I was going to the gym tonight ( really just a huge tent with weights and treadmills), and we had heard that one of the MEUs (Marine Exp Units) that had come out of service in the "triangle" was reploying (leaving country). We saw their convoy roll in to the Kuwait Naval Base as the desert sun was setting. I have never seen anything like this. Trucks and humvees that looked like they had just come through a shredder. Their equipment was full of shrapnel blast holes, and missing entire major pieces that you could tell had been blasted by IEDs. These kids looked bad too! I mean, sunken eyes, thin as rails, and that 1000 yd stare they talk about after direct combat. Made me pretty damn embarrassed to be a "rear area warrior". All people could do was stop in their tracks and stare... and feel like me...like I wanted to bow my head in reverence. A Marine Captain stationed with me, was standing next to me also headed to the gym. He said, "part of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 8th Marines sir. Took the heaviest losses of any single unit up north as part of Task Force Danger, sir." As the convoy rolled up, all of us watching just slowly crept toward these kids as they dismounted the hummers and 5 tons. Of course, we were all shiny and clean compared to these warriors. These kids looked like they had just crawled from Iraq. I had my security badge and id around my neck, and started to help them unload some of their duffle bags. A crusty Gunny came up to me and said "sir, you don’t have to do that..." "Gunny... yes I do..." They all looked like they were in high school, or younger!! All held themselves sharply and confident, despite the extreme fatigue you could tell they had endured. "You guys out of the triangle?" I asked. "Yes, sir". 14 months, and twice into the grinder sir" (both fights for Fallujah and ). All I could do was throw my arm around their shoulders and say "thanks Marine, for taking the fight to the bad guys...we love you man". I looked at these young kids, not one of them complaining or showing signs of anything but focus, and good humor. 'Sir, they got ice cream at the DFAC sir?" "I haven't had real ice cream since we got here..." They continued to unload... and after I had done my hand shakes and shoulder hugs, the Captain and I looked at each other... They want ice cream, we'll get them ice cream. You see a squid O-5 and a focused Marine O-3 can get just about anything, even if the mess is closed. Needless to say, we raided the closed DFAC (mess tent), much to the chagrin of one very pissed off Mess SGT. and grabbed boxes of ice cream sandwiches (as many as we could carry), and hustled back to the convoy. I felt like Santa Claus. "Thank you sir.." again and again from each troop as we tossed up the bars to the guys in the trucks. "Son, what the hell are you thanking me for...? I can't thank you enough..." and they are so damn young....
Monday, February 07, 2005
"I can't thank you enough..."
I found this while wandering about the web yesterday. It is a confirmation of what a good leader does, he takes care of the people who do the hard work. He may have not been in their chain of command, but an O-5 "in the rear" knew when it was time to give the baptized with blood warriors a break and some ice cream, and he knew it wasn't very much, but it was what he could do right now. Like RDC "Mac" taught me: Take care of your troops first and foremost, as he had taught many others..... Here's the email from CDR Kurt Storey that tells an important story: