Unexpected (I Love My Marine: Enlisted Editon Book 2)

The Tragedy of the American Military
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http://websrv2-nginx.classic.com.np/el-ms-crudo-invierno-notas-a-un.php Phil Cave, a military defense attorney and former Navy prosecutor, said investigations for fraternization are common, especially in the Marine Corps, where commanders take even junior leaders' responsibilities seriously. There was likely higher interest in this case, he said, since Cruz and her spouse were in the same unit. It's also noteworthy, he added, that she's one of the first female grunts. But that doesn't mean the rules don't apply to her. She's to be applauded for surviving infantry training, of course, but that doesn't give you a pass.

Whether Cruz will face an other-than-honorable discharge, which could affect her access to Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and civilian job opportunities, will be decided by Maj. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division, Cochran said. An officer overseeing a pre-trial hearing recommended that Cruz be administratively punished for fraternization, but found no probable cause for the adultery and larceny charges, The New York Times reported.

Cruz was a supply clerk before graduating from Infantry Training Battalion. When she heard about the infantry women's study in , she said all she heard was "challenge. It was too late to expect anything to come of it. His fate would depend on a long-shot appeal, which focused on a narrow and not firmly established matter of law. Lance Corporal Samuel J. An adopted son in a Roman Catholic family in Illinois, he was handed to the couple who raised him on the Fourth of July in , when he was 3 days old.

By the time he was in the fourth grade, he was telling grown-ups that he intended to be a Marine. His father fell ill with cancer and died when Siatta was Siatta had always been a quiet child and was more so after. A sixth-grade classmate, Ashley Volk, found him approachable and kind. The two dated that year. Volk made a condolence card for their class to sign and puzzled over how he contained his grief. By eighth grade, Siatta had started lifting weights and hanging out at the gym. Volk worked out as an excuse to be near him.

The war in Iraq was raging. Anyone could see there was much more fighting ahead, and against foes whose harassing and often dark tactics, emphasizing ambushes, improvised bombs and suicide attacks, were exacting a bloody toll. Siatta let it be known that he still intended to enlist. Siatta and Volk were an off-again, on-again couple in high school, years during which she tried to talk him out of becoming a Marine. As a senior he was old enough to sign on the line.

Volk pleaded with him again. His decision was firm. He had an urge for action and a sense of duty, and seemed not to care how hard or risky it would be. With four years signed away, Siatta began seeing less of Volk, thinking that it would be unfair to leave her waiting while he was gone to war. He departed for boot camp in San Diego on the day he graduated, in May Volk remembers feeling scared.

But she had no argument left to make. At boot camp Siatta followed the familiar arc of transformation from civilian to Marine, although as weeks passed he displayed a skill that set him apart: He was an exceptional shot. The Marine Corps is built around its rifles. It expects every member to master what it considers the basic tool of modern war, via thorough training and annual requalification on shooting out to yards. Siatta outshot almost everyone around him. This was not readily explicable.

Siatta was raised in a household without firearms and was neither a hunter nor a weapons buff. He had never fired a rifle before. Instructors in the corps often say that recruits with no weapons experience can become accomplished shots because they have no bad habits to unlearn. Siatta offers this as the explanation for his own superior skill. But when he talks of how he shot, it is also clear that when he looked down the barrel of a rifle he was capable of extreme patience and calm.

Even in firefights he could sweep away distraction and focus on the habits that make precision marksmanship possible. In late , after completing boot camp and an infantry course in which he demonstrated a knack for mixed martial arts and a high pain tolerance to go with his fine motor skills, Siatta checked into his battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.

In many ways, two of his supervisors said, he was not a model Marine. He wore his uniform sloppily, could be inattentive in garrison and did not show the enthusiasm and initiative of some of his peers. Joseph M. Siatta accepts this reputation easily and said he chafed at the spit-shine requirements of Marine Corps base life. I joined to do a dirty job. As his platoon readied for combat, its commander, Second Lt. Tyler P. Kurtz, selected him for a particularly difficult role: designated marksman. The D. Rare is the Marine who does not wish to shoot better; a culture that celebrates riflery bestows credibility and respect on those who shoot best.

Kurtz, now a captain who commands a Marine infantry company, said he chose Siatta nonetheless because he exuded maturity when behind a rifle. In Afghanistan he would be called on to do the shooting that would make gunfights stop. Through the lens of a telescopic sight, he would also be expected to watch over and protect his platoon, which meant eyeing civilians through cross hairs, one after another, and looking for indicators — a partly hidden weapon, the remote detonator of a bomb — that might give him a military justification to kill.

Even the nickname for the role, Guardian Angel, was freighted with a presumption of unerring perfection and righteous power. Siatta had shot only paper targets. He wondered whether he was good enough. What would happen to his friends, he asked himself, if he choked? The prewar preparations of Second Battalion, Second Marines left little time for rest. He was too young to purchase alcohol legally or enter bars and did not show much interest in alcohol in any event. His fellow Marines recall him hanging back, unlike some of the louder personalities. In late October , the battalion landed in Afghanistan and quickly moved into the rural badlands.

At Camp Leatherneck, Fox Company was given its first mission: to set up in patrol bases near the village of Lakari, drive off the Taliban and help the Afghan government extend security and services into the area. It was an ambitious order. Much of it had taken the form of British units in fortified outposts with limited influence over territory around them.

The local bazaar, on dusty land east of the river, was a no-go zone — full-on enemy turf. On Nov. Little more than tents surrounded by a foot-high dirt berm, it had the hastily conceived and temporary feel of much of the Marine involvement in Afghanistan. It was reached through a gate and watched over by four raised bunkers where Marines rotated turns on post, one in each bunker by day, two by night.

From behind sandbags and bulletproof glass, the Marines looked upon a desolate vista and could feel menace awaiting them. Like the bazaar, about a mile to the south, the patrol base was situated just outside the irrigated cropland, at the edge of the steppe. Vegetation and a maze of dried mud walls lay to the west and southwest.

A stubble of corn stalks dotted the landscape. No patrol could leave the base without being seen before it reached the fields. Whenever Marines ventured into the neighboring patchwork of farmland, canals and homes, they were entering a network of interconnected traps.

Bombs had been buried in the dirt. Ambushes were laid by fighters who typically kept a canal between themselves and their targets, preventing the Marines from employing their preferred tactic of rushing attackers. The patrol base was a target for rockets. By , the eighth year of its Afghan occupation, the United States had repeatedly reshaped its reasons and practices for fighting its post-Sept. At the same time, Marines were told to coach Afghan forces and befriend villagers in part by handing out cash and urge them into roles informants, contractors, local officials that would make them partners in the new way.

That was the theory and the hope, often officially expressed. In practice it meant destroying a firmly established local economy and bringing in rule by outsiders. A corollary, often unstated but understood by those doing the patrols, was that any group of Afghans willing to face the Marines head to head would gradually be thinned, while every seven months the Americans, bloodied and made jumpy by firefights and bombs, would be replaced with fresh troops. It was small-scale attrition warfare, with hearts-and-minds jive. Siatta ran for his equipment — flak jacket, helmet, first-aid kit and the rest — and stood with his rifle waiting for a ground attack that never came.

To stop incoming rockets, the patrols would have to make the Taliban think twice about taking such risks. The rifle was equipped with a suppressor to muffle its report. Siatta was a hunter now. Clearing the fields around Lakari was his job.

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He was 20 years old. His practice range, an empty expanse of compacted soil and tiny tufts of dried grass, was safe. The local fighters did not leave the security of their home turf to fight in the open. Like an athlete stretching on a sideline before competition, Siatta made his last preparations.

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He was ready. The squad was green. Its leader, Sergeant Perez, was the only Marine who had been in combat before. The first patrol passed without incident. But Fox Company was aggressive, and within days its Marines were pushing beyond where the departing unit had regularly gone. They were looking for fights. Tactical slang hews closer to battlefield fact. And they talk of the most straightforward mission of all: movement to contact, which means exactly that.

Now let me be clear our mission was not to talk to the locales and shot the shit. Our mission was to get the Talibans atention and hopefully have them attach use and give there position away. The battalion leaving Afghanistan was opposed to the mission. Kurtz faced contradictory orders. His company commander was telling him to push south, while the operations officer in the command center was ordering him back.

The Marines headed back. On the return walk, they were attacked. The squad reacted as infantry units in their first firefight often do. Most of the Marines opened up with everything they had. Siatta found a position along a mud wall, fired a few shots and then stopped. Through his scope he saw nothing to shoot. Around him others cut loose.

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The fire-team leaders lobbed one high-explosive mm grenade after another. Lance Cpl. Dustin J. The firefight was of a familiar type: a swift and ferocious clash between combatants who scarcely glimpsed one another. Beyond signaling toughness and an eagerness to fight, it accomplished little. Jeffrey Ratliff said. The Taliban also withdrew.

No one, it seemed, had been struck. The Marines strode back to their patrol base, exuberant, riding the rush of having been under fire and coming out alive. It fueled backslaps and shouts. A few minutes later Hagglund was in a bunker when a Toyota pickup rushed toward the gate. It stopped short. Its occupants hopped out and retrieved a wheelbarrow from the bed. A few Afghan soldiers ran to meet them. In the wheelbarrow was a small boy who had been shot through the skull. The bullet had struck above his left eyebrow and blown out the back of his head.

But it had hit high enough that the child was still alive — unresponsive, breathing fitfully. The man pushing the wheelbarrow was his father. Siatta watched as the Marines took the child to their aid station and rested his shattered skull over a stainless-steel bowl. A corpsman tried to keep what was left of his head intact by cupping it in his hands.

A sandstorm had blown up, grounding the helicopter fleet. It was a few hours before an aircraft took him away. Not long after, the radio brought word. The boy had died. Hagglund thought the child might be 4 years old. Siatta and Perez thought he might be 6. No one was exactly sure how he had been shot. Ratliff figured he was hit while running through the gunfight to save the cows.

The corpsman who examined the wound said it was caused by a 5. Perez tried consoling his squad. They were ambushed. But words, he knew, had limits. Hagglund described a collective reticence. We were taking care of business. Siatta was shaken. His training had not prepared him for what it felt like to look down after a gunfight upon a child with part of his head gone. The boy reminded him of his niece. Fox Company intended to clear the area around Lakari quickly. The next week was a blur. He had noticed a pattern. Kurtz was sick of it and planned to walk straight into their area, summon them to a fight and kill as many of them as he could.

The squad set off in midmorning. The squad continued a few miles west of the bazaar, into an area where no Marines had been before, when an ambush erupted around part of it. One team of Marines was filing across a field when the Taliban opened fire. The range was short. The ambushers were about yards away. Following their training, the Marines in the kill zone turned toward the gunfire and charged.

Those in the strip of vegetation between the fields alternated between shooting and rushing, trying to envelop the attackers. An Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade near the lieutenant, and the back blast nearly deafened him. The Taliban was firing with a PK machine gun, rocket-propelled grenades and rifles.

The squad was spread out, with Perez and Siatta moving with a team a few hundred yards off. Perez looked behind his Marines and saw a man on a roof about yards away, partly hidden by a wall. He raised his four-power scope for a closer view. The man did not seem to be holding anything but was watching the fight, perhaps directing the Taliban. Siatta was beside Perez with an eight-power scope. Another platoon had recently shot an Afghan with a radio, only to discover that the radio was a harmless transistor for listening to the news and that the man had a mental disability.

The Marines had been warned about avoiding more mistakes. Siatta kept his sight on the man. He did not see a weapon, a radio or a cellphone. But he was suspicious. Perez told him to fire a warning shot and chase the man off. Siatta fired. The man collapsed. Perez lowered his M4 and looked down at Siatta. Perez was astonished. But they were midway through a gunfight, with Marines pinned down in a field, and he understood that Siatta could have hit the man unintentionally.

He decided to wait to confront him. The squad fought south for about yards, clearing several buildings. At one point they were taking fire from a compound, and as Kurtz was organizing an airstrike, he saw, through a gap in the wall, a woman inside. She was holding a baby. Kurtz thought the Taliban might have pushed her into view as a human shield. He called off the airstrike. Some of the Marines watched several unarmed men sprinting away from a building they were closing on and asked for permission to shoot them. Kurtz thought the fleeing men were combatants who had ditched their weapons.

But again, he said, he followed the rules. He ordered the squad not to fire. It was a maddening fight, under an ornate system of restrictions that the Taliban knew how to exploit, a style of war that could enrage those who followed it. Back at their base, Perez asked Siatta to explain his shot. Perez was angry and concerned. He reported the incident to Kurtz, and the company began investigating Siatta. Kurtz, too, was disturbed. He sensed trouble. Villagers had been gathering at the gate, complaining about every mistake Fox Company made.

Kurtz expected they would soon arrive with a body. He warned Siatta that he stood to face charges. Kurtz took away his rifle and suspended him from patrols. Siatta was near tears. Years later, the shot remains a point of contention. Siatta said he understood the reprimand but steadfastly defends his actions. That guy was bad news. That was a shady guy. For a few days, Third Platoon patrolled without Siatta. Everyone waited.

The villagers did not appear. A patrol to the building found no sign of anyone wounded. No blood, no bandages, no one making accusations. A body never turned up. The fighting intensified, along with the frustration. On one mission, the platoon tried to capture a Taliban commander about six miles away. The man escaped.

He had hardened, and was both angry and more alert. He was harboring doubts about the war. Marines were doing the most dangerous work and were told that Afghan forces were going to build on their success. After watching the Afghan soldiers his platoon worked with, Siatta was certain that was not going to happen. Attack helicopters came to their aid, forcing back the Taliban. Once the ambush was broken, First Squad was ordered to sweep a compound from which the Taliban had been firing. A building inside had been hit with two Hellfire missiles. The squad crossed a cold, waist-deep canal and stacked at the entrance.

Siatta was on point. They threw a fragmentation grenade over the compound wall, then followed it inside.

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As Siatta pushed through the gate, he saw the remains of an Afghan. His guts were exposed through disheveled clothes. He was maybe It was a fucked up thing to see. Siatta watched the family file out — bereaved, terrified and covered in fine, powdery dust. They were powerless, unable to communicate with the Americans who stood in their home. The Marines were grieving, too. Nicholas Hand, from First Platoon, had been shot through the head and killed, perhaps by gunfire from that house. Another Marine had been hit in the leg. Kurtz said the platoon already sensed that the plans for Helmand were destined to fail.

The misdirected carnage, the feeling that their sacrifices and risks were connected to a campaign that could not succeed — all of it, Kurtz said, preyed on their minds. Soon after, on Thanksgiving, his writing captured the funk into which he was descending.

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Today is just another day without my family holiday. Just dont mean anything. Im sitting here behind a Bravo medium machine gun and Im supost to feel the holiday spirit, I think not. It hurts to think about how holidays used to be and that they used to mean something when I was a kid. This was by then a familiar event. The squad was spread out, and Siatta and three Marines were separated from most of the others, who took cover by a building and returned fire.

Siatta and the exposed team, including Perez, were alone and unprotected. They scrambled for a ditch that was perhaps a foot deep. Bullets thudded all around as they huddled there. The only concealment was short grass. They tried to return fire, but each time they invited more bullets. They decided to dash across about 50 to 75 yards of open ground, to the ruins of an abandoned building. On a quick countdown — 3, 2, 1, go — they stood and bolted, sprinting for the better place, gambling that the Taliban would miss. They reached the broken building. Siatta pressed himself chest down behind a mound of dirt, extended the bipods on his rifle, looked over the top and fired about 10 shots, roughly toward where the gunfire was coming from.

Then he did what he had been trained to do. He slowed his breathing. He focused. As the bullets cracked by, he put his eye to the glass and considered his options. He wondered: Where would he be if he were them? There was a building across the field. Siatta had a good feeling about it. He had settled in now, as if he were part of the earth.

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He breathed slowly. He waited. A man stepped into the cross hairs. He was young, maybe in his 20s, wearing a white top and a dark vest. He held a Kalashnikov rifle. His scope was set for The bullet struck the man near his genitals. Siatta watched him drop. It happened as Perez called a cease-fire. Siatta looked through the scope. He fired a few more times. The man went still. A second young man stepped out. Now Siatta knew the distance. The puzzle was solved. His first shot looked as if it hit squarely in his chest. Siatta felt relaxed. He kept his scope trained on the corner.

A third man stepped out, reaching for one of the downed men. The man spun and stumbled away. Siatta thought he had hit his arm. Perez watched through his four-power scope. As the squad waited for Siatta to take another shot, the corner exploded in fire and dust. Kurtz had cleared them to shoot, ending the fight. Siatta now had undisputed combat kills.

At first it felt good. His doubts had been erased. Am I just a target shooter? Will I let my guys down? His satisfaction was temporary. War plays on the mind. Marksmanship can seem simple one moment and complicated the next. He wondered if the kills were luck. Siatta had been curious about what it felt like to kill. His journal shows his unease upon finding out. It was a great day and one of the worst days Iv had so far. Today I thought my family was going to get a folded flag and bullshit letter saying wat a great Marine I am and shit like that but I made it.

I hope my family recognizes me when I get back. My mind cannot be healed from the horrors of war. I hope they understand. In the next two weeks, Siatta shot at least six and perhaps as many as 10 more people, according to his diary and Marines present. On a Dec. The weather had turned bad, no aircraft were flying and the commander was reported to be in a compound west of the bazaar. The Marines seized the compound but did not find him.

They settled inside, listening with an interpreter to intercepted Taliban radio chatter. Soon the Taliban figured it out. The platoon came under attack from three sides. Kurtz was organizing the fight when he received an unexpected order. The Taliban boss was now said to be in a building in the bazaar.

Third Platoon was to go there and catch him. Until then, the bazaar was considered so dangerous that the Marines were told not to approach it. The platoon had assumed that when the time came to clear it, the entire company would be involved in a large planned operation. Now the platoon — about 40 Marines, already under fire — was to rush there immediately.

It was during this confusion, he said, that Siatta solidified the respect of his peers. When one walks into the recruiting office, you already know that this is going to be drastically life changing, and you are about to enter a completely new world. In this new world, you will require skills and information to assimilate and be useful; things like strangling terrorists with their own detonation cord, or sky diving onto a Somali pirate ship with a knife between your teeth might come to mind.

Sure, these are awesome, but before you ever learn to do any of that, first, you have to deal with ten very surprising and often ridiculous realities that you might not have seen in the recruiting brochure. The Army tells him it will take several months of hard training to bring the weight down to an acceptable level. The big surprise, however, is that these aggressive bowel movements continue for two weeks well into the first phase of recruit training, thus making him all kinds of friends every time the platoon heads to the toilet, and a grand total of 32 pounds lighter in just three fun weeks.

First there are the initial screening applications and medical surveys. Then there are the enlistment contract, background surveys and additional medical surveys. If you had read them, you might be more prepared for what comes next. Being healthy is a good thing. So, initial check-ups and medical evaluations are performed in the same manner they would be done with felons in a prison. Speaking of four years…. If the United States Government feels like letting you. Did your four, got out and are in University? Quit now and come back because we tell you to. A LOT. More than any one human being should ever really have to do.

Despite the United States being engaged in multiple wars in the last decade, it is a fair bet to say that the bucket and mop are as ever-present as the rifle.