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This is JoCo podcast number two forty two with Echo, Charles and me, Jocke Willink. Good evening Echo.
The president of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Gunnery Sergeant Justin de la Whu, United States Marine Corps for extraordinary heroism as amphibious assault platoon sergeant company, a 1st Battalion Second Marines Task Force Tarawa, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on twenty three and twenty four March 2003, as Regimental Combat Team two attacked north towards an Nasiriya, Iraq lead, elements of the battalion came under heavy enemy fire.
When the beleaguered United States Army five hundred and seventh maintenance company convoy was spotted in the distance, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew and his crew were dispatched to rescue the soldiers under constant enemy fire. He led the rescue team to the soldiers with total disregard for his own welfare.
He assisted the evacuation effort of four soldiers, two of whom were critically wounded while still receiving enemy fire. He climbed back into his vehicle and immediately began suppressing enemy infantry. During the subsequent company attack on the Eastern Bridge over the Euphrates River, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew continuously exposed himself to withering enemy fire during the three hour urban firefight. His courageous battlefield presence inspired his Marines to fight a determined foe that allowed him to position his platoon's heavy machine guns to repel numerous waves of attackers.
In the midst of the battle, an amphibious assault vehicle was destroyed, killing or wounding all its occupants, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew immediately moved to recover the nine Marines.
He again exposed himself to a barrage of fire as he worked for nearly an hour recovering casualties from the wreckage.
By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire and utmost devotion to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. And that is a citation. About one episode in one Marine's life.
And it doesn't explain everything in that Marine's life, nor does it explain everything about the Marine Corps.
But it does give us a glimpse. Into what Marines do. And what are American servicemen are capable of, but it's only a glimpse.
And you know, these these citations throughout the military, when you when you go to different military bases and I've been to many, many military bases around the country and around the world, these these citations of heroic awards.
Oftentimes, they're posted in various places around the base, on the walls, in the classrooms, on the corner desks.
And throughout my my career, starting as a young, young kid, I would stop and I would read through these these citations and I would always wish to myself.
I would always wish that I could meet these men. And I could talk to them and I could learn from them and I could see what they were. What they were really like. And with that in mind, it is an absolute honor today to have that opportunity as. Sergeant Major retired Justin Lehew is joining us to share the experiences that he had and the lessons that he learned in his service and in his life. Just an honor to have you here.
Thanks for coming out to dinner to be here with you today.
Jack, I want you to echo I every every time I get to talk to somebody and just learn from their experiences.
And, man, I've had the opportunity and I know we were talking a little bit about this, you know, the opportunity some of the people that have come on this podcast is just unbelievable to to capture their lessons, you know, from guys that were on Tarawa or Iwo Jima and just incredible.
And it's it's an honor for me to sit here and and be able to capture some of these lessons for for people, not just not just soldiers, not just Marines, but just people. So that we can learn. Let's let's start at the beginning, what started let's start where you came from. So you were born in Columbus Grove, Ohio, is that right?
Columbus Grove, Ohio, a small little farm community, about 2000 people. I don't think it's been up or down of 100 over the past 100 years. That is up there. It kind of was like any Norman Rockwell painting that you would ever seen. It was a great place to grow up. When I was younger, it was a place you didn't lock your doors. It was a place where parents told you to be in by the time the streetlights came on.
It truly was like the fabric of America. You grew up playing Little League Baseball, Pony League Baseball. You grew up knowing every kid in the two schools that were in town because it was kind of like a little Northern Ireland. It was either Protestants and Catholics wasn't anything else. It was kind of those two choices. And for grades one through eight, there was the Catholic school that was on the other side of the railroad tracks. And then there was the public school.
And then you knew by sports and by your neighbors you knew everybody. And it didn't matter if it was K through 12, you knew the kindergartners because you were to school with their brothers and sisters.
And it was a really tight, very hard working community.
Now, is that where your dad and mom were from originally? No, my dad was from a place called Front Royal Virginia, right at the northern end of the the entrance to the Skyline Drive. That was right there. And then my mother was from Columbus, Ohio, and my dad was in the in the army, drafted in the Army and was on June six, 1944, part of the 29th Infantry, as I believe, one of the older pieces at the age of twenty eight coming out the front, definitely, you know.
Oh, he definitely was JoCo and and he came out of the front end of that LCB at that fire, the German 350 second overlooking the block of Omaha Beach and then made it live all the way to St. Leo and all the way to the end of the war. And when the then when he got back, he took a job in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Chrysler Corporation. And my mom's brother happened to be working there.
And so he kind of started going back to Columbus, Ohio, on some little excursions. And there was quite a difference between mom and dad. There was like fifteen years difference. So Dad was a farmer and this was a farm community. So he would come back and then he would help work. The Sneary family, whether it was small farms, whether it was help Mr. Sneary or anybody else drive his busing farm, he would do all that. And when he'd be out there, I want to thank my mom, who was about five or whatever, when they first met, used to bring lemonade out to the guys working in the field.
And he was just joking with her one day and he said, when you grow up, I'm going to marry you.
Then he went on to not do that. He went in the infantry, drafted. He came back. And while he was working in Chrysler in 1947, he took a lunch break and he was walking in downtown Baltimore and he was not fulfilled at that job. And he said, I saw a snappy guy in a army looking uniform, but he had different patches that I'd never seen. And he put the sign in the street and I said, come inside and talk to me about the brand new United States Air Force.
And my father went inside.
He talked with the recruiter and the recruiter asked him, so was there anything during the war that you never really got to do? And he said, I always wanted to go to Japan. We thought we were all going to be going to Japan after that. And I just wanted to see Japan.
And the recruiter said, well, if you sign with the Air Force today, I promise you, I think we can send you to Japan.
And we've all kind of heard these stories. Yeah, there's an important part of that, I promise that. I think. I promise that. I think we can send you to Japan.
Absolutely. He never went back to work for Chrysler. Two weeks later, he was sitting in Yokohama Harbor in the United States Air Force. And then he was in there all the way through. The first slot in 1964 is basically a fifty year old advisor in Vietnam. He came home and he said, I've got five kids, I'm over the age of 50 and I got these other responsibilities. And this might be a younger person's war that came in.
What when how much de-brief? How many? How much? Yeah. How much do you talk to you about D-Day?
Nothing. Not at all. My father passed when he was 30, when I was thirteen unfortunately.
So it was right about the time when probably your life is getting really questionable about where you want to formulate your life going through high school and probably that time when you're gonna need your dad there. That was on that. And he passed away. That was thirteen. My mom raised me in my house. I have two older brothers. Two older sisters, both of those sisters have passed away already that were there, and between those boys, there was nine years apart between a spread.
So dad was pretty busy over a long, long period after after he came home from survivor of the Normandy invasion.
And that's exactly where he kind of when I was 13, he said, look, I'm going to give you one thing. He said, I'm responsible to you till you're 18. It was a nice house. And there's no mistake, John. My dad loved all of us. So this wasn't this tough love or anything. He said, look, I'm responsible to you, to your 13, to your 18. And he said, then you're going to be responsible to make a life for yourself after that.
And you have some choices that are going to be presented. He never pushed the military. He never dissuaded me from the military to do that. Maybe those questions would have came when I was 14, 15 and 16 that was out there. I really wish he would have been around when I was, you know, a 22 year old sergeant after Desert Storm or sitting on seawalls in Okinawa, wondering how to lead troops and how to do different things.
And you're sitting here with your father that retired as a master sergeant through three wars and came out, as you know, and survived the Normandy invasion. I think the guy probably knew a little bit about survival and leadership and able to do that. And you kind of just looked around and said, you know, now Mom's not here, Dad's not here. He was right. He said, you're responsible to make your choices and you're responsible men. It was after that and he felt it was his job up until that time period to make sure that when he sent me out when I was 18 that I could handle what it was that the world was going to throw at me at 18 at one point.
So you played baseball in high school. Your dad dies when you're 13. So you're going through the high school years with no dad or are you playing sports good student paying attention in school, rebellious. What was your what was your childhood?
I'm playing sports. I'm an absolutely abysmal student that was on there. My wife laughs at me all the time because in the basement of the house is two to three thousand books. And I can't ever remember reading really a book the entire time until I went in the U.S. Marine Corps. I only read books because a teacher said it was on the curriculum. But I had also found that the difference was I understood the difference between teachers and I also understood the difference between reward and punishment and reward and punishment was if you don't make the grade for here, you will not be able to play the sport that you love over here.
If you don't want if you want to wear your hair like your whatever, no, you're going to cut this. You're going to be a gentleman. You're going to get a nice clothes for these events or not, because if you want something, you have to do this in order to get that. We're not just going to let you do life. And I really did love playing baseball so my teachers would start hanging that over my head and they would say, you know, if you don't make the grade on this next test or whatever, I'm going to have to go tell the coach.
And the coach is going to and I really look back and I love the moral and ethical upbringing in that high school that basically I can't answer if that was a way for everybody, JOCO, but it was for me and it was getting snatched up by somebody to say, you better start toeing the line or else I'm not going to put you on that field. And if I don't put you on that field, this is what it's going to cost us.
And that was the reward and the punishment. The reward was you can continue to do what you love. And the punishment was not that we're going to take away something from you personally of what you love. We're going to show you how much your absence is going to hurt us. That is over here. And that was displayed to me in that small little town before I ever set foot on the L a footprint in the Marine Corps and I believe set a phenomenal foundation for military service.
Did you did you have any chance of playing, like, college baseball? Absolutely not.
I tell you, I got like five foot six and like 100 pounds. It was on here. I remember having to come by one time because we're in BFE and northwest Ohio. You know, those were city kids. Those were people that got scalped in Cleveland. Those were people in Cincinnati, Dayton, you know, these larger division schools. If we had a really good kid that was playing in that area in the whole county, that kid was probably going to be good enough to get a scholarship to a lower level school to play somewhere.
But we didn't come from a long line of people that were playing with the DiMaggio's and everybody else.
And I could distinctly remember one time the guy saying, hey, that little kid playing it like a second baseman, that kid's got a million dollar glove, but he's got a twenty five dollar bat. And and when you when you size up your options, if that saying this is what it's going to take to continue to invest in this in order to do this. And I had appropriate coaching, I. I would say that we really took individuals and kind of took them over there to groom them for that, basically what that high school did was kind of groom you to at least get out in the world and be a success.
It wasn't a production facility to spit out professional athletes.
So did you did you start looking at college or did you know that you wanted to go in the military? I knew I wanted to go in the military. Maybe it was because no one of my brothers and sisters went my dad didn't talk about it. I kind of looked up to my dad as being just what a man is. I mean, he provides for his family. He works hard every day. He doesn't just lay around in the rack each morning he gets up even in retirement, he disappears and then comes home with the dinner bell at five o'clock.
And we talk about what happened in life. And that repeatedly was there. I don't remember arguments with the parents in the house. I don't remember anything. I do remember each Sunday he would disappear for about two hours. And I found out later my dad would go to the VFW every Sunday for two hours. And now, having been through a lot of the things that I had been through, when you're talking about psycho analyzation, you're talking about therapy, you're talking about medications, you're talking about PTSD, you're talking about things like this.
You're talking about a generation of guys or every single able age male went to war.
They either had to tread water for four days when the USS Indianapolis sank to stay away to save their brothers. And we're at the anniversary of that right now. They were either guys that assaulted the beaches at Majime and watched their entire high school classes wiped out in a single invasion wave to do that. But somehow these were also the men who came home and built America to what it is today. And the VA wasn't what it was. I can't remember 17 or 18 bottles of pills lined up ever at the house.
I can't remember seeing the man ever take a single thing.
But I think I know why he went to the VFW for two hours on a Sunday, because when he walked through that door, he was with people who lived the life that he had lived, that no amount of explanation to anybody who didn't live that life was going to ever understand no amount of therapy talking to somebody. I think the therapy truly was. He sat next to a tank crewman. He sat next to a Marine. He sat next to a sailor.
These were also farmers, business owners and everybody else that was there making a life for me to play ball, making a good living for that. And I think they sat there, they had some drinks. They talked about good times. They talked about bad times. They looked each other in the eye every week and then said, I hope to see you next week. And then they walked out that door back to their families and did the same work ethic until they died.
That went out of there. And it was truly an amazing work ethic that I got to watch, at least for 13 years of this habit and routine of a man that's still 50 plus years old sitting in a rocking chair. But he burst out of a rocking chair every now and then and be like, how many push ups can you do? And where did that come from, Dad?
He's like, well, let's knock him up.
And I barely had ever seen him lift weights, do anything else. All of a sudden, this guy in a white t shirt and some jeans, it still stinks of the back shed. Something kicked off in his head and he sits right down there and he said, you know what? You've been sitting down there for about two hours in front of that TV with your hands on your face and everything else, because there's only one TV in the house.
I'm the closest to the TV because I have to turn the channel and it's only got 11 of them up there.
You were the remote control. I was a remote control and whatever he would see or that and go, it was amazing because he would just drop down and he'd say, you know what, why you're down there or anything else. Let me show you some other things you could probably be doing, rather just later. And it wasn't any of these epiphanies of telling me to read Gulliver's Travels or any of this other stuff. It was just these little snippets along there that really for a 31 year career served me well at the Times, that I didn't understand them.
They were made aware to me at the Times that I needed them.
Yeah, I think when I look back at my life and I see some little lesson and I do a lot of passing the lessons that I learned and at the time it was like I barely.
I wouldn't have been able to tell you an hour after I learned some lesson that I just learned a really important lesson, but when I look back twenty five years or 30 years or 35 years and I go, oh, yeah, I remember when that happened and that left a mark and I didn't realize it at the time, but I used that and applied it again over and over again for the rest of my life. At what point did you hear about the United States Marine Corps on the age of 17?
I want to go on. The military need a parent's signature. My mom is there. I have now grown up to be probably one of the most loyal airmen who could have ever served in the Air Force, because that's what I wanted to do. So I signed up for the U.S. Air Force and I took a ride down to Columbus, Ohio, about two hours away. Some of the first times I've ever been to a big city like that and especially on your own.
And I went in and did the swearing in with the Air Force and they pulled me back out and then they brought us back in because it was like two swearing ins. And we went through the medical check at the maps and everything else. And I'm like, I'm on my way and the room opens up. Djogo a major. I'll never forget it because I can still see on that airforce uniform I can still see the gold oak leaves.
Even before I knew what a major was, he asked for everybody's attention and he said Is there a Hey Lee Hall lope. And I was like This is the biggest, this is the shortest name. That gift after the both of, like, anything. Right. And I said, I figure he's talking about me. Pick my hand up. He said, I need to talk to you outside. And he took me into a room that was smaller than this.
I go and it was kind of like, I don't know what's about to happen in this room, but it's just me and him. I can still see a SWAT bucket sticking in the corner. This was not a professional office. And he just said, I'm really sorry I pulled you out of there. He goes, we made some mistake on your paperwork. And I said, well, what is that? And he goes, We put the different number on your medical paperwork and we should have put it another number.
And he said something about ones and twos. And I said, what I understand was, I mean, he goes, well, it means that we tested you and put it that you were that you had color vision. And he goes, unfortunately, you're color blind. And I said, what was that mean? Nobody's ever told me that. And he goes, Well, what that means, son, for the Air Force is of the four hundred and two jobs that were available to you in the United States Air Force, there's now only two available.
And it's not the one that you wanted to do. And I said, what are those jobs, can I ask? I really still want to be an air force. And I'll never forget this. I was going to be what was known as an aircraft armament systems specialist because I figured that Air Force don't have infantry. So let me load the planes. Let me do whatever we have to do to crew these planes to get them in there. And he came back and he said, first one is airframe specialist.
And I said, what is that? And he goes, well, basically, they give you a rubber mallet. And any time the aircraft comes back and it's got dents in it, you just kind of go out there and beat the tents out of the aircraft.
He didn't sell the job go because these guys make bank on the outside. He probably could have sold me on a career with a rubber mallet that said, you're going to make a lot of money on the outside, didn't sell it. And then the second one was, I'll never forget. He said pharmacist. And I looked and I said, aren't those pills all different colors?
I might kill somebody to do that.
And he said, No, I'm sorry, we can't unless in Air Force, my mother was the biggest fanatic of the Air Force. Air was that was air. I'm sitting in Gloms skirt. While I can't tell my mom, I mean, this comes back to you're talking about moral and ethical courage and everything else, and you're a man and all this. And you're sitting here like, I tell my mom this just happened. So I wandered around Columbus, Ohio at night in a city I've never known.
I disappeared from the maps. They kind of put an APB out on a missing potential recruit that was out there.
And then my mom calls in the Air Force. It's kind of like, well, we can't find him. We're sorry we lost our son. And she said, you found her start looking. And I kind of went out and started actually knocking and talking to bums on benches that night. Kind of like, how'd you get here, Matt?
Did you try to get in the Air Force Two? And they told you no. And it was so dangerous. It's just this farm kid wandering around and, you know, I could have killed at any moment.
Finally, I walked back over the maps. I go, all hell breaks loose. They get me back in, they tell me, sit, you sit your butt right there, don't go anywhere. And I'm kind of in this room with chairs, with nothing. And I'm sitting there feeling sorry for myself. I'm thinking my life. So I don't know. You asked me before about. Were you thinking about college? Did you do this? I didn't even take the SATs in the assets because I'm kind of a person that I'm going to put my time towards the things that you do.
I'm not going to waste my time on something that I don't believe that I'm driving towards a bad to do. And the teachers, because I wasn't a good student, really wasn't pushing me to go take those SATs and acts. I think they were pushing me to start bailing hay on outside of town for the next 25 years. Something to do that. And as I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself more, the last times I've ever done that in my life, the way I saw a person stand in front of me with blue trousers and a red stripe running down.
And he said exactly this.
He goes, What the hell's your problem?
And I remember saying, some bullshit came out of my mouth about something. And he goes, I don't know where you come from, but that's not how you talk to a person. You'll get on your feet, son. Talk to me. I hadn't heard nobody talk to me like that in years. I wasn't around long enough for my dad told me to do that. So I stood up Giago and then I was staring straight at his name, said Gunnery Sergeant Subha.
I didn't even know what a gun was at that time. And he looked at me and he goes, You look like somebody just killed your favorite dog. What happened when I told him? And he said, Look, I'm you're attached to the Air Force. I'm not even supposed to be talking to you right now or that. But do you mind if I give your number to the Marine recruiter? It was up near the house.
He he saw an avenue of approach. Absolutely. I got back up home Monday, shows up.
Mom answers the door.
There's a snappy Marine standing there, a big smile on his face. Staff Sergeant Craig Cochran. Good morning, ma'am. Can I talk to you about you and your son, about the Marine Corps? My mom said you're too late. My son already joined the Air Force because I'm still a coward. I can't tell her and JAG, I'm sitting right in the house watching this happen. Beau, my mom just goes back to work doing that same type.
Tuesday persistence pays off.
Tuesday, he came back to the same house. Ma'am, can I talk to you about great opportunities for your son or everything else in the Marine Corps?
And she goes, I already told you he joined the Air Force about Wednesday, same time.
Now, Mom's probably kind of figuring out something's up, opens the door, up I go. And I never heard my mom discuss anything else like that. And this little five foot four lady said. That's the damn problem with you jarheads, you don't listen. I already told you he joined the Air Force. Gabbi slammed the door.
Thursday was a day changed my life. He didn't walk away from the door. And my mom turned to me and said, what the hell did you do? And I said, You better let him in the house. SAT at a table just like this, three and a half hours. I'm 17, Jack. I still need the lady's signature.
We get there and we didn't have to do benefit tags. We didn't have to do anything. I'm this is an avenue I want to be in the military. This door shut, this door is now opened. This is what I'm going to do. And my mom and said, Do you know how the Marines live? Her brothers were Marines in World War Two. Everybody, all their brothers were in the war. And she said in the Air Force, she showed me this really cushy life.
You can have the greatest base housing. The best is the best. Everything else. You know, this one I want for my little boy. And I wanted none of that. And that's not what I wanted in the military. I wanted the hardships. I wanted I wanted the grooming.
I wanted whatever the military gave my father because I looked at that is the key to this was a huge part of a life that I never knew about him. So I'm going to go and seek out that answer on what that gave. Came in, signed it. She's got tears in her eyes. She says this really what you want? I said, yes, that's what I want. She signed it and he said, when he graduates, he's all yours.
And she looked right at me and she goes, You're going to get everything you ever asked for and more. And she goes, All I can say for you. You better harden up.
You know, after that, my mom became like before there was UFC and everything else, my mom turned into a different person magically in front of me. This woman who cooked for all of us and made the beds and did all this other stuff in a very feminine nature now took on the role of a father that I didn't have.
And she now started exposing me to the stories that she was with, growing up with your father, going through Vietnam, going through Korea, going through dish, you're going to be an NCO watching my mother tell me how to be an NCO. This is what's going to be required of you in the first year, second year, third year. And then the day she put me there, she says it's going to be hard. But if you quit, don't you ever come back to this house and she goes, just don't quit.
That was it.
Put me on the bus. Sent me down a few weeks later. I think it was 11 at the time. JoCo she became the best flag waving U.S. Marine Corps mom that you ever, as they all do when they see their baby in the uniform. And to that and she would hold the rallies for the entire town to help Desert Storm troops and pack all the boxes. And you just kind of saw this part of your mom that you never saw growing up that opened that up to the leader.
She really was, too.
And then you found out in life you thought you were putting all your chips in this one leadership basket when in all reality, Martin, you were and you were putting your chips in an unbalanced bet because the real person who was really balancing that out, it was a team effort. And that town, my family, everybody else taught me before I knew what that was, that in life you have to learn to work as a team. You have to learn to be a good teammate to somebody.
And it doesn't matter if that's in the military. It doesn't matter if that's Bailen, that, hey, on the outside of town is people want to work for people that they want to show up every day. And it's a pleasure to be around. And they want to have a productive, productive person and they want to have a good teammate. That was the foundation.
And that's how I ended up in the Marines. It's kind of everybody there's millions of people in uniform, but it's a weird every American story is not this clear line that goes straight to the recruiter to battle to the Medal of Honor to something like this. It takes this really weird nexus. And I think that's really the greatness of America. That's what makes us the strongest fighting force in the world. That nexus.
How was so how much of a shock to your system was boot camp first week?
Like anybody else, you're really evaluating the decisions that you just made and you're sitting here and it's kind of laughing, you know, today it's not allowed to be in a covid environment or anything else. But you would kind of wish the drill instructor had a mask on or something when they're getting in your face and you're and you're doing whatever. But the best thing was it was the routine that I saw my dad. And it was also the expectation was laid upfront by the drill instructors.
They came out and gave you through that drill instructor creed. If you do this, this is what you will get. And if you want to do that, we demand this from you to be part of this team was sitting on the quarterback at first day. I knew I was in the right place and I knew that in a really weird way. Everything happens for a reason. You are where you're supposed to be in life at certain points in your life.
That may not make sense to you at all, but it's not up to you to make sense. If you believe in the bigger collective and a higher power that moves the chess pieces or the chess pieces, I think there's somebody else that looks at everybody's life and somebody on the outside is looking at seven moves where you can't look on where eventually at the twenty year to thirty or the forty year, the influential fifty year mark. If we put you through these trials, here's what we're going to demand back for that.
And I could feel on day one I felt this is professional, I'm in the right place, and every single day you got better at something and every single day you were told that you were the worst at being something.
And you need to get better tomorrow at doing this. And they didn't do it in a touchy feely way, which then I found out, you know, in life right up front, you don't have to you don't have to love people to get them to do this. You know, don't be in love with. You can love those troops, you can do that, but this harsh training and the systematic approach that has produced a product for the American people that spits out this professional fighting man and woman on the other end, just get on the conveyor belt.
And if you stay on the conveyor belt where it's like Steve Austin, we're going to make it bigger, faster, stronger. You're one hundred and fourteen pounds. You get eight three plates a child today. And as a matter of fact, see Geocode child there you get his child to or you get his child because they will pack 60 pounds on you by peanut butter and jelly and bread or whatever. At the same time, they'll shave 80 pounds off of that guy in 11 to 13 weeks to where they get this product that is malleable once it gets to the field.
And their job wasn't to make a combat ready morein, it was to make a United States Marine. And they put you on a conveyor belt to the next generation. And those guys are the warriors at either the School of Infantry or the amphibious crewmen school or whatever they're going to do to train you to be your specific job. And then I loved the fact that the Marines would break it out and not try to do all this. Like, let's not teach everybody everything in an eight hour class today.
Let's focus on this razor sharp thing and then we're going to practice that this week. Then once you've somewhat got to a level nowhere near the level of mastery that we believe, you can shoulder something else. Let's now add this to the plate the next week. And then before you know that you got three stripes up cross rifles and they give you a squad of Marines and say, now what we just did to you, we want you. This is the payback we gave you this.
We now demand this from you. You now take that and make them into the little Steve Austin Superior.
It was beautiful. Did you know what your job was going to be when you went when you enlisted? I knew I had a opportunity to be in for jobs, and it was tanks. It was Amtrak's. It was field artillery or it was a combat engineer. It was called a combat B.S. option, had four jobs into that. And then by about the seventeenth day, a boot camp, you take this other classification test and then they kind of take those skill sets and then they, according to whatever is there.
And I just happened to be a really great swimmer that was in the pool. And I didn't know that that was going to get me anything else. But when the decision's all laid out, they said, look, you sounds like a fish in the swim tank. We're putting him on amphibious tanks that are over there. And it was just like full metal jacket on the tail end. The platoon is still there nowadays. A majority of all know what they're going to do.
It was still on the quarter deck with the proverbial Gunnery Sergeant Hartman having you stand up and say, sir, yes, sir, will you? And this is going to be your job. And he said amphibious, you know, amphibious tractor crew, something like that. He said, Amtrak's thunder. I said, I, sir, sat down, they went to next kid infantry, whatever. I'm sitting here like, I got screwed.
You're going to the grunts. That's what I'm going to do. I said, I'm going to be at some depot loading trains, man, for the next four years because I thought that's what an Amtrak was. It was a train.
I never knew that it was an amphibious tank. I didn't even think that was an option. And then when the drill instructors showed me the photograph and everything else like that, you are where you're supposed to be.
So then you go to what amphibious track school was right here at Camp Del Mar, California.
Yep, absolutely. And unfortunately, you know, a shout out to all of our brothers that that are going through some hard times today because one of those same amphibian tractors were lost last night in a training evolution somewhere out here off the Pacific Coast.
And right now, we still have at last record about six Marines that are still missing that are in that and that that's the danger, the business of the everyday business of of doing that kind of work and prayers go out to their families.
I remember what every one of those is like. I mean, tonight, the absence of a news void or anything else for the past 24 hours when you don't know if your kid was one of the ones, but you do know they're there in that unit and the units blacked out in the Red River City and nobody can say anything. And you just want to hear confirmation of this. And then these people, unfortunately, are going to sit right in front of the news media and they're going to start feeding off of whatever bits and pieces that they can do.
Tragic. But as you and I discussed before, JoCo, it's it's the cost of doing business to maintain a steady state in the United States military. And that was the job that I was given yesterday. I. Got to go up here to camp out. I was back in the area to actually go and reopen a museum that I had a hand in creating in 1996. It was called the Landing Vehicle Tract Museum for World War Two and Korea.
So it's the it's the predecessors of those guys out there on the 15th MEU right now. And we opened reopened a beautiful museum that had loved ones and twos that were at Tarawa and Sipan and and all the way through Korea with all three seas. And and being a young sergeant, I was one of the last people that drove those last generation working vehicles into that Quonset hut where they still sit today and park them. And yesterday was an absolutely a joyous occasion for that same community that hours later are now sitting here on that day, have the tragedy of doing that so that a wave of emotions going back from one side to another of happiness to to sadness to back to happiness.
It was like that every day that you climbed in those vehicles.
You know, one of the things about working in the water, and this is something I used to tell guys, is every time you do walk in the water, it's a real world mission because you make a mistake out there. The ocean has no mercy and it's a dangerous, dangerous environment. And, you know, I was always, you know, you know, you talk about you end up in kind of the perfect place. I always felt like that every every damn day.
I felt like I was in the perfect job. And one of the things that would make me think that was, you know, we added to our deployments out here on the West Coast. We worked hand in hand with the Marines all the time. But, you know, we'd be launching our Zodiacs or our ribs off the side of the boat and, you know, they'd be launch navies. And, you know, the you look at it's kind of like it's kind of like looking at a bumblebee fly, right?
You look at that thing, you go that things knock, knock, knock. That's right. How is that going to work?
And then you see it and you go, wow, that's awesome. But you know, how tall is Navy? Ten feet tall, 14 feet, 14 feet tall. And then you see him in the water and there's a few feet sticking out of it is underneath. And, you know, you just can't help but think that every time you look at him, you know, you think, oh, man, I hope that's going to go all right, especially when there would be rough seas and those things.
So every time you do water work, it's a real world up. And what was crazy about yesterday, you know, it's it's summertime here in Southern California. It's beautiful. The beaches are beautiful. And I woke up this morning and saw the news and I just thought to myself, you know, it's a sickening feeling that you get because we're all here. And it's like I said, it's a sunny, beautiful day in Southern California. And it's going to be a it's a horrible day for the Marine Corps.
But like you said, that's that's what everyone in that job does to maintain readiness. There's a risk to maintain readiness. And, of course, the risk to maintain readiness is minuscule compared to the risk to not maintain readiness and not be ready to defend the country. What year was this? Are you did you enlist in nineteen eighty eight, 1988.
So eighty eight. Eighty nine. I was over there track school.
And then. And then at what point. So now we start brewing up for, for Desert Storm. Where were you when we started brewing. Where were you when when Saddam invaded Kuwait.
I was actually in South America. I was at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and I was down there doing some unitards deployment that was in South America. So August 2nd kicks off and we're somewhere on the other side of the Straits of Magellan going around one thing and one of the first naval ships to be reporting back in Argentina. So, you know, excitement is happening. Everybody wants to do that. And then you kind of get the battle order and then you realize you're not part of the battle order.
Everybody else is starting to go towards South West Asia. You're still going to finish what you're doing because that's the mission that you're required to do. Right. And and that was another great learning lesson at that age of you are where you're supposed to be at. That is your drive, discipline, desire, motivation was everything you wanted to be there. That's why you did this. That's why you did that. But as you just said about maintaining a balanced force in a state of readiness, you can't run from one theater to to to another theater on an impulse that has not presented itself to do that.
And of course, when you're down in the well deck or you're in the berthing areas down below when you're only three or four, the news is what people tell you. The news is that day. And the news for you is. Get your weapon and get on post for the next six hours and do your job and then let people start talking up here about what's going to happen and you'd watch that formulate. The best thing was roughly we pulled back in in just prior to Christmas that year.
And when I got back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, this.
Ramp, we call it this field of amphibian vehicles that are usually about 200 or 250 of them sitting out there was not sitting there because they're already on ships and in the war.
So now the depression creeps in.
You're the rear party. Congratulations.
And we came in, we parked them, dereference the battalion commander at the time, netas, when we came in off of the ship and he had brought us into the hangar, dropped all of our gear, and he said, here's what's going on.
And that's what I really respected. He gave you the time, the mission, the place he gave you. Exactly. Don't worry about what you're hearing in news. Listen to me. And I'm going to this is real. And he said, I want you guys to go home. You just came off a six month deployment. I want you guys to take Christmas. And he said this on January 3rd. I'm going to be standing back in this hangar.
If you want to go to combat you be here.
It almost sounds like something out of Kelly's heroes when you think about it, like, OK, do I have to tell anybody you're clear this what no one is kind of like go go home, get your plane tickets, get out of here. And the best thing was after that was also the worst thing. I go when you actually look to the left and right every day and you have that trust factor that's well oiled unit and you live with these people and you do that, it's a lot of times when you're driving towards the mission that you don't believe is going to result in combat, the cohesion of that unit is missing something a little bit more than when you know that you're going to go in and be responsible to possibly be the person to bring somebody's father or somebody's home to do that.
And it wasn't presented that way to me when I was a PFC or a lance corporal. It was kind of we're just going to go on a float and you'll get a ribbon and people come back. You go out in the next year, it'll come in. Desert Storm made a real that was on that. But what it also made it real was there was only seven of us showed back up in that aircraft hangar on January 3rd. My platoon sergeant was one of them.
And a guy that I respected retired as a sergeant major that was out of there, a couple of NCO, a couple of US troops that were inside of there, and that was it. And they put us on a truck and the rest of them, we went back up to the barracks and they said, you have four hours to pack your stuff and your gear you're missing. You'll take it down there.
And you just kind of saw a different thing, you know, or people's.
Yeah. What's up with your unit?
You have I mean, you how many people were in your battalion? You have orders, IONSYS, you have everything going on at that time, but you also have the difference of somebody being presented with the the thing of you're going to war, you're not going to the vacation that's over here now, you're going to war. And that is what I have always told people. That's the first punch in your face in life.
And you have to do something and you're going to go left, you're going to go right, a lot of people don't want to continue to get punched in the face, so they learn the skills to prevent that from happening. Some people have to continue to repeatedly get punched in the face when they do this, but some people react differently after that happens. And I still say, you know, I don't know if that makes you a bad person or whatever, because I don't know what's going on in your life.
But there was a lot more of a stand in here a couple of weeks ago when this happened. And now there's a lot less of us there standing here actually doing that. And true to his word. We packed up, got on the thing. We were on a plane and we were some of the last people to land right before Desert Storm kicked off at the end of January.
So did you do so? What did you deploy as what kind of combat replacement? I deployed the combat replay. You're not even basically right now deploying, knowing what you're going to do, your job, you're going to be a combat replacement because you don't know if the war by the time you get there, it's already going to be kicking off. So where are they taking volunteers to be combat replacements?
Is that what that was, that you didn't have a choice if you volunteered and you were sent to Southwest Asia? You are needs of the Marine Corps once you got on deck. It just worked out for me very well that there was still a shortage of people in my job career field to do that. So I got put in a tent, briefed. We all got separated, and then we got sent throughout the Saudi Arabian desert to report to these units.
And this is just a couple of weeks before the invasion is going to kick off. The unit that I got put into JoCo was I was one of only two active duty Marines dropped into an all reserve unit. Wow. And that was an eye opener. They're wearing the same uniforms. Sometimes they believe in a different thing.
And and and it's not again, it's not bad. It's just the way it was. And the reality was two weeks last, this whole thing up, stay in the desert, train, whatever you have to do, and then you're going to be in charge of blowing these bridge lanes that are going to be going in for the assault forces to go up into in the Kuwaiti invasion. And I can remember being taken into a tent kind of for a brief.
And it really wasn't a brief. Chaplin kind of came in and, you know, the prayers start to happen. And this was the night basically before you're going to go and cross a bridge lanes. And they said at that time, they said everybody should stand in this tent. We're not going to bullshit you. We're expecting 82 percent casualties tomorrow when we went through that. And I don't know if there was a fear and what they had said or there was a fear in.
You guys have already done the big blue arrows and red arrows and war gaming or whatever to come up with that thing.
That's not just an arbitrary number that you all came up with and on, you know, the ragman stand here, going get in the middle of the desert. And then that was it. You got sent out to your unit. Best of luck to see you on the other side of the break. And boom.
And then the 100 hour war goes just so everyone knows. Normally we try to do a little bit better when we're planning missions to think that we're going to have an eighty two percent casualty rate. And I was going to say that earlier, you know, so I got in the Navy in nineteen ninety. And so as all this stuff was blown up, the thing that will always stick in my mind and and so I was, you know, going through boot camp and whatnot, they were saying there's going to be forty thousand casualties in the first I think it was forty.
I remember watching CNN and here's the, you know, whatever whatever talking head was on there, whatever, you know, retired Army or retired Marine Corps colonel, I don't remember. And they were going back and forth with these numbers and what they were predicting because of chemical warfare and and the the resistance that they were going to meet. They were expecting 40000 casualties in the first 24 to 48 hours, which is, I guess, right in line with eighty two percent.
And I was, of course, thinking, well, I'm going to get that, you know, in my freaking whatever 18 year old idiot mind, I'm thinking, OK, maybe I won't miss this because they're going to need I don't think I knew the term replacement, but I was like, they're going to need more guys. They're going to meet me and I'm ready to rock and roll because that's what you think, like when you're when you're young and stupid and then not so.
So then what did it look like? What happened on the push?
Well, when you kind of quantify that in your head, that was there a large open expanses of just wide open desert that is on there? The number was more of a reality to me because I kind of knew the history of what my career field. It had since it was enveloped in 1941 in 42, and when it was delivering the infantry onto the objective, there was no ship to shore movement here. So you were just in the objective from A to B, and the objectives are supposed to be crossing the flaming tank ditches that Saddam Hussein had rolled all these things in, because I believe at the time they were talking, this is the fourth largest army in the world, battle hardened army.
They just fought for 10 years with Iran, a military or whatever. Absolutely. It was there.
And then you're kind of sitting there going, OK, you get through the breach lanes, you sit there. And I will remember one of the most powerful things outside of 2003 of seeing a U.S. strike force across the deserts in Iraq. One of the most powerful things I've ever seen in my life was sitting on the opposite side of the bridge lines with hatches, what we call combat lock. So it only gives you enough to see out of it, but enough to save you from fragmentation or anything else that's coming in and having the night vision, that loss of quality of 1991.
So it looks like a big fishbowl and everything in the driver's seat, but hearing the waves of be fifty twos come over to pound the target made my heart pump more than anything in my life up to that point, because you heard the rumble before and this was what you had heard. Like in World War Two, they sent thousand plane raids into Germany with B, seventeens B, twenty fours things that I've been blessed to go out and find these crews.
Now that it did it went on IPPs and didn't come home for all those years.
He's got these B fifty twos wingtip to wingtip and then you see what an arc light rate can do and then you just hear the bombs hit and the whole sky turns to fire and that's where you're going.
And it's kind of like, you know what, that's where I want to go. And that's where everybody is loaded up here wants to go. And that was always the greatness of, you know, whether it's the SEAL teams, whether it's whether it's the tank team, whether it's the infantry rifle squad or anything else. Men and women that I grew up and trying to tell left and right on were the people who always wanted to run to the sound of the guns.
And there's something different about those people. And it doesn't make them different in a weird way. It makes them very different in the fact that you really are you really proud that you knew people like that in your life? You're really proud that those were the people who were there at that time period that said, you know, put the right hand in the air and said, send me, I'll go.
And then you look five or six guys down going, I never thought you'd even be here. Like, I can remember, like, you can't even tie your own shoes or to do something. And then the best thing is when the bullets start flying, you find out that's the American kid that's dragging his bodies 100 meters across a thing that was here. And you see people just step up and being presented as a young man at twenty one at that time here to see that much awesomeness to see this is what your country can when it puts its mind to it.
This is what your country can do. And even in your head, you're like, no, this is what my country can do when they're still on the leash.
I can only imagine what this country can do when they're not on the leash because, you know, as we go, we don't train and we don't do a thing. It's, you know, and our schools are not that fighter, a Chinese labor of total war and the Genghis Khan war. And I know the United States still does train its individuals to positive identification of a target. You're just not going to go in to do this to a village without this.
Now, whether that happens or not, that's part of the individuals that make that choice after they get there. But it isn't the way that they were trained, that they went up to that. And I was lucky to be part of the units that were really fluid when they went in there to do that. And within those first 48 hours, we kind of knew what was going to happen because we would be driving as we're driving north. All we just kept seeing is lines of Iraqis on each side of the road.
They had already dropped their weapons. There wasn't large firefights. They had to take fights out near Khafaji with with Lehar. Eighty Second Airborne had little or no action that was going up there. But for the most part, the 100 hour war, the blitzkrieg war was basically overwhelming the kitten, the enemy on the horns of a dilemma here.
They cannot react to what's being thrown at them and then they just get so scared they throw their stuff. And I think the predominantly they threw their stuff because they were in somebody else's country big.
Mindset change when you train your troops for the 2003 invasion, and I don't believe a lot of leaders at the time learned from the lessons in 1991, I believe in the ground war operations, a lot of people that were still around there weren't higher levels to plan those mission things actually thought that they were still going to fight. When the Iraqis see this awesome power coming down, they're just going to drop their weapons. They're going to do what they did in 1991.
There is a reason, and I'm very proud of of the inflicting the most amount of casualties on the enemy and bringing the most amount of my people home. And doing that is for the simple fact is on a 30 day boat ride in 2003, those boys didn't land the Iraq. They moved ammunition from the front of the ship to the back of the ship. We would move up things and put machine guns off of the Afghan tails. We would kick buckets, you would train until people were just exhausted.
And when they laid in the racket at night 05, you're up, you're you're doing this. Get the boxing gloves. You're going to get punched in the face in the deck before we get over here. And it's not going to be lance corporal against Lance Corporal. No, it's going to be plus or minus ten pounds that were inside of here. You're going to do this. But also, this is Bull in the ring. This isn't that white collar leadership thing that basically sends the troops out to beat each other up where they hang out the Chiefs mess.
No, staff sergeant, Gunny, Lieutenant, we're all on the rank, too, and we're all in the ring going your next. Come on in. You got thirty seconds. Blow the thing. Wear it out. Where's the next one coming from? And you would watch people go there and trackers that I've never seen that these guys are training like combatants like they are expecting close quarter battle. They are expecting this because the end result, Jocke was it's pretty easy to throw your hands up when you've invaded somebody else's country and just say, oops, my bad, I'm out of here, man.
Leave me alone. We're going into their backyard.
They got nowhere to run. I don't think they're going to be so apt to throw the weapons down or anything else, nor would somebody in Nebraska, Ohio or anything else on our baiting thing. So the mindset was different. Some ways had to be harsher, you know.
So the 100 hour war, I mean, what did how did that wrap up for you?
It wrapped up with rolling up into Kuwait wars over who wants to go home. I don't we're looking for people to stay on a working party afterwards.
Why extra combat pay extra everything for a young person. I'm not married. I would just rip off the case of the Maury Riccarton because you didn't have to and the letter didn't have to have male. You just sign on anything there to say, Mama, I'll kind of be home when I get home and I stay an extra six months. It was in there and I went down to the port of Al Jubayl and back loaded all the American equipment on the Black Bottom shipping and then also all the Iraq war trophies that came out, which was BMPs excuse.
Anything else? Agricultural inspections when you're younger are a way of life. Go so you're out there clean and that stuff to get all that grit off before it goes on that American ship to get back. But the best thing was how you were treated and the autonomy that you got being an NCO was that wasn't anybody there any day telling you what to do? It was you knew your job. Here's your mission. Each morning you get up, you got to move this equipment from here to here, which was nineteen, twenty miles down to earth.
Sometimes you learned how to drive tanks, levees. You learned because you were cross trying to move all this equipment, which gave you a different skill set. And then at the meantime, they put you over a place called Camp Fifteen had this gigantic swimming pool.
You've got a room to yourself and you're living high on the hog at that.
And then every couple of weeks, they had contracted a ship down south that was a cruise ship for the American troops to do Arnaut on for like three days at a pop.
And you could drink cavort. You had to check your uniform before you went on the ship. No one was allowed to use ranks, nothing. And there's like 2000 people on the ship pier side in rain. That's like here's your three days, Ansah, like it's China Beach with no beach, no nothing going anywhere.
But these were exposed to you was kind of like making more money, more autonomy, learning multitude of skills. I think I like this until somebody knocked on the door one day and said, time's up, but you got to go home. And we went back. And then at the tail end of that, you kind of get put back into this post war thing that I had not seen. And I'd heard stories of it from Vietnam, of times up, there wasn't a transition for these guys, there wasn't hardly anything.
It was kind of like we brought on well over two hundred and fifty thousand Marines at a time when we only had a got 120000 before that war and then plus the reserves and all this. And I've just watched guys that volunteered. Now that they're back there, it's Monday. You're out of the Marines on Friday. Go to the admin center, go to here, go to everything else. And you know as well as I do, a lot of them wanted that.
Just get me out of here. Thanks. And there were other people that were kind of asking, can I stay and do this? You need a thing. And the answer to that when we usually demobilized from war is not. Thank you for your service. I need you to transition back out into civilian society. So we watched our numbers completely get depleted and then you watch the wear and tear on all those vehicles when they came back home. So you go into this post-war rebuilding period and you figure Somali is right around the corner.
And you knew at what point did you realize you were going to be doing 20 or 30 years in the Marine Corps?
It was when I went to the first professional course at the Marine Corps ever sent me to. And when I got back from the war, things in peacetime are different. And you know what I'm talking about in 2007, time frame, when we're fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, up at any Marine base, and you can probably attest to this and the teams you were coming are going and you see your buddies passing through bases. And one of you was coming from the other one is going and there is no one to to dwell.
It's seven in, five out, seven in whatever the rotations were at. And that was the rate that was going. It's nowhere near that now. Well, it was definitely nowhere near that in 1992, 93, 94. It was now kind of OK. I've been to South America, I've been to Okinawa. I came in to do all of this sort of to do. And I'm going to get out. I've got to I want to go be a hard helmet diver.
I want to go do some things like that. And my leadership came to me. Like I said, you got four months left in the Marines. Look, we don't know what to do with you. And you talked about that before. You know, whether it's fleet assistance programs or supposedly short term billets are out there. This guy came in and he goes, I'm going to send you to this professional NCO school and like to waste a time.
I'm getting out the whether he's like, just go over there for thirty days, do me a favor. In other words, he's got to build a team that he's going to have and he can't trust that he can't rely on you. Somebody else has to learn your job now just because you're not going be here. OK, so I'm confident you can do your job, but I can't count on you informants. Now get out of here and let the corporal now learn how to do your job.
And it was it was pretty cool. And I went over there and I saw something like I'd never seen one a bunch of grease monkeys. It wasn't a bunch of hours work working 17 and 18 hours. It wasn't anything. It was in uniforms and it was learning all these other professional things that nobody was really teaching you on the jump seat of amphibious tractor because you just had to work to do the job done. So I got rolled up being the bad student I was.
I got rolled up within the first week and it's kind of like, bro, come in here, what's your problem? And I know you got a short time and everything else, but you're here, so that means you'll give 100 percent why you're here. Thank you very much, Connie. Got that. And then he took the time. So I'll never forget he took the time that other people would not take. When I told you I was a bad student high school, I could have been a better student in high school.
And I'm not blaming the teachers. The ownership has me on that. I could have applied myself better. I could have done this. But I will tell you, there were courses that I applied myself and more because the teacher actually cared and they actually didn't just ring the bell and say, we'll see you tomorrow. And if you had problems, it would be like, can I can I hold you after class? And I'll let the next teacher know you're going to be a little late.
Hey, you're having some problems doing this or that. And they would take this time, even if it was just a small period of time, it was time they didn't have. And I learned how to appreciate the biggest thing that you can do to somebody if you disrespect them in life, is to take away their time because it's something they can never get back that that's it. And I knew she didn't have the time to do this, but she took the time I became a better student in that class.
I didn't become a great student, but I did what I had to do to continue. You to make mission that was honored graduate. I applied the same thing even after what the Marines taught me. I applied that I regressed JoCo because I wasn't being challenged. And when I went to that school, people started challenging me.
The status quo was not good enough. You're better than this. Why are you doing? Why are you getting out? What are you going to do when you get out? People didn't even ask that that were in your own unit. It was like you made your choice. So go right ahead. You don't even want to talk to me about if I'm going to go to college or what we're going to do. And then you find out, you know, not all units are the same.
And then you also find out when you have goals and things that you want to do. Don't let what the perception is of that adjust the goals and the accomplishments that you want to do in your life because people are different. And you one platoon and the other platoon have the basic same things. It's the leaders and the people in them what make it different. And that is exactly what I saw on this course. So I didn't study. I just became a straight Marine and I would turn in my thing and they'd be like you.
I know you're great. You got one hundred and two. How do you even get an extra two points? Because you did this and this went above and beyond for that. It was the first time that somebody said you'd make a really good instructor. He said you have caring, compassion, concern for another human being, very young age to do that or what you think. And they made me reach into this box. They said, I want you to pull out first thing you grab in that box.
Pottow is a code jellico.
And the instructor stared at me and he goes, Now, I want you to teach me about that coathanger for five minutes.
And he said this.
He goes, What did I say? I want you to teach me. Read the Koran for five minutes. He said, Did I say five minutes and five seconds? Did I say four minutes and 30 seconds? He goes, You have a 15 second window phone sign that thing now go. And I taught him how to Jimmy Locks. I taught him how to hang clothes. I taught him how to everything else. And when I was done and put the coat hanger on, there was four minutes and 49 seconds.
There was no clocks or no watches in the room. It was understanding what the parameters were. It was understanding they gave you a task, a condition and a standard. And then you went to that and said, I think there's going to be a repercussion if I don't come in within five minutes to do this. One hundred and five points handed over. And by the time it was there, all the instructors put me back in that room and said, why are you getting out?
This is what you could be. I walked away from that school and reenlisted in the Marine Corps and then stayed for the next almost thirty years because people invested in you. So then what was your next job after you, that school's wasn't like an NCO school, like the old leadership school, it was an NCO leadership school. And then I became an Amtrak instructor right out here, my first time in Southern California. But one of the best two years of my life.
I'm in Southern California. I'm not at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. That is there. And I'm in Camp del Mar on Camp Pendleton, which is right in the boat base and on the beach with everything. So if there's a place to be in Camp Pendleton, that's the place to be. And this was before the gigantic First Marine Expeditionary Unit moved in there years later. And so this is just a small it was like being over on the naval amphibious at that time period.
OK, I don't even know if you go the exchange over on North Island, those flyboys, I could stay over here. We got our own little piece on the amphibious to do that.
That's what Delmore was. And that's where I learned to be a lead above my pay grade. Learn to learn the job above, you know, the jobs below you, but always know the job of the person that's above you that was on that. And that was the first time that I was truly required to really give back the skills that I thought the Marine Corps had given to me. And that was for a two year period up there. Then what was the next billet?
I wanted to be a drill instructor, and I remember my drill instructor when he gave me that Amtrak thing. He said there was going to be two of you come back to be drill instructors. And I can remember I wasn't one of them made it.
He wasn't looking at me when he said that. But in my head, I knew I was going to be one of them and did whatever I could do to do that. So now I'm in Southern California. I'm kind of liking it. M.C. already, San Diego is right down here near the Naval Training Center. I want to go be a drill instructor. So I came down here from ninety six to almost 2000 to push about eight cycles of recruits through here on sixty two day training cycles with small breaks in between the drill instructor, a senior instructor, and then became a academics instructor, teaching history for the U.S. Marine Corps over there.
And you are where you are. I went down to dental one day just on a routine check and saw this woman in dental. I was just like, man, I need it. I got my teeth, one hurt, hurting her daughter.
And as a drill instructor, I go, you can probably understand you don't have any time. I mean, it's it's 19 and 20 hour days, 62 straight days. Somebody's got to be with those recruits the entire time to do that sunup to sundown. Then you got to be on deck, even staying there throughout the night when they're there. And it's a really restrictive environment. I look for every opportunity I could do to take a few recruits down to dental to do that.
And quite frankly, you know, twenty two years later, that was my wife and she was working down there. She was in the Navy as a dental technician and a reservist at that. I finish out my tour of duty down here to do that. And she goes and works at Four Tank Battalion at Miramar for the U.S. Marines. And this was when women didn't do that. It was here.
And I had told her, if we're going to be doing this, you're not going to like what I have to tell you, because even though the Marines in the Navy or Naval Services, unless you become a corpsman, I'm probably never going to see you because you'll be on the blue side Navy for the most time. And my wife was seven years older than I was at the time. And that school's going to hurt. And it was right up at the hills at Camp Pendleton.
And she threw her hands up and volunteered to become a Fleet Marine Force corpsman went up there through the pack on her. She got her FMF device. I did her study and all that stuff that was in there. I also poured the blood out of her socks and her boots on the hikes and helped Packer frame. So that didn't shift around on her back and do some things up there. And I remember the instructors give me a call saying some of them, they need to make this next hike.
Some of them are having a harder time. It was on here and I got to go up there. Didn't tell her. The last participant on the hike I showed up off the drill field, came up, didn't know I was there so I could watch the Trail of Tears that was going up the hill to do this because selfishly I go. I also knew from my own family not only would she be a phenomenal corpsman for the Navy in the Marines, I also knew she needed to get over that hill for what we needed if we were going to had that.
And I also knew how much of a pride thing when you thought you'd never be able to achieve that because of all those excuses there were packing up. For your own self, you need to get over this hill and she got over the hill and she stayed with me for the rest of the time in the Marine Corps, we would slap hands as I would come out of combat and she would go back into combat. And the hardest job that I had was about 2007 when I had to stay back for seven months and play Mr.
Mom to a 13 year old daughter going through those daughter kind of things of boy, you were a tomboy about five months ago and we like to do this. And now you got make up. Now you have this at mom's not here to deal with this. So it was an interesting time.
Yeah, that that is an interesting. It was a really it was quite a leadership challenge.
And you so you had to see the drill instructor and then you did that until 2008.
And then we went back out to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a tour back out there. I kind of always like to rotate coasts that were there and also rotate overseas kind of get a more well-rounded thing, because we kind of grew up in communities of where people said they were either on an East Coast tour, they were West Coast or so they did this. And I had the rare opportunity to kind of circumnavigate the globe and do all those.
So that took us all the way up to the invasion in 2003.
Where where were you on September 11th?
On September 11th? I was I was at Camp Lejeune and we were doing a noncommissioned officer of the quarter board that morning. And we were outside and somebody had ran outside and just said, you never to believe this. Some jackass just kind of flew a plane in the World Trade Center light and everybody thought it was like a Cessna or something that was here.
It was it was no news. Everybody just kind of went about their way. And that's kind of weird. And then the world changes things later when these kids run out of the company office and we're all out in the parking lot going, that was no Cessna. And a second plane has just hit the other tower that was in there. And instantly everybody there was no one questioning. You remember, Jack? There was no one.
It was the light that just came on in the darkness when the second plane hit as we're under attack in the United States. So for the next week, you don't know where that's coming from. So it can't tell you what we were in charge of security and start to get ammunition and machine guns out of buildings that normally you're not drawing ammunition and machine guns and you're getting more stock and and then you're putting machine guns on top to barracks roofs, looking for air cover your string and concertina over every road possible to prevent what would then be known as the bids coming in, because you don't know where they're coming from and you just kind of stayed there at work for five days trying to figure out everything that was going on.
And everybody kind of glued to the one TV that's in the company office or wherever it's at trying to get the news that they can get.
And so you were you said you were working base security. Were you in a battalion? Were you?
I was. I was in an operational battalion and basically at the drop of a hat, we had to figure out the employees can't just secure everything. And now let's get to the armory, get the heavy weapons, get this. OK, where's the ammunition? What do we need grenades? Do we need all this? And you're trying to go through this whole thing and get the nod's up. Attack could come at night.
And you're basically writing the book because there's no book that's written that you feel like after you got back from the first Gulf War that maybe after, you know, another six months goes by, maybe another year go by.
Did you did you feel like the Marine Corps, the U.S. military was in a state of basically, you know, we're really not going to have to fight another war? I mean, the whole world just saw what we did to these guys over here. I know I had leadership that would straight up tell us that, you know, listen, the days of you guys are never going to do a direct action mission. It's just not going to happen.
And then on top of that, we had technology. So it was why would we send you guys to do a direct action mission when we can put a T Linman attended grid? Why would we have you guys go do a special reconnaissance when we can fly a drone over? We have satellite imagery that can tell us the same thing.
So, you know, I will tell you, I never I never bought into that. You know, I always thought and hoped that, you know, I would I would be called upon to do what I was trained to do.
But it certainly was hard to, you know, and we were off the coast of Somalia, so we saw that happen. So you maybe you'd get the feeling that maybe there would be some sort of a you know what we what we used to call the big mission.
You know, we get some one mission.
In fact, a lot of our training was, you know, our full mission profiles oftentimes were around like, hey, this is our mission.
This is our mission. There's the. The situation, if you're going to do this mission, you know, when we work with the Marine Corps, it was always like, hey, you know, this could be a big if. It's going to last a long time. But as far as just the the mentality of the SEAL teams was very much, hey, we're probably you know, you're going to do one mission.
If you're lucky, if you're lucky, you're going to do one mission, whether it's a special reconnaissance of one thing or some kind of a direct action on a ship or a hostage situation. And that was kind of it.
Did you feel like that that attitude was around in the Marine Corps or was there just is there enough kind of institutional knowledge in the Marine Corps that people said, yeah, hey, you know what, it's peaceful right now, but it's a cycle and it'll it'll be back again?
No, because a lot of the people that are involved in that cycle gets out and whether they're at a leadership level to influence that, your staff and CEOs in your younger junior officers that were involved in a major conflict in 1991, there's a large probability that over 60 percent of those guys 10 years later are not going to be wearing the uniform to be able to train that mentality into another mindset. But when I actually did see was the military was very conflicted at that time because you still had the wall may have been coming down in Europe and everything else, but we had aggregate forces all over the world.
And all of a sudden you started seeing mission sets diminished that we used to be there used to be the jungle schools and then you'd have the jungle experts that went to learn how to do that. Well, the focus wasn't so much on that. Then you'd have the Mountain Warriors that went into the mountains like the 10th Mountain and everybody else but the 10th Mountain, that's our job. But we have other smaller forces all throughout the military that go to Bridgeport or they go to Fort McCoy or they go to ADAC or they do those and you watch those start to collapse of where we wasn't we wasn't going to Norway the way we were doing.
We wasn't doing these mission sets that we were doing. And then it was it was large scale. Now it's going to be desert because after 1991, then Somalia happens right there. So there's more of a Middle Eastern focus that's now shifting into this whole training paradigm that's there mixed in with these humanitarian missions like Haiti and everything else that's happening. So you got forces all over the place. And the funny thing is, I really, truly do hope that in places and the government, in higher places, in uniform, above and beyond where you and I ever achieved to be at, you really do hope that that mentality did not slip in and they started to promulgate it down to do that, because that would just tell you that the people that we're relying on to know the most about the business of doing warfare don't know as much that we actually believe that they do, because if everything in the context from 1775, all the way up to present Day of America is a blueprint for what is going to happen in the next twenty to twenty five years, and it is undisputable and a training environment to actually think that we are not going to be fighting another large scale warfare at this time period.
While in between that time period we're going to go and fight in four and five other shitty little engagements around the thing the Somali is the 80s. The grenades are going to happen and those are going to be compartmentalized. Not everybody gets to go to that party. And then you got to keep your motivation up. You got to train the troops and say that that's that unit's mission. This time ours will be coming. Ours will do that. If you are going to make a career of a lengthy career in the U.S. military, you are going to go to war.
And there are other services that are going to go. Parts and pieces may be before you, but you've got everything from 1775 to 1783.
And then there's your big one. And then all of a sudden, roughly about the years of eighteen hundred eighteen 05 with the Barbary pirates and all that, we have compartmentalized little things about there. Then all of a sudden War of 1812 in that happens, everybody's go into the big one. Eighteen twenties, we're fighting interactions with Indians. You're fighting a different kind of warfare. It's that insurgent small warfare again that's here. And then all of a sudden somebody pops in and starts going, we're going to Mexico, everybody's going to Mexico City.
Then you compartmentalize that.
Then you get 1861 to sixty five. The whole show goes to town following that 60s, 70s. Then you hit the Spanish American War that comes in just after the Spanish American War. World War One kicks off. Banana wars happen. After that, we start learning how to develop an amphibious doctrine throughout the. Specific guys like Pete Ellis are out there saying that the Japanese are going to strike in the Pacific. We have people in jungle training like Chesty Puller and all those learning these jungle skills in Nicaragua and Haiti and all these small little wars at that time period.
And then we come out of the small wars period, 1941, 1945, where the United States is in the big one. Everybody goes home again, put the uniforms up, ruptured duck goes on the sleeves. Let's go start working the Chrysler. Holy shit, the Pusan perimeter. And we're down to about 100000 troops because we let everybody go home, get them all back out there. Fifty one to fifty three. Then you're starting to back into the Dominican Republic and these small little things, 58.
And then Vietnam hits and runs all the way from the early years of 61, all the way to 75. Bad mindset comes out of there. People are tired. A lot of the NCO corps leaves, the trainers lead that's on there. And then we rebuild this force of small wars in the 80s. Again, Grenada, Lebanon, Beirut bombing happens. The first terrorist action targeting the United States military in centuries happens at that because it was an act of war by the Japanese on December 1st.
But that wasn't an act of war. That was a truck bomb going into a Marine barracks. They killed 243 people when they were sleeping. It was in their kind of roundabout way. Gets to what you were talking about. I go, it's when you start letting things down, rules of engagement are different. You can't fire until fired upon. You're in a police action. You're not in a designated war.
And then you get through Noriega, you go right into the Desert Storm. There's your big one again. You roll right into the Somalis, the small wars. And then we've been fighting ever since in the major wars. And also the small ones, I believe are small war period started again roughly about the 2008 time period, because if you actually look at that clock, it I just no doubt. Every 20 to 25 years, this nation all has to mount up and go fight somebody, everybody on a bigger scale to do that all the way since 1775.
And then in the next 20 year period, we have to reposition, we have to rebuild, and we have to fight these smaller, little compressed areas around the things and prepare for the next one, because history tells us the next one is eventually going to happen. And if that's going to be an invasion of Inchon, of which what you were saying, is there a certain skill sets? Let's take the amphibious warriors that we have out there today.
You know, they've been being told now that there'll never be another scale of D-Day, they'll never be another scale of this.
And you know what? To an extent, you have to weigh where you need to put those forces now to where you need to put those forces somewhere in the future and at the same time, maybe a fire down here on one of our legs and a few other things that just got taken offline when we've been running those ships ragged for about the past 20 years to in and out of dry docks and everything else puts us probably in one of the most vulnerable times.
Again, prior to 1941, we've been fighting for 20 years. We've been recycling that equipment. We've been throwing people into the breach seven, eight, nine and 10 times. We have sons and daughters that are now fighting the same war that their fathers and mothers went in on. The resilience of the American people are strong, but it's going to be tested. It's going to be tested very soon.
I was up in Montana a few weeks ago and I was doing the archery shoot, a bunch of people from all over the country. And you're out in little small groups. And I'm seeing a bunch of military guys and they're saying, what's up? And I got to this one spot and I see this guy coming over the hill and I don't know, maybe he's twenty eight, thirty years old, something like that.
Got long hair, beard, scrappy looking guy. And he sees me, his eyes light up and, you know, he's got a big smile on his face and comes over and he says, he says, Hey sir, awesome to see you.
Semper Fi Kill. And so we talked a little bit with the Marine Corps, the whole nine yards. You know, you're out there walking these mountains and I'm thinking to myself, that guy.
We're always going to have to have that guy, we're always going to have to have that guy, if anybody ever thinks that you don't need that soldier or Marine that's going to mount up and go to wherever they get sent.
And take that mission and risk their lives. And kill the enemy if you ever think that we don't need that guy.
And it just gave me great reassurance because he's at the Marine Corps, but he's out there and there's that's something we need to make sure that we always have.
And I think it's part of our instinct. I think it's part of being a being an American. But if we ever decide that maybe we need to dispel that attitude from our society, we're heading down the wrong road, in my opinion, because the world you look at, the world's a nice place when you live in America, but America is not the world and there's evil out there. And there has to be people that have the attitude that when the call comes, they'll go and they'll go and handle that problem, you know, to really good.
You said with that you said earlier when you were getting that people were developing and utilizing modern day technology as the basis of not having to send a man or a woman into a fight. Whether we're going to put an aircraft, whether we're going to do that. I'm a firm believer that all of that is a battle enhancer. That is not what you build a platform on. The man and the woman is the platform that you invest in and you build you build the resiliency into them.
You brought the determination, the strength, the warrior spirit, the fight. You put that into them. And it doesn't matter if it's 20 years old. I think it is even better when they hear that fire coming out of somebody. It's 50 and one and everything else. And you talk to some guy that came across the beaches of Tarawa that's 94 and they are crystal clear and concise and has a day and they're basically looking at you going, don't screw this up on your watch, man.
We held the line on our watch. And I believe generationally we all have a responsibility to do that on. Make no mistake, war will never become so advanced to where you can hold a piece of ground without putting a person on that ground to hold that piece of ground in that battle space. You can cover it by fire. You can cover avenues, you can cover large swaths that are out there. But if you want to go down and actually get at the business of what war is related to, you are going to have to put a man or a woman in a battle space to control that from the ground.
This is exactly why we use forward air controllers that are out there. You don't fire missions on to something that you don't like to target. You don't have that in. We don't drop dumb bombs from our teams anymore. And just because people believe that we have laser guided munitions and all this other stuff, or as the naval threat is becoming the attitude to standoff distance and they don't want to fight in the literals because they don't believe we have to drop Marines into the literals that much anymore to swim those infantrymen ashore.
That is all not. And then the nation might start making ships that don't have, well, Dexatrim anymore. And it takes that capability off of the table to do that, because you and I talked before, Osprey's, Helo investements, a lot of these platforms. That's the solution that's here. You know what the bottle ship was the solution to make? The aircraft carrier was a solution to the battleship. The toys are not what makes the fight.
The fight comes from the heart and it comes from how you grow the next generation to utilize the enhancements that you're going to give them. And you give them the best enhancements that you possibly can to do that. But you do not put an enhancement on the battlefield that cannot be employed by somebody tactically, that doesn't have the resilience and the knowledge to control that rules of engagement. I will never forget I went to a combat resiliency conference before I was getting out of the Marine Corps and I had to get up in it and I had to talk.
And we had everybody from the Army and Air Force, Navy, everybody, the one that I was very most interested in. It wasn't the combat resiliency from US Marines, because you're in the six foot fight with somebody or the teams that are going to go in and they're going to throw dogs and they're going to hit on target. They're looking at watches. We got this much time on the ground. We have to get A, B and C tertiary targets, primaries.
We got everything here. And you're making those calculated things. Now, the average person we don't that carries the rest of the military.
There are supply troops and everybody else does that. But when I heard an Air Force lieutenant colonel say one of the biggest problems they're having right now is the resiliency of the mental illness of their drone pilots, I kind of set up a policy and they explained it as it's one thing to be.
Standing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and you're having a six foot fight and you're doing that, and there is that risk that is involved into that, right? Then you go, you do your mission, you do your direct action, you come back, you debrief, you do your equipment, you do that, you get cocked and reset because you're still in the zone, because I'm in Iraq and I'm in Afghanistan. And she said we kind of wasn't prepared.
And I know we're more prepared. And I believe they're totally prepared now because this was years ago at the infancy of when we're going to have enlisted drone pilots. We're going to start flying drones out of these cans, out of places in the United States to where these people show up to work in the morning, get a debrief on a thing, do a battle handover and then fly missions and predators. And not that at the end of the day, somebody puts a board up like they did in Vietnam and go, well, we had five today, walks out there.
And then you get back in your car, your wife calls you and says, can you pick up Burger King on the way home? Yeah. And then tomorrow morning at 8:00 in the morning, you're going to go back in that box again. And it's not a game of their lives. On the other side of that, that is the evolution of warfare that I believe that you have to prepare the person for when you put that on to shoulder that responsibility and not take away that because of the technological enhancements you and I are talking about, it scares the world.
Doesn't matter when they hear that there is a SEAL team that just hit something. The teams usually go on by the time the news is there and they find out that that incursion just happened in a place in the world that nobody was looking. It strikes the hair on the back of somebody's neck. OK, America's still watching. They have this capability. They're out there, whether it's Delta, whether it's anybody, it's on that. But make no mistake, the world knows America's really serious.
When a young lance corporal or a PFC in the army with a bayonet on the end of the rifle wades ashore and stands on a piece of sand. And then they have a battalion that's coming behind them that makes more than people's hair on the back of their neck stand up. It says that when you're going to get rid of these guys anytime soon and if we don't behave, I hate to see what else they're going to throw inside of here. So you are spot on, let go of saying that it is always going to be the person.
And I mean, that's right. Back to that mindset of Teddy Roosevelt. The man in the arena today is the man and woman in the arena because their lives are out there on the line to do that, whether it's blue lives, whether it's military lives or anybody else. But to have that mindset, we can never lose the mindset of feeling people who want to be in the arena. How how long did it take for you to get your for your battalion to know that you guys were going to spin up and head over and 2003 we were on leave.
We got called. I was put in a unit that we only had a few months to train up until that time period. So we kept in the field, lashed them together. We kind of went on leave and we I called off a leave and said that everybody else, for the most part, is going to fly over. But we need you to take your tracks and get on the ships and you're going to ride the ships over. That was here.
And we rode one of the last trips of the USS Portland.
It was pretty awesome. I wanted I always love the smaller ships than the bigger ships.
I mean, they ride differently and that that's a little bit weird. But the camaraderie with the Navy crew that you have on a smaller ship, especially when you're driving amphibious tanks and everything else, is the first people other than the ship's captain, the XO and the CMC. And that that you check in on there is you always check in with the best chief, make sure that guy's got his stuff squared away. Right. You check in with the bill and he keeps showing where they're at.
The third people is all the damage control people and everything else on the ship that has the machinery that can help you fix the equipment that's in that Weltech, whether they're bracers, whether they have welding capabilities, because some of the best people I've ever seen in my life, they can turn a piece of sheet metal into something, is a sailor in the U.S. Navy and that it's their home and they got nowhere else to go. So they do the most resilient things to patch things, to weld things, to do what they have to do.
And there's a lot of times I have to go inside of there and go, you don't know me from Shinola, but I don't have a welder out here right now or not. Can you come down here and raise a three inch thing that's on this armored vehicle? Yeah, and it's pretty cool.
You throw McOwen, you throw a Ka'bah something for some great work because it's a people business.
You build assets and camaraderie. That way you don't build an adversarial nature by being the Marines that show up on the ship and they put everybody on water hours because the Marines take showers that are five minutes long or anything else. You just kind of, you know, whose house you're in and you build that rapport because they're going to war, too, and they have a mission. And you really and their mission isn't just to drop you off. They tie into a bigger mission.
They're kind of open in that camaraderie that they see you come back and to be looking at your naval brothers to go when you get pushed ashore will be here, will be here when you get back. We don't know what's going to be doing will be here.
The Portland wasn't there because that thing was brought out of decommissioning. Just to get us into the thing of the fleet. Is that an LAPD, is it. Yep. A small little sweet pea. It was called, you know, and it's kind of sitting about seventeen thousand feet below the waves. And it's one of those things that's just a great little ship from a great city that was out there. I mean, the USS Portlands that held that name before that.
These are ships that were in DeWees battle line and everything before and the naming of these ships and these cities. And when you were talking about, do you think that people sometimes lost their way on what they were doing, you know?
Like the naming of naval ships, you look around the world and you see the shore, you see the invincible and you see different things that are out there, one built pride in your own ship that was here. More importantly is when the enemy kind of sees a flotilla coming at them and they see the names of these ships that are actually coming. That leads to a mindset of the people that are on that ship and a country behind that ship. So when we're when we're sending the Roosevelts out are we're naming these cities and right down to these little else T's that were called Barbour counties and Harlan counties, and these were produced to represent these Americans who were the fabric of our nation was there.
And then you just kind of see how that name can get over your words, this ad. And how are we naming these things that are on here rather than, you know, my wife and I chuckle JoCo, that's all. And Erin and I and I try to reduce my amount of cussing over the years, know it's not so grandfatherly when you're out there, but on the screen in the TV, I grew up with the recruiting of the U.S. Navy.
Right. Seeing the posters of stripped to the many sailors, throw in depth charges saying join the U.S. Navy when this brown water Navy boats going in there and doing business on the enemy tiger striped kameez, you name it, that was doing this. And then here for a while, you know, we've got it's not a job. It's an adventure. We have this. We have this. And all of a sudden you start the troops start talking. It's kind of like, what is our identity right now?
Am I the Pepsi generation of either join the Navy, see the world generation? Am I that, you know, the Marines are the Semper Fidelis? We didn't promise you a damn Rose Garden type generation, and we don't tjokkie with our message like a lot to do that. But the best thing that I have seen in many years is I heard a rumble in my house because I'm hard of hearing. So the volumes up. I heard a rumble and I saw an aircraft carrier come from the right hand side of the screen with a full bottle line up across the top of that.
And it cruised across. That thing in the house was like rumbling. I yelled to my wife, like, baby, you get down here, you're your commercial is on. Like she runs down, she's laughing at me. Djogo And here comes this thing. You see the white caps coming and it's Román and you know the commercial it's here and at the tail end of that it's like the United States Navy, a global force for good. And I just looked at her and I said we wouldn't be married for 22 years if I got us all fucking jacked up to like like do some stuff tonight.
And then it's kind of like, OK, baby, you're ready. We're going at this. And then this is how we're going to drop the ending on this thing.
I said I probably wouldn't be your husband for the past twenty two years.
And you know what? I loved it. I love the messaging that it had that was on her because the messaging, the politically incorrect messaging, they should have came on. And I have a United States Navy.
We will completely destroy your way of life. It's the same one to this. And then things like listing the battle, things of saying this is just one. We have quite a few more of these. And then more importantly is once again, you don't make it about the machines, you make it about the person. And when people start seeing recruiting posters that actually have the resilience and the fighting thing, I've seen America's army come out. They're actually really good ones.
They got some door kicking things. I mean, they're actually targeting like we want infantry maybe, and seen that for a lot of years to do that. And it's awesome. And you still see naval special warfare commercials out that are targeting a generation of of the next generation that has to go forward and do these things.
I'm not sold on the fact I go that we should be selling a lot of skills that are on there. You know, that's the recruiters job. Let's get them into the recruiter. Let's kind of pump them up. Let's get them to that. But I also know that I had one of them say, Justin, we don't want to scare anybody that's on there because we got to get people to come to the door and said the right ones will come to the door.
The other ones you do a little bit more work for, but you'll find him in those high schools, you know, do another thing.
But if you're getting scared by a commercial, I don't think I want you here. Yeah, it ain't our it raddled.
That's exactly right. I don't want you here.
So how early for the invasion did you guys get to the staging point?
We landed and we moved about a 30 day movement up into our TAAS, our tactical assembly areas that are all in there. So we landed in Kuwait to move a good way to land. We didn't lowboy. We didn't do a lot of those. You're driving up into a lot of these positions. To do a couple of weeks of training, it was there, but we only learned the mission that we were going to have to take those bridges down, we didn't know until we actually got up physically to the tactical assembly areas.
What month did you guys set sail to in January? And then we landed in the end of February. So we were on the ground and started making our movement on February 18th and 19th up into the northern portion of Kuwait, just below the border.
So both these wars for you, you showed up very short, didn't have to sit around in the desert like everybody else for nine months or 11 months. You're the man I was down there. I was Dennis Rodman. And the thing when somebody, you know, you're eating the cheeseburgers and you get your sweats off, they're about to walk onto the thing. Yeah, we're about to play the world game. Hey, can you come on over here right now?
Absolutely. Then so you got up there.
You said February 18th, got up there in February. We offloaded in February in Kuwait. And then we made the march up in to the northern portion of Kuwait to stage where we're going to go through the breach lines into Iraq and then going in going into this.
How did the attitude compare to what you experienced in the first Gulf War of the of of your fellow Marines? The attitude was absolutely there was no problem getting any Marines to do anything. The problem, keeping them from doing something because they still had the Twin Towers burning in their head. You still have people in your platoon that were in New York when that actually happened and had joined the Marines a couple of years later. So they were kids that were somebody that was the catalyst to make them Marines.
And you have that fight of you did this. And that was the energy that was going in. As we you know, some of us who were here the first time knew that we were going to be back there again because people had always chastised or whatever or armchair quarterback George Bush's decision, or should he have just pushed the troops up into Baghdad and knocked out Saddam Hussein in 1991? And the mission was, get them out of Kuwait, put them back in their own house, and then they pulled back.
But we kind of I kind of knew when I was running enemy prisoners of war in the backs of those Amtrak's in 1991, a lot of those kids didn't want to be there, but the older warriors did and their lieutenant colonels and their senior NCO that had been through the Iran war and everything else, the look that they had on their face was, trust me, man, this is not over. These kids that are in here don't have the fight and didn't grow up with that.
My generation still around.
And I still remember a lieutenant colonel sitting in the back and I remember how dumb I was because I had a knife, like on the top shoulder, my flak jacket so I could get to it. But I was sitting on a campaign against engine panel so I could watch everybody in the crew compartment. But I remember my weapon at the time was like in a condition. One weapon with it on fire wouldn't even mean it would have been condition one on safe.
But you're in close quarter and you have a long rifle in here. And that's the ignorance that you have as a kid. You feel you're protected. I have this. They don't want to fight anymore. But I also looked up in the cargo hatches in my platoon sergeant had the weapon station turned all the way to the back with the calzone that depressed into the back of the mule. And the other S7 that was in this hatch was leaning and riding the vehicle backwards with a Beretta and was in overwatch of me down there.
In other words, they probably wasn't so scared of me because they were probably scared those crazy guys will fire into the back of here and kill even at the risk of killing one of their own. So we didn't have any problem, Pournelle, going into that training, that mindset that we're going into their backyard, this time with the greatest Marines that we could put forward on the field of battle at that time and all the other cohesive forces going into there, there was not a mindset other than let's just get this show started.
Did you think, look, I know you're you said that you thought, hey, we're going into there, we're going into their territory now. This is actually where they live. We're probably going to see more resistance. Was that widespread or did a lot of people think, hey, man, we you know, we're probably looking two weeks at the most?
I know I was worried about that, which is a weird thing to say. But I was thinking because I was not over there and I was thinking, I'm going to miss this is going to be over in a few weeks, or at least it could be.
What did you see? We talked about that in training earlier. Different units train to a different mentality that was here. I can only speak to the one that we trained to. We train to be there to basically prevent the Iraqis from ever being able to do this again to somebody else at that. And it wasn't going to be in 1991. It was not going to be. They're just going to throw up their. And they're going to walk away to do that, but I'm not only not like that, other people were like that that you saw in training areas or you didn't see putting in the hours and the reps and the steps that it actually took to lay the maps and talk to history and kind of really ingrained that mindset into somebody.
It was overall, the Marines had the mindset, subunit levels that were on there. It always goes back to whatever the commander, whatever the leadership is going to make a focus of training at that time period because you can have the higher authority that basically says we're going to go and we're going to do this mission. But the people that you train, eat, sleep, breathe with that, put that into you, is normally not the chief of naval operations or the commandant of the Marine Corps.
It is your lieutenant colonel. It is your captain. It's your lieutenant, your gunnery sergeant, your chief petty officer, or it's your guy on your left in the right. So I couldn't have had a more cohesive unit that went in for the short amount of time that we did, because I all do believe that they didn't believe this was going to be a two and a human and we're out of here. I think they actually were very fearful when they kind of knew the major thing is to now take this guy out and we're going to do it in such a manner, at such a speed that was out here that we're sitting there with these vehicles.
They're left over from the end of Vietnam when they were brand new going. We're going to push them across the desert, sometimes at night, sometimes with no maps, sometimes broken down. And you have to leave that one back with a crew to fix it. And then they have to travel 80 miles to catch up with the rest of the crew and they're out of radio range. So at night, you're just kind of looking at the tracks you can follow to try to catch up.
And then you call in these radio things to get within that radio range and you don't even know if you're driving through a bazillion minefields or anything else is out there.
When the when the invasion kicked off, what what were you guys doing immediately where you guys were up or what was that? Was that March 20th?
We were we were already in position and rowing and refueling. We kicked off on about March 19th and started the track up because you're talking hundreds of miles that was in there and again, fixing things along the way, whatever you have to do, because the thing was push, push, push, push, push. You can't stop.
You can't do this, which really bonded that whole thing we were talking about, like the USS Indianapolis, you know, it was maintain radio silence, keep pushing and keep pushing. Don't give away positions. Don't do whatever you have to do right. Get to the end of the result. And but we started top often refueling about the twenty first. It was kind of the invasion load for the fuel. We've already loaded with ammunition. Yarrie loaded with everything, the twenty second rolls into there and unsent.
We know the call is the twenty third is going to go into the city and then that's when you've already rehearsed that your position to take a certain bridge. Here's your mission and here's the time and date stamp it. You have to be accomplished by whether it is setting off zero four in the morning to get to a bridge by 08 so that you have somebody that is here.
So did your battalion get tasked to take Nazaria?
You know, the entire task force, it was called, ironically, Task Force Tarawa and Task Force Tarawa was First Battalion Second Marines, and that was completely away and its own task force. And that task force was to secure the bridges of Nasiriya so that the entire 1st Marine Division and the Army and everybody else could pass through that city all the way up the route and make a straight shot up to Baghdad. So that's why they needed those bridges.
What was the intel telling you about the resistance you were going to face? The resistance was about 500000 people inside of a city. So it was a large, major city at the time frame that was bracketed by the Euphrates and the Saddam Canal that was on that. And at the time, there was small units and it was a headquarters of the Iraqi Fedayeen that was down there. So we kind of knew more of your fanatical fighters were going to be inside of that area.
The fifty first mechanized division was down there and we still knew that Iraq still had a will and the means to fight. So he still had these capabilities that they could probably put a good hard on you, but we still had the capabilities that nobody was foreseeing.
The buzz saw that was going to happen when when we crossed over those bridges that morning on the twenty third you guys, are you briefing your your platoons, like out in the field or you in the assembly area? How is the how's the word getting transmitted to the troops. You're already doing the debriefs that are out there in the days leading up to that, once we got everything else is kind of on the move at one time. I've got six different radio nets that are going on inside of.
My helmet, little box down here that I can switch between Battalion TAC, one tank to fires, anything else while you're still maintaining your communications for your intercoms for your vehicles, you're still maintaining tactical control of your own people in relation to the battle that was on there. And once the things are rolling, there was no time to just stop and say we need to get everybody back together and talk about what we're about to do tomorrow to you. So you already had the whole thing.
Priore had the prebreathe that was there. And then you go across the bridges.
What was the first indication that, oh, it's on the first indication it was on was even before we got the bridges, because all of a sudden that morning we found out and started hearing calls that there was an army unit that had made its way into Nazaria. And they had went up across one of the bridges that we were supposed to on the southern bridge, made it across the northern bridge all the way, what's now known as Ambush Alley, U.S. fibros.
Some of the maintenance was there and just managed to take a wrong turn. Captain Troy King got the unit on the northern side. They kind of figured out we're off the path to where we're at and figured at the time the best path was to cut the shortest distance again, to try to get back to where the convoy they had turned that they'd made that wrong turn.
So the greatest thing was when we first started hearing that we've got army vehicles on fire sitting in front here, blood weapons laying all over the place. And we are the north. We're the spearhead of the entire nobody's supposed to be in front of us. So to hear over the radio. What do you mean? There's an army unit? Are they engaged? Are they not engaged? It's, you know, the first vehicle start calling, which are the tanks back and they're rolling past these burning vehicles and their fuel trucks and their convoy trucks.
It's not a combat convoy that was on there. And they're pushing and they're just relaying those positions that are back here. So now the generals, colonels, everybody else is getting this fragmented stuff back here. They're all trying to figure out what's going on. And I get a call to go up and start figuring out what's going on up there. Take another vehicle. I grabbed another vehicle and started pushing as far as we could. And at first I heard it's about a mile and a half somewhere up the road where the tanks had said they may have seen some soldiers on the side of the road.
We passed the burning vehicles that were there all shot to pieces. And then we just kind of kept driving up the road and saw nothing. And then I got up to the forward line or the and one Abrams tanks and eigth tank battalion and Maj Bill Peoples was in charge of that. And I drove the Amtrak down into the side, set the driver over near the tank. The tanks main guns are engaging two sixty twos in the field. Everything this is getting real main gun overpressure blasting.
You can't get a hold of them. Their mission fixed. That's here. Got on the ground, climbed up the side of the tank, got on the back of the gunners thing and grabbed the gunner's helmet off the top, which I believe kind of startled him a little bit because they are actively engaging troops that are in the field and started to ask him. I mean, he looked like do come from I said, did you see some soldiers are up there?
And he said a little bit past the burning trucks and not far behind from where we're at in between that area, we saw some soldiers that may be a few hundred yards off in the areas. And thank you very much. My feet did not hit the deck. He looked enough to see me start to climb down the side of that tank to jump off. And that's about this high that was here to get back to the vehicle. And when he saw me jump off the tank, that main gun fired.
It was like the best roller coaster ride I've ever had in my life, because the overpressure, it's just like arched your back and I got back up.
I'm laughing. He's laughing. That's up there giving the thumbs up, run back to the thing. Tell the drivers they're somewhere in here. Now we're in Indian Country that's out here. They're engaged in that way. We've now got artillery positions that are getting set up to start firing into the city and start doing the prep. You're starting to see helicopters start to come into the into the air. And then we couldn't see any soldiers. So we started weaving the vehicles joco back and forth, like you drive down some country road trying to find something in the ditch that was here with two vehicles.
And eventually my driver yelled and he said, I see somebody over in a field. And I looked over there and it was a soldier waving her hands up and it was a chief warrant officer that was in there. We pulled the vehicles over inside of there. And I tell people to this day, I go because they've caught a. This amount of heat for being the unit that was had people captured and wandered into this or whatever else, I get credit a lot for being the individuals that went out there and saved the individuals and triaged.
And this year for for that maintenance unit that was on the ground when we got there and put troops on the deck, they did the best job that they could possibly have done with trying to treat their own casualties. One individual specialist grab had four gunshot wounds. A big boy.
I think if it was me, wouldn't I wouldn't accept that the shots were his were that were arms, upper arms, legs. And and I just remember him having this calm Zen thing. And when I stopped over, he just looked up and he said I never thought I'd be so happy to see a Marine in my life. And we said, we're going to take care of you. And we started ripping T-shirts, bandages. Corpsman were there. They had made like a little 360 degree perimeter specialist Miller was awarded the Silver Star out of that unit for defending those members that were here and that maintenance unit.
So this whole kind of shtick that they get, that they didn't fight, they didn't do this. They were just a maintenance unit that wandered in, their training kicked in. They did the initial things that were out there, sent the other group over to the other little wagon wheel that they had another individual set up in there. And I can just remember looking at grub and thinking, the columnist, here's this guy, he's just boy, he's on point.
Thank you for showing up saving. He's not how he's not screaming. And then we have one of the other ones that's missing part of the back of his foot that's over there. We get them in. We get back down south. Tanks are still engaging and pushing north. We get enough time to just kick them out of the vehicles. JoCo at the first like ambulance I could find because at this time, no, there's no aid stations set up.
There's nothing. So you get them back there, drop them, because I got a I got a convoy to get back up here and instantly we drop them right there, fell back into the battle line and started moving in on those bridges in the Nazaria. And the first bridge we hit was a rail bridge. And the first thing that I heard was that there was a van coming and there was an RPG gunner hanging outside the van. And we saw the first shot and yelled Sagger Seiger Seiger, which was the cue to the armored vehicles to start driving erratically to try to evade a rocket attack.
When they did that, I knew everything was going to be OK.
I did, because instant willingness and that confusion and they're hearing all this chaos going on their helmet and they're listening still for the key words and the reactionary things. They're not going, where's that coming from here? They just start doing what they're trained to do, that short amount of time, move across that railhead, nothing sitting, move over the southern bridge. And it was eerily quiet. You know, moving over the southern bridge of the Euphrates River was eerily like nothing was going on.
It's I don't know if you tuned it out in the city, but it was like there was no firing going on. It was eerily quiet moving into there. And then I was sitting on top in the center of that bridge and the forward part and I'm the last vehicle. So there's about thirteen other aves there staggered in front of me. And about eight seconds into that feeling, the entire world exploded.
Rockets, mortars, coordinated RPK machine gun fire on corners of the bridges and everything here. I'm yelling over the thing to the first section leader. That's the first vehicle at the bottom. You need to push and get us off of this bridge. It's down here. We get down and off the other side of that bridge and those vehicles start moving into these herringbone battle positions. And now they need to drop their infantry because we are on our objective. We still have other units that have to pass through this objective to get to their objective that are up there and using situational awareness in the movie.
I still to this day can't remember seeing another armored column roll feed away through there because you're so focused on what you're doing in that area.
And now they're calling out RPG gunners are calling out mortar men on the top. You're seeing the RPGs flip and hitting the road. Some of them are duds, some of them aren't duds. And then you have to disembark the infantry. The infantry gets out there and this is like something that was I can only imagine this is what Custer felt like when you got a 360 degree and it's coming from everywhere. And you can't figure out what the main part of this, whether it's artillery that's coming in on you, whether it's forward observers, there were people watching a battle go that.
We're just sitting up there drinking tea with their family on these verandas that are just watching and you're sitting here going, is that a spotter? Is that somebody I mean, the guy looks like he's 70, but I don't know right now. And a lot of guys are then asking you, are we authorized to return fire to do this? Because that was probably the biggest thing that happened in Nazaria, was the epic scope and scale of it. You would think that people were itching to pull the trigger.
It was quite the opposite. They were really running the rules of engagement and saying, until I get some real positive I.D. or something like this, I'm not just going to sling a 50 cow into this building until I have a reason to do that. And it was a really short time until we were given a reason to do all of that and more, whether it's 40 millimeter grenade launchers, 50 cals, laying 60 millimeter mortars on direct fire down avenues of approach.
It was every range you had ever been on, all packed into one that was there. And it was that way for a solid straight eight hours and nothing let up. It wasn't a breather. There wasn't anything that was in there. The supply chains aren't going to come up to you because they know what's going on up there. So at the time this is all happening. The tanks are a pretty big signature. All of a sudden, tanks run out of gas really quick when they're burning through that gas tank, start pulling out of the battle position because you can't get the feel when to refuel.
The tanks are in the city. Tanks are now going to leave the city. So if you got your heart going down in your stomach is when you see those bad boys start rolling the opposite way and you're left with thin skinned vehicles because are Amtrak's on that deployment cycle? We didn't have enough time when we got the deployment order, JoCo to get the bolt on armor to put on the outside of vehicles. So our vehicles at the thickest point was two inches of aluminum.
We didn't have the appliqué. We didn't have the enhanced armor that was in there. And then the Humvees still just had cloth doors and they had that that geto armor, as we called it in 2004 and five and armor plates on all that were the product of what we learned back then to do that. And as they're going, the tanks go that way. And now the fight is in a 360. And we're about an hour and a half into that.
I don't know what's going on at the other northern bridge.
Don't know what's going on on the outskirts of town where our third maneuver unit was supposed to be on the outskirts of town. And that had the commander in the third maneuver unit on the outskirts of Nasiriya. They kind of tried to do an end around with these command vehicles and they got into this Iraqi cesspool bog that was no, no, it's a shit dump. It was up. And an armored vehicle, it looks like it's sand on top. First one launches into their sinks all the way down.
It can't get out. And one Abrams goes in after it. It's gone. Command vehicles go in, it's gone. And you're talking about now we're terminating engine compartments and everything because we're going to have to leave these vehicles inside of these cities. This is the blueprint. One supposed to happen.
Or this is what how many hours into it are you listening to this is to get into that. Are you have you already taken casualties at this point? At that point, none in my immediate area. And then right after that is when I was faced in opposite direction, firing a turret and kind of a rearward thing to keep the Iraqis back from his avenue of approach. And we saw an ambulance coming at a high rate of speed up the thing.
And I can remember what the C was on the side and all this and myself and another vehicle, Alpha three one one, was sitting on each side of the spread. And this thing just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming close in the distance, 200 meters. And I kept telling them, just call it out, call it out. We did. You're usually not supposed to do a burst of warning fire to do that. But this is the first stages of combat and this is kind of an ambulance.
It's also at the same time, kind of a it's coming this way because some of us did remember Beirut, a few things that were like that when we were younger. I think it's about seventy five meters and game on. And we lit into that thing and that vehicle careened off and stopped and pounded into a wall. The whole camp lit red that was on that. And Susan smacked in that wall, that back hatch opened up and six black clad Iraqi Fedayeen fully armed to the teeth.
Fighters came out of the back of that vehicle and started running across the street. And there, you know, now it's my God, now they're going to use ambulances. Now they're going to do this. Now you're really into this. And it's all in that two hour window right now. Then you're talking about rules of engagement, rules, not of engagement. You're an 18 year old kid that's out here is Gunnery Sergeant, do I am I authorize a shoot, something like that, or am I going to be charged with some kind of it's after here.
Hey, man, this is what we have to do with this time to to keep the family alive. And when they dropped out with weapons, it was just like that. Every avenue approach, you would see a mass, you would look up on verandas, you would see people come out and fire rockets down the road to try to skip them in the tanks. And then you'd see them disappear. And then a few seconds later, you see somebody come out on a top veranda again, kind of put their head around about twenty seconds later, that person now, that person's a spotter for the person that's underneath.
And you just got to watch the Marines calculate all that at the rapid rate and start to deduce this is what's happening. Can I do this? Can I not do this? Here's what I'm going to do. And then my driver yells, Hey, boss, look at these dumb ass going the wrong way.
And it was kind of this little Georgian kid. Nineteen years old, loved him to death. PFC Sasser, he's looking right at the road. And what he saw was an Amtrak going the opposite direction. And the first thing I can remember thinking Jocke was don't let that be one of mine because I didn't tell anyone to go that way to do that. And then when the clarity happens, you look and the RPG gunner at the top materializes. Fifty feet above that Amtrak, he fires a rocket down into the top of that Amtrak and then it blows the back end of the Amtrak open.
And then you see an Iraqi RPG gunner walk right out in the middle of a street, take a knee and fire the second rocket right into the street to the park, which is a completely coordinated effort of attack.
These aren't just a bunch of insurgents that are there. And then you see that blew open. Next thing you see is a U.S. Marine fall out on fire. And I could tell it was one of ours. He still had his communications cord and helmet attached in the back of that. And it's all surreal at that time. You don't have sights and sounds. You don't have it.
It just kind of and you're in this vacuum watching all this happen. And the vehicle comes to a rolling stop on its own power because you can see smoke coming out every hatch. It's on fire and then you can see troops laying in the houses. And I can just remember the infantry is engaged, but I can just remember that nobody's kind of running near that thing right now. So I yelled in the back to my duck, grab your unit one kid and come with me and Alex Velasquez from Puerto Rico.
Great little kid. First time in combat. He grabs his stuff. He runs out the back. I got no helmet. I got it. Because you're throwing everything off, right? And we get out there, we run to the vehicle on. The first thing I see is half the leg of a Marine laying in the vehicle. And I remember picking it up. Do and and you're like, Dockley, this off to the side, because maybe there's people here alive, you know, in your own way, you're trying to think maybe this can be reattached or do or not.
And I still remember the picture, my head of him standing there holding his leg, amputated leg combat trauma of a Marine. And this look on his face like, oh, my God, what's going on? And then we went into the back of the vehicle. The back of the vehicle jacket was completely collapsed in and this a twenty six ton vehicle. So the top of these cargo hatches, they need a few Marines on a good day to open them up.
And these are imploded into the back of the vehicle. And then you have to remember inside of the vehicle, you have no shortage of about a thousand Mach 19 grenades. You have boxes of hand grenades, the infantry. You couldn't sit in the back of a U.S. combat vehicle going into combat in 2003 and actually put your feet on the actual deck of a vehicle because there was a sub deck and the upper deck was all the ammunition that was laid across there.
So not only are these infantrymen on a regular day packed in like you and I talked about before, now their needs are to their chest. They're sitting on top of a powder keg and it's just nothing but cordite and pitch black. And you can't see and you start feeling.
And I just start walking through Djogo from Marine to Marine and I would see a Marine and I'd move up and try to feel shake checked for a pulse, whatever, because they're just all mixed in together. These cargo hatches had also imploded and bent them all when the L positions, when they collapsed on their backs. So even if you have the average Marine, let's just say a buck 80 that is out there, you had, you know, another 60 pounds a kit on top of that kid and all of his weapons and everything else.
It's a it's a mess. And as we're moving through there, I mean, looking back and telling Doc he's triaging people and I could look back and Doc was feeling for a pulse and I would tell Doc, forget it, go to the next one. He's dead because Doc couldn't see the side of his head that was missing that I could see. He could only see the other side when he came through. And now I figure, joggler, everybody's dead.
There's not a single living person that's inside here that could have survived this.
Then you just start hearing all the stuff ricocheting off the outside of the vehicle. You still see the rocket trails that are flying behind because they're now this is a large target right in the middle of the magnet to magnet magnet. And they in their aim and everything they can for it. And I just figured, first of all, we need to get as much weapons as we can. We need to zero the radios out. We need to get the crypto out of here.
We need to do that. And started to go up because I figured I was asking for a thermite grenade because if I couldn't get the radios out or whatever, you can drop a thermite and burn them. And this is what we're going to do because we may have to leave this here, which is one of the saddest things. You know, you don't leave a dead, wounded comrade behind. And in the middle of the fight, you have to do what you do to survive and also get the materials you have to do to carry the fight to the enemy.
And you cannot quit because even if you're tired, cold, wet, hungry, somebody else is more tired, cold, wet, hungry. Anything else? You you're talking a hundred and thirty six degrees or anything else. We're already in the fight where Marines have already sucked through all their canteens of water or their CamelBak to do that. The water's hot already, as you know. It's not chilled water and they're in it. And I stepped into the middle of that and dropped down on my right knee trying to get through.
And I heard a man gasp for air.
It was who I was stepping on that was here. And it turned out to be a corporal by the name of Matthew Juska.
And that was a vehicle and a Marine. It was in a completely different unit. They were charged with taking the northern bridge where we had the Southern Bridge. So now in your head, how did they get here? How are they back down here to do this? And you find out what had happened at the Northern Bridge when they got along that northern bridge, they were hit with Iraqi artillery fire. They were hit with that. And then they were also the unit that were hit by the A10 strikes that were up there and had all this madness going on at one time.
These vehicles that were we were now seeing coming back in, they were the vehicles that were loaded with casualties, trying to get back south of the city to do what we had done with the five 07. And then the Iraqis were picking them off just like they did the five 7th when they came back into the city.
De-brief the the A10. Friendly fire situation that unfolded, as you know, from what you from what you know about it? Well, when it was actually happening, I were at the Southern Bridge. So it's pretty distinctive. When you can hear an A10 come over in it. It makes a pretty distinctive sound as well when those cannons are actually going off. So, you know, they're in the area now, the northern bridge, and that's where it's happening is probably about another hour and a half, two miles up Ambush Alley.
And what we can assess is there were actually survivors in that track that I was in that were also crew members that were in the front. So I was able to garner after we coherently were able to get some people to talk, wasn't the casualty I pull out of the back. And it really wasn't the two guys that were inside that was there. Another Amtrak had called out and said a second vehicle was here and they're trying to get us to come help them up at the Northern Bridge.
And he was saying what was happening at the Northern Bridge and the open source that you can find the redacted after action it's online that was here was basically what had been happening was when they got forward to the Northern Bridge and they were hit with this multiple things that are calling airstrikes that were coming in the forward air controller was the fact is supposed to actually be having eyes on the target and the FAC did not have eyes on the target that was at that position.
And he was co-located in the with the command element that was back in the city. And when the Etienne's are coming in, the attendees are getting grids that there are no U.S. vehicles forward of a certain position, kind of like when we got the call for the army. What do you mean? The Army's up there to do that. And then they're getting confusing. Calls of vehicles are coming back in to the city, which I'm assuming at that if I'm a pilot or anything else and I'm seeing armored vehicles coming back into the city, it may be enemy reinforcements.
It may be something like that. But at one period, whatever it was, they were given the clearance to fire fire on the vehicles that were north of that city. And when they came in, callsigns were gyrate that is on there. And they came in and made their first run in the first strafing run. They made a couple of those and then they flew back off up to level in the stack to start coming back around and to do that again.
And they made multiple runs on those vehicles that were up there. So the vehicles that you can see online, the vehicles that you could see there, the ones that look like they're completely gutted and split open like a can opener that shows all the aluminum melted the outside of the things that was from Iraqi small arms fire or anything else. It was like that that was the Marines that were in the mass confusion at the northern portion of the bridge holding what their battle position was, trying to figure out where this enemy fire is coming from, calling in the air to help out with that enemy fire and then that enemy fire in the middle of the fratricide incident happens to frag Marines that are in that in that mass confusion.
You know, it was later because, you know, they fired depleted uranium rounds.
And when you see the aftermath of all these vehicles and depleted uranium rounds, they leave a nice little melted. Looks like the Terminator, like when the Terminator shot and they had you know, you see the bullet hole go through Arnold Schwarzenegger's head and then you see the metal go back. It just kind of peels out. It's like that. And you can see these cavernous things that are inside of there to do that. But at the same time that you're down at the south, you don't know geocode that's going on.
You you only find out with the luxury of of history now. But you also knew by the time it was about five or six o'clock when you were able to get up to that northern bridge, you instantly were getting the feedback from the troops on the ground on what happened here and seeing, you know, their their homes are gone. Some of their gear is still on those vehicles that are there. They don't have the ammunition that's on their back.
They don't know how they're going to survive. They got each other that's up there and they're in a battle position and they're defending and holding their perimeter. And then back in the city, we are now still trying to figure out what is going on with these vehicles. We find this individual and we get him in the vehicle and we have him taken back over to the back end of an Amtrak. And when I see this individual Marine, this individual Marine was the largest Marine that was in that company.
He was two hundred and forty plus pounds. He was about six foot five and overall with all of his gear. Well over 300 some pounds and, you know, at the time, pushing a buck, 60 dakis pushing even less than that and more in the back, trying to dislodge a 300 plus pound individual that's in the back of this with all this equipment mixed in. And I can see when he's been in the same position that his head is split from the base of his neck all the way to the top, where you can see his entire cranium into his head.
So what I did was we yell for some more Marines. We kind of made a daisy chain. I held on to him as much as we could. The company first sergeant came in, got some more Marines held on to me. We started cutting as much equipment as we could and started Daisy Chain and this big boy out the back of that because you had to make a decision at the time. If I leave him here, he's dead. If I move him, he's dead in my head.
That's what I'm thinking, because I see the trauma that he has on him. And I know the type of injuries in these places. We're talking about spinal injuries. We're talking about head injuries. And you don't have the means with the rockets and everything else to stabilize spine boards and all this. So you to make a decision or yanking him out. And the decision was made at that time. I'd much rather if it was me, somebody yanked my ass out here to work and get back to some medical treatment.
And Doc and I and the Marine ran him across the intersection under fire, placed him in the back of another vehicle, or doc started to treat his head injury. And then I had ran back out in the street to tell him there's more. So I went back to the vehicle again. I still have to do the weapon, still have to do everything else inside the vehicle. And then I also hear that somebody had moved some casualties to a house right across the street and some Marine machine gunners were down one and they kept pointing.
I think they're down that way. And I went into this house, Jogo, I don't have a weapon on me. That's where I do have a nine mil that's on that. But long guns an hour and a back. And I come into this house and what I see in this house is I look to the left in the side of the room and I see three individuals and one of them gets up and he's gray from head to toe and he has a communications helmet on his head and he is burnt with the back of his leg, is partially missing.
Some other things there. He's got some burns and trauma. And this kid was named Corporal Vasquez. And Corporal Vasquez, I knew, was a crew chief in that other unit at that northern bridge. And I looked over against the wall. And the other two crewmen that made it out of those hatches were leaning against the wall and they had their uniforms on. I remember everybody's in MOPP conditions. So you're fighting in for Montford in like going to the gas chamber just to go to training one day and then you strip out all your gear.
You're in MOPP four days and you're fighting in that charcoal suit on top of all this stuff, in that hundred and thirty degree heat with no water anymore for these hours. And they're sitting against that that wall. And I could still remember seeing the blood, their eyes, ears. You could tell they were concussed and they were sitting there. And Copple Vasquez comes up and I just told Vasquez, I'm going to I'm going to get you out here.
And he said, I don't want to go anywhere gunning. He said, I can still fight. Now you're sitting here having the wounded protect the wounded or anything else.
And when outside the door picked up and they were on the ground that were here, came back in right around and put Corporal Vasquez, after I patched up his wounds, I put him in the doorway. And there are still Iraqi voices in the back of the house. I figure there's probably five or six rooms in the house. They're in the back. But the Marines are right in the street on the outside the room, and you have access to the back inside the house.
If I put you in this access on this doorway, I'm going to go get some help wrapped around his arms and said, I'm going to come to the right. Don't shoot anybody coming from this direction, somebody coming from the left hand side. This is an unsecured facility. You know what you have to do? Mirant and he said, Roger that went back out. Grab some more Marines, some more weapons, come back in. Got those three, moved them to the vehicle as well.
Now you're sitting here having to make the decision yogo you got to get back on the radio to at least let your commander not assess the situation. And Captain Mike Brooks was a phenomenal infantry company commander on the ground with the boys, and he's watching this all happen.
So he knows we have casualties. He knows that we have very serious ones. He also knows that we have an Amtrak and ain't going anywhere, this guy. U.S. equipment and all this stuff in here, and he also knows something is going on at the northern bridge that allowed all this to happen down here. And this is what you're talking about, you know, as as that commander. Right. You're also been told you will hold that bridge and you the guy on the ground hearing all this happened.
Now, I've got to get people out of here. I've got to find a way to get reinforcements up to here. I've got to find a way to to help to survive, you know, in a firefight. Nobody cares who the president United States is a day care about who's on their left and the right. And they care about, you know, the promises they made to people and to bring your son home or I'm going to do that as a commander.
But they also know I got a mission and my mission is a smaller part of a bigger picture. It's here I needed phenomenal. And we assess the casualties and we knew him well. We can't have any vehicles leave in this position. And who in the hell is going to fly a helicopter in here? It is an intersection where some Blackhawk Down when you watch it. And just at that time, I relate to casualties and I heard it come over the net.
We got an inbound bird. It's going to come 40 is going to come in the top, kind of looked up in the air. We need to get the casualty away from here to provide a more safer landing zone for that helicopter, which is about 150, 200 meters down the road. We start loading up the casualties just go the other Marines that are there, some other Marines, and we start running them another hundred and fifty meters in an opposite direction to a clearing where we believe we can get a helicopter in and then we're going to mark that clearing.
And one of the problems was in the rapid pace of the movement of all this. One of the things that we never really did rehearse was like an aerial signal plan for for medevac, saying, you know, you know, nine lines, you know, everything else. But what color smoke where you can throw it, where are you going to do green smoke to? The grunt's means different than green smoke to a helicopter pilot. It's on there on.
That's what happens, officer runs up and he says, do we have any sculler smoke grenades? We don't. So we have like these pyrotechnics give the pyrotechnics. He fires a pyrotechnic, it bounces off the thing and it kind of just disappears and doesn't do anything. And it's one of those things where we're now all laughing, even in the middle of chaos is like, come on, man. That's that's what we had to do. And he's sitting there with this rocket looking at me and he goes, and I just started laughing and he started yelling around and someone got a purple grenade, purple smoke.
He pops this thing. We see the helicopter start to come in on the most beautiful things I've ever seen. That thing flares. It comes in and it's in a slide about 75 meters above our head. And he sees that smoke pot and he instantly stops a slide and then he sees smoke pop back in the middle of the intersection where we just took the casualties from and sees green smoke over there. And he slides back into that intersection and puts the helicopter down right next to the burning Amtrak and thing and drops around.
Now it's on the ground. Crew chief kind of walks out. We start making a run toward that because I had found out that Marples movement don't land here. This is a dangerous thing.
And he saw that pop and he said the green was over there. Right. The grunt's didn't throw that green to mark that landing zone. They were throwing it to shit fires and do what they had to do. And he slid that and put that right down. This Marine gunnery sergeant walks out the back like John Wayne. I'll never remember it.
I mean, like you could really tell he's got to know what's going on, but he doesn't really know what's going on. And he's kind of standing on the ramp surveying the kingdom that's here and we're all running to the back casualties of him. And this is fitted with little rockets in the back of it was called in for. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't one. It was above there. They were doing that as they're here and that we we have Marines that we have to get them out.
So they're up there in the air and they're doing that. That thing flares down and. The first Marines that we get on top of there, plus the gunnery sergeant heart, he kept yelling, I need you to put them on the top rack because he needs to fill his bird his way. And I'm sitting here like we've been in the streets. We got no juice. We've got nothing. Man, you don't realize how dangerous this is. And I said, brother, there are RPGs here.
You need to take these Marines in. He said, RPGs are you should just put them down.
We'll take care of it. And we started running and like I said, bless his heart. Now, it's not the top rack now, so let's get him to where we're at. He has situational awareness. And one of the most heartbreaking and proud things I've ever seen in my life, though, is when he took ownership of that and made a decision because he knew lives mattered. He's relaying it to the pilot is up there. Without a gunnars belt that we saw, Juska was the last Marine we laid on the ramp.
The biggest one, the one with the crane and everything else, that helicopter, he said, drop him. I got him. As soon as I got off the back of the helicopter, the helicopter lifted off. And the last thing I saw when I looked up was just his legs hanging out the back of the helicopter with blood dripping off of his boots and that gunnery sergeant holding him in the helicopter with his own life. That may have been pulled out the back of that helicopter or something because he said, I got him.
And when somebody says I got him and that's another man, another Marine and a conversation, you got him. I go back to the business you need to do. And then somehow at that time period, we find a second taco to get against the wall myself, H.M. Velasquez, the corpsman on another Marine that was here. And thank God somebody threw us a canteen. They had about a half full, half full of water between all three of us because I could feel tunnel vision happening when I sat down at that wall and the lights going out.
And I could only imagine across the battle line that was everybody.
But that was happening, too. And we're still another hour and a half or whatever from that. Position still being maintained, Captain Brooks ran over to make time and he said, look, I've got communications with the unit that's coming in behind us. They're right on the other side of the bridge. They've reported they're at the bridge, so is going to be a battle handover, he said. I need you to make sure that everybody gets a ride.
He goes, we're going to push up to the north bridge and we're going to help those Marines. Roger that. Everybody gets a ride. That means it. Kelly's heroes lay on top of the cargo hatches. A zone wins. It doesn't matter. You hold on to the side. You're getting out here, but you got to make sure you have everybody. As we're doing this, the tanks show up. And when the tanks came back, you could just see the Marines like Santa Claus just showed up on Christmas Eve and they started pulling in the positions they're starting to take, fire the perimeter, run over to a tank, jump on the tank again.
And there was a second story window that I can remember to, had red windows in it. And we were taking a lot of fire from there and just went over the back in the tank on the tank phone and said, second level windows, red windows. Take the top of that building off, would you? My pleasure.
Well, one round through that. No more red windows, no more fire from that area. And then that's when it kind of started to die down because you could see the Iraqis probably thinking reinforcements at the right over the bridge are coming now. The tanks are here now. Everybody gets a ride, including all those tanks. Now, we just heard or saw what happened on Ambush Alley of those vehicles coming through there. We just saw the rockets coming off the tops and the rooftops of buildings.
We're now going to make a run for a mile and a half of that to get to that northern bridge and go through that gauntlet. So once we got a thumbs up that everybody, every swinging American was there that was on that just gave the order. Tanks stay in the front because they can swivel to turn left on the right side and avy only has a turn on the starboard side. So you can't shoot over the driver station. So trim the abs and the turrets to the right halves are going to cover the right hand side of these buildings with their mark, 19 grenade launchers and they're 50 cals.
And then the tanks are going to swivel and cover left hand side and we are just going to go forty five miles an hour from that thing and just lay lead the entire way so that no more are CG 3s come off the buildings. Something that that I mean, it almost reminds you like what you would see in Stalingrad. I thought Molotov cocktails are coming next. This is what's going to come off into these hatches to do that.
And we just took levels off of those kept those all down, got up to the northern bridge and then we got the Northern Bridge assess that bolstered the defense on that northern bridge. We now held the southern bridge. We now held the northern bridge. We reassessed everything for about a day that was up there. And then we figured we got a push on out to the western intersection because there's two bridges that are on that side over there and start basically having control of all the bridges on that city.
And then within the next 48 hours, that's when the entire 1st Marine Division was stacked up on this other bridge. And the greatest thing is standing on those bridges, watching what looked like the bridge, Ramadhan, watching the American army just come through with vehicle after vehicle on the way to Baghdad.
And that feeling at the time of success of we did. But, you know, hold until relieved. That's that age old American. That's that that's General McAuliff telling people not that's that's your generation of of doing that and saying, you know, so I get a little testy. You know, I go when people try to claim that this generation is, you know, the millennials and they will never hold up to their forefathers. Never will. Yeah.
Every generation has jackasses that are out there. They do. But every generation have the ones that matter to that that know when the chips are down, they really rise up and they rise up to the occasion. And we are lucky to be associated with a lot of people like that all the way through those battles. And that battle kicked off when you started to come in. And, you know, unfortunately, we're still putting people in Arlington and that today still holding to that truth.
The overall I.
I was I think the numbers are you you guys lost seven of your tracks in, is that right? And Nazaria. Eighteen, eighteen Marines killed.
Eventually it was nineteen that was on there. I put them all. We have everything. It's all in here. I've carried that for over almost twenty nine years. That was given. Me as a young troop, it was a map case left over from Vietnam. That was honor and those are all the guys. From Task Force Tarawa that were on that day, the rank that my wife pulled off when I got home off my collar that I was wearing in the street that day, which started black and it has no black left on it.
It was there. That was the rank that she pulled off my collar when I survived the cemetery fight in Najaf in 2004. 1ST Battalion, 4th Marines. And then that was the rank. When I got home, she pulled off my collar when I brought First Recon Battalion home out of the Yazidi mountain range and that up the South Sinjar Mountain range. So that's the Marines from two thousand and three.
That is Jessica Lynch's column of the soldiers that are memorialized on there that have given their lives that day. And then on the back side of there was the Marines from VLT one four in the cemetery fight in 2004.
What was the once you guys got relieved, what was the next thing that you guys did?
We had to pull out of that position and we went up to Al Kut. That was we were basically going to stay out near Al Amara and that sector that was over here. And we went up to Al Kut to reinforce those that Al Kut we pushed all the way out on the border in Al Amara. We did a counteroffensive against the the first mechanized division that was actually mounting a counteroffensive. But when we were actually in the city and we were still running JOCO, but the 26th that was in there, the supply trains have still not come through.
This is three days. So the Marines that were missing their gear, what we had ours do is if you have to, you only need one.
Therefore, give one to your brother, throw it out behind the vehicle and Poncho's canteens, backpacks, whatever you can do to give the guys who just lost their gear and all those things something to live with. And then we're down to less than an eighth of a tank of fuel on each of these vehicles that are overlooking the Saddam Canal back into the city.
And we're preparing for what we hear is a 2000 man counter offensive that is going to come by boats and by armored vehicles. It's coming out of the center of the city. In order to maintain the radios and navy, you have to have the avy run to charge the radio systems that are on there. We're down to about an eighth of a tank. So you'd shut your vehicle off for a while. You don't charge it up, run it for about 10 minutes to keep the radio filled so it doesn't drop the fills in the radios and you shut them back down to conserve gas.
You're down to there's no cameras.
There is nothing if you aren't drinking the water in the vehicles. And this is what I love about armored crewmen that people just don't know.
Jogo is it's horse, gun and man. You always take care of your ride first. You take care of your weapons first. You take care of yourself last. That doesn't matter if you're a ground pounder. You're a team. It doesn't matter. It's the same thing. Just a different concept. Applied a different way. You don't drink the horses water because the horse needs the water to still survive.
So the water as the vehicles are overheating. And all of this, you can't drink the vehicle water out of the five gallon water cans because you got to cool the radiators down to keep the vehicles going. So you kind of start sharing what looks like, I don't know, like shaving cream cut, like a shaving cream lid full of water just to get a little bit of water and continue to do that. Split down one Emiri between seven individuals start hacking nothing apart to whatever to stretch it out.
And then you're sitting in there on watch and you're not on fifty percent. You're not a it's 100 percent because this is the counteroffensive we heard they're coming. And the most glorious thing happened is one, they didn't come. No reason they didn't come is because the Marine artillery already put 900 rounds, I believe, into that city that night in this parking garage area where that they were supposedly massing and did just a battery for a fact that was in that they completely crushed that counteroffensive in the middle of that city because it would have been a hell of a fight if 2000 of them started swimming into that battle position after the Marines had been about three days down on food, water.
You're still on ammunition. You know, you only have the ammo that still left that you brought across with you the first time. So I learn tricks of the trade along the way to help people like that. You know, that's why, you know, history is important, like you said, looking at citations on buildings and learning about saying, I want to meet that person. I don't know why I want to meet that person, but someone tells me I want to meet that person.
I grew up with Stories Hill for 88 and in Howard's Hill and Jimmy Howard in 1966 takes a Marine recon patrol of nineteen people above the case on operating base and in search for three days. And within hours, Howard is completely wounded. He has to crawl from position to position because he can't use his legs with a radio to continue to repel and envy a regiment that is heading towards that fire base. And he stays on top of that hill for days and has a running low on ammunition.
Jimmy Howard tells his boys, throw rocks at the enemy, one you like. That's the mindset. That's the killer instinct, the mindset we were talking about. You know what? It's also the resilience, because he told them when they're like throw rocks. You crazy, he said the enemy at night will think it's a hand grenade and they would jump out of the way and you can kill them with a single shot rat to conserve your ammunition, genius.
And he said they were making a single shot kills all along the perimeter every night, holding that perimeter. And then when the 7th Marines came in three days later, Howard refused to be medevacked off of that hill. They were calling danger close within 50 meters on that hill, everything. And they repulsed that entire 18 recon Marines and pushed them back. Howard only said he would get on the helicopter when the last one of his Marines was found and they found him dead in death struggle with two NBA soldiers who were trying to drag him off the top of that hill.
And the infantry Marines refused to leave until they got all our boys and they put him on the helicopter with our one Medal of Honor, four Navy crosses, 13 Silver Stars. And everybody on that hill was multipoint wounded to do that and held their mission. Food, water, rations all depleted. I knew things like that, and I grew up on things like that, and I had a knowledge of on my time and on my generation, on my watch, their generation could do that.
This generation can hold that line to do that, too. And in those times when those individual young kids are scared and they do that to show them the resilience of people who wore their uniform or held their positions before, and then to say you have a legacy just as what Americans do and you'll do that for that. It gives you amplified fighting power. It's almost like on a video game when you see your life for start decreasing now, you know, you don't have food, you don't have water.
Well, let's not start thinking about the things we don't have and let's start focusing on the positive things we do have and then that just the food, the water, and that goes down this way. But your pride, discipline and everything else starts counter waiting that to where you still feel like regardless.
Come on, man, it doesn't matter. Whatever you got, bring it.
What at what point did you guys leave Nazaria?
It was for good. We actually came back down that way, but for good.
Not long after the teams came in and was able to secure Jessica Lynch out of the hospital, which is roughly, I think March 30th. First time frame is when we had done and accomplished all of that, everything out at the other bridges as well, and then started to have to pull out of there on the way to on the way to adulthood.
How much longer did your did this deployment last for you guys? Not long.
We we were in country until about the middle of May that was on there. And it was kind of like first and this time it wouldn't last out. It was kind of like first. And then you guys got chewed up and held your line. So let's get you on back down south. We had to the vehicles were so shot up we couldn't swim them back aboard the ship. So we had to load all the vehicles and the Black Bottom civilian shipping and drive them in.
So we made a trip all the way back on the USS Sipan leave. It was I may be wrong about that when I was in L.A., but we didn't have our equipment. We didn't have our machinery. So the rigorous training regime that we had on the way over on ship was not so rigorous all the way back. You know, a lot of card playing, a lot of award writing, a lot a lot of things that you could be able to do that that you did so well.
And then we went back through Rodo and we came back in and offloaded all that equipment and we were kind of back home by the middle of May. It was on it, not middle of May, but June, June timeframe.
What was the, you know, adjusting to be you coming back, losing so many guys? What was the how did you handle that with the families when you guys got home or what did that what did that look like?
Well, I'll tell you the you see, we were soldiers once and young. It was here. And when Hal Moore's wife asked to deliver telegrams and she takes ownership saying, you know, we give those to me and I'll walk around, I'll do that. Casualty assistance in 2003 had not became what it is now. It wasn't, you know, chaplain doing this kind of the way that CACO calls are made. Now, my wife didn't hear from me because I had a role in the platoon.
And I know that the leadership were the last ones to get the Iridium phone to call anybody. Every single person gets a call first. What's the last person is called? Bring me the Iridium phone call. They hang around on March 17th. We're going out and about 1:00 in the morning that night, my stars are knocks on the hatch, says I need you to come out here tonight. And I stepped outside. The entire platoon was standing there and he says they want you to make your phone call.
They've all managed to make their phone call home. So I dialed the phone and I talked to myself on the answering machine at the house because my wife wasn't home. They were at a Wal-Mart or something like that. She said that they ran into the house right as I was cutting off the thing. And then she did not hear from me until April 2013, the first time. And I had went to a battle position about sixty miles south of where Nazaria was that we heard that there were Aves, another avy unit, and they had parts that they could do.
And I needed hydraulic parts. And a lot of other things went down there. And when I got in the compound, one of my best friends was in charge, that unit, and it had like a Mars phone.
I had everything else that was here. And I'm like, oh, my God. And there was one hundred and fifty people in line. It was that there was no Internet. There's nothing what we have now. Right. And he just got me out of the thing and he just looked he said, I'm so glad to hear I heard about what you're doing up there because you look like shit, man. I say, well, nice to see you, too.
I love those kind of conversations, and then he just grabbed me and he said, you're not standing here. Go the front line. Call your wife right up the front. Not a single one of those 150 people said, why is that? I mean, I was still singed from head to toe. They could see the difference that was here, walked in, called and I got to talk to her and say I was kind of OK. But JoCo, my wife and daughter, found out where I was at, just like people did in the I Drank Valley in 1965, Jacksonville, North Carolina.
They did not know we were at we were missions secret and RiverCity the whole entire time we took our vehicles and put them on the ship. And before we did that, we did the combat lane markings on the sides of the vehicles that we knew that. And then we kind of had a family day where the families could come down to say goodbye. My daughter would always come down, play around the vehicles. They are sitting at home on March twenty third and they see the news come on.
And it shows burning Amtrak's in Nasiriya. And the ticker across the bottom says United States Marines taking heavy casualties in Nasiriyah, Iraq, and the vehicles that they saw. My daughter yelled for mom to come into the house and she said, I know where dad's at. And she goes, there are dad's vehicle markings that are on the side on that news clipping that was there. And then I asked her, I said, what was it like after that?
And not knowing the rest of the night, she goes, Nobody answered the phone for weeks. Nobody went outside their house. You didn't want to have anybody come to your house. You didn't want to know, she said, because you would hear that, you know, seven or eight houses down the road, someone's house husband was just notified that they're not coming home. And then over in the next housing area, someone's house, it was not going to come home.
And then they don't know if you're coming home. This is a whole month later and they know every single day. You know, it's like America watching the Vietnam War, eating dinner every night. I know my son's in there. I know my husband's in there and I know am I going to see him again. And then you don't hear from him about a month later, I can imagine.
So the hardest thing I've ever had to do in life, I never compares to the mental anguish of somebody sitting there not knowing whether or not the person that they love is going to come back home or not, which I believe at a very huge driving force going to my second career, what I did when I hung that uniform up.
And then you guys get home, are you now? Did you just roll right into another workup? I did. I what I did is we start patching everything up and rest and refit. I get orders. I get promoted. It's out of that now. I become a first sergeant in the Marines and I was sent out to the West Coast. And I was I was waiting around on an Amtrak unit for a while when I got the call and they said, congratulations.
You know, for Sergeant, the difference in the Marine Corps and the first sergeant that now opens up the opportunities for you to go anywhere, it's a leadership role. So now you can go the infantry into the air when you go anywhere else. And I want to stay in ground combat the entire time. So I requested to go with the infantry and I said there was a battalion working up for deployment right now, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. There are about 20 miles north of where this is at.
And before my sergeant major could tell me whether or not I had orders, I kind of war gamed it and said I recall that sergeant major to see if he had a slot and they have a slot open. Can I pack my stuff? Made a few phone calls, packed my stuff, one of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, and then started kind of the infantry career that then blossomed into a reconnaissance career to a much older age out of that.
And I kind of got that perverse wish, you know, other than being a drill instructor and other than spending a couple of years in school, being my own Amtrac instructor that was on there, I spent an entire 31 year in the U.S. Marine Corps and ground combat from private all the way up to Sergeant Major. I would not change a single day. And that doesn't matter if you crawl out of bed backwards. Doesn't matter if you have to have your wife help put your boots on certain days because a certain pain.
I've never changed any of that pain to change any of that career path along that line. That's how I ended up back in California, packed them up, brought them back out there with the.
1ST Battalion, 4th Marines, and we were supposed to do a regular float that was out there and our MEU got sent right into a take up outerspace and that was a six month float that turned into, I think, 14 months.
You guys where you guys were just kept getting extended.
So we we started on ship and we were just supposed to do like a normal Westpac, like just a normal like we're seeing out here right now with the 15th MEU, the 11th, the 13th thing you do one month out of there, you're going straight into Iraq, you're going straight to the Anbar province. You guys are going in to take Najaf in this battle space from the U.S. Army. And I remember the first of the four Alpha Company, 1st of the 14th, 25th Infantry, tropical lightning was in there in that battle space.
And they had moved down there up around Tikrit, and they kept moving up, down and out, and they moved him in there and we moved in to take the battle space. And once you hold battle space, you don't hold, you know, leave until it's secure. And that six month deployment turned into like 11 months, 12 months, 13 months. So when I was on deployment 2003, 2004, probably the last mission that we did, the last significant mission that we did was we went down to Najaf and we captured.
Sadr's top lieutenant and that that really caused some while it sent things out of control and we, you know, we were executing the mission, you know, it was what we'd been looking at Sadr the whole time. There was there was a lot of hesitation to go and get Sadr worried about what would happen. And so I think it was an attitude of, hey, you know, we're we don't know if maybe it's the best call to go get Sadr.
Let's see what happens if we grab one of his boys and giddy up, that's what we did.
That was in early April. We went and did it. Mayhem broke out. And, you know, Sadr City turned into total chaos. Najaf erupted. And and like, you know, I feel awful.
Look, we went home, you know? So that was it for for that deployment for me. And this ends up and it's just, you know, the way things connect, it ends up for you. You're in Najaf and and you guys end up going through that city and some, you know, some some tough fighting there.
And actually, when you go in the city and you're doing you're working with the engy, the four and 5th 400 and the Iraqi National Guard, and you're sent there to train them up and you're doing that. And then you're actually figuring out every day that we give you a bunch of weapons tomorrow when we do the weapons count, where's all your weapons? That doesn't take a genius to figure out right now why you're training a battalion that has an attrition rate or a desertion rate the following day after they're trained.
And then you continue to do that is the point of of like lunacy. I think it's the definition of doing that. So then you don't start doing that. You start building them as much as you can in these resilient things. You back up the police stations. But more importantly, when we took over the battlespace from the army, it wasn't that the army didn't have the fire or the equipment to at the rules of engagement for them were when we would do the left seat, right seat rides, they would tell you exactly where everybody's at.
Here's where Sadr's house is. You don't want to go by here.
Here's Kufa. This is a little flare up if you want to know. We're all hiding there in the cemetery over there. And then you look on the maps on the wall and those are called exclusion zones. You are not allowed to go inside of those. Those are holy cities. Those are holy things like this. And I can remember Colonel John Mayer, who is just sitting there at the table one day and he's like, well, don't take a genius to figure out where they're at it, where all the reds at and then the army left on.
When they left, we developed kind of a battle plan to encroach upon those areas with tactical probes to make sure to draw them out because the police stations and other places that we were reinforcing were real close to this round. They're real close to Kufa, real close to sardars areas. One, you're putting them in check on the chessboard to do that while you're still maneuvering your elements. And then August 5th was a typical day. We were up late that night, the night before and August.
They start doing a run on an Iraqi police station that's right across the street from Revolutionary Square. And my people happen to be in the city, in these platoons, in these reinforced police stations. And then before you knew it, the call came over again. Black Hawk Down. We've got a one that's crashed in Revolutionary Square now need to move in to do the crash site. And it's just you're sitting there going, you're watching the dominos fall again.
Now they're overrunning a police station. They're taking more aggressive actions. And then finally, the most blessed thing outside of just sitting there getting mortared for no reason whatsoever going what is this going to be? Someone of the same. Get on the phone and the who and the commander and everybody else is in the exclusion zone now is the mosque. It's in the center of that prepare to forces were moving in to the cemetery and we're going to prosecute these things.
Joggle again, it's 6:00 in the afternoon. Temperature on the ground, hundred and thirty year away from the FOB, 14 miles with all whatever you have. And now you just got an order.
The order is we want you to push fourteen hundred meters through that cemetery by tomorrow morning because I have a rifle company of 162 Marines that are here and I don't have any machine guns because they're out at the FOB on FOB Security because nobody thought that this battle was going to kick off. So they're up on post one post to post three. The recon platoon is not being used. They're just over in their tents that are here and we're in the city and we start pushing in on August 5th within a matter of a hundred yards of Moslems, crypts, no roads, anything else like this.
And the road, the only road was the one was at your back that you just cross to get in. So that's your supply line.
You lose this war and lose something and all of a sudden you start getting people getting shot from behind that are moving through this because fourteen hundred meters, you can't move that fast, Captain, that Morsi.
And he looked at me. What do you think of this? We pushed as far as we could that night. And then through the center of this gigantic cemetery is this thing called a diet, the diagonal road. And back in the 80s or 90s, Saddam Hussein thought it'd be cool to take a bulldozer and plow through some of these graves of light people he didn't care for too much and make this road through there as a big F you to to them.
I'm in charge. We got our backs to that road and made a tactical decision. This is where we're going to hold the line tonight, because now I can bring tanks into that road. Now, we just left 50 yards onto the field. We don't need this one. And now we can actually start bringing the more reinforcements and load them up onto here. So we're sitting on a diagonal road in these crypts all night fighting this this operation's from you couldn't know where you were at.
You're getting mortared. They're dropping on with eighty twos. They're walking them on top. And then you just kind of sitting there and then you're going in and out and throwing frag grenades down into the crypts as you're passing them. And then at times kind of like a tunnel right in Thanom. You're also following this stuff because those catacombs started connecting underneath that cemetery with these individuals.
So you're stripping off things, you're stripping off armor, smaller guys, me, your rack and a pistol you're doing around. You're launching a grenade. You're following that. You know, you got people coming up to the chest, whatever you have to do, and then you're leapfrogging all the way through the cemetery to get to that and hold that line. And then that night, we really didn't know what the situation was. And we had an adjacent platoon get mortar drop right on their C.P. So I ran down through the cemetery on Lieutenant Lewis, a few other ones blinded.
That's on there. There was some other ones that were there, were killed in the blast. And this is at night. And then all of a sudden we're trying to figure out, I wonder where we're at.
So somebody came up with a great idea, which I believe was the forward air controllers. We're going to get a pilot to buzz the cemetery. They will never lay off of a target like that. So when that pilot comes through, they're fire red tracers. Those weapons, when I came down about 200 meters blazing, whatever, 100 knots that was on that, it looked like something out of Star Wars. Coming up, the red tracers were everywhere back.
And it was kind of like that comment that just people are made. And I was like, well, good. We know we know where that, you know, they have us surrounded and now we can fight in any direction. You kind of know where you're at. And then we were in that position on the fifth, sixth, the seventh fight to that position. The next day, I lost Lance Corporal Welles from a sniper through the through the right, through his right, through his collar that was on there.
So I believe it was a dragon off from what I could see, because the is only made for fragmentation, as you know, not to stop a direct round that was coming through, but we had to carry that out and get him out of the cemetery and then we get pulled back out and refit.
This kind of fight continue to happen. The probing continue to happen. The nighttime patrols back down into the cemetery now. Other reinforcements from other units from Diwaniya and all that are all collapsing onto. But what is kind of now the prevailing view, because the same one started to move up north in November to take care of that and this goes on, and then that leads us to our very weird connection that you just mentioned, Sodor, before being on August 10th and getting a mission with an Army Delta unit to go in to.
Take Sadr's house in one area and then the Sadr school was in another section and Marsan and Force went into the school and the hopped up insurgents were at the second row of the school and they started throwing Egyptian grenades down Alattar wells at the troops coming up and fragged the troops that were coming in. We get the call that we now have wounded Marines inside of this charter school in the hospital. And we pull into position a platoon sergeant named Todd Boydston, one of the best infantry staff sergeants I've ever seen, is standing there on this intersection of this corner.
And there's this long axis of this wall and this building is inside of here. So there's another access that's here. And these Marines are bleeding out inside of here that just was hit with the Egyptian grenades rolling down a lot of well rolled in, got the assessment of what that situation was.
And we didn't know. You know, you don't know what you're going to see on the inside of about 100 meters away down there. And so I just told Todd at the time, OK, here's what we're going to do and put the machine gunners on the corners of this direction. The road's about maybe eight feet wide from from wall to wall. We know where they're at. It's down there. I'm going to run down the axis and hug the wall on this side because what kept them from doing that, Jocke was in the building overlooking that road was a sniper that kept the Marines from being able to evacuate the wounded out of the house, another coordinated effort to trap them inside the lower aspects.
So kind of on my mark, I'm going to run hug the wall that's here and I'm going to get in and hopefully the guy is going to shoot and the machine gunners are going to see where that came from. And they're going to kill that sniper or fix that position in a building long enough to keep his head down, to get in, triage, assess and then tell him on the radio, on the are we're going to throw a hand grenade because our hand grenades sound differently than there's two big large thump.
We're going to throw a hand grenade when you hear the hand grenade go off, not have the machine gunners shift to the left wall and continue to still lay led into that building. We are going to bring the casualties hugging the right wall about eight feet away from them of where they're at. And get these guys out of the building where that action open probably from flash to bang within a 12 minute period in and out of not pre coordination before for sergeants are supposed to be door breachers or something that actually does that.
But at the time, you just kind of think I'm really kind of the most expendable person here. You have a job, you have a job, you have a job. You're doing your job. I just rolled up into here I bring you food, water, chow, ammunition, everything else. And primarily the job is to get them boys out of life. So you want to do work like a champ. One of the one of the things picked it up and showed me a few years ago.
I had no idea that the company clerk had filmed the entire thing from the hood. It on the that was on that. And and a blogger that was out there named Fucker by 40 picked that up and posted that that was online a few years ago. And it's this time of the year, again, it's kind of one of those things. It's really hard to it's kind of hard to watch. But you're happy that everybody we didn't lose anybody on that.
The Marines did on that one. The Army did. The Army Special Forces team lost their master sergeant when they went in and they took it, meaning going in that and came out the other that's actually posted on YouTube that that whole scenario.
And you said he filmed everything. He filmed almost everything, because at one point he must get some stray rounds because he drops the camera and takes cover for a second before it gets back up to the rest of it.
Yeah, he's a he's a funny cat. He's a really good every Marine arrival, every Marine, a rifleman. I mean, he was an infantryman. It was a company clerk. But by God, when the round hit over his head or whatever, I've had a good look at that one time and had a good laugh like you did of the camera drops for a while. He needs to pick it back up and stabilize that.
You know, you you also told me a little bit about when you guys were clearing some of those underground spots and you had I think you said it was a lance corporal rolling into one of these situations ends up in a hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent. What happened there?
This is on this is on August. Twenty fifth. We're now getting the we're now preparing for the assault on and around the Imam Ali shrine. There's an NFA of 400 meters that's around the shrine. But we're now going to push with infantry and Amtrak's and make this big push and kind of drive them into the shrine and contain them that was in there. And then every night bring in the spooky gunship to circle that and contain them even more. That was funny.
It was at. Beautiful. So on August 25th, at roughly about 20 to 30 at night, we inserted a infantry, a couple of infantry companies in 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Charlie was mine, Alpha and Bravo or the other two. Bravo wasn't on the initial insert, but Alpha was off to our left. And we go to the top and we are tasked with inserting the infantry into this place. It's like a three story hotel and it looks like something you would have seen in Beirut, blast and everything else in there.
So it's the critical position that holds an intersection that allows us observation down these long accesses to get access to the Imam Ali shrine 20 to 30. My second platoon enters the first layer of the building. PFC Ryan. Colin Ward is one of the first men in the stack. He goes in the lower half and he sees an opening on the right hand side when he goes in. And now he's under night vision. He's fully loaded out and he looks to the right and he sees even in night vision and insurgent coming out of the basement of the hotel with an RPG on his shoulder.
Walking up the stairs, Colin Ward handing grenade to fragged, already getting ready to prep and throw. That was here. That instantaneous thing kicks out.
So wait, so he was going into the room and he was ready to hook a grenade, but it wasn't ready to do it that way. He was so. Yeah, but he had the grenade in his hand pinned, already pulled.
And he's ready to go because they're going to fragged the room that's around the thing. Somehow he gets that off in a way, has a situational awareness to still get in the direction they're supposed to go. And he rolls right. Starts down that stairs, makes it about three steps, slings his rifle behind him, jumps off the top step, tackles the insurgent with the RPG, rolls down another flight of steps into that basement. And then all you could hear is that insurgent screaming when Colin Ward was taken a bayonet to him in and mortal combat in a dark basement while he's got negs on his head, 19 years old, kills the insurgent, brings the RPG back upstairs, and then goes on to continue to clear the building with the rest of the squad.
We were in the building from the twenty fifth to the twenty eighth. By the time that the recon platoon that came in after us, a very good friend of mine, retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Brian Mahlum, brought his platoon in. They came in and then went down and cleared the rest of the basement. Not only was that one dead insurgent down there, there was another insurgent that wasn't there with Ward because he was cowering behind a ladder. Well, watching his buddy get killed by a U.S. Marine.
And then he got taken out by the recon platoon that came in on the backside surgically did that because Colin Ward's platoon is now going up the ladder. Well, to chase the other insurgents up to the third level and they're pinning them up there or squad automatic weapons and everything else did their job and they cleared that entire social element. And at the same time, you're on the radio right outside, OK? And you're hearing we just took a casualty.
You're hearing we just lost Colin Ward because he just went that way. Right. And you hear the screaming and that's going on here. And then you're hearing another Marine just fell down the elevator shaft. It was here. And it's an old burned out elevator shaft. It's still got rebar sticking out of it. And Lance Corporal Washburn was stuck down there on that rebar. He's on NOD's as well. I mean, you're looking down a dark elevator shaft.
Got I thought within two seconds I just lost the first two Marines. It just went into the building. Both of them survived. We're out of there. We got him. Washburne out of the elevator shaft. Collin Ward went on to do some more great things in the fight all the way through the twenty eighth. And then roughly about the twenty eighth is when al-Sadr came in and brokered brokered the supposed peace deal that called for the cease fire. And then that that day was surreal because then we had this in a matter of two hours.
We had to then watch everybody take their rocket rockets and donkey carts and move them across the street and you can't shoot anybody. Here's what this is. So you set up these roadblocks and these things and you're just watching them move their weaponry from one side of the city to the other. And you still know this is something is going to have to do something about this.
But then we had people who were actually detainees and they showed up with news media. And in the regular Iraqi town, you would always hear when you add some women to the mix and they start screaming and pointing and. And everything else, the news media starts saying, you know, there's the murderers, there's the people who desecrating our bodies and who are you talking about? So you come over and what I didn't tell you before, Joga, was the dead bodies that were in the building never left the building, because for the next couple of days, Marines couldn't get out of the building because of the snipers.
They kept them in the building. So it was very dangerous. I suppose your head or anything else to do that. And we'd maneuver through these these channels out there. And it was making the Marines sick. These bodies were just decomposing. Two of us in the basement, a couple of them upstairs, all that that was here. And it got to the point where I walked past a battle position one day and saw a Marine with a green skivvy shirt around his face wet, and had probably 500 flies on his face on that thing from those bodies.
And I had called over to, again, Colonel John Mayer back at the lab and had requested like 20 gallons of gasoline. And he asked me, what do you do with the gasoline? I'll burn them. I can't palm oil. And thank God he goes to whatever you do meant to burn off. Right.
Because he probably had more of a top level view of maybe what that would have looked like and was here, I don't know.
But I still have the problem. You're not going to give the gas problem still exists. What we need to do, grab blankets, shave Vaseline up and whose noses put everything else to corpsman, start doing that. And then we talk of these dead bodies into these things, put the machine gunners and people on the roof to pin the snipers down and run those dead Iraqi bodies across the street and put them in a house when I put them in a house.
So this is another thing that I don't really like to tolerate about all these people that they try to paint U.S. troops as they're just barbarians or put them in a house pull on campus. And actually, when they put them down inside the house, I said face their heads towards Mecca. They were fighters. They were they desert. You know, people call them shitheads or they were hopped up, their answers or whatever. I have a little bit of a respect of another human being.
I may not believe in what you're doing, but he picked up a rifle. He did whatever he was going to do for whatever that guy believed in and was trying to kill me. And on the field of battle, we just got one up on him that was here. So put them inside of their turnham, cover them with this pile of rocks that was there because the wild dogs start to go through there. And then over the next 24 hours, that's all you heard all night, was the wild dogs beating their head to get into that building, to start tearing at the bodies.
Then the next morning, these same lance corporal that you're seeing that made you start that in the first place, you're seeing them just like would you look at that and you see a dog roll down the street like, well, a foot hanging out of its mouth, like it's nobody's business. Right?
And then this news media's here and all of a sudden these dogs have torn off those bodies. Now, the story is the Marines mutilated the bodies. They allowed the dogs to desecration by that by rolled up and told them through the interpreter, you look at the way their hands are facing, those individuals are dropped. They're out of respect at their own lives. These individuals took them across and put them in the chattering, stop it. Just stop the instant we knew.
And then we went about one of them started pointing about 100 yards away. Interpreter comes up. What's he saying? He said, We're missing the bodies over there. I'm like, how does he know he's over there? Probably because he was with him when that guy was killed, locked behind another RockPile hundred meters away, dead insurgent man right over there because he was probably spot or something with them. These kids were seventeen, eighteen that was on that bottom.
And the ambulance pulled him off down the street. You know, international incident circumvented by kind of not desecrating or not doing what you're you know, a lot of people may not even blame. You got to animosity. You're amped up. You're doing this, but you trained them differently to say that, you know, these kind of things in the past only actually emboldened the culture when you do that to somebody to fight them even harder. Imagine somebody coming in and mutilating your mother or doing something after that.
And you believe that that's going to suppress you an amount of hatred to not want to go and do whatever you can to do that. So all those little steps along the way of of 162 guys of a rifle company, you know, you watch Band of Brothers and then you're sitting here going, man, in 2004, I wasn't part of the five parachute infantry. BIARD, the best damn Americans in America's working seen since that time frame in this city.
Once that peace deal, I don't know enough to call it a cease fire deal was brokered, what was the rest of that deployment like?
It was now just going through the city and doing reparations payments through the city. And we would set up things on a Monday that was probably even more dangerous than combat because they you'd bring them to the same place, same day, same time they would line up. You'd be driving through the city and you do talk and knocks on there. Are you claiming any damage that the Americans did on your house or did you lose a son in combat? Did you do something like this?
Then that's where you find out how they fabricate multiple death certificates and they're trying to get money from the Americans. And it was just it was a lot of that. It was then a lot of going back into the town to then again say that, you know, we don't want to fight Mainard, if you will give you a fight if you want it. But let's kind of get back to doing what it was that we were here to stabilize this and help you out.
And then this is the beginning, you know, of what turned out to be that led into you in Ramadi, in the in the Sunni Triangle and everything else. I mean, this is the infancy of the next two years, like you had said Djogo I'll call it a peace deal or whatever, because more casualties and sustained combat, it will happen immediately after that in the next two years all throughout that region. And it didn't stabilize it. It was there and it's still not stable today.
You get home from that deployment and what's next is when your recon career starts. This is this is when I like to say that I got to serve in a reconnaissance unit, being a Marine and a reconnaissance unit was one of the proudest Marines not being a recon Marine because just because you're in somebody's unit doesn't mean that you're the person that's the cats. But that's inside of that. And I didn't go was a lance corporal do selection assessment. I didn't go through the things that those guys had to do.
I was the first sergeant that was happy to be in the infantry. But that master gunnery sergeant I told you about in that recon platoon that was just sitting out and ifop doing nothing, I along with my machine gunners and that's how I found them, went out of that city when we were running casualties. And 14 miles away was the 11th MEU headquarters out of a place called FOB Duke. I rolled into postwoman all the way to the DKP and when we set the casualties over to get treated at the main base there, I always taught the Marines, if you ever take a vehicle back to the rear, you do not bring it back to the front.
Empty ammunition, food, water, whatever you have.
So the same guy that film the thing, Chris, it was in there, washes the blood out the vehicles. He does the things. He goes over the KBR representatives, which were actually really great. There was no hey, do you want to do apples or anything else? Guy would unlock an entire ISO container and go, you take what you want and then just sign off the whole ISO container or whatever, whatever they had to do. But it wasn't you can't have this not fresh fruit or whatever you can do, get it back in there, froze up.
I go over in the main C.P.E. and I get called up there because somebody finds out I just brought casualty's back in here. We're going to go back into the city. And when we made that 14 thing with a shot out windscreen, Chris, who is not a Humvee driver or a licensed Humvee driver. Right. I told him, get in the vehicle and get ready to drive. And I had four flat tires on one flat and he spun that vehicle around on that diagonal road so I could load Lance Corporal Brooks with the sucking chest wound on August six in the back of that vehicle bypass, the forward casualty collection point, because this kid's got a sucking chest wound.
So I laid on Brooks in the back of the vehicle and told Chris to drive that vehicle like he stole it because he used to be this kid had one of these little souped up Subarus and he go up to Los Angeles on his free time and maybe do some street racing sometimes. So it's kind of when your Marines in their off time, how it benefits the skills that you can have. I know you can drive get in there. He goes off and we get in there, we drop the casualty.
I get called over because I call my gunnery sergeant. It's on the FOB that's left back with my weapons platoon and said, go over to this other unit, tell them I need the machine gunners, tell them they're going to need to put people up in those things. To do this. We're taking a machine gunners and we're going back in the city with these guys. I knew what. They're about an hour all that machine guns came out loaded up or all round the city before we rode out, I took them out, went back into the city.
JoCo had to make another run that was back out. And somehow a lieutenant colonel that was up at the new headquarters had come in.
And he had said, if that SLB gets back on here again, I want to see him before he goes out. I love him to death. Lieutenant Johnson, I walked up in there, still covered from head to toe, and he was carrying like an MP five on his back. And he grabbed me, got real close. And he was like a person like you. You get over here and we're like 40, 50 people, NAACP. And he goes, oh, you reduce the the strength of this fighting positions out here.
Took those machine guns that was off here to do that. And I was I was just standing. I'm like, I need machine guns that are these are my boys, their honor. I coordinated with this other unit to do that. They're going to watch these posts. They've been standing guard before. They're over here to do that. Right. And he just kind of looked at me, kind of shook his head. He's an infantryman and was like and then just give me a really big hug and said, best of luck when you roll out of here down.
I said, hey, man, you do what you got to do. We'll take this case again. And then he yells, top echelons.
If you ever do that again, I will make sure that you're not going to be in the Marines or law because he did. Or he. In the end, the right thing is done in that chaotic situation that is there, that's it's laid out before you you don't have hours, you don't have things. It's reactionary. You're saving you're losing lives to do that on a pretty beautiful thing.
And then how did that lead to you getting attached to the recon unit?
The guy, the guy the guy remembered. You got the guy. Remember me getting him out of the tent and saying, I need a provisional rifle platoon to beef us up down there. And the recon officer and gunnery sergeant came up and said, we'll do that job, just get us in the fight. We roll them out, made the request. Recon mount up. They end up being a provisional rifle platoon and a recomposition attached to us. I'm their first sergeant.
We get done with that entire thing. That was their JoCo. I get back up. We're done with the deployment. I get a phone call from First Recon Battalion. You ever thought about coming to recon? So you're like, yeah, because that's what I wanted to do when I came in. But they also told me when I was a lance corporal, because after you get in, even if you're in America, you can try out, you go do that.
But you couldn't if you were colourblind. I couldn't do that. So it's one of those things where you find a way and it might not be this year, might be some year. That was the way I said absolutely. Sergeant Major gave me a call. He said, show up down here in the pool deck, about three fifteen in the morning. Bring your shorts, bring your things down here, get in the pool, do some things, run a party that was over here, do a little bit of an interview, brought some people down in at the tail end of the thing.
He said, how'd you like to be a person on recon? Recompetition said, I'd absolutely love that job. And he goes, OK, consider it done. Go back up. I've already called your sergeant major up there before you even said yes, you come back here, went up the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, same thing back my stuff went down there and spent from the year of 2005 to 2010 as the first sergeant for a company mostly that was there.
We stood up a company of Delta Company that was a Vietnam existence. This is when the Force Recon platoons that were PMF assets were then put back down into battalions. So they start showing up the tier, rebuild in a pretty good force. Then about 2007, I got asked to stay on to be the sergeant major that unit and was a sergeant major from 07 to tighten up on the Sinjar Mountain range operating out of al-Assad. It was their control when the rat lines coming up with the Yazidis had some really good mission sets that were out of there.
But the eight and nine time frame.
And then what what did you do when you were done with that? Once I was done with that one, I went back to be the sergeant major for about a year to Amtrac schoolhouse I grew up in as a kid. It was there and then got a call asking me to pick a job because I wasn't going to leave you there. And they presented me with a couple options and they asked me one on one and I said, I want to be a regimental infantry sergeant major.
And they said, good to go pack your stuff. You're going to go to Hawaii to be the 3rd Marine Regiment. And like every kid, you have a Fifth Marines here, Southern, because at the time this regiment didn't have this really good and people didn't know this history. But I had asked for it because go in my head, that regiment with aviation assets, engineering assets, Amtrac assets, most infantry regiments don't have those organic to their own thing.
Then you have the twenty one, you have the you have the airwing that's out there, AKB as well. That's your lift capacity. That's all that you own. Kaneohe Bay is the Marine regiment along that I figured and now we're doing this re pivot to the Pacific and we're posturing on that, keeping the Chinese at bay. We're negotiating to open up Australia is more training areas. I'm like, oh, my God, you are where you're supposed to be.
How would you like to be in charge of, like, the biggest strike force in the middle of the Pacific, yours out here? I think that's a pretty good deal. One less infantry battalion than the rest.
And they cover the most ground that's out there in the Pacific from northern China all the way to Darwin. And at best, one of the best fighting regiments story there. The China Marines are nothing. They had operations in China for the Marines at the China Marines, but 3rd Marines has quite a legacy.
And a legacy that goes back to Rafael Peralta, a legacy of these battalions going in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq, because when larger battalions got longer dual ratios, when you had one less battalion in a regiment that usually has four that's in there, plus what they have and you have three systematically, they have to deploy more that goes out. So now you're kind of in charge of a regiment that's got more the highest deployment tempos and also like the highest divorce rate in the entire United States Marine Corps because they live in paradise, but they're never there.
You know, the families are on that island, but their loved ones are out training. And to do all your training and why you have to leave Hawaii to do it. So on your dual time, like you had said before, dwell in, dwell, dwell for some places in their backyard as well, and other places when you can't train in your backyard, you have to fly to California, fly to the big island, fly to do different things like that all your dwell time and turns into training done then.
So how long was that tour? That was about two and a half years. And where is that? What is what did that bring you after that? They brought me up to a two star command at Training and Education Command for the U.S. Marine Corps out of Quantico, Virginia. And that's where I eventually figure finished out of up there. That was was that 30 years?
That was 30 years. At what point did you start getting involved in history? Flight on about 2000 time frame. We got a package in the Marine Corps for an honorary Marine was a guy named Mark Knoller. And we started reading through this package and the general officer and I worked for was the guy that originally did the nomination when he was in charge of the Second Marine Division. And he was now the time commanding general this comes in. And General Dunford is going to make this man an honorary Marine.
He wants us to do the ceremony. So we go over the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Mark. No. One, his family comes up. We host them for a couple of days, and then we do the honorary Marine ceremony. And at that time, the Marine Corps had given bestowed that honor to less than 100 people. And there was a pretty big deal. I didn't know when he did. And I started reading this dossier and it was an individual who was a pilot, still a pilot for UPS, and he used to run this aircraft.
I flew be twenty four hours are a B twenty five, a couple eighty six tax and some other things like air shows around the nation with some other pilots. And they started lifting these veterans and here in these veterans stories and his father was in the military and it goes on and on and he starts funding some of these search and recovery type things with some of the money that they're getting from that. And then the housing industry kind of crushes the airplane, right.
Industry and things like this. When people can't pay their mortgages, they don't want to spend money to fly on to aircraft to do that. And so he kind of remarks and he starts doing some research and finds and his research comes across a thing that says that in the Pacific Island campaign and Tarawa, the Marines had had 541 people roughly killed and they were left on the island that were out there and a majority of them were never recovered. And then as he starts researching more and more and more, he finds out this happened in other places and he can't believe what he's saying.
So he starts kind of making inquiries, research, and he starts doing this. And all the way through nine, 10, 11, 12, he starts making trips out to Tarawa on his own funding in his own dime. And he goes out there. And in the early years, it was as it was as easy as people displaying McCard bones on their front porch at Tarawa and saying, you know, we told we told people 25 years ago that these people were here.
They just never came and got them. And then she would say like, but they're mine now because they've been here. And you could tell that they were Caucasian, but the bones, everything else, it was on there. And he starts taking those first to turn them over for identification. You start doing that and you start doing the investigating, getting more and more and more. By the time that I had met up with Mark, know what that thing he had repatriated and located, I believe at the time, at least about 70 Marines that were lost and sailors also had recovered a bomber crew that in 1944 had taken off from the runway in Tarawa and kind of made it just over the lagoon and crashed into the lagoon and then had also done some more.
In Europe, on some bomber, 47 sites, a few other things, and I found it really fascinating because this is something all the way back since I was teaching history in the Marine Corps. And I told you before about, you know, what my wife had saw in 2003 and this feeling of this family, you kind of you know, you're done with this mission, but, you know, you have a calling to do another mission. And the door was kind of clear to me.
And I even wrote all my transition paperwork in the Marine Corps. My wife laughs everybody else, you know, I don't know what I want to do. I'm going to do this. And it said fly and be part of a search and recovery efforts to try to locate missing men and bring it back home. Their families didn't know how you're going to do that, didn't know what you're going to do. And then I picked up the phone after I transitioned out of the Marine Corps and just gave Mark a call.
And we had a nice conversation. Five minutes he goes, are you out of the Marine Corps? Came up. I said, absolutely. Said, I'd like to come down. I'd like to talk to you. Came down to Key West for a little bit of a meeting, came back and we started this operation I've been doing for about two years. And it's a great relationship, a great group of individuals that are military civilians, scientists, world renowned archaeologists, EOD experts, military medics, you name it, of the repertoire to do that.
They're just passionate Americans that are going and researching over 78000 missing cases that are still left out there trying to get at some closure to fulfill America's promise of we don't leave our dead and wounded and we know where we're at. We're going to go and get you. We may not be able to get you at the time to fight is actually happening. But dead or alive, you're coming home. It's a promise. We'll made it fighting everything you and I just talked about the past hours.
I know my generation was very easy to go into a fight knowing that I was not going to be buried in some foreign dirt nation that was somewhere else in the world because the person on your left and right was going to make sure that wasn't going to happen. Just like when we went out there in the middle of burning and tracking that street. It was not an option to leave those Marines to have their bodies drug through streets or to have anything else like that.
Not on my watch. And and to find out the gravity of this is over all these years that did happen in places and the iteration of the United States going out and having this honorable mission to go do that. It's like I want to be a part of that. How can I fit into the paradigm of doing this? And that was about twenty eighteen kicked off at that time period and then just offered up Marcé. I'll do an assessment of the organization and I just found out this passionate story of how many people, what they were giving up to go and do this.
And I said I'll give you an organizational assessment. And he kind of said, put what's it going to cost me? Said Nothing, give me thirty days, I'm going to fly it all the fighting positions. I'm going to get to know the people that's here, everything. I'll come back and kind of give you a little here's what's working. Here's what's not working. Here's a perspective that's not so close to the boat you do. This came back and he turned around and he said when I delivered that and he said, yes, I paid somebody almost fifty thousand dollars in that one time.
And you know, what they told me at the end of the assessment was that Mark, he said, if Mark Noah ever wants to stop doing this, then this mission will be over. And he goes, I paid somebody a little money to do that, came back, gave him a breakdown, organizational structure, how to how to how to couch things in the situation reports to where people can do that because you're coming from the government. So you're actually writing reports that other people that's in another organization can actually see and they kind of understand and you're not so far off the course.
And then it was just utterly amazing. I went to a funeral and when I went to a funeral, the first funeral was for a funeral by an animal named Tech Sergeant Carlson. And he just happened to be the Alpha Company platoon sergeant for 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, a landing force from 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion. That was Second Amphibian Traktor Battalion, which was my job on the twenty third of March of 2003. And that was the first individual that was identified when I was here.
So it was an Amtrak. I got to attend the Amtrak of a guy who did his job on November 20th and lost his life in 1943, leading the first assault wave in the first albizzi that were ever used in offensive combat and then to be able to be a guy in 2003 that was part of Task Force Tarawa that was named after those guys. My wife, I put her on the USS Tarawa to go to war and she just looked. And even before I met Mark Noah, my.
License plate on my car as early as 2010, I said to cross the back of the plate before I ever knew that this was what I was going to get into after I hung up this thing. It's just amazing that I don't think it's happenstance how that happens.
No, certainly not. Have you got. Have you have you gone to Tara where you.
Absolutely. About five times now went to Europe last year, so last year in March, we recovered a lost row called the missing Rody of Cemetery 33 that Ontari was called the main Marine cemetery. Now, Tara was only about 800 metres wide by about a week and a half long. It's not a very thing on the on the island of BCO down there on every ounce of that is HABITATE it now urse huts. There's everything else built on top of these.
And years ago, the the cemeteries, the Marines did the best thing they could to bury and record the things. And then they had to then go to the next time when to fight, load up on the next ship to fight. The thing like that turns it over. Airfield expansion starts going and then the cemeteries and that start moving around that island. And then roughly in 1946, America has this big thing in the American Graves registration unit and they're sent around the world to try to recover as many lost people in 1946 as they can.
And they get this mandate and they visit Tarawa. They get some bones and they bring it back. They do that. But there's there was still 541 people they couldn't find. It was out there. And that's airfield expansion. Now it's encroachment of the islanders coming back and they're built on top. So you can see this mess just magnifies itself. And after so many years of looking for this row and worry of the past year, not this past year, but in nineteen, we had a weather storm go through and blew down a building in an area that we were looking to remove the building from.
And when it did, it opened up an excavation opportunity that didn't exist prior to do that. And that is where we had located. Rody and Rody eventually turned into 33 United States Marines. By the time of the end of that bulldozer, Roe was recovered that were missing. PFC athon, as I told you today, even in the tragic times, it's happened out in the Pacific. And not the bright point it was here is I got a text from my people right before I walked in to talk to here.
And one more Marine out of that trench line was just identified and published by the DOD today from Defense MIA Accounting Agency. So that's another promise fulfilled to an American family that we don't leave our dead and wounded Bhawan. We'll go and we'll do what it takes to do this. And so I go out as many times as we can. The archaeologists go out about six week rotations. They come back for about four weeks. They go back out. It's in there.
And systematically, we were hoping with the next five years to process that entire I went to the fullest extent possible because there's still roughly approximately 400 that hasn't been identified. JoCo, the whole organization has recovered over three hundred and thirty seven sets of missing American remains. A hundred and thirty plus have been positively identified. The other bones are in the possession of the DNA labs of that. So these are going to be more success stories each week, each month of all the bones that are already in there.
And then on top of that, you have operations in Europe, you have operations in the Philippines, you've got the U.S. government in Vietnam. You've got everybody out there doing what they can. And then we as a private organization augment the skills that the U.S. government out there, 78000 people, probably a lot of naval casualties. As you know, you probably got roughly 28000 that are able to be accessed that are here. And if you're talking about a recovery rate of the government at about 200 of those a year on their own, they're going to be doing this for hundreds of years and they're never going to be able to catch that.
And these things, whether it's forestry's, whether it's city development, whether it's anything else you have, the the loss is going to happen each year to where possibly some of these areas that you could have recovered a previous year are not accessible a year or two from now. So you're always racing against time. And especially with the World War two generation, you're really racing against their own time. And we have a young rifleman named Wendell Perkins that is a Tarawa survivor and a veteran.
And we had the great privilege a couple of months ago. And it was covered here on Memorial Day nationally of locating Wendell's two best friends. And I know I had to leave on that island and he survived. And Wendell is living a happy and successful life up here, dealing with covid like everybody else.
We're about to see Wendell. Right now, here in California, up in northern California, and we're going to be able to hopefully do some live feeds for each of the services that are coming up as covered restrictions left so that Wendell can digitally attend the funerals for both of his best friends.
Well, that's awesome. And obviously, if this covid lifts, we get a chance.
We will fly up to Hollywood at that's. I love that tother window. I know you and I were talking about Dean Ladd and how awesome that was to sit there and talk to him. And I guess he didn't quite make it to Tarawa because Dean Ladd got got shot on the way in. But yeah, I mean, obviously, I will do whatever we can to to have the opportunity to talk to him and then anybody else, you know, because these are these are the you know, you're out there trying to capture the we're trying to recover the physical, but we can capture the stories, you know.
Absolutely. That would be awesome. Now, is this this is a charitable organization because of charities. Absolutely. There's a five. A one see three that just happens to have a contracted partnership limited for Tarawa with the government that is there. But we prosecute other cases around the world accepting a donations. We accept different cases from people to do the research for those against what the knowledge is that's out there to help these families along. And then we actually look and take the historical documentation laid against kind of a cold case that is out there.
Take the time, take the resources that you have. And in certain cases, we will actually take on missions of family members or something that are, you know, kind of they would like to donate and they want to make sure that money is going towards, you know, the Burma hump or they went over to certain things are like that, but it helps augment. We have a burn rate. I got 10000 hours a day to try to locate these assets for one day, for two teams to exist to try to find these American heroes on Tarawa.
And that is just operations on Tarawa. If you expand that out to do one, crash sites in Europe looking for boys in the Kasserine Pass for anything else on that, that just greatly increases the cost rates that are up there and time equipment security of U.S. remains like we have in this covid time period on Tarawa. And just going out and raising what you can to do what you said, you know, how can you put a dollar value on it?
It's one of those things. You look around and you're just like, we made a promise to people years ago. I can only imagine what it was like to get a telegram from the Western Union telling you on Christmas Eve that your son's not coming home, which many of our veterans from Tarawa, their families got that on December. Twenty third. They just happened to show up at the house to do that Merry Christmas went or the Sullivan Brothers or something like this.
It isn't here. And that's a bad telegram to get. But the telegrams that really break my heart is roughly the telegrams you can see in the National Archives from like 1949. And those are the telegrams that were sent to families that said not only is your son been killed and he's not coming home, but we're no longer looking for them. I can only imagine being a mother sitting there reading four years later after writing letter after letter after letter to Hap Arnold or to whoever would listen.
Can you give me some whereabouts of my boy? Can I have some fun? Where are they at? And we have we have these telegrams, you know, that go to these service leaders like Hap Arnold, and they're very nice. And it says, thank you very much. The life insurance was received and thank you for the pleasantries and all this. But the bottom line is, where's my boy? And you have answered Dad. And then these families went for decades, never getting an answer on where their boy was that.
So to be able to be a U.S. Marine, to go back to the island of Tarawa, to stand over top of a unit and watch the excavation and the detailed thing of the systematic processing of one hundred and twenty centimeters down roughly about the waterline.
And then you see the skeletal remains start to come through and you see the boots on the individual that are still from the Goodyear Rubber Company that are on there. They're still there. And then you see the gun belt that's still there that says that that was a bar gunner. He was a rifleman. And to hear my young archeologist that are out there, when you're saying. I wonder if that guy was 27 or 29 or whatever they're telling you by looking and reading these bones, this kid was 18 years old, the sutures on his head are not close enough.
Here's how you look at this. It's here. And you sit there and you watch them and they're like, you've never been in the military. What are you doing out here on the island of Tarawa? And you and you found in all these travels you've got military civilian PhDs, doctors, Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, you. Right. It's this organization that in today's day and age, with all this polarity, can come together like this to perform this mission, to fill the void of 76 years and to provide closure and bring that back, to reinforce that promise that dead or alive, we're going to find you.
We're going to come back and have a collective unit like that. No, those were units like I see the pride in your eyes when you talk about the team and you see that feel and lied about the same thing on this side. They were in a uniform, one nation. But the service that they chose to perform for the nation in a crappy fourth world infested little one in the middle, that doesn't look like Tahiti or Fiji or anything else like that.
Like that they are where they're supposed to be. I mean, it's just awesome, awesome, I know, I know we've been sitting here for for quite a while. I want to wrap up. But but before we wrap up, I just want to go through real quick. You sent, like, some bullet points to me, just of of kind of some reflections of some principles that that guided you, you know, and still guide you.
And I just wanted to kind of just just go through them real quick here, because when I read them, each one of them, you know, as I sat there silently read my email, I was just kind of sitting there, not in my head saying, yup, yup.
No one, whatever it takes.
No to savage action and aggression in combat and in life.
Number three, in total combat and warfare, you will get punched in the face, no for no excuses, don't have a victim mentality. Number five, never leave a fallen comrade behind, both in and out of the military. Number six, moral and ethical leadership both in and out of combat. Number seven, take total responsibility, number eight, always in the fight and never out of it. Number nine, do what it takes to build the best team.
Number 10, accept blame and shoulder burdens, number 11, set your ego aside for the good of the collective. Number 12, establish and reinforce a winning mentality on and off the battlefield. Number 13, be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Number 14, leadership is about people and getting the best from them and from yourself. Number 15, be a man or woman of character, number 16, live an honorable and valorous life.
And number 17, not for self. But for country. Some things don't really even need further discussion, and that's what I liked about that list as I read through it. Like I said, I just nodded my head.
Unbelievable guidance from your life, from your 30 years in the military, from your heroic actions and not just your own heroic actions, but for all the heroes that you saw around you.
And, you know, to me, that's what this is about. You know, you set this example, you put in these words and you continuing to live a life of service to go out there and bring home these heroes.
I'll leave it to you for any other closing thoughts you might have right now. I think these it's been an honor and privilege, really a professional pleasure to spend this time today with with you, Eneko, discussing what isn't what may be common to some people just isn't common to everybody that is out there. And your podcasts and the impact that those podcasts do have, the amount of people from all different walks of life that kind of tune in to this platform and this voice that is out there in this time right now, especially in the trying time that we have now, it's these reinforcing principles that we're talking, you know, you and I and echo in that we didn't make these up.
You know, I didn't wake up and have some 17 part epiphany of doing that.
It's you know, it's really rare to have a, you know, a unique thought these days because when you actually then reach back into the context of history, you normally find somewhere along the line what you're actually saying has been either done or displayed or you can actually find a mentor, somebody out there that that leads and acts the same way that you're talking. And then you kind of find out for people that's on the podcast that are well, you know, I've never been in the military or something.
And you find out it wasn't the military and a lot of times that taught these things which here you find out when you when you look around at the goodness of your whole life and if you look at the context of your life line rather than the best years of your life, was these years or these years, if you look at they're all building blocks on the entire timeline of your life, you find out that that teacher that wasn't in the military that taught you this is what you learned here, that coach that was hard on you here, that taught you here, the mother that you thought was making dinner was actually married to a soldier for 26 years.
So even though that soldier's not here, I might have picked up some of the leadership things from your old man. So you might want to listen because maybe it looks like me doing it, but maybe I heard it from somewhere else. And you feel that responsibility from generations and on.
I've watched that and I've listened to that through these podcasts from whether it's from kids and children, there is always something here because it really reinforces what we have been discussing about today.
And it doesn't have to be just traumatic, valorous or a grievous incident that's in your life that defines that's who your life is. No, you performed in those incidences because of the conglomeration of who you were and the Constitution that made it up at that period. And it allows you to overcome those instances, just like overcoming covid, just like overcoming a car crash, just like overcoming anything else in life. I believe this provides resiliency and tools for people they may not identify with.
Podcast number 176. They may not or may not even identify ever with a whole podcast, but there's something that somebody can take out, each little one of those and apply it to their own life. I believe in the context of overall it builds a better person.
So I thank you for the opportunity to be able to come here and do that. And it is it was my pleasure to be here. I had my pleasure for every single day to wear the uniform and a cloth of our nation weather, to be able to just have a conversation amongst the warriors today. I'm probably a little more aged or whatever that is on that, but it really is. And these are healthy. I go and you're providing a platform for people to to do that and also tell the story on the story of these American patriots that have been lost for generations.
The average person does not know that story. Djogo The average person on the street out there still has no idea that we have twenty eight thousand missing people. We have 78000. We can probably get about twenty eight thousand. But they also sometimes come up to me going, I really appreciate what it is you do, but I didn't serve in the military and it doesn't affect me or to but within like a five minute conversation of anybody that tells you they didn't serve or they didn't have a connection to the military, you can take almost anybody in this country, whether you're an immigrant or a national or anything.
And within a five minute conversation, you can expose to them somewhere and their family line. Somebody had to fight, they had the same blood inside of there, whether it's a restaurant in Little Italy right here, whether it's coming over on the boat. It doesn't matter. They had to fight to get to that. And then a lot of times they just didn't know it. A lot of those people had to do it in a uniform, too.
And then all of a sudden a light comes on and then you find out they're like, well, yeah, I did have an uncle that was in Vietnam. Now just think about it. And then the connecting file gets there. And when the connecting file was there, pride, discipline, desire, motivation, it transcends that uniform. And you get that passion. And then it's never about the money, never about the money. It is about fulfilling that promise, the same promise that we make those men and women today in that uniform swear to each other.
That allows people like you and I don't wear the uniform of the cloth a nation anymore. It allows me to sit back at night and say that if they still follow the code, they still build them the same way and put them on the conveyor belt. To do that, they're going to spit out the best work and fighting man and woman the world is still ever seen. And don't anybody ever forget that it's not just guys jumping out of planes in 1944 or coming out of landing craft.
Those guys out there today are the most lethal things that you can put on the friggin battlefield. It's a United States. Somebody wants to test the borders or somebody wants to poke us or try to do that. You keep poking the bear. It's on there. You keep OK. And the bear just watched the eagle fly over, take a dump on your head.
And when the eagle does that boom, we bring a lot of things behind that as well. Don't know what else to say, John, because as Mary said, it's a thank you. It's been my pleasure today. Well, you know, thank you for coming on. More important, obviously. Thanks for your service. Thanks for what you did for the country, for the Marine Corps. And like I said, thank you. Thank you for continuing to serve by working to bring these heroes home and truly living up to the words.
Semper Fidelis. Thanks, Justin. Thank you. And with that.
Justin Lehew has left the building awesome honor to be able to talk to him and another reminder that we all have more work to do. More work to do to continue to be better, more work to do, to live an honorable life, to stay on the path echo.
Charles, what you got for us to stay in the path?
Well, we're going to sort of know that we're on the path.
That's a big one. Well, before, though, before I go into that. It's a hearing like his story, actually, a lot of these stories or whatever, but this was for some reason, maybe because it was like so long and it made me like contemplate the whole time where it's like a reminder for us who didn't go to war, you know, who's not in the military necessarily.
And we just kind of, you know, we're cruising here and, you know, that thought that's like, dang, all that was going on at like that's what you know, because you say the dates and you're like, oh, I remember what I was doing.
Twenty three. I remember that what I was doing and you kind of flashed to and that's what he was doing at that time. And you kind of make that little comparison. It's fun.
It's like it's a big eye opener, especially when you drill down to it, not, hey, that's what he was doing in August or in March.
But when you say, oh, on that day. At that moment in time. He was going into a blown out a V trying to recover bodies under fire, like that's what he was doing at that moment. Yeah. So, yeah, it's definitely something that definitely when you get even more specific with it. Yeah. And it's the broad one is the same way you think. Oh oh. In 2003.
What was that cultural. What was I doing in 2003. And I was here, I was hoping I would get to go over, you know, and he's in the battle of Nasiriya. You know, it's so and you know, you need to take that one step further. And it's like right now there's people out holding the line and there's people prepping to do an operation, as people do in operations. And, you know, it's not just military operations either, but there's you know, there's someone that just found out that, you know, they their kid has cancer.
Like, there's all these things are happening right now. And, you know, the big thing and we talked about it briefly is that an IV just apparently was lost off the coast of California here. And I was very similar thought pattern, you know, this morning for me. I see that in the news. And I mean, I've been out there right next to these aves doing work with them. I know that the weather's good. It's a sunny day.
It's a beautiful day. This is Southern California and amongst all that.
You know, it's a nightmare for.
For those Marines and that unit and their families, and it's just, yeah, it really makes you think about where we are, where you are and what you're doing, and are you on the right path, you know, fully so.
Yes. So make the most of it, you know, kind of kind of that old thing. Make the most of it, um, every once in a while, you know, like you get injured, like something that'll take you out, like for, you know, like a month, like a month or more recovery time or whatever. So for that month, you can't really do certain things if not like a lot of things, you know, and then when you finally heal up and are able to do it, you have that like appreciation for just everyday stuff.
It's like that's kind of like thinking about these things. I found like kind of just rejuvenates that appreciation. Yeah. Yeah.
No doubt about it. No doubt about it. You know, also, I don't think I mentioned this during the podcast, but for if you want to support. The recovery of these fallen heroes go to history flight dotcom, and then they also have an Instagram page, which is at History Flight.
So you want to support some of these awesome efforts that are going on? Well, that's how you do it, right?
So, yes, staying on the path for ourselves and the people around us, because that's who it affects fully.
You know, we want to keep ourselves in shape and keep ourselves capable of doing that. We're working out we're trying to stay healthy. It's not a 100 percent thing, a dig it, you know, 80, 20, 90, 10 kind of situation, ideally, in my opinion. But anyway, on the way, you will need supplementation. So JoCo fuel, what does JoCo fuel.
So I when I said Jakov you one time I remember saying it and thinking oh Jakiel fuels like seems like an individual product the way I said it. And let me clarify, joco fuel is a collection of supplementation elements.
So this part we already know supercool oil, your crude oil with some antioxidants in their joint warfare for your joints. So your joints are going to take a beating, you know, varying levels of beatings when you when you're working out, you're doing different workouts, jujitsu, all that stuff. So this is why this is important. Spurger supercool oil, joint warfare.
And also we have vitamin D for immune system. Big, big deal. Also, Cold War for your immune system, still a big deal. So, yes, these are all part of JoCo feel, including in or should I say additionally milk protein in the form of of a dessert, meaning it's the best tasting protein mix you'll ever have.
I think that's proven double blind. I'm on a little peanut butter, little peanut butter chocolate cake right now. Yeah, exactly. That is a good taste. I mean, it has a good tasty you add extra peanut butter.
Why don't I just as is I do sometimes when I'm feeling a little bit more peanut butter. Nonetheless, I dig it 100 percent and that's what that is.
Also discipline, the supplement discipline powder mix. Is this for your brain and your body, by the way? Powder mix up cans. RTD cans and discipline go pills, new flavor out, straight up, out.
Sour, sour Apple sniper. And it's important to note that this is JP Darnell's signature, right, because he's a sniper. Yeah, yeah. So what's your what's your assessment of the flavor? Good.
Not as sour as I anticipated, but it could have been one of those deals where I'm like, I open it up. I'm like, oh, I'm getting ready for the sourness, you know? So maybe over. Yeah, over expectations were off. Yeah, but but but delicious. Pete, Pete just said to me it just went into first place in his book.
No kidding. Because and he said the reason why he said it's sweet. Yeah. He said he said he'd get that little that he's got that little he's got a sweet tooth. Yeah I understand that kid's choking down balaclavas. He's just he's just getting after it.
You know, that that does make sense. And it is good, though, in that way. It's just not as tying sour as I thought.
Yeah. So but it does have some sweetness to it if you got that sweet tooth. What if you got that Pat Roberts sweet tooth I like.
Yeah, it's freakin legit right now.
JoCo Palmer's in the lead I think continually for me, but P Roberts just pushed it.
But my, my kids are mostly Dan Savage. That could just be in support of Dakota.
Just no one has the sweetness as well. The Doc Savage one. I don't know. I taste that. Yeah, me, there's sweetness to it, but it's not it's not it's not as sweet as sour Apple sniper, is it? I can dig it.
I had it's been a few weeks and I've been pounding the Tropic Thunder and the the Charcoal Parmer one so much, I'm going to have to go revisit it to evaluate accurately what I think.
Nonetheless, they're all good. And hey, we're going to have differences of opinion. I like I prefer not maybe not strongly, but I prefer a little bit of the the tanginess in this kind of drink.
Yeah. I prefer that personal preference.
Well, if you want to get any of these supplements, then you can go to Origin Main Dotcom, you can go to the vitamin shop. And you can pick this stuff up and it does actually support the podcasts and it sports the podcast, and you know what else? It's sports. You know what else is sports? Sports, America, sports.
America's were out there not only making supplements, also making things for you to.
Where where on your body, so you may need to wear something during jujitsu, right, while we're grappling, we're not going we're not going Greek like the Greek naked wrestlers.
You see the pictures of the statues back in the day.
We're not doing that. No, sir, we're not doing that. No, we're wearing clothing. So we're wearing rash guards were wearing baggy t shirts.
Jeans, boots, all of it not just made in America, but formulated from the ground up, every thread, every rivet.
It's all American, one hundred percent. Building a little self-reliance back into our country, we won't have to rely on on other countries. What's wrong, not a good thing. So go to Origin Main Dotcom if you want any of those products, and yet, you know, they're American made.
They're also the best yeah, the best things that you can put on your body.
Yeah. Feel like you're you know, not not to say you're active actively neglecting this, but they look good. I'm saying they fit good. They look good. I know you're not walking around saying, oh, how does the fit on my jeans and asking your wife, hey, do these jeans make, you know, my hips look nice or whatever?
I'm assuming your nice looks good or what have you. You know, I'm assuming you're not doing that.
So so I will attest to that, that yes.
These are functional, of course, made in America, of course. But they look good too. They look good, feel good, feel good. Look good.
That's cool. All that some of us are over here thinking we look good. Cool. I'll let you hold that on, Lashko. I'll be over here getting after it anyway. Orjan mean dotcom.
Yes. Also, speaking of clothing, JoCo has a store. So this clothing, if you want to represent discipline, equals freedom. The attitude of good for when things go bad, there's some good that comes out of it.
It's true. You're the one who told me that true anyway, you want to represent these things, go to historic dotcom, check out the shirts as t shirts on their hoodies, hats.
Got some new board shorts. Are they up yet? You can have to check. Chuckles Dot.com.
There's a new t shirt that you're wearing. Yes. For some reason, you're wearing it before I'm wearing it, even though it's a stretch for you to wear that.
How do you like that bias on action?
What does that bias actually, you're wearing kind of the ultimate t shirt, the hardcore Riccardo's t shirt.
Yeah. Yeah. You know, what's good is I was like, yeah, I was like, yeah, man, that's a good that's good. That's a good idea for sure. For sure.
And then when it came out, I put it on, I was like, oh well back to that looking good thing. I feel that I look good in it. Oh, I thought you were going to say it made you feel like, oh, you know, I'm in the game, but instead you just sort of looking at yourself in the mirror. Yeah, OK, cool.
Like I said, it's like that's your dog.
So does this look does this shirt look that on me right now that you're sure you're not sure it's cool. That's all you're getting out of me. Carry on.
I'll take it anyway. Chuckles Dot.com.
If you if you like something, get something good spot. Subscribe to this podcast.
There's a bunch of different ways you can subscribe to it, do it and then leave a review. This is according to Echo. Charles. The cool thing is if you leave a review where I actually read the reviews and there's a lot of them, but they're awesome. So that's cool. Appreciate it. And don't forget that we have some other podcasts as well. We've got. The Unraveling the JoCo Unraveling podcast actually use the full title because. In order to make it mine, well, I just put my name on it and then no one can say like you took my name.
No, I didn't take your name. Your name isn't JoCo. Is it so joggling traveling right now? We're releasing on this feed soon it'll be on a separate feed. We got the grounded podcast. We got the Warrior Kid podcast. We got Warrior Kids.
So from Irish Oaks Ranch dot com, where you can get soap so that you can for the love of God. You can. Stay clean, YouTube, you want to tell them about YouTube, sure. I know you're quite, quite into that.
Well, we're all into that from time to time. So, yes, you want to watch the video version or have the video version playing, playing in the office, in the gym, in the house, whatever connected to surround sound, boom. You're right in the middle of the conversation, physically, visually, all that stuff anyway. We have a YouTube channel. That's the point. We also have excerpts on there. So, you know, you can share them with your friends and it's more likely your friend is going to watch a two minute up to, you know, you know, varying levels of length videos, then maybe a four hour.
But yes, from time to time.
OK, respond. Some people don't have the wherewithal or the time.
Well, and patience at that moment. You know, like you send me a link, right?
You're like, hey, check this out for you need to do a little concert at the gas station right now. So maybe, you know, maybe I'll check that out and watch a two minute video.
Just pumping gas. You're done with the video. It's over. Technically, you can take the information with it, maybe apply it exactly right.
You don't have the depth of knowledge, though. No, you can apply it quickly.
But if you want to reinforce it, that's why when you are were cutting your lawn, you listen to the whole thing. When you watch the whole thing while you're doing dishes, shouldn't take you two and a half hours, three and a half hours to do dishes, but maybe over a week you're watching it. You know, it takes you 20 minutes and consolidate some time, three meals a day. You get there.
Yeah, technically. But things. But like I said, though, if if at any given moment you get sent a three hour video versus the two minute video, it's more likely that you can have the time to watch a two minute video. So it increases the likelihood of someone actually watching it. That's the benefit of an excerpt, whatever that excerpt may be. So that's why these excerpts exist.
So what I'm saying. Fair enough. I'm just saying, if you if you if you and this is what you should share and if if it resonates resonates with you or someone you know that or might resonate with someone you know, this way you share it because if you OK, there's an excerpt about I forget the title, but it's about how you feel versus how you behave.
Right. I think it's something about hangry or something like that. Remember that. An oldie but goodie nonetheless.
So it's basically if you're frustrated on the inside or whatever, you don't have to act frustrated. You know how you feel and how you behave should you should separate those things, you should behave as good as you can anyway. So a lot of people, that's a good, valuable information. What if you share that with three people around you and they share that with two people around them, they share that with four people on them and see everyone around you is behaving correctly, whether they're frustrated or not, you're actually having a massive impact in the entire world, is what you're saying at the end of the day.
So that's the benefit then? This goes for any concept. So there's a lot of excerpts out there, is what I'm saying. So I'm saying check them out on that YouTube channel. You know, if you got if you got a moment, do it. Good. Also, psychological warfare. This is an album with JoCo tracks on it. Many tracks for many different scenarios, and those scenarios are moments of weakness that you might incur. Is that a good word?
Is that the correct word? Incur I'm going to incur. It's an OK usage boom. There you go. Incur like a C, OK, good pass. Incur a moment of weakness.
You want to invoke JoCo to help you not yell at you or nothing like this. Help you just listen to one of those tracks, the appropriate track for that particular weakness moment. Boom. He'll help you right across the bridge. Super easy. Two hundred percent effective rate, by the way.
Also, if you want to have a visual kind of reminder, visual help, go to flip side canvas dotcom. Dakota Meyer, American made graphic.
Art there, I said it, yeah, it did kind of seem like you're not assertively avoiding on the word of art.
It's weird. It's weird. I don't know. I have a weird relationship with the word art. Yeah, I could see it, but it is an artistic, too. Yeah.
Well, anyways, if you want some cool graphic art, go to flip side canvas dotcom if you want to book.
If you want a book, I got a bunch of books once called The Code. Once called Leadership Strategy and Tactics, Field Manual once called away the Warrior Kid one, two and three, Mikey and the Dragons disciplined because Freedom Field Manual and extreme ownership and the dichotomy of leadership, a bunch of books talking about leadership, reinforcing the ideas that I talk about here.
If you're an adult, teaching those ideas to a young kid, get after some of those also have a leadership consultancy called Echelon Front where we solve problems through leadership. Go National Front Dotcom for details. If you want me to come and speak at your company or you want me to do a virtual meeting, or you want someone on the Echelon front team that you've heard on this podcast to get on a call with all your people and talk to them, don't go to a speakers bureau.
Don't do that. Go to ashlawn front dotcom. Just the other the speaker's bureau is just a middleman we don't need it is what we do for a living. So go to Echelon front dotcom and we'll hook it up.
If online. We're doing a lot of virtual stuff right now. One of the things that we're doing research we did we did online training before we're doing even more now. I am live on that thing all the time. If you want to talk to me, if you want to come and ask me a question, go online, attend one of the online training live seminars. We're talking one, two, three times a week. I'm on there. The rest of the team is on there.
You want to have you want to. You got to talk to me. Let me know. Come and get it. That's what we're doing.
If Online Dotcom also have the muster, which is a live gig, September 16th and 17th in Phoenix, Arizona, Dallas, Texas, December 3rd and 4th go to extreme ownership dotcom if you want to come. They've all sold out.
So they're going to sell out to we haven't even released the video yet. I saw the video today, though.
Good job. Good job with that one. Also, if overwatch if you need leaders in your organization, we have experienced battle tested leaders. If overwatched, dotcom, if you're in the military, go there. We can link you up with companies. If you're a company, you need that leadership. Go to overwatched dotcom, fill out the appropriate information for yourself for charities.
Like I said, history, flight, dot com.
If you want to support the recovery of these heroes around the world, also they have at history flight on Instagram. So check that out. And then, of course, we got Mama Lee, Mark Lee's mom and her organization, America's Mighty Warriors dot org.
She does all kinds of things to help service members, whether that's medical treatments that they couldn't get through military channels, whether it's things that they need while they're over on deployment, whether it's Gold Star families that need some some kind of support after they've lost their loved one. She does all kinds of things like this. So go to America's Mighty Warriors dog if you want to get involved or if you want to donate.
And if for some unknown reason, you just feel like you need to hear more of my disproportionately dallying discourse or you feel like you need more of EKOS confiscated conceptualizations, then you can find us on the air.
With us on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook echoes that echo. Charles and I, JoCo Willink. And thanks once again to Justin. Thank you for coming on for sharing the lessons with us. We thank you for your service and we absolutely wish you Godspeed in your mission today to continue to bring home our fallen countrymen and a solemn thanks to all that have fought for our freedom. But did not return. And, of course, thanks to all the servicemen and women who are out there today holding the line.
Training to hold the line, taking risk, to hold the line to protect our freedom. Thanks to all of you and to the police and law enforcement and firefighters and paramedics and EMTs and dispatchers and correctional officers and Border Patrol and Secret Service and all the first responders. Thank you for holding the line and protecting us here on the home front. And to everyone else out there. You can learn a lot, I learn a lot from a man like Sergeant Major Justin Lehew try.
Try to heed his advice. His advice to do whatever it takes to initiate savage action and aggression, to establish a winning mentality. And to do things not for yourself, but for your country, there is something bigger than you. So go out there. And get after it and until next time, this is Echo and JoCo out.