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New Marines In Haiti: 'So Far, So Good'
By Sandra Jontz
Stars and Stripes
Pacific Edition

April 6, 2004,

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Pfc. Erik Siler says he isn't much of a praying man.

But the 21-year-old always wears the round Episcopal cross pendant that his father, a Navy chaplain, gave him when he graduated from boot camp eight months ago and became a U.S. Marine.

And while he didn't say prayers during his flight on a C-130 Saturday on his way from North Carolina to Haiti for his first deployment ever, he had the pendant.

"I never take it off," said Siler, one of 49 new Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune who landed in Haiti to bring the total of 3-8 to nearly 900.

For Gunnery Sgt. Marvin Arnold, one word best described the new 49.

"Help," Arnold said. "We're pretty shorthanded."

And so they dumped their gear, got some hot chow of rice topped with teriyaki beef bits and then filled out registration forms. Then it was off to their new sleeping quarters: a steamy makeshift gym with no fans, no air movement and, for the first night at least, no cots or mosquito netting.

"So far, so good," quipped Pfc. Michael Alford, 19. But accommodations were better than he anticipated. "I was thinking we'd be sleeping outside or in the hooch or something."

"I'm surprised by this place. Things seem way settled down and I didn't think it would be like this. After seeing what's going on, I'm not nervous at all," Alford said just a few hours after landing at a secured airport and traveling less than a mile to his secured base camp. "But if tomorrow things get a little more shaking, I probably will be."

"They're all nervous," said Sgt. Christopher Horman, the assistant administration chief with about half a dozen deployments behind him. "They're thinking, ‘Why the hell am I here and why did I join the Marine Corps?' But it's all good. We all went through it the first time.

"This is the easiest part of being in the Marine Corps," he said of the "boots," or newcomers to the Corps. "You just have to worry about yourself."

Pfc. William Boone, 18, didn't really care to which company he was assigned, but if given the choice "I'd pick whatever company is in the palace," said the 8-month Marine.

"They get showers. That'd be nice."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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