January 25, 2009

Letter from Jesse

Cpl. Jesse Mills somewhere in Iraq 2009. Conditions on patrol "In the field" as they call it are primitive. From the photos that I have seen there is not much difference between conditions on the front line today versus 65 years ago. Between repairing tanks and patrolling the streets there is not a whole lot of free time. Occasionally there is time to write. I would like to share a portion of this letter from Cpl. Mills with you. With permission of his family, please read and hopefilly enjoy the following.
Svinrod out!

A typical day...I guess there really is no such thing as a typical day here. When we are in garrison we get up around 630, hygiene and go to chow. The chow hall is surprisingly nice and well stocked considering the fact we are in a combat zone. After chow we head to the "ramp" where the tanks are kept. After about 15 minutes of "bsing" we begin our daily and never ending routine of tank maintenance. Believe me when I tell you that there is never an end to maintenance on a tank. A tank is the only vehicle in the world I have ever seen that can operate properly one day, be parked and the next day be completely f***ed up. It’s unbelievable. It has so many electrical components in it that the slightest moisture or dirt inside even the smallest component or a connection will cause a multitude of failures, malfunctions and errors. I have a tank right now actually that moves forward in all gears: F, R, N,and Low. The circumstances surrounding my discovery of this are pretty comical. I crawled into the driver’s seat and fired the tank up. It has an electrical shift control assembly whereas when you place the tank in a specific gear it sends an electrical signal to a series of solenoids on the transmission that opens valves and shifts the tank into the gear you selected. I was told that the tank just didn’t go into reverse. No one mentioned that neither the parking brake nor the service brakes hold the tank, that the tank is stuck in high idle or that the tank will not shut down properly. I not sure if it’s that they either neglected to tell me or they just didn’t know. Unfortunately I found out the true symptoms really quick. As you can probably figure the tank, a 68 ton combat vehicle, lurched forward when I placed the selector in reverse. It scared the hell out of me and I instinctively tried to apply the service brake to no avail. I then calmly tried to set the parking brake, again with no success. Remaining collected, I then attempted to shut the tank down. It’s about this time, when the tank did not shut down, that I began to panic. Panic induced partially by the fact there was a pretty substantial concrete wall about 8 meters directly in front of me, and more so by the realization that I was out of options. Thankfully I was able with much effort to jam the selector back into neutral and “emergency kill” the engine only a few meters from the wall. I laugh about it all now but at the time I was justifiably pissed off. I do however think an occasional rapid influx in your heart rate is healthy. I therefore wouldn’t say I didn’t benefit at all from the experience.
At or about 1130 we break for chow. We are supposed to have an hour and a half for chow but because we have a slave driver for a Gunnery Sergeant our chow time is usually shortened to about half of that. It’s not a big issue because a break is a break and after all we are in a combat zone. After chow we work until 6 -9pm usually. We don’t get any days off from the time we hit the sandbox until we leave again for the states but I believe that this forced labor is a great way to instill a healthy work habit. It also makes you feel like you might be making a difference. And that makes it all worth it.
We then head to chow then back to our “cans” which are nothing more than a roughly 20’x7’ Iso container with electric and heating where we sleep. Most of the time I shower and immediately hit the rack. Sometimes I’ll write letters or read. That is a typical day in the rear.
A day in the field is allot different. We sleep in tents in bombed out abandoned forts or in the middle of the desert.. Everything is dirty and dusty. Unbelievable amounts of dirt. We eat preserved foods, MRE’s, or these pretty interesting cans called “Heater meals”. It’s like a usual can of beef stew, chicken in pasta, chili mac, or pork and beans except it’s inside a bigger can that has a water bag and a limestone base. When you puncture the water pouch with the conveniently supplied water pouch puncturer, the water reacts to the limestone and generates allot of heat. Because this water-limestone combination surrounds the meal can it quickly heats the meal up. A new concept to me, I find it really neat.
Out there we get up between 05 and 07, depending on the current situation, stuff down some chow which sometimes is just coffee and immediately begin working on our tanks. We usually take a couple of minutes to eat lunch on the front slope of the tank then get right back at it. We carry our weapons loaded every where we go. To include the bathroom (a designated area in a derelict room or remote location). Disposing of our “waste” is a completely different topic that I won’t elaborate on but our trash we burn then bury. We stop working at the loss of daylight, eat chow then hit the rack to start it all again the next day. Night time usually promises pulling duty on the perimeter with night vision goggles and weapons. COLD! Always cold.
These are my days.


StarCMC said...

Thank you Cpl. Mills! You truly rock! And as for disposing of the waste - I think one of my bro's most prized possessions is a "Shit Stirrer" coin given him by a former Gunny that was in his Army Reserve unit in Iraq. LOL! Ah! The things we civilians take for granted!

andrea said...

"It also makes you feel like you might be making a difference. And that makes it all worth it."

There has never been any question in our minds about our military making a difference. EVER.

This video - while not a word is said about America - or our military - WE know how this came about.


Cpl. Mills - THANK YOU for your service to our country!

instinct said...

The funny part to me is that while he is Army and I was Navy our days are almost exactly the same. Only differences are that I was working on fighter planes and at sea while he's in the dirt with a tank.

Cpl. Mills I know exactly how you feel and you are making huge difference, to the guys that drive the tanks and to everyone here back home who support you in one way or another.

JAMillsusmc said...

I am back now from Iraq and I wanted to thank every one of you for your support in all we did. It is amazing the amount of support back home. All the media accomplishes to do is spew garbage about how terrible the war is going. Don't believe it, as I'm sure you don't. I can speak for the USMC when I say we are doing great things and accomplishing the mission assigned. Thank you all agian. Especially to Svin who was my avid supporter in the sand box. My hats off to you sir. A true Patriot. HOORAH, and SEMPER FIDELIS!