Friday, August 3, 2007

A drastic misallocation of surge troops in Iraq...

Alright, well let me start off by saying that I try my best to stay positive about what I'm doing here in Iraq, and I generally wish to portray a positive attitude about my job. But like anything else in life, sometimes you need to just let a little steam off and get some things off your chest. This is the post that I will do just that. Consider this my rant so I no longer bottle these feelings up inside causing me to turn in to some horrible bitter man. :)

We ended up leaving the outpost the other day and headed out on a day of patroling. Origionally I was to be a part of the crew to go back to the FOB and have the day off, but they did things a little different this time. No worries, because this again allows for me to get 5 days off in a row. Not a bad trade off. Well come to find out, the first thing in the morning we have a company mission. Great... come off an outpost rotation with no shower, limited a/c (when the generator is running, which durring the hottest time of day its usually not) and no satisfying and tasteful meals, and then go in to a mission that usually involves lots of time in the heat, clearing some neighborhood or business sector.

Before we went to do so we, of course, had to ensure the markets were safe that morning so we did our rounds. Yup, nothing happening. We were to stop and get some chow at this nearby base real quick, but we were behind schedule and so we had to scrap that. Damn, I was really looking forward to a complete meal that morning. Well, once back we began our movement with the other platoon and other units for our mission. This time, it was to be a whole NEW type of mission....

We rolled up to some Ministry of something building and our first task was to get inside and to make sure it was clear. Kind of hard to do like how we usually operate considering there are armed guards and tons of people coming in and out. We had some engineers and a military bomb detecting dog and they did their work along with our searching to make sure there were no bombs inside. So your probably wondering why... well, the mission we were here for, get this, was to protect a mass marriage ceremony of 200 couples because there were supposed threats of attacks and car bombs. Yes, the 82nd Airborne, first boots on the ground as a part of President Bush's new Iraq surge plan, was now officially providing security services so people could get married.

This is the part that blows my mind. My company, plus parts of a few other units, were tasked out to provide security, in what some would call one of the most dangerous cities in the world, to a group of people wishing to get married. Now I understand that the point of the surge is to improve the overall security in areas of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, but I feel this has gone too far. General security situation, ok, but to risk my life and the lives of other soldiers so people can get married; I truely can't believe it. Not only is it shocking to myself, but also to everyone else in my platoon. There is not a single person that feels this was an appropriate mission for us to be doing. See thats the thing around here lately. What we have been doing is having no real purpose and just risking lives, with nothing in my opinion to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a full supporter of the troop surge and I feel we need to stay in Iraq still until the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) can handle things on their own, but right now we are not doing a job the US Military should be doing.

The Iraqi President claimed his ISF were ready to take control. I can tell you they are not, at least when it comes to total control of Iraq, but in area like the one we're operating in, and the types of missions we are doing, they are more than capable of doing that. We should hand over those types of areas to them, let them gain experience and confidence in those areas while their numbers continue to rise, and put the US Military to more use in areas where they are needed, doing missions with more impact on the greater issues of the security problems.

So with that said, for this protection service for the weddings, we cleared the building and then moved outside to check the surrounding area for bombs and whatnot. Everything was clear and we took up positions in and around the building to "protect" it. I ended up outside, and it was starting to get hot out. Not to mention I didn't have my knee pads and so taking a knee was quite uncomfortable. While we were inside initially, there was word that they were talking to the officials there and no one seemed to know anything of any weddings taking place there. WOW! Are you serious?!? Still, we continued to "protect" the place while higher was contacted. Durring that time, a group of Blackwater guys showed up as a part of some Iraqi officials PSD (Personal Security Detail). Now to work for Blackwater USA, you have to have some Special Forces backround, so there was the equivelant of a Special Forces A-Team there, which I'm pretty sure they could of more than handled the security situation and didn't need a couple platoons of paratroopers there. Once they learned how many of us there were they realized their job became useless and they sat inside their trucks (with a/c) and cracked open cold American Pepsis. Bastards! :)

So after, oh, 2 hours of being outside pulling security, word comes down that the weddings were not going to be taking place at the location we were at and worked so hard to secure. In fact they were at some other highly secured area, outside of our sector. OMG, this was the final straw for many of us. So now, not only did we come out here to accomplish a mission that was way beyond what we should have done, but it apparently was doomed from the get go and we had no clue. WOW! That is all I can think to say. WOW!

The rest of the day was spent doing routine patrol stuff. At night just before we were scheduled to come back in, we had some possible raid to go on, but things fell through and that didn't end up happening. We rolled back in, just a little later than usual, and finally got our much needed meals and showers!

This day has really shown me a problem that exists here right now. I dont know where or how this is happening, but there is a severe disconnect between the generals making decisions on what to do with us and the surge troops, and what is actually happening here on the ground. I wish I knew where it was going sour, but it makes me think of the old telephone game you play as a kid, where one message is started and usually by the end there is a totally differnt message. I think what is happening is somewhere between what I see and experience and what GEN Petreaus (the theater commander) is seeing, someone along the way is filtering the information and presenting a pretty picture of whats going on. Things look good, so lets keep doing them, seems to be the thinking right now, but things aren't good everywhere. Yes in most places they are pretty good, but many places they are not. Lets focus there and clean this place up.

So on a lighter note, today was a really good day for myself. 2 months ago I attended my promotion board to possibly get my Sergeant. This was something I had been waiting on for a while. I was promoted from SPC (pay grade E-4) to CPL (E-4) to attend Jumpmaster school just prior to our deployment. As a Corporal, I am a Non-Commisioned Officer with all the responsibilites and authority inherent to my rank, but I still got paid the same as a Specalist E-4. I was a team leader and so a promotion to Sergeant (E-5) was mearly a matter of more pay, considering there were no more responsibilies and authority I would receive with it. Somehow, I got placed on the back burner for a little longer than I should of. In the end, I still made the jump quicker than the usual 1 year as an E-4 that most people have to do before they make SGT, but I kind of expected it sooner. Well anyways, today the orders came down and I went to the batallion conference room and with the Batallion Commander and Sergeant Major present along with all the staff officers, NCOs and company commands, I was finally pinned my SGT rank. No more CPL Watson. It's now SGT Watson! Oh and I also received my 5th Anthrax shot. The shot is now mandatory and people that had managed to avoid it in the past now have some catching up to do with those of us that didn't care and began the innoculation a while ago. My arm still kind of hurts now, hours later.

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Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your promotion!

As for the crazy mission they sent you on, I understand your frustration. Keep your chin up and know that we're here supporting you 100%!

Torii said...

Congrats SGT!

Anonymous said...

SGT Watson... *wow* that has a nice ring to it doesn't it!?Congratulations- that's some exciting news!

Haole Wahine said...

Well now Sgt Watson, congratulations!
That does have a good sound--Sgt Watson--yeah still sounds good.

Another good post.
You said there were people going in and out and armed guards. Were the armed guards ISF? WHAT DID THEY GUARD WHILE you guys were doing your thing?

Think you guys were decoys? Just asking!

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS SGT Watson!! Way to go! God Bless and keep you safe. North Carolina reporting in..

Anonymous said...

Let me be the first to say congratulations, SGT Watson! Keep that lucky charm well polished, and we'll keep praying for your safe return. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

HOOAH!! Sgt Watson!!

I am grinning ear to ear right now Eddie :D I am so unbelievably proud of you!

As far as the "wedding" detail ... it may have seem like a waste of time & resources, but if you want the job done right, call the best.

While I agree the ISF should have provided the security, obviously there's more faith in you guys right now to get the job done safely and securely.

So don't ever think that what you are doing is a waste of time because even the smallest things mean the most.

You guys are appreciated no matter what you are assigned to do.

Believe it!

Bag Blog said...

Congrats Sgt!

I like Carla's attitude - might as well send the best! If you can provide security to people doing their shopping why not a wedding. It seems like it goes a long way in building good relationships. The mix up about buildings is frustrating - that part is questionable. Ours is not to question why...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for what you're doing over there. My BF is in the 82nd over there and I know you guys get the thankless seemingly ignoble jobs, but we all apprecaite it.
Keep up the great work and keep blogging. I love reading it.

Jenn said...

Congrats on your well deserved promotion SGT. Watson!!! We are very proud of you!!
Hope your arm is feeling better soon.
Never under estimate how much you are loved and appreciated by your fellow countrymen!! Your countless sacrifices will never be forgotten.
Keep safe guy and God Bless,
Jenn and family in Michigan

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/05/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often. This is a weekend edition so updates are as time and family permits.

Karen said...

I'm glad you made Sgt. I'm not glad that you and the 82nd have been put in Iraq. I look forward to you being brought home just as soon as the U.S. Congress can wrest control of this conflict from George Bush and pull the money plug. You guys are the best but you've been awfully misused. All the best till your safe return!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sgt. Watson!

Anonymous said...

I'll add my "congrats" to the long list...based on the quality of your blog, the promotion is well deserved! Stay safe!

Anonymous said...

On the Loose,

I imagine from reading your account that you are not aware that weddings are one of the prime targets for the Insurgents. Hundreds upon hundreds have died just trying to have a normal and happy part of life. If this is were the bad guys are likely to be is it not wise to put the good guys there as well? You must not make snap judgements based on the happenings here in America. An ordinary mundane wedding and they want troops there? Well,the bad guys want no happiness, no joy, no normal, no regular life. Except this was not an ordinary mundane wedding. I would imagine that the 200 got married together so that they could call on large numbers of police and troops to guard them and provide for their safety.

This is NOT a drastic misallocation of surge troops in Iraq. If we can thwart the bad guys and allow the normal and everyday to go forth, we have bought another stake in a violence free and democratic Iraq. You will have made that happen and believe me those that were married and their guests will know who to thank that the day went forth without the wedding party and the guests lifeless and covered with blood as so many have been. They will remember you and your buddies for the rest of their lives and will tell their children and grandchildren - those that you allowed be be conceieved and born and to grow to adulthood and to themselves marry and have children. A hundred years from now, there will be thousands of people who will owe their lives to the fact that like Angels, you guarded their marriage ceremonies on this one solitary occasion.

It WAS normal and uneventful and all because of Surge troops, battle hardened Airborne bringing life not death. Take a bow for it is well deserved.

Anonymous said...

On the Loose,

I got interrupted when I was reading your account and when I came back simply wrote my impression. It was only after submitting it that I realized that the wedding never took place THERE however, I am sure that it took place, elsewhere, safely since I did not hear about this one as I have so many. Since thre are leaks in the IP, I am sure that this was another measure to protect the event.

In General Petraeus' COIN manual (he wrote it) the intent is to concentrate on protection for the local population from the insurgancy. I would suggest those interested in how COIN - Counter-Insurgancy works, you google it. The success in Al Anbar and in most of Diyala has been phenominal. Now it is happening south of Baghdad. The rest of what I wrote about the weddings and why, holds true. Google attacks Weddings Iraq for some of the stories of what has gone on at weddings. It's awful.

Congratulations on your promotion!

ABNPOPPA said...

Allow me to add my congrats to your promotion also. It appears you have quite a following of young ladies which must be nice for a newly promoted Sgt.

Regarding the dis-connect of the General to the line troops, was in during Vietnam and we had the same problem. Thank goodness for the foot soldiers and the common sense they have.

Keep your helment on and butt close to the ground. That's what I tell my son who is also with the 82nd doing his first tour also, but he beat you there and will beat you home.

G-d Bless,