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thedrifter
02-21-03, 01:29 PM
02/21/2003
Civilians deploy with Marines
By PETER WILLIAMS
FREEDOM ENC
CAMP FOX, Kuwait — They all three used to wear the eagle, globe and anchor. Today, they still wear a camouflage uniform for their desert duties, but instead of “U.S. Marines” on cloth tape over the left pockets of their fatigues, it says “Technician.”



Thomas Still, Wes Durden and Bill Stewart are civilian contractors who are at Camp Fox to help maintain complex computer systems for the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps. All three live in Jacksonville, and all three were dispatched here by their companies to fill a critical role. They work on systems designed to analyze intelligence information.



“We pretty much go anywhere the Lejeune units go,” Durden said. “We’ve done a lot of different deployments — Spain, Norway, Greece — but for most of those, we stay in hotels. This is a little different, but we feel like we’re part of a team, and they treat us as part of that team.”



“We have an Air Force contract to provide technical support, parts and maintenance,” said Still, 56, who retired as a major in 1994.



“Most of my work has been at Cherry Point except when the system deploys, and our system is pretty new,” Still said.



“It’s different out here. I guess it’s a bit difficult to explain. Most of the people here realize that you are a former Marine, a retired Marine, but there is a difference. Certainly, we are not designed to be in a combat position or anything like that. What you’re doing is supporting systems that the Marine Corps has decided that the Marines aren’t manned for or are not trained to support, so you kind of become a key figure, but you aren’t one of them.”



Durden is a retired gunnery sergeant who has been out for six years.



“Once they find out you are prior military, the attitude changes,” Durden said. “It’s almost the same way an enlisted person looks at an officer and finds out the officer was prior enlisted.”



There have been a number of technological advances in warfare since Desert Storm, and the systems the contractors maintain are part of those advances.



Unlike the Marines and sailors, who have no idea when they might be home again, two of the three contractors expect to be here only 60 to 90 days.



Stewart, the youngest of the three, is 27 and has been out of the Marine Corps a year and a half. He has no timetable on when he might be back in Jacksonville. But all three expect to be on the road again.



“I think after 9-11, if the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps stay deployed, then we will probably see more (field assignments) than we have in the past,” Still said. “I know our office has deployed four or five times in the last six or seven years, but this is the second time in six months.



“I think it’s much easier for me, Still said. “I am not a desert person, but I’ve been to China Lake, California, for a time and Yuma, Arizona, for a time. And the desert has kind of grown on me. It’s not too bad.



“Of course, I’ve only been here two days.”



Peter Williams is on assignment for The Daily News and Freedom ENC, covering the 2nd Force Service Support Group in Kuwait.


Sempers,

Roger