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Two dreams, 10 years, one Marine back in the desert

23 Mar 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Waking up to the sounds of machine-gun fire and Muslim prayer

songs is nothing new for Lance Cpl. Brett T. Newman, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 4th

Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

The 35-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., first joined the Marine Corps in March 1988 at the

age of 18. After taking a 10-year hiatus from the military to teach special education and

coach high school basketball in his hometown, Newman returned to the Corps in 2001.

"While I was in the first time," said the avid sports enthusiast, "I was on sea duty aboard

the USS Nimitz and deployed several times. Then I was transferred to 3rd Battalion, 1st

Marine Regiment and went to Kuwait for the first Gulf War in 1991."

While in Kuwait, Newman, a lance corporal at the time, was in charge of a squad of machine

gunners. His unit was involved in several combat operations and also helped during clean-up

efforts after a commercial aircraft from Sudan carrying about 220 people crashed into the

desert sand.

"After the plane went down, we had to go out there and help dig up dead bodies," he said.

"It was tough, but as a grunt you learn to detach yourself from the certain aspects of life

and death. We just went out there and did what we had to do. No questions asked."

Newman also applied that same rhetoric to his combat experiences in 1991.

"Combat is kind of like a sport," he explained. "We trained and trained before we went out

there. Our leadership made sure we were properly trained, so when it came time we didn't

think about the rounds coming downrange.  We just did our jobs and made sure we didn't let

the guy next to us down."

Newman decided to pursue his other dream of becoming a teacher for special education

students after he returned from the war. He left the Marines as a corporal in 1992 and

attended the University of Central Oklahoma.

"I've always been interested in programs for disadvantaged youth," the father of an

eight-year-old girl said. "Many of them feel that they can't do anything productive, but I

want to help them realize that they can."

While teaching, Newman kept in contact with Marine recruiters in the area. Several of the

recruiters attempted to convince Newman to renew his allegiance to the Corps. Newman,

admittedly burnt out with the education system at the time, decided to take up their offers

in 2001.

He returned to the infantry field with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and was determined

to pass on his expertise and leadership to all the Marines with whom he served. However,

upon returning, Newman was reduced to the rank of lance corporal because of Marine Corps

regulations. He explained many senior Marines judge a "devil dog" based upon what he wears

on his collar, but he was not deterred in his quest to educate those placed in his charge.

Currently, he is working with 2nd Battalion's supply section here as the enemy detention

center's noncommissioned officer in charge.

"The best thing I do out here is teach the younger guys," he said. "The Marines nowadays get

a lot of contradicting guidance, and if they don't understand the system or the intent of

certain guidelines, then it creates confusion for them."

Staff Sgt. Vernal A. Hairston, warehouse chief, said he's glad to have Newman on his team

because he helps train the Marines of the supply section.

"He's very straightforward and brings with him a lot of experience," Hairston said. "The

younger Marines know this and give him respect and listen to what he has to say. If I need

to leave to take care of business, I know that Newman... will make sure the other Marines

stay on task."

Cpl. Daniel S. Morris, who works alongside Newman, was on of the Marines to benefit from

Newman's experiences soon after being promoted to the noncommissioned officer ranks.

"When I first picked up NCO, he took me aside and gave me some advice on how to deal with

some Marines we were having trouble with," Morris said. "He gave me his perspective on how

to handle the situation, and I listened to him because he was in during the first Gulf War.

He knows what he's talking about."

Newman admitted that he found it difficult to adjust to being a lance corporal again but

described it as "character building."

"I don't regret my choice to get out the first time and become a teacher," he said. "I'm
just glad I was able to realize to lifetime goals: becoming a Marine and a teacher."