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Crystal anniversary of the Iraq War

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15 years ago: I meant to post this a couple days ago. Once the vehicles and the Marines were loaded, the ships departed Kuwaiti waters and started the journey towards home. At night you could see the oil derricks that were numerous in the area. As we approached the straits of Hormuz, the ships were on heighten alert for any Iranian activity, but thankfully the Iranians chose to ignore us. Being back aboard a Naval Amphibious warship was not weird to many of us, who had come off the 9/11 deployment, but for the really junior Marines it was a surreal experience, but the crew of the Anchorage were very accommodating and for the first few days were interested in some of the stories we had, but that would change as the Navy and Marines got back to the norms of the ship board life. lol. However the mood on board ship was great  as we were heading home, though home was still several weeks away.  
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15 years ago: A few days aboard ship, we settled into a routine aboard the USS Anchorage. Reveille, followed by morning chow, then it was PT, maintenance, afternoon chow, more maintenance, classes, followed by evening chow then our own time. Our own time was generally us either going to the gym, computer center, waiting for phones, hanging out on the mess deck or crawling into our racks, watching movies. However once past the Strait of Hormuz the ships turned southwest and started towards the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. We were still several weeks from home, but we felt good about heading home.
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15 years ago: It was Memorial Day in the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean and aboard the USS Anchorage. For everyone back home they were heading to the beach or friends and family for barbecues. For us aboard the ships it was a relaxed day. Many ships in the group hosted steel beach parties, aka basically a huge cookout on the flight deck of the amphibs. Many of us changed into PT gear to be more relaxed than in Desert cammies. What was also nice is that they allowed everyone aboard unless you were on watch, two beers. It was nice to have some alcohol after many months without it. It was a little taste of home without actually being there yet.
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15 years ago: Crossing the line. A navy tradition that has been part of sea going life since the age of sail. Sailors or Marines who have not crossed the equator are known as Pollywogs, or Wogs by those that have crossed the line, while those that have crossed the line are known as shellbacks. Though timid than compared in years past, it is still a highly valued navy tradition. I went through it along with many of the Beastmasters in 2001. Yet for some of newest members of the battery, they had yet to experience it. So as the time approached, the younger members prepared clothes to take part in the ceremony. Oh it was fun watching those young Marines go through some of the stuff we had to go through as we crossed the line. Such as crawling through a pool of water, being sprayed with hoses, doing physical activities, paying homage to King Neptune. But in the end, they were awarded by becoming members of the Order of the Shellback. Following the ceremony while not a steel beach party, there was a decent evening chow on the mess-deck that evening.
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15 years ago: For most, transferring to other ships it would have been done by helicopter or a LCU launched from the well deck, but in this case, the only way to send Marines who were going over to the USS Comstock for Corporals Course was to climb down the side of the ship via rope ladder into a ships launch, while our gear went down via rope. That was pretty cool, along with hairy, because the ship was travelling at about 10 knots but I made it. Once everyone was aboard, the launch made its way towards the Comstock which took about 10 minutes to reach, then we had to repeat the process in the opposite direction. Once we were aboard we were assigned berthing and introduced to our course and instructors. It was going to be a interesting couple weeks aboard the Comstock, but I was looking forward to it.  
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15 years ago: Corporals course aboard ship is a lot different that it would be back at Camp Pendleton. Well for one, there was no PFT conducted aboard ship, and the only inspections that we conducted were the camouflage utility uniform  inspections. There was no Service or Dress Blues Uniforms inspections, no J.O.B. (Junk on the bunk inspection.) Our PT consisted of running on the flight deck or using the ramps, a lot of physical training on the flight deck or upper decks if the ship was at flight quarters. Of course there was always the classes. Lots of classes and studying for tests. We did get free time, but that was generally at the end of the long day and after studying for our tests or getting ready for inspections. One side note, because I forgot to post this. Just prior to us cross-decking over for the Corporals course, the Anchorage picked up some Filipino fisherman whose boat was heavily damaged and sank. We took them aboard, got them checked out before contacting the Philippines Coast Guard to come and pick them up once we got close enough. Doing what sailors and Marines have been doing for eons. Rescuing sailors who are in distress and coming to their aid.  
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15 years ago: Corporals course on board ship was defintley a experience. Part of the course was conducting a drill, or military movement on the flight deck with a sword, but since the NCO's swords were back in Pendleton, we had to use the Naval Officers sword. And since it was a flight deck, we were limited in space, so you had to be very precise with your movements. lol. Besides drill, we had classes, and tests, and PT. All the while the ships continued plow its way towards Hawaii and home.
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