November 26, 2013 --
By Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications
Owen McNamara visited a military entrance processing station three days after his 17th birthday for his initial processing to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
McNamara never wavered in the two hours of processing, nor the 10 months in the delayed entry program, nor the 13 weeks in boot camp, nor on his Valentine’s Day flight to Kuwait as a Marine rifleman.
McNamara would deploy twice and earn a Purple Heart Medal before he could drink legally.
Now, at 28, he’s an administrative officer for Information Systems and Infrastructure at MCSC.
His mission and gear have changed, but his commitment to the Marine Corps remains the same.
GOING BIG, AND GOING QUICKLY
Military service was always in the cards for McNamara, who was born and raised in South Boston, Mass., the oldest of three boys. Many McNamara men had done the same before him.
“I figured if I’m going to go into the services, I might as well go big,” McNamara said. He picked the Marine Corps and enlisted on Sept. 25, 2003.
After the delayed entry program, everything went quickly for McNamara. He was off to Parris Island, S.C. for boot camp and finished training in October. Then he was off to Camp Geiger, N.C. to the School of Infantry. He graduated on Jan. 26, and went to Twentynine Palms, Calif. two days later. In all, it wasn’t much more than two weeks between graduating and his flight to Kuwait and the following convoy into Iraq.
“We had a good platoon sergeant and good leadership within our unit,” he said. “Right out of school, they told us ‘We’re going to put you together and you’re going to function,’ and we did.”
This would be his first of two deployments. It was still a new world for McNamara.
“There’s nothing like running for your life at 18,” he said. “Most people were thinking about girls or what they were doing on Friday night. I was thinking about things like whether or not I was within the kill radius of that grenade that just came over the wall.”
It was during his first deployment that McNamara got “hit.”
It was Aug. 29, 2004, the last day his unit would conduct combat operations in Iraq on this deployment. McNamara was riding in a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle in Rutbah, Iraq.
This was before the up-armored HMMWV and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle days.
But Marines are anything if not resourceful.
“The floor was sandbagged and we had Kevlar seat protectors up against the doors of the vehicle, which were a quarter of an inch of steel,” he said. “It still wasn’t enough.”
McNamara’s vehicle went over a speed bump. Then a blast rocked the Humvee and knocked McNamara cold.
The improvised explosive device sent shrapnel into five of the six passengers in the vehicle. McNamara took shrapnel to the legs. When he came to, his platoon sergeant was directing Marines to clear houses in the surrounding area. Unaware of his injuries, McNamara joined in the effort.
“I jumped out of the Humvee with my [Squad Automatic Weapon], and I must have been running on pure adrenaline,” he said. “When the dust settled my legs gave out from under me and I was ordered to get a ground medevac.”
His wounds were mostly superficial and burns, and McNamara returned to the United States with his unit Sept. 16, 2004. He needed physical therapy through the fall and winter, but he was back with his unit in January for pre-deployment training.
“I needed to be back,” he said. “I needed to be with those guys.”
THE HARD DEPLOYMENT
McNamara’s second deployment to Iraq —this time, leaving on the Fourth of July in 2005—was the hard one.
“The first day I was there we took mortars on the base,” he said. “They hadn’t pulled the pins on the mortars so they didn’t explode, but there was unexploded ordnance all over on the base that we had to get rid of.”
Toward the end of the deployment, McNamara’s unit came under attack. Although McNamara was not wounded, he said the attack stays with him to this day.
On Dec. 1, 2005, an IED made from a pressure plate and 155-millimeter artillery rounds was set off by a group of Marines on a foot patrol. The blast killed 10 Marines and wounded 11 more.
“That kind of explosion would’ve rocked a tank,” McNamara said. “Those guys didn’t stand a chance.”
McNamara returned from Iraq in January 2006, re-enlisted the following October and came to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. to Combat Instructor Company at The Basic School and Officer Candidate School. He was there a little more than two years. He had determined that the Marines would be his career.
“Things started to go downhill,” he said. “I started having some issues so they transferred me to the wounded warrior regiment. They wanted me to go to (Walter Reed Hospital) to get my head straight… they found all kinds of things wrong with me so they recommended me for medical retirement in 2009.”
McNamara was medically retired from the Marine Corps in July of 2010.
A NEW HUNT
One day, McNamara participated in a wounded warrior turkey hunt on Quantico, where he got a lead for a job right before his time in the Corps wound down.
“It was May and time was ticking,” he said. “I ended up running into Lt. Col. Sean Cary (a program manager within IS&I at the time) and he talked to me about my options.”
Not long after, McNamara had an interview with Jules Mattocks, who was the competency lead for operations and administration.
“He broke my heart,” she said. “How do I replace his rifle and ammo with a computer and software? This isn’t a glamour job. He just wanted someone to give him a chance.”
He was offered a job as an administrative assistant. He took it willingly.
“When you have someone willing to give his all, to have to offer him an entry-level position was hard,” Mattocks said. “He was good with that. He has never complained. He can do anything. He always looks for ways to contribute. He’s one of my most favorite people.”
McNamara’s current supervisor, Vic Diluzio, first met him at a video shoot for the 2012 command video.
McNamara was wearing the Purple Heart ribbon he earned from the IED attack in Fallujah.
“He made me really nervous about going on video after him because he handled himself really well and it really made an impression on me,” said Diluzio, now the competency manager for administrative operations and corporate operations at MCSC.
Diluzio got to know McNamara better as his competency director.
“He’s a top-five performer in our community,” Diluzio said. “He’s got a great reputation, and he’s known for turning things around very quickly.”
McNamara has been promoted to administrative officer since he started working for MCSC.
“He has earned everything,” Diluzio said. “He’s a great young man and we’re very lucky to have him.”
HIS WAY OF LIFE
McNamara lives in Orange County, Va. with his wife and their three children, the youngest named after one of McNamara’s friends who died on Dec. 1, 2005, one of the worst days of McNamara’s life.
It is a long ride from Quantico to Orange, but McNamara said he enjoys the calm and quiet of Orange and the job at MCSC is worth the commute.
His job is more than a paycheck, McNamara said. His occupation means more to him than something he’s good at—which he is—and more than being able to continue to serve with active-duty Marines and civilians, albeit in a different capacity.
It’s deeper than all that. It’s personal—a need to understand and to be understood, for what he has gone through and for how he has lived the majority of his adult life.
“I need to be around Marines,” McNamara said. “I needed to be around Marines who could understand my mentality. I already understood the language of the Marine Corps, the way it operates and the mentality of other Marines.
“I knew I had to work around Marines, it was just a matter of finding a way to do it. Coming to MCSC was a no-brainer.”