Field Report

Field Report #1:

Greyhawk said he wanted to hear some reports. I've said below that the violence is a shadow of what it was a year ago. About this time last year, AQI cells south of Baghdad were attacking checkpoints with technicals (i.e., a civilian truck with a heavy weapon mounted on it, DSHK-type machineguns in this case). They crashed one and burned the town of Hawr Rajab, in retaliation for their loss in a 24-hour battle with the then-new Sons of Iraq movement in that area. Arab Jabour was Indian country. All that is gone.

A year ago, we were setting up new combat outposts in division-level operations, led by hardened US combat forces. Today, we're handing over those outposts to Iraqi units, who are not just 'in the lead' but doing the heavy lifting in many places.

Back in September, I talked with Colonel Caraccilo, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne. His brigade had replaced 2/0 MTN when it came to Iraq. Later, 2/3 HBCT left, and 3/101 assumed their battlespace as well as what they held from 2/10. He told me that his brigade was leaving soon, and would be replaced only by a transition team of about 1,000 soldiers: a battalion-sized element, replacing what had been the territory of two brigades only a year before.

The Order of Battle is a little hard to discern from over there, but I can tell you that is just what happened. Now the real force in the area is the Iraqi Army, with the transition team advising and assisting. 3/101 AASLT did its RIP/TOA with the 17th Iraqi Army -- not a US unit.

My job over here is to coordinate between our Human Terrain Team and the civil-military operations and information operations teams. My focus is on helping the military to engage the tribes and tribal culture, a task made far, far easier by the extraordinary legacy left to me by the soldiers of the 2/10 and 3/101. They took the job seriously when they were here, which makes it easy for us today. The others here currently also take it seriously -- the Army understands it is the real work of the COIN effort, and has made arrangements. We have Arabists and translators, social scientists and historians to back up the soldiers and officers of the remaining American forces.

Is it worth it? The Dora district in Baghdad held an art festival this week.

A bare foot, visible only to the ankle, ascends into a black abyss as a bright yellow comet passes overhead.

The darkness in the painting represents the life that Saddam Hussein stole from Iraq and the comet the hope of peace that U.S. forces brought, says artist Farouk F. Rafeik.

Rafeik’s work is part of something unthinkable one year ago: an art show in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, once one of the most violent enclaves in Iraq.
We've heard a lot of things about this war and what its legacy will be: but plainly, we haven't yet heard everything there is to hear.

Angel Food

Angel Food:

Entirely by coincidence, I had a chance to eat some cookies from our friends at Soldiers' Angels. They weren't sent to me, of course, but to an NCO I work with out here. He gladly shared them out with everyone, so I started my Thanksgiving morning with some very good snickerdoodles.

Fuzzybear tells me that I have the 'Angel Bakers' to thank. So: thank you.


Happy Thanksgiving:

It's already Thanksgiving morning here in Iraq. Having been here for last Thanksgiving too, I can attest with some confidence that Uncle Sam will do his best to make sure his nephews and nieces have plenty to eat today. It may not be quite as good as Mama's turkey, but it won't be too bad, and there will be plenty of it. It's still a full day of work, of course, and some places are better than others in terms of what can be provided. Still, there is nothing that can reasonably be done that will be left undone.

We're all thankful, I think I can say with some confidence, that there is a safe place back home where our families can live and grow in peace. We're thankful that someday even the longest deployments end, and 'we go rolling home,' as the old song says.

Keep yourselves safe and happy today. Feast and be merry.

"This is not news, this is just the Marines."

Heh. Ooo-rah. Get some, you jar-heads.

(hat tip to Ace)
Nature doesn't play favorites.

Some Dinosaur saw something like this once, but a lot bigger:

This was a meteor in Edmonton, Ontario. I hear they're looking for pieces of it now.

It's a really big universe out there. Full of all sorts of things. Sleep tight.

(hat tip to Ace.)



Saturday was a productive day for me. The buck pictured above dressed out at 155 pounds. He has a nine point rack with a 20 inch spread.  I used a Remington 30-06.

Looks like the Leggett family will be eating well this year.

Beau Geste

Percival Christopher Wren wrote a once-famous book about the French Foreign Legion, set in the period when all Europe was saddled with African colonies. The introduction will sound familiar to several of you.

And across all the Harmattan was blowing hard, that terrible wind that carries the Saharan dust a hundred miles to sea, not so much as a sand-storm, but as a mist or fog of dust as fine as flour, filling the eyes, the lungs, the pores of the skin, the nose and throat; getting into the locks of rifles, the works of watches and cameras, defiling water, food and everything else; rendering life a burden and a curse.

The fact, moreover, that thirty days' weary travel over burning desert, across oceans of loose wind-blown sand and prairies of burnt grass, through breast-high swamps, and across unbridged boatless rivers, lay between him and Kano, added nothing to his satisfaction. For, in spite of all, satisfaction there was, inasmuch as Kano was rail-head, and the beginning of the first stage of the journey Home. That but another month lay between him and "leave out of Africa," kept George Lawrence on his feet.

From that wonderful and romantic Red City, Kano, sister of Timbuktu, the train would take him, after a three days' dusty journey, to the rubbish-heap called Lagos, on the Bight of Benin of the wicked West African Coast. There he would embark on the good ship Appam, greet her commander, Captain Harrison, and sink into a deck-chair with that glorious sigh of relief, known in its perfection only to those weary ones who turn their backs upon the Outposts and set their faces towards Home.

The story begins on that trip home, when two of these men of the Outposts meet and begin a long railway journey together, the Frenchman telling the Englishman a tale to pass the time until they sigh that 'glorious sigh of relief.' For those of you also passing time until you sigh that sigh yourself, you might find it a worth and interesting tale.

- Grim
One of the wiser things I have read lately:

Killing is what happens on farms. Seriously. I'm saying this as a farmer.

City people think that farms are "where life happens." Nonsense. Farming is about killing stuff. I don't even raise livestock or poultry and I have to kill stuff.

I can get crops to grow by simply putting seed in the ground. The rest of my job is to kill, kill, kill. Kill weeds. Kill insect pests. Kill vertebrate pests. Whether by herbicide, pesticides, shooting, trapping, stomping, you name it — I spend far more time killing than I do making something grow. Mother nature takes care of the growing. I have to remove the competition. There have been days when I've trapped 50+ pocket gophers and shot 100 ground squirrels - before lunch. They needed killing, and the next day, more of them were killed because they needed killing. At other times, I've shot dozens of jackrabbits at night and flung them out into the sagebrush for coyotes to eat.

And none of that starts in with helping neighbors slaughter steers, lambs, chickens, etc.

That's farming: killing. Lots of it.

- Grim