News: Iowa Marine sets security, keeps morale high on Afghan deployment
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
FIRE BASE FIDDLER’S GREEN, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Having peace of mind means each service member with Headquarters Battery can concentrate on his specific job to accomplish the mission. Being able to laugh eases the tensions jobs bring while in a combat zone. These Marines and sailors have a brother-in-arms who provides them with both peace of mind and laughter, keeping morale high as they serve a seven-month tour in Afghanistan.
Corporal Theodore J. Crisswell, a Waukon, Iowa, native and field radio operator with the battery, is in charge of his squad’s security element. He provides protection for his fellow Marines when crossing areas where they are vulnerable to an enemy attack, as well as a few laughs, courtesy of the wild sense of humor he developed growing up in his grandmother’s house.
Crisswell enlisted into the Delayed Entry Program prior to graduating high school in 2008, which gave him the opportunity to prepare for the rigors of recruit training.
“Everyone was excited we were about to graduate, and they were (playing) the ‘what are you going to do’ game,” Crisswell stated. “I told them, ‘I am in the DEP, and I’m going to join the Marines.’
“When I told (my classmates) I was joining the Marine Corps, a lot of people didn’t think I could do it,” said the Waukon High School Indian, nicknamed for the school’s mascot. Crisswell said it was at this point his classmates would laugh at him and state, “You can’t do that; you’re like 120 pounds,” to which he countered, “Alright, we’ll see about it!”
“I went to the Military Entrance Processing Station, and they said, ‘You’re small, but we’ll take you,’” Crisswell quipped, displaying his slapstick humor.
Crisswell, who attended recruit training September 2008, was determined to prove his skeptics wrong and built belief in himself through his grandmother’s support.
“I told her I was joining, and she asked me if it was what I wanted to do,” said Crisswell. “She told me if it was what I really wanted to do, then she would support me 100 percent.”
Those who did not have faith in him were surprised when he returned to his hometown with nearly 20 pounds more muscle than when he left, and his grandmother could not have been more proud, according to Crisswell. He said the way he is received each time he goes home is what makes his decision to join worth it.
“The way she treats me – the way she looks at me – is completely different from when I was just some punk kid going to high school; … She treats me like a man,” he exclaimed.
He added she shows her pride to everyone she meets and puts him on display when he visits home now. “She meets people just randomly, like at the super market, … and starts talking to them and saying, ‘Oh, this is my grandson – he’s a Marine!’”
Crisswell continues to make his grandmother proud in Helmand and is making good friends with the Marines in his unit, even though he joined the battery shortly before they deployed in October 2011. His battery tasked his platoon with a provisional infantry mission, and his squad conducts security patrols in their area of operations.
He is responsible for setting up security in areas that pose potential dangers. He posts his fire team members in different directions, keeping a 360-degree view on the area as his fellow squad members cross these danger areas they come across. While the squad crosses the danger area, their safety is in Crisswell’s hands.
“I trust him with it; he is good at his job,” said Sgt. Romero Garcia, Crisswell’s squad leader and a Polk City, Fla., native. “It makes crossing a whole lot easier because everyone doesn’t have to do what our parents taught us when we were little and look both ways before you cross. We get to make sure we are stepping in the (Marine’s) footprints in front of us (to avoid potential improvised explosive devices).”
When the squad stops for an extended period of time, it is Crisswell’s responsibility to set up members of the squad for security. He strategically places his fire team and the Marines around him to get the best vantage point in every direction, in the event of an ambush. Crisswell said knowing his responsibilities meant lives were going to be at stake made him nervous prior to the deployment, but once in Afghanistan, he saw things in a different light.
“When I first got (to Afghanistan) my whole mindset changed. I thought I was going to be pretty nervous when I went outside the (base), but when I went out I was pretty calm,” said Crisswell. “I think it’s the guys I was with; I had trust in them. I didn’t really know them; what I did know about them was enough to trust them if anything does go down.”
Garcia said the battery is still early in its deployment and the Marines and sailors have learned each other’s “likes,” but are all still getting to know each other’s “dislikes.” Occasional tension caused by the potential dangers of their jobs and close living quarters builds up at times, but Crisswell keeps things in perspective for the members of his squad with a little laughter.
Crisswell’s humor eases the tension that develops when living in such close quarters by generating some laughs with his high-energy attitude. He often paints colorful scenarios with his words and tells stories in such a way his fellow Marines cannot help but laugh, often while physically acting out scenes.
Garcia said Crisswell’s unique personality helps to keep the morale high among the Marines and added his squad members have taken a liking to Criswell’s comedic nature, looking at him as sort of a mascot for the squad.
“He’s a character; he is really, really energetic, and everybody loves him,” said Garcia, as he laughed his way through the thought. “I can see a cartoon character being based off of him.”
Editor’s note: Headquarters Battery is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.