MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When Lance Cpl. Brandon S. Mettlen first deployed to Iraq, the only thing he knew about the country was what he had seen on television.
By the end of his year-long deployment, the Marine with 2nd Marine Division experienced a new culture and learned a lot about the people that will ultimately be Iraq’s defenders of freedom.
The Colmesneil, Texas, native was deployed to the Al Anbar province from February 2005 to February 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The highlight of the 20-year-old’s deployment was working with Iraqi Security Forces in October.
“We took them to special forces training so they would be ready to conduct security during the elections,” said the 2003 Colmesneil High School graduate.
Mettlen’s role in training Iraqis was to escort them while they were in between training, so he spent a lot of time with them.
“I was like their best friend,” he said. “I was always around them. I helped them set up their transit area while they weren’t training. I helped them set up their leave periods and set up a place to work at Al Asad.”
The nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist learned a lot about Iraqi’s work ethic and their overall way of life as well. Mettlen also was able to learn a lot of Arabic while he worked with the Iraqis.
“They are really cool to be around,” he said. “They like to joke and play around, but by the end of the day, the job is done.
“They were trying to teach me Arabic while we worked,” he said. “They would point at something and tell me how to say it, and then I would give them the English word for it.”
He was also responsible for getting them office supplies and setting up their sleeping area at Al Asad. Mettlen also set up their motor pool, which contained all of their vehicles.
“I was able to round up all of their vehicles which were spread out all over the place,” he said. “Together we were able to organize their work area and their vehicles.”
The Texas Marine had many experiences during his deployment and learned a lot about life in other countries.
“It was a very good learning experience for me to see a different culture and how they work,” he said. “I was able to learn a new language, and I have a new appreciation for everything we have back here in America.”
Mettlen saw first hand the future of Iraq’s military and is confident they will be able to defend their country.
“It feels good to know that we were there to support them helping get them back on their feet,” he stated. “I know that they will be successful.”
The young veteran is undecided whether he is going to stay in the Marine Corps or get out and go to college, but with less than two years left in his contract, he said he would be willing to go back to Iraq again if needed.
“I would miss home if I went back, but I remember my experiences out there the first time, and I would go back and serve my country if asked to,” he said. “I believe what we are doing out there is a good thing, and from what they told me, so do the young Iraqi soldiers fighting by our side.”