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October 2, 2005
Forward MarchBy Greyhawk
TigerHawk posts a report on Lt. General David Petraeus' appearance at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School For Public and International Affairs. The speech received no notice in any other media as of this writing, and that's not surprising, given that a central topic of discussion was the failure of the media to report much of what was happening in Iraq during his latest tour there. The entire post is a must-read, and TigerHawk has done a great service in providing it.
A key comment:
The central theme of his talk, which was supported by lots of data and supporting anecdotes, was that there are a lot of myths about Iraq that need to be dispelled. One such myth is the claim that NATO has not been involved -- General Petraeus forcefully argued that it had been, particularly in the establishment of the military academy and training facilities, but that NATO's participation had been substantially ignored by the press.Indeed, though more correctly the American media has ignored it - as Agence France Presse did cover the story of the recent opening of a training center near Baghdad, although DefenseNews was one of the few American sources carry the story:
The United States hailed the launch of a new NATO training center for Iraqi forces on Sept. 27, saying the alliance had a key role to play in the insurgency-wracked nation.Although not noted by the General, another training facility recently opened in Iraq has also been ignored by media:
In the U.S. Army, noncommissioned officers are known as the ?backbone of the Army,? and a group of these Soldiers has set up an academy to help the Iraqi army produce its own rigid corps of NCOs.And progress is being made:
The newly trained NCOs go back to their respective units upon graduating from the academy, with one exception. Select Iraqi NCOs have the opportunity to become part of the cadre.Major K has more:
When the Academy was first set up, SFC R. and the rest of the MiTT Team were teaching all of the courses. Now, the courses are taught exclusively by Iraqi NCO Instructors. Several of these instructors are female.It's not clear whether he's discussing the same facility though - and to be effective there should be several such schools throughout the country.
Both these schools are examples of forward progress - and to measure progress we return to TigerHawk's report:
The most impressive thing about the Iraqi units is how tenacious they have become, notwithstanding early reports that they would cut and run. According to General Patraeus, since the January elections, from which the Iraqi security forces ?took an enormous lift that still persists,? the Iraqi forces "have not run from a fight, they have not backed down."In fact, in my time in Iraq, the media was rife with stories of the failure of Iraqi security forces - their tendency to vanish when attacked by their foes. Such stories have been noticeably absent from reports for several months now - although questions about the overall readiness of the Iraqi Army are raised routinely.
Another quote from the General that brings to mind another now-vanished theme common to stories from Iraq a few months ago:
Another myth is that "the Iraqi forces have no armor." Coalition members from the former Communist bloc have contributed lots of armor compatible with legacy Iraqi experience, including 77 T-70 tanks from Hungary ("which are better than anything the Iraqis had under Saddam"). Iraqi tanks have been organized into an armored brigade which is responsible for securing the airport road ("Route Irish has been free of violence since the Iraqi armored brigade took it over").Those unfamiliar with the territory will miss the significance of that last line. Route Irish, aka the Airport Road links Baghdad Airport to the International Zone, and was rightfully notorious for the number of attacks that occurred there. A common theme in reports from Iraq was the story of any journalist's harrowing trip from the Zone to the Airport along that route - but such stories have vanished recently.
A final point from Princeton:
In General Petraeus' conception, the Transition Command has five missions:This is worth noting in that 1) it's right, and a realistic assessment, and 2) the sentiment is echoed in a quote from a junior officer from another unit in another recent story from Iraq:
"When people say it's horrible that you are training those Iraqi soldiers because they will never be as good as we are, they are missing the point," said Capt. Mike Whitney, commander of the 1-30th's Alpha Company. "No, the Iraqis will never be as good as we are, but they don't have to be. They just have to be better than anybody they face here."In a further sign of hope, note that that story is from the New York Times, and reflects a recent trend - more willingness to report good news from Iraq. So perhaps that battle is going a bit more favorably than the General is aware. Time will tell.
Posted by Greyhawk / October 2, 2005 10:31 PM | Permalink
TigerHawk reports a very important and illuminating speech given by Lieutenant General (LTG) David Petraeus at Princeton University, "A Soldier's Reflections on IraqA Soldier's Reflections on Iraq Read More
Don't miss TigerHawk's excellent report and analysis here, or Greyhawk's comments here. While you're at it, read Tigerhawk's earlier post on Condoleezza Rice's speech at Princeton here. Sorry I forgot to link to it earlier. Read More
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...)
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