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How I earned my FMF pin.

Four months after completing a 6 1/2 month extended around the world" deployment--USS Vinson left Bremerton, Wash., and sailed around the world to the yards in Newport News, Va.--I had an upcoming FITREP debrief in which I was expecting to learn where I broke out on the carrier among other O-4s. I found out that I would be leaving for Iraq for a six month IA [Individual Augmentee] and I would be starting my training in two weeks.

I arrived in Kuwait on Christmas Eve and then in Baghdad on New Years Eve. The two other supply officers I met during training also had the 1306 contracting subspecialty and they were headed to the joint Contracting Command Iraq but I was the only one to report to Fallujah as a field Contracting Officer with the Marines assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) G-4.

Fallujah had made the news due to the high volume of violence and casualties but when I arrived In early January '06, the Marines were just as motivated and mission oriented as I remembered. I had briefly worked with them when I was a DISBO [Disbursing Officer] during my first tour on USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) out of Sasebo, Japan. They also led our military training when I was in Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST).

In Fallujah, I was the Contracting Officer supporting the efforts to equip the Iraqi's so they would be self-sufficient. I was becoming used to the sounds of small arms fire and sporadic explosions in the background when I saw on the e-mail traffic a meeting for all naval officers to talk about a new qualification pin being offered for those interested. This qualification pin, called the Fleet Marine Force Qualified Officer (FMFQO ... or further "FMF" to shorten an abbreviation) has its roots from the 1984 Navy Fleet Marine Force Ribbon. Sailors who served with Marines earned this pin following full completion of a personnel qualification standard (PQS).

The enlisted warfare insignia pin version was approved in November 2002. It wasn't until July 2005 that the decision was made to make the device a qualification vice a warfare device and there where two devices designed. One with crossed rifles for other than Chaplains and one with the rifles removed for Chaplains.

The pin itself is the Eagle, Globe and Anchor (Marine Corps Emblem) in the center in front of two crossed rifles. The crossed rifles represent the warrior ethic that every Marine is a rifleman so those that complete the program should share the same warrior ethic. Behind the rifles is a surf wave crashing on a sandy beach which symbolizes the littoral zone--the place where Sailors and Marines exert U.S. interests operating in the doctrine of "Operational Maneuver from the Sea."

To earn the qualification, participants have to learn about Marine Corps history, command structure, weapons, tactics, and various missions. They have to complete a six mile hike in "full battle rattle" (body armor with bullet proof plates and helmet) with a packed ALICE [All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment] pack weighing about 35-40 extra pounds, successfully complete the Marines Physical Fitness Test (3 mile run, chin ups, and curl ups), perform land navigation, complete a written and oral exam among a board of Marines covering everything from weapon capabilities, to the code of conduct, and MAGTF [Marine Air Ground Task Force] structure.

Like most Supply Corps officers, I have often heard that promotion is not based on "pin collecting" but this had me interested as soon as I had heard about it because not only was it different, it would make my time fly by, and I really wanted to |earn more about the Marines I was working with. The chance to get more "uniform bling-bling" during my tour also added to the appeal. I really wanted to pour myself into my tour in Iraq and make the very most out of it.

After 9/11, I had previously volunteered to go to Iraq while I was at Afloat Training Group and once again while in post graduate school, but the timing was not right and I was told I was not needed. With the birth of my now 3-year-old daughter, I was really getting reacquainted with her after the "around the world" deployment and honestly did not want to leave my family so soon after the deployment. But I found in this opportunity, the chance to preoccupy myself and go "above and beyond" the billet requirements while learning more about the Marines, myself and my personal motivation.

The program under I MEF was very well organized in Fallujah and unlike getting the SWSCO pin where I had to get things signed on my own, there were scheduled classes in which guest speakers would teach classes to us and have us complete various portions of the PQS as a class. The program was administered by LCDR Bill Miles, the Navy Plans, Operations, & Medical Intelligence Officer attached to the MEF. LCDR Miles, a prior enlisted hospital corpsman who has spent over 15 years with the Marines throughout his career, knew as much and sometimes more than the instructing Marine teaching the classes. The class audience was comprised of Surface Warfare Officers, Chaplains, Civil Engineers Corps Officers, Medical Officers and myself- the lone "Chop."

Completing the program came with the same challenges we face when completing any PQS as far as balancing time to study with the demanding time of your real work schedule. Like being on deployment on ship, we worked long days together and it was easy to find folks who like to talk about what it is that they do to educate you on their job/equipment they operate--as long as you stayed motivated to carve out the time to do so.

My challenges were even greater as half way through my IA assignment, I got pulled from Fallujah to work in Baghdad to do a traditional contracting job where there was only one Marine officer. I had to study on my own and use my "4-day pass'--not for R&R, but to go back to Fallujah and finish the requirements so I could take my written test and oral board.

The Marines were consistent to give me as much as I wanted as long as I showed interest and motivation to achieve. I have found the feeling of "esprit de corps" not to be a paper doctrine but a no kidding way that they operate. And I was honored to share in it and have it extended to me.

I met the requirements and have earned my pin. Like most people who go on their IA, I will never forget my experiences while in Iraq. Unlike most supply officers, I was fortunate enough to be assigned with the Marines in a wartime environment and I took full advantage of the opportunity to get a glimpse of what they do as a service.

During the final days of my tour, I met two other Supply Corps officers in Fallujah who also were interested in getting their pin. When I passed the board, I was informed that I was the third naval officer to qualify and only Supply Corps officer with I MEF in Fallujah to qualify. The FMF pin is not on the same scale as JSO designation and will never be discussed during any Roadshow as a requirement for promotion.

But for me, it wasn't about that. For me, the pin represents a chapter in my life that I will never forget long after I have departed the Navy.

Semper Fidelis.

By LCDR Rod Gayton, SC, USN Contracting Officer, I MEF G-4, Fallujah, Iraq

LCDR Rod Gayton, currently reporting to Naval Sea Systems Command, was TAD from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the yards in Newport News, Va., when he wrote this article. His previous assignments include PG School, Monterey Calif.; SMI assessor for Afloat Training Group, Pacific Fleet in San Diego, Calif.; Supply Officer on USS Crommelin (FFG 37), Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; integrated logistic support intern Naval Supply Systems Command, Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and Disbursing Officer and Food Service Officer on USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) in Sasebo, Japan. He enlisted in 1989, completed the BOOST [Broadened Opportunities for Officer Selection & Training] program in 1990 and graduated in 1994 from The George Washington University with a degree in International Business.
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Title Annotation:Fleet Marine Force
Author:Gayton, Rod
Publication:Navy Supply Corps Newsletter
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Previous Article:Forward deployed.
Next Article:Afghan SITREP.

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