Monday, October 31, 2005

How specific do you want it?

Vanity first: I got some MSM notice, pretty cool to see it in print. The Sergeant mentioned in the article, Todd Whipps, is an old and dear friend of mine. We were in Bosnia together many years ago, and when we were activated for this deployment we had hoped to be stationed together again. I am glad to see that he is enjoying his time here, at least at moments.

I was sitting in the S2 shop (intelligence office) waiting for a meeting to start when the S2 got a call from a patrol. They had a suspect in custody and were looking for verification that the guy they had was who they thought he was. The S2 gave them a physical description which was, well, pretty generic. Iraq is full of 5'6"160 pound dark haired males, so the patrol asked for some more specific information. A few more minutes of research told us that the guy we were looking for had a pretty specific injury, so he told the patrol "“If he is missing 3 toes, he's the guy. Go ahead and bring him in."” The patrol, not wanting to arrest the wrong 7 toed guy, promptly asked us "“from which foot?"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Perfect answer

I try to come up with original things to say in this Blog, but most of the time the words of others say what I am thinking far more eloquently. This article at Mudville discusses retention in the Guard, and in it 1Lt Bruce Bishop states his reasons for staying in:

..."because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

Thanks LT! I hope you don’t mind if I use this as my stock answer from now on when asked why I keep doing this. Priceless.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

May you find peace

Because the core of my job is controlling access to the camp, I have met thousands of Iraqis over the past 9 months. Many I speak to for a moment, just to determine what their business is and to make a quick decision about one time access, most for about 10 minutes to interview them prior to granting them longer term access. The Iraqis I know best are the interpreters, my own and those who work for other units here on the camp. They are wonderful people, with a diversity of backgrounds, education, personalities. What they have in common is the ability to pass an English proficiency test and the guts to work side by side with U.S Troops, inside and outside the wire. As I have mentioned before, the job is incredibly dangerous.

When I first arrived here, and began learning the ropes at the gate, the first Iraqis I came to know were our gate interpreters. Interpreters are mostly known by nicknames, for their own protection and for ease of pronunciation by Americans. We have a really hard time getting our tongues around Arabic names. They have nicknames like Doc, Navigator, Bulldog, Cowboy, and Caesar. Some speak what I call “Hollywood English”, which they clearly learned watching American movies and TV, filled with slang and expressions they may or may not fully understand. These interpreters are always entertaining, not always for the reasons they think they are, and are very easy to get along with. New interpreters often speak very limited, literal English with little understanding of the subtleties of the language. Once they have spent some time around Americans, they grow into effective and trusted interpreters. Some, like Neo, speak fluent and proper English, sometimes better than the Soldiers they are interpreting for.

I met Neo the same day I met Fox and Junior, “my” interpreters. Neo, before he transferred to another job, worked the gate with about 12 other interpreters, and we considered him one of the best; intelligent, eloquent, and principled. He owned a jewelry business in Baghdad before the war and my predecessors introduced us quickly, advising me to talk to Neo before buying any jewelry, because he had the best quality at the most reasonable prices. After about a month, Neo left the gate to work at the base contracting office. This was the perfect match for him. His business experience and knowledge of the Baghdad economy allowed the contracting office to drive the hardest bargains and find the best suppliers. It also allowed him to get a little less face time in front of the other Iraqi workers, which he hoped would reduce the risk associated with working here, and the constant threats he received. Neo moved his family four times since I arrived here to protect them from those threats.

I found out this afternoon that two days ago, Neo was driving to work when his car was stopped by terrorists. They pulled him from his car and shot him in the back of the head. They left his body lying in the ditch alongside the road. Neo’s real name was Nabeel. Nabeel lived his life with more courage and honor than the cowards who murdered him will know in a thousand lifetimes.

Nabeel stayed here in spite of the danger because he believed that he was building a peaceful and free Iraq. I will miss you, my friend. May God grant you the peace you sought.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I received this email last night:

Greetings!I've been follow troops morale and deployments and developments since the war began, and I've felt very upset about the ideas this country has about how best to "support the troops"...
As a social psych major in college, I spent a lot of time studying how good people can come to do bad things. And, unfortunately, war is the best petri dish for these kinds of occurences. Leave aside that I think the strategy in Iraq was flawed from the beginning, my concernis that the Administration continues to cut benefits and psychological support for the men and women defending our country. I think it's a disgrace that they will send soldiers overseas without proper equipment, under false pretense, and then, they won't even take responsibility when things go wrong.
Anyhow, I put my skills to use and made a 4-minute short film, and I built a website to provide information. I'd love for you to check itout and pass it along, if you think it holds any merit.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I wanted to share mine.

I followed the link and watched Kaz’s little cliché of an anti veteran film. It purports to be a psychological evaluation of a combat vet charged with murder. I’m sure they think they are being clever with the not so subtle ways that they make the vet look ignorant and brainwashed, but the effort was laughable. In the first few moments of the film, the “vet” refers to the president as “George Bush Jr” (because vets are too stupid to know the presidents real name). It heads downhill from there. I checked out the “learn” link on the page and was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find a page full of anti war links, running the gamut from to Poets against the war.

One of the links led to “The Stanford Prison experiment”, detailing how dehumanizing the prison system in the U.S. is, and how it parallels the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. This experiment lasted 6 days. I was particularly interested in a statement on the main page about how guards in the experiment became sadistic after only a few days of experimentation. Before I decided to make a real living, I spent 9 years as a Corrections Officer. I worked in a segregation unit for most of that time. I also worked on the security squad and was a SORT (Special Operations Response Team) member. If anyone was in a position to become a sadistic thug, it was me. I won’t pretend for a moment that I wasn’t changed by my experience “doing time part time”, but I certainly wasn’t turned into some kind of sadistic monster. Psychological evaluations prior to hiring, weeks of training prior to inmate contact and ongoing training while working prevent this sort of devolution. Before anyone disparages Corrections Officers, they need to walk a tier, alone and unarmed, among a couple of hundred felons.

This is how the anti war crowd discounts the inconvenient reality of troops who believe in their mission; depict them as ignoramuses, or worse, as Psychos. Another favored tactic is to call them liars, like this little gem over at Huffington. I have no problem at all with those who disagree with the war, so long as they thank a veteran for the right to do so, but I have a big problem with the idiots who paint us with these stereotypes. If you believe the war is wrong, fine. Don’t pretend for a second that you are supporting the troops by calling them stupid insane liars.

If you believe the war is wrong but honestly want to support the troops by getting them home, here is what you can do: find a charity that is helping the children of Iraq and Afghanistan by providing medical care, school supplies, clothing, or shelter. They are out there. Donate to them. Send me an email or comment with a link to the charity; I will build a Blogroll of them. Everybody wins.

One more note to Kaz: Spell check, Grammar check, read it out loud to see if it makes sense, and then hit send. Oh, and put down the Kool-Aid.

Monday, October 17, 2005


This morning, I shook the purple stained hand of a dear friend. The skeptics, and the ignorant, can spin the turnout and result all they want, I know the truth. I saw it in Junior’s eyes when he held up his finger. I didn’t ask him how he voted, that doesn’t matter. I think that’s what the naysayers don’t get. The outcome doesn’t matter because the process was successful, therefore whatever the outcome, freedom triumphed.
My job on Saturday was to handle any detainees picked up in our sector, questioning them and making recommendations regarding what to do with them. Take a guess at how many people I questioned. Not one. I spent the day doing redeployment planning and talking to soldiers coming off of patrols, who all reported happy crowds waving purple fingers at the passing Soldiers. No violence. No IED’s. No detainees. It was so quiet in our sector that the Brigade commander personally escorted the family of an Iraqi baby with a broken leg to a hospital, because he had nothing else going on. It was actually boring. Boring is good. My seat as a witness to history was a quiet room, watching AFN News and waiting for something to happen. Nothing happened, and that is News. Nothing happened!
Something I haven’t seen mentioned in press reports of the election is the fact that no American troops were guarding any of the polling sites. Security was handled entirely by the Iraqi Army and Police. We had patrols sweeping the MSR’s, but no one was even allowed within sight of a polling place. It was the Iraqi’s election, not ours.
It was a success. I know, I was there.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Driving on

I have a lot to say and no time to say it, at least until after the elections. This has been a busy week and it isn't slowing down. More, much more, next week.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Islamofacism = Pinky and the Brain

The president gave a speech Thursday in which he (finally) eloquently stated the stakes in this war. He described the threat we face from Islamofacism, how militant Islam plans to take over the world, and what we must do to defeat them.

The threat is real. They want to take over the world. TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Say it with me. THEY WANT TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Internalize it, breathe it in, and contemplate it. The frontline terrorists are Pinky to Al Qaeda’s Brain. The Islamic masses listen to the Imams on Friday, asking “what are we going to do today, Brain?” and the Imams answer “the same thing we do every day Pinky, try to take over the world!” The intellectual elites pretend this reality is alarmist, reactionary, and must be exemplary of some sort of dim fundamentalism. After all in the real world, adults are more reasonable. Intelligent and enlightened people can be reasoned with, and after all isn’t the United States is much guiltier of trying to force our brand of freedom (since when is individual liberty a brand) down people’s throats? Well, elitist pipedreams notwithstanding, in Al Qaeda’s own words, their goal is to take over the world by 2020. There is no negotiation that will dissuade them from this goal. There is no appeasement that will change there minds, short off every human being on the planet converting to Wahabbi Islam. My daughters are not going to put on Urbayas, so no deal. The consequences of fundamental Islamists succeeding are unthinkable. In the Presidents words:

“We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.”

Why does the President believe that these are the goals of our enemies? Because they said so, and have demonstrated that they mean it. The questions that raise disagreement are the problem we face now. I believe the following to be established facts; Al Qaeda and by proxy much of the Muslim world desires the destruction of the United States and Israel. This same enemy desires and has a plan to install a Muslim Caliphate to rule the entire world, and will murder anyone who they define as an infidel or apostate. Many of our enemies are currently concentrated in Iraq. They were in Iraq before we invaded. If what I believe is true, then this war is the most just and necessary war the United States has fought since the Second World War.

We have a plan to win. It’s not easy and it won’t happen quickly. But we will win. By applying a combination of military, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian and educational strategies worldwide, we will destroy both today’s active terrorists and tomorrow’s potential terrorists. 6 methodologies, 8 pressure points. Not just Iraq, but worldwide. Not just Al Qaeda, but Islamic extremism. This war is bigger than 9-11, but some people just can’t see the bigger picture. We are not at war to bring the perpetrators of 9-11 to justice. We are at war to prevent Islamic extremists from taking over the world. We have been fighting this war since the creation of the PLO in 1965, only we didn’t know it. We continued to run around denying the significance of the threat in the face of the Iran hostage crisis, the Beirut barracks bombing, hijackings, kidnappings, assassinations of Americans, and attacks on our own soil. Most of America is now aware of the reality of the threat. Unfortunately, many of our countrymen can’t think in terms beyond that of a 10 second sound bite. So hear this sound bite:

Islamofacists are like Pinky and the Brain; they want to take over the world.

Not on my watch.

UPDATE: in case you are wondering, Religion of peace has a rundown of terrorist attacks perpetrated by militant islam since 9-11

HAT TIP: Little Green Footballs

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Self indulgent prattling

DADMANLY is getting short…..I wonder if that would make me the senior enlisted Milblogger in Iraq? I don’t know of any E9’s who are blogging, and the only other E8 blogger I know about is in Afghanistan. OK, there is this guy, but he just made MSG, so I have time in grade on him, plus his BOG date is about 4 months after me…So, would that make me the First Sergeant of the Milblogosphere? I’ve been First Sergeant of a Firing Battery and a Target Acquisition Battery in the past, but putting a “virtual Diamond” on would be a great new experience…..Ah well, I think I will only have about 45 days left in country after Dadmanly leaves, and I know I could never find the time to post as prolifically as he does.

This is good news, and news you likely won’t hear about on TV. You probably heard about this all weekend, they were babbling about it on all the Sunday news shows. I have a few things to say about it, but Major K. says it better.

This from Iraq the model is a good post with a spectacular title. I had to link it just for that.

Jamie Hailer in St Petersburg is running a business I am envious of. Oh to find that perfect niche.

Dueling statistics: this seems to contradict this. Or not, depending on how you bend the numbers and demographic assumptions to conform to your personal preexisting biases. My bias leans in the direction of asking Congressman Rangel to stop running his soup cooler.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Too close

I mentioned in an earlier post that I usually get the jitters before I go out on a patrol. A few days ago, I didn’t and should have. It was an ill conceived mission to begin with, we were supposed to drive into downtown Baghdad, locate 4 civilian trucks, driven by Iraqis, which had been having trouble getting to our camp. They claimed they were getting turned around at a checkpoint, but it was unclear whether it was an Iraqi Army, Iraqi police, or US checkpoint. Based on the location they gave us, it was actually most likely Shiia militia stopping them and shaking them down for money. Anyway, we were supposed to find them and escort them through our Brigade sector, to the FOB so they could pick up what they needed to pick up. We had about a one hour window of time to meet these guys, but Iraqi time is different than American time. In the US Army, time is measured in seconds, with margins of error measured in, well, there are no margins, and you do things on time to the second. In Iraq, time is more flowing; it is more a concept than a measurement. In the US Army, 0800 means 8 AM, not 0758 and most assuredly not 0802. To an Iraqi, 0800 is in the morning, therefore it means sometime between 0600 and noon, give or take, depending on traffic and if it’s not to hot, in’shallah. We were supposed to meet these guys between 0900 and 1000. I had a real warm fuzzy about that happening. We had no effective communications with them, only a point on the map and a description of the trucks. The Major who needed these trucks thought it would be a piece of cake, no problem. He wasn’t going though; he had a very important meeting instead. Through some twist of fate, I was a driver, mostly because my unit has way too few E4’s. The E4 with us was our gunner, the most dangerous job in the vehicle by far. We were the lead vehicle.

We got loaded up and started rolling. We hit the MSR (Main supply route, really a highway) and headed for the link up point. Traffic sucked, but US patrols don’t get stuck in traffic. We just jump the median and drive into oncoming traffic, horns blazing. They move. They have learned. We own the road. We zigzagged our way into downtown, crossing medians as traffic backed up, jumping back over as traffic subsided. It’s actually very efficient. It also pushes your heart rate up a bit. As we were heading into the city, at one point I saw a taxi on the side of the road, pointed towards traffic, and a bunch of cars parked off the shoulder behind the taxi. It just didn’t feel right, so I yelled to the gunner to watch him and I swung over to the center of the road as we passed. Nothing exploded. A few minutes later, we hit the intersection for the link up. No trucks. Big surprise. We orbited the intersection a couple times, driving a bit past it, turning around, heading north and then south past it. On the second orbit, another patrol passed us going in the opposite direction, back towards our camp. I turned us around, and we headed back up the road. We were a couple hundred yards behind the patrol we had just passed. As we approached the point where I had seen the taxi, an IED detonated on the patrol in front of us. We heard the explosion, and traffic stopped. I swung towards the center of the road, hit the center island, and gunned it past the traffic. One local wasn’t paying enough attention, and tried the same move. He was pulling directly in front of us. My gunner tossed a water bottle at him, hitting his door. That woke him up. The look of shock in his eyes when he saw 3 Humvees headed right for him was unforgettable. We swung past the traffic and pulled in behind the patrol that had been hit, and set up rear security. Junior, our interpreter, began redirecting traffic to another route. The vehicle that was hit was torn up pretty good, all 4 tires were shredded and there was shrapnel damage to the left side of the vehicle, but no one was wounded. Armor rocks.

The IED had been buried in the center island, directly across the road from where the taxi had been parked. When I swerved to avoid the taxi, I had driven within 10 feet of the IED. I never saw it. If that patrol hadn’t passed us, we would have been the next patrol on the road. It would have been us.

We continued to pull security while the damaged vehicle was recovered. We escorted them to the next US checkpoint, pulling security for them as they towed the damaged vehicle, at a speed of about 10 miles per hour, through Baghdad. Loads of fun, I recommend it to everyone. At that point, we aborted trying to find our trucks, as we had long missed the window to meet them. We headed back to the FOB. The rest of the trip was uneventful, thankfully. When we got back, we discovered the trucks we were trying to escort had arrived. They had passed us while we were pulling security.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Get it right

Just wanted to put up a link to this post. His experience is not unusual, the Iraqis are very friendly, hospitable people. I heard some talking head interviewing another talking head a few days ago about Iraq -v- Al Qaeda, saying "why are we fighting Iraqis?" I am getting really tired of this being the depiction of the War. We are not fighting the Iraqis! We are fighting in Iraq, alongside Iraqis, against terrorists. Many are from other countries, some are from Iraq. So for the record, we are not at war with Iraq. We are at war in Iraq. There is a difference.