May 26, 2009

Twentynine Palms, CA

Now I have left Camp Pendleton and have arrived in beautiful Twentynine Palms, California, home of…Sand!! I am literally in the middle of a desert! The lows are around seventy and highs so far in the high nineties to low hundreds. From what I hear it’s only going to get hotter!

I’ll be here for a few months at the Marine Corps Communications and Electronics School (MCCES). I will be studying to be a Systems Information Specialist (MOS 0651/0656), and from what I was told earlier today from our Sergeant Major is the toughest course at the school currently. I have overcome many obstacles in the past and with help from on high I can overcome this one too! I have yet to learn when classes will actually start and depending on when they do start will determine how long I am in Twentynine Palms.

I am looking forward to school and am excited about everything I will be learning. We will have lots of PT or Physical Training every morning and will also be doing a lot of MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program). Before I leave here I hope to advance to a gray belt!

My Address here is:

Cuestas, Joseph

Loc. #609 MCCES

Twentynine Palms, CA 92278

Feel free to write or email...I have more time now, so I'll be glad to respond!


Hiking is my least favorite thing to do. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just a nice leisurely walk through the forest or something, but of course there's the added element of hills, mud, rocks, sand, sore muscles, heat, sweat, fatigue, and everything else. I noticed how sometimes when hiking the smallest little thing can become such an annoying nuisance. The sound of your trousers brushing up against each other as you walk, that left boot that's slightly tighter then the right, that strap from your pack that keeps hitting your arm as you walk; all of these make you wanna go...AHHHHHH!!! Yet, you keep silence and walk on.
On every single hike the words to the Hymn Each Step I Take motivated me to keep on going. Psalms 37:23-24 were also key in getting me through the hills, The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD; and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with His hand.
I was thrilled to learn that MCT would include three the last one was a graduation requirement! The first Friday we were there we had a 5k hike up to the grenade range where we practiced throwing “blue bodies”, or practice grenades. Then we were ready for the real deal. The next hike was one week later and was a 10k hike. These first two hikes really wore me down, and although I completed both my body was really hurting.

The final hike was not going to be for another eleven days; it was a 15k hike and was one of the graduation requirements. There are scheduled breaks for these hikes. When the platoon you are in stops to take a break you have to be with the rest of the platoon within two minutes. If you don’t catch up to the platoon within the time given two times, then you failed the hike. If you failed the 15k hike then you had to redo the hike all over again the following Saturday while everyone else was on liberty! I did well starting off and stayed with my platoon until…we started going up…and up…and UP UP UP UP UP!!! If the land was flat I could hike all day, but the hills wear me out like no other. Well my platoon was way up ahead of me and I knew I wasn’t going to catch up so I mentally prepared myself for Strike 1 (Two Strikes and you’re out!). I caught up with my platoon and they marked my name showing I didn’t make it in time for the first break. I don’t remember what happened after we started hiking again, but somehow I had fallen back again. The hard part was over with the big long hill, we had rolling hills now which I used to my advantage. I would pace myself going up and on every downhill I would run. If had not been for me running (with 60lbs+ on my back), I would not have made that hike. The best part about it was that at the end of the hike I felt good! I could have kept going, but I’m glad we didn’t. Now after we rested for awhile I was as sore as ever.

I really pushed myself hard on that hike and prayed to God that He would give me the strength to complete it strong. He answered my prayer. It still boggles my mind that God would care enough to listen to me, and not only that, but to help me. No matter what our needs, no matter what our concern or burden take it to the Lord and He can help you. It’s really easy to pray when we know things are hard and tough, but just now I realize I need God’s help every moment of every day!

As we hike the roads of life let us remember first of all not to get annoyed at all the little things that may be bugging us. Hold your peace and keep on trudgin'! Second, realize we can't make it apart from God, and finally...don't give up!

Marine Combat Training - Camp Pendleton

Marine Combat training has come and gone. And if I would have had it my way, I would have posted these pictures of Camp Pendleton a while ago, but time and resources aren’t always available. It’s amazing how much you can cram into a day of training when you wake up at 4:30 am!

The first week there it was a little rough getting back into the swing of things after being home for about three weeks, but it doesn’t take long to adjust especially when you have no choice. Being new Marines fresh out of boot camp we didn’t

quite know what to expect. We were all hoping and praying that it was NOT like boot camp, and thankfully it wasn’t. The living conditions were better, the instructors were more relaxed, the food was better, what more could you ask for!

Training was varied from day to day and there was a lot of it. We learned everything from how to throw a live grenade, operate a communications radio, work in a FOB (Forward Operating Base),

dig a fighting hole (I lived in it for two days…I would look up at the vast dark sky and see all the beautiful stars and think to myself, “Self…You’re sitting in a dirt hole!”), and the operation of the AT4 rocket launcher and several automatic weapons.

MCT was actually quite fun apart from the hikes and I learned a

lot of new things. It's amazing

how much you really learn without even knowing that you learned it. To all the instructors thank you and to all reading.... OooRah!!