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Even 'Nick the New Guy' gets nicknamed in Iraq

6 May 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Chances are that kid everyone called Stinky in sixth grade eventually cleaned up.  But then again, maybe he didn't and just joined the Corps. 

Marines have a habit of dubbing fellow warriors with off-the-wall, sometimes off-color nicknames for as many reasons as there are nicknames.

The artillerymen with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment are no different.

"When you're born, your mother gives you your real name," said Sgt. Dawud H. Hakim, of Cleveland. "You get your nickname from life experiences and things you do that set you apart."

Hakim, who is known as "Diehard," received his pseudonym when he was a 17-year-old high school student.

"We used to wrestle for fun when I was in school," he said explaining the origin of his nickname. "I was always a small guy so people thought that I'd go down fast, but I always had more energy and won.  I never go down easy."

The name followed him into the Marine Corps. He said the name is so popular he had his best friend tattoo "Diehard" on his right forearm.

But some nicknames are derived out of sheer necessity.

Take Lance Cpl. Nouphanh Pravongviengkhan for example. His last name is made up of 17 letters and is difficult to pronounce. His fellow Battery I Marines came up with the nickname "PG" to alleviate the problem.

Sgt. David E. Proulx, from Londonderry, N.H., also has a tricky surname, which sounds like the first half of the word "prune."

"I've been called everything from prolax to prophylactic," Sgt. "PX" said. "I much prefer Sergeant PX to those names."

Some nicknames are given for physical features.

Nineteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Travis J. Fisk knows this all too well.

"My girlfriend's friend's boyfriend saw me walking down the hall of my high school one day and said, 'Hey, Spongebob, what's up?'" explained Fisk, of Sheldon, Wash. "I'm not really sure why he called me that, but it stuck."

Fisk speculated that the gap in his two front teeth and his chubby cheeks might have something to do with the name, which comes from the popular cartoon about a pants-wearing sea sponge.

"When I got to this unit, we had to tell something about ourselves," he explained. "I told them my nickname and they've called me Spongebob since then. Sometimes the guys in the platoon will give me Spongebob Squarepants toys."

He's also heard several variations such as "Sponge."

"I still don't know how I got that name, but I like it anyway," he stated.

Sgt. Douglas C. "Joystick" Edwards, a 27-year-old from Las Vegas, also got his nickname for a physical characteristic.

During back surgery two years ago, doctors removed a nerve from Edwards' spine, leaving the sergeant with a "wobble" when he stands upright.

"Sometimes when I'm giving a class or chewing someone out, I wobble back and forth making me resemble a joystick," Edwards said with a laugh.

Edwards said he was never offended by the name.  Instead he found it funny and accepted it right away.

"A nickname just happens," he explained. "It comes from something that a person does or says that makes him stand out. It helps to build close relationships with the guys in the unit. It's something everyone will remember about you even when they leave the Marine Corps."