Part-timers now full time warriors: Reserve Marines fullfill critical roles in OIF

7 May 2004 | Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

They are the lawyers as infantrymen, the doctors as mechanics and the contractors as helicopter pilots.From the minutemen of the Revolutionary War to the reservists defending their nation today – U.S. citizens have left their civilian lives behind to enter combat zones. Currently, during Operation Iraqi Freedom alone, more than 3,000 Marine reservists are supporting I Marine Expeditionary Force’s mission of conducting security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province.The largest unit representing the reserves, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, based out of Bridgeton, Mo., spearheads force protection at four bases for I MEF. They control Camps Fallujah, Al Asad, Taqaddum and Abu Ghurayb prison.“Before coming out here, I expected it to be miserable,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffery W. Herman, a missile gunner with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, who works for O’Reilly Auto Parts in Tulsa, Okla. “That statement holds pretty true, but I push through and complete my job.”Pushing through the chaos of combat was exactly what two Marines with I MEF’s Personal Security Detachment did recently.Sgt. Kristoffer K. Bauer and Cpl. Sven Hestrand were providing security during a re-supply mission in Fallujah when they took fire in the form of rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms. The two received Purple Hearts for their wounds. This was Bauer’s second award. He received his first during his initial activation with 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in support of OIF last year; ascar on his face serves as a constant reminder of combat for the Redding, Calif., native. Hestrand did not even notice his wounds, a piece of shrapnel that grazed his backside, until hours after they had returned to camp. The Guthenburg, Sweden native moved to America in 1992 and when not in camouflage utilities he works as a health and P.E. teacher at St. Johns Military School in Salina, Kansas. “I thought that I did not deserve it, because mine was a minor injury,” said the 36-year-old Hestrand, on receiving the award. “I thought about all those guys that received it posthumously, and the ones with lost limbs. I felt undeserving. However, I was proud to receive the oldest medal in the United States.” Units and individual augmentees were mobilized from Marine Forces Reserve, the largest command in the Marine Corps, encompassing more than 100,000 Marines in the 4th Marine Division, 4th Force Service Support Group and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.Herman, a Broken Arrow, Okla., native, looks back and still does not know why he joined in 2001. He said, it just kind of happened, and now he finds himself in Iraq. Gunnery Sgt. Gregory Mcmurrey, a logistics operations chief with the 1st Force Service Support Group, said he joined because he wanted to serve and also pursue a civilian life. The Lamark, Texas, native, is a time management specialist as a civilian. He joked, “The only thing my civilian work does for my active career is getting the Marines to chow on time.” Mcmurrey was activated from his Waco, Texas, ordnance and maintenance company as an individual augment. He is one of five reservists filling active duty positions supporting logistics for 1st FSSG’s command element.“This is the first time I’ve directly worked with reserves,” said Master Sgt. Frank V. Alessi, the logistics chief with 1st FSSG, and a Pittsburgh, Pa., native. “The Marines are top notch. They bring a lot to the table.”He explained it does not matter if a Marine is a reservist or on active duty. Marines all wear the same eagle, globe and anchor. “It’s a fairly smooth transition. At first, there was a small time frame where we couldn’t run free,” Mcmurrey said, referring to the early stages of his activation. “However, the reservations quickly passed when we proved ourselves.”Not all military occupational specialties are found on the active-duty side, some are only open to the reserves.For example, the reservists with 3rd Civil Affairs Group, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., lead the humanitarian operations effort in I MEF’s area of operations.The strictly reserve force equips I MEF with all the tools needed for the mission, said Lt. Col. Frank Ricapito, 3rd CAG deputy commander.“You can see the broad spectrum,” he said. “We have tremendous resources in terms of civilian expertise. ‘Why is this important?’ For instance, when dealing with government officials, we’ve got members who work in (government positions in the U.S.). That’s why CAG is in the reserves – we have that to offer to the mission.” The majority of the reservists in Iraq are under one-year activation orders. However, some choose to extend upon their mandatory time.“I feel there’s still a need for me to stay here,” said Mcmurrey, who’s pursuing an extension. “It’s an effort I want to be a part of. Truthfully, I’m already here. I might as well prevent another Marine from leaving his family back home.”