Thursday, April 27, 2006

Detrius of War

I have been happily snap, snap, snapping away with my new camera and have taken about 7 million unremarkable shots and maybe 6 or 7 I really like. This is one of them. This is abandoned Iraqi armor left in place in 2003 and is still there. I really wish I was better on photo shop. I am compressing the photos so I can load them on the blog but it really does no justice as these are SHARP. These are two Soviet made BMP armored personnel carriers and a Soviet made T-55 tank. It is early 60's technology and was trying to fight 21st Century warfighters. These Iraqis were smart. They saw what was coming and DD'd outta there!

The detrius of war was all over in 2003 and up until last year. It is all being cleaned up and everyone who comes now does not get to see the sights we saw. It is not sad but it is a change in the way we look at the place and does change the historical perspective. I am now trying to recreate a lot of the photos I took with lower resolution cameras.

What I can't wait for is October so I can take several thousand photos of T-Man and Carren in London. I am looking forward to this trip. He is big enough that he is self-ambulatory and does not have to be carried. He will love Kewes Gardens and the Zoo. Carren will love the palaces and museums. I will love the beer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stories not carried by CNN

While I was in Dubai the USS Ronald Reagan was in town. I went into a bar full of sailors and they saw the 1st CAV patch on my 3-Day bag. We got into discussions about the war and I was not surprised to hear from them that they only hear the worst of what happens here. Just like everyone at home, they don't read anymore, they just get all their news from electronic sources like CNN, and CBS, et al.

These MSM entities don't publish good news because "If it bleeds, it leads". Bad news is page one, good news is page three filler. As a result most people don't know about the good that has been done here or how the Army goes about it's day to day business.

I have posted the first in a series of photos showing some of our Civil Affairs group putting gravel down at an Iraqi school. That may not seem like a big deal to you but to a child who has nothing but a dirty, dusty place to play, it is wonderful. I know these soldiers and I know the photographer. These are not staged photos. This is the real Army and these are real smiles.

I also know EXACTLY where that gravel came from. For the rest of the story check out this link.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Back from Dubai

I just got back from a short visit to Dubai. What was supposed to be a two day trip ended up being a 5 day trip. There are some things I won't go into here but I had to pull a rescue mission on a stranded employee and then had a bumped flight back. All in all I had a good time and needed the break. It will get me through until I get a real R&R.

I bought a honking camera while I was there that fits all my autofocus lenses from my 35mm SLR setup. I bought the Konica Minolta Dynax 7D which is their top of the line model. It retails for about $1500.00 + tax in the US and I got it for $1100.00 tax free. The photo attached is a low light shot that I took at night in Bur Dubai. This is the old Souk and it has been almost totally rebuilt by the government. What I really like is the lighting in the wind towers.

With this new camera I will be able to take hundreds of shots to experiment with. I love the resolution of 35mm but it costs a lot for developing. This camera will allow me to be a shutter bug and be able to play around. I know this one look a little grainy but I am still playing with editing tools also. I compressed this from a large sized 5Meg photo to a .57 smaller frame.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Has it been two years?

It has been two years since I was really scared. I was in fear for my life and that of my people. We were under attack from the Madi Militia. We had small arms fire, mortars, and rockets coming in. I had 43 scared people but I knew that I could not cave into my fear and self doubt nor could I show it. I have had many classes and gone through many studies on leadership but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for that moment. Nothing you have ever done prepares you to make decisions that literally affect life and death. You don't even realize what a watershed in your life you have passed until after it is over.

I made sure everyone called and told their families they were OK but we were so damn vulnerable and I could not sleep. I used my practiced calm voice when ever I spoke with anyone, especially my wife. I did not want her to worry. That is my role. I had to ruck up and lead. I clearly understood that my people just wanted to be told what to do. It was a crisis and they wanted the comfort of being busy. I found lots of work for us to do and it kept them busy. By being busy they did not have time to think about what was going on. They were tired and slept instead of laying awake worrying. I did that. Thank God for Fritz. He was my rock that week and he does not even know it. Every day he started off by telling me that I was handling it and doing well. I think sometimes he lied to bolster me but good NCO that he is, he did what he had to do to keep command in order. His chats and his leadership kept me on track.

We found out that a "Safe Harbor" call had been put out for all convoys to go to the closest FOB and get off the roads. We knew that two were on post. It did not take long to find them. We were also told to be on the lookout for two more who had not checked in. Those two had run into bad trouble and had taken casulaties.

We went to one convoy and bad assed dudes that they were, they refused the general order that had been placed ordering everyone to wear full battle rattle 24/7 until it was safer. They balked at the "Stop Move" order telling them they could not roll outside the gates. While I was explaining how these orders had come down 6 mortars walked in and went right across the airfield about 200 yards from us. They stood there open mouthed saying nothing. I turned and said, "Any more questions?" They all went to their trucks and put their gear on.

We found another half convoy who had turned around when the lead elements came under fire. They were glad to find us. I had them and the other two convoys drop their loads and bring the cabs to our LSA to get inside our secondary perimeter. I made arrangments to have food picked up as I could see that everyone traveling the 2 miles to the DFAC was going to be impossible. We just did not have enough vehicles available.

We kept looking for the other convoy. I kept getting email telling me they were on post. They were in no area we searched. No one had seen them. In particular we were looking for one man who was being reported as missing and then as dead. His truck had been found burned to a crisp and a skeleton inside. They thought it was him. We found him and his convoy mates walking into the DFAC. They were parked behind an unoccupied building and had reported to no one. I got the dead man on the phone and fired out the emails. We were all so happy! I cried a little that night. Some of it was stress relief and some was relief that he was alive. The poor man whose skeleton was found was a TCN driver who had jumped in the truck after his own had been knocked out.

Some of the truckers had lost everything in the trucks that were destroyed. One guy only had the clothes on his back. They lost wallets, passports, money, bags, etc. We collected clothing from our own people to help these men out and my people gave generously.

I called my crews together and gave what was probably the best speech I have ever given. I told them all that we had to do our jobs so that the kids could go out and do theirs. The only way to knock the bad guys in the teeth was to keep the kids going and take care of the things we were contracted to do. That way they did not have to worry and could go out and get the job done. I also told them that everyone volunteered to come here and that anyone could quit when we got some order but that for now they all would work. I told the group that every man wonders what it is like to be at the tip of the sword. We now know. We have been there and we overcame our fears and became different people. I mean that. I am a different person than I was before that week. They are different too and not one of them quit. They all stayed and finished their contracts.

The truckers volunteered to help. God bless them. They busted their asses for two weeks until the roads were safe enough for them to go. We learned to love these guys. When they were ready to roll out we made up certificates for them and took the photo you see here. These are great Americans. They made it through the morass and survived. I feel a kinmanship with them that no one else will ever be able to become a part of. We survived.

The day they left we went to the briefing to hear the plan for the roll out. I have never seen such concentration, determination, and businesslike faces as I saw at that breifing. Everyone from the Junior Grade officers to the Senior NCOs, to the gun truck crews, to our truck drivers knew that they were going to roll in harms way but that nothing was going to stop them, nothing would keep them back, nothing would get in their way.

They contacted us when they made their destination. I breathed out and that night I slept soundly for the first time in weeks.

It has been two years. A lot of people have come and gone. Very few are still here who were part of those terrible two weeks. I guess the one I am most proud of is Joe. Joe is the trucker who was missing and presumed dead. He went home for 30 days and then came back to drive a fuel truck on post. I promised his wife he would not go outside the wire. I kept my promise. Joe still works for me but now in a very different capacity. He is my trusted night shift man. He is the nerve center of our operation at night.

I will sleep soundly tonight. Joe is watching. I know my people are safe.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The difference in Iraq

I am attaching a link to a page that lists the differences in Iraq before and after Saddam Hussein. I am also attaching a link in which the writer is proud of the comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. It is a very fresh perspective.

Those who think this war was not worth waging need to read and heed. Our history is filled with sacrafices we have made as a collective nation to ensure freedom and liberty for others. We set them free. We liberate. As the Special Forces motto states, ""de oppresso libre", translated "To Free the Oppressed".

We have freed an oppressed people. Sure, there are a lot who want a return to the status quo. There are those who would start a civil war. There are those who would institute a theocracy. Like any society in flux it is convoluted and confusing but it just does not happen overnight.

It took us as a nation over 80 years and a Civil War before we settled down and became the fore runners of who we are today. The French had a revolution and another 40 years. We liberated France and after that it was about 10 years for them to return to normal. Germany was a country we invaded. We took it by force, dismantled the government, disbanded the Army, and started over. It took 8 years of occupation and rebuilding for them to become a stand alone entity and they are much more like us that Iraq. They already had some of our values and had already been a democratic society. Everyone seems to forget that the Nazis were elected into power.

Iraq is starting from scratch. It is a amalgamation of tribal lands made into an un-natural country by British mandate after WWI. They fought against the Allies in WWII on the side of the Germans! Everyone has forgotten that too! There has never been democracy here, no equal rights, no rights at all.

We sacrafice, we pay in money and blood. We do it to make ourselves safer in the future but we also do it for the most noble of causes. We do it for an idea. We do it for someone else, free of charge, and without remorse. We do so willingly. We have guilt, we grieve our dead but no more or no less than those of past conflicts.

No one talks about the magnatude of sorrow inflicted on our nation in WWII. We call them the "Greatest Generation". When these fine people are interviewed they always say that they were just,"...doing their jobs." So are these kids over here. They just do their jobs. They fight, they die, but they persevere.

In WWII the general staff knew that we needed to start taking the war to the Japanese. They chose the island of Tarawa to invade. There was no media there to cover our mistakes and no media to harp on the fact that we lost over 3000 Marines in 3 days to take a 2 square mile patch of coral. There were no photos of the mangled American bodies littering the beach. Serious miscalculations were made. The tide was low and the tracked assault vehicles got hung up on the coral. They were the wrong vehicles. The kids did their jobs and died in the thousands. Our general staff learned and the mistakes were never repeated.

Our general staff protected these mistakes and corrections as a secret and did not let our enemies know what our weaknesses were. They kept the public in the dark and our enemies. These days every mistake is covered by the MSM in minute gory detail. The general staff in WWII kept the photos out of the press because they knew that if the general public knew the details they would suffer in morale. Instead of harping on the losses and horrors they triumphed the successes and the victory.

I keep hearing and seeing casualty counts like it is a scorecard or something. That does not matter as much as winning. We suffered over 50,000 dead (combined losses, all Americans) at Gettysburg and still fought for two more years. We suffered over 400,000 dead in WWII and it was for 5 years. This was is at a pittance of the human cost compared to this war yet the importance of this conflict is just as great as in either of those two mentioned.

The MSM does not say this. Lessons Learned don't make good news lead ins but bad news and blood does. Stabilization, freedom, and prosperity don't make the evening news. There is a lot more of that around than the MSM tells you about.

Link to a Vietnam Vet's take on Iraq.

Link to the difference in Hussein's Iraq and now.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Whose flag is this?

I am reading all this coverage of the ballyhoo regarding immigration and such in the USA. Heartfelt diatribe aside my take is simple. This is our country and our culture. If you want to come, do it legally (We should reform that and make it easier) and then assimilate into our culture. Its OK to keep essence of your original culture but don't try to recreate the screwed up place you fled from. My ancestors came from England and Germany and I don't call myself English-American and live in a little English community. Become one of us. If you want benefits pay taxes and become registered.

Don't employ illegals or face the wrath. Enforce the law and put the company leaders of the firms that break the law in jail. Make the workers "Guest Workers" like the Germans do. You can reside but you will never be a citizen.

I love Mexicans. They are the hardest working and some of the most honest people I have ever met but this system is causing the trouble. They just want a better life and we have the jobs and the room. We just need to fix the problem without declining into anarchy.

I don't want to see anyone burn an Amercian flag. That is like spitting in my face. You can fly yours but not in the place of or above the American flag.

You don't use rioting as an excuse to skip school. Get your little butts to class or fail your course, its that simple. Parents of the delinquent or truant children should pay a fine or spend the night in jail. Junior would be in class for sure if that was a law!

Finally I get to the flag. It is eerily reminisent of the Nazi German flag. Imagine a swastika instead of the black eagle. Who does it belong to? The United Farm Workers. A Latino based socialist union. Politics does make strange bedfellows, does it not?
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