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Face of Defense: Officer Leaves Lasting Impression

By Marine Corps 1st Lt. Steven Baldino
Special to American Forces Press Service

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Jan. 15, 2010 – Three years ago, Marine Corps Maj. Chris Messineo was teaching economic geography at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The course covered the effects of globalization, shifting political boundaries and containerized shipping on national and global economies.

Today, as Messineo works as the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group logistics and supply officer here, he works to retrograde millions of dollars’ worth of Marine Corps equipment from Iraq. And he still extols the virtues of the 20-foot shipping container, which the former teacher will inform any inquiring Marine was invented by Malcom McLean in 1965.

In September, Messineo discovered that the 20-foot shipping container was not the only thing from his economic geography class that would follow him to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marine Corps 1st Lts. Sean Knapp and Robert Caldwell attended Messineo's class as midshipmen and now are deployed here.

Knapp and Caldwell are route-clearance platoon commanders with Company B, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. At the Naval Academy, both were varsity athletes and leaders among their peers. Caldwell was the defensive captain of the Navy football team his senior year, while Knapp, a varsity wrestler, held a number of key billets during various summer training events.

Though Knapp and Caldwell have advanced and changed since they graduated from the Naval Academy, they still remember their time in Messineo's class and the example he set for them as a Marine officer. Both said they have the utmost respect for their former teacher, and Knapp even credited Messineo for his success. "I would not be a commissioned officer if it hadn't been for Major Messineo," he said.

"He was a great economics instructor, but he spent time mentoring future Marine lieutenants and discussing current events that Marines were involved in back then," recalled Caldwell, who attended Messineo's economic geography class in 2006, during some of the most vicious fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province.

When Messineo -- also a Naval Academy graduate -- is not busy tracking generators being shipped to Afghanistan or coordinating support for one of the countless units for which his unit is responsible, he still finds time to check up on his former students.

"How are my two knuckleheads?" he asks with a laugh. Once the jokes die down, though, Messineo always leaves his students with kernels of wisdom: "Seek advice when you need it, and don't be afraid to make decisions."

Messineo has left his mark on Knapp and Caldwell and continues to make a difference in the Marines' lives. He began by teaching them an economics class, and now takes time to stop and ask them about their day.

(Marine Corps 1st Lt. Steven Baldino serves with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)

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Related Sites:
2nd Marine Expeditionary Force
U.S. Forces Iraq

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