Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!!

It's a balmy 17 degrees out here and no snow. That's okay since last year I spent my 30 days of leave shoveling snow almost the entire time.

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Chistmas and hope you have a great holiday.

It also happens to be my young cousin's sweet 16th birthday. She gets double presents and I have no idea where this nonsense comes from. For her birthday present I am going to walk with her to school and the first young man that speaks to her gets punched dead in the teeth. Thoughtful, I know.

Normally on Christmas we eat all types of food awfully bad for us and spend the afternoon lounging around the house in a stupor. The first one who actually lapses into a sugar induced coma is considered the winner.

I have also begun a holiday tradition with my teenage cousins where we watch zombie horror films all night and I send them home alone in the dark. This is holiday family fun without a doubt.


HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY!

Santa's favorite 1stSgt

Sunday, December 20, 2009

FLIGHT OF TEARS PART III: BUH-BYE MUMBAI

The following morning we enjoyed a fine breakfast buffet where I braced myself for the inevitable. This would take the form of Marines who were going to violate certain parameters we had given them the night before. I had pointed out during dinner that we weren't exactly welcome in Mumbai and the press were looking for opportunities to sell more news at our expense. Our guidance was in no way were they to be wandering around the hotel and they could stay in their rooms or in the dinning room. There was a two beer ration for the night and everyone was to be in the dinning room by 0900 for a head count.

While examining the two beer max rule the average person generally exclaims: "Are you crazy? No one is going to just drink two beers!" In particularly Marines who have been dry for seven months and are eager to get their "tolerance up" as soon as possible. Indulge me for a moment as I draw back the curtain and reveal a piece of the subtle art of leadership 18 years in the Marine Corps has taught me. I know someone is going to break the rules; it's all a matter of controlling the conditions under which they are broken. If we had told the Marines not to drink at all I would be forced to conduct Office Hours on someone for violating a direct order when inevitably they would try and sneak some alcohol and get caught. If we had said: "You can go ahead and drink." This would have resulted in everyone drowning themselves in liquor and I would have had to pour 200 commandos back on the plane the next day. If we say: "You may have two drinks", we have given an order that hasn't sapped the morale of the men and allows me to destroy only the most egregious of violators. Are some of them going to have more than two drinks? I know they may have as many of 4 or 6 but they won't consume an entire beer truck as they would have tried to do under the other two conditions. If no drinking were allowed then having one drink is as bad as 12 so why not go for it? If we leave the parameters wide open to interpretation with a broad statement like, "You may drink.", then we open the door to a wide range of mayhem and chaotic scenarios. That's not a pretty door so we like to keep it firmly closed. Hopefully this logic makes sense to you but if not that is why we have comments below.

During role call a number of people were missing. Some were late; others were dragging their buddies out of the rack (which I not so calmly explained they should have done 20 minutes earlier, not right at 0900). Different situations call for varying levels of volume. While the Master Sergeant called off names I wasn't going to apply my audibly powered flame thrower on high but sometimes grunting my displeasure under my breath about a centimeter from someone's eyeball is equally effective. This also gives me the opportunity to smell the amount of alcohol still permeating their system. Everyone within sight of these searing discussions knew what kind of language was being used so no need for volume anyway. In the end the handful of late arrivals were all accounted for and came out of it medium well. I always prefer to leave a little pink in the middle.

"Man 1stSgt, I've heard of face to face counseling; that was a nose to nose counseling!"

All in all the Marine's conduct was quite satisfactory. No one had made a public spectacle of themselves and were all accounted for. Now we had to move on to our next phase of Indian adventure.
More bus rides! Hooray!
Our buses took us through a small throng of cameramen camped out in front of the hotel and toward the airport. This time though we didn't simply go right to the flight line. Since every Ministry in the government of India wanted to be involved in our situation it was decreed that we would go through customs at the Mumbai airport and board our plane. We hadn't been anywhere but the hotel and the tarmac but we didn't want anyone having a stroke on account of skipping a step in the Ministerial Handbook Of Creating More Nonsense.

While disembarking buses in the terminal, local news jockeys attempted to swarm us as American consular types gave them the hand. Our numbers looked good so we entered the terminal in a single file line.

Upon entering the terminal we presented our ID cards and our names were checked off a roster we had been required to produce the day before. We shuffled on to another area where a red tag was affixed to our carry on bags and our names were checked off an identical roster only this time a number was written on our hands with a marker. This was beginning to look like some kind of concentration camp scenario and I was getting uncomfortable. We moved on to the actual customs area where our names were checked off the very same roster again as verified by the number on our hand. Why we had to be cross checked at three different locations within 100 meters on identical rosters will forever remain an unsolved mystery. I suspect the Ministry of Lists requires everything in triplicate.

Finally we went through security, the metal detectors, probes, and all that business. Security dutifully screened us confiscating the odd lighter here and there. Not sure what they were really looking for as none of us were interested in hijacking our own flight. At least we didn't have to take off our boots which I always find is the single most ridiculous practice in airport security. So I will give the Indians that one. Maybe they just haven't thought of it yet.

As we boarded yet another bus we were assured would take us to our plane it occurred to me on this leg of the trip I had actually logged more miles on buses than planes. It was really beginning to get out of hand. Once on board the plane our captain assured us we had a 12 noon departure time.
By 3pm we really started to get angry. Leaders even fired off handed remarks as the stifling conditions only made our mood worse. For the fifth time Monster Vs Aliens played on the screen and it wasn't any better than the first time. Stranded on the runway with no AC or airflow, we sat perspiring in our frustration as our takeoff continued to be delayed for one mysterious reason or another. Again flight plans were submitted multiple times and a tide of Indian officials got on board the plane wagging their heads in authority. More folks pulled up in vehicles outside the bird. What purpose they served remains a mystery.

"How is brining more people to the plane helping? More people need to leave!"

By 4:30pm one of our flight attendants had succumbed to the furnace like environment of our flying sauna and went down. Between her polyester outfit, tights, and no air flow seems she suffered a little heat exhaustion. Luckily, there were well trained commandos on hand to deal with the situation.
At one point a female Gunnery Sergeant stationed in Okinawa remarked: "Man, I'm going to miss my hair appointment." "Well, I haven't had sex with my wife for seven months," came the bellowed reply. It's all about perspective.

Finally the Ministry of Proper Alignment Of Heavenly Bodies gave the all clear and by 5:45pm we finally allowed to depart the fine city of Mumbai and it's various hospitable ministries. We estimate that we spent at least 24 or so hours on the runway as the sloths employed to expedite issues for the Ministry of External Affairs mulled over our case. Utapao, Thailand awaited us and the final leg of our journey.

The Thailand, Okinawa, Hawaii portion of the flight was relatively uneventful in comparison. On the flight line in Okinawa we did have to wait for a new part to be installed in our government contracted aircraft. My understanding it was something technical which would allow us to navigate over the open ocean. We appreciated their thoughtfulness.  The lowest bidder always seems to lead to high adventure.

Three months later I would be stationed in the Persian Gulf on the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Current Status


To all, seems I have been a little remise in explaining my current status career wise. I have gotten some e-mail and a text here and there asking: "You're not in Hawaii? Are you not with 3/3 anymore?"

So officially I guess I have to announce that as of 0800 Dec 2nd America's 1stSgt officially detached from 3d Battalion 3d Marines and is executing orders to Marine Security Forces at the Naval Support Activity in Bahrain. For more info on that see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Corps_Security_Force_Regiment

As for what I will be doing, well pretty much the same thing. I'm a 1stSgt of Marines and will continue my duties in my new company. In the meantime I will be kicking back on a little leave and will eat far too many brownies and cheesecake than is good for me, I am sure.

I recently left Texas where I did nothing productive. Currently in Seattle not doing anything productive either. You should try it.

Semper Fi,
America's 1stSgt

Sunday, December 6, 2009

FLIGHT OF TEARS PART 2: The Mumbai Conspiracy

Marines openly flirted with stewardess as our flight path took us into Indian air space. Theories vary about what actually took place at this point but what I think happened is our brilliant pilot used the wrong call sign talking to the Mumbai tower then tried to use a new one. They caught him in the act. Somehow they found out there were 200 U.S. Marines on board and all hell broke loose. The mental image of a tower full of Indian air traffic controllers losing their minds as 200 storm troopers enter their airspace is comical. Sovereign nations being what they are (petulant children), instead of letting us go home we had to land in Mumbai because now big bad ugly America was violating their air space. Sad part is they were right. It was their air space and they get to do with it as they please. I blame our pilot for the mix up but the joy of the Mumbai experience I lay firmly at the feet of our "allies" in India.

Our Captain let us in on the bad news beginning with how we were too heavy with fuel to land so we were in a holding pattern around Mumbai before we could touch down safely. For the next two hours we cut grid squares in the sky as our pilot explained the UAE really didn't want us back and any other alternative nations didn't want us to overflight either. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs considered this a violation of their airspace and wanted us to land to get all this worked out. This was merely the first of many, many Ministries constituting the labyrinth of India's governing body. It's a wonder anything gets done there really.

Having left Iraq the night before around 8PM we finally landed in Mumbai around 0730 the next morning. We taxied to the far corner of the runway reserved for lepers and other pariah. A shanty town of corrugated shacks were built right up to the wall surrounding the runway area. You could probably leap off the roof of one right on to the runway if you wanted to.

In the meantime we were introduced to Indian flavored bureaucracy as various representatives came on and off the plane asking questions and getting nothing accomplished. At least a dozen times we were asked if we had ammunition on board. Around the thirteenth time I was wishing we did.

The joy of contracting flights to the military is we of course always go with the lowest bidder. This means our veterans get to ride home in planes with no AC and are pretty much held together with duct tape and bubble gum. Even in October Mumbai is HOT. Plus we were on the runway so we estimate it was probably over 110 degrees on the tarmac. With no AC this was a recipe for misery of rather high proportions. Imagine being strapped to a chair that has been bolted to the inside of a dragon's raw throat. Then imagine 199 other guys who haven't bathed in over a day and a half. Ambrosia.

With nothing better to do some of our Marines broke out their cell phones and began to surf the internet. At one point someone let me know we had made the news as "200 Marine Commandos were forced to land in Mumbai after violating Indian air space." It was kind of cool but mostly laughable. Indian news reported 200 commandos were on vacation going to Thailand. Of course the news media is NEVER wrong. I had a plane full of logisticians, truck drivers, clerks, analysts, radio operators, but really, we're commandos. It sounds more newsworthy doesn't it? Shhhhhhh, we've got ninjas!

"I'm going commando; does that count?"

Commandos lounge in overheated economy seats! Lethal I tell you.
At some point representatives from the American Consulate arrived and let us know a good Indian wouldn't be caught dead without a day liberally spiced with healthy doses of bureaucracy. I believe the term they used was IFI: It's Freakin' India. Our pilot must have resubmitted his flight plans a bazillion times to the Ministry of Flight Plans. Fuel had to be appropriated through the Ministry of Bulk Fuels. Heat was free. More and more Indians showed up which resulted in less and less actually being accomplished.

Some 14 or so hours later the brilliant plan to get us to a hotel for the night was finally executed. The Ministry of Buses was contacted and the Ministry of Hotels and Lodging was more than happy to accommodate us. The Ministry of Punching People In Their Face was unable to be reached.

"My wife is going to punch India in the junk."

Some time after dark buses arrived to transfer us to the Hyatt. This was a fine hotel and the staff treated us great. We were served a bounteous feast of local cuisine. Of course, when you pay for 200 or so people to eat and stay the night you're bound to be taken care of. 
 For at least an hour and a half more I dealt with assigning Marines to rooms and explaining this wasn't a liberty port and the government of India really didn't want us here. The Marines stayed in their rooms and were not to wander the city or other nonsense. Our story was also big news locally and the press had been milling around the front of the hotel.

The room was great. The shower was big enough to not require a curtain and you had to take two steps down into it. There was also a knob in the bathroom controlled the TV volume so you could shower and watch the local news at the same time. The top story involved 200 Marine commandos storming the Mumbai Airport. Apparently they were on a holiday to Thailand. Just goes to show the news media never gets the story right.
 Luckily, I had decided to stay up all night and milk all the hospitality I could out of the situation because around 0100 in the morning I was called down to the front desk since the Ministry of Counting People felt there was a discrepancy between numbers of Marines we were claiming got off the plane and how many were in the hotel. So I went room by room and name by name to prove we had who we said we did. Yes, 200 odd Marines landed, but only 192 were in the hotel. Why? We left some on the plane as a watch because it's what we do. What I didn't mention was the crew was also in the hotel because while the Marines were allowed off the plane the crew were not granted visas to stay overnight. Of course, without eight hours of rest the crew couldn't fly. The Ministry of Let's See How Difficult We Can Make This was definitely on their game.

Finally I got to relax in the luxury of my room and watch Rambo on Star Movies, drink some complimentary coffee, and knock out 100 burpees or so.

END OF PART 2

Friday, December 4, 2009

America's 1stSgt Sighting!

Edit: It's Burkapalooza aroung here at the moment.lol.
The children are stoked, it's all kinds of loud and he gets cranky, if you

don't feed him every two hours. As for the pictures, ah well, I suppose

I'll help him out. I mean--since I'm such a giver and all...'sides he's

napping on the couch and he can't possible want or need anything at the

moment. I
have been taking him to my gym. (Pictures

and video to follow or immediately available for a small non-refundable

fee which will post inconspicuously on your next credit card statement.
)

More posts coming. I'll leave this up without a new post until Sunday

afternoon. He's chomping at the bit to post Part II of his trip home.


It is pretty good and don't worry, I'll be posting it, not him.
~America's 1st Handler

Apparently I have been seen lurking in airports throughout America.

Reports are sketchy but from what I can tell I have actually executed PCS orders (Permanent Change of Station) and have left Hawaii and America's Battalion for the last time. I may have left claw marks on the beach.

As usual, cryptozoologists are unable to take a clear photo of the elusive creature known as the "Abominable America's 1stSgt".
Legend has it that if you have been bad, the Abominable will terrorize you in your sleep. Especially if you have been waiting up all night for him.

At any rate Part II of the epic Flight of Tears is in the hopper and will be posted shortly. I actually had to post this one all by myself with no assistance from my handler. Can you tell?

Semper Fi,

America's 1stSgt