The Last Journey
Article #22 “Page Two”
traveling, I have arrived among the United States Marine Corps in Helmund province,
Upon arrival to
The first impressions I have are all good. The flight line folks, all Marines, were sharp, up to speed, helpful and quite frankly down to business at all times. I am most familiar with ground operations in flight line services so I can tell right away whether a place is up to speed or not. As I expected, especially from past experiences when the Marines are in control of their own neighborhood, everything was geared for “getting the job done and getting it done in prompt order”. This was a welcomed sight after the pax terminal experiences in Bagram. It is not meant to say that things don't get done well in Bagram. They do get done, eventually. It is just when the Marines do their things, it seems to get done quickly, because there is much more to do.
Crilley asked if I needed anything and then showed me where the chow hall was. He told me to rest up and that in the morning, I was to go over to headquarters and the Lt and Capt would brief me on where I am , what's going on, and answer any questions I may have. I told Crilley thank you for his assistance and I headed into the chow hall to grab a bite to eat and pick up some iced tea to give me a bit of a boost. At this point, I was very tired and pretty worn out. I basically had not slept in nearly 40-hours but was glad I had come this far and was now almost where I needed to be.
After I finished chow, I went around my immediate surroundings and checked things out. This is a “tent city” of sorts, but the tents are really nice. I have not seen tents like this before. I like this kind of tent life. Whoever designed these got it right. They have these showers that are really amazing and they have these bathroom facilities that are also very sufficient. I would say it is on the lines of luxury type camping facilities, more or less. It is not easy, but it is quite sufficient. The dining facility is also a tent but it is also immaculate. Is a matter of fact, everything here, where Marines are, is well kept and his hard not to notice such a thing. Everybody picks up after themselves and that type of tidy environment is just contagious in a good way. I like keeping a clean shop.
After I had pretty much gotten everything in order, Crilley arrived at my tent and said the Lt and Capt wanted to see me as soon as possible and that he (Crilley) and I would be heading out that night via CH53 to my next destination. Wow...! That's great. I got up off the cot and walked over to the command center with LCPL Crilley and met with Lt Raney and his Captain. I knew I was going to like this place when I saw the New York Yankees banner hanging on the wall. Yankee fans...! This is great. My favorite team.
Lt Raney introduced me to the Captain and the Captain briefed me
on my whereabouts and destination. They
asked if I had any questions and I just wanted to know what the spread was on
the next Yankee game...! They smiled and
realized this new media guy (me) was going to be ok. The Captain left and I spent the next
20-minutes speaking with Lt. Raney. It
was time very well spent. As I talked I
just knew I had come to the right place.
I felt at home once again. It was
like my FOB Boris experience had been transplanted down here to the south, Helmund province, only they were Marines now. What I explain to people is this. I split my time between the Army and the
Marines for a reason. One son was a
Marine; the other is in the Army. I
loved both my sons. I love both the Army
and the Marines. But, now, I am in the
Marine experience. And it is a deep
experience at that. It is hard in the neck of the woods. It is why the Marines are here. It is like Anbar
That night, around , Crilley and I coordinated to meet at a specific light pole and a bus picked us up and took us to the rotary wing landing zone. There we waited for a long time, perhaps four to five hours. A dust storm was moving in and hour by hour the flight kept getting pushed until finally at around 0430 hrs, it was determined that the flight for this night would be cancelled. That is the nature of aviation.
During this night's wait, I met two Marines who had been wounded
and were returning to duty and heading to their location. I spent a great deal of time speaking with
these two Marines. One was 22, the other
was 20. The 20-year-old and I spoke at
length. He is from northern
How is it that I have once again found exactly the right folks?
After the notification of the flight cancellation, Crilley contacted another Marine who brought a bus and took us back to your quarters. Before I left I shook the hands of the two Marines I had been speaking to. I thanked them and they shook my hand and said, “be careful”. They assured me the unit I am hooking up with are good Marines. I had no doubt on that. I said good bye and gathered my gear and as I was walking to the front area the bus pulled up. He got there fast. No one wastes time here. By now, I had been up way too long and my body ached everywhere. But I felt good, in such a way that I remember how I always felt good after a long distance race in school when I was in high school. I ached, but felt good that it was over.
I realized now that this part of my journey had already turned to page two right before my very eyes. It is the next chapter and it is obviously going to be filled with much. I feel very humbled again. I am feeling that the further I go forward, the less encumbrances I have holding me down. This race set before me requires much endurance. I am drawing on reserves deep within.
Now begins the second part of this journey. It is what I am calling, “Page
Two”. I have waited a long time
for this. It has taken nearly all my
strength just to get to this point, and yet, I have one stop left to go. I will get there. I am coming to the mountain top, in the
lowest part of this country. Amazing how things turn out. Once the dust settles, I will be on my way.
Welcome to Helmund province,