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October 31, 2007

Wolfpack returns to hunt in Rawah, keeps area safe

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq, -- Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion recently accepted control of the western Euphrates River valley surrounding Rawah and Anah, and relieved 1st LAR in support of Regimental Combat Team 2.

http://www.op29online.com/articles/2007/10/26/news/news02.txt

Wednesday October 31, 2007
Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser
2nd Marine Division

This year marks the Wolfpack's fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and their second trip to the Rawah area in the western Al Anbar Province.

Company A, known as Apache, has assumed responsibility for patrols and the security of the city, and continues to share a joint living area and working relationship with the city's police force.


"We are continuing the idea of; by, with, and through the Iraqis," said Lt. Col. James R. Parrington, the Wolfpack's commanding officer. "We work very closely with the Iraqi forces because it puts a visible face on the security effort in town. We are here not only to coach and mentor in patrolling techniques, but to also show the public their own forces are doing the work."

The Minneapolis native went on to say the policemen in the area have come a long way in their training and they understand their duties to 'protect and serve' the community.

"By and large, what we have is a good corps of policemen here. Policemen as you would think of them in the U.S.," he said.

Many of Apache's Marines are surprised by how well the Iraqi police force does its job, in contrast to horror stories they have heard in the past.

"It's truly a safe environment, considering where we are," said Cpl. Michael J. Conto, a fire team leader with the company. "The IPs are doing great and the relationship we have is going well for everyone. Some of these guys have only been here for six or seven months and they're already helping out the junior guys in the company."

One of the new techniques the Wolfpack brought with them from Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms, Calif., was the rolling snap vehicle checkpoint.

"Its kind of like a quickie VCP with a hug afterward," laughs Cpl. Matthew R. Boeck, a patrol leader, after checking a vehicle. "While on patrol, we will randomly snatch up vehicles, thoroughly search them, document the passengers, check IDs, and afterward, we apologize for the inconvenience and explain it's for their safety. Most of the civilians really don't mind it, and we've even made some friends."

Almost as if on cue, an Iraqi teenager runs up to the patrol and shakes everyone's hand, using nearly perfect English to ask the Marines how they are doing, and thanking them for their work.

"See," explained Boeck, a Milwaukee native, "This happens all the time. We meet with store owners, parents, kids, and know people on a first-name basis. We can walk down the road and a local will run up, yell my name, and shake my hand. This never would have happened in OIF I, and that's progress. There are people back home who live on my block, even in my building, that I don't know by name."

The Wolfpack and Apache, which has set an initial goal of 600 patrols a month, plan to continue the close relationship with local citizens in hopes of completely eliminating the threat of insurgency and firmly establishing a safe environment for provincial Iraqi control.



Jury Awards Father $11M in Funeral Case

BALTIMORE —
A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.


http://www6.comcast.net/news/articles/national/2007/10/31/Funeral.Protests/?cvqh=itn_antigaychurch

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, AP
October 31, 2007

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The federal jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to determine an amount "that says don't do this in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again."

The defense said it planned to appeal, and one of the church's leaders, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said the members would continue to picket military funerals.

"Absolutely; don't you understand this was an act in futility?" Phelps-Roper said.

Church members routinely picket funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags."

Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that soldiers are dying because the nation is too tolerant of homosexuality.

Their attorneys maintained in closing arguments Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries. But the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.

The church and three of its leaders _ Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis, 46 _ were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

The group is confident the award will be overturned on appeal, Phelps said

"Oh, it will take about five minutes to get that thing reversed," he said.

Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse. Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and carried a sign that read "God hates fag enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America."

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.

It was unclear whether the plaintiffs would be able to collect the damages awarded.

Before the jury began deliberating the size of punitive damages, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted that the size of the compensatory award "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.

Defense lawyer Jonathan Katz said the church has about 75 members and is funded by tithing.

The defense attorney said that the assets of the church and the three defendants are less than a million dollars and that the compensatory award is about three times the defendants' net worth, mainly in homes, cars and retirement accounts.

One of Snyder's attorneys, Sean Summers, said he would tirelessly seek payment of the award.

"We will chase them forever if it takes that long," Summers said.

(This version CORRECTS the spelling of one of the church leader's names to Rebekah, instead of Rebecca.)

Jury Awards Father Nearly $11 Million in Funeral Protesters Case

BALTIMORE — The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine's funeral.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,307058,00.html

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Associated Press

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress to the Marine's father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa.

Snyder sued the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified monetary damages after members staged a demonstration at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

Church members picket military funerals out of a belief that U.S. deaths in the war in Iraq are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries, but the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.

Snyder's suit named the church, its founder the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46. The jury began deliberating Tuesday after two days of testimony.

Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of soldiers are due to the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Their attorneys argued in closing statements Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

The judge said the church's financial statements, sealed earlier, could be released to the plaintiffs.

Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse, which is located on a busy thoroughfare a few blocks west of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, while passing motorists honked and shouted insults.

Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag while carrying a sign that read "God hates fag enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America,"' to the tune of "God Bless America."

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.


October 30, 2007

Marathoners run through Arlington; Marine Corps Marathon has 20,000-plus participants

Dressed in full camouflage fatigues on a crisp Sunday afternoon, Tim Keithley witnessed Americana. On duty since 1 a.m., the aspiring Marine lieutenant watched 20,000-plus marathoners dash past the finish line after conquering the 32nd annual Marine Corps Marathon, the fourth largest marathon in the United States and seventh largest in the world.

http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=89610&paper=60&cat=152

Eric J. Gilmore
October 30, 2007

“To see that cross-section of America, and the world, was really reinforcing of one’s faith,” Keithley said. “It meant a lot personally to see the motivation of the individuals here.”

There was Team Travis. And Team in Training. And the Hokie Memorial Runners. All 20,677 runners fighting for a cause — either someone else or themselves.

After buckling back on Route 110, a winding road in the heart of Rosslyn, the runners funneled onto Marshall Drive, sandwiched between the awe-inspiring Arlington Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial, to complete the final portion of the 26.2-mile road course.

And for nearly five hours, the sea of humanity mounted the final half-mile incline with fist pumps and high-fives. Every runner, jogger and walker had a story.

There was Peggy Starbuck, who for her 60th birthday promised herself that she could overcome her biggest challenge. Out of shape and from Carlise, Pa., Starbuck sauntered the race in 7 hours 29 minutes — just 19 seconds before the race officials stopped timing.

“I was really nervous about turning 60,” Starbuck said. “I figured my life was downhill from then on. But today is one of the happiest days of my life so far. Life gets better as you get older.”

‘The people’s marathon’ was the mantra, inspiring another woman, Shannon Royce, from Falls Church, to conquer her own physical demons. Just 16 months removed from overcoming cancer — follicular lymphoma — she ran as part of the National Chapter of Team in Training, a charity designed to fund cancer research and help families cope with inevitable expenses.

While juggling two children, Royce, 47, discovered the pea-sized lump in her neck, and asked her doctor to remove it, even though he felt it was benign. Her oncologist found cancer in the lump, but nowhere else in her body, which meant she had detected the cancer at its earliest stage.

"After months of treatment, I couldn't walk around the block with my husband without experiencing heart palpitations and shortness of breath," Royce said.

But after months of training, Royce finished the course in a shade under six hours to champion a greater cause — helping to raise money towards cancer research.

“It’s hard to believe that these are the couch potatoes and people with real physical difficulties,” said Marine Corps Marathon Race Director Rick Nealis, who has commanded the post since 1993.

At the front, the top men’s runner was Tamrat Ayalew, 33, who was born in Ethiopia and is seeking political asylum in the United States. His 2 hours 22 minutes 20 seconds time beat out two-time winner and crowd favorite, Ruben Garcia, a 36-year-old from Mexico. Garcia finished exactly two minutes behind Ayalew.

Georgetown University graduate Kristen Henehan, a 28-year-old first-time runner from nearby Silver Spring, Md., won the women’s division. Henehan passed second-place finisher Lisa Thomas, 31, with a half-mile to go to finish in 2 hours 51 minutes 14 seconds. Claudia Colita, 28, a Romanian runner training in Portland, Ore., added more international flavor by finishing third.

The marathon route started on Jefferson Davis Highway and wound through Rosslyn. It took some runners nearly five minutes to cross the starting line, and estimates had 500 people moving through the streets per minute. The path looped through Rosslyn, Georgetown, Rock Creek Park, West Potomac Park, the National Mall, Hains Point, and Crystal City. The route was altered this year because of road construction.

With nearly forty percent of the participants as rookie runners, race officials were pleasantly surprised that only nine runners were transported to local hospitals, including a Marine who collapsed near the finish line.

The tradition began in 1976 with a mere 2,000 runners. Now the race has morphed into an international attraction, boosting the metro area’s economy an estimated $31.7 million, according to a George Washington University study. The race solicited runners from nearly 50 different countries, including Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Including 20,625th-place finisher Daniela Zahner. The 50-year-old woman, who speaks only broken English, flew from Switzerland to compete. Unable to use her left leg because of a car accident in 1979, Zahner walks with the assistance of two purple canes, which she uses to support her body like ski poles.

She hobbled through her first marathon nine years later — the New York Marathon in 1988 — and thrived on the sense of accomplishment. Now Zahner, whose hands were severely blistered, travels the world to marathons and ultra marathons to rekindle that feeling she first had back in 1988. Since her accident, she now travels internationally to compete in distance competitions, for herself, but also for Peruvian children born with cleft palates. She has a Web site, translated in eight languages, and solicits donations for corrective operations and treatment.

“She’s here and has traveled all of that distance and is absolutely speechless,” said Nealis, after meeting Zahner for the first time at the finish line. “She is just blown away with what she saw in our nation’s capitol and with our U.S. Marines.”

Nealis cited four water tents that went unmanned this year because of increased troop deployments. Nearly 240 Marines that participated on a volunteer basis will be shipped overseas within the week.

“These moms who’ve lost their sons, you think of all the incredible heartache it’s caused them and they’re still here to share their faith with us,” Keithley said. “It was inspirational.” Keithley alluded to a family that embraced him upon learning of their son’s impending deployment.

“Watching the tears well up in their eyes as they told me their son was going back for the third tour was really something that was amazing.”

The Marines embraced the clouds of men and women as they crossed the finish line. Some soldiers smooched runners on the cheek, when wanted, and dispersed red-white-and-blue capes, along with a medal signifying their accomplishment. The subtle gestures allowed for the community to build rapport with its elite fighting force.

“This was a great chance for the public to interact with men and women in our service,” said Nealis, a former Marine officer and longtime runner.





October 29, 2007

Iraqi soldiers donate $1,000 for wildfire aid

(CNN) -- The Iraqi leadership at a military camp east of Baghdad gave the U.S. military a $1,000 check last week to aid victims of California's wildfires, the U.S. military said.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/10/29/iraq.donation/index.html

Mon October 29, 2007
From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

"In the months I've been here, I have never been so moved," Army Col. Darel Maxfield, the senior U.S. military official at Camp Besmaya, said in an e-mail.

The money was collected from Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers at Besmaya.

Many of the Marines at that camp are from Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base about 38 miles north of downtown San Diego, California, he said.

Many of the worst fires have been in San Diego County, including the Witch and Harris fires.

Maxfield said the Iraqi leadership at the camp called a meeting Thursday evening to gather Iraqi soldiers and U.S.-led coalition members. The Iraqi commander there gave a short speech, thanking all his "American brothers" for their role in Iraq.

He then presented a sealed envelope with the check, Maxfield said.

"I'm honored to participate by sending you a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego city to lowering their suffering from the wildfire," the Iraqi colonel told them. "That's for the feeling of being brothers and friends and for the great connections together."

Maxfield said the Iraqi leaders were "clearly moved" and were "trying as best they could to convey their genuine concern" for the people in San Diego.

The U.S. military said it isn't the first time the Iraqi commander collected money for Americans coping with natural disasters. When Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, the Iraqi reportedly took up $680 from his men to aid victims.

Oboe player takes advantage of 'Every Marine into the fight'

HIT, Iraq (Oct. 29, 2007) -- When Commandant Gen. James T. Conway published All Marine Message 002/07, ‘Every Marine into the fight,’ on Jan. 23, 2007, he gave an oboe player with the Marine band at Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center an opportunity he thought would never materialize.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4D0DCE9BDC42BFD785257383004731FC?opendocument

Oct. 29, 2007; Submitted on: 10/29/2007 07:57:38 AM ; Story ID#: 2007102975738
By Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

Sgt. Regan Young joined the Marine Corps during 2004 with an open contract in the hopes of seeing the world and experiencing life outside of Arlington, Va., where he was born and raised. However, he ended up with a military occupational specialty, one of only a very few, that is rarely deployed because oboe players are so rare in the Marine Corps it doens't get the opportunity to deploy with the rest of the band.

“I didn’t join the Marine Corps to go in the band,” said the 21 year old. “I had done that my whole life and wanted something new under my belt.”

Young began playing the oboe at Yorktown High School and found he was excellent at it. He said his love for the instrument is one he will always have, but wanted it as a passion, not a job.

“My recruiter knew I played the oboe,” he said. “During the first phase of boot camp, we were practicing for initial drill and I got called out and there was a recruiter, my senior drill instructor and all my chain of command. They started asking me questions about what I played and how long I have been playing. Once I auditioned, they told me I was going to be in the band. I didn’t really have a choice. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to do it, I just wanted to do something else.”

Then Young’s chance arrived when the commandant said no Marine would be held back from answering their nation’s call. After reading the message, Young immediately put in an administrative action form requesting to go forward.

“After I put in my AA form, I would literally bug my company commander two to three times a day,” said Young. “He was all about Marines deploying and really helped push to get me here. I later learned it may not have been the AA form that got me here, but after six months of bugging the right people and just constant persistence, the powers that be said, ‘Fine if this is what you want, we are going to give it to you.”

Now, Young is the assistant camp commandant and police sergeant with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, serving in Hit, Iraq. He said the Marines he works with understand how hard he fought, so they bring him out on missions with them.

“It is everything I imagined,” said Young. “I love interacting with the people, seeing a different culture. Being deployed with an infantry battalion is letting me get a taste of the Marine Corps I never would have had the opportunity to see, and I don’t plan on wasting it.”

Young plans on returning to the band when he returns to the States. He wants to perfect his saxophone skills he has learned since joining.

“I burned some bridges, but I think that was only people who took it personally and felt like I didn’t want to be with them in the band. But, what it was is I just wanted to do something different, said Young. “If I could be in any band, it would be the Marine Corps Band, I just don’t think people join the Marine Corps to play music, that wasn’t my intent. I love the Marine Corps and have had a great career so far. I think it is only going to get better. But, I am never happy staying with one thing, that is why this job is so great for me.”

October 27, 2007

Soldiers who threw out first pitch bound together before game

DENVER – During a television commercial break, those at Coors Field for Game 3 saw two men come to the mound to throw out the first pitch.

http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=79839

written by: Colleen Locke , Producer
reported by: Kyle Clark , Reporter
10/27/2007

Marine Staff Sergeant Kade Hinkhouse walked to the mound with a limp. The other man, Army Staff Sergeant Matt Keil, was in a motorized wheelchair.

"We were just floored that they were giving us a chance to do something like this," Keil said.

"I just hope that I do a good job, up to their standards," Hinkhouse said.

Earlier in the day, the two men were honored at the Commerce City VFW post.

Keil, who was injured during a sniper attack in Iraq, is out of the hospital and living in Parker. Hinkhouse has left the service and is living in Colorado Springs, where he is beginning college.

October 26, 2007

San Diego's Fires, As Seen From Iraq

Ever since U.S. Marines first started deploying to Fallujah back in early 2004, military families in and around California's Camp Pendleton have fretted over their loved ones serving in Iraq's deadly City of Mosques. Over the last four years, hundreds of wives and parents have received unthinkably bad news from some 8,000 miles away. But this week, as a moment of peace and quiet marks life in Fallujah, the roles have reversed. A battalion of Camp Pendleton Marines in Fallujah now bears the burden of worrying about family back home, loved ones fleeing the wildfires that ravage San Diego County and parts of the huge Marine base there.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1676994,00.html

Friday, Oct. 26, 2007
By DARRIN MORTENSON/FALLUJAH

"I'm sure you've all heard that Southern California is on fire," said Capt. Shane Duffle in a briefing Thursday night at Camp Baharia, the American base just outside of Fallujah. He and other officers and non-coms from Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment were instructed to keep their men informed and identify troops whose families have been evacuated as the fire burned across the base.

Back in Pendleton, the Key Volunteer Network made up of the Marines' wives and the few Marines who stayed behind has reversed its alert system. Usually geared to keep wives informed of good news and bad from abroad, it was repurposed this week to help the wives rescue each other from the fire and to keep the Marines and sailors in Fallujah informed as best as they can.

"I called and [my wife] said the fire is surrounding Pendleton," said Lance Cpl. Ricardo Lozoya, 20, whose wife fled the military housing near the town of Fallbrook when the fire closed in from the surrounding hills. A neighbor rushed to the house and told Lozoya's wife they needed to go. They fled to another area on base until it, too, was threatened. "She said she could see the flames," Lozoya said. His leaders allowed him and other troops affected by the fire to use satellite phones from outposts in Fallujah or return to base to use the Internet to reach home.

"Everybody talks about what it takes to be out here in Fallujah, Marines facing adversity," said Master Sgt. Dennis Webb, whose pregnant wife and two small children fled the Las Pulgas section of the base on Wednesday. "But it's nothing when you compare it to what they're going through right now. I mean, that shows true courage. That's why I married her," he said. At least 10 of the wives of Webb's Weapons Company Marines were evacuated. "They're taking care of each other," he said.

Navy surgeon Luis "Doc" Bautista said his wife, who is five months pregnant, escaped their new home in Fallbrook with their two little girls, one four and the other just a little more than a year old. They first fled to nearby Temecula and then, when Temecula was threatened, drove about 50 miles north to Anaheim until the air became too thick with smoke for the girls. They wound up driving all the way to Fresno to escape not only the fires in San Diego but those in Los Angeles, too. Often not able to reach her, he tracked the fires' progress on the website of the local paper, the North County Times, and occasionally called his own house to see if the answering machine still worked. "At least then I knew it wasn't charred," he said. 'But really anything else is replaceable. My family is all that matters."

Out at a dangerous outpost in an industrial area of Fallujah known as Sinaa, Lance Cpl. Jon Juarez said he and others in his platoon saw the irony of the situation. "You leave home and it's safer here [in Fallujah] than it is at home." His wife was evacuated from the fires in Vista in northern San Diego County, while his parents fled their home in Santa Clarita near Los Angeles. His best friend lost his home to the flames east of L.A.. "You learn when you're this far away how helpless you are," he said. "No matter what can happen to us out here, anything can still happen back home." He said that he and his comrades whose families have been evacuated just had to have faith that the other Marines at Pendleton will take care of their loved ones. "You can't assume the worst," he said, otherwise, "you couldn't do your job."

Father of Marine: Funeral protest made me sick

By Alex Dominguez - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Oct 26, 2007 12:57:45 EDT

BALTIMORE — The father of a Marine killed in Iraq took the stand Wednesday in his invasion of privacy suit against a fundamentalist church that pickets soldiers’ funerals, saying protesters carrying signs at his son’s burial made him sick to his stomach.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/10/ap_westboro_071024/

October 25, 2007

Camp Pendleton Marines aid in California wildfire relief

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Oct. 25, 2007) -- Marines here joined disaster-relief efforts for California wildfires Monday night by supplying food, water and hundreds of cots to residents on the base and in surrounding communities.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4EF937A9838FE24A8525737D00718CF6?opendocument

Oct. 25, 2007; Submitted on: 10/23/2007 04:40:16 PM ; Story ID#: 20071023164016
By Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Belovarac, MCB Camp Pendleton

Wildfires have destroyed much of Southern California, forcing mass evacuations and burning hundreds of homes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for seven counties including San Diego County Monday.

Camp Pendleton has allowed 20,000-23,000 civilian vehicles to travel through to the greater San Diego area, said Col. J.B. Seaton III, commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

“We feared what we would have to face,” said Abby Deloach, a Fallbrook resident who sought refuge with her husband. “We guessed there would be something here. Even if we had to sleep in our car we would feel safer (on base) anyway.”

Within two hours of notification, Marines stocked the field house with food, water and beds.
Camp Pendleton’s Paige Field House was utilized to house the refugees looking for shelter.

The field house will shelter and supply people in need for as long as the resources are needed, said Kerri Latimore, manager of Paige Field House.

The Paige Field House was on standby, waiting for the call telling them their facility would soon become an evacuation center.

“We need to take a bigger part in the community,” said Sgt. Fernando J. Urena, 27, from Los Angeles. “It makes me glad that Marines rose to the occasion.”

Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton has also offered its resources for refueling civilian and government aircraft. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar remains on standby to assist with firefighting efforts.

The Marine Corps is not only looking after displaced civilians, but also service members who need assistance.

“The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society is offering financial assistance for any military service member who has been evacuated and might need money for food or gas,” said Roxanne Clouse, the Deputy Director of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society here. The NMCRS can be reached at (760) 725-5337.

For further aid, the American Red Cross can be contacted at (760) 725-6877.
Camp Pendleton’s fire hotline can be contact at (866) 430-2764.

October 24, 2007

‘Alpha dog’ aims to work Wolfpack out of job

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq, (Oct. 24, 2007) -- Traditionally throughout history, wolves are feared and respected, and are the subject of numerous myths from the Norse god Fenrir (the wolf destined to bring the end of the world), to werewolves, to the children’s stories Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/6D2072CFB95950358525737E00495B54?opendocument

Oct. 24, 2007; Submitted on: 10/24/2007 09:21:15 AM ; Story ID#: 2007102492115
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

In Iraq’s western Anbar Province, the legend of the wolf lives on as 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion returns to the western Euphrates River valley surrounding Rawah and Anah in support of Regimental Combat Team 2.

The sight of a company of 3rd LAR’s light armored vehicles speeding across the desert sands, kicking up a massive dust trail as they sweep from cliff to valley to hill, easily conjures an explanation for their nickname, the Wolfpack.

This year marks the Wolfpack’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and their second trip to the Rawah area in western al Anbar Province. The battalion wasted no time upon arriving and jumped right into Operation Mawtini III.

“This operation is really a series of smaller operations that cover our entire area of operation,” explained Lt. Col. James R. Parrington, the battalion’s commanding officer. “The purpose is to disrupt enemy activity and improvised explosive device cells, disrupt and dissuade suicide bombers, and find weapons.”

The battalion ‘alpha dog’ went on to say the regimental-wide operation is geared toward preventing the insurgents who were driven from the cities by the regiment from entering them again.

“The cities, though not perfect, are getting a secure environment which allows the government to grow. We’re trying to maintain that security and that progress,” the Minneapolis native said.

Company C, or Comanche, played a large role in the Wolfpack’s desert operations, and recently swept through one of the desert’s dried up wadi (oases) systems, now just a series of large barren riverbeds, caves and cliffs.

“Basically, Comanche was tasked with going out to the open desert to hunt insurgents because most of them have been driven out of the towns and cities due to the successful joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Sgt. Jesse R. Walden, a squad leader with the company.

Walden, a Muskogee, Okla., native went on to say the company was expected to interdict insurgents trying to cross the desert, and discover and destroy caches and other illegal materials.

“We’ve been looking for caches and insurgents who may be using the old wadi as a way to avoid coalition or Iraqi forces,” said Lance Cpl. Mark Efimoff, a squad automatic weapon gunner with the company. “I think the mission was a success, we came out looking for stuff, and we found it.”

The company found nearly a half dozen AK-47s, 15 fully loaded AK-47 magazines, two cases of 10-guage shotgun flares, and two ammunition cans of 7.62 mm rounds.

Comanche accompanied a local Provincial Security Force on the sweep through the barren wadi. The Marines said they were a little surprised by the Iraqi Police who make up the special force.

“I guess the PSF are like a sheriffs department in the U.S.,” explained Walden. “Compared to two years ago, you can tell the joint security operations like this are working much better, regardless of the reports you hear abut random and sporadic attacks.”

“I heard a lot of good things about the PSF before we went out with them. They don’t have the Marine Corps military discipline, but their hearts are in the right place and they’re trying to accomplish the same mission we are,” said Efimoff, a Woodburn, Oreg., native.

While sweeping through the old wadi, the PSF found a tent with (14) 25-pound bags of homemade explosive, a rocket, and a large supply of detonation cord.

“The PSF is a pretty good organization,” said Parrington, a veteran of Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom. “The (Iraqi Security Forces) in this area are doing great. The police are policing, the soldiers are doing what soldiers do. The Iraqi Army, Police, and PSF can all lay claim to the success here because they were all here long before us. I would characterize their contribution as significant and their performance as exceptional.”

The Wolfpack commander said he looks forward to the day when U.S. forces are no longer needed in Iraq, and he is making sure his battalion does everything they can to contribute to provincial Iraqi control.

“I’d like to work us out of a job,” laughed the 21-year Marine Corps veteran. “I’d like to see the Iraqi Army in control of the battlespace, the police in complete control of the towns, and rule of law firmly established, so criminals can be tried and convicted. That’s my goal, to work us out of a job.”

October 23, 2007

Wolfpack returns to hunt in Rawah

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq, (Oct. 23, 2007) -- Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion recently accepted control of the western Euphrates River valley surrounding Rawah and Anah, and relieved 1st LAR in support of Regimental Combat Team 2.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/3901E32D3CE139338525737D00267360?opendocument

Oct. 23, 2007; Submitted on: 10/23/2007 02:59:59 AM ; Story ID#: 2007102325959
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

This year marks the Wolfpack’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and their second trip to the Rawah area in the western Al Anbar Province.

Company A, known as Apache, has assumed responsibility for patrols and the security of the city, and continues to share a joint living area and working relationship with the city’s police force.

“We are continuing the idea of; by, with, and through the Iraqis,” said Lt. Col. James R. Parrington, the Wolfpack’s commanding officer. “We work very closely with the Iraqi forces because it puts a visible face on the security effort in town. We are here not only to coach and mentor in patrolling techniques, but to also show the public their own forces are doing the work.”

The Minneapolis native went on to say the policemen in the area have come a long way in their training and they understand their duties to ‘protect and serve’ the community.

“By and large, what we have is a good corps of policemen here. Policemen as you would think of them in the U.S.,” he said.

Many of Apache’s Marines are surprised by how well the Iraqi police force does its job, in contrast to horror stories they have heard in the past.

“It’s truly a safe environment, considering where we are,” said Cpl. Michael J. Conto, a fire team leader with the company. “The IPs are doing great and the relationship we have is going well for everyone. Some of these guys have only been here for six or seven months and they’re already helping out the junior guys in the company.”

One of the new techniques the Wolfpack brought with them from Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms, Calif., was the rolling snap vehicle checkpoint.

“Its kind of like a quickie VCP with a hug afterward,” laughs Cpl. Matthew R. Boeck, a patrol leader, after checking a vehicle. “While on patrol, we will randomly snatch up vehicles, thoroughly search them, document the passengers, check IDs, and afterward, we apologize for the inconvenience and explain it’s for their safety. Most of the civilians really don’t mind it, and we’ve even made some friends.”

Almost as if on cue, an Iraqi teenager runs up to the patrol and shakes everyone’s hand, using nearly perfect English to ask the Marines how they are doing, and thanking them for their work.

“See,” explained Boeck, a Milwaukee native, “This happens all the time. We meet with store owners, parents, kids, and know people on a first-name basis. We can walk down the road and a local will run up, yell my name, and shake my hand. This never would have happened in OIF I, and that’s progress. There are people back home who live on my block, even in my building, that I don’t know by name.”

The Wolfpack and Apache, which has set an initial goal of 600 patrols a month, plan to continue the close relationship with local citizens in hopes of completely eliminating the threat of insurgency and firmly establishing a safe environment for provincial Iraqi control.


October 19, 2007

New Marine dress code transforms the look of some military communities around the country

OCEANSIDE – The Marine Corps is taking on the role of fashion police.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20071019-1118-marinedresscode.html

By Chelsea J. Carter
ASSOCIATED PRESS
11:18 a.m. October 19, 2007

Earlier this year, the Marine Corps commandant updated the regulations on what Marines can and cannot wear, on duty and off, in the United States. Among the fashion don'ts: No shiny metal or gems on your teeth, no designs carved in your hair, no flashy jewelry and no bare midriffs or excessive cleavage.

But it is Gen. James T. Conway's ban on the wearing of camouflage uniforms, or “cammies,” off base that is getting the most attention, changing not only the appearance of the Marines but also the look of their communities.

Under the new regulation, Marines in camouflage cannot get out of their vehicles to run an errand or grab a meal on their way to or from the base. No pumping gas, running into the post office or picking up a cup of joe, either.

Although Marines were always largely prohibited from wearing uniforms off base, they were allowed to make brief stops during their commutes. Now they can stop only for a medical emergency, a traffic accident or a breakdown.

Around Oceanside, a community about 35 miles north of San Diego where Marines from neighboring Camp Pendleton are a common sight, the most noticeable effect is at fast food drive-thrus. Long lines are forming because Marines in uniform are not allowed to get out of their cars and go inside.

John Alexander, who works at GI Joe's, a military surplus store, said customers don't drop in during the middle of the day anymore, though business picks up in the late afternoon.

“There's no such thing as a quick trip anymore,” he said.

Navy Senior Chief David Matthews, 39, said the scene is the same in Jacksonville, N.C., outside Camp Lejeune. Matthews said some Marines and Navy personnel have come up with creative ways to run errands during duty hours.

“They get a buddy who has civilian clothes on to go with them. They drive and wait while their buddy gets out of the car and runs the errand,” he said.

Marines caught in uniform off base can get a warning; for repeat offenses, they can be restricted to their barracks and their pay can be docked.

While the military has always had strict guidelines for what service members can wear, even out of uniform, Conway said the updated regulations are about maintaining Marine “uniformity and pride in appearance.”

“It wasn't that Marines were blatantly breaking the rules. It was more of a tradition, and we just needed to get it back in the box, put it in writing and say here's the policy, here's the rules,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Lora, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton.

Earlier this year, the Marines banned extra-large tattoos below the elbow or the knee, saying such body art is harmful to the Corps' spit-and-polish image.

Some businesses are getting creative to cope with the no-cammies-off-base rule, which was issued in July.

In Oceanside, the Colimas Mexican Restaurant, popular for its takeout lunch, now runs a sort of carhop service for Marines, who call in their orders and then wait in their cars for delivery out front.

Andrea Cerda, who works at Dorothy's Military Shop, a tailor shop, said it is not uncommon to see Marines changing clothes in their car, wriggling out of their pants and boots and into civilian wear.

“You see them bending around their steering wheel or moving back and forth in the driver's seat and you know what they are doing,” she said.

October 18, 2007

Families Celebrate Marines' Homecoming From Iraq

SAN DIEGO -- Four Camp Pendleton Marines arrived from a deployment in Iraq ahead of their unit Thursday.

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/14372702/detail.html

Troy Hirsch, NBC 7/39 Reporter
POSTED: 3:31 pm PDT October 18, 2007

NBC 7/39 was the only news crew on hand when they touched down at Lindbergh Field and saw the happy reunion between Sgt. Joshua Robin, his wife Lisa and their 7-month-old daughter, Zoe.

"Very excited," Lisa Robin said. "Very excited to have some help and have my husband home."

The Marines arrived ahead of their unit for special circumstances.

In Robin's case, he's back just in time to say goodbye to his brother, Chris, an Army Tank Gunner stationed in Texas.

"My little brother is getting deployed in a few weeks," Robin said. "So they sent me back early so I could go meet up with him before he leaves."

Sgt. Carlos Martinez was also able to come home early due to a death in the family. He was met by his fianceé', Sgt. Tina Dominguez. The two had not seen each other since the day he proposed in Kuwait last month.

"It was coming up on my re-enlistment and we were at two different camps in Iraq," Martinez explained.

"On our re-enlistment ceremony, you get a special request sometimes. I asked my commanding officer if he would fly me to her camp so I could propose and at the same, re-enlist in the Marine Corps for four more years. He granted me that wish."

A small gathering of family and friends met the four Marines who flew back from Australia ahead of their unit, the 13th MEU. The rest of the unit is expected to return to San Diego on Nov. 17.

October 17, 2007

Home from war, troops get much-needed vacation; Operation Welcome Homes gives free getaways in Door County

Door County was a nice change of scenery for Craig Nelson.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=676144

By MEG JONES
mjones@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 17, 2007

The Navy Seabee was finishing up a 10-month tour of Iraq last year when his wife, Nicki, asked if he wanted to go on a vacation after returning home from the desert.

With five teenagers at home and not much extra money to go around, Craig Nelson e-mailed his wife back and said they couldn't afford a vacation.

"I said, 'What if we can do it for free?' and he said, 'Let's do it,' " said Nicki Nelson.

Less than a week after Craig Nelson returned to his home near Peoria, Ill., last October from the war, he and his wife drove up to Egg Harbor and spent several days by themselves visiting Peninsula State Park and eating at local restaurants. Trading the sand, dust and heat of Iraq for the changing colors of bucolic Door County was the tonic Craig Nelson needed to change from his military life as a construction mechanic at Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad, to his civilian life as a husband and father.

"It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was just wonderful," said Nicki Nelson. "It was nice to get away from the hubbub so he could breathe for a while."

The Nelsons didn't pay for their lodging or meals, and were able to buy souvenirs to bring back to their family, courtesy of a little-known program started by a couple who wanted to give returning veterans something they sorely need - a vacation.

The idea of donating vacation time at vacant cottages, cabins and condos in Door County hit Don Rubin and his wife, Barbara Winer, as they stood outside their Fish Creek home and looked at the dozen other homes on their block. Many were empty much of the year.

"We thought, 'Why can't some of these be donated for military troops coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan as a way of thanking them for what they did?' " said Rubin, a tax attorney who lives in Highland Park, Ill.

And that's how Operation Welcome Homes started in 2005.

So far, with not much publicity, Rubin has signed up a couple dozen cottage owners, as well as resorts, inns and motels in Door County, and given about 50 military families - the majority from Wisconsin - a chance to get away and reconnect with each other. Operation Welcome Homes has also arranged for a few veterans to have time-share stays at Disney World and Daytona Beach.

Since many service members are cash-strapped when they return from the war, particularly National Guard and Reserves members whose civilian paychecks take a hit when they're mobilized, Operation Welcome Homes also provides certificates for meals and souvenirs.

"We thought if we gave someone a vacation opportunity but if they didn't have money to spend, they would be prisoners in their house," said Rubin. "So we tackled that problem and we've gotten a lot of help from local retailers."

Many business owners in Door County have donated meals, cruises and gift certificates, said Liz Moriarty, who coordinates the program in Door County.

Though the program has a Web site - operationwelcomehomes.org - many military families have found out about the program through word of mouth.

Gregg Kulma learned of the program through the Door County Visitors Bureau and decided to donate the use of three 50-year-old log cottages he owns in Ephraim. A military family stayed five days at one of the cottages this summer and was able to walk to nearby parks, the harbor and downtown Ephraim.

"I'm lucky that I haven't had to serve and my son hasn't had to serve. I guess it's our way of paying back the servicemen who are serving in difficult times," said Kulma, who lives in Downers Grove, Ill. "It's a beautiful area in Door County. I hope they feel good about what they've been doing as a result of staying at our place."

Moriarty gets several vacation dates from military families and then works from a list of lodging donors to find families a place to stay when they can get away. It's more difficult to find openings during the busy summer and fall seasons, but Moriarty has managed to find a place to stay for returning veterans at their available times.

The military members who want to use the program are usually those who couldn't otherwise afford a vacation to Door County, she said.

Moriarty met Rubin and Winer when she owned a coffee shop in Fish Creek. She agreed to help coordinate the program since she lives in Door County and Rubin and Winer live in Illinois. There was a deeper connection for Moriarty, too. Her father, a Vietnam veteran, died from Agent Orange-related tumors.

"I have lots of childhood memories of an angry, poorly received veteran coming home, so this program resonated with me," said Moriarty. "This is really about the soldiers and about soldiers who couldn't otherwise afford a vacation. We realize this is a tangible way to thank them."

Rubin has donated the use of his four-bedroom, two-bath Fish Creek house five times to military families and said the house is often left cleaner than when the service members arrived. Some veterans bring their spouse, while others come with their whole families. Operation Welcome Homes matches them up with the right-size unit - everything from bed and breakfasts and condos to cottages and hotels.

Phil Berndt, membership director of the Door County Visitors Bureau, has helped spread the word among property owners.

"Everybody's heart has been in the right place. They have a compassionate and enthusiastic group of volunteers. There have been zero problems," Berndt said. "The owners I've been able to contact are absolutely thrilled they have been able to participate."

For the Nelsons, who had never heard of Door County before their Operation Welcome Homes vacation, the respite was just what they both needed. They enjoyed eating apple pie, poking through shops, visiting lighthouses and Peninsula State Park, and they loved the solitude. Now that they've experienced Door County, they plan to go back someday.

Home from war, troops get much-needed vacation; Operation Welcome Homes gives free getaways in Door County

Door County was a nice change of scenery for Craig Nelson.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=676144

By MEG JONES
mjones@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 17, 2007

The Navy Seabee was finishing up a 10-month tour of Iraq last year when his wife, Nicki, asked if he wanted to go on a vacation after returning home from the desert.

With five teenagers at home and not much extra money to go around, Craig Nelson e-mailed his wife back and said they couldn't afford a vacation.

"I said, 'What if we can do it for free?' and he said, 'Let's do it,' " said Nicki Nelson.

Less than a week after Craig Nelson returned to his home near Peoria, Ill., last October from the war, he and his wife drove up to Egg Harbor and spent several days by themselves visiting Peninsula State Park and eating at local restaurants. Trading the sand, dust and heat of Iraq for the changing colors of bucolic Door County was the tonic Craig Nelson needed to change from his military life as a construction mechanic at Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad, to his civilian life as a husband and father.

"It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was just wonderful," said Nicki Nelson. "It was nice to get away from the hubbub so he could breathe for a while."

The Nelsons didn't pay for their lodging or meals, and were able to buy souvenirs to bring back to their family, courtesy of a little-known program started by a couple who wanted to give returning veterans something they sorely need - a vacation.

The idea of donating vacation time at vacant cottages, cabins and condos in Door County hit Don Rubin and his wife, Barbara Winer, as they stood outside their Fish Creek home and looked at the dozen other homes on their block. Many were empty much of the year.

"We thought, 'Why can't some of these be donated for military troops coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan as a way of thanking them for what they did?' " said Rubin, a tax attorney who lives in Highland Park, Ill.

And that's how Operation Welcome Homes started in 2005.

So far, with not much publicity, Rubin has signed up a couple dozen cottage owners, as well as resorts, inns and motels in Door County, and given about 50 military families - the majority from Wisconsin - a chance to get away and reconnect with each other. Operation Welcome Homes has also arranged for a few veterans to have time-share stays at Disney World and Daytona Beach.

Since many service members are cash-strapped when they return from the war, particularly National Guard and Reserves members whose civilian paychecks take a hit when they're mobilized, Operation Welcome Homes also provides certificates for meals and souvenirs.

"We thought if we gave someone a vacation opportunity but if they didn't have money to spend, they would be prisoners in their house," said Rubin. "So we tackled that problem and we've gotten a lot of help from local retailers."

Many business owners in Door County have donated meals, cruises and gift certificates, said Liz Moriarty, who coordinates the program in Door County.

Though the program has a Web site - operationwelcomehomes.org - many military families have found out about the program through word of mouth.

Gregg Kulma learned of the program through the Door County Visitors Bureau and decided to donate the use of three 50-year-old log cottages he owns in Ephraim. A military family stayed five days at one of the cottages this summer and was able to walk to nearby parks, the harbor and downtown Ephraim.

"I'm lucky that I haven't had to serve and my son hasn't had to serve. I guess it's our way of paying back the servicemen who are serving in difficult times," said Kulma, who lives in Downers Grove, Ill. "It's a beautiful area in Door County. I hope they feel good about what they've been doing as a result of staying at our place."

Moriarty gets several vacation dates from military families and then works from a list of lodging donors to find families a place to stay when they can get away. It's more difficult to find openings during the busy summer and fall seasons, but Moriarty has managed to find a place to stay for returning veterans at their available times.

The military members who want to use the program are usually those who couldn't otherwise afford a vacation to Door County, she said.

Moriarty met Rubin and Winer when she owned a coffee shop in Fish Creek. She agreed to help coordinate the program since she lives in Door County and Rubin and Winer live in Illinois. There was a deeper connection for Moriarty, too. Her father, a Vietnam veteran, died from Agent Orange-related tumors.

"I have lots of childhood memories of an angry, poorly received veteran coming home, so this program resonated with me," said Moriarty. "This is really about the soldiers and about soldiers who couldn't otherwise afford a vacation. We realize this is a tangible way to thank them."

Rubin has donated the use of his four-bedroom, two-bath Fish Creek house five times to military families and said the house is often left cleaner than when the service members arrived. Some veterans bring their spouse, while others come with their whole families. Operation Welcome Homes matches them up with the right-size unit - everything from bed and breakfasts and condos to cottages and hotels.

Phil Berndt, membership director of the Door County Visitors Bureau, has helped spread the word among property owners.

"Everybody's heart has been in the right place. They have a compassionate and enthusiastic group of volunteers. There have been zero problems," Berndt said. "The owners I've been able to contact are absolutely thrilled they have been able to participate."

For the Nelsons, who had never heard of Door County before their Operation Welcome Homes vacation, the respite was just what they both needed. They enjoyed eating apple pie, poking through shops, visiting lighthouses and Peninsula State Park, and they loved the solitude. Now that they've experienced Door County, they plan to go back someday.

October 16, 2007

Veteran from Muscoda on Cosmo bachelor list

Wednesday, Neil Schalk, Cosmo 's Wisconsin Bachelor 2007, will head to New York to face a day filled with media, capped by the magazine 's Bachelor of the Year party.

http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/column/index.php?ntid=251429&ntpid=1

TUE., OCT 16, 2007 - 5:45 PM
Melanie Conklin

That 's when the magazine will announce which of the 50 bachelors has won its national title in online voting.

But Schalk, a 21-year-old from Muscoda, isn 't just another attractive guy.

The former Marine fought and was seriously injured in Iraq in 2005, when he was hit by the blast from a bomb that injured his left hand, leaving it nonfunctional, and took two fingers and a portion of his right hand. Schalk earned a Purple Heart.

"I 've had 13 surgeries and I only have two functional fingers, " he says. "But I don 't want people to feel sorry for me. "

Schalk says his sister, Natalee Schalk, reads Cosmo and nominated him for the contest. Since he was selected, he 's been getting all kinds of messages of support -- from old friends and strangers.

Schalk 's mother, Tracey Schalk, spread the word to other Marine families via a Marine parents Web site.

"Best part of this experience so far is how people have stepped up to support Neil, which in turn has supported MarineParents.com, " Tracey Schalk says.

"That site has helped our entire family through the Marine Corps experience from Day One when Neil left for boot camp. The site offers a wealth of information and friendship. "

And Schalk hasn 't let his injury slow him down. He 's running the Marine Corps marathon on Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C., to raise money for Purple Heart Family Support. (For more information, visit MarineParents.com).

He started college this fall at UW-Richland Center in biology and plans to study next year with his sister in New Zealand, where he hopes to compete in an Ironman. He also has signed up for Ironman Wisconsin next fall.

But this week, Schalk simply has to survive Cosmo 's media day, which might involve appearances on such national news shows as Today. ' '

"I 'm not easily stressed out. I 'm pretty laid back, " he says. "But this is stressing me out. "

October 14, 2007

Sunshine Run sets fast pace for generosity; Annual race tallies a record $40,000 for various charities as runners aim for best.

They ran for different reasons.

http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071014/NEWS01/710140359/1007

Sunday, October 14, 2007
Dirk VanderHart
News-Leader

For some it was the extension of a hobby, a show of support for a loved one or an attempt to win a cash prize.

But the 2,100 people who participated in St. John's 28th annual Sunshine Run on Saturday all ran for a cause.

Actually, causes.

Proceeds from the run's three events — 10K and 5K races and a one-mile walk — will go to St. John's Burn Center, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, the Ronald McDonald House and other organizations.

And organizers said it will be the race's most profitable year to date, with more than $40,000 raised for the organizations.

For Renee Fesperman, the event represents triumph over illness.

She ran her first Sunshine Run 10 months after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

She'd been a runner for years, but suddenly it was more than a hobby for Fesperman.

"I really felt that that was the one thing I kind of had to do prove to myself that I'm not sick," said the Rogersville woman, 37. "It was more emotional because it wasn't just for the exercise.

"It was survival."

As she continued to run despite her disease, the sport took on a more therapeutic quality.

Today, Fesperman has beaten the cancer.

Though she generally runs the event's 10K race, she participated in the 5K this year. Proceeds from that event went to Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.

Stan Barlow has a similar story.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer and lymphoma in 2002, Barlow's doctors encouraged him to get more exercise.

"I started walking, then I started running," said Barlow, 63.

In 2003, Barlow participated in the 10K race despite having just undergone three consecutive days of chemotherapy.

"I was debating on whether to do it," he said. "Then, I just stopped in and signed up."

Barlow's cancer is in remission, though he will probably have to undergo radiation therapy in the future.

"I just enjoy running," he said. "I get out around young people that are feeling good, and it makes me feel good."

As they have since 2004, a group of Willard students participated in the 5K race to honor a former classmate.

The 64 members of the running club from Willard Intermediate School ran in honor of Josh Thompson.

The sixth-grader died in 2004 of burns.

"That following fall, we found out the Sunshine Run benefits the St. John's Burn Unit," said Debra Ellis, a math teacher who organized her school's participation. "After Josh died, we just wanted to do something in his honor."

Ellis, who spent some time in the burn unit herself after an accident when she was 13, makes sure to run with the students each year.

"It's just been a really meaningful experience for me," she said.

Caption with Photo:
Marine Lance Cpl. Joe Lopez finishes the 10K race. The 21-year-old used the race to prepare for a Marine-sponsored marathon Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C., and to rebuild his strength after near paralysis from a smallpox vaccination.

More About This Story:

Wheelchair racer

Marine Joseph Lopez, who competed in Saturday's race in an arm-powered wheelchair, finished the 10K with a time of 36:43.


October 13, 2007

The “Dragons” of HMM-265, 31st MEU embark for PHIBLEX ‘08

ABOARD USS JUNEAU (Oct. 13, 2007) -- Calm weather was disrupted by the roar of aircraft and their gusting winds as the “Dragons” approached the tiny ship.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2007101512118

Oct. 13, 2007; Submitted on: 10/15/2007 01:21:18 AM ; Story ID#: 2007101512118
By 1st Lt. Jorge Escatell, 31st MEU

The “Dragons” of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, landed safely aboard the USS Juneau (LPD 10) in Okinawa,
Japan, Oct. 12.

Eleven aircraft, comprised of UH-1N Hueys, AH-1W Super Cobras and CH-46E Sea Knights are scheduled to support Amphibious Landing Exercise ‘08; an exercise designed to improve interoperability while conducting bilateral training between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. forces from Oct. 15-31.

These aircraft will serve a crucial role in supporting 6,500 troops from both AFP and U.S forces and the difficult missions taking place during PHIBLEX ‘08.

Captain John Bodwell, a CH-46E pilot with HMM-265 (Rein.), explained that some of the missions include casualty evacuation, fast roping and assault support missions for the ground fighters.

Additional missions will include transporting various dignitaries and media organizations to witness civil military operations also taking place during the exercise.

“It’s on a day-to-day basis, so your mission can change and even though we are also trying to get some of our required training complete; we are certainly ready to support our fellow Marines on the ground,” said the Dallas native.

While most pilots have conducted numerous flight operations and participated in past PHIBLEX exercises, some are experiencing the exercise and its arduous missions for the first time.

Most pilots spend their first two years training to ensure they are ready for the demanding missions placed upon them by the Marine Corps. One such pilot, 1st Lt. Sean R. Hulsey, a native of Littlerock, Calif., feels ready to gain the experience.

“I have been in the Fleet Marine Corps for three months so I am really excited about being able to apply all that I have learned during my training,” said Hulsey, a CH-46E pilot with the squadron.

Hulsey added, “It feels great to be able to interact with Marines and sailors and support them in their missions, but I also have the opportunity to meet and train with a different military (Armed Forces Philippine) and show them how we operate.”

Whether the mission is routine, combat exercise in nature or transporting dignitaries and journalists to witness different aspects of PHIBLEX ‘08, one thing is for certain, the “Dragons” will be ready to support their AFP brethren and fellow U.S. service members.

31st MEU Marines get spun up on ship

ABOARD USS JUNEAU (Oct 13, 2007) -- The crew of the USS Juneau (LPD 10) conducted a welcome aboard brief for Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force and Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, Oct. 13, here.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2007101533429

Oct 13, 2007; Submitted on: 10/15/2007 03:34:29 AM ; Story ID#: 2007101533429
By 1st Lt. Jorge Escatell, 31st MEU

The brief focused on teaching the service members how to respond to a number of emergencies on ship and refreshed their naval customs and courtesies. The crew also answered the troop’s questions about life at sea to prepare them for their three-day voyage to the Philippines to participate in PHIBLEX ‘08, a bilateral training exercise between Armed Forces Philippines and U.S. forces.

The crew explained the ship’s layout and gave lessons on everything from proper boarding and exciting procedures to techniques used to survive catastrophes.

The lesson on surviving a fire on ship sparked the most interest with the service members, according to Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Culler, the MEU’s operations clerk.

The Columbus, Ohio native said he had no idea he could use the EEBD (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) under his rack to save his life from smoke insulation.

The EEBD can provide up to 10 minutes of breathable air in a smoke filled environment. Plenty time enough to escape a burning room filling with thick smoke, according to Seaman Anthony L. Skinner, a damage controlman fireman with the USS Juneau.

The Chicago native also warned the troops against using the devices to act like makeshift fire fighters.

“The biggest misconception is that you can use the EEBD to access a space were there is a fire instead of egressing to safety,” he said.

Many of the troops said they now have a better understanding of how ship life works and how to survive incidents thanks to the brief.

“The crew did a fine job in really emphasizing the Navy and Marine Corps Team, working together to keep the ship in good standards and helped me understand my role during this trip,” said Gunnery Sgt. Samuel A. Rivera, the MEU’s Combat Camera Chief.

New San Diego facility cares for war's worst wounded; The Naval Medical Center upgrade includes expanded therapy for amputees.

SAN DIEGO — Marine Sgt. Jordan Pierson, who lost his left leg to a roadside bomb in Ramadi, Iraq, had a request for the therapists at the Naval Medical Center here. He wanted a prosthetic leg that would let him play golf like he did before his injury.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-injury13oct13,0,4966919.story?coll=la-home-center


By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 13, 2007

"I'm huge into golf," he said Friday. "So they made me an ankle that will allow me to follow through."

Pierson, 23, is one of the first group of amputees to receive treatment at the hospital's newly finished facility for the most severely injured military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan, including amputees. Thirty amputees are receiving care there, with more expected to arrive soon.

The 30,000-square-foot facility cost $4.4 million to build, and about that much to outfit and staff.

The formal grand opening, to be attended by admirals and Marine generals, is set for Monday. But reporters were allowed to tour the facility Friday and meet some of the therapists and outpatients.

Among the patients was Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mendez of Santa Ana, who lost his left arm below the elbow to a suicide car bomb in Saqlawiya in Iraq's Anbar province. Now he's learning skills to help him regain his independence -- everyday skills like cooking.

Mendez, 20, is also waiting to get a special attachment for his artificial arm so it can be fitted with a boxing glove. "I can't wait to get back into the ring," he said.

The goal of the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C-5) facility is to allow wounded service members from the West Coast to be closer to their families during what otherwise could be months of separation while they underwent treatment and rehabilitation at military hospitals in Texas, Maryland or Washington, D.C.

The Naval Medical Center upgrade and the $50-million rehabilitation center that opened this year at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio are part of the military's effort to assist a larger number of grievously wounded patients than were anticipated when President Bush sent troops into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

In some cases, patients are able to be brought directly to San Diego from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the U.S. military's hospital where the Iraq wounded are taken, rather than spending months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio or Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the military's two other amputee centers.

Rear Adm. Christine S. Hunter, commander of the Naval Medical Center San Diego, said the new facility is meant to be "at the forefront of wounded warrior care."

Included at the facility are a 3,500-square-foot obstacle course, a 30-foot-high climbing wall and a technologically advanced training apartment.

The apartment, including kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom, allows patients, including amputees, to learn to navigate a living space with reduced mobility. On Friday, Mendez was baking cookies using his artificial arm, adorned with a Marine Corps decal.

The new facility includes therapy rooms for sessions with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The ethos of the C-5 center is twofold: include patients' families in the recovery process and treat patients as athletes who have suffered injuries but are still capable of achievement.

"Without the people here, I don't know where my husband would be in terms of his recovery," said Sarah Martinez.

Army Spc. Saul Martinez, 22, whose legs were severed by a roadside bomb in Diyala province north of Baghdad, likes to climb the 30-foot wall, while doctors watch and marvel at his recovery.

His wife appreciates the chance to talk to spouses of other patients.

"That helps sometimes better than talking to counselors, who are good but they haven't been through an explosion so they really don't know," she said.

Army Maj. Brian Belnap, a doctor who transferred to the Naval Medical Center from Walter Reed, said one strategy with amputees is to get them physically active as soon as possible. The center has organized ski trips, a surfing clinic and river rafting expeditions.

"Some guys get here and they think their life is over," said Belnap. "We try to dispel that notion. We tell them, 'If you were a skier before your injury, you're going to ski again.' "

The hospital, the busiest in the U.S. military system, has also added staff, including its first full-time prosthetist, an expert in making artificial legs and arms and in guiding patients on their use. A computerized "gait-training" center will help patients fitted with prosthetics gauge their walk.

Amputations are one of the signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. With improvements in personal protective gear and battlefield trauma medicine, many soldiers, Marines and sailors who might otherwise have died are surviving but with limbs lost.

One study shows that 2.5% of battlefield injuries result in amputations.

Most of the outpatients at the new facility are living in military housing. For unmarried service members, a barracks adjacent to the hospital is available; the hospital plans to increase the number of such rooms.

The new center is opening at a key time. In the next three months, 11,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton are set to return to Iraq.

Marine keeps faith in spite of near paralysis; Physical therapy helps Lopez rebuild strength.

Surrounded by about 2,000 others on foot at today's Sunshine Run, Lance Cpl. Joe Lopez will get by with arm-power — and a set of wheels.

http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071013/NEWS01/710130389
Please click on above link for photos.

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Cory de Vera
News-Leader

The 21-year-old Marine is using the race to prepare for a Marine-sponsored marathon Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C., and to rebuild his strength after near paralysis.

It was only a little more than a year ago that a smallpox vaccination left him helpless, unable even to breathe without a ventilator.

Doctors told his mother he likely wouldn't survive, but with physical therapy — now every other day at St. John's Hospital — his strength is coming back. With a cane, he's able to walk about the length of a football field, but for a trip to the mall he'll use a wheelchair. Daily medications keep his legs from trembling.

For races, his arms do the work, using a custom-built hand cycle provided by a nonprofit organization that offers support to members of the military and their families.

"My arms have returned — as far as I can tell — back to normal," Lopez said. "Most of my injury was below my arms, so I work on trying to build up abdominal and leg muscles."

Wednesday night was the first time Lopez completed the full 26.2-mile length of a marathon on his hand cycle.

"I really enjoy the hand cycle; it gives me the type of exercise I haven't been able to get for the last year," he said. "It feels good to have that kind of mobility."

His mother, Barbara Lopez, a secretary at Central High, will be a first-time participant in the Sunshine Run, too. Though she says she'll be walking while he dashes forward.

"I've never done anything like this, but when he started getting excited about the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided with all he's got going on, surely I can do this," Barbara Lopez said.

She said the farthest she's gone in her training is about four miles; the 10K she'll attempt today is a little more than six miles.

But she, too, is glad she started training and picking up a healthy habit.

"First, it was really hard to make myself get off the couch and start walking," she said. "It is so much easier to just come home, make dinner, watch TV. You've got to force yourself. Once you get in the habit, it feels so much better. Then, you want to get up and do it."

The Sunshine Run began 28 years ago as a way of getting workers at St. John's physically active, but eventually opened up to the wider community, said hospital spokeswoman Cora Scott. Today's event will draw participants for three different races: a 5K, a 10K and a one-mile race. Entry fees for the race benefit five different charities.

The deadline to register has passed, but spectators are welcome to enjoy entertainment, refreshments and shopping at the Wellness Village on the concourse of Hammons Field, East Trafficway and John Q. Hammons Parkway.

Scott said organizers are unsure if any people using wheelchairs have ever participated in the race; those she asked could not remember any.

"We certainly don't turn any participants away, but I don't think we've had much interest (from people who use wheelchairs). Maybe in the future we'll do a whole wheelchair division."

Barbara Lopez is just pleased to see her son's enthusiasm. When he had his rare reaction to the vaccine, doctors told her if he survived he would have brain damage. But he survived and has no brain damage. His reaction and his treatment are so rare doctors aren't sure how much progress he'll be able to make.

"I'm proud of him," Barbara Lopez said. "He could have given up a long time ago, but he chose not to."


MORE ABOUT THIS STORY

Sunshine Run schedule of events

All races begin in front of Hammons Stadium at East Trafficway and John Q. Hammons Parkway and end at home plate in the stadium.

7:30 a.m.: 5K Race begins

7:45 a.m.: Official Starting Ceremony for 10K Race -- main stage in front of stadium

7:40-7:45 a.m. (approximately): First 5K finishers cross the finish line

8:15 a.m.: 1-mile race begins

8:20 a.m.: National Anthem to signal start of 10K Race on main stage in front of stadium

8:30 a.m.: 10K Race begins

8:40 - 8:50 a.m. (approximately): First 10K finishers cross the finish line

10:30 a.m.: Awards ceremonies inside the stadium
For the cause
Registrations from the Sunshine Run help support five local charities: St. John's Burn Center, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, Springfield Catholic Schools, The Foundation for Springfield Public Schools and The Ronald McDonald House.

Spectators may make contributions at the event.

Lopez's cause

When Joe Lopez races in the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28, he hopes to raise money for Purple Heart Family Support. To find out more about his efforts go to
http://www.teammarineparents.com/team-josef-lopez.asp

October 12, 2007

31st MEU embarks for PHIBLEX ‘08

OKINAWA, Japan (Oct. 12, 2007) -- Considered one of its most challenging embarkation efforts this year, the logisticians of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, bobbed and weaved their way around obstacles and challenges to ensure its Marines, sailors and gear were ready to set sail Oct. 12, here.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/20071014205535

Oct. 12, 2007; Submitted on: 10/14/2007 08:55:35 PM ; Story ID#: 20071014205535
By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

The MEU’s embarkation team comprised of logisticians from the MEU’s command element, ground combat element, combat logistics support element and aviation combat element moved more than 1,200 personnel, 180 vehicles, and 250 pieces of cargo across three ships: USS Tortuga (LSD 46), the USS Juneau (LPD 10), and the USS West Pacific Express (HSV).

“In order to logistically support the MEU’s broad spectrum of operational capabilities, a great task was placed on the men and women behind the scenes,” said Sgt. James Milburn, the MEU embarkation chief and Austin, Texas native.

Together, the embarkation team planned and executed a strategic move to position gear, such as storage containers, ground support equipment, aircraft, vehicles and weapons systems needed for the various missions the MEU may encounter.

The team loaded the ships in a manner that allowed its contents to be disembarked in the most effective manner to support planned activities ashore, said Cpl. Stacy Thetford, the MEU logistics non-commissioned officer.

“The embarkation of assets is a vital element of each deployment,” said Thetford, a Philadelphia native. “A heavy responsibility rests on the shoulders of these Marines and sailors who help mobilize the MEU for its many missions.”

When it rains, it pours for these embarkers. Their jobs are not as simple as loading cargo from the port to inside a ship with cranes and forklift vehicles, explained Milburn.

“Embarkation is so complicated that we essentially plan two months ahead,” he said. “There is a lot of coordination we had to do. We have to get the count of vehicles, equipment, and storage containers from all of the MEU’s major subordinate elements and combine them on a spreadsheet. After putting together all the pieces of the puzzle on a load plan, the combat cargo detachment and landing support platoon must work hours on end to move all cargo aboard the ships. There is a lot of thinking and strategy involved.”

The MEU is capable of planning and executing a number of combat related missions to include non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. In order to rapidly deploy and support these operations, the MEU requires a strong and experienced embarkation team capable of embarking and disembarking hundreds of tons of equipment and vehicles, according to SSgt. Christopher Oliver, the MEU’s embarkation Staff Non-commissioned Officer in Charge.

Meanwhile, for this deployment, the logisticians worked arduously to load the ships to meet operation requirements in support of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2008. Approximately 6,500 U.S. and Philippine military service members will participate in a variety of bilateral training exercises to include jungle environment survival training, martial arts, live-fire drills, close air support, civil-military operations, and community outreach efforts near their training areas in Luzon.

The exercise maintains the readiness and sustains the long-term security assistance relationship shared between the Philippines and the United States.

October 10, 2007

Tortuga Departs for Fall Patrol

USS TORTUGA, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Tortuga (LSD 46) departed Sasebo, Japan, for its semi-seasonal fall patrol throughout the South Pacific region Oct. 8.

http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=32473

Story Number: NNS071010-11
Release Date: 10/10/2007 11:47:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon A. Myrick, USS Tortuga Public Affairs

Talon Vision and Phiblex 08 are training exercises and will run concurrently Oct. 15-31, and will partner 2,700 U.S. and 1,300 Philippine military personnel for two weeks of training emphasizing the importance of U.S. military forces from Japan in supporting the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

“We will be conducting joint and bilateral training exercises with the armed forces of the Philippines as we continue to strengthen our security assistance program,” said Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Todd A. Lewis. “Bilateral training is vital to maintaining readiness capabilities for both the U.S. and Philippines armed forces.”

Numerous training events will focus on a variety of sea and land-based capabilities. Naval assets of Tortuga will provide a sea-based platform for simulated Marine raids, and Sailors of both nations will conduct simulated maritime interdiction operations and visit, board, search and seizure training.

“The exercises are being conducted to facilitate interoperability, increase readiness and continue to improve professional relationships between the United States and the Philippines armed forces,” said Operations Officer, Lt. Robert D. Starks. “Bilateral training is part of the long-term security assistance program between the [Philippines] and U.S.”

Along with the training schedule, Sailors on board Tortuga will be able to experience the vast array of foreign port visits as well as interact with the local community by volunteering for community service projects.

“I know how important the operational training is, but my favorite part is getting out with the locals and volunteering my time in community service projects,” said Engineman 3rd Class Kenneth Lake. “It is my way of personally getting out and doing something positive.”

While community service projects act as a one-on-one friendship builder, bilateral training is part of the long-term security assistance program between the Republic of the Philippines and U.S.

“Exercises like these go a long way toward supporting the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lewis.

For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

‘First Team’ works with ISF to make ‘Bell Hurriyah’ a reality

EXPEDITIONARY PATROL BASE - DULAB, Iraq (Oct. 10, 2007) -- Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, kicked off Operation Bell Hurriyah in the Anbar Province.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/2F82767F28C5CF3C8525737000462E62?

Oct. 10, 2007; Submitted on: 10/10/2007 08:46:33 AM ; Story ID#: 2007101084633
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

The operation is intended to disrupt enemy activity in the battalion’s area of operations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Traditionally Ramadan has seen a spike of insurgent activity, and we’re trying to prevent that,” said 1st Lt. Oliver W. Buccicone, the executive officer with the battalion’s Company A. “Last year, there were over 300 incidents during the 30-day period in this area alone.”

In the Muslim community, Ramadan is the most sacred time of worship. During this time Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset, and attempt to read the entire Quran, the Muslim holy book. Due to the fact it is based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan has no set starting or ending dates, but lasts one lunar cycle.

The battalion, also known as the ‘First Team,’ has been working closely with Iraqi Army and Iraqi police forces, setting up vehicle check points, over watch positions, and conducting cache sweeps and patrols.

“We have tried to keep the enemy on their toes by setting up lots of vehicles check points all across the AO,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew D. Markoff, a platoon commander with Company A, also known as the ‘Animals’. “We work with the ISF more in an over watch role now. We like to set up as backup and watch as they do patrols and checkpoints on their own. They’re doing well so far.”

Buccicone explained the battalion’s point of view on the operation so far.

“The VCPs and sweeps limit the enemy’s mobility and ease at which they can hide their weapons, thus eliminating their ability to hurt us,” said Buccicone, a Rochester, Minn., native who is serving on his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The battalion believes its strategy so far is working, and is pleased with the results.

“It’s tough to gauge success in this environment because you never know what would have happened if you hadn’t interdicted, or set up a VCP, or done a sweep, but we have found a lot of ordinance, a lot of explosives, and I can’t help but believe it has positively affected what may have happened otherwise,” said Buccicone.

The Animals, in conjunction with their Iraqi counterparts, have found four caches so far, the battalion’s count is around a dozen. They recovered (115) 82mm mortar rounds, (192) 90mm artillery rounds, one 120mm, and 155mm artillery round, (10) 152mm mortar rounds, pieces of an anti-aircraft machine gun, and an anti-tank projectile.

In addition, the company has also safely recovered three improvised explosive devices, and detained four suspected insurgents.

“The main goal is to take away this area from the enemy, and I think we have done that,” said Markoff, a Raleigh, N.C., native. “Our relationship with the locals is amazing. When an insurgent comes to the city and asks someone where they can put an IED, the locals will actually bring them to us, or take us to them. It’s great.”

Buccicone agreed, “We get a lot of support from the local leaders, and once that happened, certain places just got shut down to the insurgency. Now we are working with ISF and area leaders to rebuild this area, which is the next step. We are working on repairing a bridge, creating a youth center, soccer fields, and even trying to get together a secondary school for females. It’s coming together in this part of the country.”

To the Marines of 1/7, and the local Iraqi civilians, Bell Hurriyah, translated as ‘Enjoy Freedom’, is not just an operation; it is slowly becoming a reality.

Marine from southeast Texas killed in Iraq

LIBERTY, Texas (Map, News) - A Marine from southeast Texas who was killed in Iraq was remembered by family members and friends as a man of great faith who leaves behind six younger siblings.

http://www.examiner.com/a-981023~Marine_from_southeast_Texas_killed_in_Iraq.html

Oct 10, 2007
AP

Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris, 22, was killed Monday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Brent Burris said Tuesday that his son was driving a patrol vehicle, accompanied by two other Marines, when they hit an explosive device hidden in the road.

He survived the initial blast and helped get the wounded Marines out of the damaged vehicle, his father said. But when he returned to the vehicle to get some equipment, a second explosive detonated and he was killed instantly, Brent Burris said.

Brent Burris said his son had lived in Liberty, about 40 miles northeast of Houston, since he was 12. After he finished home-schooling, Jeremy Burris moved to Tacoma, Wash., to participate in a Christian discipleship program. The military listed his hometown as Tacoma.

Jeremy Burris attended the non-denominational Cornerstone Church in Liberty, where he led praise and worship sessions for the youth group and was a guitar player during the main services.

"He was a precious young man who touched many lives," pastor Mike Glazener said.

Burris stayed in Washington for almost two years before enlisting in the Marine Corps about 1 1/2 years ago, his family said.

Burris was assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Brent Burris said funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

---


Animals lose sleep over progress in Dulab

EXPEDITIONARY PATROL BASE - DULAB, Iraq (Oct. 10, 2007) -- “Enjoy it while you can maggots,” rasped the drill instructor into the darkness of the squad bay, “This is the most sleep you will see in the Corps, especially if you are allowed to become grunts.” The Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, now agree with the phantom from boot camp.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/46A2E77184C43B6185257370004C7917?opendocument

Oct. 10, 2007; Submitted on: 10/10/2007 09:55:17 AM ; Story ID#: 2007101095517
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

In the small patrol base which borders on the village of Dulab, near the edge of the Euphrates River, sleep truly is a commodity. The Marines of Company A, known as the “Animals,” spend most of their time on foot patrols in or around the city or in overwatch positions for Iraqi Security Forces. Any free time is spent trying to catch up on their shut-eye.

“We have a lot of area to cover and not an abundance of people to cover it,” explained 2nd Lt. Andrew D. Markoff, a platoon commander with the company. “We try to push into the desert, cover the river, and steal the night from the enemy, plus it’s all on foot. It adds up after a while.”

The platoon who occupies the patrol base, 1st Platoon, is constantly on the move.

“I would say the average length is about five to eight miles per patrol,” said Markoff, Raleigh, N.C., native. “And if we are doing an overwatch position, you can tack about six hours on to the middle of that patrol.”

Most of the Marines agree the lack of sleep is a welcome price for the progress being made in the area.

“The Iraqi Security Forces are much easier to work with this year,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick K. Mason, a squad leader with the platoon. “Last deployment we were focused on creating the IP force, but now these guys have experience. You don’t have to be afraid to go on patrols with them anymore because you’re more confident in their capabilities.”

The Iraqi soldiers and police have begun operating on their own with either little or no support from the Animals.

“Compared to last year, this is a pretty big step,” said Lance Cpl. Cameron J. Jensen, a team leader with the platoon. “This proves were doing our job here. They aren’t perfect yet, but it won’t be long. They lack the natural discipline that Marines have, but slowly they are learning not to talk during an operation, take a knee when you stop, keep a low silhouette on the horizon, stuff like that.”

The Marines in the company are being urged to foster the differences between the two security forces. Their goal is to get the Iraqi police away from a military mindset, and into the local police mindset.

“The IA here are tactically proficient, and it won’t be long before they will be able to operate solely on their own,” said Markoff. “Are they perfect? No. Are they Marines? Of course not, but they’re doing exceptionally well. The IPs have a bit more work ahead of them, we’re trying to teach them to walk a beat, talk to locals, and do proper paperwork, like police officers do in America.”

The job sounds much easier than it really is. It is common for a group of police to arrest someone, and bring them to the Marines to be detained. The Marines ask what the crime was and if there is proof. The police will vouch that ‘this man is bad.’ When asked for witnesses, more police will agree ‘everyone knows he is bad.’ The legal process is, however, making headway.

“Recently the IPs caught a man who was being paid to poison ISF members,” said 1st Lt. Oliver W. Buccicone, the company’s executive officer. “They got written witness statements, recovered the poison, and conducted proper investigative procedures just like they were taught. It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there.”

The Animals credit much of the success in the local area to the community itself and key local leaders.

“The people definitely like us here, we get good atmospherics every time we leave the wire,” said Mason, a Hayden, Idaho, native. “The sheik is a huge asset too. He’s like a mediator between the people and us.”

The sheik, Sheik Khalil Jasem Gadban, is not an elected leader or a religious leader; rather he is a tribal leader, head of the much extended local family.

“Officially he’s the leader of the tribe,” explained Buccicone, a Rochester, Minn., native. “Unofficially, you can think of him like the Godfather. He’s the go-to guy in the community, everyone knows him, and nothing happens without his knowledge. He may not be the mayor, but nobody would get elected without his approval. He’s not the imam (religious leader), but trust me when I say he knows what each sermon will be before it is taught.”

Not too long ago Sheik Khalil’s son was targeted by insurgents, and beaten before he was killed. Since then, he has done everything in his power to close his city to the insurgency and help Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.

“Once again, the people have control of their community, and we will not lightly give it up again,” said Sheik Khalil through an interpreter. “We love the Marines. They do not favor certain tribes or people, and they do not think only for personal gain. I would say thank you to the American people and the Marines. We do understand the sacrifice, and the work, and we appreciate their help.”

The sheik is currently working with the Animals to rebuild the local bridge, improve soccer fields, create a youth center, and establish a secondary school for females.

Despite the lack of sleep and the seemingly endless forays into the Iraqi desert, the Marines never turn down an invitation to visit the sheik and his family, a weekly occurrence in the village.

“We play with his kids, eat with his family, and talk about business,” said Jensen, a Cloverdale, Calif., native. “He likes it when we just relax and talk, even if it’s nothing to do with Iraq or the community.”

After dinner, the sheik patted his youngest daughter on the head as she looked at one of the Marines.

“If more places were like this,” said Sheik Khalil, indicating the table where infantrymen were eating alongside his children, “and more people were willing to give as you give, the world would be a better place.”

“When you look back on it though,” continued the Marine recounting his memory of the drill instructor from boot camp, “You won’t remember the lost hours of sleep, or the blisters on your feet, just the look on the kids faces as you give them toys or food, and the thanks in the parents’ eyes. Sleep is hardly a price to pay for such memories.”

Richland Center Marine Bachelor of the Year?

An area Marine who was injured in Iraq is up for a big award, but it's not for his service. Cosmopolitan magazine is taking his story nationwide. Each year Cosmo has a contest to find the hottest bachelors in the country and it just so happens that Richland Center is home to one of the lucky 50 finalists.

http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/10404177.html
Click on the above link for a news video interview with Neil.

Reporter: Erin Koskovich
Email Address: ekoskovich@nbc15.com

Meet Neil Schalk and he seems like your typical Wisconsin guy. He likes to hunt, he's an athlete, and a college student. However, Neil is also a big brother and he's very close to his sister, Natalee. "We're really close. I don't know any brother and sister that are as close as we are," said Neil.

However, recently a little sisterly love from Natalee ended up putting Neil in the spotlight. Natalee saw a plea in Cosmo magazine to find the best looking bachelors in the nation. Natalee decided her brother needed to be featured so she wrote up a little something and sent it in. A couple weeks later, Neil got a call. "I was surprised. I didn't think anything of it," Neil said.

Neil was named Wisconsin's bachelor of the year by Cosmo. He's one of 50 bachelors vying for Cosmopolitan magazine's ultimate title of "Bachelor of the Year". "They sent us e-mails with interviews and they wanted, of course, more pictures. All kinds of questions. Crazy stuff," smiled Neil.

Neil sent it all in and is now featured on Cosmos website. "The online voting is going on right now," said Neil.

The voting kicked off Tuesday and will go through Thursday, October 11th. The entire nation is voting for their favorite bachelor, but Neil is hoping they'll see something unique about him. He's an avid runner and a college student, but he's got something most the other guys probably don't have. "Probably the fact that I have a purple heart probably makes me stand out a little bit," explained Neil.

The 21 year old just finished a stint with the Marines. He served in Iraq where he earned his purple heart. "I got hit by a roadside bomb because I was a gunner on top of a Humvee and a bunch of shrapnel hit me. I lost a third of this hand (right) and had a big hole blown in this hand (left). It really doesn't work anymore. I think, maybe... I don't know, none of those other guys probably have that," said Neil.

His fellow Marines are rallying behind him. His profile and story is posted on www.marineparents.com His family is also hoping he'll win. If he does he will have a huge spread on him in Cosmo and also be awarded $10,000. If he wins, Neil says he's going to share the winnings with his sister, who's a student at UW-Stout. "My sister and I are going to study abroad in New Zealand next semester. So, actually, I would give half the 10 grand to her and use the other half for that trip," Neil explained.

On October 18th Cosmo is flying Neil and the other men to New York for a bachelor party and that's where the winner will be announced.

Again, you can vote for Neil through Thursday: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/hot-guys/bachelors/

October 8, 2007

Marines keep death at bay; An infantry battalion that had 200 members voluntarily extend their enlistments returns from Iraq, and 'everybody came home alive.'

CAMP PENDLETON -- The U.S. involvement in Iraq is often judged by numbers. Among the most important are the number of boots on the ground and the number of dead.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-me-zero9oct09,1,4402782.story?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=1&cset=true

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
9:38 AM PDT, October 8, 2007

When 200 members of the 800-member 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment extended their enlistments this year so they could accompany the Two-Five back to Iraq, it was significant. No infantry battalion has had as many Marines extend their tours as the Two-Five -- Marines who were "short-timers" and could have ended their service with comfy stateside billets but chose instead to return to Iraq to help less-experienced Marines navigate the dangers.

As the Marines from Two-Five returned here early today, they had a new number to boast about: zero.

In seven months of patrolling the streets of Ramadi, once the most violent city in Anbar province, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment had no Marines or sailors killed and only one injured. In its previous deployment, the battalion's numbers were 15 killed and more than 200 wounded.

No one is saying the presence of the 200 Marines who had extended their tours was the crucial factor in the battalion returning with no fatalities. No one is saying it wasn't.

"100% accountability: Everybody came home alive," said Staff Sgt. Joe Flores, 33, as he embraced his wife, Yadira. "100%."

Hundreds of family members waited in the cool night air, welcome-home banners at the ready. Shortly before 2 a.m., the first buses arrived, bringing Marines whose flight from Iraq had landed at the Air Force Reserve base in Riverside.

For Wendy Hill of Phoenix, it was the end of the longest seven months of her life. Her son, Cpl. Joshua Bodnovits, 22, was on his first tour. She had taken comfort that so many of his fellow Marines had opted to return with him.

"I prayed every day that they wouldn't have any casualties," she said. "It was hard at first, then it got easier. But as the date for them to come home got closer, I got scared something was going to happen."

Barbara Porter's son, 22-year-old Cpl. Jesse Porter, was one of the 200 who responded to an appeal from their commanding officer and sergeant-major to make another trip to Iraq before returning to civilian life.

"It scared me to death, but it wasn't surprising," said Porter, also of Phoenix. "He couldn't stand to let them go without him."

Jo McDaid of Kalamazoo, Mich., was similarly unsurprised when her son, Sgt. Matthew McDaid, 22, announced he was returning to Iraq voluntarily.

"He's a sniper, so he has skills he thought he could use to protect his brothers," she said.

There are other factors on why the Two-Five returned with no deaths. The Iraqi security forces are taking a more active role in Ramadi, and support from Sunni Arab tribal sheiks has been strong.

Cpl. Taren Hicks, 22, from Idaho, was one of the 200. "He's a Marine doing his job, end of story," said his grandfather, Ken Ohls of Idaho, a former Marine.

As the Marines tumbled from the buses, many were able to hold children born during their absence. Among them was Cpl. Saul Mellado, holding his 5-month-old son Christopher, handed gingerly to him by his wife, Kirsten.

In his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, President Bush quoted a news story in which Mellado explained why he returned to Iraq rather than stay home and await his son's birth: "I'm here so our sons don't have to come here and fight someday."

As they left the parade deck, the Marines and their families had special plans. Family barbecues, trips to Las Vegas, a beach outing in the California sun. One family from Oklahoma had a surprise for their son: tickets for the Texas-Oklahoma State football game.

Hill had plans, too, for the hours after greeting her son.

"I'm going to get the best night's sleep in seven months," she said.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Returning veterans are turning to the Internet to find work

THE WORDS WRITTEN BY one American military veteran seem to speak volumes for the thousands of others asking the same question these days: "Where do I go from here?"

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710080308

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/8/07

The Internet is full of blog posts from those leaving the military, many returning from multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. And nowhere is the confusion, anger and frustration in getting a job back in the civilian world possibly more evident than on Hire a Hero (www.hireahero.org), a free social networking Web site that has been developed to help vets make the kind of contacts they need to get a good job.

"I need a foot in the door," says one post from a vet, who says that while he's tried the large online job boards, he's been "unsuccessful in even getting an interview."

Notes another vet from New Mexico: "Man, this is so crazy. I don't feel like the world owes me anything for serving in the military, but can they just give me a chance?"

Dan Caulfield is all too familiar with those kinds of stories, and that's why he began Hire a Hero with $500,000 of his own money. With 225,000 men and women leaving active duty this year, and another 150,000 in the National Guard currently seeking employment, Caulfield says military unemployment rates are higher than the civilian population.

Part of the reason is because "the military does a horrible job of transitioning vets back into civilian life," and part of it has to do with a lack of connection between private employers and the military, he says.

"It is overwhelmingly true that people who do the hiring must have a personal relationship with someone in the military in order for them to hire someone who comes from the military," Caulfield says. "If you don't, the chances of you taking a chance on an ex-military person is as close to zero as you can get."

Caulfield says many hiring managers — often college-educated females in their 20s — don't have experience with anyone in the military. And, while many of those hiring often see someone in the military as "disciplined", Caulfield says that's just a way of saying "you're an automaton and capable of front-line work only."

Caulfield says that the Hire a Hero Web site helps teach vets that the old adage — "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" — is very true when it comes to getting a good job in the civilian world.

The site focuses on bringing together military job seekers and "military friendly" companies, while the technology helps best match military skills with jobs. The social networking aspect helps vets transition into civilian life, dealing with the everyday stresses of finding a good job, and letting vets network in their own community to find a job.

Also a priority: Teaching employers that former military personnel make excellent employees.

"Those in the military have been led to believe that their service will be good for them, will help them get good jobs," Caulfield says. "But the reality is that stereotypes exist that if you didn't go to college, you're a loser."

As a result, he says, many of those in the military return to find they change jobs up to five times in the first two years of civilian life, mostly because "the jobs they get are so crappy."

Caulfield says this "military service penalty" and the patronizing attitude shown to many vets by employers has prompted some in Congress to call for more funding to help vets transition back into the civilian work force more successfully.

"There is now an enormous hurdle for these people coming back from active duty overseas," Caulfield says. "In fact, it's much more profound than I thought. There is significant trauma in these people's lives, and on top of everything else, they lose their network when they leave the military.

"Reintegrating into the civilian life is very difficult, and these people are going back into a society where the military is a tricky subject."

Anita Bruzzese is syndicated by Gannett News Service.

October 5, 2007

Son follows father into Corps, shares time in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 5, 2007) -- A father is someone that a boy can look up to and admire, someone that a son can emulate in his adulthood. Growing up together learning from each other, the bond between father and son can become strong. Sometimes that bond can be made even stronger with special circumstances.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4DE6BC703FF2E7418525736B0040A095?opendocument

Oct. 5, 2007; Submitted on: 10/05/2007 07:45:54 AM ; Story ID#: 200710574554
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

For Gunnery Sgt. Reynolda M. Pena, an engineer detachment chief with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and his step-son Pvt. Derrick Gibson, an Entry Control Point guard for Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, their bond became stronger when they shared a couple of days together aboard Al Asad.

“It’s a good experience (to see my dad out here),” said Gibson with a grin on his face. “He surprised me the other day and just showed up and I was like ‘That’s my dad’. It’s different because we are in a different country, but I like being with him and getting to see him after not seeing him for a while.”

For Pena, who has been Gibson’s step-father since he was three years old, getting to see his son and make sure that he is alright was just good fortune.

“In the states you are always there, but over here you know that you can not be there everyday and it’s nice that the MEU went out of their way to put me here before we left,” said Pena. “If anything ever happened (to Gibson) my chain-of-command would go out of their way to get me where I need to go. It’s very nice that even though we are a Marine Corps family, they know there are other families.”

The Corps got their first taste of the two when Pena joined in 1987. After serving a couple of years he got out, but soon returned.

“I joined right after school, it was something that I wanted to do, I was infatuated with the Marine Corps,” said Pena. “(After getting out) my brother got in the Marine Corps and convinced me to get back in. I was doing good as a civilian and my brother was like ‘We can get stationed together,’ and I told him that wasn’t going to happen. But I went to see the recruiter to see what he had for me. He said ‘What do you want to do,’ and I said ‘heavy junk.’ He said okay and the next day I had my hand up.”

As for Gibson, a life around the Marine Corps sparked an interest early on. Upon graduating high school in 2006, he raised his hand and swore to protect and serve his country as a Marine, just like his father.

“I always wanted to be a Marine but (Pena) has always said no,” explained Gibson. “I was watching T.V. and a Marine commercial came up and I was like ‘I wish I was doing that right now,’ that’s when he asked me why I haven’t done it yet and I told him because he always said no. Then he said if you want to join just don’t be a grunt. So I got on the phone with the recruiter and joined. Now I am a heavy equipment operator like my father.”

Pena wanted his son to be happy doing what he was doing and despite his early aversion of Gibson joining, he was content with his decision.

“When he first told me that he wanted to be a Marine I just told him right then and there ‘You are your own man, you’re gonna make your own decisions in life,’” said Pena. “I thought it was a good choice. Now he gets to see the way of life in a different perspective.”

Always wanting the best for his son, Pena encouraged him to do something in the Marine Corps that will help him later in life.

“The big thing was that if he did come in the Marine Corps, come into something that is going to benefit him later on in life,” said Pena. “Being an operator he has something to fall back on and look forward to in life.”

The journey for these two first started when Pena got out of the Marine Corps the first time and met Gibson’s mother at work.

“Right after I first got out of the Marine Corps I went back to Missouri, it was really kind of hard to transition from the Marine Corps style to being a civilian,” said Pena. “I met his mom at work one day and we hit it off pretty nice. We dated for almost three and a half years, then we lived together and that’s when I met the little man here.”

Marrying into a family is not an easy task and filling the shoes of a father can be even more daunting, but as far as Gibson was concerned there was not a better person for the job. Although Pena is his step-father, Gibson believes he has stepped in to be more like a real father.

“It took time to transition because he came into two children, my sister and me,” Gibson said proudly. “He took care of us and my mother couldn’t have picked a better guy. Everything that
I have learned it came from him, I probably wouldn’t be the guy I am today if it wasn’t for him because of what he has done. He brought me on my first fishing trip, first hunting trip, taught me how to drive; everything was on his shoulders.”

Pena was also responsible for Gibson’s desire to join the Corps and his will to be a heavy equipment operator.

“Every chance I got dad used to take me to the lot and let me get in the gear,” explained Gibson. “From then on mom always said that would be it for me. He taught me a lot of stuff about the Marine Corps. It was something that I always wanted to do.”

Now the two are serving together and even spent a couple of days in Al Asad sharing memories and calling home.

“We had a lot of good times just growing up through the years, doing a lot of crazy things,” Pena said smiling. “We went to Okinawa together, going hunting and fishing and we have done a lot of four-wheel riding. It kind of put me back in my younger days even though I am an old man, just getting out together.”

Calling home was a different experience.

“She automatically started crying, she loves that we are both out here,” explained Pena. “It hit her just like me when he graduated. She is very proud of both of us.”

Despite his short visit, Pena was glad to see his son and know that he has friends here in case anything happens.

“He’s got good people looking out for him,” said Pena. “I have a good friend Gunny Taylor that I have known since ‘97, he’s got another guardian angel over his shoulder.”

For Gibson, seeing his father out here was heaven sent, but knowing that he has someone he knows for guidance is a relief.

“I knew Gunny since he was a sergeant,” added Gibson. “The first time I saw him at the chow hall, he about knocked me out because he knew who I was. The first thing he said to me was ‘I never thought I would see you in that uniform.’ If (Pena) can’t help me I know that Gunny can.”

At the end, father and son had to say goodbye and continue with their missions. Pena will be leaving Iraq with the MEU, while Gibson will continue to ensure that nothing sneaks into Al
Asad - both glad to have spent time together.

“He’ll make his footprint in life, he’ll make his steps, but when he graduated no man could have been happier,” Pena said joyously. “We get to enjoy life together, I’m just glad it was here.”

Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 Marines support Al Qaim airfield operation

AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 5, 2007) -- Behind every Marine Corps unit there are support Marines ready to provide their fellow service members with anything they need. Anything from supply to administration, there are Marines behind the scenes supporting their brothers on the frontlines. In Al Qaim, there is a group of Marines dedicated to running the Forward Arming and Refueling Point.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/8B343AC4B52BB9F58525736B004A8851?opendocument

Oct. 5, 2007; Submitted on: 10/05/2007 09:34:05 AM ; Story ID#: 20071059345
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

Those support Marines are the detachment of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 dedicated to assisting passengers and providing helicopters with the necessities.

“Our basic mission here is to support the aircraft and the airfield itself, with anything from fuel to firefighting capabilities,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Dale R. Lubes, the Al Qaim FARP, MWSS-271 staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “I have a total of seven detachments out here to support the aircraft.”

The most important roles for the MWSS-271 Marines are running the arrival and departure airfield control group, where they ensure that cargo and personnel are loaded and offloaded, and the fuels section.

“I also have heavy equipment operators loading and offloading aircraft,” said Lubes. “We have (Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting) in case of an emergency. We have a motor transportation section that performs maintenance on all of our vehicles. We have a two-man detachment of EOD, their primary mission is if there are any problems with ordnance on an aircraft or anything else in that regards.”

There is also a detachment of engineers that do repair work on the SWA huts or if necessary build additional buildings.

“What we do out here is build buildings and make the quality of life for Marines out here better,” said Sgt. Russell Bridges, a combat engineer with MWSS-271. “We went outside to a post and built a meeting place for them out there. This is something that we have done to help the war.’

The Marines believe they have provided consistent support and hope to continue the success.

“As a whole we have done outstanding work, you couldn’t have a better FARP,” said Bridges. “We are always called, we always have to build, (heavy equipment) always has to move something, the power goes out so the utilities guys are always busy. We are the hardest working section here.”

The MWSS-271 Marines understand that their performance affects the Marines on the ground and the personnel flying in and out.

“Al Qaim is the central hub of the northwest area of Iraq, we support a number of (Forward Operating Bases) from this base right here,” said Lubes. “So Marines will get flown in here and spend the night, then convoy out to the FOB.”

The Marines, who have spent the last six and a half months at Al Qaim and are soon leaving, have performed well, according to Lubes.

“The Marines have been outstanding, there work ethic is phenomenal,” said Lubes. “The work that we are doing in this area is great; the city of Al Qaim has improved tenfold since we’ve been here. We have a great working relationship with (1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment). This has actually been one of my best deployments.”

October 4, 2007

1st Battalion, 9th Marines gets a lesson in culture

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Oct. 4, 2007) -- The Marines of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, took initial steps toward becoming familiar with Iraqi culture at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility here Sept. 18-28.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F5EC3343D42E45948525736A004AB1E4?opendocument

Oct. 4, 2007; Submitted on: 10/04/2007 09:35:52 AM ; Story ID#: 200710493552
By Pfc. Casey Jones, 2nd Marine Division

The Leathernecks attended a class on language and common courtesies. They also sampled Iraqi food, listened to emotional stories about life in Iraq and experienced live music and dance common in Iraq.

“We learned about (Iraqi) culture, what their likes and dislikes are and how to effectively communicate with them,” said Cpl. Jesse L. Zumbro, squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Company A.

The warriors’ knowledge of Iraqi traditions and customs can help to further enhance mission effectiveness by allowing the Marines to connect with the Iraqi natives.

“It’ll keep us safer because it will help us to respect their culture,” Zumbro said. “We’ll know the different things that might offend them, like showing the bottom of your feet. There are things we don’t think twice about doing.”

The Marines quickly realized why the battalion’s leaders heavily emphasized having a basic idea of the Iraqi way of life.

“If we don’t learn their customs, it would make problems worse by increasing the friction levels between us,” Zumbro said. “The three-hour class today on interacting with (the Iraqis) and their culture made everything 100 percent better.”

The Marines can now build on their newly-acquired skills and get a head start on adapting to Iraqi customs.

“We’re going to be immersed into their culture, it’s kind of like acclimatizing us to their culture,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Williams, rifleman with Weapons Platoon, Company A, in reference to the Marines becoming familiar with the Iraqi way.

Combat 101: Recruits gain tactical knowledge, leadership during Crucible Endurance Course

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (Oct. 4, 2007) -- It's two miles, several obstacles and an hour plus of nerve-wracking silence, sweat and mind-numbing concentration. It's the Crucible's Endurance Course and it's an exercise that pits a recruit's entire three months of training into one event.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/CD3E1895428F91CD8525736B0045571A?opendocument

Oct. 4, 2007; Submitted on: 10/05/2007 08:37:22 AM ; Story ID#: 200710583722
By Lance Cpl. Jon Holmes, MCRD Parris Island

This is how Platoon 4030, November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and Platoon 3080, Mike Company, 3rd RTBn., began the Endurance Course on Event Five during the Crucible Sept. 27 and 28.

"My goal is for them to finish the course as best they can, as fast as they can and together," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Meek, a drill instructor for Platoon 3080. "It combines a lot of points that they learn in recruit training and binds them all together."

The Crucible is a 54-hour event where recruits experience some of the stresses of a combat environment, such as food and sleep deprivation. In order to complete their "missions," they must work together and draw from all the lessons learned during recruit training.

One of the longest parts of the Crucible is the Endurance Course.

According to the regimental order, the purpose of the endurance course is to gauge the level of agility, confidence, physical fitness and ability to negotiate obstacles that are typically encountered in a combat environment.

During this portion of the Crucible, the recruits must complete all the obstacles on the course. However, due to black flag conditions, the recruits only completed the rope walk, cargo net, balance beam, low crawl and wall climb.

"The hiking is the hardest part for this recruit," said November Company's Pfc. Vanessa Mijares of Stuart, Fla. "It seems like you are walking forever."

Mijares' boots were covered in black mud, which had been caking on layer-after-layer during the Crucible. The tops of her boots were gray with dried-out dirt. The many miles tread while at recruit training were visible.

However, fatigue and lack of food couldn't keep Mijares from moving on.

"This recruit has come so far," Mijares explained. "Being so close to graduating keeps this recruit going."

Some of the recruits enjoyed the obstacles.

"My favorite obstacle was the rope walk," said Mike Company's Pfc. Jonathan Brown. "It was different than crawling and more challenging."

Brown was breathing heavily. Sweat was dripping down his face. His cammies were soaked in sweat and mud. His M-16A2 wasn't looking much better. The trials of recruit training could easily be seen.

The challenges helped Brown realize how far he had come during training.

"During the Crucible, I gained confidence in myself," Brown explained. "I learned I could push myself further than I thought."

November Company's Pfc. Carolyn Etter had something different going for her. For her, it was granting her grandfather's dying wish.

"I enlisted because I promised my grandfather I would do something with my life," Etter explained. "He was a Marine so I felt joining was an appropriate route."

Etter served as the squad leader for the event and quickly discovered some of the challenges of leadership.

"The hardest part of the course was keeping the squads formed up," Etter said breathless. "Back crawling and not getting stuck in the barbed wire was hard, too."

However, nothing could stop Etter from keeping her promise, or the three others.

"The knowledge that in a day and a half this recruit will have earned something she strived for keeps her going," Etter explained.

Joint Raid Routs Insurgents from Hadithah Triad; A joint raid planned and executed in less than 26 hours

SAKRAN WEST, Iraq, Oct. 4, 2007 — Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, recently teamed up with 2nd Platoon, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion and Iraqi police in a raid to rout insurgents in the Hadithah Triad.

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/Oct2007/a100407tj2.html

By Cpl. Rick Nelson
2nd Marine Division

The area was targeted after numerous improvised explosive devices were found on the main roads near Sakran West, Iraq, said Marine Staff Sgt. John M. Wear, the battalion’s intelligence chief.

Nineteen suspects were detained during the operation.

“We figured as a result of significant coalition force presence elsewhere, insurgents might have left their towns and moved to Sakran West and use the area as a safe haven,” said Wear.

Realizing the threat this area posed, a combined operation was organized and planned. With 2nd Platoon, 4th Reconnaissance as the main effort, the operation would consist of various units within Task Force 1/3, to include, R Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marines; a Human Exploitation Team; A Company, and Iraqi police from Barwanah.

“The operation included both lightening quick raids to catch the insurgents off-balance, as well as a methodical sweep to conduct detailed and thorough searches. These searches contributed to a tremendous amount of information being collected,” said Lt. Col. Paul A. Konopka, platoon commander, 2nd Platoon, 4th Reconnaissance.

“Once the area was cordoned, we executed targeted raids against known or suspected insurgent safe-houses in the town,” said Konopka. “Upon completion of the raids, we
swept the town for any additional intelligence and collected census data on its male residents. Near the end of the operation, we detained 19 individuals for known or suspected bomb making or having enemy ties.”

He said he considers the operation extremely successful for all units participating.

“Although a fairly complex mission with numerous units involved, this mission went from concept, through planning, and into execution in less than 26 hours,” said Konopka. “It was truly a remarkable feat, and one that can only be accomplished when the team is comprised of dedicated experts. They were always disciplined, with unbelievable stamina in the face of brutal Iraqi weather and other conditions.”

Konopka also discussed the importance of the Barwanah Iraqi police’s involvement in the operation.

“They were given a section of the town to sweep during the census portion,” said Konopka. “Their contributions were critical, in that the Iraqi people could see their own government stepping forward to control criminal and insurgent activity in the town, while helping to obtain important pieces of intelligence.”

Operations like this also will help Iraq reach its goal of self-governance, and prove to the local populace that coalition forces will not rest until enemy forces are defeated.

“The Iraqi people must see the government of Iraq stepping up to govern. This means, among other things, enforcing the law as part of the executive branches’ role,” said Konopka.

The Iraqi police presence has helped to stabilize the community, which is critical to the peace and infrastructure building process, he added.

“At the end of the day, the operation decimated the insurgent activity in the area for at least the near term,” said Konopka. “As insurgent and criminal activity diminishes, more resources and assets can be directed to other efforts.”


Injured Marines, Gold Star Family Team Up to Conquer the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28

Marines Raising Funds to Support Marines Injured in Iraq or Afghanistan

Washington, D.C. (October 04, 2007) – LCpl. Josef Lopez and Cpl. Neil Schalk didn’t know each other while serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq, but the invisible bonds of brotherhood that tie Marines together made it an easy decision for them to support each other through their next challenge: the Marine Corps Marathon. Those same bonds also made it an easy decision for a Gold Star family to support their cause.

http://www.marineparents.com/downloads/Release-10-04-07-MarineParents.pdf

“The story is one of the most inspiring I have ever heard,” said Tracy Della Vecchia, founder of MarineParents.com, which brought the unlikely trio together at their annual conference in April. “You have two amazing Marines – both served in Iraq and both overcoming significant medical challenges – joining together to help each other get through 26.2 miles. And, you have a foundation started by Gold Star parents providing the tools for them to do so. It really just shows you the incredible bond that Marines and their families form.”

26.2 miles can challenge even the most experienced competitor, and LCpl. Josef Lopez knew he needed to gain a new set of skills to finish the race. In October 2006, LCpl. Lopez became very ill in Iraq, which caused total paralysis and months of hospitalization and recuperation. However, rather than let that stop him, he set a new goal for himself: completing his first ever marathon.

To compete, LCpl. Lopez will be using a customized hand cycle donated by Heart of a Marine Foundation (HOMF), a foundation started by the parents of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004. But, LCpl. Lopez’s support didn’t stop there – a fellow Marine was ready to offer his assistance after a chance meeting.

Cpl. Neil Schalk is a Purple Heart Marine who sustained serious injuries from an IED explosion in 2005. After recovering from his injuries, he began marathon training and has now run two marathons in two years. He volunteered to help make sure LCpl. Lopez would finish the marathon by doing “whatever it takes” to make sure he gets to that finish line. With a customized hand cycle from HOMF and training support and assistance along the way from Cpl. Schalk, LCpl. Lopez is confidant his Marine Corps-inspired persistence will get him to the finish line.

LCpl. Lopez and Cpl. Schalk are also using the race to support other injured Marines, by raising funds to support two of MarineParents.com’s outreach programs. Purple Heart Family Support and Operation PAL provide both meals to patients and families at the National Naval Medical Center and “adopt” injured Marines to send them cards, letters and prayers.

To learn more about LCpl. Lopez and Cpl. Schalk or to donate money to support their fundraising goals, visit http://www.teammarineparents.com/2007-mcm.asp. To learn more about Heart of a Marine Foundation, visit http://www.heartofamarine.com/ .

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES: TRACY DELLA VECCHIA, 573-449-2003
###

October 2, 2007

Group Helps Troops, Families Cope

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2007 – The stress of deployments, especially during war time, can take a toll on servicemembers and their families. A group of licensed mental health professionals in Southern California is helping to minimize that impact, however.

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,151327,00.html

American Forces Press Service | Samantha L. Quigley | October 02, 2007

“‘The Soldiers Project’ offers free, no-red-tape psychological counseling to any servicemember who has served in (Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom),” said Barbara Schochet, assistant director for the organization.

Currently the project serves Los Angeles and Orange Counties, but plans are to eventually expand its service area.

Despite the group’s name, servicemembers from all branches of the military who have served in operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom are eligible to take advantage of the project’s service. Servicemembers’ family members and loved ones also are eligible for free counseling prior to and during deployment and after homecoming, Schochet said.

“We want to support the families while their loved one is away, and we want to help with reintegration and combat stress issues when they return,” she said.

To maximize the effects of the services, all sessions are free and there is no limit to the number of sessions offered.

The counselors offering their time include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. They are required to attend training sessions to learn about post-traumatic stress disorder and what families endure when their servicemembers are gone.

The organization also has a group of speakers who can talk about the project and how to identify problems in patients, clients, schools, congregations or service groups, Schochet said.

The Soldiers Project is a new supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

October 1, 2007

Plan calls for more armor on new combat vehicles

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine general in charge of the program to send new armored vehicles to Iraq says the Pentagon has developed "a solution" to protect the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks from the deadliest type of armor-piercing roadside bomb, called explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2007-10-01-mraps_N.htm

By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

The Pentagon's method for combating EFPs involves adding armor to the sides of MRAPs, Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan said in an interview with USA TODAY. The armor is a modified version of what the military calls Frag Kit 6, Brogan said. "I have a solution for EFPs, and I'm going to put it on the trucks I've already bought," Brogan said.

The MRAP's V-shaped hull and raised chassis help protect troops inside the vehicle from the force of makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices.

Brogan dismissed concerns from some military contractors — raised in an online discussion — that the added armor would make the vehicles too wide to operate on U.S. highways.

"They're going into a combat zone," Brogan said. "So, yeah, they're going to be wider than would be permitted if you were going to drive up Interstate 95."

This week, contractors will have an opportunity to submit other solutions to the EFP threat for testing. But their armor will have to rival the current solution to merit consideration. "I've got great trucks," Brogan said. "And I can put additional armor on those great trucks. … You've either got the solution or you don't."

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, decried the wait. "We first saw explosively formed penetrators three years ago, but we're just now coming up with a solution to this deadly technology? That is unacceptable. … We need to be a step ahead of those killing our troops, not a step behind," he said.

The base price for the two categories of troop-carrying MRAPs is $500,000 to $600,000, Brogan said. The price for the armor kit is less than half the price of those vehicles, he said, declining to be more specific.

The military tested the armor at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland by firing explosives at it. EFPs fire a slug of metal at high speeds that penetrate armor and spray pieces of shrapnel that can kill or injure the troops inside the vehicle.

The military has acquired almost 900 MRAP vehicles this year, Brogan said. About 400 have arrived in Iraq. The Pentagon has orders for 6,500 of the vehicles and wants to acquire 15,000 in total in 2008.

In February 2005, Marines sent an urgent plea for MRAPs capable of stopping EFPs. In January, the military's No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, reiterated the need with another urgent request for EFP protection.

Until recently, the vehicles had been shipped to units that deal with bomb disposal and ensuring roads are free of bombs.

Marines are now using them for everyday combat missions, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a Marine spokesman based in Anbar province. "We have well over 400 MRAPs and are receiving dozens per week, every week," Pool said in an e-mail.

It was the Marines' safety record with MRAPs in Anbar that caught Defense Secretary Robert Gates' attention and prompted him to make buying the vehicles a top Pentagon priority. USA TODAY has reported that the Pentagon knew of MRAPs' effectiveness but was slow to seek them.

Mandate would check Marines for stress, injury

Marine commanders would be required to intervene in cases in which combat-hardened Marines with clean records have gotten into trouble after suffering combat stress, under a proposed order.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-10-02-PTSD_N.htm

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
10/01/2007

The directive, which has not yet been signed by Marine Corps Commandant James Conway, would require medical officers to screen for combat stress or traumatic brain injury (TBI) all Marines who engage in uncharacteristic misconduct after returning from combat.

The misconduct could include drug use, unauthorized absences or disrespectful conduct and could result in a dismissal from service and the denial of Department of Veterans Affairs services.

"Post-deployment misconduct, especially in a Marine who previously served honorably, must be considered a possible indicator of an undiagnosed stress injury or a mild traumatic brain injury that, if confirmed, deserves immediate and comprehensive treatment," the order says.

The order is under review and has no release date, said Navy Capt. William Nash, who coordinates the Marines' combat-stress program.

At least one-third of 1,019 combat-veteran Marines who received less-than-honorable discharges for misconduct showed evidence of mental health problems, according to Marine Corps research Nash disclosed in June.

USA TODAY reported last year that veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are usually denied VA health care benefits.

Nash said in June the Marine Corps lacked enough mental health caregivers to screen troops where misconduct occurred. The draft order appears to address that problem by allowing the preliminary examinations to be carried out by unit medical officers.

It "may not be justice" to strip a Marine of benefits after a dismissal linked to combat stress, Nash said.

The order does not absolve Marines of responsibility for their actions, even if they are the result of stress or brain damage.

However, the order says, "immediate screening for these conditions is also essential. Early treatment and screening when indicated without delay for legal proceedings gives the Marine the greatest chance of recovery."

The Marine proposal will "put physical and psychological injuries on the table when acts of misconduct are being considered," says Shelley MacDermid, a Purdue University professor who chaired a task force that highlighted the problem of combat stress-related misconduct in June.