Friday, October 30, 2009

E.T. Counseling

Mike is still regrouping in tropical paradise; poor, unfortunate, half-day working jarhead. My heart bleeds. Really. But he did leave a few pieces in the can for your reading entertainment and reminded me of such last night in his typical Burke-like manner.

Gotta love 'em. For his saftey and my sanity. ;o) Hope.

Every wonder if they have 1stSgts in space?
Below is a counseling sheet I imagine would have been written by E.T.’s 1stSgt if he had one. And yes they tend to be written by 1stSgts and signed by Commanding Officers. Go figure.
I was inspired by a writing assignment I saw surfing the web:
Whilst visiting an alien world to collect plant samples, one of your crew ran afoul of the local sentient life, forcing you to cut short the mission and then subsequently mount a rescue attempt to retrieve said crew member. Write the discipline report for the crew member, whom the local sentients labeled as E.T.

So without further ado…

ADMINISTRATIVE REMARKS ICO RECENT TACTICAL RECOVERY OF MISSING CREWMAN

You are hereby counseled this date that you are eligible but not recommended for promotion this period due to a physical fitness deficiency directly resulting in your near capture by a primitive species.

This is your third counseling concerning your complacency and lackadaisical attitude toward your duties as Imperial Reconnaissance Sample Collector while conducting a planet-side mission performing preliminary Collections and Observation Operations in support of proposed future invasion by Grand Imperial Armed Forces. You also have been previously counseled that you exceed the weight standards as dictated by the Grand Imperial Medical Administration and have not met acceptable physical capability requirements.

During your recent reconnaissance mission you violated protocol in that you wandered further than 25 meters away from your sample collection team. When the mission was compromised by counter reconnaissance forces your lack of physical fitness resulted in your failure to promptly make liftoff and endangered the rest of your team. Your subsequent execution of the evasion plan was laughable at best and violated numerous articles of the Imperial Code of War. These include unauthorized absence; open communications on an unencrypted channel; violation of light discipline; conduct unbecoming an Imperial Servant; and you even managed to somehow gain weight, further violating the Bodyweight Composition Protocols.

It is forecast by the Imperial Operations and Invasion Administration that your questionable conduct has given the impression that the Grand Imperial Armed Forces are a troop of waddling, obese, space penguins (Ea-Tee in the primitive dialect) and are incapable of glorious conquest. Further ramifications of your irresponsible behavior have yet to be calculated and are preempting the invasion indefinitely.

You are required to immediately report to the Imperial Chastiser upon conclusion of this counseling.

Signed,Grand Imperial Commander Throm G.H.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A.W.O.L: A Warrior on Liberty


Lounging at a resort hotel on Maui at the moment.
Decompression, relaxation, and multiple cups of joseph are all in order.

I have no interest in making any decisions, thinking, or anything resembling taking responsibility for myself or anyone else. Waiters and staff are making all decisions for me:
"Sir, would you like to try our…"
"Yes, I would."
Still getting over the time difference. Was a walking corpse early last night and crashed around 9pm. Instantly awake at 1am and finally crawled out of the rack at 03. Breakfast doesn't start until 0630. Man! It will take a couple more days to transform back into something resembling a human being. In the meantime I will still appear as some kind of specter roaming the grounds of the resort at odd hours. Oh well, I guess I'll do some pushups.

Will also take a stab at recounting the joyous adventure which was our 3 to 4 day flight home and hope to post that soon.

Thanks for the welcome home gang!

America's 1stSgt

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home

According to a news station in Hawaii, America's Battalion touched down in Oahu at about 1130 this morning.

Here's the link.
Looks like they are home.

http://kgmb9.com/main/content/view/22083/40/

-hope

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mystery of the ‘red things’ solved!

Remember this? Mike wanted to take care of things for all of you who were so worked up about the "Red Thing". I should have posted this sooner and have been reminded in a very Burke like manner not unlike the composition you see here above...it's kind of fitting actually...

signed,
America's 1st Handler


They were promotion warrants to Corporal for Cpl Fox, a highly deadly administrative expert…

…and for Cpl Wahlgren, a chemically, biologically, radiologically, nuclear enhanced fighting machine.

Mystery solved. Everyone satisfied now?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Out of Dodge

“Can you believe you are leaving soon?” This is the question that is continually asked me by family and friends who know we are about to disembark back to planet earth shortly.

The answer to that question is; no I don’t. I will not believe I am actually leaving until the plane is wheels up and is in another time zone. Why? Because the potential for something to go wrong always hovers about menacingly. If you recall our trip here was an interesting experience and merely getting on a plane is no guarantee that bird will take off. Consider how many stories we’ve heard in the past about commercial planes being stranded on runways and passengers not allowed off the plane?

So the next few days will be a litany of checking, checking, rechecking, double-tapping, following through, and reconfirming things like manifests, equipment density lists, flight times, room inspections, personnel accountability, movement from our current living area to a temporary one, movement from that area to the flight line, moving all our stuff to customs, enduring customs (which can’t be as bad as actually being a customs agent I am sure).

Looking ahead at my schedule I see that about ten hours before our flight we will be receiving our customs brief and then doing a slow, agonizing sea bag drag through customs and then wait around the rest of our lives for our flight. So if our flight were to take off at 10 am we would be getting our customs brief at midnight (yes, we would actually do it that way) where we would be informed that yes, we can bring our machine gun back to the USA but not that double headed battle axe. Real bummer.

On top of it all everything is subject to change at no notice.

I will, of course, be recounting this experience in morbid detail so you can all share in it.

Semper Fi!

America’s 1stSgt

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh the pressure!

Recently, Greyhawk over at Mudville has declared that I may just be the last Marine mil blogger in Iraq. Great, now the pressure is on for me to document our transition for posterity. The weight of this responsibility is staggering.

Hmmmmmmmmm…what are we doing lately? Anything significant?

Well, turnover with the unit replacing us is taking place as we get ready to transition ourselves out of here. After the formal Transition Of Authority (TOA) I’m sure I will have some choice things to recount as we sit around in tents waiting for flights to whisk us away (Brains! Brains!).

Oh! I think it’s Ice Cream Sundae night at DFAC 1. I’ll submit my report tomorrow.

America’s 1stSgt

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (and zombies).

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The University of Florida's response plans for a zombie apocalypse are no longer available for public consumption. University spokesman Steve Orlando said Friday the university removed a link to a disaster recovery exercise, which detailed how the school could respond to an outbreak of the undead. The link was taken down late Thursday afternoon. Orlando says officials felt the joke "didn't really belong" on the site, which also included plans for dealing with hurricanes and pandemics. The exercise lays out the university's response to attacks by "flesh-eating, apparently life impaired individuals." It notes that a zombie outbreak might include "documentation of lots of strange moaning." Orlando says the employee who wrote the gag wasn't punished, saying that it was written by an employee to "add a little bit of levity" to disaster preparation discussions.

The fools!

We have a saying in the Corps: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (and zombies). While I applaud the university on its disaster recovery planning in the event of an emergency, I think it is utterly irresponsible of them to eliminate the zombie apocalypse scenario from their disaster preparation training. Not to mention inconsiderate to those who will no doubt be summoned to rescue these people from their lack of foresight.

That's right; you heard me.

As soon as The University of Florida is inundated with shambling hordes of undead, everyone is going to say what they have said for over 234 years: Send in the Marines! No doubt America's 1stSgt would have the dubious pleasure of being at the forefront of this rescue mission when personally, I would probably like nothing better than to witness a campus of university elites be devoured by a tidal wave of zombies.

I mean who wouldn't?

Instead, the lives of thousands of response personnel will be at stake because this bastion of so called higher learning arrogantly believes that a zombie plague is a mere joke and not worth their intellectual time to consider combating.

When planning for emergencies I have found one thing to be immutably true: If your plan is zombie proof then you will be ready for any emergency imaginable. Think about it.

And for the record, if you're with me and you get bitten by a zombie, it is my standard operating procedure to immediately ventilate your cranium. No speeches, no tearful goodbyes, no holding on to every second of precious life while I wait around for the infection to transform you into a ravening flesh eater. Nope, just one to dome then I take your water and ammo and bail out of there. I'll cry later. Really.

Remember, during the zombie apocalypse, only head shots count.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Flying Zombies, the worst kind…

Due to the fact that we are actually turning over most of the security missions to the Iraqis and eventually leaving them on their own program, our battalion has had the opportunity to send a few Marines back home somewhat early. Of course, departing early doesn’t mean vacation/party time as everyone we are sending back is going to a professional school in preparation for the next deployment to Afghanistan. Don’t feel bad; it’s kind of our job.

What it does mean is another round of the rigmarole of airline hassles and other foolishness. If you think TSA is bad then you have never tried to move a company or more of Marines through military customs. At least the agents are slimmer.

This is what my Marines endured on our latest flight; and here they thought they were getting out of here early:

With much elation and enthusiasm the boys threw their gear on trucks to head on over to the flight line. Anytime Marines are seen loading vehicles it summons Army types like locusts: “You guys RIPing out? Got a TV or fridge you want to sell?” Before I could loudly remind our fellow servicemen that we weren’t having a freakin’ yard sale the Marines shooed them away (more than likely told them to come back later and ask for so-and-so).

After this there was the check, check, and recheck of the multiple pieces serialized gear that each Marine is carrying. The verification of possession of these items is repeated throughout the going home process and if it doesn’t happen the gear fairies magically transport any unaccounted for equipment to a vortex in an unknown dimension. Then I get to choke people.

Billeting at the flight line is merely there to remind servicemen that they are not home yet and serve as a pen to hold them in place while they watch other people board flights back to planet Earth. After spending the day lounging on cots watching planes take off they gathered up all their trash again around midnight and shuffled over to customs.

The customs experience when leaving Iraq is one of the singular highlights in anyone’s military career. Not only does it mark the end of your deployment but it is also similar to undergoing oral surgery minus the anesthesia (which my Battalion Surgeon describes as malpractice so I think it aptly illustrates the point). The hapless Marines and Sailors drag everything they own behind them waiting to present their bags to the customs agents. These particular individuals are of course absolutely enthused to be pawing through a bunch of Marine’s dirty underwear; again. Everything is dumped on a table in front of the agent and gets a serious once over to find anything that isn’t supposed to leave country. These include man-packed flame throwers, ballista, bootlegged DVDs, and any nuclear devices.

Thanks to over 234 years of natural selection, Marines have developed a well honed sense of humor. In this particular instance one of our more straight laced and wound tight Lieutenants was the target. Imagine Felix Ungar as a Marine Officer and you get the picture. Some of his fellow LTs decided, correctly, that it would be pretty funny to plant a cache of bootleg pornography into his pack. Now I am no advocate of porn but I still find this absolutely hilarious.

His response to being caught by the female customs agent (who was in on the prank) was priceless: “But that’s not mine! THAT IS NOT MINE!” Just the thought of his entire body clenching in futility makes my day that much brighter. He is also the kind that failed to see how funny that actually was.

After the inspection everything (minus porn) is haphazardly rammed back into sea bags and loaded on to a pallet. Everyone is then herded back to the tents to await the freedom bird to land, or so one would think.

The first sign of trouble for our guys was when word came down that the plane needed to be repaired in Germany. This would delay the flight for a day. The next day it was announced that the original plane was not going to fly at all and a new plane was going to have to be sourced to take our guys home. Considering the lowest bidders get all the jobs we wondered aloud if there was a shortage of duct tape and bubble gum in Germany with which to repair the plane.

Sourcing a new plane meant that the flight would be delayed at least a week now. All the Marine’s extra uniforms, underwear, sleeping bags, etc, were on the pallets waiting to be loaded on an aircraft that wasn’t coming. They were given the option of having access to their gear but of course then they would have to endure customs again. Everyone decided that it wasn’t worth taking that many years off their lives again just to have a sleeping bag. So for seven more days they froze their butts off at night in the tents because in the American military air conditioning can only be set on ‘arctic’ or ‘supernova’. In the meantime a number of us were hustling Supply to get them some extra t-shirts and maybe some sheets to sleep in.

Each day at 1600 they gathered around the dejected flight commander in charge of our personnel only to hear they were stranded for another night. Morosely the living dead would return to their cots contemplating what level of violence would be required to actually get a plane to land in their vicinity. They were stuck for so long that Marines actually went on line to look up information on the carrier that was supposed to fly them. By the time they actually left the Marines were able to recite how many planes were in their fleet and what types of aircraft there were. Apparently working aircraft wasn’t one of them.
Finally the carrier was able to cobble together a working aircraft to bring our guys home in. Hastily Marines washed their cammies in the sink and hung them up to dry. Angry wives who had been expecting their husbands were placated with phone calls home (We’re not sure why but spouses tend to think we’re all out here playing beach blanket bingo and having fun without them). One more round of equipment accountability preceded an excruciatingly slow boarding process while the ground crew got around to winding up the rubber bands powering the propellers.

TAKE OFF! The experienced traveler knows not to believe that he is actually going anywhere until the plane actually takes off. Otherwise he’ll never be prepared for an experience like this [link to other flight post].

Thirty-six hours of travel later and despite the bird landing safely the adventure is still not over. No one goes anywhere until all that serialized gear is turned in and counted. Of course there is always that one guy (in my experience usually a lieutenant) who packed a piece of serialized gear in his sea-bag despite being told 4,000 times not to. After this numb skull fishes out the item to be accounted for then and only then is everyone allowed crash unmolested in their own beds for a couple days of liberty.

I did not travel with that particular flight but I can imagine that by the time they were all through they were only interested in one thing: someone with brains…BRAINS!

Semper Fi,

America’s Undead 1stSgt

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Health assessments make us all crazy…

Before we deployed we all conducted a Pre-Deployment Health Assessment, this was to assess our state of health prior to deployment and to assist military healthcare providers in indentifying any present or future health care we might need. I suppose it makes sense when used as a benchmark to gauge any changes in our physical or mental health as well. After we fill out the questionnaire we also have to talk to one of our Independent Duty Corpsmen or doctors and answer a bunch of questions especially in the event we answered something on the questionnaire that catches their attention like:

I sincerely desire to go on a five state killing spree and charge all expenses to my Government Travel Credit Card.

If you check Strongly Agree they may want to come back for a follow up.

Currently we are in the midst of the glorious Post Deployment Health Assessment. This is to asses our state of health after deployment in support of military operations and to assist military healthcare providers in identifying and providing present and future medical care we may need. The information we provide may result in a referral for additional healthcare that may include medical, dental or behavioral healthcare or diverse community support services (this is pretty much all plagiarized right off the questionnaire).

Some of the questions simply ask how you would rate your health, if you had been injured or sick during the deployment, and whether or not you have any emotional problems, etc.

As America’s 1stSgt filled out his assessment the building veritably shook with the deafening running commentary that accompanies nearly everything that goes on in the company office.

For any of the following symptoms, please indicate whether you went to see a healthcare provider, were given light/limited duty (Profile), and whether you are still bothered by the symptom now.

Fever- NO!

Cough lasting more than 3 weeks.- NO! I guess that two week phlegm festival I had doesn’t rate!
Trouble breathing- NO!

Bad headaches- I’m having one right now!

Generally feeling weak- I’ve never been weak a day in my life!

Muscle aches- NO!

Swollen stiff or painful joints- Is this the geriatric test or what?

Back pain- NO!

Numbness in hands or feet- NO!

Trouble hearing- Can YOU hear me now!

Ringing in the ears- Why do you think I turn off the phone?

Watery, red eyes- Only after I watch Sands of Iwo Jima!

Dimming of vision- NO!

Dizzy, light headed- NO!

Diarrhea- Well I haven’t had a solid one in seven months!

Vomiting- I can taste it right now!

Frequent indigestion/heartburn- Have you eaten here?

Problems sleeping- Only when idiots knock on my door!

Trouble concentrating- What was the question?

Forgetful or trouble remembering things- If I didn’t write it down then it never happened!

Hard to make up your mind or make decisions- No, it’s hard to get anyone to listen!

Increased irritability- You’re kidding me!

After the entire battalion does this questionnaire on line they line up daily outside the Battalion Aid Station where they shuffle past the Battalion Surgeon’s desk like POWs answering a battery of questions the majority of which are answered with a sigh and resounding, No Sir or What! Why would I want to kill myself? I’ve been eating ice cream three meals a day for the past seven months.

The only thing that could possibly be more banal is being the poor guy that has to ask these questions to over 1200 Marines and Sailors. My sit down with the battalion surgeon went like this:

Swaggering into the office I found my doctor had begun to slump down the back of his chair in despondency and could barely be seen over his monitor.

“You ready to get this over with 1stSgt?”

“Is that one of the questions sir?”
Anything resembling humor had completely evaporated from his system 400 interviews ago. By now he had more or less degenerated into a bio-mechanical automaton whose fist had grown around the mouse on his desk forever chaining him to the demon possessed machine residing there.

“Do you have any medical or dental problems that have developed over the deployment?”


“I may have chipped a tooth while repeatedly head-butting the corner of my desk.” This comment completely missed his funny bone as the nerves surrounding it had turned necrotic and died.

“Over the past month have you been bothered by thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself?”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. You do realize who you’re talking to right?” At this point I was just another social security number the idea of America’s 1stSgt having been completely burned from his memory.

“Over the past month have you been bothered by thoughts that you would hurt someone else?” The sound of my breath hissing through clenched teeth finally got his attention. His head lolled in my direction.

“Uncontrollably?”

“Oh! No.”

“During this deployment have you sought or do you intend to seek counseling or care for your mental health?” Having had Marines in the past with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury this issue isn’t one I normally joke about as my feelings concerning it are rather passionate.

Considering how much violence we endured this deployment though (that is to say NONE), it was the question that made me roll my eyes.

“Do you have concerns about possible exposures or events during this deployment which you feel may affect your health?”

This is the question that my medical professionals just love to ask as there are always a few Jarheads that are worried about the effects of being exposed to the Electronic Counter Measures devices on their vehicles or concerned about how many metric tons of dust they may have inhaled over the last seven months. These are usually the same ones who have no issue with having a cell phone surgically attached to their face or smoking five packs of cancer sticks a day.

The conclusion of the Post Deployment Health Assessment is by no means the end of the story though. Much like sequels to bad horror films, health assessments rise again and again. Some months after we get back there will be the Post Deployment Health Re-Assessment where we will answer all the same questions again. This is ends with one or two of the medical Corpsmen being staked in the heart to ensure they don’t become one of the living dead.

Then of course there is the Periodic Health Assessment which the military does with or without a deployment. At the rate we deploy now days I could be asked as many as five times in a year by a medical professional if I’m OK without there ever being any sign that anything is wrong with me in the first place. A lot of times the deployment schedule is such that the Re-Assessment for the last deployment and Pre-Assessment for the next one are conducted at the same time. How’s that for mind bending?

The next time I hear an “expert” on some news network talk about how we’re not doing enough to identify troops with medical, dental, or mental health issues I will openly wonder if he has ever had to interview an entire battalion five times in a year.

Even now there are units experiencing fare more strenuous and combative deployments than we are this trip. With any luck the health assessments coupled with assertive leadership will be able to identify those who haven’t realized they need help or too stubborn to seek it themselves. If it were a simple matter of paperwork we’d all be inoculated by now.

Semper Fidelis,
America’s 1stSgt