Non-Deployment and College Majors


Apparently, I am a Brett Harrison look-alike.

I am not deploying to Afghanistan after all. Well, as far as I know. We even received an official letter backdated three weeks prior to the announcement of the cancellation from the battalion commander. He assured us that although we were not deploying with the other units, we still were, indeed, as the Sergeant Major said we were, a big jar of whoop-ass labeled “USE ONLY IN DIRE EMERGENCIES.” Apparently.

I have my doubts, of course, because in my experience with the Marine Corps, nothing is ever certain until it is over and done with and you are on your way back.

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48 Hours of Training

I have gone through half a large bag of sunflower seeds and I still have more than twenty hours left in this field operation. Handful after handfuls of sunflower seeds disappear into my mouth as I sit, bored, while manning the radio. The radio emitted short bursts of message traffic between the COC and the road guards, barely audible from the mechanical growl of the military trucks and the sound of fighter planes flying overhead.

All around me are sleeping marines, exhausted less from actual toil and more from the oppressive heat and, not the norm in this desert clime we grudgingly acclimated to, humidity. The weather has been comparatively gentle and training will be mercifully short. Only forty-eight hours stands between me and civilization, and I am already past its halfway mark. A hot shower and my soft pillow awaits me back in garrison.

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Philippines, a Narrative: More About Mama

Just a few minutes stroll through the city from the main entrance to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Area is Mama’s house. It is not really a house and it is not really hers; it is a tiny, yet comfortable, apartment and she rents it. But as long as I remembered, she had lived there. Daily, after each grueling Catholic instruction, I would drop in for my share of kisses and hugs from Mama.

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Philippines,a Narrative: Land in Sight

Land was in sight in our seventh day on board the USS Juneau. It was the Philippine archipelago and its storied shores. Balikatan would soon commence for us. Balikatan, from the Filipino word balikatan (cooperation), is an annual bilateral training evolution between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. For my unit, this consisted of American and Filipino marines working together as a tight-knit and integrated force. Moreover, we were to learn a thing or two from them and they from us. Ideally.

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Philippines, a Narrative: Ship Life Sucks

We have yet to leave port on the USS Juneau and already many of us are in a foul mood. Too long have we taken for granted the open sky and the wide expanse of the desert both in Iraq’s Al-Anbar and at home in the middle of the unforgiving Mojave. Space is a scarce luxury in a ship, especially one as small and old as the aging LPD, the USS Juneau. The accommodations are terrible and we are at the mercy of the hustle and bustle and its unceasing din that seems to always tramp through our berthing area unwelcome and unannounced. My squad considers itself lucky for the simple fact that we at least are not cooking in our sleep unlike the unlucky marines below deck.

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The White Fluffy Dog, Mortars, and Rain

Photography by Jayel Aheram.

Butts the Mangy Mutt was the unfortunate victim of a pack wild dogs that roam the open desert around this base. At night, I could hear them howl and bay at the moon and sometimes laugh and cackle like hyenas. And while I was on post during the night, I would see their silhouettes against the night as they slink in and out of the shadows. But I have never really seen what they looked like until today.

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Iraqi Soldier, Food, and Sunset

Photography by Jayel Aheram.

“Post 1” in this base is an access control point between the Iraqi Army compound and the rest of the American-military controlled compound. SOP (standard operating procedures) of this post is to make sure that no Iraqi Army personnel leaves their compound unless accompanied by an American military personnel. This, of course, excludes the IA officers who are authorized to come and go at whim without an American escort. Opposite of Post 1, about 50 feet away, is the Iraqi Army’s control point, which is manned by usually sleeping Iraqi soldiers (if manned at all). They probably realize the redundancy of their post and realize that Post 1 is the one that really matters.

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Greetings from Iraq

Photography by Jayel Aheram.

Greetings from the Cradle of Civilization!

At the moment, the place I will be in the next seven months does not even come close to the word “civilization.” More like “a-giant-ate-a-tent-factory-and-had-diarrhea-right-here.” Ooh! Ooh! There are some places in here where the “sand” is not even sand. It is just giant mounds of dust. You step into it and you sink and it goes POOF all over the place. Just DUST. It is crazy. It is just powder all over the place.

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I visited Fujiyama today. That is “Mount Fuji” for the Japanese-illiterate. He was looking snazzy and majestic as any proper mountain should, at least when he was not hiding behind the veil of cloud covers. With my cameraphone in my right hand and a bag of sour Starbursts in my left, I happily and excitedly boarded the vehicle that shall whisk me away to Mount Fuji and its snow-capped peaks. With an expectant smile, I pressed my face against the clear glass window of the vehicle and suddenly realized that it is far too early to be up. It was only 7:30 am! Who the fuck wakes up at that time? On a holiday! I closed my eyes and promptly went to sleep.

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