MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
While deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in support of combat operations overseas, Marines develop a strong sense of brotherhood and friendship with other Marines in their unit.
For five Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, that bond was forged years before.
Lance Corporals Drew M. Sobek, Nathan R. Woods, David L. Negrete, Truc T. Nguyen, riflemen, Keith Ulrich, a machine gunner with Echo Company, 2/24, all graduated from Des Moines North High School in Des Moines, Iowa in 2005 and 2006.
The five Marines were also on their high school football and wrestling teams, “Polar Bears,” together. Now, they’re all serving in the same unit.
“All of these guys have been a part of my life for a really long time,” said Woods, “Sobek came in during his senior year, but we still became really great friends.”
The Marines and their unit are currently stationed at the Combat Center to acclimatize to the desert weather and train for their upcoming deployment to Iraq in January.
For these five Marines, this will be their first combat deployment.
“At first, when I heard we were deploying, I was a little nervous like everybody else,” said Nguyen. “After being out here training, I’m feeling more confident. It feels pretty good.
“Going with my friends eases a lot of the stress and gives me someone to talk to,” he added. “Plus everyone’s parents help out a lot by talking to us.”
Sobek agreed, saying he feels he can always talk to his friends when he needs support.
“There’s definitely always a shoulder to lean on,” he said.
Echo Company will deploy to Iraq for seven months, there is always a possibility they can be extended.
“I feel pretty confident about it all,” said Negrete. “I think that we’ll be successful in our mission and accomplish all our objectives.”
Before deploying, Echo Company will spend several months training at the Combat Center. They will go through Mojave Viper pre-deployment training in December before deploying to Iraq in January.
“Right now, we’re working on room clearing techniques,” said Ulrich. “We’re definitely going to need that over there. I haven’t really done a lot of this yet, so I’m glad we’re getting trained now.
“I think the biggest challenge I’m going to be facing in separating myself from my family,” he added. “Being a reservist, we’re off most of the time, so we get to be with our families.
Separating from them is going to be hard.”
Echo Company, 2/24, will deploy to Iraq in January in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.