Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photos of the Week

Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

Lance Cpl. Raymond L. Romo and Lance Cpl. Kristopher L. Funke, motor-transportation technitions, CLB-13, smile as they get some air while taking a break from work.

Sgt. Derrick S. Thompson II (left) Jump Master with 1st Radio Reconnaissance Platoon, , Lance Cpl. Joshua A. Krejci (center) rifleman with Company C, BLT 1/1, and Pfc. Jeffery B. Jackson Jr. (right) aviation electronic technition with HMM-163 (Rein.), pose after playing a game of 3-on-3 basketball.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tae Kwon Do Instructor to United States Marine

Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar
Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar/Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger

Kicking and punching his way to five international martial-arts championships, Justin now continues his training in the Marine Corps.

Lance Cpl. Justin T. Stewart has 13 years of training in Korean martial-arts and just about two years as a United States Marine.

Stewart, 20, was born in Augusta, Ga., but moved to Jackson, Miss. only two years later because his mother was a traveling nurse, whose contract bound them into moving often.

“I was always into Batman, Ninja-Turtles and of course the Power Rangers, so my parents thought [martial-arts] would be good for me,” said Stewart.

When Stewart turned five he went to his first martial-arts class.

“Little did I know then, that it would be a huge part in my life,” he said.

Tae Kwon Do is the martial-arts path he followed, which translated means, ‘the art of kicking and punching.’

In 2001, he moved to Meridian, Miss. where he found the International Tae Kwon Do Alliance (ITA).

He trained with the ITA and traveled to Houston, Texas where he became a certified martial-arts instructor.

Though he studied with multiple Tae Kwon Do federations as he moved around with his mother, his passion for martial-arts never faded. By the time he was 16, Stewart had already become a 2nd degree black-belt and traveled to Seoul, South Korea with one of his instructors to train with the World Tae Kwon Do Federation.

After returning from Seoul, his mother’s contract sent them to Riverside, Calif.
“I stayed in the ITA, I just trained with a different instructor because the organization has schools all over the country,” said Stewart.

He trained with that instructor for only six months before he was able to test for his 3rd degree black-belt.

At 17 years old and a senior in high school, his mother’s contract moved them to Rio Rancho, N.M. where, since there was no ITA school around, he trained with the Action International Martial-Arts Association until his early graduation in December 2006.

After graduating he moved to Corona, Calif. on his own to start teaching full-time at a studio where he used to train.

Working at the studio for almost a year, Stewart decided he wanted to see the world. After a few encouraging words from his brother who is in the Marine Corps, he decided to join the service as an infantryman. He now serves as part of Scout Sniper Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“He is very good [at Tae Kwon Do] and gets as much support from his parents as he does from the platoon,” said Sgt. Jonathan F. Herrera, assistant team leader, Scout Sniper Platoon, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU.

“The Marine Corps has challenged me both mentally and physically which, in turn, has made me a better martial-artist,” said Stewart.

He spends his time working out on his own to refresh his techniques and also practices Tae Kwon Do by teaching the art to his peers.

“He has become a valuable addition to our platoon,” said Herrera. “He has shown us a few of the basic fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do, which we can mix in with MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program).”

Though Stewart is an asset to his platoon and the Marine Corps, he does not plan to make it a career.

“I will not reenlist because of the fact I’m a martial-artist at heart and miss it too much, but I will continue to better myself and my techniques in the Marine Corps until that time comes,” said Stewart.

Developed by his passion and heart, Stewart said his inspiration to succeed, in both Tae Kwon Do and the Marine Corps, comes from a famous Chuck Norris quote.

“There are no limits for the person who refuses to accept them.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Conducts Exercise Sea Soldier

Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Holly
Photos by Staff Sgt. Matthew Holly and Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger

Elements from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted bilateral training with regional partners, March 5-17, to strengthen relationships and improve interoperability.The exercise included military operations in urban terrain training, urban tactics, techniques and procedures training and tactical vehicle capabilities demonstrations.

“The exercise provided us with a valuable training opportunity and was our first exercise since arriving to the region,” said Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Pineda, platoon sergeant for the Combat Engineer platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th MEU. “We had the chance to hang out with, train and learn from our new friends during this exercise.”

In addition to bilateral training it was an opportunity for the 13th MEU to enhance their operating skills.The exercise not only consisted of military training, but presented an opportunity to test the interoperability between the regional civilian medical facility and the MEU’s casualty evacuation capabilities.

“It’s important to ensure we’re tied in with different civilian medical systems,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Reginald A. Demapelis, assigned to Headquarters and Support Company, BLT 1/1 and a Chula Vista, Calif. resident.

“I was very impressed with the knowledge they had and care they’re able to provide,” added Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis L. Null, assigned to Headquarters and Support Company, BLT 1/1 and a Knoxville, Iowa native. “They kept me updated throughout the whole process - in the event of a real casualty I’m confident they would be able to provide appropriate care to our Marines and Sailors.”

During the training, there was plenty of time for Marines and their new friends to interact. Whether it was through conversation, food or fellowship they were constantly taking the time to get to know one another.

“A great deal of friendship has been built up very quickly between us and them,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Andres Velasco. “We share a mutual admiration and have gained a parallel trust between our regional partners.”

The 13th MEU is embarked aboard Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group ships deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct Maritime Security Operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment and complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment to transport personnel and weapons or serve as a venue for attack.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marines stepping it up with Corporal’s Course on the USS Boxer

Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

About 30 Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Boxer spent the last month learning and improving the skills needed to become more efficient noncommissioned officers during Corporal’s Course; receiving their diplomas March 11.

The course is a little over three weeks long and the Marines were able to learn and succeed in the development of their leadership skills, said Staff Sgt. Oscar S. Ornelas, Corporal’s Course guest speaker and platoon sergeant with Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“The instructors gave us the right information with the right instruction,” said Cpl. Robert L. Thatcher, honor-graduate of Corporal’s Course and squad leader with Company C, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU.

Marines received many classes over counseling, war gaming, hip-pocket training and leadership, just to name a few. They also practiced sword manual and trained in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program once to twice a week, with the last week training everyday, said Thatcher, a Huntington Beach, Calif. native.

Picking the guest speaker is something the students of Corporal’s Course enjoyed.

“We picked Staff Sgt. Ornelas because he made an impact,” said Thatcher.

Ornelas taught only one class, Marine Corps Customs and Courtesies, but the Marines took to his motivation and passion so well, they chose him as their guest speaker.

“I was very passionate and I meant everything I told them,” said Ornelas. “I motivated them and if something I say has an effect on an NCO and they learn something, that is great.”

The Marines, and now graduated members of Corporal’s Course, will be able to put their skills to use, said Thatcher.

Corporal’s Course gave these Marines the ability and knowledge needed to become first-class leaders; following and enforcing customs and courtesies of the traditional Marine Corps – the Marine Corps that has captured America’s hearts and minds for the past 233 years.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

USS Boxer Becomes Flagship for CTF 151

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class T.S. Hall
Combined Task Force 151 Public Affairs

USS BOXER, At sea – USS Boxer (LHD 4), home ported in San Diego, Calif., assumed the role as flagship for Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), March 8, after arriving in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations as part of a regularly-scheduled deployment.

Established in early January, CTF 151’s mandate is to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and currently includes naval forces from the U.S., UK, Denmark and Turkey.

“We’ve had a great deal of success in deterring piracy to this point,” said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commander, CTF 151. “We’ve conducted counter-piracy operations on the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio, two guided-missile cruisers, USS Vella Gulf and USS Monterey and now we’re going to continue our mission on Boxer, which continues our line of extremely flexible platforms. Boxer has a lot to offer in the fight against piracy.”

McKnight said that CTF151 has coordinated with many nations to help thwart piracy in the region.

“Piracy isn’t a problem that affects one or two nations,” he said. “It’s a problem that affects the whole world and the free flow of commerce in the world’s waterways. Piracy requires an international solution.”

Capt. Mark Cedrun, Boxer’s commanding officer, said amphibious assault ship provides an exceptional and diverse array of options to commanders in tracking, identifying and deterring piracy at sea.

“We bring unique and very effective tools to the theatre to accomplish any mission or assignment,” he said. “Whether it’s humanitarian assistance or counter-piracy operations, we’re ready.”

Boxer’s embarked units include the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 Detachment 3, Naval Beach Group (NBG) 1, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, ACU 1, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The 13th MEU is comprised of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

Links to external articles:

THE TENSION - http://thetension.blogspot.com/



Friday, March 6, 2009

Super Stallion detachment leaves 13th MEU for Iraq

Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

USS BOXER, At sea (March 3, 2009) – The CH-53E detachment of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit left for Al Asad, Iraq March 3 to aid in missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in response to a request from United States Central Command to augment air forces in the region.

Once attached to Marine Aircraft Group 26 of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) at Al Asad Airbase, the detachment will be used for heavy lifting missions, moving combat gear, escorting foreign officials and moving the quick reaction force, in addition to other operations as needed.

“This is bittersweet. Bitter because we fight with them and we don’t want to give them up, but sweet because for those Marines to actually get in a combat theater, is an honor,” said Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, sergeant major of the 13th MEU.

OIF is a dynamic environment; the situation is constantly changing and will be a good learning and positive experience for every Marine in the detachment, said Maj. Timothy A. Sheyda, Operations Officer for HMM-163 (Rein) and CH-53E detachment officer in charge.

“The Marines in the MEU are envious but full of pride for those Marines to be the first out,” said Hines.

Sgt. Elizabeth L. Wigger, the HMM-163 (Rein.) Intelligence Chief, said that she is sad but jealous to see them go, and wishes she could accompany her friends on their mission.

“They are going to go out there and do great things,” said Wigger.

The detachment will be working 12-14 hour shifts per day, seven days a week while they are in Al Asad, but everyone is confident and excited to employ the training they have received, said Sheyda.

As they left on March 3, the powerful Super Stallions flew past the ship and over onlookers on the flight deck in a side-by-side formation, filling the USS Boxer with their thunderous rotor sounds as the detachment’s ‘farewell fly-by’.

In the meantime, the13th MEU continues current operations in US Central Command in support of regional security and stability, and looks forward to the CH-53E detachment’s return.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Perspective from a Servant

The following entry is from a Sailor who participated in one of the Community Relations events during the USS Boxer’s port visit in Phuket.

"When it was confirmed that we were going to Thailand I was excited to see the southern part of Asia. The ship anchored a forty-five minute ferry ride distance from land and a forty minute MWR bus ride followed to Patong Beach, Phuket. We had already been to Hawaii and Guam and nothing compared to this environment. It was surreal to eat a restaurant, order Thai food and say, “We are eating Thai food in Thailand.” It may seem a little corny, but a group had eaten in a Thai restaurant in Guam a few weeks earlier. This was the “real thing.”

This was our first foreign port and the people and culture had my curiosity brewing. One of the greatest opportunities to go beyond the tourism of any foreign port is through a community relations project (ComRel). The Boxer Chaplains organized four ComRels for the port, and I chose to go to the Thalong National Museum. It was hard to choose because they also had two primary schools and one daycare center. All seemed to have chipping and painting jobs but I thought it would be nice to see a museum and help the people in the same shot.

The morning started with a 0615 muster in the hangar bay which was pretty early for a day off. The day started gaining momentum as we hopped on the ferry, rode the ComRel bus for thirty minutes and arrived at the museum. When we got off the bus, my first impression of the museum was that it was professionally constructed, a little shabby on the grounds and had some apparent need of paint maintenance. The people were the nicest people you would ever meet, but trying to communicate to them was a challenge. “Toilet” did not translate and trying to explain, well, you can see where that would lead. Thankfully, we had an English speaking coordinator who supplied us with everything we needed to do the job, including directions to the toilet. We chipped and painted in different locations until 1230, and then they provided some Thai food and some entertainment to cap off the events of the day. The food was awesome. I’m a picky eater, but this stuff was good. The entertainment portion was interesting, because it included Thai dancers and three volunteers from our group. I was one of them. After they danced these graceful moves in very colorful Asian costumes, they asked us to try and join them. I looked like a goof-ball but it was definitely something I will always remember.

This was my first foreign-port ComRel, and I can see why so many shipboard personnel fight to beat the quotas for sign-up. I believe it helps any soul to see how different cultures live in their environment. It creates a broader frame of reference to how blessed we are to live in America. Also, the culture evidences the most important physical blessing of all. This one blessing seems to magnify itself in these cultures and even more so when material things are not the focus of daily life. The world shares a common blessing, and that is family. ComRels make you count your blessings, but they also create the satisfaction of helping someone in need. It felt so good to spend my time not only drinking in the culture of the people but making a difference in their lives that neither those we helped nor I will ever forget. I definitely look forward to signing up for the next ComRel event. Semper Fi."

-- An anonymous Sailor

BOXESG, 13th MEU Arrive in Thailand for Port Visit

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class T.S. Hall, USS Boxer (LHD 4) Public Affairs

PHUKET, Thailand – Sailors and Marines from amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Phuket, Thailand Feb. 18 for a scheduled port visit, and rest and relaxation before continuing operations in support of regional and maritime security.

Marines and Sailors are also scheduled to volunteer more than one hundred hours of their off-duty time to participate in several community relations (COMREL) projects at local schools.
Boxer’s Command Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Phil Creider said that COMREL’s are a way to help the people in our host nations.

“We provide the people, the muscles, and the energy to do good. Together, this forms one of the very best ways to demonstrate America's concern for all of our neighbors and our desire to be the best help that we can be.”

Storekeeper 1st Class Sourideth Soumphonphakdy said Thais are anxious to make new friends. A former resident of Thailand, Soumphonphakdy says it feels like he’s going home.

“The culture is familiar to me and it’s where I grew up. It brings back great memories because the people here are so nice and are excited to greet Americans.”

Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) Commodore Capt. Pete Brennan said that Sailors and Marines are looking forward to experiencing the culture of Thailand.

“Thailand provides a unique cultural experience that our Sailors and Marines will value for a lifetime,” said Brennan.