Sunday, September 30, 2007

Misadventures in Dating, Part Doh!

Back in my College days I dated this girl we'll just call Good Girl. The description fit her quite well. Smart, beautiful, didn't drink (much), went to church, virtuous (dangit!), didn't curse, the list goes on and on.

I have no idea what she was doing with me.

Quite naturally, her roommate at the time was Bad Girl.

One day I'm over at the girls' apartment and Good Girl and I are trying to figure out what we are going to do later that evening, mainly by passing back and forth "I dunno, what do you want to do?"s. We were sitting on the couch, just hanging out, when Bad Girl came out of her room and sat on the floor, close to the tv.

The girls had known each other from childhood, moved away, and reconnected in College. They were both pretty and smart, but that was about where the similarities ended. Where Good Girl rarely went past her 1/2 glass of wine limit, Bad Girl could almost drink me under the table, and she was a tiny girl. When they would go out for a night of dancing, Good Girl would wear a pair of jeans that accented her figure, Bad Girl would wear a sexy little dress (and for those who keep tabs on those kinds of things, on occasion the 'unmentionables' would stay at the apartment... so I hear). Good Girl was maintaining her virtuous nature, Bad Girl was... definitely not. Not that I judged Bad Girl or anything, modern times and all, but when I would go over to hang out with Good Girl, the moans and groans of her roommate in the next room made things somewhat... weird. When the guy started up, well, that was a bit much for me.

The thing that really killed me was the fact that she seemed to be especially attracted to unavailable guys, and those that would treat her like crap. After the inevitable heart break, she would dramatically go on and on about how all men are pigs.

Pigs? I though we were dogs. *Oink? Woof?... Oif, or Woink?*

So Bad Girl walks out of her room, and I noticed that she had changed her clothes. When I had arrived at the apartment that particular evening, she had been wearing the thigh-short length purple silky robe that she liked to wear so much. After a curious pause for conversation in the back room, Good Girl convinced Bad Girl that it would be a good thing to change clothes while I was hanging out, apparently lest Good Girl display her evil 'Back Off, Bitch!!' side. Bad Girl had then changed into some shorty shorts and a cut-off shirt. I offered to let Bad Girl sit on the couch, but she mumbled that she was fine where she was.

Good Girl got up to go to the kitchen to get a couple glasses of tea when the phone rang. The phone in the apartment was in the living room, but as they were in the process of deciding on furniture that was acceptable to two somewhat picky wimmens, it was located on the carpet at the far end of the living room. Bad Girl crawled on her hands and knees about the 5 feet to the phone, (I most definitely knew better than to stare), and exclaimed her greetings.

When I glanced (glanced, I say!!!) over in Bad Girl's general direction, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, 'Oh lookiethere. Boobies.' Her cut-off was somewhat larger than her slight frame, and the angle at which she was now propped up on her elbows and knees (!?!), facing away from me, provided pretty much the perfect angle to note that a bra was too much effort that night.

For 99.999% of the time, when a guy sees breasteses as a part of an evening with a lady friend, this is most definitely known as a Good Thing.

This blog (and pretty much the entirety of my life) being what it is, naturally I have discovered that .001% exception to the rule.

See, whilst I was noting the boobage factor and contemplating why is it that guys are notorious for their dislike of all felines save for sweater kittens, I remember thinking to myself, 'Self, ok, now those are kinda nice, but... how's it going to look if Good Girl peeks around that corner right now? Think she's going to buy the fact that we weren't staring, just looking over to the phone to see what all the hubbub is about? That's what I thought! Eyes, get 'em off, now!' I obeyed my inner party-pooper only to discover that Good Girl was in fact at the archway of the kitchen and living room, giving me a stare that told me I had a one-way ticket to the rocket express shit list, top floor, seating for one, lucky winner moi.

That's about the time when I realized what a good racket selling flowers and chocolates must be... As long as there are guys, there will always be a market. As long as I was in the market, the florists' kids were practically guaranteed that fat college fund.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Helos, Cookies & Memories

Most of the helos that I have had the dubious pleasure of riding in were the ones like the CH-46s. I think of these like a big lumbering bus. Picture yourself hanging out in the field with about 20 other guys and all of your gear, when all of a sudden the grass and dust start flying everywhere. You frantically (is there any other speed, really?) gather up all of your shit, half-blind from the dirt, twigs, and various small animals cruising the drafts, cram asshole to elbow with everybody and everything else in the back of the helo, somehow manage to strap in, and start praying that there isn't some sort of error involving mechanical thingies, pilots, weather, or 'other' in your immediate future.

They make pretty good speed, and the view is pretty cool, but before you know it, the beast is thumping down, the ramp is lowered, and it's time for some more fun and games, courtesy of whatever crazy bastard is running the show this time.

Then there are the Black Hawks...

If the CHs are like buses, the Black Hawks are like sports cars. Those bad boys LAUNCH like a friggin' rocket, and that is at what I am sure is a slow speed. Pilots were probably fuckin' with us, but that is to be expected...

Story time.

We had the opportunity to do some cross-training with a National Guard unit once, and the powers that be decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to focus on how we might conduct joint Marine grunt & Army helo operations. To start, we would learn the basics re: safety (keep noggin out of fast spinning thingies), getting on (see safety), and getting off (if you haven't learned the first part, you're screwed.) and they would have to put up with Marines for a day or two.

Yeah, they probably screwed something up pretty good, to get stuck with us.

Black Hawks being much smaller than what we had been on before, we had to make a few adjustments as far as how many bodies and gear we could cram on board. It was still a tight fit, though. Tight enough that the guy across from me was jiggling my grapeletts with his knee every time he twitched. He wasn't too good with heights or rapid movement in the air, so he twitched quite a bit. I didn't know whether to punch him or start blowing kisses.

He wasn't my type.

I am not entirely crazy about heights, but for some strange reason, only about the first 20 or 30 feet ever give me any problems. After that, I'm cool. In the BH, we got through that in roughly .000002 seconds it seemed. I was checking out the scenery, trying to remember the safety rules illustrated above, when I felt a tug on my leg. As it wasn't another jiggle to 'Mr. Happy', I ignored it, figuring that Motivator across from me was shifting around, or something. After another tug, I glance at him to see that he is in full on pasty, clammy, bulging cheeks, eyes looking for a place to puke mode. Somebody wasn't too good with the motion sickness, it would seem. Thanks to the pilots, overheard cackling like the crazy NASCAR schmucks that they were, there was plenty of motion to go around. Hell, I think we actually cruised down a freeway, passed traffic, and darted under some bridges at one point.

Of course, I did what any good buddy would do in that situation. I attempted to:

1) retreat in the 1/10000 of an inch room that I had in the back of my seat while simultaneously screaming 'oh shit, he's gonna spew!'
2) grab my disposable camera for a photo-op of the not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances category.
3) get the attention of the crew-dude.

About as much as we could make out from the soldier was a frantic hand-waving and a pointing to his helmet. Obviously, he wasn't too keen on cleaning up after a Marine with a delicate tummy, and was recommending an appropriate place to store any suddenly-excess stomach fluids. My camera chose that time to go tits-up, but all was not lost. The unofficial platoon camera/computer/techno uber-geek was on board, and he got some good shots of the scenery whizzing by, me grinning and pointing, and Motivator sporting a weak smile and about a 5 inch trail of lunch dangling from his lower lip to his up-turned helmet.


The helo comes to the end of the ride, the pilots are probably high-fiving each other on the cookie-tossing success, and we dismount and attempt to un-ass ourselves. This involved setting up a hasty 180 security in the prone, account for all Marines and gear, and try to figure out what hills we would be killing today. The birds take off and our Platoon Sergeant comes over to see why I am pissing myself laughing and Lcpl. Motivator is not wearing his helmet. Gunny, in typical fashion, doesn't seem to care about why one of his Marines is not fully tactical, and strongly suggests that Motivator put the helmet on his head before the Gunny secures it with his boot. I really want to say that the Gunny couldn't hear the weak protests, but over the helos lifting off or me snorting madly, trying not to pee all over myself the first day out into a field operation, I couldn't say.

Motivator looked at the Gunny, looked at me, shrugged, dumped out lunch from his kevlar helmet, and plopped (yes, plopped) it on his head. About then was when the rest of the platoon got a 'WTF?' look on their faces, and I got yet another story to file away in my noggin' just waiting for this little blog...

He had to wash that thing out so many times, I dunno if he ever got it out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Good Cigars, Good Company, & Good Entertainment

At the very beginning of my deployment in Iraq, we didn't know how good we had it. Yeah, we were in the BFE section of the airbase, but being as it was an AF base, (and they do set up some kick-ass bases), we had access to regular showers, actual toilets, mail, electricity, a gym, and loads of other amenities. Course, when it comes to drunken bar-room story time with 350lb SEALs and Rangers that somehow can't handle their alcohol (a sure sign of... slight exaggeration), it'll be one of those, 'So there we were, nothing but sand dunes & enemy fighters for a hunnerd miles all around...I set my broken femur, tossed the Major on my back, grabbed my K-Bar and charged the RPG position...'

And I still won't have the best story, I bet.

It was also the time before the tempo of operations started to pick up. Our patrols were around 8 to 10 hours, and if you weren't on the schedule you were free, to an extent.

One night, coming back from the gym, I noticed Ssgt. 'Bump' sitting in front of his can (small rooms that served as our quarters). Mail call had already happened, and he was quite pleased with his haul. Bump was on of those guys who always had the hook-up, and it sometimes seemed that just about everything went his way. Earlier in the day, he had made the trip to the px, and managed to score a couple of boxes of the always rare and ever popular Dr Pepper (Say it with me, everybody; War is Hell). In addition to his lucky day, he had somehow managed to acquire a box of nice cigars, and the DVD of Paris Hilton's 'greatest hits'.

Not one to hoard his treasures, he was sharing freely. So I moseyed on over, cracked a warm one, and lit up a stogy. The moon was just starting to rise over the horizon, a soft breeze was blowing in, and Paris was doing her thing.


A couple of other Marines had sniffed the winds, smelled something free, and came over to investigate. One of them, Ssgt. 'Mohn' was a non-smoker, but decided to partake in the celebratory mood anyways.

After the show, Bump and I were talking about cigars in general, and advising Mohn in the proper method of trimming the tip of the cigar, how to light it evenly, and general methods of enjoying the smoke. We very strongly suggested that he not inhale too deeply, as a cigar is a bit stronger than your average cigarette, especially for a non-smoker.

We then started to talk about whiskeys and cognacs, and how some will dip the tip of the cigar in the liquid to add a certain something to the experience. Never done it myself, but stranger stuff has been done with cigars, or so I hear...

I caution Mohn about deep inhalations again, and a few moments later notice that he was attempting to dip the cigar into his can of Dr Pepper. Having failed at that (the cigar was too wide), he was carefully pouring a small stream of the Dr P. onto his cigar.

What the Hell?

Me thinks Mohn is puffing away a little toooo hard. He had actually worked up quite the buzz at this time.

A lull in the conversation followed, as most of us were enjoying the (relatively) cool night, and keeping an eye out for the (relatively) hot chicks that were in the area. I dunno who noticed it first, but the moon was now shining brightly in the glistening, shaven dome of Mohn. His face had turned kind of pasty green-grey, and he looked quite queasy. He quickly rose, and lurching to the shitters, attempted to control the smoke demons in his guts.

Now, in the mental soundtrack of my mind, Paris is always accompanied with the sounds of Mohn's frenzied self-conversation while trying to decide which end is going to explode first, in the confines of the Iraqi long-day sun-baked port-a-shitter, and the resulting hysterics from the other Marines.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Are You Goiiiiing, to San Fran-cicso?' Hell No!

A couple of thoughts.

Marines, more specifically Marines of the Silent Drill Team, were denied from performing in the streets of San Francisco recently. To be fair, the camera crew got authorization to work, just as long as no scary Marines were actually in the shoot (get it? Har!).

"traffic control was an issue"


Not going to go too much into the subject due to the high levels of disgust, but I cant help but thinking, maybe perhaps if the Marines were decked out in leathers and issued dildos, then maybe they would have a little more support there.


For the record, I have nothing against leathers, dildos, and pride in whatever culture/minority/pastime/etc that one might partake in. I am not even what I would consider a great fan of church in general, but was that sort of depiction of the last supper really necessary? At least it won't result in real pain, I suppose, like from a few members of another religion that incidentally, the Marines are currently engaged with. (Holy shit, concept!)

Perhaps I lied a little bit. I suppose that I can see why traffic control might have been an issue, cause (I know I am just a wee bit biased here) anytime I see something this cool, I can't help but take some pride that I, lil' old me, might have had some small part to play in my beloved Corps.

Now that. Is. Awesome.

Murphy was... in construction?


Swastika-shaped building reportedly in use by Naval Construction Force. Figures.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mess Night, Platoon Pride, & Marines in Trouble (again), Part 2

At another mess night, some years later...

Coming back from the field we got word that there was going to be a mess night the evening before we returned to our base. A building was arranged, beer runs were made, the grills were lit. The order was given to prepare skits, imitations, and jokes. Suckage was highly discouraged, on pain of the Captain's displeasure. To ensure that this one would maintain some semblance of propriety, only the first hour or so would be company wide. After an hour, the Officers and Staff NCOs would go on to their own mess night, leaving Sgts and below to see how much trouble we could get into. The order was 'hang out until the beer is gone, then clean up and hit the rack'. Nothing about seizing the initiative and making about three beer runs....

Good initiative... bad judgement.

For the first hour, everything was cool. A few funny skits from some of the platoons got everyone in a good mood, a couple of platoon jokers got up to do some dead on impressions of the Gunny, CO, etc. The beer was cold and we were pleasantly tired from running around all week. After the higher ups left, most of the Sergeants decided that they were going to hang out in another building, and it was just the platoons Corporals and below sitting around in grouped tables... eyeing each other... with mischief in our eyes.

After a couple of hours, we got tired of making the Pvts perform stupid human tricks, and the trash cans were overflowing. After the last beer run, we declared a moratorium on streaking (kidding, sort of). Finishing up a can, one Marine crushed the can and slammed it down onto the table, next to a collection of about 30 or so empty cans. As we were rapidly running out of room for the empties, one can got stacked up on another, and that is how it all started...

Looking over at our nemesis machine gunner platoon, we noticed that not only did they have a stack of cans, but it was much larger than ours.

Oh. Hell. No.

This would just not do. Platoon pride determined that ours would be the biggest and best stack of cans. When our drinking abilities didn't hold up, we turned to cheating.

In a huddle, one Marine said "Hell, we're a friggin' mortar platoon, lets call for fire". We took some hasty, drunken calculations and lobbed our first round (empty can), trying to register a target. The guy who launched it was a little too tipsy, so the can fell about two tables too short and off to the right. The Forward Observers got into the game, sounding off with a fire mission correction of "Add two tables, left one, fire for effect". This was when the MGs started returning fire, with a lucky direct hit. Thusly was demonstrated why it is a bad idea to use indirect (arcing) fire vs direct (line o' sight) fire.

Damn machine gooners.

One Corporal decided that more decisive tactics was called for and made a flanking movement on the MG table. As he was doing this, several buildings away, I can imagine that the Gunny thought he had heard something unusual. It was probably a lull in the battle, so when he heard suspicious silence coming from the general vicinity of our building (nobody running around outside serenading the trees or sidewalk or whatnot). Sounded kind of like...Marines getting into some shit. Possibly realizing the error of his previous order (not specifying additional beer runs, just that when the beer was done we were done), he scooted over to our building.

As the Cpl finished the flanking movement and began the direct attack on the MG table with a stack of about 15 cans high, the Gunny approached the door...

The Machine Gunners realized the attack was imminent and tried to block the way. As the Cpl. launched himself in the air, Gunny opened the door to see:

A room full of drunken monkeys, many beer cans and one portly Marine flying through the air like a NFL wide receiver, radios blaring, all trash cans overflowing, one lying on its side, and a few guys passed out under the tables.

WHAT IN THE HOLY (*CRASH* as the Cpl landed on the MG table, breaking it in half but accomplishing the mission of total destruction of the enemy target) HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE?!?!?

That was a loooong night.....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mess Nights, Platoon Pride, & Marines in Trouble (again), Part 1

Mess Night is a rare function that is designed to build camaraderie amongst the company. It can be an Officer and/or Staff non commissioned officer (NCO) night, an NCO only night, or an all company mess night. Unlike the Marine Corps Birthday Ball wives are usually not present, and probably for good reason. It is the usually once or twice a career opportunity for the entirety of the unit to get together and show your ass, sort of.

My first mess night, I was a Pfc. Pvts and Pfcs are usually to be found serving the beverages of the night, and some of the junior Staff NCOs and Officers would be found cooking up the meat. Thankfully, there were quite a few Pvts to do the work, which left me to watch the festivities. The senior enlisted man at these functions would serve as the master of ceremonies, what few ceremonies there were. He had authority over everyone but the Commanding Officer, and the M.C. wasn't afraid to demonstrate it. The C.O. was...the C.O., probably doing his best to ensure that this wouldn't turn into a career-ender for him!

My first ever mess night, Gunny Kill was the Master of Ceremonies. First Sergeant was probably hiding somewhere...

Ah, the Gunny. On this mess night, once everyone was seated and the games began, he was seated at the front of the room, with the CO. CO gets a funny look in his eye, and whispers in the Gunny's ear. Gunny starts roaring, so I know that someone is in Some Shit. "Captain Batman, get your ass up here!" says the Gunny. According to the rules of mess night, for this occasion, Gunny outranked the Captain. He could order, fine (usually in the single-digit dollar amount), berate, etc especially as the night grew long and the kegs grew light.

CAPTAIN: (rising from his seat near the front) Now Gunny, I don-
GUNNY: Shaddap, sir! (gavel slams down) *BAM!* Two dollar fine for the beer fund!
CAPTAIN: Wha- ?!?
GUNNY: Shaddap, sir! *BAM* Three dollars for the beer fund.
CAPTAIN: As you wish. (the required answer came accompanied this night by rolled eyes)
GUNNY: That's more like it. Now a certain informant (wink to the CO) has informed me that before you joined my beloved Corps, you used to be a freakin' cheerleader, in college. Is this true?

-the room roars-

CAPTAIN: (after a minute) Well, I-
GUNNY: Shaddap, sir! *BAM* Two dollar fine for the beer fund!!! Goddamn, the way your going, sir, the next run is on you!!!
CAPTAIN: Yeah, I was a cheerleader at university.
-more roars-
GUNNY: Let's have us a motivating cheer, for the Marines, of course.
CAPTAIN: - Oh fuc-
Gunny - Shaddap, sir! Two dollar fine for risking damage to my delicate ears! Do the cheer, sir! *BAM BAM!!!*

The Captain proceeds to do one hell of a Marine Corps Cheer.

CAPTAIN: Give me a 'U'!!!

*crickets chirping...*

GUNNY: Where's my pose, Captain?!?

CAPTAIN: *sigh* Give me an 'S"!!! (strikes a pose)

*low chuckles*

CAPTAIN: Give me a 'M'!!!

CAPTAIN: Give me a 'C'!!! What's that spell?!?!...

GUNNY: Ok Sir, that's enough of that, sit down.

The good Captain got a hearty round of applause.

Oddly, most of the Officers were hard found after that, until the night was over.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Gunny, Indoctrination, and a Joke

Ah, the Gunnery Sergeant. Many, many Marines have quite a few fond (and some not so fond) stories of Gunnies that they have served with. This is one of those stories that just happens to be both, depending on who you hear the story from...

Gunny 'Kill' was a former Drill Instructor, lifelong grunt, and general sour-puss, currently standing in for the First Sergeant until the new one reported in. As a former DI, he had a rather unique sense of humor. It was an important note to make that we always tried to make sure what kind of humor the Gunny was in before we tried just about anything outside of the norm. To do otherwise would be kind of... stupid.

Formations were usually held in front of one of our main buildings, in the parking lot area (the main building was where all of the companies offices were). One of those office rooms was reserved for the Navy Corpsmen and some of their Navy chain. Well, the Sailors had a bell from an old decommissioned ship that hung right in front of one of their offices. If the formation was being held in the general time window for chow, one of the tricks that we would play on the new guys was assign one of the new Pvts to go and ring the 'chow bell'. The Navy guys did not look too kindly on some jarhead ringing their antique bell and screaming at the top of his lungs, "CHOW, CHOW, CHOW, *DINGDINGDING* CHOW, CHOW, CHOW!!!".

We had it down to an art. Standing in formation one day, waiting on the word, wondering when we would get the go ahead to get some chow, one of the machine gunners turned to a buddy of his in the mortars platoon, and asked, "hey, do we need to send somebody for the chow bell or is it y'alls turn?" All this with a straight face. One of our Corporals told him, "Nah, we got it", turned to a Pvt., and gave him his orders. The Private, being thoroughly indoctrinated in the art of immediate obedience to orders, sounded off with an "Aye, aye Corporal!!!", and ran to the bell. We were dying, but managed to hold it together until the bell started ringing.

The Private ran through the door, make a hard right, assumed the position of attention, and rang the bell like it was going out of style.


We were dying as, according to his instructions, the Private then ran through the building, screaming that it was chow time to all the assorted personnel in the building. His voice fell and rose as he passed by open windows in the hallway. It was one of the most motivated displays of lung power, speed, obedience to orders etc that I have ever seen.

Shortly thereafter, the Chief stormed over to the Gunny's office, to raise hell. Gunny, in full DI mode, came outside to the formation. Those that had known him for a while knew when he was joking around, and I personally knew that he loved to piss off the Chief. If it took a hapless Pvt. to accomplish the mission well, so be it. Mission accomplishment, and all...

Gunny stomps out to the front of the formation and screams, "WHO WAS THE SOON TO BE DEAD ASSHOLE THAT RANG THAT FUCKING BELL?!?!?" A quiet "me gunny" was the pitiful reply.


So the Pvt. is on his face, pumping out the push ups like he is stuck on fast forward. Gunny is in full blown DI flashback, rattling off cuss words that are rapidly wilting the nearby foliage and causing birds to drop dead from the sky. Chief at first has a satisfied look on his face, but as the minutes pass and the Gunny is still rattling off the continuous, minute-long tirade in the way that only former DIs can, he got a weird look on his face, suggestive of the mental stability of Marines, and went inside. Joke still on going, but now only on the Pvt., Gunny screams at him to get up.


"Uh, it was Cpl Donn-"


After that, no one could keep it together anymore, including the Gunny. The Private started to suspect that something was up, from the definitely un-manly giggles throughout the Marines. Gunny ordered the Marine to his feet and told him, "welcome to the company, kid."

The Private was now definitely part of the family.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lucky Sons of...

The Hummer slowed down and paused on the shoulder of the road. Marines jumped out of the back of the truck and started visual sweeps of the road to ensure that there was nothing there that shouldn't be. The detainees remained in the bed, hands zip-tied behind them, blacked out goggles over their faces, with one Marine, m9 in hand, standing guard. Vehicle commanders started their final head count and weapons checks.

All vehicles rogered up and the call came over the radio to stand by to move out. The raid had been a resounding success.

Starting out early that morning, the CO had called all parties together to run through the plan one more time. There would be a squad designated for the raid itself, another tied to the hip with them that would be security and detainee transport. Another (mine) would be on patrol in the area, looking for anything out of the ordinary and as a mobile quick reaction force. Maps were distributed, we loaded up and set out for the target house. They never knew what hit them.

One thing that we always did at some point before completely leaving the area was a head and weapons count. This was done to make abso-friggin-lutely that there would be no one left behind. Of only slightly lesser concern was that we had all gear, weapons, detainees, and intel.

On the side of the road that day, the vehicle was stopped on the bare shoulder of the road. The pick up style Hummer was the tail end of the convoy returning to the Forward Operating Base. As such, two Marines sitting in the bed of the truck had their weapons facing to the rear, at all times. When the vehicle came to a stop, it was they that opened the saloon type steel doors, hopped out, and cleared the shoulder around the vehicle. They did not look under the vehicle.

Our visual sweeps started at just at the vehicle and in a circle. If nothing suspicious was in the immediate area, the Marines knew that they were to gradually increase their circles, pushing out to a pre-set distance. Once the ground was confirmed clean and if they were still stopped, they would usually take a knee or find some sort of cover and wait for the call to move.

The call came over the radio; all victors (vehicles) were present, all personnel present, stand by to return to base. The dismounted Marines returned to the truck, climbed aboard, and secured the doors. They returned to their position, rifles pointed to the rear, resting on the lip of the doors. The vehicle crawled forward, in anticipation of the convoy getting started.

When the Hummer had pulled forward about two feet, the slight discoloration of the ground caused the Marines glanced down at the ground.

The buried IED that blew at that moment had to have been expertly camouflaged. It must have been level with the ground and hidden well enough that the Marine driver had completely missed it as he brought the vehicle to a stop directly over it. It blew as the two rear guard Marines were both looking down at it, from a distance of about 5 feet.

The call that you never want to hear came over the radio, 'stand by for medivac, two friendlies, urgent surgical.' Urgent surgical is the phrase used for the most serious wounds, demanding immediate removal and evacuation to the rear. An explosion going off in ones face from a distance of about 5 feet would normally be a safe bet to call for urgent surgical. Only minutes later the birds were launched and en route to the hastily formed security perimeter around the damaged but amazingly still technically drivable vehicle.

It would seem upon later reflection, that the IED had been buried too deep. The concealment of the device was almost perfect however, as a result the force of the blast was not anywhere near as powerful as it could have been. Another factor might have been a degradation of force due to the type of round used. It was almost certainly a 60mm mortar round or smaller, and probably an old one at that. There are only a few other factors that I can think of to explain why they were not killed outright.

They both survived.

The force of the blast had knocked them both out, shredded their flacks and kevlar helmets, and shattered their protective goggles. One Marine had eye damage to his eyes as a result of the shattered lens and some dust & metal fragments. Had he not been wearing his goggles, loss of vision would have been almost guaranteed, but the least of his problems. Both Marines had some shrapnel wounds to the face and to a lesser degree, their hands and forearms.

A short time later we got the word that one of the Marines had made it back through the hospital ladder, from Iraq to Germany back to the States. He was going to be okay, save for some slight damage to one of his eyes. The other Marine returned to duty. He looked like hell, like he had gone ten rounds with a pro boxer.

He was a beautiful, lucky bastard.

Bravo Foxtrot (Blue Falcon)

Alternative titles:

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

Why Nudie Bars are Bad

Troop Welfare, Murphy Style

One day, standing around waiting for formation, a bunch of us had noticed that Lcpl. Ware (all names changed to protect the guilty) was not his usual argumentative self. See, the good Lcpl. had been a college kid, very smart, and absolutely passionate about law, politics, history, news, primary colors, and just about everything and anything else. All it took to set him off was a minor disagreement, any conflict on any aspect of the above, and you would almost need to call in mortar fire on yourself to get him to shut up!

Seems that his and his girlfriend had called it quits, and had somewhat of a rough ending, at that. As a number of us had meet her, thought that she was a good catch, we were kind of curious. 'What happened?' inquiring minds queried, 'are you alright', others asked. Standard break up story, with a few twists. I will not go into too much detail here, but she did move on rather quickly ('bout a week and a half), and was quite happy in demonstrating her new found *ahem* freedoms. Via videotape. With her new... 'friend'. Some of the guys actually wanted to see the tape, all in the interest of commiserating with the Lcpl. and condemning the cold & heartless bitch, of course.


I took it upon myself to see if there was something that I could do to cheer him up. This would be a good example of troop welfare, for those interested in what makes the military tick.

Naturally, this involved strippers and copious amounts of liquid happiness. On second thought, probably not the ideal example of troop welfare...

Now, I -er...I mean I have heard- this theory about strip clubs. It something like 'the percentage'. In most clubs, there will be a small number of really hot strippers, perfection defined. Following them is the majority, decent looking 'ladies' that rapidly improve in appearance upon demonstration of flexibility, the amount of liquor you have sucked down, and any show of kinky skills. Then there is the last, smallest group. *shudder*

This club fit right into that theory. After a while, everyone was feeling good, and I turned to him to inquire if he needed another drink. His reply? "Yeah, she's probably getting slut-fucked right now". *Sigh* I tried to point out that there just happened to be a bunch of half-nekkid women running around all over the place, I was buying his drinks for the night, and all he could think about was the ex? This called for the heavy artillery. I called one of the girls over, inquired as to the appropriate (damn she was hot!) amount, and arranged him a little 'personal time'.

No, it wasn't that kind of 'personal time', just a lap dance in the roped off section of the club. I was trying to take his mind off of his troubles and get him happy drunk, not to have him piss fire (or worse) the next day.

By the way, why is it you need to take out a personal loan in order to by a buddy a few drinks and lap dances? I know I'm a cheap bastard, and that is why I don't usually go to those clubs in the first place. I also happen to prefer getting my frustration on in a place where I don't have to pay so much for the privilege. Apparently it is an art form to figure out how much guys are willing to pay for the privilege of a little frustration/entertainment for the next 3 minute song or so...

Weeelll, that perked him right up. He came back to the table with a huge grin on his face, sucked down another very overpriced drink, slammed it down, ordered another, and slurred to me 'Duuude, sshe likes... me!" Sure buddy. I tried to explain that she was just being friendly, but to no avail. Eventually, I let it drop because cheering him up was the whole point of the night. Hell, I even got him another dance. During his second lap dance, IT came out on the stage. [insert movie scream here]

I really hope not, but have you ever seen something so terrible, you just did not want to watch, but found yourself looking anyways? Eyes through your upraised hands, a-la-9 yrs old watching that really scary movie mortified?

My memory and descriptive skills could not do this situation any justice. Let me just say that she definitely been 'rode hard, put up wet' (bad pun intended).

She finished what passed for her stage dance, and then begun to work the crowd. As she would approach a table, all of the guys would somehow realize that they needed to use the restroom, go to the bar to get a drink, or tie their shoelaces/hide under the table. Marine loyalty be damned, I was the only one at the table when she approached (so much for never leave your buddy behind, assholes!). I was not too concerned about her trying to hit me up for a lap dance, because my funds were pretty much depleted from the course of the night.

"Hey sugar, want some of this?" Hell no! I mentally screamed. "I'm sorry ma'am, see I came here to take care of my buddy- (who was now totally smashed, convinced that he was going to score with the stripper who I had pretty much given my wallet, and staggering up to the table) I'm sure that it would be really nice (pause to swallow a little vomit), but I really don't have any more -"

You might realize that a very drunk Lcpl. Ware, having all of his many, many drinks and dances paid for by yours truly, would feel somewhat appreciative. I can understand that. I can understand 'beer goggles', having read about it somewhere, -cough, cough. I can understand him wanting to repay me for the kind gesture that I displayed.

What I will never forgive him for is taking that moment, when I was pressed up in the back of my chair, trying not to notice the yuck-mouth, cottage cheese, friggin overactive sweat glands, waaay too much junk in the trunk, lazy eye, thong about 7 sizes to tight, etc ad nauseum (heavy emphasis on the nauseum) to reach into his still full wallet, pluck out the appropriate bills, and slap them down on the table, with a resounding, drunken, "lesh get thish man a dansh, WOOO!!!!". That roughly translates to; 'why yes ma'am, I would love to provide for a few moments of your time for my buddy, here.'

The horror.


He thought it was hilarious.

I couldn't decide if I needed to scrape my eyeballs out of their sockets, or attempt to stifle his chuckles with a grande bottle of tequila, administered by way of the anus.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Current Events


If I get a t-shirt with 'Don't taze me, bro!' on it, will I have better luck than the phrase originator?

SgtMaj, Swim Qual, & Hand to Hand

Back in the pool for yet another swim qual, and I was motivated. I was stoked because this was finally the time when I would have the opportunity to go for the WSQ level of the swim qual. It made for a long day, but I was happy to see if I could do it. The way it worked was that all the guys got in the pool for the lowest level of qualification, the minimum required for the Marines. After everyone passed that level, anyone who wanted to try out for the next higher level stayed in the pool, and so on and so on. The higher level you got, the longer you could go before having to qualify again. I didn't mind whether or not I had to get in the pool in two, three, four, or never again number of years, it was always a good time. I suppose that I should say 'usually a good time'...

We were moving right along through the various portions and levels when it came time to demonstrate the drowning victim rescue. The way that this event worked was that one Marine would play the drowning victim (repeated requests for the local civilian (female) lifeguard squad were mysteriously ignored). The other Marine would demonstrate the proper way to rescue a combative and/or drowning victim. Being Marines, this is where it got interesting...

When it came time to pair up, I got left out like the fat kid on the kickball field. As I would turn one way, that Marine had a swim buddy. Turning the other direction, that guy just got snagged. Eventually I decided to wait to see who else got shafted. The other shaftee turned out to be Sergeant Major Chuckles (Hey, it's my story, I'll call him what I want). The good SgtMaj did not resemble his name.

It might have been just my experience, but it did seem to me that for the most part, whenever anybody with less than 20 years in the Corps got around a Sergeant Major, they started grumbling like you were trying to steal their oxygen or something.

ME: Guess it's you and me, Sergeant Major!

SGT MAJ: Shaddup, thing.

ME: Aye aye, Sergeant Major!

SGT MAJ: *Scowl*


We got the order from the instructors, and all of the 'victims' got into the water. They told us not to give the Marines any breaks, or we would have to tread water for twice as long as needed for the test. With our hands out of the water. Holding bricks. They reminded us that if we made it too hard, well, we were up next to play the part of rescuer.

Chuckles slowly swam towards me. By this time of the test, he was swimming a lot slower than the rest of the Marines, due to the fact that he had enlisted back when the Roman Legions were still kicking ass and taking names. He swam on pure hate and disgust. I thought he was going to drown before he even got to me. Poor guy (this would be my one-time error of underestimating a senior staff NCO).

I, playing my part, reached over to grab ahold of him in a somewhat not-so-aggresive manner. He glared at me and growled, "what in the Hell do you think you are trying to do, give me a hug? You see any tits on me, son? I will make you hate life if you try that shit with me again! Grab me like you got a pair!" Hilarity ensued.

Roger. It's on like donkey kong, ya old fart.

I proceed to do my very best at literally sitting on his head, in the middle of the pool's deep end.

Do you remember the L.I.N.E. training? It's the fighting system wherein every technique, whether its a defense against a punch or a kick, a take down, or whatever can be summed up in grab, twist, pull, sweep, & stomp.

I knew that I was doing a pretty good job at introducing him to the pool floor, by his muttered curses floating up on the bubbles rising to the surface.

What I didn't know (until then) is that the beauty of the L.I.N.E. system as practiced by the Corps (and especially crafty old Sergeants Major) is that it can be done underwater. Yup, in the middle of that pool. Against a combative, motivated, kinda pissed, in shape, younger Marine. It works especially well when applied to the younger Marine's giggle berries. Takes all the fight out of him, chop chop.

I crawled out of the pool, laid on the deck, and prayed for death. Right until the instructors sounded off that it was now my turn to play the part of rescuer.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Money Matters

They say that in the Marine Corps, the pay is mighty fine,

They give you a hundred dollars, and take back ninety-nine...

-Marine Corps cadence

Back in the day, there was a lot of talk about how poorly the Corps paid it's Marines, but if you were to go outside to just about any main road on most bases, you would stand a good chance at seeing a few things. Pick up trucks had lifts, tint jobs, and neat paint schemes. You would see crotch rockets and cruisers rumbling by. You would probably even see the import cars, with the lowered bodies, tuned engines, and stereos that you could hear from 3 counties away.

Pay was ok, it was how it was used that (sometimes) was the problem.

I have had my issues I suppose, like most others when it comes to money. There have been times when I spent too much, saved too little, or just bought junk on impulse (usually on the wimmens, but it was worth it). For the most part though, I would say that I did ok, up to a point. While it never got really out of control, it is an easy beast to lose a proper hold on. Credit Cards actually helped me get control of the whole situation, believe it or not.

Now, this isn't a story of tens upon tens of thousands of dollars of debt, but just example after example of situations where I constantly wondered what was the point of the credit cards, to the point where I about decided to wash my hands of the whole situation.

I got my first credit card shortly after starting to work, back in high school, and for the most part there were no issues. My father made it pretty clear that I was making my own money and it was up to me to use it wisely. No problem there, I know everything.

Moving away to school and out in the big world on my own was still not too much of a big deal. I was pretty good at keeping the balance (1 card) down to a reasonable level. I might not have paid it all off every month, but it wasn't an amount that was out of control. Kind of funny how those amounts (and number of cards) grow, huh...

While I am on the subject, JP has some interesting ideas on how to deal with unwanted credit card offers, much more original than just shredding (and you should shred anything with your info on it), those offers.

I once had about $5,000 transferred to a new Bank of America card, and then failed to make payments on that balance. Late fees were assessed, rates skyrocketed, and nasty-grams were sent. The only problem with the whole situation was, I did not open that account, the information (name, social, just about everything but an old address) was misspelled and/or incorrect, and in fact I was out of the country at the time of the account set-up and funds transfer. I didn't even hear about it until 3 months later, when the mail system finally bought a clue and figured out that I didn't live at that old address anymore.

Ok, fraud. No real problem, right? Right?


Even though I wasn't the one who, ya know, opened the friggin account, no one other than me could call, write, or e-mail BoA to close it. Kind of a hassle considering the fact that I was somewhat busy with the whole deployment thing, but I got it taken care of. Two months after returning home, I started to get more nasty grams, threatening collection agencies.


More phone calls, letters, and whatnot, and the issue was finally resolved.


Moving on through the years, I started to notice more and more those little 'amendment to credit agreement' papers in the mail. Anybody read any of that stuff? It's a pain in the neck, but it is worth it to plow though it every once in a while. It basically states that the customer agrees to bend over, drop trow, and take it in the pooper at the whim of the credit card company. Changes can take effect with no further notice, and if you aren't aware of any of the fine print, well, too bad, suckah!

Default rate increases. WTF, over? Honestly, I haven't really had any issues with this, I do remember scrounging around for an old bill once, copying the address to a blank envelope, and mailing a check just to avoid late charges. I did eventually get that bill... two days before the due date. Now that one might have been worthy of pissing and moaning about the USPS, but that's another post... Long story short, got that bill paid in time, paid others on time.... still saw some rate increases. Not up to 30%, but high enough to notice.


A couple of years back I decided to really get organized in the arena of savings and debts. Charts were devised. Plans were made. Goals were set. One of the things that I wanted to do was to transfer a few balances to a card with a lower rate, and gradually get those balances down to a more manageable level. I called up the company to explain the situation and to inquire if it would be possible to get a lower rate for moving several thousand dollars to their card. Their service guy was quite polite, very helpful, and assured me that there would be no problem with lowering the rate to thank me for my continued business. I switched the money over, and made plans to really start paying it off....

First bill I got after the transfer, the rate had increased, not decreased.

mumblegrumblemumblegrumble...'Get it in writing' is not just for a few of those recruiters, I guess.

Yet another transfer, this time to a new credit card with a 0% apr. Commence OPERATION: SCREW THAT! I started paying down the balance, little by little.

The reason behind the organization push was that I had decided it was about time to get into a house. I wanted to set myself up financially so that I wasn't struggling when it came to paying for it all. I wanted to be able to pay the mortgage, take care of the bills, and still have some money left over for fun stuff.

I got a few credit reports.

Wow. Nothing like black and white numbers to tell you what's been going on with your credit history. It actually felt kind of good, to look at all the accounts that had been paid off and closed. I even managed to find out about 2 cards that I had shredded and apparently never closed. A few phone calls later and that was resolved. About 6 months later and...

Everything went great with the house. I kind of figured that it wouldn't go as smoothly as it did, but I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I am positive that because it went pretty smooth, that is a sure sign that I got screwed somewhere, but I can chalk that up as a learning experience. I did think it was kind of funny when they told me that I was qualified for something on the order of a $200,000+ loan. "Yeah, right. I'm looking for a lot less house than that, and will be putting a nice chunk of change down, thankyouverymuch. Yes, a large down payment."

Continuing with keeping an eye on money stuff one day I pulled out the credit check used for the closing table on the house. One of the cards (that I had closed twice, the second time about 6 months before getting into the house) was still open. This was, of course, a card that had been bought out by my old favorite BoA, and there was one 'delinquent report' that I had completely missed. Reading further, I found that it was for non-payment of a bill. A $5,000 bill. From, you guessed it, Bank of America.


My payments to credit card debts increased after that. I went from $100 over the min, to $250, to $500, to whatever I had left over at the end of the month without biting into my 'cushion'. I wanted to take a well earned time out from the credit game. I figure I've earned a little breathing room. I'm in my house, my cars are running fine, I have some cash in the bank -enough for a few hard months, so... I'm out. I'm taking my ball and going home now.

I don't just hate BoA, I hate 'em all. They can all lick my sweaty nu-er... checkbook.

My last payment of $985.14 was cashed on the 12th of this month. My balance now is zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Cars are paid off, I owe on nothing but the mortgage. I will now have a lot extra cash floating around that used to be going to sever all ties with the credit companies. Most of that is going into savings, to pad that rainy day fund. I have some plans in the works...

But damn, that motorcycle I keep seeing, the one for sale... it sure looks fun.

Yet More Housekeeping

I am actually quite content with my current profile picture, but if I do sometime decide to change it up, I think that that pic might be a strong candidate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Am All That Is Man

Well, looky there.

I would have put those pics in the wording of this post and linked them to the referring blog, but as this is not something that can be accomplished with 550 cord, duct tape, and some c4, it's not looking like it's going to happen like that. Thanks, JP & Farm Girl.

I wasn't going to forward the awards originally, but then I figured that it would be a good opportunity to provide some background on how this blog got started and where I am coming from. So, this isn't a you must forward this to 5 people thing, just a wandering of the big boys 'n girls.

Shortly after getting back from a fun filled adventure of sand and sun, I got out from the oppressive thumb and constant orders of the military once and for all, only to put myself under the oppressive thumb and constant orders of a civilian job. Little bit better pay, fewer Things That Go Boom (at me), overtime pay; all good things. On the other hand, there is a lot less in the way of shooting, talking trash, and seeing who has the best butt-story (to be defined at a later date). Not that there isn't anything in the way of the above stuff, (there are quite a few vets around, now) it's just that there isn't nearly as much of the 'hurry up & wait' that provides the setting for good stories.

Good stories is one of those things that I miss from the military. Seeing some guy that you haven't seen in a while and just catching up on good times. A lot of this going on in bars, as well, but I'll get to that. Another similarity in military and bar tales is the almost universal story-response of "Well, if you think that's crazy, lemme tell you about the time when..." It was always fun to catch up with some guy that I hadn't seen in a while, only to hear about the time when he woke up in a Tijuana cathouse with a gassy midget, a hangover, no clothes, and already late for a meeting with a Captain. Honestly, a lot of my stuff here doesn't really compare to some of the crazy stuff that I've heard through the years.

Back to the Bar (coincidentally, an alternative motto to a large number of infantry units). On one float I had a buddy that was a helluva pool player. I was fairly decent myself, due to an embarrassingly large number of dateless nights, but this guy was good. I always did enjoy a good ass-beating, if only for the learning aspect, so it just kind of fell into a routine that whenever we were in port and on libo, he and I would gather the other pool nerds and hit the pool halls before frolicking off to the other festivities of the night.

So one day I'm out of the Corps, don't really go to the bars much anymore, and am kinda bored. I log on to the 'puter and hop onto some of the forums to see what's shakin'. I forget what forum it was, it was most definitely one that was gun-oriented, but there were a few cop stories floating around. I remember reading them one afternoon, realizing that I had read them earlier, and then continuing reading, 'cause they were friggin' hilarious. Eventually, one of the posters of that forum put up a link to this guy's blog, and that's pretty much where it all started. Any blame can be directed to him...

Further reading resulted not only in coffee spewing hilarity, but great advice and links to other good blogs. Blogs that range from historical porn with character (see, not that kind o'porn), to a wide range of funny/occasional tear jerker/now *whip crack!*(congrats by the way)/reminder of all good Corpsmen, to more LEO wisdom, bad puns, and great labels, to a very unique combination of baby pics and gun posts that just make you sit back in your chair and say, "Damn."

So there it is. Me writing about how great these blogs are is like the scientific study that announces that guys dig hot chicks or that boobies bounce at high speed (duh!)(note to self: should have gone into science as a career choice), but they are the ones that are partially to blame for me thinking to myself 'Self, It doesn't look that hard to do this, I could probably pull it off...'

That remains to be seen...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Blah, blah...

As any visitors from the forum might have already noticed yes, I am moving most of the stories from there, here. New stuff (for yous goys) coming... eventually.

Any of y'all still checking this thing out?

Dropping Bombs and...dropping bombs

Finishing up with the de-brief one morning, I was really looking forward to confirming that the vehicles and weapons were ready to go at the drop of the hat, and that my Marines were not getting into too much trouble. The tempo of operations had increased recently due to the elections and the fact that the bad guys were getting their asses handed to them in Ramadi and Fallujah. Consequently, they were running in a generally northward direction, right to were we were. At the end of the debrief, I got word that there was a briefing going to start for the next patrol that I should hang out for, and that my squad was going to be the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for the day. Great.

Always a good idea to get any additional intell on the area, and also to have some sort of idea about what was going on should we get the call. QRF was considered an off day, (unless my squad was on it). Duties included pretty much just hanging out at the FOB (Forward Operating Base) until someone got into some shit, then we would have to be out the gate, chop-chop. Sure enough, I had been asleep for about 20 minutes when we got the call of a possible IED being set on the road leading to the FOB. As it was well within range of the machine guns on perimeter, I was kind of curious why they just couldn't interrogate and investigate by fire, but that was just me...

Good thing that they didn't because it did turn out to be a flat tire and two very nervous locals. See, the road that the FOB was on was just north of a town that wasn't crazy about us, as evidenced by the mortars and RPGs that they launched as little forget-me-nots. I think that the record was 7 days with no incoming. Woopty-freakin-hoo. Anyways, the road was jointly civilian and military traffic, and as there was an increasing number of SVBIEDs, had some very nervous gate guards manning the gate of the FOB.

When we had arrived at the suspicious vehicle I had placed my vehicle as a flanking vehicle, in the fields to the east of the road. Nothing behind me but some palm trees, bushes, and the Euphrates. Pretty secure, right? Pphht. I had placed out security to our rear, and aimed the MG to the road, just in case. While my other vehicle crew was finishing up with the vehicle check, one of my Lance Corporals ('Vato') came to the vehicle and said, "Hey Sgt., I really gotta go blow some mud. Must have been the burritos last night. Do we have time?". As he was doing a rather unique version of the pee-pee dance and I had no wish to smell him any more that what was normal, I told him to make it quick.

As he trotted of to some bushes about 10 ft away (sigh) my driver, Mouth, decided it would be a good idea to get a pic of Vato taking a dump as a revenge tactic (yes, revenge). Ah, the memories. I have seen the video, and while I won't share some of the more gruesome details, Vato was just finishing up his business, threatening Mouth that if he didn't erase the tape bad things would happen, when on the tape you can hear him say "hey, didja hear that?".

MOUTH: (while giggling) What?
VATO: (still squating) Sounded like a thump off in the distance.


MOUTH: Sounds like...mortars?
VATO: That's not from the FOB.
ME: (in the background) Oh, Shit! Incoming!!!

WWWWwwwwhhhhhhhhrrrrrr BOOOM!!!!

ALL: Oh Shit!!

As the mortars were being fired from behind us, we mounted up and pushed towards the river. This put us inside the initial mortar arc, and the palm trees gave us a little concealment, if not much in the way for cover. I could hear the mortars flying overhead as we entered into the tree line and drove right up to the river, vehicles about 50 ft apart. The only thing that we could make out was all of the locals on the island and on the other side of the river all hanging out and watching the show. Bastahds. As far as we could see, everyone was very careful to have no weapons visible on them, and the mortar fire was coming from the other side of the buildings, behind them.

After a couple of minutes I got hold of the Captain at the FOB and exchanged information. The FOB was now taking all of the fire, thankfully very inaccurate. We had taken a few of the initial rounds, but other than some dirty drawers from a certain Lance Corporal, not even a scratch in the way of injuries. Seems like Murphy had a distant cousin that worked for the insurgency (Murfia ibn al Shtr sounds like a good name). I told him where we were, and confirmed their initial estimate that the fire was coming from the far side of the river. While we were doing this, the FOB's mortar team began to return fire.

Imagine if you will, my squad and I hidden among the foliage on the west bank of the Euphrates, searching for any small arms (AKs, RPGs, hell I would have considered a fork sufficient evidence of hostile intent) in the crowd on the island and east bank. Mortars are flying overhead from the east, and return fire begins to fly from the west. I start to smile when the crowd starts to realize that hanging out really close to a mortar attack might not be a Good Idea, when I have a pretty Good Idea of my own.

Hmm, 1) mortar rounds over head, flying both ways. 2) no one within range of my weaponry just begging for me to reach out and touch them. 3) I am a trained mortarman, with a pretty good knowledge in the realm of killing ranges for mortars, errors in aiming or charging rounds, and short rounds for older ordinance. All of these would ensure that I would have a Very Bad Day. As Marines never retreat and we had no means of pressing the attack, I decided that we should conduct a vigorous attack on the dirt behind some hills, out of range of either set of mortar teams.

That attack went very well, thank you very much.

Returning to the FOB after the mornings festivities, we found that one Marine had been knocked on his ass from one hit, but other than a serious headache, no casualties for the good guys. Not entirely a satisfying morning as far as being able to engage the enemy, but the video was resoundingly received throughout the FOB.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Left Seat/Right Seat, Deployment Theme, & First Pucker Factor

About two hours after getting off of the plane in Iraq, the Company Commander called a leaders meeting to discuss the schedule of operations & current situation. In the coming days and while the company was getting itself unpacked and moved in, we would be going out on left seat - right seat patrols pretty much effective immediately. That is to say squad leaders, platoon commanders, and company staff would go out on patrols with the squads we were relieving. After a few days, our squads would take over patrols, and their squad leaders would ride out with us for a few days. This would give us just under a week to pick the brains of the experienced guys to figure out all that we could about the area. No pressure.

We met up with some of their squad leaders, all of whom were smoking celebratory cigars and walking around with big ol' shit eatin' grins at the sight of their replacements. They had a lot of good information for us, like the locals that we needed to keep an eye on, common IED areas, enemy tactics, and the like. They explained that the area that we were in was not so much of a hot spot as it was a means of transit for weapons and fighters from other countries to cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. Finding out that something like 12 out of the remaining 15 members of their squad merited the purple heart did not soothe the mind as to their definition of 'not really a hot spot'. It's all relative, I suppose.

The really spot-on description of the area was that there was going to be a hell of a lot of boredom with moments of "Oh shit"!! interspersed here and there. As it would turn out, 'Oh Shit!' became somewhat of a running theme to that deployment, at least for me.

On to the patrols...

We all crammed into the back of one of the truck-looking Hummers for our cherry patrol. (Old Marine joke: Q. How many Marines can you fit into a Hummer/AAV/fighting position etc.? A. One more.) The area pretty much consisted of numerous small villages, sand, the two north-south roads that traveled through the area, more sand, the air-base, yet more sand, the Euphrates on the eastern limit of out area, and last but not least, more sand. About half way through the patrol their squad was tasked with making a few random civilian vehicle stops. Minor grumbling about SVBIEDs (car bombs) aside, the squad proceeded to see if they couldn't get lucky and catch someone transporting some bad stuff.

While conducting the vehicle inspections, we got a call that there appeared to be an IED emplacement going on a few miles down the road. The order was to verify the report and capture if possible. Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams were on standby. See, one of the tactics that insurgents would sometimes use is to note where we set up, lay a few bombs, and then try to lure the squad into an ambush.

The squad immediately broke off the inspections to see if we could possibly go over to say 'marhaba' to the bad guys, and see if we couldn't arrange any personal meeting with Allah for them. Get Some!!

In a very good display of situational awareness and communications, the Sgt. leading the patrol called up a sister squad to swing in from the south, while we would come from the west. Noticing that there were a few helos flying the friendly skies, he asked for a couple to sweep the site just as we came over the hills, to provide us with a bird's eye view of the area. Off we went...

We were hauling ass, as much as you can in worn out, loaded down, packed to the gills Hummers, and the pucker meter was experiencing its first 'off the charts' reading, a whole 12 hours into the deployment. Comm between the squads was good (probably because it was one of their last patrols / give us some false sense of hope when it came to good comm in combat), and they were able to coordinate arrival on scene within seconds of each other. We came screaming around the bend to see two men on the side of the road, shovel and pick-axe in hand, a wheel-barrow off to one side, dirt piled up on the other side, and what I am sure would translate from any language as a very large 'Oh Shit!!!' look on their face. Beautiful.

Marines were leaping off of still-moving vehicles with weapons aimed in, safeties off, taking positions, and screaming at the dudes in Arabic. Just after we got there, the other squad materialized from behind some buildings, cutting off any chance of escape. The helos were thundering overhead, with a primo view of the whole proceedings. Locals were diving out of the line of fire, cars were flying off of the road out of the potential line of fire, and just then, with perfect timing...

...the water line that they were working on burst, sending a small plume of water 5 or 6 feet into the air between them.

Well, sheeit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Faith, Always Faithful, Above & Below.

It was about 2145, and nothing much was going on at the base. Bored and with all of my duties complete for the time being, I decided to walk over to the Company Command Center and see what was crackin' before I hit the rack. I slung my rifle and started walking down the rows of cans (living quarters), passing the heads, down to the temporary vehicle staging area, alongside Company Command. Kicking the dust from my boots, I cracked open the door and stepped inside.

Taking off my boonie cover, I noticed that everyone had retired for the night save for the duty. Duty for tonight was a Lcpl. Schmukatelli. The good Lcpl. was busy entering notations into the duty log and marking positions of our and friendly units on the map that covered one entire wall. Every time somebody would call in with a sitrep, he would mark the unit's location with a pin on the map. Any contact, IED or mine encounter, another pin. The map still did not have too many pins. That would change.

Desks that lined the far wall had a number of radios, tuned to our company channel and those of anybody else that was out on the town for the night. The good stuff that I was interested in was perched atop the mini fridge full of lukewarm Gatorade and Dr Pepper (war is hell). It was the Coffee machine.

As far as I was concerned, coffee is one of the food groups, and an important one at that. I carefully poured the coffee into an empty water bottle cut in half (adapt, improvise, and overcome), watched as the plastic started to warp, and added the sugar and creamer that would make the stuff half-way palatable. There was good Coffee on the base, but Company Command was not known for it. A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do when the base's Starbucks was closed for the night. (I told you war is hell)

The Lcpl. finished his notations as I started scrounging around for something to stir my coffee. No straws, the collection of licorice on the main table would melt, so I grabbed my pen from my cammie blouse. Eyeballing the pen, I determined that it wasn't quite grimy enough to kill me, so I sighed, stuck it in my coffee, and began to stir. As I stirred, I carefully mixed in vanilla power 'appropriated' from the chow hall.

It's the little things, you see.

I wandered over to the wall map to see if there had been anything occurring in the past 4 hours or so since my own squad came back from patrol. I took a sip, and promptly spit it out, narrowly avoiding spitting up all over the map because...

1) This was the. Worst. Coffee. Ever. About a million times worse than usual. I had figured that the vanilla powder would make the normally mediocre coffee pretty good, but I hadn't taken into account somebody apparently taking a dump in the coffee machine's water reservoir. Silly me.

2) The Lcpl. had returned to his DVD played situated on a corner of the table in the middle of the room and resumed his movie. I believe it was Paris' expose, and it was definitely a little on the loud side. Got nothing against that kind of stuff, would have been better if it was someone else, I just wasn't expecting it as I had my back turned and was trying to read the various chicken scratch of the Marines in Command during the day. Besides, I'd already seen it.


3) One of the other squad leaders called in, and there was definitely some stuff going on, over on his end of the phone. His first transmission was to announce that he had some contact and wanted us to stand by for a sitrep. Short controlled bursts of fire could be heard when he transmitted.

The Lcpl leaped for the radios as I pounded on the wall map and shouted 'Contact!'

The other side of the wall map was the CO's can.

As I chucked the half bottle of crapwater into the trash can, I pushed open the door and nearly killed the CO on his way in. After doing a little tap dance in the door entry, he came in and asked what was going on. I told him that Sgt. Disco had contact and I was going to get my boys out of the rack and staged at the vehicles, ready to go out. The Lcpl. started a more in-depth briefing.

Getting my guys ready to go was easier said than done. It wasn't difficult in the sense that they didn't want to go, that wasn't even part of the question. When somebody needed help, whether it was one of our Marines, any other Marines, heck even Army or convoy peeps we were ready to haul ass to wherever we were needed. The thing was, we had recently returned from our own patrol, and the latest and greatest word that we had gotten was that we were off the rotation until tomorrow afternoon. A few questions confirmed that we were not scheduled for QRF (Quick Reaction Force), back-up QRF, or anything else. I had guys in the head, guys visiting other Marines, and guys at the gym.

Clusterfuck at a double time...march!!

I eventually got ahold of my second, told him the situation and what I wanted from the squad. As I returned to Command, I could hear him running throughout the squads, bellowing at the top of his voice for all of our Marines to gear up and stage at the vehicles. They came running.

Stepping back into Command, there was quite a bit more activity. The XO, a hand full of Staff NCOs, and the scheduled QRF Squad Leader were all in there. Paris was no longer displaying her, ah, 'assets'. I told one of the Staff Sergeants that my guys were getting ready to go out if needed. He thanked me, told me that it probably wouldn't be needed, and asked me to step outside the door, to give them some room.

I stepped outside on the balcony and lit up a cigar that I had been carrying around. With the door cracked, I could still hear just about everything from inside the room, the periodic radio transmissions from Sgt. Disco, the calls from Battalion requesting another sitrep, and the discussion of the Marines gathered for the festivities. As the base was for the most part lights out, everything outside the cans was lit by moonlight, and the stars were awesome. I don't think I had seen the stars like that since I was a kid, in Minnesota.

I was distracted from the stars by another request for info from Higher Command. I could tell that the CO was getting a little frustrated with the situation. Word from Sgt. Disco was that the situation was not looking like it was going to be the end of the world, just a minor spray and pray incident, but it might be a good idea to launch the QRF, just in case. The QRF was doing just that. Sgt. Disco responded to all other requests for information with 'Stand by', or 'Wait one'. It would have been nice to know what was going on, but other than location of the squad in contact and the squad responding, there was nothing that my CO could tell Higher. We knew that the good Sergeant probably was just a wee bit occupied at the moment, and would inform us as soon as he could.

Higher called back, requesting another sitrep. The CO told Lcpl Schmukatelli to give him the handset. The CO put the set to his ear, and quietly asked the Corporal on the other end to give the phone to the Lt. Col. My CO was still calm, low-spoken, and clear when he told the LtCol. that he had the utmost in confidence of the Sergeant on the scene, there was no need to constantly badger Company with requests for updates, they would know all the details as soon as we did. It wasn't insubordination, it wasn't long, but it told us of the absolute trust that he had in his Marines, despite the difficult situation. In return, he earned more than a little from our end as well.

I left Company Command and walked to my squad's Hummers. The Marines were disappointed that there was nothing for us to do, but grateful that nobody had gotten hurt. As the guys filtered back to their racks, I spent another 20 minutes, just looking at the night sky.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Situational Awareness, Take 2

At the beginning of OPERATION: STOMP A MUDHOLE, my squad drew whatever length of straw your perspective is, and was tasked with ASR security patrols, a distance away from the expected enemy action. Harumph. Loose plan was we would go around, try to stay out of too much trouble, and ambush anybody chased out of the city that was in need of ambushing. As the sun set, and shortly after passing along side of one village, I decided to cut west in an arc, and set up an observation post to see if we couldn't observe anything interesting.

This area just north of the village was essentially many, many good sized hills. Cruising through, I was; 1) attempting to gauge what a good distance from the road and the village would be to kill the engines and send out an observation team 2) call up to higher and report our position and 3) tell my driver that I didn't care to hear about the whore of an ex that was now posting her personal pornos on the net. I was, but I had a little on my plate at the moment.

Perhaps it was the excitement of the story told for the 6th time or so, but my driver was storming around a little bit too fast for my liking, only to find that...

Coming over a smaller hill in a decidedly Dukes of Hazzards fashion (yeehaw), I had just enough time to see the top 8 or 9 inches of a mortar round, lying all comfy like, just as it disappeared under the front right corner of the hummer's hood. I must have been quite fast (and loud) with my choice of words, because my driver slammed on the brakes, stopping the vehicle .....with the right front tire about two inches away from the round. A peek of the round revealed that there were no wires attached, so that was a big plus, however our current position was not ideal for my peace of mind or by then off-the-charts pucker factor.

I suggested to my driver that perhaps we should find some other place to be right then. SOP for this situation was to sweep the area for more unexpended munitions/IEDS after establishing security, and wait for the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team.

This is where it got interesting.

Because of the hills, it was impossible to maintain visual contact with all of my vehicles at the same time, so I instructed the vehicle commanders to set up in a position that allowed them to support their dismounted Marines, kept in visual with at lease one other vehicle, and roughly pointed in the direction of likely avenues of attack. Myself and a few others began a more thorough search of the area. Just as I was about to call an end to the sweep, on of my guys came on the squad radio and informed me of the discovery of a 'fighting position' with lots of ammo. That turned out to be a shallow pit surrounded on all sides by medium sized hills with an impressive amount of used casings, empty crates, and a dead dog.

Probably not a sniper nest

Meanwhile, we got the call from higher. My radio man took a message from the XO that we were to mark the mortar round, note the location, and resume our patrol. He relayed this info to me over the squad radios and suffered my wrath for being the messenger.

Just as I was giving the order to mount up and trying to figure out where in the #&$! my vehicle was, all hell broke loose at what sounded like the next hill over.

AKs and RPKs and RPGs, oh my.

Did you catch the part about me trying to figure out where my vehicle the middle of Iraq...with poor visibility (hills)...and a comprehensive demonstration of the Kalashnikov weapons family that sounded like it was next friggin' door? This is what is generally known as 'that which is Not A Good Thing'.

So anyways, as I am charging up hill after hill, sounding off with the little known but nevertheless popular alternative Marine Corps war-cry of "OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT!!!!" my vehicle crew piles in to the hummer and starts to takes off, only to discover that something seems to be missing, namely moi. The driver decides to help out and drive to a hill that he saw me head towards I was charging yet another hill. I shit you not, I swear I could hear the Barnum 'n Bailey Ring ling freaken Bros Circus song in my head over the shots.

ME (on squad radio): OHSHITOHSHI - I can see you now, turn south!! Turn SOUTH!!! No, GODDAMNIT, THE OTHER SOUTH!!!

DRIVER: Sorry. Hey, you hear those shots?

ME: *sigh*

After that brilliant display of How Not to Conduct Counter Ambush Operations/Rapid Movement from a Danger Area/or pretty much anything else, Volume 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, we actually managed to unfuckerate ourselves and conduct some pretty decent movement. Two of my vehicles moved as a base, ready to provide suppressing fire, and the other two swept in a flanking movement. When that went to Hell, we made a bee-line for the road and hauled ass...right to the improvised Iraqi National Guard Checkpoint.

Seems like some of the Iraqi soldiers had gotten word of the Marines laying waste to bad guys for them and they decided to celebrate the occasion. One of them brought a bottle of hootch to the checkpoint and they proceeded to get toasty in the chill of the 80 degree night. Never fear, if the hootch didn't warm them up, the trash barrel that they filled with random junk and set afire would get them nice and toasty. After a while, one of the more sober ING guys noticed what sounded like a few vehicles sneaking around in the darkness, and they decided that recon by fire was a good option.

Good thing they were really drunk and regular soldiers with regular (read non-existent) aiming ability.

As we were pulling up, they were running around like their man panties were on fire. I suppose that enough of them realized that they were blazing away in our general vicinity and figgured that a careful inspection of a post very far away would be a good idea, just in cased we were kind of miffed at not being invited to their party. With my broken Arabic, their rough English, and quite a few creative hand gestures, they were able to suggest that possibly they had repelled an enemy attack... or something. My Corporal pointing out the bottle of whiskey and the. ugliest. drunkest. Iraqi. soldier. ever. pretty much ruled that one out, though. We convinced them that we were not going to lay waste to everybody, and it was all good.

I figure it as somewhat of a good night. They got drunk, we got some lessons learned, and everyone went home that night. Could have been worse, I suppose.