Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tales from Afghanistan, Chapter 4: Nate tries to sew

Nate's blog: Oct 11

For those of you who don’t know, Marines are taught to sew in boot camp. It’s nothing to brag about and its not sexy AT ALL, but if we have a rip or tear and no place to go, we can do a quick fix. Well with all the wear and tear my uniform has gone through, I developed a hole where one of the buckles from my rifle strap kept rubbing. And I haven’t messed with anything related to sewing in years. Crap. Well a sewing kit is required deployment gear, and lucky for me, that wasn’t one of the things on the list that I ignored. So here I am an hour later, with bleeding fingers and a few choice words about the needle’s parents, done with my repair job. Not. Sexy. My repair job is a nice ugly ragged patch that I then sealed up with fabric glue. Fortunately I didn’t join the Marines to be a seamstress, and I hope to not deal with that again for a long time!

In other news, I went “outside the wire”, for the first time a few days ago. It was really interesting seeing the countryside around us. I’ve gone to Iraq many times, but this is the first Afghanistan vacation I’ve taken. While going through one of their towns, I noticed how different it was from the US, and even the towns in Iraq I had been to. During the Iraq invasion, as we were pushing up from Kuwait, I noticed a lot of the desert “towns” were buildings that looked like they were made of mud, but as we got towards Baghdad, the city; it was a lot more modern. I think I compared Baghdad to a crappy downtown Sacramento. Well here it is a weird mix of old and new. Cement structures mixed in with clay and mud, carts and vehicles sharing the road. If Baghdad is like Sacramento, this area would be a cross between Tijuana and Quincy. My cousin Adam will tell you that Quincy is a nice place. My cousin Adam is a liar. One thing that hasn’t changed is the kids. Just like in Iraq, kids on the street come out when we go through the area, hoping for candy or just looking at our weapons and gear.

While we’ve had some bad encounters, mine so far have been quiet. But you can see the tension on the Marines’ faces as we leave the safety of the FOB. Hands grip weapons tighter, eyes are darting around, alert and looking for any sign of danger. It reminded me of Iraq; of past battles, of how quickly things can change. In boot camp you are taught that in combat, you are in one of 2 conditions; extreme boredom or extreme chaos. And it’s true. In Iraq, everything would be quiet, even boring for such a long time, but then instantly the explosions shouts and gunshots shatter the silence, and in that fog of war there is only chaos. These things are on everyone’s mind as we move through the towns.

I found out one of my friends in the Navy is being transferred to Seattle today! For a Marine in Afghanistan, with his home station in 29 Palms, that sounds pretty appealing. But I’ve spent some time there in Seattle, and it’s not on my list of places to go anytime soon. Although I can’t wait for the chance to get out of the desert again! Travel is one of the things I love about the Marines. Every 2-4 years, moving somewhere new. Saija and I are really looking forward to our next move, and I’m curious about what will be available. Europe? Japan? Florida, New York, Colorado, New Orleans? Or maybe back to San Diego. Either way I can’t wait!

At least for the last couple of days, it hasn’t seemed THAT much like a desert. We’ve spent them enduring some thunderstorms and cold weather. Its no fun being wet, but the cool air is nice and the rain has kept this moon dust they call sand down. I love the rain. It takes me back to being a kid in Sacramento, where it rains a lot in the winter. Listening to the sound of the wind and rain, I forget for a while where I am, for those moments, the deployment is a little easier.

Lastly, the care packages have started coming through! I’ve been helping unload and sort the mail, and its CRAZY how much we’ve been getting. I set up a “morale” area, with space for books, food, and any essentials Marines might need, and it’s already looking good. I’m glad for the soap, shampoo, and baby wipes too, because some of our guys here stink!

Well that’s all for now, but I will update this in a week or so if I can!


  1. Of course you guys know, you're welcome to crash at our pad. In our house, there's always a spare room. It will be strange being out of the desert.

  2. I've heard a lot of comparisons of Iraq and cities here at home but it's a first hearing about Iraq and SacTown!

  3. I think I am going to send you some double sided fabric tape, that stuff is no joke and you won't have to beat up any needles for stabbing you. :)

    Where can I send a care package to?

  4. Sean: I think that would be really exciting! I do seem to remember by the space needle, there's some park, that has a sci-fi and music museum?

    Azn: Yeah it was pretty crazy seeing how similar it was. Of course I was also running on about 2 hours of sleep a day for a good month, so my mind was a little out of it too..

    Rach: Haha that would be great!