25 September 2009

Brigid's advice on gift buying....

Brigid gives good advice to men when she says "stay away from lingerie" because it IS a minefield. However, that doesn't mean you should never buy your wife something meant to be worn only so it can be taken off, but the rule is this; KNOW what fits her. Women's sizes are very confusing, so learn the difference between "juniors" and "womens" and exactly where they overlap (something about odds verses even numbers, I have to check every time I buy something too). If you can't do that DO NOT buy your wife any sort of apparel short of a scarf.

Secondly, even if you DO buy the right size (and different makers don't always agree) make sure that the fabric has some stretch to it.

How have I learned these lessons? The hard way. Luckily I have a very understanding wife who loves me and knows that I only want her to feel like the precious jewel that she is. I think she takes pity on me and gives me credit for the attempt at gift buying.

As a side note, since I've been deployed I buy my wife one dress a month online. Amazon.com probably thinks I'm a 5'2" woman who reads "Monster Hunter International" and military sci-fi. But, since I can't go shopping with my wife, spending the time with her that is so important to keeping a relationship healthy, this is the best I can do for now. The best part is that she'll snap a photo of herself in the dress and send it to me, and judging from the photos so far I've avoided "fits like tent" and "need a shoehorn to get into" trap.

24 September 2009

Hippy Idea of the Day

Marijuana might be an actual solution for sectarian violence in Iraq.

*puff* hold *wheeze* cough cough..."Habib, let us blow up some Shias!" *passes the doobie*

*puff* hold *wheeze* cough cough..."Sure thing Rajul, but first let us get some pita and hummus..."

Discuss in comments.

22 September 2009

Shave Gear Review: LION and LORD blades

Here on the FOB's there are the small shops run by local nationals where they sell everything from bootleg videos to random electronics. While browsing through one I came across two brands of double edge razor blade with which I am unfamiliar, LION and LORD, so I picked up a package of each with the rest of my purchase.

A quick trip to the inertubes later I find that LION is a South African brand, and a shave later I find that the blades perform very similarly to the low priced Walmart brand (same as the PX brand) which is also the same as American Personna blades (not to be confused with Israeli Personnas).

LORD razors had a saber on the packaging that immediately reminded me of "Wilkinson Sword Blades" and more research on the intertubes confirms that LORD blades once had an affiliation with Wilkinson even though they are made in Egypt. The LORD blades are plenty sharp, and I like the way they shave.

I also managed to pick up two tubes of a Turkish shave cream, name brand "ARKO" but I have not tried either the "Commando" or "Cool" creams. Maybe soon, I still have half a tube of Proraso to finish!

21 September 2009

Warriors

I wasn't born to roam the American plains on a pony counting coup, or across the steppe of Asia raiding with a horse bow. I have respect for warriors in nearly every society, but for a moment I want to talk about the American way of the warrior.

We get the job done. The old concepts of "honor" in battle have fallen to the dustbin of American History when a draftee Army in WWII did the job they were drafted to do, when for the first time Officer Candidate School flooded the ranks of the Officer Corps with men fighting men who didn't have a full four years of indoctrination in the "old way" of waging war. Instead of warfare as an honorable task, it became an obstacle to getting back home and living the life they wanted. And so violence became more efficient, more calculated, and a means to ending conflict.

The very nature of our Armed Forces changed. Violence has never been in and of itself honorable, and armed conflict is one of things that only a few individuals outside the norm anticipate with joy. Now it has become a job to do, a task to accomplish so that we can move on to other things.

At the end of WWI the guns fired up until the very minute of armistice, a worthless, waste of men and material. In WWII we saw total victory, no peace without victory. And to this day a large part of doctrine is achieving victory in order to achieve peace.

However, achieving victory is different for a conventional war and for an insurgency or Guerrilla
war. This final stage of Iraq is much more difficult than I ever expected it would been, and my generation has had perhaps the very best possible preparation for this job. Like children who don't want their parents help some ISF commanders push us away and try to accomplish their tasks with no assistance. It is frustrating, especially when they are not as effective as they could be.

But it is their country, and it is there security, and it is only a matter of time before assistance is gone. There probably won't be an HBO series about my time in Iraq, my service is not going down in the books with the Rangers at Point Du Hoc or Cabanatuan. But I am ok with that, taking the honorable legacy of service here and finishing it. If I leave this place more stable than it was when I arrived, that will be it's own reward.

19 September 2009

"Thunder Run" the quiet and gentle way

In Vietnam patrols would move between firebases (thunder one, thunder two) and recon by fire the sides of the route along the way. The practice came to be known as "Thunder Run".

Yesterday I made a movement between three FOB's. We never fired a shot, didn't get IED'd, no precision arms fire, no RKG-3 grenade of attacks. Things are quiet here. Most of the insurgent activity seems to be local political in nature instead of international jihadist terror networks. I've said that before, but it still seems to be the case. For everyones sake I hope that it stays that way. Northern Ireland lived with local political terror for decades without developing into an all out civil war. Maybe this is the best we can expect from Iraq.

17 September 2009

Chaplains: Faith and Religion

The "separation of Church and State" has often caused those uniformed about the true wording of the 1st Amendment to think wrongly that the position of Chaplains is unconstitutional. The actual wording is that Congress shall not establish a state religion, nor interfere with the free exercise of religion.

One of the most recognizable services provided by Army Chaplains is the religious service, which is never compulsory. One of the least recognized is the encouragement of faith. The Chaplain also serves as the Battalion (or higher) Commander's personal staff along with the Command Sergeant Major. The health and success of the unit are so directly impacted by these three people that to remove any one of them is inviting trouble.

Religion always requires more than one person, and Chaplains fill this need. But faith is what you have when you are alone. I'm not going to say that religion has nothing to do with faith, after all faith and religion do complement each other. Army Chaplains counsel soldiers of all religions in order to help them succeed in the Army and in life. They do this by encouraging strong faith and strong morals through individual and group counseling.

Religion has been called a crutch by many, but only someone at the peak of arrogance will claim to have a true objective view on "truth" and therefor have no need of faith. Faith in the presence or absence of God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a personal issue. But the ability to choose right from wrong, recognize a standard set of values and ethics, that is building up the core values of our civilization. Without Chaplains we could still have an Army, but it would be less effective.

15 September 2009

New FOB

For the first time in over two weeks I have time and access to commercial internet to write a blog post. It feels good. My family keeps in touch through social networking sights, I send emails filled with poorly worded but sincere romantic poetry to my wife. How she puts up with me I'll never know. Somewhere in those two weeks I managed to turn 30, I can only hope my 30's are as awesome as my 20's. I pity those whose lives peaked in high school.

We moved from the FOB where we received our original mission, conducting a Relief In Place (RIP) with our sister company and the very next day after that was complete conducting a RIP with the unit that the brass thought would be better suited to driving around civilians. Bye bye nice gym, bye bye martial arts classes, hello freedom away from HQ! Good trade in my opinion.

One cool thing that happened before we left, I was driven around Baqubah by a certain son of a former Alaskan Governor. Whatever faults the media has pinned on her as a mother, she raised a respectable son who is doing well in the Army. So no matter her political fate, she has succeeded as a mother and that is the toughest job I can imagine. Fatherhood is tough too, but in my limited experience watching from the outside, motherhood is tougher.

The new mission is quite similar to the old mission, but instead of securing civilians and Civil Affairs soldiers, I get to take lead dealing with an Iraqi counterpart. I've paid attention to those who have gone before and know that it takes time to build the relationships that make things happen in Iraq or other Arabic culture.

Today I met that counterpart, a middle aged man with creased brown skin and grey white hair who still retains the vigor of health, and we had a small beginning. Not a great beginning, but enough to build upon. The measure of success for me will not be in number of enemy captured or killed, but the number of times I can make this man smile and open his mind to ideas that may or may not bear fruit later.

They say here that "if God is willing" then something will happen. I hope that God blesses me and my work here, so that my men can go home safely, and that the Iraqi's I am partnered with can go home safely. This country has been ripped apart by three wars in three decades, the endless oppression of Saddam, and only now is the promise of freedom and prosperity beginning to be a fruit almost ready to pluck and enjoy. It is easy to backslide into chaos, may God grant us mercy to push forward into stability.