Wednesday, January 30, 2008


During pre-deployment work-ups, Marine units will go through and get certified on quite a few number of different aspects of their jobs and depending on what the mission of the deployment is. One thing that is a constant is the hurry up and wait, and the ungodly pace of training that results from the higher ups realizing that we have 3 more months of crap to complete in a 1 month time frame before we actually get the hell outta town.


One evening, after a particularly grueling hump (again, is there any other kind, really?) I was running around trying double-checking my numbers. It didn't help that I had some really strong Marines in my gun team, and we managed to get distributed all over the friggin Battalion while keeping everybody moving throughout the course of the hump. I finally got positive contact with all but one guy who had rolled his ankle about 4 miles into the hike, and he was safely riding in the med hummer.


Round about then was when we got word that the doc for one of the rifle platoons had done a fairly accurate impression of a human lawn dart from the heat and the strain. That's not generally considered a good thing. While docs aren't carrying the full packs, rifles, crew served weapons components, ammo, and the like, they do tote their med packs, and those things aren't filled with pillows, cotton candy, and sweet dreams for nighttimes. Who was gonna take care of tender tootsies if the doc was out for the count?

A couple of other platoons' docs and a few Marines went over to the downed Corpsman. He wasn't fully out, but he was kinda loopy, so off to the med truck he went, probably to get the infamous silver bullet. As he was... somewhat of a 'sweet' guy, the peanut gallery started up.

"Hey, does that count as a conjugal visit?"
"Doc Low (not the passed out one), make sure you wisper sweet nothings, first!"
"Be gentle!"

As we had just finished a long hump, the peanut gallery was not up to its usual riotous self. Blood blisters on feet, aching shoulders, sore backs, pulled muscles, dehydration, and the evening was just beginning. We still had a late night planned for some urban terrain-type training. In about 5 minutes, most Marines could be found sitting on the ground and up against their packs, with their feet propped up for the foot check. As the docs were busy with one of their own, the duty fell to the NCOs. Ah, joys of leadership. After identifying a couple of other Marines that needed some TLC from the docs, we resumed training for the evening.

After the completion of training, we were all beat. A long day, and then night of training had combined to drain just about everybody. To make it better, we knew that we only had about a month and a half of this pace of training, maybe an afternoon or two off for liberty in that whole time, and then it was out of the country we go. The order was given to bed down for the night, and the Marines returned to their packs, unrolled their sleeping bags, and started to get ready to bed down.

I was going around, setting up a night watch, and checking on the Marines that had gotten hurt either in the hump or from falling off of a building while trying to rappel. I noticed that the guys were pretty quiet, probably exhausted from the long series of days. All of a sudden, off from the world of third platoon, there came a high pitched yell. Someone came running through the darkness, weaving in and out of the platoons, and screaming like a banshee. It was the platoon joker from one of the other companies, and he was making a run to lift the spirits of the tired Marines.

How did he do this? He got butt-nekkid, put back on his combat boots and kevlar helmet, re-applied cammie paint, cracked a few chem lights, and started his run. Ever seen a mostly naked dude with a chem light in his ass running around at 4 in the morning and screaming "I'm a sexy mutha fuckah!!!" when dead tired?

Not exaclty a recipie for good dreams, but it will give you a chuckle.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mail Call & A Special Memory

Mail call was - is one of the more important parts of the day. After a little while, it's kind of easy to fall into a Groundhog day sort of effect... only so many weights you can lift, trips to the old & understocked px, or visits to the same old chow hall.

There were never any shortages of volunteers to go pick up and sort the company mail.

Mail came in large, hideous yellow/orange sacks a little bit larger than sea bags. A cursory glance at the sacks would tell you how much mail there was for the company, how much of it was in boxes vs. letters, and therefore what your changes were of getting some mail. Mail would be divvied up between the platoons, and go from the Platoon Sergeants to the Squad Leaders... eventually. Woe be the day when mail was horribly mis-sorted, but on the rare occasions that it was, we usually figured out how to resolve the situation, chop-chop.

Know how ole pooch reacts when you so much as walk close enough to pass a draft of air over the crinkly bag of bacony goodness that is their treats? Well, it's the same way with Marines and the nylon straps of the mail bags. I swear I expected to see li'l tails wagging one night, sooner or later.

As the names were called out, there was almost always the accompanying good-natured banter. Care packages were almost always opened immediately, and the squad usually got a good look at what the individual received. Trading would usually commence immediately after mail call, so it was a good idea to know what kind of goods were going to go on the market, you know. If anyone got an excessive number of letters from a wife and/or girlfriend, there was some heckling. "Not fair, Sergeant, when all yer cousins are also your girlfriends, well, that just ain't fair to the rest of us, you know? Tell Bubba to share some of his letters or cousins or something!"

Photos were also proudly passed around, especially the ones of the kiddos or the significant others. Er, most of the pictures of the S.O. were passed around, that is. I know of a few occasions where some... uh... 'personal' photos were, quite understandably, NOT for public display. Made it all the more interesting when they were eventually discovered.

Yeah, a word of warning for all the ladies out there; think you're going to brighten up your man's day with some risque pics? You just might be brightening up a few more people's days than you expected... Oh yeah, by the way, Thanks!

Moving right along, there were also some DVDs. No, not those DVDs, but home video versions (and no, not those home movies, neither). That didn't stop the nervous silence when one Marine popped in a home movie to see his girlfriend with a few new friends out at a water park, hanging out, etc. There were alot of personal DVD players and laptops, so anyone who got a DVD always had a good chance of watching it right away. Any new-movie DVDs that came were usually put into the rotation of movie night, probably the squad's favorite was the Band of Brothers dics. Took us a long time to get through them all, with the tempo of patrols, but it was definitely worth it.

Somewhat related to Band of Brothers was the letter I got from Grandfather (mom's dad). He was a mechanic in WWII, and had only recently started to put down his thoughts to paper, humorous stories, bitter-sweet memories, and the like from his own days in the service. I had set his letter aside while handing out my Marines' letters, and had to put off reading it for a meeting afterwards. I had returned to my can late that night, prepped my gear for the morning patrol, and stepped out onto my 'porch' (an old wooden pallet) to read the letter and smoke a cigar.

Unfortunately, I don't have the letter anymore because it was packed into a box of stuff that was mailed off to my US address, and for all I know is still making the rounds of the postal system netherworld.

He wrote of family news and concerns for my safety. Many of my cousins are of age now to start families of their own. Some that I haven't seen since we were kids now have kids of that same age... A few of my uncles had served in the army, they had their own suggestions and advice, also greatly appreciated.

He wrote of the development of his writings, and how much he was enjoying the slow progress. I don't think writing was something that came particularly easy for him, but it was a growing hobby. The family, quite large and now located all over the states were enjoying the reading of Grandfather's letters and passing them around.

He wrote of suggestions and advice. Some of it was the general advice that all soldiers give and receive, the be carefuls, suggestions for boredom and grief, and some humorous stories.

I remember pausing while reading the letter, waiting for the sound of a jet taking off to finish screaming down the runway. It was amazing how quickly they could launch themselves into the sky and vanish from sight in the night sky. I thought about the inevitable day when Grandfather would be gone. I was thankful for the letters that he was starting to write, and wondered if I would one day write my own letters to a grandchild, with my own thoughts and memories.

Nodding to a few Marines on their way back from their patrol, I turned back to the letter. Grandfather had finished with the advice and started winding up his letter. He wrote how the weather was changing again, the winds were picking up and the rains were coming in. He and grandmother were debating about where exactly in the South to head to, to avoid the cold. I forget the exact words that he used, but the sense that I got was that it was a very clear picture in my head, my grey-haired grandfather, stooped over an old wooden desk, carefully writing down the words I was now reading, while the rain started to fall outside.

And as I was picturing this, late at night and reading by the faint scattered lights of the base, ever so slightly, and ever so softly, it began to rain.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Semper Gumby

So I might have mentioned that I enjoy various types of martial arts. I've studied a little bit here, a little bit there, and a little bit of quite a few styles, at one point of time or another. I've even learned a little bit, too, I suppose.

One year I fell in with a group that taught a little bit o' everything. No uniforms, few 'rules', just a small group of guys that met at a local gym and pounded the heck outta eachother. Good times. The guy who led the group helped to run a school in a nearby city for a few years, and then moved here for college.

One day at class, he mentioned that his old school was going to have an informal seminar / fight night thing, and that if I was interested, I should go and check it out. He explained that a few of his old teachers would be there, and that the matches should be quite... vigorous at the least. Let me put it this way, groin shots were not recommended, but the prevailing thought was, if you took a shot to the nuts, you should have had a better and faster defense.

Only problem was getting released by the Gunny a few hours early at the end of the day / night of the seminar.

I only halfway expected a positive response, and that was about what I got. I guess Gunny felt that as I was asking for a few hours at the end of a slow day to go partake in a give n' take ass kicking session, it could be considered somewhat work-related, or something. It didn't mean that he couldn't give me some grief, though. Considering that I wouldn't have been terribly surprised with an outright 'no', a little grief was good to go.

One last conversation that I was having with him and a few other Staff-NCOs, and one of them hadn't known that I did martial arts. Most of the guys in my platoon knew, and I had by then somewhat appointed as one of the resident platoon hand-to-hand nuts who'd be called on to assist/teach a class, now and then. This Staff Sergeant looked at scrawny li'l me and grumbled, "You do that ninjer stuff? Show me something!"

Slight problem.

What was I going to do, tell him to 'Grab. Mah. Wrist.'?

I knew that I didn't want him to throw a punch my way. Hell, I might not survive it.

I knew that if I kicked him upside the head, I better make it quick and really good, or I definitely wouldn't survive it.




So I dropped down into the splits.

I used to be really flexible, and hadn't really streched out for a while, but the commentary was definitely worth it. I knew I was golden when I heard a passing Marine exlaim, "Sweet baby Jesus, Gunny, make it stop!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

Remember This One?

A song a hadn't heard in a long while, found recently whilst killing time. A good time for advice, what with the recent December graduates, the new year already beating some down, and just for the heck of it.

So, what applies to you? For me, just about everything, but the one that resonates particularly strong right now, is

Get to know your parents, you'll never know when they'll be gone for good...

Good advice, that.

backstory here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Momentos & Things that Make You Go... WTF?

The Military Academy in Columbia that we went to was an interesting place. The training was great, but it was the first time for most of the Marines to truly see how lucky we were to be in the United States Marine Corps. Yeah, we might piss and moan about training, chow, lack of sleep time, some of the officers, and just about everything else, but there we got to see a whole different world.

The first interesting moment came when our Staff Sergeant came back from the initial tour of the campus and told us to get ready for chow. He explained that we would each take an MRE and 'field strip' it. This was to say, open the bad boy up, take out what you want to eat, trade what you can, and toss the rest.

We were bringing MREs to breakfast. Okay...

He went on to explain that we were not to eat the MREs during breakfast, or make any, ANY comments at all about the food that we got.

One thing about many of the infantry forces in South America. Just like infantry anywhere, a few guys are worthless, some are studs, and most fall in between (hopefully closer to the 'stud' rating). Some could sneak up on an insomniac ninja juiced up on 3 gallons of coffee, and some guys couldn't find their ass with a map. And help. That being said, the overwhelming majority of them are tiny compared to the average U.S. Marine. That's not to say that we are for the most part huge and hulking beasts, neither. I'm talking about 5ft 5in & 140 lbs, in that neighborhood. Friggin' wee li'l tiny guys, they were. It helped out when running through the jungle, those guys could haul ass when needed. But that's another story.

We got to chow, met up with our counterparts, and entered the building. Chow consisted of one 4 oz cup of coffee and a small piece of toast with half a slice of bologna (no second servings). The Staff Sergeant's advice to pack the extra chow was much appreciated. The worst part about it for me was the coffee. Not only was it woefully undersized, but true to military form, it wasn't even that good. It was Colombian, dammit!

There were only a few mumbles and grumbles when the Staff Sergeant told us that the other meals were going to be quite small-sized (from our perspective) as well. For the most part, the Marines were great about going out of their way to avoid insulting our hosts.

Bathrooms, on the base tested their patience, though.

I got a few funny looks when I told the guys to save the paper from the MREs (they think of everything, don't they?). 'But we're on a military base', they said. 'We'll just find a crapper with paper', others replied.


I saved all the paper I could find, because 1) I remember the times when almost nobody in the platoon had any sleeves for their t-shirts, and 2) I have been to a South American toilet before.

So, after a long day of traipsing through the jungle, we returned to the base, got assigned some empty junior officers quarters, and turned to on a few hours of free time. The base had some cerveza at the corner store, so that motivated a bunch of the guys. The hat was passed, and Pvts were voluntold to run down to the store and buy as much beer as they could. The rest of us passed the time smoking and joking with a few of the Colombian enlisted guys. This was about the time when Cpl. Grog decided to use the throne. Armed with (some of my extra) paper he went in to do his business.

That was when he found out that the toilets didn't flush.

Easy enough of a situation to resolve, but he had never heard of using a bucket to flush a toilet before. I don't know if it is a water pressure thing, pipe size, or what, but for y'alls future reference, you can fill a bucket of water and 'dump' (Har!), but not pour the bucket into the commode. This will essentially kick start the flush and make the toilet do what it's supposed to do. It does take a little bit of aim (with the bucket, guys... that too, I guess) in the right area, but it can be done.

Before anyone tries it out here in the states, I might mention that I've never had to do this anywhere but in South America. Proceed at your own risk.

Having resolved the 'shitty' situation, we went outside to the courtyard to find that the Privates had returned with the refreshments. We smoked cheap cigarettes, drank some decent beer (the two beer (pack) limit was loosely obeyed, and swapped some war stories with the Colombians.

A few hours and more than a few beers later, and I noticed that one of my Lance Corporals was going around collecting the bags of water. He was enthralled with the clear plastic bags of water, and thought that they were just the coolest thing he had ever seen. I wandered around and into the room that he was staying in to find that he was carefully placing the bags into his pack.

"Uh, what are you doing?" I asked. "You do know that we are going to be here for another week or so, there's plenty of water around, and you are carrying alot of crap in your bag anyways, right?"

He responded, "Thish is sooo cool, I gonna take 'em home, n' ssshow the folks".

Allrighty then. Carry on.

We all had a chuckle the next day when, fighting a massive hangover, he slung his pack onto his back, tightened down the shoulder straps, and tossed his mortar component on his back, bursting all of the bags of water inside. His pack was immediately soaked, and we hadn't even started the day.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why yes, my refrigerator is running...

Come one, come all!

Bring your electronic bras and/or semi-ripe produce! Try not to hit Mark (with the produce, that is). I guess that would be Thursday, the 17th, but I am sure there will be a record for posterity.

Seriously, feel free to call in. I think I'm kinda spoiled with this writing thing. I can take my time, edit, curse, scratch out, copy 'n paste to my little heart's content. I really don't know how I'm going to fill a 20 minute interview-

What? An hour?

Oh, crap.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Looks like I zigged when I should have zagged, I puked when I should have juked, I... you get the idea. Seems that Ron 'The Geographically Unlikely Pirate' ran out of other options and figured that I might be meme-worthy. Thanks... I think.

Share Seven Weird things about yourself.

The rules are as follows: Simply link to the person who tagged you. SHARE SEVEN WEIRD things about yourself. Tag SEVEN bloggers to do the same AND include a link to their blog. Let each person know that they have been tagged and finally post the rules on your blog.

One. I have a terrible sense of smell. Good thing for past extended periods of stinky time, whether due to my own personal man funk, partially-to-completely disassembled enemy bits, day-after burrito night head calls, to suicidal skunks on the frontage road of IH-35. That is not all together weird, I suppose. The fact that the scent of gasoline is oddly pleasing to my obviously refined schnozz, is.

Two. Culinary delights. I have eaten a lot of crazy stuff, and that's not from any kind of high-speed sneaky-squirrel training, neither. Heck, most of that is just from growing up a boy and having family in another country. Favorite dish: what is essentially spicy bull's heart (on a stick, no less) and pastries. An odd combination, but it works for me.

Three. I was voted 'Most Likely to become a Priest' in highschool. Heh, I could have told ya that one wasn't going to work out a long time ago...

Four. Despite all my stories of libo and barroom memories, I'm not much of a drinker, nowadays. Heck, the last time I got fushnookered, it was just off the plane from Iraq, and I got so sloshed, I must have had a case... of tequila.

Ok, all right, it was beer.

So it wasn't a case, all right? Must have been a half-case, at least.


All right, dammit! It was two and a half beers, and believe me, I was feeling pretty good.

I'm a cheap date, I guess.

Five. I can be kind of a ADHD-procrastinator, at times, so I suppose that I might have to tap ol' sniggly, at least until I can think of the last few items and blogg- oh, look! Shiny!


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Is it April Fool's Day, already?

I've been accused of having my head up my ass on a few occasions, especially when it comes to all things related to fashion, what now passes for popular music, and the ladies.

Ok, ok, maybe a few more times for the wimmens part of the equation...

Every once in a while, something comes along that just blows my little mind. I am at a loss to decide if it is something that flips my lid by the mere fact of its existence, or the fact that someway, somehow, I just never heard of it before. I used to be able to blame it on being out of the country, but not so much anymore.

I might not be a coffisseur on the level of this fine blog but I do enjoy a good cuppa, on occasion.

Boggles. My. Mind.


Further investigation
suggests that this might not be a cruel joke. Sacrilegious for those that consider coffee nectar of the gods, but no joke.

Holy crap.

No, really.