Stories from Iraq

May 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
This memorial day there are more than half a million Americans in uniform serving all over the globe. One particular Marine from the valley who is in Iraq says her tour has been a great experience as a Marine and as an American.Since the Iraq ear began more than five years ago ... Violent images have become a familiar sight ... So have the American troops serving there.

Among them 21 year old U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Cindy Alejandrez of Chowchilla: "I always wanted to join. I thought about it a lot throughout high school."

This 2004 graduate of Chowchilla Union High was voted most spirited her senior year.

She left with assets that she says set her up to succeed as a Marine: "Responsibility, probably is the biggest thing. It's nice, small community. It was fun. Pretty cool teachers. As far as I remember, Miss Norman an English teacher."

We talked with Corporal Alejandrez by Armed Forces Satellite. The combat journalist shoots photos and writes stories about the troops for military publications and websites: "Most Marines have been working really hard out here so when we're taking their photos or talking to them they're excited about helping us out and being a part of it."

But this Marine wanted to go beyond her job 'inside the wire' - a term meaning inside the relative safety of her work bunker at Camp Taqaddum west of Baghdad.

She volunteered to be a 'Marine Lioness' explaining what they do: "The Lioness Program is to search for suicide vests, contrabands, large amounts of money on Iraqi women. We needed female Marines because of the cultural sensitivities."

For 50 days she geared up, lived rough and with three other Lionesses searched Iraqi women at a traffic checkpoint in Rutbah near the Jordanian border: that is out in the far western Iraq. Even for the desert it seems like the middle of nowhere."

One incident stands out: a traditionally clad Iraqi woman appeared to have something inside her clothing. Turned out to be an outdated hearing aid:"She was no threat. She had something attached to her to help her hear. Other than that we didn't really have too much, which was good."

Alejandrez is now back at camp 'TQ' working on new stories: "Just recently worked with engineers on a story where the Iraqi policeman were helping and providing security for the Marines."

Corporal Alejandrez said when she leaves Iraq at the end of August she'll take positive memories with her: "It's given me the opportunity to really meet the Iraqi people. Not just to be in Iraq but get to know them."

As for the politics of this war, she'll leave that to others to debate. Her stories and those of her fellow Marine combat journalists appear military websites and in unit newsletters, here are a few samples:

www.dvidshub.net/index.php?script=general/general_search.php&table=news&query=cindy+alejandrez&type=

www.Marines.mil/units/marforpac/imef/1stmlg/pages/mar8.aspx

www.Marines.mil/units/mciwest/mcbjapan/mcasiwakuni/pages/2007/black%20knights%20swoop%20in%20for%20six%20month%20deployment.aspx

www.Marines.mil/units/marforpac/imef/1stmlg/pages/jan085.aspx


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