Tuesday, November 30, 2004

FRG (Family Readiness Group)

FRG(Family Readiness Group). We had a mandatory FRG meeting the other night, the final one before we deploy. It was basically two and a half hours of wasted time. Two and a half hours I could have spent at home with my wife. Oh, the Army and their wonderful programs. How nice it would be to join the army and do nothing except fight. Unfortunately we have to endure what seems like hundreds of unnecessary meetings and programs. I wonder if the suicide bomber or masked terrorist in Iraq is required to attend a FRG meeting before he heads off to blow himself up. He might not have the time if he also had a equal opportunity meeting to attend, or an alcohol and drug awareness class, or a sexual harassment class, or a class on how to prevent a DUI, or a weekly safety briefing, or a personally owned vehicle inspection, or a drug test, or a risk assessment worksheet to fill out. I know what the ulterior motive is for all of this b.s. It's to piss us off so bad that we can't wait to go off to war. Their efforts are wasted on me, I'm already pissed off enough, I don't need any motivation in that department. I just want to go hang out with my brothers, in all of wars glorious misery, fight the bad guys, and experience an adventure. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, since my wife and I sat through two and a half hours of useless information that we were already aware of. Do I really need my wife to listen to my CO talk about WIA and KIA procedures and how she will be contacted. I don't know about other guys, but I dont plan on getting killed or wounded anytime soon. It's not like these topics were just touched on either, no, they had to talk in great detail and length about it. If you see two guys walk up to your house dressed in their Class A's, your husband is dead, if you just get a guy in his BDU's, well then, your husband is just wounded, rest easy. Another little bit of information I found to be funny- the person notifying you if your husband is wounded has to be at least the rank of the person wounded. That's nice. I have a lot of privates that are close friends, but if I was a private and got my leg blown off, the last thing I would want is some non-deployable private prick, knocking on my wifes door and telling her I was wounded. Not that I expect a damn four star to do the honors but show a little more respect for the spouse. The CO also told the spouses not to expect their husbands back for at least a year, maybe 18 months. Just what my wife wanted to hear. She's already emotional enough, being that she's pregnant and her husband is about to take off to Iraq, the same Iraq that the media seems so eager to report as a nightmare. Hell, if you watch enough news on TV, you would think the the entire country of Iraq is on fire. I don't need somebody telling her I might not be home for a year and a half. She's well aware of that possibility and dealing with it the only way she knows how, with grace and beauty. They didn't even have enought seats for everyone to sit in. We had to sit on a dirty, rusty cot. The same kind I'm going to sleep on for that year to a year and a half. The same kind I've already slept on for almost a year in Iraq and Kuwait. Thankfully my wife has a good sense of humor, since the meeting provided us with some unique if not twisted entertainment. Nothing quite as funny as listening to some wife ask the CO how long it will take to get the $12000 death gratuity if her husband is killed. Maybe she has some shopping to do. I wish the Army would leave the family readiness to me.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all that read this. I encourage you to pray for all of the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who are away from their families this Thanksgiving. I pray that they will have some time to enjoy a decent meal and a little peace on this day. These are a few things I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for my precious wife, who is already preparing herself for when I leave. I'm thankful for the life she is carrying in her womb. I'm thankful for all of the people in the military, who are fighting for our freedom. I'm thankful for the guys, my brothers, who I will have the honor of going back to Iraq with. I'm thankful for the opportunity to help the Iraqi people in their quest for freedom. I'm thankful for our great country, and it's willingness to bring hope and freedom to others. I'm thankful for the opportunity to fight against the terrorists that oppose freedom and our way of life. I'm thankful for the spirit and resolve of American fighting men and women, the spirit will never be broken or defeated. Take care and God bless.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I Need Camera Advice

Here's my problem. I want to take a digital camcorder with me to Iraq to record some of my adventures, but I don't have enough experience with them to know which one to choose. So, anybody out there with some knowledge about camcorders please drop me a line. Also, if I do have internet access over there, I might be able to post some of the videos for people to view. Next question, does anyone have an idea of any website that lets you post small videos for free?
By the way, if any of you do your Christmas shopping online, I have a link to Amazon on the right, that will give me a small commission on any sales. Any commissions will come in the form of a gift certificate that would no doubt come in handy for me and my buddies during the deployment. Thanks

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Journal Entry During War

Tonight I was sitting here wondering what I could write about, so I picked up a small journal I kept during the war. I haven't looked at it in a long time, and I've been meaning to rewrite it in ink, since I originally wrote in it with pencil and it's beginning to fade from the paper and into distant memory. Things are infinitely more interesting when you are writing in a combat zone- intense drama, horror, chaos, comedy, and a level of general insanity not found in life back home. I hope you will oblige me and maybe forgive me for sharing with you an entry I came across this evening. It's fairly tame and sanitized compared to some. I pray I don't bore you.

Setting- A small farming community, where onions seemed to be the crop of choice. This community was located somewhere around Karballa. The previous day we had seen heavy combat during a movement to contact.

4-1-03 15:43 Zulu
Great day to relax and hangout with the guys. Still at the farming AO(area of operations). They grow onions around here. We've enjoyed some of those onions today, cooking them in canteen cups over an ammo can filled with diesel fuel from the Bradley. The man from the house, whose farm is now our temporary home, brought us some more good tea(chai) and some bread that was out of this world considering where we are. The bread was similar to pita bread, baked I guess, and warm and crispy on the outside. It was a great snack. This afternoon I had peanut butter with mine. The chaplain and his two assistants stopped by for a chat- I got a little cross to put in my pocket. They are now back and will spend the night with us. Weird- people don't seem to mind cussing around him, even his assistants. This one spot seems like a peaceful contradiction to the sounds of war in the distance. Little girls carrying water buckets on their head. Farmers picking onions out in their fields. Colors- the tan sand, broken up by the bright green splotches of crops, backdropped by the blue sky with white clouds streaming overhead. The beautiful colors of the local's garments. The silver platters with little silver spoons, carrying our tea. Small glasses that resemble shot glasses and a plastic sugar container, with a tomato shaped top. The man brought us more tea and bread with some kind of bean soup or stew to dip the bread in. Very good stuff. I ate some of my bread with some strawberry jam I had from a MRE. The man and his sons posed for some pictures with us before they left. Even this man, with a war raging around his home, took the time to fix his hair before the picture was taken. Tomorrow we are probably leaving for another mission or to continue moving north. I have no doubt that we will soon see more combat, once we leave this peaceful place we called home for a day.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Mudville Gazette

Greyhawk, over at The Mudville Gazette was kind enough to post a link to my blog. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you take the time to read his blog. It's very informative, with lots of information on what's going on in Iraq. It also highlights a lot of military blogs, most of which are far more entertaining that this one. Not trying to sound self-deprecating or humble, just telling the truth.
Nothing much exciting happened today, other that some more packing of equipment. We packed up some tents and cots for use when we're taking over operations at our FOB(forward operation base), and waiting for the unit we're relieving to move out. We did get our official orders for deployment today, and we are in fact leaving sometime in January. Our FOB would best be described as an outpost. No luxuries to be had there, such is the life of an infantryman. I just hope I have easy internet access while I'm there, so I can continue to write on here. I was also looking forward to living in a trailor with only three other people, but now it looks as if there will be a lot more of us living and sleeping under the same roof. I guess our living conditions aren't a top priority, since we will be patrolling the majority of the time anyway. Non-combat units always get the better living conditions, which is how it should be, although there is no such thing as a non-combat unit currently serving in Iraq. Whatever our living conditions, we'll get used to it as we always do.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

First Bag Packed

The things we take with us. For a year long trip to Iraq, everything we take with us has to fit into three duffel bags, a rucksack, and an assault pack. Today we had to pack away one of our duffel bags in a connex that will be shipped out before us. Most of what we put in these bags is obviously army issued, but after putting into each bag the various items on the packing list, any space left over is ours. This extra space is precious, some of the most precious real estate in any of our lives, for this space allows us to take things we know will be hard to come by once we get in Iraq, especially where I'm supposedly going. The question then becomes, what should I take? What will I need to help me keep my sanity for a year in that place. For me, at least in this first packed bag, it was books. Some I have read, some I haven't. Anything for those inevitable days when I have to escape that place for an hour or so. Clippers went in as well, don't want to have to pay some idiot with some clippers five dollars for a crappy haircut, nor do I want to hear some prick that outranks me tell me I need to get a haircut. I'm sure this will happen, and I'm sure it will be from some guy that sits back in the rear doing paperwork while we're out getting shot at. Getting haircuts and shaving all the time while your in combat really pisses me off. Fortunately, during the invasion, I had a cool squad leader that let me go a week during the war without shaving. I'm getting off track here. Extension chords also went in and a really long telephone line, just in case we have internet access. The last thing that went in, the most important thing- four whole roles of toilet paper. Charmin, nice and soft, unlike the sandpaper the Army gives us. I'm already trying to decide what I'm going to put in any space I may have leftover in my other bugs. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Pre-Deployment Shots

Nothing quite as stimulating as having the wonderful opportunity to stand in line for three hours at the TMC(Troop Medical Clinic) and receive the yearly shots that the Army feels will make me immune to every Known disease on the planet. The first station is the hearing test, where you enter a supposedly sound proof booth, put on a pair of enormous headphones, grab a joystick like device with a button, and begin listening for certain tones. Each time you hear a tone, you are to push the button on your joystick. I felt like some poor contestant on Jeopardy, that seemingly knows all the answers but can't quite push that button fast enough. I apparently have pretty good hearing, so all is well. I don't know how they came to that conclusion, since all I seemed to have heard was my own breathing and heartbeat, not to mention that guy that kept clearing his throat. The next station was a eyesight test. You all have done it before. You stand at a line, cover an eye, and read a line of letters off the chart at the far end of the hall. I have good eyesight, 20/15, but even if I didn't, I had plenty of time to memorize all of the letters the medic was having everyone read. I had a couple of guys tell me they did this, which makes no sense to me. If you fail, they try and fit you with some glasses that will help you see better. Maybe it's vanity, since Army glasses are quit possibly the ugliest ever made.
I then began my three hour wait for shots in a TMC that, having had plenty of time to look around, made me think I had entered a third-world hospital. I was fortunate in that I only had to get three shots, one of which was a flu vaccination. I hate getting flu shots because they inevitably give me the flu. I didn't have to get an anthraz shot, which feels similar to having peanut butter injected into your arm. Apparently the Army, in it's infinite medical wisdom, decided to discontinue anthraz shots. I also didn't have to get a smallpox vaccination, unlike the the guys that weren't over in Iraq with us last time. I can't remember what the other two shots were for. I also had some blood drawn for two different tests, one of which is for HIV. The medics tasked with this job are usually Privates, with no apparent experience with this duty. The veins in my arms are defined and easy to see, but they somehow seem to dodge the medic's syringe, resulting in more attempts and an arm that looks like a heroine junkie's. So how does this all take three hours to accomplish? I have no idea, except that maybe they were also testing my patience.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Don't Fault Marine

It's hard for me to find fault with this Marine. Try to imagine what he has been through in the days leading up to this moment. He is tired from a lack of sleep and an adrenaline rush that hasn't ceased in days. He's tired from the amount of weight he is carrying on his weary shoulders, the same weight that offers him protection from a bullet or shrapnel that would otherwise pierce his flesh with rapid fluidity. The same weight that offers him the tools of his trade, that of a warrior. He is hungry, even if he can't feel it, his body is feeding upon itself. He is scared, even though he won't admit it. His fear doesn't break him, he channels it and it strengthens him. It makes him a more lethal warrior because he is more alert and therefore more decisive. This fear also slowly drains his energy. He is pissed, more so than you can imagine. He is pissed because he has been repeatedly shot at, and he has seen his fellow Marines killed or wounded. In the back of his mind he thinks about the Marine from his unit that was killed the day before. He knows that the enemy doesn't play by the rules of war. The rules that only apply to us. He knows and has felt the fire raging around him, that fire originating from a place that is supposed to be a holy place, but one in which the enemy has made his fortress. This mosque and the people that inhabit it is one of the most dangerous places in the world. He and his brothers know this as they enter. They find bodies, some dead, some alive. They find the tools in which these vicious killers, that have no rules, have used against their fellow Marines. He knows that some of the enemy have played dead only to become the killer that he always was. The same ones that disappear around a corner waving a white flag or wearing civilian clothes, only to emerge from the other side as a killer. He knows all of this and he sees one of the bodies move, his mind is suddenly flooded with the horrors he has scene, the stories of deception he has heard. He thinks of home, his youth, his family, his fellow Marines, his survival. His body reacts and he does the one thing many of us would do in that same situation, he eliminates the threat and lives to fight another fight. He's fighting for you.
This is not the same as the prison scandal, this is war.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Note about Operational Security

Operational security is very important in our line of work. Even if I didn't think it was, my superiors definitely do. Because of that, and to ease their minds should they stumble upon this little blog, I will never write about anything that I feel will in any way aid the enemy. I will do my best to describe to you the daily experiences of an infantrymen in detail. Combat is one thing, but what so many people tend to forget about, or be unable to relate to, is the daily grind of an infantrymen, especially one deployed to a hostile environment. As of right now, I have no idea of the exact date we are leaving(I wouldn't tell if I did), what our living conditions will be, or what kind of operations we will be conducting. I'm not even sure if I will have access to an internet connection in order to continue this little diary. We have been told we will, but I will believe it when I see it.
On a personal note, besides not wanting to leave my pregnant wife for a year, I am eager to return to Iraq and continue the fight against terrorists. Unlike what you may have heard from the media, there are a lot of guys that are looking forward to again getting in the fight. I was part of the initial invasion into Iraq, but in a lot of ways, I think that was easier than what we are currently doing. Combat is an ugly, surreal, unnatural, and exhilirating experience. Something that most people should hope to never experience, but something I find myself mysteriously longing for. I pray that this doesn't come back to haunt me. Just for the record, I support everything we are doing in Iraq and believe that the only way to defeat terrorism is to pick a fight with them.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Only Two Months Left at Home

I will be returning to Iraq around two months from now. What to do with my time. Where should I go, who should I see, what should I take, how do I tell my pregnant wife that everything is going to be okay? How do you leave someone for a year? How different will it be when I finally come home? What will I be doing the day my unborn son greets this world? These and many other questions are on my mind. All of these questions will only be answered by time.