Saturday, June 25, 2005

On the ground in Iraq

Arrived about three hours ago (1130 local, 25 June 05) at Baghdad International Air Port (BIAP for short). Will be staying tonight in nearby Camp Stryker, billeted in an air conditioned tent on cots. All in all it could be worse. We will fly to Taji tomorrow night for about a week's worth of training and then begin our turnover with the outgoing team.

Nothing much more to add. I do have some more pictures, but the internet cafe I am writing from informs me that, in addition to NO DRINKS, NO CUPS, and NO PORN, that NO MEMORYSTICKS are allowed. I'll put some pictures up when I can.

It is hot, but honestly not as hot as 29 Palms in August (we are still in June, though, so I am waiting for the other shoe to drop). This camp has a small PX, a civilian run ice cream bar (no joke), and this movie/internet cafe tent. Considering how last time I was in this region (Desert Storm, 1990-1991) I was sitting on a cot beside a tank in the sand, this could be a lot worse.

Will update when there is something to add. Still no mailing address; will try to squeeze one out of higher HQ tomorrow at Taji.

Lastly, Iraq is 8 hours ahead of Eastern time in the states, 9 hours Central. Adjust your clocks accordingly.


Without going into the details (and there are some details), we finally took off from McGuire this morning at 0040. An hour and 40 minutes into the flight, those of us who had fallen asleep for the 8 hour flight to Germany were rudely awakened by the plane landing in Charleston, SC. Our tour of the eastern seaboard, alas, was to continue.

The AF had their act together this time, though, and swapped all of our equipment to another aircraft with fantastic efficiency; we were airborne about 4 hours later. So to our old aircraft, the albatross around our necks, C-17 tail # 60001: F--- you and good riddence.

We are now in Germany and on track to lift in about three hours. The Marines are a little frazzled but in good spirits. An interesting difference in perspective between us and the Air Force became apparent these last few days. They would always be very apologetic about the delay and the accomodations, all of which were valid, but not our biggest concern. We told them sleeping on the terminal floor was not a big deal to us, but that the flight being delayed was, that we WANTED to go because our brother Marines in Iraq were expecting us and need us there ASAP, it really caught them of guard. They thought our concern was our- the 42 Marines on the flight - individual circumstances at McGuire. It wasn't. It was - and is - getting to our appointed places of duty, NOW. Marines in harm's way really are counting on us.

Before I forget, while the institution of the Air Force let us down, the airmen and civilans at McGuire really bent over backwards to help us out. By the time we left, the entire base knew that 42 Marines had been shipwrecked at the AMC terminal like a bad reality show. The refueling squadron came into our terminal yesterday morning and asked if we could come to their CP for a barbeque. They paid for it all, did the cooking, had the entire thing set up, and didn't need or ask for a single dime or a single Marine to help. They were fantastic. The USO, also. Donate some $$$ to the USO. Beside coffee and cookies, they were cooking us hot dogs and even delivered free pizza to us last night at our billeting. They really hooked us up, and in fact, I am typing this from another USO here in Germany. Give 'em a few bucks.

LtCol Garay says he has nothing to add but that he slept really well on the hood of one of the HUMMVs on the aircraft while crossing. A C-17 was not built with troop comfort in mind, believe me.

More to follow.

P.S. One-liners from the past few days:

LtCol Garay asking the Command Duty Officer at Scott AFB, IL if Air Force officers had an aversion to talking to Marine officers since he'd only spoken or seen two in the previous three days. "Sure, you can give my name to anyone who asks,...I spell phonetically, GOLF ALPHA ROMEO ALPHA YANKEE." Hilarious.

MGySgt Traylor having to - with all due respect - pull the troop handling duties back from the CO and I.

The AF tech sergeant on duty night before last announcing at 0100 that we needed to tag and check all of our weapons, knives, etc. as per FAA rules. "It shouldn't take more the 15 minues," said the Sgt while presents me with a box the size of a shoe box. I told him that every Marine in there had about 5 knives on him, and pointing at Sgt Dunlap from our sister team, told him that I KNEW he had 10 knives on him right now. "You better get a bigger box if you're serious." I nearly lost my bearing, so much so that I actually asked the said named sergeant if he was going to address me as "sir" at least once during our stay. I then told him that believe it or not, I was the "good cop"; if the the CO got involved, he would be the "bad cop". That was about 30 minutes before the aircraft broke again, and the CO was on the line to Scott AFB (see above).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Me doing my "Major Payne" imitation. "The LIttle Engine That Could... TOOT! TOOT!"
Bluedevil sends

"...try try again."

After take off yesterday, about an hour into the flight, the crew informed us that we were still having trouble with the reverse thruster on an engine. We were too heavy to land back at McGuire (full load of fuel), so we would fly to Charleston, the home-base for this aircraft, where they could take us even if a little heavy. Plus, the maintenance facilities are better. Not great, but OK. So off to Charleston.

After two hours of flying, the aircraft got word that a line of massive thunderstorms over Charleston was going to make landing there impossible. We would have to be diverted again. Guess to where.

McGuire AFB, New F-ing Jersey.

Landed approx 2100, and we decided that - after the pain of billieting the night before - decided to sleep on the floor of the VIP lounge, which our team we had commandeered.

It is currently 1640, June 22. We are apparently caught in a time warp. Ground Hog Day rules are in effect. We have eaten more than we should have, watched daytime TV, gone to the BX again, and STILL DON'T KNOW WHEN WE ARE LEAVING.

All joking aside, everyone is still in good spirits, but our CONUS fun-meter has been pegged. Come tomorrow, we may be here, maybe Charleston, maybe Ramstein. We just don't know.

Us getting back on the bus yesterday afternoon after finding we had another two hours. Note the enthusiasm!
Bluedevil sends

Hey, who's driving this train? MSgt Radke on the kiddie train outside the BX. We are starting to get a little bored, as you can tell. (I think that he staged this picture for his kids, but comedy is comedy wherever you can find it).
Bluedevil sends

This is our bird in NJ on Monday night. So far, NOT so good. This is the aircraft equivalent of seeing a car jacked up with a tire missing on the side of the road at midnight.
Bluedevil sends

This is our bird in Cherry Point. So far, so good.
Bluedevil sends

"If at first you don't succeed, ..."

Tuesday 21 June:

Ate too much at the nicest military chow hall ("dining facility" to the AF); went to the BX ("Base Exchange" i.e. PX); goofed off at the teminal; made last minute phone calls. Loaded the bus about 1300, rolled to the plane, was told at the aircraft that we weren't actually lifting off for anothr two hours, came BACK to the terminal, laid around for another couple of hours, and then back to the plane. Door closed, taxi out, and lift off about 1630. We're on the way! Good bye, New Jersey!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Sweet lord, we are still in NJ.

Monday night, the game was "Simon Says," which we played with the Air Force ("We're going," "We're not going," etc.) until about 2300. The CO was so bored that he personally was handing out the box lunches (which also double as box breakfasts and dinners) to the Marines after they had paid $3.50, waited for an Air Force receipt to be printed, and then walked 10 feet from the cashier. (I would have gotten a picture of this, but I don't want to have him take my camera from me this early in the op.) Finally, they 'fessed up that the plane was broke and the crew needed their mandated crew rest period before taking off on that long a flight.

Off to the BOQ/BEQ/Transient quarters/Hotel, whatever the Air Force calls it. We would have taken a cot or an open squad bay, but hey, this is the Air Force; they don't have any on this base! Took about an hour, the big issue being - believe it or not - who was paying. We are all on the same team, but we had to remind them of this. The CO got the rooms, and we secured for the night.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

12 ounce curls at the CO's on Saturday. (Gy Greene, MSgt Radke)
Bluedevil sends

The majority of the team at the CO's on Saturday. (Front row: Me, Murphy, CO, Gy Greene, SSgt Decamillo; Back row: MGySgt Traylor, SSgt Walsh, MSgt Radke).
Bluedevil sends

Hangin' with the retirees flying Space-A from Jersey. It just doesn't get any better. (MGySgt Traylor, Top Radke, the CO, and Gy Greene).
Bluedevil sends

Flying the friendly skies. Capt Rush and MSgt Radke are in the foreground; they are leaning on one of our brand new armored HUMMVs.
Bluedevil sends

Our sister team staged outside the best billeting Cherry Point can offer.
Bluedevil sends

Nobody said anything 'bout Jersey

Took off in a fairly timely manner today, crammed aboard a C-17 with all of our gear. But an hour into the flight, SURPRISE! mechanical trouble required we land at McGuire AFB, New Jersey (where in Jersey? Sorry, don't know which exit). And now we are milling about smartly at 2100 in the passenger teminal. Un f-ing believeable.

Combat school bus in BFE, North Carolina.
Bluedevil sends

On our way (sort of)

Loaded up our gear yesterday (19 June 05) on ONE 44 PASSENGER BUS. 16 Marines, but a LOT of gear (I was admittedly the worst offender; when I heard we had the conex box space, I brought it all). The two lance corporals that drew the short straw and ended up driving us didn't even bring a freakin' map of North Carolina, so we took a less than direct route. Got to Cherry Point about 2130, offloaded everything, and surrounded by enthusiastic, pre-pubescent cadets from the Civil Air Patrol on their summer camp (I am not making this up), bedded down for the night.