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Okay, how long have I been gone? These days I glance at my watch as often to see what weekday it is, or what day of the month as I do for the actual time.
There are two ways to roll into Iraq. The first is the most common from the past few years - you arrive, and work side by side with the person you're relieving for a few days, learn the system and all things that matter, and then he leaves and you've got it. This process is called RIP/TOA - Relieve in Place/Transfer of Authority.
But the surge is something new. There is no one to relieve; you build something from nothing, you determine how you're going to do business. You figure out where everything is and how to get anything done. You try to create your part of the system to be as simple as possible, and wonder - as everyone else does - why the hell everyone else but you is determined to make it as hard as possible to get anything done.
Within the first two or three days you realize that "we'll get that to you in two or three days" is a bullshit answer to any request you might be foolish enough too make, and is the same answer you'll get four days later. You learn that "The only guy who can authorize that is out doing _____" is code for "you're never going to get that done unless you do it yourself, even though you aren't authorized". And you do it yourself. And though you'll hear stories about "last time" you'll find no tangible evidence that this unit has ever been away from home before.
But somehow, when it comes time to write a weekly progress report, you'll find that last week's problems have somehow been solved (or rendered moot), and even though you've got a longer list of shortfalls this Friday you actually are making progress. And by week three you'll actually know how to make things work, even though you may wonder if it's because the system is becoming sane or because you are simply becoming one with an insane system.
And then it's week four, and chaos is routine, but deadlines have been met. And things are working, even though you had to stop everything for two days and learn a new system for inventorying all the shit you inventoried before shipping it over - and then inventory it again using the new system here.
And then inventory it again for someone else.
And not only are things working, but backup systems are working too - those had to be ops checked even earlier than you'd planned. And backups to backups are good to go too.
Her: When will you have time to write something?
Him: Two to three days - things should start to slow down...
Near the end of a 16-hour day. A PLAN has been made - the work of many. The work of many, working many hours. Then one guy makes A BAD DECISION without checking first with any of the many. The plan is about to unhinge, and with a simple glance at his output, I can see the future, and the future is bad. But it can be fixed. He awaits my praise for his efforts.
He knew better, he knew the system, or if he didn't it is long past time where he should have. This is not training, this is not practice, this is not home. Ninety percent of his damage is undone within hours, I'm there to make sure of it. No blood, no foul - this time. He gets one more chance.
Back to the tent, alarm set for 10:30, figured 6 hours sleep would be good enough. I set my own hours here - just work when I need to. But someone else had aniother plan, and a series of loud explosions woke me up about 8 AM. Not close enough to make me worry, but close enough to wake me up. Still don't know exactly what they were. Might have been our guys blowing up captured stuff - too many booms for it to be bad guys (I hope). So I showered (the day before the showers weren't working), shaved, brushed my teeth and came into work. It was too late for chow hall breakfast - if the bastards had struck an hour earlier I could at least have had food.
But what I did have was a rare brief period with nothing to do. So out of curiosity I checked something of which for the past weeks my time constraints have left me blissfully unaware - what sort of news America was getting from Iraq?
The answer? None.
Top US congressional Democrats bluntly told President George W. Bush Wednesday that his Iraq troop "surge" policy was a failure.Which was a pretty effective way to ensure no one in America would learn that a few days after that, we officially finished the "surge" part of the surge - and moved on to implementing strategy.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter, ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.
"As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results," the two leaders wrote.
"The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation.
The American commander in Iraq says his forces have launched new offensives against al-Qaida insurgents in and around Baghdad during the last 24 hours, making use of the last of the additional combat forces President Bush ordered to Iraq in January. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Baghdad.Unfuck yourself, Harry. All done!
General David Petraeus announced the offensives at a news conference on Saturday.
"Literally in the last 24 hours, we have launched a number of different offensive operations in the Baghdad belts in particular," he said, "and we're continuing a number of operations that have been ongoing in Baghdad itself."
General Petraeus says the operations are targeting areas that have been al-Qaida safe havens, and bases for launching car bomb attacks. "A fairly large, coordinated offensive operation, with all of these surge forces, has only just now been launched," he said.
The general said he is taking advantage of the fact that the last of the extra U.S. forces have finally arrived, bringing new capabilities he can use to go after insurgents on their home ground. He would not provide any details of the operations.
What does this comic strip have to do with tactics, a Chief of Naval Operations, a murder suspect and some great nicknames?
It's sorta tied together here.
Happy Father's Day to all... It was a very special Father's Day for one 3ID soldier...
Wander into a local higher HQ building near here (and I suspect this is true of more than one) and one of the first things you'll see is a memorial to the fallen, backdropped by a continuously scrolling slideshow with photos and information on Division's latest casualties of war. The faces represent a cross section of America, many are heartbreakingly young, and many of those who aren't leave young children behind. Each day new fathers without sons, and sons without fathers. Look hard enough at the screens and you'll see your own face looking back.
I'll pause on the occassions I visit higher, and I'm rarely alone in doing so. And I'll remain in that spot until I've seen every face, and felt the tearing of my heart from my chest. In the workaday bustle of that place, simultaneously in the midst and far removed from the grimmer aspects of this conflict, it would be easy to forget the far different reality that exists not far geographically away. But there the very familiar faces of the fallen bid greeting and farewell to those who would make decisions that will ultimately result in others joining their ranks.
One needn't wonder what they might say, given the chance. Their actions spoke louder and more powerfully than words ever could.
Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on other shores,
for them live well, the price is paid
-- Iraq, December 2004