Segment Synopsis: Alex J. Rozanski was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1980. He served in both the United States Marine Reserves and the Ohio National Guard. In his interview Rozanski talks about his childhood, his family's history of military service, and his initial interest and enlistment in 1997 in the Marine Corp Reserves. He describes his experience at basic training, his advanced individual training to be an infantryman, and returning to attend Columbus State Community College. He discusses his memories of 9/11, waiting to be deployed for four years, his 2003 deployment to South America, and his family's reaction to the news he was deploying to Iraq.
Keywords: Camp Lejeune (N.C.); Columbus State Community College; Dublin (Ohio); Lima (Peru); Marine Corps Recruit Depot (S.C.); Marysville (Ohio); Panama; Parris Island (S.C.); United States. Marine Corps. Division of Reserve
Subjects: Childhood; College; Enlistment; Military heritage; Training
Map Coordinates: 34.6160888,-77.6621342
Segment Synopsis: Rozanski finally got the order to mobilize for deployment in 2005, but was worried that all the fighting was over. He explains his pre-deployment training, the deployment process to Al Asad Airbase, his first months in Iraq, and his first firefight near Haditha Dam. He goes on to describe the camaraderie with in the unit, assimilating soldiers from other units, women's roles in the Armed Forces at the time, and clearing houses while looking for weapons caches. Rozanski speaks of the cultural differences in Iraq, the Iraqis attitude toward U.S. soldiers, and what contraband they found. He recounts the combat missions where they suffered casualties, his communications back home, his units continuing operations, and how he felt about the overall mission.
Keywords: Afghan National Army; Al Asad Airbase (Iraq); Hussein, Saddam, 1937-2006; Ḥadīthah (Iraq); Improvised explosive device; Mojave (Calif.); Twentynine Palms (Calif.); United States. Marine Corps. Marine Regiment, 25th. Battalion, 3rd. Lima Company; United States. Marine Corps. Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th; ʻUbaydī (Iraq)
Subjects: Camraderie; Clearing houses; Communications home; Deploying; Firefights; Iraqis; Media coverage
Map Coordinates: 34.206944,42.3528113
Segment Synopsis: On November 1, 2005 Rozanski returned home. Initially he tried to withdraw from the civilian part of his life but eventually things began to return to normal. He took a job with the Ohio National Guard and turned to a new chapter in his life. He concludes by talking about his return home, honoring his brother with his service, Lima Company, and what people should know about those who serve.
Keywords: Columbus (Ohio); Marysville (Ohio); Ohio. Army National Guard. Infantry Regiment, 148th; Suicide bombers.; United States. Marine Corps. Marine Regiment, 25th. Battalion, 3rd. Lima Company
Subjects: Coming home; Honoring brother's memory; Reflecting on service; Working with the Guard
Map Coordinates: 40.2349543,-83.347824
TP: My name is Ty Pierce. I'm here with Jess Holler to interview Alex Rozanskiabout his service on the Marine Corps Reserve in the Ohio National Guard. This project is part of Standing Together Ohio Veterans on the war on terror. We are taping at the Ohio History Center. It's October 19th 2015. Could you please say and spell your full name.
AR: My name is Alex Jason Rozanski, it's A-L-E-X J-A-S-O-N. Rozanski is R-O-Z-A-N-S-K-I.
TP: Would you tell us when and where were you born. Where did you grow up?
AR: I was born in Riverside Hospital in Columbus in March 1980. Lived my entirechildhood in Dublin. Presently live in Marysville, I've been there since 2005.
TP: Any siblings?
AR: I'm the youngest of 3 brothers. Oldest brother's Nicholas Rozanski he wasborn in Columbus as well, Riverside 1976, I have another brother Keith who was born in 1977 St. Ann's Hospital in Columbus.
JH: Growing up, what did your parents do for a living?
AR: My father, he was in the construction industry. He was also involved inlocal politics, he was on Dublin City Council, and he was mayor of Dublin for a period of time. I saw the interest in politics today thanks to my father and kind of planted that seed. My mother was in, she still is involved in pensions, working for different firms dealing with pension plans and defined benefit plans.
TP: Can you describe just your childhood experience growing up in- you said00:02:00Dublin, Ohio.
AR: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: What was that like? What was your childhood like? How would you describe that?
AR: It was a typical upper middle class neighborhood subdivision. I had severalkids my age live in the neighborhood. We didn't live too far from the old area of Dublin, there was some gas stations; they're not there anymore but there were some gas stations on the corner. I remember going there and trying to find 50 cents and getting a can of orange pop. I enjoyed it, living by the ... We weren't far from the side of the river so we spent a lot of times down by the river in the ravines. Probably it was a smart idea but we were swimming in the river a few times, I don't think I'd do that today or definitely wouldn't want my kids doing that today, but I enjoyed it. It was a typical American upbringing.
JH: Growing up, were there any particular expectations you felt on you or yourbrothers, from nuclear family, or things that you thought you would do if you grew up?
AR: Yeah. My grandfather, he was a marine in World War II. He didn't talk aboutit a lot but it was known. I think my father talked about his service more than my grandfather did. My grandmother would talk about it. We knew he was a marine in World War II, we knew he served, he was at Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed and he served in such battles as Guadalcanal, Tinian, I'm sure he served other places that I'm not aware of. My father was in the service as well. He served in the Army during the Vietnam war, fortunately or unfortunately he never found his way to Vietnam. He served in Germany I believe through his whole enlistments. He has a lot of unique stories of being in Germany and Czechoslovakia kind of across the iron curtain] from the Russians and Eastern Bloc countries.
Growing up my father was in the construction industry, he was in the service, my00:04:00grandfather was in the service, I just thought that's what I guess, all dads and grandfathers were in those industries and served. Growing up I was ... I guess I didn't have a telegraph that I would join the service, but it was definitely something I was always interested in.
TP: Interested how?
AR: As a natural progression. I think some kids, you know, "Hey, after highschool I'm going to go to college," I think in my mind it ... At some point I'm going to join the service whether that's enlist in the service or become an officer or something. I just though it was a natural progression, and it's something I was interested in. Growing up I loved G.I. Joe, watching cartoons and playing with those action figures. It appeals to little boys, it appealed to me and yeah. There was no expectations, I think our family was; my mother especially, "You can do whatever you want to do, be whoever you want to be," and she supported us.
TP: You had two older brother you said?
AR: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: They were to graduate several years ahead of you. Do you feel that they ...Did they also feel that that was an actual progression? Is that something you guys talked about or in retrospect it seemed that way, and I guess I'm just curious to know since they would have graduated ahead of you.
AR: I don't think we ever talked about it. I was the first one to join theservice. I joined the Marine Corps Reserve and I think I signed the paperwork in 1997, so I hadn't yet graduated high school. I knew my oldest brother Nicholas, he seemed to show the most interest in my service. He joined the National Guard several years later. He joined in 2003, when he finally ... He enlisted first and he ended up commissioning as an officer. Prior to him joining, you know 00:06:00again, he showed the most interest, he'd ask me questions and he'd ... Just seemed to have a curiosity about it, and so I wasn't really surprised when he approached me and then said that he was going to enlist in the military. I think some members of my family were surprised, I really wasn't surprised.
TP: Let's go back to your enlistment. These enlistments would ask people aboutwhere they went to high school and graduated, but you said you enlisted before you graduated. Can you talk a little bit about that timing and what it was like being in high school at the time, knowing that that was now what seemed to be a natural progression was actually going to be what you did.
AR: I remember, I was probably 16, I think I was sophomore. The militaryadministers a test called the ASVAB; Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, I think that's what it stands for. I remember an announcement went out on the PA that they'd me administering it, such and such time, such and such date, and I remember thinking, "Well, that's great. that's during Spanish class and I hate Spanish class, so I'll go take this test, just so I don't have to sit in Spanish class," but I also had an interest in the military. I thought, "I might as well take it." I ended up scoring very well because before I knew it, I had every recruiter from every service calling me and wanting to talk to me. I entertained them, I met with several recruiters. I remember thinking I wanted to join the Army, active duty Army.
I had my mind set on that, but when I talked to the marine recruiter, he saidhis approach was different than the Army. I remember the marine recruiter saying, "If you want to go to school, if you want job skills, that's fine, join the Army, but you join the Marines to be a marine." That struck a cord and I went down that path. Still, I wanted to go to school, I wanted to go to college, 00:08:00I wanted to be an officer. I know my discussion with my mum, she really didn't want me to enlist, she wanted me to commission, so we sort of compromised. I was 17 at the time so you had to have your parents permission, she had to sign paperwork. I didn't know there was such a thing as a Marine Corps Reserve, but ended up joining the Marine Corps Reserve at 17. I could have just waited till I was 18 to join active duty Marines but then I thought, "I'll go to school and I'll get my commission."
I joined the Marine Corps Reserve between my ... It was the summer between myjunior and senior year. I went to boot camp shortly after I graduated high school in 1998, the very next week I shipped off to Parris Island, South Carolina.
TP: Let's back up, so you've enlisted at the summer between junior and senioryear and you said you and your mum, you compromised with her and all these other pressures to go into the reserve?
AR: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TP: What's your final year of high school like knowing that, there's a ... Notto say a senior in high school, I know that the final year of high school is a very definitive moment for most people, but yours is interesting because you already knew what was happening after that.
TP: Can you describe that last year of high school? How did your friends or yourpeer group view your enlistment? What type of things were you doing knowing that you'd be moving off very shortly after?
AR: I think when I signed those enlistment papers, I was really committing tothat. They let you know that you're committing to this. There's no going back, I'm sure you could but you know, its the military. There's no going back, you've committed. I focused, I got in shape. I played football in high school, I wasn't the best athlete by any means but I definitely got in shape, dropped a lot of weight. I had to drop some weight to even enlist in the first place. It was just this focus, I know a lot of kids in their senior year, they're asking each 00:10:00other, "Hey, where are you going to school? Where are you going to school?" I'd always say, "Well, I'm going to the Marine Corps."
I was only one of a handful of people in my class that joined the military.There was a few going to service academies, and there was a few others joining the other services. People weren't expecting that answer, everybody just says, "Miami or Ohio State?" I was planning on going to Columbus State after boot camp but I was proud to say, "I'm going to be a marine. I'm going to boot camp."
TP: What kind of response did that elicit?
AR: People ... They weren't expecting it. Like I said, people were justexpecting me to name off some school but I don't recall, I just think it was sort of a ... I was definitely the exception. In a community like Dublin joining the military is definitely the exception. A lot of kids go off to college, the Ohio State, Miami or OUs. I was definitely one of only a few in my class that I recall that joined the military.
JH: Can you speak a little bit more to your extended family's reaction to yourdecision to enlist in school.
AR: My mum she wasn't ... She supported me, she wasn't definitely a fan of theenlisting but she helped me sign the paperwork. I know she's a product of her generation, I mean she was ... Went to school at Ohio State in the late 60s early 70s. She had her view of the military in that Vietnam campus era prison, I don't want to speak for her but you kind of got that feel that it wasn't ... Obviously she doesn't want to see her son going off to war. I remember thinking and I said it, I said it to her, and I said it to a bunch of people, I go, "I'm joining the Marine Corps Reserve." This is 1998, 9/11 obviously hadn't happened, 00:12:00so I was like, "Come on, World War III is going to have to break out before the Marine Corps Reserve sees actual combat,"
At that time our military, there was no combat. I do remember, I think we wereinvolved in the Balkans, there was an air war and we had desert storm back in '91 and it seemed to be these air campaigns. That was what combat was. It was troupes in combat on the ground because that's kind of a thing of the past. Though, if I was ever to see combat, that would never happen. Come on, I'm joining the reserve, I'm here for ... Put something on my resume, get a little money for college and ...
TP: You've got an interesting-- I know you said you were going in with the viewof the reserve was that, given the current state of affairs, not likely to--
TP: Also by the opposite token, you enlisted in the Marines because of what therecruiter said that resonated to you.
TP: What kind of ... What was your long term plan or did you have one in goingbecause you said a lot of it, but I'm curious to know what you were thinking.
AR: At that time, you think of ... When you're a teenager, even today, peoplethink of the Marines they think that's ... The marine is the best. That's the most elite service. They are to a degree, I mean it's the smallest service, sort of the most selective. They were recruiting from the same pool of recruits as any other service, so they can be more selective. The fact that I was selected, I earned the title of marine, I just thought, "Hey, this would be cool to put on a resume," that I was a marine. I had every intention of going to school, get my commission, "Hey, why not try to become a Marine Corps officer." Honestly, I think back, it's like this would be really neat to have on a resume, that was a United States Marine.
JH: What were you thinking in terms of the rest of your ... The other side ofyour life and your career at that moment in high school, in terms of what you 00:14:00wanted to do. Civilian work? College? What were you passionate about?
AR: I had no idea. I was really focused on just getting through boot camp and Ithought, "You know what? When I start college then I'll figure it out," because I think maybe a lot of people don't necessarily have a major in mind. I definitely didn't at the time and ... Right then and there I was focused on, "Hey, let's get through boot camp, join the Marine Corps Reserve, go to college then figure out the rest of my life." It would fall into place.
TP: From there, let's talk about boot camp. You graduated high school, and thisis in '98?
AR: Yeah, June in 1998.
TP: Okay. What happens from there? Can you describe that process of getting thistraining and what you were thinking about, leading up to that, because as you're finishing out your high school career.
AR: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It was fast approaching. A lot of kids were talkingabout what they were going to do that summer, "Hey, we're going to party. We're going to get ready to go off to school." I was like, "Well, I'm leaving for boot camp days after graduation. I don't have a whole summer to prepare." I was getting in shape, I was preparing myself mentally and physically. When high school graduation came, it was fun. I remember my graduation, I remember going out with friends afterwards but at the back of my mind thinking, "Yeah, this is kind of a going-away for me," because I think we graduated on a Friday or Saturday, I flew down to South Carolina that next Wednesday, so just days later; so a lot of anxiety.
TP: Anxiety about?
AR: You see movies, Full Metal Jacket, I remember watching that ... I think I00:16:00bought it on VHS and watched that boot camp scene thinking, "Is this what it's really like?" I read a lot of books. The internet was there in 1998, but I think we had to dial up connection, so it's not like I could research it on my phone. Not a lot of resources out there. I remember reading a lot of books, going to book stores, going to the library just browsing books on the shelf, talking to former Marines I knew of their experiences.
TP: What former Marines? Were these colleagues or brothers of peers or?
AR: I had friends of my parents, there was a childhood buddy of mine, lived afew a few houses down, he had the active duty Marines the year before, he graduated ahead of me. He was home on leave, I remember talking to him about it and I remember he was poking fun of me that I was joining the reserve, and obviously there's definitely a rivalry ... maybe not rivalry but, even today's day and age there's a sort of disparity between the active component and the reserve component. He would poke me about that, being a reservist. I was talking to people, the recruiters were a lot of help, we'd have to ... Between when I enlisted with the boot camp, we had to meet for monthly functions at the recruiters office. They would tell us and help prepare us, but ultimately, I think it's for them so they can keep tabs on us, to make sure that we're straight and narrow before we head off to boot camp.
TP: You fly down, South Carolina, and can you describe that process? You clearlyhad some expectations or ideas of what it might be like, what did it end up being like?
AR: I just remember the anxiety of it all. That fear. There was several of us,00:18:00I'd say probably maybe a dozen guys, I think there was one female in the group that flew down. I remember we got in the shuttle van, they gave us a pack and information, they dropped us off at Port Columbus and said, "Hey, here are your tickets, here's your information. Make sure you get to the right gate, and then somebody will meet you in Charleston, South Carolina at the airport." I do remember ... I think we flew to Atlanta from Columbus, then from Atlanta we flew to Charleston. I remember sitting next to a gentleman on the plane from Atlanta and he was prior military. He could tell where I was going because we were all branded. We had this stickers on with our name and a whole bunch of information, so I'm sure the airport folks could pick us out and I'm sure he knew exactly where I was going. He put me at ease I think, because we talked for that hour or so flight between Atlanta and Charleston.
I just remember, we got off the plane, he wished me good luck. I remember I sawfrom the other recruits walking off the jet ramp and there was this Marine standing there in uniform just real serious, hands on his hip and just pointing and directing us to sit in these chairs and don't speak. Of course we didn't, we were scared out of our mind. Once he saw everybody was accounted for, they took us down some back stairway and there was a charter bus waiting in the back alley of an airport somewhere. We got on this charter bus in the middle of the night and there was probably another hour or so ride from Charleston down to Parris Island which was on the southern coast of South Carolina. I'm sure we could talk 00:20:00on the bus but no one did. A lot of scared kids on that bus.
I remember pulling through the gate, it's very rural on that coast, there's nota lot of lights. You really don't know which way is north. I just remember just getting a lot of driving through the country and ended up pulling up to this front gate at the base. A little more driving and all of a sudden the bus came to a stop in front of this building. It's what you see in the movies, and it's what you see on TV. Drill instructor gets on, starts yelling at us, "Get off the bus," and boot camp begins.
JH: Do you have any particular memories of the experience once you got off thebus? What started happening?
AR: Very quickly. The drill instructor there just ... He's talking very fast andyou're just trying to process what he's saying. I remember we got outside the bus and then they rushed us inside immediately, got in line, they buzz off all your hair. Then they ran us into this classroom area, and we filled out some paperwork. It was not long after that initial in-processing that they took us to this warehouse to give us some initial issue of gear, canteens and load bearing equipment and things like that. I just remember the intensity of it all. I remember standing in that warehouse thinking. In my mind I had no good reason, like, "Why am I here?" Everything I thought about, "Hey, I want to be a Marine, I want to go to school. This will look great on resume." That was all gone.
I just remember thinking to myself, "I don't want to be here and I'm scared ofdeath." I was trying to convince myself why am I here? Why am I here? I didn't 00:22:00want to be there, I was scared of death and I thought I was going to fail miserably during this process, and I'm sure everybody felt that way. I guess they succeeded, that's how they want you to feel. It was kind of one day at a time. I wouldn't say every day was ... The next day was easier than the day before but you took it one day at a time.
I got through it, you know there's 13 weeks. It seemed like an eternity but now,today, you think 13 weeks, I mean that's the summer. That's just a few months. The transformation that took place, I dropped 30 something pounds in that time frame, a lot of physical conditioning. You're eating 3 times a day just running through the chow hall so definitely burned a lot of calories. Burned more than I tool in, dropped a lot of weight.
I remember when my family finally saw me, it was the day before our graduation,there's sort of like a family day the day before. My oldest brother Nicholas, the one that seemed to have the most interest in my service, he came down for my graduation with my mum, dad, grandma, and he was the first one out there to greet me. I just remember my mum crying and she didn't recognize me. The drill instructors told us that ... They said, "Your family is not going to recognize you. You guys have ..." They're telling us how much we've changed, and it was. I was 170 something pounds. I'd never ... I probably didn't weigh that. I probably weighed that maybe in middle school up to that point and I still haven't weighed that since. Family didn't recognize me. I remember my brother, he was the first one out there to give me a big hug.
TP: What did that feel like? Seeing them after going through this?00:24:00
AR: They hadn't changed but their reactions, I'd never seen those reactions thatthey had towards me. I'd never seen that before. I'm sure they felt pride, I was proud. It was good to see them, and I know after graduation, we spent ... My parents ended up booking a condo in Hilton Head because Hilton Head is just real close to Parris Island, South Carolina. They were going to do a little vacation. I remember that was fun for a couple of days, but then I remember thinking, "I want to go home. I don't ... I would love to go home," but we had a couple more days on Hilton Head which was nice, because ... I wanted to go home because shortly thereafter I had to go Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for some additional training before I was released for good to join my reserve unit in Columbus.
TP: What was in Camp Lejeune?
AR: Camp Lejeune is ... Parris Island is basic Marine training. All Marines, nomatter their MOS or their specialty, they all go to boot camp in Parris Island, or at least the Eastern Mississippi go to Parris Island, Western Mississippi, you go to California for boot camp. Camp Lejeune is the infantry training battalion. All Marines go through one of two schools there. I was in the infantry. I knew as a reservist I was going to be in the Columbus unit, it was an infantry unit. Thinking back when the recruiter was talking to my mum and myself, he said that, "Hey, this is an infantry unit, are you okay with that?" I didn't know any difference, I just thought Marines were Marines and like, "Yeah, 00:26:00sure. Whatever. Okay, if you say so." I think he was asking if that was okay, I really didn't care. I ended up going to the Infantry Training Battalion, and went through a 5 week infantry course. Non-infantry marines go through a real condensed course and then they go on to even more training in their specialty, whether they're an aircraft mechanic or the supply clerk or whatever.
I was infantry, meaning that I was going through a longer infantry course there.It was 5 weeks, seemed a lot longer than 5 weeks. It was 5 weeks in North Carolina. Then I was home back in Ohio November of '98, enrolled in Columbus State. It seemed like after boot camp was over, after I got back from Camp Lejeune, there was like this ... I don't know, kind of a what now? I know I started college but it seemed like I needed more direction, I don't know. It's like what next? It's a lot to look forward to.
TP: Let's talk a little bit more about that. You come back and you're kind of onpoint and plan over what you had, and going into the reserve, and you come back and you enroll in Columbus State. What's your life like in that period? What are you doing?
AR: I was told and I thought that the Marine Corps would give you this maturity,will give you this direction, and you're going to be so much more mature than your peers. Well, I ended up being a typical college student and I wasn't the best student in high school. That just directly translated, I wasn't the best college student, I had more interest in not going to class or finding excuses to not complete my assignments. I was at Columbus State in the winter quarter, I 00:28:00ended up getting a part-time job from the City of Dublin in the spring of 1999 cutting grass. That just real quickly turned into a full-time job offer. I remember there was this foreman I was working for, he asked if I was going to apply for this full-time, maintenance worker opening. I remember telling him, "No, I need to go back to school," and he's like, "Well, just apply. It doesn't hurt to apply."
I applied, I ended up getting this job working for the city. At 19 years old,pay and benefits. I was 19 making $25,000 a year with full medical which you know, at 19 it's like I didn't need that but, "Wow, I'm making $25,000 a year, I don't need to go back to college." I put that on hold and I was working for the City of Dublin, and serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. My mother wasn't real happy with that. She wasn't real happy at that decision of dropping out of school and working full-time and I thought, "Well, I can retire from this. I can be a maintenance worker. Nothing wrong with being a maintenance worker." She had higher expectations.
TP: Can you describe the reserve commitment at this point in your life. You havea full-time job ... You were in college and then now you have a full-time job, and then you're in the reserve. What is that like? What's that balance like?
AR: As reservists, they typically say you serve one week in a month and twoweeks in the summer, and that's about right. It depends on your unit and your job. In infantry unit, especially Marine Infantry Unit, looking back on it, we had a pretty high tempo of training. We were held to the same standards a lot of ways than the active duty marine units, so we would show up on ... One week in a month we would show up on a Friday night, we get on buses, we drive to a 00:30:00training area. It could be in Michigan or Indiana, there's a lot of National Guard bases around. We'd train all week, and I mean physically train. It'd be physically beaten with around live fire ranges, you'd be a Marine Infantry man for three days that week, and then all of a sudden Monday morning you're back in the real world.
It was very ... The tempo was really high compared to the training that I havenow in the Ohio Army National Guard, but the tempo of training in the Marine Corps was high about that time, and probably still is today. It was extremely high. Extremely stressful. I remember going to work, I'd take a lot of Mondays off because I would just be worn out, I'd take Mondays off of work just to recover. I think that got frustrating, because a lot of people didn't realize the ... I guess there're more sacrifices but the ... Kind of what I went through that weekend. It's pretty 9/11, so not that there wasn't an appreciation for the military, there was just sort of a ... People just had no idea.
Looking back on that, I'm definitely proud I went through that. I'm a bettersoldier today because of being a Marine first and foremost and the training that I had in the Marine Corps Reserve. Soldiers that I serve with today in the Army National Guard, which is pretty much the same commitment; where you serve one week in a month and two weeks in the summer, a lot of the soldiers, they don't know that those units have higher tempos, that it's a lot rougher in serving other components. I have an appreciation for where I'm at now. Definitely the 00:32:00stress level is not there, we take our job seriously but it's definitely more laid back I guess.
JH: You had mentioned that in your first return from boot camp, kind of theconfusions of figuring out life in college, being back but also having this commitment. Once you'd settled into your full-time job, what did that look like in terms of the balance between your Marine Reserve duties and your work life? Were there any tension there?
AR: No. It was really compatible. Working full-time, I saved a lot of money. Iwas 19, 20, 21 years old and I've spent a lot of money. I have a new truck and new toys and new video games. I was really immature, I didn't have a lot of direction. I thought, "Hey, I'm working full-time, I make good money, I can afford to be where I am." I just had every intention of, "I'm going to serve my 6 year obligation in the Marine Corps Reserve and I'm going to work for the City of Dublin the rest of my life and eventually I'll find some girl and marry her." I didn't have a lot of direction. I think I was no different than any other youth. I didn't have ... Definitely wasn't as driven as I am now, even though I was a Marine. I just thought, "I've accomplished more than a lot of people have accomplished," and I guess I was very lucky I think to have that job in Dublin, very fortunate, still I'm fortunate, but didn't have a lot of direction.
Like I said, that was 1999, 2000, 2001. Then a lot of things changed inSeptember 2001 with the reserve components and the military in general. It definitely was real at that point.
TP: Can you describe something we're asking everyone ... Can you describe your00:34:00experience with 9/11, where were you? How did you find out? What were you thinking? What were you feeling?
AR: I do. Obviously it was a Tuesday, I was at work in Dublin, I was cuttinggrass just like I usually did, we had actually had a drill the weekend before in the Marine Corps Reserve. That was Tuesday, so that prior weekend I was serving with the Marine Corps Reserve. I was sitting on the mower, and I remember my boss pulling up in a pick-up truck and I just thought he was saying hi or what's up but ... He was to a certain degree, but then he said, he's like, "Hey, there's ... An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center, it's on the radio. That's kind of weird." Obviously I didn't think anything of it, because I was like, I was thinking like a Cessna plane or something. I was like, "Okay, great, whatever."
I went back to mowing grass, and then it was this other gentleman I was workingwith, he used to mown off the other end of the park, I guess he had heard on the radio. He had heard somewhere, he's coming over on his mower and flags me down and he's like, basically told me what happened. How one of the towers had collapsed and it was a terrorist attack and my immediate thought was, "This sounds pretty serious. I need to figure out what's going on."
I remember we drove back to our shop, in our maintenance shop in Dublin and wentto the break room, and I saw with devastation on TV and I thought, "Well, I'm in the reserve. I can be called up." I immediately tried to ... I had a brand new cell phone at that time, so I called my platoon sergeant and I tried to get a hold of him. I was able ... He picked up right away and to say, "Hey, what's 00:36:00going on? Obviously you know what's going on I'm just checking in." He's like, "I have no idea, I'm trying to get a hold of other people in the command. I don't know. Hold tight. Wait for somebody to call."
I remember I left at noon thinking, "We might need to go to New York City rightaway." I remember I left work at noon, went home and grabbed all my gear and I had it all staged by the door and I waited for that phone call and nothing happens. Nothing happens, nothing happens. Our unit did put out a formal call out to people just for accountability purposes, but nothing happened. Few weeks later, we went to drill, and it was just sort of normal. Yeah, there's this heightened sense of, "Hey, this is real. We're about to invade Afghanistan." Not a lot of ... I know National Guardians would be mobilized but Marine Corps Reserve units really weren't initially. We just went on with our normal training plan but there was this sense of, "This is real. Active Duty Marines are in Afghanistan now, so we need to start preparing for the possibility of maybe going to war." This isn't just training for training sake, but there's a certain reality to it.
I think back to 1998 or 1997 when I enlisted, I was, "World War III is going tohave to break out," but now it was, "Wow, I guess this could happen." As the months went by, there were Marine Corps Reserve units that were activated, so I was like, "Wow, this could be. This is a possibility." I do remember, we were in Afghanistan in late 2001, and 2002, and as 2002 unfolded, there was this big talk and build up in Kuwait to invade Iraq. 00:38:00
I remember our leadership in the Marine Corps Reserve telling us to prepare forthat, "Prepare we could be mobilized. This is real. Get your affairs in order." We went ahead and prepared like we were being mobilized. We weren't necessarily told we were but we needed to prepare. Marines got wills done, powers of attorney. Guys that were in school were talking to the schools about dropping courses. We even went so far as we had our first round of immunizations to deploy, I think our first round of anthrax vaccines. That was sort of, "Okay. We're getting mobilized now," because they wouldn't be shooting us up with an anthrax vaccine.
I remember our company commander telling us ... This was like January, Februaryof 2003, and again he was telling us, "Hey, we haven't officially ... We don't know whether we'll be mobilized. I can't officially tell you whether we are or not being mobilized, but I'm telling you to prepare. I'm telling you students to drop out. I'm telling you to do these things." We were ready. We had bags packed and staged and we were just waiting for that call, that we were being mobilized. February went into March and nothing. We ended up invading Iraq in March 2003, still nothing. Sort of like, "Okay, I guess ..." Our unit missed the invasion and at that time in Iraq we thought, "Okay," we'd go in, we'd go through Baghdad and that would be the end of it. That's what we thought at first when we went into Baghdad. We thought, "Okay. The war is over now."
It was disappointing to a degree because there's marines that are fighting in00:40:00combat, there's other reserved units. The reserve unit in Michigan was mobilized and the reserve units all over the country were mobilized and they got to get into the fight, we didn't get to get into the fight. That was something I think a lot of us wanted. It was something I wanted. You hear, you have veterans that come into our unit and other marines that have been in the unit a long time, that have mobilized or have seen combat and you hear some of these, not necessarily war stories, but some of the experiences and you want that. You want the kind of ... You want to play on the varsity. I guess the best analogy is JV and varsity; you want to play on a Friday night. You practice, practice, practice, you want to play. At that point, you felt it wouldn't happened, it was like, "Great. Nothing is going on in Afghanistan. We've invaded Iraq and that war is over. Great. We missed the war. We missed things."
At the time, this is 2003 now, had about a year left on my 6-year contract inthe Marine Corps Reserve. There came an opportunity in late 2003, they were looking for volunteers to go to South America for a training mission down there. We'd get to go board a ship and sail down to South America and train with the South American military forces of several countries. I thought, "Well, okay. I won't get to go overseas but at least I'll get to do something cool," so I volunteered, I jumped on that assignment.
I was in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for several months. It was kind ofdisappointing. I initially thought that would be in South America all the time but ... 2004 spent five months in Camp Lejeune and one month in South America, 00:42:00and that was fun. I got to sail through the Panama Canal and I got to do some really neat training down South America with the forces down there. I got see Lima, Peru and other areas of South America. It was neat. I thought that was it. It was like, "Okay. Hang on. My 6-year enlistment is coming to an end," it was ... Even though we were at the height of combat to a degree things were picking back up in Iraq, I still had no intention of staying in the Marine Corps Reserve.
When I got back from South America, we were formally told that our unit wasgoing to be mobilized because things weren't ... The war wasn't over in Iraq. Now was the opportunity. Even though it's the end of my enlistment, I had to extend my enlistment for a year in order to mobilize with the units. I got back from South America in August in 2004 and we mobilized in January of 2005. Our unit did our entire ... It was a whole battalion, it was not just our company in Columbus, Lima Company, but the whole battalion, which is ... There's a marine company up in Cleveland and Akron, another company in Buffalo, New York, and West Virginia that mobilized with us. We went to California to start training to go to Iraq.
TP: I want to check in on, you said your enlistment, you had to extend that. Wasthat voluntarily or was that--
AR: Yeah, it was voluntarily. It was something I wanted to do. Like I said, Iwanted these experiences. I wanted to play on the varsity team. It wasn't just totally selfish, I felt obligated, I think. A lot of veterans, I talked to a lot of ... Obviously most of my friends are veterans. You do feel the sense of 00:44:00obligation. I spent years and years training and the government spent a lot of money training me, I felt obligated to do it. I had a lot of knowledge. There's a lot of guys in the unit that were younger than me. They were just as capable as me but I'd been in the unit longer than anybody in my section. It's something I wanted to do and I felt an obligation to do it and be there.
JH: Can you explain a little bit more. You guys have been almost staging tomobilize for quite some time almost since 9/11 at this point. What are you feeling at the moment when it does become real and what is the reaction from family and friends? I mean, are you going ...?
AR: I remember when I'd heard that, "Hey, we're being mobilized," I wasskeptical and I think a lot of my friends, my fellow marines, were skeptical. It's like, "Yeah, we've heard that before. Remember last year when they said we're going to be mobilized? Okay, I'll believe it when it happens. Whatever," but we still prepared. I remember I didn't tell my mother. I just said nothing. Then she received a phone call sometime in the fall of 2003. She received this random phone call from a family support group that our unit has. They're reaching out to family members and she just received this phone call inviting her to this meeting because we were getting ready to deploy, and that's how she found out. Then she called me, I'm sure right after she hang up with them, and it was just irate that I didn't tell her. I told her what I thought, it's like, "Whoa mum. You know they said we were going to mobilize before and it didn't happen. I didn't tell you because I don't necessarily believe it."
It was real this time. It wasn't just sort of ... It was more planned out. Itwasn't like 2003 during the invasion. It's like, "We're not sure if we need you 00:46:00yet." This was more deliberate, the deployment process and the rotation of troops. I was dating my wife at the time who is ... She's now my wife, we were dating and then I didn't really tell her either because I didn't want to scare her. I was happy of where we were at in our relationship, and then she found out through a friend of mine who ... We were out one evening and I'm sure alcohol played a factor in it. He said something and she picked up on it.
She wasn't real happy and I remember her initial reaction was she wanted tobreakup with me, but we're tough. We ended up getting engaged right before I went to California for training. We hadn't been dating that long but I love her and I definitely ... Shortly after we started dating I remember thinking, "I could definitely marry this girl." I thought it was an appropriate time to give her something to do and look forward to and plan while I was gone. We got engaged, that was in December. We even had an engagement party.
Besides my mom's reaction, I don't really remember the reaction of a lot offamily members. I think they heard kind of second hand from others, so I don't know what their initial reactions were. A lot of people wished me good luck, a lot of friends and colleagues. I was still working at the City of Dublin at the time and saying, "Hey, let's go have a beer before you leave." You hear that a thousand times but there's just not enough evenings between now and then to have a beer or dinner with somebody. I was really just focused on my fianc at the 00:48:00time, now my wife, and myself; preparing myself, and my equipment and my body to get ready to go to ... Initially preparing to go to California to train and then prepare to go to Iraq.
TP: At this point in the process, what's your understnding of the war in Iraq,and then also what's your understanding of your role in that?
AR: I didn't know. I do remember the summer of 2004, I was in Camp Lejeune mostof the time. I don't remember paying attention a lot to what was happening over there in the news. You hear stories, I know there was no stuff going on in Fallujah. It seemed like thing were ramping back up. You hear this reports of these car bombs and IEDs and it seems like it's just sort of ... It wasn't ... The door definitely wasn't shut in Iraq. It seemed like, "Okay, there's definitely ... There's guerrilla warfare going on. This insurgency is picking up." You're hearing a lot about these IEDs and roadside bombs.
I remember November of 2004 as we're getting ready to deploy, the famous SecondBattle of Fallujah happened in November. I remember seeing that a lot in the news, when the marines were clearing out the city of Fallujah. I remember thinking, "Okay. Well, they clear out this city and things are going to be ... They cleared the hornets' nest so maybe things won't be so bad when we get there." I don't know. I do remember thinking prior to mobilization that, "Okay, a lot of the big fighting is done. At least I'll get to mobilize and say I was there but the big fighting is done. The meat and potatoes, that's done. We're 00:50:00just there to mop up." I think that's ...
When we went to California we knew we were going to Iraq and no one really knewwhere we were going specifically. We knew we were going to Western Iraq where the marines were in Anbar Province, but no one knew like a specific location. We were in California in the Mojave Desert for two months. I remember it being cold and rainy. We had trained there a couple of years earlier in the height of summer and it was just hot, dry and miserable. This was cold, wet and miserable. I never ... I don't know. I guess it rains in the desert. I guess it was the rainy season, I just remember it raining a lot. We prepared, we had a lot of good training out there and shortly before we went to Iraq we found out we were going to this place called Haditha; I'd never heard of Haditha before, and that we'd be staying at the Haditha dam which was a hydroelectric power dam. I remember like, "Oh, this is kind of interesting."
We didn't know what we'd be doing though. I'm sure maybe our leadership had abetter idea, but I recall not knowing. I just thought, "Okay, maybe we're just going to provide security for this dam," I don't know. The last week of February, we finished up our training and we were on the ground in Kuwait and Iraq the first day of March, March 1st or 2nd, of 2005. I was really surprised how fast everything happened, like how fast we got over there. That was really surprising. We'd finished up our training in February and they always have a little fun, they burst us to Las Vegas for a couple of days. A lot of our family 00:52:00met us out there because we said, "Hey, we're going to Vegas." My mom and my fianc flew out there, I got to see them for about a day and a half or so. Quickly we burst back to Twentynine Palms, California where we were training.
Literally, I remember getting off the bus from Las Vegas and them saying, "Hey..." We left in waves, or at least I left ... I was one of the first wave to leave. They said, "Hey, grab your stuff you got to get to ... We're bursting over to the air force base now, because we're leaving right now." It was surprising, I didn't think it'd be that quick. We burst over to this air force base and probably 12 hours later we were on a 747 flying to Kuwait.
We land in Kuwait, get off this plane at the Kuwait airport; you take thischartered commercial planes. We get off the plane, they burst us to this area at the airport, they issue us ammunition; like magazines and ammo. Like, "Here you go. Here's your ammo." They burst us to another staging area, we were there for only a few hours, it seemed like. Then we were on another transport plane, a military plane, and we flew into Iraq. I just couldn't believe how fast it was, I thought it would be kind of a drawn out movement, but no. They got us in there quick. That was kind of surprising, I wasn't expecting that.
We land in Iraq. That point in time I remember the landing at the air force basein Iraq and I remember just being nervous. It's like, "Oh my God! I'm in Iraq. I'm in a war zone right now," and just being on edge, not knowing what to 00:54:00expect. I remember the C-130 transport plane, the back end of it opens up and we go walking off. I remember being real tense like, is there a mortar round going to land sometime," I just didn't know what to expect. I just see marines and other service members just standing there just like it's any other air force base, I'm like, "Okay. I guess it's kind of a more relaxed posture." It was a real surprise how quickly we got there. Then we eventually ...
We were at the air force base for another day, the air force base in Iraq. Itwas Al Asad Airbase and it was the main logistical base in Western Iraq. I didn't really know that at the time, I just knew we were at this place called Al Asad and that we would be convoying in vehicles to go to the Haditha Dam. The unit that we were relieving, they were going to meet us there and they were going to pick us up and take us to Haditha Dam. It was kind of uneventful. We convoyed up the Haditha Dam and nothing really happened. We drove outside of the security of the base outside the wire and our weapons were locked and loaded. We had an enhanced posture but nothing happened, it was totally uneventful. There was no ... Nothing happened between the base and there. I was surprised how quick it was, that Haditha really wasn't that far from Al Asad.
We got to the dam and it was really cool. It was what it was. It's ahydroelectric dam on the river and it was kind of a neat place to be. That was my home for the next seven months over there; six, seven months. So we got there and we waited ... Like I said, I was on that first wave of folks and we were there for a couple of days till the rest of our unit arrived. They came in on 00:56:00helicopters, we convoyed up in vehicles but they had this wave after wave with helicopters bringing them from Al Asad, all hours of the day.
TP: Are you starting to receive orders as you're waiting on your unit or do theywait until the unit gets there and then what were you all tasked to do?
AR: I don't really recall what our mission was. I'm sure it was out there, I'msure our leadership knew. While we were all coming in, while our unit was coming, there was an ongoing operation happening in that area. We were on the Euphrates River and all civilization Iraq is along the rivers. There was this operation taking place in areas up and down the river, these villages and cities, and it was supposed to be some sort of a screen or a ... I don't know. Feint is the word, but kind of draw attention away from these troop rotations. The current unit that we were replacing was conducting this operation in these villages along the river. Just going through villages, making their presence known, hoping that some sort of contact with the enemy. I don't recall the name of the operation but that's what was happening.
Once our unit was fully there, once Lima Company and the rest of 3rd Battalion25th Marines was in Iraq, then we ... I don't know if we joined to that operation but a new operation started relief in place. We met the unit that we were replacing, we met them out on mission outside the wire. We were handing 00:58:00over equipment and weapon systems on the mission. I was a motorman in the Marine Corps and we didn't bring out motor systems with us. We actually got our systems out on the mission. We met our 60mm border section that we replaced and they're like, "Hey, here's your weapons. We're out of here." It really was, it was that quick and we didn't have hardly any time to pick their brain. It was "We're here."
"All right. Here is the equipment," signed for it I guess. I don't remembersigning for anything, but I remember them getting on vehicles and heading to Al Asad so they could fly out. A lot of the equipmnt we had ... I remember our thermal sights that we use on our machine guns ... It's a big cumbersome sight that is infrared and all these fancy stuff on there. I had never seen one before and probably 90% of the marines in our unit had never used one before and never trained on it, and we got a crash course on using that thermal sight on an actual mission. It was, "Okay. This does this, this and this. We're out of here." There wasn't a lot of equipment, because a lot of the equipment we had we couldn't train on it became there wasn't a lot of it, and the equipment that there was needed to be used in theater. When we were training in California, they just ... I suppose the equipment wasn't available to use, to train on.
Our first mission was that kind of relieve in place, that went on for several,several days. The boredom; I just remember like, "Wow. This is combat and this is boring. Nothing is happening. I'm not getting shot at." During the training there was all these IEDs, roadside bombs, "Prepare for this, look for this, look for this." Well, nothing had happened, it seemed like. On the tail end of the 01:00:00mission there was a little bit of action. We were moving from one place to the other in vehicles. An RPG was shot at our convoy and missed. I just remember that was the first like pucker moment that, "Oh well, yes," some sort of contact, but nothing happened. An RPG was shot at us and it missed and we kept going. The adrenaline is pumping but no casualties, no one returned fire. Our first mission was kind of like, "Mh, nothing is happening. This is kind of boring." We were told, "Hey, they're still out there. The bad guys laying low, they're still out there so still keep your guard up."
We did a couple of those missions in March. It seemed like when I was there,looking back on it, I was there ... It was a 7-month deployment, kind of six months of actual operational ... A little more than six months of steady operations and it seemed like it was such a ... That six months seemed like it was so long, but looking back on that timeline it was amazing how ... Week to week, these dramatic events that happened during deployment you would think are separated by months and months, and weeks and weeks, are just really days apart in some instances.
What seemed like a long time that first month, not a lot happened. We were on acouple of missions and it was kind of boring; no contact and ... There were some casualties in our battalion and our platoon split into an A and B squad. The other squad got hit by an IED and there was one casualty and he got evacuated out, and we never ... He was fine. His name was Lunning. So Lunning got evacuated out and we never saw him again but he's alive and doing well this days.
Me personally, never really had an experience that combat head. One of my first01:02:00fire fight that happened on April 1st of 2005, again we're starting another mission. Our tempo was we'd out on these missions, we'd go through a city or a village, we'd kind of clear through it, house to house looking for bad guys, looking for weapons, looking for ammunitions. We'd come across weapon caches, caches of mortar rounds or rockets or other explosive type devices. We'd find these things and they'd be destroyed.
We're on another mission, it was April 1st, 2005, we're clearing this village onthe east side of the Euphrates River, on the other side of the river from Haditha. Our platoon, we were at this blocking position on a bridge. There was a pontoon bridge that links the town we were in, which was Barwanah, with Haditha. Our job was to block this bridge, prevent people from using the bridge, especially bad guys from escaping or people moving across the bridge. We're sitting there ... It's kind of an urban area. It's kind of a shopping area. I wouldn't say it's a market but it's a commercial type area; shop fronts by the river. We had our vehicles on the street and we'd taken these adjacent buildings; stores and houses, and we displaced the family in the houses, like, "Sorry. You need to go. We need this position," because we'd get on the rooftops so we could observe across the river and on the bridge.
We were there a few hours, I think, and I remember being in a shop and they had01:04:00ice cream. We didn't steal the ice cream, we put money on the counter. Put some money on the counter, so we started eating ice cream. It was so hot. Even though it was March, it was getting really hot during the day. It was spring so the season was starting to change. It got cool at night but it was starting to get really hot during the day. We were eating ice cream and I remember I had all my gear off and we were all inside, because we'd take turns to watch. We'd be in the vehicles on watch. We'd be on these rooftops on watch.
My shift was over and we're sitting there eating ice cream and all of a suddenwe heard this pop, and then pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! It was gunfire. We'd been shot at and we were starting to return fire. I just remember, we just looked at each other, "This is real." I don't know what happened to the ice cream but as fast as we could we got our gear on and we ran outside trying to find out what's going on. We found a position and I could see muzzle flashes across the river from where we were being fired at.
We returned fire and no one was hurt on our end. The enemy was firing from adistance away across the river and we were well covered. No one was hurt and it was an adrenaline rush, I remember that. It was the biggest adrenaline rush I've ever had. I'm returning fire and I could remember hearing the enemy rounds cracking over your heads like they said ... You hear that in stories of hearing fire cracking over your head. That was fun. It was, it was an adrenaline rush, but nothing ... We sustained no casualties and it's what it was. They would take pot-shoots at us and we'd return fire. That happened I think one more time that day, but we were at that position for a few days. 01:06:00
The very next day, I was on watch ... This is the fire fight that I reallyremember. I was on watch on my vehicle and we had a Mk 19 machine gun mounted on top of our Humvee. Mk 19 it's called a machine gun but really it's a machine grenade launcher. It fires 40mm grenades, it doesn't really fire a standard bullet. I'd never fired a Mk 19 machine gun before. I think we were supposed to have that sort of training in California but it didn't happen. I don't know if somebody checked a box or something, but we never had any live fire training or familiarization with the Mk 19 machine gun while we were in California training to go to Iraq. That was the weapon on our vehicle and the one marine in my vehicle, he was a trained machine gunner and he had ... Out of anybody, he was the most junior one there but he had the most experience, even though he was very limited. I do remember him saying, "If you ever need to fire it, this is what you do; full load, take the safety off and do whatever."
I remember that because I remember being on watch ... I'd just started my watchand it was boring, again, nothing was happening. We'd had a couple of pot-shots the day before and we returned fire. I remember I hadn't been on watch long, probably a few minutes, and then all of a sudden I hear this boom and I could see a flash and a boom from across the river. It was an RPG and it impacted, maybe 15, 20 feet on the ground in front of my vehicle, so it sort of aimed at my vehicle.
I remember ducking down in the turret and I remember what Watkin was telling me01:08:00about the machine gun, it's like, "Hey, this is what you need to do if you need to fire it. You pull the charger handle back, take it off safe." I remember saying to myself, "I hope this works," because I had never fired this weapon in my life, never fired it. I did what he said, I charged it and I took it on safe and I stood up and said, "Here we go." I squeezed the trigger and it worked. I emptied that can of ammo and just started shooting at the muzzle flashes across the river. I could see muzzle flashes from a machine gun and I emptied that can of ammo.
As quickly as I started firing, I was out of ammo, so I remember messing with... I ducked back down the turret. I was the only one in the vehicle. Ducked back down the turret, I grabbed another can of ammo, I bring it back up and I'm trying to put the rounds on the feed tray and struggling with that. As I'm messing with that, we had two tanks adjacent to us, I hear this roar. I look behind me and there's an M1 tank coming straight at me from behind. Because where my vehicle was on the road, like I said it was kind of a commercial area, so there was my vehicle and another vehicle and we were both firing, and you had shop fronts up on the sidewalk. This tank comes right behind me, looking to move up to my position. I say these things and I think back on them, and I don't believe it. It sounds something out of like a movie or something you see in an action film.
I just remember I ducked out of the turret, got into the driver's seat of the01:10:00vehicle, turned on the vehicle, put it in reverse and turned it, drove it up on the sidewalk, smashed over some road sign or something on the sidewalk and the tank pulled up into my spot and started returning fire. Looking back on it, that was just amazing. Again, the adrenaline rush. The day before was an adrenaline high with my first fire fight and this was ... Again, the amount of adrenaline just going through you, it's amazing.
That's when I realized that the training we do go through has its purpose. Weuse the term muscle memory a lot in the military. They say, "Rely on your training. Rely on you training." You really do, because when these things happened, it's instinctual. You do certain things, you know what to do, and it works. I relied on that muscle memory to react to contact with the enemy. I think back on my experience, that first couple of days in April and there's couple of days of fire fights and it was just really cool. We had no casualties, they were just taking pot-shots at us. We really hadn't sustained casualties yet but ... I say yet because they were coming. That's kind of my cool war story, I guess, from Iraq, is that shooting the Mk 19 machine gun and the Abrams tank coming up behind me and moving the Humvee. I look back on that and that was kind of a neat story.
TP: Can you describe the camaraderie or the connections you're making with yourunit? Because you were ... Were you deployed ... You were deployed certainly with your battalion. I mean, are you serving day to day with the same folks that you knew back there and you were training with in Ohio? 01:12:00
AR: No. This was at the Marine Corps Reserve and these guys ... I knew ... I hadserved with most of them while we were drilling in Ohio. When we got to California, we picked up augmentees from other units across the country. I know we had ... Our battalion was reinforced by 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, so there was marines from that unit which ... There was a company out in Montana and there was a company in New Mexico, so a lot of those marines joined us and they were dispersed throughout our company. We got several on our platoon and quickly they were integrated in our platoon. I know our Navy corpsmen, they came from active duty and one of the guys came from a Naval Hospital in Illinois and another one came from the Naval Hospital in California. They quickly integrated into our unit. We had to be reinforced so we could deploy with the correct numbers.
It was typical. I think anywhere you go in the military, you kind of assimilatefast and you make new friends. I had my friends from Ohio and the new guys from California. It's typical young person's humor. The same crude humor that you find in college-aged guys on campus or a fraternity. It's the same type of humor that you have in the military. I just remember Maxim Magazine was real big back then, and we'd just pass around Maxim Magazines. Technology isn't what it was, we didn't really have internet. At our base in Haditha there was this internet service called Segovia, I don't know if I remember that name. It was this pay 01:14:00service, you had to set up an account and you had minutes. We had these phones, you had to wait in line there's only so many phones and everybody wanted to use the phones. You'd seem to wait in line for a half hour to an hour for a 15-minute phone call, and just get back in line to wait again; because you were doing nothing else.
The internet was kind of a joke. I remember logging on to these ... We had ahand full of computers, so again you're waiting a long time to get on this computer to check email but it was so slow. By the time you navigated to hotmail.com and the page came up, and you were able to click on an email, read the email and respond to an email, I'm not kidding you, that took a half hour. You might get one email read and responded to, or a couple of emails read in that half hour, because the service was so slow. I know today in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service is a lot better. A lot of troops have service within their own personal living areas, but no, we have these internet caf at the dam. There's a lot of downtime living in our areas. Guys would watch a lot of movies, we have a lot of DVDs. I never watched more movies or read more books in my life.
You make friends fast. The type of camaraderie and the type of humor is what youfind with any other military unit. It's kind of that young man's crude college humor I guess.
TP: On that note, did you have any women stationed with you?
AR: No. we're an infantry unit, still currently, and women are precluded fromserving in infantry units or other combat armed units. It was a common event, if there was a woman at Haditha Dam, it was sort of an event because word spread 01:16:00fast; that there's a woman there. We'd find excuses to ... I think that the transience area was near the ... With the chow hall, I believe it was the 7th deck of the dam. We were towards the bottom of the dam and the chow hall was towards the top and it was quite a journey to get there. I mean it was, I think, seven levels up or something like that but each level was almost like two stories, so instead of climbing like one flight of stairs, you're really climbing like three or four flights of stairs between levels.
It was really a workout to get from where we were to the top of the dam. If weheard that there's a female there and the female ... If there was a female there, she'd be staying by the chow hall, so we'd kind of make excuses to, "Hey, let's go and see what's at the chow hall and see what this female looks like." Not a lot of women there. There was a handful of times we had women out on missions with us. I think they were ... I do recall there's two female marine lieutenants that were with us for about a day, a 24-hour period, kind of early on. Today they have these things called Female Engagement Teams and I think this is what this was. This might have been a precursor or maybe it was one of the first Female Engagement Teams, but these two female marine lieutenants were with our platoon for the day.
They just randomly showed up, they were there and they went on a couple ofpatrols. Honestly that was the one and only time I actually saw women outside the wire on missions. Every once in a while a female would come through the dam for something, so no; not exposed to a lot of women.
JH: I'm just wondering if you could talk more broadly about your experience ofbeing at the dam and then doing your work, clearing these villages. What was the cultural exchange? Like what was it like being in these places where people were 01:18:00still living in Iraq and that sort of exchange? You were actually asking families to move out of their own shops so you could take the position.
AR: We had specific missions where we'd be part of the regimental type missions,where we'd go out and specifically be transported to a village or a city and clear through that city or circle that city. We'd also have certain presence patrols around the dam because there was villages just south of the dam that we would patrol. The platoons would rotate on a daily basis, patrolling these areas. From my understanding we sort of had free reign to go into anybody's builing, anybody's residence for any reason. The only place we couldn't go were mosques. We were told, "You can't go inside religious sites. Do not go into mosques." We would randomly pick a house, knock on their door and demand to inspect their house. If we were clearing through a city on a mission, we just had to do that. We had to go through house by house, go through every single room and every single building and clear it out. We'd look under every bed, flip every mattress, open up every closet for weapons or any sort of intelligence.
Initially it was kind of difficult, like, "Oh wow. We're displacing thisfamily." Obviously, we can't communicate with them, they speak Arabic. We only had so many interpreters so the interpreters were stretched thin, but usually I think the families kind of get the message. Initially when you're moving in on a mission, the first few houses you have the families will be there and you have 01:20:00to physically get them out. Once our presence is known, families get the hint in other house, "Okay. We need to get out of here," so by the time you start clearing through other houses, everybody is just gone; they've left their houses.
Some guys would go through and they would just go through cabinets and just dumpstuff. I think I seemed to be more respectful. I always looked at it and was like, "Man, this would suck if somebody went through my house and cleared it out." Then again, the enemy is ... They're hiding in plain sight. They're living in these areas. They're trying to blend in so you kind of ... There's a balance of, "Yeah, I don't want to piss these people off then make them mad at US Forces, but at the same time, I need to search their homes because this could be an enemy fighter." I felt bad. I remember like, just pulling out ... Like open up this wardrobe and there was just stack high of all these blankets and pillows and stuff in there. I remember pulling that stuff out, just feeling bad, like, "Man, this will be terrible, to have to pick that up."
I thought it was interesting how they lived. Like their culture versus ourculture, just the little things you wouldn't think about; like the bathrooms, the toilets. We sit on what we think is a normal toilet, well they don't have normal toilets out there, and I didn't know that and that was kind of odd. It's a toilet but it's mounted in the floor. They really don't have couches. They sit on the floor a lot and they eat on the floor. It's the little things I guess I wasn't aware of. One thing I found ... It was nice when we were staying in these house when we were on our missions, because we'd hold up in these houses for the 01:22:00evening, satellite TV; no matter how poor somebody was, or what kind of shack they lived in, they had satellite TV. We were watching the CBS evening news and reruns of Golden Girls, and these kind of odd things. They would be in English and they'd have subtitles, but obviously the audio is in English, so it was neat watching American reruns and watching the current nightly news.
There was a couple of times on missions where ... I remember watching, I thinkit was the ABC News, and I remember at the time this was August, and Peter Jennings had just died and that was the big story, "Peter Jennings has died." We were on ABC News and Peter Jennings was on ABC, but at the same time, we were on a mission obviously, and the media was reporting on our mission. How marines in Anbar province are on this mission, and blah, blah, blah and marines were killed, and I'm like, "Wow! They're talking about us." That was neat, how I'm in the middle of this war zone conducting this mission, and what we're doing right here is now an international headline. This is one of the top stories around the world. That was strange. We saw that a couple of times.
I remember back in April when I was involved in my first fire fight, when we gotback to Haditha Dam, there was the news on in the chow hall, I believe it was CNN. There was just a quick report on CNN about how marines engaged the enemy in Anbar province and they're reporting three kills. Then they mentioned Haditha and we were like, "Hey, that's us. They're just reporting what we just did," and it's like, "We've killed three people?"
"I don't know. That's what they just said," so I get like, "Sure."01:24:00
It's kind of interesting how ... Where do they get that number three from? Theymust be talking about us because we were just involved in a fire fight. It's neat.
The cultural differences there ... One thing I ... I honestly didn't know whatto expect. You hear in school Iraq and you hear Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization; that's where our modern civilization sort of began or sprouted from but how ... It's not backwards but it's just, man, kind of crude everything is. Even the construction techniques, the homes in Western Iraq are built out of these clay brick that they make right out from the dirt they live in. They make these mud brick type buildings. It's just amazing how this is where farming was invented, this is the cradle of civilization. You think like Abraham in the Bible and the Euphrates River. I guess if you grow up there, if you live there, that's all you know, but it's just ...
Man, I'd say it's poor. I'm sure they are poor but it seemed like there's somestandard of living. The shops we were in ... When we cleared through the cities we got to go through these shops and they had pop in foods. These people definitely weren't starving. I saw a lot of overweight Iraqis so I didn't really see them as starving, but it's just their way of living though; it's definitely not western. It's a different way of living.
TP: How did you feel about their perception of US presence there? You said you01:26:00on the end of going through doing those inspections and overturning peoples' mattresses that you felt bad. At this point in the conflict in addition to the US media coverage of your missions, what's the Iraqi perception of your presence there and how were you aware of that?
AR: I would not say ... Like a lot of the average Iraqi who lived in Anbarprovince along the river, they were probably annoyed. I got this sense that ... I always put myself in their position. I live in a village along the Euphrates, I grow dates and I graze goats. Even when Saddam was in power, from what I understood Saddam really didn't have a lot of influence out there. We disrupted their lives when we'd go into these villages. We knew the enemy was there because we would have reports because the ... We called them the Muj, short for Mujahideen. You kind of think like Vietnam they called them Charlie or whatever but we always called them the Muj. There's reports of Muj activity in such and such.
We knew they were there and they definitely were the authority in these villagesso we'd go in through these villages or through these cities. A lot of times like I said, we'd have to set up blocking positions on roads and bridges. We'd establish like car checkpoints and probably the average Iraqi farmer just disrupting his life. He just wanted to go to town that day and buy supplies for his little date farm and guess what? He's not going to do that today and he's probably not going to be able to get to town for another few days until we leave, so he's probably annoyed. At the same time ... I don't know. Maybe he was grateful that we were there trying to eliminate the Mujahideen from operating in 01:28:00the city, but at the same time maybe he wanted the Mujahideen to be there. At the same time, maybe that guy sitting on the road was the Mujahideen, I didn't know. Like I said, they're blended into the population.
I just thought, the personality of some of the Iraqis, it seemed like a lot ofthe older men weren't afraid to approach you or be upset with you or with other people in your platoon. They would just be out right, get out of their vehicle or get out of their houses and you could tell they were upset. It seemed like some of the younger, more middle-aged Iraqi men were low key, but you know different personalities. People are people no matter what. I remember a lot of teenagers ended up being like little punks with little attitude, probably I was when I was a teenager. I remember coming across several young teenage looking Iraqis and they would have this attitude and you'd tell them to go, or get out of here, and they would just mock you. I don't know if they'd flip you the bird, but whatever. You could tell they had this attitude.
I thought that was interesting. It was like, "Wow. I guess they have teenagepunks over here too." Their society, women really have no place overtly society in Western Iraq. It wasn't ... You saw some women, you have the Sunni and the Shia women. You saw some women that were completely covered outside and there was some women that ... At least most women always had their heads a little bit covered, but to what degree, it was different, but the women never ... They ...
... Were never in a position of authority. I know, our standard operating01:30:00procedure when we would go into a house is we would try to, if there are people there, we would want to see the oldest man or the head of the household and demand that he get everybody there, heap the women, everybody in the front room. We were told to never address women; you would always go through the head of the household or the man regarding a woman, never search a woman.
I suppose that's why we had that one time we came across a female engagementteam, females that search females, but we never searched a female. Like I said, the only time we had females with us, female Marines with us, they might have been searching the females but we never searched females. We would search males but we wouldn't search females. They could easily have been hiding contraband or whatever underneath the females clothing, but you couldn't touch them.
I think you said earlier that you guys would find things occasionally, and itsounds like these clearing missions you would call them, were sometimes multiple days that you guys would go into a village and basically be there for several days at times. Can you describe a little bit more that process, and then also what happens when you do find something?
Like I said, you go thorough houses, you go through outbuildings, a lot of thesehouses compound areas would have out buildings or ... It seemed like a lot of times we would find these things they would be in outbuildings, like a barn type structure. They might be in containers tucked away in a corner or something. It wasn't just like they were James Bond hiding them or something; it wasn't really sophisticated, but you would find them in outbuildings.
I never personally came across a big cache; I would find AK47 rifles and stuff01:32:00tucked away in places. Our policy was that each, we were told that each house, each household was only allowed to have one rifle, just a rifle; they could have a pistol. If you found more than one rifle, or if you found more than one rifle or if you found a pistol or firearm at any other type, we were to take it.
We would find a pistol or something; I found those frequently but I never founda cache of mortar rounds or rockets. Our platoon did come across those things, so when we would find these things, several times our platoon, our company would find these large caches as I said in these kind of outbuildings. That's when the procedure didn't seem like a police investigation, so to speak. We would have to document these things, photograph them; I personally wasn't involved in that. We had other elements of our unit that did this, and leadership, but you would want to photograph that and document it, and people that were in the house like the land owners, whoever is around.
We would take them into custody, and we always wanted to photograph them next tothe cache. We all had digital cameras, digital cameras were in there, and everybody just uses their phone these days, but everybody had a digital camera and took it with them. We brought, everybody had a digital camera for their own personal reasons because they wanted to take pictures for themselves, but a lot of times we would use these digital cameras on missions to take pictures for our own intelligence; of certain houses, certain persons with a house.
Someone would take out their personal digital camera and take a picture of thatperson with that cache of mortar rounds, and when we would get back to the damn they would upload that into something for the investigation. Once the evidence was collected it was destroyed. We would destroy it, or engineer elements, or 01:34:00sometimes just us with our explosives we would detonate these mortar rounds or these rockets.
We felt we were infantry men, when you are trained as infantry men that's allyou really have to focus on, is fighting bad guys but in modern warfare you really have to be involved in a forensic process. They teach that more now; they didn't really teach that then, but as the conflicts have evolved they are really formally teaching that now, the battlefield forensics. Looking back on it, it's like "Wow, I really was, my time in Iraq in 2005 was really a formative era of the policies we have now are a result of the experiences we went through in 2005."
Speak a little bit about how, I know when you said you signed up originally itwas on the, after or still in the memory of Desert Storm and it's like "Oh, you know, you don't have boots on the ground anymore," and now your deployment in Iraq is very much the return of that and almost even in a way a different version of what boots on the ground meant and did. How did that impact you? How did that impact your platoon; this house to house? The phrase house to house has come to be very often used. What's that like as the people doing it?
I guess we didn't ... I don't know if I ever look at it that way. I think it'svery much in the moment, such as what we are doing now. It sort of became a new normal. I don't know if we really looked at that context of 10 years ago we weren't involved in ground conflict. I think as things are going on and certain 01:36:00missions we were on and certain events were happening we knew, we started to realize that we are kind of part of something special, we are the tip of the spear here. Even some of the missions we were on and some of the key leadership from Iraq that was visiting us and things we were hearing in the news, it's like "Wow, we are really ... we are kind of it."
Iraq is big in the news now, but it seems like everything going on wassupporting what we were doing. That's one thing I realized early on in the infantry. I remember the Marine recruiter telling me, when he said "Hey, you are going to be infantry, is that okay," and I didn't know any different, but I remember him saying that every job in the entire military, from all the services, supports the infantry, whether it's the Army infantry, the Marine infantry; every job supports that infantry man on the ground.
You really understood that on these missions, that every job in Iraq, whetherthe aircraft up the head, above head, that's supporting us to the helicopter that's bringing in the resupply to these female engagement teams to these other support assets that were attached to us, they were all supporting me in my job of going into this house to search this house to look for bad guys or weapons or equipment or whatever.
That was really kind of ... I don't know. That was neat, I guess. You reallythought you ... I got a sense of this is something special; something special is going on here. I don't say I was privileged, but it was sort of like, what are the odds that I would be involved in doing something like this. Again, I am sitting here in front of you guys talking about it, who would have thought. I 01:38:00don't think that there was a sense of this has become the new normal.
A lot of guys that joined, I know when I joined in 98 there was "Hey, we arenever going to combat," but you would start to get, some of the younger guys had joined after 9/11 and they joined because of 9/11, you see that a lot today in the military; soldiers and Marines and airmen and sailors joining because they want to go to combat. You see that a lot more, that a lot of guys join because they want to be at war. I just happened to be there when it happened, when it started.
As your enemy engagement during your mobilization, how did the culture of thebase change, because in the beginning it was like nothing is happening, nothing is happening, you were kind of bored? Did that shift as the missions kicked off?
It did. We had a few casualties here and there in March, in April, and then inearly May we were on a mission, far Western Iraq up near the Syrian border, called Operation Matador, and that's where we first suffered our serious casualties, where our company first had KIAs. The first day, my mortar section, the rest of the company was involved in this conflict at the edge of this village and ended up clearing this village.
I personally, myself and my section, was removed from that, we were on the edgeof the city standing by to support them with mortar fire. I wasn't involved in the house to house fighting. From what happened, like I said, I wasn't personally involved in that; I was in the edge of the village it was happening, they took fire and they started clearing through the village and they are finding nothing, finding nothing. They got to one of the last few houses in this 01:40:00town, called Ubaidi, and we suffered two killed in action in this house. The enemy was waiting to ambush one of our platoons as they moved in.
That's when ... I remember sitting in that vehicle all day doing nothing andjust itching to get into the fight to do something, and word came on the radio, somebody repeated that we had two killed in action and then we heard the names. It was like "Wow, this is real. This isn't just ..." Before it was "Hey this is the adrenaline rush of a firefight," but now "Wow, this is ... these are the consequences of that. People sometimes die in these firefights," and it was our guys.
I heard the name, the two that were killed that day were Staff Sergeant Goodwinand Corporal Derga. I knew Derga, known him a while; we joined at around the same time and our careers kind of mirrored each other a little bit. He was in a different platoon. It wasn't, I got an acquaintance with him, I wasn't necessarily friends with him. I remember staff sergeant Goodwin, he joined us; he augmented our company. He was a regular active duty Marine and he augmented us shortly after we got there as their platoon sergeant.
When he was killed my mind went back to the previous day, I briefly had a ... Wewere out zeroing our weapons. Before we went out to fire you zero your weapon, you fire it to get your sights on line with your weapons firing, so we were on the range zeroing our weapons and he was kind of running the range. I just remember interacting with him during that process and saying "Hey, can I fire another string, I want to get my zero right," and he said "Yeah," just the interaction.
It was just weird thinking, "wow, like 12 hours before I was just talking to him01:42:00on the range and now he's dead." I don't remember, I didn't cry but wow this is serious. We thought "Okay, it can't get much worse than this, we have two killed," but little did we know, two days later we would have five more killed. There was an IED that hit our convoy. I was in that vehicle, the vehicle that was hit ... Again, we were clearing through these cities and I was in the mortar section, and so we were behind the rest of the company supporting, on call for fire missions as they advanced.
We got into this vehicle to move up with the rest of the company and thisvehicle, they call it an amphibious assault vehicle, belonged to the platoon that was hit two days before; that same platoon. We were moving through there and I remember this Marine that was attached to us, he was from New Mexico. His name was Grant, lance corporal Grant. I remember these guys teasing Grant; he was a good kid, from what I remember.
We were moving in the vehicles, and the vehicle stopped and I remember SergeantBala opening up the back of the vehicle and he's like "Hey, Rozanski, get your mortar team, get out, get in that vehicle," and I remember thinking "This is kind of dumb. We are just going over there, why am I moving vehicles, you know whatever just passing the message." We got all the mortar stuff, we got into our vehicle and took off and just moments after we started moving again there's a big boom.
All the guys are getting out of the vehicles, assessing what's going on and I01:44:00see this amphibious assault vehicle in flames, a lot of thick black smoke. I see other Marines rushing to the aid of other Marines on the ground. I went to the aid of a couple of Marines; I helped carry a couple of litters. When I finally saw some of the casualties, some of the walking wounded, some of these guys that were waling that had injuries, I recognized these are the guys that were on the vehicle I was on, and then it just hit me.
I was like "Wow, the vehicle is hit. I was just on that vehicle," and then I amthinking "There must be dead." I know one of the dead, he didn't look like he would make it, when we were carrying him to the chopper, and then when it finally became known that there was, I think it was three that just didn't make it out of the vehicle and one of them was Grant, and I immediately thought of Grant sitting there and the guys poking fun at him and just giving him a hard time about something, cracking a joke or whatever, and were like "Wow, that was the last ... I was there for the last moments of these guy's lives.
It's not something that ... I don't get sad about it, I don't get ... It's likeI don't have a big emotional reaction to it sometimes. It's just sort of eerie. I feel kind of privileged to this, like "Wow, I was there for the final moments of their lives," but at the same time I am thinking "That could have been me." I remember being annoyed that I had to get off the vehicle and then thinking "Well, I am glad I did get off the vehicle."
Do I feel guilty for, when you talk about survivor's guilt, I don't think I have01:46:00it, but it's just I feel fortunate that I was in the right place at the right time, or God had a hand in saving my life, or somebody else had a hand in saving my life. We took, that Operation Matador in May, that was really when it ... This is for real, and I think the tone, everybody's tone sort of changed. We were still, back at Haditha Dam, we were still us and we joked around and watched movies and did things, but I don't know, the tone definitely did change. We were more serious and more, I don't know, not as jovial all the time.
I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit, especially in light of theseincrease in the engagements, you guys going out at the time; what kind of communication did you have with your friends and family back at home? How were you guys able to share what was going on? What routes did you choose in your personal communication?
There was limited internet and phone. We had this, like a satellite service thatwe would subscribe to. We waited in line for a half hour, hour sometimes, to make a 15 minute phone call. The internet was so slow that you could hardly read or send an email. They did have this service at the time, it was kind of neat, and we started getting these kind of, I guess, telegrams from our friends and family, kind of thing like a ... I don't know, like a carbon copy; you rip off the perforated edges and flip it open and there are these printed messages, printed letters.
We found out that the Marine Corps had this service, or whatever, where our01:48:00family members or friends or loved ones could log on and basically type out messages. They would be printed, printed at Al Assad airbase or printed somewhere and then they would just deliver these telegrams to us, so we would read these telegrams. It was kind of neat.
It was just as efficient as email, because honestly we would find it moreefficient than email because the internet was so slow. I wrote letters just for the sake of writing letters, because free postage in a combat zone; I didn't know that, maybe it's still that way, so I would write letters and just write free in the top right corner and put it in the mailbox and it would get delivered.
I would phone calls, I would try to ... a lot of boredom, so in the middle ofthe night when everybody else was sleeping I would go to the little internet area, internet phone caf area, and make phone calls because there really was no line so I could talk longer a lot of times than that 15 minutes. Since there was like an eight hour, at least eight hour time difference, it was a reasonable hour back home a lot of the times that it was the middle of the night in Iraq.
There was definitely a tempo of us being at the dam versus us being on missions,because we were in constant contact with our family almost on a daily basis; we were at the dam making phone calls and everybody else is, everybody back home, a lot of people talk to each other so there is this sense "Okay everybody, they are at the dam," and then when there's no communication then everybody back home "Okay, they are obviously out on a mission."
We got a lot of care packages. Sometimes the care packages were just toooverwhelming; they seemed to come all at once, especially if we were on a mission we would come back and there would just be tons and tons of packages we would have to shuttle. Like I said, we lived, there's several stories, flights 01:50:00of stairs in the dam, and these things got delivered at the top story, towards the top, so we would have to just shuttle, climb these stairs to grab packages to bring them back down. A lot of it was ... God bless the people that sent them, but a lot of it was just stuff we didn't need, stuff that ended up going to waste.
People would send toothbrushes and toothpaste, and you would get hundreds ofthem. It's like "I don't need, what do we do with 100 toothbrushes," we had enough toothbrushes for everyday of the week for ... It was unfortunate that stuff like that was wasteful. Food, we would get food from home. It was kind of nice; the cookies.
I remember my mother in law and mom, and my fiance baked cookies and theywould all melt together in the Tupperware bin and be a big glob of cookies because these things would be in shipping containers that turned into ovens along the way over. A lot of times we would get back from missions and we would want to get in contact with family right away or as soon as possible, and a lot of times they would tell us what we were doing.
They would ... I remember one time my fiance saying "So, you are on Operationsuch and such," and I remember thinking "Was that what it was called, I didn't know it had a name," she was like "Oh, yeah. You were in such and such city, yeah," it's like "Oh, that's kind of cool." That's when you realize, okay, I guess this is something special we are a part of; these are national or international headlines.
Communication would, when we had casualties, communications seized out of thesebases. Our little phone internet caf would shut down, we weren't allowed to make phone calls out because the military was in the process of notifying next 01:52:00of kin and you did that directly from the military. A family member doesn't want to find that out second hand.
If we were at base and all of a sudden family members, we stopped communicating,then that sort of triggered something for our family "Wow, they must have had a casualty because nobody is calling home now." It's still standard practice today. Each platoon had a satellite phone. I remember Thuraya was the brand of phone, we called them Thurayas.
In August of 2005 we had a mass casualty at the start of our mission, so severaldays later family back home in Columbus was freaking out because there was a lot of killed in action. Our platoon leader, our platoon commander was nice enough to let us make a quick phone call on the satellite phone that he had. Everybody made a quick phone call home to say "Hey, I am alive and doing well. Sorry I can't talk longer." There were satellite phones that were supposed to be used.
Each platoon commander in the company had one for, definitely not for callingback home, but it's kind of a last means of communications; you use your radios, you use this and that, but if all else fails you still have this satellite phone and you can call any number in the world from this satellite phone. The communication today is a lot better it seems like, internet wise, but we definitely had it better than World War two or in Vietnam where all you had was letters.
I wrote letters home; I know my wife has kept them. They are in a Tupperwarecontainer in the basement, and likewise I kept all the correspondence she sent 01:54:00me; those little telegrams and other hand written letters. I kept them just for posterity sake. I think my kids or grandkids will probably want to read these things. I honestly have kept them, and I put them in that container in the basement and I haven't looked at them since. Her ... I don't ... I thought I'd have enough time to look at them, but maybe I will look at them in the future when I am retired.
How was she responding to your deployment? How was you guy's relationship,because you had gotten, I know when she found out you were going, she was going to break-up and you ended up getting engaged. How was your relationship at this point as you are going on missions, you are clearly in harm's way, she is hearing about it through the media even. What's that like?
I don't know; I think it was tough for her. She's told me it's tough. She had adecent relationship with my mom at the time and they supported each other. It was probably tough for her. I can't speak for her, but it had to be tough. What got me through each day was just the day I ... I will be able to talk to Melissa tonight or I can talk to her when I get back.
I am sure we'd talk to each other like nothing was wrong "How are things going,""Oh, nothing; I am bored." "How was the mission?" "Nothing, it was boring. Nothing happened. Didn't find anything," or ... She was there when I got back, and we were looking forward to the wedding. We talked about the wedding, because 01:56:00we got engaged and she would tell me about the venue she looked at, or talking to the minister, dress shopping, or flowers.
We talked about that; I'd ask those types of questions. I'd ask how she wasdoing, her family was doing, friends were doing. You probably have to ask her; I am sure she lied a lot and told me she was doing just fine, but I am sure it had to be difficult for her.
On the subject of support, and just asked earlier, as the tone changes and youare starting to get casualties in the company and the escalation is increasing, how did you find ... did you get support from one another more on the ground? I know you said the tone changed. I am curious to know what that became.
It seemed, I don't know if we got ... I am sure we did get additional supportand resources sent our way, whether I knew it or not. I know ... it seems like, just the short amount of time I was there, the way things evolved and our tactics evolved and some of our equipment, when we initially got there we were a light infantry unit but my platoon within the company, we had access to some Humvee, some Humvees. We normally operated Humvees, but we ended up using them or we ended up sort of being a mobile platoon for our company. 01:58:00
A few of the Humvees were up armor Humvees, had the armor package, a few of themsort of had these after-market bolt on steel doors and things like that, and we were using these on missions. I know that the Humvee that I was in initially when I got there, it wasn't necessarily an up armor but it was an armored variant. We were told it was this Air Force variant that ... I don't know. I had never seen a Humvee like it before, but it was this other armored type variant of Humvee, I guess, that the Air Force used.
The air conditioner didn't work in it, so we ended up cracking the windows ofthese armored ballistic windows to get some ventilation, which sort of negates the whole purpose of the armor anyway. We had that vehicle for about half way through and they started cycling in these brand new factory up armor Humvees to us as they would be dlivered.
I do remember at some point, it was after ... There was an IED that killed someMarines who were in an unarmored Humvee in our battalion; it wasn't our company, but there were some Marines killed in a non-up armored Humvee, and reactionary after the fact the order went out from the general officer level that no non-up armored Humvees are allowed outside the wire. I was like "What, okay, great. It took the death of these Marines to do that."
I don't know if that was the case, maybe they weren't allowed out beforehand,but the timing was together. That changed; our tactics in dealing with vehicles changed. We would have VBIEDs, or vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, and our tactics for dealing with those whenever there was an incident. Initially we would wave off these vehicles that were approaching and then we were supposed to shoot a flair at them.
There was an incident in our battalion again where one of these flairs that wasshot at a Humvee, I am sorry, shot at a vehicle ended up killing one of the 02:00:00occupants of the vehicle, so that factor changed. We saw ... it became ... VBIEDs were the scary ones; they are the ones that, they would drive up on you, very weary of vehicles.
You don't even let them get close to approaching, and as far off as you can seethem, you try to get them to stop as soon as possible. It seems like there was a lot more standoff. I know initially when we first got there we were more engaged and as we started taking casualties I know our posture was more standoff-ish, keeping a distance between the populous and especially vehicles.
What were your missions like after May?
It was the same; the tempo didn't change. That was, I guess it wasn'tsurprising. We are Marines; we are always taught that complete the mission, complete the mission. It's still the same mission. We would take casualties and we would still push on. Even in the middle of the missions, when we took casualties. Like on the first day of Operation Matador, we had two killed in action the first day, the mission still goes on; we just were down two Marines. It was still cordon and search.
We'd cordon off these cities, these villages and we would search; we would pushthrough. It didn't change. It was more, as we started making contact with the enemy, the enemy started engaging us I guess ... I don't know, things ramped up, because okay, we know there's enemy here so now we need to increase our tempo. I 02:02:00don't know how other units in history have done things, but it definitely seemed like our tempo increased as we got more and more contact with the enemy.
A lot of it was along for the ride. I was a sergeant at the time; I was acorporal when I got there. I got promoted in Iraq and you know don't know a lot at that level. I am junior leader, I lead five, 10 other Marines depending on the mission, or sometimes it's just a vehicle drive. It all depends and very mission specific on how we operate. You don't know a lot I guess. We get operational orders, this is ... I guess you are just told what you need to know. You told "This is your mission, this is what you need to know for your situation awareness," through the operation order.
I guess we didn't have a lot of the big picture; we were told what we needed toknow. A lot of what I know about how we operated is what I have read after the fact in official, the Marine Corps history and published things about how we were operating, and you read and say "Oh, I didn't know that. That's why we did that." It was reading some of those, the histories of our times there that you realize "Wow, I really was part of something big; the bigger picture I was a part of." I was right there at the tip of it.
Did you have a sense going in how long you would be there and when you guyswould be able to come back home?
We knew. We knew we would be, it's a seven month deployment. The Marines, Ithink for this day and definitely 10 years ago, the Marines would deploy whether 02:04:00there was active duty they would be in theater, in country, for seven months. The Army seem to have a lot longer, not a lot longer but maybe they were overseas for a year, maybe 10 months, or nine, 10 months to a year. Marine deployments are a little bit shorter.
We knew, we knew we would be there from March to probably through September, andthe timeline was right, so yeah, kind of looking forward to it. I know we ... I don't remember anybody counting down. I didn't really count down, but you had it on your mind that we are getting to the end here. They squeezed every ... They definitely got their worth out of you in that seven months.
From, like I said, the day we got there it seemed like, boom, out on a missionto the time we left. When we left there was actually a little bit of lag time. There was a time we decompressed waiting to move out. They got us into action a lot faster, real quickly, and when they are taking out of action they just hang around Al Assad airbase for, it seemed like forever, but it was probably five days but it seemed like forever, waiting to fly out of the country.
Did your handoff to the next unit replacing you; was it similar to what youreceived coming in?
It was similar but it was more, I guess we had more face to face with them. Wewere able to, our handoff wasn't on a mission; we were at the dam. They came in, they flew in, we were still at the dam. We were able to, the leadership, squad leaders, the section leaders, we were able to meet with our counterpart and hand off the equipment, like "Hey, these are our mortar systems that we got, that were in terrible shape when we got them, and they are in much better shape now but they are yours now." 02:06:00
We would go over our tactics, techniques and procedures them, and then we wentout on some, we did do ... I do recall doing two missions with them. They weren't, our squadron missions are more like presence patrols just outside of the dam just to kind of familiarize them with operational environments certain landmarks and show them how we operated.
We took, obviously, point on everything and they were just observing, but theycan kind of see our posture, our SOPs and how we maneuver our vehicles and maneuver ourselves on foot, just handing over notes, just kind of a battle handoff. It wasn't long. It was only a couple of days. I don't ... if it was three days. I know we went out on at least two missions with them.
In the latter part of your deployment, did you see changes either in thereception of local Iraqis to the US presence on the ground or in the US media reception to what we were doing that changed towards the second half?
No, I didn't. The posture of Iraqis and our interaction with the Iraqis, thatdidn't seem to change. I think we were a lot more, like I said, we were more standoff-ish, just because we had taken casualties we were more standoff-ish with them, which I don't know if that's good or bad; it's just what it was. I don't know if I was paying attention to the media honestly. I didn't have a lot of access to the media, it's not like I can check my phone or get online.
People would send over magazines, and I do remember reading Time Magazine orNewsweek people would send over in care packages, several weeks old or months old, and you would see these articles on Iraq, and if it didn't really apply 02:08:00specifically to us it didn't really ... I actually remember a lot of stuff happening in Baghdad. I remember there still being fallout at the Abu Ghraib stuff, you see articles in magazines about that. Unless it specifically applied to us, unless we saw a media report that specifically talked about us, we really didn't pay attention to it.
We've been interested to ask, you said that from a mission perspective youdidn't know the larger picture a lot of times. You've researched and done some of that after the fact by necessity of you doing the missions. Given how politicized the Iraq war was becoming at this point, even at the start of it certainly, but as you move two years in can you describe what the climate was or how you felt about that as being the guys on the ground, being the guys that the media is talking about, and at some cases are going house to house or receiving casualties and other cases are having to fire on potentially civilians and vehicles because they are not understanding they need to get out of the way. Can you describe just what the sort of the larger conversation of that?
Was my presence there, was our presence there good? Yes. Iraq is better offwithout Saddam Hussein. I mentioned satellite television, every little ... every house, no matter how poor had a satellite dish and from what I understand before 2003 that wasn't allowed. They weren't allowed to have these things. They had no access to this western culture. The fact that Golden Girls is being piped into 02:10:00their house I think is a good thing.
The fact that we could bring our American culture to them is a good thing. Wemight have inconvenienced a farmer on a mission ... Their life has to be better. The fact that, like I said, Iraq is a better place without Saddam. I also look at it in terms of I was there, I made myself a target over there instead of a target over here. I'd gladly have them shoot at me or try to blow me up in Iraq or Afghanistan than try to fly a plane in the World Trade Center; we definitely took the fight to the enemy. I am proud we did that.
I definitely believe our mission, still believe in it, still believe in what weare doing in Afghanistan because we are taking the fight to the enemy. We are fighting them there; we are not fighting them here. Nothing is going to change; they are still going to want to, they wanted to kill us before 9/11 and tried to kill us ... They've been trying to kill us ever since, so let's have them shoot us over there, make myself a target over there.
The sentiment of the country, and I don't know if it's the sentiment of thecountry, but what you get in popular culture and the media is disapproval of the war. That would upset me. This whole, I support the troops but not the war, I still don't understand what that means. You support me but you don't support what I am doing? I don't quite understand it, and I think people who say it really don't even understand what they are saying.
Again, it's taking the fight to the enemy, when you are in the military it's awarrior culture. Everybody can join the military, there's no draft anymore. This 02:12:00isn't Vietnam. I freely joined and I voluntarily extended. Everybody that's joined since 9/11 has done so knowing that they are going to combat. No one was drafted; everybody made that choice.
People that are upset with the wars overseas and they have no skin in the gameit's like "What's it to you, you are not in the military. It's not World War two, we don't have food rationing, there's no gas rationing, so what's it to you that we are involved in this conflict? It doesn't affect you one bit." The fact that I could ... If I made this country safer, is there's one less terrorist attack in the United States because of what I did over there, then I am proud to say that I did that.
You voluntarily, as you mentioned, extended your service to be able to mobilizewith the rest of your battalion. What did that look like towards the end of your deployment, thinking back on actually getting to go over, you might not have had this chance, otherwise you didn't want to extend it, so what were you thinking about having done that and about your service and what it meant to you, what it might mean to your family?
I know towards the end we took a lot of casualties between the five that werekilled in May and we took a few more between May and August, in August of 2005 we had 14 Marines killed in one IED, and that was big news here in Columbus, and we got a sense of that from talking to our family and they would send us the Columbus Dispatch with the front page headline and we would see it in the national news.
When we got home there was a lot of media attention, the big homecoming; there's02:14:00actually, myself and my now wife, there's an AP photo of me hugging her at our homecoming. There was a lot of national media at our homecoming because of the casualties we took. I don't know how to take that. At the time, I think it was so, we kind of took it as sympathy; they are only giving us this attention because we took so many casualties. We don't want to be known for that.
We don't want to be known as the Marine unit that got its butt kicked, not thatwe got a beating there, but it happens; casualties happen. I like to say we killed more enemy than they killed us. There was a lot of attention paid to us, and I was under, like I said, I extended my enlistment. There was no obligation to keep serving. I had the attitude when I got back in October that it's like "You know what, I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt, I am getting married. What more can I ... I have been at the top. I know this is special, I know what I've gone through in my combat experience isn't going to get ... It doesn't get," I don't want to say better, but "I've been there, done that," so I thought it was time to leave.
I left the unit. I started the process; I checked out of the unit and startedback in the city of Dublin on November 1st, and I thought that was kind of odd. I touched down ... We took off from Iraq, from Kuwait, wherever, on September 30th and then 31 days later I was back at the city of Dublin in a pickup truck, 02:16:00and I didn't have to ... I think you have a 90 day period once you leave active duty to report back, but I thought, you know what else can I do. I wanted to kind of get back to normal, so I went back to Dublin right away.
I think that was like a good therapy for me, kind of getting back into a normalroutine. I didn't really, kind of on purpose, I didn't keep in touch with guys. Towards the end I noticed I found myself really withdrawing inward, when I was in Iraq towards the end of the deployment, especially when I got home I didn't want to really ... Some guys were going out and having parties and meeting up at bars and I didn't want to be a part of that.
It was like "You know what, I was around you guys every single, 24 hours a day,for the last seven months, I am tired of seeing you." Then again I was happy to get home and see my family and see my wife and prepare for our wedding. I really just kind of really kept my ties, and I really didn't keep in touch for several years afterwards. It's probably even the last five years that I've gotten back in touch with my fellow Marines that I served with.
One of the greatest tools honestly is facebook in getting in touch with theseguys and how that tool lets your peer into their lives and see what they are doing now. I know we had a reunion a couple of months back, our 10 year reunion, and that was facilitated through facebook. I got up on facebook and you would see these guys, and it's great seeing them. That was a chapter of my life. It was like that was that portion of my life, now I am ready to start back at Dublin.
I know I really ... I had a certain mindset, there was a sort of clarity I hadwhen I came back that I wish I had today, just really the perspective that I had. I remember going back to Dublin in October. I used to remember the same 02:18:00guys complaining about the same things they were complaining about when, before I left for Iraq, and I remember thinking "Wow, like we could go home at the end of the day. We are only here for eight hours, we get to go home and you are complaining about this?" and things that workplace ... I don't know, things that happened that had upset people; policies, just didn't upset me anymore, like a different paradigm.
I definitely took my job more seriously and I had a better work ethic. I was amaintenance worker and now I am a contract specialist for the city. Currently I am on active duty with the National Guard but I still maintain a job as a contract specialist with the city. I took my life more seriously, more initiative. I definitely ... Education wise, before I deployed I was like "I don't need to finish my degree," now it's definitely a priority for me. I need to ... I looked at my Iraq deployment as I am a better person for it and I am in many ways thankful I had that experience because I am a better person for having experience that ... Some people have had the opposite effect.
Some of the Marines in the battalion have committed suicide and some guys endedup in jail shortly after we got back. I kind of went the opposite direction. I am kind of hardened. Some guys are ... Their steel might break; mine was sort of tempered and made stronger in that experience. 02:20:00
Did you have issues trying to assimilate back into civilian life?
I don't think so. I did find myself being more frank, candid, with people Ithink at work, especially. I definitely had a new drive at work. I would take the initiative and do things at work and people were just taken aback by it. I remember this one instance at work where we had this maintenance shop at Dublin, where there was this piece of plywood that had hooks on it for people to hang truck keys, and no one ever used it.
You were supposed to hang your keys there, and no one ever hung their keysthere. They didn't hang them there before I went to Iraq and they still weren't using it after I got back from Iraq. One day I was charged to, hey, it was over the winter, it was like hey, let's clean up the shop so then I said "I am going to get rid of this key board because no one uses it." I took that key board down and I threw it in the dumpster.
I remember like it got on the office board and "You can't do that," and I justremember being really frank again and saying "What, no one uses it. It's stupid; it takes up space," just be real, like not give a care attitude but I was just real like driven and I just felt justified in doing it. Things like that I think I took, I was more outgoing and more Frank.
I wasn't rude. I didn't ever really use rude language. I don't know, I think Iwas changed. I think over time, like I said, I had a certain clarity of mind, but I think over time I sort of ... I don't know, evolved back into more of the normal mindset of a typical person I guess, not that I was atypical, but ...
What of home?
I don't know. I don't know if anything changed. I know my brother, he joined ...02:22:00he was in the service when I was deployed; he was in the National Guard, and shortly after I got home he'd started off at our candidate school. I had ended my military career and he had just picked it up and was getting going in his. I think my dynamic changed with my family for the fact that I had gotten married and was moving in with my wife. That had a bigger impact than my deployment did. I don't know, I was ... I don't think it really had. If it did; I don't know.
I am curious, in this moment of clarity in coming back and feeling so driven,that you experienced. What were you thinking in terms of your career, your family goals, the impact for your own life? It seems like you were fairly firmly like, I've given my service and that period of life is over. What was next for you in the years to come, and what attending to do?
Like I said, I had gotten this job as a contract specialist and married, we hadkids ... I don't know, time went on, years went on and ... I don't know, I just thought I am living the American dream. There was one point I was like "You know what, I've got a house and dogs and a fence and a job, and I can ..." but there is ... I was living in Marysville and the National Guard built an armory, a new armory in Marysville, and every day I had to drive by that armory on the way to work. 02:24:00
You would see those Humvees and vehicles sitting there knowing ... My brotherwas an officer in the Guard at this time and of course he had harassed me about "Hey, why don't you join the National Guard, join the National Guard," and part of him was kidding but part of him was really serious. I would look at these vehicles and I would say to myself "You know, I still have it. I am still in really good shape and I still have some wisdom I could probably impart on some junior solider."
It was 2011, and my wife and I were looking at our finances and it was like itwouldn't hurt to have some supplemental income, just whatever. I kind of "Well ... like, honey you know, in the National Guard you can sign up and do these one year contracts, just one year and that's it. No commitment." I ended up joining in 2011, the National Guard, and now it's 2015, so I've been ... One year has turned into four years now.
My life really took a different turn when my brother, he was an officer in theGuard and his unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, right when I enlisted in the Guard in 2011 he was getting ready, he was mobilized, he was going to Mississippi to train to go to Afghanistan, and of course he was saying "Hey, come with my unit," I am like "No, no. I am not getting out, whatever."
I didn't think anything of him deploying, because he deployed once before acouple of years earlier; he went to Iraq. He was an officer, he was the information officer S6 or something. I think he had several billets in the 02:26:00battalion. He is a staff officer, and I really wasn't concerned with his safety and didn't think anything of his safety until April of 2012 when my mom called; she called me one evening and she was crying and telling me that he was dead.
The chaplain, there was a military chaplain, they just left the house and toldher he was dead. It was just ... One of these similar emotions that I had in 2005 with my deployment just came back up immediately in the days and weeks, and even today. It's just strange how I was involved with my deployment in 2005 with Lima Company and being a part of that and then having my brother killed in Afghanistan, and that seemed to get a lot media attention locally.
Then there's two other Columbus soldiers that were killed with him. It was like,what, how am I involved with both of these things on an intimate level. I think my experience in the Marines Lima Company prepared me for my brother's death and those events. I think I was a stronger person for having served in Iraq and that helped me handle the situation, his death, and the events associated with that.
There were events, it's not just like he's dead and that's it; but the, I don'twant to say the pomp and circumstance, but the funeral service, there was a certain protocol involved with his funeral. I was able to handle it. It prepared 02:28:00me for it. Again, my path changed. Like I said, I thought I would retire from the city of Dublin and little did I know, I thought I would serve like "Hey, I am just going to serve a year in the Guard just to say I did it and just for a little extra income," but I think the two are definitely connected.
Fate or God, played a role in it. I joined the guard right before he died for areason, and I am still in it today and I see myself retiring from the military. My brother definitely wanted, I think he had every intention of making it a career, retiring ... I don't know, I see it as an obligation to do that for him. It's something I want to do. I want to finish his career for him. I look at it as taking his place on the line. He was struck down and it's my job to pick up the banner and take his spot.
That's how I honor him today, is I continue to serve and I server along with alot of, personally, the same people he served with. Everywhere I go in the Guard I run into people that knew him or had some sort of contact with him, or interaction with him, and it's good; it's good for me. I think it's good for them. I currently, the infantry unit I serve with is my brother's unit; Headquarters Company 148 Infantry Regiment.
When I showed up at that unit it was a couple of years after he died, about ayear and a half after he died I showed up at that unit, and it was strange at first. I think it was strange for other people, I noticed I got a lot of strange looks from people when I showed up at that unit; people looking at me. I could 02:30:00tell that they were looking at me and I would glance over and they would look away. I even heard a couple of people talking "Hey, he's Sam Rozanski's brother," but I've assimilated well in that unit.
I enjoy being there and I definitely ... There's no better place for me than inmy brother's unit. It's a light infantry unit, and that's what I did in the Marine Corps; light infantry. I definitely have a home there and I like it there. It's been good for me and it's been good for the guys that served with him I think
Did you transition at some point in time out of working for the city of Dublinto working for the?
I am still employed by the city of Dublin. I am currently on active duty status.I work, Monday through Friday I work at joint force headquarters in Columbus. I still train with an infantry unit once a month like a regular reservist but I am on these active duty orders working at State headquarters. At some point in time, it's kind of a mobilization, at some point in time I will back to Dublin as a contract specialist.
Do you think your career with the Ohio National Guard would have taken this turnhad you not lost your brother?
No, no. Definitely not. When my brother died, like I said, there was a lot of,between the funeral and other ceremonies, I was ... we have developed a network. I met officers and senior NCOs and developed a network and this opportunity came along to serve on active duty at joint force headquarters because of the people I met regarding my brother's death. No, had my brother not died I wouldn't be wearing this uniform today. I look at that and it's like maybe that's, that's carry on my brother's legacy. His service doesn't end with him, like I said, I 02:32:00am going to carry that banner for him.
Looking back on your service experience and your brother's experience and thatmoment in high school where you were sort of breaking the news to your mom and talking about the enlistment decision, how do you evaluate, that decision, how do you evaluate that thought process and the moment you were in back in high school when you took this on?
I wouldn't have, like I said, when I was 17,18, or even 19 I just thought I amgoing to be in the Marine Corps reserve for six years and then something, who knows what I would have been doing at age 35 had the events in my life not happened the way they happened. They've just been a blip on my resume that I was in the Marine Corps reserve for eight years.
They served its purpose, this is a part of a greater plan. This is what God hadin store for me. This is the path that I was taken on. I would have never guessed it, never would have fathomed it. My brother's death and even my service in Iraq, they were opportunities. They were opportunities to do things. Like I said, in Iraq I was given a purpose and a drive. I took advantage of that drive to improve my situation in life.
Even with my brother's death, like I said, I developed a network of others inthe National Guard and I work alongside them today. I took advantage of that. It's not for my own benefit, but make good at it; let's make some good out of this. I could just as easily claimed to, gone on a binge and had PTSD and ended 02:34:00up in jail and people would have felt sorry for me but no, it's I chose let's do something good out of this.
I think it's what my brother would have wanted. Would my brother want me to feelsorry for him, or would he want me to serve in the Guard today? I know he wanted me to serve before he died and I was glad that I did finally enlist. I got to talk to him a few times after I enlisted and before he died. He would be proud of me today.
One thing I've noticed through my experience in Iraq and my experience of mybrother's death, no matter how horrible or how traumatic or how grizzly an event is life goes on. The sun comes up the next morning, the sun moves on. Not to say that people don't care, but people's memories are short; life moves on. Like I said, just because my brother died I've still got to pay my mortgage, I've still got to raise kids. Life goes on. The world doesn't stop for you. You may be in a down spot but you've got to keep going, you've got to keep going because the world doesn't care that these things happen to you.
You had mentioned earlier about one of your strategies for transitioning back tolife and moving on was to have distanced yourself a little bit form the team you had served with but you had gotten in touch later on, since or as you guys have gotten back in touch over facebook and other means. Has there been any kind of collective processing of some of the casualties that the Lima Company took on or 02:36:00any sort of support network there that you'd seen even if you hadn't participated in it?
I am sure there is. Some of the guys I served with keep in closer physicalcontact than I do. I know a lot of them stayed with Lima Company. I left the unit right after I got back from Iraq, but some of them stayed in the unit, continued to train with the unit and went on additional deployments with them. They had that support network. It's always been there.
I kept in, like I said, I distanced myself from most of the Marines I servedwith but I kept in touch. There was a couple of close buddies that I kept in close contact with and we would talk about it. It's not like I pick up the phone and say "Hey, I am having a tough time," no. It was just, you would pick up the phone just to say "Hey, what's up," and you would end up talking about these things.
There's a lot of resources out there. Veterans use their benefits. There's thevet center through the VA; you can talk to people there. There's a lot of benefits out there. It's not just service members who go through traumatic events. I think police officers and ER doctors and nurses I am sure they see traumatic things, but there's resources out there. I've taken advantage of resources, and I've talked to my friends. 02:38:00
One of the things I wanted to ask, I think in particular because of yourexperience with the Lima Company but also your brother's death as well, what is your sense of how Ohio, the US, the media and the world remember Lima Company are remembering service in Iraq, Afghanistan 10 years out a little while after the fact? What is your sense of how that looks now, and also what do you do within your own immediate family, larger family to remember and memorialize?
I think especially with Lima Company there's that sense that it's that unit thathad all those Marines killed, and even in our last 10 year reunion the media covered that. It's initially what I got. Unfortunately we are still known as that unit that had all those deaths. It is what it is; that is what we are known for, but at the same time it's not just like we were ... I hope people don't think we got our butts kicked but it's just the circumstances of what it was.
We were at the wrong place at the wrong time, or it just happened but wecontinued the mission. We killed several bad guys. We capture a lot of bad guys. We found a lot of enemy weapons and ammunitions that we destroyed and took in. We got a lot of intelligence. We knew it was hazardous; it's what it is. Some jobs are more hazardous than others.
I think you get this sense from the local media that's what we are known for,but that is what we are known for. They wouldn't be covering us had nobody had 02:40:00been killed or only a handful had been killed. Unfortunately that's what the local media, that's what seems to get reported on. I know when my brother was killed along with two other soldiers that was what was reported on, and I am sure the average resident of central Ohio didn't really think we had local troops overseas.
Being a member of the Guard I know we still have units that rotate to theatersoverseas, and I don't see that getting reported in the local media but I am sure if there was a casualty involved I am sure the local media would report on that. It's just the nature of the way things are.
Are there other formative experiences you've had throughout your service withthe Marine reserve and Ohio National Guard that shaped who you are that you would like us to know about?
I think definitely being a Marine gave me the confidence, and I think themilitary does that for young people. I was an awkward kid, I definitely wasn't with the cool crowd in high school and I joined the military and joined the Marines specifically just for that to prove to myself that I could be somebody. It definitely gave me confidence. I think the military continues to do that. I think you see service members, they carry themselves differently.
I thank the military for giving me the confidence that it gave me today and Iwouldn't have a beautiful wife and kids and a beautiful house. I wouldn't have what I have today if it weren't for that. Like I said, earlier on I wasn't the best college student, so had I just gone that route who knows where I would have 02:42:00ended up. That, and I think strong faith. I don't play the what if or think that I had any hand in my circumstances. I just think it was out was out of my control.
I think my faith as a Christian was renewed, it strengthened my service in Iraq,and even with my brother's death that I didn't have a hand in this. There's nothing I could have done or couldn't have done that could have changed the outcome, so I just have to submit myself to what it is and turn it around for good.
One of the questions I wanted to ask you, especially serving with the OhioNational Guard, your son has been born in that timeframe.
I have three children, and actually one on the way, so we will have a new one inMarch or April.
How do you balance your service commitments and work commitments and familycommitments, and how do you think of all of those things together?
It's tough. Having little ones is ... There's many times that I am more stressedwith my six year old, five year old and a two year old than many days in Iraq. I look at some of my stresses in life with kids and day to day stuff and that's when I realize stress is all relative I think. Like I said, there's some days I am more stressed with my kids than I was in combat in Iraq.
It's difficult, the sacrifices that military families make, such as you think ofsoldiers and units that deploy overseas but you if you figure the various training events involved, many times soldiers have to go to these weeks, months 02:44:00long schooling and a husband is separated from a wife, a wife is separated from her husband and that doesn't get a lot of attention if you think of the solder that is overseas but a lot of times you are training in events several State away for periods of time, gone for weekends.
You miss the sporting events; I am going to miss trick or treat this year. It'sjust little things, little stresses. It is unique to military families but it's not unique, because there's other professions where people travel and have those difficulties, but at the same time the military takes care of you. There's great benefits; education benefits. I am finishing up my education using these benefits. The training involved, like I said, the self-confidence that it gives me, the training it involves helps me develop into the person I am both personally and professionally. It helps develop me. It ... I don't even remember what the question was, but yeah.
Can you talk a little bit more about going back to school.
Like I said, I had started Columbus State. I went there for a quarter and Ididn't take it seriously, and a couple of other times I went online, I took some online courses here and there because the city of Dublin was offering tuition assistance. I had this good job and benefits and a steady paycheck and I was fortunate enough to have a career and didn't need to really have a Bachelors degree, so it wasn't a priority for me.
Now that I am in the Guard, and the National Guard has great educationalbenefits, better than the Marine Corps reserve, better than the other reserve components, so I am really hammering down and just trying to finish out my 02:46:00degree just to have it, another tool in the toolbox. I really have no excuse not to get it, it's been fully paid for, I don't want to really leave money on the table. I've noticed as a contract specialist with Dublin, I am probably as high as I can get in a position without a degree, so I definitely want to advance and take advantage of it.
Where and what are you studying?
Business administration at Franklin, most of the courses I take online. I've hadmore success there, success at Franklin than anywhere else and I think probably a lot has to do with, obviously I am more mature at 35 than I was at 19 or 20 or even 25. I know my wife, she is a teacher; she teaches sixth grade, so she always keeps me on task. There's definitely a lot more accountability in my school work. It's not easy definitely, raising kids and working and then going to school. It's like after the kids go to bed and I am logging on doing school work, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am interested to know, since you've served in the Marines and then now servingin the Guard, what are the differences to you between those two branches of service?
There's a lot of differences, but ultimately ground combat is ground combat. Iwas an infantry man in the Marines, I am infantry man in the Army. The doctrine is very similar, the weapon systems we user are identical but the intensity 02:48:00level, like I said earlier, that the ... I can't speak for the active duty Army but I don't want to disparage the current unit, but the Marine infantry even in the reserve there's a certain intensity level that we trained with that I don't experience right now but I enjoy it.
There's a lot of prior service Marines that are in the Guard. It'sIt's natural.I think, like I said, ground combat is ground combat. The Army allows you to continue your service in the Army without any additional training. I didn't have to go to any additional training to be in the position I am now. The Army National Guard just honors my Marine experience and training, so you find that.
I know a lot of the soldiers I serve with now were prior Marines. Everywhere Igo in the Guard I come across prior Marines. Of course there's rivalries of one service is better than the other and jokes back and forth, but I think Marines we remember where we came from.
Do you know only, there's less than 1% of the US population serves in the military?
What do you think people should know about military service and about combat andabout the people who serve?
It's a chosen profession. There's no draft today, and the men and women thatused to do this ... I don't know, I am not part of the 99%, so it's difficult. It's something I enjoy doing, it gives me meaning of life. Other people if they find something, a profession that gives them meaning and purpose; more power to them. I do resent if there's a thought out there in society that people might 02:50:00join the military if they had no other option; I disagree. The military is highly selective. It's not the least of society; this is the best of society.
You see statistics out there that, I don't know if it's, I might be wrong, butover half, maybe 75% of the nation's young people would be disqualified from the military service through certain things in their background or physical health or this or that or the other. I think we are the best of society. I think there's a certain work ethic and a certain set of values that's instilled in us that I am glad still exists. I am glad they are instilled in me, and like I said, I am the person I am today because of my military experience. That's a choice we make. It's a choice we make.
Military service is not what you see in the movies, not what you see on TV. Themilitary is an organization, it's a business. You see, from being in the infantry and also working at joint force headquarters in Columbus, you see the business side of it. It's an organization, it's a business just like any other business but there's some top notch people that work there, certain standards. The best people I've met have been military in my life.
If we could ask you to give names, just some of the values that have shaped youduring your military experience and which still shape you now, what would those values be?
First thing comes to mind, I always think it's selflessness or selfless service.I guess I had never really heard of selflessness until I joined the Marines and 02:52:00they teach you selfless service, and I always think about that. You are not putting yourself first; you are putting others first, you are putting your team mate first or your fellow Marine, you are putting your wife first, your family first, you are putting the organization first. You kind of humble yourself. It teaches you humility. I always think of selflessness or selfless service. That's the one value that I've taken away more than others.
Is there anything else that we haven't probably shared that you would like to add?
No. I am sure you did the whole ... It's about four o'clock. I hope I didn'tramble too much. No, I don't have ... I think I did it all.