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Black Widow awarded for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Cpl. Natasha S. Rawls | | May 27, 2005

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Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-13 sergeant major was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a gold star with combat distinguishing device and a Meritorious Service Medal with gold star during a ceremony on the station parade deck May 27.

Sgt. Maj. Joe L. Vines Sr. received the commendation medal for his actions while serving in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from March to June 2003, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to the medal citation, the Franklinton, N.C. native, "set the example for Marines throughout combat operations." Vines cleared bunkers and buildings leading the way for his Marines, on multiple occasions, and aided in the capture of multiple enemy insurgents and the recovery of enemy weapons.

Vines was also awarded for his actions while his convoy was under attack March 25, 2003.

"The convoy came under attack from mortar, rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire," according to the medal citation. "During this attack, he noticed a gap between two companies, and immediately rushed forward with three other Marines to fill the gap. Furthermore, he personally assisted in carrying a wounded Marine to a medical evacuation site."

April 4, 2003 the battalion came under sniper fire; although he was under fire, he assisted in the medical evacuation of two other Marines.

Vines also received a Meritorious Service Medal for his role in guiding and mentoring his Marines, which resulted in the meritorious promotion of two Marines to gunnery sergeant, one to staff sergeant, two to sergeant and one to corporal. In addition, two of his Marines won Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter and one Marine of the Quarter, according to the medal citation.

"He bestowed his wisdom of Marine Corps history, customs and courtesies upon the Marines under his command," according to the medal citation.

Vines' professional demeanor and love of the Marine Corps has impacted many Marines in the squadron.

"Sergeant Major Vines is a leader that we can approach and ask about any problems, and will answer them," said Pfc. Bryan Malnburg, aircraft engine technician. "He is always there for us as far as someone we can go to for any kind of emergency, whether it is about the Marine Corps, financial or our family life." 

In his three years of being a member of MALS-13, Lance Cpl. Jimmy Rubu, ordnance technician, said he has noticed a change in the squadron since Vines had come into command.

"When I returned from a (deployment to Iraq) and he was here, the squadron was a lot more motivated," said Rubu . "He has a distinctive way of bringing Marines together and motivating them to that next level. Before, we felt a lot more like we were just going to work; now it is more like, in his own words, 'an organization.' He has this way of making you take pride in what you do, although sometimes you feel it doesn't have a big importance in (the overall mission)."

"Sergeant Major Vines is the type of Marine that can take the most demotivated Marine, one that has been in trouble, and motivate them," said Cpl. Crista Banet, production control NCO, a Floyds Knobs, Ind. native. "He really cares about this unit. Once he stepped in, he put us back in our place as Marinses. He came from a combat unit to the air wing. Things here were more relaxed; he squared us away."

"He's a Marine's Marine," said Staff Sgt. John Chatham, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit detachment NCIOC, and native of Austin, Texas. "He has bought the Esprit de Corps, unit camaraderie and overall morale of the Marines in this unit to a peek level."

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