MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., -- As the final year of a Marine’s enlistment approaches, he or she may be unsure whether or not to stay in the Corps. What some Marines may not take into consideration is that there are benefits in staying Marine.
However, for riflemen with three combat deployments in their first enlistment on active duty, the stress and burden they carry may be enough to consider ending their honorable service.
Third Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, became the first Marine battalion to deploy to Iraq three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when they returned to the Combat Center July 31.
Two Marines who were with the battalion for all three deployments are Sgt. Myles G. Compton, a Tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missle gunner with Weapons Company, and Cpl. James M. Foley, a rifleman with Lima Company.
The two enlisted before ground elements were deployed to Iraq. Both Marines’ intentions when joining were to protect America from terrorism.
Compton is currently serving as platoon sergeant with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1. He entered the Marine Corps when he was 20 years old and living in Springfield, Mo.
“College wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to, so I was thinking about the Marine Corps a lot,” said Compton. “The attacks on September 11 made my decision.”
Unlike Compton, Foley knew he wanted to be a Marine right after high school. He is currently a squad leader in 1st platoon.
“My father is a retired master sergeant and my uncle is a retired gunnery sergeant,” said Foley, a Sturgis, S.D., native. “I had the influences my whole life.”
“I had no clue what to expect going into my first deployment,” said Compton. “It all happened really fast.” Compton said after the initial push into Baghdad he began to enjoy the Marine Corps more and more.
When Compton, Foley and 3/4 liberated Baghdad, they were lead by Lt. Col. Brian McCoy, battalion commander, and they made history in Firdos Square pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein there.
“I was ready to deploy for the first time,” said Foley. “I felt like we accomplished a whole lot when we got there too.”
When the battalion came back from their first deployment, they trained for six months, deployed again as part of a Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa, Japan, and ended up deploying to Iraq again.
“OIF 2 was completely different from our first deployment for the most part,” said Compton. “Our tactics and techniques were changed, and we were under strict order of conventional warfare. All in all, OIF 2 was more dangerous than OIF 1, which made our mission frustrating and difficult.”
After Compton and Foley’s safe return home from OIF 2, they did not expect to be training for a third deployment, they said.
“I thought ‘three combat deployments in three years might be pushing it,’” said Compton. “I felt like we were playing with fire now. But as a section leader, I knew it needed to be done. Still, I felt lucky when we returned.”
“I was OK and ready for the second deployment but worried about the third one,” said Foley. “I wasn’t looking forward to it.”
The experience Compton gained during the three deployments could not be matched anywhere else, he said.
“I am not as naive as I used to be about the world now,” said Compton. “My peers can never have the knowledge that I gained being a Marine.”
Compton feels his time serving in the Marine Corps was worthwhile, but has different plans for the future.
“I’m ready to go home and try something different,” he said. “I plan on taking everything I learned here and applying it to a career.”
Compton wants to work as a civilian contractor for the military and deal with infantry weapons systems.
After four grueling years in the Marine Corps, Foley reenlisted in October 2005.
“I am pretty proud of my accomplishments,” said Foley. “I became used to deployments and training. It’s hard to adjust when arriving to Iraq and returning home. It just takes time. Speaking for myself, the Marine Corps hasn’t impacted me negatively. I look forward to serving more.”
Although he is proud of serving three combat deployments, the life was difficult on Foley’s family. The deployments were hard for his wife, Kathleen, when his daughter, Liz, was born while he was in Iraq, he said.
Foley has arranged to become an instructor at the School of Infantry.
“I need a break,” said Foley. “I want to spend more time with my family. I love what I do but I need some time away from the infantry.”
Compton is scheduled to end his active-duty service in April and is looking forward to working in the civilian world.
“I appreciate what the Marine Corps has done for me,” said Compton. “But, I’m ready to move on. Being deployed three times was stressful for my family, in particular my wife, Kacey. The Corps is not for me anymore, and I’m ready to move on.”
Both Marines are aware of the benefits of staying in the Corps. The battalion’s career planner, Sgt. Bonel Pierre, speaks with every Marine about the benefits of “staying Marine.”
“I sit down and talk to them on how they feel about staying in,” said Pierre. “I think it’s better to do it one-on-one. I tell them there is more out there in the field than just deploying.”
Pierre’s job is to mentor and look out for the young Marines. He shows them what the Marine Corps has to offer, he said.
“Infantry Marines automatically rate a bonus for staying in after their first enlistment that can reach past $20,000,” said Pierre. “They can go on permissive temporary additional duty for 21 days or even get duty station incentives — just in case they’d rather not be with a deployable unit. All of this depends on their rank and time of service as well.”
Compton, Foley and Pierre understand why Marines choose to stay in or get out, they said. There are many reasons for their choices — all of which reflect on their experiences, said Pierre.
“A lot of guys get stressed out from combat and being away from home,” said Foley. “Some say ‘it’s time to throw in the towel’ and move on to different things.”
“Deployments to Iraq aren’t a pleasant experience most times,” said Compton. “Some Marines may think a combat deployment is the only thing guaranteed in the Marine Corps so they may choose a different path. I wouldn’t suggest anything to a Marine debating what to do. It’s all up to the individual and what they want in their future.”
“I think I’ll go career,” said Foley. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. I have the support of my family about this. But for other Marines, staying in may not be what they want after serving multiple combat deployments. But, it’s not like this everywhere. Eventually you get a choice of what you want, such as a B-billet. But it’s the nature of the beast to serve three combat deployments in one enlistment. I think every Marine in this battalion is proud of that whether they stay in or not.”