Monday, February 21, 2005

Two Defining Scenes of This War

Yesterday I saw two familiar scenes of this war. Only one will you see on your nightly news, specifically CNN. Two days ago our day began at 0330 and didn't end until 2200. It was a day worth telling and hopefully I will get the time to tell it. We were all obviously worn out from the previous days two missions, but that didn't stop us from having an even longer day yesterday.

Yesterday we got to sleep in until 0700, late considering the times we normally get up around here. At 0930 we headed out on a route clearance mission, patrolling routes along our sector and visiting with the people of various towns along the way. What you won't see in the news, but what is a recurring scene around here, is the kindess that the vast majority of the Iraqi people have for us and the reciprocating kindness that young U.S. soldiers have for them. By far the coolest thing about being over here is the children. They make all the b.s. and all the long days worth the effort. If the children of this nation are the future of Iraq, then the U.S. can expect good relations with this country in the future. There isn't a city, town, or small community that I've been through where the children don't wave and smile enthusiastically at our presence. I never miss an opportunity to wave and smile back.

We first stopped by an Iraqi Army compound to pick up a squad of men to accompany us on our mission. While waiting on them to join our convoy kids and grown ups of all ages greeted us with smiles. Two 14 year old boys in particular started my morning off on a positive note. From my seat atop the Humvee I carried on a 20 minute conversation with these two boys about life and the weather. Their command of the English language was impressive and their uncanny ablility to predict the days weather was more accurate that any meteorologist back home. It was more fun to see my younger driver, Thomas, talk to them from the drivers side window. He talked to them like they had known each other for years. It's these soldiers, some of them not long out of high school, that are spreading American goodwill throughout this nation.

After about 30 minutes the Iraqi Army guys were ready to go and we started the days long drive. The first town we came to was a small community surrounded by farmland. Everyone except the drivers and gunners got out on the ground to walk and talk with the locals and pass out leaflets of information. Kids and grown ups of all ages were crowding around the humvees and the guys on the ground. Even the Iraqi Army guys were busy laughing with the locals. The kids, most of them on their way home from school, could hardly contain themselves in their desire to talk to us. The little girls, with beautiful smiles that reminded me of my niece, would wave and try desperately to talk to us in English. The more outgoing boys, with arms full of textbooks, weren't as shy. They would walk right up to the humvee and stick their heads in the window to talk to the cool American soldiers. Besides asking questions, and wanting us to give them pens, I could here them on more than one occasion telling my driver and me that America was good, Saddam bad. I don't know what it is with pens, but they love them. Unfortunately I only had one, which was soon in the possesion of a young boy. I also had a little video camera and they all wanted to be filmed. Even the little girls loved waving and talking in to the camera. Once again my driver, an all-American guy from the Midwest, displayed the kindness and humor that is ever present in young soldiers. I was also pleased to see some of the older teen boys and some men approach the vehicle with smiles and questions. Even more remarkably, the usually reserved women of this land, waved and smiled with enthusiasm. In this place and others we visited, the scene was the same. It was hardly the type of footage you would see on your nightly news. Watching CNN back home, you would think that this whole nation is on fire, chaos and death all around.

Once we got back in the late afternoon, we thought we were going to be able to rest the remainder of the evening to get ready for our late-night mission. Ten minutes after returning we were once again told to get the humvees ready, we were heading back out the gate. An IED had gone off in a town in our sector. Some MP's on the scene had reportedly received small arms fire. Since the MP's didn't want to search the homes in the area where they had received the fire they waited on the infantry to show up to take care of business. What exactly the MP's do over here I couldn't tell you. When we show up a couple of trucks could be seen smashed up and burning. The IED had ripped through one and the other had plowed into it in the resulting crash. Unfortunately two Iraqis, a man and a woman, had been killed. We turned our attention to the houses adjacent to the road, the ones the MP's were now surrounding from a more than safe distance. We gathered a plan and took off, driving right up to the houses. The Iragi Army, impressing me with their discipline, went in to the homes first with our guys following in behind them. Those of us in the humvees surrounded the homes to provide support by fire. When we had first pulled up the MP's got out of the way, looking like they didn't want any of the action. The search was done in no time with no enemy to be found. Once this was apparent the MP's once again pulled up closer, braver now that they knew there was no threat. This really pissed me off, especially since one idiot pulled his humvee right in front of mine, blocking my line of fire. I'm yelling at this idiot to get out of my way but with no success. I finally tell Thomas to back up and go around when another MP humvee pulled right up to our rear right. Are these guys kidding! What the hell were they doing. They didn't want anything to do with this ten minutes earlier and now all they are doing is getting in our way. I was yelling and cussing(something I'm trying not to do) at them to get out of my way. Finally my platoon sgt. comes back to our humvee and sees what is happening. He turns red and starts cussing at them as well and within earshot of their CO. Our Lt. tells him and me to calm down, that there CO is standing right there. Well, my platoon sgt. and I couldn't care less if their CO is right there. As far as I'm concerned their actions dangered the lives of themselves and us. How am I supposed to react to enemy gunfire if some damn MP is blocking my line of fire. And this genius wasn't even looking towards the targeted homes. I made sure the CO of the MP's could here my bitching, and I wish he would have said something. What's he going to do, send me to Iraq? I'm already here and having fun. Maybe he could reprimand me and give me an Article 15. Like I would lose a second of sleep over it. Screw the MP's and their CO, get the hell out of our way if you can't handle it. Not only did they do this but they refused to stay around and help us direct all the traffic that had backed up on both sides of the destroyed trucks. They said that isn't their job. Then what the hell is their job, especially since they can't write tickets to G.I.'s for speeding on post.

Overall it was an exciting and productive day. It was also a reminder of the constant threat we have of being hit with an IED. I'm sorry for the loss of those two lives, and even more sorry that we couldn't find the assholes that did it. We stayed around until 2300, finally heading back to our FOB. Our original mission planned for that night and early morning was nixed. We were all looking forward to it, since it might have proved deadly for the bad guys. It's ok though, there will be more days and nights to deal with them. We finally got back after midnight, hungry and tired. After getting back to my box I ate some Ramen noodles, my second night in a row I've had noodles for dinner. I went to bed thinking that If a reporter had been with us, the only thing he would have reported would have been the burning trucks hit by an IED.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Bill H. said...

As a former KBR truck driver in Iraq I am very greatful to the infantry, especially the Humvees and the gunners. The conditions the gunners are in escorting a convoy are some of the worst. Especially when we had to go off road through the desert. I felt well protected when escorted by the infantry. Thanks to the men and women of the US military for a great job. Too bad the media doesn't portray all of the good our men and women do in Iraq.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

EXCELLENT post! The imagery created is fantastic. Thank you for taking the time to write it all out and sharing it with us!

Iraqfiles.com

4:54 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

I loved your posting. Especially when talking about our younger soldiers presenting the 'good' face of America. It's sad about the Media but this will only change when the 'boomer' generation is gone and some or your generation get into the media to make changes. Hopefully, there will be many former veterans who will pick up the pen!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Hi Michael,
You guys are doing a great job. I just returned home after a year in the 1st ID area. Keep up the blogging. Your view of things is of stategic importance letting people at home know what's going on instead of the talking heads who never leave the hotels in Baghdad.

Jonathan
Iraq Calling

3:02 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Hey Young'un

Yea, kids are great, they are honest and show what they feel. It's when you don't see them, when an area, normally with people around, that you know something's up.

You should send a letter or fifty back to some of the aid agencys and the folks at home, to get you some goodies, school stuff and other give aways for the kids.

The MP's? Well you should know they are there to keep law and order. To bring order out of the confusion. Just give them some time, by your description of their actions, they sound like FNGs.

"What's he going to do, send me to Iraq? I'm already here and having fun".

Thats an echo of what we used to say back in Nam, a lifetime ago.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

3:15 PM  
Blogger AFSister said...

Yay! I love the way you and your soldiers are reacting to the local kids and adults. You really nailed it when you said that if they are the future of Iraq, we should have nothing to worry about. I sure hope you're right- what a wonderful sentiment!

If you want to send me your address, I'd gladly send you a boatload of ink pens and other goodies, like Ramen Noodles (LOL- sounds like you've had your fill lately). But seriously- email me with your addy and I'll get a care package together for you. Have you registered on www.anysoldier.com yet? It's another great way to ask for support and supplies. I get contacts that way all the time.

Anyway- you guys are doing a fantastic job. Thanks for writing about the good, the bad and the ugly.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous MKL said...

I wonder if that MP unit was a National Guard unit? Seems like the NG MP companies over there are doing the worse job, at least from my view, with NCO's in one company organizing mud wrestling matches to the MP brigade at Abu Gharib and then just deadly stupid stuff like mentioned in this post....

Did I mention I got speeding ticket from an MP at Ft Benning?....

I mentioned the small font before...no wonder your a gunner, your eyesight must be great to think that font size is ok...

10:46 PM  
Blogger Just Bill said...

Hey
I am a sales rep and have tons of pens that would other wise go to ungrateful customers. Give me your address and I will send them to you guys to give to the kids.
williamcunningham@satx.rr.com

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Boyce Williams said...

My company here in the land of the big PX just finished a drive gathering a care package for shipping to you guys in Iraq. Since you mentioned how the kids like American pens, do you know a good inexpensive brand that works there? I was thinking of Bic's but I figure the cheaper models would tend to boil over in high heat. If you can send a note on a brand, I can include them with the next company care package.

9:41 AM  
Blogger John said...

Whoa! The way you relayed that story was awesome! I always enjoy reading your blog because it's better than most good books. It's amazing how things look from the perspective of those who are actually there compared to some stuffy achorman in NY or LA. Thank you so much for everything you do. God bless.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Huntress said...

Michael, You're so right- CNN and the MSM- will rarely share images of the kids and most of the Iraqi's EMBRACING the troups, laughing, and generally being supportive.

There are stories of kids following soldiers around until they would get to a certain part of town..then the kids would stop..and that was an indication that the "bad guys" were hiding out in the area our troups were about to enter.

Its the kids way of helping out our troups! You're right Michael- they are the great hope for the future of Iraq and its clear to me that the future is very bright!

Please register with AnySoldier.com

Marty(who created the program) is a friend, and if you request pens and stuffed dolls for the kids...you'll get them by the truckloads...as well as more care packages then you'll be able to consume. You and the guys in your unit DESERVE to see just how much Americans TRULY support you!

You are all the greatest example of the very best America has to offer and its why we ARE winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi's INSPITE of what the MSM reports!

Stay Safe!

7:38 AM  
Blogger Yarbz www.juggernuts.com said...

Nice Blog. Just stumbled across it. I shall continue to return. Thanks for doing what you are doing.

I will link your to ours at www.juggernuts.com

Cheers

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Myles Buie said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. I'll be checking back.
myles buie - http://www.venlov.com

1:27 AM  
Blogger Bill Faith said...

Hi. Don't read your site as often as I should but it's always good when I remember to. Thank you for your service, young man.

It's interesting to see how some things evolve, but never go away. "What're they gonna do, draft me and send me to 'Nam?" is now "What are they gonna do, send me to Iraq?", but kids are still kids and we're still the good guys. Again, thank you for your service.

4:09 PM  
Blogger exfbonnie said...

Michael - you are going to be well prepared for your baby. This sleep deprivation and hours of vigilance are not unlike that of being on watch for a child.

7:53 PM  

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