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

Friday, September 26, 2008

Just In Case missed it in the midst of wondering if the sky was going to fall:

Iraqi Parliment passes Provincial Elections Law

The Washington Post opines:

But it's now clear that the political progress that the Bush administration hoped would follow the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq has finally begun. How can the next president preserve that momentum? Democrat Barack Obama continues to argue that only the systematic withdrawal of U.S. combat units will force Iraqi leaders to compromise. Yet the empirical evidence of the past year suggests the opposite: that only the greater security produced and guaranteed by American troops allows a political environment in which legislative deals and free elections are feasible.

I disagree in part with their conclusion- American (and Coalition!) troops played a large part in producing the present security, but there are multiple areas in the country where the Iraqi Security Forces are growing more and more capable, often taking the lead in security operations and operating effectively outside Coalition support. Ironically, the troop surge that Sen. Obama opposed is the very thing that will give him the security "space" to pursue the drawdown he has promised if elected. For that favor he should thank Sen. McCain.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mmm.. I Love Fall

For dinner- a creamy turnip soup with paprika, french bread, and a roasted beet and Bartlett pear salad with a balsamic dressing.

To drink? Beer, of course. A Widmer brown ale for me, and a Blue Moon harvest seasonal for her.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Annual Training

The first few days of AT were filled with the usual settling-in activities- privates sleeping wherever and whenever they could; sergeants grabbing groups of privates to go unload supplies; specialists generally trying to stay out of the way and under the radar. A specialist's rank insignia looks like a medieval shield- they commonly refer to it as a "sham shield" because of its appearance and their mantra of "Out of sight; out of mind".

After everything was settled, we moved quickly into training. Three days of ranges (Demolitions, Rifle Qualification, and Pistol Qualification) were followed by two 24-hour mission rotations where we split into 8-man squads to be graded on our performance on a total of 16 squad tactical exercise lanes. At stake were the titles of Best Squad of the Battalion and Best Company of the Battalion (based on the sum score of squads from the companies).

This was the demolition shot that went awry and set California on fire. Unfortunately, my pictures of the fire didn't turn out very well- I got a lot of dirt on my lens while trying to multi-task photography and demo.

The coastal highway 101 runs through part of Ft. Hunter Ligget, and we occasionally used it while traveling between lanes. We had just turned off of 101 on our way to another lane when I took this photo. It was near sunset, a little over five hours into our first 24-hour mission rotation.

The lane we were moving to was run, graded and supervised by our company's ROTC cadet (a former 82nd Airborne Sergeant), and my platoon's Platoon Sergeant (a decorated combat veteran of the 2nd Ranger Battalion). The lane was set up to evaluate squads on their ability to conduct a dismounted combat patrol. In this photo, PV2 Engel checks his helmet-mounted night vision device. We actually ran the lane to old-fashioned way- in soft caps and naked eyes.

We had a day of rest between the first 24-hour rotation and the second; it just happened to include some rappelling. There are a number of ways to rappel a cliff face: this is the most common way.

This is also "a way".

Out of our 16 STX lanes, 2 involved live fire marksmenship, and 2 involved live demolitions. Here, my squad's Fire Team Alpha demonstrates breaching a door with a detonating cord linear strip charge. My Fire Team Bravo followed with a detonating cord water impulse charge.

Finally- the last night of Annual Training. The gear is packed away for the return trip, all the errands are taken care of, and all the time left is free for tradition. In the case of Alpha Company, tradition means Worm Races. You take a junior enlisted soldier, put a helmet on his head, and zip him into an old cotton sleeping bag. He races another soldier down a track made of bunk beds pushed together. They may not stand, hop, roll or jump. They may not have any portion of their bodies leave the bag before the finish line. Violence is highly encouraged.

PS: For those of you who are wondering: The top company was ours, with the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th place squads (out of 16 squads).

Traffic Check

Sarah Palin scandal gaffe
Sarah Heath Palin
Sarah Palin bikini
Palin McCain wife scandal

Welcome Google crawlers! If you must get back to searching for Gov. Palin's scandals, go for it, but feel free to take a look around the blog and get a sense for what al-Anbar province was like back before we could consider handing it over to the Iraqis.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years

May we never forget.