CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines deployed on a combat tour to Iraq find many different ways to relax and spend their free time. They play video games, watch movies, read books and even take online college courses.
One Marine, though, uses his free time to make a direct impact oh the mission to turn Iraq over to a stable government capable of protecting its citizens.
Cpl. Russell R. Hall, a wire man assigned to a six-man communications detachment with the 2nd Marine Division Training Center here, spends his free time ‘instructing the instructors’ as members of the Iraqi Security Forces attending classes in basic marksmanship and weapons handling. These Iraqi soldiers and police men will then take what they learn back to their units and pass on the knowledge they learned to their fellow service members.
“I teach the Iraqi soldiers the AK-47, RPK and PKM weapon systems,” said the 21-year-old, Gardner, Nev., native. “I also teach them zeroing and safety rules and condition codes for the Kalishnakov family of weapons.”
Hall also assists with troop handling, which consists of picking up the students and ensuring the receive food and water, and with coaching on the range helping the students with proper positions, breathing and trigger control.
How does a wireman working on telecommunications systems find his way to instructing members of the ISF in weapon systems he normally would not have contact with? According to Hall it was easy.
“When I showed up here, I set up the telecommunications support for the unit,” explained the 2002 graduate of Newberry Park High School, Newberry Park, Calif. “Once the system was set up, it pretty much runs its self. All I have to do is maintain the systems hardware.
“The MTU (Marksmanship Training Unit) Marines was looking for help instructing the Iraqi students. It was something I wanted to do and they needed the help so I volunteered to be an assistant instructor. Soon after, I was teaching class.”
Now the majority of his time is spent teaching the ISF that will be instructing the rest of their units.
“Most of my time is put toward teaching,” he said. “I would say it is about 80 to 20.”
Though teaching members of a foreign military may seem glamorous and exciting, it isn’t without its difficulties. For Hall, as is the case with most instructors here, it is the language barrier.
“The language barrier is the hardest part of our job for me,” said Hall, who joined the Corps for something to do. “It is hard to communicate what you are trying to say to them.
“The Marine Corps has its own language using slang and acronyms. You have to convert this to English and then the translator has to convert it to Arabic.”
It is a challenge that Hall has learned to cope with so he can play his role in an endeavor that makes such a visible impact during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“You have to use a lot of patience, which is tough for me,” Hall explained. “I am by no means a patient person but I have to suck it up and do it. It is extremely frustrating at times.
“There are times when you just have to go outside for a minute, take a deep breath, relax a minute and then push on with the course.”
The courses here aren’t all work for the Marines assigned here though.
“You get to fire foreign guns,” Hall said, explaining his favorite part of instructing here. “You don’t have many other opportunities in the Marine Corps to use AK-47s, RPKs and PKMs.
Hall’s willingness to volunteer and dedication to follow through on the mission here doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Corporal Hall is one of the most willing people I have ever met,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas F. Miller, the DTC’s data chief and senior enlisted member of the communications detachment as he discussed Halls personality. “He volunteers for everything, even to go out on patrols on Bradleys (an Army armored vehicle).
“He also takes on challenges well outside of his skill set.”
As a member of the DTC, Hall remains focused on the mission at hand as he nears the end of his deployment to Iraq.
“I will continue to teach classes and maintain the telecom system until the day they tell me to board the flight back home.”