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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By Christine Cabalo

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James Marino receiving Bronze Star
Lieutenant Col. Matt Baker, executive officer, 3rd Marine Regiment, (left) awards a Bronze Star Medal to Capt. James Marino, intelligence officer, 3rd Marines April 3, 2009.

  Marine Corps Base Hawaii (April 10, 2009)

Three Marines from 3rd Marine Regiment received the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V during an April 3 ceremony held on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Captain James Marino (top photo left), Gunnery Sgt. Alexandro Magdaleno (photo not available) and Staff Sgt. James Schneider (bottom photo left) received the medals for their actions during Operation Enduring Freedom. All are former members of Embedded Training Team 5-3 and endured direct fire while training Afghan National Army units.

The three volunteered to mentor Afghan soldiers in various parts of Afghanistan, deploying from October 2007 to December 2008.

Many of the training missions were accomplished by fostering good teamwork with the Afghans, said Schneider, a native of Thorndale, Texas, who was fired upon during a September 2008 patrol.

During the patrol, Schneider was searching for a Taliban leader near Omar, Afghanistan, in Korengal Valley with Afghan soldiers and a U.S. Army platoon. When small arms fire broke out, his group fired back.

Schneider noticed the gunner of his humvee was nearly out of ammunition. Still taking fire, he maneuvered across more than 90 feet of open space to reach the gunner and assisted in reloading the .50-caliber machine gun.

“I wasn't thinking about anything else,” he said. “I was just thinking about making sure the job was done.”

The work ETT 5-3 accomplished was rewarding, Magdaleno said, who tutored Afghan soldiers and helped them work as a team in combat situations.

The Afghans learned new tactical strategies, including squad formation methods and fought in coordination with U.S. support under his mentorship.

“Even the small accomplishments were important,” said Magdaleno, who hails from Chicago. “Teaching them bits of English and developing friendships with the Afghan soldiers made me proud.”

Magdaleno spent several months of his deployment in mountainous Korengal Outpost, where supplies and personnel must be flown in
James Schneider receiving Bronze Star
Staff Sgt. James Schneider, Combat Assault Company platoon sergeant, 3rd Marine Regiment, (right) speaks with Lt. Col. Matt Baker, executive officer, 3rd Marines, after receiving his Bronze Star Medal April 3, 2009.
by helicopter. He conducted more than 100 dismounted patrols in the rocky area, also enduring enemy firing alongside the Afghan troops.
The ETT also used and taught the Afghans modified U.S. military strategies to better defend against attacks. Marino devised some of these strategies during his deployment, which the Afghans still use.

“The ANA came to learn how to use ANA and U.S. forces to their advantage,” Marino said. “We developed a way for them to quickly call for fire, fighting the enemy using U.S. support.”

Marino worked with Afghan officials to modify the U.S. grid coordinate system, adapting it for quick use. Analyzing places where anti-Afghan forces were most likely to attack from, he developed a list of sites easily referenced during combat.

Using these reference points, finer adjustments could be made by the Afghans to quickly hit enemy forces. Marino, of Winfield, Ill., said working with the team was an amazing opportunity and unlike any other type of deployment.

“It's an entirely different type of fight [in Afghanistan] than Iraq,” Marino said. “You employ all of the skills you've learned in the Marine Corps every day. You'd almost never have a chance to call for fire elsewhere.”

Each of the former ETT 5-3 members said they were glad to aid in the team's mission to support and mentor the Afghan National Army while also combating anti-Afghan forces. All agreed they'd deploy back to the area and continue to help train Afghan troops as well as aid living conditions in Afghanistan.

“We were able to persevere in training the Afghan soldiers,” Schneider said. “We still have a long way to go there. We just need more Marines out there.”

Article and photos by Christine Cabalo
Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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