View Full Version : Bluffs Marine returns safely from Mideast

07-25-03, 05:11 AM
Bluffs Marine returns safely from Mideast

BRIEN T. BOYCE , Staff Writer 07/24/2003

Six months ago, Umm Kasar and Nasariyah sounded like mythical regions once plundered by Ali Baba and his 40 thieves. Now, James Perales will tell you such cities do exist, and have been plundered - by Saddam Hussein.

The lance corporal with the Marine Corps 2nd Battalion, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who returned on leave to Council Bluffs Monday, spent the last several months engaged in firefights to take control of a country once governed by the iron fist of Saddam Hussein.

Though never sent to Baghdad, Perales' unit took part, with British units, in the lengthy takedown of Umm Kasar, one of Iraq's main seaports.

As Uncle Sam's military disseminates information on a "need-to-know" basis, the 2001 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate said his unit didn't find out they were headed to Iraq until they were already aboard the USS Duluth.

Looking for something to do following high school, Perales joined the Marine Corps six days after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Though stunned, he said it didn't deter him from entering the military.

Marines are specifically trained for close infantry ground combat, and many in Perales' unit, including himself, were ready.

"Most of us were a little excited, because it's what we always wanted," he said. "It was kind of stressful, but most of the Marines handled themselves well.

"There's always a few that were a little scared," Perales continued, "but not too bad."

War and hygiene rarely mix, Perales said. "I didn't shower the entire month I was in Iraq," he said.

Despite constantly sweating in their battle dress uniforms, some Marines tried to find ways - though not necessarily successful - to stay clean. Some would bathe in water used by the area power plant.

"That water's kind of dirty, though," Perales said.

Others would use the water from a military nuclear, biological, and chemical - or NBC - vehicle.

Unlike staying clean, operating on four hours of sleep a night wasn't so difficult, once the body adjusted.

"You get used to it," Perales said. "Four or five hours is enough for you to work through the day."

The furthest north Perales' unit was sent during their tour of duty was Nasariyah. There, they provided back up support for the Marine reconnaissance unit that rescued the seven POWs that were part of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, the same unit former POW PFC Jessica Lynch belongs to.

In Gulf War I, media coverage was still limited by the military. Perales said the up-to-the-minute information being broadcast by the media during Gulf War II wasn't a hindrance to his unit or to the mission.

"I think it's good the public could actually see what it was like, what was going on first-hand on the news," he said.

It will be another year before Perales' unit has their annual deployment to destination unknown. At this point, however, there are no indications they will make an encore appearance in the Middle East.

As far as the situation in Liberia, Perales said he doesn't believe they will be called to action there unless "the situation really heats up."

Perales will have to return to his permanent duty station, Camp Pendleton, Calif., at the end of July. There, he and his unit will wait for the next wave of new Marines, fresh from boot camp and infantry school.

Perales has two years until he is able to leave the Marine Corps and he has no aspirations to re-enlist. He said he would like to go to college, where he would like to pursue a bachelor's degree working with computers.

But until then, he's still a Marine, and will continue to function under Article I of the Marine Corps Code of Conduct, which simply states: "I am an American, fighting in the force which guards my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."

İDaily Nonpareil 2003