CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- It won't be the blistering heat, long work hours or weight of each supply load he handles everyday that Lance Cpl. Roy L. Gamboa says he will remember most about his deployment to Iraq. No memory is so bleak as to make this 28-year-old Marine lose sight of the lessons on compassion and empathy he's learned during his past five months here.
“I come from Guam, which is basically the 'island of plenty,'" said the native of the U.S.-territory's village of Agat. "When I was growing up, I rarely ever saw a homeless person, or realized that the food we had stockpiled in our cabinets might be the equivalent of what an Iraqi family would have to eat for an entire month."
As a supply administration clerk for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, a unit currently conducting counter-insurgency operations inside the city of Fallujah, Gamboa has now witnessed firsthand the type of misery his childhood eyes never saw.
"I've noticed a lot of kids running alongside our (supply and logistics) convoys, asking for food," he stated.
These images of poverty come as quite the shock to someone who has never gone hungry, like himself, Gamboa added.
A 1994 Oceanview High School graduate, he grew up in a peaceful island community, surrounded by friends and family while competitively playing sports, but sheltered from seeing how "the other half" lives. During his post-high school service as an Army reservist and a member of Guam’s Army National Guard, Gamboa got his first glimpses of neediness and desperation.
"Eight days after I swore in (Guam’s Army National Guard), we were called to respond to an emergency because a typhoon had struck the island," Gamboa stated. "We set up medical check stations all over the place, and ended up pretty much serving as active-duty service members for two to three months. I loved doing that type of work so much that I said to myself, 'Alright, this is something I want to pursue full-time.’"
He enlisted in the Marines in July 2004, partly to make this type of positive impact elsewhere.
Gamboa deployed to Iraq alongside his unit in mid-March, three weeks after he had completed his basic schooling. Currently, he works alongside seven other Marines to restock and keep track of their battalion's gear inventory, as well as oversee the periodic distribution of supplies to the infantrymen.
His unit maintains millions of dollars worth of equipment, everything from armored vehicles and weapons, to desert utility uniforms and night-vision optics.
"I hold the property clerk billet, so I handle all the supply documentation and records for the battalion commander," Gamboa explained. "I basically monitor what's coming into and going out of the unit. Little screw-ups on the job, like a wrong keystroke that adds an extra zero to a supply's dollar amount, can really land you in the hot seat, because we're responsible for so much gear."
Nearly everyday, the supply shop's Marines travel to nearby Camp Fallujah to pick up replacement parts, uniforms and other items to be issued out to their battalion, a unit boasting more than 1,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers. Representatives from each of the battalion's infantry companies, who operate from bases out in town, regularly stop by Gamboa's shop to pick up whatever items their Marines need to continue accomplishing their counter-terrorism missions.
Additionally, supply and logistics Marines travel to the infantrymen's bases to bring them equipment, chow and water.
"The stuff we handle here in supply affects everyone in the battalion," Gamboa stated. "Supply is a huge part of the logistics family. We keep the unit and the Marine Corps in general, running."
Gamboa keeps his future goals and original inspirations in mind as he continues helping his teammates service their fellow Marines' equipment needs.
Approximately three years of service remain to be fulfilled on his enlistment contract, but Gamboa still looks ahead to his projected future serving his native community as a politician.
"I want to run for vice-mayor of my village and show the island that around the world things aren't as easy and luxurious as we have them there," he explained. "People are often not content with the things they have, like running water, power and three meals a day. The Marine Corps has given me some real-world experience to better understand where people come from and learn to empathize with that."
Gamboa added that he will use these lessons to enrich his beloved homeland.
"I want to make my village a better place, someplace where everyone will be proud to live."