Friday, December 29, 2006

Four Brothers and an Iraqi Patriot

  It rained all night two nights ago and when I got up yesterday morning all the mud holes were frozen.  The wind blew all day long.  It was really cold.  I had to go get a beanie from supply.  We are currently experiencing highs of 45 and lows of 28.  Probably not as cold as Arkansas but everyone knows how much I hate the cold weather.  I would rather have the 130 degree heat.  The wind makes it worse.  Especially for our guys that are gunners for the vehicles.  They stand up in the turrets of the vehicles to man the guns while they drive down the roads.  There’s not much we can do for them.  They just have to bundle up.  They wear ski masks, gaters (a piece of cloth that covers your head and neck), beanies, fleece jackets, and gortex to try and stay warm.

  They say it’s going to get colder through January.  It would have been miserable to be out in that weather on the missions.  It’s kind of weird but being miserable is what brings everyone together.  The best stories come from when everyone is sharing their most miserable moments.  As miserable as everyone knows it must be out there; everyone still wants to go.  So far, no injuries have happened to any of our Marines on the missions and they have caught or killed many anti-Iraqi fighters.  News bulletin, we’ve been told to start calling them Anti-Iraqi Fighters (AIF) now.  

  We had the memorial service for the India Company men that were killed on December 21.  Their names were; LCpl Ryan J. Burgess (USMC), LCpl Ryan L. Mayhan (USMC), LCpl Fernando S. Tamayo (USMC), and HN Kyle A. Nolen (USN).  They also had an interpreter with them.  They called him “Mike” but his name was Fathel Rahman Omar Abdel.  I didn’t really know the Marines or the terp (interpreter) but I knew Doc Nolen from Mojave Viper before we came out to Iraq.  The funny thing about all of our interpreters is that they’re all called by American names.  Their name could be Abdul Rabuse Jehosive Alraqba and then the Marines look at them and say, “Good-to-go, we’ll call you Henry”.  And so it is.

  I got some boxes from Mrs. Means 5th grade class today.  There was a lot of food and goodies packed in the boxes.  I can’t believe how much support we get from an elementary school.  I told the Captain that when we get back I’m going to take a bunch of the guys to visit the school on a Friday morning to personally thank them.  The guys were excited and asked if they could wear their uniforms to visit.  I told them I didn’t think the school would have a problem with it but I’m going to coordinate with Mrs. Reimel.  Captain Bair asks every mail call if he got a letter from his pen pal.  He’s like a little kid. ---- As I was getting ready to send this, one of our vehicles hit an IED.  Two Marines were injured.  It’s too early to know anything else about it. ----

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dads Birthday

  Today is my dad’s birthday.  It’s also Pa’s birthday.  Happy Birthday to both of you.  I hope you both have a wonderful day.

  The SgtMaj gave about seven hair cuts today.  All the companies brought in their command elements for a meeting so we had plenty of Marines walking around.  He started with a Marine that we spotted when we came out of the chow hall.  Then he told him to go find a Marine with the longest hair and bring him in.  So he did, and the cycle started.  He had them standing in line.  After a while, I went to the actual little barber shop (just an 8x8 wooden shack that we built) and there was a huge line outside of it.  They had all heard what was going on and decided they would get their hair cut by someone who gave them a choice instead of the SgtMaj special.  The SgtMaj only gives high and tights and cuts the top.  He messed up on two Marines and ended up shaving them completely bald.  News travels fast around the camp.

  I’m going to start cardio tomorrow morning.  I’m just going to get on the elliptical machine and take it easy.  I’m pretty sure I’m ready for it.  Today was the first day that I have been able to button my pants all the way up.  So, that means the swelling has just about gone away.  A few more days and my belt will back at its old place.  I hope everyone had a great Christmas.

Merry Christmas

  The chow hall was completely decked out for Christmas.  They had some singing Santa clauses that danced, and they had some Indian guys dressed up in blow up Santa suits.  They kind of looked like the sumo wrestling blow up suits that I’ve seen.  There was a huge cake and all kinds of decorations.  All the workers were wearing white button up shirts with red ties and Christmas hats.  It was really nice.

  The camp seems deserted because most of the Marines are out doing missions.  The war goes on even during Christmas.  The Marines are doing such a great job.  Everybody is in high spirits even though they are away from home.  These guys are so awesome.  It makes me so proud to be a part of such a great unit.  I still have yet to hear any of my Marines complain about anything.  We know we have a lot of support from family and friends and I think it makes a lot of difference to know that, no matter what your point of view is on the war, we are still supported.

  Merry Christmas everyone.

 

Monday, December 25, 2006

Silly String

  LCpl Williams is doing great, in case you’re wondering.  I talked to him this morning and then again this afternoon.  He’s been working all day and doing a good job.  I wish I could talk about what is going on.  The Marines are doing great things out here.  We are turning up the heat on the bad guys and they are feeling it.  The Marines are working extra hard because we are short but it is not stopping us from getting the job done.

  I was going to leave tomorrow but the doctor came by and said, “Let me see you do 20 sit ups.”  I couldn’t do it.  I got to four and had to quit.  So, I’m not going.  I was doing 76 in one minute before my operation.  I want to be out there but I know I have to get better.  I see everyone heading out and I just watch as they drive away.

  I received some packages from Mrs Reimel’s class.  It had some great stuff in it.  Including some Silly String.  We have already found some uses for it.  Capt Bair shot it all over our Logistics Officer and they retaliated about two later by spraying Silly String and shaving gel all over him.  It was beautiful how they set him up.  First they hit him with silly string and while his head was down they brought out the gel and he didn’t realize it until after they were done.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Trinkets Everywhere

  Yesterday afternoon, 1stSgt Bass from Weapons Company stopped by and gave me a gift.  He laid a bunch MSgt chevrons on my desk and told me that they were MSgt McAnulty’s.  I am now wearing them on my collar and will think of him often.

  I got a box from my mom (Gloria) today.  It had one present that I was marked “Open now” and the rest are marked “Do not open until Christmas”.  I got a little cross for my pocket.  Thanks mom.  Now I’m wearing a St. Barbara medallion on my dog tags that Mrs. Reimell gave me, a cross in my pocket from mom, and chevrons from MSgt McAnulty.  I should be pretty safe the rest of the deployment.  Hahaha.  Mom also sent me a razorback hat.  I will be wearing it for the bowl game.

  I’m sending out more Marines tomorrow on a four day mission.  Pray for them.  With one of our companies gone, we have to step up and do a lot more.  My Marines are working very hard.  LCpl Williams (Linda, I think one of your students writes him) passed out from exhaustion today and we had to carry him to medical.  He’ll be fine; he got 24 hours of bed rest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pictures

  Not much happened today.  I took some pictures of my guys with boxes that we got from James Mangrum.  It was a lot of fun.  I sent them to most everyone.  The guys look like that every mail call.  They get real excited when we get boxes.  It’s great to see them like that.  I spent a lot of time on the servers today in the data section.  I was doing stuff I used to do as a SSgt.  They needed some help so it was pretty fun to get back into the weeds.  Well, I gotta go.  Hope everyone is doing well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Unpainted Spot

  My Marine finished painting my office today.  We had a guy come in and drill screws into the walls so we could hang up our white boards.  They had previously been put on the walls with duct tape.  That’s right, they had multiple layers of duct tape all the way around the outside of them, and they used two different colors (grey and green).  It held them up just fine.  Adapt and overcome is the unofficial Marine Corps motto.  There are two that are 4 x 5 and two that are 4 x 3.  So you can imagine how much duct tape there was and how it looked.  Anyway, the guy came in and hung all the white boards and then Capt Bair came in and was upset because I let him hang one of the white boards on a place that had not been painted.  I told him we would paint around it.  He said, “Yeah, but that’ll leave an unpainted area behind it.”  I asked what difference it made.  I didn’t want the guy to be waiting around all day for my Marine to finish painting.  He said in a few years when we give this train station back to the Iraqi’s and they take them down someone will have to repaint that spot.  Hahaha.  There are huge holes in all the walls because of people trying to put nails in them and he’s worried a terrible paint job that will have to be done over anyway.  Hahaha.  It’s been bugging him all day.  He keeps looking at that white board but he’s scared to take it down because it will strip the holes and we won’t be able to put the white board back up.  He’s got Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  I’m going to remind him of that unpainted spot every so often so he can sit and stew about it.  I love messing with him.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Snow?

  Well, two of my Marines were supposed to fly to Al Asad this morning to turn in some gear for maintenance.  I have five maintenance Marines but they don’t have all the components necessary to fix everything so we have to take whatever we can’t fix to Al Asad.  The helicopter was delayed at Korean Village (KV) because of snow.  KV is about an hour south of us by helicopter.  I heard this morning that some of the Marines said they saw snow flurries but I didn’t believe them until the Air Officer told me the flights were delayed until it stopped snowing in KV.  They finally got out around 1300.

  It rained a little last night.  The thunder woke me up.  I got a “Buffalo Jacket” from supply yesterday.  It’s a really nice fleece jacket with a zipper up the middle and pockets with reinforced shoulders and elbows.  We aren’t supposed to wear it as an over garment by Marine Corps Order but the SgtMaj said we could wear it on the outside of our cammies as a jacket while we were at the base.  The Marines were pretty happy to hear that.  Before yesterday they could only wear them underneath their Gortex jackets.  He’s a stickler for the rules (as he should be) but the other night he had to stand outside while he made a satellite phone call to his family and he got real cold so he decided to change his mind. Hahaha. 

  Tomorrow is MSgt McAnulty’s memorial service.  We’re going to have it outside because there is no way we have enough room for all the people that want to attend in any of our buildings.  Those jackets will come in handy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Electricity

  Not much going on today.  I heard that my Grandma was out of the hospital with a new knee.  I’m glad everything is going well for her.  I know my Grandpa will be glad to get her back.  Today is Steak and Potatoes day at the chow hall.  My Marines had some Soldiers come over and run electricity all through their newly made rooms.  They were putting in electrical outlets, lights and switches.  I told my Marines that they owed the Soldiers a steak dinner tonight.  It went over some of their heads.  A few of them got it.  Their room is turning out to be really nice.  I told them that if they all pitched in a few dollars I would have one of the convoys stop and buy them a big Iraqi rug to put in their living area.  They acted like they wanted one so we’ll see if they collect up the money.  We are using paper (newspaper and magazines) to insulate it better.  There is only one heater in the living area but I think it will do the job.  It is very comfortable in their right now.  We just want it to stay that way during January.  Hope everyone is doing well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Carpenter Work

  My Wiremen have been busy the past two days doing carpentry work.  We took over a building that had been used by a different section.  They didn’t need it anymore so I went and asked if my guys could move into it so we would have more space.  The front end of the building is going to be offices for my wire guys and the back end of the building is going to be where my NCO’s live.  My guys have made three rooms with windows and a hallway inside the building with wood that they got from supply.  It almost looks professional.  I was very surprised.  I took the 1stSgt and SgtMaj over for a tour and they were pleased with what my guys had done.  They haven’t started on the living area yet.  I told them they could do whatever they wanted but the office spaces had to be done first and they also have to have all the equipment in place and operational by January 1.  That means they have to rerun every phone line on the entire camp.  That’s not an easy thing to do but they all agree that it needs to be redone.  Currently there are wires running everywhere.  It looks terrible and there is no rhyme or reason why it’s done that way.  Basically, the first unit that came in probably ran about ten phones.  Then as new units came in they just kept adding lines wherever there was space and it is a disaster now.  We knew ten minutes after we got here that it would have to be done sooner or later.  I was just looking for a new place for them to start fresh.

  The SgtMaj is continuing his chuck workouts with different people in the battalion.  Now he’s taking all the Lieutenants out and punishing them.  He gets mad when they can’t or won’t give 100 percent the whole time.  One of our Lt’s came back and told some of the Marines that he was hitting the bag harder than the SgtMaj.  Of course, the Marines went right to the SgtMaj with that.  He was steamed.  He said he could hit it a lot harder if he only hit it two times every minute.  He also said that when he stepped up to the bag it said, “Please hit me, I just had two rounds off.”  Hahaha.

  He keeps asking when I’m going to be ready.  I told him I was at least another two to three weeks away.  I’m not going to rush it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MSgt McAnulty

  I’m doing better today.  Every day I say that.  I am walking at a normal pace and feeling good but I can still feel a little soreness in my gut.  I am now able to button three buttons on my trousers.  So, my swelling is going down.  I’m guessing it’ll take another week to get back to normal.

  Well, I had to give up one of my Staff NCO’s today to fill the Company Gunnery Sergeant billet.  Our Company Gunny went to Kilo Company to fill in for the gunny that was selected to take over the Operations Chief billet in Weapons Company.

  MSgt Brian P. McAnulty was loved by everyone in the battalion.  Tonight the SgtMaj is going to announce when we will be having his memorial service.  He will definitely be missed.  Rest in Peace Brother.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Helicopter Crash

  Yesterday afternoon, my Marines were out practicing conducting helo raids with Weapons Company.  I went out and watched them for a few minutes before I went to afternoon chow.  It’s pretty neat and they have a lot of fun.  They get in the helicopters and fly around in a circle then practice landing fast and the entire force jumps out does a raid on their objective.  They do this over and over for about three hours.  They’ve done it a few times before but this time they were rehearsing for a specific mission.

  A few minutes after returning from chow I learned that one of the helo’s had dropped off my men at our landing pad and was on its way to the Weapons Company Battle Position to drop them off when it crashed.  A Marine that was on embassy duty during the same time as me, was seriously wounded and medivaced to Balad where he succumbed to his wounds.  He was an awesome person.  Always making jokes and having a good time.  His Marines really loved him.  I saw the crash site via a remote plane that we control that gives us live footage but I can’t comment on anything else right now.  There will be an investigation.  It did not crash due to enemy activity.  A sergeant had his spleen removed and an officer had his hand crushed.  The other Marines have routine injuries like broken bones and bruises.  Pray for the wounded Marines.  The Marine that was killed was divorced with no children.  I went to lunch with him several times.  He didn’t know anyone that wasn’t a friend.  When his next of kin are notified, I will post his name.

  Today I got to chat with my wife on yahoo chat.  It was really nice to catch her on the computer.  It makes the time fly by.  I’m so glad I bought a camera for the computer before I left.  I was able to see Britni too.  I’m going to try and find someone with a web cam out here so I can hook it up and let them see me.

  I received a letter today from a young man in Pinole, California that is trying to become an Eagle Scout.  His community project was to collect goods to ship to U.S. Forces in Iraq.  He collected 360 lb.’s of stuff to send us.  He is sending 17 boxes of hygiene gear, reading material, snacks, and school supplies for us to hand out to the local community.

  The ten Marines from 1/2 went home today.  They are going to Mojave Viper (A desert exercise in 29 Palms to get their battalion prepared for Iraq) in January and then they’ll go back to Camp Lejeune for a month and start making their way over here in mid March.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Doing Better

---I sent this blog yesterday but I got a message from the server saying that it didn’t post.  So, here it is again.---

 

  Everyone around the camp has been coming by to see me and let me know that they were thinking about me.  When I went to the chow hall the first time, the workers all started waiving and smiling at me.  It’s good to be back.

  The 1stSgt gave me his truck so I don’t have to walk back and forth to my tin can for a few weeks.  It’s a struggle to make it to chow.  Yesterday afternoon the Marines I was with had to keep waiting for me and last night I had to stop and take a break for a minute.  Today was better.  I’m walking upright now.  The Marines still had to wait on me but I didn’t have to take any breaks.

  SgtMaj Geletko’s birthday was yesterday so the chow hall made him a cake and we all sang to him and had birthday cake with our meal.  I told him he was as old as the way I walk.  The Marines are calling me pap-pap now.  The SgtMaj started calling me that and it has caught on.

  A few Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, from Camp Lejuene are here for a few days.  They are doing the Pre Deployment Site Survey.  They are going to be taking over this area from us when we leave.  So, a few months beforehand, they send out some Marines so they can go back and let everyone know what to expect when they get here.  They’re taking pictures of the living and work spaces.  They will also get a tour of the battle area through convoys and hang out with the work section that they represent so they can get a feel of how things are operating out here.  It’s a good idea.  I’m glad the Marine Corps is spending the money to do it.  We got to do it with 2/7 before we came but we did it about 6 weeks ahead of time instead of 15 weeks ahead.

  I had signed up for some college classes online while I was out here.  One started on November 6th but I didn’t get any books until after I was medivaced so I have a lot of catching up to do.  The other class started on December 4th, so I’m only a week behind right now.  The first class, Advanced Computer Applications, is going to be easy for me.  I already know most of it.  The other class, Introduction to Software Design, is going to be a little harder.  I’m already guessing at things and copying from the book.  This may be the class that tarnishes my 3.98 GPA.  I always say, “They don’t print your GPA on your degree.  Whether you finish with a 4.0 or a 2.0, it’s says the same thing.”  We’ll see how it goes.

  The Marines said they opened about 50 packages of mine while I was gone.  So if you sent something and I didn’t thank you for it, it’s because the Marines got it.  From what they tell me, they got some good stuff.  Mom, Weapons Company picked up all the packages that were for OIC and they are putting them together to pass out.  I received a bunch of “Get Well” Cards from Linda’s class.  I took them all to my tin can.  I’ll probably mail them home to keep.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm back in Al Qaim

  Thanks to everyone who’s been praying for me.  I really have a great family, wonderful friends and an awesome support structure.  I feel very lucky to have all of you back home praying for me.  I am so thankful for all of you.  I am back at Al Qaim (again).  Hopefully, this time it will be for more than 24 hours.  I’m still sore and walking like an old man but I am happy to be back.  I lost 15 pounds.

  Sunday morning, I felt like I had cramps in my abdomen.  Naturally, I just thought I had to use the bathroom but I couldn’t.  So I got on my cammies and went to medical.  I could barley stand up straight and it was tuff walking there and when I went inside they immediately took me back and laid me on a table.  They ran some tests and took some X-rays and decided to medivac me to Al Asad.

  Once I arrived at Al Asad, I was put on a table in the emergency room answered 100 questions, gave blood and urine, and more tests were done.  I guess things started adding up and my white blood cell count was very high so the doctor decided to operate on me.  I was taken to the operating room.  I say all of this with a smile.  We work with what’s available.  I have no problems with any of this but it is kind of funny.  The operating table was a wooden table that was obviously made by some Marines or Corpsmen.  They had black trash bags draped over the sides of it.  They took me in there on a litter (stretcher) and I crawled over onto the bags.  They had little tables for my arms so they could lay straight out to the sides.  Then, they gave me some drugs that made my head and neck feel like they weighed 1,000 pounds.  I kept my eyes open for as long as I could (I didn’t want them to start early).  The next thing I knew, I was in a dark room lying in a bed.  Not a hospital bed, just a bed in a hospital.  So I couldn’t role over, or get up.  Someone was there and helped me to the bathroom.  I still felt the pain.  It actually felt like nothing had been down.  Then the doctor came out to the hallway to let me know that my appendix was bad and it was a good thing he took it out.  On my way to the bathroom I noticed that the hallway was ending.  Suddenly, we were outside.  That’s right, the bathrooms were outside in little tin building, much like the one I live in except it was converted into two showers and two toilets.  Two days later, they discharged me to the Regimental Aid Station (RAS) on Al Asad.  They told me to only take my medicine if I thought I needed it and that I should walk as much as possible.  So, I stayed there for one day and started feeling better the next morning.  I stopped taking my medication, and went around looking for all the Marines that I knew that worked on that base.  I was gone all day, walking around and visiting with Marines.  I shouldn’t have done that.  The next morning, I woke up with terrible cramps and they put me back in a bed, under watch, under drugs, for 24 hours.  The next two days, I didn’t do anything but lay around and take me meds.  I didn’t want anything to happen like that again.  By Saturday, I was feeling great.  So I caught a helicopter to Al Qaim and made it back around 11:30 P.M.  I got to my tin can, took a shower, laid out my uniform, put everything else away and laid down.  The Marine that picked me up had asked if I wanted him to check in on me the next morning.  I told him I didn’t want anyone checking on me because I had planned to sleep in and get up whenever I felt like it.  However, around 0200, I started having cramps.  I took some medicine and thought they would go away.  It didn’t.  By 0600, I was really hoping someone was going to check on me.  They didn’t.  Around 1000, I drug myself out of bed and managed to get my door open and I waited for someone to walk by.  Of course, everyone was at work.  At 1030 an Indian man that does maintenance around our camp and doesn’t speak English walked by and helped me to his maintenance truck.  He then took me to the medical station where they did more tests on me.  They medivaced me back to Al Asad.

  While at Al Asad they poked me 7 different times to get blood.  They ended up putting heat packs on my hands and then sticking me successfully.  After some tests, they decided to medivac me to Balad.  On the way to Balad, we had to stop at Baghdad and drop off two patients.  I had to go pee so bad but they wouldn’t let me off of the helicopter.  I didn’t see much when I was in the helicopter because I was on the top litter inside the Blackhawk.  What I was able to see, looked beautiful.  It was night by now and Baghdad was lit up.  It has nice big buildings with lots of colors.  It didn’t look like a war zone at all.  When we left, I could tell that we were going really fast.  The engines were revving much higher, the nose of the Blackhawk was angled down, and I could feel the G-Forces.  About 10 minutes into the flight a bright green light lit up the entire helicopter and then it burst into a million shooting little bottle rocket like streams.  A few seconds passed and then it did it again, and the helicopter started swaying back and forth.  It was really kind of fun – like being on a roller coaster.  I found out later that we had been targeted by a missile.  So much for fun.    

  I got to Balad and all I remember saying is, “Ma’am please let me pee.  Ma’am please let me pee.  Ma’am please let me pee.”  They wanted me to answer 100 questions.  They didn’t have a clue why I was there.  They didn’t know if I’d been hit with an IED or shot in the chest.  I finally got to pee.  Then they poked me 11 different times.  I kept telling them I was cold (blood vessels go farther into your skin when you cold) and told them about the trick the corpsmen had used on me earlier.  “That’s nice, but we don’t need to do that.” they said.  These were Air Force Docs.  They were much better than Navy Corpsmen.  Four docs later, they decided to let me warm up and lo and behold they got it on their next try.  After all the same testes where completed that the Navy did on me just a few short hours prior and they were all confirmed.  They let me have a CT Scan.  They found that I had an infection on the thin layer of skin between the muscles and the organs.  They said it happens to about 10% of appendectomy patients.  So I spent two days in the intensive care ward while they monitored me to see if I should have another surgery and it started clearing up.  Then, I was moved to a Self Care Ward for two days and last night I flew to Al Asad and this morning I flew to Al Qaim.  The Air Force Hospital was a bunch of tents all put together.  It’s amazing what they can do with modular tents.  It was a real life 21st Century MASH.

  It wasn’t very fun.  Most of the time, I sat in a room with 12 – 15 other Soldiers and watched the clock.  Time went by very slowly.  I’m very happy to be back and to see all the love and support that was posted on the blog site.  Thanks again to everyone.  I’m going to hobble my way to the chow hall now and then go to sleep.  I’ll try to write again tomorrow.

  Oh yeah, Thanks UCLA!!