19JUN2011 MSgt Joel Weber

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind (Father’s Day Edition)
From the confines of Camp Leatherneck

It’s another Sunday in the A-Stan…no it’s not; it’s freaking FATHER’S DAY! HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DAD, I LOVE YOU. You raised a pretty awesome kid in me, if I do say so myself. I got your Father’s Day box by the way…AWESOME!! THANK YOU!! I hope you enjoy your day with your kids! Wait…Chris and I are here, Mike is busy playing Doctor in Delaware and Tammy is fishing in Florida… I guess you’re assed out! Have a good day anyway!

So I got to travel the beautiful countryside again this week and got another few meals in with my kid brother, Chris. He seems to have settled in nicely with the hopeful chance that he gets to move out of his current closet into a bigger one, with a tad more accommodations, such as a place to hang things, internet, etc. It’s always good to see him. Conducted a lot of business with my Army and Air Force counter parts in Bagram, so that’s always good too; keeping up relations with people from other services who dis-like their job as much as me is always comforting. Chris doesn’t know it, but I only come to Bagram to get my coffee fill at Green Bean Coffee…don’t tell him. It’s also very nice to be able to run in 70-80 degree weather, unlike the 90-110’s that we have here…ugh! It is always nice getting back home here…I believe we have the best room accommodations in the RC(SW). Not as good as the Air Forces barracks or anything, but I miss my own room, my blanket, my Bear (Love-a-licious), and just being by myself for 6 hours a day (sleep time).

As most of you know, my little Kirstin-bear was in the emergency room this week. She was in there overnight for some procedures, but apparently she was just an absolute champ about the whole thing! I expect nothing less from my little trooper! I want to also thank ALL OF YOU that helped Kirstin reach her goal of $2,000 for her Chrone’s & Colitis Walk that went yesterday in Raleigh, NC! She ended up raising close to $2,200 because of people that love her! THANK YOU! For those of you that have children with illnesses, you know the helpless feeling of watching your child in pain and most of you would do whatever it takes for them. Kirstin will overcome this and go on to do great things. Her mother stated that they plan on doing this every year and with a different design on the shirt every year. I can’t wait to see my t-shirt, as I’ve been told its being sent here! Again, she is fine right now and thank you for all of you that helped.

So I’m hearing my buddy Brian is on his way back after being delayed in the states. I’m sure leaving your wife and new daughter sucks, but he’ll be in good hands here. I’ll keep him so busy he won’t have time to think about anything else…JUST KIDDING people! We kinda miss him here a little and I miss having someone to run with. Speaking of which…DEAR NIKE, this is the THIRD Nike + that has shit the bed on me in 16 months…FUCK YOU! I can’t wait until my Garmin Forerunner 610 gets here…it’s supposed to do everything but wipe my butt from what I’ve heard.

So we’re about hitting the “routine stage” of the deployment. The food is already becoming the same, we finally have our daily, weekly, monthly schedules down and things are settling down. If there is one thing I hate is being reactive. Proactive is the way to be…why not, I have a year here, why not make it the best for the crew replacing me in 9 months (insert sigh). Besides, I know I’ll have my Master’s plan to keep me freakin busy all year, so maybe I should just relax and go with the flow. So a few weeks back I was given a nickname: Eeyore. Now anyone that knows me, knows that I am not a laid back, tired, draggin’ ass kinda guy…so how I got that one…I’ll never know. So last week, a few of me Brit mates were jabbing on and one said that I remind him of Sid from Ice Age. Seriously?!?! Although I’ll take it over Eeyore any day! Thanks a lot Blokes!

Anyway, I am out of here and will talk to everyone next weekend. BTW, the most requested item of the week: SMALL REFRIGERATORS. For a while they were selling those tiny refrigerators and now they’re not stocking them anymore…first come, first served sucks! They are about $50…anyway, if anyone finds a nice small refrigerator on a website that ships to FPO/APO address, shoot me the website please!!! J Have a great week all!

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12JUN2011 MSgt Joel Weber

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind
From the confines of Camp Leatherneck

Another week has flown past as quick as could be and I can feel the R&R, LOL. We have really been busy this week. Cleaning stuff up, organizing, rearranging, losing and finding stuff, tying up loose ends, and just plain working. It’s all for the goodness of our minds. The more we complete and tie up now, the more we can relax in what spare time we find. I have finally caught up in school with this new class, but I’m guessing it’s because the easy assignments come early…but I’ll take it. I’d like to see if I can jump ahead of the game, as I’ll be traveling around again next week and that’s how I got behind in the last class. All and all, I plan on staying ahead, so losing a little sleep in the process ain’t bad. I still have no idea my grade from the last class because I turned in my final a week late almost. Here’s to praying for the best in that situation.

Brian is still at home on R&R with his new baby and we have actually managed without him…I knew we could, it’s just costs us more time and effort due to the inexperience and lack of initiative. For the most part, you have to dictate every little thing that needs to be done, or it just won’t be done, that simple. Then you have to check and re-check the work, because it’s not what I’m used to or at the level of attention that I’m used to. But, they’ve been “shittin and gittin” the last few days, so things are starting to look up (because things are winding down).

Both my little baby girls have moved on to higher grades this week. Kara had her 5th grade graduation on Thursday as she knocked her EOG’s out of the ballpark! I’m very proud of her and now I have a middle schooler on my hands…oh goodness. Kirstin had straight 4’s (or A’s) on her report cards, vice missing quite a bit of time due to her illness. Nothing ever gets that girl down and she is now a proud 3rd grader! I sent them both flowers to recognize them because I couldn’t be there. They are never too far from my thoughts and mind.

I ran only a few times this week with a 16.2 miler in there. Somewhere after that, I seemed to have wrenched my back and now it hurts terribly….Ugh!!! On another positive note, the WiFi within our rooms is getting better, but has a tendency not to work most of the time. I won’t complain about that at all, because I have it real good right now 🙂 We’ve snuck in a few episodes of “The Pacific”…a series that I’ve heard about just never seen….WOW!! Gonna give my Dad a quick shout out…HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DAD, I LOVE YOU…just in case I forget while traveling or don’t have Internet access 🙂

So anyway, this is going to be a short letter because there is nothing left to say…just saying. If you’re looking to send anything this way, LARGE BROWN towels and MAN LUFFA’s would be nice. The towels here are small…kinda like the bathroom scene of Starsky & Hutch. Have a great week everyone!

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05JUN2011: MSgt Joel Weber

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind
From the confines of Camp Leatherneck


I say this every week, but it’s been another quick on and I don’t know where the week went. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, this is exactly what I want…but at the end of the day, my mind is still running, thinking, worrying about the next days projects and work load. Sometimes I wish my job was just to sit around and be reactive…but that’s just not who I am. I could probably, very easily, do the very bare minimum and just sit here until my time is up and move on….but I hate that. I hate when people are in positions to make changes and do not. I understand that Afghanistan is a temporary thing and that we’ll probably be leaving soon, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we still have Marines patrolling the streets and roads. If I can make my aspect of their job easier, I’m going to try. I’m just tired of the arguments and ass chewings I’ve received…

So my last “Ramblings” was late because I was traveling and became quite overwhelmed with work and school. In fact, I’m a week late on my final for school and the next class has already started (which I haven’t even looked at yet)….so this week is already starting off on the wrong foot. I’ve been knocking school out of the ball park, but it left me to stay at work till 0200 on most days and now it’s just all catching up with me. I may re-evaluate the next semester if I can’t seem to catch up. I did get the rare opportunity to spend time with my younger brother Chris, whom is stationed in Bagram AFB up north. He is just settling in up there, but it was nice to spend time with family, even if it’s in Afghanistan.

On an extremely good note, Brian made it home two days before Sarah Ann was born, so he got to see everything. We are wishing him, his wife, and his new daughter nothing but the best while he is home on R&R…he most certainly deserves all the time he can have at home. He did post some pictures and she is a beautiful little girl…I’lll spare the line that “thank God she looks like her Mom” bit…Oooopppsss, there it went!

Kara turned 11 on Tuesday…O-M-Gee!!! My little baby is 11!!! Oh where has the time gone. I did get to talk to her late Tuesday night (around 0430 here) and she’s already the typical pre-teen…always have better things to do than talk to her Dad. But I enjoyed every second of the conversation. I didn’t get to talk to them all weekend because her mother took her and Kirstin away for the weekend to Great Wolf Lodge.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it last week, but we had a weight-in. I weighed 200lbs prior to deployment, 197 in April and then I got weighed in at 187 the other day…I think the scales are a bit off, cause my “huge” frame hasn’t change and my pony keg is still around.

So some people have been asking if we need anything out here…the correct answer, no. The wanting answer yes, lol. Pretzel logs, a body pillow, and Kool-Aid packets if available.

Anyway, it’s off to church for me and then back to work. I’m sure if I catch up on my life out here, I’ll be able to write more next weekend.

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30May2011: MSgt Joel Weber

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind (Memorial Day Edition)
From the confines of Camp Leatherneck


OK, OK, Yes, I know that this is a day late. Every time that I do get a chance to get on the Internet, I’m reading/responding to my personal emails…I can only imagine what my work email looks like. I’ve been traveling around this wonderful country, doing the liaison thing, getting the “face to face” with my counterparts, picking up and dropping off items around theater, and trying (very unsuccessfully to run or complete my final). When we finally did get to Bagram, who did I run into???? Yes, my little brother Chris! Chris is settling in nice here at Bagram. I can’t tell you what he does or I’d have to kill you 🙂 Anyway, we’ve gotten a chance to hang and share a few meals together. I have another few days here with him, so I’ll get to hang out a few more times before I head back down south to hell…I mean Camp Leatherneck.

I appreciate everything I have at Camp Leatherneck…my own room, electricity, A/C (most of the time), you know, the creature comforts. I went to Kandahar and ate on the Board Walk…yes, the Board Walk. It’s a very large complex of shops and restaurants. So at 0200, Jimmy and I had gyros and Philly Cheese Steaks from Nathan’s. Yes, Nathan’s. While walking around the Board Walk, we had a hard time choosing what restaurant to eat from….let me remind you, it’s 2AM. Since TGI Friday’s was close…you are reading that right, TGI Fridays…we decided to pass up all the other shops and eat at Nathan’s….best damn gyro I’d ever had in my life!!! I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t had food like that in three months or if it’s just because I’m used to the food at Camp Leatherneck. On top of all that, in the center of the Board Walk is a street hockey rink (where the Canadians actually have a league, imagine that), sandy volleyball courts, and basketball courts under the lights…not the mention the performance stage. I’m not lying. Anyway, Bagram is nice too. 5 PX/BX’s, 4 bizarres, and 2 Green Bean Coffees! The Green Bean is what I love…it’s not my Starbies, but a wonderful substitute. Traveling is great because I get a little adventure out of it…most people would not agree, but I didn’t join the Corps to sit in and office and push email and policy…basically that’s what I’ve been reduced to. My job is to make the trigger pullers comms a little easier and a lot more secure…life is good!

Anyway, this will be a short email for a few reason. One, I only get 30 minutes of computer time. Two, I have a 10 page paper due tomorrow that I haven’t even started. Three, I have yet to run in two days and I’m becoming cranky and four, my feet hurt…

Be safe, have a Happy Memorial Day! Remember WHY we have this day. For people that are no longer here!!! Kara’s birthday is on Tuesday, she’ll be 11…OMG!

Joel Weber

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22MAY11: MSgt Joel Weber

From the confines of Camp Leatherneck


So another week has passed, I’m not even sure what to say. To say it wasn’t a good week would be an understatement. It seems the natives were more restless than usual. We have Marines inserted into Afghan training platoon, giving instruction and trying to build this Army we’re supposed to be leaving behind. Anyway, one of these little critters decided to turn on the Marines and we lost two good ones this week. We worked with both of them on a weekly basis…so it hit close to home. Then, the cowards decided to put weapons on timers and send some “not so good mail” into the base. That’s like poking the beehive… have at it. RIP Brothers and Semper Fi.

We have been so extremely busy here supporting the RC. I really don’t complain much about it because it’s for a good reason. It’s just draining sometimes and makes me think I bit off more than I can chew. Between work, I have to fit in my Masters programs, and then find time to respond to all my emails from family and friends and respond to all the other mail that has come in. I try to fit everything in, believe me I try. We even had a day, that carried over to night, that carried right back over to the day and didn’t even blink.

Some things slowed down our progress this week…like not having air conditioning. Most people think it’s a creature comfort, but for us, it’s required. We have systems in here that are required to stay cool or they shut down….that wouldn’t be a good thing. Then we lost power all together for 2 days…pretty awesome. Most of us crowded into our Net Defense shop and shared computers, so we made it happen.

I’ve also got my ass handed to me a few times as well; now most of you that know me, know why. I happen to have a bad habit of….talking. But I believe with this rank, comes the ability to say when something is wrong…now it is my bad when it comes at inappropriate times and it’s untactful…but I get results. That’s why I’m so skinny, cause I don’t have an ass anymore. Speaking of which, we had a weigh in. Rightfully so as there are so big boys running around here… ok, not exactly running. I weighed in at a cool 197 pounds…the smallest I’ve been in quite some time… I’m excited.

On some personal notes, one of my best friends and his wife are finally pregnant and we’re all hoping that things go well and God finally blesses them for something they have been working on for so long! A blessing for me is the Miss Krystal D and I are back on…there is nothing more I’ve ever wanted than that girl and she and I have buried the hatches and decided to pursue each other again. To say she is amazing and beautiful is quite the understatement!!!! I feel truly blessed to have her back in my life…I am the lucky one! Thank you God for Krystal.

Either way, this is going to be a short letter, not a whole lot of awesome this week. As usual, be safe and thank you guys for everything.


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15MAY11: MSgt Joel Weber

From the confines of Camp Leatherneck


Busy week here, things have been busy. Have I mentioned things were busy? They were! Sunday was Mother’s Day and I didn’t get to call Mom…yeah yeah, I know. The calls made from here were over 100,000 calls…that’s Marines calling their Mom’s…that’s good! I was one of the unlucky ones that did get through, but them Mom ignored my call. Just kidding, we just missed each other; but I did make up for it and called her on Monday and it didn’t hurt I had flowers and cards delivered on Mother’s Day!

I also heard the Lakers were swept in the playoffs…that’s awesome! Everyone knows I’m anti-LA and anti-Boston! YUCK!!

So, I’ve been given the key to my new room this week. I go to check it out, the lock doesn’t work and I get to walk right in. I turn the light on, which doesn’t work, and then turn the A/C on… soooooo, the A/C blows hot air and what to my eyes appears….nothing. No rack, no mattress…nothing! So basically I have a box of hotness. The lock got fixed the next day and the A/C guy came Saturday to replace the entire system. Oh joy! In the process, I got to wipe down the walls and all the fixtures, mop, and clean the screen. So when my rack “in a box” showed up, it took me 2 ½ to put it together. My mattress arrived “new” with a corner missing out of the mattress. Either way, it’s been a fun week and I have my own room…that’s what 17 years gets ya.

So there has been a lot of hoopla going on here this week. Tents going up, things getting cleaned up, the MEF compound getting all spruced up…I thought to myself…”Self, this could be an awesome freaking surprise birthday party these cats are throwing me!” No, no, no…apparently the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps were coming to town…silly me! I did get to see General Amos walk past me in the chow hall, then entered the entire entourage that preceded him…we went back to work. I still, after 17 years, have not grown accustomed to changing things because someone is visiting. If you don’t like how you’re doing business, then change the way you’re doing it and keep your area up to par…makes no sense to clean up cause you have a visitor…you should be ready for anyone to come to your house or place of work with going into a frenzy cleaning and changing things. BUT, it is pretty awesome to hear to these men speak on the status of our Corps. We had an interesting night before they’re arrival, so they talked about that and everything else around the Corps. As I do not agree with the pomp and circumstance sometimes, those men of 41 years of duty and 35 years of duty are due their time and respect. Here’s a little story for you. PFC Weber leaves artillery school in Ft Sill, OK and gets orders to his first duty station in the fleet. Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan for duty as an artilleryman. PFC Weber checks in to the battery 1stSgt…..1stSgt Kent. Let’s just say the PFC learned very quickly how to be a Marine. While in the battery, 1stSgt Kent gets promoted and becomes the Battalion SgtMaj…that was 1995. He has been a SgtMaj as long as I’ve been in our beloved Corps. The man is an amazing Marine. Being on his Battalion Color Guard was a little nerve racking, as I could never just, “get it right Devil Dog”. Through the years, I’ve run into the SgtMaj, recalling a few times that we spend in 3/12 together. The Corps bids him farewell after 35 years of honorable and faithful service.

Now that all that is out of the way, it was a decent week. Half of my Marines were traveling the country picking up gear, so it’s just been Brian and I. We work well together and honestly I feel lucky having someone of his caliber to work with. With that, I’m going to wrap this up and say good bye till next week.

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08MAY11: MSgt Joel Weber


{break} {break} = Osama Bin Laden is dead!

Apparently he was a bad man and we finally nailed his ass. I do enjoy the liberal media, while enjoying our moment saying, it took us 10 years to do it. Thanks for killing the moment jackholes! I did get to see our proud Americans take to the streets in joy on the TV that night…it was moving and brought a tear to my eye. Americans standing, rejoicing, crying over the death of a man who has taunted this nation, killed thousands of Americans on American soil, and kept us looking for 10 years. I truly know the feelings that millions of people felt when the news hit that Hitler was dead back in World War II. Osama Bin Laden was pure evil and just to remove him from this earth was something that needed to be done…I’m glad I was here, in this moment, when those Navy SEALS tracked him, found him, and took him out with boots on the ground…no bombs, no missiles…truly a face to face confrontation with the member of the US military…what a feeling that young man had to be feeling when he took that shot that brought evil to its knees. They probably showed more discipline than I would have… I may have taken it too far and more than put a bullet in his head… I hope he enjoys hell.

On another bright note: TODAY IS MOTHER’S DAY! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY MOM, I LOVE YOU… you did a good job raising me and look where I ended up…in flippin Afghanistan, Thanks! I hope you got your card and flowers!

Story of my life: It’s no secret that I miss life on the gun line with my artillery friends…if there was one communications statement I hate seeing, “Your mailbox size is over the limit”…that has to state how much I sit behind the computer and push emails in and out…life of a Communication nerd I suppose! I’ve had no time to do any of my school work this week…but I’m hoping it calms down a little. At first working these 15-20 hour days were taxing…now my body is used to it…and that kinda sucks! I guess it really doesn’t matter, there is nothing happening in my room anyway. We also got our new room assignments and I’ll be moving soon. I’m the “boot” Master Sergeant in our room, so I’m out. My new neighbors will be a LtCol on one side and on the other…two Navy E-5’s…who the hell put this together? So, saying that my room is boring and having a roommate, I can’t wait to move into solitary confinement all by myself. My school work has taken a hit this week, I haven’t done anything. We’ve been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to do anything….ugh!

Kirstin had her scopes this week and her biopsy shows some disturbing trends. I guess we’ll just have to pray and wait at this point. She is my little trooper and nothing is going to stop her from smiling, I can tell you that! Both she and Kara are still kicking ass in school, so for that I’m grateful to God. She is still doing the “2011 Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis” walk on June 18th in Raleigh…I’m so proud of her! If you want to read her story, it’s at http://tinyurl.com/3pjkuva

Last week I failed to report that I was down a camera. One of our Marines here was attaching some assets to one of our tall towers here and I had asked him to take a few shots while he was up there! So I gave him my camera. Let’s just say they both came down, just not together…the camera made it down much quicker than he did! I call it a “combat loss”. Either way, I ordered a new camera and it’s on it way…snail mail.

I turn 35 this Wednesday! I’m excited…I don’t know why, I guess it’s just of those milestones. I feel good though, I’m healthy, excited, breathing, alive, running more miles than I ever have, and live in a shithole! How awesome is my life…and…I look good doing it! I do want to thank my sister Tammy for send me out a lint brush :-p I’m hoping for my birthday I get to talk to my girls though…it would make my day! I talked to Kara once last weekend, so I’m hoping I get to talk to them both. Kara will be 11 on the 31st….HOLY CRAP!! Instead of my “once a week” ice cream sundae (on Sundays—how clever), I may indulge a little on Wednesday! If anyone sees a place that ships body pillows to FPO AE address, let me know…I’m looking for one of those and a good down pillow…screw my memory foam pillow. Anyway, it’s just gonna be another day here in the RC.

Today is the day we sign up for our Leatherneck Endurance Challenge. It’s a 6 month event and tracked by miles (rowing, biking, or running). Of course I’ll be running the whole time, so I’m going to be logging some serious miles. Since May 3, I’ve run 26 miles…not too shabby for an almost 35 year old guy. The Challenge starts on the 10th for 6 months and I’ve option to go with Option 2 of 3…472 miles in 6 months…we’ll see. BTW, who pays to thrash themselves? THIS GUY!

My relationship status is still the same: SNAFU. I lost who I was supposed to be with over stupid decisions and stupid pride. I thought what I was doing what right, at that moment, but it obviously didn’t work out. I’ve prayed every day, especially with the tragedies hitting our nation as of late…Mother Nature is a little upset as of late. Either way, this is as alone as one can feel out here. As much as “my Afghan family” gets me by day by day, it just sucks knowing you’re coming home to no one. Please don’t take that as I don’t love my daughters, because they are the reason I do, what I do…and I love them more than life itself. Sometimes a guy just likes his own personal attention…and I do like that sort of attention…it’s nice to be “loved”. I have a lot of love to give, but I also want a lot in return. Oh well, someday God will shine on me I suppose.

I hope some of you caught a glimpse of the two blog/sites that I’ve been following: www.semperfimomma.com and www.usmc81.com ….they are both kick ass sites I must say! Signing off this week, I’m praying for continued success for our Marines out here and for all of our safe returns, my precious little girls, and my own sanity! From the confines of Camp Leatherneck, I’m out!

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01MAY11: MSgt Joel Weber

Guest Post courtesy of MSgt Joel Weber
MSgt/USMC, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind (Week 10)


Well, we are starting Week 10 here in the great, sunny, and dusty box of fun. It’s been another venturous week! Coming off the Easter holiday which was quiet, this week has been anything but. The Sabres were discontinued from the playoffs, the NBA is now dominating the sports channels, like baseball hasn’t done that already, and there have been numerous storms across the south and east United States. We have been saying our prayers over here for our family members and friends back home. Between all of that, there was a tragedy in Kabul this week, where we lost 8 Americans…we ask you to pray for their families.

MSgt Joel Weber

As the month of April came to and end yesterday, a new month is upon us and we all know what that means! Mother’s Day, my 35th birthday (holy freakin crap), my Mum’s birthday, Memorial Day, and my baby girl Kara’s birthday! Don’t forget to thank your mother for giving birth to you, lol. I can’t believe that my Kara is going to turn 11 this month…oh where, oh where has the time gone! My little girl is growing up…and I’m not sure if I like it; but I guess I have no choice in the matter. I’ve been working towards my Master’s Degree while I’ve been out here and well…I’ve been doing pretty good. I’m on my second class and I’ve knocked out all my papers with either a 99 or 100…not too shabby for working 14-18 hour days and doing my work afterwords. I’ve also tallied 88 miles this month running…and they’ve been rough. Did a half marathon a few weeks ago and knocked out another 10 a few days ago. By doing the long ones, it gives me a few days off…thank God…as it does takes it toll. I’m pretty sure at this pace, I’ll out pace my goal of 600 miles I’ve set for myself for the year. With it reaching in the triple digits this week, we’ve had to start running in the morning…that sucks, lol.

So my little brother is about on his way out here. Should be fairly interesting with him being up where he is going to be…now I have a reason to escape Camp Awesome (Leatherneck) to head up to the beloved Air Force Base up north; can’t wait! Along those lines, I’m hearing rumor that my roommate back home may be joining me…how cool is that?!?!?! Gonna be like a family get together out here. I didn’t get a whole lot of NATO time this week with our counterparts, as we’ve been a little more than busy, but maybe next week we’ll get back on track. (I just like how the Brits talk). One thing I did learn, was not to say “spunky” to the Brits…has a WHOLE different meaning than what we use it for.

Brian, the one who actually does all the work around here, will also be leaving me soon for a few weeks at the end of the month to go on his R&R leave. He and his new bride will be having their first baby at the end of the month. He will now feel a little bit of pain…they’re having a girl 🙂 As much as I don’t want him to leave, we are sending him home to spend time with his new born baby girl. If luck has it, his new daughter may end up sharing the same birthday as Kara. Chris, another Marine that works with me, has entered a bench press competition and it’s today. Let’s just say his arms are bigger than my thighs (this is NOT a joke). We’re betting the farm that he not only wins his weight class, but the overall championship…by a huge margin!!

So, as I sign off for the week, we are hoping that the rebuilding begins back in the south and in the east and we get to see on the TV, why America is so great. God bless America and see you next week. I have put my address down again, as it has changed slightly…

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Semper Fi,
Joel “Eeyore” Weber
MSgt/USMC, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan
Twitter: @Marines1994

P.S. Check out a few of my favorite sites:
I’m sure you’ll find them motivating and amusing! I do! Here’s to starting the week off right!!

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23APR11: MSgt Joel Weber

Guest Post courtesy of MSgt Joel Weber
MSgt/USMC, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

Ramblings of a Deployed Mind (Week 8)

It’s the beginning of Week 8 here in sunny (dusty), beautiful (dirty), and warm (102 degrees right now) Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Let me start off by saying HAPPY EASTER and blessed be the one who has risen. We started our day off with a gorgeous 0530 sunrise service. Watching the sun come up over military vehicles and construction is kind of surreal. Knowing what the day stands for and knowing our mission here…awesome! I hope the Easter Bunny stopped by the homes of the good little boys and girls! I received a few Easter Baskets this week and I THANK YOU ALL!

MSgt Joel Weber

Anyway, what a week it was! I’m not sure what happened because it went by so fast, but isn’t that what I wanted?!?! The days were starting off at 0730 and roughly ending around midnight or 0100. There is always something to do in here or always someone to support…but hey, that’s why we’re here! Around 2300 is kinda when we throw a movie on for background noise (we actually get to watch sometimes) as we finish up our work for the day. We got a little more training with our NATO counterparts and let me say, I love how the Brits talk! Even when they are pissed or upset, they talk and look very happy (cheeky). It’s awesome. We used the BFPO (British Forces Post Office) the first time this week as well. We had to send some stuff back to the United Kingdom and our post office doesn’t support it…odd right?!? Speaking of me British Mates, I received my first EBluey this week. It’s basically the British version of our MotoMail. I’m making international pen pal friends!

On the US side of the house, I’ve been introduced to a new website for men: http://artofmanliness.com/ which does nothing but make me laugh…awesome! I’ve also earned a nickname this week…(my brother Chris will enjoy this)…Eeyore! Really???? This guy??? And it’s NOT because of my ears people!! Apparently I was all lackadaisical in a meeting (I brief the same things everyday) and caught it…is much energy as I have and as much as I run my mouth…but, I got it, Eeyore! BTW, I love meetings! Seriously! A few Marines out here have been receiving awards from stateside that are just catching up to them out here…it’s a great sight to see Marines get awarded for thier accomplishments! A good friend and Marine in Bagram received a Joint Service Achievement Medal for her accomplishments this week as well; she is finishing up her year long tour and is soon headed back stateside! We’re not a joint command down here, but don’t tell that to NATO and our British and Estonian brothers and sisters in arms (LOL).

My daughters were on vacation this week in Virginia with Ryan’s family again, but I did get to talk to them last night (my time). They are both in great spirits and doing very well; they are enjoying their Easter vacations from what they told me. The Easter Bunny forgot they were away on vacation and accidentally delivered 5 baskets to their home in North Carolina. Sometimes the Easter Bunny gets so prepared, he over prepared, forgot and delivered more….oh well, it happens. You can never have too many baskets with candy as a kid (unless you’re the parent that has to deal with them, LOL). If you haven’t heard, Kirstin’s “Kure for Kirstin” 2011 Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk has almost hit her goal. If you haven’t heard or read about it, I recommend you at least read the page: http://tinyurl.com/3pjkuva I applaud my daughters positive-ness about the whole thing…she motivates the s**t out of me!

I have continued to log running miles towards my goal of 600 this year. There’s a pretty good chance that goal is going to be crushed, as I sit at 240 for the year already. We’ve had to change our run schedules up due to the heat, so no more running before dinner…its early morning runs till fall at this point. No crazy half marathon runs this week, just a few 5-6 miles and my dumb a** twisting my ankle (I’m always looking to take a few days off)! I know what you’re thinking…”you’re getting old”…and that may be so. But hopefully when I turn 35 next month, maybe I’ll look 34…I doubt it…but “the stach” is coming along nicely! We have been told that we are moving rooms again, because it wouldn’t be the Corps if you didn’t move 12 times once you got comfortable. But hey, I guess getting my own space ain’t such a bad deal. It really doesn’t matter, cause you don’t spend much time in their anyway. As some of you’ve noticed, I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter a little this week…I’m trying. We don’t have direct access to it, it’s in another building, but we’re being told we should have WiFi next month in our living areas…

Anyway, I’m going to get out of here and let all of you enjoy your Easter Sundays. I’ll be coming at your next Sunday with a mundane letter and Week 9 of Ramblings of a Deployed Mind. I love you all and thank you again for all your love and support! There is no better feeling than to receive mail from a friend or loved one from back home!

Semper Fi,
Joel “Eeyore” Weber
MSgt/USMC, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan
Twitter: @Marines1994

Semper Share:

CASEVAC Corpsman Shannon Dittlinger

Bruce Williams-Burden, former Navy Corpsman (RVN), wrote a book earlier this year year titled “Luminous Base”. The book is a well-researched collection of respectful and caring stories of Corpsmen killed in action. In April, I posted a review of the book here on my blog.

With Bruce’s permission, I am posting a chapter from his book which you will find very inspiring…



In the middle of February of 2010, I had received a copy of the “Proof: for this book from a firm that was helping me to self-publish my work.

Eager to find ways to market the book, I contacted Wally Beddoe who is the webmaster for popasmoke.com. He was on a business trip to Switzerland, and e-mailed me that he would read through my manuscript after he got back. I had sent this copyrighted material to him because I felt if he didn’t think it was something the website could or would want to advertise, then I had to rethink my marketing strategy.

Several days later I received his e-mail filled with an unexpected enthusiasm for the book which pretty much surprised me. In his letter he wrote:

“Howdy Bruce,
What a fantastic job you did! As I read through the pages, I kept thinking “It can’t get any better than this”, but it did! It kept getting better and better… You really have a talent Sir! YOU NAILED IT! What you did for those Corpsmen is nothing short of heroic in itself. I will help promote this book in a big way. I really loved what I’ve read and I have more stories to go through. You have a gift in capturing the meaningful bits of a story. I’m very proud of you!

Semper Fi Doc!
Wally Beddoe”

This was a very welcome endorsement to say the least. But what happened next brought my self-publishing process to a screeching halt. In my original manuscript I had commented on how my only regret in writing the book was my inability to connect with and write about a female corpsman who had flown MEDEVAC or CASEVAC missions.

Wally must have read this part as he immediately wrote to me and asked if I wanted to write to a friend of his currently serving in Afghanistan who just happened to be a female and a corpsman and had her Combat Aircrew Wings! My fingers could not write to her fast enough.

Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Shannon Dittlinger

I have to admit that I am not one who is prone to believe that something’s in life are just random and not because of a higher purpose. In this case I felt that Shannon was meant to be in this book mostly because she knew Petty Officers Minjares and Ruiz, the two corpsmen who died in Iraq. They would have wanted not only their own story to be told, but also those of their teammates in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. What makes me believe this to be true was that I was introduced to Shannon three years to the month that they were killed.

In order for this chapter to be written we had to rely on e-mails. Early on I sent her a customized questionnaire which I devised so that I could learn about her and what it was like flying missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At first it was hard for her to face what she called “the demons” inside as they caused her to face some of her feelings, especially about the loss of MJ and Manny. This is very understandable. What helped her I think was that as we wrote to each other and she learned more about me and my time flying MEDEVAC in Vietnam with the PURPLE FOXES (HMM-364) her trust in me grew. Besides, as she wrote, how can you not trust a fellow Fox?

Within two weeks, Shay had provided me with more insight, personal perspective, and trust with her personal story than I thought she would or could for that matter.

Along the way I had to learn new phrases and colloquialisms, one which would temporarily interrupt our communications train. This occurred when after 36 hours of not knowing why my e-mails were failing to get thru to her she wrote back that she was “Out of River City.” This communications shutdown takes place whenever someone is KIA and before the family is notified. Letter from the war zone that today only takes seconds, took four days in Vietnam.

As I put together all the pieces of the mosaic that makes up her story I realized that it would be best for her to tell her own story as often as possible. The funny part to me, which on the other hand I very much respect and understand, is that she is so very humble and does not see herself as anyone or anything very special to be written about. To me, she is a patriot and a hero.


Shannon’s nickname is “Shay” which was given to her by her sister Sherry. Her father was a door gunner on a Huey and served in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry and is her hero in life. There are two other men in her life who she loves that have a connection with the military. One of them is her grandfather who served in the Navy and was at Pearl Harbor on ‘The day of Infamy”.

The other man is her husband Timothy. He is an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) who was deployed over to Afghanistan with the 2nd MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command), INDIA Company. They worked in and around Herat, Afghanistan from September of 2008 to March of 2009.

This is her response to a question where I asked her to provide any information she wanted to about herself her and or her family. Her words I feel, exemplify the spirit and character that it takes to be a mom, a wife, and someone who is willing to sacrifice the good life for her country, her flag, and for all who live in he United States:

“Where to start… so as you know my dad is my hero, serving our country, and when he got out he started working for UPS and he retired not to long ago in upper management. He was gone a lot but showed me how to respect a job well done, and that things don’t come easy and you have to work for the things you want, and that there is a certain amount of sacrifice that has to be made to take care of your loved ones. He taught me that the work I produce is a direct reflection of my name, and asked me what kind of name do I want to have.

He showed me so much and taught me about motorcycles and hot cars! Particularly anything MOPAR! My very first car was a ‘67 Plymouth Barracuda fast back, German jet black high glass paint she was sweeeeet! (that was the car that we built.)

But my mom took care of us, showed us love, and discipline, and how to be young ladies. She taught us to be respectful of others and of ourselves; she taught us right from wrong and trusted that we would choose right. She showed us that a successful family is more than 4 people in a house. IT took someone to pull it all together.

I remember one thanksgiving we had just moved to California and she cooked all day to make it special for us, and we wanted to use paper plates and sit in front of the couch… we were not being appreciative at all. But we set the table and had a wonderful dinner in the dining room that to this very day I remember. I am thankful for the things she did for us.

I have mentioned us a couple of times, and a family of 4, so I have talked about my Dad my Mom but now the best one is my Sister, Sherry or “Bear” as I call her. We were standard sisters growing up her the big sister and me the pesky little sister. I looked up to her and wanted to be her; she was so smart and had the cool clothes and was talented; she played the flute and could draw and was a majorette. She went away to college when we moved to California and I had to get used to being without her.

When Tim and I moved from Okinawa back to North Carolina she knew we would be deploying. So she packed up her house and they moved 4 miles down the road from me to help with the girls. Now there is a sacrifice! She works on base now as a dental hygienist.

The unit she is assigned to is 2/8 and they were out here with me for the first half of the deployment. She went to her first memorial for the lost souls of 2/8; she said it was the most humbling moment of her life that the average American would never know!

So as we grow so does our family. I have mentioned my Husband a few times in our previous conversations, He is one of my strongest supporters, (my dad is a close rival on that one) but he is also a Corpsman. He is a Chief Petty Officer who is currently assigned to 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, part of Marine Special Operations Command in Camp Lejeune. He is the leading Chief Petty Officer. He was here in Afghanistan right before I came out. He is an amazing father and a wonderful husband, who for the last year has had the glorious job of being both mom and dad. It’s hard being dual active but we have managed! Having my sister right down the road has been a God send!

Now for the light of my life the reason I breath… my children Halie Renee who will be 15 on the 22nd of this month, and my daughter Victoria Ann who will be 9 on the 13th of April.

Halie is the socialite of the 9th grade who loves to read and help people. She is tall and skinny with big blue eyes and would save the planet one animal at a time, and just may do it!

Victoria or “Birdie” as we call her, is my little dancer, just won their first trophies for placing first in a dance competition, she is on cloud 9, long brown hair big hazel eyes and all the love and hugs anyone could ask for! Truly the perfect match and both are the most beautiful children in the world.

Of course there is one other special little girl that is just as beautiful as those two; that would be my niece Madeline named after our grandmother! Little Maddie is my princess, loves anything sparkly and pink, and following in her big cousins footsteps she loves gymnastics. Her and the girls are so close that Maddie has no idea that her Halie and Birdie are not sisters, and that’s the way Bear and I want it!


Shannon Dittlinger is a Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman which is an E-8 or the equivalent to a Master Sergeant in the Marines. This is a far climb from when she first enlisted in the Navy in 1993 while in Omaha, Nebraska. Her recruit training took place in Orlando, Florida and was quickly followed by Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes. Training to be an FMF corpsman though, did not happen until 1998.

Her many duty assignment have included the Naval hospitals in Orlando, Camp Lejeune and on Okinawa. She also served with the 2nd Force Service Support Group (FSSG) on Camp Lejeune, and the 2nd Marine Air Wing (MAW) at MCAS New River also at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

In May of 2005 Shay was selected as the Chief of Naval Operations’ Shore Sailor of the Year and in July was meritoriously advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. This selection afforded her the opportunity to travel with the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

From January to August of 2007 she deployed to Iraq to serve as the Leading Chief Petty Officer for the Casualty Evacuation Team attached to both HMM-364 (PURPLE FOXES) and with HMM-161 (GREYHAWKS) which were located at the time at Camp Al Taqaddam which is often simply called “TQ” by those serving there.

Shay is one of those who like to lead from the front so she flew MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions while she was deployed to Iraq. But in order to fly, she first had to “earn her wings” by going through very extensive training which she explained to me in the following:

“….There was an entire syllabus that we had to complete; just a few of the things covered were aerial safety, NATOPS, night vision lab, swim qualifications for helicopter egress, common injuries found in combat and overcoming the distinct difficulties in caring for the wounded while going 100 knots and banking hard right.

The Course I attended was not only educationally demanding but was physically demanding as well with rigorous daily physical training and many litter movement drills.

Upon completion of the course we were awarded the CASEVAC Course Identification Number (CIN) Code B-300-5000, which entitled us to be awarded our Combat Aircrew Wings. We then had two additional courses added on which were focused on Critical Stress Incident Management and on Operational Emergency Medicine with live tissue training. All together the best training I have received yet.”


The Al Taqaddum Airbase is located in central Iraq approximately
74 kilometers West of Baghdad. It has two runways 12,000 and 13,000 feet long respectively. In August of 2004, Marines dedicated the airfield at TQ to Lt. Col. David S. Greene who was a reserve Marine AH-1W Super Cobra pilot flying with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, MAG-16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He had been killed in action on July 28, 2004 while flying in support of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force by small arms fire.

At TQ, there were approximately twenty-six corpsmen who were assigned. They each had a job, especially when it came to flying or regulating the care of casualties in their TAOR.

I asked Shay to provide me with an idea just what the process was that took place when they were tasked with a MEDEVAC mission. One of the first things I had to decipher was what the meaning of a “9-line” was. Once she explained it I realized it was yet another example of how much more organized and regulated things were today than when we flew in Vietnam.

A 9-line in simple terms were the nine critical lines of pertinent information given to the CASEVAC/MEDEVAC pilots and crew regarding the mission they are about to undertake. This written information includes:

Line 1: The grid where the casualty is located
Line 2: The radio frequency of the ground unit
Line 3: The type and number of casualties
Line 4: Any special Equipment such as extra litters, special extraction gear, etc. that may be needed
Line 5: Whether or not the patient will be litter-bound or ambulatory
Line 6: Defines the security at the LZ
Line 7: How will the LZ be recognized (pyro, smoke, panel)
Line 8: The nationality of the patient(s)
Line 9: Are there any terrain hazards in or around the LZ

There was another explanation I needed to learn and that was in regards to the terms DASH-1, DASH-2, and DASH-3. These three terms were the designations given to the order in which MEDEVAC aircraft would be launched. Such as if DASH-1 and its crew were ready to go but had an engine issue, then DASH-2 would go in its place. DASH-2 backed up DASH-1 and in turn DASH-3 backed up DASH-2.

That being said Shay wrote me the following description of a MEDEVAC:

“From the MEDEVAC stand point, you have a watch in the ready room, monitoring all the communication devices and waiting while everyone else is going about their daily business. Then without a second’s notice a MEDEVAC 9 – line is received.

A “runner” would then run to our signaling system (the FOXES and GRAYHAWKS used a traditional ships bell) and would ring the bell.

Then everyone would sprint to the flight line where everyone has a job to do, from pulling the dust covers off the bird, to firing her up. Those not on the schedule to fly, line up at the edge to make sure that nothing is needed; the Corpsmen to make sure the ground unit isn’t requesting any additional gear, the mechs in case they had to trouble shoot, the comm to ensure we can talk, everyone had a purpose.

We spun two and sometimes three birds. As everyone is getting ready to roll, the watch scribes (writes) the 9- line on two papers, the runners in unison run to the two primary aircraft, standing at the end of the “shoot” right before the flight line. Yet another integral part of the operation is the Marine who directs the runners to the two primary birds. The crew chief would normally receive the 9- liner and report to the pilots the grid and location, then he would relay to the Corpsman how many and how bad.

DASH-1 would then roll to the edge of the helo pad. I remember looking out the back to find our escorts; you see if there was only one Cobra, it was as safe as combat flight can be, but if there were two cobra’s, well we were about to go play in Hell’s backyard.

If for any reason DASH-1 can’t launch, DASH- 2 is all ready set, as they were ready to roll at the same time as DASH-1. They would move into the primary position with DASH-3 now spinning and preparing to go just in case luck is not on our side and something would happen to DASH-2.

I wish I had a way to get it to you, but I have a great video you hear the bell, then the buzzer, and you see everyone run to the flight line, then you see the runners go out and the director telling them which bird, and the pass of the 9- line and the roll out. It was better orchestrated than synchronized swimming, but it wasn’t rehearsal, that’s how it was done every time for every bell that rang, less than 4 minutes.

In flight, you review your gear, make sure everything you need based on the 9-line is accessible and easy, and you make sure you have the gear the ground unit requested ready to be tossed out as soon as you land.

The pilots get you as close as they can and then you wait for your signal that it’s safe. My partner and I had an every other turn process; one time I would run out, the next time he would. So as soon as you land, you break ICS and run to the patient. Your partner would go to the end of the aircraft and keep eyes on you and the surroundings and relay what you are doing to the pilots.

While on deck you get the turn over from the ground unit, just as quickly as you can; a lot of times this is happening while you are running back to the bird. They make very large targets, and are much harder to hit when not sitting still. Your partner helps get the patient (s) into the litter stanchions, as you toss the ground unit that helped you move them on, off the bird, which was sometimes easier said than done.

Then you begin your primary assessment. If there is only one casualty you and your partner work together, one taking half of the body and the other partner the other half; you work together as a team. You treat and document depending on the severity, sometimes you only have time to treat. The admin will come later.

Some things in life just never changes, start the breathing and stop the bleeding… that’s still true today. Once those have been accomplished, you continue to assess and treat then reassess and treat. Normally before you know it your there, and your moving them off the bird, into the medical facility. While giving them the Cas during the turn over, you let them know what the ground unit told you and what you did for them en-route.”

As a side note, in September of that year, HMM-161 returned from Iraq along with their CASEVAC bell which best symbolized their mission in the area. They took the bell with them rather than leave it for the next squadron because the CASEVAC missions temporarily were going to be turned over to the soldiers of an Army Blackhawk detachment at Al Taqaddum.

The casualties on the MEDEVAC are flown, based on the extent of their injuries or illness, to the specified level of care they require. In MEDEVAC/CASEVAC terminology a “Role II” would be the same as a site that can provide Level Two care to the patient.

This is better explained in the response I received after one of the questions I put to the Chief in an e-mail was asking her to briefly discuss the kinds of medical facilities to which they deliver their casualties. In her reply she said:

“A main one is an FRSS which is called a Role II medical facility; this is a life or limb type facility.

In Iraq that was the normal first place for concentrated medical treatment, but in Afghanistan if you can overfly the FRSS to get to the Role III without risk of life or limb, then you overfly.

Role III is a more robust medical treatment facility with sterile surgical suites, emergency department, intensive care unit, and holding wards with an enhanced ancillary capability. Anything over that, we Evac them out of the theater and both areas go through Lundstuhl, Germany.”

I asked her response to whether or not she felt prepared enough for the war and what she had to contend with to which she said:

“I felt prepared both mentally and physically. But really, can you ever receive enough training to know that you have enough to go into combat? There is risk in everything we do, you plan and train to mitigate the risk, but can you ever be fully prepared to be shot at?”

The next line of questioning dealt with that very subject; her risky and dangerous missions.

“ ….. My first flight in Iraq was in mid-January. We lifted off and went out for operational engine checks and functional checks on all of the equipment. I think the final count that day was that we took 7 rounds into the aircraft; multiple through the front windshield, one through the floor and out the top, one bounced off the stub wing and thank God it was armored since that was by where I was sitting. We also had one in the back skin up and out through the transmission and rear engine.

We also landed in a couple of hot zones where my flight partner would grab me as I ran back onto the bird yelling at me because he could see the rounds striking the ground around me. We have had to egress quickly out of the LZ for Close Air Support to come in and drop 500-pound JDAMs….. You know normal combat stuff.”

(The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a guidance kit that converts existing unguided gravity bombs, or “dumb bombs”, into all-weather “smart” munitions.)

“On 24 February 2007 a massive IED Attack occurred in the town of Habbaniya causing a 175- patient mass casualty. The entire section for both day and night was activated as it happened right at sunset. The obvious overflow at TQ’s Role II was apparent and we were moving 8 urgent/ urgent surgical per bird to other facilities in our AO. Each section and every aircraft that night saw bursts of small arms fire, and several reported single rocket attacks; but due to the fast and evasive maneuvers of the pilots, all aircraft returned safely to base. Each of us knew that was the same kind of attack they utilized just weeks prior when they took down MORPHINE 1-2 with Petty Officer Minjares (MJ) and Petty Officer Ruiz (Manny) on board.

In Iraq as the LCPO for the CASEVAC team; I took the first flight out, and got shot up! We switched aircraft, then went out again to the IED Blast and picked up 3 Urgent Cas and 2 Angels (KIA)) We made a routine flight from the Role II to the Role III… then took one last flight where we had to switch to night vision goggles on the way back. Although it was a long day I was confident that I could then ask my Sailors to do what I had done; Lead from the front!

My HAC all day was none other than Colonel Sean Killeen, so when we shut down the final time on the flight line I looked at him and said, “Sir, I know I asked you to show me the ropes, but did you have to do it all in one day?” He smiled.

Colonel Killeen is a great leader! In fact before the Foxes left theater (we still had 3 months to go) I wrote him a note in which I told him that in all my years of serving, I had finally found a CO (Commanding Officer) that I wanted to emulate. He is kind and fair, firm and approachable, and thrived by taking care of those he leads. A good Man. I’m proud to have served under his leadership.”

As to how many missions did she fly in Iraq, Shay, in her humble and simple way said:

”Too many to count and without my flight log here I couldn’t even begin to tell you, I can tell you that in a period of 7.5 months my team of 26 Sailors responded to and evacuated over 1200 patients. I don’t count my time there as what I did but what we did.

On the aircraft we flew as a pair, we had specific partners for the entire time. My flight partner was HM1 (FMF) Jerry Blankenship, who in addition to being an outstanding Corpsman, was a qualified aerial observer (AO) on the CH-46 which was an added bonus for our team. He has just recently retired from the Navy.”

When I asked about flight rotations the corpsmen flew, I got back the following:

“In Iraq, we had a rotation; one day you started on DASH-1, the next was DASH-2, the next was DASH-3 and the next was admin. When you were not flying you were doing maintenance on your equipment, checking your supplies and doing inventory. When you are not doing that, you are studying for advancement or your Fleet Marine Force warfare qualification. If all of that is done then you are PT’ing, playing spades, dominos or Halo. (that was Manny’s favorite) or just hanging with your friends.

In my team, I took the most females that had gone out for that mission and there were 8 including me. That caused some pain as I paired each of us with a male, since there are physical restraints and safety concerns; I wanted to make sure each team member was as safe as they could be. Please keep in mind I could have paired two females together but I chose not to. I didn’t think it was a smart thing to do based on the mission. Some of those guys with full “battle rattle” (battle gear) on, were very heavy!

I then brought up the politically sensitive topic of her being a female and how, if at all, it made any difference to those around her. She only seemed to discuss her time in Iraq.

”Yes and no… By the crew, absolutely not; being a female had zero impact on my ability to be an effective member of the crew but by the civilians, yes.

The way some of the local national men looked at me made me feel uncomfortable at best, but for the most part, it was my partner that was treated more different by the Locals than me. One day in mid-March we responded to a young lady who had been to the market to get groceries with her husband, and who was 5 months pregnant when she was shot through the abdomen. My partner being a male was not allowed to touch her; her husband would rather have had her and the baby die than be touched by another male. But since I was there, I was able to examine her and provide the life saving treatment that allowed both her and their baby to live. So being a female made a big difference that day.”

Being a corpsman, especially a female corpsman, may provide a significant source of comfort to Marines as well. I had asked Shay to tell me about any other missions that stood out from the others:

“Saving that mom and baby was absolutely amazing! There was one other one that sticks out pretty well. I can’t remember the date but it was in April 2007, when my partner and I responded to an urgent MEDEVAC for a US Marine. it was my partners turn to run off the bird; as I watched him run back, I grabbed the litter with him and helped set the patient into the litter stanchions. We lifted off, I was handing my partner stuff and as we moved his flak jacket so we could do our assessment, his religious medallion that he fastened to the inside of it, sparkled a little and caught my eye. Anyway he had a gunshot wound to the leg, and my partner had the bleeding under control and was dressing the wound. I raised my visor so I could talk to him. I leaned over to ask him to squeeze my hand, as I wanted to see if he comprehended what was going on. As I reached for his hand so he could, I noticed how scared he looked. He then squeezed my hand and smiled a little and took a deep breath. When we got to the Role II he did not want to let go and almost took my flight glove with him! I reassured him they would take great care of him at the TQ surgical unit and he let go.

The best part about it was that our home base was on TQ, so after shift I was able to walk over and check on him. He was fast asleep, but the Doc’s told me he was going to make a full recovery. I guess that fact that even at his most scared moment, I was able to make him smile, and even if just for a second to a deep breath and relax.”


The airwing element where Shay is currently deployed is made up of squadrons from MAG-40. A composite aviation unit out of MCAS Cherry Point, MAG-40 is the combat aviation element for the Marines supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Dittlinger and LT Loffgren with PEDRO our Air Force medical evac bird!

This group is composed of two CH-53 squadrons, along with one light attack helicopter squadron, one AV-8B Harrier squadron, one Osprey squadron, one KC-130 tactical aerial refueling squadron, one unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, and an aviation logistics squadron. MAG-40 deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2009 and falls under the command of the 2nd MEB.

Because a squadron of Osprey helped make up its composition, I had to ask her if she had flown on one yet or if any had been used in a MEDEVAC/CASEVAC mode. She wrote:

“In one of the e-mails you asked about the V-22 (Osprey); it’s a neat aircraft with unique capability and could, if assigned, provide a CASEVAC mission. Currently we do not use the V-22 in that manner, not to say we haven’t, because we did launch the V-22 one time out here with a CASEVAC HM on the back. HM3 Matzke went down south and picked up a small child who had been severely burned; it was a non-battle injury, but we transported the child and a family member to our Role II for care. He said he didn’t have to do much as the ground Corpsman cleaned and dressed it nice and the flight was extremely quick.”

I also asked Shay what her mission was and their role as it stood in Afghanistan;

“Here my job is a little different; I run the Patient Evacuation Team. They sit at the Command Element and run the watch station for MEDEVAC. They work with the ground unit and ISAF/ NATO Forces to get the aircraft launched and out to the grid and to the right location for care, then they follow the Marine/ Sailor through the medical facilities until they are released back to duty.

“My primary mission here is not flying but patient tracking and working with ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) and NATO forces on patient regulating. My team receives the 9-lin, then processes it, works with Regional Command (South) as they source the aircraft, and then assign the medical facility all the while my team is communicating to the ground unit that help is on the way.

Then they follow the patient all the way back to Return to Unit whether its here in Afghanistan or back home with their parent command.. To date we have tracked over 1100 Active Duty, and over 400 ANA (Afghan National Army), LN (Local National), ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and EPW (Enemy Prisoners of War).

We answer any questions the higher headquarters has and we ensure the ground unit knows help is on the way. My other half of the job out here is the Assistant Health Service Support Officer. We sit in planning meetings that are planning all of the major operations in Helmand Province and ensure that the right medical facilities are where they need to be and the right medical staff is available.

My current team is exactly 50/50, but because it’s a watch floor, (big computers and techno-war fighting) gender does not come into play. I say techno-war fighting but a lot of important things happen on the watch floor as they coordinate everything in the AO. They can see what’s happening here in this position and divert aircraft for assistance or re-route a convoy based on a situation or launch HIMAR’s (High Mobility Artillery rocket System) in support of a fire fight in this section. This is “Big Picture Orchestrating” with focusing on all the things that we can do to help the warfighter on the ground and get them what they need to succeed.”

Although her role is quite different from the one she had in Iraq, she still flies on the heavies” (CH-53’s) at times. As part of her job, as the Assistant medical planners she has to ensure the right care is available wherever they are doing operations.

POPASMOKE / SSgt Terrance Clark

Shay travels throughout her AOR doing what she does. She recently went to Forward Operating Base Delhi which is located in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan near the town of Garmisir. It’s in an area that was made famous by the UK’s Prince Harry who served there from late to 2007 to early 2008.

Shay sent me a photograph that was taken of her while she was flying on a CH-53 resupply mission in Marjah during Operation MOSHTARAK. In the photo she is intently looking down thru the hellhole as they are offloading much needed water and food. In her flight goggles one can see the reflection of the tail gunner.

In regards to flying CASEVAC in Afghanistan: “Out here in Afghanistan, we fly solo as we are out here in a tertiary billet so we don’t waste Corpsmen or fly people unnecessarily, it’s just not safe! If called upon to provide medical care and I need help, then the AO or rear gunner would be able to assist. As for the kinds of patients we evacuate there are all kinds: Urgent, Urgent Surgical, Priority, Routine; US and UK Active duty, and all other coalition forces, Local National, and Enemy prisoners. That is for both Iraq and here.

In March of 2010 I read a story about a British pilot who was struck in the head by a bullet during a firefight and still managed to safely land a helicopter full of casualties, medical personnel and troops. After being wounded, he refused to give up control of his Chinook (C-47) and flew the twenty or more souls on board back to Camp Bastion.. I e-mailed her the interesting article and she wrote back the following:

“Very true.. this happened not too long ago. In fact, they were able to land safely at the helo pad at the hospital we call Nightingale. The only down point was that the Chinook was so big it took up the majority of the helo pad, so we had to shut it down for a few hours before we could get it out so that other birds could land.

Camp Bastion is about 2 minutes away from my base… we are all connected and that’s where our injured go as well. It’s a great hospital! It’s the Role III that I was telling you about that we have here.

Oh, as a side note,

As we were doing our drill for our insert into Marjah I used that scenario for our training.”

The discussions turned to her flying MEDEVAC missions once again and I asked her if she could discuss her worst mission. I knew for her it might not yet be possible and from her reply I guess I was right.

“I really don’t think I can. Not because of the demons, but every time we flew it was because someone was hurt. We saw a lot of bad things, just like you did, we took rounds to my aircraft on my first flight out, suddenly sun light where there was none, to crawling into blown up humvee’s to pull out the wounded because at 5 foot 3, I was the smallest one and could wiggle my way to the wounded. I remember so many that I don’t think singling one out would be fair to the memory of the crew, the ground unit, or the member that we picked up. We landed in farmers fields, where the gunner said one second he could see me and the next he couldn’t then I would pop up again and he could see me then he wouldn’t, only to get the wounded out just before Close Air Support came in and dropped some serious fire power that rocked the ground and the Phrog. We landed on roads and moved multiple casualties from IED’s and car accidents. Any time we launched it was trauma and trauma was bad.”

Not everything that happens in war is negative, even in the war in Afghanistan. Shay had sent me a picture where she is surrounded by Locals and is holding the hand of a little girl. I did not understand the significance of the photo she had sent me until I receiver her answer to my question

Shannon and Hilya in Nowzad after the MEB cleared it!

“What has been your biggest eye-opening experience since you arrived ?

“You are so going to think its a cliché but remember that little girl I sent you a picture of? That was Hilya she is 8. When we first got here Now Zad was one of the worst areas in our AO. It was a guarantee to have amputees from that area whenever there was a 9-liner from a unit. In November we did an operation called COBRA’S ANGER, and about a month later that picture was taken. As you can see I wasn’t wearing any Personal Protective Devices… She ran to me, held my hand and pointed out the store her father was able to open and about the dinner she had the night before, but her eyes lit up when she showed me her school that she was allowed to go too. (I had an interpreter with me) For me it’s all about the kids and the ability for them to have just the basics, food and the option to go to school and learn.

Even in Iraq one of the most significant memories I have, was one of our last flight, We were out to get a Iraqi Policeman and we were flying low and there they were, just outside playing with a ball. It was the first time I had seen kids outside playing. So many of the things people take for granted, like walking down the street without the fear of being blown up, being able to have the option of going to school, being able to go outside and kick a ball, so many of the freedoms that come natural to most of us just don’t exist here, at least they didn’t until we came to help. I told you it was cliché! “

The last question I put on all of my other questionnaires was in regards to what advice would you or do you give to someone who wanted to fly MEDEVAC?

“Wow! What to tell someone who wants to do this mission… get assigned to the MAW, and go for it. IT is by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I spent the day with HM2 Wenck last week on Friday when I went down to COP (Combat Outpost) Dehli located on the edge of Darvishan (Helmand Province). After his two tours with Manny in Iraq as CASEVAC HM’s, this is his first time as a VICTOR unit Corpsman (Grunt Doc). All he could say was how different it was. You have to love to fly, have the desire to help and the courage to go in when everyone else wants out.”


You can purchase Luminous Base on Amazon.

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Merry Christmas From Afghanistan

“Merry Christmas From Afghanistan”

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, oh man, it’s that time of year, and the birth of Jesus doesn’t seem to please the terrorists down here; I’d like to take a moment for you folks at home to make it clear; Merry Christmas from the Eastern Hemisphere.

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, way back in the USA, You’ve got mistletoe and falling snow, we’ve got sandstorms and grenades But what the hell, it’s just as well we celebrate it anyway, Merry Christmas from 5,000 miles away.

And I remember many Decembers, sitting ’round that tree, And now I’m in an outer cordon sitting ’round an IED, I’ve traded yams and roasted ham for a chicken noodle MRE, Merry Christmas from out here in the middle east.

So merry Christmas from Afghanistan, from our AO to yours, I’ll be watching illegal DVDs and defecating out of doors, Put my pedal to the metal man, I’ll settle for that medal of honor when I when the war, Single-handedly from my armored drivers door.

Yuletide salutations from our vacation in the sand, from this E-3 Lance Coolie and up the whole chain of command Between Al Qaeda, Al Jazeera, Mujahadeen, and the Taliban, It’s a very merry Christmas in Afghanistan.

From south Montana, to northwest Indiana, to the shores of North Caroline, From NYC to LA’s beaches and down the Mason-Dixon Line, It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine, So merry Christmas from Afghanistan tonight. It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine, So Merry Christmas down the Final Protection Line!

Seasons greetings from CAAT 1, WPNS CO, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines. (filmed on site at Alpha 1)

Source: http://www.breitbart.tv/merry-christmas-from-afghanistan/

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The things they carry in Afghanistan

Editor’s note: David Fennell of Littleton is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is stationed in Marjah, Afghanistan, as head of the Civil Affairs Group there. Before that, he served a tour in Iraq. His father, Denny, asked David to sum up his experiences as he nears the end of his deployment.

Although I’ve gotten used to things around here, this place can wear on you.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe in our mission and its importance to both the Afghan people and security back home. Still, southern Afghanistan is a hard place.

The question Marines ask themselves most when talking with folks back home is “Where do I start?” There are no easy answers.

Sand, moon dust, terrain, weather, enemy, Marines getting hurt, Marines taken out of action, high op tempo, 2 4/7, working with locals, working with civilians, working with Afghan government, working with Afghan police, working with Afghan army, working with international forces (ISAF), bad food, drinking tea with locals knowing you’ll get sick, getting sick, watching for IEDs, looking for ambushes, suicide bomb threats, enemy murdering and intimidating the local population, local “friends” working with enemy, Marines getting killed, controlled IED detonations, wondering what caused an explosion, the kids, seeing bad things happen to kids, bad kids throwing rocks, bad kids taunting and making gestures that you’re going to get blown up, locals gaming the system, locals complaining about everything, locals always want more, some locals step up and the enemy takes some locals down . . .

Sand storms, bad sleep, incoming rockets, burn pits, relieving yourself in a bag, reports, reports, reports, briefs, briefs, briefs, VIP visits (generals, ambassadors, Afghanistan officials, etc.), second-guessed by others, second-guessing yourself, media, interpreters, bad interpreters, not being able to find an interpreter, losing gear, getting gear stolen, keeping Marines motivated, rewarding Marines, punishing Marines, taking care of interpreters, patrolling through canals and irrigated farms, getting your only pair of boots wet, getting your camera wet, Medevacs, finding IEDs, waiting hours for EOD to detonate IEDs, acronyms, hearing Marines in a firefight over the radio, losing communication, incoming mortars, long days, short meals, dirty uniforms, making yourself sick from your smell . . .

Needing air support but not getting it, taught not to look at Afghan women, taught not to talk to Afghan women, not knowing how to react when an Afghan woman approaches, false claims of Koran burning, false claims of night searches, false claims of civilian casualties, lies, lies, lies, protests, riots, local leaders calm protests and riots for a few prayer rugs.

Taking malaria medication, flak jackets, Kevlar, bad feet, bad knees, bad back, bad haircuts, looking forward to firefights, dreading IEDs, sand in everything, too few computers, no printers, no scanner, generators go down, e-mail goes down, “where’s your report?”, cold winter, no heat, local gets shot, local comes to Marines for help, is local a Taliban who we shot?, Marines trying to be experts in crime scene investigations, getting mail late, getting mail stolen, not getting mail at all, being hungry, saving the last Ramen noodle, losing weight, bad shaves, hot days, no A/C, sunburned faces and necks, white arms and legs, trying to get contractors to start development projects, contractors getting intimidated and robbed by Taliban, contractors getting kidnapped by Taliban, workers being killed by Taliban, hoping a Marine “makes it,” going to memorial services, hoping it’s never your Marine, rules of engagement, escalation of force, taking small arms fire from house, having to let detainee go for lack of evidence, running out of wet wipes, running out of water, losing your flashlight, running into razor wire at night, living in the “gray,” questioning how much corruption is acceptable, flies in your food, flies in your eye, trying not to be motivated by hate, broken-down vehicles, stuck vehicles, getting caught on an extended patrol without NVGs, did I do enough? did I do it right? and.. did I mention the sand?

It’s just a normal day or week or month out here, but Marines seldom bring up any more than a few of these things to complain about.

story | photo

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Lone Survivor

I recently finished reading Marcus Luttrell’s story “Lone Survivor”. Marcus (Navy Cross), a Navy SEAL with SEAL Team 10 in Afghanistan, recounts the horrific engagement with the Taliban and the heroics of his teammates as they fought back to back high in the mountains against an enormous enemy force in Operation Red Wing (2005).

Marcus and his team were extremely upset that the Taliban were responsible for the killing of Marines in the area and were intent on putting a stop to it.

The first half of the book, an insightful story itself, takes the reader to the beaches of Coronado California where only the very best survive the rigerous training hopeful SEALs endure. After graduating and receiving the SEAL Trident, dozens more skills courses and qualifications follow before Marcus deployes to Afghanistan with his SEAL teammates.

“Lone Survivor” is one of the best stories I’ve read that portrays the patriotism, dedication, talent, and devotion of the finest young men America has to offer. Fighting ruthless enemies in a foreign land under restrictive ‘rules of engagement’ provides for a dilemma for SEAL Team 10.

Back home in East Texas, Marcus’ folks receive the news that he is MIA. You will read about how Texans come together to support their neighbors while waiting for further news.

Hand Salute to the men of SEAL Team 10 and all others lost in Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan. Gone, but not forgotten.

Buy the book, it’s a very powerful MUST READ.

[ see also Marcus’ speech at the NRA ]

[ see also Marcus’ YouTube Today Show interview ]

You can write to Marcus via his publisher at the below address:

Marcus Luttrell
c/o Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave
New York, NY 10017

~Cpl. Beddoe

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