Saturday, December 29, 2007

Operations for Dummies


I wasn't going to post for a few more days, but this is just too damn funny. I know my buddy CI Roller Dude will especially like this. The funniest thing though is the fact that this is way more accurate than the real FM. Sorry if this doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to my civilian readers, but trust me - this shit is funny. ht to B5

The Army has a lot of processes that it is still trying to figure out. Don’t worry about these things. Just be happy if somebody actually gets you an order that you can understand in time for you to do something about it.
Oh and be sure to read all the way down to the glossary. My favorite:
Soldier: Individual speaking in expletives and wearing cool-looking digital camouflage that doesn’t blend in with anything.
Happy New Year to All.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Just a simple post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, as you can see we are in the spirit here. With the Muslim holiday of Eid falling just before Christmas this year, things have been relatively quiet here. Thanks to everyone for all the support and care packages.

I am going to take a short break from the updates, but don't worry - you all can look forward to more smart ass comments after the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Runnin' and Gunnin'


OK, I am officially NEVER going to write NSTR or "same ole' shit" again! The day after I posted Update:NSTR, all hell broke loose here. A very important someone was assassinated by an EFP here, and within a few hours everyone in the city with a gun was firing it into the air. The base defense guys were freaked out and more than a few bullets fell on the ground near people inside the base.

Timing being what it is for me, we were nearby when it happened and were one of the first American units to respond. The MPs showed up to collect evidence and talk to witnesses, but our main job was to keep our Partner Force from killing the nearby Iraqi Police. For those who haven't followed the drama here, the IPs, as they are known, are suspected of being heavily infiltrated by militia members, and so since the EFP was emplaced within sight of an IP checkpoint our Jundees almost went to war with their own Police Force. Luckily we settled that down, but soon information was flowing in like crazy, and we were rolling out on targets we had never heard of before. Either way, four nights in a row we hit target after target. Every night the same mix of excitement and fear - all your aches and pains are gone until you wind down at the end of the mission. Every night we rolled with our Partner Forces. Like the cavalry we came. We came fast and furious on them, unprepared for our speed and violence, they we were ours. How the Iraqis knew so much about who to hit so fast is a mystery to me, but every night the detainees from last night gave up a new set of targets.

Imagine you are in a dark and cramped Humvee, planted in your seat by the weight of your gear. You have the accelerator pinned to the floor, almost standing on it really, using the steering wheel to pull yourself forward to be sure you get every last horse out of that engine. With lights out, you scream into a village, soon dust envelopes you and all you can see are the two red tail lights of the Iraqi truck in front. You can taste the dust, feel it, it works into your pores. "Where the fuck is he going?", "Is this the house", "Fuck, fuck, drive, drive", "Shit, get out of here." "Move, move, get those fucking Iraqis moving!!" Then an explosion. You feel the concussion wave more than you hear it. And the smell and taste of it makes you gasp for fresh air. Pandemonium. Well, to the untrained eye maybe. Everyone is steel faced and everyone is focused. Doing their job. Trusting that the other guy will do his. Soon it is over, and how ever critical we may be of ourselves, we have bested the enemy and no one is even hurt. You RTB (Return to Base) and the sun is coming up. You are tired, but really that is not the word for it. Dead tired? No, not sure how to put it, but it takes a while to "Amp-down" and sleep. But sleep you do, sleep like the dead. Then up and at it again another day.

And so it was. Now we are "back to normal" as it were. But, now at least, we are past the "early in the deployment work as hard as you can" mode and into the "main deployment, make sure you get rest so you are ready for anything at any time" mode.

As for our media visit, you'll have to buy the book to find out about that, but much to my shagrin a lot of footage was shot for a special to air in the Spring. Not to be defeated, I remembered the advice of an old Platoon Sergeant of mine (no, not pee every chance you get, you never know) - when it comes to the media, be cordial, but drop the F-bomb as much as possible and they will edit you out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What we have Wrought


Thought for the day - "The Americans promised they would make Iraq a symbol of liberty and prosperity. Now it has neither."

As I have said before no one I know takes pride in defending the Islamist parties in power. They are corrupt and incompetent, and almost certainly backing the Islamification of Southern Iraq and in the pockets of Iranian agents. Women, especially, are certainly much worse off than under Saddam, at least by many accounts. I can't say much about the alternative, because that goes against official policy and I don't want to run afoul of the State department.

Of course, we shouldn't expect too much from a country like this, they can't live up to American expectations in such a short time frame, and there are many, many good Iraqis trying hard to bring forward a better future for their country. But it will take time and it will take blood. And when I see stories like this - "Bad" Women Raped and Killed - it really makes me hate this place.

If you need a lift after such a negative post, check this blogger out PPT Ranger- pretty funny stuff.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chirtmas Mookie


Tried to write an update today, but I am tired, have a headache, my feet are killing me, and this cough I have had for two months makes me see stars every time I have a coughing fit.

Things here have been interesting which doesn't necessarily mean good, but I'll save that for a proper update. I have gotten and shared a bunch of care packages - I am way behind in getting thank you e-mails out, but we are all grateful. I must say Hope's cookies are very good, but the brownies, holy shit what did you put in them?? Guys were fighting each other to get another brownie, I mean it - people were being thrown on the floor, out the door, etc.

Anyway, I am going to throw back a few beers and pass out, but thought you all might enjoy a peek at our early Christmas spirit - to the right is a picture of the Christmas Mookie. It is not well know, but Muqtada al-Sadr dresses up as Santa at the Iraq suug (marketplace) and hands out gifts and good tidings for all the little hajji's. One of his most popular gift is the lego advanced IED kit and the Mookie action doll with suicide belt.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Murray


This is Murray, he is the biggest ass on camp.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Update: NSTR

Well, really not too much to report here. One day after the other of the same shit. Today was a little weird in that, while I guess it wasn't technically a sandstorm, the sky was filled with dust and looked alternately gray and orange, with the sun just a silver disk in the sky. Some random thoughts to bore you with:

  • We've got a media personality coming here, so we're going to have to get cleaned up, keep our uniforms clean and take him out on something or other so he has a story. More later.
  • Someone up high threw a fit that we are wearing DCUs instead of ACUs. Honestly, I could give a shit, but the fact they are worried about that when we aren't getting the support we need for our missions really pisses me of. (For the record, ACUs melt and stick to the skin when on fire, DCUs don't. That and the Iraqis we roll with wear DCUs, so we stand out less - which is good.)
  • I think Bill Gates is a terrorist - if it weren't for all these stupid fucking PowerPoint presentations we have to do, we might actually get out and fight this war. I swear there are whole classes of Officers who can't write a cogent fucking sentence, but can animate the shit out of Powerpoint with sound and swirling text and all the nonesense. These guys are intimidated by the written word and need everything to be "visual". As the best sales rep I ever knew told me, "these guys are all sizzle and no steak."
    "I must say I started to see more bad plans with good slides approved over good plans with no slides."
    - Robert Walsh
  • We are having a terrible time trying to get translators - If you are a Titan/L3 stockholder you should sell your stock, these idiots are giving up margin every single day by not filling our requests. We've even taken the step of finding the local terps, interviewing them, and recommending them - but the Titan/L3 managers won't get off their lazy asses to do the work to get us terps so we can push our Ops. If you are a Titan/L3 executive, e-mail me and I will lay the smack down on you!
  • There is a mosque in town with American, British, and Israeli flags painted on the ground, so all the followers of peaceful Islam can wipe their feet on the flags on the way in. I am thinking about getting a few copies of the Quran for the latrine.
  • Speaking of Israel, Iraq is a country run by rumor, these people will believe the most outlandish rumor before even considering the truth. People near our base are afraid that when we get mortared, the mortars will bounce off our forcefield and hit their house, that we have Israeli spies working in our kitchen, and Iraqi is messed up because our Blackhawks spray "stupid gas" on people. No, seriously.

Umm, what was I saying?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tagged

Thanks (i think?) to Katana for tagging me for a meme. The rules are that I must (1) List 7 random facts about myself, (2) tag 7 people, and (3) leave a comment on their blog letting them know.

So Katana tagged me like weeks ago, and I didn't even know what the hell a meme was/is. And I don't even know 7 people with blogs who I can tag, but..... in the interest of giving my readers something different, here goes:

1. I don't deal well with authority and hate being told what to do. (I know, I know, what am I doing in the frikin' Army? Well, I'm in the Guard.)
2. I have a tattoo of the Tasmanian Devil on my shoulder. Few people outside my unit know this.
3. I am totally that white guy who is only mainly interested in Asian girls, especially American-born. Why, ask valleygirl, she's done the analysis.
4. While I am the guy who makes friends with everyone, and can get anything anywhere from my connections, in truth I am an introvert, and have to recover in solitude for all the time spent talking to people. I retreat to my books and blog.
5. My wife is truly my best friend. I don't understand my friends who always complain about their wives. I'd rather be with her then out with the guys.
6. I never thought I was any good a learning foreign languages, but since I first joined the Army I have learned to get by in 4 languages. Czech, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Iraqi. Of course once I am "done" needing a language the vocabulary has gone for all but Czech, and of course Iraqi.
7. When it comes to Pirates versus Ninjas, I am without a doubt in the Pirate camp. Most ninjas run around in their long underwear, never have any fun or pick up cool women. And since discovering their source of power, the mystique surrounding Ninjas just isn't there anymore. Pirates, arghh, pirates on the other hand party ALL the time(like me), drink rum while working(again like me), and always, I mean always get the girl (ok, not so much). They know that rampaging through a coastal town shouldn't be all work. Now ninjas, they would just kill everyone and leave, not pirates. Exception: Katana is the only cool Ninja I know.

Tag your it? Damn, I am such a loser, I am only able to tag my buddy CI Roller Dude!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Seriously, who could support such idiocy?

One of the worst things about being here in Iraq is that we are defending the democratically elected Islamist parties in power. Here are some of the great things Sharia-based laws have brought us this week. If you are of the mind that we need to "accommodate" this type of Islam in America, please do me a favor and kill yourself right fucking now.

  • A 20-year-old Saudi woman has been sentenced to be lashed after pressing charges against seven men who raped her and a male companion. (Whoa Tonto, did catch that last part right? Homosexuality is banned under Islam, but that only applies to catcher apparently. Ask any Afghan Vet.)
  • Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." (I have named my roll of toilet paper Muhammad, bring it!)
Not sure yet, well, while it is true, Catholic Wedding vows include the phrase "A silent wife if a gift from the Lord" (wink, sis), the Quran (4:34) orders a man to beat his wife if she doesn't obey him? Check it out over at The Apostates of Islam Anyone tries to treat my daughters that way is going to get the ass beat - and not by me.

UPDATE:
Thru my friends at a three letter agency, I have been able to get satellite imagery of the protest in Sudan mentioned above. Just don't tell anyone where I got this.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Running on Java and Jolt

"It is impossible to know who to trust here - the best advice is to trust no one"


That is surely the best advice I got from the outgoing team, and if I didn't hear it from CI-Roller dude, I am sure he would have said it. Everyone here you work with wants something from you and has some scam they are trying to run. People show up every day with some urgent information we should drop everything in order to discuss. Most of it is crap, or recycled intel they were able to sell to the last rotation, or the FOB down the road. Or worse, they are from the "enemy/insurgent/AIF/ACF/freedom fighter/Abu dirt-bag/take-your-pick" and they are trying to figure out what we already know.


My Gun Truck
If you look really closely, you can see a Hula girl on the hood. Nice touch, ehh?

There's LNs, short for Local National employee - we have all kinds on the base, cleaners, guards, a cook, etc. All seem nice, but ... they all live here, and they will still live here when we're gone, so they are easily extorted is my guess.

Then there's the local interpreters, man I haven't seen so much drama since Bosnia (yeah, SFOR14, you know what I mean) - I can't even go into it, but we had to clean house on these dudes. Shady.

Last but not least is the force we are supposed to train up and support. Mostly these are good dudes, some are real Soldiers. But there are some who are insurgent informers I guess, some are in it to make money one way or another. And every time they tell you something, the first thing going thru your head is, okay what is he getting out of this?

With all this your guard is always up. Everyone always smiles at you, says "Salam", seems to be so friendly, and so interested in you. "America, good, good." Man, I'm from the East Coast and I don't trust anyone who's always smiling at me. I always feel better when I'm with the Joes, and Tarzan or Shameless says "What the hell are you looking at?"



So, business continues to be good here. The days tend to blur together, especially when we have operations at night, or we get mortared when I'm trying to sleep. Nobody even notices the occasional gunfire anymore, the Iraqis shoot in the air for just about any reason.

So night ops, they suck, it is hard to see anything when we are speeding down a road, and the truck in front of you throws up dust everywhere. And then there's the roads that look like roads on the map, but, when you get there, there's no f'in road. Okay, its a rush too, especially if we nab a target, or grab a cache. That's one less chance someone innocent gets killed. And that's what keeps me motivated at least.

Speaking of night ops, I have to make my first product endorsement - Jolt Gum. This caffeinated gum is just what a Joe needs after a long day followed by a night mission. A special thanks to Jacki who sent us a bunch - the guys love the stuff and it surely kept a few tired drivers alert. And check it out, I found this when I searched for their link - Jolt supports the troops.
If you need more gum (and we know you do), rest assured all online orders shipping to a military address get bonus free gum. We always throw a bunch of free packettes in the box to help you when you're humping through the muck and need an extra boost.

Good luck and get home safely.
Now they really have my endorsement.


BTW, we had a good Thanksgiving, and Thank You to everyone who has sent care packages, well wishes, support e-mails. We really are well taken care of by you all. Today we even got a few packages that had Christmas decorations, so we've started to put those up.

The care packages have been a big boost - a few requests we do have are dried fruit, since we have a hard time getting fruit, along with nuts (especially Pistachios, we can't keep 'em around) for protein, we do want beef jerky and popcorn, and baby wipes. I know other bloggers have said not to send some of these things because they are over stocked with it, but believe me, we don't get that stuff here.

Okay, I am going to try to end on a positive note, and that is I really am amazed at the stars here - they are so bright and clear. I love being outside at night (except when the moon is up [;) to gaze at the stars, they are amazing here. The only thing is Mars is always high in the sky, often right overhead, shining down angrily over Iraq. How appropriate.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from Iraq. Here, well it is just another day. Another day out on the road, in training with the Iraqis, another day trying to put together the pieces of several puzzles, of trying to sort through, of trying to get through.

But then it is also not any other day. The most American of Holidays, it is a day to set aside differences and sit around the table and enjoy the bounty of our land together. To enjoy the company and conversation of good friends and family. It is a day not to take for granted.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to you America. And be Thankful – for the food on your table, the roof over your head, the safety of your loved ones, the peace you enjoy in your neighborhoods. For that is not normal in the course of human history, or in much of the world today.

And Thank You, America, for your support. Thank you anonymous strangers who have stopped me in the airport, at the store, at the gas station to say thanks and share a story of a relative who also served. Thank you my wife, my mom, my family and friends. Thank you readers who send encouragement and support. Thank you my fellow Warriors. Today as I have a modest Thanksgiving dinner prepared by the best Army cooks, it is for all of you I am Thankfull.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Something Right in Iraq, Something Wrong in Massachusetts

Something Right

Check out Michael Yon's latest piece about the re-opening of St John’s Church in Baghdad.

Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.”
Something Wrong

Some idiot in Cambridge (People's Republic of Massachusetts) complained about the Boy Scouts there collection toiletries for our deployed troops (like me, who can't get any toiletries other than what my family mails me.) So the City government, based on the complaint of one whiner, caved-in and took the boxes away. Grow a pair pal, and stand up for what is right. Doesn't anyone teach their kids that anymore. Or I guess he wouldn't have actually gotten his position is he did that. Check it out here, here and here. The Scouts apparently spent $1,500 of their money to get this all set up. Please show them your support, for they stood with us.

Boy Scouts of America
Troop 45
PO Box 38-1241
Cambridge, MA 02238

Scouts of Troop 45 - We are with you, for you understand Duty, Honor, Courage, and Selfless Service. Let me know if there is anything I could send you from here as a heart-felt "Thank You."

And if you want to let Cambridge know how you feel about this, here is their contact info:

Marsha Weinerman:Executive Director

Cambridge Election Commission
Phone: (617) 349-4361
Fax: (617) 349-4366
Monday:8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Tuesday to Thursday:8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday:8:30 a.m.-Noon

Email to:Elections2@Cambridgema.gov

Now, if you oppose the war in Iraq, as many Americans do, I can respect that. I can even respect voicing your opposition in public - it is a right I am sworn to defend. But to oppose Government policy, by attacking, disparaging, or preventing support for our Troops is wrong, dim-witted, and cowardly. Soldiers don't make National Policy, your elected Representatives do. If you are really opposed to this war, then put something at risk to end it. Get out on the street protesting, lobby your Representatives, do something. Oh, but that's right you're a coward, and you aren't going to do something that might expose you, are you. Or maybe you're just opposed to it because everyone else is, like so many sheep. Much easier to anonymously pick on some Boy Scouts.

I got something waiting for ya'

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank a Veteran Today

Happy Veteran's Day to all my fellow vets. Especially Bill, Jim, 'Widge, and the SFOR crew. And of course all you 'knucks in the Battalion. If you know a Veteran take the time to thank them today for the sacrifices they've made for our Nation.

I know I haven't written lately, I'm working on an update post, but I do want everyone to know I am doing fine - the hours have been 16+ a day, so it's been hard to carve out the time. Also thanks from me and the boys for the care packages that have come in! It is always nice to have a little something from home when you need a lift.

Lastly, I want to put another plug in for my effort to raise money for Soldiers Angels. Anything bought through my Amazon storefront, or anything bought thru the Amazon search box (both to the right) will result in a commission (less taxes) I am donating. I will also be donating my Adsense revenue. So, while won't encourage additional consumption - if you are going to by it anyways, consider coming thru this page to Amazon and help those Soldiers in need.

~SG

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Holding our collective breath

Three IEDs were found in the small city we operate out of today. What is significant about this is that all three were called in to the IPs by local citizens who noticed something out of place. The police handled each one, and although one blew up not far from our gate, no one was hurt.

Things could still go to hell here, but everyday there is a little more news that things may really be turning a corner. To paraphrase General Petraeus, we'll really only know long afterwards when and if that has happened. For now I am going hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

"Six months ago, I wouldn't dare be outside, not even to stand near the garden gate by the street. Killings had become routine. I stopped going to work, I was so afraid," he said, chatting with friends on a street in the neighborhood.
-40-year-old al-Azawi

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Whump, Whump, there it is!

We folks, time for an update - I don't have lots of time to sneak these in, but work on it a a while each day, so what you get is a composite over several days. Fortunately I don't sleep much so this is my break from work.


The old team is gone and we have assumed responsibility for operations here (RIPTOA in army speak, or Relief In Place - Transfer Of Authority.) The outbound guys answered some last minute questions, hit some golf balls off the top of a bunker, and wished us well. We had an alert that there could be a mortar attack, and the guys who were leaving were anxious to get the hell out of here - Soldiers are superstitious about being in harms way when they're short (close to going home.) I said good bye and thanked Mike for his help transitioning his work to me.

I had just gotten to my hooch to try to get 20 minutes of sleep before going back to work, when I heard what I thought were mortars a few clicks to the north, I ran outside to see if we needed to man our mortars to fire counter-battery. But the impacts were loud, and one of the guys is on the radio, he says the are hitting a base about 6 clicks away, so to be that loud its either a large 120mm mortar or the Iranian rockets that hit Victory a few days before we got there. The sounds of "whump, whump" goes on for a while. Now the old team really wants to get out of here.

Iraqi Blood pays for the Resistance
Turns out even though it was a large barrage it was poorly aimed and while a few Americans are hurt, the only people killed are Iraqis who were unlucky enough to be near by. And so it is throughout Iraqi - the militias care little about whether they kill innocent Iraqis as long as they burnish their credibility by attacking Coalition Forces. These poor Iraqis were killed by rockets made in Iran and sent to Iraq to keep the blood flowing.

Picture Mister, Picture!
We've been out on several presence patrols already, and different areas of the city have very distinct feelings - from outright surprise at seeing a US patrol, to anger, to cordiality. Everyone is of course guarded, as if they are being watched, which of course they are. One thing that is common tough is the kids:
  • everywhere they have their hands out expecting something - candy, a soccer ball, whatever. We'd brought some candy to handout and one teenager wasn't impressed - "you're gonna me this? this is bullshit" he said in perfect English to the Captain.
  • and, as Michael Yon and other Milbloggers have commented on, everywhere they want to have their picture taken, even tough you'll obviously never be able to send them the picture.
Just like 1500, but with cell phones
I was talking to a local about the history of the area and the outlook of the people in the area, and his response really surprised me:
Don’t let the cell phones and satellite dishes fool you – these people are living in the middle ages, at least as far as their mentality goes.
His point was that like the Church in Medieval times, the Imams held the real power here in Shialand. I'll have to see how that plays, our, but I have heard similar sentiments from other OIF vets.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Iraqis reach out

This is a story that should get more coverage - I picked it up over at Michael Totten. It seems that an Iraqi unit decided to raise money to help the victims of the fires in California. Much more than the money involved, it says something about the Iraqis themselves and the bonds they have formed with the Americans they have worked with.

In a speech given during the presentation, Col. Abbass (the Iraqi commander) stated that he and the Iraqi soldiers were connected with the American people in many ways, and they will not forget the help that the American government has given the Iraqi people. Abbass was honored to participate by sending a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego, to lower the suffering felt by the tragedy.
Soldiers in my unit had their families evacuated from their homes last week, so this touched them particularly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some things just don't translate

I am working on a update post, but I have been incredibly busy. And on top of working late every day (it 0112 right now and I am just going to sleep) the call to prayer blares out every morning at around 0445 and goes on and on.

However, I found this in the laundry trailer and had to share.




If you notice there are lemons in the upper left hand corner, making this lemon barf. I checked the label to see where this was made - can you guess? Who would have thought we'd have Iranian barf to wash our clothes with. You just can't make this shit up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Inshallah

Well we are getting settled in here and the old crew is filtering out. We have been out several times to other local US bases our Iraqi Partner Force HQ and their training camp. The Iraqis play very good hosts and always have lunch prepared for us, and/or Chai (tea) depending on the time of day. So far it has just been meet and greet type stuff, and the Iraqis are always asking for more support from us, even though our focus is to teach them to stand on their own (so we can stop coming here.) But it seems that this unit gets very little support from Baghdad, and according to the commander of this battalion sized element, the main reason is they refuse to function as an extension of the Dawa party. Of course, everyone here has an agenda and we have to be careful about taking anything at face value. People will say “Well, that’s how Arabs are.” But I saw the saw thing in Bosnia, and you get the same thing dealing with Organized Crime in the States. People only give you information if they get something out of it – the trick is to figure out how they stand to gain. Come to think of it I have had the same experience in consulting.

Anyhow, during our first meeting, the Major was discussing some issue the Iraqis want our help with, and he was saying we would do what we can to look into it, being careful not to make any promises. Major M thought he would show a little cultural sensitivity and threw in “Inshallah”, which means God willing, and is used to avoid taking any accountability for your commitments, since if you fail to deliver it was God’s will. And who are you to question God.

Of course, this is not the Iraqi’s first rotation – he has been here dealing with Americans since we arrived. His response:

Is that an American Inshallah or an Iraqi Inshallah?
Doh! They know Americans value their word, and he would like us to commit to providing direct support and pressing his government as well.

The city itself is fairly quiet, sure there is sporadic gunfire and the occasional mortar, but it isn’t as bad as some of the other places out there. The weather has been excellent, great shorts weather in the day and a little cooler at night. A river runs through the city, and it feels a little less arid – maybe that’s all in my head. So right now we’re starting to get into a routine, workout, work and train, rest, sleep, pull guard duty, start all over.

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Country

After the long months of training, we are finally here in Iraq. It took almost 4 days altogether to get to our Firebase, transiting thru Ireland, then Kuwait, and Baghdad. We rested in Baghdad for a little over a day before hopping on Blackhawks for a night time flight. Just as last time, it was the coolest part of the trip, the moon was partially obscured by clouds and was a mean red color. Its reflection kept appearing in the waterways we passed over like some angry sprit. This time we were sitting on the edge of the deck in the door - due to all our gear taking up the rest of the space. My leg eventually fell asleep. Even so it was pretty cool.

While that was the coolest part of the trip, the best part of the trip was in Shannon, Ireland. Of course, every time I am there I am sure to have Guinness. This time I had 3 pints, and it sure pissed of the Marines who were in the terminal too and under orders not to drink. Too bad, I didn't force them to join. My fondest memory of Shannon tough is when I landed there on St. Patrick's Day in 2004 when we were redeploying from Bosnia. That was awesome to have my first (legal) beer in months in Ireland on St. Paddy's Day.

That's all for now - got to go do some work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Calm before the Storm

Well, things have really dropped off in the last few days. After a final flurry of hectic-ness, we are now just waiting to go. Flights in the military are not like in real life. Our departure date keeps changing, so we just try to take care of last minute things, work out, and keep out of trouble (well, not everyone.)

A few weeks back, we had a Battalion meeting for one last time before we go. When I say we in this case, I mean my NG unit, not the Active Battalion I am attached to. Our guys are scattered across an entire Group. So it was cool to see everyone in one place. Of course there were various assembled dignitaries as well - mostly they said the same tired things Generals and Politicians can be counted on to say. "You're great", "We're proud of each of you", "I wish I could go with you." Really, well I have an extra M-4 and a turret position for ya' bud.

Generally, I could give two shits what these guys have to say. The highlight of the meeting was the awards given to my fellow Soldiers, recognizing them and their hard work, and the speech from our BC (Battalion Commander.) While 'Widge and I both have a rather negative view of the general level of leadership in the Guard, this man is an exception. No doubt this in part derives from the fact he has been deployed before and is also a cop who has (literally) put his life on the line for his fellow Americans.

The BC dismissed everyone who was not a Soldier in the Battalion and had the doors closed. I know I won't do it justice, but here are the things he said that stuck with me:

We have a real mission, a good mission, a mission we will all be proud of. Do your jobs and take care of each other. If you are thinking about doing something and you're not sure if it is right, then you are probably wrong and don't do it. ... Most of all do not bring shame on this unit. Do not bring shame on these men serving with you. Do not bring shame on yourself.

For you leaders - while Serving is an Honor, Leading ... is ... a Privilege

Leaders, your job is to take care of your men, that means they ... come ... first - they eat first, they sleep first, and their safety comes first. You like the rank, pay and prestige, well that is the cost. You can't put them first, you don't want the responsibility then resign and take off the rank.

There's a man I will follow into hell, as he lives the words he speaks. Too bad more don't get this.

Care packages for Grumpy

For my family and friends, if you are interested in sending out a care package for me and my commrades, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you my address. If you do decide to send a package, please review these rules compiled by other Soldiers:

Anyone else who is interested in adopting our team, I have set up a wishlist at Amazon. Certainly don't feel obliged, but we will definately appreciate it as our Firebase is lacking all the fancy facilities and AAFES vendors you see on CNN. You can get to our wish list below on the right under "Worthy Causes" [;) Or check it out here:
My Amazon.com Wish List

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Rule of One


Saw this in a comment over at Jack Army, and it is so true.

The "rule of one." i don't know if this is common knowledge or not, but the theory is:

in every group there is one real asshole.

if you can't identify him, then you're it.

Do you know if you are the one? Jack Army can help you figure it out fool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Srub and 2 Pins

Well we tried to sneak in one more jump today, but the winds were too high and it was scrubbed. On the other hand, we were able to promote 2 of our PFCs to Specialist today, which I was pretty thrilled about since it has taken waaaaaaay to long to get a certain nameless to sign the paperwork to get these guys their deserved promotion.

Now if we could just get our rocket scientist (yes, really, one of our Specialists is a Rocket Scientist in real life) promoted to SGT. Then again pigs may fly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Situation Normal

Things here are that weird Army mix of numbing boredom and pandemonium. At a moments notice everyone will be spun up that something has to get done 5 minutes ago, and all the while the (Master and) Commander is coming up with new checklists he wants on his desk - "by COB big Sarge." The next minute the entire team is hanging around with nothing to do, but no one leaves to take care of personal business because a new emergency could erupt at any moment.

Which reminds me of a little encounter between yours truly, and let's call him Chief (who ostensibly conducts our team meetings. I would like to say he facilitates our meetings, but that would be a lie.)

Anyhow, we were off to a mandatory Battalion meeting right before the start of the weekend. Everybody else was dismissed for the day - "go to the meeting then take off." Not us:

  • Chief: Okay, we need to head out to <place>, so make sure you are all there by 1400. Then let's get back here by 1630 in case there is anything to put out.
  • Grumpy: Uh, Chief, is there anything to put out?
  • Chief: That's what the meetings for.
  • Grumpy: *squints* Well, if there's nothing to put out then we don't need the meeting, so is there anything to put out.
  • Chief: We're gonna figure that out at the meeting.
  • Grumpy: *grimace* No, you're not following me. Does anyone here have anything to put out? If not, we can let the Troops go.
  • Chief: Damn it, I don't know - that why we need the meeting. Stop being so difficult!
  • Sergeant Major: Hey, are you still grumpy?
  • Grumpy: I told you, I'm not Grumpy, I'm bitter, get used to it
That was what led me to get my drink on, then somehow a party got started in my room, and my buddies drank all my roommates beer. (hic) Which may partially explain my previous post. But I won't have to worry about drunk blogging soon, more on that and G.O. #1 in a future post.

Among the men we sing that circus diddy (Thunder and Blazes, actually) whenever things start getting stupid. You know, "dunt-dut-duh-di-duh-duh", where the clowns coming running in, going in all directions. Gotta maintain a sense of humor or you'll break [;P


And in a post-script to the story of Ohmygodinajad speaking at Columbia, Iranian students didn't give him an ovation during his speech at Tehran University on Ocober 8th.
Mr. Ahmadinejad angered students and professors at the university after his election in 2005 when he appointed a cleric as the university’s president. Many liberal professors and students have been dismissed since then.
Student leader Abedini said that although Ahmadinejad responded to students' questions during his visit to Columbia University in New York last month, "he's not ready to listen to the questions of students at Tehran University and answer them." Well, I am sure we are all shocked that freedom of expression is repressed in that bastion of intellectual freedom that is Iran. At least the Iranians can be proud their students know how to stand up to a tyrant.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Filipina girlz

Is there anything better?

I was busting my team SGTs ass today that he didn't take me to the PI last year (knowing full well that he had no choice.) Too much. That is what I would ask for as an enlistment option, but I already have M - Irish/Filipina and every bit a spitfire. Love you girl.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sergeant Grumpy is announcing the opening of Sergeant Grumpy's Warrior Store in an attempt to do something for a great organization that truly supports America's fighting men and women - Soldier's Angels. I have set up a separate account just for this, and every cent of commission earned, less what I have to pay out in income tax, will be donated to Soldier's Angels.

I have put together an initial list of Grumpy books and movies I found relevant, instructional, or inspiring in the following categories:

  • Counterinsurgency Essentials
  • War stories
  • For Warriors
  • Professional Development
The store is powered by Amazon.com so aside from my recommendations, anything you buy there via my store will result in a small commission paid by Amazon.

Why did I pick Soldier's Angels? Well, actually I didn't the readers over at VAJoe's did when the voted in the Charity for Charities poll back in August. When I was thinking about doing this, I figured that was good enough of an endorsement for me. If I start generating enough traffic there, I'll consider donating to more places. Please support this effort and tell your friends. [;)

A little about Soldier's Angels in their own words:
Our mission is to provide aid and comfort to the military and its families, provide immediate response to hard situations, and make sure no soldier feels unloved.We start with letters, care packages, and comfort items to our deployed. We also help their families here at home as requested.

Through special projects, dedicated teams and individuals supporting our troops we hope to make a difference in the lives of our soldiers.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Widge says....

Iraq is ... like being in 1500 A.D. with cell phones. Check out my buddy's new blog Cop & Soldier thoughts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Corporal Grumpy?

Looks like someone else on the team is getting a little grumpy. The good Corporal has a ways to go to match me though, don't worry. [;)

The smile of a child

I've seen it in Bosnia, i've seen it in Iraq, and i've seen it in New Orleans - that look from a child young enough to believe you are Superman, or a being from another land capable of the miraculous. Unless you are a fireman, you probably have no idea what it is like to have children stop and watch you pass in rapt attention with a look of awe and admiration on their face.

That look . . . it holds the hope, the wish, the prayer that you will live up to their belief that you can save the day. That you can keep them safe. That you can make it okay.

That look. It is is the glory and the horror.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejadathon-and-on-and-on

US media has handed Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an unbelievable PR victory. Instead of refusing him the press time he was looking for, we have played right into his hands. This is especially true of the students at the supposedly "liberal" institution of Columbia. We can be sure the applause they gave him will be replayed on Iranian TV ad-nauseam.

They cheered a man who sanctions the murder (often by stoning) of homosexuals, men and women who have sex out of wedlock (in one case a couple was killed for holding hands in public), has advocated the destruction of Israel, and questions the Holocaust. Apparently, being a liberal does not mean you are a defender of Human Rights, only that you support anyone who opposes US policy. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Che all mass murders who were darlings of the left. Dictators around the world can take comfort from their concern for liberty.

In Iran, the media response was to celebrate Ahmadinejad's defiant visit to the "Lion's Den". Below are some quotes from the official Iranian news agency:

  • amid standing ovation of the audience that had attended the hall where the Iranian President was to give his lecture as of early hours of the day
  • The audience on repeated occasion applauded Ahmadinejad when he touched on international crises.
  • Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that the US has turned to a large prison where the media are keeping the American people away from truth.
  • "Iranians are the freest and the most intellectual nation in the world and are well informed of the daily news."



A man is known by the company he keeps . . .


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe discuss the need for unity of the developing states against the US and British neocolonialism.



With President-for-life Assad



Best Buddies Mahmie and Hewie




Just can't keep my hands off those Latin Lefties!!!!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Update on Grumpy

It's been a little while since my last post, but really there isn't a lot to say. The last few weeks have been non-stop weapons and tactics training. So much so that I have probably shot more in the last 2 weeks than in my entire Army career - I am talking about 10 solid days of shooting all day. Not sitting around all day to take your turn shooting 40 rounds, but shooting the whole day with multiple weapons systems. I also got to attend a prestigious shooting school in the Rocky Mountains I may post about in the future - but probably not [;)

This post is also a test of Blogger's e-mail posting since I can't be sure the Army won't turn off access to blogger.com, so I want to be sure I can get e-mail posts out. The only other problem will be internet access, since I will be forward.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Che was a murderer


Sergeant Grumpy is going to be away for a while, I'll post again as soon as feasible.

With the protests in DC recently, and the antics of MoveOn.org I am reminded of how fascist some on the far left can be. The have captured the Dems agenda thru aggressive intimidation. Many heroes of the left were mass murders, and if we had listened to these fools millions of people would still be enslaved by Communism in Europe.

And the recent desecration of the Vietnam Wall reminds me of a warning we received months ago at our Family Readiness conference as we were leaving home. We were advised to tell our families not to put out yellow ribbons or blue star flags. The reason it seems is that some sick people have been targeting homes with either of these and telling them their soldier had been killed in Iraq, or falsely asking for money for veterans. Sick and cowardly. I'd like to get my hands on one of these SOBs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Absurdity of the week

Rant Warning! OK, so I haven't been posting these weekly, but hey, there has been plenty of absurdity, trust me. The challenge is always where to start. So here's a few recent choice items.

Leadership:

  • My favorite quote from last week was "Ok, that's enough. Don't ask any more questions, it's complicated" So, let me get this straight - it's complicated, so in order for me to understand what it is I am supposed be doing I should not ask any questions. Hmm. Or is it that you don't understand and don't want a Staff Sergeant making you look stupid.
  • Most good leaders understand their subordinates are the one who make them succeed or fail, and seek out their buy-in and advice for major decisions - often we aren't even informed of major decisions until after the fact.
Training:
  • Being told we couldn't go to a questioning class because we have a lot of range time in September we can't miss. The problem is the training was in August. Trying to explain that to the SGM only gets you called a "whiner."
  • Sending the guys with the most experience to training and holding those who could use the training most in the rear to do admin bull.
  • Then sending off to another school the one guy who knows how to do the admin crap.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Winning Ramadi Primer


Today I am adding Michael J. Totten to the Sergeant's Required Reading. Not that he needs my endorsement, nor that he is just earning it - it has been delienquency on my part for not adding his site sooner. But with the workload lately I am only able to blog because I can't sleep.

I encourage everyone to read Michael's piece Anbar Awakens Part I: The Battle of Ramadi, especialy Soldiers going down range now with us. It provides great back story to the points being argued over in Washington the last two days.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, and the Al Qaeda proclaimed "Capital of the Islamic State of Iraq.” This is the province and city those arguing for withdraw pointed to as hopeless and proof we would never suceed in Iraq. I sat dumbfounded today as I listened to those same persons write off the success in one of the worst areas of Iraq because it is primarily Sunni. Meaning these tactics just won't work with Shia or mixed areas.

So if we lose we lose, and if we win we lose? Again politicians suck. Even if you favor withdrawl don't buy everything these people are selling, the truth is that both extremes are full of it.

Anyhow, do read his post for some on the ground truth you won't hear elsewhere.

“I didn’t realize until I got here that the problem in Anbar Province was 100 percent Al Qaeda,” he said. “The old Baath Party insurgency here is completely finished. That war was won and Americans, including me, had no idea it even happened.”

If you want to dig in more jump over to Michael Yon's four part Ghosts of Anbar - although it will make more sense if you have a basic understanding of Counterinsurgency(pdf), it stands well on it's own.

Read and discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's a Chuck Norris World

I can't add much to the debate following the Petraeus / Crocker report, other than to say the attacks on the General's integrity are below despicable. Soooo, instead I thought I would share some humor.

One thing I didn't mention from my Iraq trip is the latrine poetry - we've all seen it, whether in High School, airports, or sports venues. But I have to tell you, and my brothers and sisters in arms will vouch for me here - nowhere has it been elevated to such an art form as in the military.

It was the second thing everyone was talking about after the heat - did you see the art work in stall 6, yeah, what about the Nasty Girls rant in stall 2. But what seems to be as omnipresent as "I was here" are Chuck Norris facts.

What the hell are Chuck Norris facts? Well, here a few examples:

  • Chuck Norris doesn't shoot erhabee (Iraqi for terrorist), he stares them down until they explode.
  • Chuck Norris does not sleep, he waits.
  • Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. Ever.
  • The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist.
  • Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.
  • Time waits for no man. Unless that man is Chuck Norris.

Can't get enough and want more, well someone has taken the time to compile Chuck Norris facts for your reading pleasure.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bad guys get theirs

I normally won't post twice in one day, but this is just too good.

Allah Akbar!


The planning these guys go thru is a nice touch, too bad they were stupid enough to go thru with it.

Rats from a sinking ship

Well the latest here is that our unit is being carved up, all of our teams are being attached to a different company, and about half of the non-eighteen series guys are being sent either to battalion or echelons above reality. I am the only intel Soldier left, and so all the admin crap T had been doing dropped in my lap. I hate admin crap. Usually, when something like this is happening to a unit, people fight to stay on the team, but not here, no. Everyone wants out, and I'm stuck. My reward for work well done maybe?

Not sure where I want to be now. On the one hand, I will be close enough to the action to be able to influence action on the ground, but only in one small geographic area. Being at a higher echelon doesn't always translate into great impact, since every unit distrusts the echelon above it, and are convinced they are out of touch with reality.

There's a moral here about human interaction, something that holds as true on the battlefield as it did when I was developing software with remote teams. Nothing replaces meeting people face to face. I could provide a team with the same intel as the analyst at battalion, but because he never leaves his desk and walks over to the team room, they think "he doesn't know shit, sitting up there with his head up his 4th point of contact"

That's my ramblings for the day, in the end it's not up to me where I go, but it does suck having all my friends pulled off the team.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

15,000 miles in 10 days

I am just back from a short trip to Iraq to survey the area my unit will be deploying to and doing some initial coordination with the unit we will be replacing. This is a standard thing, but it is still a lot of travel time compared to a relatively short time on the ground. Nonetheless, we learn a lot about our AO, the current situation and what short of equipment and facilities we will inherit.
A quick overview of the trip is that we flew from Ft Campbell to Kuwait with a stop in Europe on a chartered commercial aircraft. All the military chartered commercial trips I have been on have been with airlines I have never heard of, this time it was North American Airlines, which oddly flies to African cities. We landed at Kuwait International and were transported to an Air Force base awaiting a flight to Baghdad.



What Kuwait is like I couldn’t tell you, except for the sand and heat, because that’s all we saw. When I woke up the first morning we were there, and stepped out of our air-conditioned tent, I couldn’t see it was so blinding bright – and I had my dark WileyXs on! The heat was as bad as any I’ve felt in the summer of Arizona, like sticking your head in an oven and trying to breathe without burning your lungs. Eventually we caught a hot, sweaty flight on a C-130 in full combat gear to Baghdad International. There we rested for a few hours, then assembled at an HLZ to await birds to take us to our destination. We stood, sat, and finally laid there for hours on the tarmac, under the moon and stars of hot dusty Baghdad night while our pick up time was moved several times. Then almost without warning two birds came in fast overhead and the rotor wash blew our gear (and some of us) all over the place.

Despite all the BS and deprivation we have to put up with, we also get to do some of the coolest shit in the world – and for me the helo flights in and out of our Firebase were one of those moments. Flying over the Iraqi countryside with the doors open and lights off, all of us sitting in silence, - well it is hard to explain what that’s like. Much like my 1st jump I guess. Anyway, that’s how we got in, and pretty much the reverse of that is how we got out.

While en route we were put up in one of Saddam's old palaces, and got to visit a couple of others that are occupied by our forces. The places were so overdone with marble and chandeliers, just what you would expect from a thug-king. Opulence without a trace of elegance. And of course you could only imagine what horrors may have occurred there, especially in any of the homes used by his sadistic sons.

But the base that was our real destination was nothing like that. It reminded me very much of Camp Doboj, where I served for a while in Bosnia. Not that it looked like it at all, but in the way it was primitive - no amazing chow hall run by KBR, no PX, no movie tent, no top-notch gym. What it lacks in facilities though it makes up for in freedom, like the fact there are no Sergeants Major uniform police - the type I ran into in Baghdad who will spend 18 months in country and never leave their air conditioned office, and whose biggest concern is whether or not my boots are properly bloused.

The days spent at with the Soldiers we will replace was productive, and there was a ton of information to digest, a lot of our questions were answered, but of course, a whole new set now confronts us, and I expect there will be a lot of changes soon.

"I can't help but feel a little betrayed"

The unit we will replace is not in the current limelight of the fight against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, they are focused on the other side of the insurgency - the Shia militias, and their support networks. These folks are primarily responsible for the deadly IEDs called EFPs, for which there is really no defense. These nasty devices have killed some of their friends, and they want nothing but to take these networks apart. But our current focus on the Sunnis and our aversion to confronting al-Maliki over his support of Sadr and the Shia militias makes it very difficult to go after these guys.

So it is politically expedient to let our Soldiers and Marines die rather than to deploy the extra troops needs to shut down the Iranian border, patrol the areas the British have given up on, attack the Shia when they attack us, and force Sadr to finally decide to move into the political process or get wiped out. And why we tolerate Iranian involvement to me borders on traitorous.

I know many may believe Iranian involvement is overblown or fabricated by our current leadership, but for the Soldiers tracking these issues in Iraq there isn't any question. And that is what generated the quote above.

Friday, August 17, 2007

National Airborne Day

Turns out today is National Airborne Day, which is well covered over at Blackfive, so check it out there.

Airborne!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

On the Soldier

I am going to be away from the net for a while and will not be posting for a week or so.

I've got a lot I'd like to post, and quite a bit of bullshit has happened that some will find humorous, but I don't have time to rant right now.

What I would like to share tonight is something about the character of a Soldier. While we might be crass, crude, occasionally vulgar, and of course dangerous under the wrong conditions it is also true that you will have no better friends than those you make in the Service.

Every day something happens that makes me pause and reflect on how it would never happen in civilian life. American individualism is one of her greatest characteristics, but it does also create a lot of self-centered, self-important people. The military however is a different culture, one more concerned about the needs of the many over the needs of the few (or the one.)

I can't speak from experience of other Services, although I believe it is the same, but Soldiers look out for each other. "Don't screw your buddy", "help your buddy", "look out for your buddy" - I've heard this thousands of times from Drill Sergeants, Platoon Sergeants, First Sergeants, and Sergeants Major. And I have seen it from so many of my buddies - putting their needs, their time, their priorities behind taking care of each other. And you can read in the stories from the war. Soldiers have an incredible capacity to stand deprivation and suffering for each other. Certainly I am not saying it is perfect, but it is a noble character I have observed time and again - not in the institution, but in the men I serve with.

Mainly I post this becauseI have been observing it daily and it has been on my mind how different it is from the business world I have spent most of my professional career in. Just on my mind I guess.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Surprising change in surge reporting

Well, maybe I shouldn't give up on the mainstream media just yet. While I have been getting frustrated by the disconnect between what on the ground journalists (such as Michael Yon and Michael J Totten and milbloggers have been saying and the drumbeat of defeat coming from the press and the Dems, something funny happened - the media is hesitantly starting to acknowledge what those who really understand counterinsurgency operations have been saying. Namely, the so-caled "surge", which much more than additional troops represents a radical change of tactics, is starting to have a noticeable impact.

As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory,' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
- Brookings Institution analysts Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack whose report has been broadly covered in the press

Attacks against U.S. forces were down sharply last month nationwide, and military officials have expressed cautious optimism that a security crackdown is working
-AP
This should be a cause for hope - after all we have spent much blood and treasure, and to have a chance for that not to be in vain is in the interest of every American of every stripe. But for certain members of the Democratic party, it is the worst possible outcome:

  • Most Democrats seem so invested in defeat in Iraq that they apparently have no 'Plan B,' which would be success. - Miami Herald
  • a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders are 'not willing to concede there are positive things to point to' in Iraq.
  • House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said that a favorable report from Gen. David Petraeus '(would be) a real problem for us'
  • Freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas, who unseated Republican Jim Ryun last fall, bolted from a hearing room when retired Gen. Jack Keane described positive developments in Iraq.

Politicians just suck.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Support Those Who Really Support Our Troops

While it has become cliché to say “I support the troops” without really doing anything to evidence that support, today I ask everyone who believes they support the troops to ask themselves what they are going to do today to lessen the pain and suffering of those who have paid a price for fighting on your behalf.

There are some great organizations out there who are dedicated to help our troops and their families, and here’s a great way for you to help them – visit VAJoe.com and vote for your favorite military-focused charity. VAJoe is going to donate $2,000 to the charities as follows:

  • Grand Prize—$1,000
  • 2nd, 3rd and 4th Places—$300 each
  • Raffle—$100 for a randomly selected charity
That money can do a lot of good – from helping a family left behind in need, to providing temporary housing, or fighting for quality care for those who are wounded. And while you are voting, consider donating to some of those great causes, either from VAJoe’s site, or using the banners in the right column of this very blog. Sergeant Grumpy has been a long time supporter of the DAV and the American Legion's American Legacy Scholarship.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Know Thy Enemy - An Iranian View

It is always instructional to try to look at things from the point of view of you adversary. In that spirit I have been reviewing the news posted on several Iranian news websites. My interest in Iran should be obvious, and you should be interested too, since, without question the Iranians are deeply involved in Iraq, certainly advising, and almost certainly training and arming insurgents who use that knowledge to kill Americans.

  • AP: The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.
  • ... the sophisticated weapons being used against U.S. troops in Iraq “were provided by the Quds Force,” a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
  • Sergeant Grumpy's own post Hezzbollah leaders capture ties Iran to Iraq
  • Milbloggers and military writers in Iraq are beginning to note improved aim, and less spray and pray from the insurgents they confront "They have attacked multiple targets simultaneously, and often target follow-on forces and first responders, such as medical personnel ... Some of their snipers are deadly and elusive. I've taken almost as much accurate machine-gun fire as inaccurate."
But don't take my word for it, here is what the "Supreme" (really, have anything but despots called themselves Supreme?) Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Saturday commemorating the birthday of Imam Ali (the first Imam of Shia Muslims)"The Zionist regime (Israel) and the American government are the main enemies of Iran, and hatred for America is deepening every day around the globe"

On to the Iranian view. Much like the USSR did in the Cold War, Iran sees itself beset by enemies on all sides - America occupies countries to the east and west, the Gulf to the south is dominated by Sunni states, including rival Saudi Arabia (look at the reaction in Iranian press to the Wahhabi Fatwa for the destruction of Shiite's holy sites and shrines.)
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi on Thursday urged Muslims to maintain vigilance to thwart the US and global arrogance conspiracies at regional and international scenes.

"The global arrogance, led by the US, intends to destroy culture of the Islamic nations in line with its ominous goals," he said.
In this view there is a global conspiracy to destroy "Islamic" culture. The logical response to this threat is for Muslim nations to band together in defence. For the Iranians, it is natural that this requires Iranian leadership ("Islamic Revolution" in the following quote.)
Impacts of victory of the Islamic Revolution on international equations are emerging under circumstances that the Muslim world has been turned into an international power against arrogance and enemies.

The end is around the corner and try what they may, the US and its surrogates including Israel are living on borrowed time
Iran also has cause to see itself under assault via covert action on the part of it's enemies:One point made surprised me somewhat, mainly because I haven't heard Islamists speak out against IT.
They wish to cause a change in typical structures and norms of the Islamic nations through information and communications technology (ICT) and military means.
This position aligns with others in the world who view the grip of Hollywood, and the access to information granted via the web as a plot by Washington to destroy local cultures.

So the narrative they tell themselves and attempt to sell to the rest of the Islamic world is that they are reacting in a logical manner in response to a real and pervasive threat to their religion, cultural heritage and way of life. Iran (in this narrative) is taking the lead in confronting the Arrogant West.
The geographic heart of the Islamic world is in Mecca and Medina. But, the political heart of the Islamic world is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is beloved among the Muslim nations and the Islamic Iran will strongly continue its way with the mottos of justice and people loving.
The ultimate goal is to "to turn the Muslim world into an international power through the next 50 years." Some advantages Iran notes this power has:
  • 1.35 billion population
  • 70 percent of the world's known oil resources and 48 percent of gas reservoirs are located in Islamic states (note the Iranian use of Islamic vice Muslim)
Of course, this largely ignores the Shia/Sunni schism that al-Qaeda is doing it's level best to aggravate. This is no small issue for Muslim society. It is entirely possible that a US exit from Iraq, coupled with al-Qaeda's murderous agenda, and Iranian-backed Shia death squads could plunge the area into an Islamic Civil War akin to the 30 Years War Christendom suffered in Europe.

Regarding their Nuclear program, Iranian news is at pains to show that Iran is in fact the victim of nuclear encirclement as well, and the development of a nuclear program (they will not say weapon until they detonate one) is purely logical from a perspective of self defense. Aside from the obvious nuclear threat from the US, Britain, France, and Russia there are nuclear programs being developed in Israel and Saudi Arabia. From the headlines of Iran Daily:
  • Saudi Arabia’s Secret Nuclear Program Exposed
  • Americans Helping Israel’s Nuke Plans
So what should we conclude from this? A few things - Iran is a State actor that sees itself as the ascendant leader of the Islamic World. Iran is not going to be intimidated, or made to cave in to pressure. That would violate their narrative. Iran will likely seek non-military confrontation with the West in order burnish these credentials. And while the US maintains forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran will seek to arm and train the insurgencies there, for good reason. It frustrates US plans, and it also allows Iranian agents to build networks and relationships to be leveraged later in the future struggles to topple Muslim regimes not in line with the messianic vision of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran would not likely move to attack the West outside of the Middle East, at least not while they attempt to consolidate the Muslim world to their particular banner of Islam. That of course is not to say that Iran wouldn't build intelligence networks in Europe and the US, along with "sleeper cells" for use in any future conflict with the West.

How to deal with Iran? Many of the best minds are working on this, and I can't hope to be more articulate than them - Google the web for their thoughts. But one thing is clear to this Soldier - the Iranians do not respect restraint, it only emboldens them. Doing nothing is not an option.

However, because Iran is a State it is interested in self-preservation and therefore is more like the Soviet Union than al-Qaeda, and there is room for firm negotiations, just as with the USSR. And Iran is anti-Wahhabi and may be worked with to oppose al-Qaeda and it's ilk. (In fact al-Qaeda recently threatened to attack Iran.) It has been widely reported that Iran was prepared to help fight al-Qaeda and was rebuffed by the neocons in the Administration. Quite possibly Iran can be contained and co-opted, given the right mix of threat of force and incentive for cooperation. Or, if we navigate this challenge poorly, we could end up in a 3-way US-Iran-Sunni Islamist fight. Either course of events promises to be difficult and historic.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mission First

Recently we finally received our mission.

For those who haven't served, your mission is what you and your unit's every activity revolves around.
mission [mish-uhn] -noun from the Latin missum (English: sent), is a specific task with which a person or group has been charged.
For a while now, we haven't had a mission. Yes, we knew we were being mobilized, and who we were being attached to, and what the general mission was. But there was an ever growing list of what our specific mission might be. In fact that list had grown from 3 to 5, then 7, 8, and finally 9. This is unusual. There certainly was plenty of questioning as to what a Guard unit could handle. Some of us were hoping for a rather sensitive mission, and there was some logic to it - after all none of our Active Duty counterparts are also civilian Police Officers. But the reality is we were never seriously in the running.

<aside>Police Officers who serve in the Guard are a significant asset when it comes to the conduct of any type of human intelligence operations. Especially if they have been beat cops. They are far more effective than the HUMINT operators the Army is trying to mass-produce from 18 year old kids.</aside>

In the end the mission we have been given is a good one, one we can sink our teeth into, and one if done well, with seriousness and professionalism can make a difference, even if it is just one small piece of the puzzle. As with much of life, it is what you make of it. Not that it won't be hard, and probably have its moments of horror, but it is ours.

Now that we have our mission, we can progress from general training and preparation for deploying to Iraq to specific research, planning, and training. It will also be the cause for some reorganization of the unit, "task organizing" in Army parlance, and we will probably lose a few of the guys who we have been training with since JRTC back in June.

I expect my own focus will become narrower, and I will have less time to follow the vapid and increasingly nasty debates over the war, much of it detached from the on the ground reporting.

It is sometime depressing to think I and my kind sacrifice for the Freedoms of such blithering idiots (again both sides: from those who are blindly anti-war, apologists for mass murders as long as they are anti-US; to those who advocate "nuken 'em" as every answer, or deny global warming simply because it is a cause of the left.) But at the end of the day I have to believe in the basic goodness of the average American, both because I have seen it, and because it gives the fight meaning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good week of training

I'll share a little more detail on what I've been up to of late. The last week has been nothing but range time and tactics training - exactly what a Soldier lives for. Outside on a firing range for 12-16 hours, or driving like mad men thru a fake city guns at the ready. Good stuff.

We spent a full day zeroing our rifles and sites, then zeroing our night sites. That can be fairly dull, but it is always good to review the basics of rifle marksmanship, and since we had new heavier barrels put on our rifles, they needed to be zeroed so we hit what we are aiming at.

Then we spent a few days firing the M2 .50 caliber ("Ma-Deuce") and the M240 7.62mm (this replaced the M60 for all you older vets.)

We fired first from static positions, mounted on vehicles, and simulating being engaged from the side.

Why tell you all this? Well, I was having a late night conversation with our XO, a great man we all have a lot of faith in, and we touched on the topic of preparedness. Now, we had been imbibing a little, and as happens that can make some of us (okay all of us) wax philosophical, but the question he put to us was do we feel well trained, well equipped, and well prepared for our mission.

As we answered, everyone had to more or less agree:

  • our equipment shortages are mostly closed, and there are good plans to address the rest
  • we have been getting some excellent training to address all our tactical skills
  • we've really come together as a team, from a band of strangers at JRTC
  • the remaining training lined up for us is exactly the kind of training we have hoped we would get
  • our Ops Sergeant has proven he will move heaven and earth to get us the training we need
Despite everything we feel ready for the task ahead, and their are many combat veterans among us who agree. Time will tell.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just a simple update.

This is a short update - I have been working my a$$ of at a MOUT site built for the 101st. Gotta give the 101st respect, but at the same time they are no longer a real Airborne unit - the 101st doesn't jump. So.... I am going on leave Friday to see my family, don't expect to hear too much from me then. BUT, I will respond to Paul, you are right and I won't disagree with you that it was Bush, not the the Dems, who got us into this mess, didn't listen to his military leaders, and, while winning the war f'd up the occupation.

However, those are all sunk costs. What we need to look at as is where we go next. I have an opinion, but in fact no matter what Congress decides I am pretty sure I will be there anyways. But we have to look at the present situation and decide which course provides the best benefit to the Nation. We should not be trying to minimize losses or worried about what other nations think, we should focus ondesireable outcomes. Kosovo was an "illegal" war, but no except the far right was upset about it. We need to look at where we are, and what the consequences are for pulling out.

A wise man once said - "the military doesn't make policy decisions". That is true. Do I want to go to Iraq, hell no. Do I want my son and daughter to have to deal with the consequences of our failure there? Hell no. So I am off to Iraq.

BTW, I have gotten a few requests for a picture, so here it is.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Absurdity of the week

Rant: We have been working pretty hard this week - on the order of 14-16 hours a day. Now, this isn't a problem in and of itself, because one of the causes is that we have some good training lined up. But yesterday we were forced to endure a 90 minute status meeting that started at 1600! 90 f'in minutes for a status meeting of a team of 20 Soldiers. WTF. Anyone who has worked with me knows how much this would drive me crazy. And again today we almost missed dinner chow because a few oxygen bandits wanted to hear themselves talk.

A few choice quotes from meetings like this:

  • "I know it goes without saying, but ..." if it goes without saying, then shut the hell up!
  • "I know the Sergeant Major just said this, but I want to reiterate ..." the Sergeant Major just said it, we all heard it and clearly so did you, so shut the hell up!
  • "I don't really have anything to added to that." (but then you proceed to restate exactly the same points that the person before you just said) Shut the hell up!
  • "Yada, yada, yada", "Excuse me chief, Sergeant Hammer just covered that.","Umhhh, oh, well then can you restate what the resolution was, I wasn't paying attention"Rrrrrrrrgghhhh!
  • Ah! Yeah. It's just we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that'd be great.OK, maybe I slipped into a daydream at this point, but PLEASE shut the hell up!


Absurdity II
"Democratic leaders engineered passage of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008. The measure envisions a limited residual force to train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and fight al-Qaida and other terrorists."
This is the same Congress that unanimously confirmed General Petraeus, promised to give him the support he needed, and heard him say he would need until September to report back on the progress his approach would make. For those who have never experienced it, this is called being set up for failure.

As I've written before, there are indications that progress is being made, but no one in Iraq is going to be motivated to follow through on these glimmers of hope if they see that we, America, are going to abandon them to the thugs who would terrorize them.

It is true that Iraqis want us to leave, who would want their country to be occupied? Well the Bosnians for one, and many Rawandans, and Sudanese I would guess. Many groups who were fighting US troops even last year have turned on al-Qaeda.

I was standing there with Abu Ali, with American soldiers and 1920s people milling all around. We had certainly killed a lot of his people, and the 1920s certainly had killed many American soldiers. During severe fighting with al Qaeda in April 2007, the 1920s reached out to American soldiers, and together they have been dismantling al Qaeda here in Baqubah and other places.

Al Qaeda’s ultimate failure in much of Anbar and now in parts of Diyala relates back to one of the pillars of success—or failure—in this war: Values.
-Michael Yon

Discuss amoungst yourselves.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Needles and blood.

Time for another update - I've had some time off for the 4th Holiday and been off the grid for a while.

This week we are doing a lot of medical training. Not your old school CTT stuff, training you could even use hiking or playing sports. Today's training is, as you would hope, much more focused on traumatic injuries and dealing with providing care under fire. I hate this training even though it is critical, mostly because I have a pretty visual memory and I find myself thinking about standing over my best buddy watching him die while while I scramble to try to save him with the little training I have. That, more than anything, is my biggest fear.

Part of our training is to practice giving each other IVs, and it can be humorous to watch guys fish around in another's arm trying to hit a vein. I don't enjoy doing this because I always seem to get the shakes right as the needle is going in. I manage to get it in the vein (most of the time) and not inflict (too much) pain on my practice partner. We do have dummy arms we can practice on, but everyone agrees they are no substitute for a living person.

So we all ended the day with a few extra holes in our arms. The best part of learning this is when we are hung over - we can just stick each other to rehydrate rather than trying to drink lots of water.

So angry

Today I just don't know how to reconcile my anger over the atrocities committed by our enemies with the fact that most Americans want us to up and leave and allow mass slaughter to occur.

There has been consistent reporting that things have and are changing for the better in Anbar, Baquba (North of Baghdad) and Babil (South of Baghdad.) But instead of focusing on these successes, where does the media focus? On those towns where al-Qaeda has now run to since they can't stand up to us or the Iraqi forces. Yes, if we focus on securing Baghdad, it, by definition, means that if more vulnerable towns are attacked, we can't protect them. That is the way it works, and that represents a major change in tactics, although most people can't appreciate that.

I've hesitated from writing much about recent events in Baquba, since they are simply too disturbing for most people, but if you want to read what has been happening, on the ground, from one of the few reporters actually with the troops during the ongoing Arrowhead Ripper, read Michael Yon's dispatches.Warning: While true, these reports are graphic and disturbing

Congress is calling for a change in strategy, but that has already occurred. I didn't leave my wife and kids to have the rug pulled out from under us. There is a significant change in our tactics, and if you can't see it, that is only because you haven't don't your homework.

I simply can't reconcile the desire to leave Iraq with the desire to intervene in Darfur, or the intervention in both Bosnia and Kosovo (I served in Bosnia and have heard the horrible stories and seen the killing fields, nonetheless I am proud that America was able to stop the genocide there.) But if we leave Iraq, there will be a massive civil war on the scale to make Rwanda look like little league killings.

We are making progress in bringing people to our side, here is a quote from an insurgent who is now working with us to hunt and kill al-Qaeda:

“I ask one thing,” and now I paraphrase Ali’s words: “After the Iraqi Army and Police take hold and the security forces are ready, we want a schedule for the leaving of the American forces.”
This is not unreasonable, and shows it possible to defeat al-Qaeada, AND leave Iraqi. As Michael Yon points out, Iraqis are finally starting to understand that we aren't there for their oil, and we certainly aren't there for their land.
The people we are fighting are nearly inhuman - if you dare say one man's terrorist is anther's freedom fighter, I will beat you down... There is nothing that justifies killing children because they run to American troops, cooking children and feeding them to their parents, decapitating little kids in front of their parents because they didn't support al-Qaeda. It makes me want to throw up, the more I read about the way al-Qaeda has targeted Iraqi children, the more I want to go fight.

If you are the type of person who gets upset over Abu-Gharib or Guantanamo, ask yourselves why is it you aren't bothered by the brutality of our enemies? People have criticized the U.S. for not being more active against Nazi Germany when the Holocaust was evident, but most of you are willing to abandon the Iraqi people. How do we respond to this kind of intolerance?

Evil must be confronted, through every means necessary. Sometimes that will include the use of force, no matter how repugnant that may be to some people.
"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truths have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
-R.A. Heinlein
And lastly a quote for all those in the country that feel free to criticize without actually risking anything themselves. What gives you the right? Because you won the lottery and were born American? Look in the mirror and answer to yourself what you have done to earn that blessing.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt