Saturday, November 24, 2007


My father has died.

This blog is on hold indefinitely.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life Sucks When...

You know your armor situation is bad when the snipers are donating their old vests for you to sit on to help protect 'the boys' while sitting in your vehicle.

When you do finally get one up armored vehicle in the middle of winter, at least it warmed my heart to see, (freezing as I was with every article of cold weather gear that I had on) my Marines get out of the up armored Hummer, steam rising from their bodies, as they lazily stretched and took a leak while giving me the thumbs up.

Life sucks when, as a trained mortarman, one of the closest times that you came to buying the farm in Iraq was from mortars. Fired by friendlies.

It's really fun when you are tasked to escort an Army IED hunter team, seeking out and taking care of IEDs, with your unarmored Hummers.

There are few words to describe the sensation of returning from a mind-blowingly long series of patrols, knowing that you'll have to wait only one more week for a shower and maybe two more for a haircut, when you see a minty clean Recon Lance Criminal step out of his room in shades, pt shorts & chanklas, scratching his nuts and yawning at the bright and early time of... 1400, as he looks back in his room to ask his buddies if they had any Dr P. left over from their stash.

It is only a minor relief to discover that; no, the right ear bud for my mp3 player is not dead, I'm just still deaf from finding that one IED the hard way...

Life really sucks for those guys when they realize that they are trying to plant an IED well within range of our neighborhood unfriendly tanks that just came to join the party!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dog Lovers

For the number of doggie-related posts out there recently, for the good ones and the sad...

My pooches have always put a smile on my face, long after they've gone. Here's to hoping that this one cracks a smile as well.


Don't you just love it when you find some money that you had long since forgotten about?

I just found around 7000 big ones!

Now, before the air gets thick with muttered curses, proposals of marriage, and the occasional naughty-lookin' bra (J-cup, natch), I should probably mention that those bills that I just found were Iraqi dinars, not U.S. dollars.


At some of the larger bases, there were areas where small stalls were set up in a market specializing in local stuffs. You could find all kinds of mementos, Iraqi smokey treats, and a restaurant or two. Those shops would usually give your change in dinars, whenever possible, and 7000 was just what I would up with in my pocket when I came home.

I think it came out to about 4 dollars at the time.

Some of the more enterprising money-schemers in the platoon were going crazy. Seems like every unit has one or two, but in Iraq, with the large number of units all crammed onto the same base, all of the money-loonies congregated at the conversion area. They always knew the conversion figure down to the second or third decimal, and were already making plans for the oodles of cash that they were going to make from their latest and greatest scheme.

Interesting point.

For all of the in-country plans of investments like stocks, buying property, fixing up houses, etc. there sure was a lot of new motorcycles and trucks after we got back to the 'land of the big px'.

One of the more popular plans was to take some dollars and convert them to dinars. Some guys would take around 100 bucks, and some would take paycheck(s). In talking to one of my guys with a trash bag full of dinars, he tried to explain the theory. In a nutshell, the prevailing thought was that 'someday' the dinar would be worth a lot more compared to the dollar. If the dinar only went up to half the value of the dollar, the one dollar that one changed into 2000 dinars a number of years back would be worth a lot more. Makes sense, right?

Like a lot of other things that 'make sense', I decided to not jump into the waters with both feet. Figured that the surest way to guarantee that it might actually work would be for me not to get anywhere near it.

I'm keeping half an eye on it, however, and if in 30 years I'm proven wrong, besides tearing out what little hair I'll probably have then, I'll be making plenty of phone calls, 'cause I expect a cut of the earnings for not cursing 'the plan', dangit!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Snippets of Wisdom...

I have learned to 'never say never', but I suppose that it might be a safe bet to make that nowhere in a pre-liberty briefing can one find authorizations for junior Marines to be mind-numbingly drunk on the beach...

... at about oh, 1030 in the morning...

...hitting on all ladies (and a few innocent trash cans) in a 5 mile area...

Clue #1.

When one of the civilian police responders (of about 4 or so) turns out to be female, she's probably not going to be interested in manly displays of musculature, the rippling of ink work, or suave come-ons.

Clue #2.

Police departments in the vicinity of Marine bases have probably dealt with drunk, amorous, and/or feisty Marines.

At least once or twice.

Clue #3 (bonus).

Don't fight with the cops. Ever. Not even once, and not even 'just a little bit'.

Following boot tread-marks and reading boot-sole labels on the bodies of Marines recently released from the pokey provides for hours of fond reminiscing at the end of the float.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Combat Action

A Gunny I once had described the Marine Corps as a big penis. He likened the head as the infantry, i.e. those that do all the up-close and personal interaction. Everything else in that region is pretty cleverly designed to aid and support the 'tip of the spear' to do its job. Not the description that I would have chosen, but it did do a remarkable job of illustrating a point. Here I am, almost 10 years later, remembering and describing a snippet of a 30 minute conversation.

The point that he was trying to make was that the infantry isn't going to get anything done without its administrative and support peeps. Despite the amount of shit that is said from the infantry to everyone else, it is very true. Thankfully, the admin guys that we had were good to go, and most went out of their way to help us out in whatever way they could.

One of the ways that we would say thanks was to take some of them out on patrol every once in a while. Some of the guys were cooped up in the rear for loooong hours every day and wanted nothing more than to go out on patrol and see what there was to see. Some of them had skills that could be easily used on patrol and were an asset to our mission.

Sitting around, blissfully wasting away an afternoon on a very rare day off, one of the admin guys barged into our quarters and proudly announced that he had now earned his combat action ribbon.

The combat action ribbon is one of those things that most Marines look forward to earning. You wouldn't believe the amount of time and mental powers that were spent pondering what actions earn it, who does and does not rate it, etc ad nauseum. I understand that the confusion has been somewhat cleared up by now, but at the time it was still one of the raging debates. I figured 'We're in Iraq. Patrolling the roads. If we DON'T get the CAR somehow, someway (and about 5 times over), that'll be a friggin' miracle.'

His story follows thusly.

Out on a patrol with one of the other mobile assault platoons, Admin Stud was taken as an extra dismount. His job would be not too extensive, he was there to cover any additional danger areas that might pop up, and to take photos if needed. As the sun set over the horizon, the patrol leader got an additional order to check on the power-line security tent in the area. A number of years ago a security department was set up to guard the power-lines. Locals would earn a wage, do something useful, and we might possibly have an extra set of eyes and ears in the area. Of course, the enemy might have an extra set of eyes and ears in the area as well, but that is just part of the whole party.

Back to the story. As the patrol was gradually making its way across the dunes to the tents, in the main tent under the power lines there was a little fiesta going on. The two man teams from both the tent to the north and south had gathered at the main tent to socialize, eat some grub, and perhaps to get their drink on. The after action report states that one of the Iraqi guards heard some vehicles approaching their position. When they heard the revving of multiple engines and saw no lights, they immediately assumed that it was a caravan of insurgents coming to pay them a visit.

They unloaded with their issued AKs at the Marine patrol to scare off what they thought were insurgents. Imagine their discomfort when they possibly thought that the insurgents were now fighting with our machine guns, grenade launchers, and rockets!

On the other side of this unfortunate firefight, the Marines performed almost perfectly. Following their contacts SOPs, they assumed their positions and returned fire. Admin stud recounted his admirable performance that no doubt was going directly into his commendation or award decree. Speaking with the squad leader later, turns out that Admin Stud actually did fairly well, but he did mention that he was 'slightly occupied' at the moment and did not have any more time than to ensure that Admin Stud wasn't getting himself killed.

The Iraqi guards must have very quickly realized the error in their ways, so they abandoned their positions and crawled into the wadi immediately behind the tent. They spent the next twenty minutes getting intimate with the sand at the bottom of the wadi, examining in microscopic detail every granule of dirt that was present. Their weapons were hastily flung into the scraggly bushes near the entrance to the tent.

Completing the immediate action drill for contact, the squad swept the area and investigated what was left of the tent, the guards' gear, and their vehicles. The guards themselves were completely intact, if only a little bit shaken up and quite sandy. Explanations were offered, apologies were made, and new gear was requested for the very lucky guards.

Was a mistaken ambush from a 'friendly' local unit enough for a combat action award? I don't know, and I don't really care. What I cared about was that no Marines were injured or killed, they learned valuable lessons relating to movement under fire, returning fire, good communication, and that the trigger happy locals were somehow spared. I know of others that have gotten higher awards for less, and a few that should have gotten a lot higher awards for definitive heroic actions, but didn't.

Besides, I was in the middle of a much deserved nap.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good Initiative, Bad Judgement

Blog title post is one of those statements that reflects the military acknowledgement of a higher power working in mischievous ways.

Initiative is one of those characteristics that is hinted at, suggested, urged, commanded, threatened, and violently enforced in training to the point where (hopefully), it becomes second nature. What the desired result is something along the lines of 'prepare for the worst, hope for the best'-type mentality. If you always train as if preparing for when things will get FUBAR rather than if, you should be (somewhat) prepared for worst.

Judgement is one of those things that is harder to teach. Weekend liberty drunken alternative pt partner selection aside, in training if you have to explain to someone that the 60mm mortar is not designed to be hip fired, well, that's one issue that will take care of itself, one way or the other. Just as long as he doesn't cause you too much paperwork...

Combining the two makes for some interesting situations.

Situations like the team leader that decided to take a gun team on some land navigation training (Good initiative). He gets the team lost, and they wander possibly onto a nearby impact area (Baaaaad Judgement), causing the entire area to call a cease fire until the wayward wanderers are located and the OIC speaks to the higher ups (Just Plain Bad).

Now, not everything occurs on a grand scale, of course.

Most of the time, it's the little things that one is concerned with. Screw that 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' crap, I would always take the initiative to tape down sling swivels, clean and CLP my weapon, triple check my gear etc. No question of judgement there. During MOUT training, I would likewise surprise my guys with random declarations of 'Bang! Guess what, guys, I'm dead! What do you do now?' If they looked at me with a blank stare I would tell them to go catch a clue from the nearby hills and move on to the next guy.

When it came to the rifle range, there was less wiggle room to conduct independent training (not necessarily a bad thing), but there was still plenty of initiative. Expert shots would sometimes be utilized as shooting coaches. Armorers would be kidnapp-er-invited to attend some of the shoots to help with problem rifles. Individual Marines would use nails, lighters & matches, socks, compressed air cans, folding stools etc to make life easier on the range.

When it came to shooting most of the qualifications that I did were not too picky on the actual positions. If you were hitting what you aimed at and were safe for the rest of the line, then you go ahead and shoot with nothing but a bow tie and a smile on, shooting off-hand behind the head and between your legs. Ok, maybe not that extreme but the point is that almost nobody was going to get their man-panties in a wad over whether or not your feet were crossed or open, if your were sitting on your heel vs the flat of your foot, or the exact angle of your elbow in relation to the rifle. I did pretty good on the range.

Must have been the bow tie...

For all the personal experimentation that went on while on the rifle range, I never thought it would be possible to get near the bad judgement category, but I suppose I should have known...

To be fair, I can almost understand the why, uh, 'behind' this position and I'll not be the one to criticise initiative, but I'm just kind of curious as to how the idea was first put across to that motivator, the one with the super-enthusiastic look on his face...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Call & Answer

Not mine, I claim no skill whatsoever with the art of the pick-up line, but one that seemed to work on occasion (depending, of course, on the guy, the delivery, his confidence, the bar, the chica in question etc etc) was something along the lines of;

a) I'm: a Marine / in the Corps / a steely eyed killer.

and possibly

a1) I'm: going to war / just got back from combat / the greatest stud the world has ever known.

One had to keep in mind however, that just because one is far away from one's stateside home base doesn't necessarily mean that one is far away from any other military base, otherwise one just might get the best. response. ever. from the pretty lady.

"Military, huh? Out-Friggin'-Standing, me too! Gunnery Sergeant Suzan Smith. Where did you say that you were out of again?"


Sometimes it was kind of nice watching one of my buddies crash and burn once in a while, instead of moi...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Another Beautiful Day In My Beloved Corps

Happy Birthday, Marines.

Semper Fidelis!

Friday, November 9, 2007

More Lessons Learned

When the Staff Sergeant giving a class asks for a joke to start off his period of instruction, the desired response is most definitely NOT the sound of the sleepy Lance Corporals noggin' hitting the desk.

Even if he was on fire watch all night long...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Crossing the Line

There are quite a few solemn, honorable, and noteworthy traditions in the Naval Services. This is not one of them...

I don't know exactly when it started, but the crossing of the equator has somehow developed into quite the party, those days. Actually, from what I understand, it is a lot more restrained due to 'sensitive' types, and no, I'm not referring to the ladies here. This is kind of how it went down...

A few days before we were scheduled to cross, the rumors started. A number of the ships crew were voluntold to venture down into the Marines' quarters and find out who amongst us had already earned their honors. Those that had already crossed the equator (Shellbacks) would be the ones bestowing this trips honors on the newbies (Pollywogs). Not too many of our party had previously crossed.

We also started to get some information. A traditional rite-of-passage, there would probably be some light hazing, followed by some sort of party afterwards. We were always up for a good party, so 'game on!'.

I seem to remember it starting in the morning, and lasting all friggin' day. The first thing that happened was the few Shellback Marines that had already earned their stripes got us out of the racks and started to good naturedly thrash us. In our berthing area. You know, the room where you have to rub asses together if you want to pass someone by between the racks. It made for an interesting session. It was made all the more interesting that those who had already gone through this shit were dressed like (butt) pirates. Eye-patches, cut offs, and plenty of 'Arrrgh, mateys' were flying everywhere.

Next thing that we had to do was get down to the well deck.

The well deck on our ship was located in the center and the rear of the ship. This type of ship is actually designed to slightly lower the ass-end into the ocean to ease the departure of the landing craft. The ass hatches would swing open, the ship would tilt, and the Marines would be off. That was always when I suspected that they finally broke out the good chow and coffee.

Of course, we couldn't just haul ass down to the well deck, no. We had to lie down in the passageway and pass each Marine, hand over hand, to the end of the passageway closer to the well deck. Think crowd surfing, at a height of arms-length. Once one guy had traversed the group, the guy at the end of the line would get up, and leap onto the crowd. Kind of fun, actually.

When we finally got down to the well deck, we were met by one of the Chiefs. He had a fire-hose and an eye with a twitch. This was where I thought it would get interesting.


ten? sheesh.

Glancing around, you would be able to see the majority of the boats crew getting 'thrashed' and hosed down by a small number of 'pirates'. The water was cold, but I have been thrashed better by a fat man in a donut shop.

Towards the end of the festivities, there was a fat bastard representing King Neptune. He was holding attendance at the end of the well deck, seated in his throne and accepting gifts and pledges of service from the higher ranking officers. Since none of us had any gifts to speak of, he had a gift for a few of the guys. He had, securely lodged in his navel, an olive. The honored supplicant was instructed to accept and remove this great honor... with his teeth.

Mmmm, chow time.


I forget exactly when, but one of the passing Shellbacks asked us what we had planned to do for our skit later on that night.

Skit? WTF, over?

Apparently we had missed that memo.

Turns out all of the platoons had to come up with a skit to entertain 'King Neptune' and his distinguished guests at the evening party on the flight deck. In just a few hours, we managed to come up with a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.

A little background, first.

Upon every movement of the ship, either going out to sea or pulling into port, a song would play over the ship's PA. Our song was S'weepea, an oldies tune.

"Oh, S'weapea,
come on and dance with me.

Come on, come on, come on
and dance with meeeee-ee."

Anyways, the song was kind of amusing the first 1500 times we heard it, but it kind of got old after that. I can only imagine that it got much cooler after the Marines were finally off the old boat for good...

The skit that we were required to perform was to include the captain's own musical wonder. The only caution was that it had to be somewhat clean, because we did have 4 female sailors on board. Any excessive cussing or questionable activity would result in the Master Chief tooting the air horn, and that particular platoon being disqualified from the skit competition.

The other platoons did some amusing skits, making fun of each other, the Navy, foreign services, and the like.

We did a strip tease.

Before any of yous guys think that I spent a little too much time on ship, lemme 'splain.

We had a medium sized platoon, notable for a number of things of which only one was the amount of trouble that we could get into, at every port. When it came time for our skit you could say that we already had a few strikes against us. As the song began introducing our skit, there was a collective chuckle & groan and a general thought of 'what the hell are these guys up to now?'

Heh, heh.

The introduction of our short-lived burlesque was six Marines dressed to the nines in makeshift togas, combat boots, and not much else, clomping out to the center of the flight deck in front of the assembled Marines and ships crew. King Neptune and his court were in the position of honor, and at his table sat three of the females (all officers) present on ship. Master Chief was giving us the old evil-eye with a ready finger on the air horn.

The six Marines supported a stretcher graciously 'donated' from sickbay. Standing on the stretcher was Mascot, also dressed in a toga. He was posed in a great profile, fists on his hips, looking off into the distance, ready to perform for all hands.

The music started.

By this time on the deployment, Mascot had endeared himself to the entirety of the ship. The Marines were naturally protective of one of their own, and even the sailors would look out for him on liberty. He wasn't the smartest guy, or the fastest, or fittest, or best looking, or etc, but he was one of the more amusing of God's little creatures.

Everyone applauded for Mascot as he danced (up to this point chastely) to the tune of Sweet Pea. Upon the start of one of the drum solos, Mascot, dancing ever closer to Neptune's table ripped off his toga to reveal...

...his short, stubby, bulbous-in-all-the-wrong-places body clad only in a hot red butt-floss g-string bikini bottom that one of our more nefarious members had collected from a Colombian hooker. Scrawled in black camouflage paint across his ass-cheeks were the initials for our Weapons Platoon (Wpns), 'WP' on one cheek and 'NS' on the other.

Nipple twistage, groin thrusting, and horrible groaning were in full effect.

The assembled crowd roared and went wild.

Master Chief probably had (another) aneurysm as he ground the air horn into dust.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


So Skippy writes a post about more nannying, and I get a chuckle. Not at him, heck no (and by the way, if'n you haven't read his list, do it. Do it now.), but at those that think that they will have any input whatsoever about the particular, ah... alternative reading material of the troops. Think about it, late teens and early twenties... at times there wasn't any reading material other than those mags around. Heck, there were times when a Staff Sergeant or Officer would recommend that we study some knowledge and invariably someone would ask him, "you mean knowledgeknowledge, or actual knowledge?"

Surely I jest, you think.

We had one guy that for some reason, had handy access to a laminator. Asking around for a number of days, he collected a whole bunch of actual knowledge; weapons characteristics, first aid, steps to bore sight an 81mm mortar, etc. One evening after formation, he handed out an ass-ton of 'knowledge cards'. Just the right size to drop into a cammies pocket, one side had solid Marine Corps and military knowledge. The other, depraved hedonistic glory. Laminated, for... field worthiness.

Needless to say, they were a huge hit, and eventually became like trading cards. On vehicles, about to get into sleeping bags, or stuck up on a hill, trading would commence. Bidding was fierce. We even had guys from other platoons wander over every once in a while to, er... study.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Musical Chuckle

So Veterans Day is fast approaching, and some enterprising sort handed out flyers the other day ahead of the festivities, to remind people of the fact, give information about the date, and inform us of some of the scheduled activities thorough out the city. It wasn't a professional jobbie, just something that someone with a computer and some time put together and printed out. I definitely don't mean to knock the effort, because it was appreciated.


Some parts of the flyer was kinda... odd. There was a section where they included the words to the various services anthems, and it kind of looked like whoever was typing had someone reading the words to them. Sentences were kind of chopped or mushed together at odd places. Perhaps that was why I was paying particular attention at the time when I read over the words to the Army song. Tying to figure out where the words fit to the music that I remembered, you know.

I have played the Army song at various times, usually at Veterans Days over the years. I've played 'em all, actually, on occasion. I really didn't take too much time to learn all the words to the songs, though, so most of the words were new to me.

When I was reading over what is apparently the 1917 version of the Army song, I just had to chuckle.

Was it high, was it low,
Where the hell did that one go?
As those Caissons go rolling along
Was it left, was it right,
Now we won't get home tonight
And those Caissons go rolling along.
----- Army song

Ah, memories.

Now, as much as one might like to blame the sun, the wind, the alignment of the stars, or the farting chipmunks off to the side of the range instead of operator error, there are times when it is not the crews fault when the impacts are not where expected. This is usually the ammo's fault, of course.

Seriously, some of the ammo that we used to train with was old and decrepit. I've seen rounds do some pretty funky things, and if I haven't mentioned it before, if you are in the position to see mortar rounds doing their thing, that is generally not a Good Thing (This rule is widely known for incoming, but it also applies to outbound, as well).

Most mortar ammunition these days comes in a box of three, individually contained in its own hard plastic container. Other rounds come, also in three, also individually wrapped, but in cocoons of beeswax. We called it wax because of its tendency to get all kinds of sticky when one attempted to open the round case. There was a handy opening thread on the outside of the case, but what invariably happened was that the thread would always snap, leaving you to hack open the case with something sharp (and ideally borrowed). That sticky crap would get everywhere.

Did I mention that it was more often than not really dusty and generally dirty out in the field? Yeah, it got interesting at times...

The beeswax rounds tended to give us the most issues when on the mortar range.

Generally when rounds are impacting way of course, you can, in addition to screaming at the gun team in question, do several things to correct the error. The team can punch the bore (clean out the barrel, removing any potential obstructions), check the dope (what information is on the sight), recheck the sighting (when targets are outside of visual range we used an aiming stake to give us a reference point) etc.

When you can hear the lazy fwumpfwumpfwump of the round turning in the air a very short and bowel-clearing distance right in front of the gun, or see what is in effect the mortar round conduct a fairly decent left flank marching movement, there really isn't that much to say to the team on the line. Well, there is, but it is very colorful, and spoken while running really fast.

When a totally anonymous, unnamed, random mortar gun team just happens to say, destroy a large portion of a very expensive moving target range to the left of our -er- their own range, it helps if you can describe the craziness that the old ammo did after leaving the tube. It does make for some long nights, though.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

All in the perspective


It's all about perspective, I guess.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Tattoos are everywhere in the Corps. Well, perhaps not so much these days, but when I was in, there was a bit more in the way of making your own choices. Marines were free for the most part to get what they wanted where they wanted. And there was variety, let me tell ya.

The first tattoos usually started right after boot camp and schools immediately after, when most felt compelled to run out and get their 'oorah tat'. This was the near obligatory tattoo that had something to do with the Marine Corps and certain MOSs.

I remember once, immediately after a hump, hearing about a Marine that had asked for the doc. One would expect complaints dealing with the blisters, sprained ankles, or cramps, something like that. When he complained about his shoulders, well, that kind of threw the doc for a loop. A short investigation revealed that the Marine had felt sufficiently motivated to get a rather large tattoo, the word 'FREEDOM', in two inch high letters, across his shoulders. Right before heading out to the field.


It actually was pretty nice, a really intricate design, and the 'O' was actually the symbol of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, representing the Corps. Problem was, if you get a tat, you generally want to keep it clean for a while after you get it. Going out to the field for a couple of weeks for training is not a good way to maintain the utmost in personal cleanliness. That hump must have been really interesting, to tote a pack right on top of a fresh tat!

Meat tags also became somewhat popular, at one time. These are the tats that are usually located somewhere on the torso, more or less on the ribs (to make the experience more... interesting). The tattoo itself is about the size of dog tags, and has more or less the same info. I wasn't ever really sure why one would get this stuff, because Marines have just about everything else marked with ink or actual dog tags, but hey, whatever floats yer boat, I suppose.

I especially liked the liberty tats. These are the ones that usually involve several days of liberty and a few choice beverages. On occasion, the virtue of a certain lady back home was involved. This would be where one would generally expect to see cartoon characters like Speedy Gonzales, Mighty Mouse, or Goofy. Skulls and snakes were regularly popular, as were fire-breathing dragons. Ladies in varying levels of dress were also popular, but they were available in too many other formats to make the inked version too popular, at least for me. As long as we're talking moi, guess I should say that 'present', instead of 'available.' Available makes it sound like I had some measure of success, or something... Sheesh.

One guy had such a fascination with spiders and webs that he got both elbows and a good portion of his arms covered in webs. I kind of thought that was a prison thing...

Another guy got a Bud Light label-lookin' tattoo. On his ass. Long night, that one...

My favorite, however, was a variation of the 'Freedom' tattoo, except with the unusual spelling of 'Fredome'. Thus the lesson was learned, either get the work done in the states, or be really sure of your spelling abilities.