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February 28, 2006

MWSS-374 bids Combat Center adieu

More than 400 Marines and Sailors of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 departed from the Combat Center Tuesday and Wednesday for the unit's second deployment to Iraq. The squadron will call the Al Anbar province home for the next seven months as a part Operation Iraqi Freedom.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2006/02/25/news/news02.txt


Compiled by Public Affairs

The “Rhinos” conducted multiple exercises aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., in recent months to prepare for this deployment. One of the main missions of the squadron in the combat zone will be the establishment and operation of forward arming and refueling points, or FARP.

“The basic concept of these sites is to allow aircraft to refuel and reload armaments so that they do not have to go back to the main airstrip,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Russell Johnson, officer-in-charge of Fuels Platoon, Airfield Company, in an interview while training in Yuma. “This way, the pilots can get right back into the fight to support the grunts without missing a beat.”

Deployments can sometimes be difficult on families who remain behind, and can lead to added stress and strain. There are several organizations aboard the Combat Center that offer assistance to families of any deployed Marines and Sailors. One of the best places to turn is the Information and Referral Center, which can provide answers and referrals to basic problems and questions. The center is manned from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Their toll-free phone number is 1-877-727-5300.

Gunnery Sgt. Erik M. Steele will serve as the MWSS-374 Family Readiness Officer for the duration of the deployment. As the FRO, Steele serves as the direct liaison to the unit in Iraq for the family members. The duty phone number to reach him is 760-830-8712, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. After business hours families can leave a message and expect a prompt response.

Unmanned aircraft squadron finishes third deployment with astonishing flight hours

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq(Feb. 28, 2006) -- Soaring on the seventh month of deployment, the Marines of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, prepare to return home to Twentynine Palms, Calif., after going above and beyond the normal call of duty throughout their rotation.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/288754090CDC26B7852571260059D811?opendocument


Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach
Story Identification #: 200633112120

Nearing completion of their third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, VMU-1 will have recorded more than 3,000 hours of flight time and over 725 sorties in support of Multi-National Forces-Western Iraq during OIF.

"We serve a unique purpose here by providing our ground units with aerial coverage," said Cpl. Nicholas Romano, external unmanned aerial vehicle pilot, VMU-1.

Since there are only two VMU squadrons in the Marine Corps, each one completes a seven-month tour in Iraq. When they get back to the United States, they have five months of work before it's time for the next rotation.

In addition to setting their sister squadron up for success, many of these Marines will likely be deployed back to this same location in less than seven months.

There are many missions that VMU-1 fulfills. They range from aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, fire adjustment for artillery and close air support.

The squadron is comprised of less than 200 Marines who are attached to several sections of the squadron. It is made up of everything from administration to Marine Corps pilots. Each section has its own mission to help ensure each flight operation is a success.

The sections of the squadron include administration, intelligence, operations, logistics, communications, aviation maintenance, safety and medical.

"Each section would not be complete without the contributions of the other sections," said Cpl. Ryan D. Rodgers, UAV operator, VMU-1.

While completing the mission is always the priority, the Marines of VMU-1 find time to complete physical training and get odd jobs done around the shop and their living quarters.

"These Marines do an outstanding job," said Sgt. Daryl W. Reynolds, UAV avionics technician, VMU-1. "They are great people to work with and they give 100 percent, 24 hours a day, every day of the week."

The Marines work around the clock to make normal operations happen, as well as making many upgrades to their workspace and living quarters. They constructed offices inside of hangars and hand built the supply, motor transportation and armory buildings.

Each Marine in the squadron has a specific job, but when it comes to improving conditions, all the Marines lend a hand in the daily tasks.

Although there are stresses of being in a combat zone, the Marines of VMU-1 have risen against the odds of weather, the unpredictability of war and personal hardships to go well beyond the basic mission they came to support.

2nd Marine Division returns home

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE (Feb. 28, 2006) -- The Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen of the 2nd Marine Division returned home today after completing a successful year-long deployment in western Iraq’s Al Anbar province.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4B62D9A3D01CB4A6852571230047EF67?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062288543
Story by Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton

The division conducted combined counter-insurgency operations alongside its Iraqi Security Force counterparts from March 2005 to February 2006 and transferred authority of the province to the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) before returning to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The 2nd Marine Division was the ground combat element for II MEF (FWD) and was supported by 2nd Marine Logistics Group (FWD) and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

In addition to commanding the 2nd Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck took command of II MEF (FWD) from Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson as they transferred operational control and authority of the Al Anbar province with a simple handshake ceremony Jan. 31.

The division also focused its efforts on training, integrating and operating with Iraqi Security Forces.

“The work done by these young Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen was superb,” said Huck. “Everyone who contributed, including families, friends and loved ones who supported us, helped write a new chapter in Marine Corps history. They should be proud of their accomplishments.”

Bringing security to the province hasn’t been easy. The thousands of square miles of terrain bordering Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia has posed a significant challenge to the division. To seal off the porous Iraq-Syria border became a key mission for the division.

Insurgents would transport men, money and material across the border and work their way down the Euphrates River from western to central Iraq. From there, insurgents would attack indiscriminately killing Iraqi citizens, Iraqi soldiers and police and Coalition Forces.

It was the division’s mission to help strangle al Qaeda in Iraq’s logistical support. So through a series of operations in western Al Anbar beginning in early summer and ending in the late fall, the division focused its efforts.

“We had a lot of success out west because the population finally realized that al Qaeda in Iraq has nothing to offer them,” said Huck. “Up and down the Euphrates River, from cities such as Husaybah, Karabilah, Ubaydi, Rawah, Haditha, Hit, Ramadi to Fallujah, the division took the fight to the insurgents and terrorists denying them any base of operation or area to rest.”

The 2nd Marine Division did not go it alone during these operations. It was a strategy of “clear and hold,” sweeping through towns and rooting out insurgents and their weapons caches alongside Iraqi Army counterparts.

“One of the keys to successfully rout out the insurgents was the integration of Iraqi Forces alongside the Marines and Soldiers,” explained Huck. “Once the division and Iraqi Forces cleared the area of weapons and insurgents, we had to stay and set up a long-term security presence to show the citizens that we were there to provide security and ensure stability.”

The “train, integrate and operate” philosophy in working with the Iraqi Forces is beginning to pay dividends. When the division first arrived in 2005, there were limited Iraqi Security Forces, which were centered on the population centers of Fallujah and Ramadi. Just one year later, approximately 24,000 Iraqi men are now in uniform preparing to take over security roles across Al Anbar.

Strengthening the physical security in the numerous cities and towns in Al Anbar was brought about through the continuous training and recruitment of Iraqi civilians willing to fill the ranks and files of the Iraqi Army and to work the streets as police officers and highway patrolman. Iraqi border security units also worked to stop the flow of weapons, men and materials across the Iraqi border.

The division took the lead on numerous operations during the year, but when it came to providing security for the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum in October and the National Elections in December, it was Iraqi Security Forces squarely out front. In June 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government.

The citizens of Al Anbar for the most part stayed away from the polls in January of 2005 when Iraqis elected a Transitional Government, but in October 2005, they took their first timid steps toward democracy. By the December elections, the majority stepped up to the polls to vote.

The Iraqi Security Forces proved that they were up to the task with only a minimum of violence taking place province wide.

The citizens’ outpouring of support for their national government spurred extra emphasis in the division’s efforts to help mentor and coach the local fledgling democracies cropping up throughout the province.

Through the use of civil affairs teams across the province the division was able to engage both the people and local government leaders to turn the tide against the insurgency and diminish its ability to continue its aggressive terror and intimidation campaign.


“The work accomplished here will not be forgotten, nor will our fallen brothers’ and sisters’ sacrifices go unremembered,” said Huck. “History will record our deeds and sacrifices, and we will know that we were part of that history.”

Marine training aims to prepare for Iraqi warfare


NORFOLK - A group of about a dozen Marines wound through a makeshift village Monday afternoon, fighting cold wind and verbal lashings, delivered in Arabic.

http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories/story.cfm?story=100320&ran=145011


By LOUIS HANSEN, The Virginian-Pilot
© February 28, 2006


A small Iraqi woman, draped in a robe and topcoat, approached one of the young troops. They stood in a courtyard bordered by two-story brick buildings by the water on Norfolk Naval Station.

The woman cradled a basket in one arm, and gestured up and down with her free hand. An interpreter explained that the woman wanted to know about food and medicine promised by the Americans.

The Marine said he knew nothing about the promises made by other troops. He apologized.

"We're here to help," he said.

He left puzzled but safe. He was being exposed to a bit of Iraqi culture before he gets a full immersion during his upcoming deployment.


For two weeks around Hampton Roads - mostly on bases, sometimes in communities - 2,200 troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will train for all aspects of urban warfare.

With troops patrolling and fighting in hard-won, door-to-door battles against insurgents, the Marine Corps is going to great lengths to replicate the stresses and strains of the Iraqi war.

The Marines identify and try to reduce the difficulties created by unfamiliar surroundings, said Col. Ronald Johnson, commanding officer of the unit. They have performed the exercise nearly 50 times, including in Richmond, Atlanta, Philadelphia and, most recently, Morgantown, W.Va.

URBAN TRAINING


Navy Seaman Apprentice Louis Jabari, who was cast to act as an Iraqi, confronts a Marine during the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit training exercise.



Marines (above and below) get practice dealing with Iraqis, played by actors. The 24th MEU is set to deploy to Iraq again in the coming months.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




The exercises include simulated roadside bomb and grenade attacks.

"We try to get the blood pumping," Johnson said.

About 60 percent of the troops will be making at least a second deployment to Iraq. The unit deployed from July 2004 to February 2005, patrolling a zone south of Baghdad known as the "Triangle of Death." The 24th MEU expects to deploy next in the late spring or early summer.

Lt. Col. Joel Berry, commanding officer of MEU Service Support Group 24, said the high-tempo training prepares them for the fatigue of combat and multiple tours.

"By the time we deploy, we've experienced that," said Berry, a Virginia Beach native and graduate of First Colonial High School.

Lance Cpl. Greg Daniels joined the service two years ago, after graduating from Salem High School in Virginia Beach. Daniels and his unit aided survivors of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. Daniels expects to make his first overseas tour to Iraq. He is ready, he said, for "anything that comes along."

The Marines have hired Iraqi immigrants to educate troops on how to approach religious groups and family leaders in Iraq. On Thursday , about a dozen Iraqis played roles ranging from sheik to security force member to angry villager.

Wael Saadoun, 23, immigrated to the United States in 2003. After going to school to study computer networking, he joined a private contractor and has traveled across the country to train U.S. troops.

Saadoun, who speaks nearly fluent English, wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq. If the Americans leave, he said, "the next second, not day, the terrorists will control Iraq."

On Monday, Saadoun played a security guard and translator helping U.S. troops navigate and understand villagers during patrol.

The troops learned about winning hearts as well as fire fights. Sgt. Michael Simon watched the patrols as they worked through their training.

He huddled the platoon for a quick lesson about approaching a friendly village.

"They want your help," Simon explained. He advised the Marines to stop and spend time with the residents. "It shows them that you care."


Reach Louis Hansen at (757) 446-2322 or louis.hansen@pilotonline.com.

A Father's Return

Bikes with training wheels decked out in stars and stripes, and little red wagons adorned with miniature American flags and patriotic balloons circled the parking lot of the Island Lutheran Preschool.

http://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/v-rd2005/story/5555362p-5000235c.html


Preschoolers honor Marine with parade

BY PETER FROST, The Island Packet
Published Tuesday, February 28, 2006
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The miniature parade held Monday was to honor Capt. Glenn Mariott, a Bluffton Marine who just returned from a yearlong stint in Iraq.

The 26 pint-sized participants between the ages of 3 and 5 -- all wearing homemade red, white and blue shirts and hats -- followed behind the uniformed Mariott, who walked hand in hand with his daughter, Kristen, a student at the school.

"It was a great event, and it was very important to Kristen because her dad was away for so long," said Deiha Torin, director of the preschool, who organized the parade. "She was excited, we were excited and all of the kids were so excited."

As children waved flags and rode around the lot, parents and staff applauded and thanked Mariott for his service.


Photo: Wearing homemade red, white and blue shirts, Island Lutheran Preschool students Makenna Mitchell, 4, and Tessa Roeder, 3, march Monday afternoon in the school's parade.
Harmony Motter/The Island Packet
+ Enlarge Image
Mariott returned from Iraq on Feb. 16 and now lives in Hidden Lakes with his wife, Angela, and two children, Kristen, 5, and John, who turns 2 in April.

"It's such a wonderful feeling knowing all of the friends and family that have supported me," Mariott said.

"It's an honor for me to be here. It's a pretty cool thing knowing that people appreciate the things we're doing."

He first visited the classroom during a short leave in November and talked to the children about his life in the Marines as a Tactical Air Command Center senior watch officer. He ensures that broken aircraft receive repair parts so they can return to flight as quickly as possible.

He was stationed at Al Asad Airfield, the second largest air base in Iraq, located about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad. His daughter's class sent care packages, which included banners the students made at school, potato chips, mouthwash, candy, Gatorade, photos and cards. Parents of the students donated the supplies, and the school took care of sending the packages.


Photo: Capt. Glenn Mariott, a Marine from Bluffton, has a laugh while visiting with Island Lutheran preschoolers before a patriotic parade held Monday in his honor.
Harmony Motter/The Island Packet
+ Enlarge Image
"It's pretty tough being away from your family for so long," Mariott said. The care packages "are just a small piece of home -- the creature comforts --that are so nice to have when you're over there."

He's been based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort for about 18 months -- 12 of which he spent overseas. The parade was sort of a "welcome to your new home parade" rather than a "welcome home parade," Mariott said.

During his deployment in Iraq, his family moved from Beaufort into a new home in Bluffton. He says he plans to spend a lot of time landscaping this spring.

Most importantly, he said, he wants to get to know his family again.

His son has learned to walk and talk, and his daughter missed playing basketball with him.

"I can't tell you how great it is to be able to spend time with my family again," Mariott said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful thing."

Contact Peter Frost at 706-8169 or pfrost@islandpacket.com.

Marines come home

It may have been just another Tuesday for many of us but for eighty marines and their loved ones, it may be one of the most memorable days of their lives.

http://www.wsav.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSAV/MGArticle/SAV_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1137834416328&path=!frontpage


Greeted with kisses, hugs and tears


JoAnn Merrigan
WSAV News 3
Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Members of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, based out of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort hadn't seen wives, sons, daughters, moms of dads for seven months. They came home after a tour of duty in western Iraq.

Anxious relatives had been waiting for about two hours for the buses carrying the marines to finally arrive.

"I have butterflies in my stomach, I'm so excited," Raven Aviles says.

When asked what she did to fill her time while her husband was away she laughs and says "well, I had a baby!"

Her husband will see his five month old baby boy for the first time today.

Wylene McGee sits nearby. Her 3 year old son is anxious to see his dad. McGee says she's been afraid, but she has been able to talk to her husband by phone and through email during the separation. "He's done very well. Yeah, we've talked to him a lot. He's work hard and he said it was okay."

Although the marines were stationed more than 200 miles from Baghdad, their superiors say they faced daily dangers. And they come home during an intense time in the country. Deadly attacks continue between Sunnis and Shiites after last week's shrine bombing, creating an even more uncertain environment.

Paul and Donnie Coombs have come to South Carolina from Connecticut to be here when there 21 year old son gets back from Iraq.

"We've been you know very anxious throughout the whole thing and like I say just hoping for the best," Coombs tells me.

And Cassandra Hawkey told us she could barely wait another second, saying her husband had been gone for almost a year.

"We got married January 29th of last year and he left right after that on February 7th," Hawkey says.

Most of the relatives waiting tell me they don't always watch the daily news reports of what's happening in Iraq, saying it's just too hard.

"It was real hard after he left and then later I just felt like I was numb," Hawkey says.

After a wait of more than two hours relatives hear the sound of honking. Three buses carrying their loved ones are driving into the parking lot.

Soon, there are reunions all around.

"I'm happy, I sure have no complaints," Sgt. Lamonte McGee says as he greets his wife and son. "It's finally setting in now (that I'm really here.)"

Cassandra Hawkey finds her husband, Garrett. Later, Lance Corporal Garrett Hawkey kisses his wife and says he has plenty of money now and maybe they will just get their honeymoon.

Like so many other couples here, the Hawkeys will need to enjoy their time together. These members of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 are scheduled for another tour of duty in Iraq in August.

WSAV Children's Programming Information
Copyright 2006 Media General
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HMM-365 (Reinforced) perfects night vision capabilities

NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Va. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- They exercise the ultimate advantage of being both invisible and seeing the unseen. Skimming across rooftops while scanning for danger, these superheroes are on call 24 hours day and ready to fight terrorism wherever it may lurk. (24th MEU)

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/35E3E1981DA75AE285257125006EF4DB?opendocument


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200632151156
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola

But this crew is no Justice League, they aren’t Spiderman and they don’t need the Dark Knight’s bat symbol to know when to fight. They’re the "Blue Knights" of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) and they’re “second to none” when it comes to working night operations with image intensifying gear.

Flying in the Norfolk, Va., area as the air combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit during its Training in an Urban Environment exercise, HMM-365 (Rein.), is constantly perfecting their skill with night vision goggles during low-light operations.

“There are no lights on the helicopter,” said Lance Cpl. Chris W. Colbath, HMM-365 (Rein.) crew chief. “Nothing can see us but we can see everything – it’s an awesome feeling.”

The alien sensation of operating a helicopter in the blackness of night is “a lot like looking through a toilet paper tube,” added Capt. Rich P. Ayers, HMM-365 (Rein.) aviation safety officer and CH-46E Sea Knight pilot. “You have to scan the horizon a lot more and look around because you lose a lot of your depth perception.”

Losing that depth perception – from 180 degrees down to 40 – increases the need for the entire crew to work together, said Ayers.

“Flying night operations is a total crew effort,” explained Ayers. “The crew chiefs are the ones calling you down to the deck, because we can’t see. Landing in an urban environment means that you’ll be landing in some tight zones and crew chiefs will save you more times than you can count.”

“The goggles drop the field of view and the nose comes up high,” added Sgt. Jared E. Daly, HMM-365 (rein.) crew chief. “The pilots lose all perception. We’re actually looking to see where the ground is and see that it’s clear and avoid any holes.”

The midnight ballet performed by helicopter crews is made more difficult by NVG fatigue, a condition that occurs due to the strenuous scanning of the horizon, said Capt. Randall T. Schindler, HMM-365 (Rein.) CH-46E Sea Knight pilot.

“When you’re actually flying not only are you looking though the goggles but you’re also looking down without them at the gauges then back through the NVG’s,” said Schindler. “A lot of people don‘t know about the fatigue the goggles cause. Because you have to scan so much it wears you out faster. After the first time you wear the goggles you’re really worn out after the flight.”

In addition to fatigue, ambient and cultural lighting can play havoc on the goggles, hampering the NVG’s capabilities, said Ayers.

“In an urban environment, like the Norfolk area, there’s a lot of ambient and cultural light that tend to bloom out the goggles,” said Ayers. “Flying in an urban area when that’s happening makes it hard to pick out details like landing zones and lights for navigation.”

That situation can be even more hair-raising in a combat environment like Iraq, where a dust cloud or an unidentified person standing outside a building can increase the threat to the crew, said Schindler.

“Over in Iraq you could fly into a dust cloud and the dust would create a sparkle effect in the goggles and you can lose your references,” said Schindler. “You depend on the crew chiefs to see the ground. It’s like having four pilots on the plane.”

“In Iraq you have a different mindset, you’re mind is doing different things,” added Cpl. John R. Miller, HMM-365 (rein.) crew chief. “When you see someone outside their house here, in reality, it’s no big deal, but over there, it’s a lot more exciting. Anything and everything you do is amplified 10 fold during night operations.”

For the Marines of HMM-365 (Rein.) night operations don’t require the crew to wear capes. They don’t have to be mutants and they don’t have to run faster than a speeding bullet. However, they do have the ability to fly and they do use their X-Ray vision to own the night and keep evil on its toes and Americans safe - whether it’s training stateside or fighting terrorists abroad.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) is scheduled to deploy this spring to the European and Central Command theaters of operations as the air combat element of the 24th MEU, which is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; and MEU Service Support Group 24.

Marines lend helping hand in Virginia Beach

NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- Every night in the Command Logistics Operations Center, the Marines of Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 plan for the next day’s operations. Most involve moving Marines and gear around the city. But one mission request came in to help the local community. It is a relatively simple mission, so a reconnaissance team is sent to assess the situation and recommend a course of action to the MSSG-24 commander.


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200631124640
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

The 24th MEU Marines are conducting their Training in an Urban Environment Exercise in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The community-service mission to demolish and remove two old foot bridges from a local park is an example of the same type of requests they would receive in Iraq. Operating in the city provides the Marines a perfect training environment.

“It gives us the opportunity to work in an urban environment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Carl Zador, a combat engineer with MSSG-24.

“It is the closest thing we can get,” said the Townsend, Mass., native.

The missions aren’t the only important training; just putting his Marines through physical and environmental stress is important. That type of training will prepare them physically for their upcoming deployment, said Zador.

“We are all out here wearing our gear. We are getting out bodies conditioned,” said Zador. “We pushed out security like we would on deployment. We also kept our eyes open for things to look for on the convoy.”

The training mirrored missions Cpl. Justin Muir, an engineer with the MSSG, went on during his tour in Iraq with the 24th MEU in 2004.

“When we were in Iraq, we did things like help distribute food and water. We also rebuilt an orphanage,” said Muir. “We helped clean up bases for the Iraqi police.”

Marines operating around the city, driving on local streets and working in a neighborhood park didn’t go unnoticed. But residents were glad to have them in the neighborhood.

“When I saw the Marines, I called my husband,” said Monica Garrison, a resident who lives near the park. “I have seen a lot of people drive by and look to see what the Marines are doing.”

According to Garrison, whose son plays in the park often, the Marines were helping to get rid of a safety hazard in the park.

“The bridges were getting kind of old. They weren’t too safe,” said Garrison.

Although the job was relatively small, the Marines were happy to have the opportunity to train and to thank the local community.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” said Zador. “They are real supportive.”

Marines lend helping hand in Virginia Beach

NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- Every night in the Command Logistics Operations Center, the Marines of Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 plan for the next day’s operations. Most involve moving Marines and gear around the city. But one mission request came in to help the local community. It is a relatively simple mission, so a reconnaissance team is sent to assess the situation and recommend a course of action to the MSSG-24 commander.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/8DD3B73864FA1007852571240061A80D?opendocument


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200631124640
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

The 24th MEU Marines are conducting their Training in an Urban Environment Exercise in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The community-service mission to demolish and remove two old foot bridges from a local park is an example of the same type of requests they would receive in Iraq. Operating in the city provides the Marines a perfect training environment.

“It gives us the opportunity to work in an urban environment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Carl Zador, a combat engineer with MSSG-24.

“It is the closest thing we can get,” said the Townsend, Mass., native.

The missions aren’t the only important training; just putting his Marines through physical and environmental stress is important. That type of training will prepare them physically for their upcoming deployment, said Zador.

“We are all out here wearing our gear. We are getting out bodies conditioned,” said Zador. “We pushed out security like we would on deployment. We also kept our eyes open for things to look for on the convoy.”

The training mirrored missions Cpl. Justin Muir, an engineer with the MSSG, went on during his tour in Iraq with the 24th MEU in 2004.

“When we were in Iraq, we did things like help distribute food and water. We also rebuilt an orphanage,” said Muir. “We helped clean up bases for the Iraqi police.”

Marines operating around the city, driving on local streets and working in a neighborhood park didn’t go unnoticed. But residents were glad to have them in the neighborhood.

“When I saw the Marines, I called my husband,” said Monica Garrison, a resident who lives near the park. “I have seen a lot of people drive by and look to see what the Marines are doing.”

According to Garrison, whose son plays in the park often, the Marines were helping to get rid of a safety hazard in the park.

“The bridges were getting kind of old. They weren’t too safe,” said Garrison.

Although the job was relatively small, the Marines were happy to have the opportunity to train and to thank the local community.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” said Zador. “They are real supportive.”

HMM-365 (Reinforced) perfects night vision capabilities

NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Va. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- They exercise the ultimate advantage of being both invisible and seeing the unseen. Skimming across rooftops while scanning for danger, these superheroes are on call 24 hours day and ready to fight terrorism wherever it may lurk.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/35E3E1981DA75AE285257125006EF4DB?opendocument


Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200632151156
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola


But this crew is no Justice League, they aren’t Spiderman and they don’t need the Dark Knight’s bat symbol to know when to fight. They’re the "Blue Knights" of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) and they’re “second to none” when it comes to working night operations with image intensifying gear.

Flying in the Norfolk, Va., area as the air combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit during its Training in an Urban Environment exercise, HMM-365 (Rein.), is constantly perfecting their skill with night vision goggles during low-light operations.

“There are no lights on the helicopter,” said Lance Cpl. Chris W. Colbath, HMM-365 (Rein.) crew chief. “Nothing can see us but we can see everything – it’s an awesome feeling.”

The alien sensation of operating a helicopter in the blackness of night is “a lot like looking through a toilet paper tube,” added Capt. Rich P. Ayers, HMM-365 (Rein.) aviation safety officer and CH-46E Sea Knight pilot. “You have to scan the horizon a lot more and look around because you lose a lot of your depth perception.”

Losing that depth perception – from 180 degrees down to 40 – increases the need for the entire crew to work together, said Ayers.

“Flying night operations is a total crew effort,” explained Ayers. “The crew chiefs are the ones calling you down to the deck, because we can’t see. Landing in an urban environment means that you’ll be landing in some tight zones and crew chiefs will save you more times than you can count.”

“The goggles drop the field of view and the nose comes up high,” added Sgt. Jared E. Daly, HMM-365 (rein.) crew chief. “The pilots lose all perception. We’re actually looking to see where the ground is and see that it’s clear and avoid any holes.”

The midnight ballet performed by helicopter crews is made more difficult by NVG fatigue, a condition that occurs due to the strenuous scanning of the horizon, said Capt. Randall T. Schindler, HMM-365 (Rein.) CH-46E Sea Knight pilot.

“When you’re actually flying not only are you looking though the goggles but you’re also looking down without them at the gauges then back through the NVG’s,” said Schindler. “A lot of people don‘t know about the fatigue the goggles cause. Because you have to scan so much it wears you out faster. After the first time you wear the goggles you’re really worn out after the flight.”

In addition to fatigue, ambient and cultural lighting can play havoc on the goggles, hampering the NVG’s capabilities, said Ayers.

“In an urban environment, like the Norfolk area, there’s a lot of ambient and cultural light that tend to bloom out the goggles,” said Ayers. “Flying in an urban area when that’s happening makes it hard to pick out details like landing zones and lights for navigation.”

That situation can be even more hair-raising in a combat environment like Iraq, where a dust cloud or an unidentified person standing outside a building can increase the threat to the crew, said Schindler.

“Over in Iraq you could fly into a dust cloud and the dust would create a sparkle effect in the goggles and you can lose your references,” said Schindler. “You depend on the crew chiefs to see the ground. It’s like having four pilots on the plane.”

“In Iraq you have a different mindset, you’re mind is doing different things,” added Cpl. John R. Miller, HMM-365 (rein.) crew chief. “When you see someone outside their house here, in reality, it’s no big deal, but over there, it’s a lot more exciting. Anything and everything you do is amplified 10 fold during night operations.”

For the Marines of HMM-365 (Rein.) night operations don’t require the crew to wear capes. They don’t have to be mutants and they don’t have to run faster than a speeding bullet. However, they do have the ability to fly and they do use their X-Ray vision to own the night and keep evil on its toes and Americans safe - whether it’s training stateside or fighting terrorists abroad.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) is scheduled to deploy this spring to the European and Central Command theaters of operations as the air combat element of the 24th MEU, which is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; and MEU Service Support Group 24.

February 27, 2006

Marines leave no place for insurgents to hide in western Al Anbar

KHAFFAJIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 26, 2006) -- Marines in the Haditha Dam region continued to keep insurgents on their heels during another counterinsurgency operation here Feb. 26.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/D214934CCA2E4A73852571290036B8FB?opendocument

Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20063645742
Story by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell


The latest operation, dubbed “Minotaur,” was aimed at clearing more than nine kilometers of riverbank and several small villages south of Haqlaniyah – a town along the Euphrates River in Al Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad.

Although this is usually an inactive area, the Marines said they want to leave no stone unturned in their quest to hunt down insurgents.

“The quiet places are where the insurgents feel safe to hide,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Geary, platoon sergeant for Weapons Platoon, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Geary’s platoon spearheaded the operation. “If they (insurgents) are hiding here and using it as a planning site, we want to show them we will be around to disrupt their plans.”

The Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marines have spent almost six months in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province conducting counter-insurgency operations and providing stability to the “Triad” area of Haqlaniyah, Barwanah and Haditha.

Operation Minotaur focused on Khaffajiyah and southern outlying areas including the island of Alus. The Marines went house-to-house looking for insurgents and used metal detectors to sweep the river bank for weapons caches.

“We just wanted to throw something different at them,” said Geary, a Helmville, Mont., native. “They see mounted troops, but it isn’t very often they see dismounted Marines go to their homes and search the area.”

Approximately six weeks ago, the Marines swept through the area and found numerous weapons caches buried along the river bank. This prompted the battalion to continue to sweep through this area, maintaining a vigilant presence to remind insurgents that there is no place to hide.

“If we continue to operate in these areas, they will never get a chance to execute [their] plans,” said 1st Lt. Jared W. Burgess, a platoon commander with the company’s Weapons Platoon.

During the next month or so, the battalion will be gradually replaced with another Marine infantry unit. The Marines want to leave this once insurgent-heavy area in good shape for the new unit, the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, said Burgess. The more secure the area is prior to the new battalion’s arrival, the easier the new Marines will be able to jump into the “driver’s seat” and continue current counter-insurgency operations.

“It’s good that we do one more sweep of this area before turning it over,” said Lance Cpl. Lawrence A. Parkhill, a 20-year-old team leader from Temecula, Calif.

While the Marines’ focus is on disrupting insurgent activity and further training Iraqi soldiers, thoughts of home are beginning to surface. For Parkhill, his thoughts turn to riding his motorcycle in southern California. Like many of the Marines, he is focused on the job at hand, but thinks more and more about the loved ones waiting for him and the hobbies he has missed since arriving here nearly six months ago.

“I miss the sunny weather in California and just cruising around with my girlfriend on my bike,” said Parkhill.

Even though the Marines are nearing the end of their time in Iraq, the battalion shows no signs of slowing down their hunt for insurgents. They’ll continue actively seeking out anti-Iraqi forces and paving a path for their replacements’ success.

The battalion’s redeployment to the U.S. is part of a regularly scheduled rotation of forces in Al Anbar. More than 25,000 Marine and sailors of Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I Marine Expeditionary Force are replacing the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based II MEF.

Wounded Warrior Project holds conference for stress

NEW YORK (Feb. 27, 2006) -- Service members and families exposed to combat-related stress recently participated in a conference on stress management coordinated and sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project here, February 15 and 16.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/30DD69F1148AC7E48525711F006C2008?opendocument

Submitted by: New York City Public Affairs
Story Identification #: 200622414410
Story by Cpl. Lameen Witter


The two-day conference took place at The Lighthouse, a center primarily for the blind, and was open to any returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans and their family members. The 17 attendants of the conference learned how to cope with combat-related stress while reintegrating into society, as well as effectively manage the average stress encountered by people on average basis.

The World Trade Center Healing Services, the agency that provided free stress and trauma counseling for survivors of September 11, led sessions throughout the conference with stress relieving alternatives like acupuncture and meditation.

Each day was also led by a keynote speaker. A former NYPD Bomb Squad officer turned Air Force Anti-Terrorism Task Force member addressed the conference on the first day, and a peer counselor from the FDNY followed on the second day of the event, testifying on their own experiences and methods of dealing with them.

Following each keynote speaker, attendants broke into different groups based on their circumstances, such as, family members of returning veterans, veterans OIF and OEF, and government personnel who interact with OIF and OEF veterans.

The Wounded Warrior Project National Policy Director, Jeremy Schwat, was the main coordinator of the event and worked toward making the conference as beneficial for service members as possible.

“I thought the conference was successful. The hardest part of it all was to get service members to attend the conference. Often times the macho-ness of a service member may get in the way of them asking for help,” said Schwat.

Reluctance to attend the conference may have stemmed from the fear of service members being labeled as having a post traumatic stress disorder, said Schwat. He emphasized that the conference was strictly for combat stress and nothing more laying to rest the concerns of many service members.

Since its development, the Wounded Warrior Project has dedicated its efforts to assisting combat veterans of the Armed Forces. The organization plans to take the conference to major military instillations throughout the nation, and encourages participation of service members.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. As long as there has been war, there has been combat stress, and the service member in combat has been placed in an abnormal situation. So, certainly that will impact them later on down the line, and the important thing is to get help in any way, shape, or form,” said Schwat.

February 26, 2006

Surprise, I just joined the Marines

My BlackBerry buzzed as I was sipping merlot at a reception in downtown Chicago. I had missed two calls from home. I found a quiet spot and called, and my 19-year-old stepson, Sergei, answered.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0602260368feb26,0,4007804.story

By Russell Working
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 26, 2006

Could I come home right now? It was urgent, he said. See, he was joining the Marines.

"What? You mean you're talking to a recruiter?"

"I was sworn in this afternoon."

Then my wife, Nonna, was on the line. She was sobbing. "Russik, please, come home, right now."

I have known Sergei since he was 9. I used to carry him to bed by his ankles. He and his mother are Russian immigrants, and he is not an American citizen. Now he would be leaving Oak Park in 10 days for boot camp in San Diego, preparing to defend a country that has yet to become his. Suddenly, in a time of war, we are a military family.

There are thousands of others like us, of course. But one can forget that even during a controversial war, young men and women show up every day at recruiting centers.

In the year that ended last September, 163,259 men and women signed up for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Some 32,961 entered the Marine Corps. The manpower-hungry military welcomes green-card holders such as Sergei and permits them to apply for fast-track citizenship.

On issues of war and peace, our family--like the nation at large--holds views that are intense and conflicted, and my son's enlistment has highlighted them.

Sergei is a self-confident young man who thrives on academic and athletic challenge. While studying Chinese at a Beijing university last semester, he joined the rugby club and spoke with awe of a player who got knocked down, spat out a couple of teeth and then resumed play. When he speaks of "our army," he means Russia's. He opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq.

My wife, Nonna, is a former journalist who was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Soviet army reserve when she was a university student. The military required service from all students in the English department. In case of war they were to write leaflets, interrogate prisoners and broadcast the announcement: "American soldiers, surrender!"

But after college, Nonna ignored the letters ordering her to report to a local military office. She spent 19 years trying to teach an ethic of peace to Sergei. She wants to do this with Lyova, our 2-year-old son, as well.

As for me, I am the 46-year-old son of a Korean War combat veteran. He emerged with a hatred for war, and before I was born, my mom tells me, he used to shout, "Incoming!" during nightmares. After college, I worked in a pacifist Mennonite organization. But I reluctantly came to see the need for military action after the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans.

Changing view of war

In 2003 I supported the war in Iraq as an opportunity to rid the world of a mass murderer. Since then, I have often agonized over this decision. I have sat in living rooms of parents whose sons were killed in Iraq, and last fall, I wrote about Sasha Bakhtiarov, a Ukrainian coalition soldier who was rendered speechless and barely able to walk because of shrapnel wounds. His powder-burnt face made me think about my own eldest son.

The night Sergei broke the news, we all sat at the dining room table to talk. We felt the war's presence like a distant thumping that rattles the windows. I said I was afraid of what might happen to him if he ended up in Iraq, and of what he might do.

Sergei said he had scored high enough on the entrance exam to work in legal administration, not in a battlefield role. If he didn't want to go to Iraq, he wouldn't be sent there. And even if he did go, he wouldn't be in a combat role.

"I don't want to kill anyone," he said. "And I don't want to be killed."

That's fine, I said. But did he see that he had now placed himself in a position where both of these had become possibilities?

Spontaneously, the three of us engaged in a bit of a Russian superstition. You pretend to spit three times over your left shoulder, into the face of the devil, to ward off an evil that has been spoken.

Becoming a stepfather

I met Nonna in 1996 when she visited the Tacoma News Tribune in Washington, where I then worked as a reporter. A journalist from the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, she had come to the United States for a few weeks under a State Department grant. Seven months later I moved there to edit an English-language biweekly and, later, to freelance for international papers. Eventually we would marry.

Nonna was divorced and had a son, a rough-and-tumble 9-year-old named Sergei (in our family, he goes by multifarious Russian nicknames, such as Seryoga and Seryozhik). He needed no prodding to see me as a father, just as I saw him as a son. His own father had abandoned them when Sergei was a baby and had nothing to do with the boy.

Nonna had always detested the military, and her son's fascination with combat drove her to distraction. He loved samurai video games and amassed a great cohort of toy soldiers. But there is more than a boyish love of soldier games in Sergei's decision to enlist. He has always been a leader, the kid who organized snowball fights and taught the kids in our Russian neighborhood how to play American football.

Sergei has often expressed an immigrant's gratitude for life in the United States, and I thought this might explain, in part, why he enlisted. I wished I could hear that he had wrestled with the ethics of war and peace, that he had rejected Tolstoy's pacifism, or agreed with George Orwell's devastating critique of Gandhi.

Yet in family discussions, Sergei shied away from overt expressions of patriotism and shrugged off his previous opposition to the war. It became clear that personal motivations weighed heaviest of all in his decision to enlist.

"I didn't want to be a burden on you guys," he said.

Sergei had begun his freshman year of college in August by enrolling in Beijing Language and Culture University. But he fell into a bureaucratic netherworld between American green-card requirements and an expiring Russian passport, and he had to come home after one semester.

In January he started classes at Triton College in River Grove while he looked for a part-time job and tried to figure out what to do next. He fell into a gloom that we could not penetrate.

Aren't there a bunch of businesses up there on North Avenue? I said. Why don't you scout it out on your way back from school?

It was on North Avenue that he found the Marine Corps' Oak Park recruiting substation.

He met with recruiters four times before he talked to us. At one point, he spent the night at a hotel near the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Station in Des Plaines, where he underwent a physical and took a written test that determined what kind of assignment he would have. He told us that he was spending the night with a friend. He didn't want us to talk him out of the decision.

It also turned out that Sergei had been confused about the swearing-in the night he broke the news to us: He had only pledged to enter the Marine recruitment program. Later on, on the day he shipped out, he would officially swear into the military, in a ceremony we attended in Des Plaines.

Unsheathing the sword

The week after Sergei broke his news, I accompanied him to the recruiting substation. It is a storefront in a building that houses a day-care center, a chiropractor's office and an Irish-American newspaper. Inside, photos cover two corkboards: snapshots of locals before they ship out, and in dress blues toward the end of their time at boot camp.

A Marine Corps sword lay on a bookcase opposite the door. A recruiter unsheathed it for me. The blade was engraved with flags, scrollwork and the Marines' eagle, globe and anchor insignia.

That's what got him, I thought. The sword.

Marine recruit T-shirts

Someone had printed the motto of the recruiting center on a white board: "The Weapon of Mass Destruction." They even print it on T-shirts they hand out, along with the image of a skull wearing a Marine Corps cap. When Sergei brought his shirt home, Nonna threw it away.

The recruiting center was crowded with "poolees"--Marine Corps argot for young men and women preparing to enter the service. (They become recruits only when they head off to boot camp). There was a chin-up bar, a bench for weightlifting, a few desks. The faint odor of sweat hung in the air. Every week the poolees gather here to work out.

They were a varied group: a young woman with white-blond hair and Goth-style makeup, a stubble-headed jock wearing a Marine T-shirt that reads "Pain is the Weakness Leaving the Body," and my Russian son, pretending he didn't know me.

The young men took turns doing pull-ups as the others counted off and shouted encouragement. (The girls must hang with their chins above the bar.)

"ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!"

"Come on! Go for it!"

Several poolees could barely manage three or four chin-ups. Most did fewer than 10. Sergei did 19, just one shy of the 20 he must be able to do by the time he graduates from boot camp.

Watching him, I thought that no parent could be pleased that a son or daughter might be heading into danger. He had chosen the Marines Corps because it would be the greatest challenge he had ever faced. Yet I was sure he would excel. And I didn't want to send him off to the drill instructors without some word of encouragement.

Later, feeling vaguely disloyal to Nonna, I told him, "I'm proud of you."

----------

rworking@tribune.com

New wave of Marines start leaving for Iraq

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (AP) _ The first of 900 Hawaii-based Marines have left the islands for deployment in the war in Iraq.

http://www.kpua.net/news.php?id=7595


By Associated Press
Posted: Sunday, February 26th, 2006 7:18 AM HST

About 60 Marines with the Third Battalion, Third Marine Regiment left yesterday for the Haditha area of Iraq. Hundreds more will follow them over the next several weeks.

In addition, another seven-thousand soldiers are training for summer deployment to northern Iraq this summer from Schofield Barracks.

Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal Timothy Rhyne is leaving behind his wife, who is four months pregnant with twins.

He says the deployment will be difficult because he's already been to Afghanistan before, and he didn't want to miss the birth of his children.


There’s help for handling rigors of war

A Marine gripping the dogtags of his fallen comrades. It’s a straight-forward image, with a straight-forward message: If you need help, come and get it.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=39116&Section=News

February 26,2006
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF


That image adorns one of many posters that are going up across area Marine bases. The posters contain simple statements and phone numbers, all part of a campaign to make sure troops are aware of the services available to those returning from war.

The Deployment, Return and Reunion Program does not offer new services, said Capt. Richard Welton, the commander of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and the program’s point man. What it does do is make the programs more visible and streamlined.

“This is an effort to gather the forces together and make them more visible to Marines, sailors and family members so they can have access to it.”

And the programs — such as discussion groups about deployment stress and workshops to help Marines reconnect with their spouses and children — should be in high demand in the coming months. Because thousands of Marines are returning home from Iraq.

They will find themselves suddenly thrown back into family life and the relative peace of the Jacksonville streets, all while trying to come to grips with what they saw and did.

Welton said they are seeing large increases in a number of problems that can be associated with readjusting from deployment.

“We are seeing four-times the (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), four times the family and substance abuse, four times the number of folks sleeping on the couch,” he said. “There’s a lot of need for this.”

But Marines are tough, many say, and often bottle up their anxiety and try to deal with it themselves. Better than looking weak or sick, they think.

That’s a perception military commanders are hoping to shatter. For one, while the various programs have access to medical professionals, their focus is not on medical problems in hopes of eliminating the stigma of seeking help.

“We try to keep the medical professionals as far back as possible,” he said. “Most of the services are available through the chaplains or (Marine Corps Community Services). This is not hospital related stuff.”

Welton said the program will continue to be revised as they learn more. A meeting in March will determine where they need to focus further efforts. Grief counseling and anger management are examples of things that are available but may need to be streamlined into the program, Welton said.

No matter the programs, its talking about these issues with others going through the same problems just may make all the difference, Welton said.

“It is important to talk about this stuff,” Welton said. “It is not abnormal to have this stress to the point where you can’t take care of it yourself. It’s better to talk about it then let it fester. Everybody is going through it. Seek the help you need in order to move one.”

The programs are available at Lejeune, and both New River and Cherry Point air stations. Interested folks can log on to lej-www.med.navy.mil/DRRP/DRRP.htm for more information. The program’s Web site acts as a portal to information about the various services and contact information. It also includes a printable brochure and the various posters that can be seen around the bases.


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.

February 25, 2006

Bride-to-be wishes for Marine tradition

Roberta Kelly of Jacksonville, N.C., is looking for a few good Capital Region men -- Marines.

http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=454569&category=REGIONOTHER&BCCode=&newsdate=2/25/2006


By TERRY BROWN, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, February 25, 2006

That because she needs six Marines to participate in an "arch of swords" as part of her wedding to Gunnery Sgt. David Billa on March 25 at the Christ Lutheran Church in Johnstown in Fulton County.

Billa has just returned to his Jacksonville home from a tour in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where he served as a motor transport section chief and mechanic. He helped fit his unit's tactical vehicles with enough armor to protect personnel. He and other mechanics kept those vehicles in a state of high readiness.

"I have been trying to find six Marines, active duty, Reserve or even retired who can do the arch of swords for us," Kelly says. "David is so dedicated to the Marine Corps and to this country," she says. "As a Marine, the arch of swords is a tradition that every Marine wishes for their wedding day."

When she and David decided to change their plans from the big military wedding at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to a smaller one with just a few friends and family, they became disappointed that they would have to give up the arch tradition.

While her fiance was on duty in Iraq, she said she decided, "As a gift to my future husband and also my way of thanking him for his dedication to our country, I want very much to make this happen for him."

She put out a call for volunteers.

So far, Kelly has lined up three Marines, including two from Quantico, Va., and a recruiter from a Johnstown station, Staff Sgt. Rene Mosley.

She did contact 1st Sgt. Richard Rosa of the Marine Reserve in Albany. But most of his Marines are deploying to Iraq.

Kelly said she can accept having the sword ceremony with just four Marines. So, she still needs at least one more Marine for the ceremony.

If any Marine can help, call Kelly at (540) 840-4610 or (910) 388-1037.

Billa's sons from a previous marriage will participate in the wedding. David Jr. will be best man, and Andrew will give the bride away. Kelly's sister, Karen Minor of St. Augustine, Fla., will be a bridesmaid, and a friend, Peggy Smith of Neptune, Fla., will be matron of honor.

Kelly's future husband enlisted in the Marines right after graduation from Johnstown High School in 1991. His mother and stepfather, Suzanne and Joseph Riach, live in Gloversville, and his father, Edward White, lives in Johnstown

Marines Join Special Ops World

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - The Marine Corps formally entered the world of military special operations Friday by establishing a separate command devoted to small-unit tactics and stealthy reconnaissance.

http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,89376,00.html?ESRC=marine-a.nl


Marines Join Special Ops World
Associated Press | February 25, 2006

It's work they've done as far back as World War II, but never before as part of the U.S. Special Operations Command. The change means battalions of Marines will be focused on special ops work just as Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets and Rangers are.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the change official after arriving at Camp Lejeune aboard an Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. He said special ops Marines will help "seek new and innovative ways to take the fight to the enemy."

Demand for highly trained special operations forces has increased as the U.S. war against terrorists continues.

"We face a ruthless enemy that lurks in shadows," Rumsfeld said. "It has become vital the Department of Defense and armed forces arrange ourselves in new and unconventional ways to succeed in meeting the peril of our age."

The Marines plan to establish their first special operations company in May and have the command fully staffed with about 2,500 troops by 2010. The command will recruit corporals, sergeants and officers with reconnaissance experience and language training.

As part of the change, the Marine anti-terrorism brigade headquartered at Lejeune will go out of business and shift some of its troops to the special operations command. The command will have combat battalions on both U.S. coasts, along with support units and schools to teach special operations skills to U.S. and foreign troops.

Units to train foreign military officers will deploy within months, Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee said. A special operations company will deploy with an expeditionary unit aboard ships by the end of the year, other military officials said.

The Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Special Operations Command will control the Marines' special forces.

Special operations will give the Marines "a role they otherwise would not be able to get, to do counterterrorism," said military analyst John Pike of Washington-based Globalsecurity.org.

"The struggle against evil doers is a growth industry and the Marines want a piece of that," Pike said. "The special operations community is getting a lot larger and they need more people."

Parris Island Instructor Receives Navy Cross

CHARLESTON (AP) - A Parris Island drill instructor who was shot in the leg but managed to lead Marines up an Afghanistan mountainside in pursuit of enemy troops in 2004 has received the
Navy Cross award for bravery.

http://www.wltx.com/news/news19.aspx?storyid=35572


Marlowe Epstein, Assignment Desk
Updated: 2/25/2006 6:11:44 PM
Associated Press


Staff Sergeant Anthony C. Viggiani was given the award yesterday during a graduation ceremony at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island.

The honor is second only to the Medal of Honor. It is awarded to members of the Marine Corps or Navy who demonstrate extraordinary courage and leadership while in dangerous battle.

The 26-year-old Viggiani's unit came under fire while pursuing Taliban fighters, north of the village of Khabargho in the Zabol province.

New Marine deployment to Iraq begins

KANE'OHE BAY — A new wave of Iraq deployments has begun for Hawai'i-based troops.

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060225/NEWS08/602250349/1001/NEWS


Posted on: Saturday, February 25, 2006
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

And a new round of intense worry by spouses, family and friends comes with it.

About 60 Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment who left yesterday for the Haditha area of Iraq represent the advance party for about 900 who follow in several weeks.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 on Monday will begin loading up some of its CH-53D Sea Stallions onto cargo craft for the base's first full squadron deployment to Iraq, officials said. The unit has nearly a dozen Sea Stallions.

About 180 squadron members are expected to make the trip.

Schofield Barracks, meanwhile, continues to train up for the summer deployment to northern Iraq of 7,000 soldiers and war duty for 90 to 100 of its helicopters and their crews.

The fear of what may come was visible behind the 3/3 Marines' headquarters yesterday, where teary-eyed Trista Rhyne, four months pregnant with twins, hugged her 6-foot-4 husband, Lance Cpl. Timothy Rhyne, and didn't want to let go.

"I just want him to go and do his time and come back as soon as possible," she said. "I try not to think about it too much. I think all of us try not to think about it, because I don't think we would make it."

Timothy Rhyne, 20, who's already been to Afghanistan once, will miss the birth of his first — and second — child on the deployment, expected to last seven to eight months. "It's pretty hard," he said. "I really want to see the birth of my children, but she's going to have plenty of support (from family)."

The Marines said goodbye to wives, girlfriends and children yesterday and boarded a white bus for transport to the chartered jetliner that would transport them on the initial leg of their long journey.

Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, is part of an area that includes Barwanah and Haqlaniyah and is called the "Triad."

Last Aug. 3, 14 Marine Reservists were killed when an enormous roadside bomb hit their 25-ton amphibious assault vehicle outside Haditha.

The improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have become more dangerous, said 3/3 commander Lt. Col. Norm Cooling.

"The way they are assembled, how they are emplaced, is very sophisticated," Cooling said. "Clearly, a lot of these guys know what they are doing. Many (others) don't know what they are doing and are just hired guys just wanting to make a dollar."

2006 has been called a make-or-break year for the U.S. in Iraq with growing domestic pressure to withdraw troops and the hope to largely turn over security responsibility to Iraqi forces.

Cooling agrees it is a pivotal year.

"Absolutely," he said. "I can tell you this: They are not just saying that. Everything that they have told us to do is consistent with that. There's no question that the No. 1 mission that we've been tasked with is to train the Iraqi Army and security forces that are operating already in our area of responsibility to the point that when we start looking to leave seven months to eight months from now, they are largely able to do everything."

Marines from Kane'ohe Bay have reached the point where they are on repeat combat deployments. The 3rd Battalion, known as "America's Battalion," returned from Afghanistan in June. Two of the Hawai'i Marines died there in a firefight.

The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines from Kane'ohe Bay fought in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November, 2004. They lost 46 Marines on the deployment.

On Monday, 107 Marines and sailors with the 3rd Radio Battalion will return home after completing a nine-month deployment to Iraq. Fifteen of the Marines were on their third deployment to Iraq, and 57 were on their second deployment.

In Afghanistan, the Marines faced rugged mountains and poor roads. In Iraq, it will be flat terrain and urban environments.

"It will be nice not to be hiking around as much. But again, driving more on the roads, the more chance there is of IEDs," 1st Lt. Mike Berentson, 26, of Burlington, Wash., said yesterday as he prepared to leave for Iraq with the 3/3 advance party.

Cpl. Tyler Corbaley, 22, from Las Vegas, said it's his last deployment because he's getting out.

"I just want to take this one full stride, accomplish as much as I can, so I can feel I got the most out of my four years in the Marine Corps," he said.

Asked when he's getting out, his wife, Patricia, piped up, "Dec. 12."

"Marked on every calendar we've got, I guess," she added.

Patricia Corbaley, 21, said going to Afghanistan with 3/3 "was what he wanted to do. Same with (Iraq). I know he's good at his job. I'm going to miss him, obviously."

She said she's looking forward to his getting out of the Corps "so we can move on with our lives. Hopefully, the war will be over."

The couple went to Ala Moana Center on Thursday and came away with teddy bears that will remind them of each other while Tyler is gone. He stood in formation yesterday with a 9 mm pistol on one side of his hip and holding the beige bear with a white shirt and blue jean skirt on the other.

Pfc. Bryan Donaldson, 21, from Ellijay, Ga., said he's not sure what to expect in Iraq. He, too, was in Afghanistan with 3/3, like more than half of the other Marines in the advance party for Iraq.

"Just everything in general, what can happen in a single day (is uncertain)," he said. "Attacks, accidents. Don't really know what to expect till you get over there."

Sgt. David Washington, 22, a cook with 3/3 from Cleveland, was pretty eager to get on the bus for the first of several flights that will take him to Iraq.

"Can't wait. Do the job, come back home," he said. "It's the big dance. I've been training for it (it seems) all my life."

Darkhorse Marines find, destroy stacks of buried munitions

CAMP MERCURY, Iraq(Feb. 25, 2006) -- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Edward looked at the stacks of unearthed munitions and shook his head in disbelief.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/767768d84417cfeb852571230031b7dc?OpenDocument


Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Mark Sixbey

“We’re going to need more C-4,” Edward said.

The 29-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician with Mobile Unit 3, Detachment 9, 8th Engineer Support Battalion was witness to the largest weapons cache discovery made by Marines from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, since they arrived in Iraq nearly a month ago. The weapons are commonly used against Marines and Iraqi Security Forces in improvised explosive devices.

The company made the find during Operation Iron Fist Feb. 25. They are serving in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

The Marines spent nearly four hours uncovering and counting the buried munitions. Cpl. Adam Green, a combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to L Company, said he was happy with the day’s find.

“We put a good dent in the insurgents’ ability to hit us with IEDs,” said the 22-year-old from Spokane, Wash. “When you find something like this, it takes away their ability to attack Marine and Coalition forces.”

The first cache they found held 24 82 mm mortars and one 87 mm Chinese mortar. A second buried site yielded 415 82 mm recoilless rifle rounds, 212 82 mm high-explosive mortars, 170 100 mm high-explosive rounds, 32 82 mm inert mortars, and 10 82 mm high-explosive mortars, and two 160 mm high-explosive mortar rounds.

As engineers swept the area for buried weapons, the company conducted vehicle searches with help from the Iraqi Security Forces. They stopped one vehicle with illegal weapons and sniper ammunition.

“It’s a very good morning,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher Reed, L Company's first sergeant, a 32-year-old from Kirkland, Wash. “This is a good step towards establishing the security of the area.”

Capt. William Allen, the company commander, said insurgent attacks were frequent in the area around the discovered weapons cache and the goal of Iron Fist was to determine the source of the attacks.

“We were looking to confirm or deny the insurgent activity was being transported into the area,” said Allen, 35, from Woodstock, Va. “Hopefully we’ve put a dent in the rocket activity.”

He then added the mission goals went beyond protecting coalition forces.

“It’s about joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces and letting the Iraqi citizens see them working hand in hand with us,” Allen said. “It will hopefully instill some confidence in their ability to protect their people.”

The caches were significant in size, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kellogg, an EOD technician, also from 8th Engineer Support Battalion.

Kellogg supervised nearly 60 controlled detonations since his unit arrived in October 2005 and said this cache was in his top ten.

“The stuff in the containers was in very good shape,” said the 34-year old from Houston. “It would be dangerous in the hands of the enemy.”

He added that the rounds buried in plastic sacks were in marginal condition, but that wouldn’t stop insurgents from making IEDs with them.

“We saved a lot of lives today,” Green said.

The Marines evacuated the local Iraqi citizens from the area and the caches were detonated on site.

Reed credited his Marines’ keen attention and initiative to making the discovery.

“The Marines are doing an outstanding job keeping focused on the mission,” Reed said. “This is what happens when they stay focused.”

1/7 Family Day provides unit, family integration


Friends and family members of the Marines and Sailors of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, gathered for the unit's Family Day at the Combat Center's Victory Field Feb. 17.

1/7 Family Day provides unit, family integration


Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz

Combat Correspondent

The unit recently finished months of training in preparation for a scheduled deployment next month in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“This marks the end of our field training before our next deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip N. Johnson, 1/7 battalion mess chief, Headquarters and Service Company. “This is about getting the battalion together as a whole before we start other deployments preparations.”

There were volleyball, basketball and tug-o-war tournaments between the unit's four companies throughout the day.

Marine Corps Community Services provided an inflatable obstacle course and a Jupiter Jump for the children, and jousting for adults.

Food was provided by Marine Corps food services and included barbecue chicken, ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, macaroni salad and condiments.

Cpl. Aaron Henehan, rifleman, Bravo Co., 1/7, stood in the long line to get some barbecue chicken and ribs.

“Good food always brings people together,” said the 22-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska. “This is a good chance for the families to get acquainted with the command who will be leading their husbands, sons, and so on, on their deployment, to build trust.”

To get the families prepared for the unit's deployment, family readiness programs such as the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, the American Red Cross, Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, Skills (L.I.N.K.S.) and the 1/7-battalion chaplain were available to meet with the families and provide information on their services.

“This is a good opportunity to get all our information out at once and make connections,” said Lori Rogers, 1/7 Key Volunteer Network coordinator, and wife of Staff Sgt. Jerry Rogers, who has deployed six times during his 10 years of service.

“We like to let people know we are here to try to make things easier,” she continued.

The 1/7 chaplain, Lt. Richard A. Townes, who is scheduled to deploy with the unit, attended the family day to meet and greet the families.

“The importance of a gathering like this is to let families know they are not alone,” said Townes. “It makes it more bearable to have contacts with other families while a family member is deployed.”

The coming deployment was the last thing on minds while everyone enjoyed free food and activities, said Lance Cpl. Danny Grimaldi, a 20-year-old native of Garland, Texas.

“It's a morale boost,” he explained. “Everyone's enjoying the free stuff with their families.”

During the day's festivities, there was a surprise visit from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee.

Pfc. Luke Doty, a 19-year-old native of Albuquerque, N.M., got his picture taken with Hagee.

“That was awesome,” said Doty, walking away looking down at his digital camera.

Hagee visits Combat Center

General Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, visited the Combat Center Feb. 16 and 17 to speak with Marines, Sailors and their families, and to observe training aboard the base.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2006/02/25/news/news01.txt


Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

Combat Correspondent


The main purpose of the commandant's visit was to witness units undergoing new, experimental training, observe recent changes in the Mojave Viper combined arms exercises and speak with Combat Center units.

The morning of his arrival, Hagee met with Marines of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, as well as representatives from the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory at the Quackenbush training area to observe Marines testing the new distributed operations warfighting concept.

Distributed operations is designed to empower small unit leaders and allow platoons and squads of Marines to operate more forward of their centralized command. It also gives them more options on the battlefield, including the ability to call for artillery, naval or aircraft fire support.

Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, supported 1/5's distributed operations test platoon and provided fire support for their training at Quackenbush.

Hagee visited Mike Battery's fire direction center and each gun section for a fire demonstration and to shake the hand of every Marine present.

“That was the first time I or my Marines have seen the commandant in person,” said Cpl. John Albert, Mike Battery section chief whose Marines all received Hagee's personal challenge coins. “The Marines really loved it. It motivated the hell out of us. I didn't realize how big a deal getting one of his coins was until later on.”

The commandant's next day was spent partially at Camp Wilson and Range 215, where he interacted with Marines and watched as they went through urban exercises for Mojave Viper training.

Later, Hagee spoke to Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, at the base theater before they began their Mojave Viper training.

“This is not just an exercise,” said Hagee. “This is not a game. This is absolute serious stuff. We want the training you see out here to resemble as closely as possible what you are going to see in Iraq.”

Marines and Sailors in the audience asked questions and Hagee also took time for photographs with each platoon in the battalion before he left.

Hagee also went to Victory Field for an impromptu visit during 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment's family day event, much to the thrill of the Marines, Sailors and family members gathered prior to his departure from the Combat Center.

February 24, 2006

31st MEU MSSG brings in supplies

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Feb. 24, 2006) -- Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's MEU Service Support Group 31 have been offloading supplies from both helicopters and trucks in the municipality of St. Bernard since Feb. 19.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/E38EAF22E4F5962E85257120007BF501?opendocument


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 2006225173356
Story by Cpl. Will Lathrop

The U.S. government gave the supplies to the people of the Philippines whose lives were affected by the disastrous landslide that wiped out the entire village of Guinsaugon Feb 17, burying nearly 1,000 souls.

"We really appreciate the support of the Marines here," said Edna Dator, the warehouse manager of all incoming and outgoing relief supplies. "The first day we filled a wall, the next day the building was half full, and by the third day, the warehouse was full even after we had begun to give out supplies."

The MSSG-31 service members have been moving most of the supplies to a warehouse in downtown St. Bernard. The warehouse is approximately 600,000 cubic feet, and working details of U.S. Marines and sailors and Philippine Marines, have been rapidly restocking the supplies.

"We have water, rice, sugar, clothing, canned goods, candles, aluminum kettles and containers for water," Dator said. "And it's coming in faster than we can distribute it."

The Marines and sailors also unloaded CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters loaded with numerous medical supplies that were taken to the Anahawan District Hospital for the evacuees and survivors of the landslide.

"All the supplies that come in go to evacuees and survivors," Dator said, "so we really thank the volunteers and donors."

The service members lending a helping hand were more than willing to do their part for the victims of the natural disaster.

"We have nine Marines here from the maintenance detachment, and we've been here all morning helping to stock the warehouse," said Cpl. Michael E. Johnson, a 21-year-old wrecker operator and Widefield, Colo. native. "It feels good to be helping out the populace. We just wish we could help out more."

By the end of the day, there were stacks of rice and sugar bags reaching almost ten-feet high.

"We've already started using another warehouse down the street for just the water," said Walter Felices, an inventory clerk for the warehouse.

The MEU along with the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) were in Subic Bay in preparation to conduct Exercise Balikatan 2006 before the U.S. received the Philippine government's request for support in Southern Leyte.

31st MEU engineers build road to assist rescue

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Feb. 24, 2006) -- Numerous nations, non-governmental and private voluntary organizations have responded to the request for aid from the Philippine government following a landslide, which destroyed the village of Guinsaugon here, Feb. 17.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/2DE15F61E652CF378525712000449920?opendocument


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200622572916
Story by Cpl. Martin R. Harris

Search and rescue operations have been limited to hand tools because of heavy rain and nearly continuous rainfall at the disaster area, but even unstable soil has not stopped the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s consolidated engineer detachment from making every effort to reach the disaster sight.

The combat engineers began building a road over the thick mud and muck to allow heavy equipment into the disaster area Feb. 24.

Completing the construction on the road will begin excavation of the disaster area on a large scale, explained 2nd Lt. Edward Rushing, a combat engineer platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

“It is very important to the search and rescue mission that we complete this road,” said Rushing, a 23-year-old Knoxville, Tenn. native. “When the road is complete we will be able to get our heavy equipment right up to the disaster area, which will really speed things up.”

Most of the Marines and sailors aren’t used to the thick mud and unsteady surface, explained Cpl. Douglas Brager, a combat engineer with the detachment. The engineers are using large logs, cut from near by bamboo trees, and mixing bags of concrete with the gravel to build a sturdy foundation for the roads.

“It’s very difficult to keep anything from sinking in the mud,” said Brager, the 23-year-old Chattanooga, Tenn. native. “The rain is almost constant and the logs will hopefully keep the road from sinking or washing away.”

According to Staff Sgt. Stephen Short, the motor transport maintenance chief with MEU Service Support Group 31, the challenge of building the road in adverse conditions will contribute a great deal to the search and rescue operation, as well as help them in the long run.

“The Marines know how important this road is to the operation,” said Short, a 32-year-old Timberlake, N.C. native. “This is something they have never done before and it’s definitely an experience that well help in their Marine Corps career.”

The road, when completed will be the only means of entry and exit from the disaster area, other than helicopter or on foot.

“The faster we get this road built, the more likely it is we might find someone alive,” said Short, who has been helping direct 7-ton dump trucks in and out of the disaster area. “If there aren’t any roads we can’t get front loaders in to excavate on a large scale.”

Through innovation, determination and a sense of urgency, in soggy and inopportune conditions the combat engineers have found a way to push forward with the search and rescue operation and continue to support the Philippine government by all means necessary.

“The Marines are very motivated about getting this road built,” said Rushing. “They are doing a spectacular job. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to handle this responsibility.”

4th MEB to deactivate

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N. C. (Feb. 24, 2006) -- The 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti- Terrorism) will disband in a ceremony held here Friday.

The components that make up 4th MEB (AT) will be reorganized to better enable the Marine Corps to fight and win the Global War on Terror.
The MEB is currently comprised of five subordinate units, each with a specific mission and tailored capabilities.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/80914A94DD07F2228525711E00739775?opendocument


Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200622316234
Story by Sgt. Stephen L. Traynham

The Marine Corps Security Force Battalion trains and equips Marines and Sailors for anti-terrorism and physical security missions to protect designated naval or national assets worldwide.

The Chemical- Biological Incident Response Force responds to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high yield explosive incidents in order to assist first responders and the regional combatant commander in consequence management.

The Anti-Terrorism Battalion consists of more than seven hundred Marines and Sailors and is the most robust anti-terrorism force available.

These three units will fall under II Marine Expeditionary Force once the MEB is deactivated.
The Marine Security Guard Battalion, which provides internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities to prevent the compromise of classified material and equipment vital to U.S. national security, will report to Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

The Foreign Military Training Unit, which provides tailored military combat-skills training and advisor support for identified foreign forces in order to enhance their tactical capabilities, will integrate into the Marine Corps Special Operation Command, which will be activated Friday morning at a ceremony here.

The MEB was activated and organized into an anti-terrorism organization following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The MEB’s mission was to provide unified combatant commanders with rapidly deployable and sustainable specialized anti-terrorism forces designed
to deter, detect, defend against terrorist threats, to conduct initial incident response to combat the threat of worldwide terrorism, and to provide initial consequence management should an attack occur.

Since it’s reactivation, elements of the MEB have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, the brigade had four task forces deployed in combat operations during 2003 and 2004 in Djibouti, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.

MARSOC activates, helps fight Global War on Terrorism

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb.24, 2006) -- Since the founding of the United States of America, there has been a special operation’s unit. First, there were Rodger’s Rangers who fought against the British during the Colonial period. Next came Mosby’s Rangers who fought for the South during the Civil War. More than 50 years ago, the United States activated the Office of Strategic Services, which consisted of three of the military branches (Navy, Army, Air Force) to help defend the country.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/64D9C69C91287BD88525711E007467CE?opendocument

Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 2006223161127
Story by Cpl. Ken Melton

Friday, in a ceremony here with high military and government officials present, America’s newest weapon will activate and give terrorists more reasons to fear as the United States Marine Corps establishes Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and joins the celebrated ranks of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

USSOCOM’s mission is to plan, direct and execute special operations in the conduct of the War on Terrorism in order to disrupt, defeat, and destroy terrorist networks that threaten the United States, its citizens and interests worldwide.

It also organizes, trains and equips Special Operation Forces (SOF) provided to geographic combatant commanders, American ambassadors and their country teams.

Since USSOCOM’s creation in 1987, the Marine Corps has been an outside factor in helping it accomplish these missions.

Now having their own Special Forces component, Marines will directly support current SOF missions and begin new missions with different purposes.

The key tasks of MARSOC will be: direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counterterrorism, information operations, and unconventional warfare.

According to the mission statement, MARSOC will train and provide a fully capable Marine Special Operation Force to USSOCOM for worldwide deployments to execute assigned missions. The MARSOC units will be capable of task organizing as scalable, tailorable and responsive special operations units from sea based platforms as well as from United States locations.

MARSOC Headquarters will be located at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and consist of five subordinate elements:
The Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU) will provide tailored military combat-skills training and advisor support for identified foreign forces as well as Marines and sailors and will assist friendly host-nation forces, including naval and maritime military and paramilitary forces, to enable them to support their governments’ internal security and stability, counter subversion, and reduce the risk of violence from internal and external threats.

The Marine Special Operations Support Group (MSOG) will provide combined arms planning and coordination, K-9 support, special operations communications support, comb at service support including logistics, and all-source intelligence fusion capability.

Two Marine Special Operations Battalions (MSOB), one on each coast, will be organized, trained, and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as directed by MARSOC. Each MSOB will consist of several Marine Special Operations Companies and be task-organized with personnel uniquely skilled in special equipment support, intelligence and fire-support.

As a major command, MARSOC will report directly to the Commandant of the Marine Corps for service matters and will be under the operational control of USSOCOM.

Elements of different units, including 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism), will transition into needed areas of MARSOC to give it a stronger foundation in its early years.
The leathernecks at MARSOC will continue the traditions of the “The Few, The Proud” and “America’s 911 force,” while interlocking into USSOCOM’s new paradigm of “Right Force, Right Place, Right Time, Right Adversary”, to help defeat the enemy anywhere, anytime.

31st MEU, Philippine Marines work shoulder-to-shoulder

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Feb. 24, 2006) -- Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's MEU Service Support Group 31 have been working directly with Philippine Marines since Feb. 22 in support of humanitarian operations being conducted here.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/9599A1A7C6937DE785257121002E7A4C?opendocument


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200622632739
Story by Cpl. Will Lathrop

The combined effort of the two militaries is in response to the devastating landslide Feb. 17, which obliterated the entire village of Guinsaugon, killing more than 1000 people.

The 38 Philippine Marines volunteering in St. Bernard are with the 51st Marine Battalion Reserve based in Cebu.

"We were directed by the Naval Reserve Command in Manila to send one contingent here," explained Philippine Marine 1st. Lt. Tito Ranara, the administrative and personnel officer. "All of the Marines here took time off from college and their jobs in the private and government sectors to come help their countrymen."

Since their arrival here Feb. 22, the Philippine Marines and U.S. Marines and sailors with MSSG-31 have been extremely busy unloading trucks and helicopters filled with relief supplies into a distribution warehouse in St. Bernard.

"They're in here working hard just like us, if not harder, to get these supplies out to the survivors," said U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael E. Johnson, a 21-year-old wrecker operator and Widefield, Colo. native. "It's really a great experience to work with these Marines."

The warehouse where the supplies are being staged is approximately 600,000-cubic feet, and work details of the combined Marines and sailors have been filling it up at a rapid rate.

"Our men our very proud to be working with the U.S. Marines, and are thankful that they have come to help the people of the Philippines," Ranara, a financial management consultant, said, "It has also been a wonderful experience for us."

For Ranara and his men, it is the first time they have worked alongside U.S. Marines, and at first the language barrier was a factor, but that obstacle was quickly overcome.

"The groups weren't really talking, but now they're interacting greatly," Ranara said, "The Philippine-American service members have been very popular, and many of them have traded souvenirs."

The Marines and sailors of the MEU will continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippine Marines to bring in and distribute supplies as they become available.

The MEU along with the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) were in Subic Bay in preparation to conduct Exercise Balikatan 2006 before the U.S. received the Philippine government's request for support in Southern Leyte.

February 23, 2006

31st MEU Marines aid, evacuate rescuers

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Feb. 23, 2006) -- Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Joint Task Force Balikatan, used two CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters to rescue nine Taiwanese rescuers who were trapped in the landslide disaster area Feb. 23.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/FA0AF3D0BECFF7D28525711E003A45BB?opendocument


Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200622353629
Story by Capt. Burrell D. Parmer

Rescue workers became trapped in the deep mud while attempting to retrieve a casualty from the disastrous Feb. 17 landslide. The radio operators with the Marines and the Taiwanese contacted their respective operation centers, which immediately notified Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Bonifacio Ramos, ground commander for the search and rescue effort. Ramos quickly ordered a full evacuation of all search and rescue sites, then requested assistance from the Marines who had two Sea Knights helicopters unloading relief supplies.

Within minutes, the two Sea Knights were in the air and traveling to the sites and a CH-46E located the seven trapped men.

The Sea Knight pilots carefully landed the aircraft on the muddy surface and the two crew chiefs opened the rear hatch. First Lieutenant Rian P. Iglesias, the executive officer of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment was onboard the Sea Knight when it took off to evacuate the sites.

"I don't know how the pilots landed the helicopter, but as we began to rescue the seven (men), the aircraft began to sink slowly in the mud," said Iglesias, a 28-year-old Jackson, N.J. native.

According to Iglesias, the Taiwanese are brave men and are dedicated to their mission even in the face of danger.

"They didn't want to leave the body behind, we threw them a cargo strap but they wouldn't take it," said Iglesias. "They tied the cargo strap around the body and we pulled it in first. Then we pulled each of the team up into the aircraft."

On one of the last flights of evacuation, the second Sea Knight rescued another two men who were trapped in the deep mud.

The CH-46E, piloted by Lt. Col. Kevin H. Wild, commanding officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), had to hover above the two men to extract them. A lifeline was descended down and they were airlifted to safety.

From 11 a.m. to noon, the Marine pilots evacuated 152 rescue workers and a K9 unit. All search and rescue operations were suspended until further notice.

Teams from the U.S., Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Spain were conducting search and rescue operations at two sites; one that was the reported location of the elementary school which was in session when the landslide occurred Feb. 17.

The 31st MEU is deployed here along with the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group at the request of the Philippine government to render humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for thousands of Filipinos who were affected by the disastrous landside.

Miramar unit returns from Iraq for brief respite

MIRAMAR ---- Five months home, then back to Iraq.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/02/24/news/top_stories/22_11_462_23_06.txt

By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

That's what lies ahead for more than 150 members of a Miramar Marine Corps Air Station communications squad who returned from the war Thursday morning.

It was a homecoming shared with more than 100 wives, parents, children and friends who had gathered on a base tarmac to welcome their loved ones home.


Similar scenes of arrivals and deployments are repeated almost weekly as the U.S. is on the verge of entering its fourth year in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

Deployments are marked by the faces of worried loved ones left behind. Arrivals, such as Thursday's, are marked by nothing but joy.

Among those waiting for the Air Control Group 38 and Company B that constituted about 130 of the more than 150 Marines and sailors who came home was Carrie Lowe, 21, whose boyfriend, Lance Cpl. Ryan Prokop, was completing his second deployment to Iraq.

Lowe was visibly anxious as she awaited the arrival of the jet carrying her boyfriend of six years, and had ready answers for a couple of questions.

How long has he been gone?

"Two hundred and seven days," she instantly replied.

And what has that time been like?

"I've been waiting for him to come home every day since he left."

Also anxiously waiting were Prokop's sleep-deprived parents, Mike and Debbie Prokop who, along with Lowe, flew from Pittsburgh to San Diego, arriving late Wednesday night and unable to get any shut-eye.

"It's been very stressful," Mike Prokop said of his son's deployment. "I try not to think about it, but I know his mom thought about it day and night."

When will the stress go away?

"When the plane lands and you can see it," he said.

Recalling his experience one year ago at Miramar when his son returned from his first deployment, Mike Prokop said: "There's no feeling like that in the world ---- knowing he is back on U.S. soil and is safe."

The Prokops had extra reason to celebrate as the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl this year. One of the first things his dad gave his son was one of the yellow "Terrible Towels" that Steeler fans wave.

During the football season, dad had sent a DVD recording of every Steeler game to his son so that he could keep up on what ultimately turned out to be a championship year.

"It's great to be back," Ryan Prokop said shortly after his squad was dismissed from a formation in front of family and friends and had a chance to hug and kiss his girlfriend and his parents.

Any complaints?

"I didn't really enjoy the weather," he said. "It was either too hot or too cold."

Debbie Prokop was succinct in her reaction to her son's return.

"He's back where he belongs," she said.

But not for long.

Company B commander Capt. Jim Tunney, also a Pittsburgh native, said that after getting most if not all of the month of March off and before heading back to the base, the unit is scheduled to return to Iraq in August.

Tunney, who was returning from his third deployment to Iraq, said his troops did "an awesome job" at "TQ," the nickname for Al Taqaddum Air Base in central Iraq, about 50 miles west of Baghdad, where they had spent the majority of their time.

"The number of hours these guys put in providing close air combat and medevac communication support was huge, and they performed very well," Tunney said.

All of those who left Miramar seven months ago for this deployment came home with no major injuries recorded, no deaths and no encounters with roadside bombs, which the Defense Department said had claimed seven U.S. troops on Thursday in two such attacks north of Baghdad.

Scenes similar to those at Miramar on Thursday, but packed with more intense emotion and apprehension, are being repeated at Camp Pendleton and at Miramar almost daily as the I Marine Expeditionary Force of 25,000 sailors and Marines musters in western Iraq. The force is assuming security and combat operations from a similarly sized Marine force from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

There were no such worries immediately ahead for Miramar Sgt. Chris Garcia, who was looking forward to his favorite meal of supernachos that his wife, Amanda, was planning for dinner Thursday.

Like many of the Marines, his comments were short as he was reunited with his wife and their 4-year-old daughter, Delilah, and 9-month-old son, Isaac.

"It's good to be back," he said of returning from his second deployment. "It was a little better this time because we didn't have to move around as much."


1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment flies Newport Beach flag

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Feb. 23, 2006) -- Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment have a new dash of color in the skies here.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/70d6fb4d570e238e852571260025e0a5?OpenDocument


Submitted by: Regimental Combat Team 5
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. William Skelton
Story Identification #: 20063315343

The flag of the City of Newport Beach, Calif., flies below the national ensign, snapping in the breeze here. It’s a tribute to the partnership between the battalion’s Marines and the coastal southern California city.

Newport Beach officially adopted 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in December 2003. Many of the committee members are former Marines, some of whom served in the battalion.

“Everyday someone goes out and raises the flag and with it the Newport Beach flag,” said Maj. Bill Wischmeyer, the 39-year-old battalion executive officer from San Diego. “We do it to pay tribute to all of the many things Newport Beach does to support the battalion.”

The partnership began when Timothy J. Sloat, a businessman and former member of the battalion from Laguna Beach, Calif., approached the battalion in August 2003 with the idea of adopting them.

Sloat explained that Col. Brian Beaudreault, now the commanding officer for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was the battalion commander at the time and agreed with Sloat and the rest is history.

Sloat said in an e-mail interview that the partnership was natural.

“I selected Newport Beach because of its demographics, its relative proximity to Horno, and its restaurants, hotels, beaches and many other amenities which could all be supportive,” of the battalion’s Marines, he said.

The reaction by the adoption committee to learn their city’s flag flies in Iraq with the battalion was one of pride and awe.

Steve Bromberg, a 62-year-old judge with the Orange County Superior Court said in an e-mail he was pleasantly stunned to hear the news and delighted with the battalion’s gesture.

“What could I or members of the Committee possibly think about that?,” he asked. “We are so proud … and now they fly our flag,” he said. “On a personal note, I am so proud of that and that says it all.”

Newport Beach is familiar to many of the Marines in 1st Battalion.

Some of the Marines of the battalion travel up to Newport Beach on occasion to enjoy the atmosphere and beaches. Flying the city’s flag is a touch of home for them in the middle of a combat zone.

“I’ve been up to Newport Beach a few times since I’ve been in California,” said Lance Cpl. Steven J. Kalchik, a 22-year-old administrative clerk from Buffalo, N.Y. “It’s kind of cool to see their flag flying when we are so far away from home.”

Newport Beach’s support for 1st Battalion continues even today, while their Marines are deployed halfway around the world. The city routinely extends themselves to help on small and large projects, Wischmeyer explained.

“Our unwritten mission is to assist our Marine neighbors as they are our neighbors,” Bromberg explained. “Camp Horno is about 40 minutes from Newport Beach.”

“Support has ranged from providing personnel and/or families airline tickets and travel expenses within the U.S. and abroad during emergency situations to hosting a battalion picnic for the Marines and families at Lake O’Neill,” Sloat said.

The city went as far as to assist a Marine’s family during a previous deployment when a Marine was being medically evacuated, Bromberg explained. The Marine Corps contacted family indicating the situation was severe. Marines could fly them to Singapore, but housing would be on their own.

“We supplied the family with a substantial amount of money to spend as much time as necessary with their Marine,” Bromberg said. “We gave them a number to call if they needed more.”

Sloat explained the sentiments aren’t just those on the city council and the adoption committee, but is also shared by the residents in the Newport Beach community.

“The response from residents of Newport Beach and also of the surrounding areas has been outstanding,” Sloat said. “People in general want to support the Corps. All they need is to simply be given a way.”

The flag’s long journey will end in a special place when the battalion returns from their current deployment to Iraq. Marines from 1st Battalion plan to bring the flag home when they complete the deployment and present it to city officials upon completion of their Iraq tour.

“The flag will then be displayed in perpetuity in the City Council chambers with a plaque identifying its history,” Sloat explained.

There are plans to continue to cement the bonds between the city and their adopted Marines as well.

“We will take the issues of need as they arise,” Bromberg said. “We continue to work with the families at home. There will also be another Mess Night, probably in October. We will assist the families and the Marines in any manner that we can.”

Grunts receive new tools to defeat IEDs

CAMP MERCURY, Iraq (Feb. 23, 2006) -- Technology continues to make its way to the front lines, giving Marines new tools to counter improvised explosive devices, the biggest threat to Marine patrols in the area.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2006331656


Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2006331656
Story by Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, recently received the MARCbot IV, a remote-operated robot equipped with a video camera and control console with a 5-inch LCD screen that gives a continuous video feed from the extendable arm.

“It’s a good tool to have, considering the amount of IEDs in the area,” said Cpl. Chris Kozuch, an armorer with Headquarters and Support Platoon.

Nicknamed “Bigfoot” by Marine operators for its monster-truck appearance, the MARCbot IV operates much like any remote control car, said Cpl. Chris W. Sachs, a motor transport operator for Headquarters and Support Platoon.

“It drives exactly the same, it just has a camera added on,” said Sachs, a 22-year-old from Jefferson City, Mo.

“It’s a basic joystick layout, very easy to operate,” added Kozuch, 22, from Castle Rock, Colo.

Bigfoot’s relative long-distance range effectively puts a safety buffer between the Marine and any suspected roadside bomb, Kozuch said.

“Primarily, when we spot a potential IED, we send it out to investigate whether it’s an IED or trash,” Kozuch said.

Explosive ordnance disposal units have been equipped with similar units for some time, but equipping infantry companies with their own robots can save time while waiting for EOD to arrive on the scene, Sachs explained.

“We can assess the situation, and EOD doesn’t have to come out if we don’t need them,” he explained. “We see an IED … if it’s real, they can take care of it.”

The batteries aboard the mobile unit are good for a relatively short time in continuous use, but long enough to get up on the suspected bomb, Sachs said. It comes with LED, or light emitting diode, for night use, with two long protruding antennae, one for the video feed, one for controls. The camera swivels back and forth on command, allowing the operator to view from virtually any angle.

“You can look at pretty much anything you want, Kozuch said. “It can also handle rough terrain.”

Kozuch had first seen a MARCbot IV back in 2005, but never thought he’d ever get a chance to drive one. He said he always had an interest in technology and when the company got the new robot, he was quick to volunteer.

The two-part system, which fits inside a single black plastic case, carries a price tag of roughly $50,000. Kozuch will say it’s well worth the cost should the robot be blown up doing its job.

“Anything is better than losing a Marine, no matter how much it costs,” Kozuch said. “You can get a new robot, but you can’t put a price on a Marine’s life.”

February 22, 2006

4th MEB shuts down, Anti-terrorism units to disperse throughout fleet

The Marine Corps has decided to shutter its anti-terrorism brigade late this week, a move that will help the service jump start its entry into the special operations world.

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1552953.php

By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

After more than five years in action and only a couple high-profile missions, the units that were once part of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) will stay intact, but scatter to other commands in the fleet.

Most of the MEB’s headquarters staff will assume new duties with the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which will officially stand up Feb. 24 at Camp Lejeune.

The 4th MEB’s demise was at least a year in works, with the final nail in the coffin coming with the Corps’ new foray into special operations. Marine officials admit they needed some of the MEB’s manpower to start up the new spec ops command, which unfurls its flag at Camp Lejeune the same day the 4th MEB stands down.

But despite its brief history, the MEB has much to be proud of, its commander said.

“My feeling is that we’ve accomplished something but we haven’t lost anything in making this transition,” said Col. Glen Sachtleben, 4th MEB commander.

Largely conceived before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but activated weeks after, the 4th MEB was given command of some of the Marine Corps’ most specialized units, including Marine Corps Security Forces Battalion with its Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security teams, Marine security guards and the newly-formed Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. The MEB also assumed command of a so-called “anti-terrorism battalion” — an infantry unit with specialized training to defend against terrorist attacks.

The MEB deployed its AT battalion to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2002 to secure the newly liberated U.S. Embassy there, and worked to bolster the defenses of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last year.

The brigade also formed the first foreign military training units — small teams of Marine instructors deployed to assist militaries of countries on the brink of terrorist influence. The FMTUs will also come under the command of the new MarSOC.

All the MEB’s former units will now be under the command of new organizations and their ongoing missions will continue. But Sachtleben said the units’ final home is still under review.

“They have gone to maybe a new parent command home for support, but they still will continue to carry out their missions and work within their capabilities,” Sachtleben said. “That means that we have not lost the synergy gained by placing them underneath an element like the command of 4th MEB. All we’ve really done is just take those capabilities and give them to new parent commands but we’ve kept the strength and synergies gained.”


Okinawa Marines putting everything into rescue effort

31st MEU helping Philippine town destroyed by mudslide

By David Allen and Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — U.S. troops are pushing themselves to the limits to dig for survivors of a massive mudslide in the Philippines.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/news/okinawa-marines-putting-everything-into-rescue-effort-1.45304


11th MEU makes use of downtime during first stages of deployment

ABOARD THE USS OGDEN AND USS PELELIU (Feb. 22, 2006) -- Marines and sailors expect the days to be filled with work and play at sea during a deployment.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/AD56CA4D75F51F6D8525711E001E3149?opendocument

Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 200622302946
Story by Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon

Most would agree the two equal parts rarely happen on the same day. On ship, there are some days in which training needs to get done and free time takes a back seat. On the flip side, there are days in which Marines and sailors struggle to find activities to fill their day.

The Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, (Special Operations Capable) Camp Pendleton, Calif., have already seen both sides of the coin, just one week into their six-month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Regimental Combat Team 5 begins operations in Al Anbar Province

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Regimental Combat Team 5 successfully conducted a relief-in-place with Regimental Combat Team 8 and assumed responsibility for an area of operations in eastern Al Anbar Province today.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/releaseview/42A05C6A2B20C2128525711D0060C480?opendocument


United States Marine Corps
Press Release
1stLt Nathan J. Braden
Feb. 22, 2006

“I like to think we are leaving this [area of operations] in a better place today than when RCT-8 arrived last year,” said Col David H. Berger, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 8. “I wish the best of luck to the incoming RCT and mission accomplishment in all of their endeavors.”

Regimental Combat Team 5 officially took responsibility for the area today at 8 a.m. local time. However, the RCT-5 staff has been in theater for several weeks learning the ropes from their RCT-8 counterparts while conducting the relief in place.

“We look forward to building on the tremendous successes which RCT-8 experienced with the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 5. “We will continue to serve as a windbreak for the emerging ISF and Iraqi government as they continue to sink their roots, sharpen their capabilities and assume increasingly more responsibility for security.”

Regimental Combat Team 5’s main priorities for the next year will be assessing, training and operating with Iraqi Security Forces in the greater Fallujah area. Units from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based RCT will partner with Iraqi Army units at the regimental and battalion level. In addition, some members of the RCT will work closely with Iraqi police organizations.

Regimental Combat Team 5 is comprised of units from across the Marine Corps, to include units from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions.

The major units within RCT 5:
- Headquarters Company, 5th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (Camp Lejeune, NC.)
- 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Company A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Battery B, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)

While Regimental Combat Team 5 is scheduled to remain deployed to the Al Anbar Province for approximately 12 moths, the subordinate units within RCT 5 will continue to follow their planned rotation schedule.

The 5th Marine Regiment was activated on June 8, 1917 in Philadelphia, Pa. The regimental headquarters last deployed to lead Regimental Combat Team 5 in support of the combat operations phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when RCT-5 served as the main effort for the 1st Marine Division during their advance towards Baghdad.

Regimental Combat Team 8 will return to Camp Lejeune, NC after operating for 12 months in the greater Fallujah area, which includes the cities of Karmah, Amiriyah and Saqlawiyah.

‘Darkhorse’ pauses to honor their fallen

CAMP SMITTY, Iraq(Feb. 22, 2006) -- Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 gathered here to remember two fallen men Monday, Feb. 20.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/075e96fb45bd2fce852571240025bace?OpenDocument


Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Cpl. Ross A. Smith, a fire team leader, and Pfc. Javier Chavez Jr., a rifleman, both with 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company I., were killed by hostile action Feb. 9 in the Al Anbar Province. So far, the company has lost three Marines.

“There are no words I can say that will relieve the hurt that the Smith’s, Chavez’s and we feel., said Lt. Col. Patrick G. Looney, the 43-year-old battalion’s commander from Oceanside, Calif. “But what I can offer is that these warriors gave their lives doing what they chose to do. My sincerest condolences go out to the Smith and Chavez families for their great loss.”

Portraits of Smith and Chavez rested alongside their boots, rifles, identification tags and Kevlar helmets, before the U.S. and Marine Corps flags. The company stood in formation as their close friends and squad members read prayers and reflected on their friendships with the two men.

Lance Cpl. Joshua B. Tallis, an infantryman with 2nd Platoon knew Smith since they arrived together to their platoon.

“You could always tell his presence, always loud, always happy,” said Tallis, 21, from Los Angeles. “His platoon is going to miss their brother.”

He said it was Smith’s third deployment to Iraq. He was 21 years old.

“He was going to get out and take over his father’s business,” Tallis said.

Smith is survived by his mother, father, and girlfriend in Detroit.

Chavez, from Fresno, Calif., was born Dec. 31, 1986 and recently married Janie Chavez, 19.

“Those of us who knew Javier are better for having known him,” said Lance Cpl Pierce Ford, a 22-year-old infantryman Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Like Corporal Smith, he was an avid athlete, and an excellent student,” Looney added. “He was also a loving husband, a son, and a brother.”

Ford said Chavez always put his family first, going home to see them every chance he had.

“He was dedicated to his family,” said Ford, 20. “He’d be the first to step up if somebody was being picked on. My prayers go out to his family. He’s in a better place now.”

Ford, who knew Chavez since their days at the School of Infantry, said that Chavez planned to use his experience in the Marine Corps as a stepping-stone into a career in law enforcement.

“We pretty much did everything together since we met,” Ford explained. “He cared about his family, and he was like a brother to me.”

Pfc. Mack McSperitt, from 2nd Platoon knew Chavez since they were classmates in the 7th grade.

“He’s a childhood friend,” said McSperitt, a 19-year-old from Hanford, Calif. “He joined the Marine Corps before me. He knew what he wanted to do. He joined the Corps to become a better person, to learn honor, courage and commitment.”

McSperitt said a few words for the Chavez family.

“He stood up for what he believed in,” he said. “I’m very sorry for the loss of your son. It’s hard, but he fought to the end. You should be proud.”

Regimental Combat Team 5 begins operations in Al Anbar Province

Feb. 22, 2006

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Regimental Combat Team 5 successfully conducted a relief-in-place with Regimental Combat Team 8 and assumed responsibility for an area of operations in eastern Al Anbar Province today.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/releaseview/42A05C6A2B20C2128525711D0060C480?opendocument


“I like to think we are leaving this [area of operations] in a better place today than when RCT-8 arrived last year,” said Col David H. Berger, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 8. “I wish the best of luck to the incoming RCT and mission accomplishment in all of their endeavors.”

Regimental Combat Team 5 officially took responsibility for the area today at 8 a.m. local time. However, the RCT-5 staff has been in theater for several weeks learning the ropes from their RCT-8 counterparts while conducting the relief in place.

“We look forward to building on the tremendous successes which RCT-8 experienced with the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 5. “We will continue to serve as a windbreak for the emerging ISF and Iraqi government as they continue to sink their roots, sharpen their capabilities and assume increasingly more responsibility for security.”

Regimental Combat Team 5’s main priorities for the next year will be assessing, training and operating with Iraqi Security Forces in the greater Fallujah area. Units from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based RCT will partner with Iraqi Army units at the regimental and battalion level. In addition, some members of the RCT will work closely with Iraqi police organizations.

Regimental Combat Team 5 is comprised of units from across the Marine Corps, to include units from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions.

The major units within RCT 5:
- Headquarters Company, 5th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (Camp Lejeune, NC.)
- 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)
- Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Company A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (Camp Lejeune, NC)
- Battery B, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)

While Regimental Combat Team 5 is scheduled to remain deployed to the Al Anbar Province for approximately 12 moths, the subordinate units within RCT 5 will continue to follow their planned rotation schedule.

The 5th Marine Regiment was activated on June 8, 1917 in Philadelphia, Pa. The regimental headquarters last deployed to lead Regimental Combat Team 5 in support of the combat operations phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when RCT-5 served as the main effort for the 1st Marine Division during their advance towards Baghdad.

Regimental Combat Team 8 will return to Camp Lejeune, NC after operating for 12 months in the greater Fallujah area, which includes the cities of Karmah, Amiriyah and Saqlawiyah.


For additional information, contact Camp Pendleton 1st Marine Division Public Affairs Offficer (rear), 2nd Lt. Joseph King.


February 21, 2006

Motorcyclists roll to soldier funerals to drown out protesters

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier's funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters.
They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.

http://www.startribune.com/484/story/260171.html


Ryan Lenz, Associated Press
Last update: February 21, 2006 – 9:18 AM


Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs — explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.

The bikers shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, and overshadow the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white and blue flags.

"The most important thing we can do is let families know that the nation cares," said Don Woodrick, the group's Kentucky captain. "When a total stranger gets on a motorcycle in the middle of winter and drives 300 miles to hold a flag, that makes a powerful statement."

At least 14 states are considering laws aimed at the funeral protesters, who at a recent memorial service at Fort Campbell wrapped themselves in upside-down American flags. They danced and sang impromptu songs peppered with vulgarities that condemned homosexuals and soldiers.

The Patriot Guard was also there, waving up a ruckus of support for the families across the street. Community members came in the freezing rain to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" alongside them.

"This is just the right thing to do. This is something America didn't do in the '70s," said Kurt Mayer, the group's national spokesman. "Whether we agree with why we're over there, these soldiers are dying to protect our freedoms."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of Fred Phelps and an attorney for the Topeka, Kan.-based church, said neither state laws nor the Patriot Guard can silence their message that God killed the soldiers because they fought for a country that embraces homosexuals.

"The scriptures are crystal clear that when God sets out to punish a nation, it is with the sword. An IED is just a broken-up sword," Phelps-Roper said. "Since that is his weapon of choice, our forum of choice has got to be a dead soldier's funeral."

The church, Westboro Baptist Church, is not affiliated with a larger denomination and is made up mostly of Fred Phelps' extended family members.

During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing the funerals of AIDS victims, and they have long been tracked as a hate group by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

The project's deputy director, Heidi Beirich, said other groups have tried to counter Phelps' message, but none has been as organized as the Patriot Guard.

"I'm not sure anybody has gone to this length to stand in solidarity," she said. "It's nice that these veterans and their supporters are trying to do something. I can't imagine anything worse, your loved one is killed in Iraq and you've got to deal with Fred Phelps."

Kentucky, home to sprawling Fort Campbell along the Tennessee line, was among the first states to attempt to deal with Phelps legislatively. Its House and Senate have each passed bills that would limit people from protesting within 300 feet of a funeral or memorial service. The Senate version would also keep protesters from being within earshot of grieving friends and family members.

Richard Wilbur, a retired police detective, said his Indiana Patriot Guard group only comes to funerals if invited by family. He said he has no problem with protests against the war but sees no place for objectors at a family's final goodbye to a soldier.

"No one deserves this," he said.


Doyle Signs Bill To Ban Funeral Protests

(AP) MADISON Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation Monday banning protests at funerals in Wisconsin, calling it shameful to see picketers at the memorials of fallen soldiers.

http://www.wfrv.com/topstories/local_story_051154244.html

Wisconsin is among more than a dozen states that have considered similar legislation following a series of protests by members of a Topeka, Kan.-based church. The church's followers believe soldiers' deaths are God's vengeance for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

South Dakota's governor signed legislation banning protests at funerals last week.

Wisconsin's ban criminalizes protests that take place within 500 feet of a funeral one hour before or after the service.

It applies to protests within 500 feet of the entrance of a memorial service or a funeral. First-time violators face up to
$10,000 in fines and nine months in jail. A second offense could bring up to a 3 1/2-year jail term.

Some have questioned whether the measure is constitutional. But Doyle said he believes the law strikes a balance between First Amendment rights and the need to allow families to grieve in private.


(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set, Course in Iraq Stresses the Cultural, Challenges the Conventional

TAJI, Iraq -- If the U.S. effort in Iraq ultimately is successful, one reason may be the small school started recently on a military base here by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/20/AR2006022001303_2.html

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 21, 2006; Page A10


Called the COIN Academy -- using military shorthand for "counterinsurgency" -- the newest educational institution in the U.S. military establishment seeks, as a course summary puts it, to "stress the need for U.S. forces to shift from a conventional warfare mindset" to one that understands how to win in a guerrilla-style conflict. Or, as a sign on the wall of one administrator's office here put it less politely: "Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome."

The purpose of the school north of Baghdad is to try to bring about a different outcome than the U.S. military achieved in 2003-04, when Army commanders committed mistakes typical of a conventional military facing an insurgency. "When the insurgency started, we came in very conventional," said Col. Chris Short, the District native and recent Manassas resident who is the new school's commandant.

Back then, U.S. forces rounded up tens of thousands of Iraqis, mixing innocent people in detention with hard-core Islamic extremists. Commanders permitted troops to shoot at anything mildly threatening. And they failed to give their troops the basic conceptual and cultural tools needed to operate in the complex environment of Iraq, from how to deal with a sheik to understanding why killing insurgents usually is the least desirable outcome in dealing with them. (It is more effective, they are now taught, to persuade them either to desert or to join the political process.)

Last year, an internal study by Army experts of U.S. commanders here found that some understood the principles of counterinsurgency and applied them well, while others faltered. "If the commander had it, the unit had it, but if the commander got it halfway, then the unit got it halfway," Casey said in a recent interview. The new school is designed to ensure that all the commanders get it.

Even now, some conventional unit commanders balk at the idea of leaving their troops for the five-day course, which covers subjects from counterinsurgency theory and interrogations to detainee operations and how to dine with a sheik. When told that he had to leave his battalion of Marines in Fallujah to come here, recalled Lt. Col. Patrick Looney, his reaction was disbelief.

"I didn't want to come," concurred Lt. Col. David Furness, commander of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, now operating between Baghdad and Fallujah. "But I'm glad I came."

Casey, the school's builder, found an easy way to make them come: He made attendance compulsory for any officer heading to a combat command in Iraq. He also meets with each class, offering the captains and lieutenant colonels a rare chance to quiz a four-star general.

Some members of the faculty, which draws heavily on Special Forces officers, were not eager to teach U.S. infantry, artillery, aviation and armor officers. Short recalled that some said: "That's not our mission. We don't teach U.S. forces." Such qualms have been eliminated, he said with a chuckle.

Again and again, the intense immersion course, which 30 to 50 officers attend at a time, emphasizes that the right answer is probably the counterintuitive one, rather than something that the Army has taught officers in their 10 or 20 years of service. The school's textbook, a huge binder, offers the example of a mission that busts into a house and captures someone who mortared a U.S. base.

"On the surface, a raid that captures a known insurgent or terrorist may seem like a sure victory for the coalition," it observes in red block letters. It continues, "The potential second- and third-order effects, however, can turn it into a long-term defeat if our actions humiliate the family, needlessly destroy property, or alienate the local population from our goals."

At points, the school's leaders seem to go out of their way to challenge current U.S. military practices here. Short said in an interview Friday inside his sandbagged headquarters that he has issues with "this big-base mentality" that keeps tens of thousands of troops inside facilities called forwarding operating bases, or FOBs, which they leave for patrols and raids. Classic counterinsurgency theory holds that troops should live out among the people as much as possible, to develop a sense of how the society works and to gather intelligence.

As Apache attack helicopters clattered overhead, Short also offered an unconventional view of Iraq's December elections, which many U.S. officials have portrayed as a great victory. "You can ask just about every Iraqi, 'What about the elections?' " he said. "They'll say" -- Short shrugged his shoulders -- " 'Well, we voted five times, and nothing's happening out here.' "

Recent attendees at the school came away impressed. "I think it's an incredibly insightful course," said Army Maj. Sheldon Horsfall, an adviser to the Iraqi military in Baghdad. "One of the things that was brought home to us, again and again, was the importance of cultural awareness."

"The course opened my eyes to some of the bigger picture," said Lt. Col. Nathan Nastase, the operations officer for the 5th Marine Regiment, based near Fallujah. He said he especially liked hearing about the role of Special Operations Forces in Iraq, as well as learning about the tactics being used by successful commanders.

The school's greatest effect seems to be on younger officers. "My initial impression of it was it was a waste of time," said Capt. Klaudius Robinson, commander of a cavalry troop in the 4th Infantry Division. "But after going through it, it really changed my thinking about how to fight this insurgency. I came to realize that the center of gravity is the people, and you have to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the people."

Before the course, he said, he expected to spend his time here combating insurgents, but instead he is focused on training and operating with Iraqi troops. "We're never going to catch every bad guy," he tells his troops. "That's not a ticket home. But what I can do is help Iraqi security forces and get them to take the lead."

"One of the things I picked up at the COIN Academy is, we don't need to be hard on people all the time," said Capt. Bret Lindberg, commander of another 4th Infantry cavalry troop.

The major criticism offered by students is that it would have been better to have the education six months earlier, when they were training their troops to deploy to Iraq, not after the units have arrived. Short had a tart response: It's not a bad idea, he said, but the Army back home wasn't stepping up to the job. "They didn't do it for three years" -- the length of the war so far, he noted. "That's why the boss said, 'Screw it, I'm doing it here.' "

At any rate, the school isn't just about operating in Iraq, Short said, but about preparing officers for the rest of their careers. "I think we're going to be in more of these wars," he said.


For Headquarters Company, training is continuous

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 21, 2006) -- Navy Seaman Apprentice Bradley L. Jones has one good reason for getting better at handling his rifle in Iraq.

“I will protect my patients at all costs.”

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/200631032859


Submitted by: Regimental Combat Team 5
Story Identification #: 200631032859
Story by 1st Lt. Nathan Braden

Jones, 22, a hospital corpsman assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, was among a group of 36 Marines from Headquarters Company who took the field recently to conduct live-fire enhanced marksmanship training here, Feb. 21. They were learning to be better gunfighters.

“At Field Medical Service School we only received basic training on the M-16, just the fundamentals and the safety rules,” said Jones, from St. Louis, Mo., on his first deployment to Iraq. “It was not the tactical, combat-type training that we learned today.”

Marines used the range time to reassert the combat-warrior mindset.

“The main goal of the range was to allow Marines an opportunity to reconfirm their [battle sights],” said Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Keith, 36, the company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters Company. “But, since we had the range reserved we decided to take the opportunity for Marines to practice their Gunfighter skills.”

“Gunfighter” is the title of the company’s enhanced marksmanship training program. The focus of the course is to prepare Marines for “the close fight,” or identifying and engaging targets within 50 meters.

“The enemy in Iraq is not usually massed in formations out in the open,” said 1st Lt Colin Browning, 25, from Thief River Falls, Minn. and Headquarters Company’s executive officer. “The enemy is found in back alleys and back rooms, where the Marines will only have a split-second to react upon contact.”

One of the main elements of the Gunfighter program is the repetitive nature of the training. The purpose of conducting drills over and over is to train Marines to respond with “muscle memory.” Muscle memory allows a Marine to immediately launch into action in a given situation without having to stop and think about his next move.

“Operating your weapon should be like driving your car,” said Cpl. Damien P. Betrolo, 21, a radio technician and Gunfighter Instructor for RCT-5. “A Marine should be able to remediate a malfunction as effortlessly as switching on his turning signal. If he has to hesitate to think about what to do next, he will pause and that hesitation could cost him his life.”

At least one Marine in the company felt the training allowed him to hone skills which he doesn’t get a chance to focus on with his primary military occupational specialty.

Pfc. Daniel S. Mast, 21, a communications technician for RCT-5 was all grins coming off the range.

“We don’t get a lot of time shooting because we’re focused on communications,” said Mast, from Jackson, Mich. on his first deployment to Iraq. “But, I feel more confident now that I’ll be able to hit what I need to.”

The marksmanship training was conducted by several noncommissioned officers from the company who underwent a “train-the-trainer” course at Camp Pendleton before the company deployed. The idea behind the course was to prepare a cadre of Marines available to pass on their skills and knowledge in gun fighting to the rest of the company throughout the deployment.

“A headquarters company is comprised of Marines with specific occupational specialties working together to support the infantry battalions, but their basic rifleman skills cannot be ignored,” said Keith, from Houston. “By having Gunfighter instructors within the company we are able to conduct sustainment training with Marines from the company, like we did today.”

In addition to sustained marksmanship training, the company rehearsed proper convoy tactics, including a convoy brief, loading and unloading rehearsals and actions during a security halt.

“We could have just rolled out there and made it easy, but that would have been a missed opportunity to train,” Keith said. “Plus, we wanted to stress to the Marines that there are no passengers in our convoys, only dismounts.”

A dismount is a Marine trained to exit a vehicle and maneuver against the enemy on foot. Historically, dismounts are infantry Marines who ride into combat on vehicles.

However, the situation in Iraq – where roadside ambushes are a common enemy tactic – calls for any Marine to take up the infantry role. Marines on each Headquarters Company convoy are trained and prepared to fight their way out of an ambush by returning accurate fire and maneuvering against the enemy.

“We learned how to exit a vehicle and set security and those are things I’ll definitely have to deal with over here,” Mast said.

Realistic training is absolutely vital in preparing Marines to go into harm’s way and the instructors from RCT-5 take a personal interest in ensuring the Marines receive quality training.

“I feel like I may have saved a Marine’s life today,” said Bertrolo, from Portland, Ore. “If I did a good job instructing then it could make the difference between wither a Marine reacts and lives, or hesitates and dies.”

Headquarters Company is scheduled to remain deployed to the Al Anbar Province until early 2007.

February 20, 2006

Marines sent to Iraq with a prayer

After the final goodbyes had been said and the gear stowed aboard the truck, there was time Sunday morning for a prayer -- not the first and certainly not the last.

http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/cctimes/news/special_packages/iraq/13916504.htm


Posted on Mon, Feb. 20, 2006
By Tony Perry
LOS ANGELES TIMES
CAMP PENDLETON -


Navy Lt. Jim Peugh, a Protestant chaplain, led the 100-plus Marines of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 in a prayer
asking God to "be with us" as the battalion returns to Iraq and also to protect the families left behind.

Peugh has an ambitious goal for the seven-month deployment in the Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold.

"Our goal is to do a prayer every time a convoy is set to leave the wire," Peugh said. "Leave the wire" is Marine jargon for venturing outside the relative safety of bases where the perimeters are heavily guarded.

The Marines who left Sunday are not infantry troops. In theory, their jobs should be safer than most. But the war in Iraq follows no established theory.

To fix generators, repair vehicles, deliver supplies and make sure communication systems are functioning, the Marines will need to travel in convoys on busy roads where hidden bombs and suicide cars await.

The Marines know the dangers of leaving the wire, and so do their families.

"Anytime I leave the wire, I'm going by helicopter," Lance Cpl. Perry Schultz, 20, assured his wife, Shawna, 19. He's a generator mechanic.

"You need to be strong and you need to pray that they're all coming back, all of them," said Bev Singleton, the mother of Staff Sgt. Mikel Travis. "These are all my sons and my daughters, every one of them."

Even before the chaplain's prayer, families huddled together in the wet, cold parking lot and asked for divine assistance.

"We just want him to be safe, that's all," said Miranda Garcia, 21, whose husband, Lance Cpl. Trey Garcia, 22, is a diesel mechanic.

Some of the prayers and goodbyes were in Spanish. The Marine Corps has a 24-hour hotline with Spanish-speaking operators to help Marine families from homes where Spanish is the dominant language.

It was a morning for spouses to trade secrets on how to endure the uncertainty of the deployment. For some families it was third time that they've been separated because of Iraq.

"Don't watch the news, be hopeful when he calls, and don't bother him with problems -- just give him positives," suggested Carrie Strickland, 21, whose husband, Sgt. Chris Strickland, 23, is an explosive ordinance technician.

Megan Platenik, 23, said she's eager to know how to cope while her husband, Pvt. Joshua Platenik, 24, is in Iraq.
"If you find out the secret, please tell me," said Platenik, her eyes red-rimmed. Her husband, an intelligence analyst, will be gone for 12 months; the couple married in November.

By shortly after 9 a.m., as dark clouds settled over the base, the buses taking the Marines to the flight line had departed and families began to splinter to begin the long wait.

Some knew their immediate destination.

"We're going to church," said Llesenia Farias, as the bus carrying her brother, Lance Cpl. Fernando Pena, disappeared

US Marines quit war games for landslide rescue


ST BERNARD (AFP) - Fresh from the Iraq confict and headed for war games in the Philippines, hundreds of US Marines have instead found themselves digging through the mud in an attempt to save hundreds of landslide victims.

http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2006/02/20/MAIN2006022056825.html

The amphibious ships USS Essex and USS Harper's Ferry were docking Friday at Subic Bay, the former US naval base on the Philippines' South China Sea coast, when they received urgent orders to turn around and head for the Pacific side.

Manila issued an international appeal for help after a mountainside collapsed on the village of Guinsaugon in the central island of Leyte, leaving up t0 1,400 people buried.

"Our main activity has been searching for survivors on the site," said Colonel James Vohr, commander of a US Marine expeditionary unit service support group that arrived Sunday.

"We're going to supply support to both the site and the evacuation centers," Vohr told AFP in St Bernard, the staging post for the rescue.

One platoon with shovels, body bags and drinking water trekked Monday towards the presumed site of the village school, which has become the focus of the search. More than 200 children and 40 teachers are buried there.

The rest of the 225-member US Marine team now on site will be setting up a water purification system on the site Monday, Vohr said.

Fifteen giant helicopters from the Essex have been flying sorties to the site with supplies from Tacloban city to the north.

The US Marine force, based in Japan, was arriving at Subic Bay when new orders came in, Vohr said.

They were to join more than 5,000 US soldiers taking part in annual military exercises with Philippine troops, called "Balikatan" (Shoulder to Shoulder). The exercises in several areas of the Philippines formally started Monday.

The Essex, which was just a few feet from docking, "was told to sail out again" while the Harper's Ferry, which had already docked, was ordered to set sail.

"Balikatan is not going on for us. This (rescue) is the focus of the effort now," Vohr said.

However, he said the rest of the military exercises would proceed as usual, including about 400 troops on medical missions in the southern island of Jolo, a hotbed of Islamic militants linked to the Al-Qaeda network.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of the Philippines spokesman Gregorio Rosal said in a statement Sunday that its armed wing the New People's Army would not attack US troops involved in humanitarian work on Leyte.

But he said "any American provocateur caught straying into rebel zones will be hit."

Most Marines do not carry firearms but teams are always escorted by armed Filipino soldiers and police.


Wrapped in Prayer and Hugs, Marines Leave for Iraq Duty

CAMP PENDLETON — After the final goodbyes had been said and the gear stowed aboard the truck, there was time Sunday morning for a prayer — not the first and certainly not the last.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-troops20feb20,0,6081008.story?coll=la-headlines-california


By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
February 20, 2006


Navy Lt. Jim Peugh, a Protestant chaplain, led the 100-plus Marines of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 in a prayer asking God to "be with us" as the battalion returns to Iraq and also to protect the families left behind.

Peugh has an ambitious goal for the seven-month deployment in the Al Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold.

"Our goal is to do a prayer every time a convoy is set to leave the wire," said Peugh.

Leave the wire. It's Marine jargon for venturing outside the relative safety of bases where the perimeters are heavily guarded, in part by multiple strands of razor wire.

The Marines who left Sunday are not infantry troops. In theory, their jobs should be safer than most. But the war in Iraq follows no established theory.

To fix generators, repair vehicles, deliver supplies and make sure communication systems are functioning, the Marines will need to travel in convoys on busy roads where hidden bombs and suicide cars await.

The Marines know the dangers of leaving the wire, and so do their families.

"Anytime I leave the wire, I'm going by helicopter," Lance Cpl. Perry Schultz, 20, assured his wife, Shawna, 19. He's a generator mechanic.

"You need to be strong and you need to pray that they're all coming back, all of them," said Bev Singleton, the mother of Staff Sgt. Mikel Travis, 30. "These are all my sons and my daughters, every one of them."

Even before the chaplain's prayer, families huddled together in the wet, cold parking lot and asked for divine assistance.

"We just want him to be safe, that's all," said Miranda Garcia, 21, whose husband, Lance Cpl. Trey Garcia, 22, is a diesel mechanic.

Some of the prayers and goodbyes were in Spanish. The Marine Corps has a 24-hour hotline with Spanish-speaking operators to help Marine families from homes where Spanish is the dominant language.

It was a morning for spouses to trade secrets on how to endure the uncertainty of the deployment. For some families, it was the third time they've been separated.

"Don't watch the news, be hopeful when he calls and don't bother him with problems. Just give him positives," suggested Carrie Strickland, 21, whose husband, Sgt. Chris Strickland, 23, is an explosive ordnance technician.

Megan Platenik, 23, said she is eager to know how to cope while her husband, Pvt. Joshua Platenik, 24, is in Iraq.

"If you find out the secret, please tell me," said Platenik, her eyes red-rimmed. Her husband, an intelligence analyst, will be gone for 12 months; the couple married in November.

By shortly after 9 a.m., as dark clouds settled over the base, the buses taking the Marines to the flight line had departed and family members drifted away to begin the long wait. Some knew their immediate destination.

"We're going to church," Llesenia Farias said as the bus carrying her brother, Lance Cpl. Fernando Pena, disappeared from sight.

February 19, 2006

13th MEU, 2/1 return after seven months afloat

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Feb. 19, 2006) -- Around 3,000 Camp Pendleton-based Marines reunited with their families after seven months afloat Feb. 19.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4D07ABDC2B2F797B8525711E006D52D2?opendocument


Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 200622314546
Story by Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

The Marines with the 13th MEU conducted humanitarian missions, assistance operations, joint and coalition forces exercises in Egypt and combat operations in Iraq, said Capt. Ed Esposito, logistics officer with 13th MEU Command Element.

“The biggest thing was our accomplishments,” said Sgt. Maj. Sylvester D. Daniels, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment sergeant major. “We did humanitarian missions. We provided 3,000 men and women with dental and medical care. At the same time we increased voting at the poles by providing security in Hit and Baghdad.”

Marines’ families could not be more eager to meet up with their Marine or sailor. Family members were climbing up barbed wire and poking their noses through chain link fence just to get a glimpse of their Marine.

“It’s good to have him back,” said Jim Lanning, Sgt. James J. Lanning’s father. “He’s been to Operation Iraqi Freedom (twice) and Operation Steel Curtain.”

Sergeant Lanning was also glad he has returned once again.

“It does get tiring with three deployments,” said Sgt. Lanning, with E Company, 3rd Amphibious Assault Bn. “It feels good to be back, just to know that I can drive down the road safely.”

Lance Cpl. J. Lucas Grisham, a mortar man with 2/1, had his 6-year-old cousin, Tristian Friend, come for his homecoming. Tristian’s mother, Lisa, recalled how proud Tristian was of Grisham when he was on deployment.

“The other day Tristian asked me, ‘Mommy, you know what Lucas is doing in Iraq?’” Lisa Friend said. “I said, ‘what Tristian?’ and he said, ‘saving the world.’”

Lisa Friend said Tristian has been awaiting Grisham’s return ever since he left. Donning Grisham’s Kevlar helmet, Tristian peered up at Grisham trying to balance the oversized helmet on his head and said, “He’s my favorite.”

Some Marines still couldn’t believe they were back in the states.

“I’m still trying to adjust,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Sullivan, a rifleman with 2nd Bn., 1st Marines.

While Sullivan was still in shock, his wife Sara was exuberated from his return.

“Oh my gosh, it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Sara said. “Right next to our wedding day.”

Other Marines there were just happy to see their children.

“It feels good to be back,” said Cpl. Luis O. Bonilla, a technical data technician with 2nd Bn., 1st Marines. “I’ve been gone too long.”

His children agree.

“It feels good to have my daddy back — because I missed him,” said 5-year-old Brianna.

“It’s my daddy!” exclaimed 3-year-old Cameron.

Between the hugs, kisses and tears of joy shared between the returning Marines and their families, the Marines did not forget those who could not return to Southern California.

“It would’ve been better with no wounded in action or killed in action,” Daniels said. “They died with honor, courage and commitment — a bunch of brave Devil Dogs.”

Marines Return

While about 100 Camp Pendleton-based Marines left for Iraq Sunday, more than 2,000 Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to the base from a seven-month deployment, a lieutenant said.

http://www.fox6.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=BAD56D3A-02D1-488C-85A0-C37590BC34B5&rss=local


Published: 2/19/2006 9:34:51 PM


The Marines who came home spent the last seven months conducting special operations missions, including assisting relief efforts in the Philippines, training in Egypt and fighting insurgents in Iraq, said Marine Lt. Lawton King.

The 13th MEU arrived in a three-ship group led by the U.S.S. Tarawa in the Tarawa Amphibious Readiness Group, Marine Lt. Lawton King said.

"MEUs are the Marine Corps 911 force," King said.

As the Marines returned, another group of about 100 left for Iraq for a seven-month deployment to assist and advise Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, King said.

The Marines are members of Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group, he said.

The group will be attached to the Regimental Combat Team 5, he said.

Wife loses 103 pounds for welcome home

CAMP PENDLETON ---- When Marine Staff Sgt. Kyle Marigoni returned from deployment Sunday morning, clearly, something was missing. His wife: 103 pounds of her and a handful of dress sizes.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/02/20/news/top_stories/21906190119.txt


By: LOUISE ESOLA - Staff Writer


His reaction when he saw Alisha Marigoni for the first time in seven months?

"Speechless," he said. "My jaw hit the ground."


Pixie blonde Alisha, 28, spent much of the last seven months eating "right," running on a treadmill in the garage, and weighing in to track her progress at a weight loss center in Oceanside.

The result? A perfect welcome home and birthday present combined; the eternally smiling Marine turned 29 on Saturday.

"He just has to unwrap it," Alisha joked, with her husband's arms wrapped tightly around her waist, their 3-year-old daughter Leigha trotting around them.

Kyle returned to Camp Pendleton on Sunday morning among thousands of Marines and sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. While spending time in Iraq and on various training missions with an amphibious assault vehicle crew, he knew his wife was up to something.

She wouldn't send pictures of herself during the entire deployment, even when he sat gritty in Iraq craving a snapshot of home, he said. "I asked her to send me a picture," he said, adding that he mostly received photographs of Leigha. "She sent me one of the dog."

Before he left, Alisha had already trimmed 40 pounds off her tall frame, which once peaked at 270 pounds in size 18 clothing. Her goal when she joined L.A. Weight Loss in February of last year was to lose 100 pounds. "He was like, 'yeah right,'" she said.

On Saturday, Alisha donned a pair of size-8 slender black pants, airy-light pink shirt and matching heels, and went to meet her husband. Family members visiting from Utah watched as the couple hugged and kissed, repeatedly and unabashedly.

The dramatic weight loss was no surprise to the rest of the family. Kyle's grandparents, Utana and Jack Staker, said they were "sworn to oath" to not tell Kyle about the change, or to send pictures. "The look on his face when he saw her? Priceless," said Jack Staker.

Alisha's father, Roy Conaster, commented that she hasn't been that fit since her high school days.

"She's like a whole different woman," he said. Her mother, Emily Conaster, said she was concerned about her daughter's health for a long time. "She was so unhappy."

But clearly, those days were over, Emily Conaster said, watching Alisha chase a giggling Leigha around the parking lot.

Alisha's husband, still smiling, also watched.


February 18, 2006

Injured Daphne Marine 'anxious to get back', Lance Cpl. Benjamin Lyles injured in Iraq on Nov. 1

Although he suffered extensive shrapnel wounds when a grenade exploded in front of him while his Marine Corps squad was on a foot patrol in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Benjamin Lyles of Daphne said he intends to return to his unit.

http://www.al.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news/1140257903229440.xml?mobileregister?nmet&coll=3


Saturday, February 18, 2006
By GEORGE WERNETH
Staff Reporter


Lyles, a 2001 graduate of Daphne High School, told a reporter at his parents home Thursday in Daphne, "I want to go back to Iraq, and I expect to." He was wounded Nov. 1.

A member of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, he is on medical leave, staying with his parents, Thomas L. Lyles and Linda Lyles, while undergoing physical therapy in Daphne.

He said he was walking at the rear of a patrol of about a dozen squad members returning to their base in Fallujah, when the grenade was tossed by an insurgent and "rolled up right in front of me. I remember seeing it. I tried to get away. I took two steps, and I turned and yelled out, 'Grenade!' I got about half the word out, and it blew up." He said another Marine near him sustained two pieces of shrapnel in the back of a leg.

Lyles, who is 23, said of his many injuries, "I took shrapnel to the left leg and left arm, and a piece shattered my left middle finger, and I took two pieces to the face."

He said he was treated at military medical facilities in Iraq and Germany before he was returned to the United States. Doctors have thus far "left all of the shrapnel in," he said, noting he will return to Camp Lejeune, N.C., on March 2 where doctors will "decide what's next." He said the therapy has been focused on the shattered middle finger of his left hand.

The Marine said doctors had told him, "I will be able to keep my job" in the Marine Corps. He is a Marine rifleman and is qualified as an "expert" -- the highest rating a Marine can have with his M-16 rifle. On patrols in Iraq, Lyles has served as the "point man up front" at times and at other times as the "designated marksman." He also has served as the unit's "radio man."

He said he had only been in Iraq for about six weeks when he was injured. Although his unit is expected to return to the United States in April, Lyles said he wants to rejoin his buddies and to go back to Iraq when they return to the war.

Although he has been home two weeks, a huge banner remains in front of his parents house proclaiming, "Welcome Home Ben." The banner is further decorated with a drawing of the Purple Heart that he received for being wounded. A Marine Corps flag flies on the front of the house. There's also a yellow ribbon.

The Marine's dad, Thomas Lyles, said Thursday, "We're just really proud of him -- proud that he chose to serve in the Marines to protect the freedoms that we have in this country." He said his son is "quite anxious to get back with his unit -- he doesn't like to be separated from them."

As for opposition to the war in Iraq, Benjamin Lyles said, "To me, if (people) don't support the war that's fine, but support the troops. They're over there giving their lives for what they believe in."

The Marine's mom, Linda Lyles, said of her son's fellow Marines, "They all belong to all of us."

CLB-7 leaves for Al Anbar

The clock had just passed midnight on the morning of Feb. 10 as more than 45 Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 7 restlessly prepared for another deployment to Iraq.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2006/02/18/news/news01.txt



Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill
Combat Correspondent

Many Combat Center spouses, children and other family members of Maintenance- and Headquarters and Service Company Marines joined their loved ones at CLB-7's maintenance yard until the moment the white bus left.

Their 56-hour journey halfway across the world will eventually land them in the Al Anbar province in Iraq, where they will join the rest of their more than 1,300 comrades in theater to support Regimental Combat Team 7.

“It's a night of mixed feelings for our Marines, Sailors and their families,” said Lt. Col. Drew T. Doolin, commanding officer of CLB-7. “Deployments are tough.”

Over the past week and a half, CLB-7 deployed its sections in a series of staggered departures from the Combat Center for their seven-month tour in Iraq.

Jessica Barrientos, who watched her husband, Sgt. Vicente Barrientos, depart Feb. 9, said the experience is different for everyone. Barrientos said she came to provide moral support to other spouses and lend support to the battalion.

“I think that it's all about attitude,” said the 26-year-old Anaheim, Calif., native, who kept a positive outlook on her second separation from her husband. “If you keep a good attitude, it can make it go easier for you. If you think of it as long and hard and horrible, then that's how it's going to be.

“It's always sad to say goodbye,” Barrientos said. “There is always melancholy and it's bittersweet, but he's happy doing what he wants, so you've got to stand behind him.”

As the time grew nearer to leave, the Marines checked, accounted for and loaded up their combined thousands of pounds of gear.

Once loaded, Doolin took time to address his Marines and Sailors from atop a Humvee. He left them with a message of accountability, safety, efficiency and to beware the threat of complacency.

“They are ready,” said Doolin of his Marines. “They are motivated, they are trained, and they want to get it on out there. It's a great feeling.” Doolin departed for Iraq Wednesday with another group of Marines from CLB-7.

Most Marines and Sailors spent their last minutes before boarding the buses with their loved ones, shedding tears, giving long hugs and saying their goodbyes.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Vaughn, one of the supervisors for the evening's departure, wiped tears from the eyes of his wife, Tonja, as well as his own, as he held her.

“We're ready to go,” said Vaughn as the call to board the bus came. “It's time to get it started with, get it done with and get back home and bring everyone back with us.”

Missing Marine chopper crew 'accounted for', Pentagon: Hostile fire unlikely in crash of Marine choppers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The 10 crew members missing after the crash of two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters off the coast of the eastern African nation of Djibouti "have been accounted for," the U.S. military said Saturday.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/02/18/helicopter.crash/

Saturday, February 18, 2006; Posted: 12:41 p.m. EST (17:41 GMT)


"Next-of-kin notifications are still ongoing; therefore, no further information regarding the status or condition of the crew members will be released at this time," the military said in a statement.

Search and rescue efforts "have been curtailed," the military said, but the "recovery of pertinent information, equipment and wreckage for the accident investigation board will continue to determine the cause of the crash."

Pentagon officials said there was no indication that hostile fire played any role.

The two crew members who were rescued are in stable condition, the Pentagon said. One had knee surgery, and the other "suffered muscular and skeletal bruising, no fractures, and may have inhaled contaminated sea water."

At the time of the crash, the CH-53E helicopters were each carrying a crew of six while conducting a two-hour training mission in the Godoria Range area in northern Djibouti.

"The weather at the time of the mishap was reported to be partly cloudy, about 80 degrees, with light to variable winds and unlimited visibility," the military had said earlier.

The helicopters, nicknamed "Sea Stallions" because of their capability to lift heavy equipment, are part of the HMH 464 squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

U.S. forces operate a military base and command center at Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is aimed at detecting and defeating terrorists in the Horn of Africa region.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report

Lejeune unit strikes Mojave Viper, prepares for Iraq

Johnson, a squad leader for Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and about 1,000 others from his battalion based in North Carolina have completed their month long pre-deployment capstone training exercise. The exercise, known as Mojave Viper, consists of conventional combined-arms training and stability and support operations training.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2006/02/18/news/news07.txt

Cpl. Joseph Digirolamo

MCB Camp Pendleton

Cpl. Joshua B. Johnson is turning up the volume when it comes to training his Marines with another deployment right around the corner.

“We're going to take away from this training as much as possibleŠ everything we learn here is going to be used on the streets over there,” said Johnson, a 20-year-old from Caddo, La. “The training is very important especially because a lot of the junior Marines have never done this stuff before.”

“It also gives the battalion the opportunity to deploy over 1,000 men across the United States, deploy them in realistic combat training and then redeploy back to Camp Lejeune, hence maintaining our expeditionary warfare,” said Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, battalion commander, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

Mojave Viper covers a multitude of aspects in preparing the battalion for war. Early on, the Marines and Sailors receive classes including desert survival, high-risk capture procedures, and how to identify and avoid improvised explosive devices.

Johnson, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, knows how important these classes are for his Marines.

“Our biggest concern is IEDs,” Johnson said. “The Marines are learning what IEDs can and cannot do to you, they're being spun up on the basics.”

The battalion experienced an onslaught of realistic training, such as live-fire movement/maneuver at the reinforced platoon and company sized level. Finally, the battalion was involved in scenarios in an artificial Iraqi town housing over 300 role players. The battalion received the benefit of training in an urban environment against an opposing force whose methods were based on current enemy tactics, techniques and procedures.

The new town adds to the realism of the battalion's SASO training.

“There are more Middle Eastern role players that bring the training to life. Last year at March Air Force Reserve Base [in California], the neighborhood was small and most of the role players were our Marines,” said Cpl. Jeffery S. Stockton, machinegun squad leader for 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines. “It didn't feel too realistic when I would take down someone that was in my same company.”

In preparing for its mission in Iraq, the unit believes Mojave Viper is a great opportunity to really test the “new team” of 3rd Bn., 8th Marine's, Truck and Engineer Platoons, and the transition teams.

The battalion fell under Regimental Combat Team 8 the last time at Twentynine Palms. This year it has become the senior unit for the exercise.

“Our focus was strictly battalion level training and operations,” said Hotchkiss, a 28-year-old from Huntsville, Ala. “The battalion is acting as a Regimental Command Element and is responsible, not only for ourselves, but also for all other units participating in the exercise during this period.”

The military transition teams and border transition teams are some of the newest elements to the training.

“The MTTs and BTTs are the next step in the military's role in Iraq,” said Hotchkiss. “These teams are pieced together with experts in a myriad of military occupational specialties with the intent to train and guide the Iraqi military.”

Capt. Mark R. Liston, company commander for Weapons Co, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines, believes this training is very relevant for the unit.

“It gives us the opportunity to conduct a well-structured training package that focuses on realities of Iraq today,” said Liston the 34-year-old from Warwick, R.I. “It's proven to be an excellent reinforcement for Marines returning from Iraq and provides a realistic environment for the new Marines.”

The training is not all about firing weapons and learning the newest tactics. The young unit leaders are paying special attention to another important aspect as well.

Stockton, a squad leader in charge of 12 men in his platoon says, “It allows the Marines to get comfortable with the new fire teams.”

Mojave Viper will assist the battalion in bringing well-trained Marines and Sailors to the fight.

“Every unit who takes advantage of the training opportunities provided during Mojave Viper will be better trained, more prepared and ultimately successful in combat,” said Hotchkiss.

February 17, 2006

Snipers keep eye on Operation Industrial Revolution

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 17, 2006) -- Cpl. Justin V. Novi summed up the mission with a simple statement.

“It’s a huge building to clear.”

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/20063112812


Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20063112812
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Novi’s small team of Marines was just one part of Operation Industrial Revolution, a sweep performed by Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The battalion, under command of Regimental Combat Team 8, finished up the operation in mid-February. It was designed to disrupt insurgent activity in Fallujah’s industrial area.

Novi, from Pittsburgh, Pa., had his work cut out for him. While regular infantry Marines work in squads, platoon and companies, Novi and his sniper team, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, work on a smaller scale. Their work keeps them hidden in the shadows. Their mission during the operation was daunting. They were to infiltrate a factory, one of the larger buildings in the area, and set up an overwatch for a nearby cordon.

Under an inky black sky, the Marines moved silently. Their first obstacle was encountered in minutes – a locked gate that could only be opened from the inside.

Novi took the lead, climbing hand over hand. He grasped at small irregularities in the cinder-block wall, pulling himself up until he lay flat on top of an abandoned guard shack. Below, Cpl. Jason Elder, a 22-year-old Marlboro, Mass. Marine passed up his rifle before following.

One-by-one, each Marine in the team passed over. They scurried off, entering the building. They ducked into shadowy rooms, their steps stuttered and quick and voices low over their personal radios. Methodically, painstakingly, they cleared the factory, room-by-room. The only inhabitants are a small crew of night workers rounded up and led to an empty floor where they could be easily observed.

“That was pretty exciting,” said Cpl. Darren R. Smykowski, a 21-year-old from Mentor, Ohio. “It could have gone bad real quick if any of these guys had tried anything, but it went smooth, which is good.”

Given a little more time to reflect on the small team’s mission, he put it into a different perspective.

“That was crazy, clearing a building like this... That’s a job for a platoon, or even a company,” he said.

The work for the sniper team, though, had just begun. With only a few hours of darkness remaining, they had to choose an observation site, one that wouldn’t give away their position, but command a superior viewing, and possibly shooting platform.

“Before the sun comes up, I want to have the hide fully set up,” Smykowski said. “There’s an Iraqi Army observation post that can see this roof and I don’t want them to shoot me thinking I’m an insurgent.”

He moved out across the roof, low-crawling to stay hidden. Even now, his progress was frustratingly slow and deliberate. He made several trips to get all the gear in the hide.

The night sky by now was giving way to pinks and oranges, dawn breaking over the city. And new concerns arose.

Iraqi factory workers were beginning to drift in for the morning shift. It’s disconcerting for Marines who crave secrecy in everything they do, but in a sense, reassuring that their mission has, so far, gone off without a hitch.

“The good thing about that is that if they are showing up for work, that means they don’t know we’re here,” Novi explained. “Hopefully that continues for the rest of the day.”

Still, Elder and Novi take no chances. They meet each worker after they come through the gate and search them, leading them inside. There, Cpl. Stephen B. Lutze, a 22-year-old from Interlachen, Fla., stood watch.

Despite being in the presence of armed Marines, the Iraqis were welcoming. They offered the Marines cigarettes and tried teaching them Arabic phrases. The Marines in turn joked with them and offered food and water from their own personal supplies.

While Marines below kept the factory workers at ease, Smykowski was riveted to his binoculars and rifle. It’s deadly serious work that could require split-second decision and a spot-on accuracy. His mission was one of watching and waiting.

“For the last five months this is all I have done, sit behind a rifle and wait for someone to cross my sights with a weapon so I can shoot them,” he said.

Still, he doesn’t romanticize his job. It’s not a role that lends itself to great feats of adventure or moments of daring, but cool nerves of steel and long stretches of demanding concentration.

“It’s nothing like the movies or even in the stories you hear,” Smykowski explained. “I like it though. Doing things like we did this morning … that’s what makes this job fun.”

As the sun rose in the sky, more Iraqis showed up for work, only to be met by Elder and Novi. The Iraqis joined their co-workers under the observant gaze of Lutz. The operation began and the battalion’s infantry set their cordon, clearing houses. They milled about with Smykowski above, who kept his eyes drilled into the city below, looking for any sign of a threat.

The sweep took several hours, with a weapons cache unearthed. Confiscated were numerous small arms, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers.

The battalion’s Marines collapsed the cordon and the sniper team was once again alone. Smykowski called for their extraction. A Combined Anti-Armor Team arrived shortly afterward and the snipers slipped from their positions to the vehicles, taking all their gear with them and leaving as quickly as they came.

“That mission went real smooth today,” Elder added. “Everything went exactly they way we planned it and everybody did their job. That’s all you can ask for.”

Marines patrol with Iraqi Army

SUBIYHAT, Iraq (Feb. 17, 2006) -- The sight of Marines and Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets together is becoming more common throughout villages on the outskirts of Fallujah.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/8E50041EDA9B288685257125002B24BE?opendocument

Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20063225114
Story by Cpl. William Skelton

A squad from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment conducted joint patrols with soldiers from the Iraqi Army Friday, Feb. 17.

The battalion is assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A squad of Marines from the battalion’s B Company combined with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division for the joint operation. Together, they performed searches of the area for illegal weapons and interviewed local residents gleaning information about insurgent activities.

The Marines’ role was to coach the Iraqi soldiers, or IA’s, for Iraqi Army, as the Marines referred to them.

“Our role as a squad is to aid the IA’s in patrolling the area,” said Cpl. Philip J. Krabbe, a 25-year-old squad leader from Ridgecrest, Calif., who led the Marine squad. “We are here to give advice on the procedures they should take to conduct a patrol correctly and to provide security during the operation.”

Throughout the patrol, Marines and Iraqi soldiers searched for weapons caches, set up a vehicle checkpoint and performed sweeps for improvised explosive devices. The patrol didn’t turn up any illegal weapons or uncover anyone on a wanted list, but did have lasting effects.

“The day was productive in that we showed a strong Iraqi presence in area,” said 1st Lt. Glenn P. Baker, a 27-year-old from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., serving as B Company's executive officer.

Constant vigilance a sort of mantra among Marines walking miles and searching homes. Dry holes are expected, but with each hidden weapon they do uncover, they chalk it up as a success.

“The weapons searches we perform are important because if we find the weapons before the insurgents use them, it is less lives that are put at risk; both military and civilian,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth D. Mayfield, a 20-year-old assaultman from Denver who took part in the patrol.

Mayfield added that vehicle check points – snap VCP’s as Marines call them – were set up to catch insurgents on the move or to look for suspicious people in the area.

“We usually have certain vehicles that we are on the look out for when we go out in an area to patrol,” Mayfield explained. “If we see vehicles that fit the description or we see vehicles from out of the area, we will check their papers to see if they are who we are looking for.”

Interaction with local citizens was one of the most productive efforts of the day, though. Information gained from conversations with residents helps both Iraqi soldiers and Marines tighten the noose on insurgents. Additionally, residents see their own troops taking a lead role in protecting their own country, a source of pride among Iraqis.

All of the residents questioned were cooperative and seemed to appreciate the military presence in the community, Krabbe said.

“The confidence the IA’s show is great to see,” Mayfield said. “I was surprised at how much they seemed to have learned and retained from the training they’ve received.”

Krabbe – on his third tour to Iraq – said he’s seeing progress since his previous tour. The mood is different in the communities and the area of operation as a whole.

“The people in the area seem to accept the IA’s and seem to understand they are here to help,” Krabbe said.

The 1st Battalion Marines will continue to train and work with the Iraqi Army throughout the deployment. As Iraqi soldiers gain strength and increase their capabilities, Marines plan on turning over more battle space to them in the coming months.

“I am very impressed with the professionalism and abilities of 1/4/1,” Baker said. “And as always the Marines performed like Marines.”

February 16, 2006

2/6, Company F remember lost comrade

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 16, 2006) -- “We are here today to honor Corporal Albert P. Gettings,” said Capt. William H. Grube, the commanding officer for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/200612323234


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200612323234
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

“It is appropriate that we should do so on Martin Luther King Day, a day already consecrated to the idea of universal brotherhood. Brotherhood is the essence of what brings us together as Marines; shared ideas, shared experiences, shared trials, and shared tragedies. When Corporal Gettings left us, it hit like a hammer blow, stunning us and striking us to the core as a unit, because he was truly our brother.”

The Marines and Sailors from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines gathered Jan. 16 to remember a fallen comrade, Cpl. Albert P. Gettings, who was killed-in-action, Jan. 5.

“The dictionary defines the word brother as a male sibling, a close male friend or associate,” said Sgt. Michael E. Beech, a squad leader with Company F. “It also defines the word warrior as a person experienced or distinguished in fighting. These are the first two words that come to mind when I think of Corporal Gettings.

“He was a man who carried himself in such a manner that you always knew how he felt. He had the biggest heart of any Marine I have ever met. He loved his Marines and he loved his family even more. To lead in such a way, to balance family life and the life of an infantry Marine demonstrates his uncommon devotion to both his family and the Corps.”

Gettings was also known to be a responsible and caring leader. He was well respected by both the Marines in his charge and his peers.

“In the face of danger, Corporal Gettings made sure his Marines were safe and that they understood what direction the enemy fire was coming from. He made sure that another wounded Marine had made it to safety before pushing to safety himself,” Beech continued.

“This act of valor shows the background and influence his loved ones at home had on his life and what he believed in. No words can express my sorrow or sympathy for this tragic loss. I can say that I have been truly blessed to have known and served with Albert. He was a true warrior, my friend, and he is still my brother.”

His commanding officer had more to say of the first Marine lost from Company F during this deployment.

“I knew him for his stoic discipline, for his consummate professionalism, for his unswerving dedication to duty, for his forceful leadership, and for his lion-like courage, both moral and physical,” Grube said. “He was loved by his Marines, emulated by his peers and respected by his leaders.

“But we live in tough times, times made for men like Corporal Gettings. As in the past we are engaged in a struggle that seeks to reaffirm the truth that all people can live in freedom, and peace. Corporal Gettings stood with us as one of the few who answer the call of their country in time of need.

“I cannot promise ease in our mission ahead,” he continued, “but with perseverance, discipline and persistence, we will succeed. We must take it upon ourselves to live by his example and re-dedicate ourselves to God, to Country, and to Corps.

February 15, 2006

Tattoos Honor Marines Killed In Iraq and Help the Survivors

RAMADI, Iraq -- Not long before the invasion of Iraq, when death still seemed far over the horizon, Jason Lemieux joked that he would tattoo Ruben Valdez's name on his arm if his buddy were killed in action.

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB113996642135774155-k8VXHXAEGuXywn9QtZqXqOaDt74_20070215.html?mod=rss_free


By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
February 15, 2006; Page A8

A few months after Lance Cpl. Valdez died in a gunfight on the Syrian border, Sgt. Lemieux remembered the conversation and decided the joke was a promise. When the sergeant made it home, he walked into a tattoo parlor and had the artist dye a rifle-helmet-and-boots memorial into his upper arm. Beneath is written "Never Forget," for Lance Cpl. Valdez and three other Marines who died that day in April 2004.

Somehow, the needle's prick relieved the sorrow of loss and the guilt of survival. "When I was feeling the pain of the tattoo, it was actually making it OK that those guys got killed and I didn't," recalls Sgt. Lemieux, now in Ramadi, a nest of the insurgency, on his third combat tour with Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment.


For many Marines in Iraq, memorial tattoos are becoming a way to give ink-and-skin permanence to friends taken young. "It's like death -- it's forever," says Cpl. Joseph Giardino, a 23-year-old Chicagoan whose back reads "Some Gave All" in tattoo blue. The message had referred to two friends who lost their lives during his last tour of duty. Now it is also for two Marines killed here on his current tour, one by a hidden bomb and the other by a sniper.

"Fallen But Not Forgotten" marks the upper arm of Cpl. Francisco Villegas, 30, a three-tour veteran from Las Vegas. The words refer to the 17 Marines killed during Third Battalion's second tour of Iraq. Just three days after he stepped off the plane at the tour's end, Cpl. Villegas went to Paradise Tattoo in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

"It's kind of like the respect and loyalty thing," he says, sitting in his flak jacket and helmet at a base here. "You find some way to remember your brothers."

Lance Cpl. Kelly Miller's tattoo commemorates the day his squad leader, Cpl. Jason Dunham, smothered a live grenade to save him and another Marine. "Remember the Fallen," it says, just above where shrapnel tore through his right triceps. "USMC 4-14-04." Another Marine from the platoon had the tattoo artist make a copy of Cpl. Dunham's own tattoo, an ace of spades superimposed with a skull gnawing an eight-ball. (Read a May 2004 page-one article on Cpl. Dunham.)


Marines have long been partial to tattoos of all sorts. But Sgt. Lemieux, a 22-year-old from Tupper Lake, N.Y., says his memorial tattoo -- "Never Forget" -- is a sort of warrior's warning label, to let civilians know what he has been through without having to explain. "It's for my guys," he says. "But it's also never forget the cost of war, to get people to understand what they're asking for when they support war."

The sergeant hopes that if he goes home in a box, his buddies will take their grief to the tattoo parlor: "It would feel good to know that they cared that much."

Similar sentiments bound Mike Torres, Curt Stiver, Jesse White and Jeremy Dillon -- who called themselves "wicked ... super-friends" and gave each other their own gladiator salute before patrols. For strength, a fist in the air; for honor, a fist over the heart; for wicked strength, a fist with devil horns. Lance Cpl. Torres's nickname was Tex Man, being from El Paso, Texas, but the other three thought of him as their guardian angel because he kept them going through frightening times.

On July 5, 2004, Lance Cpl. Torres was riding in the open bed of a lightly armored Humvee when it was hit by an insurgent rocket. The day comes back to Cpl. White in brilliantly focused snapshots: A Navy corpsman tending to wounded Marines. A motionless leg with a black ammunition pouch, the kind only Lance Cpl. Torres had. Someone saying Lance Cpl. Torres was OK. Someone else saying he was one of three dead. Yelling, "What am I going to tell Stiver and Dillon?"

Later, the three escorted Lance Cpl. Torres's casket to the airfield and gave him a gladiator salute as the plane took off. Months after, they went together to the Skin Factory in Las Vegas to make sure their friend would always be with them -- and to show their tattoos to his mom. "It was natural," says Lance Cpl. Stiver, now 21.

Lance Cpl. Dillon, a 20-year-old from Maine, went with a variation on the helmet-rifle-boots memorial: a rifle with an attached grenade launcher, like Lance Cpl. Torres's, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and, instead of the usual dog tags, a rosary.

Lance Cpl. Stiver, a machine gunner from Oshkosh, Wis., had so many tattoos that he had lost count, so he chose some of the last available real estate on his body, his chest, for a portrait of Lance Cpl. Torres in a cowboy hat and sunglasses. The artist worked from a photo taken during infantry school.

Cpl. White has already selected the tattoos he'll get if his remaining super-friends are killed before the battalion heads home in a couple of months. For Lance Cpl. Dillon, whose nickname is Rooster, he has in mind a tough-looking bird. For Lance Cpl. Stiver, it's a skull with devil horns, inspired by a favorite rock group.

To remember Lance Cpl. Torres, Cpl. White, a 21-year-old from Bloomington, Ind., chose a tattoo of a stylized Sacred Heart for his upper arm, with the caption, "Tex Man 1983-2004."

"There's not a day goes by when we don't think of Mike," says Cpl. White. "If ever a day did go by, all we have to do is take our shirts off."

3,000-Plus Sailors, Marines Ship Out On Deployment

SAN DIEGO -- More than 3,000 sailors and Marines with Expeditionary Strike Group deployed from San Diego Wednesday morning aboard three ships headed to the Western Pacific.

http://www.10news.com/news/7081269/detail.html?rss=sand&psp=news


POSTED: 8:35 am PST February 15, 2006


The amphibious assault ship Peleliu, the dock landing ship Germantown and the transport dock Ogden left Naval Station San Diego for the Pacific and Indian oceans to conduct missions in support of the war on terrorism, according to the Third Fleet public affairs office.

Expeditionary Strike Group Three, which is commanded by Marine Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, includes Marines attached to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is based at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.

The Peleliu, Germantown and Ogden returned to San Diego from a previous deployment in support of the war in Iraq in March 2004.

ESG 3 Deploys in Support of Global War on Terrorism

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines and six ships of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 departed San Diego Feb. 15 for a six-month deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.



http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=22247&page=1


Release Date: 2/15/2006 4:44:00 PM
By Photographer's Mate 2nd Class (AW) Regina L. Brown and Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, USS Peleliu Public Affairs


The strike group completed their last training work-up, Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), Jan. 26 and its two other required exercises, ESG Integration Exercise (ESGINT) and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), late last year. Collectively, these exercises prepared the group for the difficult challenges that a deployment presents.

“The magnificent Sailors and Marines of ESG 3 will do their duty as a vital part of America’s forward deployed combat forces,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, ESG 3 commander, who is embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the strike group’s flagship. “I expect ESG 3 to make a positive difference wherever she sails, whether that involves actual combat operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian assistance operations, or anything in between. We bring a lot of capability to the table and are ready to perform an incredibly diverse mission set.”

While in the Persian Gulf, ESG 3 will conduct maritime security operations (MSO), which set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO also deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

“Maritime security operations are critical not only to the economy of the region but to the world. The oil shipments coming in and out of this region are critical to the world's economy and furthermore, are very critical to the economic development of many of the countries here including Iraq,” said Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter on a recent five-day visit to the Middle East.

Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Amphibious Group (COMPHIBGRU) 3, said the strike group has a “heavy responsibility” but is up to the challenge.

“If you look back at every prior ESG, you will find that they have conducted an operation of some sort," said Ames. "They have been employed, not standing off and looking. The nation has touched them for some mission, and the Sailors and Marines of ESG 3 should therefore expect that when they leave, that the nation at some moment during their six-month deployment will look to them for the leadership and the warfighting skills to execute the task,” said Ames.

Actively participating in a deployment gives many Sailors and Marines a great sense of patriotism and pride.

“It makes me feel pretty good to know I’m supporting what many of us believe in, the freedom of our country,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Hounshell, who will work for Peleliu’s combat cargo during the deployment.

Jensen said he recognizes the devotion to duty and sacrifices of the Sailors and Marines under his command.

“Like every Sailor and Marine on board, I’m tremendously proud of this opportunity to serve our nation in a combat area. ESG 3 is mindful that America is depending upon us to successfully accomplish our mission and to bring America’s sons and daughters home safely when the deployment is over,” said Jensen.

Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate (AW) Jonathan Sison, a native of the Philippines who will deploy aboard Peleliu, extended his enlistment just so he could stay for the entire deployment.

“I can’t even put into words how proud I am to be serving my country. [Going on deployment] is a big sacrifice as I’m leaving my family behind,” said Sison, a division officer in one of Peleliu’s intermediate maintenance shops.

ESG 3 is comprised of Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Peleliu, the guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzales (DDG 66), the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), Tactical Air Control Squadron(TACRON) 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.



February 14, 2006

Moonlighters, Stingers return from Iraq

Though shivering in her new sleek, black skirt suit, Jessica Schuffert refused to take shelter from the cold and wind gusting through the hangar Monday at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
"I don't want to miss anything," said Schuffert, who was waiting for her husband of almost three years, Staff Sgt. James Schuffert, to return from a seven-month deployment in Al Asad, Iraq, along with about 110 fellow Marines from All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 and 50 from Marine Aviation Logistics 31.

http://www.marine-corps-news.com/2006/02/house_honors_marine_killed_in.htm

Published Tue, Feb 14, 2006


By LORI YOUNT
The Beaufort Gazette

This was VMFA 332's first deployment to Iraq since the war began in March 2003, but several other squadrons on the base, including detachments from MALS 31, have been deployed there, air station spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Kansteiner said.

While in Iraq, the Moonlighters and Stingers flew and supported missions in western Iraq and were airborne during the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections, according to an air station release.

Instead of a flag, Jessica Schuffert clutched a single white long-stemmed rose in her manicured hands.

"It's kind of our thing -- they're my favorite," she said, adding that her husband had managed to send her a dozen of the roses just a few weeks ago from Iraq. "I decided to bring him one."

Nearby, Vicki Downs was keeping her hands occupied by knitting a bright orange scarf. She's knitted at least three since her son, Cpl. David Downs, volunteered to deploy to Iraq with MALS 31. She and her husband drove from Kentucky to see their son return home.

"I couldn't watch the news at all," she said. "I get nervous."

Her husband, David Downs, said he watched the news all day, though, for his son who is a mechanic.

"I'd try to get a glimpse of him," he said, referencing a speech that his son attended. "I'd try to look and see, but I never did see him."

The tension mounted and the crowd of families grew as it neared the projected arrival time of 1:15 p.m. As the jumbo jet rolled in and, after what seemed like forever, the Marines started stepping out of the plane, David Downs, digital camera in hand and flags in shirt pockets, strained to get the first glimpse of his son since July.

Once Cpl. David Downs approached his parents, there were plenty of hugs and photos, and the 23-year-old appeared calm at the homecoming from his first deployment to Iraq, for which he decided to volunteer "for the experience" of what war is really like.

"The most important thing I learned is not to take anything for granted," he said.

Jessica Schuffert couldn't wait for her husband to come to her. As soon as he put his rifle in the rack, her shivers subsided and she bounded toward him, rose in hand, and he lifted her up in a kiss as she hung onto him and kicked up her legs in excitement.

She whisked her husband off ahead of most the other Marines. Earlier, she said she it doesn't matter if she receives any long-stemmed roses today.

"Just having him home is my Valentine," she said.

Contact Lori Yount at 986-5531 or lyount@beaufortgazette.com. To comment: beaufortgazette.com.

3/7, Iraqi Army work together making Ramadi streets safer


AR RAMADI, Iraq (Feb. 14, 2006) -- The patrol almost screams to a stop, with humvees speeding past the targeted vehicle only to turn suddenly and cordon off the traffic while Marines and Iraqi soldiers quickly climb out and secure the area. While the selected vehicle is rapidly emptied and searched thoroughly, another squad searches the occupants for anything that might link them to the insurgency and asks them if they have information that could prove helpful.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F3F45EDFB2DDC74985257115002C620D?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062143446
Story by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

It’s called a snap vehicle checkpoint and it has become a successful deterrent against an enemy that blends into the local populace and continues to practice hit-and-run tactics against the Marines and Iraqi Army forces in the city. By randomly selecting vehicles during both heavy and light traffic periods, the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment are showing the insurgents left in the city that they are never safe – even during their morning commute, according to 2nd Lt. Mauro Mujica, the platoon commander for Weapons Platoon, Company L.
“We try to push out five to seven days a week,” he said. “It keeps the main routes of the city clear and keeps the insurgents on their toes. Even if we go out and don’t capture anything, it helps keep the streets clean.”
In addition to the obvious benefits of keeping the streets clear of explosives and keeping the enemy off main routes through the city, these snap VCPs give the residents of Ramadi a chance to see the progress their Iraqi soldiers are making here.
“It’s good for the Iraqi people to see an Iraqi face in their security forces,” said Mujica. “The people need to see that their government and military are doing things for them, that they are working to improve the country.”
When it comes to the Iraqi Army though, the experience they gain by conducting missions with the oversight of the Marines is invaluable. The IA is able to gain the skills and confidence needed to take over responsibility by conducting operations under hostile conditions.
“When we started doing these missions with the Iraqis, we were a little nervous to be working with them out in the streets,” he said. “But they have proved themselves over the last three months and are constantly improving. They also teach us things every once in a while. They are more familiar with local people and the culture and can tell when something is wrong and needs to be checked out.
“The IA is extremely motivated to get out and do these types of missions and others. They want to train and get better and do their part in the struggle for freedom here.”


Iraqi sniper gives reporter a rude welcome to Ramadi

Editor's note: Antonio Castaneda, an Associated Press reporter, is embedded with Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment. Here is his first-person account:

Ramadi, Iraq - A loud "zing" echoed across the street, as if someone had swung an aluminum bat against a pole. I instinctively ducked, then quickly pressed up against the front- right tire of the car nearest me.

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_3482179?source=rss


By Antonio Castaneda
The Associated Press



A telephone pole 10 feet to my right bore a 1-inch hole - the work of a hidden sniper. The Marine closest to the pole, Cpl. Ryan Osbrink of Portland, Ore., had ducked along with the rest of the patrol.

The Marines scanned the distance and shouted at one another, asking if anyone saw the gunman. Pedestrians scrambled away as Monday's daylight faded to dusk.

We were pinned down, and no one knew the source of fire.

I had been accompanying about 20 Marines doing "flash checkpoints" - stopping and searching cars in Ramadi, a dangerous city in western Iraq. At least two wanted suspects had been captured by this company through such tactics, the Marines said.

My mind flashed back to the security training course I took where my instructors told us high-velocity bullets could easily rip through cars. I hoped the sniper hadn't seen where the three of us took cover.

The commanding officer, Lt. Mauro Mujica-Parodi of Washington, D.C., scrambled over and knelt in front of me - like a wrestler in a starting position - to shield me from the open space down the road.

I felt guilty - I always tried to stay out of troops' way and not be a distraction. The lieutenant scanned the distance with his rifle pointed down the road.

Mujica-Parodi shouted to a Marine up the road who'd stopped a car to search it.

"Hey, just ask (the driver) if he's got a bomb in the car and we'll get the hell out of here," yelled Mujica-Parodi, a Marine who was a college student at Georgetown University less than two years ago.

The last time I'd been this close to the receiving end of gunfire I was also with Marines, on an early-morning offensive in the western city of Hadithah last spring. I remember running through unfamiliar streets and taking refuge on a rooftop with a group of Marines. One of them was killed later that summer.
I was wearing a blue flak jacket designed to withstand the fire from an AK-47, the most common gun in Iraq, along with a black helmet. The Marines crouched all along the road wore their standard thick jackets with neck and crotch guards that weigh several pounds more than mine.

Within my line of sight was an Iraqi shop owner who moments earlier I had exchanged a greeting with. His eyes were wide with fright as he stayed toward the rear of his shop.

Mujica-Parodi yelled for smoke, and seconds later a metal canister rolled between the car we were huddled next to and our Humvee 45 feet away. A green cloud formed over the street.

"Are you ready?" the lieutenant asked.

We then sprinted so fast I nearly lost my footing. The cloud was so thick I lost sight of the Humvee for a moment and almost forgot which side my seat was on before getting my bearings and jumping inside.

In the relative safety of our Humvee, we relaxed just a bit.

"God, I love sunset," said Cpl. Aaron Swallow of McLouth, Kan., the Humvee driver, referring to the usual jump in attacks as darkness descends.

As we sped away from the dissipating green cloud, he looked back with a broad grin and added, "Welcome to Ramadi."

One brave Marine

State lawmakers approve resolutions honoring Iowa native severely hurt rescuing fellow troops in Iraq

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060214/NEWS08/602140395/1001/RSS01

WILLIAM PETROSKI
REGISTER STAFF WRITER


February 14, 2006

Brad Kasal, an Iowa native regarded as a hero for rescuing fellow Marines in Iraq, was choked with emotion Monday as he was honored by the Iowa Legislature.

"A lot of people ask why I did what I did. I'm a Marine. That's what I'm expected to do," Kasal told lawmakers.

Marine 1st Sgt. Kasal, 39, who grew up on a farm near Afton in southern Iowa, stood in his dress blues as resolutions were approved in the Iowa House and Senate that cited him for courage in combat and patriotic service. Watching proudly as lawmakers stood and applauded were about 20 friends and relatives, including his father, Gerald, and mother, Myrna.

Kasal, who joined the Marines after graduating from East Union High School in 1984, was shot seven times on Nov. 13, 2004, while leading a mission to rescue three wounded Marines in an insurgent-held house in Fallujah, Iraq. Also, he suffered more than 40 shrapnel wounds after he bear-hugged a fellow Marine to protect him from a grenade explosion. He killed one enemy fighter in an exchange of fire at point-blank range.

Kasal has spent the past months recuperating from his injuries, including bullet wounds that nearly required the amputation of his leg. He walked with a cane Monday afternoon at the Statehouse, and he admitted to still being in pain. But he added he's made progress toward recovery and recently ran about 50 feet for the first time since his injury. He exercises for six or seven hours a day, including physical therapy, 14-mile bicycle rides, stretching exercises and workouts with weights.

He is still on active duty with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and has been selected for promotion to sergeant major. He said he hopes to remain in the Marines for several more years before retiring in Iowa.

Kasal's bravery in Iraq and gritty determination to recover from his wounds had already received national attention. A photo of the bloodied Kasal, still clutching his 9 mm handgun as he was helped by two fellow Marines from the Fallujah house, has been displayed on dozens of Internet sites. There has been repeated speculation that he is a candidate for the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, but Marine Corps officials have declined to comment.

Kasal's recognition on Monday was arranged by state Sen. Charles Larson Jr., a Cedar Rapids Republican who served a one-year tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserve. Larson is the founder of an organization known as Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission. He called Kasal one of Iowa's greatest heroes in the war on terrorism.

"This is a very humbling experience," Kasal said after Monday's honors. "I'm not used to standing ovations."




February 13, 2006

Runner’s Life: Wounded vets still take to the road

Throughout a year of ups and downs in running, negative and positive influences can either convince a runner to stay home or go that extra mile. Although runners usually make some of the best excuses, many still overcome some adversity and hit the road.
Some, however, don’t need that extra motivation. It’s as though they’re hard-wired for adversity and they overcome it again and again. A lot of runners can learn something about determination from these individuals — and there are a lot of them.

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com


By Christopher Prawdzik
Special to the Times


David Swope from New Windsor, Md., for example, was the third to cross the finish line (in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 53 seconds) at the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon, and he did it with only his arms as the first wheelchair-division finisher.

Holly Koester was the first female wheeler, enduring the long, winding course in 4:06:12.

For military runners, circumstances dictated by their sacrifice to their country also result in some remarkable feats that many dream of but few accomplish.

In June 2003, Army Capt. David Rozelle was injured in a land mine explosion in Hit, Iraq, and lost part of his right leg below the knee.

The next year, however, he lined up with others injured in combat, such as Army Staff Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey, Sgt. Ethan Payton, Marine Cpl. Dan Lasko, Navy Corpsman Jose Ramos and Airman 1st Class Anthony Pizzfred, at the Association of the United States Army 10-Miler in Washington, D.C., and all finished.

As part of a group Rozelle assembled from Walter Reed Army Medical Center dubbed “Missing (Parts) in Action,” these military heroes took injuries and thumbed their noses at any negativity associated with their experience. They showed how even the most seemingly devastating events in life can be positive examples for others.

Rozelle didn’t limit his efforts to running, either.

Instead, he became the first amputee to return to the combat zone when he went back to Iraq in 2005. His book, “Back in Action,” chronicles his experiences and adds some insight into what makes such a determined individual tick.

MPIA was back at last year’s 10-Miler, this time led by retired Capt. Dawn Halfaker, who lost her right arm in Iraq in June 2004 and was in a coma after a rocket-propelled grenade went through her Humvee.

But that was 2004.

In 2005, she was one of eight current and former Walter Reed patients to finish the 10-mile course.

In the military, these individuals started no differently from the hundreds of thousands who have served overseas — and at home — in the war on terrorism. They volunteered to serve, made an incredible sacrifice and came home.

But through their actions — even after meeting their obligations to the country — they stand as models for others who must focus on their running with their bodies and limbs intact.

And they provide a lesson to those who think that such catastrophic injuries are the end. For these runners, and the ones who follow, it is a new beginning.

Christopher Prawdzik is a runner and freelance writer in Northern Virginia. You may e-mail him at runnerslifeccp@yahoo.com.


15th MEU Marines get 'dunked' during water ditching course

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2006) -- Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently attended the Basic Aircraft Ditching Course as part of their annual training in preparation for deployment later this year.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/3041BD0AE70229738525711D000A09FB?opendocument


Submitted by: 15th MEU
Story Identification #: 2006221204939
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Eberle


The effects of the Basic Aircraft Ditching Course hits a little closer to home for Marines from the 15th MEU. Six Marines and one Corpsman with the 15th MEU died in a training accident off the coast of California Dec. 2000 when a CH-46E crashed into the ocean.

In the wake of that tragedy, Marines from different units attend the course to learn and practice basic maneuvers to exit an aircraft when it crashes into the water.

A “dunker” is used to properly train Marines to egress from a helicopter that has ditched over water. The dunker is a simulated helicopter fuselage that incorporates designs from the CH-53 and CH-46 helicopters commonly used by the Marines.

The purpose of the training was to build the confidence of the students and get them used to quickly exiting the aircraft, said Capt. Lisa M. Parrott, 15th MEU supply officer.

“I think this training should be part of the basic swim qualification for every Marine,” said Parrott. “People without this training can be a hazard to everyone who has if a helicopter were to actually go down.

Before the Marines could get in the dunker they received classes covering the dangers of water-born crashes and the dangers of breathing compressed air at great depths. Other classes involved how to exit the aircraft while upside down under water and in the dark.

“Everyone knows that the chances of surviving any helicopter crash are very slim,” said Parrott. “But this training gives you the extra little bit of hope and knowledge to keep you from panicking.”

Upon conclusion of the classes the Marines got in the water and learned how to use a Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device. The HABD is essentially a miniature scuba tank that fits in a pouch on the life vest helicopter crew and passengers are required to wear when traveling over water.

The HABD only holds 3000psi of air but when properly used it will give a person up to two minutes of oxygen under water, providing them extra time to exit the aircraft.

The dunker still creates the confusion and disorientation under water that you could expect from an actual crash, said Cpl. Paul M. Erwin, Radio Reconnaissance assistant radio operator with the 15th MEU.

“It obviously doesn’t compare to a real helicopter crash, but within the boundaries of safety, it is about as close as you can get,” said Erwin.

At the end of the course the Marines practiced exiting an aircraft while hovering close to the water and survival techniques to help ensure their survival once the have exited the downed helicopter.

“The dunker was a good experience,” said Erwin. “With that experience, I now have an idea of what to expect, and have a little more confidence in myself.”


Iraqi soldiers spearhead second independent operation

Feb. 13, 2006
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division spearheaded their second independent operation yesterday.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/releaseview/37996E3291A25F61852571140046AEB7?opendocument

United States Marine Corps
Press Release
Public Affairs Office
Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool


Iraqi soldiers led a security presence and sweeping operation today in the village of Subiyhat to clear the area of insurgents and interact with the populace.

Subiyhat is a small village located in rural, eastern Al Anbar Province, home to more than 2,000 citizens in the vicinity of Fallujah.

Operation Tawakalna Ala Allah, (Trust in God) was the unit’s second battalion-sized operation in the Al Anbar Province planned and conducted by the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade leadership.

Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team - 8 assisted in the operation by providing security on the outer perimeter.

The operation resulted in the detention of four suspected insurgents and enhanced relations between the citizens of Subiyhat and the Iraqi Army.

“I want the people in this area to understand that we are here for their protection and we are here to stay,” said Col. Najim Abdullah Menahi Salmon, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade. “I am very proud of the way my soldiers operated today…our mission was a success.”

The operation involved three Iraqi army companies from the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade which patrolled the village. Two additional Marine companies from 1st Battalion manned the outer security cordon.

The primary goals for the Iraqi soldiers were to meet with locals and search for illegal weapons. They also distributed leaflets with the battalion’s tips line phone number so residents can report insurgent activity.

In addition, the soldiers passed out several dozen Iraqi national flags while interacting with the villagers.

“The national flags are popular because it gives the people pride to receive the Iraqi flag from the soldiers of the Iraqi army,” Najim said. “I plan to build on our success today and increase these types of operations in the future.”

The Marine commander supporting the operation also considered the day’s efforts a success.

“My number one priority during this deployment is to facilitate the development of the Iraqi army capabilities,” said Lt. Col. David J. Furness, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “The more [the Iraqi Army] operates, the more confident they become in their abilities, and the more eager they become to assume responsibility for security.”

Iraq’s 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade assumed their current battle space from the U.S Marine’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment Feb. 1.

This operation was the next step in the progression of this unit gaining complete operational independence in this area of operations, Furness said.
The 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division is partnered with Regimental Combat Team 8, under the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


15th MEU Marines get 'dunked' during water ditching course

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2006) -- Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently attended the Basic Aircraft Ditching Course as part of their annual training in preparation for deployment later this year.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/3041BD0AE70229738525711D000A09FB?opendocument

Submitted by: 15th MEU
Story Identification #: 2006221204939
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Eberle

The effects of the Basic Aircraft Ditching Course hits a little closer to home for Marines from the 15th MEU. Six Marines and one Corpsman with the 15th MEU died in a training accident off the coast of California Dec. 2000 when a CH-46E crashed into the ocean.

In the wake of that tragedy, Marines from different units attend the course to learn and practice basic maneuvers to exit an aircraft when it crashes into the water.

A “dunker” is used to properly train Marines to egress from a helicopter that has ditched over water. The dunker is a simulated helicopter fuselage that incorporates designs from the CH-53 and CH-46 helicopters commonly used by the Marines.

The purpose of the training was to build the confidence of the students and get them used to quickly exiting the aircraft, said Capt. Lisa M. Parrott, 15th MEU supply officer.

“I think this training should be part of the basic swim qualification for every Marine,” said Parrott. “People without this training can be a hazard to everyone who has if a helicopter were to actually go down.

Before the Marines could get in the dunker they received classes covering the dangers of water-born crashes and the dangers of breathing compressed air at great depths. Other classes involved how to exit the aircraft while upside down under water and in the dark.

“Everyone knows that the chances of surviving any helicopter crash are very slim,” said Parrott. “But this training gives you the extra little bit of hope and knowledge to keep you from panicking.”

Upon conclusion of the classes the Marines got in the water and learned how to use a Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device. The HABD is essentially a miniature scuba tank that fits in a pouch on the life vest helicopter crew and passengers are required to wear when traveling over water.

The HABD only holds 3000psi of air but when properly used it will give a person up to two minutes of oxygen under water, providing them extra time to exit the aircraft.

The dunker still creates the confusion and disorientation under water that you could expect from an actual crash, said Cpl. Paul M. Erwin, Radio Reconnaissance assistant radio operator with the 15th MEU.

“It obviously doesn’t compare to a real helicopter crash, but within the boundaries of safety, it is about as close as you can get,” said Erwin.

At the end of the course the Marines practiced exiting an aircraft while hovering close to the water and survival techniques to help ensure their survival once the have exited the downed helicopter.

“The dunker was a good experience,” said Erwin. “With that experience, I now have an idea of what to expect, and have a little more confidence in myself.”

February 12, 2006

Troops coming and going

Trenton VanBoening — perhaps a future lieutenant in the making — was ready for his dad to come home from Iraq.

The 19-month-old boy was decked out in his own pair of desert cammies, the same kind his father — 1st. Lt. Simon VanBoening — wears when he’s in the field with his unit, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=38777&Section=News

February 12,2006
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF


For the last seven months, 2/2 has been fighting near Fallujah. But now, that’s all over. During the weekend, the entire battalion — roughly 900 strong — is returning to Camp Lejeune.

They aren’t the only ones on a weekend of comings and goings. With about 13,000 Marines and sailors scheduled to return to Lejeune in the coming weeks, there were a number of homecomings this weekend and some scheduled for early next week. Across the base, others were leaving for Iraq Saturday.

Homecoming

About 100 Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force returned on Saturday. Today, more Marines from 2/2, including the commanding officer, are returning. On Monday, about 240 Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-26 will be back after nearly a year in Iraq.

Saturday, when a large chunk of 2/2 returned, the gray skies and heavy rain did little to dampen the spirits of the families waiting for them.

“It’s exciting,” said Susan VanBoening, Trenton’s mother. “Trenton just ran through a bunch of puddles and I don’t really care because my spouse is getting home. It’s been stressful and I’m just relieved that it’s over.”

The Warlords of 2/2 saw a good deal of action. Sixteen Marines were killed in the seven months they were deployed. Those names adorned a blanket hanging inside Goettge Memorial Fieldhouse, where the families waited.

Maj. Chris Dixon, 2/2’s executive officer who returned a couple of weeks ago with an advance party, said homecomings are sort of bittersweet: there’s joy, but also remembrance of those that were lost.

“You come home, you’re excited to see your family,” he said. “You are happy that you survived, but remember those we lost. That will sit with us forever.”

Terri Foley, the mother of 2/2’s Cpl. David Foley, said prayer got her through the deployment.

“I can wait to put my arms around him,” she said, choking back tears.

She didn’t have to wait long. Four buses pulled up, shouts and cheers rang out. After that, the rain bothered no one.

VanBoening, who played with Trenton on the fieldhouse bleachers, said he was relieved to be home with his wife and son.

“It’s a relief just to see them and not worry about anything happening to them,” said VanBoening.

Foley, after seeing her son again, said words couldn’t describe the way she felt.

“My heart, my heart,” she said. “You can’t put it into words. It’s a mother’s love.”


Some going, too


Across Lejeune, at Michelangelo’s Pizza, the dreary weather found a better match. There, about 130 Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion were saying goodbye to their families before heading to Iraq for seven months.

They aren’t the only group leaving in the next few days either. Marine Light/ Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 are heading out on Sunday to Iraq’s Al Anbar Province for the next six months.

Lance Cpl. Marcus Bailey with 2nd TSB, was saying goodbye to his wife, Amy, for the second time. He said leaving when most guys are coming home is part of being a Marine.

“It’s just the way it goes,” he said.

Lance Cpl. Ryan Harrington and his wife, Crystal, have an extra reason to be sad: Crystal is pregnant with their first child. Harrington said he hopes he’s back by the baby’s due date in September.

“He got to see the first ultrasound and saw the heart beat, so that was nice,” she said. “I think (deployment) is a little easier this time. It’s harder in a different way. Last time, I didn’t know what to expect. This time I do.”

Harrington said it was a little strange leaving when most area Marines are coming home.

“But my turn will come,” he said.


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.


February 10, 2006

House honors Marine killed in Iraq

“Many of us in this chamber have sons, daughters, relatives that are serving in combat zones. I feel very privileged: My son served three combat tours and I got him home every time. Alan and Gayle weren’t near as lucky. I think one of things we’ve all heard many times in our lifetime is only the good die young. Andy Patten was 19 years old, an outstanding young Marine, the pride of the Class of 2004 of Byron High School. He is sadly missed and was greatly loved.”

http://www.rrstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060210/NEWS0109/102100036/1004/RSS01


SPRINGFIELD — Rep. Jim Sacia stood before a silent Illinois House Thursday and, with those words, paid tribute to the late Lance Cpl. Andrew Grant Patten of Byron.

Sacia, R-Pecatonica, spoke as Patten’s parents, Alan Patten and Gayle Naschansky, watched from their seats in the overhead House gallery. He told his colleagues of Patten’s deep connection to his dual communities — his home in the Rock River Valley and his home among fellow Marines.

Sacia also spoke of Patten’s great faith in God. Other Marines called Patten “the Rev” because of his closeness to God and his willingness to share his beliefs.

“In my lifetime I’ve attended many funerals,” Sacia said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so touched as (I was at) the funeral for Lance Cpl. Andy Patten. I don’t think I have ever attended a funeral where a pastor could not keep his composure. And that was because of his personal love for a fine young man and the way that this young man touched not only the community of Byron, the 89th legislative district, but certainly his church.”

More than 600 people attended Patten’s funeral services at Maywood Evangelical Free Church in Rockford, where he and his family had worshipped. Patten was laid to rest Dec. 14 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Patten, 19, and nine other Marines were killed Dec. 1 in an explosion near Fallujah in Iraq.

“It’s an honor to have Rep. Sacia speak about our son today,” said Patten’s mother, Gayle Naschansky, who was joined by her husband, Victor Naschansky, after the ceremony. “Rep. Sacia has had children also serve in the military so he, better than some, knows the concern and worry we have as parents when our kids go off to war.”

Sacia presented Patten’s parents with two American flags that flew at half-staff over the Capitol and copies of a resolution detailing Patten’s legacy. The House clerk read the resolution into the chamber’s record before Sacia spoke.

“We wanted to come down (to Springfield) for Andy’s honor,” said Patten’s father, Alan Patten, who was joined by his wife, Diane Patten. “We know that all the military people from the state (who die in combat) are recognized so we just felt that we needed to be here on Andy’s behalf.”

Simply put, Sacia praised Patten as an extraordinary American.

“Lance Cpl. Andy Patten made the ultimate sacrifice,” Sacia told his colleagues.

With that, all of the state’s representatives bowed their heads in a moment of silence.

Ticket golden for military families

Katlyn Painter won the only golden ticket. Unlike Charlie from the children’s story, however, her ticket wasn’t actually golden, and it didn’t award the 5-year-old her own chocolate factory.

It gave her something better: Her dad, Naval officer Aaron Painter, was coming home — and she would get to see him first.

http://www.jdnews.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=38726&Section=News

February 10,2006
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF


While more than 100 Marines and sailors with Marine Air Group 26 arrived Thursday morning to New River Air Station, returning troops are a norm there. But those hosting the homecoming decided to add a wrinkle, perhaps inspired by Valentine’s Day.

They sold “First Kiss” raffle tickets at a small table, flanked by a blown-up copy of the famous World War II photo depicting a service member dipping and kissing his sweetheart on a city street.

The raffle gave the lucky winner the chance to be the first to see their loved one when the troops stepped off the bus. Katlyn’s number was called, so when the families were taken outside to greet the arriving Marines, the Painters got a front-row seat to welcome home the dad and husband who had been gone for six months.

The raffle — along with the signs, the balloons and the food — was simply a side note to what families were truly waiting for: the return of their Marine or sailor to America, individual pieces of the roughly 13,000 troops that are coming home from Iraq.

The MAG was deployed for 13 months. While not all of the troops were away that long, even a few months in war-torn Iraq is enough to set a family’s nerves on edge.

“It’s hard,” said Ron Cardin, who came from Massachusetts with his wife, Robin, to see their son, Cpl. Michael Cardin, home. “You don’t know what to think. You read the papers, watch the news and wait for a call.”

Lillian Knight came from San Diego to welcome home her brother, Gunnery Sgt. Tony Yepes. Yepes had fought in the first Gulf War, but Knight said this time has been much harder on her family.

“We were more worried this time,” she said. “It’s been in the media so much more. (For Gulf I) It was like he went then came right back. It’s been a little more nerve-racking.”

Eva Painter, Katlyn’s mother, said that even though her husband has been in the Navy for 13 years and deployed many times, this was the hardest.

“This deployment was harder than the others because the girls were old enough to realize he was gone for six months,” she said.

While she was already excited to welcome her husband home, Painter said winning the raffle was icing on the cake for her daughters: Katlyn, Charity and Anna.

“They being able to greet not only their dad but everyone else is a special treat for them,” she said.

“(Katlyn) just knew her daddy was coming home first,” said Anna.

After the bus arrived, when all the troops were formed up in ranks, Aaron Painter burst from his line and ran towards his family, who waited with arms open.

“I was completely shocked,” said Painter, who was told his family won the raffle as they approached. “Out of all the deployments this is the first time I’ve got to do something like this.

“It sure did melt six months away really quick,” he said.


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.

Wyoming family loses their 'little GI Joe'

WYOMING -- At the end of a rushed phone call Ross Smith placed from Iraq on Tuesday, his mother promised a care package would arrive within days and told the Marine corporal to stay safe.

http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-27/1139586595306280.xml?grpress?NEG&coll=6


Friday, February 10, 2006
By Nate Reens
The Grand Rapids Press


Less than 48 hours later, Sue Smith learned her youngest son was dead, the victim of a Wednesday explosion in the war-torn country.

"I don't have any tears left," Sue Smith said Thursday as friends and family gathered at the family's home to offer condolences and support.

With few details about how her son died, Sue Smith, her husband, Mark, and their two other sons are clinging to the memory of the 21-year-old Wyoming Park High School graduate they sometimes jokingly called their "little GI Joe."

Ross Smith was on his third tour of Iraq and only months away from completing his four-year commitment to the armed forces, an enlistment decision he made before his senior year in high school.

When terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, Sue Smith asked her son to reconsider the path he chose only one month earlier. He wouldn't hear of it, she said.

"He said that they needed him even more now than before," she recalled. "That was the type of kid he was, committed, dedicated, never taking the easy way out.

"I don't know how I'll continue without him. I can't even imagine him not being around."

Sue Smith suspects her son died in Fallujah, but the three Marines who knocked on the door of her Boone Avenue SW house about noon Thursday knew little about the circumstances surrounding his death. The family expects to hear more in the coming days as information trickles out of Iraq and the Department of Defense verifies what transpired.

Smith, who first was deployed in February 2003, is the third Wyoming soldier killed since fighting began in the Middle East. Army Pfc. Nicholas Blodgett died July 21, 2004, when his patrol vehicle struck an explosive, and Eric Burri, an Army specialist, died June 7, 2005. A bomb exploded near his vehicle.

Military life fit Smith, a gifted athlete who played golf and soccer in high school, as he quickly warmed to fellow soldiers as brothers.

The fear of war was slow to set in until Smith held a dying friend in his arms in December 2004, his mother said. That experience led him to get a tattoo of a Marine Corps rifle on his chest from his armpit to his waist.

"He had a real hard time with that, and it changed him," she said. "Not for the worse, though. It almost made him believe in what he was doing more. That they were doing the right thing there."

Yet Smith always grasped the reality of war, a fight that likely would have finished for him in May. Smith believed he would be back in the United States for debriefing prior to his discharge in June.

Before leaving for his first trip overseas, he bought a $250,000 life insurance policy. The gesture and its implications brought his mother to tears.

"That's something we never wanted to think about. You know it's there and you just pray his day doesn't come," she said. "Of course, when you see Marines standing at your door, you freak out.

"You know what they're there for."

Smith last was home for a two-week stay at Christmas, and he and his family reluctantly talked about the possibility he wouldn't return.

"We all said it was the third time and we were kind of pressing our luck," Sue Smith said.

The conversation quickly steered to how lucky they were to spend the holiday together and of the soldiers' impending trip to see the University of Texas play the University of Southern California in the Rose Bowl for college football's national championship.

On Tuesday, Smith called his mother from a phone he wasn't sure he was authorized to use. With such a short time left in the service, he told her there wasn't a sanction that could be imposed to scare him away from hearing her voice.

"He said, 'What are they going to do, send me to Iraq?'" she said.

Smith is survived by his parents and his brothers, Matt, 29, and Luke, 23.

Deploying infantry Marines raid MOUT town

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2006) -- Cpl. Glen R. Clacher knows the best way to prepare for Iraq is to get a little taste of it before he deploys.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/9ECD93D69F24ACF685257111005E159E?opendocument


Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 200621012739
Story by Cpl. Joseph Digirolamo

“Sometimes our training doesn’t feel too realistic,” said the 21-year-old fire team leader. “But when real life elements are provided in the mix, you start to believe in the situations you get into.”

Clacher is part of 3rd platoon, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which currently is participating with about 1,000 other Marines and Sailors from the battalion, in the Urban Warfare Training Center portion of their revised combined-arms exercise and stability and support operations training, branded ‘Mojave Viper.’

The 10-day urban warfare package focuses on tank and assault amphibious vehicle infantry integration, vehicular and foot patrols, vehicle checkpoints and coordinated searches in a mock Iraqi city housing more than 300 role players including some 50 Iraqi linguists.

“The exercise duplicates life in Iraq for an infantry battalions in an urban environment,” said Capt. Edward T. Nevgloski, operations officer for 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

Throughout the second phase of the battalion’s Mojave Viper training, the unit jumped into an exercise known as urban centralized training – a training evolution where the targets, for all intents and purposes, shoot back.

Each Marine and role player is fully engaged in a paintball war armed with 9 mm marking cartridges called simunition (SIM) rounds, which are from the Special Effects Small-Armed Munitions System.

“[Using blanks] you really don’t know how accurate you are,” said Lance Cpl. Hector L. Borrero, ammunitions chief for 3rd Bn., 8th Marines. “These SIM rounds allow you to tell who gets hit and who doesn’t… they build up a Marine’s proficiency when it comes to moving and shooting.”

This exercise allows platoons to lead an assault on a portion of the mock city against an army of insurgents in the town.

The Marines are armed with blue munitions as insurgents yield the color red.

“The urban centralized training focuses on room clearing, movement to assault an objective… and geometry of fire,” said 2nd Lt. Steven M. Keisling, infantry platoon commander, 3rd Plt., I Company, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

Keisling knows that the training here is exactly what his men need before they deploy.

“What we’re trying to get from this is a mastery of the basics,” said the 25-year-old from Napa, Calif. “It’s those basics that save lives.”

When Marines entered the town for the first time, they began carefully looking in every window and doorway they passed. Soon after, they quickly start to take sniper fire from a second floor window. As reddish paint splatters against the city walls close to the Marines’ positions, they found themselves pinned tight in an alleyway.

“We all came up with our own game plan [before going into the city] then we all came together to mold our plans into one,” said Clacher, from Manorville, N.Y. “But as soon as we started taking rounds we had to adjust.”

The benefit of this training is being able to adjust a plan during all that chaos, he added.

In another scenario, a fire team came across a possible simulated enemy casualty. They took positions in the building next to the lifeless Insurgent. As soon the Marines turned their back to the fallen player, he preceded to get up and attack the positions of the Marines.

“We did not properly check an opponent but in actuality he was playing dead. After we passed him, he quickly took four of us out.” said Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Beauchemin, squad automatic weapon gunner, 3rd Plt., I Company, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

The training allowed the Marines to work out any glitches they have before stepping foot on a real battlefield.

“I learned that I need to be more aware of my surroundings and use better communication techniques,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Domin, a basic rifleman for 3rd Plt., I Company, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

“This training helped us learn our weak points and what we need to work on; it also helped us work as a team and be prepared for every possible thing that could come at us,” said Domin, a 21-year-old form Dunbarton, N.H.

Eighty percent of the 3rd Platoon, India Company has seen Iraq already and believe this type of training definitely is hitting the spot, said Keisling.

Lance Cpl. Tony L. Mallett, believes the realism of the urban city is nothing short of scary.

“The challenge is never knowing where anything can come from, windows and doorways are everywhere, the enemy can hit you high on the second floor or hide low using a subterrain environment, said Mallet, machine gun attachment, 3rd Plt., I Company, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines. “It’s a complete 360-degree battlefield.”

“This is the best urban combat town I’ve been to, and the role players do a really good job and are very realistic,” said Keisling. “The instructor staff also does everything they can to make us better.”

Keisling is very pleased with the training and is ready to do his part during his next deployment in March for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“This was great training and it was really in-depth. The Marines are definitely better off for being here,” he added.

Email Cpl. Joseph DiGirolamo at joseph.digirolamo@usmc.mil

February 9, 2006

Infantry Marines prep for convoy ops

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Feb. 9, 2006) -- A simple road trip is not so simple in the Marine Corps.

Instead of worrying about gas prices, Marines encounter an array of improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, land mines and small-arms fire.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/40C3D6BF5583771D852571100062D0B9?opendocument

Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 200629125919
Story by Cpl. Joseph Digirolamo

That’s why 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s “Combat Train” took part in the convoy operations course, Jan. 30. The pre-deployment exercise is designed to enhance the skills of Marines and Sailors in convoy maneuvers and readiness, making hazardous treks from one point to another safer.

“Combat Train” is a mixture of motor transportation Marines and Truck Company Marines currently supporting the battalion’s revised combined-arms exercise known as 'Mojave Viper.'

“It’s a realistic course. It’s as close to combat as you can get when it comes to this type of training,” said Lance Cpl. Michael A. Romano, motor transport operator, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Bn, 8th Marines.

The 20-kilometer course allows convoys to use live-fire tactics to tackle multiple electronic pop-up targets, roll through mock urban environments using heavy machine guns, and avoid simulated road hazards through miles of dusty trails using communication and coordination.

“This live fire convoy course allows us to utilize our assets with Blue Force Tracker [a satellite based tracking and communications system]… convoy planning, and casualty evacuations,” said 1st Lt. John L. Wintz, truck platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “It’s the only long-distance, live-fire convoy training that Combat Train will be able to do as a unit before Iraq.”

Truck Company is currently attached to 3rd Bn., 8th Marines. The majority of the platoon was with battalion from January 2005 to August 2005 during their last deployment to Iraq.

Romano, whose vehicle was nearly hit with three RPGs last year in Iraq, believes taking this course was good preparation for his next deployment.

“It kept me alert at all times and reminded me that we can be attacked from any direction,” said Romano, a 20-year-old from Long Island, N.Y. “It showed me that I always have to be on the alert because anything could happen.”

Before the course, the team prepared themselves by running through immediate action drills, and chalk talks coupled with a full dress rehearsal, said Wintz, the convoy commander.

During the three-hour course, the convoy encountered a land mine, two RPG attacks, an IED along with an ambush, and small-arms fire.

In one scenario, the convoy approached an abandoned vehicle along the roadside, the Marines in the convoy provided security as engineers attempted to disable what appeared to be a vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device. They eventually used high-explosive rounds to detonate the device.

“It was an adrenaline rush, but I had to control myself in order to push forward,” said Cpl. Jonathan W. Fulton, a vehicle commander for Truck Company.

Fulton, whose coming up on his third deployment, knows that using live ammunition and being part of a simulated IED attack will help give the Marines and new guys a good grasp of what they could see in Iraq.

It’s an intense course because the Marines were able to provide security by sending real rounds toward actual targets, said Lance Cpl. Willmer O. Canas, a motor transport Marine and machine gunner for the lead vehicle, H&S Company, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines.

Canas, a 25-year-old from Tampa Bay, Fla., said the training was on point with experiences he dealt with in Iraq.

Rotary-wing close air support was also incorporated into the course.

“The most unique part of the training was the ability to use air support just like what we used in country,” said Cpl. Alberto Sanchez, a radio operator for Truck Company. “I used the air support to attack enemy locations, medical evacuations, reconnaissance, and to provide security.”

Sanchez, a 20-year-old from Waltham, Mass., was in charge of a lot of the communication aspects of the training.

The course allowed Wintz to evaluate the training and to target areas to improve on, but more importantly the course allowed two units to merge into one team.

“This was a good chance to work together and to get to know one another… and put everyone on the same sheet of music,” said Fulton, a 22-year-old from Parkland, Fla.

Wintz knows the Marines will take home a lot from this exercise.

“This was a great opportunity to build on our experiences from our last deployment, and it allowed us to work as a team, said Wintz, a 25-year-old from Statesville, N.C.

The exercise built the confidence of these Marines before they deploy next month, he said.

February 8, 2006

HMM-161 flies 50,000th safe hour in Iraq

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq(Feb. 8, 2006) -- The emphasis on operational safety keeps growing in the modern Marine aviation community, but even in such a safety-conscious environment, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 stands out as it recently celebrated its 50,000th class ‘A’ mishap-free hour.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/345B846BA22C9BC48525710F004FD816?opendocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. James D. Hamel

Story Identification #: 2006289326

The CH-46 Sea Knight squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., worked on the milestone for more than a decade. Class ‘A’ mishaps are defined as those in which a life is lost or any damage incurred during an aviation accident is more than $1 million. The Greyhawks hit the 50,000 hour mark during its deployment to Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where its primary mission is evacuating injured coalition forces from the battlefield.

Captain Steven M. Clifton, the squadron’s aviation safety officer, said that in his line of work, mission accomplishment and safety are mutually inclusive, you can’t have one without the other.

“Our mission out here is to bring casualties from the point of injury or aid stations to more capable medical facilities,” said Clifton, a DeKalb, Ill., native. “If you don’t do that safely, you’ve failed both your crew and the individual in need of medical care.”

The first hour of the milestone was logged Feb. 19, 1995, before many of ‘161’s current members could call themselves Marines. The unit continued to build on its record of safety during training exercises at home and multiple deployments with various Marine Expeditionary Units. In Iraq, they added 9,100 more hours during three combat deployments, including their most recent flights that put them over the 50,000 mark.

“The overwhelming majority of flight hours this squadron has flown during the last three years have been in a combat environment,” said Major James D. Hill, HMM-161’s executive officer. “We fly an incredibly high operational tempo here in Iraq, and the fact we can (do that) safely is a testament to the dedication and focus of our Marines.”

While the squadron’s outstanding safety record began 11 years ago, the aircraft that helped them obtain that record is more than 40 years old. An older aircraft, flown often in a harsh Iraqi climate, presents a formidable maintenance challenge, but Cpl. James R. Bearb said the maintenance is actually easier than some might expect.

“These aircraft were designed to fly, and the more they sit around, the more problems come up,” said Bearb, a Houston native. “It may seem strange, but when the aircraft is flying, all of the systems are being utilized, so the problems don’t occur as much as one would think.”

Sergeant Jason G. Hernandez, a flightline mechanic with ‘161 and native of Orangepark, Fla., said he and his comrades were well prepared for the challenges of Iraq.

“With all the training we had prior to this deployment, (maintenance) has seemed a little less difficult,” he said. “We are constantly doing detailed maintenance to keep us going.”

As the squadron nears the end of its deployment, Hill said the Greyhawks are anticipating their homecoming without losing their focus on the task at hand. Bearb said he felt great to be part of an aviation legacy that is 10 years in the making and still going strong. As the squadron continues its important work, the members hope that a decade from now, a new generation of Greyhawks will be celebrating another milestone.

“The command is extremely proud of each and every dedicated professional in this squadron and we are excited to celebrate such an important milestone together,” said Hill. “From the Marines who maintain the aircraft, to the support personnel who keep the squadron humming, every one of our Marines and Sailors play a significant role in our squadron’s success.”

First 'Raptor' Osprey crew chiefs graduate

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (Feb. 8, 2006) -- Two years ago, six men made the decision to become United States Marines. The future Marines had little in common; several were still in high school planning for spring break and their school prom while others worked odd jobs. Most of them did not know what an MV-22 Osprey was.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/487A4BD316B780A78525710E005FD36A?opendocument

Submitted by: MCAS New River
Story Identification #: 200627122640
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel D. White

On Jan. 25, through hard work and dedication, these Marines earned another significant emblem - their aircrew wings. These Marines became the first MV-22 Osprey crew chief graduating class of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron-204.

“I never thought I’d be where I am today,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Stinson, VMMT-204 crew chief and one of the six graduates. “It’s an honor to be one of the first graduates for the Osprey crew chief program.”

“Think of all the people (they) went to high school with,” said Col. Joel P. Kane, VMMT-204 commanding officer. “I don’t care if they went off to Harvard or Yale or Brown or are studying to be a brain surgeon, none of them will probably ever have the responsibility that (these) six Marines will have.”

“Imagine someone saying to you, when you were in high school, you are going to become a crew chief and certify safe for flight the MV-22, an $80 million aircraft. The amount of money and the number of lives, for a high school or college graduate, is a huge responsibility,” said Kane.

Certified as one of the first crew chiefs to graduate from VMMT-204 might seem like a lot of pressure to handle, to the newest crew chiefs it’s just another day in their life in the Corps. The graduation of these Marines is not only a significant event for the Osprey program and the graduates, but also to Marine aviation.

“This is a big deal for us as a squadron. This class is the first that we’ve put through since we have returned to flight last October,” said Kane. “We’re pretty excited about the graduates making it through our current training program.”

A syllabus that took the Marines through a nine-month-long course, the graduates are ready to put their newly acquired skills to the test against the future of the aviation wing, said Kane.

Within the next few months, while three of the six Marines will stay with the ‘Raptors,’ the other half of the graduating class will transition to the future Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-263, which will of stand up in March.

“I’m eager to get out there and join up with my new squadron,” said Lance Cpl. Yauncey A. Long, a future VMM-263 crew chief. “I just hope I don’t let the Marines, my leaders or the Corps down.”

February 6, 2006

Hummer Helps Mother Heal

For AirbrushGuy & Company artist Robert Powell, it's not the custom airbrushing that's makes this job unique, but the sheer amount of the work and the subject matter that makes this project a bit different.

http://todaysthv.com/news/news.aspx?storyid=23617

Powell explains, “You have to take all the parts off, paint them, take them all off, clear them, put them back together. It's a long, drawn out process."

He's was commissioned to airbrush an H3 Hummer for an Oregon mom whose son was killed in Iraq during a roadside bombing.

Karla Comfort says, “It is a part of John and it's an extension of his memory and I just feel very bonded with it."

Her son, Marine Lance Cpl. John Holmason and nine others died during a combat operation in Fallujah. Comfort wanted to do something to remember her son after she saw a similar memorial for Vietnam Veterans. She wanted her own rolling memorial.

“You realized these guys have died for our country. The 10 guys that died, [to] my son, they’re like is family. Including all 10 of them was the appropriate thing to do and I want people to see them and see what they sacrificed."

Ex-military himself, Powell is showing the two sides of war: the soldier on the battlefield and the humanitarian side, depicting soldiers helping Iraqi children and policing the war torn areas. Tying it all together is the American flag, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Powell explains, “I've draped a flag over the front and my thinking there was sort of a coffin, like they're sent home."

Comfort says this Hummer is not only a memorial; it's been a part of the grieving process.

"I am in tears every day; it's a positive thing to focus on," she says.

For Powell, he says this is more than just a Hummer with a special paint job is and he hopes people will recognize its significance.

“They look at it and see somebody's mother, somebody's brother, somebody's son, somebody's father,” he explains. “I want them to see that."

The Hummer is expected to be complete in a couple of days and should be on display later in February. Comfort plans to take it on the road for people to see.


Stefanie Bryant, Reporter
Created: 2/6/2006 5:29:53 PM
Updated: 2/6/2006 7:11:49 PM

February 5, 2006

Aviation authority transferred to MAG-16 in Western Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Feb. 5, 2006) -- Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, returned to the dust-blown streets and runways of Al Asad, Iraq, Feb. 5, replacing MAG-26 as the primary facilitator of aviation support in their area of responsibility.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/97857BC80B4E002E8525710D0065A2A2?opendocument


Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20062613307
Story by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

Nearly one year had passed since MAG-26, 2nd MAW, took the reigns from their West Coast counterpart MAG-16. During those months, the East Coast group supported Army, Navy and Marine aviation squadrons performing hundreds of various missions in support of Multinational and Iraqi ground forces.

MAG-16 will act as the higher headquarters and serve as a foundation for the operations of more than a dozen aviation, aviation support and medical support units conducting missions from forward operating bases across Western Iraq.

"The Marines, sailors and soldiers of MAG-16 are anxious, they are well trained and they are ready. These are the best young men and women America has to offer and it is a privilege and honor to stand among them," said Col. Guy M. Close, commanding officer, MAG-16. "We are going to support our ground forces and aid in the transition to Iraqi security forces by providing multiple aviation missions to include casualty evacuation, surveillance and movement of personnel and supplies."

"We have been set up for success by the excellent turnover from MAG-26. They should be proud of the accomplishments and improvements they've made, and we hope to build upon their work," said the Wellsboro, Pa., native.

Members of MAG-16 continued the theme of their commanding officer's remarks when speaking about the exemplary job done by their predecessors.

"This is my first tour out here, and the impression I had was that we had to bring 8,000 things to be ready, but it was a lot better than I expected," said Sgt. Jonathan Soler, intelligence chief, MAG-16. "MAG-26 had everything set; ready to go in my section."

Soler and other key personnel with MAG-16 arrived weeks prior to the transfer of authority. Representatives from every section in the group worked alongside their counterparts from MAG-26, prepping for when the workload of daily operations of the MAG would be theirs to carry.

"They went over the day-to-day responsibilities, giving me a heads up on where things were heading," said Soler, a Bridgeport, Conn., native. "They let us know the details necessary to make it an efficient transition."

Despite what he knows will be stressful months ahead, Soler is optimistic about the future.

"We're going to be busy supporting the Marines as best as possible, here at the MAG, at the squadrons and in the rear," said Soler. "This deployment is a great opportunity to develop Marines and to see the products we (MAG-16 intelligence section) prepare save lives."

With the Marines, sailors and soldiers under the MAG-16 umbrella in place, members of MAG-26 expressed feelings of happiness and regret on their impending redeployment home.

"I feel real good, the turnover went great, but sad to leave some really good people. Hopefully, we'll be able to reunite back home," said Staff Sgt. Don A. Henson, fiscal chief, MAG-26 and Kilmichael, Miss., native. "I'm looking forward to seeing MAG-16 fiscal do good things, and help the local economy through contracting."

8th ESB Marine shares running, Marine Corps experiences

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq(Feb. 5, 2006) -- Staying determined throughout a deployment can often challenge service members. Maintaining a sense of normalcy in the face of continuous stress and days of repetitiveness while separated from family and friends can sometimes make a goal seem unachievable.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/fafe0451cdc042df8525710c002d1d3b?OpenDocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier
Story Identification #: 20062531246


However, Marines like 1st Lt. Shanelle A. Porter, adjutant for 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), continues to strive daily understanding the importance of dedication through training and hard work.

Being the senior administrative advisor to the battalion, Porter routinely takes care of the tracking, processing and reviewing of fitness reports, awards, correspondence, files and directives, postal affairs, and legal administration. She also has other collateral duties such as being the public affairs liaison and the editor for her battalion’s newsletter.

The Denver native manages her career in the Corps and her true passion of short distance running no matter where she travels.

Her main event was the 400-meter sprint with a top time of 50.67 seconds. She also ran the 100 in 11.6 seconds, the 200 in 23.2 seconds and also the 800 in 2:06.

“I started running my freshman year of high school,” Porter said. “My sophomore year was the first time I actually began formal training for track.”

It wasn’t until she was attending the University of Nebraska that she decided to try out for the Olympics.

To participate in the Olympics, every individual must meet the minimum standard time or distance established by the U.S.A. Track and Field Association for that year to compete in the Olympic Trials.

“The standard is set very high and it usually comes down to at least the top 30 athletes in the U.S. for any given event,” Porter explained. “The top three finishers go on to the Olympics.”

For the 100 and 400 competition, the committee takes the top six to eight finishers to make up either the 100 or 400 relay teams. The U.S. is known for having some of the strongest relay teams in the world, according to Porter.

“In 1992, my coach Steve Rainbolt wanted me to gain some experience at high-level meets, such as going to the Olympic tryouts, with professional runners,” Porter said. “After that in 1996 and 2000, it was about achieving my goals of winning at one of the highest levels of track, which is the Olympics. I wanted to be the best, and in my mind, the Olympics were where you could prove that.”

Porter has had sponsors such as US West Communications, Nike and Mizuno, whom have helped pave the road to the Olympics for Porter.

In her first two attempts for the Olympic team, she was only one person away from qualifying for the final round. Her final shot in 2000, she went through the tryouts injured.

“It was a miracle that I raced as well as I did that day,” Porter admitted. “I placed second in the first round, but last in the second round. That year, I was in the best shape of my life, but I wasn’t ready on game day.”

Although she never qualified for an official Olympic race, Porter has a significant list of track achievements such as 13-time National Colligate Athletic Association Division I All-American, two-time NCAA Division I national champion, NCAA Division I record holder in the outdoor 400 relay, American record holder in the indoor 400 relay and also an eight-time Big Eight Conference champion.

She never made it to the Olympics; however, her experiences in track have helped her a lot in the military.

“I was easily able to adapt to the military lifestyle because good Marines are no different than world class athletes,” Porter said. “Blood, sweat, tears, avid study, knowing ourselves and knowing our enemy are just a few similarities between a Marine and an athlete when it comes to defeating your opponent.”

February 3, 2006

Seabees buzz in to build up bases

RAMADI, Iraq -- A U.S. Navy construction battalion fresh from Hurricane Katrina relief duty is battling the elements and daily insurgent attacks to build permanent bases in the dangerous Anbar province.

http://washingtontimes.com/world/20060202-103630-7889r_page2.htm


By David Axe
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 3, 2006


RAMADI, Iraq -- A U.S. Navy construction battalion fresh from Hurricane Katrina relief duty is battling the elements and daily insurgent attacks to build permanent bases in the dangerous Anbar province.
The famed Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, based in Gulfport, Miss., rode out Katrina in late August then immediately got to work clearing roads, repairing houses and delivering relief supplies in Gulfport and elsewhere in storm-ravaged Mississippi. A month later, the 650 sailors were deployed to a half-dozen sites in western Iraq to undertake a wide range of construction projects.
At Al Taqaddum air base, one of two large airfields in the province used by the United States and destined to be a logistics hub, 50 Seabees are repairing the dilapidated runways where, before 1991, Iraqi jets flew out to drop chemical weapons on Iraq's Kurdish minority.
"Seriously old-fashioned" is how Chief Petty Officer Jose Torres of Uvalde, Texas, describes working conditions at Al Taqaddum. On Jan. 19, he met with Turkish contractors helping build a concrete plant that will support the runway repairs. A shortage of heavy equipment means the contractors have been hauling wet concrete in buckets.
Equipment shortages, the poor quality of local materials, harsh winter weather and frequent mortar attacks by insurgents complicate the Seabees' work.
"It's not a normal contract situation," said Chief Petty Officer Torres, a steelworker, comparing his work with construction in the United States.
"Electricity here is a mess. It's a disaster," said electrician Charles Jacobs of Marksville, La.
His job at Al Taqaddum is to look after a decrepit Iraqi electrical grid that he says presents a serious fire hazard.
Seabees are accustomed to working in dangerous, remote places where supplies are hard to acquire. Recent deployments have taken the battalion to Haiti and Guam, and Seabees such as Chief Petty Officer Torres and his boss, Senior Chief Petty Officer Bob Crandall, an equipment operator, have worked stints at a research station in Antarctica, building protective domes.
The Seabees' favorite projects are humanitarian in nature, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Crandall, a Montana native and a 25-year veteran of the force.
"Last time we were out here [in 2004], we did 15 schools. You don't get to go out in the civilian community as much anymore. When the security situation improves, that might change," he said.
Anbar in general, and the contested city of Ramadi in particular, have seen some of the heaviest fighting since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Marines and soldiers battle foreign fighters slipping across the porous Syrian border.
The threat dictates that all travel be at night, preferably by helicopter. But the unforgiving and unpredictable winter weather often grounds aircraft and forces U.S. troops to travel in heavily armed ground convoys. One Seabee detachment equipped with Humvees protected with extra armor has the job of escorting the speeding convoys. So far, four Seabees have been injured on escort duty.
Mortar attacks are a constant worry for high-ranking Seabees. On Jan. 22 at the Ramadi detachment, the Seabees had set aside their tools for an afternoon barbecue when several mortar rounds exploded nearby, setting a truck ablaze and sending everyone rushing for cover.
"I don't think about it," said builder Timothy Welehan, a New York native.
To protect diners at Ramadi from the mortars, the Seabees are finishing a fortified dining hall with earth and concrete walls and heavy wood beams supporting the earthen roof. For Chief Petty Officer Michael Romero, a steelworker, the project is personal. A 2004 attack on a U.S. dining facility in Mosul killed his friend Seabee Joel Baldwin.
In coming weeks, the scattered Seabees will converge on Al Taqaddum to work on the runway. In March, they will return to the United States, many to homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Marines, IA conduct operation to disrupt insurgency

KARMAH, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- The Dec. 15 elections were fast approaching for the Iraqi people and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment conducted operations to disrupt insurgents that might try to hinder the election process.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/0FB6B7F7E7B2BE368525710A003E07F2?opendocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062361732
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen


Corporal Peter D. Foster, 1st Squad leader for 1st Platoon, Company F, and his Marines helped conduct an Iraqi Army cordon and knock operation in a town north of Karmah to disrupt insurgent activity.

“We helped the Iraqi Army in the search for insurgents north of the city of Karmah,” the Southold, N.Y. native stated. “They conducted cordon and knocks on various target houses in the area.”

To cordon the search area, Marines from Company F were inserted by helicopters. Once the air elements had loaded the Marines, ground forces left for the objectives to arrive shortly following the landing of the air elements.

Taking different routes to reach the objectives, Marines from Company F, Company G, and the Battalion Commander’s Personal Security Detachment linked up with two platoons of Iraqi Army to search the village. Foster, a 2002 Southold High School graduate, and his squad were given the task of providing security for the IA as they searched each of the houses.

“The IA’s are much more organized than they were the last deployment,” Foster stated. “They have progressed a great deal since we have been training with them.”

There were more than 100 houses to search in the area North of Karmah, so the Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines started searching the area as soon as they arrived. Talking to numerous residents in the area and conducting through searches of the houses was the main effort for this operation.

“The Marines in my squad and the IA did a great job on this operation and completed the assigned mission with great success,” stated Foster.

Ironton, Ohio, native manages units interpreters

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- Being able to communicate with the local populous is an important part of every mission the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment conduct in their area of operations. In order to do this, the unit works with local Iraqi interpreters.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/9DA748951A3C49A08525710A003E9A41?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062362347
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen


Sergeant Dustin L. Barrow, an Ironton, Ohio, native, is the enlisted interpreter liaison for the battalion. He ensures the translators are satisfied with what they have, while also ensuring they are doing their jobs to support the operations the companies carry out.

“This is the first time I have dealt with interpreters in my 10 years in the Marine Corps,” the 1992 Ironton High School graduate stated. “It has been an enlightening experience.”

As the Marines of the battalion interact with local Iraqis in their AO, it is essential for them to clearly communicate their intentions and find out what the locals need to further help them down the road to a democratic Iraq.

The first step in the process of getting new interpreters assigned to the battalion is screening by II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group to see if an interested Iraqi is qualified. The individual must have a firm grasp of the English language in order to even be considered. They must also have no past or present affiliation with any insurgents or participated in any insurgent activities.

Once II MHG clears the local Iraqi, then Titan Corporation, a federal government contractor, is allowed to hire the new translator. Titan pays their salary and coordinates some of their travel arrangements.

Taking a trip to meet them for the first time, Barrow starts the process of getting to know the battalion’s new interpreters. After assisting them with all the in-processing to issue protective gear and receive a Camp Fallujah badge, Barrow brings them back to the battalion to meet the unit leaders for which they will be working.

“I took a [four-week] Arabic language class back at Camp Lejeune (N.C.) that helps me to communicate with the Iraqi nationals,” Barrow stated. “I have heard a lot of stories from the interpreters about family stuff as well as what they did before the coalition forces arrived in Iraq. This helps me in being able to place the interpreters with the right company within the battalion.”

The battalion currently has eight local interpreters dispersed among the companies. These translators are considered “Category One” or “CAT 1”, meaning that they are local Iraqi citizens who have applied for and been accepted to be paid translators.

The battalion also has one Iraqi American working as an independently paid translator. This “CAT II” is a U.S. citizen with a security clearance. He is specifically assigned to the battalion’s commanding officer to serve as an interpreter between the commander and local Iraqi leaders.

Once Barrow has coordinated the assignment of the interpreter to the battalion and assigned him his gear, Barrow’s responsibilities with all the interpreters continue. Each month Barrow takes time sheets to each of them in order to pay them for the previous month’s work. Sometimes a company will bring their interpreters to the Combat Operations Center to be paid or to take care of any administrative or welfare matters. Other times, Barrow is required to go “outside the wire” on a convoy in order to accomplish these tasks.

This is an additional duty assigned to Barrow, a battalion administrator who works in the administration section.

“The translators provide an invaluable resource for the Marines in the battalion to help bridge the language barrier,” Borrow said. “When the translators help the Marines they are also helping Iraq get closer to their goal of an independent country for all Iraqis.”


Houston native manages detainees in Iraq

CAMP FALLUJA, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- The Marines in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment bring in suspected insurgents as detainees from their area of operation in order to keep local Iraqi citizens safe. Having one location for all of the detainees to be processed helps expedite the process.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/6A308EE0FE6F8C018525710A003F3755?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062363029
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen


Sergeant William B. Iversen, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the battalion’s detainee facility, is instrumental in making sure these detainees end up where they are supposed to; prison.

“I am here so that the companies only have to drop off a few Marines with a detainee and head right back out into the fight,” the Houston native stated. “All they have to do is drop them off and we handle the rest.”

The 1996 graduate of Nimitz High School was deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the Marines of Company G, clearing Fallujah of insurgents. Instead of exchanging fire with the enemy this deployment, Iversen is processing them as detainees to keep them off the streets and keep the Iraqi citizens safe.

“Each deployment has different missions in different locations. I have been on five deployments during my time in the Corps,” Iversen stated.

Before leaving for his second tour to Iraq Iversen worked in the operations and training section for the battalion. He supervised clerks that prepared training schedules and weapons ranges that the battalion used for training.

Working at the detainee facility is a different experience for Iversen.

“Working in the operations section you knew what you were going to have to do on a daily basis,” Iversen stated. “The detainee facility is a completely different story. I don’t know when things are going to happen and with how many detainees. I have had 23 come through at one time, so it can get busy. It is an on-call type of job.”

The Marines are constantly conducting operations and missions in the AO, having brought 420 likely enemy insurgents to the facility for processing.

Once a detainee arrives at the facility, Iversen places him in front of a small cubical in which they put their personal belongings. This keeps their belongings separate from those of other detainees. It also protects their belongings from being lost. Information sheets are filled out by Iversen or one of the guards containing the detainee’s name, age, distinguishing marks, and a description for recognition purposes.

Photos are also taken of the detainees in front of a height chart with their detainee number. This makes it easier to identify the detainee if they are forwarded up to the Regimental Detention Facility. Photos are also taken of any distinguishing marks or tattoos. Iversen also runs explosive residue and gun powder tests on all detainees, which can be used as evidence of insurgent activities if they are sent to the RDF and then to Abu Grab prison.

“It is a pretty simple process, but it has to be done in the right way so we don’t forget a step and have the detainee get released for something we forgot,” Iversen said.

The detainee facility is open 24 hours a day which can make for long hours of work. Iversen is more than willing to put in the time and hard work to get the enemy insurgents off the streets of Iraq so they cannot do any harm.

“This is one of the hardest things I have had to deal with, knowing that some of the detainees have just killed some of my fellow Marines,” Iversen stated. “But that is something you can’t think about, because we have to get them processed so they can go to jail for a long time. Then they can’t hurt any more of my fellow Marines or local Iraqis.”

Iraqi Police, Marines secure polling sites

KARMAH, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- Iraq’s national election was a milestone towards making it an independent and free nation. The polling sites in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s area of operations had to be protected from any insurgent activity.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/110B573D70CDF0F18525710A003FC858?opendocument

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062363640
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen


The main effort of the Coalition Forces in Iraq is to make conditions where the people can take care of themselves. To further that goal, the Iraqi Police protected the polling sites and the voters waiting in line there.

“The IPs did an excellent job of protecting the Iraqi people that wanted to vote,” said 2nd Lt. Bryan R. Kelsey, Iraqi Police liaison officer for the battalion.

This group of IPs arrived shortly before election day at the Karmah Police station from the city of Fallujah. They will be a permanent presence in the city to help eliminate intimidation of the community by insurgents and to maintain law and order.

On Election Day, the police officers were in charge of protecting six polling sites in the area where the locals could vote. They were also in charge of getting the election officials to and from the polling sites safely.

The new police force began their job with great success – a high turnout in the battalion’s AO, with tens of thousands of local Iraqi citizens voting for candidates of their choosing. Once the election was finished the IPs had one job yet to finish: they escorted the ballots to Fallujah to be counted.

“We had no problems with this election, just like the last one,” stated Kelsey, a 23-year-old Chicago native. “The IPs knew what they were doing and the elections went smoothly as a result.”

Now that the elections are over, the Marines of Company G are helping the police force further their training by conducting joint patrols and instructing them in basic engagement techniques in case they are attacked by insurgents or with an improvised explosive device.

“The IPs are taking well to the training and the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Najim, is a good leader that knows what he is doing,” Kelsey stated. “They are well on their way to taking their roll in a free Iraq.”


Rockford, Ill., native searches for weapons caches during Operation Trifecta

ZAIDON, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- The sun was rising on the second day of Operation Trifecta and it was time for Sgt. Chad T. Johnson, a combat engineer attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and his engineers to impair insurgent operations in the Zaidon area.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4ABA163F32D337F98525710A0040B683?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062364650
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen

The Rockford, Ill., native was given the task of helping a platoon from Company F search vast areas of farm land looking for weapons and explosives the insurgents are suspected to have hidden there.

“This is one of the primary missions for the engineers in this area of operation,” stated Johnson, a 1994 graduate of Auburn High School. “Finding the caches is the pay off for us. We could be walking around for hours and be tired, but if we find a good cache it is all worth it.”

Starting at daybreak, Johnson, whose team includes Lance Cpl. Bryan Fishel, headed out with another sweep team and an infantry squad from Company F. Sweeping through numerous fields and along the sides of canals was the order of the day for Johnson and this group of Marines. There were suspected barrels of TNT in the area they were searching that day.

At around 11:00 a.m. Johnson’s sweep team noticed part of a fiberglass pipe protruding from the ground with a piece of corrugated steel bent over one end. Running the metal detector over the area Johnson’s team received a positive hit and they decided to investigate.

Clearing away enough dirt to peel back the metal on the end of the pipe they placed two chemical lights in the end of the pipe and also used a flashlight. Getting enough light to see inside they saw right away they would have to keep digging.

“The insurgents tried to waterproof the section of pipe by using plastic and metal on one end and sandbags on the other,” Johnson stated. “It didn’t work all that well because the bottom half of the pipe was all mud.”

After assessing what was being stored in the pipe, Johnson’s team had to methodically weed through the mortars and various improvised explosive device components that were in terrible condition. Some of the mortars were missing safety devices and were unstable.

Johnson’s team took around five hours to remove the ordnance from the cache. Approximately 200 meters from the pipe was a storage container that also gave a positive hit with the metal detector. After searching around the edges of the container a second cache was discovered and excavated.

After a long day of digging and sweeping Johnson’s team and the engineers were successful in getting a large quantity ordnance out of the insurgent’s hands.

“All the engineers did an excellent job of scouring the area to uncover these pockets of weapons,” Johnson said. “We hurt the insurgent’s ability to fight the coalition forces in this AO.”

The operation uncovered more than 1,000 mortars, artillery rounds and rockets; 20,000 rounds of ammunition for small arms and over a dozen weapon systems. Johnson and the engineers were the tip of the sword for this operation and reduced the insurgent’s ability to fight against a free Iraq.

Iraqi Battalion takes responsibility for sector, after more

KARMAH, Iraq (Feb. 3, 2006) -- The Iraqi Army’s 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment, 1st Brigade assumed the battle space in and around the city of Nasser Wa Salaam which is in Regimental Combat Team – 8’s area of responsibility. Now the unit wants to extend its area of operations by assuming more of the area east of the city of Fallujah to include Karmah.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/39BE58262F1E25F88525710A00403E94?opendocument


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20062364143
Story by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen


Members of the Iraqi Army battalion already show their presence in the city here by conducting patrols with Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and conducting raids in the near-by areas to capture possible insurgents.

“The IA’s that are with Company G are doing a great job of showing their presence in the city of Karmah,” said Capt. Joel F. Schmidt, Company G’s commander. “They go on daily patrols in the city with small groups of Marines and are doing most of the planning for the patrols themselves.”

Before one afternoon patrol an Iraqi lieutenant and staff sergeant were planning out the route for a patrol with the help of Staff Sgt. Jason P. Bennett. Using a transparency as an overlay for the route, the two IA soldiers traced their planned route with checkpoints.

The IA soldiers and Marines were then given their pre-patrol brief of the route and the plan for the patrol. With the Marines dispersed throughout the formation, the patrol left friendly lines to keep the city of Karmah safe from insurgents.

“The patrol went smooth with no incidents,” said Bennett. “The Iraqi Army soldiers get better every day they go out on a patrol.”

On that same evening, in the cover of darkness, the Iraqi Army with support from Company G Marines conducted a raid in the town of Karmah searching for suspected insurgents.

Staging in separate areas for the two simultaneous raids, the IA soldiers and Marines moved through the city to their assigned houses. At 2:00 a.m. the word was given for the two groups to hit their first house.

Hitting two different target areas with separate groups, they searched the houses for suspicious items and weapons. Each group searched their assigned houses. They talked to the residents and thoroughly searched the premises for suspected insurgents and weapons caches. They then patrolled back through the city to friendly lines. It was another success for the Marines and IA in Karmah.

“The Iraqi Army soldiers keep getting better and better each week that goes by,” Schmidt stated. “They get more used to and familiar with the city each time they do an operation, when they take over this area as well they will be ready.”

Women Marines March On!

It takes a special woman to join the Marines, whether in 1918 when women first wore the eagle, globe and anchor, or in 2006 when women Marines serving in the war on terrorism are often in the thick of battle and constantly exposed to the indiscriminate danger of IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

http://www.military.com/forums/0,15240,87012,00.html?ESRC=marine-a.nl


Leatherneck
| Mary D. Karcher | February 03, 2006 March On!

Since 1960, the Women Marines Association has been preserving the history of female Marines, while encouraging the spirit of camaraderie and supporting veteran and charitable causes. This year the WMA celebrates the 63 years of proud service to country and Corps provided by women Marines since the creation of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve on Feb. 13, 1943.

The same strong sense of duty and patriotic devotion that inspired them to serve remains undiminished among WMA members. “We take care of our own and then some,” said WMA President Paula Sarlls. “The women in the Corps, from those in World War I to those serving today, exemplify the motto of the Corps: ‘Semper Fidelis'!”

Today this vibrant group of women continues to support Marines on the home front and overseas, visits veterans at Veterans Administration hospitals, recognizes outstanding Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets and preserves the history of women Marines. Beyond supporting military interests, WMA chapters also participate in charitable causes such as Hurricane Katrina relief, Habitat for Humanity and breast cancer fund-raisers.

Boasting a membership of 3,600, the WMA is a network of female Marines, active-duty or veterans, who have served or are serving honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps regular or Reserve components. There are 80 chapters of the WMA. Its quarterly publication, WMA ' Nouncements, informs members of the latest news about female Marines, presents charitable causes, reports on accomplishments of some of the organization's chapters, and shares stories about members. It's part family, part business and all heart.

Our History Makes Us Strong
Whether through words written in newsletter articles or in conversations with WMA members themselves, the sense that these women have never met a problem they couldn't solve or a goal they couldn't achieve is prevalent.

This is particularly evident in the stories told through oral history recordings in the Marine's own voice. WMA member Eleanor M. Wilson has conducted more than 100 interviews with female Marines who served from WW II to the present, including Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Somalia and Iraq, and representing air, ground and service support units. These recordings are stored in the oral history collection at the Marine Corps Archives in Quantico, Va., and shared with the Women In Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial Foundation Inc. in Arlington, Va., in partnership with the Library of Congress.

Kate Scott, the director of the Oral History Program at WIMSA, noted that Wilson is “an archivist's dream, meticulous in her paperwork, well prepared and versed in conducting the interviews and, most important, dedicated.” Scott said these oral histories are an extraordinary resource used by film and documentary producers, researchers, scholars and family members.

First suggested by Lieutenant General Carol A. Mutter, USMC (Ret) and guided by the expertise of Major Fred Allison, USMCR (Ret) from the Marine Corps History Division, the primary emphasis of the oral history program was to preserve the experiences of the WW II Marines before their record was lost forever. Recordings also are made of both active-duty and retired Marines and other veterans from WW II to the present.

WMA conventions, held biennially, provide the perfect opportunity to obtain oral histories. These interviews highlight basic chronological information with a keen focus on the Marine Corps experience and how that experience enriched the Marine's life. Listening to an oral history in the Marine's own voice brings the story to life as her acute memory of her service -- no matter how long ago it occurred -- brings forth amusing anecdotes, particular jobs and responsibilities, military customs followed at the time, and especially how her military role dovetailed into her personal life.

History is also the focus of the Colorado-1, Colorado Columbine Chapter of WMA. In August 2005, the chapter opened an exhibit titled “Women of the Corps” at the Castle Rock Museum in Castle Rock, Colo. The event was attended by many dignitaries, including Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. The governor of Colorado, William F. Owens, designated Aug. 13, 2005, Women Marines History Day in Colorado.

Instead of working on several smaller projects, then-Chapter President Sarlls explained, the chapter decided to focus on one meaningful project and do it well. With Nancy Wilt as their vice president, who also had museum experience, they decided to create an exhibit to preserve the legacy of women Marines.

Out went the call to fellow WMA members to send women Marine items for the exhibit. As always, WMA members responded. One unique item found in a shop that sold antiques was an advertisement for Elizabeth Arden's Montezuma Red lipstick, a shade that met regulations because it matched the color of the cap cord on their hats.

Sarlls and Wilt found an article in a scrapbook, submitted by fellow WMA member Shirley Brown, that verified Arden created the color after seeing one of her employees who had joined the Marine Corps. Apparently, Arden was upset that the Marine's lipstick didn't match the uniform. Coincidentally, the chemist who created the lipstick was the father of Margaret Hagaman, who later became a Marine and inspired her father to create a perfume named “Golden Bars.”

WMA also was called upon to help the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico to locate and inventory uniform items and memorabilia. Members Pat Kelly and Mary Sue League tapped the WMA network to solicit donations. When items would come in, Kelly said, she and League would work in the historical division offices located in the old brig at Quantico, inventorying the donations and researching manuals to identify each item.

League said that in addition to uniform items, they received meticulously compiled photo albums, scrapbooks and other memorabilia valuable for research purposes. One such contribution was a green notebook from a WW II Marine that contained a diary of the work she did each day in the Marine Corps.

Both League and Kelly believe that women have saved their uniforms as a matter of pride. Both admitted to having saved their own uniforms, and League had even loaned hers to a Marine Corps detachment in Aberdeen, Md., for the uniform pageant they held during a Marine Corps Birthday celebration.

Bolstering Morale: Semper Fidelis
Caring for Marines, both veterans and active-duty, is a key mission of the Women Marines Association. WMA supports veterans in hospitals and homes: providing hand-knitted blankets and “goodie bags” filled with sundries (Chapter CA-5, Orange County); taking veterans to lunch (WI-1, Wisconsin); performing volunteer work and distributing magazines and handmade afghans (AR-1, Arkansas Diamond); organizing a Women Marine Tea for residents of a veteran's home (CA-9, Redwoods); donating paperback books (MA-1, Bay State); and participating in a three-day stand-down for homeless veterans in Knoxville (TN-1, Rocky Top).

With the current deployment of Marines around the world, WMA is especially dedicated to supporting troops and their families. The MI-2, Motor City Chapter, through the energy and leadership of Mary Ann Merritt, has been instrumental in orchestrating WMA support from many chapters through their Operation Caring Friends program. The program ships boxes of frequently requested items and comfort foods to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, averaging 200 boxes a month.

To meet this pace, Merritt not only mobilizes women Marines but also engages the Young Marines, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to help pack items. She also contacts the local media to get the word out for donations from local businesses and citizens. Even the post office in Romeo, Mich., is on a first-name basis with Mary Ann. (They even adopted one of “her” Marines -- a postal clerk in Iraq who delivered mail to others, but received none for himself.)

From acquiring the items to be sent, collecting donations for postage (one shipment of 412 boxes last August totaled more than $3,500), packing the boxes and arranging for postal pickup, the dynamic team of volunteers always manages to provide for Marines who ask.

When the Second Marine Division arrived in Iraq, the leathernecks asked for a coffee mess. By contacting TV2 Fox News problem solvers, the Motor City Chapter's newly named “Operation Coffee Comfort” received plenty of donations. Merritt's group shipped two 64-cup coffee urns, travel mugs, Starbucks coffee (donated monthly) and partnered with a local coffee company, Boca Java, that was willing to match coffee donations from customers and provide shipping costs to mail it to Iraq.

When Merritt heard some leathernecks rarely receive mail, she initiated the “Adopt-a-Marine” program. Chaplains and Marine contacts overseas know that if they have a Marine who needs mail from home, they can depend on the network of women Marines. “As you can see,” said Merritt, “WMA has been very active in supporting our Marines. When we have a Marine who identifies herself as from a certain state, I make sure I send that name to the home chapter so that they may support her as well.”

For Marines who have been injured and need assistance, WMA steps in to supply whatever is needed. Wounded Marines who are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein Air Base in Germany arrive with no personal belongings at all. The WMA collects backpacks, duffle bags, clothing and basic necessities and transports them with the assistance of an airline flight attendant. Here in the States, WMA also sends donations to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit organization that supplies financial assistance to injured Marines and sailors during recovery.

Chapters from Texas -- TX-2, Texas Gulf Coast and TX-3, San Antonio Rose -- have been instrumental in helping the injured Marines sent to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. According to Judy Anderson, the president of TX-2, WMA raised $2,000 for those Marines. TX-3 member Trish Martin, WMA's representative at the Medical Center, said a large portion of the money provided the item the Marine Liaison Office most needed: a rental van to supply transportation to injured Marines and their families until military transportation could be obtained.

They also collected greeting cards and toiletries, which Martin delivered along with cheerful conversation to the eight wounded Marine women there at the time. She said the Marines' morale is high, but that they do enjoy getting cards. TX-2 Chapter sent each of them the WMA Historical Calendar, and they enjoyed the pictures of female Marines of yesteryear.

“Some of the uniforms, in particular, and stories of hair and make-up lessons caused much laughter,” Martin said.

When some of the patients were released for outpatient care, local WMA chapter members treated them to dinner and a tour of San Antonio's Riverwalk. Three of the female Marines have returned to full duty. Continued support is channeled to the remaining 60 Marine inpatients and outpatients -- both men and women -- being treated at the medical center.

Awarding Excellence
WMA fosters a spirit of achievement through its award programs, both at the high school level and at boot camp.

WMA members award the Department of Defense “Lamp of Learning” ribbon annually to outstanding Marine Corps JROTC cadets across the United States, as selected by their Senior Marine Instructors.

Sheryl Hobdon and other members of the GA-1, Dogwood of Atlanta Chapter have maintained a close relationship with eight JROTC programs in the Atlanta area. Last year she was asked to present a teaching unit on the history of women Marines at Newton High School in Covington, Ga. The chapter continues to maintain contact with many of the women Marines after they graduate and enter the Marine Corps, including two from North Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga., who have been stationed in Iraq.

Members of the SC-1, Phyllis Alexander Chapter present the Molly Marine Award to the outstanding female Marine in each graduating recruit platoon of 4th Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. The recipient is determined by a vote of fellow members in her platoon.

WMA: Helping Communities Across the United States
WMA also supports many civic and charitable causes. After Hurricane Katrina, WMA called for donations to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which assists Marines, sailors and their families. WMA pledged to match the funds donated by its members up to $3,000. WMA donations totaled $12,000, and that was raised in just two months.

Most chapters participate in the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program. Other chapters participate in fund-raisers for cancer research. WMA members provide a military presence at parades and patriotic celebrations. Some participate in the Habitat for Humanity program. All of these causes “promote the civic and social welfare of the community,” one of the missions of WMA.

Women Marines have an indomitable spirit and an unwavering confidence. They see a need and they fulfill it, overcoming any barriers in their way. They are model citizens, and serve as an example for Young Marines and JROTC cadets and the female Marines currently serving.

Proud of their service to our country and still possessing a strong desire to support Marines, WMA members work diligently in military and civic endeavors. They cherish the bonds they share as women Marines. As WMA President Sarlls said, “Those of us from the ‘Old Corps' are in awe of the women in today's Corps. Although our roles have changed significantly, we have always served with exemplary performance and great pride. Whenever and wherever we serve, our hearts are true, our morals strong, and our resolve determined. The camaraderie we share is strong.”

Author's note: Thank you to all WMA members who enthusiastically continue to serve. The efforts of LtGen Carol A. Mutter, USMC (Ret) and Sondra Metzger, who provided numerous contacts and helpful information, are especially appreciated.

February 1, 2006

The history and mysteries behind dog tags


MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.(Feb. 1, 2006) -- To many, it is just another piece of the uniform. Each morning, Marines slip shiny identification tags over their heads and tuck them beneath their olive-drab undershirts without giving them a second thought.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/78E966FBC78FE94B852571090052EDE0?opendocument


Submitted by: MCRD Parris Island
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski
Story Identification #: 20062210548
.

But, every now and then, these iconic military symbols come up in conversation, along with all the myths and rumors that accompany them. So what really is the story behind dog tags and the myths that accompany them?

The first recorded use of such tags came from the battlefields of the Civil War. Many soldiers feared if they were killed in action, they would run the risk of being buried in an unknown grave. After all, 42 percent of the Civil War dead remain unidentified to this day. To put their minds at ease, many of them took up the practice of marking all of their belongings with paper tags, and some of them fashioned their own "dog tags" by carving chunks of wood, which was worn on a string around their neck.

Needless to say, the practice caught on, and by 1917, it was mandatory for all U.S. combat troops to wear circular aluminum discs attached to chains around their necks.
By World War II, the tags had evolved into the size and shape recognized today. The only difference in the tags of yesteryear, is they came with a notch in the end of them, which is the source of one of the most popular dog tag rumors around.

"I've always heard about the notch in the [World War II] era tags being used to 'place' the tag in a fallen soldiers mouth," said Dennis Yackus, director of education and collections at the Great Lakes Museum of Military History. "It was sort of eerie to me."

To go into a little more detail, the myth Yackus referred to states that when a troop had been killed in combat, his comrades would take one of his tags and insert it into the mouth with the notched end between the two front teeth. Then, with a kick or nudge to the jaw, the tag would be come lodged between the teeth, ensuring it stayed secured for future identification.

Of course, the real story behind the notch is far less gruesome. This style of tag was used up until the early 1970s, and the notch only existed because of the type of embossing machine used during that period. It allowed the machine to hold the blank tag while it was stamped out. Current machines do not need the notch to hold the tags in place; hence the smooth-sided tags service members are issued today.

"Now that I have done a little looking, the notch makes perfect sense," said Yackus.

It seemed though, that during research, one dog tag story led to another.

"Before I looked into the notch myth, I never heard about the chain being symbolic for 365 days," said Yackus. "So, while 'debunking' one myth, I found another."

The next rumor is tied in with prisoners of war. Facts are few and far between on this particular piece of folklore, but it is said that "official" issued dogs tags are attached to a 365-bead chain for the first tag and a 52-bead chain for the secondary one. These numbers represent the days and weeks in a year. If this was indeed true, a prisoner of war would be able to utilize his tag chains as a means of keeping track of the days held in captivity. But, again, research can neither confirm nor deny this creative, but clever rumor.

These are just a couple of the most common myths that are currently swirling around the Marine Corps uniform and accessories, and the stories certainly are not limited to dogs tags.

Next time you hear a group of Marines arguing and carrying on about the significance of a certain piece of gear or uniform item, do a little research of your own. The answers could be surprising.

CLR-25 Winds Down with Field Meet

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq - More than 300 Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment–25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), participated in a field meet at the Lakeside Sports Arena here Jan. 29.

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,86849,00.html


Marine Corps News | Joel Abshier | February 01, 2006

With the unit nearing its redeployment, hosting a field meet was a chance for everyone to escape their offices, eat a few burgers off the grill, participate in a few events and generally have a good time, according to Sgt. Thomas D. McKenzie, who was in charge of organizing the event.

“We got a good turn out,” McKenzie said. “Since I have been here, I haven’t seen a lot of the Marines that showed up.”

Four teams, separated by shops, kicked the day off starting with a volleyball tournament.

Crowds of Marines gathered around the event to not only provide support, but also to offer up some friendly heckling of opposing teams. Although there was a bit of rivalry coming from the congregated fans, it was all out of fun, according to Cpl. Waddell L. Butler, the noncommissioned officer in charge at the Joined Air Cargo Operation Team, with 2nd MLG (Fwd), who was also the volleyball referee.

After volleyball, the Marines gathered around the three-manned grill to eat a traditional barbeque meal consisting of hotdogs, hamburgers, potato chips and of course, non-alcoholic beer.

Once everyone’s appetites were satisfied, everyone migrated to the next event: the egg toss. Marines stood no more than 5 ft. from each other and tossed an egg back and forth. Every time there was a successful catch, one participant would take a step back, widening the gap between the egg-tossers.

Laughter erupted when Cpl. Todd Steward, area supervisor for the ammunition supply point with CLR-25, became the one of the contestants to get a close look at the inside of his egg being tossed from his partner from more than 30 ft. away. The egg spread like butter across his face and the better half of his sweatshirt. Event though Steward was covered in egg, his good attitude never faded throughout the remainder of the day.

The highlight of the events, being the tug-of-war was next. Although Iraq is well-known for being a desolate dry area, it didn’t stop Marines from digging a hole to fill it up with water.

“The water [was] sitting there for a couple days,” admitted a wide-grinned McKenzie. “It was definitely entertaining.”

Teams of 10 situated themselves in pushup position with nothing but a pit of water between them. A Marine screamed out, “Push up!” The Marines did a push-up and screamed back in unison, “Marine Corps!”

Once the Marines were let loose, everyone scrambled for the rope to get the upper hand on their competition. Throughout the event, numerous participants walked away soaked from head to toe in fermenting, muddy water.

After each event, points were distributed to each team to determine who would take home the trophy.

“Not a bad job, huh?” asked Lance Cpl. Denise M. Plowman, in regards to the trophy. Plowman created the trophy using ammunition shells, challenge coins and a Marine Corps issued boot.

“Everyone wanted that trophy,” McKenzie explained. “It is more than I can say for second place. All they [got was] an old boot.”

Although some Marines didn’t win anything, they all remained in good spirits as they event concluded. According to McKenzie, this event gave everyone a chance to relax during the crunch-time that is accustomed with the end of deployments.

“Not too much longer,” McKenzie said. “We will all be home soon enough.”


ANGLICO provides lightning from the sky

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 1, 2006) -- Hours before the first rays of light fell upon Camp Lejeune, 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, in combination with 1st platoon, 5th ANGLICO, based out of Okinawa, Japan, stood in gortex and beanies. Fog shrouded the Marines as they assemble into teams, loaded into humvees and headed out for a full day of combat exercises, in what seemed like enough mud to cover every square inch of Camp Lejeune’s sandy soil.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/d8869c7613382dce8525710d005d3e57?OpenDocument

Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200626115828
Story by Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

Although this weather could normally halt many outdoor activities in the civilian world, ANGLICO Marines not only spent the entire day training beneath the grey skies, but they also camped through a night of high winds, thunder, torrential rain and lighting. ANGLICO knows that their training is far too important to sacrifice because of some raindrops.

Lance Cpl. Craig E. Jenkins, a Radio Operator for 2nd ANGLICO said, “I love this weather.”

Inside a building at Camp Lejeune’s Combat Town, Jenkins, from New Orleans, La., along with Cpl. Fabio Garcia, were stripping down two 50-caliber machine guns. “We do this to become familiar with all the different parts of the 50-cal, just in case,” stated Garcia, from the Bronx, N.Y., also a Radio Operator for 2nd ANGLICO.

Jenkins and Garcia are part of a four-man team in a scenario-based warfare training exercise. This was their second day of the week-long training, with their headquarters based at Tactical Landing Zone Albatross. They, along with many other Marines in their unit, spent the day at Combat Town working as teams clearing rooms and calling in close air support.

“To me, the most important aspect of clearing rooms is working together and communicating so we do not cross fire and end up with unneeded casualties,” Jenkins said as he reassembled the barrel of the 50-caliber rifle.

ANGLICO Marines have done this type of training before. With a deployment approaching at the end of the month, it is important everyone in ANGLICO know their job and be able to react on instinct to war-type situations, Garcia pointed out. “I learn something every time I train. It should become second nature,” he added.

Sgt. Brian Salisbury, team chief, 2nd ANGLICO, said the training helps prepare young Marines for the types of situations going on in Iraq.

“We focus on how young Marines will act as part of a small team. Right now we have a lot of good team chiefs and team leaders that are able to pass on the knowledge and experiences to the younger guys,” Salisbury said. He went on to mention that Marines must continue to talk and account for each other’s position.

“We have to know where friendly positions are at all times and make sure we communicate. We shout ‘Marine, Marine!’ and let everyone know where we are and that the room is clear. This prevents a lot of mishaps,” he said.

While Salisbury and others from 2nd ANGLICO conquer Combat Town, a team of 5th ANGLICO Marines conducted convoy operations on the mucky dirt roads of TLZ Egret. Marines trained on what to do if an improvised explosive device attacked their convoy. With a team member down and needing first aid, Lance Cpl. Marcus Perez, a scout observer from Miami, Fla., had to give intravenous fluids to his fellow Marine as Lance Cpl. Benjamin Morales provided security with his Squad Automatic Weapon. Morales, from Buffalo, N.Y., is a radio operator with 5th ANGLICO and says he looks forward to his first deployment.

“This training helps save lives. That’s why we do this. We know this is how it’s going to happen if something goes down. I take this training seriously, because I have a little brother who is waiting to see me when I get back,” said Perez.

Six months after returning from Iraq, 5th ANGLICO sent Marines from first platoon to deploy with 2nd ANGLICO and continue ongoing missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

ANGLICO Marines play a significant role in winning the war in Iraq. Not only does ANGLICO clear buildings, patrol streets, call for supporting fire and close air support, they are the only air liaison communication between the Army, Marine, Air Force and Navy, Salisbury said.

Since reestablishment in 2003, ANGLICO has been helping joint and coalition forces repeal and destroy the enemy’s assault.

Familiar with meeting whatever challenges nature may throw their way, ANGLICO is prepared to achieve their mission, no matter what the weather or situation, and doesn’t have to wait for the weatherman to tell them what to expect - they’re bringing their very own lightning from the sky.

Families honor fallen Kaneohe Marines, Nearly 900 fellow Marines and sailors also pay respects

They came from all walks of life -- from a Navajo reservation to the suburbs of Milwaukee.

http://starbulletin.com/2006/02/01/news/story03.html

By Gregg K. Kakesako
gkakesako@starbulletin.com


They were all volunteers, and they all understood they would end up fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan after the tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But most of all, all four were Marines, said Lt. Col. James Donnellan, who commanded their unit -- Kaneohe's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment -- in Afghanistan from July 2005 to January.

All of them -- members of Echo Company -- were killed last year while serving in the northeast region of Afghanistan in the remote Kunar province near Jalalabad, a dangerous area with extensive extremist activities.

Yesterday, the nearly 900 members of the 2nd Island Warrior Battalion paid their last respects to their fallen comrades at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

The Marines and sailors stood in formation before a replica of the World War II memorial, which pays tribute to one of the high points in the history of the Marine Corps: The raising of the American flag on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World Ward II.

In his eulogy, Donnellan, who assumed command of the 2nd Battalion in July 2005, described Lance Cpl. Steven A. Valdez, 20, as "athletic," and whose nickname was "platoon stud."

Valdez, who joined the Marine Corps in June 2004, was killed Sept. 26 during an enemy mortar attack on his camp.

Lance Cpl. Kevin B. Joyce, 19, was said to have been "reserve, but very confident."

Donnellan said Joyce died June 25 when he jumped into the Pech River because his Humvee was about to tumble into the water. His body was recovered on July 4.

There were nearly two dozen members of Joyce's family -- including his mother, Effelita George, and his grandfather, Dan -- who attended yesterday's memorial service. Joyce's family was described as having long-standing ties to the Marine Corps, starting with a grandfather who was a member of the famed Navajo Codetalkers in the Pacific campaign.

Lance Cpl. Ryan J. Nass, 21, was described by a member of Echo Company as "best friend." He died Sept. 3.

Friends said Lance Cpl. Phillip C. George, 22, loved being a Marine, and loved all of the corps' traditions. He was shot by enemy small arms fire Aug. 18 while on patrol near Taleban.

Capt. John McShane, commander of Echo Company, told the crowd of several hundred Marines, sailors, family members, friends and military and civilian leaders that the deaths of the four Marines "made all of us stronger and better."

More than 38 family members of the four Marines made the trip to the islands to attend yesterday's memorial service.

"My first reaction in putting together this ceremony was to focus on the families of our fallen Marines. This is our final responsibility of our most recent deployment," he said.

"This is no longer the case. We are here for the families, but we are here for all the Marines and sailors standing before you."

McShane also talked about the accomplishments of the 2nd Battalion during its nearly eight months in Afghanistan.
"During that time, we provided security for the first free elections in almost 30 years," he said.

"We brought doctors, Navy corpsmen and medicine to the area. We delivered supplies of food, clothes, school supplies, seeds and clean water.

"I am very proud of our accomplishments on Afghanistan. It was a worthwhile effort ... We made an impression on the lives of people who live on the edge of civilization," he told the crowd.

He said the lives of the four Marines were not wasted. "There are now thousands of people who have water, health care ..." because of people like them.

Donnellan said the Afghans will remember that George, Valdez, Joyce and Nass were among those "who brought security and clean water to their villages, books to their schools and hope to their parents."

The nearly hour-long memorial service ended with Sgt. Maj. Robert LaFleur calling out final roll call for the four.

When the name of each fallen Marine was called, a member of his squad stepped forward. The Marine planted an inverted M-16 rifle into the ground while other squad members draped the Marine's helmet and dog tags on the weapon and laid his boots at the edge of the bayonet.