Tuesday, August 30, 2005

M113 on the move during our last op.
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Me not looking very happy. And this was BEFORE the walk back.
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The long walk back from our latest operation. This is as we approach Civil Camp from the east.
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A Marine and his sponge cake after a long day.
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Our latest haul.
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Team update - 30 Aug 05

Sorry again for the delay.

“Groundhog Day – Iraq” continues (if you haven’t seen the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, then you won’t get it). We had our first independent battalion-sized operation this morning. All of our Marines were involved, including Master Guns Traylor, who has been “combat deadlined” because for a foot problem; reveille went at about 0330 and we all got ready for a long, long morning. Get up about five minutes before the alarm sounds, because years in the Marine Corps have caused me to sleep very lightly the night of an op, with a subconscious alarm clock. I topped off my 1.5 liter Camelback last night, plus added about 25 feet of white engineer tape to my load out, as well as a plastic flexcuff in case I was with a jundee who didn’t have any for use on detainees. Changed out batteries on my GPS; changed out batteries on my Surefire flashlight (note to anyone coming over here: BUY ONE). Hook up my 9mm Berretta, which I carry in a right side drop holster; hook up a left side four-magazine drop rig on my left leg for my M4. Everybody has a different routine; everybody carries a slightly different gear setup. Carry my flak and helmet over to the office, across the parking lot, which is coming alive with jundee moving around the Iraqi vehicles staged the night before. Get my radios from Gy Roche; start drinking water NOW. Still not quite awake, I reluctantly put my flak on, Camelback, radio, rifle, helmet, and nomex / leather gloves and head out to the parking lot. We had several SEALs on the op with us, so we sorted out who would be with who there. Also had several teams of US Army engineer sweep teams with metal detectors shovels, who we also sorted out. Finally, we all step off about 0500, while it is still dark and thankfully still a fairly cool 80 degrees. And we’re off.

These types of operations are fascinating on several different levels. Admittedly, at the time, I am more struck with how hot it is, where exactly is the Iraqi in charge going now, and, to quote Gunny Ellis as got off the phone the other day, “What is that SMELL?!?!”, but mixed into all that is the fact that here we are, all of us Marines but none straight-leg infantry, performing a purely infantry operation with Navy SEALs and Army Engineers. Then spend a fine Sunday morning knocking on doors and searching homes for unauthorized weapons and any kind of explosives. Most of these homes are DIRT POOR. The presence of intermittent electricity and minimal plumbing has brought them forward from the 18th century skyrocketing into the 19th century. Maybe.

I’ll save you the long details. Suffice it to say we finished up around 1100, humping about two miles into camp through Civil Camp. We are all a bit sore, but the op went off fairly well, so we count it a success – except for the jundee who shot himself in the foot within the first hour, but that is a story for another day.

As far as some terminology, here goes a start:

Civil Camp and Coolie Camp: small “villages”, I guess, just outside the wire which had grown up while the Brits were still here. “Coolie” I am sure is in reference to the unskilled asian workers whom the Brits probably imported to work at the camp, and “Civil” apparently refers to civilian workers who worked on base but lived off base. In short, consider these to be what Jacksonville and Hubert, NC are to Camp Lejeune. Just a lot worse.

“Op”: operation (not to be confuse with OP, or observation post.

Jundee or jundi: “soldier” in Arabic.

Freq (“pronounced “freak”): frequency (although we actually freq hop these days, so it really is a net ID for the hop set, but that is a different set of definitions).

Strange moment of the day (about three days ago): finding out at 2100 that two Iraqi generals were in our Iraqi battalion commander’s office unannounced, and the CO, Capt Rush, and I were invited. This was made more annoying because I had just gotten out of the shower and the CO was almost in bed. So in the three of us go at 2130. In the corner of the room, behind the Marine LtCol from the brigade MTT team, is the TV, playing an American B-movie from the 80s (I think it was some kind of sci-fi/horror movie where you recognize about three actors but can’t place from what). What was really weird was the sound was absolutely cranked, LOUD, and the only ones who seemed to notice were Capt Rush and I. Finally, someone turned it down, and we spent the next hour + hobnobbing with Iraqi general officers. So strange.

Quick funny story. We all have padlocks on our rooms, the battery office, our supply room. We even have locks on the porta-heads outside (see earlier entry on why). The CO and I were in the office the other day when Gy Ellis came in, hair on fire, a million things on his mind. After getting what he had come in for, he left and immediately locked the CO and I in the room. What made this funnier was the fact that has been known to do this to his roommates, SSgts D and Walsh, fairly often. So as I reach for my phone to call him back, he remembers that we are in there and unbolts the padlock. Very funny at the time.

Next time I will talk about the Iraqi chow hall. You think going on patrol is bad? You haven’t seen 1,000 Iraqi jundee trying to cram into the chow hall at once. Bayonets, Pepsi cans, fisticuffs, all next time on “As The Jundee Turns”.