"Hopefully this Buck won't stopone of the best damn MilBloggers to ever knock sand from his boots." -- The Mudville Gazette

24 December 2005


Hook 'em Horns!

This is the continuation of a series of selected excerpts from my Afghanistan war journal recorded from October 2003 to August 2004. All OEB entries are previously unpublished.

The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.
-Osama bin Laden


Tuesday 16December2003
Kabul, Afghanistan
Today, our platoon arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul via C-130 for a planned six-week stay through the holidays. This Afghan "city" is not exactly the Big Apple (it's more of a core, really), yet is still worlds apart from the Khost bowl area we've been used to.

-It has a real airport with actual commercial flights! (My first question: Why?)
-It has paved streets! (With sidewalks, no less!)
-It has a Starbucks with a ride-thru donkey window! (Okay, not really... but it can't possibly be far behind).

Granted, it is still undeniably a Third World capital of barely a Third World country, but nonetheless, all the signs of a burgeoning capitalism-in-training society are present. Think the abject poverty of Mexico City and the hustle & bustle of Hong Kong, mixed together with the landscape and potential volatility of South Central Los Angeles. And then throw in a whole lot of hajis with AK-47s.

The tiny camp that 2nd Platoon will be taking over perimeter security for is on the outskirts of the city. The five-ton truck driver who picked us up from the airfield apologetically cautioned us about the “bumpy roads” ahead. This was our initial clue that we had landed ourselves a virtual six-week R&R vacation here in Kabul compared to our previous surroundings. After the collective ass-pounding we took during last week’s missions, this ride felt as smooth as a lunar orbit.

And things only got better from there:

-An outstanding chow hall (not even a tent, but a real building at that!)
-A fantastic weight room, internet access terminals, dormitory-style rooms with actual doors that lock! From the inside!
-Real latrines with individual shower stalls and all the hot water you could possibly waste.

It's amusing that the element from Bravo Company we're relieving appears to believe they have been suffering up here all by themselves. Well, they have yet to set foot in FOB Fellatio! Boy are they in for a rude awakening. They truly have no idea how good they’ve had it here, a fact they are about to learn the hard way in just a few short days.

Until then, 2nd Platoon is being billeted all together -- basic training style -- in a makeshift tent adjacent to the rest of the shared facilities until B co. departs. It’s easily the best tent we’ve yet slept in since arriving in country. Internally heated, lights that actually work, and real doors instead of mere flaps on each end. And this is the worst it will be for us while we’re here? We’re not going to want to leave this place in six weeks time, that’s a given.

Wednesday 17December2003

Day two at tiny Camp Blackhorse. Here we’re actually served three full meals a day, as opposed to Salerno’s “two hots & a cot” status quo. I consume an individually packaged cup of chocolate ice cream with each one, simply because I CAN. Not gonna lose any weight here, no sir-ee-bob.
Being here is definitely a vacation of sorts from the war. The camp is actually a perimeter inside a perimeter and the threat level here is probably less than that of most major U.S. cities.

It’s also Officer Heaven (or Hell, depending on how you look at it). I'm willing to bet there are more “little bird” colonels and majors per sq. ft. hiding out here than anywhere else in theater. And just like our Bravo company, they all think this place is a shithole!

If anyone ever wonders why enlisted soldiers hate officers, this is your first clue. Most officers above the rank of captain -- especially noncombat arms "pogue" officers -- are complete sham-masters. They do nothing all day but drink coffee and send emails, and then complain about having to “rough it” while the rest of us work to ensure no bad guys kill them while they're getting their beauty sleep.

Salute this, Sir.

Thursday 18December2003

There’s a polyglot of approximately 5,700 NATO peacekeeping forces stationed in and around Kabul. So far we’ve encountered Germans, Italians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Mongolians… Mongolians? No word yet on what it is that these Multicultural Diversity Detachments actually do here. Judging by what we’re presently doing, it’s most likely setting up small camps like this one, guarding the perimeter of said camp, and spending the remainder eating, sleeping, working out, sending email, and watching movies. I.e., killing time rather than the enemy. It’s a good thing portable DVD players weren’t around during the Greatest Generation’s war or they’d likely still be camped out in England waiting to decide when to invade Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

Friday 19December2003

We have only our platoon available for guard duty, but thankfully there are only four towers and a main gate to man, so the shifts aren’t too long or too often. (Six hours on, twelve hours off). Like everything else here at “Camp VIP” (with all the rank walking around here, that name seems to fit nicely) the OP towers are much improved over the ones at FOB Salerno. There are stools to sit on and much better wind protection, thus, even though we are at nearly 6000 ft. here in Kabul, the nights spent on guard are actually more tolerable.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) barracks are just outside the wire adjacent to my OP. The instructor NCOs who are training them stay here within our walls and it’s amusing to see the way they’re attempting to mold these former ragged tribesmen into Western-style soldiers.
They strut around all day in their new fatigues and combat boots, bright green berets cocked just so on their heads. They haven’t adopted U.S. Army grooming standards by any measure (or even Air Force Special Ops standards for that matter), but the hair length appears to be kept within reason and the beards neatly trimmed.

The scene doesn’t exactly recall Fort Benning (a distinct lack of drill sergeants and accompanying yelling prevents that), yet they appear to have promise. And doubly so when you consider that traditional Afghan warriors considered training to be an insult, and what are by now standard military tactics to be cowardly. All that business of "seeking cover" and "aiming at one's target"... for the birds. I'd say it depends on what kind of bird you had in mind -- eagles... or dodos.

I don’t quite think these guys are ready to fly solo and have us leave just yet, but hopefully they’re on their way to establishing some solid institutions that -- like our own armed forces -- can weather both good times and bad without disintegrating and reverting back to tribalism and “World of the Warlords.”

This certainly doesn’t appear to be a “kindler, gentler” Afghan army in the works -- not a female among them. And judging from the various stories of allegedly witnessed “man-love” incidents among even the top ANA commanders (I’ll spare you the specifics of said rumors in the name of common decency), “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t seem to carry much weight among them either. These “Green Berets” would leave John Wayne speechless.

Saturday 20December2003
Today my squad led a QRF contingent to escort the departing elements of Bravo co. to KIA (Kabul International Airport; fitting acronym, is it not?). Try not to let the “airport” part throw you -- it bears about as much resemblance to a civilian air field as an up-armored humvee does to a Hummer H2.

The razor wired checkpoints were manned by machine gun-toting Krauts and crossing through it felt creepily similar to what it must have been like trying to circumvent the Berlin Wall during the bad old days of the Cold War. I half-expected to hear in a sinister German accent: “Ze papers, pleeze.”

You can add Canada, Sweden and the French (yes, even the backstabbing, lowly French) to the list of countries here with a NATO presence. There’s a few more I haven’t credited, but I can’t recognize their obscure flags so they’re SOL.

I got to ride up in the gun turret with my SAW during the ride in and out of the city. The funny thing about Kabul is that yes, there are actual streets and traffic but few, if any, discernible rules by which the traffic governs itself. Other than a loose (and when I say loose, I mean loose) consensus that opposing traffic drive on opposite sides of the road, there is little else to manage the flow. The few street signs you do see apparently are merely traffic "suggestions" to be followed only if one is in an agreeable mood. (And most Afghan drivers certainly do not meet this criteria).

When we roll out in force we necessarily have to “own the road,” as our security needs dictate that we not allow our vehicles to become boxed in or stalled by ordinary traffic. Plus, we’re Americans, we’re in a hurry, and we have very large guns mounted on our roofs. You’d think this would be enough to intimidate just about anyone.

Haji, however, is less than impressed. There’s some kind of strange Afghan driving machismo here that demands that even in the face of a giant armored convoy that could squash you like a bug--you must not back down. Hajis in tiny, beat-up Subarus will play chicken with our bulletproof humvees until we literally have to force them off the road to keep the convoy moving.

Kabul residents are understandably more jaded when it comes to a foreign military presence in their lives. Very few Afghans here even bother to wave at us anymore when we pass by; a huge departure from the rock star crowds we had become accustomed to attracting in rural Khost. Our popularity has gone overnight from Van Halen c. 1983 to Van Hagar c. 2003.

As I sit here writing these words, waiting in line to use the camp computer facilities, a trio of Mongolian soldiers are surfing the internet and using Yahoo! Instant Messenger. Before today, I wouldn’t have guessed that Mongolians were even aware of this technological marvel known as the internet, much less veteran IM chat masters on it. I suppose my cultural ignorance is showing again.

Sunday 21December2003

According to the Army news daily Stars & Stripes, my political hero Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Middle East recently, to include Afghanistan. (This development being the first negative result of us eradicating the Taliban I’ve yet to discover).

Her Travesty proceeded to wow us with her astute foreign policy expertise, pontificating that the Bush administration needs to increasingly internationalize its efforts [in the region] with a UN mandate: “We need the legitimacy of the United Nations in order to move forward,” said Slick Hillie.

In other words, we need to obtain continuing “permission” to proceed with the War on Terrorism from a world body that we had to drag kicking and screaming into the conflict in the first place.

Disgusting. And to think that this woman is discussed as a potential presidential candidate. A role model for freedom she is not. “Concerning Afghanistan, Clinton said, the political situation is much more stable than in Iraq but security issues regarding terrorists, especially along the border with Pakistan, remain a major concern.” [Emphasis mine].

Nice work, Senator Obvious. We were just over there recently, and I have to tell you, there is close to zero security along much of the Pakistani border. There are no roadblocks (other than ones we set up ourselves for a few days at a stretch), there are no roving border patrols; there are only a few widely dispersed observation posts at the top of various mountain peaks, too far away to stop and check foot and vehicle traffic even if they wanted to (which they evidently do not). Essentially, the border -- although technically “closed to commerce” (smugglers often trek their goods over the hills by mule to avoid notice) -- is an open sieve, allowing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces near complete freedom of movement in and out of the country.

Still, the Pakistanis claim to be an “ally” in the hunt for bin Laden and his cronies. With friends like these, who needs enemies? In my not-so-humble opinion, we will never find UBL or eradicate the remaining ACMs without unfettered access across the border and into the heart of Pakistan. Invasion, if you will. I would, but I know we won’t.

Like Cambodia was for the Vietcong, al-Qaeda will continue to use Pakistan as a safe haven and launching pad for further attacks on coalition forces for as long as they know that it is politically off limits to us. I seem to recall the Bush Doctrine as stating that all terrorists, and any nations that harbor them, will be held equally to account.

Apply your doctrine, Mr. Bush. The Paki’s are not our friends.

Monday 22December2003

Our living quarters have now improved dramatically -- barracks style rooms, central heat, real latrines and showers, a tv in every room -- yet our round-the-clock guard schedule dictates that we’re hardly afforded any free time to spend in them other than to sleep. Every time your guard shift begins it feels like you’ve just ended your previous one. This “R&R” is beginning to feel more like the “Three W’s”: work, work, and work. It helps to keep in mind that things could always be worse. Last month alone was proof enough of that.

It snowed for most of the daylight hours today. I’d say it reminded me of our post in Alaska, except for the fact that I haven’t actually spent enough time in Alaska to even see any snowfall. To date, I have racked up 4 ½ months on various deployments and an equal 4 ½ months in Anchorage since arriving at the 501st. And this is the unit that supposedly “never goes anywhere?"

Famous last words.

Tuesday 23December2003

B co. left behind a resident mascot to keep us company in the OP towers, a lab-mix puppy affectionately dubbed White Trash. Or Molly, depending on who you ask. In any event, W.T./Molly is the main attraction during lunch hours, as the dozens of coalition soldiers who come over from Camp Phoenix to take advantage of our vastly superior KBR civilian contractor chow facilities also tend to make the pilgrimage up to OP tower 1 to have their picture taken with the pup. White Trash never leaves the sanctuary of the various towers, so how she eats or “does her business” I do not know. I suppose her continued survival rests solely on the benevolence of her thrice-daily rotating tower mates.

My own OP has yet to benefit from her company. We have only Moby the Mystery Mouse to occupy our time, though only in the abstract. None of us has yet to actually witness Moby in action, but we hear him “lima charlie”* each and every night.

* Radiospeak for 'loud & clear'

Lunch was literally a star-studded affair today. Several generals -- even an escorted Afghan one -- graced us with their "god-like" presence, wolfed down some beans n’ burgers, and temporarily increased the officer to enlisted ratio at Camp VIP even further, though if only for a few hours.

The glut of silver bars and oak leaf clusters all in one place reminded me of the story of a battalion commander of the 101st on D-Day, misrouted along with everyone else across the Normandy drop zones, who happened to link up with an impromptu squad composed of nearly all officers. Paraphrasing Churchill, he quipped: “Never have so few been led by so many.”
Today I used a sat-com phone to finally talk with my family for the first time since I left Alaska in October. It was great to be able to speak with them, even if the three-second delay meant that we were constantly stepping on each other’s sentences. (“Sorry, go ahead... No, you go... No, really... you go...")

Tomorrow I get a bit of a respite from OP monotony in order to take part in Operation Mail Recovery. The platoon sergeant and a few of us joes will ride up to Bagram to see about tracking down whatever packages and letters we may have received since arriving in Kabul. The 501st mail clerk that we have there is supposed to have rerouted it to Camp Phoenix instead of Salerno, but lately he’s been incommunicado.

Wednesday 24December2003

Christmas Eve
Welcome to Bagram Air Field: Land of the Big P/X!

It turned out to be not quite so big after all, but BAF is still the Epcot Center to our little Pogueworld home away from home (FOB Salerno) away from home (Ft. Richardson) away from home (our actual homes).

Roughly 45 minutes north of Kabul, Bagram was the headquarters for the Russians throughout the Soviet occupation and is by far the largest military installation in the country. It is also the logistical center for U.S. forces, as there are more lieutenant colonels, majors, and captains here in one place than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Even our own Camp Blackhorse; it looks like I would have lost that bet.

The ride to BAF from Kabul was a harrowing experience, to say the least. Four of us piled into a white Ford Ranger with our platoon sergeant, SFC Blenker, behind the wheel. SFC Blenker has adapted quite well to the Haji Rules of the Road, which is to say, no real identifiable rules at all. His driving certainly reflected this, as we spent more time on the "wrong side" of the road as we did the right. (Although, to be fair, there really is no “right” side, either).

The haji children in and around Kabul like to cross the road in front of your vehicle at the last minute, especially when you’re racing toward them at 100km/hour. (And don’t ask me to convert that into mph either; like any other red blooded American, I am a proud metric system moron). Apparently, it’s some kind of Afghan test of manhood to see how close you can come to causing a catastrophic accident utilizing your own body, without actually causing one. Perhaps video games and satellite tv aren't such bad ways to keep our kids occupied after all.

Hajis also have no use for street signs or traffic signals (probably due to the fact that there aren't any), yet they seem to just adore the scourge of the western world: the speed bump.

Who needs yield signs when we can just emplace a speed bump in the middle of the highway with virtually no warning and hilariously send unsuspecting foreign drivers careening weightlessly into the roof of their own car?

Haji humor. Always a laugh riot. Nothing says “funny” quite like a bruised tailbone and a lacerated scalp.

As it turned out, the trip was all-for-naught, minus a mild case of tendonitis from the near perpetual saluting required in such an officer-rich environment. (At one point, a captain yelled at me for inadvertently standing on “his” fresh patch of concrete. If you’re wondering, “Don’t they have anything better to do?” my answer to you is, no. From the looks of it, they really don’t). Our platoon’s mail had already beaten us to Camp Blackhorse via another unrelated misrouting. Though, if nothing else, it was one less guard shift I had to pull today. Score.

Thursday 25December2003

Christmas Day
Our latest batch of mail made its way here last night just in time for Christmas. That meant packages from my family! Never before would I have guessed that I could receive toiletries and socks as Christmas gifts and not only be happy about it, but wildly ecstatic. Only in Afghanistan.

The gifts were great; everyone who’s sent me stuff always seem to intuitively know exactly what I need or have a craving for, personal requests aside. I may have overstated my desire for extra smokes just a tad, however. I now have so many cartons on hand, if I were in prison I could start up a Savings & Loan.

Anytime I happen to catch any news or come across weathered backissues of Newsweek or Time, it seems that the War in Afghanistan has taken quite a media backseat to another prominent American conflict in the broader Middle East. I understand the reasons why, yet it's still irritating to feel like you're risking your life in a place and for a cause that no one even remembers or cares about anymore.

As if to illustrate my point, this note arrived in a care package addressed to our squad yesterday:

Thank you for all your help in Iraq. You’re all in our hearts! Thanks so much!
Deanna, Deering High School

Oh well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts, after all.
Merry Christmas Deanna, and to all a good night.

17 December 2005


The ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr.
-The Prophet Muhammad

Great Moments in Pessimism
Ebenezer Scrooge: "Bah humbug."
Homer J. Simpson: "If something's hard, it's not worth doing."
The DNC, NYT and CNN: "We can't win! Bring them home! They have no plan!"

Rare Voices of Reason Amid a Guilded Age of Media Doom & Gloom

"You can't handle the truth!"

That now classic line as growled by Jack Nicholson's Marine Col. Nathan Jessep in the 1992 drama
A Few Good Men is perversely echoed today in a tired refrain from a majority of news outlets. They'd prefer you not to bear witness to the crumbling of their worldview as events in the Middle East continue to move forward despite their protests to the contrary. They would rather change the subject than change their minds, and even as their dwindling viewership continues to change the channel.

But take heed: pockets of sanity in a crazed media world do exist, and can easily be mined with a bit of effort and a broadband connection. The MSM are PMS-ing, and it isn't a pretty sight. History is passing them by and there is nothing they can do now to stop it. The internet has trustbusted their journalistic monopoly and all but spoiled the exclusive tete-a-tete they used to enjoy with the public. But continue to man the ramparts, because an all-out counterfactual offensive is surely on the horizon. Until then, here are some positive viewpoints on the steady progress in Iraq that you may have missed.

All links were good at time of initial posting.

Is the War Progressing?

Message to the Arab world: Democracy works

The Panic Over Iraq: What they're really afraid of is American success

"Without America, I Would Still Be a Refugee"

A Moral War: The project in Iraq can succeed, and leave its critics scrambling

Building the New Iraq Army: Changing 'what it means to be a man with a gun'

Our Troops Must Stay: America can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists

Defying Terror to Vote for the Future

Why aren't the media telling the whole story about Iraq?

Robert Kaplan on Imperial Grunts

The speech President Bush should give about Iraq

Honoring the Honorable

Why We Went to War

Terrorists and Tyrants: Rethinking why we are at war in the Middle East

'Complete Victory': Bush offers a strategy beyond "staying the course" in Iraq

‘The Right Sort of Men’: Iraqi boot camps are producing young soldiers who will stay the course

Have You Read This Good News on Iraq?

The Iraqi Constitution Project

A 2005 Rollick

This War Sucks
I Hate My Boss
I'm Surrounded By Idiots



13 December 2005


This is the continuation of a series of selected excerpts from my Afghanistan war journal recorded from October 2003 to August 2004. All OEB entries are previously unpublished.

It is the duty of Muslims to prepare as much force as possible to terrorize the enemies of God.
-Osama bin Laden, 1998

Friday 12December2003
FOB Salerno, Southeastern Afghanistan

Today’s mission consisted of a 70 km humvee patrol with 1st and 3rd Squads and a few Delta Co. up-armors for security. The open bed of the humvee we rode in had no seats or even side rails, thus, the six-hour-plus movement resembled the world’s longest bull riding session, our vehicle careening violently with every bump and crater and me with a one-handed death grip on the lone troop-strap harness ratcheted across the lowered tailgate. My ass, my knees, my lower back, my right arm (did I mention my ass?) all feel as though I had been run over by a humvee rather than a passenger in the back of one.

The sheer amount of dust covering our faces, clothing and weapons afterward eerily likened us to the New Yorkers caught in the whirlwind at Ground Zero. Even my dog tags, hidden under several layers of clothing and body armor, were coated with a fine layer of light brown grit. The "Khost bowl” we operate within should be renamed the Dustbowl.

The scenery was routine: camels; packs of donkeys humping huge loads; led by the usual lone Afghan ostensibly cursing at them in Pashto to “Stay left! Stay left!” Peasant farmers (attempting to grow God knows what -- rocks?); the requisite hordes of “home-schooled” haji children out in force to satisfy their daily “harass an American for bottled water” fix; as well as the ubiquitous Afghan adults who idle about doing not much of anything. Apparently, sitting around is their national pastime. I guess some could make the argument that ours isn’t all that productive either.

Whenever we dismount in the midst of a village or populated area, we are swarmed by all the little boys and girls while the men gaze from afar or stroll by nonchalantly, doing their best to feign indifference. Any woman over age twelve will always keep her distance, however, less from fear of us than fear of being caught staring in our direction by their watchful men. Still, it’s usually not difficult -- especially when wearing sunglasses -- to catch a glimpse of young scarf-clad Afghan girls peeking over the tops of walls or around cracked doors at us. Taliban or no Taliban, women here are to be neither seen nor heard publicly, and certainly not by a group of infidel American soldiers.

What if they built a shopping mall and no teenage girls came? Only in Afghanistan.

The only two incidents of note along the way were a 107mm rocket propped up in a field within range of the FOB that a passing villager alerted us to (the sappers blew it in place), and a magazine full of armor-piercing 7.62mm rounds that we caught a local tough in possession of. While the locals are allowed to own AK-47s as per our standing rules of engagement (this is Afghanistan, after all; not the People’s Republic of California), having AP rounds -- which serve no other purpose than to penetrate the chest plates in American flak vests -- are obviously a big no-no.

For some reason unbeknownst to us low men on the totem pole, we demurred from detaining him in favor of merely confiscating his deadly contraband. Perhaps our Fearless Leaders did not want to risk inciting the rather large crowd that had gathered to view the spectacle. Or maybe they believed him when he said he didn’t know they were prohibited, as are concealable pistols. I find this logic (illogic?) the strangest of all. Here, one is allowed fully automatic rifles but not handguns, while in our own country we are permitted handguns but not full auto rifles.

It is difficult to imagine a stranger place than this. On one hand they have a natural love affair with guns and violence (sounds familiar), yet at the same time they appear to have this creepy disinterest in the opposite sex. It’s as if the Log Cabin Republicans joined forces with the NRA. Nothing but dudes and guns across the board. (Wait a minute -- this is starting to sound vaguely familiar as well…)

Saturday 13December2003
Meet the new mission. Same as the old mission. Today we rolled back out to the village that we found the AP rounds in yesterday, yet inexplicably failed to take any action against. Another miserable humvee rodeo ride, another layer of bruising for my “fourth point of contact.” The hajis were smarter this time. We found nothing and detained no one. Mission accomplished, Sir! Tomorrow we’re going to track down Osama bin Laden and serve him with jury duty. The heroic work of Task Force 1-501 is never done.

“Amrika, howdy yoh! Howdy yoh! Wahtiyer! Wahtiyer! Rahdiyoh!"
As usual, the Afghan rugrats came out in full force to greet our twelve-vehicle convoy and harass us for party favors. The smallest ones are so cute even with their dirty bare feet and wild matted hair that it’s hard not to give in and toss them a sucker or two and a water bottle. Those who have done so immediately learn the hard way why we cannot: Scores of haji munchkins instantly converge on their newfound benefactors like their team just won the NBA Finals and they’re in dire need of a truck to overturn.

Being mobbed in a place as potentially volatile as Afghanistan is dangerous for us, which in turn makes it dangerous for them and is to be avoided at all costs. Sorry Haji, but you’ll just have to wait for the humanitarian UN do-gooders to return (assuming they ever will) if you want your Free Stuff For Being Backward and Poor prize. My advice? Don’t go holding your breath. You’ll turn bluer than the color of those silly little UN helmets.

Sunday 14December2003
This just in: The Army has located and captured Saddam Hussein somewhere in Iraq. A good day for the war effort and a great day for the future of the beleaguered Iraqi people. Maybe one day soon they will be able to rejoin the pantheon of free independent nations, and enjoy their long-deserved right to democratically elect such noble, honest statesmen as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, and Al Gore. Hey, forty-eight million Americans couldn't be wrong!

This also just in: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, NY) has announced that she is moving her official residency to none other than Baghdad and running for the now-vacant dictatorship…er…presidency of Iraq.

In a recent press release, Sen. Clinton had this to say:
“Many people don’t know this, but my parents were both closet Muslims, and had always raised me (in secret of course -- America was, and still is, a very bigoted and intolerant place) to respect and honor the Muslim faith as if it were our own.”

She continued: “In fact, I’ve always considered myself something of an honorary Muslim. Why, if you look inside my 800-square ft. walk-in closet you’ll see underneath the several token Jewish yarmulkes (I mean, let’s face it -- like the Yankees cap those were always just for show) a dark blue burqa that Bill used to like me to wear back in the seventies during one of his kinky “dress-up” phases. He told me once that it was the only reason we have Chelsea. Come to think of it, I seem to have misplaced it right around the time ‘That Woman’ caused all that Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy impeachment fuss. Hmmm... strange...”

Monday 15December2003
The Christmas holiday season is nearly upon us, impossible to escape even in a Muslim land. Funny thing about serving overseas during the holidays--everyone and their dog suddenly decides that all soldiers must be poor unwanted orphans without families of their own and they proceed to deluge us with anonymous Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate the thought; but it tends to get a bit ridiculous (not to mention creepy):

Do you wonder why you are getting a Christmas card from people you don’t even know? It’s because you are very special to us--and we appreciate you! We know it’s difficult to be so far away from your home and family, in a strange land with a totally different culture… and yet the reason you are there is a noble one. You are a volunteer soldier, fighting for America’s freedom from terrorists. We understand that this is a sacrifice and a hardship for you… and that you will do what it takes to accomplish your mission. We are proud of you. May all life’s treasures be blessed upon you this Christmas.

I love you dearly,

Um… well gee... thanks, Larry. I, uh… love you too… I guess. But really, it’s no big thing. I mean, I was probably going to vacation over here anyway during the holidays, so it all works out.
Afghanistan -- it’s the new Aspen!

Here’s another favorite:

Hope Santa brings you all that you hope for--and then some!
Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Yeah, thanks a million, Cathy. But unless Santa arrives bearing bin Laden’s head on a candy cane and a one-way-ticket back to the States, I’m afraid I’m going to be a bit let down this year. But I do appreciate the optimism, however misplaced.

Allah bless you and yours,


05 December 2005


Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
-Adlai Stevenson

No one is more professional than I.
-First stanza of the NCO Creed

When Prussian militarist Baron von Steuben spelled out the role of the noncommissioned officer in his now-famous Blue Book, he insisted that training was the prerogative of officers. But in practice it was the tiny cadre of NCOs he coached at Valley Forge who actually trained the Continental Army. And thus, professional NCOs have continued to take the lead in the training of the United States Army ever since.

As the colonies rebelled against English rule, it was natural for them to establish a new American army that copied the European military system. The British still had officers who were parochially selected from the ranks of the blue-blood aristocracy; hence, military training or education were not required and often not displayed. Initially, their American counterparts were duly selected from the landholding class.

Nevertheless, advanced military tactics had made it necessary to have soldiers with some formal education who could organize and coordinate thousands of troops to maintain complex formations allowing for continuous fire and forward movement. Patrician officers were clearly not the men for this job. To make the configurations work required scores of leaders skilled in math and troop movement. Sergeants and corporals were these new men. The rank distinctions developed over time and became fully established by the mid-eighteenth century--perfect timing for the hatching American NCO corps.

After Rudyard Kipling labeled NCOs the "backbone of the army" in an 1895 poem about British sergeants in India, the American Army adopted the term almost immediately. It symbolized a variety of attributes, the most important of which were the training and leading of soldiers.

Nowhere has this lineage been more prevalent than in the current rebirth of the Iraqi Army. Many criticized the alleged "foolhardy" decision to disband the old regime at the outset of the invasion, yet they clearly misunderstood the need. The old Iraqi Army was composed mainly of Shiia draftees led by a ruling elite of Sunni Baath Party apparatchiks beholden entirely to Saddam Hussein’s largesse. While the draftees were motivated to serve predominantly by their desire not to be executed for their refusal--the officers were driven purely by greed, personal wealth and status. Not the best combination for a professional military.

Noncoms were nonexistent in Saddam's army, and for good reason. They would have posed a threat to the absolute authority and privilege of the officer class; they would have professionalized and organized the Iraqi Army to modern standards; and they would have eventually led the charge as they turned against their slavemasters. It is thus essential for the new Iraqi Army to be given time to develop properly, and be trained to an acceptable standard for a fledgling force to defend not only it’s country, but also itself as a stable and enduring institution.

Iraqis will be proud of their own country once they finally have something to be proud of, and their new army is poised to fit the bill nicely. The old guard was malignant with corruption and depravity. It was never trusted and always feared. But with every passing day, American NCOs are providing the impetus to remake the Iraqi soldiers in their own image. It's hard to go wrong with the most powerful and well trained army in the history of the world as your model. Special Forces teams are working with them one-on-one, and infantry platoons such as my own patrol with them daily; leading by example, displaying how a professional military looks and acts, and especially how it does not.

Yet still the negativity and defeatism across the world for their brave endeavor has been steadily rising. Has love of country really become so passé; an outmoded idealism not even worth teaching American children, much less young Iraqi ones? Samuel Johnson called patriotism "the last refuge of a scoundrel," though perhaps in lieu of modern times it merely stands as the last vestige of a dying breed: that of the American retrosexual male.

A retrosexual-American is a throwback to an earlier time when values were not subjective and the meaning of "is" was never in question. The American NCO has always exemplified these archaic traits and hopefully will continue to pass the torch to generations of citizen-soldiers to follow. It is in this vein that I submit to you:


A Retro NCO...
  • longs for a professional army to fight again
  • has actually read the document he swore an oath to defend
  • can remember when there weren’t so many sh**bags in the Army
  • has a spine of tempered steel
  • can play a “butter bar” lieutenant like a finely tuned piano
  • can operate in the dark just fine without his NODs
  • knows when to flip out and when to let it ride
  • can take an ass chewing
  • thinks Fox News is still way too liberal
  • would sign a waiver to be allowed to deploy without body armor
  • would rather be on the frontlines than in a chow line
  • has wet dreams of leading an assault on Pakistan
  • still doesn’t trust the Russians any more than he likes the French
  • knows when it is necessary to be tactical and when it is not
  • wouldn’t even know how to be politically correct
  • believes there are some things in life worth dying for
  • thinks "VBIED" is a silly way of saying "car bomb"
  • could still pass the APFT with two broken legs and a hangover
  • doesn’t bring his work home with him
  • is still waiting for John Kerry to apologize for 1971
  • still recalls how to use a buffer, just chooses not to
  • is half deaf before age thirty
  • recognizes that the backbone ends just above the tailbone
  • doesn’t feel the Army should need to advertise
  • knows that a lone gunman could easily have killed Kennedy from that range
  • is proud of being Airborne, but honestly doesn’t mind driving to the objective
  • has no idea what the hell a "stress card" looks like
  • would like to buy John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Willis a beer, in that order
  • doesn’t feel that AAFES really needs a commander
  • can still remember when homosexuality wasn’t considered a "lifestyle choice"
  • is still waiting for an accurate Hollywood portrayal of his war
  • believes that individual discipline is knowing when to speak up and when to shut your mouth
  • thinks the beret should only be worn with the dress uniform
  • has never brought cologne on a deployment
  • doesn’t require a clearing barrel to safely unload his weapon
  • could fit all his toiletries inside his weapons cleaning kit
  • would prefer a café au lait colonic to talking about his feelings
  • still thinks it would be cool to ride a horse into battle
  • believes the Second Amendment exists to safeguard the First
  • won’t even bother to write it down if it’s too long to fit on one page
  • has a love/hate relationship with Uncle Sam
  • will never be able to forget the name of his drill sergeant
  • laments the Kinder, Gentler Army
  • thinks that the media should want their country to win
  • knows that 20 percent of any group does 80 percent of the real work
  • will always be part of the 20 percent
  • realizes that you may have to fight a battle more than once in order to win it
  • believes that “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” works just fine the way it is
  • thinks Custer would have been better off if he had listened to his sergeants
  • trusts in God, but sometimes thinks He sucks at his job
  • can go months without drinking any water
  • believes that gun control is what you learn at the range
  • knows that trust is a two-way street with no crosswalks
  • knows that men and women are different for a reason
  • believes that “peace” and “victory” have more in common than a two-fingered salute
  • won’t take any crap from those who haven’t been there and haven’t done that
  • knows that garrison and combat are two completely different environments, and should be treated as such
  • thinks that the best way to support the troops in wartime is to support their war.
  • agrees that nothing compares to being shot at and missed
  • thinks that formal Op Orders are a waste of time
  • isn’t afraid to be cold, but would prefer not to be
  • can always suck it up and drive on
  • doesn’t make excuses for his failures
  • keeps his word
  • at least feels bad when he doesn‘t
  • would donate a testicle for five minutes alone with bin Laden
  • knows more about his fellow soldiers than their own wives
  • can sleep anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances
  • knows whose fault it is when his soldiers are screwed up
  • believes that when the going gets tough, the tough reload
  • believes that there’s only one true thief in the Army -- everyone else is just trying to get their stuff back
  • would still rather be tried by twelve than carried by six
  • recognizes that our forefathers had it much worse
  • would rather live in Red China than the People’s Republic of California
  • has nightmares about even the possibility of a Commander-in-Chief Hillary.
  • avoids parade grounds like the plague
  • will revel in the supreme irony when all self-righteous nonsmokers get cell phone brain tumors
  • can be found reading gun mags on the crapper
  • thinks that the Army of One is precisely what’s wrong with the Army
  • knows when to back up and when to jack up his soldiers
  • knows that even the best laid plans will never survive first contact
  • believes in working smarter, not harder
  • despises feminists only slightly less than communists
  • would rather have protestors sign a check on his behalf than a petition
  • knows that guns don’t kill people, people kill people; though bullets sure help
  • knows that only politicians can lose an American war
  • believes that the MSM and the ALQ often share the same goals
  • agrees with Einstein that as long as there are men there will be wars
  • still feels that the Road Map to Peace in the Middle East runs straight through Baghdad
  • knows that friendly fire is not his friend
  • thinks the UN should mind it’s own damn business
  • doesn’t air his gripes in the pages of Stars and Stripes
  • thinks that near-beer in a combat zone is a poor substitute
  • believes God made men equal, but Sam Colt keeps them that way
  • is disgusted by slothful civilians, but can’t wait to be one again
  • doesn’t need a Garmin GPS to orient his moral compass
  • knows that things could always be worse
  • understands the fine line between stealing and "aquiring"
  • periodically wishes he had been a pilot instead
  • knows that if it’s wrong but it works--it ain't wrong
  • could survive on coffee and tobacco alone
  • knows that preparing for war is essential to peace
  • still thinks the M9 Beretta is a useless piece of crap
  • would take a Ma Deuce, M14 or 1911 over a NATO-chambered weapon any day of the week
  • owns enough spare uniforms, pouches and polypro to open his own surplus store
  • believes a Purple Heart is really just an Enemy Marksmanship Badge
  • will open an MRE only when all his pogey bait is gone
  • will always lament not “seeing more action
  • has never met an old WWII veteran who wished he'd been shot at more
  • can always be found smoking, joking, and bunking with the troops
  • would still like to go mano a mano with Janet Reno
  • knows that the surest way to get the show on the road is to light up a cigarette
  • agrees that "because it’s cool" is a perfectly good reason to own a .50 cal. BMG long rifle
  • still believes that we could have taken Hanoi
  • knows how to make a good cup of coffee
  • never blames poor marksmanship on his weapon or his optics
  • believes that cold beer and a warm woman will always be good motivators
  • will never cry retreat or sound the surrender
  • knows that early withdrawal is as foolish on the battlefield as it is in the bedroom
  • knows that women will choose a retro over a metro when they realize they need a man for more than holding their purse
  • believes the only thing more irritating than an armchair general is a retired one
  • knows that lousy leaders will always blame it on having lousy soldiers

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln