HADITHAH, Iraq --
Everyone has their own reason for joining the Marine Corps, some for things like college and others for the pride of earning the title United States Marine.
After hopes of being a sports broadcaster fell through, Sgt. Michael I. Mitchell, platoon sergeant for first platoon, Company B, Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, decided the Corps was the place for him.
“When I spoke with the recruiter, the only job I wanted to do in the Marine Corps was infantry,” said Mitchell, an Orange County, Calif., native. “I figured there would be no other reason to join if I wasn’t going to be a grunt.”
Mitchell explained how his father tried to persuade him to become an officer due to his military background.
“My father was a naval officer, so of course he wanted me to follow in his footsteps,” Mitchell said. “My mother, on the other hand, didn’t want me to join at all, due to what was going on in Iraq at that time.”
During September 2003 Mitchell reported for recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
“My first thought in boot camp was ‘this was the worst idea ever,’” said 24-year-old Mitchell. “I was really homesick, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t go home whenever I wanted.”
After enduring 13 weeks of boot camp, Mitchell reported for training at the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and upon completion, checked into 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, where he was assigned to Co. B.
“When I first got to the company, I thought all the Marines were hard-chargers,” Mitchell explained. “The senior and junior Marines seemed to have a love/hate relationship, but we all had tons of respect for the seniors.”
After training with the company for five months, Mitchell’s unit deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
"We were supposed to be conducting training in Australia and other places, but that changed quickly as we found out we were being sent to Iraq,” he said. “When we landed there, a lot of us were actually happy to be in Iraq.”
Upon arrival in Iraq, Marines from the company conducted operations on the outskirts of Fallujah, where minimal hostile actions occurred. Mitchell’s thoughts of a peaceful Fallujah were soon put to rest as his fire team entered the city.
“As soon as we stepped into Fallujah, rounds were going over our heads and we thought we were all going to die,” said Mitchell.
He went on to describe his first steps into Fallujah and how they reminded him of the first steps taken by the soldiers as they stormed the beaches of Normandy in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
“We took our first casualty on Nov. 12, and it was a real eye opener,” he said. “Now that it’s over, the only thing I can say is that I’m thankful I made it out alive.”
After returning from Iraq, Mitchell was soon deployed again to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Afghanistan was a lot different than Iraq,” said Mitchell. “Instead of the desert, we were rolling around the mountains. I was a team leader and my company had a lot of trust in me, so we would often patrol with just myself and four other Marines.”
Mitchell said he enjoyed his experience in Afghanistan, but was ready to return home and relax.
“I originally planned on getting out after the Afghanistan deployment, but I had no plans for once I got out, so I decided to extend and go on the next deployment,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell explained that his decision to extend for another deployment to Iraq was hard on his family, but they were more comfortable than the previous deployments.
“When I first decided I was going to deploy again with 1/3 to Iraq, I thought it was going to be very similar to my previous deployment,” Mitchell said. “When I got here, I was thankful it wasn’t like Fallujah and it took no time at all to transition from all out war to the Iraq I’m currently in.”
Throughout his current deployment Mitchell has proven himself to his fellow Marines and unit, and is currently filling the billet of a staff sergeant.
“Since we’ve been here and even during training back in Hawaii, Mitchell always stepped up and proved to be an extremely capable leader with a lot of potential,” said Sgt. Berton D. Chambers, a squad leader with 2d Squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, Task Force 1st Bn., 3rd Marines. “During training in (Pohakaloa Training Area), we didn’t have a platoon sergeant, so Mitchell filled the role there and did a great job. I couldn’t think of anyone better to fill the position.”
Mitchell explained that filling the role as a platoon sergeant is a lot different than his previous billet as a squad leader.
“I now have to think about the big picture,” said Mitchell. “It’s hard not being as hands on and having to step back and be more of a supervisor.”
Mitchell recently reenlisted and will be assigned to the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team in Virginia once he returns from his current deployment.
“Going through as much as I have with him, we talk a lot and I sometimes wish I was going with him to Virginia to see him grow to be an even better Marine and leader,” said Chambers a native of Eagle Point Lakeview, Ore.
Mitchell said he now considers himself a careerist and plans on continuing his career for at least 20 years.
“At first, I just wanted to do this for four years and get out with some stories to tell my grandkids,” said Mitchell. “I’ve got plenty of stories now, but I love the Marine Corps. So, I will continue my time and will add more stories to tell my grandkids.”