The United States has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for over ten years. Obviously there are many different views and opinions as to the merit of our involvement in these conflicts. But one thing I’m sure we can all agree on is that we stand firmly behind the men and women who have volunteered for active duty military service in the Armed Forces of the United States. We wish them all a safe return to our country. In this spirit, we have featured U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Jason Dubois, the son of Pawling resident, Jeff Dubois, who recently completed a tour of duty in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan.
Mr. Schlesinger: First of all we want to say on behalf of all Pawling residents that we do thank you for your service. Tell us how long you’ve been in the Armed Forces and what motivated you to join?
Jason Dubois: It’s my honor. I’ve been in the U.S. Marine Corps since July 27th, 2008, so coming up in July it will be 3 years. I’m a Corporal, B-4, United States Marine Corps. I’m currently stationed out of Camp LeJeune, North Carolina with the Second Marine Logistics crew. Ever since I was young; my grandfather was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corp during the Korean War, so growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. He always told me about the Marine Corps and the kind of lifestyle. So, ever since I was little, I always wanted to do it. And then ten days after my 18th birthday I walked up to White Plains and enlisted. I love being in the military. I really do, it’s an experience, it’s definitely life changing, and it’s for me. Right now I picture myself doing about 8 years of active duty and moving on from there.
Can you tell us where you have been stationed and about your daily routines?
I just returned from Afghanistan. Being there is a day to day experience. You try to get into as much of a routine as you can but every day is a different situation. But most days, I worked the night shift so I was at work every night by midnight and I worked straight through the night working with the United States Marine Air Wing unloading a lot of the vehicles, C130’s, a lot of helicopters. So, depending what they had for us, we would move on from there—we would do our thing. Every day was different. Some days, we’d sit around and do nothing. Other days, you’re working for 32 hours straight. The weather in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan is an experience in itself. Summer, we were there and it was 120 degrees and when we got to the winter it would be about 5 degrees at night. So, there’s a big range over there. You guys have got snow, we’ve got sandstorms. It’s definitely a different piece of the world.
When I first arrived in Afghanistan, we didn’t have enough water to support life and showers. Showers had to take a back seat to making it through every day. But, every morning you have your alarm go off, and then, you kind of sleep through it, trying to get that last second of sleep every time. But I’d usually get up and have breakfast—meals were served 3 times a day. So if you didn’t wake up or weren’t scheduled to go to work around that time, there were always power bars or pop tarts just to get you through.
What would you do in your downtime, if you had downtime?
During off hours, the big thing was to sleep. You sleep when you can; you sleep where you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to get it again. So, off time was a lot of sleeping! We had a few chances to get on the phone, a few times to get on the computer. You try to squeeze it in to get as much interaction with home as you could.
There is also what is called the morale center and there were a few phones so you can call home and a TV with an X-box and a few computers that connect to the internet. They understand that we’re working hard and we need something to get rid of all that stress, because it’s a big stress ball over there. So, they know we need something to break it up.
How did you make the adjustment to living and working in Afghanistan?
There was definitely an adjustment period when I first arrived. There’s ah, it’s a big shock when you come off that plane and you look around and realize where you are. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know, you don’t have the certainty that you did here—back in the states. So, the adjustment was short, but, I mean, you just have to move forward. You know, people want to sit around and adjust, but as soon as we got there—we got there day one, and day two, we were right at work getting to the mission. So, you kind of didn’t have to adjust because you were so busy. Your work kind of did it for you.
Tell us a little about the training you received, and were you trained for any specific job in the Marines?
We trained for about 9 months before the deployment. You start going through classes, doing rehearsals and everything. We went to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. We trained there. We went to Mohave Viper in California which is desert acclimation. So, about 9 months was our workups.
I’m a heavy equipment operator for the Marine Corps. We’re basically the engineers of the Marine Corps. We build flight lines, build roads, and repair roads. We did vehicle recovery, all the loading and unloading of convoys and aviation loading. So we’re pretty much the jack of all trades of the engineer field of the Marine Corps. There were days when I would wake up and I would get in a crane and I would be in the crane for about 13 hours a day. So, I definitely, I think I had about 250 hours just in a mobile crane. Out in the civilian world—there is a growing job market for operating mobile cranes.
Do you have plans to stay in the Marines or making it a career?
I’m trying to become an Embassy Guard. Marines are stationed at U.S. embassies throughout the world. Marines are tasked with protecting the materials there and the American citizens who work in the embassies. So, I’m trying to get into embassy duty which would further my career and status in the Marine Corps.
Do you have any advice for somebody who might be thinking of joining?
I’d definitely tell prospective Marine recruits to think carefully about joining. The Marine Corps is a great opportunity. It’s given me things I never thought I’d have, it’s taken me places I never knew existed and it’s definitely been awesome. It’s given me discipline in my life, kind of a sense of purpose. But it’s definitely something you need to think about, cause people just see the G.I. bill and they see traveling the world and they jump into it. But it’s really not for everyone. So you definitely need to think, do research and talk to people you know who are in, or families that have been in.
On a lighter note, how’s the food?
Food in the military…ah, it got better over time. When we first got to our spot it was kind of small. So, you’re eating MRE’s (a pre-cooked meal.) A lot of the meals were cooked when I was in high school (they are dated) and you just reheat it. So, it was bad. But, towards the end we kind of built it up, so we actually had a functioning cafeteria, so the food got better. It depends on where you are and what’s going on.
Do you know where you will be deployed next?
I’m home for two weeks now. Then, I go back down to North Carolina and I’ll reassume my active duty responsibilities. You see, you gain 2 ½ days every month of leave which can be submitted. And if they approve your leave, you can get to go home. So you accumulate about 24 days a year, and I usually come home altogether probably about a month every year. You never know where you will be deployed next. The Marine Corps is America’s 911. If a war breaks out anywhere, anytime, we’re the first ones to go there. I can be deployed within 48 hours, so you never know… just hurry up and wait.