Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm Home

  First, let me apologize for not posting anything sooner.  I couldn't remember the address that I e-mailed my posts too because my Al Qaim account was deleted and I now have a new e-mail account with a blank address book.  I also tried to log on manually to the site but I forgot what my password was.

  A lot of things have happened since I last wrote so I will run down a few of them.

  While I was in Kuwait, I found out that Britni broke the 200 Meter Freestyle record in the Girls age 12 Division for High Desert Swimming.  The record had stood for 9 years.  Her time was 2:50.25.  She shattered the old record by 3 seconds.

  Our plane stopped for a one hour layover in Ireland.  Usually we do not get to board/deboard with the general public.  (Like in Indianapolis when they herded us into a small metal building at the far end of a runway and made us wait until the plane was refueled, or in Budapest when they wouldn't let us off the plane at all.)  When we deboarded, we found ourselves in the middle of the airport.  Everyone started standing up and clapping.  Old men were saluting me.  We couldn't believe the support we got.  It was wonderful to see that.  I had no idea that the Irish were so supportive of us.

  We got off the busses around 10:00 P.M. on Friday night.  All 86 Pvt's and PFC's that checked into 3/4 a week before our arrival were standing in lines on both sides of the door as we got off.  They were all clapping and welcoming us back.  At the end of the line, our families were waiting inside the gymnasium for us.  After hugs and kisses and seeing the new babies I went out and grabbed my bags from the 7 ton truck that had hauled them from the airport and got into my wife's new van.  She did a good job picking out the van.  It's pretty nice.  We got the weekend off and reported to work on Monday.

  Our buildings were not ready for us to move into for the first few days so we just had morning formations for accountability in a parking lot and then dismissed everyone for the day.  Can you believe that not a single Marine has gotten into any trouble yet.  Usually that's the first thing that happens when you come back.  We finally got our buildings after a two day wait, and of course, nothing was left in them.  So we have been doing a lot of lifting and moving on top of getting the computers back on line (we have civilians that run our network on base and it is very frustrating waiting for someone to come out and do something that you know you can fix in a few seconds if you just had the access) and getting the telephones working.

  Yesterday I went to Santa Anna to pick up 1,000 T-shirts to sell at the reunions.  The money we raise will go towards the Marine Corps Ball.  I have to go back next week to get another 1,000 to sell to the Marines.  I have locked on a trip to Primm, Nevada so the Birthday Ball committee can meat the managers of the hotel where we will have the ball.  They have given us all a free night stay so we wont have to drive back the same day.  Today was the first day that I could actually sit at my desk.  My phone was just installed as I was typing.  The Marines are very busy running back and forth putting out little fires that are springing up everywhere.

  The base is currently packed with units training to go to Iraq.  There are so many Marines here that we don't have enough space for everyone.  I have Marines that will be sleeping on cots until some more space is made available.  It's a shame that it has to happen like that but they understand and they are happy to be home.  They know it's only temporary.

  Britni has a swim meet this weekend and a clinic.  Her team match on Saturday is in Beaumont.  Then on Sunday she is going to the University of California at Irvine to attend a swim clinic.  We will be staying in a hotel so we don't have to drive so far.  

  The rest of the Battalion starts coming in today.  They will arrive on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th.  I am excited to see them.  Of course, I wont be able to see the guys that come in on Saturday and Sunday but when I got in I didn't really care or notice who was there.  All I wanted to do was see my girls and go home.  So I figure I won't be missed.

  Right now we are scheduled to go back to Iraq in January.  There are several rumors going around - the most common - and the most credible - is that we will not actually go until March.  We may not even go to Iraq - We may go on the Unit Deployment Plan (UDP) to Okinawa, The Philippines, Australia, Korea, and Thailand to train in environments other than the desert.  Anything is possible.  You learn to never really plan too far in advance.

  Like I said before, I now have a new e-mail address and I can't change it on the blog site because I can't remember the password so I have listed it below.  Please feel free to e-mail me at anytime.  I will respond to any and all messages.  Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my blogs.  This will be the last entry.  If I deploy again, I will definitely have another blog.  It was a lot of fun and I was surprised at how many people actually read it.

Respectfully Submitted,
MSgt Michael R. Harris
Communications Chief
3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
Twentynine Palms, CA
E-mail: Michael.R.Harris1@usmc.mil
Work Phone: (760) 830-8561

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Last post from Al Qaim

The architecture upgrade is not going well. Some of the gear broke
and now we have a few sites that are down. The SNCO's where right.
It's funny how all that experience and all those years in the Corps can
actually predict things and give good advice. You can't learn what we
know from a book. Can you tell I'm a little agitated? I hate to be
leaving right now with everything like this but that's why we didn't
want to do it. One of my Marines has gotten the parts we needed and is
flying in on the helicopter I'm flying out on. He lands at 0145. I'm
sure they will have everything up and running within the next three to
four days. I will keep track of the progress from Al Asad and be there
for any assistance or inc ase they need any more gear shipped to them.
My flight leaves tonight (tomorrow morning) at 0205. I'll be landing
at Al Asad at 0255. The Marines on Advanced Party will be coming in
about 36 hours later to start transitioning back to the states. All the
companies got the rest of their advanced parties in to Al Qaim today.
Everyone is getting excited.
I will still try to post messages to my blog whenever I can. I don't
expect to be very busy for the next few days. It's much easier to keep
accountability of everyone going back home. Who's going to go UA (AWOL)
on the trip back? Hahaha.
I kept every e-mail that I received from friends and family while I
was deployed in a special folder on my hard drive. I have 1,131 e-mails
of encouragement, support, and love from all of you. I am thankful for
every one of them.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter

Happy Easter everyone! I hope everyone is having a great time with
their family and friends.
We have been trying to do some last minute upgrades to our
architecture before 1/4 gets on deck. It's not going very well. The
Marines are working extremely hard to get up additional lines of
communication and to make our network more robust. The SNCO's actually
advised against it, but the Captain gets the last say and he wanted it
done. We knew it would push everyone to the limits and it has
definitely got everyone running ragged.
The chow hall was decorated for Easter. They put up some Easter bunny
cutouts and really decorated the place. One of the workers made a
sculpture of Jesus out of shortening. It was pretty amazing. I took a
picture of it. I will send it to my Mom, Missy, Linda, and Schellee. I
got our flight schedule. Right now we are scheduled to go from Kuwait
to Hungary to Ireland to Canada to Indianapolis to March Air Force Base
and then get on a bus and ride to 29 Palms. I'm not going to post any
dates or times because they will probably change.

Friday, April 06, 2007

CMC Visit

The Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Sergeant Major of the
Marine Corps came for a visit today. He started off by saying how much
of a good job we have done out here. Then he said, "I know you guys
were extended and you think your going home real soon but I flew out
here because I like to be the one to bring you bad
news......Fortunately, I don't have any for you at this time." There
was a long pause and a lot of silence but then everyone let out a big
sigh. He said there was talk about extending us again but he said he
didn't think it was necessary so we are going to leave as scheduled.
They had to stay here an extra three hours until the weather changed.
The wind was blowing and the visibility was pretty low so the
helicopters couldn't fly out.
Tomorrow, I'll be shooting on the range. We are running a company
wide range that will last all day long. It should be a lot of fun. At
Al Asad they make you do a bunch a situps, and pushups, and then a few
sprints before you run up to the firing line and you have a limited
amount of time to get off all your rounds at multiple targets. That
sounds like a lot of fun. I think that's what they are planning for us
to do tomorrow. When I was on Embassy Duty, we always had something
that would get your heart rate up and make you think while you were
shooting. We used to put little 3x5 cards on the targets with different
numbers or letters and then call out a series of numbers and you would
run up and shoot all the cards with those numbers on each target. They
were put on the targets at random so there wouldn't be a pattern that
you could memorize. We would always time ourselves and come up with a
point system to see who would win. Anytime you make something into a
contest, Marines love it. Our space at Al Qaim is very limited though.
The first time we went, we had to sit down, stand up, sit down, stand
up.... My hamstrings and butt were sore the next morning.
The word that's circulating through the wife network back home is that
the advon will be arriving in California on April 21. We haven't heard
anything. I wonder how the wives get information before us.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Advon to the Advon

Well, the Battalion XO asked one of the officers a question about the
advanced party arrangements and the officer didn't know the answer. So,
the XO got really P.O.'d and stormed out of the room and came to me and
said he wanted me and GySgt Avila to go to Al Asad two days before
everyone else to make sure everything was locked on and ready to go. So
now, I'll be leaving Al Qaim on the 11th. I'm basically not doing
anything that I couldn't do over the phone but the XO was so mad that I
didn't argue. Can you say, "Thank you Lieutenant" sarcastically of
course. Because now, I will be sitting in Al Asad in a 30 man tent with
GySgt Avila with nothing to do for two days but watch the clock. Those
are the worst and longest days. I would much rather be here working for
another week or two if I could make it home in three days with minimal
layovers. Instead, it's going to take me about 10 days from when I
leave here to get to California. I'm not looking forward to it. It
will probably be the longest 10 days of my life. It's a good thing that
Lieutenant isn't going with me; he'd get left behind somewhere.
The communications inspection went well. We were rated the best
Communications shop in RCT 2. That's only against 4 other Battalions
but it's still good. It actually kind of surprised me that we are the
best because I know that we can do even better.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The new BP

Florida beat Ohio State again. I didn't get to see the game because I
was out on the convoy but they let us know who won over the radio.
Driggers won the money for the NCAA tournament pool. He did the Gator
Chomp for me this morning.
The entire trip to Da Nang took a little over eight hours. After
three hours of driving time, a short pit stop, and a broken IED Arm on
the lead vehicle, we finally reached the new battle position. Some of
the Marines had just come off of patrol and said they were spreading
rumors to all the villagers that a bunch more Marines were moving into
the area and they were bringing Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army. Everyone
knows that Da Nang is right in the middle of the supply lines for the
insurgency and we want to get them all worried about us and constantly
feed them bad information until we find out who the good guys are.
They're all good in the daytime.
On the way back, we took a different route and it took about four
hours. The dirt was so dry and powdery it looked like water it came up
over the hood of the hummer and splashed against the windows. I wish I
could have taken a picture of it but I would have ruined my camera if I
would have taken it out. There were times the vision got so bad it felt
like we were in the clouds except we couldn't breath. We were gagging
and coughing almost the entire ride. It was a lot of fun. The Bn's
Gunner (a Chief Warrant Officer) was in the turret of the gun on the way
back. He had a lot of fun up there. He was woopin' it up until he got
his first mouthful of dirt. Then the ride was pretty quiet. The dirt
was like baby powder. It was in everything. I was picking dirt clods
out of my nose. When we got back I had to breathe in water through my
nose and blow it out so that I could breathe fresh air. I've been
hacking up dirt all day long. It was real fun for the first thirty
minutes and then it started to suck. I was really happy to see the
guard posts of COP North come in to view. We stopped there to take a
breath, refuel, and get some water and then traveled a hard packed dirt
road the rest of the way back. My butt was sore from sitting for so
long. Why do the terrible things always make for the best times?
Everyone thought it was so much fun but no one wants to go back out
there.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Marines

My sister sent me an e-mail yesterday and told me about the new Marine
Corps regulation on Tattoos. I had heard that we were getting a new
one, but I didn't know when. After tomorrow, no Marines can have any
tattoo below their elbow or below their knee.
I wrote five of my Marines up for medals this past week. One of the
other companies wrote up two more of my guys for medals for things that
they did out here. These guys have been working their tails off. As
soon as we get back, I'm losing three of my four SNCO's, and five of my
six sergeants. I'm losing 15 Marines total but I have 15 new guys
inbound. One has already checked in at Twentynine Palms. The battalion
is getting about 65 brand new infantry (03xx) Marines on the 15th
straight from School of Infantry training. I hope a few of them are
good football players. Hahaha.
We turned our clocks forward last night. I set my alarm for 0500 and
when it went off, I decided to skip my cardio and sleep some more.
Hahaha.
Britni had a swim meet this past weekend. She did really well. I
can't wait to get back and watch her at the meets. All her times are
going to have to get faster for USA swim meets because when she turns 13
in May she is going to have to move up a division. Her club swimming in
Yucca Valley takes her birthday at the start of the season, so she can
stay in the lower division for those meets.