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Old 08-07-2003, 10:40 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool Returning Marines critical of war plan

By Dan Shapley
Poughkeepsie Journal
Aug. 6, 2003

They were trained for fighting -- not rebuilding a society upended by years of dictatorship and war.

But the Marines of 225 Fox Company returned Saturday after more than four months in Iraq, confident America's war was just. And, they were happy for the comforts of home -- family above all, but also showers, toilets, home-cooked meals and the relative cool of a Hudson Valley summer.

''The government should have had thousands and thousands of MPs waiting and ready to go in immediately afterwards. They planned meticulously how to take over the country, but I don't think they planned very well how to run it once it was taken,'' said Lance Cpl. Derek McGee, 26.

He came home to his fiance and family in Rhinebeck, and will return to work for UPS in Kingston in September.

''We're an infantry unit and they kind of used us as an occupying force,'' said Sgt. Chris Masterson, 25, a Wappingers Falls resident who left his pursuit of a business degree at Dutchess Community College to serve.

''I know we went in there and we hit hard, we hit fast and we did a whole lot of good. Where it went bad was way up above us -- the political side of it, establishing the government,'' he said. ''It kind of came to a screeching halt.''

Lance Cpl. Kieran Lalor, a Town of Wappinger resident who will soon resume constitutional law studies at Pace University, said it was ''kind of like being a cop in a really bad neighborhood,'' but he felt his training had prepared him.

''If we didn't have that role of being a police force, we wouldn't have been out in the streets, interacting with the people, and that to me was one of the most positive things,'' Lalor said.

''Thank you's'' the company heard proved to them the war President Bush sold as a quest to destroy weapons of mass destruction was good because it ousted a cruel and ruthless dictator.

Masterson recalled getting thanks even from an Iraqi who believed his wife and child had been killed by an American shelling -- so-called ''collateral damage'' in the march to Baghdad. He also heard it from a man who said his daughter had been raped and murdered by men loyal to Saddam Hussein.

''You were sitting there thinking, 'Wow, I am really doing something important. I am part of a grand scheme to do something good,' '' McGee said.

They were among several local Marines in the Albany-based Fox Company, part of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 3rd Platoon.

They were brought in to protect a supply line and communication route over a key Euphrates River bridge the military calls ''Dog Bridge One'' in Nasiriyah in March. They came under sporadic fire from Iraqis who lacked the organization that made resistance so deadly in other cities since the end of major combat.

Their job soon turned to stabilizing the city of 535,000 in southeastern Iraq. It was a city without power, water or government.

Those with experience as civilian peace officers trained a new Iraqi police force, said Sgt. Joseph Martino, a LaGrange resident and Yonkers fireman.

''They took them by the hand and built them from the ground up, and I tell you the policemen there were very grateful for what the Marines did. Everyone was,'' Martino said.

An Italian force took over the company's duties, and they were happy to leave heat well above 100 degrees, repetitious military meals and eight-hour shifts that sometimes left them with only four hours of sleep.

''Being away for that long and in those conditions, coming back was great,'' said Martino, who returned to his wife and four children, ages 6, 7, 11 and 12.


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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