Notes from the front. Aug 2007.

Back in 2007 I was deployed to Karmah, Iraq as company 1stSgt to Kilo Co, 3Bn 3D Marines. Among the various reports and notifications we regularly submitted to higher was a summary of our exploits for the battalion’s web page. The idea was loved ones could keep up on what we were doing through regular web site updates. My company commander assigned me the task of writing these and at the time I was none too happy about it. I bitched I wasn’t much of a writer and wasn’t to jazzed about the prospect. Somehow I was to inform family members and friends what we were up to without letting on what we were up to.

For example, a short time after we arrived my company commander was on the sat-phone talking to his wife. She had just given birth to a baby boy before we left and was ecstatic the Marine Corps deployed her husband immediately following the birth. The Iraqi climate is fickle. As they were talking the weather suddenly changed and began to rain mortars on our OP. The first round impacted thunderously and Marines began to take cover. Calmly, the CO remarked to his wife: “Yeah honey, it looks like I have to go. Okay, goodbye.” Later he would wonder how in the world she didn’t hear the explosion over the phone.

I figured if I reported events like that every spouse on Marine Corps Base Hawaii would string me up as soon as I returned home. Finally, being obedient, I took a crack at it. Being a smart ass I’ve always thought if someone didn’t want me to do things my way they shouldn’t have put me in charge. What follows is my very first web page update for Kilo 3/3 in August of 2007. This is also quite possibly the beginning of my blogging career.

Friends and Family of Kilo Company, aloha and salaam!

After 24 hours of straight airplane food and sleeping in an upright position we finally made it to Kuwait to await our ride into Iraq. If anyone wants to know what the Kuwait weather is like turn your oven on high and stick your head in there for a while. At night you can bake cookies on the sidewalk. It was so intensely hot in the day that naturally we lost power to our hooches and spent the day melting like ice cream cones.

Then we got a lift to a fine place known as Al Taqaddum where we waited again for another ride to Fallujah. Waiting is fundamental to Marine Corps doctrine. Why you may ask? Because if we eliminated waiting from our planning and operations we would be back from our deployment already and that is just not acceptable.

Finally we were able to hitch a ride to Camp Fallujah and from there do our change over with our brethren from 2/7 and send them home for some well deserved leave. For the sake of expediency I am cutting out most of the bits about waiting.

We operate out of two forward operating bases (FOB) which look like the fortress right out of the Road Warrior. Fortunately we have better gear than football pads, cross bows and flame throwers. Well, a flame thrower would be nice to have. We actually live rather well considering it’s overwhelmingly HOT our here. We do have shower trailers and porta-johns. I have managed to get our boys internet access and a few phones to call home on. We also have a small gym to work out in. Not much but it’s something. Did I mention the heat? Oppressive.

Now before you write your husband or son chewing them out for not calling or e-mailing, keep in mind only one of our FOBs has internet and phones. The other FOB only has a can and some string and I hope to find another can to stick on my end so I can figure out what they are trying to say.

Mail has been coming in like manna from heaven. Your Marines at both FOBs are getting your packages and they are greatly appreciated. Some of our guys are getting pillows dowsed with perfume and that is great. They intend to send back their dirty t-shirts in plastic bags so you know what they smell like too.

For those of you who wish to support our little slice of the conflict I will have to say that boot socks and green t-shirts are in high demand as we ruin those things at a cyclic rate. Geedunk, pogey bait, candy, soda and what not are available back in the rear so that is not in high demand. Baked goods, however, have been known to incite knife fights amongst the Marines so I recommend you send lots and lots. We get plenty of bottled water but it usually tastes not unlike the swamp munge running outside our FOB. The little Crystal Light powder packets are an awesome way to flavor the water without a lot of sugar. I myself am partial to the Propel powder packets.

Reading material is also a much sought after item. Magazines, comics, and books about manly things are always in good order. However, Vogue, Cosmo, and Good Housekeeping will be used in ways best not described in mixed company.

I’ve been on a few patrols out here with the boys, although ‘steeple chase’ might be a more accurate description. We are out in the farmland so any given patrol offers a number of opportunities to leap over irrigation ditches, out run barking dogs, man-eating cows, and small armies of Iraqi children clamoring for chocolate. Imagine walking around in 120 degree heat. Now throw on 80lbs of equipment including a helmet and gloves leaving nothing but the lower half of your face exposed. This is called fun. Patrols usually culminate with awards for things like Most Spectacular Header, Most Falls Endured On Patrol, and Most Body Area Covered In Ditch Mud. I think I fell for at least 1200 meters on my first patrol. Don’t tell anybody.

Your Marines are all American fighting men of the highest caliber and it is my sincere pleasure to serve with them. I can assure you that the Marines of Company K, Third Battalion, Third Marines are conducting themselves professionally, with dignity, enthusiasm, esprit, and in the highest traditions of the world’s finest United States Marine Corps.

Pictures to follow after I edit them for content and decency.

Semper Fidelis,
1stSgt M. S. Burke

Kilo Co 1stSgt
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines

America’s Battalion

Upon reading this my CO questioned my integrity concerning my writing ability and accused me of holding out on him. It would turn out my updates would become some of the most popular reading by family members even if their Marine wasn’t in my company. 

Carry on!
America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


  1. Wow, Sgt Major!

    That’s a great update! And no wonder they proved so popular.

    It was descriptive, hilarious, and well-written!

    Thanks for sharing it. It brought back memories of what I loved in the Marine Corps, and, well, what I didn’t love so much. : )

    Semper Fidelis
    Stan R. Mitchell
    Sgt. A/1/8 95-99

  2. 1. Agree w/ Mr. Mitchell.
    2. Outstanding work.
    3. As a CO myself, wouldn’t have accused you of holding out.
    4. Expected noteworthy results from my 1st Sergeants and was rarely disappointed.
    5. Please post some more of those.
    V/R JWest

  3. From your world famous highly sought after S1 Chief who threw awards back into the faces of Lieutenants who had previously written op eds for the NY Times you sir definitely wrote better than all the 1stSgts in 3/3 and definitely better than Burt Lancaster aka Jim Lanham.

  4. Stan, we always seem to remember only the good stuff don’t we? Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s the time of our lives.

    JWest, there are a few more in the que, never fear.

    ASM, I think my all time best description of an Iraqi summer was to suggest people climb into an asbestos sleeping bag, ram a flame thrower into the opening and turn it on.

    Anonymous One, the “Rugged Tennessean” had other skills which more than made up for it.

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