Saturday, June 18, 2005

Update #1

It is now June 17, 2005, and we are in our in the final days of preparation for our mission as a Military Transition Team (MiTT). Our team is made up of four active duty Marines and seven reservists (including myself). All are staff NCOs or officers, and all are from 14th Marines, the USMCR artillery regiment. For the moment, I am not going to post names until I know what the team consensus is on personal info. I suspect they couldn’t care less, but I should ask first.

I, however, CAN clear myself, Maj Erik T. Peterson, USMCR, XO of our det. I will write some of this in first person and will use my own “career” as a baseline, so I will include some of that here. Commissioned in May 1989, graduated from artillery school and designated an 0802 in 1990, served 11 years on active duty with duty stations including Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Phoenix, AZ and Camp Lejeune, NC. Several double CAX’s, one UDP to Okinawa, and one big fat deployment as a shiny second lieutenant to Desert Storm, where I was a Forward Observer with Alpha Co, 1st Tank Bn. Have been an FO, FDO, Plt Cdr, battalion LNO, HQ Btry CO, and firing battery CO. Have been in the reserves since 9/11 (literally started drilling in Oct 2001 expecting the ass-kicking to come). Have not been activated until now. And there we are.

We are still undecided on a team name. Team Garay was the first default, until the CO said he was tired of reading his name on everything. Other ideas have been Team Med-fah (“cannon” in Arabic), Team Stonewall (inspired by being back here in Virginia). Ka-Bar, Bulldog, etc. have been batted around. We have also thought about keeping it artillery specific, but none of those names are sexy to anyone outside of our little crowd (Team Slapfire, Team Hipshoot, etc). Any ideas, I’m open.

To business… We activated on 9 May, reporting to our individual reserve units for a few days of inprocessing and gear issue. Five of us are from HQ Btry 2/14, in Grand Prairie, TX, with the other six from 3/14 in Reading, PA, Philadelphia, PA, and Richmond, VA. We finally came together in the same place for the first time on Sunday, 15 May 2005 at our fabulous accommodations at the Days Inn in Aquia, VA. On Monday, we started training and have been busy ever since. Hours and hours of Arabic language instruction (a VERY hard language), two full days of Combat Lifesaving (i.e. advanced lifesaving), communications (including radios most of us had never seen before the class), weapons instruction including live-fire drills that most of us had never done, classroom instruction on Close Air Support, convoy operations, hands- on with optics (NVGs / laser sights / etc.). Driving and shooting instruction (some while moving!) at the Virginia International Raceway in Danville, VA with some of the best drivers and shooters you have ever met. Give it up for the boys at SSI! Learned how to aggressively attack a dirt and mud unimproved road, shoot from moving vehicles, ram through cars blocking a road, and spin cars out who are threatening. An unbelievable time. And they paid us to do it!

We are now simply waiting for the C-17 to carry us to Iraq. Three of our team members are already aboard CampLejeune and have inventoried and op checked all of our team equipment, including LTI-ing our new armored HUMMV, test firing our machine guns, etc. The remainder of the team has been up here at Quantico finishing off some classes and admin, as well as trying to pack all of the gear the Marine Corps has literally THROWN at us since we activated. While there are still some small items I would have liked, I must admit, I have never seen the Marine Corps field so much brand new, high speed, high tech gear. Desert Storm, I got three new desert uniforms, a Vietnam era radio and personal equipment, and that was about it. This time around, we have received gear that wasn’t even in existence a year ago, and about five different kinds of tactical radios. Shotguns, light machine guns, lasers, batteries to go to all the gear, a generator, fantastic new first aid kits. It is un f-ing believeable, to be honest. And the training has been fantastic, but truly like drinking from a firehose. It’s like finishing college and having all the book knowledge on all this new equipment and a new mission, but now it’s time for the seven-month live-action prac app.

I’ll sign off for now with this: by accident or by design, we have one of the strongest, most cohesive groups of Marines I’ve ever worked with. All of these Marines are strong shooters, strong leaders, with just enough ego to be personally invested in their own individual success, but not above that of the team or the mission. If I have to go into harm’s way, I could not have hand-picked a better team. These guys are good, and this is going to be a damn fine deployment.

ETP

P.S. Please feel free to e-mail me at etp0802@hotmail.com if you have any feedback, complaints, or criticism.

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