ABOARD USS PELELIU -- Military service members currently serving in operations around the world have shown their commitment to their country by honorably fulfilling their service terms. Since the Global War on Terrorism began, many have taken their commitments further by extending their enlistment contracts. Several Marines currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have shown the same type of dedication by extending their service in the Corps in order to complete the MEU’s Western Pacific 03-2 deployment.
Sgt. Philip P. Mitchell, squad leader, 3rd Squad, 2nd Section, Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, is one of those Marines. He extended his original contract five months past his active-duty termination date of Feb. 14, 2004. The MEU is currently scheduled to return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., at the end of April.
“We all got together as a group,” he said. “All the NCOs (noncommissioned officers) decided we all started this together and we’re all going to finish it together.”
According to Mitchell, it was a chance for him to participate in another real-world mission and do whatever his country asked of him. On Sept. 11, 2001, Mitchell was deployed with the 15th MEU.
“We were actually at Darwin, Australia when it happened,” he said.
Mitchell recalls being sent to Afghanistan shortly after the terrorist attacks. There he participated in the furthest land advancement the Marine Corps ever conducted from the sea. To reach Afghanistan the Marines were flown in more than 370 miles by helicopters.
“It was a wonderful feeling,” he said, “that you were part of a unit that got to go in and make your presence known.”
According to Mitchell, another reason for his extension was he didn’t want to leave his junior Marines behind. Before the MEU’s deployment, many of the senior NCOs in his unit were getting ready to get out.
“We (NCOs) have the utmost confidence in our junior Marines,” he said, “but if all of us all left at once, it would have been like walking away from them. I’m in a squad leader billet and (leaving them) would have been like letting them hang out to dry.”
According to Mitchell, he wanted to make sure his Marines were trained properly before he ended his enlistment.
“When I leave here I want them to be proficient, accurate and effective machine gunners,” he said. “I want them to know the machine guns inside and out.”
According to Sgt. Kristopher A. Puffer, vehicle commander, 3rd squad, 2nd Section, CAAT Platoon, Mitchell is very knowledgeable and handles his role as a squad leader very well.
“As far as dealing with junior Marines, he encourages them and teaches them the knowledge that he has,” said Puffer, who has known Mitchell for six months. “Every time I turn around he’s teaching them something new and tries to set the example for them.”
Mitchell has enjoyed and loved his service in the Marine Corps, but it’s time for him to move on, he said.
“It’s time for me to get out,” said Mitchell. “I want to finish school.”
Before enlisting, Mitchell was enrolled in Auburn University, Ala. He was on his fourth year of college when he decided to join.
According to Mitchell, the main reason he joined the Corps was to add his experience in the Marines to his job résumé. He plans is to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
His time served in the Corps polished some rough edges in his character, he said.
“It was a chance for me to mature,” said Mitchell. “You just naturally evolve into a better person because you have that discipline in you.”
“You may not display it all the time, but you have it instilled in you when you have to use it,” he said. “Whether guys get out as a corporal or a lance corporal they still grow, whether they believe it or not.”
Though he plans on departing the Corps, Mitchell still encourages many of his younger Marines to stay in.
“I encourage these guys, if they love it, to stay in,” he said. “If there weren’t those Marines who loved it and stayed in, there wouldn’t be a Marine Corps.”
When he gets out, Mitchell said, he will miss his Marines the most.
“You get attached to them,” he said. “I have two wonderful Marines assigned to me in my truck. Everything I taught them, they’ve taken and run with it. If anything was to happen to me, I can trust them to step up and take control of the situation.”
According to Staff Sgt. Lane R. Taylor, section leader, 2nd Section, CAAT Platoon, Mitchell has been a great asset to the platoon.
“He’s done great things for us,” he said. “We look forward seeing the product (of Marines) he has been a part of on the next deployment. I wish he would reenlist and stay in.”