Marine returns flag Harrodsburg veteran sent to him in Afghanistan
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  1. #1

    Cool Marine returns flag Harrodsburg veteran sent to him in Afghanistan

    Marine returns flag Harrodsburg veteran sent to him in Afghanistan

    Staff Writer

    The letter began, "You don't know me and I don't know you, even though we are brothers: I am a Marine and you are also a Marine."

    Tom Denny, of Harrodsburg, a retired Marine, sent this letter to Lt. Jim Fisher, who is serving in Bagram, Afghanistan. With the letter, he sent a flag that is nearly 50 years old.

    The flag was purchased in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1955 as Denny was headed overseas. "Most of the Marines that I knew, when they went into a hostile place, most all of them carried a flag, thinking they'd get to hang it up someplace," he says. Denny took the old red, white and blue with him thinking that he would do the same.

    Between 1955 and 1959, Denny flew those colors in Port Lautey, French Morocco; Beirut, Lebanon; and Cairo, Egypt.

    The letter he sent to Fisher includes an anecdote about flying the flag in Cairo. As the flag waved above the foxholes, an officer told him to lower it, saying it might draw fire. Denny replied, "Ain't that the general idea?" In a telephone interview he explains, "I was hoping someone would shoot at me so I could shoot back. I was in my early 20s and I really didn't give a damn."

    After leaving the Corps, Denny sent the flag to Vietnam with a friend, Sgt. Charles Stephenson of Hustonville.

    When Desert Storm rolled around, Harrodsburg police officer Mike Lyons flew the flag from his radio antenna in Kuwait. "His brother came around and asked if I wanted to donate anything to a care package, and it made me think about the flag," says Denny. "It just kind of grew from there."

    In the second Gulf War, Sgt. Toby Crossfield flew the flag over Iraq during his deployment.

    Now, Fisher is the latest to run up these stars and stripes.

    When he received the flag and letter, Fisher was taken aback. As Denny tells the tale, "He told his first sergeant and said, 'We got to do something about this.' So they flew the flag and took a picture with the whole platoon. It just tickled him absolutely to death."

    A friend of Denny's nephew Clay McGlone, Fisher left his job and family to join the Marines after the September 11 attacks. He lives in Portageville, Mo., and attended college with McGlone at Murray State University. Fisher eventually graduated from the University of Missouri.

    Immediately following his training, he was sent to Afghanistan. "And he's still just as gung-ho now as he was then," says Denny.

    Letter published in Leatherneck

    To let Denny know how much the flag meant to the Marines in Bagram, Fisher sent a copy of the original letter to Leatherneck, the Marine magazine. It was published in the May issue. "When I got my copy, through the mail, I about fell out of my chair," says Denny.

    As Denny puts it, "It really meant something to the guys over there to know that these old Marines like me still think about the Corps like we do and we still think about those guys over there who are putting their life on the line."

    On Monday, Fisher personally returned the flag to Denny. In the letter, Denny had specifically requested that he do so, saying that each Marine who has carried this standard returned home safely. He sees the flag as a way to ensure that a Marine comes home. "I'm superstitious in that way, I guess," he says.

    The Marines have a long tradition of hoisting the flag all around the world. In fact, the first American flag to be planted on foreign soil was raised by a Marine, Lt. Presley Neville O'Bannon in Tripoli on April 27, 1805. A Virginian who later moved to Kentucky and served in the state senate, O'Bannon is buried in Frankfort.

    Denny says that O'Bannon's story has "always been in the back of my mind," as his flag made its way to war zones throughout the world.

    Denny's flag is itself a piece of history, not only because it has flown in so many different conflicts, but also because of its 48 stars. Purchased four years before Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, the flag is a relic of a former United States. "It's not legal to fly that flag," he says, "but they do it anyway, knowing the history of it."

    "It's not about me - I'm not a hero. I'm not the one who packed the flag, except way back when I was a kid," Denny emphatically says. "These guys are in bad, bad situations. People are shooting at them. They're the ones who deserve the attention."

    Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2004

    Marine Lt. Jim Fisher’s unit displays the flag sent to them by Harrodsburg resident and veteran Marine Tom Denny.

    Lt. Jim Fisher, left, returns the flag that Tom Denny mailed to him in February in Afghanistan.


  2. #2
    Afghanistan river crossing reminiscent of an earlier era
    Submitted by: 22nd MEU
    Story Identification #: 200471116164
    Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan (July 12, 2004) -- As the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) recently pushed deep into central Afghanistan's rugged mountains in pursuit of Taliban insurgents, a deep, fast-moving river presented a unique planning challenge.

    Since arriving in Afghanistan nearly three months ago, the MEU has had to deal with narrow mountain passes, crumbling trailways, and broken and treacherous roads, but the river was something new altogether.

    A careful study of the terrain indicated the river had to be crossed, and while the Humvees and seven-ton trucks of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the MEU's ground combat element, could ford the river with ease in numerous locations, the task force's Afghan Militia Force (AMF) allies could not.

    Traveling on Toyota Hi-Lux pick-ups, the AMF forces couldn't traverse the river on their own and with no usable bridges within a reasonable distance, the only alternative fell to a locally-operated ferry boat service.

    The two ferry boats, attached to ropes spanning the river, were pulled across by teenage Afghan boys who were undoubtedly the ferry service owner's sons. With practiced ease, they sped across the river, and with practiced ease, supervised the loading of the AMF trucks and quickly began shuttling the vehicles across in several waves.

    Other than in the movies, it was a sight the nearly 200 Marines and Sailors had probably never seen before.

    "It reminds me of 'The Outlaw Josey Wales'," yelled out Warrant Officer Oscar Chaney from mid-river, referring to the classic Clint Eastwood movie. Chaney is BLT 1/6's Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare officer and was pulling double duty as a battalion advisor to the AMF advisor. "I'm just waiting for a sniper to shoot the rope and send us floating down the river."

    Meanwhile, about a quarter mile down the river, the approximately 20 Marine Humvees of the operation were plunging through the river without a hitch.

    Shown by a local Afghan farmer the best way across the river, the first vehicle had deposited Maj. Brian Christmas, BLT 1/6's operations officer, on the far shore where he guided the rest of the convoy onto dry land. On the opposite bank, 1st Lt. Joshua Cavan, the battalion adjutant, gave each Humvee driver a quick orientation on the route across.

    While the crossing was underway, Marine infantrymen from the Combined Anti-Armor Team and BLT 1/6's Charlie Company provided ground security while a pair of Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter made continuous low passes over the river and surrounding terrain.

    "That wasn't as bad as I thought, we made it through with no problems" said Sgt. Dan Trackwell, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, vehicle commander and driver for Light Horse 1-6, one of the machine gun-armed CAAT Humvees. In anticipation of the crossing, the vehicles had been outfitted with their fording kits, and even though the water topped the Humvees' doors, the kits proved unnecessary.

    In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. The MEU is in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker.

    For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at

    Two Marine officers (in boonie covers) from Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), ride a ferry boat across a river in south-central Afghanistan with their Afghan Militia Force allies. Further down the river, Marine Humvees crossed the deep, fast-moving river with ease. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    Maj. Brian Christmas, operations officer for Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), guides Humvees from his unit onto the bank of a river in south-central Afghanistan. Further down the river, Afghan Militia Force trucks were carried across in ferry boats. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    Afghan Militia Force (AMF) fighters working alongside the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) scoop water toward their mouths as their Hi-Lux trucks cross a river in south-central Afghanistan. Further down the river, Marine Humvees forded the deep, swift-moving river with ease. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks


  3. #3

    Cool 22nd MEU combat veterans recall close calls

    22nd MEU combat veterans recall close calls
    Submitted by: 22nd MEU
    Story Identification #: 2004713232850
    Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan (July 14, 2004) -- A series of firefights in south and central Afghanistan have left the combat veterans of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) with dozens of stories to tell, with some a bit more hair-raising than others.

    Nearly every Marine or Sailor who has been shot at and returned fire has their own tale of a close call, but several have tangible reminders of how close the enemy came to finding their mark.

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dessel, of Doylestown, Penn., is a hospital corpsman assigned to the MEU's ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines. During Operation ASBURY PARK, a sweep of the Dey Chopan region, Dessel was riding with BLT 1/6's Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) when they came under heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire.

    When a Marine was shot in the leg, Dessel left the relative safety of his vehicle and immediately began administering first aid to the wounded Marine even as bullets impacted around him. As he applied a battlefield dressing, the 30-year-old corpsman felt his head knocked to the side, as if he'd been slapped in the helmet.

    After the battle subsided, Dessel examined his Kevlar helmet and found a tear where a bullet had struck his helmet and glanced off, tearing the cloth helmet cover. Dessel immediately wrote the date of the battle on the helmet, 'June 8th 2004.'

    Driving the vehicle in which Dessel was riding, Cpl. Steven Miller, a BLT 1/6 machine gunner from Wallace, W.V., heard the sickening crunch of rounds pinging on his vehicle, and later found several holes and gashes in his Humvee's armored skin mere inches from his head.

    A week earlier, during one of the first sustained firefights experienced by BLT 1/6, Cpl. Randy Wood was engaging Taliban snipers on a nearby mountain when he felt something tug at his foot. He ignored the sensation and continued to return fire only to later discover a 7.62mm bullet lodged in the sole of his boot. Wood had that bullet in his pocket and was wearing the bullet-scarred boot the next day when a ricochet struck him below the left eye, injuring him slightly.

    Flying in support of the infantrymen on the ground, crew chiefs and pilots of UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters from the MEU's aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), often returned to Kandahar Air Field to find bullet holes punched in their aircraft's fuselage, or more ominously, their cargo areas.

    Perhaps most harrowing of all is the story of Sgt. Marlando Wilmot, a Massachusetts native serving as a vehicle commander in CAAT during the June 8 firefight.

    "I thought it was a rock or something," said Wilmot, describing the 'punch' he felt in the upper part of the ceramic plate in his protective vest, "then I looked down and saw the bullet that had hit me."

    A round from a Russian-made assault rifle had struck Wilmot high in the chest but failed to penetrate the vest and plate, thereby possibly saving his life. Wilmot is like many of his fellow Marines and Sailors in saying their close calls have changed their perspective on life.

    "I look at things a bit differently now," Wilmot said. "I'm not taking anything for granted and planning on doing things I've been putting off for too long."

    In addition to BLT 1/6 and HMM-266 (Rein), the MEU consists of its Command Element and MEU Service Support Group 22.

    For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dessel, a hospital corpsman assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, shows off where a Taliban bullet grazed his helmet while he was treating a wounded Marine. Deployed to Afghanistan with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), the Pennsylvania native was with BLT 1/6's Combined Anti-Armor Team during several fierce firefights. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    Cpl. Steven Miller, a machine gunner with the Combined Anti-Armor Team of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, shows where one of several Taliban bullets impacted around the door of his Humvee during a series of firefights in Afghanistan. Miller, a Wallace, W.V. native, is deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks


  4. #4
    Combat drop keeps Alpha Company, BLT 1/6 in the fight
    Submitted by: 22nd MEU
    Story Identification #: 20047130752
    Story by Sgt. Matt Preston

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan (July 13, 2004) -- Marines in combat still need supplies, so when a company from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) needed it most, help came from a rare place ... 450 feet above their heads.

    Marine KC-130Rs supporting the 22nd MEU (SOC) recently air-delivered food and water to Alpha Co. Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines in the mountainous area of central Afghanistan.

    Because the MEU's other aviation assets were needed elsewhere, the MEU decided to perform a rarely done operation to keep the company in the fight - a night containerized delivery.

    Flying at night has become second nature to the KC-130R detachment. Nearly every night they make fuel and supply runs to Forward Operating Base Ripley, home of the 22nd MEU.

    In the drops supporting Alpha Co., the KC-130R team dropped a total of sixteen containers, each weighing about 1500 lbs. over two missions. Aerial drops into combat zones have been around since Vietnam.

    "It's something that's been in our tactical manual for quite a long time," said Capt. Peter Munson, of Cleveland, Ohio. Munson is the MEU Command Element's KC-130R liaison officer.

    However, doing it in the dark is a new twist that has only recently been done in Iraq. This is the first time it's been done in Afghanistan.

    "We just recently started working with night vision goggles in the fleet," said Munson. Munson stressed that they must be able to fly using night vision devices, as sometimes the mission dictates night flying.

    Marine pilots actively train for such missions, qualifying semi-annually. During an actual drop, the KC-130R descends to approximately 450 feet above the ground. The rear ramp is lowered and the crew chief and his team in the cargo hold release the locks holding the cargo in the bay. The pilots then raise the nose of the aircraft and increase power as the aircraft tilts upwards. This allows gravity to take over, and the cargo rolls out of the bay and eventually to the ground. Parachutes quickly deploy from the cargo, slowing the package down just enough to prevent damage as it hits the ground below. Once all the containers have been dropped, usually in one run, the aircraft levels off and is on to its next mission.

    The added challenge of doing it at night in mountainous terrain adds to the challenge.

    "Your field of view is reduced when utilizing NVG's so your situational awareness is not as great as it normally would be during the day," said KC-130R pilot Capt. Josh Izenour, of Ashtabula, Ohio, who was in the cockpit during the mission. "Thus, you have to pay particularly close attention to terrain clearance and avoidance during low level flight. This is mitigated through extensive planning by the entire crew."

    Keeping the Marine on the ground in the fight is what air support is about. For these air delivery missions, the success is defined by dropped gear that is on time and on target while maintaining cargo integrity. Izenour's crew accomplished all three; the cargo hit the drop zone a mere 50 feet from center, on time, and with no significant damage to the goods.

    "It was extremely motivating for the entire detachment to be able to support the Marines in the field," said Izenour. "It was also very rewarding for the crew to be able to conduct a mission we train for, but rarely have the opportunity to execute."

    In addition to its Command Element and BLT 1/6, the MEU consists of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced) And MEU Service Support Group 22.

    For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at

    Seen through a night vision device, parachutes holding supplies float to the ground after being dropped from a Marine KC-130R Hercules. The resupply drop was coordinated by the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and delivered supplies to one of its rifle companies conducting combat operations in central Afghanistan. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Charles G. Poag


  5. #5
    Wheeldon's son in Afghanistan
    By SUSANA CAREY WEY Staff writer

    It may be surprising to see the No. 22 all the way across the world in Afghanistan, but for United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Mark Wheeldon, it is a talisman.

    Just as it was to the late Kyle Kenworthy, who wore the number throughout his football career at El Dorado High School and American River College.

    Wheeldon, who flies helicopter missions in Afghanistan put the decal on his helmet in memory of Kenworthy, his friend and fellow EDHS 1987 graduate who died in September 2000.

    "Actually the No. 22 is of Coach Kenworthy's son Kyle who was tragically killed in a construction accident some years ago," wrote Mark Wheeldon, son of El Dorado Irrigation Board President George Wheeldon, via e-mail. "And in some way I know Kyle is watching over me out here flying missions. Wearing his number is my good luck charm.."

    Hundreds of decals were passed out at Kenworthy's funeral in September 2000, after Kenworthy, 35, a roofer in the prime of life, was electrocuted while repairing a friend's roof.

    It was a shock that reverberated throughout El Dorado County; nearly 1,000 people crowded the huge hall at his funeral at Green Valley Community Church in Placerville. Kyle's father, retired EDHS coach Gary Kenworthy of Placerville said that there were so many of Kyle's former teammates at his funeral that they could have "fielded another section football championship team."

    It is not known who provided the stacks of No. 22 decals, but they have made their way throughout the area. They can be seen on cars, motorcycles, in dug-outs, in restaurants, on a baseball bat and one even graces a stop sign. Gary Kenworthy said that people have called him for new decals when they bought a new car.

    According to Coach Kenworthy, Kyle Kenworthy started on the EDHS varsity football team as a tailback in his sophomore year, where he was assigned the No. 22. Though unusual, he carried the No. 22 on throughout his stellar career as a quarterback in high school and college.

    Kyle Kenworthy excelled in other sports too, including swimming and motocross, but he was also known for his sweetness, his joie de vivre and his daring-do; most importantly he was a genuinely caring and kind individual, according to his widow Cherie Kenworthy of Placerville.

    "I did know Kyle well," said Mark Wheeldon. "We were both on the Dolphins Swim Team and on the El Dorado High School Swim Team. He was a good man and the world is a lesser place without him. I do know that by wearing his number, somewhere Kyle is watching over me in harm's way and smiling."

    No one, said Gary Kenworthy, would have been surprised if Kyle had died accidentally doing one of the sports he loved; he was a daredevil. But to die the way Kyle Kenworthy did, given his extreme and risk-taking sportsmanship, was bitterly ironic. At the same time, he died working and helping someone else, also a big part of his nature.

    Courage travels

    The football field is often compared to a battlefield, and Wheeldon, 39, takes courage - and the No. 22 - as he flies secret missions in Afghanistan.

    A reservist who was called into active duty, it's not the first time Wheeldon has seen battle. He also served in Desert Storm, and came home to a magnificent victory parade in Placerville on July 8, 1991. This time, he said, he's been on active duty since mid-March. Deployment is a bit more difficult since he has a wife and children now.

    "My wife, Candi Wheeldon has her hands full looking after our three children, Jeremy, Matthew and Grace. We have a house in Plymouth ... she has been very supportive."

    While Iraq gets the most press, American troops are still in Afghanistan and are still facing danger.

    "My primary Military Occupational Specialty is Aircraft Weapon Systems and my flying as a crew member on CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopters is an additional duty ... we fly resupply missions and some direct action missions. I cannot comment on the nature of the missions, for security reasons."

    At the same time, according to Mark Wheeldon, they are seeing some gratifying sights.

    "We've had some interaction with Afghan children," Mark Wheeldon wrote in an e-mail. "They all want writing pens most of all (hopefully for school)."

    He also wrote that there is a "budding democracy" in Iraq.

    "Schools are opening and more and more women are being educated," wrote Mark Wheeldon, "but old habits die hard and the women are still extremely restricted from public contact here. The only Afghan women that I have seen is when we fly over them. They are easily identifiable by their blue burqas."

    Wheeldon also said that Afghanistan, with temperatures recently being in the high 90s, is not as hot as Iraq. However, the altitude plays a role in fatigue. At Bagram, where he is generally stationed, the altitude is some 5,500 feet.

    Mark Wheeldon's expertise in mountainous terrain made him indispensable in Afghanistan, according to his father, George Wheeldon, a geologist, college instructor and EID board president.

    "The geology here is fantastic," wrote Mark Wheeldon. "What I like about the country is its beautiful scenery. Hopefully someday more than just Marines will see its beauty ... it is truly an outdoorsman's paradise. It is very similar to the eastern Sierra over by Bridgeport."

    Geologist George Wheeldon said that Afghanistan is one of the few places in the entire world where one of his favorite semi-precious stones, lapis lazuli, is found. The smooth blue stone is mined for tiles (like the blue tile, azulejos, used in Moorish Spanish architecture) and jewelry.

    Steely eyes

    Wheeldon said that he was treated to some Afghan hospitality when he was part of a Provisional Reconstruction Team that delivered supplies to Afghan children.

    "We went into the warlord's compound and had tea with him ... I was as relaxed as I could be but his bodyguards kept me cautious with their AK-47 assault rifles in plain view. While my experience with the warlord was a peaceful one, there was a grim look in all of their eyes that told me that they had endured great hardship. They would make a formidable enemy if we had to fight them."

    When not flying missions, Mark Wheeldon has paperwork ("it would not be the Marines without it") and other chores such as cleaning weapons, mission planning and making inspections. He was interviewed by Mail Call host R. Lee Ermey recently and the episode is expected to air in August on the History Channel.

    "I am very proud of Mark, and often worried, too. Right now I don't know where he is, only that he's on a mission, and can't call or e-mail home," said George Wheeldon.

    At a recent EID board meeting, the moment of silence was dedicated to Mark Wheeldon, an act that touched his father.

    The No. 22, once was a talisman for Kyle Kenworthy, who somehow believed that it helped him bring victory on the football field many, many times. With the No. 22 on his helmet, a soldier wearing khakis and wielding a rifle also prays for victory, or at least survival halfway across the world.

    E-mail Susana Carey Wey at

    GUNNERY SGT. MARK WHEELDON, who is stationed in Basram, Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps, has helped on children's missions. He said that they all want writing pens and that democracy is budding and that women are becoming more educated. See story, "Wheeldon's son in Afghanistan."


  6. #6
    Female medical team overcomes cultural, trust barriers to help Afghan women
    Submitted by: 22nd MEU
    Story Identification #: 200471542744
    Story by Sgt. Matt C. Preston

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan (July 15, 2004) -- Medical personnel supporting the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) are building trust and overcoming cultural barriers between the Coalition Forces and people in the Oruzgan province -- once a major stronghold of the Taliban.

    Navy Corpsmen and Army Medics saw over 220 women and children during two Medical Civil Affairs Projects (MedCAPs) that featured a team that consisted completely of females. Though the security team was male, all those who had direct contact with the patients were women.

    "Due to the cultural sensitivities, females are not seen by male doctors, only by female practitioners and midwives," said Lt. Cmdr. George Semple, 22nd MEU (SOC) surgeon. "We were noticing in our MedCAPs in Tarin Kowt and elsewhere that there was a noticeable difference in the number of males versus females being seen."

    During the reign of the Taliban, women were severely restricted from, or banned altogether from being seen by male doctors. As a result, a women's clinic in Tarin Kowt, where the team performed the MedCAPs, was formed to take care of them. Today, the clinic still operates under the guidance of the Afghan Health and Development Services, a nongovernmental agency that is helping restore Afghanistan after years of war.

    Prior to Taliban, Soviet soldiers invading the Tarin Kowt area earned a reputation for sexually assaulting and being brutal toward Afghan women. As a result, women in this area have come to fear all who wear a uniform.

    "Anyone in uniform was suspect," said Semple.

    The female members of the MedCAP team took the step of dressing down from their normal military appearance in order to put the patients at ease.

    "We let our hair down," said Petty Officer 1st Class Tracie Ham, an independent duty corpsman from Roxboro, N.C. "They were afraid of us in full uniform. They figured out we're here to help."

    During the MedCAPs, no males were allowed in the treatment rooms while the patients were being seen. Ailments ranged from malnutrition to simple aches and pains.

    The 22nd MEU (SOC) also donated a generator to provide electricity for the clinic and made improvements to their water system by providing a larger holding tank and a new pump.

    In addition to MSSG-22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced).

    For more information on the MEU's role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at

    Staff Sgt. Sara Davis, a MedCAP team member from Decatur, Ga., searches under an Afghan woman as part of the security procedures protecting a recent Medical Civil Affairs Project designed for women and children only. Photo by: Cpl. Juan Romero


  7. #7
    22nd MEU pauses to remember the service and sacrifice of fallen warrior
    Submitted by: 22nd MEU
    Story Identification #: 200471715954
    Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 17, 2004) -- In the sweltering heat of an early July morning, as the daily activities of Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan continued unabated around them, the approx. 2,400 Marines and Sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) paused to remember one of their own who paid the ultimate price in the war on terror.

    Lakeland, Florida native Cpl. Ronald R. Payne Jr. was killed May 7, 2004, near the village of Sahmardun Ghar, Afghanistan in a firefight with Taliban insurgents.

    During the hour-long ceremony, which had Ron's light armored vehicle as a backdrop, the chaplains of the MEU Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22 joined the MEU's commanding officer, Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., in eulogizing the fallen warrior.

    "Corporal Payne was the first to go home ahead the rest of us," said Navy Lt. John Hoke, BLT 1/6 Chaplain. "I don't mean the soil of his home state of Florida which now covers his body in peace ... I mean he is home in heaven. Surely the Heavenly Father has given him a homecoming greater than we will receive in September on the shores of Camp Lejeune."

    "This is the fourth time I have been given the challenge to speak about Corporal Payne at a service of his memory. I asked God to let me know what Ronald Payne would want me to say."

    Hoke scanned the crowd before continuing.

    "I think Ron would want me to speak about you, because this is also our opportunity to salute every Marine and Sailor who went into battle. Corporal Payne's greatness is not in his dying, but in his living as a Marine team leader."

    Paraphrasing Army Gen. George Patton, Hoke continued. "The Corps is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team."

    It was as a member of this team, fighting not for his country or the future of Afghanistan, but for his comrades, that Ron lost his life.

    On May 7, Ron was participating in a nighttime dismounted patrol when he and his fellow Marines encountered a group of Afghan men who pulled weapons from under their clothing and opened fire on the patrol. The patrol leader, Staff Sgt. Brian Thompson, was hit in this first volley, and became the target of concentrated enemy rifle and machine gun fire.

    Ron unhesitatingly left the safety of a boulder where he had sought cover and exposed himself to the intense enemy fire to draw their attention away from Thompson. In full view of the enemy, Ron opened fire and hit the man who had wounded Thompson. Ron's selfless act diverted attention from Thompson, who seized the opportunity to crawl behind cover, and drew the focus of the enemy toward himself. Seconds later, Ron was wounded by enemy gunfire.

    As the fight raged around them, the platoon corpsman, Petty Officer Third Class Robert S. Spejcher, began treating Ron when a nearby RPG blast wounded the two. Spejcher received numerous shrapnel wounds while Ron's injuries proved fatal.

    After the patrol broke contact and reinforcements swept the area, they discovered four dead enemy fighters, three RPG launchers with five rounds, two medium machine guns, 11 assault rifles, seven anti-tank mines, grenades, and nearly five thousand rounds of ammunition.

    "Ron and his fellow Marines inflicted a severe blow upon the enemy and stopped future attacks on coalition forces and innocent civilians," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, commanding officer of BLT 1/6, speaking about the brief, yet intense fight.

    During the ceremony, Sgt. Benjamin C. Brown III, Ron's platoon sergeant and comrade-in-arms during combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq, led the seven-Marine firing detail that fired three volleys in his honor. Minutes later, a formation of four AV-8B Harrier II attack jets from the MEU approached and as they passed over the formation, one of the four peeled off to symbolize Payne's departure from the MEU's ranks.

    "He has not, and will not, ever really leave us," said McKenzie. "We're all gonna grow old, and memories of our time here in Afghanistan will fade or be altered. Our memories of Corporal Payne will do neither of these things. I charge all of you never to forget him and the sacrifice he made for each of us."

    "He will forever in our memory be twenty three years old and a rifleman going forward to engage the enemy."

    For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at

    The memorial display for Cpl. Ronald Payne includes the colors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), a light armored vehicle, and rifle, helmet, boots, flag, and dog tags display. Payne was serving with the light armored reconnaissance platoon of the MEU when he was killed in action May 7, 2004 during a firefight with Taliban insurgents near Tawara, Afghanistan. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

    Cpl. Ronald Payne, of Lakeland, Fla., performs function checks on his unit's radios before going out on a mission in south-central Afghanistan. The 23-year-old Payne was killed in a firefight with Taliban insurgents on May 7, 2004. Photo by: Cpl. Jemssy Alvarez

    Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commanding officer of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), speaks to the 2,300 Marines and Sailors of the MEU during a memorial service for Cpl. Ronald Payne, who was killed May 7, 2004 during a firefight with Taliban insurgents near Tawara, Afghanistan. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks


  8. #8
    Frustration, excitement mingle as war simmers
    Marines toiling to bring stability, infrastructure to nation while world focus is on Iraq
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    TARIN KOWT, AFGHANISTAN - Bouncing across rural Afghanistan in a Humvee, Marine Staff Sgt. Steve Hazenberg read a paperback copy of Band of Brothers, the best seller about a U.S. Army company that fought in the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.

    Like those World War II riflemen, Hazenberg, a native of east Harris County, volunteered for a momentous cause: the international campaign to roll back terrorism. But despite risking his life, first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, he finds it hard to feel heroic and wonders if his generation will ever see the equivalent of V-E Day.

    "Before, when wars broke out, everyone volunteered to fight," he said. "Now, people are calling for us to pull out of Iraq, and all those Americans will have died for nothing. And in Afghanistan — as much as a wasteland as it is — if we pull out, the Taliban will come back and set up training camps, and we’ll get hit again" by terrorists.

    One of many
    Hazenberg is one of 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They chase terrorists, confiscate weapons, build roads and bridges — and sometimes die far from the spotlight while the world’s attention focuses on Iraq.

    For the Americans, life consists of long days on patrol in the desert heat, paranoia about roadside bombs and limited contact with ordinary Afghans.

    Some voice frustration over the seemingly endless nature of the war on terror, while others remain gung-ho about their mission.

    "We’re helping to rebuild a nation," said Marine Cpl. Robert Sturkie, of Saluda, S.C., as he tossed a football at an American base in southern Uruzgan province. "It’s impossible to tell if we’re getting all the bad guys. But we’re trying to take out enough of them to provide some stability."

    A slow war
    Since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the Afghan conflict has been at a low simmer.

    Combat has broken out, but on a relatively small scale, since the Americans usually rout Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in head-on clashes.

    Yet there are few signs that the militants will be crushed anytime soon.

    Insurgent attacks on so-called "soft targets," such as humanitarian aid workers and United Nations convoys, have soared in recent months, and many Afghans complain that security in the countryside is deteriorating. With the newly formed Afghan army and police still in the recruiting and training phases, President Hamid Karzai has pleaded with the international community to send more soldiers to Afghanistan.

    Over the past six months, U.S. troop levels have crept up from 11,000 to 20,000. But it remains unclear when U.S. forces will be able to pull out.

    "We’re here to do a job and go home," insisted one officer in U.S. Special Operations Forces, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. "The Afghans understand that we are not here to stay."

    But if anything, the Americans appear to be digging in.

    On the base
    The main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, at the site of an old Soviet-built air base at Bagram, resembles a bustling American town. The barracks are divided by paved roads with stop signs and crosswalks. Troops mail letters at a U.S. post office. A Burger King will soon open. The PX, a general store, sells everything from North Face camping gear to Soldier of Fortune magazines.

    Despite their efforts to help the nation get back on its feet, few American troops get to know many Afghans.

    U.S. troops spend much of their time on bases and don flak jackets and helmets whenever they venture into the countryside. Often, their only contact with average folk comes while on tense foot patrols.

    Still, some Afghans seem delighted that Americans are around.

    Out and about
    After learning a few phrases of Pashto, the language of southern Afghanistan, before arriving in Uruzgan province in April, members of the Marine 22nd Expeditionary Unit now try out their linguistic skills on local youngsters who tag along on military patrols. The Marines often pass out cookies and candy from their ration packs, though they sometimes give Tabasco sauce to unruly kids.

    "People are more apprehensive about us in Iraq," said Michale Englert, 32, a Navy bomb-disposal expert who accompanied the Marines in Uruzgan to detect roadside booby traps and mines. "Here, they stare at us like we’re a circus act, but they accept us."

    Marine Capt. Gary Bourland said that as the Afghan campaign drags on, support from Americans back home is key to troop morale.

    "I get letters from people saying, ’We are behind you 110 percent,’ " Bourland said. "They are so generous. After hearing that I went 26 days without a shower, they sent me Gatorade and Wet Ones."


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