Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letter from kids - does the media lie?

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

Not Part III

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

Steaming Bowl of Suck, part II

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

101st Post

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

Texan's Cheerleaders Love Grumpy!

Well, OK, maybe they don't, but Hope got me this kick-ass signed photo of them, so there!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cool Award

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

Steaming Bowl of Suck, part 1

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

Wringing in the New Year

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

Thanks to the Mil Supporters everywhere

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:

Dear Hope.
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.