Lejeune battalion recognizes combat wounded
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  1. #1

    Cool Lejeune battalion recognizes combat wounded

    Lejeune battalion recognizes combat wounded
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification #: 20045147337
    Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

    CAMP ZADAN, Iraq(May 7, 2004) -- Sixty Purple Heart medals were awarded to Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during multiple ceremonies here recently.

    The award was given to the Marines for wounds received in combat since the beginning of their deployment as part of the 1st Marine Division in Iraq. The ceremonies were held for each company in the field. Because of their different locations, the command staff traveled to each location to award the Marines.

    The battalion's commander was humbled as he pinned the medal on one Marine's uniform.

    "For me it's a very humbling experience to stand in front of a Marine and give him this award," said Lt. Col. Giles Kyser, from Dumfries, Va. "He bled for his country ... it's one of the greatest honors of my life to do this. "

    Kyser admitted the Purple Heart is the one medal no Marine truly wants to earn. However, he did say the medal is one that solidly identifies a Marine's thorough commitment to the Corps.

    "You see a great degree of resolve in the eyes of these Marines," Kyser said of the Marines awarded the medal. "It makes all the rhetoric and tradition they've been taught become very personal."

    Some Marines told their stories of combat injuries with a sense of disbelief. Sgt. William T. Hoots, 24, a squad leader with Company G, still can't believe he made it out to receive his award. He was wounded by shrapnel near his eye, but the wounds didn't affect his vision.

    "We shouldn't have walked away from what we did," said Hoots, from Roodhouse, Ill. "There was a wall of lead and mortars to get through. My grandfather got a purple heart in World War II. Now we have a little more in common."

    Still, Hoots said the Purple Heart doesn't make him special.

    "It makes me stand a little taller, but I'm still a Marine," he said. "I just feel blessed we all made it out of that ambush."

    Kyser spoke to the Marines after each ceremony, explaining to them about the new brotherhood of which they are now a part.

    "You're already part of a special brotherhood. You're Marines," Kyser explained to the decorated Marines. "Now you are part of an even more select brotherhood.

    "You shouldn't envy the Marines in this special brotherhood," he said to gathered formation. "You should admire them."

    After pinning the medals to the recipients, the Marines were congratulated and also warned.

    "This is something you should only get once," Kyser added. "You've inspired me by continuing to fight even after your injuries ... I walk in the shadow of greatness every day."

    Lt. Col. Giles Kyser, commanding officer for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, speaks to new recipients of the Purple Heart medals. Kyser said it inspires him to see his Marines pushing beyond their injuries to defeat the enemy.
    (USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



  2. #2
    Marines tackle a double-pronged mission

    They hunt enemies, try to make friends
    By Gordon Dillow
    May 15, 2004

    KARMAH, Iraq – The Marines heading out to patrol the streets of this city have two distinct and seemingly conflicting missions. And for each they bring separate sets of equipment.

    One mission is to protect themselves while trying to find weapons and anti-U.S. insurgents – and, if it comes down to it, to kill them. For that they take along flak vests, Kevlar helmets and M-16s.

    The other mission is to make friends with the people of this city of 75,000 just east of Fallujah; that is to, in the phrase made famous in Vietnam, "win hearts and minds" in a predominantly Sunni town that prospered under Saddam Hussein. And for that the Marines display their smiles and offer handshakes.

    Blending good will and lethal weaponry isn't easy, but the Marines seem determined to try.

    The 200 or so Marines of the Camp Pendleton-based Bravo Company have been headquartered in a four-story school in this agricultural and manufacturing city for several weeks.

    Last week, insurgents fired several mortar rounds at the school, but they missed the Marines and destroyed a nearby Iraqi shop without inflicting casualties. Later, three men in a passing car fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the sandbagged guard bunker at the Bravo Company front gate, but they missed, too.

    Yet Bravo Company officers insist to their men and everyone else that the bad guys are the exception, not the rule.

    "What we have to remember is that, while anybody could be the enemy, everybody's not the enemy," says Bravo Company commander Capt. Jason Smith, a lanky 31-year-old from Baton Rouge, La. "Our mission is to be approachable to the ordinary people while still aggressively taking the fight to the enemy."

    That's the theme of one day's patrol through the streets of Karmah.

    Led by Staff Sgt. David Mosley, a commanding 29-year-old from Chicago's South Side, the patrol – 17 Marines, a Navy corpsman and an Iraqi interpreter – sets out on foot in the blistering afternoon sun. The temperature is pushing 100, and each Marine is carrying 40 pounds or more of gear. Within minutes, their camouflage fatigues are dark with sweat.

    Their first assignment is to search a date palm grove on the outskirts of the town, where intelligence has reported a possible weapons cache. Armed with a metal detector, the Marines fan out and pass through the grove, stomping at dirt piles and kicking over palm fronds while farm dogs stand on the edge of the grove, barking at the intruders. The Marines pass through the grove once, then turn and pass back through.

    Town's welcome
    They find nothing. The search ends when the mayor of the town, Shiek Hammis, whose grove this is, walks up in traditional headdress and white robe and starts speaking to the Marines.
    "He says the people of Karmah like Americans OK," says the Marines' Iraqi interpreter, who for personal security reasons cannot be identified. "But the people say Americans bring problems."

    The mayor points out that until the Americans came, there was no shooting in Karmah. Also, the mayor doesn't like it when Marines search people's homes.

    The Marines apologize for the intrusion and move on.

    Their next mission is simply to walk through the town. The Marines say that before they came, when U.S. Army troops were responsible for security here, vehicle patrols through the town were the order of the day. There was no opportunity for the residents to meet Americans face to face.

    "When we first started doing this, the people were afraid," says Lance Cpl. Frank Marco, 22, of McAllister, Okla., a member of the patrol. "They'd see us coming and close their shops, and the parents would keep their kids inside. But now they're getting used to us."

    As the Marines walk through a residential neighborhood of slapdash brick and cinder-block houses, and down dusty, garbage-strewn streets, people make no move to turn away.

    The adults stare impassively at first. Then, when the Marines smile and wave, the Iraqis smile back. Mosley, a former Marine recruiter, makes a special effort. Passing a soft drink stand, he approaches the Iraqi men standing there and starts shaking hands like he's running for alderman back in Chicago.

    "Hello! Hello! Hello!" he says, over and over, flashing a brilliant smile, as the men nod and smile back. One of them touches Mosley's dark skin and asks, "U.S.? U.S.?" – and then seems skeptical when Mosley nods and says yes. "I get that all the time," the staff sergeant says, laughing. "They seem to think I'm African. They've probably seen black Americans passing by before in convoys, but they never had the chance to touch one."

    And then there are the kids – just a few at first, but then they seem to come out of nowhere, in packs, dressed in dirty T-shirts, swarming around the Marines and calling out "Mister! Mister!" The few who can speak some English try it out: "What is your name? My name is Ali."

    The Marines smile and keep smiling, even as they tell the kids, "No, you can't have my pen," or "No, I don't have any chocolate." Some attempt to speak a few words of phonetic Arabic they've learned from their Marine Arabic phrase books. The kids laugh.

    Bright side
    "The kids are the future," Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion, tells a reporter. "It will be through the children that the long-term changes will take place. Thirty years from now, there's going to be somebody who as a kid met a U.S. Marine for the first time on that patrol, and in that moment his whole perspective changed as to what Americans are about. As long as the children are friendly, I think we're going to be OK."
    And yet, from the colonel on down to the lowliest private, the Marines in Karmah know they can't afford to forget where they are. This is, after all, Iraq.

    So at every intersection, Mosley makes sure there's at least one heavily armed and wary Marine posted at each corner to watch the streets and the rooftops for gunmen.

    As the Marines move through, a swarm of rambunctious kids trails behind them.

    "We can afford to let some of the Marines relax a little bit and talk to the kids," Mosley says. "But we can only do that when we know that our 12 and our six" – that is, their front and back – "are secure."

    Less than 48 hours after the patrol concludes, a convoy of Bravo Company Humvees bringing mail and supplies back to the unit is hit by a roadside IED – an improvised explosive device – just south of town. Three Marines are wounded, all superficially, but the attack on their buddies stirs the ire of some of the younger Marines. Angrily – but privately – they suggest that force, not handshakes, is the way to pacify this town.

    Yet Smith remains convinced that in Karmah, everybody is not the enemy. "We'll continue to run our patrols the same way we've been doing," he says.

    Gordon Dillow is a freelance reporter embedded with Camp Pendleton-based Marines in Iraq.



  3. #3
    Coalition Evacuates HQ in Nasiriyah

    BAGHDAD, Iraq - Most of the civilian staff of the U.S.-led coalition was evacuated from their headquarters in the southern city of Nasiriyah because of growing threats from Muqtada al-Sadr's militiamen, a coalition official said Sunday.

    The official, Andrea Angeli, said only two civilians remain in the coalition headquarters, which was attacked Friday by al-Sadr militiamen. Coalition forces regained control of the building before dawn Saturday.

    The rest of the 10-member staff was evacuated Saturday afternoon to the coalition military base six miles out of town, Angeli said

    He said there was more gunfire near the building Sunday and that mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were fired by militiamen in the area the night before.

    Italian media reported sporadic fighting Sunday in Nasiriyah between Italian troops and al-Sadr's gunmen. Four Italians were slightly injured, Italian media reported.

    The Apcom news agency quoted Italian contingent spokesman Lt. Col. Giuseppe Perrone as saying militants were firing light weapons, mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades. Some shots were coming from a nearby hospital.

    Trouble started in Nasiriyah on Friday after daylong fighting in the holy city of Najaf between American forces and al-Sadr's fighters.

    Elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military said Saturday it killed 18 gunmen believed loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad, and jet fighters bombarded militia positions on the capital's outskirts. Skirmishes persisted in the southern holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

    The U.S. military also announced the deaths of five soldiers, including three killed by rebel attacks. In northern Iraq, rebels fired a mortar round at an Iraqi army recruiting center, killing four volunteers, hospital officials said.

    U.S. troops are trying to disband the cleric's army and sideline its radical leadership before handing power to a new Iraqi government June 30. Al-Sadr is a fierce opponent of the U.S.-led occupation who launched an uprising last month and faces an arrest warrant in the death of a rival moderate cleric last year.

    In Najaf, militiamen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. tank stationed at the city's Police Directorate. The rocket missed its target, and the two sides exchanged gunfire. Elsewhere, a shell landed on a house, wounding a woman.

    The normally bustling area around Karbala's Imam Hussein shrine, one of the holiest centers for Shiite Muslims, was silent except for intermittent blasts and machine-gun fire. After one blast, a huge column of black smoke wafted over the golden-domed shrine. One Polish soldier was wounded in Saturday's skirmishes, the Polish military said in Warsaw.

    The confrontations in the two holy cities in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland were less intense than in previous days.

    In Baghdad, coalition forces killed 18 fighters, many of them in the eastern Sadr City neighborhood, a stronghold of al-Sadr, in a dozen separate engagements Friday and Saturday, the military said in a statement. Troops also killed seven gunmen who attacked them in western Baghdad on Saturday morning, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq.

    Guerrillas fired a mortar round at an Iraqi army recruiting center in the northern city of Mosul, killing four people and wounding 19, hospital officials said. The shell landed in a crowd of people waiting to sign up for the military. Kimmitt said the projectile was a mortar shell or a rocket-propelled grenade.

    Insurgents have previously targeted police and army recruitment centers in an effort to undermine Iraqi involvement in the U.S.-led coalition.

    Hussein Assem, a 25-year-old army volunteer, suffered shrapnel wounds in a hand and leg and was taken to a hospital.

    "While I was at the entrance of the volunteer center, a mortar shell fell near me," he said. "I fell down together with the others on the floor. I felt I was in coma and I woke up to find myself at the hospital."

    The coalition announced a reorganization of its military command structure Saturday, creating a new headquarters with broad responsibility for operations in Iraq, including the training of Iraqi security forces and involvement in the political transition, and another headquarters that will handle daily tactical operations against the insurgency.

    Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, a three-star general who was in charge of the previous, unified command, will oversee all operations from the Multinational Forces Iraq headquarters, Kimmitt said.

    Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, a three-star general who commands the U.S. Army's 3rd Corps, will direct daily military operations from a headquarters called Multinational Corps Iraq.

    British troops killed up to 16 Iraqi insurgents after their patrol was ambushed between the southern cities of Amarah and Basra on Friday, and two British soldiers were wounded, the Ministry of Defense said in London. However, Iraqi witnesses said 21 militiamen were killed and that they were loyalists of al-Sadr.

    The U.S. military said three soldiers died from wounds suffered in rebel attacks Friday, one died in a vehicle accident and one from "natural causes."

    As of Friday, May 14, 775 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Department of Defense. Of those, 565 died as a result of hostile action and 210 died of non-hostile causes.

    It was unclear whether the latest deaths were included in the Department of Defense toll.

    On Saturday, a rocket landed in the compound housing the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad, wounding one soldier and a civilian, both of whom later returned to duty, Kimmitt said.

    The slain militiamen in Baghdad's Sadr City included a police lieutenant who joined al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army, witnesses said.

    U.S. jet fighters bombarded the outskirts of Sadr City overnight, forcing militiamen to flee positions, the witnesses said. On Saturday, U.S. soldiers drove through the neighborhood with loudspeakers, urging people to hand in their weapons within a week in exchange for money.

    In Najaf, gunmen from al-Sadr's militia controlled the city center. They had replaced a special force assigned to protect the Shrine of Imam Ali, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites. Bands of fighters stood at almost every street corner around the shrine, and some patrolled the area in a commandeered police pickup truck.

    On Friday, apparent gunfire slightly damaged a shrine, prompting calls for revenge and even suicide attacks.

    Twenty people signed up for an al-Sadr-backed suicide squad in the southern city of Basra on Saturday, though only 10 were accepted after undergoing checks by organizers.

    In Karbala, al-Sadr militiamen moved to new positions to the south, leaving the shrine district almost vacant except for small groups of Iranian and south Asian pilgrims.

    "I'm not scared," said Ahmed Ali, who sells Turkish lace from a shop in the shrine district. "In Iraq, we are addicted to war."



  4. #4
    Wife of Marine writes poem in midst of painful waiting game
    Originally Wednesday, May 12

    Brothers in arms.

    Both Randy and Tyler McQueen serve with the U.S. Marines.

    Randy was among the first troops to invade Iraq in March 2003. Exactly one year later, Tyler arrived in Fallujah. Tyler is set to return from Iraq in July, his family said.

    Randy returned from Iraq in June 2003 and is currently stationed in North Carolina. He will be leaving the service in June.

    In March, LaShonda, who is Tyler’s wife, received an email from Marine communications. She was told Tyler’s unit had suffered casualties.

    “They said all families would be notified within 24 hours,” she said. “Oh, my goodness, I was very worried. I couldn’t sleep but I did receive another e-mail later that said he was okay.”

    At the time, LaShonda said she was cautioned by the military not to watch television. During the 24-hour period as she was waiting to hear from her husband, she wrote the following poem titled “Waiting to Hear:”

    “Your heart stopped when you heard the news,

    Some families will win, but some will loose.

    The hardest part is waiting to hear,

    You start worrying about your deepest fear.

    You stay awake from dusk till dawn,

    Will it be your door they knock on?

    Preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,

    You can’t help crying just to get it off your chest.

    You hold his memories close to your heart,

    Knowing inside you’ll really never be apart.

    Night will come and it will go,

    As you wait to see what tomorrow will show.

    The morning passes and the afternoon too,

    You find that you aren’t feeling so blue.

    They tell you ‘no news’, is good,

    So you go on each day just as you should.”

    Randy and Tyler are the sons of Sharon McQueen and grandsons of Carmen Harrison. LaShonda is the daughter of Bill and DuRonda Tefft.



  5. #5

    Cool Faces of Courage

    Pfc. Mazel.Kristopher T.
    Year 2000 graduate of Canon City High School, Canon City, Colorado. He turned 21 on April 6.
    Kris is the son of Tim and Bobbi Mazel of Canon City and brother of Kim and Keith Mazel of
    Pueblo, Colorado. Kris joined the US Marine Corps in September 2000. He is a heavy equipment operator with the 2nd Combat Engineering Battalion out Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
    Kris has dreamed of being in the military since the age of 3. He chose the US Marine Corps to be the 1st Marine in the immediate family, as he comes from a family with deep military roots, dating back to his great, great, great grandfather General Robert E.Lee.
    Kris is now serving his country in Iraq, and deeply loved and missed by a very large, very proud family.
    God Speed and God Bless Our Little Marine!



  6. #6
    Lima Company: Number Of Unit Members Wounded In Iraq Is Now 4

    By: By BILL JONES/Staff Writer
    Source: The Greeneville Sun

    A total of four Marine Reservists from Washington County-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, now have been wounded in action in Iraq since deploying there earlier this year.

    That information was included in a press release issued on Friday by the U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Pete Gill, the unit’s Gray-based spokesman.

    Earlier this year, the Marine Corps had announced that Lance Cpl. Nathan Morrow, 23, an Elizabethton resident with many family ties to Greeneville, had been wounded.

    Maj. Gill also said that an unnamed sergeant who was less seriously wounded at the same time that Morrow was hurt has returned to duty in Iraq.

    Two other Lima Company Marines, whom also were not identified, have been wounded in Iraq, both by roadside bombs, Gill reported Friday.

    Those two Marines have been returned to the United States for medical treatment, he said.

    Lima Company, according to the release, has been busy with “convoy security operations; vehicle and foot patrols, in both urban and desert environments; and guarding significant buildings and facilities.”

    Found Weapons Cache

    The unit, according to the release, also was responsible for finding one of the largest weapons caches located to date while it was working with the 7th Marine Regiment. Maj. Gill said the weapons cache was found “within the last two weeks,” but declined to discuss details of the discovery.

    The press release said Lima Company was continuing “to prove the value and the effectiveness of Marine Reserves while deployed as a member of the First Marine Expeditionary Force under Maj. Gen. James Mattis.”

    Lima Company departed the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Gray on Jan. 24 for training at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton base in California before being sent to Iraq.

    The unit had flown to Kuwait in February and had been in western Iraq for only about two weeks when Morrow was wounded Saturday, March 13, family members said. Lance Cpl. Morrow was wounded on March 13 when the military vehicle he was aboard was struck by the blast of a roadside bomb as it moved along an Iraqi highway, according to an earlier news release.

    Maj. Gill said on Friday that Morrow is now at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he is receiving continuing medical treatment.

    Thanks Expressed

    The press release quoted Capt. Chuck McGregor, Lima Company’s executive officer, as thanking area residents for their support since the unit has been in Iraq.

    “While our living conditions over here aren’t five-star, it still is made a whole lot easier with all the support from home,” Capt. McGregor said. “We could not do without it, period.

    “The letters, the packages, the pictures — and, of course, the occasional phone calls and e-mails (electronic mail messages) — get us through. We look forward to saying ‘thank you’ in person sometime in the future.”

    Nine Greene Countians

    At least nine Greene County residents are serving with Lima Company, including Cpl. Aaron E. Massey, 26. He recently sent a photo taken in Iraq to members of his family in Greene County.

    His mother, Angela Painter, brought the group photo to The Greeneville Sun earlier this week. She said she hoped the families of other Greene County Marines would be able to recognized their Marines in the photo.

    One photo shows the members of the company, holding their weapons, while posed beside a large Marine Corps truck somewhere in the Iraqi desert. Massey is identified as the fifth Marine from the right in the third row in the photo.

    Mrs. Painter said Cpl. Massey sent electronic mail to his wife, April, this week and had attempted to telephone his mother, but she was away from home at the time.

    The electronic mail message indicated that he and the other Marines from Greene County were all right, she said.

    Photo Special to the Sun
    Many of the members of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, posed for the photo above earlier this year in Iraq. Angela Painter, mother of Cpl. Aaron Massey, 26, of Greene County, shared the photo with The Greeneville Sun. Massey, she said, is the fifth Marine from the right in the third row of the photo. At least nine Greene County residents are in the Washington County-based Marine Reserve unit.



  7. #7
    Deploying. New York Marines discuss gear they can and can't do without

    Submitted by: New York City Public Affairs
    Story Identification #: 200451415107
    Story by Cpl. Beth Zimmerman

    NEW YORK(May 14, 2004) -- Marines from New York took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom last year -and some may head back for Operation Iraqi Freedom II this year. Some of the New York Marines who deployed last year share what they learned during their time overseas, including what gear was unnecessary once they got to the desert, and what they depended on the most.

    Extra Weight

    "The second time around I would bring less stuff," said Cpl. Hector Serrano, a 22-year-old reservist from Brooklyn. Serrano and other Marines from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines in Garden City, N.Y. were authorized to carry recommended personal items in addition to their required issued items. They said that once they were actually in the Middle East, some of the Marines realized they had over-packed.

    "We lived mostly out of our alice packs," said Sgt. Edward Chatterton, a reservist with 2/25. The Marines from 2/25 spent March through August of last year deployed in the Middle East. Chatterton said they didn't open their additional seabags after they arrived in the desert. "We didn't even see (the extra gear) until we were ready to go back stateside."

    "We could have just brought essentials," said Lance Cpl. Gayber Guzman, a reservist also from 2/25. "I brought books," the 23-year-old student and reservist said. "But, we didn't have any time to read them."

    "I brought a tape recorder," said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Fisher, who is stationed at 6th Communication Battalion in Brooklyn. "I don't even know what I was going to use it for anyway," said the Columbus, Ohio, native. "But I never used it."

    Appreciated Load

    Some of the extra gear the Marines carried came in handy. "We were there before they had (post exchanges) set up," said Serrano. He said extra soap and razors -along with any other extra hygiene items- came in handy.

    "Baby wipes were vital," said Chatterton. "There's so much sand and dust, it just gets everywhere," said the 36-year-old Brooklyn native. "They were great for us, but also for cleaning our rifles."

    Some of the heaviest gear was also the Marines' most important. "All the protection you can get, like your flak jacket and Kevlar..." said Guzman. "That's what you really need."

    Adaptation and Improvisation

    "I had someone send me a paintball mask," said Cpl. Joseph Hyonas, a reservist with 2/25. The 23-year-old from Staten Island spent most of his time firing a machine gun from the top of a vehicle. "I was really glad to have something to keep the sand out of my face."

    Other Marines reinforced their issued combat gear. "Some of the Marines from law enforcement brought their own bullet-proof vests," said Chatterton.

    Redeployment Suggestions

    There are some pieces of gear New York Marines would make sure to bring with them in case they deploy again. "I would definitely bring a pair of goggles for the sandstorms," said Serrano. On the same train of thought, Fisher would take wrap-around sunglasses or tinted goggles. "Your eyes would dry up without them," he said. "And there's a really bad glare from the sun reflecting off of the sand."

    Fisher also suggested a digital still camera. "You can store photos on it, and then bring it back with you in your pack." Fisher said it's much more reliable than bringing a camcorder, which he did last year. He said it takes less time to snap a photo than it does to try to videotape something. "I didn't really use (the camcorder) much."

    Finally, Chatterton had an impractical, but wishful, suggestion. "What about an air conditioner?" More seriously, he stressed the importance of sharing the knowledge he and other Marines learned on deployment with Marines deploying for the first time this year.

    "We know what to bring and not to bring," he said. "That should make things easier for Marines heading into Iraq this year."



  8. #8
    Comm Squadron, Sea Bees open softball field
    Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
    Story Identification #: 200451531348
    Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III

    AL ASAD, Iraq (May 15, 2004) -- The sergeant major of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing was on hand to throw out the first pitch at O'Douls Stadium here May 12 in commemoration of the first softball game played on the field.

    Sgt. Maj. Dennis W. Reed's toss officially christened Locust Field, named for the Marines of Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd MAW. The field was developed and pioneered by the logistics and embarkation section of MWCS-38 and the "Sea Bees" of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14.

    "We were looking for something to do as far as (physical training) and something the squadron could use for recreation," said Cpl. Jason R. Moore, logistics/embarkation specialist, MWCS-38 and 24-year-old Redding, Calif., native. "During (Operation Iraqi Freedom) last year, we worked with the Sea Bees and knew they were good at helping Marines."

    With "Damn the rockets, play ball" adorning the score board, the rockets were indeed being launched, as the score escalated to more than 20 runs for the Sea Bees by the bottom of the sixth, with the communication squadron Marines trailing with only 9 runs.

    "The score may have been high, but so was the camaraderie," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael E. Kirkham, construction mechanic, NMCB-14 and 31-year-old Tallahassee, Fla., native. "We worked a lot of hard hours together to make this field possible. It was all excellent."

    The opening speech was given by the commanding officer of MWCS-38, Lt. Col. Dave P. Olszowy, and included thoughts about why he nicknamed the logistics and embarkation Marines and the softball field, the "Locusts."

    "I see (the logistics and embarkation Marines) all over the base," said the 41-year-old Elmira, N.Y., native. "Picking up (meals ready to eat), supervising the building of fighting positions, and one day I happened to see them and told them they're like locusts, they're everywhere."

    He added that the creation of the field represents something special about those who built it.

    "It symbolizes everything that is good about the Navy and Marine Corps team," Olszowy said.

    Olszowy stated that the field also brings a little taste of home to the Marines and Sailors who are here.

    "This field is designed to blow off some steam and have a little fun," Olszowy explained. "But it's also designed to bring a little Americana to Iraq. Baseball is our national past time and it's fitting that we have a ball field here on Al Asad Air Base."

    For Petty Officer 2nd Class Troy K. Smith, equipment operator, NMCB-14 and 34-year-old Tampa, Fla., native, the game itself was inspirational.

    "The camaraderie of the two units working together is what made the game special," Smith said. "It's what we needed for the morale of the troops."

    For the servicemembers who were there for the construction of the field and the first game, the experiences will always be something to remember.

    "The commanding officer's words at the game sealed the deal when he said that this ball field and this game would be remembered for the rest of our lives," added Moore. "It made all our hard work and accomplishments worth everything."

    Olszowy presented a little more of his inspiration towards the conclusion of his speech by saying that the ball field also brings hopes of playing with the people we are here trying to help.

    "I long for the day that we can have some Iraqis here when the security situation permits and play them in a couple of games," he said.

    Sgt. Maj. Dennis W. Reed, sergeant major, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, throws out the first pitch at O’Douls Stadium, Locust Field in Al Asad, Iraq, May 12. The game was played between the Marines and Sailors who pioneered and helped create the softball field, the Marines of Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd MAW and the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 ‘Sea Bees’. Photo by: Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III



  9. #9
    Military-Themed Parade Draws Cheering Throng

    The crowd, including parents of a Marine in Iraq, shows its support for U.S. troops.

    By David Pierson, Times Staff Writer

    Flanked by thousands of cheering paradegoers on the sidewalk, Lyle Moulton enjoyed a brief respite from the constant worry he has endured since his son left for Iraq in March.

    Wearing a T-shirt printed with a picture of Garret, a 23-year-old Marine, Moulton cheered when a pair of F-14 fighter jets boomed overhead, setting off dozens of car alarms.

    "Now that my son is over there, this parade is very personal," he said.

    Torrance's Armed Forces Day Parade has weathered myriad political climates in its 45 years, from the gloom of the Vietnam War era to the more popular Gulf War in 1991.

    But the outpouring of appreciation for the military each year has always helped comfort families with loved ones overseas. That's more so now as the conflict in Iraq continues, said Moulton, whose home faces the parade route on Torrance Boulevard. A banner above his garage door read: "LCpl Garret Moulton/2nd Battalion/1st Marines/Support Our Troops."

    "This is one of my favorite days," he said.

    Before the marching bands, tanks and dignitaries moved down the two-mile route, the crowd — which police estimated at 60,000 — paused for a moment of silence for Sgt. Brian Wood, a Torrance native who was killed in Tikrit last month.

    "It rips your heart out," said Garret's mother, Mary, of Wood's death. Moments later, she began to tear up when her husband reminded her of their son's favorite Toby Keith songs, which the family has agreed to avoid until Garret returns home.

    The Moultons received a letter last week from Garret that was dated April 21. He rarely gets to call, because the wait for the satellite phone usually takes two hours, they said.

    In the letter, the Marine wrote that he was in a foxhole in Fallouja, had not taken a shower in more than a month, and greatly appreciated the baby wipes his parents had sent him in a care package.

    "He should be here at the parade," said Garret's brother, Ryan. "I can't believe we're not going to see him."

    Hoping to make it to Iraq soon were friends Angela Crawley and Kate Herron. The two 18-year-olds from Manhattan Beach said they had signed up for the Air Force and had to pass a physical examination before being accepted into the service.

    "We are the most patriotic people you will ever meet," said Herron, carrying one corner of an American flag, her friend holding the other.

    They said they were staunch supporters of President Bush and his policies, and were undeterred by the recent Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

    "They're decapitating our prisoners," Crawley said. "… I can't wait to go out and fight."

    Just then, a motorcade of World War II veterans drove by and waved to the crowd. Within the group were Dick Corder and Clarence "Smiley" Bonn, both Pearl Harbor survivors, riding in a red 1964 Chevy Impala. The car was customized with a model warship on its hood for the parade.

    The two Torrance residents, dressed in Hawaiian shirts, said they had attended all but a few recent Armed Forces Day parades in town.

    "They wanted us to walk," said Corder, 82. "We're too old to walk."

    Bonn, 84, said the event had always made him feel good about being a veteran. "If we didn't have them, it would be like Iraq," he said.

    Corder's son, Jim, said he had missed the last few parades, but chose to attend this year because he wanted to honor his father and show support for the soldiers in Iraq.

    "This is the most people I have ever seen here," he said.

    Torrance Police Officer David Cresspin said he anticipated a large turnout. Since 9/11, crowd size has increased, he said.

    "I would think more people would come this year whether they're for or against the war," he said. "It's a way for the community to demonstrate that they are for the troops. To show respect."



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