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Saturday, April 23, 2005


patrolling

courage

It was a really good week. We had a lot of fun, made some good contacts and gathered some solid information. We went out several times doing daylight dismounted patrols. Our mission was pretty basic. We were to make our presence known, interact with the locals, find out if they needed anything and try to gather some intelligence. I love daytime foot patrols. It’s almost a form of therapy for me. On foot your observational abilities are substantially increased. Your interaction with people is on a much more personal level. An armored humvee sitting behind you can be pretty intimidating. On foot, it’s just you and the people. It is a lot easier to read people… to pick up on their vibes.

I got an M203 (grenade launcher) added to my M-4 (rifle). Carrying the extra ammo along with the dismounted element’s radio can get heavy. I like carrying the radio though. Relaying traffic between whoever is in charge, whether the Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant or Company Commander means I always know exactly what’s going on and where.

We went out yesterday afternoon. It was a hot yet beautiful day. The skies were crystal clear. We got dropped off and patrolled for a little over an hour, stopping to talk with some of the locals and give candy to the kids along the way. We then stopped on the side of a berm to rest. Two little Iraqi boys had followed us and hung out with us for a while. They spoke broken English but we were able to communicate pretty well with them. After we got to know them we asked them where Ali Baba (bad guys) were. They looked around and one of them said, “Mista, guns there.” He quickly pointed and then pretended to be wiping his face.

We thanked him and began moving in the direction he pointed. There was a large warehouse surrounded by some small shacks. We were careful not to head straight in that direction. We didn’t want it to be obvious to anyone watching from a distance that the kids had just told us something. I called the mounted patrol, gave them our grid and told them we had some information on possible weapons in the area. They had a hard time seeing us because we were between a wall and a wheat field. I got to use my M203 (grenade launcher) to shoot a green smoke canister. They came right to us.

We moved to the warehouse with the humvees pulling outer security around its perimeter. The warehouse was locked so I climbed a home made latter that was laying near the fence to look in one of the windows. The warehouse was full of neatly stacked boxes. We went to some of the surrounding shacks to find the owner of the warehouse. A teenage boy came and unlocked the door. After a thorough search of the warehouse and the surrounding shacks all we found were building supplies.

A hundred meters or so from the warehouse we continued our foot patrol down a fairly busy road. As we were walking I noticed an Iraqi woman standing just inside a gate. I made eye contact with her and something told me to approach her. I crossed the street and she disappeared behind the wall. A second later, she peeked out the gate and motioned for me to go over there. I realized she was hiding from the passing cars. I grabbed SGT H who was already on that side of the road to go over to her with me. Another few cars passed. We waited until the road was relatively clear and went up to the gate. The woman put her hand on my shoulder and guided me inside the wall with SGT H right behind me. She quickly closed the gate behind us. Behind the wall there was another woman, quite a bit older, I presume either her mother or mother in law.

The younger woman began to speak frantically in Arabic, her hands trembling with nervousness. Her eyes were deep. She was extremely concerned about being seen talking to us. I radioed the mounted element and informed them of the situation. SSG P, the NCOIC of the mounted element, snuck behind the wall with us. We removed our Kevlar helmets and eye protection, a gesture of trust, and did our best to figure out what she was trying to tell us.

She continuously grabbed her wedding ring and said, “insurgents, Ali Baba (bad guys).” At first I thought maybe her husband had been arrested and was being held in a prison by coalition forces. This was the only day this week we didn’t have a translator with us. SSG P radioed battalion requesting a translator. Another unit a few miles away had one available. SSG P had me and SGT H stay with the women while he took two of the five humvees that made up the mounted element to go and get the translator. The rest of the dismounted element was about a hundred meters down the road pulling security on our location with the three humvees that stayed. They did a great job of being discreet and not revealing there was any of us behind the wall.

SGT H and I continued to communicate with the women while we were waiting on the translator. We did our best to calm them down and establish trust. It is amazing how well you can communicate with just your eyes and body language. In a matter of minutes I felt like I had know these women my entire life. It was apparent they were getting the same feeling from us. I could see the pain and the fear in their eyes. Buried beneath the layers of desperation was some of the purest sincerity I have come across in my nearly twenty-two years of existence. I now knew, without a doubt, whatever she had to tell us was substantial, substantial enough to get her killed for telling us.

About ten minutes passed before SSG P and the translator returned. The women requested not to be photographed or videotaped, so we only recorded the audio from their conversation. The information the women gave us was colossal. It was detailed, in-depth first hand intelligence we were able to verify through her specific and calculated accounts of recent events. I wish I could go into it. Due to operational security and concern for her personal safety, I‘ll have to save the details for another day. I will say however, she informed us of where insurgents had been going to launch rockets. Literally seconds after she told us this we heard the screeching roar of a rocket ripping through the air.

Within five minutes the beautiful rumbling thuds of Apache’s coming in low and fast was right on us. They were circling the entire area looking for whoever launched the rocket. Since SSG P was on my radio updating Battalion of the situation on the ground with both the women and the rockets, we didn’t have direct communication with the rest of the dismounted element and the humvees. SSG P had me run out and tell three of the humvees to go to the proximity grid where the rockets were fired from.

I waited for the road to clear of passing cars and ran out the gate, sprinting to the closest humvee. I relayed the order, gave them the grid and told them we’d be back on internal net in about five minutes. The humvees moved out to work with the Apache’s in a sweep of the area.

The dismounted element was then called in to assist in the sweep. SSG P stayed with the translator and two of the humvees to continue questioning the women. The dismounted element started moving out at a fast pace toward the grid we were given. I was monitoring the net traffic between the mounted element and the Apache’s. The Apache's had eyes on three men on the edge of a canal between two berms... but the humvees were unable to get across the canal.

We didn’t have a visual of the humvees yet but we could see the Apache’s circling the area and hovering in some spots. We were running though a field when we hit the canal and saw a trail of dust flying toward us. It was the mounted element. They blew past us on the road running parallel to the canal. About five hundred meters down the road they stopped and started getting out. We couldn’t see over the berm on the other side of the canal, but the three men were right across from the humvees. I jumped in the canal but couldn’t make it up the other side, its banks were too steep. The black water was about thigh high. I started to just slosh through the disgusting muck down the canal toward the humvees when SPC P and CPL N came up to the edge and screamed, “are you crazy, that's human shit in there.” I grabbed the barrel of my rifle and reached out to CPL N who grabbed the butt stock, SPC P was holding CPL N’s arm and together they pulled me out. It was one of those times I wished I didn’t have the radio on my back. We continued running down the road toward the humvees. The mounted guys threw a wire across the canal so they could pull themselves up the other side. Once we got to the wire I jumped back in the canal, used the wire to pull myself up and ran up the berm. They already had the three guys coming up the other side and were bringing them to the edge of the canal.

We searched the area where they had been. It turns out all they had been doing was fishing. We had them sit with us for a few minutes until SSG P and the interpreter arrived so we could question them. They denied seeing anything but admitted to have been fishing for several hours. The rocket definitely came from that area. They had to have seen something but adamantly denied even hearing the rocket. We reminded them that one of these days one of those rockets could easily hit their house or their kids, and the only way to stop that from happening is to let us know what they see and hear. The sun was setting. Our day was done. We let the three fisherman go, packed up and headed back to the base. At least I wouldn't be the only one smelling terrible on the ride home.

What amazes me is the courage that the previously mentioned woman showed. The information she gave us has since been verified by the proper authorities within Battalion and Brigade. The risk she is subjecting herself to is a brutal and miserable death. Her entire life has consisted of totalitarianism, fear, death and brutality. Without ever having experienced the pleasures of freedom, without a tangible example of common decency… a gage to base right and wrong on, she has somehow managed to overcome her incomprehensible fears and pressures and do what is right. She grew up under Saddam Hussein who brainwashed and manipulated these people. He controlled all aspects of their life. For the past few years she has experienced terrorism and war, hell all around her. For her to have the intestinal fortitude to come forward just amazes me. One thing is for sure; the ability to know what is right and the courage to act on it is instilled somewhere in us all. I know that I will never forget this woman and the example she set for me. For the rest of my life, when I think I have it rough or am put in a situation where doing the right thing seems difficult, I’ll think back to yesterday afternoon and the humble Iraqi woman who showed me what courage was first hand.

*******While writing the last paragraph I was just notified by my team leader that one of the locations the woman gave us was searched by another element of our Company. They found tunnels buried in a field that were full of 155mm artillery rounds (used in road side bombs), rocket propelled grenades, rocket launchers, mortars and numerous other weapons and explosives. That find right there just saved a lot of lives.*******

Seldom is the average American subjected to decisions of right and wrong where consequences result in death. That’s a good thing… don’t get me wrong. I just wish more American’s realized how lucky they have it and how miniscule most problems we stress out about are compared to the rest of the world. I guess, in closing, next time your stressing out about something… ask yourself, “is this going to kill me, is this going to get my family killed?” Sometimes putting things in perspective can help you realize how great your life really is.


I’ll let you know how incredible the information this woman gave us is and how she knows what she does as soon as I can. If only you knew.


searching the warehouse


an Iraqi teenager we talked to after a road side bomb hit a nearby unit


an Iraqi mother tries to conceal her laughter as we play with her kids


playing pool with some kids


me and my M4 with new M203


happy and free


walking the streets


a boy shortly after we gave him a soccer ball


talking with some locals


giving pens and candy to the kids

Sunday, April 17, 2005


the city


SPC R looks on as our civilian explosives expert arrives with his bomb dog

brick wall rolling

I want to begin by thanking everyone for their e-mails and comments regarding my last post, YES, we CAN win this war. It was great hearing everyone’s varying thoughts and opinions on how things are going over here. Anyone interested in an incredible book on America’s involvement in Iraq might want to check out The Threatening Storm, by Kenneth M. Pollack. This was the book that inspired me to enlist and volunteer to come over here. Today in the mail I got another one of Pollack’s books, The Persian Puzzle, The Conflict Between Iran and America. I have no doubt it will be another in-depth and insightful account of U.S. policy in the middle east. In my opinion, Kenneth Pollack is hands down one of the most qualified experts on both the history and the future of American foreign policy in this region. He presently serves as the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. From 1995 to 1996 and 1999 to 2001 he served as director for Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council. Before working with the Clinton administration he served under Bush 41 as a Persian Gulf military analyst for the CIA. I promise you, no matter what your political persuasion, Pollack’s exacting and in-depth research will provide even the most advanced scholar an incredible education.

This week, like them all, was pretty busy. We did several night missions near the hostile city I spoke of in Shadows in the Darkness. A couple of nights ago my Battalion did a cordon and search of the city. All network news channels were there but I don’t think it got much coverage… there were no casualties and things went surprisingly well. The dismounted platoon I’m in was put on humvees for the operation, several of us were given the night off because there just wasn’t room. I wasn’t about to miss a Battalion movement, so I hopped on with another company. It worked out well because the humvee I was dismounting for led the movement into the city. I must say that in my time here thus far, rolling into the slums of the city and looking back to see a dust storm from hundreds of gun trucks and the skies littered with attack helicopters was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have had. It is moments like that when everything is worth it. The U.S. Army at its finest.

The element I was with rolled straight through the city to the other side, units broke off to their objectives as we advanced. All the routes out of the city had been blocked off by ground units. The Apache’s assisted in maintaining the perimeter, provided air support if necessary and scanned the surrounding villages for rocket or mortar launches. As we rolled through the heart of the city we passed an Iraqi Police station. There were dozens of IP’s outside. They stood on the rooftops and at the gates, they were ready. This particular police station has it rough. I didn’t realize how often they get in fire fights until we started running night ops in the area. I wondered how this whole thing looked from their eyes. I’m sure that this particular night, like us, they were feeling as if all their hard work and sacrifice was worth it. We were rolling fast and we were rolling hard. The ground was literally rumbling. We were a brick wall followed by a sea of dust with the sun setting behind us.

Our objective was a decent size house just outside of the city surrounded by fields. I was in the lead platoon. Once we hit the field each humvee moved to its pre-determined location. We caught air a couple of times, hitting small trenches and holes in the field from farming. We got in place in the south east corner just outside a small house on the same property as the target house. Myself and SSG B quickly dismounted and stacked on the wall outside the house. The humvee’s driver, SPC H and its gunner, SGT M would stay on the humvee throughout the entire mission. They would be ready to move and engage in a seconds notice. SSG B and I decided it would be better to clear the small house quickly by ourselves rather than wait for other dismounts to come and lose the element of suprise. We maneuvered around the side of the house to the front door, ducking under the windows so as not to make targets out of ourselves or reveal our entry point. I went to the left of the door with SSG B on the right. Luckily it was unlocked. I slammed it open and SSG B went in first. I was right behind him. There was only three rooms. No one was inside.

We signaled to one of the other platoon's humvees that was pulling up to the house that it was clear. We began moving toward the target house where some humvees were still getting in position. We cleared all the sheds and out-houses on the way. By the time we got to the back of the target house the other dismounts had already cleared it of personnel. The men were separated and the women and children were kept together. We are always careful to make sure that the men can see their families so they know that they are being treated well. After the property was cleared of all eminent threats, we began the search.

The search was extremely thorough. While we were inside the property one of the other platoons searched all of the fields with the assistance of a civilian explosives expert and his bomb dog. We had positively identified one of the men from our wanted list. It was important we handled all evidence perfectly to make sure it could be used in his trial. With two evidence experts present to make sure everything was handled properly, every square inch of the house was searched. Everything was photographed and all evidence was organized in bags by room number. Nothing was damaged, but a mess was made. All the blankets were unfolded, furniture moved, pictures taken off the walls, cabinets emptied. It sounds extreme but in the end it paid off. We found lots of documentation, abnormal amounts of cash and some weapons. After we were done searching the house the women and children were allowed to enter. I was assigned to keep an eye on them while the men were questioned and things were finishing up. When the women and children entered the house and saw what we had done they just cried. The unit commander and SSG B got the elder man and the translator and went to talk to the women. The commander handled the situation very well. He explained why we had to do what we did, assured them that nothing was broken and explained why we had to take some of the evidence. After they were all calmed down SSG B and I continued to talk to the man. The only detainee we were going to bring back with us was his little brother. The man thanked us for being polite and professional. We assured him his brother would be treated fairly and fed well. There was no doubt in my mind we had the bad guys.

It was nearly nine hours later that we were on our way back to the base. We were rolling black out (no white lights, drivers use night vision). I just stared out the window looking through my night vision. I had a lot on my mind. It was a good night. We got our guy. We had some solid evidence. I wondered how things went for the rest of the Battalion. I was very impressed with the Company commanders and NCOs. The orchestration of several company level elements in conjunction with Iraqi Police and Air units is a very complex and challenging task, especially in an urban environment. The Battalion commander did a great job in planning the whole operation. Every aspect was covered. It was thorough planning and rehearsing that ensured things went well. Had they gone awry, there were several back up plans. Everyone’s hard work, hard training and discipline made the mission a success.


me with a bad guy's gun


rolling into the slums


ready to roll: from left to right; SGT M, SSGT B, SPC H, me

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

YES, we CAN win this war

The following is in response to an article by Al Lorentz entitled, "WHY WE CANNOT WIN." I disagree.

I would first like to congratulate Mr. Lorentz for being the first person to be officially declared an idiot by Boots in Baghdad. Mr. Lorentz, to receive your official certificate of idiocy please e-mail your mailing address to BootsInBaghdad@yahoo.com and we will get that mailed out to you as soon as possible. I kept coming across Mr. Lorentz’s essay Why We Cannot Win while browsing the internet for information on Iraq. I really didn’t want to post anything on this blog regarding his out of touch perspective of the war in Iraq. Frankly, I am pretty busy and he is not worth my time. On the other hand, I feel as though I have a responsibility to set the record straight. Please excuse my failure to stay focused on the mission I set out to accomplish with this blog and bear with me just this once.

I recommend you read Mr. Lorentz’s essay prior to reading my response. To read Mr. Lorentz’s writings go to www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/lorentz1.html

My response is below.



Like Mr. Lorentz I am a soldier deployed to Iraq. I am young, I am very politically idealistic and in many ways I am na├»ve. I am a SPC4 with two years in the Army under my belt. I am a soldier with a mud’s-eye view. I cross the wire daily. I am out on the streets of Iraq talking with and meeting with the people who for too long have been oppressed and denied their God given right to freedom. These people constantly thank me and my friends for allowing them the opportunity to be free. Mr. Lorentz has reached the conclusion that “Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality.” I can‘t figure out on what grounds that conclusion was made. Ideology and idealism have been altering history as long as mankind has had ideas and ideals. Our country, for one, was founded by a group of astounding idealists with profound ideas. This group of idealists conquered overwhelming odds and successfully created the great nation we have the honor and good fortune of being a part of today. History is full of idealists who have contributed their ideas to change the course of history and alter the ways lives are lived.

Mr. Lorentz writes;

"When we were preparing to deploy, I told my young soldiers to beware of the "political solution." Just when you think you have the situation on the ground in hand, someone will come along with a political directive that throws you off the tracks."

Well Mr. Lorentz, certainly as a seasoned NCO with twenty years under your belt, you understand that war is simply the means of reaching a political goal. There has never been a war that wasn’t serving a political agenda. There is always a political purpose when using force to engage an enemy. You speak of the “political solution” as if it is a separate factor, its own entity entirely separate from the plethora of intricacies that make up a conflict. Allow me to refer you to, On War, by Carl Von Clausewitz;

"War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means. Consequently, the main lines of every major strategic plan are largely political in nature, and their political character increases the more the plan applies to the entire campaign and the whole state. A war plan results directly from the political conditions of the two warring states, as well as their relations to third powers. A plan of campaign results from the war plan, and frequently--- if there is one theatre of operations--- may even be identical with it. But the political element even enters the separate components of a campaign; rarely will it be without influence on such major episodes of warfare as a battle, etc. According to this point of view, there can be no question of a purely military evaluation of a great strategic issue, nor of a purely military scheme to solve it."

Now it is right about this point in Mr. Lorentz’s writing he goes from being a decent guy with a differing opinion to an idiot. He calls the invasion of Iraq and the occupation thereof un-Constitutional. How is it unconstitutional?
According to Article II Section 2 of the United States Constitution;

"the President of the United States shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

Article IV Section 4;

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

The Commander in Chief of the United States Armed forces can deploy the American Armed Forces up to ninety days on his own accord. With the consent of Congress he may keep them deployed longer. Not only did the President have the consent of Congress, he had consent from the United Nations. Saddam Hussein and his regime were given the opportunity time and time again to cooperate with weapons inspections and verify the destruction of any weapons of mass destruction. Time and time again Saddam Hussein chose not to cooperate. The President of the United States and the United States Congress were fulfilling their Constitutional duty to the American people by invading Iraq. The primary responsibility of the Federal Government is to insure the safety of the American people from threats both foreign and domestic. Saddam Hussein’s failure to cooperate in conjunction with the intelligence at the time gave them no other options but to act. Perhaps if President Clinton would have done his job as President and enforced the sanctions the United Nations placed upon Saddam Hussein after Desert Storm the American People wouldn’t have been put in such a predicament. However, they were. And thank God we had a President who wouldn’t allow a near decade of Presidential negligence in regard to national security… cost any more American’s their lives.

From here Mr. Lorentz begins listing his reasons as to why we can’t win this war. He begins with the following:

"First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war and must label the increasingly effective guerilla forces arrayed against us as 'terrorists, criminals and dead-enders.'"

The United States along with members of the Coalition won the war against Saddam Hussein. Now we are fighting a war against terrorism in Iraq. Yes, they are terrorists. What else can you call Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who is Osama bin Laden’s main man in Iraq? Beheadings, car bombs, roadside bombs, executions… these are tactics used to instill terror into a populace in an effort to control their thoughts or actions. They aren’t just targeting U.S. and Coalition forces either. I have been mortared while giving coloring books to Iraqi children. Did you catch that last sentence Mr. Lorentz? If I am getting explosive projectiles launched in my direction with Iraqi children around, do you think the explosives are going to magically miss the children? These TERRORISTS are the ones with no regard for civilian lives. They behead civilians on TV. They blow up civilians who try to vote. They drag Iraqi Policemen and Iraqi National Guardsmen out of their homes and execute them in front of their families. There is no clearer examples of terrorists. And yes, they are the apotheosis of criminals and dead-enders. To suggest otherwise is asinine. These terrorists may use guerilla tactics, much like the Viet Cong used guerilla tactics in Vietnam and much like the Americans used them against the English loyalists during the American revolution. Guerilla tactics are unconventional methods of warfare. Using unconventional tactics against a larger, better trained and better equipped military is how the under dog has to fight. Call them guerrillas if that makes you feel better, that doesn’t change the fact that they are terrorists.

Mr. Lorentz:

"The idea behind fighting a guerilla army is not to destroy its every man (an Impossibility since he hides himself by day amongst the populace). Rather the idea in guerilla warfare is to erode or destroy his base of support. So long as there is support for the guerilla, for every one you kill two more rise up to take his place. More importantly, when your tools for killing him are precision guided munitions, raids and other acts that create casualties among the innocent populace, you raise the support for the guerillas and undermine the support for yourself. (A 500-pound precision bomb has a casualty-producing radius of 400 meters minimum; do the math.)"

The base of support for the terrorist insurgency in Iraq is constantly being diminished. Some of these terrorists come from within Iraq, some have come from Afghanistan, others have come from Syria, Iran and Jordan. They represent varieties of religious extremist groups who are funded by outside sources and whose goals are to halt the spread of democracy in Iraq and cause as many problems as possible for the new Iraqi government. Their base of support is continuously slipping but crushing it will take years.

The April 2nd 2005 issue of The Economist has an article entitled “Time to Stop the Squabbling;”

"Attacks in February dropped to 40-50 a day, the lowest since the American’s first assaulted the rebel stronghold of Fallulah a year ago. While the rate has gone up a bit in the last few weeks, the rebels are no longer massing troops to overrun police stations or take over Iraqi towns wholesale. In contrast, Iraqi troops are fighting more aggressively , and the insurgents’ mystique is fading, thanks in part to popular television programs such as “Terror in the Hands of Justice,” which shows broken rebel captives confessing to everything from contract killings to homosexual orgies. Iraqi police say this has lead to a surge in the number of tips from citizens, who now take a more scornful and less fearful view of the guerrillas."

This is just one example of many ways in which that base of support for the insurgency is being slowly diminished. The Iraqi security forces are gaining more and more trust from the Iraqi people. These security forces are growing and starting to have their own successes. The IP’s and ING’s are working more and more with Coalition forces and the Iraqi people are getting more comfortable with the concept of independence.

In reference to Mr. Lorentz’s comments regarding collateral damage, unfortunately some civilian casualties are inevitable and these incidents are no doubt an enormous tragedy. Contrary to popular belief these instances are quite seldom and the majority of collateral damage has been caused by the insurgents. They would have no problem killing fifteen or twenty civilians if it meant they could kill one or two American soldiers or Iraqi security forces. Last month I was outside the wire in a patrol base that was targeted by enemy small arms fire. We DID NOT RETURN FIRE because of the slight chance a civilian could have been hit. If you scroll down and read my entry titled “Patrolling” you will see another instance where we didn’t fire warning shots at a potential insurgent because he used a car with a civilian family as a shield to escape a check point. Place the blame where it belongs Mr. Lorentz.

Mr. Lorentz continues;

"Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." We came here with some fantasy idea that the natives were all ignorant, mud-hut dwelling camel riders who would line the streets and pelt us with rose petals, lay palm fronds in the street and be eternally grateful. While at one time there may have actually been support and respect from the locals, months of occupation by our regular military forces have turned the formerly friendly into the recently hostile. Attempts to correct the thinking in this regard are in vain; it is not politically correct to point out the fact that the locals are not only disliking us more and more, they are growing increasingly upset and often overtly hostile. Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality. We are told that the locals are not upset because we have a hostile, aggressive and angry Army occupying their nation. We are told that they are not upset at the police state we have created, or at the manner of picking their representatives for them. Rather we are told, they are upset because of a handful of terrorists, criminals and dead enders in their midst have made them upset, that and of course the ever convenient straw man of 'left wing media bias.'"

I have never been under the impression that the Iraqi people are, “all ignorant, mud-hut dwelling camel riders who would line the streets and pelt us with rose petals, lay palm fronds in the street and be eternally grateful.” And Mr. Lorentz, I can assure you that such an implication didn’t come from anywhere in your chain of command either. Maybe that is some of the “wisdom” you passed down to the poor men under your leadership. For you to say that you were told such an absurdity from an official source representing any element of the United States government is completely false. Don’t blame your ignorance on anyone other than yourself. The Iraqi people have incredible endurance and faith. They have been subjected to some of the worst abuses history has shown us. The perpetrator of these abuses is no longer in power. For decades they have been forced to live a certain lifestyle and now they are trying to acclimate to freedom. No one ever said that would be easy and would happen over night. They are upset over a handful of terrorists. If it weren’t for these terrorists progress would be moving along much faster. No doubt they get frustrated when we come into their homes. But 99% of them are welcoming and grateful that we are in the area to protect them. They offer us tea and dinner and wish us well when we leave. We didn’t create a police state. Saddam Hussein created the police state. We are helping them eliminate that police state. And picking their representatives for them? Another one of your fantasies I suppose. Were you unconscious during the elections Mr. Lorentz?

Mr. Lorentz goes on;

"Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them. This is almost always the case in guerilla warfare, especially when your tactics for battling the guerillas are aimed at killing guerillas instead of eroding their support. For every guerilla we kill with a "smart bomb" we kill many more innocent civilians and create rage and anger in the Iraqi community. This rage and anger translates into more recruits for the terrorists and less support for us. We have fallen victim to the body count mentality all over again. We have shown a willingness to inflict civilian casualties as a necessity of war without realizing that these same casualties create waves of hatred against us. These angry Iraqi citizens translate not only into more recruits for the guerilla army but also into more support of the guerilla army."

I say again, support for the insurgency is eroding daily. I don’t know what your civil affairs unit does Mr. Lorentz, but ours is constantly making progress in this regard. Make no mistake, if there is a direct threat to Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces or members of the Coalition then the insurgents are going to have a choice, put down their arms or get put down. I want to make something clear, and this isn’t just from my first hand experiences, but from friends I have all over the Army and in the Marines. The Department of Defense and Coalition Forces do anything and everything possible to ensure the safety of all civilians in this theater of operations. That includes Afghanistan. These civilians are the future of democracy and are held to a high esteem. We are here for them. To suggest otherwise is completely untrue.

Mr. Lorentz goes on to say that there are supply problems and that we as Americans don’t give respect to our enemies. The supply problems that exist are minor and exactly what you would expect in a combat zone. We always have plenty of what we need. That’s all that matters. As far as respecting our enemies, they are deadly to us, deadly to the people of Iraq and deadly to the future of democracy. They pose a real and credible threat and that is understood.

In closing I want to let Al Lorentz know I think he is a complete idiot. He certainly is entitled to his opinion. I don’t have a problem with differing opinions. I have a huge problem with someone who will fabricate problems that don’t exist. It is even worse when these fabrications are coming from a leader of soldiers in uniform. I respect Mr. Lorentz’s service to the United States. I will remind him however that the contract he has with the United States as an American combatant didn’t ever promise him any input as to where he would deploy and under what circumstances. I thank God that he isn’t in my chain of command. To be honest, someone with that much lack of character and lack of faith in the mission wouldn’t last long anywhere in my unit doing the work we do. Mr. Lorentz, maybe if you went outside more and looked into the eyes of the people you are so incredibly critical of you wouldn’t be so oblivious to the “reality” you keep talking about. They want democracy. They want freedom. They are grateful. They will prevail. How about you quit telling the American people the Iraqi’s don’t want democracy and go tell some of the Iraqi Police officers and Iraqi National Guardsmen they don’t want democracy. Because if they don’t then what they hell are they dying for out there? It sure as hell isn’t the money. No one expected Iraq to turn into a flourishing country over night. If they did, they are probably living in the same bubble as Boots In Baghdad’s first official idiot, Mr. Al Lorentz.

Monday, April 11, 2005


SPC S scans during night over-watch mission.

shadows in the darkness

We did night operations every night last week. We’d go out shortly after dark and be back at the base as the sun was coming up. Moving from the insertion point with the darkness as our shield, each team moved into the vicinity of a designated grid to conduct an over-watch of their target. These targets may have been a house, a road, a village, anything where there has been or is suspicion of being AIF (Anti Iraqi Forces) activity.

On the night of the 9th our team was to move into a location just outside of a very hostile city to over-watch a heavily traveled road that is notorious for IED’s (improvisational explosive devices). They are more commonly referred to in the civilian world as roadside bombs. As the last man in our team movements, rear and high security is my responsibility. I spend just as much time walking backward as forward. We’d stop periodically, diving down to avoid the headlights of passing cars.

Under the darkness we are like ghosts… nothing but shadows in the darkness. With our faces painted and our movements perfected we are unseen by any potential enemy. Through my left eye I see the world in shades of green and white. With my right eye exposed and acclimated to the darkness I can look through the optic on my rifle and maintain my depth perception. With both eyes working together I have a crystal clear vision that cuts right through the blackness of the night.

After about an hour of movement we reach the area where we need to establish our over-watch. We huddle behind a wall to decide the best place to set up. We quickly maneuver across the street and get in the prone on the side of a berm. We were getting ready to send two guys out to do a tight area recon of the position when SPC S saw a man walking down a path headed right to us through his thermal sights. We immediately got down. I was a little short of breath from running across the road and was trying as hard as I could to breath lightly. The man kept getting closer and closer. He passed within feet of us. He had no idea that just a few steps away lay an infantry fire team. It was definitely a close call. We conducted the recon of the area and found a decent position about thirty meters away.

We maneuvered the whole team to the position and set up 360 degree security. We called in our grid and began scanning. Aside from sporadic small arms fire from the city, the next few hours were uneventful. We all just lay there motionless, silently scanning, watching and listening. Sometime around midnight one of the other teams called in two men digging on the side of a berm. Good people aren’t typically out digging after curfew on the sides of roads. The mounted element began heading in their direction and Apache’s were called in to keep an eye on things from the sky. Apache’s have incredible night vision and thermal sights, not to mention enough firepower to take out a small army.

As soon as we heard the Apache’s heading into the area we popped our IR (infrared) glow sticks. The last thing we wanted was for them to confuse us with the bad guys. Unfortunately, the guys digging managed to escape into the city. The Apache’s circled the area for a while looking for them but didn’t find anyone. Small arms fire erupted from the city… attempting to hit the Apache’s. The Apache's left unscathed.

We went back to what we were doing, keeping a close look out on the area. All of us were just hoping someone would try to put a bomb on the road. The small arms fire from the city picked back up again. Some of it came from pretty close to our position. There was probably a series of small firefights between AIF and Iraqi Police. We weren’t too concerned. The bad guys had no idea where we were… and if one of the other teams were engaged, the gun trucks of the mounted patrol and the Apache’s would be going off like the fourth of July.

We headed back to the extraction point and were taken out before sunrise. We didn’t catch any bad guys that night. But soon, very soon, some little bad guy is going to think he’s slick, slip a 155 round into a hole and out of nowhere he’s going to have some American boys with painted faces all around him. Whether or not he sleeps in jail or sleeps forever is his call. Until that night bad guy, sleep well.


SPC P and CPL N before a night mission. CPL N misses his BK.


putting on camo for night mission


me in a particularily good mood


Getting ready to leave the wire a little over a week ago for a morning mounted mission. Thanks for the Girl Scout cookies Mom!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


We Salute You

Boots In Baghdad Salutes Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith

There are many things that make America what it is. We each have our own perceptions of what makes America special. Some of the first things I think of when I picture America is sun rise from the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine or the veiw of the St. Johns River from Memorial Park right after sunset in Jacksonville. The beautiful thing about America isn’t just the incredible landscape's. The way our oceans engulf the shores with their vibrant life. It isn’t just our mountains, the massive staircases to the heavens that overlook us all. It’s not just our rivers, that connect towns and villages and cities with their rolling currents, or our open fields farmed by generations of blood and sweat. It’s not just our canyons and valleys, which give us a glimpse into the deep heart of the earth. It isn’t just our cities, whose lights glisten for miles. And no, it isn’t the way the sun and moon sparkle in the freedom loving eyes of us all. It is none of these things without the incredible people who have for decades and decades made progress possible through their love of each other and a love for the great and vast American existence. It is the people who wake up every day and go about their business striving to be better than they were the day before. You see, the beautiful thing about America is the power we have in each other. The ability to overcome the most horrific and the most mundane while helping each other all the way.

Today the challenges facing our Nation are some of the most trying since our existence. We are engaged in modern warfare against a ruthless enemy who doesn’t want our land or our money. They want one thing, and one thing only. They want to destroy us. They want to destroy the relationships we have with each other. They want to disrupt our lives and crush our dreams. They know that once the United States of America are united no more, there is no longer a global advocate for freedom. There is no hope for the oppressed in the world. There is no light to work toward, to live for... or to die for.

America is beautiful for the memories we make every day. Waking up and looking out my window, to see my little brother and sister playing in the back yard. Dancing barefoot on the beach at sunset with my first love. Sunday dinner with the whole family, grandparents and aunts and uncles. We all have our memories and our dreams, our loves and our passions. We are free to take the paths we choose. And while we don’t always think about it, these freedoms aren’t free. Men and women who understand the importance of these things, and want to make sure they are preserved, have been sacrificing day in and day out as long as America has been.

Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith is an example to us all. He sacrificed himself for his men and for each and every one of us. His actions will echo through the eternities. There is no greater display of courage or heroism than that of a man who loves his nation and its people more than he loves himself. May god be with his family and his loved ones. And may God be with him as he forever serves in the armies of the heavens. We will never forget.

To read more about Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith go to www.army.mil/medalofhonor/

Sunday, April 03, 2005

ABU GHRAIB IS UNDER ATTACK

Sorry it has been a little while since the last entry. It has been a busy week. We spent several days in the field doing dismounted missions and did a mounted mission yesterday morning. I had just gotten back from dinner last night and was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening. I was getting ready to take a shower and was planning on a good night of solid sleep when my team leader busted in my room and screamed, “GET YOUR GEAR AND GET TO THE COMPANY TOC, ABU GHRAIB IS UNDER ATTACK!” I grabbed my gear and ran to the TOC (tactical operations center). People were running everywhere. Every unit was ordered to REDCON ONE to assist in the fight. Our dismount platoon was split up and put in humvees wherever there was an open seat.

The patrol I was put with lined the vehicles in order of march on the road in front of the TOC. Everyone was getting their last minute things in order, double checking night vision and oiling weapons. The patrol leader called everyone out of the trucks and gave us a quick situation brief. Then we got in a tight circle and prayed. My heart was pounding. I was ready. We were ready. We’ve seen combat. We’ve been in firefights and been hit with roadside bombs. I can’t even count anymore how many times we’ve been mortared. But this was big. This was a full scale battle.

After the prayer we went back to our vehicles. I looked down the road and it was just stacked with humvees and gun trucks. Everyone was battle ready waiting to get the order to move. Up ahead the roar of jets and helicopters was constant. Yeah, this was big.

We sat in the humvees ready to go. The minutes kept rolling by. I was so anxious. We all were. We wanted to move out and help, do our part. Out brothers in arms were in trouble out there and we just wanted to get to them. Well, minutes turned into hours and finally we were put on standby. We didn’t go anywhere last night. We were ready though. In the end things were under control and we weren’t needed. Just another night in Iraq. Now, I’m going to go and get some sleep.