Norwich graduate helps keep
the Iraqi highways safe
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – One recent Norwich graduate proves a fish out of water is not always a bad thing.
2nd Lt. John S. Kim, platoon commander for 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion and a 2004 Norwich graduate, has lead his amphibious-designated unit over the sands of the Iraqi desert with great success for the past six months.
"We are like jacks of all trades, we can do a lot of different things,” Kim explained. "The greatest strength of amtracs is our flexibility.”
Amphibious tractors, technically called assault amphibian vehicles but commonly referred to as amtracs by Marines, are hulking monsters designed to carry a squad of assault troops from Navy ships to a beach head during an amphibious assault.
They are not meant for constantly driving up and down highways, but that is exactly what the Marines of Company A have been doing.
This non-traditional use of amtracs has proven a very successful way to employ the water-designed vehicles in the open Iraqi desert, according to Kim, a 30-year-old Seattle native.
"We’ve got good mobility, we can go pretty much anywhere we want to go,” Kim said.
One of the primary missions of Kim’s unit since deploying to Al Anbar Province in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been providing security on the main highways around Fallujah.
"We spend a lot of time on the road,” said Cpl. Jesse S. Cribb, from Burlington, N.J. and a crew chief with 2nd Platoon. "We keep the roads safe and protect the convoys and other units that have to go from point A to point B.”
The Marines maintain a constant vigilance on the roadways looking for insurgents attempting to plant roadside bombs, otherwise known as improvised explosive devices.
Kim understands the danger of his mission, but is not deterred.
"I feel comfortable riding around in my amtrac because of the extra protection on the vehicle,” Kim said.
Kim, checks his unit's location with a global positioning system while leading his platoon in security operations north of Fallujah
Kim knows firsthand the importance of vehicle armor while patrolling in Iraq. His amtrac was hit with a rocket propelled grenade during an engagement shortly after arriving in Iraq.
Kim received his first choice for military occupational specialty from The Basic School, the six month officer’s course Marine lieutenants attend to learn the basics of Marine Corps leadership and draw their future MOS billets.
"I decided at TBS I really wanted to get amtracs,” said Kim, who arrived at the company three months before deploying to Iraq with his platoon. "Amtracs will always be a mainstay in the Marine Corps because we will always need the capacity to do ship to shore movements.”
Kim brought a good deal of experience with him when he arrived at Company A.
"He knows his tactics down pat, he’s a prior enlisted infantryman,” Cribb said of his platoon commander.
Kim enlisted in the Marines after high school and completed one tour with the infantry and three years guarding U.S. embassies with Marine Security Guard detachments in Shanghai, London and Prague.
He then applied for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, or MECEP.
While working on his Civil Engineering degree at Norwich, Kim participated in several activities including the Semper Fi Club and the Barre Police Department youth program.
Kim, known as a jokester at Norwich, carried his jovial outlook to Company A.
"The thing I like about Lieutenant Kim is that he is always upbeat,” said Capt. William J. Gibbons, Kim’s commanding officer.
Kim has passed his positive attitude on to the Marines of the platoon as well.
"Second Platoon is fun because we are all tight, like a big family,” Cribb explained. "We joke around and have nicknames for each other.”
The sentiment is common throughout the platoon.
"Lieutenant Kim has been a great platoon commander and we’ve really lucked out with the Marines we got in the platoon,” said Staff Sgt. Jason J. Tameling, 28, a section leader with 2nd Platoon from Bardstown, Ky.
Company A is scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune, N.C. within a month. Kim expects to deploy to Iraq with another platoon later this year.