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

Archive: September 2004

Editor's Note: Politics1 "adopted" the 1st Battalion/23rd Marines -- an infantry battalion of reservists from Texas (and neighboring states) deployed to Iraq in August 2004. Lt James Crabtree, a regular Politics1 reader, belongs to the battalion and he submits regular dispatches 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). If you'd like to send them any care packages -- and they'd certainly be appreciated -- please send them to: Lt Crabtree, 1/23 H&S Co, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900 -- and James will distribute whatever you send to many of the Marines in the 1/23d.

JULY 8 - AUGUST 28, 2004

SEPTEMBER 30, 2004: REPORT FROM IRAQ: OF TALK RADIO AND BAD CRABS. Time for our latest report from Iraq. Our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of the 1/23 Marines gives us his latest update from their location in northwestern Iraq.

Dear Readers of Politics1.com,

Hello once more from Al-Asad, Iraq. The other day I was eating lunch in our chow hall with one of our battalion surgeons, LCDR Levett, when he told the following joke. I liked it so much that I'm going to repeat it here:

One day a young Marine was standing at attention in a formation for inspection. When the commander came in front of the Marine he looked him over closely and said, "Marine, your jacket is frayed."
The young Marine quickly said, "No sir! This is a Marine jacket. It's not afraid of anything!"

Well, all continues to go well out here. Yesterday we were able to get a bunch of the Houston area Marines on the phone to say hello to their families and loved ones over the airwaves of "The Sam Malone Morning Show" on KRBE 104.1 FM in Houston. We made the call around 3 pm our time and got cut off once while on hold, but we were finally able to get through. About 20 minutes before we were going to call all the phones in the tent had gone dead. Fortunately our satellite dish reacquired the signal and everything was fine. All of the Marines were in a line and had been told to keep their comments quick in order to get everyone on the air before the segment ended or we got cut off again. I'm glad to say it went exactly as planned. I received emails later in which people told me that they could hear everyone real well and that the station even replayed the segment a few more times later that day. Sam Malone was great, too. He asked about sending care packages and such. The show wants to make our call a regular feature on the last Tuesday of each month. It was a big boost to the morale of those that got to call. We have many more Marines that weren't able to make it because of patrols, convoys, work, etc. Hopefully we can get them in next time.

It was very surreal calling in to a 6 am radio show from a tent in Iraq at 3 pm local time. The strangest moment was when they had us on hold right before going on the air and you could hear the Houston morning traffic report. Traffic? What's that? I guess if there were no IEDs on Loop 610 it'd be a pretty good traffic day in our opinion.

I'm also working on setting up some calls to radio stations for Marines from areas outside Houston. The other day I got a great email from Sammy Allred of the "Sammy and Bob Show" on KVET radio in Austin. For political folks, this is the station LBJ and Congressman Jake Pickle started after WWII -- thus the VET part of KVET. Anyway, they are the #1 rated morning show in Austin and have been around for years. They want to have us on and are working on the details right now. I've also been in touch with a reporter from the Shreveport Times and he's interested in interviewing the troops we have from that area.

An early morning moon over our camp yesterday.

We've received a lot of nice emails and letters the last few days from families telling us how much they enjoy the updates. I want to let them know that I plan to cover every section and company while we are out here. Some have specific requests to write about their loved ones. Trust me, we'll be here for at least six more months so I should have time to get to them. And yes, we do have some Marines with us from Oklahoma. On the same note, the profiles I do are on Marines and sailors that volunteer. I don't want to write a profile on someone that doesn't want me to. So, if you know someone over here that wants to be in an update have them see me. I'm pretty easy to find.

I have one final anecdote, of some personal embarrassment, to share before getting back to work. The other day our chow hall served crab. I was hungry, it looked good, and I hadn't had any since I could remember. About an hour after eating the crab my eyes started to itch and burn. I figured I had gotten some sand in them. About 10 minutes later I was in our evening staff meeting when LCDR Levett (the same one that told the joke) said I looked flushed. After I quickly finished briefing my portion of the meeting the battalion commander asked if I was ok and said it looked like my eyes were popping out. A few second later I was on my way to our Battalion Aid Station (BAS) to get hooked up to a benadryl i.v. drip to stop my reaction to a bad crab allergy. I felt like I was going to pass out and my throat was starting to constrict. The doctor and the corpsman were impressive with how quick they went to work. It was even more impressive considering they hooked me up in the dark since the power had gone out. I'm glad they were as close by and as skillful as they were. Needless to say, I won't be eating any more crabs again, but I'm glad to know we have some true professionals over here to provide us our medical care. Of course, everyone got a good laugh out of it later. Our battalion XO, Major Sheridan, probably had the best line when he said:"The Crab can't eat crab."

Corpsman at Al-Asad - Top row (l-r): HMCS Kelley, HM1 Brennen, HM2 Lowry, and HM2 Bohorques.
Bottom row (l-r): HM2 Turner, HM2 Jackson, and Hm2 Chandavong.

More Corpsman at Al-Asad - Top row (l-r): HMC Slaton, HM3 Petraglia, HM2 Clutts,
HM1 Elliott, HM1 Dickson, and LCDR Levett.
Bottom row (l-r): HM3 Elias, LCDR Willis, and HM2 Nelson.

Thank you, as always, for reading these updates and for all of the great letters, emails, and care packages that you send us. I know I say this in every report, but it's the truth and needs to be said every time. We couldn't do the things we do out here without knowing that we have people that support us. Thank you!

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazines, baby wipes, etc.), 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.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2004: AN ATTACK ... AND OUR LATEST REPORT FROM THE 1/23 MARINES. For those who did not see it, the following newspaper report on a 1/23 Marine was published Wednesday in the Shreveport Times:

A Local Marine has Been Injured in Combat While Serving in Iraq.

Jacob Schick, a lance corporal with Bravo Company, 1/23rd Marines, a reserve unit headquartered in Bossier City, was injured early Monday Shreveport time, his mother, former local actress and singer Debbie Schick said."I heard from him last night about 10:30 when he called me," his mom said from a passenger waiting area at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. She was waiting to board a flight to Bethesda, Md., where the military is flying him for further medical treatment. "He said 'Mom, I need you to listen, I'm in the hospital here at Landstuhl (the U.S. military hospital in Germany) and I'm OK." "He told me 'I've been hit and my left arm has a compound fracture and my left leg has a compound fracture.' Then I couldn't understand what he was saying to me, and his nurse came on the phone and told me she'd been on the Medevac flight with him and that 'his right foot has been amputated.'"

Schick said her son came out of surgery at Landstuhl on Tuesday afternoon and was OK. "Jacob is a very tenacious young man, a competitor, the guy who is always getting people riled up," she said. Schick, 22, the son of Shreveport banker Woodrow C. "Woody" Schick, joined the local Marine unit shortly after his graduation from Coppell (Texas) High School in 2001, his mom said. In the last year or so he has divided his time between the Dallas area and Shreveport, she said.

Woodrow Schick directed all media inquiries to the local Marine unit spokesman, Capt. John Scripture. Scripture said Schick's injuries resulted "from an explosion while conducting combat operations in the al Anbar Province of Iraq." Scripture said the unit was trying to get further details of the action in which Schick was injured, but so far has been unable to do so. "I did talk to Maj. (Mike) Miller today (Tuesday) and he couldn't give me information over an unsecure land line, so I don't have the full story," Scripture said. Miller is the company's commander.

The unit left Shreveport in early June for desert training at TwentyNine Palms in the California high desert, and arrived in Iraq around three weeks ago, Scripture said. The unit is scheduled to return in April.

"I know that God has Jacob in the palm of his hand," his mom said. "I'm proud of what Jacob's done and the country should be proud, too. Those boys believe in what they're doing. The hardest part for him will not be overcoming his physical handicap, but not being with his brothers in war."

I reprinted the above article for you because it relates to the latest report from our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines in Iraq:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

As many of you already know from a news articled recently posted in the comments blog (reprinted above), our battalion sent its first Marine back home to the states this week due to combat injuries. I won't rehash all of the details since the Shreveport Times and the Gannet News Service already ran the article. I will say though that Lance Corporal Schick of Bravo Company was seriously wounded when his vehicle hit a landmine that had been placed by those that seek to kill us. The quick and skillful response by the Marines in his platoon, and especially the Navy Corpsman, helped to save his life. Lance Corporal Schick will receive the Purple Heart and is now at the military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. You can write to him and his family at

LCpl Jacob Schick
Attn: Marine Corps Liaison
8901 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20889

I'm sure they would appreciate any letters or cards that you wish to send them.

In other news, our life here continues to be a busy one. It pains me that I can't share in more detail all of the heroic things that these members of 1/23 do on a routine daily basis. When we finally get back home to America there will be some great stories to tell. For now I want to turn to a profile of some very creative Marines and their robot. Hope you enjoy it.

The call of "Bubba up!" may not be one that most people would recognize, but to the warriors of 1/23's Combat Engineers of 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, it means its time for their remote controlled robot named Bubba (above) to go into action. The brainchild of Lance Corporal (LCpl) Howard Akers -- a 23 year-old heavy metal band member from Harrisonburg, Virginia -- Bubba is a robot that literally can mean the difference between life and death for those that from time to time may deal with landmines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

The robot is stunningly simple in concept and yet rather sophisticated in its machinery and design. His small camera allows the Marines to remain a safe distance from any suspicious objects and yet see through the hand-held video screen (above) everything Bubba sees. For security reasons the actual speed, distance, and other operational aspects of Bubba cannot be revealed, but suffice it to say, he's already been used here in Iraq several times and always gets the job done.

LCpl Akers does not have the stereotypical background of a Marine. Having had long hair before he entered the Corps, he was seen as a bit of a black sheep in his family because he decided to join the USMC. It's certainly not something his parents would have envisioned. He says they were hippies, however he is probably lucky that he was not given a typical flower child name like Moon or Rainbow or else his drill instructors would have given him no end of grief. When not serving as a reservist with the Combat Engineer Company out of Lynchburg, VA, he makes his living as a member of a heavy metal band named KounterKulture. In fact, the name of the robot came from his alternate stage persona of Bubba Hornswagle. When LCpl Akers first approached his platoon commander, Capt Jonathan Kuniholm, about the idea of making a robot he was told to focus on his job and not to worry about any offbeat ideas. After seeing the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Marines in action during training in California, however, LCpl Akers was able to convince Capt Kuniholm that they could make a robot that would provide the Combat Engineers the same safe standoff from dangerous situations that the EOD robot provides for their Marines. Capt Kuniholm -- also a reservist -- made a phone call to one of his private-sector business partners, Chuck Messer, of the North Carolina company they run named Tackle Design. Messer and another partner, Kevin Webb, quickly donated the parts, design plans, and manpower to assemble Bubba and then shipped him out to the CEBs in 29 Palms, CA. They were also able to get another firm named Traxxas to donate parts for Bubba, as well.

LCpl Akers and LCpl Swenson, with Bubba

LCpl Carl Swenson, 20, of Richmond, VA also became involved with the Bubba project early on. A student at John Tyler Community College in Richmond, he was working security for a Target store to earn money for tuition and hopes to one-day graduate with a degree in criminology. Now, along with LCpl Akers, he is the other half of the Bubba handler team. Together they run, maintain, and transport Bubba. It's a task that they enjoy. Watching them with Bubba is much like seeing a couple of young kids playing with a cool toy. Capt Kuniholm says that many Combat Engineer Marines are "the type of people that as kids loved to blow stuff up and play with firecrackers. We're still that way today." In fact, LCpls Akers and Swenson were part of the unit that recently blew up some caves that the battalion found that had been used as hiding and staging places for Anti-Coalition Forces.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. With the creation of their robot, LCpls Akers and Swenson have shown that not only can that invention serve to save lives, but it can also be realized with a little bit of know-how, imagination, and the dreams of the little boy inside every Marine, no matter how old they may be.

And finally, to all of you who check out these articles each week, thanks for reading these updates. It makes me feel better to know that there are so many of you out there who are keeping us in your thoughts and prayers each day. I don't think we will ever be able to explain how much that means to us. Every time we get a pen-pal letter, a care package, or free magazines from the likes of National Geographic, The Economist, Texas Monthly, or The Weekly Standard, it brings a small piece of the rest of the world into our lives. Thank you!

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazines, baby wipes, etc.), 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. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23 Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2004: P.S. SEND MORE CARE PACKAGES. Here's the latest report -- more pix and less words this time -- from our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines in Iraq:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

I'm staying busy right now and will have a more in-depth update to you in a few days. I just wanted to share some photos with you that I like.

This is our sunset over "Can City" ...
but I also think it resembles the planet Tatooine from Star Wars.

Me in front of my field desk (and laptop) and Texas flag.
It's one of my better pictures, I think

Above and below: A crater that 1/23 Marines run past on the old runway whenever
we get a chance to work out. It's from the war and is pretty good sized.
These craters are all over the place!

Also, we are getting so many Marines and sailors volunteering for the KRBE 104.1 FM radio program that I've decided to include all that want to take part. My plan is to try to let each one say their name and a quick hello to whomever they have that might be listening. We still don't know how long "The Sam Malone Show" wants us on the air, but I'll do everything I can to let the guys get on even if for just a few seconds.

Please keep the packages and letters coming. They've slowed down the last few weeks and we still have plenty of troops that would love to have them.

As always, thanks and take care.

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazine, baby wipes, etc.), 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.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2004: ROSH HASHANAH GREETINGS FROM 1/23 MARINES IN IRAQ. Here's the latest report from our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines in Iraq:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Happy Rosh Hashanah. Hope all is well. The 2/7 finally caught their last freedom birds home and now we no longer have to wait in line at the chow hall or for the phones. At least not nearly as long of a line as before. Also, the new Commanding General of the Division must have done away with "Gas Mask Wednesdays" (see my older stories if you don't remember this) because we are no longer conducting that "drill." Life is good!

Also, a local radio station in Houston has asked us to call their morning show on September 28th at 6:10 am their time (3:10pm ours). It's called the "Sam Malone Show" on KBRE 104.1. I'm not from Houston and have never heard the show -- and I doubt it's the same Sam Malone that ran the bar on Cheers -- but they ran the request through our Marine HQ in Houston and it sounds legit. I'm working on getting three or four local Houston area Marines to be part of the call so that their friends and families can hear them. We give you more details as we get them.

Here's the newest profile for our "Get To Know Us" campaign. Hope you enjoy it. This week we profile SSgt Ray Wagner of Los Angeles, California. And, right up front, the SSgt also asked me to mention that he's single and that any ladies over 40 who want to contact him should feel free to do so at: 1/23 H&S Co S-6, Unit 41900, FPO, AP 96426-1900. Who knows, I guess that could work. Ha.

SSgt Ray Wagner

In the world of Marine Corps communications there is a popular saying of "You can talk about us, but you can't talk without us." Much like the umpire in a baseball game that is unnoticed until he blows a call, the hard working Marines of 1/23's comm. section are often overlooked until someone's radio stops working. The Marine charged with helping to make sure that the comm Marines continue to toil in relative obscurity is the battalion Comm Chief, SSgt Ray Wagner. A graduate of Blair High School in Pasadena, he still has deep roots in the L.A. area and considers it his home. His parents still reside there and his brother even works on the TV show "Las Vegas" that airs on NBC.

At the relatively young age of 44, SSgt Wagner is seen by most Marines to be one of the more "salty" and experienced Staff NCOs in the battalion. Having entered boot camp during the first year of the Jimmy Carter administration in 1977 SSgt Wagner ended his first active duty tour in 1981. In 1991, after ten years in the civilian world, he decided to rejoin the Corps in time to fight in the first Persian Gulf War. Having been gone for such a lengthy period he had to start over as a 30 year old PFC. Since then he has been deployed overseas eight times and has actually spent each of the last three years deployed somewhere in the global war on terrorism. This tour with 1/23 is his first time with a reserve unit and ironically he was sent to Houston to be a full time active duty Inspector and Instructor Marine as a payback and to keep him from deploying yet again. He has no complaints however. When it comes to deploying he says, "This is what we do." He also remarks that "the Marines of 1/23 tend to be older and more mature" than many he had dealt with on active duty and is impressed that they can do what they do off of only one weekend a month and two weeks a year of training.

SSgt Wagner's days in Iraq are spent ensuring that each and every phone, radio, and data network in the battalion is up and running. This requires countless hours of preventative maintenance and trouble shooting as well as a strong working knowledge of how exactly to keep a network of cables, antennas, wires, handsets, receivers, transmitters and batteries operational in an inhospitable desert environment. The Marines live on the mantra of maneuver warfare and rely on the idea that they can "shoot, move, and communicate" with each other at all times. Faulty or non-existent comm. negates it all.

When not spending his time in the world of comm or on deployments, SSgt Wagner is an avid rugby enthusiast and player. In fact, he's been playing actively since 1981 and was a member of the Armed Forces Rugby team in the last '90's, coached the All-Marine Rugby team in '98, and even managed the US Women's National Rugby team to a 23-19 victory over Canada in August of 2001. During his off hours back in Houston he coaches a women's rugby team. Upon his return to America after this tour he plans to return to college to finish his degree and will retire from the Marines in Feb '07. He also smiles and says that he plans to "eat a big greasy cheeseburger and have a beer." And if that cheeseburger and beer happen to be in L.A. while watching a rugby match, then all the better.

Thanks as always for all of the great letters, emails, and packages. I've also had a lot of Marines tell me their families really love reading these updates. I write them in my spare time and love hearing that folks enjoy them.

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazine, baby wipes, etc.), 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. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23 Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2004: THE 1/23 MARINES TAKE CHARGE. Special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines in Iraq updates us on their transfer ceremony, visiting dignitaries, local customs, and a reminder of the dangers faced:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Greetings once more from our humble home in the desert where all of the unemployed teachers have no class. Just kidding -- I'm sure the Iraqi teachers' unions wouldn't appreciate that joke. Well, everything continues to go fairly well for the battalion. Operations continue at a busy pace and the Marines and sailors continue to excel.

Last week one of our trucks hit a landmine while on a road convoy, but the biggest damage to any of the people involved was a bruised thumb. This demonstrates that the area in which we serve is a dangerous one, but that the training and the equipment we have over here is doing its job. I share this information because I want to paint as accurate a picture as possible about our lives over here without violating operational security. After all, the last thing I would ever want to be is a "Baghdad Bob" enemy propagandist. However, as we have yet to see a reporter or news organization in our battalion's area, perhaps these report will be the only news the world is going to get about the 1/23 Marines.

The big event over here this week was that we had our transfer of authority ceremony with the departing 2/7 Marines on the 9th of September. I've included the "press release" like article below that I wrote up to send into the USMC and Marine Corps Reserve web pages. Its pretty matter of fact and not very colorful, but when was the last time you saw a colorful or entertaining press release out of the Department of Defense? I wish all of you could have seen the ceremony. The assorted groups of Iraqis that showed up for the ceremony wore everything from modern western style clothing to traditional Arabic robes and head coverings. They all seemed to enjoy themselves, too. They arrived at the ceremony 45 minutes late and the food for their feast afterwards was over an hour and half late, but they were all delighted. Iraqis run on their own sense of time. The phrase "Insha' Allah" which means "God willing" covers virtually everything for most Iraqis. Whether or not they get up in the morning and go to work could be covered by it. For some, everything is "Insha' Allah" in the sense that things will happen when they happen or will arrive when they arrive. Needless to say, this is very different for Marines who are used to the idea that if you aren't 15 minutes early for something you are late. Here is the "press release":

In a simple and solemn ceremony held here today in front of a former Iraqi Air Force building that now serves as the command post for a Marine infantry battalion, the Marines of 2/7 transferred authority to the Marines from 1/23. This was a day in which the Marines of 1/23 had been working towards for over six months. As an infantry battalion of reservists based out of Texas and Louisiana, the activation notice had been issued in March and lives and careers had been placed on hold. Now finally months of training and preparation had all come down to this one symbolic moment.

With local Iraqi dignitaries, officers and soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard, and members of the Iraqi Police Force looking on, LtCol P.C. Skuta bade farewell to those Iraqis he had served with for the past seven months and wished them well. He referred to the Iraqis as "brothers" and it was apparent that his departure from this area is one filled with optimism for the young nation's future. 2/7, an infantry battalion from Twentynine Palms, California, had many notable accomplishments during their seven month tour in this area of operations. They thus established the region as a quintessential example of how mutual respect and cooperation with the Iraqi government will help the process of Iraq becoming the only democratic Arab nation in the Middle East.

LtCol Skuta of 2/7 and Col Fahad of the Iraqi National Guard

LtCol Skuta's remarks were followed by those of Col Fahad of the local Iraqi National Guard Battalion. The tall and lanky Iraqi spoke of the efforts that the Marines from 2/7 had made over the past seven months to improve his country and he offered his heartfelt gratitude. Upon the completion of his comments, Col Fahad hugged LtCol Skuta and kissed him on each cheek as a customary Arab showing of respect. LtCol G.D. Stevens, the battalion commander of 1/23, then spoke of stepping humbly into 2/7's shoes and of his strong determination to continue the tasks and missions that 2/7 had undertaken.

A Marine color guard from 2/7 then retired their colors, and was followed by the marching on of the colors from 1/23. With SgtMaj David Miller's uncasing of the 1/23 colors (pictured above), the transfer was complete.

The rest of the event was spent with Iraqis snapping photos with Marines and showing off their new police squad car. There was later a traditional Iraqi meal served in the battalion conference area for all of the Iraqis present. LtCol Stevens also met with one of the prominent local Iraqi sheiks. The operations officers from each battalion quickly returned to the Command Operations Center once the ceremony was completed in order to radio to higher headquarters that 1/23's call sign of "Lonestar" was now in effect.

The other notable event that took place on the 9th was that the battalion raised the Lone Star flag over our headquarters building. This was the idea of the battalion commander even though he was born in Connecticut and now resides in California. We aren't allowed to fly the Stars and Stripes and I'm sure you can guess how the Marines feel about that, but no one said anything about state flags! 1/23 has also fully moved into all of the office spaces and we have the Texas flag up in the S-1 office as well.

Well, that about covers it for this update. We've gotten some great feedback on the profile of Cpl Garcia-Ovando from the last update and I've had a lot of Marines want to volunteer for future profiles. The next "Marine of the Week" will be SSgt Wagner of our battalion's communications section. Thank you as always for all of the great letters, packages, and emails. With 2/7 finally heading home soon hopefully the lines to the phone center will not be as long and the Marines and sailors will be able to call home. It also means that the members of 1/23 will all be living in the cans. I know they are looking forward to that.

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazine, baby wipes, etc.), 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. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23 Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here. FYI: I found another site that has a good history (with a few pix) of the Al-Asad Airbase where the 1/23 are stationed.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2004: GREETINGS FROM "THE LONESTAR RANCH" IN IRAQ. Here's the latest report from our friend and special correspondent Lt. James Crabtree of our "adopted" 1/23 Marines in Iraq:

Dear Politics1 Readers,

Greeting once more from the lovely Al-Asad, Iraq, where the time flies like an arrow, but the fruit flies like a banana (actually I think that's an old Groucho Marx line). Anyhow, the election results are in from the first free and democratic election in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq. After all the precincts have reported in, here are the winners:

The Command Post will now be named "The Hacienda."
The chow hall is now known as "The Corral."
The camp name winner was "The Lonestar Ranch."
The Gym will be called "The Sweatbox."

At first the media called the mascot race for Gore, then for Bush, then it was a toss-up, but ultimately the winner was the soon to be infamous ... COMBAT ARMADILLO! He'll be giving a victory speech later this evening.

In other news, all remains well here. The Marines and sailors of our battalion continue to do an awesome job. In fact, every day they become more familiar with our AO (Area of Operations) and more proficient with their tasks.

Well, enough about that. It's time to turn to a new feature I hope to do each week entitled "Get To Know Us." The weekly GTKU feature will focus on the individual Marines and sailors in our battalion -- introducing you to a different one each week -- to provide you with a small glimpse into their lives both at home in America and here in Iraq. This week -- our inaugural issues -- we profile Cpl Jorge Garcia-Ovando ...

Cpl Jorge Garcia-Ovando

The days begin early in Al-Asad, Iraq for 28 year-old Marine Corporal Jorge Garcia-Ovando of H&S Company 1/23. By 0500 (or 5 a.m. to civilians) he has already begun to make his rounds to ensure that the 14 Marines that are under his charge as the assistant squad leader are taken care of. This involves everything from making sure the Marines' weapons are clean and their ammo ready, to checking on how much sleep they had and how much food they were able to eat. They stand post for 24 hours at a time, are then part of a reaction force the next day, and on the third day they provide security for convoys. On the fourth day the Marines start the cycle all over again. It's not an easy task by any means, but it is one that Cpl Garcia-Ovando volunteered for -- and he couldn't be prouder of his Marines or the role he carries out. Originally an administration Marine in the battalion's S-1 section, he was forced into the rotating guard force out of necessity of numbers. In fact, his duties on the guard force are the very essence of the Marine Corps and the backbone of the battalion. Without the security provided by the Marines on post and patrol its doubtful much of what the battalion does would be successful.

Back in March 2004, Cpl Garcia-Ovando was an accounting major at North Harris College in Houston, Texas and was enjoying the life any regular civilian might. Born in Guatemala to a family of accountants and raised in the San Fernando Valley of California, he was happily engaged to Marie Corral (herself a student at the University of Houston). Cpl Garcia-Ovando had served for four years on active duty with a Marine aviation unit (MAG-11) at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA from 1995-99 and had been a part of the basketball team that won the base basketball championship at Miramar in 1996. One day his friend Sgt Elias Herrera told him that 1/23 was being activated and sent to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Something inside of Cpl Garcia-Ovando told him that he wanted to go to Iraq, as well. He says he quickly made up his mind to rejoin the Marines because "I love the Marine Corps and I felt it was my duty to come here with my brothers." Shortly thereafter he showed up at the battalion's headquarters and was made a member of the unit. Since that time he has undergone two weeks of training at Ft Polk, LA and a couple of months in the desert of Twentynine Palms, CA. Today, he is enjoying a free, all expense-paid trip to the sunny sands of Iraq.

The most challenging aspect of his days here is dealing with the heat during the hottest part of the day with temperatures often reaching upwards of 120 degrees. When wearing a Kevlar helmet, a flak jacket with a collar protector and SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) plates, while carrying a weapon and ammo and standing on the hot desert ground, it is easy to see why that aspect would be the worst. That challenge however, is easily out weighed he claims by the esprit-de-corps that comes from being here with his fellow Marines.

Upon the successful completion of this tour Cpl Garcia-Ovando looks forward to returning home to Houston and to his fiancée. He plans to transfer to the University of Houston and complete his degree and will be able to one day look back with a great sense of satisfaction on his service to his nation. More satisfaction, he believes, than an accountant could ever add up.

Thank you as always for all of the great mail and thanks especially to Ron Gunzburger for all he continues to do for our battalion. We're glad to see he made it through the hurricane and hope that all is well with his friends and family.

Semper Fi,

If you'd like to send the 1/23d any care packages (food items that won't melt, batteries, books, magazine, baby wipes, etc.), 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. If you'd like to read more about our adopted 1/23 Marine battalion in Iraq, please click here.

SEPTEMBER 2, 2004: VOTING, PHONING HOME, GETTING MAIL. Lt. James Crabtree of our adopted 1/23 Marines gives us the inside scoop on the first democratic election to be held in Iraq:

Dear Readers of Politics1.com,

Howdy once again from the blazing sands of Al-Asad, Iraq. We are proud to announce that our battalion is conducting one of the first free and democratic elections in this nation. Actually, the election is amongst the 1/23 Marines for what we'll call our camp, as well as our chow hall, gym, mascot, and command post ... so don't get too excited. Hopefully we won't have any pregnant, dimpled, or hanging chads.

The 2/7 battalion that we are replacing was known as the War Dawgs and thus they named everything around here like a Cleveland Browns fan might have done. They called their camp the Dawg House and so forth. Well, since our battalion is approximately 89% Texan or Louisianan, our Headquarters and Service Company Commanding Officer (Maj Hayward) has come up with the idea of having an election to rename everything in a manner closer to our roots and heritage. Every Marine here gets a vote and the results will be announced within the next week. I guarantee we won't have a "Saddam Hussein - 100% of the vote"-like results since several of the "candidates" are pretty good. For your amusement here is our list. I'd be curious as to what the readers would vote for (I'll check out the blog comments y'all post here).

Command Post - Vote for one: a. Mission Control, b. Lonestar, c. The Ponderosa (wasn't that set in NV?), d. The Hacienda, and e. The Astrodome

Chow Hall - Vote for one: a. Texas Pete's, b. The Corral, c. Cajun Kitchen, d. The Trough, e. Cookie's Chuckwagon.

Gym - Vote for one: a. Hammerhead's, b. The Sweatbox, c. The Iron House, d. House of Fury, and e. Hans and Franz's (bet you didn't know they were from the German Hill Country of TX?)

Camp - Vote for one: a. San Jacinto, b. Junction, c. Lukenbach, d. Shiner, e. Tejas, and f. Lonestar Ranch

Mascot - Vote for one: a. Rattlesnake, b. Combat Armadillo, c. Javelina, d. Jackalope, e. Horned Frogs, and f. Yosemite Sam (no word on if Warner Bros would allow it. Ha!)

I've also enclosed some more pictures to give you a better feel for our little corner of the world.

As you can see, the phone center is small and cramped, and is made out of used wood and other assorted items -- but it works and we're glad to have it.

Today was also the day we finally got a ton of mail. It filled up an entire 7-ton truck and it took a working party to unload and sort it all.

Thanks to all of the families and friends of the battalion that sent letters and care packages. It's a good problem to have when there is so much mail that you need extra Marines to help handle it. Keep the mail coming!

Before and after of the Iraqi Air Force. This was a pre-war Iraqi mural boasting about the power of Saddam's air power. Next you'll see the reality ...

Finally, here is a photo of one of the typical bombed out old Iraqi jets that litter this base. I guess in some weird way they ad a certain element of character to our surroundings. They also make good navigational items. I've actually heard a Marine tell another Marine that he could reach a certain area by "taking a right at the first destroyed jet...."

Later this week I plan to start my "Get to know us" effort of profiling a different Marine each week from 1/23. My first volunteer is Cpl Jorge Garcia-Ovando of Houston, Texas, and I will hopefully have his picture and profile into the webpage soon.

Thanks again 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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