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October 31, 2006

Marines museum tries to take you into war zones

QUANTICO, VA. - Lance Cpl. Matthew Stephens, who returned to Camp Lejeune from Iraq just last month, figures that for the new National Museum of the Marine Corps to truly convey his experience in Ramadi, the exhibit hall would have to be the pitch black of night.


Modified: Oct 31, 2006 06:12 AM

Security guard Jackie Rodriguez checks out an exhibit in the main room of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

Barbara Barrett, Washington Correspondent

Tourists would have to run, dashing across pockmarked pavement in night-vision goggles, aiming their weapons at every window, tensed for any sound that might be either a cat jumping off a wall or six insurgents about to open up.

Their hearts would be pounding, their breath coming hard, the hunger and exhaustion long ago faded to leave only adrenaline and, maybe, a bit of fear.

That, anyway, is how it was for Stephens.

"You'll never fully understand war unless you were there," he said. "It does a number on your mind."

The museum, which opens to the public Nov. 13, just after Veterans Day, can't replicate the experiences of Marines who have served in battle since the Revolutionary War.

But it will try.

By leading visitors through darkened exhibits, piping in the whizzes of bullets and the wash of a chopper's rotor blades, the museum's creators aim to educate visitors about the Marines' work in wars that, often, the grunts themselves didn't fully understand.

There will be oral histories about bloody battles, a notebook of letters home from troops, a wall of coin-sized insignias, one for each of more than 6,000 lives lost in Iwo Jima.

"I think the most important thing this museum can do is put you in the position Marines were in and let you draw your own conclusions," said Lin Ezell, the museum's director. "There's no right or wrong answer. We're not guiding. We're just saying, 'This is what happened.' "

The museum opens as the United States' civilian and military leadership is struggling with a war that brings near-daily reports of casualties. At any time, 25,000 Marines are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 840 have died.

More than 230 of those were from North Carolina or were stationed at Camp Lejeune.

"I think there's two sides to museums," said Stephens, 20, of Hoover, Ala. "Number one, there's the experience: 'Oh my God, they had to do that?' Teaching what they're going through.

"And then teaching for the future: 'Man, this is what happens when people start wars?' "

Planning for the $90 million Marines museum began in 1999, long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It took years for the Corps' heritage foundation to raise the millions in a public-private partnership to hire architects, collect artifacts, figure the best way to tell the Marines' story.

Founders decided to celebrate the grunts, rather than the generals, and to build on the Corps' long tradition of inspiring young Marines through its history. The museum includes three "immersion" exhibits that attempt to help visitors experience battles in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

What you'll see

There may be a lot of traffic from North Carolina. Camp Lejeune, some three hours southeast of Raleigh, is one of the service's largest bases. Just north of Lejeune is Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Visitors traveling north on Interstate 95 first will be struck by the museum's architecture, a twisting pyramid of glass and steel soaring skyward at an angle that evokes the famous image of the Iwo Jima flag-raising in World War II.

Inside, visitors walk into the expansive "Leatherneck Gallery," a towering atrium strung with Marines aircraft and surrounded by famous quotes etched high in the stone walls.

"Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" reads one from 1st Sgt. Dan Daly, yelling to his men during a charge in World War I. Ezell expects the gallery will be a place of reflection, especially for older veterans.

"They will have emotions," she said. "You'll confront ghosts and demons and heroes. And yourself."

Beyond the atrium, visitors face combat.

In Korea's Chosin Reservoir, 250 men of the Fox Company hunkered along the icy Toktong Pass supply route, spending five days defending it from an onslaught of Chinese communist soldiers, said retired Col. Joseph Alexander, a Marines historian from Asheville who consulted for the museum and wrote about 800 captions for the exhibits.

Half the men were killed.

To fully explain that standoff, the museum would have to import piles of dead bodies, plunge the temperature to 20 below zero, invoke frostbite in its visitors and keep them awake for days in foxholes, overwhelmed by the stench of human waste and death.

"The smell of war is death," said retired Maj. Richard Spooner, a member of the museum's historic foundation, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. "It's awful. I'm sorry, but war is a thing that can't be described. But we hope they'll see enough of it to see that strong men have made many sacrifices on their behalf."

In the museum, the moonlit TokTong pass will be a chilly 58 degrees, with the outline of Chinese soldiers' bodies in the snow. There will be flares and the shouts of Marines.

But it won't be war.

"I can't get there. I can suggest it," Alexander said.

In the Vietnam exhibit, visitors pass through the fuselage of a CH-46 helicopter amid the sounds of bullets pinging off the metal and shouts to get the hell off as visitors descend into the hot zone of Hill 881 South. Nearby, a life-size Marine chaplain kneels over a dead troop.

"But nobody's shooting at you," Alexander said. "You can't hear the shriek of the mortar coming in, the final blast of it going off and the screams. There's not a cloud of dust to choke you.

"You're actually just walking into a diorama."

The tools of war draw the curiosity of children and adults alike, said Richard Kohn, a former chief of history for the Air Force and a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. "It's a fascinating issue. Why do people kill each other?"

Curators spent years gathering artifacts and poring through documents to create the exhibits. The museum reconstructed a bullet-riddled building in Vietnam from an old photograph, punctured the tire on a howitzer because the tires frequently went flat from flying shrapnel. To re-create the sands of battlefields, curators sent soil samples to the exhibit designers.

Some designers are themselves former peace activists who had been uncomfortable with troops -- but now feel some kinship.

"Maybe the museum's changed my mind a little bit," said scenic artist Pam Barlowe, kneeling on the floor as she stuffed sandbags one by one. She looked over to a mannequin Marine aiming a machine gun from a bunker.

"What's changed my mind is, it's a chance for families to heal," Barlowe said. "People come in here, and they start talking about their old wounds."

Memories of combat remain fresh for Stephens, the Marine from Lejeune. Now home on leave, he looks into society and sees ambivalence about Iraq.

"But if you can get a museum that presents information, then maybe people can open up a little bit and say, 'Wow, I didn't know they were going through that,'" he said. "It's all about people caring."

Iraq tough to portray

The national museum holds little from America's current war, but curators already are thinking how best to honor its fighters.

"It's impossible to put into historic perspective what's happening today," Ezell said. Still, she added, the museum couldn't very well open without something on the war on terror.

So one room will be dedicated to combat photography and artwork, showing Marines assisting with recovery at the World Trade Center and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alexander, the retired colonel from Asheville, wants the nation's next generation of politicians and security advisers to visit museums like this one, to think about what's going on now and what could happen in future conflicts.

"It might make them think about what the sacrifices are," Alexander said. "Here's what the cost is. Is it worth it? Often it is."

Airport USO Is Best-Kept Secret

Part of old Terminal 1 is reborn as a welcoming space.

Lindsay Smith sat Monday at the front counter of the shiny new USO at Ontario International Airport , looking toward the front door.


11:16 PM PST on Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Press-Enterprise

"This place is beautiful," Smith said. "I just wish we had more soldiers and sailors coming through."

The 75-year-old retired Navy pilot and three other volunteers have had long, lonely vigils since the $600,000 facility opened Oct. 9 in a former Southwest Airlines section of the old Terminal 1, which was replaced eight years ago by two new terminals.

Ron Dye, retired chief deputy of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, is director of the United Service Organizations facility at Ontario International.

Dye said signs announcing the new USO have been put up at Traveler's Aid booths in the airport's two other terminals, and fliers are handed out in the airport to traveling military personnel.

Officials at nearby bases, including the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, north of Barstow, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, are being encouraged to tell their troops.

There is not much traffic from March Air Reserve Base near Moreno Valley, except for Marines deployed through there on their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan.

So far, only about 150 of the 20,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who pass through the airport each year have found their way from the airport's two terminals to the USO off Vineyard Avenue.

Sixty-five of those popped in unannounced in two waves, including the 45 Marines fresh from duty in Iraq who arrived one recent Saturday morning.

"It was a shock, because we had a lone volunteer here," Dye said. "We hadn't had more than nine in a given day at that point. Fortunately, the volunteer on duty had a military background. She drafted three of the Marines and told them to wash their hands, put on plastic gloves and start making sandwiches."

By the time Dye and several other volunteers arrived less than two hours later, the Marines had been fed, entertained with videos and books, and bivouacked.

There was a repeat of that crunch Monday morning, when 20 soldiers stopped by en route to Fort Irwin for a month of training. By midafternoon, the volunteers were alone again -- ready to pass out hot dogs, small pizzas and all the candy bars and potato chips a GI could consume.

Dye expects things to change soon.

"I think we are going to see a great increase over the holidays," he said. "A lot of servicepeople like to be home for the holidays and are going to be traveling."

If there are no flight delays to leave them with time to kill at the airport, the military will step in eventually to fill the USO, he said.

"When the military books flights, it's not always done with the convenience of the troops in mind, but with the cost of the ticket," he said. "Sometimes, to save money, they will have the troops have a several-hour layover."

That's when the airport's USO facility comes in handy, he said, with its library, seven recliners and 23-seat theater, equipped with a 65-inch television and a wide selection of DVDs. That's not to mention the canteen, stocked with food, and a family room with child's bed, playpen and diaper-changing table.

Construction of showers is still under way. And with seven laptop computers on hand, Dye is concluding negotiations to install a wireless Internet system.

A patio provides a view of the runway.

Equipment has arrived that will allow troops to read a book in front of a video camera and make a DVD to be mailed home with the book.

"If a soldier is being deployed, his or her child can follow along while Daddy or Mommy reads to them," Dye said.

Like everything else at the facility, the service is provided at no charge.

Money is raised through donations and fundraising events, including a golf tournament in Los Angeles and the raffle of a 2007 Jeep Wrangler.

Tickets for the drawing, which are $100, will be sold on Election Day, when the USO will make its most dramatic attempt to get attention.

A public grand opening will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the old terminal, offering displays of uniforms and military vehicles indoors and military aircraft on the tarmac.

Smith and his wife, Fay, 79, are not waiting to put out the word.

Dye talks about the night, about a week before the USO opened, when the Smiths were returning from a funeral in Pittsburgh and met a soldier in baggage claim at the Ontario terminals. It was 8:30 p.m., and he had orders to get to Fort Irwin by midnight.

"He told us he was going to get a bus in Claremont," Lindsay Smith said. "We were going to San Dimas so we said we would give him a lift."

When they got to Claremont, the bus station was closed.

"I asked him when he ate last," Fay Smith said. "He said he had a candy bar on the plane. So we took him to dinner."

After dinner, they drove him to Barstow, only to find the bus station there closed. They then drove him the 35 miles to the fort. He arrived at 11:55 p.m., and the Smiths drove home.

"That's the way these volunteers are," Dye said. "They're out there because they want to be here."

He added, "And a lot of them dug deep in their pockets to get us solvent."

Contributions can be sent to the USO, P.O. Box 4256, Ontario, CA 92751.

*Picatinny reservists march home

Marine unit that lost Whippany H.S. grad back from Iraq

ROCKAWAY TWP. -- A parade and welcome home ceremony were held Monday at Picatinny Arsenal for a Marine reserve unit which lost a young lance corporal just before leaving Iraq.



About three dozen reservists aboard two flatbed trucks were standing and waving to friends, family and other supporters gathered by the Marine barracks building at Picatinny.

Amid dozens of supportive posters lining the outside of the building, one stood out.

It read, "Welcome Home from the family of Lance Cpl. Chris Cosgrove."

Cosgrove, 23, of Cedar Knolls, died in Iraq on Oct. 1, just days before he was to return home with his fellow Marines. Cosgrove was one of 40 reservists from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines sent to Iraq seven months ago.

While several other reservists from the unit were injured in Iraq, Cosgrove was the only fatality.

The Marines were talking about ways to honor his memory on Monday, perhaps by helping with a scholarship fund.

"I knew him very well," said Cpl. Cleveland Atwater, 30, of Garfield.

Atwater said that he trained with Cosgrove, who was on a different assignment when he was killed.

Atwater said the tragedy was exacerbated by the timing, noting that Cosgrove was "so close to leaving" when he lost his life.

Monday's celebration came six days after the Marines returned home to Picatinny.

Taking it easy

Since then, the reservists had begun gradually getting reaccustomed to civilian life. Several were talking about going to their favorite restaurant and just taking it easy.

Lance Cpl. Remi Wojdala, 22, of Denville, said he was happy to have free time and to relax in fall temperatures -- as opposed to the 120-degree heat of Iraq.

Many of the family members who showed up Monday morning were making their second trip in a week to Picatinny, also having waited outside for their post-midnight return by bus.

"We're thankful that he's safe," Diane Revli, of Pompton Lakes, said of her son -- Cpl. Scott Isenhour, 25, of Lincoln Park.

She made him a favorite meal -- lasagna -- to celebrate his return last week.

"We're praying he doesn't get reactivated, and we'll pray for the group that's still there," Revli said as she waited for her son and other reservists at Monday's parade.

Bob Coletta, of Berkeley Heights, was looking for his son -- Lance Cpl. Michael Coletta, 23.

Cpl. Coletta was inspired to join the Marines by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his father said.

'In-your-face duty'

From Iraq, Coletta was in regular touch with his family about the challenges they were facing. One reservist was wounded in the leg; another was laid up by a foot infection.

"Seven months of in-your-face duty," his father said.

The experience was draining for his son but Bob Coletta said he had no regrets.

"You see death ... but at the same time, the Marines believe that they should be there," he said.

Atwater, a ShopRite store manager in Paramus, spoke of the challenges they had faced.

"It was anything you could expect or imagine," he said.

There were so many things to take in, he recalled. He had to protect fellow Marines and Iraqi civilians, while at the same time keeping an eye out for an elusive enemy.

"There was no peace out there at all," he said.

Atwater said the unit was proud of its efforts.

"There's definitely a tremendous amount of pride and respect for one another and knowing that we all did this together," he said.

Marine Corps museum seeks to take visitors inside battle zone

QUANTICO, Va. - Lance Cpl. Matthew Stephens, who just returned from Iraq, figures that for the new National Museum of the Marine Corps to truly convey his experience in Ramadi, the exhibit hall would have to be the pitch black of night.


Barbara Barrett
October 31, 2006
McClatchy Newspapers


Tourists would have to run, dashing across pockmarked pavement in night-vision goggles, aiming their weapons at every window, tensed for any sound that might be either a cat jumping off a wall or six insurgents about to open up. Their hearts would be pounding, their breath coming hard, the hunger and exhaustion long ago faded to leave behind only adrenaline and, maybe, a bit of fear.

That's how it was for Stephens, anyway.

''You'll never fully understand war unless you were there,'' he said. ''It does a number on your mind.''

The museum, which opens to the public Nov. 13, just after Veterans Day, can't replicate the experiences of Marines, who've served in battle since the Revolutionary War. But it will try.

By leading visitors through darkened exhibits, by piping in the whizzes of bullets and the wash of a chopper's rotor blades, the museum's creators aim to educate visitors about the Marines' work in wars that, often, the grunts themselves didn't fully understand.

There will be oral histories about bloody battles, a notebook of letters home from troops and a wall of coin-sized insignias, one for each of more than 6,000 lives lost in Iwo Jima.

''I think the most important thing this museum can do is put you in the position Marines were in and let you draw your own conclusions,'' said Lin Ezell, the museum's director. ''There's no right or wrong answer. We're not guiding. We're just saying, 'This is what happened.'''

The museum opens as the United States' civilian and military leadership is struggling with a difficult war that brings near-daily reports of casualties. At any time, some 25,000 Marines are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 840 have died.

''I think there's two sides to museums,'' said Stephens, 20, of Hoover, Ala. ''Number one, there's the experience: 'Oh my God, they had to do that?' Teaching what they're going through.

''And then teaching for the future: 'Man, this is what happens when people start wars?'''

The museum began development in 1999, before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, plunged the nation into its battle with terrorism. It took years for the corps' heritage foundation to raise enough millions in a public-private partnership to hire architects, collect artifacts and figure the best way to tell the Marines' story.

Founders decided to celebrate the grunts, rather than the generals, and to build on the corps' long tradition of inspiring young Marines through its history. The museum includes three ''immersion'' exhibits that attempt to help tourists experience battles in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Visitors first will be struck by the museum's architecture, a twisting pyramid of glass and steel soaring skyward at an angle that evokes the famous image of the Iwo Jima flag-raising in World War II.

Inside, visitors walk i of war is death,'' said retired Maj. Richard Spooner, a member of the museum's historic foundation, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. ''It's awful. I'm sorry, but war is a thing that can't be described. But we hope they'll see enough of it to see that strong men have made many sacrifices on their behalf.''

In the museum, the moonlit Toktong pass will be a chilly 58 degrees, with the outlines of Chinese soldiers' bodies visible in the snow. There will be flares and the shouts of Marines.

But it won't be war.

''I can't get there. I can suggest it,'' Alexander said.

In the Vietnam exhibit, visitors pass through the fuselage of a CH-46 helicopter amid the sounds of bullets pinging off the metal and shouts to get the hell off as they descend into the hot zone of Hill 881 South. Nearby, a life-size chaplain kneels over a dead Marine.

''But nobody's shooting at you,'' Alexander said. ''You can't hear the shriek of the mortar coming in, the final blast of it going off and the screams. There's not a cloud of dust to choke you.''

Curators spent years gathering artifacts and poring through documents to create the exhibits. The museum reconstructed a bullet-riddled building in Vietnam from an old photograph, and punctured the tire on a howitzer because the tires frequently went flat from flying shrapnel. To re-create the sands of battlefields, curators sent soil samples to the exhibit designers.

The museum holds little from America's current war, but curators already are thinking how best to honor its fighters.

''It's impossible to put into historic perspective what's happening today,'' Ezell said.

Still, she added, the museum couldn't very well open without something about the war on terrorism. So one room will be dedicated to combat photography and artwork, showing Marines assisting with recovery at the World Trade Center and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alexander wants the nation's next generation of politicians and security advisers to visit museums such as this one, to think about what's going on now and what could happen in future conflicts.

''It might make them think about what the sacrifices are,'' he said. ''Here's what the cost is. Is it worth it? Often it is.''



Formal dedication: Nov. 10, with guests and President Bush.

Opens to the public: Nov. 13.

Cost: free.

Where: Quantico, Va., off Interstate 95.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Christmas Day.

Phone: (800) 397-7585, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

Web: www.usmcmuseum.org

Size: 118,000 square feet, to grow to 181,000 square feet.

Current exhibits: timeline of 231 years of Marine Corps history; exhibits on boot camp, female Marines, African-American Marines and the global war on terrorism; immersion exhibits and galleries on World War II, Korea and Vietnam; Leatherneck Gallery featuring historic Marines aircraft.

Future exhibits: Phase II will include the Colonial era, Civil War and World War I.


Source: National Museum of the Marine Corps

John Kerry: U.S. Soldiers Not 'Smart'

Sen. John Kerry has sparked outrage by suggesting that U.S. troops in Iraq are uneducated and not "smart.”


Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006 1:45 p.m. EST

At a campaign event for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at Pasadena City College on Monday, the Massachusetts Democrat and Vietnam veteran said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Kerry’s troop-bashing remarks belie the truth about the educational level of U.S. troops. According to figures readily available on the Internet, 99.9 percent of the enlisted forces have at least a high school education, 73.3 percent have some college, 16.2 percent have an associate’s degree or equivalent semester hours, and 4.7 have a bachelor’s degree.

What’s more, over 85 percent of field grade officers have advanced degrees – 70.7 percent have master’s degrees, 12.1 percent have professional degrees and 2.5 percent have doctorate degrees.

"Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who’ve given their lives in this,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said regarding Kerry’s remarks.

"This is an absolute insult.”

Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam veteran, also called on Kerry to apologize, saying: "The suggestion that only the least educated Americans would agree to serve in the military and fight in Iraq is an insult to every soldier serving in combat.”

Kerry on Tuesday tried to deflect the criticism by issuing a statement accusing Snow and "assorted right-wing nut-jobs” of distorting the remarks "to divert attention from their disastrous record.”

He added, in a seeming non sequitur: "I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.”

Critics like Vietnam veteran John McCain, Mister Senator?

October 30, 2006

When troops bring the war in Iraq home, For Marine reserve company, returning to Ohio is an unexpected battle

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Alone and in clusters, collars up to block the rain, thousands of people lined the streets on a gray October day in 2005 to welcome their warriors home. For 13 miles, they rose to wave, a few to salute, as the buses rolled slowly past. More than one tough Marine, homeward bound after a brutal tour in Iraq, shed a tear.


By Peter Slevin

Updated: 3:11 a.m. CT Oct 30, 2006

When they reached solid ground, still wearing their desert camouflage, the Marines embraced their families and embarked on the most jarring of transitions. They would discover in the following year that seven months in Iraq had changed them more than they could have imagined, guiding and afflicting them in ways they are still struggling to understand.

Marines who expected duty so light that boredom seemed probable instead saw almost daily combat and 23 men killed in action, more casualties than any U.S. company in Iraq. When it was over, they traded an edgy, exhausting regimen of forced alertness and sudden brutality for sheer ordinariness. Nothing at home felt as urgent or as meaningful, as thrilling or as awful.

The 160 survivors returned to work or college, to wives or girlfriends, sometimes to childhood bedrooms grown suddenly small. Many suffered flashbacks, drank hard, quarreled with their women and sought refuge in one another, laboring to replace the rugged discipline, power and purpose they had left behind in Iraq. Some turned to counselors, some to God, others to the solidarity and beery narcotic of the VFW hall.

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"It seems like everything you see reminds you of it. You drive through town and you see someone with a 'Support the Troops' sticker and it just starts going through your head again," said Sgt. Travis Brill. "Drink three, four, five beers. I find it easier to sleep when you don't have silly-ass things going through your head."

They fought as a unit and then scattered. In a series of conversations over the past year, more than a dozen Marines of Lima Company shared their experiences of Iraq and their reentry into the United States. Pieced together, scenes from their recent lives sketch a world of in-between, a landscape inhabited not only by them but also by countless others among the roughly 1 million military personnel who have returned from Iraq or soon will.

The survivors made it home from the war, but they brought the war with them.

Fall 2005: Columbus, Ohio
Staff Sgt. Guy Zierk broke up with his girlfriend on his fourth day back. He started drinking, ordering so many top-shelf vodkas and steaks that he churned through $5,000 in restaurant and bar tabs. He found himself "trying to find out the importance of things here," he said. "You think about car payments and bills and arguments in the family and who's going where for the holidays. And you try to compare that with the importance of who's shooting a rifle at you."

In some ways, Zierk, 31, had hated to leave Iraq, where he knew some streets better than he knew Columbus. He considered extending his tour. Then came the patrol when, exhausted and angry after watching so many good Marines die, he burst into an Iraqi house. He expected to find insurgents and make them pay.

Instead, he discovered two Iraqi women and a boy, maybe 16 years old. The scared teenager made no hasty moves, but it took every rational fiber in Zierk's body to keep from shooting him dead.

"The whole reason I didn't stay in Iraq was I would've killed people that didn't deserve to die," Zierk said, "and it wouldn't have served any greater good."

On Nov. 12, Zierk donned his dress blues -- white belt gleaming, black shoes shining, white hat crisp and snug -- for the annual Marine Corps Ball. Nearly 1,000 people packed a downtown hotel. His buddies were there, and so were parents and widows of the dead. The combination of clinking glasses and raw memories was too much.

He slipped away and walked through the streets of Columbus, alone.

A city's embrace
At McDonald's, customers thanked them. At nightclubs, people bought them drinks. Someone invited a group to the Super Bowl. A film crew produced a powerful documentary titled "Combat Diary." The mayor of Columbus, father of a Lima Marine, called them "true heroes."

The fact is, no one expected Lima Company to see so much combat, to become so decorated or so wounded, and certainly not to be adopted so strongly by the city. Lima was a reserve unit, an amalgam of students and workers, almost all from Ohio, who mustered every month to train for duty that might never come.

When it came, the citizen-soldiers found themselves posted at a Soviet-built dam on the Euphrates River in western Anbar province, home to some of the most violently contested territory in Iraq.

Between Feb. 28 and Sept. 30, 2005, the company launched patrols and fought joint operations amid 1,700 square miles of mostly Sunni areas from Hit and Haditha to the Syrian border, targeting anti-American insurgents and their supporters. In addition to the 23 dead, 31 Lima Marines were wounded, 17 of them badly enough to be sent home.

After the headlines and the public worrying, many well-meaning Columbus residents honored Lima's men and felt they knew them. The Marines were grateful but dubious, especially of the questions: "What was it like over there? How many Iraqis did you kill?"

A Dissatisfied Warrior
In central Ohio, 80 miles from Columbus, Travis Brill, 30, returned to work at a steel mill.

"I was leading combat troops in Iraq, and now I'm picking up scrap metal," he said one desolate day. "They even have rules for walking through the parking lot."

Trained as a warrior, he had prayed for combat, and months after returning from battle, his brain was still tuned to his Iraq soundtrack. He remembered Pantera's "Walk" blaring through military loudspeakers as he knocked off enemy fighters with his booming .50-caliber machine gun.

"If you know you're on the verge of being blown up any second," he said, "you're feeling alive."

Brill said he and maybe 15 other Marines had a bet of $100 each on who would get the first Iraqi kill, who would be the first Marine to be wounded, who the first to die. The "winner's" sum would go to his survivors. Once the war became a grind, the bet no longer seemed so clever and they dropped it.

"I was pretty optimistic at first. I went there with the right mind-set that I wanted to help these people, and they changed it pretty quickly. They don't give a damn, and all they want to do is blow you up when you're not looking. It sucks when you lose so many of your buddies for no good reason."

Even as he cursed the war's slow progress, he felt grateful to be part of a fight bigger than himself. As he left, he felt certain he was leaving business unfinished. Now, in the house Brill rents from his mother-in-law, he wakes up every night with Iraq on his mind. His baby daughter -- named Cami, for Marine camouflage uniforms -- cannot share her parents' bed. Brill is afraid of throwing a punch in his troubled sleep.

Open about how Iraq has changed him, Brill commented while playing poker at an Elks club that the challenge of killing enemy fighters took the fun out of hunting deer. "I'd rather kill a person," he said. "I love the hunt."

Fellow Marines have told him he needs counseling. He does not feel the need.

'You come back and . . . you're lost'
George Wentworth, a Navy Reserve medic known universally as "Doc," is the person Lima's Marines call when the walls are closing in. At 11 at night, at 3 in the morning, in the darkness just before dawn, they dial his number. Once when he tried to squeeze in a long weekend with his wife, he felt he never got off the telephone.

Within days of Lima's return, he abandoned his early goals of seeing no divorces and no domestic violence. He was not surprised: "You come back and, literally, you're lost."

Col. Charles W. Hoge, chief psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, recently told Congress that 10 to 15 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have post-traumatic stress disorder and a similar number have symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety. The rates are higher for reservists, a distinction that appears to emerge months after troops return home.

Wentworth, who has taken calls from panicked wives and distraught Marines, said: "There's no timeline for anybody to get over this. You look at Vietnam vets -- some of these guys didn't have problems until they retired from their civilian careers. And all of a sudden 20, 30 years later, it all came back to haunt them."

Spring: Washington, D.C.
One night at Shelly's Back Room in Washington, half a dozen lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers pressed Cpl. Jason Dominguez to tell war stories over Scotch and cigars. Instead, Dominguez, a legislative aide to a Republican congressman, offered a parable.

He recalled a political fundraiser three days after he returned from Iraq. As he studied contributors laughing and digging into the main course, he saw in his mind's eye a young American in uniform patrolling an Iraqi street, about to be blown to pieces. To the Ohio crowd, the dead Marine would be a news blip, barely noticed, quickly forgotten.

With a tongue sharper than usual, Dominguez, 26, wanted his new Washington friends to see what he saw, the American cause for which 23 of his fellow volunteers gave their lives.

"When I see things on the Hill, I think, 'This is all some big joke?' " he lectured. " 'This is a party?' This is not a party. It's a commitment. The men and women who died treated it that way. You need to treat it that way, too. If not, get out of our house, get out of our Congress."

They listened. He wonders whether they heard.

"There are times when I'm walking the halls of Congress and it would feel so good to strap on my body armor and be back in the fight," Dominguez said. "When I was there, I knew: This matters. We were able to bring them one step closer to what it means to not live under tyranny."

About day-to-day political life, he is less sure.

"Is this what my friends died for?" he finds himself asking on days when he feels alone in a crowd. "It's amazing how oblivious we are as Americans to how much all of this costs," he said.

March: Drill weekend
Lima Company mustered March 24 for its first drill weekend since its return. Radio bulletins reported that 26 Iraqis were killed that day in Baghdad. President Bush, speaking at a Republican fundraiser in Indiana, declared the United States could be beaten only if it lost its will.

"Democracy," he said, "is on the march in Iraq."

Inside headquarters, Marines traded high-fives and hugs. One walked with a wooden cane. Another had a special boot to hold his ankle in place. A third had a noticeable limp. Roughly half the company had mustered out or moved on, their places filled by fresh reserves who needed to be trained.

The next morning, Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell, commander of the 4th Marine Division, addressed the company and awarded medals to the families of the fallen. At 58, he keeps his gray hair short and his handshake firm, but tears ran down his cheeks as he faced the young widows, the parents and the children too young to understand.

Speaking later, O'Dell said that consoling those grieving a loss from Iraq was his toughest duty in his 38 years as a Marine. "Every one of them I have felt very personally. They're like my kid brothers," said O'Dell, a father of five whose own brother died at 17.

O'Dell believes Lima Company performed admirably, with guts and restraint, but was asked to do too much. That is as far as he will go. "These are not decisions I agreed with," he said, "so I will not be on the record until I retire."

Before he left the drill deck, the general announced that Lima Company probably will be deployed again next year, to Chad.

Beyond the casualties
To a man, Lima Marines wish outsiders would recognize them for their commitment and their successes, not for their casualties. They point to weapons confiscated and insurgents killed. They talk about holding ground where Iraqis voted in large numbers and delivering soccer balls to children.

The Marines say they were not inclined, by instinct or training, to question the mission.

"It was just like, 'Hey, we're going.' There was never any discussion of the whys," said Sgt. Andrew Taylor, who studies Arabic in hopes of becoming a U.S. agent overseas. "We didn't join up to argue about the right or wrong. I don't think anybody cared."

"If it fails," Taylor said of the Iraq campaign, "that doesn't change the fact that we were trying, we were making an effort. It's kind of a bad analogy, but it's kind of like Christmas: You give someone a present they don't like, but at least you gave it to them and made the effort."

What now, as Iraq struggles and a majority of Americans oppose the war?

"If we pull out of Iraq too soon, every single American who died over there will have died in vain," said Gunnery Sgt. Larry Bowman, 36, an Ohio state trooper who blames his recent divorce largely on friction over his Marine devotion. "I'm a big believer that fires you don't put out are going to burn bigger."

April: Arlington National Cemetery
The dogwoods and azaleas stood in glorious bloom at Arlington National Cemetery on April 27 when half a dozen Marines arrived from Columbus. With the Pentagon visible through the trees and the Washington Monument rising in the distance, they made their way to Section 60, where names of the Iraq war dead were newly chiseled into white headstones and the seams still showed on fresh sod.

Finding familiar names, they crouched close in silent conversation. There lay Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Youngblood, a husband and father attached to Lima as a medic. Nearby were Staff Sgt. Anthony Goodwin and Lance Cpl. Christopher Dyer.

One of the visitors, John Dyer, had been to his son's grave before.

"You walk up," he said, "and you hope it's not there."

Dyer found himself replaying his final telephone conversation with his son.

"Are you getting enough sleep?"

"Dad, when I get home, I'm going to sleep for a week."

A few days later, a roadside bomb exploded and 19-year-old Chris Dyer was gone.

"To a certain extent, you reconcile yourself to never being comfortable," Dyer said, motioning toward the surviving Marines. "You just fake it, which is what I do."

Pride and pain
Staff Sgt. Steve Hooper tells of Marines swerving suddenly on suburban Ohio roads after spotting what in Iraq would be likely hiding places for bombs, and of Marines on an Indiana training mission refusing beef jerky because it reminded them of seared flesh.

When he is with his girlfriend, he does not discuss combat.

"I don't tell her a thing. I don't want her knowing a lot of things I did over there," said Hooper, a quiet Bronze Star winner who talks often with fellow Marines. "Some people are proud of it. Some people wonder if God will forgive them for what they did."

Hooper's sharpest pain is the death of Cpl. Andre Williams, 23, his second-in-command and closest friend. Williams died while hunting insurgents not long after videotaping a message for his daughter's sixth birthday. Hooper keeps reaching, asking himself if he could have done something, anything, to keep him alive.

Late one June night, as Hooper was driving to a bar after finishing his shift as a prison guard, the radio began playing the melancholy Green Day song "Wake Me Up When September Ends," adopted as a theme by some Lima Marines as they counted the days until their tour ended on Sept. 30. Later, it was the soundtrack of a memorial video for Williams.

"Ring out the bells again, like we did when spring began," the song goes. "Wake me up when September ends."

Here comes the rain again,

Falling from the stars.

Drenched in my pain again,

Becoming who we are,

As my memory rests

But never forgets what I lost .

As the song came on the radio, tears filled Hooper's eyes. He switched stations.

The war-peace switch
A skilled assassin in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Brian Taylor is a healer back home.

"Lift your heels up, girlie. Like this. You've got to help me out," he gently and playfully coached a frail woman with a brain dysfunction and a broken hip. "Can you catch a ball? We're going to play ball. Here. Catch the ball."

Taylor, 34, feels as though he came equipped with a war-peace switch. In Iraq, he spent endless hours silently studying insurgents through the scope of his powerful sniper's rifle, feeding on the tension of deciding "whether they take their next breath."

"Most of the time, you've got to go with a gut feeling," he said. "More than likely, you're right."

A good day, he said, was "when we got a bunch of bad guys and we had no casualties."

But the insurgents' successes, particularly their killing of six Ohio-based snipers ambushed while supporting Lima, left Taylor begging for more missions.

"I don't feel we were defeated," he said, "but I wish I could've killed a lot more. They got a lot of us."

Back home, he focused on moving forward, even as his war experience sometimes colored his days; a ringing car alarm in his quiet cul-de-sac left him "huffing, puffing, trying to get out of bed. I felt like an idiot." He proposed to his girlfriend on an Irish vacation. She gave birth to a baby boy in August. He returned to his physical therapy practice, flipping the switch, even as he continued to train for the next deployment and to remember his dead friends.

"Thinking about that stuff sucks," Taylor said. "Really, it's a crapshoot. Some end up winners and some end up losers."

August: Louisville
The day the Marines returned to Columbus, when legions of Ohioans embraced them, Jason Dominguez drove to the grave of a friend, Andre Williams. To his surprise and dismay, he felt nothing.

"I was so frustrated. One of my buddies from my squad was lying there, and I couldn't feel a thing," Dominguez said. "I went to Arlington and five of our guys are there. Same thing."

Dominguez never looked at the clippings that friends had saved for him. He chose not to open the trunk holding his Iraq gear, still dusted with desert sand and flecked with blood. He threw himself into his Capitol Hill job and later campaign work, in part to avoid remembering.

For months, through intense stretches, Dominguez held things together. Some nights, he would stare at the ceiling, only to fall asleep and struggle to wake up. On the worst nights, when he felt a powerful urge to be drunk, he willed himself to stay sober.

The last weekend in August, he drove south by himself to Louisville to see Sgt. David N. Wimberg's grave.

"I'm there to pay my respects, but man, something happened to me. I just dropped to my knees, wrapped my arms around his headstone and started bawling like a baby."

"It was bad," Dominguez said, "but it was good."

Summer: Reconnected
When Guy Zierk was in Iraq, a former girlfriend began sending e-mails. Her name was Kelly Koby, and when they were together, long before the Iraq deployment, she was not ready for a long-term romance. But she wrote to Zierk in Iraq, and he sent war soundings.

"I thought things were going to get easier as we come closer to our return date . . . but they haven't," Zierk wrote. "We've taken a few losses . . . and it's messing with me a bit. I just need to get my head in the game and things here are just making it difficult for me."

Zierk was dating another woman when he left for the war, but he ended that relationship soon after his return. Still, Koby did not hear from him. She held back, saying later, "I knew he needed to come to me on his own terms."

Seven weeks later, the telephone rang one night at Koby's apartment. Zierk wanted to pull his life together. To be, in Marine-speak, good to go.

Within four days, he told Koby he wanted to marry her.

Koby, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher, remembers glimpses of the world Zierk had not wanted her to see. He struggled in his sleep. A wine bottle crashed to the floor and he jumped. He sometimes seemed distant.

"Those guys are always with him, who didn't come back," Koby said. "It's not just a job to him, it's a sense of being. It is who he is. He is a war fighter."

Sometimes, back in school at Ohio State, Zierk is hungry to return to Iraq, to finish the battle and to lead Marines who understand and care. He is considering a new round of Officer Candidates School but has also taken the Columbus firefighting exam, thinking it may be time to stay close to home.

For days, he ignores his ringing cellphone and withdraws into solitary projects, most recently woodworking and an Iraq video montage. He falls into conversation with Marine friends about Iraq and life. The nightmares that shook him awake are ebbing. He feels more at ease than the Marine who nearly lost his cool and shot an Iraqi teenager.

One mellow evening in Gallipolis, Guy Zierk and Kelly Koby were married on a green lawn near the fast-flowing Ohio River. He wore his Marine uniform, and she wore a grand white dress. Together they passed beneath the raised swords of 10 Lima Company Marines, warriors home from Iraq.

They entertained their guests beneath a white tent, setting aside an empty chair and a black-shrouded table for the fallen. On the table was a lemon, for the bitter memory of loss. Salt, for dried tears. An overturned wine glass, for toasts no longer shared. And a rose, for love.

More than anything or anyone, it was Koby who helped Zierk get back on track.

"It's having her with me when I'm having a bad night," he said. "She's good to go."

While guests danced and friends told tales as they worked their way through the 32 cases of beer on ice, Zierk thought about being home, far from the war being fought on the Euphrates. He could hardly complain on this, of all nights.

"Yeah," he said, "but I still wish I were there."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

October 29, 2006

A new breed of Marines rises (MARSOC)


(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) An enemy soldier points his rifle from a third-story window, searching the shadows to pick off anyone heading this way.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

An eerie calm falls over this fabricated town rising out of the pine forests. With its narrow streets, park benches, stores, bank and a church with a lighted cross, the empty settlement has the look of a Hollywood movie set -- albeit one with generic names such as City Bank and Urban Clothing and Apparel.

Welcome to the Marine Corps' training ground for military operations in urban terrain. The Marines just call it "Combat Town."

It quickly lives up to its name.

Shortly after the enemy soldier sticks his head out the window for a wary look around, two Humvees with mounted machine guns roar in from either end of the street and quickly set up roadblocks.

Soon, Marines from the Humvees dash toward the safe house, kicking in doors and tossing "flash bang" grenades that explode with white-hot flashes and stun anyone inside. This security platoon shoots plastic-tipped bullets "simunitions" -- at the federal contractors playing terrorists inside.

"They sting a little when you get hit," says Capt. A.J. Johnson, one of the 250 Marines and contractors involved in the nightlong operation.

Helicopters approach from the horizon with their familiar eggbeater sound. After about a minute, one chopper swoops in with a red light blinking menacingly.

The copter circles the building, stirring up a dust storm. Then it touches down gently on the roof.

About a dozen Marines on board sprint down a rear ramp and across the roof and blast their way inside. Within a few minutes, the safe house is in American hands, and the Marines are searching for more clues to the terrorist network.

. . .

It may be a simulated battle, but it's serious business for the Marine Corps, which is now in the special-operations game.

Since February, the smallest branch of the nation's military has faced a substantial challenge: Create a 2,500-member Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

For the first time, the Corps is training to be part of the nation's lead military agency fighting terrorism. The U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., also oversees Army, Navy and Air Force special-operations forces.

The command center at Camp Lejeune in coastal North Carolina has throbbed with a sense of urgency since Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered it to train and deploy small groups of special-operations Marines as soon as possible.

"Is it hard for the Marine Corps? You bet it is," said Maj. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, MARSOC's commander. "You look at those young Marines out there and they're on their third or fourth tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, so it is very difficult. But once the decision was made to stand up MARSOC, everyone's gotten on board, and we've pushed forward very hard."

Hejlik enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 during the Vietnam War. He has held a number of high-level posts, including working at the U.S. Special Operations Command as director of its Center of Policy, Training and Readiness.

Much is different for the military in the post-Sept. 11 environment, he said.

"If you look at the way warfare had been in the past, it was easy to find the enemy, but hard to finish the enemy because everyone fought en masse. That's totally changed. Now it's extremely hard to find the enemy, and relatively easy to finish him."

Hejlik's special operators are preparing for tough, shadowy, small-unit assignments -- such as seizing and searching a terrorist safe house.

. . .

During the September training exercise in Combat Town, the Marines confiscated a computer to search for clues that could lead them to the next ring in the terrorist chain.

"Intelligence is playing a bigger and bigger role on fighting the war on terror," Hejlik said. This includes the use of specialists skilled at interpreting satellite photos.

Such imagery can be hard for even veteran Marines to fathom. "It looks like a bunch of land to me, with a guy standing there," Hejlik admitted.

Intelligence specialists, who will serve in each special-operations team, can say, "You know, this is a little out of whack from the last time the satellite went by," Hejlik said.

. . .

The Army has special-forces units such as the Green Berets and Rangers, the Navy has SEALs and the Air Force has its own units. Now the Marine Corps, known for amphibious and light-infantry prowess, is adding a continuous sea-based presence to the special-operations mix.

This company of about 120 men expects to be sent abroad with an ocean-going Marine Expeditionary Unit, making it the Marine Corps' first direct action and special-reconnaissance unit to ship out.

They will be deployed early next year with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which recently conducted urban combat training at Fort Pickett, with exercises in Blackstone, Petersburg and Hopewell. A MEU, with 2,200 Marines and sailors, typically spends six months at sea, ready for combat or humanitarian assignments.

The goal, Marine commanders say, is to prevent potential conflicts from starting. As a result, the Marine Corps' special-operations command is training the assault elements to search out terrorist groups. And MARSOC has a Foreign Military Training Unit to work with allied militaries in what planners call Phase Zero countries.

"Phase Zero is really preventing war from happening by preventing instability," said Col. Michael N. Peznola, commanding officer of the Foreign Military Training Unit. "We want to keep it at Phase Zero."

Peznola was deployed for several months in 1993 on the U.S. military relief mission to Somalia, scene of the fighting that led to the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."

The military's mission today is different. "We don't think in terms of months, but in terms of years. It's a long-term commitment for these countries so we can help them out," he said. "We seek long-term engagement rather than random acts of training."

Since February, the Marine Corps has sent four foreign military training units to Africa and South America.


. . .

At Camp Lejeune, the Corps has carved out a training center, called the schoolhouse, from the pines and dirt roads on the base, which is the size of Henrico County and has 14 miles of Atlantic coastline. While plans call for new buildings, for now the advisers are being trained in Spartan classrooms with no running water.

Classes include intensive language training along with the study of foreign weapons and other skills needed to operate abroad.

Much of the cultural training focuses on nations in Africa, South America and the "Stan" countries -- Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkistan and the like.

The Marines get a heavy dose of foreign languages, and they must take Arabic, Russian, Spanish or French.

They also receive mediation training.

"We're looking for the right kind of guy," Peznola said. "Not every man wants to learn a language and a culture and really work with partner nations."

Only men are eligible because the assignments involve combat-arms jobs that by federal law are not open to female Marines, said Maj. Cliff W. Gilmore, MARSOC's spokesman. Women do serve in noncombat positions in the special-operations command, such as logistics and administration, he said.

. . .

At the ceremony marking the start of MARSOC in February, a military band played the "Mission: Impossible" theme, underscoring the stealth nature of the new command.

The hardest part is filling "high-demand, low-density" jobs in intelligence analysis, communications and explosive ordnance disposal.

"They're so highly trained, you can only push them through school so fast," Hejlik said. "We're at war, so [time] is a commodity that's hard to come by." Coming tomorrow: Lost in translation in West Virginia.

Virginians see new mission as part of tradition

Marines from Richmond, Hopewell, Northern Virginia and Blacksburg have volunteered for the Corps' new special-operations units.

*Note: This article is referring to the new MARSOC unit.


Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Several are graduates of Richmond-area schools or Virginia colleges. Gathered in a conference room, they discussed their interest in special operations. The Marine Corps asked that the men's names not be used because they are part of small units to be deployed abroad.

"It takes a certain drive and personality," said a Navy corpsman who provides medical assistance to Marines. "It's a Type A personality.

"We're adrenaline junkies" surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking and motorcycling are common hobbies.

Many came from Force Reconnaissance units, Marines with special skills in conducting special operations and small-unit raids.

They see themselves as part of the Corps' history of finding ways to reshape itself and meet the latest threat -- similar to the roles played by the Marine Raiders of World War II and the Force Reconnaissance units of Vietnam and both Iraq wars.

"We're following in their footsteps," one Virginia Marine said.

One Northern Virginian brought an especially useful set of skills to Camp Lejeune. The young sergeant, born in Tunisia, spent five years in Baghdad with his father, who worked for the U.S. State Department during the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.

"I just remember a lot of air-raid sirens and air-raid drills," he recalled nonchalantly. "They had designated areas in the schools when air-raid sirens went off in Baghdad, and everyone had to go there."

He also lived in Syria, which he considers the friendliest nation in the Middle East. He said that given his upbringing, "it was definitely a lot more work filling out my application for security clearance."

Now the Arabic-speaking Marine helps his colleagues try to avoid cultural clashes, especially involving how Arabs react to Westerners, he said. -- Chip Jones

Marines search houses in Fallujah’s Shuhada district

FALLUJAH, Iraq - (Oct. 29, 2006) Marines from C Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment staged cordon-and-knock operations in the Shuhada district in southern Fallujah as part of Operation Seminole Oct. 28.


Story by 2nd Lt. Lawton King

"I have done a lot of cordon and searches, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of enemy activity, so I wouldn't be surprised if we find nothing," said 1st Lt. Lane Mandel, the 25-year-old platoon commander from Houston, the night before the operation. Nevertheless, "It's definitely worth doing. We get to know the people better. We'll do census ops."

Marines set out early in the morning and arrived on the scene in the Shuhada in amphibious assault vehicles shortly after dawn.

Quickly dismounting from the amtracs, Marines assumed their patrol formations and initiated their search of the largely residential area house-by-house.

Marines cordoned their sectors of responsibility and knocked on the exterior gates that bar entrance into most Iraqi homes. They notified residents Marines wished to visit to ensure no weapon caches were concealed.

The Marines also snapped photographs of the residents with their registration badges for the ever-expanding Fallujah database.

"We're doing census operations, and in the process of that we're looking for weapon caches," said Cpl. Shawn Wilson, a 27-year-old squad leader in the platoon from Lake Orion, Mich.

House after house, the Marines were greeted by cooperative Iraqis accustomed to such visits. Local residents permitted Marines to search the various rooms of the houses and apartments without offering any resistance.

"This is the first person to ever tell us to knock the lock off," said Navy Seaman Bryan Huffstutler, the platoon's 20-year-old corpsman from St. Louis, after an Iraqi invited the Marines to "jimmy" the master lock to an auxiliary room when he could not produce the key.

Needless to say, the Marines obliged.

No weapons cashes were uncovered on the day as forecasted by Mandel. Still, his Marines did confiscate several toy replicas. According to recent reports, the insurgents distributed scores of toy weapons to children in an attempt to glorify violence and to provoke an incident with the Coalition Forces since some of the models can easily be mistaken for authentic firearms.

"They are given to the kids for Ramadan," Mandel said. "They point them at the Marines, which can be a problem since they look real. We collect them."

Following the conclusion of the patrol, Mandel guided his Marines to a rally point within the walls of an Iraqi residence where the platoon rendezvoused with other units and settled into a security posture to await extraction with the company's two detainees.

After overhearing several transmissions crackling from his personal radio, Mandel revealed that the executive officer of the company, Capt. Lance Day, had chanced upon improvised explosive device-making components within the home.

The find followed on the heels of Day's discovery of a bullet-scarred Daewoo in the driveway he recognized as the insurgent vehicle his Marines had fired upon earlier in the week in self defense.

"Today looked like it was going to be a dry hole," said Day, a 28 year old from Fullerton, Calif., "but the fact that we found a high value individual and discovered this is worth it."

October 28, 2006

24th MEU Bridges Gap with Iraqi Marines

UMM QASR, Iraq (Oct. 28, 2006) -- When cultures collide, the first casualty is often basic understanding. People who are separated by miles and manners aren’t kept apart by customs or courtesies; they’re usually stuck behind a frustrating barrage of wild hand gestures and pidgin English. In colonial Africa, early British troops would -- after not being understood by natives the first time around -- yell louder and with increased insistence. It was their misguided hope that the locals’ confusion was due to widespread, abject ignorance and hearing loss. Today, in Iraq, the stakes are too high for misunderstandings to occur. For coalition forces training their Iraqi counterparts, failure to bridge the cultural gap is not an option – but it is a challenge.


Oct. 28, 2006; Submitted on: 10/28/2006 06:08:24 AM ; Story ID#: 200610286824
By Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola, 24th MEU

At the Iraqi Naval Base in Umm Qasr, a southern Iraqi city that is home to the nation’s only major commercial port, bridging that gap is an everyday challenge for a small group of Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Charged with training groups of newly minted Iraqi Marine forces in internal security and basic military techniques, the Marines work with each group for three days, covering skills such as weapons handling, checkpoint security, range estimation and military fundamentals.

“We’re focusing on their confidence and we’re trying to give them better tools to protect themselves,” explained the training detachment’s leader, First Lt. Doug Bahrns, executive officer of Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment -- the ground combat element of the 24th MEU. “We only have a few days to train them, but we can really see that some of these guys are trying to learn and take charge of their own base and their own destiny.”

The Iraqi Marines’ destiny includes one of the most high-profile missions in Iraq – protecting the country’s vital oil terminals that are responsible for distributing 65 million barrels of oil and contributing more than $12 billion annually to Iraq’s gross national product. In addition, the Iraqi Marines reinforce security at the Umm Qasr port, which is trying to meet United Nations standards, an essential step toward expanding trade volume and improving Iraq’s economy.

During a recent morning training session, the high-profile task of the day was simply communicating. Though the U.S. and Iraqi Marines are able to speak through an interpreter, many of the messages are misunderstood and lack the urgency conveyed by the Marines themselves. Because of this, the instructors rely heavily on demonstrations and constant repetition. Sergeant Matt Smith, scout sniper platoon chief scout, said that the Iraqis “get into it” when they see the motivation of the Marines and said that he and the instructors try to reinforce the importance of what they are trying to teach.

“We’re hoping that after we leave, they apply these lessons,” added Smith, who, like many of the course instructors here, is a previous combat veteran who learned those lessons on Iraqi battlefields like Fallujah. “We tell them not to take [the training] lightly because it might save their lives.”

The Marines have tried to make the most of the three days they have with each group of Iraqis. So far, they have been pleased with the results, noticing a quick assimilation of techniques and improved confidence, noted Cpl. Chris Bonney, a course instructor.

“There’s a big difference in their performance, just from seeing them from the first day to the third day,” said Bonney. “On the third day we throw a bunch of scenarios at them that they haven’t seen, and they do exactly what they’re supposed to do.”

“We’re finding a way to get it done,” added Cpl. Brett Dayton, another instructor.

Though the Iraqis and the Americans are constantly struggling to understand each other, the messages seem to be getting through. An Iraqi Marine, Lt. Salah, said through an interpreter that he and his men have “learned from Marines the seriousness of their behavior” and appreciate the patience they have while trying to communicate their lessons. He feels that the Marines have “done a great job.”

“They’ve made progress, but it’s still a work in progress,” said Cpl. Dominic Esquibel, a course instructor. “The more units that come through here, the better chance they’ll have to stand up on their own two feet and take the country for themselves.”

The Marines agree that long-term success will depend on the rotation of more Iraqi Marine units through the training long after the 24th MEU returns home. Stabilizing local military forces so that they can defend themselves will not only help Iraq take bigger steps towards independence, but will return more coalition forces safely to their families – a goal both sides can embrace.

“The sooner we train them to protect themselves, the sooner we can leave,” added Bahrns.

*MCAGCC's exclusive Range 400 provides overhead live-fire realism

With more than 930 square miles of desert, the Combat Center is home to some of the Marine Corps' most realistic pre-deployment training for troops headed to Iraq.


October 28, 2006
Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz
Combat Correspondent

The Combat Center's Range 400 is used to train rifle companies in the techniques and procedures for attacking fortified areas, and is one of the most dynamic live-fire ranges in the Marine Corps, said Capt. Andy S. Watson, assistant infantry representative, maneuver section, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group.

"It's the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized," he explained. "We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can't get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps."

Marines and sailors from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, during their second week of Mojave Viper, went to Range 400 Oct. 13, to take on the multi-faceted training exercise.

For each fire team, there is one Coyote from TTECG on hand to guide the troops through the rigorous course to their objective and control responses to unpredictable combat situations that fell into their hands.

Under the trajectory of overhead machinegun fire, fire teams are required to move and fire, react to indirect fire, conduct area reconnaissance, process and disseminate intelligence, distribute ammunition, shift and cease of fire, practice hand and arm signals, among other obstacles throughout the exercise, said Watson.

In preparation for going to Range 400, Marines and sailors go through similar training evolutions on a smaller scale, without ammo, at Range 410A and Range 410. These two ranges are used to remediate, develop and refine platoon and squad battle drills before implementing them at Range 400, according to Field Manual 7-8 of the Range 400 Handbook, a field reference guide created to help units get the most out of this final stage of their pre-deployment training.

Part of combat training involves providing on-the-spot aid to injured troops. The companies training at Range 400 are assigned notional casualties, called "cherry pickers," to execute the company's casualty evacuation plan. The "cherry pickers" are given a card with a description of their injuries. Litter teams are then responsible for transport and care of the "cherry picker." There are Coyotes, who are corpsmen, to make sure necessary quick-response procedures are taken to save the victim.

"The entire process from the point of injury to reception at the forward BAS [Battalion Aid Station] is observed and assessed by TTECG," said Watson. "They are handed extra IFAKs [individual first aid kits] to test their knowledge on how to employ them."

Throughout the exercise, training is overseen by the Coyotes, who evaluate the effectiveness and leadership initiatives of the Marines and sailors. A written assessment is provided to the training company's commander to critique the company's maneuver through the range.

They are tested on their ability to quickly react, be decisive leaders, gather intelligence and provide aid to their brothers, while taking over a fortified position with proficient marksmanship and weapon skills, on one of the most realistic training grounds in the Marine Corps.

The training at Range 400 is another step toward an even more ready Marine Corps, preparing Marines and sailors for almost anything and everything in the two-hour evolution, with the Coyotes watching and ensuring the best of the best training to all who go through it.

Marines return from Iraq to warm, happy welcome

Chesterfield-based Hotel Battery is home with no loss of life

They got shot at, blown up and rocket-propelled grenaded. They were hot, dirty and tired. Their duty week didn't have a weekend.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dozens of them were wounded and six were wounded twice.

But all the Marines of Hotel Battery came back alive.

"It was a miracle," said Kathryn Kirk, whose son, Lance Cpl. Campbell Kirk, survived two roadside bomb attacks. "God protected them."

And yesterday, more than 300 happy -- and relieved -- family members, comrades and friends formally welcomed home the Marines of Chesterfield-based Hotel Battery of the 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment.

Campbell Kirk, a 22-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student, was grateful, he said, "just to reunite with friends and family [and] be out of the combat zone."

Moms and dads hugged young sons, burly Marines bounced tiny babies on their shoulders, and best buds banded together for final snapshots in the battery's "drill deck."

"You were in some tough country," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense H.C. "Barney" Barnum. "I'm proud of what you've done."

"I say thank you from the commandant of the Marine Corps and the secretary of the Navy."

Barnum's words had special meaning for them: A retired Marine colonel, Barnum received the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest award for valor -- during the Vietnam War.

The 115 Marines in the reserve unit had reasons to be proud.

"You were the go-to battery" in Iraq," Marine Lt. Col. Jon E. Sachrison told the gathering at the Navy-Marine Reserve Center on Strathmore Road.

Normally a heavy-artillery unit, Hotel Battery spent seven months in Iraq as military police escorting convoys. The Marines conducted 214 missions, traveling almost 450,000 miles around Iraq.

They were hit by roadside bombs 23 times -- "One is more than enough," Campbell Kirk said -- but they also uncovered 22 of the improvised explosive devices.

"That was 22 [fewer] chances the enemy had to attack," said the battery's commander, Maj. Chris Warnke of Arlington.

Hotel Battery came under small-arms fire 18 times, he said, and the leathernecks were twice attacked with high-explosive rocket-propelled grenades.

Forty-two of the battery's Marines were wounded in action, four seriously enough to require extended hospitalization.

"It was definitely dangerous over there," Warnke said.

Hotel's still in the fight.

Ten Marines from the unit "new-joins" who missed the January deployment -- are augmenting another battery in Iraq now.

Junior sergeants and young corporals were Hotel Battery's front-line leaders, Warnke said, in a war with no front line.

Leaving their well-defended camps was a gut check, said the battery's Maj. Ty Steidle: "You wave to the little guy on gate guard and [then] you're on your own outside the wire."

"If I could give every Marine a medal for just going over there and doing your job," Warnke told them, "I would."

Frederick-based Marine shot twice in Iraq; Leesburg, Va., resident expected to make full recovery from injuries sustained during combat

FREDERICK -- A Marine in a Frederick-based unit deployed to Iraq on Oct. 11 was shot twice earlier this week but is expected to make a full recovery, a unit spokesman said Friday.


Published on October 28, 2006
By Alison Walker-Baird
News-Post Staff

Lance Cpl. Christopher Charette, 22, of Leesburg, Va., was shot in the left shoulder and left hand Monday evening while conducting combat operations against anti-Iraqi forces in the Al Anbar province, Capt. Christian Devine said. This is the first injury reported among the unit.

Cpl. Charette was transported to Al Asad Surgical Hospital early Tuesday to be treated and stabilized. He was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for three days of medical care.

He arrived at Bethesda Naval Medical Center on Friday, where he will recover from his injuries. Members of Cpl. Charette's family, who could not be reached Friday, met him at the Bethesda hospital, Capt. Devine said.

Cpl. Charette's injuries will not require amputation but he is not expected to rejoin his unit in Iraq, Capt. Devine said.

The 110-member Dam Support Unit 3 is expected to remain in Iraq for seven months. DSU-3, a reserve unit, is part of Regimental Combat Team-7 in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Cpl. Charette joined the Marine Corps in July 2003.

The unit, previously Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, is based at the Pfc. Flair U.S. Army Reserve Center at Fort Detrick. A dozen members are staying at the Frederick reserve center to provide support for the unit.

Most of the unit's members are patrolling and securing Iraqi waterways throughout Haditha and the Euphrates River Valley. Several are conducting security operations in Ramadi, the Iraq city west of Baghdad that is the capital of the Al Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

The all-male unit flew to Iraq from Cherry Point, N.C., earlier this month after leaving the reserve center Sept. 25 to complete administrative preparations.

The Marines, who were activated May 31, completed several months of training this summer in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in boat operations, urban patrolling and security operations.

As of Friday, 96 U.S. troops have died in Iraq this month, making October the deadliest month in a year. More than one-third of the U.S. deaths in October have occurred in Al Anbar.

Since the beginning of the war in March 2003, at least 2,809 members of the U.S. military have died, according to an Associated Press count.

October 27, 2006

Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group, Indian Navy Begin Exercise Malabar 2006

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) and the Indian navy’s Western Fleet began Exercise Malabar 2006 Oct. 25 off the southwest coast of India.


Story Number: NNS061027-10
Release Date: 10/27/2006 3:18:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael E. Miller Jr., USS Boxer Public Affairs

The purpose of the multinational exercise, which focuses on a number of naval mission areas, is to strengthen ties between American, Canadian and Indian forces, as well as enhance the cooperative security relationship between the nations involved.

More than 6,500 U.S. Navy personnel will take part in Exercise Malabar, which runs through Nov. 5.

“The United States and India share democratic traditions, and we share seafaring traditions,” said Capt. David Angood, commander of BOXESG and Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5. “We are natural partners and friends, and look forward to continuing to strengthen the bonds and personal relationships between our two navies and advancing into more complex operational and strategic areas that go beyond tactical exercises.”

The Indian Western Fleet commander, noting that each Malabar exercise increases bonds and readiness between the forces, echoed these thoughts.

“During each Malabar exercise, we try to take it up a notch from the previous,” said the flag officer commanding the Indian Western Fleet, Rear Adm. Anup Singh. He added that safety is the top priority and open lines of communication are vital.

During the exercise, the three nations’ ships will work together in a variety of functional skill areas, including force protection drills; visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS); formation steaming, coordinated surface fire support, amphibious landing, live-fire events for attached aircraft, torpedo firing events and anti-submarine warfare training.

Thirteen naval assets will be involved in the exercise from the three nations, as well as Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC). This is the first time that a U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) will participate and lead the exercise; the exercise, in general, will focus on expeditionary warfare.

Several different personnel exchanges will occur throughout the exercise. Thirty-one Indian navy sailors will train aboard Boxer with the 2/4 Weapons Company of the 15th MEU (SOC) on weapons tactics, physical training and vehicle integration.

Malabar 2006 also incorporates the Canadian navy for the first time with the frigate HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341), and U.S. Coast Guard with the USCGC Midgett (WHEC 726), which are both part of BOXESG.

Boxer is the flag ship for the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG), operating out of San Diego, which is reporting operationally to Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious task force.

For related news, visit the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

Marines treated to a comedic homecoming ceremony

More than 100 local marines back from Iraq enjoyed a different type of homecoming this morning. Instead of speeches and awards, the 314 H-Battery Marine unit got to laugh!


By Beth Danziger, NBC12 News

The 150 Richmond-based marines were away from home for 10 months fighting in Iraq. So to break the ice with friends and family, the marine unit went in a different direction and brought in a comedy and music show called ‘Comedy Cures’.

It wasn't your typical ‘welcome home ceremony’. Yes, there were banners and family, but this time these marines were told they had to laugh. "When you get back and you’re in an environment that's more relaxed, it's hard to switch gears that fast. It's hard not to hear that commander’s voice in your head,” says Saranne Rothberg, the founder of Comedy Cures.

So through a comedy set, a music routine and a laughter session, Comedy Cures tried to relax these marines and their families and remind them that the stressful times are over and it's okay to smile again.

Comedy Cures has been around since 1999.

The founder, Saranne Rothberg, came up with the idea while she was in a chemo chair fighting breast cancer.

With the Marines in Ramadi

From “Hurricane Point” -- Despite the sobering loss of three Marines from Charlie Co., 1/6 killed here two nights ago, the missions into town continue on a 24/7 basis.


Military.com | Andrew Lubin | October 27, 2006

This morning I’ve been invited to accompany two platoons from Weapons Company in their latest “disruption” mission. 2nd Lt. John Dalen Bunch put me in the lead Humvee, and briefed me on their assignment. “We’ll be looking for IED’s and rocket launchers,” he said, “and we’ll be making house calls to work on our census data as well as gauge who’s a friend and who’s not.” Behind us, in the following Humvees, were Cpl Matt Castoro from Jackson, NJ, and LCPL Walt Adams ( Georgetown, De). With LCPL Mitchell Caluri ( Bangor, Me. ) driving our Humvee, and LCPL Paul Spinelli up in the turret, we saddled up and our four Humvee’s rolled into town.

The main street in Ramadi is “MSR Michigan” (main supply route). It’s the major highway out of Baghdad that runs west through Fallujah into the desert, back into Ramadi, and then out to the western desert region. It’s the main route for weapons, IED’s, insurgents, and American supply convoys, so it’s vitally important in the battle of these cities.

Within the city of Ramadi, “Route Michigan” is a flat, dusty, garbage-strewn four-lane highway, and many of the side streets have been blocked either by concrete barriers (installed by Marine Engineers in order to control security) or cars shredded and destroyed by IED’s or RPG’s in the last few years. The light and power poles tilt at crazy angles, with their wires dangling. According to Weapons Co commander Capt Todd Mahar, keeping control of this road is an important facet in keeping the insurgents and their IED’s out of the city.

As our convoy crawled down Michigan, Lt Bunch reminded Caluri and Spinelli to keep their eyes peeled for loose wires on the ground, bags, fresh dirt, and anything that might look suspicious. “They’ll even cut holes in the floorboards of their cars,” he told me, ‘and drop small IED’s through the holes onto the road.” Everything here looks suspicious, I thought, and began to study the road also.

Less than five minutes, or a half mile down Michigan, a huge blast sounded directly behind us. Lt Bunch was on the radio immediately…” PaleRider, who’s hit, what’s your status?” he shouted into the radio. Everyone was OK, he learned immediately. An IED had exploded approx 100 meters behind us, between Humvees 2 and 3. Both suffered cracked glass, but fortunately, no one was injured and so the convoy again moved forward.

There were considerable amounts of people gathered on the residential side streets, and we turned down one of them. A few small storefront markets sold melons, chickens, rice, fruits, sundries, and sodas; the shops here are similar to a bodega, including the socialization that a family-owned shop provides. The children shrieked and ran to our vehicles screaming at us, waving, smiling, and hoping we’d throw them soccer balls, school supplies, and other items. “Seeing the people outside with their children is great,” Lt. Bunch explained, ‘it means that there are no IED’s planted on this street.” “It’s also a way to gauge attitudes,” LCPL Caluri added, “ it’s when folk pull their kids indoors that we begin to worry.” But despite the IED, this was a friendly area, and so the Marines waved and tossed their give-a-ways to the children.

But there was a different tone a few streets over, as our small convoy was eye-balled defiantly. “Stop here.” Lt Bunch ordered, and we pulled over, dismounted, and knocked on the door of a house in order to chat with the owner. Inside, the reception was chilly.

Despite the best efforts of the Marine translator, the owner was surly; the women and children were uncooperative, and the overall attitude was one of unconcealed hostility.

“We’ll be back, the Lt. told me.” if they’re not actively involved in the opposition, they know who is,” and then we were off to visit yet another house.

That’s how the war is fought now, according to the 1/6’s Executive Officer, Maj Daniel Zappa; “it’s a combination of IED’s, quick gun battles in the streets, and then handing out school supplies to the kids twenty minutes later.”

Or as your Marines in Ramadi joke, ‘it’s just another day in paradise.” It can bring tears to your eyes, though, when you see how well they perform.

If families aren't ready; Marines aren't ready

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 27, 2006) -- Marine spouses with the Key Volunteer Network and the Marines who make up the majority of the Family Readiness Program of the 2nd Marine Division and sub unit commands gathered together at the Terry Ball Center here for a quarterly meeting, Oct. 25.


Oct. 27, 2006; Submitted on: 10/27/2006 08:02:32 AM ; Story ID#: 200610278232
By Cpl. A.L. Genos, 2nd Marine Division

The meeting was held in order for the division Commanding General and Sergeant Major, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin and Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia and members of the Family Team Building group to address everyone on the upcoming deployment to Iraq and other services provided to the families.

“Your spouses of the key volunteer network are volunteering 24 hours every day, and there will be calls at ungodly times,” explained Dora Gaskin, the 2nd Marine Division Key Volunteer Advisor, about the women in the network.

Gaskin started off the meeting by explaining his four points of importance concerning the Family Readiness Program. He spoke on items including; this is a commander’s program, what the Marines owe to the KV network, the single Marines and their families, and the importance of the having the right Marines as the Family Readiness Officer and Staff Noncommissioned Officer.

“Commanders have to be in on what happens to make sure that everybody is prepared in a family readiness way and for the deployment of the Marines and sailors,” explained Gaskin. “If it doesn’t hurt to leave your FRSNO behind, that’s the wrong person because that person is going to be going out on your part.”

Following Gaskin’s comments, Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia spoke for a few brief moments ensuring the best use of the program possible in the future. He was followed by Mrs. Kim Holmes, the director of Marine Corps Family Team Building.

Holmes introduced all of her colleagues and their role in making the Family Readiness Program a key part of the 2nd Marine Division’s lifestyle. The majority of the members are either spouses of Marines or prior Marines. Holmes’ crew offers many different types of services to the families of the division as well as all families aboard the base.

This team of workers provides services such as; deployment support, Exceptional Family Member Program, New Parent Support Program, Chaplains Religious Education Development Operation, Lifestyle Insight Networking Knowledge Skills Program, and Child, Youth and Team Division.

“The Marines are our families,” explained Holmes. “We prepare single and married Marines before deployments, during deployments and help them re-integrate after deployments.”

The importance of the families being informed, along with the constant communication, is all part of a Marine Corps family lifestyle among the Marines of 2nd Marine Division.

“The main thing here is to take care of our Marines and sailors,” Gaskin explained. “The one thing unique about our Corps is we truly take care of our own, and that is non-negotiable for us.”

To contact the Family Team Building members, call (910) 451-0176.

Marines attend urban simulation training, prepare for Iraq

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 27, 2006) -- While walking down a road within the confines of a deserted town, Marines hold their M-16 A2 rifles at the ready and remain alert as they pass through a dangerous area with a high probability of an enemy ambush.


Oct. 27, 2006; Submitted on: 10/27/2006 09:22:11 AM ; Story ID#: 2006102792211
By Cpl. Joel Abshier, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Sweat and hunger rolls through them, however, to stay alive the Marines push on without complaint and maintain their stride as they scan the buildings up and down.

“Contact left!” shouts a Marine at the sounds of enemy fire from a nearby building.

Without hesitation, the Marines from all squads react to the ambush and set up a defensive perimeter while Marines, one by one, enter the house to begin clearing and eliminating the hostile threat.

Five Marines with K9 platoon, Military Police Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, attached to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division learned how to patrol, enter buildings, clear rooms and maintain themselves in an urban environment during a Basic Urban Skills Training course here, Oct. 23-27.

“We’re acting as security,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Gensler, who is with Police Transition Team 2. “The whole team is going to help train Iraqi police forces once we deploy.”

During the week-long course, Marines attended classes, performed practical applications and conducted live-fire ambush and sniper simulations, all within the blocks of a town built to train Marines for urban warfare.

“This is the premier Military Operations Urban Terrain facility on the eastern coast,” said Cpl. Lucas C. Wagner, a BUST instructor with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division Training Center. “We have had everyone from the (Marine Corps) band to infantry doing spin ups in the BUST course before deploying to Iraq. Foreign military, such as the Czechoslovakians, Dutch and Canadians,FBI and the Jacksonville Special Weapons and Tactics team have also been through this course.”

Using the crawl, walk, run method, Marines who have not conducted operations in Iraq experienced the way of life that is lead in the field. Sleeping, eating and working from sunrise to sunset, the training proved beneficial to the Marines heading to Iraq.

“It’s important because you’re going to have to know how to clear houses and counter any fire that comes upon you,” Gensler said. “It’s what we’re going to be doing in Iraq.”

The final two days of training consisted of live simulation rounds to illustrate the gravity of combat.

“On average, all units who come through here are on the same level when they finish,” Wagner concluded.

Marine recovering after Iraq IED blast

Peggy and Michael Kreiser got the call around 10 a.m. on Oct. 7.
The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to a Marine Corps officer in Iraq. The Kreisers’ 26-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Jared Kreiser, had suffered injuries from a roadside bomb — one of the infamous “IEDs.”


Staff Writer
Lebanon Daily News

“That first weekend was terrible,” Peggy Kreiser said yesterday. “We got the call about two hours after it happened, but because of the time warp, we didn’t get any further news until about 5 p.m.”

The Kreisers, who live in Cleona, waited anxiously, not knowing the extent of Jared’s injuries. For the families of soldiers deployed to Iraq, the Marines try to prepare them for the worst.

“They tell you if it isn’t a serious injury, (the soldier) will make the call himself,” Peggy said. “And we had an officer calling us. So it just became a game of waiting and waiting and waiting.”

After seven grueling hours, the Kreisers finally got some more news — and it was good. Jared had suffered injuries to both of his legs, his left arm and his jaw. But he is expected to make a full recovery. Jared is currently being treated at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he received a Purple Heart from Gen. Michael W. Hagee of the Marine Corps.

Peggy Kreiser, who is the community and work-force development director at the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that Jared was serving as a Humvee driver and automatic-weapon gunner in Iraq. On the day he was injured, he was on foot patrol in Anbar province around 4 p.m., just before the daylight fasting that is customary with the month-long observance of Ramadan ended.

Jared was walking with other Marines when one of his comrades stepped on a pressure plate that set off a nearby bomb. Jared and one other soldier were hurt.

“He said what saved his life is that they did exactly what they were trained to do,” Peggy said.

Peggy said that Lance Cpl. Shaun Travis and “Doc” Plunkett, a Navy corpsman, pulled him to safety while Lance Cpl. Dan Hilsdrof secured the scene until a medical unit arrived.

Even after they knew the extent of their son’s injuries, the Kreisers’ worries weren’t over. The day after the incident, the hospital where Jared had been taken was hit by a suicide bomber, Peggy said. Jared had been scheduled to be transferred to Germany, and later to the U.S., and the Kreisers didn’t know if he had been moved before the suicide bomber struck.

“My husband was able to find a security officer at the Carlisle barracks who happened to be a retired Navy chief and was in the hospital in Germany,” Peggy said.

Through him, the Kreisers were able to call the military hospital in Germany and talk directly with Jared’s doctor, who informed them that their son was safe.

“That was a big relief,” Peggy said.

Peggy said that the Marine Corps has been “amazing” in its efforts to support Jared, as well as other injured Marines. They are providing housing and a food allowance so that the Kreisers can visit their son in the Maryland hospital. Peggy said she had been with her son since he arrived in Bethesda Oct. 11, before returning to her Cleona home Monday. She plans to return to Bethesda today.

“I’m so grateful to the community and to the Marine Corps for the support that they give the guys,” she said.

As for Jared, Peggy said he is handling his recovery well.

“He’s in very good spirits,” she said. “But he was always that type of person. He was always upbeat.”

Jared enlisted in the Marine Corps about a year ago, Peggy said.

“He said he wanted to make a positive difference in his life,” she said.

Jared is a member of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment based in Hawaii. He graduated from Peters Township High School in Washington County and Bethany College in Virginia. He was a student in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District until seventh grade.

Doctors Struggle to Save Wounded Marine

CAMP TAQQADUM SURGICAL, Iraq - The chaplain assigned to the medical camp was drafting a homily. The heart surgeon was using the quiet spell to edit a medical paper. The medics chatted over lunch. Twenty miles away, on the desert plain outside Fallujah, an insurgent's bullet tore through the body of a young Marine.


By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writer

Less than a half-hour later, Camp Taqqadum Surgical's men and women were waiting as a roaring helicopter landed at their patch of sand-colored tents.

And so began an urgent, hour-long effort to save the life of Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins, 22, of Thurmont, Md.

For the 75 Navy doctors and medics here, it was in many ways just a normal case _ one of the roughly 100 seriously wounded Marines and Iraqi soldiers and civilians they see each month from this section of violent Anbar province. They stabilize the wounded, who then are taken to larger U.S. military hospitals.

But when a 22-year-old man is fighting for his life, nothing is normal.

"I always go at it with the mind-set that we can save this person," said Cmdr. Subrato Deb, 42, a heart surgeon from Alexandria, Va. _ part of a team of roughly 15 doctors and medics who would work on the Marine over the next hour.

"For me, mentally, that's how I prepare myself," Deb said a day later. "We always give them the benefit of the doubt."


The team knew as Higgins arrived in the summer heat that the injuries were bad. He was an "urgent surgical," the most severe category.

His heart had stopped while he was being carried onto the helicopter. Medics were pumping his chest as the chopper landed.

The Marine would begin to suffer brain damage after just five minutes without oxygen. As the helicopter landed, medics rushed him by gurney into the hot and crowded surgical tent.

The first step took only 60 seconds _ a "clamshell" procedure that entailed cutting the Marine's sternum and pulling open his rib cage.

Inside, the surgeons found terrible damage.

The bullet had pierced the right side of Higgins' back, searing diagonally across his body before leaving the front of his chest.

His diaphragm had been torn off. His liver was damaged, one lung had collapsed and his right chest cavity was full of blood.

Worst of all, the bullet had clipped the right atrium of his heart in two places, letting blood build up around the heart's muscles.

Doctors found a blue, bulging sack with a silent heart sitting inside.


The surgeons had to do two things immediately and simultaneously _ get the heart beating and stop the internal bleeding.

Three pairs of hands plunged into Higgins' chest and abdomen.

Deb drained the blood around the heart, then raced to sew up the first hole. Then he noticed the second hole was much bigger _ about the size of a dime.

With time running out, he resorted to a technique he later described as "a little bit outside the realm of standard practice."

He asked a surprised medic for a urinary catheter. Instead of sewing the second hole, Deb used the catheter balloon to plug the wound. Then he used the catheter tube connected to a unit of blood to directly pump warm, fresh blood back into the Marine's heart.

"That's what really got him kind of responding," said Capt. H.R. Bohman, of Oceanside, Calif., the senior surgeon at the facility, who _ as Deb worked _ was trying to stop the internal bleeding.

But the young Marine's heart still was not beating.

The job of massaging it back into a rhythm fell to the closest pair of available hands _ those of Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Drobina, an emergency medical doctor who had never done such a procedure before.

"I had no choice," Drobina said later. "Not a whole lot of us had done it."

It was a delicate task: taking the heart between her two hands and gently and firmly pressing. Too much pressure could damage the heart. Too little would fail to force it into beating.

"Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right?" Drobina remembered asking Deb repeatedly.

Then a monitor began showing a heart rate. Drobina could feel the rhythm in her fingers.

"Yeah, just keep doing what you're doing," said Deb, focusing on clamping the rest of the wounds.


In the background, Navy chaplain Lt. Wilfredo Rodriguez, of New Brunswick, N.J., had pulled out his prayer book and was silently reading.

"Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering and restore you to wholeness and strength," he mouthed.

Then the chaplain stepped in to help.

The surgeons already had stapled closed the hole in Higgins' lung and wrapped his liver in gauze to stop the bleeding. They had clamped his aorta to send all available blood to his brain and heart, not his lower body.

And they were pumping in blood, urgently, unit by unit _ 18 in all.

"I figured I could pump blood and pray ... I said, 'Hey, looks like you've been holding that bag of blood for a long time. Can I chime in?'" recalled Rodriguez.

He took the dark-red bag from a doctor who had been holding it and kept it high above his head.

Five minutes passed _ five minutes in which the Marine's heart beat.

Then it stopped again.


Drobina was drenched in sweat. She had been massaging the heart for more than a half-hour.

"The following day I was sore. But no, I wasn't tired (then). They kept asking me if I wanted relief, and I'm like, 'No, I'm fine,'" she said the next day.

She kept on massaging. But this time, it wasn't working.

The heart would not beat. Except for the five minutes when the Marine's heart had stirred in Drobina's hands, it had been still, without a heartbeat, for nearly an hour.

The surgeons knew the end was near.

"It crosses every doctor's mind _ if we give it five more minutes, maybe there will be a miracle. That's the hardest part for me _ letting go," Deb said the next day.

But in the end, they let go.

The doctors, speaking among themselves, unanimously agreed that nothing else could be done.

"We just say, 'OK folks, we're going to let this patient go now. Stop all resuscitation.' Everyone steps back. And that's usually when the chaplain steps in," Deb said.

The doctors and medics took their hands away from the Marine's body. Covered in dark blood, they bowed their heads. Rodriguez began reading aloud _ the "Commendation of the Dying."

"Into your hands, O merciful savior, we commend your servant," he read. "... a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock ... May his soul and the souls of all the departed ... rest in peace."

Instead of referring to the Marine as a patient, the staff would now call him an "angel."

The doctors began to slowly move away and the medics moved in to clean the body and stitch the wounds together.

Outside the tent, Marine Sgt. Timothy Cord, 22, of Provo, Utah, pulled out a body bag. He loaded his M-16 rifle and stood guard beside the body _ a Marine tradition of respect for the dead.

That night, Higgins' body would begin its long flight back to the United States. And the staff at Camp Taqqadum would wait for their next patient.


Even veterans like Bohman, who has served three tours in Iraq and worked more than 25 years as a surgeon, call such deaths difficult to accept.

"The only way you can personally live with it is a really strong belief that this is not all there is," said Bohman. "I believe in most of these guys, that they're in a better place than we are."

Some take comfort in the idea that those who die here have, at least, had access to some of the best medical care in the world.

"It's almost as good, if not better, than what somebody would get in a big city," Deb said.

But some find the deaths and the work here so troubling, they try to shut out any feeling.

"I try not to look at the patient's face. I try not to look at any details," said Gina Ortiz, 21, of San Bernardino, Calif., one of the medics. "I don't want to remember it. I try to block all that out."

As the young Marine's body was taken to a morgue, Deb headed to take a shower. Bohman prayed with the chaplain. Drobina went to the camp gym. Cord went to his room to play his guitar.

"You can't linger on ... because five minutes later another person might come in who needs your undivided attention," Deb said. "You have to be mentally ready to deal with that."


EDITOR'S NOTE _ Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins died on July 27, 2006. He was buried at the Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick, Md., a few miles from his home.

October 26, 2006

Mandatory anthrax vaccinations coming soon

U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES, PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii (Oct. 26, 2006) -- The Department of Defense announced Oct. 16 they will resume the mandatory Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program, also known as AVIP, for military personnel, mission-essential DoD civilians and contractors, assigned to certain geographic areas of the world.


Oct. 26, 2006; Submitted on: 10/26/2006 10:04:26 PM ; Story ID#: 2006102622426
By Pfc. Ethan Hoaldridge, Marine Forces Pacific

The military first instituted these vaccinations in 1991 to protect troops against possible anthrax attacks during the Persian Gulf War.

In December 2004, a Federal District Court Judge ruled that forcing troops to take the vaccination was illegal, because the Food and Drug Administration failed to declare the vaccine safe and effective against all forms of anthrax.

After the decision by the judge, the FDA issued its final rule, stating that anthrax vaccine is effective in preventing anthrax disease regardless of the type of exposure. Eight separate independent reviews also determined the licensed vaccine is safe and effective, including the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.

“The DoD is standing behind the extensive testing and education that the vaccine is both safe and effective against all forms of anthrax,” said Navy Capt. Robert G. Schultz, the force surgeon for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

Within 30 to 60 days, the DoD will implement instructions for military services to resume mandatory vaccinations, he said.

The vaccinations are mostly limited to members of military units designated for homeland defense, U.S. forces located in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, and Korea.

The immunization program will include personnel assigned to these higher-threat areas for 15 or more consecutive days. If possible, service members will begin vaccinations up to 60 days before their deployment.

Also, DoD personnel previously immunized against anthrax, who are no longer deployed to higher threat areas, will be allowed to receive follow-up vaccine doses and booster shots on a voluntary basis, according to a DoD press release.

“The anthrax vaccine will protect our troops from another threat – a disease that will kill, caused by bacterium that has already been used as a weapon in America, and that terrorists openly discuss,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in a DoD press release.

Around 50 percent of military service members received the vaccinations under the current voluntary vaccination policy.

“The percentage is probably higher in the Marine Corps, because the medical staff works really hard to properly educate the Marines and Sailors about anthrax and the protective series of vaccinations,” said Schultz. “The threat is real, so making the vaccinations mandatory helps us improve the Marine Corps’ combat readiness and effectiveness.”

The threat is real on American soil as well. There have been past attacks through the U.S. postal system.

According to the AVIP website, after Sept. 11, 2001, there were 22 victims of this type of anthrax terrorist attack. Of those 22, five died from inhaling the bacteria.

The United Nations Special Commission found evidence of anthrax-filled weapons in Iraq, according the AVIP website. Although the production facility was destroyed, many experts feel Iraq could rebuild its producing capabilities easily.

After the DoD pushes the new policy to all services, the Marine Corps will issue a Marine
Administration message to begin enforcing the new policy, said Schultz.

The series of six vaccinations takes 18 months from the initial shot to the last, followed by annual booster shots.

“Anthrax is a deadly infection, and the vaccine has repeatedly shown to be safe, protective and effective,” said Schultz.

For more information on anthrax, visit the AVIP website at www.anthrax.osd.mil/threat/default.asp.

2nd Maintenance Battalion gear up for Mojave Viper

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 26, 2006) -- Preparing for a deployment to Iraq takes much time and training, forcing Marines to endure several periods of instruction and training evolutions both here and in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and while the training may seem redundant to the Marines, it could potentially save their lives.


Oct. 26, 2006; Submitted on: 10/27/2006 10:39:14 AM ; Story ID#: 20061027103914
By Pfc. Kendra McKinny, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Marines from 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, are among many who are traveling to the West coast to receive training at Mojave Viper.

“It is my first time going to Mojave Viper, so I don’t know exactly what to expect,” said Pfc. Jeremy Dunn, field radio operator, 2nd Maintenance Bn., CLR 25, 2nd MLG. “I do hope to learn some new things that will help me out when I deploy though.”

At Mojave Viper, formally known as the combines armed exercise and then the refined combined exercise, Marines focus on weapons handling, fire team exercises and Iraqi culture.
Dunn has been attending classes with his shop in preparation of deployment.

“We have had a bunch of classes including how to handle news people, and what we can say and no say, Dunn said.

Another Marine who is attending classes and will be going to Mojave Viper with Dunn is Lance Cpl. Denby Hunter, also a field wireman with the battalion.

“It is my first time going to Mojave Viper, so I expect to have a lot of training that will help prepare myself for Iraq and future encounters with other deployments,” Hunter said. “The training seems to be very helpful so far. I am very excited to see Iraq and what it is really like out there.”

*Marine Reserve Unit Returns Home To Maine

TOPSHAM, Maine -- More than 50 Marine reservists received a homecoming celebration on Thursday when they returned home to Maine after a seven-month tour in Iraq.

Note: There are videoclips, seen by clicking on the original link.


POSTED: 6:58 am EDT October 26, 2006
UPDATED: 1:50 pm EDT October 26, 2006

The First Battalion, 25th Marines unit was stationed in western Iraq and has been in California for debriefing since the weekend.

A welcome-home party was held at the unit's reserve center in Topsham.

*Marines return home

Dozens of Marines based in our area are home from Iraq. And they say they are happy to be home with family and friends.

Note: There is a video clip that can be seen by clicking on the original link.


Updated: 10/25/2006 12:47:21 PM
By: Web Staff

A reception was held Wednesday night at the College of Saint Rose. The 1st battalion, 25th Marines are based out of Albany. They've spent the past seven months fighting in some of Iraq's most violent areas.

"I was happy to see my family and be back. God bless America too," said Marine Brandon Gibson.

During their deployment, the Marines participated in several combat operations in the Al Anbar province and in Fallujah.

N.E. Marines Returning Home

Hundreds of New England Marines will be returning home to a warm welcome from family and friends Thursday after serving seven months in Iraq.


Thu Oct 26, 7:54 AM ET

NewsCenter 5's Steve Lacy reported that about 400 local Marines were coming home and relatives began showing up to greet them at Ft. Devens as soon as the gates opened around 6:30 a.m.

The Marines were members of the Key Volunteer network and were appointed by the U.S. Marine Corps. to keep families connected and up-to-date on what's going on with loved ones overseas.

"I'm waiting on my husband. His name is Chuck Delacourt and we're from Cape Cod and we're waiting for [daughter] Jackie's daddy which is pretty exciting. He hasn't seen her for about seven months, so he's going to see her walking, talking ... all that good stuff," his wife Julie Delacourt said.

The Marines had landed at Westover Air Base in Chicopee and were expected back at Ft. Devens about 8 a.m. Thursday.

*135 Marines return home from Iraq

That was the message family and friends had for the 135 members of the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment who filed into the gymnasium at Nashua High School South on Wednesday night.


By Stephanie Hooper
Telegraph Staff

After seven months of duty in Iraq, the troops of the Londonderry based “Bravo Company” returned home to a rousing welcome from those grateful for their safe return.

“It doesn’t seem real,” said Lance Cpl. Tony Attardo after receiving a round of exuberant hugs and kisses from his mother, father, girlfriend and the rest of his excited family.

“I’m just really glad to be here.”

Attardo was one of 13 Nashua residents who served with the unit, arriving to the festooned gymnasium shortly after 9 p.m. for what Mayor Bernie Streeter surmised was the largest homecoming celebration the city had hosted since World War II.

The 180-plus unit was activated in November 2005, and all left for three months of training in California before deploying to Iraq, said Capt. Matt DiLullo, the site support commanding officer of the unit.

“What you have done for your country I am unable to thank you for,” DiLullo told the troops as they stood at attention on one side of the Panthers’ basketball court, less than 50 feet from their eager loved ones.

“What I can promise you is that this will be the shortest ceremony you will ever be a part of,” DiLullo said evoking a roar of approval from the 1,000 or so people who waved at their special guy from bleachers on the other side of the room.

After a round of “thank yous” from Streeter, who presented the key to the city to the local troops, and more of the same from other officials like U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, the men were dismissed from duty, prompting the rush to the middle of the court.

The troops had just arrived by bus from Westover Air Force base near Springfield, Mass., where they had flown in earlier in the day following a week of debriefing in California.

By 8 p.m. family members and friends of the troops filled the school gymnasium, hanging welcome home signs while waiting out those last few minutes of what proved to be a torturous year for some.

“I just feel like I haven’t been able to breathe since he left,” said Peg Castricone of Chester, who at 7: 15 p.m. was waiting for her son Sgt. Gerard DeCosta of Manchester to return.

Two hours later the wait was over when the first uniformed soldier walked into the gym, throwing his backpack against the wall and bringing the crowd of flag-waving folks to their feet.

About 50 percent of the 135 troops at the Nashua celebration were from New Hampshire, DiLullo said. The majority of others were from Massachusetts and a few were Vermont and Maine, he said.

Several Hudson troops also returned with the group, including Lance Cpl. Michael Finn, 21, a 2004 graduate of Alvirne High School.

“I’ve got goose bumps. I’m so excited,” said his mother Joyce Finn on Tuesday night. “I’m very much looking forward to looking into his eyes and knowing he’s safe and sound,” she said.

While stationed in Iraq, Finn said her son had to endure 120-degree heat, flies and insects. To relieve boredom, Michael and other Marines would compete to see who could catch the most flies on fly strips.

When an air conditioning unit broke down, Michael had his father, Doug Finn, buy one and ship it to Iraq, Joyce Finn said.

Finn’s parents also sweated out the days.

“It has not been easy,” Joyce Finn said.

The rest of the troops who did not arrive at the school Wednesday night were from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, DiLullo said.

Although none of the troops suffered any debilitating injuries, two of the Marines died in combat.

Neither of the men who died were from New Hampshire, he said.

DiLullo, who did not go with the unit to Iraq, said the troops had “enormous success” in their duties, seven months of which were spent in the embattled city of Fallujah.

Those duties began with securing a train station for their operation base from which they conducted patrols, sweeps, checkpoints, as well as trained Iraqi security forces. The troops also captured a number of enemy combatants, DiLullo said.

Throughout their duties, the troops experienced varying responses from the community in Fallujah, he said.

“About 90 percent of the locals are like you and me, but very poor, and they are happy we are there,” DiLullo said.

“Then there are the bad days with the other 10 percent, who are not like you and me, and are trying to ruin it for everyone.”

Richard and Cindy Attardo heard the details of one of those bad days from their youngest son and other members of the unit last week.

The couple was lucky enough to give Attardo a mini-homecoming last week when the plane carrying him and several other members of the unit was held over for several hours in Bangor, Maine, on its way to California.

Waiting out the layover at a nearby bar, the Attardo’s listened as he and about 20 members of the unit described a particularly dangerous day in Fallujah.

An improvised explosive device had hit the lead vehicle in their convoy, and as the soldiers attempted to rescue the troops inside the burning vehicle, Attardo and others in the unit became in engaged in heated firefight with insurgent forces firing upon the rescue effort.

“He said he went through about 10 of those types of situations,” Cindy Attardo said.

“That’s too much information for a mom,” she added.

Even the sound of a car pulling up to their Brinton Drive home was enough to cause Richard Attardo’s heart to skip a beat during the deployment.

“You wonder, are the Marines here to give us the bad news?” Attardo said.

Attardo, the couple’s only child together, joined the reserve unit after watching his childhood buddies Ross Daghir, 23, and Nick Koutalakis, 23, graduate from boot camp, then all three were deployed to Iraq

Before their departure for Iraq, the three, best friends since they were 12, recognized each other in their wills.

“It’s just a small amount of money as recognition to each other,” Tony Attardo said at that time.

Daghir, a sergeant with a sniper unit, is scheduled to come home next week.

However, Koutalakis, a corporal, arrived home with Bravo Company on Wednesday night, and with Attardo began scanning the crowd for his family.

Prior to his arrival, his mom, Denise Morneau, 41, of Hollis spoke with the Attardo’s as they waited for the troops arrival.

“It’s been an unbelievable rollercoaster ride,” said Morneau, who said she tried not to watch the news while her son was gone, but couldn’t bring herself to stop.

Morneau said the last two months were the most grueling as the stories of casualties would prompt panic in her heart.

“Every time someone was killed there would be this total breakdown in communication to the families,” Morneau said.

“Everyday not knowing, I would wonder, ‘Is that my son?’ ” she said.

At 10 p.m. the relief was evident in Morneau eyes, as she stood with tears drying on her face, beaming at her son.

“It feels real good,” Koutalakis said of the moment.

*Treatment, son’s recovery thrill local Marine’s mom

For a woman who met Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in recent weeks, Connie McClellan is still pretty easy to impress.


By GREG MILLER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Columbia mother flew aboard a C-130 military transport plane yesterday with her wounded son, John McClellan, who was being taken to a hospital in Tampa, Fla. "It’s the same plane they use to parachute out of," she said. "They gave me an awesome lunch, which these days you can’t get" on commercial airlines "unless you pay 20 bucks, and even then it’s still pretty bad."

John McClellan, a 20-year-old Marine from Columbia, was transported to the traumatic brain injury unit at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. He had spent three weeks at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he received his third Purple Heart from Gen. Michael Hagee a week ago.

McClellan, a lance corporal, was hit in the head by a sniper’s AK-47 bullet on Sept. 26 in Haditha, Iraq, but has shown little difficulty overcoming the wound. A piece of gold was inserted in his left eyelid to allow him to close it on his own, and he had to battle some pain to get used to sitting up again, but the Hickman High School graduate is getting better each day.

Doctors even want McClellan to leave the hospital for a while this weekend.

"We’re going to take him out to dinner," an obviously elated Connie McClellan said by telephone.

McClellan just got the OK to eat any kind of food he wants this week, and he is off of regular doses of pain medication.

"He does have a level of pain pretty much consistently, but that’s pretty low," Connie McClellan said. "He really doesn’t complain about it."

Pat Kerr, the Missouri veterans ombudsman, said traumatic brain injuries are becoming more common for returning veterans.

"A person can incur a minor traumatic brain injury simply by being rear-ended by a car," she said.

So far, McClellan seems to be fine, but Tampa doctors are keeping a close eye on the Marine dubbed "Lucky" by his fellow grunts.

Connie McClellan said e-mails from those military friends who are still serving overseas help keep her son’s spirits up.

"They mean everything," she said. "When we get one of those, it’s really exciting."

October 25, 2006


Troops return from Iraq to warm embrace

When Jerry Henson returned from the Vietnam War in 1966 there was one person waiting to greet him at the airport -- his wife.

"And that was it," said the 65-year-old Louisvillian.


Thursday, October 26, 2006
By Katya Cengel
The Courier-Journal

The welcome was far more ebullient at Louisville International Airport yesterday, where Henson and a dozen or so other members of the Kentuckiana Marine Corps League Detachment 729 welcomed Marines home from Iraq.

Besides Henson and his comrades, there were hundreds of friends and family members, dozens of large signs and plenty of youngsters perched on shoulders to greet 25 Marines and one Navy reservist assigned to Echo Company, 4th Tank Battalion, headquartered at Fort Knox.

Trina Watt, 14 months, of Bowling Green was wearing an outfit her cousin Lance Cpl. Brandon Herrington, 21, had given her before he left.

On the front of the shirt was written "My cousin is a Marine," on the back of her pants was "Ooh-Rah," a Marine cheer.

A car-race theme with black and white checks dominated signs on the walls and in the Fort Knox reception area at the airport. Its originator, Beverly King of Jeffersontown, whose son Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Giovanni Dattalo was one of the platoon's comedians, called it "sort of a redneck welcome home."

It was a greeting the Marines and Dattalo were happy to see after spending more than six months in Iraq's al-Anbar province, which has seen some of the war's fiercest fighting. The platoon suffered no casualities and only one minor injury during its time in Iraq supporting a tank company, Capt. Andrew Dirkes said. The platoon has been readjusting at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina since its return from Iraq last week.

Among the troops was Soulath Saysanavong, who came to Bowling Green, Ky., from Laos with his family in 1986. His mother, Mala Saysanavong, he said, used to be frightened of the military after witnessing the Vietnam War. Now, she said, she is "happy" and "proud" of her son's service as a Marine in Iraq. It is a sentiment shared by Soulath's older brother, Soulith.

"We've been around enough it just feels right to serve for the country we call home," Soulith said.

One of the first things he gave his brother was a cellular phone.

"It is better than the satellite phone he used to use on top of buildings trying not to get shot," he said.

Now that Soulath is back, he plans to attend Western Kentucky University. But first he must buy his little sister Sarah a birthday present, something that she said is long overdue.

As for Gunnery Sgt. Michael Kadlub, he's going to spend some time with his daughter Reagan.

Andrea Kadlub was 6½ months pregnant with Reagan when he left. Among the first things the father and daughter probably will do, Andrea Kadlub said, is watch football -- the University of Michigan on Saturday and the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Reporter Katya Cengel can be reached at (502) 582-4224.

US marines to train Sri Lankan navy

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) US Marines will conduct exercises with the Sri Lanka Navy later this month, deploying more than 1,000 personnel and support ships for amphibious and counter-insurgency manoeuvres with the aim of 'containing' growing Chinese presence in the region and to test its latest theories on 'littoral battle' without putting American soldiers at risk.


Wednesday October 25, 07:54 AM

Military sources said the joint exercises involving the 15 Marine Expeditionary Unit on the beaches in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka are taking place where the Chinese plan on building oil and harbour facilities that were ravaged by the tsunami two years ago.

'Whilst the manoeuvres will put the Tamil Tigers on notice to engage seriously in the upcoming peace talks in Geneva, the location of the exercise clearly indicates that India too has signed off on the venture as a subtle warning to the Chinese not to unduly intrude upon the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),' Brigadier Arun Sahgal of the United Service Institution of India told IANS.

For Sri Lanka, however, US Marine training in amphibious warfare will equip its navy to counter the Sea Tigers, the world's only insurgent force with an aggressively operational naval wing that deploys custom-built boats which were launched in a suicide attack on the southern port of Galle Oct 18.

The US and India, however, have long eyed with trepidation China's 'string of pearls' strategy in the IOR of clinching regional defence and security agreements to secure its mounting energy requirements, enhance its military profile from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea and significantly expand its presence and visibility in the area.

Meeting with senior Indian military officials including the three Service Chiefs in New Delhi earlier this week, US Pacific Commander Admiral William J. Fallon conceded as much when he expressed concern over Beijing's military build up in the region.

But India and the US have frequently reiterated that their new-found strategic partnership is not aimed at countervailing China's proliferating military, especially naval expansion.

But Indian defence planners disagree.

They also claim that though India exercises limited influence in the region, it remains the dominant, albeit 'hesitant', naval power and consequently has been 'anointed' Washington's junior partner in the IOR.

The US along with other members of the Sri Lankan Donors Group, which assist with the country's post-tsunami rebuilding and in brokering peace talks between the government and the separatist Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), have been known to frequently consult with India on Colombo-related security matters.

Washington has also long harboured a strategic interest in Sri Lanka, centred around eastern Trincomalee port, which it looks upon as a staging point for its naval assets stationed in and around its Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean.

And to gain access to the 'strategic jewel' that is Trincomalee, one of the world's biggest natural deep-sea harbours, the US has 'persuaded' India to step in as Washington's 'proxy' to extend its influence over the port without overtly arousing suspicion of superpower hegemony.

Located on the busy East-West shipping route stretching from the Suez Canal to the Malacca Straits, Trincomalee controls the Indian Ocean.

Earlier, through a combination of diplomacy, bullying and astute bargaining, a paranoid India had for several decades managed to prevent outside powers - especially the US - from gaining access to Trincomalee.

During the Cold war years, the US had wanted to station a Voice of America transmitter in Sri Lanka as a precursor to using its warships using the harbour. But close Soviet-ally India steadfastly opposed any such move.

One of the key clauses of the 1987 accord that led to the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka to disarm the Tamil Tigers declared that Trincomalee - particularly its oil tanks, located around 20 km from the Indian coast - would not be controlled by any foreign power 'inimical' to India.

But after 9/11 things changed and even more so recently with India and the US strategically and militarily coming closer.

The US has acknowledged the Indian Navy as a 'stabilizing force' in IOR and wants a closer working relationship with it that includes arrangements to patrol the sea-lanes from the North Arabian Sea to the Malacca Straits off the Singapore coast.

Consequently, in a quiet, 35-year deal clinched with Sri Lanka - with US approval - the state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) hammered out a Rs.200 million ($4.16 million) agreement in 2002 to refurbish the voluminous oil tanks at Trincomalee for the first time after World War II when British warships used it for refuelling.

Providing the entire operation protection at Trincomalee are US-trained Sri Lankan soldiers.

Under Operation Balanced Style US, Sea Air Land Forces (SEALS) specialists have trained Sri Lankan army and navy personnel in security techniques to protect Trincomalee.

Sri Lankan police teams have also attended anti-terrorism courses in the US with emphasis on bomb disposal and US military cooperation has also been quietly extended to the island's air force that operates a wide range of Israeli-made combat aircraft.

It is well known that the US Navy has long been looking for access to a strategically located South Asian port for its Fifth Fleet, established in 1996 for permanent deployment in the Indian Ocean to bolster the US Middle East Force, increasing in tactical and strategic importance after the Iraq invasion.

US missile strikes during the war in Afghanistan were executed, amongst others, by Fifth Fleet warships, clearly demonstrating America's ability to exercise military power against littoral states deep inland.

'With the US now India's most coveted ally, New Delhi is unlikely to object to Washington neatly tying up various strategic bonds to fully dominate the Asian region,' a senior Indian security officer said. In turn, India hopes to profit from its growing military relations with the US, he added.

(Rahul Bedi can be reached at [email protected])

*Marine reservists welcomed back to American soil after tour in Iraq

Home at last

Trim and fit and dressed in desert fatigues, 43 Marine reservists of Truck Company, Fourth Marine Division disembarked yesterday through Gate A3 at Pittsburgh International Airport to the wide-open arms of parents and grandparents, spouses and children, relatives and friends.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Steve Levin
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

All they did was come home -- and that was more than enough.

Based out of Erie and Ebensburg, Cambria County, the Marines had been deployed for seven months in Iraq. One reservist re-upped and stayed behind; six others who were injured returned separately.

This was the reservist company's fifth deployment to Iraq.

The troops flew commercial from California on Southwest Airlines. As the jet taxied to the gate, firetrucks shot streams of water in front of it as a ceremonial welcome.

On board, passengers were asked to let the soldiers disembark first. At the gate, red-coated airport personnel were overwhelmed by waiting families, many of whom were in tears knowing their boys were safe.

Soldiers broke into wide grins, squinting in the bright TV lights.

A mom rubbed her son's hand over and over, saying half to herself: "I'm so glad you're home. I'm so glad you're home."

The soldier's father, his own eyes misting, said gruffly, "You look like you got bigger."

The Scott Baker Sr. family of Tarentum has gotten used to these homecomings -- only son, Cpl. Scott Baker Jr., 24, returned yesterday from his third deployment -- but the waiting isn't any easier.

In 2003, they kept in touch by mail. In 2004, they used tape recordings. This year, they used VCR tapes.

"That was our standing joke," Mr. Baker said, "that next time he goes over, we'll do DVDs. But there's not going to be a next time."

The corporal's three sisters were at the gate, along with his wife, mother, father and 7-year-old niece, Kristiona. She carried a sign reading: "Welcome Home, Uncle Buddy."

His wife, Vanessa Baker, 23, has managed the absences well, given that for more than two-thirds of her marriage, her husband has been either in training or in Iraq.

"I knew what I was getting into when he missed my senior prom," she said. "But as long as I know I'm going to grow old with him, that's all that matters."

Cpl. Baker said he would not deploy a fourth time.

Millie Moriarity made the three-hour drive from her home in Winburne, Clearfield County, to welcome home her grandson, Lance Cpl. Brock Perks. She has five other grandchildren, but wondering about the welfare of Cpl. Perks was particularly hard.

"I'm always the one who wants to watch CNN and the other news networks," she said.

Her grandson escaped injury during his deployment. But Friday, the family received a call from him at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where the reservists had been cooling their heels since Thursday. He'd suffered a cracked collarbone in a car accident.

For Lance Cpl. Jon Jamison, of Latrobe, yesterday was his first chance to meet his 7-month-old daughter, Erin Allison. The experience was so new for the 23-year-old that he had to ask a family member whether his daughter's name had one "L" or two.

"You never really get used to it," the corporal's father, Joseph Jamison, said while walking with his son to claim one of the dozens of look-alike green duffle bags at the baggage carousel.

"You spend every day waiting for the phone to ring," he said as he watched his son cradle his daughter, and Mr. Jamison's first grandchild.

"We're very proud of him."

Local Marines Back From Iraq

Some Susquehanna Valley marines have returned from Iraq.

Seventy members of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment arrived in Harrisburg at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday with an escort of police cars and fire trucks.


Wed Oct 25, 8:50 AM ET

Family and friends welcomed the troops with hugs and kisses.

The Marines have been in Iraq for nearly one year.

"It's been an unbelievable year for all of us -- to be back and get the reception we got from the city," said one Marine.

"It's very exciting that the American people know what's going on overseas and are still with us with their support," said another Marine. The Marines said they appreciated the homecoming celebration. Eleven of the Marines were wounded in fighting and bombings.

Copyright © 2006 TheWGALChannel.com

Marines return (2/25 Echo Co)

They received a heroes' welcome in Harrisburg just a few hours ago. Courtney Monie has more on the families that were reunited.


Posted: 10/25/2006 8:40:46 AM

It’s been 10 months, and they've been counting, since these Marines saw their wives, husbands, and children. Finally coming home early this morning is a moment none of them will forget.

With the prestige of a presidential motorcade and the joy of a hometown parade, 70 Marines traveled the last, but longest, leg of their journey

“The last two hours on the bus coming home- what's it gonna be like, how many people are gonna be there, things like that, am I gonna be interviewed.”

They walked into the Reserve Center on Second Street and into the arms of their families.

Captain Keith Brenize left his wife, his son, and his daughter.
“Exstatic to be home, day looking forward to, for me the first time to see the kids in ten months.”

Angela Brenize:
“I can't even put it into words, it's better than our wedding day, ranks up there with childbirth, it's awesome.”

Yet that joy can't erase what these soldiers missed.
“Missed my daughter's third birthday, my son's second birthday, my wife's....birthday, our anniversary.”

Sacrifices Brenize made to serve his country, yet this Captain says he's not the hero.

“She's my hero, people call us heroes, but the real hero's are the families back home...and stuff like that.”

The Marines were deployed last December, 11 members were injured in combat or by improvised explosive devices, thankfully none were killed.

October 24, 2006


CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces killed six insurgents, wounded four and netted five sniper rifles Sunday in the Euphrates River city of Hit, Iraq.


Release Date: 10/24/2006

Coalition Forces positively identified 10 males conducting insurgent activity in a parking lot prior to engaging them with a heavy volume of fire.

The insurgents were gathered around a car while distributing black masks, AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers to one another.

After the engagement Coalition Forces personnel searched three insurgent vehicles in the parking lot and captured the following equipment:
o (5) sniper rifles
o (3) sniper rifle magazines
o (11) AK-47 assault rifles
o (19) AK-47 assault rifle magazines
o (3) rocket propelled grenades with launchers
o (1) RPK machine gun
o (2) PKC machine gun
o (1) video camera
o (1) bullet-proof vest with protective plates
o (2) hand grenades
o (7) load bearing vests
o (8) black masks

During the engagement, some of the insurgent weapons were destroyed, and found burning inside the vehicles.

“Today was significant for Coalition Forces because it reduced the sniper threat in Hit by a considerable margin,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Graves, commanding officer for the Friedburg, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment.

“We will take advantage of this opportunity by continuing our efforts to develop Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police forces within Hit,” said Graves.

1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment is the Coalition Forces unit responsible for training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security to the city of Hit.

Coalition Forces evacuated the four wounded insurgents to a nearby U.S. military medical facility for treatment. Their condition is unknown at this time.

Hit is a city of about 60,000 located 35 miles northwest of Ramadi in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

*Family's joy turns to grief as son comes home early; Joshua Watkins was due home from Iraq on Oct. 31, but he was killed Saturday in Fallujah.

Marine Cpl. Joshua Watkins planned to come home from Iraq on Oct. 31, and his Jacksonville family dreamed of meeting him in a joyous reunion. They wanted to be at the base in North Carolina as he walked off the bus.


By KEN LEWIS, The Times-Union

On Monday night, they changed their travel plans amid overwhelming grief. Their son was scheduled to arrive in Dover, Del., today. They wanted to be on the tarmac as his body was transported from the aircraft into a vehicle.

Watkins, 25, died Saturday after being shot in the stomach while on foot patrol in Fallujah. Military doctors struggled for four hours in attempts to save him, according to information provided to his mother, Amy Watkins-Vazquez.

"The hardest part for me is going to be to learn to live without him in my life," Watkins-Vazquez said. "Because he was everything to me. He was my life, and he was the joy of my heart. And I told him that since he was a baby, that he was the joy of my heart."

Watkins was assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., according to U.S. Department of Defense.

"He was supposed to come home next Tuesday, and instead we're going to bury him," Watkins-Vazquez said. "He's coming home, but not the way I want."

Watkins was born and raised in the Jacksonville area, like his mother before him. After graduating from Nease in 1999, he took classes at University of North Florida for three years, then joined the Marine Corps. He intended to become an officer, but he wanted to start as an enlisted man.

"He felt like that gave you better experience to lead other men," Watkins-Vazquez said.

He was on his second tour of Iraq and was promoted to corporal in the past 30 days. He became the leader of a Humvee crew and the soldiers inside it, she said. He had one more tour to go, and then he wanted to go to college to become an officer, she said.

The family members are handling the grief as well as they can, said his grandmother, Gail Tillis. She said the family was very close, and Watkins was their heart.

"He was tall and good-looking," Tillis said. "He had a beautiful, million-dollar smile."

His family takes pride in knowing that he believed in his mission. He had a great respect for the Marine Corps and felt it was an honor to become one and serve his country, Watkins-Vazquez said.

"He told me by phone not long ago that he and the Marines knew they were there for a reason," she said. "They would rather fight the fight there than to have anybody touch American soil. It was heartfelt. He loved his country."

All Marines in Iraq to have new body armor by end of ‘07

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — All Marines in Iraq should have new body armor by December 2007, said Capt. John Gutierrez, project manager for Modular Tactical Vests.

To continue reading:


*21 Tulsa Area Marines Return Home

21 Marines are back from Iraq after seven months overseas.

It ends a long journey that included tragedy. The Marines are attached to the Anti-Tank Training Company based out of Broken Arrow. And while the families were happy to be reunited, for some the welcome was bittersweet.


KOTV - 10/23/2006 2:16 PM - Updated 10/24/2006 11:58 AM

Family and friends waited late Monday night at Tulsa International Airport. The Marines arrived just before midnight.

During their deployment, they helped train the Iraqi Security Forces and conducted security operations. Thanks to a text message, one father says he knew his son was on his way home. Wally Whaling: "we got the text message it said "in Germany", that was the key, two words in the text message on the phone, about four, five hours later, six hours later we get another message "in America" that did it, that was the number one."

Many of the men we talked to say they were upset about the loss of several Marines while in Iraq. Corporal Jared Shoemaker who was also a Tulsa Police officer was killed by a roadside bomb back in September. Cody Hill, also from Oklahoma, was injured in that attack.

We're told the Marines are home for a while. They are unsure when and if they'll be sent back because new orders have not yet been announced.

*Emotional Homecoming For Local Marines

(KDKA) FINDLAY TWP. Pittsburgh International Airport was filled with celebration this afternoon as local Marines returned home safely from a lengthy deployment in Iraq.

Note: There is a video clip, seen by clicking on the orginal link.


Oct 24, 2006 7:10 pm US/Eastern

Families turned out for an emotional homecoming for 43 Marines who they have not seen for almost seven months.

This Marine unit has been deployed five times in three years and many returning today have served two tours or more which makes today's homecoming ever so sweet.

The Truck Company 4th Marine Division is responsible for hauling gear, ammunition and fuel.

They are constantly in and out of the combat zone.

KDKA's Brenda Waters reports that during the five times that this unit has been deployed it has only lost one marine in battle.

One proud grandmother said of the homecoming: "This is like Thanksgiving and Christmas all wrapped up in one."

October 23, 2006

Coalition forces open up school, issue supplies

AL MADINAH, Iraq (Oct. 23, 2006) -- Marines with 4th Civil Affairs Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and soldiers with Able Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion of the 136th Infantry Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), accompanied Maj. Gen Tariq Abdul Wahab Jasin, Commanding General of the 1st Iraqi Army Division to visit a recently opened school in Al Madinah As Siyahiyah (Tourist Town) and distribute supplies to the children October 9.


Oct. 23, 2006; Submitted on: 10/23/2006 01:56:20 PM ; Story ID#: 20061023135620
By Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group

2-136 is an Army National Guard unit based out of Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“Opening the school and giving out supplies opens up a lot of doors to the city to help out,” said Army 1st Lt. Sean M. Kiesz, 26, platoon commander of 2nd Platoon, Able Company and a native of Bismarck, N.D. “It was great to see the looks on the kids.”

During the visit, the Iraqi Army soldiers handed out school materials and the school principal accepted a $500 donation from the families of soldiers with 2-136 to assist with the moving costs to their new building and any other expenses. The check was presented to the principal by Army Lt. Col. Gregg L. Parks, Battalion Commander of 2/136, accompanied by Tariq.

Tariq and Iraqi Army members also gave out bean bag toys, soccer balls and other items for children’s entertainment.

“The goal of civil affairs is to interact with the local populous,” said Gunnery Sgt. Fletcher P. Veitch, 34, 4th Civil Affairs Group representative for 1st MLG and a native of Leonardtown, Md. “It lets us get a chance to reach out and touch the people’s world.”

The event symbolized the growing trust between “Tourist Town” and coalition forces. The soldiers of Able Company see these social functions as a great way to increase a positive relationship with the area.

“After seeing what we’ve done, it lets them know that we are here to help, and the Iraqi Army is here to help,” said Army Staff Sgt. Douglas A. Newman, 24, fire team leader with 2nd Platoon, Able Company.

After organizing an event that increased spirits in Al Madinah, the soldiers felt that they made a difference in the Iraqi people’s lives.

“The best part of all of the missions is the interaction with the culture,” said Army Sgt. Jesse J. Wiemer, 22, ground operations leader with Able Company and a native of Fargo, N.D. “The children are the future of Iraq, and with (Civil Affairs) operations like this, they learn to trust us.”

“The Civil Affairs missions are critical because it gives the people a sense of hope,” said Army Capt. Adam A. Gilbertson, 29, company commander of Able Company and a Moorhead, Minn., native. “Today was a great day for it.”

October 22, 2006

*Freedom calls allow troops to phone home

Michele Strandburg was able to see and talk to her husband of 19 years, Shawn — for the first time in the seven weeks he has been deployed in Iraq — on Sunday via a video conference at the Yuma County Board of Supervisors auditorium.


Oct 22, 2006

Her husband is a major and an aircraft maintenance officer in VMA-211, "The Avengers," in one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, the Anbar province.

The major was all smiles when he saw his wife and kids. Cole, 3, showed his dad a sword and later snuck up behind his mom to model a pirate hat, souvenirs from his recent trip to Disneyland, which made his dad laugh. Cole also showed his dad how he high-fived his favorite character, Captain Hook.

Daughter Sara, 5, was more shy and took her time getting in front of the camera. Her mom modeled Sara's Minnie Mouse ears princess crown for her father. Sara showed her dad the autograph book she got in Disneyland, and he told her she was "getting to be a big girl."

Following the video call, Michele said it was very nice, and there were no tears. "He was happy to see the kids," she said. "It's a really nice service."

Michele said the kids did not really know they had to stay in one place in order for their father to see them. She said she really appreciated that people would spend a weekend day to provide video calls for families.

Shawn will probably be home in March, after seven months in Iraq. Michele said her kids know where their father is, but they don't really understand.

"It's difficult, more difficult, when you have little ones," Michele said. "It's a lot more work on the person left behind."

The director of Public and Legislative Affairs of Yuma County, Kevin Tunell, was manning the video calls. Each family had a half hour to talk.

Tunell said the Freedom Calls Foundation picks the families who will receive calls.

"We need to keep the connection going," Tunell said. "We set up the room."

There is a large auditorium screen picture of the soldiers talking, and in the bottom corner is a picture of what the soldier is seeing on his end. The soldiers wear a headset and microphone, and the families need to look at and talk into a camera on top of a computer, set up with a large light beaming on them.

Tunell said it is stressful when there are problems with the satellite connection, which was down for about 20 minutes at the beginning of the call session. There were 16 calls made Sunday, 13 with VMA-211 and 3 with MACS-1, Marine Air Control Squadron 1. He said there are about 200 families in the area with family in Iraq.

"They are 10 or 11 hours ahead of us," Tunell said. "Some of the Marines won't be talking to their loved ones until midnight or 1 a.m. their time."

Tunell said the hope is to be able to make these calls at least once a month.

Jennifer Worrell, 23, of Yuma was one of the first to receive a video call Sunday, along with her kids, Amanda, 2, and Johnathan, 1.

Worrell said this was her second video call with her husband, Sgt. Anthony Gunner, 38, who has been in Iraq for two months. She said the soldiers signup for calls with Freedom Calls. She tells her daughter that her father is at work the whole time he is gone, but she does not think Amanda understands he is far away.

"It's difficult trying to take care of them and then the house and make sure everything's running smoothly," Worrell said.

Gunner talked to Amanda but had a difficult time seeing his son in his stroller. "There is a second or two second delay," he told Worrell. "There are storms in this area right now."

He also said mail has been slow because of the storms and that troops are most in need of care packages with snacks.

Amanda Kincaid, 30, and her son Austyn, 7, also had their second video call with her husband Shannon, 32, on Sunday.

"I'm doing it mostly for him (Austyn). It's his stepdad," Kincaid said. "He understands he (Shannon) has to go away and fight for our country. It's important for him to see. He gets in there, and they make faces and noises and act like they've never been apart."

She said the video calls make it seem "just like they're here."

"It makes the time go faster. If I've seen him twice, then I know it's only five more times (of seeing him on video) ’til they're home. It's like a countdown," Kincaid said.

Nicole Squibbs can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6855.


• It is a public charity which has built a satellite network under the authority of the Secretary of the Army to keep deployed troops in touch with family at no cost to troops or their families.
• It costs tens of thousands of dollars to make satellite transmissions each month for video calls.
• Finances are a problem, and the only way the program can keep going is through donations.
• Go to www.freedomcalls.org to donate.

SOURCE: Kevin Tunell, director of Public and Legislative Affairs, Yuma County

Bearing the pain of war

NORTH COUNTY ---- For Gulf War veteran Nick Morris, it's the smell of diesel. In the case of Vietnam War veteran Charles Hargett, it's the sound of a car backfiring or the scent of Asian food.



For victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, certain sights, smells and sounds trigger such symptoms as nightmares and flashbacks, insomnia, detachment and depression. Mental health professionals say that in some cases, the disorder leads to acts of violence, substance abuse, divorce, job loss, homelessness and even suicide.

Troops from the Vietnam era and later wars have struggled with the disorder, and now a new crop of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are being diagnosed at an increasing rate, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A recent VA study shows a tenfold increase in the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who had sought treatment for symptoms linked to combat stress in the previous 18 months, affecting fully one-third of veterans.

North County figures have also increased. The number of visits to the Vista Veterans Center by recent combat veterans seeking help for mental problems jumped from 459 in fiscal year 2005 to 727 in fiscal year 2006, officials with the center said last week.

The VA's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder estimates that about 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have experienced the condition upon returning to the United States, while about 8 percent of veterans from the first Gulf War are believed to have experienced symptoms.

The center defines the condition as "a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape."

Specialists working with patients who are suffering from the condition say that some victims show relatively mild symptoms at first, such as shortness of temper, detachment and depression ---- symptoms that can suddenly worsen, months or even years later, during a period of crisis.

San Marcos resident Morris, 41, is somewhat of a textbook case. He was discharged from the Army's Special Forces in 1993 after serving in the first Gulf War, where he "saw lots of bullets, lots of bodies, lots of death," he said last week. Given the secret nature of many Special Forces operations, he said he could not comment on all of the places in which he saw combat.

Morris said he lived a relatively normal life for the first three years after his discharge, with occasional angry outbursts, "but nothing that would arouse any flags or suspicion." Then in 1996, he broke his neck in an injury at his job.

During the prolonged and extremely painful convalescence that followed, he began to find himself suffering bouts of rage and depression, Morris said.

"The tiniest bit of stress would completely set me off," he said.

Eventually, he sought professional help with a licensed therapist. But when the therapist diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, he didn't want to believe it, Morris said.

"I swore up and down, 'No, it can't be,' " he said.

At first, he felt that admitting the condition would make him weak.

"It's a man thing, the ego, male testosterone," Morris said.

But he knows that's an illusion now, he said, and encourages anyone who is suffering from the symptoms to seek help.

"When you go through something, it's always better to go through it with someone else ---- even misery," he said.

If he could, he would tell them, "You're not crazy and you're not alone," Morris said.

Over time, the therapist taught him to isolate the pain and anger he carried and to beware of the triggers that unleashed the symptoms.

By recognizing those triggers and learning coping skills such as meditation, counting to 10 and thinking of positive experiences, it is possible to reduce the impact of the symptoms, he said.

"Over the seven or eight years I have seen him, I have learned to deal with the triggers and situation pretty well," Morris said.

Specialists who work with victims of the condition say treatment can include prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions that involve reliving the experience over and over again.

Through late 2004, Jennifer Morse, M.D., served as chairwoman of psychiatry at the Naval Medical Center of San Diego. In that role, she treated many victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

Initially, many patients resist the cognitive therapy sessions in which they are asked to relive their traumatic experiences, Morse said.

However, "repetition of the trauma is the most effective form of treatment," she said.

Not that it's easy on the patient ---- or the therapist, she added.

Morse began treating men and women with post-traumatic stress syndrome during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. But the symptoms she has seen in recent Iraq war veterans, in many cases, are even stronger than the ones she saw during and after the first war, she said.

In part, she attributes that to multiple deployments and repeated exposure to danger, death and destruction, Morse said. Some Marines, soldiers and sailors are now on their fourth tour of duty in Iraq.

"I had problems listening to these young people," Morse said of the newer veterans. "I got tears in my eyes listening to the horror of what they had been through. They would be sweating while describing it, getting more and more upset, snapping their head around and actually talking to their fellow gunman."

She might have had San Marcos resident Jeffrey Eckert in mind. The 43-year-old electrician served with the Army National Guard in Iraq from May 2003 to May 2004. Eckert said Wednesday that he saw a lot of horrible things during that year. On a couple of occasions, he told his VA therapist the details of what he endured, "but I didn't like it."

To this day, it's tough to talk about his experiences, Eckert said.

"The horror of what actually happened, what I did, what I had to do for my guys, it just repeats in my mind all the time," he said.

Only those who have seen combat can understand what it's like, Eckert said. And that is why group therapy is so important. He said he has participated in a group for about two years and expects that he will continue to go for the rest of his life.

Almost as soon as he returned from Iraq, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome hit him ---- the anger, the sleep deprivation, the nightmares, he said.

The day he realized he could no longer feel love was the day he knew something was deeply wrong, Eckert said.

"It was all gone and no matter what I did, I couldn't get it back," he said.

Then, he began noticing his wife was full of bruises because of his hitting and kicking out during the night as he slept, he said. So, he sought professional help.

"I couldn't let that go on anymore," Eckert said.

Morse said that adding to the trauma of multiple deployments is the sense of dread that many experience in knowing they must return to the mayhem of Iraq, "having to convince themselves that everyone else has done it, and they have to do it, too."

After repeated exposure to trauma, some troops simply become numb to the violence, she said.

"It's almost like they have lost the capacity to feel sadness ---- they replace it with anger," said Morse.

Not everyone who experiences or witnesses severe trauma on the battlefield develops the condition, while some have more severe symptoms than others, she added.

"Some combat veterans become very paranoid, to the point of guarding their home with weapons, pacing the house at night," Morse said, noting that many veterans are hypersensitive to sound.

Another specialist in the treatment of the disorder agreed that multiple deployments are taking a toll on troops.

"I predict this war will probably produce a good number (of victims,)" said Jeffrey Matloff, who heads up post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for the VA in San Diego County.

He said that one of the most important ways of reducing the onset of severe symptoms is by providing veterans with family support and social support from peers, friends and churches.

"Social isolation can lead to severe PTSD, because it means you are stuck in your head more," Matloff said.

That is one of the reasons why group therapy is often recommended as a treatment for the disorder, "getting people to realize they are not the only ones in the world who have had the problem," Matloff said.

"Combat is a life changing experience for everyone," he said. "It's a difficult to go from combat to ... being a civilian."

Morris said he couldn't agree more. One of the hardest adjustments he had was giving up his weapon, he said.

"I used to put my finger on the trigger and right away feel better," Morris said. "Now, I don't have that ---- it's like losing a leg or an arm."

While some veterans experience delays in the onset of symptoms, others have had them for decades. Because they didn't seek treatment, the condition was never diagnosed. Health professionals say that if victims of the disorder go untreated, symptoms can become increasingly severe.

That is exactly what happened to former Marine Sgt. Hargett, the Vietnam War veteran said last week.

The Purple Heart recipient served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 and had five confirmed kills of Vietnamese, one of them a child of about 5 who was accompanying a woman who shot at him with a rocket, Hargett said.

He wasn't diagnosed with the disorder until 2001, after suffering from its symptoms for three decades ---- symptoms that grew more intense over time, he said. He had severe drinking problems, violent outbursts, a failed marriage and a series of arrests for driving under the influence and one for assault with a deadly weapon, Hargett said.

In 1994, he and his former wife had an argument over a family vacation and things quickly spiraled out of control, he said.

"I put a gun to her head and was getting ready to shoot her," Hargett said.

Most patients improve with therapy, but the duration and success of treatment varies from person to person, said Jim Chandler, medical director for behavioral health with TriWest Healthcare Alliance, a private company under contract with the Department of Defense to provide health care for military families.

"Some people get better without treatment, some people improve quickly with treatment and some people (the condition) affects for much longer, even with treatment," he said.

Each person is also different when it comes to which type of therapy suits him or her best, Chandler said. Some patients work better with individual therapy that often involves reliving their traumatic experiences, he said. In other cases, that's a bad idea, he added.

"It's not comfortable for some people, leading them to stop therapy," he said.

"Not all treatments are effective for every individual and it requires trying different therapies," Chandler said, adding that group therapy is more beneficial for many people.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety and sleep medications are often helpful in helping to control symptoms, he said.

Patients are also taught techniques for minimizing the symptoms, things such as anger management and learning to think before acting, Chandler said.

"Anger tends to be impulsive, and impulse control requires training for some people, helping individuals to see the early warning signs and identify what leads up to the reaction," he said.

Psychiatrist Morse said too many men are sitting at home suffering and thinking they are going crazy and they must seek help.

"It doesn't mean they are a coward, (or) they are weak," she said.

Family members and co-workers should not hesitate to talk to veterans they believe are showing symptoms of the disorder, Morse said.

"These people just need someone to say, 'Have you talked with somebody since you have been back, gotten counseling?' " she said. "It can happen to anyone, it does happen to anyone, no matter how prepared they think they are."

Morris, Hargett and Eckert are going about their daily lives as best they can. Hargett dedicates much of his time to his volunteer work as commander of North County's chapter 493 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Eckert is working as an electrician who helps install cell phone towers. He said he puts in lots of overtime and finds it therapeutic. He and his wife recently bought a home. Morris stays busy working with his wife in their catering business and business is great, he said.

As the men continue their treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, all of them say that therapy has provided some relief.

"It won't go away, but the treatment helps you cope with it," Hargett said.

Staff writer Joe Beck contributed to this report. Contact staff writer William Finn Bennett at (760) 740-5426, or [email protected]

October 21, 2006

Wounded Burlington Marine wants to return to duty

Bomb's are the weapons of choice for insurgents in Iraq. Lance Corporal Jason Mikolajcik was three feet from a car bomb in Falluja when it exploded.


by Michael Herzenberg

"We were searching vehicles to come into the city and we finished with the car that was in our bay and going to the next car up and pulled in and I watched the guy squint his eyes and boom."

Second and third degree burns cover parts of the Burlington native's body, and shrapnel tore into his head.

"I remember just waking up on the ground like, no way did that just happen, got up, looked, I had both my legs, both my arms, and looked down and saw two Iraqi army laying on the ground. Grabbed em, pulled em out of the garage because the garage was on fire, turned around to go back for my buddy."

His buddy Lance Corporal Christopher Cosgrove was inside the garage as the fire consumed it.

"The other Marines at the personnel search about 20 meters down the road grabbed me and told me I had to go to the hospital, and I refused. They had to lie to me told me that my buddy's already in the Humvee to go 'cause I wouldn't go, so I went to the Humvee and went to the hospital."

Cosgrove didn't make it. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment of Plainville. He grew up in New Jersey where he graduated from high school and attended college. He leaves behind a fiance and many loved ones.

"He was one of my good friends I met him at the ECP and he's any easy going guy. He was cool to hang out with. No one didn't like him. He was just in the wrong place in the wrong time just like I was. I just got lucky."

Just like his attitude in the thick of battle he's still thinking of others. Recovery from burns is a painful battle all its own at the Brooke Army Medical Center, but this Marine want to return to Iraq and fight with his friends.

"What's the hardest part for you right now?"
"Thinking about all my guys, all my fellow Marines back in Falluja, that's the worst knowing I'm here and they're there."
"It's not like you didn't do your duty?"
"I'd rather be there with them. I just don't feel right at all, but all I can do for them is heal and get better."

While Jason wants to go back to Iraq to fight that won't happen anytime soon. He is now in outpatient care at Brooke Army Medical Center.

His Marine regiment is expected to return to Plainville next week.

October 20, 2006

Camp Lejeune-based Marines, Iraqi soldiers dig up weapons caches along Euphrates River

Editor"s Note: This article was originally written in October, however, its publication was postponed due to operational security reasons.

RAWAH, Iraq (Oct. 10, 2006) - During a weeklong counterinsurgency operation in Iraq"s western Al Anbar province, U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers discovered a vast amount of weapons caches and captured two suspected insurgents.


Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp,
Combat Correspondent, 2nd LAR Battalion

The operation took Marines approximately 25 miles west toward the Iraq-Syrian border from their Forward Operating Base in Rawah, Iraq, as they and Iraqi soldiers spent seven days conducting extensive searches for weapons caches.

The combined U.S. and Iraqi operation involved door-to-door searches of roughly 300 houses and 10 islands along the Euphrates River, as well as conversing with locals in an attempt to disrupt insurgent activity in the region.

"We"re hitting (the insurgents) where it hurts," said Maj. Sean Quinlan, commander, Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. "We"re taking away their weapons and, with that, their ability to do harm."

Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based battalion have worked the streets of Rawah, a city of about 20,000 people located 150 miles northwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates River, since early last month when they arrived in Iraq.

By moving with Iraqi soldiers through local farming communities, the Marines say they presented a "unified image" as they conducted their mission - U.S. and Iraqi troops working together to secure the region.

Clad in body armor, helmets and other protective gear, the soldiers" time was split between searching areas that could potentially contain hidden weapons and talking to the local people to both gather information about possible insurgent activity and help build the locals" confidence in their own safety, according to Marine officials here.

Iraqi soldiers provided a key element to the success of the operation - communication, according to Lance Cpl. Daniel P. Robertson, a 21-year-old scout.

"They help us understand the culture, and when people see them working with us, it lets them know that we"re all in this together," said Robertson, a native of Daytona Beach, Fla.

But although residents were friendly, the Marines say that"s not necessarily a clear indicator that the locals trust U.S. and Iraqi forces in the region. Due to a campaign by local insurgents that regularly involves murder and intimidation, several months ago an Iraqi Police lieutenant"s head was cut off and displayed in a Rawah market.

Out of fear, the people of the area have a tendency to avoid getting too involved with Coalition Forces to protect themselves from similar situations, according to Hospitalman Ryan Woody, one of Company D"s U.S. Navy corpsman.

"Even the ones who want to help are scared of retaliation against them or their families," said Woody, a 27-year-old from Lake Jackson, Texas. "The people that helped told us they had nothing left to lose and are just sick of the insurgency."

While the local population might not be ready to blatantly point out where the insurgents or weapons are just yet, it didn"t deter the Marines who, through persistence, began to locate exactly what they were looking for.

"It wasn"t really a surprise when we started finding things," said Lance Cpl. Adam Tuck, a 21-year-old Light Armored Vehicle gunner for Company D, from Topeka, Kan. "The searches that we were conducting were thorough, and if anyone had a hunch then we"d check it out."

One of those hunches proved useful several days into the operation while Marines were searching the small islands that dot the Euphrates River. The Marines came across evidence that people had recently occupied the area. After a few more indicators of recent activity, the Marines suspected a weapons or munitions cache may be nearby and began digging.

Their efforts were rewarded almost immediately.

After the island had been searched again, and the dust from all the digging had settled, the Marines were left with a load of weapons, information and bomb-making material.

An RPK (Russian-made machine gun), mortar rounds, anti-personnel mines, two vests with five pounds of explosives stuffed in each, detonation cord, anti-aircraft machine guns, 7.62mm ammunition and cell phones were just some of the items that the Marines found.

The Marines continued to produce results throughout the mission, ultimately finding more of the same types of weapons and bomb-making materials.

As the operation came to a conclusion, Marines chased and captured two suspected insurgents in an area that they had already found to be heavily laden with improvised explosive devices.

However, the Marines" success during the weeklong operation came with a price - two Marines, Lance Cpl. Edward M. Garvin and Cpl. Benjamin S. Rosales, were killed.

Sgt. Timothy England, a 28-year-old Marine and one of Company D"s section leaders for 3rd platoon, was on the same patrol which saw the deaths of Garvin and Rosales. Marines present said England"s leadership helped hold everyone together.

"(He) wouldn"t leave the hurt Marines" side, he took care of everything they needed and then consoled some of the guys afterward," said Cpl. Andrew H. Roberson, a 21-year-old scout from Blue Springs, Miss., who was part of the same patrol.

In this region of Iraq, where everything in a routine patrol can change in an instant and the enemy blends in among the innocent people, it"s the sergeants and corporals, like England and Rosales, whom battlefield commanders rely on to take charge and make the important, life-changing decisions if necessary.

"It"s the leadership that noncommissioned officers like the late Cpl. Rosales and Sgt. England bring that motivates us to do our job the best we can," said Lance Cpl. Gerad H. Moore, a 24-year-old LAV gunner with Company D from Indianapolis, Ind.

That type of motivation will be instrumental in producing results as Marines work with Iraqi Security Forces to build the trust of the locals and make the area safe during their remaining six months in Iraq.

While the operation produced results, the battalion still has plenty of work ahead of it, said Quinlan, a Scottville, Mich., native.

"The next couple months are pivotal," he said. "We came in, assessed the situation, and got a great start with (the operation)."

The challenge lies in helping the Iraqis establish their own security forces in Rawah and Anah along with the tools and knowledge they need to stand up on their own, Quinlan added.

"Our success is measured in battle space," he said. "Right now, Marines are in control of this area. Every time we"re able to turn over a portion of our battle space to Iraqi Security Forces, whether it be anywhere from 10, 20 to 50 percent, that"s us being successful in the overall mission."

Contact Lance Cpl. Sapp at: [email protected]

Community salutes Pawling military families

"Salute to our Hometown Heroes" last Saturday at Lakeside Park was an opportunity for the community to honor the Pawling residents who are now serving, or who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States Armed Forces.


By: John M. Benson 10/20/2006

The event featured keynote speaker Paula Zwillinger, Gold Star Mother and founder of Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley. The Blue Star Banner is given by the American Legion to families with members in the U. S. Armed Forces. The Gold Star Banner is given to those who have lost family members in military service during wartime. Zwillinger's son Robert was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq on June 6, 2005.

To open the ceremonies, U.S. Army Sgt. Jennifer Castle treated the assembled to an inspiring vocal rendition of the national anthem. Jennifer served in Iraq with her father, U.S. Army Sgt. Wayne Castle, both members of the U.S. Army Reserve.

List of service people

The list of service personnel from Pawling is long, and includes: Damon Albert, Greg Ball, Leo Brace III, Nick Brehm, Ryan Brogan, Keith Brokaw, Kevin Brown, Paul Brunow, James Butler, Jennifer Castle, Wayne Castle, Tish Cavaleri, Jason Chipkin, Gunther Daley, Timothy Day, Rebecca Delena, Paul Edwards, Martin Evans, Brian Furnia, Noelle Gerry, Jesse Greco, James Grogan, Michael Hines, Francis Johnson, Daniel Kaine, Casey Kimma, Christopher Lawrence, Christian Labra, Adam Leal, Stratton Leo, Michael Ludwig, Jamie Manzoeillo, Allan McHugh, Jr., Paul Murphy, Eric Nunziato, Christopher Panzer, Robert Paugh, Jr., Anthony Paugh, Mark Peters, Timothy Proctor, James Purcell, Jeffrey Renwick, Bill Robbins, Kevin, Smith, Joseph Tomarchio, Dannelle Tomarchio, Robert Sean Tompkins, Marie Vedder, Patrick Vedder, Joseph Vinciguerra, Jason Wager, Kevin Walsh, Thomas Wichtendahl, Tom Winter, and Benjamin Wolken.

Schedule of events

During the roll call at this event, each service member and the family were invited up to the stage, where they received congratulations and certificates of appreciation from a row of dignitaries that included Semper Fi parents founder Paula Zwillinger, Gerry Christiansen and Commander John Claudet of the Pawling American Legion, Congresswoman Sue Kelly (R-Katonah), Sheriff Adrian "Butch" Anderson, State Sen. Vinnie Leibell (R- Patterson), Supervisor Beth Coursen, Village Mayor Rob Liffland, Deputy Mayor Tracy Durkin, and Chamber of Commerce President Peter Cris. Many of the dignitaries made their appreciative comments at the microphone.

This event in time of war was organized by Joni and Kevin Eberly and Kim Nunziato.

Joni Eberly

Joni Eberly spoke of the spirit of this gathering as she welcomed everyone and said, "For generations, citizens of the town of Pawling have answered our nation's call and have fought and sacrificed to achieve and maintain our freedom. That proud legacy of courage and patriotism continues with the men and women we honor here today. In the face of danger it is inspiring to see so many of our friends and neighbors volunteering to serve our country. This selfless act of courage speaks to your character, your integrity, and your dedicated allegiance to our great nation. Because of you, we are able to live our lives in freedom and with individuality. People around the world share our desire for freedom, yet so few are able to understand the sacredness with which we hold it, and the lengths we will go to protect and defend it. Your community and your nation are proud and grateful for your service."

Eberly then introduced keynote speaker Paula Zwillinger by saying, "With our nation's all volunteer force, families have become very much a part of the effort. Parents, spouses, siblings and children who endure long periods of separation and pray each day when their loved ones are deployed to the other side of the world are the unsung heroes. They hold it all together while they face the many challenges brought about by frequent deployments and family separations. On behalf of our community, we want you to know you that you are not alone, and that there are networks of support available to assist you. Shortly you will hear from our keynote speaker, Gold Star and Blue Star Mother Paula Zwillinger, founder of Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley.

"I want to take a few moments to speak to you about our featured speaker, Paula Zwillinger. In November 2004, when Paula's son Robert Mininger deployed to Fallujah, Iraq with the 3 rd and 8th Marines, Paula founded a support group for Parents of Marines called Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley. As news of the organization spread, so did the membership, which then expanded to include families of every branch of service.

"As violence escalated in Iraq and fears and concern overwhelmed those at home, Paula's compassion and strength helped ease the burden for Semper fi families and served as her saving grace when her own son was killed in battle. On June 6, 2005, Lance Corporal Robert T. Mininger died as a result of complications from injuries sustained from an IED, an improvised explosive device. This tragic event further reinforced her commitment to the men and women of our armed forces and caused her to expand her efforts to include not just those on the battlefield, but also to our wounded and returning veterans and their unique concerns and challenges.

"Honoring his brother's legacy, Paula's youngest son Greg enlisted in the Marines and graduated boot camp this past spring. Currently Lance Corporal Greg Mininger is a reservist, and he is in his third year of study at Widener University pursuing a degree in criminal justice.

"I met Paula shortly after Robert's death when I learned that Kevin's poem 'Remember our Fallen Heroes' was read during his memorial service at Camp Lejeune. It became clear that our destiny would be intertwined as long as America's heroes continue to protect our freedoms here and abroad.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Paula Zwillinger."

Paula Zwillinger

Zwillinger's comments were spirited and moving, as she spoke of accepting the decisions of her sons Robert and Greg, and of the sacrifices service members and their families make.

She addressed these Pawling families and said, "Thank you, Joni. Welcome to our dignitaries, and welcome to all of our military families. I am not here today to tell you my story. I am here today to talk to you about the American spirit. As members of the baby boomer generation, we all grew up with the Vietnam War. I am sure we had some type of opinion, and wondered if we ever had children, what would happen in a time of war.

"Many of us have some type of military background, whether it is a grandfather, or a father. Some of us have heard the war stories of our relative who saw action, and then there are some of us with no military connection until now. As parents I am sure we all had thoughts and opinions of what we would do if we saw another war, knowing that we are now parents of children. Then there was 9/11. Was it then that you might have seen a change in your children? Was 9/11 their calling? Did you see them develop more American pride? Did they join the service because they didn't want to go to college, or was it to enhance their career post college? There are so many reasons and probably more that we are not aware of. So here we are today, with our children now enlisted in the service, in a time when we have no draft, and as parents we are the ones who are forced to accept their decision. We as parents are the ones who are drafted, to accept their decision to volunteer, no matter how we feel about it, no matter how many tears we have cried.

"Did you know that many of our troops are college graduates? Did you know that majority of troops are from middle class? Do you realize a good percentage of our troops are single even though we have those that are married, with or without kids? Our troops out there today have keen intelligence, they are street smart, savvy and they represent America.

"So our children go off to boot camp, and we as parents have this sea of emotions that we go through, from the tears to the laughter of their letters, to our hidden fears, to our own American pride when you wear your shirts that say Proud Parent of a Marine, a Sailor, a Soldier, etc. How many times have you seen the cars on the highway with a sticker that you recognize, and you find yourself waving, honking your horn, or even trying to speed up the car to see if you recognize the person? Do you include colors of red white and blue on your Christmas tree? If you do any of those, you are a true military parent. We are the ones who fly our flag non-stop, not just on holidays, and we look around and wonder, why did the neighbor take down his flag? Post 9/11, we saw a wave of American pride, but now it has diminished and you can't help yourself wonder why.

"But as parents, our American spirit never falters. We are the ones who are there to support our troops, to pick up the pieces, to pay the bills left behind, and to send over the multitude of care packages. How many of us have taken days off of work because of deployments, return home, different memorial services, or just to pick up our soldier or Marine because he is flying in and only has 'x' number of hours available, or maybe you can't afford the flight and you have to go travel the distance in a car. Yes, we as the parents are the glue that keeps the troops going. We are their strongest supporter, as we would do anything for our son or daughter, no matter what the cost, just as we now have seen the change in our children when they talk about doing anything for their buddy, especially when it is in harm's way. That is the American spirit.

"In closing I just want to say to all of you, stand proud with your head held high for there is no other parental pride to compare with, especially when you see a lay person say thank you to your son or daughter when they are dressed in uniform.

"But most of all, as parents, we will always have the greatest fear of an unknown knock on the door, but remember this, as it was once said by Abe Lincoln, 'It is not how many years you lived, but what you did with those years.'

"Thank you, God Bless our troops and bring them home safely!"

*Local Marines come home

Another happy homecoming for some Marines based at Twentynine Palms. They're back with their families and friends this morning, after a big welcome home celebration last night.


Another happy homecoming for some Marines based at Twentynine Palms. They're back with their families and friends this morning, after a big welcome home celebration last night.

81 Marines from the First Tank Battalion Charley Company walked off busses in Twentynine Palms around 11 PM last night. Many were greeted by family and friends who say it's great to have them home again.

The Marines were sent to the al-Anbar province of Iraq in April. This was their third Iraqi deployment.

They lost one man in an accident during this latest trip overseas

October 19, 2006

*Sturbridge Marine dies in Iraq

The single black bar on his vest made the tall man with bright blue eyes stand out among his camouflaged charges.


By David Abel, Globe Staff | October 19, 2006

A few weeks ago, he told his wife not to worry. ``The insurgents aren't good shots," he said in a phone call.

At 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, after just 36 days in Iraq, Marine Second Lieutenant Joshua L. Booth was leading his platoon on foot patrol in Haditha when he crossed one with deadly aim. A sniper fired one lethal shot that hit the 23-year-old father from Sturbridge in the head.

``I'm sure they could tell he was a leader," said Erica Booth, the spouse he left behind on Sept. 11 with their 14-month-old daughter, Grace, and an unborn son due in January. ``He knew it was getting violent, but he didn't express any concern. He was really strong."

Born in Virginia Beach, Va., Booth moved to Massachusetts as a child and graduated in 2001 from St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, where he had grown to 6-foot-2 and developed a reputation as a fierce wrestler.

He had wanted to be a Marine from an early age, at least since meeting a family friend who had served in the Marines, his wife said. He even wore his hair ``high and tight" in high school.

``If they ever made fun of him, that would have been the end of it," she said. ``He was a hard-core Marine -- 100 percent. It was all he ever wanted to do."

Booth attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina, where in 2005 he graduated at the top of his class with a degree in criminal justice, became a nationally ranked pistol shooter, and earned his commission as a second lieutenant. ``He was a bit of an overachiever," she said.

He and his wife had met two years before at The Citadel, when she came to visit the school from Dighton. ``It was two weeks before spring break," she said. ``He came home, and the rest was history."

They married the month he graduated. He then spent several months in the infantry officers' course in Quantico, Va., before he and his family moved to the Marine base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where the couple went snorkeling and kayaking and napped with their daughter in a hammock.

``He was really proud of his platoon," she said. ``He talked about the progress they were making," arresting insurgents and confiscating weapons.

When his service was up, he wanted to work as either a police officer or a border control agent, his wife said. The two talked about settling in Charleston.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Lieutenant Booth leaves his parents, John E. and Debra L. of Sturbridge; a sister, Melissa L. DeVera of Fredericksburg, Va., and a large extended family.

He will be buried in Bedford, Va., next to relatives.

October 18, 2006

*Family Of Marine Severely Injured In Iraq Holds Faith

GREENFIELD, Ind. -- The family of a Marine from Indiana is awaiting his return to the U.S. after he was severely injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq.


POSTED: 6:36 am EDT October 18, 2006; UPDATED: 10:02 am EDT October 18, 2006

The explosion took a toll on his body, but Lance Cpl. Josh Bleill's family said it couldn't touch his inner strength or sense of humor, 6News' Jennifer Carmack reported.

Bleill, 29, of Greenfield is the kind of guy who loves to laugh but believes in responsibility and sense of duty, his family said.

"He says, 'I joined the Marines, Dad,' and I said, 'It was the right thing to do,'" said Virg Bleill, Josh's father.

In August, Bleill's Marine reserve unit was call to go to Iraq, something his sister, Jennifer Calienes, said she hoped would never happen.

"Can I protect him? No way, and that's the hardest part of this situation," Calienes said.

On Sunday, two weeks after arriving in Iraq, Bleill's Humvee was hit with a bomb in an attack that killed two Marines and left him severely injured.

For 48 hours, his family received no news on his condition, knowing only that he had lost both legs below the knee.

Bleill is now listed in stable condition and will soon be moved to Bethesda Medical Center next week.

"He's a fighter, always has been. He will turn this into something positive, and there will be humor around it. We'll move on together. It will be OK. It really will," Calienes said.

Marine's call alerts family of serious wound

Call it a mother's intuition. Call it coincidence if you want.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006
By Lynn Moore

But Diane Musk's stomach churned on Sunday when her husband wanted to take down the American flag flying in their Egelston Township yard.

Terry Musk didn't want the flag to get torn up in winter's cruel winds, so he called out to Diane that he was headed outside to take it down. That's when her stomach churned, and a feeling of uneasiness took hold of her as she thought about her stepson, Aaron, who is serving with the Marines in Iraq.

She told her husband to leave the flag up.

"I said 'I feel like that flag's protecting him. Can we just leave it up until he's home?' " Diane Musk recalled this morning.

And so he did.

Looking back on the events that have since unfolded, Musk is confounded by the uneasiness she felt -- and, taking it one step further, if somehow that flag really did protect Aaron, 22.

It wasn't two hours after the Sunday afternoon flag incident that the phone rang and Terry reached to answer. Caller I.D. indicated it was the "U.S. Government" on the line -- not a good feeling when your son, a sharpshooter in the U.S. Marines infantry, just deployed to Iraq three weeks earlier.

"He picked up the phone and said 'Oh my God,' " Musk said.

To Terry Musk's surprise, the voice on the other end of the phone was his son's, slurred and half-a-world away, but unmistakably Aaron's. No, he wasn't drunk, Aaron told his father. He had just been shot in the leg.

He was in a hospital and was violating the rules when he reached for a phone to call his family. He was fine, Aaron tried to assure his father.

"Evidently he wasn't supposed to call," said Diane Musk, who is a Chronicle advertising manager. "But good for him. I'm glad he did."

The phone call was brief, enough to rattle his parents who were anxious to know more. What happened? How was he really? Where was he? Ten minutes later, someone from the hospital -- realizing Aaron had made the unauthorized call -- called the Musks with sketchy information.

Aaron had been in a jeep convoy that had stopped along a roadway. The Marines exited their vehicles. One shot was fired at them. Lance Cpl. Aaron Musk's leg was shattered.

The hospital employee promised to call again, once Aaron had been through surgery and stabilized.

And then the wait began. The Musks waited through the night to hear more.

"You just keep thinking about him laying somewhere," Diane Musk said.

They waited throughout Monday, and still heard nothing. Thoughts returned to the events of Sunday. Wouldn't it have been right about the time that Aaron was shot when Diane had that uneasy feeling come over her? What would have happened if Terry had taken that flag down?

"Maybe it's silly," she said. "I think it's probably a woman thing."

In the meantime, Aaron's family was frantically trying to learn more. They tried in vain to get information through the American Red Cross's Armed Forces Emergency Services division. Then another mother with a son in the Marines managed finally to get a phone number for a Marine warrant officer in Germany who serves as a liaison between families and injured Marines treated there.

The warrant officer tracked down Aaron and learned he was in a hospital in Balad, Iraq, a hotspot north of Baghdad where more than 100 people have been brutally murdered or disappeared in sectarian fighting in recent days.

The warrant officer called the Musks to say that Aaron was in "good spirits," that his femur would require repeated surgeries and that he was expected to be transferred to Germany.

It was the emotional boost the Musks were seeking.

"When someone tells you he's in good spirits, you can picture the Aaron you know, telling jokes, flirting with the nurses," Musk said.

Aaron was a year out of Orchard View High School when he enlisted in the Marines in the summer of 2005. He had been studying law enforcement at Muskegon Community College with a goal of becoming a police officer when a Marine recruiter caught up with him.

"He felt it was the best way to get his schooling paid for," said his mother, Janet Guss of Egelston Township.

He signed up for the Marine Reserves, graduating from basic training at Camp Pendleton near San Diego in May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines A Company, 1st Platoon.

Though Guss said she didn't like the idea of Aaron joining the military, she supported his decision.

"It was a scary thing to find out it was what he wanted to do," Guss said. "But I respected his wishes."

She said she was devastated to learn of his injury, but was relieved to get a call from him this morning. He told her he's in Germany, and will be returning to the United States on Friday for surgery to insert a titanium rod in his leg.

"I feel better now that he's out of Iraq," Guss said. "He said while he was in the hospital there he could hear the mortar shells outside."

Diane Musk said she was hoping that his wounds would prompt Aaron to leave the Marines and return home. After a phone call he placed this morning to his dad, Musk isn't so sure he will.

"He said 'They're trying to get me to opt out (of the Marines),"' Musk said. "And he said 'I'm not. I'm not quitting."'

October 17, 2006

Marines help recruit Iraqi security forces in Iraq’s Northwestern Al Anbar province

ANAH, Iraq (Oct. 17, 2006) – Marines and Iraqi security forces here stepped up their efforts to help stabilize the region during patrols on Oct. 16, as they handed out fliers and actively engaged the local people in conversation to aid in the recruitment of Iraqi soldiers and police.


Pfc. Nathaniel Sapp
Combat Correspondent
2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion

The Marines and Iraqi security forces roamed all over Anah, a city of roughly 20,000 people located 140 miles Northwest of Baghdad, to not only ensure the streets were safe, but also to talk to the Iraqi people who had come out of their houses to watch the unified troops do their job.

“We went around the city and talked to the military-aged males about the opportunities they would have if they joined up,” said Lance Cpl. Mark W. Hammann, a 22-year-old infantryman with Company E. “We also played with the kids as we handed out fliers and basically interacted with everyone more personally than we’ve been able to before.”

Company E is part of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, who is currently based out of Camp Fallujah and part of Regimental Combat Team 5. When they arrived in Iraq three months ago, they were detached from the rest of their battalion and sent to Anah in support of combat operations, where they now fall under command of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 7.

Through three months of hard work, there has been a drastic improvement of the reception of the local people towards Marines and Iraqi security forces, Marines here say.

“Some people might still be hesitant to talk to us out of fear, but you can definitely see that we’re making progress,” added Hammann, a Dallas native.

That progress could be clearly seen over the course of several days as local people went from either ignoring or observing the patrols from their houses, to coming out into the street to talk and letting their children play around the Marines and Iraqi soldiers.

The Marines and Iraqi Army had started conducting an operation to gather information for a census in Anah a few days prior, which was continuing as they made the effort to help recruit for Iraqi security forces.

“Since we started to move through Anah and show our strength, everyone has become a lot more open and friendly,” said Sgt. Caleb Stromstad, a 23-year-old squad leader from Tri Cities, Wash. “When they see us all out there, they come out and give us more information on where we can find (the insurgents).”

Marines here say that their approach of being open and available is a change from what the local people are used to, and that change is what gets results.

“Now that people are really getting to see the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Marines out and working together, they’re a lot more responsive to the idea of getting involved,” said Hammann. “When people are out getting involved everywhere, that’s going to make the insurgents nervous – knowing that the people are ready and willing to take care of themselves.”

As positive as it looks, there’s still work left to be done for everyone here, Marines say. Recruiting Iraqi security forces is a big battle, but it’s not the end.

“We definitely need to get the Iraqi police set up and trained before we’ll be done,” said Stromstad. “As forces build, that’s the next step. The people need to know that not only do we have this city locked down and taken care of, but their own people will pick up where we left off.”

Camp Lejeune-based Marines, Iraqi soldiers take census to help locals in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province

Editor"s Note: This article was originally written in October, however, its publication was postponed due to operational security reasons.

ANAH, Iraq (Oct. 17, 2006) - Over the course of the past several days, Marines and Iraqi security forces went house-to-house to gather basic information about Iraqi civilians and spent time talking to the people of the area here in order to establish a census.


Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp,
Combat Correspondent, 2nd LAR Battalion

The operation took Marines and Iraqi soldiers over block after block, house after house in Anah, a city of about 20,000 people located 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi troops knocked on doors, which were sometimes answered by residents, and asked questions to obtain specific information about the city"s residents.

Additionally, the trip allowed Marines and Iraqi soldiers to make sure that each house no more than the legal maximum of one AK-47 assault rifle with two magazines.

"We wanted to make sure that we got an accurate grasp on the population," said Cpl. James E. Clayborn, a 21-year-old squad leader with Company E. "With the information we got, like the names and license plates, it will hopefully make it easier in the future to determine who the insurgents are."

For three months, the Marines of Company E from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, have been working the streets of Anah with Iraqi soldiers under the command of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Their usual operations consisted of tasks to help out the community as well as patrols and raids on homes of suspected insurgents, Marines here say.

The Marines say they were "pleasantly surprised" with the results that came after only a couple days of communicating with thousands of Iraqis city-wide.

"Everyone here has been really calm about the whole thing," said Clayborn, a Nashville, Tenn., native. "When we got here three months ago things were pretty bad, but ever since the people have seen us out in force trying to help, things have calmed down.

"They know we mean business now, and even after a couple days you can see the change," he added. "Now we have people coming up and talking to us without having to approach them."

The toughest part of communicating with locals is the language barrier between the U.S. troops and Iraqis, said Lance Cpl. Danny Robert O"Dell, a 21-year-old rifleman from Gainesville, Ga. However, with the help of the Iraqi soldiers attached to the squad, as well as basic Arabic skills and plenty of hand signals, the Marines were able to overcome that obstacle.

"They need to know when they tell us, or Iraqi Army or police, about something they"ve seen or heard, we"re going to take care of it and no harm will come to them," said O"Dell, who was in charge of writing down all the information his squad collected from locals.

Aside from their mission to complete the census, the Marines took it upon themselves to show extra courtesies to locals, offering Arabic greetings as well as putting to use the customs they have been taught about the region, Marines say.

These little extras will come in handy as the Marines continue to work to build up the Iraqi security forces and earn the support and trust of the local people during the next four months of their deployment.

"We"re helping (Iraqi security forces) get set up and the people need to know that they"re safe now," said O"Dell.

Contact Lance Cpl. Sapp at: [email protected]

Frederick Marines begin deployment

FREDERICK -- Local Marines began their deployment last week with an expanded, more dangerous mission.
A Frederick-based unit flew out from Cherry Point, N.C., on Oct. 11 and is expected to remain in Iraq for seven months.


Published on October 17, 2006
By Alison Walker-Baird
News-Post Staff

The reserve unit, designated Dam Support Unit 3, was previously Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Most of the 110-member unit will patrol and secure Iraqi waterways, including the Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River.

Several Marines will also conduct security operations in violence hot spot Ramadi, the Iraq city west of Baghdad that is the capital of Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

Training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., this summer, prepared the Marines both for their missions on the waterways and urban patrolling and security operations, a unit spokesman said Tuesday.

President Bush Signs Military Commissions Act of 2006

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House on an historic day. It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives. I have that privilege this morning.


For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 17, 2006
9:35 A.M. EDT

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the war on terror. This bill will allow the Central Intelligence Agency to continue its program for questioning key terrorist leaders and operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man believed to be the mastermind of the September the 11th, 2001 attacks on our country. This program has been one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history. It has helped prevent attacks on our country. And the bill I sign today will ensure that we can continue using this vital tool to protect the American people for years to come. The Military Commissions Act will also allow us to prosecute captured terrorists for war crimes through a full and fair trial.

Last month, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I stood with Americans who lost family members in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. I listened to their stories of loved ones they still miss. I told them America would never forget their loss. Today I can tell them something else: With the bill I'm about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice.

I want to thank the Vice President for joining me today. Mr. Vice President, appreciate you. Secretary Don Rumsfeld, I appreciate your service to our country. I want to thank Attorney General Al Gonzales; General Mike Hayden, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; General Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I appreciate very much Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, for joining us today. I want to thank both of these men for their leadership. I appreciate Senator Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, joining us; Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Congressman Steve Buyer, of Indiana; Congressman Chris Cannon, of Utah. Thank you all for coming.

The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom.

One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America. He didn't get his wish. We are as determined today as we were on the morning of September the 12th, 2001. We'll meet our obligation to protect our people, and no matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

When I proposed this legislation, I explained that I would have one test for the bill Congress produced: Will it allow the CIA program to continue? This bill meets that test. It allows for the clarity our intelligence professionals need to continue questioning terrorists and saving lives. This bill provides legal protections that ensure our military and intelligence personnel will not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists simply for doing their jobs.

This bill spells out specific, recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes in the handling of detainees so that our men and women who question captured terrorists can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law. And this bill complies with both the spirit and the letter of our international obligations. As I've said before, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values.

By allowing the CIA program to go forward, this bill is preserving a tool that has saved American lives. The CIA program helped us gain vital intelligence from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, two of the men believed to have helped plan and facilitate the 9/11 attacks. The CIA program helped break up a cell of 17 southeastern Asian terrorist operatives who were being groomed for attacks inside the United States. The CIA program helped us uncover key operatives in al Qaeda's biological weapons program, including a cell developing anthrax to be used in terrorist attacks.

The CIA program helped us identify terrorists who were sent to case targets inside the United States, including financial buildings in major cities on the East Coast. And the CIA program helped us stop the planned strike on U.S. Marines in Djibouti, a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, and a plot to hijack airplanes and fly them into Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf in London.

Altogether, information from terrorists in CIA custody has played a role in the capture or questioning of nearly every senior al Qaeda member or associate detained by the United States and its allies since this program began. Put simply, this program has been one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. It's been invaluable both to America and our allies. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By allowing our intelligence professionals to continue this vital program, this bill will save American lives. And I look forward to signing it into law.

The bill I'm about to sign also provides a way to deliver justice to the terrorists we have captured. In the months after 9/11, I authorized a system of military commissions to try foreign terrorists accused of war crimes. These commissions were similar to those used for trying enemy combatants in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and World War II. Yet the legality of the system I established was challenged in the court, and the Supreme Court ruled that the military commissions needed to be explicitly authorized by the United States Congress.

And so I asked Congress for that authority, and they have provided it. With the Military Commission Act, the legislative and executive branches have agreed on a system that meets our national security needs. These military commissions will provide a fair trial, in which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them. These military commissions are lawful, they are fair, and they are necessary.

When I sign this bill into law, we will use these commissions to bring justice to the men believed to have planned the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. We'll also seek to prosecute those believed responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors six years ago last week. We will seek to prosecute an operative believed to have been involved in the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 innocent people and wounded 5,000 more. With our actions, we will send a clear message to those who kill Americans: We will find you and we will bring you to justice.

Over the past few months the debate over this bill has been heated, and the questions raised can seem complex. Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat? Every member of Congress who voted for this bill has helped our nation rise to the task that history has given us. Some voted to support this bill even when the majority of their party voted the other way. I thank the legislators who brought this bill to my desk for their conviction, for their vision, and for their resolve.

There is nothing we can do to bring back the men and women lost on September 11th, 2001. Yet we'll always honor their memory and we will never forget the way they were taken from us. This nation will call evil by its name. We will answer brutal murder with patient justice. Those who kill the innocent will be held to account.

With this bill, America reaffirms our determination to win the war on terror. The passage of time will not dull our memory or sap our nerve. We will fight this war with confidence and with clear purpose. We will protect our country and our people. We will work with our friends and allies across the world to defend our way of life. We will leave behind a freer, safer and more peaceful world for those who follow us.

And now, in memory of the victims of September the 11th, it is my honor to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

END 9:47 A.M. EDT

Schaumburg Marine recovering; Two fingers lost, leg still injured after Iraq attack

David Leddy might have thought it a routine assignment if he’d found anything routine in his mere two weeks in Iraq.


By Eric Peterson
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The 19-year-old Marine from Schaumburg was on foot patrol Sept. 29 when he passed by some graffiti on a wall.

The sergeant who was with Leddy asked him to take a photograph of it.

As the Schaumburg High School graduate did, a homemade bomb buried in the ground 10 feet away suddenly exploded. The young man’s rifle was broken in half, two fingers barely dangling from his left hand. A shark-bite-like gouge was left in his upper left calf.

Suddenly a firefight broke out between the Marines and those responsible for the remote-controlled explosive, delaying Leddy’s immediate removal from the scene.

From a hospital room in Betheseda, Md., his mother, Debbie Leddy, recounts the rest of what her wounded son told her of the incident.

“He thought, ‘If my rifle looks like this, I wonder what my body looks like,’æ” she said.

Though it might have been only a few minutes’ delay before his transport from the scene, the young Marine said it felt like hours. He doesn’t remember losing consciousness, but by the time he was aware of anything, he already had a tourniquet on his leg.

After being stabilized at an Air Force base nearby, Leddy was flown to Balad, Iraq, for further treatment.

Within a day and a half after being wounded, he found himself at an Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. And two days later he was in Betheseda, on his father George’s 50th birthday.

Though he’d seemed to be doing well for someone who’d lost two fingers on the hand he favored, the touchiest part of his recovery was this past weekend as he struggled with an infection threatening both his leg and his life.

But Debbie Leddy believes the prayers and support her son received on his 20th birthday Sunday were what helped his condition stabilize.

Still, he’s been in surgery every other day for the past two weeks, mostly for shrapnel removal from his right leg. The work is expected to continue for some time.

He’s also had tissue moved from one part of his left calf to another to help fill in the gap left by the bomb. Likewise, skin from his lost middle finger was used to replace damaged patches elsewhere on his hand.

“He’s just been in a lot of pain,” Debbie Leddy said. “He says he’s just trying to heal and wanting to connect with family and friends. He doesn’t know what his future is because his trigger finger is gone, and that’s what he did.”

David Leddy has lived in Schaumburg nearly his entire life. He attended St. Hubert’s School in Hoffman Estates before Schaumburg High School. At St. Hubert’s, he met two other friends that are also currently deployed in Iraq, Justin Sher and Gary Nastasowski.

The three forged an interest in the Marines and a dedication to serving their country that came from somewhere within, David Leddy’s parents said.

“I think he just thought of it as a band of brothers,” Debbie Leddy said. “He wanted to be part of that elite group and help America.”

“He’s always really, really liked history and liked the valor of the soldier,” George Leddy said. “He’s a very realistic kid. He once told me, ‘Dad, there’s never not going to be a war.’

“I don’t think it’s totally hit him how much of a hero he is. He came within inches of paying the ultimate price.”

For two years, Debbie Leddy has belonged to the Yellow Ribbon Group in Palatine along with the mothers of David’s other friends who enlisted at 18 and were deployed to Iraq this Sept. 11.

Kathy Sher of Hoffman Estates, the mother of David’s friend Justin Sher, said everyone in the group was shocked by the news of David’s injury.

“All of us were just getting used to the fact that they were leaving, and it happened so fast,” she said.

In her e-mail exchanges with her own son, she could tell how shaken he was by the news. He’s been struggling to adjust to the chaotic situation still prevalent in Iraq and — most difficult of all for him — that he can’t trust anyone over there.

Debbie Leddy said David warned her in advance that he felt something was going to happen to him as he’d been fired on every time he’d gone out during his first two weeks in Iraq.

She’s very happy with the care and support he’s receiving in Betheseda. Being a nurse herself at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, she knows how hard the staff there are working.

Her son’s room has already been visited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the family got a photo taken with him.

As for the future, the only immediate goal is to get out of the hospital. Though David has been promised prosthetic fingers for his wounded left hand, she imagines he’s probably going to have to learn to use his right.

She also wonders if he might need to use one of the very canes her Yellow Ribbon Group was collecting and sending for wounded soldiers.

Rockport man dies in Iraq; Insurgents attacked his patrol unit

Sgt. Jonathan J. Simpson, 25, of Rockport, died Saturday during combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, the Department of Defense announced Monday.


By Beth Wilson Caller-Times
October 17, 2006

Simpson, who was assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., left for Iraq on Sept. 27, according to his father, Frank Simpson of Rockport, who visited him the day he left.

The elder Simpson said military officials told him his son, who was in the special forces, was on foot patrol when his unit was fired upon by insurgents.

Jonathan Simpson was born in Quebec, where his mother still resides, but he lived with his father before he enlisted in the Marines in 2001. Simpson said his son had dual citizenship.

Jonathan Simpson's cousin, Abraham Simpson, was killed in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. Photos of them in full dress uniform are displayed side-by-side at the Rockport Wal-Mart, where they share a wall with other local military personnel.

Frank Simpson said his son saw those photos during one of his visits from California.

"I watched him and he looked at every face - that's a Marine," Simpson said, adding that his son, who once was on the dean's list at Del Mar College, had dreams of owning land in the Coastal Bend after he finished his service. "He loved his country, he loved Texas. He was a good soldier."

Simpson said services likely will be in Quebec.

Fellow Marine Brad Kealiher, who lives in Wisconsin, met Jonathan Simpson in San Antonio where they were stationed in 2002.

"He was a little different, being that he grew up in Canada, but the first thing I noticed was he was smart with bookwork and math," said Kealiher, who was honorably discharged the same day his friend shipped off to Iraq.

After being stationed apart, the two friends reunited in San Diego, Calif., in January.

"We did a lot of barbecuing, sitting in my garage in lawn chairs, listening to music and talking about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives," he said.

Kealiher said he, Jonathan and Frank Simpson went camping just before Jonathan left. During the trip, Kealiher, who served three tours in the Middle East, told his friend what to expect in Iraq. Simpson was unfazed.

"He was in the same mindset we all were - you're not really scared. You're going into it and willing to accept whatever life throws at you."

Contact Beth Wilson at 886-3748 or HYPERLINK mailto:[email protected] [email protected]

October 16, 2006

Canadian who became Texan, Marine is killed

A former Canadian who adopted Texas as his home was killed during a Marine combat operation in Iraq on Saturday.


Web Posted: 10/16/2006 11:53 PM CDT
Jerry Needham
Express-News Staff

Sgt. Jonathan J. Simpson, 25, of Rockport, died when an enemy bullet caught him between protective plates during a battle in Al Anbar province, said his father, Frank Simpson.

Sgt. Simpson was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"He was born in Canada, but all he wanted to do is be a United States Marine, because he loved America and he loved Texas," his father said.

"You had to have citizenship to join the service back then," he said. "He got his citizenship on the Fourth of July weekend in 2000, and it wasn't long before he joined the Marines."

Simpson said his son did some of his training as a flight navigator in San Antonio before training as an infantryman, then joining the Special Forces.

He said his son — his only child — is not the first loss his family has suffered in Iraq.

"My brother's son died over there in '04 in the Battle of Fallujah," Simpson said. "I guess us Texans are paying the price."

Simpson said he was told that his son was on a foot patrol in a town when he was shot.

"They've got these metal plates in their armor," he said. "It was a bad-luck deal. The bullet went right between the plates."

Simpson said his son grew up in Quebec with his mother, Johanna Taquette, but moved to Texas as soon as he could.

"He loved Texas," his father said. "He liked the fishing, the hunting, most of all the people."

Sgt. Simpson's body has been flown to Dover, Del., where paperwork is being completed for transfer to Canada for burial.

"He loved Padre Island and surfing," Simpson said. "He was a good kid. He went for one year to Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. He made the dean's list."

Commandant, Marine Corps sergeant major visit Thunderbolts at Al Asad

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 16, 2006) -- The morning began just as any other day for the Marines of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, until they were surprised by an unexpected visit.


Oct. 16, 2006; Submitted on: 10/17/2006 01:45:15 PM ; Story ID#: 20061017134515
By Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, accompanied by Sgt. Maj. John E. Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, made an unplanned visit to VMFA-251 during their stay at Al Asad, Iraq, Oct. 1.

"It was an interesting event, not so much that they were here on the air base, but more in the sense that they came out on a special visit," said Cpl. Jose Paez, personnel clerk, VMFA-251. "We were visited because they wanted to visit us. This wasn't routine by any means, which made their visit a momentous occasion for the Thunderbolts."

The visit allowed the Marines and Sailors the chance to see their commandant and sergeant major up close and ask questions, according to Lt. Col. Michael Orr, commanding officer, VMFA-251.

"I think it was a very exciting opportunity for the Thunderbolts to meet their leadership in person and get a chance to show what the squadron is all about," said Orr.

The commandant commented on the Thunderbolts' current deployment and its significance.

"(General Hagee) noted that our squadron's mission is an important contribution to the overall effort in Iraq," said Orr.

For many, the commandant's visit and words were uplifting and an inspiration, according to Lance Cpl. Matthew Randall, logistics/embarkation and combat service support specialist, VMFA-251.

"It was a great opportunity to be able to meet great leaders," said Randall. "Their visit, planned or not, just shows the Marines the difference we are making within our Marine Corps."

Randall also expressed his opinion about having the commandant and sergeant major speak directly to the Marines about their mission.

"It's not everyday the commandant and Marine Corps sergeant major will take time out of their day to meet with Marines and tell them how proud they are of their performance," said Randall. "Although we hear from our own commanding officer how well we are doing, them telling us from their own mouths made our deployment."

Estrada, a former Thunderbolt fixed-wing aircraft airframes mechanic, took the opportunity to return to his old squadron and see the progress it has made.

"It was motivating, especially seeing the sergeant major and, knowing he was once part of this same squadron," said Randall. "Sergeant Major Estrada is a prime example for the Marines in the squadron to see what may lay ahead for them."

According to Orr, Estrada said he was pleased with the quality of the Marines he met while he was at the squadron.
Just like any leader, Orr was proud to have the opportunity to show off his unit.

"It is always a great opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the squadron and the high quality of the people that make the Thunderbolts work," said Orr. "We were able to demonstrate the unique contribution (our squadron) makes to Carrier Air Wing One and the Enterprise Strike Group in support of the global war on terrorism."

1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment newest RCT-5 battalion in Fallujah

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 16, 2006) -- Marines from 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment are now on deck and running combat operations in Fallujah after relieving Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment recently.


Oct. 16, 2006; Submitted on: 10/17/2006 12:55:36 PM ; Story ID#: 20061017125536
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, Regimental Combat Team 5

The battalion, home-based in Detroit, is serving a seven-month deployment with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“I was beyond ready to finally be here,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel P. Kennedy, a 22-year-old from Harrison, Mich., assigned to B Company. This is Kennedy’s first deployment to Iraq.

The battalion arrived here in Iraq late last month to begin turnover of responsibilities with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. They officially took charge of Fallujah earlier this month and have since been conducting patrols, raids, interdiction and security operations here.

The battalion’s journey to Iraq started in earnest months ago, according to Master Sgt. James E. Mitrink, a 42-year-old operations chief from Port Huron, Mich. Starting in April 2006, Marines within the battalion started their training in Michigan and Camp Pendleton, Calif. The battalion’s Marines officially mobilized for deployment June 1, and in August, they were working through their month-long Mojave Viper exercise, where they culminated their skills and applied the latest lessons learned straight from battlefields in Iraq.

In between, there were exercises throughout Southern California, including scenarios with Iraqi-role players, security and stabilization operations and full-on force-on-force drills using simulated munitions.

“We worked up for at least eight months even before we got to California,” Kennedy said.

“From what I’ve seen and how much we’ve trained, I consider ourselves the best-trained reserve unit deployed to Iraq so far,” Mitrink said.

That training has paid off so far. The transition of responsibility from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment to 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment went smoothly. For several days in the turnover process, Marines from the incoming battalion shadowed the veteran battalion before they swapped roles.

“It was a real smooth transition,” Mitrink said. “The only difference from what we were doing in our training is that we’re now in a combat environment.”

The battalion was previously deployed to the Middle East in regions including Djibouti and Kuwait, but this is the battalion’s first deployment to Iraq. Still, there are Iraq veterans in the ranks. Nearly 350 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment volunteered to deploy with the battalion for duty in Fallujah.

The battalion’s companies are all from America’s Midwest, with companies headquartered in Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Lansing, Mich., and a final company based in Ohio.

“We’re pretty typical of a reserve battalion,” Mitrink said. “We have quite a few policemen and firemen, but being from the Midwest, we’ve also got a lot of factory workers, blue-collar types. The rest of the Marines, mostly the younger guys, are college students.”

Lance Cpl. Christopher T. Benedict, a 22-year-old from Big Rapids, Mich., assigned to A Company, said the training proved true to what he’s experienced in his first weeks if duty in Fallujah. Still, he said some learning just comes by having boots on the ground.

“The training gave us a good idea, but you can’t believe until you see it,” said Benedict, who is on his first deployment to Iraq.

Kennedy said he didn’t expect to see how curious Iraqis were of Marines and their activities. He said whenever he travels through Fallujah, he’s taken aback by the bustling city and the streets teeming with Iraqis who pause to watch Marines.

“It’s like a big parade every time we go by,” he said. “What we’re hoping to accomplish is to bring better security for the citizens.”

Benedict added that he hopes his seven months in Fallujah help bring more Fallujans toward a self-sustaining country, and “to know that we’re on their side.”

“Our goals are same as RCT-5’s goals,” Mitrink said. “We want to train the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army so they can transition and be self-sufficient and do that with the backing of the populace.”

October 15, 2006

*1/7 decorates 12 Marines with Purple Heart

Twelve Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, were awarded the Purple Heart at the base theater Oct. 5.


Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Combat Correspondent

The awarded Marines, who recently returned from a seven-month deployment in Iraq, received America's oldest award for wounds sustained during combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The decorated OIF veterans are as follows:

€ Staff Sgt. Timothy A. Greene, Greer, S.C., Weapons Company

€ Sgt. Scott J. Weibling, Lexington, Mo., Weapons Company

€ Lance Cpl. Joshua S. Davis, Vail, Ariz., Weapons Company

€ Lance Cpl. Peter J. Fish, Mosinee, Wis., Weapons Company

€ Lance Cpl. Noel Reina, Bolingbrook, Ill., Weapons Company

€ Lance Cpl. Steven R. Sanchez, Schertz, Texas, Weapons Company

€ Lance Cpl. William D. Hyden, Little Rock, Ark., Company A

€ Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Mansfield, Mesquite, Texas, Company A

€ Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. Suppon, Peoria, Ariz., Company A

€ Cpl. Nathaniel R. Isbell, Grape Vine, Texas, Company C

€ Lance Cpl. Jason W. Greeley II, Chandler, Ariz., Company C

€ Lance Cpl. Joel B. Mendham, White Lake, Mich., Company C.

Col. Nicholas F. Marano, 1/7's battalion commander, addressed to all attendees he was pleased to award the first batch of combat decorations to the battalion.

"We still have a number of awards to be giving real soon," said Marano. "I am glad that I can start awarding the Marines now. I want to see the Marines wear their awards they earned at the [Marine Corps] ball. I want to see those combat ‘V's."

According to a Web site, the Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he warrants the award upon being wounded or killed in a manner meeting specific criteria.

More so, the awarding of the Purple Heart is historical and a sacrifice that's been made by Marines for hundreds of years, said Sgt. Maj. George W. Young, 1/7's battalion sergeant major.

"We honor our Marines by publicly awarding them for their sacrifices," said Young. "These Marines were specifically awarded for wounds as a direct result of enemy hostile actions."

Current active duty personnel are awarded the Purple Heart upon recognition from their chain of command, stating the injury received and the action in which the service member was wounded. The awarding authority for the Purple Heart is normally at the division level. While the award of the Purple Heart is considered automatic for all wounds received in combat, each award presentation must still be reviewed to ensure the wounds received were a result of enemy action.

For example, Greeley, a rifleman with Suicide Charley, received the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained July 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated several feet away from him, sending shrapnel into his neck.

At the time, Greeley was conducting an insertion operation, dropping off a group of Marines to patrol a certain part of their area of operations. He was traveling in a convoy on a main supply route. He was the machine-gunner riding in the turret of a humvee.

The convoy passed a hole in the road created by a previous IED blast. Just as Greeley's humvee neared the hole, a new IED detonated.

Greeley had his back turned to the blast, causing him to drop halfway into the turret as a reaction, he said.

The convoy halted as the Marines scanned the area for a possible ambush.

"Everything seemed calm after the blast and there was no sight of the enemy, so we pushed forward," said Greeley.

The convoy halted at an intersection farther down the road to assess the casualties. Fortunately there were no serious casualties except for Greeley and a passenger in his vehicle.

"I didn't notice I was hit until I felt blood running down my neck," he said. "My squad leader jumped in the turret to replace me, and we headed back to base."

After being pinned on the 224-year-old award established by Gen. George Washington in Newburgh, N.Y., Greeley expressed his pride for such decoration.

"It's an honor," he said. "I'm going to wear this with pride. My wife's grandfather was awarded one from fighting in WWII. It will be nice to tell him that I got one too. I can be just as proud."

Greeley's fellow battalion member, Reina, a mortarman with Weapons Company, also shared the same pride for the award.

Just like Greeley, Reina received shrapnel wounds from an IED blast eight days later.

"It's honorable," said Reina. "It feels great to get pinned-on the Purple Heart. It shows that everyone cares and understands the sacrifices we've gone through. I am proud to say I am a Purple Heart recipient."

*Eight heroes remembered

The image of eight M-16A2 service rifles bayonetted into the ground with helmets perched on top of the butt stocks, dog tag chains dangling from pistol grips, and empty combat boots is a familiar and haunting picture. Below each memorial is a picture of each fallen hero; seven Marines and one Navy corpsman. All eight troops in this case were with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and was remembered by the Combat Center Oct. 6.


Lance Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine
Combat Correspondent

Throughout their deployment, 3rd LAR spent almost all of their time assisting Iraqi Forces patrol and secure Al Anbar province, a region in western Iraq.

The following of the 3rd LAR Wolfpack were remembered:

€ Sgt. Christen B. Williams, a 27-year-old from Winterhaven, Fla.

€ Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, a 28-year-old from Wolf Creek, Mont.

€ Cpl. Adam A. Galvez, a 21-year-old from Salt Lake City.

€ Lance Cpl. Anthony E. Butterfield, a 19-year-old from Clovis, Calif.

€ Lance Cpl. Jason Hanson, a 21-year-old from Forks, Wash.

€ Lance Cpl. Shane P. Harris, a 23-year-old from Las Vegas.

€ Lance Cpl. Randy L. Newman, a 21-year-old from Bend, Ore.

€ Seaman Chadwick T. Kenyon, a 20-year-old from Tucson, Ariz.

Williams, Baucus, Butterfield and Hanson were killed July 29 by a vehicle borne suicide improvised explosive device.

Galvez, Newman and Kenyon were killed Aug. 20 when their humvee was caught in the blast of an improvised explosive device during a patrol.

Harris was killed Sept. 3 by a pressure plate IED.

The fallen Marines and sailor were represented by seven Marines and one corpsman who spoke on their behalf. Each speech gave brief, but powerful insight, into the lives of these fallen brothers in arms and the impact they had on those who knew them.

Lt. Col. Matthew L. Jones, the 3rd LAR commanding officer, said even though a memorial was held in Iraq he was glad to have the families come out for this one.

"It's a good chance for them to meet the families," he explained about his Marines. "It also gives the families a chance to hear stories about their Marine. It's good for both sides."

The loved ones in the crowd showed many emotions during the memorial: grief, anguish and sorrow.

"This is our testament to these great men," said Jones. "I will miss them, but I am proud to have served with them."

Capt. Ripley Rawlings, the commanding officer for 3rd LAR, Company D, spoke these words in his speech addressing the crowd:

"I inscribe the names of our fallen warriors upon my soul Š they rise from the ashes like the phoenix to sit beside the warriors of old: Achilles, Alexander, Chesty Š for those about to ascend and join the eternal heroes of the Corps, I render our salute."

For those who have seen a memorial of fallen Marines, it is a lingering image that never loses its significance. To the lives these warriors have touched, they will not soon be forgotten.

*Marine pulls wounded Iraqi soldier to safety in Iraq's Al Anbar Province

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 15, 2006) -Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Sommer insists that he was simply doing his job when he pulled a wounded Iraqi soldier to safety during combat operations in Haditha, Iraq, late last month.


Story and photos by Cpl. Luke Blom, Combat Correspondent, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment

But fellow Marines from the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment - Sommer"s unit - and local Iraqi soldiers disagree. They say he"s a hero.

According to Iraqi soldiers and Marines from 2nd Battalion's Echo Company, Sommer's initiative and complete disregard for his own safety when he ran though a hail of enemy gunfire saved the soldier"s life. Sommer's actions occurred while Marines from his unit were on patrol with Iraqi soldiers in Haditha, a city of about 30,000 in western Al Anbar Province.

"It really wasn't a big deal. I think any Marine would have done the same in my situation," said Sommer, an infantryman and 23-year-old native of Pasco, Wash.

Sommer was conducting a patrol with Marines from 2nd Battalion"s Echo Co. and providing security for another patrol in the area when the Marines and Iraqi soldiers were attacked by insurgent gunfire, according to Sgt. Jordan P. Kramp, an advisor to the local military transition team in Haditha.

Military transition teams - "MTT" is the Marines" acronym - are groups of Coalition service members who train and mentor Iraqi soldiers to eventually relieve Coalition forces of all security operations in Iraq. The MTT trains the Iraqi soldiers in everything from marksmanship, to staff planning, logistics and tactics - all the ins and outs of functioning as a military unit.

During the patrol, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers received four "well-aimed shots on the patrol" from an enemy sniper, according to Sommer. That"s when Ahmed, one of the Iraqi soldiers, was shot.

"After that I heard someone yelling that Ahmed was down and had been shot," said Sommer.

While the Iraqi soldiers and Marines scrambled to take cover and engage the insurgent sniper, Sommer ran through enemy fire to aid his wounded Iraqi counterpart, said Kramp.

When Sommer got to Ahmed"s position he pulled him out of the street, and out of enemy sights, to assess and treat his wounds.

After removing Ahmed"s flack jacket, Sommer discovered that the sniper bullet was stopped by the protective plate in his body armor.

After realizing that his position was no longer safe from enemy fire, Sommer slung the wounded Iraqi over his shoulder and sprinted through enemy fire a second time to another protected area, while the rest of the Marines and Iraqi soldiers suppressed the enemy"s fire, according to Kramp.

"Sommer took it upon himself to reenter the kill zone of the sniper and bring Ahmed to safety where he could be treated for his wounds," said Kramp, a 27-year-old from Elgin, Ill. "This was a pretty heroic thing Sommer did, and Ahmed probably wouldn"t be here today if it wasn"t for his actions."

Not only did Sommer"s selfless actions affect Ahmed, but it also made an impression on the Marines of Echo Co. and the "Jundis" - Arabic for "Iraqi soldiers" - according to Capt. Matthew Tracy, Echo Co."s commander.

"Our relationship (Marines and Iraqi soldiers) was still very new when this happened, we had only taken over operations in Haditha a week prior," said Tracy, a 32-year-old native of Hartford, Conn.

The Marines and Iraqi soldiers have worked with each other for about a week when Sommer saved Ahmed, and both parties didn"t know each other very well, professionally and personally - "They'd practically just met," said Tracy.

Despite cultural and language differences, the rescue was evidence that the Marines and Iraqi soldiers are on the same team fighting the same enemy, said Kramp.

"There"s no greater way to build rapport and trust than to fight side-by-side with each other," said Tracy. "There's a real warrior kinship between them now."

And it didn"t take long for word of Sommer"s actions to reach the rest of the Iraqi soldiers who work side-by-side with Echo Co., according to Ahmed"s squad leader, Ali.

"When Ahmed was shot, it was a Marine who came to his side," said Ali. "We see this as Iraqi soldiers and it means a lot. We now look at the Marines as brothers on patrol."

Furthermore, Jundis who were questioning their service due to the inherent dangers of fighting the local insurgency and who were debating leaving the Iraqi Army for a safer way of life were almost stopped in their tracks when they heard of Sommer"s actions, according to Kramp.

"When the IA guys see this kind of action being taken, they realize that we really are brothers in arms," said Kramp. "We are starting to see a higher level of morale and dedication with the Jundis. This was a really big deal for them."

With the recent spike in morale among the Jundis, Kramp predicts that Iraqi soldiers working with Echo Co. will soon be conducting security patrols without the aide of Marine advisors in Haditha.

While Marines here say Iraqi soldiers are getting closer to operating independently, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq says Iraqi soldiers throughout the country are quickly progressing. Out of 112 Iraqi Army battalions, 90 have taken the lead in military operations in their areas.

In a recent a Department of Defense news briefing, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., commander for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, told reporters that Iraqi Security Forces are in the third and final phase in development.

"The third step is you make them (Iraqi soldiers) independent, and that's what you'll see going on here over the better part of the next 12 months," said Casey. "We've said all along that we wanted to give the Iraqis the capability to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations, and that is the program that we are currently on."

Email Cpl. Blom at [email protected]

Marines, Iraqi soldiers recover M-16 rifle from insurgent sniper team

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 15, 2006) - U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers serving in Haditha, Iraq, recovered an M-16A4 service rifle from insurgents, Oct. 11, 2006.


Story and photos by Cpl. Luke Blom, Combat Correspondent, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment

Editor"s Note: This article was originally written in October, however, its publication was postponed due to operational security reasons.

Marines from the Hawaii-based Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, detained one insurgent and killed another when they engaged insurgents in this city of approximately 30,000 nestled along the Euphrates River in the western reaches of Iraq"s Al Anbar Province

The recovered rifle belonged to a Marine scout sniper team from 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, a Marine Corps reserve battalion based in Brook Park, Ohio, which was ambushed in Haditha, Aug. 1, 2005.

The 3rd Bn., 25th Marine Regiment scout sniper team was conducting counterinsurgency operations in Haditha when their position was overrun by insurgents, who escaped with the Marines" rifles.

Sgt. John D. Hunsberger, a 27-year-old from Parker, Colo., feels that "justice was served" when U.S. and Iraqi forces recovered the rifle.

"It"s a tragedy what happened to the scout snipers from 3/25, and it"s hard to think of someone using our own weapons against us," said Hunsberger, part of a military transition team in Haditha. "But we got the weapon back and took a couple bad guys off the street."

Along with the seized M-16, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers also confiscated the insurgents" vehicle, as well as a video camera and black ski masks.

When Hunsberger"s team tracked the vehicle, engaged it with small-arms fire and detained one insurgent, they discovered the stolen U.S. service rifle.

"I was really surprised when I saw an M-16 instead of an AK-47," said Hunsberger. "Immediately I knew that these guys shouldn"t have this weapon."

When word spread of Hunsberger"s discovery, Marines" reaction in Haditha was immediate:

"I"m not going to lie - it was exciting to get the rifle back and get (the insurgents) off the streets," said Capt. Matthew Tracy, Echo Co. commander, and 32 year-old from Hartford, Conn. "All the Marines in the company were excited when they heard the news."

"The fact that we got back one of our rifles makes it all the more satisfying," said Lance Cpl. Zachary Drill, infantryman and 21-year-old native of Three Lakes, Wis.

The Marines weren"t the only ones excited to have one less group of insurgents operating in Haditha.

Iraqi soldiers, who have been searching for this particular group of insurgents for some time, were also visibly enthusiastic at the news of the apprehension.

"We are all very happy that the snipers were caught," said "Hamud," an Iraqi soldier and squad leader who was involved in the detainment of the insurgents. "These people have shot many times at both Iraqis and Americans. It is very good news."

"The IA soldiers performed like I"ve seen them perform everyday out here - very well," said Tracy. "Marines have fought side-by-side with them for almost three years, and the way they"re performing right now would make any Marine proud."

For the Marines, the catch is a bit of "pay-back" wrapped in justice against the enemy.

"The Marines definitely felt a little personal about these guys (insurgents) but they handled themselves with complete professionalism," added Tracy. "We felt like we achieved some justice for the Marines of 2/3 and 3/25 who have been injured by these guys."

In related news, Coalition Forces in Hit, Iraq - a city of about 60,000 located 35 miles northwest of Ramadi - killed six insurgents, wounded four and netted five sniper rifles Oct. 21.

Coalition Forces positively identified 10 males conducting insurgent activity in a parking lot prior to engaging them with a heavy volume of fire.

The insurgents were gathered around a car while distributing black masks, AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers to one another.

After the engagement Coalition Forces personnel searched three insurgent vehicles in the parking lot and captured various weapons, to include sniper rifles, rifle magazines, AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, hand grenades, and black masks.

"Today was significant for Coalition Forces because it reduced the sniper threat in Hit by a considerable margin," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Graves, commanding officer for the Friedburg, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment.

"We will take advantage of this opportunity by continuing our efforts to develop Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police forces within Hit," said Graves.

1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment is the Coalition Forces unit responsible for training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security to the city of Hit.

Coalition Forces evacuated the four wounded insurgents to a nearby U.S. military medical facility for treatment. Their condition is unknown at this time.

October 14, 2006

Marines get happy welcome back home

1970s TV star Erik Estrada, who happened to be at the airport, joins 100 friends and relatives.

DAYTON — Even a surprise appearance by Erik Estrada failed to shift the spotlight on Saturday away from U.S. Marines returning home after six months in Iraq.


By Lawrence Budd
Staff Writer
Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cameras flashed and whirred, close to 100 friends and relatives whooped, cried and waved banners as more of the Marine Reserve Military Police Company C, 4th Marine Logistics Group, were welcomed by a crowd, including the CHiPs star, who happened on the event while heading home after an appearance in the Miami Valley.

Charley Company, returning after active duty, including time in dangerous Al Anbar province, landed in two groups at Dayton International Airport.

Palming a video camera, Sgt. Jay Swanson hugged wife, Kandy, and bent down to reintroduce himself to his "little man," 3-year-old Chance.

"It feels good to be back," said Swanson, 38, of Vandalia.

Lance Cpl. Joey Oeder, 20, of Wilmington, hugged and kissed relatives.

"That's my family. I'm good," he said, shouldering a bulging backpack and heading out into the parking lot.

Two members were injured, but the entire unit made it back from the war, officials said.

After three deployments, Maj. Lowell Rector suggested his unit might not need to return, having helped train Iraqis to take over their country's defense.

Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who also support funeral services for soldiers killed in action, led the Marines into the awaiting crowd.

"This is a welcome home mission, which is much more fun," ride leader Mark Lockhart said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2261 or [email protected]

Marine unit is set to return from Iraq

A Richmond Marine Reserve unit is scheduled to return home tomorrow after serving in Iraq.

Hotel Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 14th Marine Regiment, is expected to arrive between 8 and 10 p.m. tomorrow at the Navy-Marine Reserve Center, 6000 Strathmore Road, said Gunnery Sgt. Terri Raso.


Richmond Times-Dispatch
Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Richmond Marine Reserve unit is scheduled to return home tomorrow after serving in Iraq.

Hotel Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 14th Marine Regiment, is expected to arrive between 8 and 10 p.m. tomorrow at the Navy-Marine Reserve Center, 6000 Strathmore Road, said Gunnery Sgt. Terri Raso.

The public is invited to join the Marines' families in welcoming the unit home, she said.

The 130-member unit deployed from Richmond Jan. 2.

Normally an artillery outfit, the Marines performed convoy security missions in Iraq and trained Iraqi police.

The Marines are planning a formal homecoming ceremony on Oct. 27, Raso said.

October 13, 2006

*3rd TSB redesignated as Combat Logistics Regiment

Sgt. Maj. Matthew V. Wilhelm reveals Combat Logistics Battalion 4's colors for the first time Oct. 4 during the CLB-4 and Combat Logistics Regiment 3 activation ceremony at Camp Foster's parade field. 3rd Transportation Support Bn. was the last TSB in the Marine Corps to be redesignated as a regiment.


Oct. 13, 2006; Submitted on: 10/12/2006 07:27:03 PM ; Story ID#: 2006101219273
By Lance Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso, MCB Camp Butler

CAMP FOSTER,CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan (Oct. 13, 2006) -- The 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, was redesignated as Combat Logistics Regiment 3 during a ceremony at Camp Foster's parade field Oct. 4.

The unit was the last transportation support battalion in the Marine Corps to be restructured as part of the Marine Logistics Modification, which began with the Fleet Service Support Groups' restructuring and redesignation as MLGs, according to Sgt. Richard Compton, the manpower assistance chief for administration and personnel, 3rd MLG.

"This is a stepping stone in the MLG's reorganization," said Sgt. Maj. Matthew V. Wilhelm, the CLB-4 sergeant major.

Marines with Landing Support Company, 3rd TSB, were reassigned to CLR-3, and Motor Transportation, Headquarters and Support, and Support Companies were assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 4, the newly activated battalion under CLR-3.

A second battalion, which will be designated CLB-3, will eventually stand up under CLR-3, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Peters, administration and personnel chief for 3rd MLG. Elements of Combat Service Support Group 3 based in Hawaii will dissolve and merge into CLB-3.

The overall goal is to establish a standard, consistent force structure throughout the Marine Corps MLGs. Peters said that when the restructuring is complete, all the MLGs should have the same configuration.

Sgt. Maj. Michael E. Johnson, the CLR-3 sergeant major, said the reorganization of Marine Logistics Groups was brought about after Marine leaders identified weaknesses in how the groups provided support to Marine units during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, problems which resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"There just weren't enough personnel, and it was much less efficient," Compton said. "With the reorganization we'll be able to more efficiently support our operational forces."

Part of the manpower issue stemmed from 3rd TSB deploying only one company at a time in support of operations in Iraq. CLB-4 will now deploy as a battalion, so the number of 3rd MLG Marines supporting the mission should significantly increase, according to Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said the newly formed battalion is scheduled to deploy in support of OIF in 2007, and it will be the first time a 3rd MLG battalion will deploy as a whole.

"This reflects a positive change in the way the Marine Corps fights and organizes itself," Johnson said.

The "red patches" that Marines from transportation support battalions have traditionally worn on their headgear and combat utility trousers will no longer distinguish all the Marines assigned to CLR-3. Marines assigned to Landing Support Company will continue to wear the red patches, which date back to World War II when landing support Marines wore them to identify and segregate themselves from other Marines during chaotic beach landings.

"With the unit's new reorganization, this new regiment and battalion stands ready and better prepared to support whatever unit we're assigned to support," said Col. Thomas N. Goben, the CLR-3 commanding officer.

'Welcome home!' Staff Sgt. Daley

McKenzie, Sheyanne and Dakota Daley fidgeted at Exit 15, their little hearts pumping, eager to race to their daddy, Staff Sgt. Bernard (Bernie) Daley, who arrived at Dayton International Airport on Thursday afternoon after serving eight months in Iraq.


By Margo Rutledge Kissell and Cathy Mong
Staff Writers
Friday, October 13, 2006

McKenzie, Sheyanne and Dakota Daley fidgeted at Exit 15, their little hearts pumping, eager to race to their daddy, Staff Sgt. Bernard (Bernie) Daley, who arrived at Dayton International Airport on Thursday afternoon after serving eight months in Iraq.

Daley's wife of 13 years, Marie, and the kids — ages 4, 10 and 11, respectively — ran to embrace him as bewildered travelers stared, then applauded after realizing the reason for the assembly of the Rolling Thunder Color Guard, a group of veterans, standing at attention.

"Welcome home!" someone yelled.

Daley, 33, joined the Marines at 18 and will retire in four years. He is a communications chief and is among about 70 members of Marine Reserve Military Police Company C who will be returning in waves during the next week. "It's been a long deployment," Daley said.

The reservists left Jan. 1 from the reserve center in Dayton and spent two months training in Twentynine Palms, Calif. They are now back in California undergoing "decompression training" to help them shift back into their civilian lives.

They are to take commercial flights back to the Miami Valley in groups, said Maj. Lowell Rector, Marine Reserve commander of "Charlie" company.

The MPs served a variety of missions, primarily in the volatile Al Anbar Province.

"What's going on in Iraq right now is they are building Iraqi security forces to include Iraqi Police Service, or IPS, and the Iraqi Army. For the most part, this company supported those missions," Rector said, noting their job included providing security for convoys.

Halfway through their deployment, the platoons' jobs shifted to providing security along the borders with Syria and Jordan, Rector said.

As Daley, his wife and children, mother and little sister walked through two long lines of Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guide members, someone threw him the keys to his 1998 Harley Davidson, parked outside.

After donning his leathers and lighting another cigarette, Daley straddled the bike, his wife clutching his waist. A police escort led the way to the Daleys' base housing. Daley's father, Bernie, strode across the parking lot, smiling. "My heart's in my throat," he said. "As long as he came home all right, that's all I care about."

With Charlie Company in Ramadi

HURRICANE POINT, Iraq —Three Marines were killed Monday. They died in a massive explosion that destroyed their Humvee. They were Charlie Company 1/6 and all outbound phone and e-mail communications are restricted until their families are notified back home.

Bucks County Courier Times

I'm in the Marine headquarters in Ramadi. Lt. Col William Journey commands Charlie Company, 1/6, manned with young men from Florida to California to Maine. Built on the far edge of town, the base is equipped with Humvees, seven-ton trucks, and M1 Abrams tanks.

There are two battles being fought here, both equally important in the scheme of “winning.”


You might remember the “Hearts & Minds” program from the days of the Vietnam War. “We need to make this place livable again,” said Major Scott Kish, commander of the base Civil Affairs Group. “We need to help them find jobs, send their kids to school, and be able to shop without fear.”

Staff Sgt. John Kilby wants to see a Iraqi trained to do his job. To him that would mean the Iraqis had stepped up sufficiently to take back control of their country.

Early Monday, Kish, Kilby, two Marines and I traveled to one of two big dams that control the Euphrates River in this part of Iraq. We met with the Iraqi engineer who is responsible for controlling the faulty sluice gates for both dams. During the rainy season, the sluice gates are needed to control the river's water levels.

They discussed what was needed to repair the system's controls, as well as how to coordinate future meetings.

There's no local phone system in Ramadi, cell coverage is a sporadic and both sides need to move through town in armed convoys.

Born and raised in Ramadi, the engineer has seen the Euphrates out of control, and appreciates the Marines' assistance in mastering the flood-control system.


I went on an afternoon mounted patrol with Weapons Company Captain Todd Mahar. He has family in Upper Southampton.

“We do these daily,” he explained. “We drive slowly through a selected neighborhood and let them see us engage and interact with the people.”

The column of Humvees crept slowly through a neighborhood. Then we stopped, got out and knocked on doors to meet the residents. We stayed a few minutes, checked ID cards, questioned them about their water and electric and tried to get information about others in the neighborhood.

After dark, when the Ramadan fast is broken, we'd offer the children candy and toys.

Our neighborhood drive-through is interrupted by a shot and the Marines respond quickly. An aggressive response will either boost neighborhood morale or change an attitude.

Andrew Lubin of Morrisville is an author and journalist who writes on international relations and the military for newspapers and magazines nationwide He has appeared on FOX, ABC, CNN, and Patriot Media, and recently reported on the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon for Military.com. Lubin is the author of “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq.”

*Civilians run as recruits at Boot Camp Challenge

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Oct. 13, 2006) -- Thousands of motivated civilians and service members participated in Marine Corps recruit training for a day, at the depot’s fifth annual Boot Camp Challenge, Oct. 7.


Oct. 13, 2006; Submitted on: 10/12/2006 06:46:41 PM ; Story ID#: 20061012184641
By Pfc. Charlie Chavez, MCRD San Diego

People came from all over the United States, including a group from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, to compete in the challenge. One group from Los Angeles also showed up for a team-building exercise.

After running the Camp Pendleton Mud Run a few months ago, Rayna Hiscox and her group of eight from the Veterinary Centers of America, West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, decided to try out the Boot Camp Challenge.

Their team, called “Muddy Paws,” finished the grueling course together. Hiscox said they try to do team events every three months, and that the Boot Camp Challenge is on their radar for another future event.

Everyone who competed in the challenge was released from the starting line in four different categories, individual male and female runners, three-person teams, and five person teams.

As they ran along the three-mile course, runners encountered various obstacles including bales of hay to climb over and the depot’s bayonet assault course. Participants were motivated along by drill instructors who yelled at them to move expediently.

“It was awesome!” exclaimed Wendy Bram, individual runner and a resident of San Diego. “Marines are the bomb; I would definitely do this again.”

As the last of the runners began to move through the course, the stragglers encountered the full experience of boot camp, as drill instructors swarmed around them like hornets.

“The best part was watching the civilians getting yelled at,” said Sgt. Nick C. Bredehoft, Recruiters School student. “The race was set up very well, and I had a lot of fun.”

Marine Corps Community Services planned the annual event and provided a vendor area after the challenge, which included free food, drinks and massages. The depot barbershop even had their clippers in hand in a booth next to the main stage.

As the depot and Western Recruiting Region Commanding General Brigadier Gen. Angie Salinas handed out medals during the awards ceremony, a 15-year-old boy who had hair down to his shoulders received a Marine regulation haircut – trimming his hair almost down to the skin.

Sean Moulin, of Santa Monica, came to the depot for the challenge and was determined to finish the race and get his hair cut. His brother was the encouragement behind his head getting shaved.

“He came here and earned his hair cut,” said Moulin’s 33-year-old brother, Rob Stevenson, who is also from Santa Monica.

The Boot Camp Challenge gave an opportunity for civilians to experience the depot and for military servicemen to relive a little bit of boot camp. Next year’s challenge is sure to be a success because of the motivation and support generated from the United State’s patriotic people who love the competition.

*New food-service company poised for proficiency

CAMP KINSER, CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan (Oct. 13, 2006) -- 3rd Marine Logistics Group's Headquarters and Service Battalion activated a new company Sept. 28 in a ceremony at Robert's Field on Camp Kinser. Food Service Company, H & S Bn., 3rd MLG, is the result of a Marine Corps-wide effort to consolidate food service support.


Oct. 13, 2006; Submitted on: 10/12/2006 07:55:47 PM ; Story ID#: 20061012195547
By Lance Cpl. W. Zach Griffith, MCB Camp Butler

CAMP KINSER, CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan (Oct. 13, 2006) -- 3rd Marine Logistics Group's Headquarters and Service Battalion activated a new company Sept. 28 in a ceremony at Robert's Field on Camp Kinser. Food Service Company, H & S Bn., 3rd MLG, is the result of a Marine Corps-wide effort to consolidate food service support.

All assets from 3rd MLG were consolidated to provide easier food support to the MLG and III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to Capt. Gary Spinelli, the commanding officer of the new company.

"With this consolidation, we can ensure the right number of personnel and equipment go to each unit," Spinelli said. "We can support (III MEF) better this way."

Before the consolidation, it was up to individual units to procure their own food support Marines and equipment, according to Spinelli. Now, all they have to do is contact the new unit.

There shouldn't be any problems getting used to the process, as the consolidation process has already happened in the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, Spinelli continued.

In addition to the re-organization, the 133 Marines of the company now have capabilities to field the new Food Service Support System.

The new system is like a portable galley, said Cpl. Scott Turek, a field mess noncommissioned officer for Food Services Company. The galley has the capability to serve over 1,700 quality meals per day, not just "exaggerated versions of Meals Ready to Eat," he said.

"Everything they have in the chow halls on base, we have in here," he said, referring to the stainless-steel interior. "This means we can cook a wider variety of food for the troops when we are on deployment. A wider variety means we get the benefit of more vitamins and such, rather than pure calories from the MREs."

Apart from being healthy, a wider variety of food in the field will keep Marines happier, said Lance Cpl. Timothy Graveline, a field mess specialist for the company.

"It'll taste at least a little more home-cooked than the tray meals that are usually served in the field," he said. "Decent food can help us take our minds off the stresses of being down range."

Another benefit is being able to keep the portable galley clean and sanitized, Turek said. Field mess halls are usually constructed out of wood, which is time consuming to construct, and even harder to keep clean.

"I wish we had these in Pakistan," Turek said, referencing his time participating in a humanitarian aid mission following the 2005 earthquake. "We had locals build us wooden permanent facilities that were very hard to keep thoroughly clean."

Powerful 6.6-Magnitude Earthquake, Aftershocks Rattle Hawaii

HONOLULU — A strong earthquake shook Hawaii early Sunday, jolting residents out of bed and causing a landslide that blocked a major highway. Ceilings crashed at a hospital, and aftershocks kept the state on edge.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

The state Civil Defense had unconfirmed reports of injuries, but communication problems prevented more definite reports. Gov. Linda Lingle issued a disaster declaration for the entire state, saying there had been damage to buildings and roads. There were no reports of fatalities.

The quake hit at 7:07 a.m. local time, 10 miles north-northwest of Kailua Kona, a town on the west coast of Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Blakeman said there was no risk of a Pacific-wide tsunami, but there was a possibility of significant wave activity in Hawaii.

The Pacific Tsunami Center reported a preliminary magnitude of 6.5, while the U.S. Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.6. The earthquake was followed by several strong aftershocks, including one measuring a magnitude of 5.8, the Geological Survey said.

"We were rocking and rolling," said Anne LaVasseur, who was on the second floor of a two-story, wood-framed house on the east side of the Big Island when the temblor struck. "I was pretty scared. We were swaying back and forth, like King Kong's pushing your house back and forth."

Water pipes exploded at Aston Kona By The Sea, an 86-unit condominium resort, creating a dramatic waterfall down the front of the hotel from the fourth floor, said Kenneth Piper, who runs the front desk.

"We are a concrete building, but we really shook. You could almost see the cars bouncing up and down in the parking garage," he said.

The quake caused widespread power outages, and phone communication was possible, but difficult. By midday Sunday, power was restored to Hilo on the Big Island and was starting to be restored to Maui, said Chuck Anthony, a spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard. Officials did not have a firm estimate of how many people were without power.

Lingle told radio station KSSK that she toured the Kona area by helicopter to view the damage, including earth falling into Kealakekua Bay.

"You could see the water was turning brown," said Lingle.

A FEMA computer simulation of the quake estimated that as many as 170 bridges on the Big Island could have suffered damage in the temblor, said Bob Fenton, FEMA director of response for the region. More than 50 federal officials were en route to the Big Island to assess damage and begin recovery work, he said.

On Hawaii Island, there was some damage in Kailua-Kona and a landslide along a major highway, said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Center. Officials also said there were reports of people trapped in elevators in Oahu.

In Waikiki, one of the state's primary tourism areas, worried visitors began lining up outside convenience stores to purchase food, water and other supplies. Managers were letting tourists into the darkened stores one at a time.

Karie and Bryan Croes waited an hour to buy bottles of water, chips and bread. "It's quite a honeymoon story," said Karie as she and her husband sat in lounge chairs surrounded by their grocery bags beside a pool at ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Hotel.

Kona Community Hospital on the western side of Big Island was being evacuated after ceilings collapsed and power was cut off, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

At least 10 acute care patients were being evacuated across the island to a medical center in Hilo, said Terry Lewis, spokeswoman for the hospital. About 30 nursing care patients were being moved temporarily to a nearby conference center, she said.

"We were very lucky that no one got hurt," said Lewis.

Power was back up in the hospital, and its emergency room was accepting patients, hospital officials said. One operating room that sustained minimal damage was available for use if necessary.

The quake affected travel plans for many visitors, though the state was in its low period of the tourism season. Airports were functioning despite the power outages, though travel was difficult and some flights were being canceled, officials said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Les Dorr said planes were arriving at Honolulu International Airport, but there were few departures. Dorr said the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints were without power, so screeners were screening passengers and baggage manually.

Resorts in Kona were being asked to keep people close to hotels, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim told television station KITV. Cruise ships were asked to keep tourists on board, and ships that were due to dock with tourists were asked to move on to their next location, he said.

"We are dealing with a lot of scared people," he said.

Hotels throughout the islands reported scattered injuries and disruptions. Many hotel managers broadcast warnings over public-address systems that echoed through corridors.

Earthquakes in the 6.0 magnitude range are rare in the region, though they have happened before. The region more commonly sees temblors in the 3- and 4-magnitude range caused by volcanic activity.

"We think this is a buildup from many volcanic earthquakes that they've had on the island," Waverly Person, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.

The last Hawaiian earthquake this strong struck more than 20 years ago. The magnitude 6.7 caused heavy property damage on Hawaii Island and collapsed trails into a volcano in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on Nov. 16, 1983. A 6.1-magnitude quake also hit in 1989, according to the Earthquake Information Center.

The largest recorded Hawaiian earthquake struck the Ka'u District on Hawaii Island in 1868, causing 77 deaths. Its magnitude was estimated at 7.9.

A 9.5-magnitude earthquake, the largest in the world, struck Chile on May 22, 1960, and a tsunami traveled to Hawaii where 61 people died.

Visit FOXNews.com's .Natural Disasters Center for complete coverage.

October 12, 2006

HMH-363 assumes role of assault support in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 12, 2006) -- The Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 turned their mission over to the Marines with HMH-363 at Al Asad, Iraq, Oct. 7.


Oct. 12, 2006; Submitted on: 10/13/2006 07:26:08 AM ; Story ID#: 200610137268
By Cpl. James B. Hoke, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The squadrons' mission is to provide assault support, which encompasses everything from moving cargo, supplies and passengers to supporting raids in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

The Pegasus Marines of HMH-463, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), came to Iraq in the early days of April this year as the first full CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter squadron to deploy to Iraq.

"The Marines have exceeded every expectation that I had," said Lt. Col. Randel W. Parker, commanding officer, HMH-463. "They've supported every mission that was handed down to them. We flew close to 4,000 hours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, moved more than 2.3 million pounds of cargo and hauled more than 24,000 passengers, while maintaining an average mission capable readiness rate of 89 percent.

"We've done our deployment out here," the 44-year-old native of Littleton, Colo., added. "It's time to get these Marines and sailors back home to see their families, friends and loved ones."

The Marines with HMH-463 focused on more than just their mission while in the war-torn country. They focused on preparing the Red Lions for the work that the arriving squadron would be undertaking in its seven-month deployment.

"It helps a lot of the Marines to know or know of the Marines that are taking over," said Sgt. Maj. Karl Villalino, sergeant major, HMH-463, and a 37-year-old Long Beach, Calif., native. "A lot of them have communicated with each other prior to their arrival here, giving the incoming squadron a heads up on what to expect."

With the proper planning and constant communication, the turnover between the two squadrons went smoothly, according to Lt. Col. Allen D. Broughton, commanding officer, HMH-363, MAG-16.

"It was great doing the turnover with Pegasus," said Broughton, a 41-year-old native of Lemoore, Calif. "They are a great squadron. They set the bar very high, but we are not looking to break any of their records. We're just looking at accomplishing the mission out here.

"The first things are mission accomplishment and safe operations both in the air and on the ground," the graduate of Fresno State University added. "We have to maintain a high level of readiness in both personnel and aircraft, and we have to be ready at a moment's notice when required."

Although the Marines are still adapting through the jet lag of coming out to the desert and are loaded down with their new jobs and requirements in the war zone, they are glad to be serving their country, according to Broughton.

"They are very excited to be here," he said. "They are actually very excited that HMH-463 is leaving, and the mission is now ours. They are excited to go out there on their own and fly the missions."

"We have an extremely young squadron compared to HMH-463, but even with some of our older Marines, it's their first tour to Iraq," said Sgt. Maj. Roy H. Smith, sergeant major, HMH-363, and a 43-year-old native of Inglewood, Calif. "There is only a small percentage of our Marines who have been here before, but the Marines are always excited. We've had quite a few Marines extend just to be out here with us."

As the sun begins to set on HMH-463's stay in the desert, HMH-363 Marines feel confident that they can pick up the reins where the Pegasus Marines left off, according to Smith.

"We are going to continue what HMH-463 started," the Morningside High School graduate concluded. "We will maintain good support to the Marines on the ground. Ultimately, my goal is to leave here with the same amount of Marines and sailors that I came here with, walking away the same way they arrived."


Twenty-year-old John McClellan is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, his third combat injury.


Another highlight of my trip to Washington was an incredible meeting at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. I visited there to meet and pray with Marines who have been injured in the line of duty. Bethesda is a place of hope and healing where every life is valued and honored for its sacrifice and dedication. We visit there periodically in support of PPT’s Adopt Our Troops initiative.

As I was preparing to leave after a meaningful time with seven Marines, I was getting my personal items from a security check point. My escort introduced me to the attendant who mentioned my involvement with The Presidential Prayer Team. At the mention of PPT, a woman seated in the waiting area sprang to her feet. “I’m a member of PPT,” she exclaimed. Slowly the story of Connie McClellan’s reason for being there unfolded. Her son, John, had been injured in Iraq just days earlier. Through a series of medical flights, he was airlifted out of Iraq and settled at Bethesda where he is now receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the head.

The extraordinary thing about this story is the role that prayer has played. The moment John was hit (this will be his third Purple Heart. Is it any wonder his friends call him “Lucky?”), his buddies began to pray. They covered John with prayer as he was moved to Germany and then to Bethesda. As soon as friends in his hometown of Columbia, MO heard the news of his injury, they began to pray, as did his mother. Several prayer vigils have now been held for John, and his pastor even made the trip to Maryland to bring love and prayer support. John’s prospects are looking great. Now out of ICU, he has recovered much function. But his need for prayer continues.

October 10, 2006

Wounded Marine Suffers Setback

A Marine from Columbia County who was wounded while serving in the Middle East is still fighting for his life.


Tuesday, October 10, 4:49 p.m.
By Jon Meyer

Lance Corporal Derrick Sharpe, 19, of Berwick was injured last month in Iraq.

His mother had to make the heart-wrenching choice Monday to have his leg amputated, or he wouldn't make it. Kimberly Sheets said it's the toughest decision she has had to make but she can't bear to lose her son.

LCpl Sharpe had only been in Iraq a few weeks in September when a roadside bomb went off while he was on patrol. Now, he's in critical condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

Candles burn brightly inside Kimberly Sheets' living room in Berwick.and she said they will continue to do so until her son is healed.

Throughout the room there are reminders of the young Marine as he lies far away in a coma.

"It been unbelievable. When I heard the news I just couldn't believe it. It just wasn't happening to us," Sheets said.

She got the news two weeks ago. First she flew to Germany to see him. Now she's traveling back and forth to the hospital in Maryland.

"When I saw him he had a really big hole in his leg. All his muscles were showing. It didn't look like my son. It was really hard to believe," Sheets added.

The decision Sheets had to make Monday to allow doctors to amputate her son's leg was even harder.

"The hardest part was making the decision taking his leg. But if I didn't do that he wouldn't have survived. They gave him five days if I didn't give them permission to take his leg," added Sheets.

As she sat with her son's dog tag around her neck, Sheets shared his love of the Marines.

"He's wanted to join since he was 14. His grandfather and great-grandfather were in the Corps," Sheets said.

He even convinced his younger brother to sign up.

"I am so proud of my son. I feel like the proudest mother on Earth. He's an amazing kid he's always been very strong," his mother added.

Now as flags fly proudly outside her home she prays he finds the strength to push on and one day returns home.

"I just told him this is one more fight. One more hill you have to get over. Just keep fighting," Sheets urged.

LCpl Sharpe is battling infection through much of his body. This is a critical time for him and the family said all the prayers they can get will help.

Derrick was a 2005 graduate of Berwick High School.

*Delta squadrons exchange aircraft as mission turnover draws near

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 10, 2006) -- Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 turned over its CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters to its replacement squadron, HMH-363, during the last few remaining days of its deployment in Al Asad.


Oct. 10, 2006; Submitted on: 10/10/2006 07:50:48 AM ; Story ID#: 2006101075048
By Cpl. James B. Hoke, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Since the aircraft were brought into action during Vietnam in the late 1960s, they have transitioned between several CH-53D squadrons throughout the Marine Corps.

"It's hard to say how long they've been with HMH-463," said Lt. Col. Randel W. Parker, commanding officer, HMH-463, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). "These aircraft get swapped between squadrons often, but some of these aircraft have been part of MAG-24 -- our parent Marine Aircraft Group in the United States -- since 1975."

Through the transition of turning aircraft over from one squadron to the next, the Marines of both squadrons have to inspect the entire aircraft from top to bottom.

"It's not like having your buddy take your car," said Parker, a 44-year-old Littleton, Colo., native. "These aircraft are more than just an airframe. They have engines and components on them that require logs to be made on their service life. Parts get taken off and on, and each part has its own unique service life."

The biggest element of an aircraft turnover is completing all of the paperwork and inspections that are required in order for the incoming squadron to accept the aircraft, said Cpl. Julio C. Rodriguez, maintenance administration clerk, HMH-463.

"There are about 50 to 70 components total," said the 22-year-old Dallas native. "There are some that have subcomponents. Each component on each aircraft has to be serialized. The components are also limited to hours, meaning there are a certain number of hours they can fly before they have to be changed. We have a checklist that we pass out, and everyone ensures that everything is done on.

"When we turnover, the accepting squadron needs to be able to look at any point in time and know what has happened to the aircraft and what needs to be changed," the North Dallas High School graduate continued. "It's really important for the safety of the aircraft to track everything so that they know how many hours a component has and when it needs to be changed. If the numbers are wrong on a certain component, it could be dangerous to the pilots and the crew."

Although the process of inspecting and serializing the aircraft can take several days for the Marines of various sections throughout both squadrons to complete, the aircraft turnover is still considered to be a superior method compared to its alternative.

"This is a lot quicker and cheaper than taking the aircraft back home and having the replacement squadron bring theirs out," said Cpl. Matthew A. Siegrist, flight line mechanic, HMH-463, and a 32-year-old native of West Plains, Mo. "It would exhaust a lot of funds if we had to break each aircraft down and put them in a C-5 (Galaxy) to get them home."

However, it won't be the first time these aircraft have switched between squadrons, and it probably won't be the last either.

"Over the life of one of these aircraft, it has probably been in every CH-53 Delta squadron," said Lt. Col. Allen D. Broughton, commanding officer, HMH-363, MAG-16, and a Lemoore, Calif., native. "There are a couple of these aircraft that were part of HMH-363 in the early '90s, as I have flown a few of them before."

With three of these aircraft closing in on 10,000 flight hours and several more approaching 40 years of service, the Marines become attached to them, having spent countless hours working, flying and accomplishing their missions on the aircraft.

"Something I have always said is what makes these planes work is 80 percent heart and 20 percent parts," said Parker, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate. "These planes take on the personality of the Marines who fly them. You get to know how a plane flies, especially with the crew chiefs. It's their plane, and they know that plane. It's tough to give it up, but that's part of the business we do.

"These aircraft are old machines, but I think we've proven since we've been out here that even though they are the older aircraft in the Marine Corps, they will provide great support in this war against terrorism," Parker concluded. "These young Marines pour their blood and sweat into their jobs, and that is what keeps these aircraft flying."

*13th MEU Marine lends helping hand

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Oct. 10, 2006) -- More oft than not, Marines will jump at a chance to help others in need. Such was the case with Lance Cpl. Gilbert Cabrera, a weather observer with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s intelligence section.


Oct. 10, 2006; Submitted on: 10/12/2006 01:44:58 PM ; Story ID#: 20061012134458
By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU

Cabrera, a native of Southgate, Calif., traveled to Falls Church, Va. from 16 to 20 Sept. to donate bone marrow to an anonymous recipient through the Department of Defense’s C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Program. He endured a week of hormone shots that increased the number of stem cells in his blood. This increase allows medical personnel to extract the cells from the blood instead of extracting directly from the bone marrow, which can be much more painful. After the donation, he experienced soreness, dizziness and nausea.

Through the program, service members who donate blood (generally during recruit training or Marine Combat Training) give consent to further test samples for tissue type and possible future donation compatibility. The information is entered into a database and when the need for a donor arises, the data is screened for a potential donor. The donor is then contacted and made aware of the recipient’s situation while keeping anonymity of the individual. Thus, without any knowledge of the recipient’s background or medical condition, Cabrera, in true Marine fashion, stepped up to the plate.

“It’s the thought of helping someone in need,” explained Cabrera. “I would hope that if I were in the same situation that someone would be as kind to help me.”

“I think, especially during a time of war, that if he is willing to help another person that it speaks volumes for his character,” said Sgt. Brock W. Hemminger, weather forecaster for the 13th MEU. “He is truly faithful and that is why I requested him for the 13th MEU.”

Cabrera took the chance that his new supervisors would afford him the opportunity and the time off as he checked into his new unit. The Fighting 13th MEU is currently rebuilding its ranks in preparation for an upcoming deployment. The chance of Cabrera losing his place in the elite unit was great as he faced a sensitive medical procedure that could potentially put him on limited duty for an extended period of time.

“My biggest fear was losing my spot on the MEU,” said Cabrera. “But you just can’t say no when asked to do something like (this).”

But fear is not a hallmark of any Marine and Cabrera stands by his decision of going through the procedure.

“If given the opportunity to help anybody, and possibly save someone’s life… I would recommend it to anybody. It’s such a small piece of me, but it’s going to be a huge part in somebody’s life.”

For more information about the C. W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Program, visit the organization’s website at www.dodmarrow.org. For more information on the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s website at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

*3rd LAR returns to MCAGCC, greeted by wounded buddy

It's a brotherhood not many can understand. They fight side by side putting their lives in each others hands. They spend months together in the roughest places many will never endure. They count down the days together, eat together and live together. They suffer the loss of fellow Marines, and they carry on when others are injured


Lance Cpl. Katelyn A. Knauer
Combat Correspondent

The countdown finally hit zero, as 557 Marines and sailors of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion arrived home Sept. 27 and 29 after a seven month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Mothers and fathers, brother and sisters, friends and fellow Marines lined up at Victory Field awaiting the white buses that would bring home their loved ones. Music played and anticipation grew as the radio station announced the buses were on their way to the field.

“We're going out to eat first thing,” said Dottie Presmyk, mother of Sgt. Levi Presmyk. “Levi said he wants to get out of Twentynine Palms and get some good food.”

This deployment was the third for 3rd LAR, and the unit supported and conducted humanitarian efforts for the Iraqi people.

“We went to Arupa,” said Sgt. David L. Walter, Company A. “It's on the Iraq-Syrian border and is a smuggling town. While we were there we provided highway security, making sure that the main supply routes were clear of IEDs [improvised explosive devices.] We also did stability and support operations.”

Along with operations in Arupa, Company D conducted operations in several places, and is said to have seen the most combat of the battalion's two infantry companies.

“We started off in Al Qa'im and Fallujah-Garma area,” said Cpl. Christopher Patrick, D Co. “From there we went to Habbaniya, then to Korean Village with the rest of the Battalion. After that we went to Rawah.”

While Delta Company moved through the Fullajah-Garma area, they did a lot of IED clearing, working closely with combat engineers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians. They also conducted many foot patrols. In Rawah, they set up vehicle checkpoints and worked closely with the Iraqi army. While in Habbaniya, they conducted security operations and dealt closely with the Iraqi people.

On Sept. 27 the battalion received a nice surprise when they walked down the steps of the bus and into a swarm of people. Hidden in the middle of the mass of people were two Marines who were far from ordinary, and held a bond within the battalion not even a rocket-propelled grenade or sniper fire could destroy.

Lance Cpl. Isaac Cardenas still wore the title U.S. Marines across his left breast pocket, whereas Cpl. Kenny Lyon took on a whole new appearance, but still carried the presence and morale of a Marine.

Cardenas and Lyon were two Marines among others from 3rd LAR that were severely injured, but survived. Both Marines injured in Iraq were sent home early because of injuries they sustained.

“I got hit by an RPG and got shot in the head by sniper fire,” said Cardenas. “I can't wait to see everyone, I'm sure they are going to love to see Lyon and the rest of the injured guys, and know that we are doing fine.”

Lyon, who traveled all the way from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., made his way across the field to greet his fellow Marines.

Lyon, who received injuries ranging from an amputated left leg, a broken jaw bone, nerve damage in his arms, a dislocated thumb and shrapnel, which entered two inches into his brain, could have fooled anyone with his charm and excitement that couldn't be matched.

“It's good to be here,” said Lyon. “We lost a lot of guys, and I knew I had to be here when the rest of the Marines came home.”

As Marines exited off the bus and walked by Lyon many stopped in their tracks and did a complete double take.

“It's good to see him,” said Cpl. Andrew Henry. “I've known him for four years.”

As time passed, Marines began to leave the field with their loved ones and fellow Marines. Some headed for a home cooked meal, others for a living room filled with family. All had the same thought on their mind, “It's good to be home.”

October 8, 2006

For Headquarters Marines, “a typical day is anything but” in Iraq

Editor"s Note: This article was originally written in October, however, its publication was postponed due to operational security reasons.

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 8, 2006) - Coalition Forces wrapped up a counterinsurgency mission along the Euphrates River in western Al Anbar province late last month.


Story by Capt. Mike Alvarez,
Photos by Regimental Combat Team 7 Combat Camera

U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors and Iraqi Police uncovered multiple weapons caches and faced two improvised explosive device attacks throughout the four-day operation without sustaining casualties.

IED attacks are the number-one killer of Coalition Forces personnel in Iraq, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count - an organization which tallies U.S. and coalition casualties based off Department of Defense press releases.

The largest cache netted in the operation was found in a cave containing about 300 82 mm mortar rounds and various bomb-making components, commonly used in IED attacks against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Marines here deem the results a success - finding just one mortar round would have still made their efforts worthwhile, they say.

"What we got was something that could have killed one of our Marines," said Maj. Randal Walsh, 33, and commanding officer for Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 7.

RCT-7 is the U.S. military unit responsible for training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security in more than 30,000 square miles of territory in western Al Anbar — an area which spans from the Syria/Jordan borders and East to the Euphrates River.

During last month"s operation, U.S. forces and Iraqi Police swept for weapons caches and interacted with locals within the 20 mile-stretch between the cities of Baghdadi and Hit, Iraq. Baghdadi, with a population of about 30,000, is located 120 miles west of Baghdad. Hit boasts a population of about 50,000 and is 25 miles south of Baghdadi.

Baghdadi policemen searched the area for weapons caches side-by-side with U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors. Their familiarity with the area, language and culture contributed greatly to the mission"s success as they interacted with locals and gathered valuable intelligence, Marines say.

The integration of the Iraqi Police was one of the most notable accomplishments of the mission, according to Staff Sgt. Jon Brodin, 37, and platoon commander for Headquarter Co."s Security Platoon, what the Marines call a "jump platoon."

"The Iraqi police were operating without direction (from the Marines), and with minimal logistics support from us," said Brodin - a complete 180 from six months ago, he said. "Six months ago, it would have been like pulling teeth to keep them out there."

Police found what Marines call a "fighter"s cache" consisting of IEDs and bomb-making material strategically placed by insurgents for quick access and escape, said Brodin, a native of Lakehurst, N.J.

Every Marine a rifleman

While a headquarters company traditionally performs in an administrative, communications and logistical support role, Walsh"s unit does much more in addition to these traditional roles to assist the 4,500-plus Marines, soldiers and sailors in training Iraqi Security Forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations throughout western Al Anbar Province.

Prior to their arrival here in February the company created several platoons made up of Marines and sailors within the company — administrative clerks, mechanics, communications technicians. The results were a provisional rifle platoon and a jump security platoon.

The unit"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." Of those in Headquarters Company who participated in last month"s mission, only eight, were infantrymen by trade.

The platoons give the company an offensive capability, said 1st. Lt. William Johnson, 27, and executive officer for Headquarters Company, RCT-7, and Oakdale, Minn. native.

Headquarters Company frequently conducts counterinsurgency operations and pitches in to help the Marines train Iraqi soldiers and the 2,000-plus Iraqi policemen in western Al Anbar.

The Marines of Headquarters Company have performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points.

"The results definitely have exceeded my expectations," said Johnson.

For these Marines, "a typical day is anything but typical," said 23-year-old Sgt. Christopher Williamson, a squad leader for the Headquarter Co."s Jump Security Platoon, and native of Sheffield, England

Late last month, a U.S. Army helicopter landed on an explosive device during a routine training mission in the middle of western Al Anbar"s desert. Brodin and his Marines braved Iraq"s roadways in their armored vehicles and made their way to the disabled helicopter"s location and provided security while rescue and recovery efforts were underway.

But danger is a fact of life in western Al Anbar Province, often called the "wild, wild west" of Iraq. Still, the Marines have a job to do, and despite the dangers - IEDs, ambushes, and small-arms attacks, Walsh says the Company"s "Jump" Marines thrive off the impact they"re making on a daily basis - keeping the region secure for Americans and Iraqis alike.

"Get the Marines out there, get their boots on the ground and their morale goes up when they know they are in the midst of making a difference," said Walsh, a native of Phoenix, Ariz.

Email Capt. Alvarez at: [email protected]

Click on the original link above to find photo links.


U.S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon patrol Abu Hayatt, a village in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province, March 13, 2006. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Michael Q. Retana)


U.S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon patrol Abu Hayatt, a village in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province, March 13, 2006. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Michael Q. Retana)


Lance Cpl. Christopher R. Peardin, a 20-year-old Marine from Harris, Texas, keeps a close eye inside a Humvee machine gun turret while on patrol with Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon Abu Hayatt, a village in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province, March 13, 2006. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Michael Q. Retana)


U.S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon conduct a pre-patrol brief before going "outside the wire" - Marine speak for leaving the safety of their base - to patrol a village in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province, March 13, 2006. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Michael Q. Retana)


Pvt. Cody Morgan and Cpl. Gerardo J. Rapeta, both U.S. Marines, carry 155 mm mortar rounds found when Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon and Iraqi Security Forces discovered a hidden weapons cache Sept. 22, 2006, along the bank of the Euphrates River in Hit, Iraq. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." Morgan is a 20-year-old from Burleson, Texas. Rapeta is a 24-year-old from Pinellas, Fla. (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Cardona, Jr.)


Cpl. Ricardo J. Balistreri, a 20-year-old Marine from Milwaukee patrols along the banks of the Euphrates River near Hit, Iraq, Sept. 22, 2006, with Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Cardona, Jr.)


Lance Cpl. Nicholas D. Meche, a 20-year-old Marine from St. Landry, La., communicates with other Marines via radio while on patrol near the Euphrates River near Hit, Iraq, Sept. 22, 2006, with Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Cardona, Jr.)


Lance Cpl. Nicholas Spiewak, a 22-year-old machine gunner from Yuma, Ariz., patrols near the Euphrates River near Hit, Iraq, Sept. 22, 2006, with Regimental Combat Team 7"s security platoon in Iraq"s western Al Anbar Province. The platoon, nick-named the "Jump" Platoon, worked with Iraqi police and soldiers late last month to uncover multiple weapons caches during a four-day counterinsurgency operation along the Euphrates River. The platoon, which consists of mostly non-infantry Marines, such as cooks, mechanics and administrative clerks, patrol western Al Anbar Province on a nearly daily basis, facing roadside bombs, and small arms attacks. The platoon has performed a number of infantry missions throughout the region — patrolling in urban environments, river sweeps, manning traffic control points. According to Marine commanders, the security platoon"s make-up reemphasizes one of the Corps" time-proven ethos: "Every Marine a rifleman." (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Cardona, Jr.)

*Mix of Marines accomplishes logistical mission

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 8, 2006) -- While Marines from units around the world are found in locations throughout Iraq, one battalion here has managed to put them all in one place.

Combat Logistics Battalion 5-2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), is made of Marines and sailors from 56 separate battalions – active and reserve – representing each of the three Marine Expeditionary Forces and Marine Forces Reserve.


Oct. 8, 2006; Submitted on: 10/08/2006 02:09:25 PM ; Story ID#: 200610814925
By Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle, 1st Marine Logistics Group

The battalion provides logistical support to the command element, Regimental Combat Team-5, through personal health services, transportation, maintenance and engineering, but it’s the unit’s diverse composition that sets it apart from most others in the Marine Corps.

“The most stable unit is that which is comprised of young and old, experienced and inexperienced,” said Maj. Matt R. Seay, executive officer, CLB-5-2. “The more diverse the unit, the less prone it is to overreaction and stress.”

Due in large part to the employment of standard operating procedures (SOPs) prior to moving into the Iraqi theater, the battalion has been able to operate smoothly since its inception, added Seay, a 34-year-old resident of Carlsbad, Calif.

“The environment here is a lot different than it is in the (western Al Anbar province),” he said. “Here we provide support in Fallujah, as far west as Habbaniyah and as far north as Karmah.” Close proximity to these locations enables the battalion to complete its supply routes within a day, but with more than 15 outposts in its area of responsibility, “it’s critical for everyone to be on the same sheet of music.”

For example, Marines with Transportation Support (TS) Company leave the relative safety of Camp Fallujah on a daily basis, supplying the infantry battalions who live and work “outside the wire.”

Strict adherence to SOPs while on these re-supply missions is paramount, especially since Marines in the company come from different units and may have slightly different ways of doing things, said Seay.

While major differences must be standardized, Lance Cpl. Samantha Garza, a motor-transportation mechanic with TS Company, said she’s also noticed how the mix of Marines adds variety to the company and contributes to its overall effectiveness.

“I must have met a Marine from every state since I’ve been out here – even Alaska,” said Garza, a 20-year-old from Queens, N.Y. “I’ve really learned a lot from all of them.”

Capt. Jessica L. Henry Spayde, adjutant with Headquarters Company, agrees that unit diversity can provide a benefit.

“We all have different ways of doing business where we’re from, so we don’t have that ‘This-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it’ mentality,” said Henry Spayde, a Grinnell, Iowa, native.

She left her position as the commanding officer of Engineer Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group (a reserve unit in Omaha, Neb.), to volunteer for this deployment.

Working with reservists is a new experience for many of the active-duty Marines. “It’s different, but we have to mesh well and work together if we want to be successful,” said Staff Sgt. Trocon A. Brumskine, administration chief with Headquarters Company.

Creating battalion SOPs and getting to know one another through conversations at the camp’s dining facilities has helped the hodgepodge of Marines grow as a unit, but daily mission accomplishment ultimately stems from “the professionalism and experience of the individual Marines,” said Lt. Col. Gregg Moore, commanding officer, CLB-5-2.

“I’ve been absolutely pleased and stunned with how we’ve all come together,” added the Lindenhurst, Ill. native.

Combat Logistics Battalion 6, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is scheduled to relieve CLB-5-2 in March.

In ambush, he lost a friend. Then he became a hero.

A Marine is up for the Medal of Honor after killing 11 insurgents in Iraq in close combat, but the award would be posthumous.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One November day in 2004, in 30 minutes of close combat, Marine Pfc. Chris Adlesperger, a soft-spoken, religious young man who loved poetry and art, attacked an enemy stronghold in Fallujah, Iraq, and killed at least 11 insurgents.


Los Angeles Times

He killed them with his M-16 and with his grenade launcher.

He killed insurgents who were heavily armed and who had just killed his close friend Lance Cpl. Erick Hodges.

He protected two wounded squad members from attack and saved innumerable Marines.

When it was over, Adlesperger's face had been bloodied by shrapnel and he had bullet holes in the sleeve and collar of his uniform. He refused to be evacuated until Hodges' body was recovered.

"It was a tremendous bit of fighting," said Col. Patrick Malay, the battalion commander. "He was a quiet kid, but he was remarkable."

For his bravery, Adlesperger is among a handful of Marines who have been nominated for the Medal of Honor in Iraq.

A nomination does not ensure an award will be made. No Marine has been awarded the Medal of Honor for combat occurring since the Vietnam War.

The nation's highest recognition of bravery is reserved for those who have shown conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. In fact, two-thirds of the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines since the beginning of World War II have been posthumous.

If an award is made to Adlesperger, his, too, will be posthumous.

A month after the firefight for which he was nominated, Adlesperger led Marines in storming another building where insurgents were hiding. He was shot in the heart and died instantly.

Only after his death did family members learn of his bravery. At first they were shocked — this was the same person who had once cringed at the thought of shooting birds on a hunting trip. Then they recognized in the details of the firefight the determined youth they knew and loved.

"That was Chris. Whatever he did, he always went in with the idea that nobody was going to beat him, nobody," said Dennis Adlesperger, 53, his uncle.

In boot camp in San Diego, one of Chris Adlesperger's drill instructors instilled the reality of combat when he scanned more than 100 recruits sitting attentively on the exercise field and picked 10 at random to stand up.

"When your company goes to Iraq, this is the number of Marines who won't be coming home alive," the drill instructor barked.

He ordered 10 more to stand. "And this is how many more will die if you don't start listening to me."

Typically self-confident, Adlesperger sounded shaken when he told his mother about the lecture.

"Chris said the drill instructor scared him, but it helped him realize what Iraq was going to be like, that he was going to have to learn to protect his Marines," said Annette Griego, 41, Adlesperger's mother.

By all accounts, Adlesperger loved the Marines. He thrived on the physical challenge and packed muscle onto his 5-foot-8, 150-pound frame. He got a tattoo, "USMC," down the right side of his stomach. He formed fast friendships.

"The Marine Corps became his family, and when they went to fight, he was looking out for his brothers," said Debra McAtee, 42, whose sister is Adlesperger's mother.

Near dawn on Nov. 10, 2004, the Marines of Kilo Company in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, pushed out. The battalion had drawn a dangerous sector, the Jolan neighborhood in Fallujah's northwest corner.

The Marines moved methodically through Fallujah in what they called the "squeegee tactic," searching each house.

For hours, they faced minor resistance. A few more buildings and they could stop.

"We had cleared buildings all day, hundreds of them, but on that 101st house, that's the one that gets you," said Gunnery Sgt. Paul Starner, Adlesperger's platoon sergeant. The structure had a wall around it, a courtyard in front and an outdoor stairway to the roof.

Adlesperger, acting as point for the four-man team, tried to knock down a gate. Hodges moved forward and was immediately felled by a hail of bullets, probably from a concealed opening in the masonry wall.

As they rushed the house, Navy corpsman Alonso Rogero was hit in the stomach and Lance Cpl. Ryan Sunnerville in the leg. Shaky film of the incident shows a hopping Sunnerville firing at insurgents who were no more than 20 feet away and tossing grenades.

The insurgents tried a "Chechen ambush." The strategy, Marines determined later, was to wound Marines attempting to enter the building. When other Marines came to help, an insurgent sniper was to pick off corpsmen, radio operators and officers. And when enough Marines or vehicles were gathered, the insurgents planned to fire rocket-propelled grenades.

Adlesperger shot at the rebel machine-gun position as he ran to Rogero and Sunnerville, helping the two men up the outside stairway to the roof.

Insurgents then stormed the stairway, but Adlesperger killed them before they could reach the roof.

From his rooftop position, he could see insurgents peppering Hodges' lifeless body with bullets, including two to the head. When one insurgent ran from the building to seize Hodges' weapon, Adlesperger killed the insurgent with a single shot.

Still, the machine-gun position in the building was pinning down Marines gathering for a frontal assault. With no time to consult officers, and with other Marine units engaged in firefights, Adlesperger essentially took over.

Standing on the roof, he blew holes in it with the grenade launcher and rained gunfire down on the insurgents inside, who fired back, then fled.

Adlesperger killed four insurgents who fled into the courtyard, each with a shot to the head. It is estimated that Adlesperger killed a total of 11 insurgents, but the actual number may be higher.

The building had been an insurgent command-andcontrol center. Failure to quickly subdue it, officers concluded, could have thrown off the timetable for the Fallujah assault, which depended on speed and keeping U.S. casualties to a minimum.

Other Marines joined Adlesperger and began preparing the wounded for evacuation. Once that was done and Hodges' body was removed, the Marines pushed in one side of the building with an amphibious assault vehicle. Adlesperger insisted on being the first to search the building to make sure all the insurgents were dead.

That night, Starner went to Adlesperger to gather information for the official report. As Adlesperger spoke, he began to weep — not for the men he had killed, or even for the fact that he had had to kill them, but for Hodges, a wise-cracking Northern Californian who was on his second combat tour in Iraq and had turned 21 just the day before.

"He just kept saying, 'Hodges, Hodges, we had to get him out,' " Starner said.

Adlesperger, Hodges and Sunnerville were particularly close. Each had learned to trust his life to the others.

"We were tight," said Sunnerville, 22, who has recovered from his wounds, been promoted to sergeant and recently finished his third combat tour in Iraq.

On Thanksgiving weekend, with the entire company watching, Adlesperger, who had just turned 20, was promoted to lance corporal because of his actions on Nov. 10.

In early December, Central Command ordered a second round of squeegee to catch insurgents who had been overlooked or who had managed to sneak back into the city.

This time, fewer troops were assigned; some battalions had been redeployed to other cities as the U.S. military tried to decrease its Fallujah "footprint" in advance of the city being reopened to residents.

This time, Adlesperger's battalion was assigned to sweep a different neighborhood.

"We moved across the Line of Departure, and 20 minutes later Chris was dead," Malay said.

Adlesperger had taken the lead in approaching a nondescript house. He was hit in his flak vest by multiple rounds. The impact spun him around, and one round struck his side, where there were no protective plates. He died instantly from a bullet to the heart.

Months later, when the deployment ended, the boot camp instructor's prediction had proved eerily accurate. In Adlesperger's Kilo Company, 11 Marines had been killed.

Adlesperger's father, Gary, 42, collapsed in the driveway of his home when his former wife called to say their son was dead.

But like others in the family, Gary Adlesperger continues to support the U.S. mission in Iraq. On his lapel is a pin with the U.S. and Marine Corps flags.

Even for hardened troops, Adlesperger's death was wrenching, and the Marines took time to mourn.

"When we finally went firm (moved to a secure location), one of the noncommissioned officers cried all night about Chris, and I had to separate him from the other Marines," Starner said.

A member of Kilo Company wrote later in an online tribute to Adlesperger: "This is to you and your family, a sincere thank-you for letting all of us come home and live and love. But most importantly, showing us what sacrifice and being a true man is all about."

Insurgents had hoped to spring what is called a Chechen ambush. The strategy was to wound Marines entering the building. When other Marines came to help, a sniper was to pick off corpsmen, radio operators and officers. Then when more gathered, the insurgents planned to fire rocket-propelled grenades.

*Tankers bring a bit of Kentucky to Iraq

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 8, 2006) -- Nearly seven months ago, three Marines and one sailor assigned to 2nd Platoon, E Company , 4th Tank Battalion, a reservist unit headquartered at Fort Knox, Ky., bade their Kentucky home good night and deployed to Iraq as part of Regimental Combat Team 5.


Oct. 8, 2006; Submitted on: 10/09/2006 05:45:11 AM ; Story ID#: 200610954511
By 2nd Lt. Lawton King, 1st Marine Division

Leaving their families and careers behind, these citizen-warriors quickly found themselves operating in a foreign environment that bore little, if any, resemblance to the undulating meadows unique to the Bluegrass State. Gone were the spring jaunts to the races at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, which, like the festivals celebrated in ancient Greece, mark the arrival of spring. Gone were the weekend excursions to the lakes and rivers that irrigate the verdant farms and, of course, gone were the Kentucky-distilled bourbons that grace the shelves of all the commonwealth’s bars. In their place were sand, dust and blood.

“It makes you understand what you have,” said Cpl. Russell Pickard, a 26-year-old tank loader from Frankfort, Ky., who attended Franklin County High School and joined the Marine Corps in October of 2002 in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. “Kentucky is a very good-looking state – the rolling hills, the grass… something this place doesn’t have.”

“I miss the city of Louisville,” added Cpl. Travis C. Marcum, a 24-year-old gunner from Louisville, Ky., who graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Science in justice and administration and is currently in the employ of Gannet Direct Marketing. “It’s a really charming place. There is always something to do.”

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Giovanni Dattalo, a 28-year-old hospital corpsman from Louisville attended Doss and Butler high schools, articulated similar sentiments.

“I miss the fresh air, leaves, changing colors and driving my truck,” he said.

More importantly, though, he added, “I miss my mother’s homemade pasta and my homemade wine.”

After months of conducting counterinsurgency operations, staging armored patrols, serving as a quick-reaction force and hunting insurgents who often dissolve into the local populace before they can be apprehended, the group yearned for the conviviality of Kentucky.

“I miss the hospitality of home,” said Cpl. Adam “Shrek” Conners, a 22-year-old field radio operator and Woodford County High School graduate from Lexington, Ky. “We’re a family here, but nothing compares to family and friends (back home).”

Tasked to augment A Company, 2nd Tank Company, RCT-5, the group landed in Iraq around the end of March and quickly underwent a baptism of fire.

The tankers, owing to the unrivaled firepower and maneuverability of the M-1A1 Main Battle Tank, were assigned a vast assortment of missions that guaranteed them long hours on the thoroughfares that shadow the Euphrates River in the corridor between Fallujah and Habbaniyah.

In Habbaniyah, “we were going out two times a day everyday,” Pickard said. “You were in the tanks, or you were in the bed.”

For weeks on end, Marines braved the oppressive elements and the nebulous insurgents without so much as a weekend’s reprieve.

Save for a few lulls provided by rotations to Fallujah, the Rick Pitino-style, full-court-press approach to the operational tempo continued unabated for the Marines’ duration in Iraq and made for a frenzied deployment.

“It certainly has been challenging,” remarked Marcum.

“For myself, the deployment has been educational,” added Conners.

But the Marines managed to find comfort in the simple pleasure of life.

“No matter where you are in Iraq, the good things help the time go by a lot better,” Conners indicated.

Returning from Habbaniyah in the wee hours of the morning of Sept. 3, the group switched on the television to view the annual gridiron meeting between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

Not satisfied with the grainy and pixilated image flashing across the tank command post’s screen, Marcum opted to forego the company of his fellow Kentuckians and ventured out into the darkness on a quest to locate a television set with a high-quality picture.

“So I walked over to the gym and sat in front of a treadmill and watched the game until 0700,” he said. “It sure was worth it!”

Several weeks before the first Saturday in May, during the season of dreams in Kentucky when the roses double as laurels, Dattalo’s mother mailed him a newspaper that listed the racing card for the upcoming Derby so he could place a wager.

“I had the Derby winner over here,” he exclaimed. “I had $10 on him across the board.”

Dattalo, who at one time lived next to Hall-of-Fame jockey Pat Day, has treated numerous combat wounds since he arrived in Iraq, probably more than he would like to remember, and yet he expressed concern for the maimed Derby winner.

“I think about Barbaro’s broken leg.”

And so, seven months after disembarking in the land between the two rivers, the Marines and sailor prepare to return to Kentucky and resume their lives in the civilian sphere. Their farewell to arms, though, will never resound with finality, and their memories of Iraq will never recede into the abyss of neglected history, but will instead always remain at the forefront of their consciousness.

None of them can ever forget the company field operation when every single vehicle, except the tanks, became mired in the glutinous muck, nor can they forget the episode when “a Marine bet another Marine to jump off the humvee into a mud hole. He came out looking like a chocolate brownie.” Jim Smiley, the gambling protagonist of Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” would have swelled with admiration.

But not all their recollections will elicit smiles and snickering 10 years from now, for tragedy befell them on several occasions and reminded them of the transience of life.

“Life is very precious, and knowing that we lost fallen brethren really takes a toll on the heart,” Conners said.

Townsmen of a vibrant town, they will return to the Bluegrass seven months older and generations wiser.

“When I return, I will go back to work, pick up where I left off,” Pickard said. “I will go back to the routine I had before all this started.”

“I think I have changed,” observed Marcum, who plans to apply to law school. “I am more respectful. I’ve seen corpsmen help people. I’ve seen people pay the ultimate price. I’m really appreciative of the people who came before me and will come after. I will always look at those monuments differently.”

“I think I have become mature,” Conners explained. “This place makes you realize how lucky you are.”

“I think we’re making progress in the right direction,” said Dattalo, who hopes to re-enroll in school to become a nurse practitioner. “These Marines from ‘Echo Company’ are doing a terrific job completing their mission.”

Their platoon commander, Capt. Tom Montgomery, a 33-year-old investment banker from Charlotte, N.C., commended the cohesion and forbearance of his men.

“These guys blow anybody away,” he said. “I think the Kentucky reservists definitely fit in to the community that lends itself to a tighter esprit”

But for the residents of the commonwealth, Montgomery’s plaudits should come as no surprise, for as William Faulkner wrote in his classic novel “The Sound and the Fury,” “God is not only a gentleman and a sport; he is a Kentuckian too.”

October 7, 2006

Marine Base Seeks Missing Laptop

LOS ANGELES (Oct. 7) - A laptop computer loaded with personal information on 2,400 residents of the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base has been lost, authorities said Friday.



The computer was reported missing Tuesday by Lincoln B.P. Management Inc., which helps manage base housing.

The company and Camp Pendleton are investigating. As of Friday, investigators had not found evidence that the data had been accessed, the base said in a statement.

Authorities would disclose what kind of information was on the computer.

Lincoln B.P. officials were notifying residents.

"We take this matter very seriously and are working closely with Lincoln Properties to find out what happened and to safeguard the personal information of our Marines, sailors and their families," said Col. James B. Seaton III, the base's commanding officer.

Camp Pendleton is the Marine Corps' largest West Coast expeditionary training facility, located north of San Diego.

*A day in the life of motor transport

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 7, 2006) -- Endless days of traveling across the hot, unforgiving desert of Iraq, that might be how to best describe the lives of some Marines engaged in operations throughout Al Anbar Province. They travel along roads susceptible to attack by improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.


Oct. 7, 2006; Submitted on: 10/07/2006 07:32:45 AM ; Story ID#: 200610773245
By Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Motor-vehicle operators with 3rd Platoon, Combat Logistics Company 111, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are not strangers to this lifestyle.

“It’s hours of pure driving or sitting on a (weapon mount) without knowing if you’re going to get blown up (by a road side bomb) or get shot at,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Chaviano, 20, a machine gunner with 3rd Platoon and native of Long Beach, Calif. “It’s a hard job, but a great job.”

The platoon engages in re-supply missions throughout Al Anbar Province at least three times a week, running operations from base to base to supply other units with what they need to complete their mission, said Staff Sgt. Michael W. Nichols, 30, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon.

He added that re-supply missions are essential to the freedom of Iraq, an objective they’ve been fighting for over the past three years.

Motor-vehicle operators explain that the job is stressful but despite the challenges, they still maintain a positive attitude and focus on the mission.

“My platoon is very spirited. No matter what happens, they are always upbeat,” said 2nd Lt. Wesley B. Lippman, 25, platoon commander of 3rd Platoon and a Darien, Conn., native.

Their positive attitudes are a reflection of their leadership’s enthusiasm.

“My platoon is awesome. Our staff sergeant and platoon commander have pushed us together,” said Chaviano. “We are all like brothers.”

The platoon has been together for five months and commonly refers to each other as family.

“My platoon is like my family. I would do anything for them,” said Lance Cpl. Pedro L. Guzman, 21, a motor vehicle operator with 3rd Platoon and a native of Bronx, N.Y. “If they needed me to tow 20 trucks with one truck, I would do it for them.”

“We have built this bond and this camaraderie,” said Nichols, a Laplace, La., native. “In fact, I am confident that everyone in my platoon would take a bullet for me and I would do the same for them.”

The Marines agree that unit cohesion helps them strive for perfection.

“We as a platoon see ourselves as the best, so we make it our goal to be the best,” said Pfc. Benjamin R. Nadall, 19, a motor-vehicle operator with 3rd Platoon.

The endless day in the hot sun payoff when the Marines go home knowing they completed their mission.

“The most rewarding factor is the fact that I can go home knowing that I did something to better myself and learned a lot about life,” said Nadall, a Dallas, native.

Third Platoon members will continue their mission to re-supply bases around Al Anbar Province to ensure the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom until they travel back to the Unites States in spring 2007.

October 6, 2006

*'America's Battalion' wrap up six-month Iraq deployment, returns to base in Hawaii

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 6, 2006) -- After almost seven months of combat operations in western Al Anbar province, the Marines of “America’s Battalion” returned to families and loved ones Oct. 5 in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.


Oct. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 200610375413
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle, 1st Marine Division

Just two weeks ago, the Hawaii-based battalion transferred authority of security operations of the Haditha Triad region in Al Anbar to another Hawaii-based unit - 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

The Haditha Triad Region consists of the three Euphrates River towns — Haditha, Barwanah and Haqlaniyah, and boasts a population of about 50,000.

Throughout their deployment, 3rd Battalion’s forces trained Iraqi Security Forces, located 54 weapons caches and detained more than 800 suspected insurgents, according to Master Sgt. Ronald Rice, 36, operations chief for 3rd Battalion. They also conducted more than 8,000 patrols.

The battalion also worked closely with Iraqi police and soldiers to provide security in Baghdadi, a small city of about 5,000, just 25 miles south of the Triad along the Euphrates.

The Marines were accompanied by Iraqi security forces on approximately one-third of the patrols, said Rice.

The battalion suffered 11 deaths during its deployment. Still, the Marines performed to par, and made a dramatic difference in Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Norman L. Cooling, 3rd Battalion’s commanding officer.

“The Marines’ enemies here do not follow the Geneva Convention and play by a different set of rules that Marines do not recognize,” said Cooling. “The enemy often does things that are shocking and repulsive to civilized people – like machine-gunning several unarmed police recruits to death earlier this summer.”

Cooling, a native of Baytown, Texas, said the battalion’s most valuable contribution to Iraq was the advancement of Iraqi Security Forces, to include Iraqi policemen and soldiers.

Upon arrival, the abilities of the Iraqi soldiers were limited to individual skills and were “very basic.” Now, the soldiers have motorized capabilities to react to situations and are conducting platoon, company and battalion-level operations independently and some Iraqi units are frequently assigned their own area of responsibility, said Cooling.

For 3rd Battalion’s final large-scale operation, dubbed Operation Guardian Tiger IV, only a handful of Marines accompanied Iraqi soldiers when they spread out through the Baghdadi Area to conduct a complete census of the city’s villages.

“The Marines did what they have always done in the past,” said Cooling, 42. “They came to a hostile area that was riddled with chaos and initiated the process of establishing security.”

Sgt. Rodrigue Jean Paul, 31, a platoon guide assigned to 3rd Battalion’s Lima Company, says the deployment was an “eye-opener” for him and his Marines.

Rodrigue was close friends with Cpl. Yull Estrada Rodriguez, a 21-year-old who was killed Sept. 20, 2006.

“You cannot describe the loss of one of your friends,” said Rodrigue, a native of Queens, N.Y. “It is a part of you that is lost and you can never get back. You just take what you have left and move forward but never, ever, forget those that you lost.”

For some Marines, they say that they no longer take things for granted that they once did – like a hot shower after being in 130-degree heat all day.

“Your feelings toward life itself changes out here,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Trumbull, 21, a rifleman assigned to Lima Company. “I can’t even explain how good of a feeling it will be when I get home to see my family.”

Cooling, who also command the battalion during a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, said he is “exceptionally proud” of his Marines, their accomplishments and sacrifices.

“When the greatest threat of our generation came, the majority of Americans watched it on T.V.,” said Cooling. “Only a select few with a moral compass, selflessness and a strong set of values will volunteer to risk their lives to meet that threat.”

The Marines say their last mission will be their easiest one – getting on a plane and flying home to their families.

“It is time to make up for time lost,” said Trumbull.

Email Sgt. Seigle at [email protected]

*24th MEU hones combat skills in Kuwait

KUWAIT (Oct. 6, 2006) -- Hundreds of Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Kuwait Sunday, the initial wave in an amphibious landing that will bring the entire unit ashore for several weeks of desert training.


Oct. 6, 2006; Submitted on: 10/06/2006 08:19:51 AM ; Story ID#: 200610681951
By - Marine Corps News,

The MEU will take advantage of Kuwait’s expansive training ranges to fire the full array of its individual and crew-served weapons, from small arms and heavy machine guns to mortars and heavy artillery. Marines from the MEU’s ground combat element and logistics arm will practice countering improvised explosive devices and responding to ambushes, while pilots and crew from the MEU’s air combat element will hone their skills in providing close-air and deep-strike support.

Local Marine leaves intensive care

No one would blame John McClellan for being bitter after getting shot in the head by a sniper in Iraq, but that’s not the Columbia Marine’s style.


By GREG MILLER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Sunday, October 8, 2006

"He looked me square in the eye and told me, ‘I am so glad to be alive,’ " said Connie McClellan, the Marine’s mother. "I said, ‘About half as much as I am.’ "

After a week in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., McClellan, 20, had a shunt removed from his head Friday night and was released from the intensive care unit yesterday.

"That says so much," Connie McClellan said in a phone conversation from Maryland. "That means he doesn’t have that risk of the swelling anymore."

The news has gotten better and better for parents Connie and Carl McClellan since being awakened just after midnight Sept. 27 by a phone call informing them their son had been shot. While the lance corporal was working at a post in Haditha, Iraq, a sniper’s bullet entered over his left ear and exited through the back of his neck.

The Hickman graduate can see, hear and speak, although only one vocal chord is functioning. The bullet missed McClellan’s carotid artery by the thickness of two sheets of paper, his mother said, but it appears the bullet severed a nerve that controls the left side of his face.

When he is healthier, a nerve will be moved from McClellan’s ankle to his face in hopes of giving him control again. On Wednesday, a small piece of gold will be inserted into McClellan’s left eyelid so he can close it without assistance.

Support from the community and friends hasn’t been hard to come by, since a candlelight vigil on the day friends and family learned of the shooting.

His mother said he can receive cards and letters addressed: ATTN: Marine Liaison Office, Lcpl John McClellan, 8901 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Md. 20880.

The family’s pastor even made the trip to Maryland.

"I felt like the family needed the support," said Tom Leuther, pastor of the Family Worship Center. "We’ve been praying every day."

As much as she loves support from the community, Connie McClellan said her son’s life-affirming declaration was the day’s priceless memory.

"It just told me how determined he is going to be to get well," she said.

*New software teaches basics of Iraq culture, language

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 6, 2006) -- Video and computer games continue to be a popular pastime, captivating many with visual graphics, dynamic settings and realistic gaming scenarios. The Marine Corps is capitalizing on this technology by training a younger generation who grew up with computer graphics rather than the foreign language books and flash cards of the past.


Oct. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 2006106133934
By Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre, II Marine Expeditionary Force

“Younger Marines are accustomed to gaming,” said Michael Mulcahy, simulations technician with Exercise and Simulation Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Our software takes a gaming approach to self-paced training for Marines and sailors.”

The training software program is named Tactical Language and Culture Training System or Tactical Iraqi for short. Using computer and video game technology, ESD initiated a program to train Marines with the linguistic and cultural skills needed for missions in Iraq.

“I wish this was something we had three years ago,” said Cpl. Joshua W. Zeigler, terminal operator with ESD and a Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile system gunner who served in Iraq during that time. “This is a great tool. It doesn’t matter what your aptitude level is, you’re going to learn some proficiency in the (Arabic) language.”

The full course for Tactical Iraqi is nearly 80 hours long. Taken in two to four-hour increments, it is divided into three phases: Skill Builder Section, Arcade Game Section and Mission Game Section. Each phase increases with difficulty, with the second and third sections utilizing a first-person, cyber perspective during the scenarios and presenting tasks on the software.

“The best part is that it’s done at your own pace,” said Zeigler. “If you need to go back through a course or exam, you can do it again.”

Trainees use keyboard and computer screens to participate in the course. A headset connected to the computer is utilized for audio and verbal portions of the training, providing an essential learning tool to act upon and understand basic Iraqi Arabic and culture.

“Cultural sensibilities come into play as you move in a simulation attempting to accomplish a task,” said Zeigler.

The mission of the Corps has changed considerably since Operation Iraqi Freedom began during 2003. Combat missions then focused on destroying the enemy’s capability to fight.

Today the mission in Iraq requires a higher degree of linguistic knowledge and cultural diplomacy with the locals. What were once combat operations of destroying enemy forces is now securing, stabilizing and maintaining relations with communities and tribes in Iraq. Missions increasingly involve more civil affairs actions with locals, policing and working alongside Iraqi military and police, while maintaining vigilance against any threats.

“When you look at a pamphlet, you’re taking your attention from what’s going on around you,” said Cpl. Terry A. Reddinger, terminal operator, rifleman and Iraq veteran with ESD. “To be able to know some of the phrases without staring at a piece of paper helps you maintain situational awareness.”

Trainers believe Tactical Iraqi provides a good start with language and cultural training.

“You’re not going to be fluent in the language, but you will be able to communicate more effectively with people,” said Zeigler. “It’s basic stuff, but it’s all you need to communicate.”

Those at ESD hope more commanders and their Marines will take advantage of this learning tool, especially those deploying to Iraq soon. They note that units have the option of training in a classroom setting at one of their facilities, checking out a laptop with the software, or checking out the software itself, provided they have the necessary equipment for the program.

“I believe it is important that every Marine and sailor over there should know some aspects of Arabic phrases and Iraqi culture to be successful,” said Mulcahy.

For more information or to schedule training, contact Col. John Ledoux at 451-5436.

Computers and packing materials help families stay in touch

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 6. 2006) -- As troops strive to accomplish missions overseas, there are people who assist their families back home to keep in touch.


Oct. 6. 2006; Submitted on: 10/06/2006 09:27:13 AM ; Story ID#: 200610692713
By Pfc. Kendra A. McKinny, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Companies and organizations across America are gathering materials, such as computers and shipping items, and donating them to the parents, spouses and military family members with limited funds in order to help keep them in touch with deployed loved ones.

Operation Homelink is a non-profit organization that provides donated and refurbished computers to parents and spouses of privates through sergeants. These computers are intended to maintain communication with deployed troops and their families.

The operation does not accept individual requests for computers and does not send computers to individual families. Instead, they send bulk shipments to departing units. Due to operational cost efficiencies, OHL is only able to accept donations of 100 computers or more. The computers that are donated must have certain minimum specifications such as Pentium 3/800 megahertz processor.

The United States Postal Service also assists families of those deployed. They are offering a special mailing package that includes boxes, envelopes and priority mail tape. Anyone can request these items by calling the Postal Service’s toll free number, 800-610-8734 and request Care Kit 4.

Although the items are free, individuals are responsible for the postage fee of care packages.

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 650 flights have delivered mail to the area, said Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Postal Service. Contact between troops and their families is a key component for unit morale.

With companies and organizations like these, deployed service members have a better opportunity to connect with friends and family back home.

For more information concerning Operation Homelink, visit their Web site at www.operationhomelink.org.

*Camp Fuji exercise teaches artillery Marines to thwart terrorist tactics

EAST FUJI MANEUVER AREA, Japan. (Oct. 6, 2006) -- Raining steel on target, firing thousands of machine gun rounds, detaining suspected terrorists and engaging in firefights with enemy ambushers; all in a day's work for the approximately 480 artillery Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.


Oct. 6, 2006
Story ID#: 2006105232053
By Pfc. Corey A. Blodgett, MCB Camp Butler

The majority of the battalion returned to Okinawa this week following an exercise in the East Fuji Maneuver Area on mainland Japan Sept. 13-26.

The battalion consists of a headquarters element and Marines deployed to Okinawa from Fox Battery, 2nd Bn., 10th Marines, Camp Lejeune N. C.; Mike Battery, 3rd Bn. 11th Marines, 29 Palms, Calif., and Alpha Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

During the exercise, the battalion conducted training in convoy operations, vehicle checkpoints, local security and crew-served weapons.

"It's important because the things like vehicle checkpoints and convoy ops are what we would mainly be doing in Iraq," said Lance Cpl. Andrew C. Long, an artillery mechanic with Fox Battery.

Throughout the exercise, enemy role players kept everyone alert with repeated random ambushes.

Local military police gave classes on vehicle checkpoints and detainee handling. After the classes, the Marines set up mock checkpoints while enemy role players tried to infiltrate the positions.

In one scenario, terrorist role players packed into a seven-ton truck rolled up to a gun position and, while being inspected, all jumped out and opened fire on the position, explained Lance Cpl. Anthony M. Leone, an artillery Marine who played one of the aggressors.

"It was fun to do, but the mock ambushes are important because it helps the battery's reaction time and keeps everyone on their toes and alert for real situations like that," Leone said.

The artillery Marines also gained proficiency on the M-240G medium machine gun, M-2 .50 caliber machine gun, and the MK-19, 40mm machine gun, during crew-served weapons training.

"I spent one whole day just firing the MK-19. It was awesome," Leone said. "With all the convoys and security we do in combat, it's important for us to know how to use crew-served weapons correctly."

Relocation drills, which involves moving and firing the M-198 155mm Medium Howitzers, was the main focus of the training. The battery rehearsed dry firing several times before putting live rounds on target.

"It's like a practice before we start the training," said 1st Sgt. Tyrone Horton, the first sergeant for Fox Battery. "We'll set the guns in place, and then we'll pack up and go to another gun position. We'll do that several times, just to give the Marines practice of going to another location and laying down the guns before we actually start firing."

After three days, the units started the live-fire portion of the training, Long said.

"Any time the Marines get the opportunity to fire the guns is excellent," Horton said. "They get to practice what they do and maintain their high proficiency."

The training took place at the expansive range at Fuji as part of the Artillery Relocation Training program established between the Governments of Japan and the United States. This program was to reduce the disruption caused by live artillery training held on the smaller island of Okinawa, thereby strengthening the Japan and U.S. alliance.

October 5, 2006

Army’s Fashion Fatigue

IT would be shallow to say that I fell in love with the soldier I married because of his uniform, but it would also be partly true. It’s Cupid’s oldest trick: dress a man for war and love walks in.


Published: October 5, 2006
West Point, N.Y.

Every girl who’s had her head turned by a uniform has her favorite, and for me there is nothing quite like the command of camouflage. A fitted, heavily starched long jacket and bloused trousers in a dark green, black and brown woodland pattern over polished black boots, the Battle Dress Uniform, to me, is the American soldier.

But the B.D.U. is being phased out. Soldiers have been ordered to purchase two sets of the newer Army Combat Uniforms by next May, and soon, like the brown leather boots of the early cold war, the Vietnam-era pickle suit and the chocolate chip Desert Storm camo, the B.D.U. will be history. And I will miss it.

My husband and I are, in the eyes of many, an oddly matched Mr. and Mrs., an Army intelligence officer and a pop-culture-obsessed writer. To paraphrase an old recruiting slogan, ours is not just a marriage, it’s an adventure, a two-person cultural exchange program. Because of him, I can identify a Blackhawk, Apache or Chinook helicopter by the sound of the blades slicing the air overhead. Because of me, he exfoliates.

In the beginning, I favored the B.D.U. because it acutely highlighted the differences between us as individuals, but over time, it has also come to underscore the contrast in our roles.

Spouses don’t experience firsthand the bombs-and-bullets Army — we see only the ceremonial ribbons-and-medals Army, the workaday pack-and-move-every-few-years Army — and my husband’s B.D.U.’s were my connection to the viscera of soldierdom. They were honest. They built the first bridge between my duties and his, a reminder of what he is trained for — the brutality of combat, the elegance of tactical maneuver.

He wore his B.D.U.’s — or rather, its warm-weather equivalent, the Desert Combat Uniform — during his last deployment in the war on terror. Unlike military couples of yore, we kept in touch via e-mail and cellphone calls, so I don’t have ribbon-tied stacks of letters — only the uniform that covered him when he was away. Its retirement means a powerful emotional totem lost to time.

So when the futuristic-looking Army Combat Uniform arrived at our house from Ranger Joe’s, I wanted to ship it right back out again. Of course, I was pleased about the safety upgrades — these were the first uniforms designed to be worn under body armor — but I confess that I find the loose-fit and foreign-seeming A.C.U. disagreeable on a sensual level. For starters, the digitized camouflage pattern: it’s the Army by M. C. Escher, and I’m certain if I stare at it long enough, I’ll see a Pegasus emerge.

Worse still, the Velcro patches on the sleeve of the slouchy, mandarin-collared jacket are set just at the point where my cheek meets my husband’s bicep during a hug, so each workday ends with him coming through the door proffering an embrace like an affectionate Brillo pad.

All the B.D.U. thrill is gone: there will be no more starch-stiff sleeves, no more whiffs of bootblack. Instead, it’s the rrrrrrrrrip of Velcro, wash-and-wear convenience, and the gentle tread of flexible desert boot soles on the front step.

As the B.D.U.’s are mothballed, I’ve realized that my exaggerated reaction to this uniform conversion is a stand-in for the seismic shifts inherent in Army life, for worrying about where we’ll go next, what he’ll be doing, the lurking awareness that no matter how secure his current position may seem, at any time he could get called away to another post, to another assignment, to combat. The new uniform represents the rattling host of Army-spouse issues writ in versatile, moisture-wicking fabric.

When it comes down to it, my husband’s Army uniform isn’t just a uniform. It couldn’t, and shouldn’t, be. His uniform has a bonding force that, to us, blows away matrimonial piety or yellow-ribbon schmaltz; what he wears defines him and me, as we stand together.

Yet I sometimes wondered if my outsize attachment was just a personal quirk, until the wife of a noncommissioned officer began to describe his retirement ceremony: “When I saw him up there in his Class A uniform for the last time ...”

As her voice trailed off beneath the luncheon din and her eyes shone with welling tears, I knew — the uniform she spoke of was different, but the heart-tug was the same. There we were, two Army wives, under the same sentimental flag and reaching for the Kleenex.

An Army spouse can’t break down at every emotional blip — the vicissitudes of the gig don’t allow it. Instead, you’ve got to man up and roll with whatever comes. The shift in uniform is but another transformation that the military, and my life as a military wife, will undergo.

Eventually my eyes, and heart, will adjust. I may not like this sartorial change on a superficial level, but, assured of greater safety for the troops, I will accept it. The Army marches on, and so, in turn, must I.


Corps switches to pad suspension system in helmets

October 05, 2006
By Christian Lowe
Staff writer

All combat helmets must be outfitted with padded suspension systems, mirroring Army efforts to reduce head injuries from blunt impacts that typically occur during roadside bomb explosions, the Marine Corps announced today.

To continue reading:


James Chamroeun

Lance Corporal James Chamroeun, (USMC), died as a result of injuries sustain in Iraq on September 28, 2006.


Family-Placed Death Notice

To View and Sign Guest Book:

Lance Corporal Chamroeun is survived by his parents, Victor and Weena Ny of Union City; sister, Rebecca Chamroeun; brothers, Specialist John Chamroeun (US Army), Jeffrey Chamroeun, Joel Chamroeun and Wilton Ny, all of Union City. Funeral Services will be held Friday, October 6, 2006 at 11 o'clock at the Chapel of Parrott Funeral Home. Rev. Terry Arp officiating. Interment services will be held at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA with full military honors. Those wishing may send an online condolence at www.parrottfuneralhome.com. The family will receive friends Thursday from 5:00 until 8:00 PM at Parrott Funeral Home, Fairburn, 770-964-4800.

Monmouth U. mourns Iraq War casualty

Tom Minton was at work Tuesday when he received a phone call from a friend asking him if he'd heard the news about Chris Cosgrove.


Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/5/06

At that moment, Minton, a graduate student at Monmouth University, knew in his heart something had happened to his friend and former classmate, a 23-year-old who enlisted in the Marine Reserve a year before he graduated from the university in 2005.

"I knew immediately that it meant he was killed in action," said Minton, 23.

The young Marine, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in archaeology, was killed in Iraq on Sunday. Marine Lance Cpl. Cosgrove, who lived in Morris County, had volunteered to man an east Fallujah roadway checkpoint where a suicide car bomb was detonated.

The car had two occupants. It exploded as it was pulling up to an area where it was to be searched.

A passion to serve

Former classmates and professors said Cosgrove had a passion to serve his country.

"He had a lot of potential," said Richard Veit, an associate professor of anthropology, who had Cosgrove as a student. "It's hard to imagine that somebody who was so vibrant is gone so quickly. I still expect to see him coming down the hall joking around."

Indeed, the news of Cosgrove's death is still raw on the West Long Branch campus and in the classrooms where professors say he once excelled.

University President Paul G. Gaffney II ordered flags on-campus be flown half-staff this week. Gaffney, a retired Navy vice admiral, said he knew Cosgrove since his freshman year.

"He was always eager to talk about service to his country; service as a Marine," Gaffney told students and staff members Tuesday. "He knew the Marines were an elite fighting force, and he was vitally interested in lifelong bonding that comes from being a Marine."

Gerard P. Scharfenberger, an instructor and a Middletown Township Committee member, said Cosgrove's enthusiasm in the classroom likely paralleled what he was like serving in the armed forces.

"I can just imagine from the type of student that he was, what kind of soldier he was," said Scharfenberger, who taught Cosgrove in several classes, including archaeology.

Veit said he oversaw an internship Cosgrove did about three years ago in which he worked at the Morristown National Historical Park. The project involved rebuilding huts from the Revolutionary War, Veit said.

"He was always interested in history and military history," Veit said.

Outspoken in class

Minton said Cosgrove was never shy about sharing his opinions in class.

"He was always a hard-charging kid when it came down to classroom discussions," Minton said. "We were the two guys who wouldn't mince words when it came to dealing with liberal professors."

Christina Nick, a fellow 2005 graduate, said she met her friend in elementary school in Cranford. The two lost touch when Cosgrove moved away, but they bumped into each other again at college and had been friends ever since, she said.

"It's a shame he lost his life like this," Nick said. "But . . . he was very proud of what he did."

Cosgrove received word that he was being shipped to Iraq in spring 2005. He was first a reservist with G Company of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines at Picatinny Arsenal, which was not scheduled to return overseas. But Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division from Plainville, Conn., which was being deployed to Iraq, needed more men to serve, and Cosgrove took the assignment with no hesitation.

Minton, who said he hopes to become a Marine, said he now has a new reason to serve his country.

"My personal reasons started when those two jets crashed into the World Trade Center," Minton said. "But now it's very personal. They've killed one of my friends."

U.S. denies killing al Qaeda leader in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military denied on Thursday reports it had killed the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Iraqi officials said they were awaiting the results of DNA tests on several suspects killed in a raid.


Thu Oct 5, 2006
By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Ross Colvin

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said U.S. forces had conducted a raid "recently" on an al Qaeda cell in which suspected insurgents were killed.

"We thought he may have been among those killed but now we do not believe this was the case. We do not believe that we have killed al-Masri, but we are still doing DNA tests."

Masri, an Egyptian who is also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, assumed the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq after the death of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June.

An Iraqi government source, who did not want to be named, said Masri and three of his aides were killed in the western Iraqi town of Haditha on Wednesday after U.S. forces launched an airstrike and ground assault on a safe house.

An aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said DNA tests were still being conducted on the bodies. The tests suggested one of the dead was an al Qaeda leader but not Masri, he told Reuters.

Earlier this month, Iraq's National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said Masri's "days are numbered".

"I tell the Iraqi people that we will get you Abu Ayyub al-Masri either as a corpse or tied up to face justice soon," he told reporters on October 1

In late June, the United States put a $5 million bounty on the head of Masri, who warned of more attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq in an Internet audio tape posted on September 7.

Al Qaeda makes up about 5 percent of Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency but its suicide bombers have caused some of the worst violence, often killing more than 100 people in a single attack.

The U.S. military accuses Sunni Islamist al Qaeda of fuelling sectarian conflict in Iraq that has pitched Sunnis against Shi'ites and raised fears of all-out civil war.

It says U.S. and Iraqi forces have arrested or killed hundreds of al Qaeda militants since the death of Zarqawi, severely disrupting the group's ability to launch attacks.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Aseel Kami)

October 4, 2006

*Marines tear into improved Camp Fallujah ranges

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 4, 2006) -- Regimental Combat Team 5’s gun nuts have a haven for letting loose with everything in the arsenal from 9 mm pistols to M-1A1 Main Battle Tanks.


Oct. 4, 2006
Story ID#: 20061078220
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, 1st Marine Division

Welcome to Eagle Range, the latest in “train-as-you-fight” forward thinking in the forward-deployed combat zone. Marines here now have a range complex that rivals some of the best at stateside Marine bases. It’s designed to shoot everything Marines bring to bear against insurgents in the fight on terror and to keep Marines dinging targets out to 1,000 meters. And there’s still room to grow.

“When we got here we literally had a grid coordinate and an azimuth for a direction to shoot,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Keith, a 37-year-old range chief for the regiment. “We started building it with the basics, and it grew into a monster.”

Eagle Range complex now boasts eight separate ranges, including ranges for acquiring battle-sight zeroes for iron sights and rifle combat optics and running Enhanced Marksmanship Program courses, ranges for rockets, machine guns, 40 mm grenades and an unknown distance range. The complex also houses a hand-grenade pit and an elevated mound with a simulated guard tower for Marines on sentry duty to practice shooting from elevated positions.

Mortars, TOW missiles and tanks can even be shot. Marines mounted in humvees can even shoot on the move to simulate attacks while on convoy operations.

It wasn’t always this way. The ranges were built just past existing ranges located by the now-closed Camp Mercury. When Regimental Combat Team 5 arrived, there were four basic ranges. It was a humble, expeditionary range.

“All it was those four ranges, Alpha through Delta Range,” said Keith, from Houston. “You had to bring your own targets. There was no targeting. There was nothing for machine guns, for the gunners to use their traversing skills. It was nothing more than pulling triggers. That was the extent of the range.”

The genesis of the idea for improved ranges came after Chief Warrant Officer 4 Gene A. Bridgman, the regiment’s Marine gunner, noticed a trend in Marines shooting hundreds of rounds in firefights without seeing effects of enemy killed. It was traced back to the fact Marines didn’t have the chance to refresh their skills.

“People were out here for five months and never firing,” said Bridgman, a 43-year-old from Garden City, Kan. “We wanted something to sustain our skills.”

So Bridgman and Keith got to work.

“We started out with functionality and started adding to it,” Keith said. “We dragged tank hulls out there and then started building some of the shorter ranges.”

One of the functionality improvements Bridgman and Keith pressed to implement was a range where Marines could fire everything they carried on a patrol outside the wire.

They could fire M-2 .50-caliber machine guns, but had to move to another range to fire the MK-19 automatic grenade launchers that were on the next vehicle in the convoy.

“There’s a MK-19 in pretty much ever patrol,” Keith explained. “The unit would have to schedule two ranges and they couldn’t employ them as a group. We put it together so the unit could train together.”

They even went a step further, adding to the realism. Aside from adding a maneuver box for vehicles to move while gunners let loose with bursts from the guns, they designed the range so gunners could shoot across the entire zone.

“We wanted them to be able to drive and fire from the vehicles out to 1,000 meters,” Bridgman said.

“Normally, you’re discouraged to shoot across the range,” Keith said. “Here, we encourage it. There’s no saying where insurgents are going to be firing from out there, so that’s how we want to train.”

“It’s what Bridgman called a “big boy” range. He took a look at the range regulations and agreed to accept a certain level of risk because combat is inherently a risky venture.

“My experiences are that live-fire ranges are too sterile,” Bridgman said. “We want them to think … communicate and identify targets. We’re in a war zone. We need to make this as realistic as possible. We’re sustaining. It’s always going to be safe, but combat’s not that safe. I’m willing to take that risk.”

The ranges are named after eagles such as Pallas and Whitetail and are used for shooting anything from 9 mm pistols and small arms to rockets. Boneli was designed specifically for BZOs and shooting EMP courses as well as shotguns and pistols. Golden is the unknown distance range, designed for Marines to use the RCOs with 30 steel targets at distances from 75 to 900 meters.

“I was given a tract of land to a build range complex on from scratch, and like a painter with a blank canvas, I could construct ranges that I always wanted to shoot on when I was a young infantryman,” Bridgman said.

Even better, Bridgman didn’t have to deal with environmental and other concerns that plague construction of ranges at U.S. bases, such as endangered woodpeckers, civilian and military aircraft or noise concerns.

“The colonel gave me 700 meters wide and 7,000 meters long,” Keith explained. “We put something in that you can fire anything from the 9 mm to a tank.”

Even better, the range didn’t cost the Marine Corps one single shiny dime. Bridgman and Keith built the range with whatever they could find or make right here on Camp Fallujah. Much of it they constructed with their own two hands, filling more than 600 sandbags to reinforce the grenade pit.

The two dragged out the hulks of the former Iraqi Army’s tanks and BMP troop transports. They reclaimed 55-gallon drums and even worked with Combat Logistics Battalion-5 to get man-shaped steel targets cut, a feature Bridgman uses to provide instant feedback to shooters so they know they’re on target.

Bridgman encourages Marines to walk downrange and look at the effects their bullets have on the three-quarters and half-inch thick steel. At 300 meters, the rounds tear through the steel. At 500 meters, the 5.56 mm round penetrates through more than half the metal. Heavier rounds still punch through.

“It shows what the bullets do,” he explained. “It’s education. They can see the devastating effects of the round.”

Eagle Ranges is already paying off for the regiment. Earlier this year, Bridgman brought units out to shoot 72 TOW IIB missiles. Of those, 20 malfunctioned. One missile had been in theater since the Marines’ push to Baghdad. Other shoots identified that some non-infantry units didn’t have working traversing and elevating mechanisms for their automatic weapons. They weren’t reported. Bridgman identified it and got the needed replacements.

“Now we can identify bad ammunition or weapons that are malfunctioning,” he said. “We’re making it more safe for Marines by firing on these ranges.”

So far, Marines are impressed with the improved training complex. Gunnery Sgt. Chris M. Shilling, the commander for RCT-5’s Personnel Security Detachment, served tours as an instructor for the School of Infantry and Special Operations Training Group. He’s got more time on ranges than some Marines have in their enlistments. Eagle Ranges, he said, exceeds what he can find back at his home base in California.

“Compared to Camp Pendleton, this is far and above what we asked for,” said the 35-year-old from Whitehall, Ohio. “The best part is you can do live-fire immediate-action and remedial-action drills. You can pretty much do what you want, accomplishing multiple tasks with driving and shooting.”

Shilling added the unknown distance range allows Marine to practice using the RCO for what it was designed, estimating and ranging distance to targets.

“It builds confidence in the shooter,” he said.

Sgt. Christopher C. Ritchie, a 24-year-old vehicle commander from Crandall, Texas, assigned to Shilling’s PSD, said the ranges are a vast improvement over what was available to his Marines when the regiment arrived in February.

“It’s about as realistic as you can get,” Ritchie said. “It’s limited to your imagination what you can do out there.”

Ritchie said his favorite parts of the range are the unknown distance range and the liberal range rules. He appreciated being able to employ all his guns on one range against multiple targets.

“In the real world, we’re not going to fire in a line,” he said. “We’re going to fire what we have to until the target goes down. We can do talking guns and practice our drills. It allows us to get as realistic as we can.”

Sgt. Jerrad J. Monroe is a 28-year-old machine gunner from Valentine, Neb., who knows the value of good gunnery skills. The section leader assigned to the PSD served as a machine gunner with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Ramadi in 2004 through heavy fighting. He said his Marines need as much time as they can get, no matter how long they’ve been in theater.

“Ranges like that are absolutely necessary to do,” Monroe said. “The majority of our gunners are not machine gunners by trade. Because of these ranges, they have a foundation of knowledge to use that weapons system.”

Plus, range time is always good for bragging rights.

“There’s always that pressure to beat the next guy,” Monroe added. “That’s just being a competitive Marine. It adds a little stress, and anytime you can put stress on a Marine while he’s shooting is good. When the bad guys are firing, all you think about is killing that guy. It’s all instinctive and automatic.”

That’s the sort of range Bridgman and Keith wanted, a range where Marines wanted to shoot, rather than had to shoot.

“We tried to build for them a range where they would want to come out and fire,” Keith said. “Just about every Marine is firing on their off-time. We wanted to make it worthwhile for them to come shoot.”

The proof the ranges are a hit is on the constant traffic. The entire Coalition Force spectrum has been through Eagle Ranges. Iraqi Police, soldiers in M-2 and M-3A3 Bradleys and even Special Forces units have taken space on the ranges.

“We wanted to support every weapons system and all the skills sets in an infantry regiment,” Bridgman said. “There’s someone out there seven-days a week, for at least six-to-eight hours a day. We’ll have three or four units roll in and roll out, shooting at the same time. It shows there’s a need.”

October 3, 2006

*Wounded Warriors dive into scuba

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 3, 2006) -- The Jacksonville Rotary Club and AA Diving have teamed up to help Marines in the Wounded Warrior Barracks recover by becoming scuba certified here.


Oct. 3, 2006; Submitted on: 10/12/2006 12:57:13 PM ; Story ID#: 20061012125713
By Cpl. Brandon R. Holgersen, MCB Camp Lejeune

John Burd, the past president of the club and a certified diver, heard about the need and presented the idea of taking on this project to the members. One week later, some members of the Jacksonville-South Rotary Club and David Peed of AA Diving were meeting with nine wounded Marines getting ready to start their class.

“It’s a fun experience and a positive experience,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Boreland, with the Wounded Warrior Barracks. “It’s good to just get out of the barracks and do something fun.”

The Rotary Club sponsored the classes with $1,500 coming from their treasury and another $1,500 being donated to them from the District Rotary Club, said John Papurca, the president elect of the club.

“The Rotary Club is always looking for good projects and this is about as worthwhile as it gets,” said Papurca.

David Peed and his staff at AA Diving have had experience teaching disabled people to dive and are excited to be a part of this project. They are coordinating the entire course, which includes course materials, equipment rentals and transportation to complete the certification. AA Diving has given the Rotary Club a reduced price for the lessons and will give the Marines a discount on their personal equipment so they can continue to enjoy SCUBA diving.

The scuba training can also help the Marines with their mental health as well as their physical health by giving them a fun healthy sport to participate in.

“They are laughing and they are using a lot of fine motor skills they might not have used in awhile,” said Lucia Broekhuizen, a diving instructor with AA Diving. “It’s so cool to be able to help these Marines. My husband is deployed and it’s good to do something.”

The SCUBA training can also give them something they enjoy to replace other sporting activities they may not be able to perform because of their injuries.

At the completion of their course they will participate in an open water dive, which will make them certified to dive in any open water.

If the club receives more sponsors and funding they are planning to make this an ongoing project and expand the classes to more Wounded Warriors, said Papurca.

“I am just glad to see them doing something out of the ordinary from their day to day life,” said Papurca.

U.S. Marine Corps Enlists Help of National Toy Marketing Firm to Continue Tradition of Holiday Giving; The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation Partners with Quantum Marketing USA to Boost 2006 Collection Drive

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With recent reports of more than 13 million children currently living below the federal poverty level in the United States alone, the United States Marine Corps is continuing its nearly 60-year mission to provide needed gifts to children during the 2006 holiday season. With the help of Quantum Marketing USA, the leader in event-based marketing for North America, The Marine Corps Reserve’s “Toys for Tots” program will broaden its message of hope to children in need.


October 03, 2006

By tapping into Quantum’s innovative marketing approach, which takes products and messages directly to neighborhoods and community members across the country, Toys for Tots can reach new audiences for this year’s gift-giving program. Quantum’s partnership with Toys for Tots will not only serve to increase overall awareness of the program’s mission, but will generate crucial funding through its ongoing sales of toys that have been approved by the Toys for Tots Foundation.

“Promoting child safety and advancement across the U.S. is a key component of our organization and we are proud to have the commitment of every individual within Quantum,” said Mike Putnam, president and CEO of Quantum Marketing U.S.A.


Through the alliance, consumers who make their holiday purchases through a certified Quantum representative will have the option to donate their goods directly to the Toys for Tots program. With approximately $15 million in products distributed through Quantum each year, consumers can purchase and choose to donate toys all in one place. In 2006, Quantum’s team will be taking its efforts to 40 markets across the nation and is looking build on its past program success which has collected more than 600,000 toys and $400,000 in additional funding for the foundation.


Quantum representatives will work with Toys for Tots’ local coordinators in 40 markets to sell program-approved toys to consumers. Meanwhile, Toys for Tots benefits from Quantum’s event-based marketing programs that will coordinate and promote community toy drives, gift fairs, various business-to-business events and local in-store programs. The Toys for Tots Foundation also benefits from receiving a royalty of every toy sold through the program during these events. Quantum representatives will be stationed in high traffic areas such as major retail stores, banks and shopping malls, where they offer customers the opportunity to purchase these toys.

“In 2005, we were able to fulfill the Christmas dreams of more than 7.5 million children,” said retired Lieutenant General Matthew Cooper, USMC, president and CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. “Having matched our most successful campaign last year, we’re confident that with the continued support of concerned corporate citizens such as Quantum, we will meet the needs of an even greater number of children this year.”

In addition to its work with Toys for Tots, Quantum’s partners include various charitable organizations such as Child Protection Education of America (CPEA), Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), Smart Kid Card, Inc. and Child Watch. Quantum thrives on providing event-based marketing support for businesses and organizations which allows them to reach more audiences by creating a unique synergy between their partners and the communities they serve.

About Marine Toys For Tots Foundation

Toys for Tots is the Marine Corps' premier community action program, one of the nation's flagship charitable endeavors, an American tradition and a national treasure. For 59 years, Marines have been the unchallenged leaders in looking after needy children at Christmas. Toys for Tots has earned the distinction as a program which plays an important role in helping youngsters emerge from a background of poverty to adulthood as assets to society. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit, public charity is the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. The Foundation is located at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. Local Marine Corps Reserve units and volunteer organizations collect and distribute toys in nearly 520 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. For more information, visit www.toysfortots.org.

Marines find signs of insurgents during souk operations

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Oct. 3, 2006) -- Marines recently spent most of their day searching and clearing the Souk District in the city. The district has a reputation for attacks on Coalition Forces by anti-Iraqi Forces.


Oct. 3, 2006; Submitted on: 10/09/2006 05:20:52 AM ; Story ID#: 200610952052
By Cpl. Brian Reimers, 1st Marine Division

Marines from C Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 helped clear the district during an operation in Fallujah’s Souk and uncovered a weapons cache during the search.

The Souk District is primarily made up of small businesses and residential blocks. Local Iraqis use the area constantly for consumer goods, which range from items sold at electronic stores to the produce available at fruit stands.

Hundreds of buildings, many several stories tall, lie in the district woven with narrow side streets and tight alleys. People flood the streets here on a daily basis to buy their necessary goods, but insurgents use the area to their advantage.

“It’s a very complex part of the city, a maze of shops and stores,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Landro, the battalion’s commander from Kennesaw, Ga. “You could literally turn a corner and be lost in an area you had never seen before.”

The Marines moved into the area before most Iraqis were awake. After shops opened, they moved into sectors in the heart of the souk. Although many were surprised to see the Marines coming out of buildings, they knew why they were there.

“When we go into the souk it is almost a guarantee that we will come in contact with insurgents,” said 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Frederick O. Lohse, an assaultman, from Ridgefield, Conn.

Fighting off insurgents is a common event here, but the Marines were looking for more than the insurgents themselves. They were searching for anything the insurgents could hide in the area.

Marines located a small weapons cache in a glassware shop in the early stages of the operation. The owner was not around, and the Marines cut the door’s lock, finding ammunition, ski masks and false documents.

“We have found this kind of stuff in some weird places before, and this was no surprise for us,” said 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Angelo Vella, a machine gunner, from Lincoln Park, N.J.

Those who were present met the Marines at their doors, while others sat in front of their homes to watch the forces conduct the operation.

Locks were cut and stairs were climbed, leaving no area uncovered by the Marines.

“That is what is key about these kinds of operations,” said 46-year-old Landro. “We can get into every nook and cranny to search.”

Although the Marines found only one cache, they sent a message to the insurgents who operate in the area.

“We showed them that we can go anywhere that we need to go to conduct our missions,” said 30-year-old Cpl. Marshall R. Collins, fire team leader, from West Hartford, Conn. “The insurgents want to keep us out, and we showed them that you can’t keep us out.”

*3/7 first unit to complete Bridgeport package in a year, finishes with massive air support

After more than one year without a unit completing a full "summer package," Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, some of whom have spent nearly two months at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., completed their training package Sept. 21 and returned home to the Combat Center.


Tuesday October 3, 2006
Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill
Combat Correspondent

The battalion began MWTC's summer package as a whole in late August and had unusually large air support for their final exercises.

"3/7 is a very strong battalion and they did a great job hitting all the wickets while they were up here," said Gunnery Sgt. James Disbro, MWTC chief instructor for unit operations. "They also were able to get support from a number of air units which was impressive."

Unlike most units who have completed these packages in the past, 3/7 called for actual close air support from F/A-18D "Hornets," AV-8B "Harriers," AH-1W "Cobras" and UH-1N "Hueys" from Marine Corps Air Stations Miramar, Calif., and Yuma, Calif., and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The California Army National Guard also flew in a CH-47 "Chinook" from Stockton, Calif., to transport Marines for the exercise.

"The Marines who gave us air support deserve a lot of props because it's very difficult to come up here," said Lt. Col. Roger B. Turner Jr., 3/7 commanding officer.

"That really enhanced our training and our ability to exercise the full spectrum of ops in this type of environment.

"To be able to have the extra assets we would have in a real fight here really enhanced our training and those guys deserve a lot of credit," he continued. "We also had the California Army National Guard here to let us do helo-borne assaults which we have not done for a long time."

Dozens of Marines were sent up as an advanced party in August to learn crucial skills, which in many ways were similar to what their counterparts would learn but was much more in depth.

"The Marines who came up early learned how to set the things up which the battalion later trained to use," said Disbro. "They learned to tie and set up a rope bridge, where other Marines would only learn to cross it."

Some Marines were schooled in advanced rock climbing techniques in the Assault Climber's Course, where they spent countless hours learning knots and ties as well as traversing rock faces hundreds of feet tall.

Other courses of instruction for the advanced party included rappelling lanes, survival, using mules to haul heavy gear over rough terrain and military mountaineering.

During 3/7's first days in Bridgeport, Marines all learned to climb, patrol, rappel both day and night, with and without full packs, cross expanses, rivers and rope bridges, evacuate casualties from a cliff, and survive and operate in the rough terrain.

In addition to the physical skills learned, one of the most valuable assets Bridgeport offered 3/7 was the opportunity to come together as a unit and hone their small unit leadership skills, said Turner.

One obvious challenge for 3/7 during their training was adjusting to the mountainous region and high elevation.

"Overcoming the terrain has been a challenge for the Marines," said Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Lopez, Company L gunnery sergeant. "I would say more than half have never trained in any environment outside of Twentynine Palms or been to Iraq. So I think it's a new experience for most everyone. This training really focuses on the squad leaders and team leaders, and I think that has brought the unit much closer together."

The package ended with a three-day final exercise which was a battalion-level operation to eliminate a simulated hostile force from the area. Marines of Company K played the guerilla-style aggressors as other companies fought to flush them out. Marines carried their gear on their backs and had to use natural water sources while they covered more that 15 miles up and down the steep mountainsides.

As 3/7 prepares to deploy to Iraq for the fourth time next year, many new Marines are filling the ranks and Iraq veterans are taking charge in higher leadership billets.

*3/7 wraps up at MWTC Bridgeport

The Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, finished their month-long training evolution in Bridgeport, Calif., Sept. 18, with a battalion-scale exercise which spanned three days and tested their wits in rugged mountainous terrain.


Tuesday October 3, 2006
Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill
Combat Correspondent

Since their arrival Aug. 26 to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, located on 26,000 acres of the Toiyabe National Forest in Northern California, the Marines have been honing their mountain warfare skills as part of the "summer package" offered to units. It has been more than one year since a unit completed the full summer package, said MWTC instructors.

The battalion also received nearly unprecedented close air support for their final exercise from F/A-18D "Hornets," AV-8B "Harriers," AH-1W "Cobras" and UH-1N "Hueys" from Marine Corps Air Stations Miramar, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The California Army National Guard also flew in a CH-47 "Chinook" from Stockton, Calif., to transport Marines during the finishing movements of the exercise.

During their first few weeks at MWTC, 3/7 Marines learned to climb, rappel both day and night, with and without full packs, cross expanses, rivers and rope bridges, evacuate casualties from a cliff, and survive and operate in the rough terrain.

The training at Bridgeport is invaluable not only because it prepares Marines for mountain warfare, but because it breeds confidence in their abilities and helps to develop leadership at the small unit level, said Staff Sgt. Robert Warfield, platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company. This is especially true since Iraq veterans in the battalion are stepping up to fill squad and team leader billets as new Marines arrive.

"I knew this would be a great opportunity for my small unit leaders to develop their leadership skills," he said.

During the final exercise, the battalion's mission was to eliminate a hostile enemy guerilla force operating in the area by working together and applying their learned skills. Company K, who was dressed in green woodland camouflage utilities, played the aggressors.

"Our main tactic was to hit and move," said Lance Cpl. Lincoln Crall, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Company K, and Boulder, Colo., native. "The Marines did a lot better than I thought they would because we have a lot of new guys here."

One of the most talked-about challenges from 3/7 Marines was the change of environment from the relatively flat, sandy desert of the Combat Center to the steep hills of Bridgeport at more than 10,000 feet of elevation. By the end of the exercise, most Marines had walked more than 15.5 miles.

"3/7 has been to Iraq three times," said Lt. Col. Rodger B. Turner Jr., 3/7 commanding officer. "You live in the desert and then you deploy to the desert. Coming up here and giving a change in venue has been invaluable to the battalion and broadened the perspectives of the individual Marines and leaders.

"This builds flexibility and confidence and cohesion, and that's the main aim of this. And it's a super package," continued Turner.

Marines carried weapons and essential gear with them in their assault packs and wore load bearing vests in lieu of flak jackets. Before coming to MWTC, 3/7 went on conditioning hikes around the Combat Center's hills to better prepare them for their time at Bridgeport.

Each night of the exercise, their main packs, which contained extra clothes, gear, food and sleeping bags, were trucked out to them as temperatures plummeted into the teens when a cold front moved through the area.

"There are big changes in the weather here," said Warfield. "It was warm before and you only need your bivy bag and poncho liner - to now being so cold you need all of your bags at night."

On the final morning's assault, Marines kept their full packs, some weighing close to 80 pounds, and were transported via helicopter to a remote landing zone in enemy territory. Marines and sailors of Company L tactically worked their way downhill more than 1,000 feet to a lower elevation, crossed a stream, then headed up another 1,000 feet of hillside. They served as a stopgap while Company I swept through the adjacent canyon for the main assault.

The assualt lasted five hours as Marines invaded Company K's main base. Once the “enemy” had been defeated, units were air lifted back to Lower Base Camp for a shower and hot food.

"There are a lot of tangibles which are learned up here, but I think more importantly are the intangibles that are gained," said Turner. "What is the value of a Marine who is scared of heights doing a nighttime cliff assault when he can't see? Or the confidence gained by rappelling down a 300-foot rock face sideways with a pack on? I think that kind of stuff just breeds a lot of confidence in the individual Marine and perhaps in the future when he's in Iraq or wherever, they are able to overcome that like they were for this training here.

*Battalion back from Ramadi

The sizeable crowd — families and friends of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — let out a burst of cheers and applause as a convoy of military trucks pulled up to a parking lot at Camp Lejeune Monday.


October 03,2006
daily news staff

Sea bags, not Marines, streamed out of the back.

“That’s just their gear,” said a Marine over the speaker system.

But it didn’t matter. Their loved ones were home from Iraq, and they would be there soon.

“I’m so happy,” said Stacey Arceneaux, the mother of Cpl. Harold Arceneaux. “I have tears in my eyes just when they took the bags off the truck.”

Arceneaux and her husband, Walter, couldn’t wait to see their son again. So when he told them not to come to the homecoming from their home in Orange, Mass., they did what any good parents would do in that situation.

They ignored him.

“There’s no way we are going to let him come home from Iraq again without us being there,” Stacey Arceneaux said. They listened to him after his first deployment to Fallujah and didn’t show up. They’ve regretted it since.

“We won’t listen to him again,” she said.

Paul Ritz and his family have been anxiously awaiting the return of his son, Sgt. David Ritz of Marblehead, Ohio, from his second Iraq deployment.

“We’ve been dreaming about this day for seven months,” he said.

Ritz said he often watched the news to see if he could catch sight of his son. One time, he did.

“We were always looking for a glimpse of him on the TV screen,” he said. “That’s a real eye-opener to see him in combat and patrolling streets. You really start worrying then.”

The families of the battalion’s roughly 900 Marines and sailors deserve to be a bit anxious: It was the unit’s second deployment to Iraq in two years. They returned in August 2005 from seven months in Fallujah, then turned around and redeployed to Ramadi in March.

“It’s definitely one of the most dangerous cities in the world,” Cpl. Keith Richardson said of Ramadi. Richardson, of York, S.C., returned home on Saturday from his third tour in Iraq. “I’m hoping we made it a little safer.”

Richardson hung around Monday, milling around the battalion headquarters before the rest of the unit returned. He said it was great to see his family again on Saturday. Now he just had to see in his other family.

“They are the greatest men on Earth,” he said. “I’ve never doubted putting my life into their hands. That’s my other family.”

During their deployment, the unit had its hands in counter-insurgency operations, detaining more than 300 insurgents, said Lt. Col. Steve Neary, the battalion commander. They also cut the violence in half in the western sections of the city.

“Central Ramadi is a different story,” Neary aid. “There’s contact with the enemy every day.”

The primary mission was to help develop the Iraqi security forces and police in that region, Neary explained, so that the “sons of Anbar” could become more invested in securing a safe future. That involved training Iraqis, fighting insurgents and doing civil affairs work such as restoring electricity and building a police station for the western section of the city.

A price was paid for that work: 17 Marines from 3/8 were killed and 129 wounded during their seven-month tour.

“They are my heroes,” said Richardson. “They are fallen angels. I know they were watching over us while we were over there just like they did when they were with us. I love those guys dearly. I’ll never forget what they did.”

October 2, 2006

*Backstory: A softer side of the Marines

Marine Staff Sgt. Rudy Perez isn't due to get off duty until midnight, but by 7:30 this evening, his day feels complete.

"I see the weight lifted," says Sergeant Perez, watching a sedate but glowing reunion of wounded Cpl.Brian Smith and his family at the National Naval Medical Center.


By Mary Beth McCauley | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Here, thanks to Perez and his staff, who carry out a rich interpretation of the fiercely loyal Marine Corp's tradition of caring for its own, the war in Iraq is already a world away for the newly arrived marine. Seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, Iraq, days earlier, his arm heavily bandaged, Corporal Smith rests with his family in the womblike fifth floor hospital lounge.

National Naval is where marines most seriously wounded in Iraq are treated. Here, in one of the military's most emotionally gripping assignments, says Perez, "It's our responsibility to take care of the family as if it was our own family."

Perez's liaison unit reunites the wounded with their families and orchestrates all nonmedical aspects of their stay.

Smith's arrival Aug. 29 by medical transport bus marked the end of a long journey. He came in one of three weekly medical airlifts to nearby Andrews Air Force Base from Landstuhl, Germany, where he'd been stabilized. He'd already had two surgeries to repair the "shark bite" arm wounds that left him near death, "You wanted to go ahead and cry tears of happiness," Smith says of his arrival. "But I'm a marine. I can't cry." He calls the liaison unit "the softer side of the Marines."

The 18-strong all-reserve unit serves as a "five-star concierge service" for patients and families, explains Lt. Col. John Worman. Typically there are 20 to 30 in-patient casualties, and they stay an average of four to six weeks. More than 1,500 have been treated here since the beginning of the war, says Ellen Crown, hospital spokeswoman.

Upon hearing of Smith's expected arrival, Perez and his men went to work - making plane reservations for the family, meeting their flight, taking their bags, driving them to hotel rooms, settling them in before bringing them to the hospital. There, the liaison unit briefed the family on the marine's condition before his arrival, and were available round-the-clock for the rest of his stay.

The liaison unit also serves as a clearinghouse for the many offers of assistance to wounded vets. They stock donated paperbacks, CDs, videos, snacks, clothing, and toiletries. They explain benefits and answer questions about pay. They offer everything from Gatorade to a friendly shoulder to streams of family members.

Unit members have arranged a bedside wedding, a citizens' swearing in, a video-conference introduction of a newborn to a hospitalized father. They've managed to ask the wife of a higher-ranking patient to obey regulations and get out of his bed.

They've learned to give the signature "high and tight" haircut, which, when a patient requests it, they take as a signal of sure recovery. They've learned how to deflect, on behalf of a "sleeping" patient, an offer of a visit from a well-meaning celebrity. "This is not a petting zoo," explains Lance Cpl. Carlos Lopes.

Wounded in 2005, Corporal Lopes is part of a contingent of wounded vets helping out as they receive their own outpatient treatment. Liaison work distracts him from worries about his "guys" back in Iraq, and helps him find the sleep that had eluded him. Here, he gowns up visitors, finds takers for donated baseball tickets, sees each patient several times a day, and visits marines transferred to nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital for prostheses. In free moments, he studies criminal justice online.

"We've been taught that there's nothing that can't be done today," explains Lopes, quoting from a deep vein of Marine Corps truisms.

Cindy Smith, the new patient's mother, appreciates the small kindnesses: "They bring us to the hotel, but they walk us right up to the room." Corporal Smith's daughter has to start school, so Mrs. Smith will take her home to Maine. Meanwhile, liaisons will care for the wounded vet's infant son, while his wife, Jennifer, visits her husband.

The Smith family was "an easy one," says Perez. Smith was a "walk off" - an unexpected delight for everyone who gathered at the flag-lined lobby of Building 10 to welcome his arrival.

There are much more emotionally difficult cases to negotiate. The hospital specializes in head-trauma care, and many of the Marines arrive seriously injured, or unconscious, their conditions shocking even to families who have been prepared ahead of time.

Divorce is another common complication for the liaison job. It can fill the already emotional reunions with rancor and blame. There's the marine's mom who's not talking to his dad, the marine's wife in the same room with his girlfriend, the one parent who favored military service and the other who didn't. Marines who meet families at the airport tend to be on the receiving end of anger, but know not to take it personally. "You go 'yes, ma'am; no, sir.' You treat them like you would treat your own parents," says Sgt. Jason Becerril.

The marines here seem to consider the popular "oppose the war but support the troops" sentiment ridiculous, though they're too polite to come right out and say so. Largely, pro or con feelings about the war itself seem to be left at the gate.

"Up here they seem to be focused on their son's health," says Colonel Worman. The officer, whose brother died in Iraq in 2005, says that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's writing on the stages of grief have helped him deal with families of the injured. But mostly, he relies on his instincts and experience.

So, too, does Master Sgt. Terrell "Top" Jones, a sardonic, tough-guy sort, whose office decor features both the salty and the sacred. His most memorable request was from a father, not a practicing Catholic, who sought a godfather to step forward so his dying son could be baptized. Sergeant Jones, a Catholic, volunteered. The patient died three days later.

"What school teaches you that?" Jones asks bluntly.

First impressions - neat, direct, polite, and thoughtful - mean something here.

"We represent the Marine Corps," says Jones, of the attention to detail. In the end, what his unit proffers to families is the very identity of the Corps.

"I had heard about that 'band of brothers' thing, and I thought it was stupid," admits Mrs. Smith. But now she has joined the brotherhood, as - at her son's request - the Smiths have become surrogate kin to the marine who was injured alongside him, but whose family can't come to Bethesda. "I can understand the bond now."

Down the hall on this late-August night, Wally Howard, of Orlando, Fla., and his wife, have been standing vigil for their son round-the-clock since mid-July.Lance Cpl. Patrick W. Howard, wounded by insurgent mortar fire July 18, remains bedridden, with a seemingly endless list of internal injuries and fractures. His parents haven't left the Bethesda base since the day they arrived, relying on the liaison unit completely.

"If it weren't for the way we've been treated in here, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing," says Wally Howard.

His marine's most recent request: a haircut

Scars come home with soldiers

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one was published on Page A1 of Sunday's Transcript.

Surgeons at Bethesda Naval Hospital prepared to drill a hole in Lance Cpl. Bret McCauley's badly swollen head to relieve pressure on his brain when he unexpectedly awoke from a two-week coma


The Norman Transcript
By Eric Reinagel
CNHI News Service

"Hold up one finger for me," McCauley recalls someone saying.

He held up his middle finger ? "and from that instant they knew I would be OK."

OK in the sense that he would survive severe wounds suffered when a suicide car bomber rammed his military convoy outside Fallujah, Iraq, on Sept. 6, 2004, setting off 500 pounds of explosives and killing seven fellow Marines.

But not all right when the trauma of that tragedy and other war scenes kept flashing back through McCauley's mind like a horror movie on rewind during his recovery.

Nightmares, hallucinations, helplessness, paranoia, depression and guilt about surviving when others didn't. McCauley said he experienced all of these mental demons and more during his struggle to get back to normal.

It is a condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, first recognized during the Vietnam War era and now diagnosed frequently among troops returning from Iraq. Head injuries, doctors say, can make the condition worse.

McCauley's life was saved by modern military medicine and a fast-responding team of medics, nurses, doctors and pilots. They removed his spleen and a kidney in Iraq before airlifting him to a regional hospital in Germany to stabilize his wounds, then to Bethesda for additional treatment and recovery.

But the bomb blast had sent McCauley flying from the open back of a truck, striking his head hard against the ground and causing it to gradually inflate to the size of a basketball.

A tumor-like blood clot - known technically as a subdural hematoma - formed inside his head, putting intense pressure on his brain and causing him to lose consciousness.

Surgery removed the blood clot. It did not fix the mental anguish the 23-year-old McCauley, of Kokomo, Ind., said accompanied his condition. Mental anguish that eventually moved him to wonder if the military even cared about his recurrent thoughts of trauma.

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, medical director and commander of the U.S. Army Medical Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, said McCauley's state of mind was predictable.

He said more than one in three soldiers who come back from Iraq face post-combat mental health issues.

A primary reason, he said, is that Iraq veterans are more likely to have witnessed someone getting wounded or killed from improvised explosive devices, the weapon of choice for rebel insurgents and terrorists.

"Think about what war is," said Weightman. "It is sending a normal person into a very abnormal situation. Death and serious injury are very traumatic things to have to deal with."

Military procedure calls for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as soon as it is recognized. And often, said Weightman, that means in the war zone. Especially when there are significant casualties such as those from a roadside explosive or car bomb.

"The farther forward you treat it, the more proactive you are, the greater the chance that patients can recover and return to their unit," said Weightman. "We have combat operational stress control teams and we send these out with the battalions."

Battlefield psychiatric help was not possible in McCauley's case. He blacked out from his head wound and didn't awaken until Sept. 20, 2004, in Bethesda hospital.

Later he was transferred from Bethesda to the Indianapolis Veterans Hospital in his home state of Indiana, allowing him to be closer to family and friends. It was here, he said, that he first talked to a military doctor about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He did not confide in anyone else.

Then, McCauley said, he was sent to Camp Pendleton, Calif., the home base of his Marine unit, and given the impression he was well enough to recover on his own. That's when his misgivings began to bubble up about the military methods of treating post-combat stress. Yet, he admitted, he still didn't say anything to anybody.

"My unit didn't even know I was coming back," said McCauley. "They stuck me in a room by myself, and pretty much just left me there."

McCauley didn't recall precisely how long his solitary recovery went on ? "a month, five or six weeks ... staring at bare walls" ? but he said during that time he became addicted to painkillers, and continued to suffer from terrifying flashbacks.

Fellow Marines would come by his room once or twice a week, but McCauley said he never asked them for help.

"I didn't know if they didn't know how bad of shape I was in," he said. "Some of that you could construe as being my fault because ... being a Marine makes it a lot harder to admit that you can't handle something."

Marines, McCauley said, are "taught to suck it up, suck it up, quit being a pussy. That is drilled into us; you keep going no matter what. A little pain is normal. So we don't say anything."

Weightman, one of the Army's top medical officers, said reluctance to ask for assistance is due to the stigma connected with psychiatric recovery problems in the macho culture of the military.

"We are trying to take that stigma away," said Weightman. "If I had a sprained ankle, I would go seek care for it. So why not seek help if I'm having nightmares or I fly off the handle a lot quicker than I used to?"

The New England Journal of Medicine studied the issue two years ago, estimating that between 15 and 17 percent of U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq suffered from mental disorders but only half of them sought care upon returning home.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kussman, a medical doctor and a top official with the Veterans Health Administration, said the military is aware of the problem, and has made psychological rehabilitation of war-tested soldiers a primary concern.

He said poly-trauma centers to treat veterans with severe physical and mental wounds have been strategically established in Minneapolis, Minn., Palo Alto, Calif., Richmond, Va., and Tampa, Fla. Additional centers will be built, he said, as the need increases.

"We are quite prepared to take care of any veteran who comes to see us," said Kussman.

Some of the best proven therapy, both Weightman and Kussman said, can come from talking with other soldiers who have been through the trauma of war.

In McCauley's case, that proved to be the right medicine.

The Indiana Marine said he finally opened up to his father, Greg McCauley, about his post-combat stress. His father, in turn, called an officer he had met at the Bethesda Naval Hospital while visiting his son there. And the next morning, two Marines from McCauley's command post were in his room to talk about his nightmares and misgivings.

"I told them I needed help," said McCauley. "I couldn't take it anymore."

At first, he underwent special counseling. But McCauley said he didn't like talking to the Navy psychiatrist because "he didn't go through what I went through." He said he felt better after talking it out with Marines who had been in combat.

"That's how I found closure," he said. "It was tough talking about it again, but it eventually got easier. It got easier and easier the more I talked about it."

That's the lesson McCauley would like to pass on to other soldiers who suffer from post-combat stress tied to the trauma of war: don't internalize frustration and anger. Let it out.

"Whether they try to swallow it, it's eventually going to come out," he said. "Whether it's a month later, five years later, 10 years later. Everybody eventually deals with it and the longer you wait, the worse it is."

Eric Reinagel is a CNHI News Service Elite Reporting Fellowship recipient. He writes for The Meadville, Pa., Tribune.
Copyright ? 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

Hurt Marine recovering in Bethesda

The Columbia lance corporal has made a miraculous recovery so far after being shot in the head

When Connie and Carl McClellan of Columbia arrived at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, they didn’t know quite what to expect. Their son, Lance Cpl. John McClellan, 20, had survived a gunshot to the head just four days earlier while serving with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Echo Company in Haditha, Iraq.


October 2, 2006

Because of his swollen vocal chords, McClellan needs a ventilator to help him breathe. He was heavily sedated when his family saw him for the first time since his return to the United States.

“He did not respond to our being there, which, of course, was disappointing,” said his mother, Connie McClellan. “But that was OK; he looked great. He didn’t have any bandages on the front side of his head. I haven’t seen the back side. In the front, he just has a little, half-inch in diameter hole right on the front of his ear. He’s not swollen.”

After undergoing surgery at a hospital in Balad, Iraq, McClellan was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being taken to Bethesda on Friday. He is now in intensive care, and his condition is improving.

Connie McClellan said a doctor at the medical center told the family that, in light of his injuries, McClellan is experiencing a miraculous recovery so far. On Saturday, she said, McClellan’s eyes were open and he was observing the activity around him.

Doctors are most concerned about the recovery of McClellan’s vision, speech and vocal chords, full mental functions and balance and hearing in the left ear. They will not be able to fully evaluate the condition of each until he is fully conscious.

“They are optimistic about his vision,” Connie McClellan said. “They did the testing on his brain to see if the blood was flowing appropriately, and it is. His face is not affected. He is still as beautiful as ever.”

Jane McClellan, 31, of Chicago, last saw her brother on Sept. 3, at her wedding in Fulton. He was wearing his dress blues.

She said she was excited and relieved to see that her brother looked mostly like his normal self when she arrived at the hospital.

“It was this kick in the gut of excitement, and I could see him, and he looked like John, and I was so excited all of a sudden,” she said.

The AK-47 round bullet that entered McClellan’s head over his left ear and exited the back of his neck perforated his left ear drum. However, Connie McClellan said, she and her family know he can hear because he is responding to vocal commands.

On Sunday, family members were able to “squeeze-talk” to McClellan: A person holds his hand and asks him questions, and if his answer is “yes,” he squeezes back. He also raised a finger to motion that he wanted his father to come over to him, Connie McClellan said.

“He responded beautifully; he understood everything we were saying,” she said.

The doctor told the McClellans that although there doesn’t seem to be significant vocal chord activity, it is too early to tell what the long-term effects will be. What is clear is that McClellan doesn’t enjoy breathing through a tube.

“He just wanted the ventilator out of his throat,” Jane McClellan said. “He kicked the nurse. We thought that’s good; that shows a little spirit. It’s not even the wound right now that’s really aggravating him; it’s all of the kind of extra medical conditions that come with it that are really bothering him.”

Connie McClellan explained that every time she and her family enter her son’s hospital room, they have to wear hospital gowns, gloves and masks to protect McClellan from bacteria because the chance for infection in open wounds is high.

“This is very frustrating because the first thing you want to do is give him a big kiss, and we can’t do that, but we can hold his hand,” Connie McClellan said.

Jane McClellan said she and her parents explained to McClellan what happened to him, that he is doing well and that he is no longer overseas. They want to make sure he understood where he is and why his family is with him. He does not seem to be confused, she said.

“It’s hard to know what’s going through his mind,” she said. “Is he confused? Is he scared?”

Since they arrived in Bethesda on Saturday afternoon, the McClellans have been shuttling between the hospital and the Navy Lodge across the street where the Marines arranged accommodations for them.

At the Lodge, the family has gotten to know other military families, most of whom are visiting sons, husbands or fathers injured in Iraq. Connie McClellan said that when they first arrived at the hospital, the military liaison assigned to the family encouraged them to talk with other parents in the waiting room because, she said, “nobody understands like people going through the same thing.”

She said the doctors expect McClellan will stay at Bethesda for at least two weeks. Once his ventilation tube is taken out, he will be moved from the ICU to another floor of the hospital. After that, the McClellans can choose a hospital that specializes in head trauma where he will go for further recovery.

*Military spouses honored with cruise

BEAUFORT -- Diamond rings glinted in the sun as a crowd of women waited to board a 73-foot passenger yacht at the Downtown Marina in Beaufort.


BY SANDRA WALSH, The Beaufort Gazette
Published Monday, October 2, 2006

Some of the women were pregnant, some of them were noticeably young with tears streaming down their cheeks and others a little older and stronger, but all the women were without the men they married.

And all of the women would have to get used to it.

Sunday afternoon, 81 spouses of deployed Marines and sailors got together for a free three-hour dinner cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway.

"It sucks," a teary eyed Heather Cebulla said of her husband's deployment while waiting to board the boat.

Cebulla's husband, Cory, has served two months of his six-month deployment in Iraq. The couple have been married three years and Cebulla said this is her husband's second deployment.

"When he was deployed the first time, I stayed with my family," she said.

This time, Cebulla has a 2-year-old, Jayden, and said she has decided to wait out her husband's tour of duty in Beaufort.

And that's the idea behind the cruise, said Theresa Thoma, Air Station Marine Corps Family Team Building coordinator, to empower spouses and make them feel like they are a part of a community and that they can make it on their own.

Thoma said that there are between 800 and 1,000 spouses of deployed military at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and there are several programs for spouses, including mental health, financial planning, social networking and education.

"It's never easy, but it gets easier," said a Talina McFarland whose husband is in Japan on his ninth deployment. "I feel like I am a strong woman, in the beginning I wasn't."

McFarland said she was looking forward to the cruise because it would give her some much needed down time from her four children, ages 2 through 13.

"This is important to us," she said. "It gives us women adult time -- adult interaction and conversation, without children."

The cruise was paid for by Marine Corps Community Services and Vagabond Cruise, a private Hilton Head Island company that typically charges $45 per person for nightly dinner cruises that set sail from Harbour Town.

This is the second cruise aimed at recognizing military spouses during deployments, the first cruise set sail in July

Marine to fight terrorism in Africa

SURPRISE - When a French newspaper recently reported the possible death of Osama bin Laden, both French and Pakistani officials were quick to deny the claim. Surprise resident Antoinette Izzo laughs at the international stir - she knew better than to believe rumors.


Geography specialist deploying to Djibouti to join al-Qaida team
Erin Zlomek, The Arizona Republic
Oct. 2, 2006 12:00 AM

"I take everything that I see with a grain of salt," she said. "It's kind of like being a jury member - innocent until proven guilty. Same thing, I don't believe anything until I have enough supporting evidence."

Within the week, Izzo, 23, will leave her gray cubicle in Surprise City Hall's Information Technology Department. She joins the U.S. Marine Corps' counterterrorism unit investigating al-Qaida. She will be stationed in Djibouti, Africa.

"It (Africa) is the up-and-coming focus of terrorism outside of Iraq and Afghanistan because those countries are not very stable," she said. "When terrorists come into a country that doesn't have a very set government, they can take advantage and exploit the weaknesses in it. They can use it for training, they can traffic things through there. It is giving them a lot of opportunity to conduct whatever it is they are doing."

A Surprise employee for two years, Izzo monitors satellite photos of the city. She tells emergency vehicles the fastest way to get to their destination and maps out roads for city planners. In a similar capacity, she will soon comb African geography in search of terrorist training camps.

As for her direct involvement in the al-Qaida investigations, she has yet to be briefed on her role.

Izzo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2000, when she was a freshman at Arizona State University.

"I was relatively bored with college. I decided I needed to do something above and beyond the norm. It seemed to be the most outrageous thing I could do at the time," she said.

Though she could blend in as a flip-flop-wearing, book-toting Sun Devil, she left the university to spend five months touring Kuwait and Iraq.

"I just did not want to go back there," she said.

Once Izzo's active duty ended, she settled in Surprise, bought a house and began making preparations to move in with her boyfriend, John. Those plans were dashed in August when President Bush called 2,500 Marines back to active duty.

The second time around, Izzo was lucky to have a choice. She jumped on the first plane to a Marine Corps training camp to secure her spot on the special Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa team.

Izzo begins her six-month tour in January.

*Marines, civilians deploy recovered weapons

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Oct. 2, 2006) -- Since March 2003, coalition forces have seized thousands of unauthorized small arms through security patrols and urban search operations.

Marines and civilians with Ammunition Platoon, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are redeploying these weapon systems into the Iraqi Army, turning insurgent resources into coalition assets.


Oct. 2, 2006; Submitted on: 10/02/2006 04:02:42 AM ; Story ID#: 20061024242
By Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle, 1st Marine Logistics Group

“We need to arm our allies,” said Warrant Officer Robert P. Smith, officer-in-charge of Camp Taqaddum’s Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). “We not only need to train them on our tactics, we need to arm them with what they need to fight the insurgents.”

Thousands of weapons, mostly AK-47 assault rifles, have been brought to the ASP where a team of specialists inspects the recovered items to determine which are still operational.

“As units conduct patrols, they come up with unauthorized weapons that eventually come to one of these collection points,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark W. Scarlata, electro-optics maintenance chief for Maintenance Company. “Our primary function is to sort the serviceable and unserviceable, authorized and unauthorized (for use by the Iraqi Security Forces).”

To determine which weapons are operational, the team forms an assembly line with each individual conducting a separate function check. The team can make basic repairs on location, such as changing a pair of hand guards or replacing a bolt assembly, said Scarlata, a 38-year-old from Lakeland, Fla.

Some of the weapons coming to the ASP are unsalvageable. Faulty trigger mechanisms, for example, commonly keep weapons from redeploying. Some weapons never have a chance for redeployment. Homemade mortar tubes and rocket-propelled grenade launchers are destroyed along with the assault rifles, shotguns and pistols that are beyond repair.

“We’ve got a good crew here, everyone’s playing their part,” added Scarlata. He refers to his team as a “hodge-podge” of Marines, some of whom have military occupational specialties as motor transportation operators, administration specialists and legal clerks.

“We give them the rundown of what to look for, and with the seven (small-arms repairmen) we have here, we’re not running into any problems,” said Scarlata.

Three of the seven specialists are civilian contractors with prior military service.

“I never expected to be here, but I decided to come out because I knew I had something to contribute,” said Chris Piepgrass, a 50-year-old from Springfield, Ore., who retired after 22 years in the Air Force. “It feels good to be a part of this.”

One of the small arms repairmen is a former Marine who is getting his first taste of a deployment to Iraq.

“I’m just doing my part to help out, turning some of these guns around and getting them into the right hands,” said Adam G. Garner, a Robbins, N.C., native. He served in the Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005.

What Garner might lack in deployment experience he makes up for in his knowledge of small arms.

He rummaged through a bin of weapons and randomly pulled out pistols and shotguns and at a glance, described their features - even where they were manufactured.

“I’ve seen Egyptian, German and Czechoslovakian Mausers,” said Garner, referring to some of the rifles he’s seen since the weapons started coming in. “Some of these (AK-47s) are more than 30 years old. They’re fairly indestructible,” he said as he gestured toward the assembly line.

Camp Taqaddum is not the only base contributing to the redeployment of seized weapons. The Marine Corps has also established collection points in Al Asad and Fallujah.

“This is going to help arm the Iraqi Army with what is authorized, giving them more of a starting point than they already have,” said Scarlata. He added that once the IA is properly trained, they can assume responsibility for the security of Iraq.

October 1, 2006

Marine squadron’s mascot awaits their return home

Hello, friends and neighbors. It is good to see you here.

Bob the Savannah monitor, a very large dragon lizard, laid peacefully in his cage Wednesday at Pet Warehouse on Western Boulevard in Jacksonville. Like so many family members in Onslow County, Bob is waiting for his family to return from duty in Iraq.


October 01,2006

Bob is the mascot for HMLA-167, MAG 26, at New River Air Station according to the “Bob Log” kept by Marines in the squadron. While the squadron is deployed, Josh Fox, an employee of Pet Warehouse who specializes in the care of exotic animals, is looking after Bob.

This is Josh’s fifth tour of duty as caretaker for Bob. And it is a duty he relishes. It’s his way of serving those who serve America.

“I can’t do what they (the Marines) are doing, so I just do what I can from here,” Josh says.

Josh usually puts Bob in a cage at the pet store for about a month and then he takes him home for the duration of the tour of duty. The cage in the pet store is small for Bob. But Josh has an 8-foot-by-6-foot cage waiting for Bob at home where he can monitor the monitor as he works with his computers. Bob is also free to see, but not touch, the other exotic critters Josh owns.

Josh estimates that Bob has been around about 10 years based on the “Bob Log.” The log reads “This log book was officially opened by 1stLt Gibson on 18Jul01. J.F. Gibson, 1stLt, USMC.” Like a good baby book, Bob’s height and weight are duly recorded, “30 Mar 05 Bob’s measurements. 20” stomach, 10” neck, 5” between shoulders, 40” length, 10 lbs.”

Bob is also apparently short for Bobbie or Bobbette because “he” is a she. In their log, the Marines often refer to Bob using the female word for dog. Bob has a face only a mother — or a squadron of Marines — could love.

While the “Bob Log” chronicles almost every aspect of Bob’s care, it also chronicles adventures with his comrades. And there are also some colorful outings. Here are a few examples of entries from the log:

“16 Aug Bob ate Capt Kearney’s JAG investigation.

“24 Aug 01 Bob ate some BBQ pork at the O-Club. 1stLt O’Brien.

“01 Mar Bob ate my big toe. I ate Bob ’cause it hurt.

“04 Mar Bob ate Jimmy Hoffa!

“03 Jul 02 Bob ate two (2) mice. Recommend immediate anger management classes.

“10 Jul 02 – 24 Sep 02 Bob fed 1/3 can Monitor Diet each Mon, Wed, Fri. Bob is now over the Marine Corps recommended length to weight ratio and is hereby placed on remedial PT. 1stLt Kirkland.

“20 Jun 03 Bob and 1stLt Norman went head-to-head in a contest of strength. Bob won. (Only because 1stLt Kemp was too scared to take on the beast).

“9 Oct 2003 Col Ashton’s change of command/retirement get together at O’Club. Bob was brandished for all hands to see. He sported a mean look and, when the off going MAG-26 CO presented the dragon a juicy baby rat, Bob did not hesitate. He devoured the creature much to the pleasure of the crowd.

“17 Oct 2003 LCpl Rose felt bad for dressing Bob in dress blues yesterday. He brought him a little white rat for lunch.

“8 Sep 2004 Warrior Court, O’Club. 1stLt Downs and 1stLt Bonneur tended Bob. He was seen crawling backwards along the bar. He gobbled up two mice in about 30 seconds. A good time was had by all, at least what we can remember.

“30 Bob was very p----d this morning. I talked to him about his anger and suggested he visit the Chaplain for counseling. I also gave him fresh water, ½ can of food and a pint of Guinness. He mumbled something about not being Irish but he drank it anyway. I offered him a cigarette but he declined.

“7 Mar 05 Bob’s depression has reached an amazing low. Once again Bob missed American Idol!

“31 Mar 05 During Warrior U today, this is what I learned. Bob does like bananas.

“14 Feb Bob returns to HMLA 167 just in time for Valentine’s Day. Bob needs Tang.

“13 Mar “STOP FEEDING BOB. Bob is a fat a--. Bob should eat twice per week and get off his lazy tail to PT every now and then.

“19 May Bob removed for party at CO’s. Bob enjoyed a small rat for dinner. Conditioning is coming along as Bob was mobile most of the night.

“7 Jul Bob’s conditioning seems to be regressing. Offered Bob a small frog and he refused to move a muscle. Recommend PG11 be filed for possible 2nd BCP assignment.

“14 Jul Bob fed tuna from Geedunk in preparation for deployment to Onslow Beach for squadron picnic. “

On Wednesday evening, Josh put on a glove and roused Bob. Once roused, Bob’s long, forked tongue swished in and out waiting for food. Bob’s species is native to wilds of Africa, but they have the potential to be “dog tame,” according to Robert George Sprackland in his book, “Savannah and Grassland Monitors.” Bob is usually tame, Josh says, but he can also be aggressive. Maybe it is the company, er squadron, he keeps.

Bob’s “interview” with The Daily News is now duly recorded in the “Bob Log” under “What Bob did on his summer vacation.”

Thank you for coming.

Wounded Warriors Heal Together

As more and more Marines—wounded by roadside bombs and in shootings—continue to return from Iraq, they are surrounding themselves with other wounded Marines to share in their final phases of recovery.


By Kara Petrovic

In September 2005, North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune welcomed six Marines wounded in Iraq as the first residents of the first-of-its-kind wounded warrior barracks. The barracks, called Maxwell Hall, officially opened in November 2005. Today, 35 Marines live and work together, and call Maxwell Hall home.

The barracks—named after Lt. Col. Timothy Maxwell, who sustained severe brain damage after mortar shrapnel pierced his brain—brings the hurting together to heal together.

Maxwell, a former operations officer for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was on his third tour in Iraq when he almost died Oct. 7, 2004.

He awoke to an empty hospital room longing for his unit. The isolation was enough to drive him mad. At that moment, he started thinking about other wounded Marines who were probably experiencing similar feelings and recovering alone.

“These guys have a hard time talking about the war, especially to people who haven’t been through war,” Maxwell said. “Most are right out of high school, and they needed a sense of togetherness. They didn’t need to go back home or back to empty barracks.”

After returning to the U.S., Maxwell, along with Gunnery Sgt. Ken Barnes—another wounded Marine—approached their superiors in March 2005 about converting a building at Camp Lejeune into living quarters for wounded warriors, so that they could recuperate together.

Some commanders initially objected to the idea, but Maxwell and Barnes pressed on to convince those who weren’t sold on the idea.

“We kept telling them, ‘Who can take care of Marines better than Marines?’” Barnes said. “From the outside looking in, we proved that no one else can take care of them better.”

In August 2005, Maxwell and his supporters were successful as Camp Lejeune’s former officers’ quarters were transformed into six personal living spaces. Since then, the barracks has expanded to include 40 rooms.

But unlike traditional barracks, wheelchair ramps replaced steps and hand-bars were installed to accommodate residents’ needs. A recreation room also includes computers, a big-screen TV and a videogame system to keep up morale.

“It’s all about togetherness here,” Maxwell said. “It’s not fair that some have to spend time alone. Coming here gives these Marines a place to hang out.”

The Path to Recovery
As of August 2006, 65 Marines and sailors have lived, worked and recovered at Maxwell Hall since it opened its doors.

Barnes, the top enlisted man in charge of the barracks, said wounded warriors are treated like Marines. They are up each morning by 5:30 a.m., straightening their living quarters and in formation by 7:30 a.m.

When Marines first arrive at the barracks, they are divided into five different squads, depending on the severity of their wounds and mobility, and assigned a job to perform four days a week. A sergeant leads each squad.

“The sergeants are key,” Maxwell said. “By looking at their sergeants, it gives these wounded Marines a chance to see what they’re going to look like in six months.”

According to the Department of Defense, 6,195 Marines have been wounded in Iraq and 91 Marines were wounded in Afghanistan as of Aug. 5, 2006.

Like Barnes, who lost his arm to a roadside bomb in Iraq on Nov. 2, 2004, the barracks’ 46 staff members, except two, also have been wounded in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Staff members coordinate doctors’ appointments and help Marines with mounting paperwork and future plans.

“We’re more than a barracks,” Barnes said. “We offer them a chance to be part of a team again. There’s a huge piece of your life missing when you are wounded. I look at life a lot differently now, and that’s partly due to the barracks. I’ve learned to talk better and adjusted myself around people.”

Maxwell’s wife, Shannon, his 12-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son supported Maxwell’s vision from the beginning. Shannon also helped found a support group for spouses of wounded veterans.

“We fully believe that the barracks concept is beneficial to them,” Shannon said. “Family members can empathize with and love them, but since they haven’t walked in their shoes, they can’t understand how that really feels.”

The Real Wounded Warriors
The wounded Marines staying at Maxwell Hall are similar to thousands of service members across the country in their passion for their country and their need for camaraderie.

At 15, Brandon Love stood beside his older brother with envy as he watched him enlist with the Marine Corps. “It was always my dream to join,” Love said. “I told the recruiting officer right there that he’d see me in three years.”

Love followed in his brother’s footsteps and joined the Marines, becoming a lance corporal with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. He deployed to Iraq in 2005, but his tour ended Sept. 23, 2005, outside Karmah, after a car explosion sent shrapnel piercing through his right arm and bursting his eardrums.

The following November, the Charlottesville, Va., native joined other wounded warriors, including two from his own unit, at Camp Lejeune.

“For me, the camaraderie is the best part,” he says. “Everyone here has been through similar things. We can joke about our wounds with one another without anyone else getting offended.”

Four days a week, Love works as a photographer in Camp Lejeune’s Public Affairs Office, snapping photos of group functions to display for public viewing. Love says he enjoys covering the barracks’ events, but says he’s ready to move on.

“I’m ready to go back to Iraq,” Love says. “Wherever my boys are going, I want to be there.”
For Sgt. Jason Simms, 28, of Philadelphia, the road to recovery has been a longer process. He was wounded only four months into his deployment.

Simms arrived in Iraq in March 2004 with 3rd Plt., D Co., 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn., attached to the 1st Marine Division.

On July 1, 2004, the Humvee he was riding in rolled over a land mine during a routine patrol sweep along a highway in Fallujah. Simms suffered burns to his hands and face, as well as a broken leg.

Simms, who has been with the barracks since it originally opened, works as its 2nd squad leader.

“This is one of the best things the Marine Corps has done,” Simms said. “I think it helps them with the healing process because I’m hurt, too. I wish I could have come straight to a place like this.”

Simms’ unit redeployed to Iraq in September, but with each passing day he continues to improve and looks forward to re-enlisting.

“I’ve got more surgeries ahead of me,” he says. “As soon as I can return to active duty I want to be back in Iraq. Hopefully, I’ll be able to leave a few months from now.”

For some Marines, however, the decision of whether they will return to their units after their wounds heal is uncertain.

“There are times I think about just going back to school to become an auto mechanic,” said Lance Cpl. Collin Wolf, 22, of Boston.

A member of 1st Mobile Assault Plt., Weapons Co., 3rd Bn., 6th Marine Regt., Wolf was only five weeks into his tour when the Humvee he was riding in hit a land mine, embedding shrapnel into his right leg and shattering his femur.

Since mid-April, Wolf’s been recuperating at the barracks.

“After you’ve been sent home, 90% of the guys back in your unit don’t understand the extent of combat injuries,” Wolf said. “They do here. If I wasn’t here, things would be a lot harder.”

Wolf works in the barracks’ inter-support section, making phone calls to wounded Marines across the country. He provides answers to questions about what each Marine can expect during his recovery.

“I wish more people knew about the barracks,” Wolf said. “Not having a place like this would make it harder to recuperate.”

Wounded Marines coming home from Iraq will continue to receive the best care possible, but not only at Camp Lejeune.

Based on Camp Lejeune’s program,California’s Camp Pendleton opened a West Coast Wounded Warrior Center in August. The center, located less than a quarter-mile from Camp Pendleton’s hospital, can house 26 service members. Officials expected to have half of the center’s rooms filled by late August.

“I’m excited for them, but we all knew it was coming,” Maxwell said. “It was only a matter of time. Once Pendleton’s center picks up, it’s going to be better than [Camp Lejeune’s], because they’ve been watching what works and what doesn’t.”

Although Maxwell is close to ending his career with the Corps, he said he will always remember the fulfillment he received by helping Marines like Love, Simms and Wolf.

“I’ve enjoyed working at the barracks, but I don’t like getting credit for the idea,” Maxwell said. “We need to give credit to all the veterans who had to come back wounded and alone.”

Hearts open for injured Marine

His dad's youth football team has helped raise about $10,000 to ease the burden for the man's family

It has been exactly one month since it happened. Since Mike Delancey and Paula Palmer got the call.

Their son, Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Delancey, 21, had been wounded in an insurgent attack in Iraq. A bullet struck him in the back and tore through his body.


Published October 1, 2006

"It was devastating," Delancey said. "I just asked, 'Is he alive?' "

Palmer said she reacted the only way she knew how: "Terror. Fear. A scream."

The two flew from their Pinellas Park homes to the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland to meet Michael, who was being airlifted from Germany.

They were waiting in the hospital's emergency room at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 5.

"But 6:30 came and went," Delancey said. "Finally, he got here at 10:30."

They hardly recognized their son when he was wheeled in.

"It didn't look like anybody was on the stretchers. We thought it was all equipment, all machines," Palmer said.

They've been at his bedside since.

* * *

Some doctors have promised a full recovery for Michael. Others have said he might not walk for a while or that he might need a wheelchair.

The bullet shattered one vertebra, fractured another, punctured his lungs and damaged nerves around his neck.

Two-thirds of Delancey's right lung had to be removed, and he still has difficulty moving his right arm and legs.

"He's in a real emotional stage right now," his father said. "He looks at his right arm, and I can see it in his eyes: 'Dad, I'm telling it to move but it won't.' "

In the month that Michael has been in the hospital, he received the Purple Heart, he has been visited by Michael J. Fox and was presented a commemorative coin from Gov. Jeb Bush.

This weekend, he's looking forward to enjoying his first football game in months.

"This is the first NFL Sunday and college football Saturday he'll actually remember," his father Mike said, adding that painkillers have kept his son from remembering the other Buccaneers and Cowboys games they've watched together.

Football is big in their family.

The Pinellas Park T-Birds, the youth football team Mike has coached for more than 20 years, has rallied around the family.

The T-Birds have organized carwashes, raffles and donation booths, and they plan to host a spaghetti dinner. This weekend they planned to start selling T-shirts bearing Michael's picture.

"We want to make sure that when Michael comes home, he won't have anything financial to worry about," said Sandra Gens, the head team mom for the T-Birds.

So far, the community has raised about $10,000 in three weeks, but Gens hopes to raise $20,000 to $25,000 so Mike, who works for a fencing company, can take time off from work to care for his son.

* * *

Michael Delancey joined the Marines in January 2003, about a year after he graduated from Pinellas Park High School. He began talking about joining the military shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It took "a lot of prayers, a lot of hope," but Delancey supported his son.

"As a parent, I've always said we need to get our kids out of there," he said. "I turn on the TV and see what Bush is saying and doing, and it's not getting any better for our kids."

Still, Delancey couldn't have been prouder of his son. He filled his closet with Marines T-shirts and hats and covered his Chevy Avalanche with bumper stickers: My son is a Marine. I'm a proud parent of a Marine.

"I was like a walking billboard," he said. "When we were visiting him in Hawaii, he finally said, 'Dad, you're embarrassing me.'"

It's difficult to tell how Michael's nearly six-month tour in Iraq has affected him, Delancey said. For now, he's just focused on his son's recovery.

"It's been a roller coaster ride, a real bumpy roller coaster ride," Delancey said. "One day he won't have a fever, and the next day it'll be 104. It's always two steps forward, one step back."

When the phone calls began streaming in during the first couple of days, Delancey could hardly talk about his son's condition. He'd say a few words before he had to hand the phone off to his girlfriend.

But it's getting better.

"I have cried myself out of tears at this point," he said. "Anything I cry now is happy tears. As long as I have my son's life, it's happy."

Medical techniques keep soldiers in battle

Editor’s notes: This is the first of a two part series. The second part will be published in Monday’s edition.

You hear the mortars going out, but you don’t know where they’ll land. This could be the last breath of your life.

Marine Lance Cpl. Bret McCauley of Kokomo, Ind., recalls crouching close to the ground, moving warily through a Sunni rebel neighborhood in Fallujah just before dusk.


The Norman Transcript
By Eric Reinagel
CNHI News Service

He’d been in Iraq two weeks, he says, not enough time to fully absorb the treacherous uncertainty of the landscape and yet sufficient time to see the bloody reality of war.

It is March 26, 2004, and the sounds of combat are loud in McCauley’s ears as his infantry unit moves from house to house. Suddenly, a rocket-propelled grenade flies over his right shoulder, smashing into the building in front of him.

McCauley says he instinctively dived behind a cinder block structure cradling a propane tank and starts shooting at insurgents perched on a rooftop.

Before he can find a safer location, a bullet from an AK-47 rips through his left thigh. Then the gunfire stops.

“Who’s hit?” someone calls out. “Who’s hit?”

McCauley says he responds, “Dude, I’m hit!”

Blood drips from a jagged hole in his camouflage pants. He tries to get up but his left leg buckles. A corpsman tells him to stay down on the ground, and administers a shot of morphine.

McCauley says he is picked up and moved to a Humvee. The limp body of a fellow Marine who had bummed a cigarette only an hour earlier rests next to him. The Marine is dead, shot in the face, says McCauley, and “his blood covers me.”

They know where we are. This is where I’ll die. Not in this place. Not in this stinking place.

But the 23-year-old McCauley won’t die. The efficiency of modern military medicine whisks him off to a field hospital in Fallujah. Within minutes, doctors clean, medicate and suture his thigh injury and tell him he’s among the lucky. He’s suffered a flesh wound.

The doctors explain they can helicopter him to the main combat hospital in Baghdad for air transfer to the regional military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and more medical attention — if that’s what he wants. He will then return home to the United States within a day or two.

Or he can stay and rejoin his 1st Marine Division infantry unit in Fallujah when he’s feeling up to it. The choice is his. He will get a Purple Heart either way.

McCauley, who enlisted in the Marine Corps before graduating from Kokomo’s Taylor High School in 2001, elects to remain in the war zone. Marines are trained to be tough, he says, and you do your job just as long as you are able to do it.

McCauley thus becomes one of the 10,600-plus American soldiers in Iraq who have suffered injuries and yet were able to return to combat since the U.S. invasion in March of 2003.

“I just got here,” he recalls saying. “I watched my friend get killed. I’m not going to go home. I’m out for blood.”

His next encounter with the wounds of war will not be so fortunate. But McCauley says the swift, expert medical treatment he received for the bullet through his thigh was an example of the military’s new techniques for treating battlefield injuries.

There’s nothing to do but lay in bed, listen to Blink 182 on my Walkman and eat canned sardines and oysters sent in CARE packages.

Sgt. Maj. David Cahill, a Vietnam War medic and now an official at the U.S. Army Medical Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, says the military is returning more wounded soldiers to combat and saving more lives because of improved medical knowledge and faster response.

There are, he said, three primary causes for death in the first 10 minutes of a battlefield injury: bleeding, obstructed airways and collapsed lungs. He said the military teaches trauma skills to first responders so they can treat these conditions rapidly and effectively.

Combat medical packs, for example, contain special tourniquets and emergency trauma bandages with elastic pressure tails to stop external bleeding. They also carry a dressing called QuickClot that instantly stops the flow of blood, and a 14-gauge needle to open a two-way flow of air to the lungs.

That’s in addition to morphine, oxygen, IV lines and high-tech digital instruments that measure heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and other telltale signs of life or death. Some medics even carry portable heart-lung machines to supply oxygen.

“Simple little things,” said Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, a medical doctor and the center’s commander. “But they address 90 percent of all the reasons people die in those first 10 minutes.”

Lifesaving statistics tell the story. Medical improvements have reduced to less than 10 percent the number of wounded American troops in Iraq who do not survive, according to the Pentagon.

That’s the best survival rate of any U.S. war. In the Gulf War, 22 percent of injured U.S. soldiers died. The rate was 24 percent in the Vietnam War, and 30 percent during the Korean War and World War II.

Weightman, Cahill and others credit advances in combat casualty care to superior medical research, technology and training by the military. These factors, they said, have led to corpsmen, medics, nurses, doctors and the soldiers themselves providing critical medical assistance far forward on the battlefield.

Iraq’s compact geography and flat landscape also help. Rapid-response medevac crews can land by helicopter almost anywhere, lifting injured soldiers to one of four strategically located combat hospitals in less than an hour. The severely wounded are transferred to Germany for further treatment before they are sent to the Army’s Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., or the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

Pentagon medical officials said it can take as few as 36 hours to move an injured soldier from the battleground to a hospital bed in the United States, a speed unheard of in previous wars.

“Primary medical training during Vietnam was what we called sticks and rags,” said Cahill. “You put on a bandage or an IV. It wasn’t any advance trauma. The training we give now is more directed at trauma.”

Like a mosquito or fly that won’t go away, mortars fall again. Somewhere they are being launched. Somewhere they fall to earth in a violent collision.

Lance Cpl. McCauley is back with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah in May of 2004, five weeks after he was shot by a Sunni sniper.

“I picked infantry because that’s what my idea of a Marine was,” he says. “You know, with a rifle, sleeping in the mud.”

Only Marines in this war sleep on bunks in the desert and wear body armor to shield their abdomen and upper chest, and Kevlar helmets to protect against head injuries. Arms, legs, armpits and neck are about all that’s exposed. That’s why the number of amputees in Iraq is twice that of previous wars.

It is now Sept. 6, 2004, and McCauley is assigned to a patrol in the heart of an insurgency stronghold just north of Fallujah. He mentally counts the days he has left in Iraq — “one month to go” — before jumping into the open bed of a supply truck.

Then, he recalls, out of nowhere a car loaded with explosives slams into the convoy, blowing him like a rag doll through the air. The car contained a 500-pound bomb, 250-mm artillery shells and makeshift shrapnel.

That’s the last thing McCauley says he remembers — until awaking from a coma two weeks later in Bethesda Naval Hospital back in the United States.

He is told that extraordinary medical care saved his life in an attack that killed seven fellow Marines and three members of the Iraqi National Guard. McCauley is one of four Marines who survived the attack. He also learns that a Navy corpsman found him unconscious, blood flowing from his mouth, ears and nose. The corpsman inserted a tube through McCauley’s nostril to prevent blockage of his airway, and placed a tourniquet under McCauley’s left armpit to stop the bleeding.

Within minutes, McCauley says, he’s stabilized at a combat field hospital and transferred to the Army’s main medical facility in Baghdad, where surgeons remove his spleen and a kidney. He’s then sent to the regional hospital in Germany for recovery from the operation, and a few days later, airlifted to Bethesda for treatment of these other injuries:

• Bruised liver and pancreas.

• Ruptured corneas in both eyes from heat and pressure.

• Deep lacerations in his right arm, buttocks and neck from shrapnel.

• Nearly severed left arm.

• Ruptured left ear drum; pinhole in right ear drum.

• Second-degree burns on most of his face and right arm.

• Tumor-like blood clot on his head that resembles a basketball.

• Chipped teeth.

McCauley says he never expected to find himself among the critically wounded and dependent on modern military medicine to keep him alive when he volunteered for deployment to Iraq in January of 2004.

He says he willingly gave up his assignment as a Marine security guard at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland woods outside Washington, for the adventure of combat duty in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

Yet he doesn’t regret his decision then or now. Marines, he says, are taught to sacrifice and to show courage and commitment.

“Everybody wants the experience (of war),” McCauley says. “I wanted to be the best.”

Coming in Part Two: Recovering from war’s psychological scars.

Eric Reinagel is a CNHI News Service Elite Reporting Fellowship recipient. He writes for The Meadville, Pa., Tribune. Danielle Rush, a reporter with the Kokomo, Ind., Tribune, also contributed to this story.

Stress disorder a familiar occurrence in war veterans

TERRE HAUTE— Vietnam War veteran Doug Herrmann can’t hear a helicopter without tensing up.
Fireworks shot off to honor troops on Independence Day remind him of flares fired in Saigon, the capital of Vietnam.
More than 35 years after he left the nation in Southeast Asia, Herrmann still is unable to completely shake his military service in Vietnam. While soldiers returning home from war in Iraq have suffered difficulty adjusting from the war experience, soldiers in many previous wars also suffered mental and emotional distress long after they came back home and tried to adjust to civilian life.


By Austin Arceo
The Tribune-Star

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a disorder in which people carry mental and emotional scars from experiencing traumatic situations, such as warfare. Veterans such as Herrmann have not only dealt with the physical scars from war, but emotional ones as well.

“If you’re in a situation where your life is at risk on a daily basis … it’s the threat [that is stressful], and in Vietnam, there was nobody that was exempt from that threat,” said Herrmann, who spent slightly less than a year in Vietnam, “and I believe that’s true in Iraq.”

PTSD was identified as a disorder in the early 1980s after Vietnam veterans began experiencing mental and emotional distress after returning from war. The stress level and amount of time a soldier is in war increases the chance that a veteran will suffer from PTSD, said Jason Winkle, who taught stress management of combat situations at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., from 2002 until last July.

“Well, we want to [get people help] immediately,” he said, “but then what we try to have people understand is that trauma is something that takes different people different amounts of time to get through and get past.”

Herrmann felt concerned for people he knew in Vietnam once he left the country. He first noticed he was having difficulty dealing with his experience when the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, about six years after he left Vietnam.

“Anybody that was there was in circumstances in which they could’ve lost their lives,” Herrmann said. “I was in lots of dangerous circumstances, and I was grateful that I could return.”

People can suffer disorders at different times, either immediately or long after they suffer a traumatic experience, said June Sprock, a psychology professor at Indiana State University. She added that some people who suffer from PTSD also can suffer from depression.

Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares or flashbacks of the event, avoiding things that remind people of the event, along with feeling on edge, difficulty concentrating and insomnia.

About 30 percent of people who enter war zones suffer from PTSD, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs Web site on the disorder. Even more people have suffered clinically severe stress reactions to traumatic experiences, according to the site.

Herrmann noted that American society at the time did not help Vietnam War veterans address their experience and adjust to civilian life in a healthy way.

“I can tell you that, as a veteran, I’ve seen a lot of veterans from the Vietnam War feel the rejection from American society,” he said. “It was much harder for them to sort out their own feelings about the war.”

Herrmann tried to cope with his experience in different ways. He spoke Vietnamese, so after the war he helped Vietnamese refugees move to the United States. He also recently started weekly “Vet-to-Vet” meetings in Terre Haute, where war veterans can speak to one another outside a hospital or formal setting.

“In all honesty, in being in Vet-to-Vet … I find it’s helpful to me to speak with some people about things that I think might be helpful to them,” Herrmann said.

People who serve in the military or in law enforcement develop a brotherhood of sorts, Winkle said. He added that people might not receive help right away to deal with traumatic experiences in a healthy way because they want to repress the memories and they feel like they should be able to handle anything that comes their way.

Herrmann felt that he finally came to terms with his war experience within the past decade, when he sought help for the PTSD symptoms he suffered.

“It’s possible that things will remind you [of your experiences] at one time or another that a person that hasn’t had PTSD … wouldn’t have,” Herrmann said. “So they’re resolved in a sense, but you still get reminders.”

Austin Arceo can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or [email protected]

Knowing the symptoms--Many people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, also suffer from other disorders, such as depression.
--PTSD develops after somebody experiences a traumatic experience.
--People need to have a significant amount of distress or impairment in daily activities to be clinically diagnosed as suffering from PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD
--Nightmares or flashbacks of the event
--Avoidance of things that remind people of the experience
--Diminished interest in activities
--Difficulty concentrating
--Feeling on edge
Source: June Sprock, psychology professor at Indiana State University

Meeting Vet-to-Vet--Veterans interested in speaking to other veterans can attend the Vet-to-Vet meetings, which are conducted in the Vigo County Public Library in the Southland Shopping Center from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. People interested can e-mail Doug Herrmann at [email protected]

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

*Just weeks into Iraq deployment, Hawaii-based Marine battalion honors fallen warrior

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 1, 2006) -- Just weeks into a seven-month deployment in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, Hawaii-based Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment held a memorial service Oct. 1, 2006, at the Haditha Dam for a Marine killed in action recently.


Oct. 1, 2006
Story ID#: 200610811257
By Cpl. Luke Blom, Regimental Combat Team7

More than 150 Marines, sailors and soldiers gathered at the dam – where 2nd Battalion is based in this region of Al Anbar Province – to remember the life of Lance Cpl. James P. Chamroeun, a 20-year-old from Union City, Ga.

Chamroeun, described by fellow Marines as a “soft-spoken but friendly guy,” died Sept. 28 of wounds received while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

“One of the most memorable things about Chamroeun was the way he talked – real slow,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Glaymeyer, a field radio operator for 2nd Battalion and friend of Chamroeun. “He had this catch phrase – ‘Whoa.’ Whenever he said it people would always smile. I will really miss him.”

Chamroeun, a field radio operator, was a member of a U.S. military Explosive Ordnance Disposal security team in the Haditha Triad region of Haditha, Barwanah and Haqlaniyah. In Iraq, EOD teams regularly investigate and destroy roadside bombs and enemy weapons and munitions caches.

Chamroeun joined 2nd Battalion in 2005. He graduated from basic training in Oct. 2004 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

"Learning of Lance Cpl. Chamroeun's death hit me hard," said 1st Lt. Jonathan Stoddard, Chamroeun’s platoon commander. "Instantly the war in Iraq became much more than distant news reports."

As the ceremony memorializing Chamroeun began in the dimly lit dam, Marines listened to friends and fellow Marines recount their memories of him.

“It didn’t matter if he was asked to do something simple or something that other Marines would complain about, he attacked it in a steady way and got the job done,” said Stoddard.

"I'll always remember the late night conversations we had. We’d talk about everything," said Lance Cpl. Kyle Kirkman, a fellow field radio operator, and roommate of Chamroeun for more than a year. "Chamroeun will always be a friend to me. He won't be just another person I've met along my life. I will carry a little piece of him with me everywhere I go."

Following the Marines’ comments, 1st Sgt. Craig J. Cowart, senior enlisted advisor for 2nd Battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company, gave a final company role call.

After calling out the names of several other Marines in the formation, who all quickly responded with a loud, “here, 1st Sgt.”

Cowart called Chamroeun’s name three times – each time Cowart was met with a solemn silence.

Following the ceremony, those in attendance took their turn to kneel in front of Chamroeun’s memorial – represented by Chamroeun’s rifle, military boots, dog tags and photo – for one last chance to say some parting words, pray or touch the fallen Marine’s boots for the last time.

This was Chamroeun’s second deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism – he spent seven months with 2nd Battalion in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006.

Chamroeun’s military awards include the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

E-mail Cpl. Blom at [email protected]

Drive-Thru Danger; How a U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor saved a man's life at McDonald's.

Somebody's Trapped in There!

As a U.S. marine corps drill instructor, Jamie Nicholson had a tough-as-leather scowl and a cannon-like voice that could drain the color right out of the faces of his new recruits. Whether driving his platoon on a 12-mile hike with 45-pound packs or ordering them to plunge fully dressed from a tower into water ten feet below, he pushed the young soldiers ceaselessly. As Marines he taught them to act decisively and effectively, even in the midst of chaos.


By Lynn Rosellini
From Reader's DigestOctober 2006

Rushing through some early errands before work one morning, Nicholson pulled into the McDonald's fast-food restaurant on Balboa Avenue in San Diego. He was dirty, hungry and sleep-deprived. The staff sergeant, 28 and single, had been up half the night at a remote outpost with his platoon. In a few hours, he would help lead the recruits through the Crucible -- their final, grueling 48-hour endurance test before graduation.

Nicholson was due back at Camp Pendleton by 11 a.m. And since he was wearing his camouflage utility uniform, Marine Corps regulations prohibited him from entering a public building. No matter, he thought. The drive-thru will be faster.

"A large black coffee and an Egg McMuffin," he said into the speaker.

"Just a minute, sir," said a woman's voice. A split-second later she shrieked, "Oh, my God!" Then there was screaming -- and the intercom went silent.

Nicholson thought maybe there had been an accident inside. But when a McDonald's employee ran out the back door and disappeared around the corner, Nicholson pulled forward to get a better look. Up ahead, he could see a silver Ford Focus rammed into the side of the restaurant. The driver's door was ajar. Wait a minute, he thought. Somebody's trapped in there!

A few moments earlier, a customer had dropped his change out the window. When the 20-year-old man opened the car door to pick up his money, his foot slipped off the brake. The Ford rolled into a pillar, and the door closed on his neck.

Nicholson jumped out of his car and tried to climb into the Ford, but the doors were locked. He could see the driver's face, caught between his door and the frame. It was purple. The motor was in gear, revving.

Although he was trained in first-responder skills, Nicholson had never confronted a situation like this. Thinking fast, he decided to try to smash the rear passenger window -- the one farthest from the driver. He rammed with his elbow, then kicked it hard with the heel of his combat boot. But he couldn't break the tempered glass.

Desperate, he grabbed a tire iron from his trunk and bashed the window, sending shards spraying across the seats. He unlocked the door and jumped inside.

The engine was idling fast, which could mean only one thing: The driver's foot was pressing down the gas pedal. To free the man's head, Nicholson needed to shift the car into reverse. But there was no telling how much pressure was on the accelerator. If the vehicle shot backward, it could hit a brick wall or the Dumpster 15 feet behind. Nicholson could be crushed; the driver would be dragged.

Still, he had to take a chance. He climbed into the backseat, kneeling gingerly on the broken glass that covered the upholstery. Reaching awkwardly over the front seats, he strained to reach the gearshift. When he finally managed to grab hold of it, he carefully put the car in reverse. The Ford jumped back a few feet. Then Nicholson shifted to park, and the car jolted to a stop.

Fearing that the driver might have sustained a spinal injury, he carefully lifted the man's lifeless body onto the front seat. His pulse was weak, his breathing shallow. Nicholson gave him a sternum rub, which is commonly used to revive the unconscious. The man blinked his eyes and murmured something.

Rescue workers arrived minutes later and took the driver, Fabio Abud Barretto, to a local hospital. After the ambulance left, Nicholson got his coffee. But he was no longer hungry.

He never saw the victim again, although McDonald's employees reported that he was back at the restaurant a few days later. Authorities are certain that if Nicholson hadn't stepped in, the young man probably would have died. "It was an outstanding effort by this Marine to save a life," said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for San Diego Fire-Rescue.

Nicholson, a veteran of the war in Iraq, downplays his role. "He was just another person who needed help," he said, adding that Marines' lifesaving skills aren't just reserved for the few and the proud.

Click on photo for description and credit.

*Marines in combat zone reenlist under the hand of commandant

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 1, 2006) -- The Marine Corps’ top commander personally reenlisted more than 25 Marines from the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Regimental Combat Team 7 at Al Asad Air Base Oct. 1.


Oct. 1, 2006; Submitted on: 10/02/2006 06:30:47 AM ; Story ID#: 200610263047
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle, 1st Marine Division

Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, personally reenlisted the Marines before he and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada answered questions during a discussion with Marines and sailors aboard Al Asad.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you here for doing what you do for the Marine Corps, and what you do for our nation,” said Estrada, after the Marines reenlisted. “You are making our nation much more secure than it has been for quite some time. You are making a huge difference in what is going on in the world today.”

One Marine who reenlisted said being exposed to enemy fire recently was the reason he decided to reenlist in the Marine Corps for another four years.

“It changed my whole outlook on being in the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Carlos Cruz, 22, a team leader assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I did everything I was taught to do in a combat situation that day and it made me realize that I wanted to be a Marine for another four years.”

Cruz, a native of Chicago, said he was “quite nervous” about meeting the commandant to reenlist, but the experience would be a memorable one.

Another Marine from Houston who is on his third deployment to Iraq said he reenlisted because he loved being a Marine.

“I actually found a job I like,” said Cpl. Justin Berg, a team leader assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I have a college degree and have seen what it is like in the civilian world and being a Marine suits me much better.”

Berg also said a large cash bonus was also factored in his decision to remain in the Marine Corps.

The Marines who reenlisted made a good choice to reenlist at the beginning of the fiscal year, which began today. At the beginning of this fiscal year, the Marine Corps had a little more than 6,000 slots for reenlistment. Half of the slots were filled by the first day of the fiscal year, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Aldridge, 34, the regimental career retention specialist assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 in Al Asad.

Many of the Marines reenlisted because they were allowed to choose their next duty station and the majority of the Marines were given cash bonuses of more than $30,000, which is tax free in a combat zone, said Aldridge, a native of Longmont, Colo.

The Marine Corps’ goal is to reenlist 25 percent of the Marines who are on their first enlistment. The deployed battalions assigned to RCT-7 achieved that goal of reenlisting Marines on their first tour before many of the battalions throughout the Marine Corps that are not currently deployed to a combat zone, said Aldridge.

Aldridge added that many of the job fields in the Marine Corps were offering cash bonuses for reenlistment that do not usually offer one.

“Marines realize that a future in the Corps is a great choice,” said Aldridge. “There are a lot of Marines that get out of the Corps and come back in after an active duty discharge even though they loose their chance to receive a cash bonus and a choice of a duty station assignment.”

Only seven percent of Marines who leave active duty make more money in the civilian world after their discharge. Last year, 639 of the Marines who left active duty after their first enlistment reenlisted after being discharged. It is very difficult for prior service Marines to reenlist after being discharged because they have to go through another screening process and sometimes they can be denied reentry into the Marine Corps active ranks, said Aldridge.

“Marines that are undecided as to whether or not they want to reenlist need to take a good look at what the Corps has to offer them and their families if they have one,” said Aldridge. “A lot of Marines do not think about what the benefits, such as free medical and dental, can amount to. They only look at the dollar sign on their paychecks and do not figure in the intangibles.”

“I know a good opportunity when I see one,” said Berg, after he reenlisted.

Email Sgt. Seigle at [email protected]