Gray, nice fuckin’ brief. You wanna volunteer for some time in Iraq and train some Iraqis?” Caught off guard after completing an important intelligence brief to Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson and a room full of Marine and Japanese military officers, I replied out of instinct, “Sir, hell yeah. When would I leave?” The granite-hard Col. Steven Manning, a legend in the Marine Corps intelligence community, peered into my eyes. “July time frame,” he said. “We’ll talk about it later this evening. Oohrah!”
We never did get a chance to talk about it that evening. Over the next few weeks that February, I participated in the bilateral Japanese and U.S. military Yama Sukura war game in Kumamoto, Japan. At the conclusion of the exercise, Colonel Manning directed me to participate in a joint military operation with the Filipino army in the Philippines until mid-March. After spending almost two months traveling around Asia, Iraq was the last thing on my mind. But this all changed when I returned to my home base in Okinawa, Japan.
On March 14 I strolled into the intelligence offices at the 3rd Marine Division Headquarters at Camp Courtney, a small Marine Corps base.