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06-26-05, 05:58 AM
Marines with a mission: Reservists prepare to set their lives aside for world of chaos and danger
By T.M. Shultz Lansing State Journal

Sometime early next year the Marines of Lansing's Charlie Company will hold their loved ones close, whisper some last tender reassurances, then shoulder their packs and head off to war.

They'll put weddings, educations - and even careers - on hold to protect convoys and run patrols in Iraq.

After all, as these reservists say, it's what they signed up to do.

They'll leave their jobs as cooks, construction workers, lifeguards and students. These mostly young men believe in what they're doing - and in one another.

"The Marine Corps is like family," said Lance Cpl. Michael Kolp of Grand Ledge. "All these guys I train with, I know them front and back."

They know that, to a large degree, their success or failure rests on their own shoulders.

"Over there now, the corporals are fighting the war," said Master Sgt. Christopher Capps, a full-time Marine Corps instructor.

They're the ones going into the dangerous streets and alleys in such places as Baghdad and Fallujah. These men will make split-second, life-and-death decisions in confusing and hostile environments. More than 1,700 servicemen have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003.

"We're asking young men, 18, 19, 20 years old, to go over and assume responsibilities that many times our cities here would not let them do without formal training of a year or two years in law enforcement," said Maj. Kevin Yeo, the company's head instructor.

That's why the Marines are training more intensely - specifically for Iraq - at Camp Grayling these days.

"We are on the force list ... close to the top, and it's very likely we will be deployed," Yeo said.

That training started in earnest this month when the rifle company and its entire battalion spent two weeks at the camp 146 miles north of Lansing.

"Our unit is the first one to do this kind of Iraq-tailored training here," Capps said.

The Marines may be full of wisecracks and wry critiques of one another's performances, but they know exactly why they're at Camp Grayling.

"I don't think there's any difficulty in making this training serious for the Marine," Yeo said. "He only has to watch the evening news."