Vince Vaughn Visits
20 July 2004 0123 Hours
The mission tonight was quite pleasant. My Section worked for eight hours in direct sunlight performing maintenance on one of our Bradleys. We scarfed down our dinner chow and sauntered to the barracks to finally relax. Of course that was not to be a reality that would last long. We received the order to conduct a night mission. Seeing as how sleep is a luxury, and this is not a five star hotel, we prepared our transportation, cleaned our weapons again, and did our Pre-Combat Inspections. Nothing significant happened tonight while we were out, that in itself is significant. I am beginning to believe that it is my Karma, and that is the way I want it.
For a lot of the soldiers that I have the pleasure of serving with, it is very important to them to be given an opportunity to prove their mettle is of high constitution. There are men who believe that the true character of a man is measured by his actions in combat. As a result of this belief, it is considered socially acceptable to want to make contact with the enemy.
But it is a double-edged sword.
I am not a war monger, nor do I ever put that façade up. Hello, has any one read my Blog? Nevertheless, due to the lack of another target, I have become the subject of harmless ridicule from some of my peers. I have missed direct fire contact with the enemy on several occasions by only a few seconds, hours, or a shift change on guard. It is uncanny, as if I were destined to not make contact and show my valor on the field of battle. I have no problem with that. If the enemy would dare show his face on my watch, I would vanquish him from my sight and render him unable to wreak havoc. But that time has not come, and with a little bit of blumen luck, it shall remain that way.
Back to my ridicule. Apparently there was a firefight in Bayji that lasted several hours a few weeks ago. The Bradley that I previously was the Commander for was in a well chosen position. My previous wingman informed me that B15 had a vantage point which enabled that crew to inflict the most casualties to the enemy forces. It was ironic because I had predicted that the Outlaws would make contact, as a Platoon, soon after I left. I was expressing concern because I did not want any more Outlaws to become names in the Grey box of the Stars and Stripes. It is with relief that I report that there were no injuries or casualties as a result of that contact. Now my peers are razzing me because the guy I switched with "stole my thunder", as they describe it. I do not feel like anything was taken from me.
The Platoon Sergeant for the Outlaws must have felt helpless. He was on "Rest and Relaxation" Leave in Germany when the firefight occurred, I know how he must have felt, to not be able to be there with his men on the day that they needed him most, since the accident.
The other day, I talked about how my section pulls security at an Iraqi National Guard building. Yesterday, some asshole blew up a VBIED, vehicle born improvised explosive device, across the street from where we were. It was only a matter of hours after I had left there when the device detonated. Luckily the explosion was not as devastating as it was designed to be. One of our soldiers got the living shit scared out of him, but there were no Americans injured.
Vince Vaughn was here, on FOB Omaha. I did not get to meet him, I spent too many hours out in sector inspiring millionaire celebrities to use their celebrity status to come over here and make us feel better about what we are doing. Do not get me wrong, I would love to have met Vince, the actor. He teamed up with John Favreau and created a wonderful movie that has a great independent feel to it, "Made". I do not understand what it is about a movie star that makes them seem larger than life. Here is a plug for the Army, "hey Netnerds! Want to meet Vince Vaughn in person? Join the Army. We will send you to Iraq, where you will spend 365 days burning your ass off for a three minute window to see Vince Vaughn, if you're lucky."
Now seriously, I would personally like to extend my thanks to Vince for coming over here to shake the hands of United States soldiers. His performance in "Old School" is legendary and has instantly included him in the "Let me buy you a beer" club. The risk he took was real, if not elevated due to his status. My soldiers appreciated the time he took to acknowledge our sacrifice.
Back to the point of this thing. We conducted a night mission, and it was good. I saw the Milky Way for the first time in my life. I took the time to notice the night sky while we were out. The stars are so bright here. There are not any clouds to block them out either. It has not once rained on me since early May, back on FOB Summerall. I really wish it would rain.
Some of the mothers have asked me about products that provide relief from the intense heat. My Mother, Bookworm, sent me some items that are awesome. But they will wear out over time due to the intense usage they will suffer. Any items that could supplement her generosity and increase the comfort level of soldiers here, would be warmly welcomed. Pun intended. I am very interested in the "cool snap-stick" thingys and everything else cold. Thanks for your support. All donations can be sent to me. I am pretty good at sharing, escpecially for a single child. Thank you so much for caring.
SSG Philip Jarvis
1st Battalion, 18th Infantry
FOB Danger, Iraq 09392
(note: our mail comes to Omaha from Danger)
SPC Rowell and Vince Vaughn
Superman needs support
I am Critt Jarvis, the father of SSG Jarvis. I manage this site for Philip, thus I set up email to come to me.
Going forward I will refer to your subject as Superman.
You gave me one example of "bureaucratic nightmares." For me to help, I need the whole list. Superman and family are dealing with a system problem. The list will illustrate what we are dealing with, and lead us to an appropriate intervention.
Here is how to help me help you:
1) Meet with Superman and his family at the hospital.
2) Ask this question: Imagine the bureaucratic nightmares are removed. What does the final outcome for Superman and family look like?
3) Don't leave the hospital until Superman and family have consensus on the final outcome.
4) Send me the list.
5) Tell your editor that you're about to get a personal demonstration of power blogging. (I strongly encourage both of you to read each and every post and comment on this blog. Begin here. You can chronologically step through the blog by clicking on the right link above the title of each post.)
Call me anytime 24/7 at home 781-925-9477 (Hull, Massachusetts)
Sheryl Brown: My dear nephew
[composite from the comments of Sheryl Brown ~critt]
My dear nephew, Tracy Laramore perished in an accident on March 17. I would like to hear from anyone that knew Spc. Laramore ("Outlaws"). We are constructing a memory book for his daughter and his final days in Iraq are very important to the book. God Bless and Keep You Soldiers Safe. Please complete the mission and return home to your loved ones. Any information or photos would be sincerely appreciated.
I sincerely thank you for the kind words that you said about my family member Tracy Laramore and his comrade Clint Mathews. We loved Tracy dealy and miss him very much. We understand the mission and hope that the soldiers that he served with know that we send our support and love to them. The mission must be completed so that the lives of the fine soldiers of our US military are not in vain. Charge on! We ask God to bless each and every one of you and to wrap his arms around your families until you are home to do so yourself. If you are ever at Ft Hood, look us up.
I thank the brave soldiers that befriended my nephew, Spc. Tracy Laramore.Know that he chose to go to Iraq with you because he felt like he belonged with you..as family, comrade, and friend. We miss him terribly and mourn our loss, but in his spirit, we support you and your mission. May God Bless You all and bring you home to your families soon. May the all important mission be accomplished and may Tracy and the others be proud to see a job well done. We thank you for meaning so much to Tracy Laramore. Take care.
How we can conduct peace enforcement while in a combat zone?
7 Jul 2004 1134 hours
My Father wrote that the conditions here are more "austere" than at Summerall. I would struggle to find a better word that defines these chambers. My room is on the second floor of a massive brick structure that was built for one of Saddams many relatives. After living here for a month, I must say that it is not that bad. My first impression was petulant due to the obvious reduction in the quality of life that I would have to endure. My self-serving guardian angel was whispering some serious bullshit in my ear about how I got the "short end of the stick" on the switch. I sunk into self-pity for a few days as the harsh desert sand penetrated the walls of this brick prison and coated all of my gear with moon dust. The heat warped my fragile little mind and skewed my outlook. Then, like a thunderbolt striking my conscience, I realized that my frivolous feelings would have detrimental effects on the relationship with my new soldiers if not quickly curbed. So I made some Lemonade and drank it with a twist of lime. Every soldier on FOB Omaha is dealing with this together. The suck factor here is extremely high, that is going to create a bond that is impenetrable. We all will appreciate the little things like running water, windows, and lockable doors that much more when we return home.
In order for an event to have any hope of becoming a great story, it has to suck. There are lots of routine things that happen, but the difference is how much it "sucked". There are going to be a lot of great stories coming out of this deployment. I graduated from John McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia,
Class of 1992. Sometimes I wish I could rewind back to those days so that I could live in bliss. Madame Kimble, my wonderful French teacher, relentlessly lectured me on how much potential I have, and how the Army is a waste of my latent talent. In the Fall of 1995, she was so disappointed when I visited her while on leave from duty in Germany. I was excited to tell her that I had been living in Europe for two years and my unit was about to deploy to Bosnia. I was going to set foot in Sarajevo, site of the Olympics. She was distraught about her little Jean-Phillipe going to the Balkans. She took my hands and made me promise that I would earn a degree. I made the promise, which I have yet to fulfill. She was the person I was anticipating the most at the reunion; hoping to not have disappointed her.
I missed my ten year reunion by one day because I was deployed to Kosovo. Maybe I will make it to the 15 year bash. I just want Madame Kimble to know that I do not feel inferior to anyone or that I have been unsuccessful because I do not have a diploma. Joining the Army is like taking the Red Pill. Describing life in the Army is not unlike attempting to explain The Matrix. It is best seen with your own eyes.
I will try to be your eyes once again. My section is responsible for securing an ING, Iraqi National Guard, building. It is very interesting because we have extended direct contact with the ING gate guards. Abrahim is one of the more charismatic Iraqis that regularly approaches us. I remember the first time I met him back in early June. I was relaxing in the back of my track, reading Maxim, when two ING guards stuck their heads in the troop door. They talked very loud and gestured incoherently with their hands. Then Abrahim stuck his head in the door and pointed towards my Maxim and said, "Me Look, Ficki-Ficki, good, yes". I put the magazine away and shooed them off until I could get a better read on their intentions. My gunner told me about a moment when Abrahim got hold of a copy of FHM and licked the pictures. That was no typo, he liked Pamela Anderson so much he licked her. Apparently soldiers of the world are united in their appreciation of decent porn. I hardly qualify FHM and Maxim as porn, but that is as close as we are authorized in sector. I had to see his face with my own four eyes. I gave him my copy of Maxim and waited. He began flipping from the back, Arabic is read right to left. He casually flipped a few pages, gasped excitedly, then quickly halted and called to his friend. Curiosity got the best of me when his buddy shared the same enthusiasm. He faced the magazine toward me and pointed at a picture of a guy wearing nothing more than tighty whitey briefs. He began to tap on the image of the guys crotch and making gestures with his hands. Let's skip past the description of my initial reaction. I investigated further and concluded that he found an advertisement for Magna Rx+. For those that need an explanation, that is a penis enlargement pill.
He asked, "You give me Viagra"? I blinked and retraced the chain of events of the previous few seconds. How is it even remotely possible that this guy thinks I would even entertain the idea of encouraging his libido? I quickly changed the subject to one less controversial, the weather. He was not about to let me off that easy. I was perplexed as Abrahim explained that he has two wives to "take care" of. The nine children he has fathered is not enough, he wants more. He asked me if I had a "madame"? I pulled out my wallet and showed him a picture of Monika. He smiled and asked, "baby"? I told him that we have "no baby". He shook his head and handed the picture back to me and said, "no baby, no good". Then he turned and told the two guys next to him that I have "no baby". It was like a Breaking News story as I stood there. "Extra, Extra, read all about it, 31 year old Man, married for 8 years, has Zero kids, loses respect of Global Community". Whatever. A month later, and we continue our cross-cultural dissection of each other. Abrahim still asks for Viagra, I ask for nothing.
At ING, we perform guard duty, the basic task of a soldier. Every soldier learns Three General Orders that are constant. They cover the most important aspects of performing guard. Do not leave your post until properly relieved, follow all of your instructions and report any violations of your special instructions or emergencies to the Commander of Relief, and perform all of your duties in a military manner. From Day 1 in Basic Training when the Drill Sergeant posted me on Fire Guard in Fort Benning, Georgia until now, I have been able to rely on my General Orders to give me guidance in the performance of my duties. The challenge is the part about performing all of your duties in a military manner.
It was 129 degrees the other day, outside of the Bradley fighting vehicle that amplifies the ambient temperature to unbearable levels. It is imperative that soldiers are given an opportunity to rest between shifts. There I was, sitting on the bench seat in the rear of my Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Sweat had completely penetrated every fiber of my uniform. I look like a damn salt lick every time we return to the FOB. It was about 1530 hours, the hottest time of the day. We use a camouflage net to break the suns rays from hitting the vehicle directly. It reduces the heat significantly, but our energy is still siphoned out at an alarming rate. I was staring at the floor of the Bradley, amazed at the pool of sweat forming from the drops falling off my nose. I was too hot to sleep, too lazy to move, too apathetic to think; just wanted to watch sweat pool.
I think that the Iraqi soldiers at ING can sense when I am really not in the mood for visitors. Do not think for a second that stops them from sticking their noses into the troop door and yelling "mista, mista". Pretending I am asleep never works either, they grab my leg and shake it. There is no peace to be found. I do not have any children, but I can imagine my Mother felt the same when I would not let her sleep during the day when she worked nights. I do not want to be anti-social or do anything that might ruin the kinder, gentler image that we are trying to project. I had them write their names in Arabic in my notebook; then I took the time to match the name to the face. Anyone who knows me longer than a day knows that is a significant feat for me, I am horrible with names. I stayed light and brief. I have gotten to know about ten of the ING soldiers by name. I believe they put a lot of value in a firm handshake, eye contact, and, knowing their name. But the last few days have proven to be less than amusing. One guy keeps pointing as his ING issue boots and saying, "no good, give me boots". I try to be understanding, but all I can think is, "Do I look like a Supply Sergeant"?
Another guy asked me for a rope so he can tie up his two cows. I could not have thought that one up on my own. Saed asked for a deck of cards, finally a request I felt I could handle. He was so happy when I gave him the deck of Bicycle Playing Cards. He ran off to the barracks to play whatever games Iraqi soldiers play. He quickly returned, handed me the deck and said "no good". He looked offended. I smiled and told my driver, "I bet that the 2 of hearts and diamonds are missing, I'll have to mark them on the big and little joker". I counted the cards and was surprised when I tallied 52 cards. I handed him the box and said, "good, 52 cards". He said "no good, 52 two times". I finally got to the bottom of it, he needed two decks. He made a point of making me understand that they need to be the same design also. They can be so pushy, it is very aggravating. Abrahim walked up the other day, picked up my knee pad and said "give me". I told him that was not even remotely possible. Then he says, "for baby, no walk". He began to mimic his baby crawling on the floor then made a big frown like his poor babies knees hurt. First and foremost, I am not going to give him my kneepads. Second, how can a little baby possibly wear knee pads designed for a 200 pound man? These are only a small example of the many requests that the ING guys make. I believe that everyone has good in them, my unsuspecting nature has caused me much grief. The problems lies within our mission.
Our training strategy for this deployment focused on the combat skills of the Infantryman. I kept telling my soldiers that we were not going to "Kosovo". We were all fired up to come over here and kick some "Hadji" ass; put a bullet in the chest of anyone who dares to square off with a Coalition Soldier. The first few
months here proved that this is no peacekeeping mission. The power shift back to the provisional authority has raised some eyebrows about how the Iraqis view our occupation. The parameters of how we conduct our missions have changed to make us more transparent. I have talked to many soldiers who are confused because they do not understand how we can conduct peace enforcement while in a combat zone. I have been contemplating that thought.
United States soldiers are in fact in a de facto combat zone. Deny it all you want, I still receive combat pay on my LES. The challenge is to realize that there are armed insurgents trying to thwart our efforts and that we are surrounded by COB's, Civilians on the Battlefield. Basically, we will operate as a combat unit while reducing visibility and impact on the daily routine of the people of Iraq. A BMW laden with explosive could roll up on us, or some asshole in pick-up truck could do a drive by with his AK-47 at any point in time. When Abrahim and his cronies annoy me with their incessant begging, I think about the mission at hand and take it all in stride.
Ironically, my Platoon Sergeant just gave me some bad news. 1/26 Infantry just suffered an attack. I have been reiterating daily to my soldiers that danger is imminent at all times. This attack quantifies the fact that we are undeniably in a combat zone.
Philip is now at Camp Omaha. Apparently the conditions are a little more austere than Camp Summerall and I haven't heard from him since the 13th of June. But I do look forward to the time he can write again.
In the meantime, I've been forming mental pictures -- from pictures posted at eshoo.net -- of what it's like for soldiers working in Iraq.
Keep the faith.