I dare ANY media outlet to print that. I dare you because it’s true. The most powerful message I got over there, from every single soldier, was their extreme disappointment that we are not hearing the facts about what they are doing.
Two analogies I thought were ‘appropriate’ in this context.
A table needs four legs to stand, right now Iraq is standing on 2 of its own, and we’re (Coalition of Allied forces) providing the other two.
A football game with 2 minutes left, right now we have a 3 pt lead, the next year or two will be spent increasing that to 20 or more points. Would you rather play the last two minutes with a 3 pt or 21 pt lead? Which one would you feel was more of a lock?
Please look at these powerpoints. I’ll quote the soldiers that sent them to me:
“The Sons of Iraq in this edition of the ComCamDaily is pretty much the Iraqi’s joining their own, “backyard” police to help secure their own villages and neighborhoods. They have joined their own cause and basically want to defend themselves from Al Qaeda.”
“These are Iraqi’s trained up like American soldiers. Pretty badass.”
And here are two more links, with a ton of stuff that for some reason I haven’t seen in our papers over here.
Make no mistake, when we leave it needs to be ‘a lock’ or else we’ll be sending these brave warriors back into harms way, when we should not have to.
Enough on that. In summary there is a ton I want to say, and likely will, but there are so many impressions I left with.
In the 8 days I had the honor of meeting these brave soldiers I can tell you with my right hand to God that there was NOT ONE soldier upset, pissed off, disgruntled or mad about their situation. Don’t get me wrong, they all would prefer to be home with their families, but far beyond that was an overwhelming sense of pride that they had and were accomplishing a mission that is going to change the world.
Before you piss and moan about anything understand we met soldiers from the post at Waleed on the Syrian border (a bad ass bunch of Marines I might add) to the FOBs around Baghdad that were still seeing ‘action’ unfortunately. NOT ONE of them was anything but respectful, and dead set on completing their mission.
So all of you “bring them home now” folks who think you are doing some greater good by saying that, are in effect doing the exact opposite. They want to come home when the mission is done, period.
I’ll go one better. I would argue I met over 200 soldiers that WANTED to be posted to Afghanistan. That’s not a typo, they WANTED THAT. Understand that much, they are different people than most of us, me included. They serve a cause far bigger than themselves, and it’s because they want to. For anyone out there questioning that, remember this, the draft left us a long time ago, these are volunteers.
The week was life changing in a way. I had grown up military, my dad served and taught me a profound respect of those that do the same, but seeing them ‘in action’ is truly a remarkable experience.
Few things I noticed. Hearing a .50 cal fired at Quantico is a far different experience than hearing one fired in anger in Baghdad.
The troops eat like champs, almost always. I feel sorry for the folks who let it be known they can cook, because when their units get posted to a FOB they are officially cooks for life:)
The MWRAP and Stryker Assault Vehicles are amazing pieces of technology.
Infantry men and women in the US Army are the best scroungers known to man. They can make an anti-tank protection device out of tin foil and duct tape.
Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, uncles, whatever, know that your relatives are happy, well fed, full of ELAN and an Esprit De Corps unmatched by any fighting force on the planet.
The troops serving at Camp Bucca are doing a mission of world changing implications. They have gone from assault troops and hunter killers, to educators, ambassadors, friends and confidants to a nation starving for a chance. They are doing it flawlessly I might add.
Getting to meet both Iraq citizens and soldiers one thing is VERY VERY CLEAR! They are HAPPY the world cares. They have been shown that the world as they knew it under a regime of staggering oppression is not the real world. They want a chance and are incredibly grateful that our men and women, and armed forces from other allied nations are trying to give it to them.
They need help. They need training, they need support but at the end of the day they need enough time to get propped up and running. Once they have the training and infrastructure and have mobilized the forces needed, I believe they’ll do everything within their power to never be in the place they were.
I think we’ll end up having a force in Iraq very similar to Germany. I also think they’ll want it.
One of the last FOBs I visited was an incredible story onto itself.
The men of 2/14 were telling me about their days. Explaining that locals would come in the morning and they knew the soldiers they could ‘hit up’ for things, money, gifts, whatever. As they were telling me this I wasn’t completely understanding it so I stopped and asked them what they meant.
It went something like this. They were occupying a Government building in a city that housed senior Baathe party officials pre war. The city was at around 50k in population. Post war the city was about 4000 people. That number had now swelled to over 40k and was growing daily and the US base there was in a building that the mayor of the city, and citizens, interacted with on a daily basis!
These soldiers were still on daily missions and at high alert but over the past 5 months things are changing dramatically. Where they used to spend 24/7 hunting down terrorists and extremists in local communities, they were now out and about helping rebuild vital parts of the city, playing games with the local children and integrating themselves into the communities there. The Iraqi’s were blown away at the fact that these soldiers weren’t demons or something worse.
It’s not over, not by a long shot, but we are winning and people need to know that.
In closing I wanted to extend my sincere appreciation to a few people.
Tracey Thede of the USO, the lady who kicked off our tour and made it known to us that the USO and it’s mission are a life’s work for her.
Dave Gatley the photographer who accompanied us all week. Fantastic man who helped us get comfortable quick!
1LT Sale Solaita. A man’s man and a true friend. I can’t fathom what this week would have been like without Solly and am proud as hell to call him a friend.
Major Mike Donahue. Part of our team inside Baghdad. Another soldier who was born to lead. I’d follow either of these men to the ends of the earth and trust my life with them as well. Major Donahue is a life long Sox fan too, so we had some great times hanging out and chatting.
Mike Fitzpatrick and Kelly Greene. Two Soldiers who allowed me the honor of participating in their re-enlistment ceremonies. A higher honor I cannot imagine.
SSG Greene was also a part of our team in Baghdad and I’d like to think Solly, Mike Kelly, Ty and I made some friends for life.
To General Odierno, Brigadier General Allyn and Major General Hammond, three incredible leaders leading a force unmatched on this planet, God Bless you and the men and women that serve under you.
To Ty, my college roomate. I can’t imagine a more perfect friend to have shared this past week with. He got it, and that made it worthwhile.
To Shonda and the kids. For allowing me to be away during the holidays and experience something she knew was incredibly important for all involved.
So thanks, to anyone that followed along, and to the folks that made this possible.
We truly are winning, and it was an honor to be allowed to see it up close and personal.