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Interview with Joseph Valentino Medina [1/22/2005]

David Medina:

Why did you join the military?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

We're from a military background. There's a lot of military in the Medina family. Way back in the 15th century in Spain the Medina's were famous in the military back then. In fact it's a historical fact that there was a Spanish general that they made an admiral and put him in charge of the Spanish armada. After that when they migrated to Mexico they were still a lot of the Medina's were engaged in the militaries. There was one chief lieutenant for Poncho Villa and the Mexican revolution was a Medina. My father was also in the military, so both sides of my family had been engaged in the military. When I went to college in that period of time when I was trying to decide what to do, I went to one year in civilian college and then applied to the Naval Academy because I was interested in following military career. So I pursued that, I went to the Naval Academy; I took four years at the Naval Academy. There I decided I wanted to be a marine.

David Medina:

Why did you choose to join the Marine Corps?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

When I went in to the Naval Academy I was really looking at both. I went in thinking I would probably be a marine but I kept my options open. I spent some time on a ship, I spent some time on a submarine. I went around and got to visit the aviation communities. I got to do some flying around in some airplanes to see if I wanted to do that. I spent some time with some of the marines and I decided that marines were more suited to me. More people oriented, got to be involved with more people. It was more physically oriented, got to go outside and do things that I wanted to do. So that's why I chose the Marine Corps.

David Medina:

Tell me about your boot camp/training experiences.

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Since I went to the Naval Academy our boot camp was while we where at the Naval Academy so going through the Naval Academy you go through a plebe summer which is very similar to boot camp. You get up in the morning, you do a lot of exercises, you do PT (physical training). Then you have to learn a lot about the military, you have to learn to march, you spend the whole two and a half months of summer which is about the same time of period that boot camp is. The whole first year you are treated almost like a recruit but there's a big difference though is that there are a lot of mental stresses at the Naval Academy that they try to put you under to try to make you suitable and ready to be an officer in the stressful environment. At the same time it leads you to your college degree so you're completing your college while you're doing that. And you do that for four years, so after four years you've gone through the midshipmen at the Naval Academy and you've learned the basics of drill and you've learned of the background of your profession. But for the marines after you finish the four years you then you go to the basics school. Then you take six months of training, and those six months of training are to teach you everything you need to know about being a marine officer. You learn weapons, you learn how to do small unit tactics, and you learn all of those types of things. You do that for six months then you're qualified to go to your first assignment.

David Medina:

How did you get through it?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

I think when your going up and you are going through high school you learn how to do time management. You have to develop good study habits so you could still study to get through college and then realize that I also did a little bit of the JROTC in high school so I knew what to expect and expected that when your first starting out in a boot camp type environment there going to be a lot of the pressures and everything else. You just have to realize it's all going to be over in some period of time. When you look at it that way down the road you get through everyday one day at a time and pretty soon and then the days go by pretty quickly.

David Medina:

What types of things did you have to do when you first started out?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Like after I graduated we went o to basis school which was six months of training. After that when you are fully qualified then depending on what job you get in the Marine Corps, and I started out as an infantry officer so I went to an infantry battalion and became infantry platoon commander, so my first job was a platoon commander where I was in charge of forty marines. I did that and you were responsible for them for every day and making sure they're ready. You do there inspections every day, you teach them what they need to do and you take them out to the field and your responsible for them for tactics in the field and how to imploy them and making sure there taken care of. And also you worry about there personal problems if they have personal problems you try to help them through that and that sort of thing. So that that was a long time ago but that's what I did when I first started out as a platoon commander. And after you do that for a while you move into more of a staff position where you learn how to be a staff officer where you do administration and you assist whether it in supplies or in logistics and you help the people who are working the platoons and then later on when you're company commander where you're now the commander and the captain where you are in charge of four platoons that are about one hundred and fifty to two hundred marines and then you have more responsibility. So I did that and once again that was over twenty-five years ago. And over time you develop and you show what you learned what you were supposed to do and you develop your skills and you get more responsibilities then you become a senior staff officer where you plan more or a commander where you get to command bigger and different units. I commanded 7 different companies from one hundred and fifty people to three hundred people. And then I was a battalion commander in Camp Lejune where you're in charge of about one thousand people. And you train them and you work with them and make sure they're ready to do their mission. Sometimes you have additional units to that, the battalion I had, we normally had eight hundred to one thousand people but when we deployed for operation sea signal we had about one thousand five hundred people. Then after you learn how to do that and you do that for years then later on I was a regimental commander where I was in charge of four battalions and about three thousand people. And you learn how to do that and you not doing that job your in a staff position where you have higher levels of responsibility. But it's the experiences and what you learn you're always learning no matter where you're at. That's what you should try to be doing is always learning for future experiences. Segment 3: Experiences

David Medina:

What wars did you serve in?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

I came into the Naval Academy in 1972 and that was at the end of the Vietnam period. The Vietnam War was before my time before I got out. And after I got out into the operating forces then we had a lot of peace keeping and readiness type things. I went to Korea a couple of times, because that was what was called the cold war while we were participating with Korea to make sure that North Korea wouldn't invade and making sure there was a balance against the old Soviet Union. I went to Korea for several years for exercises and that sort of thing. Later on in time I mentioned when I was a battalion commander I took the battalion to Guantanemal Bay for operation sea signal and that was when Castro pushed out all of the Cubans he didn't want out into the boats and we helped them and put them in refugee camps and I had about fifteen thousand refugees that we were responsible for to take care of them and we did that. Later on when I went to Europe I was the chief planning officer for the European command and in that responsibility, I had responsibility to do the planning for the Bosnia conflict which was called SForce(Stabilization Force) in Bosnia.(No audio). I was the chief planner for European command, wrote the plan, ran all the targeting boards to do all the targeting for that campaign and then we executed the air campaign and the secondary piece of that was the ground campaign which was called joint guardian. And I was mainly the chief of staff planner and went to Kosovo a couple of times to coordinate some of the activities with the U.S. forces and the Ukrainian forces and there were some other forces that were in there just as we were going in to Kosovo. So I participated in that campaign. Recently, my current job I'm the commander of Expeditionary strike group three which is seven ships from the West coast we deployed to the Persian Gulf and we also established Commander Task Force fifty-eight that was another assignment. Over the course of six months when we were deployed we had forty-two different ships in the task force, there were several British ships, Australian ships, Iraqi coastal defense ships. We were responsible for the Persian Gulf area all the way up to Um Qusar in the Cora Bela water way and also ashore with the multi national division south which was the British division there. And we operated with them quite a lot. And that was the Iraqi freedom war that's going on right now. We just recently got back we had marine expeditionary units that deployed with us and we dropped them ashore and they ashore up to North. One of the Mews that worked for me was on Najaf, the famous battle for Najaf, which was the eleventh Mew and then another battalion which was another Mew which was the 31st was in the Fallujah area. So all the people we trained and worked with did real well while we were over there.

David Medina:

Did you see combat?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Yes, different various stages of it. We had responsibility for the Northern area of Persian Gulf. We had a lot of incursions to the oil platforms and that's what we primarily dealt with. We also had special operation forces and we used them working North a little bit. And we worked that area with the British division. As I mentioned our Mew had the battle of Najaf and I went there after the battle was completed and spent some time there working with our Mew and some of the Iraqi forces that were there. And helped them doing the reconstruction effort there. While I was there I met the governor of the Najaf region and saw the tremendous effort we were showing to rebuild the schools and everything like that. The main combat missions that were run were the air missions and I had the air mission tomahawk TLamb strike missions. And my section had responsibility to do all the targeting and planning for that. All those combat missions for the air campaign were my responsibility to put the plan together and oversee the strategic and operational plan for that. And now a days that's how a lot of combat missions are actually ran, and there ran through advanced communications and technology efforts that tie all the pieces together. The air campaign in Kosovo, we had aircraft taking off from the U.S. and were flying all the way over to Kosovo and then when they got finished with their mission they would fly back to the U.S. So that was the primary effort we did there.

David Medina:

Did you get to do or experience anything interesting while you were there?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

I experienced a lot of interesting things while we were in Iraq. There was a different culture we dealt with. I had responsibility for developing the Iraqi coastal defense force. Their new Navy. We helped train them and it's called the Iraqi coastal defense regiment. There new Marine Corps too. We helped train them and helped them take over the security of their own waterways. They do not bring any women into their armed forces. We have both women and men in the Navy and the Marine Corps but a lot of them were serving on the ships. The Iraqi coastal defense force is all the male culture and they had some difficulties interacting with the women sailors that they saw. That was a cultural thing that we saw. That was really interesting though trying to train them and develop them because there mind set is a lot different. The U.S. culture and the British and Australian which were part of our coalitions, the officers not only gave the orders and supervised but they also got involved and helped out with what was going on. In the Iraqi cultures the officers liked to just give the orders but they don't like to do any of the work themselves. So that was interesting. It was also very interesting, as I mentioned I went to Najaf where in August we had the big battle of Najaf mainly to help secure the area and protect the famous Maudy Mosque that was there the Ima Mahli shrine that was there. That was very interesting while I was there. Seeing the schools, most of their schools are segregated schools where they have boys in one school and girls in the other and they don't they don't combine the schools that there in. But to see that culture and how it was starting to build back up it was very interesting. It was also very interesting to see how much damage Sadam Hussein had caused over the years. A lot of the oil infrastructures that brings in the economy to the country they were just taking the oil and selling it but they weren't taking some of the money and putting it back to fix the roads or the oil pipelines or any of that other stuff so most of that stuff was built in the nineteen sixties and seventies and nothing had been done to rebuild it in the last thirty or forty years. Some of that stuff, the pipes have been there for forty years and were breaking down and where as if you were looking at any of the American countries or western countries when they have something they always recapitalize and they fix it before it breaks and take preventive measures and they didn't do that the government was just taking the money out and using it for their own devices that's why hey have all those problems over there right now they're trying to fix all that stuff its years and years of neglect by the central government. Segment 4: Life

David Medina:

What did you do for fun in Iraq?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

I didn't have much time to have fun. The people that are deployed oversees work just about every day. Even Saturdays and Sundays and also in that culture the holy days in Iraq are Fridays. It's the only day in the Muslim countries is Friday. So Friday is their easy day so to speak and so since for a lot of people that is their holy day so there was a lot less activity so that was our light day was a Friday. Their Sunday over there is like over here a Tuesday or Wednesday so that was pretty active. There were a lot of ships a lot of the dows which were the threats we were worried about. So those days were pretty busy to us. We basically had to work every day and had watches going 24 hours a day. But on different ships they had different activities to break up the monotony and have fun. They had movie days and Ice cream nights and that sort of thing on the ship once a week and they do things like that. But what I try to do is, I was on a big ship and they had a nice gym, so I made sure to go to the gym and PT or as many days as I could, almost everyday, to relieve the stress a little bit. But at the same time you always have a shipboard cell phone with you so if something comes up can call you and talk to you immediately but basically we did that the whole time we were there the whole time we were deployed and even a few times when the ships pulled into port we still ran the commutative command center so we still worked 24 hours a day in the command center even when we were still in port. We were basically busy all the waking hours.

David Medina:

Did you like it when you were there?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Yes because you felt like you were contributing. I think there was a lot of bad press. If something goes bad in Iraq the press focuses on it and everybody sees it. But sometimes they don't see all the good things that are getting better. I mentioned the schools, before the Mew went into Najaf and they had the battle for Najaf they kicked the insurgents out. Now the schools are reopening, the kids can go to the school, the people are free to go to the Ima Mahli shrine and worship in the shrine where is before they couldn't go there. Only some the Maudi Militia were able to go there. Things like that are actually getting better there. Most of the provinces that are there things are getting a lot better in the southern region also where we were in Basra, thing are getting better. We saw the ports, we had responsibility for the water way all the way to the Um Quasar court the major port going into Iraq itself. We protected the UN Survey Vessel going in there to dredge out the port to make it bigger, so more commercial vessels are going in there, so things are getting better all the time and that's why I liked it, because it seemed like we really made a difference of what we were doing, was important and helped out a lot.

David Medina:

How did you stay in touch with your family while you were at war?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Mainly everybody stays in touch by e-mail. Every now and then about once every three or four weeks I would call when I had the chance I would call. But, mainly I contacted the family by e-mail. Most of the service people now-a-days have a chance to get on e-mail and that's the biggest way most people keep on contact with their family, so there was a lot of e-mail going back and forth.

David Medina:

What was the food like?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

It all depended on where you were. On the ships the food was pretty good, the ships had their own cooks and serve on the ships. When I went in, the dining facility where they make the food, in the shore, like in Najaf where the Marines are, they contract out they hire out people to do that and it's very, very good. A lot of food, there were too much of it sometimes, but it's actually very good. The food over there generally speaking is pretty good. Sometimes if you're on the field for a couple days and you have to eat MRE's it gets old, but a side from that, the food is pretty good.

David Medina:

Did you feel stress?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

That's why I PT'ed a lot. I think sometime you feel stress if you had a lot to do and you have some big decisions. We had a lot of visitors that visited us, very important visitors. The Chief of Naval Operations, the Head Guy of the Navy visited us, the Central Command Commander General Abizeed visited us twice. We had to brief of what we were doing. And, also had to constantly update the Naval Component Commander Admiral Nichols. So, what we were doing was a stressful environment. Sometimes, their were some decisions, we had some potential situations where we had incoming potentially what we called Vehicle Bom Explosive Devices or Water Bom, in other words a lot of the ships coming in now-a-days the small dows. There was a suicide attack right before we got there, April 24lh where they had three of the terrorist dows came in and tried to blow up the area that we were preventing that killed a couple sailors and coasts guardsmen. So, we were always cautious about that, we saw they were trying to set some potential some diversion traps, they were calling false may-day alerts, trying to pull some of our ships away, so that they could be the one's that were there, we did good training here before we left and that helped produce the stress level because if you know what you're doing and you're people know what they're that reduces the stress level.

David Medina:

How did you and your soldiers entertain themselves?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Well, like I said, sometimes, each unit, each ship normally had different things they did, like I said they had movie nights and that sort of thing we tried to do things like that occasionally together. There were some competitions sometimes the ship had different MWR morale welfare recreation events they would do that. And, like I said there were plenty of opportunities to do reading or use the gym or that sort of thing.

David Medina:

I see you have some medals there, can you explain what some of them are from?

Joseph Valentino Medina:

Yeah, these are some of the medals that have been awarded over the period of time that I've been in, these one's here are from the time I've been in, this is called the Defense Superior Service Medal, and that's for when I was in Europe. My job there was the Chief of Operational Plans. This is the Legion of Merit I was awarded that for being the Commander of Third Marine Regiment. This is a Defense Meritory Service Medal, I received that for planning the Allied Force the campaign for Kosovo. This is the Meritory Service Medal; I have two stars that means I had received three times the original medal and two others, one for being the Battalion Commander of 3/2 for Operation Sea Signal. This is a Joint Service Commendation Medal and this was awarded for doing a plan for the Bosnia Stavalization Force Plan. And, over here are also some other Navy Commendation Medal. This is a National Defense Medal which all service members receive during a time of war. I have three awards of this because I came in at the Ladder Part Vietnam, I was serving at the late 80's and 90,s and right now. This is what's called the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, I received that for deployed to Bosnia for S4. And, this is the Humanitarian Service Medal and I received that for Operation C Signal helping out the Cuban Migrants during that period of time. I also have a couple other medals that were recently awarded the Global War on terrorism medal. I also have the Nado Medal for service in Bosnia and Kosovo. And, what this is here is this is called the St. Barbara's Medal. And, this is awarded mainly to artillery men there's only been a few non artillery men that's been awarded this. And, I was awarded this, but I'm not an artillery man for service which helped out the artillery profession. And, I received that when I was the Commander of Third Marines, also. So, that's what that is. The red historically signifies artillery in all the services, so that's in a nutshell that's what that is. Thank you for allowing me to interview you and sharing your experiences. Ok, David, thank you.

 
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