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Sleeping with boots on helps sergeant go from `0 to awake' quickly

Name: 1st Sgt. Brian McCoic

Age: 39

Hometown: Dellwood, Wis.

Branch: Marines

Role: 1st sergeant, senior enlisted man in Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion

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SOUTHERN IRAQ—During a driving sandstorm, while most of the Marines are seeking shelter or wearing facemasks just to breathe, 1st Sgt. Brian McCoic takes off his shirt and spreads shaving cream on his face. He puts on a pair of goggles, turns his back to the wind and starts shaving.

"I have to set an example," he says. "It's challenging and miserable, but it's the same for both sides. It's hard to get equipment working and it's hard to keep the Marines motivated."

McCoic is the senior enlisted man in Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion. "We are providing a lot of security," he says. "And the sand makes it hard. When you can't see, it's not a good thing. We have better weapons but the sand takes away any advantage."

McCoic, who lives in Dellwood, Wis., where he's a volunteer firefighter, assumed the role of first sergeant three days before Charlie Company left for Kuwait.

He handles personnel, discipline and administrative matters. "I'm still learning the job," he says. "I'm still trying to figure out my role in the company. I suppose it's to make sure they go and do what they are supposed to be doing. I'm trying to give the company commander an effective weapon, to keep it all organized."

McCoic, a Marine reservist, did eight years of active duty. He spent eight months on a ship in the Persian Gulf about 50 miles east of Kuwait City during Operation Desert Storm. "We were part of the decoy that made Iraq think we were going to do an amphibious assault," he says. "We thought it was real until it started. Then, it was extremely frustrating."

McCoic has been in the Marines for 19 years. He sleeps fully dressed, wearing his boots. "I air my feet out during the day," he says. "I can go from zero to awake pretty quickly."

McCoic is a prison guard at a federal correction institution in Oxford, Wis. "It's more mental than physical," he says. "It's like being a babysitter for bad little children. You say no a lot."

McCoic has two sons from a previous marriage. Nathan, 17, was born in Okinawa, Japan, and Nicholas, 15, was born while McCoic was deployed in Norway.

His wife, Stephanie McCoic, is pregnant with their first child. She's due at the end of July. "I'd like to be there," McCoic says. "I think it's gonna be close. I'd like to be back, or at least get leave, but things would have to be pretty calm for that to happen.

"It's been really hard on my wife. But she's a tough woman."

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(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): iraqfaces+mccoic

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