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February 28, 2009

Leaving Iraq: Shift south, exit through desert

By Chelsea J. Carter - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Feb 28, 2009 15:01:50 EST

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military map in Iraq in early 2010: Marines are leaving the western desert, Army units are in the former British zone in the south and the overall mission is coalescing around air and logistics hubs in central and northern Iraq.

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Bill would let spouses keep state residency

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Feb 28, 2009 10:12:21 EST

A bill that would allow military spouses to maintain residency in their home state regardless of where the military moves them has been introduced again in the House, and its twin has been introduced in the Senate.

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February 27, 2009

Lejeune petty officer receives Silver Star

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 27, 2009 10:45:51 EST

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Navy medic has received the Silver Star medal for heroic action during an ambush on a foot patrol in Afghanistan.

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Obama calls for 2.9% pay raise in 2010

Staff report
Posted : Friday Feb 27, 2009 16:05:12 EST

President Obama is proposing a 2.9 percent military pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2010, a figure that would match — not exceed — average wage growth in the private sector.

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Obama formalizes plan for 2010 Iraq pullout

By Ben Feller - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 27, 2009 17:59:56 EST

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — President Barack Obama consigned the Iraq war to history Friday, declaring he will end combat operations within 18 months and open a new era of diplomacy in the Middle East.

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CAG Marines learn conversational Arabic

CAMP RIPPER, Iraq – The famous poet Khalil Gibran once stated in Sand and Foam, “We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.” Arabic and English are equally comprised of thousands of words, and Marines here have found each of the words as equally important to their linguistic counterparts.


2/27/2009 By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, Regimental Combat Team 8

Marines with Civil Affairs Group, Regimental Combat Team 8, are taking time out of their busy schedules to learn Arabic culture and language to help build a better bridge of communication between themselves and the Iraqi people.

“Being able to communicate is important in our job,” said Sgt. Michael Tietje, a fire direct controllman with CAG. “Plus, you’re showing respect to their culture.”

Since March 2003, Iraqis have felt a strong Marine presence that only recently has started pulling back as Iraqis have become more self-sufficient. CAG has been working with Iraqi contractors and government officials in Al Anbar province since the Anbar Awakening in 2005, always working with an Arabic interpreter to understand the local populace. Now, an Arabic linguist with CAG is making sure her Marines know more than simple gestures and phrases.

“They have an easier time seeing us as fellow human beings when we are able to break through the language barrier,” said Staff Sgt. Tracy Salzgeber, a 2007 University of Maryland graduate and Arabic interpreter with CAG.

The team of Marines find time during the evening hours to cover simple question-and-answer phrases, and when Salzgeber feels the Marines are beyond the basics, she moves onto more advanced words and Iraqi dialect.

“Speaking Arabic, especially with an Iraqi dialect, shows I personally care about your culture, your people and your language,” Tietje said. “I’m trying.”

While patrolling the streets of Iraq, it’s not abnormal to hear “What’s up?” in a thick Iraqi accent or “Shaku Maku,” with an unbridled American accent, meaning the same thing.

“Inevitably, we’re going to have a cross-pollination of languages,” Tietje said. “We’ve been here too long not to.”

English speaking Iraqis are hard to find because the language is mostly taught in colleges. Simple American phrases have been passed down by Marines training Iraqi Security Forces the past few years, but Marines here can easily count on one hand how many Iraqis they know are fluent in English.

“The contractors have a hard time believing you’re for them if you only know English,” Salzgeber said. “English is an aristocratic language here.”

The CAG Marines feel each new conversation is a fresh start with the Iraqi population.

“Even if our relationship is only for five minutes, I want them to know I’m here to help and not be an imposition,” said Sgt. Steven Pryor, a Washington, D.C., native and civil affairs noncommissioned officer with CAG.

Marines with CAG know they are not only part of America’s 9-1-1 force, but understand they are currently representing Iraq’s largest and strongest tribe each time they meet the Iraqi people.

“Instead of being geared up, faceless Marines, we’ve become human beings,” Tietje said.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq's Al Anbar province, visit http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.

Navy Surgeon leaves family practice for front lines

In a combat environment it is not uncommon to see Navy corpsmen. These servicemembers often times sacrifice their personal safety to ensure Marines receive proper medical treatment in order to remain combat effective. For some corpsmen, the sacrifice is deeper than most people know.


2/27/2009 By Lance Cpl. Alan Addison, Regimental Combat Team 8

“Since I was a child I always knew that I wanted to be a physician,” said Lt. Cmdr Richard Lynch, regimental surgeon for Regimental Combat Team 8. “My older brother was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was six. So as a child I was always at doctor’s offices with my mother and brother. It was a natural draw for me.”

“When I joined the Marine Corps in 1989 I was kind of following in the footsteps of my oldest brother,” said the Barbados native. Lynch, who worked in administration and avionics while in the Corps, says he almost opted to stay in the Marine Corps, but he knew that he really had a passion to work in the medical field.

“After completing my time in the Marine Corps I obtained my bachelor’s degree in physics at East Carolina University. I also received my medical degree from East Carolina,” said Lynch. After completing 12 years of schooling, Lynch began his residency in Greensboro, N.C.

It was at this time when Lynch decided to join the Navy Reserves. “While I was doing my residency 9-11[The September 11, 2001 Twin Towers attack] happened. After that I decided to sign up as a Navy reserve officer in the Medical Corps.

During his time in the reserves, Lynch divided his time between his job as a physician at a rural health clinic in Wilmington, N.C., and his reserve duties. “As the physician for my reserve unit, I cared for Marines and sailors. In the private practice I worked in a state funded health clinic, in which I provided obstetrical care and family medicine.” While conducting duties as a physician and Naval officer, Lynch was abruptly called to active duty in 2004.

“At the time I got recalled I wasn’t excited. The month before I was recalled I had actually decided that I was going to leave the reserves,” said Lynch. “I felt like I wasn’t making the difference that I signed up to make. I wanted to make a direct impact on servicemembers involved in the war.”

During his recall period Lynch got his opportunity to use his medical training to directly impact those who served during a time of war. After fulfilling his duties at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C., Lynch decided to transition back to active duty.

“I knew that if I stayed in the reserves I would eventually be called back. I knew my skill set would be needed, so I just decided to return to active duty status,” said Lynch.

Although there are obvious differences between working in civilian medicine and military medicine, Lynch says his experience in civilian medicine prepared him for his work in the military. “When you’re working in the rural health clinic you’re limited in the resources that are available. You have to learn how to be unique in order to take care of your patients. The same is true when you’re working in a combat environment,” said Lynch

Lynch said his civilian training also gave him a different perspective on how to practice medicine on a broader scope.

Although people questioned Lynch on why he wanted to practice medicine in the military, he says he enjoys serving the Marines and Sailors in his care. “There’s a phrase ‘not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine,’ and that’s how I look at myself. I really enjoy working with Marines and taking care of them,” said Lynch. “You won’t find a better bunch of Marines, so I really enjoy working in this environment.”

While some people use their skills in the civilian world to care for people from day to day, there are a few men and women who sacrifice their everyday comforts in order to serve their country. Lynch says that he has no regrets for returning to active duty and is proud to serve the Marines of RCT-8.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.

Station pays tribute to local fallen Marine

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan —He was a son, a brother, a friend and a Marine.


2/27/2009 By Lance Cpl. Chris Kutlesa, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Hansen was many things to many people, so when the tragic news of his death spread, family and friends felt everything from shock to denial.

Nearly a week after the tragedy, a memorial ceremony was held at the chapel here. Anyone faced with denial would soon come to the realization that he was really gone.

Hansen, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, was killed in action Feb. 14 in Afghanistan. Hansen, a native of Tracy, Calif. was killed by a improvised explosive device blast in the Farah province.

After Hansen’s death, he was promoted posthumously to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

On Feb. 18, the Department of Defense announced Hansen’s death. Following the announcement, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered all state capital flags to be flown at half mast in honor of the fallen Marine.

“Sgt. Daniel Hansen fought tirelessly to defend the values of freedom and liberty that define our nation,” said Schwarzenegger. “He was a courageous Marine who dedicated his life to serving his fellow Americans, and his sacrifice will always be remembered. Maria and I offer our thoughts and prayers to Daniel’s family and friends as they mourn this terrible loss.”

Hansen and his identical twin brother joined the United States Marine Corps the moment they graduated high school in 2002.

From the very beginning, Hansen showed a promising future, quickly picking up two promotions and receiving Yankee White clearance, a requirement for members working directly with the president.

In less than two years after he enlisted, Lance Cpl. Hansen was providing security for the president of the United States at Camp David. In early 2006, as a corporal, Hansen deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

When he returned from deployment, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and then assigned to EOD School in Florida.

After nearly a year of training, he was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 with the III Marine Expeditionary Force here.

While at Iwakuni, Hansen quickly developed a reputation for being reliable and motivated.

“If he saw something that needed to be done, he would step up and take care of it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian E. Brach, an EOD officer here. “For example, when we went on deployment to Australia, there wasn’t a platoon sergeant. Without hesitation, Hansen stepped up to the plate and took charge of the platoon. I knew I could always rely on Hansen to get the job done.”

In October of 2008, less than a year into his tour in Japan, Hansen deployed to Afghanistan.

“He was young, but he was ready,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Feyedelem, MWSS-171 commanding officer. “I could see it in his eyes.”

Hansen’s identical twin brother, Matthew Hansen, recalled a phone conversation he had with Daniel, “I asked my brother after he told me of his upcoming deployment if he wanted to go. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter if I wanna go or not. If I don’t, they will send another Marine, and I would never be able to hold my head up if something happened to him in my place.’”

On the day of Hansen’s memorial, grayish clouds filled the sky. More than 450 Marines, sailors, and civilians took their seats and lined up against the walls to pay their respects to a Marine who inspired so many.

A display of flowers and photos lied underneath the chapel’s cross while Hansen’s rifle and helmet stood at attention in front of the congregation. At the end of the service, Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Crisp called role. One by one, members of MWSS-171 EOD stood up, snapping to attention. After the last Marine’s name in attendance was called, Crisp called one more.

“Staff Sergeant Hansen. Staff Sergeant Daniel Louis Hansen!” shouted Crisp.

Hansen was gone. He was really gone and with no one to respond to his name, a deafening silence filled the chapel.

After the service ended, people lined up in front of Hansen’s display to individually pay their respects.

As Marines left the chapel, they reminisced about Hansen. They vowed to exercise more, to stay motivated and to try their hardest to emulate his dieing affection for the Marine Corps.

“I will always remember that smirk he had,” said Staff Sgt. Aron Cheatham, an EOD technician. “He did what he loved. He loved being a Marine.”

Hansen will always be alive because he was a Marine. He may not be at work on Monday or running on the seawall, but he will live on in our beloved Marine Corps. Hansen has joined the ranks of heroes who have died for our country. Every time TAPS plays we will remember him and all the others who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We will never forget.

February 26, 2009

Where the Buffalo Roams - Bonecrusher Relentlessly Searches Out Improvised Explosive Devices

FARAH PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – (February 26, 2009) He sat and pondered the question, “What is the best part of your job?”


Story by Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan

Displaying a big grin he responded, “knowing that we’ve ruined the enemies’ plans as they’re observing.”

Sgt. Mario L. Spencer, a combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion and the vehicle commander of “Bonecrusher,” a Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle, was satisfied with his answer.

On Route 515, a once-notorious, unpaved, barren road riddled with improvised explosive devices, a team of U.S. Marine Corps engineers led by Spencer routinely put their patience to the test while clearing the roadway of enemy threats.

Bonecrusher is part of the Route Clearance Platoon attached to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, operating in the southern region of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

As a six-wheeled, blast-resistant armored machine, Bonecrusher uses a 30-foot remote controlled robotic arm tipped with pitchfork-like fingers and a camera to inspect and remove explosive threats. The vehicle is designed for clearing routes of IEDs, land mines and other explosive hazards.

Additionally, the Buffalo is resistant to rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades and small arms fire attacks. Without Bonecrusher, engineers would risk excavating their explosive finds by hand.

“It saves a lot of lives,” Spencer and his team said of the Buffalo.

Route 515 is a main thoroughfare for local Afghans, as well as a military supply route, that runs approximately 43 kilometers between the district centers of Delaram and Bakwa. It stretches through villages surrounded by farmland patterned in the shape of what Spencer calls “waffle cones.” The terrain naturally creates numerous narrow passageways, which insurgents use to orchestrate ambushes.

“It used to be the most feared route,” said Spencer.

Clearing the route makes the area safer for local travel, increasing commerce in the area and creating an efficient path of travel for Marine convoys. It also provides vehicle traffic a smoother path vice traveling across the area’s rugged farmland.

“Sitting still and moving methodically slow,” is how Spencer described his route clearance duties. “It’s a job only for the patient.”

The Marines have to be constantly aware of enemy threats on and off the road. Roads laced with IEDs, small arms fire, RPGs and complex attacks combined with the threat of indirect fire all pose threats to their mission.

“You’re always being watched out here, and they can watch from anywhere,” Spencer claimed.

The insurgents have been known to use inexpensive homemade explosives and military-grade explosives taken from mortars and other munitions. The team collectively keeps a cool head about the threat of IEDs, having had previous experience in Iraq.

Along Route 515, Marines with 3/8 have established combat outposts to keep a watchful eye on the surrounding area in which they operate. Elders from surrounding villages have approached the Marines and told them most of the villages in the area had been abandoned by the families to escape insurgent activity.

Spencer says it’s easy to tell which villages have been abandoned. During daylight hours, if no one comes out to wave and say hello to the convoy as it passes, it’s likely empty.

“Once the combat outposts were [constructed], locals noticed we had a permanent presence, and they started [informing us about insurgents operating in the area],” said Spencer.

Some Afghans tell the Marines where IEDs are placed and wish for them to be careful.

“They see we were trying to better their way of life by [defending] the road so they don’t have to go around,” said Spencer. “Now they can actually go across the street to see their neighbors without getting [hurt].”

The Afghan national police patrol alongside the Marines to assist in providing security in the area. Currently, plans are underway to pave the road. Upon completion, responsibility for security will be handed over to the ANP, with the Marines in support.

Since arriving in Afghanistan in August 2008, Route Clearance Platoon has been hit by a few IEDs, but it has successfully found and disabled nearly two dozen.

“Due to our persistence in clearing Route 515, the road is no longer as much of a threat,” Spencer said.

Boxer Sailors and Marines Donate Time, Learn Culture in Phuket

PHUKET, Thailand (NNS) -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) Sailors and Marines helped renovate the Thalong National Museum Feb. 19 during a community relations (COMREL) project.


Story Number: NNS090226-07
Release Date: 2/26/2009 4:28:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Brian Gaines, USS Boxer Public Affairs

"The U.S. Navy has always had a sterling reputation with the Thai people," said Larry Amsden, a member of the Patong Beach chapter of the Phuket Rotary Club, who helped coordinate the event. "The turn out today has further reinforced that reputation."

Approximately 30 Sailors and Marines took time out of their liberty to help with the project. One Sailor, Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Michael Ashley, volunteered for the COMREL after completing the night watch in the ship's engineering spaces.

"Projects such as these are not only beneficial to the Thai people, but to the Sailors and Marines, too," said Lt. Russell Martin, one of Boxer's chaplains. "The reward is an intrinsic one, as it allows for them to serve others. It is also an opportunity to experience the culture of Thailand outside of the tourist areas."

Martin also added that everyone involved exceeded his expectations and performed excellent work.

For some Sailors, such as Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class (SW) Amanda Grover, the sacrifice of liberty was worth the time.

"It's always good to help others, and a project like this lets you see a different culture firsthand," said Grover. "I enjoy the idea of giving to a community, even if it's not my own."

After the COMREL, the Sailors and Marines were treated to a tour of the museum, a traditional Thai meal, and a demonstration of traditional Thai songs and dancing.

The Thalong National Museum began construction in 1985 and was inaugurated on March 14, 1989 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirinthorn. Under the administration of Thailand's Fine Arts Department, the museum serves as a source of cultural heritage and history.

USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG)/13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are currently on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of global maritime security.

BOXESG is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 5, USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USCGC Boutell (WHEC 719), USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 21) Detachment 3, Assault Craft Unit 1, Beach Master Unit 1, and Fleet Surgical Team 5.

The 13th MEU is comprised of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

For more news from USS Boxer, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.

Pentagon lifts media ban on coffin photos

But Gates says decision on images will be up to families of war dead

WASHINGTON - Families of America’s war dead will be allowed to decide if news organizations can photograph the homecomings of their loved ones, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.


updated 2:46 p.m. CT, Thurs., Feb. 26, 2009

Gates said he decided to allow media photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base, Del., if the families agree. A working group will come up with details and logistics.

The new policy reverses a ban put in place in 1991 by then President George H.W. Bush. Some critics contended the government was trying to hide the human cost of war.

"We should not presume to make the decision for the families — we should actually let them make it," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

"We’ve seen so many families go through so much," added Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said the goal is to meet family needs in the most dignified way possible.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama asked Gates to review the policy of media coverage of the fallen returning to Dover. He said Gates came back with a policy consistent with that used at Arlington National Cemetery.

Gibbs said it gives families the final say and "allows them to make that decision and protect their privacy if that’s what they wish to do. And the president is supportive of the secretary’s decision."

Shortly after Obama took office, Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey also asked the White House to roll back the 1991 ban.

Over the years, some exceptions to the policy were made, allowing the media to photograph coffins in some cases, until the administration of President George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A leading military families group has said that the policy, enforced without exception during George W. Bush's presidency, should be changed so that survivors of the dead can decide whether photographers can record their return.

Ritual at Dover base
Air Force cargo planes carrying the war dead home land on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where a solemn ritual is performed: The anonymous coffins known as "transfer cases," each sealed in the Stars and Stripes and marked with a tag, are unloaded, ultimately to be delivered back to their loved ones for burial.

Some in the U.S. media have argued that the rule is a political attempt to downplay the cost of war — which include at least 4,245 members of the U.S. military who have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003 — especially in light of images from Vietnam that some credit with turning U.S. opinion against that war.

Obama swept into office in part on campaign promises of greater transparency than the Bush administration.

Opponents of the ban argue Americans have a responsibility to pay their respects and consider the reality of being a nation at war when its military is all-volunteer and most people are insulated from the destruction.

Professor filed lawsuit
"It's the biggest single aspect of the cost of war. For that aspect to be invisible, undebated, undiscussed by American people is just wrong," said Ralph Begleiter, a journalism professor at the University of Delaware who sued the Pentagon to force the release in 2005 of pictures taken by military photographers at Dover.

"I felt these images were the single most important way that the American people could see the cost of war," he said.

Controversy in America over photos of war dead goes back as far as the earliest battlefield photography, said David Perlmutter, a documentary photographer and journalism professor at the University of Kansas.

Photography pioneer Matthew Brady was believed to have arranged battlefield death scenes during America's bloody mid-19th century Civil War. During World War I much of the coverage of the war was censored, as it was in World War II before President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided the public needed to see how its soldiers were suffering to avoid complacency.

Vietnam brought the war home, however, in new ways, as television film footage caught the daily grind and blood of war. The coverage was blamed in part for the loss of public support.

Photographs of war dead are a source of such debate because Americans "are most concerned about what happens to our men and women in uniform above all other considerations," Perlmutter said.

An issue in Afghanistan?
The issue could come into play for Obama. Though deaths in Iraq are down, the new president plans to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which could mean a steady number of soldier's bodies coming back through Dover in transfer cases.

Journalists should be thoughtful if the ban is overturned and avoid excessive coverage, said Kelly McBride, an ethics expert at the Poynter Institute journalism think tank.

"The temptation is that because we can, we will," she said. Journalists, excited by the access, could jump at the new opportunity to take photos and release a flood of images that might exaggerate the number of deaths, she said.

"It would be possible to have more coffin photos than homecoming photos, when the reality is that there are more live bodies coming home than dead bodies," she said. "There is an obligation to tell the truth in as complete and full a picture as possible, and coffin photos are part of that."

According to an informal survey of its members by the group Families United, which says it represents 60,000 military families, a majority opposed changing the policy.

John Ellsworth, the group's vice president whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, argued that if Obama chooses to reverse the ban, he should have the military take photographs and release them to the families, who could then decide whether they want to share them with the media, or see them at all.

"I don't know what happened in Iraq, or at Dover," he said. "There are blank spots where I don't know what happened, but I don't know if I need to."

February 25, 2009

NY Times alters policy on ‘Marines’

By Andrew deGrandpré - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 25, 2009 10:11:16 EST

Leathernecks have long found it irksome — heck, they’ve downright hated the fact — that The New York Times has refused to capitalize the “m” in Marine. It’s a point of pride, Marines always argue, to which the Times has routinely replied, “Yeah, but we don’t capitalize the ‘s’ in soldier.”

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February 24, 2009

Damage Control Training Key to Safety, Survivability

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- "General Quarters, General Quarters, all hands man your battle stations." This call brings USS Boxer (LHD 4) Sailors to their respective stations. They are ready for anything, because they are trained to be.


Story Number: NNS090224-17
Release Date: 2/24/2009 12:13:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John J. Siller

All of the ship's repair lockers are required to hold regular training in order to meet quarterly requirements, said Damage Controlman Chief Petty Officer (SW/AW) R.J. Beltowski, Ship's Fire Marshall and Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) coordinator.

"Training is important because every Sailor needs to know how to handle every damage control casualty, from a small trash-can fire, to a major fire. It gives Sailors the confidence to know what to do," said Beltowski.

Training schedules vary, based on the ship's schedule, said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (ECSW) Beau Walton, a repair locker leader. His locker holds training about once a week while underway and topics include firefighting, dewatering, pipe patching and de-smoking.

"It's a new topic each time," said Walton.
The training is conducted by members of the DCTT, distinguished by their bright, yellow hats, who ensure repair teams are meeting the criteria necessary to be ready. The DCTT also act as facilitators during General Quarters drills, making sure the drill goes smoothly and safely.

Although all Sailors onboard Boxer are required to be Basic Damage Control (DC) qualified and many receive advanced qualifications, basic skill training is still vital.

"The classes are baseline training to know how to be part of a team," said Beltowski. "Training maintains and builds skills and keeps a constant pool of trained people."

Although attacks on ships are rare, damage control measures have proved effective. Quick work by crews has saved the loss of a ship. Two examples of this are USS Cole (DDG 67) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58).
A boat loaded with explosives put a 40-by-60-foot hole in the side of USS Cole, killing 17 Sailors on Oct. 12, 2000. The crew worked around the clock and succeeded in keeping the ship afloat.

Sailors on board USS Samuel B. Roberts also successfully applied their DC training in 1988 when the ship was struck beneath the waterline by an Iranian mine, creating a 15- foot hole and flooding the engine room. The crew battled fires and flooding for five hours to save their ship. The ship returned to service in October, 1989 after 13 months of repairs.

Today, damage control concerns have grown to include Chemical, Biological and Radiation attacks. Measures to help fight these threats are a new focus of training, said Beltowski. It is especially important for ships headed to the Persian Gulf.

Boxer, as part of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of global maritime security with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Boxer ESG is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 5, USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 Detachment 3, Naval Beach Group 1, Assault Craft Unit 5, Assault Craft Unit 1, Beach Master Unit 1 and Fleet Surgical Team 5.

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is comprised of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/ .

February 23, 2009

Boutwell Arrives In The Republic Of Maldives

REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES (NNS) -- The United States Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC 719) arrived in the Republic of Maldives Feb. 21 for a scheduled port visit.


Story Number: NNS090223-05
Release Date: 2/23/2009 1:48:00 PM
By USCGC Boutwell Public Affairs

During their visit, Boutwell's crew of 180 will participate in law enforcement and search-and-rescue cross-training exercises with the Maldivian Coast Guard.

The law enforcement training will cover various techniques and the use of force continuum. The use of force continuum is used to ensure only the minimum force necessary to compel compliance is used during law enforcement situations.

Along with the scheduled law enforcement symposium, the crew of Boutwell and the Maldivian Coast Guard are scheduled to conduct joint search-and-rescue training that will culminate with a simulated at-sea rescue using Boutwell's embarked HH-65C helicopter.

"The Maldives occupy a truly unique location in the maritime community," said Boutwell's Commanding Officer, Capt. Kevin J. Cavanaugh. "Situated at the confluence of significant maritime commerce as well as providing unmatched ecological opportunities for tourists from around the world, our discussion of law enforcement, search and rescue and environmental protection should prove to be a beneficial experience for both organizations."

Boutwell is assigned to the Coast Guard's Pacific Area Command, headquartered in Alameda, Calif. Their patrols frequently range from the Aleutian Island chain south to the coast of Columbia. Boutwell represents the Coast Guard's commitment to support national defense operations around the globe and is currently attached to the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group.

This patrol will see Boutwell circumnavigate the globe while visiting numerous countries in an effort to create strong professional ties and share maritime defense strategies and improve interoperability.

Boutwell is one of 12 High Endurance Cutters with missions that includes drug interdiction and fisheries enforcement.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/ .

Boutwell departs Cochin after three days of engagements

COCHIN, India (NNS) -- U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC 719) departed Cochin, India, Feb. 20 after a three-day visit.


Story Number: NNS090223-04
Release Date: 2/23/2009 1:36:00 PM
By Lt. j.g. Kevin Chapman, USCGC Boutwell Public Affairs

During their visit, Boutwell's crew of 180 Coast Guardsmen had a chance to engage with the public, participate in formal receptions and experience the unique culture of India.

Boutwell's crew assisted in a community service project refurbishing the Good Hope Relief Home. They also took part in a friendly game of basketball with the Indian Coast Guard.

Boutwell's commanding officer, Capt. Kevin J. Cavanaugh, as well as various members of the ship's command cadre, attended cultural events and other presentations hosted by the Indian Coast Guard.

Boutwell hosted a formal reception aboard the cutter to share some of the highlights of U.S. culture with their Indian counterparts. The last day of the visit had the Indian Coast Guard and Boutwell conduct joint training exercises for search and rescue and anti-piracy enforcement.

"I was pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with our Indian partners, enhancing our ability to promote maritime safety and security for our two nations," said Cavanaugh.

Boutwell is assigned to the Coast Guard's Pacific Area Command, headquartered in Alameda, Calif. Their patrols frequently range from the Aleutian Island chain south to the coast of Columbia. Boutwell represents the Coast Guard's commitment to support national defense operations around the globe and is currently attached to the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group.

This patrol will see Boutwell circumnavigate the globe while visiting numerous countries in an effort to create strong professional ties and share maritime defense strategies and improve interoperability.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/ .

February 22, 2009

CLB-2 makes long haul to remote location of Iraq

SAHL SINJAR AIRFIELD, Iraq — The sun had barely peaked over the horizon as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, affectionately known as the Battle Wagon, and more than 30 other vehicles carrying Marines, civilian contractors, and one interpreter, rolled out of Al Asad early Sunday morning, Feb. 8, 2009.


2/22/2009 By Cpl. M. M. Bravo, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The Marines of 4th squad, Security Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, were headed north through the sands of Iraq to Sahl Sinjar on a seven-day convoy to deliver supplies to Marines operating on the isolated region of Iraq’s Ninewa province. This was the longest convoy 4th squad has conducted since they arrived in country in Sept. 2008.

Sahl Sinjar Airfield is tucked away in a remote corner of Iraq near the Iraqi border of Syria. After dropping off supplies in Sahl Sinjar, they continued to escort the civilian truck drivers back to Al Asad and immediately headed further south to Camp Al Taqaddum to continue the mission.

Sgt. Roger D. Rice, the 4th squad convoy commander, said that since August 2008 when they arrived in Al Asad, Security Company has made the convoy to Sahl Sinjar five times, but this was the longest in both distance and time spent in the Iraqi countryside.

“The overall length of the trip is unusual,” Rice explained. “For seven days [we] retrograded tanks from [Al Asad to] here, to TQ. It’s the longest run the battalion has done. Assets were needed to be brought up [to Sahl Sinjar] that weren’t available in AO [Area of Operation] North, only in the West and East.”

“They had a need up here and CLB-2 had the assets to deliver and were still able to carry on their mission back in Al Asad,” Rice continued.

Master Sgt. Todd S. Chamberlin, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of CLB-2 in Sahl Sinjar, explained the logistics unit’s current role in the area.

“Our mission is to provide support for surrounding units,” Chamberlin said.

The majority of units CLB-2 supports are infantry units who work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police forces. Their support includes convoy operations, security, and providing logistical support to various command operating posts nearby.

“The ultimate goal is turning the control of Iraq over to the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army,” said Chamberlin.

Chamberlin discussed the positive outcome of the significant decrease in insurgent attacks.

“The quiet state we’re in shows how far we’ve come and how far the Iraqi Army has come,” he said.

Sgt. Daniel L. Moore, a squad leader for Military Police Company, CLB-2, said his team provides security for the entire airfield, which includes going into surrounding villages to conduct foot patrols.

“The fact that we can reach out to the villages shows presence to the local population,” he said. “It’s been quiet for a while but we are 100 percent ready if anything were to go wrong.”

The trip to Sahl Sinjar was a successful operation due to the consistency of the Marines of Security Company. Rice said his Marines prepared well for the trip and did an excellent job despite the hardships and stress of a long convoy through a combat environment.

“It’s really hard on the Marines, spending eight to 10 hours a day in the truck,” Rice said. “It’s hard on your body and after seven days, you’re exhausted. [But] they know it’s going to be a long run.”

Rice said traveling into a different AO is a huge deal. The atmosphere and the terrain are different, which causes the Marines to be extra alert and constantly aware of their surroundings.

“You’re not completely in the dark but you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “There’s always a higher risk traveling into unknown areas.”

Rice explained that by running convoys so much in their own AO, they learn the terrain, the traffic, the people, and even where garbage cans might be placed.

“They trust us to travel a lot of miles with millions of dollars in assets, to go into an AO we’ve only been in once. I think CLB-2 puts a lot of trust in us.”

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.

Marines and family gather to recall sergeant who saved comrade’s lives

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, February 22, 2009

CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — Tears as well as chuckles filled the small chapel here Friday during a memorial service for Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr.

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February 21, 2009

‘You’re his witness now’

HBO film chronicles Marine’s final journey through eyes of his escort

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Feb 21, 2009 9:23:15 EST

With the war in Iraq raging in 2004, Lt. Col. Mike Strobl found himself at Dover Air Force Base, Del., waiting to escort home the remains of a fallen Marine he had never met.

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February 19, 2009

Re-enlistment getting tougher for Marines

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Feb 19, 2009 15:35:41 EST

In late December, a former NCO decided to rejoin the Corps.

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February 18, 2009

More Troops Headed to Afghanistan

Obama Boosting U.S. Force by Nearly 50% to Address 'Deteriorating Situation'

President Obama has ordered the first combat deployments of his presidency, saying yesterday that he had authorized an additional 17,000 U.S. troops "to stabilize a deteriorating situation" in Afghanistan.


Video associated with article:

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009; Page A01

The new deployments, to begin in May, will increase the U.S. force in Afghanistan by nearly 50 percent, bringing it to 55,000 by mid-summer, along with 32,000 non-U.S. NATO troops. In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said that "urgent attention and swift action" were required because "the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda . . . threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border."

Taliban attacks and U.S. and NATO casualties last year, including 155 U.S. deaths, reached the highest levels of the seven-year war. War-related civilian Afghan deaths -- most blamed on Taliban insurgents but many on U.S. airstrikes -- increased nearly 40 percent to 2,118 in 2008, according to a U.N. report released yesterday. Extremist groups have expanded their hold on western Pakistan and launched terrorist attacks in major Pakistani cities.

Months ago, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, requested more than 30,000 additional troops this year, and an initial 6,000 arrived last month under orders signed by the Bush administration. But a senior White House official said that no other deployment decisions will be made until the Obama administration completes a strategic review of the Afghan war in late March.

Obama has said he wants to limit U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, and administration officials have spoken of a more "regional" counterinsurgency strategy, including expanded assistance to Pakistan and diplomatic outreach to India, Iran, Russia and other neighboring countries.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was informed of the new deployments in a telephone call from Obama yesterday. Karzai, whose government Obama criticized last week as "detached" from what is going on in Afghanistan, publicly complained over the weekend that he had not yet heard from the new U.S. president.

The first additional U.S. contingent, the 8,000-strong 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp LeJeune, N.C., will arrive in late May. The Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., will arrive with 4,000 troops in late July, along with an additional 5,000 troops in still-undesignated smaller units.

The new troops will move into southern and eastern Afghanistan for combat expected to increase with the arrival of warmer weather, in addition to providing additional training for the Afghan army and security for national elections scheduled for August. Obama also plans to ask NATO to supply additional resources this year.

The administration sought yesterday to couch the orders as what the senior official called "the beginning of the drawdown of troops in Iraq," where both units had been scheduled to deploy. While that is technically true, White House decisions on Afghanistan and Iraq are proceeding on parallel but not necessarily overlapping tracks.

During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged to drawn down the U.S. presence in Iraq -- currently at 146,000 troops -- at a rate of one brigade a month for what he said would be a complete combat withdrawal within 16 months, with an unspecified "residual force" remaining.

During his first week in office, he instructed military planners to present options for withdrawal under various conditions on the ground and at various speeds. Those options have not yet been presented to the White House, although the senior official said yesterday that Obama expects to receive them and make a decision on a timeline "in the near future."

The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been discussed in separate presidential meetings with top national security and military officials who are contributing to the strategic review. In the meantime, however, commanders warned that deployment decisions would have to be made now if troops were to arrive in Afghanistan in time to meet urgent security needs.

Obama recognizes that "there is a grave situation in certain parts of the country," the White House official said. "We know . . . how negative it would be if the elections didn't come off. It's also well acknowledged that the effort in Afghanistan suffered [under Bush] from being under-resourced, with a lack of attention and strategic direction."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the deployment decision "does not prejudge the outcome of the review process but . . . allows us instead to meet an urgent need for more troops."

Beginning his first week in office, Obama held a series of meetings on the subject with civilian and military officials, including McKiernan; Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command; Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On Feb. 10, Gates recommended that Obama authorize the 17,000-troop deployment. The recommendation was discussed at a National Security Council meeting Friday, and Obama informed Gates of his decision Monday. Gates signed the deployment orders for the 12,000 troops of the two brigades yesterday, with designation of the additional 5,000 still to come.

"This administration has a different way of doing business," said a Pentagon official who also served under Bush. "The Obama White House wants to go about this in a much more methodical way than its predecessor, with decisions about troop levels to be evaluated by more than the military chain of command."

Obama's deployment decision came without clear majority support from the public. While most Americans consider winning in Afghanistan essential to victory in the broader fight against terrorism, in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, barely more than a third, 34 percent, said the number of U.S. military forces in that country should be increased. About as many would opt for a decrease (29 percent) or no change at all (32 percent).

In Afghanistan, public opinion is even more unwelcoming. In a recent ABC-BBC-ARD poll of Afghans, just 18 percent said the United States and NATO should increase their troop levels, and more than twice that number, 44 percent, wanted fewer outside forces.

Yesterday's U.N. report, along with a separate report on Afghanistan by the independent Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), noted that rising civilian casualties are the source of deep resentment among the Afghan public. Although the United Nations said that "anti-government elements" were responsible for 55 percent of last year's civilian deaths, CIVIC reported that "the international coalition in Afghanistan is losing public support, one fallen civilian at a time."

The CIVIC report noted that the United States and NATO governments all pay compensation to some civilian victims of their actions -- although there is no coordinated system, and many families receive nothing -- and recommended that such efforts be improved and expanded.

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

February 17, 2009

Putting Stamp on Afghan War, Obama Will Send 17,000 Troops

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Tuesday that he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, putting his stamp firmly on a war that he has long complained is going in the wrong direction.


Published: February 17, 2009

The order will add nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there. A further decision on sending more troops will come after the administration completes a broader review of Afghanistan policy, White House officials said.

Mr. Obama said in a written statement that the increase was “necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”

At least for now, Mr. Obama’s decision gives American commanders in Afghanistan most but not all of the troops they had asked for. But the decision also carries political risk for a president who will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Many experts worry that Afghanistan presents an even an more formidable challenge for the United States than Iraq does, particularly with neighboring Pakistan providing sanctuary for insurgents of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, a unit of 8,000 marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will be deployed in the next few weeks, aiming to be in Afghanistan by late spring, administration officials said, while an Army brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash., composed of 4,000 soldiers, will be sent in the summer. An additional 5,000 Army support troops will also be deployed in the summer.

Antiwar groups criticized Mr. Obama’s decision even before the White House announced it.

“The president is committing these troops before he’s determined what the mission is,” said Tom Andrews, director of the coalition organization Win Without War. “We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

Mr. Obama said in his statement that “the fact that we are going to responsibly draw down our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan.”

American generals in Afghanistan had been pressing for additional forces to be in place by late spring or early summer to help counter growing violence and chaos in the country. Of the 30,000 additional troops that the commanders had initially sought, some 6,000 arrived in January after being sent by President Bush.

The administration’s review of Afghanistan policy is supposed to be completed before early April, when Mr. Obama heads to Europe for a NATO summit meeting at which he is expected to press American allies for more troops and help in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he was “absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means.”

DoD Announces Afghanistan Force Deployment

Pursuant to President Obama’s decision today, Secretary Gates ordered the deployment of two additional combat units, totaling more than 12,000 troops, to Afghanistan. The 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), from Camp Lejeune, N.C., with approximately 8,000 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan in late Spring 2009.


U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
February 17, 2009

The 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Lewis, Wash., will deploy approximately 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in mid-summer 2009. This Stryker Brigade and the MEB will deploy to increase the capabilities of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Approximately 5,000 additional troops to support these combat forces will receive deployment orders at a later date.

DoD will continue to announce major unit deployments when they are approved. For additional information on the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, contact Marine Corps Public Affairs at (703) 614-4309. For additional information on the Army brigade, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 614-2487.

February 16, 2009

Cobra Gold 2009: U.S., Thai forces practice landing in heat, rough seas

By Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, February 16, 2009

HAT YAO, Thailand — More than 500 U.S. Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Royal Thai Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicle Battalion stormed the beach here Friday in a combined exercise that kicked off the final weekend of Cobra Gold 2009.

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Three Marines, three paths

They joined on the buddy program with high hopes. It's been a hard road.

Reporting from Bala Balouk, Afghanistan -- The last in an occasional series on three high school friends from Southern California and their wartime enlistment in the Marine Corps.

Lance Cpl. Daryl Crookston knew there would be casualties. That inevitability had been drummed into him as far back as boot camp, by drill sergeants and infantry school instructors, by fellow Marines.


By David Zucchino
February 16, 2009

But when two Marine buddies went down on a combat patrol in the flat scrub desert of western Afghanistan, it was so shocking that Crookston felt overwhelmed. One minute the two men were alive, and in an instant they were dead.

When he left for Afghanistan last spring, Crookston spoke passionately of his desire to fight for his country, to confront insurgents, to test himself in combat. When he returned home in December to the serenity of Santa Clarita, he was distant and withdrawn. He refused to talk about what had happened in combat -- not with his friends, brothers or parents.

In June 2007, Crookston and two high school friends from Santa Clarita joined the Marine Corps under the buddy program, which guaranteed they would attend boot camp together. The Times followed them over the next 18 months and chronicled their induction, their separation from family, and the rigors of boot camp and infantry training.

They were assigned to different units last year. Crookston was the first to deploy, to a desolate base camp at Bala Balouk in remote Farah province. Lance Cpl. Daniel Motamedi, 19, and Lance Cpl. Steven Dellinger, 20, envied Crookston's chance for combat duty. Dellinger did not get his chance until August, when he was sent to Iraq.

At a rough-hewn base in June, Crookston, 20, was not as eager for enemy contact as some in his platoon. A few complained that their security patrols were boring -- repetitious jaunts through dust and strength-sapping Afghan heat.

"Anyone who has seen action will tell you that you may think you want to see action, but actually you don't," Crookston said one afternoon, sweating in the suffocating shade of a concrete guard tower.

"There's a curiosity about it," he said. "But most guys would rather it be boring than to have something bad happen."

The three dozen Marines in Crookston's platoon, part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from Twentynine Palms, were hot, tired and restless. Their small outpost, which did not yet have electricity, was nothing like the well-appointed bigger bases in the country. There was no Pizza Hut, no gym, no Internet cafe, no air-conditioned mess hall, no satellite TVs blaring ESPN's "Sports Center."

Crookston's platoon lived in tents. They ate military MREs. There were two rudimentary showers and two flush toilets for the entire base. They washed their clothes in buckets and dried them in the unrelenting sun.

The dust was all-enveloping and the sun so brilliant it stung the eyes. One afternoon, someone left an oven thermometer outside. It registered 145 degrees -- the baked-ham setting.

The platoon's mission was to support and train Afghan police officers, but Crookston had little personal contact with them; Marine NCOs did the hands-on training. Instead, Crookston and his buddies spent their days stacking food and water cartons, pulling guard duty, exercising and helping bolster security barriers. They also dug mortar pits, one of which was used as a latrine by Afghan officers.

They went on regular combat patrols, accompanied by Afghan National Police. Occasionally, rockets or mortars thumped down beyond the base walls, sending a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol racing into the desert in a futile attempt to locate the attackers.

Farah province had long been a backwater in the Afghan war, where Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have gained control of large areas in the south and east. Now insurgents were expanding westward into Farah, trying to disrupt the Americans' main supply route, which passed next to the base.

Throughout the summer and fall, Crookston saw several friends wounded or killed. He wrote to his parents after the attack that killed two Marines last fall.

"Everyone died except the turret gunner," he wrote. "None of the others stood a chance or were recognizable for that matter."

And that was all he intended to say about it.

Kept behind

If anyone was the ringleader among the three high school seniors in early 2007, it was Daniel Motamedi. He was the first to consider joining the Corps, the first to read books on military history and Marine traditions, and the one who persuaded his friends to enlist.

Last fall, with Crookston in Afghanistan and Dellinger posted to Iraq, Motamedi was stuck at Camp Pendleton. Respiratory problems prevented him from leaving with his unit when it shipped out in May for duty in the Pacific and Indian oceans. He passes his days sorting mail, picking up trash, standing guard, exercising at the gym.

It was hardly what he had envisioned when he persuaded his parents to sign papers for him to join the Marines at 17. He feels trapped by circumstances. "It wasn't like I wussed out or tried to run away," he said.

For now, the closest he has come to combat is playing a war video game with his barracks roommate. The two blasted away with virtual weapons, killing insurgents lurking in alleys.

Motamedi had excelled in infantry training, despite pneumonia and impacted wisdom teeth, only to come to this low point in his short military career. He wasn't told that he was on medical hold until a few days before his unit -- 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines -- shipped out. "It hit me hard," he said.

Now all he could do was await a decision by the military -- one that would determine whether he stays in the Corps and, if so, in what capacity.

His mother, Yasmin, was relieved when he didn't deploy, though it pained her to see him so dejected. Ali Motamedi empathized with his son. "What's the purpose of being a Marine if all you're going to do is guard the gate?" he said. "That's not what he signed up for."

Motamedi, who lost touch with his two friends on the other side of the world, has begun to accept the fact that he may never deploy. He is considering a new military specialty, perhaps military law or computers. He has dragged out his high school textbooks -- "trying to keep up the old IQ," he said.

He tries to be the best Marine possible, whatever the job. Even so, he said as he finished off another video game, it was disheartening "seeing your buddies go off to do something you wanted to do."

Not like the movies

It was small solace to Motamedi that his lifelong friend Dellinger has spent several largely uneventful months in Haditha, in western Iraq. With the U.S. military trying to wind down its presence in Iraq, Dellinger's unit is closing down its base and is due home in March.

"We've done the normal stuff that everyone does on a deployment, patrol, [guard] post, and other little things," Dellinger wrote in an e-mail this month. "It's not as bad as I thought it would be."

He was alarmed when he heard that Crookston's unit had suffered fatalities. He made a point of not telling his parents. "They're worried enough already," he said.

Dellinger said he had no regrets about joining the Marines, but had not decided whether to reenlist at the end of his four-year commitment.

His mother, Cathy Carlson, said joining the Marines had paid off for her son. "He needs the structure and the balance. It's been a great experience for him, and I'm so proud of what he's done."

Dellinger "expected the kind of action you see in the movies and feels a little let down," Carlson said. But both son and mother are grateful that he and his fellow Marines are safe and homeward bound.

"He knows he'll have a whole loving family here for him when he gets back," she said.


It was bitterly cold in the high desert of Twentynine Palms, but hundreds of family members stood for hours one December day, stamping their feet and waving banners as they waited for their Marines to come home from war.

The Crookstons arrived early, driving past homemade signs posted on a fence at the Marine base: "Prepare for Booty Camp" and "Operation Enduring Wifey." They carried a more prosaic sign: "Welcome Home Daryl." The family -- parents and two brothers -- wore T-shirts bearing the slogan of Daryl's unit: "The Gunfighters -- Ready for All, Yielding to None."

Wounded members of the unit, sent home early to recover, werein the crowd. The face of one Marine was burned and scarred. Other Marines limped on prosthetic limbs. Strangers hugged them and thanked them for their sacrifice.

When the battalion finally appeared after hours of delays, family members broke through restraining lines and mobbed the Marines. The Crookstons fought through the crowd toward Daryl, smothering him in hugs.

They asked about his back. He had injured it when his Humvee slammed into a berm in a sandstorm. His back was fine, Crookston said tersely.

He looked dazed. He hadn't slept for a while, and he suffered from jet lag. Though coming home was heartwarming, he admitted later, it was also stressful and disorienting. Everyone wanted to know what it was like in Afghanistan. Did he kill anybody? Was he scared?

He mumbled a standard reply: "It was hot and sandy."

Reluctantly, he agreed to accompany his mother the next morning to the elementary school where she works, to thank children for sending care packages. She asked him to wear his uniform, but he refused, saying he didn't want to "stand out." At the school, children and teachers asked about Afghanistan, and Crookston cringed. He changed the subject.

His mother, Kymmer, was worried about his mental state. If he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, she feared, he won't seek counseling. "The Marines make them feel weak and not up to snuff if they go for help," she said.

She did not press him. "I think he just needs to decompress, just get some breathing space," she said.

Crookston's father, Kim, said his son told him while he was in Afghanistan that he felt depressed.

"Daryl told me he knows he has issues to deal with, but he's not ready right now to see anybody for help," he said.

Daryl doesn't believe he's suffering from PTSD.

"No, no. No way," he said. "There are a few cases when PTSD actually affects people . . . but I think sometimes it's just people wanting to get attention or something."

Crookston has decided not to re-up when his enlistment expires on June 17, 2011 (he has memorized the date). He believes the Marine Corps has made him a better person, a better patriot and a more appreciative citizen. But he'll be ready to move on by 2011.

Sitting outside a coffee shop in Santa Clarita the morning after he returned home, Crookston marveled at how placid and ordinary things seemed. The people around him likely knew nothing of the war, he said, and probably rarely thought about it.

They certainly wouldn't understand what it was like to plunge into combat and emerge unharmed, he said. He will never tell his family what happened in Afghanistan. "Not only do I not want them to hear about it, but I don't need to put that on them," he said.

He wears a bracelet inscribed with the name of a friend, Lance Cpl. Andrew F. Whitacre, 21, who was killed in action during one of Crookston's patrols. His battalion lost 20 men, and 150 more were wounded. Crookston knows he could easily have been one of them.

"We all knew what we were getting ourselves into," he said. "We knew this was going to happen."

He came home with a combat action ribbon. He's proud of it but keeps it tucked away; it gives him no pleasure to see it.

"Anyone you ask, it's the ribbon they hate the most," Crookston said, "because of what it cost to get it."

[email protected]

Iraq-bound 2/23 has packed training schedule

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 16, 2009 8:38:24 EST

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — When the Corps hands you lemons, a good CO won’t settle for lemonade — he’ll bake a lemon soufflé.

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February 15, 2009

31st MEU in Thailand for Cobra Gold

Staff report
Posted : Sunday Feb 15, 2009 12:54:57 EST

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have spent the past 10 days in Thailand for the multinational exercise Cobra Gold, which wraps up Tuesday.

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February 14, 2009

Reconnaissance Marines harden Iraqi Special Forces

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – With Iraqi training and partnered operations taking priority in Iraq, Force Reconnaissance Marines have taken it to the next level, incorporating specialforces training with an elite group of Iraqi soldiers during a 10-day training exercise that started here, Feb. 7.


Story by Sgt. Dorian Gardner

Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Davis, platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, assembled a group of team leaders, assistant team leaders and snipers to lead these classes.

“In the long run, the Iraqi Army wants its own reconnaissance unit,” said Sgt. Dwight Anderson, Team 2 team leader, 3rd Platoon. “We are trying to give them a basic understanding of recon operations.”

Now conducting their own patrols, protecting their borders, and patrolling their streets, the Iraqi Security Forces have come a long way since the beginning of this war. Their next goal is to develop the same advanced reconnaissance abilities recon Marines bring to the table. Reconnaissance Marines have undergone many months of advanced training in covert operations and advanced combat tactics, and they are eager to help open the door for these Iraqi soldiers.

Reconnaissance Marines operate on a different scale in comparison to an average infantry battalion. Trained to operate in small groups, a reconnaissance team executes a mission with a team of five or six members, rather than a squad of 13. They often operate without direct support in enemy territory for extended periods of time. They are the proverbial tip of the spear
According to Sgt. Maj. Mohanad Najah Abuod, 1 Battalion, 1 Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, his unit has conducted missions along side Marines in the past, and trained with other special-operations units.

“We have received the best training from these reconnaissance Marines,” said Sgt. Maj. Mohanad. “This training has taught me and my soldiers a lot of things; different ways to attack the objective … how to support your men in a mission.”

As training progresses, the Marines will no longer lead their training, but walk along side them in drills and practical application. Marines are optimistic about the change of strategy for these soldiers, and according to Anderson, the soldiers are picking up basic maneuvers and adjusting their approach.

“They have already started to change up the way they operate and they learn quickly,” said Anderson.

Shortly after training is complete, reconnaissance and Iraqi soldiers will begin to put their new skills to the test outside the wire. Slowly becoming one of Iraq’s newest instruments in the war against terror, Sgt. Maj. Mohanad and his soldiers are ready to get into the fight.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.mnfwest.usmc.mil.

USS New Orleans Visits Penang

PENANG, Malaysia -- The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) anchored off the city of Penang, Malaysia, Feb. 11 for a scheduled port visit.


By Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Taishaun White, USS New Orleans Public Affairs
Posted: February 14, 2008

The visit will give New Orleans Sailors and Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1/1 a chance to interact with their Malaysian military counterparts and enjoy some liberty in the “Pearl of the Orient”.

“We are honored to be here and believe this visit will help foster a stronger relationship between our two countries and navies,” said the Commanding Officer of New Orleans, Cmdr. Scott Davies.

Additionally, Sailors and Marines are scheduled to participate in community relations projects at the Penang Handicapped Center and Children Protection Society.

“The officers and crew of USS New Orleans are looking forward to taking full advantage of what Penang has to offer,” said Lt. Cmdr. Beth Stallinga, the ship’s chaplain. “We hope that our involvement with the community will help build a foundation for future visits by other U.S. Navy ships."

New Orleans and the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group/13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of global maritime security.

New Orleans is part of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG), which is comprised of Amphibious Squadron Five, USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 Detachment 3, Naval Beach Group One, Assault Craft Unit Five, Assault Craft Unit One, Beach Master Unit One and Fleet Surgical Team Five.

The 13th MEU is comprised of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

Coming Home: 26th MEU conducts wash down

KUWAITI NAVAL BASE, Kuwait — After nearly two weeks of constant cleaning, scrubbing, spraying down and inspecting, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has completed its wash down.


2/14/2009 By Cpl. Jason D. Mills, 26th MEU

Many view wash down as the last major evolution before heading home.

"Wash down is kind of the final step," said Pfc. Adam Sobolewski, a Marine with Battalion Landing Team 2/6, the BLT for the 26th MEU. "We're getting all of the vehicles cleaned up, ready to pass inspection so that we can load them up on ship and return back to the states," he said.

However, wash down is more than just the last major marker in the deployment calendar; it is an essential step in ensuring the United States is protected from any kind of foreign contaminate, said Maj. Randal Jones, the MEU's Logistics officer.

"Wash down is really key … in ensure(ing) that (everything) is agriculturally ready to be back-loaded onto the ships and to reenter the continental U.S.," said Jones.

"We're in a foreign land and we've conducted several exercises, and in order to prevent any type of introduction of different foreign substances, such as insects or dirt … it's key that we clean our equipment and make sure it is absolutely 100% certified by US customs," he explained.

Before being certified as ready to go back on the ship and eventually transported back into the United States, each vehicle was first washed from top to bottom.

"We have to get all the dirt, all the grime out of the vehicles before we load them back onto the ship," Sobolewski explained. "To clean the vehicles it's been taking about an average of two hours," he said

Still, it's hard to ignore the one thing that seems to be on everyone's mind, the prospect of going home.

"The wash down signifies a lot. When the Marines hear wash down it's almost like, 'hey I know that I'm going home' and that's one of the key things," Jones said. "Not to say that Marines can 'smell the barn,' but hey, it lets Marines know that the barn is near."

February 13, 2009

Volunteers Work to Build New Playground in 3 Days

The pressure is on for hundreds of volunteers who plan to build a playground in four days.
The Marines have landed at Aikahi Playground, some 360 of them from Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, to help with an ambitious task; start building a playground Friday and finish it by Monday.


By Manolo Morales

Story Created: Feb 13, 2009 at 5:03 PM HST
Story Updated: Feb 13, 2009 at 6:35 PM HST

"For us to have an opportunity like this just to be out and intermingle with the community and also help the kids. I mean if it wasn't for the kids there wouldn't be a future, we'd have nothing to look forward to," said Cpl. Joshua Ritch.

Along with them there are other volunteers, like folks from Hawaii Job Corps, and families who live in the area. Among them, 11 year old Denali Jackson.
It was a blow to the community when the old playground equipment was abruptly taken away last year.

"It was removed suddenly due to safety concerns, everyone in this community started banding together, how can we do this?," said Kimi Eggers, one of the children's parent.

The old playground was torn down in August of last year, so the kids in the community have been without a playground for six months. That's why volunteers are in a hurry to get this done.

They're also getting a lot of help from a company called Leathers and Associates, which has designed hundred of playgrounds around the country. For this one, the architects asked the children what they wanted to put in it.

The $150,000 price tag for the project will not cost taxpayers anything. The labor is free. Materials, which are made from recycled products, were either donated or bought through a variety of fundraising efforts.

Volunteers say it may not look like much right now, but come Monday, it will be a playground.

February 12, 2009

Corps to launch Marine Week event in Chicago

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Feb 12, 2009 22:14:43 EST

The Corps will launch an effort this spring similar to the Navy’s popular Fleet Week, with hundreds of Marines descending on Chicago in May for a week of community outreach efforts, concerts and demonstrations by a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

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February 11, 2009

Movie premiere hits close to home for service members

Senior military officials and government dignitaries gathered to watch the premiere of “Taking Chance,” the HBO made-for-TV movie, Feb. 9 at the Motion Picture Association of America.


2/11/2009 By Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey, Headquarters Marine Corps

“Taking Chance” depicts the experiences of Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl while escorting a fallen Marine from Dover Air force Base in Dover, Del., to Dubois, Wyo., in April 2004.

Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps was killed in action during combat operations April 9, 2004, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, while assigned to Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

“When we started filming the movie I thought the American people should be the main character,” said Strobl, who retired in 2007 and co-wrote the movie. “That’s why I wrote it - the reaction of the American people who witnessed the journey along the way.”

Actor Kevin Bacon, who portrays Strobl in the movie, made an appearance at the premiere.

“I was amazed and surprised I didn’t know anything about it and had no idea about the (escorting) process,” Bacon said. “I liked that it was a simple telling of Mike’s journey with Chance. It doesn’t really hit you over the head. It kind of sneaks up on you, and the accumulative effect of watching the process and the way people reacted along the trip is what I responded to as an actor.”

To prepare for the role, which was his third time portraying a Marine, Bacon said he met with Strobl on several occasions.

“I try my best when playing Marines to pay attention to detail and try to humanize them as much as possible,” Bacon said. “People who aren’t in the military sometimes find it tough to look past the uniform.”

After the movie, spectators, which included Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, were given the opportunity to shake hands with and express their thanks to director Ross Katz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Strobl.

“I wanted to portray honesty in this movie,” Katz said. “When you witness the remains of a young man who gave his life for civilians like me, we aren’t red states or blue states, we’re purple states. We’re all Americans. “

“Taking Chance” is scheduled to premiere on HBO Feb. 21.

Cobra Gold 2009: Building trust high on the agenda

By Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

GULF OF THAILAND, Thailand — From its serene northern mountains dotted with Buddhist temples to the lowland coastal plains lined with coconut plantations, Thailand this week is covered with a thick haze and nearly 7,000 U.S. troops — joined by more than 4,000 others from Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore — who have come for the 28th annual Cobra Gold exercise.

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February 9, 2009

Marines train with French navy

From the wide hallways and spacious planning areas to the Perrier and freshly baked baguettes, the French Ship Tonnerre has a certain "je ne sais quoi" that sets it apart from U.S. vessels.


February 9, 2009 - 8:02 PM

But the Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are learning that working from the ship and with the French can be as easy - or even easier - than conducting missions from their own ships.

The 22nd MEU is training with the Tonnerre during a monthlong exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, developing interoperability and testing the ship's ability to host U.S. equipment like M1A1 Abrams tanks and various helicopters.

"The world is a joint battlefield," said Chief Warrant Officer Steve Dancer, liaison officer for the 22nd MEU. "There's never going to be U.S. alone; most likely we're going to be with our NATO counterparts, and we have to learn to work together. It's better to learn to work together now, during exercises such as this, so that we can be more efficient when it comes time to do the real thing."

Saturday was the first time anyone embarked tanks onto the ship at sea, and it "couldn't have gone any smoother," said 1st Lt. Matthew Luke, tank platoon commander.

"This ship is pretty amazing, compared to what we're used to," Luke said. "I think it's important in general for NATO forces, for allies of America, for us to work with each other, make sure that our gear sets, our weapons sets are compatible. And I think that's exactly what we're doing here. ... We're making history on this ship."

The ship, based in Toulon, France, is designed to deploy quickly, to be able to travel a long distance and lead operations at sea for a long period of time. It hosts a full-sized hospital, a flight deck for helicopters, a headquarters area that can accommodate up to 270 staff officers, and a well deck for landing ships or landing crafts. It also has a number of "creature comforts" American ships don't, which make life easier for those on board, Dancer said.

After the training exercise in North Carolina, the ship will deploy to the Gulf of Guinea.

Luke said the hospitality of the French crew was "amazing," and communication was not an issue because many of the sailors speak English.

"We would be able to embark our tanks and get our Marines ready for any mission with ease," he said. "Probably easier than other ships we've been on in the past."

Capt. Clark Carpenter, public affairs officer for the 22nd MEU, said the training is good for the unit because MEUs often work with other militaries while deployed. But they typically don't get a chance to train with allies, he said.

"Being able to do this now, to work with the French now, is definitely putting us ahead of the game," Carpenter said.

The MEU consists of a ground element - 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; an aviation element - Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263; a logistics element - Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and a command element. The unit is scheduled to deploy this spring on the ships of the Bataan Strike Group.

Bridgewater mourns loss of first soldier since Vietnam to die in combat

BRIDGEWATER — Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Preach, who died Saturday from injuries sustained in combat while in Afghanistan, will be remembered for his smile, his sense of humor, and his selflessness. He was 21.

Please click on above link for photo.

By Theresa Knapp Enos and Maria Papadopoulos
The Enterprise
Posted Feb 09, 2009

American flags in town were lowered to half-staff on Sunday in his memory.

“It’s clearly a tragedy that reaches across the whole town,” selectmen Chairman Herbert J. Lemon Jr. said Sunday, hours after learning of Bridgewater’s first military casualty from the War on Terror.

Preach was injured on Jan. 24 when the Humvee in which he was a gunner was hit by an improvised explosive device. He was at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio in a medically induced coma last week. According to his mother, Laurie Hayes of Bridgewater, Preach lost both legs and a hand and was badly burned.

He was the first Bridgewater soldier to lose his life in service since the Vietnam War, says Bridgewater Veterans’ Agent Roderick K. Walsh.

“He was the funniest person I have ever met,” said Brianna Kelliher of Bridgewater, 18, Preach’s girlfriend of three years. “He would always make sure that everyone around him was comfortable, so he would always tell jokes. He was a gentleman, always opening car doors for girls and looking out for everyone around him, and he was the most selfless person. He was always happy and always made everyone around him happy. And of course he was the best boyfriend I will ever have.”

Preach was deployed to Afghanistan on Nov. 12, 2008. It was his first deployment. Preach served in southern Afghanistan, in Farah Province, according to the U.S. Marine Corps.

His awards included the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

“It’s a great loss,” Lemon said. “This is a kid that died serving his country. I can only imagine what his family is going through right now.”

Barbara Murdoch, a history teacher at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, met Preach when he took her “History of the Vietnam War” elective class. Five boys in that class planned to enlist in the military, she said.

“He was very interested in the class, especially the military angle of it. He had that attitude that he wanted to (be a Marine) and he was going to do it and that was it,” said Murdoch. “He was always just a real nice, nice kid to have in class. He was really kind of a quiet kid with a beautiful smile. That’s what I remember a lot about him — his beautiful smile.”

Dan Linehan, 19, of Bridgewater, met Preach in middle school when Preach moved from Brockton to Bridgewater. They soon became fast friends and graduated together in 2007 from Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School.

“He was quiet at first, but that is not at all who he was,” said Linehan. “He was outgoing, friendly. He was a very, very unselfish kid. He just wanted to be in the Marines to show that he could do something to help. That was the kind of person he was — he always wanted to help.”

Preach’s family and friends said he always wanted to be a Marine since he was a young child, perhaps because his father had been one as well.

“He knew what it entailed, and he never complained or talked about how dangerous it was,” said Kelliher. “He once said that he wasn’t afraid to die, he was just afraid of what it would do to all the people around him. He really wasn’t afraid of anything. He would have been more upset if the accident had happened to anyone other than himself. He probably would have been angry that he couldn’t get right back up and keep on fighting. He lived for protecting our country.”

On Sunday morning at the Bridgewater fire stations on School and Plymouth streets, firefighters lowered flags at half staff minutes after learning of Preach’s death, said Bridgewater Fire Capt Joe Cairns.

“We lowered them as soon as possible, out of respect and honor to him,” Cairns said of Preach. “It really is a sad day.”

Another B-R graduate, Jared Monti, 30, a Raynham native, was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 21, 2006, as he attempted to help two injured soldiers.

Preach was the 74th serviceman from Massachusetts killed in the war and the third from Plymouth and Bristol counties this year. In the same week he was injured, Army Spc. Matthew Pollini, 21, of Rockland, and Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington, 24, of Swansea, were killed in accidents in Iraq.

February 7, 2009

Broken Arrow Marine Awarded Purple Heart

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Corporal Joseph Hadavi was awarded the Purple Heart Saturday evening in Broken Arrow.


Broken Arrow Marine Awarded Purple Heart
Posted: Feb 7, 2009

The Purple Heart is the nation's oldest military award, founded by George Washington.

The Hadavi family is very proud.

"My son volunteered to join the Marines. He didn't have to go, but he believed in what he did and this country and the freedom, democracy and he went there and he earned what he did," said Pat Hadavi, Joseph's father.

Nearly three years ago, Corporal Joseph Hadavi was on patrol in Iraq. He was driving the lead Humvee in a convoy when a bomb exploded under his truck.

Shrapnel tore through his left leg and Hadavi barely remembers what happened next.

"Just a rush of adrenaline and your training kicks in on what you automatically have to do. That's the big part of doing what we have to do here, so that over there it's like clockwork," said Corp. Joseph Hadavi.

Now the Marine is a Purple Heart recipient.

"It's a heavy weight to bear and it's an honor to have it. I'm just really pleased," said Corp. Hadavi.

Corporal Hadavi was born in the US, but his family is native to Iran. His father says his son serves as an example of what makes the United States a great country.

"It just proves that it doesn't matter what your nationality or background is. You can be what you want to be. He wanted to be a Marine. He wanted to fight for this country, so he did," said Pat Hadavi.

Company leaders say the ceremony also serves to remind Corporal Hadavi's band of brothers what it means to be a Marine.

"Lead in your country. Lead in your men. Lead in your community. Lead in your family," said Maj. Gen. James Williams, Commanding General.

Because of Hadavi's injury he cannot be deployed anymore, but he says he would gladly risk his life once again to serve his country.

February 6, 2009

Above and beyond the call - Marine stays in the fight, earns Bronze Star with 'V'

CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — I began my duty in 1944 and have no plans to retire.


2/6/2009 By Lance Cpl. Paul D. Zellner, Marine Corps Bases Japan

I have stood proudly on the chest of men such as Chesty Puller. It is here I tell their story of heroism and bravery, but not with words.

I am something for all to see.

I may be small at an inch and a half, but I guard a heart as big as any.

My story changes with the man I am pinned on.

My story is his to hold close to his heart.

I am not here to gain glory, but to honor my friend.

I am a Bronze Star and my V represents the valor this man has shown.

The case for Cpl. Nicholas Cox, a combat engineer with Combat Engineer Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, was presented before me Jan. 29.

I was to honor his actions in Afghanistan where he, as a lance corporal, served as a mentor to the Afghan National Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in June.

It was with great pride I hung from the pocket of his service utilities uniform as the warrant detailing his heroic actions was read aloud at the Camp Schwab theater.

Cox exposed himself to enemy fire to cover the withdrawal of his Afghan National Army platoon after they were ambushed by anti-Afghan forces.

After a bullet struck him in his arm, he continued to eliminate targets at point-blank range.

He continued to engage the enemy and refused medical care until his team and his Afghan soldiers were out of the kill zone.

Following the warrant ceremony, I listened with pride as Cox told his story during an interview.

"It wasn't the right time and place to get treated," Cox said of his decision to stay in the fight. "There were other things that needed more attention at the time."

I heard Cox say in his interview his prior training played a big part in how he reacted that day.

"It was muscle memory, when you lift your weapon and see the enemy it all comes back, you eliminate the enemy and move to the next target," he said. "They say fight or fly, and that's very true."

For eternity, I will represent his story and the stories of brave service members past. It is through their heroic actions I am earned, not given.

Raid training challenges in ways new and old

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — In recent years, Marines have trained exclusively for Iraq or Afghanistan operations. But when Marines attach to a Marine expeditionary unit, they have to prepare for anything, anywhere.


2/6/2009 By Cpl. Jeffrey Belovarac, 11th MEU

“From what I hear, at a MEU, anything can happen,” said Pfc. Freddie Calonge, 20, and a Delano, Calif., native.

Calonge, and others serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's ground-combat element, participated in raid training at Firebase Gloria here Feb. 2-6. He said this training is one important step for readying an expeditionary force.

The raid training, orchestrated by I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group, prepared the Marines for the MEU’s upcoming deployment later this year.

Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, reinforced with assets from Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn. - learned how they will serve in overall missions that include land, sea and air elements working together on operations.

Marines and sailors loaded Humvees and light-armored vehicles onto air-cushioned landing crafts that brought the raid force to shore.

For most of the Marines, it was their first time riding on these naval landing crafts. Most pre-deployment training in recent years has focused on ground operations and has not required amphibious practice.

“It’s important to practice with the (landing crafts) to see if the whole unit can be mobile when we get on the ships,” said Calonge. “If not, well, that’s what the training is for.”

The raids required Marines to move in and out of areas in short amounts of time, forcing teams to make quick actions and on-the-spot thinking to carry out missions.

“It puts a great amount of responsibility on our small-unit leadership,” said 1st Sgt. Felix D. Acosta, Weapons Co. first sergeant. “It’s not the same mundane patrolling these guys are used to."

The Marines learned proper sensitive site exploitation, which consists of gathering intelligence immediately after capturing a site. Part of this procedure involves Marines videotaping or drawing floor plans of buildings and marking locations of objects and people. Accumulating this type of information helps Marines learn more about their enemies.

“This helped me realized how much (of our intelligence) relies on the information we get,” said Pfc. Thomas X. Gray, 18, and a Highland Mills, N.Y., native “I’m sure there’s a lot of details Marines might notice in a raid but won't really think (it has) any importance.”

With the intelligence gathered before an operation, Marines spend preparation time creating terrain models so everyone can physically see and understand their individual roles during the raids.

Free time was spent practicing how each team would clear buildings housing enemy fighters, a skill most infantry Marines have down to an art. Practice, however, helped everyone prepare for their raids.

“It's real good to get them in the combat mindset,” said Lance Cpl. Rueben J. Sosa, 22, and a Loving, N.M., native. “You can never have too much training.”

Toys for Tots Successful Despite Slow Economy

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2009 – Sixteen million new toys were distributed to 7.6 million children over the Christmas holiday through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.


By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

The program’s aim is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to children in communities where campaigns are conducted.

The 2008 campaign took place in 657 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“This was a very successful campaign,” retired Marine Corps Maj. William J. Grein, vice president of marketing and development for the Toys for Tots Foundation, said. “We were very pleased with the outcome. We feel we touched a lot of needy families over the holidays.”

The American people and the campaign’s corporate sponsors are to be applauded for their compassion and generosity during tough economic times, he said.

“Toy donations were slightly down, but we did see an increase in cash contributions,” Grein said. “This was a very interesting year. Our feelings were, maybe folks couldn’t afford to buy a $20 toy, but still were willing to make a $10 or $15 donation.”

Despite the economy, the campaign was successful because of outstanding efforts on the part of local Toys for Tots campaign coordinators, the Marine Forces Reserve and the staff of the Toys for Tots Foundation, campaign officials said.

“We are dealing with children that don’t often understand the result of a bad economy,” Grein said. “They just can’t rationalize it. All they know, all they see is Christmas is a time when Santa comes and when good things happen. They want to be a part of that. As a parent, I would be crushed if I was not able to give a gift to my child at Christmas. This program brings hope and smiles to parents and children.”

February 5, 2009

Retired Marine paves way for Leathernecks everywhere

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The best things in life are not always planned.


2/5/2009 By Lance Cpl. Shannon E. McMillan, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Retired Sgt. Maj. Eleanor L. Judge is a strong believer of this and carries the saying with her when she talks about her career in the Marine Corps.

“I can’t see my life spent any differently,” said Judge, who currently resides in Oceanside.

Looking back on her extensive career in the Corps, she said she cherishes the moments when she was a drill instructor, stationed in Italy and sergeant major of Women Marine Recruit Training.

While serving her last year and looking into retiring after 31 years of service, Judge served as the sergeant major of MCB Camp Pendleton in 1980. This feat made her the first female Marine to be posted to the position and take charge of a base.

She began her career at a young age. She was not planning for her future when she began her career at the age of 20. She explained what struck her interest to join the Marine Corps.

“I remember my friends and I were asked to go to a ball with a few guys we knew who were Marines,” she said. “We had a great time and we were instantly hooked.”

She enlisted into the Marine Corps Women Reserves in 1949 and stayed in her hometown of Cambridge, Mass. She was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Battalion, as an administration clerk, where she fulfilled her training once a month and received her monthly check of ten dollars.

“What most Marines of the (current) era do not know is that I never went to boot camp,” she said. “I was in a reserve unit and we trained so much and went through all the classes, they decided it was not necessary for a lot of us to go.”

Judge received a letter in the mail, several months after enlisting, ordering her to activate in the reserves, she only had two weeks to situate her life and report to her duty station.

In 1953, after three years of duty at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Judge was given orders to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She said she enjoyed her time overseas and did not mind the extra $17 that was added to her pay.

“I remember spending my first Christmas Eve in Hawaii at the airport,” she said. “We went to the airport to watch the planes leave, knowing we were not going home.”

She said watching the planes leave the airport brought tears to her and her friends’ eyes. Judge and the other Marines stationed at Pearl Harbor were not allowed to go home on leave unless they were reenlisting or deploying.

After serving at a few more duty stations, Judge received orders to become a recruiter in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The duty of being a woman recruiter in the Pennsylvania district was not her favorite.

“I did not like being a recruiter because I did not like being around people that much,” she said. “I missed being around Marines.”

Because of her hard work and dedication, Judge then received orders to Naples, Italy.

“The two years I spent there were marvelous,” she said. “I got to see a country that I would have never seen if it were not for the Marine Corps.”

While stationed in Italy, she was able to tour the majority of Europe during her liberty. Some of her best memories took place in Italy, but she has not returned since she left for her next duty station at Parris Island, S.C.

She will always remember being stationed on Parris Island as a drill instructor at WMRT. It was her favorite duty because she was able to train females to become Marines and see the transition that many do not have the opportunity to see.

“It was graduation day and a platoon was already dressed and in formation,” she said. “A mother was not even able to recognize her own daughter, until I pointed her out.”

It was as rewarding for her to see her recruits transform into Marines, as it was for Judge to train future Marines.

“I remember when I would count down the clock to call reveille (for the recruits),” Judge said. “Once it was time, we would wake them up by playing the Marine Corps hymn.” She added it was enjoyable to see the recruits jump out of their racks and stand at attention. It was amusing to see the disorientation of the recruits because of how they were woken up and how they squirmed at attention.

Judge enjoyed her life as she fulfilled her duties during her career, choosing to never marry or have kids but rather be married to the Corps.

She enjoyed spending her time with the Marines she led. She believed it would be difficult to balance a family and the Marine Corps. She said the Marine Corps is her family and she greatly appreciates the Marines who have been there for her.

Judge recently celebrated her 80th birthday with friends, family members and Marines from across the United States.

“It has taken me three weeks to celebrate my birthday and I’ve truly enjoyed it,” she said.

She remembers her 50th birthday, which she celebrated with Marines in Okinawa.

“I didn’t even know there was a party until the Marines surprised me with one, I didn’t feel 50 either,” she said.

Friends, family and Marines showed the same gratitude by coming together in California and across the states to show how she has touched them in a caring way.

“Eleanor deserves all the praise she gets,” said Marge Olerich, friend of Judge since 1989. “She is generous with her time and helps those who are in need. She is there for you.”

Olerich applauded Judge for her accomplishments and wished her more fulfilling years in a card that was given to Judge during her birthday party, Jan. 11.

Olerich said those who have been led by Judge and know her personally are fortunate as she has provided guidance and enriched their lives.

“Even though it was not planned, I enjoyed (my career) and it was …a time well spent for my life,” Judge said.

February 4, 2009

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation

WASHINGTON — The results of the 61st annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Campaign, conducted during October, November and December 2008, have been tabulated. The results are: U.S. Marines distributed 16 million new toys to 7.6 million less fortunate youngsters throughout the nation. This was one of the most successful campaigns in the 61 year history of Toys for Tots.


Headquarters Marine Corps Maj. William J. Grein, USMC (Ret) or Maj.Brian A. Murray, USMC (Ret)
(703) 640-9433

Toys for Tots began with a single local campaign conducted by the Marine Reserve Unit in Los Angeles in 1947. The next year the Commandant of the Marine Corps directed that all 74 Marine Reserve Units would conduct local Toys for Tots Campaigns. This past year, Toys for Tots campaigns were conducted in 657 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands – the most extensive coverage in the history of the program.

The success attained during the 2008 Toys for Tots campaign is the result of outstanding efforts on the part of the 657 local Toys for Tots campaign coordinators, Marine Forces Reserve, and the staff of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The American people and our corporate sponsors are to be applauded for their compassion and generosity during these tough economic times.

Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps’ premier community action program and one of the nation’s flagship Christmas charitable causes, is dedicated to “delivering a message of hope and bringing the joy of Christmas” to America’s less fortunate children.

Reservists help reconstruct a nation, one line at a time

For the past five months, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment have been conducting operations in the Iraq’s Rutbah district, which covers nearly 4,000 square miles of open desert terrain interspersed with towns, villages and nomadic-shepherd communities in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province.


2/4/2009 By Capt. Paul L. Greenberg, Regimental Combat Team 8

The current mission and operating environment for these Marines is far different from units that served here earlier in Operation Iraqi Freedom when firefights with insurgents and roadside bombs were common occurrences.

Life in Al Anbar is calmer now, and the troops of 2/25, assisted by U.S. State Department officials, can focus much of their efforts on infrastructure development as part their counter-insurgency operations.

Capt. William Steuber, 34, of Naples, N.Y., is the battalion’s lines of operation manager. In this role, he coordinates the battalion’s efforts to establish security, political stability and economic prosperity in this corner of Iraq by helping local Iraqi leaders with governance, economics, essential services, rule of law, communications, and security.

“I was originally brought to the unit to assist the battalion as a forward air controller,” said Steuber, a KC-130 Hercules pilot by trade. “Once we got into country, however, the operations officer informed me that I would be responsible for LOO management. I didn’t know what LOO was, but thought it would be a minor collateral duty. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Steuber explained that LOO management became the battalion’s main focus of effort over the past several months, encompassing everything from working with the Rutbah mayor and city council to conduct orderly weekly meetings to implementing community-based policing with the local Iraqi police force.

A lot of the battalion’s focus has been placed on the local schools, to ensure that the next generation of Iraqis is educated and capable of further developing Iraq’s democratic system of government and free-market economy in the years to come.

The Marines of 2/25, along with local government officials and police officers, have visited five Rutbah-area primary schools to speak to the children about joint efforts to ensure the security and effective governance in the city, thereby lending credibility to local leaders.

Together, Coalition forces and Iraqi officials have distributed thousands of dollars worth of school supplies, sporting goods and toys to the children, while compiling the first-ever comprehensive list of all schools in the district, identifying student demographics and specific infrastructure requirements to improve the squalid conditions to make the schools healthier and more suitable institutions for learning.

Muthana Jubaer Juwana, the current president of the Rutbah City Council, lauded the Coalition’s work in the schools, citing Steuber’s personal commitment to the children of Rutbah.

“I have seen tears in his (Steuber’s) eyes when talking about the children and their education here,” said Juwana. “He is so serious about this issue. His ambition has helped to keep me going.”

Juwana, whose professional background includes about 20 years in construction sales, is tasked with keeping order at the often volatile weekly city council meetings. One of the battalion’s major accomplishments in terms of governance was helping Juwana create a clear agenda and implement protocols at the meetings to make them more productive and foster a professional environment for the new leaders, who were only introduced to the concept of democratic rule about two years ago.

Mohammed Nori, the Rutbah city councilman who oversees all engineering projects, said that combined efforts and funding have brought more than 50 projects through to completion over past the 18 months in the Rutbah District. These include numerous water wells, pumps storage facilities, electric generators, a meat processing facility and a working fleet of heavy construction equipment.

Other LOO initiatives in progress include establishing an interactive website for local government agencies, building a soccer stadium, creating a microeconomics program for widows, standing up a business leaders’ council to spur economic development here and procuring laptop computers for primary schools in the Rutbah district through a non-governmental organization.

“Our battalion commander was quick to realize that we needed to approach the LOO programs with the same planning and execution as you would any other tactical operation,” said Steuber. “Each one of our projects is tied to a U.S. State Department goal for the Al-Anbar region. Each goal also contributes to our efforts to pull the support of the local population away from what is left of the insurgency and towards a brighter future.”

Anbar, which was one of the most violent regions in Iraq two years ago, has been relatively peaceful since local sheiks and other leaders began working with Coalition forces in 2006 to construct a credible, independent political and economic framework that will no longer require the assistance of Coalition forces.

“All of the programs we have within the battalion’s LOO management program are focused on the Iraqi people and their community,” explained Steuber. “We have installed a radio station. We have helped them publish a newsletter. We have helped the local judges prosecute over 930 criminal cases. We have helped the Iraqi Security Forces usher in a new era of interagency co-operation.

“During our short time here we have helped highlight issues for the local government to focus on that may not have received any attention. You have to remember that prior to 2007, there was no city council here, there was no mayor -- there was no chief of police. It took a lot of dedicated Marines and brave Iraqi leaders to get to this point. I am honored to be able to say I’ve been a part of it.”

As the Marines and sailors of 2/25 make preparations to depart Al Anbar province and return to the U.S. in the spring, most of the LOO management will be transferred to civilians from the U.S. State Department.

“The State Department, specifically the embedded provincial recovery teams (EPRTs), are integral to the current and future success of the story of Al-Anbar,” said Steuber. “I think of it this way: if Al-Anbar was a patient, the Marine Corps would be the paramedic, and in some cases the surgeon. The State Department would be the long term physical therapist that brings the patient’s life back to some semblance of normality. In our battalion, we work hand-in-hand with our EPRT representative. He is part of our team meetings, and we’ve come to trust and value what he brings to the table with his experience.”

Jerry Calhoun of Spring Hill, Fla., is the senior governance advisor and EPRT leader in the Rutbah District for the United States Agency for International Development, a federal organization which is currently operating in Iraq under the direction of the U.S. State Department.

“It has been extremely interesting (working with the Marines),” said Calhoun, who has worked for USAID in Iraq since October 2007. I see things from a civilian perspective and they come from the military background. It’s amazing how we’ve been able to mesh together so cohesively.”

“(The LOO program) is beginning to help the newly-formed government to stand on its own,” said Calhoun. “The LOO initiatives are helping the Iraqis to assess the needs of citizens and formulate plans to meet those needs.... I see that together we’ve been constructing a solid base for the Iraqis to be able to build on.”

As the Marines conduct their final patrols on the streets of Rutbah, they can see construction underway in every corner of the city, from improved streets and medians to apartment buildings and a new hospital project just months away from completion.

“We are just simply taking the combined efforts of others and pushing it just a little bit further,” said Steuber, referring to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps units which have operated in this area since 2003. “As for the future of Iraq, I am hopeful. We have seen some amazing things here during our time. We have seen the local religious leaders come together and request non-governmental organization status for the city’s widows. We have seen peaceful political demonstrations. We have seen the people of this region come together with one voice to vote for their leaders and participate in the gift that is democracy. The future of Iraq is bright, and full of hope,” concluded Steuber.

February 3, 2009

Afghan National Police, Marines Show Presence in Delaram Marketplace

DELARAM, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Afghan national policemen and U.S. Marines patrolled together through the marketplace of the district center of Delaram, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in search of illegal activity and contraband Jan. 24.


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Date: 02.03.2009
By Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones
Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan

The Marines of 1st Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, assisted the ANP with searching for narcotics and improvised explosive device-making materials as part of the alliance’s counterinsurgency operations.

The Marines met with the ANP just inside of the city at a fortified police station and immediately the ANP were ready and willing to go. In a matter of moments, the patrol stepped off on foot to maneuver through the city’s crowded bazaar to talk with store owners in an effort to develop a sense of activities within the community.

“Today’s mission was to conduct a patrol in Delaram with the ANP,” said Cpl. Alan D. Morales, the squad leader who led the patrol. “Our platoon’s mission was to work alongside of the ANP while training them and also making sure they are doing the right things. Whenever we go out on patrols, we go with ANP in order to teach them and mentor them.”

Morales went on to say how important it is for the ANP to make its presence known in the area.

“We’re making sure there is an Afghan face out there,” said Morales. “That way the people don’t see [Marines] as the only ones that provide security.”

The Marines of 3/8 arrived in Delaram in late November and have experienced relative stability in the city. According to Morales, the locals within the city are generally always friendly and pleased with the security that alliance forces have provided them.

“They say it’s a lot better than what it used to be in the past,” said Morales. “They are all happy knowing that we always come out and keep the bad guys away.”

On patrol, the ANP and Marines stopped in local businesses. The ANP’s presence in the shops helps to deter the trade of narcotics and IED-making materials. Most all of the shops were found to be legitimate businesses with little doubt as to whether or not they supported the trade or distribution of illegal substances or IED-making materials.

“The [ANP] have a lot of good guys,” said Morales. “They work hard every time we are out there. They do a good job searching people. We let them do most of the searching as far as people go. They’re good at searching cars as well.”

Darren W. Bullard, a U.S. Department of Defense civilian who works closely with the Marines as one of the battalion’s law enforcement professionals, gives the patrols an edge by teaching the ANP tactical patrolling, searching and questioning procedures. He points out the items in shops used to make IEDs, making the ANP aware of what to look for as well.

“Things went real well,” said Bullard. “Several shops are starting to get used to us and recognize our faces whenever we come in. They want us to sit down and drink tea with them and talk, which is a good thing. We didn’t find a whole lot of items that could be used for IEDs; but we did get a little bit of [relevant] info here and there though.”

Bullard said the newly-appointed policemen are becoming more of an asset to the Afghan community as they use of the tactics they are being taught. Bullard is teaching the policemen how to recognize relative clues to illegal activity during their searches.

“You just have to make sure you ask them [ANP] a lot of direct questions,” said Bullard. “They have information, but they usually don’t share that with you unless you just out-right ask.”

Bullard attributes any challenges in communication to differences in culture, but he is pleased with the Marines’ and ANP’s progress in overcoming it.

The ANP regularly patrol the city with the assistance of Bullard and the Marines in order to protect the community. Becoming more familiar with the community helps both the ANP and Marines to obtain the information they need to serve the citizens they protect.

February 2, 2009

Guam says Hafa Adai to USS New Orleans

The USS New Orleans arrived to the island this weekend for a short port visit. The ship is part of the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group, which is currently operating near Guam and in support of the ongoing training for United States Marines.


By Mindy Aguon
Published Feb 2, 2009

The New Orleans is one of the larger and one of the newest vessels in the Navy's fleet. Homeported in San Diego, this ship really does live up to its motto of "Victory from the Sea" by providing amphibious capabilities to bring marines to the shore where they're needed. On the flight deck, four CG-46 Sea Knights stood parked, ready for action to transport Marines.

"You have the HELO control tower...where we control the aircraft coming into the ship," explained ENS Timothy Gresset. Perhaps the most impressive part of the New Orleans is located near the bottom of the vessel, in what's known as the well deck, where they store two landing craft air cushions (LCACs), which can fit a variety of vehicles, tanks or cargo depending on each particular mission.

Said Gressett, "What will happen is we will ballast the ship down, lower the stern gates, flood the stern gate with water and then the hover craft will come up on cushion, exit the well and then fly toward the beach in excess speeds of 50 nautical miles an hour." The USS New Orleans can also provide humanitarian aid when natural disasters strike.

It also boasts a state-of-the-art medical ward, as HM3 Erik Peters demonstrated. "We have a fully staffed medical department, we have two operating rooms, we have a pharmacy, a full dental suite, we have a lab and an ICU...it carries 24 patients," he said.

Quartermaster Third Class Daniel Urbano described the high-tech Voyage Management System that assists the crew with maneuvering the massive vessel, saying, "We could create a whole entire plan from our home base in San Diego to our mission in the Middle East, where we have to go. Pretty much a wide variety of systems on this VMS console."

The USS New Orleans pulls out of port tomorrow and continues on with its mission in the Pacific Theatre.

330 Marines training on Guam

Guam will get a preview this week of what it might be like after the military buildup occurs -- on a smaller scale.


By Bryan C. Sualog • Pacific Daily News • February 2, 2009

More than 300 Marines, with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., landed on Guam yesterday to conduct sustainment training, according to a release from the unit.

The 330 Marines will be performing a variety of training exercises, including patrolling exercises, marksmanship training, a simulated helicopter raid, a parachute operation and a landing support party, said 1st Lt. Jaymie Sicking, public affairs officer for the expeditionary unit.

"We're using the whole island and all the training areas that we can. It's just a great place to utilize the jungle training that we don't get back at home," she said. "It's always important for us to train and do something unfamiliar."

By 2014, 8,000 Marines and their dependents will be moving from Okinawa to Guam, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The training yesterday included off-loading more than 80 vehicles, 649 tons of equipment and Marines at Reserve Craft Beach, also known as Ski Beach, in Piti.

The exercise utilized three landing craft air cushion vehicles, or LCAC, which transported the men and equipment from the USS Boxer to the beach.

"Our mission is to take the LCACs, load them with gear, Humvees, anything we need -- to train for an onshore landing," said Lance Cpl. Justin Sansoucie. "We're setting up a little base camp to show how long it takes and what's required to do our job."

Once the off-loading was completed, the vehicles formed a convoy and drove to Naval Base Guam to conduct an external lift of two 155mm Howitzer guns using helicopters.

"A lot of terrain is untenable by driving through it. Sometimes you have to field-lift a Howitzer up and drop it to another place and get it fire capable, in order to support whoever it is there to support," said Maj. Jason Schewe.

The expeditionary unit will be conducting training until Feb. 5, after which they will be given on-shore liberty.

Sicking said the Marines will be given about three to four days to rest and see the island when their training is complete.

"We're really glad to be here and it's a great opportunity for our Marines to get some historical and cultural training from this island that has so much of our history," Sicking said.

She said she was looking forward to doing some scuba diving as well as pampering herself once the training was complete.

"It's a lot of work on ship and I just want to relax while I can," she said.

Others plan to visit some of Guam's historical World War II sites.

"I want to really find some historical monuments," Sansoucie said. "I want to see what the culture has -- check everything out and see the sights."

Redmond Marine Receives Bronze Star

The bronze star is the military's fourth highest award and for 24-year old Sergeant Wayne DeKorte of Redmond--- an unexpected honor.


Redmond 2/02/09
by Ariel Wesler

“I look at my marine online account and all of a sudden there's this award up there, and I was like what's this all about,” Wayne said.

His father, Lieutenant Gary DeKorte of the Redmond Police Department and Vietnam Vet, says the announcement just kind of popped out.

“Oh, by the way, two of my commanders have put me in for an award. It's the bronze star and of course my jaw dropped. It was huge and i mean, it was just incredible for me,” Gary said.

Wayne recently returned to Redmond after serving seven months in Iraq on his second tour. While there, he and his fellow marines--stationed in Ramadi-- helped train the Iraqi Police Force, improving their facilities, and working with them to become more self sufficient. It's something Wayne says is just part of the job.

“You can take any infantry marine and tell him, hey this is the job we need you to do and he's not gonna say oh no, I can't do that,” Wayne said. “He's going to say, all right, let's get in there. He's gonna do the job and do it above and beyond what is expected of him."

Wayne humbly gives most of the credit to his fellow marines.

“They're the reason that I actually was awarded the bronze star. It was nothing really I did. It was the work that they did and I just kind of supervised.“

In the meantime, Wayne is finishing his associates degree at COCC and playing baseball for the Bobcats. He says he might one day follow in his father's footsteps as a police officer. For now, his parents are grateful their son is home.

“We've got many families in Central Oregon who've lost loved ones and we just need to think about them too,” Gary said.

New GI Bill Carries Different Eligibility, Benefits

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2009 – A series of educational assistance programs administered by the Veterans Affairs Department, commonly called the GI Bill, have helped servicemembers pursue post-secondary learning for decades.


By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Soon, another program will be added to the mix: The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Bill will be available to qualified individuals Aug. 1.

“We previously administered four major education programs before this bill came along,” Keith M. Wilson, VA’s education service director, said. “The new Post-9/11 GI Bill has different eligibility criteria [and] pays for different types of training.”

The new GI Bill provides three separate types of benefit payments to those who have at least 90 days of aggregate active service after Sept. 10, 2001.

The first type of payment covers tuition and fees equal to what each state’s most expensive state-run school charges for in-state, undergraduate study.

In addition, an allowance based on the Defense Department’s basic housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents is available as a benefit paid monthly, Wilson said. The housing allowance’s dollar amount depends on the location of the school the servicemember or veteran is attending, he added.

The third benefit is a stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.

“Now, each of those payments is subject to the amount of active duty an individual has,” Wilson said. Eligible people with 36 or more months of active duty will receive 100 percent of the three payments, he said. Those with less than 36 months of active service will receive a prorated amount.

For example, Wilson said, someone with 90 days to six months of active service qualifies for 40 percent of each of the three types of payments. The benefits increase with an individual’s amount of active service, and extend to National Guardsmen and reservists who have at least 90 days of active service.

“Previously the Guard and reserve members didn’t really have a stake in the GI Bill per se,” he said. “Now, we have one program that covers both the active duty and the Guard and reserves.”

For those who incur out-of-state tuition, attend a private school, or want to pursue graduate studies but find their tuition and fees above the cap set by the VA, there’s the Yellow Ribbon program.

“The Yellow Ribbon program is a sub-element of the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” Wilson said. “The … program allows schools to enter into an agreement with VA by which the school will waive up to half of the difference of their tuition and fees charges and what the cap is for that state, and VA will match the amount that the school waives.

“It’s basically a supplemental amount of tuition and fees that would be payable to the school,” he added.

Wilson said he thinks the voluntary supplemental program has been well received by schools. He cautioned, however, that the VA still has steps to take before any formal agreements between any institution of higher learning and the VA can take place, including finalizing regulations and setting tuition caps.

“So no school, public or private, that would be interested in the Yellow Ribbon program really has enough information yet to make [the decision to participate],” he said.

It remains to be seen, Wilson said, what effect the country’s current economic situation may have on the Yellow Ribbon program.

“The important thing to remember is that the Yellow Ribbon program is available to all schools,” he said. “[Speculation about] whether or not schools’ financial situations are going to impact their participation or not is a little bit premature. They don’t have all the information they need from us yet.”

More information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, eligibility, and how this new bill could affect those with service prior to Sept. 10, 2001, is available on the Veterans Affairs GI Bill site or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 toll-free. Along with answers to frequently asked questions, visitors to the site will find a link that will allow them to receive updates on the new GI Bill via e-mail as they become available.

February 1, 2009

O.C. Super Bowl party honors Marines

About 175 Marines watched the game on eight flat screen televisions at Coto de Caza home.

COTO DE CAZA About 175 Marines – some about to be deployed to Afghanistan — got the VIP treatment during the Super Bowl at an Orange County home Sunday.


The Orange County Register

Gary and Julie Crisp threw their third annual blowout football party for Camp Pendleton Marines at their Coto de Caza home. Among the perks was a concert by singer Melky Jean, specialty cigars with a Marine logo, massages, and eight flat screen televisions that projected the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.

National Football League and USC football athletes were at the party to sign autographs. Five electric guitars and five basses were given away.

"If we weren't here we would just be sitting in some guy's room with the biggest television," said Lance Cpl. Greg Lobato who was sitting in a Jacuzzi. "This is pretty cool."

The Crisps, owners of Costa-Mesa based C2 Reprographics, said they hosted the event to give the Marines a party they would remember while at war.

"We just felt really blessed and we wanted to do something for the men and woman that put their lives on the line everyday," said Julie Crisp. "This is one day out of our lives that we can throw a party for them in appreciation."

The Marines were also to be given a photo album and DVD with pictures from the party which began at 10:30 and lasted about ten hours. About 1,800 beers and 200 hotdogs, steaks and hamburgers were prepared for the hungry Marines.

"It is really special," said Cpl. Anna Owens about the party. "We volunteer our time and our family for the war and we feel like we are appreciated."

Lance Cpl., Mike Kirkland said he was somewhat overwhelmed by the experience.

"Wow," he said about the home. "I'm from a little town in Utah and you don't see a house this big there."

New home built for paralyzed Marine

The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Feb 1, 2009 8:56:50 EST

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. — Former Marine Cpl. Joshua Hoffman was paralyzed from the chest down two years ago by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. He uses a wheelchair and has been in and out of hospitals with infections.

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