1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines
Episode 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12
Interviewer: Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Crowley
Firm Base Sparta, Haditha, Iraq - October 21, 2005
Courtesy of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Marine Corps History Division
I’ve been in the Marine Corps for about three and a half years now [as of interview date, October 2005]. This is my second deployment to Iraq with Kilo Company. I was born in Traverse City, Michigan, in 1983. Lived there for about 11 years with my mother. My parents were divorced. Run into a lot of problems when I was a young kid, as far as, I was being open-minded, I guess, and my mom wasn’t, so I got into a lot of trouble. So, I moved down to Oklahoma with my Dad’s parents when I was about 12 and I started going to school down there; went to high school. Little small town, lived on a rundown ranch in Oklahoma with about 250 head of cows and a bunch of horses, all kinds of animals. It was a big change in the way of life. Went to school and I graduated with 19 kids in my class, so I pretty much knew everybody, real close knit. Just small, rural community. Everybody lived off dirt roads and had a rural route box. Two gas stations in town, post office and a school, about eight churches, and that was about it, a couple eating places.
I always wanted to be a Marine since I was probably about five or six years old. My neighbors that lived across the street, I used to play with their little kid, and his older brother went into the Marine Corps and I seen him when he come back from boot camp and he was in his blues, and I was like, no shit, "That’s what I want to do." And, just kind of developed what I did. Pretty much when I was growing up, all the hunting, and everything like that, and I was always playing with the GI Joe’s and watching the war movies, and it was like, "This is what I’m gonna do." So, after high school was done and I went to a vocational school to become a certified welder and did all that, so I’d have something to fall back on in case the Marine Corps didn’t work out.
Headed off to boot camp three days after I graduated. Hadn’t really been nowhere, except for Oklahoma and Michigan and both places just really kind of secluded and closed minded to pretty much everything, so when I got to San Diego, it was a big eye opener. Just all sorts of people from all over and, well, boot camps different for one, too. And, it was a good experience. I lay in my rack every night, and I’d just say, "Holy, shit. I can’t believe I’m here. You know, I’m actually doing this." It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And, it was a great time, and it really changed my life for the better.
Graduated bootcamp, went on up to SOI [School of Infantry]. All I ever wanted to be was an 0311, just be a grunt. I told my recruiter that and he kind of laughed at me, ‘cause he was a grunt. And he’s like, "Are you sure you don’t want to do anything else?" And I was like, "There’s nothing else I ever wanted to do." So, it wasn’t a problem getting my job. Went through SOI. Had fun there. It was a different environment than boot camp. They kind of let you feel like a man, but only on the weekends when you’re not working. It wasn’t too bad. And I got to the Fleet, and I got to 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was my first unit. I went in with pretty much everybody that I went to SOI with and a couple guys I went to boot camp with. Got there and they were slotted to do a MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]. And it was August of 2003, they were supposed to pump out on their MEU, so we start our work up, which was fun. I was in a helo unit, so it was all new, and I was just eating up everything.
All of our seniors, they were really hard on us, and pushed us to excel at everything, just be the best; knowledge, physically, everything. It was a good time. The training was really awesome. A lot of helicopter raids. We even did two small boat packages and we did the month and a half long CAX [combined arms exercise] before they shortened it, which was hell ‘cause Twentynine Palms sucks. But, all in all, it was a really good time. We got tight.
And then, had some legal issues come up, and didn’t end up deploying with my battalion, and I dropped over to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Kilo Company. I went in the first day and my CO [commanding officer] was gonna be Captain Timothy Jent, and I went in and I waited all day to talk to him, and when he finally come out, it was probably about 6:00 or 7:00 that night and he was heading home, and I’d been sitting there all day, since about 7:00 in the morning. And he come out and he shook my hand, told me he was glad to have me join his crew, and he was looking forward to seeing what I could do for him, and he just walked away, and I was like, "Wow." I never had any officer treat me like that. I said, "This guy’s something different." I ended up getting put in 2nd Platoon, and I just loved it. The atmosphere was totally different, the camaraderie. They had just got back from OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] I, maybe three months prior to me getting there. So, they were like one of the most seasoned units in the States at the time, and they were the shit, and everybody walked around like it, and expected you to live up to their name. So, I had a lot of good times.
They were on down time for a while and we just did little bits of training here and there, little ranges, mainly just ammo dumps. And, everybody in the battalion at that time was getting out, ‘cause they had already been there for two to three deployments, so they were getting out. Everybody got out or, you know, a few were reenlisted and went on, did other things, but for the majority, they all got out. So, when we were left, before we started getting all our new guys, our company was sitting on about maybe 30 guys strong. And it was really weak, but we were still doing all the training that you do as a full company, and we started getting all of our new guys in from SOI, security forces, Edson range, stuff like that, and started coming together. Did all of our training, and that was the first time we went and did any SASO [security and stabilization operation] training, that was the first that it had been implemented, and started doing that, which was a lot different for grunts to go from, you know, just knocking down doors and shit like that to shaking hands and knocking, and talking to the folks.
So, it was kind of different for everybody to adjust to at first, and the program was just getting started, up and running, so it was kind of shaky on its own; fairly new program that the Marine Corps was trying to adapt, so they really have a whole lot of TTPs [tactic, techniques, procedures] and stuff like that really set in stone. It was just kind of like they were pulling stuff out their back pocket and going with it. It was good. Learned a lot of things about how to talk to Iraqis and just how to handle different kinds of situations without using force and using your voice. Your voice will get you a long way out here, where your rifle - your voice can go a lot more places than your rifle can out here. It’ll win the day over your rifle out here. So, learned that and a lot of talk from our seniors about what had happened the first time over and their experiences, so we picked up a lot of that. Did our CAX and then got ready to go. Our work up was actually fairly short. It was probably only about four or five months all together, if that. Headed over and wound up in Shahabi, Iraq.