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November 12, 2004

Random Synaptic Activity

Three things combined recently to cause history to hit me like a ton of

First, I was walking through the lobby of the motel I'm staying at near Fort Benning, Georgia, when some young soldiers, fresh from Basic Training, walked in with wives or girlfriends. I have been moving among these soldiers the last three weeks as we work on an experiment designed to assess new technologies and structures for light infantry. Their earnestness and desire to do right reminds me of puppies. Their actions on the objective reminds me of mastiffs.

Second, I got a comment on my blog to a post I made about the Marine Corps Birthday and the fighting in Fallujah; "The Battle of Fallujah is an assemblage of American military "Firsts". The 1st Marine Division, the 1st Infantry Division and 1st Cavalry Division."

Third - yesterday I participated in my very first Veteran's Day parade... as a veteran.

The three things just collapsed in on themselves, as I have been among the absolute freshest veterans in the Republic, and yesterday I was a relative youngster among the Vets of WWII.

I now think I know what my father thought, when he saw me in my shiny new 2nd Lieutenant suit, as he administered the Oath of Commissioning 24 years ago.

Reading about what's going on in the Battle of Fallujah over the week, I was struck. Michael Moore *is* a Big Fat Liar. This is not news - but I've got proof. In his movie he wished us to believe that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in Iraq were disillusioned, dispirited, and felt betrayed. I don't doubt there are a few. There have always been warriors who regret their choices, and some days, you're just damn tired of it.

But tired, dispirited Marines don't say, like Captain Robert Bodisch, a tank company commander, when his vehicle was disabled, "I have to get another tank to go back in there." Soldiers who are more worried about coming home than doing their duty are not overheard saying, "Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out - I'm from Alabama." as Sergeant Anyett of the Phantoms of the 1st Infantry Division's TF 2/2 Infantry was overheard saying by Toby Harnden of the Telegraph. Nor do you hear this, also reported by Mr. Harnden (who is doing great reporting, btw): ""Yeah," he yelled. "Battle Damage Assessment - nothing. Building's gone. I got my kills, I'm coming down. I just love my job."

"I just love my job." Now there is a happy warrior talking. No, he doesn't like killing, really. But he does like putting the hurt on people who are putting the hurt on people. He's a professional - even if next year he's back home, selling shoes. And boy, are these guys and gals professionals.

Military Operations in Urban Terrain. MOUT. City fighting. The most complicated, dangerous, difficult, and wearing battle to plan and participate in. So much so that one of the reasons the Marines got the job of taking Hue back during the Vietnam War is because it was considered too difficult to have the Army and Marines do it together. Coordination between the two services would have been too difficult.

Yet today, in Fallujah, three storied 'firsts' are fighting side-by-side as a team. The 1st Marine Division, in it's guise as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and task forces of the Army's 1st Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions. Overhead fly Air Force, Army, and Marine aviators. Just a little back sit Marine and Army artillery. Navy and Army hospitals are caring for the wounded of both sides. There are even muslim chaplains ministering to the needs of enemy wounded, and praying for enemy dead. The battle proceeds apace, with UAVs and satellites overhead, anti-sniper sensors, See-through-the-wall radars, acoustic weapons to try and handle those actions where the bad guys hide behind the innocents.

The most difficult and dangerous fighting an army can do - and these elements of 3 distinct unit cultures, with their supporting arms and services arrayed around and among 'em - are house by house, street by street, block by block, taking back Fallujah. And while there is serious loss of life among the insurgents - there is nowhere near the historical level of civilian casualties inherent in fighting in occupied built-up areas. Some of that is because a lot of the insurgents aren't very good - murderous, but not soldier-quality. But most of it is because of the next wave of the new 'Greatest Generation' now crashing ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Besides, how can I not love warriors like Recon Marine Corporal Gabriel Garza, who, after providing assistance of a delicate nature to Rolling Stone stringer Evan Wright (as noted in his book, "Generation Kill," that I'm reading right now), says,

"I've just performed testicle surgery on the reporter."

And it didn't include removal. Now you know our young warriors can practice restraint!

Today, as I go back to my safe routine, my thoughts will be with my new brothers-in-arms, and I know that the torch has been passed, and is in most excellent hands.