I am an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. All views expressed in this blog are my personal views as an individual and not those of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I wonder where the half-hour goes

It's been...not very long at all since my last update - a few days. But it feels like longer. I'm in country now; got here a few days ago. Generally I think this place is what you'd expect. The base I'm on is enormous, and without a means of transportation (yet) one of the challenges is the amount of walking you do. I've probably been averaging 8 miles a day, not counting my morning run. Actually, the problem is less the amount than the surface you walk on, which is usually either a fine dust/dirt or gravel made of fist-sized rocks. Not good for the weak-ankled. But even though I'm sore, I'm already starting to get over that as my body adjusts.

Ok enough complaining. The best way to describe this place is probably to give you "a day in the life"...at least so far.

I get up really early, even by Marine Corps standards. I'm usually out running by about 4 AM. I run 3-4 miles around a nearby construction site. Then I head back to my room to pick up my shower stuff. I live, currently, with 9 other guys in a room no larger than 400 sq ft. But I'm never there except to sleep so it's not too bad, and it should get better once the units we're replacing head home (I'm excited for them - they've worked hard and deserve a break).

Showering involves a treck to the shower tent or trailer (former = hot water, little privacy; latter = cold water, better privacy). Then back to the room, dress and head to chow. While the heads (bathrooms) and showers leave something to be desired, the chow hall is great. Good selection, food generally edible or better, fresh veggies at the salad bar, decent amount of healthy options.

From there it's off to work. So far this has involved a lot of trecking around, as I've said, since I don't have regular phone or e-mail access (yet) and my job involves coordinating with lots of other units. I try to wrap up my day around 5 or 6 pm and track down some of my friends for dinner. They're about to take over 24 hour ops at their jobs (in shifts of course), which makes me appreciate my freedom of movement and ability to set my own agenda that much more. I'm thinking a two-hour siesta after lunch every day.

Finally, I commence rack ops around 8 or 9 pm, and start it all over again the next day. In country, every day is Monday.

As far as my job, I can't share much in detail but I definitely have enough to keep me busy. I'll be here for at least the next few weeks getting to know my areas of responsibility on base, and then branch out to other places to take a look at what they've got going on. I know this is comically vague but even things that might be OK to share in person are better left off the Internet, obviously.

Well I think that's about it. I've got very limited Internet and phone access for at least the next few weeks, so it will be a while before I can post pictures, etc. If you want to send me stuff, I've posted my address previously, but there isn't too much I need. The PX (base convenience store type thing) is like a trip to a medieval bazaar, but I can generally find what I need, with a few augments sent by mail from my family. Since I don't have Facebook access though, if you want to be in touch, e-mail or this blog are the way to go (leftofrightsite.blogspot.com for those reading this on FB).

Oh, if you're wondering about the title to this post: it's currently 7:20 AM local, and 10:50 PM Eastern. Why Afghan time is a half-hour off from the rest of the world is a mystery to me, but it's a fact that seems full of potential as a metaphor.

Is this where the 1/2 hour goes?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Short layover in the past

My friends know that I've never really been a fan of country music. Today for the first time I learned to appreciate it.

I'm writing this while sitting in a big bar straight out of Heartbreak Ridge, on a U.S. military base in one of the 'stans that seems still to still be nursing a post-Soviet hangover. Somehow, surrounded by members of all the US military services as well as some foreign troops (most notably, Poles), "Should Have Been A Cowboy" and even "All My Exes Live in Texas" put me in a distinctly and comfortingly American mood.


We left San Diego many hours ago - I have no idea how many and with all the time zone changes I'm not really sure how many days have passed. About two, I think, since then it was Monday there and now it's Wednesday here. We flew overnight and arrived in Bangor, ME, where no matter the time of day or night there are always volunteers to greet troops - outbound or inbound. We knew they'd be there, and we weren't looking forward to that awkward moment when someone says "thanks for your service" and you say...you're welcome? No problem? If you knew what I do in the Marine Corps, you'd find someone more worthy to thank?

That last sentiment is one felt by pretty much every Marine I know, no matter their job, and it's one that, I think, causes many of us to avoid as much as possible those conversations with civilians. This time, I'm glad we didn't. It felt good to know that someone got up early in the morning just to be there to shake my hand.

Then we stepped off U.S soil for the last time for a while, and landed a few hours later in Shannon, Ireland. Join the Marine Corps, I heard someone say, and see the world...'s airport terminals. I had the best Smithwick's I've ever had, and flirted with a cute Irish blonde who thought I was "21 or maybe 22." Paid in Euros.

Then back on the plane, a DC-10 (pics to follow in a later post) crammed full of Marines including my once and future unit, MASS-3 (nice to be flying with friends). Seven hours later a day had passed, and we landed, again in the local morning, at our current location, which out of an overabundance of caution I'm not specifying online.

So in all, a long flight to nowhere, interesting only because I've got nothing better to do right now than make it so. Hope you enjoyed my first deployment ranting - many more to follow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Well I'm heading out for a bit - be back before you know it. Pretty much the first question everyone asks on learning this is "how do you feel" or "are you excited" so here's how I feel: excited.

This is after all what I signed up to do. Out of the five other people I shared a room with at TBS (to pick a random sample of newish Marines) I'm the first to get to go, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity. I think we are doing far more good than harm in Afghanistan, both for Afghans and for our own interests, and I hope we can maintain our initiative there long enough to make our positive impact a durable one. I respect others' opinions but that's mine.

A little background info: I'll be in the 'stan for 13 months or so, arriving around the end of this week. Things will be intense at first but should ease up after a few months. I'll be in Helmand province, which is in southern Afg where the recent push in Marjah took place.

Hopefully I'll be arriving just in time to have the Pesach Seder in country. A Rabbi comes several times a year for the holidays, but when he's not there I've volunteered to be a Jewish lay leader, which will help keep me connected to my Judaism in a place not overflowing with Yiddishkeit.

Things I'm having a hard time imagining:
  • no weekends for a year. war's a 24/7 kind of thing, apparently.
  • the wind of 120 days
  • life without my car
  • missing the 2010 season (and #28)
Things I plan to do in my free time:
  • Learn some Pashto
  • Eat some authentic Afghan cuisine
  • Finish my book
  • Start a Kandahar branch of jdate
Things I'll do when I get back:
  • Take a one month vacation
  • Take a two month shower
  • Rock the House harder
  • Volunteer for a MEU (not right away)

Best show on TV

Many of you have generously asked how you can send me stuff while I'm there. I'll have all the basic necessities and then some, but if you think a tin of home-made cookies will raise my morale and that of my friends, you're probably on to something. My address:

2ndLt Me
MWHS-3 Det A (G-3)
Unit 41007
FPO AP 96427-1007

Packages take 3-6 weeks to arrive I'm told. Letters take from a few days up to ten. As for what to send me - use your imagination. The more personal it is, the better.

You can send me "instant" letters via www.motomail.us. I think this is more for Marines who don't have regular access to e-mail, which I should have, but hey if you want to use it, go nuts. Someone in Afg prints your message and it gets delivered to me like regular mail.

My cell will be shut off for the next year. If you call it you should get forwarded to a voicemail service which I'll be checking, but we'll see if that all works like it's supposed to.

I think that's about it. I'll post again next chance I get!

No better friend, no worse enemy.