Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Marines Will Eat the Lions

Here is the weekly update from our Palos Verdes Marine Brian Weiss in Djbouti. So far no violence, thank The Lord, but it is early days yet.

Brian's unit is one of hundreds stationed in every dangerous country on Earth, the rapid response teams that are prepared at a moment's notice to search and destroy terror cells that metastasize. As Don Rumsfeld remakes the military, many more of these special units will trained and stationed abroad. The elite Special Operations forces are used whenever the going gets especially tough.

Robert Kaplan's amazing new book, Imperial Grunts, tells the story of his experiences with the Army Special Forces. Here are a few excerpts.

"Welcome to the Hotel Gardez," said a smiling and bearded major, Kevin Holiday, of Tampa, Florida. Major Holiday was the commander of this firebase and of another in Zurmat, two hours south by dirt road. He had just turned forty, was a civil engineer with a master's degree, the father of three small children, and he was chatty, well-spoken, and intense. "God has put me here," he told me matter-of-factly. "I'm a Christian"—he meant an evangelical. "The best kind of moral leader is one who is invisible. I believe character is more important than education. I have noticed that people who are highly educated and sophisticated do not like to take risks. But God can help someone who is highly educated to take big risks. We're the damn Spartans." Holiday smiled again. "Physical warriors with college degrees." Buy the book!

And now from our Brian:

All is well over here; it is starting to get pretty hot. When I got off post this morning at 0700 it was 91 degrees (so HOT that the crows are panting). Since it was the cooler part of the day I went for a 5 mile run. The run trail is nice and takes you all the way from the base to the Gulf outside the wire. It is sure weird to be almost used to the heat, I can jog 5 miles with the weather in the 90’s, and I don’t die. I know at home when its that hot I would start heading for the beach and some cold beer! Neither one of those options are good here.

Now for your nature update! When I was leaving the run trail this morning I was attacked by two crows. The crows are all over base and have nests in every open spot they can find. They are pretty protective of their nests and will dive bomb you if you get too close (within 10 yards). I have seen Marines getting their covers (hats) knocked off by the crows. These two crows kept after me until I went into my tent. Boy, were they bitter little guys; the only thing you can do to stop them from whacking you is to face them and wave your arms (looks really stupid).

Last night at about 0100, we saw a Hyena being chased by our local pack of feral dogs. National Geographic who? The dogs actually like the Marines but don’t like the Djiboutian people. I guess because most Marines have a soft spot for dogs and we almost always carry beef jerky. Two of the dogs actually stand post with us and are the best security system ever. I also saw a mongoose and a rabbit. Now as per the Mongoose, we hear there are some living on base, but this one runs past my post in the early am, and kind of looks like a ferret on steroids. The rabbit was very weird looking; he really needed a meal, but had really long legs and unusually long ears.

When we first got here and we were receiving our entry brief, we were told, hypothetically speaking, that if we ate chow in our tents that mice would come, the mice would attract the poisonous snakes, the snakes would attract the mongooses, the mongooses would attract the lions, we added… THE MARINES WOULD EAT THE LIONS! Please keep in mind that the Marines are the top of any food chain.
Enough of the wild Africa show,

We are looking forward to some missions in the future in some of the CJTFHOA (Combined Joint Task Force Horn Of Africa) area which covers many countries, including Eritrea, Ethiopia. So if you haven’t heard from me in a while I may be in another country for a week or two, and I will only have my combat load with me… no laptops! I will get back to all of you asap, but like with all the good info around here I will have to fill you in when I get back, not while im here. I wish everyone well…


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interesting. Holiday is 40. It seems we can use the older people for something. Certainly for driving trucks over bombs.

I hope our military are NOT "Spartans." After all, Sparta was a dictatorship, unlike Athens. And ultimately Athens won if you look at the two towns now. Let's not forget history.

I think Brian is right about the Marines being the top of the food chain UNLESS they are in the OCEAN. Perhaps that's why they don't go to the beach?


9:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Holiday is Special Forces; that means he is special, not like you or me. I have a good friend who is a Lt. Colonol in the Marines Special Operations. Dave is over 40, married and the father of three kids, and city attorney for a South Bay city. Dave has already done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Special Ops tours are short, but deadly.

You are not too old to try to join up. Here's betting they won't take you. The military is doing fine with enlistees who really want to serve their country. They don't need any old guys like me or malcontents like you.

I have enough history to know that the Spartans were the warriors. Remember Thermopylae. That's what Holiday was saying and I think we need to respect his thoughts.

I don't understand your crack about the Ocean. And I wonder why you are so anti-military. It's because of them that we can enjoy these foolish conversations.


9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not anti-military. I had an Uncle on the Yalu in Korea and both my wife and I have had other family members in various wars. And some of my cousins work for Homeland security in areas we cannot discuss at all. Best thing that ever happened to some of my ancestors was to be caught napping at Christmastime in 1775 at Trenton (they were landless serfs sold to the King of England by the Prince of Hesse--the Hessians). They got to stay here and finally got some land of their own.

My point is not to be a malcontent but to suggest that the burden of warfare should fall on everyone, in particular its most enthusiastic supporters. No doubt you or I would not qualify for special operations. But driving fuel trucks is different. And no the military is not doing fine. Recruitment is below its goals and some people are being required to stay in longer than what they signed up for and/or to do more than one tour. That's not fine. Every serious war we had in the past included a draft. And with modern technology drafts can now place some older people in jobs they can do. And we can also make sure the wealthy and the children of political leaders serve as well.

That's how both Sparta and Athens did it. Only the Roman Empire, in its waning days, relied so heavily on paid volunteers as we do now.

I do recall the battle of Thermopylae. The King of Sparta Leonadis and all of his troops were killed. They held the Persians off and helped Athens win. I still prefer a democratic city-state such as Athens as a model over that of a military dictatorship based primarily on slavery that casually sacrifices its citizens in war such as Sparta. Sure I respect other views, but can't mine be offered and discussed as well (at least for so little much longer as we remain a democracy and unless and until I am declared an enemy combatant)? Most people don't understand history well enough to draw proper lessons from it.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

You may have had family in the military but you, I believe, are anti-military. You cannot be for the military and against their mission. Ask them, they will straighten you out.

And you should stop talking about the old guys enlisting. They would not have us on a platter. But if you want to try, go ahead, enlist.... see what happens.

Or is your out that those who are more enthusiastic should go first? The most enthusiastic are the brave men and women who have joined up to defend their country. You should honor them and stop talking nonsense.

The best thing on Thermopylae is "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am not talking about old guys enlisting. I am talking about the need for a draft. Anyway my out is my eyes. I'd give a lot to have decent vision. I am lucky I can still drive and read but who knows how much longer. Anyway. lots of people can drive fuel trucks and get blown up.

In the past this nation has debated its involvement abroad. I guess if you want to you can label anyone opposed to a military mission as anti military. But then it's just a label to avoid discussing the issue.

Parenthetically what's the mission in Iraq? Saddam al Tikriti (aka Hussein) is gone. It seems the current mission is to intervene in a civil war but not on any particular side. Reagan realized the unwise nature of such an approach when he pulled out of Lebanon.

Seems we are fixing to repeat Thermopolae. Who and what are our soldiers dying for? And why is it anti-military to ask this question? I submit it is anti-military to NOT ask the question and to refuse to answer it when asked..


9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Bill, you need to get off the "You're opposed to the war in Iraq so you must be anti-American/military". I served honorably in Iraq, and I seriously question what we are doing there. Labeling your ideologic opponents as anti-military apes is really just childish. Grow up.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

I know who you are. You are a "seminar commentor," like the "seminar callers" to talk radio who pretend to be disgruntled Republicans. They are generally devotees of

Basically, I don't believe you.

Tom is clearly anti-military. Are you too?

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay Bill. I won't give you complete details, but I'm a military physician. I served in OIF 2.5 with a combat support hospital in Iraq. I was there during the Battle of Fallujah, and I saw many casualties, helped saved many lives. I'm not a "seminar commentator" nor am I a disgruntled Republican. I'm a veteran of a war I think is hurting the United States, and will continue to do so for many many years. You sir, like many right-wing bloggers, haven't the slightest clue about war. Someone needs to put you and the other angry white males who think killing people to spread democracy from the confines of PV is a good idea in their rightful place, and I am more than happy to do so. Nice try. If you were honest, you won't delete this post.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please tell Brian that we are proud of him and the Marines like him. We will keep him in our prayers.


10:08 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Anonymous Medic,
Thank you for your service. My grandson was with the 82nd Airborne in Fallujah when you were there.

Please tell me why you believe that the war is "hurting the United States" (your view) rather than protecting the US (my view).

I won't delete your reply (as long as it is clean).

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reasons the Iraq War hurts the US:

1. Price tag: $1 trillion, possibly higher. This money could be spent to defeat al Qaeda and strenghten our borders/ports/infratructure.
2. Lives: 2300 US, 30000 Iraqi, 18000 severely wounded. I still treat many of these wounded when they return to the US.
3. Creation of more terrorists: Our incursion validated Bin Laden's accusation that we are aggressors. The bombers in Madrid and London said Iraq was one of the reasons for their attacks. This is no excuse, but let's go after the jihadists, not the Iraqi nationalists.
4. International standing ie. WMD: Basically, we have no credibility. No nation will believe us when we want to build coalitions for future, legitimate fights ie.Iran. We need other countries to help us root out and destroy the islamofascists. If we lose that cooperation, our job will be much harder.
5. Hearts and minds: We are losing this battle (even Rumsfeld thinks so..he gives us a D-). The Iraq War has done much to weaken our ability to convince the world that we have the best of intentions. Espcecially muslims, who rightly characterize us as hypocritical when try to show our best intentions by killing thousands of Iraqis (not terrorists), planting stories in their media, manipulating their political system. We have failed on that front, and the Iraq war hurt us in that way.

Overall, the money, the lives, the incompetence are putting us more in debt (to China), creating more terrorists, while we ignore REAL security here on the homeland. Offense is good (Afghanistan), but the utopian idea that we will change the course of Middle Eastern history is doomed to fail.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


An excellent summary. Mel gave Bill a similar summary a couple of months ago. When confronted with reality he seems to go quiet!


9:12 AM  

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