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Meet Your Military: Marine Connects Using Sign Language

support our troops us marine connectsAir Force Staff Sgt. Jon Espinoza reads aloud at the Stella Maris School Belize Academy for the Deaf in Belize City, Belize, April 4, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L.BELIZE CITY, Belize – Hands wave through the air in an organized fashion, and children follow the movements as they enjoy the children's story "A Day at the Farm." PHOTO: Marine Corps Cpl. Parnell Sararana, standing left, signs to students while  Gradishar Marine Corps Cpl. Parnell Sararana put his Universal Sign Language skills to use here April 4 as he translated while Air Force Staff Sgt. Jon Espinoza read aloud at the Stella Maris School Belize Academy for the Deaf.

Sararana is deployed from the 1st Civil Affairs Group at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in support of New Horizons Belize 2014, an exercise in which U.S. service members train with Belizean professionals in engineering and medical care. The civil affairs role in the exercise is to engage with the local population, as well as government and nongovernment organizations, to facilitate the best possible environment to build educational and health facilities and provide medical, dental and veterinarian care throughout the country.

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Meet Your Military: Marine Runs Marathon on Treadmill at Sea

support our troops us marine runs marathon PHOTO: Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, poses with his Marine Corps Marathon bib on “Broadway,” a passageway aboard the USS New York, Oct. 26, 2014. Due to pre-deployment training with the 24th MEU, Heemer ran the Marine Corps Marathon on a treadmill aboard the New York, finishing under the four-hour mark. The 24th MEU is conducting its final pre-deployment training exercise before a deployment at the end of the year. Courtesy photo Marine Corps ABOARD USS NEW YORK AT SEA – He was perhaps the very first finisher of the 39th Marine Corps Marathon, but he didn’t finish anywhere near Arlington, Virginia. Instead, he finished at sea aboard the USS New York -- on a treadmill.1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, finished the 2014 edition of the Marine Corps Marathon at 12:30 a.m. Oct. 26, hours ahead of the official beginning of the annual run.

Instead of running alongside tens of thousands of fellow Marines, service members and competitors on a cool Virginia morning, he ran mostly alone, on a treadmill crammed into an out-of-the-way corner just off one of the New York’s passageways, cleverly named and affectionately known as “Broadway.” Although this was Heemer’s first marathon on a ship or on a treadmill, it wasn’t his first Marine Corps Marathon. His first was in 2009, and the 25-year-old Penn State graduate has run the annual event every year since.

“I knew I might be embarked on ship this year, but I signed up anyway just in case,” he said. “I thought it would be silly to let the Marine Corps break my Marine Corps Marathon streak, so I decided I would run it aboard the ship.”

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Meet Your Military: Chicago Soldier Trains in Indonesia

support our troops chicago soldier trains PHOTO: Army Pvt. Juan Gonzalez, a rifleman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, performs security duties during patrol base operations for the Garuda Shield field training exercise, Sept. 8, 2014, in East Java, Indonesia. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brooks Fletcher WASHINGTON – A 19-year-old Army private stands over a smoldering fire, cooking snake meat in the middle of a mango grove during a jungle survival training class in East Java, Indonesia. In his short time in the Army, Pvt. Juan Gonzalez, a native of Chicago and an infantryman assigned to Blackwatch Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-Mchord, Washington, has transformed from a high school athlete to a squad automatic weapon gunner.

The “Legion” battalion is participating in exercise Garuda Shield and is partnered with the 411th Raider Infantry Battalion from the Tentara Nasional Indonesia, the Indonesian armed forces. Garuda Shield is also part of the training pathway for the 2nd Stryker Brigade, linking home station training to a series of military-to-military exercises in the Pacific region.

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Meet Your Military: Missileer Completes First Launch Center Alert

support our troops air force missileer PHOTO: Air Force 2nd Lt. Holley Macpherson poses outside the 90th Operations Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Oct. 20, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Wiese F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. – Every career begins with a first day on the job. Everyone has been the newbie at some point. And so it goes in the world of nuclear deterrence. Air Force 2nd Lt. Holley Macpherson, a 320th Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, took a major step in her career this month, manning a launch control center for the first time. Macpherson received her Air Force commission in May 2013 and attended pilot training shortly after.

In March 2014, she attended initial skills training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, for five months to learn the basics of missile operations. "They taught us a lot," she said. "They couldn't teach us everything, because you can't show everything in a trainer, but they tried to throw all the standard scenarios at us they could with the equipment we have down there."

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Meet Your Military: Soldier Uses Training to Help Community

support our troops us soldier uses training PHOTO: Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Roberts serves food to children at the Boys and Girls Club of America in Christian County, Ky., Oct. 21, 2014, where he volunteers. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. MoellerFORT CAMPBELL, Ky.– For many soldiers, fulfilling the call of duty is sometimes not enough. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Roberts, a food service sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, uses his Army skills to make his community better. For a little over a year, Roberts has devoted the majority of his off-duty time volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club of Hopkinsville and Christian County, Kentucky. “It started with my church a little over a year ago, when I first got involved with the Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “They said, ‘We know you like to cook and like to take care of kids. Do you want to help out?’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ and the first time I went, I fell in love.” Roberts said it was easy for him to enjoy helping, because he was using a tool the military ingrained in him to better the lives of children in need.

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Meet Your Military: Chaplain Fights Cancer on Her Own Terms

support our troops us army chaplan fights cancer PHOTO: Friends braid the air of North Carolina National Guard Chaplain (Maj.) Melissa Culbreth ahead of a head shaving party in her honor. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mary JunellRALEIGH, N.C. – On Oct. 12, Army Chaplain (Maj.) Melissa Culbreth sat laughing and joking in a chair on the front porch of the farm where she works in Franklinton, North Carolina. The North Carolina National Guard chaplain’s signature red hair was styled into five braids. The porch was full of friends, family and fellow soldiers watching and waiting for the braids to be cut off and collected.

Army Sgt. 1st Class John Setera, who had deployed to Iraq with Culbreth in 2009, draped a black hairdresser's cape around her and grabbed the clippers. Chunks of Culbreth's hair fell down the front of the cape and onto the floor at her feet. "I wanted to take my hair on my own terms," Culbreth said, “instead of letting the chemo take it." This was the second party the chaplain has held to shave her head shortly after starting chemotherapy for breast cancer. The first was in March 2010, when she was less than two months home from a deployment to Iraq with the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "I'm not sure which is going to be harder -- not knowing what is going to happen over the next 18 weeks, or knowing what is going to happen over the next 18 weeks," she said.

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