Update: Marine Base experts deploy to war zone - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Update: Marine Base experts deploy to war zone

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Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, known as the M-Wrap. (Marine Corps photo) Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, known as the M-Wrap. (Marine Corps photo)

February 1, 2008

Albany --  It was an emotional morning at the Marine Corps Logistics Base as 17 South Georgia men left for a six month deployment in Iraq.

They aren't troops. They're called civilian Marines... employees at the base's Maintenance Center who volunteered to go to a war zone to service new armor vehicles that are saving lives.

Curtisene Simmons admits it was tough for the family when Larry said he was going. "I was like "oh, my God," she said.

The 17 mechanics and electricians are going to continue specialized work on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, called the M-RAP for short.

Larry Simmons said "they have a V hull shape that is designed to absorb some of the impact, lift the vehicle up so the soldiers will be safe."

The MRAP is specially designed to save lives if hit by mines or IED's, and so far no Marine has died in it in combat.

"We were some of the first to train on it, so it's very important that we be there, and we want to be part of the team to help the Marines," Simmons said.  "That made me feel better because I knew what they were doing was really going to save a lot of lives, and so that's even more important to me."

Jody Lewis said "It will be a lifelong experience. I mean you'll never get to experience anything like this anywhere else."

 "I think he'll be fine. Keep their head up and stay positive, go over there, do what they have to do, and get back," Girlfriend Mary Powers said.

Maintenance Center Commander Colonel Daniel Gillan said "stay safe, communicate with your families, and just get it done. Hu-rah... Semper Fi!"

Then it was that tough final goodbye, and time to get on the bus, with kisses, hugs.

Curtisene Simmons said "I'm really proud and a lot nervous."

For six months they will be away from their families, giving of themselves to help bring other troops home safe.

"What they are going to do over there for the six months they are deployed is just that, save lives. So that those Marines and soldiers can come back to their families," Colonel Gillan said.

The bus left right on time, as the South Georgians headed for Iraq. Once there the 17 will likely split up into teams and move around the Iraq theater of operations.

Larry Daniel, an electrician, says he looks forward to helping the troops.  

"I want to feel like I am making a difference. I want to help the Marines by doing the things, and putting the vehicles together, it helps save lives and reduces injuries," said Daniel.

This is the largest group of civilian Marines from the Maintenance Center to go to Iraq, and they say they expect more groups to be deployed in the near future.

They received military style training for two months at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and will be serving in several different locations around Iraq as teams.

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