Marines regroup for Christmas in Kabul; Former infantry officer spends evening with 26th MEU warriors

26 Dec 2001 | Sgt. Andrew D. Pomykal 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

"Being here now is like a throw back to when I was a U.S. Marine," said Christopher J. Chivers.

Chivers, 37, a former infantry officer and Gulf War veteran, has been in this region since early October covering the events here as a journalist for The New York Times.

He arranged for Christmas Eve dinner to be catered here by a local restaurant. The meal came as a welcome respite from the packaged field rations that the Marines of Kilo Battery are now accustomed.

The small contingent of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Leathernecks from North Carolina has been enduring a grueling, round-the-clock duty schedule as security guards here. They enjoyed a hearty meal consisting of mutton, rice, nan or flat bread and fruit. The Marines washed it all down with cans of American-made cola, the first available in weeks.

"This gives me a warm feeling to be here with Marines," said the Binghamton, N.Y., Marine. " I have greater freedom of movement out in the city, so it was easy for me to do this."

While on active duty, Chivers served with Company "G," Second Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and Company "C" 1st Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. He briefly commanded Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Regiment and was an officer selection officer in Buffalo, N.Y., after participating in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with the 13th MEU.
Chivers, now a Manhattan resident, was near ground zero during the September tragedy.

"They went after my neighborhood," he said referring to the terrorists. "I spent the first six days working near the World Trade Center, clearing rubble and sweeping glass."  He wore a hard hat that read USMC '88-'94 during the effort.

"It was amazing to see so many Marines at the World Trade Center," he said. "A large number of New York police officers are former Marines and about half of the firefighters there are also former Marines."

He has been busy traveling the country here investigating and writing stories on several terrorist cells and the implementation of the new interim Afghan government.

During his travels, he has discovered and collected many hand-written "how-to" notebooks that instruct the terrorists on various ways to apply their deadly trade.  "Everything from home-made bombs to tactics," he said.

Northern Alliance fighters accompany Chivers to ensure his safety and to eliminate major hassles at the many checkpoints along the roads here.

"The routes from here to Pakistan and from Herat to Kandahar are still dangerous," he said. "Moving around in the city after curfew is like asking for trouble. The (Northern Alliance) troops take their business very seriously. They'll hold a gun to you and ask for
the password."

Chivers was reminded just how small the Marine Corps community is when he visited the diplomatic mission here recently.

"I instantly recognized him," said Diplomatic Security Agent Andy Loftus of Orange, Calif., referring to Chivers. The two Marines were acquainted while assigned to the 13th MEU.

Chivers also made a connection with two Kilo Battery Marines during his visit here.

Capt. J.P. McDonough, the battery commander, attended The Basic School with Chivers' brother, Matthew, who served as an infantry officer with the Fifth Marines.

Chivers also works with Lance Cpl. Sean T. Murray's father, a circulation manager for The New York Times. Murray of Tom's River, N.J., enlisted 17 months ago.

"I e-mailed a picture of Sean to his father for a Christmas present," said Chivers. "He replied that the picture made his holiday."

Chivers spent most of his visit talking to many junior Marines on post.

"The Corps lives in the ranks of Pfc. through staff sergeant. That's where you can feel the Corps' heart pulse," he said. "I would have stayed in the Corps if I could have remained in the fleet. I loved being a grunt...being at the bottom. I liked being outdoors with my men for 20 days out of the month. I didn't like being a captain. I liked being a lieutenant though. It was like having a license to make a mistake."