Hauser Lake’s most famous Marines, Robert and Matt Shipp, were headed home for the holidays Wednesday. The twin brothers, and Robert’s wife, Dusty, were due at Spokane International Airport late Wednesday night. The men have been training at separate Southern California bases since spring, when they returned from their first tours of duty in the Middle East.
Here is a glimpse at some of the Marines serving with Cpl. Matthew Shipp in India Battery of the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. The battery is based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and began a tour of duty in Iraq in October. Lance Cpl. Stephan Bush, of Pennsylvania, has two brothers in the military, including an identical twin who recently finished a 15-month tour in Iraq. His older brother served on the USS Germantown with Matthew's twin, Lance Cpl. Robert Shipp. "We miss each other a lot," Bush said of his twin. His mother keeps three stars in her window to signify the service of her sons.
COMBAT OUTPOST NORSEMAN, Iraq – Wearing a uniform that hadn't been washed in months and operating on a typical ration of five hours of sleep, Cpl. Matthew Shipp chambered a bullet in his machine gun and set off on his fourth patrol of the day. The 20-year-old U.S. Marine from Hauser Lake, Idaho, sat in the front passenger seat in the "lead vic" – the first vehicle – of the small convoy. Dust had been wiped from the bulletproof glass in hopes of making it easier to spot the spider strand wires that trigger roadside bombs.
The fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq found Cpl. Matthew Shipp negotiating potentially bomb-rigged streets in the city of Rutbah on his way to pick up captured insurgents.
In early November, Lance Cpl. Robert Shipp began a seven-month deployment aboard the USS Germantown. He was among several hundred Marines serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Their mission is constantly in flux — they might be called upon to provide assistance after a tsunami or they could be sent to combat. When they're not involved in what the Marines call "a real world contingency," the men undergo training. Each day on the deployment is a bit different, but here is a glimpse at a day in late February when the Marines returned to the ship after spending nearly two months training in Kuwait. 0300: The Marines awake in their barracks in the desert of Kuwait, mistakenly believing this early hour to be the time to muster for the bus, which will take them back to the USS Germantown.
Robert Shipp and his twin, Matthew, were raised in a tightly knit family in a house overlooking Hauser Lake, Idaho. They have a younger brother, CJ, 15, who is a sophomore at Lakeland Senior High School in Rathdrum. Their big sister, Lacey, 23, helps her parents, Dennis and Leslee, run the family business, The Hauser Lake Resort. Lacey is also a senior at Lewis-Clark State College. In late October, two weeks before deploying, Robert married Dusty Smith, of Hayden, in a hastily arranged ceremony. Although the young Marine looks forward to reuniting with his twin, his new wife and his family, he has also found a new family within the 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. "Marines give the brotherhood nobody else has," Robert said recently.
After nearly two months in the Kuwait desert preparing for combat, the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment were frustrated; instead of marching into Iraq, they were ordered back to their ship. Among the Marines was Lance Cpl. Robert Shipp, one of the Hauser Lake, Idaho, twins whose lives have been chronicled in The Spokesman-Review for two years by reporter James Hagengruber and photographer Brian Plonka.
ABOARD THE USS GERMANTOWN – Deep in the hull of this amphibious assault ship, Lance Cpl. Robert Shipp was lying in his cramped bunk, trying to catch his second nap of the day. Sprawled on a tiny square of floor next to the triple-stacked bunks were Robert's fellow grunts. The men of the Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment watched action movies, cartoons or pornography on laptop computers. They thumbed tattered copies of Outdoor Life, Time and Muscle Car magazines. Some sat transfixed in front of combat-themed video games. One Marine practiced flicking open a well-honed knife. Another, Lance Cpl. Scott Holter, of North Dakota, asked for help with a crossword puzzle: "What's a three-letter word for regret?"
SAN DIEGO – Officially, the destination of Lance Cpl. Robert Shipp is unknown. But it's not hard to guess where the 20-year-old from Hauser Lake, Idaho, and the other combat-ready young men with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment were headed when they sailed out of San Diego harbor last month aboard the USS Germantown. The December newsletter from the amphibious assault ship noted the men have been spending afternoons improving their shooting skills and in classrooms learning Pashtu phrases. That's the language spoken in much of Afghanistan.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – In the barracks hallway, a Marine wearing desert camouflage pants pounded doors and shouted, "Reveille! You're going to Iraq, boys!" Many of the young men were already awake. Some boasted of not having wasted a second to sleep during their last weekend stateside. A handful of Marines stood in an open stairwell smoking cigarettes and exhaling Budweiser fumes.