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, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

I haven't posted anything here in a while.  That's because, paradoxically, I've been very busy, and yet nothing has happened that really seems interesting enough to write about.  But I guess it's just that I've gotten used to what we call the "battle rhythm" - basically the daily flow of things that, outside of a combat zone, might seem more note - or blog - worthy. 

Last post was about Israel and R&R.  I got back around the third week of September I think - about 5 weeks ago.  The day I got back, the first of four "sticks" - groups of Marines - of the HQ squadron left Leatherneck to rotate out to the states.  Their replacements had gotten here while I was gone.  Next week, the last of the four sticks will rotate out.  Already, most of the familiar faces have been replaced with new ones.  And despite the fact that most of the replacements get at least some overlap/turnover time, there is certainly a steep learning curve.  As a civilian, if I put in 50 or 60 hours at work I considered that a pretty busy week.  Here, I'd say at least 75% of the Marines put in about (wait, I need to use a calculator here)...84 hours a week (12/day times all 7 long days a week).  Ok Sundays are usually easier - maybe a half day if you can get away with it (I usually can). 

I say all this not to show how hard we work.  We work hard.  Big deal.  But the point is, with that many hours put in, and with ops of course being 24/7, the pace at which things emerge, develop, happen and pass is breathtaking.  It's like a month's worth of events, ops, incidents, etc. crammed into each week.  So the point of my point is that I guess I can understand that it took the new guys a little while to get up to speed.  It was frustrating to see some of them bumbling about, lacking confidence and moving slower than I was used to, but it's gotten better and at the same time I've gotten a little more patient.  There's at least one new unit out here who can tell you a whole helluva lot more than I can about the price of being the new guys.

So back to specifics.  As you've been reading in the press, things heated up here recently and despite the end of the fighting season, they continue to remain pretty kinetic.  I know a recent NYTimes article about how we're making progress against the Taliban down here in the south made some waves a few weeks back.  Obviously I'm limited in what I can say but I'll say this: militarily, I never doubted and still don't doubt that we can win.  That's actually saying something - COIN (counterinsurgency) is not easy to win, especially in Afghanistan, as the Soviets, the Brits and Alexander the Great will all tell you.  But where others fail, the U.S., especially the USMC, can and will succeed - is succeeding, although at a cost that no words can describe.

But all that doesn't mean victory.  In COIN, as just about everyone knows by now, tactical victory is ultimately meaningless unless you can make it stick.  You can only make it stick if the locals buy in and the local security forces can take over the mission.  Both those things take an incredible commitment on our part.  You have to be ready to see it through, and convince the locals that you're going to see it through, so they'll take the enormous risk of joining forces with you.  If you're willing to do that, if you have the strategic as well as the tactical patience, you can win, even in backward, tribal, fragmented, corrupt and utterly inhospitable Afghanistan.  At least that's what I think, sitting here in the relatively safe and cozy confines of Leatherneck. 

Ok I seriously have to get off my soap box.  Back to the transcribing the daily grind.  I have a new Gunny - Gunny D went home and now Gunny M is here.  He's also very experienced, and his fresh perspective on our work out here is invaluable.  At the same time, Gunny D was my first Gunny, and also a truly unique personality in the Marine Corps as far as I can tell - just the right mix of professional and relaxed that I needed to feel comfortable growing into and learning this role.  So I'll miss him, even though his Texas Rangers eliminated my NY Yankees last week.  Ridiculous.

What else.  We did a base defense drill here recently (we do them regularly) and this one got written up by our wing public affairs office.  So if you never really understood what it is I do out here (join the club), maybe this will help.

Also I just got back a few hours ago from a little farewell BBQ for a British unit - I'd worked with some of their MPs on flight line security and was sad to see them go.  That was nice - I didn't get to eat but it smelled great and made me pine for just one (non-non-alcoholic) brewskie. 

So...since tonight is Halloween where most of you are, have a great time, take pictures, and have a cold one for me (as though you needed an excuse).