Oregon Marine watches over ground troops in Afghanistan

5/6/2011 By Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan — An Oregon Marine was awarded by the commanding general of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) for her work with a Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle squadron at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 4.

Sgt. Marissa L. Stuart, an intelligence analyst with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal by Brig. Gen. Glenn M. Walters for gathering and disseminating information obtained by the ScanEagle UAV throughout her 7-month long deployment to Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Afghanistan.

Stuart, a native of Klamath Falls, Ore., supported coalition troops on more than 250 combat missions and was directly responsible for positively indentifying and providing the location of enemy forces on dozens of occasions, according to the citation of the award presented to her.

The Marine Corps uses unmanned aerial vehicles to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for coalition forces operating in Afghanistan. The small, lightweight vehicles used by the Corps are able to stay in air for several hours to supply Marines and their coalition partners with aerial information throughout combat missions. Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence analysts provide real-time aerial surveillance for troops on the ground using the ScanEagle and the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We do many different things for the ground units,” said Stuart. “We update them with grid coordinates and give them their locations to make sure they have full situational awareness. We constantly coordinate with them and report everything we can see from the sky.”

Stuart and other Marines with VMU-2, deployed out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., support multiple ground units in the area.
“I will coordinate with the unit, who will let me know what location they want us to fly over to provide overwatch,” said Stuart. “It’s really important to pass accurate data quickly to the units for mission effectiveness.”

Stuart said she is very experienced with unmanned aerial vehicles, and has completed two previous deployments, one each to Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, and Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan.

“This is Stuart’s second time with VMU-2 working with the ScanEagle,” said Gunnery Sgt. Terry A. Flanary, who served with Stuart at FOB Edinburgh. “She definitely brings prior experience to the fight.”
“There’s not a lot of opportunity to do the job I’m doing out here back in the rear, so being deployed is what matters to me,” Stuart said. “I love being home, but this is where all of my training and effort count to help people.”

Stuart said her favorite part of her job is supporting troops on the ground and helping them complete their missions safely and successfully.

“Her direct involvement with the combat arms units while monitoring friendly force patrols has saved lives,” said Flanary.

“We support the overall mission by coordinating with the ground troops and making sure they are safe and have as much information as possible,” said Stuart. “The Marine Corps is a family, you watch out for each other and you take care of each other.”

Stuart said she has a tradition of military service in her family. Her father retired from the Air Force, and her older sister is currently serving in the Air Force as a staff sergeant.

“I wanted to be the best and that’s what made me join the Corps, I wanted to make a difference,” said Stuart. “Serving my country means a lot to me and my family.”

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