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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, July 26, 2006

Soooooo hot...

So the unthinkable happened on Tuesday. We were in the middle of training, and lo and behold, we stopped. Captain Watson came over the comm and said that we were getting black flagged, which means that it got too hot to continue training. Since when?? I mean it did get to about 122 degrees yesterday, but, come on, we've been training in temps that have hovered around that numerous times before. Don't get me wrong, none of us were complaining, I had probably already lost about 10 pounds of sweat sitting in that back of the AAV, but we're freakin' Marines right? Someone might mistake us for a bunch of weak asses before we know it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

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It's been quite some time since I was last able to get on here and throw some posts around. My last week and a half has been oddly busy with random things and I just haven't been able to find the time.

Last week was pretty exciting. My whole company went out into the field in the last part of the week to run two ranges, 400 and 410 alpha. They are out in some serious desert terrain, one of them is a platoon sized attack on a fortified enemy objective, the other one is a company sized attack that used combined arms, meaning we called in mortar fire, artillery, 50 calliber machine guns, the battalion sharpshooter team, etc.

For me it was my first oppurtunity as a team leader to lead my team in a simulated combat run. I feel like I did real well. In the platoon sized attack, my squad was given the task of storming the bunker furthest from the assault position, and we were told that of the whole company, we did the best job of jumping in the bunker and clearing it using grenades and proper techniques and so forth, so that was rewarding. Not to mention I got to pump about 7 40mm grenades through my grenade launcher in the counter attack (awesome by the way).

The second attack was the next day on Friday. The whole company and then some were involved, which means about 170 Marines. The whole battle plan was real complex, it started with about 10 minutes of mortar suppression from the 81's, and then the assaultmen used bangalore torpedoes (which I got to help make, using C4) to blow a path through a minefield. Then the supporting machine gun fire began and the mortar switched to suppression with the 60's. My platoon was the first through the wire and set up security on the far side while the other two platoons stormed through to their objectives. After they accomplished their objectives, we had to race in full gear through this dry creek bed to our staging point about 3/4 of a mile away (it was about 110 degrees!) We then proceeded with our attack on a bunker, when we got within about 200 meters, we fired five 84 mm rockets (they go BOOM) and then rushed the hill, some of us almost dying from exhaustion. From start to finish the attack last almost two hours. It was hard as hell but one of the most exciting and dangerous (funny how the go hand in hand) things I've ever done in my life.

After what felt like invading a small country, my friend Hunt and I headed down to Hermosa to continue our deydration process with a plentiful serving of pint sized malted beverages. Lots of fun in Hermosa.

This week myself and the other team leaders have been working on giving classes to the guys in the squad. I gave about an hour long class today on the different aspects of combat and recon patrolling. Went pretty well.

This weekend shoulud be exciting. Hunt and I are returning to Hermosa, gonna go celebrate big Joe's birthday. Naked pictures will surely be posted for you all next week.

Have a good one, make sure you're leaving comments so I know you're reading!!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fun PT

For once my squad actually did some fun PT today. Instead of the usual which consists of mindless and aimless runs up into the backyard sand hills, we found a little secluded area and did some 'combat pt'. Which means we circled up and did one on one ground fighting. The only way to win was to make the other man tap out. Some fights only lasted a minute others went closer to ten, but I tell you what, when you feel like your life is on the line you fight like a mad man, and you get a pretty damn good workout in. Yours truly won two out of two fights, making the guy tap out both times on a rear-naked blood choke. Sounds brutal but its all in good fun.

What other news...not much going on this weekend (at least compared to last week's extravaganza) I'll probably head down to Palm Springs tomorrow and catch either Superman or Pirates of the Caribbean.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I have determined that I hate everything that has to do with airports or the airline industry. Let me begin by saying that if you wait until only a few days prior to purchase an airline ticket, any airline that you look at will bend you over on the price. Completely. That being said (I will not disclose how much it cost to fly home last week), they will also do everything in their power to make your trip as miserable as possible. This past Sunday I was flying home from my real home in Iowa. My first flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, this caused me to be late in Atlanta ( why I had to fly to Atlanta to get to the WEST coast I have no idea). Being late in atlanta, I was already cutting it close to making my connection. However, I showed up at the terminal with about five minutes to spare, only to find out five minutes later that the terminal had been changed for my flight, and the new one existed on the other side of the universe, accessible only by a worm hole or black hole, or some crap like that. Either way, I raced to the gate to find that it had been closed, the flight already boarded. Luckily, someone from the plane saw myself and another passenger and came back out to let us on. Wow, what a relief, reallllly dodged a bullet. Alas, I land in Las Vegas. Now all that I have to do is switch airlines and fly into Palm Springs. I have 30 minutes. I show up at the ticket counter to find a line. A nice lady that works for the airline asks me what I need, I tell her I need my ticket to Palm Springs, she says, “Gee, I’m sorry, but the flight to Palm Springs has been cancelled.” So I’m standing in line to get rebooked, and when I get up to the front of line I explain that I need to rebook the lady looks at me and says, “Well, geewiz, the flight to Palm Springs was not cancelled, the flight to COLORADO Springs was though” Colorado….Palm….don’t sound too much alike. Regardless, I missed my flight by five minutes at this point. So I spent the night in Vegas, flew to Phoenix and then to Palm Springs. End of story. Oh wait, I forgot to mention how THEY LOST MY BAGGAGE ALONG THE WAY. Goooood, so we want to be inept.

My airline rant is over. For now. But, on a lighter note, I had an absolutely amazing time while I was back home, reminding me once again what an awesome family and group of friends I have. Wednesday night was the bachelor party. By order of the bride and, get this, the GROOM, it remained relatively tame with a barbeque and a night down at the bars in downtown Davenport. Special thanks out to the Kaiser family for providing drivers.

Thursday, my buddy Jeff Lang, his brother Tony, and their friend Bill, were out for a ride on their Harley’s and managed to make their way down to the QC to say high. Somehow, they got talked into riding up to Iowa City with me to spend the night with my sisters. Naturally there was a giant car accident that forced us to take back roads to circumvent, meaning gravel roads and Harley’s. In case you were wondering, they don’t mix too well. We had an awesome night partying, mostly with my younger sister Meghan. Jeff went into all out creep mode, ha, what else is new? I have an excellent picture of him demonstrating how a toddler goes potty in a urinal. Email me for a copy.

Friday of course was the big day for Brett and Haley. From what I remember it was a beautiful wedding and an awesome reception. Actually I stayed pretty tame that night, that is until we got back to Folwell’s house. Dave, we’re taking that secret to the grave, except for all those other people that know…

Saturday, Jeff Lang came back down from Wisconsin with my old roommate Vic and my good friend Amy. We were supposed to go boating with the Folwells but the weather was not cooperating. We ended up going downtown to the District that night, and ended up in a limousine at the end with a group of girls that were out partying. Things got weird, but we got home safe, that’s all I’m saying there.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Back Home

Well, I'm back home in Iowa right now for a buddy's wedding. My high school friend Brett Thomas is getting married tonight, taking the plunge if you will. I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to make it, I had requested the leave about a month ago, but it didn't get approved until this past weekend. Needless to say ticket prices weren't too kind to me.

Last night I had the chance to drive up to Iowa City to see both of my sisters. The pictures tell the whole story. We were joined by my buddy Jeff Lang from Wisconsin, and he reminded all of us why you need to put the women and children to bed when he's in town.

So this is my shout out to Haley and Brett, Best Wishes.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Guns, Germs and Steel

I recently started to read a real interesting book called Guns, Germs and Steel. I haven’t had a good chance to really dive into it yet, but so far it looks like its going to be really good. The premise of the book is the search for an answer to the following question—why did some civilizations in history advance politically, scientifically, and militarily while other civilizations were left in a literal stone age. It explores the origin of modern man and the factors and influences that would have led to these disparities and the subsequent conquering of less advanced civilizations by more modern. The most dramatic example perhaps being the conquering of the Americas by a vastly superior (at least in terms of technology and military) European race.

Hopefully the book doesn’t get too textbook on me, so far it hasn’t. I’ll let you know if it is worth reading when I’m finished.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Como se WHAT?

Guess what obscene hour I have to wake up at tomorrow.....

No, not 5am
No, not 4am
No, not 3am

I thought it was only possible to GO to bed at that hour, I didn't know it existed on the opposite end of the spectrum, that's some quantum physics crap or something.

On top of all this, we're doing the Battalion death march tomorrow after having run a PFT today. The PFT is our Physical Fitness Test. Side note: I did score my best ever PFT today, got a 278 out of a possible 300 points. First time I ever maxed out the pullup score with 20.

I have joined a cult

That would be the Jeep Wrangler cult. I have been searching to buy a car for a while now and I have finally pulled the trigger. I've always wanted a Jeep Wrangler, but I never wanted to pony up the money for one. Well, I found a deal that I couldn't resist, and I now own an awesome blue one.

Can't wait to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway in this bad boy with the top down.
Its a BOY!!!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's been a while

Hey there select few who travel to this blog. It's been a couple of weeks since I've slapped this site up with an update, so here it goes.

This past week my company spent about four days out in the field doing an evolution that involved a real advanced 'laser tag' system called MILES Gear. We drew out our regular weapons, mine being the M249 SAW, an automatic machine gun, and we outfitted them with lasers on the barrels that sensed every time the weapon fired a blank round, and then sent out a corresponding laser beam that was just as accurate and had the same distance as a normal bullet for that weapon system. Each Marine then wore sensors on his vest and helmet that sensed when he was shot, and a computer kept track of everything.

So we took this gear out about 65 miles away in the desert and each platoon was dropped off in a different sector, where they then did an area reconnaisance and set up a patrol base. From that point on, the platoon conducted patrols from that base, scouting the 'enemy' platoons and conducting raids and ambushes within the whole area of operation, which was about 10 square miles. The terrain was HORRIBLE. Nothing but mountains and hills made of gravel and sand and rock, that wanted nothing more than to slip out from beneath you. Oh yeah, and it got up to about 110 degrees mid day.

My squad made contact with the enemy only once, we spotted them as we were cresting a hill and set up a quasi ambush from about 500 meters away. I was in charge of laying down a base of suppressive fire while one of our fire teams moved into an assault position. After about a 10 minute firefight we had destroyed their patrol. Pretty good tactics by our squad leader.

After a number of days we packed up and loaded back onto the 7 ton trucks to head home, but the trucks had a scheduled 'break down' about 10 miles outside of base, so guess what, we humped home. About half the company ended falling out of the hike, around 10 in our platoon. I made it back on my feet, but one of my toes was bleeding and I had blood blisters on the bottoms of both feet. Don't worry, disgusting pictures will follow below.

This is the saw, the weapon I currently carry.

This is my foot after the hump, if you look, the blister starts at the base of my big toe and extends down into my arch. Yum.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Much Needed R and R

This past weekend I finally managed to escape the doldrums of 29 Palms. Three buddies and I rented a car on base and headed west to LA. We had loose plans to head there and party all weekend, hopefully meeting up with some old friends from Wisconsin, Katie Bodine, whom I knew from the dance team, and Aaron Niay, who I played football with.

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to meet up with Niay, but me and the boys met up with Katie and her roommates and partied till the early morning hours on Saturday, we then managed to crawl out of bed in time to make it to a UW Alumni event, at a bar of course, to preparty for the LA Dodgers-Milwaukee Brewers game. Eventually, after a couple of PBRs we stumbled over to Dodger Stadium to witness the hometeam dismantle our beloved BrewCrew. However, the Wisconsinites did manage to be the most abnoxious fans in the stadium.

The boys and I actually spent all day on Saturday at Venice Beach, touring around all the crazy things that go on there. One of my friends, Norton, ended up getting a huge tattoo of a Longhorn across his back. He's a proud Texan. Anyways, enjoy the pics.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Draft Day- UW Represents

Just wanted to take some time to give some much deserved props to all my friends at Wisconsin who proved themselves worthy of getting drafted this weekend in the NFL draft. They can actually say that they are good enough football players to compete at the highest level, on the biggest stage in professional sports. I played with all these guys and know the kind of effort that goes into what we did, and these are the guys that had some of the best work ethics I've ever seen. So don't hate, they deserve everything they get from here on out.

BC- Detroit Lions
BWil- 49rs
ODiesel- Texans
Pose- Jets
JO- Titans

Congrats fellas.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What's fun?

I'm 23, young, adventurous, looking for a good time. So what am I doing on a Saturday night in California? Blogging. Because there is nothing else to do in the desert.

I did go see a movie tonight though. 16 Blocks, with Bruce Willis. Absolutely horrible. Wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That day of the year I manage to forget

This isn't a sob story, its not a plea for pity. I really did wake up this morning and not realize that it was my birthday. It was a semi-Frank the Tank moment. There's no excuse for it really, I mean I was talking to both my mom and my girlfriend the night before about it, its just that it didn't cross my mind until about midmorning when Amanda Bales called. My phone started ringing, I couldn't answer it, but I noticed that it was her. Now, we try and stay in touch, but we're pretty bad about it, so when I saw her name I thought, "hmm, I wonder what the occasion is?" (silence). About 15 minutes later I figured out that she was calling because it was my birthday. Thanks Amanda, that's why I keep you around.

Didn't really do anything exciting for my birthday today. All the new guys that I reported in with last week went and we got all of our gear. So I guess that was kind of like receiving a bunch of birthday presents, most of it was new, so that was exciting. I'll post a picture of some of it at the bottom of the post. My real present doesn't come until tomorrow. That's when all the senior Marines in my platoon are going to gang rush and then proceed to beat the crap out of me. Literally. I mean, there is going to be marks. Maybe I'll post pictures of those too, better yet, maybe I could get actual footage of it. I intend to put up a fight, but lets be honest, they might as well stick a bunch of bananas in my pants and turn a monkey loose.

Here are those pics.
So that's what a 75-85 pound pack looks like. There is still no ammo, body armor, food, magazines, weapon, etc on it, so it's only getting bigger. The pic below this is our new bulletproof vest/body armor. It even has a dangle piece for my family jewels! Not sure it come down enough though, (jabjab, winkwink)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

29 Stumps

My friends, appreciate where you live. Because right now, at this very moment I am rotting away at 29 Palms, more affectionately known as 29 Stumps. I'm starting to settle in with my new unit, we were all split up into the various companies, platoons and squads of 2/7 this week. I fall into the mix as follows- SAW gunner, 3rd Fireteam, 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, USMC. Mouthfull isn't it? I was lucky to get place in a really good company, the Golf Gunfighters.

This past Friday the battalion had a memorial service for the Marines they lost five months ago when they were in Iraq. It was very sobering to see the Marines memorialized in front of friends, family and comrades. What they did was set up memorials with sandbags that had a rifle bayoneted in it, with their helmet on top and their boots in front. Then the Sergeant Major called the battalion to attention and took roll. The first couple of names he read off were met with a response of 'present', then he began to call out the names of those who had been killed. As he continued to repeat their name, a Marine walked out carrying their dogtags and presented them to the Sergeant Major, and then they hung them from the rifle. I didn't even know any of them, and the scene nearly moved me to tears, and I wouldn't have been the only Marine crying.

President Bush is here this weekend. I walked out my room to see Marine 1, the helicopter version of Air Force 1, flying low over the barracks preparing to land, biggest freakin chopper ever. Needless to say this place is on total lockdown right now.

My unit is scheduled to go to Iraq in January for a 7-8 month tour. We'll be headed to the al Anbar province, and were sending out an invitation for the terrorists to meet us there.

If you feel like writing me, my address is as follows.

Lance Corporal Jake Wood
PO Box 1269-A18
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Well, the orders came. On Tuesday I will graduate from the School of Infantry and getting on a bus headed towards 29 Palms, California, to join the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. 2/7 is a great infantry unit that has a lot of history, and has recently been writing more in Iraq. As of now, we are scheduled to go back to Iraq in either August or September, so I'll be having the oppurtunity to do what I joined to do. Unfortunately I'll be doing it out of 29 Palms, which is in the middle of the California desert. It gets to be about 120 degrees there, yaayyyyyy. Good news is I'm only two hours from Vegas, I guess that could be bad news though...you'll know if I start asking you to borrow money.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Tattoo

One Week Left

Well, Bravo Company is coming up on its last week of training at the School of Infantry. The last couple of weeks have been full of nonstop high speed training, basically we have had warfighting shoved down our throats everyday since my last post.

Alot has happened since I was on here writing last. We split the company up by infantry specialty around week 3. I chose to train with the 0311's, your basic rifleman. Essentially my job is what you would typically think of when you imagine an infantryman. There are two platoons of 0311s, I'm the guide for 2nd Platoon, so I'm in charge of about 95 Marines right now. It's kind of like baby sitting, but in the end its rewarding. The third platoon is made up of the other infantry specialties- mortarmen, assaultmen and machinegunners.

The life of an 0311 pretty much exists in the field. We hike all day, go to ranges, practice squad assaults, patrolling, ambushes, etc, and then we sleep under the stars. There have been plenty of nights where we have woken up with a layer of ice on our sleeping bags, or puddles of mud under them, but that's what makes it great.

This past week we began training for urban warfare, or MOUT as the Marines call it, Military Operations in Urban Terrain. We headed out to a mock town and practiced house to house fighting and room clearing techniques, it was pretty sweet. Kind of felt like you were on SWAT. This next week we have a culmination training exercise where we'll spend 3 days at MOUT town pulling everything we've learned all together.

Some crazy stuff has happened during training though. About three weeks ago we were out in the field, waiting for it to get dark to do some assaults at night. Naturally we had some time to waste, so our instructors did what any trained killers would do, they organized a bull in the ring fight. Two platoons made a giant circle and Marines were allowed to go to the center and call out anyone they wanted for a no-holds barred ground fight. I was just sitting there waiting, because, as the guide, I knew EVERYONE wanted to call me out. Turns out Mikael, a kid I had in my platoon at boot camp, walks to the center and calls me out. Well it turns out that Mikael teaches martial arts techniques to police officers back in his hometown. We started the fight and initially I was beating him on brute strength, it went back and forth for a while, with him getting me in various choke holds and me reversing him and trying to beat him mercilessly. Eventually, he worked his way behind me and put me in a rear naked choke, but I had one of his arms locked out in an arm bar. Turned into a "can he choke me out before I rip his arm off" type thing, I mean, who hasn't seen that one before? Well, eventually I passed out and came to a couple of seconds later to hear everyone cheering him on. Haha, real freakin' funny I know. I got bonus points for passing out before tapping out though. The other crazy thing involves the wildlife. Camp Pendleton has a bit of a rattlesnake problem. I hadn't really encountered it until I was getting ready to set my pack down on the ground about 2 weeks ago and realized I was setting it on a rattler. Long story short, my instructore took my rifle and shot it with a blank. Now, you may be thinking, a blank? Well it creates enough air pressure to rip a rattlesnake head in half, which is pretty freaking cool to see.

Well, graduation is in a week and a half. Unless I screw up big time, I'll be graduating as the platoon honorman. I still don't know where I'm getting shipped to for a permanent duty station, but I hope I stay put in Camp Pendleton. There's a chance they'll throw me in the middle of the desert at 29 Palms, or in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune. I'll be sure to let you know.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Good Book

For all my fellow book nerds out there...

If you are into history, especially military history, or if you just want a good old American read, pick up Flags of Our Fathers. It's written by the son of one of the Iwo Jima flagraisers and tells the story of the six Marines that raised the flag on Sirubachi, their lives before and after. It also gives a great account of the battle for Iwo Jima. Quick read, good read.
Well another week at the School of Infantry has passed. The slew of cool things to shoot and blow up has slowed down a bit, this week we spent out in the field doing day and night land navigation and some live fire squad assaults, the latter of which will be one of my topics to write about.

Live fire squad assault
translation: Take a 13 man squad full of Marines, most of whom aren't the sharpest tool in their respective shed, give them M16s with live ammunition, and attempt a coordinated assaulted on an objective, with individuals rushing foward of the line and the remaining individuals providing live cover fire over their heads.

what this means to me: I'm sitting on the line ready to do my assault, I look down the firing line to the left and right and see that my squad consists of the "who's who" in dumbass world. Then I realize that they all have 30 rounds of 5.56 ballpoint ammunition that they plan on shooting over my shoulders while I'm running. Needless to say, my pants almost developed a wet stain.

Enough of that. I'm currently writing this from a USO in San Diego. I would say sunny San Diego but I was walking through downtown earlier today amidst a hailstorm. Yes, a HAIL storm. Pretty funny to see a bunch of Ron Burgundy's running around not having any idea what it means to have ice falling from the sky. I think they thought it was Armageddon.

Did you know they have actual Ben and Jerry's shops? Yeah, I would get real fat real fast if I lived too close to the one here.

Attention Nathan Suh- you have to send me your email address so I can actually reply back to your posts!

Peace out world.

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