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Bedford Marine getting job done quietly in Afghanistan

Union Leader Correspondent

July 03. 2011 11:27PM

Cpl. Kelli Joyce of Bedford is on her second deployment to Afghanistan. 

BEDFORD - Half a world away, in the deserts of Afghanistan, one New Hampshire Marine is proving that she doesn't have to be on the front lines to help win a war.

Cpl. Kelli Joyce, 22, of Bedford, works 12 hours a day, seven days a week as an aircraft maintenance administration specialist at Camp Leatherneck in Helmund Province, Afghanistan.

Every morning at about 6 a.m., Joyce starts the quiet but vital work of keeping track of all the maintenance performed on aircrafts at the base. Though she isn't engaging al-Qaida in hand-to-hand combat, the work she does is essential to the operation of the U.S. Marine Corps machine.

'We support the guys on the ground as much as we can from the base that we're at,' Joyce said during a phone interview. 'A lot of people have the mentality that every marine is out there on the front lines, getting in firefights and whatnot, but that's not the case at all.'

Joyce has been in Afghanistan for five months with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40, a unit based out of Cherry Point, N.C. Joyce enlisted in the military during the summer before her senior year at West High School after being inspired by stories from her ROTC sergeant and her father, a former Marine.

'It was amazing,' Joyce said, recalling stories about life in the military. 'It was just like, 'This is what I want, this is what I want to do.''

Before signing up for the Marine Corps, Joyce first had to get permission from her parents.Stephanie Joyce, Kelli's mother, signed off after some initial reservations.

'Of course you had some concerns, but you had to respect her decision,' Stephanie said. 'With the way the country was going, I just had to put it in her hands and in God's hands that she would be safe - and knock on wood, she has been.'

On Friday, Joyce said she was serving on her second deployment to Afghanistan in four years. She has become accustomed to waking up early in the morning, working for 12 hours a day in 120-degree heat, and then trying to squeeze in some personal time. When she's not working or trying to stay hydrated, Joyce will spend some time at a computer, shooting off emails to family and friends. What does Joyce miss most about home?

'Definitely the food, and just being able to pick up my cell phone and call my family or go home and see my family and just hang out with friends,' Joyce said. 'But we've got to do what we've got to do and it's only six months. It's not too bad.'

While Joyce is set to return home in a little more than a month, she has already enlisted for a second four-year term of service. When she first joined the military four years ago, Joyce said she wanted to test the old saying that serving in the Marine Corps is more of a lifestyle than a job.

After four years, Joyce seems to have found more than just a job.

'There are some things that I didn't expect, but overall I definitely enjoy it,' Joyce said. 'I definitely feel like this is where I belong.'

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