UNIDENTIFIED: One thing that Ryan said, was to make sure that
we get on camera, that, uh, we have your permission to use
this in all the ways that Tyler described to you.
UNIDENTIFIED: And, um, if you would for his sake, what branch
of the military?
MEDLEY: The United States Marine Corps.
UNIDENTIFIED: Okay, good. It's all yours.
SCOTT: All right. Uh, we're here in Lexington, Kentucky, with
the, uh, Combat to Kentucky Project once again. Uh, I'm here
with James Medley. He's twenty-five years old. Uh, he's a
veteran, uh, of Iraq and Afghanistan, with the United States Marine Corps.
Is currently a student--uh, senior at the University of Kentucky, studying
accounting. James, thanks for being here.
MEDLEY: No problem.
SCOTT: And, uh, doing this interview. Uh, let's start with
some questions on your, your early childhood and upbringing.
MEDLEY: Okay .
SCOTT: Can you talk about, uh, where you were born, um,
and, uh, you know your family life?
MEDLEY: Okay. Uh, I was born in Versailles, Kentucky, but
um, when I was six, so pretty much around my earliest memory,
I moved to Bardstown, Kentucky, and I grew up there, lived there,
went to the high school at Nelson County High School, um.
SCOTT: Any brothers or sisters?
MEDLEY: I, I, uh--two younger, two younger siblings, uh, a brother
and a sister. They're twins. They're 15 months younger than
me. So, we all grew up pretty close together, uh, pretty--uh,
I guess it was hard on my mom, fit--three kids within fifteen
months. She had her work cut out for her.
SCOTT: What, uh, what were your interests when you were young?
MEDLEY: Um, we had a family farm. It was about
fifteen minutes away from our house. Uh, a lot of acreage,
so, we'd--I would--I was in the woods a lot, uh, just always
outside, running around, causing trouble. Um, hunting, just gun--the normal stuff
for kids, uh, shooting guns, hunting, swimming, fishing, anything that was outdoors.
Uh, I played basketball in high school, so I was just--anything
SCOTT: All right, what, uh, what were your academics like in
MEDLEY: Uh, I was a 4.0--almost a 4.0 student. Um,
I took every--I took ever AP course my high school offered, except
for one. It was just--it was easy. I was busy
00:02:00all the time, but I enjoyed it. I never had to
study. Uh, I, I liked high school. It was, it
was fun. Uh, I had a lot of friends in different
social groups, uh, made the most of it. It was a
good time. Uh, I came--think I came out of high school
with like 18 hours, because of all the AP courses, so, um,
not going to college straight out of high school, I mean, it
was kind of silly not to. Uh, I went straight into
college after that.
SCOTT: Okay. And what, what year did you graduate high
MEDLEY: Uh, 2004.
SCOTT: Okay. Well when, uh--I mean, how did, how did
the, uh, the 9/11 attacks affect your, your thought process?
MEDLEY: Um, I--it, it moved me a lot. I, I
don--I've always been kind of interested in it. I was always
interested in the military. It wasn't something I talked about a
lot. Um, personally, I, I, I consider myself first generation military,
just because no one in my immediate family ever had any direct
00:03:00effect on me. My grandfather, uh, my dad's father, he served
in World War II, uh, but he passed away before I was
born, and, um, somewhere in our house, he wou--my dad had his
canteen cup, and it had, um, just scrawlings of all the places
he had been in Europe, and I would always look at it,
and take it down, and ask my dad questions about it, or
just different things like that. Um, and then, I had a
great uncle that was in a death march--one of the death marches.
Uh, he was a Pacific POW, and I heard, I heard
stories about him from my grandmother, and great grandmother. So, I,
I didn't talk about it a lot, but I guess the, uh,
the pride in our military was instilled in me, um, in my
childhood, and then when 9/11 happened, um, I mean I was a
sophomore in high school, uh, I, I can't really remember how it
made me feel. I know I was angry. Um, I
can't say that I immediately, I wanted to join the military, and
go off and fight, but uh, it definitely, uh, it was definitely
00:04:00a factor later in life, when I, when I had the opportunity
to join the military. Um, I don't know if I would've
joined the military if it didn't happen bec--I--it gave me a good
reason, um, to, uh, um--what's the word--I guess, a reason to go
fight, or to join the military, something I actually believe in.
SCOTT: What did you see yourself doing, uh, prior to that?
MEDLEY: Prior to that? Um, I started out, my freshman
year of college, uh, in pre-pharmacy. Um, I might have continued
down that path. I don--I'm not sure. Um, I, I
don't know. I couldn't really see myself being a pharmacist, but
uh, that's kind of what I got looped into, just because of
all the science courses, and stuff, that, uh, I had had in
SCOTT: So when did you, uh, when did you finally make
MEDLEY: Um, it was around--right around Thanksgiving of my freshman year
in college. I considered it in high school, um, but like
00:05:00I said, I had a lot of college credits already, um.
I needed--I wanted to go to college. Um, I don't think
my parents--they weren't happy when I joined the military in the beginning
anyway, and if I had done it straight out of high school,
I--(laughs)--it would've been a big mess, um, but it--I can't remember exactly--I--my
roommate at the time, um, he had joined the Marines a few
weeks before, and it kind of got me thinking about it, and
it became all I was thinking about, and I was just constantly
doing research. Um, I didn't talk to a recruiter before.
I didn't want to. Um, I didn't want anyone else's opinion.
I kind of talked to people in the Marines, and gathered
opinions, um, just my own way, and then, uh, I finally made
the decision--uh, it was a little bit before thank--I think it was
like two days before Thanksgiving, uh I called my parents. It
was--(laughs)--like 11:30 at night, or something. They were asleep, and I
just had to tell them at the time, and, uh, they were
just pump the brakes, just slow down, uh--
SCOTT: --that was--you said this was in--
MEDLEY: Yeah, this was in 2004.
SCOTT: That you were a freshman at UK?
MEDLEY: And, uh, yeah they--I was on the phone with them,
it was late at night. They were asleep. I kind
of blindsided 'em. They didn't know what was going on.
They were just, calm down, calm down, so I came home, over
the Thanksgiving break, um, just explained to them, and talked it out
with them, and then, uh, December 4, 2004, I, uh, went to
MEPS [editor's note: Military Entrance Processing Station] and enlisted, uh, in Louisville.
SCOTT: So how, how did the, uh, you know, two current
conflicts, at the time, how did that play into your ----------(??) was
it just a constant, daily, uh, obsession for you, or was it--
MEDLEY: --um, I read the news a lot. I've always
been a--a fact-finder. I, I, I just like to read a
lot. So, I would constantly be reading different news sources, and,
uh, news aggregates, um, just gathering information, um, about, about the conflicts,
and I can't say that it was in, uh, like a primary
00:07:00thought in my mind about, well I'm joining the Marine Corps to
go fight. It was, it was kind of a secondary thought.
I wanted to be part of the organization, and if they
needed me to go fight, I was going to go fight, um.
SCOTT: Okay. So you, you signed up in December of
SCOTT: Uh, so what was the, uh, the road like from
MEDLEY: Um, well, I, I finished out my freshman year of
college. Um, didn't do as well as I'd liked, mostly.
I, I think I was 100 percent focused on boo--or 90 percent
focused on boot camp, 10 percent focused on school, and, uh, I
was taking a pretty tough course load, and I just--I didn't do
well in school, or as well as I'd like just because the
main thing on my mind was preparing for boot camp, and, uh,
I was in the DEP program, the delayed entry program, for the
Marine Corps. So, I was in there for six months, and
then, um, I think four days after my last final, so, it
00:08:00was May--I gue--I guess I finished my final on May 5.
Uh, I went to the Kentucky Derby, and then, the Monday after
the Kentucky Derby, I went to, uh, Parris Island for boot camp.
SCOTT: Did you have, uh, a significant other at the time?
MEDLEY: I didn't. No.
SCOTT: What did, uh--what were your friends' reactions, besides the one
who, who'd already joined?
MEDLEY: Um, I guess, everyone all had the same reaction.
No one saw it coming, um. At first, everyone was really
hesitant. Uh, no one really tried to talk me out of
it. Um, I'm a very factual person, uh, so immediately when
I told someone, I explained everything to them, why I was doing
what I was doing, the logistics of everything, and, uh, people began
to understand, at that point everyone became really supportive, um, especially my
parents. They--I don--it was a new experience for them, and, uh,
they were 100 percent supportive, and, I'd say the same for a
00:09:00lot of my friends. A lot of them made the trip
down after I graduated, and everything. They were, uh, they were
happy for me.
SCOTT: All right. Well let's, let's, uh, delve in here
to first day of boot camp.
MEDLEY: First day of boot camp.
SCOTT: Can you walk us through it a little?
MEDLEY: Um, boot camp was a blur. Uh, I remember
it. It--I can't remember a lot of specifics. I can
see the faces. I can't remember the people. Um, I
just know it was hot. It was miserable. Uh, Parris
Island in, uh, May, June, July, and August, isn't, uh, it's not
a very hospitable place. There's mosquitoes everywhere, uh. I just
remember that first night, just being so sleep-deprived, because we didn't get
into, I guess, um, the nearby airports, Savannah until 9:00 PM and
then we went straight to--we had a bus ride to Parris Island,
so that's about forty minutes, and then we had--we were up all
night, and the entire next day, just uh going through the initial
00:10:00processing for boot camp, with shaving, getting your uniform issued, everything, and
I just remember--that was the most tired I'd ever been in my
life, just probably--we were probably awake for thirty-six, forty hours, and I
just--I didn't know what I had gotten myself into, at that point.
I was like, I could not believe that everyday was going
to be like this. It was, it was miserable, just falling
asleep, walking, um, it was pretty tough.
SCOTT: But did you excel in boot camp in any way?
MEDLEY: Um, yes and no. I, I, I went in
just trying to blend in. That--I've heard, um, just from people
that had been there before, "Just blend in, try not to be
known because that's going to make your time harder." Um, I
can't like--I never got in trouble for anything, but I never made
myself stand out. Uh, I just wanted to get through it
SCOTT: Okay, do you have any, any, any memorable moments, any,
anything that still sticks out to you this day?
MEDLEY: Memorable moments? Uh, not in boot camp real--like I
00:11:00said, I, I guess my body just kind of blocked it out.
It was a blur, um. I just remember the heat,
and just being tired all the time. We'd wake up in
4:00--at 4:00 in the morning, go to bed at 8:00 at night
everyday, and sometimes I would be running to the chow hall in
the morning to get breakfast, and I would wake up. I,
I guess my body was just so autonomous at that point, that
I--(laughs)--I didn't--I don't even remember waking up, getting dressed, anything. I
just wake up, and stumble, as I'm walking in the chow hall
to eat, um, but there's really not a lot. Um, I
guess the main hurdle for me in boot camp, I guess, uh,
probably a month before finishing, I some--I don't remember how I did
it. Uh, I broke the, um, the second largest toe in
my left foot, and I didn't let any of the drill instructors
know because I knew that if they found out, I was going
00:12:00to get dropped, and that would just keep my time in Parris
Island longer, and it would be miserable, and, uh, the quickest way
off of Parris--I've heard this so many times from former Marines, that
the quickest way off of Parris Island is to graduate. You
get hurt, or you're not in shape, you're just going to get
stuck there longer, and it's just going to be--(laughs)--a, a hard time,
um, so, I broke my toe, and, um, I just kind of
dealt with it at night, like trying to elevate it, or just
keep it, stay off it the best I could, but that's not
real easy to do when you're running a hundred miles an hour
in boot camp. Um, so I, uh, I, I ran our
final, physical fitness test on the broken toe, and everything, and I
did very well, and I didn't know when I, like, when I
was actually going to have to tell the drill instructors, because it
was getting kind of bad, and then we did the crucible, which
is the final test in boot camp for the Marine Corps.
It's--I think it's fifty-two, fifty some hours of just you don't sleep,
you don't eat, you just march around Parris Island, and, uh, perform
00:13:00a variety of tasks, just a tactical task, uh, you know, actual
tasks, all kinds of things, and, uh, it finished--it finishes off.
I think it's like forty miles total hiking, or somewhere around there,
and it finishes off with a ten mile hike back to, uh,
your barracks, and I remember when we got back to the barracks,
we stripped down, and, uh, went and showered and everything, and we
were supposed to go back to breakfast, but my foot was so
swollen, by that time, I couldn't get it back into my boot,
and a drill instructor saw it. So, it--I went straight to
medical, and, uh, they made a big ordeal out of it, but
the thing was, that I'd passed the crucible, so technically I passed
the final test, and I would still get to graduate on time.
The only kicker was that I would have to come back
to Parris Island after my 10 days leave to get checked out
by Parris Island medical, um, before going on through the rest of
my training. Uh, so that was a setback in my career,
00:14:00and I--(laughs)--I wasn't really ready for it. I didn't want to
go back to Parris Island at all. Uh, once I was
out of there, I wanted to leave for good, but I found
myself back there ten days later.
SCOTT: I can see why you'd remember that.
SCOTT: (Both laugh) All right, what was your, uh, what
was your occupation?
MEDLEY: Uh, military police, um.
SCOTT: Did you get to choose that?
MEDLEY: Um, well I, I did choose it, but it was
kind of chosen for me also. I--I was reservist here in
Lexington with, uh, Military Police Company Alpha, so I knew that I
wanted to be a reservist because finishing college, um, is always been--if
Marine Corps is priority one, finishing college is priority one-A. Um,
I really wanted to finish those--I felt that being in the Reserves
would give me the best opportunity to that--to do that. Um,
I guess now, because I'm still in college six years later, but
I'm out in the Marine Corps, but, um, I did get to,
get to do college around--along the way, um, but the Military Police
Company was in Lexington, uh, where I was already going to school.
00:15:00It was just a perfect fit, and, uh, I remember talking,
when I actually did go to the recruiter, just to tell them
that I wanted to sign up. Uh, I told them that
I wanted to be a reservist, and I wanted to know what
options were around here, and I, I know there was a communications
company in Cincinnati that had an opening, and I didn't want to
mess with radios. There was a supply opening in Fort Knox,
and I didn't want to do that, and, uh, I went to
the Military Police Company, and they kind of told me what they
do there. It's a field military police, so they don't do
any of the police work, they're just, uh, basically um, for lack
of better--uh, mechanized infantry, um, they just drive around in trucks, uh,
whereas infantry would be on foot all the time, and, uh, that
just seemed right in line with what I was looking for.
I really lucked out that it was right here in Lexington.
SCOTT: All right, so it follow on schools from, from boot
camp, what was that like?
MEDLEY: Uh, well, I went back to Parris Island to get
checked out, and, uh, immediately--I guess I was there for like three
days, and, uh, got on a bus to Camp Lejeune for, um,
00:16:00MCT, which is Marine Combat Training. It's kind of the basic
school for all Marines. All Marines are required to do it,
after boot camp, except for the infantry. Um, becau--it's kind of
a shortened infantry course for all the other, um, military occupational specialties,
so, it was just--it was, um, kind of like between boot camp,
and the Marine Corps--or regular Marine Corps. The instructors were still
pretty harsh with you. Um, it was tough. It was
a lot of hiking around, um, but you're in such good shape
by the end of boot camp, you didn't really notice it, and,
uh, a lot of just weapons familiarization, and it--I didn't mind it
at all. Uh, a lot of their tactics were outdated.
That was something that we noticed at the time, and we couldn't
believe we were still doing, just some silly tactics. Um, like
if a plane was flying over, and you were in a field,
you had to lay in a straight line, just--or different things like
that, that, uh, the Marine Corps, uh, was so slow to adopt,
00:17:00even though they'd been in these wars for four, uh, four years,
that there was, I don't know. We were the first course--we
were--yeah, we were the first class to go through that actually had
any class on desert warfare, and that was four years--that was 2005,
so. Uh, we thought that was silly, but it, it was
a pretty fun time. I mean, you can't argue with just
shooting grenade launchers, and machine guns, and stuff all day. It's
pretty fun. And then, uh, from there out, went to Fort
Leonard Wood, Missouri. That's, uh, military police training for, I guess,
for the Army and the Marine Corps. Um, it was just
a terrible--it was an awful place. Uh, there's nothing there.
It's, it's a typical Army--a town based around an Army base.
Um, just wasn't, uh, I don't know--it was particularly boring for the
few of us that were going to Military Police Company Alpha, here
00:18:00in Lexington, because we knew that we were reservists, and we weren't
going to be required to do any of this police work, so
I think out of the nine weeks, seven weeks were based on
police training, uh, that we knew that we were never going to
use in our career. So we were just kind of stuck
there, uh, just making the best of it, and then, um, there
were a few, there were two weeks that were basically field MP,
where you practiced, uh, I guess desert operations, and stuff, and movement,
and convoys, and stuff like that, but, uh, it was basically kind
of a waste of time for, uh, the few of us that
were going back to the Reserve Units.
SCOTT: Just to check the box, kind of thing?
SCOTT: All right, so what, what time frame are we looking
at here? Now I mean--
MEDLEY: --so, um--
SCOTT: --school, school, school what--
MEDLEY: --well we got, uh, I fini--MCT's only three weeks, so
that puts us into September. We got to--I got to Fort
Leonard Wood, and, um, they didn't have a sch--a class opening for
six weeks, so I'm sitting in MAT platoon, which is I think
00:19:00Marines awaiting training platoon, stuck in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, nothing to
do for six weeks, uh, just busy work. We would mow
lawns around the base. I just, whatever the Marine Corps saw
fit for us to fill our time with. Um, that was
one of the harder times in my Marine Corps. We were
just so bored, um, but we were still viewed as, we weren't
part of the real Marine Corps, so we had no--we couldn't, we
couldn't drive a car, we had to go by taxi anywhere, um.
We were on--we had strict curfews and things. It just
wasn't, uh, it wasn't very fun at all. So we were
stuck there, um, for six weeks, and then uh had nine weeks
of training, so I think I got back--I know I got back
on December 16, uh, 2005, I got released from school. Graduated
from school, I got released to the Military Police Company.
SCOTT: Uh, and during that, uh--once you finally got into the
school there, I mean did the restrictions relax a little for you,
SCOTT: --was pretty constant?
MEDLEY: Not really. It was pretty constant. Um, uh,
it's just with everything the Marine Corps, or the military in general,
you know, you have a group of people, um, someone's always going
to mess up, and someone always messed up, and that's the reasons
restrictions were on us. It--I gue--it wasn't any fault of the
instructors. They wanted to trust us, but it just, when you
have young Marines that fresh out of boot camp, uh, their behavior's
not one of their top priorities, so usually got us in trouble.
SCOTT: All right. So, what was it like coming back?
MEDLEY: Um, because we didn't know when we were going to
be, um, grad--or when I was going to be graduating, I couldn't
enroll in school for January, because I didn't know if I was
going to be back in time, um, so I got back in
December, but at that time, it was 2005. There weren't--UK wasn't
a veteran-friendly university, so I really didn't have any options, um, to
go to UK. Um, I did a semester at, um, Blue
00:21:00Grass Community Technical College. Um, used, used to be the Lexington
Community College, um, just to knock out some basics, um, and, uh
that was really the only option I had at the time.
It was either that, or sit around for six months, and wait
for summer school to start at UK. So I did that,
and, um, well I forgot to mention, we miss--I guess because of
the graduation, because of the six months that--or the six weeks that
I was in MAT platoon, um, it caused me to miss our
company's third deployment to Iraq. I--I think they shipped out on
December 14, or something, so I missed it by about three days,
uh, which turned out to be a good thing because that would've
meant that I was in nine months training, and then gone immediately
to Iraq, and it was good to come home, and knock out
a few classes, and, uh, just get back to a little bit
of civilian life.
SCOTT: But did you feel that way at the time, or
00:22:00did you kind of feel like you were letting them down?
SCOTT: You're missing----------(??)--
MEDLEY: --that's a good question, um--(laughs)--I wanted to go but I
didn't want to go. It was--I was really on the fence.
Um, if they wou--if they had given me the option to
maybe, um, stay at home one month, and just relax a little
bit, after training, I, I definitely would've gone, but it just--that would've
put me away from home for about two years, and I just--if
I had gone into it, thinking that that was going to happen,
I probably would have done it, but I just wasn't prepared for
it at the time, and, uh, it just so happened that were,
we had nine people from that MP, uh, MP school to go
back to our unit, so we were all kind of pretty close,
and if one of them would've said they were going, one of
my good friends, I probably would've gone, and if I had said
I was going, one of them probably would've gone, but I know
when, when they asked us at the time, if anyone had any
desire to go with this deployment, everyone was just kind of hesitant,
00:23:00and no one volunteered, which turned out to be a good thing
for us, but at the time, we were all pretty--we didn't know
who was--if someone was going to raise their hand, and say I'm
going, and if they did, it was just going to be an
avalanche, and we all would've gone, so.
SCOTT: All right, so did you, uh, I mean did the
rear attachment, did they get viable training while--
MEDLEY: --um, it wasn't bad. Uh, we had a lot
of guys--we had some guys that were in the invasion, and then,
um, uh, another deployment had just gotten back. So we got
some pretty good training. The only thing is, um, as reservists,
when we get activated, we never know what our job's going to
be. So, a lot of the training we got wasn't applicable
to us, what didn't turn out to be, because, um--well the invasion,
those guys were mostly getting out at the time, and then the
second deployment that had just gotten back, um, that were mainly in
charge of training us, they had worked a detention facility their entire
00:24:00time, so they were just all about searching, and, uh, just detention
facility tactics, and stuff like that, which is good to learn, because
that's something we could be tasked to do as military police, but
it turned out to be pretty, uh, it turned out to be
kind of useless for us, but.
SCOTT: So like you said, a mixed bag and you're never
going to know what you're--
MEDLEY: --just mixed bag. Um, at the time, uh, we,
I guess, our reserve unit was kind of full with a lot
of guys that were in their last six months of their contract,
so, the higher ups, the ones in charge of training were getting
out soon, and they weren't really, uh, active in our training, and,
uh, we didn't do a lot. A lot of times, we'd,
on our drill weekends, we would go in, and we would just
sit there, and we were so frustrated at the time because we're
young, fresh, and I just wanted to learn, but it just wasn't
available. No one was there to teach us, and, uh, it
was frustrating. Um, until--it really didn't change until the, the group
of guys that I got in with started getting higher up in
00:25:00the chain of command, around the unit, and we started pushing for
SCOTT: So, uh, let's, let's start getting closer to, to your
first deployment here. How and when did you find out it
was your time to go?
MEDLEY: Uh, we found out that we were going to be
mobilizing--the mobilization was supposed to happen in November, and we found out,
uh, probably March time frame.
MEDLEY: November, 2007 is going to be the mobilization, and, uh,
we found out, in probably March of 2007 that we were going,
or at least that a detachment was going to go, and since,
um, in the Reserves, if you haven't gone on deployment, and there
is a spot for you, you're 99 percent sure you're going.
Uh, so there was a large--there was forty or fifty of us
that hadn't gone at the time, so we kind of knew from
that point, and we went ahead, and that company went ahead, and
broke us off into our own group, so we could start training
with each other. Um, so we knew a good six months
ahead of time that we were going to be going to Iraq.
00:26:00Uh, we didn't know our jobs, so we had a broad
training base. We had to train on everything. Um, yeah,
so we had about six months. Uh, so it was plenty
of time to get our affairs in order, and start preparing ourselves.
SCOTT: So what was your initial reaction when you heard the
news, and you knew it was coming, but--
MEDLEY: --I knew it was coming. Um, I kind of--I,
I was excited. I'm not going to--I was really excited, um,
because I, by that time, I'd been at the Reserve unit for
two years, um, and it was really unusual for our unit not
to have a deployment for that long, because we'd gone in the
first three years of the war, and then, um, to have that
long of a break was kind of odd, and, um, I was
excited. Um, I was ready to put to use what I'd
learned, and, uh, I was just excited. Uh, my family, I
can't say they were--they weren't excited at all. Um, I kind
of broke it to them slowly, um, just kind of hinting that
00:27:00it might happen, and I think my parents especially, I, I, I
guess they read the news, and they knew that I'd been lucky
up to that point not to get deployed, and, um, I--they weren't
surprised at all with the Iraq deployment, and then um, at that
time I had started dating, uh, a girl who eventually became my
wife, and, uh she took it pretty hard. She, um, yeah
she had a hard time with it.
SCOTT: Was she--uh, had she been familiarized with the military atmosphere
prior to this?
MEDLEY: A little bit. Um, we'd been dating about
a year and a half. Um, so she knew a little
bit about it, but uh, her family's very patriotic, and, um, it
was, it was very easy for them to be supportive of me,
but relationship-wise it was very difficult on her.
SCOTT: So how much, uh, how much of your school had
you gotten out of way?
MEDLEY: Um, well I had, when I got back, I went
00:28:00ahead, and kept doing pharmacy, so I, um, I'd gotten--I think I
had taken a few more hours at, um, Lexington Community College, which
didn't really amount to anything, and then, uh, I'd taken another semester
of, um, pharma--uh, pharmacy classes, so I was, uh, two years in
at that time.
SCOTT: Okay. So you finally mobilized.
SCOTT: Uh, what was, what was your unit tasked with doing?
MEDLEY: Uh, we mobilized in, like I said, uh, November, um,
which just happened to be the middle of the semester, so I
missed that semester. Um, we were tasked with, um, numer--numerous tasks,
but our main one was supporting the Iraqi police, and Iraqi Army
on the Syria--Syri--Syrian border. Um, they were in charge of just
00:29:00controlling who came in, in and out through the port there, and,
uh specifically we used the, uh, a biometrics system to scan irises
for, uh, everyone going in and out of the border, just to,
uh, keep track of who was coming in, and coming and going,
and then we also had about twenty-five miles of border that, we
weren't specifically in charge of, but we were told to patrol and
just maintain a presence on.
SCOTT: What was your, uh, your role and rank at this
MEDLEY: Um, my first day in Iraq, I was promoted to
corporal, and immediately, um, was tasked with being a fire team leader,
so I was in charge of four other Marines. Um, it's
generally three other Marines, but uh we had a different, different platoon
structure, just to, uh, to better suit our, uh, shifts, and better
suit our mission there. So I was in charge of four
other Marines, as a corporal.
SCOTT: So what did--did you feel like you got enough cultural
training, and, um, did you know enough about Iraq?
MEDLEY: Um, that's something that I was really prepared for.
Um, luckily in our platoon that we mobilized with, we had, um,
a Vanderbilt student who was a major in Arabic, and, he was
very fluent in Arabic, and then we had another student that was,
um, from the University of Louisville, and he had taken two years
of Arabic, and, uh, they were very instrumental in preparing our platoon
for dealing with the Iraqi people, uh, just I would say 90
percent of the platoon picked up quite a bit of language from,
uh, useful language that we would use everyday, when we were there,
amongst the people, and then just the customs was the main thing,
just how to treat people, and it, it really benefited out mission
success, just, we weren't offending people constantly. We, uh, we could
talk to them. It, it really benefited us. Um, I
00:31:00can't say that, that was something the Marine Corps gave us, but
uh we were lucky to have that, uh, asset, and that's something
as Reservists that we do have. As Reservists, you're--two, two days
out of the month, you're in the military--well you're in the military
the whole time, but two days out of the month, you're active
in the military, and then the rest of the time you have,
um, your own job, your personal life, so we had carpenters, and
plumbers, and Arabic students, and everyone else there, so it, it gave
us a full array, um, of assets that, I guess, an active
duty group is not, um, not really privy to.
SCOTT: All right, um--(coughs)--prior to leaving, did you, did you have
any friends or, or colleagues that had been hurt and killed?
MEDLEY: Um, not really, uh, not hurt and killed. I
had a, a lot of friends that have been over there, um,
but, um, our unit had a really good track record of no
00:32:00one getting hurt, no, um, no big, um, casualties within our unit,
and that was the--my main source of, uh, any acquaintances I've had
in the military, but, uh, no I didn't know anyone that had
any, any problems.
SCOTT: What did you know about the specific area you were
going into, prior to leaving?
MEDLEY: Um, luckily, um, three or four of our guys had
been there on a previous deployment in 2006, and, uh, they kind
of briefed us. Um, it was way out in the middle
of nowhere, um, at the nearest base--the nearest large base with air
support was a few hours away. You know, it was, um,
we were kind of out on our own, um, but we, we
liked it that way. Um, didn't have a lot of higher
ups in the chain of command constantly telling us what to do,
and we were just on our own. It was--I mean, it
was, uh, a good area. There wasn't a lot going on
there. It wasn't dangerous. Um, the Iraqi people were pretty
00:33:00receptive to us there.
SCOTT: Can you kind of walk us through your departing the
States, um, you know, and then arrival--
MEDLEY: --um-hm. Oh, so--
SCOTT: ------------(??) into country.
MEDLEY: Yeah, upon mobilization, we went, uh, to Camp Lejeune.
Uh, we hooked up with, uh, 3/10 which was an artillery battery,
but they had been tasked as a provisional military police, which was
our specialty. So, we were leaned on a lot from them,
to uh, to just kind of instruct their guys, and, uh, help
them along. Um, so we went to--from Camp Lejeune we did
a three month work up in, um, Fort Polk. Um, it
was fairly useful. Um, they had Iraqi actors, and everything, so
we actually got a taste, a little taste, of what it would
be like, and then, um, after that we, uh, went back to
Lejeune. We got--I think we got ten days to go home,
of block leave, um, just to sort out everything and relax a
little bit, then we came back, and, um, the flight over, we
00:34:00hit, uh, Germany on the way over. We were there for
a few hours, and then into Kuwait. We were in Kuwait
for a few days. Um, then we flew into Al-Assad, and
then almost immediately we, uh, used--jumped on helicopters, and we're out in,
uh, Al-Waleed on the Syrian border.
SCOTT: Do you remember much about that experience?
SCOTT: ----------(??)----------the first, the first time you were----------(??)--
MEDLEY: --yeah, Kuwait was the hottest place I've ever been.
I have no desire ever to go back. It was just
miserable. Um, the experience was just, I don't know, kind of
surreal. You didn't really--you're in a, you're in a dangerous area,
but you don't realize it, because you're flying around--(laughs)--thousands of feet above
it. It's kind of surreal, until you actually hit the ground.
Um, I don't know. I enjoyed it. A lot
of guys didn't enjoy it. They didn't like the--(laughs)--C-130s, and the
helicopters. I enjoyed it. Uh, I thought it was--(laughs)--kind of
00:35:00fun. It was a good time. Um, like I said,
just kind of surreal. Just, you didn't actually believe you were
in Iraq, uh, until you actually stepped off the helicopter, and you
saw all the, the Hesco barriers, and everything, then it, it kind
of hit home then.
SCOTT: Did you have a, uh, a locked in timeline for,
for how long your deployment was going to be?
MEDLEY: No. Um, well just generally, Marine Corps deployments are
about seven months, so we kind of planned on that, but um,
we didn't know at the time. Uh, it changed--(laughs)--we heard, I
guess we were there from March 30 'till October--somewhere mid-October, or early
October, and at one point we heard we were going to be
there until November. At one point we heard we were getting
out in the end of July. It just, uh, it differed
a lot, and then the big--a big factor in that was, we
were nearing the, the end, I guess, I know we're still over
there, but the end of the Iraqi war, and things were calming
00:36:00down, and there were rumors that we were going to be the
last people there, so we were just going to pick up and
leave, and, um just the drawdown, um, was a big factor in
that--uh, factor in the rumors, people, uh, constantly talked about it.
SCOTT: What, um, can you tell us about your first, your
first mission you went on, uh, you know, the first time you
went outside the gate, and, uh--
SCOTT: --and you got, uh--
SCOTT: --thrown into Iraqi society?
MEDLEY: It was, uh, a foot patrol. Um, kind of
a familiar--an area familiarization, um, so--
SCOTT: --was there another, another US force there, to--
MEDLEY: --so the guys that we were replacing, they left some
guys behind to, uh, just to guide us, uh, through the replacement,
and, um, they planned the mission, and everything. We were just
tagging along, and I remember, they were just so relaxed, and joking
and everything, but all of our guys were just so strung so
tight, just for whatever reason, just because we're finally going outside the
gate for the first time, and there's Iraqis everywhere. They don't
00:37:00speak our language. Uh, I just remember like seeing guys sight
in, like sighting in and everything while they're walking. It wa--six
months later, we would've laughed at it, but at the time, we
thought we were doing--we were doing the right thing, but, um, it,
it wasn't the area--the area didn't require that sort of, uh, vigilance,
but it was pretty humorous at the time, just to watch the--I,
I would've liked to have been the guys that have been there
a long time shoes, just to watch us. Um, it was,
it was nerve-wracking just because, um, I'd never been in a place
where everyone--no one speaks my language, and it is a country where
a war was happening, and, um, I think that's when it finally
hit home, when I walked outside the--when we were walking outside the
gate on the patrol, and I'd put a round in my rifle,
and everything, and, and in my pistol, and I was just, uh,
it finally hit home that, well I'm in a war here.
Um, probably--should probably get my head in the right place, and from
00:38:00then on, I, I never was nervous leaving the gate again, but
that first time was extremely nerve-wracking. And, uh, we just did
a foot patrol. Uh, it wa--probably, probably two hours out into,
uh, one of the local towns. We saw the Syrian--we walked
to the Syrian border, and, uh, just through the passport office, and,
uh, the town of, um, West Waleed and it, it was only
two hours, and everything went smoothly, and we got hugs, and people
gave us candy, and all kinds of stuff. We gave them
candy. It was just surreal. Um, it k--it really eased
my mind a lot, because I was so vigilant walking out, and
then just to see how it had eased everyone, and how supportive
they were at the time. It was, uh, it was a
good, it was a good first patrol. It was, um, calming.
SCOTT: What was your own base that you lived on like?
MEDLEY: Um, it was an abandoned hotel, um, that the Marine
Corps had taken over, and that's where a majority of our people
00:39:00lived, and then, um, there were some wooden huts, just surrounding it,
and then the entire area was, uh, fenced off by the Hesco
barriers, the barriers filled with dirt, and, um, the entire area was
probably, maybe two football fields, size. It was very small.
Um, we were the main--we were the largest force there. Uh,
our platoon of seventy, um, and then there were a few, um,
different teams there, some border patrol teams did different things, but, uh,
we kind of ran the base, and, uh, it was small, um,
it was very homey, but, uh, we had everything we needed.
It was a gym--there was a nice gym, and, uh, a little
room to run, and, um, it wasn't bad.
SCOTT: Get all the niceties of the larger bases, or--
SCOTT: --did you have to make due?
MEDLEY: Uh, we had--I think we had three computers with internet,
and three phones, or five computers. Uh, it wasn't bad.
Since there weren't--were so few people there, and everyone was on different
SCOTT: How many people?
MEDLEY: Um, total, I think we probably had 110, and 80
00:40:00of--or 70, 80 of them were in my platoon. So, um,
it, it was just a relaxed atmosphere. Not like, uh, a
garrison environment. Every--everyone was just, uh, pretty friendly. A lot
of the, uh, the higher ups in the chain of command weren't
real grouchy because, uh, we did what we were supposed to do.
We took care of business, and, uh, as far as niceties,
um, the, the food was awful. Um, it was just the,
the tray rations. Um, the--and MREs, so we would have, um,
a hot meal for breakfast, and a hot meal for dinner, depending
if what shift you were on, you might get one of those
meals, and then, uh, other that, it was MREs, or um, whatever
you had on hand. Um, they had frozen pizzas, and stuff
like that. I tried to stay away from that. I,
I actually got a box of, I don't know how much tuna
sent out to me, and I ate tuna everyday, just because I
was trying to be a little healthier, than eating frozen pizza, um,
00:41:00but it was a, it was a nice base. Um, we,
we loved it there.
SCOTT: Briefly describe what a, what a normal day was like
MEDLEY: Um, normal day, uh, every shift was--or every shift--so we
had, our shifts were basically squads of about fifteen men, and, uh,
at this base, we were responsible for our pr--protection, so we would
have to man posts, so the, the first thing--we kind of broke
it up into six hour shifts, so the first six hours, we
would, uh, stand post. Uh, there were five different posts, or
four different posts around the base, and, um, so we would just
sit out there, and remain vigilant, staring at the desert, try to
report anything over our radios, if it was suspicious, um, pretty boring,
but you did it, two men at each post, so you kind
of passed the time getting to know each other, and, uh, I
really attribute that to how close our platoon was, uh, by the
time we came home, and then, um, once you got off with
00:42:00that, you went on a, what we'd consider the patrol shift.
So, if there was a patrol scheduled for that night, you would,
uh, patrol anywhere in our, like I guess, 25 mile area.
We, uh, we'd pa--patrol, um, up and down the border, sometimes just
out in the middle of the desert, just messing around, looking for
things. Uh, that would be in trucks, or we would just
foot patrol through, um, the places we could reach on foot, um,
West Waleed and then there was a large refugee camp there, um,
with about three thousand people in it. Um, so we would
do that, and then the next six hours of the shift were
spent on, um, what we cons--we called QRF, which was quick reaction
force, which was basically--it turned into what would be our rest time,
but, um, you were resting, but you were expected to be ready
to go within five minutes, if something happened in our area of
00:43:00operations that needed our response, so, uh, that would be six hours,
and then we would have six hours of hard rest, where you
couldn't be disturbed, so you'd get sleep. And that was a
normal day. And then, um, during the patrol period, at different
times during the deployment, we would, uh, that patrol period would be
designated for us to go out, and provide security for, uh, the
Marines that were scanning irises, or scanning eyes, at the port.
So, we would stand around at the port, at the passport office,
uh, really immersed in the Iraqi people, and just, um, maintain security
for those guys, because, because they were working with their hands, scanning
eyes and everything. They didn't have--they couldn't provide their own security,
so we did that for them.
SCOTT: What was the, uh, what was the enemy situation in
MEDLEY: Uh, non-existent, as far as I'm concerned. We never
really saw anything. Um, we would catch a few people that
had been in the Iraqi prison system going in and out.
00:44:00They would try to go in and out, which they weren't allowed
to do, so we would detain them. Um, it, it was
kind of non-existent. Um, I think a month in, um, a
few hours away from us, an Iraqi police station was hit with
a suicide bomber, um, but we, uh, we never really saw anything,
none of our--no one in our platoon saw anything. We found
a few caches of weapons, , um, but that was probably the
extent of any, uh, any activ, any, any--(laughs)--any enemy activity we saw.
SCOTT: Okay. Uh, any, any memorable experiences you want to
share with that one? With that, that--
MEDLEY: --um, like there's a few. Um, we--(laughs)--really didn't do
mu--I got in the best shape of my life. Uh, I
just worked out every day. It was perfect for working out.
Um, and then nothing really, um, dangerous happened. There was
one funny story. Um, we were working the fort for security
00:45:00for the, uh, the BATs team, the ey--the guys scanning the eyes,
and this, um, they would come through on tour buses, because I
guess that's the most efficient way to travel over there, just because
it's cheaper, and they load massive amount of stuff on these tour
buses, and just travel all over the place, and this tour bus
was coming in from Syria, and, um, this kid and, um, this
kid, he's really pale, he's white. He looks American. We
weren't sure at the time when he got off, and we were
kind of suspicious, and, um, my buddy that I was working with,
was working on that side. He was working on the incoming
to Iraq, and I was on the out coming, and I didn't
see him. Um, my buddy, um saw him and called him
over, and tried to talk to him, and we figured out he
was American, and he was an Ameri--he was wearing Duke basketball shorts,
and I think a Florida shirt, and he was a Florida National
Guardsman that I guess he was on--he said he was on vacation,
and he wanted to see Iraq, and it was one of the
00:46:00more bizarre stories I've ever heard. He had his dog tags
on, and everything, and we were just--we were like, you can't keep
going. And we cou--we tried to explain it to him, and
tried to explain it to him, and, um, the bus driver was
really begging for him to come back on, and we knew something
was suspicious. Like, the bus driver's like, he's coming with me,
he's coming me. We're like, no, he's not, and, uh, so
we detained him, and we actually called the State Department, and they
were really mad about it, and they flew out a helicopter, and
took him back. It was just a funny story that, I
guess my, my buddy--(laughs)--he probab--that National Guardsman should probably thank him for
saving his life, or something. It was, uh, a dangerous situation
for that guy just because, I, I don't know what he was
thinking, kept going with dog tags, and everything, into--(laughs)--enemy territory. It
was, it was funny after it happened, but at the time, we
were kind of confused by it.
SCOTT: All right. Uh, so wha--you wrapped up. ----------(??)--
MEDLEY: --yeah, um deployment ended in, um, early October, um, came
home, um, that's the one good thing I guess, the work up
for Reservists is, uh, pretty difficult. It's three months. Um,
it's long and grueling, but once you get home, you're kind of
out the door. You're home. I don't think there's actually
any rule about it, but generally, within four, four days of being
back in the States, you're, uh, back at your Reserve unit, and,
uh, that all happened really quickly. Um, it's a pretty painf--painless
SCOTT: What was it like coming back on American soil?
MEDLEY: It was good. I just remember, it was raining
in Germany, which we hadn't seen rain the entire time, which that
was amazing. We all just stood out in the cool weather,
in the rain, and then, um, it was the most beautiful day
I've ever seen in Camp Lejeune--or Cherry Point when we landed.
It was just probably sixty-five or seventy, and sunny, and nice breeze,
00:48:00and, uh, it didn't take long to adjust. (laughs) Uh,
it was a lot of--I mean, it was easy to adjust back
for me. Um, like--but our deployment wasn't that stressful, and it
wasn't that up tempo, and, uh, I, I don't know, I thought
the, um, the transition back to just being in America was a
pretty easy one.
SCOTT: Did any of your friends have difficulty?
MEDLEY: Um, I don't think--a few of them, um, had a
little bit of difficulty, just, uh, I think more with having freedom,
and not being told what to do everyday. Uh, kind of
the typical response of leaving the military. I don't think it
was really, uh, induced by the deployment or anything, um, but most
people when they get back from deployment, um, transition pretty well, and,
uh, we stayed--we were able to stay on active duty at our
00:49:00Reserve unit for a few months, and it really helped because we
were all pretty good friends, and, uh, so we would just hang
out, and drink, and just go to concerts toge--just a kind of
a, uh, a transi--a good transition phase for us, um, just getting
to spend that time together, um, in America.
SCOTT: What was, what was your thoughts on, uh, on the
Iraqi people, and the progress been made at the time you left?
MEDLEY: Um, I thought a lot of pro--progress had been made,
but like I say, I, I was in a very, very small
segment of Iraq, um, within--I, uh--probably a ten squa--square mile area, so
my experience is pretty limited. Um, the people there were very
supportive of us. Um, most of the people coming in and
out of the, uh, the border were very supportive of us.
Um, we even saw American--or Iraqis that had immigrated to America during
00:50:00the war, they were finally--they were coming back. We saw a
lot of that, and to that--that to me was a sign that
something--we had done something right in Iraq, um, if Iraqi immigrants were
foun--were coming back to the country, um. The Iraqi people, like
I said, were very supportive, friendly, um, we never had any problems
with, um, them being unfriendly in any way. Um, I guess
my personal experience on progress is pretty limited, like because I was
in a--that small area. Um, I would read a lot of
the intelligence reports, and I knew that, um, conflicts across the country
were dropping, and, uh, it seemed like the war, uh--the conflict was
over. It seemed like it was.
SCOTT: Did you feel like you were a different person, a
different Marine, when you came back?
MEDLEY: Not really. Um, me and another friend of mine
that was on the deployment, talked about the deployment, and we kind
of look at it, as sort of like, a training deployment.
00:51:00Because we didn't have a lot of specific missions coming down from,
um, our chain of command, we were able to do what we
wanted, set up different foot patrols, set up different convoys, and, uh,
kind of train, kind of train--even though nothing was going on, we
were constantly training, bettering ourselves, um, just to mainly stave off boredom,
but to maintain some sense of, uh, being a hard target, and,
uh, some sense of training, because it would be pretty easy during
that time just to get pretty relaxed, and lazy, um, six, six
months, and there's nothing to do but eat and go to the
gym. Um, it was a good--we refer to it as kind
of our training deployment. A lot of the stuff we learned
there helped us later in our military career.
SCOTT: Okay, um, let's take five. All right. So,
uh, moving forward now, what, uh, what's your timeline like for deployment
00:52:00number two? Or did you find out about it?
MEDLEY: Um, so I got back from Iraq in, uh, October,
uh, went b--
SCOTT: --two thousand--
MEDLEY: Yeah. Went back to, uh, did a year of
school. Uh, I was enrolled for the spring semester at, uh,
UK in 2010, and, um, we, uh, we had heard rumors, uh,
around the unit that, um, there was an Afghan deployment. It
was the first--it would've been--it would be the first Afghan deployment our
unit's ever been on. So, uh, there's a lot of buzz,
kind of excitement, about who's going to go, and who's not, and
everything. Um, and it got to be about February, and, um,
February 2010, and that's when they finally came out with the list,
and, um, my name was on it. I think there were
thirty-something of us, coming from our Reserve unit. Um, I was
00:53:00pretty--I don't know, kind of excited sla--um, kind of aggravated. I
don't know. Um, I wanted to finish school, but, at the
same time, I knew by looking at the list, I was one
of the more senior guys going, and I, I felt a strong
responsibility to a lot of the younger guys. Um, they were
going, just because, um, I felt like I had a lot of
experience, uh, that I could give them, and, uh, I knew that
it wasn't going to be the easy deployment, that the Iraq deployment
was, and, uh, leadership was going to be a, uh, kind of
lacking from, uh, from what I saw from the list. So
I didn't try to fight it. Um, I--it's possible that I
could've gotten out of it, but, um, I, I didn't--it--I just rolled
with it. I, uh, I wanted--actually wanted to go, so.
SCOTT: Was the turnover pretty high on your unit coming back
MEDLEY: Um, that's almost--(laughs)--no one in our unit stays. They
have a six year contract, and, uh, almost no one stays past,
um, past their six year mark. Um, so a lot of
guys had been getting out, um, and a lot of--yeah there was
a lot of attrition in the unit, just, um, like I said,
when people hit that six year mark, most of the time they're
gone. Uh, they're not staying in the Reserves very long.
SCOTT: Had you been promoted in the meantime?
MEDLEY: Um, I've been--the promotion process was just awful, and--(laughs)--the, uh,
in the Reserves, um, I'd been submitted for a meritorious board, but
numerous times, so I would've been promoted ahead of schedule, but, um,
every time there was something wrong with the package, just, uh, some,
some white tape that, uh, didn't work out, and, um, it just
so happened that, I guess, the first month that we were activated,
00:55:00I did pick up sergeant, um, which was really important to me.
Um, that was one of my goals coming into the Marine
Corps, just ca--it's the rank of sergeant. It's pretty important, and,
uh, I've always heard it's the best rank. You have the,
uh, the most responsibility, but uh, you're still with the, uh, with
the troops. You're, uh, you're still active. Um, you have
a, a large role, when everything is going on.
SCOTT: And how did this, uh--the, the ramp up for this
deployment differ from the first?
MEDLEY: Um, well coincidentally, I'd signed up for, uh, every, um,
every year. In the Reserves, we have to do two weeks
of our annual training, and, uh, I had, um, signed up for
our annual training, and it was going to happen in April.
So, uh, I went to Belize for my annual training with the
Marine Corps, uh, which turned out to be about three weeks, in
00:56:00April 2010, and then two days after getting back from that, May,
I think May 2, we get--we got mobilized, um, and then um,
we spent three weeks just doing the same thing we did for
the last deployment, just kind of our annual training requirements, and rifle
range, and just different stuff, taking care of administrative stuff. Uh,
we did that in, uh, Quantico, Virginia. And then, uh, June
1, or June 3, we flew out to Camp Pendleton, California, and,
uh, it was a different work up. Uh, it was just
so unorganized. Um, we were attached to, uh, Combat Logistics Regiment
15, um, which, um, their main job was obviously logistics, support of
the infantry, and, um, we were kind of not excited about that.
We thought we might be, uh, in some sort of, uh,
00:57:00I guess, more import--not more important because every--it's a very important job,
just, uh, we thought we might be on route clearance, or something
MEDLEY: --more combat-oriented. Uh, little did we know at the
time, it would be combat-oriented, but we just, uh--we were kind of
disappointed with where we got stuck, um, and they were just extremely
unprepared. They had no training set up for us. Um,
we, uh, just kind of had to run around Camp Pendleton haggling,
and bribing, and bartering with everyone, just to get the necessary, uh,
training tools, uh, vehicles. Uh, we trained in Humvees, but the
Humvees, by the time we got to Afghanistan, weren't allowed outside the,
the gate. Um, it--we, uh, we were pretty angry, um, that
we felt very unprepared by, by the Marine Corps, because they were
so disorganized. We didn't feel like we were getting the necessary,
necessary training, and, uh, luckily, we had three or four guys--uh, well
00:58:00need to explain first, that for this deployment, thirty-five of the guys--thirty-some
of the Marines came from Lexington, and then I guess ten or
so came from Seattle. We came, and then fifteen or so
came from Camp Pendleton Active Duty. It was kind of a
hodgepodge of all over America, um, put together. So the chain
of command, we didn't know what that was. No one knew
each other. It was, uh, kind of a mess, and we
had to adapt really quickly, and, uh, kind of pull together, and,
uh, start getting some training going, and, um, it was just, uh,
a difficult time, because a lot of people were angry that, um,
nothing was set up for us, and we were supposed to go
to Afghanistan in three months, um, but we didn't have the proper--we
didn't think we had the proper training, um, but luckily, uh, three
or four of the guys that were in the active duty, um,
00:59:00that were attached to us, had just gotten back from Afghanistan, probably
three months, um, before they hooked up with us, and, uh, we
leaned on them very heavily, and they were all junior Marines, lance
corporals, but, uh, we leaned on them very heavily, um, just kind
of soaking in their knowledge. Uh, we would let them lead
training exercises just--we had no other option. Um, we weren't given
the tools necessary, so we had to, uh, adapt and overcome, and
just use what we had, and we leaned on them very heavily.
They, uh, they taught us a lot of good things, um,
just the difference between the Iraq and Afghanistan war, the way you
operate was just night and day. Um, it uh, just the
tactics that worked, that we used in Iraq just wouldn't work in
Afghanistan, and just because of the different, uh, the different environments, and
the different people.
SCOTT: All right, well once again, let's, uh, let's walk through
the, the arrival in the country.
MEDLEY: Um, well first, uh, I guess I should mention, um,
when I, when I got promoted to a sergeant, um, so I
was a fire team--I was a corporal still, and I was a
fire team leader in front of--in charge of three guys, and about
a week before I was promoted to sergeant, uh, they moved me
up to squad leader, so I was in charge of eleven guys,
and then, um, I guess for a lack of leadership, um, above
me, or something, I was--the day I was--or two days after I
was promoted to sergeant, I was, uh, then promoted to--or my billet
was moved up to platoon sergeant, so in a span of two
weeks, I'd gone from being in charge of three guys, to thirty-nine
guys. It was a huge, huge step for me, and it
took during the workup, it was very difficult on me, just uh,
I wasn't prepared, um, and I didn't really want to--I didn't really
want to be a platoon sergeant. Um, I felt that I,
01:01:00I would rather be operating on like a squad level, that way
I could still be with the guys, and in charge of patrols,
and everything, but I didn't--again I didn't fight it because I saw
the other choices, and I kind of talked to a few of
my friends who are also like higher, uh, experienced corporals, and sergeants,
and we knew that if I didn't do it, then the alt--the
alternatives weren't going to be very good, and it was really difficult
on me. It was the most stressful three months of my
life, trying to get a platoon ready to go to Afghanistan.
I just--I never imagined, uh, that I would be in that position,
and I wasn't prepared, but um, it all turned out well, and
it--and I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot about
leadership, and, uh it was a good life experience for me--(coughs)--but, uh,
again, we got, um, block leave, um, so went home, um, had
a good time, came back, um, about a week after we got
back to California, from block leave, um, we find out we're going
01:02:00to Afghanistan in like, I guess, thirty-six hours. We get everything
ready, and, uh, the journey over was, for some reason, it was
a lot longer than Iraq. Um, we flew to Maine.
Uh, hit Maine, and then we hit Germany, but when we got
to Germany, um, there wasn't space in Kyrg--Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which is kind
of the Kuwait for the Afghan war, the staging point. There
wasn't space on the runway for our plane, so we were stuck
in the airport in Germany for, I think it was thirty-six hours,
and, uh, it, it was just a miserable experience, and they had--they
catered in food but it was all just like, I guess typical
German food, but I didn't care for it. It was just
sausages, and all kinds of stuff, and we were all just trapped
with the weight of us being in Afghanistan, in a week, and
it just--um, it was a stressful time. Just--you had nothing to
do but sit there, and think about, um, your impending future.
01:03:00So, um, we leave there. Um, when there's finally space on
the runway we hit, um, Manas, uh, Air Force Base, and none
of us had ever been on an Air Force Base, so we
weren't, we weren't sure what to expect, but it was--(laughs)--uh, I guess,
tremendously more luxurious than what the accommodations we were used to in
the Marine Corps. Uh, I guess they had candy bars, the
chow hall, and free massages, and everything, and all my guys just
went crazy, and, it was a hard time--like they served alcohol.
None of--the Marines weren't allowed to drink it, but they had a
bar there, and everyone was just amazed that, that living, uh, accommodations
afforded to the Air Force, and, and I'm kind of glad it
happened, that way just because it kind of took everyone's mind off
of, I'm going to be in Afghanistan for seven months, and, um,
01:04:00kind of lowered the stress level a little bit. Uh, we
were there for three or four days. We had, uh, just
a few classes, and, um, just some logistics to work out, and,
um, September 20, 2010, um, we got a flight in to Camp
Leatherneck, which is in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Um, flew
in in the morning, got there about noon, um, about the same
climate as Iraq. We were--it's, it's a desert down there, so
it was warm, um, dusty, miserable. Um, I was a lot
more nervous going to Afghanistan. Um I just know--I had friends
that, uh, had been there, and they didn't--they had a tough time,
and I had friends that had been injured there, and, uh, I
just knew the, uh, fighting climate was a lot different than, uh,
01:05:00the last trip that I took overseas.
SCOTT: But what did you know about, uh, about where--the area
you were going?
MEDLEY: I didn't know a whole lot. Um, we knew--I
knew we were, uh, near Marja, which was all over the news
for the entire year before, um, before I went over and I
was glued to newspaper, TV, Internet articles. I read everything I
could about Marja. Um, luckily, by the time I got there,
it wasn't as big of a hot spot, um, that had transitioned
to, um, a nearby area called Sangin, and, uh, that was northeast
of us, and, uh, that would turn out to be--I guess you
could draw a line. Anytime we went south, we were, uh,
relaxed and, um, it was an easy time. We weren't really
scared of any danger, but the second you started heading north of,
uh, Camp Leatherneck, we knew we had to buckle down, and get
serious, because that's where the, uh, the fight was when we were
there. Um, the Sangin area, or, uh, Nawzad, and just in
01:06:00that area, that's where, um, once again I was kind of glued
to the intelligence reports, uh, on the secure internet there, and I
would just read about it every night, um, just things happening with
the infantry, and Sangin, and, um, I don't know. I did
that a lot before I even went outside the wire, and I
read a lot of the articles to my platoon, just to uh
stress that, uh, we're in a dangerous place. It's not Iraq--or
it's not the Iraq that we were used to, and, um, everyone
needed to get pretty serious.
SCOTT: Was Leatherneck a staging ground for you guys, the following--
SCOTT: ----------(??)----------is that where you operated out of?
MEDLEY: It actually was where we operated out of. We
had heard when we first got there that we were going to
possibly be leaving, but it turned out that, um, we stayed there.
Um, our platoon--our company, was a security company, so we were
tasked--um, we had three main missions. Um, we did security for
01:07:00the, uh, the logistics transport guys, just the truck drivers, and everything.
We did security for them, um, anytime they went outside the
wire. Um, our second job was, uh, immediate response team, so
anywhere almost within, I would--I want to say eighty--seventy or eighty miles,
a circle of us, um. Any trouble they had, whether they,
uh, they hit an ID and they couldn't recover themselves, so they
couldn't get back to base, or if they got stuck in the
mud, and they just could not get out, um, we were tasked
to, uh, have a, a group on standby. It's kind of
uh, the same mission that we had for QRF, quick reaction force,
just in the Afghan theater, it wa--it was called IRT, immediate response
team, and, uh, so we would have a team on standby twenty-four
hours a day, uh, ready to go out, and be outside the
gate within an hour, on their way to, uh, help fellow, uh,
01:08:00Americans in need.
SCOTT: All right, so did you have anybody to--uh, any unit
that was already there to help guide you through, uh--
MEDLEY: --um, there was a unit there. Um, they, uh,
I guess that's one of the problems that I have with the,
uh, the way the turnovers are done. By the time that,
um, the units there, they'd been there seven months, they developed their
bad habits, they're um, they're kind of lackadaisical, they're tired of, they're
tired of being there, and they're not the greatest teachers, and, um,
because the military's always on a schedule, they have five days, ten
days, to impart everything they've learned over seven months to a group
of eighty guys that are coming in, and expecting to do, to
pick up their job, and, um, take off like, uh, with, with
no, uh, drawback, and, um, our replacement wasn't great. Uh, it
01:09:00was short. I went on, uh, only one patrol with them,
and it was south, and, um, the guys were just completely lackadaisical,
and they didn't even wear their body armor and stuff, and I
was just amazed, like, well if every mission's going to be like
this, like, I, I, I don't know, it's kind of weary.
Um, it wasn't--that was kind of the typical mission that we got
during the turnover--turnover, so a lot of my guys, I think, got
the wrong impression that this was going to be another easy deployment,
and, uh, it hit home pretty quick that it wasn't, but uh,
during the replacement, that's kind of--the feeling that we got.
SCOTT: But, what changed everyone's attitude?
MEDLEY: Um, they--I guess they left late September. We'd been
there since September 20, they left September 20-something. So, uh, our
first mission that my, uh, my--well my platoon squad, whatever you want
01:10:00to call it, was tasked with at the time, uh, we referred
to as, uh, the seed run. Um, there was a--it came
down from the general level that, um, we're doing this seed exchange
program, so up north, where they grow opium, and the poppies, um,
the mili--our military was going to exchange their opium seeds on a,
I guess, a two for one basis with, uh, wheat seeds to
try to transition the farmers to growing wheat instead of opium.
So our mission was--well, to add onto that, um, we didn't--all the
military transport vehicles that were capable of transporting seed, were tasked out
to, as they should be, to carrying food, water, um, ammunition, the
basic necessities to the infantry. So, in country, we didn't have--in
01:11:00Afghanistan, the Marine Corps didn't have enough transport vehicles to, to support
this mission. So it was deemed that, um, we would contract
Afghan drivers to drive these transport trucks, um, and we would provide
security for them. Um, none of the trucks were made after
1970. Uh a lot of them had road tires on them,
and we never--we didn't drive on the road at all. It
was all off-road. Um, there was a language barrier. We
were given one interpreter, um, it was just a difficult--it was a
difficult enough mission for anyone, uh, especially for our first mission, and,
uh, especially for our first mission, and especially with the, uh, the
replacement that we had gotten. Or the, the replacement training that
we had gotten, we weren't prepared, um. We'd done our best,
01:12:00um, but we, we just weren't prepared. So um, we left,
uh, at midnight on October 2. That's something about, um, the,
the Afghan environment. You're--since you're traveling off-road, the max speed we
would ever reach was probably ten or fifteen miles an hour.
So, a destination's eighty miles away, it's going to take twelve hours,
so we had to--twelve hours on a good day. So we
left at midnight, hoping to be there by that night. Um,
so we connect with the uh, the Afghan, uh, seed truck drivers,
outside the wire, and, uh, we start moving, and right away we
realized that the trucks are in--their trucks are in terrible condition.
We have two flat tires before we're five miles away, so--and they
refused to let us help them, uh, I guess out of an
Afghan pride thing, and, uh, they changed their own tires, which took
probably six hours, so we've gone five miles, and, uh, we're six
01:13:00hours behind already. So, we finally pick up some momentum, uh,
later in the day. Uh, it's daylight now. Um, we're
all tired, because we couldn't sleep, because we're all too, uh, pumped
up to go on a mission, um, anxious, um, and, um, couldn't
sleep, and we left at midnight. So, all of us had
been up for at least eighteen--twenty hours, um, so we're all getting
tired. It's about noon. Um, for this convoy, um, I
was a security--security element leader, and, um, we were--I was in charge
of basically navigation. So I had my front two trucks, and
then I was the third truck, so um, I was really blessed
to have really good Marines, and they were awesome with what they
did, so all I did basically, was just, uh, help them out
with navigation, the best we could, and we just tried to pick
a route that would get us there, um, as quickly as possible.
01:14:00Um, we had--it was kind of a, a sink or swim,
um, method to us learning about Afghan tactics, and everything. Uh,
we didn't know a lot--we didn't know what we, as much as
we thought we knew, and, uh, so we started heading up.
There were two main routes we could take, one, um, one put
us closer to a, a tiny village that we knew was very,
uh, anti-American, and then the other, um, kind of bridged up a
hilltop, and, uh, it was definitely safer as far as small arms
go, but we had heard that, um, the IEDs in that area
were pretty heavy, um, so the command decision from our convoy commander
was that we were going the easy route to drive, the, uh,
the route that supposedly had IEDs, so we knew kind of--we called
01:15:00it table top. It was a hot spot, um, it was
kind of a plateau, and, uh, we knew that there were IEDs
there, but it was our first convoy, and we didn't know what
to look for because in Iraq, you're driving on a road, you're
looking for trash, you're looking for a rock that looks weird, wires
or something. In Afghanistan, you're looking at dirt, and they're buried,
and you don't know--the best you can hope for is maybe some
di--slightly different colored earth, or disturbed earth, that you maybe think's an
IED, and you try to steer away from it, or, um, sweep
it with a mine detector, and hopefully get a metal hit, and
then drive the other way. So we're up on this plateau,
driving, um, it's getting--it's almost dusk now. We're moving way too
slowly, and, um, we tried to stop for the night--or we didn't
try to stop for the night. We hadn't learned that traveling
at night--you just can't do it, because you can't see what you're
01:16:00looking at, and that's--I mean, too dangerous to, uh, to proceed at
night. So we were traveling, it was dusk, and, uh, me
and the front three trucks, and probably most of the convoy had--we
were at the very end of the plateau, where we thought the
IEDs had ended, like we thought we were home free, and, uh,
a seed truck, an Afghan driver, hits an IED. There were
forty-four, forty-three trucks in the convoy, and I think the forty-second truck
hits an IED, so that was our first IED. Everyone, just
like, we weren't--that's the first time we'd heard the concussion, anything, we
were--everyone didn't know what we--we reacted well, but it took like--it took
a few minutes. Everyone was kind of panicked for a minute.
We didn't know what to do. And then, um, our
lead tru--our lead security vehicle called on the radio, and said it
was a seed truck. He's okay, he's out looking at it,
01:17:00everyone's fine, there's no injuries. Um, the only problem is, we
have to recover that vehicle now, and it has a blown axle,
so, um, they--from somewhere, the Iraqis, uh, actually they didn't--no. Sometimes,
the ir--or the, uh, Afghans, would just pull out spare axles from
who knows where and fix their truck in a matter of minutes.
In this case, he didn't have anything, but he still had
tons and tons of seed, so I don't know if I--I don't
want to get into too much of our, uh, standard operating procedures,
but we had to clear around that vehicle to, uh, in order
so we can get on scene, and, uh, off--or get the seed
offloaded, and recover that truck, and, uh, as one of our, our
lead--or our rear truck is coming up, which is--uh, uh, she was
a female, she was a fire team leader in my team.
01:18:00She's driving up to it, and she hits another IED, and, uh,
at that point, everyone--I, I guess, uh, everyone kind of freaked out
for a minute and I--the bad part was, I was--I wasn't on
scene. I was--forty-three trucks are spread out over two miles with
the dispersion. So I--all I could hear was everything going on
over the radio, and everyone was kind of losing their mind back
there, and, uh, apparently, it was--it was a pretty big one.
It messed up her truck pretty bad, and, uh, the doct--the corpsman,
he gets back there, and, uh, we secure the area. We
sweep it with mine detectors, and we deem there's no IEDs there,
and, uh, we, uh, get a corpsman back there, and apparent--there was
some class three concussions, which, um, that means we have to fly
them out, so we start clearing a, um, a landing zone for
01:19:00a helicopter on top of the plateau, which was stupid. It
was a terrible decision, but we didn't really have anywhere else to
land the helicopter, um, even though we knew there were probably IEDs
there, we had to I guess drive around and clear it, so
the helicopter doesn't hit it. So, we're doing this, and miraculously,
um, we cleared probably, I don't know, a football field-sized area, and
there's no IEDs there, so, we think we're good. We call
in the--I call in the MedEvac, and, uh, the bird's on its
way, so the, uh, the guys from the back bring the injured
Marines up, and, uh, they're getting ready to get on the bird.
As they're coming up, they're traveling in a three vehicle stick.
As they're coming up, um, the third vehicle hits an IED.
So, the rear vehicle. It's not the vehicle that any
of the injured Marines were in. It was just the security
vehicle. So that one hits an IED. Um, the bird
01:20:00comes and lands, and, um, we get the, the Marines evacuated, and,
uh, everyone's kind of taking a breath, and then we realize, well
we've got a bunch of seed trucks back there, a mile back.
We need to go get those, um, we need to secure
them for the night, and we're not moving anymore tonight, but we
still had a lot of logistics to work out, so we probably
weren't going to get much sleep. So, uh, we send some
trucks back, um, to get those guys, and, uh, we end up
offloading the seed from that truck and putting it in, just spread,
uh, spread-loading it among the other trucks, and, um, we deemed that
that truck's just not reparable. We can't fix the axle.
So we light it on fire, and torch it, and just leave
it in place, and, uh, we have to recover the se--our first
01:21:00vehicle, the first military vehicle that hit an IED. So, uh,
we take a tow truck back there, and, uh, pull it up
and fix it, and, um, rig it for tow, and pull it
to the top of the plateau. So, at this point, all
our, um, Afghan seed trucks are staged. They're solid, they're good,
um, they're staged for the night, and then we're pulling up our
last, um, our vehicle that was destroyed by that first IED, and,
uh, the lead truck is coming right over the area where we
swept for that helicopter earlier. We knew it was clear, or
we thought we knew it was clear, and he hits an IED,
and, uh, at this point, it was so demoralizing because we thought--the,
the three IEDs before that, we knew, tho--those were probably our fault.
We shouldn't have been in those areas. We should've been,
01:22:00um, practicing better truck discipline. Um, like we could accept those
because we hadn't driven in that area. I mean, that's going
to--that's believable. There's an IED there, but an area that we
had just cleared. We hit another IED, um. It was
so demoralizing, and this one, the, uh, the first three, were all--they
were big, but they were, uh, homemade explosives. So, they were
just--it was really concussive, and, uh, it was damaging, but it wasn't--I,
I can't differentiate between--it wasn't as frightening as the fourth one.
There was a fireball. Um, we, we found shrapnel from it,
so we figured out that it was a artillery shell. There
was a huge fireball, and, um, that was probably a hundred meters
away from me. So I see it, hear it, but we
can't get out of the vehicle, because we don't know if there's
IEDs between us. Um, luckily there's a vehicle that's right behind
01:23:00them, and, uh, they run up there, and the guys are hurt
pretty bad inside. One guy, um, pretty dislocated shoulder. He's,
uh, bleeding. We didn't know from where, and then another guy,
he was in the turret, and he had broken his jaw, and,
uh, they were good friends of mine. Um, one--I went to
Iraq with one of the guys, uh, I hung out with them
on the weekends as Reservists. We're a lot closer than active
duty because we're with each other our entire six year contract, and
we live in the same area. We go to school together.
We go to football and basketball games together. So I
knew that his--this was his truck, and, uh, they both had class
three concussions. They weren't even conscious, so we immediately had, uh--got
another MedEvac on the way, and, uh, we got them out of
there, uh, but it was, like I said, so demoralizing that, uh,
01:24:00we thought we cleared an area. Uh, we obviously hadn't.
Uh, we hit an IED. We got three more people evacuated,
two of them were hurt pretty badly, and then, uh, were still
left to sit out there at night in the desert. Um,
the only good thing about the decision to go up there was
that we were at--we had the high ground, and we weren't in
danger of being attacked. That was the only good thing.
Um, and it just so happened that the guy that got hit,
uh, the last hit, he was my lead vehicle, so, um, from
then on, someone else was going to have to take the point,
and be the navigation, the navigational man. So, we tried to
regroup the next day. Uh, he hit the, he hit the
IED around, probably two in the morning, and, uh, we got them
evacuated, and then finally, we were just--no one gets out of their
vehicles. No one moves. We're not doing anything. Um,
01:25:00luckily, our convoy commander, um, which this would differ throughout the deployment,
whether it was an officer, or a, uh, an enlisted person, but
our convoy commander for this was a lieutenant, and, uh, he had
enough pool with, I guess, his rank to, uh, to argue with
our command, because they wanted us to keep pushing, and he, he
was able to make the command decision on, on the spot, and
just be like, we're not moving, and he kind of--I guess he
kind of--equivalent of just hanging up the phone on him, didn't answer
the radio, and just, um, he kind of--it was a really good
thing that he did. He saved a lot of us, or
not saved a lot of us, but, uh, could--could've saved a lot
of us. Who knows what would've happened if we would've kept
moving. So we kind of--so now we have two more vehicles,
Marine Corps vehicles, that are hit by IEDs, um. One of
them we think can run, one of them has lost a wheel,
or blown off an entire, uh, left side of the rear axle.
01:26:00So it's not going anywhere. So we have to call
in our IRT team, the immediate response team, that our guys are
manning, to come help us, but they hit three IEDs on the
way up, uh, and then they finally--but they were smaller, um, just
kind of, uh, anti-personnel mines, that don't do any damage to the
vehicle. So they, uh, they make it up there, and they're
able to, uh, help us and, uh, secure some of the vehicles,
and take them back to base, uh, that way we don't have
as much of, uh, a load on us, and if we have
to, uh, recover something else that, um, we'll be able to do
that without towing three trucks. Um, so we think we're ready
to go. We still have to continue on, and, uh, get
the seed up there, because, uh, like I said, this mission came
down from the general level. It was high priority. So,
01:27:00uh, my second truck, he's ready to, uh, take--he's going to be
my lead man, and I'm going to be in second position, but
uh, the night before we're setting up a, um, a cordon around
the Afghans, mainly to make sure that they don't go anywhere, and
also, just to provide better security, and, uh, as he's moving to
set up a cordon in another area that we thought was clear,
he hits an IED, and, uh, luckily, it hit the mine roller
on the front of his vehicle, um. It, it damaged his
vehicle, but everyone inside was fine, and, uh, we were able to,
uh, get that vehicle towed pretty quickly. So, my front two
trucks are gone. So now, it's left up to me.
So I'm the lead truck now. Um. Easily, the most
nerve-wracking experience of my life. Um, we've hit six IEDs, nine
if you include the guys that are on their way up to
01:28:00us. So we've hit nine IEDs in the past forty-eight hours,
and now I have to drive as the front truck across the
desert where, hopefully, I see an IED, but I'm probably not going
to see it, and I'm probably going to get hit. So
I just knew, I was 100 percent sure that, um, that I
was going to get hit, and, uh, but we didn't have an
option. We had to get the seed up there. It
was, uh, mission priority. So we start moving, and, uh, everything
goes well. Uh, we reach a small, uh, fire base, an
artillery base, that's probably fifteen clicks away with no incidents. Uh,
I honestly to this day, I don't know how it happened.
The Afghan trucks didn't break down. Everything just went perfectly.
Uh, we made it to the fire base, and, uh, from there,
um, we hooked up with, uh, some route clearance guys, and, uh,
01:29:00they just kind of pretty much paved the way for us up
to, uh, our destination up north, uh, to a small FOB, where
we, uh, handed off the seed to the infantry, and they distributed
it. Uh, like I said to this day, I can't believe
I didn't hit one then. Um, I just knew it was
happening, um, but I--luck was on our side. It wasn't all
luck. Um, we had learned a little bit in that short
forty-eight hours, um, a lot of tactics that, uh, we wish--(laughs)--we would've
known, probably a, a few weeks sooner, but uh, we learned a
lot, and, uh, I was able to apply it, and, um, a
lot of luck too just, uh, getting out of there.
SCOTT: How did that first experience affect you as a leader?
MEDLEY: It was, uh, it was big. I got a
taste of pretty much every part of the convoy, and, uh, it
01:30:00was nerve-wracking. I don't know. Um. I learned from
the officer that was with us. I mean, sometimes, you have
to make the call, even if it's going against, um, what the
command wants you to do, if it's right for the people that
are under you, and for their safety, then you have to make
the hard decision sometimes, and, uh--(coughs)--as far as tactics go for the
rest of Afghanistan, as a leader, um, I just learned that you
have to trust the eyes that are on the scene, whether that's
a PFC, or an officer, whoever's on the scene at the time,
whoever has eyes on what's happening, he probably has the best judgment,
and, um, you just have to trust your people, trust, uh, the
people that are under you, that they're going to do the right
thing, because they've been trained to do that.
SCOTT: Now was this first, uh, this first convoy mission, was
it, um, was it insight into what the rest of the deployment
was like for you?
MEDLEY: It's pretty indicative. Um, we got a lot better
at finding IEDs. Um, we still hit them. Uh, we
hit them at an amazing rate, um, and found them at an
amazing rate. I think--I never kept track, um, but I think
totals were, our platoon hit, I think forty-three IEDs, and we found
somewhere around that number. Um, I know personally I was in
two trucks that were hit by IEDs, and I was around probably
twenty more explosions within a hundred, two hundred yards. Um, it
got commonplace. I don't want to say that. It just
got--it wa--it made me angry more than anything else, that uh, we
were reduced to fighting this way, just driving across the desert, and
getting blown up by an enemy that we couldn't see, and, um,
we had no defense against it. It, it, it was, uh,
01:32:00very--I don't know. It made me very angry. Um, the,
uh, about a--two months after that, we, uh, we're doing a similar
mission, um, up north, and, uh, that's when my truck hit an
IED. I was in the third--I was third in line again,
um, or third in order of the convoy, and it, it honestly,
I think it was worse being close to an IED, than rather
than being on it. The trucks were so well built by
this point in, um, the Iraq and Afghan wars, that it's a,
it's a shame that they weren't available sooner. Uh, it could've
saved so many lives. Um, I mean my truck was completely
destroyed, but everyone walked away, um, with little bit more than nausea
and a headache. Um, uh, we were all very lucky to
walk away, but like I said, um, by the end, IEDs were
01:33:00so commonplace, but we did get very adept at finding them, um.
Towards the end, we had a two week mission, where we
found numerous IEDs, and I don't--I'm not sure that we--I don't think--I
don't remember hitting any. So, but that was another problem with
the way the replacement system for the Marine Corps, as soon as
we got good at doing it, we're out of the country, and
we have a week to teach the guys that are replacing us
to, to find IEDs, so.
SCOTT: But what did the, uh, the repetitive nature of, of
finding and hitting IEDs do to the morale of your unit?
MEDLEY: Um, different things. We had guys that were, I
don't know, they weren't with me. Um, I guess when you
hit an IED, it's, um, you're automatically awarded a combat action ribbon,
and, um, that was a bad experience that I had. Um,
01:34:00just I guess, the term is ribbon-chasing, just going after awards just
for the sake of having an award, and I felt like some
of our guys were doing that. Um, it was almost a
joke among some guys. Like, I'm driving in--I'm going to drive
in the most dangerous spots. I'm going to drive where I
think there's IEDs because our unit, aside from that first trip, no
one got hurt, and, um, they--it was sickening is what it was,
and, uh, I--if I ever caught any of my guys talking about
it, it--I don't know, it wouldn't have been pretty, but that was
one way they looked at it, some guys looked at it.
Um, I guess, because no one got hurt, they were--we viewed them
kind of lightly, um, but I don't know. Uh, it was
01:35:00frustrating because, like I said, you have a seventy or eighty mile
trip that, in America, you can do in an hour, um.
If there weren't IEDs there, and you were just driving military vehicles,
you can do in six or seven hours, but because you hit
an IED or two, um, what could be a few hours turns
into a two week mission, and, uh, it was just frustrating.
Um, that's the best word to describe it. Um, you'd s--you'd
think--you know there was an IED somewhere, and there wouldn't be, and
then you'd be sure there wasn't an IED somewhere, and then there
was an explosion. It was just, uh, it was hard to
deal with on that level, um, just--you never knew--it was just so
frightening. You never knew it was coming. I guess that's
the worst part about IEDs.
SCOTT: Now was that your, uh, your own only interaction with
MEDLEY: Um, no, we, uh, IEDs, I would say, probably 75
01:36:00percent of the time, they were in conjunction with small arms fire,
um, and indirect fire, RPGs, um. I guess the only good
thing about the environment we were in, it was such wide open
desert, that, um, very rarely did any, um, Afghan forces try to,
um, engage us closer than a thousand meters, and, uh, their weapons
aren't effective at that range, um, aside from the indirect fire.
And so it was generally just pop shots. Um, um, we
fired back sometimes, um, midway through the deployment, our company, uh, was
reprimanded pretty heavily. Um, we were told our mission wasn't to
engage the enemy, it was to, um, deliver the logistics to the
01:37:00infantry, which was 100 percent correct, um. It's just, the instinct
when you're getting shot at, is to shoot back, and if the
rules of engagement don't let you do that, it's very frustrating, um,
but that was the choice we had to make, and we were
in extremely up-armored vehicles, and there wasn't any danger, but you still--if
you're getting hit, you want to hit back. You don't want
to sit there and just take it, because you can. Um,
so we saw quite a bit of that, and occasionally, uh, we
would have to drive near a city, and we would take accurate
fire, and then we would return fire, but most of our engagements
were, uh, further than a thousand meters.
SCOTT: All right. Any--anything else besides that first mission that
really sticks out, the deployment? Anything you want to add about,
uh, you know, your own feelings about, about the way things went,
01:38:00or anything like that?
MEDLEY: Um, without getting too political, I guess I just, uh,
I don't know that we can--we can't do the same thing we've
done in Iraq with Afghanistan. I--there's--I just--I'm not as hopeful about
the progress we made there. Um, there's no infrastructure. There's
no unifying force there. Um, we would go--we would pass a
farm, um, and they'd be extremely pro-American, waving, just friendly as can
be, and then half a mile down the road, we'd be getting
shot at, um, by another farm. It just, um, it's too
rural, and it's too tribal to really, uh, for us to have
an affect on it, and it's been that way since the beginning
of time. All military forces have been able to run through
Afghanistan, but no one's really been able to control it, um, since
Alexander the Great. He had the same result. It just,
01:39:00uh, it's a difficult situation. Uh, I don't really have the
perspective to say, it's like Vietnam, but it kind of, from what
I've read, and the way I perceive Vietnam, it kind of comes
off that way to me, just, uh, we're fighting an enemy on
their home--on their homeland, and they're very passionate about it, and, uh,
I just don't see a lot of hope for what's going to
happen there, especially after we leave.
SCOTT: All right, what, uh, what was your experience like when
you came home?
MEDLEY: Um. It wasn't bad. Um.
SCOTT: Was it harder this time?
MEDLEY: It was a little harder. I just--I don't think
it was harder for me, but I've seen what a lot of
my people I've served with have gone through, um, but, I guess
01:40:00the array of medical tests and stuff was a little worse this
time. Um, it was a little harder for me just to,
uh, adapt from coming from such a serious environment, uh, where your
life's on the line everyday, to especially back to, uh, Lexington, where
college is in session, and there's parties, and people are just aren't
thinking about it. Um, it took a little bit of time
for me to adjust, um, because of my position, and, and the
leadership, I was a lot more serious over there, than I am
over here, and it took awhile for me to loosen up, and,
uh, just, uh, realized the way I'm talking to people, uh, just,
uh, I don't need to be so directive, and I can't talk
to everyone like they're Marines. They're, uh, civilians, they're--I mean it's
just not necessary, so. That took a little bit of adjustment,
but, um, overall my transition--I think it all depends on the person
01:41:00you are, um. I think ten people can have the exact
same experience, and they're all going to transition differently, and, uh, for
me, I didn't find it very difficult.
SCOTT: How does it make you feel? Like you said,
that people just aren't talking about it, here. You just went
through this-, this life on the line experience every single day, and
you come home, and in fact it has little impact on the
day-to-day lives of Americans these days?
MEDLEY: Yeah, it's a, it's kind of annoying, um, especially being
at a, a university, where I don't want to say the majority
are liberal, but it is kind of a liberal base, especially, um,
I don't know, it seems like that to me, among the freshmen
and everything. It just--I--it's amazing to me that, um, people are
dying and getting shot at, and big things are happening, and people--it
just doesn't register with people. Um, it's kind of annoying that
01:42:00it seems--they have no perspective, and they probably never will. It's
just, uh, it's a shame that, um, people--the military probably won't get
the recognition, many of the people in the military, probably won't get
the recognition they deserve, just because the general American population doesn't realize
what's going on, because they don't, they don't take the time to
SCOTT: Have you come to terms with that, or is this
something you struggle with?
MEDLEY: I'm fine with it, really. Um, I--like my family's
very supportive. Um, my wife's family's extremely supportive, and a lot
of the people I choose to be around are, um, supportive of
the military, and, um, and everything that it stands for. It's
just, uh, it's just annoying when you ha--you're forced to being in
a setting where, uh, I can't think of a specific example, but
just people are saying things that, uh, we shouldn't be in Afghanistan,
01:43:00and all that, but--or we're doing the wrong thing in Afghanistan, but,
I don't know. That I, I have buddies that have died,
or been hurt over there, and, uh, I don't want to think
of it as in the way that they did--they gave up their
life for nothing, so.
SCOTT: So how do you see yourself, uh, compared to the,
the traditional student now, coming back from your second deployment?
MEDLEY: It's, uh, it's a little different. The age difference
is a lot different than when I got back from Iraq, because
when I got back from Iraq, I was twenty-two. I mean
that's not that different from age, from college students, so right now
I'm twenty-five. So that's like, now I'm finishing my last prerequisite,
or my last, uh, general studies thing. So I'm in a
class with a lot of freshmen, and it's just, uh, it's different.
Everyone's talking about going to frat parties, and sorority things, and
01:44:00I, I don't know. It's, uh, I don't lead that life
anymore, and it--I'm okay with it. I prefer it this way.
It's just, um, I think I'm a lot more driven to,
uh, to succeed in school than a lot of, uh, the people
in my classes, just because I, uh, I mean I've seen alternate--I've
been through some alternatives. I've been in the military, and, uh,
I'd much rather--I know that getting a college degree, and doing what
I want to do in college, is, uh, more important than--or not
more important, but it's what I want to do. I know
I'm in the right place, I guess, and a lot--I see a
lot of them just like gaffing off, or uh not doing their
homework, and quizzes and stuff, and I just can't understand it.
Um, I don't know--it's more serious for me now, finishing my degree.
SCOTT: Do you plan on making the military your career?
MEDLEY: No. Um, no. I got out in, uh,
01:45:00I'm actually done with my Reserve contract. I finished in, uh,
July. Um, at one point, I had thought about it, but
uh, as I got--as I, uh, increased in rank, I got a
taste of, I guess, some stuff that I didn't want--I don't know
how to say it. The politics and the bureaucracy of the
upper level, um--the upper chain of command in the military isn't something
that I really want to be a part of. Um, me
and a few of my buddies talked about it all the time,
what, as we were being stressed out over mission planning, and everything
in Afghanistan, just--what we wouldn't be--what we wouldn't give just to be
a turret gunner again, just a guy that, he's a lance corporal,
he has no other responsibility other than to clean his machine gun,
and, um, stand up there, and post security. Um, I enjoyed
that part of the military much more than I did my, the
SCOTT: So what, uh, what lays in store for you then?
What lies in store? Excuse me.
MEDLEY: Uh, I'm back at school. Um, uh, senior in
accounting, so I'm, I'm going to knock out this last year, and
hopefully go on and do the, uh, masters program in accounting at
UK, uh, get my CPA certification, and past that, I'm not really
sure. Um, whatever--I'm opened to everything, so.
SCOTT: Now you said, back in 2005, that you UK was
not a military-friendly school. Have you seen changes since then?
MEDLEY: Yeah, um, so I've actually had to transition back to
school three separate times, once when I got back from training, once
when I got back from Iraq, and this last time, and, uh,
the first time, it--there just weren't resources out there. Um, the
GI Bill, I was forced to find everything on my own.
Enrollment, I had to do all on my own. I didn't
know--there was no one to talk to. I mean, there was
01:47:00a VA representative, but there's no one to, uh, to assist with
it, and it was kind of the same story when I got
back from Iraq. Um, shortly after getting back from Iraq, um,
I got involved with the UKMVA, the Military Veterans' Association, and, uh,
I was treasurer for that, um, for that group, and I got--it
was just good to get back in talking with the, uh, the
other veterans, and it was just such a resource to have other
people that have gone through the same things, and they may know
a trick that you don't, or they may know a phone number
that you don't, and, uh you can share with each other, and
that's what the UKMVA did, and then the veterans' resource center at
UK, it's just--it's amazing. Um, first those--that it was difficult before,
because they ca--they came in, in six months, Tony Dotson. He
transformed it, and it was so easy coming back to school this
time. I sent an email in, um--(coughs)--when--um, in March I guess,
01:48:00around the time priority registration for the fall was going to be,
I sent an email to Tony, and, uh, I was actually still
in Afghanistan. Sent an email to Tony, and, uh, I sent
three emails total and I was registered for classes, re-enrolled, everything was
taken care of, and my GI Bill was ready for me.
It was just amazing, the, uh, the transformation in the past four,
five years that the University of Kentucky has gone under, uh, with
regards to veterans' affairs.
SCOTT: All right. Are you still taking advantage of that
MEDLEY: Yep. Uh, I use the GI Bill currently.
Um, I plan on hopefully using it to finish out my masters,
and then, um, I'd like to stay involved with the veterans' resource
center, and the UKMVA, it's just, um--well like I said, we we
accomplished so much. There were so many issues in that first
year, that we accomplished, and, uh I'm not really sure what's on
the agenda now. Um, like UK is just an amazingly veteran-friendly
01:49:00school now, and, uh, I never would've thought it, after going through
all the red tape the first time.
SCOTT: So, overall, you're proud of your service?
MEDLEY: I am. Um, I don't regret anything. Um,
I, I just p--proud to be a part of, uh, an organization
that fights for America's freedom.
SCOTT: Is there anything, uh, anything specific you want to, you
want to part with, or leave us with, uh, about being a
veteran, what it means to you?
MEDLEY: I don't know. That's a tough one. Um.
SCOTT: If not, it's Okay.
MEDLEY: Yeah I can't think of anything.
SCOTT: Okay. All right. Well James, thank you very
much for, uh, for sharing--(Medley coughs)--your stories with us today, and, uh,
best of luck in the future.
MEDLEY: Thank you.
SCOTT: That should be good.
[End of interview.]
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
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