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thedrifter
06-29-03, 10:47 AM
War Diary

U.S. Marine Cpl.
Jonathan B. Kirchner
Day One
My name is Jonathan B. Kirchner. I am a 25-year-old reconnaissance Marine and hold the rank of corporal in the Marine Corps. Before I came into the Marine Corps, I was a part-time student and working full-time for a computer company. One day I decided to follow through with my childhood dream and enlist into the Marine Corps. Most of all, I wanted to serve my country.

I am stationed at Camp Pendleton but I am currently deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 11th MEU (SOC) is comprised of about 2,200 Marines deployed on three Navy ships. The USS Belleau Wood has been my current home for the past three months.

To put it simply, the 11th MEU (SOC) is America's ď911Ē force. We are experts in rapid-response. We can conduct missions on a moment's notice. And the missions vary quite a bit-- ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat missions.

Basically, we float around until something goes wrong -- natural disaster or some sort of conflict. Then when the call comes in for help, we would begin to respond within six hours of notification. Typical missions are combat operations, humanitarian assistance, evacuation of American embassies, etc.

The Marine reconnaissance mission is to observe and report enemy activity in support of the basic infantryman or any other unit. For example, prior to a raid being conducted, we would insert before the raid force to gather intelligence for them. We could insert a number of ways: by rubber boats or jumping out of a helicopter, both followed by swim onto the beach; or by rappelling or parachuting out of a helicopter or airplane.

After insertion, we would patrol to our objective. Once we have chosen and prepared a place where we will hide -- called a 'hide site'--, we would begin to gather information on the enemy. We could do this by drawing a sketch of what we see, taking an actual picture of the objective which can be sent back to the headquarters via radio, or send situation reports over the radio.

We basically paint a picture of the objective for the friendly force we are reporting for. We might also be required to call for fire or close air support on the objective. We also may be required to conduct route, bridge, beach, helicopter landing zone reports and also a hydrographic survey of the ocean bottom floor.

Currently, I am an Assistant Team Leader for one of three recon teams deployed with the 11th MEU (SOC). I am second in charge and have four junior Marines who are under me. Each team has six Marines who need to know everyone elseís jobs. This is in case a man goes down; the next man can take charge of the mission at hand.

My job is to basically make sure certain tasks directed by my team leader are accomplished. I make sure the warning order (a 'heads up' message from higher headquarters that lets us know a mission is coming so everyone can begin prepping for it) is issued to all the other team members. I am also responsible for making sure everyone has all weapons, equipment, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and water packed in the event a mission were to go down.

Our platoon has a certain routine that we do each day. Every day we do morning clean up, individual physical training, and attend or teach refresher classes. These classes can be any of the basic skills a Recon Marine needs to posses: knot tying, land navigation, map reading skills, demolitions, combat trauma, call for fire (artillery & mortars), Close Air Support (supporting rotary & fixed wing aircraft), communications/radios, patrolling and immediate action drills, weapons and armor identification.

In Immediate Action drills teams practice basic response reactions. For instance, if the team is patrolling and has contact by the enemy from the front, rear, left or right, then the team would have a standard automatic response, which could be shooting and bounding away.

Every Saturday we do weapons and equipment maintenance. Sunday is the only day we have off.

Last week we were to the field for four days. The country we went to was unforgiving since it was more than 125 degrees at times. We did live fire immediate action drills on a firing range that we constructed. This was performed with live ammunition and fragmentation grenades. It can be really dangerous at times since anyone could run into your line of fire.

Safety is really important and we practice dry runs before we actually run with live rounds. Heat casualties, such as dehydration or heat stoke, were also of concern. To prevent this we drink lots of water. Our platoon sergeant and commander also created different scenarios for us like running with and without our rucks (our packs with all our gear can be up to 120lbs.) and donning gas masks. Even though we didnít get to interact with the locals, it was nice to at least wave to each other. It showed how much we were welcomed to their country.

his morning we woke-up and did our morning cleanup. Cleanliness is important not only because it represents who we are, but also because it is a health issue. We then had a weapons and equipment inspection by the Platoon Commander, who is a first lieutenant. The purpose of this inspection is to make sure our weapons and equipment are functioning correctly, that nothing is missing, and we are clean. We then did individual physical training. I usually weight lift, do some calisthenics and then a run. Some people work out twice a day. Once in a while we have team physical training, which we usually do calisthenics and then a run together.

Ship life really isnít that bad. Ship food is good most of the times. You canít ever say you never had a choice on what to eat, since there is a fast line (usually pasta or burritos) or a slow line (anything else like chicken, steak or fish). We have a library on ship where we can rent DVDs, check out books or use the computers to e-mail.

Once in a while we have what we call Steel Beach, which is a BBQ for everyone on the flight deck. This weekend's Steel Beach will be different since we all get two beers. For every 45 days we go without a liberty port, every one of drinking age rates two beers. The ship provides sodas and water for those who don't want to drink. The officers on ship, who posses a college degree, also offer accredited college classes on ship. There is a full gym with cardio machines. You also have the option to run on the flight deck when there arenít any flight operations-- or what we call 'flight quarters' -- going on.

At night we have our personal free time. Iím usually watching a movie, writing my e-mails, learning Spanish, working out and on certain days, have my college class. Other people within the platoon usually play cards, watch movies or just relax. Itís about midnight and I am going to wake-up around 4 a.m. to work out, so thatís actually my cue to go to sleep now. The platoon and I are ready for anything that may come before us tomorrow.


http://www.defendamerica.mil/images/photos/oct2002/articles/kirchner1a.jpg

U.S. Marine Cpl. Jonathan B. Kirchner is a reconnaissance specialist taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Marine Corps Photo.


Sempers,

Roger
:marine:

thedrifter
06-29-03, 10:49 AM
War Diary

U.S. Marine Cpl.
Jonathan B. Kirchner
Day Two
Today I e-mailed my wife. We e-mail each other daily, and I try calling her on the weekends. She keeps herself busy while Iím gone. Sheís currently working two jobs, and is part of a key volunteer network that helps other Marine wives during deployment by passing information and helping with any problems if needed. Itís also great that she keeps both of our families informed of what and how Iím doing. The greatest thing is how she is proud of me being in the military, and how much of a moral support she is for me.

We had a meeting with our platoon sergeant today. He wanted to talk to us and get some input on how we could better ourselves as Marines. Not that there were any problems, but there is always room for improvement. These are leadership talks we have from time to time. Since we are such a small organization, every Marine is expected to take initiative and have leadership traits at all levels of rank.

After the meeting we had our quarterly individual counseling. Our platoon commander counseled us on positive and negative performances since our last counseling. Then he suggested a solution on the negative and encouraged us to keep up the positive things we are doing. Itís good to get feedback on our performance.

I'd like to explain a little more about the jobs and responsibilities each Marine in a reconnaissance team has before a mission. Each six-man team is comprised of a team leader, assistant team leader, radio operator, assistant radio operator, a scout and a point man. When a mission is given to us, the team leader conducts the planning with the platoon commander and then brings it down to me to present to the other team members.

When the team leader is done planning, he presents his plan for the mission to all of the top officers on ship, so they know whatís going on. I write up the warning order, which explains briefly what the mission is, the ammunition and demolitions that need to be brought and what needs to be packed in our rucks. The radio operator and assistant radio operator fills the radios with crypto and frequencies. The point man and scout draw out the map overlay of the insertion and patrol route we would be taking.

We have three teams in the reconnaissance platoon: an amphibious team, an airborne team, and a ground mobility team. Each team goes through different schools depending on their team's insertion technique. Team one, the amphibious team, attends the Marine Combatant Dive school in Panama City, FL. Team two, the airborne team, goes through airborne school in Ft. Benning, Ga. Team three, the ground mobility team, goes through sniper school, Ranger school or the motorcycle course in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Anyone else within the teams can go through any of the different schools, but their primary job is what their element teams are. Anyone who is jump or dive qualified gets extra pay. Most of the platoon go to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), which is a school that shows a ground troop or pilot what it feels like to be a POW. Each one of the teams generally supports each company within the Battalion.

A little bit about the store we have aboard the USS Belleau Wood. They have anything from calling cards, candy and chips to hygiene necessities. They also sell stereos, DVDs and CDs. One of the biggest selling items would have to be protein bars and shakes.

Thatís all I have for today. Until tomorrow, this is another day with Recon on the USS Belleau Wood.


Sempers,

Roger
:marine:

thedrifter
06-29-03, 10:50 AM
War Diary

U.S. Marine Cpl.
Jonathan B. Kirchner
Day Three
Today we had a September 11 ceremony on the ship. There were selected people from each unit who attended and supported this event. Last year on September 11, I was in a formation when I found out about the towers. It was hard to believe what I had heard. I, of course, was mad but at that moment it was a reminder why we were and are here in the military.

Recon Marines carry a wide variety of weapons, radios, and optics. For our weapons, we carry the M4 carbine (like the M16, but it has a shorter barrel and butt-stock), the M4 with a mounted grenade launcher, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the Benellie shotgun. We carry a wide variety of radios from HF (high frequency), VHF (very high frequency), UHF (ultra high frequency) and SATCOM (satellite communications).

For our optics, we carry many different binoculars and also have range finders. We also have a digital camera that we can pictures of our objective with and then can load them into a laptop connected to one of our radios. We can then send the pictures to whoever is at the other end of the radio. This is a very valuable asset to Recon Marines and also for the raid force that we support.

Even though we carry all of this equipment, you never know when it could malfunction. So, we must continue to train the "old-fashioned" way. For instance, even though we carry a GPS (global positioning system), we need to be able to land navigate with just a compass and map. If our camera goes down, then we need to be able to draw a sketch of the objective. And even though certain people are designated to use certain equipment, we all have to be proficient in the use of all gear.

What makes our packs, or rucks as we call them, so heavy isnít just the usual 12-18 quarts of water and chow we carry. Our weapons, ammunition, demolitions, batteries, and of course our radios and optics, are the other weight factors. On one of the work-ups we did before we deployed, we swam for about 2,000 meters to shore with all of our equipment and then did a 10-mile movement inland to our "objective."

All of this had to be accomplished with our rucks, which at the time weighed 120 lbs. Recon Marines have to be able to take enough gear, food and water on an operation to sustain themselves out in the field for days at a time.

When we scuba dive, recon Marines dive the Drager MK25 re-breather rig. This is a closed-circuit rig that doesnít emit bubbles. On the bottom is a bottle that holds 100% oxygen that flows into the breathing loop. There is a canister that holds a substance called sodasorb, so when the diver exhales, it filters out the carbon dioxide, leaving the remaining oxygen in the breathing loop. Many things can go wrong while diving. Oxygen toxicity (too much oxygen in the system) and carbon dioxide poisoning are just a few of the problems. Most of these symptoms can be relieved or prevented if the diver knows his symptoms.

While diving, our six-man team is attached to each other by a buddy line. In the front leading is the point man, who has a tack-board with a compass to navigate to our objective. This is just another means of insertion for Recon Marines.

Today I went over my dive knowledge and vehicle armor identification cards. Recon Marines use these cards to teach ourselves to recognize enemy vehicle armor, tanks and aircrafts if we were to see them. For todayís workout at the gym, I went on the running machine, did some calisthenics, and then lifted weights. Most of the other Marines in the platoon did the same. The last event of the day was laundry. Today was our day to do laundry. I went down there to press my cammies on the press machine.

Thatís all I have for today. Until tomorrow, this is another day with Recon on the USS Belleau Wood.


Sempers,

Roger
:marine:

thedrifter
06-29-03, 10:51 AM
War Diary

U.S. Marine Cpl.
Jonathan B. Kirchner
Day Four
Today my team, platoon commander and platoon sergeant were tasked with guiding an LCAC (landing craft air cushion or hovercraft.) onto a beach. We were responsible for going onto the beach, ensuring it was a safe area (no big rocks, etc) for the LCAC to land on, and then guiding the LCAC onto the beach. We took our zodiac boat and also brought our fins in case we needed to swim in to the beach. Once we got to the beach, we saw that it was okay for us to land the zodiac right onto the beach. Once we landed, we dragged the zodiac up to the high water line. My platoon commander then gave the signal for the LCAC to come in. Once the LCAC hit land, our work was done so we got back into our boat and left.

Our platoon corpsman wasnít available today to give us our usual combat trauma classes on how to treat casualties on the battlefield. We usually have these classes twice a week and often get tested on the subject matter. We do practical application also. For example, we practice applying tourniquets to our team members. The main point is to stop the bleeding as soon as possible, obviously to minimize blood loss. We conduct these tourniquet drills while lying on our stomachs to simulate being under fire and also with our eyes blindfolded to simulate a dark environment. We also learn how to give someone an IV, say if they were suffering from heat stoke. The hardest part of this class is trying to find a vein when we are in the dark, so we learn how to not use our eyes but to feel for a vein. We also learn how to treat broken bones, bullet wounds and sucking-chest wounds.

When we do a major training event, we always have refresher classes and practice runs. This eliminates the chance of someone getting injured. Todayís class, taught by a couple of our recon Marines, was on SPIE (Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction system) rigging. We will be doing this next week off of the ship's flight deck. This is how it works. A helicopter with a rope attached and dangling down from the bottom of it hovers above a team that is ready to be extracted. The team, wearing harnesses, clips themselves securely to the rope. When the helo begins to lift higher and fly forward, it transports the Marines attached to the rope below it. This is not the preferred way for insertion but is ideal for extraction. Itís usually needed where a helicopter canít land, like in a jungle environment. The main idea, while in the air, is to keep your arms and legs spread so you donít spin.

Static line jumping is another means of insertion that we do. This can be done out of a KC-130 airplane or a CH-46 helicopter. When jumping out of an airplane, the time it takes for the static line to open our parachutes is four seconds. For a helicopter, itís six seconds. If the time goes over, then itís an indication that the parachute has malfunctioned or not opened.

At this point we would activate our reserve parachute, which is located on our chest. You know when the parachute has opened by the sudden jerk on your body, or by properly looking up to see that your parachute has fully opened. "Slipping," which is done by manipulating the parachute's lines, can be used to move closer to your drop-zone. Once on the ground, we pack our parachutes in a bag and start patrolling.

Iím not an expert at sniping so Iím going to have a Team Leader from Team Three, write about Recon Snipers. Unlike other snipers that have a mission of reducing targets with precision fire, Recon Snipers are tasked with reporting strength composition and disposition at enemy forces. Initiating a raid and providing sniper fire during an assault are secondary to the primary purpose at Recon teams. Again, the primary mission is reporting. Many of the skills taught at Scout/Sniper school, such as land navigation, range estimation, personal movement, camouflage techniques, hide construction and observation skills only reinforce and advance the field craft of a reconnaissance Marine. Of course, this in turn increases the probability and degree of success at any given mission. If needed, recon snipers could engage selected targets or targets of opportunity.

Thatís all I have for today. Thanks for reading about another day with Recon.


Sempers,

Roger
:marine:

MillRatUSMC
06-29-03, 11:17 AM
God, the memories all this brought back...I could see a lot of young Marines of my youth.
They're still doing a lot of training that we did back in the sixities.
Some is new, but the basics are still the same.
They are still highly motivated!
Take a special type to be Recon.
IMHO
OOOooooooooooooRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrAaaaaaaaaaaaHhhhh h
To Recon

Semper Fidelis
Ricardo