*Double clicking on images will enlarge them
Light Armored Vehicle in front of forward operating base (FOB)
LCpl Justin D. Summers wearing a patch in remembrance of a fallen pal
Studies of Marines pitching horseshoes
Looking south from 60mm mortar pits towards Hit proper
Patrol heading across freshly plowed field into a palm grove
Patrol returning down "Route Mavericks" towards FOB
LCpl Seth V. Seppala reading a book in the FOB's courtyard
LCpl Justin R. Mayfield
LCpl Julio Guzman performing security check on election day
Iraqi voters awaiting security check
Game of touch football behind FOB
LCpl Shawn W. Studzinski performing security check on election day
Here's a set of sketches from my time in Hit, Iraq with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment. This company, along with the rest of their battalion, spent the better part of mid-October to mid-December in the field at the tip of the proverbial spear. These Marines stood toe to toe trading punches with the insurgency while standing eyeball to eyeball with the Iraqi man in the street. The insurgents were mostly foreign and, at this writing, mostly dead after squaring off with the Marines. The Iraqi citizens they interacted with during their daily forays through the streets of Hit slowly warmed to the weary often unwashed mugs of the affable Marines. At the end of the day the world of these good-hearted Iraqis was changed forever. Whether there were weapons of mass destruction or layers upon layers of conspiritorial subterfuge behind this war's beginnings mattered little to either the jarheads or the Iraqis. History is moving them together further down the road than they ever imagined they would go. There is a wonderful, though at first reading obtuse, Arab proverb that says it all, "the dog barks, but the caravan moves on". We Marines in the field, given the opportunity from time to time to watch the main stream media via satellite TV, find ourselves, as we cross over another far line of dunes, hearing in the distance behind us the irritating sound of dogs.
These drawings also capture the sundry and assorted activities swirling in and around a forward operating base (FOB). A typical FOB is short on creature comforts and big on physical security. All the exterior windows are tightly sandbagged creating a cave like interior. On each corner of the roof machine gun positions with carefully contrived interlocking fields of fire are manned 24/7. Marines move about the place in various states of dress; some are all geared up ready to go on patrol, while others lounge in the main common area in watch caps and green sweat shirts watching satellite TV. Showers are non-existent and laundry a forgotten memory. Taking their place are boxes of baby wipes addressing the former and noses long past caring to deal with the latter. Basic bodily functions are taken care of either by using plastic PVC tubes hammered into the ground at a slight angle, or by sitting in gutted port-o-johns set over the lower third of a 50 gallon drum doused in diesel fuel. Hot chow is served for both breakfast and dinner. The food, though palatable, falls into what I call the yellow food groups. Dropping food on your uniform only enhances the effect of the camouflage. Lunch is left to MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), which quite frankly are mostly very good, excepting a much despised mystery meal called Country Captain's Chicken. Off duty time can be spent trying to catch up on sleep, reading a book, shooting the breeze with buddies, and even in a game of horseshoes or touch football. Chess was one pastime that Iraqi soldiers and Marines could share beyond the limitations of language. The Iraqis were generally much better than the Marines. Mail call comes every couple days, and after it arrives the guys fall silent sitting on their cots, or on the stairs leading to the second floor bent over letters from home. During the day there are intermittent moments of pandemonium when the reaction force is activated to support a patrol in contact outside the wire. Ears perk up and heads turn in the direction of the sound of gunfire, or towards the distant WHUUMP of an IED. Marines from the FOB dash out the door pulling on flak jackets and helmets while radios crackle and orders are barked out. Late at night the FOB quiets somewhat. The sound of snoring and of sleeping Marines adjusting themselves on squeaky drum tight cots punctuates the darkness. A lone figure or two can be found sitting close to the television, its sound turned way down, in the common room. Out from the command operations center (COC) comes the reassuring sound of muffled radio checks keeping tabs on those standing watch in the dark. As dawn approaches the number of crowing roosters and barking dogs rises with each minute and ray of sunlight, and culminates in the muezzin's tremeloed voice singing the first call to prayer in a mournful minor key from the mosque directly behind the FOB.