The Heat of Battle

Paratroppers2_1 This morning I left on my first mission since arriving back in Iraq. All the usual pre-mission stowaways were there. The tumbling unease. The feverish flood of endorphins. The dark memories of bent and twisted men and steel. But all these rumblings seemed almost inconsequential because there was a new companion in their shared misery – the heat. Heat is an empty word – it doesn’t even begin to describe the temperature here.

I found out about the blogger who calls himself 365 And a Wake Up as I was following a fight on The Guardian's newspaper blog. Lots of left-write cant, but untouched by either side's swipes was the unmuzzled strength of the soldier's posts. His web site gives a little bio. He describes himself as a member of the California National Guard. He's a newlywed. He enlisted to pay for college. He grew up outside L.A., mountain bikes, hikes and skin dives. He loves the Shawshank Redemption, Jackie Chan movies, coffee and his wife.

You think it's hot here? Over there, it's 111 in the shade.

Out here the sun isn’t the eye of morning, or the day’s constant companion. Out here the sun is hateful – a palpable entity that wreathes you in a flickering blanket of supercharged air. When I left for the US the sun was brutal – but now it is murderous.

The argument in the Guardian had to do with their posting of a list of favorite military bloggers. Blackfive, a former U.S. paratrooper, did the compiling. Letter writers didn't like the far-right ads. Forget the ads. The links take one far beyond the news crawl of body counts, hostage takings and car bombs. There is much anger at the media back home, anger at politicians, too. There's also much that delivers what it's like to be there, the stuff that often moves too slowly to be news.

Going Down Range riffs on jogging in a war zone. He's a Jane Jacobs-reading Red Sox fan in Afghanistan with a hell of a blogroll.

Sometime when I have a spare hour I will run early in the morning or early evening. I used to run a lot, but running here offers many special challenges that I would not encounter back home. Since there are no paved roads or sidewalks here, you share them with John Deere Gators, Humvees, Jingle trucks, construction equipments and other vehicles. So you are sucking a lung full of dust. If you stray off the roads you can end up in a minefield and that is not good for your health. Also since none of the roads are paved they are covered with gravel. Not the small stuff, but big rocks, the size of golf balls. With the small rocks or big gravel I have to be careful not to sprain ankle or go on profile for a week in the sick, lame and lazy section. Now I am learning to love the treadmills now.

Special Forces Alpha Geek, a Georgian recently back from Afghanistan, explains why few paratroopers "jump-refuse" at the aircraft door.

Red2Alpha, an Army infrantryman in Baghdad, writes of the military's move to control what information bloggers reveal.

Families have discovered through those sites, from my own Battalion, that their sons, fathers, husbands have been killed or wounded before official notice could reach them. Now The Man has decided he needs to know who is writing what. All personal sites, blogs, My Space accounts have to be registered like guns in The States. Part of me thinks it's a good idea; I've been a Soldier long enough to understand the need for action like this but I'm also disappointed. Mass punishment doesn’t always work and it is a sign of poor leadership skills. Whatever. It's done and so is This is Your War.

And finally, in My Vacation in Iraq, Sgt. Luke Port, writes of opening care packages, devouring The Gunslinger and seeing Revenge of the Sith. The Illinois Natl. Guardsman wonders just how he might meet Natalie Portman. And he knows his experience has left him a different man.

It's funny now looking back I am a totally different person than I was when I was younger. I think I had A.D.D. but they just didn't have a common name for it then. I am sure that if I were to go back in time to meet with myself, "Little Luke" wouldn't even recognize me and not because I look to different (other than a few stress/laugh lines) but because I am a completely different person inside for the things I have done and seen. I should point out that I am not talking about the war changing me either because it hasn't or at least I haven't experienced any "major" life changing events... yet.

Posted 06/07/2005 07:39:37 PM

the soldiers you quoted from are all good writers, surprisingly good. It's a shame they can't get a wider audience than just the bloggs.

SGT Port
Posted 09/19/2005 03:38:37 AM

Hey, thanks for mentioning my blog. I really don’t think I am that great a writer though. In fact I am pretty sure I got a D in English more than once. It is nice to know people read what I write… It keeps me writing.

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