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Interview with Charles Brett Adams [5/21/2011]

Chuck Adams:

Good morning. Today is May 21st, 2011. My name is Chuck Adams. I'm conducting -- conducting an oral history interview at Clark State Community College in Beavercreek, Ohio, with Charles Brett Adams of -- well, we'll ask you the questions. We'll go from there. Please state your name and address for the record.

Charles Brett Adams:

Charles Brett Adams currently of 1233 North Damen, Chicago, Illinois, 60622.

Chuck Adams:

Okay. Were you drafted or did you enlist in the service?

Charles Brett Adams:

Enlisted.

Chuck Adams:

Where were you living at the time?

Charles Brett Adams:

New Carlisle, Ohio. My parents' house.

Chuck Adams:

And why did you join the service?

Charles Brett Adams:

There are a number of members in my family who have been in the military. I would say that the biggest influence would be my father was a United States Marine. He was drafted for Vietnam. It's just kind of been something I think I've always known that I was going to do from day one.

Chuck Adams:

And why did you pick that particular branch of service?

Charles Brett Adams:

I wanted to be the best.

Chuck Adams:

Do you remember your first days in the service?

Charles Brett Adams:

Very vividly, yes.

Chuck Adams:

Can you tell us a little about that?

Charles Brett Adams:

It sounds cliche to say the first thing you remember about foot camp is the yellow footprints and a drill instructor coming onto the bus and not softly saying or gently saying please step off the bus and meander over here to this wall. It is a shock and awe campaign of yelling and forceful movement into disciplined straight lines. I think that that is every recruit, every Marine's first memory of boot camp and hours up, not sleeping, getting everything ready, just to get ready. I remember quite a bit about it actually, yeah.

Chuck Adams:

But what were the yellow footprints?

Charles Brett Adams:

When you arrive at Paris Island or San Diego, respectively, the yellow footprints are the footprints that you line up on where you are told exactly how things are going to be moving forward. The footprints are set at a perfect forty-five degree angle and painted on the ground, from which you do not move.

Chuck Adams:

What did that -- what did that feel like, I mean, coming from the civilian world into something like that?

Charles Brett Adams:

It's intimidating. Never seen anything like that outside of other than what you see in the movies, things like that, you know. It's intimidating. It is a bit stressful, to say the least.

Chuck Adams:

Tell --

Charles Brett Adams:

But exhilarating. Sorry. It's exiting as well.

Chuck Adams:

Tell me about your boot camp experience. Just kind of relive some of that.

Charles Brett Adams:

I didn't have too much trouble with boot camp. I went in there physically fit. I had a pretty sound mind. I was, you know -- I didn't have any real issues with the mental or physical challenge of it. It is rough that, you know, you are -- you are running constantly, it is a constant workout that you are -- I personally eat a ridiculous amount of food, and for the amount of work that we were doing day in and day out for the long hours, I didn't think I was eating nearly enough. I actually went in and lost weight. So those -- those are some of the things I remember. I'm not a very big runner. I don't like to run. But I would say that, you know, that was one of the things I got better at and we did a lot of it. It was challenging, challenging.

Chuck Adams:

Do you remember your -- your drill instructors?

Charles Brett Adams:

I do. All of them. Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Pree. Staff Sergeant Mejia was his right hand. Drill Instructor Sergeant Tschung was another. We had a drill instructor who got into a bit of trouble in the middle of boot camp who actually had to leave.

Chuck Adams:

Do you remember what -- what happened there?

Charles Brett Adams:

Yes, I do. There was -- there was a recruit, Harris, in Platoon 1017 and this particular drill instructor was white, the recruit was not. There was some racial epithets thrown, unfortunately, in private, as I understand it, and they got into a bit of an altercation on the floor, and he was asked to leave the platoon to go to another platoon due to that. So -- yeah, something, you don't often see, I'll tell you. It was very surprising. But, yeah, I remember all of them very well.

Chuck Adams:

How did you get through all of it? I know it's stressful.

Charles Brett Adams:

Successfully. You know, I got letters, not as regularly as I would say that I would have expected. I did get quite a few from my family. I did get quite a few from my friends. You know, but it wasn't -- it wasn't so much being away that was challenging. I just kind of pictured it as another step that I needed to take. It really was not the overly arduous time that everybody says that it was for them, that it was the worst time in their life or it was the hardest thing they've ever done. I didn't see that. I didn't picture that.

Chuck Adams:

What was the hardest thing you had to do?

Charles Brett Adams:

I don't know. I couldn't say.

Chuck Adams:

Crucible?

Charles Brett Adams:

Crucible was tough but, again, it's just another physical challenge. I like crawling around in the mud, and I like, you know -- I like the operations that they were training you for. I liked the live fire ranges. I enjoyed all of that stuff. It was just another -- again, it was just another step. I really enjoyed all of it, looking back. Probably not at the time, but, you know, looking back, yeah, I definitely enjoyed it. I don't think that it was -- I could designate one thing as the hardest thing I did.

Chuck Adams:

Well, let's move on with which wars or -- war or war did you serve in?

Charles Brett Adams:

I served in a part -- I served my first time in Operation Iraqi Freedom One and then Iraqi -- Operation Iraq Freedom Four.

Chuck Adams:

So you went two times?

Charles Brett Adams:

Two times. Volunteered for a third but was unable to go.

Chuck Adams:

And where exactly did you serve in these -- I mean, what areas or -- first and the second time or whatever?

Charles Brett Adams:

The very first tour, Operation Iraqi Freedom One, we started out in Kuwait, in a place called Mutalla Ranch, which was a very loose term for a ranch. It's nothing but a desert. And then we moved to the border of Kuwait and Iraq, and actually the date would be eight years ago today. In fact, it just hit me that we went through the breech from Kuwait into Iraq on the main MSR to Baghdad. That would be my first tour all the way to Baghdad, Iraq.

Chuck Adams:

And -- and the second tour?

Charles Brett Adams:

Second tour, we served at a place called Al Asad, Iraq, which was in the northern Al Anbar Province, not terribly far from Syria. So it was northern Iraq, northeastern Iraq, or western Iraq. Served in a place called Haqlaniyah, Iraq, as well for a short -- for a short stint. Those would be the three biggest places.

Chuck Adams:

Do you remember when you first got there and how was that experience?

Charles Brett Adams:

Yes. Yes, I do. I remember when I first got to Kuwait the Syrian temperature -- it's like nothing I've ever seen before. Iraq was not as bad. The temperature in Kuwait was, upon arrival, a hundred and ten to a hundred and fifteen degrees, and it only got hotter as our time -- as the summer went on. Iraq is a little bit more of a temperate climate, the further you get into it. Kuwait is not. The second time that I was in Iraq was, being further north, you experienced more climate changes more comparable to what we have here, I would say. We have a winter; we had a winter there. We had a summer. We had a fall. The winters are brutal. The summers are brutal as well, but there are seasonal -- there are seasonal changes, so, yeah, as far as that is concerned.

Chuck Adams:

What was your -- what was your job in the service when you were -- I mean the whole time you were there?

Charles Brett Adams:

My primary MOS is 0311 infantry -- infantry, which is what I wanted to do, which is what I signed up to do, first and foremost. I went to an MP company, Military Police Company Charlie, and was attached to an infantry platoon there. We were then augmented to do mortuary affairs, which during the time of Vietnam and before the Marine Corps, noted this platoon or this company as Graves Registration. It has not been used or had not been used since Vietnam in any altercation or police action since the end of that war until operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. So my MOS as a BMOS was changed to mortuary affairs, and that was that I did.

Chuck Adams:

And did you see combat?

Charles Brett Adams:

I did. Not anything worth bragging about, not by any means.

Chuck Adams:

Okay. Were there many casualties in your unit? Did anybody get hurt?

Charles Brett Adams:

None in my unit, no. We -- I'm sorry. We had a few -- they were not attached with me directly, with my particular platoon, but we did have some casualties that happened throughout the various tours that they did, yes.

Chuck Adams:

Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences certainly while you were over there or any other time, but specifically probably while you were there.

Charles Brett Adams:

I saw -- let's see. Coming from a small -- smaller rural area like -- like where I'm from here in the Dayton area, Springfield, Ohio, I saw lands that I've never even dreamt of before. I saw sand. I saw people that I've never even considered seeing before. It's not at all like you see on TV, I would say. Iraq in certain areas can be a very beautiful, beautiful place. It is the cradle of civilization. I would say seeing the Tigress and the Euphrates is a beautiful sight to see. I saw some terrible things as well. We saw things done to people that, you know, you would never ever wish to talk about with, you know, most others so, you know, outside of people who have been in the Marine Corps or have seen those types of things as well, things that you just can't forget, stuff along those lines. Would you like details on either or -- I don't know.

The Videographer:

That's up to you.

Charles Brett Adams:

Pardon?

The Videographer:

That's up to you.

Charles Brett Adams:

Doesn't matter.

Chuck Adams:

Well, you were never a prisoner of war or captured or anything?

Charles Brett Adams:

No.

Chuck Adams:

What about -- were you awarded any medals or citations or anything like that? Can you tell me what they were?

Charles Brett Adams:

Awarded -- the ones that stand out to me most notably would be a PUC, which is a Presidential Unit Citation, awarded to mortuary -- the mortuary affairs platoon there, our company, I'm sorry. For doing mortuary affairs this would have been the first time it was used since Vietnam, and we were -- I believe that was the reason that we were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for doing this reverent job. I believe the Marine Corps got rid of Graves Registration for some time, and then this is the first time that it was brought back and reinstated. So that's the most notable. I have a combatted action ribbon, though. You know, what, though, our unit received it. Personally I don't know that I necessarily rated as much as some of the other gentlemen.

Chuck Adams:

How did you stay in touch with your family and friends?

Charles Brett Adams:

The first tour through letter writing mostly. I did have limited e-mail access from time to time. It was very scarce. But letters for the most part. That would be the big thing. I did make my first tour, the entire time there, I would probably say a few phone calls, three or four or five phone calls home during that time, whenever I could. But letter writing was the big thing.

Chuck Adams:

What about the food? How was the food?

Charles Brett Adams:

First tour, ate a lot of MREs, the packages that the military issues to service members, a Meal Ready to Eat is what that stands for. MREs, to tell you the truth, I enjoyed them. I liked the MREs. Not bad. It's a big bag of food and has a shelf life of fifteen years. It's pretty good.

Chuck Adams:

And did you have plenty of food and other supplies?

Charles Brett Adams:

Yes. Water was very -- was plentiful. Bottled water was plentiful. The pallets were brought in. Water bowls were brought in, water buffalo, little trucks, you know. Tons of water.

Chuck Adams:

Were you -- did you feel pressure or stress at any times?

Charles Brett Adams:

Not so much, no. I can't say that I necessarily was -- no. Not that I -- not that I recall stuff in my head really.

Chuck Adams:

Did you -- did you do anything special or for good luck or anything like that? Any --

Charles Brett Adams:

I took over with me a pocket Bible, fits in your right -- or in your left breast pocket right over your heart. It has a metal shield in the front of it. It was my father's that he gave me to take with me. I took it both tours, and I kept it with me the entire time. I have to say that, you know, my faith and that as good luck as well is definitely something that, yeah, I kept with me at all times.

Chuck Adams:

How did you and the other guys in your unit entertain themselves?

Charles Brett Adams:

As only Marines can. I would say that, you know, I am closer with people -- some people in the Marine Corps who I served with overseas than with some individuals that I have known all of my life, some of my friends. There's a camaraderie and a brotherhood that is established from day one that if you are not a part of it, it cannot be explained to you. It is a feeling. It's a -- it's a sensation. It's inexplainable. So, you know, the entertainment that we had as just -- as just a bunch of boys being boys, I would say, you know.

Chuck Adams:

How about other entertainment? Were there any entertainers like, I guess, USO shows or anything like that? Did you have anything?

Charles Brett Adams:

No, none that -- no. We had -- the second tour we had some people come on base in Al Asad. I think Al Franken came once. I didn't get to see him, didn't care to see him. Montgomery Gentry, the country singers, came to Al Asad, but I believe we were leaving at the time and unable to make it. We were mobilizing to get out and get home.

Chuck Adams:

See any other notable entertainers?

Charles Brett Adams:

I'm sorry. I did meet the Marines' Marine, Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey, in Kuwait when we got back from Iraq in the first tour. One of -- every Marine dreams of meeting the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket, and I did. Shook his hand, got my picture taken with him. He was shooting an episode of Mail Call, which is his show on the History Channel. It was a nuclear biological and chemical warfare episode. It was wonderful.

Chuck Adams:

What did you do if and when you ever had any leave?

Charles Brett Adams:

We had no leave so didn't do anything. I had no leave while we were overseas.

Chuck Adams:

Okay. In the whole service, where did you get to travel to?

Charles Brett Adams:

I've traveled to a number of different places in the Marine Corps, some wonderful places. Shortly after I joined the Marine Corps in 1999, I would say, in probably 2000, right after graduation from the School of Infantry, we went down to Curacal to train with the Dutch Royal Marines.

Chuck Adams:

Where was this?

Charles Brett Adams:

Curacel. Island of Curacel. It's about thirty miles off the coast of Venezuela. To train with the Dutch Royal Marines down there. It was the time of my life. It was the first time I'd ever actually been out of the country, first time I'd been to an island. It was an absolutely wonderful time. Trained with those gentlemen down there, good Marines. Went to Norway to participate in an armed -- what is it -- what was it called? I forget what it was -- what it was called exactly, but it was -- it was -- the operation was called Operation Battle Griffin, and it was a joint country-type of operation, multiple different military branches from other -- other countries were involved in this. I don't know -- I couldn't tell you the name of it. I'm sorry. Went to Norway, Iraq twice, Kuwait, Curacel. That's about it. That's about it.

Chuck Adams:

Do you recall any particular humorous or unusual events that happened during that time?

Charles Brett Adams:

Humorous?

Chuck Adams:

Any of those times, yes. Humorous or unusual.

Charles Brett Adams:

No, not really.

Chuck Adams:

Didn't -- didn't lose a Jeep or anything?

Charles Brett Adams:

Lose a Jeep? No.

Chuck Adams:

Didn't you --

Charles Brett Adams:

We broke a couple Hummers. It was a Jeep? No. No, I can't say -- we -- outside of Baghdad before we were in a convoy, there was an operational pause. The convoy stopped on this MSR, which is a main supply route just south of Baghdad for whatever reason you stop a convoy. I don't know. But we were going to be there for about twenty-four hours. Outside of the lines of this convoy that we had staggered our vehicles was a mud house, good size -- of good size. And there was this Iraqi who came out with a note and was holding it up. It said to coalition forces in not so many words that I am friendly and I've aided and supported your cause, and it was written by a master sergeant, I believe, from the United States Marine Corps. Previous would have been with One Mar Div, First Marine Division. So we spoke to this -- this man as best as we could. And we saw that he had -- he raised grass. What he did was he raised tall reed grass for thatching and for roofing, housing, stuff along those lines. Beautiful yard. He had chickens running around his house so a buddy of mine, his name was Justin Webber, and I were like let's go see if we can trade him some of the humanitarian MREs that we had for some of the chickens, if he would let us, you know, catch chickens and clean them and eat them. So we went over. He invited us in. He was a very kind man. He spoke no English. We drew what looked like three cartoon chickens on some paper and said that, you know, we were trying to give you these for these and showed him the picture. And he said that was fine. So two grown men, myself and Justin Webber, who was a corporal at the time, are running around the desert in front of this man's house trying to chase chickens. And if you have ever tried to do that, it's -- it's an impossible feat. After about thirty minutes of not catching these things, we said that's it. And we said how about the ducks? And he wouldn't give us three ducks so we took two. It's hilarious. I just saw him recently, too, and that was one of the things that we talked about. Could only imagine what the site was like from the convoy.

Chuck Adams:

You didn't bring any photographs or pictures or any memorabilia with you?

Charles Brett Adams:

Not with me, no.

Chuck Adams:

Well, tell me, what did you think of the officers in your -- your fellow Marines in your unit?

Charles Brett Adams:

Within my unit I would say that they were locked on. I'd say that they definitely knew at all times what was going on. I had no issues with the NCO staff, NCOs, and officers within -- within mortuary affairs platoon that I served with. None.

Chuck Adams:

How about others?

Charles Brett Adams:

It often seems with -- and I'm certain with other branches of the service as well, that -- and I know this from experiencing it -- communication is always going to be the first breakdown when -- when things hit the fan. It seems to me that often word is not disseminated fast enough or correctly enough so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. I would say that there is often questions about that. But as far as narrowing it down to one experience where I had one officer who was just -- who was completely lost in the sauce, no. I would say most of them were very fairly locked on.

Chuck Adams:

Did you keep a personal diary or a log or anything --

Charles Brett Adams:

No.

Chuck Adams:

-- in your time in the service?

Charles Brett Adams:

No.

Chuck Adams:

Do you remember the day that your service ended?

Charles Brett Adams:

I remember checking out from my unit. My -- I was -- I served in the Marine Corps for seven full years; two years was Inactive Reserve where I had no affiliate -- or I'm sorry -- no correspondence, no responsibility to show up or to do anything at that point. It was just Inactive Ready Reserve. I remember checking out of my unit. That's what I remember so --

Chuck Adams:

And where was your unit?

Charles Brett Adams:

Dayton, Ohio. MP Company Charlie, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Dayton, Ohio.

Chuck Adams:

And what did you do in the days and the weeks and the months afterwards?

Charles Brett Adams:

After I had checked out?

Chuck Adams:

(Nods head up and down.)

Charles Brett Adams:

I went on about doing what I had been doing, working, school, day to day.

Chuck Adams:

So you did go back to school?

Charles Brett Adams:

Yes.

Chuck Adams:

And was your education supported by the GI Bill?

Charles Brett Adams:

It has not been yet but it will be, yes. That -- those wheels are turning currently.

Chuck Adams:

Did you make any close friendships while you were in the service?

Charles Brett Adams:

Some of the best. Some of the best. Who I keep in touch with still to this day, weekly.

Chuck Adams:

So you do stay in contact with these guys?

Charles Brett Adams:

Constantly.

Chuck Adams:

And how long's that been going on?

Charles Brett Adams:

Since I joined. Since I joined. These guys have been a part of my life since '99 when I joined, and I hope that that will continue, and I hope to continue to be a part of theirs as well. They are some of the best friends I will ever have.

Chuck Adams:

Did you join any Veterans organizations?

Charles Brett Adams:

I'm a member of VFW Post 1031.

Chuck Adams:

And where's that?

Charles Brett Adams:

Springfield, Ohio.

Chuck Adams:

And what do you -- what do you do as a career? What did you do afterwards and now?

Charles Brett Adams:

During my time in the Marine Corps I should note that I was, you know, part of the United States Marine Corps Reserve. I was living in Chicago after the war in 2003, after Iraqi Freedom won. I've been working for an online university for almost the last eight years now, so seven and a half years. And I continue to work for that online university now.

Chuck Adams:

Do you think your military experience influenced your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Charles Brett Adams:

Influenced it in what way?

Chuck Adams:

Well, any way. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Other? I mean, do you -- how do you feel about war and about the military in general?

Charles Brett Adams:

I would say from my personal experience, knowing my father as well as I do, obviously, and his thoughts on it as well, that people don't join the Marine Corps for the money. They don't join it solely for the educational benefits. To be honest with you, the educational benefits are good. The pay is not great. The educational benefits are not outstanding. You join the Marine Corps for a reason. It's your own, and that's it. If you expect to join the Marine Corps and not go to war, I would say you need to rethink your decision. My outlook on what the Marine Corps did previous to me joining it, while I was in it, and afterwards, and what it will continue to do, has not changed. It will continue to be, you know, the world's premiere service as far as I am concerned. They will continue to fight the wars the way that they have and adapt as such. I think that they are -- no, I would not say it's influenced it any way, I guess.

Chuck Adams:

In your Veterans organization, what kind of activity does your post or association have?

Charles Brett Adams:

The VFW sponsors the national home, the Children's Home. I know that they participate largely with them, which is something I've always been a fan of. They donate hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the years to charitable organizations amongst probably many other places as well.

Chuck Adams:

Do you have any or attend any reunions?

Charles Brett Adams:

I have attended the Marine Corps Ball, our birthday ball, often, just about every other year, I'd say. Hope to be attending this year, too.

Chuck Adams:

And where is that?

Charles Brett Adams:

It will be in the Dayton area. Hopefully at the Hope Hotel on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Chuck Adams:

How did your service and experience in the service affect your life?

Charles Brett Adams:

I gained a level of discipline. I would like to say that I was fairly disciplined before. I gained even a higher level of discipline, organization, and sense of self-confidence, more than I had before. I'd say that it has -- it has propelled me through my day-to-day within my personal life and my career so much better because of it. I'd say I've gained a lot out of it.

Chuck Adams:

In closing, is there anything you would like to add that we've not covered in this interview? Personal life? Service life?

Charles Brett Adams:

Joining the Marine Corps is probably the best decision I have ever made in my entire life, so far, anyways. I would not change a day or moment of it, good or bad. And, you know, as much as I was ready to get out when I did get out, I'd say that it's something that I miss and think about often now that I am out. And that would be just about -- that would be it.

Chuck Adams:

Okay.

 
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