My husband is a Combat Recon Marine Corps Veteran. I'm incredibly proud of this man for his accomplishments while in the Marines and for his service to our country and I wanted to share some of that with the world. Of course, his experience isn't ALL physical (after all, this is a health and fitness blog), but it plays a huge role. This is part 2 of a 2 part series. You can read Part 1 here.
Why did you want to become a Reconnaissance Marine?
In my mind becoming a Recon Marine was the most prestigious and challenging accomplishment that I wanted to earn while serving in the Corps. I knew it would be difficult and I wanted to be a member of their elite force.
What was the most difficult physical obstacle you overcame while in the Marines?
Making it through Amphibious Reconnaissance School. That was even more challenging than going to war and being in combat. When I went to Recon school I had just turned 20. Because of my age and physical condition, it was really tough and I pushed by body further than I had ever been pushed before as far as sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion from running fast, swimming hard and carrying a heavy load (a person and a weapon). It was harder than I have ever been pushed before in my life. The awesome thing about passing this obstacle is that I gained an enormous amount of self confidence. I knew that if I was dedicated enough, I could do just about anything that I pursued.
Tell me about Iraq.
I went there a couple times. When we went for the initial invasion, the Iraqi people were really happy they were being liberated. People we cheering and we were being greeted in the streets, given bread, cigarettes and dates. They were shouting “Yes, Yes Bush, No Saddam!”.
Right before we went into Iraq for the initial invasion, General “Mad Dog” Mattis, came and talked to us at Camp Matilda. And he said something along the lines of, “When you get there, people will have different emotions, but the first thing they will see is your eyes, or maybe your Oaklies”. He said that we had an important role with the civilian population, and as Marines, we should be no better of a friend, no worse of an enemy. He also said that if we see people, they can tell by our faces that we're there to help them and liberate them from a ruthless dictator.
When we got there, I had a really good time. I was on a Recon team and I was an M240 Machine gunner. For me, it was kind of like a combination hunting/camping trip. But instead of hunting game, you were basically out there looking for the enemy. But you’re out there with your buddies and your guns and you’re sleeping on the ground and you get to enjoy and appreciate the simple things in life like fresh water and clean socks and a coffee in the morning. I saw a lot of shooting stars and tracers while I was out on fire watch. I get nostalgic, just thinking about the smell of CLP (gun cleaner) and gunpowder early in the morning.
One of my memorable moments was when we got into Baghdad just after it had fallen and we met one of the locals there. For about $50 we bought a freshly slaughtered lamb, some tomatoes, onions, spices and whisky. My platoon made a fire pit and had a combat cookout.
I left America on Valentine’s Day and came back sometime in mid-June. I got paid fire-danger pay, which was something like $250 per month for being shot at; receiving and returning fire. [Note that I think this is extremely low and was hoping he would say $250 per DAY]
When I got back I was really happy to see all my friends and family, but I was a little shocked about all the anti-war sentiment because I hadn’t seen any of that. We didn’t have internet, TV, radio or anything. We had no idea what was going on and we had very little information and communication besides letters from home. My personal experience during the initial invasion in Iraq was that the people of Iraq were extremely happy to have us there. They were giving us gifts and were so nice and welcoming. It was shocking to see that people back home didn’t want us there.
Once we got back, we “out-processed” and came into town. At the edge of town, our bus pulled over and some cops met us there and brought on a couple 30-packs of beer. Then they shut down the interstate and blocked all the on-ramps to welcome us home.
How do you think your mentality contributed to your success as a Marine?
I think being a successful Marine was about 70% mental. I think anyone can do just about anything they want if they have the determination to do it. That’s why Marines have a legacy to accomplish just about everything they set out to do; because they are so passionate and driven towards mission accomplishment.
In what ways did your physical training prepare you for combat?
I had gone a week without food in my training. After we went into Iraq and our resupply lines got compromised by the enemy, we were rationed to one meal per day and since I had previously gone a week without food, it wasn’t too big a deal for me. Also since I had been 4 days without sleep before, after I got into Combat, I went a couple days with very little sleep and was able to really focus while I was getting shot at. One other thing is that I went on one Recon mission on foot at night where I carried an M240 Machine gun, extra amo, grenades and a couple radios with batteries, which is a lot of weight. I was able to do that because of the physical condition I was in. I was going out behind enemy lines and I was able to take extra communication and fire power with me, and it was not a burden.
What was your greatest overall challenge and how did you overcome?
Preparing and making it through Amphibious Reconnaissance school. I got through it by being dedicated in my workout routines. I’d get up every morning at 6am and run 6-7 miles, even if it was freezing. I lifted weights every day. I went to the pool to swim almost every day also.
As a Marine Corps Veteran, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of serving my country and being willing to give my life for a country that I stand for and believe in.
How do you view fitness after being in the Marines?
Something that is absolutely necessary and integral as part of lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle choice that helped changed my life. Being really physically fit can help you to be a happy, healthy person and it’s a good escape from life’s problems at least for a little while.