Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Marine rank: Corporal

Another rank has come upon my son. Another proud day. I am surprised daily as his nature stays the same. His kindness and humor are as intact as they ever were.
Marines have a reputation (in San Diego at least) of being stuck up, proud of themselves and inconsiderate of others. Mine says he can be that way too, but at least I never see it.
The rank is one implying the command of a section or squad of others. As a Marine corporal an individual is a rifle fire team leader, machine gun team leader, light mortar squad leader and assault weapon squad leader.

"A Corporal in the Marine Corps is a junior noncommissioned officer, and is equivalent in rank to the Army's junior NCO ranks of Corporal and Specialist. Corporals usually command small contingents of Marines in combat and operations, including four-man fireteams (which may also be lead by a Lance Corporal) or eight-man squads comprising of two fireteams.
"The Marine Corps specializes in small-unit operations, and as a result Corporals hold a significant amount of authority and resposibility in contrast to the lighter duties of Lance Corporals and Privates. Because of the responsibilities delegated to squad and fireteam leaders, promotion to Corporal is seen as a very significant accomplishment for an enlisted Marine.
"Promotion to Corporal is awarded on a rolling basis to experienced soldiers who achieve a qualifying composite or cutting score in a variety of assessments." Military Ranks

Arrotta’s tactical call sign was “India 14” which identified him as the company’s Forward Air Controller. (Courtesy of Joanne Schneider) 

Monday, October 21, 2013


After deployment, our Marines come home. Our hearts sing and we fly into their arms. We can only hope the changes wrought inside them are ones that will grow and meld with the family, slide quietly to the side; allow us to sing and meld with our children, husbands, fathers, sisters and brothers. We can hope to be whole again.

Homecoming: How hard is it?
And what have they missed, the first teeth, the first school, the children growing and expanding as our Marines expand their knowledge of the world. Their service, their hearts, their own childhoods all creating turmoil within.

Cherry Point
What else will they still face? Will they be greeted by the world at large? Shunned? Accepted? Thanked?

Above and Beyond Cakes

And they will continue coming home ... human. Some will come whole, some not. Some to fight on, some to stop. We will take them in our arms and our hands will feel their faces, hair, shoulders. There will be tears and happiness and sometimes loneliness. But for now ... they are home and that is what our smiles wait for. We will welcome.

Marines Welcomed Home

Sometimes we just wait.

Marine Homecoming

Monday, May 27, 2013

What use for children?

 Children: Friend or foe?

HIT, Iraq (Sept. 15, 2005) - Top photo, Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake, a Battle Ground, Wash. native and radio operator with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment talks to some children during a patrol. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell). Bottom photo, It's about the warrior.

Some Afghan kids aren't bystanders
By Dan Lamothe and 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — When Marines in Helmand province sized up shadowy figures that appeared to be emplacing an improvised explosive device, it looked like a straightforward mission. They got clearance for an airstrike, a Marine official said, and took out the targets.
It wasn't that simple, however. Three individuals hit were 12, 10 and 8 years old, leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to say it may have "accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians."
But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were "innocent." Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission.
The incident underscores a continuing problem across Afghanistan. The use of children by the Taliban — through recruitment and as human shields — complicates coalition forces' efforts to eliminate enemy fighters from the battlefield without angering civilians.
The New York Times reported that the dead children's family members said they had been sent to gather dung, which farmers use for fuel. Taliban fighters were laying the bombs near the children, who were mistakenly killed, they said.
Regardless, it's one of many times the children have been involved in the war. In a case this year, Afghan National Police in Kandahar province's Zharay district found two boys, ages 9 and 11, with a male 18-year-old carrying 1-liter soda bottles full of enough potassium chlorate to kill coalition forces on a foot patrol.
"It kind of opens our aperture," said Army Lt. Col. Marion "Ced" Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. "In addition to looking for military-age males, it's looking for children with potential hostile intent."
There were 316 documented cases of underage recruitment in the war last year, most of them attributed to the Taliban and other armed groups like the Haqqani network, according to a U.N. report released in April. Eleven children, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed in Afghanistan last year carrying out suicide attacks, the report said.
Marines in Helmand say the Taliban regularly recruit children to serve as spotters, letting armed insurgents know when U.S. or Afghan forces reach designated points on a patrol so they can prepare an ambush.
An ISAF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said insurgents continue to use children as suicide bombers and IED emplacers, even though Taliban leader Mullah Omar has ordered them to stop harming civilians.
Lamothe reported from Afghanistan. Gould reported from Washington.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Camp Leatherneck

Camp Leatherneck is a 1,600 acre United States Marine Corps base located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The site is located mostly in Washir District and is conjoined with Camp Bastion, the main British military base in Afghanistan. It is the United States Marines base that is the home base of most Marine operations in Afghanistan.  

Camp Leatherneck was officially dedicated on May 29, 2009, and originally housed around 4,000 marines and civilians in large tents with hundreds of cots in each one. Camp Leatherneck is now home to 10,000 to  20,000 Marines and civilians, and many upgrades to the camp have been made. There are now one story pre-fabricated buildings that can house about 2,000 people in each building, which is certainly an upgrade to the 20 man tents this base started out with.

One of the major upgrades to Camp Leatherneck was a new 3,828 yard runway. The runway is actually built at the adjacent Camp Bastion a British base, but will allow for larger planes such as the 747 passenger planes and the C-5 cargo planes. This extended runway with a capacity for larger planes will help keep the troops better supplied since they will no longer have to rely strictly on smaller supply planes.

Another upgrade is more gym space. In the beginning, Camp Leatherneck had only one gym, and though it was open 24 hours a day it was always overcrowded. Now there are four fitness facilities each devoted to a specific use. There is now a gym for weight-lifting, CrossFit training, cardiovascular health, and one general use gym with a variety of exercise equipment.

One of the most popular upgrades to Camp Leatherneck is their dining system. In the beginning there was only one chow hall, and now there are two each capable of serving 4,000 Marines per meal. Camp Leatherneck has also received a new PX. Before the PX had only 3,000 square feet of sales floor which was not nearly enough for the large number of Marines on base. Now they have a much larger building with roughly  10,000 square feet of display area, plus more storage to help keep the shelves fully stocked. Camp Leatherneck

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (Nov. 26, 2009) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus serves turkey to Marines and Sailors Thanksgiving Day at Camp Leatherneck. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien

If my Marine son were there in 2009 this could be what he would have been doing -- 
pulling these trucks out of the mud:

“The Marines and I were stuck in Leatherneck for 3 days due to heavy rains and severe weather until it cleared enough to finally receive the trucks.  The next morning after the weather passed, the team and I began the start of the mission out of Leatherneck by pre-starting and performing preventive combat maintenance on the vehicles.  Within the first hour of the journey, one of the trucks in the convoy became stuck in the mud.  After multiple times of vehicles becoming stuck in the mud, the truck that would always save the day by pulling us out earned the rightful name of Hercules by the convoy team.” Oops
Then of course a dip into Marine humor is needed:
Deployed U.S. service members in Afghanistan put up with a lot. Not only is there the threat of improvised explosive devices, small-arms ambushes and indirect fire attacks, there’s the lousy food, hostile weather and lack of plumbing. Crapper rules

Photographer Colin Kelly spotted the poster depicted above at Camp Bastion, the British base in Helmand province that is home to thousands of deployed Marines in aviation units. Clearly, a frustrated Marine leader somewhere decided the best way to crack down on messy port-a-johns was to post some rules of the road. And if you’re going to lay the law of the lavatory down, a little sarcasm and blunt talk never hurt.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Just running around

Marine Sgt. on Cross-Country Run Stops in New Mexico
 “The Run for Veterans” 3,600 Mile Journey Aimed at
Calling Attention to/Raising Money for Post-Combat Veterans’ Issues

New Mexico Department of Veterans' Services Secretary Timothy Hale presenting a state Flag to Brendan O'Toole  in front of the Eternal Flame Monument at the Bataan Memorial Building in Santa Fe.

A Marine Sergeant on a cross-country run to help call attention to veterans’ issues has stopped in New Mexico for a few days—catching his breath and visiting with New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Timothy Hale before heading back on the road.

24-year old Brendan O’Toole—a native of Alexandria, Virginia—began The Run for Veterans last Veterans’ Day  from Oceanside, California (near Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego) on a 3,600-mile journey to Portland, Maine. His goal is to finish sometime near the end of the year and to raise $2 million for to help Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.

O’Toole served two tours with the Marines; first in Haiti and Somalia, and then Afghanistan—finishing his second tour last spring. It was here during “down time” while watching the movie Forrest Gump--the Oscar-winning movie starring Tom Hanks about a Marine who ran across the country after serving in Vietnam--that the seed was planted  to one day do the same.
When O’Toole returned home to Virginia, he began noticing that a lot of friends who also served in Afghanistan and Iraq were having a hard time re-adjusting to “normal” civilian life.

“For whatever reason, a lot of my friends were not handling their new lives very well,” explained O’Toole when meeting with NMDVS Secretary Hale to explain his mission. ”They were abusing alcohol or drugs, tuning people out—just having a lot of personal issues going on.”

O’Toole had also decided to take up running to “de-compress” after his latest tour in Afghanistan. When one of his ex-combat friends who had been having a particularly difficult time readjusting to life back home committed suicide, O’Toole recalled a promise he made to that friend:  Running across the country “like what Forrest Gump did.”

O’ Toole found his new post-military mission: A cross-country run--not only to see the sights—but with a purpose: Calling attention to the need to help our newest generation of veterans cope with life after service

He created a website to solicit pledges—with all money after gas, food and lodging expenses are deducted going to three agencies which provide physical, mental and social support for soldiers and veterans: Give an Hour; Team Red, White & Blue; and the USO.

“The respect for military service and veterans is amazing here in New Mexico,” said O’Toole. "Only three weeks into this, I think I have noticed that the farther you get our from the cities, the more in-tune people are with military members. It almost seems like outside of the cities is the heart of America." 

For more information about The Run for Veterans and to pledge a donation, go to

This story was provided by the New Mexico Department of Veterans' Services.