Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"The Devil You Know"

The American Scholar magezine published an article titled "The Devil You Know," written by an American Army Officer.

I don't agree with all he says in the article about trust or understand his perspective, but I worked with "Rambo" and can honestly say I understand his perspective.

In the actual article, you can see a picture of "Rambo" and some of my actual handwriting on the wall behind him.

In a wild-west kinda way, he is imparting the only kind of justice he understands to the best of his ability.

Anyway, the article is a glimpse into what we lived in over there.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pool Uncovered

I am still on leave and enjoying time with the family.

The kids are back in school and getting ready for their End Of Grade (EOG) tests. Apparently those are some kind of important test that everyone teaches to. That concept eludes me. If you are teaching the things kids need in life, life will be the test to whether or not they learned it, right? Natural selection will just happen....

We uncovered the pool yesterday and should have it completely filled by tonight. We have been working in the yard non-stop since we got back and are just starting to see the fruits of our labors. We still have lots to go though, so no pics yet.

As for reading, I am slowly making my way thought the H. John Poole book, The Tiger's Way. It is pretty good so far, but I am not sure I buy all that he is preaching.

Semper Fi,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Somali Pirates using Intel!

Well who would have figured? I guess the Pirates off the coast of Somalia are not all that archaic and rudimentary in their methods after all.

Just because our imaginations go to images of "Hook" and his band when we think of pirates, doesn't mean they are not very sophisticated in their methods.

Consider the article written by Giles Tremlett in the Guardian and what he says about pirates picking targets.

That area is one of the most critical waterways in getting goods from the Eastern to the Western hemisphere and back. "The Gulf of Aden, which links the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is the shortest route from Asia to Europe and one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, crossed by more than 20,000 ships each year. The alternative route around the continent's southern Cape of Good Hope takes up to two weeks longer at huge expense."

These Pirates are using RPG's and relatively small weapons to take down the crews of these ships. I know better than to arm-chair-quarterback this one, but will go so far as to say they are using very little to impede global commerce.

This is kind of like the elephant getting terrified by the mouse. What would it take to introduce some "cats" into the elephant's cage to take care of these rodents? How soon until the pirates migrate up to speed-boats with torpedo's and heavier weapons....

My thought is that the pirates really don't want to sink the ship or even hurt the crew. In my mind, a sunken ship has no value to them. A dead crew brings no ransom.

The fact that they are working with the Brits (infidels in the mind of a Muslim) says that this has nothing to do with religion, but then again, no one said it did.

The fact that they are working with the Brits says that they are developing an international coalition to do their work...

First generational warfare thinking would have us sending out mother ships and pirate rigs to hunt them down, broad side to broad side... I am just not convinced that would work.

Second generational warfare thinking would say we need to fortify the ship and strengthen her defenses. A good tactic I suppose, but doing that for the estimated 20,000 ships that pass that way each year would get extremely costly in a hurry.

Third generational warfare thinking would have us blitzing to the "head of the snake" (pirate leadership) to take it out so that the body (pirates themselves) die with it. My capitalist mind believes that if the bounty is still out there, a new profiteer will emerge.

Fourth generational warfare thinking erodes the pirate support base by turning the populace against the pirates. Some how making them socially corrosive to their own environment. These pirates are actually supporting their own tribe/local community with the scraps that fall from their tables. In Somalia, they are the ones with money, so they actually pay for services/goods and they are paying the locals.... It is kinda tough to see the guy feeding your family as a bad man.

So what is the solution? In my mind, and I eluded to this earlier, we must make the cost greater than the gain. Make it more painful to be a pirate than pleasurable to live that life.

No gain: If no ransoms were paid, pirates would eventually stop. If pirated ships were simply taken back with nothing gained by the pirates, eventually there would be no reward for taking the ships in the first place.

More pain: Aggressively prosecute all pirates that are caught in the act. Gather intelligence on the Pirate infrastructure and attack it with a vengeance. Return pirated wealth to those who were plundered.

Combine the "No gain" concept with the "More pain" concept and I think you have a working idea to combat this problem.

What say you?

Semper Fi,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back from Disney 2009!!!!

We are finally back from Disney!!!

I will have more internet access now and will be posting more stuff... (I say that all the time, don't I...). I am working on it.

On a related note, we are working on my kids writing skills and have convinced them that blogging is a good idea! I will be posting their site information up here soon, so all you relatives and those who would like a glimpse into their lives, stay tuned!!! Their Blog's will be listed in my Blog Roll here to the right.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is Torture Right?

Torture is in the news quite a bit lately.

Here is one article written by a Retired Marine ( and another from the NY Times (

Can "water-boarding," or other extreme/ traditional methods of interrogation be effective if used correctly or do they simply elicit stop-the-pain responses?

The real issues here, in my mind anyway, are: 1. Defining torture, 2. Do the ends give you what you are looking for and 3. Does the end justify the means?

At what point does physically or verbally communicating with someone become torture? I can recall numerous professors who "tortured" their students with hour after hour of grueling powerpoint slides. I can also recall Drill Instructors "training" me with hundreds of push-ups and 8-count body-builders. Where is the line?

In both of those cases, I think the end justified the means. I learned the lessons they were trying to teach me and am a better man because of it... but their lessons were intended for a very, very small audience. They were influencing me, a classroom, or a platoon of Marines, at most.

Information gleaned from a solid interrogation is often used to protect thousands if not millions of American lives. That said, effective intelligence impossible to quantify. You never know how many lives were saved because a "9/11" was averted by good intelligence. We don't know what our intelligence has prevented or how much good was done because of "water-boarding" or other traditional methods.

We simply cannot see the ends the means have brought about and therefore cannot tell whether the ends justify the means.

All that said, I am against inhumane treatment of all sorts against all non-combatants; however, I am also all for doing what needs to be done to protect non-combatants as well.

Any thoughts?

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Anti-Pirate Duty

Colorado Representative, Republican Mike Coffman is pushing to put military members on board all U.S. flagged ships passing through pirate waters.

Marine Commandant, General Conway wants Marines to have more of a maritime presence, like we did at our inception.

It is my opinion that the primary roles of the Marine Corps is to defend ships, conduct amphibious, expeditionary operations, and operate in small teams to defend installations/persons vital to U.S. interests.

If we adhered to these missions, Marines would:
- do just what Representative Coffman is suggesting and man all U.S. ships,
- remain at U.S. Embassies and diplomatic facilities both domestic and abroad,
- pull completely out of Iraq, Afghanistan and all other protracted struggles more suitable for U.S. Army involvement and,
- expand the number of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU's) that are currently deploying.

We are good at protracted ground combat and know how to engage a land adversary in conventional combat, but that doesn't mean it is or should be our mission. Hammers are good at pounding in screws, but that shouldn't necessarily be their mission.

What do you think?

Semper Fi,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter '09

Well, I sure hope you all had a happy Easter this year. We sure did. If you have seen Colleen's page, you know that the boys and I painted our heads like Easter eggs this year.

We spent lots of time together as a family and doing things together we enjoy. We, I mean the Easter Bunny, hid the kids Easter gifts and they had a blast doing the hunting.

Church was our next activity. Between ushering and work in childrens church, we spent that part of our day serving, which we find more rewarding than just sitting in the service. We get the CD, so we still get fed, but making sure others get fed is just so rewarding.

We went out to eat, so Colleen could have a break from dishes and cooking chores.

Then we came home and just relaxed around the house. Colleen and I napped to the background noise of the TV and the kids cuddled with us in between playing with their Easter stuff.

Before our dinner of popcorn and a movie, we colored 48 hard-boiled eggs... and yes, Colleen cooked them so I would not make a mess.

The Marine Corps saw fit to let me sleep in today and is only requiring me to come in at 1130... how nice of them. Actually, they would be much nicer to me if I were back in my unit. Most units on base don't have to go back to work until Tuesday at 6pm. Since I am at the Academy, I have less time... gotta get those academic hours in.

The kids are on Spring Break and enjoying time with mom.

Have a great week!!!

Semper Fi,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

CFT at the Advanced Course

So I got to do my first Combat Fitness Test the other day and what a butt kicker that thing is. It may not look like much, but good-googly-moogly (ya had to be in class for that one...).

It is a lot of running, crawling, buddy-dragging/carrying, ammo-can lifting/carrying and heavy breathing!

This is me doing my best not to drop GySgt Bowling on his head. It is supposed to simulate me carrying his carcass off the battlefield, but my goodnes, "that mug" is heavy... (another one you had to be there for...).

This is the ammo-can lift... ya lift the 35 pound ammo-can as many times as you can, from your shoulders to a full elbow extension for 2 minutes. Somehow that thing gets heavier, the more you lift it.

Good times, and I am so glad they are history!

Semper Fi,

The Advanced Course is Slowing down

Man, the Advanced Course is one crazy time. It is nothing like I had expected and nothing like they said it was going to be. In some ways I am disappointed and in other ways, I have really benefited from the experience.

The PT was more intense than I am used to, so it really helped to get me in better shape. From my perspective, I still have a long way to go, but this certainly helped.

Academically, it has been a disappointment. I haven't really learned much. The tests are more key word recognition, than subject matter mastery, so they are very elemental.

Relationship wise, there is little time to build social networks and since the focus is on academics, we are really discouraged from sharing information.

The time management on the part of the scheduling is lacking, so we are there way too early and spend more time waiting for things to happen than we do engaged in activities.

They are treating us like Gunny's, so that is a plus, but for the most part, this check in the box has been just that. I must say, it was worth coming back from Iraq 2 months early, that is for sure!

Maybe next time....

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Training Day 3... UNCLE!

My goodness... I feel like I have been hit by a train.

Monday, the PFT was a challenge, simply because I pushed myself.

Tuesday, really wasn't that bad. It was a circuit course that was really based on our own pace, but it was high repetitions of specific sets.

Today.... Sheesh! For some reason, I am getting SORE from Monday and Tuesday and then we ran a circuit course where we are competing against other platoons. We really pushed ourselves again and man are we sore!!!

Academically, we covered Combat Operational Stress and had the Course Director come in and talked with us about awarding our Marines and creative ways to build morale in those who really do good work. What a dynamic speaker!

This Academy is run by and attended by ONLY enlisted Marines. No commissioned officers are involved at the school-house level. Our SgtMaj is the director at the school and he is absolutely a dynamic speaker.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Handy-man Scouts/ Tumbling

Tonight was the night the boys began earning their handy-man pins for WeBeLoS. They really seem to enjoy that program.

We took their bikes and some tools. We got under the hood of Mr. Ben's truck and learned about fluids and where they went. We took some skate-board wheels off and tinkered around with our bikes. FUN, FUN, FUN.

Meanwhile Katelyn went to her tumbling class. She is taking it to supplement her cheerleading class and teach her some basics that will help her in most athletic activities she gets involved with. She really enjoys those kinds of things.

Colleen and I have been given the opportunity to teach the FireProof curriculum at our church. We have already watched the movie and are now going through the lesson plans. Seems to be a good set of principals it is teaching. Not to toot our own horns, but this stuff is really second nature to us. Keep the communication lines open, talk early and often and really, really take care of the other person's needs first.

Now it is evening time and time for Dad to do his "homework"... blogging is more fun!

Semper Fi,

Training Day 2

We covered Force Protection stuff today. Good classes over all, but still using some of the old manuals. We as a class recommended them updating the publications and had some good overall discussions.

I really am learning more from my peers than the discussions.

Then there was the PT for the day. Not too bad considering... My quads are feeling it, but other than that, I am doing GREAT.

Following PT was chow, followed by a discussion of the Marine Corps Reading Program. I am not so sure this is what it is supposed to be anymore. We need to take a glimps back every now and again so we don't make the same mistakes, but enemies adapt. They change. Their changes require us to change as well. When presented with a screw, we need to use something different than the same old hammer.

Semper Fi,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Training Day 1

Finally all the checking in is complete and we conducted training today.

After arriving at 0630 and turning in our auto-biographies, we had our first class at 0700 on the Marine Corps' Body Composition Program and Military Appearance Program. That class was mostly guided discussion with a little lecture thrown in.

At 0900 we kicked off a class on nutrition and overuse injuries. That too was mostly guided discussion but where our knowledge ended the instructor was quick to pick up and fill in the gaps.

1100 was chow time and 1200 was show-time for the Physical Fitness Test.

The PFT was a standard PFT, but the instructors were really strict on following the letter of the order... which I think is Great. I got a first class PFT again, scoring 233 out of 300.

T-Day 1 is now in the books. I think this is going to be a good course, but only time will tell.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Advanced Academy Day 1

Today was the check-in day for the Advanced Academy. As is Marine Corps custom, I checked in, in my "Alpha's". Colleen wanted to get a picture of me in my uniform, so here you have it.

I checked in at 0617 this morning and then waited until 0930 for the in-brief. After that, we were dismissed until out "SNCO Social" tonight at the All-Ranks Club on Camp Johnson at 1600.

So far, it has been a relatively simple check-in process. If this keeps up, it just may be a good course.

Semper Fi,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Front Door Landing

Colleen is the Greatest!!!

Any of you that have been to our house in the past know that the entryway had a hole where a vent used to be. Colleen cut the carpet out of that area and put in hardwood laminate flooring in in that area. Not only did she put it in, she did an AWESOME job!

Great work Beautiful!
Semper Fi,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back to Work

Tomorrow it is back to the grind. We did half days last week, and now that our President's Day '96 is over, we are back to work.

I think Colleen is ready for some normalcy and ready to have me out from under foot.

Pastor is putting me back to work as a member of the Men's Council there at church. He has commissioned me to get our Men's group mobilized and on a mission. We are picking out "Goliaths" to slay and taking them out one by one.

He also has me getting ready to tackle several other projects and I am stoked about it.

Beyond all that, there is the "Honey-Do" list I am working around here. That list is ever growing and as the seasons change, so does the list of things needing done.

The Corps has me getting ready to attend the "Advanced Academy." It is just a mid-career course that teaches us how to be upper-level enlisted leaders. In preparation for this course, we have a "Gunny-Do" list (as only Gunny's go to the course and we have to have the list completed before we can attend).

Of course after all this schooling, there is the short vacation and then it is pre-deployment work-ups all over again.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warrior Transition

Sgt Garrett and I were the only two who re-deployed from PTT-3. The other fellas are still out there, doing AWESOME work.

We got home on a Thursday and got the next 3 days off. We are now completing a week of half days, getting our administrative, medical, dental and other minute issues handled.

Yesterday was Colleen's birthday and today is Caleb and Seth's birthday (and I am so BLESSED to be home for both!!!) Colleen is 29 again and the boys, well they are finally double-digit-midgets of 10 years of age!!!

Colleen got to go bowling yesterday and had fun doing her things all day long.

The boys will have their birthdays with us around the house today, will eat their dinners at Chuck-e-Cheeses and then their party is on Sunday (spoiled rotten I say, but we love them...).

After this week of half days, we are enjoying a long weekend for President's Day and then it is back to work as usual. Our courses start the first week of March and will last up until the last week of April. There are lots of things to do prior to this intense training and lots of ways to prepare.

I will write more on that later.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Surprise, I am HOME! 09

By now, hopefully you have put most of the pieces together.

We finished our job down there at the I-PTT in Ramadi, so we were pulled back to our unit. The unit didn't really have further work for us to do and the Marine Corps has decided to make a career course manditory for promotion. These two factors worked in concert and our unit leadership took care of Sgt Garrett and me and sent us back for the courses.

At this point, we are here until the courses are over in late April. Following that we will take a little vacation and start up the next set of pre-deployment work-ups, preparing for fall.

Until that point, I will still blog about what we are doing and what we are going through in our preparations for our next little trip.

Below are just a few shots from the homecoming... I think you know most of the dialog!

Seth, Katelyn, Caleb and Dad.

Me and Sgt Garrett standing next to the "Angelic" bus that carried us home on the last leg of our journey. (Can you hear me now?)

Semper Fi,


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Small Corps

Just today I was able to eat dinner with a Major that I go to church with! He and his family are AWESOME and they are hanging out with our family on a regular basis. (He is doing awesome Danielle!)

Tonight I also saw a Marine who's bride sings in our church choir. He just got here and still looks jet-lagged....

Then there is a GySgt who was a SSgt Intel student of mine... got to see him walking out of the chow hall....

Then there was another student of mine who came up to me and told me stories of stuff I had taught him back in the day....

Two of the civilians working here were active duty Marines back in the day and were students of mine. Now they are telling me to hold on to their contact information for when I retire....

Seems I can't go a day here with out someone coming up to me or me going up to them and reconnecting.

It is neat to see the threads of our lives make a pattern of friendly faces over the years. Personal seeds sown then are reaping a harvest now. Sure glad they were sown with care and kindness and not with malice.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sandbox Shoes (Camp Cupcake edition)

Just wanted to give you an idea of what we are living in at Camp Cupcake... give you an idea of you walking in our shoes.

- Move into one of the kids rooms. Lock all the rest of the bedroom doors, bathroom doors, closet doors and deny access to the kitchen and all other rooms of the house.... Now send the family to live about 7 time-zones away. One more thing: we are going to move 3 of your favorite neighbors in with you, and I will even let you pick which ones.

- The bullet above leads into what you have... You only get two big duffel bags, one carry-on sized bag, one laptop computer bag and one big back-pack sized bag. Mind you, that is a lot of space, but everyone else in the room will get that same amount of stuff, and you have to be able to carry ALL of it at the same time about 50 yards. (That is how far we have to carry it to and from the helo's we have to move around in.) One more thing about the stuff. You have to have all your combat gear, including your weapon(s) and stuff which takes both sea-bags to carry and starts your weight off at about 100 pounds. Happy packing!

- You have no vehicle asset on this camp, so you have to walk everywhere you go... Other people have vehicles because, well, you don't know why, but they do.

- The good news is that all the food in your camp is free, except the restaurants... but you still have to walk and the nearest grocery store or chow hall is about a half-mile away.

- Your nearest bathroom is a quarter-mile away and it is a port-a-john. There is a warm, shower/bathroom facility about a half-mile away. Both are cleaned and re-stocked with toilet paper about once a week. You have to take navy showers to conserve water. That means you turn on the cold water to get wet, turn it off to shave or whatever, turn it back on to rinse off, turn it off to lather up or shampoo or ..., and then turn it back on to rinse and repeat as necessary.

- Your work is about a half-mile away and you get to work 12-18 hour days. Those neighbors of yours, yeah, they all work different shifts and need to get into their/your room every so often in the middle of their shift.

- The laundry service is free, but it too is about a half-mile away. They are open from 0500-midnight, so they have very flexible hours.

- About every quarter mile, someone is stopping you and asking to show your ID card. In every facility you go into, you have to show your ID card.

- Everyone is wearing the same uniforms, including you, for the whole time you are there. No one is wearing denim or colors or normal clothes except for civilian contractors and foreign nationals and they are not all that prevalent. At this location, there are thousands of people walking around, looking just like you, haircuts and all.

- The gym is also free and about a half-mile away. It is full of any type of running or riding machine and every free-weight or resistance exercise machine available.

- Throw your phones away and cut off your cable. You can watch the TV at the restaurant, but you cannot choose the channel. Your internet is now dial-up and even that is intermittent. There are pay-phones but they are, you guessed it, about a half-mile away.

- You are required to carry a pistol and 15 rounds everywhere you go and are required to clear it before entering any building.

- At night, you have to wear a reflective belt and/or carry an illuminated flashlight with you everywhere you go.

- Every 3 months you are going to move neighborhoods. It is OK, you are going to a friend's room who lives across town and he is going to go to yours. The trick is, we are not going to tell you exactly when or if it is really going to be 3 months or not. You don't know what the living conditions will be like there and don't know about the room-mate situation. Remember, you get to carry all that stuff with you too....

- About 4 times a day, you hear an explosion off in the distance, just for fun. You really don't know what it was or who was doing it, and it happens at random. Most of the time it is just Marines shooting things at a range or conducting a controlled detonation, but ya just never know.

- Helo's fly around at all hours of the day and night.

- There are no animals around and the only plants around are trees in random places.

- You get mail once a week and still have to pay all the bills. The good news there is you get a 20% pay increase.

As goofy as this life would seem, that is what we are living in over here... and this is much, much better than at the Ramadi Police District Headquarters. We (those of us over here) chose this life though, so we are all good with it.

Obviously some have it better than others, and some have it worse.

Thanks for all your prayers, and now you can have your master bedroom back!

Semper Fi,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Camp Cupcake

Well this new place is only the latest of a continuing transition. I am now on an established base that is considered extremely secure.

There is a section of stores that has been deemed Northpoint Mall. In that compound there is a Pizza Hut, KFC, Berger King and even a Cinnabun.

This place is so comfortable that the Marines have deemed it Camp Cupcake. That is probably a common name for bases abroad that are just too comfortable.

At first I found that concept completely backwards. "Too Comfortable?" Is there such thing?

Actually, in a combat zone, there is. Creature comforts like these breed complacency and complacency kills.

Where Sgt Garrett and I were before, there was a constant sharpening of our combat skills. We routinely had ranges, reset training, radio training, and opportunities to practice combat convoys. On top of all that, we were doing the job we were sent out to do.

The Marines on Camp Cupcake are so engaged in their work that the additional training and practice never happens... but they are not so engaged that they can't make it to KFC or one of the other creature comfort locations.

If they had to go on a combat convoy, like Sgt Garrett and I did every other day, would they be ready? Would they have that sharp edge they would need to react properly in a split-second?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we were something special or that these Marines are not doing their jobs. They are doing AWESOME out here, but the life lived here is so much different. It is almost like we were in a different country down there in Ramadi.

There are two out-door pools that the Marines here can use when the weather is right... POOLS!

At the Ramadi DHQ, we never unloaded our pistols. I haven't loaded my pistol since I have been at Camp Cupcake.

Hopefully my upcoming assignment will be somewhere I can stay sharp and still have a few of the comforts of home at the same time.

Semper Fi,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mark's New Email
Here is Mark's new email. Send him a note, he has a bit more time to respond right now, and I know he'd love to hear from all of you!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well, the last two weeks have brought little in the way of mission accomplishment and lots in the form of little frustrations. Seems like every step forward is up hill and accompanied by two steps back.

As you can see, since the last time I was on here has been a couple weeks +. Since then, I have moved two times and am expecting a third move. Addresses are in flux and internet connectivity is sporadic and restricted. When I do have internet, the firewalls are always blocking the places I would want to get to... (Face-book, this blog, and G-mail specifically).

Since I last blogged, I have met Major General Mills and written about 46 pages of reports, taken a Physical Fitness test and exercised more in the last few weeks than in a long time. The pull-up challenge had to stop because some of the places we were waiting for movement to didn't have the bar... but I am now running again and getting faster each and every time.

Thank you all so very much for your prayer and support. I really appreciate them and your patience. I am now going back through my e-mail in-box and will be doing my best to reply to your e-mail. At this point I also have a .mil account, but don't have that address on this computer... Colleen, when you read this, please post that address on here if I don't beat you to it.
The camp I am on now is a polar opposite to the little Police station I was living at in Ramadi! Yeah, can you believe it, I was actually out in the city of Ramadi, one of the most violent cities in Iraq over the last few years. Well, the Iraqi Police have really cleaned that place up and quelled most of the violence. They still have their incidents, but so does every other city. Although we were really safe there, we were constantly vigilant.

The stuff we did there. Man. Daily I wished I could write about it and really tell the stories. Some of the stuff we did there still blow my mind.

Remember on 3 November when I thanked you for your prayers? Yeah, this picture tells a little of that story: (I will post it when the internet cooperates... but at least I have the text up, right?)
That is a bullet-hole in the ceiling of the hooch right next to ours. When the bullet came in through the roof, it was about 12 feet from where I was sitting. Sgt Garrett was on Camp Ramadi, but he would have likely been about the same distance from it had he been there. Apart from a little ventilation in the roof, the bullet caused no other known damage. We are assessing it was celebratory fire, based on the near vertical trajectory of the round. Where we are now, that type of incident is more likely to happen in the states than here (so no worries!).

We got to go to each of the 5 Precinct Headquarters and work with the IP's there. (I will post a pic or two from those adventures as well). We made those trips out into the city 2-5 times a week and any time we left the wire was a good opportunity for positive interaction.

We had to stay sharp on our skills, so monthly we went to ranges, got to send some rounds down range and review our standard operating procedures.

Iraqi police had negligent discharges of their AK's about 3-4 times a week. We had to re-review how to handle their weapons safely.

We worked directly with the IPs in the handling of their detainees and probably helped to prevent countless abuses.

We made a difference out there in that city and in the lives of those we worked with. In the words of our 1stSgt, we worked ourselves out of a job.

I will write more later...

Semper Fi,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not Much Internet Access...

Even though Mark's moved and he thought he'd have more time/internet access it is obvious he does not. He's doing well, just busy and working long hours. He'll get back on here, sooner or later. I just wanted to let everyone know that he's safe and all is good!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back with the Unit

I am now back with my parent unit, at least until they decide to send me home, and who knows when that will be. We are comfortably nestled into a base and relatively secure... much more so than we were before.

My internet access is very limited now though. Where before we had dial-up to share between about 16 people and had it for free, I share it with several thousand now and pay about as much as I do for cable internet back home.

Anyway, the connection is SLOW and the usage sporadic. Please forgive me for taking a little longer to reply.

My busy work has significantly increased and my schedule is no longer my own.

I will write more when I can...

Semper Fi,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Checking in

Mark is doing well, for an update on his status, please click here...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Internet Access

Due to Internet access this blog may not be updated as frequently as before. As soon as Mark gets coms he will blog again, check back often for further updates. You can also check updates on his status by visiting...

written by Colleen, per Mark's request.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Car Accident

A LtCol/Sheik, a Captain and a Lt that we work with out here died in a car accident yesterday. Two sheiks were also injured and are currently being treated in Ramadi General Hospital.

They were on their way to an election event and were hit by a truck that was traveling the wrong direction.

God bless their families and let them rest in peace.

Semper Fi,

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cpl Jonathan Yale and LCpl Jordan Haerter

Los Angeles Times
December 29, 2008

A Speeding Truck Bomb, And A Shared Act Of Courage

Two Marines in Iraq saved dozens -- but not themselves. They'll be awarded the Navy Cross.

By Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO -- They had known each other only a few minutes, but they will be linked forever in what Marine brass say is one of the most extraordinary acts of courage and sacrifice in the Iraq war.

Cpl. Jonathan Yale, 21, grew up poor in rural Virginia. He had joined the Marine Corps to put structure in his life and to help support his mother and sister. He was within a few days of heading home.

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 19, was from a comfortably middle-class suburb on Long Island. As a boy, he had worn military garb, and he had felt the pull of adventure and patriotism. He had just arrived in Iraq.

On April 22, the two were assigned to guard the main gate to Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, once an insurgent stronghold and still a dangerous region. Dozens of Marines and Iraqi police lived at the compound, and some were still sleeping after all-night patrols when Yale and Haerter reported for duty that warm, sultry morning.

Yale, respected for his quiet, efficient manner, was assigned to show Haerter how to take over his duties.

Haerter had volunteered to watch the main gate, even though it was considered the most hazardous of the compound's three guard stations because it could be approached from a busy thoroughfare.

The sun had barely risen when the two sentries spotted a 20-foot-long truck headed toward the gate, weaving with increasing speed through the concrete barriers. Two Iraqi police officers assigned to the gate ran for their lives. So did several Iraqi police on the adjacent street.
Yale and Haerter tried to wave off the truck, but it kept coming. They opened fire, Yale with a machine gun, Haerter with an M-16. Their bullets peppered the radiator and windshield. The truck slowed but kept rolling.

A few dozen feet from the gate, the truck exploded. Investigators found that it was loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives and that its driver, his hand on a "dead-man switch," was determined to commit suicide and slaughter Marines and Iraqi police.

The thunderous explosion rocked much of Ramadi, interrupting the morning call to prayers from the many mosques. A nearby mosque and a home were flattened. The blast ripped a crater 5 feet deep and 20 feet across into the street.

Shards of concrete scattered everywhere, and choking dust filled the air.

Haerter was dead; Yale was dying.

Three Marines about 300 feet away were injured. So were eight Iraqi police and two dozen civilians.

But several dozen other nearby Marines and Iraqi police, while shaken, were unhurt. A Black Hawk helicopter was summoned in a futile attempt to get Yale to a field hospital in time. A sheet was placed over Haerter.

When it was considered safe to take Haerter's body to a second helicopter, his section leader insisted he be covered by an American flag. "We did not want him carried out with just a sheet," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Grooms.

Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine in Iraq, wanted to know how the attack happened. Like many veteran Marines, he is haunted by the memory of the 1983 bombing of the barracks in Beirut, when a blast from an explosives-laden truck killed 241 U.S. service personnel, including 220 Marines.

Not given to dark thoughts or insecurities, Kelly, who commanded Marines in the fight for Baghdad and Tikrit in 2003 and Fallouja in 2004, admits that the specter of another Beirut gives him nightmares as he commands the 22,000 Marines in Iraq.

He went to Ramadi to interview Iraqi witnesses -- a task generals usually delegate to subordinates.

Some Iraqis told him they were incredulous that the two Marines had not fled.

When Marine technicians restored a damaged security camera, the images were undeniable.

While Iraqi police fled, Haerter and Yale had never flinched and never stopped firing as the Mercedes truck -- the same model used in the Beirut bombing -- sped directly toward them.
Without their steadfastness, the truck would probably have penetrated the compound before it exploded, and 50 or more Marines and Iraqis would have been killed. The incident happened in just six seconds.

"No time to talk it over; no time to call the lieutenant; no time to think about their own lives or even the American and Iraqi lives they were protecting," Kelly said. "More than enough time, however, to do their duty. They never hesitated or tried to escape."

Kelly nominated the two for the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for combat bravery for Marines and sailors. Even by the standards expected of Marine "grunts," their bravery was exceptional, Kelly said.

The Haerter and Yale families will receive the medals early next year.

On the night after the bombing, Kelly wrote to each family that though he never knew its Marine, "I will remember him, and pray for him and for all those who mourn his loss, for the rest of my life."

A motorcade escorted Haerter's casket through Sag Harbor on Long Island, as residents lined the streets and wept and saluted.

Yale's casket made the 83-mile trip from the airport at Richmond, Va., to Farmville with an honor guard provided by the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group of former service members.

"He's not supposed to be dead," said the Rev. Leon Burchett, who did the eulogy at Yale's funeral and in whose home Yale had often lived as a teenager. "The casket was flag-draped but it couldn't be opened. There's no closure -- it's like we're still waiting for him to come home."

On Long Island, a bridge was renamed for Haerter. His high school put a flag from his funeral in a time capsule. His family set up a memorial website,

At a Wounded Warrior Project event, Haerter's mother, JoAnn Lyles, her voice breaking, talked of how she had hoped to do something special for his 20th birthday. "We now know that Jordan -- Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter -- was already a man, a courageous and brave young man."

Their battalions are now back at Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- for Haerter, the 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment; for Yale, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. In Iraq, both units were part of the Camp Pendleton-based Regimental Combat Team One.

Yale's unit was within a week of going home when the attack occurred. His death seemed to deflate its sense of achievement.

"The Marines were very upset and very disappointed because of the effort they had made to make a better life for the Iraqis and then to have this happen," said Capt. Matthew Martin, Yale's company commander.

Haerter's unit had just arrived for a seven-month deployment, and officers tried to make sure his death did not unduly distract the Marines.

"It's something you don't get over," said Lt. Dan Runzheimer, 24, Haerter's platoon leader.

"I wouldn't say it put a cloud on us, but it was always there. The men still knew what they had to do: You have to . . . complete the mission."

As both battalions train for possible deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, the deaths of their comrades are still in their thoughts.

Yale was always trying to boost the morale of his buddies, said Lance Cpl. Brandon Creely, 21, of Boise, Idaho. "Whenever I was down, he'd tell a joke, tell me it's not as bad as it seems."

Staff Sgt. Grooms, 28, said he knows how Haerter should be remembered.

"He was a hero," Grooms said, "and a damn fine person."

This happened at a station right down the road, at a station just like the one where I am living. These are the kinds of men with whom I am serving. These are the kinds of men that America has sent to represent her. They are among our best. They are hero's. Remember them.

Semper Fi,

Iraq... An Update

The New York Times published work from the Brookings Institute discussing their take on the overall situation in Iraq (

Their overall numbers can be found here:(

They have taken numbers from November's 2004, 2006 and 2008 and compared them. Oddly enough, I was here for 2 of those Novembers: 2004 and 2008.

The numbers presented only tell a part of the story.

Just remember that Operation Al Fajr (the HUGE offensive where Marines took back Fallujah the second and final time) took place in November 2004. Large scale operations were executed during that month, causing not only high numbers of incidents, but also significant displacement of people. Their first statistic that discusses only 2,650 civilian deaths from war in November 2004 is AWESOME considering all the infrastructural havoc we wreaked that month.

The numbers addressing Iraqi Security Forces and Judges.... Those they had back then had very little training and were mostly Sheik's personal security details. The ones they have now have much more training and coalition support.

In working with the IP's, they seem to be taking leaps and bounds forward in some areas and in other areas they are not doing so well.

In general, they are manning posts and attending training like they should, but in doing the details and supervising those details to effective completion, they are still struggling. Delegation is very un-natural to them. They prefer the appearance of power over its application. They prefer the appearances of authority over its responsibilities.

That is all in general of course. Specifically speaking, there are many good, solid leaders who are there for the betterment of Iraq and are consistently working to achieve it.

At this point however, I am not so sure we Americans are doing much good. If we act to make a situation better, those security forces who should be doing that appear incapable, so we are undermining those supposed to be doing the job. If we don't act, then why are we still here?

Semper Fi,

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January 09.

Happy New Year! It is 2009 and a good one it could be. I will be coming home, this year!

We are one year closer to.... you fill in the blank. Hopefully you have long range goals that you can aspire to attain or achieve that will complete that sentence.

Today is day 70 in the pull-up challenge. ... hang in there....

Semper Fi,