Friday, July 15, 2005

Crowley Chronicles, Part 3; Ramadi and Hurricane Point

with this, the third issue i think i'm caught up. and this one is, i think, the best yet. note that he covers Soldiers here as well as Marines and Sailors. one team, one fight.

the field historian's job is a good one, but as a one-man show you tend to get run down. feel free to post him notes of encouragement here.


11 JUL 05

This edition is dedicated to the six Marines and Navy Corpsmen who sacrificed their lives while fighting for a free Iraq on June 15, 2005: Cpl Trovillion, LCpl Flores, LCpl Maynard, LCpl Whitley, Cpl Jaime, and HM2 Baez. During the time I spent with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2 BCT) we lost another ten Marines and Soldiers. We will remember them and we will complete our mission in their honor. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and especially the twin brother who escorted his brother and five other fallen Marines home that day.

Time in Iraq flies by when you keep busy. I can hardly believe it has almost been a month since the second edition; unfortunately that is what happens when you spend twenty-one days on the road. This edition will be a real emotional roller coaster with some funny stories, horrific stories, and stories of uncommon valor. I want the reader to see the war through my eyes and if you take the time to digest this newsletter you will have a greater understanding of what the war is truly like. You will not see or hear these true stories on CNN.

18 JUN – Boarded a helo from Al Asad Airbase to Camp Ramadi arriving around 0100. My Army POC was there to pick me up and he showed me to my new mold infested room.

19 JUN- This morning around 0530 I was rattled awake by four 60 mm mortar rounds impacting approximately 300 yards from my room. Luckily the soldiers saw the mortar rounds walking in on them and sought shelter in a bunker. Their office took a direct hit and the maintenance tent was riddled with shrapnel holes. What a great start to Father’s Day. Went to PX for air freshener and Lysol. I will now make sure I don’t leave home without it; they came in very handy during the rest of the trip. I interviewed eleven soldiers in the Army’s 2-17 Field Artillery. My mission is to interview Marine units and other units that fall under USMC commands. The day ended the same way it began with a number of rounds impacting nearby. Six soldiers from the 2nd BCT have been killed on base in the past eleven months by enemy indirect fire (IDF).

20 JUN – I visited the gun line where the self propelled Howitzers (Paladins) fire from. A few months ago one of the huge beasts caught a direct hit from IDF causing close to 70 artillery rounds inside to detonate, killing three crew members and seriously wounding one who was outside at the time of impact. The vehicles look similar to tanks but lack the armor strength of tanks. I also visited with soldiers manning the observation posts (OP’s) lining the wire around the base. The OP’s provide a great vantage point to watch a vast amount of real-estate around the base. I ran into LtCol Jackson who is in charge of the USMC 5th Civil Affairs Group (CAG) who also happens to be a fellow DEA Special Agent from Chicago.

21 JUN – After conducting two days of interviews with 2-17 FA I moved on to the 44th Engineer Bn where I conducted interviews for eleven straight hours. All the soldiers have relayed stories of death and destruction to me. One that stands out in my mind from today concerns a puppy. During a patrol, a group of soldiers found a small puppy wandering in the middle of nowhere (and there is a lot of that in Iraq). They decided to take him back to the base however a short time later they where hit by a well planned insurgent ambush. Rounds were flying all around and as the soldiers fought for their lives all several could think about was the poor puppy they tried to save. Each took turns trying to shield their new friend. After a fierce fire fight they were happy to find that their new friend escaped with only minor injuries. Most stories do not have such a happy ending. The translator who was working with this unit to build a better Iraq was kidnapped and murdered for his efforts – the soldiers knew him affectionately as George. He was a true Iraqi hero who stood up for his beliefs and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Another moving story centered around a fierce ambush in the middle of Ramadi. The events took place on October 10, 2004 and no one in the unit will soon forget this night. Their mission that night was to seize all the weapons from an Iraqi National Guard unit that was not performing their mission. After taking control of the weapons, the whole Battalion started back to Camp Ramadi. They encountered a tremendous all out ambush which resulted in at least one KIA and numerous wounded soldiers. During the fierce battle the convoy did not realize one of their tracked vehicles swerved off the main road and plowed back through several buildings out of sight. The driver had been shot dead. The soldiers on board were engaged by superior enemy numbers especially once the remainder of the convoy had passed. The tracked vehicle was stuck in rubble from buildings collapsing all around. Men fought bravely to hold off the enemy while others tried to save the fallen soldiers’ lives. The vehicle broke free and the squad mounted up under heavy fire. The fog of war was all around as Sgt Lux realized his vehicle was pulling away. He had stayed in between the enemy and his squad to return fire and now somehow he was left behind. Tonight there would be at least three times he was sure he would die. As he tried repeatedly to jump and grab onto the speeding tracked vehicle he was sure he would be crushed under the tracks. There was no way to grab on and no one could hear his calls for help except the ambushing insurgents who now only had one target left – Sgt Lux! (I plan on submitting an article to the USMC historical magazine on his story since it is too amazing to cover in details here.) He was left alone in downtown Ramadi and no one would notice he was missing for hours. It is an amazing story of evasion, escape, and wits as he eluded his pursuers for hours during which the insurgents got to within feet of him several times. Sgt Lux eventually was rescued thanks to a massive search and rescue effort by his unit, Marine ground forces, and Marine air support. This story had a happy ending for him and a valuable lesson was learned by all.

Tonight while in the 2 BCT headquarters we heard the calls over the radio that one of their Bradleys was hit by a massive improvised explosive device (IED). Two more brave warriors were dead near the Provincial Government Center in Ramadi. A Bradley is the next step down from a tank and usually they are a very safe vehicle to ride in.

22 JUN – Continued interviews with the 44th Eng Bn.

23 JUN – Moved to a Marine Corps outpost called Hurricane Point in West Ramadi. Started off the day with a memorial service for six slain brothers (3rd Edition dedicated to them). As I was seated in the first row, my first thought was “why are there so many pamphlets stacked on my chair” at which point I realized there was one for each of the six men. This was a horrific week for 1st Battalion 5th Marines (1/5); this was their second group memorial in two days. I do not believe there is anything more eerie and emotional then a Marine memorial service. With standing room only it starts out with bag pipes playing Amazing Grace, the chaplain speaks, the Commanding Officer talks, followed by a number of young Marines and Sailors who where the fallen’s best friends. There wasn’t a dry eye in the service and most of them are hard combat veterans on their third tour at the age of 20 and 21. A tear ran down my cheek as all who stood to speak could hardly finish their messages, and some were unable to finish stories of their friends. A roll call is performed where Marines must answer to their names – once a Marine does not answer to his rank and last name the 1stSgt then calls his rank, first name and last name – still no answer he calls one final time with the Marines rank, first name, middle initial, and last name and finishes by stating that he was killed in action on June 15, 2005 in Ramadi, Iraq. Each time the name is called the three Marines standing in front of the KIA’s photograph place an item in front of the picture – 1st places his rifle and bayonet, 2nd places his boots, 3rd hangs his dog tags on the rifle. The 1stSgt then had to go through the remaining five names in the same manner. In a room packed with hundreds of Marines you could have heard a pin drop. The ceremony ended after the 21 gun salute and Taps was played by bugle. Each Marine, Sailor, and Soldier came forward to pay their last respects. Their individual stories are tragic but not uncommon: one has a wife, three children, and he had just received baby shoes in the mail to let him know they were expecting their fourth child; one had a twin brother in the unit with him who escorted all the bodies back to America – prior to boarding the aircraft the CO, LtCol Smith stated he did not know what to tell the young Marine who just lost his brother, but the Marine did the speaking and said “it has been a pleasure to serve in this Battalion”; one of the Marines was from the CO’s hometown and the CO’s family went to be with the family; another young 19 year old left a young bride at home with a newborn never to meet his father; all have a story and the youngest killed on June 15th was an 18 year old Marine. The 2 BCT (above 1/5 in the chain of command) Commander is an Army Colonel who saluted each fallen Marine. One of the Marines I interviewed told me his deceased friend would have gotten a real kick out of seeing a Colonel salute him.

After the memorial, the unit asked me to start my interviews to get the Marines back in action. That night I had the honor and privilege to go on a Battalion sized mission where we searched over 350 houses between midnight and 0600. We arrested well over twenty detainees and seized numerous weapons. Within two minutes of leaving the base, tracer rounds could be seen flying all around and four IED’s hit our convoy. With over five hundred Marines flooding a section of Ramadi the enemy still attacked. This did surprise me but their favorite tactics besides IED’s is to shoot, drop the weapons, and run. Nothing from the insurgents surprises me any more. I earned a new level of respect for the young hard charging Marines when after three hours into the mission I was wiped out. I thought I was in pretty good shape and I can throw a fair amount of weight around in the weight room but after my first six hour combat foot patrol with rifle, pistol, plenty of ammo for both, flak jacket with SAPI plates, and helmet I was ready for a week off. The Marines are often on three to four foot patrols a day of several hours each. The platoon I was attached to was a great bunch of guys who were all highly professional in their actions. After losing eight members of a unit in a two day period it would be easy to get over zealous. As we patrolled around our sector of Ramadi raiding house, after house, after house I commented to Lt Holt who was with me that it reminded me of Halloween. He said he had been thinking the same thing. The moon was full and everywhere you looked you saw Marines moving and running, many tripping, falling, and some stragglers rushing to catch up to their group. It was just like Halloween except for the fact we where in Ramadi. The night was successful with only one wounded SEAL and it helped to get the Marines refocused. While we prepared to return to base the sun was coming up and the roosters were calling – what are roosters doing in the middle of a city anyway? As far as myself, I realized I need more cardio exercise (Dad you were right).

24 JUN – I got a couple of hours of sleep and then it was back to conducting oral interviews. I started off with the medical staff where I got to learn a thing or two about medical humor. During my interviews I like to ask if they have experienced any funny times in Iraq, this helps bring them back up after we talk about bad times. The funniest thing the medical staff had seen was easy for them to all agree upon – when one of the Corpsmen was searching a house he accidentally put his hand into a moving ceiling fan. The result was a sliced artery that caused him to shoot blood in about a six foot arch like a fountain. They patched him up but they all thought it was hysterical. I told them you had to be there.

While I was there a young Marine came in to have his dressings changed. He had been shot through the side and the bullet came out of his chest without hitting any vital organs. He has the bullet which was stopped by his SAPI plate after exiting his chest. Anyway, he needs to have his bandages changed three times a day. As I took pictures the doctor proceeded to pull about twenty feet of packing out of his chest. The Marine and I were joking around the whole time as the doctor then utilized a long wooden stick to push packing approximately five inches deep into the wound. I continued to take photographs and then decided to take a picture of the Marines tattoo at which point he wasn’t happy. I asked him what was wrong, he had just held open his chest wound for me to photograph and now he wasn’t happy because I took a picture of his tattoo. He said “look at it and read it sir”. Well it had your typical skull with crossed rifles wearing an USMC cover and it said “Mess with the Rest die like the Rest”. It should have said Mess with the Best die like the Rest. He went on to tell me how he and his buddies were drunk when they got tattoos and they told him it looked fine. Having it fixed is on his list of things to do. But the real point of this story is how all he could think about was getting back out on patrol with his squad. All the wounded warriors hobbling around Hurricane Point said the same thing; they want to be there for their fellow Marines. Many have fought to stay in Iraq when wounded because they want to be there for their brothers.

I followed the medical interviews with additional grunt interviews as well as K-9 handlers. I even got some pictures with the dogs and one of “Tommy” wearing his goggles to protect his eyes. I then traveled to Charlie Company 1/5 at the Snake Pit a nearby outpost. I conducted interviews there until 0300 and returned to Hurricane Point to hit the shower and download 20 interviews so I would be ready for more in the morning. The days blend together after a week of hitting the rack between 0200 and 0600 every night or should I say morning. Even when I’m not on the road I get to bed around 0200. Time flies by.

25 JUN – As I download 129 photos from the previous day I notice how young the Marines are. Most serving on the front lines are between 17 and 21. I can not believe how many received wavers from their parents to be able to serve their country at the age of seventeen. I’m proud of them and have told them so during unit formations. Think about what you were doing at that age. They have grown old before their time in some ways but manage to maintain their youth by playing jokes on one another, playing video games, and by sharing their lives packed forty into a small room. You can not get any closer as a family then living the life with these young men. I am more then twice the age of most of them but I am humbled by their brotherhood, dedication, and sacrifice they make for one another.

During my time with 1/5 I have heard more heroic stories then I have ever heard before. Everyday they lay their own life on the line to save their brothers. On the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Statue) it says “Uncommon valor was a common virtue”, this holds true on the streets of Ramadi and all over Iraq. I don’t know how many times during interviews I have had to stop the recording because of the outflow of emotions with the person I am interviewing, too many times I have had tears swelling up in my own eyes as the brave men and women tell of the exploits of their fellow Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors. I know those who sit before me have performed similar acts of bravery but are far too modest to tell me. Take for example the Corpsmen who ran across fifty yards of open ground with bullets dancing all around his feet to aid a fallen Marine. While he patched up this Marine the call for “corpsman” came from where he had just been. Racing across the open ground with bullets crashing all around he reached another wounded Marine saving his life. Again the call for “corpsman” sounded and he set off once again across open ground under enemy fire only he never reached his wounded brother this time because he finally fell to the gunfire. As a Lieutenant called for his corpsman he was informed that he would not be coming, he was KIA. I have heard numerous such stories about corpsmen and medics – they are all truly unsung heroes.

If that last story wasn’t enough to let you know the caliber of the US fighting men here is another tremendous story of sacrifice. During June another vehicle in 1/5 was hit by an IED, this wasn’t just any IED for it packed a huge wallop. Instantly the Company Commander, a Captain, was killed along with a LCpl. Two other Marines were fully engulfed in fire. Before anyone could reach their vehicle to assist, one of the Marines fully engulfed in fire exited the vehicle. While burning he was able to drag his fellow Marine from the burning HMMV. He put his buddy down and proceeded to put out the fire on his friend before dropping to put out his own fire. Sadly, I have to tell you that even with his Herculean efforts his friend did not make it and he suffered severe burns over 75% of his body. This is the true American hero that I am privileged to serve with and to record their stories on a daily basis. On average of six times a day I hear such stories of heroism, unselfishness, and extreme sacrifice for their brothers and sisters in the armed forces.

I have heard hundreds of more amazing and horrific stories in the past two months. Many stories I can not relay in such a forum because of the ghastly details but all have young men going above and beyond to fight for a free Iraq and for each other. In all the interviews I have conducted not a single person has spoken badly about the mission in Iraq. Even the twenty year olds on their third tour with three Purple Hearts (there are many in this category) are proud to be here fighting for what they believe in. All have seen a positive change in Iraq and with each passing month new changes are seen. The news fails to cover the heartfelt stories of our young warriors. The news fails to cover the fact that the cities across Iraq now have plumbing, sewer systems, electricity, schools, and a much nicer standard of living. So much good takes place everyday. I have been on the streets numerous times being greeted by the children and some adults. The kids love us, they like to watch us in action, they respect our strength as individuals as well as the strength America represents. Many of the adults will side with whoever is standing next to them at any given time with a gun. In other areas the neighbors and tribes band together and make a stand against the insurgents. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are growing everyday and a main effort is underway to train and equip them. I have had the pleasure of patrolling several times with the Defenders of Baghdad and have been impressed by how much they have learned from their Marine and Army trainers. I have shared dinner and tea on several occasions with senior ISF officers. They are all eager to take back control of Iraq from the US and eliminate the remaining insurgents. They are thrilled to work along side the Marines who they feel are the greatest fighting force in the world. Most of the ISF officers know first hand since we defeated them in two previous wars that they fought in. It seems strange at times that I can be sitting there and interviewing or just talking to a man who was our sworn enemy in two wars. Now as professional warriors we sit as friends and equals with a common cause to provide for a free and peaceful Iraq. The children I see waving and who I have played soccer with are the future. The ISF is the future and the rest of the Iraqi people need to learn that the US, ISF, and children can not do it alone. We need a nationwide effort to remove and eliminate the insurgent threat.

Once again it is 0200 and I managed to get way off track from my daily journal so I’ll try to wrap this up. I will launch this as the 3rd Edition and pick up where I left off for the 4th Edition, that way my Editor and Chief (Mom) has more work to do. Rest assured that our nation is in capable hands and if I can steal a line from a friend of mine “this is the greatest generation”. The battles are not large scale as in World War II, often it is only a squad of Marines involved, but the bravery and sacrifice is still the same. Next time you see a returning service member you will now understand a little better what the front line troops have gone through. It is far more violent and bloody on the streets of Ramadi then you will ever know. The last reporter who ventured to East Ramadi left after a soldier escorting her was shot in the stomach. I can’t blame them because they can get paid the same sitting in Baghdad and not only that, they don’t even have a weapon to return fire. I am proud to be by my fellow Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors sides in order to capture their stories and history as it happens on the streets of Iraq.

I would be remiss if I did not end this on an up note in the same manner that I end my interviews. So let me jump to a little story that happened tonight July 11th or at this point last night because once again it is morning. Anyway, before I left on my 21 day road trip I decided to paint my room. It was too dark and when I work in there I can’t read or see to type and my office is worse (but I’ll cover that in the next edition). I didn’t get around to painting it until July 11th. I decided to go in late and paint the room during the morning. The only paint I could find was manufactured here in Iraq and needless to say it isn’t water soluble since there is very little water in the middle of the desert. I started painting and I couldn’t help but notice the fumes are far stronger and worse then any paint I have smelled before. In fact the whole building I live in smelled. I thought about putting a sign on the front door but then forgot. When I came back to my room at 2030 I had planned to take a quick bike (that’s another story) ride before it got too dark. I raced in and changed and as I started for the front door I could see lots of flashing lights over our eight foot cement barriers. The sound of large trucks could be heard and there was quite a commotion. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as fifteen fire fighters all heavily laden in their gear rushed the building. The first bunch passed me as I tried to tell/ask them if they were here about the fumes. I finally grabbed a fire fighter and told him it was paint fumes. They insisted that I stand clear and evacuate as the forth fire truck pulled in. Up to this point I didn’t know there were this many firemen on the base. An SUV pulled up and more firemen spilled out, apparently they didn’t have enough trucks to fit them all. Finally I got hold of the Chief and after some convincing he sent me in to link up with fire fighters inside. As I turned down my hall I could see five of them gathered outside my room – I had left the door open to help the paint dry. They instructed me to leave the building and they were knocking on each door to have the occupants flee for their lives. Finally a sane fireman listened to me and after touching the paint to see that it was in fact still wet, he called off the alarm. The men looking to use their axes were not happy. They would have turned the building into rubble. Their oxygen readers showed that there was enough oxygen to breath and I watched the traffic jam slowly maneuver out of my parking lot. It was now too dark to ride my bike. Once again it proves that there are no dull days in Iraq.

Hopefully the last story made you smile. Please remember our fallen who have given their all for freedom.

Semper Fi,

LtCol Tim Crowley
HQMC Field HistorianAl Asad, Iraq

News Round-up, 15 July 05

the major story continues to be the London TERRORIST bombers. yes, terrorists. that's what they are. whether or not their intended targets comply by being duly terrorized, terror is their aim. know your enemy, people.

washington post has this article. underneath the headline it reads, "Identities Are Revealed, but Motives Still a Mystery." what??? the least mysterious part of this war is the motive. it might be perverse and unfathomable, but it's no mystery. their motive is clear: domination. we submit to them or we die. leave it to pinheads to confuse the issue.

the fact that they were natives, so to speak, of the UK, seemed like nice lads (!) and oh-so-well adjusted is cause for considerable alarm. no marks of the wahhabists, the short hair, the full beards, the i'll-kill-you-right-now stares. it does not prove but it strongly suggests that the UK has a problem on its hands, a large potential enemy force already inside the wire. if only a few can be recruited and trained to carry out attacks, many many more can be persuaded to support and shelter them. i do hope the British are drawing the right inferences. and i hope the rest of europe is paying very close attention.

ps: i'll post the third edition of the crowley chronicles soon. good stuff, that.

Crowley Chronicles, Part 2; Ongoing Tales from a Marine Historian in Iraq

15 June 05

­­This edition is dedicated to the memory of my friend and roommate Major Rick Crocker from “Elvis” Company 1989 at The Basic School. He was killed in action recently in Iraq. Major Crocker was a reserve officer from California and a police officer with several young children.

Wow, since the 1st edition of the Chronicle hit the street my public has demanded more. Not only do they want more editions published but circulation has increased tenfold. I would like to welcome our new subscribers especially our wounded veterans. For those of you who do not know me, let me take a minute to tell you who I am and what I’m doing. My name is Lieutenant Colonel Tim Crowley and I am currently deployed in Iraq as a Field Historian for the Marine Corps. My mission is to travel around the country documenting what the USMC and units attached to us are doing to help eliminate the insurgents and rebuild Iraq. Part of my duties includes keeping a daily journal which has now become the Chronicle. I try to mix in humor and gear the information towards my family and now of course you, my extended family. I’ll try to attach some photographs each week (if I can figure out the technical aspects).

June 5th – Sunday, our day of rest, but not if you are deployed to Iraq. All days are equal in the desert and it becomes hard to remember what day of the week it is. The chow hall has even moved steak night to various nights. I believe this is a military strategy so no one can ever tell when they are supposed to redeploy to the States. On Sundays I hit the weight room with the staff from 2nd Military Police Battalion. It’s a great group of people and we push each other hard. Their Commanding Officer held a Camp Fallujah power lifting competition before I arrived. He is an old friend of mine but I have to say it, if you walk into his office and see all the big trophies he won you’ll know why he held the contest. That’s one way to decorate the office. Maybe I’ll have to organize some fishing tournaments that I can win. The chow hall has switched to playing Bad Boys II and SWAT at all the meals for days on end. After a few days of the same movie people tend to eat faster and go back to work. Productivity really picks up on base.

June 6th – Today we were greeted with cool temperatures! The high was only in the upper nineties. Since the cold spell set in I decided to do some exploring on base utilizing the shoe leather express. I spent about four hours covering numerous miles and visiting with various units. From 1990-1993 I served with 8th Communications Battalion and decided it was time to see how things had changed. The comm field has come a long way since then and during my tour of their systems I was hard pressed to find any equipment that I recognized. I have become a dinosaur in the communication field. One of the greatest tools to help with morale is email and Internet connectivity, no more carrier pigeons or the mess of having to deal with bird food. My sister Dee can tell you what happens when there is bird food – out here it means mice and cobras. I tried to visit the son of a friend of mine but discovered too late that I had his rank wrong. I never did get back to 2nd Tank Battalion to look him up.

June 7th /8th – Both were slow days with nothing major on the schedule. I’m waiting for a flight so I can move to Al Asad Airbase where I’ll set up my office and “permanent” home. I hit the weight room and at lunch Universal Soldiers II was playing so a number of people watched it from start to finish (notice I didn’t say I was one of them).

June 9th - Tonight I’m scheduled for a convoy with Fox Company, 2nd MP Bn so I slept in late. When I checked in at the MP Bn headquarters to make sure my ride to Fox Company was locked on, I learned that 2nd Platoon from Fox had been hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). The vehicle that was hit had only been in the field for two days after having the latest version of the “up” armor added. There are a number of different levels of armor in use on the Hummers at this point. The military is doing a good job of trying to make sure all the vehicles traveling off the bases have the best armor available. Today it paid off. The armor totally protected the Marines inside the Hummer, not even a scratch. The .50 cal gunner who is somewhat exposed unfortunately received a head wound. His injuries would have been much worse as well without the armor. His turret position blocked numerous pieces of shrapnel and his safety goggles saved his sight by deflecting shrapnel. The good news is he should make a full recovery! The vehicle was towed to a maintenance shop to have new armor installed after I took pictures of the damage. At this point it was 2100 (9 PM) and I loaded up for the convoy to the Baghdad International Airport with a new level of confidence in the armor. Convoys always seem to run into delays. One of the biggest problems is that we are usually escorting sixty Iraqi civilian trucks which date back to the 1950’s. It is amazing they make it on the convoy routes. Sometimes we take them on dirt roads which would challenge many of the SUV’s on the streets of the USA. I’ve found it is a much more enjoyable ride the further to the front of the convoy you are. Between the sand and the fact that many trucks do not have mufflers, good air to breath can be hard to come by. Anyway, we didn’t leave Camp Fallujah until 2200 when all the antiques were finally rolling. Other than seeing a number of flares fired off in the distance the convoy went smoothly and we arrived at the airport right at 2400. Everyone took a quick break to water the sand and we were back on the road with a different convoy of civilian trucks by 0012. Earlier in the day an Army convoy had been hit by an IED on the same route. On the way back, in the same spot they had been hit, our scouts spotted another IED about ten feet off the road. We cleared the area fast and notified EOD to dispose of the problem. We saw numerous convoys throughout the night and returned to Fallujah at 0220. I called my father to wish him happy birthday and called my wife to say hello. After a shower I was in the rack by 0430. (I realize this edition isn’t as funny as the first, but hang in there it will get better – I hope.)

June 10th – Slept for six hours and then packed up my room. I was scheduled to fly out that night, or should I say the next morning at 0330. Keeping crazy hours can really throw off your daily routine. After packing I went over to the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned tent where I had been working for the past couple of weeks. I said good bye to everyone and picked up the rest of my gear. You have to get to the landing zone (LZ) two hours before your flight; this gives you plenty of time to get an Aunt Annie’s pretzel, pizza, or Cinnabon muffin. See picture of the “terminal” – luckily I brought the Mountain Dew with me. While you are sitting in the “terminal” numerous helos come and go. This wasn’t a problem until one pilot decided to come our way during take off. The bad thing about sitting at a blacked out LZ at night is you can’t see the sand cloud coming until it’s too late. Everyone sitting there got their fill of sand in our eyes, ears, mouths….. I’m sure the pilot was watching through his night vision goggles (NVG’s) and laughing. It was probably the same helo that threw out my sea bag last trip. It was a warm night in the mid to upper eighties but I was looking forward to a cool flight. I decided to get some water and as I made my way to it in the dark I heard people yelling for me. My helo was an hour early. Later I would regret not finding the water in time. By the time I got to my bags everyone else was walking towards the helo. I loaded up with my 200 pounds of gear and started to run so I could catch up to them. I also didn’t want to miss the flight. I made it to the helo and had a good sweat going. I took the last seat and had my bags positioned across from me where I could watch them. As the helo took off I realized it wasn’t going to be a cool flight. The temperature in the helo had to be close to 120˚F and the sweat was pouring down my face. The fact that we wear helmets and flak jackets doesn’t help keep you cool either. At our first stop the crew chief said we all had to get off so they could refuel. They had to drag me off as I tried to hold onto my bags. I figured it was just an excuse to get me off so they could go on bombing runs utilizing my bags. They had us stand in the “jet wash” of the helo bringing the temperature closer to 130. I wished I had drinking water instead of Mountain dew! We completed our flight without incident and arrived at Al Asad Airbase around 0330, ahead of schedule. I was still trying to get sand out of my ears from the LZ. Around 0430 I made it to Major Crespin’s room where I was going to sleep. My first impression even in the dark was that of horror. I’ve seen my share of projects over the years having worked in Newark, NJ and while spending the past ten years with DEA – and this, my friends, would fit the definition. My fellow historian LtCol Benhoff said he was taking care of me when he arranged for me to live at Al Asad. Two other Marines from Camp Fallujah I know have been here for a couple of days and all they have to say is that I live in a “rat hole”.

June 12th – First full day after resting in my new home. Everything is a long walk. The chow hall is at least a ½ mile, PX and barber shop are a little further, and the weight room is over a mile away. This base is in the middle of the desert with nothing to stop the winds. Everyday we have several dust storms and the temperatures have been around 115. I decided to run down to the weight room which rivals many private clubs in the USA. They did a fantastic job outfitting the facility. Anyway, the mile plus run with a 25 mph head wind and 100+ temperatures made it one of the hardest runs I’ve been on. I had to take about 20 minutes at the gym to recover before I could lift. I picked up some books to read and used them as an excuse to walk back to my room. On the way back I actually saw a water hole that was filled with snails and fish! Too small to break out the fishing pole but I saw fish in the desert. There is a warning about touching the water, the snails carry a disease that is harmful to people. Everything here can kill you, even a small snail. Believe it or not we also have a swamp across the street from where I live. Where else but in the middle of Iraq in a desert can you get mauled by mosquitoes? I’ve never heard anyone mention mosquitoes and desert in the same sentence before. Iraq is a wonderful vacation spot!

June 13th – The Chief of Staff was so happy when he brought me to my new office. It is huge compared to other offices. In fact there is a smaller office down the hall that has four LtCol’s in it. Once I stepped inside I realized why it was currently empty – no air conditioning. The walls don’t quite reach the ceiling and it is located next to the rear door of the building that is always open. I’m currently using a desk in a different office waiting for an air conditioner to get installed – it could be awhile.

June 14th – Time to move again. The billeting Lt asked me to move into a smaller room so they could put two people in the room I was occupying. Luckily the room was right next door. I spent the next 4 ½ hours cleaning the room and its bathroom, taping up the windows to keep the sand out, and sanitizing the floors. I swept out a number of dead cockroaches which could be a good sign or a bad one. If the bug spray killed them that’s good but if they died of old age in there that would be bad. While cleaning the shower I saw some kind of wildlife jump out of the curtain. Luckily it was a large lizard and not a camel spider or scorpion. I wished my son Tim was here to catch it. As I thought about Tim catching lizards I had flashbacks to Florida where lizards used to bite him. I figured this being Iraq, the lizard could probably kill me as well with a bite. I “netted” him with a t-shirt and put him out front by a cactus. After surviving the lizard attack it was time for my electrical nightmare to begin. I’ll admit I’m not the most technically knowledgeable individual you will ever meet, in fact my three year old son Michael probably knows more about electricity than I do. At least in the USA you can plug things into a socket without worrying. Here in Iraq there are about twenty different plugs coupled with various power converters, surge protectors, and multiple colors of plugs. I made the mistake of trying to use a shop vacuum to give the room a final cleaning. When I plugged it in and hit the on switch my room lit up like the Fourth of July. Flames burst from the cords connecting the Iraqi made surge protector and there was a small explosion which produced a mushroom cloud. At this point I thought about getting my camera to take pictures but I figured if I didn’t get the fire under control I would have to move again. The smell of burning electrical appliances could be smelled throughout the building for hours. During the fire I had another flashback to the mad Turkish barber swinging his ear burning torch. Due to the fire and the fact that the central air conditioning doesn’t work well, it was hot in my room. A LtCol down the hall gave me a brand new fan still in the box. Well, my electrical problems weren’t done for the day yet. Due to the power converter going up in flames, I plugged the fan into a different power strip. Things were great for the next hour with a cool breeze emanating from the fan. Then the fan went up in flames. I think I need to move a fire extinguisher into my room. Anyway after several mishaps I think I finally have a safe electrical system in place. We’ll see.

June 15th – Carolyn’s birthday! Rumor has it that she told the kids it was her 25th birthday. How come when it’s my birthday she always adds ten years to my age? Once again we had two strong sandstorms today. On the way back from dinner we could see one closing in. We just made it inside prior to the brunt of the storm hitting. Unfortunately we spent the next several hours getting bitten by sand fleas. They must have been blown ahead of the storm and decided to take refuge on our bodies. They are tiny bugs comprised of nothing but teeth. The other Marines in the office weren’t too happy when they saw the sand fleas crawling all over the furniture.

June 16th – Today I hit the Indian barbershop on base. The haircuts are only three dollars and you don’t even have to buy burn cream or bandages when they are done. The barbers do a strange head “massage” consisting of a lot of clapping and knuckle popping. I think I need to start rolling video tape at all the various barbershops. No electrical fires today but the day is still young. This weekend I will be traveling to Camp Ramadi where I’ll work for a few weeks. Stay cool, safe, and bug free in the good old USA!

Updates from Habbaniyah

maj erik peterson has posted text and photos covering their week at habbaniyah. full of interesting things (there's even shot out to yours truly in one of the photo captions.) go now, read and heed.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Crowley Chronicles, Part 1; Tales from a Marine Historian in Iraq

i'd like to introduce ltcol tim crowley, USMCR. ltcol crowley is one of two Marine field historians in iraq right now, documenting II MEF operations there. i was doing that job this time last year. what we do primarily is interview Marines and sailors (and soldiers too) operating under Marine command to capture their experiences and views. we also collect documents and artifacts that illustrate the experiences of Marine units in combat. ltcol crowley has been sending back perdiodic accounts of his life out there, and has given me the thumbs-up to post them here. it's a long post, so we'll see if it works...

June 4, 2005


Greetings to all of you who are on the far side of the planet – or maybe it is I who am on the wrong side of the earth. Due to popular demand I will try to produce a newsletter every week (give or take). This one will start with the story of my missing seabag in case some of you did not hear the horrid details of that ordeal (the enclosed story may not be suitable for young children – Michael can handle it):
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago I boarded a helicopter from Camp TQ enroute to Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The flight was in the middle of the night and consisted of two sticks (groups of Marines) and two helos. All our bags were piled onto a pallet and driven out to the helos to be loaded. In the dark and under the immense winds from the rotors, bags got tossed into the wrong helos. After an enjoyable flight over a star lit Iraq the journey came to an end. At Camp Fallujah the bags were unloaded in the dark and the helos continued on to their next destination. As Marines began to claim their bags it became clear that I was in trouble. For a few minutes I couldn’t even locate one of my four bags. Finally some Marines located three of my bags – the forth was no where in sight. A call was put out to the helos and the other LZ’s (landing zones) to keep an eye out for my well marked seabag. Since there was little hope of seeing the bag again that night I caught a ride to mainside (my bus had already left) and found an air conditioned tent to sleep in. I froze since my sleeping bag was in the missing bag along with new $110 running shoes, $140 electric razor, $200 IPOD and speakers…….. Most of my worldly possessions were in the bag. Anyway, the next day passed with no word so around 0001 (12:01 AM) I caught a ride to the LZ where I was told my seabag had turned up. It turns out that the crew chief on the helo spotted the bag after they took off and he decided to help me out, he threw my seabag out the back hatch of the helo. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a bad thing except he missed the LZ. My bag landed on a hill and rolled down. Members of a Marine security force on patrol found the bag. It came very close to being blown up as a suspicious item. Having been reunited with my seabag I am currently living happily ever after. And that concludes the story of The Flying Seabag.
I’ll hit on some of the highlights from each day:
May 30 – During evening chow they have movies playing in the chow halls. On this night they had American Pie playing. For those of you who have never seen the movie it is extremely funny filled with sick teenager humor. In the chow hall you have quite a mixture of clientele from Privates through Colonels, civilian contractors, and Iraqi and other foreign workers. During this movie everyone came together as one. Many had never watched the movie and I would have to guess that Sadam would have executed any Iraqis who watched the film while he was in power. What made the movie even funnier was all the Iraqi workers laughing and looking around at all the Marines laughing. When you have 300 or so in a room laughing it can make for a very interesting meal. I had good fortune with me today as I turned in my dirty laundry today for the first time. A fire ripped through the part of the laundry facility destroying all the bags that belonged to people with last names beginning with “A” and “B”. The fire was brought under control prior to the “C” pile going up in flames.
May 31 – The same as above but with American Pie II playing during dinner. On this day I decided to get my first hair cut at Camp Fallujah. There are many different choices from Marines with real night time barbershops set up, to Marines cutting hair for free in tents, to barbershops run by the PX, and the closest to where I live is a barber trailer run by Turkish barbers. When I asked Major Mooney, whom I work with, he only had to say that he doesn’t like oversized large hairy men touching him but continued to say the Turkish barbers do a good job (I think I heard him snicker as he walked away but I wasn’t sure). The stage was set and as with many things in this country even the simplest things can be quite different than what you expect! This haircut was to be no exception. After taking the chair it was quite obvious that the barber I had did not understand a single lick of English. However, it is not too hard to understand how a Marine wants his hair cut so the mad barber went to work. I had flashbacks to a play my family saw on Broadway in New York City when I was a youngster – Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (I believe the title is close to that which I remember – the barber in the play killed his clients and sold their flesh as meat pies). At the conclusion of the haircut he proceeded to give me a massage, neck, shoulder, arms, and then he had me put my face on the counter as he pounded my back with his sledgehammer like hands. Now I understood what Major Mooney meant – but this adventure wasn’t over yet. He dipped a swab in alcohol (in Kuwait they had rubbed alcohol all over my head after the haircut, not sure why they don’t put the alcohol on the razor and scissors instead to sterilize them). Now this pad looked awful brown and I was thinking hopefully the alcohol is strong enough to kill the germs on the pad. Next thing I knew was the barber had lit the pad on fire and he was hitting my ears with it in order to burn off any ear hair (not that I had any)! For those of you who have not experienced being hit with a burning torch a dozen times in each ear let me tell you – you are quite lucky. This trip was still far from being over, the next weapon of choice was scissors again and this time he came after my nose! Good thing it is very hard to surprise or startle me or he may have ended up with a few bullet holes in him. As I raced out the door I learned the cost for a visit to the Turkish chamber of horrors, a whopping $4.00. When I tried to give the manager a four dollar tip he didn’t think I understood the price. I was willing to give them all my money to make it out alive. I will get photos when I work up enough courage to return.
After the barbershop I decided to take part in something much safer and I joined 1st Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Military Police Battalion for a convoy to Camp TQ escorting sixty civilian trucks full of items for the base. The convoys travel at night since it is much safer with few civilians out and about. We departed at 1900 (7 PM) armed with nine heavily equipped vehicles. Lots of .50 caliber and smaller machine guns with each vehicle plus our M-16 rifles and 9 mm pistols. Hummers have come a long way in the past few years. Some are equipped with air conditioning, GPS, and high tech computers that show routes and positions of friendly forces. Not to mention the seat cushions are twice as thick as they used to be. Our NVG’s (night vision goggles) are state of the art and you can see every snake and rock as you drive along. The base is only about 35 miles away however the route we took was over 100 miles to avoid trouble spots. The route consisted of everything from six lane highways to small dirt roads that I couldn’t imagine all the eighteen wheelers being able to traverse. Our lead vehicles travel with their lights off scouting the route and they are also responsible for pushing all other traffic off to the side of the road. When we travel we own the roads. All civilian traffic has to stop and pullover and if they don’t they have a very bad day – worse then a visit to a Turkish barbershop. This trip went smooth and we saw numerous other military convoys. The night is alive with military vehicles driving everywhere. At almost all of the bridges we have “Guardian Angels”, tanks or heavily armed vehicles that protect the area from above. Outposts stretch along the main highway, each within sight of the next to ensure safe passage on the MSR’s (main supply routes). The Army hassled us at the gates of Camp TQ because they need to search all the civilian drivers before they can enter and they wanted two Marines to baby-sit them. We had to refuel and then escort another sixty civilian trucks back to Camp Fallujah and it was already past midnight. Finally two Marines from TQ showed up to help the army.
In my vehicle I was accompanied by Sgt Cuyle (vehicle commander), Cpl Carlson (driver), and Cpl Ramirez (gunner). They had packed a cooler full of my favorite Mountain Dew, water, and Snicker Bars. As we took a bathroom break and refueled the vehicles we celebrated my promotion since it was now June 1st. After about a ten minute break at Camp TQ we were back on the road.
Earlier in the day an Army convoy had been hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) on the route and we ran into a team of Army personnel taking photographs of the site in the middle of our route. As they looked around another IED about thirty feet away was discovered with a timer and trip wire. Our convoy cleared the location as quickly as possible to get under way. We passed numerous other large convoys throughout the drive. The trip concluded without incident at 0500 (5 AM). After a couple of hundred miles on the road I was happy to hit the rack at 0600, a shower had priority. The Marines from Fox Company are Reservist based in Washington state.
June 1st – Woke up at 1330 (1:30 PM) and headed to work. The highlight today was the same as May 30 – 31, this time they showed American Wedding in the chow hall. People tend to sit in the chow hall a lot longer when a good movie is playing. The chow hall can seat approximately 800 and there are at least three main chow halls I know of on base. Some remote units have their own facilities.
June 2nd – Two big events today! Carolyn and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by Major General Johnson, Commanding General of USMC forces in Iraq. He was very nice and friendly. He gave me an incredible “General’s coin”. Each Commanding General has special coins made to present to special people or during special events, this was the first coin I ever received. I’ll have to email photos of the coin, it is a real treasure. My friends who attended the promotion were all jealous. Major Mooney and Colonel McDade from MCCLL (Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned – I work in their tent), LtCol Brett Hamilton a DEA Special Agent I know from the DEA Academy, and LtCol Rich Anderson who was the active duty I&I at MP Company in Minneapolis when I checked in were all in attendance as well as members of the General’s staff.
June 3rd – I was up at 0430 after going to sleep around 0100 (hopefully everyone is catching onto how military time works). I haven’t been sleeping much but I’m not tired. My body has adjusted to the heat and long hours. At 0500 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Military Police Battalion picked me up for a convoy to Abu Ghraib Prison. Our mission was to escort four bus loads of detainees to a releasing facility near Ramadi. When we arrived the detainees were not ready yet which afforded us the luxury of eating breakfast at the prison. The dining facilities were very nice and I was happy to dig into a plate of pancakes and waffles. I was sure I wouldn’t eat until lunch or maybe even dinner. This was a welcomed surprise. Once we were well fed and we had the buses loaded, off we went. The prison complex is massive covering a stretch of over a mile. Today was really my first good view of the country in day light. The culture is a mixture of Suburban driving well to do people who contrast the peasants whose only transportation is a wagon pulled by a mule. The roads are lined with vehicles constantly breaking down. Cars break down quicker then the military can clear them from the MSR’s. I had commented that if you had a tow truck you could become a millionaire, a Marine corrected me by saying no one would have money to pay. That was evident when I saw my one and only tow truck. It looked like it was in need of a tow truck just to get around. I saw many sheep and goat herds along the highway. There were some of the smallest shacks (homes) and shack stores I have ever seen intermixed with grand mansions. The larger houses are full of large columns and decorative tiles. Many of the children and some adults would wave as we raced by. Speed is our best friend on convoys. It is amazing that a convoy that consists of numerous Iraqi buses or trucks can keep up with our Hummers and 7-ton trucks racing along at 65 mph. As an American it is a comforting feeling to see all our tanks at the bridges and the military outposts stretching along the route. Once you get off the MSR’s it is a different situation. The presence of numerous children and people in some areas helps give a feeling of comfort to many Marines. A mile down the street the senses become even more alert when you notice the area is void of all civilians. On this day we traveled through a well known sniper area and a location where an Iraqi convoy had been attacked the previous day. If you look at all the stats for the convoys that have been hit you will see a very tiny percentage were Marine Corps. The insurgents try to hit soft targets and our convoys are hard targets. One platoon of Marines armed the way we travel is more then 100 insurgents would like to tangle with. The Army convoys are often hit even though they have many of the same weapons. Their gunners are usually sitting down in the vehicles and not up top manning the heavy guns. Our gunners man the heavy machine guns and swivel around to face danger areas. Our discipline and tactics prevent attacks.
Once we arrived at the release facility we learned that the Iraqi Army who runs the location did not show up to work. We left the four bus loads of detainees to be released with a translator, a couple of Marines, and two plain clothes Iraqi policemen. The convoy completed the mission without incident and we arrived at Camp Fallujah at high noon just in time for chow. Chow is always a main event. My crew this time consisted of SSgt Equilin (vehicle commander), LCpl Caldwell (driver – he stands about 6’7”), and Cpl Martinez (.50 cal gunner). During the convoy one of our vehicles did fire a flare pop up at a truck on the road. The Marine felt the driver had not pulled off the road fast enough, the convoy commander – Captain Hughes, did not feel the same way and he stressed the importance of making sure the civilian drivers see the convoy coming before taking such actions. Once again it was a long convoy but very much worth the leg cramps.
June 4th – Today or should I say yesterday since it is now 0010. I was supposed to meet Major Mooney at the weight room this morning at 0600 but I had warned him I wasn’t looking forward to it due to the time. The convoys wear you out. When my alarm went off at 0530 I hit my internal alarm like Kramer uses. Well the alarm didn’t go off in my head until after 1000. At least I got Mooney to go to the gym. Today’s big events consisted of me getting my computer back from the communication Marines who make sure it is clean. This allowed me to hook up to the network and to get a new email so I will not have to go through the internet. My new email address is: I attended the CG’s weekly staff meeting where all the key issues are discussed and briefed to the General. There are actually two Generals there since the 2 star has a 1 star assistant. I sit right behind the General who is seated at the head of a huge conference table that seats approximately 20 plus senior staff members. Today the General had a large coffee mug to rinse down the red Twizzlers he was eating. I wanted to take a picture of this but felt it might be frowned upon during the meeting. Maybe next time.
One of the biggest problems here is water loading. I drink so much water, juice, Gatorade, and a few Mountain Dews everyday I spend half of the day going to the bathroom. A minute ago I went out and as I made the walk wondering if I would step on a cobra, scorpion, or camel spider an even greater fear came to mind. I do not fear any creature that slithers, crawls, or walks on this planet but then I heard a noise that strikes fear into mankind (no Carolyn, not the Holy Name Bluejays) but a helo flying overhead and realized at any moment a flying seabag could be coming to get me.
Hopefully this gives you all a little flavor of what life is like here at Camp Fallujah. Our facilities are top rate for being in the middle of Iraq and I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure. It’s not quite as fun as fishing with Carolyn, Tim, and Michael at lake Wallenpaupack but it’s close – minus the family I love and miss, and the boat, water, fish, sub 100 degree temperatures, and all the wonderful things the good old USA has to offer.
Many people do not realize the real reason we are fighting over here in the Middle East – if the President did not take the war here we would be fighting it in the United States. Episodes like September 11th would become common place; you would not be able to go out to dinner or to a movie without wondering if a bomb blast would tear the place apart. The insurgents and terrorists would have seen us as weak and vulnerable. They would have been more then happy to strike us again and again on our own soil. We are not only fighting for a free Iraq but to protect our own way of life as well.
On that note let me wrap this up because as slow as I type it is now almost breakfast time. Good night to all. It was 114 degrees in the shade today.

Semper Fi,

LtCol Tim CrowleyField Historian, USMC

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Better to have and not need than to need and not have

meant to post this last night but our internet connection went tango uniform.

yesterday i got home from work a little quicker than usual, thanks to a mad dash across a street in arlington to catch the bus right before it pulled out. so, i was able to sit back, cradling Son & Heir in one arm and a tankard of growler-fresh ODB pilsener in the other—i will consider it a major developmental milestone when the little fellow has enough strength and dexterity to hold daddy’s beer—and bounce back and forth between the local news and fox news. i cued into fox right as john gibson was beginning his “my word” commentary, which i usually find pretty good.

during that segment he mentioned that he regularly carries a gas mask in his briefcase when he rides the new york subway system. i’m not sure that’s a very good idea, but not because i think he’s wasting time preparing for an unlikely event. rather, i applaud his sense of preparedness. i would only suggest that the best way to deal with a WMD attack is to avoid it. the weak link in an individual citizen’s plan is the lack of any kind of early warning about an impending attack. (plus there are concerns about learning how to use the mask, and storing and maintaining it right.) it is a far better thing to be above ground and moving away from the site of the attack than to be below ground, stuck on a subway car, and in the position to have to use the mask. however, in that case, you will need the mask and if you’ve got it, you’re doing better than if you don’t. all that being said, i have to salute mr gibson for thinking ahead. good on him.

i for one am not going to carry a gas mask. but that segment made me ask, what am i carrying (or not carrying) that i would need in the event of some sort of incident on the metro in DC? the answer right now is, not too damn much.

so, let’s discuss what we might want to toss into our briefcases or backpacks in the event that something bad (except for a WMD strike) happens at the worst possible place and time during the commute. for this list i draw on some postings on john farnam’s quips, as well as some other sources. imagine having to take care of, or at the very least assist in taking care of, several injured people in dark, panicky, confusing circumstances. here is the short list of things you might need, and things you might need to do:

- some sort of flashlight, or even better a headlamp, with fresh and extra batteries.

- a leatherman.

- a first aid kit with several bandages, dressings, tape, EMT shears and latex gloves for starters. the best choice would be several “israeli battle dressings” which combine the bandage and the dressing in one item that can used with one hand. (i’d say stick in some tourniquets too, though one must be very careful about their use.) the idea is to have the capability to cover multiple injuries or be able to provide equipment to trained personnel who don’t have their own equipment, such as an off-duty nurse or EMT who’s riding the train with you.

- the training to use your first aid kit effectively and recognize what injuries are the most serious. training comes first, gear comes second.

- something durable (like rite-in the-rain pads) to write on and with, to record facts for the authorities.

- good stout walking shoes, if you’re not already wearing them. you will probably have to walk out of the tunnels, and might have to assist (or even carry) someone else out.

- baby wipes and a small plastic bag to dispose of soiled or bloody items.

- a plan to get to out of the area and get home. a small stash of cash and any transit tickets you need will be a help. you should know how far you will have to walk out until you can get someplace where the transit system is running—think of what happened in London—and where you have some family or friends to hole up in case you can’t get home right away.

- a good recollection of the events, which you then must write down for the authorities. what happened, when and where. did you notice anything or anyone out of the ordinary on that day or any day before it?

- finally, a clear head and good sense of humor. at an incident scene before the authorities get there, what people want is for someone to take charge and get a solution going.

i can’t see that a cell phone will be much help. it doesn’t work down in the tunnel and if something big and bad has happened your frantic attempts to get through will only swamp the lines and impede others’ ability to communicate.

please feel free to add on and tell me what i’ve missed or where i’ve gone wrong. none of these things should take up too much room or weigh too much.

the intent here is to be prepared to take care of yourself first, to take care of others next, and to help the authorities when they arrive. you can’t cover every contingency, but if you have the right things with you and more importantly the right training and outlook, you can take charge and keep a bad situation from getting worse.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Down to business

first things first… my hat’s off to all the steady bloggers out there who update every hour on the hour. yes, some are professionals, but still it’s a handful for anyone. QUITE A HANDFUL. thus, my unsteady output up to now.

next… the name, Rule 308. seen “breaker morant”? if so, you’ll know the title, with the caliber updated for modern times. now of course I don’t (and can’t) advocate the sorts of measures that “leftenants” morant, hancock and witten went down for, but i can (and will) echo the sentiment. the vigorous application of Rule 308 would solve a lot of our problems. war is an ugly business, and it’s not for the faint of heart. we are in a war we didn’t ask for, and half-measures will cost us dear. the imperative is to win it, and win it decisively. this is going to take both time and some nasty measures. do we have the heart for the long fight? we’ll see. (and if you haven’t seen the movie, well, maybe you can guess. if not, email me and i’ll explain it.)

in that vein, let’s discuss the bombings in London. bad news, very bad news. the worst thing that can happen is that the actions will cleave us from the Brits. when i first saw the reports (on Fox, of course), i said to myself, “i bet they cave in.” then i thought the better of it, as i think they’re made of sterner stuff. what i say now is this: i don’t think they’ll cave, but i won’t be surprised if they do.” not exactly a ringing endorsement and i hate to say it, but i think Old Europe is so far down the path to self-immolation that only a cataclysmic strike will knock them back into reality. a smaller action like last week’s bombings might be enough to get al-qaeda’s point across but not enough to swing them to the other side. and no one wants to see a massive strike on the UK, or anywhere else.

for further discussion i would turn your attention to National Review Online, specifically to a John Derbyshire article from last friday: “Britain will do a Spain. I am sure of it.” in that article there is also a link to one of his old articles about an alternate universe where the US is actually vigorously prosecuting a war against al-qaeda. as opposed to what we’re doing now, according to JD. very amusing.

don’t get me wrong, i love the Brits, the best allies we’ve ever had. i would gladly fight in any task force under their command. i know their soldiers and Marines will fight. i’m not so sure about their populace, enervated by decades of cradle-to-grave welfare and a strong pacifist socialist movement. stranger things have happened.

and i hope i'm right, that they'll stick it out.