Sunday, September 04, 2005

Not Enough Sandbags

Since the day I joined the Army, I have been doing one of really only two things. I came to realize this through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You see, we have had the opportunity to do so much, yet we keep falling so very short.

I Remember When I was at DLI (the Defense Language Institute) in Monterey California. It was beautiful there and I spent my days learning. I was learning such an interesting subject, and from such wonderful people. Arabic, that is how I spent my days. There was one Syrian, one Palestinian, and two Iraqi teachers. These people were wonderful and taught me so much, both about the Arab culture and about the language. It was during the end of my language training that I was called very early in the morning by a friend of mine who said turn on the TV. Numb is how I felt all that day as I watched the horror of September 11 unfold minute by minute. Every one of us soldiers wished we were there helping our fellow Americans.

I missed Afghanistan as well. I was busy training in Texas, where I learned the other aspects of my job (the non language aspects) and by the time I was at my final destination I already knew where I was going... You see for the whole first half of my enlistment I was training. I realize that we train for War so bear with me here. Training was all I had done, and I missed the War against those responsible for the atrocity that was 9/11. I was bound for a different place. A place that had little to do with 9/11.

At this place, you know of as Iraq and so many know of only as hell, I did the second thing. I was there the day of the invasion. In fact I was a part of it. I crossed the border only a few hours after the attack started and did so in my chemical gear. We fought and destroyed many, many people. I partook in War. It didn't end when we reached Baghdad. For 2 months I was there amongst the Iraqis every day, and when we were told we were going home all of us were ecstatic. We started our re-deployment briefings consisting of how to control yourself and not kill your spouse (in reality that was what the class was about but it was worded with much more political correctness), medical briefings about possible malaria cases, and many others.

You might wonder how I found myself in Fallujah a week after all those briefings that we took in what was then our base in Baghdad inside the Ministry of the Interior. Well, we had to take over this place from another unit who was too small and who hadn't just fought during the invasion. We took over operations from them because we were good at aggression. I spent my days in Fallujah and the surrounding places, like Abu Graybe (not the prison but the city), Al Khandaria, and the Jordanian hospital. There we all honed our skills of War.

Those were the two things that occupied my entire time in the Army (over 5 years, modest for some, yet quite a while for others who have never been to war). I was either training or at War.

Now I want to clarify two points before I go on. First I want to explain that I have met some really great Iraqis here in Iraq, and that I have done many good things for those that I could (I have never just gone out killing). The second point I want to clarify brings us full circle. You are probably cursing me right now, wishing you could yell into my face how soldiers are SUPPOSED to train then fight in Wars, and of course I can't and won't disagree with you (I am not a conscientious objector). However, I do want to interject something into your rant at me. We are more than just some trained War machines, we are citizens who have sworn to protect America. We are the ones (both active duty soldiers like myself and national guard and reserve) who could have been there helping those in the Gulf Region. We are the ones who should have already found and captured Bin Ladden in Afghanistan.

So many want to know why I came back to Iraq, even though I have been involuntarily extended (stop-lossed) and I don't believe in the War here. I came because I do honor my country and the contract I have signed (even if my enlistment time is not honored by the Department of Defense). When I enlisted back in 2000 it was to serve the American people in their time of need. Like so many others here in Iraq who feel so bogged down, I wish I could be there in Louisiana helping those who so desperately need us right now. Perhaps if we were home we could have saved more lives, filled more sandbags, and brought peace to the city. I am sorry that I can not be there. From the bottom of my heart I pray for all of you who have been affected by this storm.

From a soldier in Iraq to the American people,

Sgt Zachary Scott-Singley


t3l3c0 (Spaniard friend) said...

Impressive. I have liked it very much.

phinky said...

Thank you explaining the complexity of what being a soldier is. Civilians who have never served don't get it.

Snag said...

I think that was one of the major reasons I didn't re-enlist for the third time. I trained for war and I saw potential fights that I thought were justified (Rwanda comes to mind - we just loved the French too much to interfere in their little debacle). But we weren't fighting them or even training for them except IFOR. After reading Alvin Toffler's War/Anti-war and Third Wave, I had begun discussing as far back as '93 or '94 with anyone who would listen, the need to streamline our forces and gear our efforts toward Low Intensity Conflict (Counter insurgency and Terrorism Counter-action). I knew an effective effort wasn't going to require a full scale invasion with all the cost and loss of life (IFOR showed us how it could be done on a large scale). At the time, I felt there was the understanding in the pentagon at the time of the need to retool (again, as demonstrated by Bosnia and Kosovo), but at the field level there was little interest.
After a couple of jaunts and a lot of wargames, I let my time run out in '98. We were the very type of unit for the type of war we were looking at in the future (which has become all too real) yet locally they still wanted to fight the Soviets at Fulda Gap (Germany). 2000 only saw the return of the simple minded, war profiteers retake the helm. Shalikashvili and Clark out. Meyers, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in.
And all that down time! Sitting around waiting for some 19 year, old-school, cold warrior joker trying to get his numbers in so he can make 20 year letter without modernizing his thinking.
We could have at least been out helping the community. Hell, if we weren't actually training for realistic modern war, I would have at least been happy clearing vacant lots and building playgrounds.
I did, however, try to train individually as many troops as I could get my hands on to be better warrior/thinkers and not just another old school meathead (cannon fodder). Any monkey can pull a trigger and catch a round, but traditionally American forces have been better than that. I hope that if any of them are still in, they're safe.
(As a side note, I remember reading one German General complaining that the problem with fighting American forces was their unpredictability. That's because they were independent thinkers who would ditch doctrine in a second if the situation called for it. Foreign armies have been so lock step in their doctrine if the situation changed they were slow to respond, but American troops would call bullshit when they saw it. WWII was a generation of New Deal, depression era, union labor folks who just wanted to fight fascists and imperialists then get back home. Neo-cons again venerate the Disneyland image of these folks, but hate what they stood for(every single one of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunt and uncles served in some capacity...factories or fighting...and the ones still living are all disgusted by GWB). Afterward, the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned of took over and marketed ugly, meaningless wars to a population hooked on televised, synthetic, commercialized reality.)
But I digress (again). I guess if we actually helped Americans, it would cut into Halliburton's bottom line.

Anonymous said...

only tragedy BushCo seems to recognize is Bush's sinking political standing. They reach a new low. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) reports on BushCo faking levee repairs for a photo-op:

[T]he greatest disappointment [regarding the federal response] stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young and old -
deserve far better from their national government.

Dutch viewer Frank Tiggelaar writes:

There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time. The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

these are the words of a us senator and a german tv crew: its all faked for bush's photo op of his visit to the disastor in louisiana. this is what we have come to. this is what are leaders are. god help us

Kate said...

Zach, I think our ideal of America has proven to be a farce. This administration is no different than the PRI of Mexico who pilfered the government coffers, handed out contracts to friends, and oppressed its people. Our government is made up of a bunch of mobsters. They hire their incompetent friends to do the most important jobs so they will hand out contracts to their friends, further enriching the rich at the expense of the nation. They truly don't give a damn about America or Americans. They only care about money.

I've become so incredibly cynical this week, seeing a city I lived in just weeks ago lay in ruin, my former neighbors and friends abandoned and left to die. I would expect such things in the third world where the governments care about their own pocketbooks, not the people they are supposedly governing. The shroud has been lifted and our government's grotesque heart has been exposed. These people running our government are the animals. They are heartless.

Our only hope is for this administration to be impeached, all of its cabinet and directors fired. They are corrupt, callous, and worse, criminally negligent. This has been a crime against humanity. They have got to go.

Stay safe, Zach. Take care. We need you here to help us. It's too much.

Hurria said...

"This has been a crime against humanity."

It is only the latest of many crimes against humanity committed by the Bush regime. It is a tragic, shameful, horrible thing. Maybe this is what it will take to finally wake up the American people by exposing once and for all the true nature of the government they have volunatarily chosen for themselves - twice! (They say people get the government they deserve. I don't agree with this across the board, but it is certainly very true in the case of governments that are freely elected by the people.)

The Bush regime has created in Iraq a purely and willfully man-made human catastrophe of monumental proportions that permeates every aspect of Iraq's physical, geographical, political, social, and cultural structure. I will not live long enough to see Iraq recover from "liberation American style", and neither may my children. Now, as a result of greed, cronyism, criminal self-absorption, and spectacular incompetence Bush and his regime have allowed to unfold in their own country a monumental catastrophe of natural origin. And Bush fiddled while New Orleans drowned - after all, he needs to balance work with pleasure like anyone else, I guess.

Will they pay for any of this? Not on your life! Not in a country where lying about a sexual escapade with a mutually consenting adult is considered an impeachable offense, and deliberately lying and bullying the Congress, the nation, and the world into a war of aggression is considered excusable, if not laudable by so many.

Even in the extremely unlikely event that Bush and his government ARE impeached, it will not be worth the still uknown thousands of deaths, the near completely destruction of one city, and indeed of an entire region, and the utterly unnecessary and unspeakable horror experienced by the tens of thousands who did not receive the assistance they needed before or after the storm.

Snag said...

Very well put.

Anonymous said...

Just one thing Hurria, we did not elect him twice...The first time he didn't win but the PR machine was already spinning and then 9/11 happened, and all questions of his legitimacy vanished into thin air...Don't ask me how after 4 years of him people thought he could actually do the job. The issue of homosexual marriage and a bunch of extra right wingers voting was probably/sadly the big reason he got in.

Kate said...

That's right, Hillary. The man was not elected in 2000. He was a thief then and he's a thief now.

Hurria, I agree with you completely. It's not the first of his crimes against humanity, but I hope it's his last. I worry like you, though, that nothing will come of this either. Most Americans are asleep. They don't see a connection between politics and actions. It's incredibly ignorant. They don't blame Bush for his failures, just point to the failures themselves and laud Bush for his "leadership," whatever the hell that means now. It's complete insanity. They treat him as if he were a god to be worshipped, not as the incompetent, arrogant man that he is.

He and his administration should be held accountable for these crimes and sent to jail. They deserve nothing more.

Alain said...

There is no "French debacle" in Rwanda. France has no specific link with that country, which is a former Belgian, not French, colony. No French troops were localized in Rwanda. The massacre of Tutsis by Hutus is a terrible tragedy, and nobody in the world reacted. It's a shame that we should all share. Unfortunately it's not the only one (Red khmers in Cambodia, etc. etc.).

Great post. Take care.

Snag said...

Sorry to differ and I don't want to stray off topic but there is evidence that French troops (elements of the 1st Parachute Regiment) trained the Interahamwe (Hutu extremists)just prior to the genocide (France's expeditions in Africa seem not unlike our own activities in Central America). While I'm fairly certain France did not intend on the bloody rampages, it goes to show that any of our governments are capable of making monsters.

Alain said...

Well, Tutsis have been killed mostly with machetes. Don't think any training from the French army has been needed to perform that tragedy.
But anyway, I totaly agree with you, on the attitude of France and all former colonial powers in Africa (and Asia, and Middle-East...), and on the fact that "any of our governments are capable of making monsters". Alas.

Julie said...

"Like so many others here in Iraq who feel so bogged down, I wish I could be there in Louisiana helping those who so desperately need us right now."

Don't worry, Sgt. Although you probably don't get to see it on CNN, people all over America are stepping up and taking care of those who so desperately need it in the wake of storm. Let us bear this burden-- you have enough to deal with right now-- and know that while 'the government' may not have its shit together, the American people will take care of business. I hope we make you proud.

Be safe--


Kristen said...

Hurria said...
Not on your life! Not in a country where lying about a sexual escapade with a mutually consenting adult is considered an impeachable offense, and deliberately lying and bullying the Congress, the nation, and the world into a war of aggression is considered excusable, if not laudable by so many.

THANK YOU!!!! All the hard core repubs are so quick to judge a man who did what so many other men all over the world had done and lied about it in a lapse of judgement. Yet they turn their backs on the consitently bad decisions made by the leader they elected and supported. Lets put billions of dollars into the Space program. Lets cut funding in schools yet impose the "No child left Behind" act. What a surprise to all the seniors that voted for him when he shared their values, then turned his back on them by proposing abolishing social security( nto that I'm against that). When I look back at all the good Clinton had done for our economy and how he was sent to the chopping block over something he did in his free time, how quickly we forget about one of the best administrations America had ever seen over an affair, it makes me sick. How he was grilled over a marajuana incident from his youth, yet Bush had a cocaine problem. And that Bush had done FAR worse in his first term than Bill did in 2, yet he was elected not once, but twice. Then after the fact Americans have the gall to whine and complain about how Bush is such a bad president. Its the epitome of American ideology. "Its not MY fault..."
This hurricane hit and so many people are sitting back on their butts refusing to help because most of the stranded people could have left. Those are the same people who turned their backs on the tsunami victims. Yet they will be the first to cry out for help when tragedy strikes them because they are so much more deserving. In my personal opinion, this is just the beginning of America's comeupance. It is proving what a fair weather president we have elected and we are getting what we deserve for allowing him to tear apart other nations at his whim. This is only the beginning. How will we react when someone sets off nuke in a big city because we didn't put enough funding into border patrol to prevent them from smuggling it in. Its high time we spend less time worrying about what happens in other countries and start caring more about what is going on in our own.

Anonymous said...

Get ready for a new batch of recruits as the military recruiters decend upon the Katrina evacuation centers. Would not surprise me if the recruiters threaten to have assistance cut from those who do not enlist. Mark my words.

-roamer in mich

banana said...

we wish you guys were here helping us out, too.

i heard that the 500 troops stationed in iraq were sent to louisiana. this came out moments after Bush said, "heck! we have enough troops to handle both iraq and louisiana!"

on another note, it's
interesting that Bush forgot to mention the troops we have in afghanistan. i guess because no one in the media talks about afghanistan anymore, bush doesn't think it's important to remind us of the "progress" going on there, like he does with iraq, and now louisiana.
interesting that liberals don't protest our presence in afghanistan but we question our presence in iraq.

Kristen said...

Oh yeah Roamer. Could you see it now. "Just think (insert poor victims name here), the Army could be paying for you to get your life back together. Just sign your life away for X amount of years and we'll give you a nice fat bonus( taxed at 28%) to buy another house and your family will get free medical care( you get what you pay for)." Its a recruiter's dream I tells ya!

Julie said...

banana-- the troops that went from Iraq to Louisiana were Louisiana NG who were due to redeploy in a matter of weeks anyway. Their redeployment was moved up so they could get home to help their families. Some Mississippi NG may also be able to redeploy ahead of schedule, which makes sense.

Airmen who were deployed for OIF3 from Keesler AFB in Mississippi are also being redeployed to the States ahead of schedule for the same reason.


d.K. said...

I just found your blog through the Ignorant Hussy's blog. Reading through it for 20 or 30 minutes, I can already tell that you're part of the best of America. There are a lot of people, like you, who are working to "fix" the Gulf Coast disaster, so don't worry too much about that - you probably already have enough on your plate. Appreciate your honest commentary.

Terrible said...

That's a great post zack! Don't worry too much about being here, like d.k. says you've got enough there to worry about. And it doesn't look like there was any lack of hands to help only that the puppetmasters kept the hands from getting to help. Things are coming together now though for those abandoned by FEMA. We'll get it done sarge!

Anonymous said...

Good Post

Charles said...

For 20 Ohio Marines
[A Tribute from Butler, Pa.]

Did you feel the wave of sympathy
surging across the Pennsylvania line
and out to you,
the families left behind?

We know.
For we saw your boys
here among ours,
in our streets jogging,
in cars, in shopping malls,
in our churches, at picnics,
and High School proms,
and not too long ago
on the Fourth
as lads on Main Street
watching soldiers pass,
and even then they straightened
when the flag unfurled.

We saw them at gates
embracing parents
wives and families,
grandparents too
and friends who couldn't let go—
turning then to leave
with head held high,
yet looking back
at the ramp,
one last time.

Twenty, they reported, had fallen—
snatched from us, from us now so far.
We weep with you.
For yours are ours.

Sgt. Salazar said...

The west coast has many units which could deploy to parts of the US in cases of emergency. In fact we keep hearing of the OP-TEMPO but never get called. Reserve units and Guard units should be mobilized and deployed for disaster relief. It would give many troops real world experience and a greater appreciation for their fellow countrymen.

Anonymous said...

ach, I don't read many blogs but someone should read yours to President Bush.