April 7th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

You won't find 'River City' on a map in Afghanistan

A wooden shack with a few phones and computers is the only link home for some Marines.

Northern Helmand Province – U.S. Marines stationed in Now Zad only have one link to home – a small wooden shack in the middle of their base. Inside, they crowd around five or six telephones and around eight computer stations. This is where troops connect with their families and friends, and find out what’s happening in the world beyond Camp Cafferetta.

While embedded with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines Alpha Company, it’s also where we go to call back to our desk in Atlanta or reply to emails – only, of course, when there is a free phone or computer that the Marines aren’t using. The tiny room is crowded - Marines literally pushed against each other to wiggle into the small spaces in front of the computer screens. One Marine is on Skype, with a grainy video image of his wife and kids on screen. His wife is telling the very young children to look into their camera back home, and “tell Daddy you love him.” Most of the younger Marines are pouring into their Facebook pages, their primary way to keep up with friends – and most especially girlfriends – back home. A few feet away, you can hear the constant overlapping chatter from four to five Marines on the phones, talking to folks back home.

And then – a gunnery sergeant bursts into the room and says “River City! We’re in River City, let’s go!” And just like that, Marines hang up their phones. Sever their Skype connections. And shut down their Facebook pages. There was maybe time for a very quick goodbye, but it literally takes seconds. Within a minute, the room is empty, and the sergeant takes out the bank of phones and locks the door to the Internet room.

Then I learn why it’s taken so seriously: "River City" means a Marine has been seriously wounded or killed.

But after a call of 'River City,' the place clears and the equipment is locked away.

“River City” is a communications status, Reduced Communications. It’s an expression used to cut all contact with the outside world until the dead or wounded Marine’s family can be notified. 1st Sgt. Michael Bass explains that there were times when an incident would happen – someone gets shot, or caught in an IED explosion – and his fellow troops would, quite naturally, call home to talk with their own families about what happened. A lot of these communities are very tight-knit, and Bass says there were instances where families back home were being alerted to their loved one’s death by other friends or military spouses.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, and the military has a very strict process of family notification, one that involves a personal visit from a military official who is trained in how to deal with grieving families. That official then stays with the family throughout the process of the Marine’s remains coming home, the funeral and burial.

So the communications blackout prevents, for example, a perhaps well-meaning wife back home from calling another wife to offer her condolences, and inadvertently breaking the news of a husband’s death. Another Marine told me on rare occasions the blackout is imposed when no troops have been hurt. That usually happens if Marines are sending out too much sensitive information – perhaps saying too much about how the base is staffed, or describing future missions in too much detail.

Honestly, I thought River City was an actual place. And one Marine on his first deployment says, “Don’t worry – so did my wife.” The first time the base went into the alert, he had been talking with his wife back home in California. When the sergeant yelled “River City!” the Marine quickly told his wife: “Damn honey I gotta go right now – we’re in River City! Don’t know when I can call again!” This apparently made his wife worried sick, and spent hours on the Internet, trying to find where the hell this “River City” was on a map of Afghanistan.

The blackout can last as little as a few hours, or as long as a week. Normally it’s two or three days. During our stay with Alpha Company, River City was sounded four times. And only once, when the Marines were a bit slow getting off their computers, did the sergeant have to say, “Hey, get the hell off. And don’t be mad! Don’t be complaining you can’t call home – that means someone just got hurt!” Now if you ever hear the term “River City,” you’ll know not to look for it on any map. But it probably means a Marine has been hurt or killed, and a family somewhere is grieving.

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Steph

    I've been married to a military man for almost 6 years. He was an Infantry soldier in the Army when we met, and now he's a Cryptologic Tech with the Navy. Tonight is the first I've heard of "commo blackout" referred to as "River City"..which is why I'm even on this page. In our case this time it's not due to death, but in the Army, commo blackout between us almost always meant a death and they were completely terrifying, because you knew it was happening and you not only didn't want it to be your Soldier...but you didn't want it to be anyone else's either. The two branches are so very different not just in function, but reality and reaction. I have a real hard time relating to other Navy wives; our life right now is cake when it comes to stress over safety, and harder when it comes to morality and idiotic peers. I feel for the marines and all boots on the ground who not only have to be apart from family but feel the sobering reality of losing their friends and peers, maybe even parts of themselves.

    July 14, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. CFNAVY

    River city is a NATO term used for Comms blackout required for operation reasons. Could be that orders are coming in and they need the bandwidth, to many load mouths on facebook or yes a death. The term is used in different states. RC1 would be a comms blackout meaning no one has any comms at all, RC2 is a bandwidth grab meaning select users only have network access, RC3 is no internet access but still have major comms systems like UHF, SHF and RC4 is normal operations.

    May 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TroopsDirect.org

    I read this story often. While I certainly know what 'River City' means and it's tragic implications, revisiting this article reminds me that we as stateside Americans can help our Marines in an effort to keep them positive in mind and healthy in body when on the front lines.

    October 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mrs. Navy

    RC just means no communication for usually 12hr periods. My husband is on an aircraft carrier, and when they're in RC, it just means no communication off the ship. Usually they're moving and don't want transmit satelite signals and give away their location.

    I'm sorry to hear it usually has a negative connotation in other branches.

    September 24, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. Brenda

    I'd like to add that "River City" is also used a operational status not related to a fallen hero. It is also used for special operations they do no want the public to be aware of at that time if ever. It is a restricted communications status.

    When you hear that and you have a loved one serving, keep that in mind and don't freak out like we did (our son is a sailor with marines on board) because we were under the impression it was only for a death or attack.

    September 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sharon

    My son, a Marine, is in Afghanistan and commented "we have been in river city", another fallen hero". I thought it was odd for him to tell me "where he was". I of course googled it thinking it was a place and found this article. Thanks for the information, I shared it with our family.
    God Bless Our Troops!
    Proud Marine Mom
    Semper Fi

    September 6, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Semper Fi Wife

    No, the term doesn't have to be changed. It wasn't intended to keep anything secret from the public, it was a nice way of saying "We have a communication blackout" or saying "I have to get off the phone, someone was killed". In the military community there are acronyms and different names for everything. Yes, people need to be more aware of OPSEC, but it is not realistic. I have been a Marine Spouse for 11 years and some of the comments anger me to no end. Of course we don't want our spouses to be killed. What a mean-spirited thing to say.

    Listen to the Marines and loved ones that really know what this is all about before you spout off a bunch of hatred on here.

    June 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marla

    Thanks for the info. Many of the current wifes and families do not realize how fortunate they are to have the modern communications available today. Many of the military in Afghanistan do not have availability to these centers. Give thanks that the military continues the time honored practice of notifying the families prior to media release.

    June 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pat

    Thanks for this info. My son is a Marine in Afghanistan and I now understand the term "River City". I,too, had been looking on a map for it. As the mother of a Marine, and wife of a 22-year Navy man, I truly appreciate the fact that officials ensure wounded service members' families get information before it is broadcast worldwide.

    May 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rachel

    Great report. In war, people die. That's something every soldier's family must accept. But there is no reason why they should learn about their loved one's death from the media.

    I found it very comforting and morally right when my cousin, who has been to Afghanistan, told me about the media blackout routine.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. kaylani

    I was so sad when I found out what River City was...the only reason why I even bothered to try to find out about River City is because my husband had to jump off the computer all the time to go to "River City". I was thinking that I was going to find a bunch of articles about a bunch of action going on at this place, but I found out what it really meant and I was so heartbroken...

    May 12, 2010 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. kumiko

    Thanks for posting. My boyfriend is currently in Afghanistan. He has access in the internet at his work so he emails me everyday. it's his first deployment, too. it drove me crazy worrying about what happened when he didn't email me the first time for three days because i know he has computer access. then 2 days the week after, then he finally told me about the river city–only very brief info. i didn't quite understand it at first, but this article gave me better understanding. i just hope this information won't jeopardize anything on the military side.

    May 8, 2010 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. bryan Jorgenson

    now they have to change the code phrase...

    April 22, 2010 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. HMDocsLady

    Just a reminder that not all who are serving in the Afgan bases are Marines, There are a lot of Navy Sailors who are serving Individual Agumentations with those Marines.

    Thank you for this article. I have been trying to explain RC to extended family members for years and this will be very helpful to them to understand why I don't get to talk to my husband everyday or why our conversations get cut off.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Beth Lunsford

    Some people back home don't support the war effort, but I think all of you are heros. Thanks for all you do! God bless our troops!

    April 13, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  16. CavalryScout

    Oh and to Christopher of post #33...an old term from WW2 comes to mind.....Loose Lips Sink Ships...think about it.

    April 12, 2010 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  17. CavalryScout

    Wow this is one of the better articles written for CNN in months. Great write-up. Hits close to him very much so, and explains the terminology in a very mature way..Thumbs Up.

    April 12, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  18. rl

    irresponsible and dangerous reporting. The general public should not know what river city is. Only family members of military need know what it is.

    April 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  19. DaddyBoats

    You can go to River City for just about anything, not just a combat casualty...

    April 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Johnny

    "River City" is indeed from a musical and it's choice as a term makes sense. Please note two lines from the lyrics:

    "Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
    I say, trouble right here in River City."

    The lyrics from the song "Ya Got Trouble" indicate that trouble is occuring in River City, Iowa. In this situation, something bad has just happened (Marine hurt or killed). Is it mere coincidence that the term "River City" was chosen as opposed to "Remote Control" or another term? If you are culturally unaware, that's fine, but please don't argue that "River City" was chosen just for the convenience that the letters match.

    April 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Boom...applesauce

    Robert–your marines in the Iraq MTT lived better than most Soldiers, Sailors or Airmen.
    Most Marine quarters throughout Iraq were hard-stand while others lived in tents.
    Especially in Al Assad, marines had it much better than the rest of the US military.
    Even now–marine battalions only serve 210 days in Afg, when everybody else is serving much longer.
    So, lets end the tears over how hard the marines have it over everybody else.
    Here's another example; more recent.
    Watched a '53 land in Marjah a few weeks ago full of energy drinks, candy and tobacco.
    Guess who it was for.
    In about 5 minutes marines, who had only been in combat about 2 weeks, formed a huge non-tactical line in the mddile of Marja, which is still a combat zone.
    Pushing and shoving each other over candy and cigarettes...
    I never saw so much indiscipline in my entire military career.
    River City is something all services have to follow.
    Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen do it in a disciplined order without using it as a news story.

    April 11, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  22. Mirry

    To Roger L Whited,
    I am thankful to hear that your loved one will be returning soon. I hope that there is a family readiness officer who will conduct a return and reunion brief for family members, but just a few tips-
    1. Don't plan too much at first. He is going to be very tired, and while happy to be back, it could seem a little uncomfortable or overwhelming at first.
    2. Don't bombard him with questions, depending on where he's been, what he's seen and done, some of it might be difficult to talk about. Let him volunteer the information he wants to share.
    3. Chances are he's lost some weight, I think my husband lost close to 15 lbs while he was deployed, so have alot of the foods that he really likes at least available to him.
    4. If your loved one enjoys an alcoholic beverage, encourage him to take it very slowly.

    The items above are just a few things that I remember from our return and reunion brief- Also, please check out
    http://www.militaryonesource.com for information that might be of use to you.

    God bless,
    Mirry

    April 11, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  23. Mirry

    I hate the words "River City." My husband deployed in 2008 and while communication with him was rather frequent, when there was a sudden and prolonged lapse of communication, it was safe to assume that the base was in River City. It's an eary, nerve wracking experience for families back home; it's the automatic knowledge that something bad has happened, and somewhere, someone is going to receive the most horrible news. God protect our military and grant their families peace of mind.

    April 11, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  24. Preston

    Doesn't publicizing this story defeat the purpose of having a code name for such an incident? Now when the people back home hear "river city" while talking to the marines they will know what is going on and that someone has been wounded/killed...?????

    April 10, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Gill

    I suspect other nations wouldn't have such a problem with us, if we actually minded our own business and didn't interfere in foreign affairs. War is not good. I'm sure a lot of people believed the Vietnam war was purposeful in the beginning. Turns out it was a massacre. Our generation is desensitized to violence, and it becomes harder for them to even realize they're doing anything wrong. Brainwashed to believe they are helping civilians, while really they're doing quite the opposite. Maybe demonstrations against war aren't helping to end it, but if people starting realizing what's really going on out there, they'd think twice about joining the military.

    April 10, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Susie

    The real "River City" is actually Mason City, Iowa. It was the boyhood home of Meredith Wilson who wrote "The Music Man"....

    April 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Mario

    Whether the call to cut communications is River City or Romeo Charlie, thank you, CNN, for letting us non-military Americans know what it means and what it represents for our forces overseas and their loved ones.

    Our soldiers went there (Afghanistan) for combat, obeying orders and doing their best, just as they have been trained to do. Regardless of the justification or lack thereof for following our government's orders to have troops there, I wish we all refrained from treating this endeavor as some sort of religious duty or promotion of democratic values. Different troops may have different and personal reasons for obeying the government's call to battle, but nobody, not even the families of fallen soldiers, should beat others in the head with those reasons.

    I also hope we avoid glorifying war. Our soldiers, our marines, our troops are patriots in the sense that they are defending our country out there. They are not "warriors" or "heroes" or "martyrs". They are not on a "crusade" to save other countries from themselves and bring them our own flavor of freedom. Thank you.

    April 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Steve Moseley

    An Excelent story and a sad reminder of the sacrifices our soldiers endure. God Bless our troops. They have my undying support. Army 71-79.

    April 10, 2010 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  29. cathy (PMM)

    Thank you. Paul. I kinda figured there was a better explanation–more professional anyway. But, my 86 year old mother completely understood "trouble right here in River City." I appreciate your input.

    April 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Paul

    The term "River City" is not from a musical or anything like that. It's phonetic for [R]educed [C]ommunications. It could be technically called "Romeo Charlie".

    April 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Robert

    Boom...applesauce, do not know about you, but the Army I have seen has it a lot better than the Marines, I spent time in Iraq (Marine MTT) and was curious as to how the Army was getting heated meals, internet, satalite TV as well as video games, turns out this stuff was being forced out to them based off of requests, Marines are not forced any of this stuff, we make due with MWR assets that are sent out at a rate of 1 computer per 25-30 Marines. so it is not all peaches and cream for the Marines.

    April 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  32. PL

    Anybody heard of OPSEC? I can't believe how irresponsible people are. If you kept your mouths shut, our adversaries wouldn't be able to determine damage assessments they've made based on indicators, such as the topic at hand. Shame on all of you! It's reasons like this that our adversaries are able to kill your sons, daughters, husbands and wives. If you loved them, you'd keep quiet!

    April 9, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  33. Boom...applesauce

    Wa Wa Waah–poor little marines had to get off the phone in a combat zone.
    This seemed like news to the embedded reporter because you are all a bunch of crybabies.
    Army Soldiers spend months in the middle of nowhere with no comms home at all.
    They take more casualties too- and don't use it as a towel to blow their noses on.
    The more I see of marines the prouder I am of the
    US Army.

    April 9, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  34. Paul S

    Chris, Excellent piece, thank you for sharing.

    April 9, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  35. Cynthia Robinson

    I know that a lot of people in the military use profanity, but I really don't want to be assaulted by it in the media. You can leave out the "where the h..." and "get the h... off" and "d... honey" quotes. I should not have to read this on CNN, which by the way, is my main news source. It was absolutely not necessary to this story. I respect the troops and what they go through but I don't appreciate it when we show them in a bad light as well. There are a lot of troops who have the integrity NOT to use profanity and I think it stereotypes our troops to use it in articles like these.

    April 9, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  36. brambletonian

    Thanks mate, I'm sure a lot of families will appreciate this. My buddy just headed back to Afghanistan and I am obviously proud, but always worried. It's great to know that the military has a very defined process for this kind of thing. It will definitely help the grieving process better!

    April 9, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  37. Denise

    Thank you for the expanation!! My fiance is in Afghanistan right now and I am so proud of him and the rest of the troops!! Good story CNN, very much appreciated!!

    April 9, 2010 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  38. Tanya

    Thank you CNN. I haven't heard of River City before. We don't recieve this type of information in Australia. As it's been awhile since hearing from my partner.

    April 9, 2010 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  39. JD In Iraq

    I'm so happy to see the quote from the SGT telling his Marines not to be mad. Whenever we would go into Communications Blackout following an incident, some moron who never left the base could be heard complaining that he didn't have internet access and how much this place sucks. I had to remind more than a few soldiers as to why were were in Comms Blackout and that I'm sure the soldier who was killed/injured would gladly trade places with him.

    April 9, 2010 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  40. Matt

    I still remember River City like it was yesterday.

    April 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  41. BlazingGrunt

    nothing new, all servicemen are a part of this, not just marines. It's been going on for years in Afghanistan. They call them blackouts.

    April 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Barbara

    As a Marine Mom of 2 Marines
    One of my sons served in Iraq, the other is presently in Afstan.
    Many that are posting here don't have a clue what the Marines are about.
    They are no nonsense, get the job done.
    The Proud, The FEW, The Marines.
    It takes a special person to make rank.
    Not a second of any day goes by that I am not thinking about my boys.
    Or any other service member at home or on foreign soil.
    Semper Fi.
    Godspeed

    April 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  43. John

    Very informative. Thanks Chris.

    April 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Steve

    One thing that was really hard when I was in Iraq during the surge is that we lost Marines every couple of days which extended one River City as long as a month. We understood and got commo when we left the FOB on convoys. Good story CNN, at least from this Soldier's perspective. God Bless our Troops.

    April 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Tom Mariano

    My 22 y/o son was dishcharged in January 2010. He's a LCPL and did 2 tours in IRAQ. He just lanbded a f/t job and has signed up for summer classes at our local community college. I am so proud of he and his friends. Their honor; courage and willingness to place themselves in the line of fire enables us Americans and other free countrioes to live the way we do
    A heartfelt thank you to all the men and women in our armed services

    April 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Rick in Seattle

    To Christopher (Post #33) – No need to get all excited. As the article explains, the US military follows a special protocol when notifying families about casualties. Just reminding servicepeople not to mention something will not prevent an inadvertent slip-up.This has nothing whatsoever to do with recording an official casualty count.

    April 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Missing my LCpl

    "River City" is a very serious thing, and understanding it's meaning is very important to the significant others and families of these marines. I've been on the aim with my boyfriend while they went into river city. i didn't get a goodbye or anything he just quickly signed off and that was it. It's terrifying to wonder what has just happened. But soon hearing from them is worth it. My prayers are constantly with my boyfriend and many other marines. I can't wait till the day he is back and safe. My heart goes out to family and spouses. 1/2 Alpha Co. stay safe and know your in our minds always.

    April 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Bubba

    Zachary, they tried sending soldiers over here to attack us, but they all got jobs and started listening to rock and dating hot American chicks instead. Where do you think all those taxi drivers and minit mart clerks came from?

    April 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  49. 1/2 my heart is in Afghanistan

    As a Marine girlfriend, thank you for clarifying WHAT River City is; my boyfriend did not clarify or prepare me with this term before he left for Afghanistan. However, it would be nice to know if this article, while it says it was posted yesterday, if it would clarify when this River City occured. My boyfriend is in 1/2 and while he is not in Alpha Company, he could be with them and reading this article put some panick in me. Is there anyway to clarify if the River City discussed in this article is current or something that has happeneda while ago? Some peace of mind would really be appreciated! Thank you!

    April 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Josh

    Just throwing out a little tid bit of history for Steve.... technically 20 years ago in Afghanistan all we did was supply... there were no boots on the ground so therefore never had to withdraw

    April 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Dan Davis

    @ Leslie C.

    Sure, a google search would turn this up now. I realize that this information is by no means secret or classified but you have to admit that this whole thing was never meant to be public knowledge, otherwise they'd just say "A marine was killed, let's go."
    Just look at what Amy (comment 14) had to say. It's great that she feels the way she does and is willing to allow the information to travel through proper channels. Not everyone will feel the same.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Christopher

    This is just plain stupidity. There is no reason to shut down communications for the rest of the Marines when one of the Marines has died. It's about time that the Marines stopped trying to HIDE these deaths, which is what they are trying to do!

    If they don't want the notice of deaths getting back to the family before the Marines get there? Simply tell them NOT TO TELL THEIR FAMILIES THAT SOMEONE HAS DIED!

    There is no reason to go into a complete communications lockdown just because ONE PERSON or even a group of people die.

    April 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance Corporal Dallas McNutt

      okay well I'll call LCpl Vinnedge's parents and just ask them if they want to hear a military official tell them their son died or if they would have rather heard it from rumor passed by their neighbor. I spent three months in bootcamp with Vinnedge and I had to read the article to find out. I'd have rather had a Staff Sergeant come to me and tell me. do you want it official in writing or do you want to hear from sally, who talked to jimmy, who talk to rebecca,who saw johnny and amanda kissing in the girls locker room and when they got caught they told her that LCpl Philip D. Vinnedge was killed in Afghanistan.

      October 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Ashley

    OOHRAH! Semper Fi, MARINES AND MARINE FAMILIES. This Marine wife supports you!

    April 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Becca

    That's good to know! They're in "River City" right now over in one of those areas...I was wondering why all comm has stopped from my bf...our phone call got cut off :O(.

    April 8, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  55. Barb

    As a Marine Mom, the term has been comforting to me. It explains why the long silence from my son and helps to RELIEVE my concerns about his safety. I know that if something has happened to him, I will be receiving the information fromOFFICIAL sources and not through a "he said, she said" manner.

    God bless all of our Marines and military personnel as well as their families for their sacrifice of family time and even the ultimate sacrifice of their lives!!!
    Semper Fi!

    April 8, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  56. Ernest

    Thank you, thank you warrior, thanks noble people because you sacrifice.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  57. morfiliwr

    To CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence:

    Interesting story – just another glimpse into a day in the life of our troops in the field. Reminds me of my little trip over there last year.

    Just one correction to make: the gunnery sergeant in your story who cleared the "jack shack" does not magically turn into a "sergeant" in following paragraphs. The Marine Corps in particular is very specific when addressing other Marines or other military personnel by rank.

    "Gunnery Sergeant" (E-7) is a rank two steps up from "Sergeant" (E-5). These ranks are separate and distinct from each other. Marines do not EVER refer to or address anyone as a "sergeant" unless that Marine is actually a Sergeant (E-5). Although other enlisted ranks contain the word "sergeant" (Staff Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant, Master Sergeant, Master Gunnery Sergeant, Sergeant Major), Marines at those higher ranks are NEVER to be referred to as "Sergeant" (try calliing a Sergeant Major a "sergeant" and see what happens.)

    Marines are referred to by their proper rank, regardless of how long the rank sounds. So, the Gunnery Sergeant in your story should be addressed as the "gunnery sergeant" further on in your story, or, if the gunnery sergeant so permits, as the "Gunny". Please keep Marine rank protocol in mind in your reporting – I am sure the Marines of Alpha 1/2 will thank you for it.

    Keep up the good work and the morale you generate with your coverage.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  58. Kelly C

    Thank you for this story – appreciate 1st hand perspective. I've been cut off the phone or e-mail many times over the years as my brother has served our country in various wars – everytime I knew it was important and necessary but I still worried for days/weeks until I knew he was safe again.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  59. denise robinson

    as the mother of two marines – one flying in afganistan and one a three tour veteran – i pray for all of you – i am gratified by all of the sacrifices you make and so proud to be a part of the marine family – semper fi – denise lr

    April 8, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  60. Iraq Paramedic

    To Shukri,
    GOD always cries when anyone is killed because it is his plan, the big plan that only he knows.
    You know your words might have some effect on the Taliban while they are slaughtering innocent Afgans or raping & killing innocent Afgan women or when they are buying innocent young Afgan children to turn into murder bombers but you are to much of a coward to go tell them. I gaurranty those Marines & Soldiers will tell them.
    May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!! Daneil David good to read your comments.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  61. eugene

    Steve, would you fight for anything or do you honestly believe that if we stop all military action, the world will just hold hands and celebrate peace?? Have you ever fought for anything? And can you appreciate that everything does not result in a black and white, win or lose result. Sometimes defending a nation means resisting with sacrifice on a day to day basis. I have doubts about the mission in Afganistan, but I recognize that I do not have the information available to me to intelligently asses the entire picture, and I understand that whether we "win" or "lose" in storybook terms, we, never the less, may be doing what is absolutely necessary to protect a nation.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  62. ANN LYNCH

    A great BIG THANKK YOU to all the men and women who defend our country EVERYWHERE in the world. I'm living in China and I so appreciate how dedicated they are and how thankful we need to be and grateful to them. Semper Fi!

    April 8, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  63. David Goliath

    Just so everyone here knows, River City is NOT only used when someone is injured or killed. It also is NOT just a US Marine term. River City is set for a multitude of situations including Cyber Security...as in if a computer system is being comprimised. Get the whole story next time CNN. Propaganda machine is in full effect on this story...

    April 8, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  64. natalie

    lol @ KYLE...

    it's a little more serious than that...

    April 8, 2010 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  65. Steve

    Well Zachary, its arogant minded people like yourself that make the rest of the world hate the US... they only hate you due to your policies and your undying abliity to rush in with guns blazing, ruff up the locals with school boy bulling tactics then when its drawn out you withdraw and leave a country to clean up your mess... Afganistan 20 years ago, now today, Iraq 1991, now again today.. Perhaps if the USA didnt pick fights that it couldnt win in 2 rounds/years then you might have some right to boast. As it stands your fighting two fights into the 8th round/year and your running the risk of the judges of the world rulling in the oppositions favor.

    April 8, 2010 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  66. cathy (PMM)

    I guess this comes from the musicial the "Music Man"–when they had trouble right there in River City. It always makes me go all melancholy...and worry for families, friends and loved ones! God Bless these warriors. My Marine son is due back on good ole American soil sometime soon...I'll breath a little easier! But, I understand that it can't always be someone else's son...so until I get that domestic call...I'll be praying and keeping all in my thoughts–24-7. Til then..."We'll leave the light on, ya' hear?"

    April 8, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  67. Mike

    Zachary – the brainwashing obviously took then. This is not, nor has it ever been, about 'the fighting coming here'. And the only bit of your way of life they hate is the invasion, occupation and murder of civilans. But maybe I'm wrong – when the fighting DOES come here, I expect you to welcome your occupiers with open arms as they shoot down your kids.

    April 8, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  68. Mike O

    I agree Zachary, Robert obviously does not know that handing out daisy's will stop peopple from trying tokill us. Sure the best thing for everyone would be for all the wars and conflicts to end and everyone would get to come home to their families, but thats not how the world works. Man has always been at war and will always be at war. If it wasn't for those who volunteer to fight to protect us then the liberals and free love groupies would have to fight for themselves. Wonder how that would turn out. Maybe not a bad idea. Anyways yes now people will know what River City means but it still protects the name of the individual soldier so his or her family can be told with respect instead of it going through the rumor mill

    April 7, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Leslie C

    To Dan - it's good of you to be concerned about media awareness of security issues, but this is not a case of revealing secret information. A quick Google search turned up explanations of this term that date back a couple years (and not from public media sources). I think it's better for families on the other end of the line to have some understanding of the situation when communication is abruptly shut down for this reason.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Dennis McDonald

    Thank you for this information.We may never be able to put the communications genie back into the bottle but we can at least learn to live with it - or cut it off when necessary.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Amy

    As a Marine Wife I think that River City is a good thing and I would rather find out from someone that is trained to deliver this type of news then my neighbor. If I was on the phone with my spouse and heard river city being shouted I would speculate about who it may be but there are so many different units and companies on each base that it would be impossible to guess correctly. I would also be relieved because when it was shouted I was on the phone with my spouse and would know that he was okay and that there is a reason I would not be hearing from him instead of just sitting here wondering why he cannot call. I have been a marine wife for almost 7 years now and I learned on the first deployment what it meant and fully support the military on this one because the death of a loved one should be treated with respect not like gossip from other spouses or family members.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Shukri

    But of course, nothing when innocent Afghans are killed...

    April 7, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance Corporal Dallas McNutt

      I beg to ask what your status is. Reserve, Active, Retired? Civilian? You make yourself look horribly stupid when you shoot your mouth off and you provide nothing to back your statements up. Have you ever been in combat do you realize that we are all human and people do make mistakes? Do you realize the repercussions taken on my someone who was maybe startled and shot an inoccent child? Do you realize that all military personnel are held to a totally different set of laws on top of civilian laws? Not to mention that the memory of doing such a thing sits on the mind of that soldier or Marine for the rest of their life. Every Marine and soldier feels the impact of killing whether it be an inoccent or an enemy that blood was spilt with their own hands. Do you think you can live with that on your concience?

      October 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  73. Jay

    I was there when this whole thing was first implamented many years ago in Iraq.

    River City was picked for the song "Cry Me a River", they picked this name for the operational posture because they knew people would complain. Durring River City we had to shut down non mission essential traffic for varrious reasons, a death, mission posture, (e.g. crossing the border into Iraq) or etc...

    We used to have access lists who had what level priviledges during certain river city conditions.

    April 7, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Amanda G

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU to all our Marines, and everyone else who is serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywere else, even those right here at home. A friend of mine just got deployed to Afghanistan, and my other friend's boyfriend is leaving next month. I pray that they will all be safe, and are able to come home as soon as they can. ❤

    April 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  75. Daniel David

    This is for: Roger L Whited
    There are some readjustment seminars/meetings for family members of troops who will be coming back home. You might try contacting your relative's command and ask if they offer anything like that in your area. Good Luck!

    April 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  76. Dan Davis

    Doesn't posting this information contradict what River City was meant to do? Now that we know what it means, the next time a stateside family member of a marine hears this term they'll know exactly what it means and start speculating about who may have been wounded or killed. Obviously, it won't be difficult to change the terminology now that it's out in the open, but this is a perfect of example of our inability to keep sensitive information under wraps, Thanks, media types, for proving once again that to you a good story is all that counts, no matter who it harms or how much damage it does.

    April 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  77. Zachary

    Well Robert, its the small minded people like yourself that cant grasp the fact that if it wasnt for the men and women over seas fighting for your right to say stupid ass stuff like that, then the fighting would come here. The insurgents in those countries, hate us and our way of life, ive been there. You say get us out now, i say send more over.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Carmen Wilkinson

    American troops and their families are not complaining. We are proud of the troops sacrifices. We may not entirely agree on the length of time this war has taken, but if you knew what really went on there...you'd better undertand that the REASON they are there is the right thing to do! Stay safe 1/2 Alpha. Your families and friends support you, encourage you and believe in your fight. Like you (Alpha), we are not complaining and commend you for keeping a smile on your face, even in the worst of conditions. Because you know, as well as your families, that on your WORST day, the Afghans' lives are even worse. Thank you for caring about others more than you care about yourself. That's what some would term, "selfless." I'd love to worry and debate about the cost it will have on the next generation. I'd love to pity your families for your absence. But, if we can't show humility, and care about "people" more than our own feelings and pocket books, then the whole world is more lost than we can even comprehend. Hurry home guys...we are waiting on you...no matter how long it takes.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Roger L Whited

    I know that these WARRIORS that are returning WILL HAVE TO HAVE A RE-ADJUSTMENT PERIOD....I have a grndson coming back in Apr..Are there special things we must know when they are here at their homes. This readjustment has to be special.. for those who(all) have been on the edge of the battles. I came back from the Army svc. on Okinawa. On this 767 there were Marines fresh from the swamps(1968) with mud still on their boots to be discharged within two days ,and to my knowledge were set out on these freedom streets of ours fresh from battle!! I know this because there were those talking about their time of duty being up in three days! ..S0 WHAT CAN WE DO TO ALLOW THIS RE-ADJUSTMENT TO BE THE SMOOTHEST FOR THESE LOVED ONES? grndpa rog... ...................THANK YOU AND SEMPER FI............ GOD KEEP ALL...

    April 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  80. robert saint amour

    of course a good way to prevent this would be for americans and us canadians to get out of there...now!

    April 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarinePop

      Robert thats a good idea! Thank you for that exceptionally splendid suggestion! When the jobs done. soar high Capt Obvious! This post sponsored by FriendsShouldNotLetSimpleMindedFriendsPost.ever

      May 31, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Kyle

    Why inthe world would the Marines want to put families on the phone or Skype through that. Couldn#t the Marine official simply and calmy walk into the hut and announced that in 5 minutes they needed to enforce "River City" Seems way to dramatic and over done.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Sorry Kyle, but you OBVIOUSLY don't know the Marine Corps, and I don't mean that in an angry way. I was just laughing while reading your comments, especially this one:

      "Couldn#t the Marine official simply and calmy walk into the hut and announced that in 5 minutes they needed to enforce "River City" Seems way to dramatic and over done."

      "simply and calmly" LOL.

      May 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • holly Flowers

      OMG ARE YOU FOR REAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 12, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Lance Corporal Dallas McNutt

      I understand your disagreement with the protical used by the Marines in this situation. But there is something you must realize. Although we are trained to carry out orders on a pin drop, when a Marine sees his friends from bootcamp or his unit get killed the only thing he is probably thinking about is how much he wishes to see and speak to his family. There is no feeling worse than knowing you can die like your friend just did and you wouldn't get the chance to tell your family good bye or that you love them. So when Marines are given the chance to speak to their loved ones they are stubborn to let that chance go. When a Sergeant comes in and immediately starts yelling "River City" it instantly put a Marine in the mind set of "Oh S*** Sergeant is yelling there must be an emergency." There for they immediately cut ties with the outside world and there is no delay in the orther Marines actions. you have to realize there is no room for pleasantries in combat even if you are inside the wire. There is no such thing as "nice" in war.

      October 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Courtney Sowards

    hope you had fun 1/2 A Co., my husband is in Alpha and I know 1st Sgt. Bass. Thanks for getting to know our marines

    April 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginger Plummer

      My son is with Alpha Co. as well... Semper- fi.... Would love to stay in contact with you..

      May 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Carmen Wilkinson

    Chris,
    Thank you for this blog. It gave me a better idea of the lack of comm for our families here. Also, I too, after several deployments, did not know the term "River City," but had heard it. Naturally, I went to a map looking for the closest town near a river close to Now Zad. Anyway, I've shared your blog and just wanted you to know I was pleased to gain some understanding of the conditions and terminology.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Andrew Lubin

    This is part of the stress and worries that the families of our deployed Marines accept; very well done by CNN!

    April 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |