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November 30, 2007

Parade deck etiquette is a matter of tradition

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Nov. 30, 2007) -- Millions of young Americans have earned the title of United States Marine and have marched countless miles across Shepherd Memorial Drill Field here at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.


Nov. 30, 2007; Submitted on: 11/29/2007 03:28:51 PM ; Story ID#: 20071129152851
By Lance Cpl. Carrie Booze, MCRD San Diego

The drill field is a revered and respected part of the depot where civilians become Marines. There is even an order that delineates what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior pertaining to the drill field.

“The drill field is a historic landmark where many Marines who have died for this country once marched; therefore the rules should be respected,” said Gunnery Sgt. Samuel Mortimer, chief drill instructor, Company B, 1st Battalion.

Only men and women in uniform are allowed the privilege of walking on the drill field. Depot personnel and visitors are also not authorized to wear civilian attire, talk on cellular phones, smoke, spit or carry gift exchange bags, while on the parade deck, according to Regimental Order 1510.37H.

Although everyone may not be familiar with these rules, they have been in effect since the depot was established, said Staff Sgt. Martin Huizar, drill master, 1st Battalion.

Depot personnel and visitors are reminded that if they want to talk on cell phones or smoke, they must step off the drill field or go behind the bleachers to do so.

The only bags that are authorized to be carried while crossing the drill field are military issued bags, said Huizar. No personal bags are allowed on the drill field.

“As easy as the rules may seem, they are broken daily,” he said. “When civilians cross the parade deck without knowing I understand. But when they are briefed prior to our ceremonies and argue and question our heritage, it is a sign of disrespect.

“As drill masters, the parade deck is very important to us. The parade deck is the home for close order drill which is the foundation of discipline and esprit de corps,” said Huizar.

“It is not an asphalt road, huge side walk, or short cut to the other side. It is where Marines are born, and where we continue our traditions of excellence associated with drill,” said Huizar.

November 28, 2007

Sasebo-based Essex headed to Cambodia instead of Bangladesh

Pacific edition, Wednesday, November 28, 2007

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Essex was rerouted from a planned disaster relief mission to Bangladesh, the U.S. Navy announced Monday.

To continue reading:


United States Marines Visit Cambodia

According to the U.S. Marines, there was a planned port visit to Cambodia for members of the U.S. Navy and Marines. Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Command Amphibious Squadron 11 and USS Essex arrived in port recently. Cambodia is located next to Thailand and Viet Nam, and due to its location near the equator, is actually in the tropics.


By Jane Patrick
Published Nov 28, 2007

The purpose of the visit was to give dental and medical care to citizens of Cambodia that do not normally have access to a doctor. They were also there to work on engineering projects, work with youth, deliver supplies, and talk with officials. Over 2,500 military personnel showed up for the event, and supplies such as clothes, toys, and books were brought in to help out.

"Over the course of the next week, Marines and Sailors coming from the Essex will conduct two medical and dental clinics, build two bridges and participate in six community relations projects," said Colonel John Mayer, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer. "We will also (teach at) the National Defense University to help students with English and to understand our military forces."

The military members that are located in Cambodia have been given a budget for their work in the amount of $26,000 for building material, $2,000 for community events, and $10,000 for medical needs.

Military leaders and Government official talked and discussed the possibilities that could come from the goodwill of this visit.

The Cambodian U.S. Embassy deputy chief of mission, Piper Campbell, mentioned how this one visit would encourage a deeper friendship with the U.S. that will get stronger with more visits.

One of the pluses of the visit is that Cambodian citizens will have the opportunity to meet with the U.S. soldiers and get to know them better as people.

Campbell thanked the governor of Sihanoukville and the Government as a whole for helping to make this event happen, and Colonel John Mayer said he was grateful to be given the chance to come to the area.

"On behalf of all the Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, I would like to thank each and every one of you for having our Marines and Sailors visit the Kingdom of Cambodia," said Mayer, to members of the Royal Government of Cambodia, during a visit to the Essex

Mayer went on to mention that the troops were eager to visit the area and see the opportunity that lies before them.

The Cambodia Theater Security Cooperation was set up to create better relations between the Cambodian people and the U.S.

USS Germantown visits Saipan

The USS Germantown, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, will arrive on Saipan today, Nov. 28, for a four-day R&R; visit. Home-ported in San Diego, the Germantown carries both sailors and Marines, with 45 officers and 680 enlisted personnel.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saipan Chamber of Commerce executive director Christine Parke and Armed Forces Committee co-chair will be in the briefing party and will distribute the Chamber's military discount brochure.

USS Germantown to call on Saipan

OVER 700 Navy personnel aboard the USS Germantown will arrive on Saipan for their rest and relaxation.


Wednesday November 28, 2007
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

Military and Veterans Affairs Office executive officer Ruth Coleman said the ship has a crew of 725 and is returning from military exercise somewhere in the Pacific.

The ship is expected to arrive at 8 a.m. today.

The Military and Veterans Affairs Office will lead the welcoming ceremony and brief the visiting military personnel about activities on the island.

She said the military personnel led by Cmdr. Steve Vince plans to meet with members of the community and businesses on Saipan.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will also be welcoming the sailors, Coleman said.

Mariana Islands Nature Alliaance executive director Angelo Villagomez said the visitors will also participate in cleanup activities.

Coleman said the ship will be leaving on Sunday.

The USS Germantown is the second Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship in the U.S. Navy and the second Navy ship named after the Revolutionary War battle at Germantown.

The amphibious assault ship’s mission is to project power ashore by transporting and launching amphibious craft and vehicles loaded with Marines in support of an amphibious assault.

The ship was designed specifically to operate with landing craft air cushion vessels. It has the largest capacity for these landing craft of any Navy amphibious platform.

The ship was commissioned in 1986 and played a significant role during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990–1991.

The Germantown supported Operation Iraqi Freedom by landing Marines and equipment from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Training in tight quarters no problem for Marines

ABOARD USS TARAWA(Nov. 28, 2007) -- Desert convoy operations training aboard a ship? Absolutely, say Marine instructors here, who are conducting a five-day heavy machine gun employment, desert survival training and field radio operations course.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #: 2007112973122

“Marines can train anywhere,” said Sgt. Andrew G. Mulder, field radio operator instructor, command element, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif. “All it
takes is a little imagination and flexibility.”

Mulder is one of several Marine instructors who take their training seriously and who are spearheading a “shoot, move and communicate refresher” training designed for sergeants aboard the amphibious ship on their deployment through the Western Pacific Ocean and Arabian Gulf region.

“Sergeants are the leaders and the trainers,” so it is natural to have sergeants training sergeants, said CWO3 Robert T. Garcia, officer in charge, command element.

“The intent is to have each sergeant take back these “hip-pocket” (informal) classes and pass on the knowledge to their Marines,” said Garcia. The lessons they learn on the ship will serve as a foundation for their scheduled live-fire desert training the Marines and sailors will receive in the Arabian Gulf region next month.

During the first day, Marines took turns getting behind the trigger of a heavy machine gun on the Tarawa’s hangar bay as the amphibious ship sliced its way through dark blue water of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the sergeants have been on at least one deployment, so most were oblivious to the beauty outside and immune to noxious affect of the swaying deck. Their focus was on the weapon in front of them and the lesson at hand. The instructors reviewed the weapon conditions, safety and employment of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), M240G Medium Machine Gun and M2 .50 Caliber Heavy Machine and then tested each participant on their ability to break each weapon down, put it back together and dry-fire it.

On day two, some students received an introduction to convoy operations, learned how to conduct individual and vehicle pre-combat checks and inspections, how to plan a convoy and do vehicle preventive maintenance checks and services. On that day, the Marines were taught in the cramped and humid bowels of the ship. The next class they have on this subject will most likely be along a desert road and under a scorching desert sun.

During the third day and communications portion of the course and in the middle of the late afternoon rush hour, two groups of approximately two dozen sergeants were nestled between the gap of the ship’s bulkhead (wall) and the side of a CH53E Super Stallion, listening intently to their instructors.

Due to limited space aboard the ship, this was the only place Mulder, and instructors Sgt. Justin H. Cook, Radio Reconnaissance Team Leader and Cpl. Eric B. Gonzales, field radio operator, could conduct their basic radio operations class. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of daily ship traffic, and despite minor interruptions, the class continued and Marines sent their radio traffic across the distance of a helicopter rather than distance of a desert.

According to Garcia, most Marines have cycled through three of the five elements of the training since the course began Nov. 24.

No desert on a ship. No problem, say the Marines. The high heat and humidity of the ship’s hangar bay can make a Marine sweat just as much as the desert. It makes a “good enough” training environment to conduct the fourth event, desert survivability and troop leading steps, said Mulder.

During the final day, the sergeants will learn about the parts of an operations and convoy orders. The class will be broken up into groups and the teams will have to work together to develop a convoy operations order and then brief it to their peers. The peer group interaction will help the sergeants develop their leadership skills. Leadership development is important to us because the sergeants will be running the show when the MEU goes ashore, said Garcia.

According to Garcia, there is another purpose to the course.

“We have supply, communications, administration, logistics and intelligence Marines here. Each has different abilities and brings something different to the table,” he said. “We want them to come together, back each other up and help each other improve.”

November 27, 2007

3rd MEB arrives in Bangladesh to aid Sidr victims

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Nov. 27, 2007) -- The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade staff arrived here Nov. 23 to begin leading U.S. military relief efforts in the wake of Cyclone Sidr, which ravaged the country’s southern coast Nov. 15.


Nov. 27, 2007; Submitted on: 11/26/2007 11:36:18 PM ; Story ID#: 20071126233618
By Cpl. Eric D. Ardnt, MCB Camp Butler

More than 3,000 people were killed and nearly one million were displaced by the storm.

“We are working with the Bangladeshi government to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the areas they deem most in need,” said Brig. Gen. Ronald Bailey, 3rd MEB commanding general.

The United States has significant military capability in the region to support those efforts, including the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and its embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Kearsarge arrived off the coast of Bangladesh Nov. 23 and provided the first delivery of U.S. aid to the nation later that same day.

Other U.S. assets in the region include Army medical teams and Air Force C-130 aircraft that are being used to move supplies.

U.S. military efforts are in support of a larger United States response to the Bangladeshi government’s request for assistance. The U.S. effort is coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Dhaka through the Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART) and the U.S. Embassy.

“We normally train to fight, but to take that training and those tools and equipment and knowledge and use them for helping others is completely different,” said Sgt Timothy S. Bryant, the 3rd MEB journal clerk. “It’s cool to get these people help, and it’s kind of a testament to our versatility that we can use the same assets for different missions.”

The first order of business for U.S. forces was delivering badly-needed water to remote areas. On Nov. 26 alone, the U.S. military delivered 5,000 five-gallon water of jugs to the southern part of the country.

Another priority includes delivering approximately 160 metric tons of food, tents and clothing to Barisal, in the southern part of the country, for further distribution.

The Bangladeshi government decides what types of aid is most important and the areas it’s most needed. Delivery efforts are then coordinated in combined planning meetings between Bangladeshi and U.S. officials.

“Together, [we will make sure] this gets done as professionally as possible and that we do not waste any time,” said General Moeen U Ahmed, the Bangladesh Army Chief of Staff. “We, together, will not allow a single man or woman to die of starvation.”

November 26, 2007

Camp Foster road renamed in honor of fallen Marine

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Nov. 26, 2007) -- The street in front of the Vehicle Registration Office on Camp Foster was dedicated as Captain Brock Road during a ceremony Nov. 16.


Nov. 26, 2007; Submitted on: 11/26/2007 01:22:56 AM ; Story ID#: 2007112612256
By Lance Cpl. Daniel R. Todd, MCB Camp Butler

The dedication was held to honor Capt. Sean L. Brock, who lost his life Feb. 2, 2005 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar Province during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Brock volunteered for the individual augment assignment while serving as the commander of Company A, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.

Col. Russell Jones, Headquarters and Service Battalion commander; Capt. Bolivar Pluas, Alpha Company commander; and Rayme Brock, Capt. Brock’s fraternal twin brother, unveiled a memorial during the ceremony.

Jones said that while he never had the chance to meet Brock, from everything he has heard and read about him, he knows he was a great man and Marine.

Seven hours before Brock died, he made a phone call to Rayme offering words of encouragement, which is a testament to the type of person Brock was, Rayme said.

“The entire time we were on the phone, he was trying to cheer me up because I was going through some relationship problems,” Rayme said. “I felt terrible, thinking ‘here I am supposed to be cheering you up; you’re in a hostile environment like Iraq and you’re calling me telling me to cheer up.’”

Rayme said he is impressed by the camaraderie displayed by Marines who served with
his brother.

“When we heard about the ceremony, my family and I were touched by the care, love and
dedication that the Marine Corps has shown, continuing to remember my brother for who he was and what he did,” Rayme said. “There is no way to describe it; you just don’t see that kind of camaraderie often.”

At http://www.fallenheroesmemorial.com, messages from fellow service members and
friends give those who didn’t have the chance to meet Brock an idea of his character and

A message posted on the Web site by Cpl. Brent T. Willoughby a year after Brock’s death attested to Brock’s ability to lead and inspire Marines who came to know him. Brock was Willoughby’s first commanding officer when Willoughby served with Company A.

“I remember the day they had the change of command ceremony outside of Barracks 217. It was the largest turnout of troops I can recall for a ceremony during my time on Okinawa,” he wrote in the message. “He led by example and was respected by all who had the chance to serve with him.”

“Each time I put on this uniform, I hold my head high because I know what it stands for and I know that this country exists today because of heroes like Capt. Brock who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Willoughby wrote.

31st MEU, USS Essex Marines, Sailors arrive in Cambodia to foster relations

SIHANOUKVILLE, Kingdom of Cambodia (Nov. 26, 2007) -- Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Command Amphibious Squadron 11 and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived here, Nov. 26 for a scheduled port visit.


Nov. 26, 2007; Submitted on: 11/26/2007 09:13:43 AM ; Story ID#: 2007112691343
By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

More than 2,500 servicemembers are scheduled to provide medical and dental treatment to rural Cambodians, participate in engineering civic action projects, professional military exchanges, youth activities, and distribute hundreds of donated items, such as books, toys, clothes and medicals supplies across Cambodia to foster goodwill.

“Over the course of the next week, Marines and Sailors coming from the Essex will conduct two medical and dental clinics, build two bridges and participate in six community relations projects,” said Col. John Mayer, the 31st MEU commanding officer. “We will also (teach at) the National Defense University to help students with English and to understand our military forces.”

The MEU, Essex and CPR-11 have been granted a budget of more than 26,000 dollars for construction materials, 10,000 dollars for medical supplies and 2,000 dollars for community relation event donations, such as books, sporting equipment and school supplies, according to Maj. Eric Malinowki, the MEU logistics officer, and a native of Portsmouth, N.H.

During a visit to the Essex, Royal Government of Cambodia distinguished guests and U.S. military leaders spoke of the new beginnings this visit makes possible.

Piper Campbell, the Kingdom of Cambodia U.S. Embassy deputy chief of mission, explained this visit represents the continued friendship between the two nations and military services.

“I am honored to welcome the USS Essex and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to Sihanoukville,” said Campbell. “As you may know, this visit represents only the second time a U.S. Naval vessel has visit. These visits are a dramatic representation of the strengthening and broadening of the relationship between the United States and Cambodia. The visit of the USS Essex will build on these partnerships and help to deepen our ties.

“An important aspect of this visit is that thousands of Cambodians will have the opportunity to personally interact with some of America’s finest ambassadors,” added Campbell. "I can think of no finer symbol of the friendship between Americans and Cambodians than these people-to-people projects.

“I would like to thank his Excellency, the governor of Sihanoukville, and the entire Royal Government of Cambodia for all of their support in making this historic visit successful," Campbell continued.

Mayer expressed his gratitude for this opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“On behalf of all the Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, I would like to thank each and every one of you for having our Marines and Sailors visit the Kingdom of Cambodia,” said Mayer, to members of the Royal Government of Cambodia, during a visit to the Essex. “All the Marines and Sailors from the MEU are excited and absolutely see this as an opportunity to meet the people of Cambodia and see this historical land.”

The visit is part of the Cambodia Theater Security Cooperation, which is intended to build on the relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian governments and develop interoperability between U.S. forces and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

November 25, 2007

USS Tarawa strike group visits Guam

SHIPS with the USS Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group are on Guam for a port visit, the Navy announced yesterday.


Monday November 26, 2007
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff

According to the U.S. Naval Forces Marianas public affairs office, the dock landing ship USS Germantown, guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham, guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal, and components of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on Guam yesterday.

While in port, approximately 1,400 members of the strike group will tour Guam, providing a boost to the island’s economy.

The visiting military personnel will also be participating in various community service projects, the Navy said.

The USS Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group has the flexibility and power to conduct strike warfare and engage enemy forces in the air, on the sea and under it.

In addition, they provide support capabilities using landing craft, landing craft utility vehicles, CH-46s, CH-53s, AH-1, UH-1, SH-60 helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft.

The expeditionary strike group is comprised of the amphibious assault ship Tarawa, Amphibious Squadron One, the transport dock ship USS Cleveland, the dock landing ship USS Germantown, the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal, the guided missile destroyer USS Hopper, and the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham, as well as the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 11the MEU, commanded by Col. John Bullard, is comprised of a command element, a ground combat element, an air combat element, and a combat logistical support element.

According to the Navy’s public affairs office, the strike group is headed west to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet.

It will support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, be prepared to take part in Horn of Africa operations, and conduct maritime security operations.

The Navy said coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.

Since the beginning of 2007, the USS Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group has completed multiple training events, qualifications and inspections leading up to certification as a combat-ready strike group.

11 a.m. - Strike group makes port visit

11 a.m., Nov. 25 — Some 1,400 sailors and Marines are on island from a visiting strike group.


Pacific Daily News

The USS Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group was expected to port today with it's members touring the island and participate in community service projects, according to a press release from the Navy.

The group is headed west to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet and will support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, be prepared to take part in Horn of Africa operations, and conduct maritime security operations, the release stated.

November 24, 2007

22nd MEU (SOC) kicks off Bangladesh humanitarian relief efforts

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE (Nov. 24, 2007) -- On Nov. 15, Tropical Cyclone Sidr ripped across the coast of Bangladesh, killed over 3,000 people, left several hundred thousand people homeless, and ravaged the local crops and infrastructure. In response to the government of Bangladesh’s request for assistance, elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked aboard USS Kearsarge traveled approximately 3,500 statute miles from the Sea of Bengal and is now providing disaster relief to the region.


Nov. 24, 2007; Submitted on: 11/24/2007 07:44:53 AM ; Story ID#: 2007112474453
By Cpl. Peter R. Miller, 22nd MEU

Friday, the MEU’s relief effort began with the delivery of 700 gallons of bottled water to the hands of Bengali soldiers aboard a small airfield in Barisal, Bangladesh.

“Today’s mission was essentially a humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mission to start providing the necessary materials needed for the Bengali people,” said Capt. Andrew M. Traynor, a CH-46E Sea Knight pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (reinforced), who flew in the day’s mission.

As the helicopters hovered over the airfield, Bengali children clad in colorful clothing watched and waved from a nearby roadside. Bengali soldiers lined the tarmac until Nix greeted them and led them back to the aircraft.

“We got out there and said, ‘hey, this is what we need’,” said Nix. “I think they were just hesitant to jump right in because they didn’t want to offend us.”

The wary stares of Bengali soldiers quickly evolved into friendly embraces as they crowded around the rear of the aircraft to shake hands and chat with their visitors. They were soon working with the Marines to unload the water.

“We worked together, and the language barrier wasn’t a problem,” said Traynor. “We all got in a daisy chain and the offload went very smoothly and quickly. It’s all about the team because that’s how we work.”

The crew chiefs did an excellent job by taking the lead and getting the water out of the aircraft, said Traynor.

“It was pretty cool,” said Sgt. Mickael S. Clemann, a CH-46 crew chief, and Brandon, Fla., native. “A lot of the Bengali soldiers smiled and showed what I’m guessing is their gesture of thank you, where they put their hand on their chest and bring it toward you.”

The sight of two militaries, unfamiliar with each other, coming together was one of the most impressive things Nix said he had ever seen, he said.

“It was good to see those guys with smiles on their faces, even though they’ve lost some of their countrymen,” said Nix. “It’s good to be able to help them out.”

The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element. For more news, information and photos about relief efforts, visit the unit’s Web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.

November 23, 2007

Department of Defense to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Bangladesh

In support of the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Relief, and in cooperation with the humanitarian community and Bangladesh government, U.S. Pacific Command is providing additional humanitarian assistance to reduce further loss of life and mitigate human suffering resulting from Tropical Cyclone Sidr that recently swept through Bangladesh causing massive flooding and infrastructure damage.


U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

November 23, 2007

U.S. Pacific Command is providing transportation assistance, to include heavy lift helicopter support. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters from the USS Kearsarge and the USS Tarawa will assist with the transportation of relief supplies, equipment and personnel.

Earlier this week, U.S. Pacific Command sent a humanitarian assistance survey team to Bangladesh to assess support requirements with the Bangladesh military. Additionally, a Department of Defense medical team from U.S. Pacific Command that was conducting military to military medical training in Bangladesh remains to assist with relief efforts if needed.

For additional information, please contact Marine Forces Pacific Public Affairs at (808) 477-1808 or email [email protected] .

US marines join cyclone aid effort in Bangladesh

DHAKA (AFP) — US marines arrived to bolster relief efforts in Bangladesh on Friday as concerns mounted for survivors of killer Cyclone Sidr which devastated the disaster-prone nation more than a week ago.


November 23, 2007

Navy personnel from the USS Kearsarge, anchored close to the southern Bangladesh coast, has begun medical evacuations and transportation of water to some of the worst-affected coastal areas, a US embassy spokesman said.

Two more ships -- the USS Essex and USS Tarawa -- are due to arrive soon, said US Navy spokesman Lt Commander John Daniels, speaking in Washington.

All three ships are carrying helicopters and have medical teams and on board surgical facilities, Daniels said.

A huge military-led aid effort is underway in Bangladesh but officials said logistical problems meant only small amounts of relief are getting through and the pace was slow.

But UN resident coordinator Renata Lok Dessallien said the army believed most victims had now received some aid.

"It is not enough necessarily for everyone but at least they have the first batch and the next batch will be close behind. Every day it has been growing steadily," she told AFP.

More than 3,400 people are confirmed dead after the powerful storm ripped through southern and central districts on November 15. Thousands more are missing feared dead and an estimated 280,000 without shelter.

Villagers told AFP they were enduring intolerable conditions.

"The only thing we have been given in all the days since the cyclone is two kilogrammes of rice and 60 taka (less than a dollar) from the local government officials and we have no food and no drinking water," said Mohammad Dulal, 30, from Garjonbunia village, which lies close to the coast.

The entire village has been washed away by the tidal surge and he and his wife and young son are living on the roadside in a shack made from tree branches and plastic that he scavenged.

"I am very worried about my family. If we do not get help, we will be here for months and the conditions are terrible," he said. About 100 people from his village died in the cyclone.

UN coordinator Dessallien said the lack of fresh drinking water was fuelling fears of an epidemic of water-borne diseases.

"We are concerned about outbreaks of diarrhoea and cholera," she said, adding that all the aid agencies faced a major challenge in targeting relief where it was most needed.

The scale of the devastation meant aid workers were trying to reach as many people with small amounts of aid to sustain them over the next few days.

Tonnes of high-energy biscuits were being dropped by the Bangladesh air force while UNICEF was sending water tankers, mobile water treatment plants, millions of water purification tablets and jerrycans.

People from areas not affected by the cyclone also responded to a call by the head of the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, to help their compatriots.

Farmer Mohammed Emadul Haq, 52, told AFP he volunteered to help remove tree trunks from blocked canals and waterways.

"We are Bangladeshis, and it's our responsibility to help however we can," he said.

Another volunteer, businessman Swapan Das, said he and a group of colleagues had collected 500,000 taka (7,140 dollars) to create aid packages for victims -- the sum is a fortune in Bangladesh where 40 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Bangladesh has so far received offers of more than 200 million dollars' worth of aid.

U.S. Marines Join Cyclone Relief Ops in Bangladesh

U.S. Marines have begun to help survivors of a killer cyclone in Bangladesh which has left thousands without adequate food and clean drinking water, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said Nov. 23.


November 23, 2007

Navy personnel from the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, anchored close to the southern Bangladesh coast, have begun medical evacuations and transporting fresh water to some of the worst-affected coastal areas, the official said.

Gen. Ronald Bailey, who is overseeing the operation, met Bangladesh military chiefs earlier Nov. 23.

Another ship, the amphibious assault ship Essex, was due to arrive soon and would also assist Bangladesh’s military-led relief effort which has been struggling to reach the thousands of people devastated by the cyclone which hit Nov. 15.

The two ships were carrying more than 40 helicopters.

US Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Daniels, speaking in Washington, said another ship, the amphibious assault ship Tarawa, was also on its way.

All three ships were carrying medical teams and have surgical facilities on board to treat those injured in the cyclone, Daniels said.

A 23-member team of U.S. Marines has been on the ground for several days to assess the needs of those affected.

More than 3,400 people are confirmed dead and thousands more are still missing since Cyclone Sidr struck.

Officials estimate that around 5 million people were affected by the storm, which has left countless people living in desperate conditions. An estimated 280,000 are homeless.

Department of Defense to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Bangladesh

In support of the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Relief, and in cooperation with the humanitarian community and Bangladesh government, U.S. Pacific Command is providing additional humanitarian assistance to reduce further loss of life and mitigate human suffering resulting from Tropical Cyclone Sidr that recently swept through Bangladesh causing massive flooding and infrastructure damage.


No. 1345-07
November 23, 2007

U.S. Pacific Command is providing transportation assistance, to include heavy lift helicopter support. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters from the USS Kearsarge and the USS Tarawa will assist with the transportation of relief supplies, equipment and personnel.

Earlier this week, U.S. Pacific Command sent a humanitarian assistance survey team to Bangladesh to assess support requirements with the Bangladesh military. Additionally, a Department of Defense medical team from U.S. Pacific Command that was conducting military to military medical training in Bangladesh remains to assist with relief efforts if needed.

For additional information, please contact Marine Forces Pacific Public Affairs at (808) 477-1808 or email [email protected] .

Marines Deliver Water to Cyclone-Stricken Bangladesh

A pair of Marine helicopters lifted from the USS Kearsarge flight deck today with loads of bottled water, marking the first delivery of U.S. military aid to the storm-battered nation of Bangladesh.


American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2007

The 750-gallon shipment was delivered to a relief-supply distribution hub in Barisal, a city in southern Bangladesh.

“I feel ecstatic,” said Marine Capt. Andrew Traynor, a CH-46E helicopter pilot with the Aviation Combat Element for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. “(This mission) can show that the U.S. military is not all about combat; we’re here to help people.”

Kearsarge and elements of the embarked 22nd MEU arrived off the coast of Bangladesh early this morning. While the ship was on its nearly 3,500-mile trek to reach its current position, Marines and sailors aboard the vessel tested equipment, positioned supplies and readied for humanitarian assistance operations.

“The delivery today is a start, but there is more work to be done,” said Marine Col. Doug Stilwell, the 22nd MEU’s commanding officer. “The Bangladesh government and military, in conjunction with relief agencies, are responding well to the situation. We will reinforce and support that effort.”

To focus U.S. military efforts on supporting the Bangladesh relief operation, a team of key military representatives led by Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and Marine Brig. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the lead U.S. military commander on the ground in Bangladesh, met with representatives of the Bangladesh military, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Embassy. A team from Kearsarge, led by Navy Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger, commander of Task Force 76, also was present at the meeting, having flown from Kearsarge to the nation’s capital city of Dhaka this morning.

“All parties concur with the way ahead for this operation,” Stilwell said. “We want to support in a way that will have the most impact on reducing further loss of life and relieving human suffering.”

Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, in response to a request from the government of Bangladesh to the United States and at the direction of the U.S. Pacific Command, is leading Defense Department efforts to assist the people of Bangladesh in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Sidr, which devastated that nation Nov. 15.

(Compiled from Marine Corps Forces, Pacific news releases.)

November 22, 2007

Tarawa Marines, Sailors Celebrate Thanksgiving

ABOARD USS TARAWA (Nov. 22, 2007) -- Marines and Navy food service specialist aboard the USS Tarawa, currently deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit worked hard to make a “home cooked” Thanksgiving meal for their shipmates worthy of home.


Nov. 22, 2007; Submitted on: 11/22/2007 09:40:51 PM ; Story ID#: 20071122214051
By Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez, 11th MEU

While many of their shipmates slept and others enjoyed the morning off, messmen and cooks, washed dishes, cleaned tables, countertops and mopped floors to make the mess deck shine for their special diners.

"The crew started cleaning and stuffing turkeys and preparing all of the food at 4:30 in the morning," said Master Sgt. Lora L. Hall, senior food service specialist for the troop mess deck, command element, 11th MEU, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

According to Hall, the cooks went out of their way to make this a bountiful feast. They prepared more than 3,500 portions of each food item for the ship's more than 2,000 crewmembers. Each plate was topped with the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, assorted desserts and more and more food. There was so much food available, that some Marines and Sailors helped themselves to seconds, and some of the hardier ones, to thirds.

“We tried to make this Thanksgiving meal as close to ‘home cooked’ as possible,” said Sgt. David R. Pedley, assistant chief cook, from Bettendorf, Iowa. Pedley, who is from Headquarters and Services Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, Calif., said he knows what it is like to spend this time of year away from home. He said he has been on eight different ships and is on his 5th deployment.

Sgt. Elton G. King, assistant chief cook, logistics section, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (REINF), Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, is another Marine who knows what it’s like to live an expeditionary lifestyle. King, who is from South Bend, IN, is married to a Marine who is also spending this Thanksgiving away from home. She is taking part in Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C.

Both Pedley and King said they are used to it, but they know that there are many young Marines out there who are spending their first Thanksgiving away from home. “We don’t mind working a little harder to make Marines and Sailors feel a little bit closer to home,” said King.

In traditional military fashion, the crew went through the mess line and was served by the officers and senior noncommissioned officers.

“It builds camaraderie and it motivates the young Marines and Sailors to see their senior leaders serving them,” said Hall. “And it’s a way for leaders to say thanks for the hard work the Marines and Sailors do on a daily basis.”

According to Hall, the cooks and messmen worked just as hard on the presentation as they did on the meal.

Food service personnel went out of their way to decorate two tables with a display of fruit, a traditional cornucopia, a roasted turkey and festive decorations. They worked hard on the food presentation because everyone is away from their loved ones. “We want everyone to be in the festive mood while they enjoy their meal,” said Hall.

The hard work and dedication paid off said Cpl. Marshawn L. Paige, radio operator, G Battery, BLT 1/5, a native from Los Angeles. “You can tell they put a lot of work into making this Thanksgiving special for us,” said Paige. “I’m sure it helped many Marines feel a little bit less homesick.”

Marine didn't recognize signs of brain injury

Marine Lance Cpl. Gene Landrus was hurt in a roadside bomb attack outside Abu Ghraib, Iraq, on May 15, 2006, and faces medical separation from the Corps. He's also up for a Purple Heart.


By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

Along with 20,000 other veterans, he's not included in the Pentagon's official count of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's because Landrus' wound was to his brain and hidden from view. Landrus, 24, of Clarkston, Wash., says he did not realize the nausea, dizziness, memory loss and headaches he suffered after the blast were signs of a lasting brain injury.

Army medics who examined him in the field didn't find the wound either. "They wanted to know if we had any holes in us, or if we were bleeding. We were in and out of there (the aid station) in 10 to 15 minutes," Landrus remembers.

For the balance of his combat tour, he tried to shake off the blast's effects and keep going. Now, "my goal is to get back to a normal life," he says.

A USA TODAY survey of four military installations and the Department of Veterans Affairs, where combat veterans are routinely screened for brain injury, has found that about 20,000 people show signs of damage. They are not counted in the Pentagon's official tally of 30,000 war wounded.

The military lacks "a standardized definition of traumatic injury or a uniform process to report all TBI (traumatic brain injury) cases," Assistant Secretary of Defense Ellen Embrey wrote in a memo last month. As a result, it is hard to determine the scope of the problem, she wrote.

The military hopes to address both issues soon, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant to the Pentagon.

Military medics are now trained to uncover signs of brain injury on the battlefield, says Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Jaffee, interim head of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, which is devoted to treatment and research. Brain injury screening questions have been added to medical surveys given to all troops returning from war.

Landrus was riding in an open-backed, armored Humvee when the roadside bomb detonated. It was his second exposure to a blast. An explosion a month before had "rung our bells a little bit, but no one was knocked unconscious."

In the attack May 15, 2006, Landrus and three other Marines blacked out for several seconds. After Landrus regained consciousness, "everything looked like it was going in slow motion," he recalls.

The battalion came home in August 2006 to Camp Pendleton, Calif., one of a few military installations that screens for brain injuries among returning troops. Landrus was referred to Navy doctors who diagnosed brain injury. With medication and rehabilitation training at nearby Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, Landrus has improved.

"I still can't remember what I did the day before or stuff that I did earlier in the day," he says. He carries a Palm Pilot or a pad of paper to write down orders, numbers or dates, so he can remember them later. The headaches have never gone away.

Landrus will never fully recover, says Jessica Martinez, his lead therapist at Scripps.

"This is basically like an invisible injury," she says. "He looks like a normal guy. … But if you spend any amount of time with him … you would be able to notice that something's really happened."

November 21, 2007

Okinawa Marines to assess deadly cyclone damage

By Bryce S. Dubee, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, November 21, 2007

U.S. Pacific Command has sent a 23-man Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team from the III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa to the southern coast of Bangladesh after a powerful cyclone struck the region, according to a III MEF/Marine Corps Bases Japan press release.

To continue reading:


November 20, 2007

Two lives blurred together by a photo

The young marine lighted a cigarette and let it dangle. White smoke wafted around his helmet. His face was smeared with war paint. Blood trickled from his right ear and the bridge of his nose.


By Luis Sinco, Times Staff Photographer
November 11, 2007

Momentarily deafened by cannon blasts, he didn't know the shooting had stopped. He stared at the sunrise.

His expression caught my eye. To me, it said: terrified, exhausted and glad just to be alive. I recognized that look because that's how I felt too.

I raised my camera and snapped a few shots.

With the click of a shutter, Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, a country boy from Kentucky, became an emblem of the war in Iraq. The resulting image would change two lives -- his and mine.

I was embedded with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, as it entered Fallouja, an insurgent stronghold in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, on Nov. 8, 2004. We encountered heavy fire almost immediately. We were pinned down all night at a traffic circle, where a 6-inch curb offered the only protection.

I hunkered down in the gutter that endless night, praying for daylight, trying hard to make myself small. A cold rain came down. I cursed the Marines' illumination flares that wafted slowly earthward, making us wait an eternity for darkness to return.

At dawn, the gunfire and explosions subsided. A white phosphorus artillery round burst overhead, showering blazing-hot tendrils. We came across three insurgents lying in the street, two of them dead, their blood mixing with rainwater.

The third, a wiry Arab youth, tried to mouth a few words. All I could think was: "Buddy, you're already dead."

We rounded a corner and again came under heavy fire, forcing us to scramble for cover. I ran behind a Marine as we crossed the street, the bullets ricocheting at our feet.

Gunfire poured down, and it seemed incredible that no one was hit. A pair of tanks rumbled down the road to shield us. The Marines kicked open the door of a house, and we all piled in.

Miller and other Marines took positions on the rooftop; I set up my satellite phone to transmit photos. But as I worked downstairs in the kitchen, a deep rumble almost blew the room apart.

Two cannon rounds had slammed into a nearby house. Miller, the platoon's radioman, had called in the tanks, pinpointed the targets and shouted "Fire!"

I ran to the roof and saw smoldering ruins across a large vacant lot. Beneath a heap of bricks, men lay dead or dying. I sat down and collected my wits. Miller propped himself against a wall and lighted his cigarette. I transmitted the picture that night. Power in Fallouja had been cut in advance of the assault, forcing me to be judicious with my batteries. I considered not even sending Miller's picture, thinking my editors would prefer images of fierce combat.

The photo of Miller was the last of 11 that I sent that day.

On the second day of the battle, I called my wife by satellite phone to tell her I was OK. She told me my photo had ended up on the front page of more than 150 newspapers. Dan Rather had gushed over it on the evening news. Friends and family had called her to say they had seen the photo -- my photo.

Soon, my editors called and asked me to find the "Marlboro Marine" for a follow-up story. Who was this brave young hero? Women wanted to marry him. Mothers wanted to know whether he was their son.

I didn't even know his name. Shell-shocked and exhausted, I had simply identified Miller as "A Marine" and clicked "send."

I found Miller four days later in an auditorium after a dangerous dash across an open parade ground in the city's civic center. Miller's unit was taking a break, eating military rations.

Clean-shaven and without war paint, Miller, 20, looked much younger than the battle-stressed warrior in the picture -- young enough to be my son.

He was cooperative, but he was embarrassed about the photo's impact back home.

Once our story identified him, the national fascination grew stronger. People shipped care packages, making sure Miller had more than enough smokes. President Bush sent cigars, candy and memorabilia from the White House.

Then Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, head of the 1st Marine Division, made a special trip to see the Marlboro Marine.

I was in the forward command center, which by then featured a large blowup of the photo. "You might want to see this," an officer said, nudging me to follow.

To talk to Miller, Natonski had to weave between earthen berms, run through bombed-out buildings and make a mad sprint across a wide street to avoid sniper fire before diving into a shattered storefront.

"Miller, get your ass up here," a first sergeant barked on the radio.

Miller had no idea what was going on as he ran through the rubble. He snapped to attention when he saw the general.

Natonski shook Miller's hand. Americans had "connected" with his photo, the general said, and nobody wanted to see him wounded or dead.

"We can have you home tomorrow," he said.

Miller hesitated, then shook his head. He did not want to leave his buddies behind. "It just wasn't right," he told me later.

The tall, lanky general towered over the grunt. "Your father raised one hell of a young man," he said, looking Miller in the eye. They said goodbye, and Natonski scrambled back to the command post.

For his loyalty, Miller was rewarded with horror. The assault on Fallouja raged on, leaving nearly 100 Americans dead and 450 wounded. The bodies of some 1,200 insurgents littered the streets.

As the fighting dragged on for a month, the story fell off the front page. I joined the exodus of journalists heading home or moving to the next story.

More than a year and a half would pass before I saw Miller again.

Back home, I immersed myself in other assignments, trying to put Fallouja behind me. Yet not a day went by that I didn't think about Miller and what we experienced in Iraq.

National Public Radio interviewed me. Much to my embarrassment, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution in my honor. I became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Bloggers riffed on the photo's meaning. Requests for prints kept coming.

In January 2006, I was on assignment along the U.S.-Mexico border when my wife called. "Your boy is on TV. He has PTSD," she said. "They kicked him out of the Marines."

I'd spoken with Miller by phone twice, but the conversations were short and superficial. I knew post-traumatic stress disorder was a complicated diagnosis. So once again, I dug up his number. Again, I offered simple words: Life is sweet. We survived. Everything else is gravy.

As the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion approached, my editors wanted another follow-up story.

So in spring 2006, I traveled to Miller's hometown of Jonancy, Ky., in the hollows of Appalachia. I drove east from Lexington along Interstate 64, part of the nationwide Purple Heart Trail honoring dead and wounded veterans, before turning south.

Mobile homes and battered cars dot the rugged ranges. Marijuana is a major cash crop. Addiction to methamphetamine and prescription drugs is rampant.

Kids marry young, and boys go to work mining the black seams of coal. Heavy trucks rumble day and night.

Miller showed me around. At an abandoned mine, he walked carefully around a large, shallow pool of standing water that mirrored the green wilderness and springtime sky. He picked up a chunk of coal.

"Around here, this is what it's all about," he said. "Nothing else.

"It was this or the Marines."

Often brooding and sullen, Miller joked about being "21 going on 70," the result, he said, of humping heavy armor and gear on a 6-foot, 160-pound frame.

Before he was allowed to leave Iraq, he attended a mandatory "warrior transitioning" session about PTSD and adjusting to home life.

Each Marine received a questionnaire. Were they having trouble sleeping? Did they have thoughts of suicide? Did they feel guilt about their actions?

Everybody knew the drill. Answer yes and be evaluated further. Say no and go home.

Miller said he didn't want to miss his flight. He answered no to every question.

He returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C. His high school sweetheart, Jessica Holbrooks, joined him there, and they were married in a civil ceremony.

Then came the nightmares and hallucinations. He imagined shadowy figures outside the windows. Faces of the dead haunted his sleep.

Once, while cleaning a shotgun, he blacked out. He regained consciousness when Jessica screamed out his name. Snapping back to reality, he realized he was pointing the gun at her.

He reported the problems to superiors, who promised to get him help.

Then came a single violent episode, which put an end to his days as a Marine.

It happened in the storm-tossed Gulf of Mexico in September 2005. His unit had been sent to New Orleans to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Now a second giant storm, Hurricane Rita, was moving in, and the Marines were ordered to seek safety out at sea.

In the claustrophobic innards of a rolling Navy ship, someone whistled. The sound reminded Miller of a rocket- propelled grenade. He attacked the sailor who had whistled. He came to in the boat's brig. He was medically discharged with a "personality disorder" on Nov. 10, 2005 -- exactly one year after his picture made worldwide news.

Back home in Kentucky, the Millers settled into a sparsely furnished second-story apartment. Four small windows afforded little light. The TV was always on.

Miller bought a motorcycle and went for long rides. He and Jessica drank all night and slept all day. He started collecting a monthly disability benefit of about $2,500. The couple spent hours watching movies on DVD, Coronas and bourbon cocktails in hand. Friends and family gave them space.

Miller had hoped to pursue a career in law enforcement. But the PTSD and abrupt discharge killed that dream. No one would trust him with a weapon.

But at least he didn't have to go back to Iraq. He started to realize he wasn't the only one traumatized by war.

"There's a word for it around here," Jessica said. "It's called 'vets.' " She talked of Miller's grandfather, forever changed by the Korean War and dead by age 35. Her Uncle Hargis, a Vietnam veteran, had it too. He experienced mood swings for years.

Sometimes, Miller's stories about Iraq unnerved his young bride. He sensed it and talked less. Nobody really understands, he said, unless they've been there.

On June 3, 2006, the Millers renewed their vows at a hilltop clubhouse overlooking the forests and strip mines. It was a lavish ceremony paid for by donors from across the country who had read about Miller's travails or seen him on television. Local businesses pitched in as well.

His father and two younger brothers were supposed to be groomsmen but didn't show up. His estranged mother wasn't invited.

Miller looked sharp in his Marine Corps dress uniform of dark-blue cloth and red piping. Jessica was lovely in white, her long hair gathered high.

Instead of a honeymoon, the young couple traveled to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the National Mental Health Assn. The group wanted to honor Miller for his courage in going public about his PTSD. Its leaders also wanted him to visit key lawmakers to share his experience.

As a boy, Miller confided, he had embraced religion, even going so far as to become an ordained minister by mail order. He knew the Bible verses, felt the passion for preaching.

That's how he found his new mission: to tell people what it was like to come home from war with a broken mind.

Three days after their wedding, I tagged along as the young couple flew to the nation's capital. Easily distracted by the offer of free drinks for an all-American hero, Miller stayed out until 3 a.m. He was hung over when he met with House members a few hours later.

Miller chatted up GOP Rep. Harold Rogers, the congressman from his district. He smoked and frequently cursed while recounting his combat experiences. I cringed but stayed on the sidelines, snapping photos.

Miller shuffled from one congressional office to the next, passing displays filled with photos of Marines killed in Iraq. As he told his story over and again, the politicians listened politely and thanked Miller for his service. One congressman sent an aide to tell Miller he was too busy to meet. No one promised to take up his cause.

After Miller picked up his award, he took a whirlwind tour past the White House and Lincoln Memorial, but his mind was elsewhere. At a bar the night before, free booze had flowed in honor of the Marlboro Marine. Miller wanted more.

"Let's get drunk," he said.

I returned to Los Angeles the next morning, thinking I would catch up with Miller in a couple of months.

A week later, Jessica called. After they got home, Miller's mood had become volatile. He was OK one minute and in a deep funk the next, she told me. Then he'd disappeared. She hadn't seen him for days.

Could I come to Kentucky and help?

Why me? I thought. I am not Miller's brother. Or his father. I could feel the line between journalist and subject blurring. Was I covering the story or becoming part of it?

I traveled all night to get to Pikeville, Ky., and soon found myself with Jessica, making the rounds of all the places Miller might have gone. I wanted to be somewhere else -- anywhere else.

Finally, the next morning, Jessica saw her husband driving in the opposite direction. She did a U-turn, hit the gas and caught up with him down the road.

He got out of his truck. A woman sat in the passenger seat.

"Who is that, Blake?" Jessica demanded. "Who is she?"

He said her name was Sherry. They had just met, and he was helping her move. Jessica didn't believe him.

I thought: Didn't I attend this young couple's fairy tale wedding just 10 days ago? Now, here they were, in a gas station parking lot, creating a spectacle.

Jessica grilled Miller. He bobbed and weaved. He appeared sober and sullen. Then he dropped a bomb. He didn't want her anymore and had filed for divorce.

"You guys might want to go home and talk," I suggested.

There, the tortured dialogue escalated.

Jessica pleaded with Blake to stop and think. They could quit drinking, she said. They'd get help for him and as a couple. Maybe they could move away -- anything to work it out.

Miller slumped on the couch. I sensed his unease and feared he would become violent, so I stayed for a while even though I felt intrusive. But he remained strangely calm, albeit brooding and distant.

I returned the next morning. He called his attorney and put the phone on speaker. If uncontested, the lawyer said, the divorce would become final in 60 days. Jessica went to the fire escape to gather herself.

Miller remained unmoved, chain-smoking. The local newspaper had been calling him about rumors that he was getting divorced. It was a major local story. Finally, he wrote a statement. He asked for compassion and respect for their privacy.

The next day, I found Miller in a back bedroom at his uncle's house. He told me that he had come close to committing suicide the night before. He had thought about driving his motorcycle off the edge of a mountain road.

He showed me the morning newspaper. His divorce was the lead story.

I felt torn. I didn't want to get involved. I desperately wanted to close the book on Iraq. But if I hadn't taken Miller's picture, this very personal drama wouldn't be front-page news. I felt responsible.

Sometimes, when things get hard to witness, I use my camera as a shield. It creates a space for me to work -- and distance to keep my eyes open and my feelings in check. But Miller had no use for a photojournalist. He needed a helping hand.

I flashed back to the chaos of combat in Fallouja. In the rattle and thunder, brick walls separated me from the world coming to an end. In the tight spaces, we were scared mindless. Everybody dragged deeply on cigarettes.

Above the din, I heard what everybody was thinking: This is the end.

I've never felt so completely alone.

I snapped back to the present, and before I knew it, the words spilled out.

"I have to ask you something, Blake," I said. "If I'd gone down in Fallouja, would you have carried me out?"

"Damn straight," he said, without hesitation.

"OK then," I said. "I think you're wounded pretty badly. I want to help you."

He looked at me for a moment. "All right," he said.

[email protected]

U.S. Troops Stand Ready for Bangladesh Cyclone Relief

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2007 – If asked, American troops stand ready to help the victims of Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, Pentagon officials said today.


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

The cyclone struck Bangladesh Nov. 15. More than 3,100 people are known dead, and possibly thousands more are missing in the densely populated South Asian nation.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered his condolences to the people of Bangladesh. “The United States military is assisting with some medical teams on the ground and is ready to assist further with a couple of Navy ships, should they be required,” he said. “They are headed in that direction.”

As of now, Bangladesh has not requested U.S. Defense Department support, Pentagon officials said.

To be prepared to respond, the department is moving select naval assets in the direction of Bangladesh. The USS Kearsarge, with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, and USS Essex, with the 31st MEU, have been identified as potential naval assets that could provide assistance if it’s requested.

The ships’ extensive medical facilities and berthing capabilities enable them to provide effective care to returning troops under battle conditions, or for disaster relief in support of humanitarian missions during peacetime. The ships can support up to 600 patients while still providing routine care to crewmembers and embarked troops.

Major medical facilities include four main and two emergency operating rooms, four dental operating rooms, X-ray facilities, a blood bank, laboratories and intensive-care ward facilities.

An 18-person Defense Department medical team from U.S. Pacific Command was in Bangladesh conducting military-to-military training and is available to assist as needed. Medical supplies and a mobile clinic have been transported from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to Thailand in preparation. The clinic can support 500 patients a day for 30 days.

A 23-person Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team has deployed to Bangladesh to coordinate with the U.S. Embassy country team and relief agencies to identify key areas, scope and duration of military support if requested by Bangladesh. The team came from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan. The team is led by Marine Brig. Gen. Ronald Bailey.

Cultural Awareness a Priority for Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group

USS TARAWA, Pacific Ocean (NNS) -- Cultural awareness professors from Monterey, Calif. embarked amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1) Nov. 5 to teach the crew about countries the ship could potentially visit during their regularly scheduled deployment.


Story Number: NNS071120-07
Release Date: 11/20/2007 3:50:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Zuidema, USS Tarawa Public Affairs

"These classes are part of something called the Regional Security Education program, which the Naval Postgraduate School provides to all the deploying strike groups," said Daniel Moran, professor for several of the classes. "It's intended to improve strategic level situational awareness for deploying American forces. We try to tailor the presentations to the mission and region where you're going."

Before Moran began teaching cultural awareness classes he studied the history of war and history of the Middle East and attended both Yale and Stanford. As a professor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he and his team provide graduate-level education on historical perspectives and current affairs.

The instructors and their classes made an impact on those who attended the classes. "This worthwhile program is for everyone," said Capt. John Miley, Commodore Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group. "It's not just important for the staffs, it's not just important for the senior leadership level, I think its important all the way up and down the chain as well as on both the blue and green side."

The classes pay big dividends for service members no matter where they go. Globalization has made the world smaller, so understanding other countries and maritime forces and their perspectives allow the Navy and Marine Corps to assist in achieving the missions of partner countries.

"If they're Marines going to Iraq or Afghanistan dealing with the local populous, or Sailors on liberty somewhere, just the awareness and understanding will help," added Miley.

While the instructors' time aboard was limited, classes such as Intro to Islam, Iran's Influence in the Persian Gulf and Cultural Sensitivities in Muslim countries were videotaped in order to be offered on all the ships of the ESG. The taping allows everyone to be more prepared for the people they'll meet and situations in which they'll participate.

"The best advice I can give to someone who is going to a country they have never been to is not to worry too much about passing as a native because you're not a native," commented Moran. "You are an American. You want to embody all the good characteristics of Americans and you won't offend anybody anywhere."

“Docs” going stride for stride with the “Walking Dead”

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Nov. 20) -- They conduct room-clearings, sleep and eat in the field alongside their Marine brethren, conduct patrols and fight next to their “green” counterparts. However, they carry a huge responsibility essential to fighting a successful war against terrorism.


Nov. 20; Submitted on: 11/28/2007 08:21:12 AM ; Story ID#: 2007112882112
By Pfc. Casey Jones, 2nd Marine Division

They are Navy corpsmen, and their vital role is providing care and first aid to injured Marines and doing whatever it takes to get Marines and sailors home alive.

The corpsmen of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, are undergoing a 30-day predeployment training exercise here known as Mojave Viper.

“I receive the same training as (infantrymen) and learn all of their tactics, techniques and procedures, because I’m going to be right next to them kicking in doors and everything,” said Seaman Jacob Shepherd, line corpsman with Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company. “I can’t be (at the forward operating base) and expect to be there for my Marines whenever they need me.”

Shepherd said “Docs,” as they’re often called in the Marine Corps, are taught infantry combat tactics, techniques and procedures to assist them in quickly gaining the trust and respect of the Marines.

“I gained respect and trust from the Marines the first day I got there,” Shepherd said. “They put me in a drill where I had to provide care for an injured Marine, while the entire platoon screamed at me saying stuff like, ‘Come on, Doc,’ ‘Is he OK, Doc?’ and ‘Save my Marine.’ I responded and did my job through the chaos. From that day on, they knew I was capable and understood my job.”

Shepherd said the cliché “all Marines are brothers” has proven to be true, but also stands true for the corpsmen attached to Marine units.

“Working with Marines is awesome,” Shepherd said. “We’re like brothers here, everybody says it, but it’s true.”

Much like their Leatherneck comrades, corpsmen have many different missions, such as combating terrorism, defending the United States and looking out for the Marine to their left and right. However, Shepherd said “docs” share one common mission- returning home with all of their Marines.

“I tell my wife I don’t know what I’d do if I ever had to go to a funeral for one of my Marines,” Shepherd said. “I will always think what more could I have done. That’s the toughest part about my job. I can’t even describe it.”

The Marines said they understand a corpsman’s responsibility and feel compelled to provide protection and care for their corpsmen, in the same way the corpsmen care for the Marines.

“We look out for our corpsmen, the same way our corpsmen look out for us,” said Cpl. Christopher A. Sarlo, Anti-Tank missileman, CAAT Platoon, Weapons Company.

More than 230 years, after the creation of the Marine Corps and Navy, the relationship between Marines and corpsmen still remains strong.

Discounts for Marine families attending homecomings

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Nov. 20, 2007) -- Families have spent thousands of dollars attending homecomings of returning Marines, but with costs of airfare sky rocketing, many families can’t afford to make the trip.


Nov. 20, 2007; Submitted on: 11/20/2007 10:05:43 AM ; Story ID#: 2007112010543
By Lance Cpl. Randy Little, MCB Camp Lejeune

Addressing this issue, Christie Rooney, a Marine mom from Bixby, Okla., contacted America Airlines in order to ease these costs with fare discounts for Marine families, traveling to homecomings, discounts on airfare.

“Over the past few months, I've heard Marine families discuss the [difficulties] of making travel arrangements for homecomings,” said Rooney. “I decided to call America Airlines to see if they could help.”

Within two weeks America Airlines signed a contract with SATO Vacations to offer discounts to families traveling to their Marines’ homecoming from Nov. 1 – Dec. 15.

“The only airport that America Airlines flies into near the Camp Lejeune area is Raleigh-Durham Airport, which is why this is the only airport where we can honor the discounted prices for military families,” said Jerry Krus, for America Airlines.

If the arrival dates are changed and the military families notify America Airlines about the changes, the fee will be waived, as long as the families purchase their tickets through SATO Vacations, said Krus.

If America Airlines handles the exchange transaction, a $15 reservation fee will apply, he continued.

Marine families, who are unable to make the flight due to uncontrollable circumstances will be able to refund their non-refundable tickets for travel vouchers, concluded Krus.

For more information about the discounted airfare, call SATO Vacations at 1-877-698-2554, or visit the Web site at www.satovacations.com.

US navy sends marines, helicopters to Bangladesh disaster

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two US amphibious assault ships are bringing nearly 3,500 marines and more than 30 helicopters to help with relief efforts in Bangladesh, US military officials said Tuesday.


Tue Nov. 20, 2007

The government of Bangladesh has not yet asked for the help but the USS Kearsarge and the USS Essex were ordered to go there following a cyclone Thursday that left thousands dead and millions homeless.

A 23-member US military team is in the country to survey the situation, and report on what is needed, a spokeswoman from the US Pacific Command said.

The Kearsarge, which was in the Gulf region when the orders came, is expected to be near Bangladesh by the end of the week, said Lieutenant Commander Amy Derrick Frost.

The Essex, which was wrapping up an exercise in South Korea, will arrive a couple of days later, she said.

"They have personnel that can move supplies on the ground, and they can move supplies to areas of the country that have been identified by the government of Bangladesh as in need of assistance," she said.

Each vessel is carrying a 1,700-member Marine Expeditionary Unit, she said.

The amphibious assault ships are essentially helicopter carriers that can also launch air-cushioned landing craft and small boats, making it an ideal platform for a relief effort.

They typically carry a dozen CH-46 Sea Knight medium lift helicopters, and four CH-53E heavy lift Sea Stallion helicopters, as well a few smaller UH-1N Huey utility helicopters and four AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters.

Derrick Frost said the ships carry a small amount of humanitarian supplies, but their real value is likely to be to distribute government-owned relief supplies to stricken areas around the country.

"A lot of times, as we saw in (Hurricane) Katrina ourselves, you have supplies, you just need to move them," she said. "That's something we can assist with if they desire."

"The goal would be to use airlift or small boat assets ... and help move those supplies around," she said.

November 19, 2007

Practice hones 11th MEU's combat skills

ABOARD USS TARAWA (Nov. 19, 2007) -- Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took advantage of picture-perfect weather in the Pacific Ocean to practice what they do best, get into the fight quickly.


Nov. 19, 2007; Submitted on: 11/18/2007 11:47:06 PM ; Story ID#: 2007111823476
By Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez, 11th MEU

Reconnaissance and infantry Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, sharpened their combat skills by fast roping from a CH-46E Sea Knight onto the flight deck of USS Tarawa (LHA 1) this week.

The Marines from 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and grunts from Company C, BLT 1/5 took part in safety classes and practiced exiting from a static helicopter before going up on the Sea Knight.

Charlie Company, the BLT 1/5’s helicopter assault company and the MEU’s Force Recon platoon are tasked with conducting rapid reaction missions that require insertion into locations where a landing is not possible due to the terrain or a hostile combat environment.

Inside the helo and hovering 20-40 feet in the air, the Marines rechecked their gear and received final instructions from their trainers. The pilots maneuvered the aircraft to stay above and in unison with the still-moving amphibious ship below before dropping a rope onto the deck.

The Marines had little room for error and with a mile-deep ocean surrounding them, one-by-one the Marines slid down quickly onto the deck and established security.

This week’s fast rope exercise not only helped the infantry and recon Marines stay sharp, they also allowed Marine pilots gain experience deploying combat troops rapidly in missions where the element of surprise is required.

The Sea Knight helicopters are from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station, San Diego. HMM-166 (REIN), known as the Sea Elks, serves as the MEU’s aviation combat element while BLT 1/5 serves as the MEU’s ground combat element. The MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force and is capable of conducting a variety of missions including noncombatant evacuations, humanitarian assistance operations and combat operations. It is composed of a reinforced infantry battalion, reinforced medium helicopter squadron, a combat logistics element and a command element. The 11th MEU (SOC) is commanded by Col. John W. Bullard.

The exercise is one a many the Marines and Sailors of the MEU will do during a deployment that will take them throughout the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf region.

For more information about the 11th MEU (SOC) visit their website at http://www.usmc.mil/11thmeu.

Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group Arrives in 7th Fleet

USS TARAWA, At sea - USS Tarawa (LHA 1) Expeditionary Strike Group (TAR ESG) entered the U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility (AOR) Nov. 19, as part of a deployment to promote peace, regional cooperation and stability.


By Lt. Stephanie Murdock, Tarawa ESG Public Affairs Officer
Posted: 11/19/2007

While TAR ESG, led by Capt. John Miley, is scheduled to transit through the U.S. 7th Fleet to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) to provide support for coalition forces operating there, the ESG remains ready to respond to any mission in any theater of operation.

Since the beginning of 2007, TAR ESG has completed multiple training events, qualifications and inspections, leading up to certification as a combat-ready strike group.
“Our excellent preparation will allow us to take on a wide variety of missions that may come our way during our transit through the Pacific en route the Arabian Gulf,” said Miley. “Our ESG has the proven flexibility and combat power vital for conducting operations worldwide and we are more than ready to face any challenges that we may be asked to undertake.”

TAR ESG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship Tarawa, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) One, the transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) the guided missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70), and the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG-61) as well as the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 11the MEU, commanded by Col. John Bullard, is comprised of a command element, ground combat element, an air combat element, and a combat logistical support element.

In all, more than 5,500 Sailors and Marines are assigned to the TAR ESG.

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet is permanently embarked aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), which is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The U.S. 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans -- stretching from the International Date Line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.

More than half of the world's population lives within the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.

TAR ESG is headed west to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet and will support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, be prepared to take part in Horn of Africa operations, and conduct maritime security operations (MSO). Coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.

SPAWAR Europe awards new MWRnet Internet and Phone Service Contract

On 1 December 2007 a new company, DRS Technologies Inc., will take over operation, support, and maintenance of the MWR Internet Cafes in Iraq under Governmental direction of SPAWAR Europe. SPAWAR Europe is working diligently with both the current and the new company to ensure the transition is executed as seamlessly as possible, with a minimal impact on the operation of the Internet Cafes and the troops ability to access the Internet and make morale calls.


Monday, 19 November 2007

As part of the transition, the current company will stop selling long distance minutes for the MWRnet Iraq Program on 1 December 2007 and users will be able to purchase new long distance minutes from DRS.

To ensure the troops can continue making phone calls during the transition period, SPAWAR Europe and DRS will honor the existing MC Dean cards through 28 February 2008. However, starting 29 February 2008, only the new DRS long distance accounts will be supported on the Iraq MWR network. The users will, however, be able to make calls using existing long distance accounts while in the US.

If you have a MC Dean account PIN, we strongly encourage you to use the balance on the account during this timeframe:

Use the card as you normally do
On or after 1 December 2007, log-in to the Account Center and disable the Automatic Recharge feature, to ensure that funds are not automatically added to your expiring account after 1 December 2007
When your existing card balance is exhausted, create a new account and purchase new long distance minutes by following the Purchase Minutes link at the top of the page at http://oif.spawareurope.net
Long Distance Rates

DRS will honor the current long distance rate of 4 cents per minute for calls to the Continental United States (CONUS) and Germany (excluding mobile phones). Rates for calls to mobile phones and to other International destinations may vary. Current rates will be posted on the official MWRNet Iraq website.

November 17, 2007

As stability returns, Marines move out of neighborhood

HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Nov. 17, 2007) -- Marines with third platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, have dismantled and de-militarized the patrol base that has been their home for months.


Nov. 17, 2007; Submitted on: 11/17/2007 04:35:18 AM ; Story ID#: 2007111743518
By Cpl. Bryce Muhlenberg, Regimental Combat Team 6

The purpose of patrol bases such as these is to bring Marines as far into a troubled community as possible. This enables them to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces and residents to improve the area and put an end to violence.

Such intimate integration into the neighborhoods has yielded such positive results that they have effectively worked themselves out of a job. The people have taken responsibility for protecting their community. Iraqi Police have developed into an effective law enforcement organization. Now that these landmarks have been reached, it is time to move out of Patrol Base Stafford.

“We’ve been working with the Iraqi Police in the area, making sure they can do their jobs and helping them with anything they need,” said Cpl. Jayson A. Pihajlic, a 21-year-old squad leader and native of Lake Orion, Mich. “At this point they have everything under control and can handle it all themselves.”

Pihajlic, a 2004 Lake Orion High School graduate, said this de-militarization and move from the area is a small example of the end goal for all of Iraq.

“This is just a model of what we, as Marines specifically, are doing over here, and its working,” he said.

The combat engineer platoon working to pull apart Stafford couldn’t agree more, said Sgt. Christopher G. Frame, a 25-year-old heavy equipment operator.

“We have built or improved over six patrol bases, which is great, but the ‘de-mil’ is also a positive thing, because this will free up Marines to head to another area and do the same thing,” said the Julesburg, Colo., native who is on his third deployment. “It is also good, because an Iraqi man is getting his house back. The platoon leaving means less military force is needed. You look, and there are less and less Coalition Forces and it’s not us doing all of the work. It’s a joint effort between us, the Iraqi Police and the neighborhood watch.”

Once the Charlie Company Marines move out of Stafford, the platoon will start conducting mounted patrols throughout their area of operation.

“We are now only going to be checking in on the IPs to make sure standards are being met,” said Pihajlic. “That’s the way we are doing it. Once we feel they can operate on their own and the area is secured, we move somewhere else to do the same thing.”

As the de-militarization wrapped up, the owner of the house was standing among the Marines and their equipment. The owner, Ahmed Muhsim, said while temporarily losing use of his property was difficult, it was satisfying being part of the solution to bringing stability to his community.

“I’m very happy because I am coming back to my home, but it is very good that the Marines could use my house,” said Muhsim, a farmer. “At first I didn’t think I would get my house back, but it is very well and good, because this area is safe now because of the Marines. I like that.”

A family affair-3/23 holds family day

NAVAL AIR STATION/JOINT RESERVE BASE NEW ORLEANS, La. — (Nov. 17, 2007) -- Family members of 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment’s deployed Marines and sailors came together here Saturday afternoon during a battalion family day.


Nov. 17, 2007; Submitted on: 11/19/2007 11:38:42 AM ; Story ID#: 20071119113842
By Sgt. G. S. Thomas, Marine Forces Reserve

Family days hosted while service members are deployed are geared toward keeping the family members informed and connected, both with each other and the battalion.

“It helps families feel connected with people in similar circumstances,” said Vanessa Blanchard, Key Volunteer representative for Headquarters and Service Co., 3/23. “It helps them feel not-so-alone, and they get specific information, which they’re hungry for especially if it’s their first deployment.”

The day began with a brief by the Inspector-Instructor Staff first sergeant which included an overview of the battalion’s general location and a message from the battalion commander.

The families also were able to make giant Christmas cards and pack them in care packages assembled from items they brought, in addition to items donated by local merchants. In all, three boxes measuring 40 cubic feet each were packed and shipped out for the warriors of Task Force 3/23.

In addition, families could have their photographs taken and even record a video message which will reach their deployed warrior in time for the holidays.

“It’s great for the families to be able to show their support with a photo or the video message,” said 1st. Sgt. Jonathan J. Catalini, the I&I; Staff first sergeant for H&S; Co., 3/23.

Although the turnout was less than expected, overall, the day was a success.

“We got some good information to the families,” Catalini said. “They know we’re totally dedicated to supporting the families in all ways during the deployment.”

US ships on way to provide relief for cyclone-hit Bangladesh

Washington / Dhaka, Nov 17 (ANI): Two US Navy amphibious assault ships are on their way to Bangladesh to help authorities in relief and rescue operations after the powerful Cyclone Sidr lashed the country’s south and south-western regions on Thursday night.


November 17th, 2007 - 6:11 pm ICT by admin

With a wind speed of up to 240 kph, the cyclone roared in from the Bay of Bengal just before dusk on Thursday, killing over a thousand and damaging homes and crops.

The USS Essex and USS Kearsarge, each carrying helicopters, hovercraft and equipped with hospital facilities, have been dispatched, pending a formal request for help from the Bangladesh authorities, said Major David Griesmer, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh military helicopters and ships have joined rescue and relief operations today.

According to the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management, the official death toll on Saturday was pegged at 932.

“The toll is rising fast, as we receive more information from outlying areas where telephone lines have been restored,” said Mokhlesur Rahman, a ministry official in Dhaka, the capital.

Media reports state that over 1, 100 people are feared dead and thousands injured.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my 47 years life, said Khalilur Rahman, another government official in Patuakhali, adding that it was a panic beyond description.

People found no way but to keep on screaming as long as the cyclone ran rampage here, the Daily Star quoted him, as saying.

At least 650,000 coastal villagers have been moved to cyclone shelters and are receiving emergency rations, Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official, told reporters here.

According to rescuers and volunteers, it would take weeks to assess the actual death toll, financial loss, and days to reach relief to people who have been forced to live under the open skies.

The World Food Programme is providing emergency food rations to 400,000 people. Team from the government, the Red Crescent and other NGOs have also pressed into service in affected areas.

Over 40,000 policemen, soldiers, coast guards and health workers have been deployed along the coast for rescue operations.

Bangladesh’s Home Ministry on Friday said that several districts could still not be contacted as telephones and communications were cut and reports of casualties were confused.

Southern Bangladesh is often hit by cyclones, but experts say the latest is a category four storm, the most powerful so far in the season.

In Bangladesh , 500,000 people died in a 1970 cyclone. A similar storm claimed 143,000 lives in 1991. (ANI)

Cyclone death toll soars to 1,000

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) -- More than 1,000 people have died in Bangladesh after a devastating tropical cyclone ripped through the western coast of the country, and the toll is expected to rise, a government spokesman tells CNN.


November 17, 2007

As flood waters recede, aid workers say they expect to find scores more bodies when remote villages are finally reached and the counting is done. They face debris-blocked roads, no electricity and almost nonexistent communications.

In addition to the dead, another 15,000 were hurt and 1,000 people were missing, according to a relief official.

The government said Saturday that at least 1,000 bodies had been recovered, but news media, including a United News of Bangladesh report, put the death toll at 2,000.

United News said it had reporters deployed across the cyclone region.

Cyclone Sidr, with sustained winds of at least 131 mph (210 kph), made landfall Thursday night along the western coast of Bangladesh near the border with India, unleashing floodwaters.

"We still don't really know the extent of the damage. There are so many areas inaccessible," World Vision spokesman Vince Edwards, who is in the capital Dhaka, told CNN.

Adding to the tragedy is the loss of rice crops, normally harvested in December, Edwards said.

In Dhaka -- about 200 miles north of the worst-hit region -- there were power outages, massive traffic jams and spotty phone service, CNN's Cal Perry said from the city.

"From an infrastructure perspective, the country absolutely has been brought to its knees," he said.

Areas along the coast received the brunt of the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The worst-hit districts were Patuakhali, Barguna and Jhalakathi. Sixty percent to 70 percent of homes in those areas were destroyed, according to local officials. See victims pick up the pieces after the storm »

Nabiha Chowdhury, spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said 150 fishing boats were missing. The fishermen may have been caught in the storm and were unable to return to land, she added.

Chowdhury said about 600,000 people had fled, adding about two million people lived along the coast. She said the latest number of people injured was 15,000 with 1,000 missing.

Sidr had weakened significantly by the time it reached eastern India Friday night -- but the hard-hit areas could flood again late in the weekend, a forecaster said. The storm was moving northeast, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

"It's now a rainmaker, snowmaker," as it moves to higher elevations, and winds have dropped to 35 mph to 50 mph -- below hurricane strength -- according to CNN meteorologist Kevin Corriveau.

Forecasters predicted dry, clear weather with no wind in Bangladesh over the next two days, but Bangladesh was not entirely safe, Corriveau added.

He said it's possible rainfall from mountains will swell rivers, and by Sunday night or Monday the surge could reach already flooded locations in Bangladesh.

"It's hard to say how much. They've flooded once and could be flooded again," Corriveau said.

He said the storm sped up as it approached shore and reached land before forecasters had predicted it would. As it crossed over land, it began to weaken but still brought torrential rainfall and floods to the low-lying areas.

Sidr's powerful winds and lashing rain uprooted trees, leveled homes and even damaged buildings where residents sought shelter. Video footage from the height of the storm showed high, rolling waves along the coastal areas and winds blowing so hard palm trees were flattened.

Video footage shot from a helicopter Friday showed villages flattened and large numbers of people without shelter.

The U.N. World Food Programme announced it has enough high-energy biscuits to feed 400,000 people for three days.

Members of the Bangladesh army and navy were trying to help. Watch how the cyclone spawns a large relief effort »

U.S. military officials said Friday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was ready to dispatch Navy vessels carrying 3,500 Marines to the region to help in recovery efforts.

It is expected that the USS Kearsarge and USS Wasp would move from the Gulf of Oman. The USS Tarawa recently left Hawaii, and it could go to Bangladesh as well, officials said.

The U.S. Department of State issued a written statement Friday pledging "to work with the government and foreign donors to assist in relieving the effects of the disaster."

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. Mission in Bangladesh, anticipating the storm, pre-positioned 16 Zodiac boats, water treatment systems, water ambulances and food for a more rapid response.

Bangladesh has a long history with deadly cyclones.

In 1991, a devastating cyclone killed at least 140,000 people, according to the United Nations. And in 1970, Cyclone Bhola struck Bangladesh -- then East Pakistan -- killing 500,000 people. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration considers that storm to be the 20th century's "greatest tropical system disaster."

While the storm was one of the worst in the last hundred years to hit the country, improved warning systems and shelters have kept the number of deaths far lower than the disastrous cyclones of 1970 and 1991, when the death tolls were in the hundreds of thousands.

CNN's Dan Rivers and Barbara Starr contributed to this report

November 16, 2007

MARFORPAC band member follows passion and family tradition

MARINE CORPS BASE, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii (Nov. 16, 2007) -- Many young Marines have never worked in the job field they are expected to master in the Corps. They join with little to no experience and from there are molded into experts their field.

Please click on above link for photo.

Nov. 16, 2007; Submitted on: 11/16/2007 06:50:38 PM ; Story ID#: 20071116185038
By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks, Marine Forces Pacific

For Marines like Cpl. Matthew Kurdt, a clarinet player with the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band, he had to master his craft before he earned the position he holds today.

At 19 years old, Kurdt has surpassed many of his peers, perhaps not those in the Marine Corps,
but his civilian counterparts.

“I think it is a great opportunity for him, especially straight out of high school,” said Christy Hopkins, Kurdt’s instrumental music director at Governor Thomas Johnson High School. “Not even college music majors get as much play time as he does performance-wise.”

While college students perfect their craft through educational development, members of Marine Corps bands hone their skills through education and practical application.

“Matt was a diligent, hard working and fantastic leader,” said Hopkins, Kurdt’s band director for three and a half years. “I sat down with him and his mom and we discussed joining the Marines. I believe it was a great decision for him.”

Since joining the MARFORPAC band two months ago, this Frederick, Md., native has been in approximately 15 performances.

“That’s actually pretty laid back,” Kurdt said. “Some of the other band members belong to several ensembles and have back-to-back performances.”

The band may not be on the battlefield everyday, but they do spend an immense amount of time perfecting their proficiency in their instrument.

Kurdt has been training on the clarinet since the sixth grade. Eight years have gone by and he now pursues his musical career and still serves his country.

“I get to learn from many talented musicians and get paid to play music,” Kurdt said.
For Kurdt, joining the Marines was a sure thing even though the band was not. Kurdt had a desire to serve and follow the example of his grandfather.

“I signed up open contract not knowing whether or not I would make it into the band,” he said. “Whether or not I made it I still wanted to join.”

Even so, Kurdt said he was pretty confident he was going to make it. The audition requires band member hopefuls to play a prepared solo, scales test and a musical piece they have never seen before. Kurdt passed his audition and was sent to boot camp in September 2006.

Upon graduation he went to the Armed Forces School of Music in Fredericksburg, Va., for a six-month-long course in musical theory and private instruction.

“You know there is always room for improvement in music, but Cpl. Kurdt came out of the school highly trained,” said Sgt. Anson Rynard, clarinet player and section leader, MARFORPAC Band. “He has a lot of natural talent.”

Kurdt will need that talent to perform in the immense number of ceremonies the band supports. Band members act as ambassadors to the general public, which requires them to be highly professional and proficient, according to Rynard.

Marines like Kurdt are what the band needs to complete that mission, Rynard added.

“I expect good things from him,” he said.

Kurdt has had good leadership in his life, even before the Corps.

“My grandfather was a master gunnery sergeant. At the time he was promoted, he was the youngest person to be promoted to master guns,” Kurdt said.

Kurdt said he did not know much about his grandfather’s service because he didn’t talk about it, but he did have all the qualities of a Marine.

“You could tell he was a Marine even though he didn’t advertise it. He never went around bragging about being a Marine, but you could just tell,” he added. “He was my motivation to join the Corps.”

Kurdt has just begun his career in the Marine Corps, and while he is not sure how long he will stay in the Corps, he does plan to gain as much experience as possible.

“I want to get involved in some of the party bands as soon as there is an opening,” Kurdt said. “A year in is not enough to time to make an educated decision about the Corps, but music is definitely in my future.”

November 12, 2007

Rescue operation aims to save a wounded warrior

Despite concerns of overstepping, Times photographer Luis Sinco feels compelled to help the Iraq vet he made famous.

James Blake Miller was in a world of pain, and I figured I should be by his side.


By Luis Sinco : Times Staff Photographer
November 12, 2007

James Blake Miller was in a world of pain, and I figured I should be by his side.

A veterans' treatment program in West Haven, Conn. -- arguably the best in the nation -- offered hope. Moe Armstrong, a pioneer in vet-to-vet counseling, had heard of the Marlboro Marine's troubles and sent him feelers about coming for a visit. Despite my reservations about getting too involved, I had flown from Los Angeles to Kentucky to help Miller grab this lifeline. I coaxed him into my rental car and we headed north.

questioned myself. Was this the right thing to do? For Miller, yes. But for me? What awaited us at the end of this journey? I caught Miller's eyes reflected in the rearview mirror, droopy and lifeless. He hadn't slept well, and a long road led from his home in the Appalachian coal country to New England.

I had taken a photo of Miller for the Los Angeles Times during the battle of Fallouja in November 2004. He was leaning against a wall, a cigarette dangling from his lips. To my surprise, the image became iconic, capturing a sense of the front line in a young Marine's face. It appeared in dozens of newspapers and on TV broadcasts, giving Miller a moment of fame.

Back home, he had struggled to put Iraq behind him. He was medically discharged from the Marines, suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder. He suffered flashbacks, drank heavily and retreated into a shell.

We had stayed in touch, casually at first. Then something deeper had developed between us. I was one of the few people who could reach him, who understood what he had been through.

I'd flown east in June 2006 after Miller's wife called me, asking for help. During the long drive to Connecticut, it began to sink in that despite our 25-year age difference, Miller and I had a lot in common. We both had religious upbringings. We both went to public schools and ran with reckless crowds. We'd both found acceptance through sports.

Like Miller, I'd faced obstacles growing up. Despite my good grades, my high school counselor saw only a Filipino immigrant in homogeneous Olympia, Wash., and lumped me in with the underachievers. Instead of college catalogs, she offered me Army recruitment brochures.

The military would be better than "setting chokers," she said, referring to the equipment used to harvest clear-cut timber off steep mountainsides. It's dangerous work -- like mining coal in Kentucky.

As dusk descended, Miller and I drove on, talking about movies, music, motorcycles and cars. We talked about Iraq, where our lives had intersected.

On assignment for The Times, I was embedded with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Miller was a radioman with the unit.

He recalled intense training as the Marines prepared to enter Fallouja. There was bluster, bravado. Some of the men talked about notching "kills."

On the eve of battle, they became reflective and subdued as they wrote last goodbyes. Their letters home basically said: If you get this, I am dead.

Miller was haunted by the brutality of the fight.

I remembered that, of course, but my mind had also stored a consoling image, one of transcendent serenity.

I told Miller about it as we drove north. The morning sun was streaming gloriously through the broken windows of the shattered Khulafah Rashid mosque in Fallouja, where Marines had taken refuge during the battle. The light splashed over deep red prayer rugs where Marines sprawled in fitful sleep, their packs serving as pillows, their dusty boots laced tight.

Rubble littered the floor, and dust floated up through shafts of light. Copies of the Koran lay open amid shards of glass. I recalled leaning against a towering pillar in the vast space, breathing the tranquillity.

Miller talked about killing the enemy.

"To try to live with that . . . how do you justify it, regardless of what your causes are or what their causes are?" he said.

"To see somebody in your sights and to pull that trigger, it's almost like you're with them, seeing their life flash before their eyes as well as taking it. It's an insane connection that you make with that person at that point."

We talked about the dissonance we felt. We existed in our own postwar world, forever changed by the experience. Meanwhile, everyone around us seemed distracted by trivialities -- the price of gas, a sex scandal in Washington, a paparazzi photo of Britney Spears without panties.

Fueled by coffee and Marlboros, we crossed six state lines and covered 870 miles. At dawn we arrived in West Haven. It was pouring rain.

We checked into a motel pushed up against the freeway, and Miller quickly nodded off. A CNN special report about the war glowed on TV.

I couldn't sleep. A journalist wasn't supposed to get personally involved with his subjects. But I felt somehow responsible for Miller. Over and over, I thought: It will be my fault if something bad happens to him.

"You know you're going to be OK, right?" Laurie Harkness, who runs Errera Community Care Center for veterans, said when she met Miller the next day.

"Maybe you did some horrible things in Iraq. But war is terrible," she said. "You do what you have to in order to survive. And you survived. That's good news, right?"

Miller nodded. He agreed to check in to the program. Veterans benefits would cover the cost of treatment. Miller would pay $300 a month for room and board.

Between the intense counseling offered by Harkness and peer support from Moe Armstrong's group, Vet to Vet, it seemed Miller would finally get the help he needed. But shortly after signing in, he insisted on returning to Kentucky to get his motorcycle. Harkness reluctantly issued a weekend pass. I crossed my fingers.

Worried that I was in over my head, I asked Armstrong to accompany us as we covered the same highways we had traversed just days before. I figured that if Armstrong was there to offer professional counseling, I could retreat into my role as journalist. Besides, my patience was wearing thin. Another 1,700 miles -- for a motorcycle!

All the way back to Connecticut, I kept my eyes on the rearview mirror, constantly checking to make sure Miller hadn't pulled a U-turn. On the program. On himself. On me.

Over the next month, I stayed by Miller's side as he began to reveal the things that weighed so heavily on his mind. At his request, I sat in on most of his therapy sessions. He said my presence put him at ease, but I never put down my camera, never stopped documenting the story.

Miller told Harkness how empty and confused he had felt when combat ended. How he had placed the barrel of an M-16 assault rifle in his mouth on the outskirts of Fallouja one day, taken a deep breath and reached for the trigger.

"What made me so special that I deserved to stay here and my buddies didn't?" Miller asked, speaking of friends who had died. "At one point, I was almost mad at them. How could my buddies leave me like that? We came together. We were supposed to leave together. I don't know how you can disconnect that feeling."

He told us about an event that haunted him. From an observation post in Fallouja, he had seen a head pop up amid the wreckage of several cars. It was a free-fire zone. He squinted into his rifle scope, saw a patch of dark curly hair and squeezed the trigger.

Later, Marines advanced on the scene and found a dead boy, 6 or 7 years old, his curly hair mottled by bits of brain and blood.

There was more, he said -- terrible things he couldn't divulge. Not now. Maybe never.

"To kill the snake, we had to cut off its head," was all he would say.

On July 10, 2006, Miller turned 22. He seemed to be getting the help he needed.

I had been away from my wife and three children for a month. It was time to go home to Los Angeles.

The night before my departure, I joined Miller and some other vets for a birthday dinner. We broke it up about 10 p.m. I told Miller to call me day or night if he needed help. I encouraged him to hang tough.

"You stuck your neck out for me to keep mine here," he said. "And I feel with everything in me that you have saved my life. I thank you for that."

Relief washed over me. It was like shedding a rucksack of rocks. I got into my car as he started up his motorcycle. A deep, loud rumble ripped the night.

We traveled together for a time. He slowed and waved as I turned in to my hotel. I watched him roar into the darkness.

Over the next several weeks, Harkness took a special interest in Miller's recovery. She told him that, in time, he might even enroll at Yale University through a special admissions process.

Miller began to realize that guilt and fear were ruining him. It's what prompted the rush to marry his high school sweetheart, Jessica Holbrooks, after he got home from Iraq, even though he knew deep down he wasn't ready. Now he understood that even Jessica couldn't make him feel safe or accepted. She couldn't make him stop scanning the darkness for the enemy beyond. It's what made him drink all night, finding sleep in the arms of exhaustion.

Still, he didn't say much in group therapy, preferring to stay in a shell. He commonly skipped the daily meetings and instead spent hours on the phone with Jessica. He put off sessions of "cognitive behavioral therapy," which would require him to discuss his troubling memories.

"It's all good," he told me over the phone. He said he was gaining clarity. He borrowed a guitar and strummed all day. He expressed optimism.

But soon Miller began talking about going home.

Once again, I made the cross-country trip. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him not to blow an excellent opportunity to put his life back together. A chance to go to Yale? I would jump at that myself.

But Miller wasn't receptive. He had scuffled with some local motorcycle toughs and felt threatened. He missed the mountains. He wanted to go home. Period.

Disappointing all who had tried to help him, he dropped out just two months into a program that was supposed to last six months to a year.

We left Connecticut in the middle of the night. I followed in my rental car as he rode his motorcycle for 18 hours through a sweltering summer day to be reunited with Jessica.

It was August 2006. The couple hoped to get a fresh start in Princeton, W.Va., which offered a veterans center, the mountains Miller loved, and the privacy so lacking in his hometown.

In the gloaming, they held each other tight. They thought maybe they could work things out.

They shopped for used furniture and found an apartment that was light and airy, with a porch for barbecues.

"I'm just in a tizzy," said Jessica. "I missed him so."

But Armstrong, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, was worried. He had had high hopes that he could help Miller and that Miller could help him reach a younger generation of combat veterans.

"Blake Miller is a flipped-out, 21-year-old former Marine who was involved in a major battle," Armstrong said. "He's been through a lot, seen a lot. I can't endorse the quick fix. It's a common pattern that vets are in and out of therapy for years."

Miller began seeing psychologist and retired Marine Ernie Barringer at the veterans center in Princeton. Miller knew I was disappointed in him for leaving the Connecticut program. He and Jessica went out of their way to reassure me everything would be OK.

They drove me to the secluded mountaintop outside Pikeville, Ky., to show me the spot where Miller had asked Jessica to be his girl, just days before he shipped out to Iraq. She promised to be there when he returned.

They laughed, embarrassed by the story. Miller sipped root beer and Jessica Nehi orange soda. Insects hummed in the dark.

Under a splash of stars, the moon rose. A gentle breeze rippled the woods. One could almost imagine Fallouja never happened.

By mid-October 2006, Miller had again slipped into depression. Memories flooded back as the second anniversary of the Fallouja battle approached. As the death toll mounted in Iraq, he worried about his buddies who had again deployed to the Middle East.

Marriage counseling proved difficult; sessions often ended in stony silence. Vaguely familiar facial features reappeared in Miller's dreams: a mole, thick beards and curly black hair. Then, body parts exploding.

Jessica became frustrated. They didn't talk. They stopped having sex. One night later that month, Miller called me, sounding depressed. I offered to come see him. By the time I arrived, Jessica had moved out.

They next met at a law office in Pikeville. The smoke from Miller's cigarette hung thick in the air. The couple sat across a wide table and agreed to proceed with a divorce.

So much for happy endings, I thought, recalling their wedding.

As Miller and I drove back to West Virginia, news crackled over the radio. The Democrats had routed the GOP in the midterm congressional election. Public sentiment about Iraq had soured, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the architect of the war, was resigning.

Miller had mixed feelings. "That's good news, I guess," he said. "But it should've happened a long time ago. Everybody that's dead now. I mean, what's the point?"

It was Nov. 9, 2006 -- two years after I took the famous picture of Miller and a year after he left the Marines.

In his empty apartment, Miller took his wedding picture from the wall and replaced it with a Meritorious Mast, a certificate detailing his valor in combat. He drank beer for comrades living and lost.

He spoke the names of the dead: Brown, Gavriel, Holmes, Ziolkowski.

"I didn't cry then, and I won't now," Miller said. "I just can't."

Over the next 10 days, we awoke late and drove aimlessly in the countryside. He attended meetings at the vet center. I took more pictures.

Winter was upon the mountains. Miller blamed his melancholy on the season.

Within weeks, Miller moved back to Kentucky and got an apprenticeship at a custom motorcycle shop, working up to 14 hours a day.

"This makes me feel like I still have some purpose in life," he said. "Fixing things. Making them right."

The shop's owner presided over the local chapter of the Highwaymen, a Detroit-based motorcycle club under constant scrutiny by law enforcement.

Miller acknowledged that the Highwaymen were into "serious business" but said he joined the club for the camaraderie. The uniforms and codes of conduct reminded him of the Marines.

I worried about this new affiliation. After joining, Miller never went out without his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, and he kept a shotgun in his truck. To me, his new friends seemed overly interested in his combat "kills." One biker, a Vietnam veteran also plagued by PTSD, promised me he'd get Miller to join the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"We'll connect veteran to veteran," the biker told me, his breath tinged with moonshine.

Miller now sees Jessica a couple of times a month. They have not completed their divorce but remain separated.

"I see him on his good days," Jessica said, "and everything is wonderful. We actually have conversations." But then weeks pass without sight of him.

"He has to get stable," she said. "If he was better, we'd be together all the time."

Miller lives in a refurbished trailer behind his father's house. Two televisions provide constant background chatter. The refrigerator is bare. A hound named Mudbone spends most days tied in the yard.

Miller is estranged from his mother. He talks with his father, Jimmy Miller, 43, about everything except Iraq.

"What am I going to say? 'Son, I know what you've been through'? 'I know what you're going through now'?" the father said. "Well, the truth is I don't. Maybe it's just better that we leave it alone."

Miller's brother Todd, a 21-year-old diesel mechanic, doesn't pretend to understand.

"I'm glad I didn't join the Marines," Todd said one day. "I got a nice house, a wife and twin baby daughters, and I drive a Durango that's used but damn near new. You're divorced, drive a beat-up pickup and live in a trailer."

On top of that, Todd told his brother, your head is screwed up.

The months go by. One disability check comes, and then the next -- about $2,500 a month. Miller sees Barringer, the psychologist, but only occasionally.

"Sometimes you just have to look at the culture of small-town eastern Kentucky," Barringer said. "Blake graduated from high school and had no future. So he joined the Marines, and now he's home and has a steady income. Things are good.

"But sometimes that's more of a negative than a positive," he added. "Look, every time you go out to that mailbox and get your disability check, it tells you you're sick."

It took a while to get to know Miller. But I've come to appreciate his intelligence, generosity and dignity. He is a talented musician and skilled mechanic. I try to relate to him as a brother, even though I'm older than his father.

He has helped me sort through the craziness of Fallouja. I can't stop the war, but Miller has given me a chance to make a difference -- by helping him. And maybe myself.

Often, I wonder if I've done enough. Can I let go now? Can I ever let go?

The experts tell me I may be in it for the long haul.

Armstrong says Miller is "playing out his symptoms on cue."

"He's just keeping his head above water," he said. "He can't afford any downtime because it allows him to think."

Harkness holds out hope that Miller will eventually seek intensive therapy of the kind she offered.

"He won't come in for help because a part of him is very macho," she said. "He really comes across as the Marlboro Man. My fear is that at some point, it's all going to come crashing down.

To me, she said: "You are a constant object for Blake. You are the only person to follow him from the war zone to back home in America. You have a bond. He would be much lonelier and lost without you."

Some experts estimate that 30% of the troops who have seen combat in Iraq will suffer from PTSD.

As that thought lingers in my head, I remind myself that the sweetest victory is survival. The rest of life is a glittering gift, tempered in the forge of Fallouja.

Sometimes in the night, I hear a grenade launcher belching rounds. Or maybe it's just Miller gunning his Harley. He's roaring over Foggy Mountain, the wind blowing by, cleansing his thoughts.

Blake, son, I know it sounds crazy, but my mind always takes me back to that distant rooftop in Fallouja, where I snapped your picture. I think of that sunrise, bright and warm, and how lucky we were to see it.

[email protected]

232 reasons to love your Corps

Posted : Monday Nov 12, 2007 6:47:04 EST

The Marine Corps turned 232 years old Saturday. Ever since it was formed in a Philadelphia bar in 1775, the Corps has given Marines countless reasons to take pride in the heritage of their organization.

To continue reading:


Campaigning From a Combat Zone

A Marine reservist seeks Dad's House seat.

While California Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, is navigating the campaign trail in his long-shot bid for the White House, his son, Marine Capt. Duncan D. Hunter, is running to replace him in Congress with help from his dad's Beltway buddies. The younger Hunter, or Junior, as he is called by some friends and family, is waging this political struggle while serving his country 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan (he has also served in Iraq).


By Jamie Reno | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Nov 12, 2007

Because of strict Department of Defense rules, the Marine reservist can't officially campaign until he returns home next month. He can't even blog or write anything on his Web site. Yet the 30-year-old would-be congressman has still managed to raise $170,000, which his staff says is more money than any other Republican hopeful in the race for California's 52nd Congressional District seat. (Hunter faces several other GOP challengers who are well-known locally.) The GOP primary is scheduled for June in the district, which has about 151,000 registered Republicans and 100,000 registered Democrats.

The younger Hunter's Web site boasts that nearly 70 current House members have already endorsed his candidacy and that his campaign received more than $15,000 from current members and their political action committees during the third quarter of this year. One contributor: former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who now works as a business consultant in Maryland. According to campaign disclosure forms, on Sept. 30 Rumsfeld gave the maximum $2,300 contribution to Hunter, whose father was one of the few pols to publicly lament Rumsfeld's resignation last year.

Hunter's conservative platform—strong defense, border protection, low taxes—mimics the positions his father has stood for as a member of the House for the past 27 years. (The elder Hunter decided not to run for re-election when he mounted his presidential bid.) The younger Hunter was a recent college graduate on a business track when America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. He joined the Marines a day later and has since developed political ambitions, says David Gilliard, a veteran California political consultant who is managing Hunter's campaign. "He wants to be a voice for the troops."

Hunter completed his active service in September 2005 but was sent to Afghanistan as a reservist earlier this year; he will return home next month. A Marine spokesman said Hunter received permission to enter the race, though he's barred from even talking about the campaign to Gilliard and others until he sheds his uniform. "We've had three other Marines in the same position in the last year, all running for elected office," said Marine spokesman Maj. Eric Dent. "As the DoD directive states, he cannot direct his campaign in any way."

Gilliard said he has not communicated with Hunter at all since Junior formally launched his campaign, shortly after redeploying to Afghanistan in May. In Hunter's absence his wife Margaret has spoken at campaign functions and given interviews on talk radio. The Hunters have three young children at home. "He's looking forward to the time when he can communicate his beliefs and share his positions," says Gilliard. He said Hunter should be free and clear of all DoD restrictions by January. (At that point he will have completed three tours of duty, which makes it unlikely—though not impossible—that he will be called up again.)

Political analysts say Hunter Jr.'s current role as a Marine puts him in an enviable political position. "Who's going to throw mud at someone who's in a foxhole?" asks Carl Luna, a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College and longtime observer of California politics.

But Hunter isn't the only warrior in the race. Mike Lumpkin, a recently retired Navy SEAL commander, is one of Hunter's opponents on the Democratic side. "I have great respect for his service to his country, but if his name wasn't Duncan Hunter you wouldn't be writing this story," says Lumpkin, who has a master's degree in national security. "People are rallying around this young man, but the truth is no one really knows him."

November 9, 2007

Bush Visits Injured Veterans in Texas

SAN ANTONIO -- President Bush paid an emotional visit Thursday to soldiers maimed or badly burned in combat and said his administration is determined to mend the nation's system of caring for veterans.


The Associated Press
Friday, November 9, 2007; 4:07 AM

Medical advances provide troops with treatment unimaginable just a decade ago, but the system for managing that care has lagged, Bush said.

"Our system needs to be modernized," the president said after touring a new $45 million, privately funded rehabilitation center for veterans at Brooke Army Medical Center.

"We have an outdated system that can bog down some of those recovering in a maze of bureaucracy and that's what happened at Walter Reed," he said, referring to the Army medical center in Washington, D.C.

Bush's visit to Brooke comes amid scrutiny of veterans' care and discontent among returning troops after extended tours in Iraq.

The president said his administration had put in place recommendations of the commission he created after reports about substandard outpatient treatment at Walter Reed. He urged Congress to act on others that require legislation.

"There were serious problems (at Walter Reed) caused by bureaucratic delays and administration failures, and that is unacceptable," Bush said. `It's unacceptable to me as the commander in chief, it's unacceptable to the families of those who deserve the best care and it's unacceptable to the American people."

At the rehabilitation center, Bush stopped at a "gait lab," where amputees with protheses learn to walk on gravel, artificial turf and other surfaces. A pool with a simulated wave allows patients to practice their balance while riding tiny surf boards.

Bush toured a physical therapy gym where two double amputees tossed a ball while balancing themselves on exercise balls. He talked to two servicemen with faces so burned that scarring had left them with mask-like expressions.

The president also watched as Lance Cpl. Matt Bradford, 22, of Winchester, Ky., who lost both legs and his sight in an explosion in Iraq, climb a fake rock wall. Other soldiers cheered him on as he slowly scaled the 35-foot wall and captured a red flag at the top.

"Good man. Isn't he?" Bush said.

The administration recently announced it would hire workers to individually guide seriously wounded soldiers and their families through their recuperation.

According to the White House:

_Work is under way to set up a single disability exam to replace ones now required from both the VA and Defense Department.

_A new center for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has hired its first workers and moved into temporary offices near Bethesda.

_A single Web site is in development to allow members of the military to track their medical recovery.

_A new regulation to update the disability schedule for traumatic brain injury and burns will be ready soon for public comment.

The VA will begin two reviews that will help provide the information necessary to modernize veterans' disability system, Bush said.

"I want to make sure our men and women coming out of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq have a modern disability system, and that's what the studies are going to do," he said.

Bush's visit to the medical center came between fundraisers in Houston and San Antonio that raised $1.3 million for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and the GOP's get-out-the-vote effort in the state.

In Houston, Bush attended a brunch at the mansion of Richard Kinder, chairman of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. The second fundraiser was hosted by lawyer John Steen to help Cornyn in his race against Democratic state Rep. Rick Noriega.

The president found time in Houston to shake hands and be photographed with a half-dozen astronauts and their families at Ellington Field.

The astronauts, wearing their blue flight suits emblazoned with American flags and NASA insignia, returned to Earth on Wednesday from the space shuttle Discovery's 15-day mission.

November 8, 2007

Young sisters raise funds to aid troops

STRATFORD — Beanie Babies may seem like unlikely gifts to send to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Article Last Updated: 11/08/2007 10:49:57 PM EST

But a sixth-grader at Stratford Academy and her 16-year-old sister are doing just that: collecting small stuffed animals for U.S. soldiers to hand out to children in the war-torn countries.

Stratford Academy student Rebecca Simon, 10, and her sister Caity, a junior at Stratford High School, are spearheading the effort to collect the Beanie Babies.

At the same time, Rebecca is leading a fundraising drive by selling Becky's Bookmarks, her own invention, to help the town buy portable defibrillators and provide the life-saving devices in public places.

Volunteers have been enlisted to help with both causes during Stratford High School's football game against Nonnewaug High School at 1 p.m. Saturday at Penders Field.

"These are great causes, and Becky is a special student who has worked hard to help the community and others throughout society," said Stratford High School Principal Jack Lynch. "These are great examples of the kinds of volunteer work she and her family have done to help people, and we are very proud."

Becky's Bookmarks were created two years ago and have been sold throughout town as a fundraiser to purchase portable defibrillators, said her mother, Colleen Simon. "Stratford High School is a good place to sell the bookmarks because faculty members' lives have been saved by defibrillators," Simon said. A 1977 graduate was recently lauded for saving the life of a man using a portable defibrillator, she added.

Simon said Becky's friends help to create and sell the bookmarks, and since the fundraiser's inception, more than $700 has been raised.

She said the Beanie Babies will be collected and sent to soldiers assigned to a weapons company based at Hurricane Point Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

Soldiers say the children in Iraq and Afghanistan love the stuffed animals, and handing them out to local children helps create good will.

"The children love the Beanie Babies, they just can't get enough of them," said Marine Sgt. Mike Lanpolsaen. "The smile on their innocent faces is priceless. Hopefully, they will continue to experience the same joy without fear or intimidation and have the same freedom that our kids have in the States.

"I feel these kinds of gestures are making a big difference here," Lanpolsaen said. Mayor James R. Miron said he's been amazed by Becky's contributions.

"She's a remarkable young lady. When I started two years ago to raise awareness about automatic defibrillators in public places, she came to my open-door meeting with her grandmother and asked how she could help," Miron said.

"Then she came up with the idea of selling these bookmarks, and she's gotten a lot of other kids involved and excited about the effort," the mayor said. "Her awareness of what's going on in the world to touch children in other countries is also very inspiring."

Becky's Bookmarks have been sold at Town Hall, I'll Take Manhattan Deli and the Birdseye Municipal Complex, as well as Stratford Day and the Stratford Fire Department Parade.

November 7, 2007

3rd Bn., 2nd Marines hits ground running

AL QA’IM, Iraq (Nov. 7, 2007) -- Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”


Nov. 7, 2007; Submitted on: 11/07/2007 09:08:36 AM ; Story ID#: 20071179836
By Cpl. Billy Hall, 2nd Marine Division

Prepared to unearth any remnants of those who intend to plant fear and insecurity in western Iraq, the Betio Bastards stand ready.

With the final elements of the battalion arriving to their area of operation, the Marines and sailors of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, are primed and in place to maintain stability and bring prosperity to the region.

The infantry companies are set in motion and have started providing security and orienting themselves with the local populace. The numerous support elements of Headquarters and Support Company have also hit the ground running, providing intelligence, logistical support, communications and transportation, to name a few of their many missions.

Months of intense training have paid off in dividends, allowing the battalion to kick off their deployment without missing a beat.

Lt. Col. Peter B. Baumgarten, the battalion commander, met with the mayor, leaders of the Iraqi Police and Army, and numerous sheiks, to publicly assume command of the area of operation from Lt. Col. Jason Q. Bohm, the battalion commander of Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines.

“I, like Colonel Bohm, look to fill the shoes of my predecessors in a way that will be very positive to the people of Al Qa’im,” Baumgarten said. “I look forward to meeting each one of you and working together in the future months to be successful.”

The atmosphere was optimistic and productive as key leaders discussed several pressing issues and plans for the future, such as reopening the point of entry at the Syrian border in the town of Husaybah.

The sheiks spoke of unity amongst the many tribes within the region and setting a path of success for the rest of Iraq to follow.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the local leaders and sheiks treated the Marines to a traditional Iraqi meal. In customary fashion, there were no utensils; everyone ate with their hands from large platters of rice, vegetables and goat.

The meeting and luncheon helped to lay the groundwork for the battalion’s transition into their third deployment to Iraq in three years.

During the initial days of operation, the battalion’s progress has been substantial. Cooperation and coordination with the local leaders and forces are proving to be the crucial elements contributing to maintaining the security and bringing prosperity to Iraq. The Betio Bastards will continue working steadily to uproot any instability that remains.

November 6, 2007

Strike group's deployment has some families on edge

SAN DIEGO – Senior military officers described yesterday's deployment of the San Diego-based Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group as routine and unexceptional.

Click on the above link to view a video. Please know that sometimes the original link becomes outdated.

By Rick Rogers

November 6, 2007

Family members of the more than 5,500 departing sailors and Marines sounded more anxious. They know the six-ship contingent serves as a “911 force,” one poised to jump into emergencies during its six-to nine-month voyage in the western Pacific and Indian oceans.

The service members might respond to a crisis involving such countries as Iran, Pakistan or North Korea. They could be sent to a zone devastated by a natural disaster. And while the official itinerary makes no mention of the Iraq war, the Tarawa group could head to the Persian Gulf.

“I'm sad and fearful,” said Cheryl Barbosa, whose 21-year-old son, Seaman Alex Barbosa, embarked on his first combat deployment. “I don't know what to expect with him out there. I have a lot of emotions about him going.”

Next to her at the San Diego Naval Base pier were Alex's wife, Dioniece, and the couple's 6-month-old daughter, Alexis.

“He's going to miss her first everything,” Dioniece Barbosa said, wiping away tears.

Around 8 a.m., she and clusters of other well-wishers stood under overcast skies and watched last-minute preparations for the deployment. The air was punctuated by the cranking of winches, the reverberations of foghorns and the chatter of troops and their loved ones.
Some family members looked glum while holding each other. Others were busy making memories for the coming months.

Karelia Martinez videotaped the dock landing ship Germantown pulling out of port. On the vessel's deck stood her husband, Sgt. Marlin Martinez.

“The kids wanted to come and say goodbye,” said Karelia Martinez, whose family was evacuated two weeks ago when wildfires threatened their housing area at Camp Pendleton. “I want to make this video so we can watch it during the holidays and seem closer to him.”

Reflecting its designation as a rapid-response force, the Tarawa group has a versatile mix of military personnel. This includes about 2,200 Marines and sailors from the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which can handle a wide range of duties including combat missions and humanitarian operations.

Marine Col. J.W. Bullard, commander of the expeditionary unit, said “it'll be tough being deployed for the holidays,” but that his troops have trained the past six months for their tour.

Navy Capt. John Miley, who oversees the deploying ships, said he's comforted by the kindness that he knows the people of San Diego will extend to military families left behind.

“San Diego is a great supporter of the Navy and Marine Corps,” Miley said.

'Red Dragons' fly into theatre to support operations

AL ASAD, Iraq (Nov. 6, 2007) -- The Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 arrived at Al Taqaddum to support service members operating in the Al Anbar province, Sept. 15.


Nov. 6, 2007; Submitted on: 11/06/2007 07:44:22 AM ; Story ID#: 200711674422
By Cpl. Ryan Jackson, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

The 'Red Dragons' assumed responsibility of the general support helicopter mission in the Western Al Anbar province after a transfer of authority ceremony with HMM-161.

The Camp Pendleton-based CH-46E squadron offers helicopter assault support to ground units and general support to air elements, including water drop off at combat outposts, troop lifts and equipment transport from camp to camp to sustain operations. In addition to general and assault support, they fly hospital runs and VIP flights.

“We’re doing hospital runs where we’ll fly a devil dog back to his unit or push him back home,” said Sgt. Maj. Juan Diaz, squadron sergeant major. “General support is assisting the Marines on the ground out there. We also do VIP flights for dignitaries or the generals. They come over here to try and help solve the country’s problems, so we’re contributing to that.”

The squadron has flown the skies of Al Taqaddum during previous deployments and is heavy on Marines with deployment experience and leadership as well.

“The majority of our Marines have been here before and few have not,” said Diaz. “We’re very blessed that we have some consistency and the Marines with experience can act as mentors to others.”

While maintaining motivation and carrying out day-to-day missions, the squadron continues training for the worst and performing their best.

“Now that we’re here, we’re training to learn how to handle a bird that has lost power,” said Diaz. “This is beneficial to us because people have a tendency of reacting differently when stress is added. Training enables us to hopefully maintain our composure during adverse situations. Other training we are currently conducting is qualifying Marines who have volunteered to be aerial observers in addition to their primary (military occupational specialty).”

Although the squadron just arrived, they have no shortage of work. Within the first few weeks after arriving, the squadron weathered a storm which reduced operational capabilities. Although the aircraft were not flying, the maintenance section worked just as many hours ensuring the birds were ready to fly.

“The squadron has been working hard because of the (relief in place),” said Diaz. “They are being pushed to limits they probably didn’t realize they had. Our board indicates 1000 mishap-free hours in one month. The commanding officer and I are extremely pleased with our crew.”

Iraqis work with Marines for security in Ramadi

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Nov. 6, 2007) -- Marines are finding new allies in the Global War on Terror as Operation Iraqi Freedom continues into its’ fifth year. Marines in the capital of Al Anbar are finding they can turn to the Iraqi Police for assistance.


Nov. 6, 2007; Submitted on: 11/06/2007 12:43:29 AM ; Story ID#: 200711604329
By Lance Cpl. David A. Weikle, 2nd Marine Division

“They’re like a neighborhood watch,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Wells, a Marine with Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, attached to the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Multi National Force-West. “They’re working with us so they can keep their city safe from insurgents.”

Marines are helping train the IPs to ensure they can fulfill the security mission.

“We’ve taught them about personnel searches and patrolling techniques along with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program,” said Wells, a squad automatic weapon gunner. “They’re willing to learn, so we teach them.”

A more experienced Marine also shared his thoughts on working with Iraqis. Lance Cpl. Adam Ryder was part of the battalion during the last deployment to Iraq, when 1st Bn., 8th Marines participated in Operation Al Fajir, known to Marines as Phantom Fury. Phantom Fury put a harsh face to the war with its house-to-house clearing operations which drew worldwide attention.

“They’re doing their jobs and taking charge of their country,” said Ryder. “It’s different than 2004.”

Ryder says his experiences have been radically different than he expected. The operations he has been a part of so far such as joint security operations and civil military operations are dissimilar from those performed in Fallujah during 2004.

“Before, it was completely a combat situation,” said Ryder, who re-enlisted during February 2007. “Now the situation is different and we are working with Iraqis against the insurgents.”
The men have developed bonds of friendship and respect. Wells said these bonds are useful in easing tensions and help to break through the language barrier.

The success of the police can be measured by Ramadi’s current state of relative peace and stability. Ramadi continues to shine as an example to the rest of Al Anbar to the benefits of the IPs and IAs working along with Coalition Forces.

“They want to learn as much as they can,” said the Hillsboro, Tenn., native. “The quicker we can train them to handle things, the faster we can hand over the security to them.”

November 5, 2007

Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group Deploys

SAN DIEGO -- The Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group leaves San Diego Monday for a six-month deployment to the western Pacific and Persian Gulf.

Click on the above link to view a video. Please know that sometimes the original link becomes outdated.

Aboard the three U.S. Navy warships -- the USS Tarawa, the USS Germantown and the USS Cleveland -- are more than 4,000 sailors and members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, said Navy deputy public affairs officer Dave Hosteler.

The ships also carry amphibious landing craft, helicopters and AV8B Harrier jump jets.

The Tarawa strike group last deployed in 2005, when sailors helped train the new Iraqi navy, protected Iraqi oil terminals and joined in a naval exercise called "Bright Star," Hosteler said.

Thousands of Sailors, Marines Deploy

SAN DIEGO -- Thousands of sailors and Marines began leaving local waters Monday when their expeditionary strike group deployed.

Click on the above link to view a video. Please know that sometimes the original link becomes outdated.

The Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group began leaving at about 6 a.m. for a scheduled six-month deployment. There are more than 5,500 military members in the strike group, which includes the amphibious ships USS Tarawa, USS Cleveland, USS Germantown as well as the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Pearl Harbor-based USS Port Royal and USS Hopper, and the USS Ingraham from Everett, Wash.

The ship and expeditionary group are named for a tiny Pacific atoll that was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in World War II.

"Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work that has gone into getting ready for this deployment," said John Miley, the commander of Amphibious Squad 1. "The sailors and Marines of the Tarawa ESG have been working hard over the last few months, getting ready to go."

The strike group will eventually make its way to the Middle East, according to military officials.

November 3, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition surprises KCK family

This morning

A whirlwind week started for the Daniel Gilyeat family in Kansas City, Kan., this morning when they became the next beneficiary of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s magic.


Sat, Nov. 03, 2007
By JASON NOBLE The Kansas City Star

About 9:10 a.m., their day started with a good morning greeting from host Ty Pennington and his trademark bullhorn outside their home at 3003 N. 65th Terrace. With TV cameras rolling and the media converging, Gilyeat and his four children became the third Kansas City area family in three years to be visited by the popular TV show and its crew.

The family will be sent on vacation while crews begin demolition on Monday, and the frenzy of building the family a new home is expected to start Tuesday. Hundreds of volunteers and workers will work around the clock to start and finish building by the end of the week.

The family, consisting of Gilyeat; daughters Alexis, 9 and Victoria, 8, and sons Danny, 6, and Nicholas, 4, will return next Sunday to be escorted by Pennington through their custom-built home.

The Stephen Johnson family from Kansas City was featured on the show in the spring of 2005. Last March, the 12-member Jesus and Michelle Jacobo family of Kansas City, North, received a new home.

Kevin Green Homes, which built the last two Makeover houses, will be running the construction process again.

The entire scene draws thousands of spectators, some hoping to sneak a peek at Pennington and others simply curious about the conversion and ready to yell, “Move that bus!”

This afternoon

Gilyeat and the children left for their vacation in Southern California after meeting for most of the day with the designers and builders who will construct their new house.

Before they left, Gilyeat, a 35-year-old disabled Marine Corps veteran who was injured in Iraq, said he began to suspect a couple of days ago that his family had been chosen for the makeover. Family members had been told ahead of time they were finalists along with a few other families, but were not told they were the lucky ones until this morning.

“I had some ideas when they started moving telephone poles and stuff, but still it all seems like a dream,” Gilyeat said.

After meeting with designers most of the morning, Gilyeat had a long chat with Pennington on his front porch, surrounded by cameras.

With the family out of the house and on their way to California, the Extreme Makeover crew began removing belongings and readying the house for Monday’s demolition.

Community members who want to watch the project in person can come beginning Monday. Spectators should park at Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Avenue in KCK, to board a shuttle to the neighborhood. The shuttle will run Monday from 12:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

November 2, 2007

Toys for Tots program expands giving boundaries

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Nov. 2, 2007) -- Coordinators and volunteers with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program on Okinawa will be working overtime during the holiday season to extend the reach of the 60-year-old charity in the region.


Nov. 2, 2007; Submitted on: 11/02/2007 02:17:33 AM ; Story ID#: 200711221733
By Lance Cpl. David Rogers, MCB Camp Butler

Reserve Marines, activated specifically for Toys for Tots support, are scheduled to begin their 2007 toy collection drive during ceremonies at post exchanges on Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base Nov. 3.

This year, program officials added Thailand and Guam to their area of responsibility, according to Staff Sgt. Suzette Smith, a coordinator with Okinawa’s Toys for Tots. The volunteers and reserve Marines collected toys for needy children in Okinawa Prefecture and the Philippines in previous years.

Smith hopes Marines will be able to personally deliver donations to Thailand and Guam as done in Operation Goodwill, which delivers toys and clothes to children of the Philippines during the holiday season.

“The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders,” according to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation Web site.

Last year the organization collected approximately 10,500 toys, according to Sgt. Shamala Henson, a coordinator for Okinawa’s Toys for Tots. She hopes the collection drive can collect at least 11,000, especially since they want to provide for children in two more countries this year.

“I want to break last year’s goals and make sure every child gets four toys like last year,” said Henson.

Program coordinators also want to raise awareness of the Ho Ho Express, a campaign-closing event intended to collect as many donations as possible during the final moments of the toy drive. The Ho Ho Express is scheduled for Dec. 15, the last day of the drive. A bus will visit each collection box on island and program personnel will collect all remaining toys. The event doubled the amount of collected toys in 2005 with help from American Forces Network radio broadcasters, who constantly aired updates on the bus’ location and upcoming stops.

The program needs toys for all ages of children. Toys for pre-teens and young teenagers are typically in short supply.

“People should remember that there are kids that are 13 and that’s usually the age group we lack the most,” Smith said.

Coordinators running Okinawa’s program have a lot of events for this year’s drive and need plenty of volunteers to help them. Volunteers can help with tasks such as sorting toys or promoting donations by making an appearance in public with their dress blues.

Maj. Bill Hendricks and a group of fellow reserve Marines in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children during the first Toys for Tots program 60 years ago. Officials plan to continue the mission as long as there are needy children around the world.

MarineParents.com to hold final care package packing day of 2007 for active duty Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan


Tracy Della Vecchia
MarineParents.com, Inc.
2810 Lemone Industrial Boulevard, Suite B
Columbia, MO 65201
Phone: (573) 449-2003

Columbia, MO – November 2, 2007- MarineParents.com will be holding its final packing day of 2007 on Saturday, November 3rd, from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM in its offices at 2810 Lemone Industrial Boulevard, Suite B. Over 1100 care packages will be packed and mailed to Marines on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey dinners for Thanksgiving and cigars for the United States Marine Corps 232nd birthday on November 10th will be among the items packed in this shipment.

Because the Department of Defense does not support adopt-a-soldier programs, MarineParents.com offers a program which ships care packages only to addresses which have been supplied by family members of combat deployed Marines or from other Marines that send us the names and addresses of their fellow Marines who are not receiving packages or letters from home. After Saturday, MarineParents.com will have shipped 5500 care packages this year and over 12,000 packages since the program started in December 2004.

This endeavor would not be possible without help from the community. Over 70 volunteers will be on hand during the packing process - constructing boxes, sorting materials, packing, and labeling boxes for mailing. Additionally, private citizens, companies, churches, Boy Scout troops, and other organizations throughout the country have donated items for the care packages and funds for the mailing costs.

Local businesses have also helped with this task. The various Joe Machens dealerships have collected donations and materials to send in the care packages, and will also be purchasing lunch for the volunteers working on Saturday. Dayton Freight has transported supplies purchased by MarineParents.com. Mutrux Sinclair has conducted a battery drive and will also be donating drinks for the volunteers. Finally, the United States Post Office has helped with the preparation of the customs forms that must be included with each box and will deliver the care packages directly to its facilities at the Columbia Regional Airport Saturday afternoon.

Individuals who would like to assist with the packing day but are unable to do so can help with the weekly sorting process. On Thursdays from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM, volunteers can sort donations that are received via the mail and organize those items for future mailings.

More information on how one can help with the Care Package Project can be found at http://www.carepackageproject.com/carepkg-project-how-to-help.asp

MarineParents.com, Inc. is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity. Neither the United States Marine Corps nor any other component of the Department of Defense has approved, endorsed, or authorized this service.

A Great Day to Be a Runner

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Some marathons begin with a fireworks display. Others begin with a balloon release. Some marathons have bands along the course, and others have contests for best water stations.


Friday November 2, 2007

At the 32nd Marine Corps Marathon, the starter gun is a Howitzer. There's a fly-over by two MV-22 Ospreys, and all water stations are manned by young men and women dressed in identical camouflage uniforms. That's when you know this race will be run the Marines way, from start to finish.

The marathon, held Sunday in Washington, D.C., is often called "The People’s Marathon," and people turned out en masse to support the runners. Tens of thousands of people lined the route that wound through the landmarks of our nation’s capital. They urged runners on with signs, cowbells and boom boxes, not to mention continuous clapping and shouts of encouragement.

Just as enthusiastic were the thousands of Marines and volunteers that started their day early – some as early as 3 am – to provide support and aid for marathon runners.

More than 22,000 runners woke up early to get to the start line, knowing that when the Marine Corps says their race will start at zero-eight, they mean zero-eight. Runners came not only from all over the country, but from all over the world. The winner, Tamrat Ayalew, is originally from Ethopia. Members of the world’s armed forces turned out as well, including runners from Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain.

And right on time the Howitzer fired an unmistakable order: Run! At that moment, with the Marines lining the sidewalk giving directions, keeping order, giving aid or barking out times, it became very clear why this marathon has such a stellar reputation for civilians and service members alike.

Rarely does a marathon have the benefit of so many dedicated hosts: One water station alone was manned by 56 Marines, working with military precision to distribute water and energy drinks to thirsty runners.

Runners, despite their exhaustion, went out of their way to say "Thank you, Marines." Typically the comment was met with a friendly "ooo rah." Marines urged on fellow Marines running with even more energy, occasionally shouting encouragement at their fellow Devil Dogs.

Near the starting line Major General Richard T. Tryon took time to reflect on the energy of all the Marines. The marathon is a great "opportunity for us to connect with the rest of America," he said.

For Judy Pitchford, a former Marine and current president of the North Carolina branch of the USO, watching the marathon brought back fond memories of her service in the Corps.

"It all revolves around being a Marine – doing something you've never done before," she said. "That's what the Marine Corps is so great about doing: pushing you to your limits and beyond. And so this was one more thing the Marine Corps taught me I could do."

No doubt many non-Marines learned that lesson Sunday, as they ended a 26.2 mile journey by crossing a finish line they weren't sure they could reach, bolstered by the support and encouragement of the Marine Corps.

Preparing for the race is critical. The night before, former Marine Neil Schalk and Lance Corporal Joe Lopez loaded up on carbohydrates during a celebratory pasta dinner. Neil and Joe met earlier this year, when they bonded over their time spent recuperating at Bethesda Naval Hospital for injuries suffered in the line of duty. Neil lost part of his right hand; Joe is battling back from paralysis.

Neil, having run four previous marathons, convinced Joe to participate in his first marathon – using a hand-crank wheelchair. Although they live in separate states, the two coached and encouraged each other during the long months of training.

"It's motivating to have captains and majors go, ‘Here you go, Devil Dog. Here's some water. Shake those legs out and keep going,'" Neil said. The motivation worked well for Joe. He sailed through the course.

Just past that same finish line, still in his wheelchair, a tired-but-grinning Joe was asked if today was a good day to be a Marine. Immediately he answered: "Every day is a good day to be a Marine."

MAG-12 Marines kick off Sumo Tiger in Bangladesh

KURMITOLA AIR BASE, Bangladesh (November 2, 2007) -- Morning mist rose above a jungle-bound airfield in Bangladesh Oct. 25 as aircraft from Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 314 and the Bangladesh Air Force revved to life to start a day of flight operations during Exercise Sumo Tiger 2007.


1st Lt. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway

The "Black Knights" of VMFA-314 and several other detachments from Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, participated in the bilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps and BAF Oct. 24-31.

"The purpose of this exercise is to practice and learn from each other," said Wing Cmdr. Rafik, the senior BAF officer in charge of the exercise, as he addressed U.S. and Bangladeshi officers on the opening day of the exercise. "We look forward to some good, safe flying."

Sumo Tiger is part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. military to strengthen the security of Asia and the Pacific region by enhancing U.S. forces' ability to work alongside militaries throughout the region and by promoting professional relationships between exercise participants.

During the exercise, the Black Knights went head-to-head in training against Chinese-manufactured F-7 Fantan jet fighters and Russian-built MiG-29 Fulcrums.

"The Bangladesh Air Force personnel are very professional," said Lt. Col. Flay R. Goodwin, the Black Knights commanding officer. "They have taken care of us since we got here, and it has been good to fly with them."

The exercise focused heavily on the exchange between American and Bangladeshi pilots, but aviation support personnel from both countries also shared expertise. From air traffic control to aircraft maintenance to crash fire rescue, Marines and BAF personnel teamed up to share knowledge and learn from one another.

"It's a good experience," said Gunnery Sgt. Randal Southern, an air traffic controller with Marine Air Control Squadron 4. "You get to see different aspects of controlling and the different way they do things."

Military personnel from both countries took a day off from flying Oct. 26 to allow the Kurmitola Air Base community to see the U.S. and Bangladeshi aircraft. Hundreds of family members and friends got an up-close look at an American F/A-18C Hornet and a Bangladeshi F-7 and MiG-29.

"I'm exhausted, but I've never smiled so much," said Maj. Scott Fortner, a pilot with the Black Knights after an afternoon of showing off his aircraft to throngs of curious Bangladeshi visitors.

November 1, 2007

Marines to Train for Calif. Wildfires

The U.S. Marines agreed Thursday to train with state firefighters, in a move that could get more water-dropping helicopters into the air when wildfires break out.


1 day ago

As many as 100 Marines will train Friday with firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at the Marine Corps' Miramar base in San Diego. State firefighters routinely train with Navy and California National Guard helicopter crews, and they had pushed the Marines to conduct similar drills.

With training for pilots and crews, "we know we are going to be able to get a quicker response" if Marine helicopters are called in to assist on wildfires, said Mike Padilla, the state agency's aviation chief.

The agreement could help clear up confusion over the availability of military aircraft and flight rules that left some Marine helicopters grounded early on in last week's deadly blazes.

The state had sought a training agreement with the Marines, but Padilla said in an earlier interview that the demands of the Iraq war made it difficult for the Marines to commit to regular training with state firefighters.

Maj. Jason Johnston, spokesman for the Miramar base, confirmed that Friday's training was set.

He said the Marines routinely trained with state fire agencies but couldn't immediately provide specifics. State fire officials, however, have repeatedly said they don't conduct routine firefighting training with the Marines.

The training will allow the Marines to work with helicopter managers, also known as spotters, who play a crucial role on flights by coordinating water drops and communicating with firefighters on the ground. A shortage of the managers ruled out a chance that some helicopters could get in the air quickly last week.

"We team up our managers with the crews. That's part of our training," Padilla said.

Military aircraft are called in to supplement state and local fire resources when needed. That was the case last week when more than a dozen fires exploded amid Santa Ana winds that fanned the flames, which devoured more than a half-million acres and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Marine veteran will thank fellows via holiday lunch

When he celebrates the 232nd birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps this year, Bill Pastino will do something a little different --he's going to treat any Howard County veteran who shows up at his Ellicott City brew pub to lunch.


By MIKe Santa Rita

"I don't know if anybody's thanked the veterans in Howard County," said Pastino, a former Marine Corps captain who served in the first Gulf War and is a part owner of the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company.

The lunch, which is designed to thank local veterans for their service and raise money for the local chapter of the Marine Corps League, will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, at the pub -- the day after the Nov. 10 Marine Corps' birthday.

Veterans will eat for free while family and friends will be charged $10, Pastino said, adding that he will not require the veterans to present proof of their service, but will take them at their word.

Pastino said he expects about 200 veterans and their families to show for the lunch, adding that the pub will brew its Semper Fi Strong Ale in honor of the event.

"Semper Fi" is a shortened version of the U.S. Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, or, translated from the Latin, "Always Faithful."

Portions of the beer and lunch sales will be contributed to the Marine Corps League's Marines Helping Wounded Marines program and the chapter's other fundraising causes, said Pastino, who is a member of the league.

Howard's chapter of the league -- which is officially known as The Staff Sgt. Karl G. Taylor Sr. Detachment 1084 --was formed in 2001.

The chapter consists of about 50 former and current Marines who use the organization as an outlet for socializing, charity work and as a network to find other Marines with whom they served, Pastino said.

About a third of the local group's members are Vietnam War veterans while the remainder are veterans from wars ranging from World War II to the Iraq War, he said.

Marines proud of service

Bobby Flock, 85, of Savage, was one of the first females recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, she said. As a staff sergeant, she served as a secretary to a colonel in San Francisco.

Though she won't be able to make the Nov. 11 lunch, she goes to as many Marine Corps League functions as she can and enjoys the camaraderie, she said.

"We're so proud of who we are," she added. "I'm always bragging about being a Marine."

Gunnery Sgt. Frank Kippenbrock, the founding commandant of the local chapter, will attend the Nov. 11 event.

He said he enjoys the camaraderie of socializing with other veterans and the chance to serve those in need.

"It's all about giving back to the community," Kippenbrock said.

For more information about the event, call the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company at 410-313-8141.

U.S. Marines capture Challenge Cup from Royal Marine runners

ARLINGTON, Va.(Nov. 1, 2007) -- For the first time in a decade, the coveted Challenge Cup will stay on American soil.


Submitted by: MCB Quantico
Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Jennifer Brown
Story Identification #: 20071031172115

Both the men and women’s U.S. Marine Corps teams defeated their British counterparts at the 32nd Marine Corps Marathon’s Challenge Cup competition Sunday.

British Royal Marines/Navy male and female teams announced their defeat as they passed their cups to the U.S. Marine Corps men and women’s teams during the marathon’s official awards ceremony.

The winners were determined by the top-four male and top-two female finishers on each teams. This is the first year two cups, one for each gender, were awarded. In the past, the one cup went to country with the winning men’s team.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brown was the top runner for the males, crossing the line at 2:32:22. Capt. Jennifer Ledford was the first finisher for the U.S. Marine Corps’ women team, coming in at 2:59:38.

The U.S. Marine Corps teams said their victory was a direct result of calculated changes they made to their training strategies.

“The key to winning this year’s race was that we had a very detailed plan for each other,” Ledford said. “We all helped each other using our strategy to fall back to stack the front and beat the British.”

British Royal Navy Petty Officer Heidi Winn said the Brits started hamstrung.

“We’ve lost a couple of our top team members this year,” Winn said. “One is at sea and the other is injured.”

The Brits said it was good for the morale of the competition that the U.S. Marine Corps took the cup.

“We have a good competitive relationship with the U.S. Marine team,” Winn said. “They had a good strategy and were quite competitive, so we are glad they won this year.”

The U.S. Marine Corps teams plan to continue training to improve so they can win again next year’s competition.

“Our team is very excited now that we got the cup,” Ledford said. “We’re going to try to keep it.”

The Brits said, considering this year’s circumstances, they weren’t too disheartened by the loss, rather they will focus now on getting ready and for next year’s competition.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Lt. Richard Wild, a Royal Navy officer. “Next year we’ll have to try to come back and beat them.”

Another competition was underway during the marathon against members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Armed Forces Competition was incorporated a decade ago, in which teams from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force formed and competed for best finish times. The Air Force, who won last year, was again announced the victors during the official awards ceremony, making them six time winners since 1998.