Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cold vs. Pride

In preparation for going to the field for a training exercise, there are a few things that almost always happen, gear-wise. Lists are made, weather channels are consulted to determine future weather (best bet is to go with just about a complete 180 of whatever the weather-schmuck predicts), orders are given, and inspections are conducted. This is to ensure uniformity of the platoon, welfare of the subordinate Marines, and that everyone knows what the plan is... supposed to look like.

During one pre-training brief somewhere Southern Cali, we got word that as we were only going to be scheduled to train for a quick two or three day field training evolution, and being the weather was so nice (it's late Summer in California, for Pete's sake), cold weather gear was going to be at the minimum. No packs were deemed necessary. Field-stripping of MREs (where you open the MRE, take only the items that you plan to eat, and distribute them to the various pockets, pouches, nooks, and crannies that are on the uniform, flaks, and load bearing vests) was advised, and that was about all the word we got as far as gear goes. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go...

Naturally, when the weather gods got word of our platoon going light, they rose to the challenge...

'Round about 2200 hours was when it started to get miserable. The temperature had dropped, the winds were staring to gust up, and we were getting desperate. In a moment of levity, a small group of PFCs were volun-told to dance the 'weather gods pacification dance'. The gods were not pacified, and sent a cool drizzling rain as a sign of their displeasure. The PFCs started to get nervous looks on their faces as they danced their little hearts out.

The platoon took inventory of the scarce quantity of cold weather items that we had on hand. Most Marines had with them the standard leather glove shells... and that was about it. A few guys who had learned some hard lessons in regards to some guy named Murphy were a little more prepared. They had a few ponchos and poncho liners. One guy had a scarf. I had my zippo and fuel (trees, foliage, and a couple of PFCs), but that idea got shot down. Not enough marshmallows to go around, I think.

Picture, if you will, my fire-team (4 Marines) standing around in the cold drizzle, starting to shiver, wondering what it would have been like to go into the Air Force recruiter's door way back when... all the while looking down in the darkness at the one poncho and liner between the four of us. We were all thinking the same thing, but nobody wanted to be the one to bring it up. Eye contact was at a minimum, due to the inevitable plan of action.

Cold and Wet eventually kicked Pride's freezing ass and I am here to tell you that you can fit four to five smelly, macho, burly, legend to the ladies (if only in their own eyes), Marines underneath one poncho and liner, all snuggley and cuddly-like. Erotic dreams were strongly discouraged and deadly force was authorized for anybody who happened by with a camera. It wasn't pretty, by any means, but it got the job done.

Monday, June 25, 2007

No News is Good News

So, looks like Night-Time Bimbo Barbie (my apologies to all actual Barbies, everywhere) is going to get out of the pokey, shortly *yawn*. From the breathless updates and wringing hands from the talking heads, one would think there are few things more important than what the newly religious and dedicated [name removed as to not defile even this humble blog] plans to do with her new found freedom.

I wouldn't even mention the above except for the fact that her situation reminds me of lessons learned from my past.

We had attached to our little FOB (Forward Operating Base) this one Corpsman I'll call Chief. He got word that he had been selected for promotion while we were deployed, so there ya go. As most Navy personnel go, he was kind of an odd duck (Har!). Tall guy, very gangly-looking, and somewhat socially awkward in regular conversations. Once you got past the outer appearance though, he was good to go by my book. He new his stuff like nobodies business, and as it turned out, we actually shared a few interests, somewhat. Lemme 'splain...

Back in school, in a yet another failed mission objective of meeting the chicas, I signed up for a Tai Chi class. To be honest, I was kind of curious in what is pretty much considered the epitome of soft style MAs, but when I saw the nearly 30 to 1 female to male gender ratio, that pretty much sealed the deal for me. Not much can be said about me sealing any other deals, unfortunately.

I actually had a pretty good time, and found that it, like most other things of which I think 'sheeeeit, I could do that', was a lot harder than it looks. Nothing like a little 60 yr old lady throwing a slow motion, head level kick, all the while explaining to the class the theories of her style, to show me that my legs and flexibility were not in as good of shape as I had figured. After finishing one thought, with her foot still in the air, the lady rotated her kick to the side and then to the rear, while somehow not laughing at my feeble attempts to stay balanced (and ogle the lovelies) with my foot only at a mediocre hip-height.

Back to Chief, he was a fanatical Tai Chi practitioner. He did it religiously, and was seen practicing most mornings and occasionally in the evenings. It seemed to me that he did nothing else, at times. I would come back from a long, hot, frustrating patrol, and there he was, doing his forms. I knew that he had plenty of stuff to do, probably finished and re-checked several times over, but I would often grumble to myself about the injustice of it all, me working my ass to the bone while Chief studied the intricacies / subtleties of the flicks-booger-off-of sleeve movement.

Unfortunately, as these things tend to go, due to the increase in operational tempo and the inevitable casualties, the sailors on the FOB were eventually called to the plate, and they were jumping through their asses to get their mission done. They did a fine job, and it drove home the points that; A bored Doc should mean a happy Sergeant. A busy Doc means that I am probably having a Very Bad Day. Exciting can be over-rated and bored is often under-rated.

So, to the constant updates ($1 Million dollars for the first post-jail interview!!! Up next, a changed outlook on life!!!), I remind myself that things can always be worse, be happy with what I have going on right now, it just means that it's another slow news day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sounds like my life...


Long and short of that story is;

Former Marine Chris Everhart goes camping with his family.
300 lb. Black Bear decides to join said family, sans invite.
Marine kill bear with a log (!).
Marine gets ticketed for an unsecured campsite.

Two things,

Firstly, good on the Marine for his use of a weapon of opportunity. I might have used something else personally, but as many others have said in a much better way,
he used his head, the best weapon of all.

Secondly, I would say that the campsite is pretty secure now, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Reviewing my range book one day, I determined that I really needed to face up to the fact that my magazine changes were not all they were cracked up to be. The sun can only be in ones eyes so often, you know. Especially when it's getting dark.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

I start of by loading no more than 3 rounds in each mag. Nothing like endless repetition to improve the skills. Time to get to work.

Slide locks back...left hand drops, right hand curls...look through the guard, drop the empty...left hand up *thud*... damn, failed to seat the mag over, slower. How in the heck does this bastard do it?...Eventually, I am doing the changes very slow. Tai Chi slow. When did I stop pointing with the left index finger? Adjust the mag holster a smidgen forward on the belt, try again...

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast...economy of motion...aha!, moving my weight back for the change, what's up with that?...weight forward...slow it down...Got it! Now do it again...and again...and again. Increase the speed. Slowly, gradually, getting faster, still getting it smooth. Awesome.

Time to Qualify.

Rock on, my dry fire practice is showing. Talking trash to the man on my right, he questions a stray shot on my target. "This little, guy?", I point. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about this little guy". The target tells me what I need to work on, but all in all, it's looking pretty good. Moving right along to the next stage...

Remember, take it easy, breathe, relax, and all that trash. Run through this stage in your head, and wait for the command. Here we go...looking good...plenty of comes the mag change...gonna smoke it this time...Now!!

As a
result of my time spent on mag change drills, I suppose that I had gotten a little over confident. I resolved to blaze through the change during qualification, in order to give myself that much more time to ace the shooting. I had pride and a meal riding on my score, every point counted. When the time came, my left hand snapped down, grabbed the mag, and blazed back to the mag well...just in time to hit the empty mag falling away from the weapon. I watched in a sort of amused resignation as I one-handedly juggled two magazines...under the cocked weapon...on the firing line...during a qualification.

Eventually, my last full magazine decided that he had had quite enough of this bumbling, and immediately took a dive down the firing line to my right (banzai!). He tucked and rolled, (as much as the little bastard could) and stopped just to the right of the man to my right.


My left hand was already dropping for another mag...I had others, they were just empty. Sweet.

As nonchalantly as I could, I leaned over to my right-hand shooter. "Uh, think you might be able to hand me that mag?". Snickers and gun shots filled the air. He looked at me...looked at the magazine...looked at me...sighed...and kicked the mag over in my general direction. I grabbed the mag, slammed it home, and performed a half-way decent rapid fire.

That 'little guy' wound up with a few buddies, but I did ok on the qualification.

I did not win the meal.

Lessons Learned:
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Dry fire.
Body awareness.
Read the target.
Mastered that skill? Pffft, think again, dumb-ass.
Juggling on the firing line during qualification is not highly advised, but as long as muzzle awareness is maintained and correct, juggle on, you crazy circus monkey.
No such thing as too much ammo. Ever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Always Leave Yourself an Out

Life's Lessons # 234,210 is always leave yourself an out. When playing a sniper/lone bad guy in MOUT training, it might be considered Not a Good Idea to sequester one's self into an attic crawlspace in order to light up your hapless trainees through a mouse hole in the roof. Oh, it'll work like a champ for a bit, while the students figure out *bang* exactly where you are *bang*, how to get to your location *bang, bang*, suffering 'casualties' all along the way. Yes, you'll rack up the body count and hopefully teach them a number of valuable lessons involving the latest in new orifice avoidance techniques.

When they finally track you down, and due to your own limited mobility are unable to redeploy to continue the fun and games, they might determine that they have no other means of eliminating the threat (you) than to lob nearly half a dozen flash-bang grenades into your little hidey hole.

That stuff will rock your world, and not in the good way...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Funny T-Shirt

In some pxs in Iraq, if one knows where to look, you can find all sorts of memorable Ts, with quips in Arabic and English. The one most fitting for today?

Who's yer Baghdaddy?

For those whom it applies, Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Bugle Boy

One day, probably in a futile attempt to stay out of trouble, I was roaming around motor T when I heard what sounded like a goose being slaughtered. Slowly. With dull implements. Slaughtering of geese not exactly a normal event on bases those days, I wandered over. Said tortuous ado turned out to be a couple of Marines taking turns in their attempts to produce recognizable notes from a bugle.

So that's what they do when they are supposed to be repairing the vehicles...

They had just about determined that the bugle was somewhat defective when I wandered up. Now, it was not common knowledge amongst the platoon at the time that I had been somewhat of a band nerd in my school days. Yup, full bore, card carrying, uber geek. Most days would include at least 2 hours of practice, if not more. Gee, wonder why I never mentioned it to any of the Marines... A short conversation resulted in me giving them a few pointers in sound improvement, intonation, and the like. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was performing like a little circus monkey for the guys, or as much as a little monkey can do with no valves and a couple of years with little practice.

Passing by in the middle of my impromptu solo was Captain 'Bob'. The Captain stopped, commented on the fact that he never knew I could play, and that I might be interested in some bugler duties.

Yeah, right. I'm not volunteering for nuthin', Bub. And that, apparently, was why Mr. Murphy invented the state of being 'voluntold'.

It wasn't all bad, I suppose. Most of the guys got a kick out of hearing an actual live bugler, and my sound apparently hadn't really deteriorated all that much. For some events, I was actually kind of humbled that I had the opportunity to use the skills. There is really not much to say when you see the dwindling squad of elderly Marines, gathering once again to lay one of their own to rest. Watching a 70 year-old warrior struggle to his feet to render honors to his late buddy while I played 'Taps' kind of... well, it really made me not want to mess up the song in the slightest, you know.

Of course, the down side to revealing that one might have a little skill with a trumpet is when the Gunny decides that he needs his own personal bugler to play bugler calls whenever he needs to: make announcements. Walk into a room. Sit down. Cuss. Get up. Eat chow. Finish chow. Fart. Give marching commands. Etc, etc.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Golden Oldies

I was talking to an Army vet the other day, reminiscing about misadventures, crazy missions, and military music. He reminded me of the song below, one that I hadn't thought of in years. It is sung to the tune of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Blood on the Risers
He was just a rookie trooper and he surely shook with fright
He checked off his equipment and made sure his pack was tight;
He had to sit and listen to those awful engines roar,
"You ain't gonna jump no more!"
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
"Is everybody happy?" cried the Sergeant looking up,
Our Hero feebly answered "Yes," and then they stood him up;
He jumped into the icy blast, his static line unhooked,
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock,
He felt the winds, he felt the clouds, he felt the awful drop,
He yanked the cord, the silk spilled out and wrapped around his legs,
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
The risers wrapped around his neck, connectors cracked his dome,
Suspension lines were tied in knots around his skinny bones;
The canopy became his shroud; he hurtled to the ground.
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
The days he'd lived and loved and laughed kept running through his mind,
He thought about the girl back home, the one he'd left behind;
He thought about the medics and he wondered what they'd find,
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
The ambulance was on the spot, the jeeps were running wild,
The medics jumped and screamed with glee, rolled up their sleeves and smiled,
For it had been a week or more since last a 'chute had failed,
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!
He hit the ground, the sound was "Splat!," his blood went spurting high,
His comrades then were heard to say: "A hell of a way to die!"
He lay there rolling round in the welter of his gore,
And he ain't gonna jump no more.
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!

(slowly, solemnly)

There was blood upon the risers, there were brains upon the chute,
Intestines were a'dangling from his Paratrooper suit,
He was a mess, they picked him up, and poured him from his boots,
And he ain't gonna jump no more!
Gory, gory, what a hell of way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain't gonna jump no more!

Lyrics and some more info from here

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Yeah, that would qualify as a short round.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Fire in my hole

A brief description of post 81mm mortar live-fire training activities...

Upon declaring the range cold, several things begin to happen. Unused rounds are noted, made safe, collected and counted. An expended round count is done between the ammunition tech and the gun team leaders. Any discrepancies in rounds is brought to the attention of the Section Leaders and the Platoon Sergeant. There really isn't too much concern with someone sneaking off with an actual 81mm mortar round in their back pocket, due to size and weight, but the formality is there for a reason (ahem, Murphy's Law, anyone?). There are a plethora of other details, but for the purposes of this entry, I will focus on rounds and charges.

A mortar round, as fired from the M252 81mm or the M224 60mm mortar, looks like one would imagine a small bomb to look like. Towards the rear of the round, just above the tail-fin assembly, is where the charges for the mortar are located. Upon removing the round from the container, and in preparation for use, the set number of charges are left on the round for propellant, or removed for closer range firing. Charges removed throughout the course of the day are counted, saved, counted, notated, counted again, guarded against inappropriate use, counted again, and at the end of the day or upon order, are counted one last time before being destroyed.

The charges that we use are intended to throw a mortar round 5000+ meters to reach out and touch someone, pretty powerful stuff. A Marine could get into a lot of trouble messing around with them. The OCD repetitive counting does a couple of things. It lets everyone know that messing around with surplus charges is NOT going to fly anywhere, and in the event that most mortar impacts are in the vicinity of the target, with one hit 500 meters past the target, well, somebody is going to get a talking too, in addition to donning the goofy looking coon-skin cap that announces to the platoon who was the last successful post-operative brain donor to piss off the Gunny.

Usually while everything else is winding up for the day or training session, the Platoon Sergeant will direct the Section Leaders or gun-team leaders to dispose of the extra charges. This would entail charges being separated into several small piles. A few charges would then be broken open to pour out the black granules over each small pile, in order to ensure a complete burn. Just like in the cartoons, you would make a small trail leading from each pile to give the Marine burning the pile a little breathing room. After sounding off with "FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!", the Marine would then light the powder trail, take several steps back, and avert their eyes. Everyone on the firing line would like-wise turn their heads, literally to avoid causing eye damage. One particular evening, both of the Section Leaders were busy, so they told a few of their trusted gun-team leaders to gather up and dispose of the extra charges.

They dutifully went to each mortar position, gathered up the charge counts and the charges, double checked their numbers with the ammo tech, and then traipsed up a nearby hill. In the interest of expediency, they decided to create one large pile, quite large as a result of the number of days and rounds fired. They piled all the charges in a massive mound, broke open a good 10 to 15 charges to spread over the pile and to make an extra large burn trail. They then realized that no one on the hill had a lighter on their person. This was where I came into the picture. Knowing that I usually had at least one of just about everything on my body, to include the ability to make fire, they called me up to the hill. After a quick set of instructions (I was a PFC at the time and had never burned the extra charges before), I knelt at the edge of the trail to start the burn.

Readying my zippo, I craned my head back in the vicinity of the firing line, down at the bottom of the hill. "FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!", I roared. I lit the tip of the trail and....nada. The powder burned well enough, but fizzled out after a few inches. Must have been a gap in the powder or a damp patch of earth. Ignoring the rapidly growing peanut gallery commenting on my ability to complete a simple task, and inquiring if I needed help in other tasks, like talking to my lady friends, I took a few steps closer to the pile and tried again.

"FIRE IN THE!!!"...same result. A few snickers from the gathered gun-team leaders on the hill accompanied the witty commentary from the gun line. Sheesh.

The peanut gallery was quickly getting out of control.

Dammit, this pile was going to burn even if I had to pour some fuel on it, drop trou and fart through the zippo's flames. I took a few fateful steps forward.

"FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!", I yelled. "Eat me, Pfc!", somebody from down the hill responded.

This time the flame took. Holy hell, did it take! Unfortunately, as I was now about a foot away from somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 billion extra charges, I had roughly .5 seconds to realize the fact before flames shot up 12 feet in the air, singing my eyebrows and toasting my juevos.

The air was filled with uproarious laughter and comments not usually heard from a junior Marine in the company higher ranking Marines.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Mother of All Flashlights

Flashlights, or 'moon beams' as they are affectionately known in the Corps, are a vital piece of gear. Long gone are the days of the large L-shaped D-cell behemoths, now most flashlights you'll see are those ultra high-powered smaller jobies. Most lights have some sort of rig to the weapon, but having a few spare for hand-held use are also a plus. The rule I follow is having a few extra of just about everything is a plus, less room for the Murphy-factor (even if it does make for an interesting grenade story, later). About the only other type I used in Iraq were the ultra-small, low intensity beams for checking out maps, broken engines, etc on patrol and when the moment strongly suggested that light discipline would be a good idea.

During one MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training session, there was an excellent segment on the use of lights in room clearing. A few of the instructors-in-training were voluntold to wait in a room that was awaiting clearing. Our job was to fight back, fire a few blanks, and generally resist the clearing team. The idea for this portion of the training was to critique the other Marines' movement, noise discipline, firing lanes, and enemy (ourselves) prisioner handling, during a night time raid.

I thought that I heard a whisper of clothing, perhaps a boot on a pebble, and that was about all the warning that I got. The door jumped off its hinges, and what looked like 4 Marines came charging into the door in about .3 seconds. I wasn't really sure how many Marines were on the clearing team, because the friggin' point man let me have it with the full power of his surefire, quickly followed by about 1/2 a magazine of blanks. I was completely blinded. Sure, I suppose that I could have sprayed and prayed, but for the 1/2 second between being hit by the light and being 'shot', the only thing that I could think of was 'Damn that was bright!', and 'Wonder if I will ever see again?'. I was about worthless for the purposes of grading all other aspects of the raid from that point on.

Fast forward to Iraq, Marines being...Marines, we soon discovered that the ultra-high intensity of the new flashlights are good for a laugh or two...or three. The highest of all joys became those twilight moments when one Marine would say to the other, "Hey Vato, can you come here and check out this engine? I think that there is something wrong with the - BAM! (Flashlight beam direct to the eyes, Vato moaning and flailing arms about, moaning pitifully). New victims were selected, diversionary tactics were employed, and the pitiful, soon to be corneally-handicapped Marine was ambushed. It became somewhat of a rear-area tactical game, to see who could sneak up, like a ninja, to waylay their unsuspecting victim.

Vato, being a sneaky bastard, planned his revenge carefully.

Letters were written, family members were given marching orders.

Searches back home were conducted far and wide.

Finally, the perfect flashlight was found, bought, and shipped overseas, to eager arms.

Probably the best way to describe this monstrosity was to liken it to the lights that are perched upon the police cars. This thing was larger than those, had a heavy-duty rubber coating, and a rechargeable battery. Bled that puppy dry in about 45 minutes, too. It had some insane candle power rating. Suitable for illuminating suspicious vehicles on the other side of the city, announcing Hollywood movie openings, spotting enemy fighter planes, or for signaling Batman.

Vato waited for the perfect moment.

Sitting in a Hummer, pretending to be refreshing his knowledge of the radios, he called for Mouth to help him out. I have to admit, it was a beautiful 'kill'. The sun had just set over the horizon, and the light was slowly turning from oranges to reds, to dusky grays. The steel door of the hummer was closed, offering only the small area where a window would be on another vehicle for the unsuspecting Mouth to stick his head in. Dark shadows filled the hummer. The mother of all flashlights was ready, charged up, and aimed in.

Mouth had no idea what he was in for. He thought that he was the master of The Flashlight Ninja tm.



From about 20 feet away, I watched as beams of light shot out past Mouth's shoulders and off into outer space, notifying alien life of our existence on this planet. Mouth's cornea's melted away, and, for some reason, he was reluctant to acknowledge a 'clean kill', and refused to imagine that he, the master of the light, would be forced to cede the royal crown of ultimate dominion in this little game of ours.

Threats of multiple surprise blasts brought him around...