***Just received this tremendous dispatch from the hard frontier. It is reprinted with permission from the author, a warfighter who must remain anonymous for OpSec, as must the precise location. Enjoy, it isn’t often we get real time information from the world’s nasty places. This post includes a video of the sinking of the USS Ogden, LPD 5, which is mentioned in the post, and which the author and I once lived on. Strange to see her go down to Davey Jones.
Czar Rullmanov, keeper of the flame, defender of the faithfull, king of the Willamette and the Deschutes, Earl of the Three Sisters, defender of Lane and true heir of the Cascade Range,
Glad to see you made it back from the border and were not kidnapped or sacrificed to the Cartel Jesus. Of course I’ve had some adventures of my own.
The team is here, on deck at our final location which will remain annonymous. We arrived at the local international airport with all our Marines, Sailors and our stuff… giant pelican cases, double-padlocked shut and containing “things,” enormous backpacks in shades of olive green and coyote brown, each one stuffed to bursting with all the things Marines take overseas; camp stoves and camoflage parkas, windproof lighters and lengths of parachute cord, coffee, gallon tubs of protein powder for building muscle mass, books and playing cards and compassess, compact flashlights made of aircraft grade aluminum, and “bowie knives the size of claymores.”
The Marines are a young organization of course, so even with all the business we’ve gotten lately half the unit had never deployed before; as it was then, so it is now. The new guys felt the usual mix of emotions as they arrived at their first foreign post: apprehension and awe, enthusiasm and fear, a desire to do well and the early stage of culture shock. The veterans moved with the muted and easy swagger that comes from experience, like Glanton’s freebooters riding through old Chihuahua.
Outside the airport our people were loaded into buses and our things were loaded into trucks. A mustachioed Gunnery Sergeant, not the least bit subdued because he was in civilian clothes, yelled semi-intelligible curses and the Marines jumped into their work, they way they always done it because that is the only way it can be. The locals eyed him as if he were crazy, which he is.
Next was a drive through the capital. On the way, the local radio station played a set that started with 90’s Ganster Rap (Snoop and Dr. Dre), followed by a Tracy Chapman song performed in Khartuli, followed by 1980’s Pet Shop boys, then Scandanvian techno, then contemporary hip hop. The rest of the city is just as eclectic. An architecture 101 class can be taught here in the span of a few blocks. On one corner is a building of sqaure cut stone with Roman arches. Its annexes are built of brick, sporting Gothic arches, then basket arches, then half arches. Across the street, cranes labor to build a 40 foot skyscraper of steel and glass. We pass a long building with French inspired iron work, then a restraunt that was once some type of fort, the ground floor arrow slits filled in with poured concrete. On the skyline, Soviet era slab concrete apartment buildings stand hauntingly.
Out on the street you can hear the variety of languages one would expect in this crossroads of empires. Each sign is in English, with the message repeated again in Russian and Khartuli, and sometimes Arabic, Turkish and Farsi. Across the city, businesses advertise Tehran “this” and Tehran “that.” On one corner I spied a pair of Mandarin business men in blue suits (No doubt taking a break from reestablishing the Silk-Road). On another corner sat a bearded man with a child on his lap and both palms out. Based on my gut and his features, my guess is he and his daughter came from Syria not too long ago. Outside each bar and restraunt, young girls shout like carnival barkers, trying to draw in patrons. A blonde girl who looked to be 15 called out in Russian. She caught us out of the corner of her eye and seamlessly switched to English in the middle of her pitch. The girl has “feel.”
Outside the city is our camp and the foreign forces we will be training for their own deployment to a place far worse than where we are now. They are good, better than any others I have worked with, and motivated. (Not the collection of farmers and gymnasts we worked with so long ago after debarking from the U.S.S. Ogden.)
None of these people had to witness their buildings collapse on September 11th, but their contributions to a war that was never even remotely their own cannot be overstated. Other countries come to the coalition with a host of caveats. These guys come to fight, and when they get into the theater, they do.
Of course they have their own reasons. Not too long ago this land was under the thumb of the Kremlin. Nobody here has forgotten that. Outside the capital, past the abandoned collective farms (now crumbling concrete buildings and rusting machinery) and the windswept mountains sits the Russian border and the Russian army. The hope here is that if the bear ever comes back over the mountain, we, the west, won’t forget our good partner through Iraq and Afghanistan. Will things play out that way? I can’t say. We have not always had a good track record when it comes to standing by our allies, and the Western World’s appetite for confrontation right now seems slight. Meanwhile the pressures on the world (economic, ethnic, racial, scocial, nationalistic) seem to grow everytime one turns on the news. For a young Marine, this is a good place to be, just like China duty back in the day. But, just like China duty back in the day, the locals have some very real worries they need to worry about. What is that saying about interesting times and all that?
Well, off to hit the local scene. According to Winston Churchill the best brandy came from Armenia. Time to see if the old bulldog was right.