Wednesday, March 31, 2004

War News for March 31, 2004 Bring ‘em on: Five “coalition” soldiers killed in bomb ambush near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: Four killed, including one American in ambush near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: US troops open fire during demonstration at Green Zone checkpoint in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed, one wounded in three separate bomb attacks in Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: Mortar attacks reported in Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Car bomb in Baquba wounds 12, including local governor’s security detail. Bring ‘em on: US troops under mortar fire in Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Another US convoy ambushed with roadside bomb in Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: Three “coalition” soldiers, three security contractors wounded in separate ambushes near Mosul. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi police officer killed in checkpoint attack in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, one wounded by roadside bomb near al-Asad airbase. Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers wounded by RPG fire near Ramadi. CPA reports attacks against “coalition” troops averaged 26 per day over the last week. Poppy wants everybody to stop picking on Lieutenant AWOL. “Lay off my kid! That's the message former President George Herbert Walker Bush delivered yesterday, fighting back tears as he defended his son and ripped into his rivals.” Civilian casualties in Iraq. “Those estimates, however, signal that losses have been severe. Between 8,789 and 10,638 civilians have died since war began March 19, 2003, according to one group of British and American researchers that surveys media reports and eyewitness accounts.” Casualty Reports Local story: Wisconsin soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Ohio Marine wounded in Iraq. Note to Readers Quite a few years ago, some civilian friends and I watched a movie called “The Great Santini” based on the book by Pat Conroy. In the opening scene, Robert Duvall - who plays a US Marine fighter pilot - receives a dressing-down from a US Navy captain after a party of Marine officers gets out of hand at a Spanish hotel. When the Navy captain orders the Marine officers to leave, Duvall asks the captain for permission to enjoy one last drink at the bar just to prove the Marines can behave like civilized men. Instead, the Marines decide to play a prank on the Navy captain, who is dining with his wife and some other Navy officers in the dining room. Duvall hides a can of mushroom soup in his uniform tunic, drunkenly staggers into the dining room and finally crawls onto the bandstand on his hands and knees. Retching and gagging, he pretends to vomit at the feet of Spanish musicians and spills the soup on the floor. Immediately, the other Marine officers run up on the bandstand with spoons in hand and begin scooping up the spilled soup and eating it. One of the Marines pulls a comrade away and complains, “No fair! You’re getting all the big chunks!” My civilian friends were appalled. I was laughing my head off. I had to explain, “I know people who do stuff like this.” I didn’t tell them that I do stuff like that, too. It’s hard to explain military humor. I’m not a photoshop expert, but I have no doubt that the photo 2cents posted in yesterday’s comments is authentic. It’s typical of the kind of crude, tasteless, adolescent gross-out humor that soldiers love. Like applying a transparent shrink-wrap to a urinal and laughing when some poor, unsuspecting bastard pees all over himself. Or stealing the new lieutenant’s binoculars and putting shoe polish on the rubber eye pieces before secretly replacing the binoculars in his gear, and then laughing because the poor guy looks like a raccoon after he uses them. Sergeants are really good at these kind of pranks. “Go get me a can of muzzle-blast,” Sarge tells the new private. “A big one.” The wild-goose chase begins and everybody is amused for an afternoon. One of my battery commanders once told a new lieutenant to fetch him a box of grid squares. The lieutenant wasn’t so easily fooled. He got some scissors and cut the captain’s favorite map into tiny squares. The sergeants laughed their asses off when they heard about it although the captain was less amused. During the first Gulf War, a particularly obnoxious and despised major from our brigade headquarters left his disposable camera, with his name written on it, on a map table in our battalion tactical operations center. A senior NCO from our S-3 section discovered it. There were four officers in the TOC, including me, when the sergeant showed us the camera and suggested, “If you guys shoot the moon, I’ll take a picture for Major G.” We gladly complied. “Spread ‘em a little wider, sir,” the sergeant said after we dropped our trousers and he focused the camera. We returned the major’s camera on the next courier run. We relished the moment when we learned this was the camera his wife had sent him so he could take pictures of all of his friends, and he had sent it back home to her so she could get the film developed. This kind of humor isn’t just an American military tradition. I was in Macedonia with a US Army infantry battalion as part of a UN peacekeeping mission. The other battalion in Macedonia, called NORDBAT, was a composite unit comprised of Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish rifle companies, and a mixed support company. The US battalion and the Nordic battalion were assigned observation posts along the UN line between Serbia and Macedonia, and corresponding sectors within Macedonia near the line where we conducted community patrols. Whenever we patrolled in the villages, we were always greeted by the local children who would come out to wave, try to make friends and get goodies like candy, MRE's and chem-lights. During a realignment, my battalion took over part of an ethnically Albanian sector assigned to the Swedish rifle company. The UNPROFOR and NORDBAT staff worked hard to make sure there was a smooth transition, and the Swedish soldiers helped by teaching the local kids a little bit of English so they could properly welcome the Americans. When we started patrols in that sector, our troops were welcomed by swarms of smiling, cheering Albanian children waving their middle fingers in the air and shouting, "Fuck you, GI! Fuck you, GI!" So I’ll cut Lance Corporal Boudreaux some slack. That photo is just a prime example of tasteless but harmless military humor. 86-43-04. Pass it on.


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