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February 28, 2007

Marines receive coins to mark combat status

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq - The Marines of the Okinawa-based Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 celebrated the receipt of 250 challenge coins, donated by the unit's Vietnam Veterans Association, to signify the squadron's return to combat, this time in Iraq.

http://www.masslive.com/news/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1172566641190430.xml&coll;=1

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This is the first time the squadron, nicknamed the "Flying Tigers," has been deployed to a combat zone in more than 30 years.

During the Vietnam War, the squadron operated in Ky Ha, Marble Mountain, Quang Tri, Phu Bai and aboard the USS Tripoli. They are currently in Iraq's Al Anbar Province supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

February 27, 2007

Area native's efforts in Iraq earn him the Bronze Star

Lessons learned and properly applied have earned a local Marine the Bronze Star for developing successful security measures during the Iraqi elections in December 2005.

http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP%2FMGArticle%2FCDP_BasicArticle&c;=MGArticle&cid;=1149193412222&path;=!news

By Bryan McKenzie

February 27, 2007

Maj. Andrew Warren, 33, received the award last month for meritorious service while serving as operations officer with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5 of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Warren’s infantry unit provided security and stability in the insurgent-rife city of Fallujah. He received the award for developing successful counter-insurgency actions in which Marines went into the community to combat, capture and thwart terrorists.

“When your mission is to provide security and stability, you judge your successes differently than when you are in a traditional military engagement,” Warren said. “A lot of times you judge your success by what didn’t happen rather than what did. It’s hard to explain to someone that your effort was successful because only two car bombs went off when there were supposed to be 10.”

Warren, who grew up in Woodbrook and Ivy Farms, is stationed in Norfolk, training other Marine units for deployment to Iraq. His unit served in Fallujah for eight months, during which 12 of its Marines were killed. His Marines captured 80 insurgents, as well as weapons stockpiles. He also supervised training of Iraqi troops and joint missions with Iraqis and Marines.

The most visible assignment, however, was providing security and stability for 47 polling places in the country’s election.

“Counter-insurgency isn’t something you do from the base or a tank or a Humvee. You have to get into the community and develop a relationship so you know what’s going on,” Warren said. “You have to be in the neighborhoods, know the population, understand the dynamics and know what makes the insurgents in the area tick. Until you understand those things, you can’t successfully defeat an insurgency.”

Knowing the population and building rapport was the first step.

“Human relations cannot be underestimated. Your credibility personally and the credibility of the Marines truly make a difference,” Warren said. “In the Iraqi culture, interactions with each other and the importance of family are paramount. Family is where they put their trust.”

Using intelligence from the community, Warren designed security measures to protect the polling places. The measures were designed to keep a low American profile.

“We didn’t have the manpower to provide security at every polling place so we had to use the intelligence to determine on which polling places to concentrate our efforts,” he said. “We wanted this to be an Iraqi event and, if it went right, they would rightfully get the credit. If something went wrong, we had to be there to address the situation.”

Insurgents, Warren said, often strike symbolic targets, and the nation’s free election was just such a target. At the same time, the Marines were aware of the election’s symbolism. For Warren’s Marines, voter safety hinged on how well they and previous Marine units had worked their way into the Fallujah community.

“The [Department of Defense] and the Marines have adapted pretty well to the differences between insurgent-style hostilities and more traditional combat,” Warren said. “We had a lot of help adapting from the unit that was there ahead of us, and we learned from their lessons.”

Warren received his medal at a ceremony in January with another Marine. Rear Adm. Richard O’Hanlon presented the awards.

“It’s an honor to have [Warren] in this unit,” Marine Col. Michael Naylor, Warren’s commanding officer, told reporters.

“[He] performed above and beyond what you would normally expect out of somebody.”

Warren is a 1991 graduate of Albemarle High School and a 1995 graduate of Virginia Military Institute. He has served twice in Afghanistan, as well as in the Balkans and other deployments. He plans to stay in the military for some time and says he enjoys his job. For Warren’s father, John, it’s no surprise.

“I’m a 30-year Navy veteran and when he was younger I’d take him [to Navy bases]. He really liked the military, but as he got older he sort of got away from it,” the elder Warren said. “When he was in high school the track coach talked to him about attending VMI and he did. When he graduated, he took a commission in the Marine Corps.”

Warren’s father said his family is proud of the major, although they do worry when he’s deployed.

“You have a lot of sleepless nights and you try to put [the danger] in the back of your mind but it’s there all of the time,” he said. “Still, we’re really proud.”

February 26, 2007

U.S. Marines "Invade" Homefront Diner. Marine Unit Trains In North Carolina Towns To Prepare For Civil Affairs Duty In Iraq

After a frigid night camped under pine trees at an airfield, the convoy of 20 U.S. Marines rolled into this sleepy town just as businesses were opening. The rumble of their Humvees unnerved some local residents. Even more jarring was the sight of the soldiers leaping from their vehicles with weapons.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/26/terror/main2516182.shtml

In the parking lot of the Zion Lodge, a marine scanned the quiet street from behind a .50-caliber machine gun. One elderly man seemed shaken at the sight of Marines striding into the Realo drugstore.

Yet this was no hostile invasion. As final preparation for a one-year deployment in Iraq, a U.S. Marine unit recently brought the war home to tiny Trenton, N.C. (pop. 240), and the nearby coastal towns of Pollocksville and Maysville with a three-day training exercise. It was camouflage meets denim, Kevlar helmets meet Tar Heel caps, war-gaming meets the Pop Tucci diner.

It was also significant. The 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment is unusual — the first active-duty unit in the Marine Corps to retrain for civil affairs work in Iraq. That means the 250 soldiers in the group will be departing from their frontline combat role to help Iraqis rebuild their cities and neighborhoods.

The 5/10's six-month retraining has included study of Arabic and the Iraqi culture. The unit will be important in determining whether the U.S.'s latest — and perhaps final — initiative in Iraq works. Under the new command of Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. forces in Iraq will be trying to secure, hold, and then help stabilize and reconstruct embattled neighborhoods. Units like the 5/10 will be instrumental in gaining the confidence of local residents and acting as intermediaries between combat troops and civilians, particularly as the U.S. tries to shift more security and reconstruction functions to the Iraqis.

"Our mission is to bridge the gap between a local population and the local military command, to say, 'Hey, sir, if you want to blow up that water tower, you can do it, but you're going to leave X amount of people without water," said Capt. Jim Burgess, who is leading a team of 10 Marines and a Navy corpsman in the exercise here. "There are some civil issues you need to take into consideration."

The transition isn't easy for marines, who are trained to kill the enemy rather than engage in the softer skills of negotiation — say, quizzing local residents about their sewer system. "Some of these marines would rather be out on an artillery range pulling a lanyard, so it's important to get them out of their comfort zones preparing for this mission," said Maj. Andrew Dietz, who commanded one of the three training detachments.


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While the soldiers were learning new skills, local residents were discovering a few things about Marine training and the rigors of war. The troops were generally greeted as heroes after the initial shock of seeing Marines standing guard by doorways and patrolling downtown sidewalks with their M-16s, which weren't loaded.

"We're talking to town leaders to find out what they do and engaging in foot patrols to get to know the locals," said Captain Burgess. "Some are looking at us like, 'Hey, what are you guys doing here?'"

Later that morning, Glen Spivey sat down with a second civil affairs team at Pop Tucci's restaurant. "You get such a mix of emotions when you see them," said waitress Marti Rouse. "The first time they walked in it sort of took us all back, then we got used to having them all here. You're proud of them, and then you worry about where they're going, and now I'm sorry to see them go."

A woman having an early lunch exchanged a knowing glance with her friends as she changed seats for a better view of the men in uniform. "Don't you feel safe?" she asked.

Spivey explained the mechanics of the town sewer system, which he directs, and the volunteer fire department, which he has belonged to for 46 years. "I was glad to do anything I could to help them prepare for the job they have ahead," said Spivey, who is also commander of the local American Legion post. "I was impressed with the way they rolled in and did these interviews and tried to learn how the systems work."

Maj. Leland Suttee, commander of one of the detachments, said the transition to civil affairs has come with growing pains. "Every Marine is trained as a rifleman first, and it's easy for us in an artillery unit to be good at that," he said. "It's easy to go kick down a door, and marines love that, so this is actually much harder for them."

While there's a huge difference between Al Anbar Province and Jones County, N.C., the goal of the exercise was to show marines what a well-run, fully functioning local government looks like. "They will know what the goal is when they go into Fallujah or Ramadi," Major Suttee said. "In Ramadi, we have a burgeoning city government. We need to be able to go in and show them how to take funding from the provincial government, prioritize projects, get contractors to start rebuilding their cities, and get businesses running again."

One morning, 1st Lt. Steven Aguilera and his civil affairs team rolled into Maysville, where they secured the Maysville Milling Co. and interviewed manager James Harper about the business. Harper, whose father served in the Marine Corps in Korea and for two tours in Vietnam, was born in 1950 at Camp Lejeune, where the 5/10, part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, is stationed.

Harper's son is also a marine and served during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "I don't advise any parent watching CNN when their kid is over there, because it will drive you mad," said Harper, an Army veteran himself. "I don't know about this war. This one is hard to figure out, and it would be really hard to have to bury one of your own for it."

Harper explained the basics of operating a mill and some of the social ills of seemingly idyllic Jones County. "We've got a crack epidemic here," he said, pointing to a neighborhood across U.S. Highway 17. "On the weekends during the summer, you can see them set up outside selling it. They have guys riding on bicycles selling it."


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Along the tree-lined streets of Trenton, another Marine patrol stopped to introduce themselves to residents and ask who they were, what they do, and what problems they have in town. They passed the Jones County courthouse without a glance at the two war memorials out front, one for a Navy seaman who was killed during World War II, another for Michael Harris Jr., an Army sergeant who died in Saudi Arabia in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

Turning down a side street, the patrol parted for a passing pickup truck, apparently driven by another veteran who had emblazoned "68 Viet Nam Vet 69" on the back of his cab. "Check that," one Marine commented.

A moment later, they chatted with a resident walking to her mailbox. "Civil affairs is like customer service — you're out shaking hands, you're trying to be nice to people, and the customer is always right," said Cpl. Jason Talbot.

By lunchtime on the final day of the exercise, most of the marines had exited Trenton. Paula Tucci, who runs Pop Tucci's with her husband, had collected signatures from the Marines on a "Pop Tucci's" T-shirt. She pinned the memento on the wall by the front counter.

"It's been a trip having them here this week," she said. "Even though I don't know them, I'm sorry to see them leave."

At Jones Middle School, a civil affairs team engaged dozens of students with an outdoor display of Marine equipment. LCpl. Joel Vannatta reached down to shake the hand of an awed sixth-grader. "When I first joined the Marines, I knew that going to Iraq was a good possibility," said Corporal Vannatta of Jacksonville, Fla. "I would have been disappointed if I had spent four years in the Marines without going. I want to do something with all this training I have."



Hard Corps: Brothers, Marines, will serve in Iraq

ALANSON - Melody Bradley recently shared a few hugs and tears with her son, John McClellan, who leaves for Iraq in a few weeks.



http://www.petoskeynews.com/articles/2007/02/26/news/more_local/news04.txt

Monday, February 26, 2007

Kristina Hughes News-Review staff writer

In the next year, she will swallow back more tears and say goodbye as two more of her sons will leave for Iraq.

“I pray and cry,” Bradley said. “I'm proud of them for serving. But when they leave, it gets harder.”

Brothers John McClellan, 27, Dominic McClellan, 25, and Will Bradley, 20, are part of a greater brotherhood in the Marines.

“We're best friends, brothers and Marines,” John said. “We can relate on another level, not just as brothers.”

Growing up in Alanson, the three brothers pretended to be military men. They donned camouflage and played with toy guns and often wrestled each other. Nearly two decades later, they share a similar crew cut and uniform.

Recently, Melody and Bill Bradley's Alanson home is like a revolving hotel, where the young men stop in during military leaves from boot camp or overseas duty. Recently John, a lance corporal, came home before his deployment, and Dominic, also a lance corporal, came for a surprise visit.

“I love having them home, but it's bittersweet when you know you're saying goodbye,” Melody said.

When they are home, Melody is always ready to serve her sons' favorite meals, from breakfast burritos to homemade lasagna. The aroma of homemade foods and laughter fills the home.

But in the last few years, it's been difficult for Melody to recall when all three sons were under one roof.

“When we are home we have so many acronyms it's like another language,” John said. “My mom doesn't know what we're talking about.”

Before they were military men, Melody remembers when the boys practiced softball in the backyard and made tents in the living room with their sister, Ange Roberts, 24.

“They grew up so fast,” Melody said.

Brave Boys

Growing up, John and Dominic have always been two peas in a pod. If John was involved, you could count on Dominic being by his side.

The brothers enjoyed playing sports and rough-housing around the house.

“Dominic and I were especially close, if one of us was getting in trouble the other was right there with him,” John said.

“I wanted to be cool like John,” Dominic added.

Melody remembers the duo's pranks. She would ground the two and in turn they would bring in the wood for the fire and do double the chores. Another time, Bill made John and Dominic hold hands and walk through the grocery store after their fighting grew tiresome.

“John and Dom, they gave me a run for my money,” Melody said with a laugh.

“They sure did,” Bill added.

After graduating from Northern Michigan Christian Academy in Burt Lake, John said he was lost and worked several seasonal jobs before making a change. After some soul searching, John was 23 when he entered the Marines. The decision was life altering.

“I learned I'm capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could,” John said.

Dominic enlisted shortly after John. The “grunt” life quickly suited both brothers.

“We were close before, but we are definitely closer now,” Dominic said. “Not everybody can be a Marine.”

When Will graduated from Northern Michigan Christian Academy in 2005, he was ready for his Marine crew cut and uniform. He signed up and shipped off for basic training. Today, Will and Dominic are both stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms, in southern California. John is stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Dom and John said they knew Will would be a Marine.

“Little ‘Willy,' wanted to be a Marine forever. He came out of my mother's womb bragging about it,” Dominic said.

Will would like to think his brothers are following his dream. When Will was 12, he painted pictures of Marines and slogans on his bedroom walls.

“I knew it was God's will for me,” he said.

Growing up, Will, or Bert as his older brothers call him, was a tough runt. He remembers rough-housing with his older brothers and following the two around. But he was the “baby brother” known for his impersonations.

The brothers are now in their 20s and Will is still the jokester.

Dominic, recalls the time when Will was 6 and danced to “Taking Care of Business” at a sporting event.

“Willy, he's quite the character. He's always got something to say and loves impersonations,” Dominic said.

John, on the other hand, is the strong quiet type.

“He's got a big heart on the inside even though he's a tough guy,” Melody said. She mentions how John was watching over her after surgery.

Melody smiles as she names off their personality traits. “Dominic's the talker,” Melody said. “Will's the comedian and John is shy.”

The three brothers may be very different but at the core they share a pride in being Marines.

“There is no brotherhood like the Marines,” Will said. “We're the toughest, most respected branch.”

As Marines, the three brothers will be on the front lines in Iraq. John will leave first in the next few weeks, Dominic should be deployed in the next few months. Will's branch is scheduled to relieve John's unit. But the schedule could change pending on the president's orders.

The brothers are proud but worried.

“I wish (my brothers) didn't have to go,” John said. “But, I know they trained well and their friends and Marines are with them.”

Dominic will leave for his second tour of duty. While he was In Iraq for his first tour, the e-mails and calls from his brothers lifted his spirits. John tried to keep in touch weekly. “Of course I told (Dominic) I loved him,” he said.

When Dominic came home to base, Will surprised him in the barracks with a big bear hug.

Dominic, who doesn't talk much about the experience, noted how it has changed him.

“In Iraq, I always had my rifle by my side and it's just weird knowing you can wake up and nobody is going to kill you,” Dominic said.

He remembers the Marines and friends they lost, and has stayed in touch with their wives or families on base. He celebrates their lives and memories on their birthdays and the day they were killed in duty.

“It's given me such a greater amount of respect for life. A better attitude,” Dominic said. “Losing friends, it's hard. ... My outlook on life is different from before I joined the Marines.”

The brothers recognize the risk associated with serving their country. But they choose to serve. Their parents support their choice.

“She (mom) says, we're always in her prayers,” John said. “ I know she's not looking forward to all three of us being over there. She's proud, but she's a mom.”

Melody keeps her sons in her prayers and relishes their visits.

“I'm just really proud and pleased with the way they have grown up and how they want to serve their country.”

But sometimes it can be hard knowing her sons will be leaving.

“I have a lot of good days and some rough days. The closer it gets until one leaves, I get more emotional and cry more,” she said.

Wounded but still fighting

BETHESDA, Md. - The first round blew through Maj. K.C. Schuring's helmet, creased the top of his head and popped out through his goggles.

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/breaking_news/16786779.htm

By John Masson
Detroit Free Press

The second round felt as if Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez were teeing off on the center of his back.

But it wasn't until rounds three and four blasted through each thigh that the big Marine went down, a pool of his blood spreading in the street in Ramadi, Iraq. While two dozen of his Iraqi Army trainees and two U.S. military advisers took cover, Schuring took stock.

OK, he thought. I'm still breathing.

"I remember thinking to myself, with that shot to my head, I shouldn't be alive right now - and I was," he said.

Staying that way would be another matter.

In that instant, Schuring joined more than 10,000 American troops wounded so severely in Iraq that they were sent home

Among all branches, more than 550 troops have lost legs, arms, hands or feet - mostly to roadside bombs - in Iraq and Afghanistan. That compares with 24,000 Americans wounded overall and more than 3,000 killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Lying in the street on that sunny morning of Nov. 14, Schuring was determined not to add to the total of dead. The man who had just tried to kill him - a bearded man in a gray dishdasha, a traditional long garment - was running toward him with an AK 47.

"The only thing I could think about was, ` I'm the next captive,' or ` They're going to drag my body through the streets of Ramadi,'" he said. "And I couldn't let that happen to my wife and my family. ... I didn't want her to see me on Al-Jazeera" television.

Additionally - and unfortunately for the insurgents - Schuring was really ticked.

"I was mad, because, well, I don't get shot," said Schuring, 37, who has an MBA. In the civilian world, he works as a quality assurance manager. "I never get shot. And now I got shot. It infuriated me."

He also realized he couldn't get to cover.

"So I rolled to my right side and I brought up my M 16," Schuring said. "I aimed in on him and shot him in the head."

A moment later, a second armed insurgent rounded the same corner, looked down at the dead man and looked up just in time to catch three fatal rounds from Schuring's rifle.

Schuring's first steps on the road to recovery - killing two of the six insurgents who tried to kill him - came when he was unable to take any steps at all. And with those steps, Schuring, like other wounded warriors, began a painful journey to recovery.

Cpl. John Lockwood, a Washtenaw County, Mich., sheriff's deputy, was manning a machine gun atop a Humvee during a Nov. 19 mission to root out insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. The 26-year-old helped stake out a position, then stayed with Lance Cpl. Jeremy Shock, the driver, to guard their vehicle as their comrades searched nearby buildings.

That's when a bomb, hidden 5 inches below the road surface, blew up.

The explosion killed Shock of Tiffin, Ohio. Lockwood suffered a litany of injuries: two broken feet. Two broken legs. Broken bones in both hands. A nose more crushed than merely broken. Legs peppered with shrapnel wounds. A left eye lost to more shrapnel.

"I don't remember what happened," Lockwood said. "The guys that helped me told me about it."

They stabilized him in an alley near his burning Humvee, then rushed him to Fallujah Surgical, where Navy doctors tended his wounds. He woke briefly at some point, then spent the next two weeks in a medically induced coma while surgeons opened his wounds every 48 hours to clean them. The frequent surgeries help fight infection.

Four months later, Lockwood is still healing.

"I've got a long road ahead of me, " he said, "but I'll make it."

While Lockwood was busy with surgeries and rehab, family, friends and at least a few hundred people he doesn't even know were busy in Washtenaw County. His supporters came together last month at the Farm Council Grounds for what was modestly termed a fundraising spaghetti dinner and auction.

By the end of the day, about 2,000 people had plunked down at least $10 each for the right to eat spaghetti and bid on items ranging from autographed Red Wings jerseys to a ball thrown in the World Series last fall by Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson.

They raised almost $40,000 to help Lockwood and his wife, Lisa, defray some of his costs while recovering. The military takes care of his hospital bills. But Lisa Lockwood left her job and her college studies to be with her husband during his stay at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. And he'll still need her help when his hospital stay ends - which friends say may be as soon as three weeks from now.

"His spirits are spectacular," said Saline Police Sgt. Jay Basso, who visited Lockwood at Bethesda recently. "If I was half as strong as that guy, emotionally and physically ... he's a squared-away young man at 26. I'm in awe."

Lockwood said he's in awe, too.

"It's just amazing all the support back home, " he said. "I'm so humbled by it. All I can do is get better and give back as much as I can."

Marines wounded by what the military calls improvised explosive devices often have a hard time telling a coherent story about their injuries. They remember driving away from a dusty combat outpost in Fallujah or Baghdad, then recall waking up in a hospital bed in Maryland or California or Texas.

That was the case for Lance Cpls. Josh Bleill and Eric Frazier, who last month sat beneath a scarlet Marine Corps flag at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and described their injuries.

But Cpl. Chad Watson, who sat with them, is an exception. He remembers exactly what happened about 9 a.m. Nov. 29 as he led a team of Marines in the streets of Fallujah. The team from the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marines had just searched the car and were starting to roll again.

"We didn't get more than 100 meters, and it was like I got punched in the face like 10,000 times," Watson said.

What pummeled Watson was a bomb, not a fist. The moment he looked down, he knew his life had changed forever.

"I looked at my right leg, and it was gone - completely gone," said Watson, 24, a college student from Mt. Zion, Ill. "There was a big hole under the driver's side; that's where it hit."

Watson's training took over. Despite his missing leg, the smashed bones in his left heel and ankle, a fractured vertebra, burns and shrapnel wounds to his face, arm and eye, he grabbed his weapon and struggled to get out of the Humvee to defend himself and his comrades. But he couldn't free his twisted left leg from what remained of the Humvee's floor. Marines from other vehicles came running to help.

"I remember them yelling, `Is anybody still alive?'" said Watson.

Finally, after his fellow Marines dragged him into a nearby courtyard, a Navy corpsman tied off his bleeding right leg with a tourniquet. The corpsman gently informed Watson that most of his right leg was gone.

"I was kind of like, `Yeah, no kidding, I saw that.'"

Through it all Watson - still the team leader, despite his grievous wounds - was shouting orders.

"I was actually yelling at the guys to get out of the courtyard ... because there were too many of them," and a large group was liable to draw the insurgents' fire, said Watson. "I was glad how I reacted. I acted good under pressure, and I was happy to hear that they told my parents that."

All Bleill really remembers about the moments before the explosion that took both his legs and killed two comrades is gazing out his Humvee window in Fallujah.

"You're always looking outside," explained Bleill, 29, whose civilian job is running a call center in Indianapolis. "You're looking for anything suspicious."

Bleill woke up in Germany with his jaw wired shut days after he was injured Oct. 15. Medical staff explained his injuries to him while he was groggy: the loss of both legs above the knee, a broken jaw, a pelvis shattered so badly it required 32 pins to piece together.

Frazier's story is similar. The 20-year-old from McMinnville, Tenn., was heading out to count Iraqis for a local census when a bomb destroyed his Humvee on Oct. 23.

"It blew up right underneath the driver and killed him instantly," said Frazier, a factory worker. A second Marine also died.

The blast took both of Frazier's legs - one above the knee - lacerated his liver and a kidney, fractured his pelvis in three places, and broke a vertebra , one arm, a wrist, his jaw and several fingers.

"I guess it wasn't my time to go," said Frazier. "I died out there in the streets of Fallujah, and no one can explain how they brought me back."

Now the soft-spoken man from the mountains works every day to regain the physical strength he'll need to again do the things he loves. For Frazier, that means using his computerized prosthetic legs to roam the hills and hollows with a fishing pole or a hunting rifle in his hands.

Generally, Marines like to organize things by threes. Three Marines make a fire team, three fire teams make a squad, three squads make a company, and three line companies make a battalion.

So Watson, Frazier and Bleill have formed their own sort of rehabilitative fire team during their stay at Walter Reed. "We joke with each other, or say, `Hey, we gotta catch up with him,'" Watson said. "It makes us work that much harder."

When they're working painfully to build their upper body strength, they push each other to work even harder. When one is working on his balance on the parallel bars, the others are watching.

Marines have always taken a perverse pride in their grueling daily doses of group PT, or physical training. It binds them together. And the equation hasn't changed much just because they're wounded. Now, the initials "PT" stand for "physical therapy."

"It's the same thing, just a different setting," Watson said. "It's just a different group of guys you're with now."

Even for Marines like Schuring, who is getting rehabilitation through Beaumont Hospital near his home in Farmington Hills, Mich., thoughts of his fellow Marines in Iraq are never far away while he's sweating and groaning through painful physical therapy. Teamwork is something the former center on the Hope College football team in west Michigan has understood for a long time.

The ceramic plate in his body armor saved him from the shot to his back. His Kevlar helmet helped dissipate the shot to his head, which didn't penetrate his skull. And the bullet that hit his right thigh missed the bone.

But the one that hit his left thigh almost cost him his leg, shattering his thighbone in three up near his hip. An infection nearly did the rest until it was brought under control by antibiotics.

His doctors expect he'll make a full recovery - thanks to physical therapy sessions it would take a Marine to love.

None of the wounded men is willing to let his injuries define him. None expressed bitterness. All said they would rejoin their units tomorrow, if they could.

Schuring, whose mission was training Iraqi soldiers, was especially emphatic.

"We were doing good things there in Ramadi - I mean phenomenal things," Schuring said. "The Iraqi army, the soldiers, they're the Iraqi heroes. They're not the best soldiers in the world, but they're trying."

The wounded men have had time while convalescing to process their experiences. They've met cabinet members and generals and members of Congress. Some have gone to the Super Bowl, and Watson was personally introduced to his baseball heroes, the St. Louis Cardinals, by the president of the United States.

But that's all gravy. It's everyday life that's a gift to these survivors.

"This puts everything into perspective," Lockwood said. "You get blown up, and all of a sudden the type of rims you have on your car, that doesn't mean anything. Your family, your friends, that's the stuff that's important. That's what keeps you going."

Catholic family remembers U.S. Marine kiled in Iraq as 'dad' first

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Hawaii Catholic Herald) – Before he was deployed to Iraq this past August, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Trane McCloud made sure to spend a “Daddy Day” with each of his three children.

http://www.catholic.org/hf/family/story.php?id=23182

By Anna Weaver
2/26/2007
Hawaii Catholic Herald (www.hawaiicatholicherald.com)

He and son Hayden, 7, went to Hanauma Bay. He and 5-year-old Grace went bowling and had dinner at Sizzler. And he took 2-year-old Meghan to the movies.

McCloud, who had arrived in Hawaii several months before his wife and kids to serve with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, also made sure that the family’s Kaneohe Marine Corps Base home was spruced up before they came in July. He painted, fixed up the bedrooms and even built Hayden a loft bed.

“He was this consummate Marine but, oh Lord, was he a dad,” said his wife of more than 12 years, Maggie McCloud. “And he was ready to be a dad from the moment I met him.”

The man who served his country and loved his family, was killed Dec. 3, just 11 days before his 40th birthday, when the helicopter he was in crash landed on Lake Qadisiyah in Al Anbar Province in western Iraq shortly after taking off from Haditha Dam.

Trane, as he was known to family and friends, was described as bringing out the best in other people while humbly going about life with “quiet dignity.”

“I am so proud of my husband and the job that he did. And I am so proud of every Marine and soldier and sailor over there doing their job,” McCloud said. “Whatever you think of the war, we owe them all a debt of gratitude.”

McCloud describes herself as just “one of many” who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, more than 3,100 military members have died in Iraq alone.

“You read in the newspaper about the war and about people dying and those numbers,” she said. “But until you know someone and until it’s somebody that you’re in the neighborhood with, or they go to your church, or they go to your school, or your paths cross, it almost doesn’t seem real.”

Memorial Mass

A memorial Mass for Trane McCloud was celebrated on Feb. 9 in St. Anthony Church in Kailua where the McCloud’s two oldest children, Hayden and Grace, are enrolled in the parish school.

A letter that Lt. Col. McCloud mailed to Hayden’s second grade class from Iraq was read aloud during the Mass. In the note, dated Nov. 10, the Marine thanked the students for the pictures and letters they had sent him, told them the weather had recently cooled down from 120 degree days, and wrote, “You are all very lucky to live in a country that is free and safe.”

After the Mass, with the whole school watching, a puakinikini tree was planted and blessed in the school courtyard with a plaque next to it bearing Trane McCloud’s name. Then Maggie, Hayden and Grace released rainbow-colored pigeons and one white dove. Hayden asked if he could water the tree.

The McClouds will stay in Hawaii through the end of the school year before returning to Virginia. Maggie said that after Trane was buried at Arlington National Cemetery it was an easy decision to return with her kids to the islands, and St. Anthony’s in particular, because “I can’t imagine them being anywhere else especially in light of what has happened to our family.”

It was Lt. Col. McCloud who encouraged Maggie to pick St. Anthony’s for the two older children’s school after talking to another Marine father who had a child enrolled there. Though he himself was Protestant, Trane married Maggie in a Catholic ceremony and they raised their children as Catholics.

Maggie McCloud says her husband always had a can-do attitude in all aspects of his life, whether it was leading troops or his son’s Little League team.

“There was no problem too great,” she said, mentioning that she has heard about the work McCloud did in Iraq as a battalion operations officer. “He traveled to this place and what people had been working on for days and saying they couldn’t do, he would not accept no for an answer. And he himself fixed this particular problem.”

“That was also his faith in God,” she said. “He’s put us here. He’ll show us the way. And I will strive to instill that in my children.”

“He did his job and I will do mine and I will raise these kids in a way that he will be proud of.”

McCloud’s positive attitude included leading a marathon team, taking apart computers to learn how they worked, teaching himself how to make video compilations set to music, and especially tinkering with cars.

Trane purchased his dream car, a pink and black 1959 Ford Fairlane several years ago. He made sure the back seat had room for three car-seats for his kids. Maggie McCloud recalls all the fun times the family had in the Ford, like driving to get Krispy Kreme donuts or ice cream with Elvis blasting on the radio. And Trane was always finding something to refurbish or fix with it.

A life of service

Trane McCloud was born in Tennessee and lived in Atlanta and later the Detroit area growing up. He excelled at football in elementary and high school. He graduated with a history major from the University of Tennessee in 1989 and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

In 1990 he was deployed during Operation Desert Storm on the USS Missouri — a ship he’d built a model of as a kid and dreamed of one day being on — as a member of the famed battleship’s final crew before it was decommissioned and docked in Pearl Harbor.

After Desert Storm, McCloud went to officer training school in Virginia where he met Maggie Hayden, who was working on Capitol Hill. They were married two years later.

In 1992, as a young lieutenant he was deployed to Bosnia and Somalia. It was there that he became close friends with a fellow lieutenant Rod Jetton, who is today Speaker of the Missouri State House of Representatives.

Jetton recalled his good friend in several “Capitol Report” letters last December. In one he said that he and McCloud “dreaded the thought of having to write a letter home to the parents of one of our men if we would have lost someone” in Somalia.

In another he wrote, “This is a guy who prayed before every meal, never lost his cool, always had good advice, and never had to be the center of attention.”

After several promotions, Trane went back to school and earned a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from American University and worked as a public affairs officer. But he most enjoyed being in the field with his men.

His first Hawaii assignment was in 2000 when Hayden was not yet two. Grace was born here in 2001 while McCloud was deployed to Okinawa. After Sept. 11, he was part of a security force in the Philippines.

In 2003, he was accepted as a Military Fellow in Washington, D.C., and worked for a year in South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson’s office. McCloud played an integral part in the passing of a loan reduction bill for college graduates who worked in inner city or low-income area schools.

After working at the Pentagon and other assignments, McCloud was anxious to serve with a deploying infantry battalion in Iraq. He was assigned again to Hawaii in April 2006 and prepared to go overseas, but made sure he had time to surf and golf, something he hadn’t been able to do on his last deployment in the islands.

Maggie McCloud says that in Iraq her husband was “mission-focused” and that she “will always take great comfort in the fact that he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.”

“He believed whole-heartedly in what the Marines were doing over there,” she said. “Even if somehow he’d had a crystal ball and he’d known that this was going to happen, he would have gone.”

McCloud’s mother, Roma Anderson, said that in one of his e-mails to her, Trane wrote, “Mom, the Iraqi people do not deserve to live in the fear they live in.”

And in a group e-mail to family and friends McCloud thanked everyone for their support of him and his family.

“I visualize [Trane as] this ship flowing through the waters and touching all over, but not by show, but by his reserve,” Anderson said.


February 25, 2007

Lives Entwined by War Enter a Long, Arduous Chapter: Recovery

Petty Officer Third Class Dustin E. Kirby, a Navy corpsman whose efforts to save a wounded marine in Iraq and his own wounding by a sniper on Christmas were covered by The New York Times, has returned home to Georgia and expects a nearly full recovery, he and his family said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/world/middleeast/25kirby.html?_r=2&hp;&oref;=slogin&oref;=slogin

By C. J. CHIVERS
Published: February 25, 2007

Marine Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, with his mother, Melissa, is undergoing intensive therapy in Minneapolis.
He returned escorted by a police honor guard early this month, after his discharge from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and four operations during five weeks of care.

Petty Officer Kirby, 23, was struck by a bullet in the left side of the face while near a bunker on the roof of Outpost Omar, a Marine position in Karma, a city in Anbar Province.

His injury mixed the worst of luck with an uncanny stroke of good fortune.

The bullet, which he said was an armor-piercing 7.62 millimeter round fired from a Dragunov-style sniper rifle at a range of 400 to 600 yards, passed through his head and exited at the side of his mouth. In traveling this path, it did not strike his brain, spinal column or major veins or arteries, he said.

Immediately after the bullet’s impact, Petty Officer Kirby remained conscious and could walk. He communicated by writing notes. But his condition deteriorated, he and officers in his battalion said, from blood loss and trauma to the roof of his mouth and the base of his skull.

Although officers in the unit to which he was assigned, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines, initially thought he had lost his ability to speak, since undergoing the operations he has recovered a voice that is only slightly slurred.

“I’m doing a lot better than most people would expect,” he said by telephone from Hiram, Ga.

Petty Officer Kirby had been assigned as a trauma medic to the battalion’s weapons company. In early November he was the subject of an article that described his work and prayers to save the life of his friend, Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, a machine gunner in the vehicle’s turret who was shot through the skull by a sniper in Karma in late October.

Lance Corporal Smith, 19, survived, and is undergoing treatment and full days of intensive therapy at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis. His father, Bob Smith, said by telephone that while his prognosis is unclear he has made significant progress.

The bullet, the same type that struck Petty Officer Kirby, destroyed the top regions of both frontal lobes of Lance Corporal Smith’s brain. But since being medically stabilized and beginning a range of therapies, he has begun to walk with assistance and a four-pronged cane, to smile and to mimic sounds and repeat words he hears, his father said.

Mr. Smith also said his son recognized relatives and was in very good spirits, often laughing, acting playfully and twinkling his eyes.

“The essence of him is there,” Mr. Smith said. “It is not always easy for him to communicate, but it is there.”

Because of damage to areas of the brain that control speech, Mr. Smith said, it was not clear how fully Lance Corporal Smith would recover his ability to converse. Similarly, he has extremely limited movement on the right side of his body. It is too soon to predict how much range of motion and strength would return.

“You never know when the healing process will plateau,” Mr. Smith said, but added, “Every day you can see him improve.”

Petty Officer Kirby’s therapy and treatment are less extensive. The bullet tore away seven teeth, the right side of his lower jaw, several patches of nerve and a section of his tongue. It also shattered part of his lower skull, near the roof of his mouth.

Surgeons have rebuilt his face with bone and skin from one of his legs, he said, and secured the damaged tissues with 14 metal plates.

“The plates are just kind of holding everything together and allowing it to grow back to what it was,” he said.

He said he expects to have three or four more operations in the next six months, and will require therapy to recover his speech in full.

His mother, Gail Kirby, said that his prognosis is good, and that his attitude is, too.

“At his first meeting with the local speech therapist, he walked in and said, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ ” she said, using the word made famous by Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins.” “Then he said, ‘There. Can I go now?’ ”

Petty Officer Kirby said he intended to return to active duty when his doctors allow, and hoped to become an instructor at a military school, training other corpsmen in combat medical duties.

As the two men have continued to convalesce, their battalion completed its tour in Iraq and moved out of the country through Kuwait. Its last members returned to its home base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Feb. 21. Petty Officer Kirby said he hoped to rejoin them.

Mr. Smith, Lance Corporal Smith’s father, said his son’s platoon sergeant was planning to visit him in March.

In Hiram, Petty Officer Kirby’s mother said that for now she was simply grateful he was home.

For months, she said, she barely slept, and constantly checked e-mail messages, news reports from Iraq and Web sites that track American casualties in Iraq.

“Now I can just walk into the room,” she said, “and see him.”

'Our hero' gets warm welcome in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH — The love and pride native son Regan Jones has earned in his relatively young life was evident by the hugs and smiles that greeted him at every turn Sunday afternoon. "We're proud of him. He's our hero," said Ace Cappelen, whose grandchildren grew up with Jones in the McAnsh Park area.

http://www1.tcpalm.com/tcp/local_news/article/0,2545,TCP_16736_5378200,00.html

By ED BIERSCHENK

February 26, 2007

Jones returned home a couple of weeks ago seemingly displaying no lingering effects from the battlefield wound that earned him a Purple Heart.
The 26-year-old Marine with his close-cropped hair, ramrod straight posture and firm handshake seemed the picture of health as he was feted at a welcome home party at the Vero Beach Elks Lodge.

He didn't want to discuss details of the wound to his right shoulder, but rather wanted people to remember all the soldiers in the area — some of whom have been killed — in service to their country.

A platoon commander with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Jones was injured shortly after arriving in Iraq. The second lieutenant wasn't seeking to go back home after the injury, but instead readily returned to the field to "do my job."

Rather than talking about the specifics of the war in Iraq, Jones noted that "Marines want to do a good job in everything they do."

He did say, though, that the Iraqi people he encountered were for the most part "glad to see us."

In the fall, he will be returning to that country for another seven months — knowing he has the backing of his parents, Calvin and Becky Jones, and his wife, Mary.

"She's been very supportive of everything I do and always been there," said Jones.

Calvin Jones said his son, who expressed a desire to join the military at a young age, has always acted mature and been a natural leader. The time he has spent in the Marines has only increased that side of him.

"He has that aura about him," said his father, who is an Indian River County sheriff's detective. "He has a lot of confidence. He knows what he is doing and what direction he is heading in."

A Vero Beach High School graduate, Jones played football for four years at the State University of New York, Albany, and worked in the private sector for about a year before deciding to join the Marines.

While his parents supported his decision, Calvin Jones said it was hard on the couple as they watched the nightly news of the war. Still, he said, "we knew he was well trained and he was a smart guy and he would be OK."

Cappelan said the young Jones was somebody who was "one of the guys up front" in everything he was involved with growing up.

"He's just really a guy who you would want out there defending you and your country," he said.

PURPLE HEART

Regan Jones, awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq, was joined Sunday by family and friends during a homecoming put on by his parents, Calvin and Becky Jones, of Vero Beach. The 26-year-old platoon commander is expected to return to Iraq for another seven-month tour of duty this fall.

Winning the war one trained Iraqi soldier at a time

HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 25, 2007) -- A crucial aspect to the future and success of a free, sovereign Iraq is the skilled Iraqi soldier. Another facet in the fight is bridging the cultural misconceptions and prove the common goal is to defeat the insurgency and bring an end to sectarian violence. Marines and sailors at the Multi-National Force-West Training Center are building that bridge, one trained Iraqi soldier at a time.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/C73D79B44E61E8AF8525728D003DA6A2?opendocument

Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

Throughout history, the Marines Corps has proven its ability to devastate the enemy. The training and determination of the individual Marine in conflict has built a legendary reputation. Here, Marines have risen to the challenge again and believe they have figured out a way to win the fight without firing a shot.

“We believe that this conflict can be won, and is going to be won, by the Iraqi soldier dominating their battle space,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Walker, gunner. “We have to convince them it’s in their best interest to defeat the insurgency with the forces they have available. It’s their fight and they’re doing a fine job.”

Walker, the director of MNF-W Training Center, feels his team has an important mission ahead of them, training the Iraqi solider.

“We treat the Iraqi soldier the same as any other Marine or sailor,” he said. “We extend an open hand of camaraderie and treat them with dignity and respect.”

Walker works alongside 13 Marines and two sailors. He is impressed with their enthusiasm, willingness and loyalty to the cause of training the Iraqi soldiers. Most Marines and sailors volunteered to be here. For many, this is their second deployment and have spent less than a year on American soil since their last deployment. Others have extended their contracts or re-enlisted, leaving the safety of the United States and their loved ones for a chance to make a difference in a country riddled by war.

“I have the greatest Marines in the Marine Corps,” he said. “Most have waived their dwell time for the purpose to come back and perform in this mission.”

To the Marines it was just their duty.

“The whole reason we’re here is to put ourselves out of a job,” said Staff Sgt. Douglas Bisson, staff noncommissioned officer–in-charge of the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructor Course. “If we do this, we’ve done a good job.”

Marines spend two weeks instructing Iraqi students in a professional, military environment. They provide classes on Iraqi pistols, rifles, machine guns and mortars, teaching specific characteristics, handling and firing of the weapon systems. Marines expect students to carry this knowledge back to their units and become marksmanship instructors without relying on coalition forces.

Bisson hopes to get across the importance of a single, well-aimed shot to each student.

“Shooters in general, no matter what uniform they’re wearing, have the same bad habits,” said Bisson. “The difference in language translates into the same thing.”

Many times the Iraqi soldier has grown up firing the rifle from the hip and set to full automatic mode, he said. He teaches them the importance of adjusting the rifle sites or body position to hit the desired target with a solitary shot. Classroom instruction is reinforced by taking the students to the rifle range and applying the techniques.

“I’m always looking forward to a live-fire day,” Bisson said. “It’s a great way to evaluate these guys and how they’re applying the lessons we taught them.”

The lessons here are bigger than weapons or techniques. It is about establishing a self-governing nation capable of defending its borders, protecting its civilians against insurgents and creating a future for the children of Iraq, Walker said.

“(Iraqi soldiers) want to look in the future and see that his children will have an opportunity for success,” he said. “They want to make a difference and see security in their nation. In wanting that, they realize that first they have to defeat this insurgency that is tearing their country apart.”

Walker, his Marines and the men of the Iraqi Army have begun building the foundation for Iraq’s success. If history proves itself again, Marines and the people of Iraq can rest assured the enemy does not stand a chance.


February 23, 2007

White Cell keeps MACG-18 Marines on their toes

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan(Feb. 23, 2007) -- The element of surprise can be a key factor in making a training scenario realistic. To maintain this element, members of Marine Air Control Group 18 established the White Cell to plot against participants in a Tactical Air Command Center drill at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Feb. 8-9.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/CE1D86C376CB7C638525728A0024B677?opendocument

Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler

Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. David Rogers

The White Cell was charged with developing threatening scenarios that members of MACG-18 had to react to during the exercise that simulated coordinating air combat operations in a foreign country.

Sections of personnel were setup in portable structures. These sections monitored and controlled separate sectors of airspace. Each element reported to the TACC, which kept everyone working together during the exercise.

But the White Cell was kept separate from the rest of the participants and introduced scenarios through radio and data transmissions.

"If (the exercise) was a role-playing game, we would be the dungeon master," said Capt. Stewart Downie, the officer-in-charge of the cell.

The trainees responded to the threats with simulated air and ground units. All units in the exercise's combat zone were simulated by a computer program. The program displayed a radar system that tracked these units.

Most communication between the elements was done through on-line chat rooms. Downie monitored the communications and customized the training based on how the trainees reacted to the situations.

"I just set off the radar of an enemy surface-to-air missile launcher. If no one mentions it in the next 20 minutes, I think it's going to start taking potshots at the KC-130 fuel tanker," Downie said while planning the next stage of the training.

During part of the training, Downie had a Marine air station chemically attacked, leaving it non-operational for an hour. This left the trainees without a place to land many of the simulated aircraft. They were also unable to launch new flight missions.

"It's almost like we're pawns in their game and they keep messing with us," said Cpl. Carleton Vanbuskirk, the crew chief of the Air Direction Facility. "But it's good training because everyone learns from it."

Cell members were selected for their understanding of how pilots and ground units react in real-life situations. Air support control and low altitude air defense officers played the role of aircraft pilots.

Artillery Marines from 12th Marine Regiment represented the ground component of the exercise. They played the role of ground units requesting fire support, which the trainees would assign artillery or aircraft to carry out.

Downie and his team set the pace of the exercise by judging the performance of the participants. Downie accelerated the training tempo when trainees began to handle the situations with proficiency.

"We just got 13 fire missions in the last three minutes," said 1st Lt. Bradley Witham, the senior air director of the Direct Air Support Center, during one scenario.

Downie tried to push the unit's capabilities by overwhelming them with the quantity of missions.

"The White Cell's job is to facilitate the creation of overwhelming scenarios you might see in combat," Witham said.

CAB Marines explore historic site featured in 'The Last Samurai'

KUMAMOTO CITY, KYUSHU, Japan (February 23, 2007) -- Many Marines may be familiar with Kumamoto City after watching the Tom Cruise film "The Last Samurai," but how many can actually say they've been to its castle?

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070223-kumamoto.html

Lance Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso

That's exactly what Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division can now say after they toured Kumamoto Castle, Kyushu, Japan, Feb. 11 following the conclusion of Exercise Forest Light 2007.

The nearly 400-year-old castle is better known by the Japanese as the site of Japan's last civil war. After the new Meiji government sought to abolish the samurai's political influence in 1877, an army of former samurai rose against the government.

As was loosely depicted in the movie, the 50-day siege ended with the castle in flames and the samurai defeated, thus ending the warriors' hopes of returning to their place of prominence as the protectors of the emperor of Japan.

Today the castle stands reconstructed thanks to donations from Japanese citizens and is a monument to the fierce battle that took place there.

Several Marines agreed the samurai spirit they learned of during the tour is similar to the core values practiced in today's Marine Corps. The same virtues of honor, courage and commitment were taught to all samurai from the time they were children.

The CAB Marines said the tour was a refreshing end to the exercise and enjoyed the opportunity to learn of another culture's warriors.



Inseparable brothers. Twins adapt to military life while trying to remain by each other's side

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa (February 23, 2007) -- They hail from Hazleton, Penn., which has a population of approximately 20,000 people. Since birth, they have been nearly inseparable.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070223-bro.html

Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson

They played sports, went on double dates, took the same classes and cruised the town together on weekends. If it didn't mean being together in the same time and place, they wouldn't have anything to do with it.

The thought about being away from each other never ran across their minds until the Marine Corps changed their way of thinking.

Meet twin brothers, Privates First Class James V. and Joseph M. Lindsey, 20, who were born just a minute apart on July 10, 1986.

"We first thought about joining the Marine Corps in the 10th grade," James said. "We didn't think about being apart at the time; we just wanted to be a part of the world's finest military service."

Both said they have always had similar interests.

"I honestly can't remember anything we did differently," Joseph said. "We went to the same hockey games, same parties and even took girls out at the same time."

"We will probably end up marrying twins one day too," James said with a laugh as his brother nodded.

James is a towed artillery systems technician with Ordnance Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, while Joseph is a small arms repairer and technician with III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group.

These days they can be seen walking together on Camp Hansen from one end to the other almost everyday after work to each other's barracks. The pair can also be spotted buying the exact same products at the shoppette here on occasions. Both even chew two pieces of gum because one just isn't enough.

"We just share the same interests in everything," Joseph said. "The only thing different about us is our jobs, which is what the Marine Corps controls, not us."

Their road to Okinawa began when the Lindseys first talked to their recruiter. Both said they wanted to be combat engineers because they simply wanted to blow stuff up. But due to the lack of availability, the recruiter could not guarantee them the field. They went ahead and entered on open contracts, thinking even if the engineer spots did not open, they would both get the same job. Like always, the twins were thinking the same thing: "They wouldn't keep us apart."

The first sign things were not going as the twins had planned came when James was scheduled to leave Hazleton for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., one month before Joseph. The two planned to go to recruit training together through the "buddy system."

"We were mad because we hate being apart," James said.

Though the twins were not able to endure the hardships of recruit training together, their drill instructors kept them connected in other ways once both were on the island, James said.

"About a week before I was to qualify on the rifle range, my senior (drill instructor) visited my brother to get his rifle score," he said. "He came back and told me if I didn't do better than him, I would get slaughtered until I graduated," James laughed.

Since Joseph was one month ahead of his brother on his Marine Corps path, he was the first to find out the twins plans of being combat engineers was not going to happen. A week before he graduated Marine Combat Training, he found out he would be a small-arms repairer.

His first thoughts were, "Small arms repairer! What! What the heck is that?"

Joseph then called home to James, who was on leave in between recruit training and MCT, and told him to try to get the same MOS.

"We thought that we would get the same job when we signed the contracts," James said. "Boy, we were wrong. But I told him I would try to get my MOS switched to his."

James did not get the same MOS as his brother. However, in a twist of fate, the twins ended up on the same base in Aberdeen, Md., for training.

"Just a few years ago, it was school, work and then hanging out," Joseph said. "Once James came to Maryland, it was the same routine we were used to before joining the Marines, because that's how it's always been for us."

The life-long routine they were used to seemed to be coming to an end after the two spent about two months together. Joseph left Maryland to begin a two-year adventure on Okinawa, while James was left back trying to get the same orders. Less than two weeks later, he did.

"I was excited when I saw him actually here. I was hoping we would be in the same barracks, but we couldn't get that lucky," Joseph said. "He is on the opposite side of base, but that doesn't prevent us from hanging out all the time. At least we are here together; that's all that matters."

Lance Cpl. Willie A. Holden, a small arms repairer and technician with the III MHG Armory, knows first hand the relationship the Hazleton natives share.

"I have honestly never seen them apart unless Joseph and I are at work," Holden said. "I wanted to take Joseph to American Village near Camp Lester over the holidays because he hasn't been anywhere yet. He told me, if his brother wants to go, he'll go. If not, then he'll stay back with his brother. I've never seen a bond like they have from anyone in my whole life."

This bond is one the two know may be broken after their two-year tours here, or even before with possible deployments.

So for now the Lindsey twins are focused on developing as Marines and having a good time together. They don't want to think too much about their future when it comes to being apart, they both said.

"We just like to live everyday as it is just because there's always that possibility we might get stationed (apart)," Joseph said.


February 22, 2007

Marines carry on formal traditions of Mess Night

Oceanside, Calif.(Feb. 22, 2007) -- “The Thundering Third” marched into the room and took their places in front of three candlelit tables and stood at the position of attention, awaiting the command to proceed with camaraderie, laughter and festivity.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/9BAB02216B3278138525728B006B2C6C?opendocument

Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton

Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Christopher Mann

Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, took part in a formal Mess Night Feb. 7 at the Elk’s Lodge in Oceanside.

A Mess Night is a formal occasion where service members put on their dress uniforms and have an opportunity to interact with other members of their company during a traditional dinner, with an exception of just a few rules.

"Thou shall not laugh at ridiculously funny comments unless the president first shows approval by laughing," is an example of one such rule.

A list of “thou shall nots” was handed out in the beginning of the mess, and everyone present had the opportunity to catch their fellow comrades violating rules of the mess. A violation is chargeable, not under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but by enforcement of the rules by the the company's commanding officer, who presides as president of the mess.
Retired Sergeant Major and Elk’s Lodge Trustee Stan Buckowski set up the event after speaking with 1st Sgt. Mark J. O’Loughlin, Weapons Company first sergeant, and discussing the occasion.

“This is a great chance for the entire company to come together and be a part of a traditional event,” O’Loughlin said. “The Marine Corps is steeped in tradition, and what a good way for the Marines to work together and get to know one another before going on a deployment.”

Captain James C. Haynie, president of the mess, was in charge of handing out the punishment for breach of mess rules, such as wearing a Service Alpha blouse belt that didn’t go through the final loop on the blouse.

“Tonight was a way for the Marines to take a break from nonstop training that they do on a day-to-day basis and get to know one another a little better,” Haynie said.

Members of the mess were unable to do anything until permission to address the mess was granted.

Marines stood up and loudly requested to speak with the president of the mess via the vice president of the mess. After they were granted approval, they would ask a question or make a comment.

“This is a great opportunity for everyone to relax and have fun before going on a deployment,” said 1st Lt. James M. Geiger, Combined Anti-Armor Team platoon commander, a 25-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C. “It’s nice to have a good meal with everyone in the company.”

The evening was filled with laughter and cheers as Weapons Company Marines took turns playing jokes on each other in a traditional way that has been passed down throughout the years by Marines who preceded. One member of the mess ordered a pizza for delivery to another member during the ceremony. Receiving a pizza violated mess rules, and he was charged by the president to consume the Grog and pay a fine.

“I was a boot in 1943, and it’s good to know that while some things do change, certain traditions don’t,” said Retired Col. Barkley B. Yarborough. “Today’s Corps is in really fine shape, and I’m thoroughly impressed with the spirit instilled in the men.”

The custom of the Mess Night is said to have started in 1953, when members of the 3rd Regiment Combat Team under the command of Col. Robert H. Williams met with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepard Jr. A dinner they shared with the British Royal Marines turned into a big competition over the course of the evening, paving the way for what we know now as “Mess Night.”

Business leaders, Marines swap secrets

About 300 successful entrepreneurs from across Southern California spent time this week at Camp Pendleton getting a glimpse of Marine Corps training while learning the plus sides of hiring troops who have just left the military.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/23/military/4_98_942_22_07.txt

By: SHANNON WINGARD - For the North County Times

For the first time, members of San Diego and Los Angeles chapters of a group called The Entrepreneur Organization teamed up with the Marines on Wednesday to learn how military leadership, confidence and team-building techniques could be translated to the civilian sector.

Later that night, the group was briefed on an organization called Hire a Hero, a not-for-profit organization that matches prospective employers with those formerly wearing active duty uniforms.


Shaun Alger, who organized the event for the entrepreneurs, said he believes that the two groups share a lot in common.

Since the Marine Corps relies on fewer resources and manpower than the other armed services to get the job done, he said he believes businessmen and women can learn a lot from the Corps.

"It's like entrepreneurship ---- you do the most with the least," said Alger, the CEO of the Carlsbad-based company CompleteComm, which recently merged with My Office in Miramar.

Those who attended learned about training techniques and philosophies used by the Marine Corps, and eventually took part in some of their basic training exercises.

The business men and women were divided into four different groups that witnessed a range of things, from live fire to martial arts to tactical vehicle exercises.

Some entrepreneurs, who were in a group focused on the recruits' training, did take home at least one lesson ---- don't mess with drill instructors.

As the group filed out of their buses, they were received in boot-camp style by numerous screaming Marines who had the 'recruits' lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and shouting "Aye, aye sir!" in unison within minutes.

Sgt. John Lopez, one of the drill instructors, said the experience "should give them an idea of what the kids go through."

"It's an eye-opener," Lopez added.

Lt. Col. Hal Sellers, who spoke with the group about recruit training, said many of the techniques are intended to show that "if you do not work together as a team, then you will fail."

Later, that same group got a chance to practice the advice they were given.

They were divided into groups of 10 that had to accomplish obstacle course-like tasks. Each task focused on working together to get the job done.

According to Burke Jones, president of Total Document Solutions in Claremont and owner of several UPS stores, the team-building exercises were invaluable.

"Running a company is all about motivating people and working toward the common goal," he said, adding that he plans to instill "those core values" into his own business practices.

Another goal of the event was to show business owners the benefits of deciding to use the Hire a Hero service.

Dan Caulfield, executive director of Hire a Hero, said he created the organization for two reasons: he is both an entrepreneur and a former Marine.

Caulfield, a Gulf War veteran who established the Carlsbad-based consulting business High Quality Group in 1999, said the company is working together with the Armed Forces Support Foundation to oversee the program.

Because the company originally created the Helmets to Hardhats program, which is now federally funded, he said the same model was used for the Hire a Hero program, which focuses on 22- to 24-year old service members who are getting out of the military.

Although the program was only established in January, Caulfield said it already has "tens of thousands" of employers who are listed on its web site, hireahero.com.

Caulfield said the organization focuses on younger people because of the disparity between young veterans' unemployment rate and that of their non-military peers.

"The promise is that America will appreciate their service," he said.

Caulfield said informing the public on what former military members can offer is the key to creating change.

"I am looking to educate people on what the military has to offer, and to make it as easy as possible to hire them," he said.

.

Marines sink toes into gift. A San Clemente company donates hundreds of pairs of sandals to thank the troops.

CAMP PENDLETON – More than 300 Marines with the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines at Camp Pendleton stuck their toes into new leather sandals on Wednesday, courtesy of Rainbow Sandals.

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/news/local/article_1587264.php

Thursday, February 22, 2007

By NELLENE TEUBNER
The Orange County Register

Employees from the San Clemente-based company placed the sandals, by size, on tables at the base, and the Marines stampeded to grab a pair.

"These guys don't get the recognition they deserve," said Ray Cherrier of Rainbow Sandals, who helped distribute the footwear. "Whether they're from the East or Midwest, they're now part of our community. What better way to give them something they can take (to Iraq) that reminds them of home?"

The popular footwear manufacturer, which cultivates an image of earthiness, opened in San Clemente in 1974 and will post more than $40 million in sales this year, Cherrier said.

Sgt. Maj. JB Edwards Jr. said the gesture makes the Marines feel appreciated.

"It tells the Marines that the community cares about what they do," he said. "They're doing a job where they could lose their lives, and they feel appreciated."

February 21, 2007

Local unit preparing for Iraq duty, Red Cross provides Marines with a send-off, offers of support.

Some of Palm Beach's finest are to be sent from the sun-kissed tropical beaches of South Florida to the sand-scoured landscape of Mesopotamia — a place that can only be described as "different."

http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/content/news/COLORGUARD0221.html

By ZOE McDANIEL
Special to the Daily News
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The 4th ANGLICO Marine Corps Reserve Unit, renowned for its role in performing the color guard ceremony for the annual Red Cross Ball and stationed in West Palm Beach, has been called upon to aid its peers locked in battle in Iraq.

Tuesday was a time to be with family and loved ones, and for the occasion the American Red Cross held a celebration in their honor. Whether it was a bounce house for their children or a reassuring and inspirational speaker for both the troops and their relatives, everyone had support.

The 4th ANGLICO is currently the longest-serving of all Marine reserve units in the Iraq war.

ANGLICO stands for Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. The units specialize in coordinating artillery, naval gunfire and close air support between Marine, Navy and Army units.

One member of the unit is Staff Sgt. Robert Locy, who serves in civilian life as a Palm Beach firefighter-paramedic and established the local color guard.

Of his comrades, Locy said, "these are my brothers, we are a big family. I could go to Alaska, be greeted by a Marine and embrace him as my brother."

On Tuesday, the American Red Cross wished members of the unit farewell and good luck, as well as pledging to support and connect their families across continents. The days of old — in which going to war meant going out of contact — is long over. The Red Cross will transport packages, deliver messages, and even record personal videos, acting as a telegraph wire to keep the soldiers and loved ones in touch.

Also in attendance were Bill and Nancy Rollnick, who chair the Palm Beach County Red Cross division.

"This is emotional for us to know these men who were escorting us (at the Red Cross Ball) were being deployed." Nancy Rollnick said. "It brought the reality of the Red Cross down onto us."

Naturally, a day set apart for families could not be complete without family itself. Smiling babies clad in matching fatigues and spouses with love and pride shining in their eyes all attended to learn and share with their personal heroes before saying farewell.

300 Camp Lejeune Marines come home from Iraq

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. | About 300 Marines returned to their North Carolina base Sunday from duty in Iraq's Anbar province and another 900 are expected to follow this week as the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment comes home.

http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070218/APN/702183267

The Associated Press

Marines were greeted with cheers, tears and welcome home signs as their buses arrived.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Bering met his 3-month-old daughter Allyson and saw his daughter, Katie, 1, again.

"It's great," Bering said. "I've seen pictures, but it does no justice to actually be able to hold them."

More Marines are to come back Tuesday and Wednesday after months of fighting insurgents with Iraqi forces.

"Our mission was to basically backstop and become a windbreak for the Iraqi army in the city of Fallujah," said Maj. Sean Riordan, the unit's executive officer. "It was a dangerous kind of a complex environment where you had urban, suburban and rural terrain."

Eight members of the battalion killed and 40 were seriously injured.

23-Year-Old Marine 'Picking His Battles' In Iowa House

State Representative Matt Windschitl, of Missouri Valley, says he's been 'doing things young' his whole life.

http://www.ktiv.com/News/index.php?ID=10335

In the last month, the Iowa legislature has made just as many headlines for the issues it's tackled-- a minimum wage hike, and stem cell research-- as it's members.

Eight are under 30. Five of those are new. And, the youngest member-- at just 23-years-old-- hails from western Iowa.

State Representative Matt Windschitl, of Missouri Valley, says he's been "doing things young" his whole life. He joined the Marine Corps when he was 17... was married at 19... and served 16-months in Iraq. But, he admits he wasn't sure he was ready to serve in the state legislature. "Of course I'm nervous," said Rep. Matt Windschitl, (R) Missouri Valley. "I'm the youngest member. I'm 23."

But, the freshman got some good advice from his fellow lawmakers. "Don't say anything stupid," said Windschitl. Wise words... but not the only ones he got on his first day in Des Moines. "They've all said the same thing, 'Just relax.' You're gonna get your feet wet. People will help you learn."

But, Windschitl was also warned not to forget about the folks, back home. "Once you get here, don't forget who sent you here... and why they sent you here," said Windschitl.

And, the road wasn't easy to travel. First, Windschitl had to beat the incumbent Republican in a primary... then take on a long-time local teacher in the November election.

But, after 14-years, his party isn't in the majority. So, this marine will have to "pick his battles" on the House floor. "The issues I campaigned on and that I want to focus on are abortion," said Windschitl. "I'm 100% pro-life." He's also in favor of an constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

But, Windschitl knows they probably won't be debated this session. "They might, and if they do, they'll have my focus," said Windschitl. And, as the state's youngest lawmaker, he'll have our focus.


Training, experienced leadership keys to success in Iraq

HABBANIYAH, Iraq(Feb. 19, 2007) -- War in a foreign place has once again given birth to innovative, confident and adaptable Marine leadership. Veterans of this conflict, like many previous campaigns throughout our seasoned history, have learned to make decisions in chaotic conditions. However, in this situation, adaptative techniques include executing both traditional combat and civil affairs missions simultaneously.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/9F84F02E2ED0AA5485257288001E3780?opendocument

Submitted by: Regimental Combat Team-6

Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, for whom this is their first deployment are taking on roles they never envisioned. They are finding themselves much more involved in civil affairs activities in addition to combat operations. They are required to simultaneously be peacekeepers, as well as warriors, in the living example of the “strategic corporal.” It can be an overwhelming task for the relatively inexperienced Marines.

“It was more of a kinetic fight last year for the junior Marines; I think it’s more challenging this time. You find yourself wearing multiple hats,” said Capt. Bradford R. Carr, 36, from Pensacola, Fl. “In the Marine Corps there is no such thing as a typical day. There are a tremendous amount of demands on the Marines, which is one of the things that makes the Marine Corps great.”

Fortunately, these untested Marines have battle-tested leadership at every level to guide them. The hectic deployment schedule has given birth to a generation of Marines tasting combat for the second, third, or even fourth time. The experience they gained is being passed down in training, but there is no training that can duplicate a deployment to a combat zone.

“Most of the guys don’t understand until they actually get here,” said Cpl. Joshua C. Davis, a 22-year-old Clifton, Tenn., native. “They ask a lot of questions and we try to explain, but a lot of it is just a flat-out gut feeling.”

Developing that feeling begins back in America, where new training that incorporates lessons learned in previous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My first deployment to Afghanistan we kind of went out there and played everything by ear,” said Davis, the squad leader for 1st squad, 2nd platoon, K Company, who is on his third deployment. “But the deployment rate to Iraq has been high (so) there’s a lot of experience to bring back that they have incorporated in the training we were going through (prior to coming here).”

That training was as intense and realistic as possible in order to accelerate the learning curve.

“It was better training,” Davis added. “But we kind of had some concerns coming over here that because training was so heavy it was almost like a deployment before the deployment. We were afraid that the Marines would be tired mentally before they got here, but that’s not the case.”

There is little difference now between the veterans and their fellow warriors as the Camp Lejeune-based Marines are conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.

“It’s been good watching them evolve as they become more confident and secure in their job,” said Carr, the commanding officer of K Company. “It just proves that the design works, that it is very efficient and works with no fluff.”

Not even the veteran Marines knew exactly what they would face on the ground once they arrived in country. The constantly changing wartime environment and a completely different area of operations left the Marines a little unsure despite all the training and preparation.

“Coming out here we weren’t sure whether we were going to be doing stability and support operations, or whether there was still a lot of shooting going on,” said Cpl. Peter R. Hazy, a 21-year-old Winston-Salem, N.C., native, who is on his third deployment. "We talked about it, but it didn’t really hit until we got here. I expected a lot more action in our platoon area, but once we figured this was a low-intensity area we knew we were going to be trying to help out the locals.”

“Low intensity” is a relative term. There are still regular mortar, small arms fire and IED attacks in the battalion’s area of responsibility. However, due to the efforts of previous units, the volume and intensity of the attacks have waned.

The combination of training and experienced leaders is paying off for the battalion according to Davis.

“We’re comfortable in what we’re doing,” he added. “We don’t feel like we’re getting pushed on unimportant missions. We feel pretty good about what’s going on and how we’re getting things done. The training was really good; they got better training than I’ve ever gotten before a deployment. It gave them more confidence to come over here and do their job.”

Lock and Load: 31st MEU Marines, Sailors withstand uneven footing during Enhanced Marksmanship training

ABOARD USS JUNEAU (Feb. 21, 2007) -- As anyone who’s ever seen a movie with hard-boiled cops or trench coat-clad heroes knows, accurate marksmanship is easy not only when standing still, but also while running sideways on a wall or speeding through Central Park in a commandeered taxicab.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/E8EEC0495D32820C8525728A0029E051?opendocument

Submitted by: 31st MEU

Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Eric Arndt

As the Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, who actually fired weapons at targets aboard a naval vessel can tell you, marksmanship in the movies is fictitious.

“The problem with trying to shoot while on the ship is that it’s not solid ground,” said Cpl. Thomas A. Loveless, a nautical navigator and one of 125 Marines and Sailors who participated in a live-fire shoot on the flight deck here, Feb. 21. “Right when you think you have your shot, the ship could rock and mess up your aim.”

The service members, belonging to Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, conducted the training with M16 A2 Service Rifles and M249 Squad Automatic Weapons as part of the Enhanced Marksmanship Program.

The training increases service members’ skill in close-quarters battle – engagement with enemies that are 25 yards away or closer – and is invaluable for teaching Marines and Sailors, said Capt. Mike Cable, the company commander.

“The training teaches quick reactions, and it’s easy to modify it for the ship’s flight deck,” Cable said.

Getting the hang of firing aboard a moving ship adds several degrees of difficulty to the task, but it is not impossible to compensate for, Loveless explained.

“You just use everything you’ve been taught in boot camp and the School of Infantry: put everything center mass. You wait until your sights are on and you fire,” the St. Louis native said. “The only thing you can do about the rocking (of the ship) is to anticipate it, and not fire right when it swells.”

Although it may not be as flashy as in Hollywood films, firing while adjusting to the Juneau’s constant motion became another tool the Marines and Sailors used to improve their marksmanship for an actual battlefield.

“You can never know what environment you’re going to be shooting in,” Cable said. “If the Marines can shoot well here, with the wind and the motion, they’ll be that much better when they’re on solid ground.”

State Department, Marines practice civilian evacuation

CAMP PENDLETON -- A trio of giant CH-53 helicopters landed in an enormous cloud of dust while Marines 100 yards away struggled to control a small, angry crowd, all as part of an exercise Wednesday to help prepare the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for its next overseas deployment in early April.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/22/military/1_01_492_21_07.txt

By: JOE BECK - Staff Writer

February 21, 2007

A group of five State Department officials joined 40 or so Marines near a helicopter landing site to serve as both participants and spectators in a drill intended to help the military learn how to pluck civilians endangered by violence to safer locations. The exercise required some of the Marines to play the part of sullen, excitable Iraqi civilians, some of them desperate to join a group of Americans escaping by helicopter from an unspecified threat in a nearby Iraqi city.

A similar scene played out on a much larger scale in real life last summer when American forces were called upon to help thousands of civilians leave Lebanon after fighting broke out between the Israeli military and thousands of heavily armed Hezbollah terrorists. American forces in recent years have also been summoned to help in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in Pakistan and tsunami in Southeast Asia.


State Department officials met with Navy and Marine officers aboard a ship off the coast earlier this week. Although no one is talking about where the Marines will be sent in April, Wednesday's training and the meeting on board the ship both involved Iraq.

"We had a good lengthy discussion about the political situation and how it was developing," said David Foley, a press spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Foley, who was at the base for the exercise, said the State Department tries to send representatives to Marine expeditionary units on the East and West coasts before they deploy.

Marines and State Department officials need to practice working together on a variety of factors that can determine the success or failure of an evacuation mission, he said. For example, the mock evacuation demonstrated to the Marines how the State Department makes evaluations on the spot about who is eligible to be transported to safety, who is left behind and the potentially volatile aftermath of such life and death decisions.

"In the real world, there's close cooperation, and we try to duplicate that in these operations as much as possible," said Ken Durkin, a counselor officer with the State Department.

A group of Marines-turned-Iraqis crowded around an open air table where Durkin sat helping those eligible for evacuation fill out forms. Durkin told the simulated Iraqis, dressed in jeans, sneakers, T-shirts and sweat shirts, that the evacuation was only for Americans and some foreign relief workers. "Not today, maybe in the future. If you want to apply for a visa, you can apply at the U.S. embassy during working hours," he told them.

The Iraqis turned hostile after leaving the table and gathered in a group a few yards away. Several of them spread the word in broken English to others who were waiting for them. "No good, no take us," one of them snarled.

Another member of the crowd approached Sgt. Jennifer Tosh, a real-life Marine playing herself. Another Marine, playing the part of an Iraqi translator, told Tosh what the man wants.

"He was wondering if you can stay here until his wife comes," the translator said.

"We're not leaving anytime soon," Tosh replied.

The Marine playing the part of the translator was also trying to be evacuated and join family members in Chicago, a role he created for himself based upon his own family's real life story.

Lance Cpl. Matt Medhat of Chicago said his own father was sent to live in Chicago years ago by his father, who remained behind with the rest of the family in Iran.

.

Future Marines meet at Post 83

Marine Corps drill instructors answered questions in a normal speaking voice, instead of barking orders Tuesday night.

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/articles/2007/02/21/front/181340.txt

By MOLLY LINN

Wednesday February 21 2007

For Sgt. Marina Lopez and Sgt. Chris Williams, their audience was vastly different than the recruits they're accustomed to, but equally attentive -- parents of future Marines.

The two drill instructors, along with recruitment officers, answered parents' questions during a family night at American Legion Post 83 sponsored by Recruiting Station Detroit and attended by future Marines and their family members from all over Northwestern Ohio.

The event brought recruiters, future marines and their families and two drill instructors from Parris Island, S.C., to the dinner table to discuss their sons and daughters entry into the Marine Corps family.

Major Ralph J. Rizzo Jr., of Recruiting Station Detroit, addressed parents, girlfriends, boyfriends and family members at the hall, explaining the evening was all about laying to rest some of the myths associated with the island.

"There are so many preconceived notions," he said. "This event is designed to put fears and concerns of future Marines family's to rest."

It is also one of the first opportunities proud parents have to take part in their son or daughter's transformation into being a Marine, explained Sgt. Major Scott A. Van De Ven, also of Recruiting Station Detroit.

"This is an opportunity for a future Marines' families to get together," he said. "Sometimes parents feel alone and don't know other parents out there that share the experience of having a child becoming a Marine in common."

"We open our family up (the Marine Corps family) to the recruits' family. Once you are a Marine, your family is touched by the lifestyle of the Corps," Rizzo said.

The evening was all about questions. Difficult, detailed and specific questions were asked of the drill instructors and Van De Ven by very demanding parents.

Zizzo said the difficult questions parents often ask about the severity and extremes of training are answered in an honest, upfront manor.

And the those questions certainly weren't easy for the drill instructors Tuesday night. "Will you get in my son's face? Just how bad is this going to get?" one parent asked.

She was addressed in customary Marine Corps fashion, "Ma'am a drill instructor will close ground on a recruit who is standing out," Van De Ven said.

Lopez explained a recruit's time on Parris Island is "controlled chaos."

"Recruits will be stressed and put in positions of uncertainty," she said.

One of the most stressful trials of a recruit's training experience is known as the Crucible, a 54-hour training exercise putting all knowledge gained in the previous weeks of training to the test.

During the Crucible, recruits must ration 21/2 meals ready to eat during the duration of the exercise. Little sleep takes place during the event.

The experience isn't easy, Rizzo said. "The reward at the end far outweighs the road you took to get there," he said, explaining the difficulty of boot camp.

Parents had the opportunity to ask questions about what can be mailed to recruits, how recruits purchase items needed while at Parris Island, graduation details and when to expect phone calls from recruits during their training.

Everything from the day recruits place their feet on the yellow footprints on the Island to when they are free to return home following graduation was covered.

The three phases of recruit training were explained day-by-day to allow parents to understand what their child would be experiencing during training -- right down to the sound of the phone ringing when their son or daughter calls from Parris Island to say they have arrived.

When a Marine's answer didn't satisfy a concerned parent, a Marine Corps mother seeing her third son off to Parris Island this summer stepped up and took the concerned mom under her wing.

"We start Marine Corps, we finish Marine Corps," Laura Vazquez, the mother of future Marine Dean Matter, told the nervous mom. Vazquez shared her experience and contact information with the mom to insure future questions were answered.

For future Marine Jackie Spicer, 18, of Norwalk, the event was an opportunity for her parents to learn more about her experience first-hand and have questions they can't ask their daughter answered. Spicer will leave for Parris Island in early September.

Future Marines Adam Fitzpatrick, 17, and Chris Howard, 17, of Sandusky leave this summer for boot camp and both their families were in attendance.

Howard's parents asked about whether or not they should send postage stamps with their son who's joining the Marine Corps to get ahead in life and have the experience in the future when he pursues a career in law enforcement.

Answers to questions as simple as those can put a parents minds at ease, Van De Ven said.

February 20, 2007

Military saves week

With tax season readily approaching, service members around the globe are beginning to look at their spending in a closer light and asking themselves questions involving their money and what they should do with it.

http://www.pendleton.usmc.mil/scout/articles/feb%2022/military.asp

Lance Cpl. Tyler Barstow

Luckily, Military Saves Week is just around the corner, spreading awareness to service members to help answer their questions and save them money and build their financial wealth.

The global program will commence for the first time Sunday and lasts until March 4, helping service members and their families build their personal wealth and save money for the future.

“The program is part of a national movement to change the culture of our nation from a culture of debt to one of savings and good spending habits,” said Sarah Shirley, the Director of the Military Saves campaign.

In order to do this, Shirley, from Evanston, Ill., encourages service members to take financial action.

“The first step is for people to identify a financial goal they would like to reach,” said Nancy Register, the Associate Director of America Saves. “Once you know what you are shooting for, establish a time frame of when you would like to save that amount.”

Rather than just saving money here and there, Register says that actually having a specific goal will help you more.

“You’ll be more likely to commit yourself to achieving the goal once you have created your financial plan, and people who write out their goals save twice as much,” she said.

In order to start saving money and cutting back on unnecessary expenses, Register suggests taking a look at your daily activities.

“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “Look at how you actually spend your money on a weekly or daily basis.”

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” Shirley said. “Look through your personal habits and find the things that can be cut back on.”

These things include eating out or buying drinks during the day. Both of which can be cancelled by preparing your own lunch.

The use of phones or cable television could be limited as well to help save money. Other things can also be found in daily habits that can be cut back.

“When you break it down, at the time it may not seem like much but saving $10 dollars a week, turns into $40 a month which is almost $500 a year, just because you didn’t go out to eat every day,” said Register.

Another easy way to put aside money is to make it automatic, said the 59-year-old from Williamsburg, Va.

“Every paycheck or every month, set aside a certain amount of money to go into savings,” Register said.

Shirley agrees with the plan of setting up an allotment for savings as well as the thrift savings plan.

“When you have a set amount going towards either your savings or your T.S.P, you won’t even notice it because it becomes a habit,” Shirley said.

Service members especially can work out a savings plan easily due to their pay they earn during deployments.

“Any service member should be prepared to make money going into a combat situation,” Shirley said.

Due to the increase of money for combat pay, Register recommends that service members plan ahead and find a way to save some of their money if they know they will be taking in extra funds.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice,” encourages Register. “Take advantage of the resources around you with your bank or credit union. The people at those places want to help you.”

As a service member, there are also extra perks that can be used to save money such as shopping on base and using military discounts.

“Take advantage of military discounts,” Shirley said. “Then, make a habit of taking the percentage you save and put it into a savings account.”

As Military Saves Week approaches, become involved with the program and help increase your personal wealth and help make our nation one of savings, not debt.

PBS Documentary ‘The Marines’ Captures Corps’ Values

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2007 – “The Marines,” a PBS documentary highlighting the history and heart of the smallest branch of the U.S. armed services, airs tomorrow on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Filmmakers given access to Marine Corps training facilities in Parris Island, S.C.; Quantico, Va.; and Twentynine Palms, Calif., aimed to capture how a warrior culture and ethos is instilled at the Marine Corps the moment a recruit arrives at boot camp.

http://www.defenselink.mil/News/NewsArticle.aspx?id=3113

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

“How the warrior culture is engrained and how it sets the Marines apart from other armed services branches are critical aspects of Marine development and understanding,” John Grant, producer of the WNED documentary, said.

At Twentynine Palms, the country’s largest Marine base, filmmakers got a close-up look at a battalion training in mock Iraqi villages as it prepared for deployment. For roughly one-third of the Marines in the featured battalion, it would be their first combat deployment.

“We interviewed a Marine sergeant who had been to Iraq twice,” Grant said. “It was interesting that the people who had been to Iraq were most concerned about sharing their knowledge with people who were going over there for the first time to give them a better chance of surviving the experience.”

Other segments of the program focus on the Wounded Warrior Barracks in Camp Lejeune, N.C.; the new Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.; and women’s role in the Marines.

During interviews, more than 30 present and former Marines of all ranks, plus authors and military correspondents describe the rich history, tradition and continuing importance of the Marine Corps.

Retired Marine Col. Thomas Shreeve, who is not featured in the film, said the Corps offered him a unique challenge.

“I learned the value of self-discipline, and I learned that I was capable of a great deal more than I thought I had been, in terms of meeting and overcoming physical adversity,” he said. “I wanted from the Marine Corps a challenge that was outside (academic institutions), and I got it.”

Part of the education he learned in the Corps is the “warrior ethos,” Shreeve said. “It refers to the ethics that pervades an elite structure like the Marine Corps,” he said. “It is self-discipline and self-sacrifice while working together to overcome an objective under extremely stressful and adverse circumstances.”

For people who aren’t familiar with the Marines, the program provides real insights into the Corps, Grant said.

“I think (“The Marines”) is important because it exposes young people to the idea that there is a body of men and women who embrace values to which one can aspire,” Shreeve said.

One Marine who embodied such values in Iraq is Cpl. Jason L. Dunham. Dunham was killed in action when he used his helmet to cover a grenade, then covered it with his body to shield his fellow Marines.

The 22-year-old Marine was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action, and the PBS documentary has been dedicated to his memory.

“The documentary offers an in-depth look at the rigorous physical and psychological training that create this tenaciously loyal, highly skilled breed of combatant ready to defend country and comrade at any cost,” Grant said. “It focuses both on how one becomes a Marine and also what it means to be a Marine.”





U.S. Marines, Sailors Clean Up Local School. Servicemembers give students a better place to learn.

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti, Feb. 20, 2007 — Focused on making a difference for the 1,000 school children at Ecole du Stade Primary school near the Balballa area, U.S. Marine Capt. Christopher Roberson, in cooperation with Combat Logistics Battalion 26 and Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, worked intensely over two days to transform this local school into a positive environment for students.

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/feb2007/a022007sj1.html

By Angela Scherbenske
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

The group of approximately 100 Marines worked on painting the outside of the school and built a wooden fence around the schoolyard. They also cleaned up trash and a large area of dirty water and contaminants which was in the schoolyard, according to Roberson.

“One of our (26th Marine Expeditionary Unit) missions is to work with the local communities by doing outreach programs with them; the trip to this school (Ecole du Stade) was just one of many projects I have been a part of, but I was still affected by the work my fellow Marines, as well as the sailors who assisted us, were able to accomplish there,” he added.

This project also included the assistance of a group of specialty professionals, such as tree trimmers and engineers, who returned to the school Feb. 13 and 14.

“I felt like we were a part of creating a more permanent solution for the individuals that we were able to assist during our time here at Camp Lemonier. The children made us feel like we were the star football players running onto the field,” said Roberson.

The final touches were created as the captain and his fellow Marines and sailors painted the Djibouti flag on the playground tires. A soccer game followed the hard work and school cleanup.

After the completion of the cleanup project, the local Parent Teacher’s Association held a small ceremony honoring the men and women for their humanitarian efforts at the Ecole du Stade school. The Marines and sailors were also presented with a thank-you letter.

The mission of CJTF-HOA is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect Coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism. The CJTF-HOA organization began operations at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, May 13, 2003. It works with partner nations on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects.


Marines in Iraq's Al Anbar cope with daily grind. They find their duty is less combat, more civil service.

QAIM, IRAQ — In farming communities along the Syrian border, U.S. Marines work with Iraqis to open health clinics and a job center and to improve trash collection and water delivery.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-anbar20feb20,0,3670297.story?coll=la-home-headlines

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

February 20, 2007

In Fallouja, Marines at a center for displaced people greet Sunni Muslims from Baghdad seeking sanctuary from Shiite Muslim death squads.

And along the sniper alley of a freeway that runs between Fallouja and Ramadi, Marines patrol less like warriors than traffic cops.

Rather than charge into battle, most Marines in Iraq's western desert are engaged in nation building on a piecemeal basis, the kind of venture President Bush once publicly disdained. Trained to win quick, decisive victories with firepower and bravery, Marines in Al Anbar province instead face a daily grind. Most never fire their weapons.

The Marine Corps has even changed the rules for its coveted Combat Action Ribbon, allowing troops to win the award even when no shots are fired.

A sign outside the chow hall at the base in this town near the Syrian border sums up the slow, incremental nature of the campaign: "Rebuilding Iraq one meal at a time."

Bush said during his State of the Union address that "this is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in." To the 20,000-plus troops in Al Anbar, soon to be reinforced under the administration's troop-increase plan, that wasn't news.

"I wasn't taught any of these things in infantry school," said Lt. Col. Scott Shuster, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, with responsibility for Qaim.

Al Anbar, the vast province that sprawls from the Euphrates River valley west to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, remains deadly. About one-third of U.S. casualties since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have occurred here, and the danger of roadside bombs in particular is ever present. At nearly every base, a list of Marines killed in action is posted on a wall.

"Inside the wire, [duty in Iraq] is better; outside the wire, it's not," said Lance Cpl. Stephen Herring, 20, of Pontiac, Mich., referring to the security of the base.

What has changed is not the violence, but the U.S. expectations. Just over two years ago, after the second battle of Fallouja, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, then commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, boasted that U.S. forces had "broken the back of the insurgency." Now the watchword is that all gains are small and that prevailing here could take years.

"I think we're making progress," said Capt. Glen Taylor, executive officer of Golf Company of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, with troops in a run-down hotel in the farm town of Saqlawiya. "I don't know it will ever be enough, but I think the progress is real."

Fighting an insurgency is frustrating. "You cut off the head and the body doesn't necessarily die," Taylor said.

For one group of Marines, Al Anbar is a target-rich environment: The civil affairs groups, often reservists, describe their mission with the military acronym SWEAT, which refers to rebuilding the sewage, water, electricity, academic and trashremoval infrastructure ravaged by decades of neglect and three years of insurgent attacks.

"The challenges are the same as back home, just 100 times more difficult," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Garcia, a city planner in San Antonio.

Elsewhere in the province, Americans find themselves taking on duties they had not expected. In Ramadi, an Army lieutenant colonel trained as an artillery officer spends his days trying to make sure Iraqi police get paid, lest they desert and join the insurgents. In Haditha, Marines patrol on foot, greeting Iraqis at a market, trying to win hearts and minds one at a time.

In numerous communities, including Saqlawiya, Marines listen to the complaints of Iraqis about war-damaged homes and businesses, making payments in cases where the damage was caused by Marines. Every payment comes with a gentle lecture: It's time you choose between the insurgents and us.

There is an ad hoc quality to much of the Marines' strategy. "We're just trying to explore all avenues," Lt. Col. Blair Estep said.

There have been setbacks almost everywhere, sometimes caused by trusting the wrong people: Iraqi contractors who turn out to be insurgents; sheiks pretending to have more authority than they do; scam artists trying to get payments, such as a woman in Ramadi who showed the Marines her husband's death certificate, which was dated the following day.

Marine leaders plead for patience among their troops and the American public. A counterinsurgency operation such as the one in Al Anbar is slow, and gauging its progress is like trying to measure a child's growth on a daily basis, Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer said.

N.C. workers keep copters flying for Marines. Havelock heroes modernize aging aircraft, resurrect derelicts from 'boneyard'

With two wars chewing up the Marine Corps' fleet of big helicopters, about the only thing keeping it aloft is the ingenuity of the workers at a huge maintenance shop in Havelock.

http://www.newsobserver.com/110/story/545127.html

Published: Feb 20, 2007 12:30 AM

Jay Price, Staff Writer

The 4,000 workers at the Fleet Readiness Center East at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point are adding years to the lives of some helicopters and refurbishing others dragged out of an aviation "boneyard" in the desert. Many are so clever at devising ways to fix aircraft out of production for decades that their bosses refer to them as artisans.

Troops who face better odds flying over Iraq than braving roadside bombs have another word: heroes, according to John Milliman, a helicopter acquisition program spokesman at Patuxent River Marine Air Station in Maryland.

"What the folks there are doing for the Marine Corps is just phenomenal, and you can't overstate it," Milliman said.

Helicopters are vital in both wars. In Afghanistan, roads are all but nonexistent in the rugged countryside. In Iraq, meanwhile, the sky is safer than the roads.

Still, more than 100 U.S. helicopters have been shot down or lost in accidents in the two wars, a U.S. general said last week. A CH-47 Chinook went down in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing eight people, including an airman from Pope Air Force Base, and injuring 14, and a Marine CH-46 Sea Knight downed in Anbar Province on Feb. 7 was the sixth U.S. helicopter to crash in Iraq in less than three weeks.

Military officials in Iraq say that aircraft, like at least four others, had been shot down and admitted that insurgents had gotten better at knocking out U.S. choppers. Captured documents show that insurgents have decided to concentrate on attacking helicopters, according to a New York Times article Sunday.

The Fleet Readiness Center in Havelock -- long known as the Naval Air Depot -- is the only source for replacements for at least one model, the giant CH-53E Super Stallion.

Resuscitating Stallions

Workers there have already rebuilt two that spent more than a decade in a desert "boneyard" in Arizona. They are working on three more, and the next two are being readied for shipment to Havelock, said Lt. Col. A.P. Camele, director of operations at the center.

The Super Stallion is often described as the Corps' workhorse and is that service's only "heavy lift" helicopter. It moves large amounts of cargo and troops long distances and performs rescue missions.

Milliman said workers in Havelock came up with a cost-effective way to replace a crucial bulkhead that had limited the helicopter's life to 6,000 hours of operation. It can now fly about 10,000 hours. No new CH-53Es have been made since 1999.

Its replacement isn't expected to go into service until 2015. All 156 of the new model, the CH-53K, wouldn't be in service until 2020.

The heavy lifting in Afghanistan and Iraq would have meant that the Marines would be parking helicopters for good by 2010, five years before the replacements start coming into service.

The bulkhead fix and refurbishing eight junked helicopters should close the gap, Milliman said.

Also, he said, workers at the center devised several fixes to extend the life of an even older helicopter, the medium lift CH-46, which dates to the 1960s and is the oldest helicopter used by the U.S. military. The CH-46 and a less-powerful model of the H-53D are the Marines' medium-lift helicopters, mostly used to move people.

Terry Vanden-Heuvel, a spokeswomen for the boneyard -- actually called the the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center -- said she was told Thursday that the plan for the medium-lift fleet also would include sending the only two rebuildable CH-53D models to Havelock, too.

The first three helicopters from the Arizona boneyard were brought to Havelock in 2005. It was the first time that such a job had been tried, and the workers had to feel their way as they went. Still, two of those helicopters were handed over to the Marines early.

It was unclear then, though, that the Marines would want every one of them. Only in the past few days was the boneyard told that the last ones would be probably needed, said spokesman Rob Raine.

Refurbishing them isn't simple. This is the first time that retired choppers like these have been returned to service. It's not just that they've been outside for years, but also that the Super Stallion has evolved substantially.

After the helicopters are cleaned and stripped, more than 80 major changes have to be made, including engine and navigation equipment upgrades and the addition of systems to protect the choppers from enemy missiles.

"It's almost like trying to turn a 1989 Chevrolet Corvette into a 2005 Corvette," said Camele.

Without the talents of workers who have grown accustomed to making sophisticated parts from scratch for helicopters long out of production, it would be impossible, he said.

"Often they'll make recommendations to the engineers about how to tackle a problem," he said. "It happens all the time. Once or twice a month, someone comes to me and says 'You've just got to come and see what this guy has come up with.'"



Parris Island Marine In the Spotlight

A Parris Island marine is in the spotlight not only for what he does at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, but for the way he served our country on the soccer field.

http://www.wtoctv.com/Global/story.asp?S=6115881&nav;=menu89_2

02/20/07

Corporal Jeshua Laurin is back on the rifle range, teaching young recruits marksmanship on Parris Island, but not long ago he was serving his country on the soccer fields in Brazil as part of the Armed Forces team.

"Back in October, I played with the base team," said Cpl Jeshua Laurin. "We went to North Carolina to play in a tournament. From there the Marine Corps coach sat there and picked a few players to go to San Diego and try out for the Marine Corps soccer team and I made it."

He was the only marine selected for the Armed Forces team.

"It was a great opportunity," said Cpl Laurin. "It opened my eyes to what I guess I can do because I worked hard to do it."

While the soccer team didn't make it as far-as Cpl Laurin had hoped, he's still proud of what they accomplished and proud to be back on the rifle range.

"It feels great," said Cpl Laurin. "It's a lot more job satisfaction than most people would think, having recruits coming to you on Monday, where they're totally lost on everything."

Then they leave, having mastered marksmanship.

While his job here on the rifle range is much different than on the soccer team, he says he enjoys serving our country in both ways.

Because serving in the Corps, is something Cpl Laurin is passionate about.

"I love the challenge to do it.... my older brother is a marine, my younger brother is in boot camp right now," said Cpl Laurin.

For his dedication to our nation, we at WTOC salute, Cpl Jeshua Laurin.





February 19, 2007

Marines Search 'Smugglers Town'

While the rest of the battalion is miles away, Marines from Company C are working a "smugglers town" in western Iraq.

http://newsblaze.com/story/20070216171641tsop.nb/newsblaze/IRAQ0001/Iraq.html

As a whole, Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion are stretched throughout the Al Anbar Province.

Some conduct security operations in cities like Rawah and Anah, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, while Company C assists the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Rutbah, a city of some 30,000 about 50 miles east of the Jordanian border.

While most of the area consists of flat desert with sporadic small towns, Rutbah exists in what might seem an unlikely, uninhabitable place.

However, the city lies on a trade route hundreds of years old, and almost a necessary stop for legitimate traders as well as smugglers bringing weapons or insurgents deeper into the heart of Iraq, Marines here say.

"Around this area, Rutbah is the center of everything," said Sgt. Ryan Daugherty, a 24-year-old platoon sergeant who has been to this part of Iraq once before and is currently on his third deployment.

While the different types of units the 15th MEU brings helps them effectively conduct operations inside the city, Marines here say, it's 2nd LAR that essentially controls who and what goes in and out of Rutbah.

A year ago Marines built a sand berm around the city. Since then, they've been guarding the only entrances in and out of Rutbah, searching vehicles and checking names of known insurgents.

"The first three months we worked the (traffic control point): searching vehicles, screening people and watching the berm around the city to make sure no one was trying to get past us," said Daugherty, a Cotati, Calif., native.

"When we first got there, it wasn't bad, it was quiet," said Cpl. James Dillon, a 22-year-old infantryman from Milton, W. Va. "After that it picked up."

Daily pop-shots at the Marine TCP from the city were considered normal after a while, and on at least three occasions Marines fought off multiple insurgents.

"We would be attacked by squad-sized elements that we had to defend our position against," Daugherty said. "I definitely didn't run into that situation before."

Many of the Marines in LAR are on their second deployment and operated in this area last year. The knowledge of the area and people they've gained from their previous experience has proved to be useful, Marines here say.

Many people don't seem to want to get involved with either side, Daugherty said. They're not "pro-insurgency," but they're making sure they don't seem eager to befriend Marines, in fear of terrorists taking repercussions on their families, he added.

Marines from Company C are making progress removing that fear. By keeping the area surrounding the city free of improvised explosive devices, they allow the safe passage of both Iraqi civilians and U.S. forces.

Their checkpoints disrupt the smuggling, and effectively deny the enemy use of the city,.

"Day-to-day and little-by-little, we're taking away the enemy's ability to operate so the people will feel safer," Daugherty added.

"We want the people to trust us, because we're doing the right thing," he said.
Source: Multi-National Force-Iraq

Isle Marine gets unexpected lift

A sniper's bullet shattered Lance Cpl. Steven Eastburn's arm in Iraq, but a fellow Marine — the nation's highest-ranking uniformed officer — made sure the 20-year-old returned to Hawai'i in style and comfort.

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070219/NEWS08/702190344/1018/NEWS

Posted on: Monday, February 19, 2007

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Gen. Peter Pace, the four-star chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Eastburn and other service members on Feb. 8 at Travis Air Force Base in California.

When Pace, who was heading for Hawai'i, learned that Eastburn was going to be returning to Kane'ohe Bay, he offered him a lift on his C-40B executive jet.

"He found out I was stationed in Hawai'i and he said, 'Well, that's where I'm heading. If you want a ride, you can come with me,' and I was like, 'Yes sir,' " Eastburn said.

The Lakeland, Fla., man made the 5 1/2-hour flight with Pace, the general's wife, Lynne, a security team and other officials. Pace went on to visit Australia and Indonesia.

It was a far cry from how Eastburn expected to get back to Hawai'i for treatment at Tripler Army Medical Center, and not a usual offer made by such a high-ranking officer.

"It was kinda weird," Eastburn admits. "He had security and everything. Here I was expecting a ride on a C-130 or whatever, and then a general comes in and tells me, 'You want to catch a ride with me?' "

Eastburn had been in Haq-laniyah in western Iraq since September. About 1,000 Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines from Kane'ohe Bay are in a region called the Triad that includes Haqlaniyah, Haditha and Barwana along the Euphrates River.

"It was pretty hostile," Eastburn said.

Hawai'i Marines regularly come under fire. Twenty-two men with the 2nd Battalion have been killed on the seven-month deployment since fall.

Eastburn was on a foot patrol on Jan. 31 and part of a security team keeping watch while another team checked out a house. A shot rang out. He was shot through the bone just above the elbow.

"When I fell to the ground, I was looking at it, and the first half to the elbow was facing one way, and the elbow up was like crooked to the side another way, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh,' " Eastburn said.

A second shot landed behind him somewhere. Snipers and roadside bombs have been increasing in lethality.

"From how good they've been shooting people, me getting shot in the arm, that was pretty lucky," the Marine said.

Eastburn had been with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines since April 2006 and was on his first combat deployment. He's not sure what type of arm use he'll regain. A plate and screws hold his bone together.

At Travis and Tripler, Eastburn received a new treatment called a peripheral nerve block, which sends anesthetic to the nerve, numbing his arm and keeping down the pain.

"That thing helps quite a bit," Eastburn said by phone from Tripler.

On the plane ride from Travis, Pace asked Eastburn what had happened to him in Iraq.

"General Pace, he was a nice guy," Eastburn said. "I liked him. Him and his wife were both very kind to me. They talked to me, and asked how it was going, how I was being treated."

At the distinguished visitor area at Hickam Air Force Base, Pace had Eastburn lead the contingent off the plane. The Marine's parents were there to greet him.

Dozens of Marine reservists headed to Iraq


It's been a difficult day for a number of military families in the valley. About 40 local Marines said their good-byes before heading out to Iraq. The Marines are with a reserve unit, the 6th Motor Transport Battalion.

http://www.kvbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=6110252&nav;=15MV

Feb 19, 2007 08:08 PM EST

They'll be general support for the infantry troops, delivering ammunition and food. This is the first deployment for most of the men.

Lance Corporal Wes Johnson is leaving behind his 8-day old baby girl. It's a day he and his wife knew was coming. "Time of war, being a Marine. If you think you're not going you're not that smart."

The Marines will be gone roughly seven months

And now, the rest of the story

Julie Beagle knows what it's like to worry about her husband, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mike Beagle, who is currently on his third tour in Iraq.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID;=48387&Section;=News

February 11,2007

CHRISSY VICK
Daily News Staff

She knows what it's like to give birth to a child without him by her side - she's done it once and is getting ready to do it again. And she knows what it's like to celebrate her birthday without the man she loves most. She turned 26 on Thursday.

But Julie Beagle had a chance, along with other wives of Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, to share her story in "War Stories Iraq: The Homefront to the Frontlines." The Oliver North Fox News program, which airs tonight at 10 p.m., will feature the Marines of 1/6 and their families.

North and his team were embedded with the battalion in Ramadi, Iraq, in the Al Anbar province. The battalion deployed in September for a seven-month stay that was later extended 60 to 90 days when President Bush announced in January that more troops would be going to Iraq.

To show how the families of the Marines were affected by the deployment, North and his team traveled to Camp Lejeune to interview the wives. North even held a luncheon for all of the wives of 1/6 last month.

"I felt really honored to be a part of it," Beagle said. "Throughout the whole taping I just kept reminding myself that I'm representing so many other people that are going through the same things, the same challenges."

A camera crew followed Beagle for two days in December, documenting her family, their hopes and struggles.

"They had me do crazy things like carrying my groceries out of the house like five times," Beagle said with a laugh. "But at some point you kind of forget the cameras are even taping."

North and his crew asked Beagle how she met her husband, the difficulty of hearing the news when it's not good and how she stays connected.

When North asked her what qualities it took to be a Marine wife, Beagle simply said "faithfulness."

"Not the whole clich Semper Fidelis, but having lots of prayers, hope," said Beagle, originally from Virginia. "You spend a lot of time having faith."

Sue Jurney, wife of battalion commander Lt. Col. William Jurney, said the program is important because it shows the sacrifice of the wives. Previous tapings of "War Stories" have focused on the bravery of the Marines and sailors in combat zone, she said.

"The American people don't often hear about the wives serving on the homefront," Jurney said. "They don't realize the sacrifice that the wives experience when their husband is deployed in harm's way. This special was able to capture some of what we as military spouses go through on a normal day."

The show was refreshing in the face of media that is often "negative and discouraging," she said.

"With the recent announcement that this deployment would be extended, it was nice timing for all of us to feel that our sacrifice here at home is not only acknowledged but appreciated," Jurney said. "The wives in 1/6 are simply amazing women and are a great example of the strength that is found in all Marine wives."

Many wives will show that strength again as the battalion is scheduled to deploy "approximately seven to nine months after they return from Iraq, assuming operational requirements remain constant," according to a January press release.

Rachael Allen, also a 1/6 wife featured in "War Stories," said it's important for people to see the hardships of active-duty service members and their families.

"I think currently the focus seems to be on the politics of why we're in Iraq or why we're not," said Allen, wife of Gunnery Sgt. Ken Allen, currently on his first tour to Iraq. "I think the story is getting lost about the sacrifices that the active-duty military are making and the families back here."

She hopes "War Stories" will bring that to life.

"People get busy in their day-to-day lives if they're not personally affected by it," said Allen, who has two daughters, 11 and 9. "I think they forget the sacrifices that are being made to protect their right to freedom."

Jennifer White, wife of Capt. Jody White, company commander of 1/6's Charlie Company, feels the same way. She has five children ranging from age 1 to 14, and her husband has seen seven deployments in his 10-year career - two of those to Iraq.

She said she sees the importance of Sunday's show as a reminder to those without a military connection.

"I know it's very frustrating for our military personnel over there who are sacrificing and the American public isn't being told of the progress that is made in Iraq," White said. "It's important just so the American people know what our lives are like as military families, how we live day to day with an absent spouse. It was real."

February 18, 2007

'This isn't a video game, this is the real thing'; Before recruits can call themselves Marines, they must pass a grueling 54-hour endurance test

Two soldiers appear out of the dense pine-brush undergrowth, their faces covered in war paint, their uniforms caked with mud.

http://southofboston.net/entreports/usmc/crucible.html
Please click on the above link for photos.

By Alice C. Elwell
ENTERPRISE CORRESPONDENT

Their movements are silent, covert, potentially deadly. Leaves barely rustle in the stifling heat.

These recruits have come to Parris Island, S.C., to become Marines, to learn how to kill — and their training is reaching its climax.

Two of them are Kyle Taylor, 18, and Brandon Doherty, 19, buddies since fourth grade growing up in Abington. They joined the Marines in August.

Now, it's October and they are in the midst of the Crucible, a 54-hour endurance test in which new Marine recruits survive on just three meals and four hours of sleep. The few hours of sleep they get are beneath the stars or in the "thunder dome," a structure to protect recruits from lightning storms, at a closed WWII-era airport.

With M16A2 rifles slung over their shoulders, these warriors-in-training enter a simulated war zone. Machine guns are firing, grenades are exploding and battle cries can be heard in the distance. Barbed wire is everywhere, and as Doherty runs amid the steady rat-tat-tat of machine guns, one thought keeps coming back to him: "This isn't a video game, this is the real thing."

Taylor and Doherty are no longer the same teens who left Abington to join the Marines. Both have lost weight, studied terrorism and learned to use bayonets and follow orders.

They learned those things at Parris Island, on the South Carolina coast, one of two Marine boot camps in the country. Every male recruit east of the Mississippi and all female recruits train on Parris Island.

The recruits spend three months in boot camp. They learn how to drill and practice marksmanship, engage in combat and live the Marine Corps' customs, courtesies and core values.

The culmination of their 13 weeks at boot camp, the Crucible is the ultimate test of the recruits' endurance and fortitude. They don't run it alone, but as a team, helping each through the barricades, solving problems and encouraging each other to survive.

"The whole time you're thinking, 'I won't make it,'" said Louis Bonitto III, 19, of Brockton. "When you do, it's a sense of accomplishment, it gives you confidence."

On a steamy day last October, some recruits doing their Crucible were on silent patrol, communicating with hand signals. Using their rifles, they lifted razor wire and crawled under, then scaled walls.

Dampness thickened the air as they ran by, sand flies swarmed and fire ants bit as the oppressive humidity bore down on them. The sweltering temperature is even more intense inside their Marine uniforms, made of a special fabric that holds in the heat to make them harder to detect by thermal imaging.

Crawling through sand, mud and rocks, they huddle next to logs, behind trees and in bunkers. Bugs crawl all over them, but they're trained not to swat. One false move could alert the enemy to their presence. They work together, one pulling his buddy over a wall by grabbing on to his belt, another giving a hand over an obstacle.

A platoon comes to a parallel pair of four-by-four timbers suspended by a single rope, like a swing. The goal is to climb over one timber, then the next, while the contraption sways. The recruits gather, murmuring among themselves. The first climbs up, and stretches a hand out for the next recruit. The timbers swing as one recruit climbs on another's knee to reach the next timber. It's hard. The timbers swing. The recruits are tired, hungry, hot and hurting. One person slips, but no one jeers. Taunting each other was in another life. As Marines, they've become a team, each only as good as the other.

The drill instructors, or DIs, of Parris Island have turned these recruits into lethal fighting machines. They move with the recruits, reminding them of their lessons, coaching them.

"We've never lost a battle, we've never lost a war," one barks. As they cross an obstacle, the DI reminds them, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, for any type of tactics, any type of mission."

The recruits run on a mock battle field, armed with bayonets that have a slight depression called a "blood well," designed to pull blood and guts out of the victim.

Tired and exhausted after more than two straight days in the Crucible, the recruits now have to run a "nine-mile hump" back to base. That part was the hardest for Doherty, at least until the DIs started calling cadences. At that point, he said, "we realized we were about to become Marines. It was a motivating rally."

At the end of the Crucible, the recruits are bone tired and hungry but so jazzed up they probably could have done it again. The test ends with a "warrior's breakfast" — the best food Doherty tasted during his entire stay on Parris Island.

These new warriors will soon graduate from boot camp and depart for more training elsewhere. Generally, recruits who have completed their training are deployed in seven months, some to Iraq.

They say they are ready for wherever the Marines Corps takes them.

And make no mistake, they know a war is raging in Iraq. About 130,000 American troops were in Iraq, including 23,000 Marines, before Bush announced he was sending 21,500 more as part of his new war strategy.

Some of those troops could be new Marines from Brockton or Taunton, Middleboro or Pembroke, East Bridgewater or Plymouth.

"I want to go to Iraq, I want to go and fight for my country," said Taylor, of Abington.

'It's a big attitude check'; Even with a war in Iraq, a steady stream of young people from our area continues go to South Carolina to learn how to be Marines

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — The bus stops at yellow foot prints painted on the asphalt.

http://southofboston.net/entreports/usmc/arrival.html
Please click on the original link for photos.

By Alice C. Elwell
ENTERPRISE CORRESPONDENT

The recruits inside have arrived under the cover of darkness, after midnight. Earlier, an officer had greeted them at the main gate to the island, ordering them to put their heads down for the rest of the ride, 2 to 3 miles, to the intake building.

Now, outside the intake building on a warm and humid night, they are ordered to line up on the yellow foot prints and march in formation. For the first time, but not the last, the recruits become a team as they march through a gleaming portal, two silver doors that are called hatches."The only way into the Marine Corps is through those doors," Sgt. Demetric Miles tells the raw recruits. "Once you enter, everything changes."

These young men and women — fresh from hometowns like Brockton and Abington, Taunton and Pembroke — have arrived at Parris Island. They are about to become warriors.

Parris Island, along the South Carolina coast, is one of two Marine boot camps in the country. Every male recruit east of the Mississippi and all female recruits train on Parris Island. Generally, recruits who have completed their training are deployed in seven months, some to Iraq.

The recruits spend three months in boot camp. They learn how to drill, practice marksmanship, engage in combat and they live the Marine Corps' customs, courtesies and core values.

When they arrive at the intake building, the recruits — who had been told to bring $20 and the clothes on their back — are stripped of their identification, and cut off from family and friends after one 15-second phone call.
They will be isolated from the rest of the world for 13 weeks of extreme training designed to break them down, then build them up.

"You can't just want to be a Marine, the Marines have to want you," Miles barks at the raw recruits as they march through the receiving hatch.

Their civilian gear is stowed for the next 13 weeks. The recruits won't sleep until the next night, when paperwork is passed out and they are given hair cuts, issued uniforms and gear, and go through a medical screening.

The recruits are warned not to show disrespect. "You will do what you're told, when you're told," Miles growls.
Nicholas McMahon, 19, of Middleboro, struggled to stay awake on his first night on Parris Island. "What the hell did I do?" he thought to himself as the drill instructor bellowed orders.

The recruits line up for haircuts, for which they are charged $3. It comes out of their $700 paycheck at the end of the month. As their long hair falls away, so does slang and street talk. None of that is tolerated.

Women are warned to keep their hair in tight buns or cut it. "It's a big attitude check for a lot of females," said 19-year-old Veronica Goncalves of Brockton.

"Receiving was hell," said 19-year-old Kevin Gomes of Taunton, who joined in September.

But the raw recruits will soon stand a little taller. They will push out their chests, stand with shoulders up and eyes straight ahead as they're told they're joining the finest fighting force in the world.

Marine boot camp, as McMahon put it, is "a complete culture shock" that changes every recruit.

And not all will make it.

About 20,000 recruits pass through the gates to Parris Island annually, 10 percent of them women. Failure rate at the Marine boot camp is about 10 percent for men, 18 percent for women.

"They break every nasty habit within 30 days," McMahon said.

Gomes, for example, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day when he arrived on Parris Island. While there, he quit smoking and lost 15 pounds.

The abrupt change can be as hard on the parents as on the recruits.

"It was horrible," Vicki LaCroix said about the 15-second phone call from her son, Corey Morrill, 19, of East Bridgewater. "I was glad he was safe, but being a mom, I wanted to give him some last words of wisdom."

The recruits watch a movie that details life on the island and its history. They're told of strong currents, quicksand, spiders, leeches. They watch in rapt attention as they hear about the hammer head sharks that prowl the waters and the pit viper snakes that inhabit the terrain.

After 24 hours in receiving, the recruits are assigned to a platoon, their gear is stowed at the foot of their bunk, and the training begins. They get up at 5 a.m. and are in bed by 10 p.m..

"Sometimes there's not enough sleep. The first month was the toughest," said Matthew McCulloch, 19, of Marshfield.

The routine is hard at first. Everything has a countdown. They count while they brush their teeth, wash their face, go to the bathroom. They have 10 minutes for their morning hygiene. "My nerves were shot for two weeks. When you first get down there, you don't even think about going to the bathroom," said McMahon, of Middleboro.

But recruit Kyle Taylor, 18, of Abington, understood why they were given time limits. "In a combat situation, if you don't make the deadline, something can go very wrong," he said.

Every morning, after a head count, the recruits are divided into port and starboard: while the port side shaves, the starboard side makes their beds, then they switch.

They line up again and make sure their M16A2, a semi-automatic rifle, is in working order.

Then it's chow hall, and after that, lessons. During Phase One, they learn how to use pugil sticks and fight with a bayonet. They study the history of terrorism. Phase Two starts with the dreaded swim qualification, and includes marksmanship. In Phase Three, they're taught rappelling and start preparing for the Crucible, the 54-hour climax of boot camp.

The weather is sultry and the island is a buzz of activity. There's always a platoon marching on one of the many parade grounds, or down the main road. Shouts from drill instructors can be heard in every direction. "Oo-rah, Oo-rah," rings out as recruits march by.

The island is pristine. Not one piece of litter sullies the ground. Recruits scrub the sidewalks as officers keep a close eye on it all — even down to a stray thread loose on a uniform, which is immediately corrected when noticed by an officer.

When recruits eat, there's no talking. A banana comes with every meal. "They're full of potassium and help stop muscle cramping," McMahon explained.

There's no down time. Whenever they're waiting for anything, the DI drills them on rifle manual, Marine Corps history, academics or manners and respect.

Traditions are rife on the island.

Recruits in Phase One can't cuff their pants, because it's a privilege they have to earn. Only when they've reached the end are they allowed to roll up the bottoms and tuck them in their boots.

They talk like they're on a ship: the floor is a deck and doors are hatches, because the Navy takes Marines to the battlefield.

Swimming is very important because of the Marines' strong tie to the Navy. The pool on Parris Island is the second largest in the world, and a Waterloo for many. Recruits have to swim 25 meters (82 feet) fully dressed, carrying packs that weigh 140 to 150 pounds.

After swim qualification comes weapons training. Recruits ride in cattle cars to the rifle range, armed with bug spray to ward off sand fleas. The range faces a bay that is closed to fishermen when in use.

Lying sprawled in the dirt, Goncalves, of Brockton, aims her M16 at a target. She keeps track of her scores in a note book at her side. Boxes of spent shells pile up, as white herons fly in the humid field.

A drill instructor walks back and forth as the women in that platoon fire at targets, every one with long hair tied back in a tight bun, none wearing makeup, perfume or jewelry.

ncalves came here to test her limits. College wasn't challenging enough, says her mother, Carmen Goncalves. She left after finishing her first year. But now, Veronica says, boot camp has given her more discipline, more confidence and prospects for a better future.

"It was a big challenge on the rifle range. I never handled a gun," she said. "Now I'm comfortable handling an M16."
Goncalves' platoon has firepower to shoot 700 rounds in less than a minute. They learn to shoot an 84 millimeter rocket used for a catastrophic kill. Butterflies flutter on the range as missiles hit targets of simulated tanks.

Goncalves is confident as she shoulders her M16, takes aim and fires. "The DI told us there could be Iraqi women and children with guns," she said.

The rifle range also gives Courtney McCarthy, 17, of Plymouth, new self-confidence.

"I'm feeling so much better about myself. I'm not just sitting there watching TV," she said. "It's a whole new world."

But before basic training is over, they must complete the endurance test known as the Crucible.

Then, if they are successful, the recruits will graduate and receive more training, after which a number of the new warriors will be deployed to Iraq.

"You've got to admire them. We train these recruits, and make sure they learn what they need to know," said Marine Cpl. Brian Kester.

MWSS-373 re-wires 2/7, F Company

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 18, 2007) -- Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron-373, stationed in Al Taqaddum, arrived in the Saqlawiyah area on Feb. 12 to re-wire a building out of which Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, are operating.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ad983156332a819185256cb600677af3/00549b83a116ff138525728a003c2650?OpenDocument

Feb. 18, 2007; Submitted on: 02/22/2007 05:56:59 AM ; Story ID#: 200722255659
By Lance Cpl. Randall Little, Regimental Combat Team-6.

“Our primary mission is to strip the building’s old power grids, light fixtures and wiring starting from the fourth floor working our way down to the first floor,” said Sgt. Wesley McNallie, a 24-year-old electrical equipment repair specialist.

The building’s old wiring system had been deemed a fire hazard when McNallie’s team came out to survey the building two weeks prior.

“You could see, by looking at the wiring, Marines had tried to make the outlets work throughout the building,” explained McNallie, a Rochester, Wash., native, explained. “We were surprised that the building still had any power at all, after looking at the wiring damage.”

The Marines with MWSS-373 worked from room to room in teams. Each team was tasked to accomplish a certain part of each room. The teams would then follow each other through the building picking-up where the last team left off.

“We had several teams set up to work on certain parts of each room. One team’s job was to just rip the wiring from the walls safely,” he explained. “The team following would mount raceways for the wires and then run the wiring. Finally, my team would connect all the wiring together.”

Along with re-wiring the building, which was ahead of schedule, the MWSS Marines were also tasked with building and placing mounts for air cooling units in each room. After the wiring was completed and the mounts were in place in each room, the air cooling units were mounted.

“Making the mounts for air cooling units went swiftly, which gave us time to double check our work and make sure the brackets were sturdy enough to hold the units we were using,” said Lance Cpl. Jefferey T. Gebin, a 25-year-old basic hygiene equipment operator from Pahoa, Hawaii.

The re-wiring of the building and mounting of the air cooling units is scheduled to be completed later this month. The progress of the building is prominent and the Marines of F Company, 2/7, are already reaping the benefits.

“It makes us feel really accomplished to see the Marines here come back from a long patrol, or a short one, and really appreciate our work,” said Gebin. “I’d rather be out here helping these Marines by making sure they have everything we can provide them than be back in the rear where our services aren’t needed as urgently.”

The MWSS Marines have completed a majority of the second floor already and are beginning to strip the wiring from the first floor.

“We are making phenomenal progress,” Gebin explained. “No one expected us to be this far done with the project at this point in the scheduled timeline.”

The Marines hope to be completed well before the scheduled completion date so they can retrace their steps through the building, reassuring that everything in the building functions properly before they depart.

Wounded but still fighting. "I remember thinking to myself, with that shot to my head, I shouldn't be alive right now -- and I was."

BETHESDA, Md. -- The first round blew through Maj. K.C. Schuring's helmet, creased the top of his head and popped out through his goggles.The second round felt as if Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez were teeing off on the center of his back.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070218/NEWS06/702180614

February 18, 2007

BY JOHN MASSON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

But it wasn't until rounds three and four blasted through each thigh that the big Marine went down, a pool of his blood spreading in the street in Ramadi, Iraq. While two dozen of his Iraqi Army trainees and two U.S. military advisers took cover, Schuring took stock.

OK, he thought. I'm still breathing.

"I remember thinking to myself, with that shot to my head, I shouldn't be alive right now -- and I was," he said.

Staying that way was another matter.

In that instant, Schuring joined more than 10,000 American troops wounded so severely in Iraq that they were sent home, people like Cpls. John Lockwood and Chad Watson and Lance Cpls. Eric Frazier and Josh Bleill. All four served with the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marines, a Michigan reserve unit whose deployment to Iraq has been chronicled in the Free Press as "Michigan's Band of Brothers."

About 40 battalion members have suffered wounds that prevented them from returning to duty. Several have lost limbs. Among all branches, more than 550 troops have lost legs, arms, hands or feet -- mostly to roadside bombs -- in Iraq and Afghanistan. That compares with 24,000 Americans wounded overall and more than 3,000 killed, including 19 from the 1/24, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Lying in the street on that sunny morning, Nov. 14, Schuring was determined not to add to the total of dead. The man who had just tried to kill him -- a bearded man in a gray dishdasha, a traditional long garment -- was running toward him with an AK47.

"The only thing I could think about was, 'I'm the next captive,' or 'They're going to drag my body through the streets of Ramadi,' " he said. "And I couldn't let that happen to my wife and my family. ... I didn't want her to see me on Al-Jazeera" television.

Additionally -- and unfortunately for the insurgents -- Schuring was really ticked.

"I was mad, because, well, I don't get shot," said Schuring, 37, who has an MBA and is from Farmington Hills. In the civilian world, he works as a quality assurance manager. "I never get shot. And now I got shot. It infuriated me."

He also realized he couldn't get to cover.

"So I rolled to my right side and I brought up my M16," Schuring said. "I aimed in on him and shot him in the head."

A moment later, a second armed insurgent rounded the same corner, looked down at the dead man and looked up just in time to catch three fatal rounds from Schuring's rifle.

Schuring's first steps on the road to recovery -- killing two of the six insurgents who tried to kill him -- came when he was unable to take any steps at all. And with those steps, Schuring, like other wounded warriors, began a painful journey to recovery.

Support from home

Cpl. John Lockwood, a Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy, was manning a machine gun atop a Humvee during a Nov. 19 mission to root out insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. The 26-year-old Saline native helped stake out a position, then stayed with Lance Cpl. Jeremy Shock, the driver, to guard their vehicle as their comrades searched nearby buildings.

That's when a bomb, hidden 5 inches below the road surface, blew up.

The explosion killed Shock of Tiffin, Ohio. Lockwood suffered a litany of injuries: two broken feet. Two broken legs. Broken bones in both hands. A nose more crushed than merely broken. Legs peppered with shrapnel wounds. A left eye lost to more shrapnel.

"I don't remember what happened," Lockwood said. "The guys that helped me told me about it."

They stabilized him in an alley near his burning Humvee, then rushed him to Fallujah Surgical, where Navy doctors tended his wounds. He woke briefly at some point, then spent the next two weeks in a medically induced coma while surgeons opened his wounds every 48 hours to clean them. The frequent surgeries help fight infection.

Four months later, Lockwood is still healing.

"I've got a long road ahead of me," he said, "but I'll make it."

While Lockwood was busy with surgeries and rehab, family, friends and at least a few hundred people he doesn't even know were busy in Washtenaw County. His supporters came together last month at the Farm Council Grounds for what was modestly termed a fund-raising spaghetti dinner and auction.

By the end of the day, about 2,000 people had plunked down at least $10 each for the right to eat spaghetti and bid on items ranging from autographed Red Wings jerseys to a ball thrown in the World Series last fall by Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson.

They raised almost $40,000 to help Lockwood and his wife, Lisa, defray some of his costs while recovering. The military takes care of his hospital bills. But Lisa Lockwood left her job and her college studies to be with her husband during his stay at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. And he'll still need her help when his hospital stay ends -- which friends say may be as soon as three weeks from now.

"His spirits are spectacular," said Saline Police Sgt. Jay Basso, who visited Lockwood at Bethesda. "If I was half as strong as that guy, emotionally and physically ... he's a squared-away young man at 26. I'm in awe."

Lockwood said he's in awe, too.

"It's just amazing all the support back home," he said. "I'm so humbled by it. All I can do is get better and give back as much as I can."

Training takes over

Marines wounded by what the military calls improvised explosive devices often have a hard time telling a coherent story about their injuries. They remember driving away from a dusty combat outpost in Fallujah or Baghdad, then recall waking up in a hospital bed in Germany or Maryland or Texas.

That was the case for Lance Cpls. Josh Bleill and Eric Frazier, who last month sat beneath a scarlet Marine Corps flag at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and described their injuries.

But Cpl. Chad Watson, who sat with them, is an exception. He remembers exactly what happened about 9 a.m. Nov. 29 as he led a team of Marines in the streets of Fallujah. The team from 1/24's Charlie Company had just searched the car and were starting to roll again.

"We didn't get more than 100 meters, and it was like I got punched in the face like 10,000 times," Watson said.

What pummeled Watson was a bomb, not a fist. The moment he looked down, he knew his life had changed forever.

"I looked at my right leg, and it was gone -- completely gone," said Watson, 24, a college student from Mt. Zion, Ill. "There was a big hole under the driver's side; that's where it hit."

Watson's training took over. Despite his missing leg, the smashed bones in his left heel and ankle, a fractured vertebra, burns and shrapnel wounds to his face, arm and eye, he grabbed his weapon and struggled to get out of the Humvee to defend himself and his comrades. But he couldn't free his twisted left leg from the what remained of the Humvee's floor. Marines from other vehicles came running to help.

"I remember them yelling, 'Is anybody still alive?' " said Watson.

Finally, after his fellow Marines dragged him into a nearby courtyard, a Navy corpsman tied off his bleeding right leg with a tourniquet. The corpsman gently informed Watson that most of his right leg was gone.

"I was kind of like, 'Yeah, no kidding, I saw that.' "

Through it all Watson -- still the team leader, despite his grievous wounds -- was shouting orders.

"I was actually yelling at the guys to get out of the courtyard ... because there were too many of them," and a large group was liable to draw the insurgents' fire, said Watson. "I was glad how I reacted. I acted good under pressure, and I was happy to hear that they told my parents that."

All Bleill really remembers about the moments before the explosion that took both his legs and killed two comrades is gazing out his Humvee window in Fallujah.

"You're always looking outside," explained Bleill, 29, whose civilian job is running a call center in Indianapolis. "You're looking for anything suspicious."

Bleill woke up in Germany with his jaw wired shut days after he was injured Oct. 15. Medical staff explained his injuries to him while he was groggy: the loss of both legs above the knee, a broken jaw, a pelvis shattered so badly it required 32 pins to piece together.

Frazier's story is similar. The 20-year-old from McMinnville, Tenn., was heading out to count Iraqis for a local census when a bomb destroyed his Humvee on Oct. 23.

"It blew up right underneath the driver and killed him instantly," said Frazier, a factory worker. A second Marine also died.

The blast took both of Frazier's legs -- one above the knee -- lacerated his liver and a kidney, fractured his pelvis in three places, and broke a vertebra, one arm, a wrist, his jaw and several fingers.

"I guess it wasn't my time to go," said Frazier. "I died out there in the streets of Fallujah, and no one can explain how they brought me back."

Now the soft-spoken man from the mountains works every day to regain the physical strength he'll need to again do the things he loves. For Frazier, that means using his computerized prosthetic legs to roam the hills and hollows with a fishing pole or a hunting rifle in his hands.

Comrades in recovery

Generally, Marines like to organize things by threes. Three Marines make a fire team, three fire teams make a squad, three squads make a platoon, three platoons make a company, and three line companies make a battalion.

So Watson, Frazier and Bleill have formed their own sort of rehabilitative fire team during their stay at Walter Reed. "We joke with each other, or say, 'Hey, we gotta catch up with him,' " Watson said. "It makes us work that much harder."

When they're working painfully to build their upper body strength, they push each other to work even harder. When one is working on his balance on the parallel bars, the others are watching.

Marines have always taken a perverse pride in their grueling daily doses of group PT, or physical training. It binds them together. And the equation hasn't changed much just because they're wounded. Now, the initials "PT" stand for "physical therapy."

"It's the same thing, just a different setting," Watson said. "It's just a different group of guys you're with now."

Even for Marines like Schuring, who is getting rehabilitation through Beaumont Hospital near his home in Farmington Hills, thoughts of his fellow Marines in Iraq are never far away while he's sweating and groaning through painful physical therapy. Teamwork is something the former center on the Hope College football team in west Michigan has understood for a long time.

The ceramic plate in his body armor saved him from the shot to his back. His Kevlar helmet helped dissipate the shot to his head, which didn't penetrate his skull. And the bullet that hit his right thigh missed the bone.

But the one that hit his left thigh almost cost him his leg, shattering his thighbone in three places near his hip. An infection nearly did the rest until it was brought under control by antibiotics.

His doctors expect he'll make a full recovery -- thanks to physical therapy sessions it would take a Marine to love.

None of the wounded men is willing to let his injuries define him. None expressed bitterness. All said they would rejoin their units tomorrow, if they could.

Schuring, whose mission was training Iraqi soldiers, was especially emphatic.

"We were doing good things there in Ramadi -- I mean phenomenal things," Schuring said. "The Iraqi army, the soldiers, they're the Iraqi heroes. They're not the best soldiers in the world, but they're trying."

The wounded men have had time while convalescing to process their experiences. They've met cabinet members and generals and members of Congress. Some have gone to the Super Bowl, and Watson -- whose only fault from a Detroiter's perspective is his love of the St. Louis Cardinals -- was personally introduced to his baseball heroes by the president of the United States.

But that's all gravy. It's everyday life that's a gift to these survivors.

"This puts everything into perspective," Lockwood said. "You get blown up, and all of a sudden the type of rims you have on your car, that doesn't mean anything. Your family, your friends, that's the stuff that's important. That's what keeps you going."

February 17, 2007

2/7 Marines establish relationships with Iraqi people

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 13, 2007) -- “War Dogs” are building Iraqi support to stifle the insurgents.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ad983156332a819185256cb600677af3/85c497c18d503fec85257283004c9eb0?OpenDocument


Feb. 13, 2007; Submitted on: 02/15/2007 08:56:53 AM ; Story ID#: 200721585653

By Lance Cpl. Randall Little, Regimental Combat Team-6

Marines from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted a mounted patrol through a small village in the Saqlawiyah area to gather information on insurgents and scout for future places out of which the Marines can operate in the future.

“It’s important for us to get out and talk with the Iraqi people,” explained Lance Cpl. Michael W. Carter, a 20-year-old team leader from Santa Ana, Calif. “Once we build up conversations and get to know these people, they will be more inclined to give us information about the insurgents, where they are operating out of, and let us operate out of their homes.”

Food and water are precious commodities here. Supporting the citizens by supplying them with with these essentials of life translates to building a solid foundation of trust.

“Not only does giving the people water and food make you feel good,” Carter said, “giving them the things that we often take for granted gets them to warm up to us and work with us (more willingly) in the future.”

Marines know the benefits to having good rapport with the local populace are not always immediate.

“We know that we might not benefit from our actions now,” Carter explained. “By helping the Iraqi people continuously, someone who lost a brother or other family member to the insurgents might see that we are the good guys and call the tip line and give us useful information.”

Marines will often stop at a house along their patrol route to talk to the residents and get to know them.

“(A) family we visited (today) had lost a family member to the insurgency, and when we first started talking to them they seemed hesitant,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Force, a 27-year-old team leader from St. Louis. “We showed them we were the good guys by talking to them and showing interest in their needs. (Hopefully) that family will help us later on and tell everyone how the Marines are the good guys.”

Marines feel that by helping the Iraqi people it will, in the end, help the Marines succeed.

“The mission was very successful. I think we accomplished a lot by meeting with the Iraqi people the way we did,” Force explained. “After showing the people that we are friendly and we can be trusted they will tell other people about us. The people were very receptive and I think that when we come back in the future that they will either give us information or let us possibly use their house for a listening and observation post.”

-

Smithsburg Marine recovering

SMITHSBURG - U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Dane Fonte was injured Wednesday afternoon in Iraq after a grenade exploded during an engagement in Anbar province, his parents said Saturday.

http://www.herald-mail.com/?module=displaystory&story;_id=158579&format;=html

by MATTHEW UMSTEAD
Monday February 12, 2007

The incident happened while Fonte was on a rooftop during several hours of off-and-on fighting with insurgents, but he managed to avoid the brunt of the explosion, Jeff and Carlann Christopher said.

Fonte, 21, is being treated at Bethesda (Md.) Naval Hospital for bone fractures around his right eye, which also received some retina damage, according to his parents.

"That's the major concern," said Fonte's mother, who added that wounds to her son's leg and arm were sutured on Saturday.

Though his eye now is patched, Carlann Christopher said her son could detect some amount of light since he was flown from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, a suspected staging area for insurgents fighting U.S. troops.

"There's 10 fingers, there's 10 toes, his personality is there," she said in an interview from the hospital.

She said Fonte's superior officer, Cpl. Joshua Pitcher, was not as fortunate, and now is "fighting for his life" after receiving more severe head trauma from the same device.

Jeff Christopher received a cell phone call about his son being taken to the hospital Thursday afternoon while he was at Lowe's in Hagerstown.

He wasn't told the extent of his son's injuries, but left the store and immediately drove to Twigg Cycles in Hagerstown, where his wife works, and went to the hospital.

"We didn't talk a whole lot," Carlann Christopher said.

Her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, has traveled to Bethesda several times in the last few months with other members of the Hagerstown chapter of the U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club. They also have traveled to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to support other military personnel injured in the line of duty.

While with their son, Carlann Christopher said Fonte's sergeant, who lost his legs in October, was one of a number of people who have stopped by to visit him.

"He came in to see him walking on prosthetics," she said.

"This place is a living miracle," she said. "The outpouring of love ... There's nothing we could ever want for."

"The nurses and doctors at Bethesda Naval have been the best," her husband added.

Despite attempts by his father to deter him from joining the Marine Corps, Fonte enlisted immediately after graduating from Smithsburg High School in 2003, his mother said.

He was deployed to Iraq in September, and was scheduled to complete his term of service with the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment in August.

"He's just worried about his guys still over there," Jeff Christopher said. "That's all he's concerned about."

Fonte's younger sister, Casey, 18, said her brother was "out of it" when she first saw him Thursday.

On Friday, he was laughing and telling jokes, she said Saturday.

"He still has all of his body parts, thank God," she said while cleaning her brother's room at their parents' house off Vodys Court in Smithsburg, where his Marine Corps unit's colors fluttered in a chilly wind.

A standout football player and wrestler in his years in high school, Fonte's mother anticipates a hearty welcome home from the community for her son, who she said has an infectious smile and personal drive to be the best.

"I think if Dane ran for mayor of Smithsburg, I'd think he'd win hands down," she said.


IED searches ongoing for Marines of “Joker”

BARWANAH, Iraq (Feb. 17, 2007) -- The Marines of Golf Company, call sign Joker, a part of the California-based Battalion Landing Team 2/4 with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit , continue the search for improvised explosive devices and weapons as well as securing the city.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/8E2DB4F96660301D85257285002908DE?opendocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division

Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Tracie G. Kessler

Sweeping through the city, a place that has been relatively quiet of insurgent activity in previous weeks, the Marines of 3rd Platoon were able to find an IED site that has been eluding Marines operating in the area for some time.

Roughly a kilometer and a half wide, the city is made up of mostly palm groves, residential and commercial buildings. This particular area has been known as a favorite of anti-coalition forces to hide their weapons, explained Staff Sgt. Michael Williams, 3rd Platoon commander for Golf Company.

Acting on intelligence of weapons and IEDs being hidden in the area, the key site being looked at was a bombed- out Iraqi Police station hiding an IED, explained Williams, a native of Cincinnati.

“We’ve been getting a lot of intelligence that insurgents have been storing weapons on the Euphrates River edge, so we figured that we would go ahead and sweep our sector to see if there were any weapons,” said Williams. “It’s not only a show of our force clearing the area to keep ourselves safe, but also to clean that area up of insurgents for the locals.”

The IED was a significant find, explained Williams, due to the fact it was on a route regularly used by Marines and other coalition forces. The area had been searched on numerous occasions, but up until 3rd Platoon’s search, had yet to be found.

The IED looked as though it had been there a reasonable amount of time, said Williams, but it was definitely set to go off at any time. The command wire was traced several meters to the river bank, which could have afforded an insurgent a good view of the street while remaining fairly concealed.

“It was in a great position. I actually walked back to the site and got down on the ground and looked in the direction of where the IED was. It had a direct line of site. If [a possible] triggerman had any experience he could definitely time the passing of troops and vehicles and definitely ignite that IED,” Williams explained.

The IED was actually two rounds wired together, commonly referred to as daisy-chained. One round, a 155mm artillery round, was wired to a 120mm mortar round. The results obviously would not have been good, said Williams. It could have destroyed vehicles and there could have been several casualties.

“It would definitely have slowed our momentum. Either way, it would have been a victory for the insurgents,” he said.

It really comes as no surprise to Williams that his Marines found the IED site on their first patrol down to the IP station, considering that sweeping for weapons has been an ongoing job for them, he explained.

“It’s kind of an art form now. They know where to look and know what to look for. Things that are the normal run of the mill things you see here in Iraq are looked at as suspicious. I’m glad they found it, but if it wasn’t my platoon it would have been somebody from Golf Company,” said Williams.

The IED was found by Lance Cpl. William West, a combat engineer attached to BLT 2/4. While conducting sweeping operations, it was West and his metal detector that keyed in on the IED site.

At first it was thought of a water pipe running underneath the road, however, further exploitation of the scene uncovered the potentially lethal IED.

“When I realized what it was, my first thought was not to move it. Immediately after that I tried to get all the Marines as far away as possible,” said West, a native of Juneau, Alaska.

“You could have just hooked a 9 volt battery up to the wires—it could have gone off,” explained West.

West said the kill radius for a 155mm round is about 100 meters; however, Marines need to be at least 300 meters away to prevent contact with fragments.

While the Marines are still finding IEDs, Williams knows danger is present in the city along with the presence of insurgents. He also believes Barwanah is slowly becoming a safer place because of his Marines and the rest of Golf Company and BLT 2/4.

“Honestly, I do believe that since our arrival here in this area it’s a lot safer. There are a lot of Marines in a relatively small area; it really cuts down on the movement of the insurgency. Now, will I go out there and take a midnight stroll, it’s not that at all [because it’s not that safe]. I definitely feel safer when I out on patrols with my squads,” said Williams.

Marines fight silent enemy

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, CALIF.(Feb. 17, 2007) -- Pfc. Nicholas J. Cook slowly makes his way toward the city’s edge. He winds his way out of the forward operating base, past the concertina wire toward the bleachers outside the empty town. He passes several plywood signs with warnings to intruders on one side and helpful reminders to troops on the other.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/705c5c863061cd17852572850026a722?OpenDocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division

Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser

Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, reviewed classes on Iraqi culture and practiced their mounted patrol procedures, vehicle check point operations, and vehicle and personnel search techniques. The exercises were part of their pre-deployment Mojave Viper training in the California desert.

“This type of training is great for Marines because we need to be able to know (the Iraqi) culture in order to interact and better train the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police when we deploy,” said Cook, a rifleman with the company.

The Marines spent the entire morning receiving classes on cultural awareness, urban mounted movement, mounted patrol operations, setting up vehicle check points, or VCPs, checkpoint operations, countering vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, and vehicle and personnel searches.

“For junior Marines who have never deployed, this is as close to real-life scenarios as they will get,” said Cpl. Oswin T. Burnett, an instructor controller with the Urban Warfare Training Center at Mojave Viper. “We have people who speak Arabic, life-like buildings and streets, basically everything you will see in Iraq. It’s all the same.”

Burnett said the reasoning behind all the simulated real-life training was to make sure Marines understood not only what they are doing for every possible situation, but also why they do it.

“The classes and technology here (at Mojave Viper) are making our training better and making us a lot more efficient,” said Cook, a Valatie, N.Y., native. “We know more and are more prepared for different situations. This is where you realize it’s real, and that in a little while you will really be in Iraq.”

To help solidify this fact within the Marines’ minds, many of the classes, such as cultural awareness and searching procedures, are taught by Iraqi role players like Loay F. Alkhafaji.

“I teach them these things because, as I am helping them, so do I expect them to help my people,” said Alkhafaji, a linguist and Iraqi role player at Mojave Viper.

Alkhafaji, an Iraqi native who now lives in Pasadena, Calif., came to the United States with a dream of a new, safer, country where his family could live a better life. He feels it is his duty to his country to help the battalion’s Marines before they deploy in March.

“I think they will do good. I know they help a lot, I hope,” Alkhafaji said as his eyes grew distant, “because they must.”

Like many of his fellow role-players, he regularly talks to his family in Iraq, and gets reports on what Marines in their areas are doing. He uses this information to better teach the Marines in his classes and improve their situational awareness.

“Recently,” the Iraqi laughs, “the big thing has been teaching them to use the door, instead of crashing through a window. Imagine, you are eating with your family and several large, armed men jump through your windows. It can be terrifying.”

Alkhafaji said the best tool for cultural awareness is the Marines’ mind. He asked each Marine to think about what he does, and what if it was their family in the house.

Cpl. Jeremy T. Cole, a squad leader with the company, likes the new Mojave Viper training.

“If we can handle it here, it sets a good foundation for operations in Iraq,” said Cole, a Lakewood, Ohio, native.

Cole, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, deployed last time without the additional training Mojave Viper provides, but seeing the improved reactions of his squad members has made him a believer in the training.

“Their situational awareness has improved, and they can react to anything because they have already seen it before here in the desert,” he said.

Cole added the training creates initiative and eliminates hesitation because of the muscle-memory it instills. He said without a new type of training, Marines would run the risk of growing stagnant and complacent with their actions.

“I’ll be honest, none of us want to be here but it is exactly what we need. I wouldn’t want to go back (to Iraq) without coming here first,” said Cole.

After the classes, the vehicle searches, and the personnel searches, the Marines worked their way back to their FOB, looking forward to a meal and a warm bed. As they made their way back through the winding entrance they passed the warning signs once more. One sign, larger and more ominous than the rest, is decorated with a black skull-and-crossbones, and reads: Complacency Kills.

In the seemingly endless desert of California, the Marines of 1/2 are doing their best to prepare themselves to fight this silent enemy.


Wandering musician finds his way in the Corps

AR RAMADI, Iraq(Feb. 17, 2007) -- From college student to wandering musician to United States Marine, Lance Cpl. Jeff S. Bailey walked a long, twisting road into military service.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/82566710C91E097985257285005BB502?opendocument

Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force

Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

Now a high mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicle driver for Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Bailey spent seven years working odd jobs and traveling the country before enlisting at the age of 25.

Directly after high school, Bailey began classes at Roane State Community College to become a mass communications major.

With the ability to play several instruments including the guitar, bass guitar, violin, piano and cello, Bailey hoped to find a career in music.

“You can do a lot with a mass communications degree,” said Bailey, a 27-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn. “I wanted to weasel my way into the music business.”

Bailey never achieved the degree however, leaving college after two years and a few transfers between schools.

“I didn’t really have much direction in my life at the time,” said Bailey.

After leaving school, Bailey picked up his belongings and began a road trip that would carry him through much of the Southwest and some northern states.

Moving through Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and every state after, Bailey performed as a solo musical act on the streets or anywhere he could find to play.

Staying where he could and sometimes living out of his car, Bailey made his living through his performances and intermittent employment at restaurants or stores.

“Some nights were good and some nights weren’t, but I got to see a lot of the country” said Bailey.

Bailey carried on this lifestyle for more than four years while searching for something he couldn’t find.

Looking back on the experience, Bailey sees the time as one of personal reflection.
“I was trying to use my music and the travel to fix my spiritual and cultural confusion,” said Bailey. “I was trying to find myself.”

It was during this long endeavor that Bailey’s eye was turned to military service.
Socializing with other musicians and artists as he traveled, Bailey was subject to a variety of strong opinions on the war.

Through his own interest and an aversion to the extreme stances on the conflict he witnessed in the music community, Bailey felt drawn towards the military.

“Like everyone else, I was looking at why we were over (in Iraq), and I got tired of people saying it couldn’t be fixed,” said Bailey. “I figured, I’m 25, and not doing anything.”

Bailey became the first United States Marine in his family by attending Marine Corps boot camp on April 18, 2005.

With a strong interest in the happenings around the world, Bailey saw his service as a chance to make a difference.

“I knew about a lot of things wrong with the world, and I figured, as a Marine, I could take part in stopping some of the atrocities,” said Bailey.

Bailey is now on his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, helping to provide security and stability to a vital area in the country.

Operating with an infantry battalion that aims to bring peace to a previously embattled area has given Bailey a sense of accomplishment he sought by entering the Corps.

“I feel like I’ve done my part now,” said Bailey.

Bailey’s experiences and training as a Marine have also helped him in his personal journey of self reflection.

Life in the Marine Corps has strengthened Bailey, not only physically, but mentally and morally.

“My values have become more solid and, direction-wise, I’m more confident in what I want,” said Bailey.

Bailey intends to pursue a career in teaching after his term with the Marine Corps ends, hoping to become a college professor.


February 16, 2007

Marine Families Helping Marine Families

That's how the wife of one Cherry Point Marine stays strong when her husband is deployed overseas.

http://www.witntv.com/home/headlines/5851791.html
Please click on this original link to find a video link to an interview with the Weavers, just under the title in the original article. The video link should be available as long as the article is.

Feb 15, 2007

Jenn Weaver's husband Staff Sergeant Jesse Weaver has gone through two deployments to Iraq during their marriage. Jenn says before Jesse's second tour of duty, she was searching online for a military support network. That's when she found militaryparents.com, fell in love with the idea of Marine families helping Marine families, and not long after, started volunteering her time as an online counselor herself. Weaver is one of 50 or so volunteers across the US that volunteers time to marineparents.com.

2/1 Marine receives heroism medal for life-saving actions

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa (February 16, 2007) -- For two days, an Iraqi civilian lay helplessly buried beneath the rubble and debris of a toppled building. He had been left for dead and his fate was looking grim.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070216-medal.html

Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani

Hope took a turn for the better when his life fell into the hands of Cpl. Mina Salama.

Salama, a supply noncommissioned officer now serving with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was reminded of his actions that day when Lt. Col. Francis Donovan, the BLT commanding officer, presented him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal Jan. 26 during an award ceremony at the Camp Hansen House of Pain South Gymnasium.

On Nov. 8, 2005, Salama was on a re-supply convoy serving as an Arabic translator with 2/1 in Husaybah, Iraq, when he heard from the F Company commander that Iraqi civilians were trapped under a collapsed house. When the convoy arrived at the scene, they soon realized the situation was truly life threatening.

Salama immediately started talking to civilians and gained an idea of where the trapped man might be. Without hesitation, he crawled through the rubble of the collapsed building toward the man who turned out to be the last survivor beneath the debris.

"When I first went in, I heard a noise coming from somewhere within," Salama said. "I didn't know who it was, but I knew I had to get him out. It was that voice I kept hearing calling out to me that kept me going. For the first couple of hours, I was using my hands to move rubble out of my way. Later, civilians brought hammers and shovels because I had to literally break away rocks to free him."

After removing a dead body and debris, his only option to reach the lone survivor was to remove the debris that was supporting the remaining structure over his head. In a risky move, he successfully cleared a path to the man and then emerged from the rubble with the survivor.

The 2/1 logistics officer, Capt.Thomas Parmiter, who was the senior officer at the scene, described what he saw.

"There are no words to explain what the building looked like, you just had to see the rubble," Parmiter said. "It only took me about ten seconds to turn my back and task other Marines to provide support. By the time I looked back, Salama had already taken his gear off and handed his rifle over (and was) crawling through a small opening nearly a foot-and-a-half square. I grabbed him by the collar and wanted to pull him out, and he said, 'Sir, someone is dying in there,' so I let him go."

Salama, a 22-year-old native of Jersey City, New Jersey, never quit. With some assistance from two other Marines at the scene, he pulled out five dead bodies in all before reaching the survivor. The space he had to work in was so cramped that he was only able to advance while lying on his stomach in constant contact with the remains of the other victims.

Following the exhaustive rescue, he began talking with other locals to determine if any more aid was needed. He quickly learned of a young girl in a nearby building who was severely injured and he helped coordinate a medical evacuation for her.

At Salama's award ceremony, Donovan stated that there are incredible acts of great courage that happen every day that resemble different degrees of heroism. But what Salama did exemplified the epitome of a true hero.

"In today's society it's used quite a bit, and sometimes too frequently: the word hero. The Marine Corps always speaks of honor, courage and commitment, but here is a great example," Donovan said.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal may be awarded to service members who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. Typically, it is awarded for actions involving the risk of one's own life.

1st Stinger Battery makes first deployment in support of OIF

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, Japan (Feb. 16, 2007) -- More than 130 Marines and sailors from 1st Stinger Battery, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, left Kadena Air Base Feb. 9 for a seven month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F8099D1BEEC73F3C85257283000ED472?opendocument

Feb. 16, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Terence L. Yancey, MCB Camp Butler

This is the first combat deployment for the battery since the start of the Global War on Terrorism and the first combat deployment ever for most of the Marines and sailors of the unit, though they will likely spend little time while deployed performing their primary occupational specialty, said Capt. Christopher Taylor, the battery executive officer.

"Stinger Battery's mission is to provide air defense, but since there isn't much of an air threat in Iraq, we have a new secondary mission of providing air base security," he said.

The battery was notified of the deployment in mid-October, and many of its Marines have been anticipating their departure ever since.

"I'm kind of anxious to get over there," said Cpl. Thomas Gadbois, a field radio operator with the unit who is deploying to Iraq for the first time. "There are a lot of people who have been out there multiple times; hopefully we can give someone else a break."

When they got the word, the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma-based Marines and sailors began taking care of family business in preparation for the impending training cycle and deployment.

"At first it was hard when I had to tell my family I wouldn't be home for Christmas because of our training," said Lance Cpl. Jeremy Womack, a low altitude air defense gunner who is in Okinawa on an unaccompanied tour. "It was a blow to them at first, but they're proud of me and I'm proud to be able to take part in the war on terror."

The unit began pre-deployment training in November at Camp Hansen and Combat Town. They also took part in Exercise Desert Talon in December, a training evolution that takes place annually in Yuma, Ariz.

The training the battery received did more than prepare them for their mission.

"As we've prepared for the deployment we've gotten a lot closer," Carter said as the battery waited to depart Kadena. "The unit cohesion is very strong."

Families of the service members have also pulled together to support each other and their deployed spouses.

"I know my wife will get along with the other families while I'm gone," said Sgt. Robert Valdez, a low altitude air defense gunner whose wife and Okinawan in-laws have been very supportive of him. "The families are already planning to put together care packages to send out to all the Marines. We have all become a big family."

Sifting through the sands of the hour glass; a look back at the prestigious history of the Moonlighters

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, BEAUFORT, S.C. (Feb. 16, 2007) -- After 64 years of building a proud history and unrivaled legacy, the Moonlighters of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 will be deactivated on April 1 and transitioned to cadre status – meaning the squadron is intended to return with the onset of the Joint Strike Fighter.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/56DB77ECF2E3D1C48525728B00706160?opendocument

Feb. 16, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Jenn Farr, MCAS Beaufort

The squadron, first commissioned on June 1, 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., will deactivate as a part of the Marine Aviation Transition Strategy helping to address current aircraft inventory and manpower challenges created by the aging F/A-18s which are no longer in production.

"Moonlighter talent, pride and professionalism will soon hit all of Marine Hornet Aviation as the remainder of the squadron departs to follow on assignments," said Lt. Col. Samuel Kirby, the commander of VMFA(AW)-332. "I tell each of my Marines that their history is with the Moonlighters, but their future is in another unit and skills acquired here will improve any squadron in which they serve."

Throughout their existence, the Moonlighters have served in many climes and places providing critical air power to countless conflicts and wars. The Moonlighters have flown multiple aircraft based out of varied locales – both on land and at sea - and have even been known by more than one nickname. But these details perhaps aren't even the squadron's crowning achievement – their unparalleled safety record of more than 100,000 mishap-free flight hours that has been sustained since 1952.

The squadron, originally designated Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 332, flew SBD Dauntless dive bombers out of MCAS Cherry Point and MCAS Bogue Field, N.C., in their first year. By January 1944, the squadron moved to MCAS Mojave, Calif., before relocating to the Pacific Theater during the latter part of World War II.

From 1945 to the mid-1980s, the squadron witnessed many changes in airframes and duty assignments. Moving from California to Japan and participating in operations in Korea, Japan, and at sea, the Moonlighters flew aircraft such as the F64 Hellcat, F4U Corsair, AD-5 Skyraider, A4C Skyhawk and the A-6 Intruder. Between 1953 and 1983, the squadron adopted the hat, cane and infamous red polka-dots which created the squadron's nickname as the “Polka-Dots.”

It wasn’t until after 1983 that the squadron's nickname was mysteriously changed from the Polka-Dots to the presently used Moonlighters and the tail letters on the jets were changed from "MR" to "EA." Although rumors have surfaced through the years, no written explanation exists for the changes.

On June 16, 1993, the Moonlighters were once again re-designated, becoming Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 and moved to Fightertown where they made the final transition to their current aircraft F/A-18D Hornet. Since moving to the Lowcountry, VMFA(AW)-332 has participated in numerous exercises and deployments worldwide.

During their years here in the Lowcountry the Moonlighters continued to operate around the world and have supported the United Nations during Operation Deny Flight and Provide Promise. They also led the largest air strike in NATO military operations, striking Udbina Airfield, Krajina, Croatia in 1994.

The Moonlighter’s history is long and prestigious. The squadron has achieved safety milestones and set the standard for other Hornet squadrons to follow. After achieving 75,000 mishap free flight hours in the mid ‘90s the squadron surpassed 100,000 in 2005, representing the largest record of mishap free hours for any tactical aviation squadron in Marine Corps history.

"The significance of the milestone is remarkable when you consider the fact that this squadron has been operating combat ready aircraft since the Korean War," said Lt. Col. David Wilbur, former Moonlighters commander. "The record was a result of about 60,000 hours in the A-6 and 40,000 in the F/A-18, so it's a combination of many people doing so much over a long period of time.

In 2005 the Moonlighters deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and supported Operations Rivergate, Iron Fist and Steel Curtain among others.

"Deploying to combat was a fitting final mission for the Moonlighters," said Cpl. Angela Pruitt, an administrative clerk at VMFA(AW)-332. "It really gave us the opportunity to operate as a team. We flew hundreds of hours and dropped thousands of pounds of ordnance in support of combat operations and I will miss the squadron as a whole."

Now in 2007, the squadron is facing yet another evolution that is expected to eventually take them from the F/A-18D Hornets they currently fly to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"This is yet another transition for the Moonlighters," said Lt. Col Chris Pappas III, the Moonlighters executive officer. "Our cadre status sets us off to stand up as a Joint Strike Fighter when it's ready."

"It has really been an honor to work at this squadron," said Cpl. Joshua Pelkey, a powerline Marine with VMFA(AW)-332. "It really is the best squadron in the Marine Corps and I cannot imagine a better group of Marines to work here as the squadron deactivates than the ones already here."

9th ESB Marines prepare for demolition missions prior to Iraq deployment

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan(Feb. 16, 2007) -- When 9th Engineer Support Battalion Marines deployed to Iraq last year, they expected to carry out typical construction and force protection missions. But soon after arriving, they were met with an additional task of assisting Explosive Ordnance Disposal units with demolitions and route clearing.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/2059EE7A2D72B0D285257283000F6ECE?opendocument

Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Richard Blumenstein
Story Identification #: 2007214214834

In fact, the ESB Marines spent so much time assisting EOD during the deployment that the company has now incorporated into its training schedule basic and advanced demolitions tactics that mirror typical missions in Iraq.

Before the last deployment, the unit's Marines did not specifically train for demolition missions and were forced to adapt using their basic knowledge of explosives, said Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClary, a platoon sergeant with A Company during a recent training exercise.

"Your mission can change at any time, even when you're already deployed," McClary said. "We're making sure these Marines have all the necessary skills they need prior to a deployment so they can act on instinct and know what to do. We're training on everything to be prepared for anything."

During the training, the Marines broke into fire teams and assembled a number of field expedient demolitions, such as Bangalores and shape charges, using engineer spikes, glass bottles, detonation wire and C-4 explosives. The expedient demolition devices, used when other explosives are not readily available, are capable of blasting through concrete, steel and wood structures.

1st Lt. Orlando M. Chaparro, the operations officer for A Co., said not all structures are the same and they require different types of explosives to be breached.

"There's a lot of creativity and forethought that goes into demolition," Chaparro said. "These Marines have to know the 'brilliance of the basics,' because every obstacle has different aspects, whether it's blowing up a bridge, gate or building."

The Marines also trained on defensive perimeter concepts using claymore mines and worked with anti-personnel obstacle breaching systems, used for disabling mines and multi-strand wire obstacles.

"This training will make them more comfortable with demolitions and give them a basic knowledge of it," Chaparro said. "It will allow them to apply the fundamentals to various situations (during a deployment)."

February 15, 2007

Marines remove vehicle, leave behind trust

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines in Habbaniyah recently displayed both their aggressive stance toward insurgents as well as an earnest willingness to work together with the Iraqi people.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/__852571150047CCBC.nsf/0/DDBA4B86FE3654F8432572830020C83D?OpenDocument
Please click on this original link to view photos.

Lance Cpl. Christopher Zah

While conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, spotted two insurgents laying an improvised explosive device in a field. They quickly engaged the insurgents, killing them both, but leaving their bullet-ridden vehicle behind in the middle of a farmer"s field.

Weeks later, Marines from K Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines arrived and fell in on the same battlespace as their infantry brothers from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in mid-December. They also inherited the truck. The vehicle posed a dilemma for the locals in the area as the bleak winter days begin to give way to the longer days of spring and planting season. Not only was the vehicle taking up valuable crop space, it was a constant reminder of the brutality of a war with no boundaries.

Removal of the truck also posed a dilemma for Kilo Company: had insurgents turned the hulk into an IED? The local farmers came to the Kilo Marines with a simple request for help, a request that they could grant with a little support from higher headquarters.

"The people who own the farmland came and asked us to have the vehicle moved," said Capt. Bradford R. Carr, the commanding officer of K Company.

Before any attempt was made to move the vehicle, Marines from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit made an assessment. As is all too common in Iraq, any innocent-looking object can be, and often is, turned into a bomb.

"The vehicle had been abandoned for over a month," said Cpl. Peter R. Hazy, 21, from Winston-Salem, N.C. "We saw (some suspicious items), but it turned out to be nothing."

After clearing the vehicle, the Marines now had to determine the best way to dispose of it. The location so close to the village residents, as well as being situated on crop soil, limited the Marines" options; pieces of scrap metal would not help the agricultural situation. A course of action was swiftly decided on.

"We just towed the truck out of the field to get it out of the way," said Carr, 36, from Pensacola, Fl. "That way the people can get their field set up."

While the resolution to this issue may sound like a no brainer, little tasks like this are important toward building cohesion and trust with the Iraqi people. Both are vital keys to victory in counterinsurgency operations like those currently taking place in Al Anbar Province.

"We are making an effort to help the Iraqi people achieve their ultimate goal," Carr said. "By doing things like this, the people will make that second effort to do things for themselves and join forces with the Iraqi government and Iraqi Security Forces."

Whether they are killing insurgents by force or winning the loyalty of the people through small acts of stewardship of the land, the Marines know they are doing their part to help the Iraqi people reach that goal.

Departing Marine finds a temporary home for his 170-pound dog

MENIFEE ---- Gunnery Sgt. Carl Cole has had a lot on his mind since volunteering to spend a year in Iraq.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/16/news/californian/22_46_192_15_07.txt

February 15, 2007
By: CATHY REDFERN - For The Californian

The 37-year-old Marine from Menifee has a wife and three daughters, ages 1, 3 and 10, a house to put on the market and other concerns to put to rest before shipping out later this month.

And then there's the dog.

The family dog is really the Marine's dog ---- the one Cole calls his boy.

The Old English mastiff, Jake, weighs a humongous 170 pounds.

Four years ago, he was an 8-pound Christmas gift from Cole's wife, Kathryn. The gift was a surprise that came one year after their marriage, when the couple was expecting their first child. He said he could not stop smiling when he saw the puppy and has loved him ever since.

So, in October, when Cole volunteered for duty in Iraq, the couple agonized over what to do with Jake. They decided to appeal to the community to care for him for a year, a necessary move in part because Kathryn needs to travel to Hungary to see her mother, who recently had a heart attack.

The Coles placed an ad in The PennySaver seeking a foster family. It ran twice.

And yes, ma'am, they got some calls ---- about 200, Cole said.

"It's been mostly dog lovers and Marines," he said. "Well, actually, it's been all kinds of people."

An 81-year-old man wanted to help, even though his wife was ill with Alzheimer's disease; another caller offered a mansion in Pasadena; one just loved mastiffs and had kept a previous dog's ashes in the house after it died.

Cole held out for a loving family similar to his own, with some space for the dog. And he thinks he has found it. Tonight, Jake is to have a trial run, or "sleepover" as Kathryn calls it, with a family in De Luz. A final decision on the dog's foster parents will be made Saturday, Cole said, adding that he is very humbled by all the people who offered to help.

"I feel like it's been some kind of quest," he said. "But I needed to find that one family that if something happens to me. ... I just want to know he's with a family and will be OK."

Cole visited 15 prospective homes after fielding many calls and whittling down the prospects with some questions over the phone. Then, a few days ago, Jake was stepped on by a horse on one visit. The $500 bill for stitching and casting his leg has taken the money Cole set aside for extra supplies to take to Iraq.

"I had no other choice," Cole said with a shrug. "You know, he's my boy. I'm not going to let him go."

He added, "He deserves it. He's always taking care of me."

Cole said Jake protected him from a pack of coyotes one night when the two were walking in an undeveloped area of Temecula. The coyotes were surrounding them, Cole said, and Jake's size and threatening manner scared them away.

But the dog is gentle and loving, he said, and even listens to the neighbors.

Cole will be in Iraq for one year, patrolling in a small team for the seventh deployment of his career. He politely declined to be more specific. He has lived in Menifee for two years, commuting to Camp Pendleton, and has been stationed in California for most of his 17 years in the Marine Corps. He was born in Saigon; his mother is Vietnamese and his father is a veteran and a Texan.

The family plans to settle near a base in North Carolina after Cole returns from Iraq, with Jake. And yes, people do comment about how emotional the soldier is about his dog, Cole said. He said he believes in loyalty.

"I must sound like a wet blanket, but look at him," he said. "He listens. He's obedient. He's like a good Marine. And he would do if for me if he could."

Willa Bagwell, the executive director of Animal Friends of the Valleys, said she wishes more people would be as responsible as Cole when needing to give up a dog. Bagwell said the Lake Elsinore shelter would not have trouble placing a pure-bred mastiff, but there are lots of challenges in placing large dogs in a timely manner.

About 39 percent of the shelter's adoptable dogs were euthanized last year, she said, a figure everyone is hopeful will decrease with a new regional shelter planned in Wildomar.

"I truly commend them for taking the time to find a proper home for this animal," she said.

Bagwell appealed to people to consider providing a short-term foster home for shelter dogs. She admitted that can be difficult emotionally and surely will be for the family who takes in Jake.

Cole said he is grateful not to have to leave the dog dilemma with his wife, who will be dealing with enough without him.

"I'm going to miss my girls tremendously," he said.

Kathryn Cole said she will continue to run her own real estate and home loan business and try to keep her children's lives as normal as possible during the transition.

"I try not to think about it, and I'll try not to watch the news," she said. "I'll just do my best and pray and keep going to church. ... The wife of a Marine. I've got to suck it up."

She paused and added that maybe she shouldn't say that.

Her husband reassured her.

"It's OK," he said. "People know."


Sessions teach Marine recruits about making ethical choices

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – A Marine Corps boot camp may be hell on Earth run by drill instructors who are "almost Satans in camies," or camouflage, as Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Foster put it.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/stories/021507dnintmarineethics.1787780.html

03:26 PM CST on Thursday, February 15, 2007
By JIM LANDERS / The Dallas Morning News

But it is also an experience in deep moral contemplation.

Recruits a few months away from the war in Iraq learn fundamentals of ethics and moral courage. Navy chaplains and senior Marine drill instructors try to equip them with the discipline to avoid – and, if necessary, halt – horrors like Abu Ghraib and Haditha.

"In the desert, when there's a vehicle speeding towards you at a checkpoint, and you need to make a decision – what are you going to do?" chaplain Gary Thorton asked scores of recruits in his lecture hall.

"My hope is, prior to that time, you will have learned here the values to help you make the right decision. We want you to be able to make that decision with a good conscience."

Capt. Thorton has degrees from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California. He grew up in Abilene wanting to be a fighter pilot and started college in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M; University before learning that asthma would keep him out of a military cockpit.

His recruit training classes start with a scene from the movie The Patriot. A British cavalry officer shoots a boy who tries to stop the arrest of his older brother.

Mel Gibson, who plays the boys' father, has to check his rage and anguish to protect the remaining members of his family while planning an ambush to free the surviving son.

"It's an opener about the moral dilemma faced by Mel Gibson's character," Capt. Thorton said.

Left unsaid is the contrast between the film clip and reports about what happened in Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005. After a Marine died in a bomb blast, fellow Marines shot and killed 24 unarmed civilians.

In December, the Marine Corps filed murder charges against four Marines who were at Haditha. Four officers, including a lieutenant colonel, were charged with dereliction of duty for not thoroughly investigating the killings.

Attorneys for the accused have said their actions were justified.

The Marines at Parris Island are under orders not to talk about what happened at Haditha. Soon after the killings were uncovered by Time magazine, the then-commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee, ordered refresher courses in "core values" for all Marines.

The order didn't apply to the recruits at Parris Island, because they already receive a broader education in core values during 12 weeks of boot camp.

Capt. Thorton and other Navy chaplains teach six hours of ethics classes for every recruit who passes through Parris Island and the Marines' other boot camp in San Diego. They lecture on group values, commitment, suicide awareness and moral courage.

Navy chaplain John Connolly opened his class on group values with a scene from the movie Gladiator, where Russell Crowe's character tells fellow gladiators in the arena: "Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? We stay together, we survive."

"What keeps us alive?" Lt. Connolly asked the recruits. "Discipline. ... Teamwork. ... Love."

The recruits get 26 more hours of this training from senior drill instructors like Gunnery Sgt. Foster. The senior instructors hold "hats off" discussions with the recruits to talk about Marine Corps legends like Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who died after covering a grenade in Fallujah to protect his fellow Marines. Occasionally, the senior drill instructors talk about breakdowns that have left black marks on the U.S. military.

"In Iraq, you could find yourself shaking hands and handing chow to some freaking guy who was shooting at you this morning," Gunnery Sgt. Foster said. "I've had times I would like nothing more than to kill that guy standing in front of me. But that's a discipline that starts at boot camp."

Gunnery Sgt. Foster, 34, who is from Savannah, Ga., served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He said he stresses to recruits the need to keep emotions in check and stay professional. One way to get that across, he said, is to tell recruits to immediately put aside any resentment about punishment at boot camp so they can be fully involved in their next assignment.

It's a message he believes that officers and sergeants need to reinforce with their Marines.

"If an IED [improvised explosive device] killed three friends yesterday, you might want to kill them all right now," he said. "You have those thoughts. But leadership is the key to it."

In their classes with the chaplains, the recruits can relax slightly. Their platoon drill instructors leave the room. Lt. Connolly tells them there are only two rules: "Don't fall asleep, and if you can't remember rule number one, remember rule number two – stay awake."

It's not easy. Exhausted recruits prod one another as some drop their heads. In a winter camp, the chapel classroom is filled with the sound of coughing.

Capt. Thorton asked why ethics are important. Recruits jumped to attention to offer answers.

"Good afternoon, sir!" shouted one. "With a proper ethical understanding, we can all get along just a bit better, sir!"

Capt. Thorton agreed, and then called on a second recruit. "It helps us determine good and bad, just and unjust, sir!"

The captain nodded his approval.

"That really is the purpose of this training – to help you when you come up against difficult circumstances, so you can make the right decision, the moral decision," Capt. Thorton said.

The Marines' core values instruction teaches recruits to make decisions based on the acronym STAR: Stop, Think, Act and Review. Drill instructors say they hammer home the message again and again.

"It's tough for Marines in the trenches to control their emotions, but we are professional war fighters. The minute I see a kid lose discipline, I'm on him," said Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Lovell, 32, of Manton, Mich.

The senior instructors and chaplains also stress with recruits that the Uniform Code of Military Justice binds them. Obedience is drilled into them from the night they arrive at boot camp. But if they are given an order that violates the code, other obligations kick in.

"If someone gives you an unlawful order, you are not obliged to follow it. You report it through the chain of command," Gunnery Sgt. Foster said. "If you are given an order that causes you to break the law, you are going to be responsible."

He contrasted the Marine's decision-making with the deliberations of corporate America.

"These are young Marines with a vehicle speeding toward them at a checkpoint. They have to make a split-second decision," he said. "We have meetings in boardrooms in America that last for days that are less consequential than that."


February 14, 2007

Marines, soldiers 'revive' economic, social development in western Euphrates River Valley

RAMANA, Iraq (Feb. 14, 2007) -- Local Iraqi leaders, members of local Iraqi Security Forces and Marines and Soldiers serving in western Iraq came together Feb. 1, 2007, in Ramana, Iraq, to celebrate the grand opening of a bridge which stretches across the Euphrates River here.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/48503207d459b42f85257282002f9f8b?OpenDocument
Please click on this link to view photos at the end of the article.

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes
Story Identification #: 200721434010

The celebration included a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by a feast hosted by the mayor of Ramana, Raffi Harrab.

Local sheiks along with Lt. Col. Scott C. Shuster, commanding officer of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, a Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based battalion, and the mayors of Husaybah and Ramana marked the celebration by walking across the bridge after the ribbon was cut.

The bridge was decorated with a palm-made arch over the south entrance of the bridge, flanked by two Iraqi national flags. All of the day’s events were planned and organized by the local Iraqi people, and security was left up to the local Iraqi Security Forces. Shuster said he was pleased the Iraqi people, army and police had done such a thorough job for the ceremony.

The bridge was constructed by an Army platoon with 362nd Engineer Company, a unit based out of Fort Benning, Ga. The construction of the bridge began December 2006 and was completed less than a week before the grand opening.

Budgeted at $6.5 million, the steel, double truss designed bridge, known as a Mabey-Johnson Logistic Support Bridge, was named, once again, the Ramana Bridge. At 268 meters in length and with two lanes for vehicles traveling North and South across the river, the bridge connects the two Euphrates River Valley cities – Karabilah and Ramana.

The bridge was originally an Iraqi-constructed bridge.

In November of 2005, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, a Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based battalion, destroyed sections of the original bridge with an air strike in order to interdict insurgent activities and to support counter insurgency operations in the area. This was just three months before a 16-day operation dubbed Steel Curtain where Marines and other Coalition Forces here ousted insurgents from this area.

Since then, the effects of the disabled were “tremendous” for the people of Ramana, Karabilah, and other local cities such as Sa’dah, and Husaybah,said Army 1st Lt. Po Chun Tsui, platoon commander with 362nd Engineer Company.

Shuster said it was clear the loss of the bridge had a very negative impact on the local populace and local businesses.

“The bridge served not only as a link to commerce and economic development but also a conduit to relationships, families and a complex social network with far reaching effects,” said Tsui, a Honolulu native. “The restoration of the Ramana Bridge is a step toward garnering support to the Coalition Forces and 3/4 [3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment] effort in the area.”

In June 2006, an assault float bridge, more commonly known as the Ribbon Bridge, was emplaced by the 74th Engineer Company, an Army unit out of Fort Bragg, N.C., to assist locals in resuming vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the Ramana area.

But, in October 2006, sections of the bridge were damaged due to rain storms and flooding on the Euphrates River.

Although the Ribbon Bridge, which was dubbed the Golden Gate Bridge, was emplaced across the river, it was designed for tactical application and not for long term use such as a fixed bridge, said Tsui.

The Marine Corps purchased the MJLSB from funding allocated for Iraqi civil infrastructure development, said Tsui. After a month without a bridge between Karabilah and Ramana, construction began in December.

Building materials and labor came directly from the U.S. Army bridge building company, said Shuster.

“This project showed our commitment to the Iraqi people and positive growth in the area,” said Shuster.

During the ceremony, Mayor Raffi Harrab, the mayor of Ramana, said the connection and relationship between Ramana and Karabala was almost dead, but thanks to the rebuilding of the bridge, it is “revived.”

“We’re all very happy for such a good achievement from the Americans,” said Harrab through an Arabic-English interpreter. “We all give our thanks to the troops who made this good project happen.”

The MJLSB project required the effort of every Soldier from 362nd Engineer Company’s 1st Platoon, said Army Staff Sgt. Glenn Fulton, senior boat operator with 1st Platoon, 362nd Engineer Company.

“For most soldiers in the platoon, the construction of the [bridge] is one of the highlights of their military career,” said Fulton, an Oakdale, Conn., native. “The thought of leaving a legacy of their time in Iraq for the Iraqi people was a motivation for of all soldiers involved. Every member of the platoon played a major part in this mission.”

The construction of the Ramana Bridge also improves logistical and Quick Reaction Force support for the battalion, said Shuster.

The Marine battalion, nicknamed “Shanghai” for their garrison duty in Shanghai, China, in 1927, is currently serving its fourth deployment to Iraq since the initial push to Baghdad in 2003, which they were a major part of. The Marines and Sailors of the battalion are now into their sixth month of a nine-month deployment.

Daily life for 3/4’s service members means patrolling the streets of these Euphrates River cities in search of insurgent activity. They’re also tasked with mentoring and monitoring the local Iraqi Security Forces, imparting with them essential military tactics and procedures they will need in order to man their country on their own.

Coalition overwatch on the bridge site is maintained by Marines with 3/4 from a nearby outpost. Local Iraqi Security Forces are constantly conducting security on the area through patrols and random vehicle searches at check points. As long as the task force is serving the area, overwatch on the bridge will continue, said Shuster.

“For the same reason we want to use the bridge is the same reason the terrorists want to stop us from using the bridge – we’re providing support for the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Shuster.

Aside from combat operations in the area, this bridge will mostly be used by the local populace, said Sgt. Dmitriy Y. Degtyar, a team leader and civil affairs specialist with 4th Civil Affairs Group, an attachment in direct support of Task Force 3/4.

Funding allocated for civil infrastructure development was granted to local Iraqi contractors in Ramana. All materials needed for construction projects come from south of the Euphrates River, across from Ramana. But, without the bridge, these materials had to be rerouted to another bridge, several miles away from Ramana, costing more money to the contactors, said Degtyar.

“This was very inconvenient to the local contractors,” said Degtyar, a Denver native. “Now, with the bridge put in, construction projects in the area will surely speed up.”

“The Raman Bridge is an open gate toward economic development and growth,” added Degtyar.

To a land of mostly farming and sheep herding, this is a very important development to this area, say some Iraqi people here.

“The Ramana Bridge’s presence will serve as a symbol of the United States commitment to the nation of Iraq and the Iraqi people,” said Tsui. “This is a significant leap forward.”

February 13, 2007

31st MEU conducts Mech Raid during ARGEX

OKINAWA, Japan (Feb. 13, 2007) -- Minutes after arriving on their objective, a company of Marines unleashed a hail of machinegun fire awakening what once was a quiet and sleepy town and turning it into a battleground for urban combat.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2007215684

Feb. 13, 2007; Submitted on: 02/15/2007 06:08:04 AM ; Story ID#: 2007215684
By Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin, 31st MEU

As part of a simulated training scenario, Marines and Sailors from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the battalion landing team of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a mechanized raid on “Combat Town” Feb. 13. This exercise was conducted as part of the semi-annual Amphibious Ready Group Exercise 07-1, involving both the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the MEU.


The raid exercise, according to Capt. Kemper Jones, company commander of E Co., was conducted in order to allow his unit the opportunity to train, work and familiarize his Marines to operate with the Assault Amphibian Vehicle detachment assigned to the BLT and to exercise their logistical and tactical operations.


“This exercise is good practice for us and yet it is one of the more logistically and tactically challenging evolutions as far as ship-to-shore movement is concerned,” Jones said.


Though they may have faced a few obstacles during the day-long evolution, Jones said his Marines and Sailors accomplished their goals of bringing together the company, which was reinforced with a team of explosive ordnance disposal Marines, combat engineers and a Javelin weapons team. The raid exercise also gave them the opportunity to practice Military Operations in an Urban Terrain.


“A mechanized raid is a good option if you don’t have the means to do a helicopter raid,” said the 33-year-old Jones, a native of Richmond, Va. “With additional weapons at our disposal, a mechanized raid provides troops on the ground with more fire support.”


During the raid, Marines cleared buildings and structures filled with enemy combatants and noncombatants. According to Sgt. Christian Hickey, 3rd squad leader, 2nd Platoon, quick decisions had to be made in determining whether to shoot or not to shoot.


“I think by practicing these scenarios it will help us gain the confidence necessary to carry out the mission,” said Hickey, a 25-year-old native of Keystone, Fla. “This will also help commanders and key leaders like myself in practicing our decision-making tactics.”


When the dust cleared and the noise settled, a dozen enemy prisoners of war were detained, giving the Marines the opportunity to practice the processing of enemy combatants.


When the raid was complete, the Marines loaded onto their Assault Amphibian Vehicles and left town bound for the USS Juneau (LPD-10) which sat off the coast several miles away.


The MEU, is undergoing its final evaluation exercise which concludes this week. The evaluation exercise culminates a month-long training period between the MEU and the ARG as they prepare for its scheduled deployment throughout the Asia-Pacific region this spring.

February 12, 2007

Marine receives 2 Bronze Stars, Danville graduate is honored for service in Afghanistan

Marine Corps Maj. Randall S. Hoffman never knew his uncle, a Vietnam War helicopter crew chief who died in a troop recovery mission in 1968.

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070212/LOCAL/702120381/-1/ZONES04

February 12, 2007
By John Tuohy

But while growing up in Hendricks County, Hoffman heard a lot about him from his father and another uncle, who also were U.S. Marines. And in 1994, he brought his uncle's long-missing remains back to Indiana.

"I was well aware of my uncle's sacrifice to serve and defend the country," Hoffman said. "That's how my family was raised, to pay attention to what's going on in the world and be prepared to serve."

Saturday, Hoffman took his own prominent place in that family tradition. The Danville High School graduate received two Bronze Star medals at a ceremony at the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Terre Haute.

Hoffman earned the medals for combat actions in Afghanistan. In the craggy mountains of a border region in that war-torn country, Hoffman and his unit of indigenous soldiers appeared pinned down when al-Qaida fighters launched a midnight attack in March 2003.

Under intense gunfire and rocket bombardment, Hoffman pinpointed where his soldiers should return mortar and machine-gun fire. His battalion killed at least 55 enemy soldiers over three days and forced them to retreat. Five of his men were killed.

"They attacked us in the early morning, and we fought for about seven hours, until sunlight," Hoffman said. "It went on for three days."

Hoffman, now back in Indiana, was in Afghanistan and Iraq for 21/2 years and plans to return in about a year. For the past 18 months, he's been an inspector and instructor at the Terre Haute training center. It's also Hoffman's job to notify the families of Marines that a loved one has been killed in combat.

"I volunteered to do the notifications," he said. "It is a rather unpleasant task. I'd rather be getting shot at in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it is an important job."

Most recently, he assisted the families of Sgt. Brock Babb, 40, Evansville, and Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Hines, 26, Olney, Ill., who were killed by roadside bombs in October.

"We meet the caskets at the airport and help the family through the process with things like life insurance," Hoffman said. "It's a very tight community."

Hoffman, 40, was born in California and moved to Danville when he was 8. During high school, he joined the choir and competed on the wrestling team.

"He was one of those dream kids who could have done anything," said retired Danville High School Principal Pete Davis. "He had character and drive, was a good student and had all types of intellectual and artistic interests. But this was something he really wanted to do, considering his family history and everything."

After graduating from Danville in 1985, he enlisted in the Marines, just as his father and two uncles had done. It came as a surprise to his father, Carl Hoffman, Danville.

"I never pushed him in that direction, so I thought he might do something with his artistic talent," Carl Hoffman said. "He could really draw and paint and act and sing. But I could understand how he made the choice. He had a good idea of the values that were held by me and his two uncles."

Randall Hoffman transferred temporarily to the Marine Reserve in 1989 so he could attend college, where he also learned to speak Arabic.
"It's a real ice-breaker later on over there," he said of the war zones. "For some reason, Arabic just came easy to me."

After graduating from Indiana University in 1994 with a degree in history, Hoffman got a firsthand view of his family's military past. That was the summer he flew to Vietnam to bring the remains of his uncle back to Danville.
Terry A. Hoffman, a Marine Corps corporal, was 23 when his helicopter was shot down in Quang Tri province in South Vietnam on Aug. 19, 1968. His remains, missing for more than two decades, were found in 1993 and identified in 1994.

"I didn't think it would be very emotional, but it was," Hoffman said of returning his uncle's remains to Indiana. "Especially when I gave his parents the folded American flag. I'm glad they got this closure before they died."

A plaque honoring Hoffman's uncle, also a Danville High School grad, was placed at the Hendricks County War Memorial at the county courthouse. He was buried July 4 at Spring Hill Cemetery south of Danville.

Randall Hoffman had planned to retire from military service, but then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"It caused some soul-searching on my future," Hoffman said. "I decided I just really and truly wanted to help in the worst possible way that could protect my life and the life of my kids."

It's why he is still deferring retirement.

"These guys are dying in huge numbers," he said of the Iraqi soldiers he trained. "It will still take a while to get them to stand up on their own. But they tell us Americans that if we leave there, there will be absolutely no hope for them or their families."

Though proud of his son's heroism, Carl Hoffman said he worries about him. But, he added, "When you look at what's at stake, you realize some things are worth living and dying for."

Hoffman, who is married with a son, 9, and two daughters, 7 and 2, said his commitment is sometimes difficult for them to understand.

"I decided to come back home to take a little downtime and let them get to know me," Hoffman said. "But they know I have an obligation to my country and an obligation to the Iraqi soldiers."

Hoffman said the Afghans and Iraqis he fights with have earned his respect.

"I love them like brothers," he said. "I've really learned a lot since being over there and about misconceptions and stereotypes we have about Muslims. They are some great soldiers, some on par with U.S. soldiers. They are good-hearted guys who just want to live in peace like anyone else."

“War Dogs” make statement with snap VCPs

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 12, 2007) -- Marines from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted snap, or hasty, vehicle check points as part of a mounted patrol through the back roads of this small city a few miles northwest of Fallujah Feb. 12 to familiarize themselves with their area of operations.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ad983156332a819185256cb600677af3/5861022313f6c7a485257283004cdcbb?OpenDocument

Feb. 12, 2007; Submitted on: 02/15/2007 08:59:32 AM ; Story ID#: 200721585932
By Lance Cpl. Randall Little, Regimental Combat Team-6

Snap VCPs are a fundamental part of security operations. They give Marines operating in this area a solid low-level view of what's going on the ground here and a chance to interdict those who would do them harm.

“It’s good that we are stopping these vehicles,” explained Lance Cpl. Chad R. Whiting, a 35-year-old team leader from Toledo, Ohio. “Even if we’re not catching anybody, we’re stopping the flow of insurgents. We’re denying them freedom of movement to go where they please.”

While manning the check points the Marines stop vehicles that match particular profiles used by insurgents. At a VCP today, Cpl. J.D. France's squad stopped a vehicle triggering lessons they learned prior to deploying.

“It was the only vehicle we had seen all morning and the area was pretty built up,” explained France, a 22-year-old squad leader from Batesville, Ind. “The vehicle wasn’t too beat up and there were four military aged males occupying the vehicle, so that raised suspicions.”

“The more suspicious vehicles we stop, the more our odds increase of finding insurgents,” explained France. “It also lets the Iraqi people who see us stopping these vehicles know that we are doing our job, that we’re making the roads safer for them.”

Sometimes the Marines will stop a vehicle and catch insurgents red-handed, other times they are innocent Iraqi people.

“The men we stopped were (not a threat). We checked all of their IDs and it turns out they were school teachers,” said France. “I still think it was good that we stopped them; just because they didn’t have any weapons doesn’t mean (that vehicle) couldn’t have had them.”

Even though some of the vehicles the Marines stop don’t have insurgents with lots of weapons with them, Marines are still accomplishing a lot by erring on the side of safety.

“If we get nothing else from these vehicles that were stopping, we’re at least learning about the local populace and how cooperative they are with us,” Whiting explained. “It’s very important that we find out how these people are acting toward us so we know how we should act toward them.”

The vehicle search went smoothly and the Iraqi men were very cooperative. Since the Saqlawiyans pass through VCPs so regularly, more often than not they know what to do when they are stopped.

Though the “War Dogs” did not detain any insurgents with their VCP, it can still be considered a successful mission, said France.

“I think the searches went perfectly. We didn’t find any weapons or anything else out of the ordinary which is always good,” he said. “At the same time the Iraqi people see us checking these vehicles and they know we are out there doing our job: trying to make Saqlawiyah safer for them.”

Donations sought for deployed Broncos

KALAMAZOO--Contributions are being sought to stock another round of care packages that Western Michigan University will be sending next month to its deployed faculty, staff, students and alumni.

http://www.wmich.edu/wmu/news/2007/02/036.html


Feb. 12, 2007

The volunteer committee that was formed to keep the packages flowing is asking that items be sent to the WMU Registrar's Office in care of Brenda Hamlyn by Monday, Feb. 26.

Highly desired items

Health and hygiene items--wet wipes, hand lotion and sanitizer, sunscreen (SPF 45 or higher), Chap Stick, lip balm with sunscreen (in squeeze tubes), shampoo, and shaving cream (in squeeze tubes).

Food and snacks--macaroni and cheese, SpaghettiOs, beef jerky, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, trail mix, peanuts, Pop Tarts, cookies, candy (non-melting), chips, gum (especially gum in blister packs), mints, hot chocolate packets, tea, and Gatorade powder.

Entertainment and WMU items--CDs, magazines, playing cards, dice, small games, Nerf footballs, WMU T-shirts, Western Herald newspapers, and University-related banners suitable for hanging on tents or in barracks.

Miscellaneous items--AA and AAA batteries, pens and pencils, notepads, baggies (all sizes), paper towels, bandannas, flip flops, and shoe laces.

Cash contributions are not being solicited. Those wishing to help with the care package initiative are asked to let the committee know what items they will be donating. This information may be sent to Gerry Schma at [email protected], Brenda Hamlyn at [email protected] or Sandra Williams at [email protected]

To ensure that every deployed WMU soldier and marine is added to the care package list, those being deployed are asked to notify the Registrar's Office as soon as they receive their orders.

Committee members

Bronco care package committee members are WMU staffers Gerry Schma, Extended University Programs; Brenda Hamlyn, Registrar's Office; Becky Spanjer in Extended University Programs, Sheryl Todd, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Paul MacNellis, Landscape Services; Gail MacNellis, College of Fine Arts; and Sandra Williams, Division of Student Affairs.

"We're encouraging WMU offices, groups and individuals to assume responsibility for collecting a particular item or items," says Schma. "Our goal is to lock in enough supplies so that 35 care packages can be shipped four times this year."

Schma says that five of the care packages will be going to female soldiers and marines and that donations need to be received a few weeks before the scheduled care package shipping dates. The shipping schedule for 2007, and the holidays or events they correspond to, are March 6, Easter; June 5, Independence Day; Aug. 7, back to school; and Nov. 6, Christmas.

Many changes under way at Lejeune's Naval Hospital

A visit to Camp Lejeune's Naval Hospital reveals construction workers, wet paint signs and building materials - all visible signs of changes in the making.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID;=48402&Section;=News

February 12,2007

CHRISSY VICK

That's how things have gone over the past seven months at the Naval Hospital since Capt. Mark C. Olesen took command.

Camp Lejeune's full-service pharmacy located at the Marine Corps Exchange has opened, allowing shoppers to get their medicine in a one-stop shop. That expansion has allowed the Naval Hospital's own pharmacy to shorten its waiting time to around 10 minutes. Those pharmacies fill around 2,000 prescriptions a day.

The hospital also completed one of its biggest projects - the Coastal Carolina Mother-Baby Unit, which opened in November and boasts 18 rooms that accommodate mother, father, baby and family. Everything from labor to delivery to recovery happens in one room now.

"The biggest part of what we do is delivering babies," Olesen said. "So giving the best care to those patients is important."

And more changes are on the way as Camp Lejeune plans for more troops, handling wounded Marines and sailors coming home from Iraq and dealing with base realignment issues.

The hospital is now gearing up to increase its services from around 160 to 200 deliveries per month by July so it can handle the transfer of patients from Cherry Point's Haliburton Naval Hospital. Haliburton was affected by the most recent base realignment and closure decision.

The hospital, which currently serves around 1,600 outpatients a day, will also see an increase in its senior patients because it's opening up some 200 enrollment vacancies to patients over 65 years old. That will help the family practice training program work with a broader mix of patients, Olesen said.

The construction and wet paint signs are part of the hospital's current project to modernize its appearance. It's the first interior renovation since the building was constructed in the 1980s, Olesen said.

With more expansion plans in motion for the coming year, it leaves a full plate for the skipper.

"We have to prepare, as the rest of the Marine Corps base does, for the anticipated expansion of the number of active-duty Marines assigned to this base," he said. "The end strength of the Marines is proposed to go up by about 30,000 overall."

To handle the increase, the Naval Hospital is working in cooperation with base and Jacksonville city officials to plan for the expansion of healthcare facilities. They hope to add more branch clinics - those located within specific units sprinkled around the local bases - and expand existing buildings.

The former Berkeley Manor Elementary School is being redesigned into the new location of the Education and Developmental Intervention Services. The department, for families with special needs children, should open later this month.

"That's the beginning of a vanguard of moving additional services closer to the people who need and use them," Olesen said. "That will in turn allow us to expand some of our existing services within this facility, because one of our challenges is we've got great people, great equipment, but we're a bit facility constrained."

The hospital is also planning to convert its racquetball building into a physical therapy clinic, a move designed to accommodate the hospital's shifting focus since the war in Iraq began in 2003.

"(The war) really has represented some tremendous challenges, but also some very rewarding opportunities to practice medicine," he said.

Naval Hospital staff members are assigned to wounded warriors as case managers to coordinate their care upon return to Camp Lejeune, he said.

"My staff chooses to work here because they believe in the mission of this hospital and the personification of that mission is taking care of our nation's fallen heroes," Olesen said. "They report how gratifying it is to take care of these impressive young warfighters."

The hospital coordinates closely with battalion aid stations and is updating its computer system capabilities to provide better, more consistent care on the base, as well as in war, Olesen said.

"We also have specialists going out to branch health clinics across Camp Lejeune, (New River) Air Station and Cherry Point in obstetrics, orthopedics and general surgery, so it's easier for (service members) to get the care they need," he said.

The hospital is focusing on improving post-deployment health care to deal with concerns such as post traumatic stress disorder.

"I foresee for the future expansion of our mental health services provided to Marines in garrison in a proactive way for those returning from war," Olesen said. "We are working hard to proactively identify people and treat those conditions before they become disabling."

At the same time, the Naval Hospital has to juggle the deployment of its own forces - about 25 recently left with II Marine Expeditionary Force, and another 25 deployed to Kuwait as part of the Expeditionary Medical Force.

To cover the shortfall, the hospital receives help from reserve units and contract providers. Olesen says partnership is key - and locally, the partnership has been better than ever.

"In addition, our staff is just tremendous about stepping up," Olesen said. "They'll work a little harder and work a little smarter to meet the health care needs.

"It's a great thing to be a part of."

February 11, 2007

Marine Killed In Calif. Air Base Accident, 19 Others Injured As Truck Overturns During Training Exercise

AP) A 7-ton truck overturned during a training exercise at Miramar air base early Saturday, killing one Marine and injuring 19 others, authorities said.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/11/national/main2458298.shtml


SAN DIEGO, Feb. 11, 2007

The truck was part of a six-vehicle convoy on regularly scheduled training when it went off a dirt road and overturned sometime after 3 a.m. at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, base spokesman Maj. Todd Sudmeyer said.

The injured were taken to local hospitals but their conditions were not immediately released. Their identities also were not immediately released until relatives could be notified.

"The prognosis for the 19 wounded marines is good across the board," Sudmeyer said. "Even the most severe are stable and are expected to make a full recovery."

All were members of Miramar's 4th Tank Battalion, and training at the base was suspended while officials investigate the accident, Sudmeyer said.

February 10, 2007

3/6 Marines get acquainted with new neighbors

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 10, 2007) -- The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, who recently arrived on the ground in Iraq, are going through a process faced by any new homeowner. They are newcomers in a foreign neighborhood surrounded by strangers, including some who would rather not see them there.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/ed93349da9dfd14685257283004be8a5?OpenDocument

Feb. 10, 2007; Submitted on: 02/15/2007 08:49:07 AM ; Story ID#: 20072158497
By Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn, Regimental Combat Team-6

As the Marines settle into their new homes, they also begin the process of getting to know every one of their neighbors. They accomplish this by going door-to-door, shaking hands and asking questions, much like the Census Bureau does in America. It is an exhaustive, time-consuming process, but one that the Marines readily undertake as part of their daily mission. The rewards are worth the effort.

“A census documents who lives where, how many houses there are, the man of the house and his name. Along with that information, if we find suspicious things in the house that all goes into documentation,” said Cpl. Joshua C. Davis, a 22-year-old Clifton, Tenn., native and squad leader with the battalion’s K Company. “It gives you a world of information on who, what, when, where and why.”

They are not only gaining useful information for themselves. The Marines are laying the foundation for a more detailed and efficient means of gathering, tracking and analyzing census information that will ultimately be utilized by the Iraqi government in the future. This is done in the hopes they will be able to continue maintaining security in the region.

“The mission is transition,” said Lance Cpl. Robert W. Smith, 20, from Cocoa, Fla. “We are trying to give everything back to the Iraqis. Eventually we can turn over all the paperwork to them.”

The Marines patrol the area with enthusiasm, bypassing no house or building, leaving no stone unturned; they knock politely at the door and ask permission to come inside and speak to the man of the house. Squads present a request for census information written in Arabic. Once inside they search the house looking for anything suspicious, and with the aid of an interpreter they ask the owner questions.

“We always ask if the people have any problems with their water or electricity,” added Smith, a rifleman with K Company and 2005 graduate of Hank Williams, Jr., High School. “That way we can get it fixed for them so they have power and running water. We try and find out how many kids they have in the household, if they are going to school and if they feel safe with their kids going to school with us around. We also try to find out how they feel about the Coalition Forces and if they have any problems with us.”

It is during these moments that the Marines get an opportunity to really get a feel for how much their presence here is welcome. According to Smith, who is on his first deployment, the view on the ground is a lot different from what the perception is at home.

“I was expecting a lot worse, like gunfights every day, but it’s not as bad,” he said. “(The perception) back in the States (is) that the Iraqis are mad at us for being here. Some of them are, but most of them aren’t. A lot of the people here think it’s safe for their kids to go to school.”

Marine unit extended in Iraq

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) will have their deployment extended in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in support of Multi-National Force-West.

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task;=view&id;=9831&Itemid;=128

Saturday, 10 February 2007
Multi-National Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20070210-11
Feb. 10, 2007

Marine unit extended in Iraq
Multi-National Force – West PAO

15th MEU (SOC) forces began arriving in Iraq Nov. 11, 2006 and are currently headquartered in the vicinity of Rutbah in western Al Anbar. The 15th MEU (SOC) continues to conduct counter-insurgency operations, support the introduction of new police forces and ensure the freedom of movement for legitimate commerce along the major routes that link Jordan and Syria to Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.

The Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU (SOC), commanded by Col. Brian Beaudreault, and their families have been notified of the extension.

“Though it is always regrettable for the families to learn of a later than planned return of their Marines and Sailors, the extension of the MEU is vital to maintaining the significant forward progress that is being made throughout the province,” Beaudreault said.


Marine pilot from Big Bear City dies in Iraq

BIG BEAR CITY - Every day during his tour of duty in Iraq, 1st Lt. Jared Landaker flew casualty evacuation missions in dangerous combat zones in al-Anbar Province.

http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/02/193341.php

Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun
Article Launched:02/10/2007 01:00:00 AM PST

After months of performing the grueling work, he stopped looking back at the wounded young men and women being loaded onto his helicopter. It was too upsetting, said his mother, Laura Landaker.

Still, when he called his family from Iraq, the 25-year-old Marine Corps pilot who loved to fly sounded upbeat.

Landaker's calls home ended this week when he and six crew members and passengers died Wednesday in a helicopter crash outside Baghdad.

"We heard early that morning a CH-46 had gone down and it was worrying when we didn't get an e-mail from him afterward," his mother said. "About 4:15 p.m., three Marines knocked on the door.

"You know when you see them what they are there for."

The CH-46 helicopter Landaker was piloting had picked up a wounded Marine in Karbala, Iraq, and was taking him to a hospital when a support helicopter crew saw fire in the back.

The helicopter spun around twice and crashed on its left side. Everyone inside burned to death, the pilot's mother said.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Landaker had been in Iraq since August with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, nicknamed the "Purple Foxes," said his mother.

He was slated to come home on leave next week because he was chosen to take a specialized weapons and tactical training class in Yuma, Ariz.

He would have returned to Iraq in February 2008.

Landaker was raised in Big Bear City by his father, a retired California Highway Patrol officer, and his mother, who builds "spec" houses.

He liked flying in private planes, playing baseball and football and hitting the local ski slopes.

"He hated fishing, but loved skiing and snowboarding, and as a kid was always walking around with a mitt on his hand," said his mother.

He played varsity baseball and excelled in football at Big Bear High School. He was an all- CIF defensive back in 1998.

"He was a standout football player and a standout person," said Dave Griffith, the high school's head football coach. "All the kids around here looked up to him as a role model."

Joe Bradley, physics teacher and baseball coach at Big Bear High, said he had never coached a kid with more heart or courage.

The two remained close after he graduated, and Bradley saw him grow into a young man with great integrity.

"He would tell jokes and laugh, but he always stood up for what he believed in," he said.

After high school graduation, Landaker went on to study physics at the University of La Verne.

He was studying at the college when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place. He decided he wanted to fly jets in the Marine Corps, said his mother.

"He always aspired to fly, and after 9/11 he felt like he needed to do his part," she said. "His decision kind of blew us away. We thought he'd end up a fireman or coach."

He enlisted in the Marines after graduating from the university in 2003 and was sent to boot camp for officers in Quantico, Va.

Landaker was subsequently chosen for the flight program and went to Pensacola, Fla., to do flight training in T-34s, fixed-wing trainers.

He graduated at the top of his class and decided to fly helicopters.

After his deployment to Iraq in August, his mother did her part for the troops, organizing groups to visit wounded veterans at the Wounded Warrior Center at Camp Pendleton and the Naval Hospital in Balboa.

Now she is waiting for her son's body to come home and planning his funeral. A date has not yet been set for the memorial service.

Her grief is shared by the Big Bear Lake community.

"If there was a good reason to walk through fire, and you asked Jared to do it, he would," said Bradley. "He was a patriot who truly believed it was his job to save American lives."

February 9, 2007

Marines tackle the chill, ice and intensity of Bridgeport training

MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif.(Feb. 9. 2007) -- Most think of the typical battlefield today as being covered in sand and blazing temperatures, but Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment proved their readiness to fight in any clime or place by conducting winter mountain operations training.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/B9E18183B410111B8525727D008182FD?opendocument


Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lienemann
Story Identification #: 200729183436

The training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport was broken into three phases lasting from Jan. 9-29 and focused not only on winter warfare but on small unit leadership skills as well.

Phase one of the three-week course centered around acclimatization, classroom instruction and introductions to the gear and equipment Marines would be using out in the field.

"Establishing a solid base of knowledge is crucial for these Marines going out to live on a mountain," said Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, MWTC instructor. "The main focus is utilizing the same type of training applied in warm weather and using it in the different elements."

After finishing the classroom portion, Marines moved on to a practical application section of the course.

They employed their new knowledge with tactical unit movements.

"We spent a lot of time doing unit patrols through the snow," said Lance Cpl. Benjamin C. Smith, a radio telephone operator with Company L.

"It was tricky enough just walking in the snow shoes, but we had to try and be really quiet while doing it."

The "Darkhorse" Marines were met with temperatures reaching as low as negative 20 degrees the first night out in the field, said Lieutenant Col. James C. McArthur, Battalion Commander.

"It definitely built unit camaraderie, not just to accomplish the tasks, but for trying to stay warm as well," the 39-year-old McArthur said. "The climate out here was definitely like a baptism of fire for the battalion. They embraced the opportunity and excelled in the training."

The course culminated with a final battalion-sized exercise featuring helicopter insertions, live-fire ranges and casualty evacuation patrols.

Each company spent the morning prior to the helicopter lift practicing different techniques for their exits from the helos. The conditions of the landing zone were uncertain so each company rehearsed plans for every type of weather and terrain.

The following day, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters made nine trips to deliver the Marines of 3rd Battalion atop of the mountain.

"It was crazy getting out the back of the helos having snow and ice whipping around stinging my face. All I could think of was to just push as hard as I could and make it to the rally point," said Cpl. Norman L. Burge, radio telephone operator, Headquarters and Service Company. "It was great training though, I mean that's exactly how we'd be inserted in a real world scenario."

After the insertions, each company hiked off to positions where small unit leaders supervised over the construction of tactical bivouac sites.

"Small unit leadership plays a crucial role in scenarios like this. Not only does one have to look over his own equipment, but that of his junior Marines," McArthur said, from Gigharbor, Wash.

On day two of the final exercise, the live fire ranges sparked to life with both combat marksmanship drills and squad rushes.

"This is the first time in many years that a unit has had live fire training during a winter course," McArthur said. "It's extremely important to know how to efficiently neutralize a target in any climate."

Marines of Company I received a special treat on the third day in the form of a Marine-crewed CH-53 helicopter to work in conjunction with them on casevac operations.

"Darkhorse" Marines concluded the final exercise with a march back to the lower base camp.

"This training was a great confidence builder for me, we proved to ourselves and our leaders that we can actually operate in a cold weather combat environment," said Pfc. Jasdep S. Brar, a rifleman with Company K.

The battalion plans to continue to work hard and continue its predeployment training before leaving to join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in early August, according to McArthur.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gives wounded warrior a lift home

2/9/2007 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An injured Marine received an unexpected upgrade in his flight home from Iraq here Feb. 8.

http://www.amc.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123040556

by Capt. Vanessa Hillman and Staff Sgt. Candy Knight
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Eastburn from the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe, Hawaii, was on his way home to be with his family during his recovery. One of his stops along the way was at the David Grant USAF Medical Center's Aeromedical Staging Facility.

Unbeknownst to him, at the same time he was awaiting his flight, Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, was landing at Travis for a quick "gas and go" en route to Hawaii.

When General Pace learned a fellow Marine was on his way home after being injured in Iraq, he didn't hesitate.

"When I greeted General Pace and Mrs. Pace on the flight line one of the things I mentioned was that we currently had a Marine that was wounded in Iraq waiting transportation in our aeromedical staging facility," said Col Steve Arquiette, 60th Air Mobility Wing Commander. "The next words out of his mouth were 'let's go' and we were off."

Arriving at the DGMC, the general went straight for the Marine's room and knocked on the door.

"Hey Marine! Are you up for a visitor?" he shouted. When the Marine responded with a hearty, "Yes, Sir," he didn't have a clue who he was responding to.

"Corporal Eastburn was in shock to say the least," said Col. Arquiette. "General Pace found out the corporal was going to Hawaii as well and said, 'You're coming with me, we'll go home together.'"

The general's flight was delayed for a short period of time as medical personnel gathered Corporal Eastburn's belongings, checked him out of the hospital and prepared him for the flight home, but the general didn't mind one bit.

"Delaying the flight to take a wounded warrior home was the right thing to do," the general said. "If I can get him home five or six hours earlier to see his family, I'm going to do it."

The general's generous offer was not lost on the staff at the DGMC.

"While it was amazing experience for me to meet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I think it was more of a highlight for the patient," said Staff Sgt. Darwin Diaz, 60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Aeromedical operations technician. "Not everyone gets offered a ride home by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

"I was very impressed by his attitude toward the wounded Marine," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Williams, 60th AMDS. "He was more concerned about the injured Marine than he was about all the prestige his position gives him."

General Pace departed the base with Corporal Eastburn commending Team Travis' assistance.

"This was a much more productive stop than I ever would have expected," he said. "In a very short amount of time, you all went above and beyond to support my request."

Elite Marine warriors prepare for dive school

CAMP SCHWAB, Japan (February 9, 2007) -- During the Marine Corps Combatant Diver Course at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla., reconnaissance Marines and corpsmen swim close to 68,000 yards in what is arguably the most intense water training they will receive in their Marine Corps and Navy careers.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070209-dive.html


Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson

To ready for this course, 14 Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, spent the past two weeks undergoing a pre-dive course.


Gunnery Sgt. Kris A. Rossignol, the training chief for 3rd Recon Bn., said the combatant diver course is important since a reconnaissance Marine's initial training only touches the basics of combatant diving and does not make the Marines dive qualified.


"The pre-dive course is here to wear them out and put them in shape physically and mentally, which will make them successful," he said.


From Jan. 29-Feb. 9, the Marines ran and did water aerobic exercises, such as treading water with two oxygen tanks, during the early-morning hours of each day.


In the afternoons, they often conducted open-water finning, or swimming with fins, in the Pacific Ocean. While finning more than 2,000 meters, the Marines wore load bearing vests with simulated ammunition and M-16A2 service rifles slung across their backs.


Rossignol said preparation is always a key element in the high-tempo reconnaissance field.


"As recon Marines, we need to go in once and complete our mission. Due to our high number of deployments and busy training schedule, we don't have the time to send these Marines and sailors to any school more than once. They need the best training before going so they can come out successful."


The course also included the fundamentals of dive medicine, dive tables and basic dive principles.


"They all need to know how to take care of another Marine if something goes wrong during the course and in real-world operations," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew O. Warner, a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman with 3rd Recon Bn. "The classroom instruction just gave them a basic understanding of what recon corpsmen know."


Sgt. Hamid R. Razzazan, a team leader with the battalion, said the training also builds character.


"These guys are in the pool during the early-morning hours knowing that by the end of the day, they will be exhausted," Razzazan said. "This training not only helps them physically, but it also builds their confidence. To be able to think things through while in the water will make them know they can accomplish more than they think."


The Marines who participated in the strenuous training knew the course would be a challenge, explained Lance Cpl. Alexander E. Tice.


"For two weeks, we received a great challenge from good instructors," Tice said. "We all had a terrific time. Being in the water all day made us all really tired, but we definitely got the confidence we needed in order to be successful at the MCCDC."


Police chief gets Iraq war medals, Angelino receives two Purple Hearts

Norwich Police Chief Joseph G. Angelino recently received Purple Hearts for two injuries he suffered in Iraq in September 2005.

http://www.pressconnects.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070209/NEWS01/702090336/1001

Friday February 9, 2007
By Jim Wright
Press & Sun-Bulletin

The 46-year-old Norwich native, who has been a Marine for more than 20 years, described himself as both humbled and embarrassed to receive one of the military service's most voted awards.

Brigadier Gen. David Papek, 4th Marine Air Wing Commanding General of New Orleans, presented the medal and honors to Sgt. Maj. Angelino, a Marine reservist and three-time Iraq war veteran, on Feb. 2 at a ceremony held at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, where Angelino's squadron is located. The base is only a short distance from the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

Angelino was a first sergeant in the Marines serving as a member of Company F, Second Battalion of the 25th Marines. He was first wounded Sept. 5, 2005, by an improvised explosive device while traveling to assist a Marine patrol that had been ambushed by small arms fire in Anbar Province, Iraq. His second injury occurred Sept. 30, 2005, during an enemy mortar attack on his company's base camp, Camp Habbaniyah, while he was still recovering from the first wound.

Angelino stood in front of his squadron inside a hangar on the former air base while being awarded the Purple Heart medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award. The veteran law enforcement officer received two embossed certificates detailing the instances leading to the awards.

He admitted he would rather have had the awards ceremony outside at the Continental Army headquarters in Newburgh, where Gen. George Washington in 1782 established the medal and awarded it to Revolutionary War veterans wounded in combat. A snowstorm drove the ceremony inside, however.

The ceremony took place before some 250 Marines, dignitaries and invited family members and guests. In attendance were Kendall Saber, Angelino's wife; Chenango County Judge W. Howard Sullivan; City of Norwich Mayor Joseph P. Maiurano; former city alderman and attorney James Cushman; and Second Ward Alderman Terry J. Bresina, the former Chenango County veterans services director. Bresina also is a Purple Heart Award recipient.

"I am truly humble to wear the same decoration that others who are much, much worse off than I am also wear," Angelino said Thursday as he sat behind his police chief's desk. He didn't talk much about his war experiences or the attacks that left him with a broken jawbone, a slight loss of hearing in one ear and a knee injury.

Two members of Angelino's unit didn't return -- something he talks little about, other than to say "we buried them."


Troops Shared Firm Belief in Iraq Service

Navy Medic, Marine Pleaded to Return; Other Marine Followed Brother's Path

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/08/AR2007020801942.html

By Mary Otto and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, February 9, 2007

One was a Navy medic, the other a Marine sergeant. Both begged to go back to Iraq for another tour of duty. A third followed her brother into the Marine Corps and, eventually, into the war.

All three died this week as stepped-up security operations intensified fighting.

Marine Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, shown reading a Medal of Honor citation on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, died Wednesday in Anbar province in what the Defense Department described as "supporting combat operations."

Seaman Manuel Ruiz, 21, from Maryland's Eastern Shore was among seven people killed when a Marine transport helicopter crashed in Anbar province Wednesday, his family said.

Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier, 24, from Virginia's Spotsylvania County was killed by a sniper Monday as he stood on a rooftop in Ramadi, the Pentagon and his family said yesterday.

And Marine Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, of Bel Air, Md., died Wednesday in Anbar province in what the Defense Department described as "supporting combat operations."

In Ruiz's hometown of Federalsburg, a farm community of 2,600, friends and neighbors tied red, white and blue ribbons to lampposts yesterday, and officials made plans to lower flags in his honor. But the gestures seemed inadequate.

"Our hearts are broken," said Connie Blanchard, who works in the town hall accounting office. "He was a very brave and courageous guy."

Ruiz, whose mother, Lisa, also served in the Navy, was 14 days into his second tour in Iraq when he died, said Adam Lusk, a family friend who fought back tears as he described Ruiz's dedication to his job, helping to save lives. "He pretty much demanded to go back."

In a small town where young people often seek the military life as a way to broaden their horizons, Ruiz also stood out as a talented and sensitive artist, said Marjorie Scott, who was Ruiz's art teacher during his four years at Colonel Richardson High School. When he was back from his first tour, Ruiz visited the school in his Navy uniform.

"Any time he talked about the military, his eyes glistened," she said. She said she had worried about him, but he assured her that he was fulfilling his calling. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"He was well-trained, and he loved what he was doing," Scott said.

Likewise, Frazier believed so deeply in his mission in Iraq that he ignored pleas from his family and begged, pleaded and knocked on doors to get the Marines to send him back to Iraq. It was his third time in combat after previous tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He enlisted in the military because of the 2001 terrorist attacks and had recently been promoted to sergeant, his family said.

His elder stepbrother, Aaron Mallin, said Frazier's devotion to the cause was matched by a lifelong interest in stepping in to look after others.

Marine Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, shown reading a Medal of Honor citation on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, died Wednesday in Anbar province in what the Defense Department described as "supporting combat operations."

When he was 18, he came home with a black eye. When his brother asked where the shiner had come from, Frazier said he had stepped into a quarrel when he'd seen a man hit a woman.

At home, he looked after his maternal grandmother, Elaine Tate, whom everyone knew as Meemaw. If she needed wood chopped, he did it. If her gutters were clogged, he cleaned them. When the nation was attacked, he felt he had to go.

"He is my little brother, and I idolized him," Mallin said. "It's supposed to be the other way around."

Frazier wanted to be a police officer after graduating from high school, but after Sept. 11, he decided he was going to join the Marines, Mallin said. His mother, Shelia Cutshall, tried to talk him out of it. So did Mallin. They told him not to make a rash decision in anger. They told him to wait a year.

Ten months later, Frazier told them he was still determined to become a Marine. His elder brother, who works for a defense contractor, also tried to persuade his brother to pursue jobs with the Marines that might reduce the risks of combat. But that was not for him.

"He wanted to be an infantryman. He wanted to be a grunt," Mallin said. In telephone calls and notes from Iraq, he expressed concern about the men in his unit with wives and children. "You got the sense that if he could, he would send them home," Mallin said. "He really was quite honorable and passionate about what he did."

Mallin said his younger brother was "fed up" by the mounting doubts expressed back home. After returning from a seven-month tour in April, he began lobbying to go back.

"He begged. He pleaded. He asked for transfers," Mallin said. "Everybody in the family wanted to talk him out of it. But they knew they couldn't."

His family said Frazier asked to be buried near family. A private funeral is to be held at the Montague Baptist Church in Dogue.

Mourners at Parcell's home yesterday declined to be quoted but remembered her as a loving and motivated woman who joined the Marines in 2005, following the path of her older brother Joseph.

The two served together in Iraq briefly before their assignments separated them. Joseph is returning from his tour to be with the family, people at the home said.

Parcell served with the Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan.


February 8, 2007

Official huggers welcome returning 3rd MAW service members

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2007) -- After 12 months away from loved ones, that moment when a returning service member feels the arms of his wife around his neck or the small kisses of his child on his cheeks means the world.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2007215195313

Feb. 8, 2007; Submitted on: 02/15/2007 07:53:13 PM ; Story ID#: 2007215195313
By Lance Cpl. George J. Papastrat, MCAS Miramar

But family members who can’t get to the flightline to make this moment a reality need not feel guilty. The Blue Star Mothers of America from San Diego County are now on hand at every Miramar homecoming passing out hugs to returning service members.

“We just recently were asked to be the ‘official huggers’ for the air station’s homecomings,” said Joyce Orrell, BSMOA member. “I love doing this.”

In addition to hugging, the Mothers mail care packages worldwide and visit wounded service members among other acts of support.

“We are all volunteers who love to support our military,” added Orrell, an official hugger. “We all have a military tie as well.”

Recently, the motivated mothers brought their support to the Visiting Aircraft Line terminal here to welcome home troops from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To contact the Blue Star Mothers of America call 760-594-4853 or go to www.SDNCBlueStarMothers.org.

February 7, 2007

Beaufort Marines Deploy, Find Comfort in Technology

Thirteen Beaufort-based marines are on their way for a seven-month deployment to Iraq. They'll provide air traffic control for squadrons who are training Iraqi security forces

http://www.wsav.com/midatlantic/sav/news.apx.-content-articles-SAV-2007-02-07-0007.html

Wednesday, Feb 07, 2007

Holly Bounds

WSAV News 3

Marking the gear and securing all that's inside. There are some parts about shipping out that never change. But for those who have the hardest time letting go, they find comfort in the changes that now bring their deployed marine closer than ever before.

"E-mail's pretty much been a God-send to a lot of marines to keep communications with their families. And now with technology there's the voice over internet phones…it's instantm” said Msgt. Philip Gardner.

Twenty-three year old Sgt. Roman Earl says technology improvements help calm his family's worries when he's gone. Although he'll record highlights of the journey ahead, he doesn't plan to use his notebook for letters home.

“E-mail...recently they've been doing pretty good about improving the communications that we have out in the field, so we have a lot of instant messenger or even web cameras to keep up with our family members,” Ear said.

As the guys play football before the bus arrived, you could tell they value contact with each other. But when the day is done, they like sending a sense of assurance that everyone’s okay.

"You don't want them worrying about what you're doing out there,” Gardner said. “And I think just hearing that voice on the phone or maybe e-mail or a chat or something like that just let them know, “Hey, I'm okay.” We all know they're going to miss each other but it's, Hey, I’m all right and just one day closer to being home,” he said.

3 new infantry battalions, Budget details plan to add 4,000 Marines to new units

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 7, 2007 13:47:19 EST

Defense planners want to stand up three new Marine infantry battalions and pay for them with emergency wartime dollars, according to the Pentagon’s new spending wish list.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/02/mcnewbattalions070206/

Local Marine dies in Iraq grenade attack

A 20-year-old Lynn Township man who was motivated to join the Marines by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was killed by a grenade in Iraq on Monday just 20 days after arriving there for his first tour of duty

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-soldier0207-cn,0,5341702.story

February 7, 2007

Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Van Parys was killed as he was providing security for a colonel in Al Anbar province, according to his father, Alan Van Parys.

Van Parys, a 2005 graduate of Northwestern Lehigh High School, and his unit were checking out an area along the Euphrates River where insurgents were believed to be running supplies across the river, Alan Van Parys said.

As they were attempting to secure the area, a rocket-propelled grenade hit Van Parys, richocheted off his body, struck a humvee, then exploded. Van Parys died instantly, his father said.

Van Parys was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He joined the Marines in November 2005 despite his parents' concerns about entering the military at wartime, his father said.

Alan Van Parys said joining the Marines was his son's way of avenging the attacks on Sept. 11.

He is the third Northwestern Lehigh graduate to die in the last week and a half. Capt. Mark T. Resh, 28, was killed Jan. 28 when his helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Mark Milot, 23, died on Friday in a plane crash in Massachusetts.

February 6, 2007

Iraqi Army and Marine mission nets 77 detainees

Blackanthem Military News, CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq - Iraqi Army Soldiers and U.S. Marines wrapped up an intelligence driven mission which resulted in 77 detainees near Habbaniyah Friday. The mission to detain members of murder and intimidation cells was a joint operation with Iraqi Forces and Marines of Regimental Combat Team 6, supported by local Iraqis focused on ridding their towns of insurgents.

http://www.blackanthem.com/News/Allies_20/Iraqi_Army_and_Marine_mission_nets_77_detainees4156.shtml

By Multi-National Force - West PAO
Feb 6, 2007 - 5:40:02 PM

During the mission, Soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army Division and Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment detained individuals suspected of coordinating insurgent attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces. Several of the detainees were immediately identified as persons of special interest according to intelligence reports.

Local citizens informed Iraqi Security Forces of numerous individuals that had a possible connection to insurgent activity. This information ignited the Iraqi Army Soldiers and Marines to plan missions to simultaneously detain possible members of anti-Iraq forces.

“This is a terrific example of Iraqi citizens wanting peaceful neighborhoods as well as a peaceful Iraq,” said Marine Maj. Charles P. Preston, battalion executive officer. “The Iraqi Soldiers performed exceptionally well during this mission and were present from the initial planning to completion. This mission clearly demonstrated an eagerness of Iraqis to provide enduring security for their fellow citizens.”

The detainees were initially taken to Camp Habbaniyah for further questioning. The evidence against 23 for the detainees was strong enough to immediately transport them to the Regimental Detention Facility in Fallujah. The remaining detainees are still being held at Habbaniyah for further questioning and final processing at this time.

During the mission, several weapons caches were found among the detainees to include sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive device-making material. The weapons were confiscated and returned to Camp Habbaniyah for disposal.

“We are very proud of the relationship with the citizens of Habbaniyah and the Iraqi Army,” said Regimental Combat Team 6 spokesperson, 1st Lt. Barry L. Edwards. “Our joint missions demonstrate the interoperability of the Iraqi Army and Marines, and remind the terrorists that their presence will not be tolerated.”

Marine killed in Iraq laid to rest in Westlake Village, People on street salute family

The night before her son's funeral, Vicki Melia looked up at the midnight sky. Alone, she sat on the curb outside her Thousand Oaks home talking with him.

http://www.venturacountystar.com/vcs/county_news/article/0,1375,VCS_226_5330687,00.html

By Anna Bakalis, [email protected]
February 6, 2007

Her eyes followed a shooting star, which cut through the heavens. U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony C. Melia died Jan. 27 in Iraq. He was 20.

"The comet was kind of like Anthony: bright, attention-grabbing, then gone too soon," said his cousin, Frank Melia Jr., speaking to an audience of more than 1,400 mourners at Calvary Community Church on Monday.

The assembly room was filled with those paying respects and honoring the life of Anthony Melia, who was killed during combat operations in Anbar province.

Before the 10 a.m. Westlake Village church service, the family procession trailed the hearse in a line of five black limousines, escorted by police through the streets.

The once-desolate curbs were filled with people dressed in red, white and blue waving flags, saluting the family.

They joined Mike and Vicki Melia and their family to mourn the passing of a young man whom they called a compassionate warrior.

Small American flags covered medians and lawns. School fences spelled well wishes to Melia's family.

Thousand Oaks football players wore their green and white team uniforms in honor of the fallen Marine, who wore No. 6 when he played.

Melia joined the Marines three months after graduating from Thousand Oaks High School, where he was a defensive back and punt and kick returner for the varsity football team, the Lancers.

A reality of sacrifice

Melia is the 15th Ventura County native killed while on duty in Iraq, but the first fallen Marine from Thousand Oaks.

His death brought home a reality of sacrifice and war to the young men who stood on the sidewalk in their jerseys.

"I just thought how he was only 20 years old; he's no older than my brother is," said Scott Luft, 17, of Thousand Oaks.

"I'm going to be 20 soon. You don't ever think about it."

His brother, Matt Luft, 20, came back from Boston, where he attends Harvard, to attend the funeral. Both Matt Luft and Melia grew up and played football together.

At the memorial service, the large audience and Melia's family listened to the testimonials from friends, cousins, grandparents, Melia's fiancée, his high school English teacher and members of the clergy.

Frank Melia Jr. spoke on behalf of the immediate family, which sat in the first rows.

He related how Nicole, 22, said her brother was her conscience, her protector and best friend, adding that he showed his parents "how to live." He was a Marine who exhibited honor and compassion; a boyfriend who was going to marry Jamie Chunko, 18; and a passionate and dedicated young man, the cousin added.

‘I'm overwhelmed today'

There were lighter moments to the speech.

"One minute he was a fearless warrior and the next minute he'd be mooning his mom," Frank Melia Jr. said. "He knew how to flip the switch, you know?"

A slide show of photos of Melia and his family started the ceremony.

Pictures of him as a boy, a young man and in the military filled two large screens in front of the audience.

"I'm overwhelmed today," said Chuck Melia, his grandfather. "I've been overwhelmed by the compassion. Every picture you've seen that Texas smile. That was Anthony."

He was joined by his wife, Joanne Melia, and the two stood by Melia's casket.

"He's been given so much acclamation today," Joanne Melia said.

"He was all that everyone said, but it was the character of Christ that I'll remember. When he looked in the mirror, Christ looked back."

Fellow Marines read letters from Melia's commanding officers, and he was awarded the Purple Heart for actions during combat Jan. 27, the day he died.

Solemn purpose

That portion of the service was an award ceremony, marked by military personnel standing at attention.

Veterans old and young in uniform and civilian clothes stood in the audience.

One Marine walked with solemn purpose to the family carrying a red box containing the Purple Heart.

Vicki Melia stood and hugged the Marine who gave her the medal.

The Marine then turned to the silver casket covered with an American flag, placed his white-gloved hand on it, then turned and walked slowly, returning to his fellow Marines.

Melia's casket was then taken to nearby Pierce Bros. Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, where another service was held.

It was estimated that at least 1,500 people attended.

"It was just unbelievable. All those people that didn't know him — strangers — they all turned out to pay respects," said Frank Melia, uncle of the Marine.

"Although it was a sad occasion for us, it was a great honor for Anthony; he's always been a hero to us, now he's a hero to everyone else."

February 5, 2007

Troops get Super treat. Coto de Caza family throws surprise party for soon-to-be-deployed troops.

Five big TVs, pizza, barbecue and beer. Lots of beer. Seventy Marines and Navy personnel were treated to the ultimate Super Bowl party hosted by a Coto de Caza family.

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1564849.php

Monday, February 5, 2007

By TAMARA CHUANG
The Orange County Register

But the event was bittersweet: Most of the revelers are headed to Iraq next month.

"If they can just relax and forget their worries. This is all about them today," said homeowner Julie Crisp, who runs a reprographics business with her husband Gary. The couple got the idea after hearing about another family that helped soldiers.

The men, part of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, were bused in from Camp Pendleton. All they knew was they were going somewhere to watch the game. Then they pulled up to the gated community. One of the men jokingly compared the Crisps' home to Saddam Hussein's palace – only it felt better.

The Crisps received donations for the event, including 100 T-shirts from the NFL.


Wounded Soldiers Treated To Super Bowl XLI

(CBS4) MIAMI Several injured marines are part of the thousands of fans at Dolphin Stadium watching Super Bowl XLI thanks to the generosity of an NFL team owner.

http://cbs4.com/local/local_story_035193028.html

Feb 5, 2007

Ileana Varela
Reporting

Fifty wounded soldiers left Camp le Jeune and Bethesda military bases Sunday morning and arrived in Miami early Sunday afternoon after they were chosen to attend the Big Game.

Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner donated fifty tickets and an additional twenty-five tickets were provided by the NFL for the soldiers who were wounded while serving their country in Iraq.

Brandon Sheppard of Fort Lauderdale was injured in Iraq after a bomb exploded, sending shrapnel into his calf. Sheppard was recovering at Camp le Jeune when he was given the good news two weeks ago.

“This is fabulous,” said Sheppard. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance to come out to the Super Bowl.”

Besides attending the Super Bowl, the soldiers were asked whom they would like to meet while they were in South Florida and their overwhelming response was professional wrestler and current Miami Beach resident Hulk Hogan.

City Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz was on hand to greet the soldiers when they arrived at Miami International Airport and escorted them to a marine training base where they met the wrestling legend.

“We want to say thank you for their service,” said Diaz. “We know how hard Super Bowl tickets are to get and for the young men and women who serve our country to have a chance to go and put something else on their mind instead of the recent past that they’ve been through.”

The soldiers mingled with the Hulkster, who posed for pictures and signed autographs. Hogan then surprised the soldiers, introducing another wrestler and close friend, The Big Show. Both wrestlers spent a portion of the afternoon with the soldiers before it was time to pack up and head to the Big Game.

Despite the rain, the soldiers were given choice seats to the most watched game of the year. They will return to the base Sunday night, before returning to their respective army bases on Monday.

“We all deserve it,” says soldier Bobby Joseph. “Fighting for our country, this is our chance right here. We deserve it a lot.”


Army Transfers Tanks to Marines

WASHINGTON -- The Army will transfer 80 M1A1 Abrams tanks over the next eight months to the Marine Corps to help them replace earlier models which the Army has already upgraded.

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,124103,00.html?ESRC=marine-a.nl

Army.mil | February 05, 2007

In an agreement between the two services, 25 M1A1s will be transferred to the Marine Corps by the end of March. The remaining 55 will be transferred as they become available during the fiscal year. The Marine Corps will fund all transfer costs from the Army's tank storage facility at the Sierra Army Depot in California.

This is not the first time Army G8, Force Development Division, has collaborated with the Marine Corps. Since 2004, the Army has transferred 144 M1A1s to the Marine Corps, which then modifies the Abrams' hulls and turrets for their unique operational requirements, such as forward deployments afloat via Marine expeditionary units.

According to Maj. Alphonso Gamble, G8, Abrams systems sync officer at the Pentagon, the transfer will not impact the Army's active and Reserve components.

"We have more than 750 older Abrams tanks. We keep these in reserve since we don't build new tanks, we only retrofit our older ones" Gamble said. "The Army modular heavy brigade combat team force structure we're moving to will consist of the Abrams M1A2 modified under the system enhancement program and the M1A1 rebuilt to like-new condition through the Abrams integrated management program."

Gamble said the Army is "just doing the right thing" by supporting its brothers-in-arms, and that both services benefit.

"The Army benefit to this is that we're both in the current fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom and by assisting the Marine Corps with upgraded tanks we're doing the right thing to protect their Marines as well as our Soldiers in current and future operations," Gamble said.


Fallen Marine. Iraq war touches home

WESTLAKE VILLAGE - Last year, Anthony Melia returned to his alma mater, Thousand Oaks High School, proudly wearing his crisp uniform as a U.S. Marine.

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_5165516

BY ERIC LEACH, Staff Writer

02/05/2007

He would soon be sent off to fight for his country in Iraq, and he couldn't have been more enthusiastic.

"He talked of his excitement in serving his country," said Teri Sanders, who has been Melia's English teacher. "He was showing through his courageous actions what love is. He had a contagious smile that would light up a room."

Memories of that smile brought even the toughest of Marines to tears Monday as more than 1,000 people paid tribute to Melia, 20, who was killed Jan. 27 while fighting in Al Anbar province, becoming the first person from Thousand Oaks killed in the Iraq war.

Residents lined the streets as a procession carried Melia's body to Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village. There, his family and friends talked of his personal warmth and devotion to his community and his nation.

"He was just an amazing, rare individual who did more in 20 years than many do in (long) lifetimes," said Melia's cousin Frank Melia Jr. "Anthony was a hero and he will never be forgotten. He provided us with an example of how to live. ... He was a fearless warrior."

February 4, 2007

Class II Marines keep Al Anbar hooked-up

Blackanthem Military News, AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- For combat operations, there are some items you can’t do without: boots for the infantryman patrolling a street in Ar Ramadi, fire-resistant flight suits to help ward of the risk of severe burns, even the ink cartridge used to print out the warning order for a raid.

http://www.blackanthem.com/News/U_S_Military_19/Class_II_Marines_keep_Al_Anbar_hooked-up4124.shtml

By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group
Feb 4, 2007 - 5:33:52 AM

In a small corner of the base here, just nine Marines work tirelessly to organize and distribute these sometimes lifesaving pieces of Marine Corps gear. They are the members of the Class II Section, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The Class II Section handles all the general need and "nice to have" items for the Multi-National Forces - West area of operations. These can range from large tools to small thumbtacks.

These Marines receive and handle nearly 400 requests on a daily basis, according to Sgt. Jorge Montes, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the section.

"We have everything anyone should need and more," said the Miami native. "Pretty much anything to keep these Marines equipped."

The daily schedule of these Marines can be grueling due to the constant demand for material, supplies and items in their possession, said Lance Cpl. Juan M. Deluna, a warehouse clerk with the section.

Deluna and his fellow Marines begin each morning filing through equipment requests received the previous day. The Houston native grabs the items, boxes them and sends them to the shipping section, which in turn sends them to Marines in the field. When he gets a chance, he grabs something to eat, then begins restocking.

"We sometimes work 15-hour days, if we are lucky we only work 12," said Deluna.

The gear they process supports each servicemember in the province.

"When it gets to shipping it goes to units all over; Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi and Al Asad. Just about anywhere," said Lance Cpl. Jeffery Bazan, a Benaviges, Texas, native. "I am like the hardware store of the Marine Corps."

Another of these nine Marines, Lance Cpl. Steven J. Falcon, a warehouse clerk, said he gets personal satisfaction in his job and loves the company of his fellow warriors.

"I like the experience here in Iraq," the Houston native explained. "I love working with my fellow warehouse clerks, and enjoy the camaraderie."

Their NCOIC understands the big picture of the logistics combat element and realizes the immense role his Marines play in the overall success of coalition efforts.

"I get satisfaction in that units outside the wire are getting the gear they request," Montes said. "That is what we are here for."

The staff NCOIC of the Class II Section, Staff Sgt. Blake A. Hasty, could not say enough about the Marines in his charge.

The Marines working at Class II are responsible for a little over $27.5 million worth of material, said the Los Angeles native.

"We have seven Marines and two NCOs responsible for all of this and it is nothing less than spectacular what they do. They display a special characteristic that is only found in Marines."

Two IPs, three insurgents killed in raid in western Al Anbar

ZARIAH, Iraq (Feb. 4, 2007) -- In an Iraqi Police led raid on a small cluster of houses outside the village of Zariah, three insurgents were killed and five were detained, Jan. 23, 2007.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/41E335C48271F727852572780038859C?opendocument
Please click on this link for photos that accompany the article.


Feb. 4, 2007; Submitted on: 02/04/2007 05:17:22 AM ; Story ID#: 20072451722
By Cpl. Luke Blom, 2nd Marine Division

Two Iraqi Policemen (IPs) were also killed in the fighting; marking the first of Haditha’s IPs killed in the line of duty in more than six months according to Lt. Col. Muhada Mahzir, Haditha IP deputy commander.

A group of Marines from the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment accompanied the IPs on the operation. The Marines were on hand primarily to supervise the raid and assess how well the IPs employed their tactics.

The Marines from 2nd Battalion are responsible for the security of the Haditha “Triad” region – a region in western Al Anbar Province that sits on the banks of the Euphrates River and consists of the cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwanah.

The village of Zariah sits on the banks of Lake Qadisiyah, roughly 20 kilometers north of the triad and is home to less than 1000 Iraqis. The village was suspected to be an insurgent safe haven where anti-Iraqi forces would retreat to after attacking Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Coalition Forces in the Triad.

“The IPs got (intelligence) that terrorists would move from Zariah down to the triad to conduct attacks on ISF and Coalition Forces and then move back up to Zariah to hideout,” said Maj. Eric E. Glassie.

The terrorists who use Zariah as a hideout are thought to be largely foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan according to Mahzir.

The raid was conceived, planned and executed almost solely by the Haditha IP, demonstrating how far the young police force has come in recent months, according to Glassie, Police Training Team (PTT) officer in charge and 38-year-old from Stafford, Virginia.

“They (IP) have come an awful long way in the last couple months, but there is still some progress they need to make,” said Glassie.

Since September 2006, the number of Shurta, the Arabic word for Police, on the local IP force has ballooned from 24 to more than 200. While most of the new Haditha IPs are from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, more than 30 men from Haditha have volunteered for service in the past two weeks. These “home-grown” volunteers represent a “monumental achievement” for this community that has been gripped by violence for years, according to Glassie.

The outcome of the raid had an immediate effect on the IPs, according to Mahzir. On one hand they saw the raid as a setback because of the loss of two comrades, but it was also seen as a “rallying point” for the police force.

“Two of our brothers died in the raid, but that does not mean the operation was a failure,” said Mahzir. “The terrorists we killed and detained were very bad people.”

The long term effect of the operation on the IPs will only be shown in time, according to Lt. Col. James Donnellan, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion.

“As this event recedes into their (IPs) memory, they’ll refer to it as a day they killed three very bad guys and captured a few more,” said Donnellan. “In the long run I think the sacrifice of their fellow Shurta will be put in perspective.”

In other news, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the arrests of more than 400 members of the Shiite militia Mahdi Army.

The arrests came on the heels of President George W. Bush’s announcement to increase troop levels in Iraq by approximately 20,000. In the same announcement Bush called for the Iraqi government to crack down on the Shiite militias in and around Baghdad.

Marines, city leadership discuss Haditha's future

HADITHA, Iraq (Feb. 4, 2007) -- The commanding officer of the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment headquartered in Haditha met with top Iraqi Police officials and community leaders in a town hall meeting to discuss the future of this Euphrates River city, Jan. 25, 2007.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/069DED4D1870A99F8525727800361719?opendocument
Please click on this link for photos.

Feb. 4, 2007; Submitted on: 02/04/2007 04:50:48 AM ; Story ID#: 20072445048
By Cpl. Luke Blom, 2nd Marine Division

The meeting was open for any topic of discussion and gave the Haditha community leaders a chance to air concerns and ask questions concerning Iraq’s national government and Haditha’s local security.

Much of the meeting was focused on the local ramifications of President George W. Bush’s new plan for the future of coalition forces throughout Iraq. In the President’s plan, 4000 more Marines will be sent to Al Anbar Province.

“Our troops will have a well defined mission; to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi Forces left behind are capable of providing security,” said the President in a speech from the White House, Jan. 10, 2007.

More than 20 Sheikhs and community leaders attended the meeting and commented on many issues ranging from the President’s new strategy, current vehicular bans inside the city, current and future city construction projects and what their role will be in Iraq’s national government.

“One gentleman stood up and pretty articulately identified the plight of the Sunni Arabs (who make up the vast majority of the population in this region),” said Lt. Col. James Donnellan, 2nd Battalion Commanding Officer.

The gentleman (who asked not to be identified) expressed that the Sunni Arabs are the minority and believe the central government is heavily influenced by Iranian and Shiite specific interests.

“All of this may very well be true, but what we can affect is the security here,” replied Donnellan.

While everyone who attended the meeting agreed the security of Haditha and the “Triad” region was paramount, there were no commitments to help strengthen the local Iraqi Police force, according to Lt. Col. Muhada Mahzir, Haditha Iraqi Police deputy commander.

“They (Sheikhs) say, ‘yes, you are right. We need security and we need police that are from this area’,” said Donnellan. “Then we ask, ‘OK, how many men in your tribe are willing to put forward?’ That’s when the room gets really quiet and everyone starts looking down at their feet.”

While the Haditha police force has seen more than 30 Haditha citizens volunteer for service in the past three weeks, which was seen as a milestone for the police force, there has not been a “large group” to volunteer yet, according to Maj. Eric E. Glassie, Police Training Team officer in charge.

When one Haditha community leader posed the question as to how long Coalition Forces would be in the area, Donnellan replied, “When I’m told the Haditha IP have enough well trained and well equipped IPs, but not a day before.”

Many also asked questions about when the current vehicular restrictions would be lifted. Other than trucks carrying food, water and essential supplies, vehicular traffic has been restricted inside the city for six weeks. Citizens with special circumstances put in a request and are given temporary driving permits.

The restriction was implemented to limit the movement of the local insurgency. Coupled with increased troop levels and a dirt berm surrounding the region, violence has dropped from seven to 10 attacks per day to approximately five per week.

“How long do we need these restrictions to ensure the security of Haditha before your sons and tribe members start joining the IP,” asked Donnellan during the meeting. His question was met with silence.

The issue of local construction projects was also brought up. The Marines of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and supporting units have been completing small projects since their arrival in this region four months ago, but local contractors have been paralyzed by a murder and intimidation campaign waged by the insurgents against anyone who cooperates with the Coalition, according to Donnellan.

“We’re (Coalition Forces) going to move forward regardless, but when will some of you step forward and make some brave and bold steps forward that will move the city exponentially towards prosperity and peace,” asked Donnellan.

For years the contractors have been intimidated into not working with Coalition Forces, but recently some local business men have expressed that if peace continues to grow in this region they will be more likely to take a risk and begin building city projects such as schools, hospitals and roads.

“We’re on the verge of something very good here,” said Donnellan. “We can bring in more Iraqi Police and Marines and just focus on security, or we can have some brave individuals step forward and help rebuild the city and make some serious progress.”

While there were no commitments from the Sheikhs to support the Iraqi Police or begin rebuilding the city, open dialogue between the community and Coalition is seen as a substantial step in it self, according Mahzir.

“Ninety-five percent of the people in Haditha are supportive of us and what we want for the future of this region,” said Mahzir. “They are the future of Haditha, not the terrorists.”

Camp Lejeune Marines develop strong bonds as they 'get the job done' in Al Anbar

RAWAH, Iraq (Feb. 4, 2007) -- Marines here work together, eat together, live together, and have essentially become brothers.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/8DE980577A906AFF85257278003B344D?opendocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp
Story Identification #: 20072454640

But the bonds extend beyond themselves. In the past five months, Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion have become a part of the city of Rawah.

Platoons of Marines, groups of about 30 men, rotate through the city of 30,000, about 15 miles northwest of Baghdad, as they control different patrol bases and check points with the help of Iraqi Security Forces.

Since they arrived in Iraq in early September, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D, have grown together and bonded in a way that some Marines say they didn’t think was possible.

“There’s a bunch of different personalities in this platoon,” said Cpl. Ian Striplin, a 22-year-old from Watsontown, Penn. “There are guys from all over America, that’s one of the great things about this battalion.”

Wherever the Marines in 2nd Platoon go, said Striplin, they’re always trying to “make more with less.”

The Marines work to improve living conditions, which not only benefits them, but local Iraqis as well, said Striplin, an infantryman. Marines stop at local shops to pick up heaters, blankets and whatever else they need, he added, not only building relationships but also putting money into the community.

These Marines often only stay in one location for several days before moving again. The thing that remains constant in their lives is each other and their ability to work together to “get the job done,” which in turn has produced positive results with the local populace.

During a recent night patrol, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D were pleasantly surprised at what they found.

Local Iraqis were out, working on houses and setting up new stores – a big change from several months ago when locals stayed in their houses from fear of insurgent activity, said 1st Lt. Douglas A. Woodcock, a 30-year-old platoon commander from Greene, Mon.

The Iraqis were friendly and open with Marines, who paid the respects back by greeting people they recognized and seeing if there was any way they could help.

“We interact with the locals everyday,” said Striplin. “If someone is sick, our doc helps them out. In this town the power goes out a lot, so we try and see what we can do to give people a hand.”

Two weeks ago, Marines in Rawah found a huge weapons cache. Taking weapons off the streets and detaining suspected insurgents has made Rawah “the safest it’s ever been,” according to Iraqi interpreters who’ve been working in the area for several years.

However, back in October 2006, Rawah was a different place. Marines and Iraqi Security Forces would come under attack constantly as they conducted security operations.

The Marines of 2nd Platoon became the targets of a grenade attack while on patrol during that troubling time.

No one was killed, thankfully, Marines here say, but the attack definitely shook them all up.

“I think it made a major impact on all of us,” said Pfc. Christopher Hyatt, a 22-year-old Light Armored Vehicle crewman who was injured in the blast. “But after seeing how everyone reacted, it just makes me trust these guys even more.”

The thing he missed most while recovering from his injuries was being with his guys, said Hyatt, a Dallas native. Coming back to the platoon, he admitted to being a little nervous, but his fellow Marines got him ready for the job again through their own brand of comfort.

“They ragged on me for a while about my ‘time off’,” said Hyatt. “It was all in good fun though.”

Every platoon has their own mentality, but 2nd just seems to come together perfectly, said Striplin. However, all differences and friendly rivalry between various platoons aside, when it comes down to it, everyone’s got the same goal, he added.

“We’re going to get the job done, that’s what it’s all about,” said Hyatt.


Photos included with story:
Please click on the original link embedded in the article to see photos.

Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D, from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, patrol the streets of Rawah, Iraq, a city of roughly 30,000 people, during the night of Jan. 17, 2007. The Marines have been conducting security operations in this area, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, for the past five months. The increase in safety has allowed more shops and schools to open, as locals work to make what they call a “normal life.” Photo by: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp

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Children in Rawah, Iraq, greet Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, as the Marines conduct a patrol through the city in their Light Armored Vehicles on Jan. 18, 2007. The Marines have been conducting security operations in this city of roughly 30,000 people, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, for the last five months. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp

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Lance Cpl. Chad Horton, a 19-year-old Light Armored Vehicle crewman, sights in on his rifle during a patrol through Rawah, Iraq, on Jan. 18, 2007. The Marines have been conducting security operations in this city of roughly 30,000 people, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, for the last five months. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp

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Marines conduct a patrol through the city of Rawah, Iraq, in their Light Armored Vehicles and on foot, Jan. 18, 2007. The Marines have been conducting security operations in this city of roughly 30,000 people, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, for the last five months. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp

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Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D, from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, patrol the streets of Rawah, Iraq, a city of roughly 30,000 people, on Jan. 18, 2007. The Marines have been conducting security operations in this area, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, for the past five months. The increase in safety has allowed more shops and schools to open, as locals work to make what they call a “normal life.” Photo by: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp


February 3, 2007

Hundreds Of Local Marines Return Home From Iraq

Hundreds of local Marines and Sailors are back home in San Diego after spending nearly a year in Iraq.

http://www.kfmb.com/stories/story.79433.html

02-03-07

Hundreds of local Marines and Sailors are back home in San Diego after spending nearly a year in Iraq.

Members of the 1st Marine Logistics Group received a hero's welcome Friday afternoon at Camp Pendleton. For many of them, making a difference in the lives of Iraqis was a top priority during this deployment.

"I loved going out there and interacting with the children at the schools," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Willie Ellerbrock. "Whenever we did some of the civil affairs-type of missions where we interacted with the schools and hospitals, the reception we got was amazing, amazing."

While in Iraq, the Marines and Sailors helped maintain order in the al Anbar Province.

Marines train to be foreign military advisors

Bonded by the title Marine, they fight side-by-side. Bonded by the same mission, they fight with trust in the Marines to the left and right of them. As these Marines on the front line fight, the Marines of the Military Training Team train

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2007/02/02/news/news05.txt

Saturday February 3, 2007

Lance Cpl. Katelyn A. Knauer
Combat Correspondent

The Security Cooperation Education and Training Centers’ mission is to coordinate Marine Corps education and training programs in support of Department of Defense security cooperation agreements. It also assists security efforts to enhance interoperability with allied and coalition partners in the conduct of traditional and irregular warfare, as well as support of the global struggle against violent extremism, according to the SCETC Web site.

Military Training Teams train and advise the Iraqi Army so American troops can come home to their families. They train the Iraqi Army forces to take back control of their country, and have a stabilized military.

Currently 17 Marines from all different military occupational specialties are training for their upcoming deployment to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, where they will relieve a MTT team which is already in place.

“We will do a two week turnover with them,” said Maj. Kurt Mogensen, MTT team leader. “We will receive a brief on the status of the battalion and from there we will work with the army, teaching new things and reinforcing material they have already been taught. We will also assess areas that need improvement to get them up and operating independently.”

While the Marines are from a wide variety of different jobs, they receive their annual training with their battalion and then they receive specified training with the other Marines in the MTT.

“Two-thirds of the training is done indoors,” said Maj. Samuel Middleton, officer in charge. “The Marines receive culture and language training, which is necessary when you are doing transition training with Iraqi soldiers. It helps the Marines learn how to interact with their Iraqi counterparts. They also receive training with foreign weapons, learning about the RPK [Ruchnoi Pulemet Kalashnikova rifle] and the AK-47 [Avtomat Kalashnikova rifle].”

The Marines receive SCETC training both here and at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Their training cycle is a total of 10 and-a-half weeks and covers a vast amount of different things the team could be faced with.

“The training is some of the best I have ever had,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Bellefeuille. “Going through foreign language training, convoy training and military operations in urban terrain has taught me a lot.”

The importance of training the Iraqi Army is significant to the war on terrorism because of several different factors.

“It’s important that we train their military so they can have a national strategy and take over their own security and maintain their own independence,” said Mogensen.

Pfc. Shaun Muck, turret gunner, agrees, “We need to get the Iraqi Army trained so the rest of our Marines can come home and the [Iraqi] army can take over security of their own country.”

While the Marines of the transitional team are small in numbers, the lasting impact they will have on the Iraqis who train with them and the Marines who are grateful to come home because of their work is immeasurable.


Surprise ceremony honors Marine at home. Purple Heart recognizes Iraq war wounds

MT. JULIET — Gene Leigh McCollum stepped out the door Friday morning to run errands, pay some bills and have a fairly normal day. Less than five minutes later, he was a decorated war veteran.

http://www.fairviewobserver.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070203/COUNTY10/702030349

Saturday, 02/03/07

By COLBY SLEDGE
Staff Writer

In a surprise ceremony outside his parents' snow-covered house, Cpl. McCollum was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained while in Iraq.

Members of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, piled out of vans and lined up to honor McCollum, who walked slowly to the street with the aid of a cane.

"I had no idea," McCollum said. "It was incredible. I was totally caught off guard."

McCollum, then 19 years old, sustained a broken back, loss of hearing in his right ear, shrapnel wounds and second-degree burns to his face and hands when the Humvee he was riding in was hit by a roadside car bomb in September 2004.

"We were doing a vehicle-mounted patrol, and I was riding behind the machine gun," McCollum said. "The car was just sitting by the side of the road, and as soon as we went by it, it blew up."

Upon his return, McCollum didn't receive recognition because initially he didn't know the extent of his injuries. Upon returning from Iraq, he complained that his back constantly hurt, but doctors said he was having muscle spasms.

After a flag football game in December with fellow members of the I Company reserve unit, McCollum discovered he couldn't get up. X-rays revealed his back was broken.

"The doctor said it's been like that for a while because there was a lot of scar tissue," he said.

"He could tell it was hurting me pretty bad."

Still, McCollum didn't seek the award, typically given to soldiers injured in battle.

When Capt. Sean Roche learned McCollum hadn't applied, he took it upon himself.

"Marines aren't going to ask for things like that," Capt. Sean Roche said.

"But once I found out, it became priority number one to get his certificate presented to him in an official fashion."

Ceremony kept secret

Since McCollum was at home recovering from surgery, the official presentation came to him Friday. His parents worked with Capt. Roche and the other members of his company to keep the presentation a secret.

"To pull one over on him — it's hard, because he gets that sense that something's going on," said Debra Spradlin, McCollum's mother. Spradlin said she had to sneak groceries into the house to feed the soldiers.

Gene McCollum, Leigh's father, said he had to play sick to get off work, although his boss was at the ceremony. Gene, a former Marine himself, said Leigh wanted to follow in his footsteps since he was "knee-high."

"He painted his room in Marine Corps colors," Gene said.

That period of Leigh's life, however, is coming to a close. Now 22, he knows his four-year commitment is up in May, and he says he won't re-enlist.

He's looking to enter school, he said, although he's not sure what he wants to study.

"I think I just want to do my time and get out and get on with my life," he said.

"I want to try to enjoy life now."


Class II Marines keep Al Anbar hooked-up


AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Feb. 03, 2007) -- For combat operations, there are some items you can’t do without: boots for the infantryman patrolling a street in Ar Ramadi, fire-resistant flight suits to help ward of the risk of severe burns, even the ink cartridge used to print out the warning order for a raid.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/094311BFB5A0EC29852572770049AA71?opendocument

Feb. 03, 2007

By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

In a small corner of the base here, just nine Marines work tirelessly to organize and distribute these sometimes lifesaving pieces of Marine Corps gear. They are the members of the Class II Section, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The Class II Section handles all the general need and “nice to have” items for the Multi-National Forces – West area of operations. These can range from large tools to small thumbtacks.

These Marines receive and handle nearly 400 requests on a daily basis, according to Sgt. Jorge Montes, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the section.

“We have everything anyone should need and more,” said the Miami native. “Pretty much anything to keep these Marines equipped.”

The daily schedule of these Marines can be grueling due to the constant demand for material, supplies and items in their possession, said Lance Cpl. Juan M. Deluna, a warehouse clerk with the section.

Deluna and his fellow Marines begin each morning filing through equipment requests received the previous day. The Houston native grabs the items, boxes them and sends them to the shipping section, which in turn sends them to Marines in the field. When he gets a chance, he grabs something to eat, then begins restocking.

“We sometimes work 15-hour days, if we are lucky we only work 12,” said Deluna.

The gear they process supports each servicemember in the province.

“When it gets to shipping it goes to units all over; Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi and Al Asad. Just about anywhere,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffery Bazan, a Benaviges, Texas, native. “I am like the hardware store of the Marine Corps.”

Another of these nine Marines, Lance Cpl. Steven J. Falcon, a warehouse clerk, said he gets personal satisfaction in his job and loves the company of his fellow warriors.

“I like the experience here in Iraq,” the Houston native explained. “I love working with my fellow warehouse clerks, and enjoy the camaraderie.”

Their NCOIC understands the big picture of the logistics combat element and realizes the immense role his Marines play in the overall success of coalition efforts.

“I get satisfaction in that units outside the wire are getting the gear they request,” Montes said. “That is what we are here for.”

The staff NCOIC of the Class II Section, Staff Sgt. Blake A. Hasty, could not say enough about the Marines in his charge.

The Marines working at Class II are responsible for a little over $27.5 million worth of material, said the Los Angeles native.

“We have seven Marines and two NCOs responsible for all of this and it is nothing less than spectacular what they do. They display a special characteristic that is only found in Marines.”

Base: Pendleton deployments largely unchanged by Iraq force increase

NORTH COUNTY ---- The deployment schedules of Camp Pendleton Marines leaving for and returning from Iraq have not been significantly affected by President Bush's decision to increase American force levels in Iraq by at least 21,500 troops, Marine Corps officials say.

http://nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/04/news/top_stories/22_01_422_3_07.txt


Saturday, February 3, 2007
By: JOE BECK - Staff Writer

"As far as Camp Pendleton, it's not affecting us too much," Lt. Esteban Vickers said in a telephone interview Friday.

Vickers' comments were confirmed in a Pentagon announcement that identifies only two Marine units based in Camp Pendleton that will be staying longer in Iraq as a result of the president's decision. Those units, totaling 1,000 to 1,500 Marines, are the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and Combat Logistics Battalion 15, both of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

A third Marine unit, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 from the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, will also stay in Iraq longer than planned, according to the Pentagon. All members of the affected units will stay in Iraq for an additional 45 days, the Pentagon says.

Thousands of Marines have been returning to Camp Pendleton in January and more are expected in February as part of the normal rotation out of Iraq, Marine officials said. The most recent groups to return to Camp Pendleton were about 300 members of Regimental Combat Team 5 on Wednesday and hundreds more from the 1st Marine Logistics Group on Friday. Both returned from 12-month deployments, about five months longer than Marines' usual deployments.

There are currently about 25,000 Marines serving in Iraq, the majority of whom were part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton in 2006. Many of them are scheduled to be replaced this year by Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Lejeune, N.C. Vickers said the Camp Pendleton units that returned last week are expected to go back to Iraq in eight to 15 months.

Military strategists have said most of Bush's force increase will be concentrated in Baghdad in an effort to sweep insurgents from the most violent areas in the city. Meanwhile, the military has said 4,000 more Marines will be dispatched to Al-Anbar province in western Iraq, where the majority of the Marines have been concentrated.

The Pentagon's announcement linked the extension of Marine deployments in Al-Anbar to the crackdown in Baghdad.

"These extensions will strengthen the coalition forces' abilities to secure areas of Al-Anbar province that might draw insurgents escaping the increase of forces in Baghdad," the announcement said.

Vickers identified several Marine units from Camp Pendleton that are expected to deploy to Iraq during the next four to five months as others return. Those scheduled to go to Iraq are: the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion; the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance; the 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

A recent announcement from Gen. James Conway, Marine Corps commandant, hinted that more Marines from Camp Pendleton and other bases could be going to Iraq than the current deployment schedule suggests.

In a letter to all Marine units, Conway called on Marine commanders to make a special effort to deploy all those who have no combat experience in Iraq. Some military officials have put the number of Marines who have not been in combat zones at 33,000. Vickers said he believed the figure was more like 60,000, many of whom have been in the service for several years.

"There's probably more than you think," he said.

In his directive issued Jan. 7, Conway said bringing more Marines who serve outside combat zones into the Iraq war will help to reduce physical and mental strains on combat veterans facing long deployments and short rest periods at home.

"When they join our corps, Marines expect to train, deploy and fight. That's who we are; that's what we do; and we must allow every Marine that opportunity," Conway wrote.

Vickers said he welcomed Conway's announcement, and most Marines who haven't served on the front lines probably feel the same.

"I've been in the Marines for 13 years and haven't been deployed yet," Vickers said. Whether a Marine serves in combat depends on the "luck of the draw" and what unit he is serving with, not his personal preference, he said.

"I have requested to go to Iraq and probably would have went anyway," he said.

In a news briefing from Iraq last week, Maj. Gen. Rick Zilmer, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward said morale remained "very, very high out here." Zilmer's comments were taken from a Pentagon transcript of his briefing,

A recruiting/retention team that visited Marines in Al Anbar exceeded their re-enlistment goal by 6 percent, Zilmer said.

"So the Marines are voting with their feet by staying in, and so I'm very comfortable that despite the debate that goes on back here, our folks over here are staying true to their mission," Zilmer said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at (760) 740-3516 or [email protected]

February 2, 2007

5 FIGHTING FOR OUR HEROES: Sending military wives and girlfriends Valentines

Our troops can't send their loved ones flowers from overseas, so one local florist is sending them for the troops. Tim Duecker owns Flowerama in Blaine. He is donating 150 dozen roses to wives and girlfriends in the Twin Cities who have sweethearts serving overseas.

http://www.kstp.com/article/stories/S27896.shtml?cat=1

02/02/2007

Duecker has the flowers and volunteers to help him deliver them - but now he's looking for women who would love to receive this Valentine's Day gift.

If you are a military wife or girlfriend or know a woman who is, please email Flowerama with your name, address and phone number. This information will only be sent to the owner of Flowerama in Blaine. Flowerama will be delivering a dozen roses to the first 150 names he receives.

More IRR Marines face involuntary call-ups

By Kimberly Johnson - staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 2, 2007 21:34:35 EST

Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve could face involuntary activations to fill the gap as the Corps moves to increase its end strength by 22,000 Marines, according to the Corps’ top mobilization official.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/02/MCmoore070202/

Commandant intends to rotate every Marine into combat zones

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Feb. 2, 2007) -- Marine officials are working to identify the approximately 33,000 Marines who have not been tapped for service in Iraq or Afghanistan and get them to deployable units, a III Marine Expeditionary Force official said recently.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/D13F26533855B50385257275002408AE?opendocument

Feb. 2, 2007

By Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, MCB Camp Butler

The effort was initiated after Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway put out an all-Marine message announcing his intent to get "every Marine to the fight."

"As our Corps postures for the Long War, and in order to help meet the challenges of frequent deployments, I want our Corps leadership to initiate policies to ensure all Marines, first termers and career Marines alike, are provided the ability to deploy to a combat zone," Conway said in ALMAR 002/07.

The ALMAR calls for Marines who haven't deployed to be reassigned "as feasible," and authorizes "increased time-on-station waivers" to accomplish that.

Some Marines on Okinawa and those scheduled to come here in the future could be affected by the section that specifically addresses the III MEF assignment policy, calling for it to be modified "as required."

Lt. Col J. W. Senter III, the deputy assistant chief of staff for III MEF manpower, said it is still not certain exactly how the policy will be modified.

"Until additional guidance by Manpower and Reserve Affairs is provided, a Marine's rotation tour date is still the primary determinant for assignment to Operation Iraqi Freedom rotational units," Senter said.

Currently, the III MEF policy states that all Marines assigned to Okinawa will be assigned to 24-month unaccompanied tours or 36-month accompanied tours. In some cases, exceptions are made to authorize one-year unaccompanied tours.

The 24/36-month policy for Okinawa is being reviewed at Headquarters Marine Corps to assess whether it can be modified to meet the Commandant's intent without disrupting operations within Okinawa units, Senter said.

That could mean early rotation dates would be authorized for Marines rotating from Okinawa to deploying units, but Senter said Headquarters Marine Corps has to address the issue of cost as well.

"Early (permanent change of station) orders will create a large bill to pay," he said.

There are many variables that make implementation of the policy slow-going initially, but Senter said Marines can expect to see several Marine administrative messages in the coming months that, in addition to the policy change, will address the overall OIF theater plus-up of troops.

Conway's intent is clearly stated in ALMAR 002/07.

"When they join our Corps, Marines expect to train, deploy and fight. That's who we are. That's what we do. And we must allow every Marine that opportunity."

Zeus vs. machine-gunners: the real thunder god

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2007) -- It is hard to imagine what it would feel like to be standing next to a lightning strike, to feel the energy flow through your body, and then suffer through the deafening roar of the thunder as it ripped through the air. Hard to imagine for most people, but not a heavy machine-gunner, like Pvt. Sam A. Miller, who is used to having the firepower of a M2 .50-caliber machine gun in his hands.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F47ADE9A311D0461852572750058FE46?opendocument

Feb. 1, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, went back to the basics with their heavy machine guns on a .50-caliber machine gun range during their pre-deployment Mojave Viper training in the California desert, which it is named after.

“Ranges like this help us get more proficient with the heavy guns,” explained 1st Lt. William H. Strom, the mobile assault platoon, or MAP, commander. “With the heavy firepower and longer range of these weapons we can establish fire superiority and suppress the enemy.”

The .50-caliber isn’t the only big gun the Marines use; the collection also includes the Mk-19 grenade launcher, the 240G machine gun and the Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW.

“We use these weapons on convoys, and patrols and such,” said Miller, a Hoover, Ala., native. “The added firepower makes us a big asset in securing the safety of the convoys we go with.”

The training wasn’t just for Weapons Company Marines, it was for every heavy machine-gunner in the battalion to refresh their skills with the weapons they will be using on their upcoming deployment in March. The Marines from the battalion’s companies, Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, will go back to their units with the additional knowledge they have learned and teach the rest of the Marines in their company the basics of heavy machine-gunnery.

“You never know when something might happen and you will be manning a .50-cal or Mk-19, so everyone should know this stuff,” Miller said.

“This type of live-fire range really helps the younger guys get familiar with the machine guns and it builds muscle memory for those who may not use them too often,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Apel, machine gunner and positional safety officer, or PSO, for MAP on the range.

The Marines brought three .50-caliber machine guns and lined them up on a small hill, facing a large open area in front of one of the desert’s numerous mountains. Periodically blue life-size cutouts of trucks or other vehicles would pop up at various distances, and be fired upon by the Marines. Their accuracy is deadly.

“We focus on the younger guys so they can react and get on target quicker,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Godfrey, who is also a machine gunner and PSO for the range. “We definitely have an advantage in Iraq because we are more proficient on a weapon with more firepower than our enemy.”

The Marines worked in two man teams, one manned the weapon while the other sat nearby, spotted his shots, gave helpful advice on adjustments, and helped load, clear, and unload the weapon.

“The range helps get every Marine more familiar with the larger weapons, just in case they have to get into the turret of a HMMWV someday,” said Apel, a Memphis, Tenn., native, and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

After a few short bursts, five to eight rounds, each Marine was told to practice their immediate and remedial action drills. They continuously cycled between firing, loading, unloading, and clearing their weapons before they switched places and started over from the beginning.

“As machine-gunners it is our responsibility to know all four of the heavy guns, and practice makes perfect,” explained Godfrey, an Aurora, Ohio, native, and also an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “This stuff definitely applies in Iraq and whether they know it or not, Marines nowadays get a lot better preparation than when we first started deploying (to Iraq).”

Late afternoon sets in as the Marines continue to bring their thunder and lightning to bear on the blue targets set in the distance. Each gun has had several barrel changes by the end of the day, and there is a pile of empty shells and links over a foot tall, nearly as large as a gun itself, under and around each weapon. As the lightning flashes from the barrels, the thunder created by the muzzle blast makes shock waves in the sand under each barrel.

Then it just stops.

The quiet desert seems to echo a warning off the mountains and into the falling sun: The machine-gunners are ready, and on their way.

Feb. 1, 2007; Submitted on: 02/01/2007 11:12:02 AM ; Story ID#: 20072111122

By Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2007) -- It is hard to imagine what it would feel like to be standing next to a lightning strike, to feel the energy flow through your body, and then suffer through the deafening roar of the thunder as it ripped through the air. Hard to imagine for most people, but not a heavy machine-gunner, like Pvt. Sam A. Miller, who is used to having the firepower of a M2 .50-caliber machine gun in his hands.

Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, went back to the basics with their heavy machine guns on a .50-caliber machine gun range during their pre-deployment Mojave Viper training in the California desert, which it is named after.

“Ranges like this help us get more proficient with the heavy guns,” explained 1st Lt. William H. Strom, the mobile assault platoon, or MAP, commander. “With the heavy firepower and longer range of these weapons we can establish fire superiority and suppress the enemy.”

The .50-caliber isn’t the only big gun the Marines use; the collection also includes the Mk-19 grenade launcher, the 240G machine gun and the Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW.

“We use these weapons on convoys, and patrols and such,” said Miller, a Hoover, Ala., native. “The added firepower makes us a big asset in securing the safety of the convoys we go with.”

The training wasn’t just for Weapons Company Marines, it was for every heavy machine-gunner in the battalion to refresh their skills with the weapons they will be using on their upcoming deployment in March. The Marines from the battalion’s companies, Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, will go back to their units with the additional knowledge they have learned and teach the rest of the Marines in their company the basics of heavy machine-gunnery.

“You never know when something might happen and you will be manning a .50-cal or Mk-19, so everyone should know this stuff,” Miller said.

“This type of live-fire range really helps the younger guys get familiar with the machine guns and it builds muscle memory for those who may not use them too often,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary M. Apel, machine gunner and positional safety officer, or PSO, for MAP on the range.

The Marines brought three .50-caliber machine guns and lined them up on a small hill, facing a large open area in front of one of the desert’s numerous mountains. Periodically blue life-size cutouts of trucks or other vehicles would pop up at various distances, and be fired upon by the Marines. Their accuracy is deadly.

“We focus on the younger guys so they can react and get on target quicker,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Godfrey, who is also a machine gunner and PSO for the range. “We definitely have an advantage in Iraq because we are more proficient on a weapon with more firepower than our enemy.”

The Marines worked in two man teams, one manned the weapon while the other sat nearby, spotted his shots, gave helpful advice on adjustments, and helped load, clear, and unload the weapon.

“The range helps get every Marine more familiar with the larger weapons, just in case they have to get into the turret of a HMMWV someday,” said Apel, a Memphis, Tenn., native, and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

After a few short bursts, five to eight rounds, each Marine was told to practice their immediate and remedial action drills. They continuously cycled between firing, loading, unloading, and clearing their weapons before they switched places and started over from the beginning.

“As machine-gunners it is our responsibility to know all four of the heavy guns, and practice makes perfect,” explained Godfrey, an Aurora, Ohio, native, and also an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “This stuff definitely applies in Iraq and whether they know it or not, Marines nowadays get a lot better preparation than when we first started deploying (to Iraq).”

Late afternoon sets in as the Marines continue to bring their thunder and lightning to bear on the blue targets set in the distance. Each gun has had several barrel changes by the end of the day, and there is a pile of empty shells and links over a foot tall, nearly as large as a gun itself, under and around each weapon. As the lightning flashes from the barrels, the thunder created by the muzzle blast makes shock waves in the sand under each barrel.

Then it just stops.

The quiet desert seems to echo a warning off the mountains and into the falling sun: The machine-gunners are ready, and on their way.

Gulf strike force on the way

A US Navy strike group, led by amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, is on its way to the Gulf to strengthen forces in the region.

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=169015&Sn;=BNEW&IssueID;=29319

By EUNICE del ROSARIO
2nd February 2007

It will bring seven vessels, carrying 6,000 sailors and Marines into the Gulf.

But the deployment of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) does not signal an unusual build-up of warships in the region, said a Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet official.

Approximately 6,000 sailors and Marines assigned to the ESG and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will provide a versatile sea-based force that can be tailored to a variety of missions, Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Lieutenant Denis Garcia told the GDN yesterday.

"While in the region on a routine deployment, the Bataan ESG will conduct maritime security operations," she told the GDN.

She added that maritime security operations conducted by coalition forces in the region are vital as they set the conditions for security and stability in maritime environment, as well as complement counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations.

The official said that although the Bataan ESG brings with it a large number of sailors and Marines, its deployment did not imply that there would be an unusually high number of coalition ships in the area.

"This is a routine deployment and it does not necessarily mean that this is the most number of ships we have had here since 2003 (when allied forces went into Iraq)," she said.

"Even the second aircraft carrier (USS John C Stennis) is arriving here on scheduled time.

"There are usually about 40 ships in the area.

"Two-thirds of those are US ships and the rest coalition ships."

The ESG is comprised of the Bataan Strike Group, commanded by Bataan Strike Group/Amphibious Squadron 2 Commander Commodore Donna Looney.

The 26th MEU is commanded by Colonel Gregg Sturdevant.

In addition to Bataan, the strike group consists of the amphibious transport dock USS Shreveport, dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, guided missile destroyer USS Nitze, guided missile frigate USS Underwood and submarine USS Scranton.

US Fifth Fleet's area of operation encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

"We'll continue our role as the surface warfare commander and the air defence commander for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group," said Bataan operations officer Commander Jon Carriglitto.

"Together with the MEU, we bring the ability to insert a quick, capable amphibious force where it's needed."

The Bataan ESG has the capabilities to support maritime security operations, combat operations and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.

"Bataan ESG's presence in the US Fifth Fleet will require the crew to conduct what it does best - well deck and flight deck operations," said Cmdr Carriglitto.

Bataan, commanded by Captain David Hulse, left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, US, on January 4.


More Marines head out for Al Anbar duty in Iraq

Carly Heneise grabbed her Marine for one last kiss Thursday afternoon.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID;=48211&Section;=News

February 02,2007
CHRISSY VICK
Daily News Staff

Her mood matched the weather - gray and stormy. It would be the last embrace she'd get for the next six months, at least.

Her boyfriend, Lance Cpl. Patrick Hrezo, 22, grabbed his gear shortly after to deploy to Iraq for a year. The two are focusing on his two-week "rest and relaxation," during that year, when they plan to spend time together somewhere in Europe.

"I'm scared, but I kind of feel like it's a test for us," said Heneise, of Jacksonville, Fla. "If we can make it through a year, we can make it through anything."

About 200 Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force headed out Thursday to complete the transition of the command element at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The group is taking over from I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"They're going forward to the Al Anbar province to help the forces there, to bring security and stability to that area," said Lt. Col. Fritz Pfeiffer, headquarters battalion rear commander. "If we can bring a certain level of security and stability to the area, that's going to set the stage for the Iraqis to take control."

If that happens in the next year, Chief Warrant Officer--3 Jeffrey Matthews, counter-intelligence with II MEF, will have been a part of two key events in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of the initial invasion into the country in 2003 and came home shortly after the initial cease-fire.

Matthews says he's ready for his mission, but that doesn't make saying goodbye to his wife, Jerlyn, and children, Jeffrey, 12, John Alan, 8, and Candace, 6, any easier.

"I just try to talk to the kids and let them know what's going on," Matthews said. "They're used to deployments, but not for a year."

He says the sacrifice is worth the price.

"You do it for your country, but ultimately you're doing it for somebody," he said. "I do it for my family."

President Bush has faced criticism since he announced in January his plan to push forward with the war by sending in more troops. Matthews says he'd like people to remember he volunteered for the job.

"No one is drafted," he said. "All of these men you see here, they're all volunteers. We sign a contract and we have one commander-in-chief."

When Hrezo volunteered over a year ago, Heneise said she wasn't happy. But that changed.

"I was so mad when he joined the Marines because I knew he'd leave," Heneise said. "But now I'm proud of him and I'm proud to be a Marine girlfriend. It's a privilege."

She doesn't feel the troops should pull out of Iraq.

"I don't think people should be allowed to go for a year - it's not good for the families," she said. "But we're in this war and we can't just leave."

Jeffrey Matthews II says his dad is just doing his job.

"I know he'll be back," he said. "I'm going to help my mom while he's gone - do the laundry, wake my brothers and sisters up to make it easier for my mom.

"That's what my dad would want."

Jerlyn Matthews will try to keep a steady schedule and a normal routine for the three children.

"Their dad is already taken away, so those things need to stay normal," she said. "I'll stay focused by trusting and believing in God."

After 18 years as a Marine wife, Matthews, like her husband, says it never gets easier to say goodbye. As for President Bush's decision, Matthews leaves it in the hands of a higher power.

"The way I see it, he's the president and he makes the best decisions he can make," she said. "But in the end, God as it all under control."

Sharing their skills, 20 Marine volunteers help get Habitat project back on schedule

ESCONDIDO – A popular bumper sticker emblazoned with the Marine Corps emblem reads: “When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight.”

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20070202-9999-1mi2habitat.html

By Rick Rogers
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
February 2, 2007

On a muddy lot among clapboard houses, 20 people from the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot worked on a multiunit complex that will soon become townhomes for seven families.

Brig. Gen. Angie Salinas, commanding general for the depot, said construction holds special meaning for her and the other volunteers.

“Marines coach Little League, contribute to the United Service Organizations and feed the homeless. But something like this is especially important to Marines because we spend so much time away from our families,” said Salinas, who had no trouble handling a wood saw.

“Ten years from now,” she continued, “we can drive past this site and know that we helped people who would not necessarily have been able to own a home. Marines know how important a stable home is.”

Jack Scheid, a building superintendent for Habitat, said the Marines helped get the Sixth Avenue project back on schedule.
“There are a lot of military guys who have expertise in the trades, either in carpentry or electrical or plumbing,” Scheid said. “But one thing is for sure, they can all swing a hammer.”

Robert Haddick of Encinitas, a Habitat volunteer for the past six years, said Marines bring energy and enthusiasm to every project.

“They are outstanding workers and are fun to be around,” said Haddick as he and a Marine nailed a board to roof tresses that rose over the skeletal relief of the townhomes in squat Vs.

“We look forward to the help,” Haddick said.

And for various reasons, the Marines look forward to helping out.

Sgt. Angel Santos, 25, from Philadelphia, sees similarities between the United States' goals in Iraq and what he and fellow Marines aimed to do in Escondido.

“In Iraq, we were tasked with building schools and delivering food,” said Santos, who deployed there in 2003. “To me, we are (in Escondido) building something where people can live and make their lives better. In that regard, it is the same.”

For Cpl. Alfredo Hernandez, 22, it's simply about being a good citizen.

“If I were from someplace else, I'd still want to do this,” Hernandez said. “It's just like helping a neighbor out.”

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Pease, a chaplain for the depot, sounded the themes of gratitude and reciprocity.

“The county has been so supportive of the military that we thought it was important to give back,” he said.


1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) changes authority in ceremony

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Feb. 2, 2007) -- Col. David M. Richtsmeier, commanding officer of 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), transferred authority of the logistics combat element of Multinational Forces West to Brig. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general of 2nd MLG (Fwd), II MEF (Fwd) in an official ceremony here January 30.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/CE1B129DFBD2968E85257276001BC225?opendocument

Feb. 2, 2007

By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Both organizations provide logistical support to units within Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. This is the third time 2nd MLG has been forward-deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The ceremony opened with comments from Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commanding general of I MEF (Fwd). He told the attendees that the incoming logistics combat element had their work cut out for them during the deployment.

“I promise you everyday will be a challenge,” Zilmer explained.

Richtsmeier took time to reflect on the lives of 18 1st MLG (Fwd) service members killed in combat within the last year. He also complimented his staff on an outstanding job throughout their deployment.

“I had some great commanders, group staff, officers, staff (non-commissioned officers), and NCOs and troops,” Richtsmeier said. “I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts out here.”

Richtsmeier also reflected on the past year and gave the incoming group a wish of good luck.

“This has been a life changing experience for all of us. I believe it was a positive experience for all of those who participated,” he said.

After taking command, Kessler complimented the outgoing team on their outstanding performance and detailed turnover of MNF-W logistics responsibilities.

“We are much better off for your efforts, as well as the efforts of your staff,” Kessler said. “We are much more prepared to execute the mission.”

Corpsmen, Marines save lives in western Al Anbar

HADITHA, Iraq (Feb. 2, 2007) -- When Sgt. Nathaniel Tatum heard a loud “Boom” while on a security patrol through the windswept streets of this Euphrates River city, he didn’t think about how to react to the improvised explosive device (IED) blast – he simply “let the training take over.”

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/6B356A5FD60DC4DC852572760058015E?opendocument


Feb. 2, 2007; Submitted on: 02/02/2007 11:01:15 AM ; Story ID#: 20072211115

By Cpl. Luke Blom, 2nd Marine Division

After two Marines were wounded in an IED blast, Jan. 18, 2007, Tatum and fellow Marines along with the squad corpsman, who the Marines call “Doc”, provided immediate medical attention to the injured Marines who would have been in “bad shape” without immediate attention, according to HM1(FMF/CAC) Patrick W. Horgan, independent duty corpsman with the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

While providing life-saving medical attention is business-as-usual for U.S. Navy corpsmen, the medical experience for the average U.S. Marine is often limited to the basic first-aid courses received in recruit training. However, Tatum and a group of approximately 100 Marines from the Battalion attended a Combat Lifesaver Course (CLC) while training in California, June, 2006.

In the CLC, corpsmen teach the Marines how to handle a casualty until a corpsman or medical officer is able to tend to the wounded. Throughout the course, Marines were taught how to apply a tourniquet, treat various wounds, administer an IV, recognize and treat shock, control blood loss and the anatomy of ballistic injuries.

“This [Combat Lifesaver Course] is probably some of the most important training a Marine can receive before deploying to a combat zone,” said HM3 Philip Oppliger, corpsman with Echo Company 2nd Battalion. “Ideally a corpsman is always going to be there when someone goes down, but that’s not always possible.”

Each squad of 10 to 14 Marines employs a corpsman, but when the squad has multiple casualties the Marines often give each other initial medical care, according to Tatum.

When Tatum saw two Marines injured after an IED detonated, he knew the corpsman needed help treating the wounded Marines, he said.

Within seconds of the blast, Tatum was applying a tourniquet and assessing the wounds of one of the wounded. By the time the squad corpsman was able to reach the wounded Marine, Tatum had already checked the Marine’s vital signs and applied a tourniquet to the Marine’s leg and stopped the bleeding.

“All I saw was a Marine in my squad, my friend, laying on the ground,” said Tatum, who received a concussion in the blast. “The first thought I had wasn’t if he was OK or not, it was to get a tourniquet on him and stop the bleeding. There wasn’t really time to think, the training just took over.”

While the corpsman continued to treat the wounded Marine, Tatum ran over to the other wounded Marine who was being treated by a fellow Marine.

“I was a little dazed after the blast, but when I saw (the wounded Marine), I ran over to him and applied a tourniquet on his leg as fast as I could,” said Lance Cpl. William R. Hussey, infantryman and 19-year-old from Baltimore.

While both Marines sustained significant injuries, the immediate medical treatment from
fellow Marines and the corpsman likely saved their lives, according to Horgan, a 36-year-old from Aurora, Colo.

“The treatment these Marines received at the scene in the few minutes following the blast was crucial,” said Horgan. “When we (corpsmen) can rely on Marines to provide effective medical treatment when a corpsman is unavailable it makes our job easier, but more importantly it increases the survivability of the Marines.”

When a Marine or Sailor is wounded in combat, a chain of events is set in motion designed to get the wounded service member as stable as possible while getting him to a medical facility where he can be thoroughly treated as fast as possible. This window of time is seldom more than 10 minutes.

“Usually we only have five to seven minutes to work on him before he gets CasEvac’d (Casualty Evacuation - put on a helicopter bound for the nearest medical facility),” said Horgan. “Sometimes it can get kind of chaotic.”

The list of treatments performed by corpsmen in their five to seven minute window is staggering; stop the bleeding, clear the airway and regulate breathing, apply IV’s, assess multiple wounds, apply bandages and splints and provide medication among numerous other tasks.

With so many things to accomplish in such a short period of time, someone who’s never seen a corpsman in action might assume this process would be hectic. To the contrary, the “Docs” are trained to keep their cool under pressure.

“When things go down, you’ve got to pause and take a breath and quickly evaluate the situation,” said Oppliger, a 22-yaer-old from Bend, Oregon. “You say to yourself, ‘OK, we’re taking fire from this direction, I’ve got my bag (medical supplies) and there’s the patient.’ Then you start running.”

“Keeping cool” is one of the most important tools in the corpsman’s bag for a couple reasons, according to Horgan.

“If you’re calm and collected about the situation, it creates a calmer environment,” said Horgan. “You’re able to provide better care when you’re calm and everything just runs a lot smoother, which ultimately increases the survivability of the patient.”

The other reason according to Horgan is that “keeping cool” is contagious. The other Marines and onlookers see their calm and collected reaction and it instills confidence that everything that can be done is being done.

While the corpsmen are trained in medical procedures from the time they enter the U.S. Navy, they “feel safer” knowing if they should become a casualty, Marines like Tatum who have gone through the CLC are on hand to provide medical care, according to Oppliger.

“Making sure the Marines know some combat medical stuff is our way of saving our own lives,” said Oppliger.

Wounded Marine remembers fallen comrade

CALEDONIA -- He lost a kidney, his spleen and almost his life.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-34/1170431425279250.xml&coll;=6&thispage;=1


Friday, February 02, 2007
By Ted Roelofs
The Grand Rapids Press

But Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Munsee insists any sympathy should be directed toward the family of the fellow Marine he watched die Jan. 20 in Iraq.

That would be Lance Cpl. Luis Castillo, who died from gunshot wounds he received on the streets of Fallujah in Anbar province.

"It sucks what happened to me. But everyone knows the real heroes of this war are the ones that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, like Lance Cpl. Castillo," Munsee said.

Munsee, 22, returned to his Caledonia home Wednesday after recuperating at a military hospital in Germany and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

Munsee said he and Castillo, of Lawton, were on foot patrol in Fallujah with 10 other members of the Lansing-based 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment in Fallujah.

"A car came up and ambushed the squadron," Munsee recalled.

Though wearing full armor gear, Munsee was struck by a bullet in the back that penetrated his kidney and spleen and narrowly missed his spine, before exiting his stomach.

The initial word passed along to his family was not encouraging, said his girlfriend, East Grand Rapids resident Michelle Goeman.

"The first thing we were told is that he had been wounded in the chest and probably wouldn't make it," Goeman said.

Goeman, a member of First Reformed Church in Byron Center, asked members there to start praying for Munsee.

Over the next day or two, the 2002 Caledonia High School graduate began a remarkable recovery. He left Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany after a couple days and was flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

His brother, Pfc. Zachary Munsee, 18, accompanied him to Germany and then stateside. Zachary Munsee is assigned to the Grand Rapids-based Alpha Company of the 24th Marines while his brother serves with Lansing's Charlie Company. Both companies are performing security missions in or around Fallujah.

While grateful his brother could be at his side, Munsee was haunted by what he saw the day of the ambush.

The soldiers were doing a morning patrol in a city that has been wracked by Sunni-based insurgent violence for months.

"You never know what is going to happen," he said.

Munsee remembers being hit in the back, turning around and seeing one of his best friends dying right in front of him.

"I don't even know how to describe it. How do you describe seeing your best friend shot and you watch him die?

"I can't really describe that. That's the hardest thing I ever had to see."

His father, Grand Rapids resident Phillip Munsee, saw his son for the first time after he was wounded in the intensive care unit at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He gave him a hug.

"You see all these young men out there that are injured. Their spirits are pretty high," he said.

"I am very proud of him and happy that he is alive."

Munsee, a senior history major at Grand Valley State University, is grateful for all the support that has come his way since he was wounded.

"I think I had half the state praying for me," he said.

As he recuperates at home, Munsee said he is unsure if he will be cleared for combat duty.

But if he is cleared, he is ready to go back and join his band of brothers.

"I am proud to serve my country," he said. "I will do whatever it takes."

February 1, 2007

Marines sweep roadways clear of insurgents, IEDs

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- The roads in Iraq are among the most dangerous in the world. Around every bend or twist can be an improvised explosive device or ambush posing a danger to Marines and civilians alike.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/__852571150047CCBC.nsf/rssNews/3DD3CBF9503E459EC32572750045C50E?OpenDocument
Please click on the above link for photos.

Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn
02/01/2007

To combat that danger, Marines from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, are constantly patrolling the roads here so they can be traveled safely.

“We go out there to prevent IEDs from being placed, and to look for known insurgents in the area,” said Sgt. Geuel K. Bennett, 29, from Forestville, Md. “If nothing happens it gets boring, but it's good to be out there all the time. At the end of a patrol I feel like I did something.”

While not the most glamorous or exciting job, sweeping the roads is one filled with plenty of tension. When a patrol moves down the road, all eyes are continuously scanning everything in visual range for anything unusual. Every Marine in the vehicle is at a heightened state of awareness with a little extra adrenalin running through their veins.

“Nothing we do is a waste of time. If we don't go out there for a day and keep a constant presence, then the next day when we go out there could be IEDs placed every five feet,” said Bennett, a vehicle commander with 2nd Mobile Assault Platoon.

However, searching for IEDs is not the only reason for a patrol. The Marines are also on watch for suspected insurgents in the area.

“Snap vehicle control points are another good reason why we go out,” Bennett added. “If we see a vehicle or a person that matches the description of a suspected insurgent, we can stop and check it out.”

At the end of the day, when all the Marines are safely back in friendly lines, they know they each had a hand in it.

“I take pride in just knowing that I did my part to keep everyone in my section safe,” said Lance Cpl. Rockie R. Roy II, 22, from Jennings, La., “that I did everything I could to do my job.”

Flatbread and football unites Marines, Iraqi soldiers

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq – A sense of camaraderie and trust is essential to any team. These traits are even more vital in a military team, as the members must trust each other with their lives. The bonds of brotherhood must be forged long before the bullets start flying. They are made suffering through training together, eating together and enjoying simple things together.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/Public/InfolineMarines.nsf/(rssNews)/082457E424FE4485C325727500466727


Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn
02/01/2007

For the Marines of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, a brief stop at one of the firm bases was an opportunity to make that fraternal connection with the Iraqi soldiers who are co-located with the Marines there.

With some free time before they had to go out on patrol again, the Marines began asking the Iraqi soldiers if they could try some of the flatbread that is cooked at the firm bases. This bread can be somewhat of a delicacy after a day of eating military rations.

“It's a tasty treat, I would probably snack on it at home,” said Cpl. Wade A. Retherford, 20, from Hamilton, Ohio. “Of course, if I was at home I would throw some butter or deli meat on it. It does fill you up though.”

With their appetites appeased, the Marines looked for some other way to pass the time before they headed back out on patrol. One Marine noticed a football lying around. Within the secure walls of the firm base, he picked it up and began tossing it to another Marine. Before long the Iraqi’s joined in a short but spirited game of catch.

“It was my idea to throw the football around,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas E. Beck, 20, from Monongahela, Penn. “It was funny watching them throw it because they toss it all weird and underhand. It gets them to warm up to us, to trust us, when they see us interacting with them like that.”

The Marines know that it is the little things like this positive interaction that will go a long way towards improving the relations between the different cultures. This is the start of building bonds with the Iraqi Army necessary for the teaching, mentoring, and transitioning that will take place over the next six months in the battalion’s area of operations.

“Little things like this are pretty important,” Retherford added. “If we treat them like we treat each other then we’ll all get along better; they'll listen to us and want to interact with us.”

With a shared burden of combat operations in Al Anbar Province, the two groups know they must trust and respect each other.

“I know when I first got to the battalion I felt like I was a little guy, like I didn't matter,” Retherford said. “Once I met some of the senior guys they made me feel like I was part of the platoon. I tried to do it the same way with my new guys and it’s the same with the Iraqis.”

The short period of relaxation soon ended and the two groups prepared to head out on the next of what will be many combined patrols, but this time, with a little more camaraderie, and bolstered sense of mutual trust and respect.

Hope Rides Alone

Sgt. Eddie Jeffers was killed in Iraq on September 19, 2007. He was 23.

I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others.

http://www.newmediajournal.us/guest/e_jeffers/print/02012007.htm

USA Sgt. Eddie Jeffers, USA (Iraq)
February 1, 2007

I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again...and yet, I too, am just a boy....my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid...because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.

There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I've made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.

And to think, I volunteered for this...

And I am ignorant to the rest of the world...or so I thought.

But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi, Iraq, the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn't fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America, and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.

I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about. It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that's what they are. In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.

People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don't realize its effects on this war. In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy's brutality because it's against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward’s war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war. And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation's news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes...only now, the enemy is becoming something new. The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not realize it. But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society...and they are becoming our enemy.

Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word "quagmire" around and compare this war to Vietnam. In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam. Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military. America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on. Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war.

Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the internet...and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed...for doing their job.

It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we've done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed? It's all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of President Bush. They will ignore the good news, because it just might show people that Bush was right.

America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It’s not like World War II, where people rationed food and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks. The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a servicemember, its life as usual...the war doesn't affect you.

But it affects us. And when it is over and the troops come home and they try to piece together what's left of them after their service...where will the detractors be then? Where will the Cindy Sheehans be to comfort and talk to soldiers and help them sort out the last couple years of their lives, most of which have been spent dodging death and wading through the deaths of their friends? They will be where they always are, somewhere far away, where the horrors of the world can't touch them. Somewhere where they can complain about things they will never experience in their lifetime; things that the young men and women of America have willingly taken upon their shoulders.

We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted, raped and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor...we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It's supporting our President, our troops and our cause.

Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn't.

Let's stop all the political nonsense, let's stop all the bickering, let's stop all the bad news and let's stand and fight!

Isn't that what America is about anyway?