Iraq War – Operation Iraqi Freedom – Part 3 – Djibouti

IRAQ WAR - DJIBOUTI (26 Dec 03 – 22 Apr 04)

Doves – One of These Days
Say you will stay
Forgot what I came here for
Passing signs on the road
Telling me I’m far from home

Your friends they were so close
One by one they didn’t stay
Drift away like rolling sea
One by one they drift away
One of these days
One of these days

I changed quite a bit over the course of the deployment. Wisconsin, I was anxious and didn’t know any better, and in Kuwait I was reckless and got into a lot of trouble. Djibouti was a country that set me right. I was still stressed out and depressed, but there, in a country so removed from everything I knew, almost literally on the other side of the world from California, I experienced an earthquake, both literally and emotionally. It set me straight, after the most uplifting time of the deployment (Soldier of the Quarter Award) as well as the subsequent most thought provoking, depressing time of the deployment (handing out 87 body bags after what seemed to be a relatively insignificant rainfall).

There is no reason that a country should be so poor that it accepts an irrigation infrastructure as a luxury that they inevitably cannot obtain. This happens, year after year, and nothing is done to stop it, because the government doesn’t have any money. This country made me realize something, something that Kuwait couldn’t do. Kuwait was so full from its own oil that they had servants do their bidding in that dry country. Djibouti is a third world country that few people know about or even care about.

And I learned that we’re damn lucky. So fucking lucky. Do you know how easy it is to make a decent living here in the states? How easy it is to be ‘successful’ and to pursue your dreams? How easy it all is… By the time I had made my way over to Africa, I was 20, and already had in my wallet more money than what any family could have saved up in their lifetime. Yet, I can attest to the fact Djibouti and Kenya, with all their inadequacies, really knew how to find joy in the little they had. And here we sit, unsatisfied with how little our parents leave us with, how inept our country has been, and how competitive it all is just because everyone is just as selfish as we are.

I didn’t write as much as I did in Kuwait, which meant I had more things to keep myself occupied. But I also took more pictures. I hope it helps with telling at least a bit of the story.

I’ll never forget Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. For all the good times, for all the bad times, for all the things we learned. I for one learned that when all four departments of the military come together, they can indeed work together as a team and accomplish all our missions successfully, while establishing good foundation and creating a desirable atmosphere. There is only one Camp Lemonier in the world, and I’m sure of it. And I’m glad my belief in the military was redefined by my experiences there than any other bases in the world.

26 Dec 03
MERRY FUCKING XMAS.
On Christmas Day, approx 1600 hrs, we found out we have 10 hours to prepare for everything, we’re taking off at 0200 hrs. Well, of course that ruined all our Xmas plans.

29 Dec 03
I’m lucky enough to serve with America’s best, regardless of their intent of joining in the first place.

Well, we’re taking malaria pills. I keep forgetting where I left it and all, but I take it everyday now after dinner. There were couple malaria stories that I heard that I didn’t like too much, and I heard they’re carried by mosquitoes and flies, which there are plenty of here biting us, so I got real scared and started taking them seriously yesterday. Well, Roberson had taken one in the morning, and he was feeling so bad that he couldn’t even stand up straight. That guy looked like he was about to throw up, which he did for the first time in 5 years, and he still looked like he was fucked up. He went to the doctors, found out he had a fever (yeah) and took the day slow.

8 Jan 04
Happy New Years. This holiday season has been anything but jolly. I don’t remember anything special this time around. I think it gave me a new perception of Christmas and New Year’s. I remember getting my guitar out and started strumming annoying chords, screaming Happy New Year’s as a Super Stallion (Marine helicopter) flew by and that was about it.

19 Feb 04
I went on leave on 2 Feb, and I had an awesome time on leave. Right now I’m actually getting some time to sit down, relax, and just be free enough to reflect and write about the past 2 weeks.

I flew out of Djibouti, Africa at 0315 hrs on 2 Feb 04. I flew in Omni International Airlines to the country of Cyprus (for the next year or so until annexed by Turkey again or something), then to Germany, then to Baltimore, Maryland. The trip to Baltimore took just about 18 hrs, which wasn’t very fun.

I headed to Cincinnati, Ohio in Delta Airlines (470 bucks roundtrip, btw), and I had realized I had very little to eat in the last 24 hrs. It was at this point that I approached the front desk of my gate and asked if I have enough time to get something to eat, because I was feeling kind of hungry. The attendants replied playfully, asking if I am really hungry or just kind of hungry. After a brief friendly confrontation, they directed me to the food court and told me I have about 40 minutes to spare. Well, then I went to McDonald’s for the first time in about 9 months, and was getting my delicious Big Mac when I figured, I’m in a really, really good mood. I mean just standing there in the airport, I spread my arms out and wanted to scream, “FREEDOM!” When I was landing at Baltimore, I saw lights and buildings and cars and civilization, something that was only a distant memory in my mind. I was culturally shocked. It was snowing outside and I stood out amongst trenchcoats and umbrellas with my jeans and Operation Iraqi Freedom shirt. I was so close to kissing the very ground I was standing on, but I did manage to maintain my posture. So with all that, I would have to say I was overwhelmed and was experiencing culture shock in my own country of citizenship. I was relieved and overjoyed. So I decided to celebrate by spreading a little bit of that joy in a playful way. I ordered a strawberry shake and got a mocha frap at the nearby Starbucks, and headed back to the front desk. I gave them to the 2 clerks, saying, “I got you something; I figured you weren’t really hungry, so I figured you would be thirsty. Here’s a strawberry shake and mocha frap because I didn’t know what you guys would like.” And one of them said, “How did you do that?” I replied, “Well, I had some money, and I just decided to get some drinks… I think it’s called purchasing stuff. I just figured you gals are on a night shift so you could use some caffeine.” She then said back to me, “My God, that’s like the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me… I was just kidding around about you being hungry. I gotta introduce my daughter to you.” “Oh, is she available?” “Yeah, she’s graduating from Ohio State this coming March.” “Oh, well, I can be there, wait…. nm, I don’t think I can make it. But listen, I gotta go change because I’ve worn the same stuff for the last 24 hrs. Enjoy your drinks.” So I went to the bathroom and came back. Just after I sat back down, I heard over the intercom, “Would the passenger Elliott Kim please report to the front desk.” I reported as ordered and she said, “Oh, I forgot to give this to you.” (She handed over a boarding pass) I replied, “I already have one, I think I got it back in Baltimore when I checked in there.” And she said, “Oh no, but this one’s First Class.”

PAUSE

It was at this point that I realized it was my turn to say, “How did you do that?” And she said, “Well, I just punched in some numbers and printed out a boarding pass… I think it’s called doing my job.” I didn’t know what to say. I really didn’t. I had just upgraded myself to a First Class on a 5 hour flight over 2 drinks. What do you say when something like that happens and you didn’t see it coming? She continued to amuse me, telling me about how her daughter should meet up with someone like me to get married, someone with manners and humor. I shot back, “Oh what? But you don’t look old enough to have a daughter!” She laughed and said, “Please, I already got you First Class.” After a brief conversation that continued, I managed to find my seats when I finally made my way into the plane (I had accidentally made a right to Economy class and ended up at the back of the plane when I realized the numbers were getting bigger, not smaller), but even then, the entire First Class deck was watching my every move. Here’s a scrawny 20 year old sitting in First Class seats… The 65 year old private businessman sitting directly behind me then told me that it was the slickest thing he’s seen since his visit to Las Vegas. It was definitely the best 7 dollars I had ever spent.

From there, I flew to LAX for another 5 hours. That was good 24 hours of the past 28 hours. When I got to LAX, my good friend Matt Mck was waiting for me. Well, I was walking around and I happened to end up standing behind Matt, and for about 30 seconds I was just listening to him talk to his friend, him totally unaware that I was even there right behind him. What an awesome way to be welcomed to the city of angels.

For the next 24 hours I called a lot of people I haven’t called for quite some time. I went on AIM, which was kind of exciting at first, although I’m not very used to some of the newer features.

Here’s my schedule:
2 Feb 2200 – LAX
4 Feb 0015 – Leave for Korea, 5 Feb 0815 Arrive at Korea
9 Feb 1515 – Leave for LAX, 9 Feb 0830 Arrive at LAX
11 Feb 2030 – Berkeley
14 Feb 2100 – LAX
18 Feb 1345 – LAX to Baltimore

Korea
The only real reason behind the Korean visit during my short 15 day stay was because I had a feeling my brother wasn’t doing all that great and I needed to check his status for myself. Of course it was expensive, but no matter. He’s my brother and I had a feeling he needed me. I may have traveled to Korea for 4 days, a total of 40 hours of air travel there from Djibouti. My head was spinning for even 3 days after my return from Korea. But I believe I did the best of what I set out to do. I did meet up with my diaper buddy’s brother (1st since 6 years ago) and his family, my old church buddies from when we were 7 or so, my grandparents and my uncles and aunts. I was busy traveling most of the time. I wasn’t very happy with the position that the Army put my brother in, though. 63 people and 70 million dollars on a 23 year old? On a brand new gold bar? What the hell are they thinking? Some Companies aren’t even that big. I stayed at a different location every night.

LA
I know how stressful it can be for a college student on a weekday schedule. But Matt Mck actually took the time to drive all the way down from UCLA to Cerritos to see me for a couple hours on Tuesday the 10th. I don’t know if I would be able to do the same should we have reversed our roles. But I thank him for his constant support and understanding. He’s played a significant part with my sanity. I started to clean up my Cerritos residency with a year’s worth of junk I was slowly sending home.

Berkeley
I spent an entire day on Thursday going to class. I thought that the first class was pretty interesting, but the second class, I just kind of lost him. I think it could have been interesting if I knew what the hell the guy was saying. Plus, Echeverry just has a really dreadful mood to it… I think.
I cleaned up the entire living room full of junk for 3 days I was there. I met up with several people that I thought I probably wouldn’t have many opportunities to meet for quite some time. I couldn’t sleep past 8 AM for some reason, though, no matter when I went to sleep at 3AM or 11 PM. I met up with Tiffany, who I think matured physically and emotionally over the past year, and of course Patrick, the smartest man on earth. He even did my taxes for me, and I promised to take him out on that refund.

LA
Sean Novak. He’s been my longest friend since my immigration to America, since 5th grade. I think we’ve had our differences in the past, mostly due to my own immaturity, but I love the guy to death. I had a chance to meet and talk to him, and I wish him the best of everything, for obvious reasons. It hurts me so to know that that he may not be in the best of circumstances. I had an awesome opportunity to hang around with 3 other buddies, David Uyan, Sung Nam, and Matt Mck and watched the movie The Last Samurai. I had just enough time to kind of finish cleaning up my room.

Things I haven’t done in a year (Since 10 Feb 03):
Seen Berkeley, a city I was given 48 hours to leave
Seen my mom
Seen my brother, a 2LT with the 2d Infantry Division in Korea
Seen my friend Tiffany and my roommate Patrick
Drank Starbucks
Walked on any street I wanted without needing to seek authorization
Eaten In ‘N Out
Slept in my own bed
Taken a bath
Taken a shower with a toilet in the same bathroom
Taken a shower in a room with a door
Taken a dump whenever, however long I want
Eaten Korean food, or whatever I want, whenever I want
Eaten something other than Spaghetti, grilled ham and cheese sandwich, spaghetti, meat loaf, or chicken
Drank real water
Watched television
Used AIM
Dialed less than 10 numbers to get connected (average is 10 for DSN number to get connected to USA from Djibouti, 11 for phone card, 10 for pin number, 10 for phone number (40+ total average), for US calls, to Korea usually adds 5 more numbers)
Worn contacts (still haven’t, they can’t be worn in such combat zones because of the nature of sandstorms)
Put on gel (still haven’t, I’ve shaved my head on this deployment several times now)

Things I haven’t done since at least 13 Jun 04 (8 months or more I’ve been deployed oversees):
Eaten at McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr.
Driven in a regular car other than a Humvee
Taken a shower that wasn’t too hot or too cold
Brush my teeth with the same water from the makeshift faucet (we use water bottles because Djiboutian quality of water may meet shower standards but is not good enough for brushing your teeth with.)
Watched a movie
Listened to radio

Other Things I did during my 15 days of fame:
Met up with family and friends
Ate a variety of foods
Went through a year’s worth of mail in the Berkeley residence
Cleaned up junk in Berkeley and Cerritos
Traveled to Korea to meet up with my brother and some family and friends
Watched Lord of the Rings and the Last Samurai
Watched 2 episodes of Simpsons
Traveled too much too fast.
CASE IN POINT:
Djibouti-4.5h-Cyprus-4.5h-Germany-8h-Baltimore-1.5h-Cincinnati-5.5h-LAX-14h-Korea-11h-LAX-1h-
Oakland-1h-LAX-4h-Atlanta-2h-Baltimore -9h-Germany-6.5h-Qatar-5.5h-Djibouti… Total comes up to close to 40000 miles.

I got sick at Baltimore. I had the massive cold and headache. I think it was from all the traveling and change in weather and time. Half the time I don’t think my brain even knew what time zone I was in. Within 36 hours, though, I was running 5 miles on the trail here in Djibouti. I mean, I don’t like running to begin with, and I was really feeling not great… I wasn’t faking it. I was coughing up mucus every 5 seconds, I couldn’t even breath, and my brain was tumbling around in my head. Then we did it again 2 days later. Now, I’m feeling much healthier, but back then, I was going through some tough times.

Things I accomplished in the past year
I lobbied real hard and earned the title Person of the Year according to Time Magazine (American Soldier).
Earned enough money to support myself through college.
Traveled to 6 different countries.
Conversed with the Hungarian, British, Italian, French, and the Korean soldiers.
Survived freezing cold of Wisconsin and scorching heat of Kuwait and Djibouti.
Took 2 online classes.

4 Mar 04
I had myself convinced that Djibouti is going to a fun place to be after my leave. In fact, I was looking forward to it, because I was really tired of traveling after Korea and Berkeley and LA and Baltimore. I just couldn’t just stay in one place for 14 days. But I got here, having that mind set, and I was wrong. I didn’t want to do anything. I hated the food, the showers, the runs, the uniforms, and I sure as hell didn’t want to work. I missed home, I was depressed, and I started to look at my fellow comrades as a work buddy and nothing more. I lost a lot of the motivation. But I’m working back up to it now. I already feel like I’m ready to go on cruise control again, but not yet… not just yet. I got too spoiled on my 14, 15 days of fame.

The sudden realization of the fact that we are indeed wearing the uniform of war demoralizes me. I cannot seem to accept the truth, and I constantly struggle with my religious beliefs, with my own maturity, my social skills. I am easily sidetracked and easily annoyed. Perhaps Porcayo was right when he told me that I’m arrogant.

16 May 04
That doesn’t mean a lot of things haven’t been happening, though. In the past 2 months after my leave, I wasn’t really able to update my journal because I just lost the motivation to. On top of that, my power adapter for the laptop failed on me, having been through 6 different countries for the past 15 months. So in the time that it took for the new one to be delivered to my mother’s place, and for her to mail it to me, and for me to receive it after my return from Kenya trip, we were already on our way to Kuwait.

 

*Black bars that may follow in proceeding pictures are positioned to ensure the privacy of those in the Special Forces.

Iraq War Photo. This is one of the first pictures I took in Djibouti. Here, you see that we managed to grab a 8 men tent, small enough to have CPT Guardiano stay in another tent.

This is one of the first pictures I took in Djibouti. Here, you see that we managed to grab a 8 men tent, small enough to have CPT Guardiano stay in another tent.

Iraq War Photo. This is when I started to get settled in some more. I bought a blanket, and had most of my stuff organized in a fairly neat matter, along with my sheet covers and pillow covers. I turned the bed sideways to give myself some more room. (Roberson on right)

This is when I started to get settled in some more. I bought a blanket, and had most of my stuff organized in a fairly neat matter, along with my sheet covers and pillow covers. I turned the bed sideways to give myself some more room. (Roberson on right)

Iraq War Photo. Here's the ultimate multitasker. Busy on the computer, making calls, and even acting surprised for the camera.

Here’s the ultimate multitasker. Busy on the computer, making calls, and even acting surprised for the camera.

Iraq War Photo. Sanchez and I had the only 2 digital cameras in the entire platoon. We would take turns taking pictures for each other.

Sanchez and I had the only 2 digital cameras in the entire platoon. We would take turns taking pictures for each other.

Iraq War Photo. Why is the man on the left not smiling?

Why is the man on the left not smiling?

Iraq War Photo. Because he knows what Fitz is packing. Fitz really knew how to conceal his pistols. I couldn't keep mine from sticking out.

Because he knows what Fitz is packing. Fitz really knew how to conceal his pistols. I couldn’t keep mine from sticking out.

Iraq War Photo. I went home on leave on February 04, exactly one year after my deployment orders. Here I am, with my closest friends. The man sitting next to me is Sean Novak, followed by Matt McKinney, Sung Nam, and David Uyan.

I went home on leave on February 04, exactly one year after my deployment orders. Here I am, with my closest friends. The man sitting next to me is Sean Novak, followed by Matt McKinney, Sung Nam, and David Uyan.

Iraq War Photo. I love this shot.

I love this shot.

Iraq War Photo. I should have known better... I thought we were going to fly in commercial airliner, back to the hottest continent on earth. I was wrong. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm flying across the Atlantic Ocean in a C-141, wearing 4 T shirts because I didn't think it'd ever get cold enough.

I should have known better… I thought we were going to fly in commercial airliner, back to the hottest continent on earth. I was wrong. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m flying across the Atlantic Ocean in a C-141, wearing 4 T shirts because I didn’t think it’d ever get cold enough.

Iraq War Photo. THE BRAKES ARE ON FIRE! GET OUT OF THE PLANE NOW!!! It didn't happen this time, though.

THE BRAKES ARE ON FIRE! GET OUT OF THE PLANE NOW!!!
It didn’t happen this time, though.

Iraq War Photo. Qatar. You can see how boring this camp could be. But outside, it's paradise. Here, the wind really picked up and it was pretty cold.

Qatar. You can see how boring this camp could be. But outside, it’s paradise. Here, the wind really picked up and it was pretty cold.

Iraq War Photo. I would get in a C-130 to fly to Djibouti. But that's not before they put an entire truck in the plane to take off with.

I would get in a C-130 to fly to Djibouti. But that’s not before they put an entire truck in the plane to take off with.

Iraq War Photo. I think his name was Major Kim. I'm not perfectly sure. But he was the only other Korean in the Djiboutian base that was in the Korean Army. There was another Korean on base, but he was a Marine and he didn't like me very much. Probably because he felt like I was intruding on his territory of koreanness. I really didn't care though.

I think his name was Major Kim. I’m not perfectly sure. But he was the only other Korean in the Djiboutian base that was in the Korean Army. There was another Korean on base, but he was a Marine and he didn’t like me very much. Probably because he felt like I was intruding on his territory of koreanness. I really didn’t care though.

Iraq War Photo. People ask, well, what were you doing in Djibouti? Well, besides the postal operation, there's a ton of things we were asked to do. Everyone's a soldier first, and here's Fitz, out on the range with a Special Forces First Sergeant, with an M4.

People ask, well, what were you doing in Djibouti? Well, besides the postal operation, there’s a ton of things we were asked to do. Everyone’s a soldier first, and here’s Fitz, out on the range with a Special Forces First Sergeant, with an M4.

Iraq War Photo. Contreras returning from his target, and Fitz keeps lighting them up. Contreras was the best machine gunner I'll ever meet, and Fitz was an expert marksman, consistently shooting over 36 of 40 targets ranging from 50 to 300 meters with iron sights.

Contreras returning from his target, and Fitz keeps lighting them up. Contreras was the best machine gunner I’ll ever meet, and Fitz was an expert marksman, consistently shooting over 36 of 40 targets ranging from 50 to 300 meters with iron sights.

Iraq War Photo. Camp Lemonier had a great Cantina. Most nights they sold beer for a buck. Contreras and I are chilling at what would be our home for another 4 months.

Camp Lemonier had a great Cantina. Most nights they sold beer for a buck. Contreras and I are chilling at what would be our home for another 4 months.

Iraq War Photo. Munoz. When I was uploading this picture, I was increasing frustrated at the inability to recollect people's names. But it's weird, now that I'm typing it out, remember his name. And I should because we were so close, and he was from Long Beach, CA, not far from where I grew up. He was part of HMH-464, Marine Super Stallion helicopter battalion.

Munoz. When I was uploading this picture, I was increasing frustrated at the inability to recollect people’s names. But it’s weird, now that I’m typing it out, remember his name. And I should because we were so close, and he was from Long Beach, CA, not far from where I grew up. He was part of HMH-464, Marine Super Stallion helicopter battalion.

Iraq War Photo. There was a gym right across our tent, and it was a good one at that. This gym for 1600 soldiers in Camp Lemonier was bigger and better than the ones in Camp Arifjan, home to tens of thousands. I started to work out more, but I would never get as buff as Sanchez.

There was a gym right across our tent, and it was a good one at that. This gym for 1600 soldiers in Camp Lemonier was bigger and better than the ones in Camp Arifjan, home to tens of thousands. I started to work out more, but I would never get as buff as Sanchez.

Iraq War Photo. The humidity really took a toll on preceding shots but this one came out ok. All the lights you see in the background are from the military base, not from Djiboutian towns. When we landed on Djibouti, we would rarely even know we were landing until we actually hit the ground. That's how dark that country was. That was better for us anyway, for security reasons. We would still land in full red light only security.

The humidity really took a toll on preceding shots but this one came out ok. All the lights you see in the background are from the military base, not from Djiboutian towns. When we landed on Djibouti, we would rarely even know we were landing until we actually hit the ground. That’s how dark that country was. That was better for us anyway, for security reasons. We would still land in full red light only security.

Iraq War Photo. One of the critters that a Marine pulling guard captured in his water bottle. I always felt bad about those Marines because they never got to go out of base. They would stand guard all day every day.

One of the critters that a Marine pulling guard captured in his water bottle. I always felt bad about those Marines because they never got to go out of base. They would stand guard all day every day.

Iraq War Photo. This is how we ate, most of the time. Creativity at its best.

This is how we ate, most of the time. Creativity at its best.

Iraq War Photo. Drunken volleyball. The night was dark enough that the camera automatically went into longer exposure shots. I think it ended up being better that way. Everyone had to swear to have drank 6 bottles of beer minimum, with several of us having a lot more than that. This particular evening, though, I was too tired to take part in the game and decided to take a sit and take pictures of the times I knew I was going to miss.

Drunken volleyball. The night was dark enough that the camera automatically went into longer exposure shots. I think it ended up being better that way. Everyone had to swear to have drank 6 bottles of beer minimum, with several of us having a lot more than that. This particular evening, though, I was too tired to take part in the game and decided to take a sit and take pictures of the times I knew I was going to miss.

Iraq War Photo. At midnight, we would start off slow and small, but by the end of the 2nd hour, we would have well over 20 guys playing in one field, and many more watching the show. We became so rowdy at one point that the Quarterdeck CDO had to come down and give us a warning, and afterwards break it up. I went to sleep after the warning, but apparently some people got in trouble for it. For a couple days, the cantina served nothing but sodas.

At midnight, we would start off slow and small, but by the end of the 2nd hour, we would have well over 20 guys playing in one field, and many more watching the show. We became so rowdy at one point that the Quarterdeck CDO had to come down and give us a warning, and afterwards break it up. I went to sleep after the warning, but apparently some people got in trouble for it. For a couple days, the cantina served nothing but sodas.

Iraq War Photo. We went over to Foster's office to grab him for dinner. He couldn't get out of a meeting, though, so here he is, looking out from his 'cell'. He fell under B-TOG, Bravo Company, The Old Guard. They're the same guys that do the military ceremonies in Washington D.C., and also guard the Tomb of the Unknown. US Army was so stretched out that they activated their unit for deployment for the first time since the Vietnam War.

We went over to Foster’s office to grab him for dinner. He couldn’t get out of a meeting, though, so here he is, looking out from his ‘cell’. He fell under B-TOG, Bravo Company, The Old Guard. They’re the same guys that do the military ceremonies in Washington D.C., and also guard the Tomb of the Unknown. US Army was so stretched out that they activated their unit for deployment for the first time since the Vietnam War.

Iraq War Photo. We went out as often as we could, probably averaging around once a week or so. Here Sanchez plays around with a Djiboutian kid. They didn't understand us for the most part.

We went out as often as we could, probably averaging around once a week or so. Here Sanchez plays around with a Djiboutian kid. They didn’t understand us for the most part.

Iraq War Photo. This is a sight to behold. How many of us are there? You're correct if you said that there are 9 of us watching a single 27" TV on a wooden TV stand that I set up. There's 3 on the left, 1 on the bed on top, 4 to the right, and me on the bed, close to the TV to take this group shot of us watching a Japanese Anime called Initial D.

This is a sight to behold. How many of us are there? You’re correct if you said that there are 9 of us watching a single 27″ TV on a wooden TV stand that I set up. There’s 3 on the left, 1 on the bed on top, 4 to the right, and me on the bed, close to the TV to take this group shot of us watching a Japanese Anime called Initial D.

Iraq War Photo. At one point in the cantina, we were playing with the arm wrestling tables that the KBR guys had set up for us. There, the Honor Guard, Marines, us postal, and everyone in between got together to challenge everyone for a match of manhood. The highlight of my night then was my match with SGT Watson. A sniper with the Honor Guard, EIB, Airborne, Air Assault, I pointed him out. We went at it for the longest time, must have been at least 2, maybe 3 minutes and Foster started pouring beer on our hands.. But in the end, I came out victorious. A huge uproar in the postal and infantry communities ensued.

At one point in the cantina, we were playing with the arm wrestling tables that the KBR guys had set up for us. There, the Honor Guard, Marines, us postal, and everyone in between got together to challenge everyone for a match of manhood. The highlight of my night then was my match with SGT Watson. A sniper with the Honor Guard, EIB, Airborne, Air Assault, I pointed him out. We went at it for the longest time, must have been at least 2, maybe 3 minutes and Foster started pouring beer on our hands.. But in the end, I came out victorious. A huge uproar in the postal and infantry communities ensued.

Iraq War Photo. Fitz, Sanchez and me, tired after working all day, drinking all night, and kicking ass in drunken volleyball.

Fitz, Sanchez and me, tired after working all day, drinking all night, and kicking ass in drunken volleyball.

Iraq War Photo. This is the proudest moment of my deployment. Out of everyone in Camp Lemonier, I was awarded Soldier of the Quarter.  Certificate of Commendation Commanding Officer U.S. Marine Forces Central Command - DJibouti takes pleasure in commending Specialist Sung Kim United States Army  for  Superior Performance of duties while serving as the Army Service Member of the Quarter for U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Africa, during the Second Quarter Calendar Year 2004. Specialist Kim demonstrated those traits and qualities that clearly distinguish soldiers of an exceptional caliber. Specialist Kim's military bearing, knowledge, and command presence were unmistakably evident in his daily activities and before the MARCENT Headquarters Service Member of the Quarter Board. Specialist Kim's professional manners, initiative and proactive attitude reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the united States Naval Service. Congratulations on a job well done!  23 March 2004  W.H. Callahan Colonel U. S. Marine Corps Commanding

This is the proudest moment of my deployment. Out of everyone in Camp Lemonier, I was awarded Soldier of the Quarter.
Certificate of Commendation
Commanding Officer U.S. Marine Forces Central Command – DJibouti
takes pleasure in commending
Specialist Sung Kim
United States Army
for
Superior Performance of duties while serving as the Army Service Member of the Quarter for U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Africa, during the Second Quarter Calendar Year 2004. Specialist Kim demonstrated those traits and qualities that clearly distinguish soldiers of an exceptional caliber. Specialist Kim’s military bearing, knowledge, and command presence were unmistakably evident in his daily activities and before the MARCENT Headquarters Service Member of the Quarter Board. Specialist Kim’s professional manners, initiative and proactive attitude reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the united States Naval Service. Congratulations on a job well done!
23 March 2004
W.H. Callahan
Colonel
U. S. Marine Corps
Commanding

Iraq War Photo. 31 Mar 04 "I've calmed down a bit. I suppose at Djibouti I was more wild and trying to get away with things because it was easier there to do so. That's just how I keep myself occupied and from going insane. That and before I tried to do everything, trying to get anything and everything accomplished. After awhile, I decided it's safer to not care about anything anymore, and keep a low profile thereafter. That helped out a lot. I won the soldier of the quarter award at Camp Lemonier, having competed against a group of infantrymen and a civil affairs soldier. The five board members had 2 ranger tabs and a special forces tab on them, along with 3 E-8s and 2 E-9s. 2 questions from designated criterias followed, from military justice, physical training, leadership, army values, to customs. The weeks after were unforgiving, though, as I found myself becoming more responsible as the acting NCOIC of operations and didn't get a day off for 3 weeks, and I had to live up to my award in the process. I turned in my uniformed to be pressed and starched, I cut my hair more often, I shaved more often, I worked out more often. Whenever I could, I was in uniform and not in civilians, and drank less than before. I didn't want to earn something and display indecency or incompetence to the other branches of services about the Army. Moreover, it was a showcase of my personality and capability as well as maturity."

31 Mar 04
“I’ve calmed down a bit. I suppose at Djibouti I was more wild and trying to get away with things because it was easier there to do so. That’s just how I keep myself occupied and from going insane. That and before I tried to do everything, trying to get anything and everything accomplished. After awhile, I decided it’s safer to not care about anything anymore, and keep a low profile thereafter. That helped out a lot. I won the soldier of the quarter award at Camp Lemonier, having competed against a group of infantrymen and a civil affairs soldier. The five board members had 2 ranger tabs and a special forces tab on them, along with 3 E-8s and 2 E-9s. 2 questions from designated criterias followed, from military justice, physical training, leadership, army values, to customs. The weeks after were unforgiving, though, as I found myself becoming more responsible as the acting NCOIC of operations and didn’t get a day off for 3 weeks, and I had to live up to my award in the process. I turned in my uniformed to be pressed and starched, I cut my hair more often, I shaved more often, I worked out more often. Whenever I could, I was in uniform and not in civilians, and drank less than before. I didn’t want to earn something and display indecency or incompetence to the other branches of services about the Army. Moreover, it was a showcase of my personality and capability as well as maturity.”

Iraq War Photo. I got made fun of for looking so serious in this picture. But I tried to get a little Mona Lisa in there...

I got made fun of for looking so serious in this picture. But I tried to get a little Mona Lisa in there…

Iraq War Photo. This picture was taken a la "Not Another Teen Movie,' a spoof of "She's All That."

This picture was taken a la “Not Another Teen Movie,’ a spoof of “She’s All That.”

Iraq War Photo. We didn't take a lot of pictures in Djibouti as a platoon, but here we are, soon after we had just promoted a couple of us to Sergeants.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures in Djibouti as a platoon, but here we are, soon after we had just promoted a couple of us to Sergeants.

Iraq War Photo. It was Sanchez's birthday, so I wrote this birthday message on the board with the flaming hot SEXY text. Sanchez hit me back up with the drawing you see on the right.

It was Sanchez’s birthday, so I wrote this birthday message on the board with the flaming hot SEXY text. Sanchez hit me back up with the drawing you see on the right.

Iraq War Photo. I didn't drink very often after the Soldier of the Quarter board, but I was always around the guys.

I didn’t drink very often after the Soldier of the Quarter board, but I was always around the guys.

Iraq War Photo. After the Soldier of the Quarter award, few things happened that would change my life forever. This is one of them, a rainfall for a couple days that would drown the city.

After the Soldier of the Quarter award, few things happened that would change my life forever. This is one of them, a rainfall for a couple days that would drown the city.

Iraq War Photo. People don't realize that it doesn't rain much in Africa, but when it does, it devastates the cities. The rural areas are even worse. We filled up 87 body bags.

People don’t realize that it doesn’t rain much in Africa, but when it does, it devastates the cities. The rural areas are even worse. We filled up 87 body bags.

Iraq War Photo. Kids don't know that, of course, and they played in the water, happy to swim in anything other than the infamous 'Shit-Beach' where indigenous personnel would run out to piss and shit in.  The following shots are for mostly just for looks.

Kids don’t know that, of course, and they played in the water, happy to swim in anything other than the infamous ‘Shit-Beach’ where indigenous personnel would run out to piss and shit in.
The following shots are for mostly just for looks.

Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo. Iraq War Photo.

Iraq War Photo. Two things are wrong with this picture here. The red dot sight still has the cap on, and the muzzle's got a safety cap on it as well.

Two things are wrong with this picture here. The red dot sight still has the cap on, and the muzzle’s got a safety cap on it as well.

Iraq War Photo. Can you tell where that piece of cloth is from? It's the cover for the gas mask.

Can you tell where that piece of cloth is from? It’s the cover for the gas mask.

Iraq War Photo. We rarely held gas drills, but when we did, it was always an intense time.

We rarely held gas drills, but when we did, it was always an intense time.

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