Courtesy Story

Date: 04.29.2005
Posted: 04.29.2005 09:48
News ID: 1706

Story by Cpl. C.J. Yard
Public Affairs Office, 2d Force Service Support Group

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (April 25, 2005) -- "We just heard a boom and saw a flash of light," said Pfc. Gregory Fino, a 24-year-old reservist from Pittsburgh.

"Everybody's nose and mouth started bleeding from the shock waves. It felt like hot water running down my face."

With II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in control of operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 04-06, Marine reserve units from across the United States are being called upon to fight alongside active-duty Marines in the Global War on Terrorism.

Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, are spending their days in Iraq at Forward Operating Base, Camp Hit.

"Being at the FOB makes you understand what you've got at home," said Pfc. Shane P. Ott, a New Castle, Pa., resident. "It's not maltreatment; it just makes you appreciate what you've got."

"We're allotted nine liters of water a day for hygiene," added Fino. "We don't take showers everyday out there, but we've got bunk beds and mattresses so nobody is complaining. At least we're not sleeping on dirt floors and we've got hot food for breakfast and dinner."

The Marines at Camp Hit eat Meals, Ready-to-Eat for lunch.

"From what I've been told, things have drastically improved at Camp Hit," said Fino. "I was told that Marines were eating MREs three times a day out here until recently."

When the fire team of five Marines, which Ott and Fino belong to, were conducting cordon and knock operations in the city of Hit, Iraq, this week they came under attack from insurgents firing mortar rounds.

"I never thought we would be hit by a mortar," said Ott, a 19-year-old New Castle, Pa., native. "We've heard about it; we just hadn't seen it. You can't do anything about mines, Improvised Explosive Devices or mortar attacks. It's something you know could just happen."

The fire team, comprised of Cpl. Michael Pasquarelli, a North Huntington, Pa. native and fire-team leader, Lance Cpl. Gregory Candelario of Cabins, W.Va., and Pfcs. Adam McCann, who hails from Cleveland, Ott and Fino, are all infantry riflemen.

The Marines of the fire team have become a very close-knit family, according to Fino and Ott.

"We're always playing jokes on each other," said Ott. "I've only been with the unit since December, but we're all basically each other's best friends. If we're going somewhere on base it is always the entire fire team going."

The Marines were walking back to their Amtracs recently after finding rifles and 155mm artillery rounds when the mortars hit the ground between the Marines and their Amtracs. Pasquarelli dragged McCann into one of the Amtracs and then directed the attention of the rest of the Marines and corpsman to his team, who were seeking cover in a garage.

"It was almost like the moviesâ?¦" said Fino. "Everyone thought they had shrapnel in their face, but it was just from the nose bleeds. Once we figured out what happened, we just took off running to find cover. Then another mortar round hit in pretty much the same spot."

"Every Marine is a rifleman;" is the creed the Marine Corps has lived by since its inception in 1775. Due to current conditions in the world, an even newer creed has been adopted by the Corps; "Every Marine is a Combat Lifesaver."

"We've all been given CLS classes," said Fino. "There are designated CLS Marines, but we all know basic first aid. When we were being treated, Corporal Pasquarelli was wrapping up Marines and even one of the sergeants was in there giving first aid."

"We knew what it was that hit the ground in the city," said the 19-year-old Ott. It was really good the way we reacted. We could have been ambushed at any time while we were being treated at the site. I kept my [Squad Automatic Weapon] next to me the entire time. I wanted to make sure if we were ambushed I could take care of my fellow Marines."

Except for Pasquarelli, the remaining four of the Marines were evacuated from the city to the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon here. Three of which had to endure surgery to remove shrapnel, some still undecided as to whether the shrapnel will stay inside the Marines" bodies, or if the SSTP will be able to remove it without doing any further damage.

"Candelario got hit the worst," said Fino. "We could just tell because he wasn't talking to [me and Ott]. When the [corpsman] came in I told him to treat somebody else because I knew I was going to be okay."

"He came over to me and I told him to treat Candelario," said Ott. "He wasn't talking so we knew instantly something was wrong.

"The worst part of taking cover in that garage was there were three Iraqi guys in there," continued Ott. "They were smiling and laughing at us. Once I pointed my SAW at them they ran off, but I kept an eye on them because I didn't trust them."

Trust is the most important quality Marines need to maintain with one another in a fire team. Not only do the Marines in a fire team rely on each other on the battlefield, but for motivation, moral support and someone to talk to in times of need.

"We keep each other motivated," said Ott. "I mean, even after all of this, we're all still upbeat because we're all together. We're not sure if we're going to go home, but for right now we're all together, except Corporal Pasquarelli. He is back at the FOB. If you had talked to any of us back at the FOB and the other three were wounded and here, it would be totally different."

While back at the FOB, thinking of home, talking to families and spending time together keeps these Marines from becoming caught up in the doldrums of war.

"We usually spend time at the internet and phone centers talking to our families," said Ott, speaking of daily activities before the explosion.

"Well, that or thinking about going home," said Fino. "I know we've only been here for a little over a month, but being here you appreciate everything at home even more. I miss my family and girlfriend."

The Marines are thankful to be alive and gave credit to the Sailors of the SSTP.

"The medical staff here is fantastic," said Ott. "They had two docs up all night to make sure we were okay. They didn't sleep at all."

"And the corpsmen did a great job during the attack," added Fino. "The entire team out there was awesome. Security was set up so the corpsmen could do their job and we were all safe. The Medevac getting us here was really fast. We realize that we were fortunate, but it was something we knew was possible going into the city."

Fino continued, "It feels good knowing there are corpsmen and a medical staff here to take care of us and get us back into the fight."

For more information about the Marines or news reported in this story, please contact by e-mail