Donkeys gone wild
New GI Bill transfer rules offer more control

You don’t need Obama here,” “I bought the cow.”

I find myself talking and answering questions to those that ask how our young Americans are doing over in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The article below talks about a couple of hard charging Marines that are doing great things. Hell, all of them are doing a great job. This article just barely catches the day to day actions your young Marines accomplish everyday, while we worry about bullshit back here in the states. 

Keep worrying how bad work is going to suck on Monday, then think hey I could be where these guys are facing that kind of Monday everyday for seven months….ya, you don’t have all that bad now do ya cup cake?


By C.J. Chivers

updated 9:52 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 30, 2009

FIREBASE VIMOTO, Afghanistan - Three stone houses and a cluster of sandbagged bunkers cling to a slope above the Korangal Valley, forming an oval perimeter roughly 75 yards long. The oval is reinforced with timber and ringed with concertina wire.

An Afghan flag flutters atop a tower where Afghan soldiers look out, ducking when rifle shots snap by.

This is Firebase Vimoto, named for Pfc. Timothy R. Vimoto, an American soldier killed in the valley two years ago. If all goes according to the Pentagon’s plan, this tiny perimeter — home to an Afghan platoon and two Marine Corps infantrymen — contains the future of Afghanistan. The Obama administration hopes that eventually the Afghan soldiers within will become self-sufficient, allowing the fight against the Taliban to be shifted to local hands

For now this vulnerable little land claim — in the hostile village of Babeyal and supported by a network of American infantry positions nearby — offers something else: a fine-grained glimpse inside the Afghan war, and the remarkably young men often at the front of it.

There are nearly 30 Afghan soldiers here. Their senior mentor, Cpl. Sean P. Conroy, of Carmel, N.Y., is 25 years old. His assistant, Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Murray, of Fort Myers, Fla., is 21.

Where the war is fought
On the ground, far from the generals in Kabul and the policy makers in Washington, the hour-by-hour conduct of the war rests in part in the deeds of men this young, who have been given latitude to lead as their training and instincts guide them.

Each day they organize and walk Afghan Army patrols in the valley below, some of the most dangerous acreage in the world. Each night they participate in radio meetings with the American posts along the ridges, exchanging plans and intelligence, and plotting the counterinsurgency effort in the ancient villages below.

In Corporal Conroy’s war, two Marines train Afghans in weapons, tactics, first aid, hygiene and leadership. They keep the firebase supplied with ammunition, water, batteries and food. They defecate in a rusting barrel and urinate in a tube that slopes off a roof and drains into the air. Fly strips surround them. They have no running water; their sleeping bunker stinks of filthy clothes and sweat.

The corporal has tied a flea collar through his belt loops; he needs it like a dog. He served two tours in Iraq. His four-year enlistment ended last month, but he extended for nine months when promised he would be assigned to a combat outpost in Afghanistan.

He hopes to attend college later. For now, he represents a class of Marine and soldier that has quietly populated the ranks since 2003. He enlisted not to pick up job skills or to travel the world at government expense. He enlisted to fight. “We’re the new generation,” he said. “I’ll tell you what — there are a lot of young Marines who’ve seen more combat than all of the guys up top who joined in the 90s.”

He is supremely cocky, but unpretentious. When he met two journalists from The New York Times he asked what news agency they represented. Hearing the answer, he replied with one extended syllable: “Boooooo.” He prefers a good tabloid, he said.

'Sweetest deal ever'
He does not hide that he likes his life here: the senior man in an isolated post, surrounded by the Taliban, waking to a new patrol every day and drilling what he calls the Alamo Plan, to be executed if the firebase is overrun.

“This is the sweetest deal ever,” he said one evening between firefights. “There is no other place I could get a job like this — not at this rank.”

Click for related content

Bomb greets new U.S. troops in Afghanistan

He woke the next day before 4 a.m. for a patrol. As he slipped into his ammunition vest, he groused that back home, when conversations drift to the war, the infantry too often is misunderstood. “You know what I don’t like about America?” he said, in the chill beneath lingering stars. “If you do what I do, then they think either you should have PTSD or you are some sort of psychopath.” PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder.

He exhaled cigarette smoke. “This is my job,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Each village as its own universe
The war in Afghanistan defies generalization. Each province, each valley and each village can be its own universe, presenting its own problems and demanding its own solutions.

In large areas of the countryside, the Americans try the softer touch of local engagement: distributing aid, seeking allies and coaching a nascent government to provide services on its own. Corporal Conroy and Lance Corporal Murray drew a different sort of assignment.

Here there is no Afghan government. The valley long ago sank into an old-school fight. Whether and how the contest for the Korangal can be shifted into something different, through negotiations, force or a counterinsurgency campaign, is not clear.

No men ages 15 to 45
For now, the villages are eerily empty of men between the ages of 15 and 45. They are in the forests and mountains, from where they stage attacks and disrupt efforts at aid and development. They appear openly only on Fridays, when they gather without weapons at mosques, one of which is 150 yards from the firebase. The Afghan soldiers sometimes visit the mosque to pray at the same time, and the two sides eye each other warily, sharing a sacred space in a lull between fights.

The firefights between the insurgents and the Americans vary widely. Some are a few rifle shots or bursts of machine gun fire. Others are intensive ambushes of foot patrols. Many are attacks on American outposts and firebases. Sometimes all the firebases are struck at once.

In all, Corporal Conroy said, in five months here, he and Lance Corporal Murray have been attacked more than 70 times. He said he respected the insurgents’ courage, but was grateful that most of them lacked an essential skill.

“They are experienced and understand the principles of the ambush,” he said. “But they are not very good shots. If these guys knew how to shoot like even the U.S. Army, we would be taking 50 percent casualties on all of our patrols.”

He looked himself over. “Not a scratch yet,” he said. He balled his left hand into a fist and knocked on a sagging plywood table, warding off the jinx.

Officers of variable effectiveness
How effective the American training mission will be is unclear. The corporal said it would be years before the Afghan Army was ready to operate independently full time. But he said he had seen reason for optimism.

The Afghan captain who worked here until early April was overweight, lazy and rarely left the firebase. He used Afghan infantryman as valets. “I expected to come in and find the soldiers dropping grapes in his mouth,” Corporal Conroy said.  “Or fanning him with a palm branch,” said Lance Corporal Murray.

A new Afghan lieutenant rotated in last week. He is neat and lean, and has shown self-discipline and tactical sense. The Marines celebrated his arrival by buying a chestnut-and-white bull.

The Afghan soldiers bound the animal’s legs and flipped it onto its side. A soldier worked a blade across its throat. These Afghan soldiers eat meat once every two or three weeks. Tonight they would feast.

They were palpably happy. “Let Barack Obama come here and kill a cow for us,” one said. The rest laughed.

Corporal Conroy watched until the jokes subsided. War, like politics, is local. He reminded the Afghans that a platoon looked out for itself, and that he was the senior American on hand. “You don’t need Obama here,” he said. “I bought the cow.”



Excellent post!


I love it! Lance Corporal Brandon Murray of Fort Myers, FL is MY HUSBAND! This is crazy! Thank you so much for posting! It makes me so happy that people are suppporting our freedom fighters! It's so true too..people just don't understand what is going on over there..and we all get so caught up with our lives that we don't even think about the ones putting their lives in harms way! Amen brother and thank you again!

Maj Pain

Your husband is a hero! Semper Fi

Donna, Los Osos, CA

Kelley - I echo what Major Pain said! God bless you and your husband! Give your husband our regards and tell him he's got many in the States who are grateful for the job he is doing.

Great post as always Major! Thanks for sharing.


thanks guys! God bless


Those Marines, Soldiers, Corpsmen and Airmen working in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan have my utmost respect and support. The work they are doing given the conditions in which they are "living" is more than remarkable.

Corporal Conroy and Lance Corporal Murray you men ROCK!

I had the honor of working with a team of great American citizens (Donna from Los Osos being one of them) in support of the 173rd, 2-503 when they were deployed to Afghanistan. PFC Vimoto and his father, CSM Vimoto, were both deployed to this particular region. It was more than a sad day when CSM Vimoto was notified at a nearby base camp that his son had been killed.

Be safe men. Your work DOES matter. Your love and defense of our nation matters EVEN MORE. My most sincere gratitude to our military personnel AND their families.


The more I read about our war-fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, the more I realize how more difficult it is fighting the "bad guys" than it was in Vietnam.


Kelley - we're all as proud of your husband as can be! Thank YOU for taking care of the homefront and giving your warrior the support and love he needs to keep up with this kind of rough job. OORAH!

graeme and lee

This message is for Brandon and Kelley--
this is a tribute to Brandon Murray, USMC, who has so proudly served his country and to Kelley who has spent more nights than we care to think about, thinking about her husband in harms' way---you both are what makes this country great---hopefully we'll get a chance to meet!

Graeme and Lee


Hello, I read the article in May in the Times. For some reason I cut out the photo and put it up by my sink. I send love and protection to Brandon every day and have been looking for info on his and his fellow soldiers welfare. Let me just send my gratitude and feelings of protection to them. Thank you

ugg bailey button

The lanscope belongs to the man who looks at it .

cheap jordans

Oh I do hope to visit some day! What a great place to work!

ugg sale

your young Marines accomplish everyday, while we worry about bullshit back here in the states.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)