Sunday, March 21, 2010

El Fin

This will be my last entry. Both Scott and I are home, safe and sound and I no longer have a reason to continue with this blog.

There were several purposes for this blog. The first and foremost was to share my experiences with family and friends. I also wanted to let people know about the military and what we experience in a combat zone. As an Air Force Officer who is not a pilot, it is very unlikely that I will again be in a situation where I am the war fighter. I am usually in a support role; my job ensures that planes get off the ground so they can fight the enemy. But this time, I was the one directly fighting the enemy. To the pleasure of my parents, that probably won't happen again.

At times I have felt selfish. I did not hold back my feelings and I know that many of my entries have upset the people I love. If it is any consolation, I have used the blog as an outlet for my stress, frustration and insomnia.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The deployment is not over until you are home and once again "normal," if this nebulous "normal" state can ever be achieved. Because the fact is, you've been in a war zone and you have changed.

I'll speak in generalities. Most suicides in a deployed environment occur in the last month. Many service members, both male and female, are not ready to resume their responsibilities at home. You see, during a deployment every thing is taken care of for you so you can focus 100% on your job. There's no laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no crying children and no nagging spouse. Of course there are different stressors in a war zone, but I've heard many people say that is what they prefer.

There's also the fact that once you are home, you can feel very detached from what's really important. There's two wars going on, but here I am in Indiana, totally useless. There are other soldiers out there fighting and I need to be with them doing my part. I have already started to feel this way. As I am leaving the area, I see a lot of Marines and Soldiers coming in. They all look so young and I only know 20% of what they are about to experience. I think this upcoming summer will be the most violent in the war thus far and they are going to be there in the thick of it. My heart breaks for them and the heavy burden they carry on their shoulders. Every time I hear of a US service member dying, I become sick.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Goodbye FOB Finley Shields

Leg one of five complete!

Risk Adverse Part II

If you were to look at a picture of a soldier during WWII and a soldier in either Iraq or Afghanistan today, you would notice many differences. Probably the most noticeable different is the amount of gear that today's soldier carries. We are always trying to improve the way we fight and our body armor has saved many lives.

With that said, we shouldn't be wearing body armor in Afghanistan. We shouldn't be driving around in MRAPs either. These are conventional solutions to an unconventional war. We are treating the symptoms rather than the cause.

Let's start with the decision to upgrade from Hummves to MRAPs. The enemy was building bigger and bigger bombs that were capable of catastrophically destroying a Hummve. So now it is mandatory that we use MRAPs. And guess what? Now the enemy can build bigger bombs that will destroy an MRAP. What's after the MRAP? How big are the next generation of vehicles? MRAPs are big enough--they get stuck on unpaved roads, can't fit through the narrow roads, they are high and bulky and are extremely noisy. Whatever adaptions we make to our vehicles, body armor, etc the enemy will still find a way to kill us. Instead of focusing our efforts on protecting ourselves and adapting to the enemy's operations, maybe we should focus more on rooting out the enemy.

In COIN 101, you are taught that the population is the center of gravity. It's no longer a factory or military base. We are trying to win over the population and make them believe in our cause instead of the insurgent's. All of this is being done, of course, in concert with the local government. The local government and its ideals is what the people are fighting for. So we are trying to connect with the population, person to person. You can almost think about it like a politician trying to win an election. He needs to be a gregarious, sympathetic and passionate leader. Now tell me how this politician would do if he is from a different country than the one he is campaigning in. He wears different clothes. He speaks a different language. He has a different culture and a different religion. He can't campaign forever, he has to go home and visit his family. He would have to work ten times as hard as his opponent in order to be successful.

So when we drive around in our big, out of place vehicles, wear our bulky body armor that makes us look like monsters and spend most of our time on eye sore military installations, I think we are helping the insurgents by isolating ourselves from the population. This is our conventional mindset. This is why industrialized nations lose COIN wars. This is why Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.