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Cpl. Nicholas L. Szczerba, 22, a rifleman from Shingle Springs, Calif., assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, saws through a piece of wood at Combat Outpost Haditha, Iraq, April 25. Szczerba has become a handyman at for Headquarters and Services Company while deployed to Iraq. He has built multiple walls and doors, and installed air conditioning units in the living areas at the COP.

Photo by Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marine builds morale

25 Apr 2008 | Cpl. Erik Villagran

Cpl. Nicholas L. Szczerba has become a jack of all trades for Headquarters and Services Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.

Szczerba, 22, a rifleman from Shingle Springs, Calif., has found himself filling multiple billets for his company aboard Combat Outpost Haditha. He is the assistant camp commandant, police sergeant and a sergeant of the guard. He also helps with the supply drops and maintenance on the COP.

“This COP would not function without Cpl. Szczerba,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frank R. Pater, the Headquarters and Services Co.’s executive officer and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense officer from Ellsworth, Ohio. “People fail to realize the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Szczerba is the person Marines go to when they need assistance with making anything. If he doesn’t build what they need himself, he provides them with the tools they need to complete the job. Helping others with his knowledge in craftsmanship is nothing new to Szczerba. Before he joined the Marine Corps, he made mission trips with his church to other countries to build houses for the less fortunate.

“We put down the foundation, four walls and a roof,” Szczerba said. “It wasn’t anything too fancy but it was better than what they had.”

Now, Szczerba is using his skills in construction around COP Haditha. He has built walls and doors for a handful of living areas and installed air conditioning in berthing areas to improve the living conditions for Marines and their attachments. He’s accomplished these feats under the unforgiving sun of Iraq.

“It is Iraq, so it gets pretty hot outside,” said Cpl. Jeremy M. Wright, 24, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense specialist with Headquarters Co. from Cartersville, Ga.  “He’s out there in the heat and sun for the majority of the day.”

He has a quiet humility about him and he knows the feeling of accomplishment in knowing he is helping his fellow Marines. This is all Szczerba looks for from his work. He doesn’t look to garner praise for his labors.

“The work I do helps raise morale,” Szczerba said. “I like doing what I can to help people; I always have.”

Despite Szczerba’s modesty and efforts to hide from the spotlight, Marines on the COP have taken notice of his work and initiative.

“The work he does is essential,” Wright said. “It improves the living conditions of every Marine on this COP. It’s work he does that help keep this place running.”


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