Marine Amputee Who Returned to Iraq Earns Fellowship
(November 1, 2008)
||CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, Oct.
A noncommissioned officer who
returned to Iraq nine months ago after his left
leg was amputated above the knee soon will
represent the Marine Corps in the halls of
Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson (photo
left), whose courage President Bush recognized
during March 19 remarks on the fifth anniversary
of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is one of three
Marines selected for the first staff NCO
congressional fellowships under new Marine Corps
parameters for its part in the Defense
Department congressional fellowships program.
Bush, who described Gibson's successful effort
to rejoin the fight in Iraq, said that with
Americans like Gibson serving, the enemy doesn't
have a chance.
“I want to assist the Marine Corps
globally,” said Gibson, 37. “I want to show what staff NCOs
can do in a position that staff NCOs have never been
challenged in.” |
The Marine Corps congressional fellowship is a year-long
program opened to staff NCOs for the first time this year.
Gibson lost his leg in May 2006 after being shot in the knee
by a sniper while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, as a joint
terminal attack controller for 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison
Company. After extensive rehabilitation at the National
Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Gibson set out to
prove he was fit for duty. He trained for and participated
in endurance races and triathlons.
In June 2007, he competed in the "Escape from Alcatraz"
triathlon in San Francisco, where he met and asked Marine
Corps Gen. James Mattis, who then commanded Marine forces
serving in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, to
let him return to Iraq.
Less than two years after adjusting to his prosthetic leg
and fighting to stay in the Marine Corps, Gibson returned to
Iraq with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force as the force
fires chief for Multinational Force West here.
Gibson said that while
recuperating in Bethesda, he told himself he
would never return to the Washington, D.C.,
area. He was fully focused on returning to Iraq,
“I never contemplated something like this,” he
said. “Nine months ago, my thoughts were
directed in getting back to the battlefield.
Now, I'm going to have to learn more about the
legislative process, and I'll have interaction
between generals and congressmen.”
As a congressional fellow, Gibson will trade his
uniform for a business suit while working with
either the House of Representatives or the
Senate. He will work for a member of Congress,
doing anything any staffer might do, except for
campaign work, said Maj. Ernest E. Robinson of
the Marine Corps' legislative affairs office.
“He will be working in one of the Congress
members' office, working directly for the
member,” Robinson said. “Depending on his tasks,
he could be involved in legislation or some
pretty important business.”
Marine guidelines for the fellowship say
Gibson's new duties could include drafting
legislation, serving as a liaison to
constituents, planning international conferences
and dialogues, and much more.
Master Sgt. William “Spanky”
Gibson saluting with flag in background
“I'm looking forward to understanding the
legislative process and what it has to do with the Marine
Corps,” the Pryor, Okla., native said. “Now us staff NCOs
can be a part of that process and have a say in it.” |
As with nearly all military congressional fellows, Gibson
most likely will serve with a Congress member who serves on
the House or Senate Armed Services Committee or the House
Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense,
according to Col. Raymond E. Celeste of Marine Corps
Gibson will provide accurate information to members of
Congress, said Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Neil O'Connell, the
senior enlisted Marine in Multinational Force West. “He's
tactically and technically proficient, constantly educating
himself, and due to his situation, he's well versed in the
treatment and rehabilitation of the wounded,” O'Connell
Selection for the program seems like a natural step for his
career in the Marines, Gibson said. The majority of his
experience in the Marine Corps has been focused on ground
combat, but he said he's ready for a change.
“I think it's the perfect time to go,” Gibson said. “This
deployment has shown me where my place in the future is.
This is going to be an environment I'm not used to, but
it'll be an environment where I can help the whole
Though Gibson's tour in Washington will be something he has
never done before, O'Connell said, his selection to the
fellowship shows the Defense Department has faith that
Gibson's extensive experience and professionalism will
represent the Marine Corps in a positive light.
“He's a driven Marine, and he's earned his selection,” he
Photos by USMC Cpl. Sean P. McGinty
Special to American Forces Press Service
Marine Corps Cpl. Sean P. McGinty serves
in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs Office.
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