Hello to all. My name is Corporal Derek J. Belhumeur of the United States Marine Corps. First off, I would like to familiarize you with the purposes of this write up. I am currently in Iraq right now and wish to give all of you a no BS image of what things are truly like over here. I have been here since 8 February, 2005 and am still not too sure exactly when my date of departure is. I will give you only the facts of life over here for the Military Service Members in Iraq. No tall tales or unrealistic stories will be mentioned.

First off, I'd like to give you a brief overview on the weather conditions in Iraq. As all of you well know, this is the desert, and it is very hot over here. During the day time at this time of year our temperature ranges anywhere from 130 degrees fahranheit to 150 degrees fahrenheit. During the night time it ranges anywhere from seventy-five degrees fahrenheit to 100 degrees fahrenheit. The heat over here is also a very dry heat which also helps to turn over a lot of dust. Since I've been here, we've had the three largest sandstorms since biblical times. The first of the three have lasted only for about a half hour to forty five minutes. The second one lasted for only five to ten minutes. They both started during the day time and were able to be seen moving towards us like a giant wall of sand stretching up towards the clouds in the sky and reaching for miles and miles across. The third one, however, came at approximately 2100 (9:00 PM). It was obviously dark out already. By the time that the person that I was on post with and myself realized that there was a sandstorm rolling in, it was already just about on top of us. As it rolled in when we finally realized it, it looked like the Angel of Death coming to consume all in it's path leaving nothing but a desolate waste free of habitation behind. This one had twelve times more grains of sand per square inch and lasted for approximately three and a half to four hours. The sandstorms that were able to be seen during the day time were like something out of the movie The Mummy Returns.

The next topic of life here in Iraq that I am covering is incoming fire. On the base that I'm at, things are extremely secure. The biggest thing that one has to worry about while on base here is indirect fire (IDF). Upon arrival to the base that I am at right now we were receiving IDF within eight hours of the bird touching down. You hear the rounds landing and start seeing the splash off of the mortars and 122 millimeter rockets, your heart starts pumping, your adrenaline starts flowing, and everything around you seems to change suddenly. You suddenly put yourself in a worst case scenario mind frame until you've had to deal with IDF so many times that you're constantly in that frame of mind. Every step that you take throughout the course of the day begins to become calculated to the smallest detail with thousands of scenarios running through your head a second as your position in each step and your terrain changes. Every single individual step could judge a difference in the course of action you take should the worst happen. One can't but help think about what they would do should a live form of projected demolition land in any given spot around them at any given point in time. My job over here is as one of the members of the Provisional Security Batallion who's name I am currently not able to give out online. I work out at the Ammo Supply Point (ASP) on the base where I am currently stationed. At the compound for the ASP there are several million tons of explosive. If one of these explosives were hit, it is estimated by the experts that anything within sixty to eighty miles would be completely eradicated. Recently we had some rockets land almost inside the compound where I work at. At that point, the person that I work out there with and I had been instructed to run inside of our bunker and lay down on the deck. There were a few rounds in particular that landed decisively close. They landed so close in fact that the concussion from them was able to take my work partner and me completely off of our feet. Luckily for us we had received no hostile contact other than that.

Until a couple of months ago, a lot of us out here were capable of partially convincing ourselves that we were not in Iraq, but back at Operation Desert Talon in Yuma, Arizona. That is until we came in contact on a convoy with some hostiles. They completely caught my convoy by surprise. We rushed back to base and had to get our fellow Marines MediVacced out of here to a safer location out of this country. None of it seemed real until seeing several of my fellow marines with arms and legs missing, heads completely removed from the shoulders, chests wide open from Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) fire, and various other gory scenes. For some people, it's better to remain in a much more innocent state of mind while over here, for it makes them much more fearless when they hit their first moment of combat. But for those that don't have that innocence, the second and third times will usually be the times for slowest response due to mental relapses. No matter what happens, you can count on one thing though. Your United States Armed Services will be here to defend you all until the end, no matter how many in our great country there are who don't agree with what we're doing. in many cases it is a great necessity to have them over here.

Semper Fidelis,
Corporal Derek J. Belhumeur,

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