Saturday, August 28, 2004

Taking “My War” down…

Since it is a hot topic right now and I just found out about it today, I figured I would weigh in with my two cents on why they took down “My War”.

On one hand, it sort of pisses me off. I only discovered it recently and it was one of the best Iraq blogs I have seen. The writing was excellent, regardless of whether it was grammatically perfect or not. As you know I am somewhat “grammatically challenged” myself sometimes. If all people looked for in a piece of writing was good grammar, they would sit around reading technical manuals all the time. CB’s writing was able to put the reader right there in the scene and reveal the emotion and chaos of the situation to someone thousands of miles away. Assuming that the blog is down for good, the best thing to come out of this may be a new writer who will have the confidence and contacts to stick with it and get published. Then again, there is always the possibility that through some type of intervention, Divine or otherwise, he will be allowed to begin writing again. Whether he does or not is another question. I can imagine the hassle he has been going through, and he may decide to just say “screw it” and write for himself and his friends from now on.

From a military point of view though, and I don’t expect any civilian to understand or agree with this, once the decision is made he has no choice but to cease, desist, and drive on with the mission. There is no such thing as the right to free speech in the military. If a civilian tells his boss to go screw himself, he will likely get fired. If a soldier does the same thing, he could end up paying large fines, being restricted to his room for several weeks, doing manual labor late into the night for several weeks, or theoretically, in the case of a court martial, he could even do jail time. If a civilian doesn’t like the President, he can say almost anything he wants about him as long as he doesn’t make any overt threats. If a soldier doesn’t like the President, too freaking bad. The President of the United States is in our chain of command and we are forbidden by regulation from making public criticism of any element of our chain of command.

Also, there is always the possibility that the enemy reads his blog as well. The most innocuous of statements can hold potential intelligence value. Something that a Specialist or Private or even a Staff Sergeant or Lieutenant might think innocent could be of value to somebody. Even if the likelihood is small, the consequences could be great. Without a doubt, if there is any question of whether an individual soldier’s writing might put lives or missions in jeopardy, that writing will go away.

My guess is that some commander decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and decided to take no chances. There is also likely a political element to it. The best writing is never politically correct. Someone will always take offense to something. Whether it is intentional or perceived, any lack of respect or appropriateness will ruffle feathers and the chances are… somebody’s feathers got ruffled.

Before we get too upset with this shadowy figure who took away our unvarnished view of life in a combat unit, we need to put things in perspective. The commander who was responsible for the decision has hundreds or thousands of American lives that they are responsible for. One soldier’s blog, when you step back and look at the big picture, is not worth worrying about if it is even a minor distraction for the chain of command. I hope CB continues to write, and if allowed, to write publicly. But if not, I hope he writes a book or set of memoirs or whatever makes him happy. And in the meantime, he will continue to do his duty and eventually come home safely. So as far as I’m concerned, say a prayer both for CB and for the Officers and NCOs who are leading and caring for our soldiers over there. They all have decisions to make and they all make them with the best interests of the United States Army and our country in mind.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Family Day

Once again, Groundhog Day is almost over. Today the War Pigs are out stuffing their fat faces at Burger King and the Pizza Joint while they regale their parents and loved ones with stories of all the funny, hard, exciting, boring, cool, dangerous, tedious and crappy things they did during the last nine weeks.

Tomorrow we will graduate early in the morning and then they will receive an off post pass if their parents sign them out. They can go down to the mall or PX and invariably numerous privates will spend upwards of 200-300 bucks on CDs and candy lol. Then all the split option soldiers who have family members here can get into the Griswold family station wagon and begin the long drive back to Paducah or Waukeegan or where-the-hell-ever they came from. All the soldiers who are going straight to AIT will spend one more night in the barracks and then fly out on Friday morning.

We get about a 6 day cycle break and then the alarm clock will ring again, the same DJ will say the same thing, and I’ll go pick up the same privates to do the same things for the same amount of time in almost exactly the same way.

Oh well… only 15 months to go.

Don’t get the impression that I am unhappy with these Privates in particular. In some ways this has been one of the best cycles yet. I kicked out way fewer soldiers this cycle than I ever have in the past. This is not something I did on purpose, it just turned out that I got a pretty good crop of kids to work with. I picked up 63 and graduated 55 of them. By comparison, last cycle I think we dropped about 15 of them by the time we graduated, and some of the other platoons ended up with something in the low 40s this cycle.
All but two of the soldiers this time passed their PT test. One of those failed by 17 seconds on his last attempt. There are only so many times we can retest them. They are both split option soldiers, which means they cannot be newstarted with another battalion or anything. So they go home and come back again next summer, depending on what their NG or Reserve unit decides to do with them.
Best moments that I can recall off the top of my head for this cycle…

During the first few days, I walked into the latrine to make sure everyone was out in the bay. The rest of the platoon was getting scuffed up for something. One of the Privates was standing in front of the sink and quickly shoved his hands down the front of his shorts. In reality, he was trying to hide his toothbrush and toothpaste. (He didn’t think he was supposed to be brushing his teeth. He was, but he didn’t know it. So he was doing the right thing, but thought he was doing the wrong thing and tried to hide it, which means he was doing the wrong thing anyway). I told him to get his ass out in the bay with the rest of the platoon, and the rest of the dialogue went something like this…

"What the hell were you doing hiding in the latrine while the rest of the platoon was out here getting scuffed up?!"

"Nothing Drill Sergeant"

"BS… why did you have your hands shoved down your pants?"

"I don’t know Drill Sergeant"

"BS… you know what you were doing. You were in there rubbing one out weren’t you? Is that what you were doing? Why else would you be standing in front of the mirror with your hands down your pants? You were in there making the "Oh-face" at yourself weren’t you?! That’s sick Private! We’re all out here doing some good Army PT and you’re in there making the "Oh" face at yourself with your hands down your pants!"

At this point the rest of the soldiers couldn’t control themselves and dissolved into a puddle of hysterical laughter. Eventually I couldn’t help it and starting laughing my ass off as well. I walked out and went home and they called PVT K. "Oh-face" for the rest of the cycle.
(Keep in mind that I had an all-male bay and would have never said something like that if the females had been there)

When another Drill Sergeant and I (who shall remain nameless so I don’t incriminate him) went out to do a recon on the Victory Forge site, we took my Jeep. Since we had to pass several ponds to get there, and I had all my fishing gear on the Jeep, we decided we should do a very thorough recon of the entire area. This would include the area underneath several lily pads and moss beds in the pond. The best way to do this recon was with spinnerbaits and plastic worms, so being the hard workers that we are, we got right to it. Twenty minutes later, we figured that we should probably get going and started through the woods back to the Jeep. I swear, this was the closest I have ever been to being chewed on by a poisonous snake. I was no further away than 18 inches from the biggest, fattest, meanest water mocassin I have ever seen. I shot about 18 feet into the air and was actually propelling myself backwards like Wile E. Coyote by the time I hit the ground. I used more profanity in those two airborne seconds than I have used in 20 months on the trail.

This snake was sitting there, coiled up, mouth open, head waving around, just daring me to move another 10 mm. (<-- not bullshit) He had a big gold tooth and jailhouse tattoos all over him. (<-- bullshit) We tried to catch and kill him, but all the sticks we tried to hold him down with so I could cut his head off kept breaking. (<-- not bullshit) Actually, he kept reaching up with his tail and breaking our sticks and throwing them back at us. (<-- bullshit) Eventually he escaped directly up through the brush where we were headed, so we had to take a scenic route to get back to the Jeep.

Well… I was gonna make this longer and write a few more, but Household 6 picked up a movie so I’m gonna leave it alone for now…
Maybe I’ll post a few more tomorrow. I also have some more pictures once my partner gets em put on disk for me.
I also plan to write something more serious once all the War Pigs get shipped off on Friday morning. I am almost suffering from campaign burnout. It’s not that there is nothing to write about, it’s trying to figure out which part of it pisses me off the most. Maybe North Korea… Maybe trial lawyers… Maybe 527 groups and the constitutional reasons to let them run free and wild, while practicality and fairness says they need to be regulated SOMEHOW… Hell, maybe I’ll just write about hunting for a while. South Carolina has the longest rifle season by far, and it’s already open here.