AL ASAD, Iraq -- On September 12, 2001, Anthony J. Kondziella knew what he had to do.
Thirty days after the tragedies of that dark day, the Fond du Lac, Wis. native was raising his right hand to affirm the oath of enlistment into the United States military, as he joined the Marine Corps' Delayed Entry Program on August 11, 2001.
"I was deeply bothered that they attacked our country," said the lance corporal who is currently serving as a machine gunner with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 in Al Asad, Iraq. "It motivated me to serve."
The 2003 Fond du Lac High School graduate left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif. in August 2003, and after finishing basic training and Marine Combat Training reported to U.S. Army Garrison, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. for training as a welder.
Although he graduated from the 63-day wielding course, Kondziella saw little work as a welder, and quickly traded arc welding and Acetylene torches for convoys and a machine gun.
"I've welded one thing since I've been in," he said.
In July 2004, Kondziella volunteered for his squadron's provisional rifle platoon, a small unit that takes Marines from various job fields and trains them in infantry tactics to provide security for forward operating bases, convoys and numerous other operations.
"I've always wanted to be in the infantry," said the 20-year-old who joined the Marine Corps on an open contract. "When I had the chance to be with the rifle platoon, I jumped at it."
Now that his squadron is deployed, the PRP's mission has changed. Changing their name to match their specific mission of providing security for MWSS-271's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, the new Immediate Reaction Team deploys on short notice to protect the bomb technicians as they work to combat improvised explosive devices.
Having earned the trust and respect of his noncommissioned officers, Kondziella has earned his position behind a M240G medium machine gun. When the team rolls out, he stands ready behind the big gun.
"I worked hard and learned guns really fast," he said. "I spent a lot of time training with and learning everything about the weapons systems we have."
The reaction team trained for a full year in preparation for this deployment, but Kondziella has been preparing himself to go to war since the day he joined.
"The day I went in, I knew I was going to be deployed to fight the Global War on Terrorism," he said. "I tricked myself into thinking I wasn't scared. I thought, and still think, about the good parts of deploying and serving a greater cause."
During the times between security patrols outside the wire, Kondziella and the Marines in his unit spend their days rehearsing combat scenarios, studding up on weapons and tactics and exercising.
"We don't have any time to goof off, we stay busy all day," he said. "We are definitely well prepared. We take our job very seriously and are dedicated to completing the mission."
Kondziella is engaged to marry Elizabeth Willis of Fond du Lac in August 2006, and says although it's hard to be separated, he knows thousands of Marines like him are sacrificing for the greater good.
"We are not out here for ourselves," he said. "We are out here for the people of this country and to ensure our country stays how it is, free."