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May 31, 2007

Anchorage native leads with experience

AL RAFTA, Iraq (May 31, 2007) -- The backbone of the United States Marine Corps is its noncommissioned officers. Senior leadership depends on these Marines, more commonly referred to as NCOs, to make decisions affecting the lives of thousands of lance corporals, privates first class and privates alike.


May 31, 2007; Submitted on: 05/31/2007 08:53:14 AM ; Story ID#: 200753185314
By Lance Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

One NCO in particular, Cpl. Shawn Atwood, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, leads with honor, courage, commitment while allowing others to learn and become leaders themselves.

“When I became a corporal, my eyes opened up to more responsibility,” Atwood said.

The Anchorage, Alaskan native became in charge of 10 Marines the day he pinned corporal chevrons to his collar.

“Picking up corporal didn’t change me into a micro-manager,” Atwood said. “I didn’t let it get to my head.”

The level-headed Marine learned from his senior leadership that a loud voice isn’t equal to leading by example.

“He won’t ask his Marines to do anything he won’t do himself,” said Cpl. Justin Rubley, a team leader with 3rd Platoon, C Company.

Not only does the 2004 Service High School graduate lead by example, he also listens to every Marine in his squad, new or seasoned.

“Even the privates and PFC’s have important things to say,” Atwood said. “Their words don’t go unheard or unanswered.”

Atwood meticulously plans his missions alone and deep in thought, but encourages input from his squad members because he feels the more ideas, the better the plan.

“I listen to my experienced Marines no matter what rank is on their collar,” Atwood said, “because their collars may hold different weight but its our shoulders that carry the same weight on a mission.”

The squad leader feels Marines with educated opinions make strong leaders because they think in combat.

“If a Marine can step back, survey a situation and act on his own then that means I’ve properly taught him how to be a leader,” Atwood said.

“I try to create thinkers and leaders who still understand the succession of command,” Atwood added.

His squad members are well prepared before leaving their battle position.

“He thinks ahead and makes sure everyone understands a mission before we go out on patrol,” said Pfc. Jason Lim, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, C Company.

Making sure his Marines know what lies ahead is as important as making sure they have working gear to survive hostile territory.

“Those simple things really matter,” Lim said. “If I don’t have water or enough ammunition then those things can really affect everyone and my squad leader makes sure those problems are taken care of before we leave the battle position.”

He is trained as an infantryman and infantrymen know how to win battles against clearly defined armies. It’s what Marines do. But the insurgency in Iraq doesn’t wear a uniform and it fights among Iraq’s citizens, killing innocent people. The squad leader understands that Iraq’s people need to choose a side and winning them over to America’s side is done with a handshake and a friendly welcome by Marines.

“He understands that being friendly towards the Iraqi people is how we are going to win this war,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew Scheuer, a platoon commander with 3rd Platoon, C Company.

“He would like to see some action but is okay with the fact that no action is also a good thing. That means we’re doing our job here,” Scheuer added.

Atwood knows Iraqis want freedom and are willing to help the Marines to help them have peace.

“You can get a lot more out of a person by treating them with respect,” Atwood said. “That goes for my Marines and the locals here.”

USS Bonhomme Richard Off-Loads 13th MEU

CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait (NNS) -- The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR) off-loaded the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) here May 25-28.


Story Number: NNS070531-16
Release Date: 5/31/2007 6:22:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Ryan Tabios, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

The four-day offload saw the departure of more than 2,200 Sailors and Marines from BHR, USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47). The offload also included 300,000 pounds of equipment and heavy artillery and the MEU’s Aviation Combat Element.

“This was a calculated and well executed movement of personnel and equipment from ship to shore,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Flan Harrell, BHR’s assistant combat cargo officer. “It takes a great deal of planning to accomplish an event of this size and the coordinated efforts of the many departments involved were nothing short of outstanding.”

Harrell said the amphibious offload was a complete team effort.

“All together we accomplished this offload in the most efficient way possible,” said Harrell. “There is no way we could have met our demanding timelines if it were not for the outstanding leadership of my staff and the Navy/Marine Corps team, and the efforts of ACU 5 (Assault Craft Unit 5), ACU 1 (Det. D) and BMU 1 (Beach Master Unit 1, Det. B).”

ACU 5 operates the landing craft air cushion and ACU 1 operates the landing craft utility used to transport Marines and equipment ashore. BMU 1 mans the beaches and coordinates the landing craft’s movement ashore.

Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG) Commander Capt. Bradley Martin said after spending the past few months with the 13th MEU he is confident in their ability to carry out any mission they are tasked with ashore.

“The Marines have used every second of their time, and every inch of this ship to prepare for this moment,” said Martin. “I am more than confident that their time ashore will be productive and successful. We look forward to the onload when their mission is completed, but for now the BHRESG will carry on our maritime operations mission in support of the theater commander.”

BHR Commanding Officer Capt. Steve Greene said the offload of the 13th MEU signifies the completion of only a portion of BHR’s mission.

“Our mission is to embark and deploy the land elements of the Marines Corps,” said Greene. “The offload is only part of our mission. We will now continue to conduct maritime operations to help set the conditions for security and stability in the region. Once the MEU has completed their mission ashore, and we bring them and our Sailors back home safely to San Diego at the conclusion of our deployment, we will have completed our mission.”

The BHRESG consists of Amphibious Squadron 7, BHR, Denver, Rushmore, USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Chosin (CG 65), and 2,200 combat-ready Marines of the 13th MEU.

BHRESG is operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations and will be conducting maritime security operations (MSO). U.S. and coalition forces conduct MSO to help set conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other materials.

For more news from USS Bonhomme Richard, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd6/.

Movie Theater helps Marines relax in Haditha

HADITHA, Iraq (May 31, 2007) -- During combat operations, Marines and sailors are often faced with many stressful and strenuous scenarios. At the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Headquarters and Service Company forward operating base located in the city of Haditha, areas are set up for them to sit back and relax after a hard days work.

May 31, 2007

By Cpl. Rick Nelson, 2nd Marine Division

"Vollmer's Cinema" was unveiled after Marines from different sections of the unit took the time to build an amphitheater in an area that was previously used as a sandbag pit.

"I thought of the idea to make the theater one night when the Marines were sitting around watching a movie on nothing more than a small screen," said theater namesake Gunnery Sgt. Donald J. Vollmer, assistant operations chief, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3. "It took us all about 24 hours to build the theater. It was good to see all of the Marines out here helping, and it couldn't have been done without them. I think they knew it would be a place for them to sit back and relax after a strenuous day."

During the construction, dubbed “Operation Construct Theater,” Marines leveled the ground, built seats out of wooden pallets, made a large screen, and created a device that holds the movie projector.

"It was definitely worth the work and turned out really well," said Lance Cpl. Mike R. Silva, Jump Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3. "The theater kind of adds a taste of home, and makes me feel like I'm closer to the states."

Silva, a native to Lakeworth, Fla., added that theaters aren't something you see at many FOBs.

"While the movie was playing, you could tell the Marines were enjoying themselves," said Lance Cpl. Kyle B. Kahoun, operations watch noncommissioned-officer, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3.

"We plan on holding movie night once a week, depending on operational tempo," said Vollmer, an Albany, Ore. native. "We're always trying to come up with ideas to help raise motivation and morale among the troops. We have a few ideas up in the air right now and we're still trying to get more speakers and other parts to enhance the theater even further."

Vollmer said the experience of building the theater is one the Marines will never forget.

"Not many people in the world can say they helped to build an amphitheater in the middle of a combat zone, but now these Marines can," explained Vollmer.

May 30, 2007

Darkhorse Marines learn weapons of insurgency

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (May 30, 2007) -- A former master sergeant in the Israeli Army educated Darkhorse Marines on enemy weapons systems during the Stu Segall Hyper-Realistic Training exercise May 8.


May 30, 2007; Submitted on: 05/30/2007 05:30:07 PM ; Story ID#: 200753017307
By Lance Cpl. Jerry Murphy, MCB Camp Pendleton

Larry E. Zanoff, a 42-year-old originally from Haifa, Israel, and senior weapons expert for Stu Segall Productions, gave Marines of Company L and Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, an enemy-weapons class to help them understand and recognize threats and disable insurgent weaponry.

“This class is designed so that when a Marine comes across an AK-47 or any other enemy weapons while deployed, he knows how to properly disable it,” Zanoff said. “The class also teaches Marines how to recognize enemy rank just by a weapon,” Zanoff continued.

“If there’s a group of insurgents and one of them has a pistol or a short-stock AK, you know he’s got some kind of information to tell or give up,” Zanoff said. “If he tells you he’s an infantryman, you can tell if he’s lying by his weapon.”

Marines employing this valuable information in Iraq will aid Coalition efforts in the Global War on Terrorism.

“When we went in-country last year, we hadn’t had any classes on enemy weapons, and it would have helped in some situations,” said Cpl. Bret T. Younts, squad leader, Company L. “Now that we have had this class, we will know how to handle certain situations differently and more effectively. This class was good to go,” Younts continued.

“It was interesting to see all the different types of weapons used by the (insurgents),” said Lance Cpl. Doug B. Jones, an administration clerk with H & S Co.

During the demonstration, Zanoff held up a standard knife and asked, “How is this weapon more dangerous than it looks?” He pulled a small trigger on the hilt. Bang! The entire classroom of Marines jolted back in their chairs. A 9mm blank fired out of a designated spot small enough for one round.

“You can never be sure when it comes to their weapons. Anything can be any type of weapon,” Younts said. “When that knife shot off, it kind of surprised us, but you have to be ready for that because you never know,” he said.

Whether it is learning about enemy weapons systems or kicking down doors in the streets of Iraq, survival requires that Marines take what they have learned and apply it every day.

“The knowledge of enemy weapons systems is the key to victory against terrorism,” Zanoff said. “If we know what kinds of weapons the enemy is using, that’s what we can use to build our strategies around,” he continued.

“Knowledge is power, and power will prevail.”

MLG Marines at Gannon support efforts to stabilize Iraq

CAMP GANNON, Iraq (May 30, 2007) -- Marines from 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) are working all throughout Al Anbar Province. Some serve with battalions under the group, some with detachments under the battalions and some stand detached from their detachments at smaller posts.


May 30, 2007; Submitted on: 05/30/2007 06:18:26 AM ; Story ID#: 200753061826
By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The few 2nd MLG (Fwd) Marines at Camp Gannon are part of Detachment 2, Combat Logistics Battalion 2. Together, they provide fuel, water and food services to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment – services required for Iraq to achieve stability.

“We feed Marines,” said Cpl. Anthony White, a food service specialist here with Detachment 2, CLB-2, 2nd MLG (Fwd) and a Lynn, Mass., native. “The Marines are out there helping (Iraqis), so without us they wouldn’t be able to do what they do effectively.”

Another Marine providing one of the remaining two services explained how his job also contributes to progress for a self-sufficient Iraq.

“I provide water for this camp so (the Marines) can be efficient at what they do,” said Cpl. Christian Apellaniz, a water treatment specialist with Detachment 2. “They’ll come in, take showers and get refreshed. If nobody was doing this, there would be no showers, no (dining facility), no clean clothes.”

The Queens, N.Y., native explained why he has pride in what he does.

“It gives you a sense that you’re doing something for someone,” he said. “It makes me feel good because I’m actually helping out.”

Sgt. Jason R. Long, the Camp Gannon fuel farm noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said he is on his third deployment, but his first to Iraq.

Long, a Marshalltown, Iowa, native, said if servicemembers are unable to help the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people will be unable to help themselves.

“We provide fuel to coalition forces,” he said. “We don’t give it to Iraqis anymore. Unless it comes from higher, we don’t give them a drop. I think we’re trying to let the Iraqis help themselves.”

By providing fuel to coalition forces, Long explained that his job enables his fellow servicemembers to train and work with the Iraqi army and police. He said he plays more of a behind the scenes role in Iraq’s stabilization.

“We’re one of those jobs where nobody really notices us until they’re out of gas.”

Running out of gas is the last thing the MLG (Fwd) Marines plan to do. With a great portion of their deployment remaining, they will continue to provide 1/4 with the services needed to continue to make progress in Iraq. This is something the Marines said they look forward to.

“It’s not that bad out here,” said White. “I don’t mind it out here. I like what I do.”

Marines return home after nine-month deployment

Ninety Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 311 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 returned home to Yuma Wednesday evening. On Tuesday, six Harriers and six pilots returned to MCAS Yuma.


May 30, 2007 - 10:02PM

Bused in San Diego, the Marines were met by anxious and excited family members at the VMA-311 hangar.

The Marines just completed an approximate nine-month deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, in which they were stationed aboard the USS Boxer.

The 15th MEU departed San Diego Naval Station on Sept. 13 and deployed to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

During its deployment, the unit conducted bilateral training in the Maldives and India before landing in Kuwait and subsequently going into Iraq in November to support counterinsurgency operations.

While in Iraq, the 15th MEU conducted combat operations throughout the Anbar Province and contributed to increased security and the establishment of municipal governance and local police forces.

The 15th MEU completed its assignment in Iraq during mid-April. The Marines returned to Kuwait to re-embark on their ships.

On its return trip to Southern California, the 15th MEU briefly stopped in Australia and Hawaii for routine port visits.

May 29, 2007

Task Force Commander uses MAP to get around

RUTBAH, IRAQ (May 29, 2007) -- The sun slowly glides down the desert horizon. Darkness has set. Time for some much needed rest after a day filled with patrols of this isolated last stop before the Iraqi and Syrian border.


May 29, 2007; Submitted on: 05/29/2007 07:21:42 AM ; Story ID#: 200752972142
By Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Traynham, 2nd Marine Division

This much anticipated sleep is interrupted by the burning sensation you feel in your nose from the familiar breaths of the red desert sand. The make shift “Hilton” is rocked by a tremendous explosion. Marines scurry outside with weapons in hand to investigate, only to hear the fading roar of thunder. Quickly engulfed by the downpour, reality sets in. No mortar attack tonight, no explosives going off, just a storm.

As the sun retakes its place in the desert sky, a Marine walks in the now dismantled living quarters and announces, “Storms over, mount up.”

Though the storm disfigured many of the buildings at Command Outpost Norseman, according to Lt. Col. Andrew H. Smith, Commander of Task Force Tarawa, today is a good day.

Today, the commander will patrol the city with his Mobile Assault Platoon, or MAP. The MAP is a detachment of specially trained Marines who provide security for the Task Force Commander when he is traveling.

“They are a patrol,” Smith says. “They just tend to be dedicated to me.”

Another Smith of no relation to the commander, Cpl. Brent M. Smith, a vehicle commander with MAP, explained his job as escorting Lt. Col. Smith around his battlespace as safely as possible.

By far, no easy task when traveling the roads in a combat zone plagued with improvised explosive devices and where the enemy blends in with the local populace.

“We went through an intense training package prior to coming out here,” said Staff Sgt. Ocie L. Lowery, platoon sergeant and convoy commander for the MAP.

The Marines’ three-month training package was put together by a private security company.

“We started from the basics,” said Cpl. Steve Batista, assistant patrol leader, vehicle commander and navigator with MAP. “Basically, we learned how to move a principle from one place to another while maintaining security and staying in control.”

“We used Crown Vics, Suburbans and Hummers when we did our training,” said Cpl. Scott J. Wormuth, a vehicle commander and machine gunner with the MAP. “We learned how to drive faster and harder while keeping control and protecting our principle vehicle.”

The driving portion of their training was of the utmost importance, but the ability to drive like the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ alone doesn’t guarantee safety.

“Some days we would shoot over 9,000 rounds apiece,” said Cpl. Smith, a Hughesville, Pa., native. “We would shoot until our hands cramped up, and then we would shoot some more.”

“Every ones accuracy and alertness improved tremendously by the end of the training,” said Batista, a Lyndhurst, N. J., native.

Having gone through rigorous training in order to keep military commanders safe in Iraq, the time had come to put the training to use.

“When we first got here, we were attached to Regimental Combat Team 2 at Al Asad and had Col. Clardy as a principle,” said Lowery, a South River, N. J. native. “When Task Force Tarawa was established, we moved to Rutbah and the principle became Lt. Col. Smith.”

As with any two people, none think alike. Col H. Stacy Clardy is the RCT-2 Commander.

“We had to adapt to Lt. Col. Smith’s strategy,” said Batista.

“He is very meticulous, but fair,” added Wormuth. “He is also very professional.”

Being a reflection of the Task Force Commander, the MAP maintains a high level of professionalism at all times.

“We know other units are watching us,” said Cpl. Smith. “If we look bad, we make the lieutenant colonel look bad, and that’s not part of our job.”

“Once we hit the gate, we are all business,” added Wormuth.

Lt. Col. Smith reciprocates the views of the MAP Marines.

“They are a very professional bunch,” Lt. Col. Smith exclaimed. “They take their job seriously and have a good attention to detail. I feel comfortable when I’m out with them.”

Due to the regularity of traveling with the MAP, Lt. Col. Smith is not considered a passenger being chauffeured around the desert; he is part of the team.

“He is not someone to just sit in an office,” expressed Wormuth, a Pleasanton, Calif., native. “He believes in his mission, and he gets out there with us.”

“That’s the only way I’ll do it,” said Lt. Col. Smith. “It’s a team effort, and I’m part of that team. They are one of the very rewarding aspects of being out here; I get to run around with these guys.”

With the training behind them and into the sixth month of their deployment, the MAP Marines are continuing to put the vital training they received to use every day as they take to the streets of Rutbah with their team member and Task Force Commander.

“Our mission is to make Lt. Col. Smith a hard target,” said Lowery emphatically. “This is our final exam, and failing is not an option.”

Task Force Tarawa is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, sailors and soldiers in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

Operation Scimitar cuts down insurgent activity

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (May 29, 2007) -- Marines and sailors assigned to Task Force Tarawa began Operation Southern Scimitar in the early morning of May 19, in order to sweep and clear their area of insurgent activity.


May 29, 2007; Submitted on: 05/29/2007 08:04:41 AM ; Story ID#: 20075298441
By Cpl. Rick Nelson, 2nd Marine Division

The operation was conducted due to reports of an enemy presence in a region east of Rutbah.

“Task Force Tarawa, 1st (Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion) and the Iraqi Highway Patrol were all involved in the joint operation,” said Gunnery Sgt. Frank M. Impagliazzo, motor transport operations chief, Task Force Tarawa. “The IHP’s patrolled north while LAR was sweeping east to west pushing enemy activity through several coalition phase lines.”

During the operation, Impagliazzo’s unit was used for Combat Service Support, supplying the units with fuel, food and other needed materials.

“We provided approximately 500 gallons of JP fuel to the sweeping units throughout the operation,” he added. “We helped in many ways. We had maintenance and armory parts and used all we had to help to keep the mobile force going, but the overall goal of the operation was to flush out any activity and to show a presence in the area, so the enemy would know ‘hey if you go out there and set something up, we’re going to find it’.”

The Iraqi Highway Patrol played a big part in the operation, setting up vehicle check-points in case insurgents tried to escape, said Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Seaburn, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Police Training Team 22.

“Their main objective was to block Mobile Road to make sure insurgents didn’t try to flee once they realized the operation was going on,” said Seaburn. “This was the longest the IHPs patrolled, but we completed our mission very well with no one hurt, but there is always a threat of a vehicle-borne (improvised explosive devices) when doing the check-points.”

Seaburn, a Dellroy, Ohio, native, said the IHP were involved in a firefight in the same area a few weeks prior and knew there were insurgents in the area.

“I think the IHPs did a great job with the check-points,” said Maj. Alli Ayed Abd, an officer with the Iraqi Highway Patrol. “The only thing I think that could have been done differently is allowing more members of the IHP to patrol with the Marines, because they know the area and the people and may have been able to find out more intelligence from the locals.”

Prior to TFT and the Highway Patrol’s departure, a clearing team was sent out to clear the area before they arrived at their battle space, said Impagliazzo, a Scitvate, R.I., native.

“While we were out there I think the Marines did a pretty good job and let the people know that if they’re a part of any enemy activity to stay out of this part of the country,” said the 38-year-old. “The operation was originally planned for five days, but things went smoothly and only ended up being two days. But you never know what could happen in a split second, which is what keeps the Marines from becoming complacent.”

During the operation two detainees were brought in for questioning and there were no combat related injuries, so it was a success, added Impagliazzo.

“It was a very organized operation and the Marines and sailors performed excellently,” said Impagliazzo. “I wished more bad guys would’ve been caught, but as far as the operation went, all of us went out there and did exactly what we were supposed to do. There’s no way to even show on paper what a show of force does for a unit and the area and what operations like this do for the Iraqi people.”

Task Force Tarawa is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, sailors and soldiers in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

Ohio biker visits Culpeper National Cemetery

Two gruff bikers were a little late to the Memorial Day service at Culpeper National Cemetery Monday.


Katie Dolac
Staff writer
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

They coasted in on their Harley Davidson motorcycles quietly and slipped in casually as speakers addressed nearly 300 people.

Marine Col. Thomas Doetzer recalled his first meeting with his father-in-law, also buried at Culpeper National Cemetery.

“He stood ramrod straight in an Army uniform,” he said, and even though he stood two inches taller than his father-in-law, he was still the tallest man he’d ever seen.

The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute by the American Legion Post 330 and a patriotic selection by the Culpeper County High School band.

After the pomp-and-circumstance ended and the crowd thinned (many filtering to the headstones of loved ones buried there, others to lunch at VFW Post 2454), they greeted a sprightly, bearded man wearing a camouflage boonie hat and a gray T-shirt that read “In memory of those who gave all” and listed five names.

Ohio biker John Favorite, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran with a graying goatee and a dragon tattoo on his forearm, sweltered under a patch-laden leather vest and an American flag do-rag.

Favorite and his friend were two of thousands of veterans who roared through Washington, D.C. Sunday for the 20th annual Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally - an event to raise veteran awareness.

They came to Culpeper to finally meet the young Marine whose face Favorite painted on his bike.

The sprightly, bearded man led them to his 20-year-old son Lance Cpl. Karl R. Linn.

“Here he is, and here’s my dad,” Richard Linn, of Midlothian, said kneeling between their white headstones.

Linn’s son died Jan. 26, 2005 of wounds he received as a result of enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq. His father Robert, a Navy veteran from World War II, died on his 80th birthday five years ago.

“One had a full life and the other one didn’t,” Karl Linn’s grandmother Anita Linn said. “When you get to be my age, you don’t fight it, you accept it.”

Richard Linn’s son was one of the five names on the T-shirt. The other four were comrades, also killed in action.
“I’m so glad we were able to come down here,” Favorite said to his buddy.

Favorite’s bike is a mobile monument to Linn and three other Marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Global War on Terrorism. Though he never knew any of the faces personally, he knows their smiles and their names, and he’s reminded every time he rides.

Favorite’s bike is his small way of reconciling with the angry American sentiment he faced returning from Vietnam. Images of veterans being jeered and spat upon are seared in his memory.
“Whether or not this is a good war, we need to support our men and women,” Favorite said. “They’re still there. They’re still Americans. They’re still our children.”

Favorite considers it his personal mission to ride to their hometowns, meet their families and show how they are forever remembered. His next stop is Tulsa, Okla.

May 28, 2007

Mountain Viper readies troops for Afghanistan

By John Hoellwarth - Staff writer
Posted : Monday May 28, 2007 9:56:06 EDT

While Marines are getting pre-Iraq training at Mojave Viper in Twentynine Palms, Calif., what about leathernecks heading to the mountains of Afghanistan?

To continue reading:


1/1 machine gunners communicate, destroy enemy at Mojave Viper

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER 29 PALMS, Calif. (May 28, 2007) -- “Get up the hill!” bellows Lance Cpl. Derek A. Wolf, as he and his fellow machine gunners charge a steep, rocky mount to establish machine gun positions. “They’re waiting on us!” Wolf adds with a shout as the Marines, laden with machine guns and ammunition, push themselves to get up “Machine Gun Hill.”


May 28, 2007; Submitted on: 05/22/2007 09:53:28 AM ; Story ID#: 200752295328
By Lance Cpl. Bryce Muhlenberg, 2nd Marine Division

Marines with A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, conducted combined arms training at Range 410A here May 17 in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

The scenario is as follows: an enemy platoon has been entrenched in lightly-fortified positions for several hours. The Alpha Company platoons must advance on and clear the trenches. Their success or failure depends on the accurate and withering fire provided by the machine gunners on “The Hill.” The machine gunners suppress the enemy, as the platoon advances on the trenches in order to close with the enemy.

“The platoon can’t move on the targets without us suppressing the enemy first,” said Wolf, a 23-year-old machine gunner with the company. “If we weren’t up here, the enemy would just start picking off our guys, and we can’t let that happen.”

The Marines quickly made it to the crest of the hill, yelling and moving to set up the machine gun positions as fast as they could. The machine gunners were armed with M240G and M240B medium machine guns, firing linked 7.62mm ball rounds at targets nearly 500 meters away.

“Believe it or not, it’s not hard at all to hit a target accurately at this distance,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan D. Anderson, a squad leader. “What is difficult is the communication needed for all four gun positions to maintain fire superiority.”

The Marines kept a constant shower of lead falling on the targets by using four widely-spaced gun positions firing at different times. This system, commonly refered to as “talking guns,” prevents the enemy from zeroing in on any one position.
Communication is key since the gun positions must work together as a single firing position.

“If a gun is down at position two and the rest of the positions don’t compensate, then that’s less rounds impacting the enemy,” said Wolf, a King William, Va., native.

The Marines tore apart the targets with their alternating fire as they yelled to each other across the gaps.

“When you’re firing the gun, your heart and adrenaline is pumping heavy and its not the most comfortable position either, but you have to concentrate enough to shift fire and let everyone know how much ammunition you have left,” said Wolf, a King William High School alumni. “What helps you concentrate on proper communication is the fact that your buddies are down there and they need you to keep the enemy off their backs.”

Range 410A builds great communication skills, said Gunnery Sgt. Jerry D. Rogers Jr., a “Coyote” with 3/1 Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group (TTECG). The Coyotes teach and evaluate units conducting Mojave Viper training prior to deployment.

“This range forces all the Marines to work together to get the job done, because the companies doing training here must use every Marine and most weapons systems available to them to attack the enemy,” said Rogers. “It really builds the combined arms communication mentality.”

The machine gunners go through hundreds of rounds as the Marines of the company move closer and closer to the objective below. While they move toward the trenches they constantly use radio to maintain communication with the machine gunners on the hill.

“Shift fire!” yells Anderson to each of the two man machine gun positions.

“Shift fire!” the machine gunners yell back.

While the Marines on the ground are about to clear the first trench, the machine gunners begin to rake the other two trenches to continue suppressing enemy without hitting their own brothers.

“This training really brings the company together so we know that when situations like this occur in real life we can rely on each other, just like we relied on the machine gunners today,” said Lance Cpl. Mike Mercado, Jr., who was one of the Marines on the ground clearing the trenches. “We now have a greater trust in each other and know that we will be able to get the job done when we are in Iraq.”

Fighting a New Kind of War in Iraq

At 23, Marine Corporal Ryan Vistek considered himself a war-hardened veteran. In 2004, he fought against Moqtada al-Sadr's militia when it staged an uprising in several parts of Iraq. But sometimes experience no longer counts as lessons learned. Before he deployed to Iraq for the second time earlier this year, he and other Iraq combat veterans were pulled aside and told — essentially — to forget everything they'd learned.


Monday, May. 28, 2007

The new mission for Marines like Vistek is to act less as warriors and more as policemen and goodwill ambassadors. In al Qaim, a community of farmers and merchants along Iraq's border with Syria, the Marines have been employing a classic counter-insurgency strategy since the end of 2005. The emphasis here has shifted from hunting down and destroying the enemy to providing security in al Qaim's cities and villages. Capt. Luke Gové, Vistek's company commander, said the Marines are the best-trained and best-equipped force in the area. He asks rhetorically, "Are we the best force to conduct a counter-insurgency? Absolutely not." But they bear much of the burden while they train Iraqi soldiers and police to take their place.

Marines here speak of "strategic corporals." In a fight where public perception is so vital the decisions made by young enlisted men don't just affect a particular patrol, or the opinions of Iraqis on a single street. The ripple effect can change the strategic picture of an entire region dramatically. "The complexity of what we're doing is so much greater," Gové said. The key choice is often when to "not act — which is the hardest thing for a Marine to do." One cultural lesson the Marines have learned is that what appears to American eyes to be corruption — bribes paid, money skimmed off the top of construction projects — is simply standard operating procedure in an area dominated by family connections and tribal networks. "People get it wrapped around the axle because these guys aren't exactly Jack Webb types: 'Just the facts,'" said Gové. "They may be taking something on the side." But the goal is to create functioning security forces that are accepted by residents here, not to create a force that meets American standards of ethics and transparency.

For Vistek the new approach has meant "a lot of responsibility that the pay grade has never really had before." In al Qaim, he says Marines are now tasked with such community outreach at the rank-and-file level and with every contact with Iraqi civilians. Says Vistek: "The responsibility went from, 'oh, that's on the [lieutenant]' to, 'Holy s---, my [unit's] responsible for three patrols a day? Wow.'" That new function combined with the old but still necessary task of fighting insurgents can be overwhelming. Gove, like other Marine commanders in al Qaim, is mindful that he risks pushing his men past their limits as he attempts to blanket the area with American troops. "You can't burn these guys out," says Gové. "On the other hand, you can't leave a section of town uncovered — because wherever we aren't, that's where [the insurgents] are."

As in the rest of Iraq, the hope in Qaim is that the American burden will lessen as Iraqi security forces take the lead. In Baghdad and other centers of sectarian violence, where the security forces are riddled with militiamen and where Shi'ites patrol hostile Sunni neighborhoods, that hope is more like a fantasy. But in al Qaim, foreign jihadists not too long ago antagonized local Sunni tribal leaders; and now the Americans have used that local history to win cooperation from the same maligned tribes, recruiting personnel for the Iraqi army and police. "It's in our best interest to train them and trust them," Vistek says. "We've got their back whether they know it or not. We just hope that they'll return the favor."

A safe investment

McHENRY – Dennis Smith has good reason for launching the McHenry County arm of Operation Helmet, a project to ensure that Marines are equipped with proper helmets.


May 28, 2007

His granddaughter’s husband is serving his second term in Iraq and still does not have the proper helmet protection, Smith said.

“Almost every day I wake up saying, ‘Gee, I hope he’s OK today,’ ” Smith said.

Operation Helmet takes donations to buy upgrade kits for helmets to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injury.

Since starting in November, McHenry Operation Helmet has raised about $3,000 in donations. Each new helmet upgrade kit costs $77.

Smith is the former executive director of the Mental Health Board and serves as the treasurer for the McHenry County Behavior Health Foundation.

Head injury is a subject that is very close to Smith’s heart. When Smith’s daughter was 15, she sustained serious head injuries in a car accident.

“I became aware over the next several years how inadequate the resources were for people with head injuries,” Smith said. “Head injuries require a really specific approach to rehabilitation and many times people with head injuries end up in the mental-health system because they exhibit symptoms that are similar to mental illnesses. ... And because they are misdiagnosed, they receive the wrong treatment.”

Bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder are just a few examples of misdiagnosing brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injury has begun to characterize the current war in Iraq “much the way illness from Agent Orange typified the Vietnam War,” said Warren Lux, a neurophysiologist at the Walter Reed Hospital.

Sixty percent of soldiers treated for head injuries at Walter Reed Hospital have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Most cases of traumatic brain injury are caused by improvised explosive devices. Mild symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, sleep disturbance and headaches. More severe symptoms are mood swings, depression, anxiety, emotional outbursts and impulsiveness.

Ironically, advancements in technology and medicine have made it so that more military patients can be adequately treated. Therefore, people who would not have recovered in earlier wars are surviving – in turn, leaving more soldiers injured, Smith said.

Smith also has run into snags along the way when it comes to fitting Marines with the helmet inserts. For example, Smith’s grandson said he would not use the inserts unless his entire fire team was fitted with them as well, saying that he didn’t want to have better protection than his friends. The problem is, now they need to figure out the type of helmet and the size for everyone, but the Marines will not disclose that information for security reasons.

Operation Helmet is not just a local project. Bob Meaders of Texas started Operation Helmet in 2004 because he, like Smith, has a connection to a person serving in Iraq.

The Marines are in the process of upgrading their helmets to include the inserts, but the helmet upgrade kits that are being provided right now are not being used by most soldiers because of discomfort, Meaders said.

“They are uncomfortable ...,” he said. “A helmet is only effective when you wear it.”

As of today, Operation Helmet has sent 36,177 helmet upgrades because of donations, according to its Web site.

“[Our troops] deserve better,” Smith said. “These young men are putting their lives on the line and giving their most.

“They deserve our best equipment and it’s taking a long time to get it there.”

To donate or for information, call (815) 455-2828 or go to www.operation-helmet.org.

How to help

To donate to Operation Helmet or for information call (815) 455-2828 or go to www.operation-helmet.org.

Their words live on; Letters shine light on what Marines thought in final days

Memorial Day is the day we remember the men and women in uniform who died serving this country, from Saratoga and Bunker Hill to Haditha and Fallujah.


Monday, May 28, 2007

All are to be remembered, but the memory often works best at short distances, and the freshest memories are those of the young soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All leave behind memories for their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, spouses and sweethearts to cherish. Some leave behind words as well - letters and e-mails written to the ones they love and who love them the most.

And what they wrote goes a long way toward telling the rest of us who they were and what we have lost:


One of the enduring images of Chris Dyer was seen nationwide a year ago, in an A&E; Network special called "Combat Diary - the Marines of Lima Company."

The film used videotape and photos shot by the Marines of Lima Company themselves. One short piece of video from a fellow Marine's camcorder showed the 19-year-old Chris, strumming a guitar and singing "Puff the Magic Dragon."

Those back home who knew him best saw it and thought that was the Chris they knew. Handsome, happy, full of life.

Lima Company, a Marine reserve unit that lost 23 Marines in a six-month Iraq tour, was due to come home in the fall, and Chris - a Princeton High School graduate who wanted to be a pilot - was looking forward to beginning classes in the honors program at Ohio State University.

It was not to be.

His parents - Kathy Dyer of Glendale and John Dyer of Evendale - were left with some hand-written insights into what was in their son's heart and mind in the months before he died.

After Chris' death, the Marine Corps gave his possessions to his mother in a box. In it, she found a postcard sent to him by his aunt, Helen Chilton of Atlanta. Also in the box was a response, written by Chris but never mailed. Kathy Dyer delivered it to Helen. It read:

Dearest Aunt Helen,

Thank you and your friends from church for writing me and giving me a bright spot in my day.

Being here is tough in many ways, but your faith and love for me keep me motivated.

My fellow Marines and I have grown closer than I have ever been with anybody, in just these past few months. Spending every second of every day with these same buddies will make that happen. My life in their hands; theirs in mine. I have a new appreciation for life!

It's all good, Aunt Helen, because I have faith that in a couple of months I will be back at the Varsity (a landmark Atlanta drive-in restaurant) chowing down on chili dogs with you. And shepherds we shall be.

Love, your nephew,


In December '04, Lima Company held a Christmas party at company HQ in Columbus, the last such gathering of Marines and their families before deployment. Christopher and his mother, Kathy, perched on Santa Claus' knees for a Polaroid photo, with the American flag as a backdrop. Christopher gave his mother a handwritten Christmas card. It read:


Thanks for all of your love and support financially, educationally, and, most of all, emotionally.

I don't know what the next year of my life will be like - or our lives, for that matter - but I know that no matter what I'll come home to you, because I love you.

Our bond is stronger than life or death; it is relentless; so am I. Merry Christmas, Mom - I love you, and will miss you greatly.


Christopher J. Dyer, PFC

In a letter to his father, John Dyer, shortly after arriving in Iraq, Chris told of an offer of a new assignment that, if he had taken it, would have meant he would have been nowhere near that dusty road in Haditha a few months later. In it, he said:

"I got offered a spot with SSgt. Greer and Weapons Company to train the ING (Iraq National Guard) - but I didn't want to leave my squad. Especially because I am a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner and you know how that'd weaken the squad. So, no safe haven training Iraqis and no meritorious promotion. No worries."

He also listed for his father some of the things he was looking forward to when he came home:

"Flying, cookouts, going shooting, maybe hunting; just driving to the middle of nowhere and camping, Iron Horse (a Glendale restaurant) and the wine tastings, the ladies, movies, hangin' out with my Marines, wearing my Marine Corps jacket, cigars and Hennessey (only because I'm coming home), there better be kegs of Budweiser when I get home and lots of chips and salsa and guacamole and sour cream (just think nachos)."


At the top of the stairs to the second floor of Rick and Sherri Taylor's Milford home are two framed pictures - pictures that tell the story of the boy they loved and the young man they mourn.

One is a picture of young Bryan in his Pee Wee football uniform, down on one knee, a smile spread across the face under the soup-bowl haircut. The other is a life-like drawing of a determined-looking Marine in dress blue uniform, gazing into the distance.

"A Marine's Marine," Sherri Taylor said of the son she lost to the war. "A beautiful young man."

Rick and Sherri Tayler, like thousands of other parents around the country, are left to wonder what their boy-turned-man would have done with the rest of his life. But, as hard as that is, they cherish the memories of what Bryan did with the years he had.

"I'm his dad, so, of course, I always thought he was something special," said Rick, sitting with his wife at the kitchen table. "But, since he died, I've found out that he was a far greater person than even I knew. I never knew how much impact he had on people."

Both of Brian's parents said that, since his death, they have heard from dozens of people who knew their son - either at Milford High School, where he graduated in 2004; at Live Oaks Career Development Center, where he studied computer-assisted drafting and manufacturing; or who had bumped into him somewhere in Milford and Miami Township.

They all tell Rick and Sherri of Bryan's kindness, his good humor, ability to lead, and how he always looked out for his younger brother, Matthew, three years behind him in school. And the Taylors are grateful to all of those who have spoken kind words about their son and remember him still.

"He left behind a trail of people who cared about him," Sherri Taylor said. "No one who knew him will ever forget him."

He left behind some written words, as well - words spoken from the heart about who he was and what he wanted to be.

Bryan posted much of it on his page at MySpace.com. Some of what he wrote was light-hearted chatter, the kind anyone with a young son or daughter would recognize:

"Bryan's interests:

General: Everything.

Music: Everything but country.

Movies: Good movies.

Television: Don't watch.

Books: Thrillers.

Heroes: My father."

Or this description of his perfect companion, under the heading "Who I'd like to meet":

"A person who is down to earth and realizes what is going on around the world. A person who enjoys their life every day they wake up. Who wants to enjoy their time, and be happy. Someone who can put the drama behind them and always move on."

And there was a piece that touched his parents deeply, so much so that they had it reprinted on laminated cards that have been distributed all over the country. It is a piece the young Marine wrote in his brief time in Iraq and called "From Bryan's Heart":

"I am a Marine.

Some people love us and others hate us. We are all from different home, lives, etc., so why judge us as a whole when we are not alike.

I am proud of what I do and to serve the country that I do.

We are here for you and your families. We are the ones willing to give our lives to make your life easier and safer. So, please, don't hate.

I have seen a lot of good men lose their lives because of what our beliefs are. I honor these men every day. I'm down to earth and I do cherish life every day, because I realize how easy it can be taken from you."

May 25, 2007

BLT 1/5 gears up to fight, rolls into mech raids

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (May 25, 2007) -- The faint glimmer of the moon was the only light in the sky as the 26 ton assault amphibian vehicles rolled along the dusty path, churning up everything in the way of their powerful tracks, as Marines inside anxiously waited for the ramp to lower, releasing them to close with and destroy the enemy.


May 25, 2007; Submitted on: 05/25/2007 06:14:18 PM ; Story ID#: 2007525181418
By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti, 11th MEU

The wait ended and the Marines of Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, launched out of the tracks May 24 and assaulted their target quickly and efficiently.

The training scenario, hosted by Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is one of many exercises that will be evaluated in the next few months as the 11th MEU gets closer to completing its certification evaluation and deploying in support of combatant commanders global force presence requirement.

“The purpose of the mechanized raids is to validate and establish standard operating procedures for Bravo Company,” said Gunnery Sgt. Kevin H. Shelton, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the raids section, SOTG, I MEF.

The company planned and executed a one day and one night raid during the week. They also practiced breaching techniques, building clearing drills, escalation of force procedures and setting up blocking points, most of which were used during the raids. Capt. Daniel J. Thomas, the Bravo Co. commander, said the training served many functions and affects all levels of the MEU.

“It gets everyone involved from the commanding officer to the Marines on the ground,” said the Oakdale La. native. “The raids familiarized the Marines with the mechanized infantry teams that they will be working with in the future. It gave the Marines an opportunity to develop the skills they need to carry out a mechanized assault.”

Thomas also stressed the importance of exposing new Marines to the vital role that they play on the battlefield.

“The backbone of the Marine Corps is the lance corporal and below,” he said. “They have to make on the spot decisions. All the planning at the higher levels is supported by the Marines on the ground and the raids were a great opportunity for them to see the impact of what goes into completing a mission.”

Pfc. William T. Hunter, a rifleman with 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon has only been with Bravo Co. for four months and said almost everything he learned during the training evolution was new.
“I’ve never ridden in an AAV before,” he said. “I learned new room clearing techniques that I think will help me out the most, especially if we go to Iraq.”

Lance Cpl. Michael J. Medina, 1st squad leader, 2nd Platoon, was thankful for the opportunity to take his squad to the field.

“This is the first time we have worked with Amtracks in an urban environment as a squad,” said Medina, a Los Angeles native. “We have a lot of new Marines in our unit, so it was a learning experience, but we worked in a very expedient manner. We now know exactly what we need to do to be proficient."

Wounded warrior leads formation run to Ground Zero

NEW YORK (May 25, 2007) -- New York police and firefighters joined forces with the Marine Corps on Thursday for a two-mile motivational run through the lower east side of Manhattan led by a “wounded warrior.”


May 25, 2007; Submitted on: 05/25/2007 10:06:52 AM ; Story ID#: 200752510652
By Sgt. Beth Zimmerman, New York City Public Affairs

The formation included approximately 150 leathernecks from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who were followed by members of the New York City Fire Department and Port Authority and New York police departments. The run ended at the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks and was followed by a brief memorial service for the victims of the attacks.

Many of the firefighters, police officers and Marines in the formation were inspired into service following the attacks. For Gunnery Sgt. Angel Barcenas, a double-amputee “wounded warrior” who was invited to New York from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to lead the run, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was the first in the series of events that led to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Gunny Barcenas epitomizes the spirit and courage of [other severely injured service members,” said Al Giordano, deputy executive director and co-founder of Wounded Warrior Project. “It’s typical of their drive and determination to overcome their injuries and move on,” Giordano said.

“That's probably my last run in formation with the Marine Corps,” said Barcenas, whose legs were amputated below the knees due to a roadside bomb in Iraq last July. “It's definitely a good way to end it, where it all started.”

May 24, 2007

Al Asad A/DACG keeps Marines, supplies moving

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) -- AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) – Need a lift? Chances are, the Marines at Al Asad’s Arrival/Departure Air Control Group can get you where you need to be.


May 24, 2007; Submitted on: 05/29/2007 01:52:54 PM ; Story ID#: 2007529135254
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Day and night, flights are made by fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to get personnel and much needed supplies to even the most distant and isolated posts in Al Anbar Province.

Averaging 300 passengers on a daily basis, their mission is to get them all through the terminal and to their destination without delay.

The A/DACG’s patrons come from anywhere. Many are servicemembers coming from Kuwait. Some are just moving about the country and others are hopping to any of the forward operating bases in the area of operations.

“We get all sorts of servicemembers, (third country nationals), anyone who needs to move about the deployed zone, we accommodate them,” said 1st Lt. Kim Bonafede, officer-in-charge of the A/DACG, Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The A/DACG Marines work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week and will continue this duty rotation until their deployment ends.

“It can get pretty tiring,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Diaz, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the A/DACG.

Diaz, a Wilmington, N.C., native, said although the work schedule may wear down on the Marines, they know that the personnel and supplies they move need to get to servicemembers on the frontlines.

The Marines working here understand the importance of working longer shifts if necessary.

“What’s free time?” Lance Cpl. James C. Masden, a landing support specialist working at the A/DACG, asked rhetorically. “We’re always working, whether it’s moving passengers around or cleaning up the terminal. There’s never a dull moment.”

Masden, a Sedro-Woolley, Wash., native, said he knows the troops need to get back to the frontlines and takes pride in taking care of passengers during their stay at the terminal, which is his favorite part of the job.

“The people I get to work with are great. It’s good times,” he added.

With the increasing temperatures of the Iraqi summer and the flightline’s concrete trapping that heat, the services of A/DACG become more difficult to provide, but no less important.

Keeping this in mind, the Marines avoid faltering and continue to deliver.

“Anytime you’re moving gear and equipment, the end-state is that the people who need the gear get it,” said Bonafede, a Burke, Va., native. “Half the battle is getting it there in a timely fashion so they have the resources and supplies to accomplish the mission.

“We do what we can to accomplish the mission,” she added.

Al Asad A/DACG keeps Marines, supplies moving

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) -- AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) – Need a lift? Chances are, the Marines at Al Asad’s Arrival/Departure Air Control Group can get you where you need to be.


May 24, 2007; Submitted on: 05/29/2007 01:52:54 PM ; Story ID#: 2007529135254
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Day and night, flights are made by fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to get personnel and much needed supplies to even the most distant and isolated posts in Al Anbar Province.

Averaging 300 passengers on a daily basis, their mission is to get them all through the terminal and to their destination without delay.

The A/DACG’s patrons come from anywhere. Many are servicemembers coming from Kuwait. Some are just moving about the country and others are hopping to any of the forward operating bases in the area of operations.

“We get all sorts of servicemembers, (third country nationals), anyone who needs to move about the deployed zone, we accommodate them,” said 1st Lt. Kim Bonafede, officer-in-charge of the A/DACG, Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The A/DACG Marines work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week and will continue this duty rotation until their deployment ends.

“It can get pretty tiring,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Diaz, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the A/DACG.

Diaz, a Wilmington, N.C., native, said although the work schedule may wear down on the Marines, they know that the personnel and supplies they move need to get to servicemembers on the frontlines.

The Marines working here understand the importance of working longer shifts if necessary.

“What’s free time?” Lance Cpl. James C. Masden, a landing support specialist working at the A/DACG, asked rhetorically. “We’re always working, whether it’s moving passengers around or cleaning up the terminal. There’s never a dull moment.”

Masden, a Sedro-Woolley, Wash., native, said he knows the troops need to get back to the frontlines and takes pride in taking care of passengers during their stay at the terminal, which is his favorite part of the job.

“The people I get to work with are great. It’s good times,” he added.

With the increasing temperatures of the Iraqi summer and the flightline’s concrete trapping that heat, the services of A/DACG become more difficult to provide, but no less important.

Keeping this in mind, the Marines avoid faltering and continue to deliver.

“Anytime you’re moving gear and equipment, the end-state is that the people who need the gear get it,” said Bonafede, a Burke, Va., native. “Half the battle is getting it there in a timely fashion so they have the resources and supplies to accomplish the mission.

“We do what we can to accomplish the mission,” she added.

Al Asad A/DACG keeps Marines, supplies moving

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) -- AL ASAD, Iraq (May 24, 2007) – Need a lift? Chances are, the Marines at Al Asad’s Arrival/Departure Air Control Group can get you where you need to be.


May 24, 2007; Submitted on: 05/29/2007 01:52:54 PM ; Story ID#: 2007529135254
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Day and night, flights are made by fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to get personnel and much needed supplies to even the most distant and isolated posts in Al Anbar Province.

Averaging 300 passengers on a daily basis, their mission is to get them all through the terminal and to their destination without delay.

The A/DACG’s patrons come from anywhere. Many are servicemembers coming from Kuwait. Some are just moving about the country and others are hopping to any of the forward operating bases in the area of operations.

“We get all sorts of servicemembers, (third country nationals), anyone who needs to move about the deployed zone, we accommodate them,” said 1st Lt. Kim Bonafede, officer-in-charge of the A/DACG, Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The A/DACG Marines work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week and will continue this duty rotation until their deployment ends.

“It can get pretty tiring,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Diaz, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the A/DACG.

Diaz, a Wilmington, N.C., native, said although the work schedule may wear down on the Marines, they know that the personnel and supplies they move need to get to servicemembers on the frontlines.

The Marines working here understand the importance of working longer shifts if necessary.

“What’s free time?” Lance Cpl. James C. Masden, a landing support specialist working at the A/DACG, asked rhetorically. “We’re always working, whether it’s moving passengers around or cleaning up the terminal. There’s never a dull moment.”

Masden, a Sedro-Woolley, Wash., native, said he knows the troops need to get back to the frontlines and takes pride in taking care of passengers during their stay at the terminal, which is his favorite part of the job.

“The people I get to work with are great. It’s good times,” he added.

With the increasing temperatures of the Iraqi summer and the flightline’s concrete trapping that heat, the services of A/DACG become more difficult to provide, but no less important.

Keeping this in mind, the Marines avoid faltering and continue to deliver.

“Anytime you’re moving gear and equipment, the end-state is that the people who need the gear get it,” said Bonafede, a Burke, Va., native. “Half the battle is getting it there in a timely fashion so they have the resources and supplies to accomplish the mission.

“We do what we can to accomplish the mission,” she added.

KV Marines serve western Al Anbar

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (May 24, 2007) -- The Marines of Detachment 1, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) provide the necessities for operations in the western reaches of Al Anbar Province.


May 24, 2007; Submitted on: 05/25/2007 08:45:36 AM ; Story ID#: 200752584536
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

“We’re in direct support of (Regimental Combat Team 2) and general support for everyone else out here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Vancil, officer-in-charge of the detachment and a St. Louis native.

Detachment 1 provides the region with fuel, postal, disbursing, and exchange services. They also provide units with maintenance, medical care and motor transportation and heavy equipment operators.

The detachment’s sections vary in numerous ways, but all make a unique contribution to the mission at hand.

The bulk fuels section distributes 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of fuel each day, offering 24-hour service. And the detachment’s maintenance section handles everything from basic equipment and vehicle repairs to higher-level maintenance tasks like replacing a transmission or even more extensive work needed on vehicles damaged during combat operations.

The Marines aren’t bothered by the extra work, but admit that the reason behind it can weigh on their minds.

“I hate to see humvees and vehicles coming in with a lot of damage because it means someone got hurt or killed,” said Sgt. Christopher L. McCabe, the maintenance section staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge and a Bellaire, Ohio, native.

The Shock Trauma Platoon here provides medical care for the area’s personnel, handling anything from pneumonia to gunshot wounds. However, due to their inability to perform surgery, patients requiring extensive care are flown to nearby medical facilities if needed.

The services provided by Detachment 1’s Marines and sailors extend from here to Trebil, Waleed and Rutbah, and support all of the coalition forces in this region.

“Without some of the support we get from them, we would not be able to continue operations,” said Lance Cpl. Alex K. Van Dusseldorp, a member of Police Transition Team 22, as Iraqi policemen fueled their vehicles at the detachment’s fuel farm behind him.

The North Zulch, Texas, native’s team is in charge of training the local area’s growing police force who are steadily taking on more responsibilities as the chief source of law enforcement here.

Although the detachment is farther from the region’s logistical hub, Al Taqaddum, Vancil said they have not experienced any significant problems with receiving gear.

“Everything we’ve ever requested or thought we could use, we’ve gotten it,” he said.

But doing more with less is an ability these Marines seem to possess and could certainly come in handy considering their location.

“We rarely ever tell someone something can’t be done,” he added. “If we say ‘no’, there is no possible way. There’s nowhere else.”

Rice to visit Camp Pendleton today

"She wants to visit Camp Pendleton and thank the Marines because they are at the forefront of the global war on terror," said base spokesman 1st Lt. Lawton King.Australia's minister of foreign affairs, Alexander Downer, will join Rice for the afternoon event during which they also will greet Australian troops training at the base.


By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
May 24, 2007

"It's kind of a hometown type of visit so the secretary can talk with the Marines and she and Mr. Downer can visit with the Australian troops," said Kurtis Cooper, a State Department spokesman.

Rice and Downer are expected to be on the base for most of the afternoon. Before arriving, they are scheduled to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley.

Rice will not speak directly with reporters, nor will she grant any interviews, according to an announcement from base officials. The media will be allowed to record the event under strict security measures.

Today's visit to the West Coast's largest Marine base is part of a two-day swing through California for the secretary. On Thursday, Rice heads to the northern part of the state for a visit to Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto and a school in Menlo Park.

With the Bush administration in the final 19 months of its term, a grass-roots group of Republicans has been traveling the country and lobbying Rice to enter the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

In March, Rice told Fox News that she is flattered but resisting the draft movement, which has been dubbed "Think Condi." She has no desire to run for president or vice president, she told Fox.

Crystal Dueker, a spokeswoman for the group, said from her Ohio home Tuesday that the movement is "keeping the door open for her -- the same kind of philosophy as the Draft Fred Thompson or Draft Newt Gingrich" movements.

"We see Condi as having the right skills we need in the next administration," Dueker said during a telephone interview, citing Rice's experience in foreign policy and national security, as well as her support of the Second Amendment and its right to bear arms provision.

President George Bush named Rice as the nation's 66th secretary of state in January 2005, elevating the former Stanford professor from her role as national security adviser.

Before joining the administration, Rice served for six years as Stanford's chief budget and academic officer. She joined the university in 1981 as a political science professor.

The native of Birmingham, Ala., will travel to Berlin, Vienna, and Madrid from May 29 to June 1, during which she will attend a foreign minister's conference and take part in a round-table discussion on peace and security in the Middle East.

May 23, 2007

Joint Effort to Repair School Library; Troops volunteer their time, equipment and expertise for local children.

DOUDA VILLAGE, Djibouti, May 21, 2007 — The Douda village primary school received some help recently when members from Camp Lemonier helped repair the school’s library.


U.S. Army Capt. Jerord E. Wilson
Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa

The condition of the school library building was so bad and in desperate need of repairs that it was hindering student learning. Some of the repairs required were a solid floor, lighting, windows, furniture and electricity. Enter Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa servicemembers with a can-do attitude.

Ahmed Abshir, Douda Primary School principal, and U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tim Matthews worked together to coordinate the project, including all materials and labor.

The soldiers of the 1132nd Engineer (Well Drillers) heard about the school library needing help and quickly volunteered their time, equipment and expertise. Matthews and a group of Marines coordinated the transportation of the wood and concrete needed for the repairs to the floor and roof. Once all materials and personnel were in place, work commenced with the framing of the floor and the mixing of concrete.

U.S. Army Sgt. Raphel Paniaqua operated the miniature bulldozer to expedite moving the dirt and gravel to be used as part of the concrete mix from a nearby creek bed. Keeping the concrete mixing machine going was the responsibility of U.S. Army Sgts. Phillip Lawing and Clifford Brown, and U.S. Army Spc. Bobby Keeling. Working on the library flooring was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rex Hipp, U.S. Army Pfc. Brandon Holt, and U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James T. Neal. They all coordinated on the pouring of the floor and made certain that it was level before moving on to the walls and roof of the building.

Douda village Chief Ali and other village elders were on site to talk and show their support for the work being done and help coordinate local workers to assist the Camp Lemonier people. Excitement filled the air when students were released for a short break and saw the work being done on their school. The children were happy to help the Djiboutian and American workers in anyway they could with the project.

The next step for the library project is to smooth the interior walls, repair the roof and install electricity. The search for furniture will begin once construction is near completion. Plans to find bookshelves, tables and chairs are currently in the work. All amenities will help the kids enjoy the full benefit of having a library at their school.

The village elders are working closely with representatives from Camp Lemonier to make this dream a reality.

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.

IPAC's extended hours help Marines on tight timelines

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa (May 18, 2007) -- To help better serve the Marines on Okinawa, the Marine Corps Base Headquarters and Service Battalion Installation Personnel Administration Center has extended its hours.


Lance Cpl. W. Zach Griffith

So now, instead of playing "beat the clock" during the work day, Marines can take care of their administrative business until 10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 5 p.m. on Friday, and from 3:30-10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The extended hours, in effect since April 8, are to help ensure Marines at outlying camps get the service they need, even if they don't have time during the work day.

"Our primary goal is to better serve the Marines and their families here on Okinawa with the administrative support they need," said CWO4 Corey Mayberry, the officer in charge of the IPAC.

According to Mayberry, the IPAC on Camp Foster services all Marines and families on Okinawa, and not everybody has time during the work day to take care of administrative needs.

"You don't generally want to do paperwork in your off time," said Cpl. Tyson Holm, a combat lithographer for 3rd Marine Division. "However, when something needs to get done and your shop can't lose you during the day, you still have time."

Even though the staff of the IPAC is split into shifts, there is no loss in service, according to Mayberry.

"The services you get after hours are exactly the same as those you get during the normal work day," he said.

Combat Outpost Gets Treat

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq -- Combat Outpost Rawah and the Marines who call it home, recently received a permanent post-exchange here.


Marine Corps News | May 23, 2007

The COP, which is 150 miles northwest of Baghdad and 50 miles east of the Syrian border, has recently undergone numerous changes to improve safety, hygiene, and quality of life. Prior to the permanent exchange, the outpost would get a visit from a mobile exchange about twice each month.

“We are here to provide the Marines, soldiers and sailors with the basic necessities, as well as a few niceties, of home,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Daugherty, a retail Marine with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2.

The exchange offers a wide variety of hygiene items, operational gear, electronics, CDs, DVDs, snacks and drinks.

“Knowing we are always here gives them a peace of mind. They know they don’t have to worry about running out of something,” said Daugherty, a native of New Castle, Penn. “Plus it has a huge impact on morale because now they know they don’t have to wait two or three weeks for things they need.”

“It’s always good to have a PX around,” said Pvt. Phillip A. Fowler, a scout with the battalion’s quick reaction force. “It improves morale and everyone’s everyday attitude. Most of us don’t get a lot of packages, so it’s nice to have somewhere to go where we can get the same things we have access to at home.”

The Marines who work at the exchange say they can see the difference they make on the outpost.

“You can see it on their face. It’s like driving an ice cream truck: when people see us around their eyes just light up,” said Sgt. Alex R. Soto Lopez, the battalion’s retail manager. “We are so isolated here in the desert, the small comfort of being able to buy something that you can get back home has a tremendous impact on your mentality. It can’t help but improve the mood and performance here.”

The Marines who work at the exchange say they take pride in providing whatever comforts they can to their fellow brothers-in-arms.

“Unlike shops in the civilian world, this place isn’t here just for the dollar. It’s our responsibility to make sure we provide whatever we can to the troops,” said Soto Lopez, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “We make sure we get out to even the most remote TCPs (traffic control points) so that everyone is taken care of.”

The PX Marines say although they know the comforts they provide are no substitute for being home, they hope the things they offer help bring home a little closer to the desert.

Dartmouth president helping put wounded veterans in college

When he first met James Wright, the president of Dartmouth College, two years ago, Samuel Crist was in a hospital bed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, recuperating from gunshot wounds from a firefight in Falluja, Iraq.


By Tamar Lewin Published: May 23, 2007

"I was pretty heavily medicated, so my memory is a little bit foggy, but he was visiting people and asking about their experiences in the war and pushing people to get an education," said Crist, 22, who grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. "He said he'd been a marine, too, and he'd gone to college after he got out as a lance corporal, the same rank I separated at."

That hospital visit changed things for Crist and Wright: On Wright's advice, Crist enrolled in college courses in Texas, and next autumn he will transfer to Dartmouth.

Wright, 67, meanwhile, has made eight more visits to wounded veterans at Bethesda and at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and, with the American Council on Education, started a program to provide individualized college counseling to seriously wounded veterans.

Because of advances in medical care, and the speed with which those wounded on the battlefield are treated, the survival rate for service members with serious wounds is far higher in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts than in previous wars. These circumstances have created a pool of young men and women who must remake their lives with brain injuries, amputations and other significant limitations.

Wounded or not, veterans get extensive educational benefits. But while service members on active duty have access to many educational counseling programs, such access is harder for those who have left active duty and face long recuperation, especially if they are from families where college is not a given.

Wright said news of the 2004 battle for Falluja spurred him to think about what he could do for wounded veterans.

"I worried about the injured servicemen and how much suffering there was," said Wright, who spent three years in the Marines in California, Hawaii and Japan but never saw combat. "So I decided that I'd like to go down to Bethesda and visit them and see what I could do to encourage them to go back to school."

Wright said he talked with the veterans about his own experiences.

"I'd tell them that I was a slow starter, that I didn't start college until after I served," he said. "I'd tell them that they'd already learned discipline and teamwork, and now they should be thinking about what they can accomplish if they go to school. Some said they wanted to go to college, some didn't. Some said things like, 'Because I've lost my legs, I need a place with elevators, and I don't know if the school close to my home has them.' "

Wright added: "It was very moving to talk to those seriously injured veterans. Sometimes, when I would come out of their rooms, I would want to cry."

Wright realized that to get an education, these veterans would need individualized counseling that might be hard to find once they left active duty.

So he started looking for a way to meet that need. He first went to the military, but when that proved cumbersome, he got in touch with David Ward, the president of the American Council on Education, who agreed to develop such a program. Wright helped raise $300,000, and this spring, educational counselors are working at Bethesda, Walter Reed and the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. More than 50 veterans asked for appointments with the counselors the first week the program was open, in March, and now about 100 wounded veterans are being served.

In a way, Wright's quest has been a return to his roots. Growing up in Galena, Illinois, he joined the Marines to put off, at least for a few years, going to work in the zinc mines that employed many in his community, including his grandfather. In that time and place, college was not for everyone. None of Wright's grandparents finished high school, and Wright's father, a bartender who served in the military, attended only one semester of college.

When he left the Marines, Wright enrolled at a state university in Wisconsin, thinking that he wanted to be a high school history teacher. Instead, he obtained a doctorate degree in history and started teaching at Dartmouth, where, since 1969, he has worked his way from professor to dean of faculty to provost and, in 1998, to president.

Wright is finding his tenure somewhat more contentious. In trustee elections this spring, Stephen Smith, a petition candidate, was elected by alumni to the 18-member board over the candidates nominated by the alumni council - the fourth consecutive petition candidate to become trustee. The campaign included critiques of the general direction of the college and a warning that the new trustee would probably be helping to choose a new president. In February, Wright wrote a letter to the Dartmouth community, rebutting some of the criticisms and adding that "to paraphrase Mark Twain," reports of his retirement were premature.

He remains a rarity: a former marine with a blue-collar background heading an Ivy League university. Although Dartmouth students are far more diverse than they were when Wright arrived, with almost half receiving financial aid, the student body, he said, includes no Iraq veterans. To the few Dartmouth alumni serving overseas, Wright sends care packages of maple-sugar candy and Robert Frost poems.

Although the new program was not intended to recruit for Dartmouth, Wright is delighted at the prospect of having a few former marines on campus next fall. One applied under early-decision rules and was accepted, entirely apart from the program. One came through a counselor in the new program. And Crist wrote to Wright after their meeting, developing the relationship that led to his transfer plans.

This month, Wright invited Crist and one of the others to visit the campus, including dinner with him and his wife.

"They both want to study Arabic," he said. "They're not likely to be the regular run-around-the-bonfire freshmen. It's going to be a different culture for them, but this is a very open, egalitarian campus, and I think it will be a good for them and for Dartmouth."

Navy launches show of force near Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Ships packed with 17,000 sailors and Marines moved into the Persian Gulf on Wednesday as the U.S. Navy staged another show of force off Iran's coast just days before U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad.


By BARBARA SURK, Associated Press Writer
May 23, 2007

The carrier strike groups led by the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz were joined by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and its own strike group, which includes two landing ships carrying 2,100 members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Aircraft aboard the two carriers and the Bonhomme Richard were to conduct air training while the ships ran submarine, mine and other exercises.

The war games — which culminate in an amphibious landing exercise in Kuwait, just a few miles from Iran — appear to be a clear warning to Tehran, coming just ahead of the Baghdad talks and as the United Nations contemplates tightening sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

"There's a link to both events," said Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. "The Americans are sending a message to Iran that they are not coming to the negotiating table weak, but with their military at Tehran's doorstep."

Washington is also showing Iran that the U.S. military will act to defeat any Iranian war strategy of closing the straits, which Iran shares with Oman, Alani said.

U.S. and Iranian ambassadors are to meet Monday in Baghdad to discuss Iraq's security issues. Tehran has objected to U.S. claims that Iran is supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with roadside bombs that kill American troops.

The U.S. has also accused Iran of covertly developing nuclear weapons; Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Publicly, at least, the Navy isn't saying the maneuvers, which are expected to last several weeks, are directed at Iran.

"The timing of the exercise was determined by the availability of forces in the area of operations," said Lt. John Gay, spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet. Warships under 5th Fleet command patrol the Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

The nine ships taking part in the maneuvers were already on patrol in Mideast waters outside the Gulf when they passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday and began air and sea maneuvers in the Gulf. Two-fifths of the world's oil is transported through the busy straits.

"This training demonstrates our commitment to security and stability in the Gulf area and our commitment to regional partners," said Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, commander of 5th Fleet.

Wednesday's drill was the latest in a series of American and Iranian war games. Iran conducted naval maneuvers in November and April 2006, while the U.S. Navy held a two-carrier exercise in March and a training operation in October.

The Navy has maintained its two-carrier presence since February when the Stennis arrived in the Mideast waters. Both carriers, with about 80 warplanes apiece, are expected to remain in the region through the summer.

Besides the Stennis, Nimitz and Bonhomme Richard, the war games bring together the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and USS Princeton, the destroyers USS O'Kane and USS Higgins, and the landing ships USS Denver and USS Rushmore.

America's Gulf Arab allies have grown increasingly uneasy with the U.S. stance against Iran, fearing an outbreak of hostilities could bring Iranian retaliation. All lie within range of Iranian missiles.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose alliance of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, has called on members not to support any U.S. action against Iran, while Qatar and the Emirates have publicly prohibited the U.S. military from launching strikes on Iran from U.S. bases on their soil.

During a landmark visit to the Emirates this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned of a tough retaliation if the United States attacked Iran. He also called on Gulf Arab states to eject the U.S. military and form a regional alliance with Iran — an offer that met no response.

Nine U.S. warships enter Gulf for training; The assembly off Iran’s coast is largest since the 2003 Iraq war

ABOARD USS JOHN C. STENNIS - Nine U.S. military ships entered the Gulf on Wednesday for a rare daylight assembly off Iran’s coast in what naval officials said was the largest such move since the 2003 Iraq war.


May 23, 2007

U.S. Navy officials said Iran had not been notified of plans to sail the vessels, which include two aircraft carriers, through the Straits of Hormuz, a narrow channel in international waters off Iran’s coast and a major artery for global oil shipments.

Most U.S. ships pass through the straits at night so as not to attract attention, and rarely move in such large numbers.

Navy officials said the decision to send a second aircraft carrier was made at the last minute, without giving a reason.

Fears of military confrontation
Tension between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and Iraq has raised regional fears of a possible military confrontation that could hit Gulf economies and threaten vital oil exports.

But Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn, leading the group, said the ships would start conducting exercises after passing through the straits as part of a long-planned effort to reassure nearby countries of U.S. commitment to regional security.

“There’s always the threat of any state or non-state actor that might decide to close one of the international straits, and the biggest one is the Straits of Hormuz,” he told reporters on the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier before the crossing.

On the way to the straits, a public announcement called on crew to witness “some of the most powerful ships in the world,” whose tight formation against a backdrop of the setting sun created a dramatic image of American naval might.

Ships carrying 17,000
The group of ships, carrying around 17,000 personnel, crossed at roughly 0355 GMT.

The maneuvers come less than two weeks after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking aboard the Stennis during a tour of the Gulf, said the United States would stand with others to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons and “dominating the region.”

On a visit to Abu Dhabi a few days later, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened “severe” retaliation if the United States attacked his country, which is locked in a standoff with the United States over its nuclear program.

He also urged Gulf countries to “get rid of” foreign forces, blaming them for insecurity in the region.

The United States accuses Iran of trying to produce nuclear weapons, and has sought tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are for energy purposes only.

U.S. and Iranian ambassadors are due to meet on Monday in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq, where the United States has accused Iran of fomenting violence by backing Shiite militia there, and of providing weapons and the technology for roadside bombs. Iran has denied the accusations.

Last month, the U.S. Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain conducted its biggest crisis response drill and in March, the U.S. Navy conducted its biggest war drills in the Gulf since 2003.

May 22, 2007

Marines volunteer to return to Iraq; In one battalion, 200 members opt to extend their enlistments, for no bonus money. 'I'm here to teach the younger guys,' says one.

RAMADI, IRAQ — Marine Cpl. Saul Mellado could be back in California, finishing the final months of his enlistment in a safe billet at Camp Pendleton.


By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
May 22, 2007

Instead, the 23-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico is patrolling these war-torn streets only recently wrested from insurgent control — and bracing for an expected counteroffensive.

Mellado, a machine-gunner, knows these streets: the adults who eye the Marines with suspicion and the children who beg for candy and water. He was first dispatched to Ramadi in late 2004, a deployment during which 15 Marines in his unit — the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment — died and more than 200 were wounded.

Under Marine Corps rules about "short-timers," Mellado could have skipped this return to Ramadi six weeks ago. But like 200 other members of the battalion — a quarter of its number — he asked to have his enlistment extended. Unlike a reenlistment, the move earns the Marines no bonus money, no promotion and no promise of a job shift or posting to a favored duty station.

"For a lot of the guys, this is their first tour," Mellado said as his Humvee moved slowly through the rubble-strewn streets. "If anything happened to them, and I could have helped them, I couldn't stand that."

Mellado's wife, Kirsten, is pregnant with their first child, a boy. Mellado has no plans to take leave to see the birth, and it is unclear whether a webcam will be available so he can see the infant.

"I'm here so our sons don't have to come here and fight someday," he said.

In a teasing, sing-song voice, Lance Cpl. Abraham Saenz, 21, said: "He came out here to be with us. He just couldn't stand to leave his boys behind."

Officials say extensions are not uncommon among the Marine Corps' 24 battalions, even as some return to Iraq for their third combat tour. In fact, they say, few records are kept because they are so common.

But Marine generals who review the manpower of all infantry battalions say the 200 from the Two-Five, the most decorated battalion in the Corps, make up the biggest group.

It can be traced to a meeting in Okinawa, Japan, several months ago when the battalion was finishing a phase of its pre-deployment training.

Lt. Col. Craig Kozeniesky, the battalion commander, and Sgt. Maj. William Jordan, the senior enlisted man, assembled Marines whose enlistments were running short. Marines who were there don't remember that Kozeniesky or Jordan spent much time speaking of the complexities of U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. Instead, the two asked the Marines to help the battalion's younger members.

"I just told them: 'We've been together this long. We need you — the young Marines need you,' " Jordan said.

In an infantry battalion, a sergeant major serves as the embodiment of institutional values to younger "grunts." At 44, Jordan has been in the Marine Corps for 27 years.

"Finally I just told them, 'Everybody who is with us, move to the right side of the room,' " Jordan said. Only a handful stayed put. About 175 moved immediately to the right side.

"I was blown away," Jordan said. "In all my years in the Marine Corps, I never saw anything like it."

A decision to extend an enlistment meant putting plans on hold and finding an explanation for spouses and parents who would prefer that their Marines not return to Iraq. Sgt. Brian Kasher, 22, of Illinois plans to attend college, but he figures that can wait.

"I'm here to teach the younger guys," he said. "My wife doesn't like it, but she understands it."

Once the battalion returned to Camp Pendleton, 25 more Marines, many of whom had not attended the Okinawa meeting, also agreed to extend their enlistments by several months to be part of the deployment.

For Mellado, the decision is connected to his status as an immigrant. "I came to America with 10 bucks in my pocket," he said as he walked through a marketplace. "This is my way of paying back my country for all the good things it has done for me."

The Two-Five, whose motto, "Retreat, Hell," stems from the World War I battle at Belleau Wood, has drawn one of the tougher assignments in what remains the toughest city in sprawling Al Anbar province. Phone service is spotty, sewage runs in many streets, and any sign of local government is minimal.

But Marines say that residents, encouraged by tribal sheiks and imams, have turned against the extremists and, among other things, are pointing out the location of hidden roadside bombs.

"The last time, it was like the people didn't want to do anything to help their neighborhoods," Mellado said. "Now it's a big change. I want to be here to help with that, to help my Marines."

Happy homecoming

KINGSTON — More than 1,350 students at Wyoming Valley West Middle School gave a standing ovation and saluted Monday morning while welcoming home social studies teacher and U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Anthony Dicton, who recently returned from a year and a half of service in Iraq.




Dicton, 31, a track coach who teaches seventh grade, was pleased with the welcome home ceremony and the many cards, letters and packages he received in Iraq. He left for Iraq last September and returned home in April. He presented a flag to Wyoming Valley West superintendent Dr. Michael Garzella at Monday’s ceremony.

“This was an absolutely amazing atmosphere to walk into coming back to school,” Dicton said. “I know this experience has changed me, I think for the better.”

Dicton graduated from Wyoming Valley West High School in 1994 and Penn State University in 1999. Joining the Marines was his dream.

Wyoming Valley West Middle School Principal David Tosh recalled when Dicton came into his office three years ago, telling him he joined the Marines. Tosh told him the school would support him 100 percent and he would not have to worry about being deployed. Three months later, Dicton told Tosh he was being sent to Iraq.

“Words do not do justice as to how stunned I was,” Tosh said. “As Mr. Dicton’s deployment went from a year to a year and a half, his family, friends, loved ones and the school community worried and prayed for his safe return. We were fortunate to be able to communicate with him at times, but it was still a long, tense deployment. That is why today is a special day for all of us to celebrate and cherish.”

Tosh said Dicton exemplifies what courage is all about. His mission was difficult and dangerous, but “no one becomes a Marine because it’s easy,” he said.

“Everything he has done over the past year is certainly a tribute to his courage and his dedication to his country,” Tosh said.

Eighth grade student Taylor Wasilewski described Dicton as a great teacher and all-around person who is intelligent, courageous and humble.

“Everyone here today is happy he is back with his huge family at Wyoming Valley West,” Wasilewski said. “I know he will continue to make an impact.”

May 21, 2007

Combat team's Route Clearance Platoon - The ultimate road trippers

DULAB, Iraq - (May 21, 2007) -- Officially, the season doesn’t start until June 21, but for the Marines and sailors of Regimental Combat Team 2, the “not so” lazy days of summer are already here. Calendar aside, it’s hard to argue with triple-digit temperatures.


May 21, 2007; Submitted on: 05/21/2007 07:16:18 AM ; Story ID#: 200752171618
By Cpl. Adam Johnston, 2nd Marine Division

Back in the states, escaping the heat is only a road trip away. Hop in the car and head to the beach – problem solved.

Over here, however, things are a bit more complicated. Take the RCT-2 Route Clearance Platoon, for example. To the outsider, their job appears easy – cruising the streets of Iraq for an honest day’s pay.

But like most things in life, things are not always what they seem. This particular road trip is more dangerous than most.

The RCT-2 Route Clearance Platoon, whose members are part of Bravo Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, are responsible for minimizing the number of improvised explosive devices along vehicle routes within western Al Anbar province.

“These guys have the most dangerous job in Iraq,” said 1st Sgt. Michael T. Mack. “While everyone else is trying to avoid IED’s, they’re out looking for ‘em.”

Sparing no expense, the platoon is armed with the latest mine-resistant vehicle technology that money can buy.

“These new trucks definitely have the advantage (over the humvee),” said Gunnery Sgt. Erik A. Chism, the platoon’s staff noncommissioned officer in charge. “Their hull is specifically designed for better blast dispersion.”

Chism, a native of Centerville, Ala., also points out the added height as a vast improvement over the old model. The “birds-eye view”, together with larger windows, gives passengers a 360-degree perspective of the surrounding area.

“We recently found a command wire IED with five, 122mm mortar rounds attached,” Chism said. “An explosion that size would’ve annihilated a humvee. The Buffalo (Mine-Protected Clearance Vehicle), on the other hand, would only been slightly damaged. The Marines inside would be OK.”

In addition to the Buffalo, the platoon also uses the Cougar Hardened Engineer Vehicle and the Husky Mine Detection and Towing Vehicle.

“The Husky is a mine detector on wheels,” Chism explained. “Once it finds a possible IED, the Buffalo is called over to interrogate the area. The Cougar carries our security element.”

According to their Web site, Force Protection, Inc. recently received a $490 million contract to produce 1,000 Cougars for the Marine Corps’ Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program. And as far as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is concerned, production can’t begin soon enough.

“Now we have something better,” Gates said during a recent Pentagon press briefing. “We’re going to get that to the field as best we can.”

He also cited a USA TODAY article, which said no Marines had been killed in roughly 300 IED attacks on MRAP’s. “That certainly got my attention,” Gates added.

1st Lt. David T. Shanks, the platoon’s officer in charge, is all for new technology – the safer, the better. Having said that, he doesn’t want people to forget what matters most in a real combat situation.

“Regardless, the human element is still the most important factor,” said Shanks, a native of San Antonio. “A well-trained Marine is the most precise piece of equipment I have. A tool is only as good as the guy who’s using it.”

Pvt. Colin J. McNabb, a combat engineer with the RCT-2 Route Clearing Platoon, seconds this notion. He warns against getting caught up in all the media coverage.

“These vehicles can give you a false sense of security,” said McNabb, a native of Davenport, Iowa. “We build bigger trucks, they build bigger bombs. The enemy is much smarter than people think.”

McNabb, who serves as an M240G machine gunner, voluntarily switched units to deploy with this platoon. Although it’s his second deployment overall, it’s his first in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“When I deployed last year with the 11th (Marine Expeditionary Unit), we went to places like Australia, Singapore and Thailand,” said McNabb. “We were scheduled to come here, but never did. This time around, I wanted to make sure.”

The hardest part of the job, according to McNabb, is the monotony. The platoon travels between 1,800-2,400 miles per week, averaging more than 10 hours of road time each day.

“Yeah, it can get boring,” McNabb said. “But the last thing you want to do is fall asleep.”

To help ward off the sandman, McNabb and his fellow Marines have turned to an assortment of energy drinks for assistance.

“We’ll do pretty much anything to stay awake,” McNabb explained. “You’ve got to pay attention to the little things out here, even more so than normal. It’s no joke – lives are at stake.”

The platoon’s 25 Marines and one Navy corpsman have an incredible responsibility. Military and innocent civilian lives hang in the balance. The margin for error is zero.

“Sometimes you drive for 12 hours straight and it kicks your (tail),” McNabb said. “But when you find an IED, you do get satisfaction. I know I accomplished something; I just saved a Marine’s life. In the end, it’s worth it. Plus, it beats sitting on a boat for the next six months.”

The Route Clearance Platoon is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, soldiers and sailors in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

Walden sailor back from Iraq; A joyous welcome home for Navy hospital Corpsman

Jacksonville, N.C. — The chain-link fence on either side of Route 24 is lined with 'welcome home' banners. Hundreds of them.


By Alexa James
Times Herald-Record
May 21, 2007

"To my son." "To my hubbie." "To the little brat."

Matt Siruchek's family and fiance, here nearly 700 miles away from their Walden home, pull off the highway Saturday in front of those banners.

Matt's dad, Adam, grabs the duct tape. His mom, Becky, and the kids follow with a strip of blue and white vinyl that reads, "Welcome home Siruchek."

Navy hospital Corpsman Matthew Siruchek, 20, is returning today from his first tour as a medic in Iraq. He's been gone eight and a half months, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in Ramadi, one of Iraq's most dangerous cities.

Nearly 900 men are heading home from Iraq, via Kuwait, then Germany, then the base airport at Cherry Point. They take buses from there, and from the windows, as they ride down Route 24 on the last leg of the journey, they're first welcomed home by the banners.

In two weeks, every sign here will come down to make room for the next homecoming.

Welcome to Jacksonville, a coastal city of 67,000 people, mostly active or retired Marines and sailors. On its wide strips of highway, spit-shined pickups and hot rods cruise by the barber and pawn shops, strip clubs and tattoo parlors, seafood shacks and a surplus store called Saigon Sam's.

Jacksonville is a city that feeds off Camp Lejeune, the world's largest concentration of Marines and sailors.

Here is where the Pentagon's rubber meets the road, where thousands cycle through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands more are trained to take their places.

Backs straight. Automatic "yes sirs" and "yes ma'ams." Crew cuts so high and tight you can balance your beer on them.

In fatigues and goggles and flak jackets, they look nearly identical. That's done by design. When they die, and their pictures flash across TV screens and newspapers, they still look the same.

But their families do not. They flood Lejeune's main gate by the car-full, license plates from across the United States. It's been months of worry for the families. In some ways, it is their war, too.

Once inside the base, the crowd gathers in the grassy yards between the barracks. Marines grill hot dogs. A DJ plays country and Gospel and hip-hop.

Folks spread blankets and set up lawn chairs. The Siruchek kids and Matt's fiance, Laura Benedict, scramble off to have a look at Matt's room.

The rows of brick barracks look like college dorms, but stripped of all the posters and dirty clothes and empty pizza boxes. Matt's military home is a cinder block room painted off-white, with thin blue carpet.

Only a few more hours, says Maj. Daniel Zappa. As second-in-command of the 1/6, he returned last week to get ready for the homecoming.

When the unit arrived in Ramadi in September 2006, the city was one of the most hopeless and dangerous in Iraq. No plumbing, electricity or public transportation. "The freedom of movement the insurgents had was complete and unquestioned," says Zappa.

And now?

"We got to see the (Iraqi) police take over," he says. "You can walk down to the main market now." The electricity and plumbing work. A hospital is open and the garbage gets picked up.

Last month, news reports touted a 17-day "incident-free" streak in Ramadi. Seventeen straight days with no casualties or explosions. A welcomed reprieve for Matt Siruchek, whose job these last eights months has been caring for the wounded.

The 1/6 lost 12 men over there, most to roadside bombs.

A black banner hanging from the barrack's balcony carries a roll call of the dead. The Sirucheks wander over to read the names. One of them was Matt's good friend, Corpsman Christopher Anderson, whose funeral the Sirucheks attended in January.

Also on that banner is Jill Puckett's son, who on his second tour was one of three killed Oct. 9 when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. Though she has no one to welcome home, she came here anyway, wearing a T-shirt with a photo of her son, Jon Bowman.

Jon would have wanted her here. "I owed this to my son," she says, "I owe this to these guys."

Then on the loudspeaker, it's Maj. Zappa: "The buses have entered the back gate."


Young moms scoop up toddlers in one arm and apply lipstick with the other. Grandmas and grandpas wriggle out of their lawn chairs. Adam Siruchek hoists his 18-year-old daughter, Sharon, onto his shoulders. As the line of buses appears, rolling slowly toward the crowd, she starts to sob, holding a sign above her head as high as her trembling arms will stretch.

"Hey Doc Siruchek," the sign says, with an arrow pointing down. "We are here."

The buses file past the people lining the pavement. It's too dark to see in the windows, but everyone in the parking lot is waving furiously and calling out nicknames and pet names and ranks.

The buses slow. For a second, maybe even two, the scene feels almost calm, like the stillness between lightning and thunder.

The bus doors swing open. Desert camouflage floods the grounds. The Sirucheks search through a sea of tan troops.

They all look the same.

Where is Matt?

He spots them first, starts sprinting hard toward them, like a linebacker. Laura sees him and leaps forward. Their bodies smack hard.

Laura wraps her legs around him. Matt buries his tired face in her hair.

Then he reaches for his mom, then his sister, his brother and then, finally, his dad. Matt whispers to each of them. Then the Sirucheks gather in a circle.

And they pray.

The same happens all around them, over and over. A daddy holds his baby for the first time, studying its little face and chubby knees.

There will be another homecoming later today, just like this one. Those families are already arriving. And in Ramadi, another unit has already taken this one's place.

Here, at barracks, there are new Marines, transfers to the 1/6, watching their companies return from war for the first time.

One of the older Marines stops to extend a hand toward a fresh face on traffic control.

"Welcome to 1/6," he says. "What's your name?"

Families of Fallen Honored During 'Time of Remembrance'

WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, May 20, 2007) - More than 3,100 families and friends of servicemembers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan gathered on the grounds of the Washington Monument today to remember their loved ones during a "Time of Remembrance" tribute.


May 21, 2007
BY Melinda L. Larson, American Forces Press Service

The event, in its second year, was initiated by the White House Commission on Remembrance. Its purpose is to encourage Americans to honor those who died for their country's freedoms by giving something back to the country in their memory.

Family members from all 50 states attended and many traveled from as far away as Guam, Germany and India.

"The families here today paid the highest price a family can pay for freedom - the loss of a loved one who gave his or her life in service to our country," R. James Nicholson, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said during his remarks. "Those of you here today and all of the families of fallen Soldiers will still bear the mortal weight of the final victory."

For Florence Jallah, whose husband, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Jallah Jr., served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, words could not describe what the ceremony meant to her and her seven children.

"I can't use words to describe how I feel because the feeling is so profound," she said. "Watching my children here today, remembering their dad in his battle dress uniform or his class As, brings back the memories of him and the kids always asking him, 'Daddy where are you going? When will you be back? Can we come?'"

Ms. Jallah's 16-year-old son Quincy was touched that others cared about his father.

"This ceremony means other people care and value what Soldiers have done for our country. That means a lot to me," he said.

His father was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based at Fort Drum, N.Y. He died of cancer on March 28, 2004 after being medically evacuated from Afghanistan to Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington.

While the ceremony's focus centered on troops like Jallah, it also recognized families of fallen servicemembers dating back to 1776, including Kathryn Elise Wolgemuth, a niece of Nathan Hale; and Charles McGovern, whose two brothers, Army officers, died during the Korean War.

Immigrant servicemembers, Foreign Service officers and war correspondents also were recognized during the 90-minute ceremony.

ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, who has traveled to Iraq 12 times to cover the war, served as emcee.

A video presentation, "Charters of Freedom," focused on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Army's highest-ranking officer, who was 21 when he lost his father during the Vietnam conflict, told the families he thinks of their loss every day.

"As the leader of some of the brave men and women we're honoring today, you should know I carry with me the burden of their loss every day," Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army Chief of Staff and a former commander of Multinational Force Iraq told the group. "Behind every fallen comrade, there's a family that remains an important part of our community."

Gen. Casey and senior leaders from the four other service branches then invited children of the fallen to the stage, where they saluted and consoled the children who had each received the Gold Medal of Remembrance.

Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, read the medal's citation. "For outstanding courage and to remember the ultimate sacrifice of their parents, the United States of American is proud to salute the fallen children of America," he said.

While the leaders met with the children, the U.S. Army Band and Chorus performed "On This Day."

The ceremony came to a close with enlisted members from each branch ringing "The Spirit of the Liberty Bell," an exact replica of the Liberty Bell.

"Taps," played by a solo U.S. Army Band trumpeter, concluded the ceremony.

The White House Commission on Remembrance also is tasked to unite the country in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. each Memorial Day.

Marine unit in town near Fallujah seeing locals’ trust build

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, May 21, 2007

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIVIERA, Iraq — It was just after midnight on Tuesday morning, and Capt. George “Donnie” Hasseltine decided to check his e-mail one last time before turning in.

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Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group Arrives in 5th Fleet

From Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG) entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) May 19.


Story Number: NNS070521-06
Release Date: 5/21/2007 11:29:00 AM

The San Diego-based ship's arrival demonstrates the United States’ steadfast resolve to enhance security and support long-term stability in the region.

BHRESG is comprised of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)(BHR) and its embarked staff, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 7, and 2,200 combat-ready Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Rushmore (LSD 47), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93)and USS Chosin (CG 65).

Commander, BHRESG/PHIBRON 7, Capt. Bradley D. Martin, said the strike group brings a flexible and easily-deployed amphibious force that will further complement coalition forces currently operating in the region.

“We bring with us an inherently adaptable force that is capable of delivering elements of the 13th MEU ground and air forces anywhere their services are required,” said Martin. “We are well prepared to take up our duties and support the efforts of the combatant commander whether it be at sea, in the air or on land.”

According to 13th MEU’s commanding officer, Col. Carl E. Mundy III, his Marines and Sailors have used their time aboard BHRESG’s transit to raise their already high level of operational readiness.

“While there is never any doubt to a Marine's level of readiness, 13th MEU Marines and Sailors are taking advantage of their time aboard Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group by conducting constant training evolutions while underway,” said Mundy. “This includes live-fire ranges, equipment maintenance and classes on tactics, law of armed conflict, and Arabic culture and language.”

Mundy said the 13th MEU is capable of conducting a wide variety of missions, including combat operations ashore, humanitarian assistance, and noncombatant evacuations.

“Broadly speaking, the 13th MEU provides the theater combatant commander with a highly trained, versatile landing force and will respond to missions and taskings that span a wide range of possibilities,” said Mundy.

BHRESG will be conducting Maritime Security Operations while in 5th Fleet. U.S. and coalition forces conduct Maritime Security Operations to help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other materials.

For more news from USS Bonhomme Richard, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd6/.

Fleet Week will bring sailors, Marines to NYC, 2 Westchester Memorial Day parades

(Original publication: May 21, 2007)
Thousands of U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel will visit the New York City area for Fleet Week, starting Wednesday.



The 20th annual event includes dozens of military demonstrations and displays, with military ships sailing up the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge and back and offering on board tours for thousands of visitors.

Two events will bring Marines and sailors from the USS Wasp to Westchester County:

On Thursday, 20 Marines and 20 sailors are scheduled to participate in Larchmont's Memorial Day Parade, at 7 p.m. Marchers will start at the Larchmont railroad station and take Palmer Avenue and Larchmont Avenue to Village Hall.

Next Monday, 35 Marines and 30 sailors are scheduled to participate in Pelham's Memorial Day Parade, at 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of Black Street and The Esplanade in Pelham Manor and ending at Veterans Park.

For information on events and participating ships, visit:


Local deputies collect goodies for those serving in Iraq

SOUTH WHITTIER - As sheriff's deputies helped load dozens of boxes of supplies destined for U.S. Marines in Iraq, Wanda Smith fondly recalled a recent e-mail she received from "a boy" stationed there.


By Tracy Garcia Staff Writer

"He said, `Can you imagine how it feels to be so far away and be able to open up a package of Famous Amos cookies?"' said Smith, 73, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department volunteer, who has worked tirelessly over the past few years to collect and ship goodies and extra supplies to Marines in Iraq.

That's why she always makes sure the shipments include plenty of the popular cookies - and Rice Krispies treats, the Marines' No. 1 favorite.

Her shipments go from her home every spring and winter to Camp Pendleton as part of Operation Interdependence.

"I started doing this three weeks after the war started because I saw it was something that needed to be done," said Smith.

She gets support from deputies at the sheriff's Norwalk Station, where she's been a volunteer for more than six years.

Donated items are dropped off at the Norwalk Station, and Smith also solicits donations from local businesses, such as See's Candies and Sam's Club.

She brings the items home and packs them into boxes and ships them to Camp Pendleton, where they are divided into smaller care packages and shipped overseas.
Sheriff's Sgt. Tom McNeal was among a half-dozen faithful volunteers who gave Smith a hand Thursday - a task he has gladly taken on the past three years.

"It seems like this war has been going on for so long that people have forgotten about those stationed over there," he said. "And Wanda's been doing this for so long that I didn't want to let her down either."

Smith said her first collections started at about 800 pounds. Six years later, they're topping the scales at 25,000 pounds.

"I just want them to feel like they're at home, or like a piece of home is coming to them," Smith said.

Course turns out expert water-survival Marines

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, May 21, 2007

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — Thanks to a Camp Kinser water-survival instructor course that will certify 20 new teachers next week, Marines on Okinawa will have plenty of opportunities to undergo the required training.

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May 20, 2007

Eight Marines and one airman

It was a Fuentes affair.


By Mike Baird (Contact)
Sunday, May 20, 2007

Celebration of Armed Forces Day Saturday by the Coastal Bend Detachment of the Marine Corps League drew about 200 extended family members and military friends of nine Corpus Christi brothers who served a combined total of 42 years in the military between 1957 and 1982.

They are the sons among the 16 children of Guadalupe and Guadalupe Fuentes, both deceased.

All of them joined the Marines -- except the second oldest, Israel, 61, who was a fly guy -- before their last high school year ended.

"We still razz Israel about not being a Marine, said Ismael Fuentes, 57, of Arlington. "But he got the bad end of the Air Force, he landed in Vietnam." The men's brother Richard, 59, who works on engines at Corpus Christi Army Depot, also served in Vietnam.

"Yeah, but I was the one smart guy," said Israel, who is self-employed in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Everyone knows the Air Force has the best food."

The nine brothers haven't been together since a family reunion in 2002, and this year the family big-rigger, Alfonso, 52, couldn't attend.

"He was driving into Maryland when I talked with him this morning," said the third Fuentes son, Ezequiel, 60, of Corpus Christi, who drives trucks locally for a living.

"We're here today to honor the legacy of military service so profoundly contributed by the parents of these brothers," said Jacob G. Munoz,one of two decorated Vietnam Marines and local businessmen who were guest speakers. The other guest speaker was Joe Elizondo.

"Our parents were very proud we joined," said David Fuentes, 69, the oldest brother, "and they were also relieved we all came back."

Special guests, honored by organizers and the Fuentes brothers, were 54 Marines from Charlie Company, 23rd Marines, based in Harlingen. The company deploys to Iraq in October, after some stateside training. The Fuentes brothers shook hands with each of the Marines as they filed through a buffet line to feast on fajitas, sausage, rice and beans and pico de gallo.

The ceremony, laced with military musical dedications by the Corpus Christi Veterans Band, ended with Rudy Beltran, junior vice commander of the league, presenting the brothers with sparkling white military insignia caps.

"These are not for you to wear while changing your oil," he told them, earning laughter from the crowd. "And yes, we had the Air Force insignia put on yours, Israel."

Contact Mike Baird at 886-3774 or [email protected]

Marine battalion comes home, lost 12 members in Iraq

About 300 Marines have returned home from nine months in Iraq's Anbar province, where a commander says 12 lives were lost as the Marines dealt with violence from insurgents in the city of Ramadi.


Published on Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Associated Press

The Marines who returned Saturday were members of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune.

Battalion executive officer Maj. Daniel Zappa said his troops helped clean out insurgents in a violent area, but a dozen of his troops died in combat.

"Before our arrival, Ramadi was lost and the Anbar Province was very violent," Zappa said. "Not a lot of progress had been made, and we had the opportunity to make a difference."

The battalion was scheduled to be gone seven months, but the deployment was extended by the Bush administration. Zappa said the extension was difficult for the Marines and their families, but gave the troops additional time to achieve its goals.

Kathleen Matheny greeted fiance Lance Cpl. Brandon Smith and planned a feast of his favorite foods. Smith will have to celebrate his birthday and get ready for a wedding next month.

"It's been hard, but everyone adapts and we learn to overcome it," said Matheny 19, of Columbia, S.C. "This makes us closer as a couple even though we've been far apart, if that makes any sense."

Staff Sgt. John McClure got a beer from his wife, Melissa, after he found her in the crowd of family members.

"I'm ready to put on different colored clothes and take a shower that's more than 45 seconds," said McClure, 30.

Annual event for Marines, families

OCEANSIDE – The concept seems more poignant, more appropriate, each year.


By Michael Stetz

May 20, 2007

It's a community rallying to say “thank you” to its battle-weary Marines.

Marines such as David Dube, 33, a sergeant who has been deployed to Iraq three times now.

The last time away, he missed the birth of his second son, Noah, who is 10 months old.

Dube may have to go to Iraq again. Who knows?

The war goes on, but these Camp Pendleton Marines and their families got a break yesterday from the anxiety, loneliness and stress that war brings.

They were treated to “Operation Appreciation,” a daylong event held at the city of Oceanside's band shell, where games, rides and free food were abundant.

So was this message: Thanks.

“It is tough,” Dube said of the many deployments and time away from his family. “The mission can be exhausting.”

The war is not popular with the American public. In a poll conducted by CNN earlier this month, 65 percent of those responding said they opposed the war.

Marines said yesterday's event is a reminder that their role in it is respected and valued, regardless.

“I think people put their personal beliefs aside,” Dube said. “The war may be becoming unpopular, but we still feel support.”

Jenifer Peters, 28, attended the event with her two children. Her husband, Zach, couldn't make it. He's in Afghanistan. Before that, he served a tour in Iraq.

Peters believes that most people, regardless of how they feel about the war, understand that Marines are doing their jobs. They have orders. They have no say in the broader picture.

“They made a commitment,” she said.

For this moment, it seemed hard to believe that many of these Marines had the weight of war on their shoulders. Their children were everywhere. They were playing games, riding rides, holding balloons, skipping, running, laughing.

Big, tough, strong Marines cradled babies, not weapons, in their arms.

“It's really hard, missing those holidays, missing my son grow up,” said Sgt. Ray Avila, 27, who served a recent tour in Iraq.

He came here with his wife, Diane, and son Ray Jr., 2.

He may have to go back, he said. He's not sure. He's waiting. On this day, though, Iraq seemed, fittingly, a long way away.

“I love all the smiles,” said David Nydegger, chief executive officer of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.

The idea for the event came to him after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He knew Marines soon would be in the thick of it somewhere.

The first Operation Appreciation was held in 2002. Sure enough, Marines were already in Afghanistan.

Nydegger's organization, as well as the North County Times, the city of Oceanside and the Armed Services YMCA of Camp Pendleton, put it together.

He's not surprised that the public still strongly supports its Marines, despite the souring public opinion of the war. He served two tours in Vietnam with the Navy. The public, then, turned on the military.

“I think the civilian community today has a much better understanding of what the military goes through,” Nydegger said.

The strain of war has been difficult for some Marines, said Vince Juarez, 35, a gunnery sergeant who goes to Iraq this summer.

Some Marine marriages are breaking up because of the stresses, he said, adding, “It's taking its toll.”

Michael Stetz: (619) 293-1720; [email protected]

Playground dedicated to fallen Marine

MILFORD — A few days before Aug. 25, 2006, Marine Cpl. Jordan Pierson could have transferred to a safer assignment in Iraq.


Article Last Updated: 05/20/2007

But the 21-year-old leader of Charlie Co. 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, stayed to look after his men.

"He was killed a few days later on a foot patrol he volunteered for," his father, Eric Pierson, said Saturday, after the park where Jordan played as a boy was named after him.

The park borders Pierson's backyard, where a Marine flag hung over a fence and children bounced on a trampoline and played baseball.

As friends and colleagues recalled fond memories of the fallen Marine, children scampered around the swing set and jungle gym.

The men of Jordan's company also attended, standing at attention for most of the ceremony in short sleeves in a chilly spring wind.

The dedication culminated in the unveiling a plaque to be placed in the park, quoting the Gospel of John: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

"Who would you give up your life for?" Eric Pierson asked the standing-room-only crowd.

Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. opened the ceremony.

"What a perfect way to memorialize a young man who grew up in the backyard of this playground," he said.

"Whether you agree with the war, what matters is the men and woman who serve us," he said.

The Joseph A. Foran High School alumnus was killed preventing war from coming to United States soil, the speakers said.

"That's what he gave his life for, to protect each and every one of us," the mayor said.

Pierson inspired his friend, Michael Amendola.

"He will forever be in my heart as my MVP," Amendola said.

After his friend's death, "I can understand that life is very precious," he said. "Losing my best friend has been the biggest struggle I have faced in my life."

He urged the crowd to live on their own terms but to help others.

Pierson's death touched his close friend and neighbor, Samantha Vargo. He would call her and send her cards and letters from Iraq, she said. Pierson was a friend and classmate of her brother, Mark, who joined the Marines but couldn't ship out to Iraq due to a medical condition.

"I think it's wonderful that it's named after him," she said.

Three of Pierson's charges in Iraq, some older than he was, remembered him as an inspiration and a brave leader who would run without cover through dangerous areas for his men.

"He was five years younger than me. He was my boss. But he was my big brother," said Lance Cpl. Rad Smolinski.

"He was always there to be a friend," said Lance Cpl. Jay Cooling. Both Stars Wars fans, Cooling and Pierson would have mock lightsaber duels with frozen fruit juice sticks.

"If I had a blue one and he had a yellow one, we couldn't help but have a lightsaber fight," Cooling said.

Lance Cpl. Nick Lambert said Pierson was supervising men twice his age while he had half their experience.

"Jordan thrived as a leader," Lambert said.

He recalled a grenade attack in which Pierson was hit by shrapnel but got up and charged back into battle.

"He wanted to get the guy that hurt his Marines," Lambert said.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, said troops should be honored for their sacrifices during and after battles.

Vietnam veterans "had to endure insults or threats. We owe our military men and women unconditional support abroad and home," including in education, jobs and health care, he said.

Richetelli reminded the crowd to remember all armed service men and woman on Memorial Day on May 28. Eric Pierson will speak following the city's parade May 27.

The mayor thanked more than a dozen people and groups for helping make the park a reality, including city departments, individual donors and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7788 in Devon.

Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.

Marines, Iraqi Police spread goodwill, soccer balls to Iraqi school

FALLUJAH, Iraq(May 20, 2007) -- Children crowded the doorways to their classrooms May 16, eager to catch a glimpse of Marines and Iraqi Police, their latest visitors during a visit to their school.


Submitted by: Regimental Combat Team 6
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Joel Abshier
Story Identification #: 2007521124321

Marines in 2nd Platoon of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, worked side-by-side with the Iraqi Police in the city of Fallujah to distribute soccer balls and numerous other supplies to students at two schools.

Since the war began, only 30 percent of Iraq’s 3.5 million students are currently attending classes. Thousands of students have been forced to stay home because of escalating violence throughout the country, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Education.

Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Police are helping remedy the unfortunate situation with the schools in Fallujah by assisting in any way possible, whether it is dropping off supplies or helping rebuild areas in and around the schools, said Hibba Hassan al-Quraishy, a teacher at one of the visited schools.

“The number of students in our schools has changed many times,” al-Quraishy said. “We would like to keep a steady number of students and the only way for (that to happen) is if our countries continue to work together.”

The Iraqi Police, headed by Col. Faisal, Fallujah’s Chief of Police, entered the schools along with a handful of Marines from various units, while Marines with Company E maintained a perimeter outside to ensure the safety of everyone delivering supplies in the school.

“The Marines are helping us out,” said Faisal after one student pointed out to the Marines standing outside the door.

The student’s faces lit up as the Marines walked around the school grounds carrying bags of soccer balls. Handing out a number of them to each class, the Marines and Iraqi Police went to dozens of classes throughout the schools only to be warmly accepted by the children.

“Salām,” the students said as the visitors entered the classrooms. Salām directly translates to “peace;” however, it is commonly used with a hand gesture over ones chest to say hello.

The Marines and Iraqi Police returned the greetings as they handed out supplies to the students.

“The way a lot the kids look at us, it seems like it’s the first time they have seen Americans,” said 20-year-old Plantation, Fla., native, Cpl. Joseph A. Delillo, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, as he watched a group of students pass in front of his vehicle.

Throughout the months of the battalion’s deployment, Marines from numerous platoons in the “Ready Battalion” have and will continue to deliver school supplies and other goods to schools in the immediate areas near the unit’s forward operating bases and observation posts.

“I’m grateful for this,” al-Quraishy said. “We have had the Marines visit us before and hopefully they return. (They) are always welcome.”

May 19, 2007

Lion of Fallujah is laid to rest

U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY, ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 19, 2007) -- The Lion of Fallujah is at rest.


May 19, 2007; Submitted on: 05/18/2007 01:09:21 PM ; Story ID#: 200751813921
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, MCB Camp Pendleton

Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec, who once told reporters in the din of battle his Marines “fought like lions,” was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery May 16. A crowd of more than a thousand gathered at the U.S. Naval Academy’s chapel to honor the fallen warrior.

Zembiec was killed in action May 10, 2007. He was 34 years old.

In attendance were more than 30 of Zembiec’s Marines from his tour as E Company’s commander, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The pallbearers were led by Sgt. Maj. William Skiles, Zembiec’s former first sergeant. Zembiec’s Marines wore dress uniforms adorned by medals marking their combat tours. They came from across the nation, from Marine bases on both coasts to bury their leader.

“There is no one better to go to war with,” Skiles once said of Zembiec.

They came to honor a man who roared life, who led them into combat in Fallujah and who climbed upon a tank to gain a greater perspective of the battlefield, all the while defying rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire smashing around him. They honored a man who considered it his greatest honor to fight in combat with his Marines.

Zembeic told Los Angeles Time reporter Tony Perry that battling insurgents was “the greatest day of my life. I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, so purposeful. There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat. Once you’ve dealt with life and death like that, it gives you a whole new perspective.”

At times during the battle, Zembiec’s Marines tossed grenades within 20 feet of insurgents.

“My Marines have fought like lions and will continue to do so,” he said following the battle. “Ten million insurgents won’t even begin to fill the boots of one of my men.”

Shortly before 9 a.m. and under blue skies and puffy white clouds, Zembiec’s lions brought their leader home.

A Navy-Marine honor detail carried Zembiec to hallowed and venerated halls of the maritime chapel here. It was the same chapel where he attended Catholic mass as a midshipman and the same chapel he took his bride, Pamela.

This time, the proud warrior was carried in. Marine and Navy officers gripped the rails of his flag-draped casket, silently gliding down the narrow carpeted aisle. Zembiec was placed at the front of the chapel where prayers and blessings were offered.

Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Scott Radetski led the service, telling the gathering Zembiec was a “genuine patriot” and a “genuine hero.”

“You can shed a tear because he is gone or smile because he lived,” Radetski said.

Eric. L Kapitulik, Zembiec’s best friend of 17 years, offered a eulogy. He said Zembiec kept a series of journals, often scribbling notes on leadership, pearls of wisdom he collected by those he respected.

One entry, Kapitulik said, came from Col. George Bristol. It read, “Never forget those who were killed. Never let rest those who killed them.”

Kapitulik read another. “Be a man of principal. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country.

“Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society,” Zembiec’s message in his journal continued. “Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle and take responsibility for your actions.”

The vows of Zembiec’s life, written by his hand, according to Kapitulik, were titled, “Principles my father taught me.”

Zembiec’s lions honored him in fitting memory. They carried him from the chapel to an awaiting hearse. A miles-long procession of cars snaked their way to Arlington National Cemetery. There, among countless rows of white headstones lined on manicured green lawns, a place was prepared.

This is where the lion will rest for eternity. He would take his place in the long line of patriots who consecrated the grounds. It was a place of peace and honor for a warrior who dedicated his life to his nation’s battles.

Radetski led a brief graveside service. The sharp crack of three rifle volleys pierced the warm spring air. Solemn strains of “Taps” followed while Marines held salutes in white-gloved hands.

The following moments were hushed. Marines folded the flag that covered his casket. They gracefully, purposefully and meticulously folded the flag into a triangle.

It was offered to Pamela. With that, Zembiec was given to his nation one final time.

Zembiec, the Lion of Fallujah’s lions, was brought home by his Marines. They carried him home. He was buried in the soil of the nation he loved.

Now, among rows of white stones on green fields, the Lion is at rest.

Pa. Marine's last request for bedding for his platoon inspires mother's charity

PHILADELPHIA – Five days before Lance Cpl. Adam C. Conboy was killed in Iraq, he inspired his own memorial fund.


By Alison Lapp
12:08 a.m. May 19, 2007

During a Sunday morning phone call from the Anbar province, he described staying 20 men per room in an old schoolhouse, packed into bunk beds in the scorching heat. The stench, he said, was overwhelming.

Advertisement He asked his mother if she could send clean sheets – 40 sets of them, one for each member of his platoon.
“C'mon Mom, get Operation Bedding going,” he joked.

He was killed the next Friday, May 12, 2006, by non-hostile fire. He had been in Iraq eight weeks.

Friends told his mother to expect flowers to start pouring in.

“I told people I didn't need flowers,” Mary Conboy said. “In lieu of that, I took donations to get the bedding Adam asked for out to the guys.”

Operation Bedding has since grown from a son's spontaneous quip to a mother's tribute to her fallen Marine. Mary Conboy runs a homespun charity effort from her backyard, sending troops in Iraq packages that contain everything from bedding to sweat socks to canned tuna.

Adam Conboy's platoon got its packages by July, and the company that replaced it received the next shipment. Schools began sending donations, and Mary Conboy started getting requests from different military units interested in the care packages.

But shipping the bedding, toiletries, snacks and books is costly. Mary Conboy estimates she spends $1,000 to get a shipment to Iraq.

To help with the cost, neighbor Donna Palmer decided to turn a housecleaning flea market into a fundraising event.

“I benefit because then I get rid of all the junk in my house,” she said, “but really I'm helping a dear friend fulfill her son's last request.”

The event scheduled for Saturday, Armed Forces Day, was to feature about 50 vendors, a motorcycle parade, a color guard salute and live music.

It was to be held in Gorgas Park, in the city's Roxborough section, around the corner from Adam Conboy's childhood home. The goal is to raise $10,000.

Charles Conboy, Adam's father, said the funds that keep Operation Bedding afloat are a distraction for him from the pain of losing his son, as well as a distraction for the troops in Iraq “from what's over there, at least for a couple hours while they rip through the packages.”

In a DVD sent to the family, Adam Conboy's corps members describe using baby wipes from the packages when they had no running water for bathing and receiving shaving cream just as superiors were demanding they dry shave beards thick from days of growth.

“There was mad fighting over those pillows,” one Marine said, “fighting for them, fighting with them, everything.”

Mary Conboy said pillows and pepperoni sticks are the troops' favorites, and sometimes the goodies serve a practical purpose.

One Marine told her about meeting an Iraqi child while he had candy in his pockets.

“You show me where an IED is, and I'll give you the candy,” he told the child, who led him right to one of the explosives.

“It was on the route where they would have gone that week,” Mary Conboy said. “When I talk to people who've made donations, I tell them, 'You might have saved six Marines' lives.'”

Adam Conboy knew he wanted to fight for his country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was 17.

His mother told him he was too young. When he signed himself up at age 20, he sent his younger brother to give her the news.

“I said, 'There's something wrong here,'” Mary Conboy said, smiling. “'You joined the Marines, and you're afraid to tell your mother? You might want to toughen up.'”

Fellow Marines on the DVD say he did. They nicknamed him “Daddy” because at 21, he was the oldest among them and handled tense situations with humor.

Mary Conboy said she plans to continue Operation Bedding until the troops come home. Her husband, Gary Warner, built a shed in their backyard to hold donations that crowded them out of their dining room.

Charles Conboy helps pack boxes and takes them to a bulk mailing center. Mary Conboy's six other children, ages 2 to 20, also have rallied around the cause.

When Adam Conboy originally asked his mother to send 40 sets of bedding, Mary Conboy laughed, but wasn't surprised.

“It was very typical Adam,” she said. “Just like when he was little. He was always the one to have all the neighborhood kids over for Popsicles.”

Northglenn Marine Returns From Iraq; Family, Friends Celebrate

NORTHGLENN -- Cheers of joy rang through Denver International Airport Saturday to welcome back a Northglenn Marine.

Click on link below for a news video link.http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/13352984/detail.html

By Christine Chang, 7NEWS Anchor
May 19, 2007

"I'm so excited could hardly wait," said Ilse Manche, mother of JonDavid Garcia.

Garcia has wanted to be a Marine since he was in the third grade. He's now living his dream. He's been serving in Iraq for the last eight months.

"We're doing good over there by helping people of Iraq get back on their feet," said Garcia.

Garcia got married right before he was deployed. He's only spent about a month and a half with his wife since then. The family said they're all making up for lost time.

"His favorite is grandma's pumpkin pie. We'll have that with lots of whipped cream and we'll all watch him demolish it," said Manche.

Garcia's step-mother started the yellow ribbon trend in her neighborhood by asking all the neighbors to tie a yellow ribbon on their trees. She said it was to show their love and support for a young man they call a hero.

"My heart is going 90 miles an hour right now. I'm so excited," said step-mom Barbara Garcia.

While it's a celebration of Garcia's return, family and friends say they have not forgotten those still overseas. Garcia will be home for about a month before rejoining his unit.

May 18, 2007

Band of Sisters Plays Key Role in Iraq Security

Female Seabees volunteer to help with searches.

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq, May 18, 2007 — Three women from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 took the Navy in a new direction in the war on terrorism when, on May 3, they returned to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, as the first Seabees trained in a Marine Corps program called Lioness.


By Petty Officer 2nd Class Judith Owen
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 Public Affairs

The Lioness program was born when Marine commanders needed a culturally acceptable way to conduct effective searches of Iraqi women at control points along the Iraqi border and other locations. Because men in Muslim countries are not allowed to touch women they are not related to, it was difficult to stop insurgents from using women to smuggle in arms or money. Lioness trains U.S. servicewomen to conduct searches of females, accomplishing the mission while being sensitive to Muslim women.

“This is definitely a hands-on environment, and it’s an extremely important mission,” said Marine Pfc. Brittany Cummins of the Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron. “We can’t win the hearts and minds if we don’t show respect for the culture.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Sandra Ersoff, a Lioness volunteer who served in the Haditha area of Iraq, said her experience with the Muslim women usually was very positive.

“I found the Iraqi women to be friendly and understanding of the circumstances,” said Ersoff. “Although some women were reserved, I exchanged greetings and smiles with the majority. Like mothers around the world, Iraqi women were receptive to my interaction with their children. I truly believe my presence had a positive effect on the female community of Haditha.”

Each Lioness Task Force consists of a 30- to 45-day rotation that gives female volunteers of different military branches and various occupations the opportunity to train and work with the Marine infantry force.

The training curriculum consists of a Marine Corps martial arts program refresher course, improvised explosive devices identification, rules of engagement, cultural familiarization, search techniques and other military instruction. In addition, the participants are familiarized with and afforded the opportunity to train in the use of various weapons.

“These women have volunteered to execute this difficult mission because they recognize the importance of what the Lioness program is trying to achieve,” said Capt. Kate Gregory, commodore for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment who is responsible for all Seabee personnel in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

“All of the women from each branch of service who volunteered for this program should feel proud that their accomplishments are contributing to our overall success in this fight,” she said.

The Seabees described their participation in the program as a very rewarding experience. They were afforded the opportunity to work hand in hand with the Iraqi police on a daily basis and found them to be a friendly and accommodating group.

In their experience, the vast majority of Iraqi women coming through the checkpoints were cooperative and accepting of the necessity of the searches. In between conducting searches, the Lioness volunteers took the opportunity to hand out candy and small toys to the local Iraqi children.

"These women of NMCB 28 have stepped up to offer their skills and abilities to a critical part of the security mission,” said Cmdr. Craig Scharton, commanding officer of NMCB 28. “Their senior levels of experience and maturity were critical factors to ensuring success in a job that requires situational awareness, cultural sensitivity and keen judgment."

The Lioness program is facilitated by Marine Regimental Combat Team 2 which is deployed with the II Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation Iraq Freedom.

NMCB 28 is part of nearly 1,100 sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.

A Denver Neighborhood Celebrates the Return of a Marine

John David Garcia, a 20-year old Marine just back from Iraq, came home to a hero's Welcome Saturday. The Legacy High grad enlisted right after graduation last year. He has spent the past nine months in-country.

Click on the above link to find a news video link.

Friday, 18 May 2007, 9:56 PM MDT
DENVER -- -- by Jon Bowman

His parents, Barb and Bob Garcia, were been busy Friday, putting up yellow-ribbons all over the neighborhood. People living in the quiet suburban Northglenn neighborhood have all been linked by the ribbons and say they can't wait to see the kid who went away a boy and will come back a man.

"We love the fact that the family is including the whole community in the home-coming," said Trish O'Connor. "We are so glad that their son is coming home safe and sound."

Flags are flying and so are ribbons, the family also had a huge party planned for J.D.'s return.

New look on life. Kodiak grad, 19, prepares for second tour in Iraq

Marine Lance Cpl. Bryan Gilbert looks at things a little differently now – his family, his friends and even strangers.


Article published on Friday, May 18th, 2007


“It’s hard to explain,” he said, “but I no longer take things for granted as much.”

Gilbert, who graduated from Kodiak High School in 2005 and shortly after joined the U.S. Marine Corps, left Monday for Hawaii where he is stationed with his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Echo Company.

Gilbert, 19, is part of a battalion that has lost 23 soldiers in Iraq, seven of those in Echo Company, close friends who were hit during patrols with Gilbert.

Gilbert survived.

On April 19, a tearful memorial service was held in Hawaii for all 23 Marines killed and a Navy corpsman. Gilbert was there.

He is now honing his skills in Oahu, and training others before he heads back to Iraq in late December or January for a second tour.

At 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 190 pounds, Gilbert stays in shape both mentally and physically by eating high-protein foods and working out with weights, keeping ready for the next tour in Iraq.

He is the son of Tricia Logan and has twin teenage brothers, a sister, and stepfather, Tom, all of Kodiak. His father, John Gilbert, lives in Ketchikan.

“It’s hard when he is over there,” said Tricia, an individual support specialist for Hope Community Resources.

“Yes, one can’t help but think of losing him,” she said. “I have awakened in the night in tears thinking someone has come to notify us.

“I know it is not true. It happens,” she said.

She said she developed a support group, knows the families of other soldiers her son is with, and makes sure her friends in Kodiak are always close by.

“We (the families) help each other. My friends help,” Logan said. “We do the best we can do.

“When he first went to Iraq, we didn’t hear from him for 49 days. All kinds of things go on in your mind.”

“We are Marines. That is what we do,” Gilbert said of his experience.

Still, the emotions run high for his mother.

“It was seven months of living hell because I knew what he was doing. It is very hard. There were times when I couldn’t go to work,” Logan said.

She knows she has to do it again and he knows he has to do it again. But both are more experienced now.

“We will be a lot more prepared this time,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert, who has another two years left in the Marines as part of a four-year tour, said he doesn’t think about fear.

“We get excited and go on that. We just do our job. That is what we are trained to do,” he said.

“I only hope we can do as good a job the second time as we did the first time,” he said. “Our experience will give us an advantage.”

On his first tour, Gilbert was shot at and did some shooting – a lot – and he lost fellow Marines in the process. Heavy fire included a barrage of RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), mortar and machinegun fire.

“Sometimes the enemy was as close as 20 meters. Some confirmed dead,” he said.

Gilbert is a machine gunner. His weaponry includes an M-240 Gulf medium machine gun, an M-2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and an MK-19 automatic grenade launcher. The first three months of his tour, he was on foot patrol with an M-16 rifle. The second three months he was on mounted patrol atop a Humvee, dodging bullets and trying to avoid IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

Gilbert went to Haditha, Iraq. Haditha is where a lot of bloodshed has taken place, but it is now more stabilized.

It was in Haditha just before Gilbert arrived that Marines were killed by an IED, and later both enemy and civilians were killed in an onslaught that resulted in controversy and charges over the action.

This was also where insurgents gathered members of the Iraqi police, took them to a soccer field and shot them.

“There are Marines still there. We established order. Now there is a small-town government, an elected mayor and the Iraqi police are in force,” Gilbert said.

“The last two months there, not a single shot was fired at us. Haditha is stable today.

“Before that we had to fight our way out, door-to-door.”

Gilbert said, on average, he was in two firefights a day, and sometimes as many as six in one day.

“We were hit three times with IEDs,” Gilbert said.

“Twenty-three killed in action,” he said. “Friends.”

What motivates Gilbert?

He was born in Fort Bragg, Calif., and moved to Kodiak when he was 8 years old. He said he was raised in a hunting and fishing family and grew up familiar with firearms and the outdoors, and had the mental disposition for the military.

“I wanted to be the best so I joined the Marine Corps,” he said.

He has been in the Marines since Sept. 11, 2006.

He was in boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, and later at Camp Pendleton. He went on leave in April, returning from Iraq, visiting with friends and family in Seattle, Anchorage and Kodiak.

“It has been great visiting,” Gilbert said.

“It’s a little different now,” he said. “You take things less for granted. You react a little different to what people do. You take things more seriously. But I still try to keep my sense of humor.

“The thing is, when someone is talking to you, you listen more carefully. Even strangers, now,” he said.

Gilbert said Iraq has taught him to listen.

“In Iraq, complete strangers would come up to you and talk to you. You never knew. Sometimes, they would say something nice, sometimes tell you something useful.

“You have to obey Iraqi customs and courtesies, something we train for before going there. Because of the training, there is very little culture shock,” Gilbert said.

A little reluctant to talk about the pros and cons of the war in Iraq, Gilbert sees his task more as a job as a Marine.

“Hopefully, we will do a better job the next time around,” he said. “We have an advantage now with our experience.

“It bothers me a little; all of this talk about whether we should be in Iraq or not,” Gilbert said.

“There is no use pulling out until we finish the job.

“It seems now, all of the sudden, there are those people who are changing their minds on support of the war,” he said.

“We worked hard and sacrificed for what we have done so far in Iraq. No, we shouldn’t be pulling out.

“We have accomplished a lot and that should not be put to waste because of politics,” Gilbert said.

“We are fighting for the Iraqi people, so they can live like we do, with freedom. They eventually will be on their own,” he said.

Gilbert explained that the Iraqis will have to come together on their own.

“There are the Sunnis in Anbar Province, the western portion of Iraq. The Kurds are in the north and the Shiites near Baghdad in the south. They have to work out their differences.”

Sixty percent of the population in Iraq is comprised of the Shiites who were repressed under Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime.

After his next tour, Gilbert said he plans to go to college to study criminal justice and law enforcement.

“I have done a lot of law enforcement while in Iraq,” he said.

Gilbert said that before he heads back to Iraq, he plans to visit his family in Kodiak.

He is unsure about what to expect this time around, but he feels more experienced and better prepared.

“We will get the job done. We are Marines. That is what we do,” he said.

Mirror writer Bryan Martin can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Sweathogs bring it home: MWSS-273’s Communications Platoon receives C4 Award

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C.(May 18, 2007) -- During their time at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, and while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2007, the Communications Platoon with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 supported thousands of users involved in direct combat missions through the maintenance of the largest data and phone network in Marine Corps history.


Submitted by:MCAS Beaufort

Story by: Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming

The continuous involvement of the Sweathogs’ Communications Platoon earned them the inaugural Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea Memorial Unit Communications Award for 2006. This award recognizes the communications or information technology unit that has distinguished itself by making the most outstanding contributions to the Marine Corps C4 field.

On behalf of the platoon, Lt. Col. Jeffery Hooks, the commanding officer of MWSS-273, and 1st Lt. Vail Raymer, the officer-in-charge of the Sweathogs’ Communication Platoon, traveled to Arlington, Va., to accept the award Tuesday.

“(The Sweathogs’) Communications Platoon deserves the inaugural Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M. Shea Award due to their highly successful contribution to tactical communications support provided at a high operational tempo, while maintaining superb equipment, personnel and combat readiness both aboard the Air Station and abroad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Maj. James Stone, the executive officer of MWSS-273.

Not only did they deploy to a combat zone, but the Communications Platoon participated in several exercises prior to deployment that helped the Sweathogs’ success, which included Carolina K-Bar at Townsend Bombing Range, Ga., Battle Hog at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Desert Talon at MCAS Yuma, Ariz.

“The Communications Platoon really came together and ‘fine-tuned’ itself during all the work ups,” said Gunnery Sgt. Adam Endsley, a communications security specialist with the Sweathogs’ Communication Platoon. “We supported localized training, individualized training, and range support. We also had the opportunity to hone in on our skills and expand to cross training.”

Although Endsley was detached from his platoon during his time in Iraq, he is still proud of the accomplishments his Marines made.

“I’m proud of these Marines,” Endsley said. “To see them go from not knowing the basics of their own job to being masters of the jobs and while some have excelled in just being a Marine. Each one of them has come a long way in that aspect. It’s a good feeling knowing that all the prior training helped prepare them for what had to be done in Iraq.”

While the Communications Platoon consists of approximately 60 Marines, only 42 were taken to Iraq for operations, while the rest stayed at the Air Station to aid in support of MAG-31.

“We had Marines working hard in both Iraq and the Air Station,” Raymer said. “With the number of Marines we had in each area (the Marines) used their initiative and worked really hard.”

According to Raymer, the Communications Platoon that stayed aboard Fightertown provided radio communications for Marine Aircraft Group 31 for fly-over’s of professional sporting events, numerous other air exercises, as well as phone and computer services for their parent command.

While serving at Al Asad Air Base, the same group of Marines supported the Marine Corps’ busiest operational airfield, supporting 13 resident squadrons and numerous joint and coalition aircraft assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

“The Marines of MWSS-273 Communication Platoon’s dedication and outstanding customer service has established them as one of the premier tactical communications units in the Marine Corps,” Hooks said.

According to Raymer, it’s a compliment to be acknowledged for the C4 award.

“They have been working hard and I’m glad that these Marines get the recognition they deserve,” Raymer said. “All the Marines know what they are doing and it shows from their efforts. It’s also great to be the inaugural recipient because these Marines set the bar for the standards, and it’s pretty high. Hopefully these Marines will get the chance to win the award next year.”

Marines, Sailor make COP more comfortable

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, IRAQ (May 18, 2007) -- For the average deployed Marine, the discomforts of the desert are a near-constant: being hot, dirty, and bored. Marines and Sailors like Pfc. Jon E. Combs, and Seaman Nolan J. Calhoun are trying to do something about it, and provide a few more comforts to their hard-working counterparts.

Please click above link for photos.

May 18, 2007; Submitted on: 05/18/2007 01:58:30 AM ; Story ID#: 200751815830
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Calhoun, the religious program specialist with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, and Combs, the battalion’s assistant police sergeant, have been spending most of their time improving the combat outpost, also known as a COP, the battalion calls home.

“Hygiene and safety are our two primary goals,” said Gunnery Sgt. Efrain J. Montejano, the battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company gunnery sergeant and camp commandant. “After safety and hygiene, we do whatever it takes to improve the morale of the Marines around here.”

The three service members have spent the past two months improving the living conditions around the battalion’s headquarters.

To improve the camp’s safety, they have added large sand-filled bags called Hesco barriers around the fuel distribution point, and built up some of the barriers that protect the camp from indirect fire. The improvements didn’t stop there.

“We realize there isn’t much to do out here except work a lot, but one hobby we have noticed that a lot of guys share is the gym, so we focused on that first,” said Calhoun, a native of Chico, Calif.

They recently added shelves, painted the weights, and put up several mirrors in the gym facility. In addition, they built nearly half a dozen pull-up bars and dip bars around the camp.

“We know it’s not only improving the fitness around here, but it builds morale too. Out here that is all we have,” Calhoun said.

This isn’t the first time either of these two service members has built something. Combs spent most of his free time during high school working at his father’s construction business, and Calhoun spent nearly a year doing carpentry and construction before joining the Navy. In addition to his religious duties, Calhoun has tackled the job of improving the COP.

“I worked on stuff like this with my dad a lot,” said Combs, a Yuba City, Calif., native. “I have always enjoyed building things, and it feels even better now that I know I’m helping out everybody who comes to the camp.”

The duo also organized the ‘free-px’ where Marines can leave the extra supplies they get from care packages to help out other Marines who may need something. After that, they began working on a ping-pong table to add to the COP’s morale, welfare, and recreation center (MWR).

“We have some other ideas for projects still in the development stages,” said Montejano. “We want to make more improvements on the MWR, and someone had the idea of marking out a running course with exercise stations along the route.”

“We have so many ideas for improving this place,” Calhoun said. “I figure if we are going to be here for a while, we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible for the guys who are out in the desert most of the time and don’t get the more common comforts like we do.”

One of these comforts is showering on a regular basis.

“We are designing larger leach pits for the hygiene trailers so they can support showers. Right now we only have one shower area and we are trying to create a few more,” said Montejano, a native of Los Angeles.

The COP’s most recent addition was a permanent post-exchange (PX). Combs and Calhoun say they enjoy helping out, and improving the living space as much as possible.

“We are here to work for the battalion’s grunts and crewmen,” said Combs. “They are the most important element here and we consider it our job to make their lives a little easier each time we take on a new project.”

TF 1/4 Marine cooks up morale, troop welfare in Iraq

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (May 18, 2007) -- A small trail of smoke rose above Battle Position Vera Cruz, or BP Vera Cruz, here. The smell of barbequed meat filled the air while off-duty Marines milled around, avoiding the heat by finding shade wherever possible. A lone Marine stood over his grille, no matter how hot the temperature in the unforgiving desert heat, preparing the afternoon meal for his fellow Marines.


May 18, 2007; Submitted on: 05/18/2007 02:25:35 AM ; Story ID#: 200751822535
By Lance Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

Cpl. Gorje Ruiz, a food service specialist with Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, is that proud combat cook.

“I’m doing my little part of the mission,” Ruiz said. “Marines have to eat.”

Task Force 1/4’s mission as of late has found them conducting operation is support of Operation Harris Ba’sil.

The Passaic, N.J., native wakes up at sunrise daily, making sure his fellow Marines have a hot breakfast available before the first patrol starts.

"A hot meal keeps you motivated,” said Lance Cpl. John Reitzel, a machine gunner with Charlie Company.

The Marines of BP Vera Cruz live on a small hill overlooking a river near the Syrian Border patrolled daily by Charlie Company. A sewage system is nonexistent, so they dig holes and fit plastic piping into the ground for burying waste. Wooden support beams and large sand-filled bags, known as Hesco Barriers, become their walls and roofing. They walk on dirt and live in dirt, but they make the best of it.

“We have some weights for lifting, but I wouldn’t really call it a gym,” explained Pfc. Michael Yazzieking, a radio operator with Charlie Company. “I look forward to the meals here.”

Ruiz works with one tray-ration heater, or T-RAT, a grille, a sparse pantry and a freezer for meats. This combat cook has few tools to work with but is handy with every one of them.

“I can cook anything out here that doesn’t need frying,” Ruiz boasted.

He’s the only cook at Vera Cruz but when it comes to setting up his cooking area and cleaning up, the Charlie Marines help him get the job done.

“I’m glad I’m attached with these guys because they really give me a hand cleaning and setting up the chow line before and after the meals,” Ruiz said.

“Everyone helped me clean from the lowest rank to senior Marines here,” Ruiz explained. “A clean area means healthy cooking.”

Ruiz understands that everyday life is not as easy at the battle positions than at the forward operating bases, so he puts in the extra effort to bring morale up with cooking.

“I try to make sure that at least two out of the three meals that day are hot ones because it’s not easy here and I want to do my fair share,” Ruiz said.

The meals aren’t only hot, they’re pretty tasty.

“Every meal I’ve had has always been good so far,” Reitzel said.

Ruiz tries barbequing as much as possible because it’s always fresh and hot.

“I use a lot of different spices on my hamburgers and steaks and the Marines really enjoy the steaks especially,” Ruiz said.

The cook is proud of his creations and enjoys the fact his fellow Marines have a hot meal no matter what their living conditions may be.

“I’m nobody’s housewife here, but I cook a decent meal,” Ruiz said. “It’s always better than MREs.”

May 17, 2007

For his family: Battalion Landing Team 2/1 Marine awarded Bronze Star

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan (May 17, 2007) -- “Now you tell me - do I deserve it?"


May 17, 2007; Submitted on: 05/17/2007 03:51:56 AM ; Story ID#: 200751735156
By Lance Cpl. Eric D. Arndt, 31st MEU

This is a serious question following a sincere conversation, but to understand its weight you have to understand the context.

It's May 15, 2007, and I'm sitting on a metal picnic bench across from Staff Sgt. Logan Cortes.

Let’s just say his doubt has begun to set in.

Two hours prior, he was presented with the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device for actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Anbar province with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (then under the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit) on Nov. 16, 2005.

At this point the interview is almost over and the story has been laid bare; I have most of the general facts of what happened in New Ubaydi on that day during Operation Steel Curtain.

I'm going over the story again in my mind when Cortes repeats his question.

"Do I deserve it?"

He's talking about the medal. His Bronze Star.

This is a fairly heavy question to pose to a lance corporal who's never seen actual combat.

I think about it, and the evidence, and my reply takes less than two seconds to surface.

Yes. You do, staff sergeant.

And after a short pause, I explain why.

The First Impression

I first meet Staff Sgt. Cortes on the day of his award ceremony, inside the House of Pain South gym’s basketball court area, which has been cleared out completely to allow the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's Battalion Landing Team 2/1 to attend. Amid the sea of Marines and Sailors pouring in to witness the presentation, I see his nametape and approach him.

While introducing myself, I'm caught off guard by his presence, which fills the air with benevolence, with an aura I have sometimes detected from experienced Marines, as well as other people of a particular high quality.

As far as a physical description, he stands about 5 feet 7 inches - slightly shorter than me - but completely solid; I have no reservations he could topple me at will. He has jet black hair and you can see the bottom half of a tattoo on his right bicep. In spite of an intimidating visage, he is particularly quiet; he possesses a gentle demeanor not expected of a Marine about to receive an award for honorable actions under fire.

After Cortes receives his award from Lt. Col. Francis Donovan, the BLT’s commanding officer, my initial impressions of his character are validated: Cortes opts not to give a dramatic speech to the battalion, instead taking a more humble approach. Donovan speaks on Cortes’ behalf, noting his leadership abilities and qualities. Cortes stands there - proudly - but looking as if he would rather be somewhere else.

After the event, Cortes receives attention from just about everyone. Marines and Sailors from the battalion shake his hand and congratulate him. The attention seems to make him slightly uncomfortable, but he handles it the way he would any circumstance – as a professional.

Once everything has calmed down, we make plans to meet during lunch for an interview, and then I leave.

Another Angle

Cortes gives me the name of someone I can use as a second source, the name of a corporal he describes simply as "wise," and tells me he often exchanges ideas with this individual to benefit himself and his Marines, even though he himself is older and of higher rank.

So I seek out Cpl. Thomas M. Latemer, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Company F, to get an inside word on Cortes’ character.

Latemer gives me a puzzling look when he answers the door, but invites me into his barracks room the second I mention Staff Sgt. Cortes. As I enter, he has a smile that seems to indicate I’m part of a long-running inside joke only the two of them will ever understand.

Latemer stands out to me immediately as a Marine who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he doesn’t hold back much when I ask him about Cortes.

“My initial impression of him was: he’s a hard case. Big guy, stares a lot, watches his people. He’s got that hawk-eye on him. He always keeps close tabs on his people,” Latemer says. “The real first impression of him that I got before I even really got to talk to him was from talking to his machine gunners. He looked out for them.”

Latemer got to know Cortes when exchanging their squad and section Marines for cross-training.

Having not known Cortes on a personal level until after the three-month deployment to Iraq didn’t stop Latemer from commenting on his award.

“If there’s one thing he believes in, he believes he is there for his Marines and his Marines alone,” Latemer says. “He’s a real selfless individual. You’re not going to tell him to not take care of his people.”

“Absolutely he deserves (the Bronze Star),” Latemer continued. “Did he have to leave a covered position and go help out people when other people would have come?

“There are people, brave men who would have made that decision – to stay right there. But it does take something to say, (forget) this, I’m charging across… we’re talking at least a hundred meters of open ground.

“When we first got there, we were three-to-four-hundred meters back and rounds were skipping off the deck in front of us, before we even started our push. He went out there. He led from the front. Not only did he lead from the front, he pushed right to the very edge. How far can you go?”

I ask Latemer for the most important thing he learned from Staff Sgt. Cortes.

"Do what you think is right," Latemer responds, instantly.

A moment passes.

"Understand the consequences, sure, but do what you think is right."

Nowhere Else to Go

Cortes joined the Marine Corps in what he believes was more luck than willful act.

"I got in a fight with my elder sister and she threw me out of the house," the Stockton, Calif. native says. He recalls this memory with a grin that seems to say he remembers the event with some form of fondness, even if it was a difficult time as it occurred.

"So I went to the recruiter and said, 'you have three days to get me in.'"

"So here I am."

Cortes held the military occupational specialty of rifleman upon his entrance into the Corps, and has been employed in several infantry billets since then. Currently, he serves as the Interim Fast Attack Vehicle section leader for Co. G.

He has decided so far to not leave the Marine Corps behind, choosing to remain instead because the organization seems to fit well.

"The brotherhood is awesome," he said. "I felt it was a very good decision I made - joining the Marines. I saw other branches through the years, and I think it's lucky that (the Marine Corps recruiter) was the first office I went to.”

“I guess I’m just lucky.”

The Battle

"The house looked like a regular house," Cortes says.

To illustrate the layout of the attack, of the ambush, of the enemies and the Marines he watched fall, Cortes reaches over and draws something on my copy of his award citation.

This is a skill taught to all Marines, but it is essential to infantry especially - the ability to communicate terrain layouts through simple drawings. Throughout the day, I'll interview Marines who were present during the fight, and they will do the same. Every time it will become necessary to express distance or shape or troop movements, the pens will come out and I’ll get some form of diagram.

"It was a regular house on the outside," Cortes continues, "but on the inside, it was well protected. There had to be around seven (insurgents) in the house."

He tells me the final count of confirmed kills in the area was more than 30, but this included the surrounding neighborhood as well, which at the time contained New Ubaydi’s remaining insurgents, who were forced into a pocket at the town’s edge by Operation Steel Curtain's push into and through the terrorist haven.

When Marines from another platoon stacked up to enter the house, they were ambushed, and the house opened up like a bee hive.

"There was enemy all over the place," he says.

As the Marines of 2/1 started to assault toward the enemy, Cortes and his machine gunners, Deeds and Leary, began to set up a position behind a stone wall adjacent to the house. Mere instants later, they would hear of the Marine who went down inside – the front man on the stack attempting to clear the house – suffering wounds to both of his legs from an insurgent's grenade.

"The first one to run over there was my lance corporal, Deeds," Cortes recalls. "I was going to go there by myself, but Deeds went. He didn't ask for permission or anything – he took off."

Meanwhile, Leary set up a firing position, providing cover fire for both the primary target house and firing on several other houses to his right, where more insurgents began sending their small-arms fire at him.

Cortes pulled the injured Marine out of the house, only to realize he couldn’t locate his machine gunner.

Leary had dropped behind the wall to protect himself from insurgent fire. He called out to Cortes that he was running low on ammunition. Cortes ran back to where the men had dropped their packs when the battle began, and rummaged for the rounds his machine gunner would need to stay in the fight.

As Cortes scrambled back with the ammunition to supply Leary, an insurgent made the last mistake of his life by choosing to fire at Cortes.

“I came back over here to give Leary the ammo, and then (the insurgent) started firing over here,” Cortes says, making a couple of points on the map with his pen. “I guess I was a better shooter than he was.”

The award citation states the man was ‘at close range,’ so I ask Cortes how close and he points to a Marine walking toward us.

The Marine is close enough for me to accurately see his rank.

Cortes says it felt like nothing. He says it felt like he feels right now, just talking to me at this table.

“Afterwards, the only things you think about are the (Marines) going to the hospital,” Cortes says. “You don’t really think about what happened or who was shooting at you or anything.”

The Family

Leary, who covered Cortes that day, is now a corporal and the 2nd squad leader of Weapons Plt., Co. F.

For the most part, he just takes me through his account of how things happened, which isn’t far off from how I’ve already heard it. He tells me how he set up his firing position. How he saw all of the violence erupting around the house in the form of the usual accompaniments – grenades and explosions, gunfire, screaming… bleeding.

He speaks about Cortes and Deeds running into the building, and Cortes bringing him ammunition when he was running out, and how he thinks the Bronze Star is great because Cortes is someone who really deserves what he received.

“He sacrifices so much,” Leary says. “When he was with (our section), we had our group of machine gunners. I hate to be cliché, but it was a big, old, happy family.”

“A big, old – dysfunctional – happy family of brothers,” he corrects himself.

“Anybody in that section would do anything for anyone else,” Leary continued. “It’s rare to see a Staff (Non-commissioned Officer) sacrifice as much as he does for the lower level Marines.”

When I mention Deeds, Leary points out his picture to me. It sits, framed, on top of his wall locker.

Deeds was killed in action along with four other 2/1 Marines the day Cortes rushed into hell to save a fallen brother.

Afterwards, right as I walk out the door, Leary says to make sure it’s a good story. That Cortes deserves it.

The Justification

Cortes doesn’t think so, and he explains his views.

“Just like I told everyone else,” he says, “my feelings are that I don’t deserve it, because I didn’t do anything (more) than anyone over there did.”

But he’s wrong.

Beyond bureaucracies, beyond the frustration with who receives awards and who does not and why, beyond the reasons we fight and some die, there is this: one man falls in a building, others fall around it, and amidst chaos those who are still able decide they will rescue their brethren or die trying.

The Bronze Star is made of metal and fabric.

Only when men such as Staff Sgt. Cortes wear it does it achieve value.

Staff Sgt. Cortes deserves this, because of those who have worn it before, those who have yet to wear it, and because when it is upon his chest…

…he wears it for his big, old, dysfunctional, happy family of brothers.

New stamps commemorate Air Force One

WASHINGTON -- Designs for new stamps commemorating presidential travel on Air Force One and Marine One go on display Friday.


May 17, 2007

The stamps go on sale June 13, but the designs are being displayed during the Joint Services Open House air show at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

Air Force One, the president's Boeing 747 jetliner, appears on a $4.60 priority mail stamp. Marine One, the presidential helicopter, is shown on a $16.25 Express Mail stamp.

"The honor of leading HMX-1 and flying and supporting the president is the job of a lifetime and will be a part of my USMC career I will always treasure," commented Col. Andrew O'Donnell, commander of the Marine Corps unit that flies the presidential helicopters.

Dad honors fallen Marine; Slain pilot's father joins motorcycle pilgrimage

ONTARIO - During conversations with his dad, 1st Lt. Jared Landaker told him he wanted to buy a new Harley-Davidson Heritage motorcycle when he got home from Iraq and ride with his father in an annual cross-country pilgrimage to honor veterans.

Jared never made it back for the run.


Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/17/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT

The 25-year-old University of La Verne graduate died in a helicopter crash on Feb. 7 outside Baghdad.

So instead of traveling with him, Joe Landaker, a Vietnam veteran from Big Bear City, is riding in memory of his fallen son in the Run For The Wall to Washington, D.C. that kicked off Wednesday at the TA Travel Center in Ontario.

"I'm riding for him, but I also envision him alongside me, looking over and saying, `What's up pops?"' said Landaker.

Assigned to fly casualty evacuations in the heart of the fight, Jared was the pilot of a CH-46 helicopter that had picked up a wounded Marine in Karbala.

Landaker's copter was taking the Marine to a hospital when a support helicopter crew saw fire in the back.

The helicopter spun around twice and crashed on its left side. There were no survivors.

The young Marine Corps pilot died on his last scheduled flight. He was supposed to come home the following week to attend weapons and tactical instructor school in Yuma, Ariz.

On Wednesday, Landaker, 60, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Jared in uniform on the front and his son's definition of what a hero is on the back.

The definition said: "Heroes: Anyone who has put their life on the line serving this country ... Jrod ... Feb. 7."

On the windshield of his Harley-Davidson Road King were the words: "In loving memory of Jared "Jrod" Landaker, 1Lt-USMC, May 3, 1981 - Feb. 7, 2007."

Event organizers gave Landaker a place at the head of the pack making the journey, whose mission is to promote healing among all veterans, to call for an accounting of all prisoners of war and those missing in action, and to honor the memory of those killed in action from all wars.

Landaker, along with Brooke Wagner, his buddy from Big Bear City, and hundreds of others are riding the central route of the run with their first stop in Williams, Ariz.

Wagner said he was there to provide support to Landaker on the long journey.

"Jared was a real good kid, so I want to be there for Joe in every way," he said.

From Arizona, the bikers will travel on to Gallup, N.M., today and Angel Fire, N.M, on Friday.

There will be a ceremony for the veterans Friday night in Angel Fire, said Landaker.

Saturday, he and Wagner will split from the pack and meet up with their wives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

From there, they will head on to destinations including Wentzville Mo.; Corydon, Ind.; Hurricane, W. Va. and Arlington, Va., ending May 27 with participation in the Rolling Thunder Parade in Washington D.C.

There, the motorcycles start from the Pentagon parking lots, parade through downtown Washington and end at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a national war memorial that honors members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in service or were unaccounted for during the Vietnam War.

Landaker, Wagner and their wives will stay on in Washington to attend the Marine Corps Band and Silent Drill Team ceremony at the Marine Corps Barracks.

They will also be honored, again in Jared's memory, by receiving a tour of the White House and the Pentagon.

"It's a result of Jared's passing, and it's so special," said Landaker. "People just don't get to walk into those places."

Laura Landaker said she is looking forward to sharing the last half of the emotional journey with her husband.

"In 36 years of marriage, I have never seen Joe cry as much as he has in the months since Jared died," she said. "I hope to see that anxiety leave him."

Marines train on movie set to prepare for "the theater"

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (May 17, 2007) -- There used to be no way anyone could train to battle a roadside bomb blast. That was before the premiere of Stu Segall’s Hyper-Realistic Training.


May 17, 2007; Submitted on: 05/23/2007 01:25:39 PM ; Story ID#: 2007523132539
By Cpl. Ray Lewis, MCB Camp Pendleton

Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, endured Segall’s exercises May 7 - 11 to prepare for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.

The training area is set in the center of Stu Segall’s Strategic Operations movie lot. The stomping grounds come complete with a three-dimensional interactive environment that resembles an Iraqi city filled with Iraqi role players and mock armed insurgents.

“It’s the most realistic (training),” said Lance Cpl. Michael A. Owens, a rifleman with Company L, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines. “I know I jump every time they make an explosion. It still freaks me out.”

Segall’s cast is responsible for that movie magic.

“My goal is to make it real, to create enough ‘hell and havoc’ to make you feel like you’re in the battle zone,” said Kevin Brueckner, one of many special effects technicians with Stu Segall’s Strategic Operations.

So he throws improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and anything else he can think of at the war-bound Marines.

Every special effect is done while regarding the safety of the Marines, said Brueckner, a 51-year-old from Santee, Calif. A Marine instructor controlled all the movie special effects. The instructor tells the Segall cast what to do, and then it’s the cast’s job to support the scenario, he explained.

“Like RPGs and pyrotechnics we’re not able to get in the rear,” said Sgt. Luis A. Macias, a squad leader assigned to Company L. “We get the realistic aspect with a lot of the stuff Stu Segall throws at us.”

Macias and his Marines were also able to practice their Arabic on the set.

“Role players act like they don’t know English, so it gives the Marines a chance to use their language,” said Macias, a 29-year-old rifleman from Panama City, Panama.

Segall’s cast also showed Marines what to do when a Marine is a mock casualty.

“I died today,” Macias said.

Another Marine had to carry his weight when Macias became a mock casualty.

“It’s important for every Marine to know the position above him and the position above that, because anybody can go down,” said Owens, a 21-year-old from of Searcy, Ark.

The only time anybody is happy about a casualty is on the set.

“We got two (casualties) with the Hollywood makeup,” said Seaman Korey M. Brown, a hospital corpsman assigned to Company L. “That was the best part. It showed the explosion, the screaming and the blood, so it got their panic level up.”

That was where some of the Marines’ fellow teammates came into play. Some stood in as guest role-players violently yelling, kicking and waving their wounded bloody body parts after an improvised explosive device explosion. The role-players took their job seriously.

“I know if I was over there and I got wounded, I would want someone to treat me. I would do the same, so I want to make it as real as possible,” said Lance Cpl. Douglas B. Jones, a 23-year-old rifleman assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, from Las Vegas.

All the screaming and hollering was good training, said Brown, a 21-year-old from Los Angeles.

“When the stuff hits the fan, your only mission is to treat the casualty,” Brown said. “That’s all you’re worried about so that Marine or whoever gets back alive. If they don’t have a cool head, they mess up the mission and the squad and gear.”

That’s not the case on the set though. Stu Segall’s cast wants the Marines to make the mistakes on the set so it reduces the chances of real casualties on the battlefield.

“Stu Segall in particular is effective because it helps junior Marines and senior Marines learn to work with one another,” Owens said. “It teaches the senior what has changed and the junior what to expect, and it helps everybody get onto the same page.”

Segall’s team was delighted to help the Marines train for combat in a realistic environment.

“It’s a pleasure to work with the Marines, and whatever I can do to support them, I’m here,” Brueckner said. “I’ve been blowing stuff up for 23 years, and this is the best job I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m actually doing something. It’s not just movie magic.”

Golf Co. 2/6 sweeps Fallujah during census patrols

FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 17, 2007) -- An ominous silence swallows the streets of Fallujah once the sun sets. The city is dead asleep, most lights are off, and residents are inside their homes. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, however, are out on the streets knocking on doors and collecting census information from the locals.


May 17, 2007; Submitted on: 05/21/2007 12:36:56 AM ; Story ID#: 200752103656
By Cpl. Joel Abshier, Regimental Combat Team 6

Using a list of local residents’ home addresses that have yet to fill out census forms, Marines of G Company routinely conduct census patrols from house to house to gather insurgent intelligence and basic information about each family in the area.

“It’s not the most glorious job we do,” admitted Sgt. Nicholas J. Olson, a squad leader within the company. “But they do have their purpose. Census patrols get us out there with the locals. We’re here to help them.”

Olson, an Everett, Mass., native, led his Marines and an interpreter to the homes spread throughout their designated area of operation. Once inside the homes, the interpreter and Lance Cpl. Carl R. Gaskin, an assaultman and self-taught interpreter, explained the situation to the homeowner and asked to bring together everyone in the house.

“We have the man of the house fill out basic information about his family,” Gaskin said. “Some of things filled out are information on his wife, children, number of vehicles, license plate numbers, cell phone numbers, if there are any weapons in the house and the occupations of the residents.”

Gathering this information is vital in the role in ceasing insurgent activity in the city. It is also a good way to get out into the city and build trust and good relationships with the people. When locals begin to set their trust on coalition forces, they are more likely to divulge information on insurgent activity in the area, Olson said.

Once all the information is gathered, it is transcribed to a datasheet on a computer. The datasheet provides prudent intelligence for the Marines who routinely move around the city.

While Gaskin gathered the preferred essentials, Seaman Danny L. Lowderman, a corpsman with the company, asks the family, with the interpreter’s help, if there are any health issues that he can assist with. In one household, the Auburn, Wash. native assisted a mother and her six-month old daughter.

“She said her baby was sick,” said Lowderman, an Auburn, Wash., native. “This kind of thing happens a lot. Fallujah is not like a city back home. They just can’t get into a car and drive to a hospital.”

Asking numerous questions while performing a quick examination, the 22-year-old corpsman checked the baby’s vitals and determined that she was malnourished. After giving both medication and advice, the corpsman joined back up with Gaskin, who provided the family with a contact number to use if they needed to contact the unit.

“Building a rapport with the residents is important to our mission,” Gaskin said. “The more they understand that we are here to help, the safer it is for everyone.”

1,000 IRR members picked to deploy to Iraq

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 17, 2007

About 1,000 Individual Ready Reservists will soon be issued orders to deploy to Iraq following a recent screening in Kansas City, Mo., according to a top Reserve official.

To continue reading:


May 16, 2007

Center pushes motorcycle safety awareness

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 16, 2007 20:55:27 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Cookouts. A game of volleyball on a sand court. Sunbathing.

To continue reading:


Baptist chaplain works in Iraq, ministers to those of all faiths

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Alan Rogers has baptized soldiers in an Iraqi river under armed Marine protection. Needless to say, it was a quick job.


By Bob Perkins Jr.
Published May 16, 2007

“He courageously made a public proclamation of his faith in front of his squad as they crouched in the bushes on the riverbank, providing security for us,” said Rogers, a Navy chaplain. “When he emerged from the water, I said, ‘God bless you my brother.’ He replied, ‘God bless you too, chaps. Now let’s get out of here before we get shot!’”

Rogers immersed the Marine Corps corporal in the Euphrates River in Iraq, near the Syrian border. It was all in a day’s work for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-endorsed chaplain stationed in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Rogers was commissioned in the Navy Chaplain Corps in 2004 and is assigned to the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines. His role is to facilitate the exercise of religion and accommodate the religious needs and practices of Marines, sailors and their families.

“I strive to bring both a ‘ministry of presence’ and a ‘ministry of purpose,’” he said.

Specifically, he gives pastoral care to all members of the unit and their families, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.

“In this context, it’s perhaps the most religiously pluralistic ministry setting anywhere,” Rogers said. “I am the ‘chaps’ not only for the Baptist, Protestant or Christian Marine or sailor but equally serve those of many faith groups who are afforded the same religious freedoms they serve here to defend.”

Rogers called his situation a “microcosm of the best of the religious liberty of America” and said that environment gives him continuous access to the soldiers. He routinely accompanies them on patrols, in convoys and during meals. Rogers even offers field worship services at battlefield locations.

“This setting provides the best opportunity for me to listen as these men express concerns that would not be so readily discussed in another context,” Rogers said. “Although I only share a small fraction of the hardship and danger they experience … I develop credibility and earn trust by simply being with them….”

Of course, as with any military operation, casualties are inevitable. But ministering to the wounded and dying is arguably the most meaningful of his duties, Rogers said.

“As difficult as this aspect of ministry is, it is also a sacred responsibility and privilege to hold the hand, pray with and offer encouragement to these who are hurting,” he said.


Iraqis eager, willing to protect their community

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 5, 2007) -- The Iraqi nationals of the Andaloos district of Fallujah have undertaken a process of community transformation in conjunction with the targeting of the district for the most recent phase of Operation Alljah here July 30.


Aug. 5, 2007

By Pfc. Brian Jones, Regimental Combat Team 6

A Neighborhood Watch has been organized among the district’s residents to keep watch against insurgent activity. Weary of the violence to which their community has been victim, the Neighborhood Watch is devoted to remaining vigilant in the face of their attackers.

“For anything to be able to take place and work long term you have to have security,” said Chief Warrant Officer Steven M. Townsley, the Civil Affairs Group officer in charge for 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “It doesn’t matter how many guns, tanks or bombs you have. Unless you have the will of the people, you’ll never have security.”

As a progressively bold step to rebuilding the community Marines, Iraqi Army, police and local leaders came together to launch the Neighborhood Watch program in the district assembled of the men living within its barriers.

“Who better to defend the terrain than those who live there?” asked Capt. Mark C. Cameron, the assistant operations officer with 2/6. “We’re working towards common goals to remove the insurgency’s presence as well as providing an opportunity for an economic base to build on in the area.”

As part of Operation Alljah, barriers were placed in the roads to form road blocks and entry control points for the community. Cameron took care to let the district residents know the barriers were in place not to keep them in, but to keep the terrorists out. This maneuver is intended to create the conditions the district needs to effectively enforce the rule of law, and lead them to control their community independently of Coalition Forces, he said.

Iraqis of the neighborhood are recruited for the Neighborhood Watch to be auxiliary policemen to reinforce the more formal Iraqi Security Forces. As watchmen they will be expected to perform three tasks: wear the uniform, follow the orders of the IP and most importantly, treat the citizens of the Andaloos district and Fallujah with dignity and respect.

“You will be the ones who the people of Fallujah and the people of this district will look to, to make decisions,” Cameron told the recruits.

Over a loud speaker, men throughout the neighborhood heard about the opportunity to serve their community by taking part in the Neighborhood Watch program. Despite the sweltering, triple-digit heat, a mass of local men came to the precinct and stood in line for the better part of the day bearing the day’s heat.

“It’s very positive from our perspective to see the enthusiasm from the local nationals and (their willingness) to do it themselves. In the past it hasn’t always necessarily been the case,” said Cameron. “The (Iraqi police) obviously have had a high operational tempo and they’re reinvigorated when they see the willingness from the local nationals.”

The selected recruits were required to file through a screening process conducted by the battalion staff. The process is composed of a battery of tests, including functional literacy, medical screening and criminal background check.

After being determined fit for duty, the recruits received their badges and uniforms. After they had been fully processed they attended a swearing in ceremony, took an oath to remain loyal and to treat their fellow Fallujans with dignity and respect and received a food bag to carry home to their families.

The following day they begun a month of fundamental training, led by Iraqi soldiers, learning weapon proficiency, weapon handling, safety, patrolling techniques, searching procedures and how to use them effectively.

Men who are signed on for the job are not required to quit their jobs to be a watchman. However, the men will be compensated for their work under a contract to be paid an amount of $50 a month for three months. This will make a considerable increase to their average income, and contribute to economic growth.

“The most exciting part about this is that Iraqis have stood up, they’re enabled,” said 1st Lt. Brian P. Mahon, executive officer, Company E, 2/6. “I think some people feel frustrated. They want to help. They want to step forward, but there wasn’t really conditions in place in their local community to participate in their local governance and you can see that frustration with a lot of the Iraqi people. This is giving them a chance to change things.”

Flag to return to Pearson school

WINSTED - An American flag will come full circle today.
Pearson Middle School students took a flag from a pole outside the school in October 2005 and gave it to 25th Marine group, 4th Marine Division in Plainville prior to their deployment to Iraq. The Marines returned from active duty, and they will now return the flag to the students.



Register Citizen Staff

Under the care of First Sgt. Ben Granger, the flag accompanied the men through training exercises in 29 Palms, Calif., and then on to Kuwait and the Iraqi town of Fallujah, where the Marines were stationed, Student Council Advisor Rudy Rosenstein said Monday. The company returned to the United States last fall.
"All throughout the year we followed the flag and kept e-mail contact with (Granger)," Rosenstein said.
While stationed in Iraq, the students were not told the company's exact location, she said. To do so would have been a security breach, she said.
"(The Marines) hung the flag in their barracks," Rosenstein noted.
The idea to begin the initiative came as a response to hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the tsunami that wrought havoc in Asia and the war overseas, Rosenstein said. Playing a small part allowed children to feel beyond the walls of their school, she said.
Today, Granger and others will present the world-traveling flag to students at a 10 a.m. ceremony in the Pearson School gym.
Karsten Strauss can be reached by e-mail at winsted @regisetrcitizen.com.

Marine Corps crew team completes first season

FAIRFAX, Va.(May 16, 2007) -- The Henderson Hall Marine Corps crew team surged through the Occoquan Reservoir Nov. 4 and completed their first season at the Head of the Occoquan Regatta.


Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps

Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook

Crossing the finish line in 20:15, the Marines had their best race of the year by defeating four of the 12 teams competing in the novice-category event.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Brad Smith, Henderson Hall’s rowing coach. “All of the teams we were racing against are notoriously good, so it was incredible that we placed eighth.”

There were slight winds around race time, but the 3.2-mile course was empty of choppy waters and wasn’t an issue for the Marines competing in the afternoon competition. Their downfall came with the course’s sharp corners.

“We’re just not proficient at hair-pin turns yet,” said Kristina Hopper, Henderson Hall’s coxswain and a 25-year-old Tampa, Fla., native. “They need to learn how to keep up their power when lengthening or shortening their stroke.”

Another item that played a factor in their eighth-place finish was the festivities associated with the Marine Corps birthday ball that took place the night before.

“Thankfully our race wasn’t in the morning, because there were quite a few of us who were feeling the affects of celebrating,” said Sgt. Brad Pupello, Henderson Hall's team captain.

Formed only a few months before their final race, the crew team started with 10 active-duty Marines, but injuries and personal commitments shortened their roster to eight. Of those eight individuals, not one had any prior crew experience.

“We’d see all of these teams rowing down the Potomac River when our shop was at (physical training) and we thought it’d be nice to try something new,” said Pupello, a tactical data specialist. “After I looked into it, I was told about the Learn-to-Row Program. Originally we thought it’d just be a one-day thing. Wow, were we wrong.”

The Marines quickly found out rowing is far from an inexpensive sport, as their gear rentals and the Learn-to-Row Program required quite a large amount of money. Pupello approached the Semper Fit office to help subsidize some of the cost and received $1,350 to get started. While ahead on their monthly payments, the crew team still needed more than $1,200 for race fees and water time to finish the season, along with an additional $2,000 for uniforms.

“Once our team started gaining notoriety, several donors started coming out of the woodwork,” said Pupello. “Benefactors, who wish to remain anonymous, would donate anywhere from $50 to $1,000. The support we’ve received has been tremendous.”

Henderson Hall's rowing coach also implored a little 20th-century ingenuity of his own to help his team along the way.

“I auctioned two Marine Corps crew hats on EBAY,” said Smith, who has more than 20 years of crew experience. “One went for $125 and the other came in at $100. But even with all of the donations we received, everyone on the team has paid about three to four hundred dollars out of pocket.”

After their down payments were made, the Henderson Hall crew team made their way to the Potomac River for their first rowing experience.

“It was like a Keystone Cops movie,” said Smith, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. “No two blades were hitting the water at the same time. They were like St. Bernard puppies that had a lot of strength, but kept tripping over their own feet.”

It takes three to six months to learn the basics of rowing, according to Smith. However, for the Henderson Hall crew team, they only had eight weeks before their experience would be tested in competition.

“Most crew teams practice six days a week for a few hours, so we were already behind when we started,” said Smith.

Once their command accepted a rowing physical fitness training regiment, the Henderson Hall crew team met every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning to sharpen their skills.

“Sometimes we’d have to stay at work all night then go straight to practice,” said Sgt. Lee Canda, a 29-year-old Clinton, Md., native and network administrator. “I had to get up at four in the morning just to make it there on time.”

Even though burning the candle at both ends, Pupello said the crew team quickly gelled together as one cohesive unit after a few weeks on the water.

“We’re used to receiving orders,” explained the 28-year-old Tampa, Fla., native. “On top of that we already work with cadence, so our learning curve was much more rapid than other novice groups.”

Their first regatta on Sept. 30 allowed the Marines to gauge how far they had come from since the opening week of practice. While competing at the collegiate level against athletes that were on scholarships or had been rowing for several years, they still had a good showing.

“That first race was the drive that made them want to do better,” said Smith. “Technique usually wins over strength, so we still had a lot to work on.”

Before their last race at the Head of the Occoquan Regatta, the Marines finished their 3.2-mile practice course in 17:30.

“The rate of improvement in the last week alone has been remarkable,” said Smith. “It’s like they shot up from second grade to sixth grade. I have a lot of other projects, but I see myself coaching this team for a long time to come.”

The fall rowing season might have concluded, but the Henderson Hall crew team already has a winter training schedule set up and hopes to be back out on the water by January. To them, what started out as simple Saturday-morning hobby turned into a juggernaut that nobody could stop.

“Our hope is that it’ll expand from just our shop,” said Sgt. Justin Darin, a 22-year-old Geneseo, Ill., native and network administrator. “Right now it’s just about keeping the team alive. Half of us won’t be returning next year, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

For any Marines stationed in the National Capital Region that are interested in participating in the next crew season, contact Brad Smith at 202-965-7434

“I dare any Marine to see how hard rowing really is,” said Smith. “Half of them would probably drop out.”

May 15, 2007

N. Topsail drowning victim identified

NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH - The body of a Marine who drowned Saturday after being caught in a riptide off North Topsail Beach was found in the same general area where he went missing, authorities said.


2007-05-15 00:00:00
Antonio Velarde

Lance Cpl. James Thomas Bullen, 21, who was with the Weapons Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune, was found within 10 feet of the shore near the Myrtle Drive beach access at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, authorities said.

Bullen, whose body was apparently caught and kept tumbling in the current near where he drowned, was pulled ashore by members of the North Topsail Beach fire and police departments, said Lt. D. Freeman with the North Topsail Beach Police Department.

Bullen was taken to Onslow Memorial Hospital for identification, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

His family in Richmond, Ky., was notified of the incident, said Camp Lejeune spokesman 2nd Lt. Craig Thomas.

Authorities responded shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday to reports that two men were caught in a riptide about a mile south of the New River Inlet. The two men, including Bullen, were part of a group of three Marines and a civilian who were at the beach that afternoon, authorities said.

While the other Marine was pulled ashore by the third, Bullen went underwater before he could be rescued.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded with a boat and helicopter, along with the North Topsail Beach fire and police departments, Onslow County EMS and a representative from Camp Lejeune fire department, Freeman said.

In addition, authorities said, a helicopter was offered for use by the U.S. Navy when the Coast Guard helicopter ran out of fuel.

Bullen was also with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from June to December of last year, and helped evacuate Americans from fighting in Lebanon last summer, Thomas said.

Corps lowers drinking age to 18 in some cases

By John Hoellwarth - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 15, 2007 21:48:39 EDT

When the commandant brings his sergeant major with him to visit, you know the drill. There are nine good questions about war, pay, the barracks and training.

To continue reading:


Out to sea, MCMAP

ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD (May 15, 2007) -- When traveling the road of the elite warrior, the toll is paid with psychological and bodily exhaustion. Yet, those who apply themselves take comfort in knowing when the end is reached, the reward will be two-fold with exceptional character to compliment their enhanced traits.


May 15, 2007; Submitted on: 05/15/2007 06:52:05 AM ; Story ID#: 20075156525
By Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly, 13th MEU

From April 17 to May 8 Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted Marine Corps Martial Arts Program Instructor’s Course.

Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is a close combat system developed by the Marine Corps that combines hand-to-hand and close combat fighting techniques. Additionally, the intent is to instill self-confidence, team-building qualities and instruction in what the Marines call the "Warrior Ethos." There is no exception to this, even when embarked aboard ship for a six-month deployment.

“The physical aspect of training made it mentally challenging,” said Cpl. Joseph A. Martinez, topographic analyst with the 13th MEU. “At first I was saying, ‘what the hell did I get myself into,’ but as I went on, it gave me a new perception of the Marine Corps as a whole. It showed me that you can take any Marine, throw them in a training environment, and he or she will step up and perform.”

When asked about what he wanted the students to take away from the course, Gunnery Sgt. Juan Ynfante, first degree black belt instructor and electronic key systems manager for the 13th MEU said, “Our goal is to instill the three disciplines within MCMAP-- physical, mental and character. All three disciplines must be achieved in unison to make the Marine warrior.”

The 13 students, who all worked toward green and brown instructor belts and black belts, were trained by great instructors, according to Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, sergeant major of the 13th MEU and black belt instructor.

“I have personally had the pleasure of working with the instructors,” he said referring to Ynfante and Staff Sgts. Brent A. Smith and John S. Gonzales, both first- degree black belt instructors with Bravo Battery, BLT 3/1. “They are the best in the business.”

Throughout the course, there were concerns to deal with on a daily basis because of the ship’s construction and limited space.

“Training options are much more abundant back at [Camp Pendleton]. On ship, creativity is key in order to accomplish the required training,” said Ynfante. “Safety is also a concern. Everywhere you go is metal; while in the rear you have sand, grass and wrestling mats at your disposal.”

Hines said over all it was a successful course that returned Marines to their units as physically fit, high-caliber instructors who can safely train Marines in the MCMAP system.

“Your Marines have enhanced their ethos as warriors and gentlemen,” said Hines. He left the Marines with a quote he learned in the infancy of the MCMAP program. It states, “If a Marine walks into a room people should not fear him, they should feel safer because he is there-- no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men.”

Cruising Fallujah, the marines stick to main street

The last time Corporal Dan Zimpfer was in Fallujah, he and his fellow US marines were in and out of every alleyway and side street in what was Iraq's most famous insurgent stronghold.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - This time around, however, he and his colleagues in "Weapons" company, 2nd Battalion 6th Regiment, stick to the main road and leave the rest of the city to the Iraqi army and police.


Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 (EST)

"We went everywhere last year," said Zimpfer, whose company patrolled Fallujah's streets in mid-2005 and early in 2006.

In contrast to many other cities in Iraq, which are seeing an increased American presence as part of the so-called "surge" in US forces, Fallujah's back streets have been turned over to a revitalised Iraqi police and army.

"Just compared to last year, it's a complete 180-degree difference," noted Staff Sergeant Jesse Scheertz.

Now, he said, the Iraqi police and army are cooperating and go on operations together, compared to a much more adversarial relationship a year ago.

For the marines that means there is less to do, and already after a little over a month in Fallujah, "Fran" as the military has dubbed the road, is getting rather monotonous.

"We've been doing this since we got here," said Zimpfer as his heavily armoured Humvee trundled slowly through the empty night streets after curfew.

Sporadic electric lighting and the odd stray dog scampering into the shadows did little to relieve the tedium.

"It's hard to stay focused, especially at night," he said, adding quickly: "But I'm usually pretty jittery -- I got hit a few times here last time."

Ahead a pair of tanks sat squat in the darkness as bulldozers demolished a marine observation point -- part of the ongoing pullback. In the morning, all that remained of a once heavily fortified position was a field of rubble.

Such rubble is all too common along this road, which bustles with activity during the day. The scars of the climactic November 2004 US marine assault to retake the city are evident everywhere.

Some buildings have only a stitching of machine gun fire across their facades, but elsewhere huge concrete buildings sag alarmingly, held together by little more than a spaghetti tangle of iron rebar.

Trash lies everywhere and the city's chaotic, largely generator-fed electrical system has resulted in a profusion of wires crossing the side streets in complex tangles.

There are signs of rebirth, however, and next to every shuttered or vacant store seems to be one sporting a brand new sign advertising tires, auto glass, mechanical parts, and also the city's once famous kebabs.

A mobile telephone service is a recent arrival to Fallujah, and now half a dozen stores along the main street sell phones and cards. But the network stopped working a week ago when insurgents blew up a number of transmission towers.

"They blew up the towers so that people couldn't call in tips about what the terrorists were doing any more. Just a few days ago this thing worked," said an Iraqi policeman, angrily waving his now useless phone as he manned a checkpoint into the city alongside an Iraqi soldier.

The lower US profile comes at a price, however, amid worries that less of a presence might be giving the insurgents more free rein.

Already there are signs that the number of incidents is increasing elsewhere in the city as the Iraqi army and police learn to cope with their new responsibilities.

"Not too much happens on Fran. They know we're here. Who's going to do something on the main street?" asked Corporal Stephen Gnagi as he patrolled, occasionally pulling over motorists and searching their cars.

"We've been pushing to go back into the alleys, but they say no," he added, referring to the vague world of higher command that dictates the lives of marines. "We need to start going into the houses."

The squads continuously driving two abreast up and down the two-lane highway in their Humvees almost seem like bored teenagers cruising main street in small-town USA, but the marines insist it has its role.

"We're still maintaining our presence here, to make sure they are doing their jobs," said Staff Sergeant Thomas Fuller, pointing out that no matter what, the company is constantly in the city and ready to provide backup.

Reports crackle over the radio nearly every day of shots fired at the marine posts lining the main drag, and just over a month ago insurgents mounted a concerted assault on the town centre complex of buildings housing the Iraqi police and army.

That attack was beaten off by the combined efforts of the Iraqi police and army.

"We're not really doing that much," said Gunnery Sergeant James E. Curtis, a 17-year veteran of the marine corps who fought in the first Gulf War. "It's up to them, which is fine by us."

Hornblower Marine Services renews Westpac Express Contract

Hornblower Marine Services (HMS) reports that the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) has re-chartered the High Speed Vessel Westpac Express. Hornblower has successfully bid to renew its contract to operate the vessel for an additional five years.


May 15, 2007

The U.S. Marine Corps Third Expeditionary Force originally leased Westpac Express in 2001 for a two-month "proof of concept" test period. During that time this High-Speed Vessel, built by Austal and operated by Hornblower Marine Services, was tested for its ability to transport troops, vehicles and equipment to off-island training sites in an efficient manner. It was then chartered in 2003 for a three-year period with a one-year extension. The latest contract renewal is for five additional years.

"Westpac Express has demonstrated a level or reliability and efficiency that has transformed the way training is conducted for the U.S. Marine Corps Third Expeditionary Force," says Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence S. Ryder, U.S. Marines Corps High Speed Craft Project Director. "Hornblower Marine Services, run by John Waggoner, has shown that large high speed ferries are reliable and dependable when properly operated and maintained. John's team provides that level of expertise to III MEF," adds Ryder.

May 14, 2007

Ships from Bonhomme Richard ESG Depart Singapore

USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR), USS Denver (LPD 9), and USS Rushmore (LSD 47) departed Singapore on May 12 after a three-day port visit.


Story Number: NNS070514-26
Release Date: 5/14/2007 4:50:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dustin Mapson, USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

During the port visit, Sailors and Marines from the San Diego-based ships explored the island’s culture and history, relaxed and participated in community service projects.

At the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care Center, volunteers raked leaves, trimmed hedges and helped improve the center’s overall visual appearance.

According to Aabian Anthony, a caretaker at the center, the project made a great difference in the overall appearance of the building.

“We welcomed these military volunteers with open arms,” said Anthony, a native of Singapore. “I was overjoyed with the support of this crew. It felt like they gave their maximum efforts. It would’ve taken a week to accomplish what these volunteers did in a couple of hours.”

Quartermaster 3rd Class Carrin Johnson, who volunteered at the center, said community service projects are a great way for the Navy and Marine Corps to show the community that they care.

“I like participating in community service projects because it lets people know that we actually care about the impression we make as a military unit,” said Johnson, who is stationed aboard Rushmore.

Others volunteered at Commander Logistics Group Western Pacific Fleet Industrial Support Center at the Sembawang Naval Base, testing and packing donated computers bound for schools in the region.

“We tested the computers out to make sure they were in a good working state,” said Amphibious Squadron 7’s Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Michel Muller. “If they were good, we got them ready to be donated to schools in the Philippines and Malaysia.”

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (AW) Jesus Farrera, stationed aboard BHR, said this was a good opportunity to put to work some of his knowledge for a good cause.

“I’ve had some experience with computers, so I thought, why not do something good,” said Farrera. “Even though this was a fairly simple project, it offered us the opportunity to help these schools out in an immense way.”

The many tours offered by the BHR’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department were a great way for Sailors and Marines to experience the island nation.

“We saw wild boars, spiders the size of your hand and monitor lizards,” said BHR Sailor Damage Controlman Fireman John Scurlock, who went on an MWR-sponsored mountain bike tour of Pulau Ubin Island. “It was nice to get out away from the ship and get some exercise.”

MWR also offered day and night tours of the city, a day trip to Sentosa Island, historical tours and dinner cruises.

The ethnic diversity of Singapore offered one Sailor an opportunity to experience a bit of his homeland.

“Little India was just like going to India,” said Machinist’s Mate Fireman Mohammed Z. Hassan, a BHR Sailor and native of Dhaka, Bangladesh. “They have really held on to the culture there. The style of dress, the food -- everything was authentic.”

Hassan said while in Little India he found a restaurant that served authentic dishes from his home country.

“It was nice to go to a restaurant that served food from Bangladesh,” said Hassan. “This was the first time in over a year that I got to eat food from home and speak my native language [Bengali].”

As the ships pulled out of Singapore, the Sailors and Marines took with them fond memories of Singapore’s beauty and hospitality, according to BHR Sailor Airman Nick E. Wolfe.

“This was the most scenic place I have ever been to and I met some of the friendliest people ever,” said Wolfe. “This port visit was an overall great experience.”

The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG) consists of Amphibious Squadron 7, Bonhomme Richard , Denver, Rushmore, USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Chosin (CG 65), and 2,200 combat-ready Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The BHRESG is underway on a regularly scheduled deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility and is currently under operational control of Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

Goodies from home

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, May 14, 2007

Friday was mail call for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, only their second since deploying from California in recent weeks. And Friday’s shipment to Forward Operating Base Hurricane Point was the first with boxes, care packages full of goods from home.

To continue reading:


Defense Department Blocks Internet Sites to Protect Grid

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2007 – The Defense Department is blocking access to many popular Internet sites from department-owned computers due to bandwidth issues, U.S. Strategic Command officials said today.


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Joint Task Force Global Network Operations, which directs the operation and defense of the Defense Department’s global information grid to assure timely and secure capabilities in support of the department’s warfighting, intelligence, and business missions, blocked 12 popular sites on government computers today.

The sites are: youtube.com, pandora.com, photobucket.com, myspace.com, live365.com, hi5.com, metacafe.com, mtv.com, ifilm.com, blackplanet.com, stupidvideos.com and filecabi.com.

The popularity of the sites has not affected operations yet, but blocking them prevents them from causing such a problem, officials said . “It is a proactive measure: we do not want a problem with demand for these sites clogging the networks,” a U.S. Strategic Command official said.

The blocks affect only Defense Department computers and local area networks that are part of the department’s global information grid. The department has more than 15,000 local and regional networks and more than 5 million computers in the grid.

Department officials stress they are not making a judgment about the sites. Blocking the sites “is in no way a comment on the content, purpose or uses of the Web sites themselves,” the official said. “It is solely a bandwidth/network management issue.”

Offices with a need to access these sites from government computers can request exceptions to the policy. Global network operations officials will continue to assess the stresses and strains on the global information grid, and may add or subtract sites as needed, officials said.

Defense Department Blocks Some Web Sites; Access to YouTube, MySpace, Other Sites Being Cut Off for Many in Military, General Says

Soldiers serving overseas will lose some of their online links to friends and loved ones back home under a Department of Defense policy that a high-ranking Army official said would take effect Monday.


By ROBERT WELLER Associated Press Writer
DENVER May 14, 2007 (AP)

The Defense Department will begin blocking access "worldwide" to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other popular Web sites on its computers and networks, according to a memo sent Friday by Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander.

MySpace Aims to Stop Reposting of VideosMeet the Men Behind MySpaceThe policy is being implemented to protect information and reduce drag on the department's networks, according to Bell.

"This recreational traffic impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth ability, while posing a significant operational security challenge," the memo said.

The armed services have long barred members of the military from sharing information that could jeopardize their missions or safety, whether electronically or by other means.

The new policy is different because it creates a blanket ban on several sites used by military personnel to exchange messages, pictures, video and audio with family and friends.

Members of the military can still access the sites on their own computers and networks, but Defense Department computers and networks are the only ones available to many soldiers and sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraqi insurgents or their supporters have been posting videos on YouTube at least since last fall. The Army recently began posting videos on YouTube showing soldiers defeating insurgents and befriending Iraqis.

But the new rules mean many military personnel won't be able to watch those achievements at least not on military computers.

If the restrictions are intended to prevent soldiers from giving or receiving bad news, they could also prevent them from providing positive reports from the field, said Noah Shachtman, who runs a national security blog for Wired Magazine.

"This is as much an information war as it is bombs and bullets," he said. "And they are muzzling their best voices."

The sites covered by the ban are the video-sharing sites YouTube, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos, and FileCabi, the social networking sites MySpace, BlackPlanet and Hi5, music sites Pandora, MTV, and 1.fm, and live365, and the photo-sharing site Photobucket.

Several companies have instituted similar bans, saying recreational sites drain productivity.

Teen sheds 106 pounds to join Marine Corps

CLEVELAND A high school student who wanted to join the Marines hired a personal trainer, got rid of the junk food in his diet and dropped 106 pounds in 10 months.


Monday, May 14, 2007

"I really wanted to be a Marine because they're the best of the best," said Logan Allie, 19, who once weighed 310 pounds. "I told myself, 'I want a challenge, and this is the biggest one I can get."'

Allie, who is down to 204 pounds, is scheduled to graduate June 18 from Olmsted Falls High School then ship out to Parris Island, S.C., for Marine recruit training.

With taut muscles and a bristly military buzz cut, Allie already looks the part as he runs with other recruits around an indoor track at nearby Middleburg Heights Community Center. They lift weights and work out twice a week under the watchful eye of Staff Sgt. Kevin Murphy, their recruiter.

At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Allie didn't really didn't look fat when he weighed more than 300 pounds, just pudgy. But for someone his height, the Marines want recruits below 237 when they report to boot camp.

Allie hired a personal trainer to design a high-protein, low-carb diet and workout program, paying for the sessions with money he has earned working at his family's business, Diamond Indoor Sports, an indoor baseball training facility in Westlake.

Joe Butler, of Prescription Fitness in Bay Village, said he persuaded Allie to eat oatmeal and some fruit for breakfast instead of four eggs and two slices of toast.

Allie's diet now consists of tuna, a cheese stick and an orange, apple and banana for lunch. For dinner, he has vegetables with a chicken breast, burger or steak.

There is no more soda or Gatorade. Instead, he drinks water.

"He learned that you don't have to be hungry to lose," Butler said.

By July of last year, Allie was down to 242 pounds, enough to qualify for the Marines' delayed entry program. But he didn't let up on diet or exercise, going back to school last fall at 220. He hit 204 in early March.

Allie can run a mile in 13 minutes and 30 seconds, does 45 crunches in two minutes and can do two pull-ups - all required of recruits before boot camp. "Recruit training is still going to be a challenge," Murphy said. "Drill instructors kind of see to that."

Kim Allie said her son has been an inspiration. Not only has she lost 17 pounds because of his example, she admires his decision to join the Marines with their tough reputation.

"It means everything to him," she said. "He thinks the other branches aren't as strict. He wanted to prove himself."

She worries about the possibility that her son could be sent off to war.

"I said to him, 'Logan, what happens if you don't come home?' He said, 'Then, I'll see you in heaven someday.' I'm glad he has such faith."

Though he has spent months getting himself in physical shape, Allie said he's ready to risk his life on the battlefield.

"I want to serve my country. If it's my time, it's my time," he said.

Allie is well-prepared for boot camp, Murphy said. "Logan has shown a lot of dedication. I've met a couple of other guys who were in the same boat as he was - and they aren't in the Marine Corps.

College honors Marine Corps general

SPRINGFIELD - Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul E. Lefebvre's military career has placed him in a position to help those who need it most


Monday, May 14, 2007

The 1975 Springfield College graduate was deputy director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command, which coordinated relief and evacuation efforts following the December 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

Lefebvre was not only in charge of organizing the United States' response to the disaster, but also that of 26 other nations who gave of their time and resources to alleviate suffering.

Lefebvre has also responded to conflicts in such countries as Haiti, Panama and Kosovo and has helped rebuild institutions and communities throughout the world.

Springfield College yesterday awarded Lefebvre an honorary doctoral degree in humanics, the study of human nature, during its undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Lefebvre is currently the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Eastern Recruiting Region.

Prior to the start of graduation, Lefebvre said he credited his success in the military to Springfield College and its focus on humanics.

The college's philosophy is based on the education of a student's spirit, mind and body for leadership in service to others.

Raised in West Hartford, Conn., Lefebvre earned his undergraduate degree in physical education.

His first exposure to the Marines came when he played against them as a Springfield College football player.

After graduation, he headed to Pennsylvania State University to coach football. Lefebvre said he decided to join the Marines with the intention of returning to his coaching job after three years.

Thirty years later, Lefebvre has made a career of serving his country and helping others.

Lefebvre also led a Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the Persian Gulf following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Lefebvre said Springfield College students have an advantage over other college graduates in finding opportunities because of the humanics philosophy. "It's not about getting; it's about giving," he said.

He noted ethical decision-making is the very fabric of the people and the nation. He credited the college with helping establish an ethical foundation in its students.

Marine recruits get taste of boot camp at Grissom

GRISSOM ARB - They are few in number.
They are proud because of the discipline and fortitude that they possess in achieving what it takes to become a United States Marine.



Monday, May 14, 2007

And on Saturday, May 12, 300 or so young men and women from throughout Indiana received their first dose of what it takes to reach the ultimate goal of becoming a Marine.

The USMC gathered a statewide pool of recruits for a day of training and motivation at Grissom Air Reserve Base to better prepare the recruits for their upcoming day of reporting to boot camp.

“It's a good opportunity to give them a chance to see what it is going to be like (at boot camp),” USMC Sgt. Jason Gallentine said. “They'll have drill instructors come out and speak to them, go through some PT (physical training). ...”

Two of the 11 area recruits that took part in the event learned some harsh lessons on Saturday, but are nonetheless, very excited about their future.

Northfield High School senior Timothy Crawford envisions a career in the Marine Infantry, as well as a brighter future for himself.

“I was going down a road that I didn't want to go down,” Crawford said for his reasoning behind his enlistment.

Since his enlistment in the delayed entry program, he has increased his focus on his future, most notably recently, on his physical training.

Crawford, who is the son of Robert and Brenda Crawford, Wabash, has been running two to three times each week to better prepare himself for the physical tests that await him. To enlist in the Marines, each recruit has to better 13:30 in the mile-and-a-half run, something that Crawford beat with no problem on Saturday. He also easily surpassed the “crunch” test of 44 in a two-minute span. However, the pull-up test was another matter.

“Pull-ups are harder for a bigger guy like me,” Crawford explained.

He did not complete a pull-up during the test Saturday, and must be able to perform two of them by the time he reports to duty later this year. Completing a pull-up may not sound that difficult to some, however, as the veteran Marines indicated in their behavior, demeanor and dress, shortcuts are not tolerated.

Each pull-up must start from a 180-degree nonmoving hanging position, then you must lift your chin over the bar, before completely unlocking your arms yet again.

That's one.

If one thinks that once boot camp is complete, the Marines slack off with their physical training, that would be a mistake. On Saturday, the fields of Grissom ARB looked like a Jack LaLanne fitness convention, as every veteran Marine was cut, clean, and courteous. The young kids may have shown up on Saturday with soft stomachs, ponytails (even a few of the guys), painted fingernails and ripped-up pants, but by Christmas, they'll look like “super heroes with guns,” as one staff sergeant used his son's description of what a Marine looks like.

With approximately 6 percent of the Marine Corps comprised of females, it was not just the males that were pushed physically and mentally on Saturday.

Wabash High School senior Michelle Mayo is fulfilling a dream she has had since September 11, 2001.

“(Michelle) saw those buildings come down and she said ‘Somebody has to do something about that,'” Robert Mayo said of his youngest daughter. Robert and his wife, Karen, LaFontaine, are “thrilled” that Michelle has chosen this career path.

“There are a lot easier paths to follow than joining the Marines,” Robert said. “It's not going to be easy, but she can do it.”

Actually enlisting in the Marines, whom she says “are the best,” was the easy part for Michelle. The difficult part was being accepted into the particular part of the Corps that she chose.

Mayo has been accepted into The Commandant's Own branch of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. This honor was the first awarded to a female to perform in the percussion section since 1981.

“I didn't know if she could (achieve that goal),” her father said. “I was a little afraid when she told me that is what she wanted to do that she would get her bubble burst. But she focused and kept working at it.”

Michelle, who said that her focus has been on “running and music for the past two years,” had to audition three times before receiving the honor, including a three-hour tryout in Madison, Wis.

Once in the Corps, she will report to Paris Island, S.C., for boot camp, but after that, she will go who knows where, as the select musical group travels all over the world for performances.

With the music tests over, Mayo has also blown away the physical challenges. Her score of 145 crunches in two minutes shattered the mark of 100, which is considered perfect by the Corps. In the run, Mayo cranked out a 12:48 and beat her goal of 1:20 in the chin-up hang by a couple of seconds.

That didn't mean Mayo's day was all smooth. Later in the event, a female drill instructor made sure that Mayo, and the rest of the females partaking in the operation, remained quite humble.

The instructors, which were every bit as intimidating in real life as they are in the movies, got their point across with interesting verbiage, much frequency, and with tremendous volume.

Mayo and her mates had to repeatedly perform push-ups for the slightest gaffe, such as brushing your hair away or simply looking in the improper direction.

Crawford and his group didn't enjoy any easier of a time, as the drill sergeant pulled out one soldier for “individual attention,” and he became so flustered during the questioning that he couldn't spit out his own name properly.

The recruits survived Saturday's exercise, however, “it will be turned up a notch” at boot camp according to one staff sergeant.

“Different people adjust differently,” Gallentine explained. “But about two weeks in, you learn when to talk, how to talk, when to eat, and what to do. From then on, you just focus on doing what you are supposed to and you can get through it.”

May 13, 2007

New York native serves Havelock; 'I pretty much found another family here,' says Wilson

HAVELOCK — When patrol officer LeChone Wilson bumps into a familiar face, he can often tell how long they have known him by the nickname they use.


Sue Book
Sun Journal
May 13, 2007 - 10:35PM

The 40-year-old New York native started out “Smiley.” And that’s a name that fits the face you see patrolling or at work as a school resource officer.

Wilson’s history in community service work started as volunteer in an Explorer Scout program with Boy Scout Post 106 when he was 12 to 14 years old.

“Back then, fire and emergency service was all-volunteer where I lived in Long Island (N.Y.) and I got involved as a junior fireman,” Wilson said.

For many, that evolved into a volunteer firefighter or EMS worker at 18, he said, but Wilson left early to join the Marine Corps after graduating high school at age 16.

He found Havelock in 1984 when he was stationed at Cherry Point after boot camp and worked in aircraft hydraulics on EA-6B Prowlers.

After four years in the Marine Corps, however, Wilson said went back to Long Island.

“I rejoined fire department Company Four a little while and got a job working for Allen Aircraft and Radio using my military skills at that job,” he said.

He attended the Nassau County Fire Academy and became a certified firefighter, but Wilson’s career was about the change again.

“The Marine Corps was the right choice for me, so I did it twice,” he said.

He re-enlisted, and before retiring, served 21 years, doing tours in Desert Storm, Desert Shield as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom in Saudi Arabia and then Fallujah, Iraq.

He was also in the Philippines during the eruption of a volcano and an attempted military coup of that country’s government and spent 2 1/2 years as a boot camp drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C.

But, Cherry Point was home base for him and his family, which includes wife Christine, daughter Lotoya, who attends Craven Community College, son Trevor, who attends Newport Middle School, and baby Meckenzie. His other two sons, Anthony and Raymond, are grown and on their own.

While doing aircraft maintenance at Cherry Point, he joined the Havelock Fire Department.

“I gravitated toward firefighting and community service,” he said.

He went through training and sought to become an emergency medical technician, passing the state exam.

“I got to know the firefighters and police officers, and everybody was just great,” he said. “I pretty much found another family here.”

But, world events kept deployments coming. By the time Wilson returned to Havelock, his certifications had lapsed.

He saw vacancies in the Havelock Police Department with reservists being called up to active duty and saw an opportunity.

While working during the day as a quality assurance division chief in the Marine Corps, he went to Carteret Community College at night for law enforcement training. He passed the state exam and was sworn in as a part-time police officer while he was still an active-duty Marine in June of 2004.

“I worked every weekend I could, mostly at night,” he said.

Wilson said he likes cars. His hobby is working on a now medium red, 1973 Nova hot rod he drove across country. He’s still looking for more time to take it to the track in Kinston.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “I like public service. I know you can’t do it all, life seems to fly by as fast as it did on active duty and you have to grab time for your own life and family.”

May 11, 2007

Pendleton unit switches future mission from MEU to OIF

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, calif. (May 11, 2007) -- West Pacific deployments typically consist of humanitarian assistance efforts in places such as Australia, Guam and Indonesia. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division is no longer slated to enjoy these stops now that their original assignment serving as the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has been redirected as a combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


May 11, 2007; Submitted on: 05/23/2007 02:25:56 PM ; Story ID#: 2007523142556
By Lance Cpl. Jerry Murphy, MCB Camp Pendleton

Stu Segall Productions provided real-life scenarios to Marines of Company L and Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, which they will face while deployed to Iraq, during a training evolution May 7-11.

“Going from deploying with the 31st MEU to OIF threw off some of our young Marines who haven’t been deployed yet,” said Sgt. Luis A. Macias, squad leader, Company L. “But we have great leaders who’ve experienced combat to help guide those new Marines and make sure they know what is necessary for Iraq.”

3rd Bn., 5th Marines, recently returned from training at Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif. and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. to prepare for their deployment with the Okinawa-based 31st MEU, but it was passed down from Headquarters Marine Corps that the battalion would instead be deploying to Iraq.

“We were caught off-guard a little but are confident we know what we’re doing, and we will get the job done,” said Macias, a 29-year-old from Panama City. “No matter what our mission is, the Darkhorse is always ready.”

The training schedule was revamped by special operations training groups in order for the battalion to receive the proper training for OIF.

“This is the best training you can get before deploying,” said Lance Cpl. Justin W. Lillywhite, squad leader, Company L. “It gives you a chance to experience what a real IED is and what insurgents in Iraq will do.”

This training is different from deploying with a MEU because its mission can change constantly, meaning the Marines will not always know where they will be going or what they will be doing, said Staff Sgt. Narciso C. Aleman, platoon sergeant, Company L.

Deploying with OIF, the battalion knows exactly where it is going and what their mission is, which makes for a more typical training schedule, Aleman said.

There are four training blocks that are required in order for Marines to deploy:
Block one involves elementary skills as basic marksmanship training, common combat skills, swim qualifications and physical fitness tests. Block two delves further into marksmanship training, IED recognition, motorized operations and precombat actions.

Training block three is designated for non-OIF units, and block four consists of Mojave Viper, Stu Segall’s training and other various exercises used to portray combat environments.

“When it comes to combat readiness, there isn’t a more-prepared unit in the Marine Corps than 3/5,” said 21-year old Lillywhite, originally from Aztec, N.M. “The Corps can tell us we’re deploying tomorrow, and we’ll be ready.”

Motor transportation mechanics keep MLG rolling

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (May 11, 2007) -- The Marines of 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) send hundreds of vehicles out on Iraq’s roadways to provide logistical support to all the units in Al Anbar Province. However, for every turning wheel there is a turning wrench responsible for keeping it going.


May 11, 2007; Submitted on: 05/11/2007 12:57:07 AM ; Story ID#: 20075110577
By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Those vehicles need maintaining and the Marines of Motor Transportation Maintenance, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd MLG (Fwd) are up to the challenge.

Corporal Jeremy Roberts, an Amarillo, Texas, native is a noncommissioned officer that works behind the scenes with his fellow Marines taking on the task of never-ending maintenance.

Roberts explained that his unit is responsible for performing preventive maintenance and repairing trucks damaged in combat as well as those damaged by everyday wear and tear.

Maintaining such a mammoth fleet is no small task, but the Marines say that the operational pace helps them combat the strains of separation.

“We work a lot,” Roberts explained. “I get homesick but the environment is great.”

Smiling faces can be seen around the work bays where these Marines work. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a neighborhood garage in the U.S. Loud music is barely audible over the sounds of tools and Marines exchanging conversation and laughter.

“Getting to know the younger Marines is my favorite part,” Roberts said. “Seeing them change and come to you for advice.”

Roberts, who has a wife and child back home, works right alongside his younger mechanics as they work on their daily tasks.

“They are the body of this unit,” he continued. “They make all this stuff happen. If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t get done.”

The relaxed environment is something Roberts has come to benefit from.

“When you are working on the same bolt for an hour, having someone to talk to is what keeps you from flipping out and throwing it across the lot,” he said.

Lance Cpl. Michael J. Pennington joined the Marine Corps as a mechanic to learn something new and is one of the shop’s junior Marines. His favorite part is troubleshooting. It is always the first step and that starts with figuring out the cause of the damage.

Many of the small repairs can be handled by the driver but when the driver really “messes it up” it comes in to motor transportation maintenance.

“Sometimes I want to tell these guys to take better care of their stuff,” he said referring to the drivers. “If you were to go into battle on a warhorse, you wouldn’t want that horse to be skin and bones. You would water it and feed it, if not, it might not get you very far. Vehicles are the same way.”

After the initial damage assessment, they begin to scour the base for parts to make the repair, explained Staff Sgt. Gregory B. McKinney, the Motor Transportation Maintenance section chief.

“We don’t order parts unless we absolutely have to,” the Detroit native said. “Once we receive all the parts the repair ideally gets done in less than 72 hours.”

The Marines then take on their next task, whatever it may be, like a well-oiled machine,
McKinney said, whose hometown is ironically nicknamed “The Motor City”.

“We have such a high caliber of Marines. No matter what the task, they will do what is required and more.” McKinney concluded.

Bravo takes to the streets of Haditha

HADITHA, Iraq (May 11, 2007) -- Tasked with defeating insurgents, gaining the trust of the local populace, coordinating reconstruction and other humanitarian projects, Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment of Regimental Combat Team-2 and members of the Iraqi Police are immersed in counterinsurgency (coin) operations.


May 11, 2007; Submitted on: 05/11/2007 08:28:16 AM ; Story ID#: 200751182816
By Cpl. Rick Nelson, 2nd Marine Division

Conducting operations in the Haditha Triad region of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, Cpl. Cody Hromada, assistant patrol leader, Bravo Company, 1/3 and Iraqi Police Lieutenant “Jack”, understand the war they fight.

Jack (whose name remains anonymous for security reasons) is satisfied with the Marines being here. Working side by side with the Marines, Jack knows they are vital to the success of the Iraqi Police.

“They help us with everything and before they got here the town wasn’t as safe as it is now,” Jack elaborated. “People in town used to never speak to us because they were scared for their lives, but now they come out and invite us into their homes for dinner.”

On a recent patrol, Hromada noticed a piece of copper wire on the ground and followed it over a wall.

“I kept following it and noticed that it led into the road underneath the cement, so we called EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) and it turned out to be an IED,” Hromada said.

Understanding his role as a noncommissioned-officer, Hromada is getting to know the local people and children by going on patrols and handing out candy and school supplies.

“The people notice we’re a new unit and have been very friendly, welcoming us with food and being very helpful,” Hromada said. “We just want to do anything and everything we can to show the locals that we’re here for them. The more understanding they are that we’re here to help, the less likely they’ll be to take the side of the insurgents.”

Conducting security patrols, IED sweeps, raids and other operations can be taxing on anyone. But Jack, once an officer in the Iraqi Army, explained how the Marines’ actions and operations have worked to better this area,.

“Before, everyday we had many mortar and sniper attacks,” Jack said. “When we went out we would be shot at. The civilians have changed and will actually talk to us without being scared.”

Both Hromada and Jack said they feel their efforts will bring stability and security to the region.

“At any given time we have a section outside the wire,” Hromada said, “and that’s what it’s all about, getting out there and getting the bad guys out of the city, so the people can go on with their lives. I mean, this is what we’re here for, to help the locals and keep them safe.”

Order up: Marines air deliver supplies to COP Timberwolf

Al ASAD, Iraq (May 11, 2007) -- Just like a football team’s defense and offense work together to win a game, different parts of the Marine Air Ground Task Force come together to provide support for Marines on the ground.


May 11, 2007; Submitted on: 05/11/2007 02:23:48 AM ; Story ID#: 200751122348
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

The air delivery Marines of Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), in coordination with Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 252 (Reinforced), provided much needed supplies to Combat Outpost Timberwolf, April 21.

“This air drop brings in a great deal of needed supplies without putting people on the roads,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick McElhone, the weapons executive officer for 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

The Marines delivered more than 33,400 pounds of supplies, which included water, Meals, Ready-to-Eat and various other supplies.

“We dropped a total of 18 (container delivery systems),” said Staff Sgt. Robb McBride, the air delivery staff noncommissioned officer in charge. “This is what we came out here to do, support the warfighters on the ground.”

The CDS were dropped out of the back of the KC-130J at night to provide better coverage for the aircraft and the Marines on the ground.

“The squadrons like to come in blacked out (without any lights on) because it keeps the threat down,” said McBride. “It’s a little bit harder for us, but we can use (Night Vision Goggles). It is a lot safer for all of us.”

This was the first time that a drop has been done in more than a year, but the air delivery Marines are optimistic about having future drops.

“I think that we are underutilized, because people don’t know about our capabilities,” explained McBride. “This is the tip of the iceberg of what we can do. Hopefully we can get more requests.”

Although this was the first drop in a long time, the Marines feel that the mission was a success.

“It was 100 percent mission accomplishment,” said Cpl. David Ulrich, an air delivery specialist for TS Company, CLB-2. “We got them all their gear without any incidents.”

May 10, 2007

Marines Try To Regain City's Trust

During a lull in fighting, officers seek to reassure Haditha residents that they will not abandon them to the insurgents.

HADITHA, IRAQ - The weather was desert hot. But the Pepsi was nicely cold. After acting as gracious host, the mayor here made his point. "The people of Germany and Japan would not have made progress without the Americans," Mayor Abdul Hakim M. Rasheed told the Marine officers who recently came to his heavily guarded home. "The people of Iraq deserve the same."


Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
May 10, 2007

The Marines, including three generals, quickly assured Rasheed that they had no plans to abandon him and his city. Don't be distracted by the political debate in Washington, they urged Rasheed, who listened closely and nodded. Since 2004, the vast, western province of Al Anbar has been the most dangerous part of Iraq for U.S. forces - the center of the Sunni-led insurgency. But Marines here have been experiencing a respite in recent weeks. Attacks against Marines and other troops are at their lowest point in four years.

In the six weeks since his battalion arrived, Lt. Col. James Bierman, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, has seen five of his troops wounded but none killed; the battalion that preceded his suffered 24 deaths and 230 wounded in seven months.

But Marine commanders are convinced the lull will pass quickly. They predict a counteroffensive by insurgents here in the Euphrates River valley, possibly including attacks on civilians and U.S. forces. In recent days, insurgents have staged high-profile attacks in Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar. Before the violence escalates here, Marine commanders are trying to take advantage of the relative quiet to reassure their allies and step up their operations.

In 2004, Marines twice pulled out of Haditha to fight in Fallouja. Both times, insurgents took bloody revenge on residents who had cooperated with the Americans. Some were rounded up, marched to the town's soccer field and executed.

As Marine commanders try to reassure Rasheed and others that they will not be abandoned again, their strategy can largely be described as more: more engagement with tribal sheiks, more efforts to train Iraqi security forces, more troops, more patrols to find and rout members of Al Qaeda in Iraqi and other insurgent groups, and more positioning of Marines amid the civilian populace. A Navy river patrol squadron has been moved to the Euphrates in case fighting spreads along the waterway.

The Marines say the insurgent movement here is splintering and factions are feuding, but that the movement remains violent. A weapons cache discovered recently included a French-made surface-to-surface missile.

A leading tribal sheik friendly to the U.S. was killed recently by four gunmen who found their way to his home on a tiny island in the Euphrates. The sheik's picture now hangs in Rasheed's office - the mayor refers to him as a "martyr."

The insurgency is "a wounded animal," Bierman said. "Wounded animals are always dangerous."

Many former officers of the Iraqi army and Baath Party members live here, and the towns here along the Euphrates valley provide a route for insurgents traveling from the Syrian border toward Baghdad.

"The enemy wants the Triad back," Bierman added, referring to the area that includes Haditha and the nearby cities of Barwanah and Haqlaniya. "This is area is too important to him - he's going to come back." For months last year, Marines routinely engaged in nightly gunfights here. Finally, after berms were built to restrict traffic into the city, including the crowded marketplace, the insurgents largely retreated.

But winning back the trust of Haditha residents has been a slow and fitful process. On a recent day, U.S. forces walked the downtown streets, talking to shopkeepers, inquiring whether Marines are treating residents with respect.

"Yes, yes," said Mohammed Alnear, whose shop, Cleopatra Ceramics, sells pottery materials. At a bicycle shop, the proprietor said he remembered "the terrible days" when insurgents with AK-47s roamed the streets and residents "were like scared animals, hiding." With encouragement from tribal sheiks, young men are enlisting in the local police force. Still, the force is still only half of its authorized strength.

Marine commanders say their success in reducing insurgent violence in Haditha and other areas of Al Anbar is an indication that a "surge" of troops, like that being tried by the Army in Baghdad, can succeed. But they note that a surge is a beginning, not an end.

Rasheed indicated that he remained concerned that the Americans, in their haste to hand over control to Iraqis, might leave behind a City Council whose members are, in effect, insurgents in disguise, waiting for the U.S. departure.

"We have to be careful," Rasheed said through an interpreter. This time, it was the Marines' turn to listen and nod.

1/1 tests Marines' resiliency, endurance, knowledge

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (May 10, 2007) -- Exhausted and out-of-breath, the toughest Marines pushed forward while others were forced to stop altogether.


May 10, 2007; Submitted on: 05/10/2007 04:09:29 PM ; Story ID#: 200751016929
By Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll, MCB Camp Pendleton

“Not second squad,” yelled Cpl. Ryan J. Carlisle to his squad. “Do we stop to puke? Hell no, second squad doesn’t stop to puke!”

Marines of 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division held an Infantry Skills Endurance Test squad competition here May 27. The winning squad received a free dinner at a local steakhouse.

Everybody loves a prize, but it isn’t so much about the steak as it is about unit cohesion and good training, said Lance Cpl. Nelson L. Smith, a fire-team leader with 1st Bn., 1st Marines.

“First off, we learn what their weaknesses are and how they react in a stressful environment,” Smith said. He said knowing his Marines’ weaknesses helps for retraining purposes and then comes into play later in a combat environment.

“Having that knowledge before we get in country is a necessity,” Carlisle agreed. Carlisle, a 23-year-old from Sheridan, Ind., will soon lead Smith and the rest of his squad into Iraq and the rigors of desert combat.

“We need to know who our strong guys are and who our weak guys are, because it better enables us to accomplish our mission,” Carlisle said. The exercise also showed the younger, less experienced Devil Dogs what the Marine Corps expects in today’s combat.

“These are basic infantry skills which we should all know inside and out, and it shouldn’t even faze us if we’re tired, out of breath or sweating,” Carlisle said.

The exercise spanned approximately eight miles and tested the Marines in six primary facets of war-fighting knowledge. Assembly and disassembly of weapons, land navigation, calling in a casualty evacuation, marksmanship, anti-tank rocket handling, hand-to-hand combat and an obstacle course all stood in between the Marines and their steak dinner.

“It tests our endurance and our squad cohesion, under a timeline during strenuous activities,” Carlisle said.

Running in full combat gear from station to station fatigued the riflemen, whereas written tests on weapons and cultural awareness forced them to focus. The Marines had almost five hours to complete the entire course. Carlisle’s squad finished in four.

As for the squad’s place or the prize, these leaders didn’t care much for free steak, they had a different prize in mind.

“It’s up to you to teach them what you know,” said Smith, a 21-year-old from Winter Springs, Fla. “So they come back alive, so that you don’t have to explain to their parents why they didn’t.”

May 9, 2007

2nd LAAD Battalion provides deterrence though vigilance as Team Guardian

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 9, 2007) -- In effort to keep the service members and civilians aboard Al Asad safe, one group of Marines has been dedicated to providing external and internal security.
2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion is currently assigned to provide security for all of Al Asad.


May 9, 2007; Submitted on: 05/09/2007 04:59:28 AM ; Story ID#: 20075945928
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

“We have got the external and internal security of the base,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Barnhill, the 2nd LAAD Bn. commanding officer. “We are doing patrols, entry control point work and manning the towers. Internally, we are doing the (Provost Marshal’s Office) duty and badging. I have got Marines on post 24-7.”

Unlike most of the units in the Marine Corps, a large majority of the Marines who are providing security with 2nd LAAD are individual augments.

“We have 18 different commands represented that are doing this mission attached to 2nd LAAD,” said Barnhill. “They are all fired up and doing a tremendous job. To take all these Marines from different units and merge them into a very cohesive unit in a certain period of time, it’s humbling to watch it happen.”

Although the Marines come from different units and military occupational specialties, they all work as a team under one motto, “Team Guardian: Deterrence through vigilance.”

“You have to look at it as seamless defense, and that is the way we have attacked this mission,” said Barnhill.

The battalion is broken into batteries that are charged with different missions.

Bravo Battery is responsible for an Entry Control Point, external security and a section of towers.

“(The patrols help) protect the base. I was here two years ago and we would find like two IEDs a week, this time around it’s a lot less,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Michael T. Jansen, the Bravo Battery gunnery sergeant for 2nd LAAD Bn. “We are basically out there to show enemy forces that we are still in the area and that they will not access this base on our watch.”

The Marines at the ECPs work eight hour shifts and ensure that nothing dangerous enters the base.

“It’s good getting to make sure that no one is sneaking stuff on base,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua A. Cheney, a 2nd LAAD gunner and ECP Marine. “We use the same scrutiny everyday and just try to make sure everything runs smoothly and safely.”

The Marines of 1st Stinger Battery are in charge of the rest of the watch towers on base, an
Entry Control Point and also conducts patrols to deter the enemy.

“The Marines are looking for anything suspicious, like vehicles, personnel or anything that is not supposed to be happening out there and they call in and report it,” Sgt. Dain Smith, the sergeant of the guard for a section of towers, 1st Stinger Battery. “If something suspicious is happening they have the Quick Reaction Force go out there.”

While the other batteries are responsible for the exterior security of the base, the Marines of Alpha Battery are busy ensuring the safety inside the base.

“Basically we are like regular MPs back in the states, we make regular traffic stops, although we are not out here just for that,” said Sgt. Todd W. Wegforth, a watch commander for PMO, Alpha Battery. “Our main job is internal security for the base. We go out and set up (vehicle checkpoints) throughout the base. We have multiple teams out there setting up checkpoints, walking patrols or just out looking for something (suspicious).”

Although the Marines of Alpha Battery know that all facets of security are important, they feel that the internal security they provide is key to keeping Al Asad safe.

“I think our job is very important, we are kind of like the last line defense,” said Wegforth.

Although most of 2nd LAAD’s Marines are dedicated to providing security, the headquarters battery Marines are the ones behind the scenes supporting the operations.

“I work on the trucks out here, but it’s a really good feeling knowing that we are part of the mission,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Butzer, electrical equipment repair specialist, currently assigned to Headquarters Battery. “Fixing the trucks, getting them out on time, making sure that the Marines are ready to go when they go outside the wire; I feel like we are doing a lot out here.”

For the 2nd LAAD Marines, teamwork is the key that opens the door to success, according to Sgt. Maj. Todd Parisi, the 2nd LAAD Bn. sergeant major.

“If I had to break it down beyond that, I would put it upon the mighty shoulders of our noncommissioned officers,” said Parisi. “Without that NCO link, the entire chain, from the CO down, would snap, but because it is strong and fortified, the process is unbelievable and the Marines are doing magnificent. They’ll leave you short of breath to watch them in action. To be able to catch on to those coattails and fly behind them in their vapor trail is something special and makes me very proud and honored to be their sergeant major.”

May 8, 2007

Marine Drowns Saving 2 Boys Off North Carolina Beach

ALMA, Mich. — A U.S. Marine drowned after saving two children who were swimming off Atlantic Beach in North Carolina, the military said.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Associated Press

Master Sgt. Michael Wert, an intelligence chief for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C., was vacationing this past weekend with his family at the beach when he saw two boys struggling in the surf, the Marines said in a statement.

His wife, Debbie, said her husband rushed into the water to help while she went to call 911. Their daughter, Katrina, grabbed a boogie board and followed Wert, a Michigan native, into the water.

"She managed to help the boys onto the board, but didn't see her dad with them," Debbie Wert said in the statement. "The one little boy told her (Michael Wert) had to let them go and had died."

Rescue personnel found Wert but could not revive him.

Wert joined the Marines in 1989 after graduating from Alma High School, where he was a cross-country runner, The Saginaw News reported. He served in Operation Desert Storm and supported Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"He was a good student and a fine young man," said school secretary Anne Jarrett. "He died trying to save someone else. Not many people would do that."

Alma City Manager Phillip J. Moore said some in the small community north of Lansing have called city hall to see how they can help the family.

"It's a tragedy, but we are all proud of him," Moore said.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Wert is survived by two other children, his parents and two siblings.

A memorial service was scheduled for Wednesday at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Visitation was scheduled for Friday at Dewey Funeral Home in Alma, with funeral services Saturday at Alma United Methodist Church.

May 6, 2007

Better brain-injury tests planned for troops

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon must use computers to screen troops before and after they go to Iraq or Afghanistan to better determine whether they suffered traumatic brain damage in combat, according to a plan by a congressional brain-injury task force.


By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
May 4, 2007

The Defense Department should also develop more brain-injury research and improve specialized care for what experts are calling the signature wound of these wars, one that often goes undetected until returning troops have memory or behavior problems.

Congress has authorized a record $450 million for brain-injury treatment and research in the Iraq spending bill being negotiated by Congress and the White House. Legislators say the Pentagon acted slowly on this issue.

"The military was blindsided by the number of blast injury victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is clear that the proper resources were never in place to care for them," says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., co-chairman and founder of the 112-member Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.

From 125,000 to 150,000 U.S. troops may have suffered mild, moderate or severe brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pascrell estimates. That's a hidden population of wounded that far exceeds the official casualty figures of 26,000.

Between 10% and 20% of the returning troops screened at a few individual military bases may have suffered brain injuries, Pentagon spokesman Chuck Dasey says.

The increased funding parallels a growing sense of urgency within the civilian and military scientific community about adequate means of treating this growing category of wounded.

A Pentagon mental health task force Thursday warned that twin challenges of brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder have "exposed gaps" in the Defense health system.

Dr. Gregory Poland, chairman of a Pentagon scientific advisory panel that criticized the Defense Department's failure to track and diagnose brain injury, says his committee will re-examine the issue in a few months. "We really need to do something about this," Poland said.

Military scientists devised a brain-injury screening process years ago, but the Pentagon has not started using it on all returning troops, Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says.

Such screenings can identify troops who are still suffering symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty concentrating or irritability.

Modern body armor has enabled troops to survive many roadside bomb blasts, but they still remain vulnerable to undetected brain injuries, says Dr. Barbara Sigford, the VA's director for physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Repeated combat deployments for troops makes it even more important for the Pentagon and VA to "to be providing the services that they require," Sigford says.

Last month, Sigford says, the VA started traumatic-brain-injury screening for every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who arrives at one of the department's 1,400 medical facilities. The extra money approved by Congress will be welcome, she says.

May 3, 2007

Marines Bar 17-Year-Olds from Combat

In an effort to rebut accusations of child soldiering within the U.S. military, the Marine Corps recently revised a policy regarding the deployment of Marines younger than 18 years of age to combat zones.


Military.com | Kelly Johnson | May 03, 2007

The newly updated policy prohibits 17-year-old servicemembers from being operationally deployed, which includes rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan. The revised policy does not apply to 17-year-old Marines who deploy for individual unit training or for exercises to non-combat areas.

According to the message, offically delineated as "MarAdmin 272/07": "The [child soldier protocol] states parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of the their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities."

The directive outlines rules against assigning a 17-year-old Marine to a unit scheduled to operationally deploy prior to his or her 18th birthday.

The revised policy comes in the wake of the “Free Children from War” conference held in Paris several months ago. French newspapers covering the conference reported that the United States and Great Britain deployed “child soldiers”— soldiers 17 years of age and younger — to Iraq. One report quoted France’s foreign affairs minister who said, “This [use of children as combatants] is a time bomb.”

La Liberation reported, “Great Britain and the U.S. sent soldiers who were under 18 to Iraq until 2005.” And La Croix, another French paper, found that “15 British soldiers aged 17, including four women … have been sent to Iraq to fight since 2003.”

The Pentagon could not verify the reports, but Marine Major Stewart Upton, a spokesman, did admit the press accounts were the impetus for a DoD directive reminding the services to not deploy minors to combat.

“Those reports suggested potentially inappropriate assignments among the U.S. and U.K. that, however small, would be a source of concern,” Upton wrote in an emailed response to Military.com. “Hence the reminder to the services.”

The Corps-wide message also directs the service to “identify actions” of child soldiering and to eliminate these occurrences immediately. And, for the future, commanding officers will ensure that Marines in their unit — younger than 18 — will be identified with a "P" duty limitation code.

For more information about the revised policy visit www.usmc.mil.