The Camp Riley Clear (Part One)

Part One of Three. The Camp Riley Clear mission that takes a drastic turn. A dramatic story about Marines in combat, in the southern Helmand city of Marjah. Taking place in the early days of Operation Moshtarak in 2010.

Here we are again, sitting in a briefing for a clear mission. It doesn’t seem like the barrels had cooled from the last engagement. The push ended a week ago. Seven days of heavy combat, gunfights from sun up to sundown. After we had reached our final objectives, and the convoy forces had finally pushed in to meet us. They loaded third squad up, and shipped us over here to Riley, which is Kilo company’s FOB.

We sat around for a few days waiting to receive a mission. Sometimes we would get called up to go sweep for IED’s on scout missions, but those were few and far between. The higher-ups were giving us all a cool down period. It wasn’t a long break, and they already had new plans in the works. Our squad leader had been in the planning briefs for this push, but he hadn’t told us much, just that we needed to have our gear ready to move.

Tonight was the big brief, we listened to the CO and first Sergeant. Each giving a long and drawn out briefing. Most of the company sitting around in a large half circle. Its hard to sit through most of these topics. There is very important information embedded throughout the speech, but there’s a lot of filler added that doesn’t really pertain to everyone. A lot of Marine talk gets mixed in. Like “Let’s get out there and GET SOME,” and those subtle “Rah’s” thrown in. The little one liners usually means they want a response. Generally a “OHHHRAAHH” or a “KILL” was enough to satisfy them. We had gotten pretty good at it over the last year, everyone replying in sync.

The mission was a complicated one. Marines from first squad were to be inserted a few clicks (kilometers) away, and set up blocking positions. Then second, third, and weapons would make a three pronged sweeping movement to clear a large area of ground. The object was to root out some hostile that had remained in this part of the city. Secondary to that we were to do a census on the population located in the grid we were clearing. All of this sounds simple and straight forward. But when you have an operation of this size quickly thrown together, and executed, there is always room for error.

Brett and I couldn’t wait to get back out there. We had spent the last few days making furniture out of hesco for our own little pow-wow circle. Some pretty elaborate pieces of crap. Jason also excelled at the art. Our squad leader had told us to stop horsing around many times, but we would usually continue when he would disappear. There was nothing else better to do, and we had just conquered a hostile city! It was time to do what Marines do best when not killing things. We horse ass around, and see who can come up with the funniest joke. Usually at the higher-ups or each other’s expense.

After the brief was over we made our way back to our sleeping area. Our squad leader briefed us on the details of our engineer specific duties. It was always the same for us. Provide IED detection support. Which was fancy for saying, “Swing a metal detector out in front of the infantry.” We did have some other interesting job requirements, like carry all the demolition we could get our hands on. Breaching was our specialty. Need a big hole in a wall? A door removed from its hinges? You could always count on us to blow something up!

SGT B. Finished the brief, and we all sat around and talked for a bit before hitting the rack. Revile was at 0500, we all got up and around. Went through our normal morning routines, hygiene, bathroom, and ate some chow. Then it was time to grab our gear, and head over toward the ECP (entry control point), and form up to move out on our mission.

Leaving the protection of the FOB, we immediately took a left turn, and ventured out into an unexplored part of the city. Using a fairly smooth, and traveled road, we marched in a split column. A line on each side of the road, each Marine staggered with fifteen meters of dispersion between each other. Each compound that we came too, was cleared, searched, and then a population survey was completed. Each persons name was entered into a handheld retinal scanner. It was a quick census of the local population.

We repeated this process over and over and over. After four hours of clearing, we came to a compound that was in disrepair. The walls were crumbling, there were no plants growing in the garden. Inside the compound’s run down living quarters were two military age males, both were high as kites, and couldn’t comprehend simple commands from the interpreter.

As I cleared the back room, I found bricks, and bricks of opium, and marijuana. I don’t know the dollar value, but I’m sure it was in the millions. I noticed a bag that looked as if it were deliberately hidden, under a pile of Urea fertilizer. It was a large leather duffle bag. I inspected the outside, looking for wires, or anything else out of the ordinary. Sometimes these things were booby trapped. As I started to unzip the bag, paper started to burst out of the no open seam. I got excited! It was cold hard American cash. Hundreds of thousands of dollars!

I had so many questions! I brought the bag outside, and showed my SGT. He was also amazed at the sum. It wasn’t uncommon to find American money here. This was unordinary though, so much money in this run down Afghan home. The men wouldn’t tell us where it had come from, so we confiscated it to be handed over to the proper department at a later date. The two men were detained, and would be questioned further later. A fire-team of Marines was left behind to guard the detainees until we came back later, and linked up.

We pushed forward, continuing our task in the extreme heat. I was on point again, and as we left the compound the surrounding area opened up into flat, open desert. About 500 meters to the next compound, with a large canal splitting the whole area in half. I called out the open area, and was told to push on. The road was hard packed, and there were no signs of any recent disturbances to the soil. My pace was faster then normal for that very reason. I made it to the canal, and had just crossed it when CRACK.. CRACK. CRACK.. The air around me exploded with hot lead. Dust rose from the ground as rounds crashed all around my feet. I froze for a split second, then hit the deck! There was no cover. I mean not even a blade of grass. My SGT was to my left behind a small pile of dirt. I got up and sprinted as fast as my legs would carry me.

Diving down behind the dirt pile. Screaming at my SGT. “Where are they?” “Who’s shooting?” He replied with a hurried “I Don’t f*cking know!!” We got down as best we could. The dirt pile was a foot high, and about three feet wide. Just enough to get a small barrier between us, and the incoming rounds. I looked back over my shoulder to see where everyone else had ended up. LCPL Diaz was laying halfway in the water of the canal along with several other Marines. The back half of the column was still back at the last compound, behind those mud walls that are a foot thick. They were doing what they could though, returning fire, and calling in for support.

SGT B and I began firing at anything that could hide the enemy, murder holes, and the brush that we could see. There was no definite sign of the enemy. No dust from a muzzle, no muzzle flashes, no nothing. Just the constant barrage of incoming rounds. I still had my day pack on, it was loaded with half a satchel of C-4, and det-cord. Along with an MRE, water, and a couple of extra magazines. A round hit my pack, I yelled to my SGT telling him something hit me. He did a quick triage to make sure I wasn’t wounded. In a firefight, you cant always tell if you are hit. There’s so much adrenaline pumping that it masks the pain. I hadn’t been wounded, just shot up a bit. Then another round hit my pack. I screamed “THIS IS BULLSHIT!!” While firing rounds into possible enemy locations.

Let me know what you think of “Part One” of this three part story! This has been a tougher one for me to write about, and I always appreciate the support. I will be publishing “Part 2” in the next couple of days!

Okieschaos.com
@okieschaos
WillCornell2007@gmail.com

The Female Army Officer

A female Army Officer give a couple Marines a show in this funny tale from Afghanistan.

It was just another extremely hot and arid day in the Afghan desert. Well over 115 degrees. Most of our platoon were in the tents cooling off. Brett and I had stayed at the engineer area we named Yazzie’s Yard, after LCPL Yazzie. He was the only member of our platoon killed throughout our deployment. Shot by a sniper on the second day of the push, while providing cover fire for the engineers installing an expedient foot bridge across a large canal. So in his honor we named our area after him.

We shared our area with supply, but they kept mostly to themselves, unless we were hosting a poker game in the middle of the night. They had a small tent in the corner, and the entire battalions supply would pass through this little corner of our yard. There were twenty or more pallets of different items essential to keep us in Afghanistan spread out in front of the tent. Our CP (command post) was in a corner across the big yard, sharing the same base wall. The hesco wall made a big rectangle around the area, with a large opening to get our vehicles in and out, and a small opening on an adjacent wall, that acted as a shortcut for us to get to our tents. Next to this “shortcut” entrance were five PVC tubes that stuck out of the ground about three feet high, and at a 30 degree angle.

These were our own private “piss tubes” that we had installed, so that we didn’t have to venture all the way to the other side of the camp to take a leak. The smell of over-bearing ammonia always present, and closer you ventured to them, the more potent the horrible smell got. Especially on hot days, getting so bad it would make your eyes water. They were installed in the first days of the camp, and went down about 10 feet into the hard Afghan soil. There was a foot of gravel at the bottom, the rest was filled in with dirt. The ground was so hard at the bottom of the hole, that the urine wouldn’t absorb into the soil. It basically just sat there in the hole, with the tubes acting as perfect vents to the outside air.

Anyway, an army convoy pulled into the base to refuel. This was a somewhat common occurrence. They wouldn’t stay long, just long enough to fuel up, and be on their way. Their vehicles were had some great additions, that we would never acquire. They sported RPG cages, that went all the way around. You see, an RPG’s fuse is right at the tip of the rocket. So when it hit the cage, and explodes. The blast is a good distance from the vehicle, and has a large area to dissipate, making damage minimal.

The trucks also sported automatic 50 Cal turrets. So instead of having a soldier in the turret, they were controlling the gun from inside the vehicle, on a small handheld screen. Absolute protection, compared to us Marines that manned our turrets, and the only protection we had was the armor of our vehicles. All of this comes down to budget, the Army has a huge budget, and can spend money on these things. Marine budget comes from the Navy, and is much smaller. We get a lot of hand-me-downs from the other branches.

The soldiers would generally hang out around their vehicles while they were fueled. They were returning to one of the large bases with a store, where they could buy just about anything. Monster energy drinks, TV’s, Xbox’s, candy, and whatever else they fancied. So they didn’t have much of a reason to explore our tiny, primitively base. The only time they would leave their vehicles was to use the bathroom.

Well the convoy commander was a female Lieutenant, and she needed went looking for a bathroom, and ours was closest. She must have seen the tubes when they pulled in, they weren’t visible from anywhere else. So she walked over in her full gear, and I know she saw us. Two marines standing there watching her walk over. A female was a rare sight for us out in the middle of the Afghan desert. She walked right over to the tubes, right in front of us. Pulled down her pants, almost to her knees, hiked up her leg, and let go. Now we were 20 yards from her staring. She didn’t pay us any mind, she just did her thing. I’m sure our jaws were in the sand, standing there not saying a word. We never saw any of her private parts, she was facing away from us.

She finished up, pulled up her pants, while she turned to look at us. She smiled at us, and winked! Brett and I almost hit the ground we laughed so hard. She just shook her head with a big grin and walked back to her vehicle. They soon finished refueling, and headed back out of the wire. Brett and I laughed and joked about what we had just experienced. Telling all the guys our story back at the tent later that evening. Most of them didn’t believe us. Now I know, I know. None of this is a big deal, I just thought it was a funny story to tell you guys. How Marines think when we don’t see a female for months at a time, then this female Officer does that in front of us. It was a big deal to us back then.

I hope you enjoyed our shenanigans, and thank you to that female Army Officer for brightening a couple Marines day. The small things are what kept us going. Do you have any funny stories like this? Let us know in the comments! We would love to hear about your experiences!

okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

WillCornell2007@gmail.com

The Smoke Pit

The smoke pit is the place business is conducted in the corps. Good or bad, serious or just having a laugh. It usually happens in a Marine smoke pit.

In the Marine Corps, the smoke pit is the place were all the behind the scenes business occurs. Wether it’s back home in garrison, or in a combat zone like Afghanistan. A good majority of Marines smoke, so it makes it not only a convenient location, but a practical one. Smoke pits are strategically placed all around bases at home, and abroad.

After we had been in country a month or so, civilization had started to catch up to us. We went from living in small two man tents. To living in large comfortable, and air conditioned Alaskan shelters. They sent in two full sets of gym equipment, and a tent were we could fight over computers, to get on Facebook, or Skype home. Eventually there were even showers. You might have to walk in cheap shower shoes a half a mile to get to them, but they were there.

We rarely went to these places during the day though. It was either to hot, to crowded, or our family’s would be in bed. So it made sense that these activities were done at night. My engineer unit would stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning, sleep for a few hours. Then get up and work in the morning until it inevitably got to hot. We would sleep during the hottest part of the day, then get up that evening, and finish up our work before enjoying the necessity’s that had found their way to our camp.

For myself and my closest friends. We would work out anywhere from 2 to 4 hours every night. Usually after 2am. The gym and computer tent weren’t jam packed after 2. Unless we had a mission the next day, then this schedule became irrelevant, but the smoke pit is where we would congregate between chores, or whatever else we had going. The place you could always find someone to talk to, relieving the stress’s that inevitably piled up on your shoulders. Or just find someone to talk to when everyone else was asleep or busy.

There were many smoke pits scattered around camp Hansen. We claimed one that was close to our tents. There were a dozen of these giant tents, three wide in perfect rows. On one side of the tents was the inner wall. The inner wall was a giant triangle made of hesco. It was the original base that we had moved into, before the follow on forces arrived, and the base had to be expanded. On the other side was a long mortar shelter that was made of hesco, concrete, and sandbags. In the event the base was under mortar attack, these shelters were your best chance of survival. They ran from one end of the tents to the other.

A small gap used as a quick entrance in the long bunker, also served as the back door to our claimed smoke pit. The pit was about 25 feet in diameter. In the center was a butt can. With a ring around that, made up of improvised chairs. Some were just a simple sandbag on the ground. Others were full on arm chairs made of sandbags. Even better then the sandbag chair, was a chair made out of hog wire and hesco felt. These could be so elaborate that they resembled comfy beach chairs.

My friends and I spent many nights talking about all sorts of things. The “how are we not dead” subject was popular, along with criticizing politicians, or our higher ups. A lot of the time we would reflect on those thoughts that you normally get in the shower. You know! The meaning of life! Stuff like that. There were a lot of nights we would be smoking Pine cigarettes, and watch the sun rise. We had commandeered the Pines from the bazaar, cigarettes were hard to get in country. They were Russian in origin, and very strong. The sunrise in Afghanistan is spectacular, bright reds, purple, yellows, and orange colors were brilliant. The sand and dust in the air always brought the most amazing shows. The night sky is something else too. With there being very little electricity in the country, there are no lights to drown out the stars. Adding to that, the southern provinces see almost no rain, and the sky’s were almost always clear.

Looking back, and reminiscing, really helps me deal with the bad emotional memories. I would go back in an instant. Looking past the death, and dreadful ordeals we found ourselves in. There is always a good memory that trumps it. I have never experienced anything like the comradery that I experienced with my brothers. I regrettably have lost touch with a lot of the guys that shared these experiences with me, but there are still a few that I talk with often if not daily. Its true, that saying.

No better friend, No worst enemy, then a United States Marine.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Camels, Tornados, and dirty Marines

The Engineers leave the wire on a 8 hour round trip to resupply, encountering Camel, Tornados, and much more!

We were in our heavily armored MAT-V’s sitting in a line in front of the engineer area. That was our home. A walled off compound inside of the larger base. All of our equipment was here, along with our platoon HQ. We were the only unit that had the luxury of piss tubes in our area. We also sported a homade poker table, and blackjack table. Living in style, in the middle of the arid Afghan desert. In a few minutes we would be leave the safety of Camp Hansen, and venture out into the city, then beyond to Camp Bastion. The mission was to resupply our lumber pile, and other essential gear.

It would be a four hour, rough, and most likely boring mission. We should have been on our way an hour ago but, a common problem was holding us back…. COMMS. It is important, being able to communicate in battle is vital to winning an engagement. The sophisticated, but complicated COMM systems we used were always suffering problems. Us gunners had the standard black Motorola handheld radios. We kept with us in our turrets. They weren’t encrypted, so we normally either used them to B.S. and pass insulting messages to other members of each respective vehicle. Marine talk!

We had six vehicles in the convoy for this mission. Four MAT-V’s and two 7-ton utility trucks. The MAT-V’s are large, powerful, and fast, lacking in cargo room. They are well armored with a V-Shaped hull to direct blasts from mines and IED’s. The 7-Tons were like semis, only they sat really high off the ground. Making them fairly survivable in a blast. The convoy would start with two MAT-V, then the 7-Tons, followed by the other two MAT-V’s.

Brett was always the front gunner, manning the only ma-deuce that we had. Its a Browning .50 heavy machine gun, and has been around since WWII. A beast of a gun, always up front to deal with oncoming traffic. The rest of the MAT-V’s had 240B Medium Machine guns. They fired 7.62 and could mop up a squad of insurgents like it was nothing. The two 7-Tons were sporting a couple of SAW’s (Squad Automatic Weapon) each squad has a M249 SAW. We only had three 240’s that were functioning, so we had to settle. The M249 fires a 5.56 and make body’s reflect Swiss cheese. I was always the rear gunner, manning my 240B, I protected the rear of the convoy.

Finally the COMM guys found the issue, and it was time to go. The convoy rolled up to the ECP (Entry Control Point) stopped, and requested permission from HQ to leave the FOB. Permission was granted. Our Platoon Commander’s voice came over the radio “Engineers, were Oscar Mike.” Marines use the Phonetic Alphabet when communicating over the radio. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned a word. A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charlie, and so on. Oscar Mike means “On the Move”.

The gate guard moved the concertina wire out of the road. The trucks roared to life, turning right onto the hard packed, clay road. Brett and I had a tradition. Every time we left the wire, brett would say over his Motorola “Party like a Rockstar!” Then as my vehicle passed the ECP, I would reply “and F*ck like a Porn Star!” We had never been blown up before, and for some reason we credited it to saying our traditional words when leaving the protection of the wire. #MarineLogic

We made the right turn and sped up fast, the plan was to push hard to Bastion, resupply, then turn right around, and head home. It would be a long day, but it was doable if we didn’t run into problems. For the next hour we rolled through little villages and bazaars. They all belonged to the city of Marjeh, but were spread out. There would be a group of homes, separated by fields of poppy. We drove by the fields were we had landed in helo’s in the middle of the night, three months earlier. Dodging kids as they played in he road. The ladies we would pass were covered from head to toe in their burkas. Every single one of them. The only skin showing on them was their hands. This comes as nothing less then a culture shock, you never get used to it.

After two and a half hours we made it to the outskirts of town. It is a shocking sight. You see, Marjeh is situated in the Helmand river valley. A fairly lush area, irrigated by an ancient canal system. It is also very flat, there is almost no discernible change in elevation while you are in the valley. But here green instantly turns to course, blowing sand. Gigantic dunes rise up, right next to homes, gaining in elevation the farther in you go. A lot like the Rockies, only dull and hot, and maybe like 70 feet tall. There are vehicle tracks that run off in every direction with no plan or reason. They cris-cross in random directions.

We drove out into the desert for half an hour before turning, and running parallel to the river valley. The only thing in view was a dry, ancient land, sand from horizon to horizon.. A perk to this area, was that you could haul ass! We drove as fast as we could, which was about 55 MPH. The MAT-V’s could do 70-75 MPH, but the 7-Tons ran 55 flat. 20 minutes into our new course a herd of wild camels appeared, hundreds of them in every shape and size. Walking along lazily on top of giant sand dunes, with their heads bobbing with each step. As we passed them I just thought about how unreal this place was.

Out of nowhere a giant tornado appeared under a clear blue sky. Being an Okie from Oklahoma, I am used to seeing the occasional tornado. Nothing like this though. These were enormous, at least an 1\8 mile wide at the base. Roping up into the sky for hundreds feet. A beige- light brown column of dust. Then another appeared on the horizon, and another! Then one more! It was insane! In a line moving parallel to us in the opposite direction, no more then a mile away. Never would I have thought that I would see four gigantic dust devils, vacuuming up the dessert floor. The camels didn’t seem to mind them, and went on with their business. Kind of like a lot of people I know in Oklahoma. Sitting on the back porch with a beer and watching a tornado pass by. Just another day in Afghanistan!

We finally made it to Bastion and got our supply’s loaded, just in time to get some grub at the fancy chow hall on base. It was a huge tent that employed civilian contractors from country’s in Southeast Asia. We were so dirty, us gunners had solid white faces, except for where our goggles had been. The cammies that we wore were drenched in sweat and mixed with the dirt from the road. We ate the delicacies, and laughed and poked fun at the “fobbits” that never left the security of the wire. We finished eating with out incident, surprise! Jumped back in our Vic’s, and headed back to Marjeh. Riding off into the sunset, winding our way through the desert, back the way we had come. Making it home without trouble, and completing our mission in record time.

Thought this was a good little story to share! Hope you enjoyed! If you can relate in any way let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to share to social media, and leave a like!

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

WillCornell2007@gmail.com

Old Man River Attacks the Hill

A short story about my friend Jason, on our tour in Afghanistan. Jason charges a hill while a friendly base is being attacked. We all thanked the Lord when he returned. I hope you enjoy, please let me know what you think.

It was another scorcher in the Afghan desert. Well north of 110 degrees this afternoon. So we were all in our air conditioned Alaskan shelters to escape the heat of the day. Dirty, filthy, tired, we were all lazily laying around in our racks. Brett and I had been working on a carpentry project for some of the brass in the CP (Command Post). The two of us would keep busy on the mornings we didn’t have another mission. Usually by building desks or bookshelves. It was our way to pass the time. Working until the heat was unbearable.

Just a normal day for us, evading the heat and upper management. Brett and I were always the first to volunteer for almost any assignment. Accept when it was that hot. So we relaxed and had a movie going on one of our laptops. The other marines in our tent were doing the same. Some were sleeping, others were going over gear or reading dirty magazines. Two of the four squad leaders, who were all sergeants, slept by the door. I was about halfway down on the same side.

Laying there. Half naked, and half asleep. I had my PT shorts on, watching the movie. Then I heard it. The sound of the Sergeant Major yelling. Over and over. “STAND TO! STAND TO! STAND TO!”. This was a pretty common occurrence for us. Each unit had a specific spot to defend the FOB if we were to be attacked. Sometimes it was just a drill. If it was “for real”, it was usually an IED blast that was close, or a pot shot or two.

Brett Surles (Right) Jason Shriner (Center) Bobby Stone (Right)

This time was different. An extremely small Patrol Base that watched the main supply route to India company was under a heavy barrage of small arms fire. We where about four clicks up the road from them. Separated by a large hill with a radio tower on top. The hill was an oddity being the only measurable elevation in sight. It stuck out in the landscape. They were being hit with AK and RPG fire.

In the tents we figured this was just another drill. You know. To inconvenience us lower ranking Marines. I looked over at my squad leader and he hadn’t moved. So I followed his lead. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and the door busted open! Our platoon Sergeant pushed the door open with a crash and started yelling at us to “GET OUR ASSES UP” and “STAND TOO, MEANS YOU STAND TOO MARINES!” I felt like I was in boot camp again. The way he was coming at us. He had a T-Shirt, and shorts on, boots untucked, and had his gear to top off the outfit.

Now i’ll admit I was still moving slow for about the first 30 seconds. I lazily started putting on my pants. Putting them on as he got in my face and yelled “FORGET THAT SHIT! GET YOUR GEAR AND GET OUT THERE!” So I threw on my gear and boots, grabbed my weapon and ran out the door. Marines filing out of the tents in a unorganized gaggle. Half dressed and getting excited now. I could hear the brewing fire fight a few clicks out. I passed a civilian reporter, he yelled “GET SOME MARINES!” That got me going! We hadn’t had a good fight in a month or more.

We ran over behind BAS (Battalion Aid Station), and onto the berm that surrounded the base. Facing out into the dessert. Ready to take on the hoards of the Taliban should they attempt it. That’s when I got that twisted, butterfly feeling in my stomach. It usually comes before a fight. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been in a fight in over a month, I don’t know. I was ready none the less. Sitting there, the feeling starts to go away, and slowest turns into that “this is BS” mentality.

The Firebase called in an air strike over the radio. The jet on station was an A-10 Warthog. It came in low and dropped flares over the enemy first. The Angel formation of the smoke left behind is pretty spectacular. Normally it is enough to strike fear into the screaming fanatics. This time the enemy kept on shooting. The jet was called back, only this time he wasn’t shooting flares. First I heard the engine of the jet come in and then BBBRRRRRRRRRRRRTTT—- BRRRRTTTTT—BRRRTTTT. That’s the sound of the Gatling gun that sits in the nose of the plane, laying hate to the enemy, and chewing up anything the exploding rounds reach.

That got them! Losing their will to fight, the cowards didn’t fire another round. The Sergeant Major called out for all Marines to Stand-Down. I got up and went over to the huddle of engineers that was forming a few meters away. Our squad leader began counting us, so that he could report we where all accounted for. Soon realizing Lance Corporal Jason Shriner wasn’t among us. He sent Brett to the tent in a hurry, to see if he was there. Brett returned after a few minutes and reported that Jason wasn’t there. A few minutes went by with panic brewing. Our squad leader was about to radio in that we had misplaced one of our Marines. Which would be very bad.

When with a giant Shriner smile, He comes trotting up to our now organized formation. Our squad leader yelled “SHRINER, FALL IN!! Then commenced to laying in to the 5’6” skinny Lance Corporal. Asking him where he had been, and why he wasn’t at our boring, but designated spot. Of course his version was much more colorful and lacked the word boring. Jason, now in formation and standing at attention replied “there were some guys running to take the hill! I thought we were attacking so I went with them!” The sergeant just looked at him with a blank stare, reaching for the words to destroy this perplexed Marine. After several seconds of staring, the Sergeant relented. He then gave the command for us to fall out. With that, we all returned to our tents. Asking Jason about his adventure as we walked.

Jason had fearlessly charged the hill with almost no support, looking for a fight! If that doesn’t describe the courage he possessed, then nothing will. Looking back, it could have been a complex disaster, but Jason was alive with a great story to tell. He would have stepped in front of a bullet for any one of us. The higher ups didn’t reprimand him. They just explained why he should have been with us. Realizing they to were at fault for not properly explaining the details.

Jason Shriner (Left) Jason's Brother (Right)

It makes me smile to think back on the work we did. Jason Shriner was one of my closest friends I made while in the Marines. He was 6 years older then me. He claimed the name “Old Man River”. Wearing the title proudly, complete with a tattoo in Japanese on his back. He was a character, and always had a smile on his face. Always projecting positive vibes, even when the situation sucked. Jason battled PTSD and took his own life fall of 2016. Myself and a dozen other Marines flew in to Phoenix, Arizona to attend a service, and spend time with his family.

In memory of Corporal Jason Shriner.

February 20, 1982 – October 17, 2016

I know I will see you when I get to heaven. Guarding its streets with a warm smile.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Willcornell2007@gmail.com

Dust Storm on the horizon

The sun was low in the sky, we had been in country for over five months. This was probably my fourth haircut. Sitting just outside of the back door to our Alaskan Shelter. I was sitting on a box of MRE’s (Meals ready to eat). Diaz was cutting my hair. I liked it short and usually kept it about a quarter of an inch tall on top. I liked a high fade, and barely any hair on the sides and back of my head. We called this, getting a barracks cut, because they weren’t professional. In fact they usually looked like a blind cat cut your hair.

It was mid-July, and it had been a scorcher. Over 115 degrees. We didn’t do anything today, sat around and watched movies in our air conditioned tent. I usually would spend two to three hours in the gym late at night when it was fairly cool. We were all making jokes about how bad our hair looked, and wondering what the First SGT or SGT MAJ would say about them. They were always on our asses about Proper this and Proper that. It was their job though, so I understand.

The sun was fading by the time Diaz finished cutting my hair. It actually wasn’t to bad this time. I walked around the alaskan shelter, shirtless, and I brushed the hair off of my body as I went. I looked up and there was a wall of sand coming towards us. It hadn’t blocked out the sun yet, but was about too. i had never seen anything like it. It was out of the movie The Scorpion King. When that cloud is chasing the airplane. All I could do was watch it. I ran into the tent excited, and worried at the same time. I yelled for the guys to get out here. Marine after Marine stumbled out of the tent. Asking dumb questions, but when they saw it then stood wide mouthed.

Like idiots we stood there watching it come closer. As fast as a freight train. Laughing that this was it. We were done for. It hit like a tornado. Sandblasting everything. It got dark and hard to breathe. We all fought to get into the Alaskan shelter without the door being ripped off. I finally got through and into the tent. There was dust floating in the air inside! I coughed hard for a few seconds. My body hurt, and was red as a tomato. I had been standing out there without a shirt! Everyone looked like they had been showered in fine yellow/ brown dirt.

It lasted through the night. I woke up and looked around stretching. There was a inch of dirt on everything and everyone inside the shelter. Sighing I got up, and picked up my laptop off the make shift table I had build out of MRE boxes, and a piece of wood. Dumping the dirt into the floor. Brett looked up at me, “Dude, do that outside.” I just turned and started dumping the dirt from the rest of my stuff into the floor. it took us a full day to clean the tent. It was a fun experience!

Excerpt from the chapter “First Contact” of the book I am writing

This is an excerpt from the book I am currently writing. It details My experiences with Marines from 3/6 in operation Moshtarak in the 2010 troop surge. We were dropped into the city of Marjah in the early morning hours. Marjah is a large city in the southern Helmand province of Afganistan.

First Contact

The sun was coming up and it was quiet, only the sound of Marines moving around. We were sitting and waiting for what the day would bring. A few hours earlier we had moved a couple of compounds down the road, closer to our objective.

It was a tall walled compound that was inhabited by a small family. It looked like something from a medieval story. Tall walls made of mud and plaster. The color of our desert camouflage, but darker. The walls all had buildings attached to them, almost all the way around the inner perimeter. It hosted a steel gate as its main entrance, and a small wooden door on an adjacent wall. Just off center, in the middle of the scene was a small outbuilding with a thatch roof. It was the donkeys home.

We hadn’t been shot at yet, but could hear other units trading rounds with the Taliban within ear shot. There were Marines on the roofs of the buildings, leaning against the walls, facing out toward the city of Marjah. The Marines on the opposite side were facing endless poppy fields. The same fields we had landed in the night before. Watching and waiting. It must have been about 2 hours after moving from our last pause. (A pause is the last location we were stopped at with security.)

That’s when I heard it for the first time. The “CRACK” of an AK round as it passes by your head. The hair stood up on my neck and arms. My brain went blank for a moment, and I froze. Then it becomes clear, I was being shot at. Anxiety and excitement filled me, and I got the first shot of real adrenaline. Imagine the most amped up you have ever been.. Then increase it by about 1000. It’s a high, and I have craved it ever since.

A Marine on the wall starts yelling a direction and distance, before he squeezed the trigger. The squad leader on the ground jumped into action. Yelling orders, and directing Marines and their fire.

The radio cracked to life, reporting that there was a group of military aged males with weapons heading our way. The squad in an adjacent building was sent out to close with and destroy the enemy fighters. The intensity of incoming fire started picking up. “Crack, Crack, Crack” every few seconds.

A machine gunner on the wall with his SAW (Squad automatic weapon) started engaging, laying down a wall of hate in controlled bursts. The designated marksman were placing accurate shots on target at the same time.

The squad that was sent out called back by radio requesting the mortar team that was in our compound to get in the fight. They had been sitting with us engineers, waiting to do our thing. The excitement shown on their faces is almost indescribable. They lit up and were yelling “get some” and “oohhraaww” and other things us Marines say.

A RPG (Rocket propelled grenade) went over the compound, leaving a white streak. A split second later a second followed it “whooosshhh”, both crashing in a field behind the compound. The mortar team set up their tube. Just the tube, baseplate, and sight. With a marine acting as the bipod.

They dropped a round down the tube, and “bang”. You could watch the round fly upward for what seemed 100s of feet before it disappeared into the sky. Several seconds go by before the boom. The Marines in the field radio back congratulating the mortarman, and told them to fire for affect.

The confidence of the mortar team was obvious to me. Not using a bipod on the first mission of the deployment, and to hit the target was a long stretch. They shouted more “oohhraaahs” and “Semper Gumby’s”, before dropping three more rounds on the Taliban’s heads.

If you enjoyed this piece of my book please let me know! I would love to hear your comments and constructive criticisms. Also please feel free to share with your friends or anyone who would enjoy my writing. My stories are from a very prominent time in my life and it’s therapeutic for me to put them into words. Though it is very hard at times, I really enjoy discussing the things I have been through. So, again. Please Like, Comment, and Share!

Why I decided to start this page

Overcoming, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

I started this blog to share my experiences. All my life I have had trouble expressing feelings, and emotions. I didn’t learn in my youth that it was ok to feel things other then anger. If i got in trouble I would instantly bottle it up and shove it into that dark corner in my brain. What I have run into in my mid-20s, is that there is only so much space in that storage room in the back of the brain.

When it gets full it all tries to come up at once, and that’s when I get in trouble. As I mentioned. I didn’t know (and am still learning) how to process emotions like fear, sadness, and remorse. You see in my family we didn’t sit down at a dinner table. My siblings were all 10 years younger then me. I was the experiment kid. If I wasn’t doing well in school, I got punished. But with my siblings, my parents would sit down and work the problem out with them. If they did something bad, they would be told why it was bad. I would usually just get yelled at, and grounded. It has really stuck with me through the years. The Marine Corp just built on that same principle. You weren’t aloud to show fear or weakness. There was no room for it. If you were weak you would die.

All these things have culminated into my inability to process emotion like a normal person. As a result I experience Anxiety, depression and PTSD. I am currently at a VA hospital attending a Intensive outpatient program for PTSD and prescription drug abuse. I am learning to cope with my issues and combat their symptoms in a healthy way.

In this blog I will be sharing helpful advice for people like me. War stories and excerpts from my book. I will ask for critics, and your opinions. I am very excited about this whole thing and starting a new chapter of my life, while being able to share it here!

Marjah, Afganistan. We built a custom blackjack table. 2010