Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tuppence

779th Battalion insignia

The bees work.
Their work is taken from them.
We are like the bees—
But it won't last
--Black Workers, Langston Hughes

What you gonna do
When the well run dry?
You gonna sit right down and cry
--I'm Walkin', Fats Domino

Ranger's going to take down a local feel-good story, not because he is a killjoy, but because the subtext feels very bad.

A simple gesture to ensure one soldier was not left out of a family tradition led to an entire battalion of some 2,000 soldiers in Iraq uniting for a run/walk.

First Sgt. Jay Monismith of the Tallahassee-based 779th Engineer Battalion wanted to observe April 24 by wearing a tan shirt that acknowledged the sudden death of his niece, Sarah, who died 37 hours after birth due to a heart defect in 2001.

Monismith, who's stationed in Iraq, asked his captain if the section could march in remembrance of Sarah on the day of the March of Dimes run/walk in Charlotte, N.C., where Sarah's family lives (
Soldiers of the 779th In Iraq Unite for March of Dimes.)

His request morphed into the "779th Engineer Battalion Birth Defects Awareness Day Fun Run/Walk."

Ranger is certainly not agai
nst the March of Dimes, a righteous organization if ever there was one. But the darker implications of the battalion's act are two-fold:

[1] Can we actually believe the 779th is defending anyone's freedoms if they have the time to stage Fun Runs?

If this were really war and if they were really executing an effective military mission, time for such non-military activities would not be available. Further, it is difficult to imagine physically executing a run in a hostile environment. Obviously they will run in a safe area, making the claim that they are "fighting a war to support us" questionable.

[2] It costs $1 Million per year to keep a U.S. soldier deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since the 779th has 2,000 soldiers, we would save $2 Billion by bringing them home from a senseless, useless phony war, and
could then use that money for infant mortality issues.

This would benefit the Homeland more than 2,00o soldiers walking in the sand for nickels and dimes.

A tuppence compared to the waste to which they are made a party.


  1. You're not exactly being politically correct here, Ranger, but I hear you. And I'm with you.

    To place this in context, it's pretty clear there's no war going on in Iraq. Not if there is time to do these sorts of things, and especially not if it's safe to do them. These troops are on occupation duty, pure and simple. Which of course makes us wonder why they are still there. Those wonderful freedom-loving Iraqis have had their elections; feelgood hometown news tidbits such as this make it clear that the country is pacified.

    Bring the troops and the money home.

  2. Hmm, as I recall, there were a variety of USO campshows going on in WWII. Yet another example of a waste of military effort.

  3. jim & Publius-

    Come on guys. Deployed service is lousy enough without making the troops miserable on purpose. Spit on the guys who sent these kids off to war, not the kids themselves. Our Army has always provided for units to "stand down" for defined periods of time to rearm, refit, recuperate or for morale.

    I'm calling bullshit on you two.

  4. C'mon jim and Publius, I think you two are taking this one a bit too far. In Vietnam, was there ever down time to sip a brew, or a USO show? Well, there is no drinking in Iraq, and very occasional USO shows at teh big FOBs (mostly in Kuwait), JUST PT. When you work every day for a year long, for 1 of every 2 years, you NEED a day a off. And an organized PT event is not an indicator of someone not doing their job, it is a matter of unit morale.

    I did two organized runs back in the height of the war. We had a July 4th 5K at Baghdad international in 2003, it was a great way to celebrate the holiday. We did a half marathon on the Mosul airfield a year later. The safety brief included staying on the main road to avoid buried land mines and reaction to indirect fire. They were PT events that brought the whole team together (the entire team on the FOB) and they in NO WAY detracted from the mission. Hell, if you want to talk about wasting of government money, let's talk about how a peace time Army spends its time. I did that too. Anyone remember "All American" week, or "Tropical Lightning" week, week long sporting events. We got paid to do those too.

    Now you two are just being bitter and are just sharp shooting. I don't disagree with your ultimate point, bring the troops home and save some cash. But c'mon. Wouldn't you rather them doing a fun run than a gun run?

  5. bg: In Vietnam, was there ever down time to sip a brew, or a USO show?

    Some of us may have poor memories, but the archives of Time Magazine do not.

    That article fueled many an anti-war protester, no less some of the more "moral" amongst the population.

    Yes, bg. We did get breaks in RVN, and I would need more than the space allotted to a single comment to cover those with which I was personally familiar and still remember.

  6. To all,
    I will stick to my point here.
    The cost of keeping this unit in Iraq is not worth the money spent or the time lost to their productive lives.
    This article is not anti-troop or March of Dimes ,although i used them as a teaching point/platform.
    If the troops can be used as poster boys for an endless war, then i can use them for the opposite message- turn around is fair play.
    USO shows have nothing to do with my point.
    It makes me proud that the troops can have fun runs. It makes me proud to pay my taxes for such essential actions.
    BTW- nobody got a cherry when they called bullshit.

  7. Well, I'm going to say is that I don't see Jim or Publius unzipping their pants to rain on the parade, and I think there is a ground for concern.

    Figuratively speaking, soldiers deployed overseas are, for all intents and purposes, deployed.
    The definition of the deployment is dependent on the conditions of their mission.
    Is the deployment humanitarian in nature...i.e. aid to Haiti? Aid to Bosnia refugees? Aid to Iraqi refugees?

    Or, are they in a war?i.e. is there fighting going on? Is there, or was there a chance for armed violence to erupt in a moments notice? Is there concerned that the troops remain armed at all times?

    Once we define the purpose of the deployment, then we can ascertain the appropriateness of certain behaviors.
    In a refugee aid deployment, soldiers putting on shows, acting goofy, or splurge of the moment Glee breakout would be considered acceptable, okay, and more than likely encouraged as it would lift the refugee's spirits and hopefully encourage cooperation with the dispersal of foodstuffs.
    But if say, in the same refugee aid situation, our troops are hunkered down behind tanks, gun shields, and artillery embankments shooting up cars at check points because the approaching car may be armed with bananas, or breaking down doors for suspected food hoarders...I think we can all agree is considered unacceptable behavior.

    Which brings me to the march of the Engineers.
    Presumably, they are in a war zone...and along with that presumption comes the addition that mortar rounds do fall without invitation or expectation.

    So, in this case, I'm with Jim and Publius, it's not that we're all boo-hooing a nice display of, what we're asking is whehter our soldiers are in a fucking war zone, or are they are not?
    It can not be both.

    If they are in a war zone, then let the USO do the entertaining, and they, our boys, don't provide target practice to an insurgent mortar crew, or sniper team.
    If they are not in a war zone, then they should be brought home because the war is over.

    Just say'n.

  8. sheerahkan
    I also question the cost of these deployments.What are we yankees getting for our expenditure?
    Are we any safer as a result?
    Is my Army responsible for every over seas shithole?
    Is the POTUS my Prez or theirs?
    In closing there is a backdrop to this Engr thing. When they were activated there was a big hoopla, BUT yet 4 months before deployment they still didn't have a mission assignment. Is that what all you strategic thinkers call planning, or war fighting?
    I doubt if they have any discernable mission
    I call bullshit also.

  9. jim-

    Most of us here question the deployments. But attacking the troops of the 779th because they have chosen to spend a stand down day, a practice not only limited to unwise wars, is as hollow as the "I Support the Troops" stickers on the SUVs of young Republicans who wouldn't pay a tax dime more to do so, or don the uniform on a bet.

    If the 779th were doing this once a week, perhaps there is a case. But for all that has been presented, this is a one off incident. Soldiers in the ETO got to take a break, even if it was just a quiet day in a welcoming French or Italian village. My uncle had pictures of his infantry unit doing it. Does that make WWII a waste of time? Shall we erect a monument to the infantry brigade commander in RVN who would only allow his troops one hot meal a day - in garrison - because "This, by God, is a combat zone".

    Your objection to our troops being there is the first place is valid. Attacking what they do on a stand down - well, I just think you can do better.

  10. No cherry here, either.

    Listen, guys, I don't give a shit if these troops run every day. It clearly wouldn't detract from the mission—specifically because there is no mission. And, in the absence of a mission, then I suppose they might as well run their asses off. Might keep 'em from going nuts. Further, there is clearly no threat if they can put these kinds of things together, esp with the advance publicity. Maybe next week, they can do something for another charity.

    In my simple calculus, no threat = no need for the troops. Iraq is not occupied Germany or Japan. We occupied those nations after a long and bloody war; then we stayed to ensure they behaved. But here we have our own friendlies in the Iraqi government. No need to stay.

    Why are our troops wasting their time doing PT in Iraq? Why aren't they doing it at Camp Swampy, USA?

    Of course there was down time in Vietnam. And at that point in my life, it was my understanding that a soldier's inalienable rights included feminine companionship as well as cheap booze and cigarettes. That much of this, esp the booze, may not be available in Iraq because of misguided solicitude for what officialdom thinks is the local culture—check how many bars there were in old Baghdad some time—really drives home what a hardship tour this is. And, yeah, we had USO shows in Vietnam, but, hey, USO ain't GIs.

    Bg, if you were even able to think about doing those mass goatfuck runs in '03 and '04 when Iraq was "hot," then that tells me Iraq wasn't that hot. You probably wouldn't have been doing that shit in Vietnam, esp if you publicized it in advance. Actually, you probably could have done it at Tan Son Nhut, Bien Hoa or Danang and some large base camps, but for some reason, US forces in Vietnam had other priorities.

    Sorry, fellas, but Ranger's report just kind of struck me as a Milo Minderbender moment. One of many such moments in that huge, stinking pile of excrement known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ranger's report highlights just how ludicrous and pointless this whole "war" has been.

    No, I don't blame the troops. I pity them, poor pawns that they are.

  11. Al,
    I'm usually the one who decides if i can do better, or not. It's a fine line.
    You mistake my motives here-i don't write to stroke the aged appendeges of old goats that we call bartenders.
    I write to reach the greater audience that is not military.If i wrote for the choir then i'd stop writing right now. I like to think that not everyone coming to milpub is on my wavelength. I write to them- not to you.
    Obviously i'm smart enuf to know that my stance is unpopular, but since these soldiers are covered by the GC's then i can legally fire at any of them.
    My message goes beyond the fucking sacred cows
    You can bend my dog tags.

  12. Publius,
    I really hate to be snarky, BUT.....
    What we now call war just ain't.Of course it is/was a bitch, but these 12 b's are not sweating out 122 atks. As i said, they didn't even have an assigned mission 4 mos b/f deployment.Just another unit level hey you roster for Reserve forces.
    Pity the poor troopies missing booze call. A shame. Yep but they have every toy known to man to occupy their terror filled time.
    These troops have internet, overseas sat phones, video games, internet porn , and yes last but not least-female soldiers . I call this -roll your own. There's plenty of don't ask , don't tell sex, both gay and straight.
    I'm not anti troop, but i am not gonna canonise
    anyone soon. A reality check is needed.

  13. Publius,
    I forgot to mention the massage and pedicure shops in the PX.

  14. Seems to me that we're executing a circular ambush here, gang.

    I don't see this a any more of a waste of time than the waste of time of keeping these guys in theatre, period. It kind of attracts the eye but, really, what are these guys doing when they're NOT jogging around? I think that would piss everyone here off more than this little charity run.

    Iraq is a done deal; a dead man walking. The politics of the sunuvabitch keep it from falling down for another year of so, tho, and nothing we say here is going to change that. The GOP wants to stay there forever, and that's not going to happen. But even if the Dems wanted out yesterday that isn't going to happen either.

    I honestly can't think of anything useful to say about the entire mess that is the remainder of the "occupation of Iraq". Should we be gone today? Sure. Will we? The pols don't want that and the public doesn't care. So, no.

  15. I'm with Al and Bg on this one. First of all, whatever one's opinion on the war there, we're winding that one down. There's a schedule and an implementing agreement with the Iraqi government (such as it is) to make it all happen and there's very little to indicate the planned withdrawal will not occur. So a "fun" run in a relatively benign environment where our forces are primarily in a supporting role doesn't strike me as that big a deal.

    The bottom line for me is that I think there are much better arguments for speeding up the withdrawal from Iraq besides suggesting that a fun run - which takes a couple of hours out of a 365 deployment - is a waste of money. Also, I think Al's point stands that troops will always find time for "non-military" activities in a combat zone whether sanctioned by HHQ or not. In other words the same criticism could be made against involvement in any war, not just this one. So if your goal is to persuade, then it seems to me there are much bigger and better arguments out there.

    For the record, I'm in favor of sticking with the agreed withdrawal timeline for any number of reasons.

  16. Andy,
    I'm just a dumb ass old infy type.
    I know about winding a war up, but somehow i missed the block of instruction on winding one down.
    Is this a new principle of war that was added and which i missed.? WTF?
    The concept of winding down a war is foreign to my way of thinking. They either end or go on, sorta like a perpetual wind watch. If you have the luxury to wind it down then you didn't exactly need to wind it up, or am i getting senile here??
    Did we have a implementing agreement when we invaded their sandbox? If not then why do we give a flip about agreeing on the end of it.?
    We're all agreeable when it doesn't mean shit to a tree.
    I'd suggest wet t - shirt contests since they are so desperate for relief from the drudgery of soldiering.

  17. Jim,

    In my opinion the war is already over. By "winding down" what I really mean are the active preparations to end the remnant of that war - the US occupation of Iraq.

  18. Andy,
    Having 130,000 booties on the ground sure doesn't sound like it's over.
    Call me dumb.

  19. Jim,

    I don't think the number of "boots on the ground" determines whether there is a war or not. It seems to me what those boots are doing matters more.

  20. Andy,
    My figures were wrong, as of today the number is 00,000 troops in IRQ
    . Or should i say 198,000 boots on the ground.?

  21. Andy,
    Sorry for typo,99,000 troops in IRQ.

  22. Is there any future in trying to make rational, logical statements in regard to an irrational, illogical situation that is the result of irrational, illogical decision making? Iraq was screwed up in its very inception, further screwed in its execution, and remains screwed today.

    But that is the nature of the American democratic form of government. The people, by their action or inaction, elect the folks who make these decisions. There is no requirement in any oath of office that ensures good decisions, only Constitutionally legal ones. And, Constitutionality is not always easy to enforce. At least to the satisfaction of everyone. Nor are there any requirements that those who run for office have any demonstrable intelligence or character. It's a cross between a beauty pageant and a popularity contest. Recently, we have been selecting a rather motley crew to take the helm. Don't blame it on "Them". "We" want this form of government, so "We" must take the responsibility for what it produces.