Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with James Owens III, July 8th, 2011

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introduction / childhood and interest in the military

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Partial Transcript: This is, uh, Travis Martin. Um, the Combat to Kentucky Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer introduces Owens and gives some basic information about him. Owens describes his childhood, his early interest in the military, his educational interests, and his early hobbies.

Keywords: 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion; AAV; AAV crewman; Berea College; Harlan (Ky.); Harlan High School; Iraqi freedom; MREs; active duty; assault amphibious vehicle; athletics; baseball; childhood; corporals; fathers; geography; grandfathers; hiking; history; influence; meals ready to eat; outdoors; sports; students

Subjects: Education.; United States. Army.; United States. Marine Corps.; United States. Navy.


Map Coordinates: 36.84314, -83.32185
00:03:21 - Berea College / work as a youth counselor / joining the marine corps

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Partial Transcript: So, at what point... you, you get a scholarship to Berea College...

Segment Synopsis: Owens discusses his stint at Berea College, his dropping out, his work as a youth counselor and his reasons for joining the marine corps.

Keywords: Kentucky United Methodist Home; dropping out; girls; grades; job options; recruiters; studying; working; youth counselors

Subjects: Berea College.; United States. Marine Corps.


Map Coordinates: 37.56869, -84.29632
00:05:47 - Family reaction to Owens' joining the military / basic training

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Partial Transcript: I went and talked to the recruiter, and probably maybe nine days later I went to boot camp.

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about his family's reaction to his joining the military. He shares what he did in the last few days before he was sent to boot camp. He also describes his experiences in basic training in detail.

Keywords: M16 rifle; M16s; Parris Island (S.C.); boot camp; combat training; drills; drinking; education; family; fathers; fights; hair; haircuts; lack of freedom; martial arts; milk; open contract; orders; platoons; punishment; running; sand pit; senior drill instructor; skills; training; weapon maintenance; weapons; weight gain; yelling

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); United States. Marine Corps.


Map Coordinates: 32.32875, -80.69479
00:12:34 - "The crucible" and graduation / thoughts on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Partial Transcript: So, getting towards the end of the... boot camp... uh, I guess, there's the final...

Segment Synopsis: Owens briefly discusses the last test of basic training, known as "the crucible", and his graduation. He also gives his feelings on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keywords: "the crucible"; GI Bill; careers; challenges; graduation; hikes; team building; tests; wars

Subjects: Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001-; United States. Marine Corps.; War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.

00:15:36 - Marine combat training / training in California

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Partial Transcript: So after basic training... you said that you were a, um... AAV gunner...

Segment Synopsis: Owens discusses the training that he received, both in North Carolina and California.

Keywords: "California dreaming"; AAV; Del Mar (Calif.); M240 machine gun; M249 light machine gun; Mk 19 grenade launcher; advanced training; assault amphibious vehicle; land navigation; machine guns; marine combat training; shaving; training; urban warfare

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.


Map Coordinates: 32.95949,-117.26531
00:17:45 - Stereotypes about Kentucky / amphibious assault vehicles / Twentynine Palms, California

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Partial Transcript: What was it like being... a Kentucky boy in the marines?

Segment Synopsis: Owens discusses some of the negative stereotypes about Kentucky. He talks in great detail about amphibious assault vehicles, his training with them and the hazards of using them. He also talks about being stationed in Twentynine Palms, California.

Keywords: AAV; AAV school; Delta Company; Kentuckians; Mk 19 grenade launcher; Twentynine Palms (Calif.); advanced training; amphibious assault vehicle; crew chief; death traps; family; friends; oceans; personnel carriers; stereotypes; weapon systems

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Kentucky.; United States. Marine Corps.


Map Coordinates: 34.13556, -116.05417
00:21:49 - Training in the desert / deployment to Iraq / "Mojave viper"

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Partial Transcript: So you got to your unit, and um... what's your all's purpose?

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about the training that he did before his deployment to Iraq, including the "Mojave viper" program. This program was meant to simulate conditions in Iraq as closely as possible.

Keywords: "Mojave viper"; IED's; actors; combat training; deployment; deserts; infantry; joint training; patrols; preparation; riots; training

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Iraq.


Map Coordinates: 34.13556, -116.05417
00:24:25 - Journey to Iraq / Al Asad Airbase / Haditha, Iraq

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Partial Transcript: How did that work? How did you get to Iraq in the process?

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about coming to Iraq- specifically to Al Asad Airbase and Haditha, which is where he was stationed there. He also discusses his responsibilities during his deployment.

Keywords: Al Asad Airbase (Iraq); Euphrates River; Germany; Lockheed C-130 Hercules; MSR Bronze; New Hampshire; area of operations; briefings; checkpoints; deserts; patrols; platoons; security patrols

Subjects: Hadithah (Iraq); Kuwait.; United States. Air Force.


Map Coordinates: 34.13333, 42.38333
00:27:00 - Owens' first patrol in Iraq / encounters with improvised explosive devices / the Iraqi people / daily routine in Hadithah

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Partial Transcript: So, you must have come into some pretty direct contact with the locals, I would imagine.

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about his first patrol in Iraq and why it was nerve-wracking for him. He also discusses improvised explosives and the Iraqi civilians and military. He also shares his misgivings about the Iraq war at that time and describes his typical duties in Iraq.

Keywords: Azerbaijan; Hadithah Dam; Iraqi army; Iraqis; MREs; adrenaline; candy; casualties; checkpoints; contact drills; danger; food; meals ready to eat; nervousness; patrols; protective equipment; security; training; urban settings; wars; weapons system

Subjects: Hadithah (Iraq); Improvised explosive devices.; War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.


Map Coordinates: 34.13333, 42.38333
00:32:54 - Al Baghdadi / Iraqi children / humorous stories

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Partial Transcript: Any other interesting characters? Sounds like you have a lot of contact with, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about being transferred to Al Baghdadi. He shares humorous stories about Iraqi children and about shooting a smoke flare on trash detail.

Keywords: Al Baghdadi (Iraq); FOB; Iraqi police; boredom; candy; children; flares; forward operating base; monotony; nicknames; smoke flares; trash detail

Subjects: Khan al Baghdadi (Iraq).


Map Coordinates: 33.84531, 42.56217
00:36:25 - Encounter with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device / casualties

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Partial Transcript: So you were, you were in charge of trash detail... was, was that around burn pits?

Segment Synopsis: Owens relates a story about encountering a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, which accidentally detonated too early and only hurt the driver. He also talks about the few casualties in his unit.

Keywords: Colonel Shaban (??); FOB; IEDs; Iraqi police; QRF; burn pits; casualties; corpses; crew chief; forward operating base; health concerns; injuries; patrols; police checkpoints; quick reaction force; rain; sleep deprivation; vehicle-borne IEDs; war

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.

00:40:13 - Returning to the United States / training in South Korea

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Partial Transcript: Um... so you ended up that second deployment pretty well. It sounds like...

Segment Synopsis: Owens talks about returning from his first deployment and his being stationed in California. He also talks about an American/South Korean joint training exercise that he was a part of.

Keywords: AAVs; California; Korea; Korean Marines; Operation Foal Eagle; PFC; South Korea; assault amphibious vehicle; bank accounts; cars; crew chief; deployments; email; family; girlfriends; joint exercise; kimchi; lance corporal; leave; long distance relationships; private first class; provisional rifle company; suicide bombers; training; urban warfare

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.

00:44:19 - Second deployment to Iraq / daily routines / reading habits

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Partial Transcript: So, after your Korean... operation... you go back to California?

Segment Synopsis: Owens discusses his second deployment to Iraq and what he did while he was there. He talks especially about the reading that he did to prepare himself for returning to school later.

Keywords: "Korean village"; Al Asad Airbase (Iraq); Al-Qa'im; Anbar province; Karl Marx; QRF; Ramadi; Slaughterhouse Five; city council; deployment; drills; expectations; news; patrols; progress; quick reaction force; rank; reading; school; training; war; working out

Subjects: Iraq.; Khan al Baghdadi (Iraq).; Rutbah (Iraq).


Map Coordinates: 33.43183, 43.31150
00:48:21 - Preparation for school / Eastern Kentucky University

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Partial Transcript: So you were... you were growing a lot intellectually...

Segment Synopsis: Owens tells how he applied to Eastern Kentucky University while he was still in Iraq. He also shares his reasons for wanting to attend that school.

Keywords: Al Asad Airbase (Iraq); CKV; Illinois; acceptance letters; college applications; colleges; future plans; leave; parties; professors; studying

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University.

00:50:46 - Preparation to attend college / psychology and post-traumatic stress disorder / future plans

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Partial Transcript: Um, what kind of stuff did you do to prepare yourself for, um, separation?

Segment Synopsis: Owens describes his preparations to attend college again and talks at length about why he chose to study psychology there. He also shares his plans for the future. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: California; VA; VA hospitals; Veterans Affairs; anxiety; anxiety disorders; apartments; discipline; finances; graduation; insomnia; military culture; preparations; psychology; social work; terminal leave; veterans; youth home

Subjects: Berea College.; Eastern Kentucky University.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; University of Kentucky.; War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.