CAMP HANSON, Afghanistan — Today, Tom Brown and I said goodbye to the Yellow Schoolhouse, a former school in Marjah where two squads of Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, now patrol from and live.
I’m now at Camp Hanson, home to 3/6’s headquarters, and awaiting for potential transportation to another 3/6 company of Marines. In the meantime, however, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on my time at the schoolhouse, which more closely resembles the Marine Corps I hoped and expected to see downrange than anything else to date.
To say it’s hard living at the schoolhouse is an understatement. A deployment in Afghanistan isn’t easy no matter where you go, but the squads that rotate through the schoolhouse get a special treat, with two open-air buildings that have glassless windows, holes in the roof and showers created by suspending bags of water from one of the building’s eaves. Black flies swarm during the day, and mosquitoes, beetles, spiders and other creepy crawlies harass at night. Almost every Marine sleeps on the concrete floor.
What the schoolhouse does have, however, is great morale. In fact, it’s uplifting to see how cheerful the Marines there are, especially considering the surrounding area is considered one Marjah’s most violent.
Led by Staff Sgt. Ryan Clay, 3rd Platoon’s platoon sergeant, the group makes do with what it has to great effect. A nearby bazaar, for example, has become an oasis of sorts for the Marines, who buy anything from Mountain Dew to live chickens there, depending on what the proprietor has available.
The Marines also hold “movie night” daily, with about 30 men — whoever is not busy, really — gathering in the evening to watch movies projected onto a white sheet hung on a wall. In the course of a week, I watched “Shooter,” “The Hangover,” the original “Die Hard,” and the most recent “Friday the 13th.” The sound on the movie didn’t always match the moving pictures, but no one complained.
To get to the point, it’s time to thank Clay and his men for their hospitality and willingness to share their world with us. I may have been shot at for the first time in my life this week, but I also had a lot of fun and met a lot of great characters who will be appearing on Battle Rattle and in Marine Corps Times’ print edition in coming days.