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thedrifter
11-18-05, 05:31 PM
2/7’s RBE fights battle off battlefield
MCAGCC
Story by Pfc. Michael S. Cifuentes

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (Nov. 18, 2005) -- “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem.” — Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States; 1985

From July 2 through 7, a wave of infantrymen set off on an expedition that consisted of fighting a world enemy, stabilizing and securing a society that yearned for help, and helping to rebuild a nation that was once run by military strongmen led by a dictator.

The infantrymen are known as “War Dogs,” 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and true to this unpleasant name, they make known their hostility, aggression, ugliness and unfriendliness in combat.

Just like all battles found on and off the battlefield, casualties emerge. The “War Dogs” have also suffered losses and many have been wounded in action.

Even before setting foot in the Middle East, Marines remained behind from their last deployment, tending to their injuries in preparation for a future deployment.

Sergeant Brad A. Covert, antitank missileman with Weapons Company, was one of several Marines who did not deploy with his unit three months ago. He is now with 2/7’s Remain Behind Element, which consists of Marines and Sailors who are held here for medical issues, legal issues or who are approaching their end-of-active-service date.

“It’s really tough having to stay back when your unit deploys,” said the Butler, Pa., native. “Most of us get this feeling of guilt that we are here in the comfort of being on base while our friends are out there fighting and in action.”

Covert has been with the battalion since August 2003. During a physical training session, he suffered nerve damage on his elbow while doing a set of pull-ups. He is now in an arm brace, waiting for a surgery date. He was told he could not deploy with the unit a few days prior the deployment in July, he said.

“I trained with them to work up to this deployment and it shocked me when I couldn’t go,” said Covert. “All I can do now is just support my battalion by sending them care packages to lighten their mood. The Marines and I send them letters and talk to them over the phone every now and then. Their wives sometimes come in [the command post] and ask us questions of their whereabouts and how the unit is doing. We support them in all ways we can possibly do, ensuring the Marines who are out in Iraq that everything is taken care of at home.”

Corporal Timothy J. Winters, a 26-year-old squad leader with Weapons Company, joined 2/7’s RBE Oct. 21 after suffering shrapnel wounds from an improvised explosive device in Fallujah.

On Aug. 22, Winters, an Upland, Calif., native, was with his unit conducting combat operations throughout the streets of Fallujah when they were hit by a stacked IED.

The IED took the life of one Marine and wounded Winters and one other. He spent the remainder of the month in and out of medical facilities until he was well enough to return to the Combat Center. After surviving three IED attacks, the fourth attack took him out of combat, said Winters.

“As soon as I was taken out of the fight I was upset,” said Winters. “I just wanted them to bandage me up so I could continue on, but my wounds were worse than that. When they sent me to medical facilities, I met a lot of other [service members] who were also wounded. We exchanged stories but at the same time I felt out of place. I wanted to be with my unit where I belonged. When I arrived [at the Combat Center], I felt better being around Marines —Marines who are with my battalion under similar circumstances.”

The feelings of bitterness to be home and out of harm’s way were common amongst 2/7 RBE Marines. All felt that they were deprived of their participation in the battle. Their deployments were cut short because of wounds or injuries, or what they called “mishaps.”

After a month into his deployment, Lance Cpl. Michael J. Moore Jr., a 22-year-old field radio technician with Headquarters and Service Company, was part of his company’s guard force standing post on the rooftop of a building in Fallujah. The day was disturbed with a violent sand storm, which made him lose his balance and fall from the rooftop. Moore suffered four broken bones in his foot and a vertical and horizontal fracture in his wrist. He met up with 2/7’s RBE Sept. 3.

“The change is drastic from [Operation Iraqi Freedom] to here,” said Moore, a Barrington, N.J., native. “But since I’ve been here, I have been writing letters and sending care packages to my buddies out there. We were very tight. We felt like a family out there and it is hard being apart from my family.”

Moore’s companion, Lance Cpl. Steven E. Dimino, a 20-year-old Las Vegas native, was standing post with Moore the day of the incident. Moore said he has been sending Dimino plenty of care packages since he is not able to stand post with him anymore.

Just like Covert, Cpl. Brock E. Nugent, squad automatic weapon gunner with Fox Company, couldn’t be a part of 2/7’s last deployment.

Nugent deployed with the battalion Feb. 13, 2004 for his first time. On the last day his company was operating, they rode down streets in the city of Rutba, checking observation posts. They received intelligence of a suspicious parked car on the side of a street. Nugent said he was familiar with the area. It was near a rock pile that had been there since the beginning of his deployment. An IED planted in the rock pile exploded when his team was near it, wounding Nugent and one other person. They were immediately evacuated and taken to a medical facility in Al Asad. Nugent suffered shrapnel wounds to his hand, and received the Purple Heart in December of 2004 for his wounds.

“I can’t do much for my company when I’m stuck here,” said Nugent. “All I can do is send care packages, which I do. I try to do what I can to keep their chin up.”

All members of 2/7’s RBE understand the importance of supporting their deployed comrades. They try to do everything they can to make up for not being in Iraq fighting next to their fellow Marines, said Covert.

“The RBE is vital for deployed Marines and their families’ support,” said Covert. “It’s a guilt trip staying away from the war when our boys are out there, but there’s nothing we can do about it. I wonder sometimes if those KIAs from my company would still be with us today if I were out there. I wonder if I could have made a difference. But for right now, my job is here at home. And I have to do all that I can for our Marines out there.”

Covert and the rest of 2/7’s RBE continue to keep in touch, and tend to other wounded Marines returning from Iraq. They make trips to medical centers visiting other service members who have survived life-threatening missions in Iraq. They continue serve as a family by helping out with the fight at home. Their support for all Marines and Sailors will pay off when 2/7 returns in early 2006.

Ellie