Monday, January 31, 2005

Before And After The Election

January 29 , 2005

First and foremost, I would like to thank the ever-present media for really boosting the insurgents’ message. I can't tell you how aware the media made me about how dangerous it would be for the Iraqis to get out and vote. We get to watch a few select channels here, and every station represented in the country was putting the "fear factor" in the minds of those who were thinking about voting. They even televised the leaflets the insurgents were passing out. How do you like that for free publicity?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for freedom of speech, but I was always taught that there was a limit to that freedom, and it came when it causes harm to others. How does their message cause harm? They bolster the fact to the insurgents are threatening anyone who votes, out of fear not enough people participate in the process, the insurgents gain strength, and the U.S. Soldier's stay here gets extended. There is where the harm comes in.

I'm writing this on the eve of election day, so only time will tell how well the insurgents' message was received by the Iraqi people. Again, thanks to our very own American news broadcasters for getting out the insurgents’ message.

The soldiers and the leadership are all holding their breath hoping that tomorrow goes off without too many hitches. We do expect that VBIED's (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombers will be their mode of destruction, so the units outside the wire are on a heightened state of readiness. We've even limited actions here on post to maintain full accountability of our soldiers and limit our exposure to hazardous areas.



January 31, 2005

What a great day to be an American and even a greater day to be one of those in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite the pain and anguish it caused the broadcasters to show the people of this country celebrating in the streets over the chance to vote, you know that the next step in getting this country on its own two feet occurred yesterday. History was made, and the U.S. leadership along with the young men and women of our armed forces made it happen.

While watching the success stories on the TV and hearing about the gratitude the people at the polls had for the troops, I couldn't help but think of the soldiers that weren't here to see the results of their efforts. The soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice, so that another human being could experience the freedom that they and their family enjoy each day. I don't believe that each of them fully understood the magnitude of what they were doing at the time of their death, but I do believe that their spirits were present yesterday, and they were glad in the moment they helped create. I hope everyone at home is as jacked up as we are about how things went yesterday.

Take Care and God Bless

Friday, January 28, 2005

Welcome

Since Instapundit gave a shout out to this blog, we are getting a visitor every ten seconds. We normally welcome about 50 visitors a day.

For those of you visiting for the first time, the Soldier remains anonymous. He is a reservist who has been in Iraq for one month. I am Patrick Eakes, and I maintain this blog for the Soldier.

If you wish to leave a comment, I will be sure it is forwarded to the Soldier.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Life In Iraq

It all happens so fast.

Thanks to all who have written in response to my journal. The support has been encouraging and is greatly appreciated. Time in Iraq goes by so fast. I asked one of my soldiers what day it was, and we both had to think for a while before coming up with different answers (we finally narrowed it down and just picked one). It doesn't matter what day it is here. All that matters is the mission you have, completing it to standard, and getting on with the next mission.

A lot has transpired since my last update. Most all of it has been good. We continue to receive mortar fire here almost daily, but it has very little effect on the post operations. I am reminded of scenes in the TV show M*A*S*H, which I watched as a child. They would be eating chow, while being bombed, and sit around fearlessly making jokes. The mission was to eat. Regardless of the mortars, we ate, waited for the all clear signal, then left to resume our daily activities.

My commander and I were summoned to brief our peers and superiors. This was my first intra-theater travel event. Since my commander and I were coming from separate locations, we were on our own to come up with our travel methods. (Mission: get to a certain place at a certain time, the means and methods are up to you) After several failed attempts I finally boarded an Air Force (AF) C-17. What a magnificent plane! We were all buckled in, and the engines revved up as we prepared for take off. All of a sudden the engines shut down, and the Air Craft commander came over the speaker asking everyone to exit the aircraft.

There were several interpreters on the plane closest to the door with bewildered looks on their faces. The AF load master pointed out the closest bunkers to me, and I led the chalk to the concrete barriers. I was peering out of one of the open sides when I witnessed a small stream of light coming from the ground on the other side of the air strip. A few seconds after the shot was fired from the ground, and out of nowhere, a barrage of tracers came from the sky completely annihilating the spot that the shot was fired from. It was good to see that the enemies attack was met with overwhelming force. After the all clear, we re-boarded the plane and immediately took off.

It was good to see my commander again. We really enjoy working together. She is a West Point Graduate, and her day job is a stay at home mom. But, when she puts on the Army greens, she is all about being a soldier. I am constantly amazed at her ability to transition from wife and mom to soldier. She is not only a tribute to women in the military but to all leaders in our profession. Together we were able to accurately describe our situation, recommend possible solutions, present those solutions, and by the end of our two-day trip we had a set course of action. The trip was a great success, and now we needed to get back to our duty stations.

I found it quite ironic to hear her say she couldn't wait to get back to Baghdad. I called her on the irony, and we both acknowledged the changes we had gone through since leaving home. We were accompanied on our trip north by the celebrity news anchor Peter Jennings. I've never been a fan of his slanted commentaries, but it was nice to meet the man. I introduced him to my commander, and true to what I believed, he attempted in conversation to get her to say something adverse about the war. Boy, was he talking to the wrong person. She accurately and with passion described what most soldiers here believe: what we have done and are continuing to do will make a positive difference in the country of Iraq, the region, and the world. I don't believe he will air her point of view.

We traveled to her location by plane, and I got to see the rest of the people in our unit. Now I needed to find a way to get back to my guys. My commander got me on a space available U-60 (Blackhawk). I had to wait a day while the brown out (sand storm) cleared up before my trip could continue. The flight was incredible, again another magnificent piece of machinery. The aircraft was packed with soldiers and their baggage, yet it flew with such force and speed that it felt like my presence was insignificant.

We flew extremely low and fast, only rising to avoid power lines. I witnessed lots of countryside with men, women, and children all outside working. I was happy to see them all stop and wave in kindness as we flew over. Our door gunners acknowledged them by waving back. To me they were oblivious to the insurgents, terrorists, politics and all the bad that gets reported. I got the feeling that the adults were glad to see us and the kids were doing just as I did as a child, waving at anything that flew by in amazement.

I arrived back without incident. It was great to see my guys again, and I felt that they were glad to see me. I met some interesting people on my trip. I overheard one young soldier, on his way home, tell war stories to some new guys. It was not hard to tell that some of it was true and some was embellished. His language was what concerned me, and after hearing more than a few "F" bombs, I approached him. I simply asked him where he was going and made him aware that after being with the guys for a year his language back home would not be as welcomed. I made a joke about how it might sound for his parents to hear him say, "Hey mom/dad, how the "F" are you doing, It's "F-ing" good to see you. He and the group laughed, but I believe my point was well taken. I thanked him for what he had done and patted him on the back. He was just a kid fresh out of high school with a year of combat under his belt, going back home where he still lived with his parents.

At one of the hangars that I spent time in waiting on a flight, I spoke to an American civilian whose mission was to establish police academies in the country. He spoke of the complete difference the Iraqi men have in comparison to us. It was his experience that when the Iraqis receive positions of authority, they perceive it as a right to profit from that position and from those they are to lead. That is opposed to our leadership, which in positions of authority means the responsibilities to care for those we lead. I could tell he was struggling with the solution to this problem, and I admired his commitment to make it work.

We met several JAG (military attornies) officers on our trip, and we compared their lives with the TV show's depiction of the ultimate JAG officer. They played right along with the joke and admitted that yes they also fly helicopters and jets, jump from planes, and are constantly in torrid love affairs with beautiful women. It was fun banter coming up with current theater situations that would warrant supernatural JAG abilities and it also helped pass the time.

My soldiers continue to excel in this environment. They interact with the Air Force, DOD civilians, and contractors on a daily basis, and they've won praise from all they have come in contact with. I constantly have peers and superiors telling me what a joy it is to have these men and women from the National Guard here. Two of our soldiers received "coins" (acknowledgment of doing a good job) for the selfless work they did to assist another unit. It is their military bearing along with southern hospitality that sets them apart.

My commander and I are very proud of our soldiers, and we know they will continue to impress everyone they come in contact with. Like the rest of the world, we are all focused on the elections. I'll write again once they have concluded. Many of the soldiers outside the wire are anxious for the bad guys to show their faces, and like the poor soul who fired at us the other day, our guys are poised and eager to retaliate with overwhelming force.

Take Care and God Bless.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Welcome

The News & Record ran a front-page article today on a recent attack in Iraq that Nick Sowers documented in an email sent home. The N&R article included an information box directing readers to two blogs I maintain, including this one.

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, welcome. This blog documents the life of a reservist who has been deployed to Iraq. The Soldier remains anonymous, and I post his entries for him.

Blogs are organized so the most recent posts are at the top of the page. If you are first time visitor, I suggest that you scroll to the bottom of the page and read the posts from the bottom up, which will be chronologically correct.

Below each post you will find a comment tab. Click on it if you wish to make a comment on the post or send a message to the soldier.

Please visit this blog from time to time to get updates from the The Soldier.

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.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Arrival In Kuwait And Iraq

My unit arrived in Kuwait safely. We had a commercial flight chartered by the Army. My commander, CSM, and I passed up an opportunity to fly first class, and we sat with our troops for the 20 hour voyage. I don't know if they appreciated the gesture or thought we were foolish for not moving up. Anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Our time in Kuwait was minimized because of our motivation to get out of there. Our reception was not well organized, and if you sat back and waited on the system to process your unit, you could be there for weeks. We made some contacts, identified the key training events that we needed to hit and coordinated our move north to Iraq.

We were originally scheduled to Convoy. Our vehicles were not up-armored, and this was our biggest concern. In my 15 years of service, I've learned that the military may be bullish, but it does change. I found an active duty unit similar to ours that was going to the same place as us, and after some conversation I discovered that they too were not up-armored, but they were not going to convoy. Puzzled, I asked how they were going, and to my delight I discovered a method to get our troops and equipment flown. My Commander and I were floored. In the past six months, as much as we requested, this option was never given to us. Our soldiers flew out 48hrs after we discovered this option, and everyone arrived safely. Our equipment will follow, so the unit we are replacing will let us use their equipment until ours arrives.

All here is going well. My soldiers' morale is high, and we are settling in. Our replacements were excited to see us and are doing a great job showing us the ropes. I work out of an old hangar that is said to have housed Saddam's private jets. Who knows what went on here; soldiers can conjure up the best stories. We live in trailers and walk about 200 yards to the bathrooms and showers. It's not too bad. I had hot water this morning. The weather is about what I expected - cool now, but not to cold.

Nothing here is easy. Even going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you have to be fully dressed. The unit we are replacing should leave in a few weeks, so I expect things will get better then.

Our first morning here we were greeted with a mortar attack. Not everyone reacted the same. I met one soldier in the bunker we went to and asked him why he was here and his roommate was not. His response was classic. He simply said that he had not had the best of luck lately and was not taking any chances. He told me that within the last week, while driving his vehicle, he hit an IED [ed: improvised explosive device] and was involved in a firefight. He was a young guy from the Alabama Reserves, he was very upbeat about things and stated that he was scheduled to go home in a few weeks. After listening to his story I explained to him that he was mistaken about his luck. I told him that I felt good about being near him because to me, after hitting an IED and being in a firefight and coming out physically unscathed -- his luck seemed pretty good. I was proud to share a bunker with him and to hear his stories for the next hour. When we received the all clear sign, I shook his hand and wished him the best.

Take Care and God Bless

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Good News From Iraq

I spoke to Mrs. Soldier yesterday. She said that the Soldier made it to Kuwait City fine. He was there a few days, then traveled by convoy to his final destination, which is outside Fallujah.

The soldier told me before he deployed that the convoy would be unescorted, meaning they would not have significant defense if attacked, so we are all glad he made it to his compound safely.