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December 6, 2008
Air Assault!By Greyhawk
Somewhere south of Baghdad:
Yusufiya, Iraq is a predominately rural area approximately 600 km in size. Canals perforate the fields of okra, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, and potato. Orange groves and date palms are also abundant along the Euphrates which bounds the western edge of the region. The farmlands host a relatively dispersed and uneducated population, which in Iraq means: favorable conditions for hiding insurgent soldiers and weapons caches. Because of Yusufiya’s proximity to Baghdad, terrorists used the city for staging attacks in the city at large.
Their mission? Restore electricity to a remote village.
"Humanitarian aid implemented by the US military in Iraq is reinforcing stability and quickening the peace", writes Captain Steve McGregor, recently returned from a 14-month deployment with Task Force 3-187, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "One area of Iraq this is particularly noticeable is Yusufiya, where Task Force 3-187 was able to completely transfer their area of responsibility back to Iraqi control."
Although not addressed as such, there's much discussion of wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs therein, too - along with contrasting pink vs grey responses to challenge.
The saturation of Yusufiya by 3-187 prevented “disaster tourism,” a concept described by Alex de Waal. De Waal observes that aid workers and journalists tend to over-estimate famine in Sudan because of a “combination of factors, including visiting at the worst times of year, visiting famine camps, where the worst suffering is to be found, and meeting the most destitute, combined with a failure to understand coping strategies…” For 14 months the Task Force patrolled the poorest slums of Yusufiya and the relatively wealthy land-owning neighborhoods as well. They understood local needs from a comprehensive perspective.Among other conclusions:
The Army possesses and develops better leaders than the aid community. As an institution the US Army relies on national service academies, Officer Training Courses, leadership schools such as Ranger School, and real-world experience, to develop leaders. Aid organizations as well as the US Department of State need to reevaluate how they prepare their staff for austere environments and the rigors of nation building or consider military exchange programs.Read the whole thing, which ties together several themes that have been running through this blog over the past week. The 101st Airborne in Iraq (Yusifiyah, "the triangle of death"), humanitarian/anthropological "missions", irregular warfare, and why we're increasingly able to hand over authority to the Iraqi government and security forces.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 6, 2008 1:08 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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