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"Training For War"

"Training For War"A Tufts graduate and photojournalist captures the intense training Marines go through before being deployed to Iraq.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.06.06] The Mojave desert is far safer than the bullet-riddled streets of Baghdad. But as Tufts graduate Jean Butler captured to film, U.S. Marines training there before deployment to Iraq received an intense preview of the harsh realities ahead. Butler (J'73), a photojournalist, recently exhibited select images from her experience.

"This is what heroism looks like," she told the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph. "Our real heroes are real folks. They're our neighbors and friends. It isn't the Rambo you see on television. They're the people you pass in the mall, your auto mechanic, the local college student at the coffee shop."

Butler, who studied photography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art after earning a degree in English from Tufts, was embedded with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine reserve unit, based in Devens, Mass., according to the Hudson ( Mass.) Sun. For four days, she observed and photographed the troops as they trained in a simulated Iraqi town staged in the California desert, prior to their deployment to Iraq.

"Whatever you think about the political and military choices that led to this war, the sacrifices being made on our behalf are really pretty humbling," Butler told the Telegraph.

The exhibit, titled "Good to Go: Marines Train for a War of Insurgency," was on display at the Parish Center for the Arts Gallery in Westford, Mass. during October.

"I am truly gratified at the response [to the exhibit], especially of family members of the Marines," she told the Sun.

The project, Butler explained, emerged from a desire to better understand the American role in the conflict.

"I wanted to know what my government was doing to protect our soldiers and the Iraqi people," she told the Telegraph. "I wanted to know if they were changing tactics or just letting things go on as they were."

What she found in the desert was an exercise in survival.

"In the unfamiliar terrain of simulated desert warfare, my preconceptions fell away and I became absorbed in the story of how these men will live, adapt and survive in a hostile environment as they work to accomplish the mission they are charged with: bringing peace to Iraq," she wrote in the artistic statement that accompanied the exhibit.

One thing Butler noticed during the training was the emphasis on cultural sensitivity.

"The message these Marines were getting was 'You are going to a dangerous place, but you will treat everyone with respect,'" Butler explained to the Telegraph. "I can’t imagine it’s easy to man a checkpoint and look at every car as both an innocent civilian and a potential suicide bomber, but that’s exactly what they have to do."

Butler spoke admiringly of the American soldiers in Iraq to the Telegraph.

"We, as a nation, present them with an incredible challenge, such an overwhelming job, and they do it with such spirit and skill," she said of the troops. "It's such a huge, scary job, but they never quit."

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