MARINES' WILD WEST GUNFIGHT

TRISTAN NICHOLS DEFENCE REPORTER 07:30 - 11 February 2008


   Elite commandos from Plymouth sneak up on the enemy, gaining valuable intelligence on their positions and plans.
   One wrong move and the entire operation in the dusty plains could fall apart.
   But the skills of members of 3 Commando Brigade's elite reconnaissance unit are too honed for that to happen.
   These are the guys who get up close and personal behind enemy lines, judge the risks and send word back about what to expect.
   Welcome to the world of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.
   As hundreds of servicemen and women head out to Norway for arctic warfare training, members of the Brigade Patrol Troop - including recce engineers, beach and mountain specialists, electronic warfare and indirect fire control experts - are busy training in the mountainous landscape of the Sierra Nevada in America.
   During their exercises in the rugged terrain the commandos have been working alongside the US Marine Corps to carry out essential mountain training.
   Vertical assault and river-crossing drills (featuring the men of Turnchapel-based 539 Assault Squadron) are tough enough training at home.
   But in the Sierra Nevada, at heights above 8,858ft, altitude itself is an enemy.
   Describing the environment as the ultimate training ground, Major Chris Haw, commanding the BRF, said: "The Brigade Reconnaissance Force trained alongside their US Marine Corps deep reconnaissance counterparts throughout and proved beyond doubt the ability of the two units to work side by side.
   "This relationship is likely to develop in the near future.
   "The combination of the cold mountains of the Sierra Nevada rising to 14,000ft and the high, rugged desert of Nevada provided the ultimate training ground for our operations," he went on.
   The first week of training was spent in and around the US Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center on the mountainous frontier of Nevada and California.
   The second week is seeing the units separate to focus on their own individual drills, skills and standard operating procedures with 'special to arms' training tailored to the marines' professional task.
   Some also spent time with the law enforcement and military veterans of the High Desert Special Operations Centre, which sets up specific training for elite forces.
   This was led by former members of the US Special Forces and included cave clearance exercises - 'impressive', according to Maj Haw - and room and building clearance using 'simunition' - like a paintball in its purpose, but fired at high velocity from a conventional service rifle.
   Lieutenant Colonel Rob Magowan, commanding officer of the UK Land Force Command Support Group, said of the exercises: "It was both challenging and realistic, testing the specialist on the ground, in close target reconnaissance, and the intelligence HQ.
   "During the final exercise - based on experiences in Afghanistan - a high number of complex ISTAR - intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance - feeds were fused by the headquarters, and the information was delivered to the right person at the right time.
   "This intelligence guided the execution of two deliberate strikes against enemy positions. This exercise was a huge success."

A British Royal Marine

    role-playing an insurgent reloads his AK-47 rifle as U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division conduct a night assault on a mock insurgent camp during pre-deployment training at the High Desert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Nov. 8, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shawn M. Statz)





U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon,

    Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division load onto a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter during pre-deployment training at the High Desert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Nov. 3, 2007. (U.S. Ma rine Corps photo by Pfc. Shawn M.

A Department of Defense contractor

    role-playing an insurgent takes cover and gets on the radio as U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division conduct a night assault on a mock insurgent camp during pre- deployment training at the High Desert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Nov. 8, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shawn M. Statz)





U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Damien Gullo,

    with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, receives tips from his team leader Staff Sgt. Efrain Martinez on his firing stance before timed firing drills during pre-deployment t raining with the High Desert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Oct. 31, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Shawn M. Statz)

  

U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon,

   Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division fire their M4 service rifles in irregular firing positions during timed firing drills as part of pre-deployment training with the High Desert Special Operatio ns Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Oct. 31, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Shawn M. Statz)

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Powell,

   with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, receives tips from his team leader Staff Sgt. Mikel Latham on his firing stance before timed firing drills during pre-deployment tr aining with the High Desert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Oct. 31, 2007

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Johnathan Blank

   with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, fires his M4 service rifle from behind cover during timed firing drills as part of pre-deployment training with the High Desert Spe cial Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Oct. 31, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Shawn M. Statz)

Melbourne Florida

  

   Petty Officer 2nd Class Hank Lemar, a Navy Corpsman, feels the damage of gunshots to windshields. The Marines practiced engaging targets through glass during a week-long training package with Gryphon Group Security Solutions, Inc.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mikel Latham,

   with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, conducts a speed reload with his M4 service rifle during timed firing drills as part of pre-deployment training with the High D esert Special Operations Center in Hawthorne, Nev., Oct. 31, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Shawn M. Statz)


1st Reconnaissance Battalion learns a few new tricks during Custom Mobile Force Protection Course
CPL. NATHANIEL SAPP | 1st Reconnaissance Battalion

The week-long training in Melbourne, Fla., focused on the importance of mobility in a combat environment.
Working with Gryphon Group Security Solutions, Inc., the reconnaissance men got plenty of hands-on experience behind the wheel.
“Immobility equals vulnerability,” said Steven Holtrop, 28, a senior instructor with Gryphon Group. “About 90 percent of incidents in Iraq are happening in the mobile environment.”
If service members stop their vehicles during an ambush or improvised explosive device attack, they’re not maximizing the tools available.
They’re staying right where the enemy wants them, Holtrop added.
With that idea in mind, the Marines headed to Gryphon Group’s driving course for some “practical application.”
The training quickly became more realistic as Marines smashed, skidded and forced their way through the course.
After learning individual techniques, like “dead-driver takeovers” and “vehicle commandeering,” the Marines were tested - with instructors chasing and ramming them the entire way.
“It’s important to understand how far a vehicle can be pushed and what you can do in it, no matter how badly it’s been damaged,” said Sgt. David Nisbeth, 22, reconnaissance man from Mammoth.
After ensuring the Marines were proficient at evasive driving, instructors stepped up the training.
To simulate the adrenaline rush of combat as much as possible, Gryphon Group instructors used a “pain incentive.”
Under the watchful eyes of instructors and their platoon sergeant, each pair of Marines bailed out of their vehicles while two instructors with high-powered paintball guns who engaged them with automatic fire.
Based on a possible worst-case scenario, Marines loaded only 25 rounds of simunitions to suppress the “enemy,” while the instructors’ supply of ammo was unlimited.
“Those drills were my favorite part,” said Cpl. Nicholas Rumple, 20, reconnaissance man from Winamac, Ind.
“Any training we do to help us react to our weaknesses or vulnerabilities is irreplaceable,” he added. “I was able to see both my personal response to stressful situations, as well as my team’s.”
Situational awareness - knowing your enemy, environment and yourself - proved to be reoccurring themes.
“The best part for me was working on stress control while under fire,” Nisbeth said. “I learned how to control my adrenaline, improve situation awareness and better maneuver on an urban battlefield.”
The training continued another four days as Marines worked on other skills.
Moving in a convoy, Marines drove through mock-Iraqi streets before being struck with “IED’s” and ambushed by at least five aggressors.
Instructors also conducted classes on the AK 47 Assault Rifle, giving Marines trigger time with their enemy’s primary weapon.
In response to requests from Company D, Gryphon group also worked with the Marines on off-road driving techniques. The instruction covered various techniques and angles of approach to maximize the effectiveness of the vehicles capabilities.
On another range, Marines were given .45 and 9 mm pistols. Working their way up from the basics, they spent half the day engaging targets through car windows and moving vehicles.
The Marines here said training like the Mobile Force Protection is necessary due to the type of asymmetrical warfare confronting the US today.
Regina Herbolt, left, of Union Township, Ohio, with her son Robby Herbolt, age 14, hold a case with the medals earned by Regina Herbolt's uncle, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Rease Errgang, at their home. The Enquirer/ Joseph Fuqua II (Via MerlinFTP Drop)

Ohio woman's hunt for MIA Marine

    By Howard Wilkinson The Cincinnati Enquirer UNION TOWNSHIP, Ohio

        When Regina Herbolt was a child, she sometimes would walk into the family living room and see her mother, Juanita, clutching a framed photograph that sat on a cupboard, staring at the face beneath the glass and crying softly. The little girl was never sure why. Decades later, after Herbolt had become a friend to the family of Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin, a soldier whose family waited for four years to learn that their missing son had died in Iraq, she learned about the face in that picture and why it so touched the heart of her mother, who died nine years ago.
       The photo was of her mother's brother, Joseph Rease Errgang, a 28-year-old gunnery sergeant 55 years ago near the 38th parallel in Korea. He was a battle-hardened Marine who led other Marines into combat on a frigid, barren patch of land called Gray Rock Ridge and was never heard from again.
       He was presumed to be killed in a firefight with Chinese communists. Unlike Maupin's, his body was never found.
       "I made up my mind then that I would find out what happened to an uncle I never knew," said Herbolt, sitting in her home in Union Township — Maupin's hometown — with her 14-year-old son, Robby, at her side. "My mother went to her grave not knowing what had happened to her brother. But her daughter will know. Her grandson will know."
       The Maupin family, preparing to bury their son this weekend after his remains were found in March, went through nearly four years of agony before learning the truth.
       Yet thousands of other families around the country have endured decades without knowing what happened to their young men in uniform — husbands, sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles — who remain listed as "missing in action" from American wars dating to World War II.
       The Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office lists nearly 84,500 American servicemembers as unaccounted for — most from World War II.
       Many of them were sailors lost at sea or airmen whose planes were shot down over remote areas. Others were soldiers in land battles, where casualties were high, whose remains were never identified.
       There is little hope of finding the remains of many, but the Defense Department — working with other military agencies and foreign governments — often finds and identifies soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have been lost for decades.
       The remains of nine veterans of World War II and the Korean War have been identified this year. Many of those listed as missing are presumed to have been killed in action.
       Joe Errgang was a tall, strong kid — 6 feet, 3 inches, with blond, wavy hair, a small-town boy from Batavia, Ohio, who dropped out of high school during World War II to join the Marine Corps. He soon found himself fighting his way across beaches and through jungles in the South Pacific.
       After the war, he married and settled down in Milwaukee, his bride's hometown, but he re-entered the Marines when the Korean War broke out.
       At dusk on Feb. 27, 1953, he headed into yet another battle, this time as platoon sergeant for 1st Reconnaissance Platoon, Recon Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
       With a first lieutenant in command, Errgang and 20 other Marines ventured into the dark of Gray Rock Ridge looking to take out a Chinese machine gun nest. They ran headlong into a blaze of machine gunfire.
       Once it was over and the platoon was back at its base, it was obvious three men were missing, including Errgang.
       Dick Oxnam — now a soon-to-be retired city employee in Tucson — was a young Marine lieutenant at the time. His 2nd Platoon searched for the men, finding two of the fallen Marines, but not Errgang.
       "How he got separated from the main platoon is a mystery," Oxnam says. "He wasn't the sort to wander off. This was a Marine's Marine. … If he was captured, I can guarantee you he put up a fight."
       Lee Ballenger, now a retired police officer in Southern California, was one of the young Marines who went to battle that night at Gray Rock Ridge. He wrote about the experience vividly in The Final Crucible, the second volume of his history of the Marine Corps in Korea.
       In his book, he speculated that Errgang might have been captured by the Chinese, although he said it is unlikely they would carry off a severely wounded Marine.
       "It would be logical to assume that Errgang was ambulatory," Ballenger wrote. "He might have died in captivity of wounds or mistreatment, or conceivably been taken to the Soviet Union, the fate of an unknown number of prisoners of war."
       Herbolt and son Robby have traveled to reunions of the Korean War Marines in Florida and Seattle, where they were warmly received by her uncle's brothers in arms.
       Two years ago, the Marines of Recon Company presented her and Robby with a shadow box containing all of Errgang's medals, including the three Purple Hearts he earned in World War II and Korea.
       Herbolt and her son have shared all they have learned with their large family. But the one person she would like to share the story with is no longer here — her mother.
       "In her later years, she would talk about Joe more and wonder what had happened to him," Herbolt said. "She wondered if he was alive. She missed him so."





    April 10: Marine sergeant William “Spanky” Gibson lost a leg in combat in Iraq, but he hasn't let that stop him from returning to the mainstream of life — and to active duty. NBC’s Ned Colt reports.

    Marine who lost leg returns to combat in Iraq
    Sniper’s bullet destroyed gunnery sergeant’s knee, but not his will to serve
    By Mike Celizic TODAYShow.com contributor

    Spanky Gibson 1st Recon Bravo 89/93

       If you’ve ever wondered what the Marines have in mind when they advertise for “a few good men,” look no further than Gunnery Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson.
       Two years ago, he lost a leg to a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. Today, he’s back in the combat zone — by his own choice.
       If you notice an unusual spring in his step as he goes about his duties at Camp Fallujah in Iraq, mark it down to the wonders of the modern technology that went into the carbon-fiber prosthetic leg Gibson wears. He may have surrendered a leg in serving his country, but he’s far from handicapped.
       “As soon as a person says disabled, and they think they're disabled, they might as well keep their butt in a chair and not do anything the rest of their life,” the 37-year-old career Marine said in a story reported for TODAY by NBC News correspondent Ned Colt in Iraq.
       As he goes about his duties for the 1st Marine Expeditionary force as a weapons coordinator in operations command, Gibson is an inspiration to his fellow soldiers and even to the commander in chief.
       "When Americans like Spanky Gibson serve on our side, the enemy in Iraq doesn't got a chance,” President Bush said in a recent appearance in the Pentagon to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
       In May 2006, Gibson was on foot patrol in Ramadi in Iraq when a sniper’s bullet tore through his left knee. “Basically, the bullet disintegrated my kneecap, completely,” he said.
       Being a Marine, his first instinct wasn’t to call for help but to try to get back up and return to the fight. That was impossible with the damage his knee had sustained. Besides the damage to the bone and connective tissue, the bullet that hit him also severed a major nerve and his femoral artery.
       In the hospital, doctors tried to save his leg, but Gibson knew it wasn’t going to heal.
       “Every day I’d beg the surgeons — I'd beg ’em, ‘Just cut it off, close me up. Get me out of here,’ ” he said, actually laughing at the memory.
       Within two months of being wounded, Gibson, who makes his home in Pryor, Okla., with his wife and young daughter, was back at work at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
       As he learned to navigate on his new leg, he dove back into sports, relearning how to ski and run.
       Encouraged by his progress, he started training for triathlons and last year completed the “Escape from Alcatraz” race, which included a swim from the legendary prison island in San Francisco Bay to the mainland.
       Marine Gen. James Mathis was at the swim and while congratulating Gibson for his achievement, asked him if there was anything he could do for the 19-year Marine veteran. Just one thing, said Gibson — get him back to Iraq.
       Just two other soldiers have returned to Iraq after amputations, and navigating bureaucratic hurdles wasn’t easy, but with friends like Mathis on his side, Gibson got his wish in February, deploying to his backline job in Fallujah just 21 months after he was wounded.
       To Gibson, there wasn’t any question about going back. “It's my life,” he said. “It's what I love. For me at least, being a Marine means being prepared to go into conflict.”
       On the base, he’s an inspiration to other Marines, who see what he’s done and find it easier to shoulder their own loads.
       “You may be down sometimes, but you look at him and say, ‘This is what it's all about,’ ” said Master Sgt. Solomon Reed. “It's inspirational to the Marines."
       Gibson sees it as just doing his job. He’s seen progress in Iraq in the past two years and compares where that country is to where the United States was when it set out on the road to independence.
       “This is where we were 232 years ago as a new nation,” he once said. “Now they're starting a new nation, and that's one of my big reasons for coming back here.”




    Alpha Co. 1960



    Click Here for larger flick with names
Roger Jensen , left gives a lesson on how to tune your guitar at the Tomah VA where vets recieved free guitars from Guitars for Vets to help them in their troubles . Dick Riniker photo

Dan Van Buskirk Bravo 67/69

Man who served in Vietnam giving guitars, lessons to vets
By CHRIS HUBBUCH | La Crosse Tribune
TOMAH, Wis. — Forty years ago, Dan Van Buskirk was a teenage Marine scout sniper in Vietnam.

   Early in his tour, he said, his team drew a particularly dangerous assignment. Van Buskirk asked to go in place of one of the guys who had trained him and was close to going home.
   They wouldn’t let him go, he said, because he was too inexperienced.
   His comrades never made it back.
   Van Buskirk made it home, to Nebraska, where he set about getting his life on track, starting a family and going to college.
   But he was never the same. He suffered anxiety and had trouble focusing, as if a part of him never left the jungle. He spent a year in the hospital, unable to feed himself.
   Back then, they called it shell shock.
   Years later, Van Buskirk was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. He said it cost him a marriage and many jobs.
   About a year ago, the retired social worker bought a guitar. After years of never being able to slow down, Van Buskirk found solace in the baritone timbre of his Martin dreadnought.
   “The guitar was something I could sit down with,” he said. “It helped me find some peace and calm.”
   Last year, the 59-year-old and his guitar teacher, Patrick Nettesheim, formed a nonprofit company called Guitars for Vets. Van Buskirk hopes to help veterans like himself by providing them free guitars and lessons.
   For Van Buskirk, it also is a way to honor his buddies who died in Vietnam.
   The Milwaukee-based organization has handed out about two dozen guitars so far to vets in Milwaukee and Tomah. They eventually hope to serve vets in other parts of the country.
   The need in Wisconsin alone is in the thousands, primarily from Vietnam-era veterans, Van Buskirk said. And demand likely will grow in coming years
   More than 67,000 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sought treatment for PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
   Guitars for Vets has a deal with a guitar maker to buy the instruments for about $60 each. They also accept donations. The plan is to raise money to pay instructors.
   “This can be very draining, working with injured people,” Nettesheim said.
   Vets get five weekly personal lessons with an instructor. After that, they can apply for more lessons. Those who don’t enjoy it are encouraged to pass their guitars on to other vets or return them to the company.
   Wednesday, Van Buskirk greeted a roomful of veterans at the VA Medical Center in Tomah.
   One by one, 14 vets — most of them in the VA’s 60-day PTSD treatment program — received a handshake, a welcome home, and a new acoustic guitar.
   Mario Ramirez unzipped the black case on his lap, slipped his hand inside and strummed a few chords. Ramirez, 46, served in the Marine Corps from 1980 to 1984. Now he lives at the VA, where he works as a housekeeper. He played a little in the past, usually the blues.
   “I was always wanting a good guitar,” he said. “Now I’m blessed with a new one.”
   James Holcomb said he always wanted to play guitar like his grandmother did. He prefers old country tunes.
   The 28-year-old from Rothchild, Wis., fought in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Now he’s among about 15 veterans in the PTSD program.
   “I always wanted to learn,” he said. “I don’t have a hobby.”
   “Vets tend to isolate a lot,” said Jean Calhoun, the VA center’s music therapist. “This gives them something productive to do when they’re alone — and maybe draw them out.”
   Steve Benirschke fought in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. His massive chest and blond flat top reflect his 22 years in the Army.
   Benirschke, 42, said he’s never played guitar but would like to learn to play Hank Williams Sr. songs.
   “I enjoy old country very much,” the retired sergeant from Sheboygan, Wis., said quietly. “It will help take my mind off some things.”
   How to help
   Guitars for Vets is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit working to provide military veterans with free guitars and lessons to help them cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Visit www.guitarsforvets.org to contact the organization, which accepts cash donations as well as instruments.





Cpl. Fred J. Balester
1st Scout 1943

1st Scouts Somewhere in the Pacific 1943 or 44



Predecessors to 1st Recon Bn.

Las Vegas Get Together April 08

Words from Randy Kendall Delta 64/67 Chu Lai 66

   To see the door swing open this weekend, and three members of 1st Recon Bn walk in after 40 yrs was a very special moment in time.We continue to find more of the old Bn each month.
    Time has a way of standing still or even moving in reverse for a time to allow so many memories of a group of 18-23 year olds to come to life again.
    Doc Gee came in and wondered if anyone would recall his time in the Bn? he found out that his name his been on all the lists of men to find for the last 40 yrs. The word always listed Doc Gee as more Marine than Corpsman..memories by the handful flowed for two days.
    Doc Nielson followed and again his past history of one of the very few Corpsman to be airborne and scuba certified years ahead of the New pipeline method for Recon Corpsman. More memories and stories rolled out for all to hear and recall.
    The last to find us at the hotel was Raul D Amescua "Mess Kit" pictures in hand and so many stories and thoughts of the past the words never stopped. Found only two weeks ago by Duane Massey he said " I will be there" and true to his word he arrived and was surprised we gathered together each yr to recall the "Best Years of Our Lives" one more time.
    Take the time to look for another you recall the reward of seeing these men again after 40 yrs is beyond words.........We have added another to the list of new men found this month by Pete Centani finding Jerry Tomlinson and he only lived 30 min. away from Pete for the last 30 plus years. Tomlinson will join us next year for sure as time did not fit this yrs time frame for him.
    We had the good fortune to have two of 1st Recon Bn members of Today join us at the hotel this yr also. Telling us about the new methods and equipment they now use compared to some of the stuff we reused from WW 2 before the M-16, jungle utilities, and Prc -25s joined the Bn gear.Replacing Prc -10's anger 9's old style utilities and all leather boots & M-1's.
    We thank them for taking time to come and visit with and hear the stories of the past methods of the Bn--- they now spear head into the future.
    Many similar thoughts run together even after the passing of 40 yrs, the basic reason for the Bn has not changed much..but the how and why's of today still sets the Bn apart and always will make it a Very Special unit to serve with . Having Chief Markham and Chief Bailey, made this gathering very special to each of us,
    When I started looking for the men of Recon in the mid 90's by this new prc-25 called a computer the comments by present day men of Recon
    "Just one of the Old Ones " looking for their men way back..........and I took that comment and looked at it as a compliment because....WE are now the "OLD ONES" but they still walk in our foot steps to this day.
    To the wonderful women in our lives that put up with us and guide us in their own way......we say Thank you for being with us again this year.
    Each of us hope this new contact with today's Recon Marines and Corpsmen remains strong and they return to visit with us again as the yrs move along.
    Their stories on the war in Iraq trigger so many thoughts of then and now and how the Bn continues to change and move forward as it always has.
    The door remains open to to the men of 1st Recon Bn of today
    If you missed this gathering....YOU missed One of the Best reuions to date