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November 22, 2005
Who's Who In IraqBy Greyhawk
A great question from the comments on this post:
Can anyone tell me what the 150000+ troops are actually doing right now in Iraq?An excellent question. I wouldn't use the term, but if you're a "complete illiterate" I don't doubt you represent a large segment of the population, and that's why I'm here. The quick answer is that the combat elements require a very large number of support units. Any military installation can be looked at as a city, providing all the necessary services - police, fireman, "banks" (finance specialists), construction crews, communications infrastructure and folks to repair it - on and on. Essentially most of the larger outposts in Iraq can be looked at in that manner.
Also there are civil affairs troops - those who are rebuilding Iraq. They are combat capable, but clearing the ville isn't their primary task.
And then you have the various levels of headquarters and requisite functionaries.
Add in the Air Force with the massive task of airlifting everything from point A to B. Several AF camps over there contain all the elements of the "small city" supporting lots of folks handling cargo and passengers, air traffic controllers, base operations managers, weather forecasters, aircraft maintainers, fire crews, security forces...
An army of personnel specialists is there to make sure all the paperwork is done. Annoying but essential.
Doctors and nurses - several hospitals full. Dentists. Chaplains. Supply folks. Heating and Air Conditioning repair guys. Computer repair guys. Vehicle maintainers. On and on and on.
These folks are all armed too - or at least each has a weapon nearby. Those who go "outside the wire" - combat, civil affairs, explosive ordnance teams - sometimes refer to their support elements as "Fobbits" - those who never leave the FOB, Forward Operating Base. But they are all at risk too - rocket and mortar attacks occur daily, and although rarely scoring a hit they sometimes do "get lucky". One way to look at it is that these are the folks who don't get to shoot back. Combat crew or not, incoming mortar rounds when you just hit your bunk - or worse, when you just stepped into the shower - can really ruin your day.
That's just a quick and partial answer to the question "What is everyone else doing and is what they are doing important enough that it justifies the daily IED losses?" Justify the losses? No - the end state justifies the losses (or not, if we cut and run), and that's the issue of the day.
Anyhow - give all due credit to the guys who "hit the streets". But take nothing away from the rest of the folks who are there, far from home, under fire, and getting the job done.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 22, 2005 8:56 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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