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, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America

It's the 4th of July, 2011, which means it's been exactly a year since I sat in the dust, my back to a tarp-covered fence that was shading me from the mid-day Afghan sun, and described a little of what it felt like to celebrate the 4th in country.  It has not, of course, been a year since I got back (it's been 115 days and this morning), but it sometimes feels like it.  This year my tuchis is parked not in some moon dust but on my plush microfiber couch, and instead of feeling sweaty and grimy I'm freshly showered (TMI?) and enjoying a typically temperate southern California breeze through my balcony door.  A year, a world, a lifetime - pick your favorite measure of distance, and that's the difference between this 4th and the last.

So as you can tell, it's good to be back.  That answers the most FAQ I get : "how's it feel to be back?"  Others include:
  1. What's it like over there?
  2. What do you think will happen in Afghanistan?
  3. So what do you do now that you're back?
  4. What's next for you?
Knowing me, that's enough questions for four separate posts.  I'll work backwards and see how far I get.

4.  What's next for me is probably another deployment to Afghanistan, exact date TBD but likely in the spring.  In the military, you can't be sure what's going to happen until after it happens, but I'll keep you posted.

3.  Meanwhile, now that I'm back I will do some training exercises...next one is three weeks in Yuma, AZ (where it was 116º this weekend!).  Back at the squadron between exercises, I'm the company intel officer, safety officer, occasional supply officer, get-this-distributed-before-the-meeting officer...I call myself the EEO - Everything Else Officer.  But it sounds like more work than it is, and I'm almost always home by 5PM if not earlier (work starts at 0730 so don't worry taxpayer, you're still getting your money's worth).

 As I said it has been 115 days, so what else have I been doing?

Well when I first got back I took it easy for a few days but within a week, I think, I was starting to PT hard to try to burn off some winter flubber and get ready for the PFT (physical fitness test).  It paid off, as I got a personal best of 20 pull-ups (max score = 20), 100 sit-ups in 1 min 20 sec (max score = 2 min or less) and ran the 3-mile in 20:56 (max score = 18 min or less so forget about that). That may all sound ok, and I was proud of my performance, but I still have a ways to go to meet my goals.  Next test is the CFT - combat fitness test:

CFT: the most painful 2 to 3 minutes of your life

It hurts just to watch.

Anyway, I've also done some traveling, though as most of you know my big road trip that I'd been planning for a year had to be ixnayed.  The reason was that I got in a small car accident (no one hurt or anything) and it took too long to get my car back from the shop.  Nonetheless, I got to spend Passover at my dad's with my uncle and fam, and a truly great time was had by all.  Normally I would post a pic or two here but I don't know what happened to mine...!  VM, do you have any?  AH, did you take any?  If so I want copies.

Shortly after that trip - by plane - I got my car back from the shop (as I told someone at the time, it was like having a girlfriend in the hospital.  I checked on her daily).  Then my youngest brother came for a visit, and we tore up the state of Arizona.  In fact, I have a ton of pics from that trip to share, so that'll probably fill the rest of this post...questions 2 and 1 will have to wait for next time.

So.  We drove out to Sedona, AZ, one of my favorite cities, and spent a week out there leading up to our hike in the Grand Canyon.


 ...Sedona dirt made me a red-head.

Sgt Strike A. Pose

inexplicably puzzled

Arizona: indescribable

Mission Improbable

Scarlet Cowboy

"Feygeles?"  "No, we're just merry."


 COB, day 1

eh...what's up, doc?

Lake Pleasant, AZ.  It was.

COB day 2

Days 3 we were at the rim of the Grand Canyon, and days 4 and 5 were spent hiking into it via the Grand View Trail to a spot called Horseshoe Mesa, camping out overnight, and hiking back out the next day.

On the way

The Grand Canyon.  It is.

 The view from my sunglasses.

Nice shot, E.

A model of the canyon showing our route.

In the pic above, taken from the Grand View trail head, you can see all the way to our destination, Horseshoe Mesa.  If you view it full size, you'll see I added four dots.  The red is the end of the trail, one of the two ends of the horsehoe.  The blue is roughly where we camped out.  The green is where we finally found water after some exciting (failed) attempts, and the yellow I'll explain in a minute.

Starting out

1,216 ft down...just getting started

Don't slip!

toilet paper tuna - Israeli delicacy

some desert flowers

 another desert flower

Along the way we took a little detour to see some old caves.  One of us was too chickensh*t to go more than a few yards in.  The other is pictured below:

To get to the caves we had to scale some pretty gnarly cliffs.  That's where the yellow dot comes in...that's where the cliffs are.  Here are some pics:

Good thing you had that rope.

After the caves, we resumed our trek...

 Incredible views

 remains of an old miners' kitchen


Almost there...

 we made it!

The other end of the horseshoe

My best attempt at a collage of pics to show the view from the Mesa. 

And here's another attempt to capture it.  Nothing really can.



...and terrified.

Just realized we're both wearing our unit t-shirts.  What a bunch of motards.

And it was evening, and it was morning, day the fourth.

After eating carrots for their water content and dreaming all night of falling off cliffs, we woke up the next morning juuuust about ready to find some H2O.  How hard was it to find?

But eventually...


 What we hiked down in our search for agua...

 ...and what we now had to hike back up just to get back to the Mesa.

Leaving the Mesa

What goes down must come up...

 Resting on the way


~3000 vertical feet in 3 hours 11 minutes. 

The next day was Shabbat, so we reflected on the miracle of our survival.  Sunday was the road trip back to the coast, and Monday we unwound as any two elite Jewish warfighters would...

...by shooting Yassir Arafat.

Maybe with two guns I'll hit him.

So.  That's kind of a long answer to #3. Stay tuned for more later!

 Happy 235th, America.

1 comment:

rightofright said...

Two things

First we were really thirsty come morning of the last day

Second there were NO lights in the cave..NONE...good thing I brought that rope

Also you forgot to include the video of us falling off the cliff (lucky for the rope!)