By Chuck Lentz Independent
Nolan Forbes of Aurora recently spent four active-duty years in the U.S. Marine Corps, but he remembers most fondly just six months at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Forbes, 23, was a Marine from 2015 to 2019, rising to the rank of corporal.
“It’s a company-level job but we only had a platoon out there (at the embassy), so we were pretty stretched-thin with our duties,” Forbes said of his time at the embassy in Baghdad. “We did that rotation for six months with no days off or anything.”
Forbes’ platoon served as guards for the huge embassy grounds.
“We went on deployment there in the summer of ’17,” Forbes said.
“It was hot, and especially on a windy day it just felt like a furnace was blowing into the window of the post,” he said. As guards he and platoon-mates were stationed in raised “posts” along the walls around the perimeter of the embassy.
“Each post had a machine gun and a couple of rocket launchers, and one post on each side had a grenade launcher,” Forbes said, “and we also had a ‘javelin’ on every post — a missile launcher that launches a ‘smart missile’ that you can lock on at a target and then shoot it out” and it will “go at” the moving target. “It’s pretty cool.”
“We took IDF — indirect fire — a couple times. It was either ISIS or some Shia militia group that shot rockets at the embassy over the city,” he added.
Forbes and his platoon were at the embassy during the battle for Mosul, in northern Iraq, which was carried out by Iraqi forces — supported, Forbes said, by a team of U.S. forces on the ground outside the city.
“The Iraqis got pretty messed up but they ended up winning. When they won the battle of Mosul, all around Baghdad there were people shooting off fireworks — it was like the Fourth of July,” he said.
Some Iraqis set up a bazaar inside the embassy “and they would sell stuff like hats that said ‘Make Iraq Great Again,’” Forbes said.
Boot camp came first for Forbes, of course — in October 2015 in San Diego.
“I did that for three months — getting yelled at and all that,” he said. Next he served briefly as a Marine recruiter’s assistant in Grand Island.
In addition to boot camp and the position in Baghdad, Forbes spent lots of time receiving other courses of training in both general Marine infantry skills as well as preparations for specific assignments.
His training preceding the Baghdad assignment was at Twenty-Nine Palms in the Mojave Desert in California. His assignment for Iraq was in the first battalion of the 7th Marines, Company C — referred to as “Suicide Charley,” a “very old company that has history that goes back to 1942,” Forbes said.
“When we first showed up we had to memorize the history of Suicide Charley and be able to recite it from memory, otherwise they’d ‘play with you’ and it wasn’t a good time.”
Forbes also worked for six months as a gate guard at a camp in Okinawa.
Did he have opportunities to wear “dress blues,” the Marines’ distinctive dark-blue dress uniform?
“The only time we wore our dress uniforms was at the Marine Corps Ball,” he said. “We’d drink together and do whatever other shenanigans we got up to out there.”