1/26/2006

Daily Kos: My Military Experience (What Really Demoralizes the Troops)

1. Being Unprepared: 80% of torso-related fatalities could have been avoided.. Feeling expendable is demoralizing.
2. Victory? What constitutes a win in Iraq? No one, it seems not even the President, really knows.
3. Losing Friends: I met a Marine who was mutilating himself. He would put cigarettes out on his arms, and had eight distinct scars.. Those were for friends he'd lost.


* filmgeek83's diary :: ::

I want to inform all of you, first hand, what I find most of those brave men and women find truly demoralizing. I'll give you a hint. Dissent is nowhere on this list.

1. Being Unprepared.

There is a sort of gallows humor that one clings to in Iraq. This is especially true when outfitting a Humvee with armor. I've saw some of those Up-Armor vehicles out there. Almost all of the grunts don't have them. They have to ride around with plates attached to their vehicles. This plating is spotty at best. The truth of the matter is it does very little to stop shrapnel in a blast. It will deflect some of it, but it is hardly a substitute for the fully-armored humvees I saw out there. Now we find out 80% of torso-related fatalities could have been avoided had the Pentagon distributed certain plates they had in their posession. It's like being thrown to the meatgrinder. Feeling expendable is demoralizing.

2. Victory?

The people who fought in WWII had an end to look forward to. Win or lose, they knew the parameters of the endgame. What constitutes a win in Iraq? No one, it seems not even the President, really knows. Being in the military these days is like being on a hamster wheel. They keep going to the same town, clearing them, leaving, and months later repeating the process. They come home for a year and go back again. They are tired. And there are no checkpoints to victory. There is no way to measure progress. There is no end in sight. What these men and women need to know is how victory can be achieved, and what they can do to achieve it. Attainable short-term goals to achieve the long term one. Without this information, the everything being done out there feels futile.

3. Losing Friends

I was a combat-videographer. I moved from unit to unit. While I was with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, I met a Marine who's name, God help me, escapes my grasp right now. He was a good guy, and funny. He was also mutilating himself. He would put cigarettes out on his arms, and had eight distinct scars the last time I saw him. There were five on one arm. He said those were for people he killed. There were three on the other. Those were for friends he'd lost. One of my fellow videographers name was William Salazar. That's a link to his name on icasualties.org. He's dead now, killed by a roadside bomb. I watched the flag that draped his coffin being handed to his sobbing mother. It was difficult to say the least. The truth is I went to far too many memorial ceremonies during my time in the Corps, and these men and women deserve our highest regard. But it weighs heavy on the mind, and on the soul.

In all honesty, there aren't many grunts who will articulate these ideas. Most of them could care less about politics. Many do not want to look weak. But I also know that demanding to bring them home does not demoralize them. If anything, the idea of "Staying the Course" when there is no clear course really weighs on them. It weighed on me.

I believe success in Iraq is worth fighting for, but our military was given the short end from the very start. That, the incompetance of the leaders that should know better, is something that will tear down even the most resolute of fighting men under the hot Iraqi sun.


Daily Kos: My Military Experience (What Really Demoralizes the Troops)

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