ABOARD THE USS BATAAN -- He is here on the Arabian Sea, away from home for the holidays and like many other Marines and Sailors deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Cpl. Mario Arellano will exchange greetings by telephone on Christmas Eve. In his case, the call will be unique. A call from the president of the United States. Arellano, an armorer currently assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, Third Battalion, "Fightin" Sixth Marines, was recently informed that he was nominated by his company to speak to the commander-in-chief. "I just found out," said the Binger, Okla., Marine. His superiors tout Arellano as a solid performer at work who is technically proficient. He is responsible for the maintenance, calibration and proper functioning of all infantry weapons systems organic to the battalion. "I wish I had 10 more like him," said Staff Sgt. Ronald T. Susalla of Owendale, Mich. Arellano has worked with Susalla since March. "He is always early, does what he is told and never complains." Arellano said that he takes his job very seriously because he knows that other Marines depend on him to keep their weapons in good condition. "It's frustrating not to have a part to fix a gun," he said. Arellano has been in the Corps for less than 18 months and was meritoriously promoted on Dec 3. "He has a solid foundation and the maturity to handle leadership challenges," said Susalla. "He smoked the competition on the [promotion] board. His knowledge is unmatched," said H&S Company Commander Capt. Jeff S. McCormack of Chicago. "He is always motivated, looking for ways to improve himself and has made suggested ways to make armory operations more efficient." Lt. Col. Gary R. Oles, the executive officer of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said that Arellano was selected to receive the call because he always has a positive "can-do" attitude, and is routinely the company's "go-to-guy." But, Arellano is not always as upbeat as he appears. "I miss her," he lamented as his eyes began to glisten. He was called away from Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when he was notified that his young wife and high school sweetheart, Kathryn, died in Oklahoma of heart failure during her eighth month of pregnancy. "I was devastated. It was saddening to realize that she was gone," he said. " I wish I could apologize to her for not being there. I thank God for allowing us the time we spent together." Arellano said that Katie was very supportive of his active duty service and that they were both excited about starting a family. "He doesn't let it [Arellano's loss] bother him. I would have never known it if he hadn't told me about it," said Susalla. Arellano said that he likes being a Marine and considers himself a persuasive type of leader. "I will give Marines a task and allow them to do it. We are all well trained to do our jobs," he said. " There's no need to stand over them." Arellano cites fellow armorer Cpl. Daniel A. Norris as being his mentor and role model. "Norris called me while he was on leave to welcome me aboard," he said. "He told me to get to work." Arellano advises young Marines to take pride in their service to the Corps and emphasizes the importance of teamwork. "I'm not too good to get dirty," he said. He has intentions to pursue a degree in biology and seek a commission as a Marine officer. "I would likely choose to remain in the ordnance field," he said. "If I were commandant, I'd bring back two-year enlistments and work to develop better communications to reduce the 'hurry up and wait,'" he said. Arellano added that he would also suggest a more streamlined system that allows armorers to perform all levels of small arms maintenance and repair. The leatherneck offered his philosophy on success: "Everything happens for a reason. Do the right thing. Be proficient and people will recognize your hard work," he said. "Stay late and put in the extra hours necessary to accomplish your mission."Arellano and the rest of the 26th MEU are scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune in March.