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March 25, 2009
The Enemy in the Wind (III)By Greyhawk
Part two is here.
Air Force Weather Agency annotated image of the storm system and dust over Southwest Asia valid at 1515 UTC 25 March 2003. Courtesy USAF.
The New York Times, after the dust settled:
And they did. The New York Times, March 23rd:
In fact, the forecast was in the news as early as March 21st.
"The big sandstorm was even worse than predicted." General Tommy Franks recalled, "Reddish brown dust formed a high dome in the western desert and rolled over southern Iraq -- and over 170,000 coalition troops. Visibility dropped to 10 meters or less. Rain pounded down through the red dust, turning the air to mud."
Whether well predicted or not, as noted in part one of this series, the forecast doesn't always make it to everyone on the ground.
Rick Atkinson, with the 101st:
At dawn on Tuesday, March 25th, the skies began to cloud. By mid afternoon the weather was not only worse than it had been on Monday, it was worse than it had ever been in the long, sorry history of Mesopotamia, or so we preferred to believe. A fierce storm that, like this one, blows out of the south is known as a turab, but everyone in the 101st Airborne Division insisted on calling it a shamal - which is a wind from the north - perhaps because shamal has a plague-of-frogs ring. Begoggled soldiers pulling guard duty sat in burrows with neck gators pulled up around their ears. Helicopters flew briefly before being grounded again, and even vehicle traffic all but ceased as visibility dropped and the odds of getting lost shortened. Except for the grumble of generators, the normal racket of an Army bivouac faded, overwhelmed by creaking tent ropes and the shrieking wind.If you think that "odds of getting lost" bit is an exaggeration, witness this account from Evan Wright. Embedded with Marines in their push to Baghdad, Wright detailed their experiences in the book Generation Kill:
The shamal grows into one of the worst storms anyone has experienced so far in the Middle East. The sky looks like someone picked up a desert and is now turning it upside down on top of us. Then it rains, which comes down as globs of mud. To top it off, it starts to hail. A junior officer walks a few meters out into into this weather to take a dump and becomes hopelessly lost. A team of Recon Marines is organized to go look for him (and he is eventually found, dazed and sheepish, several hours later).
25 Mar 2003, Iraq --- Marine Staff Sergeant Brian Flaherty of New York, Delta Company of the Second Tank Battalion, directs the refueling of a tank through a dust storm. --- Image by © Cheryl Diaz Meyer/Dallas Morning News
Embedded with the 3d Infantry Division on the road to Baghdad, Jules Crittenden would relate a similar tale:
(To learn the fate of Spec. Johnson, see Jules' follow up report here.)
An M1A1 Abrams tanks with the Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment rumbles down a street near the village of Al Faysaliyah, Iraq, during a dust storm Tuesday. -- Photo by Warren Zinn, Times Staff
"As the night went on it rained mud." Jules wrote, "The wind got colder. Enemy raiders attacked somewhere nearby, and we heard the clatter of small arms fire and booming artillery muffled by the dust cloud."
Ironically, some of that small arms fire could have been from Staff Sergeant Gerry Thompson, an Air Force weather forecaster at the tip of the spear with elements of the 3ID. Thompson would later relate his experiences as part of a Weather Channel documentary on the role of forecasters in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Halted that night with the rest of the division by the storm, Thompson and a fellow soldier were alternating guard duty "somewhere near Najaf".
Thompson took cover under a humvee and began to return fire.
"You couldn't see who was shooting, where they were shooting from. Bombs were going off around us. I was lucky to have a really good First Sergeant who pointed everyone in the right direction. From the northwest to the northeast we were under attack..."
Posted by Greyhawk / March 25, 2009 10:37 AM | Permalink
Part one is here. ***** CAMP UDAIRI, Kuwait (March 23, 2003) - CH-47 Chinook helicopter crewmembers of the 101st Airborne Division converse on the flight line shortly before flying across the border into Iraq, while AH-64 Apache helicopters wait to tak... 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...)
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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com