You may be wondering why I sign off each time with the moniker Qmo. Well, this is the simplified form of the nickname that I was bestowed by my platoon in Infantry school, and because I liked it, it stuck. Qmo is short for Quasimodo, the famous bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral in France. It became what my team called me in the Marines and followed me all the way through my deployment with I MEF. And like all good nicknames, this one comes with a story…
My platoon was in the middle of learning urban fighting techniques, and at the time I was a fire team leader. I was at the West coast School of Infantry in Camp Pendleton, California during the month of August. This meant that it was very warm out. Our training schedule had us in the field for over a week straight, and this being the phase after the initial range runs, we were in decent physical shape. During this phase, we were learning building breaching techniques, specifically room clearing through an elevated window. The trick to this maneuver was that our fire team would stack and then rush to the window. The first Marine would lean and crouch against the wall and be in position to help heave the next Marines through with their hands giving a boost up. We had run through “Barney-style” multiple times and had been practicing the drill over and over again. My platoon was not meeting the instructors desired levels of proficiency, and as the day wore on and the heat increased, our enthusiasm waned. It just happened that after a particularly blase performance by a fire team that my team was next in the queue. The instructors very demonstratively informed the platoon that if they even thought we weren’t giving it our all that we would “take a walk that night and look for our motivation.” Not wanting to hump all night, and also not wanting to be the reason that we had to miss out on a few hours of rest, I resolved to show them my war face. I slapped my team on the shoulders emphatically to get us moving. I was the second Marine meaning that I would be the first through the window. The way it is supposed to work is that the team clears quadrants of the room. “1 set! Mouse hole right! 1 clear!!” is what I was supposed to scream out to my team as I swept my quadrant, as my team then fluidly cleared their quadrants and the room was declared “ALL CLEAR!” That’s how it was supposed to be. In my case, however, I came running toward the window with my loudest war-cry and upon getting boosted through the window, my Kevlar helmeted head solidly struck the header and I did a complete flip and landed unconscious on the room floor. The instructors in the room told me that they rushed to my side to “see how badly I’d messed myself up.” *an extremely cleaned up version of their actual phrasing… and after a few moments of being motionless I suddenly jumped up and cleared my quadrant properly. They told me this story later that night because I had fuzzy memories regarding that event. But, with smiles and laughter they christened me “Quasimodo, the bell ringer!”
Shortened through time to Qmo, it has been a moniker that I cherish. A reminder of a time when I had gone through some of the hardest training in my life, and had succeeded. A reminder of a time when I had bonded with people I would have willingly taken on anyone with and died alongside happily. As mementos go, Qmo’s not a shabby one at all.
When I deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the Marines, I had a KABAR that I carried with me always. A bunch of the Marines in my platoon did the same. None of us had been to combat (back then we only had a few in our Battalion that had deployed to Desert Storm and only 1 who had actually had Vietnam service) and so we all had our own thoughts and ideas about what invading Iraq was going to be like. We had been given our desert combat uniforms (DCU) which blended well into the Iraqi desert. But then as typical of the Marine Corps getting hand-me downs, ALL of our chemical suits and ballistic vests were in the dark green forest camouflage pattern. “So much for concealment…” I supposed at the time. Better yet, the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) that we were given had no SAPI plates which meant that our ballistic vests were really there just as a nice warm sweater – in the Iraqi desert. Really, the tag reads “protection from fragmentation and 9mm submachine gun or lesser threats. This vest does not protect against knives or sharp objects.” What were the main arms of the Iraqi army? AK-47’s, which fire a 7.62 round, a might bigger than 9mm. My platoon in particular was lese majeste in regards to our fitting out. When our chemical suits (also forest camouflage) started to acquire rips and tears due to our having to actually wear them and work in them at the same time, the NBC (nuke, bio, chem) officer told us to just use duct tape on them. While I’m sure that it would work it didn’t inspire us with confidence of actually surviving a chem attack. The best news ever, however, especially for a former grunt, came when we were given our ammunition. 31 rounds. That’s 2 magazines of 15 with one in the chamber. We were told in our platoon to spread load them across magazines to make it appear to be more if we were engaged. Now, I get it. We were support and the majority of ammo was rightfully allocated for the infantry elements in front of us. But we’re the frickin United States of America. Every service-member should have had a full combat load. On our convoys, our 246G’s had 15 rounds. Just enough for the belt to flop into the canister and look like it was full. Doctrine at the time was different. They still were the under the impression that only front line troops were really going to need the stuff. But, remember that story about Pvt. Jessica Lynch? Yeah, that was a maintenance company convoy that happened to be only a few miles from where we were operating at the same time. So, yeah, me and my platoon always wore our KABAR’s on our legs like a stupid SEAL wannabe. But it wasn’t just because it looked cool. We knew that if we actually came into contact with the enemy that after 31 rounds, we were going to be utilizing our knives very quickly. What a different time that was…we call it the “wild, wild west” now because of how just free and open the operational doctrine was. There were many times that my maintenance fire team would jump into a soft sides Hummer, with no radio, and just drive looking for American vehicles and equipment we could repair, strip, or…ahem…”acquire.” The stark difference in convoy experience is shown in the two pictures at the end. In one, I have full kit in a MRAP rolling in a convoy that is tracked via radio, satellite, and hours of pre-mission planning. In the other, is me and a buddy sitting in the open air in a lone vehicle just taking a cruise through the Iraqi countryside. No radio, no blueforce tracker, no hours of planning and rehearsing. And check it out…just me in the sweater and 31 rounds. But I always carried my knife.
Thankful that I only needed use it for my machismo and MRE’s,