Brothers in arms

County siblings approach war in very different ways

County siblings approach war in very different ways

June 17, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI


Amid the rubble and debris of Fallujah, Iraq, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Allamong, a 22-year-old Washington County native, is trying to fulfill a mission of stabilization as part of the 5th Civil Affairs Group.

Allamong's older brother, U.S. Army Spc. Jesse Allamong, 25, will have a different goal when he deploys to Iraq in August as a member of the 1st Support Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division.

His mission: Search and destroy.

"He gets to spread the peace, I get to disrupt it," Jesse Allamong said.

In a city where as many as one in five buildings were destroyed in a major U.S. offensive in November 2004, the mission of spreading U.S. good will in Fallujah is by no means easy for the 200 members of the civil affairs group.


The mission brings Tyler Allamong face-to-face with two sides of the conflict.

"The biggest challenge is to be in a mind-set to go from friendly and happy, playing with Iraqi children, to ready to kill in the blink of an eye," Tyler Allamong said in an e-mail interview. "It is very difficult because those two feelings are so different."

Peace is a relative term for the younger Allamong, who said he still has to deal with opposition to his unit's mission in Fallujah. Roadside bombs, ambushes and snipers are just some of the threats he faces daily.

With nine people on both sides of his family either retired or actively serving in the Marines, Tyler Allamong followed a long family tradition. Jesse Allamong, however, decided to cut his own path by enlisting in the Army.

Deployed to Afghanistan shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Jesse Allamong said he has experienced combat. He received the Purple Heart after being shot in an ambush in Afghanistan while trying to drag his buddy out of the line of fire.

"He would like to have the combat experience," Jesse Allamong said of his younger brother. "I don't want it, I've had it."

Their mother, Tina Wallman of Hancock, said Tyler Allamong has wanted to be a Marine since he was in the second grade. Wallman said he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve shortly after graduating from Clear Spring High School in 2000.

While Jesse Allamong, a 1998 graduate of Middletown (Md.) High School, has been a full-time soldier since he enlisted, Wallman said Tyler Allamong works as a security guard at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., when his Reserve unit, the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in Baltimore, is not called up for duty.

Rose Thompson, the Allamongs' grandmother, said Tyler Allamong talks and acts like he wants to be a career Marine, but she's also heard him say he wants to become a police officer in Baltimore City.

"I said, 'You can't go down to Baltimore. They're getting killed out there every day.' He said, 'That's why I gotta go,'" said Thompson, of Hagerstown.

In Fallujah, a city where 200 Americans have died since the start of the war, Tyler Allamong walks the streets with his squad, attempting to plant the seeds of stability.

There are two main tasks in which he is involved as part of a civil affairs unit. One is making assessments on various points of infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, water treatment facilities and police stations. The other task is talking to the people.

"There are some who are still unsure about our intentions, but most of them realize that we are here to help them," he said.

"That's what's going to win this war," he said. "Not a body count."

Jesse Allamong chuckled at the contrast between the role of his younger brother and what he potentially will be doing in Iraq when he is deployed.

With the dangers both brothers might encounter, their mother and grandmother said the experience will be a positive one and believe in their abilities as soldiers.

"They're both confident and both very good shots," Thompson said.

Even though Tyler Allamong carries a rifle and is combat ready, he said he believes that his mission as a member of a civil affairs team is bringing stability and making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens.

"Most of the service members who come over here don't see the war the way my team does," he said.

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