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    Army officer comes home to the Marines

    Army Officer Comes Home to the Marines

    Courtesy Photo | Marine recruit Jeff Van Cleave sits for a photo just before graduating boot camp at...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Dean Davis 

    1st Marine Division

    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – When Cpl. Jeff Van Cleave left the Marine Corps in 1990 in hopes of becoming an officer, he wasn’t sure he would ever come back to the Marine Corps. Now, the U.S. Army major, who proudly wears the 1st Marine Division patch on his uniform, has returned and is responsible for all artillery in Helmand province, but the journey back to the “Blue Diamond” has taken him farther than he ever expected.

    “It’s been 20 years since I was a part of the Marines,” said Van Cleave, now the fire support coordinator for 1st Marine Division (Forward). “My career has really come full circle. I guess it’s like they say: ‘once a Marine, always a Marine.’”

    Van Cleave earned his eagle, globe and anchor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in 1986, and underwent infantry training at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was then assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He said his time in the Corps helped him manage responsibility and grow up quickly, a vital trait as he transferred from Marine to student.

    “My time in the Marines helped mold my leadership style, and gave me insight to my goals,” Van Cleave said. “After some sound advice from my platoon commander, I decided to become an officer.”

    During his time at the University of Idaho, he ran into some bumps. His funding wasn’t covering costs, and he had to reevaluate whether becoming an officer would be possible. An Army ROTC program offered a way to help him reach his goal, but he wasn’t ready to leave the Marine Corps behind.

    “Over Christmas break in 1992, I had to make a decision,” Van Cleave said. “Do I leave the Marine Corps and search for a job in the civilian workforce? Or do I continue to serve my country?”

    He made his choice. After earning his commission, Van Cleave went on to learn artillery and deployed to Afghanistan for OEF I. He also deployed to Iraq, where he fired the first indirect fire missions for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in support of the 3rd Infantry Division in 2003. He was an executive and commanding officer in several different commands, within the renowned 101st Airborne Division.

    "He brings a unique perspective to the Division now that he wears Army green,” said Col. Robert Gardner, operations officer for 1st MarDiv (Fwd). “While we may harass him for forgetting his roots when he joined the Army, we all appreciate the tremendous insight, extensive knowledge of fire support, and considerable planning capacity that he brings to the division staff."

    The 43-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., now teaches others about his craft, while overseeing all fire missions in Helmand province.

    “He is patient, but holds us to understand our doctrine and to also remain flexible,” said 1st Lt. Hal Knupp, targeting officer for 1st Marine Division (Fwd). “He values traditions and the service of everyone here.

    He holds respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice especially close, explained Knupp.

    “He has attended nearly all of the dignified transfer ceremonies here,” said Knupp, 24, from Summerville, S.C. “He has always made sure we consider and understand the sacrifices of this conflict.”

    Van Cleave said he learns every day, and passing those skills on to his Marines is vital.
    “They are the future,” Van Cleave said. “If I can teach, coach and mentor them, I can help cultivate and refine their leadership ability.”

    Van Cleave explained that it is the people in the division that made him want to serve with the Marines.

    “Organizations like the 101st Airborne or the 1st Marine Division have their reputation for a reason,” Van Cleave said.

    “This is where it all happens. The people here give their very best, every day.”

    His career has taken him many places since he was a rifleman at 2/3 in the late 1980s, but Van Cleave said nothing is quite like serving with the “Blue Diamond” in combat.

    “The thought that I began my career with the Marines, and to be here now- It’s huge,” Van Cleave said. “To come back and serve with Marines again… It’s like coming home.”



    Date Taken: 08.31.2010
    Date Posted: 08.31.2010 13:17
    Story ID: 55473

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