CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq -- As the spring semester approached for West Virginia University, it was time for one student, Joshua D. Perry, to put down his books and pick up his M16-A2 service rifle.
Lance Cpl. Perry, a reservist and combat engineer with Company A, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, was activated early this year to support 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team-2 during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Al Anbar province of Western Iraq.
For the Fayetteville, W.Va., native, being activated to serve his country is something that he wanted since joining the Marine Corps in May 2003.
“I finally got the chance to come out here and serve my country. I get to spend more than one weekend a month, two weeks a year with my unit,” explained the athletic coaching major.
Perry originally joined the Marine Corps because he was attracted to the loyalty and dedication that Marines have, and he wanted to earn the title of Marine.
“The Marine Corps has taught me how to respect people a hundred times more than I did. Being a reservist as compared to being active duty, I see both the civilian and military side of life. I’ve learned to appreciate things a lot more, especially being out here and seeing what life is like for these people,” said the 2002 Fayetteville High School graduate.
Perry’s job as a deployed combat engineer makes him one of the key support elements in nearly every mission his unit completes.
Engineers are a part of the main effort during raids to capture targets of intelligence value, searching roads for land mines before convoys depart the base. They also construct different items Marines on the forward operating base may need.
Perry’s favorite part of his job comes during the raids.
“We are responsible for breaching doors of the houses during raids. It’s so awesome blowing up the doors so Marines can get in there and get the bad guys,” explained the former Pirates football, baseball and basketball player.
Along with raids, Perry’s skill is an important factor during convoys. He sweeps the route for land mines, uncovering them and detonating them. Finding and disposing of mines is one of Perry’s favorite tasks.
“It’s a rush for me. You uncover the mine, and you never really know what’s under it. You dig deeper and deeper hoping nothing will blow up, because out here we find anything and everything. We are duty experts on land mines,” Perry continued. “I love blowing up mines, because it stops the enemy from killing my fellow Marines and civilians.”
Perry’s love for demolition comes from being exposed to it growing up.
His parents worked in coal mines. This allowed him to see the different aspects of demolition and was intrigued from the beginning.
“I enjoy being a combat engineer and I love being a Marine,” Perry explained.
The 21-year-old plans to continue his love by switching to active duty service after finishing college and his six-year reserve contract.
But according to Perry, no matter what he decides to do with his Marine Corps career he will always remember this deployment.
“This is my first deployment and whether or not I deploy here again or not I know will never forget the experiences I’ve had or the Marines I’ve met,” Perry said. “Iraq has shown me a different way of life for people that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”