Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Park Forest resident Lance Corporal Chris Ganz is happy to be back home after his recent deployment to Iraq, where he discharged explosives and munitions. The 23-year-old Marine grew up in Park Forest, attending Blackhawk Elementary, Forest Trail Middle School and Rich East High School.
Ganz enlisted with the Marines in 2006 and was activated September 10, 2007. “That followed a roughly four-and-a-half month build-up training. We left for Iraq on January 16, 2008. That lasted until we returned August 16, 2008.” Ganz served with the H&S Company in Al Anbar, the largest province in Iraq. He was deployed during the surge.
“I’m part of a communications platoon. Our unit’s located in Chicago, on the north side of Chicago. When I was deployed, they attached me to a thing called E.O.D Security – Explosive Ordinance Disposal.”
E.O.D Security locates and disarms roadside bombs and weapons caches.
Ganz says a team of four marines that worked EOD security, who traveled with a security team, which was always armed, who protected the EOD security team.
Ganz says disarming explosives can be “interesting.”
The devices he saw explode were controlled, “If a weapons cache was located, sometimes what they would do is set C-4 charges to it at an exact location and destroy it right then and there. It would explode in place.”
At other times, soldiers would collect weapons over time. When they had gathered enough, the marines would take the weapons to a detonation pit and destroy them.
Ganz says he found his tour of duty interesting, but describes one day when two men from another platoon in his battalion were killed.
“I was fortunate myself. I didn’t have too many bad experiences. I can’t really complain. Our battalion was fortunate. We lost two people, both on the same day,” he pauses here. “That was a pretty bad day.”
“That was an awakening, I guess you could say, for us. When that happened, we were already there for three months. Nothing really too bad had happened to our unit. It was kind of a rude awakening that day.”
Mr. Ganz says the violence level in Iraq has decreased dramatically compared to what it was in the past few years. “Many of the provinces are being turned over to Iraqi government, at least, for them to take full control.” He says the area his company was working in was turned over to full Iraqi control about a month after they left.
He’s encouraged to hear that most troops may be taken out of Iraq sometime next year, “It’s definitely looking good. It’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
“All too many times on the news you hear about all the bad things that are going on over there. You don’t really hear the good things. The good things do happen over there.”
Ganz says he’s encouraged to see Iraqi government and police “stepping up, trying to take control for themselves, standing up for themselves, willing to learn, and do what’s necessary.”
Are the Iraqi people supportive? “It seems like it might be a mixed reaction. A lot of people support us there, and there’s those people obviously who don’t support us, I mean, because we’re a foreign nation invading their country. They wouldn’t support us for that reason. But there are the people who really do support us and want our help, and appreciate it.”
He related one incident when his company came across a female suicide bomber who attempted to kill a number of Iraqi police. “Usually, in the past, women weren’t doing that. Neither were the children. But now, that actually has been on the rise.” He says none of the Iraqi police were killed in this incident, but the woman lost her life.
Ganz describes returning home as “an amazing feeling, something you can’t even really explain, something you just have to witness for yourself. It was one of the best feelings in the world.”
“When we came back, we were in California for one week for demobilization.” When they returned to O’Hare International Airport, however, the Marines were met by a large contingent of Chicago police and fire fighters, who gave them an escort through the city. “That was just an amazing feeling,” he says.
Ganz said there is a possibility he could get called back. Currently, he’s a full-time student at Prairie State College studying business. He already has an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and is interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. He took an interest in business when the economy began to sink. He especially took interest in economics and business after reading Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
The military is paying for his education through the Illinois Veteran Grant and the Montgomery GI Bill.
“I’m fortunate to have that. Very thankful for it,” he says.
He says the Marines gave him a sense of discipline. “It’s kind of cliché, I know. You hear that all the time. It made me set my standards high for pretty much whatever I do, whether it be school, or working out in the gym, or whatever. I try to set myself to a higher standard.” He belongs to Quality Classic Fitness Center in Downtown Park Forest.
His time with the Marines also broadened his perspective, “There’s a whole other world out there. So many different cultures and ways of life that most people know goes on.” He said he learned to be more respectful of other people and cultures.
Returning home helped Ganz appreciate some of the things we might take for granted. He says his deployment gave him a “new appreciate for our society in general. I know the economy is pretty bad, but, still, compared to countries like Iraq, we’re just so blessed. To be able to walk into a store and purchase a cup of coffee, it’s really nice to be able to do that. I’m thankful for that.”
A resident of Park Forest since he was two-years-old, Ganz says he likes that “businesses are returning to the Park Forest Centre. I thought [the renovation] was a pretty cool idea. When I came back from deployment, there were all these shops opening, the new health club, barber shop, and a couple of other stores here and there. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Any advice for those considering enlisting in the military? “I’m all for it. Everyone has their own reasons for doing that.” He advises those considering service to do their own research, beyond talking to recruiters. “Make sure you know exactly what it is you’re getting in to. I definitely think it’s a great idea, a good opportunity.”