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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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The More Things Change...

I guess you could say the more things change the more they stay the same. I came back from Iraq with a different CO and XO, different Company Gunny, a different platoon commander, and different squad leaders. Your basic top to bottom reshuffling of company leadership. I would have hoped that maybe things would be run differently upon our return. That maybe, just maybe, we would only have to work the half-days that every returning unit is supposed to work. It is safe to say that that is not the case. I don’t know whose fault it is, maybe its no ones, but I could probably make a large sum of cash if I started publishing an over/under line on when we are going to get off of work these days.

So far our days have consisted of scrubbing down weapons, taking a urine test, drawing blood, and lots and lots of sitting around. Oh yeah, and paper work. Want to know what it takes to go on leave after 7 months in Iraq? I’ll give you a hint, its more paper work than is needed to deploy to that same combat zone you are returning from. Want to go home? Request the time off. Gonna fly? Turn in your flight itinerary. Driving to the airport? Print off a street by street route that you will take, provide a mapquest printout of that same route, complete a vehicle inspection checklist, provide backup drivers, devise a ‘rest plan’ to ensure proper sleep prior to driving, write an essay on how you will mitigate the risks of driving yourself. Fill out ‘operational risk management’ forms to determine your level of individual risk. Under 25 years old? That’s a point. Single? That’s a point. Traveling further than 240 miles? Three points. Post deployment decompression time?? No points, as in not happening.

The whole process is one giant cover your ass circus put on by the chain of command. I know what I’m going to do over leave. I’m gonna do a lot of things, and partying with friends is definitely going to be one of them. But I’m mature enough to do it like an adult. Signing a pledge to be responsible and safe isn’t going to enter into my decision process, but common sense will. Now the common sense thing cannot be said for everyone, but the pledge being irrelevant can. But, so long as they sign it, the command can wash their collective hands of it.

Oh well. Tomorrow is a new day, and with it comes the beginning of a Labor Day weekend that I have been looking forward to for a long time. There is a lot in store for myself and the South Bay, not the least of which is the World Beirut Championships being held at the Rockham Palace. I’m going for gold.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Home

I am happy to say that as I am writing this I am not in Iraq, I am not in Kuwait, I am not holding my rifle, I am not wearing cammies, I'm actually not even sweating. I am sitting at a kitchen counter in Palm Springs, CA. I just got done swimming, grilling and eating, and I enjoyed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of it.

The flight home was long, but the reward at the end was perfect. Stepping off the bus, I couldn't find my family in the crowd at first. After pathetically wandering around looking like a lost puppy for about a minute my mom finally found me.

Here is the video my dad took of that moment:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good news- I'm sitting in Kuwait, wondering why these people stationed here get to earn combat pay. Well, wondering about that isn't good news, but sitting in Kuwait is, because that means that all I have to do is wait around to board that freedom plane. From there it's nothing but smooth skies all the way back to California.

(But seriously, about this combat pay...I think we could eliminate a significant portion of the war budget if we cut it for these guys. All they do is walk around in their physical training uniforms, black shorts and gray T's. They wear them to the chow hall, to the PX, everywhere. You would think that with all this 'physical training' they must be doing that these people would be build like Greek gods, but they're not. The look more like a character from the Dilbert comics. Write your congressman)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

One Step Closer

Well I am currently writing this post from TQ, or al Taqaddum, Iraq. It's a major air base, and the first step on the road to America. I can't reveal our timeline for going home, but next stop is Kuwait, and from there we will be Stateside.

Why I believe in karma

I think I've mentioned it before, but there's this thing over here called heat rash. I'm not sure if it has a technical name, but pretty much everyone in our platoon was getting it while we were down in the Zaidon. The doc's say that it's caused be a build up of salt crystals in the skin, either way, I really don't care what it comes from, but it's a rash that's red and bumpy and itches like crazy. Well, the whole time we were in the Zaidon I didn't have it, but Muir did, and he had it bad. Real bad. I would hound him nonstop about it, telling him he had to get rid of it before we got back and would be going to the beach and to Vegas. I called him the 'nasty recruit'. I made sure his life was miserable. I would prank on him while he was sleeping and move the fan off of him. Well, like I said, I went the whole time in the Zaidon without it, and as soon as we are done operating and can shower everyday and get some semblance of AC, what happens?? I get it. And I can't get rid of it. Karma.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Well our batallion got our victory speech today. It's kind of weird because, well because the war isn't over. But when you examine what we did in our little piece of it, then I think you could say that we did a damn good job. The other thing that made it so hard was knowing that as we are all celebrating the end of our deployment, preparing to go home to our families and loved ones, we have 8 brothers who will not make the trip with us, who can't share in our joy. In addition to the eight Marines who sacrificed it all, we took over 140 casualties in the batallion. Our victory, if that is what it is to be called, came at an awfully steep price.

So to those who gave some, and to those who gave all, we saluted you today. The cigars that were smoked and the hands that were shook and the speeches that were given were done in your honor, to your memory.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Random Pics

Here are some random pics from our last op. Getting ready for the drive out of the Zaidon for the last time. You did not want to mess with us on that patrol.
Golf-3-Charlie, heading out on it's last foot patrol.
Outside a palm grove near the Euphrates.
On the Banks of the Euphrates.
The Euphtrates.
Playing doctor for Doc.
The look of a man who has gotten extended one too many times.







School's In Session

Hanging out in the principal's office.
Maybe the only Iraq flag I saw all deployment, and it sucked.
The Arab Mickey Mouse.
Hey, it's a far reaching organization.
Teaching some algebra.

Friday, August 10, 2007

So now that we're on Mainside (aka POG-ville, Camp Fallujah), Muir, Axelrod and I are trying to hit the gym hard, sometimes going twice a day. Well, the gym on Mainside is a little different than the one we are used to in South Camp. The South Camp gym is full of Grunts just like us, out for weeks at a time, so gym time is minimal. Mainside gym is full of the most diesel, needle pushing, muscle bound, 'can't put my arms down to my side because my back is wider than a school bus' dudes. I'm big- 6'6'', 230 lbs, and for the first time in my life I walked into a weight room and felt inadequate. It was humbling.

The worst part??? Those guys have never left the wire once, so all that combat pay that they shouldn't be earning goes to 'roids. On top of that? They probably don't even know what the Zaidon is.
It is a very strange feeling to be done. But, it's more or less official. We spent the better part of yesterday taking an inventory of all the gear that we had acquired over here, everything from chem-lites, to spare tires, concertina wire, ammo, lots of ammo, gypsy racks, mass casualty bags, power inverters, slave cables, and a handful of humvees. We then took everything on that inventory list and dumped it in the laps of our relief battalion. Suckers.

After that we had to move out of our rooms in South Camp and shuttle back and forth with the new batallion, with them moving into our rooms and us moving our stuff into a giant tent on Mainside. It was official. Done.

But, the Marine Corps has this sick sense of humor, so done maybe wasn't the right word. You see, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be thought it would be a good idea to wake us up at midnight and tell us to switch back with them. Why? Apparently, even though my platoon is done operating, since not all of them are, we shouldn't be allowed to move. Never mind that the move took 7 hours, they wanted us moved back now. Actually they wanted us moved back the day before, but that wasn't happening.

These next two weeks are supposed to be 'decompression', where they make us sit around and hold hands, singing songs and talking about our feelings. We are supposed to unwind and leave the 'combat mindset' behind. But after this move thing happened I was anything but decompressed. I wanted to Terry Tate Office Linebacker somebody right through a water cooler. Escaping stupid things in the Marine Corps is impossible.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

This is the last "Well we're back at Camp Fallujah posts" that you are going to read by me, and that's because we are DONE.

No more ambushes, IEDs. No more small arms fire, RPGs, booby traps, hand grenades and machine gun bursts. No more post, patrolling or QRF. No more insurgents, terrorists, al Qaeda, Muj, or AIF. No more waking up at 3 am to go out and not coming back for 12 hours. No more route clearance or V-sweeping. No more walking around feeling like everyone is trying to kill you. No more dwell ops. No more wretched hot drinking water, Meals-Ready to Eat, or tuna packets. No more heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat waves or heat anything. No more jumping over shit water canals, or walking through fields of cow feces. No more "Where are we going next?" or "When's our next patrol?" or "Umm...yeah...we're gonna have to go ahead and extend you for another 6 days." No more weeks without showers or running water. No more body odor (we hope). No more worries.

Golf 3 has left the Zaidon for the last time.