Monday, May 21, 2012

Humboldt Marine Strives to Be Top Dog

Regional Command Southwest
Story by Spc. Chelsea Russell

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - Dark green containers sprawl across the soft dirt of the Motor Transportation Pool here as members of the embarkation section for I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward) load equipment onto a pallet. Gusts of dry wind occasionally kick up miniature tornadoes of dust that storm across the sun-baked lot. The sweaty, dust-covered Marines take a momentary break to drink some water before they resume their hard work.

Pfc. Kimberly Mulligan, an embarkation specialist with I MHG (Fwd) stationed at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, from Humboldt, Iowa, joined the military because she loves the sense of camaraderie she shares with her fellow service members.

“I wanted to get more out of life,” she said. “Something that would teach me something new every day because I love learning things. I like traveling and meeting new people.”

Although Mulligan never imagined she would join the military, she said the Marine Corps suits her because the challenge of being the best at what she does appeals to her.

“It wasn’t until after I got out [of high school] and I was working as a waitress I was like, this is not for me,” she explained, laughing. “I was thinking about the different branches of the military and what each of them offered and I was like, well, if I’m going to join the military I want to be a top dog - gotta go hard or go home. So, I decided on the Marine Corps. “

Mulligan’s job as an embarkation specialist requires flexibility and a good work ethic.

“My job entails taking accountability of all the different sorts of gear that fall under our unit that we are in charge of,” said Mulligan. “For this deployment, our main job is retrograding everything back to the states. We have to take accountability of it, clean it, palletize it, take it to the cargo yardins, and schedule the flights for it. “

Despite the extensive amount of work that goes into each shipment she and her fellow Marines send home, Mulligan is constantly meeting new people and enjoys the challenges she encounters.

“[My job] gets me to deal with a lot of different people,” she said, smiling brightly. “No matter what you do, for embarkation you’re always going to have something in common with someone else.”

Mulligan impatiently brushed her white-blonde bangs away from her eyes and paused a moment before confessing that paperwork is her least favorite part of her job.

Sgt. Ginni Stolaas, the embark chief for I MHG (FWD) from Crawfordville, Fla., said Mulligan is known for her sharp wit and determination.

“She’s got the initiative to get the job done,” said Stolaas. “She’s got the smarts to be able to do it without being told what to do.”

This is Mulligan’s first deployment. She volunteered to deploy with I MHG (Fwd) because she wanted to understand what it is like to be deployed and share her experiences with junior Marines. So, when she was offered the opportunity to deploy with MHG, she replied, “Sure, why not?”

It’s been three months since she arrived here and she said it’s taken her a while to get used to the lack of privacy.

“The hardest thing is not having somewhere to go to be able to release the stress from the day,” Mulligan said. “All you can do is go to the gym or your can. Either way, you’re always going to see the people that frustrate you during the day. There’s nowhere to really go to get away.”

Even though there are many stresses inherent in deploying, Mulligan is eager to tackle any of the challenges she may encounter and strives to encourage her fellow service members to look at the positive side of things. She looks forward to the experiences she will gain during this deployment and knows they’ll help make her a better Marine.

As the embarkation specialists toil under the relentless rays of the sun, they still manage to find time to crack a few jokes. Mulligan laughs at the antics of one of her fellow Marines and the pile of equipment waiting to be loaded onto the bright silver pallet gradually grows smaller. Their effortless teamwork makes easy work of their assigned task. It won’t be long until they are done.

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