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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Life in Iraq has not changed too much in the last few days. Still boring. I actually asked for the day off today so that I could follow the NFL draft on ESPN.com, but apparently that didn't call under the mission plan for the day. So instead I headed out with the squad and did some route security.

Route security goes a lot like this-

Load squad in humvees.
Drive humvees up and down a major road for hours on end.
Wait for one of the following to happen- IED, ambush, or vehicle breakdown.

Today was vehicle breakdown. Apparently the humvee I was in decided it didn't want to make right hand turns anymore. I don't know for sure, but I think that's kind of mission essential. We were in the process of trying to hook up a tow bar, but realized that we were only about 400 m from one of the biggest ambush threats in the area. Cancel that idea.

So my driver was tasked with driving back to the FOB making only left turns. Meaning if he wanted to turn right, he had to put it in reverse and crank the wheel left. I'm sure the local populace was looking at us like we had lost our minds.

Humvees like to break a lot. Simple things too. Like doors. I'm not sure there is a humvee in the Marine Corps that has four working doors. The US can put a man on the moon but they can't give me a simple door that will unlatch and swing open.


Congratulations are in order...

First my cousin Tony married his long time sweetheart Lea today in Atlanta, GA (well it hasn't happened yet, but according to my watch it has.)

Secondly to my former teammates, Joe Thomas, John Stocco, Mark Zalewski and Rod Rogers who will realize their dream of playing in the NFL today with the commencement of the draft. You all worked hard for it, and all four of you deserve it. Good luck.
This post is kind of hard to formulate. In recent days this blog has kinda gotten around on various websites, becoming quite the blog tramp. I just want to say that I never really expected this thing to get as big as it has, and I'm really not sure where to move on from here.

I am not trying to make a political statement with this blog. I am not trying to influence anything. I am not trying to distribute propaganda for anyone's ideology.

I am not a political pawn for the Evil Empire of Bush and Cheney. Nor am I crusading against the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy.

Please do not take this and twist into anything that it is not. I appreciate all the support, prayers and kind emails. Please continue to keep Golf Company in your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coloring books on patrol with some kids, Raneen and Hayed.

Allright, so I debated putting this pic up because after I got back to the FOB I remembered that Lea doesn't spell her name with an H. But, I decided to anyway, and I apologize....but the bottome line is, Congratulations from myself and Hayed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friends, family, strangers...Americans young and old....I apologize to you all tonight because I fear I may have just lost the war. I was on a patrol tonight with my squad...we had to go firm in a house because engineers were going to blast away the remnants of the bombed out bridge. We were sitting around, socializing with a group of young Iraqi men, when the conversation turned to athletics. Well, one of them thought that he was pretty strong and flexed his arm for us...of course, my friends, my comrades, my brothers-in-arms, decide to throw me under the bus and say that I was much stronger. So this Iraqi makes me flex for him...I'm not gonna lie, I was a lot bigger.

It doesn't end there. Suddenly this Iraqi challenges me to an arm wrestling contest. I immediately have a flashback. Suddenly its 2003, I'm at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN for a football game. I'm drunk at an Irish bar on New Year's Eve...suddenly an Irishman taps me on the shoulder. I turn around...he's about the size of a leprachaun. He gets to the point, he thinks he can whoop me in arm wrestling...I tell him no thanks...he insists...I say no...he buys me a Guinness...I say okay...I almost lose.

Fast forward to Iraq...tonight...I don't think its a good idea, but my friends insist that it'll be good for building 'relations'...I take another look at the guy he's not THAT big. I agree.

Ten minutes later, there is still no winner. It's declared a draw, but for America, it was a resounding defeat. It was the draw heard round the world. I will never be able to show my face in that area again. Granted, he didn't claim victory, but I could see the sparkle in his eye... my fellow Americans...I am sorry.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

About two days ago a suicide car bomber drove underneath an overpass that had been fortified by our Fox Co. as an observation post that could observe a major Iraqi interstate for miles in both directions. When he was underneath the bridge he detonated the truck he was driving, destroying the bridge and seriously wounding 8 Marines.

My company, Golf, has been helping with the recovery process. But here's my question. This overpass is now lying in rubble across six lanes of interstate that connects western Al Anbar to Baghdad. It is heavily used by both commercial and personal vehicles. Why are we fixing it? I ask the question for two reasons. A) what's going to stop another suicide bomber and B) why don't we begin to make the Iraqi people pay for their tolerance of terrorism. The people in the surrounding area know what happened. Perhaps not all of them could point a finger at someone, but they would know how to find out. But we give them no incentive to help us. They know we are going to clear that rubble, and they know we are going to rebuild their bridge, because the Marines and coalition forces are trying to "win hearts and minds". How about we win this war first, and then try and win popularity contests. I understand they go hand in hand, but only to a point.

The people here respect guns. That's it. They don't respect smiles and gift baskets. The terrorists come into our AO with guns and an attitude, and they are winning the PR battle. Bottom line.

I vote that we leave that bridge strewn across six lanes. Let them dig it out if they want to.
Well the Wisconsin Spring Game was today, or yesterday. I am actually having a momentary blank on what day it is. Either way, I'm sure the Badgers revealed all the tools that they are going to use in their glorious pursuit of next year's National Title.

Man the memories. The spring game used to be my most impressive playing time! I wonder if there is still time to trade in boots for cleats....

Next up is the NFL draft next weekend. And my cousin Tony's wedding. Don't ask me how that scheduling mistake was made. Just kidding Tony, wish I could be there with the rest of the Wood clan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I just got done standing 6 hours of post. Standing post is like watching paint dry, except today, that paint exploded in the form of two mortar rounds that landed right outside the post next to mine. This began a long series of thoughts, beginning with- these people are firing mortars at us, but half of them are landing on a busy street that is teeming with traffic carrying their own countrymen. Do these people have any morals?

My thoughts then drifted to a friend of mine from SOI. His name was De La Torre. This morning I found out that he was one of the wounded Marines that was medevaced yesterday. De la Torre died in surgery. This one hit me hard. I think it was because of De la Torre's personality. It was impossible for this guy to make an enemy. He was 28, had a degree and had been floundering in cubicle America for years. He was also one of the most socially naieve people I knew. The first time I met him I was looking for someone to go into Oceanside with me on a day off from Infantry school on a Saturday. He was of drinking age so he said he'd tag along.

We got into town, walked around for a while, got some food and went down to the beach. It was the first time he had seen the ocean, any ocean. 28 years old and he had never been out of the midwest. We went to a local bar and ordered a few beers. I noticed a couple of beers in that he was starting to slur his words. Turns out he had never drank before. 28 and I was now his first for two significant life moments. A couple more beers in and he begins a conversation with a lady next to him. The kind of lady that hangs out at Marine bars and hopes to find marriage and a paycheck every two weeks. De la Torre fell in love. I dragged him out of that bear trap, but I couldn't escape his conversations about Mandy for the rest of SOI. He fell hard. "I know, I know...it's just...we connected. I know it was only a few minutes, but I felt like she really liked me. I wish I could see her just one more time."

De la Torre was the guy who every time you saw him in Iraq and asked him how he was doing, expecting a "fine, how are you", would instead give you a "You know...I'm good...really good. In fact, I truly feel like I am finding myself over here. I mean...it's hard, and I miss back home....but I know I'm doing good. The sunsets here really put me at peace..."

De la Torre was driving down a road in Iraq. He was holding onto a laptop computer that held all the intel he was in charge of gathering. De la Torre died on an operating table.

So I'm on post, asking myself, "Who are these people? What kind of monster looks at people that leave their families thousands of miles away, to come to a foreign land and help, and says, 'I am going to take 120 lbs of explosives and bury it in the road so that I can take from them what they are trying to give me'?"

What kind of human launches mortars at a base, knowing that if they miss they could cause casualties to their fellow Iraqis, and not only that, but launches them from the cover of a village full of women and children.

Who does this in the name of religion?

But then I come off post. I get on the internet. Yahoo pops up. Va Tech Massacre. Where is our moral superiority? Sometimes we get lost in our own ethnocentricity and lose sight of the fact that we have no shortage of morally void citizens. I can't help but lose faith in mankind.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not too much new the last couple of days. Still tons of patrols. A couple of days ago we stayed for an hour or two in a house to escape the rain. There were 4 kids that lived in the house, the oldest two were a couple of girls, one of them, who was 12, actually spoke pretty good english. We started trying to communicate a bunch. Her name was Manar. Manar and her youner, nine year old sister Shrook, both drew me pictures of flowers and then went out to the garden and picked some flowers for me and another guy. It was the first thing in Iraq that I have smelled that smelled decent. It was pretty cool, but don't worry, we're weary that it may be a new terrorist tactic to make us soft... haha. We then sat in their 'kitchen' and played catch with them and their little toddler brother. That was pretty funny. The weird thing about this family is that the two older women that were present were encouraging it, and actually engaged us in conversation, which is very unusual for the Muslim culture but specifically our area.

It also poured on us the other day. We woke up for a patrol and walked outside and the sky was red and yellow and literally had rolling clouds. I was actually expecting to see Moses walking around because it looked straight Biblical. Within a few minutes it started coming down in sheets. We had to go out anyway.

Well I have some free time for the next couple of hours so I'm gonna go hit the gym. Working out is about the only thing that keeps me sane over here, and its a big day-weighted dips, a real money-maker.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More Pics

In the turret.
Rolling down a canal road behind the comforting barrel of a .50 caliber machine gun.

During a raid...sometimes you need an axe and a shotgun for those 'hard to reach' weapons caches.

The window of the Humvee door I used for cover.

Bullard, aka Ray-Ray, getting a kick out of a "Black Style" motorcycle.

Rolling back to the site of one of our firefights with two tanks, we felt a lot better when they came to the rescue.

I got all these pics from other people. I didn't realize that they were a crapillion megapixels big, so if you click on them you can see a larger version, but it won't even fit on your computer screen.


Me holding Wiley in his sleeping bag. He's probably the biggest jokester, but also one of the smallest guys in the platoon.

The WARHAWK. Sorry, no pictures are known to have survived of the trash 'stache.

The infamous "Alcatraz Bridge", complete with 7 strands of C-wire. Mom, this thing almost drowned me. Not pictured- The two up-armored gun trucks with 8 Marines that for some reason were required to be posted on this 24 hours a day.

Ready to go out on an insurgent hunt.

This is my squad "Golf-3-Bravo", ready for a fight.

The mandatory "holding your gun on top of a turret because you think you're a war hero" pose that every Marine has gotten since WWII.

Let me say again how much I love going to Camp Fallujah for flushing toilets.

With Hunt (RIP your hand buddy) on the C130 about to make the flight from Kuwait to Fallujah.

This is what a lot of our AO looks like, rudimentary canals (full of the infamous shit water) and poor farmland.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Just wanted to wish all my family and friends a Happy Easter. It's been a pretty weird Easter for me, considering it just kind of sneaks up on you when you are in a Muslim country. For the first time in my life there has been no Ash Wednesday, no Lent, no Good Friday. I know my family is together right now, wish I could be with you guys.
Not too much new here for me. Been out in the field for about 4 or 5 days. You kind of lose track of how much time you spend out there because your internal clock turns entirely upside down. Usually the first night we head out we spend about the first 36 hours up locating a patrol base and then securing it for use. From there a random rotation of security and patrols are set up, with a couple of 3 hour naps sprinkled in. You might get 2 hours of sleep at noon, and then be up for 13 hours and then get a 3 hour catnap in at 3 am. Of course when we get back to base it might not change, since we got back here at 3 am last night and then went on a 5 hour foot patrol this morning at 6:30 am. Rest is apparently a crutch that we don't rate.

My platoon spent about a half day at Camp Fallujah yesterday. I used to enjoy going back there. Good hot food, air conditioning, the post exchange. Now I hate it. You know why? Pogues. Here's an education in Marine Corps-ology. Pogues, or POG's, are 'Persons Other than Grunts'. I'm a grunt. I'm an infantry Marine. We live in the field, we eat crap, we walk through fields of crap, we don't change clothes for weeks at a time, we count the passing of months by the number of showers we have taken, and we actually carry weapons and ammunition wherever we go. But when we go back to Camp Fallujah the place is crawling with pogues. They have fresh haircuts, clean fingernails, they wear deoderant, they only carry little pistols, they get to wear cammies and not flight suits, their boots aren't muddy. They're mad when its not steak and eggs for breakfast. Their toilets flush.

When we go to Camp Fallujah its usually after four or five days in the field. We haven't shaved in days, or showered in weeks. We smell. Bad. We walk around camp and all we want is hot food, maybe try and make a phone call, and hopefully take a shower. The last thing we want is for a pogue who thinks seeing combat is flying from Kuwait to Fallujah to come up and tell us that we're out of line for not having a shave and wearing dirty boots. But inevitably that's what happens.

"Hey there devil dog!"

"Yes Staff Sergeant"

"I know we don't walk around mainside without a fresh shave and clean cammies"

"We just got in from the field, just trying to get a hot meal in before we get a shower"

"I dont care, that's not how we do things"

blah blah blah. What an ass. I guess my shave is going to win the war. The tensions only rise when we convoy past the open fields and see all the pogues playing organized flag football games. They even have uniforms for their teams. I can't even get uniforms to freaking patrol. I have exactly 2 flight suits to leave the wire in. Two. One smells like a camel's ass and the other like a portajohn outside Lambeau Field. But Uncle Sam can splurge on some jerseys so these guys know what flag to pull.

Anyway, other than wanting to choke slam all the pogues with Mocha Lattes, it wasn't too bad. The showers were hot, the toilets flushed, and the carmel pecan ice cream was excellent. As a disclaimer, I'm just venting after a very frustrating couple weeks, pogues are important to the war effort, I understand that...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Welcome April

Funny "Darwin Awards" story from last night. One of our platoons was on its way back to base when they had an explosion rock their brains from a decent distance away. Not really knowing what it was, they navigated their way in the direction of the blast and found a car completely bombed out. Turns out that some insurgent was trying to bury a couple of artillery rounds in the road for us, but forgot that he had armed it or something. We really don't know how many of them died in the blast, we aren't sure if we found all the arms and legs. King of hard to get a count when you have 1 arm, 3 legs and 28 fingers or whatever it may have been. Jokes on you Ahmed, Happy April Fools.