Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Enemy of My Enemy of My Enemy of My Enemy...

Fourteen months into this deployment and things are taking a turn for the surreal.

Throughout Mosul and Baghdad, we were fighting what could best described as an insurgent cocktail: parts of Islamic State of Iraq, Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, 1920 Revolution Brigade and simple, pissed off farmers. Shia and Sunni. Organized militias and rag tags. All they had in common was a shared goal: a total withdraw of occupational forces.

Then it got a little complicated when we moved to Diyala Province, where the 1920 Revolution Brigade was already fighting Al Qaeda for the Diyala capital of Baqubah. To us, to 1920, and to Al Qaeda, Baqubah became the most important city in year four of the Long War. It housed the Al Qaeda network headquarters and was picked for a free-for-all Sunni insurgent cage match, a fight to the death to determine who would emerge victorious to battle the Americans and Iraqi Army in the future.

The 1920 Revolution Brigade (translated from "Brigades of the Revolution of the Twenty") takes its name from the 1920 crusade against British colonial rule. History, it seems, does have a way of repeating itself. The group picked the name to invoke nationalism in local Iraqis fed up with the Americans occupying. A good portion of them were members of Saddam’s regime at one point. Since they’re all Iraqi, they haven’t taken kindly to Al Qaeda, made up of mainly foreign fighters that terrorize neighborhoods and kill indiscriminately. They were natural enemies of 1920, who just wanted those pesky Americans to leave. Fighting with Al Qaeda took its toll. Before CNN broke the story, we had been cooperating for quite some time with members of the 1920 Brigade to flush out Al Qaeda members operating in Baqubah.

They came to us with a truce!

At the beginning of the year they claimed a series of downed helicopters, including the Blackwater Security chopper we responded to. They killed all four of the contractors point blank, one of them execution style and attempted to smuggle the bodies out before we got there. They responded by shooting at us with anti-aircraft guns from a high rise building. After talking with them, we found out they were present during the attack that killed my friend Chevy on March 14.

What must have been an awkward meeting turned into an agreement between coalition forces and 1920: they would stop attacking us if we helped them root out Al Qaeda. They would send one dude on patrol with us, and he’d point out Al Qaeda members and safe houses. They were restricted from carrying weapons during the day and would patrol at night. Things got off to a rough start. Now and again a helicopter would see a car full of gunmen and destroy it. They turned out to be 1920 members on more than one occasion. After we killed a dude with an AK, we always wondered if he was an unlucky Al Qaeda member or a really unlucky 1920 member. Most of us simply considered them a lesser enemy and didn’t care much when we killed our dubious friends by mistake. A common suggestion when we got a source was to “dispose” of him after he outlived his usefulness.

When word got out to the press that we were in cahoots with insurgents, it was spun out of control. General Mixon said something along the lines of “we can’t be sure they all have killed Americans.” Like there is an acceptable percentage of those who have blown an American soldier to pieces. I’m not sure of the opinion of the public at large for reasons that are obvious, but it seems to border on unacceptable. It says a lot about the progress of this war when we’re siding with one insurgent group to battle another. If Jack Bauer doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, why does the American army?

Lately, after leading us to an endless amount of empty Al Qaeda safe houses and supposed cache sites, the 1920 Brigade has gotten more perks since we started this nefarious relationship. They have started to patrol neighborhoods during the day, armed, contrary to the rules established. They take over a building and hold it as a base of operations, setting up concertina wire and giving us their location for our GPS systems so we don’t send a missile into the living room. And of course, we supply them with food and water. We have given them uniforms (yellow reflective belts) and a new name: Baqubah Guardians (or The Bee Gees). At least someone up there has a sense of humor.

After a few months of working with them, I’m still on the fence about the morality of the situation. On one hand, they have fought and killed us and hope to in the future when Al Qaeda is gone. On the other, they are more reliable then the squabbling, sloppy, lazy, sectarian and thieving Iraqi police and army. Our last hope of getting out of this country by the end of the decade is an efficient and professional military and police force. Renewed efforts of military transition teams to prop up credible army and police units have largely failed. We have to watch with suspicious eyes to prevent civilian abuse, looting and vaguely homosexual assault on detainees. We don’t even try to obstruct their cocaine use, which was apparent in Mosul when I saw piles of white powder on the desks at the police department. I declined an offer to sniff a line.

The only thing more impressive than the Shiite IA’s ability to beat the hell out of Sunni civilians is their inability to do anything on their own accord. They simply cannot conduct patrols without us, but 1920 reigns freely in the neighborhoods they operate in. In a few months they are confident in their ability to combat Al Qaeda with minimal help from us, and the IA refuses to do a thirty minute patrol alone. And we still refuse to take off the training wheels.

For now, our relationship with 1920 is one of mutual distrust and hatred, a sign of the times. A conversation between a member of my platoon and a 1920 source was rife with foreboding on the future of this partnership, and of the war to come.
“Do you want to kill me?” asked the soldier.
“Yes,” replied the source, coldly and without emotion. “But not today.”


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Other Side

One more inspection and he is going to lose it.

General Omar was visiting the training camp today, his training camp, and things had to look absolutely perfect. It was a dog and pony show as always. Oversights that didn’t matter day to day had to be corrected or hidden from view. Green banners proclaiming “God’s Will” would be strewn up, faded portraits of Saddam would be dusted off and straightened, and the shit trenches would be filled with dirt and fresh ones would be dug. Just in case Omar had the squirts.

The camp was little more than three small one story buildings isolated deep within the palm groves. One was empty save for a chalkboard spanning two of the walls. On doctrine training days they’d huddle around the board as an instructor lazily explained the concept of ambushes and mortar attacks. The X’s and arrows the instructor drew reminded him of the football plays he and his brother sketched in the dirt field next to their house…

“Akmed? Are you paying attention?”
“Huh? Oh, Yes. Fully sir” he replied, his mind coming back reluctantly to the steaming classroom. Even in his own clothes, Akmed seemed to be out place. Wearing light blue sandals two sizes too small and tight black jeans, he didn’t fit anywhere. Sitting on the floor next to the other men was always a trial of patience. Even folded, his legs were long enough to annoy someone sitting next to him. After a few days, he found a spot in the back, alone. The various instructors never failed to remind the class of his bulbous nose and thick unibrow. Nearly a year at the camp, he had forgotten why he was there in the first place.
“The class would love to hear what the basic load is for a three man RPG team, Akmed. Since you’re listening so attentively.”
“Um. I know this. Three?” A few guys in the front snicker.
“Three? Are you sure?”
“It could be four, I guess.”
“That’s incorrect. At this rate you’ll barely be a mediocre suicide bomber.” The snickering turned into a roaring laughter. Akmed’s shoulders drop and his nervous smile fades. Defeated.
“I know the answer!” It was Sayid. “The basic load is six RPGS, two for each man.” Fucking teacher’s pet.
“That’s right Sayid. Perhaps you can learn a thing or two from him, Akmed. The whole class can. That’s it for today’s lesson. Class is out early so everyone can clean up for General Omar’s inspection today. So get to work.”
The class of ten trickled out into the scorching afternoon sun. The palm trees did little to shade the cluster of buildings. They seemed to hold in the heat, even during the night. Akmed scoops up an empty bottle of Class Cola and walks around to the backside of the classroom to the spigot on wall. With a full bottle of murky water he makes his way to the barracks. Even though they were the same size as the classroom, the two buildings held ten men each with all their gear and sleeping mats. There was barely enough room for that. During class, the instructor gave a list of what was needed for the layout during the general’s inspection. Akmed digs into his pocket for the folded piece of paper.

-Cleaned and oiled Kalashnikov with sharpened bayonet, free of rust
-Washed magazine bandoleer
-Four magazines filled with 30 rounds each, clean and free of rust
-Dusted off and taped grenades in order: two fragmentation, one colored smoke
-Vest filled with ball bearings and nails. Hanging straps folded neatly and taped. Words “God Is -Great” neatly written in black marker
-Mask with holes cut for eyes and mouth, clean and free of dirt
-Tools free of rust and dirt: shovel, pliers (small, large), pry bar, wire cutters
-Iraqi Police uniform and Kevlar vest, clean with patches sewn

Each man’s equipment layout had to be exactly alike. Nothing was to deviate from the picture hanging by the door. The mats were to be one Kalashnikov (without bayonet) apart in two rows of five. On the mat, the Kalashnikov was vertical on the left side, the bayonet five inches from the barrel and flush with the tip, bandoleer folded as to show all three pouches five inches from the bayonet, four magazines with the curve to the left in stacks of two on top of the center pouch, two fragmentation grenades and one smoke grenade lined up horizontally underneath the bandoleer with a two inch separation, martyr vest filled with forty ¾ inch ball bearings and twenty-five three inch nails, with straps folded in an underhand fashion and secured with black tape, “God Is Great” written in two inch letters in the center of the belt and placed in the bottom center of the mat, mask with one hole for mouth and two for eyes, cut at a 45° angle (to show aggression) five inches to the right of the vest, shovel with scoop pointing up and out across the mat from the Kalashnikov, pry bar two inches to the left and flush with the shovel, wire cutters three inches underneath the shovel and handles pointing to the left, small pliers one inch to the left with handles down, large pliers one inch to the right with handles down, Iraqi Police Kevlar vest four inches below the mat, centered, Iraqi Police uniform stacked neatly on top with shirt showing identification badges, and last, at the center of the mat with four inches distance all around, The Main Pillar of Islam, The Koran.

Akmed stands to eyeball his layout, stretching his nearly six foot frame toward the ceiling. Blood rushes back to his legs after ten minutes of meticulous arranging on his knees. Standing back, he glances at the finished layouts to his left and right. Good enough.

Akmed, the lanky, unibrowed, awkward seventeen year old from central Iraq, needs a smoke badly. The general was coming in an hour and everyone in the camp still remembers what happened the last time there was an inspection. Colonel Ali, known for his meticulous and obsessive nature, couldn’t find one infraction in the barracks. He ran a white gloved finger over the rounds in the magazines and sniffed the armpits of the uniform sleeves for odor. Everything was perfect. Then he stepped to Akmed’s mat. With a horrified look on his face, Colonel Ali froze.
“Captain, what is this meaning of this?” Colonel Ali never looked at his subordinates when addressing them.
“What is the meaning of what, sir?” responded Captain Samman with a nervous look on his face, gleaming with sweat.
This” replied Colonel Ali, bending down to pick up Akmed’s shovel, pointing a damning finger at a spot of rust the size of a pinhead.
“It appears to be rust, sir.”
“No, Captain. It is a failure of the whole chain of command from you on down to make certain your men’s equipment is serviceable. Do you really expect this private to dig a hole with such poor tools? And while I’m at it…”

After the colonel yelled at the captain, and the captain yelled at the sergeant, and the sergeant at the corporal, and the corporal at Akmed, the rest of the men were sure to teach him a lesson. Later that night when Akmed was pulling triple guard duty, three men tackled him, held him down and beat him with a rusty chain. It was his mother’s birthday.

With a sigh, Akmed steps back from his mat with the perfect layout. Or he thought it was perfect. The last one seemed to be immaculate to him. He even ran an oiled rag over his shovel to make sure it was glistening. His mind seemed to wander off when his attention was needed the most, like when he was on guard duty or wiring a bomb. Ah, the smoke! Akmed feels around in his pocket for a pack of Five Star cigarettes. He pulls it out and flips open the top. Empty. Akmed turns and heads out the door, oblivious to the new piece of paper stapled to the door. It was a list of things needed to be done around the camp before the general arrived. It read:

Mohammed – String up barbed wire around perimeter of camp. Discard old wire.
Amir – Sweep out the classroom and take out the garbage in and around the buildings.
Akmed – Dig a fighting position ten meters in front of the main barracks. Emplace an RPK with 1200 rounds.
Sayid – Cement glass into the tops of walls for protective measures.

Get this done before 1300!
-Captain Samman

Stepping outside, Akmed sees a stout, solitary figure staring into the grove. It must be Mahmood.
“Hey Mah, got a smoke for me?”
“Not again Akmed,” Mahmood says with a smile. He reaches into his pocket. “This is the last time.”
“Whatever man, I get you all the time!” If Akmed was the tallest of the group, Mahmood was definitely the shortest. He stood five feet tall with a thick pair of sandals on, but made up for it in muscle. The only thing darker than his skin was his eyes, intense but with a hint of playfulness about them. Mahmood carried the RPK, a heavy machine gun, like it was a toy. So far he had claimed two downed American helicopters last January. It was safe to say he was the most feared man in the camp. He had taken part in the beating of Akmed after the colonel’s visit, but they had since become friends. Their personalities complemented one another, and he was the only one Akmed completely trusted.

“How’s your layout? I hope it’s better than last time,” Mahmood says with a smirk, holding the pack of Five Stars out to Akmed. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a purple lighter, sparking the tip of the cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
“I don’t think so. Mine looks as good as anybody else’s.”
“Let’s hope so. A pissed off colonel was bad enough. A pissed off general would be the end of us. We’ll be filling ghee cans with dirt all day and night if this goes bad.”
“Fuck! Shit!”
Mahmood and Akmed look at each other and spin around to see Sayid standing on top of a chair next to a wall, blood dripping from his hands. At his feet is a bucket filled with shards of glass and a spade dripping with wet cement.
“God dammit Akmed, stop staring and get me something to wrap my hand with!” With some hesitation and a hidden smile, Akmed runs into the barracks room, grabs a bandana hanging on the wall and runs back to Sayid, still standing on the chair, still bleeding.
“I hope your chore is going better than mine,” says Sayid, wrapping the bandana around his crimson palm.
“What chore? You mean the layout?” Akmed replies, with confusion.
“You mean you didn’t dig the fighting position yet?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I hope you’re joking Akmed. General Omar will be here soon, and you haven’t dug the hole? Go look on the barracks door if you don’t believe me.”
Trailing Mahmood, Akmed walks back to the barracks to look at the letter posted on the door. His skin drains of blood and suddenly the room feels cold in the summer afternoon.
“Mahmood, I might need your help.”

With clean and oiled shovels in hand, Mahmood and Akmed quickly measure out ten meters with thirty paces from the barracks door. They begin to dig, and dig, and dig. Akmed takes a break long enough to glance at his watch. A quarter to one. They had fifteen minutes until the captain’s final inspection right before the general arrived. With the sun high above them, masked by the leafy palms, the two men dig with fury, digging to prevent the consequence of not digging at all. The hole had to be big enough for a man to stand up inside chest high so he could man the machine gun with most of his body concealed. Mahmood throws down the shovel and disappears into the hole, the ground swallowing him completely. It was deep enough.
Akmed extends his bony arm to Mahmood, straining to pull him out. Stepping out of the hole, Mahmood runs to the pile of leaves and brush used for fires. It would be useful in concealing the mound of dirt excavated for the fighting position. Seemingly out of nowhere, Captain Samman is standing by the position, his arms crossed, as Akmed and Mahmood stop in front of him, their arms full of brown foliage.
“You two fuckups better hurry. General Omar is on his way, and I’ll be damned if I have another failed inspection on my hands. I already have one bleeding private. I don’t want two more.”
“Yes sir!”

As Captain Samman walks away, Akmed and Mahmood look at each other and start to chuckle. They throw the brush on the dirt pile and rush back to the barracks to grab Mahmood’s RPK and a belt of 1200 rounds. On their way back, they pick up their shovels and briskly walk back inside to clean off their tools.

“Hey, any of you guys got any oil?” pleads Akmed.
“Shit no.”
“Teeeeeen-hut!” Everyone in the room scrambles to attention. Mahmood leaps across the room and drops his shovel nonchalantly on the right side of the mat, mirroring the sparkling Kalashnikov on the left side. Akmed, frozen with his arms at his side, still clutches the shovel.
“How are you men doing?” booms General Omar, a colonel on his left, Captain Samman on his right. No one answers the short, thick, ugly man with a scar spanning his forehead. Legend had it that in the Iran-Iraq War, a tank shell grazed his head, leaving an eight inch wound. Others claim he fell asleep while taking a shit in the woods, splitting his head open on a tree stump in front of him.

General Omar is a busy man. He commands all Al Qaeda units in Diyala Province and had many places to be. It was therefore strange he was there, in this small and insignificant training camp, to inspect the living conditions of his soldiers. He didn't care, frankly. These men would be led to their deaths, whether it was from a martyr bombing or getting shot while planting a bomb in the road. He was a general, and the lives these men led was of little importance to him. Still, he felt these visits improved the morale and spirit of the men fighting for an independent Islamic state, free of American will and treasonous dogs in the Iraqi Army and Police. They were usually poor and confused young boys, like Akmed, coerced into fighting by friends and brothers. It didn’t take much to bend their will or convince them of reasons to die for men like General Omar. He was an orator before a tactician.

“Men, I want you to know what a difference you’re making out there. Those American bastards are dying by the hundreds because of brave souls like you. A free Iraq is closer today than yesterday because of your will, your sacrifice in places like this. I know the training and fighting is hard, but we have more cost, more loss, ahead of us.” He casually walks down the space between pads, glancing slightly to the identical layouts and to the glassy, disciplined stares of the men in front of them.
“I came down to tell you how proud I am of this company, the best of the battalion. It’s not because of your captain or your other superiors, but because of you. You make my job that much easier.” He stops at Akmed, eyeing the shovel in his hand.
“Son, why do you have a shovel at the ready? Do you aim to retire me early?” General Omar says with a chuckle. He’s the only one laughing.
“Um, no, no, sir” stutters Akmed. “I just finished digging a fighting position in front of the barracks, sir.”
“I see. I’m sure it’s a fine job, soldier.”
General Omar looks around the room one more time. Moving toward the exit, Captain Samman stands fully erect.
“Carry on men!” exclaims General Omar. “Good luck out there!”

The colonel trailing General Omar closes the door behind him, and everyone breaths a sigh of relief. Akmed looks at his shovel, brushes off the tip with his shirt, and places it, scoop up and out on the right side of his mat, flush with the freshly oiled Kalashnikov.

(This story is a work of fiction. I wrote it after a lot of jokes about how the enemy operates. My friends and I wondered aloud if they have archaic doctrine and nonsense busywork driving their war effort, like we do.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Dependence Day!

God, I was a naive brat.

In my younger years I was seduced by images of war and combat. When kids my age were watching Ninja Turtles and Dick Tracy, I was memorizing lines from Patton and The Longest Day. When I was in high school and my grades were falling faster than a bunker buster, I didn’t bring my homework to my fast food job. I packed a copy of Black Hawk Down. I was that kid; so sure my future was in the military that I damned any other possibilities. Some were wearing letter jackets and Texas A&M sweaters; I was wearing my dad’s worn Navy field jacket. So it should come to no surprise that I wasn’t the popular kid in class. Sure, I had a few friends here and there. But I had no sense of belonging. I felt like I was riding out my time until I could join the Army. A band of outsiders! If movies have taught me anything beyond the fact that Hong Kong cops don’t play by the rules, it’s that soldiers come from different walks of life to come together and serve a purpose greater than themselves. Remember what JFK said? Ask what you can do for your country. It was 2003 when I was graduating, and we were just invading Iraq. Support for the war was overwhelming back then. I was a 17 year old who thought it was a swell idea. Soon it’d be my chance to experience war with my own eyes and heart. How exciting it must be! I’d go from a hapless kid to a respected man in twelve months.

Recruiters across the country must be thanking their lucky stars for Hollywood. Half their job is done when a middle class high school dropout buys Band of Brothers on DVD.

There’s a cold hard fact that hits everyone when they get to their unit fresh out of basic training. In the great scheme of the Army, you’re nothing. You’re puke. You’re not a patriot serving your country, you’re unproven waste of space. Shit! That wasn’t in the brochure. After awhile you start to form those cliché bonds you see in 50s war movies, though it only applies to those of the same rank or just a little lower and higher. My team leader knows what my favorite movie is, but I doubt my battalion commander can put a name to my face. That’s how it has to be. Do you think Bill Gates knows the hopes and aspirations of the guy who empties the trash in his office? The higher the rank, the more impersonal it gets. To some general I’m not Alex, reader and movie aficionado. I’m Rifleman in Company B, Third Brigade, Second Infantry Division, First Corps, America’s Corps, The Only Corps! To a dude who has lieutenants make his coffee, it must be startlingly easy to hand down orders and directives that destroy plans you thought you had for the future. That’s called thinking out of your pay grade.

Ask anyone besides Donald Rumsfeld about the progress of the war and they’ll tell you: it’s going badly. Most people would elect a biracial lesbian president before having us stay here one more day. Too bad the group that was elected to be the voice of the people has been mute for four years. Every month the bombs in the road get bigger, every month the enemy gets wise to our tactics and exploit them, to the chagrin of colonels with slipping track records. People with sixteen, seventeen years in the Army are getting out a few years short of retirement. They’d rather not risk another deployment that is now fifteen months long, because you can’t enjoy retirement benefits when kids are stomping on what used to be your intestines after a five hundred pound bomb disintegrated the Humvee you were in because, oh beans, the Army thought it was too expensive to put armor underneath it. That money was better spent putting Velcro pockets on our new uniforms.

We roll our eyes every time we hear the term ‘re-enlistment brief.’ Ugh. Since before we deployed, we’ve been collectively forced to attend a meeting every few months where some dude lays out the news: stay in the Army, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded. $15,000, college time, Airborne school, the works. Serve your country for a few more years, come on. They have a big sheet with everyone’s name, kind of like a grocery list. They check yes, no or maybe next to your name. When you tell them no, it was always the same chilly reply: you’ll fail on the outside. You’re just a vet with no skills, who would hire you? Before we left we must have had the lowest re-enlistment rate in the division. The only people convinced to re-enlist were those with families, who couldn’t risk getting out and suddenly not having a monthly check and health insurance. For the single guys, forget about it. Three or four years were enough for us. I knew the military life wasn’t for me.

Four years of war and this Army is a skeleton of its former self. Equipment is broken or obsolete, thousands are dead and wounded and many of us can’t wait to get off the Hindenburg. For awhile, deployments were kept to a year, with at least twelve months back home to recuperate, to get new equipment, to bury the dead. To keep the surge going, deployments have been extended to fifteen months to keep the year at home from shrinking down to nine or less months. The number of people getting out was devastating, so the Army needed a new plan to keep people in. New slogan and advertising campaign? Check. Stop loss program? Check. Bigger bonuses? Check. Guaranteeing non-deployable positions at training posts and recruiting stations, acknowledging people are scared stiff to go to Iraq? Check. Still the numbers are low. After watching too many 80s gang movies, someone thought of such a simple, foolproof idea: good ol’ fashioned blackmail.

Before we left Baghdad, the re-enlistment briefs got a little more disturbing. Instead of letting you know what a bum you’ll become if you leave the Army after your enlistment, they put it in simple terms: if you don’t re-enlist, you’ll be thrown in 5th Brigade, the Stryker unit on Ft. Lewis that was being stood up, and yes, they were deploying as soon as they could. So you might as well stay where your friends are and come back to Iraq with them. Otherwise, you’ll be taking your chances by getting your ass stop-lossed and sent to Iraq in as little as six months to a year after you returned. Better off with the sure thing. Here’s a pen, junior. If you got out after July 2008, you were screwed. I, on the other hand, was in the clear since I was getting out at the end of 2007. The options were re-enlist, extend to meet the unit’s needs, or take no action. I checked take no action, which meant my name would be added to the pool of possible candidates for 5th Brigade. No matter. It was of no consequence if I separated from the Army in 3rd or 5th Brigade. A lot of us were in that boat. Still, it spooked us that someone could come to us with a list and a smile and say in so many words that we were fucked into another deployment unless we added years to our contracts. In short, the thanks we got for serving our country was being forced into a game of Russian Roulette. Take the risk, pull the trigger. See what happens.

Month thirteen into our deployment and someone is getting desperate. They pick the best times to hold these briefs. We just spent a week straight in western Baqubah, where the explosions haven’t let up since Operation Arrowhead Ripper began weeks ago. Mercifully they brought us in for 48 hours to sleep in a bed in lieu of a muggy rooftop. The next morning a certain group was to meet for a re-enlistment brief. Those selected had the same thing in common: they all said no to re-enlistment at one time, and they all are set to get out of the Army from October 2008 to around October 2009. Privates to Specialists to Staff Sergeants, all in the same sinking boat of deceit. They were told that those not re-enlisting would receive orders to a new unit 24 hours after returning to Ft. Lewis. In a month they would be going to another post after fifteen months of time spent in Iraq, to a unit that could be deploying in the next sixty days! That meant either an Airborne unit or a regular light infantry outfit, meaning Bradleys or Humvees (which have a poor track record against wired propane tanks and landmines buried in the road). So here’s the deal, clear cut:

College Time
Bonus Money
We Love You

Don’t Re-Enlist
30 Out of The Next 32 Months Spent In Iraq
Humvee or Bradley Unit
You’re Going To Die

After all of this, I consider myself lucky. If I had joined the Army nine months later, I’d be at a crossroads. Those not so lucky are facing a fifteen month tour either way. Whether or not they stay with this unit, go to be a recruiter or drill sergeant, or just take their chances, is up to them. Shoot yourself in the foot or stab yourself in the hand. Oh, the possibilities.