Friday, August 29, 2008

Vets - Sign IAVA's Open Letter

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.

Thanks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grumpy Recommends: Hatch Gloves

I am going to try out a new feature on this Blog "Grumpy Recommends", so let me know if this is useful for anyone.

kick ass glovesHatch Operator™ HK Gloves
SOG-HK 300/350/400

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 [;)



me and my crew


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Owie

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

Ghost of Babylon, part Wahed

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

Georgia turns to Blogger

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

Memories of Babylon


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.
Pentagon officials said late on Friday that Georgia had requested assistance in airlifting home the approximately 2,000 Georgian troops now in Iraq.
For some reason, it makes me think of when I was first in, they still had posters up in the barracks of "Ivan" - the ubiquitous Soviet Soldier. "Ivan is ready are You?" they would read, along with a picture of some buff Spetsnaz commando. Yeah, I'm getting old, it's hard to remember now, but a lot of people really expected war with the Red Menace.

Thanks everyone for the feedback, and I'll hope to get something interesting up this week.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wadda You Lookin' at?

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.