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Sea Warriors in Service - Patrick Coble

by Chuck Cordill, staff writer


Editor’s note: Approximately one-third of HPU students take courses on the military campuses, and many of them are on active military duty. Some of them have been assigned duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other less dangerous locations. When ever we can, Kalamalama will run profiles on some of these students, or let them tell their stories.


Think your roommate’s stereo is distracting when you’re studying for tomorrow’s quiz? Try concentrating on grammar and sentence structure, or the fine points of behavioral science with the sound of M-16s and AK-47s exchanging fire in the background. Or the occasional mortar or rocket-propelled grenade attack.

Like many other HPU students, Patrick Coble thumbs through pages of notes, completes homework assignments, and stresses a little before exams. He talks with his instructors on a regular basis, checking to see if he is up-to-date with the course requirements, getting feedback from the them, and making arrangements to complete his coursework on time.

As a student in HPU’s Military Campus Programs, Coble takes advantage of the distance learning lessons made available via the Internet, WebCT, CD Rom, and other technologies. These come in handy when you’re taking classes in Iraq.

Coble, a U.S. Marine corporal who serves as a computer administrations specialist, is wrapping up his associate’s degree in computer science while deployed with his Kane‘ohe unit (name is withheld for security reasons). He plans to start his bachelor’s degree once he returns to Hawai‘i. But first things first. He’s trying to keep up with his classes and, after all, there’s a war going on.

“ My teachers are a great help,” said Coble. “That’s probably the toughest thing, trying to get my work done on time. I usually need 30 minutes to an hour for my assignments, but there are only a few available computers in our outfit, and I want to be courteous to my fellow marines who are trying to stay in contact with their families and friends. All of my instructors seem to understand where I’m at and have helped me adapt to the circumstances.”

Coble studies must be secondary. The realities of deployment in a war zone provide an abundance of outside stimuli. Call it the classroom of ultimate reality, about as far removed from Kane‘ohe as the earth from the moon. Iraq evidently doesn’t benefit from the trade winds, and the services at Marine Corps Base Kane‘ohe must seem like the Ritz Carlton compared to present fare.

“ For one, it’s hot as hell here,” said Coble. “Sometimes the shower water is scalding hot, and the chow hall doesn’t always have the greatest selection. But I can’t complain. I know a lot of others who sleep in tents or humvee’s and just eat MREs” (MREs are Meals Ready to Eat , dinner in a pouch, the military’s version of “cold lunch.”)

Coble and his fellows work seven day weeks, “12 hours on, 12 hours off” in his case. “We sit here knowing that there are people “on the other side of the wall” who hate you so much, they’ll kill themselves to kill you and other coalition forces,” said Coble. “Our base has had some mortar and rocket attacks,” he added. “It’s the scariest sound in the world when you hear the whistle of mortar fire going overhead. But I don’t want to make it sound worse than it is. A lot of my fellow Marines have it much harder. I’m not a grunt, not on the front lines getting shot at. My job is to help those guys do what they do best. My job is to make sure the computers guys use to make decisions on the battlefield are working properly. I see the results of the fighting, and I’m proud to have helped them do what they do.”

Coble and countless other service people in the theater have been impressed when the “home folk,” ordinary Americans, do a little extra. For instance, when the corporal ordered a textbook online, “The seller saw I was in Iraq and when he was packaging the book, he threw in some magazines, and gave me his e-mail address,” Coble recalled. “We made contact and the company he works for sent our unit some fans, hygiene products, and a bunch more new magazines. It was great. It helps to know the people back home support us.

“When I get back to Hawai‘i,” Coble said, “I want a nice, quiet life. I look forward to real showers, good food, and the freedom to come and go when I please. Being with family and friends. Little things like hopping in the car and going to the mall, catching a movie: thinking about things like that keeps me going.”



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