|LCpl Leos prepares for an early morning mission|
It is our last day of waiting for this next mission and the mood is slowly shifting from relaxation to business. Our next mission will leave us the most exposed to enemy fire of any so far this deployment. Additionally, it will be a 3 a.m. rise and shine to complete communication checks and prepare to move out at 5am. The young Marines don't have the same mood shift that I go through. My driver, Lcpl Leos, is sitting next to me playing Grand Theft Auto on his PSP. Sadly, this Marine received a Red Cross message yesterday morning that his grandmother had passed away. His family had requested that he be sent home but he informed me that he wished to stay here, which I can completely understand. Sometimes the best coping mechanism a Marine has with such news is the band of brothers surrounding him and taking care of him. The way in which fellow Marines manage to be sensitive and yet, still screw with the Marine in need with an irreverent brand of sarcasm is a work of art, and it is normally just what the Marine needs to continue functioning proficiently out here.
Our 2nd mission is complete, and what a long, painful mission it was. The 0300 rise and shine was originally supposed to transition to a 0500 exit of friendly lines, and a return to base no later than 1800. We knew it was going to be a long day going in, but we had no idea how long it would become. About two hours into our on-site work one of the heavy equipment operators dumped his tram on it's side. Luckily he was not injured, but it was a major setback which turned a 16 hour day into a 20 hour day. As with the first mission, the day was filled with interesting sights, normally provided by the local Afghans. The standing record of three on a motorbike was broken when I caught sight of 4 on a bike shortly after 1400. Other than that monumental achievement, the only noteworthy detail was once again the behavior, performance, and professionalism of my Marines. My two gunners remained in their turrets from the 0500 Oscar-Mike (on the move) to the return to camp at 2300. 18 hours refusing to leave their guns because they are that serious about their job. Marines like the ones I am currently honored to be supervising are what I will miss most when I retire. I doubt I will ever witness that type of drive and dedication again in any other career path.
I currently have the Navy Corpsman in my security vehicle. Naval Corpsmen, or “corpse-men” as our President likes to refer to them, are the medics of the Marine Corps. We have at least one on every mission and the current one is quite a character. He can not only recite entire scenes of most movies, but is quite proficient at applying these scenes to current conversations in the vehicle. You can get a pretty decent impression of a guy when you spend 18 hours with him in a vehicle, and I have to give our “doc” the “Gunny Seal of Approval” so far. He seems pretty good to go. He is from New York originally and was actually an EMT in Spanish Harlem before trading that occupation in to become a Corpsman. He has a pretty impressive tattoo on his forearm detailing the outline of his state of New York with an outline of the twin towers inside of the state. He is extremely patriotic and a staunch conservative. As I stated before, he is “good to go,” as most Corpsmen are.