A Marine who grew up in Moberly and attended MU for officer training died Saturday in Iraq.
Mark C. Gelina, a second lieutenant, died during a combat operation in Al-Anbar province in western Iraq. He was 33.
Cmdr. Lynn Smith of the Naval ROTC unit at MU said Gelina died while he was preparing a battle position and fell off a roof, according to information from the Marine Mobilization Command in Kansas City. The Defense Department on Tuesday confirmed that Gelina was killed in a nonhostile incident.
Gelina was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Department of Defense. He was most recently stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being deployed to Iraq.
A Defense Department spokesman said Gelina’s unit was assigned to train and work alongside Iraqi forces to deny insurgent activities.
Gelina graduated from MU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, according to the university registrar. He was a member of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program and a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
The education program enables enlisted Marines to attend one of the 70 universities in the U.S. that have ROTC programs. After attending a preparatory school, students work toward a bachelor’s degree at the university of their choice. Upon graduation, they become commissioned officers, attending the Basic School at Quantico, Va., for six months and then receiving specialty assignments, said Capt. J. Basil Read III, the commanding officer of the Navy ROTC at MU and one of Gelina’s former professors.
Participants in the program are career-oriented Marines selected to get a college degree and a commission, Read said. “The top enlisted Marines in the country are chosen for this,” he said.
At MU, Gelina was president of the Semper Fi society, planned the Navy/Marine Corps ball and mentored other students. He also trained and led teams in drill, rifle and pistol skills at competitions around the country.
“Just about his entire tenure here spoke to leadership,” Read said. “He was a Marine’s Marine. He was the type of leader that other Marines wanted to emulate.”
Staff Sgt. Scott Kates, a junior at MU, said Gelina worked hard but also enjoyed spending time outdoors and with his three children.
“He was just an all around fun guy,” Kates said. “He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play.”
Read said that to his knowledge, Gelina was the first MU alum from the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program to have been killed in Iraq.
“He got to do what he wanted to do, which was go lead Marines,” Read said.