Former Marine Continues to Serve, Despite Amputation


By Debbie Gregory.

Former Camp Pendleton Marine Christopher Lawrence is working the beat as a rookie Chula Vista police officer, defying the odds that many military amputees who want to continue to serve face.

In 2007, Lawrence served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As he crossed a bridge to the mainland, insurgents watched from a distance and detonated an IED placed beneath it. Lawrence was badly injured, and his right leg was shattered, which led to a below the knee amputation.

Lawrence wanted to stay in the Marines. When that didn’t work out, his next choice was law enforcement. Four police departments turned him down before Chula Vista said yes.

Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said she was silently rooting for the Purple Heart recipient as he went through the police academy.

“I thought he was so inspiring,” Kennedy said. “I figured if he went through the process, and he could pass all the testing, I’d be more than willing to give him a shot.”

It’s a small brotherhood of injured servicemembers who have succeeded in either staying in the active-duty military or transitioned to civilian law enforcement led by Army Capt. David Rozelle, who broke ground in 2005 when he became the first military amputee to go back into a combat zone.

“I have never met a more abled-body person in my life,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said of Laurence, “The power of his attitude and character and the strength in his heart easily overcome the physical challenges. His life and the challenges he has overcome are an inspiration to others.”

“Most of the time, people are looking at the badge and uniform saying, ‘Thank God you are here to help.’ Or, they are unhappy to see us, because they did something wrong,” Lawrence said.

More than 1,700 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Military Health System figures.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

First Female Marine Officer Leads Assault Amphibian Vehicle Platoon

Mariah Klenke

By Debbie Gregory.

Second Lt. Mariah Klenke has made history.

On Tuesday,  October 3, the Camp Pendleton Marine became the first female to graduate from the Marine Corps Assault Amphibian Officer Course and earn the military occupational specialty (MOS) of assault amphibian officer.

Klenke was the first woman to start the course since the Pentagon nixed its ban on female troops in combat roles in late 2015.

Klenke’s first duty station will be with the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion with the 1st Marine Division.

“We cannot overlook the historic nature of this day,” Col. Dan Yaroslaski, commander of the Assault Amphibian School, told the graduates, family, friends, commanders and instructors at the ceremony.  “The Marine Corps has been through the process of integration. We can stop talking about integration. This is who we are. We have set the standards every Marine has to pass. There has been no distinction between male and female.”

The demanding 12-week amphibious assault officer course is designed to produce platoon leaders who command assault amphibious vehicle crews. Klenke learned gunnery marksmanship, water survival skills and offensive and defensive operations, both on shore and deep inland.

Previous to her service, Klenke attended and graduated from the University of Tennessee, where she played collegiate soccer, holding her own with her male counterparts.

Klenke said that her toughest challenge came during amphibious operations training, when she completed up to four missions daily.

“We operated pretty much all day. We got a couple of hours of sleep and then went back to operating the next day,” she said.

“I’m excited to finally get done with the course and onto the fleet,” she said after the graduation ceremony

As for women thinking about a career in the corps, Klenke said anything is possible.

“If you think you can do it, you can do it,” she said. “There were hard times in the class, but hey, I got through them. I’m nothing special. I just did my job and if you work hard you can get through it.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Camp Pendleton Marine Group Makes History Focusing on Electronic Warfare

marines first

By Debbie Gregory.

On July 6th, a new command known as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s (I MEF) Information Group made history at Camp Pendleton by becoming the first of its kind among the Corps’ Marine expeditionary forces.

“It’s a centerpiece of some of the changes the commandant wants us to make in our support to warfighting,” said Col. Roberta L. “Bobbi” Shea.

The command is skilled in cyber, electronic warfare and intelligence, all critical needs as the service looks to build capacity to conduct information warfare at all.

“In the past, the group’s primary mission has been moving and supporting Marines as they go forward to command forces in theater,” Shea said.

Col. Shea handed over command of the newly designated I MEF Information Group to Col. Dawn Alonso, who most recently served at Central Command.

Marines trained in intelligence gathering and electronic warfare in closer contact with commanders and troops on the ground to degrade the enemy’s ability to exploit the information environment, capitalizing on social media and defending the country’s abilities against cyber vulnerabilities.

Shea pointed to such examples as the use of drones, law enforcement Marines picking up fingerprints or exploiting found cellphones on the battlefield, and imagery analysts gathering information from satellites.

Among the changes that are part of the transition are new Marine personnel, increased intelligence and cyberspace training, and a move to new facilities on the base.

While military officials called the re-designation a first at the Marine Expeditionary Force level, an increased focus on new technology and cyber warfare threats are among the Corps’ broader changes, mandated by the Marine Corps Commandant to “modernize the force.”

The re-designation is the first among the Marine Corps’ three MEFs, with I MEF at Camp Pendleton, II MEF at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and III MEF based in Okinawa, Japan.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Presence an Economic Boon for San Diego


By Debbie Gregory.

According to Dr. Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Fermanian Business and Economic Institute,  the $45 billion military economy in San Diego supports 20 per cent of the  local jobs. The good news is that this number is poised to grow significantly as the Navy moves forces to the Pacific.

“San Diego’s military complex represents the region’s most important and largest economic catalyst,” Reaser said.

Reaser added that the Defense Department spent $23 billion in the 2016 fiscal year, employing 301,000 people and resulting in an overall $45 billion in economic impact.

She forecast an increase of about $500 million in economic impact in the 2017 fiscal year, adding that the long-term effect of Navy’s refocus on the Pacific will be “a major stimulus for the economy.”

By 2023, the planned refocus on the Pacific will increase the number of ships home-ported in the region from 53 to 84 by 2023, which could add billions of dollars to the local economy.

San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city is proud of its connection to the military and cognizant of the sector’s importance.

“Our city is home to the largest concentration of the military in the world,” Faulconer said. “San Diego continues to be a strategic location, and is becoming more and more important as our nation moves more of our forces into the Pacific region.”

Brigadier General Kevin Killea, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, said the San Diego region is an incomparable location for the military, both for training and for housing military families.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, with a daytime population of approximately 100,000, is located in nearby Oceanside, also in San Diego County.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.