Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Saturday, March 31, 2007

I Think, Therefore... ?

Well, I've been tagged 3 times now as a "Thinking Blogger". The Thinking Blogger award was invented by a blogger who was tired of the typical inane representatives of the internet meme genre, so he began his own, dedicated to the bloggers that made him think. Apparently I made at least three people think. I'm beginning to feel I won't stop getting tagged unless I pass it on, so... *grin*

1) The Fourth Rail
Bill Roggio consistantly produces some of the highest-quality reporting about Iraq. He is well informed and grounded in many of the basic facts of the country, especially the al-Anbar province.

2) Jules Crittenden
Consistant reporting on a wide variety of issues and an inside look at the media process make this Boston Herald editor's blog another daily read.

3) Patterico's Pontifications
Patterico brings engaging and informed discussion on legal cases and much more. Great stuff.

4) Iraq the Model
Omar and Mohammed report from their homes in Baghdad with unique insight into Iraq.

5) Neptunus Lex
Lex is a Navy officer, old flyboy and Top Gun instructor who blogs about military and political news, and a whole lot else besides.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

If you're interested, here are the people that tagged me, and what they had to say:

ALa says:Keeping us informed about what is really going on with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

SGT Dub says:TD is serving with his unit in Iraq and besides giving us the news of what's happening in the war, he's a poet and thinker, quite a plate full for such a young man.

Sarge Charlie says:This young man never ceases to amaze me with his skill as a writer, while clearing the roads in Iraq of Land Mines and IED. He puts his life at risk each day and when time permits he will produce photos, poems, and narration equal to Ernie Pyle during WWII.
Leave a comment with some of your daily reads, too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Welcome to COIN

I'll try to keep writing about the winds here in Al-Anbar. I'll go out on a little bit of a limb and say that the insurgency is quickly approaching a tipping point. If things continue as they are right now, our military won't need a surge to chase the terrorists out of Anbar- the citizens will do it for us, which is as it should be. It's beginning to show already: more local tips, more police recruits (far more than anticipated), and sadly- in bigger and more desperate Al-Qaeda attacks.

At this point, a reconciled insurgent is better than a captured one, and a captured one is better than a dead one.

That is a hard fact for the military to accept. We are quickly approaching the point at which more and more soldiers and Marines will be asked to support men who fought with and sometimes killed their brothers-in-arms. That is not an easy thing to do, even in the aftermath of a conventional war, and it is far more difficult when fighting an insurgency. However, it is absolutely necessary. We will be asked to fight the strategy of our enemy rather than his fleeting fighters. We will have to defeat Al-Qaeda's attempts to disrupt and derail the efforts of the population to end the violence. We will have to spend more time away from our big, safe bases, and more time getting to know the local leaders- the leaders that can tell their men to join the Iraqi forces and forsake the insurgency. We will spend more time with their people- the people that have known the insurgents since they were children. The people that form an intelligence net far more effective than ours will ever be, if they trust us enough to share it.

It's a big job, but I think we may have finally learned enough forgotten lessons from places like East Timor, Vietnam, Ireland, Malaysia, and others that it just might work this time.

Color me hopeful.


I have two updates to the story I told recently about the children injured in a mortar attack.

First: At the time of the incident, another soldier in my platoon grabbed a man who was acting suspiciously directly after the attack, and handed him over to the Marines. As we were leaving the OP, the villagers brought a another man with his hands bound and eyes blindfolded, accusing him of being involved. It saddens me that children had to die to shock the villagers out of their fear of the insurgents, but at least they did something about it.

Second: We went back out on the same resupply run yesterday. There has been an amazing transformation in the area just in the week since we were there last. The road we take up to the OP that I said was such a bad route? It is now lined with checkpoints manned by militia fighters standing alongside Marines. The massive blast holes and craters in the road have been filled in, and both children and adults walked out where I have never seen people before. The children at the beginning of the road are still there, and still cheering for "Free stuff, Mister!", but now they have friends all along the rest of the road.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Winds of Al-Anbar

The intra-Sunni fighting in Al-Anbar province is continuing, and the violence is rising. Bill Roggio has done a good job gathering the information here, here, here and here.

I'll also try my hand at laying out some of the recent events below, and explain a little bit of how the various elements you may hear about in the news are related. I've distilled a fair bit of material from Bill, other news sources, and personal knowledge. I don't have a lot of time, so this will probably be sloppy and fairly unedited (sounds familiar, right?).

Since the start of the year, Al-Qaeda In Iraq has attempted 11 chlorine VBIEDs, 9 in Al-Anbar, 1 in Tadji, and one in Baghdad. Of those, 9 have detonated with varying degrees of success, and 2 were found and disabled in Ramadi. The most recent attacks were early this morning in downtown Falluja, outside the government center. Iraqi troops engaged two trucks just after 0630, causing both to explode just short of the base.

Taken together, the string of chlorine bombings have killed 32 Iraqis and wounded over 600, most of them civilians. One US soldier was wounded in an attack on an Iraqi Police checkpoint, as well as possibly more today in Falluja. These attacks have overwhelmingly been targeted towards Iraqi forces, and the leaders and people of the tribes who have begun to oppose Al-Qaeda In Iraq.

There are thirty-one major tribes int the Al-Anbar province. Of those thirty-one, twenty-five support the Anbar Awakening effort of the Anbar Salvation Council- the social and political gathering of sheiks and former insurgents who oppose terroism in Al-Anbar. Of the six remaining tribes, the Iraqi government, Coalition Forces and the Anbar Salvation Council are attempting to split two off from the Al-Qaeda umbrella organization Islamic State of Iraq. Those two tribes are the Al-bu Issa and the Al-Zuba'a. Both have started to fight against Al-Qaeda, and are beginning to pay for it dearly. One chlorine bomb detonated in the Al-bu Issa region of Falluja, as I wrote before, injuring 250 civilians.

Thahir al-Dari is the sheik of the Al-Zuba'a tribe. His son, Harith Dhaher al-Dari was a military leader in the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades. The 1920 Revolutionary Brigades is a nationalist Sunni insurgent group that was formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Earlier this year, the group began to split- one splinter wanted to remain with Al-Qaeda, and the other wanted a break because of disagreements over methods and goals (including issues such as Al-Qaeda's frequent targeting of civilians). Since the rift began, members of the 1920's Brigades have been working with the Anbar Salvation Council (including fighting Al-Qaeda in defense of one of the council leaders), and reportably engaging in talks with the government and coalition forces. Harith al-Dari was killed by Al-Qaeda fighters near Abu Ghraib yesterday, along with a bodyguard. His father, the sheik, narrowly escaped. Salam al-Zuba'a is one of the deputy prime ministers of Iraq, from the Al-Zuba'a tribe. He narrowly escaped being assassinated in a car bomb attack on his mosque on March 23rd. The chief suspect in the bombing is one of his bodyguards- accused to be a member of an insurgent group friendly to Al-Qaeda and opposed to the Anbar Salvation Council.

Two years ago, Sheikh Osama al-Jadaan tried to gather other tribes together to stand against Al-Qaeda. He was swiftly killed, and the leadership of the other tribes was dismantled. Al-Qaeda then filled the vacuum, and the insurgency became stronger. Al-Qaeda has tried at least four times to kill senior leaders of the Anbar Salvation Council with bombs or all-out assault, and has killed several leaders of insurgent groups that show signs of willingness to work with the Anbar Salvation Council or the Iraqi government. This time around, though, the situation is far more favorable to the sheiks than it was two years ago. First, the US military has finally begun to work with the tribes in a realistic fashion, paving the way for tribal militias to supplement the Iraqi Forces. Secondly, the Iraqi Forces themselves are far more numerous and better equipped than they were two years ago.

That's all I have for now. Keep reading, watch the news, and keep your eyes to the sky. The winds in Al-Anbar are changing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


**Sad post. Fair warning.**

A FRAGO is a fragmentary order- a change of mission to reflect a change of circumstances.

We cleared up a tough road to bring a resupply convoy up to a series of isolated Observation Posts. We've done the mission multiple times before, and this time, things were going according to plan. We cleared the first part of the route in record time. As we turned on to one of the side roads that would eventually bring us to the first OP, the side of the road was lined with children waving and asking for candy. Even some of the adults with them waved and smiled- a rare sight this close to Ramadi. At the last turn before the OP, there was a young boy and an man in his mid-twenties. The boy waved, then pointed to a roadblock barring our path and said “Mister!... No!” and then his english failed him, and he switched to Arabic too rapid to understand. I asked him to slow down, which he did (slightly), but we found few words in common. All I knew was that there was something up that road that he didn't want us to run into.

We finished clearing to the first OP, and parked the vehicles by the side of the narrow road to allow the supply convoy room to pass by into the OP. This OP, like many others, is a large house that was converted to its present use. It sits between two palm groves near a small farming village. It has perhaps a quarter acre of grounds surrounded by a high wall, and the roof is dotted with sandbagged watchtowers. Today, we sat for a few minutes, and watched the supply trucks pull into the OP. The platoon relaxed- someone stayed alert on the guns, while the rest of the truck crews broke out sandwiches or cigarettes. We'd been in place for less than ten minutes when the mortars started landing. It was only three or four rounds, and they were off behind one of the buildings in the village. The men unloading the supply trucks took little notice of the explosions, and the locals that I could see simply started moving inside the buildings. War quickly callouses you to frightening things- explosions still make us jump, but if they don't directly affect us, we virtually ignore them. This time, they affected us.

I saw a crowd of villagers thronging up to the gate of the OP. Somewhere near the front, there was a man struggling towards the Marines. I'll never remember what he looked like or the clothes he wore, but I'll never forget his burden.

He carried a little girl. She looked six or seven. Her head lolled back, her dark, curly hair dusty on his arm, and her legs dangled limply by his side. The only pattern on her dirty white dress was streaks of blood.

A second man followed the first- the little boy he carried was even younger than the girl. Both the children looked dead, or close to it. Behind the men are more villagers, and some of them have burdens of their own. Too many. At least one of the mindless, undiscerning shells had landed in a school.

There was silence in the truck for an eternity, and then the driver whispered the thoughts of us all. In that moment, in the stillness, the profanity sounded strangely like a prayer:

"Fuck, man... just fuckin' kids"

No one else says anything- we all know what he means. People who weren't involved in this war died today, and more may die yet. Kids paid the price for their parent's fight. Children dying hits you in a way that other death doesn't. You don't feel the sharp sting of losing a friend. You don't view their death with the casual indifference you might feel for adults. You feel the dull ache of lost innocence, of a lost future.

The stillness is shattered a second later by the radio. The platoon leader is on the net calling for the medic. Our driver is a nurse back in the world- he stops to help a man who comes out of the trees behind us with a bleeding hole in his leg, and then he takes off to the OP to help the medic with the others.

The platoon leader is back on the radio, giving us our FRAGO- our change of mission. We're headed out to the regional medical facility at Camp Taqaddum with the wounded. Hopefully, we get there in time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Omar at Iraq the Model tells us that Al-Hurra TV in Baghdad is reporting fierce fighting around Amiriya again. Members of the Al-bu Issa tribal militia fought with Al-Qaeda terrorists for hours last night, supported by Iraqi police and coalition troops. You'll remember the Al-bu Issa tribe as one of the targets of last week's chlorine attacks. The tally so far in the fighting is 39 terrorists dead, including two leaders referred to by the Iraqis as the "Minister of Oil" and the "Minister of War" for the Al-Qaeda group. 11 tribal fighters and 6 policemen were also killed.

Coalition troops supporting the effort discovered and safely detonated another tanker rigged as a chlorine gas VBIED.

Muj Weather

The day we traveled back to Falluja last week was a nice day. The sun was shining, and there was just the slightest wisp of a breeze. The LT gave his mission brief behind the vehicles to a circle of men in tan jumpsuits and blue-grey ACUs. He finished, and asked for comments, questions, or additions.

The platoon sergeant stepped up: "I have something, sir.
*This* is the most beautiful day since I have been in Iraq. I wish *every* day could be like this. The sun is shining, and it's not too hot and not too cold. It's good weather for us to do our jobs, it's good weather for the Iraqis to live their lives, and it's good weather for the Muj. I bet Muj is having wonderful thoughts of man-ass right now, and how much shit he can talk down in the man-ass bar after he blows us up. Do your job, enjoy the day, and shoot the Muj before he gets a chance to blow us up!"

As it turned out, it was indeed a day for the Muj. We saw nothing on our trip, but plenty of other people did. The air smelled of smoke much of the way, and the fires stretched away on both sides of the highway. Some of it was industry- those Iraqis out enjoying the day and making an honest Dinar. A lot of it was destruction.

An hour into the trip, the LT came on the radio and informed us that Gator had called in a TIC at Achmed's Garage. Achmed's Garage is a collection of repair shops and fuel pumps near Falluja. It's also the neighborhood hangout for insurgents. Gator is the Marine unit that owns the area, and they're letting approaching units know that they have Troops In Contact- a sustained firefight. Apparently, wonderful thoughts weren't all the Muj had in mind that day.

Not so long ago, the Marines and the Iraqi Police got tired of taking small arms fire, mortar fire, IED attacks, and sniper fire from the area. They came in under the cover of night, and the IPs proceeded to demolish the doors and back walls on the little adjoining shacks. They left them as little more than shelters from the sun, and capable of providing far less concealment than before. As we rolled past towards Falluja, there was a long line of Marine transports heading north towards the columns of smoke and dust of another battle. The weather is nice today, yes, but it's about to get a lot warmer for some Muj.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Linky Linky

Michael Yon continues with excellent dispatches from Iraq.

Omar at Iraq The Model with the silver lining to the recent spat of chlorine bombs in Iraq.

The Times in London reports the findings of a British research team conducting surveys in Iraq.
This survey has the biggest population since the beginning of the war, and the researchers found some surprising facts.

Soldier's Dad highlights an interesting side benefit of The Surge.

The Multi-National Forces - Iraq Public Affairs Office has finally jumped on the positive publicity bandwagon big-time, and given some sanction to the videos that troops film in Iraq. Go visit for clips of troops doing stupid and awesome things.

VBIED Update

The suicide VBIED I wrote about was an attempt at a chlorine bomb attack. It was the first of three chlorine bombings in Anbar province that day, all of which were SVBIEDs. See why we call it VBIED Friday?

Another detonated in Amiriya, south of Falluja, killing two Iraqi Police and sickening approximately one hundred residents. Amiriyah is the town in which local insurgent groups banded together with Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army to fight Al-Qaeda In Iraq militants.

All told, the three blasts killed 2, and injured over 350 people. Interestingly enough, the Guardian Observer makes it sound as though the death toll was far worse.
The attacks killed at least two policemen and 350 civilians - including dozens of children - and six US soldiers were taken to hospital.
Poor structure and punctuation make it sound as though the civilians were killed- a rather misleading sentence, in my eyes.

Friday, March 16, 2007

VBIED Friday

We drove back to Ramadi today, once more making the so-called "milk run" back from Falluja. We tend to see it as a short, easy clear- we know well the areas where the bombs normally are, and the road is wide and well-maintained. However nonchalantly we approach the mission, all of us know that there really are no "milk runs" in Iraq: anything can happen, at any time. Today is no exception.

The sky over Falluja was hazy with smoke today. I couldn't tell where it was coming from- it seemed as if the entire northwest corner over by the river was burning. I counted what appeared to be seven separate plumes. Black smoke, white smoke, and shades of grey all combined into an ominous pall. Whatever was going on, it was on the other side of the city, and therefore someone elses problem.

Just a few kilometers down Rt. Mobile from Falluja, we found Marines parked under an overpass in their armored tracks. They had found what seemed to be an IED, and were blocking traffic while waiting for EOD to come out and dispose of it. We volunteered to neutralize it with our BUFFALO, so they didn't have to worry about it exploding. The threat of explosion past, we continued down Mobile. Two overpasses further down the road, we found the EOD element. The had found an IED of their own while en route to the Marines, and were in the process of disabling it. We stopped long enough to let them know the status of the first IED, and moved on again.

The next incident started with a black mushroom cloud somewhere in front of us. There's all kinds of smoke in Iraq. There's the plumes that signify a fire- white for wood or reeds, black for vehicles, and grey for buildings. Mushroom clouds mean a bomb of some sort- white or grey, especially with a lot of dust, for an IED, and black for car bombs.

We call it "VBIED Friday", because the insurgents go to the mosque on Friday and get all fired up to fight Americans. After they go to the mosque and pray, they are assured a better place in Paradise if they martyr themselves that day. We get to deal with the consequences. This time, the bomber hit a small traffic control point along Rt. Mobile, run by soldiers and Iraqi Police. He drove into the front end of the concertina serpentine barriers and blew himself up.

We called up to the Observation Post that was coordinating the CASEVAC of the wounded soldier and the arrival of the quick reaction force to let them know we were close to the scene with a combat medic, as well as several other medically trained personal, and ask if they needed help. The radio starts chattering with information; both I and the medic behind me start checking our gear. He changes out his dark lens glasses for clear ones, and cinches down his kevlar helmet. I'm on the gun again, but once we get inside the security cordon at the site, my shooting won't be needed. My help carrying and tending to a casualty, on the other hand, will. Today, however, the situation is well in hand. The only soldier wounded was already in a Humvee headed for the helicopter extraction point, and the unit at the scene had secured the site with the help of the Iraqi Police there, so we kept rolling through.

There were three Iraqi Police by the side of the road as we approached. One propped his RPK machine gun up on a guard rail, and the other two knelt nearby with AK-47s. Behind them, two Bradley Fighting Vehicles were jackknifed to close off the road, their long gun barrels aimed down Rt. Mobile over the heads of the IPs.

The scene was covered with a knot of people as we pulled up- soldiers moving blackened chunks of the car bomb, others setting up security, and still others directing traffic. Two IP trucks sat on the left shoulder near a group of policemen. One of them derisively kicked a charred lump of wreckage near the trucks- I belatedly realized that it was part of the bomber. He was the only one to die in the blast, and both he and his vehicle were spread across both lanes of traffic. We thread through and head for home.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Dump

We went to the dump today, two of my buddies and I. A dump is a normal fixture at any base in Iraq- I've already explored scrap piles at Ramadi and Habbaniyah. Dumps interest me; I like to see what other people have no more use for. I like to put into practice the old saying: "One man's trash is another man's treasure". I've always been that way; a trip to the dump with my dad as a kid almost always ended in him trying to keep me from dragging home more trash.

Most of the material in this dump is useless- torn and burned hulks of vehicles, both ours and Iraqi, tangled snarls of old concertina wire, expended brass and used portable rocket launchers. The Falluja dump is also home to a collection of rusting Iraqi anti-aircraft guns. They sit along one wall with their barrels criss-crossed towards the sky, slowly rusting into the sand.

There's always something usable in amongst the trash, though. Today's visit produced a handful of portable individual radios- small sets with a 1-kilometer or so range, from which we were able to cobble together several working sets. One of my buddies found an small old-fashioned oil can, made of brass and about the same size and shape as an old pocket watch.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Interview

My interview with Matt of BLACKFIVE is up, and it's cross posted at Michelle Malkin's blog.

Go read it for my answers to questions like these and more:

What worries you most about back home?
What is the one story, currently not told, that you would want America to know about?
What is most on the mind of the troops at the moment?

I should have the next few days pretty much to myself, so you can look forward to some new posts here, as well.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Home Front

Cool, Calm, & Collected is Mel's blog. She was SGT Holtom's fiance.

She writes honestly and powerfully. Go give her a read.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Yep, Still Alive

I'm on the "weekend" back in Ramadi, doing vehicle maintenance and sleeping a lot. I'm away from my computer and consistent internet here. My apologies for the lack of posting. I'll be writing some more in a few days.

There's an interview with me up on Keep on the lookout for a upcoming interview with BLACKFIVE, as well.

It turns out that I'm not the only writer in the family. My brother wrote a sonnet for his high school English class, and gave me permission to repost it here.

Here is a story from distant shores
Across the sea of frothing foam
Veiled by Heaven’s glittering dome
A silent city with broken doors
Sleeping women on the floors
In the deserts which nomads roam
Sleep the soldiers, so far from home
In their haven, safe from war
They are soldiers, behind the gate
Soldiers laugh, soldiers cry
Soldiers fight to make them free
Soldiers love, and soldiers hate
Soldiers live, and soldiers die
Far, far away, across the sea.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Arabian Nights

Last night we went down into the canal region south of Falluja. We cleared back and forth through the tall reeds, along canals, and through villages. In one nasty little village, we found a bomb in an intersection. It was a large plastic tube of rocket propellant, jury-rigged as an IED. The LT decided, along with the EOD team, to shoot it and try to set it on fire, rather than get down on the ground to blow it up. Of course, we all foresaw the result- we ended up with chunks of unignited rocket fuel all over the road, and had to get out anyway to gather them up and dispose of them with an incendiary grenade. The fuel caught fire immediately, burning with a white flame tinged with green. There was a sudden *pop*, and bits of flaming fuel flew in all directions, trailing greenish fire. We watched the flames quietly burn themselves out, and prepared to continue with the mission. At some point while we were digging up the bomb, all the lights down the road went out, leaving the scene light only by the ghostly half-light of the moon. As we pulled off down the road, even that pale illumination faded- the lunar eclipse had come and stolen the light.

Tonight, we struck out once more for the lovely (I use that term very loosely) village of Karma. The last time we were there, a week ago, there was a giant new blast hole near the bridge where we found our first IED in the area. It stretched nearly twelve feet in diameter- halfway across the road. At the bottom was a metal culvert shorn in two. Someone had pushed a huge bomb into the culvert and detonated it. Tonight, I noticed that the hole is gone again, or nearly so. The crater is filled with dirt, and a large half-circle of fresh asphalt is the only reminder of the devastation of a week ago. The small palm grove that was near the road is gone- the tops of trees sheared off by blasts, and the stumps toppled by tanks. The village looks like what it has become- a prominent battlefield in the war for Anbar province.

North of Karma the road is normally quiet for a few kilometers, and it proved to be so again tonight. The last few klicks are often busy, and tonight, that is where we start finding bombs. The first one is relatively easy: the truck slows to scope out a pile of rubble by the side of a culvert, and I spot a wire heading off along the ditch. As the BUFFALO is digging out the bomb, one of the other trucks notices movement through their thermal imagery. They report what seems to be one or two individuals at a house some distance off the road, in the same general direction as the wire seems to run. As we continue to work on the bomb, our Marine security element splits off across the fields to corner whoever it is taking advantage of the 1AM air and ask do they happen to know anything about yonder bomb? The bomb finally pops out of the ground- a mid sized IED, and the Marines call back in. They have in custody two insurgent cows. Our pleas to retain the triggercows for further "questioning" are denied, and we continue mission.

Just a little further up the road, we find the second and last IED of the night. There are certain things that attract our attention more quickly and strongly than others, and this bomb had all of them. It was buried, but so painfully obvious that we started wondering where the well-hidden second IED was (we found no second). We blew it up, and moved along the rest of the roads we had to patrol, finding nothing more. We pulled in back home just as dawn was breaking. I looked up at the moon as she drifted silently behind a thin veil of morning haze and mentally checked myself.

All limbs attached- check
No new holes- check
All friends here- check

It's going to be a beautiful day.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

War Cocaine

There's a rush that comes on the heels of significant events here.

After the IED explodes, or the RPG whistles overhead, or the shot cracks past, there's a moment of panic as you process the fact that you are still alive- that this time, they missed you. After that seconds hesitation, the rush hits.

No one really knows what it is, exactly, but we all feel it. It's physical. It's emotional. For some, it's spiritual.Some say it's endorphins or adrenaline; some say it's rage, or hate, or joy. Some say it's safety- the knowledge that Someone is watching out for you. It's different for everyone, but it's always there.

For me, the rush is mostly exhilaration. It's a feeling of invulnerability. I've heard the unforgettable sound of an RPG somewhere very, very near my little sector of space, and stood a little taller yelling "Missed me, you bastards!" as I spin the turret and look for the shooter.

The first time I got blown up, I had to remind myself to get up and look around for the trigger man or possible gunmen set to take advantage of the confusion. I felt like I was floating through a world where time stood still. There's something about looking directly at an artillery shell and seeing it vanish with a sharp crack and rush of dust and debris that changes you. My brain was yelling at me "This isn't normal! You shouldn't be alive and thinking right now!", and my body was yelling back "Well, I'm definitely alive, so hoist your doubting ass up into the turret!"

I've never felt more alive than I do in the moments after a near miss. I feel the same way after a big jump skiing, or after jumping off a bridge, but here the feeling is magnified a hundredfold. It's incredible when you do something that you shouldn't live through but do.

Some might call me sick, or crazy. I assure you that I am sane, and very much alive.

For The Win!

Acute Politics took first place in the MilBloggies!

Thanks to all of you who voted! I'll unfortunately miss the presentation of the blog awards. I'll be here, gathering source material. Speaking of which, I should (barring the unexpected) have some more posts up soon- some serious, some not so.