CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Daniel McCawley doesn’t work for any ordinary unit, and some might say that he’s no ordinary Marine. But one thing that is common about him, is the tight-knit brotherhood he’s a part of in the 2nd Marine Division.
McCawley, a 21-year-old Light Armored Vehicle crewman and scout with the Division’s Personal Security Detachment, is one of the few Marines who volunteered to become specially trained to protect the general and his staff on convoys in the Al Anbar Province.
The Austin, Texas native’s interest in the Marine Corps began while he was in high school – not in Texas, though. One day, when McCawley was still young, his mother returned from a job fair with a list of possible international employment opportunities.
She recited a few off the list for him . . . “United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia.”
That’s when he stopped her.
“Ethiopia. That’s where I want to live,” he said. “When the plane trip finally ended, I couldn’t believe how far away it was. But we spent two years there.”
While McCawley’s mother taught, he spent time with other children who resided at the U.S. consulate there. One night the Marine Security Guards surprised them, and ever since, McCawley was a fan of the Marines.
“The Marines invited Americans living out in town to the embassy to watch movies on certain nights during the week,” said McCawley. “One night, we were outside and out of the bushes came a Marine who shocked us while they were training. I was really impressed, and to tell you the truth, I just thought they were pretty cool.”
He returned to Texas and finished his last two years in San Antonio at the International School of the Americas, graduating in 2002. From there, McCawley admits, his story is just the same as most guys he’s come in contact with in the Marines.
“One day I just woke up and decided I didn’t want to be hanging out with the same old people who weren’t doing anything with their lives,” he said. “So I went to the recruiter’s station and signed up.”
Ever since, McCawley has work with Light Armored Vehicles, which are eight-wheeled, heavy vehicles mounted with 25 mm cannons. The rest of his Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion is in the western portion of the province guarding the border from insurgents and smugglers.
He volunteered to be a part of the PSD, a heavily fortified convoy that protects the general and his staff officers. And now he’s a scout team leader, in charge of several Marines who live, eat, sleep and train together. They’ve had their fair share of action, enduring firefights, evading enemy attacks and training in the intensely hot Iraqi desert. That’s what he asked for, though.
“I joined to come out here, no matter what,” said McCawley. “I didn’t just want to be sitting in the rear somewhere doing nothing. This is what the Marine Corps is all about.”
“Being with this unit, I’ve learned things completely out of my normal training,” he added.
But he’s looking for more.
Now, McCawley plans to take his career a step further and try out for the reconnaissance indoctrination – a test to be in one of the Corps’ most elite units. His experience here will just add to his resume of interesting and tough assignments. And with just a few months left in Iraq, he’s not letting up on his training.
“If you think about it, things aren’t that bad or that hard out here,” he said. “You just have to keep giving it 110 percent – give respect to yourself and your fellow Marines. If you keep that in mind and continue to learn, you’ll be fine. Because you’re only as valuable as what you know.”