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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Iraq Combat - What It's Really Like Over There 

Iraq Combat - What It's Really Like Over There

WASHINGTON - The Internet, which fills our inboxes with spam and scams every day and keeps our delete keys shiny, occasionally delivers a real keeper, such as the words below, which were written by a graduate of West Point, Class of 2003, who's now at war in Iraq.

We tracked down the author, who gave us permission to quote from his letter so long as we didn't reveal his name.

Old soldiers in the Civil War coined a phrase for green troops who survived their first taste of battle: "He has seen the elephant." This Army lieutenant sums up the combat experience better than many a grizzled veteran:

"Well, I'm here in Iraq, and I've seen it, and done it. I've seen everything you've ever seen in a war movie. I've seen cowardice; I've seen heroism; I've seen fear; and I've seen relief. I've seen blood and brains all over the back of a vehicle, and I've seen men bleed to death surrounded by their comrades. I've seen people throw up when it's all over, and I've seen the same shell-shocked look in 35-year-old experienced sergeants as in 19-year-old privates.

"I've heard the screams - `Medic! Medic!' I've hauled dead civilians out of cars, and I've looked down at my hands and seen them covered in blood after putting some poor Iraqi civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time into a helicopter. I've seen kids with gunshot wounds, and I've seen kids who've tried to kill me.

"I've seen men tell lies to save lives: `What happened to Sergeant A.?' The reply: `C'mon man, he's all right - he's wondering if you'll be OK - he said y'all will have a beer together when you get to Germany.' SFC A. was lying 15 feet away on the other side of the bunker with two medics over him desperately trying to get either a pulse or a breath. The man who asked after SFC A. was himself bleeding from two gut wounds and rasping as he tried to talk with a collapsed lung. One of them made it; one did not.

"I've run for cover as fast as I've ever run - I'll hear the bass percussion thump of mortar rounds and rockets exploding as long as I live. I've heard the shrapnel as it shredded through the trailers my men live in and over my head. I've stood, gasping for breath, as I helped drag into a bunker a man so pale and badly bloodied I didn't even recognize him as a soldier I've known for months. I've run across open ground to find my soldiers and make sure I had everyone.

"I've raided houses, and shot off locks, and broken in windows. I've grabbed prisoners, and guarded them. I've looked into the faces of men who would have killed me if I'd driven past their IED (improvised explosive device) an hour later. I've looked at men who've killed two people I knew, and saw fear.

"I've seen that, sadly, that men who try to kill other men aren't monsters, and most of them aren't even brave - they aren't defiant to the last - they're ordinary people. Men are men, and that's it. I've prayed for a man to make a move toward the wire, so I could flip my weapon off safe and put two rounds in his chest - if I could beat my platoon sergeant's shotgun to the punch. I've been wanted dead, and I've wanted to kill.

"I've sworn at the radio when I heard one of my classmate's platoon sergeants call over the radio: `Contact! Contact! IED, small arms, mortars! One KIA, three WIA!' Then a burst of staccato gunfire and a frantic cry: `Red 1, where are you? Where are you?' as we raced to the scene ... knowing full well we were too late for at least one of our comrades.

"I've seen a man without the back of his head and still done what I've been trained to do - `medic!' I've cleaned up blood and brains so my soldiers wouldn't see it - taken pictures to document the scene, like I'm in some sort of bizarre cop show on TV.

"I've heard gunfire and hit the ground, heard it and closed my Humvee door, and heard it and just looked and figured it was too far off to worry about. I've seen men stacked up outside a house, ready to enter - some as scared as they could be, and some as calm as if they were picking up lunch from McDonald's. I've laughed at dead men, and watched a sergeant on the ground, laughing so hard he was crying, because my boots were stuck in a muddy field, all the while an Iraqi corpse was not five feet from him.

"I've heard men worry about civilians, and I've heard men shrug and sum up their viewpoint in two words - `F--- 'em.' I've seen people shoot when they shouldn't have, and I've seen my soldiers take an extra second or two, think about it, and spare somebody's life.

"I've bought drinks from Iraqis while new units watched in wonder from their trucks, pointing weapons in every direction, including the Iraqis my men were buying a Pepsi from. I've patrolled roads for eight hours at a time that combat support units spend days preparing to travel 10 miles on. I've laughed as other units sit terrified in traffic, fingers nervously on triggers, while my soldiers and I deftly whip around, drive on the wrong side of the road, and wave to Iraqis as we pass. I can recognize a Sadiqqi (Arabic for friend) from a Haji (Arabic word for someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, but our word for a bad guy); I know who to point my weapons at, and who to let pass.

"I've come in from my third 18-hour patrol in as many days with a full beard and stared at a major in a pressed uniform who hasn't left the wire since we've been here, daring him to tell me to shave. He looked at me, looked at the dust and sweat and dirt on my uniform, and went back to typing at his computer.

"I've stood with my men in the mess hall, surrounded by people whose idea of a bad day in Iraq is a six-hour shift manning a radio, and watched them give us a wide berth as we swagger in, dirty, smelly, tired, but sure in our knowledge that we pull the triggers, and we do what the Army does, and they, with their clean uniforms and weapons that have never fired, support us.

"I've given a kid water and Gatorade and made a friend for life. I've let them look through my sunglasses - no one wears them in this country but us - and watched them pretend to be an American soldier - a swaggering invincible machine, secure behind his sunglasses, only because the Iraqis can't see the fear in his eyes.

"I've said it a thousand times - `God, I hate this country.' I've heard it a million times more - `This place sucks.' In quieter moments, I've heard more profound things: `Sir, this is a thousand times worse than I ever thought it would be.' Or, `My wife and Sgt. B's wife were good friends - I hope she's taking it well.'

"They say they're scared, and say they won't do this or that, but when it comes time to do it they can't let their buddies down, can't let their friends go outside the wire without them, because they know it isn't right for the team to go into the ballgame at any less than 100 percent.

"That's combat, I guess, and there's no way you can be ready for it. It just is what it is, and everybody's experience is different. Just thought you might want to know what it's really like."

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About The Writer -

Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, 700 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045.

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

From Our Friend HughHewitt 

HughHewitt.com

It is a good weekend to visit Soldiers' Angels and adopt one soldier, sailor, airman or Marine stationed in Iraq for the purpose of sending letters and care packages. It doesn't take much on your part, but as the testimonies get collected by the volunteer staff at Soldiers' Angels, the young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world are deeply appreciative of their new friends, and for some, it is the most contact with the States that they have. If you act now, your soldier may hear from you by the Fourth of July --a great day to recognize their contribution to the ongoing battle for freedom around the globe.


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Monday, June 21, 2004

Sgt Hook: Operation Shoe Fly 



Sgt Hook: Operation Shoe Fly

Operation Shoe Fly is an effort to shoe the children of Afghanistan, with no shoes on their feet. If you can collect new or used shoes, boys' and girls' (age 14 and under), and send them to Sgt. Hook, he and his crewdogs will fly them out to the Afghani kids who so desperately need them.

Please send your shoes to:

Operation Shoe Fly
Jim Thomson
B Co, 214th Aviation Regiment
Bagram, Afghanistan
APO AE 09354-9998


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Friday, June 11, 2004

"Thanks for your bravery and courage in the face of great danger."  


CHRISTIAN HILL THE OLYMPIAN
LACEY -- "Thanks for your bravery and courage in the face of great danger."
"We thank you and are praying for your safety."

"We miss you, Daddy."

Those were among the supportive messages residents wrote on a 20-foot banner that the City Council, acting on behalf of the community, presented Thursday to the Army's first Stryker brigade. The Fort Lewis-based unit has been in Iraq since November.

"The soldiers are going to very much appreciate this," said Julie Rounds, wife of Col. Michael Rounds, brigade commander. Also accepting were Maj. Cynthia Glenister, commander of the brigade's rear detachment, and Master Sgt. Stephen Kessler, the detachment's top enlisted soldier.

The banner will arrive in Iraq in several days and will hang in one of the brigade's dining halls, Rounds said.

Organizers of Lacey's Spring Fun Fair, in cooperation with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the local American Red Cross chapter, started the banner-signing effort to show support for their military partner. Lacey is tied to the brigade through Fort Lewis' Community Connections program, in which major units adopt cities to forge partnerships between soldiers and surrounding communities.

"We certainly do appreciate your presence and the relationship we've been able to establish through the years," Mayor Virgil Clarkson told Glenister.

Residents, both young and old, veterans and fellow soldiers signed the banner during the fair in early May.

In all, nearly 450 messages are on the laminated banner. The banner includes Lacey's logo and the insignia of the Stryker brigade.

In big, bold letters, it reads, "Thank you to our soldiers in Iraq."

The City Council also read a proclamation in appreciation of the sacrifices made by both U.S. service members and loved ones left behind.

VFW members held the banner when it was unrolled during the presentation.

"We know what it's like to receive the community support" and I'm sure the soldiers will appreciate this effort, said David Bright, who is the post commander.

Stephanie Reed, a member of the post's women's auxiliary, said her husband, deployed with the brigade, has told her during phone conversations how much the soldiers appreciate messages like this.

"It does keep the hopes up when they receive something from home," she said.

The 3,600 South Sound soldiers of the Stryker brigade, initiated by the Army to fill a gap between its light and heavy fighting forces, are scheduled for a yearlong deployment.

Thirteen soldiers from the unit have died since they arrived in the war-torn nation, according to a Fort Lewis spokesman.

South Sound -The Olympian

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US ARMY spy lords ordered military dog handlers to use unmuzzled dog  

US ARMY spy lords ordered military dog handlers to use unmuzzled dog to intimidate detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, it was revealed today.
Six US soldiers face possible courts martial - one has already been jailed for a year - because of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, where photographs have shown detainees being sexually humiliated, physically tormented and threatened with dogs.
Two army dog handlers assigned to Abu Ghraib, sergeants Michael Smith and Santos Cardona, told investigators military intelligence personnel asked them to bring their dogs to interrogation sessions.
According to the report, Smith and Cardona said they complied with the requests because they believed the tactics had been approved by Colonel Thomas Pappas, the military intelligence officer in charge of the Iraqi prison.
At the cell blocks, the two army men allowed their dogs to menace detainees.
At the behest of interrogators, Smith said, in some cases he would bring the barking dog to within six inches of terrified prisoners.
Neither Smith nor Cardona have been charged in connection with the abuse at Abu Ghraib. US ARMY spy lords ordered military dog handlers to use unmuzzled dog to intimidate detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, it was revealed today.
Six US soldiers face possible courts martial - one has already been jailed for a year - because of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, where photographs have shown detainees being sexually humiliated, physically tormented and threatened with dogs.
Two army dog handlers assigned to Abu Ghraib, sergeants Michael Smith and Santos Cardona, told investigators military intelligence personnel asked them to bring their dogs to interrogation sessions.
According to the report, Smith and Cardona said they complied with the requests because they believed the tactics had been approved by Colonel Thomas Pappas, the military intelligence officer in charge of the Iraqi prison.
At the cell blocks, the two army men allowed their dogs to menace detainees.
At the behest of interrogators, Smith said, in some cases he would bring the barking dog to within six inches of terrified prisoners.
Neither Smith nor Cardona have been charged in connection with the abuse at Abu GhraibGoogle Search: iraq us soldiers

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Bush Joins Thousands to Honor Reagan 




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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Nation's Capital Mourns Ronald Reagan 




Former first lady Nancy Reagan touches the casket of her husband, former President Ronald Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Hill Wednesday, June 9, 2004, in Washington. (AP Photo/Peter Jones, Pool)

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Landstuhl Medical Center visits - Iraq War Veterans Organization 

Soldiers Angels go to the wounded
Landstuhl Medical Center visits - Iraq War Veterans Organization

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Sixtieth Anniversary of D-Day 



Visit Blackfive for more links about the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. 



"The brave ones were shooting the enemy. The crazy ones were shooting film" Norman Hatch, USMC WWII Combat Photographer

Ever since Englishman Roger Fenton slogged his mobile darkroom through the muddy fields of the Crimean War in 1855, the first war to be photographed, the images photographers capture in battle can help others to understand the true value of peace.

The combat photographer had to be crazy, and brave; at least as brave as the infantryman he caught on film. He followed the infantry wherever they went, taking pictures of what they did. He captured history on film, as it happened. He insured that future generations got a first hand look at war. Human memory has a tendency to fade, but an image captured on film remains the same for eternity. It seizes the grim reality of the event before our eyes without the need for embellishment.

Gathering the events of WWII on film did not have the point and click convenience of today. The cameras used in WWII were not as user friendly as today's cameras. They were totally manual. The photographer had to adjust the shutter speed and exposure for every shot, manually. The film had to be advanced after each photo, manually. He had to block out fear and the destruction going on around him in order to capture the moment on film. With the reflexes of the infantryman with his rifle, the cameraman also had to be ready at all times with his camera, for anything might happen. Missed opportunities were great. When shooting live action there was no time to experiment with taking the same shot at different settings. The war waited for no man. http://www.102ndinfantrydivision.homestead.com/combatphotography.html


U.S. COAST GUARD/ART GREEN. United States Coast Guard photographer Art Green was able to use bulky cameras equipment of the time to take compelling photographs of the war at sea.

Tec/5 Joseph Carr and his weapon of choice.

The images we see today taken during the D-Day landings, of soldiers in the water and on the beach, some alive, some not, remind us of the great sacrifice these men made. Imagine being there armed only with a camera.

The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, rising 100 feet (30 metres) above the English Channel, as pictured from a photoreconnaissance airplane before D-Day
U.S. Air Force/National Archives

Gen Dwight D Eisenhower gives the order of the Day. "Full victory - nothing else" to paratroopers in England, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe.





American assault troops in a landing craft huddle behind the protective front of the craft as it nears a beachhead, on the Northern Coast of France. Smoke in the background is Naval gunfire supporting the land. 6 June 1944.



Assault landing. One of the first waves at Omaha. The Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.


Members of an American landing party lend helping hands to other members of their organization whose landing craft was sunk be enemy action of the coast of France. These survivors reached Omaha Beach, by using a life raft. Photographer: Weintraub, 6 June 1944.





We salute the brave soldiers who participated in D-Day and to all who fought in World War II. To those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” we remember your sacrifice. And to the combat photographers of World War II we thank you for your life changing images you captured.






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