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.