Monday, May 07, 2007

Army of Dude

I have spent a bit of time this weekend reading this blog.

I plug this blog because he does provide a pretty comical view of what's going on in Iraq and the bureaucratic bullshit many of these lower enlisted soldiers have to endure. As a former Platoon Sergeant, I was pretty much anti-bullshit and did everything I could to stop the flow of it from my level.

Secondly, he's a Fort Lewis guy! I was a 1st Bn 23rd Infantry Tomahawk for almost 5 years. Fort Lewis was by far the best military post I have ever served at.

From Army of Dude
this is not a blog to sing the high praises of my chosen profession, but rather
a tool of expression for my disdain for the day in and day out mountains of bullshit and mundanity that I climb every day of the week dear reader, and it is a shame I didn't begin this along with my career. There is an endless amount of moments that could have been recorded that would make the average Joe Taxpayer shake his head in shocked disbelief.


Indeed! I am sure AoD has spent many times shooting off ammo the last month of the fiscal year, ensuring that his unit would receive the same allocation the coming years. We used to call these bullet, missile and mine-a-poloza range days "mad minutes". For about a minute, you just fire everything you have at targets.

He highlights the wisdom behind not allowing our soldiers to purchase their own body armor for protection. He even details the threats that life insurance policies will not be paid if a soldier is wearing "illegal armor".
Under the new banned armor directive, we cannot wear the vests I have praised
because it qualifies as third party armor, though it is merely a shell and still
holds the actual armor we'd be wearing anyway. We were told if we were killed
wearing the new vests, our families wouldn't get the $400,000 life insurance
policy because we weren't wearing Army issue equipment. A most subtle blackmail
I'd say. And people like Colonel Spoehr sit back in comfort, far removed from
the patrols in the streets of Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad, and decide I am too
irresponsible to choose how to protect my own life, that it's out of my hands.
This is where the bar has been set, to a new level of shame and reckless
abandon.

We used to call people like Colonel Spoehr REMF's.

AoD opines on the realities of war in Iraq as well as Naval Officers priorities.
But even a good deal of people here dwell 24/7 within the safety of 'the wire,'
the perimeter of walls and fences around the base, rarely venturing out in the
dangerous city, if at all. I was waiting for a bus back to our tent yesterday
after a souvenir binge, and I overheard a conversation a lady was having on her
cellphone (which is outlawed where I'm from, but I digress). She was explaining
to her friend back home how she felt about Iraq. Her words were "This place is
hell on earth. We walk with the devil." I couldn't help but notice her M-16 was
in flawless, pristine condition and her uniform, clean as the day it was made. I
can only imagine her idea of hell was discovering the Baskin Robbins here serves
only six ice cream flavors instead of the expected 31.

A friends dad who is a Vietnam Vet chided how coddled many of these soldiers are as well. He'd go out on two week long ambushes and come back to warm beer and no way to talk to anyone back home. Slept in varmint infested bunkers.

He opines on Walter Reed...
The money is there, obviously. It's just not being well spent. At this very
moment, I'm up late at night in a heated bay in Taji, Iraq with an internet line
hooked right up next to my bed. Tomorrow I have the option of either going to a
well stocked chow hall or to one of several fast food joints, like Subway or
Taco Bell. Down the street, KBR employees are getting paid very little to do our
laundry as Dick Cheney, former CEO of KBR's parent company Halliburton, gets
paid a six figure severance per year. Round and round the tax money goes, where
it stops, nobody knows. Especially not Walter Reed.

And the impact of a tour of duty extension...
I promise you all, there's no method to the madness. I put my life on hold
for another four months for nothing. Can you imagine? I know soldiers fighting
in previous wars had it a lot tougher. Kurt Vonnegut had it tougher in World War
II. But at the very least, they had a goal, a promise of a bright new world free
of Nazism. Brave men literally fought for freedom, because if they didn't, the
world was going to be in the hands of Germany and Japan. That was the light at
the end of their tunnel. Do you know what the light at the end of the tunnel is
for us?

Food.

Yeah, food. When we're on patrols and house clearing missions, what's
keeping us going is not the promise of freedom and democracy in Iraq. It's the
vision of hamburgers, fries and ice cream. I can live without a market based
economy in the Middle East, but I can't live without a toasted ham sandwich.
Several times we have raced back to the base to get to the dining hall as it
closed. Something to eat is the high point of the day. Imagine the low
points.

As Kurt Vonnegut suggested, our morale is shot to pieces. The few tattered
remains left were eviscerated when they extended us four months. The most
devious trick the media and the government has pulled in the last ten years is
suggesting to the public that the soldiers believe in the mission and the war
itself. In my unit that is definitely not the case. We just fight for food and
friends, and the hope of getting home. I know a few people who still believe in
the cause. I would know one more, but he died when I was on leave.


Earlier editions of this blog have mentioned the date in which I separate
from the military, November 24, 2007.That is merely symbolic now. After coming
home, you must stay for three months so they determine you're not crazy and all
that. Our return home date is October 15. So that means I'll be held against my
will again, until January 2008 it seems.

So Lauren, my sweetheart, I won't get to go on summer walks and picnics
with you. I hope Pike's Market is nice in the winter. Mom, I won't be there for
your birthday. Yours either Dad. Can't forget Andrew's. And Albert's. Won't be
making your wedding either, Albert. To the students of my high school, I won't
get to thank you in person for the letters and packages you sent until November
at least.Readers, fear not! Despite the caustic undertone of this entry, I am
glimmering with hope. The dining hall opens in ten minutes for breakfast, and
they make some killer omelettes.

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody
tell you different. -Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks again to deadissue for pointing this blog out! I have no idea who Alex H. from Frisco Texas is. Despite not knowing Alex, reading his blog brings me back to my times in the Army as a Bradley Master Gunner. I chewed a lot of the same turf Alex chewed out in Yakima, Fort Lewis, and other fun filled sandy places. I wore the same 2ID Indianhead on my sleeve for more than 5 years.

I don't know Alex...but I do.

2 comments:

deadissue.com said...

I'm getting the same impression! This guy is great. Thanks for putting so much into this post...I'm sure it'll bring a smile to his face if he sees this. I find myself identifying with a lot of what he's laying out here.

Alex said...

Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad my blog is getting some kind of readership now. I felt maybe it was too niche for people to understand. Take it easy.
AH