Sunday, October 02, 2005

Leaf Eaters

October 1, 2005

We dropped back an hour last night. Could’ve actually made it to chow this morning.

I finally received my laptop computer back from the CE (Command Element) Help Desk – that’s the section of Marines who control the entire internet domain within Camp Fallujah. Typical of any computer section worldwide, the CE Help Desk is not well regarded among Marines outside of its walls…It took 4 days for them to switch my domain from Quantico to Camp Fallujah – although the work itself only takes 10 minutes. Seems they would be better labeled the CE “we’re not that much” Help Desk.

I ran across another VMI classmate last night. Major Tom Voytko ’87 recognized me as we passed each other in the dark. Tom is a reservist who never really left active duty. Shortly after ending his active duty career in 2001, he joined the reserves and was immediately recalled to service following 9/11. After that, Tom was held over for OIF 1, and continues to serve today. Tom is also the recipient of a bronze star, received during a previous deployment to Iraq. Although actually a recalled reservist, he’s never spent enough time in the civilian world to seek employment outside of the Marine Corps.

As Tom and I were talking, an artillery fire mission commenced from nearby, the 155 rounds sent forth in support of our grunts on the ground in Iraq, most likely somewhere near Baghdad. The ‘boom’ of the big guns startled me slightly, as the guns had been shifted to a location fairly close to our position. The Arty guys have an acronym for themselves – FAKOB – Field Artillery, King of Battle. No one who has seen the results of an artillery barrage will argue that moniker.

Over the past few days, I have spent the bulk of my time interviewing Marines employed within the ISF Directorate (Iraqi Security Forces), part of MNF-W (Multinational Forces – West) in Falluja. The ISF Directorate has many subordinate units, to include the DBE, the P3, IPLO’s and the BTT’s. Each provides a distinct service within the Directorate.

The DBE, or Department of Border Enforcement, is charged with setting up Iraqi border forts on the borders of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. LtCol Ken Desimone is the coordinator of the DBE. Ken has been a friend of mine since we were Lieutenants together at Camp Lejeune in the late 80’s. Ken has served in the reserves for over 20 years and has been informed by his wife that this will be his last hoo-rah. Ken agrees, of course. Ken’s office has spent the last 8 months or so traveling to the Iraqi border, overseeing the construction of border forts, to include the training, equipping and mentoring of newly trained Iraqi border patrol units. Ken was recently the subject of a news story which got quite a bit of attention within the MEF – it can be read by searching the internet for "LtCol Desimone Iraq." That's Ken in the photo above.

Ken and I served together in the II MACE, or II MEF Augmentation Command Element at Camp Lejeune from 1998-2001. We also deployed to Italy together for three weeks during Operation Agile Lion, a Joint Army & Marine Corps exercise in Vicenza, Italy. Ken likes to think he’s “saltier” than me, and we always trade barbs when we see one another. Ken threw a new one at me the other day when he called me a “leaf eater.” A little confused, I asked him what he meant – Ken replied that since I’m here in a non-combat arms position, I’m just a “leaf eater” as opposed to the grunts, who are “meat eaters.” We had a good laugh over that one.

In addition to interviewing Ken and his folks, I spent time with the BTT, or Border Transition Teams, as well as with Marines from the P3 Program, short for “Police Partnership Program.” The Marines from P3 are responsible for training the IP’s or Iraqi Police Candidates from the city of Fallujah. Since April, over 1200 Falluja IP’s have been trained at the Jordanian and the Baghdad Police Academies.

Over the next week, I’ll be attempting to head south near Al Iskandariyah to link up with the US Army’s 155 Brigade Combat Team (BCT 155), who is deployed to Iraq in support of II MEF (Fwd). They have seen quite a bit of action over the last year, yet we have not had anyone embed with them to date.


Tim D. said...

Keep up the good work Craig.

belinda K. said...

Take good care, interesting reading. Pat's in you neck of the woods now.

Beth* A. said...

Greetings! Just found your blog and I will be adding it to my list of favorites, as what I've read so far has been really informative. I have friends who just got back from the 'box this month, and another headed that way in Feb. Thank you for your service and stay safe out there!