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Civilians among deploying personnel

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 3/11/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel Palmer

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(March 11, 2004) -- When newspapers headlines or the 10 o'clock news report on deployments, they usually talk about men and women in uniform - not slacks, jeans or button-down shirts. But U.S. troops aren't the only people who deploy during times of war. A small number of civilian contractors and Department of Defense employees are usually called upon to support the troops "in every clime and place."

Take Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39, for example. The MALS deployed six civilians to help support the Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Even though those civilians stayed in the rear, their jobs are pivotal to a successful performance on the front lines.

Besides, their time overseas wasn't without a tense moment or two.

"We had (enemy) SCUDS launch, and had a Patriot missile fly over our flight line about 25 feet above my head," said Ken M. King, a former Marine.

"My job here is to give support to the Marines, whether it is in the country or overseas in Iraqi or Kuwait," said King, a T-700 engineer technician attached to MALS-39.

King, a native of El Toro and a DoD employee of the Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command, deployed with MALS-39 during OIF from January to May 2003. His primary duties overseas were not much different from those at Camp Pendleton - except that during OIF, he also served Army and Navy units.

"I took on extra duties. My primary role was to support (Marine Aircraft Group 39); however, since the Navy Combat Unit and the Army Search and Rescue Units were there to support our Marines, I wanted to make sure our brothers could get in and out."

King's expertise is helicopters. He advises Marines on proper engine maintenance and provides logistical support. He also trains both enlisted personnel and officers pertaining to different components of AH-1 Cobras, SH-60 Seahawks, UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-64 Apache engines.

Although King wasn't wearing camouflage green while deployed, he wasn't living in luxury either. Like the Marines they served, King and other civilians deployed to OIF lived in tents.

The sandstorms were an annoyance. The explosions he saw in the distance in Iraq were downright unnerving, he said.

King has been in and out of the Marine Corps since 1978. He took an early retirement in 1988 before landing a government job at Camp Pendleton in 1993. "The way Marines treated me while deployed was pretty much the same as they do here," he said. Glenn D. McKenzie, a data planner for the, Simulation Center, I Marine Expeditionary Force, spent eight months overseas during OIF.

He retired as a master sergeant in 2002 and took a job with Smart Tronix, a government contractor supported by the Marine Corps Networking Operation Security Command. A month after starting with the company, he deployed to Camp Commando, Kuwait. McKenzie was used to deploying with the Marines; this was his first time deploying without the uniform.

"It was pretty much the same with the briefs and shots. The one different thing about this deployment was that I had to carry a passport with me," said McKenzie, who has a 22-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.

"My wife knew it was something I had to do," he said about the deployment. She knew (being a Marine) was still in me."

Like King, McKenzie witnessed an attack at the camp where he was staying. A Chinese anti-ship missile hit 200 yards outside the camp. His Marine instincts took over.

"I was a Marine for over 20 years - I had the adequate training to know what to do in that situation," he said.

Neither King nor McKenzie are scheduled to deploy this time. But they're ready.

"Sure I'll go back. I am here to support you guys. That's my job, and that's what I love to do," King said.

Only one MALS civilian - Clay Chaffee - has deployed so far this time. Chaffee, who has a wife and two daughters, says he doesn't mind, even if his family is a little nervous about it.

"My wife is not to happy about it, but she understands," Chaffee said via e-mail from Kuwait.

The MEF deployed more than 50 civilians during OIF, McKenzie said.

The SCUDS can fly, and terrorists can lurk. But King says he feels secure enough in the presence of his green-side cohorts.

"Being with Marines, I didn't feel any sense of anxiety. That is one thing about the Marine Corps, they will check your six (backside)," King said.

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