CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan In the past decade, the war on terror has changed dramatically. American troops are now out of Iraq, and their presence in Afghanistan is downsizing.
In late 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom had reached dangerous heights for service members, but that didn't stop Sgt. Michael J. Favata Jr., from enlisting in the Marine Corps.
"Like any other family, mine was concerned about (ongoing conflicts at) the time I was joining," said Favata, 28, a native of Albrightsville. "The war had just started but they supported me fully."
With a background in construction, he was happy to become a combat engineer. As part of 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, he deployed to Iraq in 2004.
"It was my first deployment, and it was exciting," said Favata. "There was something different every day, and you never knew what to expect."
Since his first tour, Favata has been to Iraq two more times and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. Stationed out of Okinawa, Japan, he has also been a part of operations in the Western Pacific.
"One of the most beneficial missions I have been on as a combat engineer was in the Philippines," said Favata. "We built a school in a village of orphans. It felt pretty good to make that kind of a difference."
In addition to building schools, Favata has helped with the construction of structures that offer increased protection and mobility for deployed Marines such as indirect fire bunkers, blast mitigation pits, land bridges, and entry control points.
Now as platoon guide for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), Favata runs the majority of missions his team goes on in Helmand Province.
"We get to go to these outposts and help the guys who are stuck out here for months on end," said Favata.
In a recent mission to one of those outposts, Favata was in charge of erecting two indirect fire bunkers. The structures provide a sanctuary in case of enemy attack. Despite heavy rains and freezing temperatures, his diligence and strong work ethic pressed the team to complete the job early.
"Anything we can do to help them is totally worth it," he said.
The combat engineers of 9th ESB have been deployed since October. Favata speaks highly of the team he is privileged to lead.
"This is the most disciplined platoon I have ever worked with," he said. "They are all hard workers, and they take pride in what they do."
As a leader, Favata strives to be open-minded, willing to hear others' suggestions and ideas for how to complete a job.
"One thing I have learned in the Marine Corps is that, regardless of rank, there is always something new someone can teach me," said Favata. "It's never my way or the highway."
With only a few months left in this deployment, Favata said he looks forward to getting home to his wife and 1-year-old son. Though the distance from home can be stressful, he is grateful for the opportunities the Corps has offered him.
"When I hear about the people I grew up with and what they're doing, I feel like I have done 10 times as much," said Favata. "I've had a lot of experiences that I never would have had if I hadn't joined."
Favata said he loves the camaraderie and the traveling within the Corps and he intends to stick with his original plan.
"When I joined the Corps, I decided to stay in until it stopped being fun," he said. "I'm still having fun."