Photo Information

Haditha Dam, Al Anbar, Iraq (May 6, 2005)-- Mississippi natives part of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines' motor transport section help unload the resupply here.(Official USMC Photo by Corporal Ken Melton)

Photo by Cpl. Ken Melton

Jackson, Miss, natives serve together in Iraq

19 Sep 2005 | Cpl. Ken Melton 2nd Marine Division

The Marines from Jackson, Miss., lived within minutes of each other, attending rival schools and going to some of the same hangouts, but it took a deployment to Iraq to bring them together. Working in the motor transportation section of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine regiment, which operates out of the Haditha Dam, is like a homecoming for those who hail from the same city. And the tightly-knit group plays an integral role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “I feel we are the backbone of the entire unit,” said Lance Cpl. Kelvin O. Luse, a motor transportation operator and Jackson, Miss., native. “The main reason is because of the hard work all these guys from Jackson put in.” Luse along with several other Jackson, Miss. natives with the battalion shared the same reserve unit, Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, before deploying to Iraq. “Most of the guys were not initially trained to be operators, but myself and other Marines trained them for the job,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Jenkins, an operator with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines. “During the training, we grew to know each other as friends and we eventually became like family.” The motor transportation operators transport supplies and troops, which is vital to the success of the overall mission, said Lance Cpl. Keath W. Austin, who is also an operator with the battalion. “We know that if we can’t get our Marines where they need to go and get them the supplies they need, it could hurt morale and damage the chance of the mission’s success,” said Austin. The group’s friendship has never been tested, but old high school rivalries are still the source of playful teasing that can go on for hours. “We are all from high schools who are rivals to each other,” said Lance Cpl. Odie Cornelius, Jr., a 2001 Callaway High School graduate and mechanic. “Jenkins graduated from Bailey High School in 2001, Luse graduated from Provine High School in 2002, Crawford graduated from Jim Hill High School that same year and Austin graduated from Murrah High School the year after. It’s amazing we didn’t meet before we deployed to Iraq.” Though they may have not met before they joined the Marine Corps, they all shared the same dream of earning the title of being called a United States Marine. “We have a lot in common and we all joined the Marine Corps for the same reasons,” said a 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Mackenzy Crawford, a forklift operator with the battalion. “We wanted a chance for a better education and we all wanted to be called Marines.” This marks the first deployment for all of these Marines and they are all taking their view on war with the same enthusiasm. “This is a once in a lifetime learning experience,” the 20-year-old Austin said. “I hope to take away something from this war and apply it to my life.” “I feel good about what we are doing over here,” said Jenkins, 22. “I feel good about representing my city over here in this war.” The Marines from Jackson also find that despite their old rivalries, they have come to depend on each other. For Cornelius, 21, he was surprised at deploying so quickly. So he drew upon the support. “I was a little nervous at first, but being around these guys has made the deployment go much smoother than I expected,” he said. And for others, like Crawford, it goes beyond support. “I love the brotherhood we share. I feel more comfortable around these guys because they’re from the same area I am from,” Crawford said. “We all know what we will be missing if we don’t return home.” The Marines look forward to the end the deployment when they can return to their families and their beloved city. “We are definitely going to stay in touch after the deployment ends and I don’t see how we couldn’t,” said the 21-year-old Luse. “We know we wouldn’t be able to make it through this war without the support of families and each other. We came over knowing that we were going to defend Jackson as well as rest the U.S. from terrorists. And the only way we could accomplish that is by doing it together like the family we have become.”