Moving on

William Blount grad recalls life-changing time as Marine in Iraq

Lance Cpl. David Galentine looks ominous with his rifle trained toward the camera in this image taken in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. David Galentine looks ominous with his rifle trained toward the camera in this image taken in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. David Galentine relaxes with some guitar music recently during his deployment in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. David Galentine relaxes with some guitar music recently during his deployment in Iraq.

— As dump-trucks, cranes and tractors arrived at Combat Outpost Karama, one Marine stood alone with astonishment as Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment’s home of more than five months in Iraq, was about to be disassembled.

Lance Cpl. William Galentine, a mortarman with Weapons Company, couldn’t believe his eyes as the watch posts he once manned were peeled from their positions and the components that made up the outpost slowly disappeared. Mattresses were loaded on trucks, barriers that had stood for years were torn down and generators which powered everything in sight were powered off.

“It’s great that we have made this much progress in Iraq, but I’m actually going to miss this place,” said Lance Cpl. William Galentine, a native of Maryville.

At only 18 years old, Galentine is the youngest Marine in his company. The life-changing events of helping local nationals and Iraqi Security Forces far surpass what most 18-year-olds have experienced.

“I know these people will do fine without us, but I like to be the one they can depend on in desperate times,” said Galentine,

Combat Outpost Karama was located east of Ramadi, Iraq, and housed approximately 95 Marines. Their mission was to help provide security in the area and to assist Iraqi Security Forces. As the Iraqi Security Forces matured, the presence of the Marines became less and less necessary. Galentine and the rest of Weapons Company are now operating out of Camp Ramadi.

Life on Karama is not as easy as other bases in Iraq. The close-quarters severely limit privacy. Pre-packaged “Meals-ready-to-eat” often replace well-prepared, hot meals served in chow halls. Despite the austere conditions, Galentine never lost his positive outlook or equanimity.

“He always seems to be in a great mood, while everyone else is stressed out and ready to go home,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Ziemer, an infantryman with the company.

Galentine was living his dream as a United States Marine and no amount of discomfort could cloud his sense of purpose.

“I always knew while growing up and after the beginning of the war, that I would be out here with the Marines, serving my country,” said Galentine.

Galentine enlisted in the Marine Corps during his senior year of high school, directly following his 17th birthday. Upon graduation, he was offered the opportunity to go to recruit training earlier than he had previously agreed.

“My recruiter called me on a Friday, while I was at work, and told me I could leave the next day. I quit my job, drove my car to my dad’s, handed him the keys and said goodbye,” recounted Galentine.

He arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., on July 24, 2007, and was welcomed by seasoned Marines in campaign covers, the signature hat worn by Marine Corps drill instructors. Although the next few months made him nervous, he knew boot camp would only be a minor challenge he would have to surpass to become a Marine.

After graduating from “The Island,” and completing both Marine Combat Training and his military occupational specialty training as a mortarman, Galentine received orders to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. It wasn’t long after arriving at Camp Lejeune, that he heard his unit would be deploying to Iraq in August 2008, for a seven-month tour.

“I couldn’t believe it,” exclaimed Galentine. “I was so excited I wouldn’t have to wait too long before I had my chance to go to Iraq.”

He knew his unit’s mission wouldn’t be geared toward combat operations, but more toward supporting Iraqi Security Forces. With Iraqis gradually taking control of security measures throughout eastern Anbar province, it was only a matter of time before locations, such as Combat Outpost Karama, would be removed and those who manned the positions would be replaced by increasingly efficient Iraqi Security Forces.

Looking back, Galentine knows their efforts in providing security for the Iraqis will not be forgotten. It takes a mindset like Galentine’s to successfully continue the partnership with Iraqi Security Forces as they proliferate throughout eastern Anbar province.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.mnfwest.usmc.mil.

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