CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- After enlisting in the Marine Corps more than a year apart, two brothers from Canton, Mich., have crossed paths in Iraq, while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Cpl. Ian L. Eichel, a 23-year-old motor transportation mechanic with Regimental Combat Team 7, said he was pleasantly surprised March 17, 2006, when a gunnery sergeant drove his brother, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Eichel to the motor transportation lot here to put the two brothers in touch.
“I was just going on duty at the motor pool when he drove up in a Humvee and said, ‘Hey, Eichel – I’ve got a surprise for you.’ That’s when he (Aaron) jumped out of the truck,” said the older Eichel brother, who has been in Iraq now for nearly two months.
The younger Eichel, a field radio operator with the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, arrived in Iraq “just a few days ago” and happened to be in transient at Camp Al Asad while his unit awaited transportation to their forward operating base in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
Both are graduates of Salem High School in Canton, Mich. Ian graduated in 2001, Aaron the year after. In true brotherly fashion, the Eichels are very competitive with one another, despite their one-year difference of time in the service.
“I beat his rifle score at boot camp,” said the older Eichel, as Aaron shakes his head and smiles.
Back home, the two Marines compete in a different fashion – whoever can catch the biggest fish.
“We only see each other once a year,” admits Ian, who is based out of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., with the rest of 7th Marine Regiment. “I saw him during his pre-deployment training for Afghanistan last year.”
While both enlisted in the Corps for their own reasons, both wanted to deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Ian will be in Iraq for a year, Aaron for seven months.
“This is a good experience,” said Ian, who has recently spent several weeks assisting Iraqi Security Forces to learn the ‘in’s’ and ‘out’s’ of performing maintenance on High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicles (Humvees). “This gives me a chance to save up some money, too.”
“This is where I wanted to go,” added Aaron, who says he misses “hanging out with the guys” back in Michigan. “I wanted to see combat, and I have in Afghanistan. But this is the place I wanted to go. “
Both brothers miss their parents and other family and friends back home, but add that they’ll be home soon enough. Before deploying to Iraq, their mother told them she was worried about them, but understood that the two Marines have a job to do, said Ian, who added that the events of “9/11” influenced his decision to enlist.
Both Marines and their units are part of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I Marine Expeditionary Force, a 23,000-plus command of Marines, sailors and soldiers who are currently replacing the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based II MEF as part of a regularly scheduled rotation of U.S. troops in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
The Eichel brothers’ youngest sister, 19-year-old Andrea, is also a Marine. She is currently undergoing Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C.