Thursday, December 9, 2010

I remember when I first left for Iraq in 2004, we were sleeping in the airport in Okinawa. I was wondering what it was going to be like when we got there. Everyone who was there not even a year before wasn't really saying much other than it smelled and they hoped we would get into some serious shit. I was going over the notes I had taken from all the briefs we had taken and practicing some of the basic Arabic that I was taught. I was reminding myself not to wave with my left hand, don't show the bottum of my boot and not to talk to the women. I was going over the major holidays that were supposed to be observed while were there, and trying to remember the major differences Sunni and Shi'ites. The company XO Lt. Bann (now a Major) would always come and talk with me and praised me for my willingness to educate myself. He said if I performed well that a lot of awards would come my way and I would have a bright future in the military. He also informed me that it wasn't important if I got to shoot someone and that it didn't mean I was a weak Marine if I didn't. I remember my team leader telling me that if I ever hesitated or did something to fuck everything up he would shoot me himself. I was really nervous to say the least.
When we actually arrived in Al Asad I remember talking to a Sergeant from the ACR unit we relieved, I told him where we going and he merely shook his head and said "good luck", the look on his face was worn and worrisome. Apparently no one really ever went through the small town and made it out without some sort of incident. I didn't really think much of it because I was pretty naive at the time. I was bullet proof. We PT'ed everyday and trained all the time, my first experience outside the wire was doing IED clearing, the old school way. Walking in an echelon formation for miles down the roads in western Iraq. We didn't encounter anyone or anything ever and it was quite boring. That went on until we got the order to move to Rawah. This town that sat along the Euphrates river on a peninsula. We left Al Asad in the middle of the night and drove until we came to a stop where we dismounted and set up for the night. Engineers began to build the berms of our patrol base and the grunts patrolled the city. This was a new experience for me. Not only was I in a foreign country, but I had a gun and I was scared beyond measure.
We patrolled the city for like 6 weeks and nothing really happened. Except we went on raid with SEAL's and some other spooky people. The truck I was on got hit by an IED and it destroyed the front half of the vehicle. It was exciting and scary at the same time. We stole this HMMWV from some engineer platoon at our CP. Lobos was laughing as we set up security on the truck to wait for the tow truck. It came and we made it back to the patrol base, Lobo's left a note on the truck and it said, "Thanks for the truck and sorry about the window", the window was cracked...

I often think about the stupid shit we would do to kill boredom and time. I remember filling sand bags for hours and hours and not complaining because it was something to do.
While in Fallujah we would sit on the roofs and have dance parties, these were both awesome and extremely stupid at the same time. We would hear the same song over and over again. EW would write love letters to our girlfriends back home and talk about what we were going to do when we got home. I remember moving charred bodies and not thinking anything of them, they weren't people, they weren't someones relative. They were masses of burnt shit I had to move because I was a boot and thats what I did. I think back to how much destructive power I had issued to me and it still amazes me to this day. I remember the fight being so intense that you could literally see the air around us darken with the lead flying through the air. You could feel the heat from the fires burning and the smell of the explosive in the air. Oddly enough, I was more concerned about my feet hurting like a son of a bitch and being very thirsty. My team leader was nowhere to be found and often it Naga and myself just going through houses and piggy backing with other teams. I knew I was an annoyance to him but he took care of me, he taught me so much that I can't even begin to tell you.

I often think about how life was so different for me then. I tend to stop realizing that it was just a few short years ago that I was sitting in a house in the middle of Hit wondering what my friends back home were doing for New Years while I was walking around in armor. I laugh at switching from "Pride and Prejudice" to an issue of "Hustler" debating on which one was higher in quality. The most exciting event was pork riblets for dinner and picking on Spencer because he was Jewish and couldn't eat. Mordichi Spencer was his name, he was wall eyed and very Jewish. He had a lof of patience and a good sense of humor. I remember syran wrapping him to his rack and putting a cross at the head of it and watching him wake up and start laughing.

As a sniper you often think of your job as a hunt. You hunt the enemy, you make the situation as to best benefit you and your team. Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "There is no hunting like the hunting of man...", he was right. It's kind of daunting to think about it now. People are complex creatures, especially if they know they are being hunted. You begin to notice things about people that others do not. You can tell a lot about a person just by noticing how they talk to you. You can feel the insincerity in their speech when they say the empathize with you. You begin to notice patterns and behaviors. I don't know where I am going with this...

I can't help but look to the future and get excited. I have had damn good time thus far and I know its only going to get more interesting for me. I hope some people stay in my life and there are some that I can't wait until I no longer have to see them again. To all I wish the best of luck, to those I hope that stay I say hold on, it's going to be an awesome ride...

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