AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Civilian life can wait. At least that was how Sgt. Jonathan J. Gray felt when he found out his unit needed him.
“I was getting close to the end of my six-year contract when I found out that my platoon was shorthanded,” said Gray, 28, from Hemet, Calif., who is the acting platoon sergeant and tank commander with 1st Platoon, Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5. “They said they could use me, so I volunteered to stick around for the deployment.”
This will be Gray’s second deployment to Iraq with 4th Tank Bn. During this deployment and the previous one, his leadership skills and quick thinking have proven to be beneficial to his fellow Marines.
“When we deployed last year to Fallujah during a quick-reaction-force mission, we had a post that was taking fire from a junk yard of old trucks about a kilometer west of us,” said Sgt. Steve L. Farrier, 25, from San Diego, who is a gunner with Company A. “Gray was in the lead vehicle, and when we turned a corner there was an insurgent who sprayed AK-47 fire. The rounds hit all over the vehicle, including the turret, and the gunner would have been hit if Gray hadn’t pulled him down.”
This deployment, Gray and his fellow Marines have spent most of the time in their tanks as a support element to infantry units wherever they are needed.
“We basically go out for a month or more at a time and live in the tanks out in the desert,” said Gray. “We have cleared grid squares in the desert, helped clear out cities and towns and patrolled the Syrian border.”
For these long missions, it is important to keep a positive attitude, and Gray is often able to lighten the mood whether he means to or not.
“I have never really seen him get mad, except for one time he was trying to close the overhead tank commander’s hatch because it was raining,” said Farrier. “The handle on the hatch was broken, so he was trying to close it with a (multi-tool). When the (multi-tool) broke, he wound up punching himself in the head and almost knocked himself unconscious.”
“That was the hardest I have ever been hit,” said Gray as Marines around him started laughing. “Seriously, I was seeing stars.”
After this deployment is over, Gray is planning on finishing up his school at Montana University so he can become a high-school history teacher.
“I love history,” said Gray. “The Roman era and the beginning of the republic are my favorites. I think we learn a lot about ourselves through history, just about how the world came to be where it is today. Plus, I always enjoyed teaching Marines. I remember being in high school and having a good teacher, and I think that is something I can do.”