SUMMER 2014 / VOL. 14 ISSUE 2
Marines Keep in Touch With Their 
Celtic Roots
 

Lt. Jake Ryan
1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment
rifle platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Co

 

 
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IAP: What is your Irish heritage? 

JR: The majority of my family is Irish with the rest being from other parts of the British Commonwealth. Both my mother and father were born and generally raised in Ireland. 

My mother, Aisling Ryan, was born in Blackrock, Dublin. She is the eldest of four children. Her father worked for Guinness and they moved around Ireland (Galway, Tipperary, and Dublin) and Northern Ireland (Belfast). She attended University College Dublin. My father, Brendan Ryan, was born in Templeogue, Dublin. 

He is the middle child of three children. His parents lived in East Pakistan (Bangladesh, prior to its independence) and Saudi Arabia when he was a boy, so he went to boarding school in Dublin for part of the year before joining them for the holidays. He attended Trinity College Dublin. 

After they married, they emigrated to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where my father, an engineer at the time, was working. After staying in Saudi for few years, my father was hired by an American company headquartered in Texas. From Saudi, they emigrated England and from there, to Texas where my father had been offered a new position at his company. We ended up living in Corpus Christi, Texas for a few years. All of us enjoy windsurfing, so it was nice being a stone's throw from the Gulf of Mexico. 

IAP: Have you ever been to Ireland?

JR: I have been to Ireland several times since we started living in the US. Last time I was there was in the summer of 2011. I went there to visit relatives living in both Ireland and England. One of my cousins was getting married so we had a family reunion in Ireland and then a wedding over in England. 

In Ireland, I was mostly in Dublin. I went sailing with my uncle and cousins in the bay and went out on the town. With that said, my grandfather, my Dad and I made it to every corner of Dublin. We went over to Trinity College and visited some of his old haunts and stopped in a few pubs to enjoy a pint or two. 

This last time around, I went and visited one of my cousins over in Rathmines. He is in the Irish Defense Forces and he took me on a quick tour of the Cathal Brugha Barracks. They have an excellent museum there which covers the military history of Ireland from the Easter Rising to the present day role of the Defense Forces in Peacekeeping Operations in Lebanon and elsewhere. 

IAP: The Irish have a long tradition of military service. Do you feel part of that age-old line of Celtic Warriors?

JR: I will agree that the Irish have a long history of military service. If you dig back in our family history, we have a few fellows who came over to America to fight in the American Civil War. On the cessation of hostilities, went back to Ireland with their new found tactical experience to aid in revolts against the Crown. 

My great grandfather fought in the Irish War of Independence and continued to serve in the Army until he retired as major. He was stationed at Collins Barracks (formerly the Royal Barracks) in Arbour Hill once it was relieved from British control following Independence. To say that I am part of a line of Celtic warriors would be a bit of a stretch, I'm not exactly running with the Fianna. I am now an American and I fight for my country, its people, and our ideals. 

iAP: Are you a sports fan? Ever play Gaelic football or hurling?
JR: I am a sports fan. I used to play rugby and am naturally rather pleased that Ireland has won the Six-Nations Cup. As for other sports, I follow college hockey though I admit I've not been the most vigilant of fans this time around due to deployment. 

IAP: Do you play any instruments?
JR: I have been playing the saxophone for the better part of 12 years now. I can play a few other instruments, but that is my favorite by far. As for Irish instruments, the only one I ever got really got hand on with was the tin whistle. 

IAP: Do you have much of an opportunity on your duty tours to enjoy your Irishness?

JR: We have a high operational tempo on aboard our Patrol Base. I was on patrol this past St. Patrick's Day. Periodically, I get to go to Mass which is a nice change of pace. 

IAP: Do you have a lot of Irish/Irish American buddies in your units?

JR: Yes, we do have a lot of Marines with Irish ancestry. In my company, there is another Marine, Lance Corporal Strange, who is also from the Dublin area. 

IAP: What is your hometown? What drew you to the Marines? 
JR: For my hometown in the States, I'd call it a split between Boston, Massachusetts, where I went to College, and the Woodlands, Texas where I went to high school. I commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marines on Aug. 20, 2011.

I was drawn to the Marine Corps for a few reasons. The Marine Corps is a highly disciplined and effective fighting force, yet it also is performs a host of non-combat missions. Over the course of its long and rich history, the Marine Corps has consistently been America's quick reaction force, there fastest and ready to serve in whatever capacity should our nation require. I wanted to serve my country and protect the ideals which I hold dear. It seemed a natural fit to be out front with those who are always there first. 
There are no other Marines in my family. 

IAP: Are you married? Any pets back home or when growing up?
JR: I am not married and I have no children. I had a lot of pets when I was growing up, dogs, a cat I rescued, even a few chickens but my favorite was my parrot. I had an African Grey parrot, Clark, for 8 years but I had to give him away to our veterinarian when my family moved to Canada. 

IAP: Where did you train?
JR: I did most of my training in Quantico, Virginia before completing Infantry Officer Course. Since arriving in the Fleet, I have trained in Camp Lejeune, my duty station in North Carolina, and in Twentynine Palms, California. Honestly I have thoroughly enjoyed my training. It was not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is. I have had great fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

IAP: What have been your jobs and missions in Marine service? 
JR: I am an infantry officer. Currently my billet is rifle platoon commander. I am responsible for the training, discipline, control, and tactical employment of 38 Marine infantrymen and two Navy Corpsmen. My current mission is to secure our Area of Operations and disrupt insurgent activity in order to protect key infrastructure and personnel aboard the Bastion-Leatherneck Complex. In laymen's terms, we keep pressure on the Taliban to limit their ability to strike either GIRoA or ISAF forces during the transition period. This is my first deployment. 

IAP: What is it like to be a Marine today? What is the toughest part of your job? 
JR: In my community, the infantry community, our basic mission or purpose, if you will, has remained the same since the establishment of the Marine Corps. We train for conventional and asymmetrical warfare. The Marine Corps is a flexible force in readiness and we take that to heart. We are prepared for any mission, any climate, any place. It is challenging to maintain constant readiness while anticipating new threats but in my opinion we have been rather successful in surpassing any obstacle expected or not. 

IAP: Where are you based, What can you do to relax between missions?
JR: Currently, we are based out of PB Boldak, a position in Nad' Ali District, Helmand Province. When I have time, I go to our gym or read. We have a small library which has a surprising variety of books. 

IAP What is next? Will you be among the last American units to pull out of Afghanistan? Will you re-up?
JR: While not the last unit, we definitely are helping turn off the lights here. When we arrive back in the States, our battalion is being disbanded as part of the draw-down. After we fold our colors, my Marines and I will then be parceled out to other infantry battalions. Most of use with then re-deploy in the near future. 

IAP: Did you join the Marines to see the world?
JR: Since I joined the Marine Corps, I have not been able to see my family too often, though come the end of tour, I am making a trip over to see everyone. My family is spread out in several countries around the world now from Ireland all the way to New Zealand, so in seeing them I get to see the world. 


LCpl. Cein Strange
lst Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment

IAP: What's your Irish Heritage? 
S: My family is originally from Co. Longford. My family and I emigrated from Ireland in 2006 for a new job opportunity within the company that my father works for. When we moved to the States we lived in Lawrenceville N.J. for about two months before finding a home in Hunterdon County, N.J., where my siblings and I attended school.

IAP: Is there Irish heritage on both sides of your family?
S: My dad and his whole side of the family are from Co. Longford. He met my mother in London where they lived for a few years and had my eldest sister. My grandmother on my mum's side is English however my grandfather on my Mum's side was born and raised in Dublin.

IAP: Where were you born in Ireland? 
S: I was born at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. I grew up in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. When I was 8, we moved to Longford after the death of my grandfather to help out my grandmother for a while. We lived there for a year. When I was 9, we moved to Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon, where we stayed until 2006 when we moved to the States. 

When I lived in Celbridge, we lived in a housing estate so I was always out playing with the neighborhood kids. When we moved to Longford we had a couple of kids who lived in the neighboring houses but it was on a main road so we didn't have as much freedom to go out and play. Roscommon was very rural where we were ,so I'd ride my bike to friends' houses that were relatively close. I had a best friend who lived about a two-minute walk from me which was good and we would always play in his back garden or jump ditches on the bog.

I have been back once since moving to the States. When I was there, we spent time with my sister who still lives in Dublin and met up with my other sister who is now living in Beijing. While we were there, we looked around Dublin to see what had changed and took the DART out to Bray. We were trying to catch a Leinster Rugby game one of the days but never managed to get tickets.

IAP: How do you celebrate your Irish heritage? Who are your favorite Irish performers? 
S: Obviously I celebrate St. Patrick’s day whenever I'm not on a training Op or deployed. I have been into NYC for the parade which was fun. Usually I will just spend it drinking with close friends and family. 

I actually really like Liam Neeson. I feel like he is one of the under-estimated bad-asses of the big screen. I don't have any Irish bands I listen to anymore. At Christmas, I still listen to "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues. Although I hate to admit it as a kid I loved the Irish pop band Westlife. Thank god, I grew out of that, though. 

IAP: The Irish have a long tradition of military service. Do you feel part of that age-old line of Celtic Warriors.
S: I feel as though I do. Although I'm not fighting for Ireland I think that it still carries on the tradition in a sense that we still fight actively in wars.

IAP: What is your favorite sport and team?
S: I love rugby. I was delighted that Ireland won the Six Nations this year. I actually managed to catch the Ireland versus England game this year in the PX on Camp Leatherneck. I luckily found a car dealer there who was from Cork and had a channel to watch it. Although I was disappointed by the outcome, I had a great time watching it. When I was younger, my dad would take me to see Connaught or Ireland playing. I used to play for Longford Rugby Football Club when I was younger. I also used to play Gaelic football. I played for the team in Tarmonbarry, Roscommon. They were called St. Barry's and I played there all the way up until I left to the States. 

IAP: Do you play any instruments?
S: Unfortunately no, I'm not very musically inclined. 

IAP: Do you have much of an opportunity on your duty tours to enjoy your Irishness?
S: This St. Patrick’s day I was here in Afghanistan. We still have a mission to concentrate on and for obvious reasons have no booze, so I didn't get to celebrate how I would have liked. When I get home, I'm sure I'll make up for it. Last year for St. Patricks day, I was in Hawthorne, Nev., on another training op so I missed that too.

IAP: Do you have a lot of Irish/Irish American buddies in your unit?
S: I have quite a few yes, A lot of them haven't managed to get to Ireland yet but always ask what it's like and if they do go where should they visit.

IAP: When did you enlist? What drew you to the Marines? 
S: I lived in Union Township, Hunterdon County, N.J., prior to enlisting. I love it there and can't wait to go back on post-deployment leave. I shipped to boot camp at Parris Island on June 18, 2012. I was drawn to the Marines by my best friend. He and I served on the same fire department, the Quakertown Fire Company. He enlisted the year before I did and I went to his graduation. 

I trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. I have to say that it was definitely hot. I think that the training was beneficial and an incredible learning experience. The Island itself is pretty if you aren't a recruit there because you aren't exactly stopping to take it all in. I want to go to the police academy when I get out so it will be another "boot camp" atmosphere. I'm sure it won't be as fast-paced or stressful though because I know what to expect out of DI's.

Being in the military was something I was always interested in but did not think I was eligible due to my lack of United States citizenship. Once I found out, I was eligible to join the military I chose the Marine Corps because it has the reputation for being the best. I am the first member of my family to be in the Marines.

IAP: Are you married? 
S: I am not married. I have a girlfriend back home in New Jersey. We don't have any kids together but she has an awesome little boy who is about to be 1. I have one dog back home. She is a mini-Australian Shepherd called "Roo". We gave her that name because it's short for kangaroo. 

IAP: What have been your jobs/missions in Marine service? 
S: I am an 0341 (Mortar man). I was in an 81mm mortar platoon originally as a forward observer. As a forward observer, we are trained to keep an eye on the enemy and then call in mortar strikes on their position. It's a great job and I absolutely love doing it. On this tour, I give information to close air support in order to prosecute targets from the air. This is my first tour overseas and so far it has been a great learning experience.

IAP: What's it like to be a Marine today? What's the toughest part of your job?) What challenges are there?
S: I have enjoyed my time in the Marines so far. I have gotten to do things I would have never been able to do in the civilian world. The toughest part I would say is being away from your family and missing out on family events. 

I don't think having no showers on our PB is the toughest part of our job. We are still able to maintain a good level of hygiene with baby wipes and so on. I think we are relatively lucky with the conditions we live in because Marines before me have had it much worse. Some challenges would be that Marines are constantly evolving and adapting to the battle-space and to the war at hand. You need to be able to learn quickly and efficiently in order to be effective.

IAP: Where are you based, what can you do to relax between missions?
J: I'm currently deployed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and operate out of a patrol base there. To relax we usually watch movies or TV shows we have on hard drives or play cards. When Stateside, I am stationed on Camp Lejeune, N.C. To relax at the weekend, my friends and I usually go to the beach on Emerald Isle or down to Myrtle Beach for the nightlife.

IAP: What's next? 
S: We will be one of the last American units here if the war does end: however we won't be the last. After my contract is up its hard to tell yet if I want to re-enlist or not. Right now, I do not want to. My plan is to get out and try and get into a Federal Law Enforcement job. I'm very interested in the Marshals Service and have looked into it a lot. If I can't get a federal job I will stay in New Jersey and look for another law enforcement job.

IAP: Do you get many chances for leave to visit family when on leave? 
S: Unfortunately while we are here, we do not have liberty or the ability to go sight-seeing. When I get post-deployment leave back in the States, I will spend time with family and friends and catch up on everything I have missed out on over the last eight months. 
 
 


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