Interesting interview with Major Bunge Cook ’98, USMC.

BUNGE COOK

ON HOT WEATHER, SKI RACING, AND THE MARINES.

AFTER RACING FOR WILLIAMS COLLEGE ON THE DIVISION I CIRCUIT FOR FOUR years, Sugarloafer Bunge Cook, 32, earned a commission in the Marine Corps. Following September 11, he was deployed to Afghanistan, invaded Baghdad, left the Marines to develop Chinese ski areas, tested skis for our annual Gear Guide, and then reenlisted and returned to Iraq as a captain. We spoke to him via satellite phone from Anbar Province in July.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS USUALLY LEAD TO INVESTMENT banking or graduate school. I wanted something differ­ent. My grand plan was to do a few years in the Corps, get out, move to Europe, use my French skills, and help usher Bombardier grooming machines into the European market. Instead, I ended up invading two different coun­tries in two years and got the bug. I get paid to pull liberty across the globe, work out, and serve something other than myself.

I HAVE ABOUT 280 MARINES UNDER MY COMMAND. Today it was 128 degrees, the hottest day in Iraq since com­bat ops commenced. Your entire body is drenched all day Long. Plus you’ve got 80 pounds of gear—with flak, helmet, CamelBak, and chest rig—on top of the uniform.

AFTER A 128-DEGREE DAY, you’d like to have a gin and tonic or something, but this is a dry country.

I THINK ABOUT 12 FEET OF POWDER in the Wasatch.

WE HAVE A LARGE SNIPER THREAT IN OUR AREA and we’ve had five shootings in the last five days. Two Marines were killed in action. Another Marine was shot in the face and neck, but he got Lucky. It didn’t hit the jugular.

COMMAND CAN BE LONELY. I’m not always making popular decisions.

WE THINK ABOUT THE TRIP HOME. There’s a lot of talk of Sydney’s world-renowned ladies. And Hawaii, we’re hitting Hawaii.

ONE SNIPER MISSED a Marine but shot an 11-year-old boy who was sleeping in a barber shop. Paralyzed the kid. Lost his lung. So fortification is a big deal, but you don’t want to

be Living in a bunker because that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the population.

THE GREAT THING ABOUT BEING DEPLOYED in an arm­pit Like this place is it makes you appreciate not 12 feet of powder, but 12 inches of Charmin and a clean bathroom. You’re down to that level out here.

I REMEMBER RACING AT SADDLEBACK [MAINE]. Going down a mountain, pretty much naked in a GS suit. You get used to dealing with extreme elements ski racing in Maine. Combat is no different. You gotta get in the mindset, get your legs under you.

MARINES AND SKI RACERS—the most they have in com­mon may be their tobacco habits. Last I checked, the U.S. Ski Team ran on Copenhagen and so does the Marine Corps. When I was racing, even the Ladies dipped.

WE USED TO DO FIS RACES in Vernon Valley and Great Gorge. Stayed at an old Playboy palace. Still had the ’60s-era green and orange pleather bucket chairs. It was the cheapest place to put a bunch of high school kids. The clos­est we got to any ass was the adult bookstores in Hartford.

I REENLISTED because I missed serving with the Marines—cocky, obnoxious sons of bitches who want to fight. I missed the intensity. We’re out here on the edge, making a difference, contrary to the tsunami of media. Having a guy get his irrigation running after six months of no water at all. Helping people be able to live their lives like they want to. But it’s mostly serving with Marines.

CAN I CALL YOU BACK? [Hangs up.] Hey, sorry I had to cut you off there. We’re taking some indirect fire. Mortars. We’re good.

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