Friday, September 7, 2007

The troop surge IS working...

So I've heard a little bit on the news and seen online about the recent analysis of the Iraqi government and their failing to meet 11 of the 18 benchmarks that were set for them. I'm not up to date on what these benchmarks are so I wont comment about what I think about that, because I dont know if I would feel the benchmarks were realistically obtainable with the given situation or not. One thing I can comment on based on my experiences here lately is that the Presidents troop surge which went in to full effect in late June I believe, combined with the new strategies that are in place with rooting out Al Qaeda and whatnot, are in fact working!

Now granted I dont have a full view of the entire Iraq situation, and I dont even see a lot of what goes on in Baghdad. But what I see in my slice as well as what I hear in the areas in and around where the rest of my unit operates, it is very clear that the level of troops now present in this volitile city, have drastically changed the current situation here. A few months ago there were attacks by suicide car bombers against the local markets and Mosques constantly, causing unbelievable destruction and loss of life. There were snipers that would set up and shoot in to the markets and at the Iraqi Army (IA) checkpoints, killing and wounding scores of people. The retaliation of these acts carried out by Sunni against the Shiite markets and mosques, came in the form of Extra Judicial Killings (EJKs) where Sunni civilians would be found bound and executed and dumped in the streets in groups. Fighting was taking place between the Sunni and Shiite militias constantly as well as fierce firefights with American and Iraqi forces.

Now, the markets are bustling with people, who after a long period of no attacks have regained confidence in their protection and safety. The markets are overflowing with people getting back to the every day tasks of life. I can't remeber the last time I saw people running across the street at the end of the market and the occasional shot of a hidden assasin tucked away in the safety of a building within the concrete jungle we operate these days. The almost weekly car bombs have trickled down to the occasional pathetic attempt instead of constant massive attacks. The same has to be said about the EJKs. I wish I could say they have stopped, but they have definately become few and far between. The biggest difference I believe is the lack of engagements with the militias. I remember when hearing gun battles were an almost daily occurance. Now its almost something that I forget how it sounds. Another example of this is that the number of IED attacks in our sector have declined, I believe in part to the locals feeling that the US troops have improved their living conditions and the lack of desire to what that to change.

All in all the situation is much different here today. I can honestly say that my job lately has been pretty boring. There isn't much for us to do in the form of what my military job is. I am an Infantryman, and my job is to find the enemy and either kill or capture him. Well, lately there have not been many opportunities for me to perform my job. For guys like me, in a way this is a bummer, because we train for combat and thats what we are good at. But it is also good in many regards. Its good for the friends and family that worry back home, and its good from the perspective of this conflict/occupation being ended on the terms that wish it to be; mission truely completed, not quit before we get the job done.

So with that said, the only thing thing that is going to be the key factor is what the Iraqi government will be able to accomplish. If they are able to continue to progress, train their forces and have the drive to make their country a better one, then this mission can succeed. I have seen the progress that the IA and Iraqi Police (IP) have made, and though be it slow, it is progress. Its going to take time. It took decades of help in Germany and Japan to get them self-sufficient, so what makes people think Iraq, a more complex and volatile country, will be able to stand on their own feet sooner? Every last soldier, marine, airmany and naval personnel VOLUNTEERED to join our military, most of them AFTER the Iraq/Afghanistan wars began. Let us be the ones to decide when we are done with our mission.

Alright, well now that I have that stuff off my chest and out there, I will tell you a funny story from my patrol the other day. We stopped by this other base for lunch. We ended up having some extra time, so we hit up the internet, TV rooms, shops and/or slept. I was exhausted because I had very little sleep. The night before we headed out I decided to stay up because I was not tired earlier and by the time I was starting to get sleepy, I was looking at maybe 2 hours of sleep. Would of been worse having to get up after only 2 hours. I managed little catnaps here and there throughout the day but that night for some reason I had a lot on my mind and was not able to fall asleep right away. I wasn't looking at much sleep to begin with and by the time I finally fell asleep I think I only got 3 hours. Felt like I had just fallen asleep when I was awoken. So the next day any chance I got I used it to sleep.

I had just woken up and was getting my stuff together to head back to the trucks to head out. I walked outside the building to the sounds of a warning system. "... incoming rounds in the vicinity of the DFAC!! WARNING!!" Oh shit. I was very near the DFAC and was actually walking in that direction when I stopped. You'd think I would of taken off for the mortar bunker but I didnt. I just stood there, frozen, not in fear, but frozen, maybe in lack of care, I dont know. Thats when the message continued "This is a test! All personel get to the nearest bunker! This is a test!" Oh my God! You have got to be kidding me. Screw that. That warning had just scared me slightly, and now you want me to play your little mortar game? Thanks but no thanks. I continued on my way to the trucks. Along the way I saw a mortar bunker with this guy hundeling inside. He almost look terrified. I got a kick out of it.

As to be expected the rest of our guys were just hanging around the trucks getting ready to go. They asked me if I heard the announcement and I told them what it said. They all laughed as well at the idea of going to the bunker durring this practice mortar attack. Next thing I know, the PL comes over and tells us that we need to get in the trucks until this test is over. Seriously? WOW! That's when I saw this pissed off Marine. Dont know what rank he was and to be honest I didn't really care. Apparently he saw my squad leader just standing around and began yelling out him "Eh Sergeant! HEY SERGEANT!" My squad leader knew he was yelling at him but just laughed and headed back to the trucks. Apparently this pissed this Marine off and he came over to our Platoon Leader (PL) and told him that if we didn't comply with the test he would report us to the Mayor Cell (th guys in charge of the base). I dont know if this is what the PL actually said, but its what I heard and it would of been awesome if he did. I heard that he asked if "this was highschool we were in or what?" I could totally see him saying that, and I hope to God he did. That would be awesome.

Once the test was over we headed out and those of us in our truck came to the conclusion that this Marines job was probably soley about the practice incoming tests and drills. To him, it was probably a slap in the face to see us standing there ignoring it, after the last month of hard work he put in to get this test going. Oh well. We came from a base that sometimes gets more mortar rounds in a single attack than this other base probably receives all year. I'm pretty sure we know what to do. Don't have an aneurism man. Its OK!

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David M said...

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Haole Wahine said...

Very good op-ed. An opinion that is valued, and listened to, probably more than you realized. I believe after Tuesday, the MSM will credit mil blogs with educating the American Public. You, my young man have been a big part of a new communication at its best.

Gratitude and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Ah, ya gotta love the fobbits!

We actually had our patrol stopped by an NCO in his little gator while we were headed to the gate for a patrol. He was screaming and threatening the PSG with all sorts of things. Why? Because the gunner in the first truck had his sleeves tucked.

Anonymous said...

This is a very insightful and well written commentary about an issue of vital importance to our nation and Iraq as well. You are someone who would know and hence your word on this is incredibly important for those of us back home searching for an accurate portrayal of the situation on the ground. There have been some negative accounts from Baghdad recently that were very discouraging. Because of this, I find your lengthy overview to be a very important contribution to the fund of knowledge available on how the surge progresses in your section of Baghdad. Thank-you so much.

While things have become quieter and hence less dangerous, nevertheless, I ask that you stay safe and wish you God's blessings.

Anonymous said...

Ted Kennedy is going to be on something or other and I'm sure he'll talk about what a failure the the surge is. I'll leave my tv off to avoid smashing it. Hey E.D. what's the penalty for ignoring a mortar drill three times in a row? Ya get sent home for a time out? Y'all keep up the great work.

Heykoolaid3 said...

I too believe the troop surge is working! As a member of the military myself I want to thank you for helping to keep our country safe!

God bless!


Anonymous said...

Please.... I only worried when I read where you said "but frozen, maybe in lack of care, I dont know." before you knew it was a drill. Please, be safe! Charlie needs you!

Bruce - Flagstaff, AZ

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Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. I wish I could have made a blog when I was deployed. But was banned by websense at our MWR, as well as other blog platforms.

I know how you feel about the mortar alerts. It got to a point where even in apparently real attacks, I was more interested in trying to see where they fell than taking cover. Being just a support guy, I never got to do anything. But we always wondered why, if they happen on an almost nightly schedule at some bases, aren't they being stopped? I'm sure there's more to it though that a POG wouldn't understand...

I think a lot of the debate on the surge is what is the definition of "working"? What is the definition of "winning"? For example, even if there is less violence now due to increased pressure and numbers, the questions about being over there at all remain. Is it worth it, or is it just pissing off Iraqis and creating more enemies? I know if somebody attacked and occupied the United States, I'd fight back. If a bomb was dropped on my uncle's house, and if troops raided my home, stealing my weapons, and scaring my family, I'd fight back. According to Fox News, anybody who defends themselves is not just a terrorist, but magically Al Qaeda too. People don't know the difference or even question it. Of course, there's more to that too.

Other people are criticizing General Petraeus' report, because his statistics are the opposite of many independent reports, and others suggest that the reason the statistics are in his favor is due to different "what counts" tactics, such as not counting people killed in certain situations, when previously they would have been counted. Or at the hearing, he said the report was not shared with the White House, yet previously, Bush himself said he was happy with the report's progress while it was still being written, and Petraeus said he would deliver private assessments to Bush.

Stay safe over there. Don't let the politics get to you. Everyone supports you and wants you to return home alive and well. Some want it sooner, some want it after you win... something, but everyone cares in their own way. Don't forget that.

Anonymous said...

It's not time to bring the troops...

Dr BLT (c) 2007

Let's end the war, but let's...

End the War (By Winning It)!

This is what I love to do, I blog, and then I roll. I blog n roll!