Marines honor Hoosier hero

Intelligence building is named for Swain

By Heather Gillers
The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS -- As an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Lance Cpl. James Swain used his sharp instincts to warn fellow Marines about insurgent threats.

On a November day four years ago, he gave his life to save them from one.

Yesterday, the Marine Corps dedicated an office building to the Kokomo native at its intelligence headquarters in Quantico, Va., and top officials presented his family with the first-ever Intelligence Community Medal for Valor.

"Lance Corporal Swain demonstrated tactical intelligence expertise, incomparable valor, and complete dedication to his fellow Marines," Brig. Gen. R.M. Lake wrote when he recommended Swain for the award.

On Nov. 15, 2004, Swain, 20, was among the Marines locked in a fierce fight for control of Fallujah when he volunteered to man the machine gun on a mission.

According to a Marine Corps report, Swain was perched outside a building that fellow Marines were about to enter when he spotted insurgents planning an attack. He opened fire, suppressing the ambush and alerting the other Marines.

But an insurgent fired back, hitting Swain, who later died of his wounds.

"He was doing what all Marines do," said Swain's father, Daniel. "They're an infantryman first."

While in Fallujah, Swain specialized in guiding a battery-powered, 5-pound surveillance plane used to help spot potential threats and worked with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

During chaotic battles, he used his remote-controlled plane to spot enemies before they could sneak up on fellow Marines, pinpointing and monitoring vulnerable areas.

"His ability to focus the (plane) on key named areas of interest was at a level normally expected from a much more senior and more experienced intelligence professional," Lake wrote.

This fall, when Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell established the Intelligence Community Medal for Valor, along with four other medals, Swain's name was the first to be submitted.

Lake's letter made a great impression at the 3-year-old Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees federal intelligence organizations such as the CIA along with military intelligence work, spokesman Michael Birmingham said.

Swain's survivors include his father, who is an Army veteran; his mother, Mona; his brother, Benjamin, 25; and sisters Mariann, 23, and Melissa, 20.

Two years after his brother's death, Benjamin Swain enlisted in the military. The Navy corpsman also served near Fallujah and even visited the alley where his brother died.

According to his father, James Swain wanted to make intelligence work a career. He said his son hoped to pursue a degree in psychology and eventually work for the FBI, compiling profiles of criminal suspects.

"He figured his military intelligence would help him with figuring out what people were thinking," Daniel Swain said.

He said his son joined the Marines on his 18th birthday, two months after graduating from high school.

"He was in Japan and volunteered for Iraq," Daniel Swain said. "In Iraq, he volunteered for Fallujah. The boy was always the first one to be standing with his arm up."