Kaneohe Marine, 20, dies in southern Afghanistan


POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A 20-year-old Kaneohe Marine who had been in southern Afghanistan for less than a month was killed Saturday.

The Pentagon reported yesterday that Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Whittle, 20, of Downey, Calif., died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. Helmand borders Pakistan and is a Taliban stronghold as well as the home to the world's largest opium poppy-growing region.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Whittle reported to Kaneohe last August after graduating from a Southern California high school in 2007. He deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in May.

His military awards include a Global War on Terrorism Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

He is the fourth service member, but the first Marine, with Hawaii ties to die in Afghanistan this year.

In his home state of California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a written statement, saying, “;Lance Corporal Joshua Whittle was a courageous American who fought tirelessly to protect our country. Joshua went above and beyond the call of duty and his selfless dedication and sacrifice will not be forgotten.”;

Whittle's 2nd Battalion, with nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines, became part earlier this month of the 10,000-member Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, which the Obama administration deployed to Afghanistan to beef up counterinsurgency operations with Afghan forces in the southwestern part of the country. The 2nd Battalion is commanded by Lt. Col. Patrick Cashman.

The Kaneohe rifle battalion is one of three under the command of Col. Duffy White, who leads the 5,500-member ground force in the expeditionary brigade. White's command includes three Marine Corps rifle battalions from Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Kaneohe. White is normally based at Kaneohe as head of the 3rd Marine Regiment.

The Marines are part of the additional 21,000 U.S. troops President Barack Obama is sending to the country this summer to bolster the roughly 40,000 already there as part of the strategy to combat insurgents, train Afghan forces and provide security for the Afghan national elections, scheduled for Aug. 20.