Pete and Lisa Chartier 2003Sergeant Peter J. Chartier

“Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.” - Ronald Reagan

Message #2

The Journey Continues
(050127 - 050215)

Dear Family and Friends of MSSG-15,

It is a pleasure to send you the next edition of our newsletter and bring you up to date since our last note. These past few weeks have gone by so quickly that some of us feel that next week we’ll be in Hawaii for the start of our “Tiger Cruise.” Even though we miss our families and friends, this deployment has been a very rewarding experience for us, given our participation in OPERATION UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, and we look forward to the next challenge.

The Marines of Central Command are sleeping well at night since they now have the best Marine Air Ground Task Force assembled since the MEU (SOC) program started in 1985 patrolling their Area of Operations (AOR)! Although we are currently tasked as the “theater reserve,” our colleagues in the Navy are busy guarding oil platforms and conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations. Meanwhile, we Marines are preparing for our next mission – a month-long training exercise in Kuwait – which begins shortly. This is an opportunity for the Marines and sailors of the MEU to get on the ground and “knock off some of the cobwebs” with realistic live fire training and sustainment training for other perishable skills that are essential to maintaining our warfighting prowess. Our key leaders ashore will be Captain Jamey Stover, the Direct Support Element Commander, and his DSE Chief Gunnery Sergeant Sean Foley. These gentlemen will be ably supported by Lieutenant Tim Smith, Lieutenant Joe Cirka, Lieutenant Manuel Carpio, SSgt Blaine Jones, SSgt Daniel Fowler and a host of others. SSgt David Hostuttler and his ammo team will be running the MEU’s ammunition supply point with their usual professionalism.

While many of the Marines and sailors of MSSG-15 will participate in the Kuwait training, most of us will remain on the ships poised to execute our Theater Reserve responsibilities at a moment’s notice. For example, we have 24 personnel, led by Gunnery Sergeant Martinez, on stand-by as a Mass Casualty Response Team (MCRT). We also have another 24 of our finest on alert to respond if our Marines ashore need immediate reinforcement; this team, called in MEU (SOC) parlance a “SPARROWHAWK” platoon, is led by Gunnery Sergeant Quijada. Finally, we have the rest of the MSSG organized and prepared to execute our HAO or NEO missions on short notice, should the need arise.

Our stay in Bahrain – one day for those on the USS DULUTH – was short but very much needed (it had been 45 days since our last port call in Hawaii). The other MSSG folks embarked on the BONHOMME-RICHARD and RUSHMORE were able to enjoy many days of liberty in Bahrain, but the DULUTH had to sail early IOT support the ongoing Navy missions in the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG). In the end, we all had an opportunity to enjoy the unique culture Bahrain has to offer and some well-deserved time off.

Your Marines and sailors continue to perform magnificently and each of you should be very proud of your loved ones. The value of our grueling pre-deployment training is obvious now and is reflected in the unit’s sustained performance. Your spouses, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are in the vanguard of the Corps and epitomize our vow to be “the most ready when the Nation is least ready.” They are ready, not only to deploy, fight and win, but also to accomplish their mission and then come back home to you. You should recognize how unique our mandate is: the Corps is required by law that, in addition to its primary statutory amphibious mission, we be prepared to carry out “such other duties as the President may direct.” Not idle words, they charge your Marines and sailors with a unique responsibility not specifically borne by any other military service – to fight Boxers in China, to guard the U.S. Mail, to stay the hand of brutal dictators in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq, and to go on short notice to assist disaster victims in Sri Lanka & Indonesia. A tall order to be sure, but your Marines and sailors are up to the task. We will accomplish whatever missions our Nation requires, but each of us looks forward to a safe return to California and a happy reunion with loved ones.

For those of you keeping score at home, the SgtMaj and CO have a commanding 9-game lead over the XO and S-3A (11 – 2) in darts. There are many theories on the lopsided nature of this competition, but most agree that it boils down to the ability to perform under pressure (or lack thereof). The MSSG volleyball team (composed of our folks on the BHR) defeated the ACE and the BLT in Bahrain to secure the championship for that sport, which is part of the MEU’s Commander’s Cup. Kudos to Staff Sergeant David Graveley (EOD) for leading that effort. Meanwhile, Sergeants Justin Berkey and Jonathan Chestnutt continue to hone their skills in preparation for the golf tournament. In other sports news, Gunnery Sergeant Shawn Huggins suffered multiple lacerations in a nasty flight-deck spill recently, and he swore he would never PT again. However, he has recently changed his mind and has decided to start a two-a-day weight lifting program in the gym. Earlier today, Gunnery Sergeant Quijada showed him where the gym is located so he’s ready to get started. Good luck, Gunny! Finally, the officers of the MSSG recently participated in a Yoga session under the tutelage of Lieutenant Jillian Martin, USN. It was an outstanding learning experience for the rugged, battle-hardened Marines of the unit, but all agreed that it should never be spoken of again for as long as anyone lives.

We are interested in your ideas on how to improve this newsletter and we look forward to your feedback through the Key Volunteer Coordinator, Toni Hostuttler. On that subject, thanks again to Toni and all the other Key Volunteers for the outstanding job that you are doing on our behalf. We couldn’t do it without your support and assistance! We will start posting photos of your Marines and sailors on a designated KVN or other website which will allow for easy viewing and access. We are limited in the size of the attachments that we can send via email so we want to keep the newsletter as a text-only document for the time being.

We will attempt to send out an update every week after this newsletter, but operational requirements may dictate that we send them less often. Please let us know if you have any specific information that you would like to hear or questions we might be able to answer.

Until next time, thank you again for your constant support, thoughts and prayers.

Semper Fidelis and God Bless,
First Sergeant G.A. “Butch” Vasquez

PS: Congratulations to SSgt Fountain and his wife Megumi on the birth of their daughter Iris, Sgt Havens and his wife Kim on the birth of their daughter Katelyn.