« August 2007 | Main | October 2007 »

September 29, 2007

Wounded Vets Also Suffer Financial Woes

TEMECULA, Calif. - He was one of America's first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq.

http://www.comcast.net/news/index.jsp?cat=GENERAL&fn=/2007/09/29/775749.html&cookieattempt=1

By JEFF DONN and KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press writers
Sat Sep 29, 1:57 PM

Today, he can't keep a job, pay his bills, or chase thoughts of suicide from his tortured brain. In a few weeks, he may lose his house, too.

Gamal Awad, the American son of a Sudanese immigrant, exemplifies an emerging group of war veterans: the economic casualties.

More than in past wars, many wounded troops are coming home alive from the Middle East. That's a triumph for military medicine. But they often return hobbled by prolonged physical and mental injuries from homemade bombs and the unremitting anxiety of fighting a hidden enemy along blurred battle lines. Treatment, recovery and retraining often can't be assured quickly or cheaply.

These troops are just starting to seek help in large numbers, more than 185,000 so far. But the cost of their benefits is already testing resources set aside by government and threatening the future of these wounded veterans for decades to come, say economists and veterans' groups.

"The wounded and their families no longer trust that the government will take care of them the way they thought they'd be taken care of," says veterans advocate Mary Ellen Salzano.

How does a war veteran expect to be treated? "As a hero," she says.

___

Every morning, Awad needs to think of a reason not to kill himself.

He can't even look at the framed photograph that shows him accepting a Marine heroism medal for his recovery work at the Pentagon after the terrorist attack.

It might remind him of a burned woman whose skin peeled off in his hands when he tried to comfort her.

He tries not to hear the shrieking rockets of Iraq either, smell the burning fuel, or relive the blast that blew him right out of bed.

The memories come steamrolling back anyway.

"Nothing can turn off those things," he says, voice choked and eyes glistening.

He stews alternately over suicide and finances, his $43,000 in credit card debt, his $4,330 in federal checks each month _ the government's compensation for his total disability from post-traumatic stress disorder. His flashbacks, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety over imagined threats _ all documented for six years in his military record _ keep him from working.

The disability payments don't cover the $5,700-a-month cost of his adjustable home mortgage and equity loans. He owes more on his house than its market value, so he can't sell it _ but he may soon lose it to the bank.

"I love this house. It makes me feel safe," he says.

Awad could once afford it. He used to earn $100,000 a year as a 16-year veteran major with a master's degree in management who excelled at logistics. Now, at age 38, he can't even manage his own life.

There's another twist. This dedicated Marine was given a "general" discharge 15 months ago for an extramarital affair with a woman, also a Marine. That's even though his military therapists blamed this impulsive conduct on post-traumatic stress aggravated by his Middle East tours.

Luckily, his discharge, though not unqualifiedly honorable, left intact his rights to medical care and disability payments _ or he'd be in sadder shape.

Divorced since developing PTSD, Awad has two daughters who live elsewhere. He spends much of his days hoisting weights and thwacking a punching bag in the dimness of his garage. He passes nights largely sleepless, a zombie shuffling through the bare rooms of his home in sunny California wine country.

___

Few anticipated the high price of caring for Awad and other veterans with deep, slow-healing wounds.

Afghanistan seemed quiet and Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq one year after the Sept. 11 attacks. That's when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs guaranteed two years of free care to returning combat veterans for virtually any medical condition with a possible service link.

Later, few predicted such a protracted war in Iraq. "A lot of people based their planning on low numbers of casualties in a very short war," says Paul Rieckhoff, an Army combat veteran who founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Also, Iraqi insurgents have relied on disfiguring bombs and bombardment as chief tactics. At the same time, better armor and field medicine have kept U.S. soldiers alive at the highest rate ever, leaving 16 wounded for every fatality, according to one study based on government data. The ratio was fewer than 3-to-1 for Korea and Vietnam.

On the flip side, many are returning with multiple amputations or other disabling injuries not completely fixed even by fancy prosthetics, methodical rehabilitation, and job retraining. The Pentagon counts more than 29,000 combat wounded in the Middle East since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Tens of thousands more were hurt outside of combat or in ways that show up later.

There was no mistaking the wounds of Cambodian-American Sgt. Pisey Tan. Eight months into his second tour in Iraq, a makeshift bomb blasted his armored vehicle and took both his legs.

Still, Tan has needed to rely on private donations and family, as well as the government. The government treated him and paid for his artificial legs.

But his brother, Dada, left college to live with him at a military hospital for almost a year. Later, his brother carried him piggyback up and down the stairs at home as Tan got used to his prosthetics.

"That's how our family is," says the Woodlyn, Pa., veteran. "We always take care of our own."

The government says it does too, and with some truth. Of 1.4 million U.S. forces deployed for Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 185,000 have sought care from the VA _ a number that could easily top 700,000 eventually, predicts one academic analysis. The VA has already treated more than 52,000 for PTSD symptoms alone, a presidential commission finds.

Veteran John Waltz, of Hebron, Ky., blames his post-traumatic stress disorder on his rescue work at a plane crash aboard a carrier bound for an Iraqi tour. While his condition and disability claim were evaluated, he ran up about $12,000 worth of medical bills, he says. Despite Social Security and his wife's work, the couple's yearly income was cut in half to $30,000.

"We have to be really frugal, as far as what groceries we buy," Waltz says. "I think we're down to just a couple dollars now, until the next time we get paid."

On a national scale, the costs of caring for the wounded certainly won't crush the $13 trillion annual American economy. It probably won't bankrupt the VA, which already treats more than 5.5 million patients each year. But the price tag will challenge budgets of governments and service agencies, adding another hungry mouth within their nests.

Economic forecasts vary widely for the federal costs of caring for injured veterans returning from the Middle East, but they range as high as $700 billion for the VA. That would rival the cost of fighting the Iraq war. In recent years, the VA has repeatedly run out of money to care for sick veterans and has had to ask for billions more before the next budget.

"I wouldn't be surprised if these costs per person are higher than any war previously," says Scott Wallsten, of the conservative think tank Progress and Freedom Foundation.

The costs often fall on veterans and their families. Ted Wade, of Chapel Hill, N.C., can't drive or keep his memories straight since a bomb tore off an arm, hurt his foot, and wracked his brain in an attack on his Humvee in Iraq. He and his wife have had to lower their living standard and accept house payments from parents.

"I can't work because he can't be up here by himself," says his wife, Sarah. "It's my volunteer work, is what it really comes down to."

Yet federal officials say the cost of this wounded influx isn't hurting the quality of care promised to veterans.

At a recent ribbon cutting, the Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Richard Cody, trumpeted a new rehab center for amputees as "proof that when it comes to making good on such an important promise, there is no bottom line."

Since President Bush took office, medical spending for veterans has risen by 83 percent, says White House budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan. However, that includes the increased numbers of all veterans treated _ not just the wave returning from the Middle East.

"The president has made his dedication very clear to troops in the field and after," the spokesman said.

The VA didn't respond to several requests for comment. Recently, though, outgoing chief Jim Nicholson acknowledged trouble keeping up with the pace of disability claims.

But earlier this year, he also insisted that veterans "will invariably tell you they are really getting good care from the VA."

___

Not invariably.

The VA takes the lead in treating wounds and paying for disabilities of veterans. And it usually does a good job of handling major, known wounds, especially in the early months, by many accounts. The military, Social Security Administration, Labor Department and other agencies add important federal benefits.

However, many veterans and families say the VA often restricts rehabilitation or cuts it off too quickly.

Former Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch, of Blairsville, Pa., was blinded and brain-injured by artillery shrapnel in Iraq, but he and his mother decided to get some care outside the VA. His mother, Charlene, says some specialists, especially brain experts, are better in the private sector.

Insurance for major injuries is available at low cost to service members. It pays out up to $100,000 to help cover costs of rehabilitation. But many think it isn't enough.

In Odessa, Fla., the family of John Barnes decided to save most of his $100,000 payout.

They could easily have spent more of it. His mother, Valerie Wallace, estimates her expenses at more than $35,000 to help care for him while he deals with a brain injury and paralysis from a mortar attack on a base outside Baghdad. She took time off from her nursing job, paid $17 an hour for a home health aide, and transported her son to countless rounds of therapy.

Still, she wanted to preserve his insurance money. "John's going to need that money down the road," she says. Instead, she stopped saving, closed out investments, and borrowed against her own insurance.

Disability payments supply monthly income to the wounded, but the VA focuses on replacing lost earnings. A presidential commission has recommended broader compensation for lost quality of life _ a concept in line with civilian law. Co-chair Donna Shalala, a former U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, estimates that the committee's package of recommendations would cost at least several hundred million dollars.

In Oceanside, Calif., Joshua Elmore, says his $1,200-a-month disability payments aren't "even coming close" to replacing what he's lost. A rocket attack on a Marine base in Iraq shattered his arm bones and left other injuries.

He can still do yard work, odd jobs, and go to culinary school. But Elmore, who has two little girls, complains that he can't run and sometimes limps when he walks.

Some wounded veterans turn to private health insurance and other programs outside the federal government, swelling costs for states and towns. Sean Lunde, an Iraq veteran at the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services, says his agency rushes emergency funds to some wounded veterans.

Service nonprofits also pay for emergency shelter, housing, job training, food, clothing and transportation for wounded veterans who risk slipping into coverage gaps.

T.J. Cantwell, of Rebuilding Together, says his group puts an average of $20,000 _ plus donated supplies and labor _ into houses it modifies for injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Rosedale, Md., the group added handrails, new light switches and door knobs, a garage door opener, and other improvements to the home of Army Sgt. 1st Class Juanita Wilson. The 33-year-old mother of two lost part of her arm in a homemade bomb blast in Iraq, but she remains on active duty to preserve her retirement.

Meanwhile, she says of the remodeling job, "If I had to pay for it, probably very little would be done."

Despite all this help, many families drop tens of thousands of dollars on travel to hospitals, stays in hotel rooms, extra therapies, and on making their homes and vehicles accessible to the disabled. Intent on the best care, parents sometimes quit jobs and lose their own health insurance.

Denise Mettie, of Selah, Wash., and her husband have been living "paycheck to paycheck" while she helps in the recovery of her son, Evan. A car bomb in Iraq propelled shrapnel into his brain, and he can no longer walk or talk. His mother gave up her $30,000-a-year bank job and had to buy health insurance for herself and her two daughters, just to watch over her son's hospital treatment, she says.

"What the VA has to offer is insufficient economically to take care of the impact of what happens," says psychologist Michael Wagner, founder of the nonprofit U.S. Welcome Home Foundation and a retired Army medical officer.

Veterans groups finally sued the VA a few months ago, seeking quicker medical care and disability payments for those with PTSD. They claim that the crush of shattered troops has sent the agency into a "virtual meltdown."

Last week, the VA challenged the lawsuit on technical grounds. Its lawyers also argued that even though VA rules commit to two years of free care, that depends upon Congress setting aside enough money.

___

Upset by his visits with wounded veterans, defense hawk Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who chairs a defense spending subcommittee, dropped his support for the Iraq war in 2005.

Speaking of the wounded, he now says federal officials are "not taking care of the things they should and ... we're trying to change the direction."

Many recommendations have come from veterans, federal advisers and others. Some involve quicker and heftier disability benefits. And nearly everyone begs for more VA money and staff for medical treatment, though few specify where they'd find extra resources.

Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa., a military reservist, is promoting a bill to set mandatory annual spending levels for veterans' health care. Prospects are unclear.

Either way, it may be too late for veterans like Awad, who nervously awaits the approach of imagined enemies around what was once his castle.

___

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeff Donn reported from Temicula, Calif. Kimberly Hefling reported from Woodlyn, Pa.; Harrington, Del.; and Washington, D.C.

SOI adds 7 days, weapons skill to training

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Sep 29, 2007 8:29:29 EDT

Brand-new Marines fresh out of boot camp have a little bit more to look forward to as they head down the road to becoming a rifleman. Grunt school is about to get longer.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_soi_070929/

13th MEU becomes first ‘surge’ unit to leave Iraq

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, September 29, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit has left Iraq, marking the departure of the first “surge” unit that will not be replaced.

To continue reading:

http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=49128

Marines Going to Iraq

A group of about 60 local Marines head to Iraq for the second time.

http://www.wsls.com/servlet/Satellite?c=MGArticle&cid=1173352791256&pagename=WSLS/MGArticle/SLS_BasicArticle

Angela Hatcher / WSLS NewsChannel 10
Sep 17, 2007

There were plenty of handshakes and hugs as the company B said goodbye to friends and family in Roanoke.

The Marines will be gone for a year. First they'll train in California. Then it's off to Iraq.

They tell us, they're ready and willing.

"You don't go to Disney World to sit on the park bench. You don't join the Marines if you don't want to do what your job is.", says Cpl. Corey Showalter.

The Marines left from Roanoke Regional Airport on separate flights throughout the day Monday.

Company B was sent to Iraq for the first time in 2005.


September 28, 2007

Senate confirms next commander

The United States Senate has confirmed the current commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and the commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, as the next commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(WASHINGTON - Sept. 28, 2007) -- The U.S. Senate confirmed the next commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in a vote here today.

http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2007/pa092807.htm

By USJFCOM Public Affairs

Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who currently serves as commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, will replace Air Force Gen. Lance Smith, who announced his retirement earlier this summer after a career of 38 years

As USJFCOM's commander, Mattis will pin on his fourth star and will be responsible for maximizing future and present military capabilities of the United States by leading the transformation of joint forces through enhanced joint concept development and experimentation, identifying joint requirements, advancing interoperability, conducting joint training and providing ready U.S. forces and capabilities - all in support of U.S. combatant commanders around the world. He will exercise combatant command of approximately 1.16 million personnel through his Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps service components.

NATO has also agreed to appoint Mattis as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander-Transformation.

Mattis will be the first Marine to command USJFCOM since its renaming in 1999. Marine Gen. John J. Sheehan commanded the command's predecessor, U.S. Atlantic Command, from 1995-1997.

After graduating from Central Washington State University, the general entered the Marine Corps in 1972 and has commanded at multiple levels. As a lieutenant, he served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Brigade.

As a major, he commanded Recruiting Station Portland. As a lieutenant colonel, he commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As a colonel, he commanded 7th Marines (Reinforced).

Upon becoming a general officer, he commanded first the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and then Task Force 58, during Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan. As a major general, he commanded the 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Before assuming his current duties in California, he commanded the Marine Corps Combat Development Command as a lieutenant general and served as the deputy commandant for combat development.

He is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College.

Columbine was 'defining moment' for Navy medic who died a hero; School massacre 'defining moment' for 1999 graduate

Charles Luke Milam may have been inspired to follow a hero's path because of a day he never talked about, a terrible April day in 1999 when he was a student at Columbine High School.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_5709318,00.html

By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News
September 28, 2007

"He wasn't shot or wounded or shot at," his brother, Keith, said Thursday, "but absolutely, it was the defining moment of his life."

Two months after the Columbine killings, Milam, 26, enlisted in the Navy, following in the footsteps of his brother and two grandfathers.

This week, the decorated hospital corpsman - known to everybody as Luke - died in combat in Afghanistan. It was his fourth tour of duty. He had served three tours in Iraq, and would have gone back however many times it took to get the job done, his brother said.

"He felt it was his duty to do whatever he could to help people in the military," Milam said. "He was a hero in every sense of the term."

His brother surmises that living through the Columbine horror helped shape his brother's future. "It wasn't something Luke ever talked about, but the fact he chose to become a hospital corpsman may have had something to do with (Columbine)."

What was clear - something transformed Luke after he graduated.

"He did OK in high school, but after he joined the military he was a star," his brother said.

Milam was the first in his family to enter a medical field, dedicating himself to helping people deal with injuries and death in combat situations.

"Luke was responsible for the health and well-being of the men in his platoon," Keith Milam said. "He basically served as their doc - from everyday aches and pains to severe combat trauma."

Recognition followed. The Purple Heart was just one of many awards. Another - one the family is especially proud of - was being named Special Operations Command Operator of the Year.

Milam chose the military as his career. But he never lost a chance to return to Colorado for his favorite sports, from mountain biking and hiking, to scuba diving and sky diving.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Drinkwine Mortuary in Littleton, followed by a 1 p.m. graveside service at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

Milam's commanding officer is escorting his body back to Colorado from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

As word of Milam's death spreads to childhood friends, his old Scout troop and to military buddies, the anticipated crowd continues to grow larger and larger, his brother said.

"I think that speaks to how valuable Luke was to his organization," his older brother said. "He was the best of the best."

September 26, 2007

Marines Promote Jim Nabors' Gomer Pyle; Hawaii Resident Honored For His Performance, Giving Spirit

HONOLULU -- Hawaii resident and longtime entertainer Jim Nabors enjoyed a special honor on Tuesday night from the U.S. Marine Corps for his character Gomer Pyle.

http://www.thehawaiichannel.com/news/14211211/detail.html

September 26, 2007

The television show Gomer Pyle USMC premiered in 1964. Gomer Pyle was a bumbling but lovable private who put a humorous and human face on the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Marines brought out the band, brought in the dignitaries and put on a heck of a promotion ceremony for one of Hawaii's best-known residents.

"I know we're going to talk about Gomer Pyle, but this ceremony is really about the man, the entertainer, the philanthropist, and most importantly the American we know as Jim Nabors," Gen. John Goodman said.

Nabors has been an active resident of Hawaii for decades. He filmed a nationally televised Christmas special here and has helped out in numerous performances and charity events.

Nabors was beaming as the general pinned on the chevrons officially promoting him to the rank of honorary corporal.

"I'm in the fast lane now. Boy. Are you kidding? It's been 43 years. I love it. Everything's just been great," Nabors said.

There were plenty of fans on hand to witness the ceremony, and then they got a chance to talk with the famous actor and get an autograph.

"He's getting a promotion. He's moving up in the world. It's about time," fan Ann Ruby said. "And I loved his comedy, his humor, loved his show. He's a great asset to Hawaii."

The Marines said Gomer Pyle embodied qualities Marines respect: honesty, loyalty and devotion to duty.

"What's Gomer think about this? Well golly!" Nabors said.

The show lasted five years and since then has been popular in syndication.

Nabors' character originated on "The Andy Griffith Show." Gomer Pyle had reoccurring appearances before he signed up and joined the Marines.

The "Gomer Pyle USMC" show spin-off was a product of Andy Griffith's production company.


Corps slogan takes out the competition

Staff report
Posted : Wednesday Sep 26, 2007 19:14:14 EDT

The Marine Corps’ legendary recruiting pitch, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” defeated such famous ad slogans such as “Just Do It,” “Have It Your Way,” “Take a Bite Out of Crime” and “Think Outside the Bun” for a spot on the advertising industry’s Walk of Fame in New York City.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_recruiting_slogan_070926/

September 25, 2007

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES; Marines guard Iraq's gradual transformation; In Ramadi, personality sometimes 'more useful than body armor'

HURRICANE POINT, Ramadi – If you head west from this small forward operating base located on Route Michigan, you'll reach a bridge that crosses a peaceful river. It would be easy to spend an afternoon walking along the riverbank, and many Iraqis do.

http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57813

Posted: September 25, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

Editor's note: Reporter Matt Sanchez, currently embedded in Iraq with the 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry out of Fort Riley, Kan. – the 1-4 Cav – has been providing WND readers with a glimpse into the Iraq war most Americans have never heard.

By Matt Sanchez
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

But the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines out of 29 Palms know complacency kills. In fact, that adage is written on the walls near the exit as a warning to Marines about to go outside the wire and into town.

Speaking to any member of the 3/7 Marines is like talking to a history book. For those who were here last deployment, the chapters on Ramadi are written into their memory. And when asked to recall the last deployment, the Marines of the 3/7 all seem to pause, as if staring at a photo of the past, trying to match up the old image in their minds with the reality right before them.

Marine Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle was a Ramadi veteran. Back home in Colorado, he played high school football; here in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, he was in charge of the convoy transporting me and a dozen other Marines downtown. I often find myself comparing young men like Cpl. Schaetzle – capable, in charge and responsive – with the students on the Columbia University campus and campuses across America. Instead of going off to college like most kids his age, Schaetzle joined the Marine Corps "to get a little discipline" and see the world. He saw Ramadi from 2005 to 2006, where he remembered a constant state of alert and the threat of violence everywhere.

I forgot to ask Cpl. Schaetzle exactly how old he was, but he graduated from high school four years ago. He was probably about 21, which is a bit older than the average age of servicemen in Iraq, yet men like Schaetzle were anything but average.

Marines have been around as long as the United States itself, and from the beginning, "the few good men" who join the Corps have been a bit different. As a tiny unit of "soldiers of the sea," scrappy Marines struggled to prove their worth throughout every single conflict in American history. From the shores of Tripoli where they defeated Barbary pirates in what today is Libya, to the battlefields of France where one Marine officer shouted, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here," you could make a case that Marines have something to prove – to themselves, and maybe just as important, to the Corps.

Half out of desperation and half out of sheer bravado, the Marines distinguished themselves for being "first to fight." Recruitment posters for the "Great War," World War I, showed an indignant, well-dressed man pulling off his suit jacket. The caption at the bottom: "Tell That to the Marines!"

You don't just end up being a Marine by luck, or accident – it takes a concerted effort, a willingness to subject yourself to hardship in the hopes of something in return. Camaraderie, distinction or duty – defining that "something" is difficult, but if you don't know what you want, the Marine Corps will kindly make some great suggestions. Every night before going to bed, Marine recruits will stand by their racks and, on cue, shout at the top of their lungs, "honor, courage, commitment." Recruits bang the thin government-issued mattresses after every promise, so that the physical body will conform, retain and respond to each verbal pledge. For the Marines, muscle memory applies to the heart as well.

All members of the military have sworn to protect the nation, but Marines brag they'll do it first, in fact they insist. It's one thing to flirt with combat, it's even more daring to become an "03" Marine infantry rifleman during a time of war. When Schaetzle enlisted, that's what he decided to be.

"Things are a lot better now," Schaetzle said of the new Ramadi where Marines did not have to run on foot patrols trying to avoid fire from rooftops.

The "new" Marines of the 3/7 – the ones who were not around for the first deployment – will sometimes gripe that the current state of Ramadi is too boring. "Nothing happens," said one private first class on his first tour to Iraq. Schaetzle's just happy those Marines do not have to deal with what the media came to call "the most dangerous city in the world."

In the fall of 2006, a very international and critical press ran headlines saying, "We have lost Anbar Province!"

The source of that leaked report was Marine Corps intelligence officer Col. Peter Devlin. With over 20 years in the Corps, Devlin's assessment of the situation on the ground was alarming. Less than a year later, Anbar, a province named after the granaries and the abundance of its fertile land, is considered the fruition of success in the Iraq policy.

I contacted Col. Devlin via e-mail. Many members of the military have complained of being misquoted, so I'm reprinting his statements precisely as he wrote them to me:

"Quite obviously, the situation in the province has improved dramatically since then, to my great relief. As I have maintained since this improvement became apparent this spring (2007), the assessments that I made last year were accurate for the timeframe within which they were written. Things were that bad and the prospects for improvement seemed very bleak. I do not believe that any other intelligence professional would have developed a much different assessment for al-Anbar last summer and fall."

Devlin, the internationally quoted Marine intelligence officer, is glad things have changed, but he did call the publishing of a secret report "an absolute disgrace."

The Marines of the 3/7 would have recognized the details of Devlin's descriptions in the fall of 2006. Street-to-street fighting, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes characterized the Anbar Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle had known and would never forget, even after moving on from the Marine Corps.

Looking to the future, Schaetzle told me, "I want to go back to school and become a physical therapist."

"Why do you think you're ready for college now?," I asked. Like many who enlist, Schaetzle just didn't think college was for him after years in high school. For lots of young men and women, the Corps provided a different kind of education, with a lesson plan that just couldn't be found in a textbook.

"I know more what I want," he said with confidence.


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


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


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

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES
Marines guard Iraq's gradual transformation
In Ramadi, personality sometimes 'more useful than body armor'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: September 25, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

Matt Sanchez

Editor's note: Reporter Matt Sanchez, currently embedded in Iraq with the 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry out of Fort Riley, Kan. – the 1-4 Cav – has been providing WND readers with a glimpse into the Iraq war most Americans have never heard.

By Matt Sanchez
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

HURRICANE POINT, Ramadi – If you head west from this small forward operating base located on Route Michigan, you'll reach a bridge that crosses a peaceful river. It would be easy to spend an afternoon walking along the riverbank, and many Iraqis do.

But the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines out of 29 Palms know complacency kills. In fact, that adage is written on the walls near the exit as a warning to Marines about to go outside the wire and into town.

Speaking to any member of the 3/7 Marines is like talking to a history book. For those who were here last deployment, the chapters on Ramadi are written into their memory. And when asked to recall the last deployment, the Marines of the 3/7 all seem to pause, as if staring at a photo of the past, trying to match up the old image in their minds with the reality right before them.

Marine Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle was a Ramadi veteran. Back home in Colorado, he played high school football; here in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, he was in charge of the convoy transporting me and a dozen other Marines downtown. I often find myself comparing young men like Cpl. Schaetzle – capable, in charge and responsive – with the students on the Columbia University campus and campuses across America. Instead of going off to college like most kids his age, Schaetzle joined the Marine Corps "to get a little discipline" and see the world. He saw Ramadi from 2005 to 2006, where he remembered a constant state of alert and the threat of violence everywhere.

(Story continues below)


I forgot to ask Cpl. Schaetzle exactly how old he was, but he graduated from high school four years ago. He was probably about 21, which is a bit older than the average age of servicemen in Iraq, yet men like Schaetzle were anything but average.

Marines have been around as long as the United States itself, and from the beginning, "the few good men" who join the Corps have been a bit different. As a tiny unit of "soldiers of the sea," scrappy Marines struggled to prove their worth throughout every single conflict in American history. From the shores of Tripoli where they defeated Barbary pirates in what today is Libya, to the battlefields of France where one Marine officer shouted, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here," you could make a case that Marines have something to prove – to themselves, and maybe just as important, to the Corps.


The Devildog is in the details. The Marine EGA, Eagle Globe and Anchor, are present anywhere you find a Marine. Marines are the smallest of all the services, but the symbol of the Marine Corps is one of the most recognized in the world


Half out of desperation and half out of sheer bravado, the Marines distinguished themselves for being "first to fight." Recruitment posters for the "Great War," World War I, showed an indignant, well-dressed man pulling off his suit jacket. The caption at the bottom: "Tell That to the Marines!"

You don't just end up being a Marine by luck, or accident – it takes a concerted effort, a willingness to subject yourself to hardship in the hopes of something in return. Camaraderie, distinction or duty – defining that "something" is difficult, but if you don't know what you want, the Marine Corps will kindly make some great suggestions. Every night before going to bed, Marine recruits will stand by their racks and, on cue, shout at the top of their lungs, "honor, courage, commitment." Recruits bang the thin government-issued mattresses after every promise, so that the physical body will conform, retain and respond to each verbal pledge. For the Marines, muscle memory applies to the heart as well.

VIDEO: 1st Lt. Mauro Mujica, 3/7 Marines, Lima Company, lives and works with Iraqis daily


All members of the military have sworn to protect the nation, but Marines brag they'll do it first, in fact they insist. It's one thing to flirt with combat, it's even more daring to become an "03" Marine infantry rifleman during a time of war. When Schaetzle enlisted, that's what he decided to be.

"Things are a lot better now," Schaetzle said of the new Ramadi where Marines did not have to run on foot patrols trying to avoid fire from rooftops.


Up in the morning with the rising sun. Regulations state members of the military, in a combat zone, are to do PT (exercise) voluntarily. These Marines get up and train before the beginning of a long day


The "new" Marines of the 3/7 – the ones who were not around for the first deployment – will sometimes gripe that the current state of Ramadi is too boring. "Nothing happens," said one private first class on his first tour to Iraq. Schaetzle's just happy those Marines do not have to deal with what the media came to call "the most dangerous city in the world."

In the fall of 2006, a very international and critical press ran headlines saying, "We have lost Anbar Province!"

The source of that leaked report was Marine Corps intelligence officer Col. Peter Devlin. With over 20 years in the Corps, Devlin's assessment of the situation on the ground was alarming. Less than a year later, Anbar, a province named after the granaries and the abundance of its fertile land, is considered the fruition of success in the Iraq policy.

I contacted Col. Devlin via e-mail. Many members of the military have complained of being misquoted, so I'm reprinting his statements precisely as he wrote them to me:

"Quite obviously, the situation in the province has improved dramatically since then, to my great relief. As I have maintained since this improvement became apparent this spring (2007), the assessments that I made last year were accurate for the timeframe within which they were written. Things were that bad and the prospects for improvement seemed very bleak. I do not believe that any other intelligence professional would have developed a much different assessment for al-Anbar last summer and fall."

Devlin, the internationally quoted Marine intelligence officer, is glad things have changed, but he did call the publishing of a secret report "an absolute disgrace."


This is a street corner in Ramadi after it has been cleaned. It's difficult to see a possible IED buried in the trash. Would you notice a can with tiny wires sticking out of it?


The Marines of the 3/7 would have recognized the details of Devlin's descriptions in the fall of 2006. Street-to-street fighting, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes characterized the Anbar Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle had known and would never forget, even after moving on from the Marine Corps.

Looking to the future, Schaetzle told me, "I want to go back to school and become a physical therapist."

"Why do you think you're ready for college now?," I asked. Like many who enlist, Schaetzle just didn't think college was for him after years in high school. For lots of young men and women, the Corps provided a different kind of education, with a lesson plan that just couldn't be found in a textbook.

"I know more what I want," he said with confidence.

VIDEO: Democracy in action, people who are not afraid to question authority. It really seems to come natural.


What will the effect be on American society when all these young men and women who have seen and done so much come home to live normal lives?

"You're not going to be like everyone else," I said.

"That's OK, I'm not going to tell anyone I'm a Marine or anything. I just want to study in peace." I always ask troops what they're going to do when they get out. Getting out, leaving the safety and comfort is a big step. I've met many servicemen and women who leave and then come back, after finding civilian life to be less satisfying. "Go to school" is the No. 1 answer – a lot of the 3/7 Marines want to take what they have learned and experienced, and apply it to other areas of a life they know has completely changed.

Defectors

Situations and settings change, people change, but is it possible for former enemies to become friends, or at least to work together? The complaint of fighting alongside former insurgents who have American blood on their hands may distress people back home, but I've heard a different opinion in Iraq.

Infantry officer Capt. Dave Hart with the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines said he would "rather see a defection than a capture, even if these guys were fighting us two or three weeks ago." A capture was a drain on resources, another person to arrest, guard and process through a system that began on its hands and knees and was attempting to take its first steps. A defection was a loss for the other side, an asset for the home team, a fighter not only trained, but intimate with enemy tactics.

"Every time we went out, we were going to get into a fight," said Maj. Rory Quinn of the 3/7. Hurricane Point was no picnic, but the Marines of the "cutting edge" 3/7 are used to harsh conditions.

Almost every Marine I've met has an opinion, criticism or horror story about 29 Palms, even the ones who have never seen it. Nicknamed "29 Stumps" and smack dab in the Mohave desert, the vast 29 Palms is the toughest place for a Marine to be stationed, or at least that's what they say. Mohave Viper, the training exercise "The Stumps" hosts for Marines to get training in preparation for deploying to Iraq, is said to prepare Marines the best and most realistically for conditions in the Middle East. No stranger to hard realism himself, Quinn, a native of New York, is serving his second tour in Ramadi.

Quinn is an all-around easy-going guy. He gets along well with the Iraqis, which is not surprising – he is part of the power structure. And from the younger Marines – the ranks below sergeant, the ones who are about to get out and have nothing to lose when they offer their opinion – I didn't hear one unkind word about Major Quinn, a rarity.


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


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


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

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES
Marines guard Iraq's gradual transformation
In Ramadi, personality sometimes 'more useful than body armor'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: September 25, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

Matt Sanchez

Editor's note: Reporter Matt Sanchez, currently embedded in Iraq with the 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry out of Fort Riley, Kan. – the 1-4 Cav – has been providing WND readers with a glimpse into the Iraq war most Americans have never heard.

By Matt Sanchez
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

HURRICANE POINT, Ramadi – If you head west from this small forward operating base located on Route Michigan, you'll reach a bridge that crosses a peaceful river. It would be easy to spend an afternoon walking along the riverbank, and many Iraqis do.

But the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines out of 29 Palms know complacency kills. In fact, that adage is written on the walls near the exit as a warning to Marines about to go outside the wire and into town.

Speaking to any member of the 3/7 Marines is like talking to a history book. For those who were here last deployment, the chapters on Ramadi are written into their memory. And when asked to recall the last deployment, the Marines of the 3/7 all seem to pause, as if staring at a photo of the past, trying to match up the old image in their minds with the reality right before them.

Marine Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle was a Ramadi veteran. Back home in Colorado, he played high school football; here in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, he was in charge of the convoy transporting me and a dozen other Marines downtown. I often find myself comparing young men like Cpl. Schaetzle – capable, in charge and responsive – with the students on the Columbia University campus and campuses across America. Instead of going off to college like most kids his age, Schaetzle joined the Marine Corps "to get a little discipline" and see the world. He saw Ramadi from 2005 to 2006, where he remembered a constant state of alert and the threat of violence everywhere.

(Story continues below)


I forgot to ask Cpl. Schaetzle exactly how old he was, but he graduated from high school four years ago. He was probably about 21, which is a bit older than the average age of servicemen in Iraq, yet men like Schaetzle were anything but average.

Marines have been around as long as the United States itself, and from the beginning, "the few good men" who join the Corps have been a bit different. As a tiny unit of "soldiers of the sea," scrappy Marines struggled to prove their worth throughout every single conflict in American history. From the shores of Tripoli where they defeated Barbary pirates in what today is Libya, to the battlefields of France where one Marine officer shouted, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here," you could make a case that Marines have something to prove – to themselves, and maybe just as important, to the Corps.


The Devildog is in the details. The Marine EGA, Eagle Globe and Anchor, are present anywhere you find a Marine. Marines are the smallest of all the services, but the symbol of the Marine Corps is one of the most recognized in the world


Half out of desperation and half out of sheer bravado, the Marines distinguished themselves for being "first to fight." Recruitment posters for the "Great War," World War I, showed an indignant, well-dressed man pulling off his suit jacket. The caption at the bottom: "Tell That to the Marines!"

You don't just end up being a Marine by luck, or accident – it takes a concerted effort, a willingness to subject yourself to hardship in the hopes of something in return. Camaraderie, distinction or duty – defining that "something" is difficult, but if you don't know what you want, the Marine Corps will kindly make some great suggestions. Every night before going to bed, Marine recruits will stand by their racks and, on cue, shout at the top of their lungs, "honor, courage, commitment." Recruits bang the thin government-issued mattresses after every promise, so that the physical body will conform, retain and respond to each verbal pledge. For the Marines, muscle memory applies to the heart as well.

VIDEO: 1st Lt. Mauro Mujica, 3/7 Marines, Lima Company, lives and works with Iraqis daily


All members of the military have sworn to protect the nation, but Marines brag they'll do it first, in fact they insist. It's one thing to flirt with combat, it's even more daring to become an "03" Marine infantry rifleman during a time of war. When Schaetzle enlisted, that's what he decided to be.

"Things are a lot better now," Schaetzle said of the new Ramadi where Marines did not have to run on foot patrols trying to avoid fire from rooftops.


Up in the morning with the rising sun. Regulations state members of the military, in a combat zone, are to do PT (exercise) voluntarily. These Marines get up and train before the beginning of a long day


The "new" Marines of the 3/7 – the ones who were not around for the first deployment – will sometimes gripe that the current state of Ramadi is too boring. "Nothing happens," said one private first class on his first tour to Iraq. Schaetzle's just happy those Marines do not have to deal with what the media came to call "the most dangerous city in the world."

In the fall of 2006, a very international and critical press ran headlines saying, "We have lost Anbar Province!"

The source of that leaked report was Marine Corps intelligence officer Col. Peter Devlin. With over 20 years in the Corps, Devlin's assessment of the situation on the ground was alarming. Less than a year later, Anbar, a province named after the granaries and the abundance of its fertile land, is considered the fruition of success in the Iraq policy.

I contacted Col. Devlin via e-mail. Many members of the military have complained of being misquoted, so I'm reprinting his statements precisely as he wrote them to me:

"Quite obviously, the situation in the province has improved dramatically since then, to my great relief. As I have maintained since this improvement became apparent this spring (2007), the assessments that I made last year were accurate for the timeframe within which they were written. Things were that bad and the prospects for improvement seemed very bleak. I do not believe that any other intelligence professional would have developed a much different assessment for al-Anbar last summer and fall."

Devlin, the internationally quoted Marine intelligence officer, is glad things have changed, but he did call the publishing of a secret report "an absolute disgrace."


This is a street corner in Ramadi after it has been cleaned. It's difficult to see a possible IED buried in the trash. Would you notice a can with tiny wires sticking out of it?


The Marines of the 3/7 would have recognized the details of Devlin's descriptions in the fall of 2006. Street-to-street fighting, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes characterized the Anbar Cpl. Mickey Schaetzle had known and would never forget, even after moving on from the Marine Corps.

Looking to the future, Schaetzle told me, "I want to go back to school and become a physical therapist."

"Why do you think you're ready for college now?," I asked. Like many who enlist, Schaetzle just didn't think college was for him after years in high school. For lots of young men and women, the Corps provided a different kind of education, with a lesson plan that just couldn't be found in a textbook.

"I know more what I want," he said with confidence.

VIDEO: Democracy in action, people who are not afraid to question authority. It really seems to come natural.


What will the effect be on American society when all these young men and women who have seen and done so much come home to live normal lives?

"You're not going to be like everyone else," I said.

"That's OK, I'm not going to tell anyone I'm a Marine or anything. I just want to study in peace." I always ask troops what they're going to do when they get out. Getting out, leaving the safety and comfort is a big step. I've met many servicemen and women who leave and then come back, after finding civilian life to be less satisfying. "Go to school" is the No. 1 answer – a lot of the 3/7 Marines want to take what they have learned and experienced, and apply it to other areas of a life they know has completely changed.

Defectors

Situations and settings change, people change, but is it possible for former enemies to become friends, or at least to work together? The complaint of fighting alongside former insurgents who have American blood on their hands may distress people back home, but I've heard a different opinion in Iraq.

Infantry officer Capt. Dave Hart with the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines said he would "rather see a defection than a capture, even if these guys were fighting us two or three weeks ago." A capture was a drain on resources, another person to arrest, guard and process through a system that began on its hands and knees and was attempting to take its first steps. A defection was a loss for the other side, an asset for the home team, a fighter not only trained, but intimate with enemy tactics.

"Every time we went out, we were going to get into a fight," said Maj. Rory Quinn of the 3/7. Hurricane Point was no picnic, but the Marines of the "cutting edge" 3/7 are used to harsh conditions.

Almost every Marine I've met has an opinion, criticism or horror story about 29 Palms, even the ones who have never seen it. Nicknamed "29 Stumps" and smack dab in the Mohave desert, the vast 29 Palms is the toughest place for a Marine to be stationed, or at least that's what they say. Mohave Viper, the training exercise "The Stumps" hosts for Marines to get training in preparation for deploying to Iraq, is said to prepare Marines the best and most realistically for conditions in the Middle East. No stranger to hard realism himself, Quinn, a native of New York, is serving his second tour in Ramadi.

Quinn is an all-around easy-going guy. He gets along well with the Iraqis, which is not surprising – he is part of the power structure. And from the younger Marines – the ranks below sergeant, the ones who are about to get out and have nothing to lose when they offer their opinion – I didn't hear one unkind word about Major Quinn, a rarity.

VIDEO: The Souk had become a ghost town before the Marines set out to take it back.


"You've got to drink the chai," Quinn said. I never saw him refuse a cigarette either, Iraqis will always offer before lighting up themselves.

"We made the mistake last time around of not focusing on the people of the city," he said.

In the current "permissive" state of security in Ramadi, personality may be more useful than body armor. "Permissive" was one of those terms a lot of military types repeated just like "kinetic," "tactical" and "malingering" – they sound really specific, but the vocabulary is subject to interpretation. "Permissive," here in Ramadi, meant the threat was distant, but that Marines never relaxed.

The following morning we drove down Route Michigan to an Iraqi police station. The occasion was a Ramadi city council. As soon as Quinn arrived, the Iraqis swarmed over to meet and greet him.

"We try to stay in the background and let these guys do their job," said Quinn. This was democracy at work – not Democracy with a capital D, the stuff political philosophers like Socrates, Locke and John Adams spoke of – but the democracy of local government where normal people sat in a town hall-style audience, listened to what politicians promised and then got up and gave the authorities sitting behind the table a piece of their mind. This was the practical democracy of people arguing, compromising, misrepresenting, accusing, arguing and settling on some sort of agreement.

One indignant man got up and accused the members of the board of stealing contracts. "The guys can be pretty cutthroat, they get really jealous when one contractor wins out over another," an American from USAID told me. The council members, who are not eligible to bid on contracts, assured the irate man that the process was transparent. Marines supervised the transparency, and like referees in a boxing match tried to make sure everyone followed the rules, without taking a stray blow to the chin.

Another man in a white dishdasha, the customary robe many Middle Eastern men wear, sprang out of his seat and pointed a finger at someone across the room. Shouting started and the leader of the council tried to restore order. The interpreter couldn't keep up with the back-and-forth, but as with a rushed text message, I got the gist of the problem: "My honor," "He's lying," "You don't keep your promise!"

"I call this man-drama," said Quinn, referring to the public spats and intrigues that went on between Iraqi men. One police officer shot himself in the hand, apparently trying to show off to his buddies. Another contractor accused a competitor of being a terrorist to authorities, possibly because he lost out on a bid. A father insulted a neighboring family when he refused to let his daughter marry their son. And the list went on.

In a public culture where women have been almost entirely absent, many men in Iraq and throughout the Middle East take on an etiquette that could sometimes revert to the level of kids fighting on the blacktop during recess at an elementary school.

I never thought of how fortunate we are back home to have women who cannot only take a stand, but who temper the male behavior, no matter how crazy they make us. The only time you saw a man and woman together in Iraq, especially in the smaller towns, was when a covered mother carried her toddler to market and let her older son address the male vendors on her behalf.

The souk, or marketplace, had been closed down during much of the fighting. The threat of car bombs, suicide bombers and IEDs was too great, and if the streets were littered as they were before, you would find it nearly impossible to spot a "tomato can" IED, a dangerous little explosive that could easily kill a pedestrian or two.

"We're hiring locals to pick up the garbage," said Capt. Marcus Mainz, commanding officer of Lima Company and on his first tour in Iraq. Garbage collection, construction projects and other public works are economic shots in the arm and part of the strategy for both improving the city and making it safer. But in typical Marine fashion, Capt. Mainz' AO (area of operations) has gone above and beyond the call of duty. His lieutenant, Luke Larson, has participated in the organization of a 5-kilometer race down roads that pedestrians avoided.

The race is on

I stood on a bridge overlooking Route Michigan. One of the sergeants told me that, in the past, our military would never stand on this bridge – too easy a target for snipers. Runners, all male, lined up at the starting line for one of the first public events in recent history. There were easily 200 runners, even considering that tight security may have prevented neighboring athletes from entering the town. There was still a ban on vehicle traffic in the downtown area, there had not been a car bomb in several months and the mayor of Ramadi, Latif Obaid Ayadah, told me he was cautious about changing the situation, but he was really excited about building hotels to spur tourism.

"This is the capital," he said, and "it would be a great investment." The mayor knew the time was nearing when Ramadi could become a normal city, but the danger was nowhere near its end.

The runners finished near a roundabout, a spot where several Marines had been wounded the year before. Musicians arrived after a happy mob engulfed the winner of the race. Police officers started to dance in circle, each following traditional steps that I've seen throughout the Middle East. The scene was about as jarring as the names of the neighboring streets: Moron, Firecracker, Botta bing. The people of Ramadi had not forgotten how to celebrate.

The announcer on the loud speaker called the names of Marines and I snapped pictures of Iraqis handing Capt. Mainz, Sgt. Humphrey and lieutenants Larson and Mujica trophies. It was a nice movie moment, the point when credits roll and only a few stay seated in the theatre to read the names. But life has never been like a Hollywood film and the Marines of the 3/7 are not actor on some stage.

The next morning at Hurricane Point, I woke up early and watched small groups of Marines running, doing pushups and pull-ups – or PTing as they call it. A Marine hanged from a bar pulling upward, a second struggled for another push-up while fellow Marines encouraged them both to keep going. At the same time a staff sergeant directed his Marines in meticulously eliminating the layers of fine dirt the Ramadi weather deposits in one day. There would certainly be more dirt tomorrow, but that day the streets of Hurricane Point were exceptionally clean.

Maj. Quinn told me, "It's so obvious this is how you win this fight," and he was not kidding.


Skirts no longer allowed in promotion photos

By John Hoellwarth - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Sep 25, 2007 21:29:24 EDT

Female Marines may no longer wear skirts in their promotion photos under a policy change that went into effect immediately upon authorization by the Corps’ top personnel official, Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, according to a Sept. 17 Corps-wide message.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_promotion_photos_070924/

Iraqi 3rd Brigade, 7th IA Division stands up

AL QA’IM, Iraq (Sept. 25, 2007) -- Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Paine was writing about a newly formed American military in 1776, but even in 2007 his words mean just the same to the newly formed men of the 3rd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/5B63D974CDD72D028525736100426BF2?opendocument

Sept. 25, 2007; Submitted on: 09/25/2007 08:05:30 AM ; Story ID#: 20079258530
By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

“This is a historic moment for the future of Iraq,” said Col. H. Stacy Clardy, the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 2.

The men of the 3rd BDE recently celebrated their test of self-sufficiency where they commanded their own operation while Marines observed.

“The 3rd BDE demonstrated their ability to command and control multiple maneuver elements, while effectively coordinating combined operations with the Iraqi Police and Border Defense Forces,” said Lt. Col. Jason Q. Bohm, the commanding officer for Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, attached to RCT-2.

Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines, and the 3rd BDE worked jointly during three major operations in the Al Qa’im region. The Iraqi Army improved with each mission and eventually they were able to successfully lead entire operations by themselves.

The Marines of 1st Bn., 4th Marines, congratulated 3rd BDE’s chain of command with a feast at the Camp Al Qa’im dining facility. Each Iraqi soldier sat next to their Marine counterpart at the table showing equality and brotherhood between the two forces.

The 3rd Brigade is the second-to-last of the three brigades under 7th Division’s command to be validated. The nationwide recruiting drives for 3rd BDE were originally formed outside Al Anbar and moved into Nasariyah, Iraq.

“The initial recruiting drives were actually taking place outside of Al Anbar due to the violence in Al Anbar and Al Qa’im,” said Col. David M. Thompson, the Military Transition Team chief with RCT- 2.

This tribal mix of soldiers came back to Al Qa’im to free it from terrorism and fear.

“These operations, combined with the brigade commander’s personal engagement with the local community, resulted in an increase in the trust and confidence of the Iraqi Army in the eyes of the local populace,” Bohm said.

Their force is a model for the country of Iraq due to its mix of Sunni and Shiite men from different parts of the country.

“This fills all Iraqi categories of its people equally,” said Brig. Gen. Ishmayil Shihab Muhammed, the commanding officer of 3rd Brigade. “Iraqi patriots aren’t Sunni or Shiite, they are Iraqis.”

This united feeling is not only talked about, but also put into practice as the general’s own personal security detachment is made up of Shiite men. The general is a devout Sunni.

During their three major operations with Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines, (Harris Basil, Combined Justice and Iron Fist), 3rd Brigade patrolled through towns with the town’s local police forces. This unorthodox approach allowed the brigade to make successful steps before validating as a lone-standing operational force.

“The Iraqi police are good now, so we can be dedicated to fighting terrorism outside the area of operations,” Ishmayil said.

The brigadier general has one main focus concerning sectarian violence and Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorism tearing the country apart.

"One Iraq, one united Iraq, nothing else matters,” Ishmayil said.

September 22, 2007

Marine immortalizes fallen brother through art

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (Sept. 22, 2007) -- Hippocrates once said, “Art is long, life is short- Ars longa, vita brevis. ”

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/7531BFE467AAE6968525735E0019FC66?opendocument

Sept. 22, 2007; Submitted on: 09/22/2007 12:43:50 AM ; Story ID#: 200792204350
By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

Cpl. Jeremy David Allbaugh, a machine gunner with Personal Security Detachment, Headquarters and Support Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, attached to Regimental Combat Team 2, lived a short life. But, he was immortalized recently in acrylics by a friend and fellow Marine who painted a mural in his honor at the Warhammer Gym here.

“I feel sad because it is for him, but it makes me happy because I can still do something for him,” said Lance Cpl. Cory Jamieson, a rifleman and a Punxsutawney, Penn., native, with the PSD.

Allbaugh was recently killed conducting combat operations. A church and memorial service were held, but Jamieson felt he could do more for his fallen friend.

“I thought about it during the ceremony in the chapel. I looked up at the stained glass windows and I thought ‘I should do something like that,’” Jamieson said.

The heavenly scene inspired Jamieson to paint a mural for Allbaugh. Inspiration became action and when he wasn’t escorting the commanding officer of Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines, or conducting operations with the quick reaction force, he painted, and painted, and painted.

Along with help from family, a fellow Marine and a Morale, Wefare and Recreation manager, Jamieson had the paint and tools needed.

“I would paint eight or nine hours in the gym and time would fly by,” Jamieson said.

Keeping to the stained glass effect, Jamieson decided on bright colors to draw out the positive of Allbaugh’s existence.

“Bright is powerful,” Jamieson said. “You stand there and it’s big and powerful and it overwhelms you.”

The mural’s brilliant colors create a strong appearance that visually screams for attention. Although it’s an effigy of a fallen Marine, it is of St. Michael, the patron saint, and not of the Marine himself.

“You think of St. Michael as big and strong and a fighter of evil, and Allbaugh was a big and strong Marine. And, what do Marines do? We fight evil,” Jamieson said.

This wasn’t the first time Jamieson has expressed his emotions through his art although this was the first religious piece of work he’s completed.

“I wouldn’t call myself religious but He (Christ) came and died on the cross. I believe in stuff like that. St. Michael is the protector in battle,” Jamieson said.

St. Michael is originally recognized in the Books of Daniel, Enoch and Revelations, and the Qur’an and is even mentioned in the occult. There are slight differences in his story and title but every religion and belief has promoted him as a protector, a warrior and general against evil.

"I relate St. Michael to every Marine in my platoon. We all carry a St. Michael card. You figure you have a religious icon with you, and you think it will help you through the chance you hit the hole and it goes boom.”

Allbaugh’s short life inspired Jamieson to paint the spiritual mural. Jamieson immortalized his friend and fellow Marine and unknowingly, reminded anyone seeing the striking effigy that there is always a protector out there; Marine, archangel or whatever he may be called.


September 21, 2007

Maintenance Mafia” keeps 3rd LAR in the fight

The 3rd Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion has proven itself time and again as an effective mobile infantry unit.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2007/09/21/news/news07.txt

Friday September 21, 2007
Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn
Combat Correspondent

However, no combat unit can operate proficiently without motor transport and logistical support.

The support 3rd LAR receives comes in many different forms. Each section of the support element, the self-proclaimed “Maintenance Mafia,” has its own unique role to perform in order to keep everything moving smoothly.


“Basically, we’re here to support anyone with vehicles from 3rd LAR or any attached units,” said Staff Sgt. Jason L. Dollahan, motor transport maintenance chief, 3rd LAR. “The battalion could have anywhere between 70-75 pieces of gear operating at any given time and they all need operational and maintenance support.”

Since there can be convoys operating both day and night, there is always a dispatcher ready to answer the radio from the supply convoys, Dollahan explained.

“The logistics packs are probably our most important assets,” said Dollahan. “Each log pack will operate once or twice at any given time each day because resupply times vary.”

The motor transport section also has approximately seven maintenance personnel standing by. Every time a log pack goes on a mission, at least one Marine from maintenance goes with them. If there are more than 10 vehicles in the convoy, additional maintenance personnel are sent to provide the best possible support.

Dollahan said, recently, sergeants have been placed in charge of the log packs, which is normally a responsibility reserved for staff noncommissioned officers.

“Recently, our commanding officer has been stressing the importance of our noncommissioned officers,” said 1st Lt. Jake Sandmeyer, public affairs officer, 3rd LAR. “These convoys will drive an average of 14,000-15,000 miles on a six-month deployment, so enforcing leadership at a lower level enhances the proficiency of the Marines.”

Although logistics convoys provide an invaluable service, even they need support. Teams of mechanics, engineers and welders also work to make sure convoys continue to run by providing recovery, maintenance, electrical and heavy equipment support.

The recovery crew is responsible for supporting the line companies, as well as the resupply and maintenance vehicles. Their job is to recover vehicles that have been damaged or have broken down and return them to a safe location where they can be repaired by the mechanics and welders.

The welders repair damaged or broken vehicles that are brought back by the recovery team. Each company also has a welder embedded with it so vehicles can be repaired on-scene.

The engineers primarily provide electrical support to the battalion. Generators are used in the forward operating bases to give much-needed light and air conditioning to the command centers, and the medical and berthing tents.

The engineers also provide heavy equipment to the battalion, which is mainly used for construction purposes. However, their primary job is to keep the electrical units running.

Without the support from each individual cell of the Maintenance Mafia, 3rd LAR would be dead in the water.

“Any heavy vehicle unit is going to be more maintenance-intensive,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott A. Manlick, battalion maintenance officer, 3rd LAR. “We’re here to support in any way possible to keep the fighters fighting. If it’s broken, we fix it.”

The Maintenance Mafia continues to support 3rd LAR on and off the battlefield. They will deploy to Iraq with the rest of the battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom this week.


Fields of fire; 9th ESB Marines stay on target during live-fire marksmanship training in Korea

MONTANA FIRING RANGE, Republic of Korea (September 21, 2007) -- Just as the early morning fog started to lift over the Montana Firing Range, Republic of Korea, Sept. 11, Marines from 3rd Marine Logistics Group's 9th Engineer Support Battalion took aim in live fire exercises during the Korean Interoperability Training Program.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070921-esb.html

Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough

The exercise was the first live-fire event of the program and allowed Marines the chance to get down in the trenches and perform fundamental marksmanship training with the M16-A2 service rifle, M-249 squad automatic weapon (SAW) and M-240 Gulf medium machine gun.

"We don't do a lot of live-fire training in Okinawa," said Gunnery Sgt. Michael P. Suskin, the training chief for 9th ESB. "This (program) allows us to provide safe, realistic training for Marines and helps Marines gain confidence behind their weapons system."

The Marines focused on establishing proper firing positions and establishing and planning fields of fire. Fields of fire are conventional in a defensive fighting position to ensure that all avenues an enemy can use to approach the Marines' positions are covered by one or more weapon system.

"It's important that we plan and control our fire," said Pfc. Matthew D. Smith, a basic water technician with 9th ESB. "It makes us more knowledgeable of the situation and more aware of our surroundings."

Marines engaged targets from 100-400 yards and reacted to different scenarios based on the situation reports they received during the exercise. After five hours and 6,000 rounds down range, little was left on the range but shell casings and ragged targets, although those too were gone after a thorough cleanup.

Although 9th ESB's primary mission is to provide engineering support to III Marine Expeditionary Force, it didn't stop the Marines from embracing basic infantry tactics.

"I love the grunt life," said Lance Cpl. Donald R. White, a Marine integrated maintenance management specialist with the unit. "Getting dirty makes you feel more Marine-like."

Recalls take toys from tots in Wyoming

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Sep 21, 2007 6:05:15 EDT

One Marine Corps League detachment is changing its game plan this holiday season after popular toy makers such as Mattel and Fisher Price recalled more than 10 million toys manufactured in China.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_notoysfortots_070920/

Helland nominated for I MEF command

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Sep 21, 2007 6:54:30 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — President Bush on Wednesday nominated Maj. Gen. Samuel Helland — an experienced helicopter pilot and combat veteran of Vietnam and the 1991 Persian Gulf War — for a third star and command of the 45,000-member I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_helland_nomination_070919/

MCI West releases updated off-limit areas

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2007) -- Marine Corps Installations West recently announced updated off-limit areas and areas of caution for the service members who fall under its command.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/06DB0D36FC7CF16C8525735C007AAF00?opendocument

Sept. 21, 2007; Submitted on: 09/20/2007 06:20:01 PM ; Story ID#: 200792018201
By Lance Cpl. Michael R. Stevens, MCAS Miramar

Many of the areas announced in previous MarAdmin’s remain off-limits permanently and during specific times with the following changes.

In San Diego, Sports Auto Sales located at 1112 National City Blvd is off-limits to all military personnel at all times.

Marines are reminded that areas in Otay Mesa and Willie Henderson Park remain off-limits from sunset to sunrise.

To visit Tijuana, Marines and sailors must obtain permission from their chain of command, receive a briefing on the liberty pitfalls of Mexico, be with at least one other service member or adult and must carry a special request chit, signed by the chain of command, while in the Mexico Border Area.

“The majority of those victimized [in Tijuana] are intoxicated and separated from friends, reconfirming the importance of good judgment, the buddy system sobriety and liberty operation risk management,” reads the message.

It is reminded that the message released constitutes a lawful general order and if violated is punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Relief Society introduces quick assist loan program

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2007) -- The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society recently introduced a loan program designed to offer Marines and sailors an alternative to payday lenders.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/43ED0100EA66561C8525735C00776C52?opendocument

Sept. 21, 2007; Submitted on: 09/20/2007 05:44:25 PM ; Story ID#: 2007920174425
By Lance Cpl. Christopher O’Quin, MCAS Miramar

The program, which officially started Monday, correlates with efforts by Marine Corps leaders to rein in the negative impact of predatory lending practices.

Recently, Maj. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, asked the Oceanside, Calif., city council for assistance in controlling payday lenders and their often predatory lending practices.

Legislation that takes effect Oct. 1 limits the amount of interest payday lenders can affix to loans. In light of this legislation, some payday lenders may stop offering loans to military members and their families.

The relief society’s new program addresses issues such as these by offering Marines and sailors a loan of up to $500 interest free.

“This program gives Marines and sailors a way to take care of essential expenses in unexpected situations,” said Ann Evans, director of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society here.

Currently, only relief society offices in the San Diego area offer the loan program, officially titled quick assist loans.

The relief society hopes to offer the program throughout the Navy and Marine Corps by the beginning of 2008.

For more details, visit www.NMCRS.org.

September 20, 2007

New San Antonio Center for Wounded Warriors to Replace Current Facility

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Sept. 20, 2007 – A new Warrior and Family Support Center being built here will be 10 times the size of the current facility.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47513

By Minnie Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service

A Sept. 15 groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction on the new 12,000-square-foot facility located across from the post’s Fisher Houses, where many wounded warriors and their families stay during long rehabilitations.

The new Warrior and Family Support Center will provide a nurturing and comfortable environment where returning soldiers and their families can rest and recover. The new building will replace the 1,200-square-foot facility currently housed on the second floor of the Powless Guest House here.

“President Theodore Roosevelt once said: ‘A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that, no man is entitled to, and less than that, no man shall have,’” Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, commander of Army Medical Department Center and School and Fort Sam Houston, said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“In my mind, Roosevelt would approve of what we are doing here today for our wounded soldiers,” Czerw said. “He would be proud. Not only are we taking care of the soldier, but we are also taking care of their entire family.”

Since opening its doors in December 2003, the Warrior and Family Support Center, formerly the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, has accommodated more than 180,000 visits from wounded warriors and their families -- family members who have left their jobs and homes to come to Fort Sam Houston to help with the rehabilitation of their loved ones.

The current center has outgrown its space, due to the length of the war and an increase in wounded warriors, officials said. The additional influx requires a permanent facility to meet all of the Warrior and Family Support Center operations.

The new building will provide a “living room” environment, a place for social interaction and recreation between wounded warriors and their families. It was designed with wounded warriors’ requirements in mind -- fully wheelchair-accessible, with an atmosphere that will encourage healing. The new facility will have a computer classroom, kitchen, dining room, conference room, adequate bathrooms, and storage and social-gathering areas. It also will provide opportunities in training for new job skills.

In attendance at the groundbreaking was Jayne Webber-Hardy, the mother of Sgt. Matthew Webber, a member of the Michigan National Guard who died of injuries he suffered in Iraq. Webber-Hardy explained how the center helped her during her stay here by her son’s side and how she would have been lost without the assistance and help provided by Judith Markelz, the center’s program manager, and her staff.

“This new building is absolutely the most wonderful, precious gift of healing that you as a community, the sponsors and parents can give to these soldiers and their families,” Webber-Hardy said.

Army Spc. Francesca Duke, who was injured by a car bomb in Ramadi, Iraq, is now an outpatient receiving treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center. She recalled her first encounter with the center.

“The Warrior and Family Support Center is where my mother and I found solace; it is one of the beginning steps in aiding in the recovery process for all heroes injured in support of operations Enduring (Freedom) and Iraqi Freedom. This is your home away from home,” Duke said.

Markelz said she is thrilled about the new facility. “This is a place to honor (wounded warriors), a place where they can come and be themselves.”

Steve Huffman, president of Huffman Developments and the Returning Heroes Home Board of Directors, attended the ceremony along with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and several local and state politicians.

Huffman helped to organize the effort to build the facility, and the fund has raised more than $800,000. Construction of the $3.5 million building is scheduled for completion in 2008, and Huffman said he expects that the remainder of the funds will be raised by the end of this year.

This project is just one of many pledges under the new Army Medical Action Plan that soldiers returning home from fighting the battles of war will not have fight a bureaucracy to obtain health care and other services during their recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center and elsewhere and their transition back to service or to civilian life afterwards.

“I have never seen a more collaborative and successful team. The plans were completed, reviewed and submitted to Washington for approval within one week,” Huffman said. “From the time the plans left the post and sent to Washington, it was approved and accepted in record time by Pete Geren, the secretary of the Army. This project was a clear reflection of the efforts of the entire team – Col. Wendy Martinson (commander of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Sam Houston), Randy Robinson (director of Installation Management Command West Region) and their outstanding staff.

“Why did we get involved? The answer is simple: the men and women, our warriors and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we can enjoy the liberties and freedom that we too many times take for granted,” he said.

(Minnie Jones works at the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)


Time running out to vote for Corps slogan

Staff report
Posted : Thursday Sep 20, 2007 7:48:25 EDT

Leathernecks have until Monday to vote in an Internet poll to immortalize the Marine Corps’ recruiting slogan, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” in a spot on the advertising industry’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in New York City.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_adweek_slogan_070918/

Marines helping injured Iraqis in Ramadi get to medical care

By Allison Batdorff, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, September 20, 2007

RAMADI, Iraq — The Iraqi women gathered their bulky clothing around them, gripped the children and marched resolutely toward the helicopters.Many had never have flown in an airplane. Many had never been to Baghdad.

To continue reading:

http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=56428&archive=true

Health officials chip away at PTSD stigma

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Sep 20, 2007 17:53:40 EDT

The concept of getting rid of a stigma can be a little nebulous, but experts on a post-traumatic stress disorder panel offered up some concrete changes that could help people overcome years of stereotypes.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/military_ptsd_070919w/

September 19, 2007

Marines Guard Camp Lemonier; Marine units take turns providing security.

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, Sept. 19, 2007 — The 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion officially assumed security responsibilities for Camp Lemonier from the 6th Provisional Security Company, which had been in charge of base security for seven months. The 3rd LAAD will fill the billet for the same duration.

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/sep2007/a091907tj3.html

By Petty Officer 1st Class John Osborne
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa

“The Marines of 3rd LAAD welcome this mission and understand the reason they are here and why they are important,” said Marine Lt. Col. Aarron Potter, who assumed command of 3rd LAAD on April 27. “We are here to continue the good work of 6th PSC and we want to leave here knowing we contributed to something truly historic.”

The mission of the more than 250 Marines of 3rd LAAD will be to deter, detect, defend and mitigate extremism to provide a stable platform for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to accomplish its mission. Part of the battalion’s responsibility is to ensure the security of each entry and exit point of the camp and conduct joint patrols with the Djiboutian army.

Potter said this is familiar territory for his Marines, who finished up a similar tour of duty in Iraq in February.

“The main difference between our mission here and in Iraq is that Iraq was a kinetic war,” Potter said. “We were surrounded by hostile forces and always at a very high threat level so our Marines were always geared up and ready to respond.”

In Djibouti, Potter said, “it is a war of hearts and minds.”

Here, Potter explained, there is a greater demand to think and discern before acting, “because the Djiboutians are our friends, not our enemies, and we must treat them as such while remaining vigilant against attack.”

This tour marks the 3rd LAAD’s fourth deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, noted Battalion Sgt. Major James Smith, Jr.

Smith said he sees no drop in morale and that everyone in the unit seems to have embraced the defensive mind set.

“Our Marines are steadfast in their mission,” Smith said. “In Iraq we were strictly security, but here we have an opportunity to assist in civil affairs and help with the community, which many of our Marines are excited about. Their morale is high and I’m 100 percent confident in their ability to carry out a successful mission.”


Air Traffic Controllers Manage Flights; Marines keep skies above Al Qaim running smoothly

AL QAIM, Iraq, Sept. 19, 2007 — Just like a guide dog helps a blind person or a ground guide assists a heavy equipment operator, air traffic controllers are on the ground to help pilots. Wherever there are Marine Corps aircraft flying, there are air traffic controllers ensuring that the pilots know when they can take off or land, how to approach the airfield, or what is in the airspace.

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/sep2007/a091907tj2.html

By Sgt. Anthony Guas
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)

For Al Qaim, those are the controllers of Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team for Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Detachment C.

“The mission of any air traffic controller, whether it be back in the states or here, is the expeditious flow of traffic into or out of our airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houser Jr., MMT leader for MACS-1, Detachment C. “Here it’s all helicopters, we don't have a runway for any fixed wing aircraft.”

The controllers are responsible from the surface of Al Qaim to 3,000 feet, 5 nautical miles from the center of the airfield. They are split into six-hour shifts in which they land and depart as many as 20 helicopters a day.

“We de-conflict any type of flight into or out, (unarmed aerial vehicles), weather balloons all that stuff,” said Houser.

Since the size of Al Qaim does not accommodate fixed wing aircraft, the controllers spend their time dealing with just helicopters. The limited number of aircraft operating in and out of Al Qaim makes the operational tempo for the controllers a little slower than usual.

“The traffic here is slow, we do just over 40 operations a day,” said Houser. “Most of the Marines are from (Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.) and I'm from (MCAS Yuma, Ariz.), which are two of the busiest airports in the Navy and Marine Corps so we are used to 40 operations in an hour and we do that in a 24-hour period here.”

The slower operational tempo allows Marines like Cpl. Blaze Crawford, who previously worked in radar, an opportunity to wet his feet working in the tower.

“It's new, when I first started I didn't know the aircrafts flight and where they were going to come in, I had no clue what was going on because I never see them in radar,” explained Crawford. “When I'm in the radar room I'm in a box, I don't see them, they are a dot. It's exciting to actually see what I'm doing."

Although the operational tempo may be slower, the Marines are determined to give their best effort by increasing the quality of air traffic control that they provide.

“We're doing great so far,” said Sgt. Nicholas Foster, air traffic controller, MACS-1. “I'm glad that it’s such a small group of guys. It could be bad because there could be one or two that don't know the job, but we kind of lucked out in that we are all kind of seasoned. Nobody has to baby-sit anybody, everyone knows their job, they know what they have to do, they know the Marine Corps.”

While battling the normal difficulties of a deployment, the ATC Marines also have an added number of obstacles that they must hurdle on a daily basis.

“What makes the job difficult here is limited visibility and limited equipment,” explained Houser. “Basically the austere environment and the wear and tear of the gear.”

Despite the lack of accommodations to do their job, the Marines are adjusting to their environment and compensate for the shortfalls by increasing their proficiency in other areas.

“The Marines study the airspace as much as they can,” explained Houser. “There are a couple of different things that you can learn around here.”

Whether it is reading manuals or memorizing the rules for the airfield, the controllers are always working hard to ensure that they are a positive source of information for the aircraft pilots.

“There is a manual that teaches you everything about the airfield, a course rules brief that tells all the pilots how to get into and out of the airspace, what we expect them to do,” said Houser. “As long as we continue to train to everything in the airspace, train on the radio, train on the equipment to pass information whether it be mIRC (Internet Relate Chat), (e-mail), that’s how we compensate for some of the shortfalls.”

Another service that the controllers provide is navigational aid when there is inclement weather or limited visibility. To ensure that the navigational aid is always ready the MMT has a technician on call 24 hours a day.

“We provide tactical aid navigation for aircraft to find the airfield in case of inclement weather or some type of outage or shortage,” Houser explained. “(The tactical aid mechanic) provides service to that (system) 24 hours a day.”

Although they are a small air traffic control team and their mission is smaller than usual, the Marines know that they are having positive influence on the mission in Al Qaim.

“I think its great that we're out here, normally if there is any type of a Marine aircraft flying there's always a Marine air traffic controller that's talking to them,” explained Houser. “We do play a vital role when it comes to the (medical evacuations), getting them out as quick as possible. That's probably the best feeling that we have, knowing that there's troops in contact, we need to get a gunship out or there's somebody injured and we need to get them medevaced into or out of the airspace.”

Rules unclear for wounded troops back on duty

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Sep 19, 2007 12:29:38 EDT

Not since the Civil War have so many wounded service members returned to duty.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/military_amputees_070919w/

Ospreys head to Iraq for combat deployment

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Sep 19, 2007 18:07:34 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The first MV-22 Ospreys to make a combat deployment are on an amphibious assault ship heading for Iraq, according to a Marine Corps headquarters spokesman.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_osprey_deployment_070917/

September 18, 2007

U.S. Marine Corps modernizes vehicles

BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps has contracted Maryland-based Lockheed Martin for development of the USMC Embedded Platform Logistics System.

http://www.upi.com/International_Security/Industry/Briefing/2007/09/18/us_marine_corps_modernizes_vehicles_/7495/


Published: Sept. 18, 2007 at 11:15 AM

The $144.8 million contract is to enhance operational readiness of several Marine Corps vehicles in the U.S. Department of Defense Marine Corps Logistics Modernization programs.

Included in the maintenance program are the Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles, Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and the Amphibian Assault Vehicle. Officials say modifications to sensors, on-board computers and displays among other devices necessary to monitor vehicle performance are needed.

In an effort to improve the availability of logistics information and accurate operational status and system health on the vehicles for commanders, Lockheed will also create a database and end-user management applications.

"We are creating logistics solutions that revolutionize the way that Marines plan, fight and win the battle," said Dale P. Bennett, president of Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support, in a statement. "To do this, we are leveraging technology that provides custom solutions at a lower overall cost."

Lockheed's Enhanced Platform Logistics System used data from individual vehicle sensors to provide failure analysis that enables Marines to deploy the best equipment available at a certain time.

"We are bringing many of the concepts and lessons learned from the Lockheed Martin-developed F-35 Lightning II Autonomic Logistics Information System and the United Kingdom Joint Asset Management Engineering System, with the ultimate goal of extending additional capabilities throughout out the U.S. Marine Corps," said Debra Palmer, vice president of Lockheed Martin Enterprise Logistics Solutions.

Iraqi Security Forces Take Root in Isolated Village. Marines help Iraqis set up community watch.

KARMAH, Iraq, Sept. 18, 2007 — Iraqis living in villages north of Karmah have begun their first group of local security forces with the aid of Marines from Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6.

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/sep2007/a091807tj1.html

By Pfc. Brian Jones
Regimental Combat Team 6

"With them just being established out there, it means were going to have to conduct regular mounted patrols out there, check on them, make sure they’re all right and show a presence so that the insurgents know we’re backing (the ICW)."

Cpl. Matthew L. Hathaway, squad leader

The Iraqi Community Watch is a portion of the recent push of Coalition Forces into the area. The predecessors of “America’s Battalion” had focused their efforts elsewhere in the Karmah area, making these villages one of the last holdouts of insurgent activity in the region.

“With them just being established out there, it means we're going to have to conduct regular mounted patrols out there, check on them, make sure they’re all right and show a presence so that the insurgents know we’re backing (the ICW),” said Cpl. Matthew L. Hathaway, a squad leader with third platoon.

Entry and vehicle control points were placed on the roads leading in and out of the village where the ICW will keep a close ey e on the people traveling through the area and the contents of what they are carrying along with them.
“Right now, the main responsibility we’re putting on them is to monitor the traffic in and out of the areas,” said Hathaway, a 21-year-old Lancaster Co., Va., native. “They monitor what is coming in through vehicles and try to cut down on any bomb making materials that come through those checkpoints.”

Hathaway went on to explain that due to the lack of local Iraqi security forces in the area, insurgents, black marketeers and other criminals could come and go as they pleased. The ICW checkpoints changed all that, he said.

Now that the initial group of men that makes up the ICW is established, the Marines are faced with the job of filtering through them to determine which of them are trustworthy enough to continue on with the responsibilities of protecting the area.

“We got to start weeding through them finding out who we want to be ICW and who we don’t want to be the ICW, but you can’t really do that right off the bat because you’ve got to get the numbers first. Then you can start picking and choosing who you want in it,” Hathaway explained.

With checkpoints in place, the Marines hope to move through the area more quickly without the threat of improvised explosive devices and ambushes.

“We’ll remain active in the area until it is totally secure,” Smith reassured. “This is a big step. Getting the ICW checkpoints is a very big step and hopefully we can move out here with much more ease than we have had in the past.”



September 17, 2007

1/1's Operation Texas bad news for insurgents

SAQLAWIYAH, IRAQ - The area of northern Saqlawiyah, Iraq, was flooded with Coalition Forces the day the Marines of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, blockaded a portion of a local river during an operation which led to the capture of more than 20,000 pounds of homemade explosives.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/Public%2FInfolineMarines.nsf/0/02151873C866B8D74325735600212001?OpenDocument

Cpl. Bryce Muhlenberg

The "First of the First" battalion, along with other coalition units and Iraqi policemen, conducted Operation Texas, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.

The combined operation, involving the Army's 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the Marines' 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and the "First of the First," concentrated on northern Saqlawiyah, an area which had not seen significant coalition presence in months. The operation was aimed at forcing insurgents and their murder and intimidation campaign out of the quiet agricultural community, where they hide, and into the hands of coalition forces.

The region concealed the staging of insurgent operations and was used for weapons and equipment storage, as well as organizing attacks against the coalition and Iraqi forces in the local area. 1st Lt. Alistair E. Howard, first platoon's commander, described the attack as a classic hammer-and-anvil tactic that gave the insurgents no way out.

"We are pinching and constricting," said Howard. "5/7 is coming from the north, pushing through our AO toward the blocking positions, while 3/1 pushes from the northeast toward us also. Company B is reinforcing the blocking positions and pushing. We also have EOD and air support working with us."

The Iraqi police assisted throughout, working their way door to door, greeting and questioning the local populace.

While patrolling through the lush landscape near the river, Marines and IPs discovered weapons caches containing everything from automatic weapons to high explosives. Material used for making IEDs was also found. With the help of EOD and the swarm of Marines who saturated the area, they were able to defuse a number of existing IEDs before they detonated, preventing many injuries to coalition forces and civilian personnel.

The sound of IEDs being detonated by EOD interrupted Cpl. Keith V. Pulley, a squad leader with Company C, as he explained how he felt the operation was going.

"This operation is turning out to be successful," said the 21-year-old, Oroville, Calif., native. "It makes me feel good that we are getting this off the streets, especially when I hear the controlled detonations. Its like, 'That's one IED that isn't going to hit a vehicle.'"

Pulley, a 2004 Oroville High School graduate, and his Marines, were manning the blocking positions on the road running along the Karma River here. All paths that units made led toward Pulley's blocking position.

Lance Cpl. Jonathan S. Baker, a squad automatic weapons gunner with Company C, sat in overwatch, keeping an eye out over the road, the Karma River and the fields of the area, as he manned his turret-mounted machinegun. The 19-year-old Bastrop, Texas, native watched for fires, smoke or signals from other units, but most of all he watched for insurgents.

"I'm really glad everything went so well and we found so many IEDs," said Baker. "That's one less they can hit us with. I enjoy being out here during this operation, because this is what I joined the Marine Corps to do, to be on the ground on the front lines of the fight."

The Marines of 1st Bn., 1st Marines, were indeed on the front lines. The area was one of the few remaining insurgent pockets left around Habbaniyah. The "First of The First" battalion and Operation Texas just made life for insurgents working in the Anbar Province even tougher.

Tecumseh, Okla., native sees Iraqi progress

HIT, Iraq (Sept. 17, 2007) -- Marines with infantry battalions have been rotating in and out of Iraq
throughout the last few years, several are on their third or fourth deployment. Rapid deployment cycles cause Marines to overlook significant improvements in Iraq made since their last deployment. For one returning infantryman, the changes are apparent and appreciated

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/200791703326

Sept. 17, 2007

By Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

Sgt. Joshua Treadway, a section leader and platoon sergeant with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, serving in Hit, Iraq, said he left a nondeployable billet training officer candidates tactics at Quantico, Va., because he wanted to help his fellow Marines after everything he had heard in the news.

“There is so much negative on TV, there is never anything positive,” said the Tecumseh, Okla., native. “Whenever you turn on the TV it is, ‘Oh, there were this many deaths or this abuse case.’ I want them to see when we are out there playing soccer with the kids or opening up new schools.”

Treadway said he wants the American people to know about all the great things he sees, stuff that never gets printed. He said his unit once gave the town $100,000 so they could have running water, which he said is the good news story.

Treadway, the oldest of two brothers serving in the Marine Corps as infantrymen, said his first deployment to Iraq during 2004 made him believe what he heard, too. This encouraged him to get back to the infantry and deploy again. There was only one thing he needed to do before that, get his wife Jacki’s approval.

“I explained to my wife why I felt bad and needed to come back and she understood,” said Treadway. “She didn’t want me to come back, but is very supportive and took it with a grain of salt. I am missing the holidays and both of the kids birthdays, but she realizes that I am not just touring around the country with a band trying to make it big, I am doing something worthwhile and she knows this.”

A veteran of Operation River Sweep, the original entry into Fallujah during April 2004, Treadway was not sure what he was facing upon his second deployment. He also, served in Hit and Baghdadi on his first trip, both once hostile cities in Al Anbar Province. He found himself astonished at the difference.

“Iraq is a hell of a lot better this time, I know that,” said the Tecumseh High School graduate. “I would almost feel safe walking down the streets, almost feel safe. There really is no threat, well at least a visible threat. I know it is out there, but they are doing really well at disguising it. I seeing people walking around and kids playing. Actually, down here in Hit, last time I watched the soccer field get hit with enemy rockets while there were kids out there. That was hard for me since my daughter Lily is 5 and my daughter Kaylie is 2 and if I lived here, that could have been them. Now, I see kids out there playing and I don’t even think about things like that happening.”

But, because the lack of imminent danger, Treadway said he finds keeping his Marines vigilant a priority. He has only four Marines who have not been deployed to Iraq before. The rest of his Marines were here less than a year ago, so the experience is still fresh for them, he said. Because of this, he finds his biggest challenge is fighting complacency.

“We have been out two weeks nonstop every day and nothing remotely even threatening has happened,” Treadway said. “I know from experience that is when something happens. But, some of these guys they are like…’Oh we are not going to get hit.’ I have heard two or three of them say that. So, you have got to constantly keep on them about that because the minute they get that attitude, something happens.”

His Marines do listen to his advice and appreciate his familiarity with Hit.

“We have been to Iraq before, but not to Hit,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Wilkin, infantryman with Jump Platoon, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “He knows this city better than any one of us, even if he hasn’t been here for a couple of years. He tells us what used to be the bad spots and where the insurgents used to operate. He makes us stay vigilant.”

Treadway said the improvements don’t just include friendlier people and having less improvised explosive devices, but also the gear available to service members. He said he was blown away by the gear upon returning to the fleet, especially when he was issued an M4, a weapon he didn’t even see his last time stationed with the infantry.

“Now we have a plethora of gear, so it took me a while to transition,” said Treadway. “I remember doing a convoy from Camp Udari, Kuwait, to Al Asad with no door whatsoever and the only armor they had on the highbacks was those metal plates that go on the seats that we put on the sides. I see the stuff we are rolling out in now and it is mind blowing. (Air conditioners) in the humvees is not bad considering our AC was having no doors.”

The gear has improved and the citizens of Iraq are now interacting more, but Treadway said there is something more important that has changed. The Iraq Army and police have shown tremendous improvement since he left in 2005.

“I was taken aback the other night listening to Congress during Gen. Petraeus’ report because it is literally 100 times better this time than it was last time,” he said “For instance, now we go down to the sheik’s house and everybody drops their gear. That would not have happened last time. It wouldn’t have mattered if you were with the chief of police or the mayor or who you were with, there was a no kidding threat. Now there isn’t a threat like that around these people. They have taken back their city.”

Now the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police, have stepped up and have taken more control than they did last time and are actually doing their jobs, he said. During Treadway’s last trip, his unit built 15 IP stations along the road between Hit and Al Asad, and every single one of them are gone. They are all blown up or destroyed. Now, he said he wouldn’t go near one of the new IP stations if he was a bad guy, unless he was looking for a serious fight.
Treadway takes being deployed in stride. He said that being in Iraq is better than being in the states, wishing you were here making a difference.

“I have been saying all along to the people back in the states who haven’t been here, ‘You haven’t seen us build the playgrounds.’ They don’t see that we are actually giving them an opportunity to step up, now whether or not they do it is on them, but we are making an effort 110 percent and I definitely think we are doing a good thing and they are receptive to it. I am fully in belief if we pull out, you look at the people who have died and then this country, it would pretty much go back to the way it was. If we are going to do something, we need to finish it, no matter how long it takes. I think that is the problem we will have to overcome. Being deployed for Marines is a way of life, if not here, training exercises or somewhere else.”

September 16, 2007

Marines order dress blues for all in service

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, September 16, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time since the 1990s, all enlisted Marines will be required to have dress blue uniforms by Oct. 1, 2011.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=56340&archive=true

September 15, 2007

3/11, 5/11 make thunder in the desert

The Marines and sailors of Lima Battery and Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment; and Sierra and Tango Batteries, 5th Battal-ion, 11th Marine Regiment; conducted their annual regimental desert fire exercise Aug. 29 through Sept. 5th.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2007/09/07/news/news04.txt

September 15, 2007
Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn
Combat Correspondent

The two batteries from 3/11 operated in the Combat Center’s Blacktop training area, while 5/11 operated in the Lavic Lake area during the eight-day exercise.

“This artillery exercise is supposed to encompass all of 11th Marines,” said 1st Lt. Matthew H. Bates, fire direction officer for Lima Battery. “Our plan is to fire approximately 2,000 rounds of various types and to get the regiment to work on large-scale operations. This also allows the regiment to move, shoot and communicate.”

Bates explained that, even though the exercise is designed for all of 11th Marines, many of the battalions could not make it. Romeo Battery, 5/11, and Kilo Battery, 3/11, are currently deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. All of 1st Battal-ion, 11th Marine Regiment, is also deployed. The Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, and India Battery, 3/11, are preparing for their upcoming deployments.

The participating batteries spent the first few days of the exercise operating independently. Lima Battery moved positions daily, conducting fire missions from numerous locations. The battery’s three gun crews worked quickly and fired rounds with pinpoint accuracy.

“We aren’t just Lima, 3/12, we’re the Lima, 3/12,” said 1st Lt. Ryan C. Collins, battery commander for Lima Battery. “I consider this battery to be very efficient. We just completed a successful tour in Iraq with three seperate firing detachments. That means that leadership was given to Marines who never normally see it, which en-hances our skills.

“Since we’ve come back, we’ve worked hard to transition to the M777A2 howitzer, making the Marines even more knowledgeable and proficient,” he added. “This should prove to be a successful field operation.”

Since Lima Battery’s return from Iraq earlier this year, they have not trained on the new Digital Fire Control System. For this FIREX, Lima Battery used the aiming circles method.

“This is sort of an old method,” said Collins. “We use geometry and angles to align the guns on their proper azimuth of fire. The whole process usually takes approximately 10-20 minutes.”

Monday brought a different concept to modern artillery. The batteries began operating on a regimental scale, moving, shooting and communicating as a single unit. The Marines of Lima Battery seemed to think the FIREX provided valuable experience.

“This is a good chance to get the regiment together,” said Cpl. Justin A. Bromley, artilleryman with Lima Batt-ery. “We only get to do this once a year at best.”

Others feel that the training is beneficial in more ways than just an opportunity to fire artillery as a regiment.

“I think it’s a good thing for the regiment to shoot in the desert,” said Sgt. Gabriel H. Torres, battery ammunition chief for Lima Battery. “We used to go down to Camp Pendleton to train, so this is a nice change of pace. Our combat environment is very similar to Twentynine Palms these days, so it’s good conditioning for the Marines from other bases.”

Lima Battery will continue to train in the field and in the classroom. The battery will be taught how to use the DFCS and will go to Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. to train later this year. Lima Battery is going be attached to Battalion Landing Team 2/4 as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in January.

India Battery tests new arty tech

The Marines of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, became the first combat unit to conduct testing of the M982 Excalibur artillery round July 6-14 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Yuma, Ariz.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2007/08/17/news/news01.txt

Saturday September 15, 2007 News
Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn
Combat Correspondent

The Excalibur, a fire-and-forget round guided by a global positioning system will provide a new role for artillery units in urban warfare with its ability to guide itself to targets previously unreachable by other artillery rounds.

The new round also increases the effective range of the M777A2 howitzer from 30km to 40km and can strike within 10m of its target. If the round strays more than 30m away from its target, it will automatically become inert to minimize collateral damage.

“The way it works is by aiming the howitzer’s tubes at a high angle,” said Cpl. Kevin Collins, artillery cannoneer, India Battery. “The round acquires GPS signals from satellites once it reaches its peak height, then begins dropping. As it drops, stabilizing fins pop out of the round and it glides down, guiding itself toward its target.”

The Excalibur is designed to cooperate with the recently adopted Digital Fire Control System, which allows firing data to be relayed digitally, decreasing the possibility of human error via radio transmissions.

“We fire this new round digitally, which means my computer in the fire direction center talks to the guns, which in turn, talk to the round itself,” said Sgt. Jonathan Smith, India Battery assistant ops chief.

The efficiency and accuracy of the Excalibur is expected to save both time and Marines on the battlefield.

“Instead of risking the lives of Marines to capture previously unreachable targets, we can now fire the Excalibur and take out those targets,” said Sgt. Emmanuel Mireles, section chief, India Battery. “The main reason we have this round is to hit enemy targets without the possibility of collateral damage.”

“One thing that’s really great about the Excalibur is that if someone is getting shot at in Iraq, approval to fire the round will come pretty quickly, which is a testament to the round’s efficiency,” added Smith.

Employment of the Ex- calibur will change the role of artillery units operating in an urban environment, which has a positive effect in the artillery community.

“It gives us the capability to provide precision-guided fire into an urban area with minimal collateral damage,” said Capt. Stephen Ford, India Battery commanding officer. “It makes artillery relevant in theater again. It’s always an honor to be on the cutting edge of technology.”

India Battery will be the first artillery unit to field the Excalibur round when they deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom this fall.


1/1 conducts clearing operations in Anbar

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq. — The Marines of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and local Iraqi police swept through the farmlands outside Habbaniyah, Iraq, while conducting Operation Street Sweeper II, to rid the area of insurgents and their deadly tools.

http://www.camplejeuneglobe.com/articles/2007/09/13/news/top_stories/top02.txt

By Cpl. Bryce C.K. Muhlenberg, Regimental Combat Team 6
September 15, 2007

“We are sweeping through the roads, houses and fields of our area of operation for anything suspicious,” said Cpl. Brian L. Pauluchuk, a team leader with 1st platoon, Company C. “We are trying to find any weapons cache or [improvised explosive devices].”

The Marines woke in the middle of the night and rode in armored trucks to the operations start point. Arriving in the darkness, wearing full combat gear, night-vision goggles and carrying food and water for the coming days, the Marines were ready for what lay ahead.

Sgt. Luke A. Horkey, the squad leader of 1st squad, 2nd platoon, assembled his men and inspected them before the long trek. He explained the history of the area and why the operation was vital.

“This type of close contact operation is long overdue in an area that hasn’t been patrolled long enough by (other Coalition Forces),” said the 25-year-old Plainfield, Conn., native. “If you let something sit long enough it will fester, especially in Iraq.”

Horkey, who is on his third deployment, led his squad through the communities, farms, fields, markets and to each and every house, searching for signs of insurgent activity.

The Marines of Company C swept through miles of sweltering heat and dangerous territory.

“We always get out on foot to patrol,” said Pauluchuk, a Boca Raton, Fla., native. “Even if that means we are risking our lives, it also means we will be more successful.”

Foot patrols are a preferred method of moving through an area of operation, not only because it brings the Marines face to face with the local populous, but also because the Marines are given a closer look at their AO, its terrain, its people and any indications of enemy activity.

“Dismounted patrols allow the Marines to learn everything about their AO,” said 2nd Lt. Jared V. Hidalgo, the commander of 2nd platoon. “The can see all of the little paths, landmarks, so they can better predict enemy movement, enemy hot spots and IED placement.”

There was another determined element involved in the operation; the local Iraqi Police, who also conducted mounted and dismounted patrols. These local men traveled up and down the roads, searching markets and villages for people they recognized as wanted insurgents.

Although the main objective of the operation was to clear the area of insurgents and the dangers they pose to both Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians, it also achieved another important objective. By conducting the operation, it allowed the Marines and IPs time in the local community, meeting the citizens and building a rapport with the Iraqi population. This rapport develops into the peace and progression that will allow the transition of responsibility in the Al Anbar province back to the local Iraqis.

“We create a presence when (the locals) see us patrolling and meeting with these families,” said Horkey, 25. “It lets them know that their own people, the IPs are stepping up to defend them and I think eventually if we keep this up, this area will become peaceful once again.”



September 14, 2007

Marines in Korea get physical during martial arts training

WARRIOR BASE, Republic of Korea (September 14, 2007) -- Taking advantage of a few training opportunities before the start of Korean Integrated Training Program (Logistics) 07-3, Marines from 3rd Marine Logistics Group's 9th Engineering Support Battalion traded blows during martial arts training.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070914-mcmap.html

Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough

Unit leaders hope to increase the number of green belt instructors with the class of 24 Marines.

Martial arts training was also a good chance for Marines to build confidence in their abilities by practicing the mental disciplines related to close combat, said Staff Sgt. Michael P. Baehr, assistant training chief with 9th ESB.

The green-belt instructor course incorporates techniques with rifles, bayonets, edged weapons and unarmed combat, and combines these skills with professional development classes.

Although the course is based on individual effort, the program is designed to instill teamwork and esprit de corps in the 9th ESB Marines, said Gunnery Sgt. Michael P. Suskin, the training chief for 9th ESB.

"MCMAP builds unit cohesion," he said. "The benefits are not so much for individual Marines but the readiness it provides for the unit."

ESB Marines arrive in Korea for KITP exercise

PORT OF POHANG, Republic of Korea (September 14, 2007) -- The first wave of Marines from 3rd Marine Logistics Group's 9th Engineer Support Battalion arrived at the Port of Pohang in the Republic of Korea, Sept. 3 in preparation for Korean Integrated Training Program (Logistics) 07-3.

http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2007/070914-esb.html

ESB Marines arrive in Korea for KITP exercise
Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough

The logistics exercise is just one portion of KITP, an ongoing III Marine Expeditionary Force sponsored program that is designed to show the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea and to improve combat readiness and joint operations between the U.S. and Korean armed forces.

9th ESB and their Korean counterparts will be focusing heavily on engineering operations during the training program to include tactical bridge construction, bulk liquids transport and road construction and repair.

The 322 ESB Marines and their equipment arrived following a 28-hour voyage via the Westpac Express High-Speed Vessel.

The HSV is a chartered Military Sealift Command ship leased by the U.S. government to transport III MEF Marines, sailors and their equipment in support of exercises and operations in the Pacific.

The ride was a unique experience for many of the ESB passengers.

"I had never been on the open water before, so it was cool to see how rough the sea can get," said Pfc. Tremayne C. Baker, a combat engineer with 9th ESB.

From the port, the ESB personnel were transported to several locations in Korea to prepare for the start of the exercise.

"The overall movement was a success," said 1st Lt. Gregory M. Duesterhaus, the assistant logistical officer with 9th ESB. "Even with all the moving parts and locations, we got everything transported with only minor adjustments."

The training program is expected to last six weeks.

2/3 begins PTA training cycle on Big Island

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (Sept. 14, 2007) -- Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment began arriving here Monday for their annual, roughly three week, combined arms training.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/474D864861F2C5958525735700089192?opendocument

Sept. 14, 2007; Submitted on: 09/14/2007 09:33:35 PM ; Story ID#: 2007914213335
By Pfc. Achilles Tsantarliotis, MCB Hawaii

Weapons Company was the first to arrive to the desolate area, affectionately known at “PTA,” and will stay the duration, constantly training and supporting the other companies. The remaining companies will arrive, for approximately one week, throughout the training cycle.

The first days are primarily for organizing and revising the training matrix to ensure a smooth training experience for 2/3’s Marines and Sailors.

“Our goal is to provide realistic training,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen Benjamin, operations chief, 2/3. “We accomplish whatever training we can on Oahu, and then we come to the Big Island for PTA and focus on military occupational specialty training that is constricted on Oahu primarily because of the lack of area.

“Weapon systems like mortars and MK-19 machine guns need a large cushion of space to train without endangering or affecting nearby civilians. PTA allows us to further our proficiency before going to Mojave Viper, the final pre-deployment training cycle,” Benjamin said.

Hawaii Marines have trained at the Army-ran training area for more than 20 years, Benjamin said. The training area, 6,600 ft. above sea level, is an ideal location because of the abundant space and the freedom to train with long range weapons that Oahu’s limited area prevents.

“We get a chance to do much more as well,” Benjamin continued. “Training, like small unit leadership and tactics, are emphasized on ranges that focus on fireteam-level fire and maneuver exercises. It takes the senior, lower enlistees with a deployments worth of experience and refines their leadership . . . Ultimately it provides realistic, relevant and practical training for deployment, while minimizing any unnecessary confusion while deployed.”

PTA hosts a variety of ranges to allow Marines the opportunity to train with heavy weapons such as the M2 .50 caliber machinegun, MK-19 automatic grenade launcher, Tube Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guided weapon system (better known as the TOW), and even demolitions.

Snipers also have a designated area to practice concealment and accuracy.

Although some Marines might not enjoy missing luxuries from base like hot food, personal vehicles or their own room, Benjamin reinforced that these small sacrifices are necessary to enable Marines adequate training for success during deployments.

Senior Marines with multiple deployments and combat experience are providing the majority of instruction during the PTA training cycle. Common training evolutions and inevitable mistakes here will inevitably be crucial for success during future missions, and provides an accurate source of relevant and realistic training, according to Sgt. Nic Ruggieri, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company.

“We get a chance to focus on MOS training,” Ruggieri said. “On Oahu we might be doing more rifleman training, like room clearing and patrolling, which is still crucial, but mortarmen and TOW gunners need time to train and become proficient with their own weapons too.”

Ruggieri also said that, with a focus on machineguns, Marines have a good opportunity to cross train with and fire the M2 .50 caliber machinegun.

“Some infantry have never had the chance to fire the M2 .50 caliber, and we make sure they know how to use it efficiently because it’s so common during deployment.”

Ultimately, 2/3 hopes to use the realistic training at PTA as a stepping stone, and perfect the training they’ll need in combat with the final pre-deployment training cycle at Mojave Viper at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Why We Serve: U.S. Helping Iraqis to Achieve Freedom, Marine Says

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2007 – When people ask him why the U.S. military should be helping Iraq establish a free and stable society, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy M. de Vries cites how France helped the American colonies gain their independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47441

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

De Vries is one of eight servicemembers who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa who have been speaking to American community groups and businesses across the nation as part of the Defense Department’s “Why We Serve” public-outreach program.

“If it wasn’t for the French support, with supplies and training and the naval blockade, we wouldn’t be the country that we are” today, de Vries pointed out.

U.S.-provided military, diplomatic and economic assistance is giving Iraqis “a good opportunity to experience more freedom than they’ve ever had,” after enduring decades of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, de Vries said during an interview with American Forces Press Service.

Last year, the 31-year-old noncommissioned officer spent 11 months overseas helping Iraqi soldiers to hone their logistics, weaponry and other skills. As a result, Iraqi troops are performing better across-the-board, de Vries, a military logistics chief, said.

Ongoing training and development of Iraq’s post-Saddam security forces is making “slow progress, but any progress is a good thing,” de Vries pointed out.

Canadian-born de Vries traveled a long road before joining the Marine Corps, moving to the United States with his parents from London, Ontario, in 1991. The de Vries family first lived in Macon, Ga., he recalled, before moving to Tennessee.

De Vries joined the Marines in 1994, after graduating from high school in his adopted hometown of Crossville, Tenn.

“I like the prestige and honor that come from being a Marine,” de Vries explained. “People always know what a Marine is.”

“I like being part of a big team,” de Vries added.

Why We Serve is “a great program,” de Vries said, noting the audiences he encounters on his speaking tours are made up of U.S. citizens “who just want to know and be involved with what their country is doing.”

“We definitely like what we do,” he said.

The Why We Serve program was the idea of Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it began in the fall of 2006. Eight servicemembers, two from each branch of the military, are chosen to participate in the program each quarter.

De Vries has a ready answer when citizens ask him why the U.S. military is involved in Iraq.

“We’re there to provide freedom to a country that deserves it, that had been under the heel of a dictator for so many years,” de Vries said.

De Vries said he sees the logic in confronting terrorists overseas, rather than having to fight them in the homeland.

“No one likes to spend time away from their family,” he acknowledged. “In a perfect world, yeah, we wouldn’t have terrorism, and then we’d be at home.”

However, the reality is that dangerous terrorists operating overseas want to attack and kill Americans, he pointed out. “It is better that we take them out at the source,” de Vries said.


New Center Makes Good on Military’s Commitment to Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2007 – The new Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here represents “an evolution in how we embrace, treat and honor,” wounded warriors, the Army vice chief of staff said at yesterday’s opening ceremony.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47445

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Gen. Richard A. Cody said the new center demonstrates the military’s commitment to doing everything within its power to help wounded troops heal and go on to live productive lives.

The 31,000-square-foot, $10 million center offers some of the most state-of-the-art care found anywhere in the world and makes good on the military’s promise to take care of people “no matter the time, no matter the cost,” Cody said. “This nation will always stand behind you and your families,” he told the patients at the ceremony.

Cody said the new center will be a source of inspiration, both through the care provided and the drive patients show as they work to move beyond their injuries.

“On a daily basis, this center will be witness to incredible acts of kindness and medical professionalism and of personal courage and our warriors' indomitable spirit,” the general said.

The center will become the focus of “hard-won victories, painful breakthroughs, investment of sweat and tears and heart” that will become a source of pride to all who witness the fortitude and courage of young men and women within the ranks, Cody said.

Retired Army Gen. Frederick M. Franks Jr., who continued his military career after losing the lower half of his left leg during the Vietnam War, said he’s inspired by the heroism he’s seen among wounded troops being treated at Walter Reed.

“You are immediately struck by their quiet courage, go-forward attitude, fierce determination and commitment to their fellow soldiers and to our country,” he said.

The opening of the new Military Advanced Training Center demonstrates that the military reaches out to its wounded troops and makes good on its commitment to them, Franks told the audience. “Such a bond of trust is powerful and will be sustained,” he said.

Veteran Affairs Secretary James Nicholson joined Cody and Franks in praising the new center that “brings together heroism, miracles, competence, compassion and a nation's kept promise to our wounded warriors.” Battlefield wounds no longer mean that wounded troops must shelve their personal dreams or settle for less than fulfilling careers, he said.

“Today, with the opening of this training center, the lives of our soldiers wounded in the defense of freedom will have the opportunity for new avenues of hope and reality, new hope for a brighter future, including, for many, that of staying on active duty,” he said.

Nicholson said he’s often struck during visits to patients at Walter Reed that their biggest wish is to get back to duty with their units.

“This speaks volumes about the quality of leadership in their chain of command and about their satisfaction in what they are doing to thwart terrorism and to protect America,” he said. “It also speaks volumes about the quality of medical care and rehabilitation services that they receive here at Walter Reed.”

The new center will help enhance programs already available to help them. “And it will do so with the state-of-the-art, new, 21st-century technologies and advances in rehabilitation, and the most dedicated staff that I've ever met,” Nicholson said.

“Those warriors did not stop serving their country when they were wounded. Most of them will tell you they've only been sidelined,” he continued. “And now, with the tools of the 21st century at our disposal … and the staff of these miracle workers here at the Military Advanced Training Center, we will be helping those young men and women put back on their uniforms wherever possible.”

For those unable to do so, who go on to the VA medical-care system, Nicholson promised “that same blend of competence and compassion.”


September 13, 2007

New Amputee Care Center Opens at Walter Reed

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2007 – Army National Guard Spc. Marco Robledo wants to go home to Arkansas in November standing on his own two feet. A roadside bomb claimed the combat engineer’s left leg and arm in Iraq in May. Since then, he has been recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47432

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Every day he walks slowly around an indoor track attached to a harness. A lanyard connects the harness to a trolley locked into an aluminum track mounted to the ceiling. It makes a slow dragging sound as he steps forward with his prosthetic leg.

And so it slowly goes for Robledo -- step, drag, step, drag. He’s making progress thanks, in part, to this one-of-a-kind walking system at Walter Reed’s new Military Advanced Training Center.

The 31,000-square-foot, $10 million center opens today two months early and offers some of the most state-of-the-art care found anywhere in the world, officials said.

Patients began using parts of the facility, such as the indoor track and the Solo-Step system used by Robledo, last week.

The facility combines office and counseling space with workout facilities, data gathering, high-tech simulators, and even a family lounge with a full kitchen. It is designed to bring together all the hospital’s elements of advanced amputee care, but much of it also will benefit other patients, such as those suffering from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The hospital’s gait lab has nearly doubled its size in the new building. The lab electronically records patients’ movements while wearing prosthetic devices to give feedback to the patients and specialists on rehabilitation efforts. It can now record movements from 23 camera angles, up from eight, and has six force plates, up from four, that measure pressure put on the ground as steps are taken. It also added a treadmill built into the floor that will allow specialists, for the first time, to collect force plate data from soldiers while running.

“This lab is going to allow us to do so much more on the research and clinical side than we were able to do before,” Brian Baum, a biomechanical engineer.

Capturing the data allows for more focused and faster rehabilitation for soldiers, he said.

“We can give feedback to the clinicians to help expedite their rehabilitation. So, if the patient’s goal is to return to duty, we now have a more solid baseline,” he said. “We can now look at a broader picture and really pinpoint rehabilitation from multiple angles, rather than just looking at walking. Returning to duty is a lot more than walking. Returning to a functional life is also a lot more than walking.”

One of only three in the world, a high-tech computer-assisted rehabilitation environment was added to the center to help amputee soldiers adapt to real-life scenarios.

In front of a large projection screen, soldiers stand on an elevated, multi-axis platform that rocks and sways as the computer-driven scenario changes. In one scenario, the patients stand as if in a boat as it moves through a course. In other scenarios, patients are required to raise their hands while moving to hit objects that appear to be flying by. This helps patients become more stable and confident using their prosthetic devices.

An indoor running track encircles “upper-extremities” workout areas. One half of the top floor is open to allow soldiers to look down on others using the lower-extremities workout equipment. A climbing wall rises from the lower level, and climbing ropes and a rappelling wall allow patients to develop overhead skills and confidence. Windows allow sunlight to stream throughout.

Most of the equipment is standard fitness-center equipment to allow soldiers to transition from the center to a gym in their hometown or Army installation with no adjustment to their workouts, officials said.

Also among the treatment rooms is a weapons simulator to get soldiers back to shooting, a vehicle simulator to help them relearn to drive using prostheses, and areas that offer practice walking on uneven terrain features, such as sand, gravel and cobblestone.

Counseling offices offer a private view of the workout areas through two-way mirrored glass. Psychologists, social workers, benefits counselors, and case managers all have office spaces, offering a virtual one-stop shop for amputee care at the clinic.

Officials said that initial amputee care will still be managed in the main hospital clinics. The new center is for those who are in the more advanced stages of rehabilitation. It is designed to transition patients from their basic recovery to either returning home or to duty, they said.

The building was funded in September 2004, but building plans were nearly nixed after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission set Walter Reed to close in 2011. But after officials considered alternatives and found that the center needed to be built and quickly, construction began in November 2006 using a fast-track system. This allowed designers to apportion the plans and deliver just what the builders needed to start. To start, they delivered the designs that allowed excavation to start, then the structural designs to order the steel, and so forth.

This also allowed for changes to be made along the way that would better benefit patients, said Elihu P. Hirsch, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. For example, the Solo-Step used by Robledo was not in the original proposal, he said.

Hirsch said the visual reminders of those who would be using the facility helped to motivate the crews. Only steps away from the building is the helipad where wounded soldiers are delivered. Patients also walk around the hospital and the construction site using their prostheses.

“All along, you have the tangible reminder of why you’re building the facility, and that gave everybody the added incentive to increase production,” Hirsch said. “Everybody who worked on the project has been walking away with great feelings of satisfaction.”

As of June, the hospital has treated almost 500 limb-loss patients from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. It serves an average of about 100 daily. Stays for rehabilitation range from eight months to two years.




America Supports You: Troops Invited to Submit Original Songs

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2007 – The Dallas Songwriters Association is inviting aspiring songwriters who happen to wear a military uniform to enter their original tunes in its 2007/2008 “Songs from the Soul of Service” contest.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47435

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

“We’ve ramped up a little bit better technology this time so we can facilitate everything online,” William Brown, the program’s director, said of this second competition. “We have it set up for them to upload (submissions) directly to Broadjam music service.”

Broadjam provides Web-based promotional tools and services for independent musicians, the music industry and fans around the world, according to the company’s Web site.

He said he hopes this, and earlier publicity, will result in a bigger turnout than the last contest.

“We’re hoping to double (the number of entries),” Brown said. “We got about 400 submissions last year (and) I’m hoping for 800.

The association also will accept cassette tapes or CDs via “snail mail” as well, he said. While e-mail is not a primary entry method, Brown said the group is flexible.

“E-mail is not an official entry method, but, if we get them, we take them,” Brown said.

Servicemembers can submit their songs or those of an immediate family member into one of seven categories including country, world, instrumental, novelty, hip hop, pop or inspirational. Military personnel also may submit a song posthumously on behalf of an immediate family member or a fallen comrade.

Servicemembers are encouraged to follow their hearts when it comes to the songs.

“In the last contest, we had (a winning entry that) had some language on it that wasn’t quite family friendly. So we had to kind of work with (the writer) on a kind of a radio edit of that one,” he said. “We don’t want to impose that kind of a thing on somebody at the beginning. If it gets to the end and it turns out to be … a winning song, if there are things we need to do, we’ll do that at the end.”

Entries, which are currently being accepted, must be received no later than Dec. 31. Winners from each category will be notified in February, according the contest Web site. A grand prize winner will be selected from the category winners.

The grand-prize winner will receive a weekend stay at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas, as well as a premium Broadjam membership, Brown said.

“In addition to their premium services that they’re making available as a prize … they give you a free six-month basic membership,” he said. “Broadjam is … a great service for the aspiring musician and performer.”

Category Winners will be included on a professionally produced compilation CD of the best songs from the contest. Other prizes will be announced throughout the contest.

For more information, and complete contest rules, please visit the Songs from the Soul of Service Web site.




USPS issues holiday mailing deadlines

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Sep 13, 2007 17:11:30 EDT

If you want to get holiday gifts to a service member deployed overseas by Dec. 25, it’s time to start thinking about mail deadlines.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/military_holidaymail_deadlines_070913w/

September 12, 2007

2/10 Marines return home after deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C (Sept. 12, 2007) -- They served their country honorably, and now they are back.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F2AC8AD02BA1DE9E85257354004B40E4?opendocument

Sept. 12, 2007; Submitted on: 09/12/2007 09:41:58 AM ; Story ID#: 200791294158
By Pfc. Casey Jones, 2nd Marine Division

After seven months of constant changes in Iraq, being apart from loved ones and restless nights, the Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, returned here Sept. 7 to greet their families and celebrate a mission accomplished.

“We’re just thrilled he’s coming home safe and sound,” said Dennis D. Fitzsimmons, father of Cpl. David G. Fitzsimmons. “He feels very strongly in what he’s doing, and we’re just proud to support him.”

The families of the returning Marines lined the streets with signs and sported patriotic colors while waiting for the buses to arrive, but they were not the only excited ones.

“It’s always rewarding to see my family,” said 1st Lt. Michael P. Gumb, a platoon commander with Battery L, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines. “I always try to put Marines before myself, but sometimes you have to be a little selfish, too.”

The Marines, upon arrival at Camp Fallujah, began to quickly initiate changes in the area by getting the Iraqi people to trust, cooperate with and have confidence in them.

“We worked on getting with the local people by focusing less on the bad guys and focusing more on the good people,” said Lt. Col. Timothy M. Parker, the battalion commanding officer.

The Marines noticed changes after five months of persistent efforts such as conducting patrols throughout the day and never staying “behind the wire.”

“The people in the area weren’t very receptive to us at first,” Gumb said. “After a few months of attacks and continuous IEDs (improvised explosive devices), the people began to leave their houses to patrol the streets with us and stand checkpoints with us.”

The Marines were able to complete the mission successfully because of hard work and dedication, spearheaded by a certain group of Marines.

“We had a good buildup as far as training and a lot of great NCOs (noncommissioned officers) with many years of experience and several deployments,” Gumb said.

Gumb offered advice to Marines currently deployed or preparing to deploy soon about the challenges in Iraq.

“You must have faith in the lowest level possible, because they’re the ones you will be with all of the time,” Gumb said. “As much as you watch their back, they will watch your back.”

Bridging the gap: War fighters express needs at conference

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 12, 2007) -- Today’s war fighter is a high-tech individual. He has the ability and the means to accomplish his mission faster than ever before. But technology is not perfect. There are still things he needs to be even more successful at his tasks.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/DC5045641AF3D04685257354006BC50A?opendocument

Sept. 12, 2007; Submitted on: 09/12/2007 03:37:07 PM ; Story ID#: 200791215377
By Cpl. Lucian Friel, 2nd Marine Division

To bring the science and technology community together with Marines and sailors to discuss these needs on the battlefield, the II Marine Expeditionary Force Science and Technology Office held a conference at Marston Pavilion here Sept. 10-11.

The conference had three main purposes; to provide war fighters a platform to discuss their lessons learned and limitations caused by gaps in capability; to provide science and technology organizations a platform to articulate their success stories and advantages in capabilities for war fighters; and to allow both the war fighters and science and technology community to build a network with each other to help the Marines do their job more safely and more efficiently.

“The primary capability gaps of weakness are the inability for the S and T community to understand Marine requirements,” explained Timothy Bacon, the liaison for the Office of Naval Research and II MEF. “So the reason behind the conference is to give the Marines directly back from Iraq an opportunity to explain their lessons learned, their requirements and to articulate problems caused by capability gaps.”

This conference was the first of its kind for II MEF. The two-day event included discussion panels covering a wide range of topics such as improvised explosive devices trends and detection capabilities, force protection (body and vehicle armor), language translation, communications, training and transition teams’ gaps challenges and lessons learned.

Marines and leaders from Marine Special Operations Command, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and II MEF were on hand to give government and civilian scientists an idea of what it’s currently like on the battlefield in the Global War on Terrorism, particularly in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Dave Barnes, who served as the officer in charge of the Transition Team Cell, II MEF Headquarters Group, II MEF, and deployed to the Al Anbar Province of Iraq from March to December 2005, was one of the key speakers during the conference.

“I think it’s a good venue for Marines and trigger pullers to meet with the science and technology community and address their technological needs that are out there that haven’t made it to their awareness,” Barnes explained. “For us, it’s kind of a unique opportunity to tell the story of transition teams and to get our message out there.”

According to Bacon, these conferences will be a yearly event and are an important part of accomplishing the war fighter’s mission.

As technology advances for today’s Marine or sailor supporting the Global War on Terrorism, these conferences will take an important role in bridging the gap between scientist and warrior.

Bush Nominates Mattis to Lead U.S. Joint Forces Command

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2007 – President Bush has nominated Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis to receive his fourth star and to lead U.S. Joint Forces Command, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced yesterday.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47421

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Mattis, currently “dual-hatted” as commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, will replace the retiring Air Force Gen. Lance L. Smith at JFCOM if he’s confirmed by the Senate. Earlier this summer, Smith announced his plans to retire in January with 38 years of service.

If confirmed, Mattis will take the helm at JFCOM and oversee its roles in military transformation, experimentation, joint training, interoperability, and force provision and management.

NATO's Defense Planning Committee also announced yesterday its plans to appoint Mattis as the next supreme allied commander for transformation. In that capacity, he will lead the transformation of NATO's military structures, forces, capabilities and doctrine. Mattis also will oversee NATO training efforts to improve the alliance’s and its partner nations’ interoperability and military effectiveness.

Mattis will bring a solid understanding of current operational challenges to his new post. In late July, he visited Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, operating in Baghdadi, in Iraq’s Anbar province.

“You are all doing one hell of a job,” Mattis told the Marines. “I can’t thank you enough for putting up with all of this discomfort and continuing to complete the mission.”

He warned them about becoming complacent as they carry out their mission. “All you have to do is hang in there, and keep your eye on the ball,” he told the Marines. “We are being killed by complacency. I know it is tough out here, but keep your eye on the ball and you will make it out of here.”

Mattis has amassed a full resume of experience he will bring to JFCOM. Before taking the helm at 1st MEF, he commanded Marine Corps Combat Development Command and served as the deputy commandant for combat development.

He commanded 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before that, he served as commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Task Force 58 in southern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mattis also commanded 7th Marines (Reinforced), and during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, led 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions.

Before that, he served as commander of Recruiting Station Portland, 1st Marine Brigade, rifle and weapons companies, and a 3rd Marine Division rifle and weapons platoon.

Mattis is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College.

(Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis from 2nd Marine Division contributed to this article.)





Racing team “adopts” 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 12, 2007) -- More than 350 Marines and their families attended a family day sponsored by the Joe Gibbs Racing Team at Onslow Beach Sept. 8.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F28EBE61743422EA85257354004901E2?opendocument

Sept. 12, 2007; Submitted on: 09/12/2007 09:17:26 AM ; Story ID#: 200791291726
By Pfc. Casey Jones, 2nd Marine Division

The Joe Gibbs Racing Team “adopted” 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, to help support the Marines and their families. The racing team plans to have an ongoing relationship with the battalion and intends to sponsor future events.

“The idea was to show our appreciation to the troops and to their families,” said Sandy Norrid, a volunteer with the racing team.

The family day was the first official battalion event sponsored by the racing team.

“This is the first thing we’ve done, but we’re looking for other opportunities to do things,” Norrid said. “We would like to send some things to the troops, and we’re asking for (Marines’) input in that. We need to know what exactly to send -- such as movies, videos, calling cards, sunglasses.”

The family day allowed the Marines to spend time with each other in a social environment outside of work and in civilian attire.

“This is where you really like to see Marines,” said Lt. Col. Thad R. Trapp, the battalion commanding officer. “It’s good to see them out here without their uniform, ‘letting their hair down’ and enjoying themselves with their families.”

The event also allowed the families to meet each other and the unit leaders, said Sgt. Maj. Jose L. Santiago, the battalion sergeant major.

The battalion is scheduled to deploy next summer and plans to hold social events often to help build bonds among the families and leadership.

“It really does emphasize the fact that not only are we a family as a unit, but events like this are necessary to care for the families and build those relationships,” Trapp said.

The battalion was deactivated in 1991 and reactivated July 13 due to an increase in size of the Marine Corps.

“To be able to stand this battalion back up as the newest battalion in the Marine Corps and grow it basically from scratch to deploying sometime next year definitely makes 2/9 unique, and I’m excited,” Trapp said.

The racing team, composed mostly of volunteers, was recognized for its hard work and support for the troops.

“It is especially nice to see the civilians from Joe Gibbs Racing come out here and support us,” said Maria Runyon, the wife of Maj. James B. Runyon. “It’s always nice to hear a ‘Thank you’ and to know that other people are out there helping.”

The volunteers for the racing team wanted everyone to know the team came out for only one reason.

“Some people are wondering, ‘Why are we out here?’” said Rick Gurr, a volunteer for the racing team. “We just wanted to show our appreciation and see if there’s anything we can do to help. There are no agendas, we’re just here to say thanks.”

September 10, 2007

Combat engineers put skills to test on Al Asad’s runways

AL ASAD (Sept. 10, 2007) -- Whether it is building or renovating, combat engineers are always working hard to ensure that service members have what they need to make work or life a little better. Recently, the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 took on a mission that has an affect on service members throughout Iraq.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/E6872E88B1BE657A85257352001A5838?opendocument

Sept. 10, 2007; Submitted on: 09/10/2007 12:47:45 AM ; Story ID#: 200791004745
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

The engineers of MWSS-271 have started the Rapid Runway Repair project, which is designed to fix problem areas on Al Asad’s runways.

“The problem is that there are holes in the runway from where the concrete expands and contracts from the heat and it starts breaking up,” explained Sgt. David Poole, a combat engineer for MWSS-271. “When you have holes in the flightline, the planes have trouble landing or taxiing.”

The repair on Aug. 11 was the second of many upcoming repairs that will be conducted by the ’271 engineers. The repairs are completed in small sections, so that they do not interfere with normal operations.

“We go in and cut out the portion that is starting to come up where there are holes and we jackhammer all the stuff out and put in pavement, which is runway repair material,” said Poole. “It gives it a solid surface and stops it from cracking.”

The engineers have primarily been focused on minor projects around the base, before starting on the runway repair.

“We have been building SWA huts, gyms for units, a detention facility for (the Provost Marshal’s Office), just small construction projects,” said Poole. “It’s a big change, definitely different. It’s part of our job and I feel like I’m really doing my job out here doing (runway repair) because I know it means something.”

Although the MWSS-271 engineers have primarily been tasked with small projects, their performance during the first runway repair was the catalyst for more work.

“They finally decided to give us a shot at it to see how we could do it, and we ended up doing it ahead of schedule,” Poole explained. “We had two nights allotted to us on the flight line, where they shut it down for us, and it didn’t even take one full night. So now they see that we can and we are going to be repairing a lot more.”

Just like any other group of Marines in the Corps, the engineers attribute teamwork to their success.

“Everyone gets along well and knows their job” said Poole. “It’s all planned out before we get out there, so everybody knows exactly what they will be doing and when they’ll be doing it.”

If planes cannot land or taxi, then supplies cannot get where they need to be in a timely matter. The engineers understand and relish the fact that repairing the runway is essential to the overall mission here.

“(Rapid runway repair) is one of the only projects that’s an asset to the (whole) base,” said Cpl. Jessica Torelli, a combat engineer for MWSS-272. “We usually work fast and efficiently. When things need to be done, we work together pretty well.”

The first two projects went well and the engineers plan on continuing their success, according to Poole.

“We have a couple more missions signed up and all the Marines are excited.” said Poole. “This is important to the overall mission in Iraq, its not like building a desk for somebody. We are doing something that is going to be noticed and needed for the mission.”

As bullets fly, Marine takes out a sketchpad; His mission is to deploy with various squads and create art depicting life in a war zone.

His orders are simple: "Go to war, do art."

http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/091007/met_198366448.shtml

By Paulette Perhach, St. Augustine Record
Last modified 9/10/2007 - 12:28 am
Originally created 091007

Since the beginning of World War II, this has been the battle cry of the few Marine combat artists.

Packing his pistol with his watercolors, his easel with his M-16, artist Kris Battles ships out soon to fill the mission that has fallen upon only 350 others this century.

To make art out of war.

Battles, 39, moved a year ago from St. Augustine to Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia to begin his short-term deployments. He's already had one run in Iraq, and this month, he heads out again with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263.

The exact date of the departure and the nature of mission are classified. However, a focal point of the trip is the Osprey, what the military calls "the most flexible, capable and revolutionary combat troop transport aircraft in the world."

Battles left to go to war in October, while his wife, Kelly, stayed behind with their 4-year-old daughter, Hannah, 2-year-old son, Jack, and 8-week-old daughter, Kate.

"It's tough," Kelly said. "When he first told me about it, I thought he was crazy. But he's preserving our history. ... He's able to tell the real side of it that we don't get to see in the news. The human side."

'Take pictures, watch out'

Based out of Camp Fallujah, Battles traveled with different units throughout his three-month stay.

"You spend time with them. You draw and take pictures, video," Battles said. "You have to take pictures and watch out."

Trying to sketch daily, he caught the lives of the soldiers during their downtimes, as they passed time with handheld video games, napped with their hats tilted over their faces, or hunched over games of chess.

Crossing the Anbar province almost to Syria and near Jordan, he observed their work, maintaining jets, patrolling and greeting with the locals of the region.

"The best thing I saw over there was the interactions of the Marines with the populace, in a very positive way. We saw tribal people who had been at best indifferent to the Americans were quite positive. A lot of progress was being made," he said.

But all the while being an artist, he never forgot he was a Marine.

"There were times ... that I was relatively safe, back at Camp Fallujah or wherever I was. I'd be able to sketch from the photographs I'd taken. So I was more of an artist at that time," he said. "But when you're on patrol, you are very much predominantly a Marine, because your buddies are depending on you being very much alert, and you're depending on being alert and on them being alert.

During tense patrols, he uses a camera instead of a sketchpad and paints the scenes later.

"When you're on convoy, there's a chance there's an IED there, they have to sweep the road, so you're always watching, always wondering if it's going to happen, of course," he said.

Foot patrol is even worse, he said. "Not only are you wondering about IEDs, but snipers and regular combat situations."

There are two of them

Though Battles never served active duty, he held a reservist status for a decade right out of high school until 1996.

He didn't think combat artists still existed until he hit upon "Fire and Ice," a blog by combat artist Michael Fay, in 2005. After contacting the artist, Battles was eventually invited to join the program. He's now one of two combat artists in all of the U.S. military.

Battles said the history of the world has been seen through battle art, all the way back to the Egyptian days.

"Art has always been documenting things, especially before cameras," Battles said. "Art still has a place. ... There's something very human in taking a pencil or a paintbrush and creating an image. There's something that communicates across the board."

If all artists want their work to be remembered, Battles will have no problem. His work goes into the U.S. National Archives.

With the Osprey going on its first deployment, Battles said he's looking forward to being there as history is made, capturing the first glimpses of the new aircraft.


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

Work on display

To see the work of Kris Battles, go to his blog, Sketchpad Warrior, at www. kjbattles.blogspot.com.

His work will be on display this month at Cousart Studios in St. Augustine. During October, the Art Advocate will dedicate a space entirely to him.


Petraeus: 13th MEU to leave Iraq this month

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 10, 2007 20:47:59 EDT

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said Monday he has recommended to President Bush that the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq begin this month with the departure of a California-based Marine unit.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_petraeus_070910/

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) comes ashore in Kuwait

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (Sept. 10, 2007) -- Elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) came ashore in Kuwait this week after more than a month aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/B66916CAB4462E4885257354006F5C65?opendocument

Sept. 10, 2007; Submitted on: 09/12/2007 04:16:21 PM ; Story ID#: 2007912161621
By Sgt. Matt Epright, 22nd MEU

FROM SHIP TO SHORE
"It's a good breather," said Cpl. Hannah Lisowsky, an administrative clerk with the Command Element. "It's nice to be able to walk around on solid ground."

The Marines and sailors are here to conduct sustainment training, including live fire and maneuver ranges, vehicle convoy training, combined arms training and advanced medical training.

"Most of our weapons training on ship is stationary and at very short distances," said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Hall, the 22nd MEU(SOC) Sergeant Major. "We're unable to do the fire and maneuver portions, and we're limited to personal weapons on the ship."

Hall adds that the best part of Camp Buehring and the Udairi Range Complex is the ability to conduct live-fire and large-scale combined arms training, which combine air and ground assets moving together in support of each other.

"By coming ashore, we get to hone our conventional military skills, which we have not even been able to do since June," said Hall.

He added that those traditional combat skills are "very perishable" and should be practiced as often as possible.

TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS
While some personnel coming ashore flew on helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) to the desert outpost, most of the Marines and sailors had a long, hot day of travel over sea and land.

The trip from the Kearsarge started with a 5 a.m. wake-up call in the berthing areas, signaling the troops to grab their weapons, gather their gear and move it two levels down to the ship's sweltering well deck.

When the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) docked at the back end of the ship, the Marines and sailors formed a "daisy-chain" to get the heavier bags stacked in the back of the LCU. This made it easier for several hundred service members to board the craft.

With the late-morning sun already blazing overhead, the LCU pulled free of the Kearsarge and started the hour-long trip to shore. Some troops took the opportunity to grab a quick nap, while others enjoyed the last view of their floating home that they would have for a while.

Once the LCU landed, the Marines and sailors reversed the gear loading process and staged their bags and weapons on the docks to wait for the transport trucks and buses that would haul them to the inner desert of Kuwait.

After a several-hour ride aboard mercifully air-conditioned buses, the troops had the first chance to look around their new temporary home.

NEW HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Other than the hot, dry breeze that feels like a blow dryer to the face, Camp Buehring provides a good deal of comfort as far as bases in the middle of the desert go.

There are three different-sized Post Exchanges to provide troops with everything from tactical field gear, to not-so-tactical compact discs and video games. And each of the PXs hosts a burgeoning souvenir kiosk market outside its doors where service members can get all kinds of baubles to send home to their loved ones.

There are also three different dining facilities (D-FACs) that not only provide the standard military staples like roast beef and spaghetti, but also offer fast-food-style selections such as chicken strips and cheese burgers, all served up by smiling third-country nationals.

For those who are able to work their way through the seeming mounds of available main courses, salads, sandwiches and the taco bar, the promise of fresh-scooped Baskin-Robbins ice cream awaits at the far end of the dining facility (D-FAC).

"I'm liking the chow," said Lisowsky, a native of San Diego, Calif. She quipped that maintaining a good diet would require an extra helping of discipline with the current lineup of meals.

While the PXs and the D-FACs are nothing new for even a forward-deployed Army base, there are things here that do a little more to bring the comforts of home to Kuwait.

Burger King, Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken call to troops who may tire of the D-FAC fare with the aromas of deep fried chicken and flame broiled burgers. But for some, the truly surprising addition is the local Starbucks.

"It was surreal. Because you walk in there with your cammies and your rifle on your back thinking 'I shouldn't be in a Starbucks,'" said Lisowsky. "You just have to close your eyes and not look outside and just pretend your back in the rear for a second."

WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Upon completion of training, the Marines and Sailors of the MEU are scheduled to rejoin Kearsarge Strike Group and continue Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

"As the CENTCOM reserve, we have to be ready to respond to any emergency," said Hall.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) consists of its Ground Combat Element, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and MEU Command Element. Commanded by Col. Doug Stilwell, the 22nd MEU(SOC) is on a scheduled six-month deployment. For more information about the 22nd MEU(SOC), visit the unit Web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.

September 8, 2007

Marines trade bullets for compassion

The Anbar Awakening, for some, is a cliché easily dismissed as an Iraqi fluke in a quagmire of military missteps shuffling to the tune of opportunities lost. Gunner Terry Walker, a 30-year plus veteran of the military and senior gunner of the United States Marine Corps, said, "The pre-packaged concept of an 'awakening' is absolutely absurd. These sheiks didn't just get up one day and declare their allegiance to Coalition Forces. What you see throughout Anbar Province is the fruit of five years of concerted COIN (counter-insurgency) operations." Whether you believe in spontaneous epiphanies or effective military small-war strategies, the fact remains that waking up was just one point in the Sunni Triangle conversion from the Wild, Wild West to Mayberry.

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57528

Posted: September 8, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Matt Sanchez

First Lt. Mauro Mujica is a true believer; you can tell by the intensity in his eyes. During his first tour in Ramadi, his platoon, from 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, Kilo Company, lost men. Mujica readily explains, "We made a bunch of mistakes," but quickly concedes, "The circumstances demanded it."

Cautious and wiser through experience, this Georgetown graduate, originally from Bethesda, Md., follows (as close as a Marine grunt can) Gandhi's philosophy of non-resistance. With fewer than a dozen Marines, Mujica presides over an Iraqi police station where his men are outnumbered 10 to 1, but that is only part of the strategy, showing their strength by allowing themselves to be vulnerable or rely upon local police forces. It's a psychological judo maneuver that has given the nascent Ramadi police force more confidence and bonded the Marines to their pupils/partner/protectors.

In a different era, Mujica could have been a sort of Lawrence of Arabia. He is determined to adapt to the habits and customs of the indigenous Arab tribes; today, he refuses American food and has learned enough Arabic to finish his interpreter's sentences.

Capt. Marcus Mainz is the Lima Company commanding officer and strategist who is fond of saying, "If you're not putting the Iraqis first, you're wrong." This comment is counter-intuitive for a Marine with authority because "You're not taking care of your Marines" is one of the sharpest insults lobbed against Corps officers.

When the captain is not overseeing SWEAT operations, namely Sewage, Water, Electricity, Academics and Trash, he's insisting that an "M" should be added to the military acronym: "I'm working heavily on medical." Against general military policy, the captain had unofficially opened his 17th Street Joint Security Station to Ramadis who came seeking aid. His Navy corpsman, Jesse Fossetti, saw to the critical care of a burn victim who was airlifted to a Baghdad medical center, but eventually succumbed to his wounds. The victim's family is very grateful for the enormous effort the Marines made, and that type of gratitude from everyday Ramadis has paid dividends.

"I asked the IP to roll up a very dirty bad guy. They didn't want to do it because the suspect had tribe connections." Mainz is very animated as he speaks, quite a feat for a man who did not seem to sleep during the three days I visited his area of operations. "Forty-five minutes later, they delivered the guy. It would have taken us months to do that."

Maj. Rory Quinn has also seen the light. He got to know Ramadi the first time around, "last year," as the Marines refer to their last tour when these jarheads patrolled the streets at a steady jog pace instead of the almost leisurely strolling now seen in the souk, Ramadis booming open market district.

If there were any doubt about the direction of the Anbari capital, you need look no further then the leader of the pack, Lt. Col. Roger Turner, a physically imposing man that most of the 3/7 use "monster," "insane," "no joke" to describe – grunt compliments for infantrymen. Without the slightest hesitation, Turner will state his goal: "I'm in it to win." Turner can spit tobacco while hob-knobbing with sheiks at town hall-style meetings and sessions with police commissioners. There's an almost cocky confidence typical of Marines that could be due to the recent success in Anbar.

"But things can change in a second," says Capt. Mainz, who holds a degree in psychology. Despite their initial Marine Corps infantry training where they learn more about exploding ammunition than the standard measurements of sewage piping, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines infantrymen are literally on the "cutting edge" of COIN.

Streets that were once littered with refuse are now ritually swept. First Lt. Luke Larson claims to be the first to have requested the Ramadis paint the water towers red, white and black – the colors of the national flag. In typical Marine competitive nature, India Company, down the street, says they were first.

With the focus on city services, national pride and health care, it's easy to confuse this elite fighting force with a socialized political platform, but when you are a foreign, dominating presence in an insular, historically tribal area, a show of magnanimity is more effective than a shower of bullets.

"We are the only ones who can mess this up right now," says Mujica, who almost wishes his tour did not end in the next two months. As a former wrestler and black belt in Marine Corp Martial Arts, Mainz is accustomed to focusing on a clear goal: "Leave this country better off than when we got here." A definition of victory the people of Ramadi, so far, can agree on.

September 7, 2007

1/1 Marines, Iraqi Police get to bottom of insurgent stockpile

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Sept. 7, 2007) -- It was late morning when Pfc. Andrew D. Bear noticed the lone cinderblock in the middle of a field. There were no houses, no cement facilities, and no structures of any kind for hundreds of feet. It was just dirt, mud, weeds and the Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, accompanied by local Iraqi policemen. To the Yorba-Linda, Calif., native, the cinderblock, sitting in the sun-baked mud, stuck out like a cockroach in a spoonful of oatmeal.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/5700923DE38278DA8525734F0036987E?opendocument

Sept. 7, 2007; Submitted on: 09/07/2007 05:56:19 AM ; Story ID#: 20079755619
By Cpl. Bryce Muhlenberg, Regimental Combat Team 6

“Now, tell me why a cinderblock would be just sitting in the middle of this field, all by itself,” implored the smirking 22-year-old fire team leader, to no one in particular. “Like we wouldn’t notice these things.”

In the distance, away from the two Marines who accompanied Bear, were IPs, who had brought the Marines to the location. The IPs made their way alongside the Marines through dust and 100-degree-plus heat, as they meticulously scanned the area for weapons caches.

Bear and his fellow Marine, Pfc. Cesar R. Burgos, approached with a metal detector, sweeping back and forth, low to the ground. Suddenly, the device made a sharp beeping sound, signaling the presence of metal.

“Let’s dig,” said Bear, a 2003 El Dorado High School graduate.

The digging continued for a few minutes until Burgos struck something solid with the tip of his shovel.

The Marine unsheathed his knife, carefully brushed the dirt aside and removed an empty and corroded ammunition shell. With rows of corn as a backdrop to the scene, the Marines bent down and inspected the shell. There must be more, they thought.

The Marines dug deeper. Just a couple of inches away from the initial spot and a few inches deeper, they found what looked like a cluster of green plastic capsules. Opening one of the specimens, the Marines revealed a 37mm high-explosive anti-aircraft round.

“That thing is in perfect condition,” said Bear, facing the green splotches of the far-off thickets of reeds and the nearer mounds of dirt. “Just perfect to be detonated or fired.”

The hole the Marines had created only measured two feet wide and no more than five inches deep. Already, they had discovered six of these dangerous rounds.

The Marines carefully excavated wider and deeper, uncovering more and more rounds. Bear spoke to the small group of Marines saying, “Although insurgents don’t really use anti-aircraft weapons, these can be used to make IEDs that would do some damage if put together properly.”

In a short time, Bear and Burgos uncovered several hundred rounds. They were carefully stacked in numerous quantities, and the rest of the Marines and IPs had been called to the excavation site.

“It makes you feel good to find a cache like this,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Aguilar, a 22-year-old, Los Angeles native and fire team leader. “Because it means they are off the street and can’t be used by insurgents anymore.”

The cache the Marines had found in field today was a heavy load, with a final count of more than 350 rounds of various calibers.

“It was a good time,” said Aguilar. “Most of the time, (when) we go looking for caches, we are just looking for suspicious spots and guessing. This time we had a general direction, which was given to us by the Iraqi Police, but Bear had the sense to see something that didn’t belong and found a cache.”

“I couldn’t wait to go out today,” exclaimed Bear. “This is what I like doing, this right here.”

The Marines finished digging. Sweat-stained and exhausted, they had finally extracted all the deadly rounds from the warm soil. It was now time to get them to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Marines, who would make sure the rounds would never be used against friendly forces. EOD would blow up the rounds, forever removing them from an insurgent’s agenda.

“The more weapons caches we find, the less can be used against coalition and Iraqi forces,” said 2nd Lt. Stephen P. Kelly, the commander of 1st platoon. “Both the Iraqi policemen and the Marines did a great job of finding the cache. The training these Marines have received was top notch, but the skills of individual Marines, who are able to pick out the small but important details, says a lot about their personal abilities.”

“Every day we patrol for weapons and we are trying to make this area safer,” said Maj. Ali Hussein Usef, the local Iraqi Police station executive officer. “American forces and Iraqi Forces have one thing in common, we both want to stop the bad guys.”

September 6, 2007

Pace Thanks World War II Marines for Setting Standard for Today’s Troops

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 6, 2007 – Marine Gen. Peter Pace last night thanked veterans of the storied 4th Marine Division who fought in Iwo Jima and other major World War II battles for setting the example for today’s troops and demonstrating why they’ll never fail in combat.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47318

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Pace, the first Marine to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked members of the 4th Marine Division Association gathered here for their 60th reunion for preserving the freedoms he and other Americans were lucky to be born into.

The “Fighting Fourth” fought “incredible battles” in Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, Pace said. During 63 days of combat over the course of two years, the division suffered staggering casualties: 17,722 killed and wounded.

The unit’s perseverance through the bloody Pacific battles has become part of the heritage left to today’s Marines and an example for them to live up to, the chairman said.

He shared impressions from his visit earlier this week to Iraq, where he met with U.S. troops wearing the Marine Corps’ eagle, globe and anchor insignia “as proudly as you do and I do.”

“Allow me to report to you, very, very freshly, that your corps and the lance corporals and corporals and sergeants and second and first lieutenants and captains who make the decisions that make the difference are as good at what they do as you were at what you did,” Pace told the group.

“You can be proud of them. I sure am,” he said. “And I am happy to report to you as a fellow Marine that our corps is in great hands.”

Like the 4th Marine Division before them, today’s Marines are putting their lives on the line to protect the same freedoms, Pace said.

“And as you deserve every bit to be known as ‘the greatest generation,’ I honestly believe that these young Marines -- these 18- and 19- and 20-year-old Marines today -- will go down in history as another great generation that saved our country from a threat that is not yet fully understood for what it is,” he said.

Pace called current debate about whether the United States should be in a war at all “misunderstood.”

“We didn’t know we were in a war until Sept. 11, 2001, even though our enemy had declared war on us several years before,” he said. “As long as you have an enemy who is trying to destroy your way of life, you are in a war. If they are trying to kill you, you are in a war.

“So the discussion is not whether we are going to be in a war or not,” he said. “The discussion is about where we are going to stand and fight.”

Today’s troops know what’s at stake for their country as they stand and fight the war against violent extremism, Pace said.

They also understand the cost of their service to their families, their units and themselves.

Pace recalled the sense of fear he personally faced serving as a platoon leader in Vietnam. “Marines know fear,” he said. “But what we fear more than physical danger is that somehow we will let down the Marine on our left or the Marine on our right, or worse, that we will let down the heritage of our corps that we have inherited from those who have gone before us.”

The chairman thanked the 4th Marine Division members for their service to the country and the legacy they left to the Marines who have followed in their footsteps. “Thank you … for the strength, vigor, (and) vitality of your corps, because it is you who we do not want to ever let down,” he said.

Claire Chaffin, national president of the 4th Marine Division Association, praised Pace for recognizing the similarities between what he and his fellow Marines confronted in the Pacific during World War II and what troops are facing today in the Middle East.

“It was important that he drew a comparison between Marines of the Second World War who kept the enemy from our shores and paid tribute to the troops doing the same thing today,” he said.

A corpsman who joined the division at age 17 and fought in all four of its major battles, Chaffin said many of the tactics his unit used still serve as textbook examples for today’s troops.

But despite similarities, he said, there are striking differences between what his unit and today’s Marines face. “They don’t know the enemy. He can pat you on the back, then shoot you,” he said. “So in some ways, this is a very different kind of war.”

What’s remained constant, said Herb Hertensteiner of St. Charles, Mo., are the basic characteristics every Marine possesses -- whether they’re serving in Iraq today or served with the 4th Marine Division more than 60 years ago.

“Everyone knows his job, and they never forget who they are,” said 81-year-old Hertensteiner, who retired with 20 years in the Marine Corps. “I’m still a Marine. And no matter what happens, they’re Marines, too.”


September 5, 2007

About to learn the drill at Marine boot camp

Three best friends headed off as Daniel, Daryl and Steven. Now they'll all answer to 'Recruit!'

It was nearly 3 a.m. on a Monday when three weary teenagers arrived at the Marine Corps recruiting station in the Santa Clarita Valley. There to meet them was the station's chief recruiter, Staff Sgt. Juan Diazdumeng, an energetic and enthusiastic presence, even in the middle of the night.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-newbuddies5sep05,0,1346764.story?coll=la-home-center

By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 5, 2007

Daniel Motamedi, 17 years old and just 10 days past his high school graduation, rubbed his head and yawned. It was one of the most important days of his young life, and he seemed half-awake.

Daniel's best friends, Daryl Crookston and Steven Dellinger, both 18, were yawning, too. The three had spent the previous week squeezing in the last pleasures of civilian life before shipping out to boot camp that morning. Going to bed on time was not among them.

Now, in the darkened shopping center where the recruiting station occupied a cramped corner, they filed in with parents and a dozen other recruits to hear Diazdumeng describe the next 13 weeks of their lives.

While still in high school, the friends had enlisted under the Marines' buddy program, which guaranteed they would train in the same platoon throughout boot camp. In July, a Times article recounted the friends' decisions to enlist and the trauma that had ensued in their homes. Now, their eager anticipation was about to run into reality.

Diazdumeng rattled off a compendium of boot camp horrors: Black Friday, four days hence, when the recruits are assigned drill sergeants and platoons. Hell Week, the third week, crammed with debilitating tests of stamina. The Crucible, the eighth week, a punishing three-day sojourn in the mountains of Camp Pendleton.

His voice softened as he offered final advice: "Listen to the drill instructors. Do everything they tell you. Do not ask questions. They are telling you to do certain things for a reason, OK? And have a great time. Boot camp is so much fun."

It would be one of the last times over the next three months that a Marine in authority would speak to the three recruits in a calm, nurturing, reassuring tone. In just a few hours, they would be confronted by hyper-aggressive drill sergeants whose piercing screams would begin a process of stripping suburban teenagers of their civilian psyches, their blasé attitudes, their very identities.

"Questions? Moms? Dads?" Diazdumeng asked.

The friends' parents initially opposed their sons' enlistments in a time of war, but now supported their decisions to serve. Daniel's mother, Yasmin Motamedi, a Los Angeles police detective, asked: "How long do they give them to learn how to make their beds?"

Diazdumeng smiled. "Oh, they'll learn quick. Everything they do, they will get a class. Everything is speed and intensity down there."

The three teens shrugged; they fully expected to be pressured and hectored. They were willing to endure the worst deprivations of boot camp for the end reward: wearing the Marine Corps uniform.

They were more than a little afraid, they admitted, but they felt prepared. Daniel hugged his parents goodbye as his mother choked back tears. Steven embraced his father, Jim Dellinger. Daryl had already said an emotional goodbye to his parents at home.

"At least my mom didn't go waterworks on me," Daniel said. She didn't burst into tears until he had left.

Diazdumeng drove a van full of recruits from Santa Clarita to the Military Entrance Processing Station on Rodeo Road in Los Angeles. There, just after dawn, the sergeant walked them to the receiving area. An entry sign read: "Where the Stars Shine."

Diazdumeng hugged each one and whispered encouragement. "Hey, you'll do great," he said. As the recruits reached the door, he yelled out: "I love you guys!"

The intake officer, a thin, intense woman carrying a clipboard, sang out in a saccharine tone: "Oh, isn't that sweet! He loves you!"

Then her voice hardened: "Take everything out of your pockets! Now! Take off your belts!" They would be searched for drugs and other contraband.

The friends fumbled through their pockets and clawed at their belts. A Marine shouted out names. One of the teens answered: "Here!"

The Marine shouted back: "Here, what?"

"Here, sir!"

The processing center -- the largest of 65 such stations in the country -- was like a vast bus station filled with confused, sleepy teenagers. Recruits wandered from room to room, following color-coded footprints painted on the floors.

Future soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors were being processed, tested, quizzed and shipped out. Most looked frightened and forlorn. A few adopted tough, stoic poses that fooled no one.

The three friends were given medical exams and blood tests. They filled out reams of paperwork. Daniel was so sleepy that he wrote "high school" in the space for the type of military job he preferred. Sheepishly, he asked for another form.

Daryl underwent a tattoo check for a small symbol he had recently burned onto his shoulder. He passed; the Marines do not permit tattoos that feature profanity, gang affiliations, racial slurs or pornography.

Marine recruits must be high school graduates with no criminal records, with certain waivers for home schooling, GEDs or misdemeanor convictions. Ninety-eight percent of Marines graduated from high school, according to the Corps.

The three boys easily met all conditions. They passed their drug screens, too. While they waited in a hallway, a Marine sergeant gave an impromptu lesson. He taught them how to stand at attention: feet at a 45-degree angle, thumbs and forefingers pressed together against trouser seams, head up, eyes straight ahead. They learned how to salute: palms flat and at a sharp angle to their brows.

The sergeant explained that drill instructors are highly sensitive to rank and position: They are to be called "sir" at all times. "Address them in a very loud tone," the sergeant said. "It's a sign of self-confidence."

They would all be addressed as "Recruit," he said, and they should get used to it.

The sergeant had the recruits practice making requests of a drill instructor.

Daryl tried: "Does this recruit have permission to go to the restroom?"

The sergeant shook his head. The restroom is "the head," he said.

"And what else did he do wrong?" he asked the recruits. "He was wobbly. He wasn't at the position of attention."

Daryl stiffened and tried again: "Recruit Crookston requests permission to make a head call, sir."

The sergeant beamed. "There you go," he said. If permission were granted, he told Daryl, he should run full speed to the head -- and back.

The friends were taken to a conference room for a formal swearing in. An Army recruit remarked that the U.S. Army logo on the wall looked much cooler than the Marine logo.

"I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you there," Daryl told the boy, staring at him over his shoulder.

The boy stared back and challenged Daryl to a fight: "You want to go disappear with me after this?"

"Yeah," Daryl replied.

There was no chance of any fight, but Daniel and Steven liked the way Daryl defended the Marines, and slapped his back afterward.

The center's commander, a Marine major, gave a long motivational talk, stressing educational opportunities and pay -- $1,500 a month for most recruits -- that with increases in rank would accumulate to $100,000 over four years in the unlikely event they saved every penny.

The major explained what Semper Fidelis meant (always faithful), as if the three teens didn't know. He said they did not have to recite "so help me God" at the end of the oath. Everyone recited the phrase anyway.

Over the next few hours, the three friends from Santa Clarita did what members of the military have done for generations: They hurried up and waited.

At last, a bus arrived at midafternoon to take 41 Marine recruits to San Diego. The driver, a retired Army veteran, offered advice and played a movie, "Jarhead," with its wrenching scenes of recruit abuse and degradation. The recruits argued later over how much of the film, if any of it, reflected reality.

The driver warned the recruits, just before reaching the Marine depot at dusk, that a drill instructor would soon rush aboard and "go crazy."

"Look straight ahead. Do not be looking out the window," he said. "Don't give him an excuse to [mess] with you."

Despite the warning, the recruits were startled when a drill instructor abruptly leaped aboard and screamed. He was a tall, angular sergeant. Spittle sprayed from his lips. The recruits froze.

"Sit up straight!" the sergeant screamed. "Get your eyeballs on me! You are now a recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Starting out, the only words that come out of your mouth are "yes, sir," "no, sir," and "aye, aye, sir." Do you understand that?"

The recruits bolted upright. "Yes, sir!" they hollered.

"You are going to grab everything you brought with you and you are going to get off my bus! Do you understand that?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Get off my bus!"

Lurching and stumbling, the recruits stampeded into the aisles and out the narrow front door. They followed orders to stand in yellow footprints painted on the concrete -- "my deck," the drill instructor called it.

The footprints forced the recruits to stand so closely together that they appeared to form a single mass of flesh, not a collection of frightened teenagers. Even now, seconds into boot camp, the Corps was instilling its primal message: Marines are not individuals, but a brotherhood.

The process was designed to break them down as civilians and build them up as warriors. It was disorienting, and deliberately so; they would be kept up all that night and the following day.

The next few hours were a blur: Learning how to stand at attention, how to take orders, how to scream so loud their throats burned. They were warned not to even think about sneaking in drugs, alcohol, pornography or any reading material other than religious works. They were told they would be jailed if they tried to flee the depot.

A series of drill sergeants, in what amounted to an assembly line of depersonalization, shouted out orders that at times seemed unintelligible. They berated anyone who didn't understand or was slow to respond.

"Your days of moving slowly are over!" a drill instructor hollered.

Another screamed: "I am in control! Do you understand that?"

Daniel remembered something Staff Sgt. Diazdumeng had told him: "Don't laugh too much down there, Motamedi, OK?" Daniel was prone to jokes and wisecracks. He focused on keeping a straight face, and saying nothing except "yes, sir" and "aye, aye sir," very loudly.

The three boys had heeded advice to bring only the few items that were permitted: driver's license, Social Security card, address book, petty cash, Bible.

The drill sergeants pawed roughly through piles of banned possessions recruits had been forced to dump into red wooden cubicles. Pens, paperbacks, chewing gum, notes from home and even Marine recruiting brochures were tossed on the floor with contempt.

Several recruits were singled out for wearing sleeveless white undershirts.

"Take off the wife beaters -- now!" a sergeant ordered.

Daniel, Daryl and Steven avoided being screamed at directly, a small triumph. They kept their expressions blank, their mouths set in hard lines, their eyes straight ahead. Steven tried to make himself seem invisible, and fought a peculiar urge to laugh out loud.

All night long and well past dawn, they followed orders. Recruits were selected at random and ordered to scream the same instructions at each of the 458 recruits processed that night.

Before being issued uniforms, each recruit was ordered to scream out his waist size, weight and height. Those who hesitated were asked, loudly, how they could fail to know such basic personal information. It was suggested that their mothers always bought their clothes.

The recruits were marched into a barbershop for the ritual boot camp haircut. The two barbers competed in speed cutting. In most cases, they sheared a head in 28 seconds or less.

Daniel, Daryl and Steven already had cut their hair short for boot camp, but that did not spare them. Afterward, they looked like circus freaks, with their pale skulls creased by pink welts from the rough path of the clippers and dotted with tufts of hair the barbers had missed.

There were hours more of processing -- hours standing in line, staring at walls, no talking, no moving. The friends did not know what to expect next, only that it would be shocking and new.

Still, they had no regrets: They yearned for their eagle, globe and anchor -- the Corps symbol pinned to the chest of each newly minted Marine. And as corny as it sounded to some of their friends, they wanted to serve their country.

Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands of Marines are fighting and some dying, seemed part of a distant, parallel world. So, too, did the outside caldron of news and politics, where the war in Iraq was endlessly debated, and the casualties and roadside bombs were sad emblems of daily existence.

They were in a newly circumscribed world, away from home for the first time, and their lives had shrunk. They were too weary to comprehend it all. They had not slept in more than two days.

Shortly after dusk on their second night of boot camp, after being assigned bunks and instructed how to make their beds just so and how to assemble their gear and clothing in perfect military order, they slept.

david.zucchino@latimes.com

Gen. Pace, 2nd platoon reunited

KARMAH, Iraq (Sept. 5, 2007) -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, made a unique visit to Marines stationed here, Sept. 4. As far as meetings with four-star generals usually go, this event was much less formal. It seemed more like a gathering of relatives, a way for Gen. Pace to connect the hardened war fighters of today to the heroes of his past. It was evident he saw himself, and his old unit, in the Marines who stood in front of him.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/5E122BB2870E329C8525734D005357A2?opendocument

Sept. 5, 2007

By Cpl. Ryan Blaich, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

Nearly 40 years have passed since then 2nd Lt. Pace first stepped into a combat zone as a platoon commander. The year was 1968 and the battle was infamously known as the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It was there he battled against communism and the hand of fate, which made a profound impression on Gen. Pace's commitment to country and Corps. The event marked a time in his life never to be forgotten throughout his career as a Marine infantry officer.

Decades later and less than a month before he retires from office, Gen. Pace returned to the battlefield to join the same platoon of Marines he led into combat as a final salute to the Corps and to those who have ever served in 2nd platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Gen. Pace stood stoically in front of men who have seen many recent battles, some just weeks prior. He shared much of his past with them as they stood silently, gathered around weight benches and dumbbells at their outpost, known as Observation Post 3, near downtown Karmah. Only the hum of a lone generator could be heard as Gen. Pace not only recalled the full rank and names of the men who perished under his command, but his fight to make sense of it all as well.

"Guys to the left of me got shot. Guys to the right of me got blown up and nothing happened to me at all. I didn't understand that. I got out of Vietnam without even a scratch on me," Gen. Pace said. "But, I made a promise to myself back then that I would continue to serve in the Corps, in their memory, and try to do my job out of respect for them."

Gen. Pace said he would only retire after he stopped getting promoted, and in his words, "It worked out OK."

Most people would agree it worked out a little better than OK.

On Sept. 30, 2005, Gen. Pace was appointed to his present position, making him the first Marine to ever serve as the president's top military advisor. He also serves as the military advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. Until recently, no other Marine had ever made it to vice chairman, except Gen. Pace.


Despite the long list of successes on Gen. Pace's resume, he never forgot where and with whom it all started.

"After just over 40 years of service, when I do get out, I will still owe the Marines of 2nd platoon, Golf Company, more than I could ever repay," he said. "I'm so proud to be here with you."

The platoon seemed in awe, almost speechless by his visit. Maybe they were trying to digest the idea of a top-ranking, four-star general who humbly made it his priority to meet each of them individually, hand out coins and take personal photographs while thanking them for their sacrifices.

As Marines maneuvered around the outdoor gym for a group photo with the most distinguished member of their platoon, Gen. Pace said, "I'd love to be able to show my guys from Golf, 2nd platoon, your picture. I know they'll be proud of you," referring to the Marines of his Vietnam platoon, who he still visits.

It is this close knit bond between Marines, officers and enlisted, which Gen. Pace said is the foundation to the health of the Corps.

After each Marine had their photograph taken with the general, got their coin and asked their questions, he had one final gift to give, a knife. Both symbolic and traditional, the K-bar knife has been a staple of Marine combat gear for generations. It was this he chose to bestow upon the latest platoon leader of 2nd platoon.

"I wanted to give you this. From one 2nd platoon leader to another," he said. "Out of respect for who you are, out of envy for your future time in our Corps and out of envy for your opportunity to lead these Marines."

1st Lt. Chad Cassady, a former sergeant, was the proud owner of the new knife and said he felt privileged to receive such a gift from a man he has long respected. Cassady had met Gen. Pace nearly two years ago at the Marine Corps Ball ceremony, not long after Gen. Pace was elected to chairman. He did not think their paths would ever cross again.

"I didn't think I'd ever see him again," Cassady said. "I never could have imagined we shared a connection."

Cassady does not plan to use the weapon in combat, but instead will proudly display the grand memento in his house. Not everyone there got a K-bar, but perhaps was able to take away a sense of belonging.


As the platoon's corpsman, Seaman Kyle Bourgeois, put it, "I just feel fortunate."

Silent admiration filled the eyes of lance corporals and captains alike and everyone present received something less tangible than a steel blade or a metal coin. Gen. Pace was handing to each of them an item that never fades or gets dull; a sense of pride and the relentless will to succeed.

The bonds formed and shared between Marines, units, and platoons are timeless.

"Forty years from now, you'll remember these officer's names and they'll remember yours," Gen. Pace said. "A lot of stuff is going to happen between now and then. You are going to have a lot of experiences, most of it is going to be a blur, but you remember this, you'll remember each other and I'll bet you, you'll find ways to get together."

"It'll be very difficult for me to walk away," he said. "I was shaking hands the day before yesterday in Afghanistan and a soldier came through and said, 'Sir, thank you for your service. We'll take it from here.' As I look at you, that's spot on. You have taken it."

Toys for Tots asks for donors to screen toys

QUANTICO, Va. -- Marine Toys for Tots Foundation announced today the actions being taken to prevent the distribution of unsafe toys. In response to recent events within the toy industry regarding unsafe toys manufactured in China, and in preparation for the 2007 U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Campaign, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is taking this opportunity to enlist the assistance of the millions of caring Americans who support the annual Toys for Tots Campaign.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/releaseview/ED6AFBA410B22D2B8525734F00464FFD?opendocument

Sept. 5, 2007

We are asking our loyal supporters to help us by identifying and screening toys prior to purchase to ensure that only safe toys are donated to the Toys for Tots Campaign and distributed to America’s needy children.

The toys identified to date as potentially unsafe can be found at the below listed website links:

Mattel toy recall list: http://www.mattel.com/safety/us/

Detailed SKU’s: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/08/14/fyi/main3166371.shtml

Added 8/23/07: http://children.webmd.com/news/20070823/more-toy-recalls-due-to-lead-paint

Added 9/5/07: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/manufacturing/2007-09-04-mattel-toy-recall-lead_N.htm

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation does not purchase any toys directly from overseas vendors or manufacturers. All toy purchases are from reputable, well established U.S. companies that are working diligently to ensure that none of the toys identified in the above links are included in Marine Toys for Tots Foundation purchases.

Local Toys for Tots coordinators will be accepting, inspecting, and sorting millions of toys in preparation for distribution during the 2007 Toys for Tots campaign. With the combined efforts of our toy vendors, the watchful eyes of our donors, and the careful inspection by our Toys for Tots coordinators, we will strive to distribute only safe gifts to America’s needy children.

September 3, 2007

WHAT EXIT? FALLUJAH! JERSEY MARINES DO U.S. PROUD 'MAKING A DIFFERENCE':

September 3, 2007 -- FALLUJAH - Jersey rules. The Marines of 1st Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines aren't living large, but they're making a huge difference. Bunking in a police precinct headquarters in Fallujah, they're at the forward edge of our current successes in Iraq.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/09032007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/what_exit__fallujah_.htm

It's summertime, but the living ain't easy. The work's tough, the heat's wicked, the "facilities" conjure the old line about what bears do in the woods, and only goodie boxes from home liven up a diet of field rations (great for two or three days, nasty after two or three months).

You'd expect complaints. I didn't hear one. And talking to three Jersey boys, I was surprised to hear just how positive they felt about the mission.

"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Lance Cpl. Justin Blitzstein of West Milford told me. Self-assured and ready for anything, he added, "Anybody who doesn't think we should be here should see the difference we've made in the way these people live. And everybody here's a volunteer. We want to be here."

Lance Cpl. Jason Hetherington of Cape May County leapt in, "The progress from us being here [in the police precinct] less than six months is unbelievable. People who don't think we're making a difference should just see what we do."

A thoughtful man, Hetherington paused to choose his next words. "We were surprised that it wasn't a combat situation in Fallujah anymore. It's rewarding to see the kids out in the streets and the shops open."

Blitzstein nodded. "We were amazed at how easy it was when we moved in. We were the first Marines thrown into the meat grinder, right in the middle of Fallujah, but it worked out. It was good planning on somebody's part."

How do they cope with the tough living conditions and cramped quarters? The Marines built themselves a workout room, and at night, they run up and down the stairs. (It's still hot after dark, but not as deadly.) And the mission's demands keep them focused.

"The more work, the better," Blitzstein said. "It makes the time go faster. Better six busy months than one month doing nothing."

Cpl. Jonathan Rudolph of South Brunswick had come to the platoon on a special mission. Rudolph looks like a young broker with a personal trainer. Except for the Marine uniform. He agrees with what his fellow Jersey boys told me, "We're really helping out. We can't pull out now."

In fact, Rudolph wouldn't mind if U.S. forces stayed in Iraq for 10 years.

The unanimity of outlook and the high morale among all the Marines I talked to was impressive. I expected at least a few voices of dissent and remarks about the futility of working with the Iraqis. But I didn't hear a single let's-just-get-out remark. And no, the Marines with whom I spoke weren't supervised by officers or NCOs acting as commissars.

Even with leading questions, the closest I could get to drawing complaints from those Jersey Leathernecks came when I asked them what they missed most about home.

Hetherington: "The freedom to just get in a car and go." Sounds like one of Bruce Springsteen's homeboys, indeed.

Blitzstein: "Just being in America."

Rudolph: "Waking up in my own bed."

If you're sleeping safely in your own bed tonight, thank those Marines from "Joisey."

September 2, 2007

Marines train Iraqis to keep judges safe

BAGHDAD — It’s not news to read that politicians, famous athletes and even entertainers have bodyguards protecting them from dangerous people, but in Iraq, judges need protection from the same people they sentence.

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13707&Itemid=128

Sunday, 02 September 2007

This is why the Al Qa’im court system has a new personal security detachment trained by Marines of Viking Red Section, Mobile Assault Platoon, Regimental Combat Team 2.

“Part of setting up Iraq’s infrastructure is creating a normal working society,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Dustin Barlag, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native, and vehicle commander with MAP. “A normal working society protects its people by sentencing criminals in a court of law.

“As these judges are sentencing criminals, their lives get endangered more and more,” Barlag said. “If Iraq’s judicial system is to be fair, but stern, the judges need to feel safe from any reprisals. This is why there was a PSD created for the judges.”

The newly appointed PSD of Al Qa’im’s courts were eager to learn from the experienced Marines, who had been trained in personnel-protection techniques by a private security firm.

“You can tell, when you look at a class, who wants to learn and these guys really wanted to learn what we had to teach them,” Barlag said.

The Marines wanted to teach them as much as they were willing to learn, but the language barrier was hard to overcome at first.

“It’s hard to converse through an interpreter,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Dustin Engelken, a Wichita, Kan., native, and a squad leader with the section.

The Marines started explaining PSD tactics through examples and using hand motions, which the Iraqis quickly understood.

“They picked it up almost as fast as we did about a year ago,” Barlag said.

Iraqis watched Marines perform scenarios where their “principal,” or VIP, is being targeted and the Marines had to quickly move him to safety. Once they practiced their actions slowly, the Iraqi PSD shadowed the Marines’ moves during their practical-application scenarios.

“I had them do everything slow at first, but they ended up doing better than average,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Jose Corona, a Los Angeles native, and vehicle commander with the section.

Al Qa’im’s large residential areas meant that training focused on security in confined spaces such as one-way streets, houses, and arrivals and departure points.

“They are now going to think to themselves, ‘Why is that car door open?’ or ‘Why is that man’s arms crossed’?” Corona said.

The Iraqi PSD was hand-picked from Iraqi Army units. They all knew how to shoot the AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, but most had never touched a pistol before their PSD training.

“They did well with the rifle-training because of their past experience, but it took them some getting used to the pistol,” said U.S. Marines Cpl. Adam Bailey, a Virginia Beach, Va., native, and vehicle commander with the section.

The Iraqi Police use Glock pistols because their plastic bodies are inexpensive and easy to clean, but the PSD needed a weapon that would hit its target every time. That weapon is the single-action Browning high-powered pistol.

“The Browning is more forgiving to everyone’s hands, while the Glock will fit some people’s hands and others it won’t,” Bailey said.

The PSD was given classes on how to repair and maintain their new pistols.

The three-day course ended, but the MAP will be training more PSD teams in the future. This PSD not only protects a person, it also protects the very foundation of the Iraqi court system: justice.

(U.S. Marines story by Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz 2nd Marine Division)