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Cpl. Fernando Morales, a machine gunner for Civil Affairs Team 6, Detachment 1, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, stands by a vehicle at the Haqlaniyah, Iraq, Oct. 14. Morales is one of many individual augments now serving in Iraq after being called back to service. Once this deployment is completed, Morales plans on going back to his job and starting school. ::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Navy Lieutenant serves abroad, leads Marines

20 Oct 2008 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman 1st Marine Division

He may not be on a ship anymore, but he continues to cruise.

Navy Lt. Eric I. Palmer, 35, a limited duty officer (LDO), from Silverthorne, Colo., spent 12 years as an enlisted sailor, but after achieving the rank of chief petty officer, Palmer believed that his services could be better used as an officer leading troops.

"I thought I could take care of my troops and make a difference in the Armed Forces," said Palmer.

Palmer, an ordnance officer by trade, is on his ninth deployment since he enlisted in the Navy 17 years ago. This is his first land deployment to Iraq, but he was amongst the first to be off shore at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, 2003.

"I actually fired the first missile that started (Operation Iraqi Freedom) on the USS Cowpens (CG-63), March 20, 2003," said Palmer.

Palmer received orders to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, an artillery battalion, after successfully completing his tour of duty at sea.     

"I am the naval gun liaison officer with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines," said Palmer. "I’m the one that calls in fire for naval guns for any kind of beach bombardment."

"When I came to (2nd Bn., 11th Marines), they said their mission had changed and they were coming here for a civil affairs mission.  “(They gave me options), and I chose to come over here on a civil affairs team," added Palmer.

Palmer is now the officer-in-charge of Civil Affairs Team 6, Detachment 1, 2nd Bn., 11th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5, which operates in Haqlaniyah.  His team is currently aiding in reconstruction efforts in the area.   

"Coming out here I didn’t know what to expect, and we didn't know where we were going," said Palmer. "It just kind of fits being (in Haqlaniyah), there are a lot of engineering and construction (projects). It's exactly what I love to do."

"Its been challenging, but very rewarding— working with some of the Iraqis who understand what we want to do and where we want to go," said Palmer. "Being able to see the light turn on in the Iraqis minds when they finally understand why we're here and what our real purpose is is very rewarding."

A few of the projects that Palmer and the service members with the team have worked on include preparing a medical clinic in Haqlaniyah, constructing a facility to offload crude oil at the K-3 oil refinery and building a new road for the truck loading rack.  The team also started the Oil Protection Force for K-3, which protects the trains from vandalism. The team did the interviews for 150 men and set them up with all their equipment.

Palmer has worked with Marines before, but on this deployment, he was challenged to know his Marines better and learn more about the Marine Corps.

“I love it, they are a great group of guys and all seem to have a lot of heart," said Palmer, referring to working with his Marines here.

"The hardest thing is learning all the new acronyms that (Marines) have that are different than the Navy. The personnel are the same, the Navy and Marines all work hard and play hard," said Palmer. "It’s just a good spirit to be around. It's a close-knit group out in the middle of nowhere, alone and unafraid.”

While working with local Iraqis, Palmer is showing that anything can be accomplished when everyone works together.

"Working at the offload facility (has been the most rewarding), because the Iraqis said it was impossible to have crude (oil) moved by train, offloaded, sent to the K-3 refinery and have the refinery working," said Palmer. "So we did the impossible in three months and now they are true believers that anything can be done."

After this deployment is completed, Palmer is scheduled to take over the Fire Support Coordination Center for 2nd Bn., 11th Marines and has future orders to San Diego, Calif.

1st Marine Division