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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.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Look

The new look for this site can be attributed to my graphic-designer sister Sarah, who wrote me a heart to heart email in which she 'leveled' with me. "Jake, I don't like the look of your site, would you mind if I tweaked it???"

Sure Sarah, go ahead, because I'm just an amateur. I must say it probably does look better though.
Mark Schlabach from ESPN writes:

1. Wisconsin was very, very good under former coach Barry Alvarez. In his 16 seasons, the Badgers claimed three Big Ten titles and won three Rose Bowls. But under Alvarez's watch, Wisconsin never seemed to be a true national championship contender. Thanks to Alvarez and many of the players he recruited, the Badgers are on the cusp of becoming one of the country's truly elite teams in coach Bret Bielema's second season. The Badgers return nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 12-1 and beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. How good were the Badgers last season? Since they didn't have to play Ohio State and won only one game against a team that won its bowl game, no one exactly knows. With home games against Washington State and Michigan and road games at Penn State and Ohio State, the Badgers will earn their ranking in 2007.

I'll answer your question Mark. The Badgers are going all the way to the Rose Bowl this year. No doubt about it. I'll bet my damn rifle on it (Don't let me down boys, I need that one).
Rocking the Wisconsin hat, courtesy of Jason Palermo's package. Thanks for a taste of home P-Mo.
Laying up in an ambush in what used to be a house, but I think the Air Force caught wind of "terrorist activity" there...not much left.

The little Iraqi girl I want to adopt. Stay away Angelina Jolie.

Interesting email

Here is an interesting email I received from a Marine Mom that came across my site from Wisconsin:

Hey Jake,

I saw the article the Wi State journal did on you (we live in Verona, just south of Madison) & I had to email to tell you I feel practially related to you & here is why:

1) I have a Marine son named Jake (gotta LOVE Marines named Jake)

2) If you are a Badger you KNOW who Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch is right?!?!?! I am friends with his daughter. We met in Lamaze class when I was pregnant with my Marine 20 years ago. Did you know that Elroy is a Marine & was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame? The family gave my son several items of Elroys USMC items including the USMC Sports Hall of Fame trophy! The rest went to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. This picture is my Jake with Elroys daughter Patty. Hey, her son is living with the Badger QB, maybe you know him? His name is Grant.

3) I also get sucked into stupid arm wresting matches. Last October I went to San Diego & ran in the Boot Camp Challenge with a team of Marine Moms. At the end of the race & after several beers I actually accepted a challenge to arm wrestle a DI. Here is an excerpt that someone who watch the whole thing wrote. "Captain Iron Arms" is me, I was the team captain for the Boot Camp Challenge. That meant that I needed to keep everyone entertained & supplied with beer.

4) I will pick up snakes....I ate a grasshopper on a camping trip to Canada last summer (my Purple Heart Marine buddy dared me and I cant turn down a dare), wood ticks...not scared of em..... but I HATE SPIDERS TOO!! No matter how small they are they all run fast, they ALL crawl into your sleeves or pant leg or bed....wherever they are able to take you by surprise & sink their fangs into

5) Sorry to hear that you missed the Mifflin block party. I happened to be uptown for a show & walked down the street for the fun of it just to experience "Mifflin". I was WAY to old to be there. The only one who was about my age (40ish) was the drunk who was sitting on the ground propped up against a cement wall with his arm swaying around as he tried to get his beer can up to his lips. He thought for once he blended in, he didnt. It was great fun to see all the kids having fun. If it makes you feel any better the streets were cleared shortly after 10 pm. No one was having fun anymore. You didnt miss a thing.

6) ooohh. I see you enjoy crossfit.com! I love that site. I do triathlons and (UGH!) stupid me....I signed up to the the Marine Corps Marathon this October. I asked my Marine Jake how was I going to manage completing 26.2 miles at my age. He said "By putting one fucking foot in front of the other, thats how". He is lucky that I didnt wash his mouth out with soap!

7) Enough humor now.....On your April 21st blog about the car bomber destroying an overpass. I think I know a bit about this. I am a volunteer with Marine Parents.com. I am the manager of a program that supports injured Marines & Navy Corpsman with cards & letters of support during their recovery. I belive we are supporting one of those Marines. I want you to know that at least ONE of those guys is doing well and is home already. Click the link below. I am working with the family to get the others on as well. I know the Doc is in pretty rough shape but doing better all the time. Please know that they are all in great hands and being well taken care of.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Make Believe Relationships Part II

Jeff walks up to Roberts and asks him what he's reading about...

Jeff discovers that the article is about how much his girlfriend Jessica Simpson is in love with John Mayer.

Alive and Well

Just got back from a long six days in the Zaidon. Our platoon got sent out a few days early so that we could continue to search for the three Army soldiers that were kidnapped. It’s strange, because I know nothing about what is going on with that story. All we know is that they got taken close to where we were about two weeks ago, and that supposedly they are still alive and being kept prisoner. I haven’t seen any news in weeks so I really don’t know any details.

Anyway, we were running patrols in an area around where they were taken for six days hoping to get lucky. Unfortunately we did not. I pray that a miracle happens and that they stay safe.
The six days that we spent out there were relatively uneventful, for us anyway. We were in the vicinity of Echo Co and Mobile Assault Co., both of whom took extensive contact while we were there, and all within about 1200 meters of us. It was weird because I was going out on 2-3 foot patrols everyday and never got hit, but it seemed that every time we went out we could hear Echo or MAC lighting someone up somewhere near us. In fact, a squad leader from Echo was able to do something that every infantry squad leader only dreams of- he called in close air support on an enemy position. Close Air Support! That might not mean much to you, but if only I could do that. It goes something like this-

Echo is on patrol. Dumb insurgents shoot at Echo. Echo immediately returns fire with extreme prejudice. Dumb insurgents stay and fight. Echo squad leader gets on radio and calls a helicopter pilot in the area, lets say his call sign is Maverick (its actually probably something cooler like Slayer 78, but we’ll stick with Top Gun)

SL: "Maverick, Maverick, this is Echo-2-Bravo"
Mav: "This is Maverick, send your traffic"
SL: "Roger, request immediate close air support at grid MB 34239 93847, how copy?"
Mav: "Roger, solid copy, mark your targets"

Squad Leader directs his team leader to shoot a smoke grenade at dumb insurgents.

SL: "Maverick, this is Echo, be advised target marked with (some color) smoke, friendly units located 300 meters south on road"
Mav: "Roger, I have positive ID on target"
SL: "Roger, Maverick you are cleared hot, light ‘em up"
Mav: "Roger, WilCo"

At this point a Cobra gunship swoops in and rocks the insurgents with about 5 hellfire missiles, maybe comes back for a few strafing runs with his chain gun, who knows, maybe he doesn’t have time?

That happened on the second day we were down there. Needless to say, every time we went out after that I rehearsed my call for fire and made sure that I was never further than 10 meters away from my radio operator. Alas, I never got my chance. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any excitement for us down there. One of our squads found an IED in progress at one of the intersections during the day. Later that night my squad had to go out and set up overwatch on the intersection to try and catch anyone that might come back to finish the job. That’s usually exciting because you are pretty much clear to engage anyone caught emplacing an IED. We set up in a house to watch the roads. I was talking to the family, one of the women spoke decent broken English, when one of the guys on watch saw two men run to the intersection, look at the ground, and then sprint off into some fields. We of course assumed that it was someone coming back to finish the job, but we couldn’t tell for sure.

Meanwhile, I continued to talk to the family. We learned a lot from them. One thing that she kept repeating was how happy she was that we were there, and how we bring them safety. She kept thanking us for coming to Iraq and asked us not to leave, that is until she could afford to move to the US. The family was Sunni so its generally rare for them to be so pro-American, but you could tell she was sincere. Well, while we were talking, a car drove by very slowly on the opposite side of their wall. The man of the house stood up cautiously and peeked over the wall. You could tell that he was scared, and when we asked her why, she said that the car was full of insurgents from the southern part of the region. That got the hair on the back of everyone’s neck to stand, things just didn’t seem right. I kept imagining grenades being lobbed over that wall, I knew that they knew we were there, it was just a matter of whether they had the nerve to mess with us. We didn’t stick around to find out, we didn’t want to endanger the family, so we left.

We went to go investigate the intersection up close, we thought that maybe the two men had hastily placed a pressure mine or something. As we were creeping up to it someone took a potshot at us. It wasn’t too close, but everyone immediately took a knee. I remember I just closed my eyes and thought to myself "This is it", I thought for sure a nice, long, accurate burst of machine gun fire was going to follow quickly behind. It didn’t happen obviously.
What else….

-Another part of the weight lifting team has left. First, Hunt got shot (keep rehabilitating that wrist with beer curls pal), now Roberts is leaving because his time in the Marine Corps is up. This is his third deployment to Iraq and his contract ends in a month, so he is being sent home early. He is going to be attending UC-Berkley this fall. I’m sure by the time I get home he’ll be wearing tie-dye, eating granola, have long hair and be waving a sign that says "No Blood for Oil". But let’s hope not (and he knows we’d kick his ass)

-My friend Jackie sent me a harmonica in a care package, so that’s how I now pass my time at patrol bases.

-I showered for the first time in two weeks today. I know how you all love shower updates. I get sent so much soap and shampoo and I can probably count the number of times I’ve showered on two hands.

-I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do when we get back to the States in a few months. Well besides the obvious answer of Badgers, beer and bratwurst, I’m talking about with the Marines. I can either be a squad leader on the next deployment (and rumor has it that our next deployment is going to be in March because of the surge).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Goodbye Viking

Today I said goodbye to Viking, my home of the past three months, for the last time. My company is moving AO's and will no longer be operating where we have been. We are moving into an area known as the Zaidon, a large area with a population somewhere around 350,000 that lies southwest of Baghdad and southeast of Fallujah.

My platoon spent about 4 days in the Zaidon this past week. We were very near to the area where the Army soldiers were attacked and kidnapped. In fact we heard the IED explosion the night that it happened, and were running missions for the remainder of our time there to try and find them or information leading us to them. I really can't imagine being taken captive. My heart really goes out to these guys. I don't know the circumstances they were in, but its pretty much obvious to everyone in my platoon that we won't go out alive to these animals. That's not "macho tough guy" talk, that's "I'm scared to death of what they'll do to me talk, and this grenade looks mighty appealing right now" talk. I promise you all right now you won't see this face plastered on al Jazeera.

The Zaidon is a pretty nasty place. It's a Baath party strong hold that has been completely over run with al Qaeda, two groups that at the moment are not getting along. The Baath party loyalists were fighting us bitterly up until only a few months ago, when they finally realized that they were on the losing side of the battle and if they wanted to survive in post-occupation Iraq they needed to cooperate. They are now our leading aide in fighting al Qaeda. They have formed a militia that calls itself the 1920 Revolution. Needless to say its incredibly unnerving to be patrolling through an area and see a group of Iraqi males wearing ski masks with AK's and not being able to shoot them, because for some reason they're now on your side. I mean, these are the people that cut OTHER people's head's off. You walk by them everytime with your finger on the trigger because you just never know. Not only that, but we're patrolling through THEIR checkpoints!! Who are we gonna have wear the pants in this relationship? As of now, they're doing a great job. They are turning over al Qaeda left and right, and a difference is being made, you just wonder when the hospitality will end.

The other thing about the Zaidon is the heat and the bugs. Its HOT. Not only that, but forget about dry heat. There's nothing bu standing canal water here, so its humid too. That brings mosquitos. And I'm talking of the small pigeon size variety. We are getting eaten alive. You actually don't know if you need to cheer for the spiders to control the mosquito population. One thing we did do though was keep a bat with us in the house, the kind that flies not the kind that you swing. We were occupying a house when a bat started flying around. One guy tried knocking it outside and a bunch of guys yelled at him to stop, it was our best ally in the war on bugs.

Now that we are operating in this new AO, we are being based out of Camp Fallujah, pogueville. But we'll only be here every 6-9 days. So my posts are going to become much more infrequent and probably incoherent, since there is a 30 minute time limit on these computers and someone is always standing over your shoulder waiting for you to get off. I mean, I could tell him to take a hike, I'm bigger and I've actually fired my rifle, but I'll probably end up playing nice.

Platoon Update: Cpl Payne ended up reenlisting and not taking the near death mortar experience as a sign from God...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Incoming- Again

Stood some more post today, imagine that. We took mortar fire again, imagine THAT one. Except today they managed to land three rounds inside Viking. Myself and Piram about peed our pants as they were coming down, they were landing about 65 m from our post but you could still feel the concussion. Two funny stories came from this episode-

1) my buddy Muir had just pulled the chair he was sitting on further inside the Hesco barrier, kicked up his feet, and leaned back to moniter the radio. About 8 seconds later he actually saw the mortar round come down through the air and impact the ground through the gap in the barrier. The blast knocked him off his chair, he did a quick once over- arms, check. legs, check, kidneys, check. family jewels, check. family jewels double check, check.

2) My other buddy Payne was on post as well. This is Brent "Danger" Payne's 3rd tour in Iraq. He has never been wounded. He has recently been considering reenlisting while he is here for another 4 years, it's a decision he's really been struggling with. While we were on post he got called to the COC to discuss his reenlistment package. Before he left he said something to the effect of, "I wish I'd just get a sign from God". On his way back from the COC he was caught in a mortar storm, and probably would have taken shrapnel had he not had a Amphib Track between himself and the impact. Roberts, who he was standing post with, saw him almost get hit as he was walking back, and was calling over the radio hysterically laughing "Payne almost shit himself!!! Payne just shit himself! HAHA" What a good friend.

Four people did end up getting hit in the blast, none of them too serious. One got choppered out because he had shrapnel near some arteries, but he is going to be just fine.

However, once again, the mortar attack got me thinking about these people again. This time, as I was realizing yet again that people are actually actively trying to kill me, I tried to imagine what they look like. Hopefully they're nothing but stains on the sand after we launched counter-fire at them, but I'm talking about what they actually look like. Seriously, there are people out here that for whatever reason, would do anything to kill me, what's this dude/dudes look like?

I asked Piram, who I was standing with, he said he never really thought about it, but after I asked him he said he guessed he pictured a guy in a man dress, wearing sandals, with an AK47. Me? I picture the average Iraqi male, about 20 years old, wearing a cheap, knock off track suit. Probably has a mustache, average height, average build. Does it matter? Well, aside from it helping us find him, not really. But it's really hard to wrap your mind around the thought that someone is trying to take your life, and most of the time you simply refer to them as insurgents, maybe terrorists, maybe you call them the Mujj or al Qaeda, but they never have a face. It's as if they have a blank spot where their face should be, because surely no one wants to kill ME. But they do, and that person has a face, he has a name, he has a history, maybe he has a family. He probably has daddy issues from his younger years. I don't know, but he's real, and hopefully today our counter fire killed him.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Camel Spider Proof

You thought I was kidding about camel spiders, huh???? The only thing that would be scarier is if these things grew wings! Spiders with freakin' wings....I'm gonna start sleeping with my rifle again.

Wounded Buddies Update

This is Sgt. Rose visiting Hunt in the hospital. Sgt. Rose took shrapnel in his lower leg in an IED attack on our squad on February 18th. Funny story behind that one is he was being treated by one of our other Marines as he was trying to coordinate getting myself and a few other Marines medevaced from the other side of the canal. As he was getting treated he kept trying to push Bullard, the Marine working on him, away. Finally he punched Bullard in the face (Bullard then continued to work on him..) Now that's a freakin' Marine.

Hunt was my buddy that got shot in the wrist by a bad guy, and has subsequently lost his bench press bet to Cpl. Muir....stand by for his comments regarding that one.

This is Sgt. Rose's leg following surgery. The shrapnel actually broke the bone in his lower leg.

Both Marine's are now skating through life having everyone in sight buy them free beers, and who's to blame 'em??

Friday, May 04, 2007

More randoms...

5. If you know me you know that I hate spiders. I hate them with a passion. I'd like to say they are my one weakness, but that's not true, there are a FEW other things on this earth that scare me, like hippies. But, back to spiders. In Iraq there is a spider that we call a camel spider. These things get HUGE. I'd love to exaggerate and say they get to be the size of big dinner plates, but its more like bread plates. Either way, its too big for me. The other night someone found two of these things in our room. One was on Cabrera's bed, the other apparently running laps around the room. The last couple of nights have been awful. You lay in your bed more scared then on any patrol you've ever been on. I'm afraid one of these things is going to eat my face, and, of course, there exist legends that exactly that has happened. At night you will be laying there and you'll here a guy start freaking out in his sheets, slapping at an imaginary camel spider that he thought he felt crawling on his leg. I'll take a shoot out with the Hajji's any day.

6. A dedicated Badger fan informed me that Mifflin is in fact this weekend, and apparently the Man is trying to hold them down.

7. http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/05/army_to_blogger.html here's an update on the Army's military blog ruling. Apparently they're catching flak about it and are having to back off.

8. You'll LOVE this one. We have very strict Escalation of Force rules over here. Basically it is our guideline for how we progressively increase the use of force in a situation where we are at risk involving the local population. It goes like this Shout- Show (your weapon) -Shove (if it involves someone and not a vehicle) - Pop Pyro (flare)- Shoot (ground) - Shoot (grill of car) - Shoot (to kill). We have had to use this sequence a number of times, and usually it doesn't progress past the Pyro stage. However we recently had to shoot the ground at a vehicle that accelerated towards us as we were dismounted, this coming very soon after our batallion was rocked with 4 suicide car bombs.

So what is the newest step in the process, since higher ups want more steps involved before we fire our weapons??? We have a penalty flag. A FREAKING PENALTY FLAG. It's just like in football, bright orange/yellow fabric with a little bean bag in it. We now have to throw this thing at oncoming vehicles, hoping that we can get enough oomph behind it for the car to see it and then recognize that it means stop, and not offsides/holding. This is ridiculous. Before we came over here I posted about all the stupid things that were on the gear list (it's probably in the January archives). I made a big deal about having to pack a whistle (what is this the 19th century?). Well now it makes sense to me. Their whole plan this entire time was to get the Iraqis to unite together in one giant flag football game officiated by the US. Stupid.

9. Who's making plans for Badger football in Vegas??? I am. THAT is going to be a heck of a weekend.

10. Joe- you're package may be the most anticipated in history. Don't let me down. $1 brews.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


1. Today ended up being a HUGE day. Got off patrol at 1700, was in the gym by 1730, and we made it rain in there. Lots of weight got thrown around.

2. The Mifflin Street block party is either this weekend or it was last weekend...either way, I'm going to miss it and I am NOT happy. It is just about the biggest non Mardi Gras party in the world (that's a scientific fact by the way). It's in Madison at the UW, it begins at about 7:30 am and I'm not sure it ever ends, you just kind of parlay it into a Sunday Funday.

3. John Stocco is the new quarterback of the future for the Packers.

4. People in Iraq, living on dirt floors, know more about world politics than most Americans. I was on patrol today, stopped by a house to take a little rest, and was talking to two men that lived there. I'll begin by saying that my arabic is not very good, and I have come to coin a phrase, "sparabic", which is similar to spanglish. I find that when I am speaking to them and cant fint the right arabic word I use spanish from high school to fill in the gaps...things really start to get confusing. So I'm speaking sparabic with these guys and we actually get into a great talk about what's going on in the world. They knew all about C. Rice going to Syria, etc. and had a lot to say about it. All this from a couple of guys that don't even have access to a computer or the internet. Kind of depressing that these people know more than our 'enlightened' society.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My squad got a taste of Iraqi Police tactics tonight on patrol. We were patrolling past an area that we had raided a few days ago and noticed a large IP presence there, about 10 trucks and about 40 IP's. Let me backtrack by saying that IPs scare the crap out of me. They rarely wear uniforms and most often can be seen in bullet proof vests and ski masks. They are actually scarier looking than most terrorists. Tonight was no different. After about the third time we drove by this area the IPs were gone, but they had left remnants of what they were doing...a burning car. We really don't know what happened, but we're guessing there was an argument, or they found someone they didn't like. Regardless, I think I saw Denzel Washington pull this one in Man on Fire.

This is a pic of Team M.A.N. modeling the shirts that my sister Sarah had made special for us. They say "Fallujah Body Shop" and in fine print "When was the last time you took mortar fire at the gym?" I thought it would be appropriate to post since tomorrow is a BIG day at the gym.

get your own at one of her online stores...

Gym Time- Not in the Battle Plan

Today was supposed to be a BIG day in the gym. Me, Muir and Roberts had been talking about it for a few days. It was our last Bench Press day of our bulking cycle. Five sets of three...HUGE. Muir was gonna throw around 275 lbs like it was cool, I was gonna try and hit 340. We did an op today where we were sitting in a humvee for about 5 hours. It was all we could talk about. How much we were going to do, how it was the culmination of 12 weeks of lifting, how we were gonna get HUGE (that's right, ALL CAPS). Heck, if we had shot someone, we probably would have benched a small bus.

Well apparently our lifting schedule didn't fit in America's schedule for winning the war, because they decided to push us back out on patrol, and we're gonna have to reschedule getting huge for tomorrow. I'm not sure I can get myself mentally ready again like I was today, but I'm gonna try.

The thing is, you can't reschedule HUGENESS.

Military Blogs


This is an article from Wired Magazine that was sent to me. It talks about the Army's recent attempt to shut down military bloggers in Iraq. I may soon be a wanted man...