Manassas native keeps Marines connected in Iraq

9 Dec 2005 | Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton 2nd Marine Division

Corporal Justin A. Dagostin keeps the 2nd Marine Division connected. The 23-year-old Manassas, Va., native maintains the communications equipment that allows Marines here in western Iraq to coordinate the complex military operations needed to bring stability to the province.

Conducting military operation in an area nearly the size of North Carolina requires thousands of people organizing an endless list of tasks to be executed in unison. An effort which Dagostin said he feels like he plays a major part. Dagostin said without communications there would just be silence, referring to the countless radio, satellite and e-mail transmissions that travel back and forth through the equipment that he and his fellow Marines maintain.

Dagostin and other Marines from Communications Company operate the satellite dishes are the main conduit for all internet, phone and e-mail traffic on and off the camp here.

Dagostin is also Headquarters Battalion’s cytological technician. He tracks, maintains and repairs hundreds of pieces of encrypted electronics gear used by the various units throughout the Al Anbar province. He spends his mornings at his work-bench fixing broken equipment sent to him for repair.

“On an average day I spend about five hours working on equipment,” Dagostin said. “It’s pretty sensitive gear so it’s always breaking.”

Dagostin takes his job seriously. In meticulous fashion he checks and rechecks every piece before it is sent back to the Marines who use it. Dagostin is consciences about his work and the effect it could have on other Marines if he lets needed repairs slip by undetected.

“I always make sure the gear is one-hundred percent before I send it out the door,” Dagostin said. “I know that if a piece of gear is bad it could cost the lives of other Marines or soldiers, I’d rather spend an extra ten minutes working on the gear to make sure it’s perfect.”

Dagostin said he learned a lot since arriving in Iraq eight months ago and credits much of his electronics expertise to the time he has spent working here. Although Dagostin is formally schooled in electronics and is well read on the subject, he learned much of what he knows through trial and error.

“A lot of the gear out here is Army gear so I’ve had to do a lot of research and hands on testing to see what works” Dagostin said. “I do my research then I see what I can do to trouble shoot the gear.”

Although he has learned plenty in the Marines, he plans to further his education by pursuing a degree in network administration and computer programming. He graduated from De Smet Jesuit High School in 2001, a catholic college preparatory school where he said 89 percent of the graduates went on to attend college.

Dagostin didn’t follow the same path his friends did because he wanted to experience something different. He said the events of September 11, 2001 had a huge impact on him joining the Marines and also received encouragement from his older brother who is an officer in the Army.

“I wanted to do something to make a difference in other people’s lives and in my own life as well.” Dagostin said. “I thought the Marine Corps would be a great way to do that because I heard a lot of good things about it.”

Dagostin feels he has made an impact on the people here and feels like he helped write a new chapter in history.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress at helping these people get back on their feet.” Dagostin said. “It will be cool someday to look back through the history books and say I was a part of this and I helped do that.”