Friday, April 30, 2010

Part I 'I can't roll without memory'

I took this image of the desert sunset 19 years ago then I recreated it again the other night. Amtracks and soldiers silhouetted on the glowing horizon Back in our hole for the last few hours that we would be in that place in time we watched as the earth's rotation gave us the perception of yet another setting sun. Not long after midnight our gun team began to help load the track with the squad from First Platoon that we had been attached to. Ours was one of three gun teams from Golf Co. assigned to provide support for the riflemen of First Platoon. In the dark we strapped our packs to the lateral top rail on the outside of the giant armored dragon. Word came down to not break open the charcoal suits but be sure to have them close by along with your gas masks when we pull out.

To the best of my recollection there were twenty two of us and two Crew Members in the buttoned up track as it lurched forward to form up in column with the rest of Golf Co. spread out on another twelve machines. We rumbled over the sand for less than an hour and then the column stopped once for a gear adjustment and piss break before we reached the berm. The site outside the vehicle in the pale light of predawn was eerie and extraordinary at the same time. Dozens of dark Amtracks making up the other three companies of the Battalion silently sat spread out with their back doors dropped in a long line on the flat desert plain. The column was running north/south in a long line that kept on going as far as I could see. The human occupants of the vehicles milled about in the shadowy darkness smoking if they had them and talking in groups. To the ones far away in the front I must have appeared similar to them as they looked back down the line. Dark figures in the desert were moving around but never wandering too far from their tracks.

I remember that all of us were aware that we were very close to the left hand breach that led to Kuwait. We stood outside the vehicles as time passed expecting to be told to put on the charcoal lined suits and rubber boots. That order never came. Instead, out of the grayness calls came down the line to, "Mount up Golf Company, BN 2/4 is rolling."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Part I 'Crystal Clear for the time being'

You are looking at a picture of our track behind our final position in Saudi Arabia that I took a few days before the ground operation started. I have been meaning to tell you that the Amtrack Unit lucky enough to be our support for the entire Desert Shield/Storm time warp was a Reserve Unit from San Antonio Texas. I remember them being a bunch of tea total goof balls as well as powerful humans who more or less kept those machines running through some harsh conditions with heavy loads.
On the afternoon of February 23, 1991 we were summoned from our man made sand burrows along with our Amtrack Support for a Company formation. The Arabian sky was clear blue with the exception of a few high clouds. The op-order came down from our Company Commanding Officer, Captain Steven W. Davis. In an effort to capture the authenticity of the moment Capt. Davis' call sign will be Spartan for the rest of this document. Spartan told the Company that everything was set for us to move through one of two breaches that were about to be plowed and hopefully cleared of mines by the morning. In the early morning hours of tomorrow we would be going in through the left hand breach and once across the berm we would be in Kuwait.

At that point we would continue moving methodically north, picking our way to the Battalion's objective which was the intersection of an east/west highway and a large agricultural facility in western Kuwait City. Spartan conveyed that he believed from intelligence reports that the air campaign had destroyed the command and control of the entrenched Iraqi Army Units that we would be facing. He let us know that the idea was that without a command to give them orders, the soldiers that have survived the thousands of sorties will not have the will to fight. As he continued to read the orders we learned that there was also an expectation from higher command that there would be some friction points along the way. Command prepared us physically and emotionally for the worst case scenario, a planning technique that I unconsciously still use today in my decision making mind.

Spartan ended his address to Golf Company by wishing us, God Speed. There was a Hoorah from us in response then we made our way back to the line. I cannot remember exactly what I was thinking during those minutes but I do recall all of a sudden someone to my left shouted, "Look!" I stopped along with those around me as we watched two A-10s screaming towards us from the north a few hundred feet above our heads. They were loud and appeared thick like the gun ships that they were. As soon as they crossed our line flying south fast, the one in the rear cut a wing to wing barrel roll so close to our position that you could see the war ready jet airplane's upside down cock pit as it passed by gleaming in the bright white sun. Friends looked around in disbelief but our now was so real that we could not help but take notice. Taking notice of what is going on around me has become another effect of my experience in the Marine Corps.
Thus far I have made three post edit corrections:
April 22 entry in paragraph 5 December has been correctly changed to January.
April 22 entry in paragraph 5 months has been correctly changed to weeks.
April 26 entry in paragraph 3 second to last sentence the word 'excepting has been correctly changed to 'accepting'

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Part I 'Watching the slowly growing sparse desert grass, while occasionally herds of brown riderless camels pass'

A herd of camels passes close by our position. Marines were curious about these hump back creatures that most of us had only seen in pictures or the zoo up until this deployment. Photo by me, Feb 1991. The lines you see across the sky are not overhead wires. Something bad happened to this roll of 35mm film in between unloading it and getting it processed back in the States months later. After that night we moved twice over the next three and a half weeks to arrive at our final defensive position five miles south of the border of Iraqi occupied Kuwait. It was around the 15th or the 16th of February when we dug in this spot that would be our last home before we rolled into Kuwait to meet what was left of the decimated, hungry, uninformed and generally confused Iraqi military force. Up until this position our Amtrack transportation support stayed far behind our hole, sometimes over 100 meters back. At this location these huge armored amphibious tractors dug in right behind us by using hard left and right turns without moving the track forward or back. Full throttle side to side power caused the heavy machine to grind itself into the soft sand. I watched as every few minutes the giant beast would back out of the nose down hole it was creating and then its crew would jump down in with shovels and go to work. Then the track would drive back down and continue the side to side shift that eventually left its roof even with the desert floor. It looked buried in under a half hour of effort.

While time at this spot seemed to stop for us, the planes continued their round the clock bombing runs prepping the battlefield in Kuwait and Iraq. The daytime sky was crystal clear and there were little sporadic tufts of green grass growing out of what once had to be the ocean's floor but now was a vast sandy plain. We knew that as close to the Kuwaiti line as we were that an op-order had to be only days away. In the meantime we were issued more ammunition for our crew served and personal weapons. The long days of time standing still were filled with the monotony of all final preparations for going into the ground combat design created by the Bush Administration in cooperation with the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud. One day they called us to formation behind the line of buried Amtracks and defensive positions to issue us up to six frag grenades per person. I am not sure exactly how or why but I wound up with two and by the end of the day I figured out where to carry them when it was time to go in. The pockets of my flack jacket were accessible through the sand cammie cover and I was not worried about the spoons hanging on anything because they would be safely taped and tucked in against the lining of my pocket.

Then a day later brand new charcoal chemical suits were delivered to our team's hole and the track crew directly behind us. Our little chain of command told us not to break the new suits out of the foil packages until we were told to do so. We were also given new filters for our gas masks around this time. Not one day went by during the previous two months that we were not reminded about the potential threat of Chemical weapons being delivered to us in the form of Scud Transfer. The Biological and Chemical Weapon possibility of attack against us was open communication that came across as matter of fact as, "Please pass the potatoes."

Another day passes and we were given more food in the form of MRE. Break em down, field strip them and tuck them in your packs where ever you can. Make sure they are in the least amount of packaging so as to make room for more. Here are a few examples of our choices: Ham Loaf, Turkey Loaf, Chicken Tetrazzini, Dehydrated Beef Patty, Dehydrated Pork Patty, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Chocolate Chip Cake, Orange Nut Cake, Fruite Cake, Apple Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter. Good Stuff.

Everything that we were issued came in the form of a corporate business contract. I made this photo of all my contracted gear shortly before receiving the op-order to move with the rest of 2/4 into Kuwait. The theoretical date of this image based on what I see is the afternoon of February 23, 1991. Notice that I used duct tape on the spoons of my two lonely grenades.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Part I Interruption Already

I explained at the beginning of this B-Log shift that I would interrupt the new story line when synchro deemed fit. In this case I have double synchro.

Two pertinent bits of data have come my way in the last 24hrs that I would like to share with you.
A reliable human intelligence source told me yesterday afternoon that the news not news was reporting that in recent days Iran had launch tested 5 missiles. More importantly what the news not news wasn't really talking about was that in addition to the missile tests the Islamic Regime also mobilized 50,000 troops for a multiple day combined arms exercise.

Last night St. Lissa asked me to go to Ms. Arcen's school web-site and write down her spelling words for this week. Normally St. Lissa does this function from her work machine but because of some schedule changes I was asked to help with this for the first time in months. We do not have a printer here at the estate so I took out a pad of paper and went to the site. Unbelievable, I thought to myself when I went to write down the list of words that my 5th grade daughter and the rest of her class are about to learn how to spell.

This week's spelling words are:

commander in chief

On the morrow the story of what happened after the Gunny left that night will continue.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Part I 'The Dialogue' continues...

I made this picture of Jimmy sitting on the wall of our trench in January of 1991.
The jingling sound of Gunny Demby's deuce gear clips came louder out of the darkness as he walked in long strides across the desert floor. He was a cat in human form that knew how to walk upright. Back at Camp Lejeune I had witnessed him on several inspections run at and leap onto the top of a wall locker in a triple bound landing on all fours in that small space above the locker but below the ceiling. His African American heritage gave him light brown skin and the physical build of an unusually tall long distance runner. The three of us watched Gunny jump down into our hole out of the night with his M-16 rifle slung across his flak jacket covered back. I could make out his wide and very much awake eyes that looked out from under the rim of his Kevlar helmet which was strapped tightly onto his bald skull. Gunny D was the machine gun section leader for our platoon and without prior announcement he would randomly walk the line to check on his Marines.

Tonight's visit was different, he was about to reveal a side of his life learning that he had not shown us before. Come to think of it, that night Gunny was around the same age that I am now. The first thing he said was his standard, "How are you Marines doing tonight?" I spoke for the three of us by letting him know that we were just counting north bound planes and wondering what would happen tomorrow. Tomorrow we all knew would be one day closer to our inevitable confrontation with the 'enemy' who was sitting in their holes in the sand facing south towards us a few hundred miles north of where we were sitting facing them.

It was at that moment that he reached into his cargo pocket and pulled out a small hard bound book which under the dim light of the desert night sky looked older than he was. It was a copy of Michel de Nostradame's Les Propheties of which the first edition appeared in 1555. Then he asked us if we knew about Nostradamus' prophecies or if we had seen any of his sketches. I had heard the name but until that night I had never read or seen any of the 16th Century French Apothecary's work. Gunny sat down on a sand bag in our hole and went on with his story of how he came to understand the works of Nostradamus. Hearing this translation under the stars in a hole in Saudi Arabia towards the end of the 20th Century was quite the crack out. No matter if you believe your own beliefs or not, reality is always something that is constant and directly in front of you. It's just a matter of accepting it without judgement based on where it fits in against your own expectations. He opened the book and started reading from certain pages under the low beam of his flashlight.

Of course I do not remember everything that he transferred to us that night but some of what he said soon became apparently real as we moved our way north over the next month and then on with our lives years later straight through the present now. Gunny read to us about fire breathing locusts, religion, Persia, Iraq, Iran, the leader with the purple turban, rocks shaking, leaders from the west and an empty book representing the future of mankind. After each subject Gunny D would show us these little bizarre sketches that represented Nostradamus' visual reference for the words that he expressed. He went on for awhile trying to connect for us the relevance of Les Propheties in the context of historical events up until that place in time where we were sitting in our hole about to face the leader with the purple turban.

The real question Gunny posed to us was specifically related to our presence in Arabia as active participants in the first of three wars that will be fought between the Christianity/the west and what could be understood as Islam. When he finished the readings he put the book back in his cargo pocket and asked us if we had any questions. I remember saying something along the lines of, are you saying that Nostradamus' prophecy has us participating in the beginning of the end? He thought for a minute answering with another open ended question, "What else could all of this be for?" Gunny chatted a little while longer then pounced up and out of our hole to the desert ground above us. His form disappeared into the night accompanied by the jingling chime of his H-Harness clips. For the rest of our tour between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait none of us ever talked any more about Nostradamus' Les Propheties, not even the Gunny.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Part I 'The Dialogue'

January 1991 somewhere in central Saudi Arabia. From right to left: Glenn 'Jimmy' Hendricks, Edgar 'Curtie-Wertie' Curtis and me. Photographer unidentified. A nation is only as strong as its trees-MJM

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's interior did not seem to have any at all from the 360 degree view out of our third three person fighting hole north of Riyad where we had landed on the peninsula in December. I know that it is a mistake to get caught up in the past, however this regurgitation of the events that took place in late 1990 and early 1991 are directly connected to our now.

In all directions there appeared to be nothing but sand. Occasionally it was rolling in undulating dunes but primarily the soft tan sand surface lay flat all the way to the endless horizon. At this point of Operation Desert Shield about to become Storm I shared my hole in the ground with two other Golf Company 2/4 Marines. They were none other than Glenn 'Jimmy' Hendricks from Savannah Georgia and Edgar 'Curtie-Wertie' Curtis from Fort Smith Arkansas. We were an infantry machine gun team and at the same time friends stuck in a hole in the desert.

Collectively we knew nothing about why we were where we were other than what we had been told by our command. The daily repeated story line from the top went down the chain something like this: It was going to be our job as part of the 2nd Marine Division to help liberate the Kuwaiti people from the Iraqi occupation that started in August when Saddam invaded with his third largest army in the world. Somehow the darkness of the unknown kept us ignorant to the truth at that time. We were counting on what they were telling us because we needed to know or at least it seemed as if we did.

While we sat in our subterranean hole at this particular spot the tactical destructive sorties continued over Iraq and Kuwait around the clock. These air run bombing missions controlled by the USA started in January and continued through the start of the ground war on February 24, 1991. During those few short weeks the coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure in Iraq as well as specific military targets in Kuwait. The air campaign was superior and relentless. Think about that amount of ordinance in that time span over that specific area in the world.

At night the desert was softly lit by the infinite number of stars expanding outward into the blackness of space. Our home the Milky Way was completely visible as it snaked through the middle of the night sky. Most nights the three of us would stay up late smoking cigarettes, talking and wishing that we were somewhere else. We had been in the field for a month and it had been that long since a real shower and real food. Even though folks from ours and other 2nd Mar/Div units were occupying similar holes to our left and right roughly every 15-20 meters, at night our little gun team seemed completely alone in the quiet shadowy desert landscape.

Looking up from this spot into the night we started to notice the lights on the planes headed north on their bombing runs. Sometimes there was only one or two planes flying away from us but we often were able to count over twenty at a time. As they made their way north one right after the other in line their small lights blinked red, green or white. At some point in front of us without warning the lights would be shut off for tactical reasons and the planes would just disappear like they had evaporated into the infinite universe. Jimmy and I would talk about what it must be like to be up that high and travelling so fast with bombs on board. It was unimaginable but we were kids wide awake and needing something to talk about. Time would pass. We would concentrate on the sky and every time at some point the plane's lights would be apparent again. This time the jets without their payloads were headed south on the return flight to air bases in the center of the Kingdom.

I will never forget what happened one particular night while we were sitting in our sand hole watching the star filled sky for aircraft. It was late and once again we were wide awake so the noise approaching from our right seemed to warn us of the unexpected visitor that we were about to have.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Time for a B-Log Change

I have been thinking about doing this for a long time and realized my now is today. The catalyst for this about to be B-Log transfer came the other day when someone stronger than me looked into my eyes and asked what I perceived to be the open ended question, "So, you go political on your blog?" In an effort to convey the truth as I have learned it to be, I will attempt to accurately give to you what I see as our present global situation over the next days and perhaps weeks.

My observations are collectively based on but not limited to my experiences in the military(1987-1991), the time that I have spent abroad immersed in foreign cultures, watching this fine nation's progress with open eyes and reading the work of authors like Stan Goff, Thomas F. Ricks, Steve Coll, Lawrence Wright, Ward Churchill, Steve Fainaru, Chalmers Johnson and Jon Krakauer to name several. The honest information that these journalists have put out there for me has formed in my mind a not so simple but very detailed understanding of what we as a collective nation have created as the world leader, the greatest nation on earth.

As well over the years there has been many smart individuals who have influenced my thoughts as a result of very open and sometimes often conversation. Some of my deepest conversation transfers have been with people that I have only spoke to once or twice. However, I do have a small group of intellectual friends who I have known for what seems like a life time and who have always been there to shed light on present events. This corps group keeps me fed with honest observations round the clock just as I do for them. Sometimes I speak with these folks once a day over coffee or in passing, others I may go weeks without hearing from until the timing forces us to learn together. The most important thing that I recognize about this group of friends is that each of us are able to drop attachment barriers and simply listen to the other communicate in honest terms what he or she is seeing happen all around us at this present moment.

As this story unfolds my B-Log will start to look a bit different. In an effort to keep you the reader interested I plan to keep the daily posts rather short but very much packed with honesty and transfer. This true story will not be limited to any number of characters, words, posts, emotions, thoughts, boundaries or the like. It will run consecutively from one day to the next which will hopefully raise your curiosity enough to look forward to reading the next day's entry. I may break in occasionally with a post not in the story line because real life around me will continue and something may need to be shared that is out of context to the series but related on some level. After any interruption or absence of a post I promise to do my best to pick the story line back up and continue the march as long as I feel good about its progress.

In theory Part I starts toonmorrow, I hope to see you there.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

Courier overheard a word phrase of the week: God Therapist

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

George W. Sympathizer Revealed

The haunting memories of my time covering the Tea(bag) Party Rally in Charlotte the other day are still vivid.

When I first looked through the lens and saw this sign I was in total shock. It was preposterous to think that anyone, let alone 'We' could be missing the two term modern President who won his seat by stealing not one but two elections for the people, by the people, completely over the head of the people.
I had to move around to get a better angle on the shot so that I could see the face of this valiant soul carrying such a sentimental sign of longing for the former President that gave him and us and the people of Iraq so much. When I stepped to the left I almost tripped over this lady on the grass taking in her fifth Grit of the rally.
Ah, there you are Mr. Not to be Tread Upon. Take a good look folks that way when you run into this witty fellow you can thank him for his deathless dedication to the truth which has created countless innocents dying in the far away place all in not so fair trade of 2.79$ a gallon here. Under the endless waving Banner of Nationalism to be worn is to be expressed, bought, sold and claimed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Weekend/Two Rides

I considered myself lucky to be on the early train in BSC(backseat class) out of the Jar for Pisgah on Saturday morning. Dicky, Jerry and I were headed up to the Turkey Pen Trail parking area to meet Eric W., Sophie Dog(the strongest Enduro Dog in the East), Drew, the other Eric W., Bill Nye, Lance, Eric C., Mike, Mark and The Original Big Ring himself. Mark and the OBR were all the way here from Canada eh!

We rode down S. Mills out of the parking lot and across the bridge for Mullinax up to Squirrel Gap Trail. The air was prefect and the trail was dry. Eric pointed out to me the little pass that we went over where Squirrel changed from a wide long straight trail to a more narrow twisty mountain trail. I had no problems staying upright until in a fast inside left turn I was pulled down and to the left causing me to bail before I wound up broken in the bottoms. When I hit the dirt covered planet with a plump thud I felt like I had made contact with the molten center of our earth. Although I usually bounce when I crash, this one left my center body rung.

The rest of the ride was good and without any more scary crashes. On the way back across Squirrel we descended to the left on Laurel Creek which I do not ever remember riding. It was a fun downhill that led us to Bradley Creek. Eric was right, our feet got wet and so did our bodies all the way up to upper thigh high on us short guys. Bradley felt clear, clean and cold as it washed the dried dark dirt off of my legs from the mud pits up on Squirrel.

Something happened on this ride that was unusual for me. I did not take the little big Sony out of my pack and make a bunch of pictures. Sometimes there is just not a lot of time on the ride to be able to photographically convey the transfer. This was one of those occasions. However, I managed to pull it out on Bradley Creek and take a few snaps.

Jerry provided me with this digital re-representation of our Mountain Bike Ride on Saturday. Looks like 21 miles covered with over 3,000 feet of ascent or roughly the height of 4 Bank of America Corporate Centers stacked on top of each other.
Dicky leads us across Bradley on one of the many creek crossings that took us to the Squirrel up connector.
Looking good fellas....
What's left of the group outside the lunch place. Apparently Mustachios stick together and look out for each other in public situations. I witnessed a senior rather thick Mustachio without provocation pick up the lunch tab of the only other Mustachio(albeit a thin junior one) in the room. The Mustachio High Sign, it works, they take care of each other.
On Sunday Ms. Arcen and I rode from behind Bicycle Sport down Brandywine for the Greenway that took us to Freedom Park and on to its present end at Moorehead. It was interesting to watch her work in a bit of a crowd the closer we got to and in the park. She never missed a dirt side trail on the cruiser. We were out for a few hours before we made our way back to the car.
It was a great ride with my kid whose 11th Birthday is today. Here she is close to the CMC end of the Little Sugar Creek. Passing by someone was not a problem.
In the little neighborhood connector by Freedom.
Here she is about to cross a bridge.
On that bridge she looks small.
Ms. Arcen took the following set of me traversing an undulating rock nodule.
Setting up the line.
Perfectly up and on.
Across the gap from the little rock to the main one.
All torque from a complete dork.
Now for the transition off of the rock burble to the grass.
Look at my arms, do I need a license to be carrying those guns??
Ms. Arcen on the classic Charlotte climb: The Col de la Brandywine.
She handled it in fine form as we ended our Sunday ride up there on Selwyn.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Charlotte Tea Party Photo Coverage

What a Tooney Day yesterday turned out to be starting with this pop up throw away display on the square. That damn rabbit has been following me since last month. Later in the day I went down to document the Tea Baggers congregating across from the City Government Center on the lawn of the Older than the old Courthouse. All of a sudden I saw this image and took the shot. This happened yesterday, not 60 years ago.
My post today will be photographic. Sure I may introduce a particular image with a smart ass comment or two but I will refrain from writing my thoughts on the seriousness of our now. I ask that you simply look at what was really happening on 4th Street in Charlotte yesterday afternoon. Take the whole image in to the quanta of the energy that brought it in front of me to share with you.
The Tea Party Movement.
Everyone was either carrying some sign or wearing some sort of catchy metaphor or a lot of times they were doing both as if they actually believe in their control over it. I noticed that none of these words seemed to be theirs but they did take ownership of them.

Paul Revere's Great Great Great Great Great Grand cousin three times removed was there.

This kid was making an emergency sign that is already in the trash to counter the rally goer below. As far as I was concerned everyone participating in such toonery was an impostor.
This guy hung his Tea Bag sign over the heads of many.
Check out the T-Shirts.
My question relates to the ownership statement. Is it really truly yours?

Once again division based on the question of what can be owned.

The forever scowl.

I wouldn't think of it.
This kid cannot even believe that his parents brought him here.
The Tea Party supporter below uses the same spelling editor that I do.