Ma Deuce Gunner

Ma Deuce Gunner


Friday, September 30, 2005

How Many...

soldiers fighting "illegal" wars, who "steal oil" and "opress" the popluace get offered to join a family for tea during a patrol? Anyone?? Anyone?? Beuhler??

That's what I thought.

The photo is a little dark, please accept my apologies.

At night in Iraq, many people spend the evenings outside in the yard or out in the street. Whole families sit around and interact. It is neat to see 3 or 4 generations of a family enjoying each others company. We all know about how some families in the US are, who rarely eat together at a table, and if they do, they retreat from each other to watch TV, go to the mall, go out with their on and so forth.

Last night, we were out in the city, on an escort mission. We stopped and got out while at one of our objectives, and we happened to be next to this family. The patriarch of the clan (directly to my L in the photo) immediately stood up and came to me, offering his chair and a cigarette. I declined the chair, accepted the cigarette, and continued to 'pull' security. The children immediately surrounded me, saying whatever phrase they knew in English, which is normally "Mistah". A lot of the time, kids beg for candy or soccerballs, but these kids just wanted to know my name and where I was from. I dug into my cargo pocket and found some peppermint candies, the soft kind, which are just plain confectioners sugar and peppermint oil, and hand them to the kids.

The patriarch then stood again and walked to me with his hands in front of him, making a stirring motion. We have learned that this is the Iraqi hand signal for tea. "Chai? Chai?", he said. I shot a glance to my squad leader, who smiled and said "Go ahead, we have plenty of security."

To the patriarch I turned, and said "Naam, Shukran.", which is Arabic for "Yes, Thank You". A flash of a flowery dress is all I see, as an older teenage girl disappears behind the gate, destined for the kitchen. I nod and smile at everything they say, and they all giggle at the faces I make, as they try to communicate with hand signals and few English words.

Before I know it, the young woman appears at the gate, holding an immaculately polished silver tray with eight steaming cups of chai. Pre-poured into small glasses with gold rims and ornate flowers carved into the glass, and matching saucers, and miniature brass spoons jutting out the top of the glass. Sugar is already in the tea, in ridiculous quantites. Iraqi tea is served VERY HOT, and the sugar dissolves with a few swishes of the diminuative spoon.

I have learned, over the past 11 months, that you DO NOT attempt to sip from the cup, or your lips and tongue will pay the price. You stir for a while, both to dissolve the sugar and attempt to dissipate some of the heat. When you are ready for a sip, you pour a little into the saucer, which is an art all unto itself, because I always end up with some tea running down the side of the glass. You then sip from the saucer, because the tea cool rapidly to a comfortable drinking temperature.

We all stand there sipping in the dark, lightning flashing in the distance, illuminating the southwestern sky. Now it is time to go, the element we were escorting is ready to move to the next site. I take a final sip of tea, replace it on the waiting tray, now held by who looks like the patriarch's son. I turn to the old man, and again thank him, shake his hand and then momentarily place my hand on my chest, an Arabic gesture of gratitude. Instantaneously, right hands surround me, for everyone wants to shake mine. Even the women, who sometimes shy away from us, smile and shake our hands here. Smiles abound.

As we mount the vehicle, the family stands on the curb, waving and smiling. I reach into my pocket and feel some more soft peppermints, which I toss to the kids, and they smile even bigger, if it was possible to seem any happier. "Win their hearts and minds.", they say. In this little microcosm of Iraq, a curb in a neighborhood under the desert stars, "Mission Accomplished".

I shall never forget the 10 minutes I spent with this family. No conversations of substance transpired, no earth shattering foreign policy formed. Simply hospitality and gratitude; just smiles, body language and handshakes. For a while, there was no fighting, no explosions, no terrorist possibly lurking around the corner. Even though I was in full combat gear, sharp steel sheathed, ammunition and explosives strapped to my chest, rifle slung at my front, for a moment, I was just a guy enjoying a hot beverage and some candy with the neighbors.



Update 7 OCT 05: Thank you all who emailed me photo-shopped copies of the picture in this post, but they are .bmp images, and the hosting service I use only accepts JPEG. Still working it, though.

"Renegade 3" Crew

This is my fire team and my squad leader.

Observer----Driver----Asst. Gunner

Sqd. Ldr-------------------Me, the "MDG"

Monday, September 26, 2005

New Video at MDG Video

I have a new clip posted over at MDG Video. It is from one of our sister companies practicing stacking and entering a building...a VERY SMALL building. Hope you get a laugh out of it.



Sunday, September 25, 2005

-Jennifer's Musings: Declaration of WAR

Jen, my blogdaughter, has posted an excerpt of what is tantamount to a Declaration of WAR signed by, among others Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Go on over there and give it a read, and make sure you read it all they way to the bottom, for her commentary at the bottom is very insightful.



Saturday, September 24, 2005

Thank You

I would like to welcome my new readers, courtesy of Time, and thank all my regular readers for their loyalty, comments and encouragement. I will do my best to produce content you enjoy reading. I never thought I would gain the readership base that I have. Thank you all for reading. I hope you keep coming back.



Conex Day

Today, we packed our conex. To the un-initiated, a conex is a metal shipping container that can be loaded on a flatbed truck or a ship.

To a soldier, loading the means one thing: We are close to the day when we stuff whatever we have left into a duffle bag and a rucksack, I pack my laptop into its gargantuan black waterproof case, and put on my assault vest...which will be MUCH lighter, due to not having a ridiculous amount of ammo, and load the freedom bird. Sometime after the elections in October, we will transfer our AO (Area of Operations) to the 101st ABN, and we will di-di-mau back to the US. We'll to Kuwait for a while, then on to my native Washington, at FT. Lewis for an uncertain amount of time, and then return to Idaho. I can't wait to get back to my wife and my life.

So, just another check-mark in the book that gets us home.



Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I would like to respond to a comment left on my last post...

Anonymous said...
Do you think that what you are doing is worth the deaths of 25,000 Iraqis and 2,000 US soldiers, or, is this going to be like Vietnam - a completely pointless exercise?
The reason I ask is that it seems that we are helping to install an Islamic government with strong ties to Iran, which will lead to the enslavement of women.
Must make you wonder what you are fighting for!

Many of the terrorist who have been killed in the fighting here in Iraq are not Iraqi. I can't divulge the breakdown as I have heard from our intelligence assets, but many of the terrorists we catch are NOT indigenous Iraqis. There are Syrians, Saudi's, Jordanians, Iranians, and other personell from other countries. There are definately Iraqis that take part in the insurgency.

If you are counting people killed by the terrorists, innocent people killed by suicide bombers, that is the reason we are here. To protect those innocent people until the new Iraqi Security Forces are able to do the job themselves.

As a soldier who takes part in combat operations, I know that there is the possibility that I may never make it home. We are doing a dangerous job, but I signed up for it. When I signed my contract, almost 8 years ago, I knew that I was joining an organization that someday might put me into harms way. I knew that I might fight and die in a foreign land. I joined the Army to defend the freedoms of our land. Detractors of this war may claim we are not fighting for freedom. I beg to differ. By fighting this war here, we are not only procuring freedom for a new country, but we are taking the fight to our enemy. We need to show the terrorists that if they attack our homeland, we have the capability and the resolve to destroy them where they plan and plot to kill our citizens.

One of the great things of freedom is choice. Choice is the cornerstone of freedom. Iraq did not choose to be ruled by Saddam Hussein. They did not choose to be oppressed, starved, and murdered by the thousands. We have given them choice, an opportunity to excersize their volition in how they want their government to rule the country.

Islam is a fact of life here. Moreover, Islam is a way of life. Islam is inextricably intertwined in the day to heppenings of the average citizen. When a religion carries so much precendence in a society, aspects and beliefs of the religion are bound to manifest themselves in law and government. Shari'a law is what these people have known for generations.

If Shari'a law is incorporated into the constitution, and the constitution is ratified by popular vote, then we have done our jobs. We have given them the opportunity to freely elect their leaders, and on 15 October, they will have to ability to adopt or discard the laws the leaders have created. Wether or not the constitution contains elements of Shari'a law is the choice of the people.

I don't see enslavement of women here. I have seen female doctors in the hospitals, I have seen news of women attending and graduating police academies. Women participated in the election in January, the first time EVER. Older, more traditional women still wear the black "abaya", but you often see women wearing modern, colorful western influenced clothing. Women here may not be treated as well as they are in America, but I do not believe that enslavement is a term that properly describes the status of womens rights in Iraq.

As for my own personal hopes for this country, I wish to see this country succeed, no matter which law they adopt. I would love to see them have free and fair elections, and live peaceably under the government they choose.

I don't know of a single soldier who has spent time in the sands of Iraq who doesn't care about this country. I have invested almost a year of my life working to secure this country so its people can live free from tyranny. No, it's not a lost cause. This is not another Vietnam, and I don't believe for a second we will allow it to go in that direction.



Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Not Re-Inventing the Wheel...Just Fixing It

Sol was still fairly low in the eastern sky, its scorching rays tempered still, by a thin layer of clouds, yet to be burned off by the heat from the sun, and from the dust that rose into the air, kicked up from the convoy. We bump and bounce along a dirt road, tall reeds run the length of the rutted path, seperating the route from the irrigation canal on our left.

As my rippled soles of my boots hit the crust, I look around and survey my surroundings. The ground, baked hard from eons of desert sun, is sprinkled, seemingly uniformly, with black pellets. Sheep and goat turds litter the ground, and they are to be seen everywhere, almost as if they were spread, in feeble attempt to fertilize the hard ground. They crunch underfoot, moisture robbed by the parched air, as I move toward the link-up point. The days mission is a "Knock and Greet", a PC term for "Cordon and Search", and we are working in coordination with the Iraqi Army. This hamlet, barely large enough to be mentioned on the most detailed map, matches the earth it has been scratched from and formed out of. Thatched roofs dominate the 'skyline', if you can call it that. Chickens, Turkeys, sheep and dogs run about the villiage. A huge pile of sunflowers is to my left,

The particular IA fire team my squad was working with was standing around the back of the "bongo"; as we Americans call it, a brown Isuzu truck, with a long bed, the vehicle they rode to the target village in.

Our four are a motley crew. They were aged from early twenties to mid-thirties, near as I could guess. Their uniforms were dirty, ill fitting, but of uniform pattern. They all were copies of the old US Army "chocolate chip" Desert Camo design, reminiscent of the first Gulf War. It is odd to think about, soldiers of a new army, wearing the same, albeit old and discarded, style uniform of the force that repulsed their predecessors from Kuwait over a dozen years ago. Almost symblolic, if you ask me. A new, free army, wearing the clothing of a force that restored the sovreignty of a nation from the rule of their former dictator.

Two of them were wearing a flimsy imitation of a modern tactical vest, with cheap fastners and pattern mocking the American Woodland camo. Another is wearing a rugged canvas chest bandolier, with large black buttons, but faded from years of use. A brown blotch is splashed on the right shoulder, possibly bloodstains from another conflict, another time. The last one, the youngest, and probably the least ranking of them, has no vest, just bare body armor, AK mags jammed is his pockets, and a cheap, dollar-store-variety flashlight in his hand. Three had kevlar helmets, two with camo covers, one bare, a 'turtle shell", as it would be referred to in the US Army. Again, the youngest appears to have been shafted on the equipment, for he only has an old Iraqi Army style helmet, a steel pot, with a tattered and severely weathered leather chinstrap hanging unbuckled.

Their AK's were different, also. One had a brown plastic stock kit, one with a wood stock kit. Another had a skeletonized folding stock and black plastic furniture on the forend. The last one carried an AK with no stock, a thick piece of twine serving as his makeshift sling.

The only thing they all had was the yellow-papered French Galuoise cigarettes that dangled from each soldiers lip, or burned in their thick, dirty fingers. These soldiers are eager to get to work, though, enthusiastic to be on a mission. I see hope in them, hope that they might make a difference, hope they might make their country safer, hope that they might keep their children from being murdered in the streets by radical factions. Enthusiasim they have, training and equipment they are recieving, and more often than not, a baptism by fire for a new army they have had, for they fall under attack far more than the Coalition forces.

We canvass the village, the IA soldiers as the main searchers, stacking and restacking sacks of grain in storehouses, opening cabinets, overturning mattresses, combing through closets and exploring dark corners of sheds and homes. A barn, mud, with a thin sheet-metal door, no doubt its frame shoved into still wet mud, is secured with a rope. Our mission is to seal off this small burg, allowing no ingress or egress of the indigenous population, and search every structure, well, haystack and vehicle for contraband.

I open the barn, and the stark scent of urine immediately offends my nostrils. It is dark inside, for the entrance was on the west side of the hut, its solid mud windowless walls allow no light to enter. The roof is heavily thatched. The SureFire weaponlight on my rifle made short work of the darkness, obliterating the inky blackness, revealing a mainly empty space. The thick layer of loose dirt, still littered with goat turds, is decorated only with a large, bald flat tire, on a hopelessly dented and heavily rusted rim, never to roll correctly again. I think about a television series I saw, about a wheelwright in the early 1800s. The visual comes to me, as the show portrayed them crafting a wooden wheel with a metal rim, how perfectly round it was, made with rudimentary tools, unaided by computer balance machines and laser alignment devices. Our mission here in Iraq is similar to the weelwright of old. Build a device, or country, in this case, that spins well, balanced and straight. The former regime flattened the tire on the wheels of this country, bashed and mangled the rims on a hard stone or curb, and was content to let the country rust away in a dark, dank place.

Iraq is a new place, believe me. We are providing tools and training to this fledgeling country to flourish. Opportunity they have, paid for by men and women, not unlike myself, who gave all to secure and defend freedom, and who hail from many nations. Experience they need, and they get it on almost a daliy basis. Zeal and dedication they possess. These components are what is required to form a country that can move forward, in a balanced and straight path, guided by multi-lateral leadership under a new era of democracy. I hope that we will be successful, and they ride this vehicle we are building well, and that the wheels don't come off when they start to pick up steam.



Sunday, September 11, 2005


The purpose of this blog is two-fold.

1. To tell the story of my time in Iraq, to inform my readers as to the goings on in this War on Terror, and to provide insight into the daily life of a US Soldier in Iraq.

2. To foster debate and discussion about this war, in a courteous and civil manner.

Personal attacks and mockery will not be tolerated. Neither will be vulgar language or hateful material. Any and all comments which I feel breach the line and qualify as obscene, hateful, inappropriate or unbased will be deleted.



Thursday, September 08, 2005


I just lost a 1600 word post. Stupid wireless internet connection.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Avian Reflectiveness

I found out this morning, you can't get a reading off a chicken with a laser range finder. Who knew??