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February 29, 2008

Iraq War Marine With Amputated Leg Back on Active Duty

Spanky Gibson was shot by a sniper in May of 2006 while on foot patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. When the firefight was over, his left leg was gone.

But Gunnery Sgt. William Gibson, a decorated Marine, didn't stop serving his country, even after his leg was amputated above the knee. He didn't settle for a desk job stateside, either. He's back in Iraq — his second tour — on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,333534,00.html

Friday, February 29, 2008
By Jennifer Griffin and Catherine Donaldson-Evans
FOX News

"It's great — it's a great feeling," Gibson told FOX News in an exclusive interview at Camp Fallujah in Iraq.

It seems like yesterday that Gibson was cut down in a gunfight and left unable to walk without crutches and prosthetics.

"The first thing that went through my mind was, get my weapon out and function," he said. "I knew there was something seriously wrong with me — the round luckily enough severed the nerve, so there was no pain.

"Problem was, I could not get up and stand on my feet because of the destruction the round took."

Doctors had had no choice but to amputate, and Gibson says he steeled himself for the reality of learning to live without full use of his left leg — and moving forward one step at a time.

"I realized, well, it ain't growing back, so let's start recovering," he said. "Initially, I didn't allow it to affect me to the point of despair ... Now, I roll over and look at my wife and say, this kind of sucks. But you get over it quickly."

By July of 2006, only two months after his was shot, Gibson was back at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The experience was marked by a series of firsts: the first time he got back into his uniform; the first time he walked, with crutches on his new prosthetic leg; the first time he was back training with his fellow Marines. That's when he knew he had to go back to Iraq.

"That was my first step," he said, "the first step to feeling like I was still a Marine."

He remembers all the camaraderie and gratitude coming from the other servicemen and women for the sacrifices he'd made in combat. It was then, he said, when he knew he had to go on.

"I definitely felt the obligation to stay in the Marine Corps and pay back that honor," Gibson said. "Because it is an honor to wear the uniform, and I realized that very quickly."

So Gibson began training in earnest again — only with his new leg, not his old.

Last July when he was swimming in a race from Alcatraz in cold San Francisco waters, Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the Marine commander at Central Command, asked him what he wanted to do. Gibson said he wanted to go back to Iraq.

For the past five weeks, he's been there on what will likely be a tour of 12 to 13 months. He's serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., in the operations command. His job is coordinating weapons, including rockets, artillery and mortars, for the troops fighting out in the field.

And, said Gibson, he's impressed with what he sees.

"The country itself, it's changed tremendously," he said proudly. "I don't know if I ever thought I'd see it, but I hoped that our actions here ... would allow that change to happen, and now seeing it, it's amazing."

He characterized the situation in Iraq as a rebirth of a country, comparing it to the United States.

"This is where we were 232 years ago as a new nation," he said. "Now they're starting a new nation, and that's one of my big reasons for coming back here. It wasn't for other Marines to look at me and say, 'Oh wow, you're a tough guy.'

"It's in part to show appreciation to my fallen Marines and also to tell the people of this country that ... I'm back to help you in any way I can, again."

Gibson said he's the third Marine amputee to deport back to his sector. Twenty-one months after his injury, his fellow servicemen and women look out for him — and he tries to do only what he's able so he doesn't put them in harm's way.

He said his wife Chany and 4-year-old daughter Lauren misses him back home in Pryor, Okla., but Chany has been very supportive.

"There's not one regret in any of this," Gibson insisted. "It's opened things for me, it's opened up relationships for me that I never would have had as just a normal, old Marine. It's great."


February 26, 2008

Parris Island Marine Band keeps up recruiting efforts

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (Feb. 26, 2008) -- The Parris Island Marine Band is well known aboard the Depot and in the Lowcountry, but there is more to this band than playing at recruit graduations and parades. Since the Corps is expanding, the band is traveling around the Eastern Recruiting Region to aid recruiters and showcase what the Corps has to offer.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/200822914542

Feb. 26, 2008; Submitted on: 02/29/2008 02:05:42 PM ; Story ID#: 200822914542
By Lance Cpl. Deanne Travis, MCRD Parris Island

The band's main role in recruiting is to show the public the honor, commitment and professionalism Marines possess, said Gunnery Sgt. Travis Antoine, the bandmaster.

The first visit on the recruiting road was to 1st Marine Corps District, where the band played for several high schools and preformed on national television.

Part of the band's mission while on these trips is to help establish good relationships with the school directors and staff.

"Without the band, the recruiters wouldn't be allowed to do what they do," said Capt. Jason Maloney, the executive officer for Recruiting Station Springfield, Mass.
The band helps open the doors to schools that have kept recruiters from coming to visit, said the 36-year-old officer.

While in 1st MCD, the band performed at high schools, where previously, recruiters had limited or no access.

They choose to play at these schools to show the faculty and students the Corps is made up of professionals who follow a set of core values, said Antoine, a 36-year-old from Lake Ariel, Pa.
The school staff is impressed when the band comes in to set up and no one has to be told what to do. This leaves them with a good impression, and they can then speak highly of the band, and the Corps, Antoine added.

"All young people see is the fighting force of the Corps, the band shows them the behind-the-scenes," said Sgt. Derrick Westmoreland, a recruiter for RS Portsmouth, N.H. "They show these kids there are other jobs to do."

The band opens up their minds to all the opportunities the Corps has to offer, said Westmoreland, who is from Chicago.

The band also opens the minds of the schools' staff.

There are some schools, like Tantasqua High School, which is in RS Springfield's area, that have not allowed a recruiter to come to the school for years, Maloney said. Then, when the band comes to play and the staff experiences the professionalism of those Marines and the recruiter, it opens the doors for other opportunities. They seem to react well to the band's performances.

Another positive effect the band has on these areas is when the students go home and tell their parents. The parents always react better hearing from their own child how the performance went and the conversation they might have had afterwards, said Maloney, who is originally from Chicopee, Mass.

After the band performs, students are usually more receptive to talking to recruiters, Westmoreland said.

"They don't always pick up the phone and call, but they will ask a teacher or counselor about the band or the Marine Corps," Westmoreland said. "This provides more opportunities for the students to consider for their futures."

The band has plans to continue their support of the recruiting effort with a trip to eight schools in the 4th MCD.

DoD: Hot line calls rise 40 percent every year

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Tuesday Feb 26, 2008 6:06:57 EST

Rows of hot line operators with muted voices mask the desperation of incoming calls on a recent afternoon: a soldier back from Iraq with a drinking problem and a broken marriage; an Army recruiter in the throes of depression; a Marine in Iraq eager to reach his wife after the birth of his son.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/gns_250208_hotline/

General Discusses Marine Deployment to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2008 – Nearly a third of the 3,200 Marines scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next month will be stationed in NATO’s southern and western regional commands to train Afghan security forces to face upcoming threats, a top U.S. military official said today.
The bulk of the 1,000 outbound Marine trainers will be stationed at Regional Command South, part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and a “little bit” of the unit will deploy to Regional Command West, said Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 82, based at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=49084

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

“That was the commander of ISAF’s request and desire, and I think it was mainly focused on what he thought was the biggest threat this coming spring,” Rodriguez told reporters during a Pentagon news conference.

Regional Command South, where an additional 2,200 Marines will land next month to assist counterinsurgency operations, controls task forces in the provinces of Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul. Regional Command West includes Herat province, a swath of land along Afghanistan’s border with Iran.

Rodriguez, who also commanders NATO’s Regional Command East and the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, acknowledged that insurgent activity tends to increase in spring months as weather in Afghanistan moderates. The general said, however, that he does not characterize the uptick in enemy attacks as an “offensive.”

“We're expecting the same type of things that (insurgents) did this year,” he said. “They will try to attack the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government leadership by both (improvised explosive devices and car bombs), as well as suicide bombers.”

Rodriguez noted that such tactics have proven counterproductive in his area of operations, where civilians have responded to attacks by turning against insurgent perpetrators and toward the Afghan government. But he conceded that military officials expect such attacks will continue to pose a threat in Afghanistan.

Asked if an influx of weapons or support was flowing into Afghanistan from Iran, the general said, “We’ve seen a little bit of that. It's really been militarily insignificant, but we're always on the lookout for that.”

Today’s briefing provided further clarity on how the additional 3,200 Marines will be distributed in Afghanistan. The Defense Department’s Jan. 15 announcement of the decision to send the additional Marines noted that President Bush approved the deployment as recommended by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“This extraordinary, one-time deployment involves approximately 3,200 personnel and will enable commanders in Afghanistan to enhance the training of increasingly-capable Afghan National Security Forces to build on the military successes of 2007 and to expand the gains of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission,” the DoD announcement stated.

The roughly 2,200 Marines to aid counterinsurgency operations are with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marine trainers are with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, at Twentynine Palms, Calif.



February 25, 2008

Marine donates kidney to man he barely knew

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 25, 2008 10:01:32 EST

Staff Sgt. Darren Smiley was sitting at Thanksgiving dinner in 2006 when he made a decision: He needed to see if he could help a man he barely knew by giving up a kidney.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/marine_kidney_080223/

U.S. and Philippine forces exchange knowledge and culture during Exercise Balikatan 2008

CAPAS TARLAC, Philippines (Feb 25, 2008) -- Whether patrolling the open valleys of the Philippine landscape or clearing a triple canopy jungle, U.S. Marines and service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines found that sharing experiences and expertise is what Exercise Balikatan 2008 (BK ’08) is all about.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/765AF1D83A35AEF2852573FB003EC664?opendocument

Feb 25, 2008; Submitted on: 02/26/2008 06:25:40 AM ; Story ID#: 200822662540
By Lance Cpl. Jason Spinella, 31st MEU

Marines and Sailors from Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Feb. 21-28, in order to learn one another’s tactics and help strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

The weeklong training evolution was comprised of open field patrols, jungle patrols, static and live fire events, combat lifesaver training and an introduction to the Marine Corps Martial Arts program.

“Every class or training exercise conducted out here is teaching someone, something,” said Sgt. Kurk Linder, a platoon sergeant with the BLT. “The great aspect of this is that it’s a two way street, both sides are benefiting so much just from each other’s presence.”

Many of the events are simply to brush up on proficiency, while seeing if there is anything one can learn from the other. Meanwhile, the training has shown positive results for both nations’ forces as both sides seem to be very attentive.


“They’ve taught us how to patrol through a triple canopy jungle, while we’ve shown them combat formations in the hills and open fields,” said Linder, a Milwaukee, Wis., native.

According to Lance Cpl. Kevin Crawford, a saw gunner with 2/4, the AFP learn extremely fast.

“They really soak up the knowledge like a sponge, and their so easy to work with,” said Crawford, a native of Jeffersonville, Ind. “The best part is when you are teaching them something, you also learn some things about them and their culture.”

Not only does training help with a lasting relationship, but simply living with one another in the field day and night helps mesh the cultures together and lets you really see how each other lives, Crawford added.

“The Philippine Marines and Soldiers are very resourceful and can live off the land, and seem to adapt very well to the environment around them,” said Linder.

In the end, both services benefit from training alongside one another, but the greatest accomplishment is building and sustaining a long last relationship and bond.

Exercise BK ’08 is the 24th in the series of these exercises. The term Balikatan is a Tagalog word which means “shoulder-to shoulder” and characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise.

February 23, 2008

2/24 Patrols, Keeps Streets Safe

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 23, 2008) -- Thanks to the Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, the streets of Saqlawiyah continue to be a safer place to live.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/B156643470409083852573FA0047F8EC?opendocument

Feb. 23, 2008; Submitted on: 02/25/2008 08:06:07 AM ; Story ID#: 2008225867
By Cpl. Jerry Murphy, 1st Marine Division

“With us always patrolling and keeping an eye on the area, the Iraqis seem to feel more comfortable and are out of their homes more,” said Cpl. Kyle W. Peterson, a squad leader with Co. E. “They’ve said that they feel safer with us around.”

The purpose of a security patrol is to get the presence of the Marines known and to deter insurgent activities, said Lance Cpl. Wade J. Strait, a fire team leader from Moline, Ill.

The Marines conduct these routine patrols daily, gathering information from the Iraqis and showing their faces to the people.

“From what we’ve heard from the people and from other units, there hasn’t been much foreign traffic coming in and out of here,” said Peterson, a resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa. “But the Iraqis have been nothing but cooperative with us and are very willing to help us in every way possible.”

While day patrols are intended to be a continuous presence in the community, night patrols serve just as much of a purpose for the Marines.

“When we’re out during the day, we mainly interact with the people, make them feel safe and for visibility purposes,” said 27-year-old Peterson. “On night patrols, we enforce curfew and observe to see if anyone is out after permitted hours. Normally if someone is out, they are just outside of their home and are very understanding and go right inside.”

Patrols can sometimes last several hours and can become very hot and stressful, so the Marines take time to sit back, relax and crack jokes to one another.

“From time to time, we sit around and catch our breath,” Peterson said. “It lets the guys have a quick smoke and chat for a few (minutes).”

Before the patrols, the Marines are given specific tasks, or assignments for that patrol, by their platoon commanders, whether it be conducting censuses, stopping by a local Iraqi Police Station or just simply interacting with the community.

“No matter what we are tasked to do, it’s our job to complete that mission and keep the area safe from the enemy,” said Lance Cpl. David J. Lacher, a 20-year-old squad radio operator from Lincoln, Neb. “The people are really warming up to us.”

With Iraq in its current re-building state, the Marines are stepping back modestly, counting on the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army to step up and take on the required responsibilities as their own, but the people in the communities are a little pessimistic.

“We’re trying to turn the country back over to the Iraqi government, but some of the people have said that, let’s say if (the United States) were to leave tomorrow, they fear that the tribes would have major differences again,” Peterson said. “We are working at it, but (the Iraqis) aren’t quite ready to take over the area just yet.”

With many security patrols to come, the Marines of 2nd Bn., 24th Marines, vow to work with their Iraqi counterparts to eliminate any threats in an attempt to keep the streets of their area of operation insurgent-free.
-30-

February 22, 2008

Dog Saved by Marine Gets Home in US

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 22) - It began with a simple act of kindness to save an abused, injured dog from becoming one more victim in the Iraq war.

http://news.aol.com/story/_a/dog-saved-by-marine-gets-home-in-us/20080222084609990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001
Click on above link for great photos.

By CHELSEA J. CARTER,AP
Posted: 2008-02-22 12:17:29

But what followed for Marine Maj. Brian Dennis and the mutt was a tale of friendship and loyalty that spanned miles and overcame long odds - one set to take a turn Friday with the anticipated arrival here of the Marine's best friend.

"This dog who had been through a lifetime of fighting, war, abuse ... is going to live the good life," Dennis told his family in an e-mail from Iraq.

The tale unfolded in October, a few months after Dennis deployed to Iraq from San Diego to work as part of the military team building infrastructure along the Syria-Iraq border and training Iraqi forces to take over.

Dennis, 36, of St. Pete Beach, Fla., had volunteered for the assignment. It was a departure from his role as a fighter pilot. He had seen the country from the air, but it was different on the ground.

Dennis wrote stories home about the reciprocal relationship that desert dogs, strays wandering outside border towns, had with Iraqis.

"The dogs get to eat the Iraqi scraps and have a home in the middle of the desert," he wrote in an e-mail. "The Iraqis get an incredible early warning system; these dogs hear anything approaching from miles away and go nuts and scramble to defend their territory."

While on patrol in the Anbar province, Dennis spotted what appeared to be a gray and white, male German shepherd-border collie mix. He named the dog Nubs after learning someone cut the ears off believing it would make the dog more aggressive and alert.

Within weeks, Nubs was greeting Dennis during routine patrol stops along border communities. The Marines fed him bits of their food and by November, the Marine and his unit were keeping an eye out for the dog, which routinely chased their Humvees when they departed.

Life on the run, however, was taking a toll on the dog. He had lost a tooth and been bitten in the neck. In late December, Dennis found Nubs near death in freezing temperatures. The dog had been stabbed with a screwdriver.

Dennis rubbed antibiotic cream on the wound and slept with Nubs to keep him warm.

"I really expected when I woke up for watch he would be dead," Dennis wrote. "Somehow he made it through the night."

Dennis thought he had seen the last of the dog days later when his squad headed back to its command post some 65 miles away. He couldn't take the dog with him and watched as it tried to follow the Humvees away from the border.

Two days later, while Dennis and a comrade were working on a Humvee, he looked up and saw the dog staring at him.

"Somehow that crazy damned dog tracked us," he wrote Jan. 9.

But the reunion was short lived. Military policy prohibits having pets in war zones, and Dennis was given four days to get the dog off the base or kill him.

The decision was easy: Nubs was going to San Diego. The logistics, though, were anything but easy.

With help from his Iraqi interpreter, Dennis managed to find a Jordanian veterinarian to get the care and paperwork needed to get the dog to the states. He also negotiated the red tape to get Nubs across the border into Jordan.

His family and close friends helped raise the $3,500 needed to get the dog from Amman, Jordan, to San Diego, said his mother, Marsha Cargo.

"I just can't believe it. Out there in the middle of nowhere these two find each other," Cargo said.

A colleague in San Diego agreed to care for the dog and have it trained until Dennis returns in March from Iraq.

"We anticipate a real steep learning curve for Nubs," Capt. Eric Sjoberg said. "We want him to learn to just be a dog."

For now, though, Dennis will settle for the knowledge that Nubs is finally safe - and waiting for his master to follow him.

Getting your tax rebate: What you need to do

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 22, 2008 13:16:43 EST

As details emerge on how the Internal Revenue Service will dole out economic stimulus payments, officials are warning that some service members and disabled veterans will get smaller payments and will have to apply for the tax rebates that will be automatic for most people.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/military_stimuluschecks_080221w/

February 21, 2008

“First of the First” return from 7 month deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2008) -- Wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, and other friends were among the excited greeters waiting for the return of Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Feb. 12 at the battalion’s home at 53 Area, Camp Horno. Flags waved and children played on the parade deck behind the headquarters building for 1/1 – the “First of the First” – who were drawing to a close their seven-month deployment to Iraq.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/40495545A1B40E56852573F6007DAE71?opendocument

Feb. 21, 2008; Submitted on: 02/21/2008 05:52:46 PM ; Story ID#: 2008221175246
By Sgt. M. Trent Lowry , MCB Camp Pendleton

“We’re very proud of him and every Marine in the battalion,” said Robin Smith, mother of Cpl. Nelson L. Smith, a Company B squad leader from Winter Springs, Fla. “We did a lot of praying, like we’ve done for the past seven months.” “We’re relieved to see him, touch him, hold him and have him back with us,” added Neal Smith, Cpl. Smith’s father, who served in the Navy. Multiple flights of 1/1 Marines arrived at different times, each wave met by scores of loved ones excited to be reunited with their warriors.

The battalion augmented Regimental Combat Team 6 in support of the Marine Corps’ mission of stability and security in Al Anbar province, the large area west of Baghdad that includes the formerly restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. “I saw great improvements in the capabilities of the Iraqi forces,” said Capt. Stefan R. Barr, commanding officer of Company B, 1/1. “We gained the trust of the locals and won the hearts and minds of the Iraqis. The Marines performed phenomenally in attaining our mission goals.”

Though the battalion motto is “Ready to Fight,” the Marines, for the most part, did not have to focus on going to battle. Instead, 1/1 added their expertise to the training and support of Iraqi troops and expanded their abilities.

“We were training them so they could become a better force,” said Barr, from Lynchburg, Va., who said previous units in the area had laid a successful groundwork on which 1/1 capitalized. “It’s an ongoing process with the Iraqis. We were able to maintain security, improve the Iraqi’s capabilities and start the local governance.” Seeing the effects of their hard work paying off was a motivating factor for the battalion’s Marines. “At first, it didn’t seem like we were doing much, but after seeing the progress of the seven months, it seems like we accomplished more than what we set out to do,” said Lance Cpl. Mike E. Young, 22, a fire team leader with Company B, 1/1. “I’m proud of what we’ve done.

The whole company came home with a good reputation, and we brought everyone home.” Being home was a relief to the Marines, but the arrival of the warriors was foremost on the minds of the families, many of whom had been preparing for weeks for the arrival of their heroes.

One spouse, Angela D. Mendez, said she and her daughters spent at least 20 hours altogether making more than a dozen bedsheet banners for her husband, 1stLt. Jesus D. Mendez, Company B, 1/1, and the rest of the Marines. “I want him to know that I will go above and beyond for him, because he goes above and beyond for me,” said Angela Mendez, an Oceanside, Calif., nurse. “We wanted to do it to make it special for him, so he would know we missed him a lot.”

The remain-behind element of Marines teamed with the Key Volunteers and other family members to set up two bouncy castles for the kids, handed out balloons, and satisfied guests’ appetite with plenty of food and drinks. “We have a great group of wives in this battalion,” said Joanne M. Conner, wife of Lt. Col. Jeffrey T. Conner, battalion commanding officer. “They are very self-sufficient and have a strong sense of family.”

Vigilant Guardians, RCT-1’s Security Platoon stands watch

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 21, 2008) -- If Regimental Combat Team 1 gave frequent driver miles for the distances covered by its units, headquarters company’s security platoon would have enough points to rack up quite a few free vacations.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/DEA8328C24633227852573F60071A405?opendocument

Feb. 21, 2008; Submitted on: 02/21/2008 03:41:15 PM ; Story ID#: 2008221154115
By - Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division

Security platoon’s mission is to provide a security element for the RCT’s Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, as well as provide security for the regimental executive officer, and any other such missions that may require the services of security professionals.

This pivotal job requires the Marines of security platoon to work in every sector of RCT-1’s area of operations (AO). “We have hit all four corners of the RCT’s AO, we constantly travel all over Al Anbar to complete our missions,” said Staff Sgt. Tracy Cazee, platoon sergeant, security platoon.

“Punisher” as their call sign indicates stands ready to provide security to any and all who seek it, and according to Cazee they can dish out their own version of punishment should anybody be foolish enough to test their skills,“ we are always prepared to go into action if needed,” Cazee said.

The platoon is pieced together from numerous infantry units throughout the 1st Marine Regiment and they are no strangers to combat operations. Several members of the platoon are on their second and even third deployment. “Many of the Marines in the unit have just finished a deployment and volunteered to come back,” Cazee stated.

A recent Marine Corps Times article dubbed some Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officers as “baby NCO’s” stating that the Marine Corps may “run the risk of flooding the fleet with immature and inexperienced leaders who must bear the burden of greater leadership.” After witnessing the security platoon Marines in action, that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. “I have a junior NCO as my assistant convoy commander. He holds a higher billet than most senior sergeants, I am fully confident in all the junior NCO’s, ” said Cazee.

The Marines of security platoon are hardened warriors and provide a vital role in the reconstruction, and transfer of authority to the Iraqi people. And they stand ready to provide the essential security mission throughout RCT-1’s area of operations.

Company E patrols the streets of Karma

KARMA, Iraq (Feb. 21, 2008) – Marines and sailors of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, recently arrived to the Al Anbar province, and are currently conducting operations and patrolling the streets here.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/public/infolineMarines.nsf/(ArticlesRead)/2A717011EE2280EA432573FA00404E66

Story by Cpl. Chadwick deBree

For the past couple of weeks, Marines like Lance Cpl. Matthew Lembke, squad leader, 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 2/3, have been studying the area, taking notes on certain places and things throughout the city. He mentioned how he and others want to get out and learn as much as possible, and be able to introduce themselves to the locals.

During one of the Marines’ routine patrols Feb. 21., they started off with a visit to a local brick factory where the workers welcomed the Marines with handshakes and smiles.

“When I was talking to the manager he told me that he likes it when the Marines come through because he knows that they are safe when we are there,” Lembke, a 21-year-old native of Tualatin, Ore., said. “So I told him that we are going to make sure that we stop by often just to see how they’re doing and if they need anything that we could help them with.”

The Marines then headed to the local school to find out when it opened for its next semester. When they got there, one of the teachers gave them a tour of the school to show the Marines the condition of the building.

“The school had a lot of structural damage to it,” Lembke said. “There were big cracks along the walls and they said they can’t fix it because they don’t have any money. I’m going to bring it up to see if I could get some help for them. See what our company or battalion could do to help them because there aren’t a lot of schools around here.”

While walking down the streets, the Marines who deployed to the Al Anbar Province last year noticed something different this time around.

“Our last deployment was a lot more kinetic,” said Lance Cpl. Brendan Houlahan, 1st team leader, 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 2/3. “Last year, every time we left the wire it was almost guaranteed that we were going to get shot at or have an (improvised explosive device) go off. It’s almost like we have to change gears from last year, but we just can’t get complacent. We still have to be on our toes and be on the look out because there are still some bad people out there.”

Lembke shared similar thoughts about this deployment to Iraq compared to his last.

“The last deployment was a kinetic fight where something was happening constantly,” he said. “Here it almost seems like we’re on a peace keeping operation. The area seems to be at the point where it’s starting to rebuild. This country, especially the Al Anbar area, has made some great leaps and bounds. But there are still some bad guys out there, and that’s what we’re here for, to get them and protect the rest of the population.”

Though the Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans feel the area has calmed down, the new Marines are eager to help rebuild the nation.

“This is a good experience,” said Lance Cpl. Ronald H. Enos, squad automatic weapon gunner, 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 2/3. “This is why I became a grunt… to travel around the world and help protect people.”

“They told us it would be a lot different from what they experienced,” the 20-year-old native of Sacaton, Ariz., continued to say about Iraq. “It may be different from what the other guys experienced, but I’m still going to go out there on patrol and keep an eye out for my fellow Marines.”

Houlahan, a 20-year-old native of Monroe, N.Y., said that the new Marines are doing very well for their first deployment.

“They’re doing the best they can and really stepping up to do their job,” he said. “They’re evolving into great Marines and it has a lot to do with the training and leadership they have experienced.”

Lembke also praised how well his Marines are handling their first combat deployment.

“For those of us who have deployed here before it’s just a new (area of operation),” Lembke said. “They’re really using the training that they received and are getting better. Everyone is acting real professional while they’re outside the wire and while interacting with the Iraqi civilians, which is exactly what the Marine Corps wants them to do.”


February 18, 2008

Balikatan 08 kicks off with Opening Ceremony

CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines –Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members stood shoulder to shoulder in the Officer’s Club banquet hall Feb. 18, watching the uncasing of the Balikatan Colors, symbolizing the start of this year’s exercise.

http://www1.apan-info.net/balikatan/News/tabid/1368/mid/2691/newsid2691/8010/Default.aspx

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd
Joint Task Force- Balikatan PAO
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2008

“I am very optimistic that the exercise Balikatan 2008 will live up to our high expectations,” said AFP Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., chief of staff for the AFP. “Thus, by purview of the authority vested in me as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and co-chairman of the (Republic of the Philippines-United States) Mutual Defense group, I hereby declare the RP-US Balikatan Exercise 2008 open.”
Balikatan 2008 is an annual RP-US bilateral military exercise consisting of humanitarian assistance and training activities. Since 1981, both militaries have met to learn from one another and improve on their interoperability. This year’s exercise runs from Feb. 18 to March 3.
True to its meaning in Filipino, Balikatan entails Philippine and U.S. forces shouldering the load together to help the greatest possible number of people in need, according to AFP Brig. Gen. Nestor R. Sadiarin, co-exercise director of BK 08.

“Our troops are ready to maximize the opportunity to do something that will have lasting benefits for peace and social progress in the mission areas,” Sadiarin said. “We’ll do that by sharing the load together.”

Balikatan 2008 will focus on training both armed forces to provide relief and assistance, in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

AFP and U.S. forces will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Luzon and Palawan to improve contingency planning and strengthen maritime security. U.S. Navy ships are scheduled to visit several locations in the Philippines as well.

There are also dozens of medical, dental and engineering civil action projects scheduled in Luzon, Lanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan over the next couple of weeks.

“Joined together in a collective effort, our military medical professionals along with local doctors, nurses, veterinarians and volunteers will provide free medical, dental, and veterinary care to local communities where these services are most needed,” said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Y. H. Ma, co-exercise director of BK 08.

“Balikatan 2007 was my first in this country,” added U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney. “I set out to see just what this means, and I very much liked what I saw. I traveled to the Sulu Archipelago where I saw doctors from our two nations, pairing with local civilians to offer free medical care to thousands of people, no questions asked.”

Engineering projects are scheduled for numerous schools, including Pang Elementary School in Jolo, St. Juliana Elementary School in Crow Valley and Maragondon National High School in Ternate, which was destroyed in a fire last April.

“It’s humbling to be a part of such an effort that will have a profound impact on the young people and future leaders of the people of the Republic of the Philippines,” Ma said.

“There is possibly no greater satisfaction than the thought of healthy children in a remote location going to school in a schoolhouse that thanks to our combined efforts, has a roof on it, has a ceiling fan, has a dignified environment where teachers can teach and students can learn,” Kenney added. “This has an impact on all of us.”

The Republic of the Philippines and the U.S. have spent 50 years as Mutual Defense Treaty partners. The U.S. is participating in BK 08 at the invitation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines.

“I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the generous people of the Republic of the Philippines who have so graciously invited us once again to this beautiful country to learn the lessons from your soldiers and people that will further the bonds of this strong partnership of peace,” Ma said.


Marine reservists bring maturity to latest deployment

By Geoff Ziezulewicz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Monday, February 18, 2008

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq — What a difference a couple of years makes. That’s how long it’s been since the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, a Reserve unit out of Chicago, have been deployed to Iraq.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=52576

RP-US war games on in Mindanao

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo officially opened yesterday this year’s joint RP-US Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises at the Armed Forces Commissioned Officers’ Country Club in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

http://www.mb.com.ph/MTNN20080219117305.html

By CHARISSA M. LUCI

Around 6,000 American troops are involved in this year’s Balikatan, the US Embassy said. Thousands of Filipino soldiers are also participating.

"Upon the invitation of the Philippine government, around 6,000 US service members will participate for the two weeks of Balikatan, many in transportation or logistical support roles," US Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said.

"Also, they will at all times work side-by-side with AFP," she added.

Balikatan 2008 from Feb. 18-March 2 is being held in Central and Western Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

Among those who attended the opening ceremonies were US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney, Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes E. Esperon Jr., Brig. Gen. Nestor R. Sadiarin, Philippine co-exercise director of Balikatan 2008, and US coexercise director of Balikatan 2008 Brig. Gen. John Y. H. Ma.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur C. Ocampo scoffed at the continued presence of US troops in the country.

"In a span of only seven years since 2002, Balikatan 2008 is the 24th in a series of joint military exercises held in the country. These war games, many of them held in actual combat areas in Mindanao, were launched under the auspices of the onerous and one-sided Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries," Ocampo said.

He said since the launching of the Balikatan, many incidents of human rights violations were documented.

"The US is circumventing the country’s Constitutional ban on foreign troops. This trampling upon our sovereignty by the US has been made possible with the subservient consent of the Arroyo administration," Ocampo said.

Ocampo has been campaigning for the departure of US troops from the Philippines, and the scrapping of the VFA between the Philippines and US.

Bayan Muna has sought the abrogation of the VFA through House Resolution 458.

Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Women’s Party are also expected to file a resolution seeking the end of the MDT.

February 17, 2008

3rd LAR searches desert for insurgent activity

ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (Feb. 17, 2008) -- If you disrupt a body’s blood supply it will fail to function. The same goes for insurgent activity.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/200839111836

Feb. 17, 2008; Submitted on: 03/09/2008 11:18:36 AM ; Story ID#: 200839111836
By Lance Cpl. Paul Torres, 1st Marine Division

Marines and other Coalition forces have been busy disrupting enemy activity in the Northern provinces of Iraq during Operation Desert Siege.

“We are conducting cordon and searches in all settlements to deny the enemy staging areas for weapons and personnel,” said 2nd Lt. Austin C. Murnane, 23, from Millwood, N.Y., who is a platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, Company C, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

“During the first search, we cleared all the buildings as safe,” said Sgt. Jesse R. Walden, 23, from Muskogee, Okla., who is a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Company C. “During the second search, we double checked the buildings for extra weapons, magazines, home-made explosives and propaganda.”

Propaganda is evidence of an insurgent influence in that area.
While searching one town, the Marines were able to inquire about insurgent activity in the area.

“When we tactically question the personnel in the town, I am giving them an opportunity to provide us with information that would help us make the area safer,” said Murnane. “It is also an opportunity for us to build a rapport with the locals. My scouts and I have spoken with a number of Iraqi civilians in this area, and they have said since the Iraqi Police, the Iraqi Army and the Marines have been patrolling through the area, they have seen no terrorist activity.”

Finding large weapons caches has been few and far between. Usually the Marines find small things like a household with too many weapon magazines or an extra AK-47 rifle.

“Not finding anything is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Murnane.
3rd LAR will continue this operation and hopes to eliminate more insurgent threats in the area.

“We are making the towns that much safer by cutting off the supply routes, said Walden”

Island Warriors arrive in Iraq, receive visit from RCT commander

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 12, 2008) -- Marines and sailors assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, arrived this week for a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/13A7E9D2F54FC9D6852573EF003B984A?opendocument

Feb. 12, 2008; Submitted on: 02/14/2008 05:50:56 AM ; Story ID#: 200821455056
By Cpl. Chadwick deBree, 1st Marine Division

Upon arriving in Iraq, the Island Warriors received a reception from Col. Lewis A. Craparotta, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 1, which the battalion is assigned to while in Iraq.

Before Craparotta spoke to the Marines and sailors, Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, commanding officer, 2/3, and Sgt. Maj. Patrick A. Wilkinson, sergeant major, 2/3, spoke to the battalion one last time before each company took control of their respective areas of operation.
Galeai told the Island Warriors their mission while in Iraq was to help transfer power of the region back to the Iraqis.

“We’re here to help them so they can eventually control their province,” Galeai told the Island Warriors. “Whether or not that happens during our seven month watch is still to be determined, but while you’re here, you should be waking up and asking yourself ‘how can I make things better?”

“This is a thinking battalion, this is a well trained battalion,” he continued. “You’ve worked very hard to get to this point. You have to use your minds and be committed. When we assume the responsibility for this area, you have to set the tone and set the standard, and 2/3’s standards are pretty high.”

Wilkinson echoed Galeai’s words, telling the battalion that they have to do what they know is right. He also told the veteran Island Warriors that the situation is different than the last time 2/3 deployed to Iraq.

“You’re squad leaders, first sergeants and myself have already been outside the wire and it’s a whole different beast out there than the last time we were here,” Wilkinson said. “You need to be disciplined. You need to be professional, but you still need to be aggressive. You can’t get comfortable. Remember what you are and the reputation you have. Reputations just don’t happen like that. There’s been a whole lot of sweating, bleeding and dying to build your rep.”
Wilkinson also told the Marines that they may begin to get tired during their deployment, but that means they just have to push themselves harder to be successful.

“Your body will get used to it and your mind will get used to it,” he said. “Continue to conduct business like you have up to this point and we’re good, we’re golden.”

After Wilkinson and Galeai finished talking to their Marines and sailors, Craparotta told the battalion about the situation in their area of operation.

“The battle space has changed for the better,” Craparotta said. “There’s been more of a reliance on the Iraqi forces. There are Iraqi forces out there that do want to take the initiative to look after their people.”

Craparotta also told the Marines not to hesitate to tell him how things are going during their missions.

“I’ll be out there checking your positions,” he said. “Tell me what’s going on and I’ll listen to you. You are the guys who are doing the work everyday and the guys I want to talk to. I’m going to count on you to be honest with me.”

The Island Warriors will take control of the area from the Marines of America’s Battalion, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.

February 15, 2008

Parents of war dead push for special license plates

For decades, qualified Washington veterans could buy special license plates that honor wartime honors and service.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/351574_goldstar16.html?source=rss

February 15, 2008
By MIKE BARBER
P-I REPORTER

No similar honor has existed for parents united by the red-trimmed banners framing a gold star that hang in the windows of their homes. The gold stars are the keys to an exclusive club in which they never sought membership, symbolizing a son or daughter lost in the service of the country.

Now, the increased number of Iraq and Afghanistan casualties has reignited the state's chapter of Gold Star Mothers, along with a legislative effort to recognize their loss.

Senate Bill 6678, sponsored by state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, would create a license plate honoring those united by pride and sorrow.

The Gold Star Mothers say a simple aluminum metal license plate is no hollow honor.

It perpetuates a memory, helps to unify those whose common thread is the unnatural act of outliving a child, informs the public about the significance of the gold star, and even helps them reach out to veterans, they say.

"We want to increase community awareness of the significance of the gold star, to let people see 'here is a family that had a member who made the ultimate sacrifice,' " said Myra Rintamaki of Lynnwood, a Harborview Medical Center nurse and president of Washington State Gold Star Mothers.

Her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Steven A. Rintamaki, was killed in action in Iraq on Sept. 16, 2004.

"We have found in associating with different people that even military people don't recognize the significance of the gold star," Rintamaki said.

In a statement, Haugen said, "There are plenty of cars driving around with yellow ribbons that show support for our military, but I can't imagine any tribute even beginning to compensate a mother who's lost a child in the service of their country. This is just a small way to recognize their loss, and to give the rest of us an opportunity to thank them."

American Gold Star Mothers Inc. grew out of the wartime losses of World War I and was incorporated in 1928. During WWI, blue star flags were displayed in homes around the nation for each child serving in the military. A gold star was superimposed if that service member died in combat or from wounds or illness.

Washington's Gold Star Mothers chapter revived in late 2006, spearheaded by a handful of Seattle-area mothers who lost sons in Iraq -- Rintamaki, Shellie Starr, Linda Swanberg, DeEtte Wood and Dedi Noble.

The membership has grown to 30. The group is reaching out more to Eastern Washington and to Vietnam-era Gold Star Mothers, as well as to active but unofficial chapters in Alaska and surrounding states.

The license plate issue is a national project of American Gold Star Mothers. At least 14 other states have approved inclusive "Gold Star Family" or "Gold Star Parent" license plates.

Washington's gold star moms and Haugen teamed up by coincidence.

"The funny part is, both of us were working on it, and neither of us know the other was working on it," Rintamaki said. They learned about each other's effort through the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Concerns were raised, especially from a senator who asked, "What about gold star dads?"

A more inclusive "Gold Star Parents" or "Gold Star Families" was proposed. The bill covers eligible moms and dads.

"Being a gold star mom by definition means looking out for the rest of the family," Rintamaki said. "In our private sessions we often discuss the effects of loss upon spouses and other children, and they are often included in our meetings."

If they could, however, the mothers would extend their compassion further. Rintamaki said mothers-in-law ought to be included. The group also tried unsuccessfully to acquire feedback from state Gold Star Wives, a separate organization, she said.

The Washington license plate proposal was first raised in last year's legislative session but failed owing to budget constraints and a moratorium on specialty plates.

This year, a funding source was found in money earmarked for World War II "Pearl Harbor Survivor" plates. As those veterans pass away, that fund remains untapped. Washington recipients of the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart medals have separate specialty plates.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by a South King County Democrat, state Rep. Geoff Simpson.

Marines yield control of town to Iraqis

A former battleground city celebrates 'a historic day.' More such turnovers are expected in the country.

HIT, IRAQ -- In a pageant filled with poetry, song, political speeches and a display of the Iraqi security forces' increased firepower, the U.S. Marines on Thursday turned over major responsibility for protecting this Euphrates River valley town to the Iraqi army and police.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-secure15feb15,1,6134204.story

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 15, 2008

It was the second such turnover in recent weeks in the western province of Anbar, once a major battleground with Sunni Arab insurgents, with more expected, Marine officials said.

Marines from the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., are redeploying outside the city limits but will remain close enough to provide assistance to the Iraqis if insurgents attempt an assault.

A similar turnover was accomplished late last year in Baghdadi, also along the Euphrates. In addition, Marines are pulling out of Haditha as soon as the Navy construction team, the Seabees, finishes building a camp for them just outside the river town.

Iraqi forces conducted their first all-Iraqi operation this week in Haditha, searching former insurgent hide-outs, officials said.

And throughout Sunni-dominated Anbar province, the driving rules for Iraqis are changing. No longer will Marines block off streets and force Iraqi cars to pull aside when a convoy passes.

"This is a historic day," Marine Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, the battalion's commander, told several hundred Iraqi men who crowded into the town's soccer stadium for the 90-minute ceremony and the open-air buffet that followed.

"Just over a year ago, this city was being killed by insurgents," he said.

One question yet to be answered throughout the province is how the Shiite Muslim-dominated Iraqi army and the Sunni-dominated police will function without the U.S. providing immediate supervision. It's a question, involving matters of competency and honesty, that concerns both U.S. and Iraqi officials.

"I ask the Iraqi police and Iraqi army to be honest," Anbar Gov. Mamoun Sami Rasheed said in an emotional speech. "It's the people's rights; they own their own lives."

Dill praised the city's Sunni police chief for his emphasis on "civil rights and policing."

Many of the Marines are being repositioned to prevent the movement of insurgents from the wide-open spaces of the westernmost part of the province, near the Jordanian and Syrian borders, toward the cities of the Euphrates River valley and even Baghdad.

An American flag was lowered at midfield, replaced by an Iraqi flag to cheers from the crowd. The exercise was symbolic. No American flag had flown over Hit or any Anbar city, under strict rules handed down by Marine brass.

As the American flag was lowered, an F/A-18 fighter jet made a screeching pass over the site, pulling into a nearly vertical ascent.

Cpl. Erin Sundstrom, 23, of Boulder, Colo., given the duty to lower the American flag, admitted being nervous as the focus of attention during what, for the Iraqis, seemed to be the emotional high point. "It was amazing," he said.

Much of the ceremony was akin to that of any military transfer of authority, particularly as the troops, Iraqi and U.S., passed in review. Other parts were laden with Iraqi culture. In one skit, Iraqi soldiers simulated chasing and killing a rabbit and eating it raw -- a sign of manhood, interpreters told the Americans.

After the official ceremony, Iraqi soldiers broke into 30 minutes of spontaneous dancing and chanting. "Let the terrorists come. We're ready," they chanted in Arabic.

Dill said he became convinced the Iraqis were ready for the security responsibility by how they reacted Dec. 12 when insurgents struck a bridge. "There was no panic," he said.

February 14, 2008

Dedicated role-players help “Deadwalkers” train for deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb.14, 2008) -- Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, trained with Iraqi police role-players at a Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility here, Jan. 30.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/CBC64787D04FD4B4852573EF0055A6CD?opendocument

Feb.14, 2008; Submitted on: 02/14/2008 10:35:32 AM ; Story ID#: 2008214103532
By Lance Cpl. Casey Jones, 2nd Marine Division

The Marines acted out scenarios they may encounter while deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The warriors spent hours training with the role-players conducting vehicle check points, searching individuals and practicing their knowledge of the Arabic language.

“We learned how to deal with somebody who has a different language and customs,” said Lance Cpl. Johnathon Brewer, a rifleman with Headquarters Platoon. “It also personally taught me to be more patient with people who do not understand (our language).”

The Marines described the language barrier as the toughest part of training with the role-players. However, they said the exercise will make training the real Iraqi police much easier.

“It’s very hard,” Brewer said. “But I’ve been on a few trips and was able to learn Spanish so I’m a little more used to (different languages), but some of the other Marines aren’t. It’s going to help those Marines a lot by training here instead of just jumping right into it in Iraq.”

Due to the recent positive changes in Iraq, Marines are switching from combat operations to assisting the Iraqi Forces fight a counterinsurgency to aid in the transition of provincial Iraqi control. The Marines in the battalion said they are used to adapting and overcoming to complete their mission.

“The Marines are accepting (changes) and they understand that’s what they need to do so we can get out of there and help somebody else that may need help,” Brewer said.

The recently reactivated battalion’s upcoming deployment will be its first since the Vietnam War, where the battalion received its macabre nickname “The Walking Dead.” The battalion’s leaders have stressed the fundamentals and constant training to ensure the Marines are prepared for combat.

“They’re taking in the training pretty well. With this being our first full- scale deployment as a battalion, I think they’ll do well,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Grooms, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company.

The veterans with the battalion said they are excited about seeing the better trained and equipped Iraqi police.

“There will be a big change,” Grooms said. “Obviously, there will be more trust between both (the Marines and IPs) and we should be able to bridge the communication gap.”

When 1,000 Marines move onto USS Essex, ‘it’s three times the work and twice the mouths to feed'

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, February 14, 2008

ABOARD THE USS ESSEX — It’s a small, floating city run by about 1,100 sailors.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=59892&archive=true

Marines discover crowds help pass all that downtime

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, February 14, 2008

ABOARD THE USS ESSEX — One Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit who is on his first sea deployment admits he wasn’t sure what to expect.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=59893&archive=true

Nominate your everyday hero

If you know someone who is committed 24/7, here is your chance to nominate them to receive the Military Times’ Service Member of the Year Award. Previous winners have cited their award as one of the highlights of their military career or some such copy to be inserted here by marketing.

Winners will be announced in July 2008. Don’t delay, submit your nominee now by completing the form below.
http://www.militarytimes.com/smoy/nominate.php?pub=mar


Forum for wounded troops today

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Feb 14, 2008 7:24:51 EST

The Pentagon’s top doctor is calling on wounded service members and their families to share their concerns and recommendations in a live online discussion Thursday at http://www.health.mil — and e-mails and text messages are being accepted ahead of time.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/military_woundedforum_080213w/

New Prices Coming May 12, 2008

On May 12 we will adjust prices for mailing services — First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services, and Special Services. The average increase by class of mail is at or below the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

http://www.usps.com/prices/welcome.htm?from=bannercommunications&page=prices

A First-Class Mail stamp will be 42¢. Customers can continue to use the Forever Stamps that they purchased prior to May 12 at 41¢, even after the price change. We will have 5 billion Forever Stamps in stock to meet increased demand before the price change. Forever Stamps are widely available through Post Offices, Contract Postal Units, consignment locations, Automated Postage Centers, vending, and at The Postal Store®. We also will have a 62¢ stamp available shortly after May 12 for 1-ounce nonmachinable First-Class Mail letters, such as square greeting cards.

Pricing highlights:

No change in the First-Class Mail single-piece additional-ounce price.
Lower additional-ounce price for presorted First-Class Mail letters.
Lower pound price for Standard Mail saturation and high-density flats.
Shape-based pricing for First-Class Mail International letters, flats, and parcels.
First-Class Mail International price groups expand from five to nine groups.

Select prices:

First-Class Mail letter (1 oz.) $0.42

First-Class Mail letter (2 oz.) $0.59

Postcard $0.27

First-Class Mail large envelope (2 oz.) $1.00

Certified Mail $2.70

First-Class Mail International to Canada and Mexico (1 oz.) $0.72

First-Class Mail International to all other countries (1 oz.) $0.94


We will announce new prices for shipping services — Express Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Select, and International Mail — in March.

Consistent with The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, we will adjust our mailing services prices each May. By law, these prices can increase on average no more than the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. We plan to provide 90 days' notice of the new prices each year, to help mailers prepare for the change.

New Prices and Fees effective May 12, 2008 (PDF) | (HTML)
New Prices-Notice 123, Price List (PDF)
Downloadable pricing files
Federal Register notices
Postal Regulatory Commission
Strategic Transformation Plan
The Postal Store
News Releases
Current pricing charts

Company E, 2/24 conducts Census Ops

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq (Feb. 14, 2008) -- Getting to know the family living next door can sometimes be a challenge, but Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, patrolled through the streets of Saqlawiyah Feb. 12, introducing themselves as the new ‘family’ next door.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/3A0D288691B404E4852573F00047E811?opendocument

Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story by: Computed Name: Pfc. Jerry Murphy
Story Identification #: 20082158524

The battalion, also known as “Mayhem from the Midwest,” recently stepped on-deck in Iraq, and is introducing themselves to the people in the area who they will be helping during the next seven months.

“We do census’ to get a feel for who is living in the area and where they live,” said Sgt. Josh K. Bloomquist, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Company E. “It also helps us put our face out there so that the (Iraqis) know who we are and that we want to help them. It becomes personal, like we’re their neighbors.”

Much like the Census Bureau does in America, the Marines went door-to-door, speaking to the head of the household and introducing themselves to the community. It is an exhausting, time-consuming project, but the Marines are determined to get to know the Iraqis who they will be sharing the streets with during their deployment.

“This helps us figure out who belongs here and who doesn’t,” said Bloomquist, a resident of Omaha, Neb. “If we hear a name, we don’t need to worry about who they are or where they live. It takes time and a lot of work, but it will ultimately help us.”

The information gathered on these census patrols is not only designed to help the Marines, but it will eventually be used and tracked by the Iraqi Government.

“We’re here to help this country get back on its feet,” said HM2 Adam F. Kinney, a 41-year-old Hospital Corpsman from Elizabethtown, Ky. “Eventually we can turn the paperwork over to the Iraqis; give everything back to them.”

During the census patrols, the Marines are accompanied by an Iraqi interpreter who helps interview the families that do not speak English.

“We go so that we can translate everything the Marines say,” said Moe, an interpreter with Company E. “(The Iraqis) feel comfortable with us being there. It helps us get all the information we need.”

With the help of Moe, Bloomquist asked one man if there was anything the Marines could do to help his family. The man mentioned that his brother was very sick and wanted to know if anything could be done to help him. Bloomquist jumped on the opportunity to help the man and immediately called the platoon Corpsman over the radio.

“His brother was very sick and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do right then and there, but we relayed it to our command and they have already set up an appointment to help him,” said Kinney, who is an attorney when not either deployed or drilling with the Reserve
Battalion. “With us setting up (the appointment) so fast, it shows how much we care about the Iraqis and how much we want to help. That is why we’re here; to help them, not hurt them.”
The Marines finished their patrol with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had shown their face to the community and helped a family in need.

“We did a good job today introducing ourselves to the people,” Bloomquist said. “They really seem like they are warming up to us and want to help us as much as we want to help them.”

February 12, 2008

1/1 PSD protects commander, views change

HABBANIYAH, IRAQ (Feb. 12, 2008) -- If there is one unit in 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, that observes their unit’s 200 square kilometer area of operation (AO) on a daily basis, it is the battalion commander’s personal security detachment (PSD). PSD provides transportation and security for the commander as he travels throughout the AO and to other key areas in the battle space, said Sgt. Jason S. Hubbard, PSD platoon commander.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/B0A91AD2AF0DAA11852573ED00206D74?opendocument

Feb. 12, 2008; Submitted on: 02/12/2008 12:54:11 AM ; Story ID#: 200821205411
By Cpl. Bryce C.K. Muhlenberg, 1st Marine Division

“Basically, we take the commander wherever he needs to go and provide security to make sure he is safe at all times,” said the 24 year-old Asheville, N.C., native. We go to city council meetings, Iraqi Police graduations, Sheik meetings, to visit all of the Marines in the battalion…basically anything and everything. We have been to Ramadi, Saqlawiyah, Al Taqaddum, Fallujah, Baharia and every single position within the battalion’s area of operations.”

During these combat patrols the Marines of PSD have driven over 9,800 miles, averaging around 104 miles a day while moving at about 15 miles per hour. On several occasions the Marines have visited every single firm operations base in the battalion’s region in one day. The Marines have traveled nearly every road there is in the Habbaniyah and Fallujah area.

“We went all over the AO, from Husaybah to Saqlawiyah,” said “Gus” a 67-year-old Iraqi interpreter who serves with the PSD. “The CO has been very active to meet with as many personalities in all of the relavent areas, including sheiks and other people around the AO.”

Because of PSD’s constant exposure and view of the Al Anbar region, Hubbard said it has given him the opportunity to see the progress made by 1st Bn., 1st Marines, also known as the “ready to fight” battalion.

“In this area there is now electricity, they are re-building the mosques and there are houses and stores… these are just observations from my driving around all the time,” said the stocky Marine. “When we first got here there was no traffic, but now, there is tons of traffic, business, a lot of schools have been built and a lot of medical facilities opened.”

Gus, a local native, also has a unique perspective on the PSD mission. He has seen the area evolve and observed the “ready to fight” battalion’s accomplishments during the last seven months.

“I think going at the rate they did on a daily basis, which is early morning until after sundown, I would say they introduced and witnessed many changes and successfully removed social and psychological gaps and barriers,” Gus said. “As a whole, they have been successful and have gotten to view first hand the existence of a real tranquility in the AO as compared to the situation 12-15 months ago “

These improvements, although influenced by the Marine’s constant operations, were made possible because of an Iraqi willingness to affect change in their own country, said Hubbard.

“The biggest difference from my last deployment to this one is the Iraqis that are willing to help us,” said Hubbard, who was first deployed with 3rd battalion, 5th Marine Regiment during the battle of Fallujah in 2004. “And it makes all the difference in the world. They know their neighbors; they know who is coming in, who is going out and who isn’t supposed to be in the area. I honestly didn’t expect it to be this far along when I came back. On my first deployment it took us two weeks to clear the city of Fallujah. We evacuated the city and the only people still left in the city were those that wanted to fight. When I was here in 2004, if there was a crowd of Iraqis around me, I had cause to be nervous. Now I eat with them, I know them and they know me and security has gotten better out here because of all of this. Now, we stop at vehicle and personnel checkpoints and they have actually begun implementing and conducting searches, which have gotten a lot better.”

The Iraqis willingness to help in their own community allows Marines, like those of the battalion, to make much more significant accomplishments in areas other than security. But that isn’t the only benefit said Hubbard.

“The Marines have put up with a lot and they have worked extremely hard over here,” he said. “It’s not rare for me to ask them to be up at the trucks doing pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections at 0600 and be on the road until twenty two hundred, then the next day do it all over again starting at 0500,” said Hubbard. “But, it has gotten better for Marines also. Nineteen Marines were killed in my battalion with 3/5. This year we lost three. That’s three too many, but it is a lot better. The improvements for the Iraqis have been great, and for us things have gotten better also. The gear is better, the chow is better, life is better for everybody and I would say things are definitely improving a lot over here.”

“Yes, we can say that other units put projects into play and have done good things,” said Gus, who has served with more than seven military units in the area since 2003. “But this unit undertook and completed many projects and conveyed a message of sincere concern for the revitalization of Iraq as a growing and upcoming country, which will regain its former status as a self sufficient state…and not only that, but also a state that enjoys a respectable seat among the advanced nations of the world.”


February 10, 2008

A boy's wish made real

BROOKPARK, Ohio -- On Jan. 12, a warrior named Dontay Burton was laid to rest at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He was 8 years old.

http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/mcb/topStory_Dontay_Burtons_wish.asp

Capt. Paul L. Greenberg
Marine Forces Reserve

Reserve Marines from Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve here attended the funeral to pay their respects.

"All he ever wanted to be was a Marine," said Lt. Col. Minter B. Ralston, the battalion inspector-instructor, who attended the service with Sgt. Maj. Carl L. Chapman, the battalion sergeant major.

Burton, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in November 2006, was inspired to be a Marine by his grandfather, retired First Sgt. Freddie Crawford, according to Ralston.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation coordinated with the U.S. Marine Corps to make Burton's dream come true during his short lifetime.

On May 2, 2007, with his cancer in full remission, Burton set off from his home in Maple Hills, Ohio for Camp Lejeune, where he met up with his sponsor, Gunnery Sgt. William C. House.

House, who was an intelligence chief for 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at the time, told a Marine Corps reporter, "Dontay is an inspiration to me and all the Marines that got to meet him during his visit to Camp Lejeune. His fighting spirit to not only live but to succeed will stay with me for the rest of my life."

During his stay in North Carolina, Burton toured Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point, Camp Gieger, as well as Camp Lejeune. His experiences included a ride in an M1A1 Main Battle Tank, shooting at an indoor marksmanship trainer, and "flying" in an F/A-18D Hornet Simulator.

"We may grant the wishes, but we also appreciate the tremendous generosity and assistance of the Marines in giving the wish kids such a terrific experience. Everyone really goes all-out for the kids when they visit," said Brent Goodrich, the media relations manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Although he fought his cancer into remission for about two years, Burton passed away Jan. 6 in a Cleveland, Ohio hospital from complications resulting from a bacterial infection.

House, who stated that he saw Burton "as one of my kids," drove to Ohio from his current duty assignment at Marine Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., to help comfort the family in their grief. He was not able to stay for the funeral, but dressed Burton in a small Marine Corps camouflage uniform for the burial.

Although their time together was short, it was clear that the impact made by Dontay Burton and the Make-A-Wish experience will be long lasting.

"He showed the young Marines at 8th Marine Regiment that no matter what the obstacle, it will be O.K." explained House. "Dontay never complained. He was a grown man at heart. He taught me that adversity, no matter what form it comes in, does not have to stop or even slow us down."

February 9, 2008

Last original Iwo Jima flag-raiser dies at 82

REDDING, Calif. (Feb 9, 2008) -- Raymond Jacobs, believed to be the last surviving member of the group of Marines photographed during the original U.S. flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II, has died at age 82.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/41CB6F8EF079EFB4852573EB0046012D?opendocument

Feb 9, 2008; Submitted on: 02/10/2008 07:44:38 AM ; Story ID#: 200821074438
By - Sentry Staff, MCB Quantico

Jacobs died Jan. 29 of natural causes at a Redding hospital, his daughter, Nancy Jacobs, told The Associated Press.

Jacobs had spent his later years working to prove that he was the radio operator photographed looking up at an American flag as it was being raised by other Marines on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, on the island about 745 miles south of Tokyo.

Newspaper accounts from the time show he was on the mountain during the initial raising of a smaller American flag, though he had returned to his unit by the time the more famous AP photograph was taken of a second flag-raising later the same day.

The radioman’s face isn’t fully visible in the first photograph taken of the first flag-raising by Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck Magazine, leading some veterans to question Jacobs’ claim. However, other negatives from the same roll of film show the radioman is Jacobs, said retired Col. Walt Ford, editor of Leatherneck.

‘‘It’s clearly a front-on face shot of Ray Jacobs,” Ford said.

Annette Amerman, a historian with the Marine Corps History Division, said in an e-mailed statement ‘‘there are many that believe” Jacobs was the radioman. ‘‘However, there are no official records produced at the time that can prove or refute Mr. Jacobs’ location.”

Jacobs was honorably discharged in 1946. He was called up during the Korean War in 1951 before retiring as a sergeant, his daughter said.

Jacobs retired in 1992 from KTVU-TV in Oakland, where he worked 34 years as a reporter, anchor and news director.

February 8, 2008

United through sport: IP, IA kick off new relations

AL QA’IM, Iraq (Feb. 8, 2008) -- The patter of bongo drums and the cheerful chants of the townspeople set the stage for a match that would go down in history for the village at the T-1 pumping station in Iraq.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/5586773380277c17852573ec0023406b?OpenDocument

Feb. 8, 2008; Submitted on: 02/11/2008 01:25:02 AM ; Story ID#: 20082111252
By Cpl. Billy Hall, 1st Marine Division

To unify two historically separate organizations, the Marines from Company I of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, hosted the Al Qa'im Area Annual Iraqi Security Forces Football Championship between the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police.

The town emptied to the village football field to cheer on their local heroes and support the unification that will ensure their future security.

“As a part of the campaign plan to partner with both (Iraqi Police) and (Iraqi Army) throughout Al Qa'im, I came up with various community related events with the IP and the IA working together for the people,” said Capt. T.J. Owens, the commanding officer of Company I. “After all, the people are what they have in common, and if it serves the people and brings them together at the same time, mission accomplished.”

During warm-ups, it was apparent that the match was taken seriously from both sides. Football, better known as soccer in the United States, is a cherished sport in the region, and though the competition was friendly, it was also fierce at the same time.

My brother is playing on the other team, said an Iraqi policeman. We have been looking forward to this for a long time.

The teams lined up at the center of the field and faced a crowd that included various sheiks and officers from both the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police. The players stood staunchly as the Iraqi National Anthem played.

“I was impressed to see so many supporters out there,” said Sgt. Albert Pelham, a Marine from Company I and head referee for the match. “The kids were having a blast. It was important for them to see everyone working together.”

The best-of-three tournament kicked off with both teams remaining scoreless by the end of regulation in the first match. The game was then decided by the tournament’s most valuable player, the Iraqi Police goalie, who blocked two shots during the resulting penalty kick shoot-out.

The Iraqi Army answered quickly by scoring a goal within the first minute of the second match, but the Iraqi Police eventually tied it up, stirring the crowd into a frenzy of excitement.

In the second half, a game winning goal by the Iraqi Police brought the tournament to a dramatic finish.

“The event was termed a success by all who witnessed it,” Owens said. “Several people questioned why such events had not been done in the past, and many inquired as to the likelihood of follow-on events. I encouraged the (Iraqi Security Forces) to continue doing events for their people similar in nature to the soccer match.”

The Iraqi Army, though disappointed by their loss, seemed to have formed a tighter bond with the Iraqi police while joking about the projected outcome of next year’s planned rematch.

The Marines from Company I ran a concession stand during the tournament, raising proceeds so the Iraqi Security Forces could support the event annually. The Iraqi Police were tasked with setting up next year’s tournament to defend their title.

After the trophy presentation, the Iraqi Police loaded up in the back of their police trucks and paraded through the village as the local champions.

The Iraqi people saw the day as a friendly competition for all to enjoy, but the deeply rooted significance of the interaction between the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police will undoubtedly be the lasting effect.

“I wanted them to see that a better Iraq was possible, and that environment was being provided by Iraqi Security Forces,” Owens said. “The resounding effect I hoped to have on both ISF and the people of Iraq was a peace that they can have if they work together in securing their land.”

Pentagon starts new benefits push

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 8, 2008 5:28:36 EST

Defense officials and lawmakers are forging ahead on a plan that would allow all troops — not just a few in critical skills — to transfer unused GI Bill education benefits to family members.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/military_payraiseside_080207/

Web site allows Okinawa Marines to share stories with fallen Marine’s parents

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Feb. 8, 2008) -- After Cpl. Tom Saba, a crew chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, died in a CH-46 Sea Knight crash Feb. 7, 2007 in Iraq, his parents found a photo on his computer.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4B157211086C2008852573E90038C0D3?opendocument

Feb. 8, 2008; Submitted on: 02/08/2008 05:19:53 AM ; Story ID#: 20082851953
By Lance Cpl. David Rogers, MCB Camp Butler

The photo shows Saba standing on a beach in his flight suit holding a small object. They loved the photo, but they wanted to know more about its origins.

To find the story behind the photo, friends of the family accepted the help of Triton Web Studios, which built and hosts a free Web site appropriately named http://www.tomsaba.com.

Through the site, the family hopes not only to discover the story associated with that photo but also to keep in touch with Marine who knew their son.

The Web site went online summer of 2007. It allows anyone to e-mail Saba’s family with stories, photos or condolences for their son.

The site is also linked to a guest book hosted by the Staten Island Advance newspaper. The guest book has become a popular place for Marines who served with Saba to publicly post their stories about him, according to the Web site administrator.

February 7 marked the one-year anniversary since HMM-262 lost one of its own. Weeks before, with the thought of the approaching anniversary on his mind, Capt. Kenneth Morrow made his first post on the site. Morrow, a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot with the squadron, spent a lot of time flying with Saba, who served as his crew chief.

“I’ve wanted to tell a few stories to the family to let them know I remember Cpl. Saba,” Morrow said. “And the people here still remember Cpl. Saba and we talk about him all the time. I’m not the world’s greatest writer and it took a long time for me to put it down.”

Morrow posted stories of his experiences as a new pilot with Saba, a more experienced crew chief at the time, and also stories of inside jokes between the two.

“I just wanted to make sure I got the stories down,” Morrow said. “If his family wants to get in contact with me or any of his friends, I left my contact information on there. And if they are ever missing Tom, they can contact me and I can tell them some cool stories and good memories that I have of him.”

Morrow is one of many Marines who have shared their favorite stories of Saba.

“You get to see stuff from all the Marines that served with him,” Morrow said. “And the craziest thing is that every single one of them starts out with ‘I can’t imagine him without a smile on his face.’ That’s why I put on mine, ‘You’ve heard this a hundred times, but it’s true, that’s the way he was.’”

After more than six months of the Web site’s existence, the mystery of the photo that started it all has not been solved yet.

But the wealth of stories that has come of it has opened a whole world of Saba’s life that his loved ones back home would have never known about.

Web site allows Okinawa Marines to share stories with fallen Marine’s parents

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan (Feb. 8, 2008) -- After Cpl. Tom Saba, a crew chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, died in a CH-46 Sea Knight crash Feb. 7, 2007 in Iraq, his parents found a photo on his computer.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/4B157211086C2008852573E90038C0D3?opendocument

Feb. 8, 2008; Submitted on: 02/08/2008 05:19:53 AM ; Story ID#: 20082851953
By Lance Cpl. David Rogers, MCB Camp Butler

The photo shows Saba standing on a beach in his flight suit holding a small object. They loved the photo, but they wanted to know more about its origins.

To find the story behind the photo, friends of the family accepted the help of Triton Web Studios, which built and hosts a free Web site appropriately named http://www.tomsaba.com.

Through the site, the family hopes not only to discover the story associated with that photo but also to keep in touch with Marine who knew their son.

The Web site went online summer of 2007. It allows anyone to e-mail Saba’s family with stories, photos or condolences for their son.

The site is also linked to a guest book hosted by the Staten Island Advance newspaper. The guest book has become a popular place for Marines who served with Saba to publicly post their stories about him, according to the Web site administrator.

February 7 marked the one-year anniversary since HMM-262 lost one of its own. Weeks before, with the thought of the approaching anniversary on his mind, Capt. Kenneth Morrow made his first post on the site. Morrow, a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot with the squadron, spent a lot of time flying with Saba, who served as his crew chief.

“I’ve wanted to tell a few stories to the family to let them know I remember Cpl. Saba,” Morrow said. “And the people here still remember Cpl. Saba and we talk about him all the time. I’m not the world’s greatest writer and it took a long time for me to put it down.”

Morrow posted stories of his experiences as a new pilot with Saba, a more experienced crew chief at the time, and also stories of inside jokes between the two.

“I just wanted to make sure I got the stories down,” Morrow said. “If his family wants to get in contact with me or any of his friends, I left my contact information on there. And if they are ever missing Tom, they can contact me and I can tell them some cool stories and good memories that I have of him.”

Morrow is one of many Marines who have shared their favorite stories of Saba.

“You get to see stuff from all the Marines that served with him,” Morrow said. “And the craziest thing is that every single one of them starts out with ‘I can’t imagine him without a smile on his face.’ That’s why I put on mine, ‘You’ve heard this a hundred times, but it’s true, that’s the way he was.’”

After more than six months of the Web site’s existence, the mystery of the photo that started it all has not been solved yet.

But the wealth of stories that has come of it has opened a whole world of Saba’s life that his loved ones back home would have never known about.

MARSOC Marines become first to earn title of “Lancero”

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 8, 2008) -- During 73 days of some of the most physically arduous and mentally grueling training in all of the militaries around the world, two Marines from Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, persevered to become the first MARSOC Marines to earn the title of “Lancero.”

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/BAE3339B99AA99F6852573E900686078?opendocument

Feb. 8, 2008; Submitted on: 02/08/2008 02:00:04 PM ; Story ID#: 2008281404
By Lance Cpl. Stephen C. Benson, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

Capt. German E. Duarte and Sgt. Roberto P. Sanchez, graduated from the Escuela de Lanceros Dec. 5, 2007, where the Colombian National Army and servicemembers from friendly foreign militaries gather to endure Lancero training and develop themselves into highly-skilled warfighters.

“I would say this has been the toughest and the craziest out of all courses I have been through or heard of,” said Duarte. “Without Marine Corps training, I don’t think we would have even made it.”

According to U.S. Army Maj. Edgar J. Alvarez, Lancero instructor and exchange officer, 7th Special Forces Group, the Lancero course began in Dec. 6, 1955, after members of the Colombian National Army went through U.S. Army Ranger school and used what they learned to form their own special forces school in Colombia. Today, the Escuela de Lanceros is designed to develop its students into experts in small-unit tactics and irregular warfare. More specifically, it prepares the Colombian military to combat terrorist groups who utilize guerilla tactics in their country.

Duarte and Sanchez said that much of the course is culture based. They learned techniques, tactics and procedures of the Colombian armed forces and gained a better understanding of the Colombian culture.

According to Duarte and Sanchez, the course is broken up into several phases: adaptation/acclimatization, irregular/urban, mountain and jungle warfare, and finally, graduation week.

In the adaptation/acclimatization phase, Duarte and Sanchez acclimated to the heat and humidity and instructors led intensive physical training to prepare students for the duration of the course.

“You get used to not sleeping and eating well and beating your body down with PT,” said Sanchez. “They teach you weapons familiarization, land navigation and the Colombian [military] planning process.”

After two weeks, the students moved on to irregular/urban warfare and learned close quarters battle tactics similar to those used by U.S. armed forces.

“You do patrols and hikes at a training center and you come back in the morning and immediately start planning for the next patrol. Then, you get 2 hours of sleep before going out on that patrol,” explained Sanchez.

According to Duarte, the main part of the course was the last four weeks, which encompassed both mountain- and jungle-warfare phases. The most difficult training evolutions fell within these weeks and included multiple hikes that ranged from 8 kilometers to a 36 kilometer hike known as the Marca de la Muerte, or March of Death.

“The hikes were definitely the most difficult part of the course because the terrain is rough, there are no breaks and you carry 60-70 pounds on your back as you go up and down mountains and through the jungle,” said Duarte. “It's not like (Marine Corps hikes) where you go for so long, and you take a break and drink water. Over there, you get water, but on the move.”

During the jungle phase, Duarte and Sanchez spent a difficult eight days in a mock concentration camp. Students were deprived of food and subjected to various physical and mental stresses in an effort to break their spirits. Duarte and Sanchez persevered and were impressed by their fellow Colombian students.

“There is a culture of machismo,” said Duarte. “Some of the things they do you wouldn’t do in the Marine Corps or anywhere else, but they do it because they have to show they are men.”

Despite the difficulty of the final four weeks of the course, both Duarte and Sanchez say it was their favorite part of the Lancero course. The two Marines serve together in MSOAG to train, advise and build relationships with foreign militaries. The Lancero course honed their skills both as infantrymen and as special operations advisors.

“I have done two foreign internal defense missions in Colombia,” said Duarte. “For the Colombian Army, being a Lancero is kind of like being a Ranger in the [U.S.] Army. Most of their infantry officers go there to gain knowledge and prestige.

“Marines help Marines wherever you go,” said Duarte. “It’s the same for Lanceros. When they see another Lancero, they say, ‘Hey, how can I help you?’ or ‘What can I do for you?’ They are always looking out for each other.”

Active duty Marines and Sailors interested in joining MARSOC can contact the Marine Special Operations School at (910) 451-0099/3349 (DSN 751-3349/3123) or visit us online at www.marsoc.usmc.mil.

February 7, 2008

31st MEU, Essex Expeditionary Strike Group execute a mock helo raid at Camp Schwab

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, February 7, 2008

CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — The clearing filled with the rhythmic thump of chopper blades as two CH-46 Sea Knights braved the gray skies Tuesday to transport 24 Marines to a landing zone on Camp Schwab for a “raid.”

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=59696&archive=true

February 6, 2008

Culinary school adds a pinch of Ooh-rah!

By Michael Hill - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Feb 6, 2008 15:27:20 EST

HYDE PARK, N.Y. — The Marines were at their stations by 0900 hours, knives in hand, ready for a tough new mission. Before the morning was out, they would slice, braise and deglaze like never before.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/ap_marinecooking_080206/

February 5, 2008

24th MEU gears up for deployment

PORT OF WILMINGTON, N.C. (Feb. 5, 2008) -- The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed loading hundreds of vehicles, weapons and containers aboard the USNS Algol, February 1.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/D66FC1DE61176200852573E60057E8B9?opendocument

Feb. 5, 2008; Submitted on: 02/05/2008 11:00:12 AM ; Story ID#: 20082511012
By Cpl. Randall A. Clinton, 24th MEU

This marks the 24th MEU’s adjustment from deploying with the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group to supporting NATO operations in southern Afghanistan.

“(Just a week ago) we had all of our stuff on amphibious ships in Norfolk, Va., -- I mean broke down and stowed. We had to collect all that stuff, get it back into containers, bring it back down to (Camp) Lejeune, break open that stuff, get all the stuff we don’t need out, get all the stuff that we do need and pack it back up,” said Capt. Mark Windham, embarkation officer, 24th MEU. “So within a compressed timeline we had to figure out what we had, what we have on the deck, make it reflect in the paperwork and move it down to the Port of Wilmington,” Windham added.

He repeatedly stressed the distinction between port operations and the beachhead operations his Marines have trained for during the past year.

“In a week and a half I want you to do it this way. I know it took you a year to learn the other way, but I need you to do this stuff in a week and a half,” he said.

Assisting the 24th MEU dockside was the Army’s 841st Terminal Transportation Battalion -- a unit experienced in port operations along the east coast.

The soldiers created a stow plan for the more than 450 pieces of cargo, maximizing every inch of space, said Maj. Isabel Geiger, operations officer, 841st TTB.

“You won’t be able to walk between them,” Geiger promised of the cargo.

Accounting for each item as it is staged and then loaded aboard the ship falls on the shoulders of Combat Logistics Battalion 24’s landing support unit.

“Monday morning is when everything really started (for us). That’s when the convoys came in and then the cargo started coming in,” said Cpl. Mark Brady, landing support specialist, CLB-24.

However, simply getting the gear and aboard the ship is easy when compared to the process of tracking every item prior to its loading.

“We would be loading it on ship anyway, whether it is three ships (Nassau ESG) or just one big one. It hasn’t changed too much, just increase the scale. Last night we were out here until 12:45 a.m. putting tags on all these vehicles,” said Brady.

Windham admitted that his Marines had a tall task, but his confidence never wavered.

“It’s sleep depravation to the extreme. We rarely ask Marines to do something that is unreasonable to accomplish within the time frame we have,” he said. “It’s unreasonable for normal people, but my Marines that work for me down here are extraordinary. So it is not undoable for them.”

Iraq vet finds focus on field, in classroom

CRESCENT SPRINGS - At 22-years-old, Greg Dixon has his whole life in front of him. But already, the Iraq war veteran has achieved two life goals: He served his country as a U.S. Marine and is now playing college football at Thomas More College.

http://news.communitypress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080205/NEWS01/802050320

Tuesday, February 5, 2008
BY JASON FELDMANN | JFELDMAN@COMMUNITYPRESS.COM


He's now working on the next life goal: Graduating from college and becoming a college football coach.

After graduating from Covington Catholic High School in 2003, Dixon said he immediately knew what he wanted to do.

"Personally, I wasn't ready for school at the time. I was immature, I guess. I was still 18 and I realized that I wanted to do something different with my life," he said. "Joining the Marines was something I always wanted to do."

During his first semester at Thomas More, Dixon earned a 3.4 grade point average. He's currently majoring in Sociology.

"Right now, where I am in my life, is exactly where I wanted to be when I was a senior in high school," he said.

Only three years ago, in early 2004, Dixon found himself a green Marine fresh out of Boot Camp working as a radio operator and machine gunner in the Iraqi city of Husaybah, near the Syrian border.

Soon thereafter, Dixon experienced his first combat action when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off while on patrol. One Marine in the front took the brunt of the explosion, suffering brain damage and losing vision in his right eye as shrapnel went through his skull just between his Kevlar vest and helmet.

"Clear spinal fluid was coming out of his nose. He was messed up pretty bad," said Dixon.

Briefly, he admits, there was a time when he questioned his decision to choose military service over college.

"Once you get there, you really start seeing stuff, and being around it, and you think, 'I don't know if this was the greatest decision,'" he said.

But even if he had a chance to do it all over again, Dixon wouldn't change a thing -- despite the danger, he believed in what he was doing.

"I can't even tell you how many days we were engaged. Maybe everyday for nine months," he said.

While he never got "used to" the violence and the constant threat of danger, Dixon said he and the other troops did become desensitized in a way. It's only natural when everyday you hear about friends and fellow Marines getting injured or killed.

"You just never knew, especially in Husaybah. We were on foot the whole time. You never knew when something was going to happen. You sort of make a peace with yourself, I'd say. You had to realize that if it was time, it was time," he said.

Since trading in his desert fatigues and M249 machine gun for blue jeans and a school backpack, Dixon said it's been an adjustment sitting in class with 18-year-old freshman

He's found a camaraderie with his teammates on the football field and confidence through his four years in the Marines to know that he can accomplish more of his life's goals.

"Now I'm just want to try and live a normal life," he said.

February 4, 2008

From Marine to corpsman: Brooklyn, N.Y., native strives to serve

AL QA’IM, Iraq (Feb. 4, 2008) -- You will rarely find a group of Marines performing combat operations without a Navy corpsman by their side. The time-honored unification of Marines and corpsmen has created an immeasurable bond, indescribable to most.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/1bbb3b34dec65bc0852573e60024b39b?OpenDocument

Feb. 4, 2008; Submitted on: 02/05/2008 01:40:52 AM ; Story ID#: 20082514052
By Cpl. Billy Hall, 1st Marine Division

For one proud Navy corpsman, this bond has been held from both sides.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Leonardo E. Benitez joined the Marine Corps out of high school nearly 2 decades ago. With a wealth of family tradition, Benitez enlisted as an infantryman in 1989.

“All of my uncles were Marines,” said Benitez. “I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to get out of Brooklyn, (N.Y).”

Benitez left the Marine Corps in 1994 and pursued a career as an emergency medical technician at a Veterans Affairs hospital for 8 years.

After 9/11, Benitez was again inspired to serve his country, though, at the age of 32, Benitez could not re-enlist as a Marine Corps infantryman.

“I wanted to fight, or be close to the fight,” said Benitez. “I went to the Navy and became a corpsman.”

Benitez now brings his vast medical and military knowledge to his fellow Marines and corpsmen of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. He was recently selected as the 3RD Bn., 2nd Marines Sailor of the Quarter for the pride and professionalism he holds for his work.

“I’m proud to be a part of this Task Force,” Benitez said. “There’s a pride in putting on a uniform to me. It defines who I am and what I am; being able to be a part of history.”

On his second deployment with the battalion, Benitez serves as corpsmen for the battalion commander’s jump platoon.

“This deployment, the (Iraqi) people have a different attitude, and I think they accept the fact that we’re here to help,” Benitez said.

Recently, Benitez developed a unique program amongst his platoon.

“When we got here, we noticed a lot of the (Iraqi) people had bad dental cases,” Benitez said. “Over Christmas, we got so many care packages out here with supplies like toothpaste and toothbrushes. I didn’t want to see that stuff go to waste. Me and the guys take as much as possible and hand it out whenever we can.”

Though Benitez has a significant presence due to his extensive knowledge and experience, the fact that he is a former Marine, is 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighs 250 pounds and has a thick New York accent, gives him a unique distinction.

Becoming a corpsman has given Benitez his longing to again work hand-in-hand with Marines. He is now exactly where he wants be; fighting from the front with his brothers-in-arms.

“I’ve always had a theory about the Marine Corps,” said Benitez. “About Marines from the ‘50s, all the way back to when the Marine Corps began; the training has changed, but the essence of the Marine Corps is still there. You can feel it around these guys. There’s nothing else I want to do in the world except this.”

1st responders trained to spot troubled vets

By Stephanie Reitz - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Feb 4, 2008 6:27:58 EST

HOLYOKE, Mass. — For many returning troops, lifesaving combat instincts can complicate life at home: constant vigilance, agitation in confined places, bolting from loud noises and other behaviors that can be misinterpreted by police.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/ap_troubledvets_080202/

Corps commissions symphony for New Orleans

MARINE CORPS TIMES - (Feb. 4, 2008) -- Some of the most grizzled Marines have worried in recent years that the Corps was getting away from its “expeditionary roots.”

http://www.mfr.usmc.mil/News/2008.02/Symphony.html

Story by Andrew Tilghman - Marine Corps Times Staff writer

Well, wait until they hear about the new “symphonic music composition” the Corps is commissioning.

This is not the first time the Corps has commissioned a work of music. But it’ll probably be the first one with hints of jazz, blues and zydeco — a musical mix evoking the city of New Orleans.

Marine Forces Reserve, based in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, is seeking a composer to write a 10-minute piece “musically capturing the spirit of the City of New Orleans in an anthem of rebirth following the Hurricanes of 2005,” according to a formal solicitation issued by the command’s contracting office.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Smith, director of the Reserve command’s 50-piece wind ensemble, said, “We’re looking for a piece that will paint a musical picture of what this city went through during the storm. I’d like you to be able to close your eyes and envision the storm and hear in the music how people came through it together.”

“It may have many flavors and undertones — from jazz to rock to fusion,” Smith said. “Music in New Orleans had a long, long and grand history. And we need somebody who has knowledge of that and what the city was like before the storms and after the storms.”

Expected to cost about $10,000, the composition is one more way the history of the Corps is intertwined with one of the nation’s oldest cities.

“The people who make up this command also make up the people of New Orleans,” Smith said.

Hurricane Katrina struck the city in August 2005, displacing several thousand Marines, their families and civilian workers. (Hurricane Rita made landfall in Louisiana in September, sending more floodwaters into the city.) Floodwaters broke several massive levees, destroying entire neighborhoods and flooding the first floor of the command’s headquarters along the Mississippi River.

Like hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents, members of the command — which oversees nearly 100,000 reservists — spent several days scattered across the region until they finally regrouped in Fort Worth, Texas, at the 14th Marines’ headquarters. For months, they slept in hotels and set up laptop computers wherever they could find space — including picnic tables and children’s school desks.

Some administrative units were temporarily posted in Kansas City, Mo.

It took about four months for the command to regroup in New Orleans.

“There was a phased approach. Just like when you deploy and redeploy, we phased back into New Orleans,” said Capt. Erin Wiener, a public affairs officer who was among a group that returned about two months after the storm.

The 89-year-old command building sustained minor damage to its roof and has been fully restored.

Since the Corps is looking for music that evokes the city and the storm, the musician selected for the project is likely to be a local.

“It’s not limited to, but what we’re looking for is someone who knew New Orleans before the storm and has knowledge of it after the storm,” Smith said.

“It’s probably going to be somebody close, somebody who has been a part of the city before it happened and knows what it was like for the evacuation,” Smith said.

The wind ensemble will debut the composition later this year, possibly as part of the three-year commemoration of the storm and flood, Smith said. Afterward, the music will be available to school band directors and parade organizers across the country, with the expectation that any program notes will attribute the piece as “commissioned by the United States Marine Corps Band.”

At the time of the hurricane, Smith was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, leading his band members on a more traditional Marine Corps mission — combat patrols around Camp Blue Diamond.

But when he arrived in New Orleans a few months later, he was moved by the sense of resilience among the residents.

“We were very inspired by the spirit that the people had. Rebirth is a day-to-day event. It is going on today. And it’ll be going on tomorrow. And it is going to be going on for a long time.”

Corps commissions symphony for New Orleans

MARINE CORPS TIMES - (Feb. 4, 2008) -- Some of the most grizzled Marines have worried in recent years that the Corps was getting away from its “expeditionary roots.”

http://www.mfr.usmc.mil/News/2008.02/Symphony.html

Story by Andrew Tilghman - Marine Corps Times Staff writer

Well, wait until they hear about the new “symphonic music composition” the Corps is commissioning.

This is not the first time the Corps has commissioned a work of music. But it’ll probably be the first one with hints of jazz, blues and zydeco — a musical mix evoking the city of New Orleans.

Marine Forces Reserve, based in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, is seeking a composer to write a 10-minute piece “musically capturing the spirit of the City of New Orleans in an anthem of rebirth following the Hurricanes of 2005,” according to a formal solicitation issued by the command’s contracting office.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Smith, director of the Reserve command’s 50-piece wind ensemble, said, “We’re looking for a piece that will paint a musical picture of what this city went through during the storm. I’d like you to be able to close your eyes and envision the storm and hear in the music how people came through it together.”

“It may have many flavors and undertones — from jazz to rock to fusion,” Smith said. “Music in New Orleans had a long, long and grand history. And we need somebody who has knowledge of that and what the city was like before the storms and after the storms.”

Expected to cost about $10,000, the composition is one more way the history of the Corps is intertwined with one of the nation’s oldest cities.

“The people who make up this command also make up the people of New Orleans,” Smith said.

Hurricane Katrina struck the city in August 2005, displacing several thousand Marines, their families and civilian workers. (Hurricane Rita made landfall in Louisiana in September, sending more floodwaters into the city.) Floodwaters broke several massive levees, destroying entire neighborhoods and flooding the first floor of the command’s headquarters along the Mississippi River.

Like hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents, members of the command — which oversees nearly 100,000 reservists — spent several days scattered across the region until they finally regrouped in Fort Worth, Texas, at the 14th Marines’ headquarters. For months, they slept in hotels and set up laptop computers wherever they could find space — including picnic tables and children’s school desks.

Some administrative units were temporarily posted in Kansas City, Mo.

It took about four months for the command to regroup in New Orleans.

“There was a phased approach. Just like when you deploy and redeploy, we phased back into New Orleans,” said Capt. Erin Wiener, a public affairs officer who was among a group that returned about two months after the storm.

The 89-year-old command building sustained minor damage to its roof and has been fully restored.

Since the Corps is looking for music that evokes the city and the storm, the musician selected for the project is likely to be a local.

“It’s not limited to, but what we’re looking for is someone who knew New Orleans before the storm and has knowledge of it after the storm,” Smith said.

“It’s probably going to be somebody close, somebody who has been a part of the city before it happened and knows what it was like for the evacuation,” Smith said.

The wind ensemble will debut the composition later this year, possibly as part of the three-year commemoration of the storm and flood, Smith said. Afterward, the music will be available to school band directors and parade organizers across the country, with the expectation that any program notes will attribute the piece as “commissioned by the United States Marine Corps Band.”

At the time of the hurricane, Smith was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, leading his band members on a more traditional Marine Corps mission — combat patrols around Camp Blue Diamond.

But when he arrived in New Orleans a few months later, he was moved by the sense of resilience among the residents.

“We were very inspired by the spirit that the people had. Rebirth is a day-to-day event. It is going on today. And it’ll be going on tomorrow. And it is going to be going on for a long time.”

Corps commissions symphony for New Orleans

MARINE CORPS TIMES - (Feb. 4, 2008) -- Some of the most grizzled Marines have worried in recent years that the Corps was getting away from its “expeditionary roots.”

http://www.mfr.usmc.mil/News/2008.02/Symphony.html

Story by Andrew Tilghman - Marine Corps Times Staff writer

Well, wait until they hear about the new “symphonic music composition” the Corps is commissioning.

This is not the first time the Corps has commissioned a work of music. But it’ll probably be the first one with hints of jazz, blues and zydeco — a musical mix evoking the city of New Orleans.

Marine Forces Reserve, based in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, is seeking a composer to write a 10-minute piece “musically capturing the spirit of the City of New Orleans in an anthem of rebirth following the Hurricanes of 2005,” according to a formal solicitation issued by the command’s contracting office.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Smith, director of the Reserve command’s 50-piece wind ensemble, said, “We’re looking for a piece that will paint a musical picture of what this city went through during the storm. I’d like you to be able to close your eyes and envision the storm and hear in the music how people came through it together.”

“It may have many flavors and undertones — from jazz to rock to fusion,” Smith said. “Music in New Orleans had a long, long and grand history. And we need somebody who has knowledge of that and what the city was like before the storms and after the storms.”

Expected to cost about $10,000, the composition is one more way the history of the Corps is intertwined with one of the nation’s oldest cities.

“The people who make up this command also make up the people of New Orleans,” Smith said.

Hurricane Katrina struck the city in August 2005, displacing several thousand Marines, their families and civilian workers. (Hurricane Rita made landfall in Louisiana in September, sending more floodwaters into the city.) Floodwaters broke several massive levees, destroying entire neighborhoods and flooding the first floor of the command’s headquarters along the Mississippi River.

Like hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents, members of the command — which oversees nearly 100,000 reservists — spent several days scattered across the region until they finally regrouped in Fort Worth, Texas, at the 14th Marines’ headquarters. For months, they slept in hotels and set up laptop computers wherever they could find space — including picnic tables and children’s school desks.

Some administrative units were temporarily posted in Kansas City, Mo.

It took about four months for the command to regroup in New Orleans.

“There was a phased approach. Just like when you deploy and redeploy, we phased back into New Orleans,” said Capt. Erin Wiener, a public affairs officer who was among a group that returned about two months after the storm.

The 89-year-old command building sustained minor damage to its roof and has been fully restored.

Since the Corps is looking for music that evokes the city and the storm, the musician selected for the project is likely to be a local.

“It’s not limited to, but what we’re looking for is someone who knew New Orleans before the storm and has knowledge of it after the storm,” Smith said.

“It’s probably going to be somebody close, somebody who has been a part of the city before it happened and knows what it was like for the evacuation,” Smith said.

The wind ensemble will debut the composition later this year, possibly as part of the three-year commemoration of the storm and flood, Smith said. Afterward, the music will be available to school band directors and parade organizers across the country, with the expectation that any program notes will attribute the piece as “commissioned by the United States Marine Corps Band.”

At the time of the hurricane, Smith was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, leading his band members on a more traditional Marine Corps mission — combat patrols around Camp Blue Diamond.

But when he arrived in New Orleans a few months later, he was moved by the sense of resilience among the residents.

“We were very inspired by the spirit that the people had. Rebirth is a day-to-day event. It is going on today. And it’ll be going on tomorrow. And it is going to be going on for a long time.”

February 1, 2008

Marines, Soldiers train IP for the future

HADITHA CITY, Iraq (Feb. 1, 2008) -- Marines with 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, and the Army’s 170th Military Police Company routinely work side-by-side to train the Iraqi Police in the Haditha area.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/93659728f2502736852573e3002ec324?OpenDocument&Highlight=2,coolman

Feb. 1, 2008; Submitted on: 02/02/2008 03:30:46 AM ; Story ID#: 20082233046
By Lance Cpl. Shawn Coolman, 1st Marine Division

“We go out with the IP to integrate them into our patrols so they can learn and better their techniques, tactics and procedures,” said Cpl. Frederick M. Thornton, 23, a machine gunner with Company W, 3rd Bn, 23rd Marines, who is from Birmingham, Ala. “Every other day we go out with the IP and (on the other days) they go out on their own or with the Police Transition Team.”

The PTT team is working in conjunction with the Marines of 3/23 to prepare the IP for the future.

“We teach the Iraqis administration and investigation tactics just like a normal police force,” said Army Staff Sgt. Chris A. Collinsworth, 30, PTT team chief from Fairborn, Ohio. “We’re taking the IP and transitioning them into more of a community police force instead of going after the insurgents.”

The IP have come a long way, but still have a long way to go until they assume full control of the area.

“Right now the IP do a lot of joint tasks with Coalition Forces, but we are still teaching them a lot,” Collinsworth said. “We want them to have the structure down before we let them patrol fully on their own. We oversee their operations and we give them classes on law enforcement. We want everything to be IP lead.”

The IP are beginning to take charge of their own and continuing to build strong relationships with the locals in the area.

“They go out with us when we go out, talk with the people of the community and hand out food to the locals,” Collinsworth said. “The IP handed out school supplies to the local school here. It was the first time that the school received any supplies from anyone.

“IP are real good people here; the kids in the area love them. I’ll go behind the IP with my interpreter and talk to the residents about security in the area and it’s always positive.”

Every month, the IP station receives money for food rations, but they are taking part of that money and renovating the station. The renovations should be complete in April.

The IP now have a place to call their own and have the foundation for a bright future.

“These guys are really good people that care a lot about their country and want to do the right things,” Collinsworth concluded.

Reserve LAR company celebrates activation with assault course training

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2008) -- A newly reactivated Marine Corps Reserve light armored reconnaissance company put their skills to the test Feb. 1.

http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ad983156332a819185256cb600677af3/5aaee1cd46cc312a852573e9007aea62?OpenDocument

Feb. 1, 2008; Submitted on: 02/08/2008 05:22:33 PM ; Story ID#: 200828172233
By Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson, 1st Marine Division

Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, took on the Deliberate Assault Course on Range 210 here to prepare for the worst in Iraq.

D Co. is temporarily attached to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion for the battalion’s deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“[In] this course we learned how to improve our war fighting skills,” said Capt. Will
C. Lawton, commander of 3rd Platoon, D Co. “It also strengthens the Marines’ ‘killing’ instinct.”

D Co., the ‘Dragons,’ hasn’t been activated since OIF I in 2003. Almost three-quarters of the service members in the company have not deployed before, but said they are excited to go where they’re needed.

“There are a very small number of Marines activated from the reserves,” said Lance Cpl. Michael F. Campbell, a scout with 1st Plt., D Co. “The motivation is high for a lot of us because we all have lives outside of the Marine Corps and we have to make a lot of sacrifices
to be in the position we are in.”

Campbell, a Catlett, Va., native, said the fact they are now activated, after so much
time of inactivity, is exhilarating.

During the DAC training, the Marines engaged pop-up targets as they dismounted and squad-rushed a combat town. They were receiving simulated effective fire on their position until they cleared every building in the town.

A DAC helps small-unit leaders develop a plan of cooperation when engaging in ssaults. “Dragon” teamed up with Alpha Co., 2nd LAR, to participate in the exercise, developing inter-unit awareness for successful attacks.

“Forming that bond with my fellow Marines is very rewarding,” said Campbell. “But the most rewarding part is being able to be accepted to the active duty of LAR.”

The Marines are gearing up for the next level in preparation for their seven-month combat tour: the final exercise of Mojave Viper. 2nd LAR is slated to deploy this spring.

“We are the first [reserve LAR] company to go to Iraq in a long time as [part of] a LAR battalion,” said Cpl. Craig D. Oakley, fire direction chief of 2nd Plt., D Co.. “It’s a prideful experience to be able to serve my country in combat like I signed up for.”

An Open Letter to Code Pink

While the protest that you staged in front of my office on Wednesday, Sept. 26th, was an exercise of your constitutional rights, the messages that you left behind were insulting, untrue, and ultimately misdirected. Additionally, from the comments quoted in the Berkeley Daily Planet article, it is clear that you have no idea what it is that I do here. Given that I was unaware of your planned protest, I was unable to contest your claims in person, so I will therefore address them here.

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/text/article.cfm?archiveDate=10-05-07&storyID=28139

By Richard Lund

First, a little bit about who I am: I am a Marine captain with over eight years of service as a commissioned officer. I flew transport helicopters for most of my time in the Marine Corps before requesting orders to come here. Currently, I am the officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area. My job is to recruit, interview, screen, and evaluate college students and college graduates that show an interest in becoming officers in the Marine Corps. Once they’ve committed to pursuing this program, I help them apply, and if selected, I help them prepare for the rigors of Officer Candidate School and for the challenges of life as a Marine officer. To be eligible for my programs, you have to be either a full-time college student or a college graduate. I don’t pull anyone out of school, and high school students are not eligible.

I moved my office to Berkeley in December of last year. Previously, it was located in an old federal building in Alameda. That building was due to be torn down and I had to find a new location. I choose our new site because of its proximity to UC Berkeley and to the BART station. Most of the candidates in my program either go to Cal or to one of the schools in San Francisco, the East Bay, or the North Bay. Logistically, the Shattuck Square location was the most convenient for them.

Next, you claim that I lie. I have never, and will never, lie to any individual that shows an interest in my programs. I am upfront with everything that is involved at every step of the way and I go out of my way to ensure that they know what to expect when they apply. I tell them that this is not an easy path. I tell them that leading Marines requires a great deal of self-sacrifice. I tell them that, should they succeed in their quest to become a Marine officer, they will almost certainly go to Iraq. In the future, if you plan to attack my integrity, please have the courtesy to explain to me specifically the instances in which you think that I lied.

Next, scrawled across the doorway to my office, you wrote, “Recruiters are Traitors.” Please explain this one. How exactly am I a traitor? Was I a traitor when I joined the Marine Corps all those years ago? Is every Marine, therefore, a traitor? Was I a traitor during my two stints in Iraq? Was I a traitor when I was delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Sumatra? Or do you only consider me a traitor while I am on this job? The fact is, recruitment is and always has been a part of maintaining any military organization. In fact, recruitment is a necessity of any large organization. Large corporations have employees that recruit full-time. Even you, I’m sure, must expend some effort to recruit for Code Pink. So what, exactly, is it that makes me a traitor?

The fact is this: any independent nation must maintain a military (or be allied with those who do) to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Regardless of what your opinions are of the current administration or the current conflict in Iraq, the U.S. military will be needed again in the future. If your counter-recruitment efforts are ultimately successful, who will defend us if we are directly attacked again as we were at Pearl Harbor? Who would respond if a future terrorist attack targets the Golden Gate Bridge, the BART system, or the UC Berkeley clock tower? And, to address the most hypocritical stance that your organization takes on its website, where would the peace keeping force come from that you advocate sending to Darfur?

Finally, I believe that your efforts in protesting my office are misdirected. I agree that your stated goals of peace and social justice are worthy ones. War is a terrible thing that should only be undertaken in the most dire, extreme, and necessary of circumstances. However, war is made by politicians. The conflict in Iraq was ordered by the president and authorized by Congress. They are the ones who have the power to change the policy in Iraq, not members of the military. We execute policy to the best of our ability and to the best of our human capacity. Protesting in front of my office may be an easy way to get your organization in the headlines of local papers, but it doesn’t further any of your stated goals.

To conclude, I don’t consider myself a “recruiter.” I am a Marine who happens to be on recruiting duty. As such, I conduct myself in accordance with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment. I will never sacrifice my honor by lying to anyone that walks into my office. I will never forsake the courage that it takes to restrain myself in the face of insulting and libelous labels like liar and traitor. And, most importantly, I will never waver from my commitment to helping individuals who desire to serve their country as officers in the Marine Corps.


Captain Richard Lund is the United States Marine Corps’ officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area.


Berkeley facilitates protests outside recruiting center

The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Feb 2, 2008 7:17:36 EST

BERKELEY, Calif. — Local officials in this liberal city say it’s time for the Marines to move out. The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to tell the Marines their downtown recruiting station is not welcome and “if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome guests.”

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/01/ap_berkeley_recruiting_080131/

U.S. Senator Wants to Revoke Funding From City of Berkeley, Calif., for Vote to Boot Marines

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., says the City of Berkeley, Calif., no longer deserves federal money.

DeMint was angered after learning that the Berkeley City Council voted this week to tell the U.S. Marine Corps to remove its recruiting station from the city's downtown.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,327466,00.html

Saturday, February 02, 2008
FOX News

"This is a slap in the face to all brave service men and women and their families," DeMint said in a prepared statement. "The First Amendment gives the City of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money."

"If the city can’t show respect for the Marines that have fought, bled and died for their freedom, Berkeley should not be receiving special taxpayer-funded handouts," he added.

Sen. DeMint will appear Saturday on FOX News Channel — on FOX Online With Jamie Colby — between noon and 2 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, a senior Marine official tells FOX News that the Marine office in Berkeley isn't going anywhere.

"We understand things are different there, but some people just don't get it. This is a part of the military machine that gives them the right to do what they do, but what they are doing is extreme," the official said.

DeMint said he will draft legislation to rescind any earmarks dedicated for the City of Berkeley in the recently passed appropriations bill — which his office tallied to value about $2.1 million. He said that any money taken back would be transferred to the Marines.

DeMint's office provided a preliminary list of items that would be subject to his proposal:

— $975,000 for the University of California at Berkeley, for the Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service, which may include establishing an endowment, and for cataloguing the papers of Congressman Robert Matsui.

— $750,000 for the Berkeley/Albana ferry service.

— $243,000 for the Chez Panisse Foundation, for a school lunch initiative to integrate lessons about wellness, sustainability and nutrition into the academic curriculum.

— $94,000 for a Berkeley public safety interoperability program.

— $87,000 for the Berkeley Unified School District, nutrition education program.

The Marine official, speaking with FOX News on Friday, said Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway scoffed at the news, but there are no plans for to protest the City Council's decisions. There are definitely no plans to move the recruiting station either.

"To actually put something into law that encourages the disruption of a federal office is ridiculous. They are not going to kick a federal office out of its rightful place there, and this is not going to discourage those young patriots who want to be Marines," the official said.

The Berkeley City Council this week voted to tell the Marines their downtown recruiting station is not welcome and "if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome guests," according to The Associated Press.

The council also voted to explore whether a city anti-discrimination law applies to the Marines, with a focus on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevents open homosexuality in the military.

The council also voted to give the antiwar group Code Pink a parking space in front of the recruiting office once a week for six months, as well as a protest permit.

The Marine recruiting office in Berkeley has been open for about one year, but has been the subject of recent protests by Code Pink members.

FOX News' Justin Fishel and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

No rules broken in leaving troops on tarmac

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 1, 2008 6:27:59 EST

OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland International Airport officials broke no rules or laws when they directed to a remote corner of the airfield a charter plane ferrying military personnel from Iraq, a U.S. Transportation Department inquiry found.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/01/ap_troopsontarmac_080130/