"Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility."
"If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians - then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?"
I hate to say it, but much of Vietnam sounds like my experience in Iraq. In many cases I think the comparison is over used as Iraq is unique in its own right, but some of the similarities are startling. I don't intend to elaborate on this thought right now, but I know that the US says that it learned a lot of lessons from Vietnam, but it appears that it learned the wrong ones.
I wasn't stressed to get more "kills" than anyone else by my chain of command, but there was a bit of competition between units over stuff like that. My platoon was golden in terms of our combat experiences when I was in Iraq until Falujah kicked off in November 2004. Between March 2004 and Nov 2004 (just prior to Falujah) my platoon fired more main gun tank rounds than any other platoon in our division - and I had a platoon that was made up of 2x tanks and 2x Bradley Fighting Vehicles (a normal armor platoon has 4 tanks). In one of our firefights, my platoon was credited with killing 26 (presumably) enemy personnel. Nobody in the battalion of combat engineers that my platoon was attached to could touch us in terms of combat power, experience, or kills. In many ways, I held a special position of prestige in the unit based on what my platoon did in combat and my officer evaluation report reflected that.
This unsaid competition between units gives us ruinous results in both wars. Local civilian populations pay the price and react with anger and continue to view the American military as ruthless occupiers and the goals of these wars are never able to be realized as a result.
Training, exercises, and the general culture within the Army stresses force protection before any other objective. When in doubt, shoot it. We are trained to kill and reminded of that constantly. When I was in basic training I remember having to sound off with "one shot, one kill" at the Drill Sergeants command. The "kill" mentality and do whatever you have to do in order to protect yourself and your unit is exactly the reason there have been an estimated 100,000-1,000,000 dead Iraqi civilians during the war. I remember hearing in briefings in 2004 that they estimated that only about 5,000 enemy/insurgent personnel were operating in Iraq at the time. Did we really need to kill that many civilians to get 5,000 "enemy"?
I don't know if I'm making any sort of a coherent point here, but writing about the war is extremely draining on me and I don't have the will to re-read what I wrote to proof read it.
I'm going to have to look up the earlier film about those same people.
I've been going through my own struggle with returning home and I would think that it would be therapeutic to hear how others have fared before me. Maybe I'll even learn something and get some direction. For the most part I do alright, but I get into some serious slumps where I just want to drop out of the world. I have a hard time caring about anyone or anything else and I don't feel much or any of an emotional attachment to the people I should feel an attachment to. My kids mean the world to me, but I feel so distant from them at times and it really hurts. I'm sure that these guys who were featured in the documentary will say the same thing, but returning home and trying to live a normal life is the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. If I could drop everything and be back in Iraq tomorrow and never come home, I'd do it.
I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just rambling my mind a little bit. Thanks for the links to the film.
Most of them are things that you'd say over the radio and probably don't have any meaning to most people and I won't get into most of them.
"shot, over" and my knee-jerk reaction is to say "splash, over".
I used to work with a bunch of other ex-military guys and we all carried radios on our hips at the job. The ex-Army guys would randomly say "shot, over" all the time on net and the rest of us would race as fast as we could to reply with "splash, over". Or at least I would. Maybe they were just messing with me, which could be the case. I was a very broken person at my last job (which is the reason why I lost my job) and I had a lot of problems with PTSD and stress...
Early Thanksgiving morning in 2004 I was conducting a patrol with a section of armor from my platoon. I was approaching an Iraqi Army checkpoint located at a bridge that crosses the Diyala river just north of Baqubah when a whole bunch of tracers came at us from a wooded area somewhere north of my position. I couldn't see anything, but I knew that enemy were in the palm grove so I called for artillery fire into the area. I explicitly state that I wanted HE (high explosive) rounds yet they sent me illumination rounds (giant flares that light up the night sky like it was day), which really made me happy. I loved the idea of negating the advantage that I had with my thermal and nigh-vision optics and providing the enemy with a easy opportunity to identify my precise position.
It was a cold and miserable morning. It was wet from the rain and I spent the rest of the morning stopping and searching random cars as they crossed the bridge. I don't remember what I spent the rest of the day doing, but I do remember that our thanksgiving dinner was phenomenal. The hot chow that was served to us was usually very limited in quantity and shitty in quality, but both the quantity and quality of our thanksgiving dinner was amazing.
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