Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cold Shower

  I got up this morning and went to the gym to run on the treadmill and ride the bike.  I was there for about an hour then I ran back to my tin can before I realized that I had left my key on the bike.  So, I ran back to the gym and got them and then ran back to my tin can.  I stepped inside got undressed and got ready to step into the shower and there was no water.  None….at all….no cold….no hot.  We get our water from this huge 50,000 gallon water tank that sits out beside our generators.  I guess no one has checked it for a while.  Any other time, I would have been a little upset.  For some reason I thought it was kind of funny.  I actually debated taking a shower at all.  I mean, everyone smells bad out here.  So I put back on my sweaty clothes, went outside and ran about another 100 meters to a place where they store bottled water and took a case.  Then, I went back and showered with that.  I had no idea how cold that water really was.  It feels much colder on your skin than when you drink it.  Wow!  I was using breathing techniques that I learned when my wife and I went through Lamaze Training about 13 years ago.  I was basically torturing myself.

   The Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps flew in today to visit with us for about 30 minutes.  The young Marines were pretty excited.  We took a picture of all the Lance Corporals and PFC’s with the SgtMaj.  Nothing major was passed to us.  The staff always gets a little worried when someone like that comes in.  That’s the way they tell you that your unit has been extended.  They come in and tell you what a great job your doing and because your doing such a great job the country can’t afford to let you go back home yet.  That’s the story I got from many different Marines that I know from different units.  I think they came because it’s the Commandants farewell tour.  We are getting a new Commandant of the Marine Corps in November.

  I’ve had a few people ask me about the kids I saw when I went on the Vehicle Patrol.  We can not give them anything from the vehicles.  The Marines do, however, take a lot of stuff with them when they go on a foot patrol.  I talked to the first sergeants of all the companies and they all said they would appreciate any small items to give to the kids.  Candy, small stuffed animals or toys, soccer balls, ball caps, etc. would be great gifts for Iraqi children.  If you want to send anything for the kids, send it to me and I will make sure it gets disseminated to the four line companies that do foot patrols in the streets.  Put a note in the box that says KIDS.  I don’t want my Marines to eat up any candy that is meant for the kids.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

First Vehicle Patrol

  I keep forgetting to give an update on our wounded Marine.  His left eye was removed about a week ago.  Sorry I didn’t tell anyone.  Other than that, he’s doing O.K.  We have one Marine that is already back in 29 Palms.  He got shot in the leg.  All other injured personnel are doing well or are back in the fight.

  I got mail yesterday.  I received my annual Hootens Razorback Football Magazine that my mom sends me every year.  I already tore out the poster in it and hung it on my wall.  Thanks mom.  I guess it takes about 11 – 13 days to get mail out here.  The platoon also received photographs and drawings from our adopted school.  They were wonderful to look at and read.  We posted some of the drawings in our work area and we put the rest in the internet café so everyone on the base can look at them and enjoy them.  I see people coming in and reading and smiling every time I go in there.  Thanks kids!  You are bringing comfort and joy to many Marines out here.

  I got back from my first vehicle patrol just about an hour ago.  It was great.  I took a bunch of pictures but I don’t know how any of them will come out.  I’ll look them over and possibly post them tomorrow.  We stopped at two battle positions and I talked to the Comm Marines that were out there and basically looked at there living conditions.

  During the patrol the Iraqi kids were running out to us yelling “MEESTA, MEESTA” (Mister, Mister).  “CHOCOLATNE, CHOCOLATNE” (I know you can figure that one out.)  It was fun to see the kids – at least somebody was happy to see us out there.  I saw a blonde haired, blue eyed Iraqi boy.  He was probably about seven years old.  I was told that we would see him.  It makes you wonder.  We get concerned for their safety when they get so close to the vehicles.  I would hate for something to happen to one of them.  However, if the kids are all around you – you know there aren’t any bombs.  The insurgents out here are Egyptian and Syrian.  The Iraqi’s in most of the towns don’t like them to begin with so they don’t want to be blowing up any kids and make things worse for themselves.

  While we were driving we had to shoot off some flares at two different vehicles.  When we travel, all traffic pulls off the road.  At 500 meters we wave a red flag, at 400 meters we get in their lane (kind of like playing chicken), at 300 meters we shoot a flare, at 200 meter we fire a warning shot, at 100 meters we kill the driver.  Word gets around pretty quick that you better pull over and get out of your vehicle when a military convoy passes by.  I can’t wait to get back out.

  Weapons Company invited me to spend the night, go out on some foot patrols and maybe even a night raid with them.  I was in Marine Security Guard Battalion at the same time as their MSgt and I went to the Career Course (E-7 School) with their First Sergeant.  I’m going to take them up on it.  They are both great guys and I get along with both of them very well.  I took pictures of how they are living.  I live in a mansion compared to them.  They have wooden outhouses and they have to burn the waste – just like in the Vietnam movies.  They have built their own living areas with plywood, dirt, and sandbags.  They get shipments of food from the supply vehicles and they cook it themselves.  They have two showers for the entire company and its outdoors and cold.  That’s what I was expecting to live like.  I am almost ashamed of how I live.  I’ll probably get over it tonight when I go to bed.  Hahaha.  I think it will be fun to hang out there for a while if I can get away.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Missing Computers

  Just a quick post to let everyone know that I’m fine.  Today was a slow day.  The only drama we had today was that I found out that two of our companies brought some government computers to Iraq with them that they were supposed to leave for 1/7 in 29 Palms.  I don’t know how they figured they would get away with it.  Someone in 1/7 is getting his office ready in 29 Palms and he’s not going to notice that a computer is missing from his desk?  Give me a break!!  So now I have to get the computers and mail them back.  I hope they don’t get broken.  We got those computers as a hook up from the base on the condition that we left them.  We won’t be able to do that again.

 

  I’m finally going out on patrol tomorrow.  I’m pretty excited.  It’s only supposed to be for a day.  We’ll see how it goes.  I cleaned my weapons and got all my gear ready.  I’m heading out at 0830 and we’re supposed to be back around 1800.  If I have time, I’ll put a an entry in tomorrow.  I’ll try to get some pictures too.  I’m going to try and call Britni and Schellee so I have to go.  I had Pecan Pie today at evening chow.  It was good – but not as good as home.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Catfish

  I don’t know when this will post.  Someone died in another unit at a different base today.  So, the entire area shuts down all civilian communications.  So, our e-mail will be held until the next of kin is notified.  Not much happened today around here.  I skipped lunch and then heard that it was a good day to skip.  I was pretty hungry when I went for evening chow.  We had Cajun fried catfish and spicy potato wedges with broccoli and cauliflower.  These guys put a lot of butter on the vegetables.  It almost makes me think it’s not healthy at all to eat it.  It even changes the taste of it.  The fish was so good, I went back and got some more.  I’m stuffed.

  We got a lot of stuff done today.  The only drawback was that I have two Marines that are stranded at another base.  They missed the helicopter ride that we had locked on for them because the unit that was supposed to exchange gear with them was late showing up.  There aren’t any helicopters going between our bases tomorrow so a 15 minute delay turned into a 2 day wait.  We had to call around and find a place for them to sleep tonight.  They are bringing back something that is important to us and we expected to get it today.  So, now we will be jumping through hoops trying to get our project done on time.

  I have sent an attachment with this e-mail.  I don’t know if the picture will post or where it will post.  It’s our battle colors from the Turnover of Authority ceremony.  I took this picture from the balcony of our headquarters building and cropped out everything except the actual flags.  I like the picture.  We’ll see if it works.

Monday, September 25, 2006

NASCAR Trucks Vs. Football

  I have to tell you….I really like sending e-mail’s to update my blog.  This is so much better than the way I was doing it.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll attach a picture and see what happens.

  This morning I got up and went to the gym to do my cardio and guess what was on.  No, not the NFL.  NASCAR Truck Racing.  Again, no football.  I was only kidding about bowling but I’m starting to wonder who’s running the AFN Television station.  I would understand if it was the NASCAR Nextel Series since they are basically in their playoffs but who watches the trucks?  I don’t watch either one.  My sister is a big NASCAR fan and she goes to the tracks but I don’t get it.  I don’t think I want to spend hours and hours watching people drive in a circle.  I was offered pit passes when I was in California and I didn’t go.  Anyway, hopefully I’ll get to see some football next week…or maybe bowling.

  Last night they had Karaoke in the gym at 7:30 PM.  When I refer to the gym, I’m talking about a big room with some free weights and some cardio machines with a big screen TV.  I wonder if people are riding on the elliptical machines while other people are singing in front of them.  I was going to go check it out but I didn’t leave until 11:30 PM.

  The day started slow with little to do and I thought I would make it back to my rack early tonight and get some sleep but at 1530 I got a call from Regiment (our higher headquarters in Al Asad) about three reports that were due today.  They had forgotten to notify me because they passed it to 1/7 and they didn’t let me know about it.  So, my Marines and I have been busting our tails for the past few hours trying to get stuff done.  Oh well.  It’s fun.  I work well under pressure and on a tight schedule.  I like the challenge.

  Britni did well again yesterday.  Congratulations Britni!!  I love you!  I will try and call you tomorrow if I can.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Golf Vs. Football

  Well, not much excitement has happened around here for us the past few days.  An insurgent pedaled up to an Iraqi Army checkpoint on a bicycle, called out the name of one of the Iraqi lieutenants and then blew himself up when the lieutenant walked up to him.  I didn’t go check on any of the specifics but it must have wounded or killed a lot of people because they used three Blackhawk helicopters to evacuate them.

 

  Britni did very well on the first day of her swim meet on Saturday.  I am so proud of her.  She is constantly improving her times.  She works very hard.  She is swimming again today and I hope she does well again.  I am thinking of you Britni.  Good Luck!!!    

 

  Today seemed like the longest day so far.  A few other people told me the same thing.  I didn’t want to get up when my watch went off this morning.  The only reason why I did was so I could go to the gym and see if football was on.  I got there and they were showing the Ryder Cup.  Can you believe that?  Golf over football?  How un-American is that.  So I ran on an elliptical machine while I watched golf.  Motivating – Not.  It made the cardio seem longer than normal.  Especially knowing that somewhere in the world there was a football game being played.  I guess tomorrow I’ll go in and instead of an NFL game they’ll be showing Bowling.  Hahahaha.

Friday, September 22, 2006

King Arthur's Band

  It takes so long for me to upload to the blog site and it’s such an inconvenience to get to our “internet café”.  We have six computers that don’t have the restrictions that we use for our work computers in a small room and everyone on the base can go there and wait in line to use them to do things like upload to their blog or check ESPN for the latest football scores.  I found a way to upload to the site using e-mail.  So, I’m going to try that.  This is actually an e-mail that I am sending.  I hope this works.  It will save me a bunch of time.

  Last night, the USO brought King Arthur’s Band to our camp.  They’re a reggae band.  We set them up in our warehouse.  My Marines helped run cables for them and get everything ready but I don’t think any of them stuck around for the concert.  Even though I don’t care for that music I still feel a little guilty that I didn’t go and show them some support.  After only getting about three hours sleep the night before and then not leaving work until 10:30 last night, I was just too tired.  The SgtMaj said he stopped by the concert for about 10 minutes.  He said there were about 40 Soldiers and 20 Marines.  Those guys could be doing anything else besides playing for little crowds in an old warehouse in the middle of nowhere.  I really appreciate the fact that they trust us so much that they are willing to put their safety on the line just so we can have some entertainment.  I’m going to every USO event from now on.  I think we owe it to those guys to support them the way they support us.  The USO guys told us that Toby Keith played in our warehouse last year.  Now there’s some music I could go for.  Hahaha.

  We had T-bone steak and lobster tonight at the chow hall.  They also gave us Baskin Robins Chocolate Ice cream with whip cream, nuts, and strawberries.  It was really good.  I have to go run it off tomorrow morning on the treadmill.  I was given an Iraqi flag today by LCpl Patrick Fields.  He played on my football team in Twenty nine Palms.  He’s a reservist in northern California and he’s going home tomorrow.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mechanics, Bakers, and Candlestick Makers defend Al Qaim

Last night at 9:30 PM, I was just getting ready to go to sleep when I heard rifle fire. There is a small 100 yard range about two yards from my tin can and everyone goes there to fire off a few rounds to OpCheck their weapons or make sure they have a good BZO (Battle sight Zero). BZO is basically checking your sites to make sure they are still lined up properly. Anyway, I hear some shots being taken from the range area. People usually shoot during the day but there have been a few times when they have shot at night. Then I here some rifle fire that sounds a little different and it’s coming from a different direction. I figure it sounded different because the sound was ricocheting off of the tin cans. Then I hear a .50 cal machine gun open up. Usually you only fire a 3 round burst to test out the .50 cal. This guy was firing multiple times. I was opening my door to see what was going on and Marines started yelling, “Get up! Get up! We’re being attacked!” Of course there were multiple people yelling and they weren’t using nice language. I put on my gear and headed outside. They started attacking from the West, and then shots came from the North, then they were shooting from the East. The Marines on the perimeter started popping flares. Our Quick Reaction Force (QRF) got in their Hummers and took off. My first job when the base gets attacked is to get accountability of all of my Marines. If we know all Marines are accounted for inside the wire then we can shoot anything that moves on the outside. After accountability, I started unloading ammo off of trucks and into hummers to resupply our guys. They were reporting that they were running low. The insurgents launched rockets and RPG’s at us. We had Cobra helicopters and a Harrier overhead lighting them up. It was pretty exciting. The Cobra’s were awesome. They would ask a certain guard post to mark his target (shoot were he last saw the enemy) and then they would swoop down and tear them apart. The whole thing lasted about three and a half hours. There were times when we had about twenty minutes of silence in between shots and then suddenly everything would start up again. I guess I was wrong about that safe feeling I had about being on this base. I know that in the last 14 months only one mortar landed inside the lines. That’s all changed now. Nobody was hurt in this entire ordeal. There was confusion at times and some of our people did stupid things. All of these guys are non-infanry Marines but they have had the training required to be an effective fighting force. I think we have it all corrected now and we’ll do even better next time. The Battalion Commander made a joke that the Headquarters Marines now have more combat time than the line companies.
When I went to chow this morning we only had eggs, cheese, or cereal. I guess all the supply trucks got held up and didn’t make it in last night. Hahahaha. All he roads were cleared by his afternoon and we even go Baskin Robins Ice Cream. It was Cherbet so I chose not to get any.
Today, GySgt Luis “Chino” Leiva came by to visit me. He’s a friend of mine in 29 Palms. Our kids play football, soccer, basketball, and swim on the same team. It was nice to see another Marine that I know so well. He’s going to be stationed at our farthest northern battle position. He’s going to try to make it down here once a week.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Singed Eyebrows

Night before last, one of our vehicle patrols got ambushed. Three of our guys were wounded and medevaced to Al Asad after a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) went through the drivers window and out the passengers window. All it did was give them some little shrapnel wounds and singe their eyebrows. Amazing! They are all doing fine and will be back to work tomorrow. The Marines killed one guy and we think they wounded another because they saw a blood trail but the rest got away. The vehicle that got hit ended up careening off the road and went halfway into the Euphrates River. They had to get a wrecker to pull it out.
Yesterday afternoon, as I was coming back from chow, I saw an Iraqi Army truck pull up in front of the radio shop. A Marine and two Iraqi Soldiers got out and opened the back. They unloaded three Iraqi’s that were blindfolded and had there hands tied behind their backs. They are expected of making IED’s. We have our own little detention facility her on Al Qaim. There usually about three or four insurgents in it at any given time. We can only hold them for a certain length of time before we either have to let them go or move them to a higher echelon facility.
Early this morning, on my way back from the gym, a small fox jumped out of some bushes and started running around me like a dog wanting to play. I bent over and tried to play with him but he made sure he kept enough distance so I couldn’t touch him. He started following me back to my tin can and when I would stop walking, he would stop. I would step towards him and he would run away a few yards and then come back. It was just like playing with a skittish dog. As I got closer to my two other Marines were walking down the trail and he ran off. I’m going to start looking for him in the mornings from now on. I always have my camera on me except when I’m going and coming from the gym. If he starts showing up regularly, I’ll take a picture of him.
Someone asked about me about Ramadan. Ramadan is a Muslim religious holiday where they fast during daylight hours for a lunar month. They can not drink, eat, smoke or do anything during the day. It’s supposed to be a time for tolerance, reflection, and forgiveness. It’s a time set aside for Allah. Extremists use this time for attacks because they figure there is no greater way to please Allah. So, we will expect the worst and hope for the best.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pictures

OK,

These aren't in the order that I wanted them in but I just learned how to post pictures so I'll figure it out later.


The view from a CH53 Helicopter when we left Al Asad, Iraq.













Iraqi sunrise. The white building (trailer) in the forground is our chow hall. The tall lights you see far away are another part of the train station that is under our control. It's where all the helicopters land.









I found this sticker in Bangor, Main. Look familiar???














This was Comm Plt, stick 2 for the CH53's.














This picture is for Britni. I was trying to describe the flat terrain with Mesa's that surround our area.












I'm the last man on the bird in our stick.













We rode a C-17 from Kuwait to Al Asad, Iraq.













I'll post some more later. I think it has a limit on how many I can have at one time.

-Mike-

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Close Call

I had two Marines come back last night after being away for four days. They did a few vehicle patrols at night with the line companies. One night, they hears the lead vehicle announce over the radio that that they had just ran over something. At that exact time my guys ran over a what looked like a little speed bump. After all five vehicles ran over it, they pulled over to the side of the road, set up a perimeter and called Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD). That’s the guys who come out and blow up roadside bombs. So, EOD get on scene and blows it up. It was a shaped charge that had a pressure plate hooked to it. They can’t explain why it didn’t go off but they said that a similar one was used a few months ago and it blew a Humvee in half and killed everyone in it. I guess you prayers are working really well since it didn’t go off five times. So keep them up.

Yesterday as I was going to breakfast I heard the Blackhawk start up and saw the crew getting it ready to take off, so I went to the Combat Operations Center (COC) instead. The Iraqi army had an informant tell them where a bad guy was located. So, the Marines were following them to the bad guy’s house when the Iraqis hit an IED. The Marines said the Iraqi’s were going too fast to see anything. It killed two of them instantly (including the informant) and one Iraqi lost both of his legs and was medivaced to our base where he later died. One Iraqi received a broken leg and the other one was not injured at all. On a separate convoy, one of our mail trucks got hit. But it only damaged the truck. Nobody was hurt and we still got our mail...It was just a little late. IED’s are definitely the biggest threat. We get about six or seven suspected IED’s a day. They don’t always turn out to be IED’s. Sometimes it’s just trash on the side of the road. Better to be safe than sorry. I hope our guys don’t get complacent as time goes by.

One of my Marines has the flu. Medical had just passed the word that we were going to be getting shots just two days ago. I hope it doesn’t start spreading. It would suck to have a third or more of my guy’s sick all at once.

We had a class this morning on Ramadan. It will start at the next moon. They are expecting it sometime around September 23rd.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Official Turnover of Authority is done

The week has gone by really fast. Each night I sleep about 30 minutes longer before waking up. This morning I woke up at 0450 (almost perfect). I guess I’m used to the time change now. The temperature was in the low 90’s for about three days but the forecast for this week shows us back in the 100’s with the lows in the high 80’s.
We had our Turnover of Authority ceremony yesterday. LtGen Mattis and some other high ranking officers came out to watch the ceremony. They were here for about an hour and then they visited two of our Forward Operating Bases. I guess they liked what they saw. I didn’t hear anything bad. The Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army were also in formation with us. It was kind of funny. We practiced for two days with them on how and what to do. They were messing everything up. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like trying to follow commands that are given in a foreign language. Even when they were standing at attention, they were scratching themselves and looking around, but at least they cared enough to come out and try. When the ceremony was over, they all crammed into a camouflaged truck and drove off. They looked like the Beverly Hillbilly's.
In the past four days, I have seen two people come through the base on convoy's that I knew in Twentynine Palms. SSgt Monroe, who was an instructor at the Communications School cam by to get some Comm gear fixed. He has been here for about three months. He is located at the farthest north base that we support. Then I saw a student that played on the football team. He is a communications Marines that is with the public affairs office in this area. It sounds like an easy job and you would think that they just ride around and take pictures and write stories but they have a huge role in the American-Iraqi relations and because they are always on the road, they get ambushed quite a bit.
My SgtMaj gave me a letter from a second grade school teacher in Oxnard, California. Her class was looking for a platoon to adopt. I wrote her an e-mail and sent her some pictures and she has already written me back five times and she sent me pictures of her and her class. She is really nice and I’m excited that a class would want to adopt us. I can’t wait to answer thier questions that they have. The first question I received from them was "When you’re on the helicopter, what happens when you have to go to the bathroom." Hahaha. That was a great question. Of course, you have to hold it. I told them it’s just like when your dad makes you go to the bathroom before a long car ride. I make all the Marines do the same thing. I can tell, I’m going to have a lot of fun answering e-mails. We have made a read board with all their e-mails and pictures posted on it. Many of the Marines seem to be as excited as I am about it.
A few people have been asking what we want or need out here. Of course wants and needs are two different things. The Marine Corps is taking good care of us and we have just about everything we need. Because 1/7 was leaving, people stopped sending things and we haven’t started receiving anything yet so we are starting to run low on hygiene gear such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream, eye drops, deodorant , shampoo, lip balm, Q-Tips, hand sanitizer, and laundry detergent – I’ve washed my clothes twice now in nothing but hot water. As far as wants, copies of DVD’s (movies and TV series). Survivor just started and that’s one of my favorites. I know we, Schellee and I, don’t have a DVD recorder but if someone could put a few episodes on a DVD, I would appreciated it. The Marines have a few seasons of The Simpsons, Lost, 24, and Dukes of Hazzard. I would like Everybody Loves Raymond, The Office, and My name is Earl. Everybody Loves Raymond is my favorite TV show. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the other two but I know I like them. The Marines usually watch an episode or two of something every night.
I don’t have an update on the Marine that went to Bethesda. I know his family is with him and he is in stable condition. The Marine that got wounded in the shoulder is fine and he is back out with his company.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Things change quickly

Just a few hours after writing the last post, an IED went off and seriously wounded two of our Marines. We went into a communications blackout period until next of kin could be notified. We will also do this when any other unit in our area gets into trouble. So don’t be alarmed if I don’t post for a few days. It could be for a multitude of reasons. So far, it’s happened three times since we’ve gotten here. I don’t always know why it happens. Anyway, they were out on a foot patrol when the IED went off. I was sitting in my office with a few other Marines and I heard the roar of a Blackhawk go by overhead. All the 1/7 Marines knew immediately what it meant. The Lt and I were left standing in the room by ourselves. We quickly learned that a fast moving Blackhawk in this part of the country only means that something bad has happened. We only use them for medical evacuations. One Marine is going to be back in the fight in a few days. He got a separated shoulder. He was hit with a rock from the blast and it gave him a wound to the back of the shoulder that you can stick your pinky finger in. The other Marine is now in Germany and there is a good possibility he will lose his left eye. He also had a broken nose and a cracked skull.
The word has gotten out that we are changing units and we think they are testing us to see how we react. There has been a rise in insurgent activity in the last few days. We have a live video feed from remote controlled planes in our area that the command has at its disposal. A few nights ago we spotted a group of men digging a hole next to a road for about 10 minutes. Before we got the go ahead to kill them, they all disappeared inside a small building. We waited about 15 minutes and they all came out and started digging another hole about 100 meters from the previous spot. We shot all of them up pretty good. They didn’t know what hit them. They started running in all directions. They had no idea that our plane was overhead just picking them off. It was really neat to see – and gratifying – knowing that they could have been the ones to plant the IED that wounded our Marines.
Our embarked gear arrived yesterday and I unloaded my footlocker. I shipped my X-Box in it. So now I have a few towels, bed sheets, and extra gear that I didn’t want to hand carry. The boys in the communications shop gave me a TV that was left behind by the unit we relieved. They said it was extra because they got four TV’s. They couldn’t use it because they only brought one Playstation and they bought two from the departing unit. So know I have something to do with my spare time – If I can find some spare time.
I haven’t been able to get outside the wire yet. Some units are having trouble with some gear so I had to send my Maintenance Chief out to look at it. He’ll be gone for four days. So I have to pick up the slack and stand some duty for him. When he gets back, I’ll get to go. I’m looking forward to it. Everyone says the day goes by a lot faster when you’re out there.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How I live

The living conditions on Al Qaim are far better than we were told. There have been many improvements in the past three months. I guess when you expect the worst and get anything better it makes you happy. My living conditions are first class. I have my own little trailer with air conditioner/heater. It’s about seven feet wide and 15 feet long. I have a wooden bunk bed with a skinny mattress, a wooden bench, a small gym locker, and a sink with a mirror. It is connected to a small stand up shower with a toilet that I share with the MSgt who lives next to me.
My office is located inside a small Iraqi train station. It’s pretty neat. The Lieutenant and I share the office and it’s bigger than what I had in Twentynine Palms. They have constructed a chow hall by putting together about eight “Arkansas Size” trailers. Hahaha! I’m sleeping and eating in a trailer – Feels like home.
The chow hall is staffed with civilians. Most of them are Pakistani. Today we had lasagna and it was really good. These guys must think all Americans are pigs. They pile so much food on your plate. The joke is that every meal could be your last - so they make sure we get what we want. In truth, I feel very safe where we are located.
The camp is actually bigger than expected and the wire (actually, it's a berm and a fence) has been pushed out about 200 meters beyond any building. We have our own guard force. Their posts are located in fifteen foot towers and we also have Marines roving around the edges of camp. We can see for miles in all directions. I don’t think anyone will be able to sneak up on us.
The people, in general, have turned for the better. 1st Battalion 7th Marines (The 29 Palms unit that we are replacing) finished building a soccer stadium about a month ago for one of the towns and they had 1700 people show up to watch a game between two local teams. There have been a lot of good things going on out here and the people seem to be helping us out. Since we have been here, we have only found two IED’s on the roads and just a handful of shots have been directed at one of our battle positions that is located a few miles from here. No one even got excited, the shots were way high.
Some knucklehead already wrote home to his young wife and told her it was like the Wild West out here with people shooting at us constantly with AK’s and Mortar fire. He told her we had already found 21 IED’s. We don’t know who it was because we found out through an e-mail from a wife that knows the young lady. It was probably one of my guys trying to make it sound tougher than what it really is. I don’t want to downplay the dangers of Iraq but every base we went to seemed extremely safe compared to what the media would have you believe.
It looks like I’ll be going out about once every other week. Sometimes it will be for four to eight hours and sometimes it will be for three or four days. It depends on who I go with and what the mission is. I don’t have to go near as much as the other Marines because either the lieutenant or I have to be here. My lieutenant is going out tonight.
My new e-mail address for Iraq is harrismr@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil. Drop me a line and I will get back to you. I have a feeling my work load is going to slow down in another week or so.

Arrival in Iraq

Hello all,

The below message was typed two days ago. I has taken this long to find an internet connection that I can access my site. I will type another blog today and try post it this afternoon.

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I am finally able to write to my blog today. I ended up leaving Twentynine Palms on Thursday, August 31. Our original flight was cancelled on Wednesday morning and it gave everyone an extra day to spend with their families. It was nice to have the extra day. I used it to put together Britni’s new electronic piano and to install a new computer at the house.
We left Twentynine Palms on the standard white military busses around 1015 and arrived at March Air Force Base at 1200. Some volunteers were waiting for us in a hangar and fed us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We got on a DC-10 at 1830 and landed in Bangor, Maine at 0130 Friday. When we got off the plain there were about 10 WWII veterans and their wives waiting for us. The vets shook everyone’s hands and all the wives hugged our necks. They had fresh cookies to eat and cell phones that we could call home on. They stayed with us the entire time we were there and each one of them thanked us for our service. It was really nice and I hope my junior Marines appreciated it as much as I did. They could have been at home sleeping and instead they were at an airport talking to strangers. I thanked all of them for their support before we got back on the plain. We left Maine at 0430 and arrived at Hahn Air Force Base in Germany at 0740 on Friday. This stopover was uneventful. Hahn has been abandoned except for the runway and a few hangar and buildings to support it. The old barracks are still standing but the grass is about three feet tall and they are in disrepair. We left Hahn at 2045 and landed in Kuwait at 0300 on Saturday. We unloaded the plain and took a bus to Camp Virginia in the Kuwaiti desert and stayed in 60 man tents. The Army runs Camp Virginia and they put us on the far outskirts of the base. We were almost exactly one mile from the chow hall. I had forgotten what 130 degrees felt like until I stepped outside of the air conditioned tent and started my journey to the chow hall. I think if I was in charge of a Marine Corps Base and the Army wanted billeting, I would put them at the far end of the base too. So, I didn’t blame them for doing that - even though I passed by plenty of empty tents on my way to the chow hall. We were transported by bus from Camp Virginia to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait on Sunday night and left on a C-17 cargo plane at 0400 on Monday morning. We landed at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq at 0700. They put us in 40 man tents and we stayed there to take some classes and get the latest intelligence briefings on our area of operation. On Wednesday at 0930 we loaded into a CH53 helicopter and landed in Al Qaim at 1030. Overall, the trip wasn’t bad. We had some good chow and the living conditions were far better than I had expected. From what I saw, the government is taking great care of all the men and women serving our nation. It was better than being at Camp Wilson aboard Twentynine Palms.