CJTF-HOA infantrymen proud to be "grunts"

13 Feb 2002 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

When the word "Marine" is uttered, some envision a tall, muscular man wearing the dress blue uniform with a red stripe extending vertically down his trousers, which is an iconic symbol of "the few, the proud." Others see a dirty, camouflage-clad infantryman carrying a rifle and wearing a large pack on his back. Since Nov. 10, 1775, Marine infantryman, affectionately known as "grunts," have been fighting and winning wars. Many of these same men took their last breaths on foreign soil. According to three Marines from E Company, 2d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), the job of a grunt is not as easy as many people believe."For the most part, people think the job of a grunt is not hard because they think our only purpose is to run to the front lines during war and shoot people," said Sgt. Russell E. Evans, a team leader and Lakeside, Ariz., native. Lance Cpls. Nathan J. Fuentes and Dave G. Braun concurred. The three are assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.Evans, who is a four-year Marine veteran, said it's not always easy being a grunt because of the everyday pressure and stress that come along with the job.A considerable amount of an infantryman's time is spent training in the field. For some, "the field" is an intangible place, where Marines sleep on the ground and don't get to shower. For a grunt, the field is a facet of their way of life."When we go to the field, it's not like going camping," Evans said. "There's a lot to endure like humps and digging fighting holes, but we put up with it because, we practice in the field how we would fight in war."Fuentes, who hails from Houston, expounded. "No one wants to die, but that's just something that we might have to deal with. We do it so no one else has to."So why in the world would anyone want to become a grunt?According to 24-year-old Evans, most of the Marines in his company volunteered for the arduous duty.He said, "It seems that most of us had recruiters that were trying to convince us to pick a different MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). I guess they thought we could do something better."For these three, there was no other job they wanted to pursue."I was in college for a year and a half before joining the Marines," explained Fuentes.When he visited the Marine recruiter's office, Fuentes said the recruiter didn't have to convince him to join the ranks of the few and the proud.Fuentes went on to say, "I pretty much recruited myself. I knew I didn't want to end up being a bus driver and being a grunt looked pretty cool, so I said I wanted to do that. He tried to convince me otherwise." Originally, Fuentes believed since infantrymen were the backbone of the Corps, they would be treated well and "placed on pedestals." Instead, he said heaps of non-infantry Marines view grunts as being dumb and insensitive.Evans, Braun and Fuentes adamantly deny that reputation."If people would just sit down and talk to a grunt, they would realize that we are notstupid," said Evans. "We don't just drink, get loud and talk about women. I mean, sure, we like to have a good time, especially after we've been out in the field for fifteen days straight. But we have interests outside of all that."In fact, Braun, who is from Baltimore, is an avid drummer and has played since he was 14.He described his passion for the drums, "To me, the drums are like the base for a song. Everything else just follows along."He also said he has eclectic musical taste because, "to be a talented musician, you have to be able to appreciate different kinds of music."As for being insensitive, all three admit that when they are in the field, they don't worry too much about watching their mouths. However, when they are in the presence of people outside of the company, they make an effort to not be offensive or rude.Fuentes admitted, "I would definitely say I'm a sensitive guy. Some people might even say I'm a hopeless romantic, but I don't think that is true."Some of his favorite movies include "chick flicks" like "Serendipity" and "Beauty and the Beast.""I even cried when Bambi's mom died," he said in jest.Even though these three Leathernecks confess to having softer sides, which is rarely noticed by the outside world, they take their job very seriously."We do (this job) because someone has to, and we're good at what we do," stated Evans.