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By Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, Jan. 17, 2006 - Cincinnati native Cpl. Tasha M. Monz is on her third deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, proving the war in Iraq has become yet another major milestone for women in the military. This time around, Monz, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), serves as the battalion commander's radio operator and often finds herself in volatile areas as her job takes her beyond the camp's concertina wire and into the streets of Iraq.
[caption id="attachment_3008" align="alignleft" width="304"]iraq_01.17.06_marine_radio_operator_knows_no_barriers Twenty-two-year-old Cpl. Tasha M. Monz is on her third deployment to the Middle East. Monz, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) serves as the battalion commander's radio operator. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo[/caption]
"I love it," said the 22-year-old, referring to the weekly convoys she rides in. "We went on two convoys yesterday. I thought it was going to be an issue out here at first because I thought they weren't going to let females off base. As long as I know what I'm doing I'm not worried about it." When this deployment is complete Monz will have spent just under two years in the Middle East in the course of three years; two months in Kuwait and 20 months total in Iraq. "I like being deployed," said Monz with a smile. "Honestly, the whole purpose of me coming back here is for the junior Marines. I don't mind being out here. It's not a big emotional thing for me. I just make sure my Marines are ready to go and give them a heads-up on what to expect out here." A wealth of knowledge and experience gave Monz an advantage, and she was able to walk into this deployment ready to take charge. "Corporal Monz is one of the best radio operator/communicators that I have worked with in 23 years," said Lt. Col. Francis X. Carroll, commanding officer, CLB-8. "As a noncommissioned officer, she seeks responsibility and looking out for other members of the vehicle crew and the platoon," he added. "The fact that she is on her third tour in Iraq and she has orders to 1st Marine Logistics Group (which means she will likely be back for a fourth tour), speaks volumes about her dedication." The blue-eyed corporal is confident in her military occupational specialty proficiency and she's certain that is the reason why she holds the position on the commander's security team. "In September 2005, the battalion S-6 told me that he was giving me his best communicator as my radio operator," said Carroll. "Cpl. Monz has exceeded all expectations. Particulary when operating outside the wire. (She) facilitates my ability to command and control the battalion operating across a large battlespace." During the December Iraqi national elections, the battalion had six different units operating in and around the cities of Fallujah, Kharmah, Ameriyah and Ferris. Monz opened the lines of communication resulting in situational awareness and ability to influence the battalion's operations. "I can take someone outside and show them the ins and outs of a piece of equipment," said Monz with confidence. "I think that's a good quality to have. I want these Marines to take back with them the MOS knowledge that'll get them further. If they know the job when they come out here they can teach someone else." But the enjoyment of her deployment was abruptly overshadowed three months into her tour. Monz received word that her 42-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. "It seems that every time I come out here something happens to my mom," said Monz. "It was hard and I worried, but I knew my mom was a strong person and my step dad and sister were taking good care of her. She reassured me she was going to stick through it and she'd be fine." Monz secluded herself from others to find relief after she received news of her ill mother. "When I first found out I didn't want to be around anybody," said Monz. "I figured I'd lay low for a while. She's good now. She had surgery and radiation to remove most of the cancer." Although her mother was fighting a personal war against cancer, Monz refused to let it dampen her spirit and instead focused on her mission here in Iraq. Upon her return, Monz plans on treating her mother on a trip to Las Vegas. "We're more like best friends, and I definitely look up to her," said Monz. "We're big Jean Claude Van Damme fans, and when I went on leave I bought every movie there ever was with him. I think we only got through two of them. She looked fine and was doing well. I still talk to her every single day." After three tours in the Middle East and various obstacles she overcame while deployed, Monz plans on a future deployment and also hopes to be a career Marine. "I think retiring at 38 sounds really good," said Monz.