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POLITICS1 Goes to War with the
1st Battalion/23rd Marines

Archive: 8 July - 29 August 2004

Editor's Note: Politics1 "adopted" the 1st Battalion/23rd Marines -- an infantry battalion of reservists from Texas being deployed to Iraq in August 2004. 1st Lt James Crabtree, a regular Politics1 reader, belongs to the battalion and will be submitting regular reports to us. Anything you can do to show support for these brave yound men and women is greatly appreciated (regardless of whether or not you support the war). Here are the bulletins and pictures, in the order they came to us. If you'd like to send them any care packages, please send them to: Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 -- and James will make sure to distribute whatever you send to the Marines in the 1/23d.

JULY 8 - AUGUST 28, 2004


JULY 8, 2004: POLITICS1 GOES TO WAR. One of our regular visitors -- James Crabtree of Texas -- is a US Marine Corps Reservist. Here's what he wrote us:

I've emailed you before and I'm a huge fan of your site. 1st Battalion, 23d MarinesCurrently I am a Marine Reservist that has been mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. We're a Marine infantry battalion from TX of over 800 Marines and Sailors and right now we are in 29 Palms, CA training for our seven month deployment to Iraq in August.

We'd love to have someone 'adopt' our battalion. If you know anyone that wants to send care packages to us in Iraq (which could include copies of political magazines and newspapers) please let me know ... I'll get a new email address over there, but I don't know what it is yet; same with our physical mailing address over there.

As a side note, we're going to be dying for election information. I have the collateral duty as Battalion Adjutant of being the battalion's Voting Officer. That means I have to ensure that every Marine and Sailor in our unit gets a federal absentee ballot request form and understands how to fill it out to request an absentee ballot from their local county. It's a big job, but I think I'll be able to get about 98% turnout. The Commander in Chief means a little more to these young Marines when it effects their everyday lives in a place like Iraq.

Take care and thanks.

Semper Fi,
1stLt James Crabtree
1st BN, 23d Marines

I propose we do just that. Regardless of whether or not you support the war, we should all show our support for the brave men and women who serve in our US Armed Forces (note to the anti-war folks: even Michael Moore directly said this in F 9/11). While James happens to be a Republican, many of his fellow soldiers are also Dems and Independents. This is not a project about partisanship. In fact, I'd suggest our care packages -- to help James do his best non-partisan duty as Voting Officer -- contain a good assortment of Bush, Kerry, and other materials highlighting their respective military records and political views -- along with the batteries, candy and other goodies they'd appreciate even more. In return: James, when possible, will send us back some pix and notes to let us know what is happening -- and I'll post them here. Would any of you be willing to contribute money to help defray the costs for the contents and shipping costs for the packages(we'll help by collecting money here on the site)? Any volunteers to help put the packages together? So, what do y'all think of this? Let me know. (See, just when you think I've become too predictable ... I go off an doing something totally unexpected like this.)

JULY 9, 2004: NEWS FROM OUR ADOPTED Marines in IraqMARINE CORPS BATTALION. Thank you to everyone who has offered to help with our "adoption" of the 1st Battalion/23d Marines as they get ready to deploy to Iraq next month. Lt. James Crabtree -- our Politics1 friend and special correspondent -- likewise expressed his thanks to everyone for their enthusiasm for the project (which, interestingly, included messages of support from as many anti-Iraq War folks as pro-war folks). Here's what he wrote: "Even though I've got strong personal beliefs, all my emails to you will be non-partisan and will focus on what our unit is up to (as much as I can tell you that is not confidential that is). The BN is really excited about being adopted by your site. Any little bit helps the morale around here. We're heading to the field for two weeks tomorrow mid-morning and I won't be able to get to my emails until we get back. I'll take some pictures there and will email some when we get back. Thanks again. Semper Fi, James." If you'd like to financially contribute to the project, feel free to use the "Help Support Politics1" button on our homepage to make a contribution through PayPal (just be sure to reference "MARINES" in your donation message), or send a check payable to "Ron Gunzburger" at the below address (with "MARINES" in the memo section). Be assured: 100% of the money we receive that is earmarked for this will go to paying postage and buying items to go in the care packages.

JULY 19, 2004: REPORT FROM "OUR" MARINE BATTALION. We got a brief email Saturday from Lt. James Crabtree, our friend and correspondent in Politics1's adopted Marine Corps battalion. The guys are still drilling out in the California desert -- getting ready for their August deployment to Iraq -- but he briefly got access to email. Here's the note: "Thanks for all you have done. This is awesome. We are moving from old George AFB tonight down to March AFB tomorrow for more training. This is the only computer we have out here with email access. I've taken lots of good pix to send you. Also, the BBC and Discovery Channel are coming out to follow us around for a couple of days of our training. I'll be escorting them, so it should be fun. Oh, Sports Illustrated, The Economist, The Weekly Standard, Texas Monthly, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas Highways are all now sending us free magazines. We got a couple of boxes from Texas Monthly the other day. It was awesome! Haven't bathed since last Friday. I stink! Take care. Semper Fi, James." For those of you who have sent checks or donated online for care packages: we're holding onto the payments until James has a mailing address for the battalion in Iraq. As soon as we have an address, we'll let you folks know, too.


Dear Politics1.com readers,

Well, our battalion has finally returned to 118 degrees of heat in 29 Palms, CA, after having just spent the last two weeks at the old George and March AFBs in Southern CA. The Marines and sailors went through some very extensive urban training simulations that are known as SASO (Stability and Support Operations) exercises. They did everything from dealing with Iraqi role players, IEDs, and convoy security to securing firm bases and helping the "locals." We used the old decrepit base housing complexes as the "towns." The Marines did an exceptional job, especially when you consider over the two weeks we had no showers, slept on the ground, and ate MREs every meal.

The Discovery Channel spent three full days with us for a documentary they are coming out with in early 2005. The BBC, a couple of Texas TV affiliates, and an Australian TV station also came out to see the training. All of the media were very professional and the Marines loved being able to answer their questions. I was also interviewed over the phone by KLBJ 590-AM out of Austin. That was a fun experience.

Tragically, our battalion lost one of our own in a HMMWV training accident on Saturday the 17th. LCpl Eulice "Justin" McDaniel was well liked by all of his fellow Marines that knew him and he was proud to be serving as a Marine. His death reminded us all of how dangerous our training can be at times. Last Monday we had a very moving memorial service for him. If you wish to send condolences to his family in Deer Park, TX, you may do so by writing to:

The McDaniels
c/o LtCol Hall
1st BN, 23d Marines Rear Party
1902 Old Spanish Trail
Houston, TX 77054-2097

I've attached some photos of the memorial service -- as well as some from our training -- so that you can get a better feel for what our battalion is like. I want to thank everyone again for the great support you've shown us. It means more to these guys than you'll probably ever know. We started getting some of the free magazines in the field last week and it certainly helps to boost morale.

I'll close for now.

Semper Fi,
1st Lt James Crabtree

P.S. I got a great email via Ron from a buddy of mine from boot camp in 1997 who saw our battalion's story on Politics1. It's been great catching up with him.

Lt. James Crabtree -- our Politics1 correspondent -- out in the field

"Here's LCpl Fike and Sgt Zamora wearing their 'simunition' gear. They are playing the part of bad guys in this photo, thus they are wearing their camies inside out. The sim rounds are like paint ball rounds on crack. They hurt!"

"LtCol Stevens, the Battalion CO, being interviwed by the Aussie TV station."

"Here are several pictures of the memorial service for LCpl McDaniel."

"The memorial service ..."

"Another memorial service photo ..."

"... and one last shot of the memorial service. I couldn't get the whole battalion in the shot."

JULY 27, 2004: MORE INFO FROM OUR FRIENDS IN THE 1/23d MARINES. As our adopted Marine Corps infantry battalion of Texas reservists prepare to be deployed to Iraq in mid-August, we've gotten another update from our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree:

Thanks for the special page and for posting the photos and update. The Marines are telling their families about the special link and even my CO really liked seeing his photo on there talking to the reporter.

I've got our mailing address for Iraq, but it will not be activated until about the 12th of August. I'll send it to you right before I head to Iraq. If anyone sent anything to that address now it'd probably end up in the big warehouse where they keep the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and we'd never see it. Ha.

People can mail packages now to the below address and I'll distribute it to soldiers through our battalion:

[See below for the FPO address for the 1/23 in Iraq]

I think most Marines appreciate any sort of candy or food that doesn't spoil (beef jerky, Skittles, etc.), wet wipes/baby wipes, magazines, paperbacks, small flash lights, AA batteries, and stuff of that sort. Basically: things that are small and portable and don't break easily.

I conducted my first voting class this morning for about 150 Marines and sailors from Charlie Company. I showed them how to fill out the Federal Absentee Ballot Request form and explained to them how the process works. I also ensured that they know that they should not feel pressured to vote for any candidate, and also that their vote is secret, and no one can ask to see their ballot. It's kind of motivating to see democracy in action like that -- even in a parking lot in front of our mess hall!

Semper Fi,
1st Lt James Crabtree

If any of you are interested in being a pen-pal with an individual soldier in the 1/23d Marines in Iraq, please drop me an email. James and I will match all of you up with soldiers who would each greatly appreciate corresponding with someone from back in the US.

JULY 28, 2004: MARINES ... "OOORAH!!" Oops. When we reported on our adopted Marine Corps infantry battalion yesterday, it seems I made a slight mistake. You see, I referred to the young men and women of the 1/23d infantry battalion as "soldiers." Our correspondent, Lt. James Crabtree, was quick to drop me an update and a correction: "Just got back in from spending the night in the field. Our Marines are going through live fire convoy training today and they are practicing how to deal with IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] and ambushes. We also did another absentee voting class for the Heavy Guns platoon at night out in the field with the headlights of the HMMWVs turned on so the Marines could sit on the ground and fill out their forms. Also: one little nit-picky thing -- I just wanted to let you know that we don't have any 'soldiers' in our battalion. Marines are very particular about that. The Army has soldiers and we have Marines. It's just part of our rivalry, I guess. I'm sure I'll get some grief for that. Ha. Take care. Semper Fi, James." That reminded me of a joke I heard USMC General Marty Berndt make during the JCOC-64 program at Camp Lejeune in 2001 about toilets: "In the Marines and Army, we call it the latrine. In the Navy, they call it the head. In the Air Force, I think they call it the executive wash room." Ooorah!!

JULY 30, 2004: MILITARY VOTING TIPS ... AND AN UPDATE ... FROM THE 1/23d MARINES. Our adopted infantry friends in the 1/23d Marines are getting ready for their August deployment to Iraq, and we got a new email from our special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree. I received an email a few days ago from an Army SSgt who wanted to know about whether or not it mattered for military ballots to get postmarked (which doesn't always happen when they are mailed out from overseas posts). Here's how James answered (remember, he also the Elections Officer for the battalion): "The only time the postmark becomes a question is when ballots arrive late to the county clerks office as some did in FL during the 2000 Pres election. Ballots get sent to the county clerk of where ever your soldiers call home. States have different laws as to when the absentee ballots have to be received in order to be counted. In TX its two days after the election for fed offices and 5 for local offices. Basically the postmark is a moot point and not something to worry about. What matters is the service member return their ballot to their county elections office by election day. Many absentee ballots that counties send out come with a postage paid envelope to mail the ballot back. Stamps -- and thus post marks -- are not used. Have your troops fill out their absentee ballot request forms asap (I just finished off our battalion of over 900 Marines and Sailors by giving 30-45 minutes classes to each company) so that the ballots are shipped to them as soon as they are printed, roughly 30-45 days before the election. I've told our guys to fill out their ballots and mail them back asap if they know how they want to vote. If they wait until late Oct or Nov 1st to mail their ballot back it will likely not arrive in time to be counted. For more help, check out the voting site at www.fvap.gov." Also, James wrote us that he is "heading onto 9 days of advance party block leave Friday morning before I go to Iraq. I'm going to Hawaii tomorrow to see my fiancee and can't wait! She's a LT j.g. on a destroyer in Pearl Harbor." And, finally, thanks to all of you who have volunteered to be pen pals with some of the Marines or to help with care packages for them once they arrive in Iraq. I'll be in touch with each of you soon, once I have the contact info for you from James.

AUGUST 9, 2004: THE 1/23D MARINES LEAVE FOR IRAQ THIS WEEK. We just got a brief email from our special correspondent and friend, Lt. James Crabtree, of the 1/23d Marines. He and his fellow Marine Infantry Reservists are done with their training exercises and back from their pre-deployment leave. Later this week, they head off to Iraq. "I just want to let you know I'm back from my block leave. It's not easy saying goodbye to loved ones. I arrive in Iraq later this week. My mailing address will be:

Lt Crabtree
1/23 H&S Co
Unit 41900
FPO, AP 96426-1900

I don't know my email address over there yet. Thanks to all of you for your emails, phone calls, and support. It means a great deal! I'll try to send y'all pictures and such when I can. Take care. Semper Fi, James." So, for those of you interested in sending Care Packages to the folks in our adopted battalion, now you have the shipping address. Whatever you can do for them is certainly appreciated. Please keep them in your thoughts, and pray for their safe return.

AUGUST 10, 2004: THE 1/23D MARINES: FINAL PRE-DEPLOYMENT MESSAGE. We just got a final pre-deployment email from our special correspondent and friend, Lt. James Crabtree, of the 1/23d Marines. He and his fellow Marine Infantry Reservists ship off to Iraq this week. Here's what James wrote:

"Dear Politics1.com Readers,

Well, like I said in a brief email yesterday, I'm back and ready to finally leave for Iraq. There are about 50 of us that are going over there early on the "advance party" later this week to make liaison with the battalion we are replacing and to get everything ready for when the rest of the battalion gets over there. Right now our offices here in 29 Palms are quiet because the Marines and sailors going to Iraq with the main body are back home on block leave. This is their last chance to see family and loved ones for up to seven months. Probably the hardest thing we ever have to do is say good-bye to our families. It has been painful and heart-wrenching since people started going off to war centuries ago, but at least today with email and phone centers we should be better connected then ever before.

The families never get the credit they deserve for all the sacrifices they make when Marines get deployed. In fact, I personally think it is harder on them then it is the individual Marine because at least we'll be busy. The families however are left to wonder and guess from day to day as to how their loved one may be doing. The families also are many times not the ones that volunteered for this.

One nice surprise when I got back here to the desert last night was getting our first care package (from Craig Shay of Tucson, AZ). It made our day and we've already spread the goodies around. Thank you! We also got more free magazines in during my week away. Forbes and The New Republic sent a lot of issues. With The New Republic added to our list I think it'll help balance out The Weekly Standard. National Geographic also emailed to say they would be sending issues.

Another great surprise over the weekend was a Texas flag that was flown over the State Capitol building was sent to us from my friends in Rep Terry Keel's (TX State Rep from the Austin area) office, along with a nice certificate and a great camouflaged handkerchief with a Psalm printed on it as well as notes and signatures from everyone in their office and some from the Texas General Land Office, to include former Marine and now State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

One idea my brother had is for me to do Q and A pieces on individual Marines and sailors within the battalion. I think the idea is great and plan to start doing that soon. We've got so many great people here and this would be a good way to help everyone out there learn more about them.

Well, I'll close for now. Thank you again for everything.

Semper Fidelis,
Lt James Crabtree

P.S. Feel free to send me any questions you have and I'll answer them the best I can.

P.P.S. I've enclosed a photo of a scorpion we killed while training in the field. He was a big one. The scorpion is next to a pair of sunglasses to give one a better idea how big it was.

Here is James' address: Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900. So, for those of you interested in sending Care Packages, notes, whatever ... we'd appreciate anything you can do to support the folks in our adopted battalion.

AUGUST 19, 2004: "HOWDY FROM AL-ASAD, IRAQ." The 1/23d advance party is now in Iraq. We just got our first note and pix from Iraq from our "adopted" folks in the 1st Battalion/23d Marines. The advance party -- which includes our special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree -- arrived a few days ago. Here is what James wrote:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Well, the fifty of us from our battalion's advance party have all reached Iraq safely. It was a long and tedious series of flights, transfers, bus rides, middle of the night briefs, and finally an hour and a half C-130 flight from Kuwait into Iraq which featured some quick turns to avoid potential ground-to-air fire.

The waiting area at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California
before we flew out to Iraq last Saturday.

We left 29 Palms by bus at 0830 Saturday morning and did not get here to Al-Asad air base until around 1100 local time on Monday. I've got all sorts of stories I want to share with you and will do my best to put them down in a logical and smooth flowing manner. Many of the things we did on our way here involved things that I'd love to tell about, but can't because of security matters. In fact, the only way you will ever really know what our life is like here is once this war is over. At this point so much of what we do and how we do it cannot be told in detail for fear it could compromise the lives of our Marines.

One thing I can tell you is that this place is very hot, very dry, and feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The dust is so fine and prevalent that many call it "moon dust." I have been expecting this environment and living conditions, but it does not really set in until you are here. In some ways it's very surreal and quite spartan. We all live in little 8 foot by 15 foot trailers with AC units, have a little trailer-like shower area, and a chow hall with plastic plates and cutlery because there is no place to wash dishes. We also send our laundry off to another part of the base because we have no laundry facilities.

These "cans" are our living quarters in Al-Asad.

The interior of my can.

One positive however about this spot (besides looking like Tatooine for Star Wars fans) is that it breeds unity and everyone feels the need for teamwork. We've also got a tent set up by Segovia communications where we can phone home for just 4 cents a minute. There is also a nice recreation tent set up with a TV that gets the Armed Forces Network, has a ping-pong table, board games, a PlayStation, books on disk, and cold water. Speaking of water, the water here is non-potable so we all have bottled water that is produced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It's good stuff and we have it everywhere. Drinking lots of water here is the only way to keep from becoming a heat casualty.

The one group that is delighted to see us is the battalion we are replacing. 2d Battalion, 7th Marines is an active duty Marine infantry battalion from 29 Palms, California. They have been here since March and our arrival means that their departure is imminent. They have really done a great job while they have been here. This area of operations used to be quite bad, but they have succeeded in getting to know many of the local Iraqis well and have accomplished a great deal by way of patrols. They have also paid a pretty high price as over 40 of their Marines have received Purple Hearts and several have been killed. Our turnover process with them is going well thus far and they've made us feel at home as best they can. I believe this place can best be summed up by a less famous quote of Theodore Roosevelt, "Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have."

Where I work: Our HQ in Al-Asad.

We are located at a far remote end of the huge Al-Asad air base, which is about 100 miles west of Baghdad. This base has about a big perimeter and we have to go about 30 minutes by vehicle to get to the "main side" of the base that has a PX and the main post office. I hope to get over there in the next day or so to check on our mail. The great thing about mail here is that we can send letters and "MRE postcards" for free. In fact, I plan to mail out some of those "MRE postcards" soon. All they are is part of the cardboard from a meal-ready-to-eat (MRE) package that you use to send as a postcard.

Cpl Villa from San Antonio, TX filling out an "MRE postcard"
the other day while we waited for our C-130 flight.

One thing I am looking forward to s\oon is to be able to see a couple of my buddies that are up the road with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. I went to Officer Candidate School with each of them, one of them was in my same platoon in recruit training back in 1997. The Marine Corps is really a small world and seeing them here in Iraq is proof of that. While I was typing this letter I met 1stSgt Geletko of 2/7's H&S Co. He was our company GySgt during OCS and he and I shared a few stories about that time. Who would have thought that I'd see him in a place like this?

Well, I've got to go attend some more meetings now and will have to close. Again, thank you as always for all of your support.

Semper Fi,

Regardless of your views on the war itself, Politics1 asks you to please support the brave Americans in uniform who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages -- and they'd really be appreciated -- please address the packages to Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 ... and James will ensure that whatever you ship gets distributed to the Marines in 1/23d. Thanks!!

AUGUST 19, 2004: "THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXPRESSIONS OF SYMPATHY" FROM THE FAMILY OF LCpl JUSTIN McDANIEL. We just got a touching note from the parents of LCpl Justin McDaniel of the 1/23d, who was killed last month in a training accident. I wanted to share it with all of you: "I wished you could have met my son. He was really an inspiration and full of life, and he really loved being a US MARINE. May God bless you for remembering him and especially for remembering his family. Again, thank you. - The McDaniel Family (Still a Marine Family)" Our thoughts and prayers are with the McDaniel family.

AUGUST 21, 2004: WELCOME TO IRAQ. The advance party of our "adopted" folks in the 1st Battalion/23d Marines have been in Iraq for less than a week -- and they've already come under hostile fire. Here's a new report from special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

I just wanted to send you a quick note on how things are here right now. I printed off and read to everyone in our staff meeting last night the posting you had from the McDaniel family. That makes all of us here feel good to know that so many people have reached out to them. It was touching to me that they still consider themselves a Marine family. Indeed they always will be.

Well, the big news here is that we got attacked by mortars this morning around 0645 our time. I was in the chow hall, as were most other Marines, and needless to say, it ruined our breakfast. They landed away from us out on one of the flight lines, but its quite a feeling to be "welcomed" to Iraq that way. They say its been several months since the base has been hit and that these fires are basically never accurate. We have our guesses as to why this might have happened today, but you never know. Perhaps some guy had a fight with his wife last night and wanted to let off a little steam by dropping some rounds on the Marines? If only it was that simple.

In more positive news, Cpl Villa and I were able to venture over to the Iraqi shops on the mainside portion of the base yesterday. These stores are unreal! For some reason they are allowed to sell bootlegged copies of dvds to the Marines on base. I'm sure the Motion Picture Assoc. of American wouldn't be too happy about that. They had movies that are still in theatres for sale for $8 a piece! Everything from Dodgeball and Collateral to oldies like the Police Academy movies. I think they have everything except for The Passion of The Christ.

They also had a product in one of the stores that was an exercise device that said in english that it was a "Micro Computer Fat Movement Machine." I think something was lost in the translation. Oh, and their old movie theatre looks like something even Austin Powers would have considered too tacky. It was right out of 1968 and didn't look like it had been cleaned since then.

Thanks for everything!

Semper Fi,

P.S. I saw someone post something about the enlisted living in tents. Actually, our enlisted guys live in the same cans we do. The only difference is that officers and senior enlisted get a can to themselves while junior enlisted get a roommate. The Marine Corps has a lot of officers that used to be enlisted (including yours truly) so we tend to remember what it was like to be the low one on the pecking order.

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages -- and they'd really be appreciated -- please address the packages to Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 ... and James will ensure that whatever you ship gets distributed to the Marines in 1/23d. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23d Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here.

AUGUST 25, 2004: BASE LIFE IN IRAQ. Now that the advance party of our "adopted" 1st Battalion/23d Marines have been in Iraq for about week, they're already getting used to life in Al-Asad. Here's a latest report -- and pix -- from special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Well, all is still as good as can be considering this is Iraq. The base post office has not received any mail in the last several days, but they said they are expecting a huge shipment soon and hopefully some of our stuff will be with it.

This is our "beautiful" main post office here in Al-Asad.

I've also attached a picture (above) of one of the typical HMMWVs around here so you can see how the doors are now armored and are higher in order to better protect the vehicle occupants from any fragmentation from an IED (improvised explosive device). All of the vehicles have sand bags on the floor boards for added protection as well.

To better give you an idea of what our life here is like, I've attached a photo (above) of the best place to eat on base. It's the chow hall at the Regiment and I was lucky to be able to have lunch with my good friend Capt Matt Nodine there on Sunday.

Lt Crabtree with Capt Nodine

He's the lawyer for one of our sister battalions to our north and he and I went to Officer Candidate School together back in 1999. As we were eating he remarked that who would have thought five years later we would be eating in a chow hall in Iraq. It's pretty mind-boggling when you think about it.

Take care and thanks for everything.

Semper Fi,

P.S. I have yet to get a photo of one, but we get lots of "dust devils" here. They look like mini-tornados and are harmless, though the Marines from 2/7 tell the story of how one was big enough that it blew through the camp knocking over some tents and turning over port-a-johns. All of the port-a-johns are now wired to the ground or have cinder blocks in them to weigh them down.

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages -- and they'd really be appreciated -- please address the packages to Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 ... and James will ensure that whatever you ship gets distributed to the Marines in 1/23d. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23d Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here. Just an aside here, but I really like how James' reports give us a unique look -- from the mundane and annoying to challenges and the professionalism -- at the Iraq War from the unfiltered perspective of the young Americans who serve in uniform. Thanks again, James, for these reports.

AUGUST 27, 2004: MORE HELP FOR THE 1/23 MARINES. A special note of recognition for the folks in the Katy Independent School District Police Department in Texas. Public Safety Director Mark Hopkins noted his nephew was in 1/23 and they wanted to do something to help more of the unit. "We will collect items for the care packages, send letters, and recruit others to join in making sure our brave Marines know we care about them," said Hopkins. Many thanks to the KISDPD from Politics1 and the 1/23. If you'd like to help, please address any care packages to Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 ... and James will ensure that whatever you ship gets distributed to the Marines in 1/23d. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23d Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here. Finally, for those 1/23 family members who inquired, Lt. Crabtree advised that "Most of our Marines [who left the US earlier this week] have arrived, but some are still waiting on flights out of Kuwait."

AUGUST 29, 2004: HEAD SIGNS, GAS MASK WEDNESDAYS, CLEAN LAUNDRY, SPEED BUMPS, AND THE "TOY FACTORY." Over the past week, the advance party of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines were joined in Al-Asad, Iraq, by the rest of the unit. Here's the latest from special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Hello once again from Al-Asad, Iraq where everyday is a sunny day! Seriously, we have yet to see a cloud since we arrived here. The sunrises and sunsets are thus quite pretty, but it does add to the "Groundhog Day" effect of everyday being the same. The temperatures have not been that bad though. I have an indoor/outdoor thermometer that my step-dad gave me, which I have placed in a shady spot outside of my can. The high temp has been around 114 and the low gets down to about 72. There is also very little humidity so it causes it to cool off pretty quickly once the sun sets. Sunglasses are key here though because with little more than rocks and sand on the ground it causes the sun to bounce brightly into ones eyes.

Wednesdays are "Gas Mask Wednesday" here in the First Marine Division. The idea behind this was that the Commanding General would force the Marines to remain familiar with this piece of important gear by having every Marine and sailor in the division wear their gas masks all day on Wednesdays. This causes some laughter and grumbling amongst the troops, but it does serve to remind us what day of the week it is. My idea for a "Sandals Sunday" probably wouldn't get very far. It would boost morale however, while letting the Marines air out their feet. It could also help support the local economy by buying some of their popular footwear. Naturally the Marines on post and leaving the wire wouldn't be able to wear them. Well, I just thought it sounded like a literally cool idea.

Yesterday we received some of our first packages from the states. These included boxes of free magazines from The Economist and National Geographic. They have been great to us and I really enjoy reading them. Most of the magazines the Marines read around here tend to verge exclusively on men's magazines like Maxim and Stuff, so its good to read something that actually enlightens you a little bit on things other than the bra size of the latest female celeb in her lingerie.

We also received some more pen-pal letters and I have distributed those out to the companies. Hopefully the Marines will write back as soon as they can. I noticed that many of the packages were post marked about two weeks ago, so that is a lot quicker for the mail arrival then we had been led to believe. I hope that remains the case. One package that we got from a Politics1.com reader was from 15 year-old Michael Krekel of Palos Verdes Estates, CA. It looks like he single handedly wiped out the beef jerky and skittles selections of his local store. He also sent some great issues of The National Review and a cool St Louis Cardinals program that has a good story about President Bush's visit to opening day this year. The letter Michael sent us was awesome and it certainly was the highlight of the day for me. I'd like to personally thank him and everyone that has written us thus far. The pen-pal letters and care packages are starting to arrive in increasing volume. I will personally send an MRE postcard to everyone who writes us. This might take some time, but I want everyone to know how much we appreciate their thinking of us.

For some good humor I've enclosed a photo of the sign from our "heads" (Marine-ese for restroom) that crack me up. These head trailers are "run" by Kellog Brown & Root (note: the Marines do all the cleaning), and apparently the command of the English language is not a requirement. See below ...

I hope they don't change the signs since they provide us all with a little laugh each time we shave or brush our teeth.

I've also enclosed a photo (above) of our speed bumps -- made out of old Iraqi tank treads. I think this fits with T.R.'s quote about doing the best you can, where you are, with what you have!

Yesterday was also our first day we got our laundry back. Nothing to me is as nice as having clean camies and socks out here. Garrison Keillor once said that while depression and sadness are a general feeling, happiness is in the details. I think that's true for most of us here. Details like clean laundry, packages from home, and working electricity are all things that provide happiness in this place.

Finally, I want to stress something that some of you may be wondering about. What exactly are you Marines doing? Well, our Marines are doing a great job and are staying busy over here. I keep these reports in the realm of general news simply because I have to for security reasons, but I think every American regardless of ideology or political persuasion would be proud to see their fellow Americans in action. Everyday the Marines in this area work with the local Iraqi police and the Iraqi National Guard to try to make this place a little better than we found it. There are huge obstacles this new nation needs to overcome before we can say all is well here, and for the next seven months those of us from 1/23 are going to give our all to make this part of the world a little bit safer and a little bit more free. Daily our Marines train and instruct classes of Iraqi police and our lawyer works with Iraqi lawyers to help provide coalition money for public works projects and improvements. There is even an operation here on base known as the "toy factory" where Marines work with Iraqis to build swing sets and other items for children's schools and parks. I'll also add that I admire the Iraqis that are willing to stand up and fight the insurgents at the risk of losing their businesses, their families, and their lives. They are some real heroes and unfortunately for them they do not receive care packages from home, nor do they have the assurance that in seven months or so they can return to a place where the greatest concern one might have is sitting in a traffic jam or dealing with some infinitesimal issue that most Americans would view as a crisis. Most of these Iraqis would love to have the "problems" that confront the average everyday American.

Thanks as always for everything!

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages, please address the packages to Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 ... and James will ensure that whatever you ship gets distributed to the Marines in the 1/23.


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