Some folks might find this post offensive, if you are the sensitive type then click here. If you choose to read this and get pissed off, I don't want to hear it. *grimace*
So, both times I've been deployed overseas, around the Holidays we'd get all these great kids cards from some of the schools back home. They really are awesome, and, well, no one can really articulate why, but these cards really touch most Soldiers (except for a few cold, heartless fucks). It is something about the little stick figures, the smiling sun, and the Army tanks running over terrorists. It just touches a Soldier's heart. Ehhm, getting a little choked up.....
So anyhow, last Christmas, I got a stack of these, and set them out for the guys to look thru before I was going to put them on the wall. A few hours later, I hear this commotion in the team room, and everyone was looking at one card and laughing hard. Some joker had stuck the following card in the pack.
Now remember, we were an all-male unit on an all-male base. And yes with no women around the humor was sophomoric, banal, and crude. Everyone got a good damn laugh.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Some folks might find this post offensive, if you are the sensitive type then click here. If you choose to read this and get pissed off, I don't want to hear it. *grimace*
Monday, November 24, 2008
Anyone who has worked in or around Military Intellignce has heard the term "Secret Squirrel", often something along the lines of - oh never mind them, they're doing that Secret Squirrel stuff. I never thought too much about it's origin, but when I was searching online for this shirt, I got back a link to this video. I had a good laugh.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
As is my normal routine at this time of year, I have begun planning for my tax return and looking at end of year tax moves. In the process of reviewing tax changes that have occurred since I deployed, I realized that there are a number of benefits related to the "tax free income" aspect of being in a Combat Exclusion Zone. This is something they do not brief us on as we redeploy, and it is something I think troops should at least be aware of.
If you are or have been deployed for a good portion of 2008, chances are you may well qualify for several of these tax goodies - check the IRS page for military members.
One item I would like to highlight here, which is not addressed (as far as I could see) is the Savers Credit. It is not really a military benefit per se, but it is a way to get Uncle Sam to pay half of your contribution to your IRA or Roth IRA. As long as your taxable income is below $15,500 for single Soldiers or $31,000 married filing jointly (2007's limit) you can get a tax credit for 50% of your contribution to an IRA, which is much better than what most employers are offering these days. These limits are normally too low for anyone over E2, but being deployed can quickly change that. You can still get some credit up until your income hits $26,000 single or $52,000 married. A lot of deployed Soldiers end up saving a lot and blowing it on a bike or a car - consider taking 2,000 to 4,000 of that and putting it in an IRA. On tax day you would then get half of that back in your tax return (assuming you don't owe taxes for other reasons.) Plus with the stock market down so much, you probably are getting a deal.
Disclaimer: I am no tax professional and this is not tax advice. Do your own research at IRS.gov
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Why isn't good news from Iraq getting more coverage. Well of course good news is no news. And all those who said the surge would fail, don't want that brought up right as it appears they are about to take power of two branches of the government. At least this election will be over soon, then maybe we can go back to paying more attention to sports than foreign affairs.
The decision by some women to shun the Islamic head cover, or hijab, is just one of the signs that Baghdad residents are growing increasingly confident in the past year's security gains.As for me, my water heater just went, so Barack and John - my vote is up for bid, whoever deposits more in my PayPal account will get my vote. I am sure the cost of all the RoboCalls and mailings to my house should just about cover a new water heater.
Friday, October 17, 2008
So I guess I suck as a blogger now that I am home, but the truth is the weather has been awesome, and I have been spending a lot of time 1) doing physical therapy 2) catching up on over a year of home projects and fixes. I am doing well and out of the sling, and gaining range of motion and strength little by little.
I haven't really been "energized" by the campaigns and am considering offering to allow the candidates to bid for my vote on eBay to help pay the bills.
As for the situation in the markets, I think The Economist gets it right.
Maybe more later?
Friday, September 5, 2008
My son is in Scouts and selling popcorn to help raise money for his Pack, and one of the options they have is to donate popcorn to Troops overseas. I thought that might appeal to some of my readers, and the kids would benefit from it too. These guys were great support while we were deployed and sent letters and homemade treats they baked as a Pack. They also wrote a letter to a Scout Pack formed in the Green Zone, which I thought was pretty cool and helped bring home the international aspect of Scouting to the kids here.
So, if you're interested click the image above, or here to support Scouting and send some popcorn to Troops downrange. Use Order Key: TEN3SR6
Friday, August 29, 2008
Fellow Iraq veterans, and veterans of Afganistan, I am joining my good budy "D" in calling for you to join IAVA, a non-partisan group that speaks up for the unique needs of the newest veterans. Non-vets and vets from other eras can join as supporters too.
Also, I just signed IAVA's open letter to the Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. Several IAVA Member Veterans are attending both the Republican and Democratic National Convention to make sure that veterans' issues stay at the top of the agenda for the next President.
Can you please take a minute and sign the open letter to both candidates, asking them to make veterans' issues a priority in their administration? You can find out the top 10 improvements that the next President can make for veterans, and sign the open letter.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I am going to try out a new feature on this Blog "Grumpy Recommends", so let me know if this is useful for anyone.
Hatch Operator™ HK Gloves
Before I deployed to Iraq, I looked at every tactical glove out on the market, but couldn't find what I was looking for. I needed a durable, functional glove, that would provide protection and comfort. We were often scrambling in and out of vehicles, and buildings, and even back in training my hands were getting hammered. But breathablity and comfort was as much of an issue - most gloves I tried made my hands sweat too much.
I found the Hatch gloves to be a perfect balance, with protection provided by tough materials where needed - on the palm and knuckles, and moisture-wicking materials everywhere else. I also found the short cut of the glove very comfortable when driving. I just could not stand wearing gloves that rode up the arm. These gloves were excellent for handling hot weapons also. I never went on a mission without these.
If you have a Soldier or Marine going downrange who will be outside the wire, these make an excellent gift. They also make good "Gucci Gear", as we called it, for REMFs and others who like to dress the part [;)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Just a quick update to let folks know my surgery went fine, and I am being treated extremely well here. It turned out when they got in there that it wasn’t the bicep tendon after all, but the labrum. The surgeon said it was pretty bad and a good thing I got it taken care of. It is awfully painful right now, but they tell me I will be out of a sling in 4 to 6 weeks, and should be 90% in 5 to 6 months.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The story of how I hurt my shoulder, the reason for my still being on active duty, starts with an attempt on an Iraqi General's life. The commander of our Iraqi partner force had been putting pressure on JAM (aka Mahdi Militia, Mahdi Army) and other militias in the Province we operated in, and doing it in a very public way. This commander was very conscious of his public profile and was often able to get his unit featured on the local Iraqi media. Of course, being a General means having a large ego, and so the media coverage often centered on him. This earned him the respect of our PA people, but the disdain of some of his officers, but it particularly made him a symbolic target of JAM. The General, our Commander called him “Omar Sharif”, had been the target of several assassination attempts, including one EFP attack against his convoy blamed on shithead “A”, who live in a small, isolated, hard to access village south of the city.
So shithead “A” was on our list of people we needed to talk to. The problem was the guy was a like a ghost, we got plenty of reports on him – helped by the wanted posters plastered all over town, but he always just got away. We had attempted several raids of his home, hauling in quite a bit of propaganda, but nothing really significant (well, other than his brother). Like many of these small Iraqi villages, it is hard to get into them without word getting thru the village that we were coming. “Early Warning” we called it, and this bastard apparently had plenty of it. Speed was one way to defeat this, and man did we push those war wagons sometimes (see Runnin’ and Gunin’), but this guy seemed to have it all figured out. He lived deep in the village, his house was only accessible by canal road. If you haven’t driven on these, well, you don’t ever want too. First off, they’re made of piled dirt so they aren’t stable, second usually there is a drop off into a canal on one or both sides of the road (hence canal road), third, they are elevated, so you make an easy target, and last they are barely ( and not sometimes not) wide enough for a HMMWV to fit on. All making for a white-knuckle ride for the driver (that was usually me.) Oh, and just to make it interesting, he built a mosque on his property right next to the house, which meant we had to treat it as a sensitive site and get higher levels of approval and scrutiny to proceed.
As an aside, JAM especially made good use of our ridiculous restriction on entering mosques. I know it sounds good back here in the States, the US Army being “culturally sensitive” and all, but it isn’t like home. Mosques (in my experience in the Shia area of Iraq)* aren’t neutral like churches are at home. There were pro-government mosques, pro-SCIRI mosques and pro-JAM mosques among others. JAM used their mosques to cache weapons, conduct meetings, training (to include EFP manufacture) and plan operations. Of course, we were Soldiers so we followed orders, but sometimes it is hard to keep “the big fucking picture” in mind when you are getting mortared with munitions stored at the mosque. To make matters worse, and it really shows JAM’s organization and sophistication, they would have all their offices declared as “religious sites” by building a small mosque on the property, or dedicating one room in the building to prayer. (BTW, we know there were weapons cached in those places, because the Iraqi authorities finally raided them in the spring, during all the fighting that followed the Battle of Basrah. But that's all another story.)
Then if even the Iraqi forces entered the building, even with a proper search warrant, they would scream to the press that the “American puppets were violating our religions sites.” You can’t expect the average villager to know better. I have to say I grew to respect JAMs sophisticated use of both Iraqi and Western media, and there was virtually no way for us to stop or counter it. That was all in the hands of the Iraqi government and their forces.
Ah, well, I’ve gotten way off topic, I’ll get back to my story next post [;)
*disclaimer: like all opinions expressed in this blog, they are author's opinions, based on his experience in a specific part of Iraq during a specific period of time. They should not lead the reader to make generalizations.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Here's one for the blogging books. From the onset of fighting between Russia and Georgia, Georgian servers have been under sustained attacks from abroad. Mainy of their website were taken down or defaced. This is a capability the Russians (and the Chinese) are famous for developing - Chinese and Russian government hackers are suspected to routinely probe our own computer networks for weakness to be exploited in time of conflict. Although it certainly could just be hackers acting on their own.
But here's where it get's interesting, unable to fight off the attacks, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started a blog right here on Blogger. This effectively outsource's their computer defence to Google. Blogger has hosted many blogs hostile to the US, but we aren't about to do anything about it. Russia, China or some of our other adversaries might not be willing to look the other way. Or, what if in a future extremist government under seige uses Blogger to maintain a web presence to futher genocidal goals. Or incite violence. Something for Google to ponder, like all technologies, Blogger may be used in ways unforeseen by its makers.
UPDATE: The NYT has a fascinating piece on the cyberattack - Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks. Apparently, the cyberattacks began well before the shooting, raising the possibility that the fighting was either foreseen, or perhaps provoked by Russia itself.
According to Internet technical experts, it was the first time a known cyberattack had coincided with a shooting war.
But it will likely not be the last, said Bill Woodcock, the research director of the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that tracks Internet traffic. He said cyberattacks are so inexpensive and easy to mount, with few fingerprints, they will almost certainly remain a feature of modern warfare.
“It costs about 4 cents per machine,” Mr. Woodcock said. “You could fund an entire cyberwarfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to.”
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Well, based on yourfeedback feedback, I will continue to write. I think I will start with the story of how I hurt my shoulder, which may take a couple of posts to complete. In the meantime, this is a little collage I had put together in the last days of our deployment, but never managed to post it.
|Speaking of last days in Iraq, I remember seeing a bus full of Georgian Soldiers, who had deployed to Iraq to cover down on an area the Poles had pulled out of. They are all apparently leaving Iraq, as they are needed back home. God speed to them as they go to battle the Russians. Seems to me the Georgians overplayed their hand, hopefully this doesn't escalate out of control, as it could have seriously negative effects on oil supplies that are shipped thru the region.|
Thanks everyone for the feedback, and I'll hope to get something interesting up this week.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I'll be going in for surgery in a little over a week, and am trying to decide if I want to keep up the blogging thing. So, I would like to hear from you, my readers, if you are interested in me keeping this blog up and secondly what you would be most interested in reading about.
Please take my survey and help me decide whether and wither this blog.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I've been running Google Analytics on my blog since I started, and today I decided out of boredom to take a look at the numbers for the entirety of my blog. What is Google Analytics? It is a software tool that allows you to put a snippet of code on your blog so you can then track your Internet traffic - how many people are reading your posts, which are more popular, how people are finding you. All useful things to know when you are trying to drive traffic to your site. I had used it before on a few commercial ventures and was happy with it, and it's free, which is important when using it for a non-money maker like a blog. Anyway, I thought the results were interesting enough to post.
Top 10 Countries
- United States
- United Kingdom
Top 10 Referrers
- mudvillegazette.com (really no surprise there)
- valleygirl71.blogspot.com - sadly no longer blogging
Top 10 Search Terms
- Of course number one was some version of Sergeant Grumpy ( different versions were registered)
- jane hernishin (an active blog commentator)
- shitpond (a result of my Steaming Bowl of Suck, part 1, part II and part III posts)
- sergeant jump
- miss bosnia / miss bosnia 2008
- texan cheerleaders (thanks again Hope [;)
- whump there it is
- dead mouse in car (WTF?)
- operations for dummies (one of the funniest items of military humor last year)
Other Random Facts
- Average time on site: 1:21
- 20% of my readers use the Firefox browser
- 6.8% of Grumpy readers get to my site over dial-up
- My blog's busiest day was January 14th, 2008, which was shortly after my Steaming Bowl of Suck, part 1 post
- My blog's busiest month was April 2008, which coincided with the Battle of Basra.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
After years on the run, the former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, was captured in Serbia last week. This man played a big role in stoking the fires of hatred and genocide in Bosnia Herzegovina. While all sides in this terrible three way civil war descended into the depths of human cruelty, Karadzic's forces led the way and were responsible for some of the most gruesome acts of inhumanity since WWII, and rival the behaviour of Al Qaeda in Iraq. This includes the round up and murder of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, and the vicious shelling campaign against Sarajevo (66 people were killed and 200 wounded in just one day, documented here.)
It is particularly gratifying for me to see this bastard caught - catching him was one of our major "projects" in Bosnia, as "D" also discusses. Of course we did not, but we had several interesting meetings with people close to him. And being based out of Tuzla for part of my tour, I also heard many stories of terror and loss from the Muslims who lived in that area. The Serbs were not just fighting a war, they were terrorizing and brutalizing everyone in their path.
So we worked hard, but never caught him, always like a ghost he was, a rumor of his presence, but NATO was never fast enough. And then of course there must have been the obvious support from his former inner circle, and the rumors of the French leaking warnings to him and his crony in death, Radko Mladic. But the most likely was always the most obvious - he was said to be hiding in Serbia where he enjoyed support of the security services, and there were no foreign troops.
So what? Well there are several lessons that should be drawn from Bosnia. Of course, one of the lessons of Bosnia is that the U.N. is incompetent at stopping violence of any sort - it was only the threat of use of American force (by Bill Clinton) that stopped the fighting Bosnia and the actual use of force against Serbia that stopped the attacks in Kosovo. One of the bitter ironies of the war is that Srebrenica was "protected" by the U.N. as a "Safe Zone", thereby making it an UN Safe Zone. Truly, unsafe. The U.N. forces protected the civilians by standing by as the city was overrun, and helping organizing the bus loading. U.N. troops also played a vital role as human shields to protect against NATO (meaning American) air raids against Serb positions.
I am not saying the U.N. is useless mind you, the U.N. has successfully played an important role once fighting has been stopped but hopes that the U.N. could stop the genocide in say, Darfur, are misplaced. Sometimes the use of force is the only answer, and the U.N. is not the instrument for that. The Bosnian Serbs and the Darfur government both illustrate the fact that brutal regimes pay no heed to Western sit-ins, protests, lectures, boycotts, etc. While it may be hard to accept for some people who lived under the Western security blanket, some people cannot be reasoned with, some cultures only respect strength and force. It is not what we desire for the world, but it is still the world we live in.
Another lesson, which was reinforced for me during my tour in New Orleans, is that civilization is a thin veneer, and people are still a short step from a uncontrollable mob. Yugolsavia was, after-all, a model of Socialist success, an example held up by people like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and other Communist apologizers. Bosnia especially was the most ethically integrated part of Yugoslavia, with many intermarriages and multi-ethnic communities. New Orleans may well have been less ethnically integrated than Yugoslavia, but the rampant looting in an American city illustrates that even here, you must be prepared to defend your person and your property.
For those interested in learning more, here are a few recommendations that can help you understand. I also highly recommend the BBC website on Bosnia and it's personalities.
Monday, July 21, 2008
You may have heard over at Blackfive that Soldier's Angels needs some help. These good folks provide some amazing support to Soldiers and their families in need. Certainly, if you can the best way to support them is to give direct. However, for those who may recall, Sergeant Grumpy also will donate 100% of commissions earned as a referral to Amazon to Soldier's Angels as well.
Now while I do not want to encourage unnecessary shopping - if you are going to buy something from Amazon anyway, please consider shopping for it through this blog, and know that your shopping will do some good.
Looking for recommendations for Warriors you know? Shop Sergeant Grumpy's Warrior store and commission there also support Soldier's Angels.
Friday, July 11, 2008
So it looks like I will be having surgery to repair a tear on my bicep tendon. I still don't have a surgery date, so I still haven't been able to plan some leave to take the family somewhere before school starts back up. Hopefully that will get squared away soon, in the meantime I have been well treated - there are an amazing amount of resources dedicated at demobing Soldiers who are injured in some ways. I am sure that this is because no one wants a Congressional inquiry after what happened at Walter Reed. I am also not sure if the program just happens to be good at this post, or if this is Army wide. I am grateful for it right now though. The biggest issue right now is figuring out how to keep my mind occupied now that I won't be returning to my civilian work and I have no mission to focus on. The "just being glad to be home" phase is over and I need something to do, we'll see.
That said I don't seem to have a lot to write about, although there are a few stories I have left to tell, I have not been motivated to sit and write. So for now I am just enjoying the mountain views, working out and trying to catch up on some non-military reading.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Not sure if anyone is still following this, but....
I am still in the process of trying to get off active duty and back home to real life. The Army is sure taking it's time making sure we are healthy and sane enough to go home, but at least I am in my own State now. I have a few minor injuries I am waiting on Big Army to decide what they are going to do about, then I have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Hah hah.
I have a couple of posts yet to finish writing, hopefully I will get those out in the next week or two.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
A quick note to let everyone know that we are back in the States. As "D" will attest, we are going thru a lot of stupidity, Army style. But the key is we are home. It is so clean and green here, and people bathe - glorious
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The NY Times has a touching slide show about a medical clinic run to help the people of Sadr city. There are hundreds of great stories of Army Medics and Doctors who have treated Iraqis with compassion and kindness that never get told. At least here is one.
An Iraqi boy who was shot by insurgents while walking to a bakery is brought in to the clinic for treatment. According to eye witnesses the attackers shot seven children, killing four.Mahdi Murderers.
When a young child who was shot or a wife who was badly burned is treated, all the vapid debate in Washington, all the stupid heated arguments by the uninformed on the left and the right, all that goes away. You can just be proud we were able to help someone, to know as much as the insurgents realize we are fierce in combat, that the people know we are not monsters, but someone you can turn to for help. Military medics have done tremendous amounts of work in this shithole to build goodwill amoung the Iraqis. Hopefully it pays off.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We were riding around the other day, touring our new home and looking at all of Saddam's old Palaces. We would stop and like a bunch of tourist get out and take pictures. At one point we (apparently) walked right into the yard of a bunch of Soldiers who live in one of the little houses on the water. Every building of the former regime has been converted into living quarters or offices, or headquarters complex. Anyway, the Soldiers living there came out to see what the hell we were doing. "R", ever the smart ass says:
Oh, don't worry, we're just taking pictures, we've actually been in Iraq for our deployment, we've never seen this shit.I hadn't really thought about it before, but we practically lived outside the wire, we worked with Iraqis a lot, drove around, talked to locals, ate outside the chow-hall (okay, kitchen, we didn't have a chow hall). It was dirty and smelly and a little dangerous a few times, but it was real. I can't imagine what doing 12 to 15 months of living on one of these huge bases, looking a t-walls and dust must do to your mental state. I've only been here a week-ish and I am depressed. You would spend a year plus here, and really know nothing about Iraq except it is hot in the summer, and people shoot rockets and mortars at you.
(if you can tell which Palace I decided to post, I'll buy you a beer...unless I don't like you)
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I meant to write about this topic for some time, but always had something better to write, or was not feeling like writing anything. Before I get into this, I want to share some of the things that can cause deployment stress, just to give ya'll an idea. Grumpy may or may not have experienced any of these.
Grumpy's semi-random list of stress inducing crap, in rough order of stress-induction:
- Actual combat
- Being shot at randomly
- Being forced to endure PowerPoint presentations that are 95% fluff
- Being mortared
- General Order #1 (or as I call it G.O. # Fuuuuuuuuuuunn!)
- Watching your vehicle begin to roll into a ditch in slow motion
- Lack of accountability for failure or poor performance
- Listening to some POS try to take credit for everything done by others
- Having to listen to another person explain why they are just a farmer and we got it all wrong
- Whiny terps who make $175,000 and bitch if they work more than 4 hours a day
- Uniform regulations
- Anyone who answers every question with "Ani?"
- Listening to REMFs who sit around reading regs trying to find a way to qualify for another medal
- Inability to fire shitbags and deadwood
- Sergeants Major
It is impossible to do much about any of these things, so one must find ways to manage the stress they bring about. Soldiers have always had some tried and true ways to do this:
- Having Sex
- Working out
ExerciseThis is too easy to skip in the go-go world of 16 hour days, 7 days a week, but it is essential to find the time. And although I am guilt of having missed my routine when "business" was good, I quickly got back on it. Some guys work out everyday, more disciplined than me I guess. There were even a few who worked out twice a day, but the key is to find timing and a routine that works for you, but mainly to burn off stress. I used to like to run, but had hurt my ankle and foot in Ft XXXXX before deploying. Which took time to heal because of all my LaCrosse and Football injuries from school (or maybe it's just that I am getting old? -- nah.) Inspired by Tin/Katana I tried using the Elliptical and found that to be very effective without pounding my knees and causing my ankle to swell (mortars attacks were doing a fine job of that!)
HumorThis would be CI Roller Dude's top advice, and personally, as grumpy as I may be I always try to find a way to laugh at our situation. There are a couple of great Combat Comedians in my unit, notably "B". But "D" is certainly one of the best, and that was one of the best things about my CA Guard unit - there were lots of us with twisted senses of humor. We've played many a practical joke on each other.
So, those are my big two, hard to say which is more important than the other to making it out of here sane. If anyone has a good deployment practical joke story, I would love to hear it.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Finally, here is a map of Iraq that makes sense.
Quick update here is that we have relocated somewhere where we wait before catching the freedom bird to Kuwait, where we will promptly wait again. And that is how it goes in Army these days, we go from busting-your-ass busy to nothing to do. I don't think I will be posting much more, as I shouldn't have to many stories of interest - "there we were building our pallets, when out of no where one of the Conticos flew off and hit Johnson in the head..." Of course there is a lot idiocy around here, and far to many REMFs who have nothing better to do than look for uniform violations on troops returning for combat. I hate those people, and it is a one more reason I won't stay in the Guard - yes I am talking about all you Master Sergeants and Sergeants Major who persist in harassing people for stupid shit. And no I wasn't the target, but some of my buddies have been constantly harassed for things that are part of our units uniform policy. But apparently here in the rear (meaning one of the giant bases near Baghdaddy) you might as well be at Fort XXXXXXXX. LT Nixon, I don't know how you put up with it. It is like we've trained all these support Soldiers to be a bunch of busy bodies - everyone walks around in fear. I could go on for ever, but ....
I will of course post once I am safely in the States. I may post some pictures if I feel like it. If you really want to hear from me, I suggest e-mail.
Hope you've all enjoyed the posts, and thanks for the support and humor.
grumbled by Sergeant Grumpy around or about 07:16
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
As I said in an earlier post, things here are both better and worse than what is being reported. I say that because, while things were/are, in my opinion much worse in Basrah than the media reports (probably because they won't go down there and don't know.), things in other parts of southern Iraq are better than reported. If they are reported at all.
In several other southern Iraqi cities, the Iraqi Army, and the lesser known ISWAT units, kicked JAM's ass. In at least one town they pretty much eradicated JAM and destroyed the OMS office (the political front for JAM) where weapons were cached. That success is due to the dedicated training provided these forces by their US counterparts. I know our guys did a great job, and our "top ten" board was almost cleaned off.
While it is accepted in US media that the recent clash was a victory for Sadr, alternative analysis concludes that he is left much more isolated, both from a people tired of fighting, and from the political process. And possible from the militia itself too. This does not mean there will be more stability, it could lead to more fighting if he is weakened. Only time, not newscasters and pundits, will tell.
The Long War Journal hits on this with Ayatollah Sistani on the Mahdi Army
The move caused panic inside the Sadrist movement as their political isolation became apparent. "We, the Sadrists, are in a predicament," Hassan al Rubaie, a Sadrist member of parliament said the day the Political Council for National Security announced the plan. "Our political isolation was very clear and real during the meeting."I am certainly not trying to cheerlead, there is a lot to be disappointed about in the recent fighting, but there needs to be better balance in reporting. As for specifics, I can't provide them here, you'll need to do your own digging. (Or buy me several rounds of Tequila when I'm home [;)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I don't know much about the debates in Washington, but I know more about the fighting in Basrah than anyone other than the men in my unit. And whatever the "truth" may be, I can say that I have completely changed my view on this occupation. while there are a great many wonderful Iraqis, many partiotic men whom I have fought side by side with, what has happened in Basrah is ..... a debacle? No not sure what the words are. Embarassing for sure.
But that is not the point of this post. I want to thank my Mom for sending me something my Grandfather carried with him during WWII. From his mother, I'll bet she never imagined her great grandson would be carrying it through IED attacks, rocket and mortar attacks, and ambushes in Iraq. But I am grateful to have it, for while I am not all that religious, I have prayed a great deal here, especially during the Battle o' Basrah and the trip "home". And I have never been without this card.
My Grandfather has always been my hero, what I aspire to be as a man. That I carry the same "stella matutina" he did at War is a greater honor than being here is. On the back are the words of my great-grandmother
I pray for your safety every day. I hope God takes care of you and all the boys. Mom.All I have left to do here is get the hell outta here.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Heya hi all, Grump's still kickin' but I have been working nearly non-stop up until last night. Me and my little band were rapidly deployed to another part of the country and have been neck deep in it. For now things have quieted down, and everyone is getting some much needed rest.
For those trying to follow for home, forget it - you aren't getting much of the truth. Things are both better and much worse than what's on the news. I'll say for my part all I care about right now is that all my buddies get home to their families safe.
Please don't send anymore care packages - right now we aren't there to receive them, and by the time we do get back to camp we may be moving again. More later on that.
I'll try to keep posting, but right now I am pretty much spent.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
So yeah, it has been a while since my last update. I have been both busy and unmotivated to blog much (or maybe I've been drunk the whole time !?), plus have not had much interesting to write, although I have had several interesting things happen. I'm just not really able to write about them.
All in all things are okay, mostly life is sort of like the movie ground hog day. With no days off to mark the weeks, one week, then one month, bleeds into another. Muqtada al-Sadr's extension of the freeze was complicated recently with a "clarification" that is was not against the cease fire for JAM members to "defend themselves." This has resulted in the militia being seen back on the street around their political offices (imagine if there was a Republican/Democrat Militia) and mosques. Some more radical members have taken self-defence to mean attacking US forces in retribution for the arrest of wanted militia members. So there has been a mild uptick in attacks in our AO, although in perspective it is still really low compared to 2005/2006.
There have been a few personnel changes, but that is always bound to happen on any deployment. And we've had some turmoil with our partner force, but for the most part they are a good bunch of men. But their concept of personal space and comfort touching and holding hands is most uncomfortable for Americans.
For any friends or family reading this in the news - Panel probes troops' electrocution deaths in Iraq - don't worry about us here. The US Navy Seabees checked the wiring on our entire base to make sure we didn't have any wiring issues.
And of course there are the daily frustrations of an American War, with all the bureaucracy, difficultly sharing information, politics and politically driven constraints. We joke that this is like some ridiculous game of tag, where if the fucks can get inside a political office or mosque, they can yell "base" and we can't get them. But I have to trust the constraints are there for Bigger Reasons, made by people who get the Big Picture. It sure sucks for us and the PBI, though.
Of course, I've got to thank everyone who continues to support us, me, and my team. The care packages we get are the envy of the other units in the area [;)
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Yesterday completed an important holiday period for the Shia's of Iraq. (Well for the Shia's of the world I guess, but the holiday's impact is all here in Iraq). Arba'een (literally Arabic for the number 40) is the 40th day after Ashura and commemorates the suffering of wives and children of Husayn ibn Ali, who was murdered on Ashura in the Battle of Karbala. His wives and children were then marched across the desert to Syria by the Sunni Caliphate army and many of them perished.
The Shia in my observation* are obsessed with suffering and, as might be said in America, immerse themselves in a culture of being the victim. During Ashura they beat and cut themselves to show their devotion to Husayn and his suffering. They also have a bizarre tradition where they put their sons in a tent which is then lit on fire. All the kids are supposed to run out, but we have had to treat some poor boys who were badly burned. (As an aside, we have treated a lot of burned children and women, apparently there is something wrong with Iraqi stoves in that hot oil is always falling off them) Anyway, the relevance here is to show their devotion to Husayn and the suffering of his family many Shia walk to his shrine in Karbala. They walk from nearby Babil, and Baghdad, but also from Najaf, Basra, even I was told Kuwait and Iran. That is a serious walk, and the sight of hundreds and hundreds of these Shia, all dressed in black, walking down one whole side of the highway, which was closed off for the holiday, is indescribable. Mile after mile off to the horizon of black ninjas. Ah and the noise and the blaring mosque speakers all day long.
As you might imagine, this is a nightmare from a security perspective. It would be easy for a suicide bomber to blend in with crowd. Imagine having to shut a major metropolitan area down to vehicle traffic and protect marchers walking in from all the major highways. An impossible feat, but remarkably, the Iraqis mostly pulled this off, there were several attacks in Baghdad and one suicide bomber in northern Babil (where the Sunni/Shia line is), but it could have been much worse. And I have heard of no attacks in Karbala. We saw the Iraqi Police, Army, and paramilitary forces out on the road everyday, all day, tirelessly working to keep these marchers safe. There were even full blown security plans, operations orders, etc all prepared by the Iraqis by themselves. It was also the best example of Iraqi Army - Iraqi Police cooperation seen recently, and offers hope that these two organizations who distrust each other, but on whom the hope for this country rests, will work out their issues for the benefit of the Iraqi Nation.
*Disclaimer: I am no expert on Shia Islam and can only relate what I have been told by my Muslim friends and Iraqi colleagues.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
We had just gotten done with a mission that had taken extra long, which seems to be our specialty, and had all our vehicles lined up on the road to exfil. I was in the trail vehicle, so I could see the whole line of vehicles, and was keeping an eye on the houses to our right. Most Iraqis around here are sensible enough to not be too curious when we are out with our partner forces, but occasionally someone gets nosy, and I was worried about the locals as they were starting to wake up and word had quickly gotten around that we were in the neighborhood.
All of a sudden I see this idiot come out of his house and start yelling. The closest Iraqi points back to the house the man just came from and yelled something, probably "get back in your house dumbass". No one is supposed to approach our convoy, the insurgents in my AO aren't prone to suicide, but you still don't want someone in handgrenade range, and well, you never know.
Anyhow, not only does this idiot not go back into his house, he continues to yell, and starts to approach the Iraqi soldier. Three more soldiers pile off the nearest truck and the man is picked up and put inside the gate of his couryard, pushed and the gate is closed. OK, he should get the point.
Nope, here he comes again and he makes the big mistakes of taking a swing. Even in San Francisco I imagine it is okay for a cop to defend himself, but this is Iraqi and these Iraqis aren't going to tolerate this kind of disobedience of authority. Pretty soon the guy is getting his ass kicked, and we are almost out of the truck to stop it when they throw him back in his house. But out he comes again and now he is dragged in front of the Iraqi truck and out of view, so P runs up to make sure he isn't thrashed. This time he has a weapon pointed at him until we roll out, but the dumb ass doesn't make himself disappear, he stands there in the gate glaring at our Iraqis.
When the US leaves this place, the local criminals are in for some serious ass whooping. The only thing keeping that from happening now is all the US JAG Officers trying to cover everyones asses when comes to detainee handling, hell even the Iraqis are more afraid of all the paperwork involved in detainees than they are of combat. And they think we are complete idiots - we'll spend tens of thousands of dollars treating some murdering thug we were just trying to kill, yet we tell them we can't spare more ammo or gas so they can run operations. I know we think I shows our compassion and superior morality, but to an Arab it just makes us look weak.
Anyhow, there are lots of dumbasses here in Iraq, just like the guy in my little story. Now there are dumbasses in America too, but there are enough here to keep this place stuck in the middle ages for at least another 100 years.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Ok, so the whole reason I started this post was to help explain what it means to be a Soldier. It means being able to tolerate all manners of Suck and still get the job done. It is what binds us to each other as Soldiers - that shared risk, and the knowledge that the Soldier to your left and right will endure with you, that they won't break for cover, or shirk their duty, leaving others to carry more of the load.
Now where I left of in the story we had the area secure and broke an element off to go search for an Extremist weapons cache. The rest of us continued to try to retrieve the STUCK-VEE from the shitpond. All the while it continued to rain, and the mud got worse and worse. Somehow we "acquired" a pay loader and spent some time rigging the humvee up to it, but the mud was too slick. We even tried to bulldozer the mud away to get to dry ground, but that didn't work either. Eventually, we had to give up on what we call "self-recovery" and call for help, which came in the form of a 5-ton wrecker. After many different attempts, and some shoveling by hand, we finally freed the wretched vehicle, and got everyone back to base. It took some time to clean the thing, and it still doesn't smell right to this day.
As we went thru this 13 hour ordeal, we had to rotate guys in and out of the humvees to try and get warm, as hypothermia was becoming a real risk - everyone was soaked to the bone, and it was cold. It purely sucked. And it will be a story we'll all remember years from now.
But the bright part of this story is that just when we were worried most about how we were going to keep our men warm enough, one of the Iraqis in the area opened his home to us, built a warm fire and started baking bread for us to eat. The Iraqis eat unleavened bread so he started whipping out bread fast. It was amazing - the flour he was using was the only food he had in the house, but as Arab culture dictates he would share his last scrap of it with a guest. Just amazing.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I have had spotty internet for a while now, so even getting e-mail has been a challenge, never mind posting. But it looks like that has been fixed, so I will attempt to get caught up.
We finally had birds accompany us on mission this past week, no weather or mechanical problems. Everything went so smooth, I actually have nothing Grumpy to say about it.
We also spent time shooting, one of the fringe benefits of the Army if you enjoy it. And being in Iraq, I can go to the range anytime I have time (which is less often than I'd like) and feel like it. But last week, we fired several different sniper systems, and I got to fire the Barrett .50 sniper rifle for the first time. This thing is just awesome, and amazingly the recoil is must less than you would expect it to be for the sound it makes, but the overpressure/shock wave will rattle you. If you ever get a chance to shoot this thing, do so!
Thursday, January 31, 2008
So I should write part III, but it is 5:30 am and I am just getting done for the day, so I thought I would share this instead. A couple of California high school students who are studying about journalism, asked The Grump if I thought the media lied about current events. Here is my response. I'll get part III out this weekend unless I get a breakthrough on a few projects I am working here. By projects, I of course mean scumbags we want out of the picture.
Thank you for your letter, and your question. I am no expert on the news business, but I will give you my perspective.
Whether or not reporters tell the truth is a rather difficult question to answer. While there may be a few reporters out there who do lie to further their own careers, I think that most journalist start their careers with honorable intentions and a desire to tell the truth. And most never lie on purpose, but fail to do a good job of checking their facts. The reality is, especially in a place like Iraq, the truth is very hard to discern. And most reporters here never leave Baghdad, so anything you read in the paper was probably told to the reporter by a source, or a local Iraqi who called the reporter. And sometimes reporters simply report what other reporters wrote.
Plus there is the fact that most Western reporters do not speak the local language, and this will be true for reporting in any non-English speaking country, so all the information comes through an interpreter. The interpreter may get it wrong because they aren't very good in English, and sometimes the interpreter tells the reporter the wrong thing on purpose. Pretty messy and complicated isn't it?
While I have been here in Iraq, I have personally been involved in 2 incidents which were reported in the international media. I saw these things happen with my own eyes and yet they were reported wrong in every report I read. Not 100% wrong, but some important facts were wrong in every news article, and each news article got different things wrong.
This is of course called the Fog of War, and for good reason. I submit that no one knows what the hell is going on in Iraq - it is just too complicated, and everyone reporting information has alterior motives for their reporting, and every time in gets passed on it mutates a little. Like the telephone game on crack.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sometimes here in Iraq things go boom, or "boomba" as our Iraqi Jundees say.
Yes, I am overdue. Some of you even chose to use your potty-mouth words to tell me so. I could respond with a few choice Iraqi put-downs, which are very colorful, and more poetically constructed than in English. But, suffice to say I have been damn busy. Just getting done for the day now, and of course, by the time I get all my kit off and put away, vehicles ready to go, people "talked to" as 'D' calls it, and get settled down, the fucking morning call to prayer starts (yes, it is actually called the "fucking morning call to prayer", or it least it is on this side of the wall.)
All I am going to say right now is, the birds didn't fly because their computer said the weather was bad - it was a clear, star lit night........ ok going to go hit something, just realized I can't talk about this rationally right now.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
So back to my story. Remember now readers, that it has only rained all day only once during our entire deployment, and we have been out that whole night. And it is cold, really cold. Cold enough for it to snow in Baghdad and cold enough for us to have to worry about hypo-thermia - the senior NCOs will be keeping an eye on everyone tonight.
I saw the lead HMMWV (Humvee) start to turn right, there was a shadow on the ground right where it was turning. In the dark of night, with shadows being cast about by the Iraqi vehicle's headlights, no way to tell if you are looking a shadow or a hole in the ground. Then the Humvee started sliding right. My first thought was that my mind was not properly interpreting the light stimulating the back of my retina, I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. Then the realization, "Oh Shit." All we could do was watch as the vehicle listed 30 degrees to the right and sank up to the window in muck.
Shortly after this we are all standing around the vehicle, with perimeter security having been set up, admiring how fucked we are. The Humvee is stuck in a black muck, the smell of which can only be experienced, but not described. It is clear this hole in the ground was been used as a waste receptacle. Being that the Iraqis believe this area to be the cradle of civilization, the shit our Humvee is stuck in may be as old as Babylon itself. And it smells like it. Bad enough to make you almost pass out.
We hook up our tow straps to two other Humvees to try to pull the thing out, but because of the rain, the ground has gone from hard-pack dirt to mud soup, and we risk getting another vehicle stuck, but we have to try. Shit won't budge. Plus there is still the mission. We decide to break into several elements - one to go hit the target, one to continue to pull security and one to try find some construction equipment...
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I realized when I logged in that this is my 101st post. <sarcasm>Air Assualt, Hooo-ah!!!</sarcasm> - now I respect the 101st and have worked them, and just spent months at Campbell - they're good Troopers. But being from a real Airborne unit, I have to mock their Airborne designation, and I sure as hell don't go in for all that Hoo-ah, Hoo-ah shit.
I was thinking I would try to write Steaming Bowl of Suck, part 2, but I am too damn tired right now and I want to go call my wife. So I decided to post this - I promised I would put up a pic from our merry making. Fortunately the cameraman had a few too many, so I didn't really need to touch this up much. Now that Ashura is finally over, I think we need another bon-fire soon. I promise I will get an interesting post up soon.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Before I get back to my story, I got this award from Hope and wanted to share.
Also, I ask anyone saying prayers for me or sending good Karma my way to temporarily shift those to my buddy CI Roller Dude, who the California Guard is trying to deploy for the 3rd time in 4 1/2 years. Time for someone else to step up and do their share.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I've heard from several people that they want to hear from me more often, but I can't really write more, so I am going to steal an idea from CI Roller Dude and break this post up into two parts, maybe three if I get lazy.
I get a lot of civilians who ask me what it is like to be a Soldier, what it takes, how I handle it, and stuff like that. I think most people imagine it is like in the movies, and we are in basic training all the time or we are in a combat zone like in Blackhawk Down. It is nothing like that really. Yeah in garrison, sometimes you really know where you are, but often it is like being in any other business. Same daily routines, boring office work, coffee breaks, lunch and usually off before 5.
But that's not it, being a Soldier, or a Marine I imagine, basically it comes down to one thing - the mental strength to endure any amount of Suck, no matter how bad it is. And that is what we learn when being in the Army is like the movies - Basic, Airborne, the various bad-ass "schools", field work, combat. It is being able to ignore the pleas from your body to stop what you are doing. When it is that bad it is called The Suck. And recently, one of our missions went bad and we got a Big Steaming Bowl of Suck. (Don't worry, before I get into this, everyone made it back safe.)
We had an important mission that had been planned for a while and we were just waiting for the word to go. From the minute we left the base, there were signs we should stay home. First our Iraqi partner force was late. Then it started to rain, and our air coverage couldn't find us. Then when we were half way to the objective, the birds called in that the weather was too bad, and they were sorry, but they were pulling out. "Good luck guys" - yeah thanks for nothing! Oh, and it was fucking cold, so cold it snowed in Baghdad that night, but where we were heading it was cold, cold rain coming down.
As we got closer we sped up, and as we got into town we really had to move fast - you see here in Iraq, many of the local police act as early warning for the bad guys, and once we passed the checkpoint at the outskirts of this town, we knew there was little time before the target would flee. We hit our targets, but he had gotten away. He couldn't be too far, so we started questioning the people in the neighborhood. Soon we got a tip that he was hiding at the Police Station. What happened next is the subject of an investigation, but I thought it was amusing. I can't say more, but what is relevant to this post is it was raining much harder now, and we had been out for a while and were cold and tired, and we were all starting to come down off of the adrenaline high.
But there was still another target in town we had to hit. So wet, cold, and tired we started making our way. Now we have some of the best technology in the world at our disposal, but it ain't like on CSI or 24 - sometimes the shit just don't work. And that is usually right when you need it most. Navigation software is awesome when maps and imagery are accurate, but when they are out of date, you still end up feeling around in the dark, hoping the road ahead isn't blocked, or no longer there. This is what we were doing as we made our way, proceed down the road, keep a good interval. Stop, back up, turn. Drive forward, nope. Shit. Turn the whole convoy around, turn again. It should just be up here. Can't see anything. OK, lead vehicle, let's pull up and see if we can get a better view............
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Well the Holidaze are over and we are back in the swing of things. My ankle was almost back to 100% from the last time we got mortared, and sure as shit when we got hit recently, I twisted my ankle really bad. Every damn time, I am running to get to my gun crew and I twist my ankle on these fucking rocks that serve no purpose other than to make you lose you footing. I swear I'd like to wring the neck of whatever jackass dumped this stuff all over the compound. (Must have been the lowest bidder)
At least this time we got clearance and fired back quickly. Hard to explain why, but it is easier to take when you are able to send some HE back at the bastards. The first couple of times we couldn't get someone to release us to fire, so the word quickly got around we weren't shooting back. So we got hit more - these "insurgents" (murdering thugs) are really brave when they can't get hurt, that's why they love killing women and children, but we know where they are shooting from, so we went out and told the leaders in that area they better call us beforehand if they see anything. Maybe next time they will call in if they see something suspicious so we can have it taken care of beforehand, rather than have rounds raining in on their fields.
Of course, this being Iraq, we have been trying to get the IPs to set up checkpoints in the area, but there is always some excuse followed by an Inshallah! Getting tired of that.
So anyway, it has been back to business, and with all the political moves going on, and what with Sadr extending the ceasefire and Iran (maybe?) backing off, I guess there is more hope here in Shialand than there has been in a while. But the place is still awash in weapons and bad men. And that's where we come in, to find and remove them, before they can hurt someone. It sure ain't easy in this land ruled by rumor.
New Years was good fun, I'll have to find a picture or two I can post. We blew off some steam, even though we had a mission that very night we managed to haul ass and get back in time to ring in the New Year with Spirit(s). [;) That was like a game of cat and mouse, as soon as we hit the objective we started getting reports of IEDs getting emplaced along our return route. But this time they underestimated us and most importantly "The Dude" who navigated us back. Too much to explain, but we were ready to decompress when we got back to the base. We ended the night around a nice warm bon-fire. It was like an episode of The Tomorrow Night Club. Don't worry, our fire pit isn't observable from any higher ground.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I want to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year. We all were very busy on New Years Eve Day, and weren't quite sure we would RTB in time to actually count-down the New Year, but in the end we did. MTF.
What I really want to post is this e-mail from a friend of mine, to Hope of Hoperadio, who is a great supporter of several deployed units. I am guessing that out of humility Hope won't post it, but I want all the great milsupporters out there to get to read this. I could never say thank you better than this:
I am a friend of SGT Grumpy and as a such have been a recipient of your generosity. you and people like you, are the reason why we do our job.
There is much said about the brotherhood of war. "we do our job because of the soldier next to us." this is true, we perform above and beyond the call because we are surrounded by those we have come to consider family. but the reason we join the military is protect our country and our way of life.
there have been times in the past several years when i have come to doubt that Americans appreciate our sacrifice. everywhere there are stickers claiming "support our troops" but that seems to be the extent of it. YOU have revitalized my faith and (dare i say) hope in what we do and why we do it.
when i returned from Afghanistan in CENSOR i was asked to address the incoming class at CENSOR State University because the schools donations in support of our mission. my speech was centered on "service." How the actions of those not in the military can contribute to our success, from the family members who pack and move often to the people who donate to humanitarian causes set up by soldiers. i would like to add to this list. You have also served our country by actively and directly supporting us, the nations military. it is not just the comfort items that you have sent, it is the sentiment and warmth behind it. to know that there are people who are willing to do more than place a sticker on there car is a HUGE moral boost and i thank you and all like you.
please share these sentiments with everyone who, like you has restored an old soldiers faith.