Several Marines have reached me tonight with more info about their time at the outpost known as Retrans (it was set up as a radio retransmission station). See more here. I’m working on a short chapter about it, and asked for stories, memories and photos, and they started rolling in. Thanks guys!
David Pape sent me the story of the great 4th of July sheep BBQ, and its posted here [slightly edited] with his permission:
I can pretty much guarantee that there was not a single marine in 3/2 who spent more time at Retrans then I did. 81’s [mortar crews] would’ve been the closest but even they got relieved more then I did… It sucked up there man! But we dropped hundreds of rounds from there, ran illum [illumination] missions for sniper attachments. And had serious Spades tournaments to kill time! It was the MRE diet, sleeping in bunkers, and the heat! But that is also where I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets and stars I have ever seen!!
And [then there are the] stories about the sheep I cleaned and cooked. One the first tour [at Retrans] and the second on the Fourth of July!! The first trip out there I was eating an MRE at daylight and I look up and across the wadi there is a lone sheep. I asked SSgt Jeremy Martinez to let me shoot it and he wouldn’t let me. So a sniper shot it, and me and Gayle drug it over and cleaned it. Then we cooked it on the bone.
The week of the 4th I told everybody watch for the sheep herders and if they come let me know. On the 3rd two kids had a herd down by the bridge. So 6 or 8 of us kicked out a little patrol. A guy went high and set up overwatch with a SAW a few hundred back. We get down there and trade 20 American dollars and a case of MREs for two sheep. One didn’t want to leave the herd, so Montoya dropped it. We finally got back and put the live one in the M-240 bunker overnight. It shit everywhere!!
Next day we killed it. I showed John Parina how to gut it. Hung it on the front of a 7-ton [truck] on the spreader bar used for towing, skinned it out and quartered it. They had a pan in the .50 cal bunker, and some Tony Cajun’s [seasoning]. I can’t remember where the grate came from. So me and Wheatley, a kid from the 81’s, cooked it and we all ate it. It came out pretty good actually. It was fresh meat, hoof-to-table…
We were Marines at war and it was rugged, and manly on our Independence Day. It felt symbolic. I don’t know, maybe we were all thinking what guys our age were doing back home, or what we would have been doing. What we were actually doing was way more badass!!
–David Pape, Weapons Co, Chat session with author
Here’s what Steve Gray remembers about Retrans (used with permission):
Retrans was playing monopoly till someone mortared you then shooting the hell out of them… There were so many IDF [indirect fire] attacks it was more common to have them then not… The fact that no one was killed there was incredible since it was almost daily contact…
Six-foot-long Chinese rockets, so many mortar attacks I couldn’t count, some small arms, a lot of monopoly, goat herder’s food, mortar attacks. It was always a boring week or 2 on rotation though. Even if everyone got some trigger time.
–Steve Gray, Chat session with author
And Ian Katner sent me several photos of the bunkers, and surroundings, showing the, umm… living conditions: