For my regular readers, you know that my extended family and I have "adopted" a lot of my son's buddies.... a group I fondly refer to as "My Guys". They have been coming and going on rest and recuperation, rest and relaxation -- whatever they call it -- R&R. A chance to come back home for 20 days (ok, about 5 of that is spent traveling) and revel in the 3 Fs - family, friends, and food. OK, there's a 4th F, but I'm trying to keep this PG-13...
So while I was in California last week visiting a sister, one of the Guys was home on R&R in the same town, so my sister and I got together with V. and his Mom and Dad... It was great. If we hadn't had to leave after 3-1/2 hours to retrieve my dear BIL from the airport, we'd have stayed all night!
What was mildly distressing was to hear my Guy tell us all that it's a bit demoralizing trying to fight what he calls "a pc war". He said we are so busy at times trying not to anger or upset the Iraqis that we compromise the task. The example he gave was that when they have good, solid intel that a house has weapons or a "bad guy" we should be kicking in the door and grabbing what we came for (his words). Instead, it has gotten to the point that at times (not always) our soldiers are reduced to almost politely knocking on the door and announcing, "Hello... it's the US and Iraqi Army. May we come in?" while the scurrying inside reaches audible proportions through the door.
The other example he gave is that they seem to be re-arresting the same people for weapons violations over and over. They find a weapons stash in a backyard, arrest the guy, hold him a few days and let him go. A few weeks later, they repeat the drill. He says the only thing that will cure those types of weapons merchants is to take some truly drastic action (I won't say here what he suggested...) Under the current scenario, they are routinely taunted by Iraqis - nose to nose - and even by some children, "Oh you can't do anything to us! You Americans can't touch us." He says the soldiers are tough and kick ass when they have to and when they are given no choice... but he doesn't think it's often enough (remember these guys are in a heavy Sunni area). If you want a good read on what it's like to go from Shia to Sunni towns, check out Michael's current post at A Day In Iraq (www.adayiniraq.blogspot.com)
V. also tells the story of how they are trying to convince IA and IP that there really is a purpose to taking aim at a target and hitting what they're aiming at. He says for the most part Iraqis spray the general area with 30 rounds -- and whether they hit the bad guy (or bystanders) or not is all Allah's will. They are amazed when the Americans take aim and drop a terrorist at 200 yards... then they turn to the Iraqis and exclaim, "Allah's will." V. says he thinks a lot is that in the "old" Iraq, people were so afraid of the IP and Saddam's men, that they never had to shoot... or if they shot it was from point blank range at their victims. To be fair, he says that some IA and IP are getting the message and that most of the IP and IA are dedicated to a new Iraq. They just aren't very good shots. He did assure us that it is way better than when we first started training them and they improve every day -- in number and accuracy...
He did say that the people are generally accepting if not outright supportive of the troops... even if they still want the Coalition soldiers out as soon as possible but at the same time virtually all acknowledge that a presence in Iraq is still necessary. (Sounds strikingly like American politics and current events, no?) He said we are making lots of progress and he tells me it's like learning a new math concept -- you struggle, you listen, you learn a little, and then one day BAM!! the light comes on, it all falls into place and NOW they get it. He says we belong there for now, but it will be good when they get to all come home.
He says R. (another of my Guys) has been especially terrible at communicating with his folks, so they have taken to sending him "form" and "fill in the blank" style letters -- which the other guys think are HILARIOUS...
It was really great to see V. again and very hard to say goodbye to him a second time!
M. (another Guy) extended his leave home to see if he could convince his wife to attend counseling sessions to save their marriage, but she would have none of it... but since he refused to grant her the divorce, she now has to wait until he returns home after his deployment to continue the proceeding (you can't maintain a divorce or any other court action against a deployed service member). He recently returned to Iraq. He tells me a small part hopes she will reconsider over the rest of the deployment, but a part of him knows that the marriage is over. His greatest concern is for their very young son...
And with the latest promotion, all of My Guys have been promoted since their deployment in January (HOOAH Guys!!)
And I'm more than a little curious at this missive from the FRG (family readiness group) about a meeting later this week:
I am forwarding this information for a x-xx Battalion Meeting. I have been told that it is of great importance and lots of updated and important information will be distributed with regards to the deployment. As stated, the FRG meeting will include the entire x-xx battalion so please try to make arrangements so you can be there. Thank you,
There has been a lot of buzz around about the redploy next year, so it will be interesting to hear what the "importnat information" is -- considering that this is the first full battalion FRG meeting since they deployed in January. Not living near the base, it's impossible to be there for the meeting and they have not made provision for conference calling or webcasting for those in remote areas... (it is a HUGE group we're talking here...) So we have to wait for an email in the days following the meeting... aarrggghhh.
And this week our son leaves his FOB for his R&R journey to the U.S. and I can hardly keep up with the emails and IMs from his friends and our friends who all want to be able to see him and take him to dinners and lunches and such... He should arrive in New York 3-1/2 days after he departs Iraq... I will sleep easier just knowing he is not in Iraq... better when I know he is stateside... and the best yet when he is back under our roof... As I told my aunt, it will just be a shame that I have to send him back for a year...