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Task Force 2/7 dedicates camp after MoH recipient

CAMP BARBER, Afghanistan — The Marines now have a place to call their own.


6/5/2008 By Cpl. Ray Lewis, 2nd Battalion (2/7)

On May 11, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division dedicated its camp here as Camp Barber in honor of Col. William E. Barber, a Medal of Honor recipient who served with 2/7 during the Korean War.

Task Force Commander Lt. Col. Richard Hall and Sgt. Maj. Matthew B. Brookshire presided over the dedication ceremony, which reflected the pride and ownership Marines are traditionally proud of displaying.

“We’re proud of our heritage; we’re proud of being Marines,” said Brookshire, adding the camp was named after an outstanding and well-deserving Marine from the battalion’s heritage.

Col. Barber was a captain when he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor -- the nation’s highest military award for combat heroism. He led his company in a desperate five-day defense of a frozen mountain pass vital to the 1st Marine Division's breakout to the sea, according to his award citation.

He was wounded while fighting sub-zero temperatures against overwhelming odds. Yet, he reportedly refused evacuation and remained in command of his company.

His actions merited the Medal of Honor presented to him by President Harry S. Truman during a ceremony held at the White House on August 20, 1952. He passed away April 19, 2002.

In his honor, the Marines unveiled a marquee that dons the camp’s heroic name. It rests at the camp’s front entrance, which also features an American flag and a Marine Corps flag that are raised each morning at dawn and lowered at dusk.

“It’s one of those motivating things,” Brookshire said. “It adds the Marine flavor to the overall camp itself… we fly our flags high here as you can see.”

Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command and commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, was the ceremony’s guest speaker. Also in attendance were Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commanding general, 1st MarDiv, and Sgts. Maj. Dennis W. Reed, MARCENT/I MEF, and Randall Carter, 1st MarDiv, who traveled to Afghanistan with the MARCENT commander.

The MARCENT commander highlighted the ceremony when he combat meritoriously promoted Cpl. Peter R. Villanueva of Weapons Company, and Lance Cpls. Jason L. Claunch and James D. Doherty, both of Company F, to their current ranks.

“I felt honored because here’s a general taking his time to promote a lance corporal,” said Lance Cpl. James D. Doherty of Company F, who was also pinned by the general. “I was kind of nervous because it’s a three-star general. I didn’t want to trip over my feet or anything. It’d be embarrassing. I just wanted to be my best.”

Doherty said he was motivated by the promotion, and plans to pick up his next rank much faster.

“I wasn’t supposed to pick up lance corporal until August, so this gives me a lot more motivation to pick up corporal meritoriously,” he said. “To get promoted here shows we’re making footsteps. The dedication means the Marine Corps is breaking new ground all over the world.”

Another Marine was completely surprised to hear that he would be getting promoted by the general as well.

“It was pretty outrageous. I found out maybe two hours before formation,’” said Lance Cpl. Jason L. Claunch of Company F.

Claunch said he now has a new found confidence and also the drive to pick up corporal by January.

“You can say that it motivated me. It kind of brought out the sense of pride that comes with being a Marine,” Claunch said.

The final Marine to be promoted on this momentous occasion was Cpl. Peter R. Villanueva of Weapons Company. As he and the other two Marines stood proudly in front of Lt. Gen. Helland, it was evident that their promotions played a significant role in the dedication ceremony itself.

“It’s something big for a Marine to be promoted on a camp just prior to its dedication ceremony,” said Headquarters and Service Company 1st Sgt. James A. Colon, who acknowledged other Marines promoted here on May 1 before the camp’s official dedication.

“I want it to be known that they, too, are a part of the Marine Corps’ history,” Colon said. “How often can you say that you were one of the first Marines promoted at Camp Barber?”

The first Marines to be promoted to their current ranks here were Lance Cpls. German A. Hoyos and Mark W. Richardson, Cpl. Brandon W. Dion, and Sgts. Victor M. Perez, Donald O. Critchlow and Mackenzie P. Thompson.

Master Gunnery Sgt. John D. Sterling, TF 2/7’s operations chief said seeing the dedication and promotions brought his 27-year Marine Corps career full circle.

“It feels like the last part of a long ‘Ooh-rah’ for me,” Sterling said. “To be here for this dedication and then be there to see these Marines get promoted… it felt pretty good actually.”

Sterling said he also approached Hoyos immediately after the promotion to see how the newly-promoted lance corporal felt about being the “first” Marine promoted here.

“I said, ‘Do you know that you’re the first person promoted on Camp Barber?’” Sterling asked the Marine. “… he just gave me that good old Marine Corps smile.”

Task Force 2/7 is the Marine Corps’ first battalion-sized unit to be assigned the mission of training, mentoring and advising the Afghanistan National Police in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.