Marine reservists bring maturity to latest deployment

By GEOFF ZIEZULEWICZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2008

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq — What a difference a couple of years makes. That’s how long it’s been since the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, a Reserve unit out of Chicago, have been deployed to Iraq.

When they were in 2004 and 2005, they were fighting in the Babil province south of Baghdad, part of the “Triangle of Death.” This time, the 2-24 are around Habbaniyah, just outside Fallujah, and they’re adjusting to a very different mission that will occupy their time for the next seven months.

The battalion will oversee much of the corridor between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, according to battalion executive officer Maj. Jeffrey Shrey.

The first weeks of the deployment have been all about assessing the situation on the ground, Shrey said earlier this month.

“We’re getting out and meeting with people, talking to people,” he said.

Shrey said the battalion will build on the gains made by their predecessors from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Like much of Anbar, that will mean continuing to engage with the locals to show them why it’s in their continued interest to work with the Marines and not area extremists.

“The enemy is going to be looking for seams,” he said.

As those partnerships continue, Shrey said, he’ll look to keep an Iraqi face at the forefront of the Marines’ efforts.

“We’re not out in front of them,” he said. “Everything in the [area of operations] has to have an Iraqi face.”

Capt. Roland Vorgang is a unique Marine in the battalion. The executive officer for Company E is one of the few nonreservists in the bunch.

“I could probably count on one hand how many of us are active duty,” he said.

Some of Company E’s work will involve making sure that the local leaders are helping area residents with basic services, from water to electricity and reconstruction contracts.

“That’s when you have to put the pressure on the local government,” Vorgang said.

As of early February, Vorgang said the deployment had been pretty calm, and that the biggest cache they’d found was some shotgun shells.

The reservists bring a different dynamic to a deployment, he said.

“You see a little more maturity,” Vorgang said. “They’ve had jobs outside the Marines Corps. One of my docs is in his early 40s and a lawyer. But Marines are Marines.”

Sgt. Troy Burmesch was with 2-24 during its first deployment in and around Mahmudiyah, where he said there was a lot more action.

“It’s a lot calmer compared to the first deployment,” he said. “As a Marine, I’d rather be a bit busier.”

Sitting in the lounge area at Camp Riviera, where some of the battalion’s companies are based, Cpl. Bryan Bessa said the progression of the war was evident in the built-up facilities they’re living in this time around.

“You can definitely see we’ve been around for a while,” he said.

Members of the Marine Corps Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, relax during a break from a supply convoy operation. The 2-24 just took over the Habbaniyah area from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and will also be in charge of the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor.

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