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REPATRIATE GAMES


One of our tasks in Tal Afar was to keep the Iraqi Army
"in check," a task at which Sgt. Romero often failed
spectacularly. photo by Buck Sargent

We have good corporals and good sergeants and some good lieutenants and captains, and those are far more important than good generals.
-William Tecumseh Sherman

Homecoming, Interrupted
Mosul, Tal Afar, and now the belly of the beast. It was announced this week that our unit, the 172nd Stryker Brigade, has been extended for up to four additional months in Iraq in order to bring additional force to bear on the persistent lawlessness of the capital city of Baghdad. My platoon was already in Kuwait, homeward bound, when we were first notified of this occurrence via Yahoo! News, of all sources. The media, our families, along with anyone else in America who cared knew long before we did that not only were we not returning home as planned following an already mentally and physically draining year in Iraq, but that by the time we finally do we’ll more than have qualified for in-state tuition to Baghdad University.

Of course, not a word of this possibility was breathed to us in recent weeks. Hundreds of our advance party were already home. Many more had already purchased tickets for block leave, had sent home much of their excess gear and equipment at the behest of our command (and at our own expense), and had assured our families and loved ones that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was finally shining upon us. And yet, like much of what passes for optimism in the Middle East, in the end it was all little more than a mirage.

Pass the Mustard
I don’t often criticize the Army Powers That Be. For one, it’s not my place to do so, being such a low man on the totem pole; and secondly, I fully realize that the big picture and the soldier’s bottom line are not always going to be in perfect agreement. That being said, I’m going to make a rare exception to my usual modus bloggerandi.

Here’s the setup: The Pentagon pinochle players have demanded more boots on the ground in Baghdad, tout de suite. Our brigade has finished its tour and is in the process of redeploying home. There are no other available units with a comparable level of combat power and recent experience that can as rapidly fill the gap. Ipso facto, voilà, presto: we’ve become the latest unwilling guests in the grand opening of yet another Extended Stay Iraq. For the brass, it’s a no-brainer. But for those affected, all it looks like at the present moment is a heartless non sequitor.

The battalion commander from my Afghanistan tour several years ago once described my former Airborne unit’s similar predicament of shifting redeployment dates as “taking a huge bite of the Army’s shit sandwich and spreading some mayonnaise on it” in order to choke it all down. He had been around the block long enough to know that it was simply a distasteful aspect of military life that is often unavoidable. Even so, I believe we’re going to require a few additional condiments this time around.

485 days and a wakeup. Not many can claim they spent two birthdays in Iraq -- on the same deployment!

The Three P’s
The Army feels free to make last minute decisions concerning our fate because to them we are little more than chess pieces to be easily shifted across the board with even less regard for the human costs that lay behind such actions. My bunkmate’s wife fully expected to hear next from her husband when he landed stateside. Instead, he was forced to drop the bombshell that he wasn’t coming home just yet after all. No one looks forward to that call.

Those of us in uniform expect to have our chains pulled. It’s part of the job, and it’s usually par for the course. But there’s simply no excuse for jerking our families’ around, playing mind games with their expectations. Mental preparation is everything when it comes to enduring the stress of a combat tour, especially for those left behind. To survive a year with your loved one away at war will always constitute a Herculean effort. But to offer no warning whatsoever of even the possibility of such a long tour extension is truly beyond the pale.

Our families will cope as best they can, and we’ll suck it up and drive on, just like we always do. But I don’t think it’s any surprise that we’re livid at the sheer ineptitude of those who purport to lead us. The seven Army Values rammed down our throats in Basic from day one were identified as Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. In lieu of recent events, I believe a new addition is more than warranted: Piss Poor Planning.

All Quiet on the Northern Front
Never before have a single one of the Army’s three active Stryker brigades been mobilized in large numbers in the Sunni Triangle, having seen the majority of their action in the northern-most Iraqi provinces. Three months ago, I was of the opinion that our battalion should have been rerouted to Ramadi following our successful stint in Mosul rather than dispatching still more tankers and Humvee-bound units demonstrably unsuited for that type of counterinsurgency fight. Not surprisingly, my views were overruled by the 300,000 some-odd people in the Army that presently outrank me. Instead we were moved to Tal Afar and its surrounding areas to ride out the remainder of our tour in relative ease, as -- courtesy of the monumental efforts of the Army’s 3rd ACR last fall -- little transpires up there these days that the Iraqi Army and police forces cannot handle sua sponte.

I’ve witnessed firsthand what Stryker units are capable of. It’s a combination of might, muscle, matériel, and most importantly -- mentality -- that quite frankly is not displayed to greater effect or in greater numbers anywhere else in the U.S. Army. Strykers not only always roll to the sound of the guns, but exhibit an aggressive “swarm tackling” response to attack that is a step above the conventional troop dread of simply “waiting around to get blown up” that has been reported out of Iraq ad nauseum for the past three years. Bloodying our noses only makes us angrier, and will frequently unleash the entire hive upon all responsible parties to potentially devastating effect. The quickest route to having platoons of Strykers with their squads of lethal dismounts roaming your neighborhood every day for months on end is to dare to attack one of their omnipresent patrols. You won’t get the desired response.

But if we arrive in Saddam's old stomping grounds only to find ourselves pulling "force pro" duty on some enormous installation so that the hordes of Fobbits don't miss their prime sun-tanning hours by the palace pool... you're going to hear about it, the whole world is going to hear about it, and the people who knocked our morale into the porta-john will hear from all of us soon. Note to Donald Rumsfeld: Do not waste our time.

The Politics of War
The time has come to face facts: Baghdad has a seemingly intractable security problem. The local government has been impotent in the face of unrelenting sectarian-fueled violence. There are some very bad people residing there who require killing or capture, first among them the lawless militias of the Shiite-controlled Mahdi Army. We can deliver this in spades. What we cannot deliver is the political will to keep such men locked up once caught. An astounding number of our insurgent detainees from the past year in Mosul have long since been turned loose. This is unacceptable, just as the preposterously soft-on-terrorism rules of engagement we’ve been forced to operate within are unworkable. Not only do the gloves need to come off, they need to be slapped across the face of every would-be warlord like Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who never passes up an opportunity to undermine the legitimately elected government of millions of fellow Iraqis; Iraqis who want nothing more than to rebuild their fractured society and live their lives in peace.

While I clearly understand the concern with minimizing civilian casualties, there is one very important distinction that is rarely mentioned in the press. Every Muslim that has ever emplaced a roadside bomb, ever fired an AK at a convoy or lobbed a grenade at a foot patrol, that has ever sheltered or passed information to the enemy -- has been by definition a civilian. They don’t wear identifiable uniforms, they don’t carry their weapons openly, they don’t take live prisoners, and they show absolutely no mercy to anyone they encounter, Iraqi or otherwise. "The fate of our country and yours is tied," said new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before Congress during his first official visit to the U.S recently. He made it clear that if democracy fails in Iraq "then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere." I couldn't agree more.

Why the sudden urgency over the three-year-old insurgency in Iraq’s capital city? In a word: politics. Theirs as well as ours. Al-Maliki had his chance to turn the tide in Baghdad. His plan failed, as he has all but admitted. But with the U.S. mid-term elections on the horizon that will decide which party controls Congress, it’s do-or-die-on-the-vine time for the war effort. If the political opposition is victorious, all the progress we’ve made in the last two years will be for naught, as the investigative power of the new majority will be wielded like the hammer of Thor, bludgeoning a path toward eventual retreat.

With the concentrated media presence in Iraq’s most populous metropolis, the war as seen on TV will be won or lost in Baghdad, regardless of the conditions on the ground in any other province. The fight for the country’s center of power must be decisively won, and sooner rather than later.

“This will place our most experienced unit with our most mobile and agile systems in support of our main effort,” said Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, explaining the redirecting of forces. “With the rest of the elements of the plan, this gives us a potentially decisive capability to affect security in Baghdad.”

Soldiers may decry the effects of politics on the battlefield, but in a republic such as ours, one can never be divorced from the other. Such was the case in Lincoln’s war, as was Wilson’s, Roosevelt’s, Truman’s, Johnson’s and Nixon’s. Bush is not the first and will not be the last. “It is clear,” wrote Clausewitz, “that war is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.”

That is undoubtedly not much consolation to the hundreds of mothers, fathers, wives and children whose elation has turned to despair in the past week. Yet we were chosen precisely because of what we have proven in the past year we were capable of. The unfortunate result for us is what’s known throughout the service as “performance punishment.”

Soldiers of Misfortune
Our parent brigade has suffered over a dozen deaths with hundreds more wounded in action during the past year, yet every single 4/23 “Tomahawk” in my own battalion was returning home alive, an all-too-rare distinction in a frontline infantry unit, not to mention a feat the gods of war seem bound and determined to rob us of. But the man who famously declared “God is dead” also wrote that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

By pairing with homegrown Iraqi Security Forces, Stryker units have ultimately nullified enemy activity to acceptable levels in every area they’ve been employed in. We’re now old hands at going door to door, interacting with the populace as much as possible, engaging the enemy as much as necessary, and ultimately building confidence in the ability of their own forces to be able to eventually accept the baton without fumbling it. It’s no accident that the Army leadership is finally waking up to this fact. The tragedy of our achievement is that they have only just now realized it.

Success has often been defined as luck meeting opportunity. In our case it appears to constitute a marriage of exceptionally bad luck with particularly worse timing. Nevertheless, we’ll do our job and do it well, but don’t expect us to be happy about it.

Just be sure to keep the grill warm and the beer cold.

I watched this on Fox News Sunday last night at the chow hall. Here's a partial transcript via their web site:

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" GUEST HOST BRIT HUME: With us now to discuss the situation in Iraq is Ambassador Paul Bremer, who is the former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority set up just after the conquering of Baghdad.
Welcome back to "FOX News Sunday", Mr. Ambassador. Nice to see you.
AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER: Nice to be with you again.
HUME: Assess for us, if you will, the current situation based on your experience there. How does it look? Baghdad looks bad.
BREMER: Yes, it's pretty discouraging, I think. The new prime minister, whom I know made an announcement, I guess, five or six weeks ago about putting a priority on securing Baghdad — I think that's important. It's the capital. Not much happened until he came here this week.
I gather now that as a result of the conversations with President Bush, we're going to deploy a Striker brigade. These are a new kind of armored vehicle. I drove around the city of Mosul in one of these in its first deployment to Iraq, and I hope that will help. That's going to add another brigade to Baghdad. It's very important.
HUME: Yes, we're talking about something like 3,500 troops, give or take.
BREMER: Right.
HUME: Given the situation in Baghdad, a city you know well, given the number of forces already deployed there, the number in the tens of thousands, is this enough to make a difference against this — the continuing violence there?
BREMER: Well, you know, Brit, the question has gotten a lot — and I've been part of that, unfortunately — focused on the number of troops. The real question is how are they deployed, and what are their rules of engagement and what is the strategy for using them. That's the real question.
Now, as I understand it, the prime minister plans to try to use these new forces and the Iraqi forces to, in effect, go neighborhood by neighborhood, try to secure a neighborhood and then work out from that area and work around. And I think that's the right approach.
HUME: Well, what does that mean? Does that mean you're knocking down doors and...
BREMER: It will depend on the neighborhood. One of the key problems...
HUME: Can you do this kind of pacification of an area...
BREMER: Yes.
HUME: ... which is as violence-prone as Baghdad is without really playing rough?
BREMER: No. No, no. They will have to play rough, to use your terms. They're going to have to deal sooner or later with the Shia militia in particular.
And it was encouraging to hear the prime minister in his statements here both in the press conference and in the Congress say very clearly that he understands they're going to have to go after and disband these militia.
HUME: Well, you're talking about militias such as the Sadr militia.
BREMER: Muqtada al-Sadr's militia in particular, the Mahdi army. That's the most important one.
HUME: Now, that's a big one. Is it your sense that the Mahdi army is responsible for a lot of this violence?
BREMER: Yes.
HUME: Sectarian violence? It is?
BREMER: Yes. Clearly.
HUME: All right. Now, so what needs to be done? Are you going to go in there and kill those people? Is that how you do it, or what?
BREMER: Well, you're going to have to kill some of them. You're certainly going to have to kill the leaders or bring them to justice one way or the other.
HUME: What about Sadr himself? He's a very large figure in Iraqi politics.
BREMER: He is a large figure, and they will have to find a way to deal with him. He's now got some political importance. One of the problems for Prime Minister al-Maliki, himself a Shia, is, of course, he's under some pressure from these radical Shia like Muqtada al-Sadr.
HUME: So what about him? He was somebody we had in our gun sights, so to speak, while you were there. Should he have been killed?
BREMER: The proposition wasn't to kill him. The proposition was to allow the Iraqis to execute an arrest warrant. He was accused...
HUME: That's right.
BREMER: ... by an Iraqi judge of murdering a very respected ayatollah, Ayatollah Khoei, a couple of days after the liberation of Baghdad. There were eyewitnesses that accused — basically said Muqtada ordered this murder. And an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant. The question was whether to arrest him, and we were unable to do that during my time.
HUME: Well, you were unable to, or was a decision made not to?
BREMER: It was a combination of both.
HUME: Who wanted to do it and who didn't?
BREMER: Well, I was very much in favor of arresting him, allowing the Iraqis to arrest him, a number of times because I feared that he would develop into an anti-democratic Shia extremist force in Iraq, which unfortunately has happened.
HUME: Let's turn to — you mentioned this issue of number of troops. It has come up time and again.
It has become, I think, almost received wisdom now about the original plan there and the post-fall-of-Baghdad period when you were there that the United States simply didn't have enough troops to do what needed to be done, that General Franks' plan — it was brilliant for the accomplishment of the task of toppling Baghdad and ending Saddam's regime — was simply inadequate to the task that inevitably came after. Your view of that in terms of troop numbers.
BREMER: Let me start with the basics. The basics are that the role of any government — and we were the government of Iraq — is to provide security for its citizens, law and order. And when I arrived in Baghdad, there was widespread looting going on in Baghdad, and we weren't stopping it.
In fact, we had enough troops. We had 40,000 American troops in Baghdad at that time, but they didn't have orders to stop the looting. So the problem wasn't immediately the question of the number of troops. It was what are their rules of engagement, as the military calls them.
And that problem, I think, that — the fact that we didn't stop that looting right away in the very beginning, the first month or so of — after liberation, left the impression with a lot of Iraqis, and perhaps with insurgents, that we were not prepared forcefully to enforce law and order. And I think that was a mistake.
HUME: Now, there's a whole other set of ideas about what went wrong in Iraq. A lot of it is set forth in a new book by Tom Ricks, the well known defense correspondent for the Washington Post, a book whose title kind of gives away what he ultimately thinks about it. "Fiasco" is the title.
Nonetheless, it is a pretty extensive piece of work with a lot of reporting in it, a great many interviews and a lot of detail, pretty rich volume. And he comes down hard on you on a couple of key points.
One was the — what he says was the dissolution of the Iraqi military, that that was a mistake because it alienated these people, and then you had, you know, thousands of armed disaffected men in the streets. What about it?
BREMER: It's not a new argument. In fact, I call this sort of a cat-like issue. It seems to have nine lives. And no matter how many times I answer with the facts, it still comes back.
But let's look at the facts. Let's take a minute. There was no Iraqi army to disband. The Iraqi army basically self-demobilized, as the Pentagon said. There wasn't a single unit standing anywhere in the country. So the question was should we recall the army. Now, let's think about what the army...
HUME: But there was a structure, and there were people who had uniforms and guns and...
BREMER: No, there was no structure. There was no unit left anywhere. There were no barracks anywhere. The army was made up of hundreds of thousands of Shia draftees who hated being in the army. They were brutalized by their Sunni officers. They went home.
There was no army to disband. It had to be recalled. Imagine what the impact of that was politically. This army had conducted a decade-long war of genocide against the Kurds. And I well remember one of my first trips to the Kurdish region.
Massoud Barzani, who's one of the leaders of the Kurdish region, took me for a drive through the area where, as he told me, the army killed 3,000 Barzanis, 3,000 of his tribesmen, during their campaign in the 1980s.
The army was responsible for the killing fields of the Shia — you remember the Shia rose up against Saddam after the 1991 war — and killed hundreds of thousands of Shia. These two groups, the Kurds and the Shia, were cooperating with the American forces.
If we had recalled the army, they would have taken matters into their own hand. Right now, if we think sectarian violence is bad now, imagine what it would have been if 80 percent of the Iraqi people had immediately concluded that we were not real in our desire to replace Saddam's dictatorship.
So the question of recalling the army, in my view, would have been a disastrous decision, and anybody who doubts that needs only look at what happened when the Marines recalled a single brigade, about 1,000 men, of the old army in April of 2004, and there was a political uproar throughout the country that almost threw us off the track of being able to hand sovereignty over in June.
So I'm very comfortable it was absolutely the right decision not to recall the army and to rebuild a new army.
HUME: De-Baathification. The de-Baathification of Iraqi political life is also said to be one of the mistakes.
BREMER: It's another one of these cat-like nine lives...
HUME: I understand, but there it is. It's back again.
BREMER: OK, let's deal with it. Let's talk about the facts. The idea of de-Baathifying in Iraq was very similar to the de- Nazification program we followed in Germany after the second world war. And it's an apt analogy, because Saddam Hussein proudly and openly modeled the Baath party on the Nazi party.
He had neighborhood watch committees. He had children spying on their parents and so forth. Every average Iraqi considered the Baath party to be the important instrument of Saddam's control. That's why General Franks outlawed the party in his April 10th statement after the liberation of Baghdad.
The question of de-Baathification addressed only the top 1 percent of the party. That's what the de-Baathification decree addressed. And all it said about them was you can no longer be on the public payroll. If you're not a criminal, you can go out and set up a business, you can found a newspaper, you can do whatever you want to do, but you may no longer be on the public payroll.
And I don't understand when people criticize this. And by the way, it's overwhelmingly popular among Iraqis, whatever the pundits back here may think.
I don't know how you would explain to the average Iraqi that, having sent our army halfway around the world, throwing out Saddam Hussein, we were going to call back the army that was the instrument of his repression, call back the Baath party, so you went to the ministry, you saw the same old top Baathists in charge of the ministries. It simply doesn't make sense.
HUME: If you have one regret about the way it was run at the time, major regret, what would it be?
BREMER: I think my major mistake in many ways was not this question of troop strength, which has sort of dominated the debate. I think the real problem was that we didn't have a military strategy to defeat the insurgency, and that is what's essential in Iraq now, because the insurgency...
HUME: Do you have it now?
BREMER: I think we've got the beginning of it with this idea of taking control of Baghdad, because the Shia militia, who are conducting most of these attacks we've seen, are reacting to the fact that the government and the coalition have not provided security against the insurgency.
These two things feed on each other. We now need to have a plan, and we have to stay there until it's executed, to defeat that insurgency.
HUME: Ambassador Bremer, pleasure to have you.
BREMER: Nice to be back with you.
HUME: Thanks for coming in.

http://www.foxnews.com
/story/0,2933,206276,00.html

Hey Buck-

Have anxiously been anticipating your update. Had heard last week, as you said probably before you did, that it was indeed your unit staying behind. I knew well that you would be as angry as you are, and justifiably so.

I was bummed for you guys and your families, and though I know you will all carry on, I would like to echo your sentiment to Rummy that your time not be wasted.

There is a part of me that, as an American sitting at home, feels as though I should apologize to you guys that you bear the brunt of what I believe to be leadership by way of stupid. In all honesty, I cannot figure out for the life of me why the "politics" of it all continues to control how we fight this war. Mainly because we are already the most "hated" country on the planet anyway, so what the hell difference does it make if we just GET THE JOB DONE THE WAY IT SHOULD BE DONE!

Anyway, I'd hate to be the Mahdis now, 'cause you guys are pissed. As always, I'll be pulling for you and asking the powers that be above to watch over you. God speed.

Hey Buck,
Sorry about all this. My son got stopped 1 day from stepping on the plane in Tal 'Afar. I pointed out to him that it would suck even more if he'd actually made it to Kuwait or, WORSE, to AK! I'm sorry to hear you were one of the dude's sent back from Kuwait.
I AM glad, however, to be able to have your blogs to look forward to, to keep up, somewhat, with what my son's up to.
Keep up the good work and kick ass quickly and get back here!

Crazy assed war. Who knew that everybody in the country was just as crazy as Saddam Hussein? Well you've got a front row seat at the war of the new millenium. When you finally get home, you'll know you did your part and the part of dozens more.

Thanks once again Buck for this blog. We needed to know what you and your men are thinking and feeling - -and doing. It affects the way we think, act and feel about what is going on politically, and lets us know what we can possibly do to support you men and your families. You are logical and make everything clear for us in a world of mass confussion created by the experts. Heck of a mission. But you men are the best. Stay mad. Sometimes mad ain't so bad. prayers.
Annie & Neatie

Kickass Buck so you guys can all come home safely. I too am sorry your orders were changed. But, I feel they picked the best there is except for the Marines, lol! You can bitch my way anytime you need to. I honestly don't mind. I have felt so helpless since this all started because I don't know how to help.
I have made it my goal though to do everything on the homefront to keep those knee jerks on the other side from being the only voice heard.

Gof bless your family and the families of your buddies. I am so sorry fpr them the most because you are right, the hardest job is being safe at home watching and waiting.

Any of your guys want to wsrite someone tell them to give me a post. I'd gladly swap mail.

Sorry to hear about your redeployment. I had a feeling you would be sent back. I actually started to think about it a couple of weeks ago. It looks like they need some serious expertise in Baghdad. The numbers are confirming your assertion that the problems are largely confined to Baghdad and Ramadi.

Be safe and Godspeed.

Well, Buck - Looks like everything's already been said. Keeping y'all and your families in my prayers. Now just kick some butt!

Words can't express how proud so many of us are of you guys. As devastating as it was to hear, on the news and internet of all places, that our beloved soldiers, including my husband, may not return to us as planned, I don't think anyone is as lucky as we are to call you guys our own! You all have proven that when the going get's tough you guys get tougher, your bad @$$ and it shows, just wish your bad @$$e$ were home! I think there are many of us here so pissed there were wishing we could grab a weapon and help you guys make some short work of things over there!! My heart aches for those families that are struggling the hardest with this news, and prayers for comfort go out everyday for both the families and you guys. Know that we are still behind you, supporting and loving you guys everyday. You guys be safe, kick lot's of @$$, and come home to waiting, open arms!!!

Holy crap you write even better when you are pissed off!! As I read through this post all I could think is so true, so true, right on!! After reading your post, I have so much confidence that you are all gonna get in there and soooo get er done.

"aggressive “swarm tackling” response to attack"

When my nephew was with the 3/2 during 2003, he called it upsetting the hornets nest:D He said it is a pretty impressive site to see. These scum bags in baghdad will not even know what hit them until it is all said and done. I cannot even imagine the reaction of attacking a hornets nest that is already pissed off.

Apparently my nephew's old battalion (3/2, 1/23) is also diverted to the Baghdad area. Two of his old recon buddies are now NCOs with line companies. My nephew gave these guys nothing but high marks. And, if their old LTC is still with them (which I believe he is), I guarantee you, you will all be a great team. No warm and fuzzy stuff with this guy. They didn't go there the first time to hand out candy, and my suspicions are that they won't be doing so in baghdad either.

Damn good, Buck. Your video montages are touching. It's nice to look a something that makes you feel good for a change. Thanks.

Amazing, very good writing. You've placed us right into the middle of these fighting men like no TV reporter can do. Based on the number of reports in the media about this 'strategic' move to keep you all there, I think everyone who learns of this can somewhat relate to how wrenching this action was. I've Been reading much more at bringhome172nd.org

Take a deep breath Buck and then another! I imagine by now you already have. We are in a formidible war and you have known that better than most. I am incredibly sorry that you have been extended both for you folks and for your families. But in the final analysis, we need you not at home but there. I do not believe that to the brass you are just chess pieces. You are the best of the best when they needed it. I know you will do your duty and do it well. However, aspects of this unfortunate piece will be picked up and used as none of your positive pieces were, by the cut and run crowd. It is always best to sit on such as this for a bit instead of venting for the world to read. Do not mistake me, I am infinitly sorry you have had this happen. I am just sorry you did not wait for a cooler head to prevail before addressing it.

Buck, I will be praying for you and your Strykers more now than ever. God keep you in His care.

*hugs for all* So sorry y'all were extended - at the veeerrrryyyy last minute, especially! Ouch!!!!!!!!!! *more hugs for all*

Each and every one of y'all - and your families - are in our prayers.

Momma Kat

Buck,
Don't listen to Jay. Vent when you want to. We all know that you believe in what you are doing, just a little upset that they yanked you after promising that you were gonna go home. Don't supress your emotions, yeah you might cool down after awhile but by then you will have lost your angry edge and that makes what you write real.

If I get extended another 4 months I would be pissed too. I would realize there was nothing about it so I wouldn't complain but I would be wanting the same things as you. No one wants to stay in Iraq for purposeless reasons. I am here as a truck driver, which is my second forced MOS and I am pulling guard duty. I spent a month and a half training to be a truck driver which I did on my first deployment but apparently that wasn't good enough. They took me off the road after about 4 months of driving and stuck me at the main gate. The army is great at making people do dumb stuff., well that and wasting tons of money.

So basically be pissed off, there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone knows the army isn't perfect, we aren't just finding that out now because of your blog.

Jay,

You think this piece was me venting without a cooler head? Dude, it was nearly three or four days after the fact. You should have seen my intial reaction. Totally unprintable.

That being said, I'm not going to lie and pretend that something is the truth when it is not. I get accused of that by the antiwar crowd enough as it is. I'm not about to start proving them correct, just so you can feel less guilty about the whole thing.

Don't like my attitude? Tough shiite.

I just finished reading your most recent posts and all I can say is first I'm sorry that you guys got extended, not only for you but for myself as well. My hubby is over there with you and he got extended too. He was supposed to be home tomorrow.
Second let me say, you're hilarious. Your posts gave me a much needed laugh. Thanks.

A different Gypsy here, I felt sick after reading you were extended over on t.f.'s blog. Sorry to hear it, but stay safe and kick ass Buck.

I thought this was a rather amusing follow-up to my "Outtakes" post:

To : americancitizensoldier@hotmail.com
Subject : Hello and an Apology

Hi there!

While watching the internet traffic, I picked up on your blog entry about Operation Paperback. I am one of the people that runs the organization. We're really glad that you were able to find some good nuggets and I had a good chuckle out of the list of crap that you found! Believe me, we try our best to do quality control, but since we don't have one centralized warehouse location where we can sort out the junk, it does make its way through the pipeline - so our apologies for that.

We give instructions on what to send (classics, history, bestsellers, current events) and what not to send (old, falling apart boy scout manuals... stupid fiction that no normal human could read without putting a power drill to the temple). Despite folks claiming to be prolific readers, apparently they don't read our quality control rules all that carefully. In fact, I am a marked woman by the romance novel writers association, since I made an official plea that no one should send that junk. I do believe there are small children in Siberia who could sure use those books for keeping a fire going on a cold winter night...

Let us know if there are particular titles you are seeking out. We have a group of volunteers that fill special requests and they always send high-quality titles. I promise. :-)

Thanks and keep safe!

- Andrea

FYI:

In lieu of my recent extension, my lovely actress wife is planning on giving L.A. a shot for the next few months to see what kind of opportunities she can drum up for us when we escape the Army next year.

Anyone out there with any first-hand knowledge of the "biz", feel free to comment here or email me with the scoop and I'll pass it along to the Missus.

And wish her luck! Personally, I'd rather have to deal with the Baghdad meatgrinder than the Hollywood sharktank, but hey, that's just me.

101 best wishes are going to your missus. That is an awesome attitude to have when your a soldier's wife!! You obviously have a gem!

Thank you for sharing the response from operation paperback. It not only made me crack up, but reminded me that I have some books in a box that would probably fit their criteria. Believe me, I am not going to waste my money on postage for books that can more appropriately be used as a fire starter. I actually have my own fire pit for those types of books.

Hello Buck,

Well, dern. I know you are disappointed but certainly handling it like the professional you are. Thank you for your blog and your excellent insights. I am so thankful for you and your compatriots who do so much to lift some of the "fog" that surrounds. Stay safe.

I have plenty of first hand as my wife works on major productions and I've lived in L.A.

All I can say is, be careful. L.A. seems really nice, but people are rarely nice for no reason.

There are exceptions of course.

Eyes wide open, that is all.

Buck - -The news is full of doom and gloom on civil war in Iraq and you guys getting caught in the crossfire. I know you have just been tossed into the pit but do you think it is managable in Baghdad, meaning you can clean out the main civil war instigators, or is it just a fact that those people are incapable of rule by law and a democratic government? Big question - -I know - -but the "experts" on the news only add to the confussion and there is so much propaganda that it is impossible to know what the truth is. Face it. Your boots on ground observations are about all we have to go on now. Good luck to your wife. If nothing else it will keep her busy and maybe make life a little less unbearable without you being home.
With untold gratitude to you and your men,
Annie

You Strykers are a hot topic on the news these days. I am really sorry that you are not getting to come home. My prayers are with you.

Thought it was kind of nice for the Operation Paperback folks to write you!

Good luck Mrs. Buck Sargent on your quest in hollywood.

Mrs. Buck doesn't need luck. She's goooood!

When you two finally reunite, I really think that you should procreate. The combination of your collective talents and ridiculous good looks would create a child of such dynamic stock that he or she could take over the world, maybe even possess the ability to gravitate at will.

Your Friend,
Em Green

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

-Lord byron

Well, Buck, I think you have that quote down to a science.

From a fellow brother-in-arms, I can sympathize with your extension. Stay safe and send them to hell.

Your anger is understandable. Your commitment to do the assigned job is harder to comprehend but I thank God we have men such as you. May God bless our troops who have been called to clean up the snakepit and give the Iraqis, who desire peace and freedom. a chance. You will be in my prayers.

I've been following your nightmare for a long time now. I knew that my husbands brigade was going in to relieve you. The day that the article was posted on strykernews.com, I sat and cried for you and the men you are with. I feel very deeply for y'all and pray for the best for you and your families at home. I can only imagine what they are going thru. I have been with my husband for 7 yrs and this is the first time I will be without him. You last blog has shone me many things that my husband is not explaining to me ( being that he has been in country barely a month I really didn't expect much of this from him). I really appreciate the insight. It helped me to understand why he is there. thank you so much. y'all are always in my prayers.

BUck Sgt., you guys are so dman good, I think we ought to make you honorary Marines! Of course I am only kidding. [well just a little] But, I have been doing some research on you guys. You truly are awesome.

I understand better why they sent you guys. What they really screwed up was the lack of respect personally by letting you get the news the way you did. From following you guys on your blogs, I have no doubt that hjad they come to the unit and said, "Look. I know y'all want to go home. I know you sent a lot of your stuff back already. But, we have a critical need for a unit with your training and experience."

Unfortunately the military rarely does that. If they did I doubt most of you guys woulkd have said no if not all.

I can say that knowing men and women such as yourself are defending us here at home makes me less afraid. Thank you for that!

Good luck to your wife.

Buck, Just want you to know you guys and all their families are in my prayers. I am the mom of the first "gypsy" and i can't say enough about how proud I am of the way she is handling the news that her husband Brad isn't coming home yet. I hope that all the guys families are doing as well as my daughter and Brad's kids with the news. Let us know if their is anything you guys want or need besides "apple juice".

From a Vietnam vet(and old guy), wishing you and your unit the best of luck. Thank you many, many times over for the duty and sacrifice you are performing for our wonderful country.
I wish I could take an active military role in this war, but I would mostly be in the way of you professionals. If I was able to go, I would be proud to serve with a hard charging unit like the 4/23 Tomahawks.

I'm saddened by your misfortune of being extended in Iraq. It sometimes happens. At the same time, I am incredibly impressed by how well you are taking the development. Your professionalism and sense of the big picture continue to awe me. You guys are light years ahead of our morale and reactions a few decades ago.

I can encourage you by letting you know you will eventually look back on this and be gratified as well as pleased with your personal contribution to your country and fellow man; that will give you a personal peace and satisfaction that will almost be beyond measure. This is an extremely crucial juncture in world events and few are placed in such important situations as you are. Your lives have already made a larger (positive) impact on history than most people make in a lifetime.

There are many of us back home who are already very grateful for your sacrifices; I only wish we could share your burdens and do something/anything to ease your disappointment. We will continue to follow you and your men until you return home. Best to you, and may your attitudes continue to improve with time. I hope the time passes quickly, too.

I was crushed to hear of your extension...my brother serves in the 172nd and is also stuck over there for another 4 months. A plan would be nice, but as time passes, it becomes more and more evident that there is no plan, and our Dept. of Defense is allowing our military to work as a reactionary force instead of following a strategic battle plan to defeat the enemy insurgency.

I did note this statement in your blog:

"The local government has been impotent in the face of unrelenting sectarian-fueled violence. There are some very bad people residing there who require killing or capture, first among them the lawless militias of the Shiite-controlled Mahdi Army. We can deliver this in spades."

I have to ask, what do you think about Maliki coming out and condeming the recent military attack against the Mahdi Army?

From the Chicago Tribune:

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.

"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," al-Maliki said on government television. "This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone, like using planes."

He apologized to the Iraqi people for the operation and said "this won't happen again."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0608080096aug08,1,2309811.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

your thoughts??

Dear Buck,

Please write more about fighting a "politically correct" war. Perhaps you've already written extensively about it, and can point out where you wrote it.

If our forces are being restricted from fighting this war right, then it will finally make true all the whiners who've been comparing Iraq to Vietnam ever since, oh, one week after we invaded Iraq.

Thank you for your writing, and for your service.

Hey buck,...back here living like rock stars. See you in a few. T5

"I have to ask, what do you think about Maliki coming out and condeming the recent military attack against the Mahdi Army?"

Maliki is being what he is: a politician. All democratic statesmen have had to be politicians at one time or another, raising pandering to a high art. Hard to blame him, considering his own constituents are as likely to hang him as hail him.

The painful truth about Baghdad that no one wants to admit is that the government has lost control of their rightful monopoly on force. Without that, you essentially have no government authority to speak of. The people know you're a joke, just like the weak mayor of a Western town overrun by outlaws. Baghdad needs Josey Wales, not more Josey and the Pussycats. But all the Army has done here in the last few years is just more of the same. Well, the same isn't working.

No more Three Amigos. We need The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And we're just the Ugly Americans for the job. We're tired, we're pissed off, and we're sick and tired of playing footsie with Iraqis who blame everyone else for their problems but themselves.

If they are serious about taking back the capital -- if they ever want the bad to end and the good to begin again -- then they're going to have to accept just a little more ugly. They're going to have to let us get in there and do our thing, OUR way. If not, nothing will ever change and we'll go back home with virtually nothing to show for our time here other than a photo-op military campaign successful at nothing other than trying to convince headline readers that "something is being done."

The Shiite militias (basically, the Iraqi version of the Sopranos)need to be given an ultimatum: Surrender power and join the legitimate forces, or die.

Yes, it's really that simple. But of course, the politics of war could f**k up a wet dream.

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