Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


We said goodbye to Gator recently, after over four months of working together. Gator is the nickname Marines affectionately give their Amphibious Assault Vehicles- the 23-ton tracks that accompanied us on so many missions through Iraq. Our Gators were the men of Co. B, 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion. Gator was the first Marine unit that most of us had ever worked with directly, and I doubt we'll soon see one better.

A Gator platoon sounds off before leaving Falluja

Over the course of the months we spent together, we jointly completed over 60 route clearance missions without a casualty. As our security team, they chased our phantoms, like the cows that looked like men. Gator helped us evac wounded children after a school near us was hit by a mortar. We towed them out the time they slid off one of the steep raised roads we patrol. On other days, we spun up patrols to go help Gator Marines that had been blown up. While we were traveling to and from Ramadi, we depended more than once on Gator patrols when we ran into trouble.

The day before they left, the 1st Sergeant of Gator presented each of us with a certificate of appreciation and membership in Gator's team as honorary Marines. He also bestowed upon us the unit motto chalked on their vehicles- "YAT-YAS", or "You Ain't Tracks, You Ain't Shit". Our unit was converted to route clearance from a mechanized (tracked) combat engineer unit, so we well understand the tough love of mech troops for their tracks.

The brotherhood we shared with Gator was personified by two individuals: Specialist Yaw and Lance Corporal Yaw. SPC Chris Yaw is a member of my Army Reserve squad; LCPL Matthew Yaw is his younger brother and belongs to one of the active duty Marine platoons in Gator. Neither expected to see the other while serving in Iraq, but they ended up running multiple patrols together.
Yaw and Yaw

Both Yaws were gunners. Both have paid final respects to friends at small shrines in front of dusty congregations. For Chris, it was three friends and platoon mates; for Matt, it was his garrison roommate. Both have survived multiple IED hits, while their platoons found many more bombs before they exploded. They shared the dust, the mud, the flies, the stench, and the heat. They were the physical brothers, but someone once said that the bonds of combat form thicker ties than blood. I don't know that that statement is strictly true, but I do know we all remember Gator warmly.

Godspeed, Gators.

Oh, and YAT-YAS!


  1. I freaking love your posts. You are the most unpretentious of all the milbloggers I read. Everyone else seems to have some agenda to push, but you just tell it like it is and you tell it well. Respect.

  2. Anonymous24/5/07 04:16

    I second that comment, Paul. There are others who simply tell it like it is, however, TD does it with some of the most elegant prose.

  3. One of your best posts ever-- and that's some pretty tough competition!

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Be safe,
    Julie (Books for Soldiers)

  4. Anonymous25/5/07 07:38

    The Yaws' story is really special. Funny how some things work out, isn't it? Good to know y'all get along with the Marines so well. Great pictures. Love ya.

  5. Anonymous26/5/07 21:46

    thanks for the post on the gators..
    that was specialty for 20 years.
    was in 2nd AAV 12 years and B Co for 3.... Semper Fi Brother

  6. Trust me on one thing TD, you have a brotherhood that will be there for the rest of your life. Some folks you just never forget, you may never see them again but that will not end the love and respect you have for your brothers.....