Sunday, January 16, 2005

Settling In

Another week has passed, and although it can't go fast enough, the time is flying by. My team is getting settled, and we received our room assignments this week, which was a big morale boost. It may not seem like much to most, but we've been living in transient quarters since we were activated in November, and although it's not home, it's what we've got for now.

The guys' morale is high as they take the lead in their new positions. When I was here in 1990 I was a 2LT. Now, I am Major, and I get a few extra privileges. Ironically the unit I deployed with in the first war is in my area now. I visited the 2LT in the same position I was in back in 1990. A lot has changed in 14 years, but the position is still there, and some of the same problems still exist.

The outgoing unit leaves soon. They have done an outstanding job here, and we've made some friends in our short time together. They are a National Guard unit out of New York. It is amazing to sit back and here the two groups exchange stories: NC vs. NY. The contrast is comical, and everyone has had a lot of fun at the other's expense. Bottom line - they spent a year here, accomplished their mission and every one of them is going to make it back home safely. This is exactly what I want my successor to say about us.

Mortars - We were attacked several times this week. Only one minor casualty from another unit. The report is that he will be ok. Mortars here are a daily event. Yesterday one hit about 500 meters from our trailer -what a way to wake up. My guys reacted great. We all got in our bunkers before the second one hit further away. Then, we waited to hear the outgoing artillery. You hear the shot, wait about 20 seconds, and then you hear the impact. As bad as it feels to be on the receiving end of their stuff, it really has to suck being on the receiving end of ours.

Iraqi NG - I watched the Iraqi National Guard training the other day on post. As I watched them conducting basic drill and ceremony activities, I wondered what kind of lives they lived before all of this started, and what would their lives be like from this day forward. They looked as if they came from all walks of life: young and old, rich and poor, and like us they are citizen soldiers serving their country. The American soldiers training them have had good things to say about how they are progressing. I hope to get the chance to know some of them better as the year goes on.

The news has reported the Abu Ghraib sentencing of the soldier convicted of mistreating the Iraqi prisoners. Comments here are as I expected. Most are shocked that he received 10 years, and that what was reported as "torture" was more like humiliation. Most soldiers believe the beheading and disfigurement of those captured by the Iraqis is torture, but the news doesn't seem to be interested in that. It is obvious those soldiers involved used bad judgment, and they along with their leadership will be held accountable, but relative to the bad judgment used by our enemy, the U.S. Soldiers' crimes seem insignificant.

To better illustrate how differently soldiers think, the other day I spoke to a soldier that I've notice moping around. After some small talk, I asked what was bothering him and his response was one I've heard before, especially from young soldiers. He explained "I just don't feel like I'm getting enough action." In his mind, he wanted to engage the enemy and strike the decisive blow that would destroy the enemy's will to ever fight again. This particular individual used to be a line soldier and now holds an administrative position.

I know it sounds crazy to some people who hear this kind of talk, but it is this mentality and training that allows sane men and women to knowingly go into harms way. We spoke for a few minutes about friends we both had that were escorting convoys and having daily contact with the bad guys. We laughed at how strange the military mind-set can make us look at situations, and I got the feeling he realized how strange his original statement was.

I am still amazed at all of the functions that go on daily to make this whole operation work. The synchronization of all the forces along with the civilians is incredible. Soldiers from every branch of service are working together in harmony. Soldiers are taking initiative at all levels to do things right, and right is being acknowledged and praised. As much as I miss my family, I'm glad to be part of this operation. What an honor to serve next to the soldiers here. I wish every American could experience this feeling and I hope that my words will allow some to understand the process a little better.

Take Care and God Bless.