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Sgt. Patrick J. Vanostran, a heavy equipment operator from Grantsborow, N.C., with Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 1, operates an armored earthmover during a maintainence run of equipment at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, June 3. Vanostran, who just a year ago was a supervisor for a battery factory, is now deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom due to an involuntary recall of inactive Marines through the Individual Ready Reserve.

Photo by Cpl. Chris T. Mann

IRR warriors take charge in Iraq

3 Jun 2008 | Cpl. Chris T. Mann

For many Marines who decided they wanted to transition into the civilian world and leave the Marine Corps, going on another deployment was the last thing on their minds.

Marines who leave the Marine Corps after a four-year enlistment join the Individual Ready Reserve in inactive status for another four years as part of their eight-year contractual agreement coming into the military and can be called back to active duty at any given time within that period.

This has been the course for a couple thousand Marines who are currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While this may seem like a total let-down which has been portrayed in recent articles, they have failed to look past the initial shock of being involuntary recalled and showing where these Marines are today… Marines such as Sgt. Donald M. Carmelitano, supply clerk, Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 1, who have answered the call of duty and are making a difference while deployed.

“We are extremely lucky to have Sgt. Carmelitano who is a senior Marine and carries a lot of responsibilities in the shop,” said 1st Lt. Aaron E. Green, supply officer, Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 1. “He sets the example for other Marines to follow, and our shop definitely wouldn’t be the same without him.”

Many units deployed to Camp Fallujah work around the clock to meet high operational tempos that ensure mission success by the end of the day.

“I was doing construction work and going to school full time to finish my degree in architecture design, when I read a message from Military.com that said the Marine Corps was recalling 1,200 Marines from the IRR to active duty,” said Carmelitano, a 26-year-old from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “That very same day, I went home to receive a FedEx package that had my orders from Mobilization Command recalling me to the Marine Corps.”

Carmelitano and many other Marines with the IRR were out of the Marine Corps for approximately two years and started new lives with professional careers, college education and families, only to have a FedEx package show up on their doorstep with official Marine Corps order and documents, reminding them “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

“At first this seemed overwhelming and my family was somewhat upset, but they were supportive and understood what I was doing,” said Carmelitano. “Marines never forget where they come from, and I personally know a lot of recalled Marines who are really strong leaders and are taking charge of the Marines they work with and those under them.”

“Being recalled has helped me reestablish my life and opened new opportunities for me,” said Carmelitano. “I was in debt before being deployed, and finishing my degree just didn’t seem possible; now I can afford to pay off my bills.”

After a Marine is recalled from the IRR, their time they have to use their educational benefits or Montgomery GI Bill are reset for the next ten years.

Although a Marine is wearing civilian attire, they are still required to maintain certain physical standards and abide by the Corps’ tattoo policy until such time as their IRR duties on their contract has ended.

Marines are also required to keep in contact with the Marine Corps Mobilization Command and inform them of current their residency status.  

“I was out for about two years when I got recalled into the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Joseph A. Walkowiak, a 25-year-old communications technician with Communications Platoon, Headquarters Company, RCT-1 from Bay City, Mich. “The good thing about being deployed is that I’m not spending money, and when I get back I will have a chunk of change to spend on my wedding.”

Although many Marines who decided to get out didn’t plan on spending another day in the Corps, these modern-day Spartans didn’t forget where they came from and still carry a warrior stance that keeps many deployed units running.