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.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Satellite Works

Our satellite dish is working now! They brought in a satellite
repairman from another base and he brought some extra parts with him and
got it working. Now I'll be able to see the Final Four. I hope
Arkansas gets a good basketball coach. It would be nice if we could
return to the way we were in the 90's. I'm sure Linda remembers when
Arkansas and UCLA played for the National Title in '95. I was stationed
at Camp Pendleton at the time and I was in charge of the Bachelor
Enlisted Quarters. I missed the entire first half of the game because I
was holding a formation. Living in Southern California and having to
see everyone celebrate a victory over your team is not fun. I have the
'94 championship game against Duke on VHS and I still watch it from time
to time.
The water tower in the little town that we destroyed is being rebuilt.
They got the pipes put together for now but the water tank will have to
be brought in from somewhere else. The Civil Affairs Group makes sure
that a local company is hired to do the work so it keeps people
employed. This way they are less likely to be paid off by the
insurgents.
I have spent most of the past few days meeting all the new Marines,
Soldiers, and Sailors from the new units that are coming in. Every unit
that got here after us has now left. Tomorrow when I get up, I will
have 15 days left on Al Qaim. Not that I'm counting.
The Marines are working pretty hard. We are creating a brand new
Battle Position for Weapons Company. The Combat Engineers have been
building it for about two weeks. Right now it's just a walled off area
with machine gun posts and a few hardened shelters with sandbags. They
are going to have running water and electricity (generators) in the next
few days. Then we will add all the communication assets and get them
online.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

False Report on CNN

I didn't blog yesterday because I was feeling sick and went to my can
at about 1430. But I yesterday morning I noticed that CNN had reported
on the suicide bombings in our area. There ended up being a third one
after I submitted my blog and it didn't hurt anyone but CNN reported the
below statement.
-----------------------
"The Islamic State in Iraq, an insurgent umbrella group that includes
al-Qaida in Iraq, purportedly claimed responsibility for three other
suicide bombings Saturday near the Anbar province city of Qaim, near the
Syrian border, saying in an Internet statement that 45 policemen were
killed and 48 were wounded. The statement could not be independently
verified, and police said only six people had been killed, including
five policemen, and 19 other people wounded in the three attacks against
checkpoints and a police station."
-------------------------
Al-Jezeera News was also reporting the 45 dead and 48 wounded. The town
sheik actually called them to let them know what actually happened and
that no one had been killed or wounded.
Last night a few of my guys got into a firefight with some insurgents
while they were out on patrol with one of the companies. They were
still excited this morning. We didn't have anyone get injured.
Fighting broke out twice and at some point we launched some mortars at
them and blew up a water tank. This morning the local people were not
happy about their water supply being destroyed. So our Civil Affairs
attachment had to go out and promise to pay for it to get fixed as soon
as possible. We shouldn't have launched the mortars, it was overkill.
The Marines just like blowing stuff up when they get excited.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Comm Issues

Today was very busy. This morning, almost all of our shots were down
due to weather, crypto, or a piece of gear that went bad. We cancelled
our trip to the shooting range so everyone could work on getting the
comm up. One of our antennas is strapped to the top of a 90 ft. tower
at the edge of the train yard. We needed to fix it so SSgt Risby sent
one of the sergeants (he will remain nameless) up the tower to fix it.
He got about 80 ft up and froze. He had his arms and legs wrapped
around the ladder and he was screaming, "It's going to fall! It's going
to fall! It's shaking too much!" SSgt Risby started yelling at him to
get his ___ up there and fix the antennae. He finally started moving
again and the antennae got fixed. He stayed out of sight the rest of
the day. I can't blame him. His pride was hurt after the show he put
on for everyone. It was hysterical. I'm still laughing.
All the comm issues were solved or fixed, except the high winds, by
1030. At 1110 I was sitting in my office when I heard a big bang and
the windows rattled. A vehicle was approaching a checkpoint and it
didn't follow the normal instructions so the Iraqi Police shot at it and
it blew up. Then at 1150 we heard another explosion. Another vehicle
with explosives tried the same thing and the Iraqi Police blew it up
too. No one was killed - except the suicide bombers.
I received four boxes today, three from Linda and one from Missy.
Missy just e-mailed me last night to ask if I had gotten her box yet.
Missy sent me some Easter stuff, energy bars (my favorite), Girl Scout
Cookies, and some new kinds of candy to try out. Linda sent Girls Scout
Cookies, candy, and magazines. The guys were very happy. Captain Bair
got a letter form his pen pal that Linda sent on October 28. It came to
Iraq and then somehow got our stateside address stamped on it and went
to 29 Palms and then it was rerouted back to Iraq and finally to us in
Al Qaim.
The Bruins won last night and I am still alive for the pool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Newspaper Access

I was trying to look up my high school football coach to ask for some
advice on blocking schemes and I found out that he announced his
retirement in January. Coach Campbell coached high school football for
39 years and was sixth in all-time wins in the state of Arkansas. His
final record stands at 257-98-6. I bet he lost most of those games at
Sheridan. It was probably the low point of an illustrious career. He
coached High School at Corning, Sheridan, and Wynne. He won two state
championships at Wynne. He coached NFL Running Back DeAngelo Williams.
I sent an e-mail to his school account but I don't know if he'll get it
since he's probably already cleaned out his locker.
My calves are really sore today. I'm pretty sure it's from jumping on
the boxes during yesterday's workout. I did the normal cardio toady and
then worked out with SgtMaj this afternoon. Nothing much going on. If
we would not have been extended we would have had the Transfer of
Authority Ceremony today and the entire battalion would have left this
afternoon on the trip back to the states. I would have been home about
10 days ago because I'm supposed to leave with the advanced party. I
have to go back with the Battalion XO and stand in for the SgtMaj in the
states for two weeks. I going to make sure all the offices, vehicles,
gear, and barracks rooms are accounted for and set up when the battalion
returns.
It must be destiny Linda! I gave $10 and picked a name out of a cup
today for the Sweet Sixteen draw and I drew out UCLA. Go Bruins!
I've been reading the free (very limited) edition of the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette website ever since I lived in Kiev, Ukraine. Now
thanks to Grandpa James' account, I can read the entire paper. Thanks
Grandma and Grandpa for letting me use your account. Thanks Missy and
Mom for sending it to me. Now I can keep up to date with what's going
on in Arkansas.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reenlist

This morning was fun doing the chuck workout. We spared each other
for one station. Of course I got a partner that outweighs me by 40
pounds and is about four inches taller. It wasn't bad though. He
doesn't have the skills that I have - Joke Joke Joke. Don't anyone
offer to box me when I get back!! I'll call my dad on you (he boxed in
the Army).
I was able to finally talk one of my Sergeants into reenlisting. He
was dead set on getting out and his wife wanted to move back home so she
moved early and then decided that it wasn't what she thought it would be
like so I got the monitor (the guy Headquarters Marine Corps) to offer
him just about anything he wanted and he accepted Beaufort, South
Carolina. He won't deploy from there so his wife is happy about it.
I'm not doing so well in the NCAA Tournament Pool. I picked way too
many upsets. I should have just went with the highest seeded team.
Tomorrow they having a drawing to pick a sweet 16 team out of a hat. It
costs $10 to draw a team. It's total luck, just like the Super Bowl
squares but it gives you someone to cheer for. Hopefully, I'll get an
SEC school or UCLA. There is no way I could route for USC.

Reenlist

This morning was fun doing the chuck workout. We spared each other
for one station. Of course I got a partner that outweighs me by 40
pounds and is about four inches taller. It wasn't bad though. He
doesn't have the skills that I have - Joke Joke Joke. Don't anyone
offer to box me when I get back!! I'll call my dad on you (he boxed in
the Army).
I was able to finally talk one of my Sergeants into reenlisting. He
was dead set on getting out and his wife wanted to move back home so she
moved early and then decided that it wasn't what she thought it would be
like so I got the monitor (the guy Headquarters Marine Corps) to offer
him just about anything he wanted and he accepted Beaufort, South
Carolina. He won't deploy from there so his wife is happy about it.
I'm not doing so well in the NCAA Tournament Pool. I picked way too
many upsets. I should have just went with the highest seeded team.
Tomorrow they having a drawing to pick a sweet 16 team out of a hat. It
costs $10 to draw a team. It's total luck, just like the Super Bowl
squares but it gives you someone to cheer for. Hopefully, I'll get an
SEC school or UCLA. There is no way I could route for USC.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chlorine Gas

Yesterday morning there was an IED strike by Camp Gannon. It killed
two Iraqi Soldiers and wounded one. None of our guys were hurt.
We got word that the insurgents were filling up their vehicles with
chlorine and then blowing them up a few hours after the first strike
happened. Everyone was talking about it at chow. Three vehicles with
chlorine gas blew up in Anbar on Saturday. We are in the Anbar province
but we are pretty far from where the blasts occurred. We first heard
that they were going to start doing this two months ago. So it wasn't a
big surprise. It sounds scary but you have to get a heavy dose of
chlorine gas for it to kill you. It's mainly just to scare people.
When the bombs explode the heat from the blast will usually make the
chlorine obsolete. It will still irritate your skin and burn your lungs
but the blast is way more likely to kill you than the chlorine.
Today was pretty slow. Did cardio this morning and started doing
nickels with the SgtMaj this afternoon. The Comm Platoon is doing a
chuck workout with me and the SgtMaj tomorrow morning. It should be
fun.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Another Razorback Fan

I got up at 0400 and went to the chow hall. The guy in charge if the
chow hall is a Razorback fan! Can you believe it? He's from southern
Missouri. I knew he followed basketball because he's always in the chow
hall watching whatever game happens to be on. They started out really
good but then things didn't work out to well for them. As much as I
hate losing to USC, at least they made it to the tournament.
The gym is starting to get crowded now. It's getting close to time to
go home and all the Marines are in the gym working out getting ready to
go back home all buff. I'm back to the can a little early tonight. I
have to catch up on some sleep and get ready for cardio tomorrow
morning.

Friday, March 16, 2007

1st Round

The satellite is still broke. I am going to get up real around 0430
and try to get into the chow hall. They are the only ones who have a
satellite connection. Hopefully, they'll let me in and I can watch the
game. I'm sure they will, I know all of them now and I always talk to
them. GO Hogs!
The Marine Corps is getting ready to issue FROG (Flame Resistant
Occupational Gear) uniforms. They look just like our normal cammies
with a few modifications. They wont make it out in time for me to get a
set but the next unit should get them. Right now, we wear flight suits
when we go outside the wire. The new uniform comes with really thin
gloves so we don't have to cut the fingers out for weapons manipulation
and it comes with a two types of face masks for hot or cold weather.
Eventually, every Marine is supposed to have two sets.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gator Shirt

Today LCpl Driggers brought me a T-Shirt. It's a Florida Gators
Football and Basketball National Championship shirt. It's bright orange
with Blue writing. He's a big Florida Gators fan. I told him I
couldn't wear it when I go home but I would use it as a rag when I
change the oil in my truck. Hahaha. I'm going to get him a Razorback
shirt when I get back to Arkansas.
It was a pretty slow day today. It was my day off from cardio so I
slept in until 0600. It was kind of nice. Everyone is starting to mail
their stuff back home. I'm going to wait until about two or three days
before we leave. Then, I'll probably mail back almost everything I
have. I don't plan on hauling a bunch of gear around on the trip back.
I'm only going to keep enough to put in my molle pack (modular
lightweight load carrying equipment). It's a backpack with a bunch of
clips and straps so you can add all kinds of extra stuff to it. Leave
it to the Marine Corps to give you a big bag that will hold 70 - 80 lb's
of gear and then give you additional ways to strap an extra 70 lb's to
the outside of it.

Satallite still down

The satellite is still not working. It needs a civilian part and I
don't know how long it will take to get it. Hopefully they have it in
country. I don't know if I'll get to see any March Madness games at all
but of course that didn't stop me from betting on the tournament. I
picked Arkansas in an upset over USC. I think picked 12 upsets in the
first round. We'll see what happens.
I got some boxes today from Momma-B, both Linda's (Reimel and Salka),
and Pat Ballentine. Pat has been sponsoring me since I got to Iraq and
she always manages to send me something every month. Her daughter
Brittany is doing cheer competitions all over the place. I think she's
in Dallas this week. They live in Sterling, Virginia. She got my name
off of a website.
The Marines loved the boxes. We got potato chips, jerky, dove
chocolates and Cadbury Eggs. A few of the Marines got sick eating the
eggs because they are not used to having that much sugar at one time.
The rest of us just laughed at them. We also got some ready-to-eat tuna
fish. I just took a bunch of mayonnaise packets from the chow hall to
mix with some tuna I found and now I got a ready-made pack. I can't
wait to get hungry. Hahaha. Thanks to everyone for sending the goodies.
You guys are getting better and better at this. The Marines are very
happy and thankful. They're going to be spoiled when they get back to
29 Palms and have to start getting their own stuff again.
I worked out today on the stair stepper. My legs are already feeling
sore. I climbed 112 flights of stairs in 20 minutes. When I first
started working out on that machine, I was only doing about 60 - 65
flights in the same amount of time. My goal is to hit 125 flights.
I'll get it before I leave.
The weather has been very nice here recently. The desert is in full
bloom with wild flowers and some wild grasses and shrubs. It's a big
change from seeing sand everywhere. I'll take a picture and send it
out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Swimmer

  I didn’t get to see the game last night.  Our satellite went out around 1200 yesterday and it is still out.  I found out that Arkansas lost.  I still don’t know what the score was.  I hope it was close.  Someone said we get to play USC in the first round of the Tournament.  I hope we beat the crap out of them.

  And to Swimmer, the blonde girl that lives at my house, in 29 Palms, who likes to swim, is 12 years old, and is my daughter.  I still remember you and I know who you are.  Hahahaha.  I love you too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jumped ahead too soon

  Yesterday afternoon we had a pilot drop by that was with 3/4 last year.  He was sitting in our office and said that he heard that the Communications Chief had gotten killed.  I looked at him and told him that I was the Comm Chief and I was definitely still alive.  Somehow MSgt McAnulty got confused with me and he said the word on some bases is that I died.  First it was the SgtMaj who supposedly died and now it’s me.  I guess it would be easy to get the MSgt’s confused since there are only two in each infantry Bn.

  The Razorbacks are in the SEC Championship Game!  They are going to air the game for us tonight at 8:00 P.M.  I can’t wait to see them play.  I will be wearing my hog hat and I’ll have my flag with me.  Hopefully, they have already done enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.  It sure would be nice for us to beat Florida for the Championship in basketball since they took one from us in football.

  The chow hall turned their clocks forward an hour today and caused all kinds of problems with schedules.  They were telling everyone that we were supposed to turn the clocks.  So, some Marines turned their clocks up and others knew not to.  We don’t turn our clocks with the U.S.  We turn ours whenever the Commanding General of II MEF tells us to do it.  We aren’t going to change them until the Iraqi’s change theirs so we can all be on the same time in this country.  We had to go around and make sure everyone had the correct time.  The chow hall changed their clock back.  If anyone was late to anything today they were blaming it on the bum scoop that was passed at the chow hall but in reality they should have been early.  Hehe.

  The Regimental Combat Team that we belong to flew in today for a visit.  The Captain had to baby sit them most of the day.  I only saw them for about 30 minutes then I found things to keep me busy so I wouldn’t have to sit around with them.

GO HOGS!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Football Stars

  I saw the NFL players today.  It wasn’t really crowded so I got to talk with all of them for about forty-five minutes.  They were all very nice.  All of them gave me a picture with their autograph and the SgtMaj gave me a football and I had them sign it too.  I also had my picture taken with them while they were standing up.  The picture looks pretty funny.  I only come up to their shoulders and they are about twice as wide as I am.  I got to wear the New England and the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Championship Rings.  I couldn’t talk any of them into joining the Corps and playing for me.  I need to work on my recruiting skills.  I don’t know why any of them would not choose to be a legend in the 29 Palms league. Haha.  They were only here for about two hours and then they flew off to go to Al Asad for the night.  I was talking to them about all the places they’ve visited and they said they were told that it was too dangerous for them to stay overnight at our FOB because it was too close to the Syrian Boarder and we had had a few attacks on the base.  I told them it was just a few mortar attacks and wasn’t a big deal but I didn’t tell them that the Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders spent the night here.  Hehehe.

  We had ice-cream today.  I had vanilla with peanuts and a cherry.  It was pretty good.  I’ll have to do a few extra minutes of cardio tomorrow morning.

News Interview

Another post failed on me.  This was originally sent yesterday.

 

  The Marine that passed away in the IED strike a few nights ago was LCpl Raul G. Bravo.  I just feel that after the next of kin are notified, the least I could do is mention the Marines name.  I really hope that we are done with casualties.  India Company has been hit pretty hard in the past couple of months.  They and Weapons Company have the most dangerous area for IED strikes.  It’s because we have extended our areas and are now routing out fighters in places that we used to not go.  We have trained the Iraqi police and army well enough to hold on to the major villages where we used to patrol.  Now we are getting farther and farther out into the small little hamlets and causing the insurgents to get very nervous.

  I called KNWA News last night.  They are the NBC affiliate out of Fayetteville.  I spoke to Alexa Hamblin and she was really nice.  She told me that she had spoken to Linda the day before.  I hope I didn’t sound stupid.  After I got off the phone I wish I had said more about being thankful to everyone for their support.  It was a lot of fun to do the interview.

  SgtMaj was sick yesterday.  He came to the gym and was throwing up.  He still did the workout but went to bed right after it was over.  The Colonel and SgtMaj left this afternoon with the Colonel from RCT2 to go check out some of the Battle Positions.  He didn’t make it back in time to work out but he’s feeling much better.

  Tomorrow afternoon four NFL players are coming for a visit.  They are Alge Crumpler, TE, Atlanta Falcons; Shelton Quarles, MLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Will Shields, G, Kansas City Chiefs; Benjamin Watson, TE, New England Patriots.  I just found out when I was in the gym.  I think it’s awesome that these guys take the time to make a trip out here.  I can’t wait to get some pictures.

 

Friday, March 02, 2007

Linda is Amazing

  Well, I found out the person who is behind the Razorback Flag.  It’s Linda.  Linda is so awesome.  I can’t believe she would go through all that trouble.  I can’t wait to get it framed and to hang it up.  Linda, I will never forget about this.  I will think of you every time I see that flag.  I’m going to have to teach you how to call the hogs when I see you.

  Last night the “Buffalo Jills” came to visit us.  They are the Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders.  I didn’t go see them.  They didn’t start their routine until 2100 and I was pretty tired.  One of my Marines was selected to dance on stage and he brought the house down.  I got to watch him this morning on video.  LCpl Driggers is the smallest and probably the weakest Marine in our company.  He’s a good hearted guy that usually finds himself in some kind of trouble but because of his good natured attitude and his personality he usually gets away with it.  He’s really shy and doesn’t talk too much.  We don’t let anyone mess with him.  We might make fun of him every once in a while but we don’t let anyone else do it.  Anyway, Driggers gets on stage and unbuttons his cammie top, twirls it around, and throws it into the crowd.  Then he takes off his green t-shirt and throws it.  The Marines are going nuts.  The Buffalo Jills are laughing hysterically.  It’s pretty funny.  He got an autographed picture of all the girls on it and a DVD.  This was the girls first visit to a Marine Camp.  I don’t think they’ll forget it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lost Blogs

Today I was chatting with my wife and found out that not all of my messages to my blog have been posting.  So I compared what I had sent and what was posted for the past two weeks and found out that two posts were missing.  I didn’t have time to go over all of them.  Besides, it’s so long ago that it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.  I have attached the two missing blog entries below with their original post dates.  Hopefully, this will get though.

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

RAZORBACK FLAG

(Originally sent on Feb 26)

 

  I got an Arkansas Razorback flag with Houston Nutt, Frank Broyles, and Darren McFadden’s autograph.  Houston Nutt wrote, “To Mike, to our heroes!  We thank you for your work!  Go Hogs!”  Frank Broyles wrote, “To our heroes, thanks. Go Hogs Go.” Darren McFadden autographed it and put a #5 next to his name.  I was so excited my hands were shaking.  I took it all over the place to show everyone.  When I get back home, it’s going in a frame.  I can’t believe that I got this.  It’s amazing.  It didn’t come with a letter or anything else so I have no idea who had it sent to me.  The only address on it was the University of Arkansas Athletics.

  No one was seriously injured last night from CLB-2.  Lima Company found six IED’s in the past 48 hours.

  This morning I did my first Chuck workout since my surgery.  We warmed up with 40 minutes of cardio on the Elliptical Machine, and then we did three minutes of hitting the hand pads, three minutes of jump rope, three minutes of abs, and three minutes of holding the hand pads.  We did it for three rounds.  It was pretty fun.  Tomorrow morning, the SgtMaj and I are doing another chuck workout with the Comm Plt Staff NCO’s and a few of my Sergeants.  I thought we were going to do it with them on Wednesday and I had planned to take tomorrow off.  But, one of the General’s is flying in this week and he changed his flight to Wednesday this morning so we had to move it up.  I’m guessing I’ll be sore so I’ll have to get up a little earlier and stretch everything out real well.

  We had the Commanding Officer of the Air Wing from Al Asad and the Master Gunnery Sergeant from their Comm Platoon came by to visit the Captain and me today.  We gave them a brief on how we were running everything and then took them to all of the sections.  The MGySgt was here two years ago sitting in my seat.  I wasn’t looking forward to it but they seemed to be impressed.  The MGySgt said we had come a long ways since he left.  It seemed like we had done almost all of the improvements.  The way he was explaining things was almost exactly how it was when we got here.

  Well, I gotta go figure out a way to hang my Razorback flag in my room now.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

CLB-2

(Originally sent on Feb 25)

 

I just wanted to write a quick update because I don’t have much time tonight.  It has been very windy, cold, and gray the last few days.  We went to the range again and shot up some more targets.  We didn’t get any visitors this time.  I start back on Chuck Training tomorrow morning.  I’m looking forward to it.

  Just before chow time tonight our supply convoy that carries the mail and chow got hit.  Combat Logistics Battalion – 1 (CLB-1) just did a turnover with CLB-2 last week.  Tonight was CLB-2’s first convoy by themselves and they got hit.  We had to send a medivac helicopter out to them but I haven’t heard if anyone was seriously hurt or not.