A LIFE IN A YEAR
When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.
By this time next month I will be on the ground in Iraq along with the rest of my unit, the Tomahawks of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. As part of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, we will be there for a minimum of twelve months operating and patrolling throughout a large urban area in northern Iraq.
In lieu of a traditional journal or the daily verbal diarrhea of most blogs, I hope to maintain this weekly column from the frontlines in order to contribute something meaningful to the national dialogue from one who not only has "been there, done that" but rather "is there, doing that."
The goal is a series of thoughtfully crafted, well-reasoned opinion pieces, not a running commentary of "bitches, gripes, and complaints" concerning my situation, my leadership, the war, or the Army in general. Criticism, when offered, will be constructive, not merely bloviated opinions without proffered solutions or alternatives. Your commentary is welcome.
Why publish this site? To instruct, to entertain, to educate, to enlighten. To keep my sanity. To ply my future trade. To help counter the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity otherwise known as the mainstream media. To particpate in the public discourse during historic times of "creative destruction" in the Middle East.
A year is a substantial chunk of one's life to give up, especially when separated from loved ones, creature comforts, and faced with the imminent threat of injury or death. It will be a year of adventure and danger, of comraderie and sorrow. A year of anger, despondency, and fear. Of triumph and courage, of valor and selflessness. A year of pain, hurt, and regret. One of pride. Accomplishment. Victory.
It will be a lifetime in a year.
Fort Richardson, Alaska
“Prepare to take your unit to battle,” ordered Maj. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., on his second day on the job as commander of U.S. Army Alaska, during the Tomahawk battalion’s deployment ceremony July 22 before a large assembled crowd of soldiers and their family members.
“Your enemy is tough,” Jacoby said of the insurgents. “He hates us, who we are, what we stand for and your country needs you to close with him and defeat him. He is absolutely beatable and he doesn’t have a clue how good, tough and committed as a people we are."
“Use your advantages,” he continued. “Remember there’s no such thing as a fair fight, and when you get the opportunity, run up the score.”
“Keep your standards up and maintain your discipline. It will keep you alive and get the mission done,” he explained. “You have to stay on this every day for a year. Little things matter every day. Teaching and enforcing standards in combat is an infantry leader’s most critical task.”
Col. Michael Shields, 172nd SBCT commander, pointed to the 4th Bn., 23rd Inf.’s long history as proof of their future successes.
“As the Tomahawks have answered the call throughout history from the Civil War to Vietnam, they’ll do so again in Iraq and they will be victorious,” he said during the ceremony. “The 23rd is no stranger to counterinsurgency. This battalion has hunted insurgents from the Philippines to Vietnam ... and they will never lose a battle in Iraq."
“With professionalism and warrior spirit this battalion started with a few soldiers and little equipment and in just over one year, trained and prepared to answer our nation’s call in the global war on terrorism. This last year has prepared the Soldiers and produced physically and mentally tough, fit and aggressive Soldiers, teams, squads, platoons and companies. This battalion will perform magnificently in Iraq.”
Gen. Jacoby noted the strong history of the American Army during times of national need.
“The example has been set,” he said. “Since 1775 this American Army has always done what the country has asked and needed, and now it’s your turn. It is a huge moment in your lives and the lives of your families."
“You are all up to it. Have confidence you will do great, just like your fathers before you,” he continued. “You are ready, well trained, well equipped, lethal instruments of your country. You are free men of the United States who have volunteered to go into harm’s way. You are Stryker infantry, the best in the world and your enemy dreads your arrival on the battlefield.”
Published in the Alaska Post