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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Life after Leatherneck

Some time in the next week (or so) my replacement will arrive.  Some time within a week (or so) after that, I will leave.  A few days later I'll be home.  Could time be moving any slower right now.

But after I get home, and after the 96, the transition week, the check-out/check-in process and so on, I'll head out for my long awaited 30 days of post-deployment leave.  I'm going on a road trip.  Let me explain.

When I was a kid, we went on lots of road trips as a family.  Despite this, I love jumping in my car - alone or with company - and escaping the suffocating tangle of city/coastal traffic for the open road where I can crank up the stereo, soak in the amazing scenery and feel the wind on my highly aerodynamic scalp.

Also I grew up all over as many of you know, and between that and other experiences I've got friends stashed in just about every part of the country.  So this will be a chance to catch up with them (you) as I city-hop.  Clear your calendar, and lock up your valuables. 

Places where I'll be stopping along the way:
  • Grand Junction, CO - just a pit stop.  Don't think I know anyone who lives around here.  Still, the drive through the Rockies should be stunning.
  • Lincoln, NE - where I lived as a kid.  Gonna try to track down some old friends, and of course visit the old neighborhood.  I'll probably swing through Omaha on my way out.
  • Cleveland, OH - another pit stop, I think.  Anyone I know live there?
  • Conway, NH - visiting pappy, celebrating Passover.
  • NYC/NJ - visiting family and friends and writing a love note to Gov Christie
  • DC - nuff said.  I think I'm gonna put together a BBQ dinner one night somewhere, probably Saturday, April 30th so save the date.  Dinner will be followed by merriment.
  • Atlanta - by this point in the trip I should be with my two brothers if everything works out.  Brother 1 lived in Atl so this is mainly for him, however NB I want to see you (for reals this time) and finally meet little P.
  • Montgomery and Mobile, AL - family-in-law, friends (if any even still live here) and hopefully some deep sea fishing.  I haven't spoken to GH and fam about this but if you're reading this - hey!  Let's go fishing.  HHM I don't think you waste your time on this blog but if you do - I'll call you and we'll figure something out.  Maybe I'll drive through B'ham.
  • Then it's cross country to Sedona, AZ - possibly the most beautiful town I've ever seen.  I spent a day at the Grand Canyon when I moved out west from Quantico, but this time I plan to hike down, camp out on the CO river and hike back up the next day.  Brother 1, bring your inhaler.
After that, it's back to Oceanside, CA.  That's the current plan anyway.  PT, I had to cut the Yellowstone piece - not enough time.  But on my next trip I'm going there and hopefully you'll be able to join me.  I'll obviously see you in NYC though.

So anyway, that's the immediate post-Afghanistan plan.  A few of you have asked me what comes next for me, big picture.  The answer, as always in the Marine Corps, is whothehellknows.  But I'll give you my best guess...

I'll obviously report back to my unit, MASS-3, where I've been officially stationed for 2 years this July, but where I've so far spent probably 3 or 4 weeks total, not counting OJT.  So I'll be due for some quality time in my MOS, which is to say doing some exercises and drills and spending lots of time in some auxiliary billet. 

Beyond that, I'm already looking forward to the next thing.  In other words, while training and the like are important, and while I'll certainly enjoy some garrison time after this last year, I didn't join the Marine Corps to sit behind a desk in Southern California.  I joined to sit behind a desk in Afghanistan.  I joined to do the kinds of things you can't do as a civilian.  If I had my pick, I think I'd like to go on a MEU - a 6-7 month float preceded by an up to 6-month pre-float workup.  You get to visit various ports, conduct exercises with allied nations, possibly respond to world crises or, as the 26th MEU is currently doing, deploy to augment OEF in Afghanistan, etc.  While you're on ship, there's a good deal of boredom but it's also a great opportunity to PT, get ahead in your professional military education (PME) and best of all get to know the Marines in your charge and the other Marines and sailors around you. 

Well I think that covers it.  Whether you read this on FB or my blog, if you live in or near a city on the great Morgapalooza 2011 tour, I expect some quality face time.  Tickets are selling fast.

My sweet ride

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clever Title

Just checking in really to let you know everything's still well and post some pics from the last week or so.

We got some rain.  In total about 0.6 inches.  But the ground is so hard here (they call it clay but it's as hard as concrete) that it apparently doesn't absorb much water.  And don't ask me why, but the rain STINKS around here.  I mean really smells. Like poop.

flush flood

I'm still in the DASC - working mornings now, so my days start around 0430 and go till at least 1900.  But I've been so pampered out here, I'm kind of enjoying the challenge and the modest sleep deprivation.  My only wish is that there were no civilian air traffic out here - mostly it consists of old Soviet-era birds flown by drunk Russian octegenarians.  Between their English-speaking skills, slurred speech and decrepit radios our RIOs (radio in/out) alternate between the futile and the comical.

The coldest of the winter is behind us, as I might have already mentioned.  Right now I'm sitting in the sun in I'd guess the high 50's or low 60's.  Feels great.  When I get back, after my long shower and two-day nap I'm going to go to the beach and soak in the sun until I can actually feel the melanoma set in.  Less than three weeks now, and I'm giddier than a school girl with Justin Bieber backstage passes. 

Behind the wire...behind me in 3 weeks.

Oh I almost forgot: shout out to Mr. McL's history class in Maine.  I heard you're being forced to read some of these posts.  If that's true, I'm really sorry.  I'll try to make them shorter.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This is not a drill

It’s February, it’s raining, and I’m inside the one-month mark. Partly, it’s hard to believe that I’m actually counting down days now, instead of weeks or months. But if ever a year felt longer than the sum of its days, this was it, so the fact that February has finally decided to show up has left me more relieved than thrilled.

Just before the rain...

It’s been a month or so since my last post, so first a recap of what’s been going on.

As I’ve written before, the best part of my job is that I have a group of security Marines that I train and employ from time to time. They aren't security Marines by MOS (just as my MOS is not AT/FP - no such MOS in fact), but that just means I have a clean slate to work with, a group of comm, logistics, supply, law, etc. Marines who enjoy the opportunity to get out of their shops and do some quasi-real Marine stuff a few times a month.

Practicing clearing rooms and buildings


Consummate Professionals

One morning last month I got the “this is not a drill” call. In about 3 minutes I’d notified the command deck and called up the SRT (sector response team). They were ready to go much faster than expected or required, and we spent most of the day dealing with the security issue, performing missions we’d rehearsed and some we’d never anticipated. Despite the rumors, contradictions and miscommunications (fog of war, I guess), the Marines performed beyond anyone’s expectations. As always, I obviously can’t share details but I can say that everything turned out fine and everyone is safe.

During the incident


In other news, on 1 Feb we had our post office day, and I sent home (well actually to you BK) two foot lockers full of stuff I don’t need, didn’t know I had and probably won’t keep. But it was worth it, just for the symbolism. I’ll send home at least 1 more foot locker (where did I keep all this stuff??), and travel home with the bare minimum.

Aside from all that, the usual ongoing projects and the constant integration of new units (the MEU is here as you may have read), the main focus has been preparing for turnover. Ultimately, the success of the AT/FP program over the next year will be up to our replacements, but we’ve worked hard to build it up and we’re trying to ensure that it endures and grows once we’re gone.

Also I’ve been back in the DASC lately, and after working off the rust – controlling is an intensive and highly perishable skill – I should finally be earning my HD (helicopter director) qualification in the next week or two. TAD (tactical air, i.e. fixed wing) will have to wait for exercises back home.

So between all that and trying to shed the winter flubber that I’ve put on courtesy of the long tons of junk food you American-types sent us over the holidays, my days have been pretty full. Soon, soon, I’ll get home to my 96, my “warrior transition week” and soon after, my 30 days of post-deployment leave, plans for which I’ll have to tell you about in a future post.

Oh yeah, and I got to play with tanks.