Thursday, March 02, 2006

Iraq – Some Views From The Ground

I have many friends who are currently working and serving in Iraq – some in civilian capacities and many more as military officers. I am privileged to receive frequent communication from that part of the world. My contacts range all the way from junior officers to general officers, so I hear from a fairly wide range of perspectives about what is happening there. The overwhelming message that I hear is that we as Americans should be very proud of the caliber and the character of the men and women who wear the uniforms of the United States as they serve in Iraq. Not everyone in uniform agrees with every policy and doctrine that is set in Washington, but the vast majority of our troops are committed to carrying out their mission with integrity and with honor.

In a recent communication to me, a soldier who is serving his second deployment to Iraq shared with me some thoughts and feelings that I think are important for the readers of this Blog to be aware of. I share his excerpted words with his permission:

[I am now serving as a] “Battle Captain,” and I work inside the [TOC] Tactical Operations Center and track all of the patrols for the squadron.

I will say this about the current situation; no one wants a civil war to break out over here more than the American media. It’s ridiculous! I hear and see on the news that Iraq is in a crisis right now and there are demonstrations all in the streets. Well, obviously you are aware of the explosion in the mosque the other day. Since then, there have been a few cases of demonstrations, but why wouldn’t there be? Their freaking mosque was blown up! I am in Baghdad and have yet to receive any reports from any of our patrols of a bunch of demonstrations out of control. Maybe it’s happening in areas other than Baghdad because we aren’t seeing it. However, if you flip on the news you would think we have lost control over here.

These people over here don’t want a civil war! They just want to live safely and move on. Yes, they don’t want coalition forces over here, but at the same time many of them realize they still need us over here until their own forces can protect them. As you can tell, I’m just a little fired up at the media right now. Spread the word that the coalition forces are doing a great job providing security for the Iraqi people and continue to train the Iraqi security forces in preparation to take over.

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A few weeks ago, Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post (not a newspaper I read on a regular basis!) highlighted some of the good work being done in Iraq by an unsung part of our military – the Army Corps of Engineers. Here are a few excerpts from Peters’ article, with a link below to the entire article.



America’s soldiers are al ways good for a surprise: The enthusiasm the Army's combat engineers show for our mission in Iraq would dumbfound even our military's most fervent supporters.

Privileged to speak with officers and NCOs from the Army's Maneuver Support Center in Missouri last week, I came away proud to have worn the same uniform as those men and women. Every one of them had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Now they were briefly back home, working hard to incorporate combat lessons-learned into doctrine and training the young soldiers they'll lead during their next Mideast tours.

All that nonsense about a "broken Army"? What I heard was the conviction that we're not only doing the right thing in Iraq, but doing it far better than the media tell the American people.

I only wish my fellow citizens were given an honest view of our troops, their morale and their accomplishments — along with a fuller sense of our military's complexity. Yes, the infantry leads the way, along with the other combat arms. But who hears about the combat engineers? Even though they often lead the infantry?

Well, here's to the heroes who clear the minefields, defuse the improvised explosive devices (IEDs), blow open the doors, dig the trenches, build the defensive barriers, renovate the schools and clinics, plunge into the tangle of wires that passes for an electrical grid — and fight as infantrymen when the need arises.

Having just returned from Iraq, one officer said, "I'd give up my promotion to go back." Even allowing for the moment's enthusiasm, that family man believed that his sacrifices made a vital difference. Why don't men like him make the evening news?

At a time when we're bombarded with so much doom-and-gloom nonsense from those who'd like to abandon the world to terrorists, it's a shame we don't hear more about the men and women who stay in uniform, who do our nation's toughest work and receive so little credit from the know-it-alls safe at home.

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Regardless of where you may stand on the politics of our involvement in Iraq, I invite you to pause and say a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the safety for the men and women who have answered duty’s call, and for the families who pray for their safe return. And take a moment to send a note or e-mail with some encouraging words to someone you know who is over there. Even a small gesture of support means a great deal.


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