Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Medics lead the way

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

Yes, we are rude pricks

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

Managing Deployment Stress

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
  • Officers
  • Privates
Hey what do you want, I'm Grumpy afterall.

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:
  • Fighting
  • Drinking
  • Having Sex
  • Working out
  • Humor
The first is generally bad for team cohesion (but not always), and, unbelievably to many who have never served, the military in it's infinite wisdom has outlawed the second two, to include pornography (see General Order #1 above, I may write more about the stupidity of this, but that's a whole 'nuther post). That really only leaves working out and humor. Well, some would argue video games, which many people play to escape, but I do not agree.


This 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!)


This 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

New Map of Iraq

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.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just a Picture

Friday, April 11, 2008

What your not hearing

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

Going Offline Soon

I will be losing my internet access for a while. For how long I don't know, but don't want people to worry. I will try to post a few more times, not sure how long I'll be off.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Words from the past

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

Short Update

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.