TW: I’m sure our readers would like to hear about your trip before Christmas to visit the troops in Iraq.
Yep. I had a very successful trip. I went all over Iraq, talked to a lot of troops—every day, seven days a week, for two weeks. Baghdad, Bahrain, Camp Morell in Kuwait. We flew out to the U.S.S. Iwo Jima amphibious assault ship and landed on the flight deck and spent the entire day with sailors and Marines. We went all over the place. When we landed in Baghdad, I didn’t even recognize it. It’s been two years since I was there, even though I’ve been over to the Middle East four times now. It’s changed for the better, big time. Almost civilized!

TW: What was your first impression compared with being there before?

Well, Baghdad, we’ve knocked all the dents out of it now, done all the body work, all that’s left is that we have to give it a paint job and get the hell out.

TW: Can we do it, do you think?
Oh, absolutely! I didn’t hear a shot fired in anger the entire two weeks I was there. It’s just dead quiet. Now, whether we killed all the bad guys, or whether the bad guys are just smart enough to lie low and wait for us to leave before they make more moves…I don’t know…but it’s eerie-quiet over there right now.

TW: How did you find the troops, basically?
Motivation and morale are through the roof! Let’s face it, almost everybody over there is on their second, third or fourth tour. And these troops don’t re-enlist to go back and lose the war. It’s pretty obvious we’ve been winning the war, regardless of what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have to say. It’s pretty squared away for a war that Harry Reid says we lost about three years ago. Sorry Harry, the only loser it seems is you! God bless the patriotic men and women who put their lives on the line every day in the service of this country.

TW: Did the troops have any feeling about the election?
Well, I didn’t ask them, but I guess I stood in front of the troops giving about 25 speeches, during my two-week tour. I always ended every speech by saying, “We have a new Commander-in-Chief, and his name is Barack Obama, and whether we voted for him or not, we’ve got to get behind him and support him because he’s our Commander-in-Chief.”

TW: Did they cheer at that?
Some. But they’re not political. They take their orders from the Commander-in-Chief, and the American people decide who’s going to be Commander-in-Chief. Military people know that fully well.

TW: You didn’t make it to Afghanistan, as planned. What happened?
We had one airplane break. It screwed up our schedule. We had to come up with a Plan B. So we spent more time in Iraq and Kuwait. We always had something to do, troops to visit. The MWR (Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation) guys are talking about bringing me back to go to Afghanistan very soon. I was disappointed I didn’t make it this time, and I know the troops were too. But we’ll get back there.

TW: The troops you saw in Iraq, do they have anything to gripe about?
They don’t complain! It’s looking good. They are just winding down. And that by the end of this year, we’ll be bringing our guys home. On the double.

And they got the job done. They won this war! I talk to parents all the time, and I will continue to tell them, “Don’t worry! Everything’s winding down. ” The two weeks I was there, there wasn’t a shot fired in anger. And the troops are coming home. By the end of this year, we’re looking at having most of our troops out of there. It’s all about infrastructure now. We’re getting the infrastructure squared away. We’ve got over 400,000 Iraqi troops trained. But we’re still working on training the leadership. And that’s it. We can get the hell out of there. We’ll leave advisors, of course. We can’t just pull up stakes and bail out. Like I’ve always said, you can’t wave your magic wand and out pops a general. And you can’t wave your magic wand and out pops a senior staff non-commissioned officer. We’ll have to leave advisors there until the leadership is up to speed. Leaders evolve, they need time!

TW: In Afghanistan, it’s a tough struggle. Taliban and al-Queda all along the border, taking refuge in Pakistan. We’re deploying 30,000 new troops in this mess. Will that be enough?
Afghanistan, Pakistan. You know that is a very screwed-up part of this world. They are a bunch of total nitwit idiots over there. They mostly live in the Stone Age, for Christ’s sake. Their main cash crop is opium. What do you expect from those people? They hate one another, tribe against tribe, Sunnis against Shiites, guerilla bands all over the place run by warlords—can we change these people? I don’t know.

TW: The New York Times magazine section ran an article recently that said the biggest problem President Obama is going to have is that Pakistan has a bunch of nuclear weapons. And the Taliban and al-Qaeda are trying to get in there. They’ve got their eyes on those weapons so bad, and that’s what it’s all about along that border.  And that’s what we have to protect—those atomic weapons! Because the minute the terrorists get their hands on those…we might as well sit down and put our heads between our knees and kiss our asses goodbye. Because those suckers…they will use ’em!

TW: The article says that we’ve got programs…crack teams…so that if it ever looked like the Taliban was ever going to obtain those weapons…we’re going in there to get them, or destroy them. And, evidently Pakistan knows about that and they’re pissed off. Screw ’em! We’re just not going to let Pakistan fail when it comes to those nuclear weapons. And Obama and others shouldn’t talk about things we might do, as he has in the past. When it comes to covert actions to protect our country, you don’t talk about them. You just do them!

post.jpgTW: What’s your feeling about the Israeli/Hamas fighting going on right now in Gaza? I think we should turn the Israelis loose and let ’em wipe out Hamas. The critics of the attacks go on complaining. But what do you think we would be doing if, say people in Mexico, were lobbing rockets into Texas every day? I think we would immediately take care of it, wouldn’t we? You bet we would. And the big problem is that the bad guys over there in Gaza launch missiles and rockets from populated areas, so that when Israel shoots back, there’s going to be collateral casualties. And, of course, that looks bad on the world stage. They say the Israelis are killing women and children…well, if the bad guys did not surround themselves with women and children, then that would not be happening.

Israel has my blessings, and I say God Speed! Go get ’em! And I would like to see them take care of Iran while they’re at it. Iran is supporting that whole situation over there. You know as well as I do.

TW: Changing gears here, what about your new show, Lock and Load? History Channel has been showing the pilot, now will it be on as a regular show? Yes, they have ordered 13 episodes of Lock and Load for the History Channel. We’re in the formality of accepting their offer, and we’ll do that and go to work. It should be on air in July. We haven’t really figured out where our base camp will be, but we’re going to do it on the West Coast. It’s a one-hour show, it’s shot in HD, so we’ve dressed it up a little bit. I think it’s going to be a real ass-kicker.

TW: Will Mail Call continue on TV in reruns? Oh, yes. They’ve been doing reruns of Mail Call on the History’s Military Channel for a couple of years now. We did Mail Call for four years, shot over 100 episodes. You don’t throw good stuff away, you know!

TW: Are you working on any movies?
I just did my second session on Toy Story 3. It’s an animated story, and I do the voice of one of the characters. The first Toy Story was the very first computer-animated show of its kind. We were groundbreakers on that one.

TW: Are you still doing some shooting now? Yes! I think we’re going to be shooting in about 12 or 13 matches this year. I’ve got a match-conditioned M14, and I’ve got a match-conditioned M1 Garand. And I also have an off-the-shelf. You know, some of these matches, you just have to shoot off-the-shelf. You can’t have any of the fancy stuff—the match-conditioned barrels and all that. And they even issue you the ammo. It’s the old ball ammo. And everybody’s on the same page—everybody has the same shot at it.

It’s Grass Roots America. It’s fun, it’s interesting and extremely competitive. The thing is just being there…hanging out with these guys. It’s just a pleasure…an absolute pleasure. They share tips and hints. They want to help. They have no secrets. It’s all up to your ability as a shooter…to be able to go out there and compete with these guys.

You’re always trying to do better. I’m a very competitive person. I’m a couple of steps lower as far as the quality of my shooting goes with some of these guys—some are real machines! But I get up there and compete with them every damn time I go to the range. And one of these days…well, I’m gonna get ’em!

TW: Have you ever won? I beat Dennis DeMille, he’s the two-time National Champion and long-time Marine Champion. It doesn’t happen often. I think it’s happened twice, that I walked off a firing line after beating Dennis DeMille. Either he had a bad day, or I had a really good day. But now and then he’ll let his guard down. It was just for one string, but I took that string and the chance to walk around saying, “I beat the National Champ.” Dennis played golf with me once, and he’s terrible. I beat him 17 out of 18 holes, but on 18 he made a par and I made a bogey, so he won the hole. Now he tells people he beat me at golf. Because of that one hole! We joke, we play, we have fun. If you hang with the boys and me, you had best have thick skin and a quick wit, or you will not survive.

TW: Do you have a shooting tip to share?
I was having a problem with the off-hand position. So I bought a couple of advanced air rifles—National Competition type air rifles. You can stand at 33 feet, which is regulation distance for shooting those things, and shoot at a little black bulls-eye, which is about 1 inch across, and if you’re good, those pellet guns will hit right in the same hole every shot. I mean they’re that accurate. I bought two so my son and I can go head-to-head shooting in my office, which is 50 feet long. I set up a range right there. We shoot competition pellet rifles in the off-hand position, and I’ve seen my high-power rifle shooting improve dramatically. I’ve been working very, very hard on the off-hand, so these guys better watch out when the matches start. I’m after them.

TW: Do people recognize you and approach you when you’re out in public? Oh, all the time. And I don’t mind it a bit. They’re all nice folks. They come up and they want to tell you that they appreciate Mail Call, or to say thanks for looking after the troops. They’re just gracious and nice folks, and that’s why I can’t understand actors who want to break cameras and are rude to the public. The people who come up to me act like we’re old friends. They come up to me when I’m having dinner. Sometimes they pull up a chair and sit down, like an old friend. But they’re all nice, polite and never rude.

Thanks, Gunny.
Semper Fi!

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Now On Duty

TW: I’m sure our readers would like to hear about your trip before Christmas…