Sunday, July 30, 2006

Walks in the desert

Today is our one year anniversary, thanks hun for making this year one of the best years of my life.  Looking forward to many more anniversaries in the future, hopefully all of them in your arms.  Our exchange is well stocked on anniversary cards to give to husbands but not a single one for a wife so I hope you like the little gift I had sent to you in it's place.   I'm the luckiest guy in the world, thank you for marrying me.


News on my side of the world?  There's a war going on a little way over the horizon but we know as much as you do about what's going on.  There's a new chow hall on base, mostly the same food but a lot more room and indoor plumbing.  It's pretty nice.   It's been cooler here then it has been in the states, hovering a little over a hundred degrees with zero humidly, it's a dry heat.


I've taken to long walks across the desert on the way home each night, the alone time is peaceful and don't worry, there's a couple of well guarded fence lines between me and the outside world the only thing I have to worry about are the camel spiders and snakes.


Not much to write about this week, I wish I were home with my wife but that's normal, we're well over the halfway mark in our deployment.  I'm glad I'm with a Marine unit, our deployments are only 6 to 7 months instead of a year to 18 months with the Army and National Guard.  They're doing a great job but there is a reason why they're also getting the huge reenlistment bonuses, the Army folk I've talked to are somewhat envious of our shorter deployments.   I'm sure being gone that long away from home isn't good for a marriage.  


Take care everyone!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When I'm on the other side of the globe

Everything strange and interesting happens on the opposite side of the world of where ever I'm at.  When I went to Thailand in January of 2005, all that everyone back home could talk about was these horrible storms and floods washing everything away, when I get home it's warm and dry, the grass is green and the sun is shining.  Now on this trip, hundred degree temperatures stretch all the way across the nation, my home town has had weeks of record breaking temperatures.  Even for those who don't believe in global warming and would deny the entire theory with their last breath might be having second thoughts, what if those guys were right?   


This summer could be a taste of what the future holds if they are.   Imagine, if you will, what would happen if the temperature was this hot or hotter for months at a time, not much different for the deserts that I've been living for the last few years but there's a reason why they're called deserts.  How would our crops and livestock handle these kind of changes?  How about the places that are the borderline states for needing A/C?  With the rising cost of energy, could we afford it?  Would we, as the human race be able to adjust fast enough to cope with the dangers posed?  Or will we let the next person elected take care of it?  As usual, there are more questions then there are answers. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How to get rid of fear by Sean Dustman

I grew up in Prescott Arizona, if you don't know much about Arizona, you might think that the entire state is one big desert. The image you might get in your mind could look like all of those Wiley E Coyote cartoons (there are places like that) but not where I'm from. The northern part of the state is mostly made up of pine forests, grass plains and mountains. Prescott itself is located at a mile elevation and is surrounded by granite mountains, those pine forests and grassy plains. Lots of interesting stuff for a youngster such as myself to get into trouble with.

The summer between my junior and senior year, my group of friends Larry, Jason, Justin and myself, made it a point to know just about every inch of this set of rocks just outside of town called Granite Dells. A rock climbers Disneyland, huge granite boulders scattered over 30 or so square miles of area. Almost every morning, Larry and I would go rock climbing, sometimes Justin and Jason would join us but they weren't the heavy rock climbers that we were. It was always fun showing Justin new places and Jason would always find himself in the middle of some archeological find and wouldn't move from that spot till we drug him away.

After a morning of climbing at near 100 degree temperatures our bodies were in need of some serious cooling off and what better then the cool waters of Oak Creek Canyon by Sedona. A 55 mile jaunt to our favorite cliff jumping spot called Dutchman's Leap. (no I'm not going to give you directions how to get there, some things are private, but I might show you in person if we're ever in Arizona at the same time).

The cliff was a 30 or so foot direct fall off of a beautiful cliff into a bottomless pool (well we never got to the bottom anyway) When we first started jumping, we had to dare each other to jump, standing there, looking down at the water below. I would get so scared that my hands and feet went numb, the fear was so great that it felt like pain. I could taste it in my mouth.

I would take this fear and pile more on it, other fears, fears of dying, rock climbing fears, rocks falling out of the sky, you name it. Till the fear would blot out the world around me and I would get tunnel vision from me to the bottom of the cliff. I would start feeling vertigo, being almost afraid that I almost couldn't stand it for another second. Then another part of my brain, the emotionless analytical part, would take control of my body and calmly take a few steps forward and jump while my conscious mind was wailing like a banshee. When I hit the water, it was like being reborn, the fear was gone and the feeling of relief was almost over whelming and I would run back up the cliff and do it again without the fear and hesitation.

Who needs drugs when you can scramble your own brain without outside help? After the first jump, it was impossible to build up the fear again, I guess all of the endorphins were gone till the next trip. Each trip out there the fear got less and less till one day it wasn't there any more. Leaping became just an act and full of fun.

This was one of the most important lessons I learned growing up. The feeding the fear and the act of pushing past it, each time you do it the fear becomes less and less and it's easier to let the analytical part of your brain take control when the world is going to hell in a hand basket around you. I carry this little trick inside of my head that has helped me through some hard periods in my life.

Back in my early days of flying CASEVAC, the fear never arose because the analytical part of my brain was in control. Doesn't mean that I was emotionless, the fear just never touched me. It didn't matter, flying around in with someone else at the controls, bullets and RPG's flying through the air, I wasn't at the stick and if it ended up being my time, there was nothing I could do to change the outcome on sitting on my butt in the back. Might as well be easy with life and take it as it comes.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Blessed grilled cheese and tomato soup, one of the staples of my diet back home.  I have a strange weakness for dipping grilled cheese sandwiches into tomato soup and they had both of them today at the chow hall.   Which made me a little sad because it reminded me of home, it's the small things that touch you out here and that also make you happy, clean sheets, cold air conditioning and a good pillow (which I think I left at home).


One of my corpsman came back from flying CASEVAC for a month at another base so my crew is back up to 3 corpsman and the flight surgeon.  We can now toss in a day or two off here and there with out it being a strain.  Not that our job is that stressful but it does help to change things around a bit.  


My first two trips out here, nether of my two units had a single broken bone, this trip 6!   Nothing even close to being life threatening but it is notable.  I've chosen a clumsy crew to work with but at least they give me some value for doing my job which the rest of the time is mostly killing trees and typing in Data onto the computer.  


I've moved back to my sometimes beloved swing shift which gives me some quality alone time which after a month of 12's, I'm holding quite dear.  My wife has taken my son Collin on vacation and I'm been receiving briefs and letters of their assorted adventures, I'm able to call he on her cell phone and check it but she doesn't always have access to the internet so the emails volume is rather lean.  Wish I could have been there to join them, they are my two favorite traveling companions, sounds like they are having a grand time.  


I'll be missing my first anniversary in a couple of weeks.  People who think that we're getting paid too much?   What monetary figure can you attach to spending all of these holidays, anniversaries and birthdays away from our loved ones?  Add on to that that chance that there could be a bullet or mortar with our name on it?  It's just another day but those days do add up, the missed memories and special moments that could have been.  I'm sticking with the job but it's definitely not for everyone.   I'm extremely lucky to have landed such a wonderful wife who's doing a great job at keeping the home fires burning.      


War's expensive which I think is a good thing good thing, the value of a human life should be worth a lot of money and not thrown away cheaply.  Every one of us is a book that has been unwritten, every loss is a possible Einstein.  I can't talk bad about the people who preach peace, I might not agree with them but I can't hold it against them that they don't believe in killing another human being.  It doesn't make them un-American, it makes them human.  That doesn't mean that they are right or that they're always wrong but there are some things worth fighting for, justice for the attack on the Twin Towers and fighting this organization who started it all by killing innocents without cause which put us on this war footing in the first place.  Should we have sat backsit back and let them get away with it?  This isn't about religion, yes they were part of one religion but we're trying to fight the mindset these terrorists have and to let them know that we won't let anyone get away with the acts that they have done.  Now they're reaping what they have sowed.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

War down the street

Is it making you guys back home as edgy as it is making us to read the news about the what's happening in the middle east? Not Iraq, we've been pushed back to page 3. Being deployed out here and reading about the largest Israeli offensive to happen in 24 years taking place only a couple of hundred miles from where I'm sitting is a bit disturbing considering the powder keg that we are sitting on. What I'm saying here isn't anything you can't read out just about any paper but I'm viewing it as a common Joe on the ground. These are merely my views, not the views of anyone else out here, we could be at a cusp of a possible Holy War, it's not the first time the world been here and not the last but the weapons are getting bigger. Countries shooting at each other, money and weapons flowing back and forth over borders, polarized populations who want that want to wipe the other off the face of the earth and these folk are all surrounding me? Am I wrong to be a little spooked?

How do I view what's going on down the road? If you keep poking a tiger in the eye with a stick from the other side of a wooden fence, eventually that tiger is going to get pissed and knock the bloody fence down and eat you. I'm not saying if making the decision to start this offensive is right or wrong but with anybody there is a point when the last straw is tossed on the camels back and when the line in the sand has been crossed too many times. Every time I see a cease fire announced, it makes me think about the story of the turtle and the scorpion crossing the river, "it's my nature".

Hezbollah and Hamas have been poking this tiger for a while, wanting it to strike back so they can get more people of like mind involved. Only this is a tiger that's been fed with the best of American arms, training and has been backed into a corner without a place to retreat to. American armed forces whom many consider the worlds premiere fighting force use many lessons that they have picked up from the Israelis. If we equipped our passenger jets like theirs, 9/11 would never have happened. Many of our cool new medical products were developed and used first time in combat in Israel. Books written by their generals are on most military reading lists, specially lately with urban warfare tactics being used, these guys know how to make war.

Israel has the highest percentage per capita of military people in the world. Their intelligence forces are the boogie men of the spy world and they've been sharpening their knives and taking down names for half a century. The places they've bombed this week? They have probably been on a battle plan "A" for years. The reason why they don't have troops to Iraq for either Gulf War? Because the rest of the world didn't want to open up Pandora's Box, bad things will happen. Saddam shot a bunch of scuds at them during the first gulf yet they held their peace when they could have laid waste to much of the this country. Now something has set them off, watch the news, hopefully those bad things that I'm imaging don't happen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because there's a world of difference between being in this war and being in that War.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I miss good food

Another dry and dusty day in the desert, we're in another lull of injuries.  The entire squadron had a day off Monday and we threw a bar-b-q where there were steaks that were actually quite tasty unlike the boiled pieces of meat that share the appearance and steak name that they serve at the chow hall but really taste and feel like leather.   It takes a fare bit of skill to make a good piece of meat that inedible.  Contrary to popular belief about being in a war zone, it is easy to be a vegetarian out here, actually it's quite easy to imagine how someone would get fed up with the mystery meat products and decide that flesh isn't good for you anymore


I'm just going though my mid deployment gripes, don't take me wrong, the food is worlds better then they had the first go around and what other military has at least one seafood night per week at the chow hall?   It's one night I always make it down the hill.  I can't say too many bad things about the prime rib either but their interpretation of oriental or Mexican food needs much work.   I stick with the vegetarian or fast food (fried foods) those nights.


Breakfast usually consists of waffles (they must have bought stock in the company that supplies them because they would go out of business on the civilian side of the house) or pancakes (which are good), scrambled or boiled eggs (you always know what's in a boiled egg), some breakfast meat product, low bidder bacon (another brand of food that wouldn't make it in the civilian world), sausage pucks or regular sausage (which isn't that bad).   


Tell you the truth, the food isn't too bad, it's just not exciting for this poor Thai boy's taste buds as the grub I put on my table back home.  Trips halfway gone and before long I'll be going out to eat with the lovely wife, there is light at the end of this Iraqi shaped tunnel!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rip Acidman

I've been a follower of Rob Smith for a couple of years, he's one of the grandfather bloggers, a sure sign that I haven't been blogsurfing is I missed his death, godspeed Rob, you left your mark on all of us.

Boring life..

I haven't been blogging much because there's not really much going on in my life.  Much of what I'm doing these days is routine, taking care of the illnesses and so far, minor injuries of a helicopter squadron.  I'm not flying CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) so all of the war stories I experience are either second hand or through CNN.   We have had some broken bones, not of a serious nature.  Biggest culprit?  Riding bikes and getting in fist fights with walls.   If you're coming out here, remember all of the gyms have punching bags, walls out here are all made of solid concrete and are therefore dangerous, unless you are Superman or the Hulk, a wall is always going to win.  


Even though we're deployed to a war zone, most of my Marines have not seen any action except for the aircrew flying and that action has only been muzzle flashes.   Three trips out here with 2 different squadrons and what does that add up to?  Zero discharges of any of our personal weapons either by accident or on purpose.  Unless they came they came from the grunts, 95 percent of us haven't even looked a bad guy in the eye. 


Last month, all of the troops were required to go through Values Training to reemphasize our core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment following the following the fallout from Haditha.   Every single thing they went over are values that are supposed to be ingrained in us being members of the United States military not to mention that it should be just common sense and decency for most human beings.  For my unit, we first experienced Haditha like most of you, through CNN and other news channels, then though official messages about personal conduct.  We don't have any contacts with the locals so there's little or no chance for my guys could be involved in any sort of act that could be labeled an atrocity.  Just because we haven't been outside of the gate, doesn't mean that we won't though.


My thoughts on Haditha?  Finish the investigation and throw the book at the guilty parties.  We're supposed to be the good guys and after spending 12 years of my life in the military, I have yet to run into anyone who would tolerate behavior like that.  I wouldn't do it nor would I let anyone around me do it.  But on the same token, punish the guilty parties.  Don't find scapegoats all the way up and down the chain.   How can you blame the commander or a SSgt who wasn't there because there's a psycho hiding in the ranks?  Maybe if there is a past history of that fellow or squad doing that sort of thing and there was no corrective action.  Considering part of our job could involve shooting people, of course we're a lightning rod for a horde of wanna-be serial killer sociopaths enlisting with itchy fingers just waiting for the moment when they can snuff someone and not get in trouble.   Iraq is turning into a breeding ground for those wackos, ten years ago, you had to go through a lot of work to find footage of a beheading, now they are all over the internet.  Whether it's us or them, this kind of behavior is evil!  Do you think your god appreciates you lopping off the heads of these tied up captives for disagreeing with you?  If he does, that's not a religion I want to belong to and would have no problem snuffing out under my heel.  


My point is that there are enough bad guys out here without us importing more and as a general rule, US troops don't kill innocents.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tito, RIP

I’ve had camel spider we have named Tito secreted away in our back room, living in a terrarium for the past month (the room is a converted bathroom that smells like swamp gas, no one goes in there unless they have to). Usually camel spiders don’t survive long in captivity according to my prior experiences and what I’ve read on the internet. For a month, he’s eaten everything that the night crew guys would throw in there, scorpions, lizards, other camel spiders, there’s spider legs and scorpion tails littering the entire bottom of the cage. But there were also lean times, sometimes he wouldn’t be fed for 4 or 5 days in a row. At the time, I couldn’t help much. Everything living out here is nocturnal and I’m a day crew guy.

before picture

Earlier this week I tried an experiment with dental floss and chicken. I tied a small piece of chicken to the floss and bop him in the head and he would lift his mouth and gobble it up. I could very well be the first guy out here to get a camel spider to eat dead food. Finally our food troubles are over and I don’t have to worry about the poor guy starving to death. With all good things come a price, a couple of days of me fattening him up and his body was getting to big for his legs to let him run like he used to. But he would happily eat what I offered him.

I came in this morning to find this written on the white board on my wall “Tito was murdered in cold blood!!! The proper training wasn’t done for a fight of that magnitude and had just came off of a hard fought victory, this is a sad day in the world of fighting, is there no justice??!!!” – Chaves (co-owner/trainer/manager and friend).

They killed Tito!
I ran into the back room and there was Tito lying in the cold embrace of death and his murderer cowering in the corner. A black scorpion who was a third of his size, sigh. I know how that teary eyed guy in Jarhead felt when his scorpion was killed.

Tito After :( (embalmed in fiberglass)