Story and photo by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Through the course of the recent Iraq wars, and now in Afghanistan, Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, has literally grown up together, using their experiences from back home to unite and strengthen them on the battlefield.
Since deploying this past winter, Company C has provided security in the area around Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province and made advancements in establishing relationships with local villagers.
Company C, nicknamed ‘Carlos’, is a reserve unit out of Corpus Christi and Harlingen, Texas. The Marines of Carlos Company credit their common background as a contributor to their success. Unlike active duty Marines, who often switch units every three to four years, reservists typically stay with the same unit longer, so the company is full of familiar faces to the average Marine.
“Marines from our company are from Texas, we all have jobs in Texas, we have family in Texas, and we all train together in Texas,” said Staff Sgt. Israel Maldonado, platoon commander for Headquarters Platoon, Carlos Co., and a native of Weslaco, Texas.
“We see each other all the time and stay together throughout our careers.”
While the company shares a geographic tie, the Marines also share a cultural understanding. Ninety percent of Carlos Company shares some form of Latino heritage, said Maldonado. The Marines get together for cook-outs and other functions on a weekly basis with one another back home. Several Marines in the company are related in some way, while others went to school together or played high school sports against one another.
The similarities don’t end there. Many of the Marines in Carlos Company are in some kind of law enforcement back in Texas. Almost all of them speak Spanish fluently.
Maldonado, who has been with the company for 10 years, played football and attended grade school with Gunnery Sgt. Mario Moreno, platoon sergeant for 1st platoon. Maldonado and Moreno have taken their sons together to watch their favorite National Football League team, the Dallas Cowboys.
“Marines naturally are able to adapt and overcome together, but this particular unit is unique in that they all already know each other and have grown together,” said 2nd Lt. Edward E. Arrington, platoon commander for 2nd platoon.
The Marines focus much of their training back home in Texas on infantry tactics, such as shooting ranges and land navigation. In addition to already being acclimated to the dry heat of Helmand province thanks to the similar climate back home, the Marines say this training has helped them be successful during this deployment.
“I don’t know any company as close as Charlie Company,” said 1st Sgt. David M. Dyess, company first sergeant for Carlos Company. “Nobody can come between these Marines and their mission. They all know what [one] another is thinking.”
The Marines in Carlos Company deploy for their brother to the left and right of them, said Maldonado, whose son attends the school alongside children of other Marines in the company.
“Morale is very high here, and we help lift each other up,” he explained. “We can literally ask how someone’s family is doing because we actually know everyone’s family on a personal level.”
The Marines have remained close during their deployment, which may be a reason they’ve suffered no serious casualties despite hitting several IEDs and encountering insurgent attacks during their tour.
The company has managed operations around Camp Leatherneck, the largest coalition base in Helmand province, and has successfully limited any insurgent activities in the area.
Marines with Carlos Company are scheduled to return to their families in the Lone Star state in the near future. However, most of the Marines will remain in touch with one another as friends, family or neighbors, until their next call to duty.
Additional photos here.