Friday, May 25, 2007

Week One

I have settled in here in Fallujah and have begun getting into a work routine, it took a few nights to get my sleeping patterns corrected from the east coast but I am on track now. I am not sure I will get used to the blazing hot temperatures that exceed 110+ now in May, I am sure June, July and August will be like living in an inferno. I have started talking with a lot of people here in Camp Fallujah and I am amazed at the upbeat and confident attitude of the Marines here. The positive outlook towards Iraq as a whole and the turn around that is happening in the Al Anbar province are a few of the topics I have discussed. I have spent a couple of days reading reports and reviewing data and contrasting how this area was a year ago and the significant changes that are taking place currently. The IP (Iraqi Police) and the IA (Iraqi Army) are growing monthly with new recruits something that was unheard of a year ago. This is a key to the Iraqi people eventually taking over from us. In my limited time here reading and talking to Marines there seems to be progress being made that I do not remember reading about in the Washington Post or seeing on CNN with regard to the Al Anbar Province. A different perspective when one is no kidding boots on the ground.

I have also begun doing interviews which is my primary focus here from a historical perspective. It feels good to begin working and doing what I was sent here for. I have also tried to take each day and remember it, what it is like to be here right now, observing the Marines and Soldiers around me, hearing the artillery, gunfire and helo's at night, the heat and smell. I had forgotten about the camaraderie and closeness that exists in Marine Corps units and how that is amplified more so while deployed and especially in combat. It brings back a lot of memories for me of Marines that I served with years ago and how tight we were and in some cases still are. The glue that binds those friendships was made many miles from our homes when we relied on each other to get through. America should be very proud of her young men and women out here doing a very difficult job under very demanding conditions. Take a moment this memorial day weekend and remember them far away from their homes and loved ones doing a job that few would do. The dedication of these Marines is inspiring for most working 14-18 hour days is common. Many of these same Marines risking their lives everyday to complete a very difficult mission. Keep them in your prayers.

Monday I am headed to the big air base of Al Asad to spent a week with the Air Wing and start collecting the aviation stories of this war. It will be good to go to the Wing as that is my back ground and I feel like the prodigal son returning. It will be good for me to stand on a flight line once again and hear the sound of Marine aircraft overhead.

Many thanks to those back home for offers of anything I need here, you would be surprised at all the care packages that are here, the overwhelming support of the good people of the United States is most appreciated here. These little acts of kindness show folks here they are not forgotten and people care about them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Destination Camp Fallujah

The first thing that hit me was the hot rotor wash of the CH-46 as I walked in the ink black darkness towards my final flight of a very long day to take me to my new home. In the darkness I followed the crew chief into the back end of the helo and threw down the heavy pack and sea bag I had been carrying all day, with a flack jacket and helmet on, I was drenched in sweat. Four Marines in flack vests helmets and weapons joined me as we took our seats and sat quietly. We were a group of two CH-46's outbound from TQ airbase where I had arrived earlier in the day from Kuwait via our good Friends in the Air Force on a crowded C-130 of mostly Army folks headed "In-country".

We took flight and the cool breeze from the rear of the helo and the open doors of the door gunners felt great after sweating it out on the ground, several minutes later the door gunner's released the safety on their weapons with a clank and reality was here, I was flying over Iraq as a Marine fully suited up with my TO weapon as an officer of a 9mm pistol strapped to my right thigh, I could feel my heart race I was finally here after the long weeks of Quantico, I was no kidding on the final leg to Fallujah. A Marine in a combat zone.

We touched down in complete darkness again and grabbing my gear I stepped out the back of the helo into the black void of a dark moonless night, I noticed a light off to my right and walked towards it. I was greeted by a Marine Corporal who plainly stated "ID Card sir" I was here.

Once I was checked in as arriving, I was greeted by my new friends here from the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned (MCCLL) who helped me with my gear and got me billeting for the night and a much needed and enjoyed shower.

I will spent the next couple of days getting setup here and learning the In's and out's of life here in FOB Fallujah.

In typical USMC fashion I was greeted the whole leg of this trip by Marines at every stop, from my arrival at Kuwait International Airport where I was greeted by and driven to Ali Al Salem by a Gysgt and SSgt. At TQ a CWO-5 greeted me and got me food, water and down time in some much needed A/C as the temp hovered around 100 degrees. At Fallujah once again I was expected. The quote that "Marines take care of their own" is very much alive and well here in theater.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Well all the shots have been received, I stopped counting when I hit seven. The equipment issued and the good byes in person and on the phone completed. I have my orders and a flight departing Washington Dulles this Thursday 17 May direct to Kuwait. I should be in my summer home of Fallujah by Monday the 21st if all goes well. My thanks to the efforts of some great Marines here in Quantico and in Iraq in getting my orders and travel in order, their support has been outstanding.

I plan to spend Wed and Thur with my family and then we will all drive to the airport together and have dinner with more friends and family close to Dulles.

It is hard to put into words all the thoughts and emotions I have right now, I am anxious to be on my way and begin this mission but I know I will also greatly miss my family. I also know that I am doing nothing that thousands of others have not done already and I know it is now my turn. This is a small sacrifice in the big scheme of things. The sacrifices of those who are serving longer deployments and in several cases second or third deployments far outweighs my small piece.

I am amazed by the overwhelming support my family has received it is tremendous, and I appreciate every ones kind words and offers of support while I am away.

The picture above is of all my combat gear laid out on the floor of my garage as I looked and planned at how to arrange items on my flack jacket for the best access... I am sure that will change once I start working "For Real" next week.

My next entry will be from in-country and starting my final mission.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Checking In

Midway through week 2 and I am hopefully nearing completion of checking in. I had to return to medical today for 3 more shots, I think I have been immunized for all known diseases to man. I have also had my eyes checked and all my teeth cleaned...Must be healthy to go forward. I have drawn my personal gear such as a laptop, digital recorder, camera and all the tools I will need as a field historian to capture the words and pictures of Marines at war. I will draw combat gear such as helmet, flack jacket etc.. . tomorrow and pickup my pistol when I get to Kuwait. Currently I am doing the mental preparations of what will be expected of me, and how I will operate once in country. I have been in email contact with members of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW) and with the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned (MCCLL) detachment in my future summer home of Fullujah. In both cases they are expecting me and I have established communication which will make my arrival run smoother. I am getting anxious to move forward as I want to start this mission and begin my journey. I will be back home in Southern Maryland this weekend and it may be my last weekend before departing.

I have been slowly letting go of work related issues as I narrow my focus on the job ahead and making sure my wife and daughter are prepared for my departure. My objectives are becoming clearer as I get closer to leaving and begin to look at only what is in front of me and I begin to release the outside responsibilities of everyday civilian life and move mentally to a place I had long forgotten about. The memories remain and are brought back to life of previous deployments as a young man to foreign lands in a couple of cases for a year or more while wearing a Marine uniform. The mental preparation of leaving family and friends for an extended period of time and going into a combat zone requires some mental gymnastics and it helps to have the experience of previous deployments in your personal toolbox. I hope my next entry will let you all know that I have a departure date and have begun heading eastward from Quantico. For those who have been to Quantico you will recognize the pictures above. Liversedge is the Officer and SNCO bachelor housing and the History division sign in my unit. The Officer Candidate School (OCS) trails is where I am running to get myself in shape for what is ahead, I remember running these same hills as a Cpl in 1987 going through NCO school, although they seem much steeper and longer now.