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Interview with Marine/ Third Grade Teacher
Dan Dudrick became an elementary teacher at Nether Providence Elementary School in 1997. He enlisted in the Marines in 2003 and was deployed from the year 2004 to 2005. Before he enlisted he proposed to his girlfriend and she said, “Yes!” He came back to the United States in April of 2005 and married his fiancé in July of 2005. Since then, they now have a son named Justin. Mr. Dudrick has been teaching at Nether Providence Elementary School ever since.
How did you feel when first arriving in Iraq?
Hot. Unsure of what to expect. Ready to do my job and to serve my country regardless of what might be asked of me.
Do you think you were ready to be there?
ABSOLUTELY. Recruit Training at Parris Island, South Carolina; Infantry Training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Intelligence training at Dam Neck, Virginia; and the pre-deployment training with my unit had me prepared for my deployment to Iraq.
What was the training like?
Structured. The Marines philosophy is break you down to build you up. It was very intense. While at Parris Island, South Carolina, when we ate with our comrades, our backs were not allowed to touch the seat. Also, our right hand had to be on our right knee. We were not allowed to talk, and we could only use our left hands. It taught us how to communicate better, and also it taught us to be prepared to use our left hands.
Was the training like the movies?
Sometimes. We had to follow orders, but if it was too ridiculous, we chose not to follow it. We were told to ask the question, is this order lawful or not?
What was your job in the war?
During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF 2), I was the Intelligence Chief for a Fusion Cell attached to the Third Marine Aircraft Wing (1st Marine Expeditionary Force). We were responsible for the anti-terrorism and force protection of the Marines at Al Asad Airbase (Al Anbar Province). Two to three times per week, I would fly in a UH1W (Huey) helicopter and photograph the designated areas of interest so we could gather intelligence to protect the Marines on base and the aircraft assets. We also assisted in convoy security operations from Al Asad to Ramadi-Fallujah and from Al Asad to Korean Village & Al Q’aim.
What are the convoy
A convoy security operation is when about 100 tractor trailers carry supplies needed for the troops. We had to make sure that no cars passed us. When there was a car that tried to pass us, we would shoot in front of the car as a warning. One time, the car did not respond, and my buddy unfortunately had to shoot the driver. Not too long after, he was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) at age 19.
Did you ever come close to a dangerous encounter? If so, how did you react?
Yes. Several. While on a tactical aerial reconnaissance mission, we discovered three modified rocket launchers rigged to fire at the base. The two Hueys that were in the section engaged the improvised rocket launchers with heavy machine gun fire but were unsuccessful in destroying them. So, one huey landed, and we defused the explosives. QRF (Quick Reaction Force) arrived and after, an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Team cleaned up the scene. We stayed calm, remembered our training, made good decisions, and reacted well to the situation.
Also, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED – “Car bomb”) detonated at our main entry control point. The insurgent targeted a formation of Iraqi Police candidates that had assembled for entry to the base. We were training Iraqis to become Police Officers on base. Unfortunately, the VBIED detonated properly and killed 50-60 of the 100+ IP Candidates. We were responsible for reacting to the scene and doing after-action reports. Again, we relied on our training and discipline as United States Marines and we handled the situation well.
Was it hard to see the aftermath of the car bomb?
Yes. Extremely hard. We went after the bomb detonated and we had to figure out how many people were killed, and we had to ID the dead bodies. It was gross and tough to see. I saw body parts on the ground, and we actually had to piece together the bodies.
Did you make new friends that taught you some inside tricks?
I made lots of new friends that taught me lots of “tricks.” “Tricks” that make me a better Marine and a better person.
Roughly how many hours of sleep were you able to get and why?
We would get 5-6 hours of sleep on a regular basis. However, when operational tempo was high, there was less or none. During Operation Al Fajr (Fantiom Fury) in Fallujah in November of 2004, little sleep was had by everyone.
Have you ever seen something that you wish you hadn’t while in Iraq?
Have you ever felt that you made the wrong choice in being in the Marines?
NO. I will never change my mind on that one.
What do you do now for the Marines?
I am a reservist at Willow Grove. I am a part of the MAG49 (Marine Aircraft Group 49). I also have been to the Phillies games to hold the flag.
What did you do in your spare time?
There was very little spare time, but whenever we could, we would try to make phone calls or emails back home. However, I did have a unique opportunity, through one of the Marines I met and a “trick” I learned; I got a four-day pass and a flight to Qatar to visit an American family living and working there for Exxon.
Was the family affected by the war?
Obviously they were aware of the war, but they were not physically affected. It was very nice to spend Thanksgiving with them. It was like I was a part of their family.
If you had the choice, what would you have done differently while being in Iraq?
Bring an iPod.
Can you use anything that you learned through Being a Marine to help you be a better elementary school teacher?
Yes. Another part of being in the Marines is to be a successful individual. I have taught my kids to learn how to be independent. Also, when lining up, I call out certain positions that they have to follow. It is very fun to see how many of the boys participate if I connect the activity to something of the Marines. They also sit in groups that have a leader.
Is there anything that you still do because of any habits you picked up on while in the Marines?
I seem to still walk in a cadence. I know that you are in the marching band and to see you play and march is unbelievable. I could barely march and sing. I have gained more respect to you guys after seeing what you can do.
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