Marine Cpl. Joseph J. Millunzi, of Lodi, has been in Afghanistan for the last four to five months, where he works as an aviation ordinance tech for the U.S. Marine Corps. His responsibilities include loading bombs on aircraft as well as loading all the rounds for the gun system. His duties also include making sure the weaponry systems are working.
The most enjoyable part of his job is knowing he is the last one to touch the jet before it goes out, he said.
Millunzi, 25, who is a 2005 graduate of Jim Elliot Christian High School, took some time on a recent afternoon to answer some questions over the phone about serving in Afghanistan.
Q: What are some things you didn’t expect or were not prepared for?
A: I don’t know if there wasn’t anything I wasn’t ready to expect. I had a lot of friends here, and we had a lot of training to come out here.
Q: What do you miss most about the U.S.?
A: I’d say being able to let your guard down and relax and have barbecue if you want. Also, my family, and right now it’s college football season.
Q: What’s the best thing you have received in a care package?
A: The best things I have received in a care package, I’d say, are beef jerky (and) socks, and we’ve gotten newspapers from the States.
Q: Do you use Facebook? If so, what’s it like to jump on there and see status changes of friends over here?
A: There’s a USO and we can get on over there. They provide an Internet service we can pay for. I don’t have it but I can get on friends’.
It’s a trip. Sometimes you feel like all you do is get on there and just see bad news. Being over here, I found out a former high school athlete passed away in car crash, and I found out through a status update. Some of the good news is I get to see photos of my nephew.
Q: What was your first night like there, as far as trying to adjust?
A: It was pretty funny. We got here and it was not in our normal barracks that we are staying in right now. It was like a transient barracks. There was gear everywhere. We were trying to get used to smells in Afghanistan and then finding the chow hall.
Q: What do you do to keep sane?
A: I just keep a pretty solid routine. That’s one thing I have always enjoyed about the Marine Corps. We have a pretty normal routine. We go to work, come home, go to gym and then go to bed. You just keep some kind of normality.
Q: Is the public perception of Afghanistan accurate?
A: I don’t know exactly what they are reading about now, but before I got here people (were) saying we need to get out of there. That’s what we are doing now. We are turning over provinces to the Afghan National Army. We are getting word from higher-ups that it’s going really well. Sometimes we get constant bad news on the news, but it’s not too bad out here.
Q: Is there something positive you know you will bring back with you?
A: Yeah, I know that being out here, we had a lot of young Marines who were new to the job. Their training out here has been extreme. I know when they leave, they will be able to lead the next Marines who come in. That’s pretty awesome.
Q: What is something you can’t stand about the way the war is going?
A: You don’t like seeing people go home in boxes. That’s something I can’t really stand. I guess that’s it. It’s something you don’t want to deal with.
Q: Has your political outlook changed?
A: No, not really. I’ve always been kind of set in stone that when the president calls to tell us to take care of a mission, that’s our job to do. There’s a lot of stuff going on with campaign races. I guess that I have to take care of my job and keep in mind that I’m here and these guys are at home taking care of their jobs.
Q: What are your thoughts on “don’t ask, don’t tell”?
A: It’s something we had a lot of training on. We had a mandatory training. Now with (the repeal) being implemented, it’s just another day. It’s not something that I think will affect us. I just think it will make us a stronger corps. If there are more people who want to join, now they can.
Q: What would you do if you had a weekend off in Lodi?
A: I know exactly what I would do. I would do go straight to a taco truck at Turner and Church streets, by the old bait shop. I would go to Lodi Lake and go sit in the back playground and play horseshoes and jump in the river. That’s where I had all my birthday parties and my party for going away to college. It’s my favorite thing to do in Lodi. And get the family together and have a huge barbecue.
Q: What kind of food do you eat over there?
A: It’s just a chow hall, like cafeteria food. Sometimes we look at it and wonder what it is. Sometimes it’s like meat on stick. It’s sometimes beef or chicken bits with veggies. There are a couple chow halls on base. They have an Asian chow, Mediterranean and American. We had Outback Steakhouse come here one night. They cooked us steaks and mashed potatoes. That was pretty good.
Q: What do you do on your off-hours? Do you watch TV shows or movies or play video games?
A: I know a lot of the guys do. I try to get to the gym and tire myself completely so I can get ready for the next day. I’ve always been a gym rat from going to Lodi High and Jim Elliot. That’s where I spent my time.
Q: How do locals react to you?
A: Some are really polite. Of course you treat them with their courtesy they have out here. Some won’t even look at you in the eye. They won’t respond to you. They will respond to others but not to those in Marine fatigues. They respond differently to us for some reason. They know we’re here for business and not to have a good time.
Q: Would you go there again?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. With the job, it doesn’t seem like you’re doing anything great when you’re back in the States from day to day. When you get out here, it’s like game day. It’s kind of like you’re finally playing in the game that counts.
Q: How long will you be there and what are your next plans?
A: It will probably be till the close of year. I’m going home to get married. I’ll enjoy my time with her and then get ready for the next push.