CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq -- Lee D. Hale played with firecrackers when he was a young boy growing up in Huntington, W.Va., but little did he know that when he grew up he would be in Iraq using explosives as a part of his job as a combat engineer.
Lance Cpl. Hale, 22, 4th Combat Engineers Battalion joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Huntington High School in 2001.
Hale decided to join the Corps to help put himself through college at Marshall University, where he was studying business management prior to deploying.
He decided to become a reservist so he could continue to attend college while he was in the military. His service helped him get a job as a prison corrections officer.
“We were told about this job at the reserve station and I lived close to the prison so I figured I would give it a shot,” Hale explained.
After taking a civil service test and attending an academy, Hale got the job at the Western Regional Jail. He believes that being in the Marine Corps helped him get the job.
“The fact that I was a Marine had a lot to do with me getting the job, because it takes a lot of discipline and self confidence to do this job,” he said.
According to Hale being a corrections officer has helped him transition from civilian life to an active duty Marine in Iraq.
“I work with every kind of person imaginable in prison, so that helps me deal with and handle Iraqis. It has taught me the basic procedures for handling detainees which is useful here. And because of school and work, I’m used to working long hours,” he explained.
Those long hours as an engineer are spent doing numerous tasks from providing demolition for breaches and destruction of weapons caches to building different items for the Marines of Al Qa’im.
Hale and the Marines of Company A completed over 200 missions and uncovered over 30 bombs since arriving in Iraq in late February.
“The deployment as a whole has gone by fast, because we stay busy, we don’t really see the time pass and we still have work to do and I think we’re ready to do our job to the best of our ability,” the team leader continued. “I think it has been a very successful deployment so far and an experience of a lifetime.”
According to Hale, most of his team’s success came during Operation Matador in early May.
“We completed almost every aspect of this job during Matador and I think it established us within this battalion (3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines). It was a chance for everyone to see us perform in combat,” Hale explained.
After four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and now a combat tour, Hale was selected for a meritorious promotion to corporal, scheduled to take effect August 2.
According to Hale’s squad leader, Sgt. Brandon C. Bowling, 32, of Surveyor, W.Va., he put Hale in the position as fire team leader at the beginning of the deployment and he’s done an “outstanding” job.
“Hale is one of the most mature Marines I know and I truly believe that he deserves this promotion. He earned it,” Bowling said.
With only two years left on his original six-year contract, Hale has decided that he will most likely get out of the Corps and start his own business.
However, Hale set a goal for himself before he gets out of the Corps.
“I want to pick up sergeant before I get out and I want to be at the top of every aspect of my Marine Corps career,” he said.
From playing with fireworks as a kid to using explosives as a tool in the Marine Corps, Hale said that his decisions in life have paid off for him so far.
“Joining the Marine Corps was the best move I ever made. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now if I hadn’t joined. The job opportunities and the experiences I’ve had are all thanks to being a Marine. It has made me a better person,” Hale said.