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!

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@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

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!

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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Twitter- @okieschaos

E-mail- WillCornell2007@gmail.com

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