RAWAH, Iraq --
For a person with a small stature from a small ethnic group in the smallest service in the U.S. military, Cpl. Hue Moua doesn't act small.
Moua, a member of Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5, stands only 5'2" tall, but his contributions to the platoon have been huge.
"He's always busy, always helping other Marines," said Cpl. David Montiel, 21, a fire team leader with PRP-3 from Compton, Calif. "He's very strong, he's always volunteering and he's always willing to do whatever necessary to accomplish the mission."
Simply having a willingness to execute orders doesn't make Moua stand out over other Marines with PRP-3 since there is plenty of motivation within the platoon. However, the initiative displayed by Moua for accomplishing things not asked of him does make his contributions seem big.
"I like to serve people; I like to help others out," said Moua, 23, from Auburn, Wash.
Since PRP-3 is watching over Traffic Control Points 3 and 4 in Rawah, there aren't the usual amenities of a large forward operating base. Among the Marines assigned to PRP-3 is a field cook, Cpl. Joshua Byers, but as every Marine is part of the watch and patrol schedule, it is not uncommon to find Moua, an administrative clerk by trade, in the kitchen preparing meals for the Marines in Byers’ absence.
Nor is it rare to see him using a pick ax to dig a trench, scaling a wall to help fortify a defensive position or filling and carrying sandbags. All activities are a far cry from his normal duties in military administration with RCT-5.
"Being part of PRP-3 has given me a bit more experience than my peers," said Moua, who, as a non-infantry Marine with the platoon -- which is responsible for overwatch of Iraqi law enforcement and the security of Rawah and the Rawah Bridge -- had to pick up on basic combat skills that aren't often empoyed by administrators. "I am going to share this knowledge with (the administrators) when I get back to (RCT-5)."
This is the first deployment for Moua, who has been with 5th Marine Regiment since completing military occupational specialty school.
Moua is a Hmong (the "h" is silent), an Asian ethnicity originally from the southern mountains in China and now scattered through Laos, Thailand and Myanmar-Burma. According to www.wikipedia.com, there are more than 4 million Hmong worldwide, with about 275,000 living in the United States, many of whom fled Southeast Asia after the "secret war," a communist insurgent-versus-government civil war in Laos.
Moua moved to America with his grandmother and uncle when he was 9 years old, while his mother and siblings remained in Thailand north of Bangkok.
Moua said that the biggest challenge for him as a child in a new country was the language barrier. After the fifth grade, though, he was able to attend English-speaking classes throughout his schooling until his graduation from Tahoma High School in Auburn in 2005. After graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
"My thinking was that the Marine Corps would give me more opportunities in life," Moua said. "I've decided I really like being a Marine. It's just all the little things we do, like always trying to do the right thing, no matter what it is, that appeals to me. It's what sets Marines apart from other services and civilians."
A focus on self-improvement is important to Moua, who understands that by building himself up will help the Marines around him.
"I plan to be a better combat leader when all is said and done," said Moua, who spends his free time lifting weights at the outdoor gym with the limited equipment used by the PRP-3 Marines. "If at some point I have a fire team under me, I want to be able to teach them and lead them. I'm going to learn as much as I can while here (with PRP-3) and retain this knowledge and pass it on to others."
Never having operated as an infantryman in his previous three years in the Marines, Moua is taking his current assignment to heart.
"For this not being his MOS, he has really picked it up," said Montiel, who reunited with Moua after being with him in the same platoon in recruit training. "While on patrols, Moua is good at observing, keeping alert and analyzing the situation."
Moua has made great friends in the Marine Corps, but while other Marines make up his "second family," his cousins Cpl. Tai Moua and Sgt. Long Moua also serve in the Marine Corps, giving the Moua family a small, but dedicated, representation in the ranks of leathernecks.
"When we first started with PRP-3, he was more timid and quiet," said Sgt. Dante Sevieri, Moua's squad leader with PRP-3 and a data technician with RCT-5. "He's opened up quiet a bit though, and is one of the guys."
Moua said he has used the time with PRP-3 to reflect on things he wants to accomplish in life, including spending more time with his wife, Stacey. While he intends on reenlisting in the Marine Corps, he said he would like to make a lateral move into the data field, where he would work more with computers.
"Being in the Marine Corps has opened my eyes and made me appreciate things more," Moua said. "I had thought about myself too much, and not what's good for the Marine Corps. Once I realized that, I was able to enjoy the experience.
"Being with PRP-3, I've learned a lot of new things, especially from the (infantry) guys," Moua added. "It's been a good experience. It's been fun and I've been happy."