Saturday, November 28, 2009

Flight of Tears and A List Of Countries That Suck

Some months ago I recounted the tale of The Longest Day in which we couldn't possibly conceive of a flight to a combat zone being more arduous or lengthy. At the time we didn't consider the fantastic possibilities of our epic return flight from said combat zone.

It all began with our ejection from the trailer park we were billeted in for seven months and transition into the concentration camp set up at the JCOT designed to "temporarily" house personnel waiting for their flights to land. Ideally 24 hours before your scheduled flight you move into the tents and go through the fine Naval Customs inspections experience that I have narrated here a couple of times already.

In almost every case the flight as scheduled doesn't arrive on time. For instance, ours was moved back 24 hours the first day; then another day; then a mere 16 hours. See the trend here?

Finally we got to spend a day standing in lines under the crisp Iraqi sunlight dragging our seabags behind us in the gravel. First there was the dumping of everything I own so our friendly neighborhood customs ninjas can paw through my gear and explain to me that while yes, the spring loaded knife I was issued from supply can indeed go back with me, the double edged fixed blade knife that I carried with me through two deployments isn't allowed.


Then everything we carefully packed to maximize room in our bags and protect more sensitive items was unceremoniously jammed back into all our bags by the poor jarhead who was unfortunate enough to be picked as part of the working party tasked with helping the process hurry along. By this time we could have cared less anyway as our desire to be done with customs usually outweighed our need to know which bag we packed our DVDs in.

I will cut the customs portion of the tale short this time except to say that the only thing possibly worse than going through customs is actually being a customs agent who sometimes may have to process up to three flights in a day. Imagine handling someone's dirty drawers at 3AM; then again at noon; and again at 8PM. I think I would prefer being shot at by a firing squad armed with RPGs.

For at least a month I had been warning Marines not to believe they were actually leaving Iraq let alone tell their family when as it would inevitably be a wrong date due to the fluidity of the timetable. As recounted in The Longest Day even getting on the plane is no guarantee that you are going anywhere.

"Don't believe it until the wheels are actually up!"

As our flight blasted off the wretched Al Asad runway Marines howled with glee like a plane full of werewolves. Thus we said goodbye to Iraq and with any luck, for the last time.
Two hours later we landed in the United Arab Emirates to refuel and switch out crews. UAE sucks because they wouldn't let us off the plane. Fortunately we were only a few hours into this part of our journey so it wasn't a big deal to us. As we waited a customs guy resembling UAE's version of Meatloaf boarded the plane. Meatloaf frankly will be forever known as such since his whole purpose seemed to happily let crew know that their replacements were being delayed by UAE customs. So there we waited on the evil forces of the local customs bureaucracy.

Remember that word: bureaucracy. Write it down. You will see it again.

After we got our new crew on board we were able to leave wonderful UAE behind us and took off for Thailand which was to be our next stop before hitting Okinawa where we would drop of some of our brethren stationed there and finally to Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. Or so we were led to believe.
As it turns out it was merely part one of an epic struggle that was to rival Viking sagas of old.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marine Corps Ball and a Harmless Hijack

I'm hijacking CP for a second time.

Mike is up to his neck squaring away his 1st Sgt responsibilities, getting ready to head out for leave, pack his trash, store the rest and head to a new billet.

I thought I would post some pics from the Marine Corps Ball since I knew these would never see the light of day without one of the wives sending them to me. Thank you, Janna.
He cleans up pretty well eh? Just don't tell him that. He gets all swaggery and big headed, if you let on. Seems A1S was the narrator for the shindig and word is, he did a bang up job. Also something I am keeping to myself.

Okay now that I have posted some pictures to at least soften half of you people up, head here. I need some quick reaction force type help. 1st Cavalry is in need of some cold weather gear. I even plan on hitting Mike up. He just doesn't know it, yet. He also doesn't know about this post, yet. Sigh, I suppose I should tell him at some point.
So head over will ya? You know--while you are waiting for America's 1st Sgt to post. He will soon. Both of us have had a crazy couple of weeks.
The last text exchange went something like this:

America's 1st Handler: Kill me.
America's 1st Sgt: No. You kill me first.

Told you.
Things have been crazy, busy all 'round.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kona Brewing Company night! (with pics as promised)

For months at the evil fortress of Al Asad I ate at the DFAC daily. Mind you, the food was actually pretty good, but imagine if you ate three squares a day at the Golden Corral; that's kind of how it is after a few months of eating out of the DFAC. You memorize the menu and everything tastes the same. Even the ice cream begins to taste like chicken.

After hearing me moan about a decent steak for 7 months there were a few intrepid souls determined to shut me up. Unbeknownst to me, there was a secret cadre set up over at HopeRadio whose sole purpose was to just get me to stop griping about the food already.
Okay, it was a secret cabal, but it was all about some folks who wanted to take care of some of their Marines. And who am I to stand in the way of that?

THE AFOREMENTIONED INTREPID (and one anonymous gentleman.)

Amy and Mel, fellow AF and Navy vet, respectively.

So last Monday night, the company 1stSgts and the Battalion SgtMaj took all the ladies out for dinner courtesy of a gang of military supporters who wanted to welcome us home good and proper. These included Coffeypot, Richard, Ally, Wrexie, Robyn, T, Kanani, and Pax, as well as a fine gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous. I can assure everyone a good time was had by all.

Lima Co 1stSgt Olea and his wife (1stSgt Olea will be replacing me in H&S. Good luck buddy!) " Also the recipients of an avalanche of toasters and slow cookers.1stSgt Ferriss of Kilo Co with his lovely bride. Flowers were also provided for the ladies...oh wait...

America's 1st Sgt. was the only one without a date.

The food was great and more importantly the wives were happy so maybe the boys can go out and play again some other time. Thanks guys!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muslim discrimination in the U.S. military. Not.

I'm done listening to any more bellyaching about how Muslims have it bad in the American military. It's a lie.

At this very moment there are American Muslims serving in our armed forces with valor. Muslim interpreters work along side us daily who aren't even American citizens and they have proven themselves as well. All these pansies wailing and moaning about discrimination against them because they are Muslims are not doing anyone any favors. Take it from a guy who has served along side Muslim Marines and Sailors in combat; worked with Jordanian and Iraqi interpreters in country; trained with Iraqi-Americans who have contributed to the effort by working as role players and training our troops in culture and language classes.

In the Armed forces of the United States you are far more likely to be given a hard time by your fellow servicemen because you are a Christian vice a Muslim. So really, shut up already. You don't have it bad in America. The system isn't set up to keep a good Muslim down so I am no longer hearing it.

Let's quickly examine true discrimination and an ethnic group's response to it. Seems many of us have forgotten that during World War II Japanese Americans were openly hated by their own countrymen and even locked up in concentration camps due to the level of fear and suspicion with which their own nation viewed them.

No doubt this gentleman's grand children enjoy the use of many a product produced by companies like Sony, Hitachi, and Toyota.

In ten separate camps within the United States American citizens were locked up behind barbed wire fences with U.S. machine guns aimed back at them. Sounds like a bad science fiction movie but it happened folks. No trials, no proof, and no compensation; one simply had to be of Japanese ancestry to be interned in an overcrowded barracks. THAT is discrimination and maltreatment.

“Hawaii is our home; the United States our country. We know but one loyalty and that is to the Stars and Stripes. We wish to do our part as loyal Americans in every way possible, and we hereby offer ourselves for whatever service you may see fit to use us.” from a petition to Hawaii's military governor 1942.

Amazingly the Nisei responded by begging to join the American armed forces and form what continues to be the most decorated unit in United States military history; the 442d Regimental Combat Team. They are most famous for the rescue of the Lost Battalion of 141st Texas Regiment. Somewhere around 14,000 men of valor served with distinction, earning 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, and eight Presidential Unit Citations. There is no historical record of Japanese Americans committing acts of sabotage or violence against their own nation.
In contrast Maj Hassan didn't personally experience anything near government sanctioned internment of American citizens and I suspect any "discrimination" he was subject of had more to do with his own lack of merit than anything else. Seems he wasn't that great at what he did according to his fitness reports. Funny how easily people can play the discrimination card instead of the personal accountability card.

442d hard chargers. Eer-ah!!!
Maj Hassan and others like to claim that they are the subjects of religious discrimination. I submit the example of Japanese Americans in WWII as the honorable way to respond to it. Because they really had it bad.

It's also ridiculous to me that the media is up in arms about what motivated Maj Hassan to attack his fellow Soldiers. Speculation about it possibly being due to PTSD is laughable really. The man had never been on a deployment or been to combat so what traumatic stress did he experience? Oh that's right, his bad fitrep. In my experience PTSD isn't contagious so he didn't contract it from any returning vets. So really, let's put the PTSD scenario away and stop using as the villain in every case. Finally, I have said it here before and I say it again, doctors assure me that PTSD does not interfere with anyone's ability to distinguish right from wrong. It doesn't make you hurt people uncontrollably. So I say again, let it go as it is not an excuse to shoot a room full of people.

I am also tired of hearing about how the Army should have seen the signs. Really? If they had questioned or detained him regarding his religious/ideological leanings he would have been on the news as a poor, poor victim of a mean old Army Muslim hunt. I also notice that no one is saying he shot up the place because of his religious/ideological beliefs. But I suspect it had something to do with it; just maybe.

In the event anyone ever mounts a table near me and shouts "Allah akbar!" at the top of his lungs, he will be the immediate recipient of a vigorous throat punching. I apologize if this appears intolerant but it seems to me nothing good has ever happened after this phrase has been randomly shouted in public.

There are indeed Muslim Americans appalled at the incident in Ft Hood and there are Muslim Americans who view the likes of the Taliban and Al Queda as the enemies of America. I have served along side them and would do so again. It's unfortunate that more Muslim American groups aren't more vocal about their opposition to terrorist groups and those like Maj Hassan.

If Maj Hassan had truly been subject to any kind of discrimination it would have been far more honorable if he had followed the heroic example of our WWII Japanese American citizens and proven all the bigots utterly wrong and ignorant fools. Instead he showed where his true loyalties lie and if anything has helped fan the flames of bigotry in our country. Way to contribute, clown.

As for me…
Invictus Maneo and Semper Fidelis
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Hug a Veteran Day!
Well, you could at least buy his coffee…
Speaking of which, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in dinner at the Kona Brewing Company the other night. Everyone had an awesome time and I promise to post some pictures forthwith as soon as I get my hands on them.

But today isn't about America's 1stSgt. Today we recognize the generations of ninjas that have paved the way for America's war fighters with their greatness and dared us younger guys to fill their sizable shoes.

Some of those grace me here with their presence from time to time like good old Sarge Charlie, hope you've been feeling better buddy. Then there are guys like Coffeypot (the sailor standing next to the sailor here) that I feel would box my ears with one of his lunchbox sized fists, if given half a chance. CI Rollerdude, (still running OPSEC in the pic just below) who is far too humble and far too generous with his praise, has had multiple deployments in foreign lands as well as plenty of street time as a police officer; a true citizen soldier.

The word veteran often reminds me of guys like my long time friend Charles whom I've known since 1995 on embassy duty. He did his time in the Corps and is now raising a family out Baltimore way.

Charles and I a few years back

My cousin Joe was in the Navy before I was even in the Corps; he lets me recklessly drive his quad through snow choked streets when I visit during the holidays.

I often tell my Marines that I'm never upset with them for choosing to finish their time in the Corps. America needs good citizens too; Charles and Joe epitomize the kind of citizen veterans that are the life blood of our nation.
Finally, I want to recognize some guys it is my pleasure to be associated with. The 3/3 Alumni Association is comprised mostly of Vietnam Vets .

You may recall that a group of them came to visit us at Mojave Viper as recalled on my very first post. During that visit I was able to meet a couple of them who had even served with my father.
1stSgt Robert W. Burke and Capt Bill McAdam H&S Co,3/3, Vietnam 1968-69.
Generations collide. Judge Bill McAdam and 1stSgt Michael S. Burke H&S Co 3/3, Mojave Viper Training, 2009

The Desert Geezers still drop me a line now and then and I can only say that I haven't been keeping in better contact with them because I am an insensitive selfish ass. So to Doc Hoppy, MGuns, Judge McAdams, and the alumni of 3/3, Semper Fi, well done and thanks.

America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday! I'd like to take a little time to wish my fellow Marines a happy 234th birthday. That's right folks, 234 years of slaying dragons, rescuing maidens, and thwarting villains. How cool is that?

During the Marine Corps traditional cake cutting ceremony we play a well known song called Auld Lang Syne. This comes from a Scottish phrase which can be translated as "days gone by" or "days of long ago". So the English lyrics of the song go like this:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?

Every year we commemorate our legacy on November 10th in homage to those giants who have gone before us and remind ourselves of who we are and what we represent. It is a conscious effort to never forget the days of long ago and the sacrifices of our brethren and reforge our commitment to fight for life and freedom, keep our honor clean, and never lose our nerve.

Happy birthday and Semper Fidelis! If you see an old Marine veteran sporting his colors today give him a loud"Eer-ah!!" from America's 1stSgt.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

AHHHH…PARADISE…not as advertised

Back to work in the middle of week two and everything as returned to a state of raw madness as there are only about 11 working days in the entire month of November and we just HAVE to do two months worth of stuff during this time.

This includes a regimental run, a regimental change of command, the Marine Corps Ball, a Combat Fitness Test, turning in equipment issued for the deployment, administrative audits, shots, dental appointments, a regimental PME (professional military education), promotions, NJPs, the rifle range, redoing emergency data sheets for families, platoon commander notebooks for all new Marines.
Oh did I mention that 357 Marines were added to my company today? Everyone that is getting out or transferring to other units were dropped in my lap to keep track of. This puts me at 580 strong. I even get all the clowns with administrative and legal issues. Tomorrow in fact I have four going to NJP that I didn't have yesterday. Hooray!

On top of all this I have to execute orders shortly and have to check out within the 11 days of work going on this month. How are there only 11(approximate) working days? Well we have the Veteran's Day holiday, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of our post deployment leave block.
So what I'm really saying is forgive me for my tardiness in not posting since my return. It may sound crazy but sometimes getting shot at is simpler and less stressful than being in garrison.

America's 1stSgt