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

Finding my Motivation again

I have been lost the last week or so, and I am slowly finding my motivation again.

It has been more and more difficult for me to stay motivated. Depression sets in and it ruins my day. Ive been unmotivated the last week or so, and when I push to get going again I get stuck.

I feel a lot better today. A friend and I went to the Oklahoma Historical Museum in downtown OKC. I went through this museum around a month ago. So there wasn’t much that was new. Accept for one new exhibit that opened. It had 50’s era living, some early wagons and such. It wasn’t as impressive as some of the other experiences that they offer. One of my favorites is the Steamboat exhibit.

The steam boat Heroine is there, or what remains of it. Which isn’t much. The large steel drive shafts, some pieces of the steam engine, and boiler. The boiler was blown apart, and you can see where it gave way and exploded. The boat was traveling up the red river with a load of commodities, headed toward’s fort Townson in southern Oklahoma. It is the oldest steam boat that has been recovered and studied by archeologists.

There is also a exhibit called “Welcome Home- Oklahoman’s and the war in Vietnam. Its a smaller showing, but does have some interesting pieces, including Native American uniforms, testimony from Oklahoma combat Veterans, metals and many other donated pieces from influential Oklahoma Warriors of the era. One thing that stood out was the Huey helicopter simulation. You sit in a seat and have a joy stick, along with a few other buttons that don’t really do much. You fly the helo to a supply drop point, and then have to make it back to the firebase that you left from. Good luck, its tough! I only attempted this first mission, because there were people waiting their turn to have a go. I crashed in a fiery ball and rolled down the side of a mountain when I ran out of fuel.

It was a good outing, and helped to get my mindset back to my mission. I have so many obstacles, that are already apparent to me. I must tell myself what I need to accomplish every day, and work towards it. If I don’t push myself I end up wasting a day and not accomplishing anything.

My last session with my therapist, I told him how I have been down recently, and cant seem to get out of my rut. He told me I should go back and read my own advice on my page. So here I am again! Refreshed and with a full tank. I am ready to start back on my journey. Sometimes we just need to be reminded what we can accomplish and what we have already done.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Willcornell2007@gmail.com

Combat Trauma’s Effect on the Brain

There are many different kinds of trauma, and most of us experience one, or multiple traumatic events in our live. Trauma in combat can come from hyper vigilance for extended periods of time, or a combat experience. Seeing someone die, mass casualties, mass devastation, ad so much more. There have been numerous studies on the subject, and in recent years it has been a hot topic. Not only in the military, but in sports. The NFL changing its contact policy’s, followed by numerous other organizations.

The brain acts in two basic modes (I understand its very complex), a Learning Brain, and a Survival Brain. A normal learning brain, is learning from the environment and experiences. It tells the body that everything is ok. The brain starts building neurological pathways. These pathways effect everything the body does, and the way the mind thinks. If you grow up in a stable, mainly stress free environment. You are probably able to deal with stresses better then someone who has been dealing it with it constantly. Your pathways try to figure out why you are stressed and work through the problem.

The other mode is survival mode. This is your fight, flight freeze mode. You are constantly stressed because your pathways haven’t been built to deal with stress. They are built to live with it. Your body is always tense, and you push stressful thoughts to the back of your brain. When in this state your body is constantly pushing adrenaline on your brain. With time these things will cause physical ailments. High blood pressure, Anxiety, Depression, ,and a ton more.

Have you ever gotten a massage, and the person performing the work tells you that you are tense, and that you have knots? That’s a sign of stress. Your muscles are constantly flexing. You most likely don’t notice, but they are. That fight, flight, freeze, controls your reactions to events. You can become aggressive, when confronted. Lashing out, or even fighting. Or the brain may tell you to flee. Ever been in a uncomfortable conversation and all you want to do is get out of there? Or in that conversation, your mind just goes blank, and you don’t know what to do? That’s the survival part of the brain working.

You can change the way your brain thinks, believe it or not. You begin by challenging the ideas that are making you stress. If you start feeling stressed stop. Take a breath, and think. Why am I stressed? Or what is bothering me? Are you in a crowded area? Is the area noisy? Is someone reminding you of someone that annoys you? Identify exactly what it is that is stressing you. Then challenge it. Why do I not like crowds? If the answer is something like, I don’t like crowds because it was bad news in a combat zone. Then ask yourself are you still in the combat zone? Are these people dangerous? Maybe. But not as dangerous as the people outside the wire. I most likely have nothing to worry about.

By working through problems in this way, your brain will start to retire those survival pathways. Eventually that switch will flip, and your brain will work in a normal, learning way. What makes humans different from animals? Reason, and emotion. We experience emotion, but you can learn to control those emotions. Start challenging your negative thoughts, when you are stressed, anxious, or any other time you don’t feel normal, and you will start to feel better. More level. If this article was helpful, please leave a like, comment, and don’t forget to follow!

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