Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I should have posted this sooner! It's a sitiation report (sitrep) on how our brigade is doing here at McGregor.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Soldiers always fight the war with ethics and morality and it is that war that comes to define the virtues of a professional soldier. There are thousands of instances where a soldier must make decisions that in any other setting would be mundane. However insignificant these decisions are, these instances cause us to evaluate and re-evaluate our belief system and this constantly challenges the very basis of those virtues. These are also the decisions that, in the eyes of our peers, project what each and every one of us is capable of. Loyalty, honor, respect, and self-discipline are a few of the virtues that a soldier must constantly work for to earn the mark of a professional. The story I am about to tell you is one of those instances.

We have be running around our FOB with blanks in our weapons to simulate walking around a FOB in a war zone with live rounds. A few days back one of the guys in my section lost his Magazine with five blanks in it. I don’t know the specifics of how this happened, but speculation has it that someone picked it up off his bunk and threw it in the trash. Fortunately the mag was found, but it is what happened in the 24 hours between the loss and the recovery that I am going to tell you about.

Shortly after the wag went missing, the Joe came up to me with his plan to replace the mag to avoid punishment. I was taking part in training that required me to be away from the rest of the company so he wanted me to lend him my mag with blanks while he acquired blanks at the training event the rest of the company was going to be attending. I declined his request for two reasons: one he is a grown man with a combat patch so I expected him to do the right thing and two; I am not in the business of babysitting grown men, especially men with combat patches.

If anything, they are the men that should be watching me and preparing me for the day we cross the imaginary line into a combat zone. Let me clarify this a little bit more, there is a fine line between babysitting men and being a leader. A babysitter never takes the training wheels off the bike when he sends his men out, but a leader slashes the front tire after taking the training wheels off. He allows his men the opportunity to grow and learn from the experience.

He and I are on the same team and this is where loyalty kicks in. I knew if I ran to our section Sergeant and dimed him out, I would lose the trust and respect of most of the guys in my section. I am about to go to war with these guys the last thing I want is half the guys hating me. My mistake was assuming he was going to do the right thing and take his mistake up the chain of command.

I know that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups and I wish I had taken that into account then because he did not come clean with his mistake until the next day. Like I mentioned earlier, I was separated from the company so, when I returned from my training that day I arrived to see him and the Non Commissioned Officers in our section tearing his living area apart looking for the missing mag.

What happen next made me feel like a dirt bag. Our section Sergeant walks up to me and asks why I hadn’t informed him of the incident. I didn’t want to sound defensive so I took a hit and ended up taking one of the other guys down with me. When the lost mag came to my attention I had asked one of the combat hardened Joes in our section for advice. He had the same mentality I had so we decided to let it ride out, hoping our buddy would do the right thing. The look of disappointment on my section Sergeant’s face made me want to crawl under my bunk and and curl up into the fetal position.

I have had very ambivalent feelings about the whole event. Part of me is upset that my buddy put me in that position but part of me does not care. We all make mistakes; it is how we learn. Part of me is upset because I should not have assumed that he would have done the right thing, while part of me knows babysitting is not in my job description. Part of me is upset because my reputation of being a turned on Joe took a hit but my loyalty to my guys did not. It is a very precarious situation to be in; I knew it then and I know it know. I may have lost a little trust from my chain of command and my honor as a soldier took a hit but it is a lesson learned. I must have forgotten to inflate the tire after the training wheels where removed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

As Infantrymen we have every God given right to complain and it seems that regardless of how much conditions improve we still find something to gripe about. Complaining is something that comes with the territory; it comes along with the long hours and low pay. I know people working at taco stands that make more money than some lower enlisted soldiers.

When we were at Ft. Hood we were staying in a large bay where all but a handful of guys in the company were crammed into. The bunks were in excellent shape by infantrymen standards. The mattresses were a mixture of old, fabric covered, urine collectors and hard, cold, plastic covered bricks. Some of the bunks were so close together that you might as well jump into bed with the soldier next to you.

Our barracks here at Camp McGregor are like the Marriott compared to the last place. All the furnishings are new and there is ample space between bunks. We are still staying in a huge 36 man bay, but it is better than the 80 man bay at Ft. Hood.

These open bays are a soldier’s worst nightmare. People coming and going at all hours of the night is not conducive to a man’s sleep cycle. Some people are so bad about cleaning up their sleeping area that the stench of dirty laundry and sweaty boots permeate the barracks.

There is also the goober that sets his alarm for some strange hour of the night and does not wake up when it goes off. I have gotten out of my bed three times in the last ten days to wake up different people for being that guy. I am usually not nice about it either, not because I like to be an asshole but because I hate getting my sleep interrupted. I am like a Grizzly coming out of hibernation at the wrong time.

There are also hygiene issues that arise when 36 men are staying in the same room. When we were in processing, we were all pumped full of smallpox and anthrax vaccinations and just a few minutes ago one of the Joes was walking around with the blister that forms around the site of the smallpox vaccine injection exposed. We were told that the infection can spread easily to other parts of the body, if the enemy does not kill us, that idiot will. These barracks are like a Petri disk when one person gets sick the illness spreads like an STD at a college frat party.

This is just a taste of some of the complaints that the average Joe is capable of. I can sit here all day and write all day about all the jaw jacking that takes place on a daily basis but that would be the literary equivalent of being on death row and not knowing if your appeal is going to go through. I might as well end it now, on my own terms, instead of leaving it in the hands of others.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We have been at Ft. Bliss for a few days now. The weather is beautiful and, from what others tell me, the mock FOB (Forward Operating Base) we are staying at looks allot like Iraq. The Islam call to prayer even plays out over the loudspeakers five times a day to acclimate us to it.

The flight in to Ft. Bliss was interesting as well. We were driven out onto the tarmac from some rear entrance at the airport in chartered buses, loaded all the gear into the belly of the plane, took our seats and liftoff. No airport security and tickets to deal with, just simple and to the point. It reminded me of the scene in Jarhead where the Marines are seated in their plane for their first trip to the sandbox.

The first few days was a dog and pony show as we started and completed all the in processing that the army requires when we are activated. We are herded around like cattle until every administrative and medical task required is complete. Some of the guys would start mooing from time to time just to break the monotony of the routine. It was truly a circus show and the irony was that the whole process started in a big white tent that was big enough for a circus show. It even had the big peaks in the roof that are created when the tent poles are shoved tight up against the ceiling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This post is going to challenge my ability to omit profanity, but here goes nothing.

We have one last night of freedom before we report to Ft. Bliss for the remainder of our training. We have been at it for about a month now and most of the guys in our section are already foreseeing potential problems.

There is a newly minted junior NCO in our section that everyone is having difficulty adjusting to. The guy seems to mean well but he can be a complete jerk. He treats everyone like we are the two year old bastard child of a twenty dollar hooker. I understand that there are a few guys need to be tended to by a nanny but this guy is like the evil stepmother that beats her stepchildren.

This guy is getting under our skin so bad that a few of the guys and I had an impromptu pow-wow yesterday to figure out how to stay off this guys radar. At first I thought the guy was trying to flex his muscle when he first joined our section, so I have tried on a few occasions to try to get to know the guy. I wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt, but all that changed this morning.

I was the second person down in the cafeteria this morning to grab a bite to eat and he was the only guy in the place. I decided, as I grabbed my meal, to go sit with him and have a visit. This was where I was going to figure out if this guy was truly an (explicit) or not.

As I walked up to the table, I said something along the lines of, "Whats going on man?"

His response was, "I am not a morning person."

It was not his response that annoyed me, it was his tone. His tone of voice pretty much told me to go shove my thumb up my rectum. Without hesitating I sat down and didn't say another word. I knew the uncomfortable silence would piss him off. After he finished his breakfast he got up, without saying a word, and disappeared. At this point, I knew we were going to be in for a long year.

Later in the day a handful of us were taking part in some hip pocket training with our section leader. This junior NCO set an excellent example by making it clear that the training was irrelevant to our mission in Iraq. This guys is supposed to be a leader and the fact that he was reluctant to train, even after being told to do so by a senior NCO, pissed me off. Soldiers must train for every possible scenario and this guy thought that because he had a combat patch he could tell a senior NCO that he didn't want to take part in the training. Way to set an example for the men.

I understand that there are many styles of leadership but ultimately the goal is to keep the troops in high moral. Keeping the troops happy is a daunting task, but a soldier that knows he is being taken care of will move a mountain at a moments notice. Keep the troops happy and you will earn their respect. This guy does not know it but the troops are ready to bury him under that mountain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I am fortunate. I am very fortunate that this is my first deployment. There are service members that have seen the mountains of Afghanistan or the sands of Iraq numerous times. That type of selfless service takes is toll on the human soul. The soul however is the last element of a man that the world can see suffering. To the protected, the families being torn apart by combat tours are the sad result of too much time away from home. Then there are the shots that are fired during a battle that is waged within the confines of our mind. These are the scars that are never seen.

For many of our Brigade, that battle began on September 10th as we left home and reported for duty. There will be a lull in the fight this weekend as battalions across the state have farewell ceremonies and soldiers get to spend a few precious days with their families. Loved ones will be reunited only to be torn apart one more time.

The cruelty of these moments are just one of the infinite sacrifices we are willing to endure. We carry the burden of these sacrifices so that the many can benefit from the actions of the few.

There have been many wars in our nation's history but this one is different. The war and its troops cannot be compared to the revolutionary ideals and the Founding Fathers, even a comparison to the Greatest Generation cannot be made. Every veteran or all wars have served admirably but the men and women that don the uniform today are of a different breed. They were not drafted or enlisted because it was the popular thing to do. They serve because it is what must be done to protect our colors, the flag that represents who we are and the legacy of those that fought before them.

As the war continues, our country needs to be reminded of the service of the men and women in uniform. They had a choice and they served when no one else answered the call. They are at times referred to as the next greatest generation but this moniker does not reflect who they are. These men and women served admirably, courageously, and selflessly at a cost to their own well being. They sacrificed when no one else would.

Every generation has it's hero's and this generation now has its own. They truly are a Selfless Generation.