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Navy Chief Joel Egan Baldwin

Died December 21, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

37, of Arlington, Va.; assigned to Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 77, Gulfport, Miss.; killed Dec. 21 when his base dining facility was attacked in Mosul, Iraq.

Gulfport chief killed in Iraq mess hall blast

By Christopher Munsey

Navy Times staff writer

A Navy Seabee chief killed in the suicide bombing of a Mosul, Iraq, mess hall on Dec. 21 was remembered for his skilled teaching, dedicated leadership and civic involvement.

Chief Builder (SCW) Joel E. Baldwin, 37, was one of 14 service members killed in the attack. The explosion, which killed 22 and wounded 69, occurred as service members, civilian contractors and Iraqi guardsmen sat down for lunch at Forward Operating Base Marez.

“At this point, it looks like it was an improvised explosive device worn by an attacker,” Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Dec. 22 at a Pentagon news conference.

Myers did not say whether authorities believe the bomber worked at the base or got into the mess tent some other way. Baldwin was a member of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 out of Gulfport, Miss., which deployed to Guam and Iraq in October. He joined the battalion in April.

“Just a very good human being, an exceptional Navy leader and a great Seabee,” said Capt. Will McKerall, commanding officer of Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport.

McKerall said Baldwin’s most recent civic project was organizing a group that built a playground at his daughter’s elementary school.

Seabees are spread all over Iraq, and McKerall said Baldwin was performing general engineering evaluation work.

Born in Panama, Baldwin joined the Navy in 1988, and his home of record was listed as Arlington, Va.

Before coming to NMCB 7, Baldwin taught quality control to sailors training in Seabee ratings at the Naval Construction Training Center in Gulfport.

“He was recognized for being an exceptional instructor, he was on his way to other things,” McKerall said.

He leaves behind a wife, Claudia, and their 9-year-old daughter, Cali.

Claudia Baldwin, who works as an intern at the local Veterans Affairs hospital, also served as one of the battalion’s ombudsmen, linking families to the command, McKerall said.

A memorial service is being planned at Gulfport, McKerall said.

Baldwin’s death is not the first time Seabees have suffered a combat casualty in Iraq.

Seven Seabees from NMCB 14, a Reserve battalion out of Jacksonville, Fla., died in two separate attacks in Anbar over a three-day period in late April and early May.

Baldwin’s awards include two Navy Achievement Medals, four Good Conduct Medals, an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Overseas Service Ribbons, two National Defense Service Medals, two Navy “E” ribbons, the M16 rifle expert marksman device, and Sea Service deployment ribbons.

The Mississippi-based Keesler Federal Credit Union set up a memorial fund in his name, to help his wife and daughter, said spokeswoman Michelle Manley.

Those who want to donate to the Baldwin Memorial Fund, account number 80100.12, can mail donations to: Keesler Federal Credit Union, attention Baldwin Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 7001, Biloxi, MS 39534.

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