Sunday, August 17, 2008

Never type in an MRAP

I am writing this in the back of a bouncing MRAP (look it up, lazy) on the way to the front gate of FOB somewhere in Bagdad. So get off my ass if there aresome spelling, grammatical, or explosive errors in this text. I haven't posted any blog entry in quite a while, and before myreadership driftsinto thenegative numbers, I figure I had betterslap something together and release it into the wild web.

My purpose with thispost,and I suppose I must have , is to let all three of you know a little bit about what goes on in my tiny corner of the war.I am on a NationalPolice Transition Team. An advisor, if you will. My team is 11 US Army (from various job descriptiions) and three interpreters, all Patriotic Iraqi citizens who are trying to make their country a better place. Just kidding, they make 1400 bucks a month (a fortune here) and are counting the days until they get the US resident Visas approved so they can move to the heartland and steal our jobs. Just kidding, they're really a bunch of swell guys (but they are allapplying to live in the US).

OK, this is getting just a little too bouncy, I'll have to get back to you (stop reading for half an hour to simulate the wait). Ok, here we are. How was your break?

Like I said, we are a National Police Transition Team (advisors, remember? Just a check to see if you are paying attention). We are in Bagdad, but aside from that I am not going to be any more specific. Bagdad, for those of you who have not listened to or watched the news since about oh, 1990 or so is the capital city of the country of Iraq. It is considered to be one of the hottest cities on the planet, temerature wise, which makes you wonder just exactly why people thousands of years ago stopped here and said, “what a great place! Let's settle here, it's much nicer than the place we just came from which was..........”,hell the sun or Mercury I guess.

Anyway, the National Police. Sounds like a police force, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. Not like Americans understand a police force. Picture an Infantry unit that wears blue tinted camoflage and you've got it. They carry rifles and machine guns, but their pickup trucks have police painted on the side, so who am I to judge? Many of their Shurta (Arabic for Police man, remember that, I am not going to repeat it again), are uneducated, poorly trained, and some are on drugs a great amount of the time (I get this from one of our interpreters). Many can't read or write their language. Their weapons are cruddy, rusty, dirty AK-47s (which of course, the AK being the AK, function just fine). Their officers are fabulously corrupt (more on this later), an in fact, you can BUY a position in the National Police as an officer. They are consistently short of all manner of supplies (gas, ammo, etc.).

But.......they're effective. Or at least something is. Bagdad is at it's lowest level of violence in years, shops are open, kids go to school, there are political posters up and down the streets advertising for the upcoming elections this fall. Yes, there is still violence, sectarian and otherwise. People are still getting blown up. But not as many as before. And it's declining. AQI is considered kind of a joke.

What do we do as advisors? Our team is broker into sections and each one has a counterpart in the Iraqi battalion. For instance our team commander meets with and advises the Iraqi commander. Our intelligence officer meets with and advises the Iraqi intelligence officer. I meet with and advise the NCO's who run the Command Post. A lot of our duties involve data collection. We have many reports to send up to “headquarters” (in the mount olympus kind of sense). How many patrols did your unit run in their sector this week? How many of them were jointly ran with the US battalion in the area? Were there any “significant activities” (what you civilians would call “crimes” like you know anything)? Combine this with other pieces of data, such as how many gallons of gasoline the unit was supplied with, how many shurta are on duty versus how many are on leave or AWOL, write it all up and email it on up to Mount Olympus and it dissapears into a “file” until it gets "briefed" in a "presentation" to a "VIP".

We do accompany the shurtas on some of their missions, which are mostly what are termed "cordon and search". What this is, a unit will block off a section of city (a block or two) and systematically (or as systematically as Iraqis do anything) search every house, or at least the ones that look like they have something cold to drink inside. The two I have gone on were mostly to inform citizens of the new privately owned weapons ban in effect in the city. In the past each household was allowed to have one rifle (usually an AK-47) in their house for protection against bad guys. But now they are not. So the police go around and gather them up (noone is arrested for still having one, the guns are merely confiscated). Also the police will check the registration of cars sitting in driveways (car theft and false registration is a booming business). Also, they'll confiscate cold water and other drinks from the refrigerator of anyone lucky enough to have working electrcity. They will do this right in front of you without a second thought.

Other than that, we are a small team, so everyone has to or three other jobs that must be accomplishedin any military unit. For instance, I am the "calendar manager" I create and manage our short and long range schedules so that we operate like a well oiled machine. Just kidding, we usually do many things at the last minute, based on our Team Leader getting a cellphone call from his Iraqi counterpart. But our schedule still must be maintained, and that's my job. I'm getting very familiar with Microsoft Outlook (even though I always feel dirty after using Windows. This was written on a machine using Debian, in case you were wondering).

Ok, that's about all that I am going to writefor now. You are just goig to have to take another break at this point, because I have to save this to a memory stick, and then wait until I get back to my laptop that has internet access and transfer it to the web. I don't know how long this will take, so get yourself some lunch or a cold drink or something.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will talk about the "Sons of Iraq".


1. How long has it been since my last post? Do you care?

2. What is a Shurta?

3. Did you look up MRAP? Why not?

4. What are your feelings about Microsoft?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!