Friday, January 19, 2007

Lunch Can Save Your Life in Iraq!

OK folks, so we’ve been extended in this place we like to call “Not home”. To remind us of that fact, we have Hajji remind us of it every day. But wait, IAW (in accordance with) the politically correct policies that are pushed down to us from places we call “higher”, I can no longer call Hajji, Hajji. I am to refer to them as LN, which stands for Local National. Now being a GI with years of experience and multiple combat tours under my belt, I participated in a “brainstorming” session with the soldiers and came up with a solution to this dilemma that is IAW the policy. I will now refer to Hajji as Lennie (LN), problem solved.

Anyway, Lennie has decided to make our lives more interesting as the tour goes on. By this, I am referring to celebratory fire. What is it? It is the common, yet exceedingly stupid, custom of pointing your AK-47 or whatever you have in hand and squeezing the trigger to celebrate. These celebrations include weddings, births, funerals, Hajj, Ramadan, death of a coalition soldier, death of a rival tribe member, the sun coming up, the night sky being dark, oxygen in the atmosphere, etc. I think you get the idea. They do it at a whim. So when I make references to “fireworks”, this includes celebratory fire with IEDs, or RPGs.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure if they teach a class here covering the topic we like to call, “gravity”. See, the rounds (bullets) have to land somewhere. All of the sudden, a trip to the chow hall can either kill you or save your life. So now, we’re playing “Survival- the Home Edition” for keeps. I got a message from one of my buddies down south that came home to a surprise in his tin can “house”.

So you know how you were talking about that guy or girl who had the 7.62 round come through their room? Yeah....Holm and I were luckily at chow today when we came back and found splinters all over our floor. We look outside and there's a hole about the size of a fist coming into our can, and of course an entry hole on the inside as well above John's bed. I assumed it was indirect based on the size of the hole, but Evink and Sherwood said otherwise. So after some careful looking around, and finding no exit hole, we find a .50 cal round lying on the floor in the corner of my room! This place is unbelievable. If I was here, I probably would have been hit because I'm usually sitting by my computer which is the exact path the round took. What a way to go, that would be so gay. I have the round; I'll send you pics in a few days.

So far this hasn’t happened to me but, the tour’s not over. Like Bernie said, “What a way to go”.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Not Going Anywhere for a While?

Well, if you haven't heard, we’ve had our tour here extended until “No later than July”. If you weren’t in the loop, we were supposed to be home by mid-March. I have to admit; I wasn’t too surprised or upset by that because I’ve always known the Army to be like a Ginsu commercial-there’s always more. What I have to tell you about is the way the information was delivered to us.

A full 24 hours before the official announcement was delivered to us from the Pentagon, a newspaper printed the story “according to their source”. Here’s the kicker, no one in our chain of command was aware of this. Basically that means that our chain of command, the leaders and the soldiers were totally unprepared and shocked when this was blasted all over the media back home. Who was hardest hit by this? Our families.

In normal military protocol, any information this big is passed to our chain of command that then prepares and presents the information to the leadership in the task force and then they subsequently, pass it down to the soldiers so they can notify their families. This is done in a precise manner in order to prepare all the parties involved or affected by this and the impact it will have on their futures. How would you like to find out that your husband, wife, son, daughter, father, or mother has been extended in country? By your soldier or by the local news?

First, I have a few questions for any journalists that visit my blog.

1. Does it ever enter your staff’s thought or decision making process that soldiers and their families read the news, stay updated on current events and keep in touch with situations that occur in the US and in their home states?

2. Do journalists even think to consider that by making that “breaking headline” they have the ability to cause additional heartache, stress, and problems for the families and soldiers that you claim to support? Or do you just throw that right out of the window in favor of ratings and subscription sales?

3. By making announcements like this before the actual release date and time, do journalists stop and think of any potential damage they may cause such as putting additional stress on the leaders and soldiers that are here risking their lives in order to provide a stable future for the citizens of Iraq?

Not to mention the heartache and additional stress they have added to our families that have spent the better part of a year and four months worrying about the safety of their loved ones, taking care of our children and dealing with problems at home without us.

Now I am fully aware of the prevalent opinion that a majority of journalists will have i.e., “Freedom of the Press is my right”. It is not “Your right”; it is a privilege that you enjoy off of the blood, sweat and tears of others. Journalists tend to wield this privilege as irresponsibly as a criminal who just got his hands on a gun and is going to rob a store. They obviously showed a complete lack of compassion in favor of “breaking the news”.

I ask you, readers, what would posses people to do this and then top it off by having the cojonés to ask our families for an interview to ask them how they feel about it? Our families have already weathered a very long storm. Some marriages that were hanging on by their fingernails may have stood a chance at making it if their soldiers would have been allotted the chance to be the ones that broke the news to their loved ones. Now, thanks to journalist’s “breaking news”, that one chance is gone forever.

If there are any journalists out there, regardless of the media that they work for, that read this blog please give me some feedback on this one because I am truly at a loss as to what to think.

The media had a field day when the story of Abu-Gharib broke out. The entire Army was given a “black eye” because of this incident. That and the fact that there was no representation as to the good things we’ve accomplished here. I can tell you that right now, that this is the media’s Abu-Gharib and I have only received ONE example of the good the media does. That one example is Mr. Bob Calvert from the web site talking with heroes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Reader's Response

Dear Readers,

I got this response for the "Newsflash: We're Not Winning the War" entry on my blog.

You've got to be kidding. I understand that you have a unique, one sided look at the "big picture" as you say but this isn't about "staying the course" because it's hard. This is about how "we" being the people who where told, including Colin Powell and all the Military leaders, that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had cashes of biological weapons and WMD after the 1st Gulf War. It's about the power hungry struggle between Rumsfeld and the State Dept. on why things weren't set up right for a post war Iraq. It's about Bush's desire to have his presidency turn into a legacy. It's about power. It's why Bush is too ignorant to ask his advisors more in depth questions instead of just taking everything at face value. At least Clinton dug deeper into what the people around him were saying. He admitted to mistakes and tried to fix them. Educate yourself on the interworkings of how you came to be there. Read Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial", read Richard Clark's book "Against All Enemies". The Democrats aren't bitching and wanting to "cut and run" because it's hard. They want to bring you home because you shouldn't be there in the first place. Maybe you see the families and faces of children who are glad you are there, but do you really know what they say about you when they are sitting around the fire which used to be there living room? They want you to leave. I think the people there don't want anything that Americans think they want and we are out of touch and arrogant to thing everybody wants what we want. Stay safe, Mike.

I found the author made a well thought out response and seems knowledgeable on the topic. I have even taken the steps of ordering the books that he mentioned (Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" & Richard Clark's book "Against All Enemies"). I am genuinely curious about the books and their content. I look forward to future responses from Mike and feedback from all of you as to this point of view. I only have one question for Mike. How many natives here have you stayed with (in their villages) for months on end, helping them rebuild and defending them to know if all of them want us out? Of course they want us out, some so that they can run their own country and build their future on their own, which I totally agree with, and others so that they can run amok in the place (insurgents). Of course they talk bad about us when we leave. So do some members of my family when I leave. That’s a fact of life.

As far as the weapons of mass destruction (chemicals, etc.), they were supplied to him (Saddam) by the French and other third world governments through black markets. I have seen (firsthand) the residue (canisters in French & Russian) and the result of the use of these weapons and know how governments in this region go about acquiring them. Have you ever asked yourself why the French and Russian governments were so vehemently opposed to the invasion in the first place? I think it has to do with the fact that they had been supplying Saddam with the weapons technology (through a third party) that he wanted in order to stay in control. Whether it was intentional or not, how would it look to NATO & the UN if this was brought into the light?

Of course Mike is correct about the power struggle in Washington. Look at how aggressive dirty politics have become, by both sides. But be careful Mike, politicians have a nasty habit of standing up for what is popular for the day in order to stay elected. As you advised me to “Educate yourself on the interworkings of how you came to be there”, study the established patterns by the politicians you support now to see the wavering nature of their stances. Remember, Democrats voted (overwhelmingly) for us to invade with the same information that was provided to the president.

I have added an editorial written March 23, 1999 by Mr. Ted Galen Carpenter on Clinton's military policies. If you're going to compare administrations Mike, please pick a better administration than the Clinton's because the only thing Bill really did during his administration is to make adultery popular and Hillary abused power and government that wasn't hers to even approach, much less, use & abuse. It sounds similar to what you have pointed out about President Bush.

There are some occasions when one should not mince words, and the spectacle of U.S.-led air strikes on Serbia is one. Put bluntly, if President Clinton orders an assault on Serbia, the United States will be guilty of committing a flagrant, shameful act of aggression. U.S. forces will be attacking a country that has not attacked the United States, a U.S. ally, or even a neighboring state. That is the very definition of an aggressor.

Belgrade is guilty of nothing except attempting to put down a secessionist rebellion in one of its own provinces. Nearly a dozen other countries have done the same thing in this decade alone -- often with far greater bloodshed. Russia's war in Chechnya, Sri Lanka's conflict with Tamil rebels and Turkey's suppression of the Kurds are merely a few examples.

The Clinton administration's spinmeisters insist that Serbia is the aggressor in the current confrontation, but that argument twists language in a manner reminiscent of characters out of George Orwell's novels 1984 and Animal Farm. "Aggression" is a long-standing concept in international relations, and it has a very specific meaning: unprovoked cross-border warfare -- an unwarranted attack by one state on another. A country cannot commit aggression in its own territory any more than a person can commit self-robbery.

The argument that Serbia has committed aggression in Kosovo, thereby justifying military intervention by NATO, is not only an Orwellian distortion, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent. The traditional standard that developments within a country, however sad and tragic, do not justify military intervention by outside powers is one that should not be cast aside lightly. Without that limitation, weak and imperfect as it may be, the floodgates are open to intervention by an assortment of countries for any number of reasons -- or pretexts.

Before the proponents of NATO intervention in Kosovo cheer too loudly, they ought to consider the potential ramifications. For example, might Russia and its ally Belarus someday cite the Kosovo precedent for attacking Ukraine because of the latter's alleged mistreatment of Russian-speaking inhabitants in the Crimea? Could China and Pakistan argue that India's suppression of secessionists in Kashmir is a humanitarian tragedy and a threat to the peace of the region, justifying joint military action against that "aggressor"?

Of course, the Clinton administration contends that the events in Kosovo are not really an internal Serbian affair, because the conflict might spread southward in the Balkans. According to that scenario, the fighting threatens to draw in Albania and Macedonia and, eventually, NATO members Greece and Turkey. That argument is a refurbished version of the old domino theory, and it is dubious on two levels.

First, it is curious (if not nauseating) to see Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and other alumni of the anti-Vietnam War movement make that argument. They ridiculed the domino theory when Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon invoked it during the conflict in Southeast Asia. They were even more scornful when Ronald Reagan invoked it with regard to the communist insurgencies in Central America and the Caribbean during the 1980s. Now, suddenly, they believe the theory has indisputable validity in the Balkans in the 1990s. At the very least, they owe the American people an explanation of their dramatic change of perspective.

Second, even if one accepts the dubious domino theory, the administration's policy is making the spread of the Balkan conflict more rather than less likely. The Serbs are not the party with expansionist ambitions in the southern Balkans; the Albanians are. Kosovo Liberation Army commanders have stated that their ultimate goal is, not merely an independent Kosovo, but the creation of a Greater Albania. Nationalist groups in Albania openly circulate maps of Greater Albania -- an entity that includes not merely Albania and Kosovo but an additional slice of Serbia, all of western Macedonia and a large chunk of northern Greece.

By facilitating Kosovo's secession -- and the NATO-imposed peace settlement is nothing more than Kosovo's independence on the installment plan -- the United States and its allies would be strengthening the very faction that is the most likely to stir up additional trouble in the southern Balkans. Thus, the administration's policy lacks even internal coherence.

War against Serbia is unwarranted on strategic, legal and moral grounds. If air strikes take place, Serbia will be the fourth country Bill Clinton has bombed in the past seven months. That record is one of a trigger-happy administration that is creating an image of America as the planetary bully. Decent Americans need to make a stand when it has reached the point of a full-scale war of aggression against a country that has done us no harm.

Friday, January 05, 2007

World Traveler

Here’s a fun pastime, I got this from a high school friend that is a Geography teacher in Florida. She was curious as to where I’ve been in the last 20 years since we graduated and if I would share that with her class. It was a fun way to tell them and so, here it is.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

News Flash: We're Not Winning The War?

I meant to post this entry before I left and shortly after the elections. Let me know what you think.

The Democratic National Party (led by Overlord Hillary) seems to be wondering why we are not winning the war in Iraq. I can only speculate that “we” means US soldiers because they would never admit that they are part of any “we” that loses. With that in mind, I would like to know what they define as "winning the war" and demonstrate exactly how to do it. We are in the initial phases of SASO (Stability and Security Operations). This is what is still currently being done in Bosnia and in Kosovo. It takes time and patience. If the democrats are so hot on their success in war, why can't they explain (according to their own interpretation of winning) why we aren't winning the war in the Balkans?

According to former President Clinton, Bosnia wasn't supposed to last longer than a year yet here we are entering almost nine years later. Kosovo was supposed to last six months with NO GROUND TROOPS COMMITED. They are entering their fifth year with US troops on the ground. Somalia was another "victory". Some of you may say that those situations are all in the past, WRONG! They are just as active today as they were when it all started. They just don’t get all the advertisement.

The pattern here is that politicians seeking future office seats want instant gratuity in these situations and it doesn't work that way. Have you ever noticed that no major political player (outside Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld) ever mentions the positive things that have been accomplished here? Not really because that would make their agenda loose steam. Yes, we’ve had our asses handed to us on several skirmishes, but it has been overshadowed by all of the successes we’ve achieved here. You really need to look at the big picture and gather ALL of the information, not just what is piped through biased media. It all boils down to politicians trying to get reelected in order to stay employed. These guys wouldn’t last ten minutes here because of their “I quit because it’s hard” attitude.

As soldiers on the ground getting shot at on an everyday basis, I can tell you that no one wants to go home more than we do. The environment is brutal, the insurgents are merciless, and I don't want to see any more of my soldiers injured or killed. Bottom line, it sucks. But, unlike politicians, we stay the course because we see what happens here and what potential the country has in the future. You don’t just quit something like this because it bogs down and bad things happen. If you truly believe in doing what is right, you stick it out and provide something to these people that they’ve never had before, a future. If we follow the current mindset of these politicians, does that mean that we can quit helping the Hurricane Katrina victims because it gets hot in the south? Do we stop training to defend the country because it isn’t popular with the movie stars that funnel money into the Democratic Machine? Do we give up on identifying the remains of the victims in the World Trade Center because we aren’t “winning the war against DNA identification”?

America was founded by people who wouldn’t quit. Have we have fallen away from those times and qualities? We are at a pivotal point in US and Middle East relations. The Middle East is comprised of more than just Iraq. The other surrounding countries around us will judge us and decide if they will deal with us in the future based on how we behave today in the Middle East."

Defending the Ponderosa Part Two

Since the first posting on home defense, I’ve had several readers ask me about how to do it if they are not allowed to own firearms. Yes, some countries are not as privileged as we are so they will make due with other alternatives. I’ve compiled information from other professional soldiers, several military resources, different police departments, our own FBI Academy and years of personal experience. Here are some, of many; possibilities open to you in order of my personal preference. Remember, research and get as much real-life training as possible prior to choosing which tool to use. Yes, training can be expensive, but your life is worth it.

Option one is the expandable ASP Tactical Baton. The ASP Tactical Baton (web page is the most tactically sophisticated impact weapon currently available to law enforcement personnel. Popular in Australia and England due to their country’s specific laws governing weapon ownership, the ASP is usually the first choice for personal and home defense by most home owners. The ASP company (*see link) offers an excellent product supported by an unmatched training course. Although there are cheaper batons that are produced in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and India, be warned that none of these meet the specifications established by major Federal Law Enforcement and military organizations in the United States. Easily carried and readily available, they have an incredible psychological deterrence and unparalleled control potential. I have carried a 26” ASP through two combat tours and I can’t tell you how great it is. The psychological impact, it has on a would-be assailant when you expand the baton is usually the first and only deterrent one usually needs. The beauty of it is, if your assailant doesn’t believe you’re going to use it, your first strike on them changes their mind quickly.

Once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of talking to the local magistrate, police chief or department of law enforcement prior to purchasing any weapon for personal use. I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you receive formal training through the local police department, police academy or the ASP company training institute itself. Why, because it is considered by law, a blunt instrument which is, usually, a more stern offense in the eyes of the court.

For those of you who have never gotten the crap beat out of them in training or for real, it doesn’t feel good. The ASP is a tool to use in order to prevent the previously mentioned beating. It can be used to “persuade” some one to come along to the police car or to leave you alone. Personal favorite first strike points for me include bony land marks such as the collar bone (3-5 lbs.), shins, (5-7 lbs.) and the wrists (3-4 lbs.). The weights indicate the average pounds of impact pressure a strike would have to have in order to BREAK the bone. None of these strikes are lethal, but they get the job done of stopping your assailant.

Option number two is the D-Cell Mag-Lite (web page Flashlight that holds 6 batteries. It can be used in the same manner as the ASP but has the bonus of being able to blind your assailant first with the light before you actually strike him. I would use this as a first choice if I didn’t have the ASP because of the weight behind the strike. One flash of the light followed by one smack of the light is all it takes to get your point across.

Now on to the most controversial of close combat weapons, the knife. W. Hock Hochheim and Scientific Fighting Congress International has, by far, the most realistic and practical solution to knife fighting for the novice. Their web site is at Look under knife combatives to see the meat and potatoes on this course. The web site features actual case photographs of what happen in a knife fight. These are brutal, but truthful photographs.

I choose the knife as a last resort to defend myself. I have had to defend myself only twice in my life with a knife and both times, I got cut and the other guy pulled back a nub where his hand used to be. I’m not a knife master or a novice but I do have some skill and experience at combat oriented knife fighting. There are no martial arts involved in this. It is brutal, horrific, and usually lethal. Knife fighting has a deep psychological impact on the assailant AND the defender. Shooting someone or even using an ASP still allows you the psychological advantage of a standoff distance so that it doesn’t mess with your head later on. A knife doesn’t give any such luxury to either party. You have to be close to strike and kill you assailant. The other thing you need to realize is you’re going to get cut. No matter how good you are, you’re still going to get cut. Once you’ve gone through the research, training, and local law enforcement, there comes the question of what knife to buy.

I personally swear by the kukri knife, web site The awesome cutting edge of the kukris was first experienced by the British in India who had to face kukri in the well-documented battles since 1814 while combating the Gorkhali Army in western Nepal. The impact of these warriors was such that the British did something out of the ordinary; they had a peace treaty signed, and the British, seeing how bravely the Gorkhalis fought, also made a provision in the treaty to recruit Nepalese in the British Army as British "Gurkha" soldiers.

Kukri is a medium-length curved knife each Gurkha soldier carries with him in uniform and in battle. In his grip, kukri is a formidable razor-sharp weapon and a cutting tool. In fact, kukri is an extension of his arm. The knife is designed so that the torque, the "rotational force" or "angular force" which causes a change in rotational motion, is towards the front of the knife during the strike. In English, that means that when you strike something, or someone, with this knife design, it’s going to chop parts off.

R&R, New Year’s Eve and a Shiner

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I was given the opportunity to go home on R&R (rest and relaxation) leave and I am a big believer in not doing ANYTHING work related when I’m on vacation. I have to tell you, I had a fantastic time from start to finish. The Army paid for the plane fare, and paid me for being on vacation.

Here’s the rundown of how the trip went. I left Iraq on a cargo plane (a lot of cargo included) and went to Kuwait to manifest for the flight to the states. I don’t remember much of that flight other than getting on the plane, buckling up, and sleeping. Once in Kuwait, I got to use a real toilet for the first time in nine months. Yes, it was a big novelty for me. I left shortly after that for Atlanta. I got lucky and got a first class seat all the way.

The fun thing about flying on a chartered plane is the flight crew. Particularly the flight attendants, they are not accustomed to being addressed with “Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, Yes Sir, and No Sir”. They put out so much effort to spoil us for the short amount of time they have us with them. I talked to one who comes from Kansas. She has been a flight attendant for 15 years and repeatedly stated that she loves the military flights the most because of how polite we are and how appreciative we are of their work. We stopped in Germany for a two hour layover to resupply & refuel then kept going.

Once in Atlanta, I was sent through the security point to go from one terminal to another. The TSA agent tells me that I have to have my carry on bag checked by customs, never mind that I have a “Customs Cleared” sticker on my bags. I didn’t mind because I wasn’t in Iraq getting shot at. The one thing that did annoy me was that they said I may be chosen to be patted down to look for any weapons. This is where I calmly explained to them the position they were about to put themselves in. You see, I was already very uncomfortable due to the fact that, by regulation, I left my rifle, pistol and knife in theater because you can’t fly a civilian airline with them; I was also flying in uniform (something I don’t care to do often because I like to keep a low profile). I went further and expressed the fact that I had just been in combat operations about 48 hours before I arrived in Atlanta and “I have this thing about people I don’t know touching me”. Needless to say, they chose someone else.

I am fully supportive of TSA’s mission of insuring my safety on a plane as well as the safety of all passengers but I would like to know if they are able to or allowed to apply common sense to their job to make it easier. Think about this, if a soldier (clearly marked by his U.S. Army uniform) returning from Iraq comes up to your security station; wouldn’t you think to ask to verify that he has his customs clearance and his MILITARY IDENTIFICATION to verify authenticity? Oh well, water under the bridge.

I spent about three hours in the Atlanta Airport and I have to tell you about the Delta Airlines sponsored military lounge. They already have a USO (Uniformed Service Organization) office in the atrium of the North Terminal. This lounge was in the Bravo Concourse and had been opened all of two hours when I got there and talk about something that stands out. They had a food spread that could rival a five-star hotel. They also had local Georgians there that were spending their free time to greet us as we went by or stopped by. They had set up a Christmas tree using unit patches as ornaments that were donated by soldiers passing through. What a way to be welcome home from the desert!

From there I went to my home destination and had a fantastic time from the beginning to the end. Of course the end of vacation stinks because you have to go back. The only good thing I can say about that is that I already knew what life was going to be like when I got back. I took the same route back to Iraq.

This is where the trip gets “normal” for me. I was scheduled to fly into my post on New Year’s Eve. Point of interest: Saddam Hussein was hung a few days before so everyone has been expecting the country to go totally insane (more than usual). I was put on a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Air Force. Imagine flying in a huge sewer pipe with wings and no windows. Add to that sweat, vomit and fuel smells and you’ll get the idea. Things were fine until our attempt at landing.

Like the “Frequent Flyer Miles” posting on this blog, the C-130 will also do evasive flying to avoid becoming a target. In the middle of our first attempt, the pilot starts to launch counter-measure flares and weaving the aircraft like a drunk driver. Things are still normal for me, even though we had a few people already lose lunch. It was when the crew chief (the guy in charge of the back of the plane) starts losing his mind in a panic, that I knew we had problems. Normally, a crew chief will sit calmly for the duration of any flight I’ve ever been on unless that aircraft takes fire. At this point, the crew chief got thrown from one end of the plane to the other. A few of us caught him and held him down so he wouldn’t get hurt. I received a nice “shiner” from the incident. This is when the pilot aborts the landing attempt and rockets the aircraft up. Imagine the worst rollercoaster you’ve ever been on and add the possibility of a crash. He then swings around for another attempt because we started to leak hydraulic fluid and can’t go back to Kuwait. While all this is going on, people are starting to barf into their barf bags and on the floor.

On the FOURTH attempt that we actually landed in country. It seems that we had taken a few rounds and developed a hydraulic fluid leak from it, considering the alternative, not a big issue in my book. I imagine it must have been the local problem children helping us celebrate the incoming New Year with fireworks of their own. All in all, I think we got off pretty easy. The fireworks show continued well into morning so I didn’t get much sleep. I have to say the show wasn’t as entertaining as Disney’s show.