AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Being a Marine is something Lance Cpl. Joel Mulligan always wanted to be. Coming from a military family, the choice wasn’t hard for the 20-year-old from Stafford, Va.
“I’d always wanted to be a Marine,” said Mulligan. “Plus my best friend’s dad was a recruiter, so I learned a lot about the Corps through him.”
Mulligan, who eventually left for recruit training Nov. 10, 2003, actually postponed his entry date so he could become a machine gunner in the Marine Corps.
“I had to wait more than eight months to get the (Military Occupational Specialty) that I wanted,” he said. “I wanted infantry and was willing to wait to get it. I am glad that I did.”
This is Mulligan’s second tour in Iraq. His first tour was shorter because he volunteered to leave the School of Infantry (East) early to help out in Iraq. Comparing the two tours, he said being in Ar Ramadi is much different than being the in outlying areas of Iraq he patrolled last year.
“Here, we have more firefights and a lot more urban terrain operations looking for specific people,” he said. “Before, we did more rural operations across the desert looking for weapons caches buried in the sand or hidden in caves.
“Being in the city now, it’s different but that’s not bad. The people seem nice and understanding of what we are doing here. They mostly stay out of our way.”
The fact that Marines have operated in the area for nearly two years allows them to move through the city confident knowing the local residents understand their intent.
“When we are on patrol, the only people who come at us are bad guys or (vehicle-born improvised explosive devices),” said Mulligan. “The general population, I think, knows we are here to help them.”
Being on his second tour already, Mulligan says has taught him a lot about himself and forced him to mature maybe faster then he would have otherwise.
“It teaches you a lot of leadership - how to be a leader,” he said. “Being here, it makes you into a man. I know I’ll never take anything for granted after this, being here and realizing what we are fighting for helps you find out what’s important to you.”