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December 31, 2008

Pilot killed in crash identified

Staff and wire reports
Posted : Wednesday Dec 31, 2008 12:24:45 EST

HAVELOCK, N.C. — The Marine pilot who was killed Monday when an AV-8B Harrier jet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. has been identified as Capt. Alberto Bencosme with Marine Attack Training Squadron 203.

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December 29, 2008

Fallen Marines to be awarded Navy Cross

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 19, had just arrived in Iraq.

Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter saved Iraqi police and fellow Marines from a truck-driving suicide bomber, Marine brass say. The April attack could have slain dozens.


By Tony Perry
December 29, 2008

Reporting from San Diego -- They had known each other only a few minutes, but they will be linked forever in what Marine brass say is one of the most extraordinary acts of courage and sacrifice in the Iraq war.

Cpl. Jonathan Yale, 21, grew up poor in rural Virginia. He had joined the Marine Corps to put structure in his life and to help support his mother and sister. He was within a few days of heading home.

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 19, was from a comfortably middle-class suburb on Long Island. As a boy, he had worn military garb, and he had felt the pull of adventure and patriotism. He had just arrived in Iraq.

On April 22, the two were assigned to guard the main gate to Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, once an insurgent stronghold and still a dangerous region. Dozens of Marines and Iraqi police lived at the compound, and some were still sleeping after all-night patrols when Yale and Haerter reported for duty that warm, sultry morning.

Yale, respected for his quiet, efficient manner, was assigned to show Haerter how to take over his duties.

Haerter had volunteered to watch the main gate, even though it was considered the most hazardous of the compound's three guard stations because it could be approached from a busy thoroughfare.

The sun had barely risen when the two sentries spotted a 20-foot-long truck headed toward the gate, weaving with increasing speed through the concrete barriers. Two Iraqi police officers assigned to the gate ran for their lives. So did several Iraqi police on the adjacent street.

Yale and Haerter tried to wave off the truck, but it kept coming. They opened fire, Yale with a machine gun, Haerter with an M-16. Their bullets peppered the radiator and windshield. The truck slowed but kept rolling.

A few dozen feet from the gate, the truck exploded. Investigators found that it was loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives and that its driver, his hand on a "dead-man switch," was determined to commit suicide and slaughter Marines and Iraqi police.

The thunderous explosion rocked much of Ramadi, interrupting the morning call to prayers from the many mosques. A nearby mosque and a home were flattened. The blast ripped a crater 5 feet deep and 20 feet across into the street.

Shards of concrete scattered everywhere, and choking dust filled the air.

Haerter was dead; Yale was dying.

Three Marines about 300 feet away were injured. So were eight Iraqi police and two dozen civilians.

But several dozen other nearby Marines and Iraqi police, while shaken, were unhurt. A Black Hawk helicopter was summoned in a futile attempt to get Yale to a field hospital in time. A sheet was placed over Haerter.

When it was considered safe to take Haerter's body to a second helicopter, his section leader insisted he be covered by an American flag. "We did not want him carried out with just a sheet," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Grooms.

Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine in Iraq, wanted to know how the attack happened. Like many veteran Marines, he is haunted by the memory of the 1983 bombing of the barracks in Beirut, when a blast from an explosives-laden truck killed 241 U.S. service personnel, including 220 Marines.

Not given to dark thoughts or insecurities, Kelly, who commanded Marines in the fight for Baghdad and Tikrit in 2003 and Fallouja in 2004, admits that the specter of another Beirut gives him nightmares as he commands the 22,000 Marines in Iraq.

He went to Ramadi to interview Iraqi witnesses -- a task generals usually delegate to subordinates.

Some Iraqis told him they were incredulous that the two Marines had not fled.

When Marine technicians restored a damaged security camera, the images were undeniable.

While Iraqi police fled, Haerter and Yale had never flinched and never stopped firing as the Mercedes truck -- the same model used in the Beirut bombing -- sped directly toward them.

Without their steadfastness, the truck would probably have penetrated the compound before it exploded, and 50 or more Marines and Iraqis would have been killed. The incident happened in just six seconds.

"No time to talk it over; no time to call the lieutenant; no time to think about their own lives or even the American and Iraqi lives they were protecting," Kelly said. "More than enough time, however, to do their duty. They never hesitated or tried to escape."

Kelly nominated the two for the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for combat bravery for Marines and sailors. Even by the standards expected of Marine "grunts," their bravery was exceptional, Kelly said.

The Haerter and Yale families will receive the medals early next year.

On the night after the bombing, Kelly wrote to each family that though he never knew its Marine, "I will remember him, and pray for him and for all those who mourn his loss, for the rest of my life."

A motorcade escorted Haerter's casket through Sag Harbor on Long Island, as residents lined the streets and wept and saluted.

Yale's casket made the 83-mile trip from the airport at Richmond, Va., to Farmville with an honor guard provided by the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group of former service members.

"He's not supposed to be dead," said the Rev. Leon Burchett, who did the eulogy at Yale's funeral and in whose home Yale had often lived as a teenager. "The casket was flag-draped but it couldn't be opened. There's no closure -- it's like we're still waiting for him to come home."

On Long Island, a bridge was renamed for Haerter. His high school put a flag from his funeral in a time capsule. His family set up a memorial website, www.jordanhaerter.com.

At a Wounded Warrior Project event, Haerter's mother, JoAnn Lyles, her voice breaking, talked of how she had hoped to do something special for his 20th birthday. "We now know that Jordan -- Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter -- was already a man, a courageous and brave young man."

Their battalions are now back at Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- for Haerter, the 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment; for Yale, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. In Iraq, both units were part of the Camp Pendleton-based Regimental Combat Team One.

Yale's unit was within a week of going home when the attack occurred. His death seemed to deflate its sense of achievement.

"The Marines were very upset and very disappointed because of the effort they had made to make a better life for the Iraqis and then to have this happen," said Capt. Matthew Martin, Yale's company commander.

Haerter's unit had just arrived for a seven-month deployment, and officers tried to make sure his death did not unduly distract the Marines.

"It's something you don't get over," said Lt. Dan Runzheimer, 24, Haerter's platoon leader.

"I wouldn't say it put a cloud on us, but it was always there. The men still knew what they had to do: You have to . . . complete the mission."

As both battalions train for possible deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, the deaths of their comrades are still in their thoughts.

Yale was always trying to boost the morale of his buddies, said Lance Cpl. Brandon Creely, 21, of Boise, Idaho. "Whenever I was down, he'd tell a joke, tell me it's not as bad as it seems."

Staff Sgt. Grooms, 28, said he knows how Haerter should be remembered.

"He was a hero," Grooms said, "and a damn fine person."

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IPs learn life-saving medical skills

FALLUJAH, Iraq – “He’s bleeding out of a major artery! He’s going into shock! Get his pulse and apply a tourniquet, now!”


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

These words boomed from the mouths of Navy corpsmen with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, as they gave a four-day Combat Life Saver course to Iraqi Police at the Joint Command Center in Fallujah, Iraq, Dec. 18.

Fourteen policemen from several precincts around Fallujah attended the course, which is frequently given to service members to teach them how to render first aid in the event of medical emergencies.

“This was the first time we have taught a CLS course to a group of (Iraqi policemen), and we taught the course in a way that will allow them to go back to their stations and teach others what they have learned,” said Navy Lt. Brett M. Chamberlin, a 28-year-old medical officer from El Paso, Texas. “In this new direction that we are headed, (Iraqi policemen) have taken control of missions that we used to run, and we are working to ensure they are able to take care of the medical aspects of their jobs themselves.”

Medical personnel call the first hour after a patient has been injured the “golden hour.” Those with life-threatening injuries have a higher likelihood of surviving if they receive treatment within the first hour of the injury.

Corpsmen split the policemen into small groups and demonstrated several medical treatment procedures for specific injuries that are common combat injuries, such as head wounds and chest wounds.

The policemen took turns practicing what they learned during a series of practical application periods, loading patients onto stretchers and applying bandages and tourniquets.

“With the material that we taught these guys, they now have the ability to save lives in the future,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Gutierrez, a 29-year-old hospitalman with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, from Oceanside, Calif. “We taught them some really important skills such as how to stop femoral artery bleeding, applying tourniquets, keeping airways and breathing passages open, and how to respond to a situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The corpsmen administered a written and practical application examination and awarded a certificate of completion to policemen for passing the course
“When we spoke with the IPs, most of them said that they have seen casualties and had personnel experiences, so we know this training means something to them,” said Gutierrez. “We stressed to them, that the biggest point is to respond to a situation as quick as possible.”

Medical officials with the battalion are working to produce a medical packet to assist with teaching more policemen. Corpsmen are also helping translate class materials into Arabic to make it easier for the policemen to learn.

“We plan on revising this course and making it better for them,” said Chamberlin. “The (Iraqi policemen) told us before they left that they will go back to their stations and teach others what they learned, and this is all we can hope for.”

Major TV networks pull out of Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The United States' three top broadcast television networks have quietly stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq, industry watchers say.


Published: Dec. 29, 2008

Neither ABC, CBS nor NBC have full-time reporters in Iraq, the first time in many years that none of the major networks were present in an ongoing conflict zone involving U.S. troops, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported Monday.

Representatives of the three networks declined to speak on the record to the Times about their news coverage decisions, but said anonymously they would continue to cover Iraq and that the staffing levels reflected an evolution of the Iraq storyline from one of covering violence to one about reconstruction and politics.

"The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations' ability or appetite to cover it," said Jane Arraf, a former Baghdad bureau chief for CNN who has remained in Iraq as a contract reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.

News industry sources told the newspaper the television networks are preparing to redeploy their reporting resources from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the belief that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will follow through on pledges to focus military efforts there.

December 26, 2008

Battalion takes root in new area of operations

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — The expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps requires a responsive and capable force able to adapt to the ever-changing mission of the Global War on Terror and operations in Iraq.


12/26/2008 By Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines and sailors with Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, completed a battalion-wide movement from Habbaniyah, Iraq, to here and are adapting to their new area of operations. The battalion now falls under the command of Regimental Combat Team 5 in western al-Anbar province.

“As Marines, we are able to pick up and move to follow the mission,” explained Maj. Roy Ezell, 36, the battalion’s operations officer.

A shift in the battalion’s operational tempo is evident, though the Marines feel assured they will continue to build on the successes of the units that preceded them.

“Our mission to provide assistance to the Iraqis hasn’t changed,” explained Sgt. Brian Licht, 24, a squad leader with 1st Bn., 2nd Marines from Katy, Texas. “The capacity and method in which we assist the Iraqis will be re-evaluated now that we are in a new area.

“It is imperative that Iraqis take the lead every way they can,” said Licht. “We are continuing to act as facilitators and focusing combat operations when needed.”

Compared to the battalion’s former area, Ezell explained that Rawah is further along in the transitional process and highly developed with a stable government that is able to provide for the community it represents.

“(Iraqi Security Forces) operate freely from Coalition force influence, and the need for us has decreased,” explained Ezell, who is from Jacksonville, N.C. “We will continue key leader engagements and allow Iraqis to come to the forefront (of security and governance).”

By acting as advisors and providing an overwatch element, the battalion will continue to work with ISF and the local town governments. These efforts will continue to facilitate a unified, democratic and federal Iraq that can sustain a democratic government and defend itself against those looking to reverse the political and military gains made over the past years.

December 25, 2008

MNC-I commander makes holiday visit

FALLUJAH, Iraq – Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the commanding general of Multi-National Corps Iraq, visited Marines and Sailors with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, at Camp Baharia in Fallujah, Iraq, Dec. 25.


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

The commander arrived to the camp in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for the first of several stops at camps throughout Iraq to speak and visit with service members during the holidays.

Austin recognized the Marines, Soldiers and Sailors at the camp for their achievements over the past few months.

“I just want to say thank you for all that hard work that you do out here,” said Austin. “We have a lot of experienced military members out here, and you are making great progress and using the experience you have gained to move forward.”

Austin also joined Lt. Col. Chris Hastings, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, in recognizing nine service members during a formation held behind the battalion’s command operating center.

Two Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines; one Marine with Combat Logistic Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group; and six service members with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines were all acknowledged for various exemplary actions.

“This was a great opportunity today for several of the Marines to speak with the individual in charge of all combat forces in Iraq and know that others are thinking about them during the holiday,” said Hastings. “We also recognize the sacrifice that all of our families back home are making on a daily basis.”

Cpl. Ryan Marshall, a motor transportation operator from Winnemucca, Nev., with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, was among those recognized.
“It was pretty motivating to see him come out here for Christmas and just say a few words to us,” said Cpl. William W. Decostanza an optics technician with Headquarters Company, 1/4, from Hallsville, Texas.

Austin took on his current position Feb. 15 and has been working with Marines and service members in Iraq over the past few months to transition to a position of overwatch and give control of security to Iraqi forces.

Taking care of your own, one package at a time

FALLUJAH, Iraq – The holiday season can pose a particularly hard time for some service members deployed overseas and away from their families.


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Z. Udovich, a 21-year-old mail clerk from Trenton, Mo., with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, is focused on a mission to brighten others’ spirits.

Udovich helps the battalion’s Marines and Sailors combat any lonely feelings they may have one mail package at a time.

“Udovich is working twice as hard as he usually does to get the Marines their mail and packages on time for the holidays,” said Cpl. Chris A. Beaver, a 26-year-old field wireman from St. Louis, Mo., with the battalion. “Getting a package, anytime, will boost your morale over here in Iraq, whether it is just a care package or a special box from home.”

Udovich ensures the battalion’s mail is sorted correctly into piles of registered, certified and high priority mail, as well as processes the standard mail the battalion receives. Afterward, he places the packages into containers. This tedious process has only increased with the large volume of items being sent during the holidays to the battalion’s nearly 1200 Marines and Sailors.

Even though he stays busy with work, Udovich said he will frequently go out of his way to ensure a Marine gets a package that he has been waiting for.

“When I get the chance, I like to hand deliver packages to Marines that have been waiting a long time for their package to come in,” said Udovich. “It gives me a good feeling to hand a Marine their package, and you can see their morale go up when they get a package from home.”

Udovich said even with the help of a few volunteers, he has been flooded with more and more mail. He said it is a sign that family and friends back home continue to support their loved ones.

“All of the packages that have come in lately just show you that families are still thinking about us, and sometimes these packages just let you have Christmas even away from home,” said Udovich. “It doesn’t matter how grown up you are, when you see a package from your mom or grandmother, you just get a smile on your face.”

Anywhere, anytime

FALLUJAH, Iraq – Scout snipers with Teams 2 and 4 of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, have taken on a new role during their deployment to Iraq.


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

The group of Marines, trained to conduct hidden movements and long-range target strikes, are now tasked as their battalion’s quick reaction force to serve as the first Coalition forces responders to any emergency.

“Being with the QRF means that we can be called out anywhere in the AO (area of operation) at anytime and support anyone,” said Cpl. Nicolas B. Abernathy, a 25-year-old scout sniper from Las Vegas. “We have to remain versatile; our missions keep us working on many tasks and we need to be ready for anything that comes our way.”

Since arriving to Iraq in October, Marines with the QRF team have trained and drilled to respond to emergencies as quickly as possible. Marines with the team say they are typically in their vehicles with their gear in less than three minutes.

“After arriving in country, we quickly learned to be a QRF and adapt to the changes,” said Abernathy.

“We make it a point to be at the right place at the right time,” added Sgt. Ryan D. Wiley, a 23-year-old scout sniper from Forest Grove, Ore. “We are doing what it takes to get this new job that has been given to us done.”

During a recent mission, the team responded to a unit pinned down by enemy forces. The team quickly maneuvered to where the other unit was located and provided instantaneous support during a mass casualty evacuation.

“These guys immediately responded to the urgent situation and moved to the side of a building to provide support, and this allowed the other team to clear the building,” said Staff Sgt. Ismael G. Bamba, a 32-year-old platoon sergeant from Ivory Coast, Africa.

“The team trains so they are nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be heard, and they can quickly react to situations at a moments notice,” said Bamba. “They are using these skills while applying them to their QRF duties and also use their sniper rifles to provide support to units calling for them.”

Although the Marines function as a QRF, they continue to occasionally conduct sniper missions, offering the battalion added capabilities.

The team also provides convoy escorts for service members traveling through Fallujah and occasionally provides personnel security for Iraqi city council members.

“These guys are doing a good job of being a QRF and applying the skills they have learned in the past to their current missions,” said Bamba.

December 24, 2008

Pentagon IDs Marine killed in Iraq

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Dec 24, 2008 15:44:19 EST

LONDON, Ky. — A 19-year-old Marine from Kentucky was killed in a surprise attack in Anbar province, Iraq, his mother said.

To continue reading about Fallen Hero, Lance Cpl. Thomas “T.J.” Reilly Jr:


Support For Marine Parents

(December 24, 2008) - For the Knoph Family, this Christmas may just be the most special of them all, because their son, Blake, is home safe from service in Afghanistan.


Related Video - Marine Home for Christmas:
Wait about 15 seconds after the commercial for the news video to start.

kwtx.com News Report

Blake serves in the 2nd Battlion of the 7th Marines Regiment, which is a part of the 1st Marines Division on the West Coast.

His tour of duty ended and he returned to the U.S. just in time for the holidays.

But while Blake was gone, his dad says a huge emotional support for him and his family back in Texas was the website MarineParents.com.

It's a place where families of Marines can connect and communicate.

He recommends it to any other families with loved ones serving abroad.

For more information on this site, click the link below.

Mullen Uses Trip to Assess Situation in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24, 2008 – The highest-ranking U.S. military officer often says he learns as much from the troops as he does from commanders.


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

The lessons Navy Adm. Mike Mullen learned on a trip that concluded this week came from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, who serve in Afghanistan’s Regional Command West.

Mullen led a USO Holiday trip to Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. While the performers were entertaining the troops, Mullen was receiving briefings from commanders and discussing the strategies, needs and complications on the ground. He also was meeting troops and gauging morale.

In Kosovo, Mullen broke off from the USO and returned to Afghanistan for meetings with Afghan leaders and an extraordinary day with U.S. servicemembers in Regional Command West. He then met with Pakistani military leaders in Islamabad.

“Finding out what is really going on when you are as senior as I is sometimes a challenge,” he said. “One of the main methods for me is to use a trip like this, which is why I see so many troops. I don’t get 100 different people standing up and asserting truths that I don’t know. In the totality of the trip, there is a lot I learn about what’s going on.”

On his second run through Afghanistan, Mullen saw how the military has applied lessons learned, particularly with the Marines of 3-8. The unit’s predecessor in Regional Command West was the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, and “they had a pretty rough go” when they first moved into the area, Mullen said.

“We needed to adjust, and we’ve done that,” the chairman said.

Mullen said the trip also helped him understand the challenges to provincial reconstruction team commanders after visiting the PRT in Afghanistan’s Farah province. The PRTs work to build governance capabilities and infrastructure in the provinces. Team members work daily with local and tribal officials, but they are there for only nine months, because some of the members of the team are National Guardsmen and the department has a policy of not having reserve-component soldiers mobilized for more than a year. Training and transitional tasks upon redeploying take up the other three months of their mobilization.

“Perhaps it’s time to look at rotating in components of the team on different schedules,” Mullen said.

Today, the teams come together in the United States for training and move to Central Command together. But that means a wholesale replacement of personnel each time a team shifts. In the Middle East and Central Asia, relationships are key. Under the current program, every nine months a new team has to develop those relationships with local leaders, tribal elders and government officials all over again.

The chairman said he also wants to look at how the teams are configured. Shortages in security personnel mean team members are handling guard duty and force-protection aspects of the mission rather than interacting with local people. “So I’ll take that back with me and ask how that could happen,” Mullen said in an interview on his way back to Washington.

The chairman also discussed other aspects of duty in Afghanistan.

“We’re very short of helicopters, and in a conversation I didn’t expect to have with a helicopter pilot, I found how we were allocating shortfalls, and I’m not sure we’re allocating them as well as we could,” he said.

Morale always is a focus when Mullen travels, and he said he was “particularly impressed” with the Marines of 3-8.

“They were all sparkling and proud to be there,” he said. “And it is a ways out there -- 75 kilometers from the Iranian border. But they know what they are doing, and they have the equipment and leadership to do it.”

In Kabul, Mullen met with President Hamid Karzai and his defense leaders. “I wanted to express our support directly to the president for our desire to eliminate civilian casualties, for putting an Afghan face on operations and our support to the military,” Mullen said.

They also spoke about the U.S. troop increase in 2009. The Afghan leaders all want the increase, he said, and they expressed their support to him. The troops will go into Regional Command East and Regional Command South.

“One of the hot topics is the 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troop increase,” the admiral said. “All expressed their support. We know that 2009 is a big year -- the U.S. administration change. Karzai was extremely thankful for all that President [George W.] Bush has done for the Afghan people, but he still looks forward to working with President-elect [Barack] Obama.

“As happens each time I go there,” he continued, “all expressed their gratitude to the coalition, and especially the United States.”

Enablers -- those capabilities that allow combat troops and governments to perform -- also were discussed. Mullen said Afghanistan needs more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. At the same time, a drawdown in Iraq means that ISR assets are needed there as the Iraqis take over more and more of the mission.

“There are competing requirements for ISR,” he acknowledged, “and we will generate more over the next 12 months, but it is not going to be a simple swap.”

More helicopters, medical support, security forces, police trainers and engineers also are needed, Mullen said, and the Afghan leadership is aware of those shortfalls.

When additional forces arrive in Afghanistan, they will allow commanders to institute the “clear, hold, build” strategy that has worked in Iraq, but there will be differences because they are different countries. The Afghan population is mainly rural. Education levels are lower than in Iraq, and the tribes are stronger. Not enough forces are in Afghanistan to hold an area once it’s cleared of insurgents, Mullen said, and a plan is in the works to create holding forces.

The chairman said he knew about these issues before going to the area, but seeing the people charged with carrying these missions out is important and gives him additional insight.

“It is tough sometimes for a senior officer to get a straight answer,” Mullen said. “But in the totality of the trip, you are able to understand what’s going on and draw data.”

December 22, 2008

Chairman of Joint Chiefs Visits Marines, Sailors in Afghanistan

HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen visited Marines and Sailors deployed to Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dec. 21.


Posted on 12.22.2008 at 06:09AM
By Lance Cpl. Monty Burton
Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan

Mullen visited Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and Combat Logistics Battalion 3, the ground combat and logistics combat elements of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan.

Mullen was escorted by Lt. Col. David L. Odom, commanding officer of 3/8, whose battalion has been deployed to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan since early November.

During the day, Mullen was briefed on the battalion’s progress and on future operations in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He was also briefed on the progress of the Afghan national army and Afghan national police, who are currently being trained and mentored by Marines of SPMAGTF-A.

“The governor of the Farah province said he wants more Marines to train the ANA and ANP,” Mullen said. “Training them is a growing mission and what I consider to be a critical path for success in Afghanistan. We have to make sure they can eventually lead this effort.”

At Forward Operating Base Bakwa, Mullen got the opportunity to see how the Marines were living at the forward operating base. Marines assigned to Company K shared lunch with Mullen, who answered any questions the Marines had. The Marines and sailors had the opportunity to discuss several different topics ranging from tour lengths to the predicted outcomes of upcoming sporting events.

Following the meal, Mullin boarded an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and made his way to FOB Delaram to meet with more Marines and sailors from Co. K.

In Delaram, Mullen was briefed on the current operational picture there and received a tour of the largest Marine Corps FOB in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Following his time at FOB Delaram, Mullen proceeded to Camp Barber to meet with the Marines and sailors of 3/8 and CLB-3.

Sgt. Andre Green, the CLB-3 administrative chief, said it was very encouraging to see Mullen visit the Marines and Sailors while deployed here.

“It was a very important visit because he can see what we are doing while we are deployed, and the junior Marines and sailors can see that he cares about us,” Green said. “It’s motivating to see that he took time out of his busy schedule to come out here and be with us.”

While at Camp Barber, Mullen had the honor of presenting a Navy hospital corpsman his fifth Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The recipient, Petty Officer 1st Class Israel Barrickman, 3/8’s Battalion Aid Station administrative chief, said being presented the medal by Mullen was definitely special to him.

“It meant more to know that my senior leadership could be here to present me this award,” he said. “It was definitely an honor.”

Leadership course shapes 3/9 Marines for deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Marines with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, recently conducted a small unit leaders’ course here as part of their annual predeployment training.


12/22/2008 By Lance Cpl. David Weikle, 2nd Marine Division

The three-week course consisted of a variety of live-fire ranges, an assault course and a land navigation course. The Marines learned about various equipment and leadership principles in their challenging curriculum.

Instilling proper leadership at every level is an important part of ensuring a unit’s capabilities.

“We were taught the basic fundamentals of being a team leader,” said Cpl. Jarrod Scott, a fire team leader with Company L. “Fire and movement, land navigation and being able to control a fire team are basic things a Marine should know.”

Early in the training the men were taught about communication gear early in the training.

“They learned the ins and outs of using radios such as the PRC-117 and the PRC-152,” said 2nd Lt.Robert Murray, a platoon commander with Company L.

“They learned about Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio as well as field expedient antennas. The Marines were able to employ the communications gear and had a better understanding of capabilities and limitations.”

The course also covered various weapons systems including the M-16A4 service rifle, the M-4 carbine, the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M-240B medium machinegun, the M18A1 Claymore mine and smoke and fragmentation grenades.

“Brilliance in the basics is essential,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Hussey, company gunnery sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company. “If you want to be a successful leader you have to get back to the basics. That’s what the purpose of this course was.”

The course taught effective combined arms use and effective use of suppression during fire and movement, both important skills for infantry Marines.

The course will be used by the Marines as they return to their platoons to help them better understand the role of small unit leaders and their responsibilities. The battalion is scheduled to deploy next spring.

‘We drove them from the battlefield’

Marines overcome 8-to-1 odds during an 8-hour battle

By Dan Lamothe
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The platoon was in a remote area of southwestern Afghanistan when it happened — the kind of massive ambush and firefight that is the stuff of Marine legend.

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December 21, 2008

Chaplain helps Marines stay Semper Fidelis

SAHL SINJAR, Iraq — Always faithful; a saying by which Marines and sailors of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion fight and one by which their chaplain shapes a deeper meaning, exemplifying a way to live a life.


12/21/2008 By Cpl. Dean Davis, Multi National Force - West

“The honor, privilege and challenge of serving with the Marines are things that truly make for an amazing occupation, and I am here to assist them and be a counsel for them wherever they may go,” said Lt. Cmdr. James L. Johnson, chaplain for 1st LAR Bn. “This battalion is filled with Marines that have all different types of jobs, bringing their skills to the mission we have here. It’s really impressive.”

The Marines of 1st LAR Bn. are currently operating near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, interdicting smuggling from Syria.

Johnson’s original job was one that could have been useful to the Highlanders when he was in the Navy years ago.

“I wouldn’t say years ago, more like decades. I was a corpsman and I wanted to serve with the Marines, but I ended up working in a hospital instead. So this is a sort of second opportunity,“ said Johnson, now 50. “It was always my dream to serve with the Marines. Though I never thought I would be here, God is full of surprises, and this is where he has guided me.”

As Marines and sailors of 1st LAR Bn. approach the half-way point in their deployment from family and friends, having someone to talk to can be a welcomed relief, especially during the holiday season, explained Johnson.

“This job isn’t like any other. When we say we take care of each other that isn’t some sentimental cozy remark. We take it seriously as matter of life and death and no one person can do this mission alone,” said Johnson. “With that, I think there is a tendency to focus on the service member, so I hope families know how much they are missed and that we really appreciate what they do.”

And, though Marines may be missing home, their mission is one that requires them to continue to be the professionals both the American and Iraqi people need them to be, said Johnson.

“When I served in Japan, there was a sign posted at the gate as you left. ‘You are an ambassador of the United States of America.’ That really stuck with me,” said Johnson. “You may be the only American that some of the people here ever have contact with, and that comes with a responsibility. I think more is expected of our warriors than before in that way.”

With the spiritual guidance and mentorship around them, Marines of 1st LAR Bn. can carry out their mission, which at times may just be taking care of one another, said Johnson.

“The Marine Corps motto is not ’always running’ or ’always bull’s-eye’- it’s ’always faithful,’” said Johnson. “Marines have been Marines even when they have run out of ammunition- when all they had left was their own strength and guile.”

December 19, 2008

31st MEU Reflects on '08

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan-- —
The Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a mixture of exercises and operations as they patrolled the Asia-Pacific region during 2008.


12/19/2008 By 31st MEU Public Affairs, 31st MEU

After several arduous weeks of “work-ups” and pre-deployment training on Okinawa, the MEU embarked on its annual Spring Patrol and Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific theater while embarked aboard the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group comprised of the forward-deployed USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and the USS Denver (LPD 9). A variety of bilateral training exercises between the 31st MEU and diverse host country armed forces provided the opportunity for all personnel to train alongside their international counterparts by conducting jungle and urban patrols while exchanging expertise in various martial arts and first aid classes. The culminating events were assorted Engineer, Medical and Dental Civil Action Projects, providing aid to more than 15,000 host country nationals in Timor Leste, Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines.

Other significant exercises and operations included:

Spring Patrol

February - March 2008: Exercise Balikatan ’08, Republic of the Philippines. MEU Marines and sailors worked together to rebuild a burned down school building at Maragondon Elementary School in Ternate, Cavite, Luzon. The MEU also built a school building and performed a MEDCAP and DENCAP in Balabac, Republic of the Philippines.

March 2008: MEU Marines and sailors conducted bilateral training with the Republic of Indonesia armed forces and performed MEDCAP, DENCAP and ENCAP in remote locations.

April 2008: MEU Marines and sailors conducted bilateral training in Timor-Leste with Australian soldiers and performed MEDCAP, DENCAP, and ENCAP in the local community.

May 2008: 500 Marines and sailors from BLT 2/4 participated in bilateral training during Cobra Gold ’08 in Thailand while the remainder of the MEU supported Operation Caring Response in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. The MEU sailed off the coast of Burma ready to deliver 50,000 gallons of water and other relief supplies.

Fall Patrol

September 2008: The MEU completed Blue/Green interoperability training, Amphibious Ready Group Exercise ’08 and Evaluation Exercise ’08 while embarked on the Essex ESG.

October 2008: The MEU returned to the Republic of the Philippines and continued to train alongside various units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and conducted more MEDCAP, DENCAP and community relation projects during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2008 (PHIBLEX ’08).

November 2008: The MEU participated in an amphibious landing exercise during Korean Incremental Training Program with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea Marines Corps. At the conclusion of KITP, a few elements from BLT 3/1 were transported to Rodriguez Range and continued enhanced bilateral training.

December 2008: Kilo Company, BLT 3/1 participated in Exercise Forest Light, a bilateral training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force. The exercise was conducted at the Aibano Training Area in western Honshu near the city of Takashima.

While the year was rather busy, the MEU was able to perform all its duties effectively thanks to its Marines and sailors working long hours and remaining focused on the mission. The composition for the MEU consisted of a Ground Combat Element, provided by 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines for the Spring Patrol and later 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines for the Fall Patrol. Combat Logistics Battalion 31 served as the MEU’s Logistics Combat Element and was busy all year providing logistical and medical support to the MEU. The Air Combat Element consisted of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 Reinforced and Marine Attack Squadron 513 during the spring patrol and HMM 262 (REIN) and VMA 223 for the Fall Patrol. This past year the MEU also had a change in commanders with Col. John L. Mayer relinquishing command to Col. Paul L. Damren in June and just prior to work-ups for the Fall Patrol.

December 18, 2008

Barbecue a morale booster for Marines in Iraq

FALLUJAH, Iraq – There is nothing like a backyard barbecue to take your mind off the daily grind of fighting terrorism.


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

That was the shared sentiment of Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 during their unit barbecue at Camp Baharia, Iraq, Dec. 7.

Leaders with the company organized the event to build camaraderie and to afford the Marines some relaxation time. The unit arrived to Iraq from Camp Pendleton, Calif., in early October and is nearing the halfway mark in the deployment.

Marines periodically joined others at the barbecue as they were relieved of their duties throughout the day. They also played a pick-up soccer game on a dirt lot using hand-made soccer nets.

“We had an awesome game of soccer,” said Cpl. Ruben D. Menachosalas, a 23-year-old administration clerk from Incline Village, Nev. “Games like these get your blood flowing and boost morale for us.”

Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Z. Udovich, a 21-year-old mail clerk from Trenton, Mo., volunteered to cook and prepared chicken and steak.

“I love doing things like this for other Marines. I know they get to enjoy a little food and sometimes things like this just make your day go that much better,” said Udovich. “This is one of the few moments when everyone stops working for a little bit to spend time with each other.”

Although the barbecue offered only a small break from their daily duties in a combat zone, the Marines seemed happy to spend a few relaxing moments with each other.

“It is good to spend time with your friends when you don’t have to work, and stuff like soccer takes your mind away from where you are,” said Menachosalas.

Barbecue a morale booster for Marines in Iraq

FALLUJAH, Iraq – There is nothing like a backyard barbecue to take your mind off the daily grind of fighting terrorism.


Story by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

That was the shared sentiment of Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 during their unit barbecue at Camp Baharia, Iraq, Dec. 7.

Leaders with the company organized the event to build camaraderie and to afford the Marines some relaxation time. The unit arrived to Iraq from Camp Pendleton, Calif., in early October and is nearing the halfway mark in the deployment.

Marines periodically joined others at the barbecue as they were relieved of their duties throughout the day. They also played a pick-up soccer game on a dirt lot using hand-made soccer nets.

“We had an awesome game of soccer,” said Cpl. Ruben D. Menachosalas, a 23-year-old administration clerk from Incline Village, Nev. “Games like these get your blood flowing and boost morale for us.”

Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Z. Udovich, a 21-year-old mail clerk from Trenton, Mo., volunteered to cook and prepared chicken and steak.

“I love doing things like this for other Marines. I know they get to enjoy a little food and sometimes things like this just make your day go that much better,” said Udovich. “This is one of the few moments when everyone stops working for a little bit to spend time with each other.”

Although the barbecue offered only a small break from their daily duties in a combat zone, the Marines seemed happy to spend a few relaxing moments with each other.

“It is good to spend time with your friends when you don’t have to work, and stuff like soccer takes your mind away from where you are,” said Menachosalas.

December 17, 2008

Filner Discusses Veterans Issues on Dr. Phil Show

Episode explores the needs of America’s returning service members

Washington D.C. – Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will appear on Dr. Phil in an episode focused on honoring America’s contract with our military veterans. Dr. Phil talks with veterans and their families about the challenges of returning home after deployment. Congressman Filner shares his views about the medical and mental health care needs of returning service members. He also discusses the need for a good faith reform effort at the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the care and services offered to America’s veterans. The show, entitled “Beyond the Front Lines,” is scheduled to air on Friday, December 19. Check your local listings for air time.


December 17, 2008

Dr. Phil episode “Beyond the Front Lines”

Friday, December 19 - Check local listings for air time

Veterans and their family members
Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Colonel David Hunt, FOX News Military Analyst
Tammy Duckworth, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
Paul Reickhoff, Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Beyond the Front Lines
Military men and women are true American heroes who fight for our freedoms. But are we doing all we can as a nation to honor our contract with these warriors? When a soldier survives war, oftentimes he or she comes home to face a different battle. Dr. Phil's guests are veterans who say they have returned from the front lines only to fight a medical system bureaucracy that is failing them. Randy was severely injured during an ambush while deployed in Iraq. His mother, Tammy, says the military lied to him, and used him, and that Randy was eventually lost in the system. She says getting any help from the Department of Veterans Affairs is a struggle with minimal results. Dr. Phil introduces this wounded warrior to two special people who want to make his life better. Next, Jerry says he got a "raw deal" when he returned from Iraq, and he's struggling with what he believes to be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His wife says Jerry is angry and violent, and she's afraid of him. You won't believe what they say the Department of Veterans Affairs advised Jerry to do to cope with his suicidal thoughts.

Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Congressman Bob Filner, and FOX News military analyst Colonel David Hunt passionately share their opinions about health care for veterans. Then, Kevin and Joyce say their son came home from Iraq a changed man. They say they tried to get him help for what they believed was severe PTSD, but it didn't come in time. And, Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and Paul Rieckhoff, director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, weigh in on the cases. If you are an American, this is your call to arms to step up and help turn things around for the men and women in uniform.


Marine Unit Leading Afghan Troop Boost

It's a tough neighborhood for coalition forces in southern Afghanistan. While moving through the historical home of the Taliban and its putative leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, American and NATO troops have been increasingly bruised by fighters from the resurgent movement who attack, run and lay ambushes nearly at will.


December 17, 2008
Military.com|by Christian Lowe

The last substantial group of American troops who patrolled the area at the juncture of Farah and Helmand provinces was battered and bruised by militant attacks, hitting when they could but absorbing casualties at a rate their small numbers could not adequately prevent.

Now, as part of an upcoming surge of as many as 10,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, the new U.S. commander in the area says lessons learned from his predecessor's experience are putting him in a better position to knock the enemy down -- and keep him out.

"We're kind of the leading edge of the U.S. plus-up of forces in this area," said Col. Duffy White, commander of the Marine task force that recently deployed to southern Afghanistan. "I'd love to win hearts and minds, but I would really prefer at this point to win trust and confidence of the people; that we're here to help them, we're here to stay and we're here to help the Afghans find a solution to an Afghan issue."

For months, Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines labored to hold a huge operational area that stretched across three provinces. Relying on NATO allies for logistics, air and other functions, 2/7's commander, Lt. Col. Rick Hall, pleaded for more equipment and support - the kind of things Marines are used to having when they deploy as an expeditionary unit or a MAGTF.

Now, with White and his infantry battalion from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines and his logistics arm from the Hawaii-based 3rd Marines, coupled with Cobras from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 and CH-53E Super Stallions from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, there's a lot the Marines can do to not only clear the enemy out, but also to hold onto coalition gains.

"We are picking up from the success [2/7] had and now it goes a little bit beyond that because now we have a little bit more capability," White said during an exclusive interview with Military.com on Dec. 15.

As the war on Iraq winds down and security gains take hold, international focus is shifting towards the festering battle for Afghanistan where attacks on coalition troops are increasing at an exponential rate and casualties are beginning to outpace those in Iraq.

Though White believes the situation in his operational area isn't teetering on the brink of failure, the interview with Military.com was interrupted by a rocket attack on his headquarters in Kandahar.

"We're going to be able to succeed where we are," White said after resuming the interview about one hour later. "If we can get the unity of effort right and everyone pulling in the right direction, I don't think it's as dire as most people think it is."

One of the major factors that contributed to 2/7's heavy casualty rate of was the lack of armored vehicles to protect its troops from roadside bombs planted in the unimproved roads of Afghanistan's southern deserts. White comes armed with mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle variants that carry both troops and route clearance gear. His logistics teams include explosive ordnance disposal technicians and ground roving robots that can probe for increasingly sophisticated IEDs, he said.

He's also looking forward to the potential development of an all-terrain MRAP the Army's pushing for use in areas today's massive, top-heavy MRAPs can't reach.

"That would be something that I would say we need the most," White said. "Being able to make your own roads when you need to, to go off road and be able to surprise some enemy is the key."

With the increase in forces, new, more robust equipment and aviation elements at his back, White hopes he'll be able to expand on the slim gains made by his predecessors. And a new NATO commander for coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, who trained at the Army War College and is "very bright, very energetic and very focused on the enemy and how to defeat him in a holistic manner" will help.

Add to that a group of hard-charging British Royal Marines guarding his flank in Helmand province, and the MAGTF commander sees a tough force for militants to reckon with.

"Marines are Marines and they're fighters and they're going after it," White said of the Brits. "So, what I've seen is what I'd expect to see if I had a U.S. higher commander and U.S. forces on my flank."

Marine walking across U.S. reaches Mendocino County

A U.S. Marine from Montana camped in Willits during a stop in what he figures will be a more than 8,000 mile journey across the United States of America.


By ZACK CINEK The Daily Journal
Article Last Updated: 12/17/2008 12:01:28 AM PST

Now on inactive duty, Native American Eddie Gray, of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, began walking from his aunt's front door in Montana on an afternoon in April, he said.

"That was the time when I started the odyssey," Gray said in an interview Saturday. He waited in Willits for a new pair of shoes from Nike expected to arrive early this week.

Now on his third pair of shoes, Gray has washed and sent old pairs back to his own school.

He said the idea that inspired him to take the walk came to him during a mock ambush in 1998.

"I wanted to be in the Marine Corps since I was 8 years old," Gray said. Back in 1998, Gray thought, "Who am I doing this for?" Gray said, "Who are these people?"

In his walk, Gray said he intends not to see the country, because you can see the country in pictures, but to meet people.

He said he is walking for veterans and active duty military people. He would like to bring back awareness to America that people are forgetting about vets.

Donations from veterans groups, like the American Legion, for example, and citizens keep Gray walking. He said he has given clothing to people he has met on the road, because they needed it more.

Gray said he writes in a journal every day and hopes to write a book when he is done walking. In his back pack are foot powder and baby wipes.

Baby wipes, Gray said, are like "a shower away from the shower."

To Gray, walking with a pack comes easily. "I have to keep moving," he said. "My legs itch; they want to keep going."

Gray carried a heavy pack while in the Marines, and also when he hiked for a job with the National Forest Service. "This is no different," he said. Working for the Forest Service is something Gray would like to do again someday "because I like that kind of work."

Hazards of the road include a man armed with a knife who tried to rob him. Gray said small towns are the best because you meet people.

When his Nike shoes arrive, Gray plans to make his way to Ukiah.

"I am a people person; I like to meet people," he said.

Zack Cinek can be reached at [email protected]

Phony Marine nabbed at Lititz vet's funeral

Mourner bought full uniform on eBay. Cop says ‘I can’t explain it.’

Justin McDade was decked out for a Vietnam veteran's funeral last week in his crisp U.S. Marine Corps dress blues — a scarlet "blood stripe" up the trousers, sergeant stripes on the blouse, white hat and all.


Published: Dec 17, 2008

By TOM MURSE, Staff Writer

One problem: The 21-year-old Lititz man is not, and never was, a Marine.

He picked up the elaborate military getup on eBay for about $200, police say.

When an on-duty Lititz police officer assigned to escort the large procession on Thursday recognized McDade — and knew he was not a Marine — he walked over to him.

"You need to leave," Officer Ken Wolfe told McDade.

The young man left the service and walked down to headquarters.

He turned over the uniform and was arrested on an obscure, rarely enforced law against misrepresenting yourself as a member of the military and dealing in medals and decorations. Police were still preparing the charges this morning.

"It's a weird charge. It's not an often-used section of the crimes code," said Lititz police Sgt. Kerry Nye. "The issue is, he was in full uniform."

McDade, who lives in the 400 block of West Marion Street in Lititz, admitted to the offense, police said, but did not offer any explanation.

"I can't explain it either," Nye said.

McDade could not be reached for comment this morning. A telephone number listed for him in Lititz was not in service.

The criminal charge, dealing in military decorations, is a third-degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to a year in prison under the law, which was enacted in the early 1970s.

A person is guilty of the charge "if, without authority, he purchases, sells, or offers for sale, or accepts as a pledge or pawn, any medal, insignia or decoration granted by the United States for service in the armed forces."

McDade was among an estimated 150 mourners who packed the funeral home on South Broad Street for the late 65-year-old Vietnam veteran, a Lititz resident who had served in the Marines and was widely known in his hometown. Police declined to identify the veteran by name.

McDade was an acquaintance of the veteran. "It wasn't like he just walked in to someone's funeral," said Nye.

The young man was, however, the only one there in uniform — and, as one witness put it, "stuck out a little bit."

FMTB makes ‘groundbreaking’ changes to save Marines’ lives

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. — Marines have learned from day one at recruit training that their best friend is the M16A2 service rifle. However, what they may not know is the vital importance corpsmen play in the lives of Marines—literally.


12/17/2008 By Cpl. Jin Hyun Lee, Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune

The commanding officer of Field Medical Training School, Navy Capt. Efren Saenz, recognized the significance of the role and responsibilities of the field corpsmen to their fellow Marines. Saenz proudly introduced the groundbreaking of the new state-of-the-art facility FMTS will have as a new home, Dec. 4.

Currently, where Marines are constantly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and with all the technology involved in today’s war, it is important corpsmen have the knowledge to administer proper aid to Marines.

“We need this groundbreaking due to the changing medical technology,” said Saenz. “This facility will have all the new technology required in today’s training environment.”

FMTS has been preparing sailors for the combat zone in a building that was erected during the 1950s. Since then, the building has been renovated several times. However, the school is not able to facilitate the training necessary for the new type of combat due to outdated equipment.

The Navy, and most importantly, the Marines, needed a technically efficient training facility to better prepare the future corpsmen for today’s warfare environment. Finally that push has paid off.

“The significance in the groundbreaking of this school is that we will be training in a completely new facility,” said Saenz. “Our building has been here since 1950, and over the years, many COs have made the effort to receive funding for a new facility. As a result of their hard work, we now get to this point in building this new school.”

In tribute of John “Doc” H. Bradley, the new facility will be dubbed Doc Bradley Hall. Bradley, a petty officer second class with 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, was one of the famous flag raisers at Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima.

“Let us not forget that there was in fact a corpsman with the Marines as they raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi,” said John Francis Richter, retired petty officer first class. “I feel compelled to pay respect to those who serve with and treat those Marines in their time of suffering. For those of you who don’t understand the love/hate relationship with the Navy, I can only say that at no time and in no place will you need to worry about the medical care received by Marines.”

Bradley represented the spirit of what all future corpsmen aspire to achieve, the love and loyalty for the Marines they were sworn to protect when they took their oath. Therefore, it is fitting for the new FMTS building to be named after him.

“When pressed, (Bradley) would gloss over and downplay how he had won the nation’s second highest award for bravery-- the Navy Cross,” said former Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak. “He earned that decoration by rushing to the aid of two wounded Marines, and then shielding them with his body while he tended to their wounds. When Bradley hurried to their aid, he didn’t exactly rush...he crawled...crawled, because he had been shot through both legs just a few minutes before.”

The sacrifices Bradley made for his comrades, the Marines, are highly stressed in the code of honor among corpsmen.

“They couldn’t have picked a better name for what Doc. Bradley symbolizes for all corpsmen to follow,” said retired Navy Capt. Bill Brown.

The new facility will provide all new equipment to include lifelike human models, with bodily functions to simulate various scenarios in times of war and garrison.

“The new building will better prepare corpsmen to help Marines going overseas because they will have state-of-the-art equipment. The only thing that’ll be better is actually working on Marines,” said Brown.

The new 28,000-square foot facility will cost approximately $8 million to build and is scheduled to be completed by December 2009, said Saenz.

Until then, the future corpsmen of FMTS will continue to learn and carry on the honor and the bravery Bradley set as the example. The Corpsman’s Prayer sums up the role of the Doc to a fellow Marine perfectly.

“These are my friends I’m trying to save. They are frightened at times, but You know they are brave. Lord, I’m no hero -- my job is to heal.”

2/7 remembers its fallen

MCAGCC — The 20 Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment who died while serving in Afghanistan were memorialized with words of praise and Marine Corps ritual on an overcast day Friday, Dec. 12 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.


By Kurt Schauppner / The Desert Trail Wednesday, December 17, 2008 1:54 PM PST

With families of the fallen in attendance, the 20 were memorialized at a ceremony held at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, which was named for a Marine who gave his life in Iraq.

In his invocation, Chaplain Russell Hale asked God to comfort those in grief. With family and fellow Marines and sailors looking on, the ceremony saw creation of the Soldier’s Cross, with the placement of a rifle, boots and photo for each fallen warrior.

At the same time, surviving family members were presented with bouquets of flowers and American flags.

“We know it took great strength and courage for you to be here today to give honor and respect to our fallen sons,” Lt. Col. Richard Hall, 2/7’s commanding officer, told family members during his remarks. “Mere words cannot do justice to a man’s life. “These were America’s best warriors.”

After the ceremony, Hall said, family members would have a chance to talk with other members of the battalion and share stories about their lost loved ones, “not how each man died but how each man lived.

“These are our country’s true heroes,” he said. “I have consolation in knowing they did not die in vain. Their efforts will prevail.”

Those who killed them, he said, will be brought to justice.

“Many of these workers of evil have already had justice brought to them,” he said.

“God can be trusted even when life seems its darkest,” he said. “Some of you may be angry at God but I want you to know that God understands. These sailors, these Marines, were good men.”

The ceremony included the playing of “Amazing Grace,” on the bagpipes by Maj. Sean Smith and a roll call of the fallen in which each name was called out three times before a set of dog tags was placed on each man’s Soldier’s Cross.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Hall noted that the battalion's mission in Afghanistan began as training and mentoring for members of the Afghanistan National Police but evolved more into counter-insergency efforts.

The majority of those memorialized, he said, were killed by improvised explosive devices.

Hall praised family members of the fallen Marines and sailors.

“You see that indomitable spirit,” he said. “They have suffered a terrible loss and yet they keep giving back to us.

“We hit the peak of the fighting season,” he said of the battalion's time in Afghan-istan, which begin in the spring. “We were in a very contentious area.”

'Hero' finally gets his heart

After 63 years, WWII vet receives Purple Heart

At Pensacola Naval Air Station on Tuesday, Marine Corps Pfc. Johnny Smith finally got his medal.


Travis Griggs • [email protected] • December 17, 2008

Sixty-three years ago, Smith sprinted across the beach at Iwo Jima as enemy gunfire crackled from the jungle around him.

He jumped into a crater where his squad mates were taking cover and returned fire. He tried to keep his head down while he sprayed .30-caliber machine gun bullets back at the enemy, but he didn't keep it low enough.

A Japanese bullet hit his helmet and exploded, the shrapnel slicing the side of his face and shredding his uniform.

"I wasn't badly wounded," said Smith, now 86. "But when the corpsman patched me up, he told me I would get a Purple Heart."

But World War II ended, and Smith never got his medal.

He came home and married his sweetheart, Polly.

"She waited for me and I waited for her, and all of that good stuff," Smith laughed.

He got a job at Sherrill Oil Company in Pensacola, where he worked for 29 years before retiring.

Smith might never have gotten the Purple Heart if not for a comment he added at the bottom of an application.

In July, Smith applied to the Emerald Coast Honor Flight, which flies World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II memorial. In a comment section at the bottom of the application, Smith wrote that he was injured at Iwo Jima and never got his Purple Heart.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller's staff received the application, noticed the comment and got to work. By November, the paperwork was signed, and Smith's medal was on the way.

"Finding veterans who didn't receive the medals and awards they earned was not something we expected when we created Emerald Coast Honor Flight," the Republican congressman said. "However, we've found a half-dozen or so heroes who never got their Purple Hearts or World War II Campaign Medals.

"These men and women are so humble about their service to the country during World War II that they never asked for medals or even a pat on the back."

But Tuesday, Smith got more than a pat on the back.

Commanders at Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 presented Smith his Purple Heart in an auditorium filled with young Marines who are in training at Pensacola NAS.

"We have a hero among us this afternoon," MATSG Commander Col. Will Thomas said to about 800 Marines in attendance.

"Sir, you are a part of our legacy and a part of our greatest generation," Thomas said before pinning a Purple Heart to the lapel of Smith's red windbreaker.

Cheers and applause erupted from the Marines in attendance and continued as Smith and his wife walked down the aisle and exited the auditorium.

Outside the auditorium, Smith turned to Lt. Col. David Glassman, executive officer at MATSG-21.

"I feel like a hero," Smith said.

Glassman replied without hesitation.

"That's because you are a hero, sir."

December 16, 2008

Marines support Iraqi police with aid operation

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Marines with Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 assisted Iraqi Police during a humanitarian-aid operation in the Muallimeen area of Fallujah, Iraq, Dec. 3.


12/16/2008 By Cpl. Chris T. Mann, Regimental Combat Team 1

The Marines provided security while IPs from the local police station distributed food to 125 under-privileged families living in the area.

“We are working really hard to make a difference and help the poor people in the city,” said Abass H. Abid, section leader and shift controller for the IP station. “We really want everyone to see that we are here to help them.”

The IPs loaded items into the backs of their vehicles and drove to several preplanned areas in the middle of the city. They distributed several containers of canned food, rice, flour and other basic necessities.

The names and addresses of citizens scheduled to receive the food were given to IPs by religious leaders from several nearby Mosques.

“This was a successful project run by IPs that helped out several of the less fortunate communities,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory J. Henry, a 30-year-old platoon sergeant from Las Vegas. “The primary mission of the IPs today was to give to the needy.”

While Marines were there for additional security, they also took the opportunity to speak with Iraqi citizens to gain information about stability in the neighborhood.

The Marines also used the opportunity to tell those living in the city about the services offered by local police and to remind them that IPs are their first line of security.

This mission “shows a presence of IPs in communities,” said Henry. “It shows people they can trust in their government organizations and the IPs.”

New Orleans on track to deploy, InSurv shows

Earlier test revealed problems with San Antonio-class ship

By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 16, 2008 15:56:06 EST

After a bruising inspection this summer, the amphibious transport dock New Orleans is almost combat-ready, according to the results of a new November inspection.

To continue reading:


December 15, 2008

Van gives disabled vet freedom

TAMPA - Lance Corporal J.T. Doody has a newfound freedom. He's in a wheelchair, but now he can go where he wants.


Monday, 15 Dec 2008

At Ride-Away in Tampa, J.T. was handed keys to his new van, customized for him.

The 25-year-old Marine was shot by a sniper in Iraq and hit in the leg three times. But that wasn't his worst injury -- when he came back to the states, he got a blood infection in a Naval hospital.

The infection went into his aorta causing him to lose consciousness. He suffered severe brain damage, and his mom Chris has been by his bedside ever since.

"The last thing we need to do to these men is to have them become shut-ins," she offered.

Chris said this new van will allow the family to go out together. They only had a Grand Am as their car, and of course, the wheelchair won't fit in it.

Now they can go to church or a restaurant, together.

The wheelchair was fully customized by Ride-Away. But it was donated from funds from Operation Support Our Troops.

"This is our eighth van and it's on the books for about four more next year," explained Mary Kay Salamone.

Salamone said it's part of their Wheels for Warriors program.

J.T. is proud to be a Marine -- he told FOX 13, "Semper fi; do or die" -- and said he'd do it all again, if he had to.

Now he said he has just one job: to get better. At least now he can be more independent.

Task Force Mech makes tracks through al-Anbar

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq- Marines and sailors assigned to Task Force Mech, Regimental Combat team 5 are conducting various operations here to improve the securityand to assist the Iraqi people where needed.


by Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Task Force Mech consists of Marines and sailors with Company A, 2nd Tank Battalion, in conjunction with elements of Company B, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn., and 1st Combat Engineer Bn.

“(Task Force Mech’s) main concern is preventing the freedom of movement of insurgents. We’re looking for weapon caches and stopping insurgent movements (from the borders),” said 1st Lt. Chris M. Hansen, 28, platoon commander, 1st platoon, 2nd Tank Bn. “By us being out there, it makes the insurgents re-route or completely stop their operations.

“We’re also providing humanitarian aid when possible. We have helped numerous Bedouin villagers by giving them food, water and medical attention,” said Hansen, who is from Toms River, N.J. “We are showing the people that we are willing to give them aid and anything that can improve their lives.”

Marines and sailors with Company B, 1st LAR Bn., offer a unique skill set that makes them a valuable asset while conducting the joint operations.

“With their infantry assets, (1st) LAR Battalion has been very important to tanks because they give us an asset that we can’t provide our self,” said Hansen. “(The infantry Marines) provide tanks with the ability to search buildings and different areas with those who have been trained to do it while we provide the security.”

“We patrol as dismount scouts for Company A and whatever types of things we come across; we search and clear to make everything in the surrounding areas safe,” said Gunnery Sgt. Tony N. Housell, 31, platoon sergeant, 1st LAR Bn., from St. Joseph, Mo.

Also assisting Task Force Mech in operations are two engineers with 1st CEB.

“We’re doing engineering operations consisting of cache sweeps, ordnance removal and searching for and identifying improvised explosive devices,” said Cpl. Andrew R. Semp, 24, a combat engineer with 1st CEB from Altamont, N.Y. “Our presence here helps with the mobility of tanks and keeps their movement as fluid as possible so they can continue operations in the area.”

Although Task Force Mech is conducting operations in the area, the Iraqi Security Forces are still in control of the province.

“We’re still showing a presence to the Iraqi people, but also letting the Iraqis know that their country is under control and the road to the future is being paved,” said Cpl. Kyle A. Nelson, 20, team leader, 1st LAR Bn., who is from Phoenix.

“We’re trying to give these people the support they need so they can call this their country and be proud of it,” said Hansen.

Tanks supply area with medical attention

AL-ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq — Amidst the array of Coalition force operations in the area, medical attention is still offered to the Iraqi populace by Task Force Mech, Regimental Combat Team 5.


12/15/2008 By Cpl. Shawn M. Coolman, Regimental Combat Team 5

Task Force Mech is comprised of Marines and sailors with Company A, 2nd Tank Battalion in conjunction with elements of Company B, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn., and 1st Combat Engineer Bn., which are both assisting tanks with various missions in al-Anbar province.

Conducting security patrols and interacting with the local Iraqi civilians have afforded the service members an opportunity to distribute food, water and medical supplies. The Marines and sailors with Task Force Mech have also provided medical care to the local Iraqis.

During one mission, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jorge E. Burgos, the senior line corpsman with Company A, noticed a young Iraqi girl in pain while seeing other Iraqi patients.

“We were patrolling in our area of operations (near Rutbah, Iraq,) and we spotted a caravan of trucks which turned out to be all sheep herders,” said Burgos, 45, who is from Cali, Columbia. “We then stopped the caravan and began asking them questions.

“After we completed our questioning, we began asking them if they needed any medical care.

“They said they had several people sick, and after I treated nine Iraqis, one in particular caught my attention,” said Burgos, who is on his fifth deployment to Iraq. “There was a little 6 year-old girl with 3rd degree burns on her right leg with an advanced stage of infection.

“The burn was from the lower part of her knee all the way around down to her ankle,” Burgos added. “Her burn was caused when she accidentally turned over a cooking pot of boiling water on herself.

“Her leg was wrapped in just a cloth when I saw her, and when I saw that situation, I asked the girl’s father, through an interpreter, to hold her very tight,” continued Burgos. “The reason for that was because I needed to clean her and remove the dead skin and infection. I cleaned the leg with sterilized water and applied medication for pain as well as two different antibiotic ointments.

“I explained to the girls’ father that he needs to clean the leg several times daily. I provided him with enough supplies to do so and medications to keep further infections from happening until they can get to a medical facility in Baghdad.

“The father was so pleased that he gave me a hug and kiss,” said Burgos. “My reward was to see her beautiful smile.

“Providing the Iraqis with medical and essential supplies in remote and isolated places makes the Iraqis very pleased with the Coalition forces and makes them feel safe and better protected,” said Burgos. “We are here to help them in any way we can.”

Although this instance of humanitarian assistance was isolated, the Marines and sailors here have treated many other Iraqis with varying illnesses. These acts of kindness have made the locals trust the service members more and have literally opened doors for the Marines and sailors of Task Force Mech.

“I think giving the Iraqis medical care is paramount because giving them medical care helps them to welcome us into their homes right away,” said Seaman Travis N. Cowan, 22, a corpsman from San Diego with RCT-5 who accompanied Task Force Mech during a recent mission.

“Diablos” Take The Reins From 3rd Cavalry

NINEWEH PROVINCE, Iraq – Watch out Al-Qaeda, the Marines have just set up shop.


By Sgt. Geoff P. Ingersoll

The “Diablos” of Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, accepted responsibility for battle space in the Nineweh province Nov. 10. The Diablos relieved soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

“(This inter-service teamwork) speaks volumes about the Marine Corps,” said Sergeant 1st Class James L. Price, platoon sergeant, scout platoon, Eagle Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “Our (changeover) with the Marine Corps is a little smoother than traditional Army battle-space changeovers. The high caliber of the armored cavalry and the elite nature of the Marine Corps, they mesh a little better.”

Price, 42, from Houston, mentioned the advantage the Marines will have because of their organic troop carrier, the Light Armored Vehicle. The LAV has eight wheels, carries a capacity of six riflemen, a three-man crew, and boasts a 25 mm machinegun in the turret.

LAVs can reach out and touch the enemy from a distance, or drive up and drop off Marines for a more in-close-and-personal approach. In short, range and terrain are no obstacles for the LAV.

“They can saturate the area a little better than we can,” concluded Price.

Saturating the area is key to LARs’ mission in their area of the Ninewah Province, located just west of the restive city of Mosul. While the relieved soldiers refocus their efforts on stabilizing Mosul, the Marines’ maintain a presence west. The companies in LAR will become the figurative “anvil” to the soldiers’ “hammer,” by catching any fleeing insurgents.

“We’ll provide a backstop to their operations in Mosul,” said Captain Keith P. Tighe, commanding officer, Company D, 1st LAR.

Just because they’re the anvil, doesn’t mean they’ll become static. While the Marines remain on the prowl for insurgents fleeing out of the city, they also plan to pursue and prevent any reinforcements from coming into the city.

“My task at the end of the day is to interdict,” said Tighe, “deny them terrain, and prevent their operations.”

Tigh said that “saturation,” or an overwhelming presence, may cause a knee-jerk reaction in insurgent and foreign fighter facilitator organizations.

“Once they know I’m sitting on the terrain, just my presence will disrupt their operations,” said Tighe, 39, Sacramento, Calif. Tigh said that seeing new cammies, new faces, and new vehicles patrolling in new places may cause a stutter step in every day insurgency operations.

To help exploit that stutter step, Tigh and his Marines plan to coordinate not only with the American Army, but the Iraqi Army.

“At any moment of the day, any time you need me, we will support you,” said Col. Fathy Ismail Afdeo, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 11 Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division. “We are one family, one unit, I will back you up and you will back us up, our goal is one.”

Mission accomplishment for the Diablos is to enable stabilization of Mosul by maintaining presence in towns, villages and along trade routes used by FFF and insurgents. Marines here said LAR is just the type of unit needed for this task.

“We can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, (and) wherever they go we can get to ‘em, we can chase (insurgents) anywhere, regardless of terrain,” said Cpl. Brandon M. Heffner, LAV crewman, Company D, 1st LAR.

Heffner, 22, Redding, Calif., and other Marines with LAR said they were excited to begin combat operations in the Nineweh province. For the Diablos, confidence was not hard to come by.

“We don’t need much support, we have dismount capabilities, weapons capabilities, we can hit ‘em in town, hit ‘em in the fields, it doesn’t matter,” said Heffner. “Eventually they’re going to run out of places to run to.”

The Marines of Company D, 1st LAR, make up one element of the first Marine Air Ground Task Force outside Anbar in Iraq since 2004. They traveled to the Nineweh province to kick off Operation Defeat Al Qaeda in the North II, an operation aimed at stamping out the insurgency just west of the restive city of Mosul.

December 14, 2008

Steele made her mark in Women Marines

Just a year after the Women Marines were created, Adene Thompson enlisted. Today, the same woman proudly flies the U.S. Marine flag from the front of her house in Eaton.


By Mike Peters
[email protected]
Sunday, December 14, 2008

She now goes by the name Tommie Steele, dating back to when she first got to basic training in 1944. “My last name was Thompson,” Steele says, “So the sergeant nicknamed me Tommie. It stuck.”

She was born in 1919 in Grand Saline, Texas, into a family of 11, growing up and working a cotton farm her parents owned. She went to a country school where at one time she was one of two first-graders in the school. When she graduated, Texas schools only had 11 grades, so she entered college at 16. “I really didn’t want to go back to the cotton fields, so I went to school to become a teacher.”

When she was 19 years old she was making $1,200 a year teaching high school in Leonard, Texas. A few years later, while she was in Alabama, the news came over the radio: The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

Teaching in Gaston, Texas, she remembers the trainloads of soldiers who would come through town on their way to war. “They’d throw little pieces of paper with their names and addresses written on them, hoping they’d get someone to write,” Steele said. “I remember the sides of the tracks were lined with pieces of paper.”

When the Women Marines was formed in 1943, Steele was teaching in Texas. Two Women Marines recruiters came to speak to the girls at her school. “I’d lost some friends to the war, and so I went out to dinner with the Marine women just to talk,” Steele said. “They pretty much sold me on the idea of helping my country.”

She joined the Women Marines in 1944 and went to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for training. Later, she was stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif.

She was in the camp’s communications office, delivering messages — some of them confidential — to her boss, Gen. Holland M. Smith. He was affectionately called “Howling Mad Smith” by the Marines under his command.

It was during that year at Pendleton that “Tommie” Thompson met Marine Tech Sgt. George Steele. He proposed, and after the war ended, the couple moved to George’s home state — Colorado. In 1952, they relocated to Eaton when George and his brother opened Steele’s Market. The family and the store became staples of the town.
George died in 1996. They had two children, three grandchildren, and now Tommie has eight great-grandchildren.

Her scrapbook carries memories of the great war, her husband and her family.

“I remember when we got into the war, and everybody thought, ‘We’d just been through a depression ... we can get through a war.’ We loved our country, and we did what had to be done.”

In that album is one of Steele’s proudest possessions: A thank-you note and discharge letter signed by President Harry S. Truman.

December 13, 2008

Disability reforms bring higher ratings, faster pay

By Tom Philpott, Special to Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, December 13, 2008

The pilot for a new, jointly-developed DoD-VA disability evaluation system (DES), set to expand from five to 22 military bases by May, does much of what proponents hoped it would.

To continue reading:


Marines begin Security Guard training

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — For more than 60 years Marines have been the main source of protection for about 125 American Embassies and U.S. government offices around the world.


11/13/2008 By Lance Cpl. Meloney R. Moses,

Trained out of the Marine Security Guard School here, Marines learn the fundamentals necessary to carry out their mission of securing embassies worldwide.

The MSG school is available to Marines who meet enrollment requirements. Marines must first familiarize themselves with Marine Corps Order 1326.6E, which explains that Marines must obtain a top secret clearance, have no tattoos visible in uniform, request orders to MSG and have a recommendation from their command.

Standard security guards or ‘‘watch standers,” are obligated to spend a total of three years in the program. They are enlisted Marines from E2-E5 who serve three separate yearlong tours and must be single with no dependants, according to chief instructor Master Sgt. Christopher A. McNeely.

Detachment commanders are enlisted Marines from E6-E8 who serve two, 16-month tours and can bring dependants along. Each tour is served in one of nine regions.

The MSG school is led by McNeely, who holds five class sessions per year training more than 450 Marines.

Picking up with 120 Marines on Oct 22, MSG began a new cycle of training.

Among these students are Lance Cpl. Richard M. Kennedy,

Cpl. Nathan E. Diezman, Cpl. Randall W. Conner Jr, Cpl. Stephen A. Price, Cpl. Issac Relayze.

‘‘I want to enjoy my time in the Marine Corps and open myself up to new culture,” said Relayze about his reason for joining.

For more information about MSG school, contact Gunnery Sgt. Drew Pate at [email protected] or call 703-784-4861.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a six part series in which we will explore the MSG school.

Twentynine Palms unit pays tribute to those they lost in Afghanistan

TWENTYNINE PALMS — They fought. They came home. And on Friday, the men and women of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines took time to honor their fallen.

Please click on the above link for an audio of the service.

Keith Matheny • The Desert Sun • December 13, 2008

A special memorial service at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms remembered the 20 men who lost their lives during the unit's recent deployment to Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Richard Hall, commanding officer of the unit, told those assembled he will never shy away from retelling the successes and the tragedy of the 2/7 in Afghanistan.

“The story I have to tell is a good one — one of outrageous courage, valor, selfless sacrifice and honor,” he said.

“Many of you will tell of their love, their laughter, their hopes and their dreams. We will together recount not how each man died, but how each man lived.”

The unit had among the highest casualties of any deployed to the war.

Several hundred family, friends and fellow Marines sat in bleachers, with nearly all of the unit's approximately 1,000 men and women on the field, at parade dress in neat rows.

One by one, the names of the fallen were called, as fellow Marines placed rifles in a line in special stands, barrel-down, a helmet resting on the rifle butt and a pair of boots in front, a traditional memorial for a Marine killed in action.

Other Marines took bouquets and American flags folded in crisp triangles to a long line of family members of the fallen Marines — some older fathers, themselves in Marine uniforms from service of an earlier time; others young widows holding babies, who will one day know their father's face only from photos and home videos.

A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” and Sgt. Maj. Matthew Brookshire called the roll, bellowing out each fallen Marine's name three times, the call met with silence, as other Marines laid their comrade's dog tags on their rifle.

After a seven-rifle salute, some family members sobbed softly as taps was played by a bugler and echo.

Lt. Russell Hale, the unit's chaplain, said a lesson lies in the honor and purpose with which the men lived and died.

“We need to understand the brevity of life,” he said. “We never know when we, too, will be called into eternity. And like our fallen brothers, we too need to always live our lives in a manner that's worthy of the calling we have received.”

The 2/7 served in Fallujah, Iraq, last year, returning in August 2007. In March it deployed to Afghanistan with an emphasis on training the Afghan National Police.

“We trained over 800 of them,” Hall said. “That's the baseline of security and the foundation of governance.”

As the memorial service concluded, family members gathered at the rifle memorials — some kneeling and weeping; others praying quietly. Some touched the dog tags, stroked the boot laces.

Marines who had served at the side of their loved one gathered with them, and traded stories:

Seng Sim stood at the memorial of his younger brother, Lance Cpl. San Sim, 23, of Santa Ana, who was killed on Oct. 22 in Farah province, Afghanistan.

San Sim was born in the Philippines, his Cambodian family having fled the Khmer Rouge.

“Our family history is war-torn. We ran away from war,” Seng Sim said.

Joining just out of high school, San Sim had served two tours in Iraq before going to Afghanistan.

“Understanding how we fled just for freedom here, San wanted to fight for that freedom. He wanted to give those people the chance that we have here.”

Army Specialist Deon D. Taylor had served in the Army National Guard since 1997. The Bronx, N.Y., native was an undercover narcotics officer on the New York Police Department.

He volunteered to return to Afghanistan, his second time there, to serve with the 2/7 on an Afghan police mentoring team, said his father, Leon Taylor.

Deon Taylor's brother, Damarr McBean, said he didn't talk much about what he was doing over there.

“He didn't want anybody to worry,” he said. “He did everything in his power to make sure his family was good.”

Deon Taylor was killed on Oct. 22 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“It's what he wanted to do, to make a difference in life,” McBean said.

Jason Karella came from a military family in Fairbanks, Alaska. His grandfather had been a Marine, his father an Army pilot, his older brother an Army Special Forces medic in Iraq.

Jason Karella joined the Marine Corps.

Kevin Karella relished hearing the stories of his son from his fellow Marines on Friday.

Jason Karella had served in Iraq, and worried that some of the new, unseasoned Marines headed to Afghanistan weren't fully prepared, he drilled with them on room- and stairway-clearing in his spare time, Kevin Karella said the Marines told him.

“He was always the first one out of the truck,” Kevin Karella said he was told. “If it was kids, he was the first one out to hand them candy and a toy and talk with them.

“And if it was the (stuff) hitting the fan, he was the first one out of the truck to engage.”

Jason Karella, 20, was killed Oct. 9 in Farah province, Afghanistan.

He had a fiancée, Beth Ureta, who he adored, Kevin Karella said.

“He told me, ‘Dad, I don't have to worry about Beth being blown up in a grocery store back home, because we're keeping them real busy here,'” Kevin Karella said.

He said he received a call from his son about eight hours before he was killed, telling him the good news that the unit would be returning home two weeks earlier than expected.

The family was making arrangements to make sure it was home for the birth of Joshua Karella's first son, expected Nov. 7, but to also make it to Twentynine Palms for Jason's homecoming on Nov. 16.

“Less than 16 hours after that, the Marines knocked on our door and told us the bad news,” Kevin Karella said.

Joshua Karella named his newborn son Jason — for his brother.

Kevin Karella said he takes comfort from the fact that his son died in support of something he believed in strongly.

“He was proud of his service, but he wanted to come home and get married,” he said. “He wanted to be a police officer when he came home. But he wanted to do the job right, and then come home.

“We are going to miss him so much.”

Sgt. Maj. Adrian Robles of Chino Hills remembered his fallen friends Friday, including two of his closest friends from the unit, Sgt. Michael T. Washington, 20, who was killed on June 14 in Farah province; and the fellow Marine with whom Robles shared a name, Cpl. Adrian Robles, 21, who was killed Oct. 22 in Helmand province.

“They were upstanding, original,” Sgt. Maj. Robles said of his friends.

“They were loud, obnoxious. No one could tell them anything. They were always voicing their opinion.”

His friends — who Robles said saved him in combat “countless times” — were also lighthearted at times that someone who's never been under fire may never understand.

“We always joked that humor is a flak jacket,” he said.

“When times got rough they always tried to lighten up the situation with a smile on their face.”

Though memorial services for the men had already been held in Afghanistan, Friday's ceremony was important, Robles said.

“It brings closure for the Marines not being able to go to the funerals,” he said.

“That's a big thing. It hurts to not be there to see them off to their final resting place.”

Friday's ceremony also allowed injured Marines from the unit and family members to pay a special remembrance, Hall said.

“These family members are so incredible, so giving,” he said.

“They've suffered a terrible loss, and yet they keep giving back to us.”

December 12, 2008

Diablos test waters with patrol in unfriendly city

NINEWEH PROVINCE, Iraq – It wasn’t long after breakfast on Nov. 12 that Lance Cpl. Russell L. Pope was sitting in the cold in the back of a Light Armored Vehicle driving through a small town in western Nineveh province.


By Sgt. Geoff Ingersoll

He wasn’t nervous, he said, just on edge. Like the Iraqi people seemed to be in the market of the seemingly anti-coalition town of T’all Uhwaynat, a main trade hub leading from Syria to Mosul.

“Your spider senses, they kick in, and you’re a lot more alert; you’re paying a lot more attention to everything around you,” said Pope, scout, Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. “We rolled in and the whole market stopped, everybody stopped, and they all started staring at us.”

Pope wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure.

The town seemed “edgy, you can feel that a fight’s coming. You just don’t know what the first punch is going to be,” said 1st Lt. Robert J. Bibeau, platoon commander, Company D.

“In the event that we’d take contact in terrain like that, that first punch is going to hurt, but then we’d maneuver on the enemy and beat him down,” said Bibeau.

Luckily Pope’s thumb never switched the weapon off “safe.” That punch never came. Any enemy, if present, stayed low and skipped out on Bibeau’s beat down.

Though the “Diablos” may not have fired a round, they still considered their mounted patrol through T’all Uhwaynat a successful strike against the enemy.

“It’s just a big show of presence,” said Sgt. Timothy A. Cramer, chief scout, Company D. “Showing our presence let’s them know that we’re out there, and we here to get rid of the bad guys.”

Cramer, 28, Mesa, Ariz., said showing presence does two important things: scares the “bad guys” and reassures innocent civilians. Noting and influencing public sentiment is just as much a part of reconnaissance as geographical details.

“The people are key in this type of fight, just like the terrain,” said Bibeau, 27, Moriarty, N.M.
Bibeau said that the high ground has always given an advantage in battles decided by terrain. In counterinsurgency, public sentiment is the high ground.

“You can’t win against an insurgency by alienating the people. You can’t know the people unless you go out and meet them,” said Bibeau.

Meeting new people isn’t always easy at first. For Marines in this town, it’s better to show their faces first and pass through, rather than dive right in shaking hands and kissing babies.

“Sometimes you have to take baby steps,” said Bibeau. “It’s kind of an issue of letting the people who are friendly to us know that, hey, we’re here to help and we’re here to stay. And it’s also an issue of letting the enemy know ‘you’re not going to intimidate me and you’re not going to scare me away.’”

Not all the villages out here put off the same vibe. The people usually greet the Marines with smiles and waves.

“All the other little villages that we have gone through, the kids come out and wave,” said Pope, 24, Livingston, Texas. “When we rolled through (T’all Uhwaynat), everybody just stopped and stared, no kids waved, nobody had a smile on their face, they all just looked like ‘why are you here?’ It was more a face of awkwardness, it wasn’t very warm.”

Bibeau said the lack of warmth could be attributed to the fact that village is located on one of the main roads leading from Syria to Mosul. Until the Marines arrived, there was little Coalition force presence in the town.

“The town is strategically crucial for the enemy. It has a very thriving marketplace right along the main avenue, and that road runs all the way down to Mosul from a large city up in Syria. If you’re looking to get into Mosul fast, you’re going to take that route because it’s a good resupply location for the enemy,” said Bibeau.

Whatever the reason villagers gave Marines the cold shoulder, the Marines intend to free them from any oppression. If the town is a resupply route for the insurgents, it won’t be long before the Diablos take it away.

“Showing our faces let’s them know that we’re here and that we’ll be here for a while. We’re not going to back down,” Cramer said. “They’ll see us again.”

The Marines of Company D, 1st LAR, make up one element of the first Marine Air Ground Task Force outside Anbar in Iraq since 2004. They traveled to the Nineweh province to kick off Operation Defeat Al Qaeda in the North II, an operation aimed at stamping out the insurgency just west of the restive city of Mosul.

Second sight

When John and Susan McColley stood at the grave of their son U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. John Eric McColley, Susan did something that made a difference.


Originally published December 12, 2008

The Dec. 6 News-Post story "Parents of fallen Marine bring holiday spirit to National Cemetery" described the outcome of her actions, now measured in a Foundation the McColleys established following Eric's 2006 death in a helicopter crash off the coast of Djibouti in Africa. Their undertaking is a labor of love and honor called the Sgt. Mac Foundation. This year, the organization raised enough money to place some 500 holiday wreaths on headstones in Gettysburg National Cemetery and brought an additional 2,000 wreaths to Quantico National Cemetery, where Eric is buried. The hope is that, in time, all 125 national cemeteries will be adopted by "someone" during the holidays.

But that's not the real story, not from where we sit.

The real story is what Susan did that motivated her wreaths-for-troop-headstones initiative; what she did during that first holiday season when she and her husband found themselves graveside and grieving. News-Post staff writer Ashley Andyshak described it: "During that holiday season, Susan McColley began studying the headstones next to her son's."

That's what made the difference. Susan looked around -- outside of herself and her grief, and observed the unadorned grave markers of other soldiers, many of whose parents "lived too far from Quantico to make weekly visits like she and John could." Then she looked beyond -- to how she could change that. And did.

There is much to be learned from Susan's behavior, from the moral peripheral vision it implies and the benefits of exercising its power. Frederick resident Pam Prota, whose "Afghanistan winter" letter appears on this page, is another prime example of what we're talking about. She "looked around" and "saw" that our troops are in need. Some research, personal commitment, and one letter to the editor later, and she's moved beyond -- to how she might change that.

But the central, informing idea is that she "looked" in the first place. Which is not something many of us are very good at.

Everyday examples abound.

How many times have we driven through the shopping mall, destination-intent, neither stopping nor slowing down to "look" for pedestrians who are waiting for their chance to cross at a crosswalk? That's right, the next guy will stop.

How many times have we stood in long, slow purchase line intent on getting to the counter, never "looking" at the mother-children trio who'd benefit from being offered the space in front of us?

You get the idea.

No, this isn't a holiday pitch for "awareness," patience and generosity. It's a suggestion for year-round behavior that's being delivered during the season when examples of "looking around us" are more prevalent and we are most wonderfully vulnerable to their effects.

Don't prove us wrong.

Corps’ newest embassy guards take their posts

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — After weeks of on-going training, Class 1-09 gathered as the newest Marine Security Guards at their graduation ceremony Friday at Little Hall.


12/12/2008 By Lance Cpl. Meloney R. Moses, Marine Corps Base Quantico

The class began with 120 Marines, and graduated with 98 watch standers and nine detachment commanders.

“These are the Marines that are going to be guarding material crucial to the U.S.,” said Master Sgt. Christopher McNeely, the chief instructor of the MSG School. “It’s gratifying to see the product of what I’ve labored to create. It really strikes home with me when I present the class.”

While awaiting orders to their posts, the Marines will take follow-on classes to help familiarize them with the countries they’ve been assigned and the services available to them at those posts, explained Maj. David McCombs, officer in charge of the MSG School.

“Their expectations are as varied as the countries they’re going to,” said McNeely.

“Some will have very little, if any, culture shock.”

After leaving the MSG School, Marines will check into posts all over the world.

It’s not that different from checking into any other duty station said McNeely.

Even after the graduates leave, MSG instructors continue to refine the process.

While the new embassy guards move on to their duty assignments, MSG instructors train to become more proficient.

McCombs explained that the instructors review the course curriculum and make adjustments based on the instructor rating forms filled out by the former students.

They also spend one week performing department of state room entry tactics to help enhance their skills.

We have to continue to “train the trainer” stated McCombs.

After a bit of training and a short vacation the instructors go right back to work in January picking up with the next group of aspiring embassy guards.

For more information about the MSG school, contact Gunnery Sgt. Drew Pate at [email protected] or call 703-784-4861.

Editor’s note: This is the final article of a six-part series. You can view the series online at www.quantico.usmc.mil

1. Marines begin security guard training
2. Future Marine Security Guards train in defense
3. MSG Marines take training to the range
4. Locate, Isolate, Contain: MSG students learn room entry, clearing
5. Knowledge projected, information received

Marines Killed in Afghanistan Honored at Twentynine Palms

Marines at Twentynine Palms honored the lives of 20 of their own killed during their last deployment to Afghanistan.

Please click on the above link for a video link and photos.

Posted: Dec 12, 2008 05:57 PM CST
By Nathan Baca
News Channel 3

Dozens of families attended the Friday morning memorial ceremony held on base.

The 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marine Regiment went to Afghanistan earlier this year.

Lt. Col. Richard Hall tells News Channel 3 their original mission was to train Afghani police. But targeted by I.E.D.'s, the Marine battalion found itself in several counterinsurgency operations.

Army Specialist Deon Taylor was among those killed with the Marines in Afghanistan. His son, Darue Taylor said he was going to miss his father, "he was special to me. He was always good to me."

Taylor's brother Damarr McBean added he would miss his brother's presence.

"He was a big influence on my life," McBean said.

The Marines honored in order of the date killed in action were:

Sgt Michael T. Washington
PFC Michael R. Patton
Lcpl Layton B. Crass
PFC Dawid Pietrek
Capt Eric D. Terhune
LCpl Andrew F. Whitacre
Sgt Matthew E. Mendoza
Mr. Mohammad Abaid Dawary, Afghani Forces
Hospital Corpsman Dustin K. Burnett
LCpl Ivan I. Wilson
LCpl Jacob J. Toves
LCpl Juan Lopezcasteneda
Cpl Anthony G. Mihalo
Sgt Jerome C. Bell, Jr.
Cpl Jason A. Karella
Cpl Adrian Robles
LCpl San Sim
Army Specialist Deon D. Taylor
Capt Trevor J. Yurista

December 11, 2008

Wreath project honors fallen in national cemeteries

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — A hundred volunteers with the Sgt. Mac Foundation placed wreaths on 2,200 graves at the Quantico National Cemetery Saturday, December 6, for the third annual National Wreath Project, to honor the interred service members.


12/11/2008 By Lance Cpl. Skyler Tooker, Marine Corps Base Quantico

The foundation was formed to honor the memory of Sgt. Eric McColley, who was killed Feb. 17, 2006, along with seven fellow Marines and two Airmen when two Marine CH-53 helicopters collided off the coast of Djibouti, while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The National Wreath Project began in December 2006 when McColley’s parents would bring a new wreath to his grave on a weekly basis. At the cemetery, they would place the existing wreath on a nearby grave and put the new one on their son’s grave. Susan McColley his mother, said they decided to place as many wreaths as possible on the other graves because of how few were decorated.

‘‘I went to the Giant Food store and bought wreaths for my son’s grave and the store donated 60 wreaths; and I thought, well, there are more graves than that,” said John McColley, father. The manager at the store said, ‘If you come on Christmas Eve, we discount them greatly.’ And I said I will take them all.”

On Christmas Day 2006, McColley’s mother, father, sister Cheryl, family members and friends were able to place 515 wreaths at the cemetery. People who were in the cemetery that day even stopped and helped out in the effort.

In 2007, fund-raising efforts began early and with the help of American Legion Posts in Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia and the foundation was able to place 2,100 wreaths in the cemetery.

This year on Friday at 9 a.m. volunteers gathered in the parking lot of Giant Food located on Natural Springs Road in Carlisle, Pa., to tie the red bows on the wreaths. Volunteers loaded 2,200 wreaths into containers and headed to Quantico National Cemetery.

An additional 400 wreaths went to the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The foundation wants to add a cemetery to its project each year. The cost of this year’s project was $18,200 .

There were many veterans groups at the cemetery to show their support including Leagen Riders, Strength and Honor, and Combat Veterans of America motorcycle club.

The Combat Veterans of America Motorcycle Club donated money they had been raising.

‘‘We did a little background to see what the foundation was about, and it is for a great cause,” said Randy Cockers, vice president of Combat Veterans of America Motorcycle Club. ‘‘We are about helping veterans, family of veterans. What better place to do it but in our backyard at Quantico National Cemetery.”

This is an event that they can come out and do every year, he added.

‘‘The motorcycle clubs are our push to the future, because those are the guys you can count on,” John McColley said.

John McColley said, ‘‘We are excited about getting even more wreaths for next year.”

For more information go to the Sgt. Mac Foundation website at www.sgtmac.org.

Marines Shift Focus to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - As the need for Marines in Iraq winds down, their top general says he would like to shift his troops to Afghanistan, perhaps in numbers small enough to allow a less punishing pace of combat tours.


Associated Press | December 11, 2008

Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in an Associated Press interview in his Pentagon office Monday that "there's a greater role for Marines in Afghanistan," with its increasingly deadly insurgency, than in Iraq, where the Marines' mission is mainly peacekeeping and training.

He said he has a "gut feel" that a consensus is developing among U.S. leaders to shift the focus to Afghanistan. And he said that means thousands more Marines could start heading there as early as next spring.

"Our commanders in Iraq believe that they can do the mission with less force. They have made that point to their leadership in Baghdad, they have made that point to me," Conway said. "And therefore I believe there is a window of opportunity to accept a little more risk in Iraq - if that's even an accurate statement - to start dealing with what is clearly an increasingly dangerous situation in Afghanistan."

There are about 22,000 Marines in Iraq, mostly in Anbar province, where insurgent violence is relatively low.

Conway, who served two command tours in Iraq early in the war, said he can envision getting all Marines out of Iraq before long.

"Yes, number one, because it's not our mission," he said. "(Marines) do not traditionally train, equip or orient toward what I would call the peacekeeping or nation-building kind of role. There are people that do that much better than us because that's their orientation. That said, we've done a pretty doggone good job of it in a situation where we're being compelled to do that. But it's not our forte."

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates knows Conway's desire but has made no decision.

"I think the secretary understands the Marines' desire to be in the fight. And there certainly is more of a fight these days in Afghanistan than in Anbar," said Morrell. "But, as for the suggestion of the Marines pulling up stakes from Anbar and setting up camp in Afghanistan, there has been no such formal request made."

Morrell said that when a request to deploy specific units comes across Gates' desk, the secretary will consult with commanders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to determine his course of action.

In explaining his desire to see Marines focus on Afghanistan, Conway said the mix of security, economic and political problems there appears likely to be a central feature of President-elect Barack Obama's national security agenda. Obama has said he wants all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months and he supports the request by U.S. commanders for more forces in Afghanistan.

Conway said that in his view the war in Afghanistan does not require the same number of Marines as are now in Iraq.

"Ideally, we would have no more than about 15,000 Marines deployed" to either Iraq or Afghanistan, he said. That would slow the pace of deployments to the point where Marines could have 14 months at home for every seven-month combat tour. For a time they were getting only seven months at home between tours, although recently that has improved slightly to nine months or 10 months, Conway said.

The extra time at home would not only relieve combat strains but also allow the Marine Corps to restore some types of conventional training, such as amphibious warfare, that it has been forced to put off in order to get Marines ready for the counterinsurgency fight they have faced in Iraq for several years.

Conway, who has a little less than two years remaining in his term as Marine commandant, said he will be traveling soon to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to get an update on the situation on the ground.

It will be his first visit to Pakistan since it emerged after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a central front in the fight against al-Qaida and affiliated extremist groups that have found haven in largely ungoverned areas along the Afghan border.

"I do look forward to meeting the (Pakistani) leadership and hearing their thoughts on what's happening between Afghanistan and Pakistan and, to some degree, between Pakistan and India, based on what occurred in Mumbai," Conway said, referring to the terrorist attacks in the Indian financial capital.

More than a year ago, when early discussions of sending more Marines to Afghanistan became public, Gates signaled opposition to the idea, saying he preferred to maintain the concentration on Iraq.

At that time, Conway said Gates and others believed the timing wasn't right to take the Marines out of Anbar province. Since then, responsibility for security in Anbar has shifted to the Iraqi government.

Knowledge projected, information received

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — More than six weeks ago, 120 Marines in Marine Security Guard School class 1-09 started on a mission which included more than 300 hours in the classroom covering a variety of subjects from diplomatic courtesies to alcohol abuse in their quest to become embassy guards.


12/11/2008 By Lance Cpl. Meloney R. Moses, Marine Corps Base Quantico

These classes are significant because they prepare Marines for the responsibility of providing internal embassy security.

‘‘It’s an intense course. We throw out information quickly and they must absorb it and regurgitate it back to us the same way,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Kidder, the MSG School Assistant Operations Chief of the Marine Security Group.

Kidder explained that there are more than 60 periods of instruction.

Classes such as defensive tactics, flex cuffing, edged weapons defense, handcuffing and expandable baton, trains the Marines for physical defense against encounters and to gives them a first responder’s level of training.

We see what goes on around the world, and we’re providing a well trained Marine to serve in U.S. embassies, Kidder said.

Additional classes focus on cultural awareness and prevention and adjusting to living in a foreign country.

Kidder also explained that Marines receive quarterly training at their posts to make sure they continue to hone and maintain their level of skill and knowledge.

Students disagree about which parts of the course were most difficult.

Cpl. Nathan Diezman, said the hardest part was the practical application, while Lance Cpl. Richard Kennedy said the hardest part was the written tests.

‘‘Some parts are hard, but I’m confident now,” said Kennedy. ‘‘I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”

Classes are beginning to wind down as Marines prepare for graduation and movement to their embassy posts.

For more information about MSG school, contact Gunnery Sgt. Drew Pate at [email protected] or call 703-784-4861.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in a six-part series. See previous stories and photos on the Web at www.quantico. usmc.mil.

December 10, 2008

For troops and the military system trying to help them, traumatic brain injury is new territory

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, December 10, 2008

FRANKLINTON, N.C. — The first thing that 1st Lt. Mike McMichael felt when he regained consciousness was a stinging sensation.

To continue reading:


December 9, 2008

Task Force Ninewa pounds ground into northern Iraq to take down Al Qaeda

SAHL SINJAR, Iraq – On ground that was little more than a strip of cement surrounded by desert, a veritable camp now stands, built and manned by Marines of Task Force Ninewa ready to hunt foreign fighters and terrorists near the Syrian border.


By Cpl. Dean Davis

Task Force Ninewa, the ground-combat element for Operation Defeat Al Qaeda in the North II, is built around 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (Task Force Highlander). It is comprised of Marines from 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, as well as augments from ANGLICO, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, and other combat assets of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force,and now controls the open areas of northern Iraq near Mosul.
“We are here to interdict foreign fighter facilitators and anyone else who is breaking the Iraqi people’s rule of law, keeping this area from becoming a place of opportunity for outsiders who wish to influence the Iraqi sovereignty,” said Lt. Col. Scott D. Leonard, commanding officer for 1st LAR Bn. “The various elements of the task force are denying infiltration routes, and working with the Iraqi Security Forces to identify any places foreign fighters may be using as safe havens,”

Bringing those various elements together and establishing the camp’s infrastructure presented a mission all in itself. But, as Marines have done throughout the Corps’ history, overcoming these types of obstacles was all in a day’s work, explained Leonard.

“We moved the entire task force from western Iraqall the way here in less than two weeks while at the same time bringing in the other units with whom we have never operated or trained, which presented some unique challenges,” said Leonard. “But, that just highlights the strength of the Marine Corps where you can take various units, mix them up and create an effective fighting force from different types of units.”

Of those units, Company B, 1st Tank Battalion is one that, like the Highlanders, is assisting in providing security to Iraq’s border and increased safety to its people, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason L. Villasana, a tank crewman with Company B.

“The logistics of getting here and preparing for our mission included some hurdles, but our presence here is a huge deterrent for those out there wanting to do crimes, either against us or the Iraqis,” said Villasana, 31 from Sabinal, Tx. “As the battalion master gunner and having trained these Marines, I am very confident that whatever arises, we will be ready to respond.”
Task Force Ninewa’s mission is something its Marines are happy to accept, a sentiment that extends to the people they are here to help, said Leonard.

“The warm response from the people is a sign that Marines are winning the war in Iraq and definitely shows that we’ve come a long way in last five years,” Leonard said. “The Marines of Task Force Ninewa are here to support the Iraqi people, their government and their rule of law. There is no better friend than us and we are concerned with their welfare and the safety of their families.”

With the Iraqi people in good hands, criminals in the area should beware of the task force’s other purpose and the men who fight from its ranks, explained Leonard.

“We will be diligent in hunting the FFFs, going everywhere that they believe they can hide, and we will deny them any opportunity to do harm to the (Iraq peoples’) interests.

R. Lee Ermey visits Marines, sailors of the 26th MEU

USS IWO JIMA, Arabian Gulf - "I at Gunnery Sergeant Ermey, I am your senior drill instructor," announces the actor and Marine Corps icon. "From now on you will speak only when spoken to. The first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be ‘Sir!' Do you maggots understand that?"


By Cpl. Jason D. Mills, 26th MEU Public Affairs
Dec 9, 2008 - 9:39:00 AM

The Marines and sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima respond immediately and with fervor, "Sir, yes Sir!"

"Bull--! I can't hear you; sound off like ..." responds the former Marine Corps drill instructor, repeating lines he immortalized on the silver screen.

This time even louder, the Marines and sailors answer, "SIR, YES SIR!"

"If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon; you will be a minister of death, praying for war. But until that day, you are pukes, you are scumbags, you are the lowest form of life on earth, you are not even human beings. You are nothing but a lot of little, unorganized, grab--, pieces of amphibian --! Oorah!"

Repeating these lines to most people would scare and offend them. But nothing could motivate the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit more.

R. Lee Ermey, most famous for his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket, paid a visit to the Marines and sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Dec. 8, 2008. On his entrance to the Iwo Jima hanger bay, where hundreds of Marines and sailors waited his arrival, Ermey greeted them with this rendition one of his most memorable on-screen moments. The Marines and sailors responded with resounding cheers.

Ermey's visit was part of a Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) event for deployed troops during the holiday season.

"I've worked it out with MWR where we'll make this a traditional thing," he said. "They'll bring me over every year for a couple of weeks and we can do this. And you know, maybe I'm not a great entertainer, maybe I'm not that much of a novelty to some, but you guys are stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, so I know you will laugh at my corny jokes ... right? And that's the important thing to me."

Going on, "There's nothing like ... getting the troops to laugh at my corny jokes. Because it makes me feel good, it breaks the monotony for them, so it works both ways. It's good for everybody."

During his visit Ermey gave away thousands of tee shirts, dozens of hats, took hundreds of photos with Marines and sailors, handed out mail, and toured the ship - greeting every Marine or sailor he saw along the way.

He also presented flags to ten Marines who helped reinforce levees during the June flooding of Elnora, Ind. The flags, donated to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit by citizens from Elnora, represented the town's gratitude to all of the Marines and sailors who participated.

Ermey was grateful toward every Marine and sailor he saw throughout his visit.

"As far as I'm concerned, you're over here doing the hard work, the heavy lifting and the least I can do is come over and say hello to you, give you a little pat on the back and maybe a word of encouragement," he said. "For me it's a privilege to be able to come over here and just hang out with you guys for a little bit."

However, the privilege was not all his. Having been at sea for nearly four months, some of the Marines and sailors aboard the Iwo Jima were glad to have something break up the monotony of everyday work.

"It's a definite motivation boost when we heard Gunny was coming aboard," said Cpl. Trevor Blackburn with Golf Co., Battalion Landing Team 2/6. "For me it's like meeting a living legend ... It's just a great motivation boost for all of us. We've been out here for a few months, it's starting to get tedious, and for him to show up and break the monotony, it's just great. The motivation just went through the roof with him showing up."

Corporal Cory Beverick with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein) said he was happy to have someone come aboard who understood what he was going through.

"Gunny Ermey's a pretty well-known character throughout the Marine Corps," he said. "It just lets us know that everyone's still thinking about us, and we're on everyone's minds. It's always good to have someone like [him] come out and put a smile on your face and make you laugh, ease the transition."

"He knows what it's like to be away from your family," he said. "He can just relate to everything we're going through right now. So it's always nice to talk to someone like that."

Despite the obvious following Ermey has aboard the ship, he made sure the Marines and sailors knew this visit was not about him, rather it was for those who choose to serve.

"It's a pleasure to be out here with you. I consider this an absolute honor to be able to come out here and socialize with you folks, ‘cause you are the people that I admire," Ermey said. "You guys are my heroes."

The 26th MEU is currently forward deployed aboard the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf in support of Maritime Security operations.

Editor's Note - The United States Navy refers to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf.

December 7, 2008

Once again, Corps plans to ax Recruit Wrap

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 7, 2008 11:06:41 EST

’Tis the season of giving, but after this Christmas, officials at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., are ending the decades-old tradition of allowing recruits to take a break from boot camp so they can buy gifts for family and friends back home.

To continue reading:


2/7 to complete return from Afghanistan

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 7, 2008 10:25:15 EST

Marines with the hardest hit battalion in the Corps this year are expected to return from southern Afghanistan late this week, Marine officials said.

To continue reading:


Locate, isolate, contain: MSG students learn room entry, clearing

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Marines are trained, organized and equipped as a force in readiness, and stand prepared to meet all mission requirements, according to the National Security Act of 1947.


12/7/2008 By Lance Cpl. Meloney R. Moses, Marine Corps College of Continuing Education

With two weeks until graduation, class 1-09 of the Marine Security Guard School is reminded that the overall mission is to locate, isolate and contain all enemies.

‘‘It is a reality check, because all the stuff we train for may need to be used at an embassy,” said Cpl. Randall Conner Jr., a student at the MSG School here. ‘‘This is the most dangerous b-billet. We are faced with the threat of being shot.”

Given simulation rounds for Airsoft Electric Guns and rubber pistols, the students carried out basic room entry procedures and response techniques at an Airsoft close quarter battle field in Manassas on Nov. 25.

Students were split up into teams and given floor plans so they could be familiar with the rooms in their embassy.

‘‘They already learned the floor plans so in any situation, they can respond,” said Gunnery Sgt. Lance George, the primary response instructor at the MSG School. ‘‘We teach them to locate individuals in an embassy that shouldn’t be there and detain them.”

‘‘We train as if we’re out on post,” said Conner. ‘‘It’s exciting.”

George explained, the Marines learn, and train, to abide by the regulations used by the Department of State.

Lance Cpl. Richard Kennedy, a student at the MSG School said it’s difficult to remember what the department of state does because they train different than the Marine Corps, making it easier to forget important material.

Marine security guards, essentially Department of State employees, are strictly trained to use non-lethal force, Cpl. Nathan Diezman, a MSG student, explained. We can’t throw hand grenades and bust down doors in an embassy.

‘‘We have to be a little more tactical,” said Diezman.

With the instructors presenting different scenarios, the students had to think quickly in order to respond.

‘‘You have got to be able to pay attention,” said Conner. ‘‘It’s free flow. Something may change and we have to adjust to it. If you can’t adapt, you just might die.”

For more information about MSG school, contact Gunnery Sgt. Drew Pate at [email protected] or call 703-784-4861.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth story in a six-part series. See previous stories and additional photos on the Web at www.quantico.usmc.mil.

Previous articles in this series:

Marines begin security guard training
Future marine Security Guards train in defense
MSG Marines take training to the range

For Marines, Mission Of Mentoring Turned Hot

The Marines of the Two-Seven were not even supposed to deploy to Afghanistan. Their original destination was Iraq, and when they were sent here in April as a stopgap measure to help an overwhelmed NATO force, the plan had been to spend the time mentoring Afghan national police.


By Tony Perry , Los Angeles Times Published on 12/7/2008

It didn't turn out that way.

Instead of training policemen, the lightly equipped 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division found itself engaged in firefights with insurgent units of 100 or more fighters. They faced Taliban snipers and roadside bombs.

Twenty members of the battalion died in combat.

”It definitely was a lot worse than we expected,” said Cpl. James Flores, 22, of Thousand Oaks, Calif. “A lot more active.” The 1,000-member Two-Seven has begun returning to its California desert base in Twentynine Palms northeast of Los Angeles; the bulk will be home by early December. The members take credit for leaving behind 800 trained Afghan police, hundreds of dead Taliban fighters and nascent diplomacy with village leaders.

They also served notice that the Marines were back in Afghanistan to stay.

Based in part on the experiences of the Two-Seven and the grit of its individual members, Marine Corps officials are planning to expand their numbers greatly here - an unexpected result of a deployment that wasn't even supposed to be.

A replacement task force will consist of about 2,300 troops, more than double the size of the Two-Seven's initial deployment. It will include infantry from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, an air wing from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego and a headquarters unit from Hawaii - a “special air-ground” task force with all the gear, air power and other assets the Two-Seven lacked when it arrived. An unspecified number of Marine special operators are also in Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander of the Marine Force Central Command, said he would like 15,000 Marines sent here soon “to crush the enemies of Afghanistan.”

That was never part of the plan. When Commandant Gen. James T. Conway first suggested that Marines be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates rejected the idea.

Months later, under pressure to bolster NATO allies in Afghanistan's troubled south, Gates relented. He agreed to send the Two-Seven to Helmand province and deploy the much larger 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune several hundred miles to the east.

The seven-month deployment, Gates said, was “one time” only.

The last-minute move meant the Marines were not accompanied by their usual combat weaponry and gear: heavy artillery, tanks, aircraft, a full-scale supply system and a full reconnaissance unit.

Like the Army, the Marine Corps was stretched thin on equipment and manpower. The Two-Seven's basic mission - mentoring the Afghan national police in sprawling Helmand - was not expected to involve continuous combat.

But the Marines were attacked repeatedly as they established forward bases in the region and began to make contact with local villagers. Before long, the fighting overshadowed the mentoring. Although they had expected to be tested by the Taliban in an area where much of the poppy crop that funds the insurgents is grown, they had not anticipated the intensity of the conflict.

For six months, the Two-Seven had more members killed and wounded - about 150 - than did the 20,000 Marines deployed in Iraq. It also did its share of killing.

A Marine sniper killed 12 insurgents in one battle alone and since arriving in Afghanistan has killed 28, Marine officials said.

”Our guys were running and gunning so fast that the up-tempo was crushing,” said Lt. Col. Rick Hall, the battalion commander.

Because of the ferocity of the fighting, Marine officials began providing helicopters and other supplies needed by the Two-Seven. The choppers were transferred from Iraq.

Meanwhile, the efforts to recruit and train Afghan police officers were beset by corruption and narcotics. In one class of 100 recruits, 35 were dismissed because of drug use. Some recruits showed up for training with the red-rimmed eyes of chronic hashish users, Hall said.

The battalion also faced a manpower shortage in mid-deployment as 150 members neared the end of their active-duty stints. An urgent call went out corps-wide for volunteers, and more than 300 Marines stateside stepped forward. About 140 were accepted.

”Not a day goes by when I don't mention the warriors of Two-Seven and the great things they're doing,” Sgt. Major Randall Carter, top enlisted man at the 1st Marine Division, told Marines at Delaram. “You've been out here alone and unafraid.”

Over the summer, Gates ordered the latest deployment lengthened by a month.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of the 1st Marine Division, said Marines, in effect, were starting over in Afghanistan after being the lead U.S. conventional force in toppling the Taliban regime in 2001.

”This is where it all started,” Waldhauser told the troops at Delaram. “We're just starting over again. We're going to be at this a long time.”

After routing the Taliban, the Marines mostly were redeployed to Iraq. A special operations unit arrived in early 2007 but was sent home amid controversy over civilian deaths.

Although commander Hall is proud of his battalion's accomplishments, he says the victories have been incremental. “We haven't won anything yet. We've got a long way to go,” he said.

The deaths of 17 Marines, one soldier, one Navy corpsman and an interpreter continue to wear on Hall.

The 49-year-old father of 10 is in e-mail contact with many of the families of the fallen, and his eyes take on a faraway look when he mentions them.

”The character of these families is incredible,” he said.

”They talk about Afghanistan being the forgotten war,” Hall said at his office at the Bastion base that the U.S. shares with Britain. “It certainly was on our watch.”

At Delaram and seven other forward bases, life is austere, without the comforts common at major bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. In summer, temperatures soar to 120 degrees; in fall and winter, the nights are icy.

Among the enlisted, it became a point of pride that Two-Seven had done more with less than other Marine battalions. The Marines mockingly refer to the base as the Hotel Del, a reference to a swank beach resort near San Diego.

”We had to adapt and overcome, like Marines have been doing since 1775,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan Smith, 20, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

At the same time, Marines said the memories of fallen comrades weighed heavy on their minds.

”Everyone here has felt it; it's not an isolated thing,” said Lance Cpl. Colton Cooper, 21, of Dallas. “You have no choice but to keep pushing. It's just part of the job.”

December 5, 2008

CLB-5 hits the ground running: New move ensures success for Iraqis, CLB-5

Fallujah, Iraq — Just four years ago the streets of Fallujah were a hot zone for terrorist activity. Now that the area is stabilized, Coalition Forces are in the process of returning Camp Fallujah to the Iraqi government.


12/5/2008 By Cpl. Tyler B. Barstow, 1st Marine Logistics Group

Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group knows about this process all too well. With their recent relocation to Camp Baharia complete, the Marines and Sailors continue to keep Regimental Combat Team 1 in the fight by providing them with logistical support.

“It’s a great sense of accomplishment to see what the Marines and Sailors have done to make (Baharia) functional,” said Maj. Carlos Vallejo, 38, from Stafford, Va., the executive officer for CLB-5. “It’s gone from a lot of nothing but moon dust to a fully functional compound.”

The transformation of the barren lot to the bustling hive of activity it is today took place in a record amount of time. But the biggest feat of the move was CLB-5’s uninterrupted support to units at Camp Fallujah and those already at Camp Baharia.

“It’s starting to calm down now but we’ve still got everyone going out on missions, and we’ve still got everyone ‘hookin’ and jabbin’’ and doing everything we do,” said Cpl. Michael R. Haven, 23, from Flagstaff, Ariz., a heavy equipment operator with Engineer Platoon, Maint. Co., CLB-5.

The Marines worked many long days at both camps to get the supplies, equipment and personnel moved to their new home. On top of their regular commitments, most of the preparation work and the move itself was completed by the Marines and Sailors in the battalion.

“Roughly 80 percent of our site preparation was Motor Transportation Company,” said Capt. Mandy M. Halverson, 31, from Missoula, Mont., the action officer for the Baharia move. “It was done with total organic support from within our battalion,” she said.

Moving the entire battalion required everyone to put in extra hours. Whether they were taken off regular missions to help with the move, or filling in for those already at Baharia, CLB-5 was stretched thin but still managed to provide the support needed at both camps.

"It went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Cpl. Charles King, 23, from Clearwater, Kan., a mechanic with Maint. Co., CLB-5, 1st MLG.

With the new camp set up and the move complete, the Marines and Sailors continue their sustainment as a whole unit once again in their new home. Their efforts will leave the demilitarized Camp Fallujah in the hands of the Iraqi Army.

“It’s a huge win for the people of Iraq,” Vallejo said. “Now they can function out of a camp that was once an enemy stronghold. But now it is in the hands of Iraqis who can continue the fight against terrorists.”

Veterans' long-term problems linked to traumatic brain injuries

An Institute of Medicine report says even mild brain injuries seem associated with problems such as seizures, aggression and dementia reminiscent of Alzheimer's disease.

Traumatic brain injuries, one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be linked to such long-term problems as seizures, aggression and dementia reminiscent of Alzheimer's disease, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Thursday.


By Jia-Rui Chong
December 5, 2008

Even mild brain injuries, the report found, appear associated with some long-term problems.

The report is a wake-up call, said Dr. Michael Yochelson, who specializes in traumatic brain injury at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington and used to work at the National Naval Medical Center.

"We need to be prepared to take care of these people, and we need to be observant," said Yochelson, who was not involved in the institute's report.

A recent Rand Corp. report on which Yochelson worked estimated that 300,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- 19% -- had suffered traumatic brain injuries. Such injuries have cost the nation $554 million in treatment and lost productivity, that report estimated.

The brain can be traumatically injured many ways, not all of them predictable: exposure to an energy source, for example, as well as bullet or shrapnel wounds or blows to the head. The injured person does not necessarily lose consciousness, doctors say.

The report by the nonprofit Institute of Medicine was the latest installment in a series of studies commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the health of veterans from the 1991 Gulf War and current conflicts.

The study was intended to help VA officials understand what conditions they should look for in brain-injured patients and to help officials determine disability benefits, said Dr. George W. Rutherford, chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

The authors reviewed 1,900 studies on traumatic brain injuries, looking for problems that persisted more than six months. Most of the research focused on civilians.

The report showed a "big hole" in medical knowledge about blast injuries, which have only recently come to doctors' attention because they are hallmarks of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Rutherford said.

"The good news is, [service members] are surviving injuries they had not survived in the past," Rutherford said. "The bad news is, since they didn't survive in previous conflicts, we don't have a lot of background experience."

The group found significant evidence connecting moderate or severe brain injuries to problems such as depression, unemployment and Parkinson's-disease-like tremors.

VA officials, who said they would carefully review the report's recommendations, have 60 days to decide whether the long-term problems should be treated as related to brain-injured veterans' military service.

Military officials said they knew about the issues cited in the report and had dedicated $300 million in the last two years for research on traumatic brain injury.

They have also recently started a long-term study on blast injuries.

"In terms of funding . . . we have received tremendous support, and as we identify emerging requirements, we will continue to gain the support we need," said Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, who heads the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury.

She and Air Force Lt. Col. Michael S. Jaffee, who heads the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, said they were prepared to deal with the long-term challenges.

"It's not that we completely have all the answers right now, but we are on a path of getting there," Jaffee said.

Paul Sullivan, who heads the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense, said he hoped the VA and Department of Defense would follow through.

The agencies "cannot deny that there is a TBI crisis," Sullivan said. "We can't let this get swept under the rug."

Chong is a Times staff writer.

[email protected]

World War II veteran reunited with man who aided his escape from Japanese prison

The old man waited quietly in his wheelchair, an oxygen line lacing his face, a military cap atop his head. On Monday just after 11 a.m., a commotion erupted at the Ormond Nursing and Care Center's front door as a slight, somewhat younger gentleman approached.

Please click on above link for photo and video link.

by Coleman Warner,
The Times-Picayune Wednesday November 26, 2008, 7:38 PM

The visitor, Jesus Gonzalez, began to weep and almost buckled.

When the two men met 65 years ago, James Carrington was a tall, strapping American soldier, and he was leaping off the perimeter wall of the notorious Bilibid Prison in the heart of Manila, bleeding and desperate.

"Please give me a ride!" the stranger, a Marine from New Orleans, blurted toward a cluster of Filipinos in a passing horse cart.

Gonzalez, 11, was among them. The year was 1944.

"Please give me a ride!"

Doing so would place all at risk of arrest and execution by Japanese soldiers occupying the Philippines as World War II raged. But the cart riders, led by Jesus' brother Moises, 20, almost instantly agreed to take Carrington in, hiding the prison escapee under hay on the two-wheeled vehicle's floor.

With a Japanese checkpoint just around the corner, the younger Gonzalez was terrified. He burst into tears.

Now 76, Gonzalez was overcome with emotion again this week as he arrived at the Destrehan nursing home, accompanied by his daughter. The retired engineer carried aging photographs and potent memories from the war episode.

"I was crying then, I was scared, " he said. "Now I cry for joy."

A local war hero

Carrington, a Warren Easton High student who left high school to join the Marines in 1939, is a local icon from the steadily disappearing 1940s war generation. At the National World War II Museum, a glass case contains the faded pictures and items he saved from the Philippines: a pistol, a mortar, military rank tabs from dead Japanese soldiers.

As one of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers who fought a tenacious, monthslong battle to hold Corregidor, a tiny but strategically vital island, Carrington's experiences have been well-chronicled. The battle ended in surrender, imprisonment and torture.

"They hung me up by my thumbs for laughing, " the veteran said in 1992. "They tried to make you beg for mercy, but I didn't. I just put my mind in another world. I just thought about, well, you're a Marine, you're supposed to be tough."

Carrington's later exploits as a guerrilla fighter in the Philippines after his prison escape are captured vividly in at least one book.

But references in historical accounts to the daring role sympathetic Filipinos played in saving the Marine corporal's life when he broke out of Bilibid have been fleeting.

Carrington knows well their contributions. Without the Gonzalez brothers and other strangers who had paid for rides in the horse cart that day, there would have been no guerrilla campaign for him, no shot at marriage and raising a family in Harahan.

"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here, " he said Monday.

High price for cooperation

At some of the prison camps run by Japanese during the war, escape attempts were rare because of a "blood-brother" edict: If someone escaped, everyone else in a designated group of 10 soldiers faced execution. But that rule wasn't applied at the Bilibid Prison, believed to be escape-proof, surrounded by high-voltage wires, tall fences and Japanese forces.

On the evening of April 14, 1944, Carrington and a fellow Marine, Sgt. Ray Parker, made their break for freedom after a sentry passed, slithering under an electric line that posed the first obstacle. Carrington went first and made it under, but Parker's clothing caught on the line and a power jolt knocked him unconscious.

Carrington kept moving, scaling four walls before landing at the edge of the street, not far from a headquarters building for the Japanese military.

The horse cart, called a karetela by Filipinos, was steps away, and he ran alongside it, pleading for help from the startled riders.

On the cart was Moises Gonzalez, a clandestine member of the Filipino resistance movement. He wanted to help the American, but fearing for his passengers' safety, did so only after they agreed.

At each of two checkpoints, a Japanese soldier jabbed the hay with a bayonet, checking for a stowaway. One of the jabs scraped Carrington's leg, he recalls, but he remained undiscovered.

Jesus couldn't stop sobbing.

"The Japanese soldier was asking me why I was crying, and I cried all the more louder, " Gonzalez said. "I couldn't tell him what was happening."

In hiding

Back at the Gonzalez home, Moises hid Carrington in an area cordoned off from the rest of the family of nine children. Moises served as leader and breadwinner for the family in the absence of his father, who had died years earlier.

Only he and Jesus, for the time being, knew about the soldier's presence. Carrington stayed there about three days, until Moises could arrange a new hiding place at a tuberculosis asylum. Carrington left a cigarette lighter, with his name etched into its side, with the Gonzalez family.

When he was moved, he wore a disguise as he was spirited through streets controlled by Japanese soldiers. Moises Gonzalez later told Jesus that he had borrowed a priest's robe and put it on the escapee.

During his days in hiding in Manila, Carrington said, Filipinos provided him with a .45-caliber pistol, a relic from the Spanish-American War.

The Marine spent two more weeks in hiding, gathering strength, before a band of guerrillas was able to move him out of the city, walking 40 kilometers with him through the countryside before he made contact with American and Filipino fighters operating out of a hidden mountain camp. He would soon become a loyal associate of Army Maj. Edward Ramsey, commander of shadowy guerrilla forces that created havoc for Japanese occupiers, attacking patrols and radioing intelligence to the American military.

'Let's Google him'

The families of Jim Carrington and Jesus Gonzalez for years had heard stories from the war years, and the tale of risks taken to assist Carrington after his prison escape loomed large. But the notion of the two men actually talking and meeting again didn't take form until Gonzalez's daughter, Valerie, a music teacher and former opera singer, began playing reporter with her father, pressing for details.

Jesus Gonzalez moved to British Columbia decades ago with his wife, a wood scientist, and they raised three children.

Valerie Gonzalez, her curiosity aroused by a visit to the Philippines a decade ago, began assembling material for a book about her family. In July, she visited her parents and refined her questions for her father.

"I grew up loving this story" about a Marine, she said. "I grew up loving James Carrington, and I didn't know his name. I knew that there was an American soldier who heroically escaped and Dad helped him, and he was out there in the great beyond, " said Gonzalez, who lives in New Jersey

As her father recalled Carrington hiding in the family's home, he mentioned the cigarette lighter the soldier left -- and that jogged his memory of the soldier's full name. His daughter was stunned at the belated revelation.

"Let's Google him, " she said.

She quickly came up with a reference to a James Carrington, Marine, on a Web site for people seeking Hurricane Katrina survivors. It gave her a lead to someone who knew Carrington. That person got word to Carrington, at the nursing home where he now lives.

In less than two days, Jesus Gonzalez and his daughter got a call from Carrington. They caught up at a distance, then made plans for a visit to Destrehan.

Hurricane Gustav gave new urgency to that plan. During his evacuation to a nursing home in Alexandria, the veteran came down with pneumonia. He nearly died. When he returned to Destrehan, he tired more easily. He remains under hospice care.

Heroic, but deeply sad

In more than a year with the guerrilla forces, Carrington exacted revenge on an enemy that had brutalized or killed many Americans. He became a virtual folk hero in the Pacific theater when, as commandant of a guerrilla forces base in the Luzon mountains, he used a pair of machine guns and several riflemen to repel a large Japanese attack force that had found the base.

"I saved the headquarters, " he said matter-of-factly this week.

Still, his memories of 1944, especially of the prison escape, are steeped in sadness. He learned after his escape that the Marine who tried to join him, Parker, was tortured and executed. And Moises Gonzalez was doomed by his role in Carrington's rescue.

Moises' girlfriend at the time, furious that he would not marry her, tipped off the Japanese to what Moises had done, the Gonzalez family says. About two months after the prison escape, dozens of soldiers broke down the doors of the Gonzalez home in the middle of the night and hauled the 20-year-old away.

Storming the house, slapping around their mother, the Japanese repeatedly demanded: "Where is the boy? Where is the boy?"

They wanted Jesus.

Somehow, the furious soldiers overlooked him, huddled on the floor, covered only by a mosquito net.

The family later got a note from Moises, saying he was in jail, tasked with fixing bicycles for the Japanese. They never heard from him again.

James Carrington, hearing reports that Moises had been executed, sent guerrillas on a mission back in Manila to hunt down and kill the woman who had turned Moises in, the veteran has told his family.

It's not clear whether the mission was carried out.

"If they didn't get her, " Jesus said quietly this week, "she's probably burning in hell right now."

Jesus said he doesn't regret that he and his brother took part in the impromptu rescue so long ago. He would do it again, he said.

And in the wake of the loss of his older brother, the family breadwinner, it was a souvenir of Carrington's visit -- the cigarette lighter -- that became a key to sustaining the family after Manila's liberation.

Jesus said that his mother, using the lighter and Moises' jail letter as evidence, persuaded U.S. authorities that the family had suffered a death because it helped an American serviceman. As a result, his mother received a U.S. military pension.

Drinking it all in

Less than an hour had passed since the nursing home visit began, and James Carrington was fading. The pauses between his responses to Jesus and Valerie Gonzalez grew longer.

"Do you want some oxygen, daddy?" asked Carrington's son, Jim Carrington Jr., an oil and gas attorney living in Houston who had driven in with his wife for the unusual reunion.

As the center's staff prepared to wheel the celebrated but weary resident back to his room, Carrington reached out and touched Gonzalez.

"The Filipinos are wonderful people, " he said.

With that, Gonzalez promised he would return again and again in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, eager to draw closer before time runs out.

. . . . . . .

Coleman Warner can be reached at [email protected]une.com or 504.826.3311.

Wall Street Warfighters Foundation Selects First Wounded Vets for Financial Career Training Program

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, a nonprofit organization preparing disabled military veterans for financial services careers, has selected Marine Staff Sergeant John Jones and U.S. Army Master Sergeant George Holmes as the first students in Operation Wall Street, the Foundation’s intensive academic and vocational training program.


Friday December 5, 8:00 am ET

Jones and Holmes will take part in a six-month financial industry immersion program that will include assessment and career guidance, training programs hosted by Drexel Hamilton and other leading firms, academic preparation for securities licensing exams, and a formal internship, all culminating in full-time employment with a financial firm. The program covers all the veterans’ expenses: education, travel, training materials, room and board, securities exam courses to prepare for Series 7 and 63 certification, and a monthly stipend.

Sergeants Jones and Holmes have traveled a tough road to get here.

Jones had just 60 days left in his tour of duty in Iraq when his Humvee was hit by a double-stacked anti-tank mine. The blast sent Jones flying 25 feet into the air, and when his comrades couldn’t immediately find him afterwards, “they thought I’d been vaporized,” he recalls.

As he was medivacked out of Iraq, Jones gave his men the thumb’s up sign but had no idea what his future would hold. The athletic young husband and father with a successful 12-year career in the Marine Corps — who’d had day-to-day responsibility for 65 other Marines while in Iraq — ended up losing both his legs below the knees.

After a lengthy rehabilitation during which he adjusted to prosthetic limbs, Jones began working again, as chief of operations and logistics at a military base in San Antonio. He also provided marksmanship training for wounded servicemen and women, enabling them to shoot their weapons effectively with their new disabilities, and giving them a sense of empowerment.

Yet after a time, Jones wanted a career change and the ability to provide for his wife and three children, including a newborn son. However, despite his years of leadership experience, few avenues of work seemed open.

“It’s very hard for former military servicemen and women who’ve been disabled or injured to find employment because we’re viewed as under-qualified in most cases,” he says. “The fact is our knowledge and leadership is undervalued in the civilian market because we’re overqualified with our global experience, but lack necessary credentials for most jobs because we don’t have a certain piece of required paper.”

As a Master Sergeant in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Holmes was at a career crossroads when he returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was leading a 41-man infantry platoon during combat operations in Afghanistan when a rocket attack severely injured his arm and both legs. Two comrades standing next to him were killed instantly.

Shrapnel shredded Holmes’s body, severing his femoral artery. He suffered massive blood loss but used his hands to clamp down on the artery to save his own life. “For a few moments I thought, ‘I’m going to die on this floor, and bleed out the end of my life right here,” he recalls.

Additional injuries from the rocket included two shattered bones in his left arm, a collapsed lung and perforated eardrum.

Holmes didn’t have to be there that day. Already a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, he had a degree in international relations and a thriving career in the financial industry when the events of September 11, 2001 compelled him to contact his old National Guard unit. “I said, ‘I want to help my unit and my fellow soldiers as much as possible,’” he recalls.

Like Jones, Holmes’ severe injuries also left him contemplating his future. Returning home to his wife in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, “I didn’t know what my next step was going to be. I always wanted to get back into finance, but with the troubles facing the industry today, I was concerned there wouldn’t be an opportunity,” he says.

These two determined veterans anchor Wall Street Warfighters Foundation’s new program that will give disabled vets a second chance to be leaders — in an industry hungry for their skills. The Foundation was created by principals of Drexel Hamilton, LLC, an institutional broker-dealer and asset manager in Philadelphia founded by disabled Vietnam War veteran Lawrence Doll. Doll and his colleagues share a commitment to helping disabled vets assimilate back into civilian life and work. They foresaw opportunities to allow vets to excel in a work environment where their physical challenges are no limitation — and where their integrity and strength of character will inspire trust.

Next month, both veterans begin the six-month resident training program in Philadelphia that will place them in jobs at Drexel Hamilton and other financial firms volunteering to partner with the program. The program is designed to mentor disabled veterans and help them win financial security, professional satisfaction and personal independence. Leading the advisory board of the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation is former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired Marine General Peter Pace.

“During their military careers, Staff Sergeant Jones and Master Sergeant Holmes demonstrated every day that they are disciplined, loyal, responsible leaders who thrive under pressure,” says Pace. “Their integrity, strength and optimism are qualities that will greatly benefit Wall Street.”

Jones, who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a national spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project and was featured in the 2007 HBO documentary, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.

“As military veterans, we’ve experienced international relations, finance and management in countries all over the world,” says Jones. We’re used to shouldering a tremendous amount of responsibility for both personnel and machinery. The Wall Street Warfighters Foundation is giving us the opportunity to transfer our skills and experience to an industry where we can have an immediate impact.”

About Wall Street Warfighters Foundation

Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, Inc., is a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation. Operation Wall Street, the Foundation’s financial industry career training program, is open to all U.S. military veterans who have experienced physical or combat-stress related injuries while serving on active duty and who qualify for federal or state service-related disability benefits. We encourage eligible veterans to contact us through Drexel Hamilton’s website, www.drexelhamilton.com, to learn more about the program.

About Drexel Hamilton

Drexel Hamilton, LLC, is an institutional broker-dealer headquartered in Philadelphia and a member of NASDAQ OMX PHLX, CBSX, FINRA, and SIPC. The firm offers comprehensive trading and advisory services to its clients. The federal government has designated Drexel Hamilton a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), qualifying it for preferential consideration in federal contracting and subcontracting. Drexel Hamilton works to benefit the community of service-disabled veterans. Drexel Hamilton has a mandate to recruit, hire and train disabled veterans whenever possible.

Drexel Hamilton, LLC
Brooks Hulitt, 215-988-9460
[email protected]
DeFazio Communications
Anthony J. DeFazio, 484-410-1354
[email protected]

December 4, 2008

Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance benefits expanded

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes online edition, Thursday, December 4, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. – Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance benefits have been expanded to include new injuries.

To continue reading:


Iraqi children receive an education

RUTBAH, Iraq — A patrol of Reserve Marines, soldiers and sailors, led by Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, showed their support for local schools and introduced children to the role that women serve in the U.S. armed forces when visiting the Houran Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, Dec. 2.


12/4/2008 By Capt. Paul Greenberg, Regimental Combat Team 5

The troops departed their base under a cloudless blue sky, with the early morning temperature dipping down to 42 degrees for their hour-long drive through the desert and into the town.

After a stop at the Rutbah City Council building to make final coordination for the school visit and to assist local technicians with preparations for their new radio station, the troops parked outside the primary school and hauled in backpacks and duffel bags full of gifts for the children.

Not only was this the first time most of the children at Houran had ever interacted with Coalition forces, but it was an education in the integral role that females serve in the U.S. military.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bridget Shanahan, a Navy reservist and corpsman with Shock Trauma Platoon, 2nd Combat Logistics Battalion, is one of a small number of females stationed aboard the base here.

In addition to being an asset to the patrol as a corpsman trained for combat, Shanahan spoke to the children at the school.

“I provide medical care not only to the U.S. military, but also to the Iraqi forces,” Shanahan explained to the kids. “I’m here today with Iraqi Security Forces and the U.S. troops to pass out stuffed animals and soccer balls. They come from people in the U.S., many from teachers and students, just like you. We’re helping to provide security and stability in the country and to also improve education in the schools.”

Shanahan, 23, is a resident of Granada Hills, Calif. and a junior at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. She balances her weekend training drills with a full-time course load. She plans to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a career as a nurse or physician’s assistant after she returns from deployment.

Shanahan stood center-stage in the school’s courtyard with Muthana Jubaer Juwana, the Rutbah City Council president. Juwana accompanied the U.S. troops on their mission for two reasons.

First, the Marine task force based here involves local Iraqi leadership in all community-related projects as Coalition forces are taking a back seat to Iraqi Security Forces and elected government officials, who now have the lead on security and governance in al-Anbar province.

Additionally, Juwana’s son is a second-grade student at Houran. After Shanahan and Juwana addressed the first and second grade classes in a formation in the school’s courtyard, Juwana took a photo of Shanahan with his son to show to the rest of the family.

Taleb Mahmood Hamid, the school’s 45-year-old vice principal, served as a gracious host for Coalition forces and city council members.

Hamid, who has lived in Rutbah his entire life, began teaching in 1989 and has worked in the local school system ever since. As a father of seven children, whose ages range from 6 to 19, he has plenty of experience to prepare him for his role of mentor, instructor and disciplinarian for a student body of more than 300 children who has grown up amidst the Coalition’s constant presence in the country’s counterinsurgency struggle over the past five years.

Through an interpreter, Hamid said that the Coalition troops made an overwhelmingly positive impression on the children, and added, “They are very happy to meet a female from the Coalition forces for the first time.”

Hamid expressed his gratitude toward the people in America who sent the soccer balls and toys, and to the troops who brought the gifts.

The Marines and sailors of 2nd Bn., 25th Marines do plan to return to Houran Primary, but only after they have visited every primary and high school in the town in order to continue with their mission of spreading American goodwill and making an accurate assessment of school conditions for the future generation of Iraq’s leaders.

December 3, 2008

Sun sets on 12 ‘Cutting Edge' Marines

With a slow sunset a sorrowful backdrop, the families and friends of Marines killed during their last deployment gathered June 22 for a memorial service filled with prayer and tribute.


Wednesday December 3, 2008 News

Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo
Combat Correspondent

Third Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment deployed to Iraq early September 2005 and returned late March after spending seven months in the Al Anbar province. But the battalion did not return home complete. Twelve Marines died during the battalion's third deployment to Iraq.

Remembered during the ceremony were:

Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Bedard, 19, of Missoula, Mont.

Cpl. Joseph P. Bier, 22, of Centralia, Wash.

Cpl. Matthew D. Conley, 21, of Killen, Ala.

Lance Cpl. Sergio H. Escobar, 18, of Pasadena, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Kristen K. Figueroa, 20, of Honolulu, Hawaii

2nd. Lt. Almar L. Fitzgerald, 23, of Lexington, S.C

Lance Cpl. Jonathon R. Spears, 21, of Molino, Fla.

Lance Cpl. Shane C. Swanberg, 24, of Kirkland, Wash.

Lance Cpl. Samuel Tapia, 20, of San Benito, Texas

Lance Cpl. John J. Thornton, 22, of Phoenix, Ariz.

Lance Cpl. Adam J. Van Alstine, 21, of Superior, Wis.

Cpl. Adam O. Zanutto, 26, of Caliente, Calif.

Lieutenant Col. Roger B. Turner, commanding officer, 3/7, said in order to truly memorialize the fallen men, the battalion's accomplishments must be well known. Prior to their deployment Turner and his men decided they were going to perform there best. The Marines and Sailors preformed their duties tactfully and tactically and did so in a couple of different ways.

Aside from the large number of terrorists which plagued Ramadi and the hard violence 3/7 encountered, the battalion treated the citizens with dignity and respect and demanded respect when it was called for.

“And what that did during the November time frame was that it separated the terrorists from the locals,” said Turner. “Then the locals came to us and said that they wanted to vote in the December elections. We would make that happen. We watched in awe in December when 50,000 people voted in Ramadi.”

Another significant factor that contributed to the battalion's legacy was their assistance with the Iraqi Army.

“If someone would've told me that an Iraqi Army battalion would own battle spaces in Ramadi I would've laughed aloud,” said Turner. “Once we got over there we saw that there was some progress that was made, but they were still pretty rough. Through blood, sweat and tears and because of these Marines, we accomplished enough to transfer battle spaces with the Iraqi Army.”

Turner added, “Every one of them joined the Corps after 11 September 2001. After they joined, half of them realized this was going to be a long war on terrorism. It was going to be a tough fight.”

The battalion, glad to have known the fallen men, even if it was for a little while, feel they are better men for walking in their footsteps. Their fighting will always be remembered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, these men are true heroes, and it was an honor to serve with them,” concluded Turner. “Rest in peace warriors. Semper Fidelis.”

Corps closes some jobs to re-enlistment

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Dec 3, 2008 17:33:07 EST

The Corps has closed 24 military occupational specialties to re-enlistment, marking the first time in nearly two years that some first-term Marines will be forced out of their specialties.

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Marines Prevailed in a Day of Battle

It started out just like any other patrol in a war-ravaged Afghan province.


December 03, 2008
Military.com|by Christian Lowe

Hardened by months of combat, sneak attacks and roadside ambushes, the Marines were ready for a fight. Rolling through the hardscrabble village of Shewan in Afghanistan's Farah province on August 8, the leathernecks of the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment knew enemy eyes were upon them.

It was a village they'd had on their radar for months. Taliban insurgents and their al Qaeda helpers were constantly harassing the Marines charged with holding back the anti-coalition flood in their 37,000 square mile operational area -- and insurgents were using Shewan as an occasional base for attacks.

They knew the rows of mud compounds held bad guys. But on the tail end of the 10-mile patrol, they never could have expected the hornets nest they were destined to stir up.

"I was prepared for contact but I wasn't expecting any," a Marine unit leader told Military.com. "It turned out later that there was a big meeting of enemy leaders in the town that we had interrupted, and we inadvertently trapped them inside of their compound."

It all started with a rocket propelled grenade shot at around 1:00 pm, and it ended nearly eight hours later with more than 50 enemy killed and only one injured Marine. For months, 2/7 had absorbed ambush after ambush from their hit-and-run opponents, suffering one of the highest casualty rates of any Marine unit deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The unit would be a symbol of the festering conflict in Afghanistan, where few NATO allies are willing to pitch in when the fight turns nasty and the full-force of American might is distracted by the high-profile conflict in Iraq.

But on August 8, in what would be known as "the battle of Shewan," it was payback time.

In an exclusive email exchange with Military.com, the platoon commander who led the Marines on that ill-fated patrol described the pitched battle in vivid detail. His Marines preferred that their story be recounted anonymously, so Marine officials declined several requests to name the specific platoon and company involved in the hours-long battle.

What the story shows is a typically aggressive response to an enemy that for once decided to emerge from the shadows. And it also serves as an illuminating look at how, no matter the adversity and casualty count, U.S. forces continue to fight with the will and determination to win, no matter the odds.

"We didn't win the fight because of our superior firepower. We were severely outnumbered, and outgunned," the platoon commander told Military.com. "From that first counter ambush assault we gained the momentum and maintained it until the enemy finally fled from the battlefield eight hours later."

Ambush Unleashed

Less than two hours into the patrol one of the Marine Humvees took fire from an enemy RPG team about 150 yards away. The grenade sailed harmlessly by, but the platoon sergeant swung his rifle, fired and killed the shooter while another Marine dropped a second man, the platoon commander said. The unit continued to receive sporadic small arms fire for the next hour, but pressed on with their patrol.

Then all hell broke loose.

About 10 insurgents ambushed the Marines' vehicles from an irrigation ditch and more fired on the patrol from a nearby trench line. Though a group of Marines tried to push through the enemy position, they were rebuffed by heavy fire and another Humvee was rocked by a volley of RPG rounds.

As the Humvee burned with its vehicle commander still inside, the Marines pounded the insurgent positions with M249 fire while AK bullets ricocheted off their vehicles. The platoon commander rushed to the downed vehicle to pull the stricken Marine to safety.

"All of a sudden we took an intense amount of machine gun fire from the tree line and at this point numerous machine guns opened up on my vehicle and the dismounted crew trapped in the kill zone," the platoon commander wrote. "This began 20 minutes of intense fighting as the platoon battled to recover the Marines from the kill zone."

All this was too much for one of the platoon's designated marksmen, who crawled to the top of a berm -- exposing himself to enemy fire -- and began to plink off the insurgent gunners firing at the burning Humvee.

"The enemy fired over 40 RPGs from the tree line but were unable to effectively engage the Marines trapped in the kill zone because of the high amount of accurate fire being directed at them," the platoon commander said. "The enemy was reinforcing the tree line and replacing fighters as quickly as we were killing them."

So the designated marksman kept his cool and continued to fire.

"The designated marksman merely adjusted [his sights] and sighted in on targets as they revealed their positions by engaging him," the platoon commander added. "He rapidly acquired and prosecuted these targets again and again, firing his rifle with exceptional accuracy ... until all of the Marines were recovered from the kill zone."

In all, the designated marksmen fired 20 shots, racking up 20 dead fighters.

Finally the Marines were able to roll in an MRAP vehicle to recover the wounded Marines, and the platoon pulled back out of the enemy's range to "redistribute ammunition and [come] up with a quick game plan," the platoon commander said.

Went back for more

The fighters never expected the Marines to return and were surprised to see leathernecks swarming through their trenches and targeting two strongholds with close air support.

"We took another 60 or so RPGs, some rockets and mortars ... but as we attempted to assault we started taking more fire from another compound," the platoon commander wrote. "The enemy had established a defense with mutually supporting positions."

Unable to continue the assault because of the intensity of fire, and with enemy trucks pulling into the compounds and disgorging insurgent fighters, two Marines crawled through a hail of machine gun fire to get more precise coordinates for an aerial bombing run. From only 75 meters away -- well within "danger close" restrictions -- the two Marines called in air strikes until the enemy eventually withdrew from the area.

In all, what started as an ambush by 30 insurgent fighters swelled to a full-fledged assault by an estimated 250 enemy militants. The 30 or so Marines of 2/7's platoon killed more than 50 insurgents in the eight-hour battle, the Corps says.

"It turned out later that there was a big meeting of enemy leaders in the town that we had interrupted and we inadvertently trapped them inside of their compound," the platoon commander wrote. "They must have thought that if they ambushed us we would cut and run. This was not the case."

December 2, 2008

Female Ex-Marine faces down knife welding robber

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35, Orlando) -- Orange County deputies are still looking for a robber who held a butcher knife to the throat of woman and demanded cash.


News Video:

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2008
By Steve Gehlbach

Surveillance video from a Kangaroo gas station on Thompson Road in Apopka shows the man with a bandana over his face has he grabbed the woman at the counter. He said he needed the money for his new baby boy.

The woman still has a mark where the large knife pressed against her neck. She struggled and even chased after the robber once he let go and ran out of the store.

“That was probably not the smartest move on my part, but I was like 'how dare you?'”, Karen who only wants to go by her first name, said.

Karen said her training in the United States Marine Corp helped her stay calm and cool.

The retired Marine said she even thought about grabbing the guy and trying to smash his face down onto the counter, but Karen didn't think the clerk would back her up.

The robber got away and police are still looking for him.

Corps mandates predeployment TBI test

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 2, 2008 18:47:03 EST

Marines readying for deployment to war zones must now undergo a battery of computerized tests assessing whether they have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

To continue reading:


A Marine's spoken word

There is a peace surrounded by insurrection in Rhamadi, Iraq.


Posted: Tuesday, Dec 2nd, 2008
BY: Jim Dresbach

The city, which once filled the cable news channels with snipers, suicide bombs and deviance, has become a tamer place to dwell, and Mendota’s Justin Boelk was there to witness the evolution toward a hopeful, long-lasting peace.

Boelk, 21, a Marine machine gunner who just completed a multi-month tour of duty in the Central Iraq city located 70 miles from Baghdad, remembered the war’s close calls and his cravings for American-made pizza and his longing for driving a car during a Thanksgiving weekend interview with The Mendota Reporter.

In the recounting of his Middle Eastern experiences, the member of Fox Company - Second Battalion - Fifth Marines told of how his unit and the locals seemed to feel each other out during his initial days of deployment.

"I was part of The Surge last year, and there were a lot of Marines that filled the streets,” Boelk said. “At first, the people didn't take kindly to us, but once we started helping them - giving them electricity, water, gas - they started liking us a whole lot more. By the time I left, they were sad we were leaving.

“They're very private people,” Boelk said of the Iraqis. “When we do census searches and to make sure there's nothing in their houses, that wasn’t the best situation, but you're doing that for their safety as well as for your own security."

Even though Boelk’s Iraqi tour concluded in November, he recalled how possible insurgents would constantly case the Marines’ surroundings.

"They'd watch you for weeks; they'd watch every little thing you’d do,” Boelk said of the insurgents. “They'd watch to see if you'd make a mistake, and they'd try to take advantage of that.

"Every time you step out on the street, it could be your last time,” a serious Boelk added about his patrol time. “The chances of not coming back are always there. You have to look past that. At first, there were some close calls; when we first got there, we got shot at. By the time we left, I didn't hear a gunshot for weeks, and that's good because Rhamadi was one of the worst (cities) in Iraq for awhile."

While his Iraqi tour is finished and an American withdrawal from the country is being discussed by the politicians, the question of Afghanistan still lingers in servicemen’s minds. Boelk has heard from military friends that Afghanistan is a less than favorable – but an essential - deployment.

"I've never been to Afghanistan, but from the people I've talked to who've been to Afghanistan, it is much more violent,” the lance corporal said. “The climate is way different. It gets real cold and hot. From what I've heard, the terrorists there are much more professional from what we've seen in Iraq. I have friends who are there (in Afghanistan) right now, and they don't like it at all. It is a bad place, but we still have to be there."

While reunions were a part of Boelk’s return to the states, he also received a familiar visitor in Rhamadi. His cousin, Marine Chad Hochstatter also of Mendota, was deployed on the opposite end of Rhamadi. In August of 2007, arrangements were made for a visit between the two.

“I feel for him; he’ll be over there during Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Boelk said.