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Marines take refuge in Bull Pen to keep in touch

5 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Marines sit patiently on wooden benches and wait their turn to call home.  A voice calls “Computer five, time’s up!”

The morale, welfare and recreation center on Camp Mercury, also known as the “Bull Pen,” serves as a window to the outside world for the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Calling home is a rare treat for the infantry Marines.  Their mission around the city of Fallujah usually keeps them far from camp facilities.  

“We’ve been back four days for every eight to fifteen in the field, depending on what’s going on,” said Pfc. Armin A. Huerta, an infantryman with Company K. 

Huerta, 21, from Rio Hondo, Texas, said he uses the phones and Internet about equally during his time on camp.  He said phone and computer privileges are a big motivation when they get back from a long mission. 

“The first thing you think about is getting to the Internet center, hoping it’s open, that you don’t have to wait in a long line,” said Pfc. Gene R. Landrus, an assaultman assigned to Company K.  “When we get in, there’s a lot to take care of with the vehicles and weapons.  You get it all done quickly to try and be the first one in here.” 

Twenty-two-year-old Lance Cpl. Jed T. Ellenson, an infantryman with Company K., described his routine when his platoon returns from the field.

“The first thing I do is take a shower,” said Ellenson, from Mukwonago, Wis.  “Usually, we get word, get mail, hit the rack, then we come here first thing in the morning.” 

Given the variety of e-mail and personal services available online, Marines spend their time at the Bull Pen in different ways.

“I like instant messaging, but the time difference conflicts with that, so e-mail is the best way,” Landrus said. 

He added that he spends almost no time checking the news online, so he asks his family and friends.

“I really don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world,” said the 25-year-old from Clarkston, Wash.  “I know the weather back home and what’s going on with my family.”

“I’m computer inept, but I know how to check my email, write a few back, that’s about it,” Ellenson said.  “They take the time to write to me, so I’m going to take the time to write to them.”

Yet, some Marines, like Lance Cpl. Carlos A. Cummings, an infantryman with Company K prefer the old-fashioned method of communication to computers.

“Most people like to email, especially the younger crowd,” said Cummings, 19, from Memphis, Tenn.  “But when I was younger I didn’t use the Internet because it gets you in trouble, so I never set up an e-mail address,” he explained. 

“I prefer to talk to a person one-on-one instead of typing letters,” Cummings said.  “It’s not the same as when a person can hear your voice.” 

He added that he still uses the Internet for online Marine Corps Institute courses.

“Now that I have a calling card, I use the phone and Internet evenly,” Ellenson said.  “Both give you a good chance to get in touch with your people back home.”