Mom to Moms (and her son, of course)
I haven't had time to read through any recent postings but I wanted to say that with my 15 minutes of free computer time I can see that Philip is still responding honestly. I miss him and I miss reading everyone's messages and thoughts. We have hiked about 330 miles on the Appalachian Trail and head back into the woods tomorrow.
Philip, I love you.
Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms out there.
Sue Buak (Philip's Mom)
Request for guest bloggers
As the "Camp Lancer Weblog community" includes more than just soldiers at Camp Lancer, I think it's appropriate that other folks be able to use more than Comments to make their thoughts known. So, if you have written, or would like to write, something that might fit in to the conversation here, please send it directly to me -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- for consideration.
Also, as time permits, I'm going to be working on this site's navigation. Let me know what you'd like to see here.
Bayji: Learning a new rule set
6 May 2004 2344 hours I have not written enough details pertaining to the local population in order for anyone to have an image of the condition in which they live. My perspective of Iraq is drawn from fourteen feet in the air, the turret of my Bradley. I do not have a lot, if any, actual contact with the populace. I only know what I see during missions, and hear from the dismounted Infantrymen.
There is not a lot of trash lining the streets. The Iraqis in Bayji do not have a lot of prepackaged products that produce garbage. If you consider destroyed vehicles, and scrap metal as trash; then the country is filthy. Little huts for merchants are built out of the scrap metal. Awnings for shops are built from sheet metal with unserviceable car parts to weigh them down. The shops I have seen contain the same products. Bottled beverages in crates, knock-off cigarettes, and lots of fresh vegetables do not seem to be in short supply. All of the shopkeepers are male. I have never actually seen anyone make a purchase from a stand. When we drive through the city, groups of four or five males sit around some of the shops. It is an uncomfortable feeling to gaze upon them. I wonder what they talk about?
Everyone stops to watch us as we pass. The men just stare back at us, expressionless. How does their economy work? It seems that there are a lot of men just milling around the city all day. There are no movie theatres, shopping malls, Starbucks, bowling alleys, pool halls, dance clubs, or the like. I am such a typical American. Have I been bred to believe that in order for an economy to work there has to be a large entertainment network? I understand that I work for money. The money I make is spent on products that advertising makes me feel that I cannot live without. Countless people support each other as our money exchanges hands. I think the average person knows what I am trying to say. My point is this; everyone seems to be sitting around waiting for something. I wonder what these men were doing before Saddam was removed from power. Too deep, my brain is shutting down.
Back to describing things. The children come running when we drive by. A vast majority of them give us thumbs up or peace signs as we pass. Most of them are all smiles. I am referring to about eight years old and down. My Platoon does not give out MRE's and candy to the children. We understand that it is a huge security risk to allow children close to combat operations. It would be fairly accurate for me to assume that the rest of our task force is in the same practice. When we enter a sector where soldiers have been giving gifts to the kids; they immediately surround and suffocate us with "mista, mista, give me MRE". That is not the case where we operate. It would be catastrophic to believe for one second that an enemy would not fire his RPG with kids in his line if fire.
The kids that are older than 10 are dangerous. They are old enough to know how to aggravate us. In one of the areas we operate, they have become a nuisance. First they will approach us and ask for MRE's. We will not give them away. If you give them a bite, they will bring their whole family to get a four-course meal. After we shoo them away, they will perch themselves in our areas of overwatch. They have even thrown rocks at some of the dismounts. Our men handle the attacks very delicately. It is very important to realize that at any moment a child might throw a grenade given to him by an enemy. As sick as that may sound, it is a very real threat. They can also distract us from an actual enemy threat if the situation is allowed to develop. Enough on that.
Most of the kids walk around barefoot. There feet are tough like little leather booties. Their clothes are dirty and tattered. It is with an uneasy conscience that I turn my head from them. They wander the areas immediately outside of their homes during the hours of daylight. I do not know if any kind of formal education exists outside of the larger cities. At the same time, why would it? (note: I know why education is important from my perspective, but look at it from theirs)
Most of the homes are either one or two story high stone wall structures with flat roofs. A large water tank stands on the edge of the roof of most houses. Water trucks fill them. The houses have tall stone walls surrounding the property line. They are mostly all gated with huge metal doors. I can see inside the compounds as we drive by. Very few houses actually have furniture of any kind. The dismounts told me that most searches only take a few seconds because there is so little to sift through. They sleep on thick blackest laid out on the floor. The blankets are piled in corners of the rooms during the day. It is a rare day to find a house with pictures on the walls, or tables and chairs. The type of kitchens we are used to with microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, wall clocks, and a huge assortment of appliances does not exist here. It is a completely different way of life than anything I have seen before.
The women do wear burqua's everywhere. I have never seen a woman in the front seat of a four-door car unless there were four women in the backseat. If she is the only passenger, she sits in the backseat alone. Forget about driving, ladies. As of yet I have not seen a woman drive anything except a whip to a mule. I have seen men riding their asses while herding sheep, but the women walk next to the donkey. I have not seen any form of physical abuse towards women in our presence. We pass small groups of women working the fields together; seldom is a man present.
There are countless flocks of sheep in the countryside. The sheepherders wear dresses and appear very dirty. They usually wave at us or give thumbs up. I believe that it is a reflex mechanism so they feel like we won't shoot them. Most of them maintain standoff from the roadside, smart move. It is humorous to see the ones that have jackasses. It looks like the herder is holding his feet up to keep from hitting his heels while riding. Considering the amount of sheep, it would seem that wool is a huge industry here. Huge flat bed trucks strapped with massive piles of sheep's wool drive by us daily. They smell incredibly horrible. When we are downwind of either the herd, or an oncoming truck; the smell is unmistakable and persistent. If you have read my account of how the oil pollutes this country; you might assume that this country smells undesirable. It does.
1st Armored Divisions stay has been extended here for a few months. I cannot even begin to comprehend how that must feel. I do not even want to speculate how I will react if I am placed in that situation next year. My respect goes out to those men. I know that it will take some great leadership to lead those men back into the fire. The government better make good with the extra $1000 a month they promised the Joe's.
My mother and Pete are about 300 miles North of the Appellation Trail start point in Georgia. I am so proud of the fact that my Mom is out there accomplishing her goal. It takes a lot of guts to walk from Georgia to Maine. I would like to end this entry with best wishes for them.
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SSG Philip Jarvis
Don't try this at home
1 May 2004 2012 hours
I ranted earlier today. Most of what I actually wrote ended up dying with the delete button; better off that way. For all I know, the "soldier on Lancer" could be a young Joe in an Infantry Platoon that goes out on missions every day. I have contemplated over why I got so bent around the axel by the comments. I think that it is important for me not to try and influence anyone's opinion on a specific subject by saying things I do not experience first hand. If I describe things that happen and I am not present, you can trust that I gathered as many facts from first hand sources as possible. Anyways, back to my story.
It has come to my attention via CNN that everyone is very aware of the fighting in Fallujah. I bet that the American citizens back in the continental United States have access to more information on that subject
than I do. I find it very interesting that the media has provided so much coverage of that subject. As a matter of fact, it makes me ponder. If I were in the United States, sitting at home watching Headline News on the telly; would I believe that the entire country of Iraq is in violent turmoil? Maybe. Anyways, our sector is relatively quiet. There are no nightly firefights, and the number of indirect fire missions has
significantly declined over the past few weeks. There was a period at the beginning of April when Improvised Explosive Devices were found every day in our sector. Due to a large number of raids and an increase in security measures, the number of attacks on our Task Force has been reduced. We have
captured several Anti-Coalition Forces known enemies. We conducted a successful raid two nights ago that netted a key target. Our company conducted the operation in conjunction with Special Forces. Our teamwork and ability to quickly execute complex tasks was instrumental in the accomplishment of the mission.
Ever since I was a young boy, I have enjoyed big things. Maybe that is normal for men. My job comes with several perks. One of my favorites is the Hummer. Most people know that as Arnold's vehicle of choice. Few know that it has a seemingly bottomless independent wishbone suspension combined
with a high torque power train. Even fewer know how much fun it is to barrel down a dirt road at 50 miles per hour.
When I was a Specialist, I drove a Hummer for the Battalion S-3 of 1/26 Infantry. That was back in 1995 and 96. I deployed to Bosnia and enjoyed every opportunity to roll out the gate. The roads were rough, and the danger of land mines was always on our minds. Every route was different. Some roads had long tunnels that had been cut into the bases of huge mountains. They were unfinished on the inside. Huge ice stalagmites hung from the top. (Note: I do not know which goes up or down, stalactites or stalagmites) It was scary to drive through those caverns; no one knew if they were safe or not. People always said that the guys before us made it that way; it must be safe. I took that as a reason to cross my fingers.
Another route was cut into the edge of a chasm. The tires of the Hummer were inches away from the edge. In some places, the water was flowing 50 meters beneath the road. I always found it entertaining to drive down the roads with people who rarely got out in sector. There were makeshift bridges that did not look safe to walk over, much less cross with an up-armored Hummer. I am talking about rusty beams with boards laid on top. Those times I would just gun it once the truck was half way across. I drove 8,000 miles in 6 months. That may not sound like a lot; you had to be there to appreciate it. My truck, HQ-30, was awesome. If it got too steep; just throw it in low gear and mash the gas. I believe a Hummer could climb a wall if it was given ample traction. For all the bashing I did, I was not completely satisfied. I never got to ram a gate. Fast forward to our mission two nights ago. We conducted a raid on a house.
I will not describe the details of how we conducted that operation. I will tell you this. I was the commander of my Hummer when the Special Forces soldier walked up to me, pointed at a location and said, "take that
truck and put it through that gate". My driver was a little apprehensive about the physics involved with driving a 7,000-pound truck through a huge metal gate. Without hesitation, I jumped behind the wheel and started the engine. I lined up the truck for a "dynamic" entry. The gate was about a foot and a half wider on each side than my truck; it was made of solid sheets of metal. There was packed dirt before a twelve-inch curb that formed a ramp to the gate. Hindsight is 20/20. I floored the truck when I was about twenty feet away. The SF guy said at the After Action Review that he was smiling as I drove by because he was thinking, "holy shit, this guy is going to breach all the way into the house!" That did not happen. My
mind did realize that I was moving at a decent clip, as the front tires hit the curb. Fear and anxiety made my palms sweat as I imagined a parked car blocking the entrance to the gate from the inside. Crash! I hit the brakes simultaneously with the impact. The metal gate was ripped off the hinges that connected it to a rock wall. The truck slid to a stop, the gate did not. It flew a few more feet and slammed to the ground. Before the gate finished landing I heard the SF guy yelling to "keep moving". So I floored it again. This time I was heading straight for two parked cars. I saw in the mirror that my ass was through the hole. I hit the brakes; the truck tires were on the gate. It was like riding a 7,000-pound sled as I headed towards the cars. The gate finally dug into the ground and stopped us mere inches from the cars. It was awesome. Everything else also went in accordance with our plan and we caught the bad guy. It was a very
successful mission. No injuries. I learned from my experience; actual technique is used in combination with brute force during vehicle breach operations.
My point is this. My unit is out in sector conducting combat operations. We are catching Anti Coalition Forces operating in our AO. We have met very little resistance during operations. Every time we go out of the wire, we are getting better at what we do. Outlaw soldiers always place security as their highest priority. We are all going to go home. The conflict in Fallujah does not represent the level of violence in the entire country. Everyone is not fighting for their life over here; only their sanity.
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SSG Philip Jarvis
Rant: Different points of view
[ editor's note: I know a rant when I see one :-) ]
31 Apr 2004 1519 hours
I am not in the habit of giving off the cuff remarks. I find that when I actually speak aloud about something I find incorrect or blatantly ignorant; I tend to explode and the colorful metaphors replace actual words that explain what my point is. This is one of those times, and I will keep it civil. Who is "soldier of Lancer" who posted on this BLOG in response to "mike's mom"? At least have the cahones to put your name on your postings, like I do. Philip Stephen Jarvis, born on 26 June 1973, in Plattsburgh, New York. I am a Staff Sergeant in the Outlaws Platoon. I have a dog named Saba and a Harley-Davidson Road King named Natasha. You can always find me on the FOB by standing at the main gate. I will wave to you as I leave and return from combat missions.
Anyways, I have never actually sat down and read my BLOG as posted on the net, or the comments. I write what I feel like writing; my Father is computer savvy and authenticates my postings. It's not that I don't appreciate the posts, I really am a guy who likes accolades. I just do not want to fall into the pitfall of writing for an audience. If someone tells me that they like the way I describe Orange Juice, then it might influence me to only write about Orange Juice. But I might feel like writing about this great casserole I just slapped together. You following me? Good.
Anyhow, my Commander told me that the BLOG is really good. That made me happy. He told me that there are other Blogs out there that are not accurately telling the story of the conditions here. Then I read on the net that Iraqis do not hate Americans and are just "tired of waiting at a checkpoint for 3 hours, just to get thier car searched". There are virtually no checkpoints in sector that are run by Americans that last for 3 hours, in the same location. Next, an infinately smaller number than virtually none had to wait three hours. I have never seen anyone wait three hours for anything, except the phone line on the FOB. If any Iraqis ever sat in a checkpoint for three hours, the number is so small that even word of mouth would not have any influence on why they hate us. They do hate us, a large percentage wants us dead, a larger wants us gone. I cannot give you an accurate number, I am not a Gallup Poll member, and these people don't have telephones at home. I am out of time write now, I waited three hours for my name to be called for the phone center.
SSG Philip Jarvis
Dad -- editor of this blog -- responds:
First paragraph: I allow posting anonymously for good reason -- privacy. And I hope that allows people to come forward who might otherwise remain silent. Putting your real name on a post doesn't necessarily tell me you've got big nuts. On the other hand, at the end of the day, I'm not the one who has to take questions from a military chain of command. Know what I mean?
Second paragraph: I have severely limited resouces to authenticate, validate, or vet comments. I do very little editing. If I have the slightest concern about OPSEC, that comes out of the post. If I feel the post is more of a personal rant, it doesn't get ppublished at all. It's up to the reader to filter the content for meaning.
Third paragraph: Hmmmmm... You report that your Commander told you there are other Blogs out there that are not accurately telling the story of the conditions. You follow that with:
Then I read on the net that Iraqis do not hate Americans and are just "tired of waiting at a checkpoint for 3 hours, just to get thier car searched".For me "on the net" is someplace other than this blog, but you quoted -- actually, you misquoted -- from a Comment to this blog. Here's what the accurate quote looks like:
"what they don't like is sitting at a checkpoint for 3 hours just to get their vehichle searched."The difference in what "soldier at lancer" wrote, and how you made meaning of it, and how I made meaning of both are worth pointing out. I'm seeing two different points of view, at least.
From reading "soldier at lancer" I get the feeling that though Iraqis have mixed feelings about our presence -- especially at Lancer, where both of you live and work -- most Iraqis don't hate us. They are simply, justifiably tired of the occupation. The sitting-at-a-checkpoint-for-3-hours is illustrative of the stressors, not necessarily an example of what's going on at particular sector like Lancer, controlled by Americans.
From reading your "rant", I'm seeing a lot of reference to Iraqis as "they". "They" means who? "They" can't possible mean each and every Iraqi. Yes, there are Iraquis that hate you, but not all of them do. Yes, there are Iraqis that want to kill you, but not all of them want that. Yes, there are Iraqis that want you gone, but I want you home, too. (But not before your work is done.)
Let's get better at identifying and stopping bad guys who do bad things. At the same time, let's get better at understanding the Iraqi people, while finding ways for the Iraqi people to better understand us.
Start here: Iraq the Model. And it won't take you 3 hours.