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AL ASAD, Iraq -- Pfc. Matthew B. Luna, embarkation specialist assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, might be the only private first class to promote a general officer in a combat zone. On Feb. 23, Luna assisted with pinning silver stars on Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) commanding general, during his promotion ceremony.

Photo by SGT. JUAN VARA

Lowest ranking Marine in Al Asad promotes newest Marine brigadier general

23 Feb 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

Private first class Matthew B. Luna has some story to tell.  It may well be that he’s the only private first class who’s assisted a major general with promoting a colonel in a combat zone.

An embarkation specialist assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, Luna played a major role in the promotion ceremony of Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) commanding general, when he assisted Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Moore, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general, pin silver stars on Milstead’s collar Feb. 23.

“I’d have to say that was the greatest moment of my Marine Corps history … and possibly career, if it tends to go that way,” he said.  “I am pleased and honored to say it was me who pinned him.”

According to Milstead, his two great loves are his wife and family, and the Marine Corps.  Since his wife can’t be here, he wanted the lowest ranking Marine in 2nd MAW (Fwd) to pin one of the silver stars that represent his rank on his collar.  Luna was identified as such.

After graduating from Heritage Covenant Schools in his native Franklin, Tenn., Luna joined the Marine Corps pursuing one of his childhood dreams.

“Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to be a Marine,” he said.  “I was always told the Marine Corps was the best of the Armed Forces.  I did some research and I noticed they take care of business, so I figured it’d be a dang cool job.”

Luna reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., and after graduating basic training attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C.

Upon completion of the two-week long basic infantry skills course, he reported to Camp Johnson, N.C., where he attended embarkation specialist school.  Once done with school he traveled to Okinawa, Japan, where he served with Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18.

“I can always remember how strange everything in Okinawa was,” he said.  “I found it fascinating though.  My time in Okinawa was one of the best years in my life.  I made tons of friends there and learned some of the language.”

After Japan, Luna transferred to Marine Air Control Squadron 2 at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.  Seven months after that, he found himself in Al Asad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 04-06.  Here, he’s in charge of making sure flights come in and out, and tracks down how many passengers are in the aircraft.  Staying in constant contact with the Wing’s administrative section, he helps keep accountability of the war fighters entering and leaving the air station via air transportation.

Sgt. Melissa A. Ulven, the air liaison element chief of 2nd MAW (Fwd), said she was excited about Luna’s participation in the commanding general’s promotion.

“It’s a big honor to pin a general’s star on him,” said the Mesick, Mich., native.  “I’m definitely proud that one of my Marines was selected to do that.  He has a lot of experience and goes above and beyond what it’s expected of a Marine of his rank.”

According to Ulven, another thing that makes Luna stand out is his sense of humor.  “He knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off, but he definitely keeps the mood light here.  He gives us our daily reality check.”

Luna and his wife are expecting their first child around the third week of April.  He hasn’t made up his mind on making the Corps a career, but said his family will have a say when the time comes for him to make that decision.

“Now that I’m married and my son is on the way, reenlisting is a horse of a different color,” he said.  “I’ll decide based on what’s best for the family … but if it was up to me I’d stay in.”
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