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Interview of Captain T. Shane Tomko, U.S. Marine Corps

Aired December 26, 2001 - 11:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We have searched this base far and wide, and found the biggest character we can find in the entire U.S. Marine Corps. With us now is Captain T. Shane Tomko (ph), 26th MEU. How are you? Good evening to you. Tell me what your reputation is here, because everybody keeps coming to me and saying this guy has got to be on TV.

CAPTAIN T. SHANE TOMKO, U.S. MARINE: I have no idea. None whatsoever.

HEMMER: Well, listen. You are responsible for a very critical part of security here. Describe to me your responsibilities and duties when comes to putting Marines in the holes on the outside perimeter.

TOMKO: I'm the CO of Kilo-36 of America's Varsity. I got a bunch of patriotic 19 and 20-year-old hard chargers out there to secure this perimeter so these fine people can drink their coffee and cocoa and sleep at night.

HEMMER: They want you on that wall.

TOMKO: They want me on that wall. Yes sir.

HEMMER: You've been waiting to say that.

TOMKO: I've been dying.

HEMMER: Listen, this is tough work, though, and we should not make light of it. I mean, this is really tough stuff when comes to digging-in holes and making sure that things are safe and secure and when it comes down to the big stuff, you got to make sure you're doing your job. Talk more about that.

TOMKO: The Marines are more than ready. They are trained professional infantrymen. In that, we are prepared to do whatever course of action is required of us. It is difficult. I imagine if can you think about going outside your house right now, and taking a spatula and try and dig a hole in your sidewalk, it's about the same thing. They are tough young men, and they are ready for anything. Always prepared.

HEMMER: You make an interesting analogy here, because this terrain is extremely difficult. How have they dealt with it? TOMKO: Wonderfully. They got wonderful attitudes. They are extremely creative. They are smart. And they have a never-say-die attitude when comes to punching a hole in something.

HEMMER: You know, what's it like to spend the night sleeping in one of those holes?

TOMKO: Only half -- well, some of them sleep, the other ones are awake. We try and get some of our sleep during the day, we mix it up. You sleep whenever you get a chance, the rest of time you are standing too, and you're watching and observing, and you're prepared for anything.

HEMMER: The other flipside of that, though, is many aspects of that job can become quite tedious. How do you fight it?

TOMKO: We're all pretty much insane. We enjoy our insanity. We laugh a lot, and we're a proud band of brothers who have got into this together, and we swore an oath to do it, and we swore an oath to see it all the way through, and to bring all our boys home, and we just make it fun.

HEMMER: Got it. Got it. I can see that. The personality is coming out. You've got a picture in your hand, too.

TOMKO: Always.

HEMMER: You want to share that?

TOMKO: This my hot wife Liza (ph). I love you, girl. I love you!

HEMMER: Where is she?

TOMKO: She is -- she is actually, a Marine Corps Captain at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

HEMMER: Is that right?

TOMKO: Yes, sir.

HEMMER: Runs in the family.

TOMKO: Oh, yes, sir.

HEMMER: You want to show your hair, by the way?

TOMKO: Mom, Dad, sorry, but it was getting dirt in it, so I had to just cut it.

HEMMER: I know your were apprehensive to shut that off, but I got to tell you, I think folks are happy to see you.

TOMKO: Thank you.

HEMMER: Happy New Year, to you. TOMKO: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: What does "T" stand for, by the way?

TOMKO: Tough.

HEMMER: Oh, you squirted that one. Thank you, pal. Have a good New Year.

TOMKO: Thank you.

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