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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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Dental officer earns Bronze Star for her Iraq service

By Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr. | | January 07, 2005

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The Navy awarded the Bronze Star to a dental officer during a ceremony in the Branch Dental Clinic's recruit waiting area here Dec. 28 for her meritorious achievement while serving in Iraq.

The clinic's Cmdr. Lena A. Hartzell earned the medal for meritorious achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as political advisor for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Salah ad-Din, Iraq from Oct. 13, 2003 to March 11, 2004, according to the citation from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. V. E. Clark.

Navy Capt. Robert E. Hutto, commanding officer, Naval Dental Center Southwest, the clinic's parent command, pinned the medal on Hartzell's blouse after the citation was read.

"It was an honor," said Hutto. "As commanding officer, I get asked to do many things ... Presenting an award of this magnitude means a lot to me."

According to her fellow sailors, she went above and beyond the call of duty, as more than a dentist during her time working for the State Department.

"She went there as a leader, not a dentist," said Hutto. "Her linguistic skills helped with the operation's higher success."

Although Hartzell speaks English fluently, it is not her native tongue. In fact, she speaks five different languages.

According to Hartzell, her father taught her Arabic, the native language of Iraqis. She also spoke Turkish in Iraq, the language of many locals.

"I was able to talk to the women for intelligence," said Hartzell. "They trusted me because I spoke their language and I am a woman."

Helping with her linguistic abilities was only the beginning for Hartzell.

"She did great things," said Cmdr. David H. Hartzell, her husband. "She was sent to Iraq without a lot of information and went beyond her duties. She was public affairs, a driver, political advisor and linguist. She was in harm's way on at least two occasions. One time when a convoy was hit by an (improvised explosive device) and she took charge as the only healthcare provider and cared for the wounded and again when she restored calm in a building that had just been bombed."

Depot and Western Recruiting Region commanding general Brig. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. was present at the ceremony to show his appreciation for Hartzell's dedication and service.

According Brig. Gen. Paxton, he felt it was important to recognize Hartzell's actions in person for three reasons. First, because it is all about the Navy and Marine Corps team and she is a fellow shipmate. Second, because she is a military member who served in harm's way. The third reason is because she did more than was expected of her. Being a part of the CPA, a woman and a linguist made her a target and she persevered.

Hartzell now faces a new challenge here as a comprehensive dentist, according to Hutto. She is working with a team and clinic that holds the record for the most consecutive graduating recruit training companies at 95 percent or higher operational dental readiness in both the Navy and Marine Corps.

The clinic is at 283 consecutive companies right now. Their last graduation below 95 percent ODR was Nov. 14, 1997. Hartzell is intricately working with the clinic team toward a goal of 300 consecutive companies at 95 percent ODR, which clinic officials hope to achieve this summer.


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