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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
MCA civilian-Marines deploy to Iraq

By Joel C. Guenther | | February 7, 2008

On Friday, Maintenance Center Albany sent a group of 17 civilian-Marines, mostly mechanics and welders, to the Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

 These volunteers will join the 15 mechanics and four welders already in the theater of operations who are on six-month deployments.

 “This is mostly about the MRAP project,” said Cpl.

 Christopher Mayrand, Marine liaison assistant, MCA. MRAP stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle. May-rand said the first team deployed Nov. 1 with 13 people and the second team left Jan. 4.

 Mayrand said that although the civilian-Marines left as a group, they will be split into smaller teams of between two to four people assigned to different areas for maintenance duties. He said they will be not only maintaining the MRAPs, but upgrading the vehicles.

 Col. Daniel Gillan, commander, MCA, said of the volunteers, “Absolutely proud. I’m proud of the civilian-Marines. I’m proud of the families to be out here to send their sons, dads and husbands off to support not only what the Maintenance Center is all about, but saving lives and making a difference.”

 To date, no Marine, while in a MRAP, has been killed in action from an improvised explosive device.

 After he conducted roll call for the volunteers, Master Sgt. Leon Lambert, fleet liaison chief, MCA, said, “I wish I could go with them.” Lambert has previously been deployed three times for a total of about two years. He added, “I was there during the initial offensive … and it’s about the guys who are on the ground over there.”

 Lambert coordinated the volunteers through their training and deployment. He also keeps track of their progress throughout the theater of operations. He said, “I may not be able to pull the trigger, I may not be in the field with those guys, but I can sure enough support them.”

 About the civilian-Marines, Lambert said, “It takes a lot for these guys to volunteer. A lot of these guys have not even been in the military and for them to actually volunteer … it just takes a lot for these guys to go out and do this.”

 Lambert said that this is “technically” the fifth group to deploy from MCA. He said two groups are still in-country. He said the Marine Corps tries their best to train and brief the civilians and their families on what the volunteers will be facing in the theater of operations. He said it is a three-month process.

 Kyle Hawkins, mechanic, DS2, MCA said this will be the longest time he would be away from his family. “Yep,” he said, “I’m ready to get it over with.”

 Don Powell, mechanic, DS2, said that he and his family have been doing this for 34 years. He was a military man for 30 years. “They’re used to it,” he said of his family, adding, “I am so much looking forward to this.”

 Josh Erskine, mechanic, DS2, and his wife, Sandra, expressed more trepidation. Sandra said she was very hesitant about the deployment and, when asked how long they’ve previously been apart, said, “About a week.”

 Tamara Gaskins, wife of Joshua Gaskins, mechanic, DS2, said they’ve been married for seven years. She said, “This is our fourth deployment.” She said she wasn’t nervous about it at all.

 Christopher Davis, mechanic, Shop 723, said that he and his family have never been separated before; that the longest they’ve been apart is two weeks.

 Several others had either been over in Iraq or deployed in some fashion when in the military. David Tucker, mechanic, Shop 716, said this will be his third trip over there indicating that it should produce “no problem.” He added, though, that the families “never really get used to it … and I don’t want them to get used to it.”

 Another mechanic, Jerry Knoedler, from DS2, summed it up, “My job is fixing broke stuff. If it’s broken, I’m going to fix it.”