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Today's word on

Thursday, March 10, 2005

From the High School Free Speech Front:

"If they feel an article isn't appropriate, they will pull it -- or ask the student to make changes to it. They said that isn't censorship. They said they're just approving or not approving what goes in. What's your definition of censorship?"

--Hawley Kunz, co-editor of the Warrior News, Weber High School, Pleasant View, Utah. The principal ordered prior review of the monthly newspaper after an editorial critical of the condition of the school's running track. (3/8/05)

Letter No. 14: Unexpected stay leads to 'hurry up and wait'

CAR BOMBING IN BAGHDAD: Two Iraqi nationals were killed and two injured in the detonation of a "vehicle-borne improvised explosive device." / Photo by David J. Jenkins

By David J. Jenkins, USU class of '98

February 17, 2005 | Hello, everyone. Greetings from Baghdad.

Suffice for me to say, we are, in fact, still here. We were moments away from loading our bags, right along with everyone else from HHC, 2-162, onto trucks and moving to Camp Taji, when the order came down for us to stay put "for now."

Somewhere in the land of logistics someone determined, a half-hour before our move, that if everyone moves, there won't be anyone left in this sector representing the First Cavalry.

So here we are in Downtown Baghdad, acting as the QRF (Quick Reactionary Force) for every other unit in this sector. We are providing support to the 301st MP Battalion, 82nd Airborne as well as a smaller unit which just arrived from Germany.

Our days are made up of endless waiting. We are in a constant waiting mode; waiting for "something" to happen. Our second day on QRF, I was assigned to stand radio watch from 4 - 6 a.m. I went into the radio room, relieved the man before me, and stood a very uneventful watch.

Once my radio watch was concluded, I meandered back to my room, and began working on yet another David Baldacci novel. What would be considered very uncharacteristic for me, I then wandered back to a state of slumber. I suppose I needed it, because it felt good to get the extra sleep—until 9 a.m. when our lieutenant came busting into our room kicking doors and yelling, "why isn't anyone up, yet." It would figure, the one day I go back to sleep, we receive a call. "Come on," the lieutenant yells, "we're spinning up."

I jumped out of my sleeping back, slid into my Desert Camouflage Utilities (DCU), grabbed my gear and managed to stumble, half-asleep, out to the truck and get it started. The rest of the team was right behind me. We piled into the rig and managed to make it out to the dust bowl, file into our order of march and make it out the gate. From the time the lieutenant kicked the first door until we rolled out the gate, only seven minutes had passed.

We made it to the site of the VBIED (see attached photo). After a quick assessment, the lieutenant decided there were no military personnel involved. We set up a perimeter security element and the lieutenant and his dismounted patrol moved toward the blast site. Part way there, he turns around and yells, "where's Jenkins?" Staff Sergeant Cummings, my squad leader, ran around our truck opened my door, and stated, "The L-T wants you." From across the square, the lieutenant could be heard once again. "And tell him to bring his camera."

I took several shots of the blast site, the two decimated vehicles and the damage to the nearby buildings. There were two deceased and two injured local nationals, all of which were whisked away before we could make it to the scene. The vehicles had already been pulled out of the main flow of traffic, and I have to assume that the crater caused by the explosion was covered in the process.

Generally with this type of explosion, I would expect to see at least a 3-by-5 crater, measuring somewhere in the ballpark of about 2-feet deep. Try as I might, I could not find a hole caused by the twisted metal carcass that was strewn about and lay quietly in the traffic circle in the midst of Baghdad.

We have been called out for several situations much like this one. Yesterday, however, as we were sitting in the dust bowl awaiting our SP time (the time to roll out the gate), we were told to "stand-by" until further notice. Our SP time came and went, and we continued to "hurry up and wait."

Roughly 20 minutes passed and one of our Staff Officers approached our convoy. As they proceeded toward our group, each of the soldiers began readying his gear for the inevitable go ahead to move out.

I was watching the lieuntenant through the 2-inch ballistic glass on my Humvee. He began donning the Individual Body Armor (IBA) that was issued to him back at Fort Hood, Texas. He slid his arms into the openings and was ready to heave forward to get the 36-pound vest up and over his shoulders, when the officer approached him, said something, then turned around and left. The IBA never quite made it beyond the small of his back, before it was dropped and thrown back into the Humvee without having done its job.

At this point, each of the squad leaders began to exit their respective vehicles and rushed to the lieutenant's rig to find out what the word was. Staff Sgt. Cummings, having received word from the Lieutenant, did an about face and made his way back to the truck. He opened his door, peeked his head in and said, "…back to the house, there's a hostage situation at Taji." Knowing Staff Sgt. Cummings, he is good about passing on whatever information he has been made privy to. If that was what he told us, then that is all he knows. It does no good to question him: Who is it? What happened? Are we going to roll on this? It would do no good, so we all just rode back to the house in silence.

We found out later into the evening, that a U.S. soldier had been found doing something wrong. They threatened him with an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), and in the midst of "discussing" it, he apparently took a young lady hostage. One can only begin to speculate what was going through his head and how he thought that this was going to improve his situation.

For those of you unfamiliar with military life, I believe it is safe for me to say that the military is its own culture. There are things that happen in the military that just wouldn't fly in the "real world."

I've heard people (or, for better clarification), soldiers, say that if they ran their business back home the way the government runs the military, they would go out of business. They would go broke in a month from over-spending, lose all of their customers due to poor customer relations, and all their employees would quit due to poor management practices (no wonder the military is adamant about having contractual obligations).

A cultural phenomenon particular to the military is this concept of "hurry up and wait." The mere thought of it eludes all reason, and yet, there it is. And, what amazes me, is that it has been around for quite some time. I'm certain that my father endured the practice while awaiting orders in the Chosin Reservoir, surrounded by 300,000 irate communist Chinese. Or, while he sat on a rocky mountain top watching his comrades in arms, as they raised an American Flag following the invasion on Iwo Jima.

This to me begs the question, why did they raise the flag on Iwo Jima? I can only conjecture, that it was because the Marines got tired of "hurrying up and waiting." Quite simply, it gave them something to do.

So, over time, and generations later, the military looks at its processes and says: 'It might not make sense, but it works. And, don't fix it if it ain't broke.'

This concept of hurry up and wait is definitely a cultural phenomenon. Where else can you find a group of people who can accomplish so much with so little information, so little resources and so little direction?

I believe that it is this lack of information, resources and direction that inspires and motivates soldiers to do "something." And, that something, in the face of the unknown, is the fire where our heroes are forged.

Best wishes,

David J. Jenkins

Click for Letter No. 1 and a photo of David J. Jenkins
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Click for Letter No. 13


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