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Glorified: Okinawa Marine 'paper pusher' earns two bronze stars for Iraq service, combat action


Jan. 11, 2008; Submitted on: 01/11/2008 03:13:04 AM ; Story ID#: 20081113134


By Lance Cpl. David Rogers, MCB Camp Butler





MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 11, 2008) -- Staff Sgt. Jacob Jones seems to be having a problem – he needs an accurate description, and people can't seem to agree. Some would call him hero, although, as an aviation operations specialist, he prefers the term "glorified paper pusher."


This has been going on for a while. Last year, shortly after arriving for his first tour in Iraq, Jones walked into a room full of laughing U.S. Army soldiers in Diyala province and silence immediately descended over the group.


Jones asked what was going on.


"Well, there's a going bet as far as what your job is and what it is you do in the Marine Corps," one of the soldiers said. "Are you like, recon or something?"


Jones told them they couldn't be further from the truth, but the soldiers may have been on to something Jones was not fully aware of.


and wondered why they would draw such a conclusion. The soldiers it seemed sensed in Jones a quality he was not fully aware of.


On Jan. 2, Lt. Col. David W. Bussel, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma's Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, presented Jones with two Bronze Star medals at the theater here – one with an authorized combat distinguishing device.


Both awards were presented for actions performed in Iraq while Jones served as the operations chief of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command's Military Transition Team, but one medal was for a specific incident – putting himself in harm's way to protect Iraqi women and children from a sniper attack.


But without knowing all that, what convinces an entire group of Army soldiers to perceive Jones as the hard-boiled stereotype they know from movies, when his usual trade is aviation operations?


Is it the swagger, the attitude? Is it his cool under fire? Is it a perceived difference between services?


Whatever it is, it sure isn't pushing paper.



Have weapon, will travel


When he first arrived in Camp Victory in March, Jones' job as operations chief involved arranging transportation for the transition team members and the team's Iraqi advisor officers.


But after only a few weeks, Jones received a different mission. He became the personal security for Army Lt. Col. Timothy Small, the transition team's plans officer.


"They knew I was a Marine, they knew I knew how to fight," Jones said. "They wanted someone who could shoot, move and communicate. And they picked me."


Small's mission consisted of standing up a joint operations center in Baqubah, a major stronghold of insurgent activity.


Jones and Small set up the Provincial Joint Security Coordination Center in a local police building. The center became the hub for coordinating efforts between local police, fire department and emergency medical services.


"First and foremost I was (Small's) security," Jones said. "The last thing we wanted was for him to get captured. So I was his hired gun."



On cowardly snipers


Jones descended from the coordination center's rooftop on the morning of May 4 after checking the machine gun posts and headed to Small's office to give his situation report.


"As soon as I sat down in the office and I started talking to him, letting him know everything was secure…, we started taking rounds," Jones said.


Jones grabbed his M-4A1 carbine and M-9 pistol and threw a bandolier of 5.56 mm ammunition over his shoulder. He ran to the front of the building – the location of the impacts.


"When I got there, there were a bunch of women and children that were trying to meet with the police and (the insurgents) were shooting at the women and children that were standing at the front door, which is just cowardly," Jones recalled with visible disgust.


Iraqi Police told Jones there was a sniper firing from a nearby window. Jones peeked out of a window and identified the attacker's location.


"I moved into a firing position in the front doorway and … I unleashed the fury, man. I let loose with that M4," Jones said.


Jones and the insurgent went back and forth, popping in and out of cover while firing at each other. Eventually, Small met up with Jones, took a knee and joined in.


Soon, they ran low on ammunition.


"Jones immediately took it upon himself to retrieve ammo from a nearby outpost," Small said. "It was only about 50 meters, but to get there he had to expose himself to enemy fire."


Jones returned with the rounds as another insurgent joined the rooftop sniper. Regardless of the reinforcement, he and Small managed to neutralize both enemies.


But the insurgents had not had their fill.


"The next day we started taking more fire out of there," Jones said in a frustrated voice.


Jones decided to end the problem with an AT-4 rocket launcher. He grabbed the weapon, moved to the coordination center roof and aimed in on the insurgents' building. Prior to destroying the enemy position, however, a U.S. Army captain alerted him to a friendly patrol nearby.


Jones put away the rocket launcher. He would have to find another solution.



Plan B


"Get your men out of the racks, right now." Jones told the Army captain. "Mount them up. Get them into a stack next to the building. We're going to raid this block."


Inspired by Jones' efforts the previous day, the Iraqi policemen stepped up and joined the U.S. service members in the house-to-house city block raid.


"By the example Jones set that day, he boosted the morale of the whole headquarters and proved to (Iraqi police) we were ready to fight by them," Small said. "Up to that point, they hadn't fought side by side with the Americans. All I can say is he really turned things around."


Jones took charge of the patrol, teaching the Iraqi police the proper way to clear buildings while proceeding down the block and continuously receiving fire from enemy insurgents. Jones' patrol was not the only force in conflict, as the 1st Army patrol got caught up in a major firefight as well.


Meanwhile, Jones' patrol cleared the city block, progressing steadily to the top of the building where he had engaged the previous day's sniper.


"After that we really didn't take any fire from (that tower)," Jones said. "We made our presence known. That was my biggest thing. Don't sit inside the base. Get out there. Show them that we're not afraid."





During his 6-month Iraq tour, Jones said he grew much closer to the policemen he worked with than he had anticipated.


"After I had been there for a while, I started to work with the guys 17, 18 hours a day," Jones said. "I really befriended them. They became like family to me. I just wanted to make sure nothing was going to happen to them while I was there. I would have given my life for them. I really would have."


Many of the policemen were new recruits. Jones often found himself teaching them about basic warfighting tactics he learned through the combat training every Marine receives.


"I wanted to make them better warfighters," Jones said. "I wanted to make them aware of what they're doing and how to better themselves as policemen…as soldiers. I didn't want to see any guys get killed. I didn't want to see anyone get hurt."


During his tour, Jones used his training as an emergency medical technician to treat typhoid-infected Iraqi policemen. He also provided daily medical care to the policemen and local civilians, and on one occasion treated two burned Iraqi children before helping evacuate them to a local base for further treatment.


As he bonded with the locals and Iraqi police, his conversations with them became more and more personal toward their duty as citizens.


"When I talked to the Iraqis, I'd tell them about honor, courage and commitment," Jones said. "I'd tell them what (those values) mean to me as a Marine. I'd say what they could mean to an Iraqi soldier. I'd talk to them a lot about those things and that's what really carried me through, I think."



One team, one fight


After just one day of working in the joint coordination center, Jones found himself volunteering the limited down time he had – taking post with U.S. soldiers on rooftop observation points at the Diyala province governor's building.


"I'd go up there to motivate the guys, talk to them, be an extra set of eyes," Jones said. "I just wasn't ready to go to bed a lot of times."


Acting either as a spotter or designated marksman, many of the U.S. soldiers would look to him for advice during engagements with hostile forces.


"(The soldiers) worshipped him. He was their hero," Small said. "When gunfire happened there, they knew Jones would step up and fight back. He proved himself as a Marine, no question about it. He showed no fear whatsoever in the face of combat. I can't say enough things about the guy. He was a soldier's soldier."


As Jones spent time with the soldiers, the separation felt from being a Marine in a community of Army closed up. They became simply another group of friends he would be forced to leave behind after his tour.



An unnerving, welcome silence


After around three months in Baqubah, Jones was forced to return to Camp Victory in August.


"I didn't want to leave," Jones said. "I tried to extend twice out there. I tried to stay as long as I could because I truly believe in the mission. I really want those people to succeed. I've met their families. I worked with them. I ate with them. I slept with them. I cried with them. I really want them to be better."


Two weeks after leaving, Jones returned one last time when the U.S. Army signed over the area authority to the Iraqi Army. While he was gone, a "surge" of U.S. soldiers had swept the city clean of insurgents during Operation Arrowhead Ripper. As Jones' convoy began heading down the road toward the Governor's building, he noticed an unusual amount of people walking the streets.


"To be honest, I was freaking out. I wasn't used to seeing people in the streets," Jones said. "The markets were open. And I saw kids out playing with balls. The schools were open. There were women walking around with their children."


Jones was particularly surprised considering his last experience before returning.


"The last time I rolled through that check point there was a suicide bomber and there were body parts lying in the side of the street," Jones recalled. "Body parts! Right there in the middle of the road. And then I came back and there are schools open, and people walking around."


As Jones stood in the room of the signing, the silence made him uncomfortable. He wasn't used to the lack of gunfire.



You are not exempt


Jones currently sits in a small office as the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of flight scheduling at H&HS aboard MCAS Futenma, but is currently scheduled to execute orders to the School of Infantry West, Camp Pendleton, Calif. to become a combat instructor.


The decision was tough, Jones said. He called it a dramatic change in his original career plans, having always desired the title of drill instructor.


"I really wanted to train Marines," Jones said. "And I wanted to say that I could make a difference in the way I thought the Marine Corps was going to be shaped."


After his experience in Iraq training policemen and seeing so many service members wounded or killed by combat, he reconsidered where he could make the greatest impact.


"Drill is important, however, drill is not going to keep a Marine alive," Jones said. "You need to learn weapons proficiency. I want to keep people alive. I want every Marine leaving Marine Combat Training who thinks 'I'm not going to be in a front line unit' to understand – I'm an aviation Marine who pushes paper for a living and I was out there doing it every day.


"So you need to pay attention. And that's the focus I want them to have: 'it could happen to me.'"





As he looks back on his time in Iraq, the most important thing that remains on his mind is the hope that his contributions left a mark.


"I'll look on (my time spent there) with humility, and pride," Jones said. "I'm proud of the work the police did. I'd like to think that I had a hand in making Diyala province and the country of Iraq a stronger nation, more able to stand up for themselves. I just like to think that I made a difference."


But, as always, he remains humble about his accomplishments.


"I don't even want to be called a hero," Jones said. "I did my job. Just call me Marine and that's good enough."


Regardless of what word you'd use to describe Staff Sgt. Jacob Jones, or what he'd prefer for himself, there is a variety to choose from.


Marine, paper pusher, hero. Proud, humble, glorified.


But when it's all said and done, really, they all apply.

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Hans beteende låter väldigt mycket som det sätt man hör att svenskar beter sig i utlandstjäst. Alltså att han skapar kontakt med och lär känna locals. Är det så ovanligt för US army/marines? Jag tycker verkligen att de får det att låta så i artikeln.

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Hans beteende låter väldigt mycket som det sätt man hör att svenskar beter sig i utlandstjäst. Alltså att han skapar kontakt med och lär känna locals. Är det så ovanligt för US army/marines? Jag tycker verkligen att de får det att låta så i artikeln.


Mjoo, de har skiftat lite her borta, mycket beror vel po den nya Generalen, Petreus, och det faktum att han borjat tillempa mer utav "Hearts and minds" taktiken. Sen har de lokala "concerned local citizen" grupperna dvs fore detta aq o andra gerillas gjort en stor skillnad i sekerhet och det sett som koalitionsstyrkorna her borta agerar med lokalbefolkningen. Innan sommaren var det mer aggressiv krigsforing, nu aer det definitivt mer diplomatisk och mer utav det som ISAF gor i Afghanistan. Forsta gongen po veldigt lenge finns det hopp i det her landet. Det aer inte mycket men det aer alltid not.

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