Chapter 19- Enter The Young by R.J. Virkler

Afghanistan flag, American flag, United States Marine Corps flag

Dear Reader,

I’ve been asked to write a guest chapter(s) in this bare all-tell all medium. If you’ve been following along, you should know that I have made my appearance. To show you that if not all, then most us were out there as first-timers. Had things we were dealing with. I also hope this gives you an example of just how other-worldly the Marine Corps is and what it can get out of its Marines. Be patient with me as I do more script writing and flash fiction writing nowadays. However, to give you the feel for the full weight of this world, I need to catch you up on me.

-Virkler

The ride in the back of a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is a fond welcome event during my time in the sandbox. I couldn’t say the same for my fellow Marine. He didn’t enjoy them, it was apparent that he was feeling nauseated. We were on our return flight to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Delaram II, returning from our rest and relaxation ‘R&R’. I had put my life outside of the Marine Corps back on hold. The same life that was crumbling. At the end of my two weeks I was greeted with the news of my parents separating. I had just spent a full week away with my high school sweetheart. A trip I paid for everything on. We had also talked about breaking up. Needless to say, we hadn’t because of the news of my parents. Regardless I was stepping back into my deployment where I left off. I couldn’t allow the life back in the ‘states’ get in the way.

Nighttime in the desert was comforting. I grew up in Upstate New York for the first eighteen years of my life. So the color green was a constant. It wasn’t until my deployment that I realized how powerful and confronting that color was. The only thing in common with where I grew up and this place? The night sky, stars, so many stars to be seen. The Osprey rocks as the ‘bird’ starts its decent into the five-month-old FOB. A FOB I had spent only a total of six days in.

I deployed at the beginning of the year 2010 with 2nd Marine Regiment. In deployed status, we referred to the unit as Regimental Combat Team Two or RCT-2. I went out with the advance party, or ‘Advon’. Spent four weeks at Camp Leatherneck and watched everyone else go on to FOB Delaram II. I also watched the rest of our unit or ‘Main-body’ come and go as well. By the time I arrive in Delaram, I was told I was being turned around. I was to link up with 1st Battalion 2nd Marines or ‘One Two’ (1/2). I was given three Class C IP addresses, and told I was to help them design and implement their communication network. I was only a Lance Corporal; I was floored by their decision. My Staff Sergeant at the time told me it was because he didn’t like me. This wasn’t true, seeing as the only two times this Staff Sergeant meet me was once was at the schoolhouse, which he wouldn’t remember, as I was just another face in the crowd; the second time being at Camp Leatherneck briefly. Our Communications Officer made some sort of ‘blood deal’ and got this Staff Sergeant straight from the schoolhouse before the unit deployed. This guy knew his ‘shit’.

So they sent me back to Camp Leatherneck. There I was attached to 1/2. I helped in the setup of their domain controller and exchange servers. I aided in the setup of their networks between their COP (Command Operation Post) and PB’s (Patrol Bases). I also got the chance to work with British soldiers. FOB Edinburgh was handed off from the Brits to the Marine Corps. It was to be turned into a logistics base for operations in the AOR (Area of Reasonability). I would watch this small Hesco-walled artillery fort grow to double its size. I would go on to see my first casualty of war and be shot at. I would later lay witness to Charlie Company (C Co) make their company attack and push north of their PB. Three of their Marines suffered burns from homemade explosives (HME) being set off from a grenade. I helped these Marines off a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) – All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) into a Battalion Aid Station (BAS) and soon on to their Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter. I aided by assisting their Executive Officer (XO) command and control the battlefield. I sat in the mud building listening in on the radio chatter. I recorded position reports (POS-REPS) as platoons, squads, and teams moved throughout the battle. When the company hunkered down for the night, the other Corporal from RCT-2 with me brought up the fact that the Marines who were standing post when the attack begun, had still been standing their post. He took one post; I took another. Climbing into the machine gun nest overlooking the entry control point or ‘ECP’, I told the lone Marine to ‘rack out’. He curled up in a corner and I stood behind the M240-G and stared out into the night. When morning came, the XO called me and the other Corporal back, as the Company begun to move again.

Stepping off the ramp of the Osprey, the familiar crunch of sand under boot greeted me. The warm exhaust from the Osprey’s engines blasted me in the face. It was the only thing that bothered me. Not the ear deafening sound of the blades and air distortion. When I finally walked far enough away, the heat remained; it just ceased assaulting my senses. The FOB was different now, a few more Alaskan shelters, a few more lights from the central compound that contained RCT-2’s Command and Operation Center (COC). The small temporary landing pad was on the western most side of the FOB. No vehicle greeted us; so we ‘humped’ it to the compound.

The FOB had tall dirt berms, but the central compound had tall concrete walls. Walls that surrounded newly built wooden structures. The original Base-X tent configuration still stood. A small entry control point (ECP) was erected to check fellow Marines identities’ cleared to enter the small compound, a laughable defense.

I did feel a strange rejuvenation being back in Nimruz Province, Afghanistan. My ‘rack’ here at the FOB, I had only slept in 5 times. I was ready to get back ‘outside the wire’ ready to do my job. Ready to finish the next seven months of this deployment. The Marine on the ECP duty recognized us and we passed. I strode confidently to the backside of the tent structure. A wing of it was considered the S6, the communication platoon of the unit. I passed by the loud generator; I spied a wooden door where the tent vestibule used to stand. Newly built, designed to help cut down on the sand blowing inside. I opened the flimsily wooden door and I noticed the counter weight of a water bottle connected to 550 cord. The actual tent vestibule was still there. I pushed pass the tent fabric and entered the fluorescent lit tent. The ‘data trailer’ still parked in the back. Black metal desk spaced out with laptops on them. Night shift was present. I saw my familiar Sergeant who was given charge of the network team, the same team I was a part of. I looked over to the desk that was the ‘networks’ desk. I stopped dead in my tracks.

I wasn’t pleased to see the blonde female Marine. I didn’t know her, and yet I had a strong prejudice against her being here, a combat zone, although the unit was in fact a POG (Person Other than Grunt) unit. We worked closely to support the grunt units like 1/2 and our daughter units deployed in our AOR. She wasn’t supposed to be here. My time in the ‘fleet’ had taught me that female Marines gave a distraction that hindered good order and discipline in the Marine Corps.

I strode over to my Sergeant. He didn’t look up at me but knew it was I. He welcomed me back from R&R and I replied with a question.

“Who’s the wook?”

Wook or Wookie is the derogatory term for a female Marine. He would go on to tell me she was a part of our network team and I was not to say that again. He ordered me to get some sleep and come back with day shift.

Leaving the compound and making my way to my assign billeting, the Alaskan shelter labeled ‘C7’. I was greeted upon my return. Our unit had bolstered its ranks, so I saw a lot of still very new faces. They all knew me from my success with 1/2. I asked around about her, come to find out there were two female Marines here. I was told the blonde was a good friend with my previous barracks roommate, Ski, who happened to be a Corporal over me on the network team. I learned they had gone to the schoolhouse together. I was also told that they were sleeping together. It was only later I learned that this was a rumor.

Continue Reading In Chapter 20…

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