Pete and Lisa Chartier 2003Sergeant Peter J. Chartier

“Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.” - Ronald Reagan

Message 3

The Journey Turns a Corner
(050216 - 050226)

Family and Friends of MSSG-15,

It is with great pleasure that we send you our third newsletter on what is almost the halfway point of our Western Pacific Deployment (actual date of 1/2 point is 5 March). We all can now legitimately break out the “countdown calendars” and start counting down the days we have remaining on deployment. We know that many of the fine young Marines and sailors in our the mighty MSSG have already been counting down their days and look forward to their return from what is rapidly shaping up to be an epic deployment.
This said, it’s far too early for us to begin resting on our laurels. In fact, our journey together is about to turn an important corner. As you recall, the MEU has been conducting a major exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait. We currently have 122 of our 277 Marines and sailors ashore supporting that training; this “Direct Support Element (DSE)” is led by Captain Jamey Stover and they have been doing an absolutely superb job supporting the exercise. Special recognition goes to Chief Warrant Officer Darryl Sawn and his maintenance team for the miracles they have been working in Kuwait on a daily basis. Now it’s our turn. Tomorrow, the remaining Marines and sailors of the MSSG across all three ships of the amphibious ready group will be debark into Kuwait Naval Base (KNB), then move forward and join our comrades at Udairi. We will leave a small contingent back on the ships to support seabased logistics requirements. From Udairi, we will conduct intensive fire-and-maneuver, convoy, and other training to continue to hone our warfighting skills. Our mission as the Theater Reserve for U.S. Central Command has not changed, but this forward movement positions us within easy striking distance of the Iraqi border where we will be poised to move on order, perform on arrival should the need arise.

As noted, this deployment to Kuwait provides us an incredible opportunity to sharpen our warfighting skills and perform essential maintenance on our equialignParagraphTopent. It is a fine opportunity for us to continue to refine those Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) that we have developed and perfected over the past 18 months so that we are ready if and when our Nation calls again. Some of us are a bit rusty at the fundamentals and having our boots in the desert sand will make us comfortable and happy. Speaking of happy, LtCol. Hatton will also get the chance to see the entire team reformed, with our full compliment of personnel and “kit” centrally located in one location; this will definitely make him happy! We consider it as close to a family reunion as we can get out here on the fringes of the empire.

A word of warning – don’t let your spouses fool you into thinking the deployment to Udairi is a hardship tour. For many it will be a welcome change, with the exception of a short acclimatization period to get used to the hot desert days and cool desert nights. Remember, this is an Army base and those beloved “doggies” can’t go long without their soft beds and good chow. While we will certainly miss that good U.S. Navy hospitality, we can look forward to enjoying many new services and recreational facilities. The list below gives you some idea of the kinds of goodies that your loved ones will enjoy when they are not operating/training/working/fixing/repairing/securing/exercising/resting/sleeping/writing/reading/

1 Two Post Exchanges with consumables, electronics, food drinks, toiletries, uniform and other comfort items.
2 A Barbershop that has six chairs.
3 A modern AT&T phone center (75 phones) that is open 24/7.
4 A Global phone center that never closes its doors that has 40 phones; for many this will be the first opportunity to make international calls to countries other than USA or Canada. (I’m personally excited about this one service as I have not called Mama or Papa Vasquez in Belize since our port visit in Hawaii).
5 A spacious, modern gym which is always open.
6 A modern military dining facility (which we call a chowhall) which is run by contractors and serves 3-squares a day:
§ Breakfast 0530 – 0800
§ Lunch 1130 – 1400
§ Dinner 1700 – 2000
7 An Internet Café also open 24/7 that has 60 computers that cost $5.00/hour to use.
8 Best of all for some of your stinky spouses, there is a laundry service. Naturally, this being the Army, you don’t do your own laundry. You turn it in and get it back in 3 days.
9 Finally, there are several fast Foods restaurants, to include Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway and Green Bean Coffee Shop.

There’s no alcohol or pornography allowed, so Gunny Huggins will have no excuses for not sticking with his two-a-day workout program. Good luck, Gunny!

Best of all, most of your Marines and sailors will see an increase in their pay checks due to this move. While we do lose our Sea Pay, we gain Hardship Duty Pay (guess hardship is a relative term) and we are credited full COMRATS/BAH. We also receive an additional $3.50/day for deployed per diem.

In keeping with a longstanding naval tradition, our naval brethren on all three ships will/have prepared special “going away meals” for us prior to our debarking from naval shipping. During World War II, the Marine Corps adopted the Australian dish “steak and eggs” as the standard pre-battle meal. Last night on the USS DULUTH we enjoyed lobster tails and prime rib steak. Cheers to the most powerful navy in the world!

Those Marines and sailors who remain embarked on DULUTH recently enjoyed five days of liberty in the port city of Bahrain. Although technically a “working port,” a fine time as had by all...nothing better for morale than a thick steak and a cold beer. While there, a significant event in the world of sports was held – a four-man best ball golf competition between the Marines of the Engineer Detachment (represented by Sergeants Chesnutt and Berkey, Cpl Bright and LCpl Foreman) against an officer team composed of the CO, XO and Lieutenant’s Jordan and Gasparro. The drama of this unfolding sports spectacle defines description – a seesaw battle under grueling conditions where each man found himself tested and came out worthy (with an assist from the “fifth man” – Mr. Jack Daniels). The battle raged unabated until the final hole, where the officer team fell one stroke short (accusations regarding Lieutenant Gasparro’s poor putting being the cause of what is now being called “the defeat of the officers” are quite unfounded). Final score: Engineers -3, Officers -2. Appropriate spoils of victory were distribution and consumed. Great fun was had by all and the rematch, at some exotic foreign port yet to be determined, should be quite a spectacle.

In other sporting news, the dart competition entered its second season recently, with the final tally for the first half of the deployment coming out 14 to 3 in favor of the SgtMaj/CO team, aptly named the “Quiet Professionals” since they are known for their sportsmanship and for not heckling the other team while they throwing their darts. As one sports writer recently quipped, “Those fine gentlemen let their darts do the talking.” In a surprising turn of events, the XO/S-3A team, currently calling themselves “Above Reproach” in answer to widespread accusations of unsportsmanlike conduct, came out strong in the second stanza and have taken a 6 to 4 lead in the early going.

In business news – HMC Minor recently passed the Enlisted Surface Warfare qualification and will be “pinned” by the CO later this afternoon. This is quite an accomplishment by any measure, but when one considers that our sailor finished the course faster than anyone in the history of the U.S. Navy (according to an inside Navy source – Chief Minor), all we can do is step back and say, “Wow!”

In closing, I would like to say that we have been blessed by tons of mail since departing the Continental United States. Needless to say, we appreciate the time and effort you put into these packages and letters; we can feel your support at our backs as we face the challenges that lie ahead.

Until the next newsletter (which may be delayed due to our impending deployment to Kuwait), thanks you all for your constant support, thoughts and prayers.

Semper Fidelis and God Bless,
First Sergeant G.A. “Butch” Vasquez