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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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

As long as I'm ranting...

So about two weeks ago I wrote about how I was going to be accepting a job down at Camp Pendleton to be an instructor at Scout-Sniper Pre-Course. Well, that is still my plan, but 2/7 is doing everything in its power to make my life and transition completely miserable.

Anyone who has been in the military will tell you that cutting someone orders to move to a different unit probably takes a total of 18 minutes of work. The hard part is convincing the powers that be to take the time out of their day to briefly make your situation their priority. This is a more difficult task than you would think, ironically, considering every senior enlisted and commanding officer I've ever heard take command has given his initial speech along these lines:
"Oorah Marines/Devil Dogs/Warfighters/Teufel Hunden/Fellow Warriors!! I can't tell you what an honor it is to be here today to serve YOU. Most people incorrectly assume that as the higher ranking Marine, you exist to serve me. Well, I'm here to tell you that's wrong/bum scoop/negatory/ unsat. I exist in my present capacity to serve YOU, our sacred Corps' most sacred asset, the INDIVIDUAL WARFIGHTER OORAH! My job as commander exists only to ensure that you are taken care of. SEMPER FI"

Oh, gee, that must be why I have a headache, and have to go to the company office 4 times a day to make sure that someone is calling someone else, and that when that someone else calls back telling me that I have to renlist for 2 years to get those orders, I have to remind someone 6 times to call them back and tell them that is complete bullshit, and a bush league tactic to try and boost reenlistment numbers.

Yo boss, I've done two combat tours. I have 8 months left. I'm not reenlisting. Give me my orders to Pendleton.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Years Ago Revisited

February 18th is going to mark two years since I was first really affected by war. I certainly didn't enlist into the infantry thinking war was going to be a joke, or that it was going to be full of glory like in the movies, but, I'm not sure I was fully prepared for what it was going to bring.

I figured I'd see death, but on my way over there I didn't look to my left and right on the plane and think about who it may be. Maybe I was caught up in the macho Marine thing- it wasn't going to be any of us, we were just going to go over, kill terrorists, and come home.

Seeing Blake die changed all that instantly. The aftermath of that incident, the immediate, fire blazing, grown men screaming, blood smelling aftermath, flooded me with emotions that I didn't know existed. Unbridled rage, the kind where your vision becomes tinted with red. Shameful relief, the kind that only comes when something terrible happens to someone you know and love, but somehow spares you. An urge to kill- something, anything- that may have been responsible or played a role. And despair, because you know that no matter how hard you try, you will never be the same.

Blake- you lost everything that night. Your future, gone, with a 9-volt current traveling down a thing copper wire. Same goes for your mother and your sister, only they truly know the agony of going on without you. But the rest of us all lost something too- a friend of course, but also our ability to close our eyes and pretend that we're normal. Because none of us, after experiencing what we did, will ever be the same, whether for better or worse.

So tomorrow, Blake, we raise our bottles to you, and if you find your way down to Manhattan Beach this weekend, there will be a shot of tequila with your name on it on the shelf behind the bar.
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
The brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
- Theodore O'Hara, The Bivouac of the Dead

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I just wanted to take a moment to wish a very Happy Valentine's Day to the most important girls in my world, my mom and my sisters, Erin, Sarah and Meghan. Thanks for everything, you have helped me tremendously throughout the years, and I owe it all to you.

Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Screening's Over

Ready to go put the screws to them.

Every candidate's interview nightmare.

Today finally marked the end of our Selection Screening. Of our roughly 1300 man battalion, 20 Marines initially signed up to take part. On the first day, 19 showed, by noon we had gotten 2 to drop, by the end of day one only 11 remained. Three more dropped on day two, and only 7 remained after the weekend.

Today we gave them their final exams, a few final skills exercises, and finally an interview in Service Charlie uniforms. We GRILLED these guys during the interview, and at the end, extended an invitation to 4 of them to join our platoon.

For those four its only the beginning. In a couple weeks they could be seeing me again down at the Pre-Course, much to their dismay I'm sure. Especially considering they still owe me some thrashing for a number of target indicators they left laying around yesterday...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

WOD

Workout of the Day

5 sets of 5 reps, weighted dips (put a chain around your waist and hang a big iron weight from it)

then...

As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of-

Row 250 meters
21 reps, 95 pound deadlift high pull
12 pullups

I got 5.5 rounds, Tim 4.5 and Shawn finished 3.5. This one sucked. Those high pulls got heavy, fast.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Exciting News

Everyone keeps asking me what I'm going to be doing for my remaining 8 or 9 months in the Marines, and until now I have not been able to give them a straight answer. Finally, I know what's in the cards.

Tim and I met with some instructors with the Scout Sniper Pre Course today, and they extended to us an opportunity to come down to Camp Pendleton and instruct at the school house for the remainder of our contract. Obviously we jumped at the chance. When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we both said that if we weren't going to deploy again, our ideal job would be to get down and be full time instructors in Pendleton.

It should be a pretty great gig. A lot of work during the 3 week courses we'll put on for guys trying to earn a slot to the full time basic course, but in our down time we have the chance to get to all kinds of other schools, including Urban Sniper, Mountain Sniper, SERE, etc... gotta pad that pirate hunting resume...

Fran/ CrossFit

It seems every time I post something about a particular CrossFit Workout that Tim, Shawn and I do, I get bombarded by emails from people wondering A) what it is, and B) what our time was. I suppose I'm running out of things to write about lately, so if there are a bunch of CrossFitters on here, I may as well post some times.

So Fran.

I hate Fran. If you have ever done CrossFit, and met Fran, you'll know why. CrossFit usually names their workouts after one of two things- war heroes or women (kinda like hurricanes). That being said, Fran is the 'benchmark' by which your CrossFit fitness is measured. Its simple, brutal, and absolute. You and the bars. You versus the clock. 3, 2, 1, GO.

21 reps 95 pound thrusters
21 reps pullups
15 reps 95 pound thrusters
15 reps pullups
9 reps 95 pound thrusters
9 reps pullups.

That is it. Probably sounds pretty simple, not too bad, maybe even easy. Try it.

So I took the class into the CrossFit facility on base. We'd obviously been running around in boots for two days. Thursday we did 2 timed three mile runs in boots, plus whatever 'extra' work found it's way in there (again, the instructors are doing this alongside them, first to cover our 'hazing' bases, and second to prove that we all meet the standard). Friday morning was a 3-4 mile sand bag run.

So Fran. I didn't want to demo it. I really didn't. I thought it was a bad idea. I was sore, I was tired. My knee kinda hurt. I had another workout planned for later in the day. I realized I was making excuses. Time to 'man' up.

3...2...1...Go. I finished in 4:31. Far off my personal best, but better than I expected to do on that day.

Today, Monday, was "Cindy", another staple CrossFit workout. Set the clock for 20 minutes, complete as many rounds in those 2o minutes of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, and 15 squats. I came in with 22, Tim had 24, and Shawn came in with 19. Before we completed Cindy though, we did 5 sets of 3 max weight on deadlifts (we're toying with a 'hybrid' program to work on our strength a little bit more). I was a little disappointed with my last set of 3- 365 pounds, which is a lot of weight obviously, but I think I could have pulled more off the ground as a senior in high school.

So there you go. Feel free to email me or post about how you CrossFit better than Marine Snipers, really you won't hurt my feelings. Seriously, could be fun to know how many 40 year olds out there reading this would smoke me in Fran, could be motivating.

Oh, and here's a YouTube video of a guy doing about a 2 minute Fran LINK

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Very, Very Sore

Ahhh, so we're about halfway through the sniper screening. Unfortunately, our friend Ryan Koehler did not show up. We really had a slot for you buddy, wish you could have come, I'm sure you had a legit excuse.

Regardless of Ryan, let it be known that it has been quite some time since I have been this sore. Our platoon doesn't really believe in running a screening where the cadre stand around and say go run 5 miles, if we're gonna physically thrash, we're gonna be right there alongside you. That being said, Thursday was the first time I'd done a boots and utes run in quite some time, and, six miles later, I was feeling every step. Then, when we decided to take them on a sandbag run (use your imagination) we were once again, right there alongside. For those CrossFitters out there, I also demoed a Fran for them, and then ran them through. I definitely had to psych myself up to do a Fran after all the other stuff we'd been doing. Combine that with the 4 hours of sleep average and you have a very sore, tired and cranky cadre staff.

The whole point of this and the constant academic testing is to show these guys that we have standards for this platoon that we refuse to lower, rise and meet them on a consistent level or stop wasting both of our time.

So we have about 3 days left, many evolutions of training still on the table. We've had about 40% of the guys that came out drop already, and we're interested to see who shows Monday morning.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ball Pictures

Myself and Indra

Recognize that guy? He managed to avoid adding another Purple Heart to his chest this time.

With Shawn and Tim, a true war mongering trio.

Tim and Shawn doing what Marines do... hitting on other people's dates.


Some snipers and a legit war hero- Ollie North


Me, Robles, Ray Ray and Clay, old Golf-3 buddies.

More Golf-3 guys. The man on the far right (with the ridiculous amount of medals) is Mike Washington Sr., the father of my good friend Mike who was with me in Iraq and who was killed this year with Golf-3 in Afghanistan. Mike Sr. has been a real source of strength in the 2/7 family, helping all the families of our fallen cope with their losses. He came to Laughlin to help his sons friends celebrate another Marine Birthday. He was obviously a distinguished Marine himself, and could not be more proud of his son's sacrifice. We miss you Mike.

Ball Weekend

We had our Marine Corps Ball in Laughlin this past weekend. The ball and the Super Bowl all in one weekend creates quite an event, especially when you're able to squeeze in some great beach time in between.

The Ball was great- all my buddies were there, my date Indra didn't fall for any guys with more medals than me, we honored our fallen brothers from Afghanistan, and Ollie North (the man, the myth, the legend) was the guest of honor. There are probably going to be a lot of people chiming in with their thoughts and opinions on Colonel North, but let me tell you this, if you're a Marine, that man is a hero. It was neat for a lot of the guys in our sniper team because we actually read a number of books on this deployment that involved Ollie North. Six months ago we were sitting around in Sangin talking about what a stud he was, and then he showed up at our Ball and got about 1200 Marines fired up with his speech. He had a lot to say about killing Taliban and wrecking shop Marine-style, but his most well received comment was, "you know it's no coincidence that Marines understand that there are 24 beers in a case, and 24 hours in a day." You do the math, cheers.

From Laughlin it was a marathon car ride back to the coast. I've seen enough sand in the last two years without the accompanying large body of water that I didn't want to waste 80 degree weather anywhere else. So Saturday brought a full day of beach volleyball, sun and one or two beers.

The game Sunday speaks for itself. Most everyone I was with was cheering for the Cardinals, including myself, but once I realized that I had a potential $100 squares game payout riding on that last Steelers touchdown, I admittedly sold out. Of course after the game no one was finished, so it was on to Poncho's for a little Sunday night karaoke. Matt Runyon continues to solidify himself in karaoke lore.

So now its back to the grind. Back on base, back to not doing much of anything. The highlight of our days out here are our workouts, and today, right around the third round of our little haze fest we were subjecting ourselves to, I felt every beer, margarita, grog, pig in the blanket, jalapeno popper, etc that I fed myself yesterday. It was worth every one.

Congrats

Just wanted to congratulate two good friends of mine, Owen Daniels and Joe Thomas on being selected for this year's Pro Bowl. Owen wasn't on the original roster, but was given the tight end spot when the original backed out. These are two of the 'good' guys in the NFL. They're humble, they're mature, and they deserve every accolade they get. And Joe owes me for letting him take my spot on the offensive line...