Fond memories of Marjah’s Yellow Schoolhouse

A Marine carries two chickens back from a bazaar near the Yellow Schoolhouse in Marjah, Afghanistan. The birds became part of dinner for at least 10 hungry Marines.

A Marine carries two chickens back from a bazaar near the Yellow Schoolhouse in Marjah, Afghanistan. The birds became part of dinner for at least 10 hungry Marines. Tom Brown//Staff

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.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Niki Walters on

    Glad they took care of you and you learned a lot. Keep it up, we love following your blogs! Way to go 3/6!

  2. The chicken deal reminds me of a manuover on Bouge fld . , N. C . , we found an ouster farm & brought back to camp a boat load of em , next morn. , a huey landed , on board a Gen. , a provost marshal , & an old farmer f / N. C . , USMC had to pay that farmer & we did another 30 days in the feild on C-Rats ! We didnt know !!!!!!

  3. Thanks for all the hard work! As always STAY SAFE!! Please let us know if and when you hook up with 3/6 Lima! I worry since I haven’t been able to “find on the internet” what it is they are up to?!! If you run into LCPL SEAY, and his platoon, let them know AMERICA is behind them all the way!! And SEAY”s Mom really misses his smile! SEMPER FI!! OOH RAH!!!!

  4. Cathy Furlong on

    Thanks Dan for all your great articles regarding your experiences with India Co. I looked forward to reading them every day and will continue to read them. You brought home the reality of this war weather it was about lighthearted things (bugs and latrines) or intense encounters with the Taliban. It really helps me to understand what my son and all the troops are experiencing on a daily basis. Thanks again and stay safe. God Bless you and all our troops.

  5. Dwight Burdick on

    Kudos, thanks, and warmest regards for your great coverage of daily life and routines for our 3/6 India Marines. His very proud Poppa is still watching hopefully for even a glimpse of HM3 T. Burdick. Stay safe out there, and post more photos.

  6. Dwight, I met Doc Burdick at Patrol Base Yazzie. I actually interviewed him for a story on the “courageous restraint” award that was proposed by ISAF, then nixed. I’m not sure whether the quotes made the paper, however, given how quickly the concept was killed.

  7. Thanks so much for your honest coverage! It was comforting and nice to see what America’s finest are up to over there! Safe travels!

  8. Great story Dan. We’ve also heard that the guys are buying sheep from the locals to eat! Keep up the good work and if you run into Cracker with Kilo 3rd plt, tell him Daddy Cracker says howdy! OOH RAH!

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