Joining me on this episode is an old platoon mate of mine from the Marines, William Fabrocini. If we seem too chummy on the episode, that's why. He deployed to the same town, Marjah, on back to back deployments, and got to see how the town changed over time.
The organization he wants to promote for this episode is Veterans Expeditions. They are a veteran led 501c3, that helps helps deal with separation issues and trauma through outdoor adventures and leadership training. If you want to hike a 14er, go mountain biking, or rock climbing, these are the guys to call. Check them out, they're having fun all over the country.
LWI Interview with William Fabrocini
Chris: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Chris here for your Friday episode of the long war interviews, today's guest is a friend of mine from the Marines, William . He and I both served in two nine or more specifically. Second battalion ninth Marine regiment weapons company in the 81 millimeter mortar platoon. We didn't work together while we were both there, but we didn't know each other.
So if this episode seems a little overly friendly, that's why now he had the interesting experience of being deployed to the same town on back-to-back deployments. It's a small town center of the Helmand province of Afghanistan town called Marsha. I imagine there'll be a few episodes of this show about Marsha.
It was the centerpiece, the troop surgeon, Afghanistan circa 2010. Anyway, I'll let Fabricio tell you more about it. In the meantime, I want to talk about veterans expeditions. They're a veteran led five Oh one C3 charity that helps bets overcome trauma and difficulty through outdoor training and leadership activities.
If you're interested in rock climbing, I came fourteeners snowshoeing, mountain biking, really any adventurous outdoor activity. Look them up. As always, I have a link to their website in the show notes. Now let's start the show.
William: [00:01:29] So my name's William Fabrocinia I'm from Los Angeles, California originally, and I served nine years and one month in the Marine Corps and finished up my time as a Sergeant.
Chris: [00:01:41] When did you first enlist? What year did you join?
William: [00:01:45] I remember, I remember going to MEPs at like 17 years old in my junior year of high school. And that would have been 2008. And I was able to sign with my mom's permission. And I was in boot camp that summer, which would've been 2009, early 2009.
Chris: [00:02:10] So at that point, it's, you know, the war in Iraq is winding down. It's pretty much over. War in Afghanistan's starting to pop off. What, what did you think about the wars? Did you want to go and fight? Was it just a way to get out, you know, from home? Why did you enlist?
William: [00:02:27] Yeah, this is a funny one. My dad, my dad was a a ejection, seat mechanic from 69 to 73 out of Beaufort, South Carolina, with the MFA 251 when, and he's the same story, 17 years old convinced his mom to sign so he could go to boot camp immediately following high school. And so I grew up in a household of, you know, every single day of more or less was the two greatest accomplishments are, you know, being a father slash husband and being a United States Marine.
And so I always thought, well, I'm definitely not getting into any university anytime soon with the grades I was bringing in. So I, I, you know, I always had that back of my mind, like, Well, my dad was in the Marines. I could go do that. And I always thought it would be like a four year thing too. And my dad and my mom are both from my mom's from Brooklyn, New York, and my dad's from Hoboken, New Jersey.
So. Come September 11th, I'm waking up getting ready to go to school and both of my parents were just glued to the TV. And they're just on the phone frantically trying to get ahold of all of their family members back East to see if anyone was hurt or very everyone knew what was going on or if everyone was okay.
And so that was it. I was just like, yeah, I remember thinking like, this is the. The defining moment of my generation. Like we're, we're all gonna, we're all going to remember this moment and that's how I'm going to be defined as like, I was a part of the generation that woke up in the morning and watched this on the news.
And then as I got older and my interests started to change. I was playing drums and punk bands all throughout Hollywood. And I was, and I was playing in like, you know, I was, I was planning on being like a pro skater. Like I thought I was going to be like really good, cause like I kick flip and and a recruiter came to one of my high school football games.
And said what's up. And I was like, Oh, I know that uniform, my dad was in the Marine Corps, like, Hey, what's going on? And I gave him my phone number. And so like at a young age it was there and then come high school. It was like, no, I'm gonna, I'm going to load up my drum set into a 12 passenger van and I'm just going to go on tour and play punk music and skateboard skate parks all over the country.
And then. I remember getting that phone call. I was cleaning out my bedroom because it was, you know, for whatever reason, it was like a really gross muggy summer. Like this would have been like coming up on the 2000. 2008 summer. It was really just gross in LA. And I just remember pulling my bed out of my room and like vacuuming behind it and I'm sweating and I get this phone call and I was like, Hey, what's up, man?
This is Sergeant Martinez with United States Marine Corps. Like, do you have a minute to talk? And I looked down at like the mess that I still had to clean and not pouring sweat in my apartment didn't even have air conditioning. It's just the ghetto of LA. And I was like, do I go tomorrow? Like what it, like, whatever it takes to get me out of here, like, I'll go tomorrow.
Yeah, and, and, and it was more or less this childhood dream that got like shelved and then reactivated in like an instant. And I had zero thought about what Iraq was like, I didn't even know Afghanistan was a place I could end up going, you know, and that's, and that's kind of, it's even embarrassing slash funny to think about now.
But I remember just thinking like, my dad was an ejection seat mechanic, although the airway, you know I get to MEPS and I failed the color vision test and not even knowing I was color blind. So the guy's like, yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna be straight up. Like, you're not, you're not gonna get any engineering, any mechanical, you know?
And so I was like, what's the short list of jobs I can do. My recruiter, Sergeant Martinez was a rifle man. And the guy who sat next to him was a machine gunner. A machine gunner who had a purple heart from Fallujah, nonetheless. So I remember thinking, well, that's gotta be the coolest thing I've ever heard in my 17 years of living.
I want to do that and I want to, I want to be a machine gunner in Fallujah and get a purple heart. Like not even knowing, you know, you're just like, that sounds like some crazy shit. And that's kind of what I want to do. And so I did a classic, like, okay. Yeah. Infantry jobs are, are hard to come by. They go too fast, but I'll let you know, as soon as what comes available the next day, Hey, I got a five-year infantry contract and I was like, yeah, you know, whatever, five years, six years, eight years, 30 years.
How long can I do it for? And yeah, I signed a signed at five years as a 03XX infantry with the intentions of being a machine gunner.
Chris: [00:07:32] Yeah, so I, I certainly remember Both my recruiters. One was an MP and one was a radio operator. So my experience was so different. I was like, yeah, you know, I really want to be a grunt. And they were both just like, nah, man, you don't want to do that. Which, you know, as, as you know, 18, 19 year old, you're just like, you know, fuck you.
That is what I want to do. Yeah. Don't don't tell me what I can or can't do. So maybe that's, I don't know. Maybe that's a little reverse psychology on their part who knows?
William: [00:08:03] Yeah, these guys were pumped. My mom, not so much. My mom, you know, cause she, she said yes to an air wing job, like, you know, like my dad and I came back and I was like, yeah. So this happened. And so I'm going to go with this instead. And I could see my dad in the background, like yes, yes. And my mom freaked out and ended up being okay.
I think out of any member of my family, she's probably the most, you know, Moto about, about my Marine Corps experience than anyone now. But at the beginning was not it was not easy for her to swallow.
Chris: [00:08:46] Yeah. And I get that. You go off, go off to bootcamp, go to the school of infantry.
William: [00:08:53] Yeah. So 2000, October of 2009 is when I got to Pick my MOS that I was, I was at camp Pendleton doing the basic infantry infantry training battalion package. And that you're, this, this thing's looming, or they're just like, Hey, come this day, you're going to have an opportunity to go stand in line for these different jobs that you, that you're interested in and leading up to that each instructor that teaches that MOS.
Gives a spiel. And so I'm sitting down and I'm, I'm like, whatever assaultman. I don't even know cool name, but like I'm not the guy's already lost me. Because I, like I said, I wish I showed up and I was like, I'm here for machine guns. And I only perked up when the machine gun guy came up and I was pumped.
And then the last guy to speak my class didn't teach a TOW. I didn't even know that was the thing it's like got to two nine, but When the mortar instructor, came up. I remember he had one hand in his pocket and in his hat, like slightly up. And I remember him say like, all you're going to do is go to go to Iraq and shoot machine guns.
That's what I did. And and that was the mortar gun guy. So I was like, whatever. That's cool. And so I went to the machine gun line and then everybody who was above six, four and 230 pounds and came from a mountain town, basically got it. And they fill it up like every slot and my hundred and 40 pounds city kid.
That probably weighed less than a Mark 19 at a time was told to pound sand. And so I just remember that Sergeant camera crew guy was like, all you're going to do is go to Iraq and shoot machine done. So I thought backdoor machine gun, and I'm going to go do mortars. And it wasn't until I think I got on the 81 and we did our like 20 K hike or whatever that I thought like, this is actually okay.
This is actually pretty cool. And then that's when like the actual interest developed. But shortly after when I got my orders to second battalion, ninth Marines, as you probably remember, I was the only one I showed up all alone and which is very not normal. And every, every single person I graduated infantry training battalion with went to Hawaii and me and maybe 10 assault men who ended up going to the various line companies, unless you remember maybe the two that went to weapons company.
But yeah, I showed up all alone. And I'm greeted by the scout sniper, platoon Sergeant, I think Gunny Foster. And he was wondering where like where everybody else was. And I had to tell him like, this private is literally here all alone. I don't know. And I guess the company had been promised this large group of, of new joins.
And so I definitely remember that whole like, man, whatever they told these guys they're upset because I'm the only one here and they don't let you have your.
Chris: [00:11:52] it's so it's not a great first impression of a new unit, especially when you're PFC. Yeah. When you were in SOI and early days of being in the fleet, you know, what did you, what did you think kind of the mission was, are you going to Afghanistan?
Like, what did you think was going to happen?
William: [00:12:12] Yeah. When we, when I, so when I checked into two nine, that's the first time it dawned on me, I'm not going to go to Iraq. And, and from the sounds of it, I was never going to go to Iraq. And that's when I, I took that mental focus and, and tried to zero in on Afghanistan, A) sort to learn where it was on a map and B) to, to know what the conflicts have been like leading up to what we were going to experience.
And I remember, or being that really awkward point at which I show up after a series of new joins and no new joins are really coming in after me and the deployments coming up so soon that I had no real knowledge of what, what to expect. You know, I had a couple of stories from Ramadi, but no one bar maybe. No one, I don't know. I've maybe, maybe Vince had been to Afghanistan. I don't know, but no one had talked about it. And so I was basically prepared for asphalt streets and freeway overhangs and, and Humvees. Cause that's just how. I feel like you guys ha that's the experience you guys had. So that's really all you guys had to give me.
And, and so that's what I expected. And then when I got to Afghanistan, I say probably where we got to Kyrgzstan is when I realized this is not going to be this way I'm experienced. I'm expecting to be digging holes by Monday kind of thing.
Chris: [00:13:52] I get that. It's so interesting when you talk about that too, because it really is a bunch of teenagers and guys in their early twenties, just like passing on word of mouth knowledge about everything. Like, like yeah. You know, you drive around Humvees on paved streets in Iraq. Like you're like go, I, I didn't know that, you know, the pre and this is especially like, you know, the early days of Facebook and YouTube and like Google has been around for awhile, but like there's no Google street view.
You know, in most of the world, so it really was you're right. It was like, maybe you read some stories in the Marine Corps times, or you just happened to talk to people who had been there and be like, what what's this place like? And it was hard to get information otherwise.
William: [00:14:35] Yeah. I mean for sixth Marine Regiment, it was hard because we were. On par with maybe two, six, we were the last ones to go three, six, and one six were already there. So we had no one to ask. And, and, you know, I didn't have a car, like let alone. The knowledge of where r8th Marine egiment was even located, even just knock on the door and ask them, Hey, like you guys just got back.
Well, and so I just did the whole, this is, this is one of those things you're just going to have to figure out and you're just going to have to take it. You know, I doubt the people who fought in the Island hopping campaigns had like an in-depth knowledge of the infrastructure of the Island of Okinawa before they reached it, you know?
So, yeah, I got there and, and I remember thinking, wow, what a mistake decision I have made. And, and it was mostly because it was just so hot and arid and you know, like everything was so sparse and far away. And when we got to Dwyer, it was. Basically a no man's land. There was some tents to sleep in. If it was like 29 palms all over.
And then that's when I got the notification from our old platoon commander, captain Quinn, that I was, I was, in fact, I spent this entire workup with 81s platoon and I was in fact, not actually going to do anything with you guys. Actually you might've been in the same. The same boat now that I think about it.
Chris: [00:16:15] tasked out to
William: [00:16:16] yeah. And, and when I that's right. And I had gotten tasked out to Fox company and I took it personally because I was like freshly 19 year old, 18 year old kid. And I thought that it was, you know, at the time I took it, like it was being fired from my job. And it wasn't until I got to Fox company and I met Sergeant Kelly and I met I think Dolph was there and it wasn't until I got there that I realized like we are here because we're actually going to do mortars.
Those guys, aren't going to do mortars. And so it was more of a did captain Quinn know your name? Well enough for my gunline and FDC experience. And so that's when it became more of a. All right. Don't be so childish about everything. Like if I don't know the backstory, like just take it like a man.
Well, you know, this is, this is war don't get, don't get so emotionally upset at like the little things and just, and just to grow, you know, go day by day. And being a part of Fox company ended up being like one of the, you know, one of the most maturing and like growing experiences for me, you know, being in a line company really was a world of a difference from what I was used to.
And being in weapons company. And so, yeah, you know, I got to, I got to experience an entire different side of the Marine Corps and tire different side of the infantry, as well as meet and work with some of like the. The coolest guys since. And so it really ended up shaping me to be able to come back to 80 ones later on and, and have that line can be like, yo, this is, this is where, this is what I learned over the past eight months.
And, and being, being able to utilize that actually meant the world to me after the fact.
Chris: [00:18:01] Yeah. So, so talk a little bit about like, what was, you know, what'd you guys do? What was daily life like? Yeah.
William: [00:18:10] So cop cop Cotu was the bigger Fox company encampment. We had second Fox, second platoon there myself and enough mortar men to run two 81 millimeter mortar tubes. As well as the FDC. And it was from what I remember, it used to be a member, the Taliban who was a lot higher up, it was like his mansion.
So to speak, it was, it was honestly, it was very large compared to all the other houses up. And so for starters, this isn't Marjah proper. This is just North of Marjah in an area known as KES . And KES stands for something long and in a different language. So I would put her, and if I tried we always just called it.
KES. It's Northern Marjah. This is also what we refer to as the green zone of Marjah. So we were just at the precipice of desert. And beginning, like wet green, six foot tall plants and humidity. But we're at that precipice. So it's still mud brick buildings. And it used to be this Taliban drug, either drug dealer, or like IED parts maker.
Like this dude was making a lot of money and. It was just repossessed. I w I think three, six rolled up and was just like, this is ours now. And he just fled. And so I showed up and it was basically a mansion in a third world country. A huge lamp part of land. Like we had enough places for the line company guys.
The second platoon guys actually got to sleep in tents, and I thought that was so cool myself in the morning, man. We slept in. Holes in the ground five foot deep sandbag holes in the ground that were fortified at the roof in case of counter battery. And they opened up. To our guns and it was the most textbook.
And I've said it before, I'll say it again, like every Oh three 41 combat instructor in history would look at this in placement and be like, yes, like what we need this ring created at every SOI. So students learn like this is like it's dug into the ground. It has connecting sight line trenches and, you know ammo in the ground that our tents were in the ground.
And so you would literally open this makeshift wooden door and there would be dirt steps cut in and then boom, you're in your actual textbook size mortar bit. You have your ammo, you have the gun, you have your candy netting, and it was legitimate. And it was surrounded with sea wire and it was inside the front of you.
As soon as you come through the, the vehicle. Slash entry control point where like the serpentine is, you know, that's it, there's a guard post tower of dirt berm and then mortars. And then we were basically the guardians of the cop. As soon as you got past us, those were all the riflemen. And then that's where first Sergeant Fox, the Fox company first Sergeant was located.
Captain . If I remember correctly, he was our company commander and we had captain P tad, who was a he was a pilot doing a ground tour and we also had the artillery FO's from ANGLICO. So yeah, we had, you know, we had trucks, we had Mark nineteens, we had 50 cows. We had posts with two forties. And we had the 81 millimeter mortars.
Like if, if there was a a hard position for Fox company, like we were, it definitely, it was, it was, you know, you get the give and take, we had some of the luxury of protection. But we also have first Sergeant there.
Chris: [00:21:54] That's pros and cons of living at a nicer, larger outpost. Yeah. Yeah. Having someone breathing down your neck about shaving every day, isn't the, isn't the best part of the deployment.
William: [00:22:06] And, and yeah, the knowledge was just unbelievable. And if you remember, Fox company had a real hard go. Of Marjah on my first deployment Fox company received the highest casualty re casualty amount, as well as I think even we had the highest amount of deaths of the battalion of all companies, combined Fox company had a real hard go of Marjah.
And I think first starting Fox understood that and understood what it was like to be in that situation. And so, yeah, he definitely increased the quality of life about as far as the first Sergeant could without still having to do his job. But yeah, it could've, it could've been worse. Absolutely.
Could have been worse.
Chris: [00:22:52] So your day to day, mostly. Just firing 80 ones. I know, I know you guys are getting in the shit all the time. You guys just launched an HGA rounds out all day. Was that the primary mission?
William: [00:23:04] Yeah. It was always weird to do Allume missions. Like if we were doing a new missions, that meant something worse, you know, like we, we were shooting HD so much that when I first showed up. And we got our very first mission. Three, six was still there and they were over it. They're like, no, man, that's yours.
Like, we're not, we don't even care anymore. At the aspect of like mending the guns, because to me, I'm like, this is it. I'm a mortar man. This is combat. And I'm about to drop a mortar, you know? And so I thought that's pink, that's it. I've made it. And it's funny thinking like those three, six guys were so over, it that's, that was like a sign of how much I was about to be doing this for the next seven months.
And my, my gun squad leader, corporal Odom was like, yeah, right. Give me that round. And I remember thinking like, this is, hold on dog, I'm the air gunner. I dropped rounds. And I was willing to fight this corporal over this. And then it's, which is also funny to think, because. Truly by the end of that deployment, we were all burnt out.
Like you could just grab the rounds, just do it, whatever. Hey, Hey, Lieutenant from, you know, first of all, too. And do you want to come try dock? You know, like, do you want to come drop these rounds? Yeah, so yeah. I just remember thinking, wow, how crazy? And by the end of the deployment, yeah, we were pretty burnt out on HEB because the more we shot the mint, the more had to come in and unpacking, unpacking mortar ammunition is.
It's not fun. You know, it's hard labor, but shooting a loom rounds were the worst. It meant it meant something happened to the point where whoever was on patrol needed to see. And the only times that happened was the death of Sergeant Meisner. That happened in the middle of the night. They woke us up and we had to shoot a loom after a loom after loom, because they were searching for body parts.
And, and that, I remember thinking like, these are, these are gun missions for a brother. You know what I mean? Like this is, this is heavy. And it's crazy to think that that's heavy. Whereas I had just spent, you know, 300 to 400 rounds over a period of months potentially taking lives. And here I am feeling like my heart sink shooting.
Allume browse harmless routes. Because the, the potential worst. Yeah. Yeah. I remember thinking the missions any, any day of the week and I dreaded getting a little missions.
Chris: [00:25:44] Yeah. How's it. Badger when Sergeant Meisner died. And we picked up shooting the loom after you guys between the two of us, I think it was like around two hours of continuous Allume and then dark star heirloom.
William: [00:25:57] Oh yeah. That's the first time I ever shot Darkseid. I remember thinking. Man, what? This is going to be a terrible memory. Like next next four years I have in the record, my view of five-year contracts. So I'm only at year one of my next four years. I I've got. Every field off, I shoot a dark star.
Allume like all of my junior Marines are going to think it's the coolest thing. And now here it is like my first time shooting it and, and I'm picturing, and I I'm sure you remember Phil. He was a mortar man from secretary ninth, Marines in 81 Splatoon. Landscape will fill up. And I remember I Phil's out there.
A friend of mine, like someone, I, I spent months with training fills out there and I just picture it being filled with my MVGs down. Thinking like we've shot so much. Allume there's none left and now we have to look through, Oh man. Yeah, that's still, that's still pretty heavy.
Chris: [00:26:51] Yeah, it is. So that's, that was your first real through Marsha, come back to fleet, you know, back to the June, you're a little older, a little wiser. Well, how did, how did having that deployment under your belt changed the way you prepared for your next appointment?
William: [00:27:11] Well, one thing. So right before we, you know, we got back, there was one day our my first deployment to Marsha. There was one day where every, every base in Marsha or Afghanistan, maybe as a whole was all attacked, it was like a coordinated effort. Everyone was attacked on the same day. And Copco too had gotten it so bad.
We actually fired an FPF mission with our, with our 80 ones guns. And if you shouldn't FPF as a mortar, man, that might as well be. Like the last thing on a bucket list besides like sinking a Japanese cruiser with a 60 handheld off, you know, off the coast of Ujima, like legitimately firing an FPF is one of those things where later on as a Sergeant and I went to third battalion, fifth Marines, and I was, you know, someone, one of the corporals actually was a two, nine junior of mine.
Who had made it over to three, five and had told them this story and it, and it ended up being like I could walk around of the Italian office, people being like that guy, that guy did this kind of thing.
Yeah. So an FPF stands for final protective fires. This is the last line of defense that our patrol base has before an official overrun of the, of the patrol base. So we had basically set the tubes to. Near perfect vertical. And I remember being super uncomfortable with the fact they were so vertical that I was like, yeah, right.
Like the FTC has gotta be wrong. Like I can put a level on this thing right now, you know? I know what the minimum danger rating is like the minimum safety rating and I'm like pretty sure we've, we've sliced that way. 30 meters. And so Y yeah, we, we have the spinal particular fire, which is the ability to drop a curtain of mortars.
As close to an enemy position as physically possible before it becomes no longer safe for that from the position. And it's reserved for when all other means of, of defense have been breached once as well as, as, as far as I'm concerned, once the enemy makes it past that, that curtain fall of mortars, you're basically fixing bad that, you know you're, you're doing like.
I'm glad it worked. Yeah. I'm glad it worked.
So I'm coming back to camp was June a 19 year old, maybe early 20 year old. And I have already. Peaked the like the grunt, you know, whatever, like you're, you're infantry, dude.
You, you were a part of, and back then Marsha was, was we didn't even, we got told the name. We're like, cool. That means nothing. It wasn't until we got back that we were like, Oh, apparently you were a part of something. Big HBO made a documentary and now it's, you know, It's like, it was on the news. You know, I found out my mom was like tracking Marja as we were there.
We went there and it wasn't, it hadn't been a thing to that extent yet. So here I am, I get back and I, and I took it as any 21, 20 year old male would and it went straight to my head. It was, that was it. And I was, there's nothing you can teach me. I've done it. I've seen it like move on, you know? Don't try to correct me.
I thought I was too cool. And later I got, I got a really. To this day, what might be, what really set my career trajectory the right way. I remember Glenn cocaine and Tyler Stokes gave me the, your note. You're really nobody, dude. You know, like you need to stop pretending you're this hot shit. And that was like, Yeah, that was the time I was like, okay.
And it was unfortunately kind of late. We were basically getting back in the saddle to go back to Afghanistan. You know, we were right at 29 palms getting ready to go back. And so I spent the better part of having my first set of junior Marines being back from my first deployment, being a shitbag low reg haircut after one deployment, like no staff Sergeant was going to tell me anything.
Yeah. And, and it's, it's embarrassing and honestly, I'm not really proud of it, but it's true. And you see it so much, you know, that's the textbook combat Lance corporal veteran, you know, and that was me. Yeah, that was absolutely me. And it wasn't until cocaine Stokes really were, were like, you know, like you need to, you need to bring it down.
Chris: [00:32:04] Okay. So getting ready to head back to Afghanistan for your second deployment. How, you know, where'd, you end up for this one and, you know, kind of compare and contrast it with your first tour through Marsha
William: [00:32:15] Yeah. This is the rarest opportunity from all of I've ever. I need grant I've ever talked to. I did a back-to-back tour of the exact same part of margin. So this time, fortunately for me, I got just enough difference in that I was not with box company who did actually go back to Copco to exact same tents, exact same base.
You know, they knew it comfortably, but I was back in 80 ones, platoon. I had graduated infantry, mortar leaders. Course. I was given a position. Of of authority, you know, I was the senior land score role and we. What, what 80 ones platoon had manned the Marsh deployment before those bases had been given up the entire peninsula of Sistani, which is more or less a suburb of the city of Marsha had been deemed clear.
It can go back to the Ana Marina's dumping of demand. And so all of those Sistani bases were not man. So what we did was we took over a ninth, a one nine. Base called Reddit camp Reddit or copywriting or PB rating. We just call it a reading. I'm not sure exactly. It's it's once again, the last compound
West of the pork chop that is Marsha, the actual Marsha proper straight to the West before you hit the vast. Desert openness that gap's Sistani from Marsha. That's where we were at with the AAO responsibility of Sistani. So we're given trucks, we're given 50 caliber machine guns. It's surely 80 ones Marines with a couple of Oh three 11 that had been given to the platoon in preparation for us to not be mortar men.
We were given a role of patrolling on foot. Just like we, if we were riflemen, we were to operate a mounted convoys. And we didn't have a mortar insight. So it was for me, a completely different experience. I had done foot patrols as an FFO on my first deployment. From time to time, we'd all rotate out. You know, each squad would take somebody a different time as a board move.
We would take turns going out, but this was different. I wasn't going to sit on a gun. I was going to be on foot. And utilizing what I have a lot less experience doing on a day-to-day basis. But like I said, it came with the benefit of having being gifted, like how we had been gifted to the line companies the year before the line companies had gifted riflemen to us.
And so, yeah, it was nice. I saw familiar faces, fellow Fox guys were there with us. They would be in my squad. And. It was more or less seven months of driving across this little desert, this little desert gap, getting to Sistani and then launching foot patrols. In Sistani in, in hopes of finding any last bit of Taliban and it was slow.
You know, we, I guess we had done a really good job the year, the year before maybe two eight, second battalion eighth Marines that came in after us. Maybe they had done a really good job. And I remember when we showed up the first two months, a star shot was fired and it gets to that point where you're like, that's a success because last year, every day a shot was fired.
Then you also start getting those junior Marines who you, you probably taught a little harder than you should have. If you know what I'm trying to, you know what I mean? Now they're looking at you like, this is, this is Marsha. This is, this is what you talked about. And I'm over here trying to explain, like, I actually know this isn't how it was.
But of course, the way it just had to be when the contact did begin, it, it fell on weapons companies, lap, you know, I think weapons company totaled all of the firefights that year. For whatever reason, Sistani ended up being where all of the Taliban had gone, they had, which is funny because eighth Marines or whoever, you know, I'm sure it wasn't their decision, whoever discipline, they decided we're not going to man Sanya anymore.
It's good to go. That was basically. Cleared hot. Let's all move up and take up real estate in Sistani. So when here we are walking there, like, you know, being told it's chill and yeah, it was in fact not chill. It was, we were under the impression it would be so chill that we have first Sergeant Scott, the weapons company, first Sergeant on patrol with us.
He was on foot. He was a member of our, of our rifles when they opened up on us with, with RPGs and machine guns. And I remember I was the second person. So I wasn't exactly point, but I was doing nav and we had just crossed the canal and it was 800 meters of open farmland before the houses. And I looked to my right and our saga, or just got peppered up with the first RPG and then the machine gun verse rip.
And I remember thinking Man, what a terrible time to have a first Sergeant on a book with you? Yeah, my buddy basting. He was one of my junior Marines. He was the songs that are perfectly fine. I was scratch missed, but when you're in the fluidity, you look over and you see the dust cloud, your immediate reaction is, you know, saws gone.
Now someone's got to go to, you know, pick that, pick that up and, and assume that responsibility. But once I rushed over to him and I saw it was fine. You know, tell him, tell him a distance, the direction there's little labors. But then from that day forward, we knew foreign society. We're going to go, we're going to go to society heavy.
And we did, and it got to the point where everybody at the time was hearing about how this 81 millimeter mortar platoon, which is usually not the go-to contact platoon. Here we were, we were getting enough for the whole battalion.
We had a very ambitious captain and I say ambitious because. The guy's, reputation's rather horrible. And I did, I know, how am I trying to, like, you know, I don't know I was, I'm not a captain. I I've never led a company in combat once, let alone twice.
But I've heard enough about him to know that We weren't going to, you know, we, weren't going to like a lot of the things that were going to come from this. And it came at the expense of weapons company being the most combat active company and the battalion for that, that, that deployment which ultimately, you know, their society was the area they wanted to give us, you know, we were going to patrol it, contact, not But once he found out that it was, it was active, it was his call to reopen a previously closed patrol base in Sistani called judge, which is legitimately the coolest name.
You could give a, a patrol base. So yeah, we were given that we were tasked with opening up PB judge, which was all about big enough for. 12 Americans and maybe 12 Ana Afghan national army soldiers. And we, it would be, it was so primitive that it was going to have to be a revolving door of who was there.
They didn't want to leave the same 12 guys there. You know, they didn't want us to get Cheryl, I guess. But yeah, I mean, it was, it was pretty primitive and. That's that's probably when the Taliban thought like, no, like you're not gonna move in here. And the, and the fight, the day that I refer to as like the fight for judge is actually the day that, that our friend Abraham passed away.
And, and that, that, that blood on the ground really fueled all of our interest in being there even more. It was like, Yeah. From that day forward, we were viciously viciously on, on the, on the hunt for more and more, you know, firefights, even to the point where going to like the junior Marines in my, in my squad, we're starting to get that like salty, you know, combat hardened attitude, adjustment.
That just made that second deployment, really personal being with Fox company and being a than, than the year before I never had that, like that was a member of mine. Like that's one of my, like technically they were all biome. And anyone who served and, and for those who are going to listen to this and have not served there's just something different.
When you stood nine hours of posts with someone through the freezing cold night, even if you know, it's all one company or it's all one battalion it's just different. Ma maybe there's just slightly different tiers and degrees of brotherhood, but it, it just hit a little different emotionally when it was Abraham and you know, somebody who wasn't up.
Sharing stories about like their wife or their kid or their upbringing for the last nine hours on like a freezing cold winter night on a post tower. That's, you know, X amount of meters tall in the wind, it just hit different. And so the platoon took it that way and it really shaped that deployment and, and it, and it made it stand out from my time in Marsha the year before you know, we are, we spent two months thinking.
All of our hard work had paid off this, this once in the best, his city is now a better place. There were schools open, and I know anyone who was in Marsha in Oh nine to 2010, those people were fighting. People were like bedding down in schools to defend them because the Taliban wanted to destroy them.
And we were fighting. To keep the schools open. And then I go back a year later and kids are, are walking to school with backpacks and they're, you know, one kid cussed at me in English and he learned it at school. And that's cool. That's, I'm fine with that. His English teacher. I just thought, you know girls learning how to read and write her own name. And so one wants her dead for it.
And as long as I'm here, that's not going to happen. And it just felt like all of my efforts were validated. And then this happened, you know, and here I am with no, the, the rats are still in the sewer and, you know, we, we had to wait them out and it just made that second deployment really stand out. You know, that's the, that's the first time I'm overthinking about junior Marines lives.
You know, my whole first deployment I spent worrying about. Me getting blown up, me getting shot. And then I remember not, not all of the contacts from the second deployment. I remember never once thinking about me getting shot or go getting blown up. And it was always basting or Chavez or, you know, a corporal Kirby, my squad leader, but he had been at eighth and I.
And so he didn't really, he, you know, to me, he was still just sweet little kid Kirby, like kid hadn't been through, like, I don't want it to protect him from that, you know? Yeah. Kirby, if you hear this I don't take it back, but call me some time. Yeah, it was it was different. And a lot of the, a lot of the emotional distress that I carried with me for a long time, oddly enough comes from that deployment more so than, you know, our first Marsha deployment, which.
If anyone was to do the research, you're going to find out that 2010, early 2011 was a very bad time to be in Marjah, but there was something about 2011 going into 2012 that just stuck with me a lot differently.
Chris: [00:44:58] okay. Thanks everyone for tuning in. And thanks to pepper, seeing you for talking with me. Remember if you want to climb a mountain, go snowshoeing or have any other cool adventures. Check out veteran expeditions. And uh, one other thing before I go here. I know this is lame and I hate it when other podcasts do it.
But if you've been enjoying the show, please take a minute and leave a rating or review online. It really does help other people find the show. Also, if you know someone who'd like one of these episodes, you know, pass it along. I'd really appreciate it. Okay. Have a great weekend, everybody. I'll see you next week.