View Full Version : Councilman juggles growing obligations

01-20-06, 09:47 AM
Article published - Jan 20, 2006
Councilman juggles growing obligations
Back from Iraq, Canevaro faces bigger roles with Cisco Systems, Marines, but says he is committed to all

Petaluma Councilman Keith Canevaro's first term was interrupted by seven months in Iraq, where his unit received a commendation after he led a group of soldiers out of harm's way following a roadside bomb blast and an ambush.

Canevaro returned home safely and has been back on the council for a year.

But he has more out-of-town responsibilities after a promotion from major to lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and a change in his civilian job at Cisco Systems.

Canevaro said that doesn't mean he'll give up his council post.

"I made a commitment to the folks of Petaluma and I'm going to continue to fulfill that obligation as best as possible," he said.

Canevaro, 37, has no plans to return to active military duty unless he's mobilized or has the chance to lead a battalion of Marines.

"That's one of my life goals," he said. "I wouldn't hesitate to go back to Iraq with a battalion of Marines under my command."

Since Canevaro was promoted at the end of November, giving him the No. 2 post in the 23rd Marine Regiment in San Bruno, he's been eligible for a battalion commander assignment, he said.

He's also accepted the job of executive officer of the regiment, which involves recruiting and training a staff of about 20 that supports the regimental commander.

"There's definitely a lot of responsibility that comes with that," Canevaro said. "I'm not taking it lightly."

His regiment has more than 3,000 Marines spread among Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Nevada and Southern California.

Adding to his workload, Canevaro was handed a new program manager assignment in December at Cisco. He is to help the engineering and manufacturing departments work together better.

He previously was a program manager for the optical networking group.

Commenting on his new duties, Canevaro said there's natural friction between the engineering and manufacturing departments at most companies, a tug of war between getting products completed and getting them ready for manufacturing.

The new assignment takes him to San Jose roughly twice a week, he said.

He missed one council meeting because of the new responsibilities but said he will be able to attend most meetings.

Canevaro, who took office in January 2003, said he doesn't know if he'll run for re-election in November.

"It depends on what things may come in the Marine Corps and Cisco worlds and with family," he said.

He said he'll never forget March 30, 2004, when he was leading a group of about 30 soldiers back from a mission in Ramadi, Iraq.

A Humvee ahead of Canevaro struck an artillery shell buried along the road. It exploded, injuring four soldiers in the Humvee.

"Your training takes over and you do what you have to do," Canevaro said. "It was almost like the snap of the ball in a game where everyone knows what the play is and everyone knows where to go and what to do."

The injured were sent to a nearby base for treatment, but the rest of the soldiers waited for a bomb unit to sweep the road for more explosives, tow the burned Humvee and make plans for the trip back.

But the unit started taking gunfire after the injured left.

An insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers from behind a shield of kids who had gathered to see what was happening.

The explosive ricocheted down the street and lodged under the tire of a Humvee.

That minimized the force of the explosion because Humvees are equipped with steel wheels so they can be driven even if the tires go flat, Canevaro said.

He called in Cobra gunships to search for insurgents and brought in a robot used to sweep the road for explosives.

Hours later the troops were safely back at their base.

"We were awarded the combat action ribbon as a group and I was able to get all my folks out alive," Canevaro said. "We were pretty fortunate."

Even at the base, safety was always in question.

There were frequent rocket and mortar attacks that occasionally took a life or injured soldiers. "It kept you on your toes," he said.

And it could interrupt sleep.

"You knew it was there and sometimes you'd roll over (off the bed) onto the floor. Sometimes you just said, 'Screw it,' and ignored it and went back to sleep."