Ah yes, the story of the past 3 months

Ah yes, the story of the past 3 months
September 27th, 2005  
A Can of Man

Topic: Ah yes, the story of the past 3 months

Ah yes, the story of the past 3 months


Sitting here in an internet PC place after months of being away from technology that is useful to me it’ll only be fair for me to write about the past 3 months. I am currently on leave and the past 3 months have been a bit of a blur… I guess you remember all your past moments like that. Here’s my attempt at explaining something that usually leaves me searching for words.
Incase some of you have been living under a rock, I joined the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (RoKMC) and that’s where I’ve been for the past 3 months. Of course while I’m in there I have no internet access etc.
So take your time and read what could be the only personal look inside the RoKMC written in English. And apologies for this being poorly written (especially for my standards) but I haven’t written a proper English thing other than a few letters over the past 3 months. Chances are after my 2 years are over my English might be in tatters! Anyways, read on.

Many people might wonder why in the military, everything is ordered, squared away etc etc. There are many reasons for this, but one is to prevent diseases from spreading. If you have ever served, you will get to know how easy it is to get sick in an environment where you are crammed in a small place for a long time with several people. So I got mine. Pneumonia. I got it pretty much as soon as I made it through the physical test cuts. Now just how am I supposed to explain how hard it is to pretty much run with full battle gear in the scorching heat of Pohang over four hills, rough terrain, some road wearing combat boots two sizes too large and infected with pneumonia? Or that big ass mountain under the same conditions? If it helps… basically 3 days before graduation I fell over coughing blood. But hey, I made it. Barely. I didn’t think, and I still don’t think it was good enough but considering the circumstances, that was the best I could do. But I let a lot of people down. The instructors had high hopes for me because it’s very rare that someone like me, who could have avoided service would actually come all the way to Korea to volunteer for the Marines. These days people are offering big money or use connections to get out. Showing up won me instant respect. Getting sick threw it all away. Some instructors were patient with me to the end, others were not. But if this did anything, it just made me more determined to do well at MOS (military occupational specialty… a fancy word for errr… “job.”) training (which we will get to later) and also at my actual deployment.
I got to add that due to being hospitalized for pneumonia I was supposed to flunk and join the next set of recruits and sit with them for 3 days to earn the red name tag (the mark of a RoK Marine) but the battalion CO, a major, knew how to flunk a guy 3 days from graduation, after all the training has been over is just plain silly. I had 2 weeks waiting time before shipping out for MOS training so he decided to just let me off. A lot of people looked out for me at boot camp. I have a lot of people to thank and a lot of debt to repay which can only be done by doing extremely well in the remainder of my 2 years.
By the way, last year, the military lost about 7 recruits due to pneumonia, two of which were Marines.

For those of you who don’t know me well, you’re probably expecting like something about brotherhood etc. here but for those of you who do know me better, you can probably smell my sarcasm coming to life. This is a commentary about our equipment. Right, it’s like they took the leftovers from the Band of Brothers film set and threw it at us. The helmet, though of newer materials is the same shape as the helmet that American soldiers wore while storming Normandy, the same as the helmet that US Marines wore while raising the flag at Mount Surabachi, the same as the helmet people of my grandfather’s generation who fought the North Koreans back in 1950… you get the idea. If there’s ever a war, I’m ditching that heavy, obsolete crap and I’ll just wear my 8 point cap.
We still use the A-Tent. Basically everything we have is World War II stuff, except our rifles and a few minor stuff here and there. Which I guess comes as a shock because our military is somewhat modern. I guess the grunt is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to priorities. Basically, equipment like gas masks, chemical agent detectors etc. are modern, but these things that worked back in the 1950s are considered good enough to still be used.
At the end of the Yangpo march (the ***** ass one that goes over four hills etc) we actually encountered USMC. And man what an experience that was. Their trucks are friggin’ huge and look like something out of a science fiction movie. And the MARPAT… the MARPAT is the new USMC camouflage used on their utilities (known as Battle Dress Uniforms in the Army… you know that “Army suit”). The thing seems to play with your eyes. I swear it looked gray when the guy was sitting in the truck but when he got out it looked yellowish brown like the ground he was stepping on. We still use the regular woodlands pattern that most of you are familiar with. Anyone who’s paid enough attention will notice that the regular pattern is simply too dark and I have a feeling that the black patterns actually ruin the camouflage. If you have time or the interest, look up MARPAT and also it’s Canadian cousin the CADPAT. Both are great cammo. Don’t believe me when I say black is horrible camouflage? If you ever walked out in the grasslands you’ll notice how much easier it is to spot a crow than it is to spot deer. A crow is the size of a deer’s foot but the deer is harder to spot.
And according to one of our instructors, American troops sleep on air mattresses and inflate it with an air capsule. We were all going, “bull …” but I believe him. Also he said the American troops sleep in large tents that you can fit a Humvee in. hell. For a person of the modern age, I have way too many “I feel like a cave man” moments.

I’ve lived outside of my country for about 20 years or more and my Korean isn’t the best in the world. It’s improved since I got here but in the beginning it was a disaster. I had trouble filling out forms etc. but what I made sure of in the forms was in the right places such as “do you have any concerns about your service?” or “my primary weaknesses are (list below)” I wrote, “my Korean isn’t very good but my English is perfect. For an MOS you get three choices. I picked infantry as first, armor as second and jeep driver as third. I really filled 2 and 3 for fun and it was infantry I wanted to go to. Infantry would have been the best deal for me because it’s where you get the most combat training and eventually when you gain rank and you are good at another language, you are used in a translator role. I really did think I was going to get infantry because it made so much sense. Instead I got NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Reconnaissance. Basically this MOS is about going out into artillery fire to determine if the enemy is using chemical agents to defeat our troops. The thing about this MOS is that it requires a lot of studying because of the complicated nature of the mission. So they got this guy who can’t understand a thing in any of the books and threw him into the most book intensive program that a Marine enlisted man can get assigned to. So much for “My Korean isn’t very good” I wrote a gazillion times. I might as well have written “I am a North Korean Communist spy who makes extra side money as a male prostitute” and I probably would have made Chaplain. Even my drill instructors couldn’t believe it. Just how stupid can you get? One of the drill instructors, a Gunny Sarge, actually speaks pretty good English so he realized the value of having me in the Corps. There are a few people who do speak English but none are familiar with USMC or anything military. Ask these military translators what a MEU (SOC) or an ACR is and they will have no clue. LOC, LOS, Combatant Commander, Humvee, UH-60, HMG, WMD, JOC… the only guys who speak English in the Marines here who knows what the hell those things mean are me and Gunny Sarge. And now as a specialist through normal means I cannot be used in a translation role. Translators are picked out of the infantry MOS. Less than 1 / 100 specialists are ever transferred to another role.
However, I may have made up for their silly mistake.


Hehe, I’m actually not illiterate in Korean but I’m crap enough at reading and writing it. When I open my text book all I see is a lot of text which I cannot make any sense of and so all I do is look at the picture. But hey, a picture is worth a thousand words. And if that’s the case, certainly watching and following is worth a million. Out of a class of 62 people, I finished 20th. This may not sound very good until you realize that no one else there had any language problems and I got all the points doing actual demonstration. Because I couldn’t rely on the written for points, I had to get a near perfect score in the demonstration of actually using the equipment. My efforts at the Army base (the Marines do not have their own NBC Reconnaissance training program) won a lot of hearts. At this point I was over my pneumonia and still pissed off from the boot camp misadventure, volunteered to carry the heaviest equipment on all the field trainings. It felt good to be back. People who knew me from boot camp and people who knew me from MOS training have a totally different view of me. The boot camp Marines saw me as a weak and constantly sick guy. The Marines from MOS training think I should go for Force Recon selection.
After you’ve run over hills with full gear, pneumonia and a pair of Ronald McDonald combat boots in hot weather, everything else seems so much easier. Who knows, maybe the pneumonia was a blessing in disguise. God’s a strange guy.


News came in much freer while I was at the Army base but while I was in the Marine boot camp, we didn’t have access to newspapers or news on TV. So I only found out about the London terror incident about a week and a half after it happened and only because I was carried off to the infirmary because of my pneumonia.
The New Orleans thing… that happened while I was getting MOS training and we had TV there so knowing about it was instant. Very unfortunate. I guess that movie Day After Tomorrow wasn’t complete bull after all. Though I’m considered right wing on a lot of stuff, people don’t realize I only stopped being involved in environmental stuff after I came to college (because it got way too political).
I hope no one who is receiving this email has lost someone due to either the London terror incident or the New Orleans hurricane disaster.

A few things happened while I was at boot camp. One of the biggest Korean incidents was that shooting inside the JSA (Joint Security Area). What they have are G.P.s, which is a post inside the DMZ (the border). It looks like a fort and the South Korean one can see the North Korean one (and vice versa) real easy. What happened was a disgruntled South Korean Army Private First Class threw in grenades while he was on duty and killed a whole lot of people. So what happened over at the Pohang Marine Training Center? We all got dragged out onto the football pitch (which is really a patch of gravel that will rip your skin off if you fall on it) and pretty much spent the day doing… well don’t know what it is in English but you have to put your hands together over your head so your fingers point up. Your hands must not touch your head, your arms must be bent a bit and from there you kneel down with one leg in front of the other at a 45 degree angle and you start jumping up and down switching legs. In Korean it’s known as “Chogura Tigi.” The DIs (Drill Instructors) were going on about how our generation was just full of useless and spoilt bastards etc etc. Why the heck we got punished for what the Army did is anyone’s guess. After that there was an incident where two Army guys lost their rifles while standing guard. They got attacked by thieves. I was at the infirmary at the time… but I’m pretty sure the other guys were doing that same bull all day.
On the same note, these new generation guys need to learn the art of shutting the up. No seriously. I guess you won’t appreciate the extent of my grief on this matter but I have never met a bunch of people who had so much crap to say. Obviously we’re supposed to be quiet but it seems to be an impossibility for these guys. So here we are standing in front of a building (it happens everywhere all the time), maintaining decent rank and file (i.e. lined up with the guy in front of you and beside you) and these guys just keep talking in loud voices. Okay, so I guess it is impossible to shut up all the time but please, when the DI comes out, please, you need to shut the hell up.
So the guys are chatting away… I’m not saying a word of course and I can see the DI coming. I’m just thinking “please guys, shut the hell up.” I didn’t say it anymore because I gave up after 3 attempts. “Here comes Gunny Sarge… here comes Gunny Sarge… Gunny Sarge is pissed…”
“Chogura tigi junbi” (Prepare for that jumping crap) says Gunny. The chatting stops and the fingers all point to the sky. Same , different day. This not shutting the up might get someone killed someday.

The military. An organization of highly disciplined individuals who do not panic in dangerous situations. An organization where soldiers obey orders right away. Until of course someone throws Chocopie.
The place where a recruit becomes a Marine here is when we go up a mountain called Cheonjabong with full battle gear. So we went up (painfully), and came down and then sat in this open area to relax. Some religious service people showed up to spread around snacks. At the end of handing them around, one of the workers said, “there’s an extra box of chocopie if anyone wants it.” The neatly ordered rank and file of the Marines just disintegrated into a massive cloud of chaos. It all started with one guy standing up and running forward, stepping on people while screaming “I want it! I want it!” Soon followed by a bunch of dudes. I was pissed. So were the Drill Instructors. Just how retarded can you get?
Ever need to beat the South Korean military? Forget the smart weapons. Just throw chocopie. You’ll win in less than 1 minute.

Life in the military can get pretty darn boring. So there are some things one can do to keep himself entertained. For example, when we lined up for introductory airborne training I noticed that from the position of the DIs and my position, it was impossible to see my crotch area. I had to take a piss, so I just unzipped and took a piss on the airborne training ground while in perfect rank and file. People around me were obviously whispering, “this guy’s nuts…” What a crap way to talk about something so incredibly fun to do. See this is the thing about life in the military. There are too many “you just had to be there” moments. Well anyways I did it again at MOS training at the Army base. We lined up for food during Field Tactics Exercises (basically the one where you run around in the woods). Took a piss so smooth that the two guys behind me had no idea I took a piss. Obviously the guy in front of me knew because I took the piss right next to his foot. He pointed it out. The guys behind me were impressed.

Never, ever, EVER let the military medical whatevers do anything on you. They can’t even stick in the IV needles correctly. Believe it or not they actually performed some surgery on some guy’s arm while I was there and… yeah, they kinda him up. Basically the instant you step inside a military medical facility, you are a subject of human testing. I was hospitalized for pneumonia and so they had to put an IV in me. They were so bad at it that by the time they were done it looked like I just ***** slapped a porcupine. The Marines don’t have medics. We use Navy Corpsmen. And they HATE Marines.
In fact, EVERYONE hates Marines. Except for old people. They think we’re a nice lot. But young people hate Marines. I’m very fortunate to have met some people here who believe me when I say “I won’t hit you during leave.” Nowadays we are under STRICT and direct orders not to fight during leave. So it only happens when absolutely necessary. Or if we’re pissed off enough, which hasn’t happened.

I don’t know what else to say. There’s a lot I’m sure, but there’s little time and I just don’t know how to tell them. And some which are just plain censored. Some of you know them, you know who you are and that’s the way I’m keeping it!
It’s all been a blur.
But it's pretty fun

September 27th, 2005  
13th redneck, I really enjoyed reading every last word of your post. You might want to try a career in the writing field when you finish your tour in the marines. I really have to give you a lot of credit putting up with some of the BS you talked about! Good Luck in the future and please keep us informed.
September 27th, 2005  
Whispering Death
You're one tough SOB, glad you're on our side because I'm afraid of you! Walking from my bed to my refrigerator with the flu is enough to make me spill my millitary secrets... running in full kit with pneumonia? Nuh-uh.
Ah yes, the story of the past 3 months
September 27th, 2005  
Italian Guy
You're one cool cookie, 13th, I knew that. Man, when the heck will you be back??
September 27th, 2005  
A Can of Man
Thank you all for your kind words.
Actually I am thinking of writing sometime when I'm much older. In fact, if my story turns out to be interesting enough I will write a book about it. The audience will most likely to be Korean American. I can't see anyone else who would give a damn hahaha.
Italian Guy, I will be back in 2 years.
If you want to communicate with me you can email me at dalegwak at the gmail address. (gmail.com). My brother will check my emails, print them and send them to me. This is assuming I don't have internet email access at my base (I haven't been assigned there just yet).
This will probably be my last post before I go.
Take care all
September 27th, 2005  
Italian Guy
We will be keeping in touch, 13th. Take care and kick ass. Ciao-
September 27th, 2005  
You're already looking like a badass. Good for you and give 'em hell.
September 27th, 2005  
Charge 7
I might as well have written “I am a North Korean Communist spy who makes extra side money as a male prostitute” and I probably would have made Chaplain.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the military, 13th!
September 27th, 2005  
Congratulations Redneck.... Welcome to the unbelievably lovely world of the military.
September 28th, 2005  
13th, you are one badass looking dude. Good luck with everything