Fear and Loathing in Iraq: May 23, 2004


Hey all, I hope everyone is doing well. Welcome to another week of insanity in Iraq.

I first off want to thank the U.S. government for protecting me and my fellow soldiers and constantly reminding us about OPSEC (Operational Security). About not letting the enemy know about our whereabouts or giving away vital information, things like that. With that said I was curious why there is a website I came across called globalsecurity.org that contains information about my base, and actually, all the bases in Iraq. And not just text information is available here, there are pictures, maps, directions and even grid coordinates.

Yes that’s right folks, on this website you too can see satellite imagery of every base and FOB (Forward Observation Base—like mine, FOB Speicher) in Iraq. There are photos of buildings here, soldiers working, base layouts; there are directions to the bases from different highways, locations of buildings on the bases, the history of the bases, CIA satellite photos with expanded imagery, etc. There is even a picture of the damn building I work in and where it is on the base. Yes folks, feel free to check out this website and look up Al-Sahra Air Base (FOB Speicher), Balad airbase (Camp Anaconda), Samarra, Al-Asad, and on and on. No membership required, no fee, no fuss, no muss. All religions welcome, including Muslim Extremists.

And the insanity does not end there; there is the insanity here in the company. We have no leadership that is worth a shit. We have platoon leaders that never leave their desk and try to run a platoon from a computer screen. We have a lieutenant that has fallen in love with an Lt. from another platoon of ours and they talk for (no lie) up to 5 hours a day on the phone acting like giddy school girls. When the one Lt visits they sit on each other’s laps and act stupid, they sleep in the same bed and the one Lt. is trying to leave her platoon so she can work in the battalion here to be closer to our Lt.

We have a company commander who plays online video games all day and sends instant messages to the Lt. and the platoon sergeants when their desks all right next to each other! We have NCO’s that sit in the MWR room all day and watch TV, and then wonder why their trucks are broken down and all the soldiers are unhappy. We have two NCO’s that have been caught having oral sex with soldiers, NCO’s that treat soldiers like shit and yell at them for the most trivial things; things that are not important in the rear and less so in the theater of war.

We have a first sergeant that only cares about getting fancy couches and big screen televisions for the break room but has not done anything—not one thing—for our other platoons that are attached to other bases. He is more concerned about the gold bracelets and necklaces he buys off the internet all day than keeping this company together and boosting morale. He brings me his memos to check because he almost illiterate. He brags about a college degree he bought online from Florida State, never attended college and laughs that he can barely read and write. This is our top enlisted leader.

We have a battalion that tells us to get in the bunker up to 10 minutes after a blast goes off and then makes us sit in there for up to an hour. When a rocket attack happens it is quick, on average 2-3 blasts within a few seconds, every other night. Three blasts then nothing. That is what it has been like since day one. But they still hear one or two or three and then get confirmation and send us to the bunker and then we sit there for an hour. But the other rockets never come—never have, never will. It has been this way over a year! The enemy fires a few and runs; they have no time to stick around. But our battalion thinks more will come and we should sit in a bunker for an hour or more.

The other battalion was much smarter about this; they know that by the time we even get to the bunkers everything is long over. So they decided since they have no idea when we will get hit, and that the attack is over in seconds, it is best to get you gear on and stay where you are. You keep the troops spread out so there is less chance of injury. When you put 20 in a box and the box gets hit, you kill 20! Our old battalion used common sense and trends in the attacks to come up with a better strategy for safety. This new battalion is scared stupid and it makes us all angry and unhappy. I could go on all day. No one is getting along, everyone is angry, and nothing is being done about.

Nothing is really affecting me personally. I work, I do my class work, I stick to my tight group of friends and stay away from everyone else. I smile and act like nothing is wrong when deep down I want to beat the living shit out of some of these people. So I internalize my frustration and it is building. There is nowhere to go to complain because all our leaders are either assholes or incompetent. We don’t know what to do so we just fume. Oh well. This is the Army, what can you do? I only have a year and half left, I will get through it.

Oh, and one last thing, the Army always reminds us to watch out for Fraud, Waste and Abuse. But if they knew about the extreme levels of fraud, waste and Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, they would go nuts and so would the public. The largest source of Fraud, Waste and Abuse is the Pentagon. It has not had an audit since 1993 because it has 2.3 trillion (trillion!) dollars in incorrect or unaccountable debits and credits. It has been reduced to 1.3 trillion since then, but if that is not waste I don’t know what is. That is why we can’t find waste, fraud and abuse: we ARE waste, fraud and abuse!

Most of the people here are not going to get leave. Between 60-80% of the company will not get to go home during their entire stay here because the Army keeps cutting back how slots are available for people to go. So people keep getting pushed back and soon we will be within 90 of leaving this place (hopefully) and no leave can be allowed then. So the vast majority of us will have been in this shit hole for over a year (and we may be forced to stay an extra 3 months) with not a single trip home or anywhere else. We may get everyone to the 4 day in Qatar, but that works out to only 2 days off because they include travel time, and it is still a military base. Needless to say, when we see the facts that we will get no vacation during our whole time here, it wears on you.

Well, I guess I just needed to vent. I sit back and watch all this happen and I get angry. I look at other companies and they get along better, they have cookouts every weekend and get-togethers to keep everyone’s spirits high. We have not had a barbecue yet. In 6 months we have not had one thing to bring us together. I thought people bonded during war, we are being torn apart.

I need to quit reading nonfiction books; they are all depressing because none are written about good things, only bad. And the more bad shit you read the more frustrated you get with everything. I need to go back to reading fiction and maybe take up yoga. I need stress relief and a reminder that life is good. When I get out of the army I will make sure to make life as wonderful as possible and never take for granted all the things I now miss. At least I will learn something about of all this crap.

Well thanks for listening to my bitching and complaining. I should be back to normal next week.

Take care and I miss you all.

--Chris Sachs