AL ASAD, Iraq -- Throughout the air base in Al Asad, certain things don't change. Dust covers the land, chow is served at the same time every day and most people live in the same living quarters, without many comforts of home. However, one ordnance Marine has gone out of his way to make the living conditions for himself and his Marines more comfortable.
Cpl. Joshua M. Peterson, ordnance technician, Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, has increased the value of life and morale for all the Marines in his shop, and many Marines throughout the squadron.
"During this deployment, Corporal Peterson and Lance Corporal Kyler Buckner have built a patio for their entire row of (living quarters)," said Staff Sgt. Alfredo Topete, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, ordnance section, VMA-513.
"The deck is great," said Sgt. David K. Averill, aviation ordnance technician. "It makes ordnance stand out from the rest of the squadron."
"Buckner started the patio by putting some plywood in front of his door and stacking sandbags around it," said Peterson, a native of Chicago. "I thought the porch was a good idea, so I made one, and we connected them together. It just got out of control after that."
After the two porches were connected, the Marines next to Peterson and Buckner wanted a porch, so the two Marines decided to make the whole row a deck.
"After everyone had a porch, we stacked sandbags at the ends of the row," said Peterson. "We then covered the row with (camouflaged netting), and our families started sending us weird stuff to put out on the porch."
The ordinance Marines have added a flock of ornamental pink flamingoes, an inflatable palm tree, numerous ornamental lights, security features including, barbed wire and a sign, to let everyone know who lives there.
"I just wanted to make the whole area more homely and comfortable," said Peterson. "Everyone kept saying the porch was like home, so I spray painted the sandbags red and painted gray lines in between to make them look like brick. It's just another way to make everyone comfortable."
"The porch is a sanctuary for many of the Marines to just hang out and talk about home, family and complain like all Marines do from time-to-time," said Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Coty, SNCOIC ordnance shop, VMA-513.
Building porches is not the only way Peterson raises morale through his shop, according to Topete, a native of Pacoima, Calif.
"Peterson has a unique personality," added Topete. "He is always smiling or joking, regardless of the workload. It's that mentality that makes him a valuable asset to this shop."
"Cpl. Peterson has a great work ethic," said Lance Cpl. Ian L. McCormick, ordnance technician and Peterson's roommate. "He works hard at everything he does, from his day-to-day job to the porch he built. His work ethic really impressed me. His hard work benefits the whole shop and he always makes sure that everyone is having a good time."
The Chicago native has done more than just raise the morale of the shop. He has also been working hard to improve himself.
"When Peterson came out here he had a tan (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) belt, the belt you receive in boot camp, now he is a green belt, which is a two belt level increase," said Topete. "He has also been certified in many areas of his job since we touched down in country."
"Corporal Peterson has gone through the process to become a Collateral Duty Inspector, which allows him to verify the work of other Marines," said Coty, a native of Raymond, Wash. "He also has his Gas Turbine Starter/Auxiliary Power Unit qualification. Both of these qualifications are highly regarded at all levels in the maintenance department. You can only go to the corral and get the same workhorse for so long. If you don't trade off on the duties and responsibilities you'll break the (Marines) spirit, and then you're forced to find another workhorse anyway."
In the end, Peterson is a motivated Marine making the best out of a less than perfect situation, which he thanks his mother for.
"I have a Mexican mother," said Peterson. "She taught me to excel at whatever I do, even if I was a toilet bowl cleaner, I would push myself to be the best toilet cleaner there is."