excited. Some of them just look forward to the experience and the eventual return home.

"I want to get ‘r done and get it over with, come home and go back to school," said Willow Grove, Penn., native, Lance Cpl. Michael Berth, from Marine Wing Support Squadron 472 in Elkton, Mass.

The sergeants were given the time to train their own Marines first to better prepare them before coming together. With the added training before joining, they became more cohesive as one fighting unit, said Sgt. Adrian Perez, Battery D, 2/14.

"The Marines need to have a combat mindset before they go to Iraq, always have the mindset," said Perez. "Once you're there, it's too late.

The military policemen from Camp Pendleton added their own experience to the Mojave Viper training to give the Marines an added bonus and discard misunderstandings about their job before becoming a military police battalion in Iraq.

People are often confused about the actual duties of an MP, said Staff Sgt. Melvin Miller, military policeman with MP Company. He described an MP as a "grunt with a badge."

"There's a big misconception about MPs," he said. "We don't sit around in squad cars. We don't man gates. We're field MPs. Everything we're doing here in the Mojave Viper, we'll be doing in Iraq."

The Marines, most were working civilian jobs or going to school not long ago, evolved over the last couple months of training into a ready fighting force. While missions change, a Marine's readiness for combat will not.

"They've come a long way since we got them, said Miller. "In the short amount of time we've trained them, they succeeded. They learned to adapt. There's no doubt in my mind, if the mission changes when we get there, they'll be able to adapt."

Battalion of Marines prepares for third deployment

More Marines from North Carolina are being sent to deadly Anbar province in Iraq, where three Marines have been killed so far this week, as part of a routine troop rotation.

The Marine Corps said the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune will leave Wednesday.


Published on Friday, September 01, 2006
The Associated Press

The force of about 900 Marines will battle insurgents and train Iraqi troops, according to a statement.

Marines in the battalion have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan twice since 2004.

Marines Gear Up To Serve Overseas

20 local Marines from Company "A", 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, based in Charleston, will head to Iraq Monday.

"I was on my lunch break at work and I got a call on my cell phone."

Cpl. Josh Sturgill wasn't the only one who got that phone call. Now, a handful of Marines from Company "A", 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in Charleston are prepping to head overseas.


Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 ; 05:31 PM
Story by Kristen Sell

"I was on my lunch break at work and I got a call on my cell phone."

Cpl. Josh Sturgill wasn't the only one who got that phone call. Now, a handful of Marines from Company "A", 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in Charleston are prepping to head overseas.

"Definitely I feel very proud for what I’m doing," says 20-year-old Daniel Berry. "How many people can say they went over and helped serve their country?"

"It's kinda hard just letting go but he tells me he's ready for a change and I guess if he's ready I should be ready also...but its tough," says Patricia Dicken. Patricia's son is leaving too. She says he's wanted to be a Marine since he was 12 and now finally gets the chance.

"I'm ready to serve my country," her son, Nathan Wagner says.

Their bags are packed and on Monday, 20 brave men will leave Iraq. But as the day draws closer, their loved ones realize how hard it will be to say goodbye.

"I guess the hardest part of him leaving is that it could be the last time imp going to see him again," says 17-year-old Ryann Bowles. But even though she's scared of the dangers he faces, she looks forward to that day he comes home.

"Just, I love him and he makes me happy and I was glad to be with him when I could and I know he'll be back for me."

Her boyfriend, Josh, popped the question in June. But Ryann says she'll wait until he returns to plan their wedding.

Hansen-based Marines depart on Iraq deployment

Staff Sgt. Earl Masterson embraces his wife Stephanie Aug. 22 at the 9th Engineer Support Battalion armory on Camp Hansen before departing on a seven-month deployment to Iraq. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 1, 2006) -- The last of more than 350 Marines and sailors with 9th Engineer Support Battalion and various units within 3rd Marine Logistics Group left here for Iraq Aug. 25.


Sept. 1, 2006
Story ID#: 2006912303
By Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson, MCB Camp Butler

The 9th ESB Marines, who began deploying Aug. 21, said goodbye to loved ones and departed for a seven-month deployment to Iraq's Anbar province, where they will support I Marine Expeditionary Force.

The Marines are replacing other members of 9th ESB scheduled to return to Okinawa at the end of September.
The Marines' primary mission will be to clear improvised explosive devices from roadways and rebuild roads to make the supply routes faster and more efficient for Marines in the field, according to Lt. Col. Mark Menotti, 9th ESB's commanding officer.

The Marines will also provide construction support to the Iraqi community and Iraqi Security Forces.

9th ESB geared up for the deployment in July during a three-week pre-deployment training exercise at Camp Fuji, Japan.

"We trained on everything to better prepare us for our deployment," Menotti said. "We trained on convoys, how to spot an IED, weapons marksmanship and entry control. The training will help us greatly while we are in Iraq."

As Marines said goodbyes to loved ones, mixed emotions set in.

Former soldier Yiralys Suarez, wife of Sgt. Miguel Suarez III, participated in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Now she will experience the other side of a deployment while her husband is in Iraq.

"It's definitely going to be different as a stay-at-home mother rather than being deployed," she said. "I am definitely going to miss him."

Suarez, a bulk-fuel specialist with 9th ESB, said leaving his wife and two young children during his first deployment to Iraq will be hard.

"I am going to miss my family very much - as a matter of fact - I miss them already," he said.

BLT 1/5 enforces goodwill

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept 1, 2006) -- A small fishing village pier sitting just outside the gates of Camp Hansen in the town of Kin, has become a popular weekend retreat for both Okinawans and Americans. It may be the attraction to the turquoise-colored waters of Kin Bay that catches the curiosity of passers by, but over the years, the pier’s serenity has been tainted by a small pollution problem.

Sept 1, 2006
Story ID#: 200696114547
By Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin, 31st MEU

As part of a Marine Corps community relations program, over 100 Marines from Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent the day bringing back the pier’s luster by conducting a cleanup operation that went beyond a simple goodwill gesture.

“It’s more than just picking up trash,” said Navy Lt. Bruce Vaughn, the battalion’s chaplain and key coordinator for the project. “We’re affecting the attitudes of the locals and the Marines themselves.”

For 19-year-old PFC Chris Mechum, this project makes his time in Okinawa more meaningful.

“It makes me feel good helping the locals out because it puts a new perspective on helping others in need,” said the Benton, Kansas native. “We do police calls all the time but this one is for a better purpose.”

Kochi Chiyoko, Camp Hansen’s community relations director, coordinates several community relations projects throughout the year with unit chaplains and believes that the Marines are a good asset for strengthening neighborly values.

“Many people from other parts of the island come here and pollute the pier’s seawall and when the Marines come here to help, it is like being a good neighbor.”

Takashi Minei agrees. He is the president of the Kin Town Fisherman’s Association. Minei’s fishing market and dock is a popular attraction for those looking to buy fresh fish weekly. When the pier is clean, it brings a good feeling to the fishermen coming in and out of the bay.

“I am very happy that the Marines came here today because it is very very helpful to me and the others who work here every day,” Minei said.

The 31st MEU is comprised of nearly 2,000 Marines and sailors who are capable of performing a variety of combat-related missions but can also rapidly respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

Hundreds gather on Hansen to honor fallen EOD Marine

(Sept. 1, 2006) -- More than 200 people gathered in Camp Hansen's West Chapel Aug. 21 to honor a 3rd Marine Logistics Group Marine who died Aug. 16 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio from wounds he received while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq March 7.


Sept. 1, 2006
Story ID#: 20069124939
By Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson, MCB Camp Butler

Sgt. John P. Phillips, 29, of St. Stephen, S.C., was on his second tour in Iraq, serving as an explosive ordnance disposal technician with 3rd MLG's 9th Engineer Support Battalion, when an improvised explosive device struck the vehicle he was riding in near Fallujah.

Phillips suffered severe burns on more than 77 percent of his body, and he succumbed to his wounds after five months of treatment.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996 and received a military occupational specialty as a motor vehicle operator in 1997. He also served as a Marine security guard at the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt from 1998-1999.

In January 2001, Phillips left the Marine Corps to pursue a new career, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he reenlisted.

He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the first time in February 2004 as a motor vehicle operator and served there for seven months. In December of that year, Phillips moved into the EOD field.

He was assigned to 9th ESB in August 2005, and he deployed to Iraq in February 2006.

At the memorial, those who knew him recalled Phillips' dedication to his job and his Marines, as well as his determination to make any situation calm.

"He regarded his Marines as more important than himself," said Sgt. Michael Chapman, an EOD technician with 9th ESB. "His leadership and knowledge inspired others, and he is a representative of what all Marines should be."

Chapman also remembered Phillips as a "good Christian man."

"He lived his life with Christ, which is why I know he is in Heaven right now," Chapman said.

Sgt. Jorge Pereira, an automotive organizational mechanic with 3rd MLG and friend of Phillips', served with him in Iraq in 2004 when the two were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Pereira described Phillips as an eager and energetic Marine who always wanted to be either a reconnaissance or EOD Marine.

"Before our unit was supposed to come home from Kuwait a couple years ago, he stayed behind for an extra three weeks so he could get himself into the EOD field," Pereira said. "I told him he was crazy, but that's what he wanted to do because he really believed in it."

Lt. Col. Mark Menotti, 9th ESB's commanding officer, referred to Phillips as an absolute fighter and praised his commitment to the Corps.

"He (lateral) moved to a dangerous field," Menotti said. "He was a selfless Marine ... and he made the move for his country, Marine Corps and family."

Pereira said Phillips was an adept, proficient Marine who always passed on a wealth of knowledge.

"He was one of the smartest guys I have ever known," Pereira said. "He taught me a lot when he was in his first (military occupational specialty) field. I remember one time he went to a course at 29 Palms that was aimed at infantry tactics, and he finished first, beating the other grunts. That's the kind of person he was."

Days after Phillips' Marine Corps family mourned him here, his immediate family, loved ones and hundreds of Americans who never even knew him attended his funeral services in South Carolina.

The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston, S.C., reported that family and friends filled the pews of Russellville Christian Church Aug. 26 while more than 200 Patriot Guard Riders gathered outside to mourn Phillips. Phillips was laid to rest with full military honors at Sunset Memorial Cemetery in nearby St. Stephen.

According to their Web site, the Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of patriots from across America who attend funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests and show sincere respect for the fallen, their families and their communities and shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protestors.

Phillips is survived by his wife, Stephanie Phillips, whom he married in early June in a small bedside ceremony at the hospital in Texas. The Post and Courier reported that, "When he was inured in March, Stephanie Phillips left behind her job as an accountant, her brand new car and the apartment that the couple shared in Niceville, Fla."

She was with him until the end.

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Moms bonded by military: State's first Blue Star Mothers unit since World War II gathers at VFW

WATERTOWN -- Every time Joanne Pratte of Bristol hears about a bombing in northern Iraq, she rushes to her computer and waits for an e-mail from her son, David.


Friday, September 1, 2006
Copyright © 2006 Republican-American

Pfc. David Pratt mans the machine gun turret of an Army Humvee. He's had three of the armored vehicles blown out from under him. In June, a roadside bomb blew up just behind his vehicle, wrecking it and knocking him senseless with a falling piece of pavement. His fellow soldiers nicknamed him "Jinx."

"I hear of a northern town being blown up and he better be on the Internet e-mailing me," his mother said in a mock stern voice to F. Mae Flynn of Wolcott, whose 28-year-old son, Staff Sgt. Jayson Flynn, just returned from a one-year tour in Iraq with the Army.

Flynn could empathize, as could a dozen other military mothers who gathered in a dimly lit games room of the Watertown VFW hall Thursday night to inaugurate a Blue Star Mothers chapter, the first in Connecticut since the end of World War II.

The Blue Star Mothers began during World War II as a social support group for military moms. Today, there are chapters in 23 states, though any military mother is welcome to place a blue-star flag in her window as a sign of pride. After Thursday's ceremony, Connecticut became the latest state to host a chapter.

"We work with veterans, we work with the troops and we work with each other, obviously," said the new group's president, the Rev. Lin McGee, who has one son who has returned from Iraq and another "on the front lines" with the Marines.

The group is open to any military mother in Connecticut. Those who gathered Thursday came from far and wide, from a variety of economic backgrounds. Some were clerks, others company executives, but they share a strong bond.

"Somebody is trying to kill my kid all the time," McGee said, as the moms chatted informally after induction ceremonies. "It's nuts. It's in your gut all the time, that any time... any time."

"But we don't think about it," she added, shrugging off her worries and smiling.

Because of a scheduling mixup, the Blue Star Mothers shared the VFW hall with dozens of local teenagers who gathered for a battle of the bands. The teens took the main hall, while the mothers made due with a games room.

The Blue Star ceremony proceeded to a soundtrack of garage-band rock and punk music of varying quality and much volume. But the mothers laughed off the inconvenience and made the best of it.

They decorated a card table with red, white and blue tinsel and spread out their organizational literature on the pool table.

McGee joked that, as the mother of 11 children, she should have no trouble talking over the ruckus in the next room.

Pratte met Flynn, who also volunteers with the Red Cross and often ships gifts to soldiers. In fact, one of her presents made it into David Pratt's hands.

Flynn's son had told her that several men were suffering from terrible nightmares. And so she made and shipped several dream catchers -- a Native American craft consisting of a small hoop decorated with feathers believed to promote good dreams. David Pratt still carries his with him wherever he goes.

In addition to supporting one another, members of the group hope to help raise money and donations for gifts to soldiers. Some will also volunteer to help veterans learn about their benefits.

But foremost, the women intend to help each other.

Nancy Johnston of Cromwell remembers trolling the Internet for every military Web site she could find after her son, Michael, joined the Army two years ago. She came across the national chapter of Blue Star Mothers and decided to enroll. When she went to renew her membership earlier this year, the group put her in contact with McGee.

"This is better, it's close-knit," Johnston said of the Connecticut chapter. "Nobody knows what you are going through unless they did it also."

On Sunday, two members of the new support group will share the sad duty of offering condolences to a woman who has realized the collective worst fear of the Blue Star Mothers, qualifying to be a Gold Star Mother.

At a wake for Marine Cpl. Jordan Pierson of Milford this Sunday, McGee and another member of the new chapter will present his mother, Beverly, with a Gold Star Flag and a memory book filled with poems, pictures and the condolences of dozens of Blue Star mothers from across the country.

The group plans to hold monthly meetings in Cromwell. For more information on the Connecticut Blue Star Mothers, visit their Web page at http://groups.msn.com/ConnecticutBlueStarMothers.

No luck in search

Volunteers spend second day looking for missing Marine who fell in Eldorado Canyon

ELDORADO CANYON - Tall pine trees and steep, rocky terrain continued to hide a young Marine from the view of helicopters hovering above and search-and-rescue teams scouring a mountain to find him Thursday.


By Bianca Prieto, Rocky Mountain News
September 1, 2006

Along a trail, a two-hour hike from the Eldorado Canyon visitors center, a bright plastic strip marked a tree where Lance Hering, 21, was last seen.

"Lance! Wake up, Lance!" yelled his father, Lloyd Hering, not far from where his son disappeared. "You gotta wake up! Answer me!"

But there was no sign of the 6-foot-2-inch man from Boulder, who went missing sometime in Wednesday's early hours. He fell about 10 p.m. Tuesday during a hike and suffered a head injury.

His friend Steve Powers was hiking with him and stayed with Hering until he regained consciousness, about four hours after he slipped into the ravine, said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle. Once Hering was alert, Powers told him to stay put while he went for help.

But when a search group returned almost five hours later, Hering was gone. Only his climbing shoes, a water bottle and blood remained.

For a second day, about 80 volunteers searched the rugged terrain southwest of Boulder. Dog and horse teams combed trails, while volunteers used a grid search pattern to try to locate Hering.

"It's Colorado at its most extreme," Lloyd Hering said of the area where his son fell. "It's the kind of place my son loves."

Missing-person fliers greeted visitors to the state park and were taped to poles at trailheads. A photograph of the serious-looking, buzz-cut man stared straight ahead. Below the photo was his description.

"It's been a frustrating day," Pelle said Thursday evening. "There have been no new clues, no sightings."

Pelle said the search would continue through the weekend and he planned to call in statewide resources for help. The park and trails are open to the public, but parking areas near the visitor center are closed.

Hering was in Colorado on leave and was scheduled to return soon to his base at Camp Pendleton in California, said Lloyd Hering. He had returned from his third tour of Iraq about a month ago.

Authorities don't suspect foul play, drugs or alcohol. They don't believe Hering would have gone missing on purpose because of information from Hering's parents and friends, Pelle said.

"He could be down, unconscious, deceased or wandering," Pelle said. "We have to treat this as the real thing."

Hering is young, fit and has survival and first- aid training, though a head injury could have disoriented him or caused him to act erratically, Pelle said.

Hering was last seen wearing a black shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes. He may be bleeding from his head. Anyone who sees him is asked to call Boulder County Sheriff's Office at 303-441- 4444.

"We want to find this boy," Lloyd Hering said. "If you see him, grab him and call 911."

[email protected] or 303-954-5219

Missing climber's dad issues plea

ELDORADO SPRINGS CANYON — The father of a missing Marine who vanished with a head injury today asked for help in finding his son in the narrow, wooded canyon near Boulder.


By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News
September 1, 2006

More than 100 searchers from throughout Colorado are expected to join the search today for Lance Hering, 21, a Marine on leave after his third combat tour in Iraq, who was hiking in the area on Tuesday with a friend, Steve Powers. Hering fell, injured his head and lost consciousness. Powers waited until Hering was conscious, told Hering to rest and not move and left to get help. When searchers returned five hours later, Hering was gone.

"I want to get Lance's face in front of the public so that if he’s out there and confused, someone can find him," said Hering, a Vietnam era veteran.

Dave Booten, emergency services supervisor for the Boulder County Sheriff's office, said searchers have already covered one square mile looking for Hering and they plan to expand the area to 2.5 square miles today.

Booten said six search dogs spent Thursday night checking the area for Hering, but were unable to locate any trace of the man. Booten said the search in the river near the diversion dam would also be expanded in the event Hering fell into the water.

Lloyd Hering said his son was in great shape, loved bouldering and climbing, but he fears Lance might have internal bleeding in his brain from the fall. He said his son may have been lethargic from the injury and found a place to lie down that's hard to find.

"He’s very self-reliant by instinct. It's not his instinct to ask for help," said Lloyd Hering, who also thanked all the searchers for their help.

Lloyd Hering said a group of Marines would be searching the north end of the Mesa Trail near Eldorado Canyon and a group of ROTC soldiers from the University of Colorado would join the search teams.

He also said friends of the family would check the Walker Ranch loop of the trail and his wife would work with the searchers in the area where his son was last seen. Lloyd Hering also asked hikers on the web of trails in the area to "just look for my boy."

He said Lance Hering was sent to Iraq in January and returned on leave in August. Lloyd Hering dismissed any suggestion his son intentionally disappeared to avoid returning to Iraq.

"He may be on the run from his own confusion but he is not on the run from Iraq," Hering said. "My son has never run from problems."

Click on photo for description and credit.

Military working dogs share ‘Bastard’ burden

Military-working dog handlers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment train their dogs on attack techniques at Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq, Sept. 1. The group works side-by-side with Marines to take a bite out of insurgency during various combat operations. All Marines are currently serving a seven-month deployment in the Habbaniyah area under Regimental Combat Team 5. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Sept. 1, 2006) -- The “Betio Bastards” are taking a bite out of insurgents with the help of some four-legged friends.


Sept. 1, 2006
Story ID#: 20069661948
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment aren’t patrolling alone; they’re taking along man’s best friend, military-working dogs, to assist in combat operations. The canines are running, crawling and even braving insurgent fire right alongside their Marine handlers.

“The dogs patrol, clear houses and insert on boats with Marines,” said Cpl. Eric R. Snipes, a military working dog handler assigned to the battalion.

The 21-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M, said sometimes the dogs enter insurgent strongholds first. Their keen sense of hearing, smell and high-level of discipline assists Marines in finding and fixing insurgents in this area west of Habbaniyah.

“The battalion keeps us busy with combat missions,” said Cpl. Vincent Acevedo, also a military working dog handler with the unit. That’s good for our dogs because it keeps them sharp.”

The 20-year-old from New York City said the dogs are not only saving Marines lives but also the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians who walk the streets on a daily basis.

Acevedo named his dog CAR, the shortened version of Combat Action Ribbon Marines earn in combat under fire. CAR earned his name, several times over. He’s been right there when Marines dug up buried weapons caches, and he’s even braved enemy rocket-propelled grenade attacks.

When Acevedo, CAR and other Marines were headed to a firm base, they started receiving RPG and machine-gun fire from a chicken coop.

Marines, CAR included, took it all in stride.

“They took care of the situation,” Acevedo said. “They sent a squad out and moved into the next house. That night we stayed in that house.”

When all seemed well, the unit was attacked again.

CAR alerted Acevedo and other Marines when they started receiving a barrage of enemy mortar fire.

“A round landed about 10 meters away from me and my dog,” Acevedo said.

The blast was deafening. Acevedo said with all the commotion, explosions and Marines scrambling for cover and mount security, he couldn’t hear a thing. Still, CAR was there by his side.

“I just saw the dog barking, but there was no audible sound,” he said.

It was CAR who led the squad to safety. Acevedo and the other Marines moved out of the area before the enemy could pinpoint the unit’s position.

It’s not just Acevedo who’s convinced of CAR’s abilities and his performance in combat. Marines walking the beat alongside him rest easier knowing he’s there.

“It’s good to have the dogs around,” said Pfc. Malik J. Staggers, a 19-year-old rifleman from Bronx, N.Y., assigned to K Company. “They save a lot of lives.”

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