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

Friday, October 24, 2008


Just a few observations on gear I have, gear I wish I had and gear I shouldn't have messed with...:

Body Armor: ...weights way too much with all the stuff we have to have strapped on it (ammo, first aid kit, 4 different armor plates, the vest itself and all those collar, groin, rib-cage add-ons...). How the expect us to fight in that rig is beyond me. Simply put, we must have the ammo and first aid kit, but the rest of that junk is simply over weight. Further, I have read about tests that it doesn't stop 7.62mm rounds... the rounds fired out of an AK-47. In other words, the weapon our enemy uses will penetrate the vest that in itself will prevent us from fighting effectively. I know there is technology out there that would allow us to build a lightweight, 7.62mm round stopping vest.

Boots: The boots we wear out here MUST be comfortable or your feet are never going to heal. If they are not comfortable, they will rub sores in your feet and wearing them 7 days a week, 12-20 hours a day and you are going to be hurting. I am wearing a pair of boots issued to me by MARSOC. They are made by Oakley and they work great! They feel like sneakers.

Camel-Back: This is a great tool if you are going on a walk or going to put it in your pack...BUT if you are going to be jumping in and out of vehicles or if you are going to lean up against something, beware! I have now seen three different Marines soaked from the back of their lower body armor to the back of their boots because they were sitting in a HMMWV and burst their camel-back bladder. Then they had to patrol around doing their mission soaked from the butt down. I am sticking with the canteen/canteen cup/canteen stove for now, but will revisit this later on, on different missions.

Cotton: If you are planning on wearing cotton socks or cotton t-shirts or cotton... re-consider. Compared to some of the other materials out there, it is heavy, doesn't wick moisture well and bunches/chafes unforgivably. XGO makes a poly-spandex blend t-shirt that is really effective and is flame retardant.

Toilet paper: 1 or 2 rolls of the good stuff. Let the Port-a-John be out of paper one time and you will know exactly what I mean.

Lap-top computer: Have one with a DVD player and make sure you bring a universal power converter kit. It makes a great journal, even if you don't blog it; you can watch movies on it; play video games on it... it is just a good piece of gear. Oh, and I almost forgot, get the warrentee when you buy it, so if it happens to go tumbling out of the back of the truck, you can get it fixed by the company who made it... not that this happened to me.

Stay tuned for more on this later....

Semper Fi,


In the circles I am moving around in, the theories seem to be the similar to the last post I made on this topic: $$$.

The Iraqi people I work with are mostly governmental employees, many of them officers. They are ready for "us" to leave, but want the money to keep flowing in. They want to take charge of their country and want to have things run their way again.

When we pulled our bases out of Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the initial reaction of the people was favorable. They wanted us gone. Soon thereafter, they started to realize how much money the US government and the US service members pumped into the local economy and then they started wanting that income back.

We spend quite a bit of money hiring Iraqi's as contractors to construct buildings and make infrastructural improvements while we provide security for these improvements. Both the money for these contracts and the security will go away when we leave and the people I work with all seem to realize that.

On the American side of the coin, it is going to be expensive in resources and time to get all of the Americans, over 100,000, back to the states. Now I realize that it costs quite a bit to keep us here and pulling us out will save some of those resources, but the bottom line is that we are still here largely because of money.

Doing things right the first time normally costs less than doing them several times. Paying now to only conduct Operation Iraqi Freedom once WILL cost less than paying to re-deploy the military generation after generation after generation.

This would have been a good philosophy to have employed back in the early 90's when we were here during the first President Bush's tenure. Had the military my father was in been permitted to finish the job, the military I am in probably would not have had to come back out here in the 2000's.

Don't get me wrong, I am not upset about that. It is water under the bridge and there is nothing I can do to change it, but I can recommend that we make it right for the military of my children's age. We are still here for the sake of their national treasure and their money.

Finally, the oil in this region costs money and the stability of that resource is critical. It is critical for the oil in Iran to be controlled by a stable regime as well, but that is another blog for another day.

We need to still be here to stabilize the Iraqi government to a point that they can fairly distribute the oil they control. We need to pay a fair price for a fair commodity, but that is not possible if there is no one controlling its distribution and maintaining order.

Nigeria is in the situation now where they cannot control the distribution of their oil. Bandits and gangs of thugs are raiding oil rigs and stealing oil by the tens of thousands of barrels a week and the Nigerian government has not been able to stop them.

In Sudan, 9 Chinese oil workers (yet another blogable topic for another day) have been kidnapped by rebels wanting to influence the oil distribution for a state that has not been able to protect it.

Nigeria's/Sudan's national well-being, to include the well-being of the rebels, could improve if they would stop all this non-sense and start allowing the oil workers to do their jobs. Iraq is in the same boat. It needs to have the strength in its security apparatus to control its oil distribution.

This disruption in oil distribution is bad for the global economy as well as the US economy and impacts more than just the prices at the pump. It impacts the imports and exports of food commodity.

Farmers in America or India or Brazil or... will not be able to sell their goods to the same consumers they were able to before if there are fuel problems that cause costs to marginalize profits.

Bottom Line: We are still in Iraq largely due to monitary reasons.

More will surely follow!!!

Semper Fi,


Communications have really helped Colleen and I stay married and keep our marriage strong.

We are always telling each other how much we love and cherish each other. That part is so important to me. If that is not manly, then fine, but it is keeping our marriage strong.

My nick-name for Colleen is Beautiful. Remember, nick-names are important. Words have meaning. She knows how I feel about her every time I call her name.

She gets flowers once a month while I am gone, and normally on days she would not expect them. If there is a birthday or anniversary in a month (and they all seem to happen while I am deployed) then she gets two orders of flowers because the one is just me telling her I love her.

We will be married 15 years on the 5th of November, and she has been the best gift God could have given me. She is a loving, faithful and capable lady who only knows the good in people. She is a true Proverbs 31 wife and an awesome mother. I could not do what I do without her support and love and failing to communicate this would be fatal to our marriage.

Beautiful, I love and appreciate you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remember Beirut

The Beirut bombing happened 25 years ago, today.

Do you know where Beirut is in the world?

Do you know how long the US service members were there in the barracks before it was hit?

How many died in the attack?

Why were they there?

Were they attacking someone or defending someone?

Who attacked them?

Could they have prevented their attacker from succeeding? How?

Hopefully I have built up some patriotic curiosity. Me telling you the answers to these questions would defeat the point. If you have read this far, you have access to the internet. Read up on this for yourself and you will find some very interesting answers. Those who served then and there are some of my heroes. I strive to be like many who served then/there.

Remember Beirut.

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Change in Seasons

Colleen's Aunt Sue wrote me a great e-mail talking about her deer hunting trip and much of it revolved around the weather. She mentioned a change in seasons and that got me thinking... I even walked outside to look.

It really is starting to change seasons around here. The sky was mostly overcast and that big yellow heat-tab in the sky was behind a blanket of low clouds.

Now that I think about it, that has been the case for the last few days. The morning clouds seem to hang around until about 9 or 10 in the morning and then the heat of the day dissipates them until evening and then they start to come out again.

The temps are starting to fall and it is going from an unbearable 95-100 degrees at night to a more reasonable 75-80. It is definitely fall around here now, but the leaves are still resiliently green under their blankets of dust.

Seasons seem to be changing around here too. People seem to be out and about more. They seem to be enjoying not being cooped up in the sporadic AC all day hiding from the energy sapping heat.

There are good things coming up around here and the seasons are changing. Evidences that we are slowing getting pulled out of Iraq are starting to show. General Kelly talks about it in this article,2933,439612,00.html .

The seasons are changing and although change is not always comfortable, it is constant.

Thanks Sue for that great e-mail and I will reply, hopefully sometime today!

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seeing Something better

Of there Marines that are here, one of them is looking to get into my MOS when he gets back.

About every other night he comes by and we go over academic concepts that will eventually help him get through the school if the Marine Corps lets him switch. It is a really good deal for him as he will be looking at a bonus of about $76,000.00 when he completes the school. That bonus would make a welcomed impact on any young Marine, especially in times like this.

He seems really motivated to learn and very interested in our job. They are constantly taxi-ing people around and then waiting for a few hours for a meeting to end, just to ferry them somewhere else waiting for a briefing to end. At one point during his last trip out here, he kinda asked himself if wanted to be the one ferrying or getting ferried. His answer is obvious, so he started asking questions about how to be that latter guy.

The people giving the briefs were in my field, so he asked a career planner on Camp Lejeune what needed to happen to lat move into another MOS. He got screened and approved.

Now it is just a matter of getting back to Lejeune and heading off to school.

Why don't the Iraqi's get that.

Some of the Iraqi staff I was working with had a conversation the other day. We discussed how Iraq had everything it needed (except security) to get back on its feet itself. We all agreed that we (the Americans) were just here to help Iraq stay secure and train its security forces long enough to help everything else get back on its feet.

During this discussion, and I think I mentioned this part previously, we talked about Iraq needing a strong dictatorial hand to lead the people, and that the people didn't know how to act free. Basically, they were saying they wanted a Saddam Hussein-like authority figure back in power to control things.

This leads me back to the Marine who sees something better, wants something better and takes action to get something better when that improvement is offered.

Iraq as a nation is rejecting personal freedoms by clinging to the hope that a dictator will emerge from after the Americans leave.

I would suggest that maybe they don't see what we have (freedom) as better than tyrany, but is that possible? They have western TV (I have seen it), internet (I have seen that they have it) and examples right here in front of them.

Semper Fi,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Missing Family Time

It is days like today that I really miss my family. We really enjoy going to church together and being around like-minded people.

There are not too many people who think more like you than your nuclear family (those family members that you live with) and going to a church week after week develops a church family of very like-minded people as well.

I picture Katelyn picking out clothes. She is so proud of her selection and comes out to show Mommy, only to learn that her orange shirt does not match her purple pants and probably won't for a few more years.

Colleen has to stop what she is doing and work her way back to help them out and as she does she finds Seth emptying the last bit of tooth-paste onto his toothbrush. She gets him the replacement tube and continues on to help Katelyn.

On her way, she helps Caleb get his tie tied and adjust his mo-hawk (he really does have one you know) and notices their "piggy-bank" which reminds her to pay them their allowance so they can tithe today... that is more important, so she races back to the kitchen to get their money from our allowance jar.

By the time she has their allowance straightened out, Katelyn has fixed her outfit and now has on something cute and appropriate.

One by one the kids come out, ready, and all of them sit down for breakfast.

It is a crazy Sunday morning, but one I miss being a part of. We all know what has to be done and just seem to do it to the best of our abilities to help the family get where it needs to be. Sometimes it needs some extra pushing and sometimes it needs to slow down and relax a bit.

My morning was relatively the same. Meeting preparation followed by meeting, followed by meeting recovery and documentation, followed by a social lunch, followed by ... well, more routine kinds of things.

The difference was that it was with people we are convinced are not all of the same mind. Even among the Iraqi professional colleagues in the room, many differ in their motives, agenda's and objectives. Most of the Marines in the meeting had varying missions and ideas of how things should be.

It was almost like a huge game of chess where 20 people all have pieces on the table and each persons objective is to "win." Alliances of convenience and short duration form, but only until temporary objectives are met.

I miss the little girl hugs my daughter would bring me. I miss the "nuckle-bumps" my boys would exchange with me. I miss my brides goodmorning embrace.

It is Sunday. Dog-gone-it, I miss Mexican food and football!

...Sorry about that out-burst, I just miss home.

Semper Fi,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful Morning

The sun is up here in Ramadi. The sky has that light blue tint to it of clean clear air and the sun is just starting to warm the 63 degree air.

The cats are playing with a dust bunny (no wait, that is one of the kittens) out in our dirt yard and the pigeons are searching for something up in one of the two palm trees next to the building across the way.

Our Iraqi students are going to be here for the first day of their week, ready to learn. Friday is their day off. Now don't get all concerned thinking they get only one day off. Friday is like their Sunday, and that is the day all of them expect to have off.

Our students split their six day work week. Half of them work Saturday through Monday and take Tuesday through Friday off while the other half of them work from Tuesday through Thursday and take Friday through Monday off. By the way, they work from 9am through 3pm on a long work day.

I know at this point you are saying that is a pretty sweet deal, an 18 hour work week and all, but when your division of the government doesn't have a budget to pay you from, and you are working for very little money, even 18 hours a week seems a little much.

Anyway, it is back to work for Sgt Garrett, Yoda and me, so have a wonderful weekend!!!

Semper Fi,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Are We Still In Iraq? (YRWSII?) Part I

Philosophy was never my strong suite as a kid. In fact, it was the only college course I ever withdrew from due to a complete lack of interest. (Winter Term of 1993... remember that one Mom?)

That said, I am going to do my best here with what I have, philosophically speaking.

Further, I am going to get the opinion of some of the Iraqi people here (with Yoda's help of course) as to why they think we are still in Iraq.

I am also going to ask some Marines why they think we are still in Iraq.

Hopefully, you will comment discussing why you think we are in Iraq.

There will be some humor thrown in here about what other people (politicians and the like) would say or have said about why we are still in Iraq.

We can get some devil's advocate going on why we should NOT be in Iraq.

And eventually, maybe we can figure out that this is all just academic and a good way to stay connected while 7 time zones apart... or not.

Now I realize that there are already lots and LOTS of blogs out there on this topic, but this one is mine and it is keeping me sane! I promise to do my best to keep each part original, short and bearable.

My Mom e-mailed me a story today and gave me permission to use it. I am going to take a little liberty here and omit the last little part of it, just for the sake of staying on topic:

Once upon a time there were 2 neighbors. One neighbor was injured and the other, out of kindness brought meals every day. After about 6 months, the injury was healed and the kind neighbor saw that the injured neighbor no longer needed the meals. However, when the kind neighbor stopped supplying the meals, the injured neighbor became irate demanding his free meals.....

From my perspective, we are in our 5th month of handing Iraq it's free meals. We are getting closer and closer to month 6 and we are telling them in advance that they need to do their part with the last few weeks of free food to get a new job and start feeding themselves.

In fact, my job here is an example of the US going that extra mile and teaching them the skills they may not have to feed themselves here in a few "weeks."

I think there are numerous reasons we are still in Iraq, but using the illustration of the story above, we are still here because our injured neighbor is still healing... but it is month 5.

I have lots more to share on this and am interested in your comments!!! Please let me know when you send them if you would like them posted or just want to share them with me. I will respect your wishes.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't Feed the Cats

We have this mother cat with her 2 (used to be 3) kittens who hangs around the make-shift chow hall at night begging for scraps. There are probably another 6 cats that hang around the yard that are just way too skittish to go near the chow-hall.

The Marines always try to sneak the cats scraps and when we catch them doing it, we have to tell them not to feed the cats or kittens.

I am not sure who is more pitiful, the Marines when we scold them for feeding the poor little kittens and mother cat or the kittens themselves, but they don't see the whole picture.

First off, it is the rules, plain and simple. Coalition forces are forbidden from turning strays into pets. It is the rules for a reason though.

When you feed these cats, they often lose their killer instincts to kill the mice and pests that otherwise spread disease. Losing that instinct will cause them to starve to death later. Besides that, they or their parasites are often the carriers of disease, so it is a bad idea to have them around.

The reason I have learned though seems to carry a little more weight than the flimsy "rules" excuse that seems to smack of a, "because I said so" mentality.

One of the Iraqi Policemen asked if he could go into the chow-hall and have dinner. He knew it was against the rules, but the Marine he was asking was feeding a cat. When the Marine said no, he asked him why the cat could get fed from the chow-hall but not the Iraqi Police.

Thinking quickly, the Marine turned and replied, "pork."

Although the Marine won that battle (the Iraqi Policeman immediately ended the conversation and walked away) he completely missed the point. That Marine just put the value of the cat's full stomach above the value of the Iraqi Policeman's full stomach.

Be assured, that Iraqi Policeman went back and told his peers that the cats were now unclean (as they had consumed pork) and that the Marines care more for the cats than for the Iraqi's. Do you think that story stopped there?

I don't think that the results of that little exchange will cause US mission failure, but it certainly causes us to work harder for progress.

The Marines who stock the chow-hall have limited funds to keep food in it and only get enough food to replace what the number of Marines on hand would eat in a given time. That said, we don't get enough rations for all the Iraqi's here to eat from our chow-hall.

Here again, if we do start getting enough rations, they will stop requesting from their Iraqi higher headquarters the food rations they are getting from us. Like the cat, they will lose the instinct or the need to get food of their own, from their own sources.

Isn't it crazy how feeding a few hungry cats can have such resounding, strategic effects.

Don't feed the Cats.

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Please forgive my delay in posting, but my digestive tract has been very angry with me lately. It is liquefying everything that made it by my stomach and rejecting everything else. (I am really trying to convey an idea gently but know of not too many other ways to say it).

Needless to say, I have been out of commission lately, but I am back on my feet now.

According to Doc, it is a virus. He said one of his SSgt's got it about a day before I started showing symptoms. Lets hope it ends with my, right?

Sgt Garrett and Fawwas were great. Sgt Garrett did both our jobs for a day and Fawwaz was there to keep shoving food down me. That man knows probably 5 different languages and several more dialects but "no thank you" is not in any of them. I am telling you, Colleen hand-picked him to take care of me and keep me out of trouble, but I am not sure how she did it.

Well, I feel better today and should be back to 100% within a day or two.

I hope you are all safe and healthy.

Semper Fi,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lunch with the Col

I was invited to eat lunch on Sunday with the Iraqi Colonel I work with. He is a very gracious man and very generous host. It was absolutely AWESOME.

The food is placed on a metal plate that is about 2 feet across. It is a portion of meat called kabob that takes up the center of the plate. Then around the meat are cooked tomatoes, diced cucumbers, noodles, pickles, peppers and green leafy vegetables. Some trays also have olives, hummus, chick peas, and other vegetables or meats. Then as a side there was what looked like a rotisserie chicken. Flat bread was our utensil and another main staple of the meal.

We each took a piece of flat bread, tore it off and used it to pick up the food, straight off the plate. We really did, literally, break bread together and eat off the same plate. It was great!

Although this is not the first time I have eaten like this, this was the first time I have had a social lunch with the Colonel. Come to find out, he likes John McCain (and so that means all his men like him too...).

He told me he had 5 daughters, and 1 son. He then asked me why I had so few kids (only 3). He is proud of his big family.

The topic quickly turned to politics; why America came to war with his country; why Paul Bremmer dismantled the civil infrastructure; why the candidates in America make the promises they have made (and he named specific ones).

He wanted to talk about the politics of the Kurds and Turkey and how interesting it was that America found themselves in such a pickle up there trying to be culturally sensitive. He thinks we should start acting like Saddam. He said the people of Iraq don't know what to do with freedoms, but NEED a strong hand "of leadership." (you'll never guess which flag was on his desk... yup, had three stars in the middle section).

It was very interesting that he would bring up such subjects that we are constantly told to avoid. We are instructed to not discuss politics, family or religion as we don't want to offend our hosts. I did the best I could not to discuss these topics, but he brought them up and not answering would have probably offended him more at this point. Further, if you don't talk about politics, family or religion, what else do you talk about... the weather... Ohio State football....

Sure, we disagreed on some points, but he was expecting that and the conversation made our relationship stronger. Luckily we were all so intently eating that the conversation was between bites and that made it light and enjoyable.

Semper Fi,

I saw it again.

As I was walking out of the station where I work, I saw one of the interpreters (terps) carrying a big toy doll, still in her box, all dressed in pink girly clothes. She was one of those little doll-babies you would see a little girl go all googly over on one of those Christmas specials.... Anyway, trailing him was another terp carrying a similar doll and a black plastic bag concealing something similar in size.

They were moving rather quickly, and seeing them scurrying past, I start to get really curious. My initial instinct is to harass them about playing with dolls, but as I suppress it, it hits me that those dolls are not for them.

I followed them out the door, as I was on my way to a meeting, and that is when I saw it: "Cloud 9." These two men had handed the toys to three little kids. I should have figured that one out, right?

They were in their last day of a traditional three day morning period following a death in the family but the smiles on their faces concealed any pain they were in at the time. There is just something about that stereo-typical baby-doll hug that is the remedy for any little girl ailment.

I think I smiled for the next 15 minutes, which would have made me look really goofy as I walked into my meeting 2 minutes later. Everyone was probably thinking, "What is wrong with that guy...."

Semper Fi,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Last Few days

The last few days we have started settling into a routine. We train and mentor the Iraqi's we are around and then write up a summary of the days events to pass on what we have accomplished that day.

Our Company CO and 1stSgt came out and had lunch with us a few days back. Both are great men and great leaders of Marines. They expressed a sincere interest in how we were living and how our mission was progressing forward. They keep us focused on the big picture, straighten us out and keep us all out of trouble, just like Marine leadership is known for. They are definately the right men for their jobs. After a quick lunch, they moved on to another location to check on more of their Marines.

There really isn't too much more to write about right now. Hopefully I will have a little more to pass on at the end of the day... we will see.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The show...:

OK, so I went to that dog and pony show and it was interesting to say the least. The ceremony happened; there were lots of political jabs; the ceremony ended. Yeah....

It all started out awkwardly enough...: The two American LtCols were right on with their protocol. They shook hands and went down the line, from right to left, just like they were supposed to. They took their seats in the front row and gave those arriving room to sit next to them if they chose.

As new VIP's arrived, they stood and extended their hands. Those arriving are supposed to go to the senior guy in the front and then work to their left. Those arriving never started with the American LtCols. This meant that the LtCols were one of the last people to be greeted and they always, graciously offered a seat next to them to the person they were greeting. Until the last sheik, every one of them declined. I was very surprised.
I am not sure if this was because they were trying to say no to the Americans or if they were saying yes to someone else, but either way, it didn't look so good.

In attendance at the beginning of the ceremony (and that is important here...) were the Mayor of Ramadi, the Ramadi District Police Chief (this ceremony took place at the Ramadi District headquarters and he was the highest ranking Police Officer at the ceremony, as a Colonel), more than a dozen Iraqi Police LtCols and four sheiks from the Ramadi area. Also in attendance were probably a hundred Iraqi police and military members and probably 50 Marines.

The ceremony started and a plaque was passed from the leaving American LtCol to Col Salih, the District Police Chief to the other American LtCol, signifying a change of authority in this district.

It was after that, that the real fun began.... The leaving American LtCol took the microphone and just as he began to give his remarks, a convoy of vehicles rolled up. It was the uninvited Provincial Police Chief, Major General Tariq and an uninvited Iraqi Army Brigadier General.

The American LtCol graciously stopped and allowed the General and his "party" to greet the VIP section and be seated... in HIS and the other American LtCol's chairs.

In his remarks the American LtCol talked about Col Salih and how good it was to work with him... not one word about the General. He finished up and handed the microphone off to the incoming American LtCol talked about how excited he was to work with Col Salih and make his district safer... again, not one word about the General.

In concluding his remarks, both Americans moved from in front of the ceremony and went to take seats... that were already taken. Col Salih saw this and shewed two Iraqi LtCol out of their chairs and gave them to the Americans.

Following the ceremony, food was brought out and it was then social time for those at the ceremony. The American LtCols had not approached the General.

Yoda (Fawwaz) elbowed me and pointed out that this was a bad thing. The American leaders need to go and introduce themselves to the General.

OK... I can act on that piece of intel.... I walked over to the SgtMaj and informed him of the protocol that was being missed (Gunny's don't just walk by a SgtMaj and correct his LtCol... and that is some Marine Corps protocol I KNOW would have gained some unwanted attention on my part).

I greeted the SgtMaj and expressed my concern on a potential offense that could be avoided with a simple greeting. Immediately, his brow wrinkled up and he started quietly scolding me about how he was a SgtMaj, how he knew protocol and how some little Gunny was not going to correct him or his LtCol. Noted. At that point, I knew I had done all I could do and this was in his hands.

At that point I looked at Yoda and asked him if it was acceptable to get my picture taken with the Mayor and the General. This got him all excited and he started waving his hands... um, what did I say?

Everyone started looking at us... we had just become the center of attention. This was the opportunity Yoda was looking for. We went straight up to MGen Tariq and got our picture taken with him. (The Major General Tariq is the Man right next to me. The man next to him is an Iraqi Army Brigadier General and the LtCol next to him is the LtCol next to him....)
Yoda had found a way to break the ice with the General, make him feel like an important person and get the LtCol's attention on the General. Ego... we had played to his ego and possibly prevented something ugly. (This is the me with the Mayor of Ramadi.)

Well, that started a MOB! Everyone broke out cameras and started to take pictures with people. People who thought they were important started elbowing their way into pictures with important people. The below started out as a picture with me, another Marine and the Mayor and several other VIPs had to jump in too. (OK, so there is me, SSgt W, the Mayor, a Sheik, a civic leader, another Sheik and an interpreter.

Shortly after Yoda and I had completely changed the dynamics of the gathering, the SgtMaj came up to me and asked, "who are you?"

"I'm Batman!"... no wait, wrong story... "Bond, James Bond"......

I told him who I am and what unit I am from. He contemplated that for a moment and then he apologized. I must tell you, it takes a man of a SgtMaj to apologize. SgtMaj's are supposed to be infallible and this man had the courage to admit that he wasn't.

About that time I heard my name from across the crowd of people, "SALAM! Habibi!! (brother-like friend)" What do you think I said to that: "SALAM!!!" He laughed and hugged my neck. (This is the man who gave me my nick-name. His new nick-name is Abu-Salam (father of Salam, because he gave me my name.)

Semper Fi,

Dog and Pony

Fawwaz told me a really cool story about a king who would pay people who would come to him and demonstrate their productive talents.

A man came before the king and had invented a new way to catch fish. The king gave him 100 gold pieces and sent him on his way.

A man came before the king and showed him a way to navigate using a magnetized needle floating using a cork. He too went away with 100 gold pieces.

One day a man came before the king with a talent he was sure would impress. He took a needle and threw it, sticking it into the marble wall. He then took another needle and threw it, sticking it into the eye of the first. Then, with another 8 needles did it again and again and again. At the end, he had thrown ten needles, sticking them into the eye of the previous with a toss.

The king had the man flogged. Not only had the man wasted the kings time, but he had wasted countless hours honing this pointless skill. It produced nothing of value.

We are having some dog and pony show today. Not really, but that is the term we have given to little ceremonies that take an inordinate amount of time and produce very few results.

There will be lots of pomp and circumstance, 30+ men standing at attention out in the Iraqi sun, at least one color guard, lots of sheiks and senior people walking around a parking lot that has been swept, mopped and squeegeed, (yes, a parking lot in dusty sandy Iraq, hosed off, mopped and squeegeed!) chairs put out under covered awnings, decorations, sodas and a spread of food, all for two men to hand a silly flag from one to the other.

At the end of the day, what does it really accomplish? Does my job get easier? Do we have to deal with fewer insurgents? Nothing, no and no. At the end of the day it is all about pride.

Enough on that. I will still get to work with the Iraqi's and mentor them in the conduct of their duties. At the end of the day, THAT will make my job easier, make it harder for the insurgents and bring me closer to eliminating the need for a replacement.... If I can eliminate the need for a replacement, that means one less Marine has to come out here, right?

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cloud 9

Have you ever heard someone say, "I am on Cloud 9." Kind of a weird expression that means they are just really, really happy and so much so that they can find really no other valid expression to, well, express their happiness.

I have often wondered exactly where is this proverbial "Cloud 9?"

Well, today, I found it! Today, Cloud 9 went by the name: "Mail Call!" I got two boxes and three envelopes. I really don't remember walking to the hooch... I think it was Cloud 9 that just came down, floated up under my feet and carried me to the hooch.

I sat down in the room and just stared at the boxes with this goofy grin on my face. Then I would look over at the letters and just smile.

Sgt Garrett got two boxes too and I think he was on Cloud 10. He held his hand up above his head as if measuring some tall stack of motivation and said, "Gunny, my morale is up here!"

We are out here in the city and our "world" just seems so far away sometimes. Those three letters and those two boxes just bring those we love right there into our hooch with us. It is like those we love just connected with us WAAAAY over here... I don't know how else to express the feeling except to say we were "on Cloud 9."

Thank you so much, Beautiful for the boxes and the letters from the kids!!! I am really struggling to find something in that box I am willing to share..... I will share the card-board....

Mom, I got your second letter! I really love the thought you put into it. Telling me about the apple-crisp... I could almost smell it. I actually looked down at my hands when you talked about peeling the apples, as if they hurt or I had cut them or something.

Brad and Brooke, Madeline and Jack, thank you so much for my card. You did a great job on it! I am going to hang it on my wall and will see it every day.

Please don't see this as me asking for packages, as I am honestly and truly blessed. I wholeheartedly appreciate all your support and prayers.

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 6, 2008


Over the last few days, I have come to realize that for me, I need to crash when I go to sleep.

Somewhere around 9pm, my body just starts to crash. At that point, I either get to bed or I try and stay awake. If I can make it to about 10pm, I am awake until about 2am when my body takes another dive. If I can stay up until about 3am, then I am good until 6 and the cycle goes for about every 2-3 hours after that.

The problem is, if I try and get to sleep around 11pm, I am tossing and turning until about 2am, my next crash. I don't know what it is, but I now look back and notice that I was like that at home before I left too.

Here lately, I have been staying awake for one reason or another, past 10pm and then I am all messed up for the next day. I am going to hit the rack early tonight and I will let you know how it goes!

Semper Fi,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

5 October, 08

The 5th was a kinda crazy day. We had a bunch of little things happen and not happen that were just out of the ordinary.

A big morning meeting did not happen as the main person we were to meet with decided to be elsewhere. Most of the other people showed up except him. This got the rumor mill going and the soap opera started as to the why's, where's and when's of things. Come to find out it was probably no big deal and there was simply a mis-communication.

Then there was the silliness of communicating within the shop. Seems Fawwaz and us have different cultural backgrounds (way to go Captain-Obvious, right?) and that causes a mis-communication now and again... the 5th was one of those days. We eventually got it all straightened out.

About that time an IP comes in and has lost some important documentation and was told we could help him, another mis-communication. He needed to go back to the source of the original documents before we could help him, so we got him turned back around... a process that would have taken about 2 minutes had it not been for language barriers leading to a mis-understanding or two.

Rumors started back up about our little team getting moved and not moved and moved and not moved. I just go where I'm told, you know?

Then there was me being nick-the-new-guy and needing a refresher on a process that our team across town helped us with...

It was just an awkward day all around.

On a high note, my Cincinnati Bengals lost again... I think they are going for a perfect 0-16 season.

Semper Fi,

Katelyn's Party

From Colleen's Perspective on, "...the party of the century at 604 Forest Grove Ave!"

We had 18 kids (includes ours) at the party, and 13 spent the night. So that was 10 extra girls in the house!

The kids did go swimming, all of them went in but two I think. It was cold. About 65 degrees air temp and 75 degrees water. They loved it.

Then we ate pizza (we ordered way too much, we thought more parents were going to stay (of those who didn’t stay the night…wrong!), are some awesome cake and ice cream, then opened presents.

There were a lot of presents when you have 18 kids that makes for a lot of presents! After all that we watched Camp Rock and made friendship bracelets.

Kim and Courtney showed up at the door ringing the door bell several hundred times and asked for Katie. Katie and all her friends went out on the porch and was serenaded by them with a fantastic rendition of Happy Birthday followed by the attack of the silly string! It was awesome, girls screaming everyone laughing. It was totally unexpected. They crashed a slumber party. It was perfect… something you would have totally done!

We all came back in, watched some more of the movie, finished the friendship bracelets, watched another Hannah Montana movie and then finally quieted down. We all finally fell asleep around 1am. It was a long fun night.

I was up and showered by around 7am, had pancake sundaes for breakfast and then had a polarbear swim in the pool. This time the water 74 degrees but the air was 50 degrees. They loved it. It was great.

I think Katie will remember this party forever. It was great, the only thing that would have made it better was for you to be home! Katie held back some great tears opening your gift, she loves the horse book, and read and reread what you wrote to her several times. The laughed and cried at her chicken webkinz, it’s called Chickadee! You made another awesome impression on her! Great job!

I took Katie back to cheerleading today, she did tons better, had a great time and now loves it. She did fantastic. Her teacher noticed her hard work and pointed it out to everyone. I think she’s gonna stick with it!

BTW: the boys acted like perfect gentlemen and had a great time too! They loved watching TV alone in my room… star wars the clone wars the animated series started last night… they too were in heaven!

Colleen is an amazing lady!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Katelyn's 8th Birthday Party.

All is still quiet on this end of the world, but things are crazy at my home in the states....

The 5th of October is Katelyn's 8th birthday, and her sleep-over party was the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. From what Colleen was saying, she had 13 girls (all about that age) sleeping over at the house.

At one point, Colleen had planned to throw them all in the pool, but she said the temps were down into the forties when she woke up on the 3rd. They probably came up with something else fun to do. Colleen is really good at that.

You know my 9 year old twin boys, Caleb and Seth were either in heaven or hell! From a distance they probably had the time of their lives, but up close... "EWWWW, GIRLS!!!"

I can only imagine what Colleen went through. On the other hand, our mom, from her side of the family, flew in yesterday and she is always such a huge help when she comes down. She has a calming effect on the home. Colleen is calmer. The kids are calmer. Everything just seems to relax a bit and everyone is just more productive.

What do you get an 8 year old girl anyway? As you probably read in a previous post, she rides and trains horses... not an option! She is into cheerleading... I think she has all that stuff already. Most of what she has asked for either ends in "-puter" or "phone" or ",000.00+". She's 8 for crying out loud!

What I really wanted to give her will have to wait until I get back: a really big Daddy's hug. I guess, until then, a Mommy's hug and a Gramma-Marge's hug will just have to do.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Everything is good here right now. We are settling into a routine and slowly, steadily advancing our students. Mentoring takes time and most of what we are doing is mentoring.

Sgt Garrett and I are doing PT about 4 times a week and really working to keep our minds active. I am starting to learn some Arabic and Sgt Garrett is working on developing some training classes for our battalion.

Both of us are interacting with those around us and learning what we can.

Yesterday a wedding party drove by our little compound. Lot of honking car horns and celebratory gun firing going on as they drove by. People were hanging out of the windows and sun-roofs videotaping each other in the procession. Cars were decorated with painted signs congratulating someone for something and flowers.

About fifteen minutes later the Governors vehicles went rolling by and they shot into the air as well.

One of these days Newton's laws of gravity will start taking effect over here and that whole gravity thing is going to catch up with them!

Until then, Semper Fi,