CAMP RIPPER, Iraq -- The Iraqi desert swelter doesn’t bother Cpl. Kevin Weber. Actually, it’s one of the things that keep him going as he and his fellow Marines in Regimental Combat Team-2’s security team bring more heat to the fight.
Weber, a 21-year-old Ridgefield, Conn., native and 3rd Squad leader, pushes all else aside in his quest to make his squad the best.
The 2002 Ridgefield High School graduate leads his squad of Marines on missions from which they may not return. But he and his Marines have little worry about that because of their training and collaboration.
“I think I watched too many movies as a kid,” chided Weber. “Watching all of those war movies always got me excited about joining the military. And when I enlisted in the Marine Corps I just thought it was a good way to get some experience before I went to college.”
Weber prides himself in being one of few Marines who gives everyone in his squad a say in what they do when planning for a mission. One of his tasks includes organizing his squad to conduct ‘snap’ vehicle control points where they board helicopters to land in a particular area and search traffic for insurgents. Another is to prepare his squad to form blocking positions with their heavy machineguns for mobilized patrol.
Before missions, they make terrain maps using sand, rocks and string. He and his Marines plan to the finest detail, taking into consideration things like encountering improvised explosive devices on their route or receiving small arms fire from nearby buildings. He uses ‘tactical decision making games,’ hypothetical situations geared to teach Marines to manage their way through combat scenarios, to prepare his Marines.
“I think the exceptional level of discipline keeps us in line,” said Weber. “That will help me with my studies, especially when I prepare to go to college. I feel like I can do anything after this.”
The Marines didn’t waste time getting Weber into the fight. After Boot Camp and the School of Infantry, he was sent to his first duty assignment with 3rd battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. Although he didn’t have too much time to become assimilated to life in the Corps before he was shipped off to war, he does all he can to prepare the less experienced Marines who work with him.
“One and a half days later, I was on a boat to Iraq. It was a huge shock and my family flew down to Camp Lejeune to see me off. I feel like my job is to help my Marines build their own toolbox of skills that they’ll be able to take with them anywhere they get stationed.”
Weber was part of Task Force Tarawa with Marines who fought their way into An Nasiriyah at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There were firefights here and there and we finally set up our base in the abandoned headquarters building of some of the Baath Party members,” said Weber. “I was a SAW (M-249 squad automatic weapon) gunner back then and now that I’m a squad leader, I look at everything from the bottom up.”
Weber remembers the days when he was the point man and appreciates the position his subordinates hold. He treats them accordingly in hopes that his squad can have the kind of unity and brotherhood people only read about in books.
“I task the Marines as if I were in their shoes,” said Weber. “One of the most important things I do is to listen to their advice. Nine out of ten times, I’ll take it. It keeps the Marines happy and it helps me make more sound decisions.”
Weber believes there is power in coming together as a group. But that kind of unity can’t be accomplished without the individual infantry Marine thinking for himself. Although he loves teaching his Marines in the field, he plans to bring his valuable talent to the classroom.
“My biggest aspiration, is to go to the University of Connecticut and study to become a history teacher,” said Weber. “But right now, I’m going to take care of my Marines because they come first.”