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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

St. Augustine native is back for more

24 May 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

His whole life, James C. Saurman knew he wanted to be a military man — shoot guns, play in the mud, go to war.

After graduating from Alan D. Nease High School in May 2002, the St.
Augustine, Fla., native chose a path for his future that would allow him to do just that.

Saurman was a part of his high school’s Junior ROTC program and through the
mentorship of his instructors, chose to join the Marine Corps in early September 2001.

“I always knew I was going to be in the armed forces,” Cpl. Saurman said.
“However, after meeting my ROTC instructor, who was a retired Marine first sergeant, I
knew I wanted to be a Marine.”

Drawn to the history, discipline and traditions of the Corps, Saurman walked into
a Marine Corps recruiting office, a recruiter's dream.

“I told them I wanted to be a Marine and I wanted to be in the infantry,” he

A bold and focused leader from the start, Saurman had a goal while at Marine
Corps recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.

“I told my recruiters from the start, that I was going to become company honor
man, and graduate with a meritorious promotion,” Saurman said. “I said I wasn’t leaving
that island until I did.”

That is exactly what he did. On October 4, 2002, Saurman graduated Marine
recruit training as the honor man for Company F and earned a meritorious promotion to
the rank of lance corporal.

Later that month, he reported to the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base
Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he spent three months learning the basics of infantry tactics,
techniques and procedures.

“The School of Infantry was a fun time, but learning was behind it all,” he said. “I
learned a lot from the instructors and staff.”

Saurman earned a Meritorious Mast after graduating from infantry training and
reported for duty with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment on December
6, 2002.

After a few short days of settling in and learning the ropes from the
noncommissioned officers and senior men in the company, the men of Company L found
out they were going to war.

“We found out during Christmas leave that we were going to Iraq,” he recalled.
“At the time, we were doing cold-weather training. So, we turned in all of our cold
weather gear for desert gear.”

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saurman was a light machine gunner for L Co.
first platoon. The company rolled out of Kuwait and into the Iraqi desert on March 20,
2003 in the back of 7-ton trucks.

Fresh from the School of Infantry, Saurman said it wasn’t his training he relied on
as much as it was the Marines he fought with.

“Training from SOI kicked in a little, but it was the leadership that got us
through,” he said. “Our NCOs and staff NCOs shared their knowledge and experience
with us.”

Pushing up from Kuwait through An Nasiriyah and finishing up in An
Numaniyah, Saurman said it was amazing to be a part of the historical operation that
toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

“It was a great experience, we made history,” he said. “Not many people can say
they were part of something like that.”

After six months in Iraq, his unit returned home to North Carolina for a well-
deserved but brief rest. Saurman’s battalion became designated as an anti-terrorism
battalion, and the men of Company L were packing for a deployment to Afghanistan.

According to Saurman, their tour in Afghanistan was the complete opposite of
their tour in Iraq. Saurman and the Marines of Company L guarded the American
Embassy in Kabul for six months as part of their new anti-terrorism role.

“It was definitely a change,” he recalled. “In Iraq, we were always on the move,
on the road or in combat. There, we were manning a tower or post. It was a different task,
but as our mission, we gave it our all.”

Returning home from his second deployment to support the Global War on
Terrorism, Saurman was chosen to attend the Advanced Infantry Squad Leaders School
at the School of Infantry. The two-month course is designed to teach and reinforce
leadership skills to infantry Marines preparing for the squad leader position.

“It was an awesome opportunity,” Saurman said of the course. “The instructors
taught us everything we needed to know to be a small unit leader and a leader of

After the course, Saurman and his company got word of a second deployment to
Afghanistan. However, Saurman would not go on this deployment due to a knee injury
from a motorcycle accident.

“I was in crutches, with all my gear and my pack, ready to go,” he said. “They
wouldn’t let me go, and it was hard to see everybody leave without me.”

In September, when his company returned from their third combat tour, a fully
recovered Saurman and his Marines began training for yet anther combat deployment. In
November, Saurman was promoted to his present rank.

Before the Marines shipped out, they were told that they would be serving a non-
traditional infantry role here in Al Asad.

That role was to augment the base defense operations center here. Since his
arrival, Saurman, and the Marines of Company L, have been conducting patrols through
the areas surrounding the base, guarding the ammunition supply point and serving as the
base’s quick reaction force.

Currently Saurman is serving with the quick reaction force, a team of Marines that
respond to emergencies on the base. The Marines are also the designated tactical recovery
of aircraft and personnel team in the event that an aircraft goes down.

“We are ensuring that the Marines here can do their job,” Saurman said. “The job
they do supports the Marines on the ground, and we allow them to do that without the
worry of base defense.”

“Those guys in the air are awesome,” he said. “Having air support is one of your
best assets. The air side is the infantrymen’s best friend, always has been, always will

Now half-way through his third deployment, Saurman said he is focusing on the
tasks at hand and training Lima’s next generation of leaders.

“We are focusing on doing our job the best we can,” he said. “This is also a great
environment to pass on the knowledge and experience we gained in the previous
deployments to the new Marines in the company.”

A solid leader, and overall good Marine, Saurman has earned the respect of his
peers and leadership.

“[Saurman] is a good Marine, extremely solid mentally and physically,” said
Capt. Sean M. Hankard, Lima Co. commanding officer. “As a man and a leader, he is
well respected by the Marines in his squad.”

This deployment should be the last for Saurman, who is planning to finish his four
year enlistment and become a firefighter in Martin County, Fla.

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this
story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-*