Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Arm Chair Debrief III (In the begenning)

You look at that for a moment and breathe in the memory of a guy you used to know. It has been five years since he was killed, in a week. Seven years ago I was a seventeen year old Karate assistant instructor, his son was in one of my classes and Ssgt. Molina was one of my recruiters. I would watch the Ssgt. watch his son, always with pride on Fridays and a Sunday tournament. Once I brought a curious friend into the office and after Ssgt. Molina went on a half hour rant about his love for his Corps, my friend signed up. I heard about Ssgt. Molina’s death after I returned from Fallujah II. When I asked what had ever happened to him another Ssgt. and friend of his looked at me sadly and said that Ssgt. Molina was killed around the time of Fallujah I. 2004 was a miserable year to be stationed in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, the next piece will begin in the city of Fallujah Iraq January 2004. Where, at the time I am attending a New Years Eve celebration on the Las Vegas strip while on leave from Infantry training. The ball dropped, I kissed my woman, and the countdown began on dozens of lives I had been surrounded by.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Arm Chair Debrief III

The Insurgency Rant (pt. 1)

The second a military loses the concept of mission, is too long, a minute means an hour, and if the conventional military goes a day without a mission, you might as well make it a year. When the mission deviates from A to B to C and evolves into the never clear quest for freedom, anything but freedom will be served, this is the time when the lies begin, and is how to know if the pot has overflowed boiling water onto an already agitated cat. At the close of 2003, after a March invasion and conventional success of coalition military forces, the troops were still in Iraq. It was eerie and confusing, and at this time that I believe the American people lost interest in the war, and when six months of lawless disorder was going to catch up to a complacent force. No signs of weapons of mass destruction. The sand was blowing through a large question mark, and soon there would be foreign fighters, and with them would come the roadside bombs, the snipers, the battles and the blood.
I have an offensive theory about the matter, and it is only that, an opinion. I think that the mission for the war in Iraq was destabilization. I think an unstable Iraq was believed to be useful in the larger destabilization of the Middle East. The more extreme spectrum of this view has to do with sending people back in time. Shut down their water, electricity, television, institute curfews, and let them kill each other. At the end of 2003 the books from the invasion began turning out, those warm and fuzzy photo collections of teary eyed journalists walking down the alleys of Iraq surrounded by children chanting “U.S.A.!”
Boot Camp was about what I expected it to be. My platoon of recruits was screamed at, could pump out a million pushups, fire an M-16 and if you weren’t me, you could even march in rank and file. Most of it was very intense, the larger lesson that was to be taken from, was that the body and mind can endure much more than a comfortable person could imagine. I continued to follow the war, on Sundays we were allowed to read the newspapers. I graduated Boot in November of 2003, returned home for a short leave and left for my next post at The Marine Corps School of Infantry outside of San Diego. Soon I would be an 18 year old professional infantryman, hypothetically trained to kill anything in my way. My super senses went off when we had a new group of Infantry Instructors fresh back from Iraq, my training platoon would be the first generation of Infantry Marines trained by OIF vets. These combat vets were different from the non combat instructors we had had before. They were very serious about everything, and I started to get a tugging at the pit of my stomach. I had been in the chow hall eating breakfast when I first heard the news of Saddam’s capture on Dec 17, 2003. I was still in training in January 2004 when I heard two of the combat vet instructors arguing over how the capture of Saddam Hussein would affect the overall mission. The instructor that I felt had the most grounded view of the situation lowly bellowed, “Doesn’t mean shit man. Something’s happening out there and Saddam don’t mean shit.” ...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Arm Chair Debrief II

Welcome to Iraq

The buildup to the invasion of Iraq was intense, The Gulf War had been a media triumph in 1991, and was about to be put to shame. Armed with new technology, the common citizen was going to have the opportunity to go to Iraq from home, prepare a fine meal and drift away with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, or the Marine Corps’ 3/1, or whatever unit was crossing uncharted territory that night. I had the added experience of having a father who was preparing to deploy to Iraq as an embedded reporter. So I would sit, sit in front of the television for hours, between homework assignments, lost in thought and CNN or Fox News, NBC, I was addicted, shooting the news junk through teenage eyeballs. I wondered what it meant? The U.S. invasion of Iraq commenced on March 20, 2003. This initial phase, thought to be the only phase, would be the conventional battle between the Iraqi Army and coalition forces. Many other phases would follow and the country would shape shift almost annually bringing with it new threats, alliances, and anticipations.
Crossing the line of departure with the coalition troops into Iraq on 20, March 2003 was a former NFL professional football player turned Army Ranger whose story I had been following since 2002 named Pat Tillman. NBC reporter David Bloom who would tragically die of natural causes with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, Jerry Vang, a soldier also attached to the Army’s 3rd ID, a friend of mine and brother to the guitarist in my High School punk rock band, who would succumb to paralysis after a car accident while home on leave from the invasion, and soon my father. I drove with Mike Vang, Jerry’s brother and only other occupant in the car at the time of the accident, up the coast past Santa Barbra to drop my Dad off at the ancient Camp Roberts, and wonder my Senior year, if I would ever see him again.
March 2003, was a slow month for me. I recall at one point exclaiming in awe at the reportedly first televised firefight while on the phone with my girlfriend. Much like 1991 the coalition forces rolled through Iraq and decimated the Iraqi Army. One of my favorite sights was the genius Marine who draped the American flag over the face of the Saddam statue; I’m a sucker for bad PR. Next, the first “uh-oh” alarm went off in my head when I was watching U.S. troops set up Camp in Saddam’s lavish palaces. Looting broke out in the streets and it was apparent to the average viewer that Iraq was slipping into some sort of chaos.
A key to the next turn of events had to do with law. I believe that if the military had policed the streets of Iraq and quelled the civilian thievery and chaos that will always result during a lack of law, that the U.S. might have been able to secure a more favorable view among the people of Iraq. I also believe that as in the case of most of our wars, we failed to understand the culture of the people whose country we were “liberating”. My father returned on the day I graduated High School, armed with Iraqi bayonet’s and stories of a far away war. I thought we would find Saddam soon, institute a quick turnover to a favorable regime and that would be that. Eight weeks after I graduated High School I left for Marine Corps Boot Camp. I thought for sure that the war was over, that I had missed it. Through most of the remainder of 2003 U.S. forces remained confused and alert as the war began its next phase. The Insurgency…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Arm Chair Debrief

As per military tradition the debrief following a mission is intended as an educational measure to study what worked and what could be improved upon. The following commentary is an opinion piece and should not be adopted as official doctrine nor has the opinion of the writer been endorsed by any official organization. The writer of this commentary is on the way to community college so please bare with typos and errors in grammar, though constructive criticism and the time it takes out of one’s day is always welcomed. The writer was an observer of two combat tours, a lowly ranked enlisted man who served four years in active service as a U.S. Marine Corps Infantryman.

Before Iraq

The buildup for the invasion of Iraq by U.S. armed forces before March of 2003 was a spectacle to behold, if you were following such drama. It is the opinion of the writer that anytime politicians and military officials point to grainy black and white photos, explaining the imminent threat of specs of grey, that society should fly the bullshit flag and ask for proof before declarations to end human life are finalized that would at the very least hold up in a reasonable court of law.
It should be known that my family has an extensive history of service for the United States Armed Forces during both war and peace time documented as far back as the American Civil War and with an oral history touching on the landing at Plymouth Rock. I was always going to serve my country; the war was a coincidence and not a motivator for my joining. During my junior year of High School I remember studying the Vietnam War; we covered the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was verified in my history book as at least, “A bad call”. I remember asking myself if such a thing could happen in my lifetime? Months later the towers fell in New York and to my amazement, all of the dominos collapsed as America handled the devastating loss of over three thousand innocent people going to work, I tried to pay attention through fifteen year old eyes to what solution would be reached by an American people who searched for an enemy to quench a blood lust and the social need for revenge. The cup of propaganda spilled over the television and soon Osama Bin Laden was a household name.
In reality the common person did not know whether the attacks of September 11, 2001 were the foot or the summit of a mountain that was going to have to be climbed. It will be noted in history that America was immediately changed by the events of September 11, 2001. This was an odd sight to witness for a teenager and the son of a media man. I had always stayed on top of current events, and by this time was browsing several newspapers a day trying to hypothesize the next natural move. Afghanistan was invaded at the end of the year, first quietly by Special Operations troops, (Covert warriors who specialize in unconventional warfare i.e. Navy Seals, “Rambo”), and the CIA. Had we kept conventional troops out of the fight, (i.e. ground forces such as standard infantry troops and support who were intended to fight foreign conventional forces) it is the belief of the writer that the war could have been handled in a different manner that would have avoided international frustrations that would taint U.S. foreign policy for an indefinite amount of time. The war in Afghanistan will be covered in a future edition.
It was during the spring of 2002 that the Bush administration began their campaign for the invasion of Iraq as a key component to, “The War on Terror”.