Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Address Change

Our (Sgt Garrett's and my) mailing address has changed:

GySgt Mark Francis (or Sgt Victor Garrett)
2d Intelligence Bn, P & A Company
Unit 76650
FPO AE 09509-6650

We haven't moved anywhere yet, but have been instructed to have our mailing address changed.

Anything sent will be forwarded, but it will take a few extra days to get to us sending it to the old address. Please update your address books.

If and when we do change geographic locations, our internet access may change as well.

Thank you for all your prayers and continued support.

Semper Fi,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Last Few Days

Most of what has happened the last few days, I can't really talk about on here.... Sorry I haven't posted much, but we have been plenty busy and again, it is stuff that just has to come out in the news.


I can tell you that we (my team) are all safe and have had our hands in all of this, but that is about all.

The Islamic culture is very different from the American culture. Aside from the point that one revolves around a religious dominance and the other around a nation of religious freedoms, there is the point of where they put their faith.

Muslims seem to believe that God has outcomes despite our actions. (en sha Allah: God willing) In other words, if it is your time to die, you will die, regardless of what you do. If God wills it, your actions will be completely fruitless. You have no free will. You have no choices or decisions, or power to create your own destiny, it is ALL, COMPLETELY up to Allah.

Americans seem to believe that your actions allow God to move or prevent Him from acting. If you are in the right place at the right time, because of actions or choices you make, God can use you to accomplish something.

Consider the biblical example of Noah. Had he not taken that hundred years to build the ark, where would we be today?

Consider Lot. He actually bartered with God to spare people from a city God had decided to destroy with fire. Although he couldn't find the people he had bartered to save, he had choices and influence on the outcome, based on his actions.

There are many more examples, but you get my point.

We were training a few students and the question "why" kept coming up. We would tell them that when you think there is an IED in a vehicle, don't let anyone go near it. Get an expert to get on his protective gear and professionally disarm the bomb.

They would ask why all that was necessary. If it is God's will, that bomb will kill you even in all that gear. You might as well go up, open the car door and cut the wire, because if it is not your time, you will not die... it is completely up to God.

How do you teach someone with that mindset to be careful? I don't know either, but stand back... I think we have some volunteers to work on the Iraqi bomb squad....

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I didn't write this, and it makes its rounds every year, but it is a good one worth repeating.

T'was the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
in a one bedroom house
made of Plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney
with presents to give,
And to see just who
in this home did live.

I looked all about,
a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
not even a tree.

No stockings by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
on the wall hung pictures
of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
a sober thought
came through my mind.

For this house was different,
it was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a Marine,
once I could see clearly.

The Marine lay sleeping,

silent, alone,
curled up on the floor
in this one bedroom home.

His face was so worn;
it looked so serene,
not how I had pictured
A US Marine.

Was this the hero
of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
the floor for a bed?

I realized the families
that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these Marines
Who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
the children would play,
and grownups would celebrate
a bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom
each month of the year,
Because of Marines,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder
how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve
In a land far from home.

The very thought

Brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
and started to cry.

The Marine awakened
and I heard a rough voice.
"Santa, don't cry,
this life is my choice."

"I fight for freedom.
I don't ask for more.
My life is my God,
My country, my Corps."

The Marine rolled over
and drifted to sleep.
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours.
So silent and still
and we both shivered
from the cold night's chill.

I didn't want to leave
on that cold, dark night,
and this guardian of honor
so willing to fight.

Then, the Marine rolled over;
with a voice soft and pure
Whispered, "Carry on, Santa,
It's Christmas Day. All is secure."

One look at my watch,
and I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas, my friend,
and to all a good night."

-Author Unknown

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Teaching classes takes a bunch of administration.

Lately we have been doing lots of training and you would think the hard part would be getting up in front of the students and instructing. Nope, even with the language barrier, that part is pretty simple.

First, you have the class preparation stuff that goes into getting the students here, getting the handouts printed, course materials updated, maps and gear assembled... and all in both English and Arabic of course.

Then there is the paperwork following the classes. You have to track attendance, monitor what was specifically taught on what days, who needs remedial training and when that will take place, what the students are retaining (tests?), what percentage of training is complete and what is still to be conducted, who is scheduled to teach what blocks tomorrow... and all that has to be done in both English and Arabic of course.

Then there is the certificate development so you can reward the students for completing your course of instruction. Those things are never right, even when you finally get the English and Arabic wording correct, because it should be done on better paper or with someone more important signing it or they want it presented by someone from their parent Precinct instead of the District...

At the end of the day, the important thing is that learning occurred, right? Learning is occurring and these students are all, well worth it.

Sgt Garrett is a consummate professional when it comes to this training. He is functioning as the primary instructor and it seems like he has been doing this kind of thing his entire life. He knows just how to set stuff up and how to prepare his class room. The spreadsheet kicked his butt initially, but he has that about nailed now.

Fawwas came back off leave and jumped right back into the swing of things. He too has been instrumental in making this training happen.

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throwing Shoes

The journalist that threw his shoes at the President the other day has been detained, as you could probably surmise or read else where on the internet. Most Iraqis disagree with this action.

Most that disagree call this man a hero for representing the views of so many in Iraq on such a public stage.

Some say that this was a journalist exercising "freedom of expression." Others go with "freedom of speech" (although hurling a shoe goes beyond speech) or "freedom of the press."

To voice their dissenting views, crowds have taken to the streets of several Iraqi cities for the last few days, exercising their "freedom to assemble," and quite honestly, they are thrilled that they are permitted to assemble at all.

Here soon they are going to get the opportunity to freely vote for which ever candidate they want for whatever reason they want. Their little girls are free to go to school.

Isn't it ironic that the very man that made them free to do all those things is the target of their shoe?

When I made this point with a few Iraqi leaders here where I work, they tell me that Iraqi's can't live in a democracy. They need the heavy fist of a dictator.

The word Islam means to submit or to obey, implying that they must have someone to obey or submit to. This makes a dictatorship feel natural and a democracy, ripe with freedoms, feel like chaos.

What we consider inalienable rights, they willfully give up for a sense of direction or order. Shouldn't they be free to do so?

Semper Fi,

Instruction is seen as Punishment

As a trainer over here, one of the things we have encountered is the negative stigma Iraqis associate with training.

Apparently, on one hand you have to be trained and trained well to become an officer (just like in any professional force) and those that are well trained are coveted human resources. That said, only those needing the training get assigned to get trained, so they are some how deficient.

In other words, no one wants to get sent to training, because it makes them feel like they are lacking some skill their commander was looking for. Once they get out of training though, they act like they are the best thing since sliced bread and know so much more than their peers... and quite honestly, they are treated that way too.

Wasta is such a weird and powerful thing over here. (Wasta is like machismo... that intangible thing that makes one person better, more popular, than another.) The opposite of wasta is humility, and humility is a VERY unpopular thing over here.

To admit guilt or ignorance is absolutely social suicide. Marines are taught that a straight forward, "I don't know the answer, but I will research it and get back to you" is far better than a wrong answer or a lie. Iraqi's would rather straight up lie to you than admit there was a detail that they didn't know.

That said, if you are getting training, then there is obviously a subject of material that you don't know, or else you would be giving the training, not getting trained.

Marines are taught to "know yourself and seek self improvement." If you don't admit, even to yourself, that you have an area that you need to improve on, you will stagnate and never develop.

From my perspective, training is not punishment. Training is constant. Training is happening every second we are conscious. Leaders are constantly looking to train those in their team and constantly looking to train themselves.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Passed Over...

Well, I was passed over for promotion to Master Sergeant. Please follow this link http://www.marines.mil/news/messages/Pages/MARADMIN708-08.aspx and make sure you scan the list for anyone you may know. Some very qualified Marines got picked.

They were selecting 3 people from a group of about 20 in my field, and I was either not the most qualified or the three they selected were simply more competitive.

In reality, God promotes and God has timing for when we get promoted in life. I have no problem with his timing and will do the very best I can where I am.

Gunny is a great rank and I have plenty of work I can do from this position.

Semper Fi,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 50

We are going to do 50 pull-ups today. I would say we are half way there, but that would only be in days....

As of the end of today we will have done 1275 pull-ups in 50 days.

By the end of the challenge, we will have 5050 pull-ups done in 100 days.

As you can see by the numbers, we are not even close to having completed half of the pull-ups for this challenge.

In fact, halfway is in about two weeks, when we will be doing 63 and 64 pull-ups. We will then have about 36 days to do the other half of the 5050 pull-ups!

Sgt Garrett is still doing his weight-lifting regimine and I don't know how his elbows are doing it. The insides of my elbows are screaming at the end of the day and I am just doing pull-ups and push-ups.

Semper Fi,

Christmas Tree

We were not so sure how the Iraqis were going to handle us having Christmas in the DHQ(District Headquarters), so we asked a terp to give us their perspective and the perspective of the Iraqis here.

He did some asking around and the Iraqis expect us to have Christmas. In fact, they would respect us less if we didn't celebrate our own religious holidays. They don't stop celebrating their holidays for us and we respect their traditions... so they feel we should act the same way.

Iraqis see us Americans as Christians and they see Christians as "people of the book." They believe we follow the Bible and so they expect us to act in accordance with customs and ways that are taught in the bible. ... more on that later....

Here is a picture with SSgt "Crash" McRae and the Christmas Tree we have set up in the DHQ.

Just for fun, we are doing a "Secret Santa" this year so that everyone gets a little something. The gifts you see under the tree are ones for that and ones for the NCO's. The SNCO's got together to make sure the NCO's and below all got something too.

Hopefully this will help us all just feel a little closer to home.

We remember all of you and really appreciate all the love and support you send our way.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Symbols of Power

In the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, the concept of "thin slicing" is brought up. It is the concept where you make a split decision about a person or situation or ... basically taking a thin slice of perceived information about an individual or issue to found your opinions.

In the first so-many-seconds after meeting a person, you are able to tell if you like that person or don't. In the first few seconds, a cop or military member has to decide to shoot someone or not to. These are examples of thin slicing.

Back to my point. Iraqi's seem to really like an office, and in that office, the more TV's and phones they have, the more weapons they have, the more room they have, the more influential they seem to feel.

Really, what is the point of all that?

We silly Americans do the same thing. Rich people have to have a HUGE house, with lots of cars and lots of this and plenty of those. Seriously, how many cars can you drive at one time? Collectors... OK, I get that, but other than that, I just don't understand.

One of the Col's we have here, for example, demands new this and new that for his office. Not for the things that will make the office (team) more effective, but for pictures and flowers and the like for his office.

When something new comes in, he gets it and gives the leftovers to his men. When it is time to eat, he eats first and lets his men fight for what is left. When new boots or uniform items arrive, he makes sure he gets his before his men even know it is there, and if they get it first, they make sure he gets his first.

In the US military, it seems to be the other way around, in most cases anyway. The junior Marines eat first, get first dibs on the new gear, get the first days off... We seem to get the idea that true power empowers others. We seem to get that if we take care of our Marines, our Marines will take care of us.

Semper Fi,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid)

The Eid, as discussed before is a celebration of Abraham's faith and God's provision. For those of you who have had faith, God is starting to provide. The below is an article that really speaks volumes if you consider what was being said from Islamic podiums just a few short years ago...


Mecca head calls Muslims to fight terror

Mecca’s top Imam the Grand Mufti Abdel Aziz has called on Muslims to combat all forms of terrorism.

The declaration is believed to be the first of its kind at Haj by the religious leader.

During the Sermon the Grand Mufti also called for peace and tolerance.

“ Islam is a religion of peace, mercy and justice. It preserves all kinds of rights, among them human rights,’‘ he said.

Today, some two to three million Muslim pilgrims have been making their way to Mount Arafat to meditate and pray to Allah as part of the Haj ceremony.

Retracing the same route taken by Mohammad around 14 centuries ago, the faithful will pray until sunset before moving under night sky to begin the ritual stoning of the devil tomorrow.

With some worshippers saying they will pray for the end of the global financial crisis the climax of the event comes with believers walking around the Kabba in the Grand Mosque.

This message is what we are seeing lived out on the ground over here as well. People are acting peaceful towards us and generally practicing tolerance. HOPEFULLY some Islamic leaders from Afghanistan were on the Hajj this year!

Semper Fi,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Green = Money

I was walking through the trash yard here at the Station and kicked an aluminum can. That made me think of the cans back home and how some have written on the sides how much certain states will pay for recycling.

...that got me thinking about Iraq and wondering if they recycle... that could be a way to get some of the factories going again here and get them productive. Productive factories mean jobs and jobs mean more money to buy products from productive factories.

...and that got me thinking about home and about how our economy seems to be struggling. If we started really putting monetary in developing "green" products and energy efficient technologies, we could develop jobs (and you know the cycle that starts up).

Oddly enough, I was reading through a Newsweek (10 November, 2008) that LCdr Bernstein sent to me (thank you Sir!!!). There was a great, two page article on this same concept.

The article talked about how much money governments were paying for this kind of technology (wind-energy, non-fossil-fuel cars, etc.) and how many jobs were being invented by forward thinking, ecologically minded entrepreneurs.

I asked one of our terps, who grew up here in Iraq, if they had a recycling system in Iraq. He said that they used to, but since 2003, it has gone away. We both agreed that it would be a good thing to get going again.

Then we both kinda sat there, nodded, and went our separate ways... the good idea factory was working, but we realized it would produce little results sitting in our brains. Guess I will have to bring that up next time I find myself visiting socially with the Ramadi Mayor.

...in the past, it has been the tree-huggers that have prevented advances in technology because they were concerned it would degrade the environment. Now it looks like they have a niche to make technology better.

Semper Fi,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eid Al Adha

Tomorrow is the first day of the Hajj. That is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and a time where Muslims travel to Mecca if they can afford it and attend services at the Mosques if they cannot.

Immediately following the Hajj is a holiday called Eid Al Adha. Muslims spend lots of time with family and give gifts. It lasts from about the 8th through the 12th or 13th.

Eid Al Adha is actually a celebration of Abraham's faith and God's provision in his time of need. (Genesis 22) God had told Abraham to sacrifice his long awaited son on an alter. He was just about to kill him (faith) and God told him to stop. Nearby, God provided a ram to sacrifice instead (provision).

This means that traffic is going to be crazy busy during some parts of this holiday and non-existent during other parts.

The Iraqi's I am working with have established a rotating duty position and started celebrating already. We are glad that they get to spend this time with their families in peace.

They know we are here too and we will hold down the fort for them, so to speak.

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I write for my job and sometimes, after writing pages and pages, the last thing you want to do is come back and write some more... if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I am back on the writing kick and will start doing better, I promise.

Today was day 43 in the pull-up challenge. I am going to make the first set ATLEAST 15 from now on. I am also going to try and do no less than 10 on any given set. I hope to eventually work up to no less than 20 on that first set... but lets get to 60 first, right?

Yesterday our team took a little trip to Baghdad. Apparently they had fun and somehow enjoyed a 3+ hour trip in tactical vehicles. What a literal pain in the butt... all that gear, those rugged, armored seats, practically no leg or arm room... are we there yet?

I got to stay here and work, so no Burger King from Baghdad for me. I am going to try and get some pics from them from their trip, and I will post a few good ones if I do.

OK, I am going to go and shower now. Have a great weekend!!!

Semper Fi,

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 08!

For those of you not paying attention to the calendar, it is now December... again, no matter how you slice it, we are now one month closer to going home!!!

Today is also day 39 on our pull-up challenge. I am starting to feel pain in my elbows, but that just means I am starting to work. As any boxer can tell you, not all pain is gain, so I will listen closely to what my body is telling me and adjust accordingly.

In order to lessen the pain, I am doing more sets with fewer numbers. I was doing 20 in one set and then finishing off the rest with a second set. Now I am doing sets of 10, a few hours apart. It seems to be working.

Last month started out really crazy and started slowing down there near the end. We are expecting things to get more active around the middle of December and probably slow down there at the end with the onset of 2009, the implementation of the newly signed SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement) signed between the U.S. and Iraq.

If you follow international politics at all, you need to get a copy of that agreement and read it. It is relatively short (about 18 pages) and outlines what both countries are responsible for. There is some legalese in there, but it isn't too bad.

Semper Fi,

Saturday, November 29, 2008


If a picture is worth a 1000 words, this is going to be a long one.

...just a few shots of Thanksgiving in Iraq.

Semper Fi,


Thursday, November 27, 2008


I really am thankful.

I am so very thankful for my family. My bride, my kids, my parents, my grandparents, brothers and sisters... all of my family.

I am thankful for my freedoms and my brothers and sisters in arms who help me secure those freedoms... The sheep-dogs of society.

I am thankful for my up-bringing. We are a mix of genetics and experiences and I owe all of one and much of the other to my parents. You really helped to make me who I am.

I am thankful for my opportunity to serve my country, by far, the greatest country in the world.

I am thankful for all your support. You keep this Marine fed and smiling and I couldn't do this without you.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Iraqi Democracy


This is a really good article about some of the goings-on here where I am.

Democracy is being applied, loosely.

Semper Fi,

Happy T-Day!

T-Day in this case being Tuesday.

I don't know why, but it really doesn't matter at this point. Thursday this week will be another Thursday here. Yeah the meat and potatoes will taste a little different, and we will eat together, but it will not be a traditional Thanksgiving.

Sure, we can give thanks that day, but we give thanks EVERY day God lets us keep on serving.

We will all stop and eat together, but we try and do that anyway, every day.

Family talk will probably be avoided, so that will be different, but that is because talk of family on that day would be painful.

Don't feel bad for us. We are doing just fine. Be thankful for what you have and that we will one day come home and spend weekly T-Day's (Tuesdays) with our families.

Semper Fi,

Flies, Flies, Flies...

There are flies practically everywhere! They are just your common housefly, but they are aggressive and adament about just agitating the mess out of you.

We have done a pretty good job of keeping them out of the working and living spaces, but they are all over everything else.

There are bag traps, tape traps, and even this purple bait traps that we have set up all over the place to kill them. Then there are the Marines who are actively hunting them.

I gotta brag, I got 6 in one swatter swing!

Anyway, the weather is perfect and they are loving it!

Not much going on over here....

Semper Fi,

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I don't like them.

I don't like the good ones and don't like the bad ones. For some reason, I think Data (the android on Star Trek that could not feel) had a real advantage. He could see things without emotions blinding him and could make decisions based on logic and not feelings. Spock was always so logical too.

Even the good emotions seem to cause pain or a longing to do silly things to keep a good emotion. The bad emotions... well, are there really any good or bad emotions? In reality, aren't they just chemical changes in the brain that happen based on sensory triggers and learned responses?

Spouses cheat on their deployed spouses to some how feel love or acceptance in their service member's absence. Service members feel jealous over a plumber coming over to fix a busted pipe. Suicides are the results of feeling hopeless about situations that are most often temporary and based almost entirely on emotions.

3 marriages are on the rocks right now because of either infidelity or perceived infidelity, and that is just out of 20 or so guys, in the last 2 months. 2 months? Are you kidding me?

Last time I was out here, a Marine suck-started his M-16 in a port-a-john because he was feeling lonely. It was a 7 month deployment... only 7 months.

Here come the holidays. People here either get really depressed, really withdrawn, or totally immersed in their jobs. Why? Because they feel or so they don't have to feel.

The love I have for my family makes me miss them, so without that emotion of love, I would be better able to focus on my work?

Emotions make it hard to survive in a combat zone. Fear causes hesitation and hesitation makes you slower on the trigger than your enemy. Care about your Marines makes you hesitate before sending them into combat at all, for fear that they could be hurt.

Trust is so much more logical. I simply trust the Marine to do his job because he is a consummate professional. There is no fear involved or love or compassion. Unfortunately some of these emotions cause there to be a lack of trust though.

Acceptance is not a feeling, it is a state of being. You either are or are not accepted. Let an emotion get in there though and now there are some that are more accepted than others and some that are jealous or ashamed or ....

Then there is God. God is love. Why can't God be courage? Courage is feeling fear and acting anyway. Acting despite a silly emotion.

I really struggle with emotions.

Most Iraqi's right now are doing things that are counter-productive because of some fear or another. Many of their fears are founded in reality, but that doesn't make them any more or less influential on the Iraqi's actions.

Law-men over here fear for their lives in enforcing rule of law instead of tribal law and sometimes that fear causes them to become corruptible. Innocent civilians fear for their safety in the areas al Qaeda has influence so they cooperate with actions against the Iraqi government and coalition forces. Fear of being considered a terrorist causes them to sever ties with family members and fear of family members prevents them from working with coalition forces.

Dude, this is the law. You broke the law, You go to jail. I don't care who your sheik is.

Women have lots and lots and lots of emotions and who really understands them when they get emotional? Half the time, they cannot even tell you why they are emotional, they just are.

Emotions lie.

How often do little kids think there is some goofy monster under the bed or outside their 2nd story window, when in reality it is a balled up sweater or the wind tapping a branch? I guess that would be imagination (not an emotion...) I will have to re-think that one....

They still lie. One minute we are feeling one way and the next we are feeling totally different while only our perceptions have changed, not reality.

(In case you are wondering, nothing has happened, it is just 2352 at night, I have not blogged for today and I cannot sleep, so you are getting my philosophical thoughts on emotions....)


Semper Fi,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eagle Globe and Anchor

The Eagle Globe and Anchor (seen to the right here) is the emblem of the Marine Corps.

The Eagle represents service to our nation. It is right on top and carrying a banner with the Marine Corps logo on it that reads, "Semper Fidelis." That Latin phrase is the Marine Corps motto and means Always Faithful. Marines are always faithful to their nation and to her service.

The Globe represents world-wide service. Marines are found in every "climb and place where we can take a gun." We are at every US Embassy and everywhere the Commander in Chief goes.
Finally, the Anchor represents our naval heritage and sea-service. We started out defending ships. We still do that duty but we have also evolved to serve in amphibious and ground combat roles as well. The anchor in our logo keeps us founded in our sea-faring days and remembering our historical domain.

We are to be "most ready when our nation is least ready," (author unknown). Everything about our Corp revolves around service. We exist to serve. It is our honor to serve.

Semper Fi,

Two little Girls...

Debbie Jacks is my brother's mother in law. She is a great lady with heart of gold.

Last time I was deployed, I worked with teams of Marines who had access to the streets and in many cases, scores of kids.

She sent me packages full of Beanie-Babies and I gave them to Marines who would hand them out to the kids. This was a way the Marines could make instant friends and show the kids they were friendly without saying a word.

Well, I don't have near that access to the kids that I did last time, but this time I do have a little bit. She sent me one such package this go round, and I am not so sure I am going to get all the toys out, but I am going to do my best.

On rare occasions, people seeking help from the Iraqi Police will bring their kids with them and that is what little time I would get to give them a toy.

On one such occasion, I noticed a man with his two daughters walking with one of our interpreters (Willie), as they were leaving the compound. I asked Willie about their story and if next time they came if I could give them a stuffed animal from Debbie's package. He was elated and said that anything like that would be appreciated.

Their mother had been killed by an insurgent's IED about a year ago and the man has had to quit his job to care for his daughters. Willie has been helping out ever since he met them.

From everything we have seen, the man does a great job taking care of them. They are always well behaved and act like respectful, playful girls their age should act.

Well, they came back and I was ready this time... only, I wasn't there. Fortunately, I had left some of the toys with Willie, along with some of the goodies out of some of the other care packages I had received. Willie was spot on, gave them the toys and goodies and then took their picture with a couple near-by Marines.

Thanks for all your support. You back home are supporting me and my efforts to take some of the pressure off of these people. Together, WE are doing great things over here, and I could not do it without you.

Semper Fi,

Day 30

It is Day 30 in the pull-up challenge. Today I did the first twenty in a row, just like I would in a PFT, except wearing a pistol belt and my cammies. Then about 10 minutes later, I came back and knocked out the other 10.

This is not as hard as I was thinking it would be (said the man with most of the pull-ups to go). I really do think that the hard part is developing the habit and remembering to knock them out daily. The body will adjust slowly to the exercises, but the mental remembering and determination are the hard parts.

The day was a usual day. Intermittent, often distant gunfire was heard through out the day. We worked to get Iraqi's proper badges and filed paperwork. We set up mentoring opportunities for the upcoming week and training sessions for us to give.

Our internet was down for about half the day, but now that it is back up, I am back to blogging.

Sgt Garrett and I got into some relatively deep conversations today about values. We discussed the concept as it relates to different cultures and then different individuals we know.

Some cultures really seem to value human life (modern, Western cultures) and other cultures don't value it as much (Middle Eastern cultures and African cultures). We were obviously generalizing, based on our own personal experiences and not intending to offend, but making the link back to terrorism, tactics and military operations. You know, how some would be willing to be suicide bombers to further a cause and others wouldn't even get off their butts to support their candidate in a Presidential election. ...values...

We considered how one President valued public opinion more than another and how some Americans value material things more than others. We discussed what some would do for money and what money others would give up for things they valued more.

(There at the end of the conversation, we both hit each other in the chest, grunted and cleaned our guns, just to get back to our masculine side...).

Semper Fi,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good, Bad and Ugly

We have had the opportunity to work with several different units out here. Some of those experiences were great and others were not so great... we learned from all of them.

The Army's 194th MP Company... they have been nothing but great. They hook us up left and right with good logistical support, to and from the locations our missions require us to get to. The teams we have worked with have been consummate professionals, constantly doing the right things and making stuff happen.

The SeaBee det. I am going to leave the unit designator off here because the experience has been relatively negative. Their leadership seems to just come in, log into their computer and chill while their men work on important projects throughout the facility. There seems to be little leadership involved in accomplishing the mission. On one occasion, they were working in our hooch and left the doors open all day... FLIES WERE EVERYWHERE! Seriously, hundreds of flies. Try getting to sleep when you are getting bombarded by flies. We put up literally 30 sticky-traps for them and eventually it was livable, but we wouldn't have had to do that had they just used a little consideration. They come into the chow hall, eat a bunch of our food and then leave the place a mess. If their leadership were more involved, they could probably be a lot more effective....

2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. Great guys. What can I say, they are stretched really thin, trying to cover ground previously covered by numerous battalions. They are very supportive compared to other battalions I have worked with and focused on mission accomplishment. Their leadership is just what this area needs right now: firm, fair and determined to get different groups communicating. Their operations are effective and conducted as jointly as possible.

The IPA det. These guys are law enforcement professionals from the states that are the best in their fields. The US didn't hold back in sending these guys over. They are a bunch of solid guys who provide good advice to the IP's here on everything from investigations to effective patrolling techniques.

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Colleen's Blog

For those of you who don't know, my bride, Colleen, now has her own blog and she is doing a great job. You will find a link to it in my Blog Roll, to the right here ===>

Semper Fi,

Hooters In Ramadi!

Not a real Hooters, but the restaurant in our facility is affectionately called Hooters in Ramadi. This is a picture of our cook, waiter and entertainment in the restaurant standing with CWO2 Nolan. Incidentally, he likes the New York Yankees...

From the picture below, you can see the single table, the top corner of the menu on the wall, the grilling area and many of the regular customers. It was taken all they way against the wall, so you see about the whole place, in this one snapshot.

The guys who run the restaurant drive in from Baghdad every week, just to run this little shop. That said, they make about $4.00, total, per meal, and that is what we pay, not their profits.

Yes, that is duck-tape holding their air conditioner in the wall. I am not sure how they do it, but they stay in business and they help us feel like we are eating in a restaurant, which gives us a little taste of home.

In all reality, we are not allowed to travel outside the compound with out three vehicles and a specific mission. It is not like we can just go down the road to a McDonald's or something and eat. We have fewer freedoms than the Iraqi's here do. I am good with that, because this is the life I chose, but some don't realize that.

It is an interesting paradox that soldiers so often give up the very freedoms they fight to protect.
Semper Fi,

Peppers are NOT Pickles

Sgt Garrett, Metal (our interpreter while Yoda is on vacation) and I were having lunch with an Iraqi LtCol one recent afternoon. It was the traditional kabob, chicken, vegetables and football bread.

It was a typical lunch, but with Iraqi's, we have to be overly careful to be courteous, respectful and mindful of our actions. You don't shake hands when either of you are eating; you don't talk business when you are eating a social meal, talking with your mouthful is fine, as it implies that your social conversations are more important than the food you are eating; you eat with your hands and you share plates of food.

The conversations were great. We talked about families, Obama and Bush, current events in the US and upcoming Iraqi elections.

Somewhere in the important conversation, I stopped paying attention to what I was doing and started really getting into the points my counterparts were making... the problem was, I was still eating.

...tear off a piece of bread, put some meat on there, some veggies on there and stuff in face... repeat process until you cannot sit up-right any more and then smile and comment on how great the food was....

I like switching the meat between kabob (lamb) and chicken, and switching the veggies, alternating between tomatoes, onions and pickles. That way, each bite tastes different, for at least 6 bites.

In putting one such bite together, I grabbed the bread, put some chicken on there and put a pickle (or what I thought was a pickle) in there and stuffed it in my face. 3... 2... 1....

About that time, an IED exploded in my face and I was on FIRE. That pickle was not a pickle. It was a pepper. My eyes immediately kicked in and tried to water it out, but they were not helping my social standing in the conversation.

OK, it really wasn't that hot, but when you are expecting a sweet, dill-ish taste and you wind up with something resembling a jalapeno, it gets your attention.

I reached for my ... I didn't have a water handy... The LtCol asked me a question (thank goodness for Metal. He noticed I was having a little gastric difficulty and took his time translating.)

I had to use the bread and a bite of chicken to calm the fire a little.

The question was small-talk, so I don't remember it or my answer, but shortly thereafter an IP brought us each in a can of Sprite. That did the trick and I was back in action.

Although I don't think anyone but Metal and maybe the LtCol noticed, but WOW!!!

At that point, I took all the peppers off my plate and strategically placed them on Sgt Garrett's plate (he actually likes them).

Semper Fi,


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Slow Progress

Everything is going just fine out here. We are making our mission happen and adapting to the little things.

Meetings become verbal commitments to train Iraqi's and the training spawns meetings to discuss the degrees of success the training has had. These meetings become more meetings to discuss further follow-on training and so on.

Well today, we had a meeting on meetings. We actually discussed how meetings were supposed to be done... so it was a meeting training meeting.

Oddly enough, the meeting training meeting also scheduled training for tomorrow, so there will be meetings on how that training goes too.

Don't get me started about the reports that are generated about the trainings or meetings. Aye, aye, aye!!!

I guess there was some high level meeting going on today about the status of forces or something concerning our future support to the Iraqi people. Honestly, I am too far down in the weeds to really get much of what is going on way up there in the stratusphere.

I know Ohio State won yesterday, Iraqi men are still playing musical fuses, mosquitoes are still out and biting in mid-November here and that is about it.

Semper Fi,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 22

For those of you keeping track, today is day 22 in our pull-up challenge and it has been really easy so far. It has also been very effective in increaseing the number of pull-ups I can do.

When I first got here, I would have been doing well to knock out 15, non-stop. Yesterday, I did the first 20, non-stop.

Sgt Garrett was pretty impressed and I was surprised myself. What I have learned so far is that the best way to get better at pull-ups is to do pull-ups. Lifting weights hasn't really helped me in the past, but this is really working.

Now they were not perfect pull-ups, but they were all the way up and all the way down.

For those of you doing these with me, hang in there... (pun intended). We only have 78 days left!!!

Semper Fi,

Jump Start

Once again, the Iraqi Police have shown their ability to adapt and get stuff working.

They used two thin cables to jump one vehicle with another. This time, the cables were too thin, and there was no ends on the cable, just copper nubs, so one guy had to hold the cables right down on the posts while the other guy did the same. Finally, a third guy had to start the disabled vehicle.

I was amazed! These guys are crazy brave, messing with electricity like that. There were several Marines and probably a dozen IP's around watching this excitement, as were doing all they could to make the car start.

One of the Marines watching decided to be sneaky and play a little prank on the guys working to start the car (and no, I will not use his name here... you may know him). He crept up to the working vehicle and honked the horn.

Both men holding the cables jumped! The guy holding the cables to the dead vehicle screamed, dropped the cables and shouted something in Arabic that sounded like it had four letters in it. He then started chasing the antagonist around the parking lot shouting at him. By the end of the chase, everyone, including the Iraqi giving chase were laughing.

It was hilarious.

They finally got the vehicle started, and got it started without the use of an ambulance or medical team.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

9 November Surprise

So there I was, still drowsy from a relatively successful nights sleep, walking around to get to the shower and I hear this, uh, sound. Not so sure if it was my head playing with me or some Marine prankster, but it had to be the best sheep impression I have ever heard in my life.

I take the bait, glance to my right and sure enough, there is a sheep. No, I mean a real live sheep.

I gotta wake up!!! I shake my head a little, squint my eyes and look again... it is moving. It is a sheep.... in Ramadi.

Now I am not one for farm animals, and certainly not one to just walk up to some strange farm animal that I have never been formally introduced to (my mother taught me better than that) so I just walked in and took my shower.

After I was done, I noticed that a few other Marines had found the sheep too. "That your sheep Gunny," one of them asked. "Nope, not my sheep," I retorted.

We chuckled and pondered for a few minutes before we went about our separate ways.

Come to find out, it was one of the interpreter's sheep. He had picked it up to have, um, over for dinner, the night after the Marine Corps birthday.

Immediately I thought, "I ain't eatin' that sheep," and then I started thinking about steak, chicken, salmon.... CHEESEBURGERS..........

OK, I will give the sheep a shot... I mean I will taste it if they offer some to me. Although they never did, we did share some cake with them. It was a really good ceremony with some Marines I will never forget.

We cut the cake with a Bayonet! How totally fitting for a band of warriors, deployed to a combat zone, don't you think?

(That piece on the right was ALL MINE!) There were several of these cakes, so there was plenty to have for breakfast the next morning.

The Marines who drink got to have two beers a piece, courtesy of 2/9's SgtMaj. Those of us who don't drink were standing ready, just in case something went down... It didn't and all was well.

.... a sheep.....

Semper Fi,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Little Trip to Jazeera

We were able to get out to Jazeera Precinct the other day and work with some of our students there. They are doing well.

This picture was taken in the entry way to their building.

It is their wall of heroes. Each is a picture of a Policeman who gave his life in the line of duty. I don't care what country you are from, it takes a hero to lay your life down for the greater good.

The Major I was with called them hero's, not martyrs, but hero's. He told us that they died over the last few years, fighting the insurgency. During Saddam's time, these men would not have been considered hero's unless they were from his family or tribe.

The IP's out at Jazeera are well trained and really impressed us with how well they did their jobs. Some mentoring on our part and they will be ready to roll

Semper Fi,


Happy 233rd Birthday, Marines!

Today, November 10, 2008 is the Marine Corps' 233rd Birthday. That means that we have been at this profession of protection since 10 November, 1775! For those of you doing the math, we gained our independence, as a nation, in 1776... on the shoulders of some damn fine Marines.

My Corps started in a Tavern in Pennsylvania... how fitting. It was a Major who was the first Commandant and one of the best recruiters in history.

He basically got his recruits drunk enough to agree to volunteer to sit up in the crow's nest of a colonial ship and function as a sharp shooter from aloft. Can you say sea-sick???

The officers on the decks wore an embroidered design called a quatrefoil on their hats so the Marines in the crow's nests knew who to watch for commands and who to shoot (I mean not to shoot...).

The Marines of that time were called "leather-necks" because their collars were high enough to cover their necks and made of thick leather to protect them from the blades of their enemy's swords.

The blues uniform worn by today's enlisted Marines looks similar to that worn by our predecessors on the ships.

Marines of that day often had salt stains on their uniforms after they had been at sea for a while, so those that are seasoned veterans today are often called, "salty".

Our Corps is steeped with traditions and it is the traditions that make our Corps special.

Today we celebrate our birthday in different ways, because of our deployed locations. Traditionally, the current Commandant's birthday message is read aloud and General John A. Lejeune's first birthday message is read aloud. Then a cake is cut with a traditional Marine Corps blade (Sword for some and K-Bar for others). The first piece is given to the oldest Marine, representing the respect for our predecessors and traditions. The second piece is cut by the oldest Marine and given to the youngest Marine present, representing the traditions getting passed down to the new generation. Following that, all Marines eat cake and typically tell a bunch of "remember-when" stories.

US Navy Corpsmen (medical personnel assigned to Marine Units) and Chaplains are not left out and are normally, specifically remembered in our ceremonies. They serve right there with us.

These ceremonies have happened in airports, battlefields, training areas, ball-rooms, colleges and, well, just about every climb and place.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fi,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Unrestricted Warfare

Sgt G and I are reading through a book called Unstrestricted Warfare.


It was written by two Chinese Colonels back in 1999. They are very predictive in their writing, and very close to being right on.

Reading helps to pass the time after work and get us thinking about something other than our daily grind.

This book discusses higher theories of war and suggests that the nature of war has changed. It says that war is no longer about soldiers on battlefields, but has become a rule-less, omni-present state of conflict where hackers and identity entrepreneurs use everyday objects wield power. ...1999....

It talks about thinking about war differently and considering EVERYTHING a weapon and EVERYONE capable of doing international damage. ...you know, relaxing reading before bed!

Honestly though, complacency kills in an environment like this, and a book like this keeps us on our toes. We have to keep our minds in a heightened state of readiness so we remain a hard target to hit.

Hopefully we will have it done in a week or so and we will be on to something else... I will keep you posted.

Semper Fi,


Back in my academic days, I studied a concept called Low Intensity Conflict (LIC... yes, everything in the military MUST have an acronym).

I always had a problem with this term. In fact, my disputing this very term for about 10 pages got me an "A" on one of my papers, but that is another story....

Anyway, LIC is a state of conflict where most of the conventional combat is over... Iraq is a good example of what they would call "Low Intensity Conflict". It is not all out combat... we are not nuking anyone and could, the insurgents are not anyone we can really negotiate with, but are still an adversary we engage in semi-military manners.

My problem with the LIC term is that it is only "low intensity" if you are not the one in the fight.

In fact, right now, a military scholar could argue the point that we are not even in LIC right now, but more of a police action.

Read the following article: http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE4A71KE20081108 .

I would challenge you to convince the Iraqi Police that they are in a "low intensity conflict". Those officers that survived these men are giving their lives in this fight. Those families that survived these officers have paid an extreme price for their country and would certainly consider the conflict more than "low intensity".

Pray for the IP's resolve today. Pray for their families. Pray that these brave men continue to fight for what they believe in. They are doing great and their success is critical to peace in this region.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Because we are turning more and more responsibilities and duties over to the Iraqi people, our jobs are really starting to change. They are changing for the better, as it the Iraqi people are becoming more and more independent, but the changes are not always comfortable.

Things we are used to doing and used to see through to the end are now being done by Iraqis who do things differently or are not as transparent.

It is like we built a car, by hand, and are now handing the keys to someone else and telling them to drive it away. That person can drive down the block, wrap that car around a telephone pole and we have no control over their actions.

I guess it bothers me because I really do care about how this all turns out. I want there to be stability over here. Peace and security of the individual Iraqi is important to me, and if the Iraqi government doesn't do this right, it means I failed, we are needed in this area longer and we probably won't be staying, which means instability and....

These changes are necessary, but it is frustrating to give up control of something you have really put your heart into, you know?

I see me having these issues as my kids get older too, especially with Katelyn. As she becomes more and more independent, I am going to have to start giving her the freedoms to succeed or fail on her own.

Back to the car analogy... I have to eventually give them the keys to a car and let them drive it off, knowing they could possibly wrap it around a telephone pole or worse.

I know they are going to surpass my wildest expectations and make me extremely proud, but it is that transition, that time of change that is the hardest.

I am safe on first base and safe on second, but very vulnerable in between. It is that unknown factor of will I make it or will I get tagged out?

There really is a lot riding on the success of the Iraqi government though. Mainly the lives of its people. Personalities drive so much over here, and it is personalities in power. I guess it is like that everywhere.

Pray that the system works and that it sets the innocent free and prosecutes the guilty.

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Results...

Well, the results are in, and I am really, REALLY happy about them!!! Who would have ever dreamed??? Who could have imagined???

I have been waiting 15 years to say this, and it is NOW TIME! The time is finally here!!! Colleen and I have been married for 15 years today!!! (and you thought I was talking about the election???)

When we first got married, in November of 1993, we were so happy.

I was happy because I was marrying the greatest lady in the world. I knew she wasn't going anywhere. While I was in boot camp, she sent me letters every single day. We were engaged the whole time.

When we first got engaged, we told each other that divorce simply wasn't an option, period. It was either stick it out or die trying. With that perspective, we were determined to get by our differences and make compromising adjustments no matter what came our way.

With God's help and the support of our family (and quite despite the Marine Corps' best efforts I might add) we have made it 15 years and have many more to come.

I love you Beautiful!

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today is your last opportunity to vote in this year's pivotal election. Make sure you at least consider the freedoms you have to vote.

I cast my ballot via absentee and hope that you will set a good example and do the same.

In a total change of subject, I decided to never use the lone port-a-john out by the parking lot. Iraqi drivers, specifically IP's in their own parking lot, really, really scare me.

In trying not to be predictable, I avoid routines. I walk to work at different times of the morning and vary my daily routines as much as possible. It makes me a harder target....

So on one such occasion, I decided to use the port-a-john out by the parking lot. It is not as clean, but this was a quick pit-stop and I would be on my way.

About mid-way through, I hear an IP truck come squealing around the lot and start making its way toward a spot over by the IP hooch. Through the little slits in the top of the port-a-john, I helplessly watched as this truck came dangerously close to hitting the flimsy plastic box that would have offered no protection to an incoming F-350.

Mere inches I am telling you, mere inches. It about knocked the port-a-john onto its side... this would have been really, really bad and my blog entry would have been quite different.

Anyway, from this point forward, I am sticking to the facilities closer to the buildings and out of the potential paths of incoming trucks.

Semper Fi,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Your Prayers

I just wanted to take a minute and thank you all for your prayers. Today, at about 1600 (4pm) my time, they really, really worked.

You are the difference. Your prayers significantly impacted my life today and I just wanted to say thank you.

All is well, no one is hurt and it is a result of God answering your prayers.

Semper Fi,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 08 Promotions

Last night was daylight savings time for the US and much of the rest of the world. Iraq does not recognize daylight savings as of last year, so I am now 8 hours ahead of home.

It just seems like I am just that much farther away, but it is November, right? One month closer.

We promoted a Cpl to Sgt yesterday. He was nearly speechless in front of the formation. It is always good to see Marines moving forward in their careers.

Today the SgtMaj and MGySgt list came out. Only 3 MGySgt's got selected for my MOS, so that means next year there are going to be only a few who get selected for MSgt. I am expecting the MSgt and 1stSgt lists to come out here real soon.

We are doing really well out here at the station. We will be awarding 4 students with certificates of completion of our highest level of training. One of them will be certified as an instructor to train his co-workers on the skills he has learned so far. We will still be mentoring them all in their duties, but they are doing very well.

Seems like many are getting promoted and these advancements are bringing further responsibility.

We are doing really well, supported by the greatest nation in the world. We are accomplishing the missions involved with securing an unstable Iraq and doing it with honor and dignity. Our forefathers would be proud of our individual actions. We are representing you and representing them to the best of our ability.

Semper Fi,

Saturday, November 1, 2008


No matter how you slice it, we are month closer to coming home.

It was October, now it is November. We have one less pay day 'til we come home. We are one more month down. It is Saturday, so that is one week closer to getting home too.

I realize that we are still talking about only having been here so long, but when you are over here, you gotta squeeze every drop of motivation out of everything to keep those eyes on the prize.

It is going to be a good day!!! We are going to make it a good day.

Today is 9 pull-ups and we are stoked and ready to hit them. Colleen had me do the math the other day, and with nothing getting in the way of them, we should be at 100 pull-ups on 31 January, 2009. We are going to have some serious shoulders (or serious shoulder pain) by then.

Well, the skies are blue over here in our sand-box! Have an AWESOME November!!!

Semper Fi,

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pull-Up Challenge

Sgt Garrett and I are taking a pull-up challenge.

Seven days ago, we did 1 pull-up. The next day we did 2. Then next day we did 3. (not very challenging, I know...)

Well today we did seven, and we are going to 100. That is right, in 93 days, we are going to do 100 pull-ups in one day and the day before we will have done 99, etc.

I am convinced that this is going to be a challenge, but we are determined to succeed.

If we miss a day, we are going to make it up the following day ON TOP OF that day's pull-ups. So if we miss day 50, we get to do 101 the following day.... Lets hope we don't miss, right?

In this challenge, we can break up the pull-ups throughout the day. We can kip, change grips and even get a spot now and again.

This is going to be tough, but if we keep at it, we are going to have an easy 200 points on our next PFT. The trick is going to be to keep what we gain by continuing to do pull-ups after the 100 days is up.

Anyone want to join in, just start where we are (today you would do 7, tomorrow you would do 8) and keep up!

Semper Fi,

Musical Fuses

Here I am, just minding my own business, trying to get back from the office to the hooch, in the dark, with my little flashlight and out of no where I hear an Iraqi come out from behind an IP truck saying, "Mista, Mista, you give me light?"

It is really dark outside, but I am slow to say no, so he grabs my arm and walks me over to the truck. He then proceeds to hold my hand up under his open hood and adjust my wrist to shine my light on the fuse box.

Relatively relieved that he didn't "want" my flashlight, I obliged and noticed that about half the fuses where missing.

This is a nice, Ford F350 truck, relatively new, and missing half the fuses....

He would grab a fuse from one spot, move it to another spot, get in the truck and try and start it. When that didn't work, he would repeat the process until the truck started, well, tried to start until the fuse blew.

He quickly jumped out of the truck, grabbed the fuse with the highest number on it and stuck it in that spot. Then he jumped back in the truck, started it up, got out and shook my hand. Just as I was walking away, I heard him get in the truck, pause, get back out of the truck and say, "Mista, Mista you give me light?"

Did he want the flashlight now? No, he grabbed my hand and we shined on the fuse box one more time. This time, he pulled the fuse out that started the truck and put it back where it was. With the truck running, I guess he didn't need that one there, but he needed headlights.

Sure enough, the headlights came on and he was closing the hood of his IP truck, ready to start his shift.

All I could do was shake my head. This was truly improvising at its best. These guys may not be able to run a country in a game of Risk, but they could probably teach McGuyver a thing or two about making things work.

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Whacky Day!

OK, this was one for the record books. Today started off just nutty from the beginning.

I get up (wearing shorts and a t-shirt) and need to get my uniform on. I slide my socks on, and grab my cammie top... wait, I am forgetting something... next thing I know, I am staring at my gun belt in my left hand and thinking, "I should really have pants on before I put this on..."

Control-Alt-Delete... I went back and sat down on my bed and laid out a plan for getting dressed. You know it is going to be one of those days when they start out like that, right?

At a quarter to nine, I went over and talked to the instructors that were supposed to be teaching our guys. They were ready. All was well.

At about 10:00, one of the students comes over to the office and tells us that the instructors are no where to be found (yeah, those guys who were waiting on the students at 08:45). Cue the Twilight Zone music and start spinning up the Gunny.

I go over to where I saw them last and they were gone. I looked everywhere they would go on our compound and nothing. Finally, as I am about to learn the rest of the story, here they come from the adjascent compound.

I asked them where they were and they said they were over talking to the other precinct guys and that the students had not shown up.

Of course, no one told me this, and no one had gone to their boss to ask where they were, so I guess we just call an audible and punt the ball away on second down???? Basically.

In getting to the bottom of this one, I learned that only one of their students had shown up. Some head-bumping and chest beating happened and we got it all figured out after a few thumb-wrestling matches and bouts of rock-paper-scissors.

While we were over talking to the 2nd in command of the students (because the Col was out of the office) we learned that he needed a new badge. We can work that out.

Sgt Garrett went and made him a new badge. On the way to deliver it, they see the Col is back. They stop in to pay their respects and tell him in passing that they are taking the new badge to his second in command.

Somehow this displeased the Col... Now you really have to understand the culture of the people to get this concept, and since I don't, I am not going to try and explain it. How in the world can you get mad at someone for helping someone else when they have asked for your help? Yeah, I am at a loss too.

Shortly thereafter, we make our way to the vehicles. We are heading to pick up some chow and run a few other errands.

When we get to the Chow-hall in our many-ton MRAP, we notice that there are two vehicles there a-head of us. We decide to pull over to the side of the very muddy and wet road and wait for them to get done so we can slide in there next to them.

(now think back if you will to my "Rain" blog)

Yeah, you probably guessed it, we got that buffalo of a vehicle stuck!

Yeah, those Army guys getting chow were pretty excited to see the Marines acting amphibious in a puddle, but we were none-too-happy about the whole idea of conducting a beach landing in the middle of Iraq.

Eventually, after everyone was bored with the show and the drivers Gunny had shown up and yelled at him, the driver actually got himself out of the ditch, somehow.

We got the chow and finished our mission without further incident, but what a messed up day! It seemed like we were getting frustrated at every turn. It was a Monday, that is for sure, and it is over.

You know that tomorrow will be better, right!

Semper Fi,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Group Shot of the PTT

The Police Transition Team got together and took a group shot today. There is no way I will be able to get all the names spelled right and all that, so I am going to take the lazy way out and just stick them up here.

We have the MRAP in the picture because she is our main set of wheels around town. The HMMWV's are not nearly as reliable as she has been, but none the less we cannot get around without them.

Some of us in the picture have our eyes closed or hands in our pockets. We got guys lurking in the back, one smashing his face all up and a professional wrestler who could smash up any of our faces at will (Sorry Sir, just had to throw that one in there...). Some of us are confident and others ugly, but we are all here doing the best we can, especially the ugly ones.

Semper Fi,



I think I posted that changing seasons blog a little too soon.

Over the last couple days, the temps have dropped and it has RAINED. We learned that our hooch is not made to be all-weather and it is far from North Carolina building codes.

We had some leaks spring up and they sprung up at about 0500 in the morning.

Our driving-range/dust field became a field of mud that spanned exactly the distance from our front door to the port-a-johns. What wasn't about 3 inches of mud was about 3 inches of water. Of course it is kind of hard to tell the difference at that time in the dark, I mean morning, when you are still drowsy and have left your flashlight right where you wouldn't forget it.

We have since built a path on some of the high spots so we can more easily traverse the mud/lake at any hour.

The weather finally let up today at about 1000. The lightening and thunder were spectacular. If you weren't paying attention, you could confuse it for other loud noises one would hear in a combat zone.

All is well though. Nothing permanently damaged by water, no one hurt and everyone is still mission capable.

Hope you are all staying safe and dry!!!

Semper Fi,

Football Evolution

OK, so those of you who would read this know that I am an OHIO STATE fan and so you probably think that I am going to blog about their loss to Penn State. Nope.

Three days ago, Sgt Garrett grabbed a football from the COC desk and figured we would toss it around a little. Sounded good. I had to put some stuff down in the room and tie my shoes.

While he was waiting on me, he tossed it to an IP. They pitched it back and forth until I got out there. Well we are not fellas who like to exclude people, so we kept tossing it with the IP.

It wasn't long before a few others walked by. They would look at us like what we were doing was unusual (because it kind'a was) and so while they were looking, we would toss it to them.

Before long, we had probably 10 fellas standing around in a circle passing an American football around the circle.

I don't know much of what they said and they didn't know much of what we said, but for about an hour and a half, the pig-skin was our universal language.

At first it was a nice, easy, arching pass that they were able to handle easily. Then one of them made the mistake of rifling it at one of us. That was our cue. We started zinging it around the circle with some speed.

After a while, when one would miss and have to chase it down, then he would try to throw it from where he was.

Now we added distance into the equation. Most of the IP's had to use a cut off guy because couldn't throw that far (they didn't have the practice that Sgt Garrett and I have had...), but they seemed to like the long ball when it was thrown.

Long balls tend to stay in the air for a while... just long enough for one of them to try and get an interception from another one... Well you know how that goes. Then we are starting to organize plays.

We stopped short of picking teams and drawing lines, but that would have been the next logical step.

What a blast! We watched football evolve between a group of about ten fellas aging from probably 19-20 to, well, I don't know how old this one fella was, but he was having fun with the rest of us, and not all of us could even verbally communicate.

No one was hurt and in the spirit of the game, respect was earned all the way around.

Next time we will use a soccer ball or something like that.

Semper Fi!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"What is it about you Marines?"

If you have ever wondered this, the following may give you something to think about. It was written by a very eloquent Marine Capt Gerry Porthier and written to Marines to help them answer the question. You know, we are a very odd bunch. Who else pulls off some of the insane stuff we are crazy enough to try? Enough from me, enjoy:

How many times have we been asked, "What is it about you Marines?"

This may help explain what we share that is so special and what we have lived that makes us remember. To understand, you have to live our experience, share what we have all shared, and feel what we have all felt. It is about Corps values, and honor. It is about character. It is about a shared experience that changed our lives.

The common experience starts with DISORIENTATION. The Corps creates a vacuum in your life. It takes away your hair, clothes, and friends, and fills it with a drill instructor. He says things like get off MY bus ... do it NOW and as you stand asshole to belly-button on the yellow footprints, your identity disappears. The D.I. gives you a short lesson on the UCMJ, and you learn that rights belong to the institution, not to the individual.

You will live in a squad bay and you will march everywhere. He speaks to you in the future imperative ... he says. YOU WILL ... and you do! He gives you a new language ... deck, hatch, head. It is a language that is steeped in a tradition you don't understand yet. He takes away your right to speak in the first person, and he takes away your first name. Your platoon number is what's important now.

Before your first meal you get 20 seconds to stow your gear, and you learn that the only way to get it done within the time limit is to help one another... The TRANSFORMATION begins. This is the culture of the Group, and its members are anonymous.

Although you don't know it, your drill instructor will become the most important person you will ever meet, and your weeks of boot camp will become t he defining cultural experience of your life. For the first time in your life you encounter absolute standards of right and wrong, success and failure. When you screw up, everyone stops, and they penalize you, immediately, so you won't forget.

Disorientation and Transformation are followed by TRAINING.

The rules are simple:
a. Tell the truth
b. Always do your best no matter how trivial the task
c. Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong
d. Don't whine or make excuses
e. Judge others by their actions

And above all, look out for the group, before you look out for yourself. During your training you are pushed beyond your limits, and you achieve. You learn to make excellence a habit. The common denominator among you and your fellow recruits is pride and accomplishment. Through your training you develop spirit, and you develop self-discipline.Y

ou learn the ingredients of CHARACTER: Integrity, Selflessness, and Moral Courage. And you learn the Corps Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

These are your roots. The Corps is a rigid code that will stay with you forever. It will define your character, and it will guide you for the rest of your life. This is why there are no EX-Marines.

Once you can appreciate what you are about to become, you learn about those who have gone before you. You study our history, and learn the lessons of countless heroes who acted, not for self, but for comrade, Corps, and Country. Marines are about taking care of each other, always have been, always will. It is our culture and it holds us together. As you learn the history, you become part of the tradition. You have a new appreciation of your God, your Country, and your Corps.

One final element completes your training - you become a rifleman.

The magnitude of what you have accomplished becomes apparent to you at graduation, when you finally earn your title and are called Marine.

What you know then, in your heart, but what you can't put into words, is that there is something very special about this organization that is unlike any other organization you ever have been a part of. What you can't put into words, but what you know in your heart is that the essence of the Marine Corps resides with the lowest in rank; The Marine is the Corps, and the Corps is the Marine. ... Your uniform says it all. When someone looks at you they don't see the name of your ship, a unit patch, or a branch insignia ... what they see is a MARINE. That's all that counts! You are a Marine! It is what matters to you, and it is what matters to every other Marine. You know that you may never feel this important again, and you will spend the rest of our life living the code, and holding on to the feeling that every Marine is a rifleman and that's the essence.

But there is more to our story than our boot camp experience. There is our experience of sacrifice and our participation in the history & tradition of the Corps. We share stories and tell of the humor that got us through the tough times, but we also have stories we keep to ourselves, hiding the painful memories too personal to share.

Shared experience and personal sacrifice are reasons the Marine Corps is a Band of Brothers. It is the reason we celebrate today. The feeling you have when you become a Marine lasts a lifetime. Whether you serve 3 years, or 30, your experiences will never be forgotten. You will never work as closely, or depend on others more, than you did in the Corps. The Corps is your family, you can never leave, and you are always welcome back. You are EXPECTED to come back!

This shared experience, and personal sacrifice is our common bond. It is why we love each other and our country so much, and why we cling to our traditions. Our celebration preserves and honors the memory of all who have gone before us and it is an example, and a standard, for all who follow. In a time when there are so few proud and good examples to follow, when so little seems to count, our views, our beliefs, our PRACTICE of our tradition is, by others standards, EXTREME. We are perhaps all our country has left to guarantee that the principles upon which this nation was founded will survive.

Many presidents, and congressmen, have tried to do away with the Marine Corps, but we are still here. Why? The answer is simple - America doesn't need a Marine Corps, America WANTS one! Marine, you are the reason she feels that way. Remember that, and feel good about it.

"It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men."

Attributed to Capt. Gerry Porthier