The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

THE TERMITE MOUND |

April 23, 2007

THE TERMITE MOUND
Name: SGT Roy Batty
Posting date: 4/23/07
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Hometown: Yellow Springs, OH
Email: [email protected]

A month and a half ago I introduced The Sandbox to the newest Combat Outpost in Baghdad -- the formidable hostel that I called "the Keep".  Full of overinflated prose, I described it as  "a rose-colored ruin forgotten in the desert, a relic full of whispered secrets," prattled on about its supposed glorious past, and then promptly...disappeared.

I was pleasantly surprised when a number of good folks wrote me directly to ask what had happened to the tardy Nexus 6. Had he finally joined the hallowed ranks of fallen heroes in some neocon version of Valhalla; a red-white-and-blue sacrifice to the Boy Scout aspirations of the almighty Dubya? Had the nefarious hordes of post-nuclear Persia cut down the good Sergeant with a well aimed EFP? Turned him into a punk-haired Leonidas with a copper-lined hole smoking in the middle of his slightly potbellied torso? Or had the combination of Spartan living conditions, boredom and inane military restrictions finally forced him over the edge, and driven him to strangle his First Sergeant for one too many "on the spot corrections"?

Nope.  (Although the last one sounds pretty good.)

No, nothing that interesting. I've simply been trapped in a cycle of working, eating, smoking, sleeping, and then working some more, if you can call checking ID cards at the gate of a trash-strewn IP station a block away from Sadr City actually "working". The powers that be seem to want us to stay longer and longer at said IP station, as if somehow our mere presence at this structure will bring safety and security to the beleaguered denizens of Eastern Baghdad. Personally, I would have thought it more effective if we actually went out and patrolled the neighborhoods, and, y'know, like, found bad guys and either threw them in jail or filled them full of little high-velocity pieces of metal, but what do I know? Apparently I can have the same effect by looking at fake IDs and frisking people for the occasional weapon. I guess that two years at Ohio State, working in campus bars as a bouncer, really was useful after all.

The Termite Mound, as I call it now, is as dark and gloomy as ever, although they have added electrical power and a few bare bulbs to the place. The lights hang in great loops of black cord from the ragged ceiling, but bring little cheer. It still looks like an upscale salt mine, with all the concrete glamour of the Reichstag in the last throes of 1945 Berlin. Naked plywood walls separate the various platoons and units, which helps to keep the noise level down to approximately that of a Boeing 747 on takeoff. We have a semblance of wireless Internet, and occasionally it actually works. Somehow it's oddly appropriate for this mess of a war that the 21st Century Army would have WiFi before it has working showers.

Anyway, I thought I would let you know what my daily routine is like; how the heroic struggle of the Great Surge plays out day to day. Here goes:

REVEILLE

I feel a hand on my sleeping-bag-encased foot, shaking it. Time to get up. The exact time varies according to when we have to load-up for mission. Sometimes you get to sleep in a little, sometimes you don't. I really can't complain about the amount of sleep we get, it's just that the quality of the sleep is sometimes lacking. Remember the scene in Enemy at the Gates, where Vasily Zietsev and his Red Army girlfriend get it on in a tunnel, amid hordes of sleeping soldiers? That's what our plywood squadbay looks like. Probably smells about the same, too. It would be considerably more amenable if Rachel Weisz was in the cot next to mine, but instead I got a kid from Missouri who looks and sounds like Gomer Pyle. Life is so unfair...

ORIENTATION

This is what I call the thirty minutes or so that I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, or at the dimly lit figures around me. It's that wonderful time of the morning, right after waking up, when one's brain is still full of the velvet fumblings of dreamtime, the afterglow where life is comfortably numb and yet somehow also prophetically clear. I imagine it must be something like the first few seconds after birth; at least until the completely-uncalled-for slap of the doctor's hand on your three-minute-old butt. It's that precious time before your personality and day-to-day worries come online, a moment of clarity to watch the sunlight streaming down from the bullet-riddled skylight above you, and reflect on exactly how it is that you fucked up so badly as to have your life bring you to this special place...

PERSONAL HYGIENE

That's what the military calls it. Here, it is the same five-minute ritual, every morning, and is probably a far less thorough exercise than originally imagined in FM 22-11. Pull out the electric razor, that little square of German engineering, and mow down the grizzled whiskers which assault my grubby neck. There's no hot water in the Termite Mound, and you only get a shower every six to ten days. Which means that next, it's time for that other marvel of modern technology -- Baby Wipes. And the ritual I have dubbed "Schwabin' die Nutzen", a critical task in an environment in which you spend at least ten hours a day in full body armor in desert heat, with only passing acquaintance with running water. It's a procedure best completed quickly, yet thoroughly, beneath the covering graces of one's sleeping bag, and accompanied with a wide grin and a hearty, "Hey, good morning! Howyadoin'?" to any and all female soldiers that happen to march by your cot mid-swab.

DRESSING

Slip on a clean set of Underarmor underwear, carefully select my boot socks (shall we go with the compressing yet strangely thin fabric of Underarmor socks, or the cushy yet sweat-inducing embrace of a pair of Thorlos, or something in-between, like an In Genius pair of foot warmers?), and put on the same ACU uniform that I've been wearing for the past week.

There is a simple yet undeniable curse to putting on a clean pair of ACUs. Within thirty minutes you will spill coffee, splash in mud, drip ketchup, or somehow otherwise stain the virgin glories of said pristine uniform. Iraq is a filthy place, so you might as well wear the same set for a good period of time, which is fine, since you only get to send out your laundry twice a month or so anyway.

Then I slide on my pair of outrageously expensive Oakley combat boots, which are the only boots that I will wear from now on (at least until some dickhead First Sergeant or Command Sergeant Major tells me that they're not authorized). And then it's time for the dreaded body armor -- sixty-five pounds of cobbled-together pieces of Kevlar and Spectra-shield, festooned with pockets and pouches filled with bullets and magazines and 40mm grenades and hand grenades and infra-red strobe lights and Lord-only-knows-what-else. I have to stick my left arm through one side, and then swing the whole heavy mess around my back and up onto my shoulders, slipping the other arm in at just the right moment, and then hop up and down in a carefully choreographed dance in order to get it on just right, which it has to be, because I am going to be wearing the damn thing for the next ten hours straight. At least the high today is only in the 80s, as opposed to 125 degrees, which it will be within the next two months. God help us if we get extended through another summer...

LOAD-UP

Grab my combination rifle and grenade launcher, and moldy helmet, and trudge down the line of half-seen cots, through the green camouflage plastic poncho that serves as our squadbay door, and join the line of trudging automatons, bent low beneath their burdens of black machineguns and body armor, and file down the cracked cement stairs to the dirt and dust and hidden coils of concertina wire that choke the ground floor. At virtually all times of the day and night, these ordered lines of soldiers crowd the stairways; one line going up, carrying cases of water, MREs, ammunition, plywood sheets, and all of the myriad sundry items needed to keep 600 people alive day-to-day; and another line coming down -- soldiers heading out on mission. These everpresent, sullen rows of shuffling creatures, winding through the exposed exoskeleton of the building, is why I have come to refer to the place as "the Termite Mound".

Trudge out past the shielding veils of black curtains (so the snipers can't see in) and the sand-filled containers of the Hesco barriers (so the mortar rounds don't spread their deadly metal trinkets inside the fortress), and walk down the wide dais of the entrance ramp. On a good day I like to greet the morning, and our Iraqi neighbors across the motor pool, with a Klingon Death Cry, M4 rifle held aloft in a clenched first, commando knife in my other hand, screaming:

"RAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHH!"

Most mornings, though, I just stumble across the rubble and suck on a Camel, and try to make it to the truck and its precious cargo of DoubleShots without twisting an ankle. The cobblestone sidewalk around the castle has been pushed into bizarre waves of crushed paving bricks, like tectonic plates, tiny continents squashed together by the motion of the M1A1 tanks maneuvering in the tight confines of the parking lot.

By the time I make it out to my HMMWV, Nix, my driver, has usually set up most of our equipment. Coop, my gunner, is adjusting the headspace and timing on his massive .50 caliber machine gun. I load my rifle and grenade launcher, and place it on the hood of the truck, along with my knee pads. I brush my teeth with the aid of another tepid water bottle, grab a DoubleShot and another cigarette, and then it's time for the PCI -- Pre Combat Inspection. This only takes a few minutes, but it's critical. We have a ton of equipment, pretty much  all of which breaks down into two categories. First, shit that helps us kill people. Second, shit that is useful when someone tries to kill us. Making sure that each piece is where it's supposed to be and is working correctly is pretty important. It would suck to be on fire and beset by madly cracking bullets only to find out that that fire extinguisher and extraction tool aren't in the place you left 'em a week ago.

MISSION BRIEF AND DEPARTURE

The mission brief only takes a few minutes, and it rarely changes, at least not since we arrived at the Termite Mound six weeks ago. Where we are going, how we are getting there, and what are we doing when we get there. The most entertaining part is the INTSUM, or INTelligence SUMmary, which starts the brief. This is the part where our squad leader tells us what has happened in our AO, or Area of Operations, in the past 24 hours. He used to summarize everything that had happened in the entire city, and it would sound like this: "Within the Baghdad Area of Operations, in the past 24 hours, there have been 34 SIGACTS, or Significant Acts. There have been 12 IEDs, 14 Indirect Fires (mortars or rocket attacks), 3 Sniper attacks, and 3 VBIEDS (car bombs), all against Coalition forces. On the civilian side, there were 12 murders, 65 recovered bodies, and three kidnappings."  After a bit, it was all just too depressing, so now we just talk about what happens in our own patrol area -- all six square kilometers of it. Hell, it's usually depressing enough talking about what happened there. Oh, and by the way, the numbers I just mentioned are pretty typical for a day's work in Baghdad.

We pay pretty close attention to the SIGACTs in our patrol area, since it gives us an idea of the places that the local militias are focusing on -- places we want to avoid, particularly when it comes to IED placement.

After the brief, we conduct rehearsals; practicing what to do in specific emergencies. I usually run these, since I am a strong believer in being prepared, and I like to throw in wrinkles to keep the soldiers awake and thinking. Otherwise, they'll just go through the motions, and then forget the drills at the first bone-jarring explosion.

Then it's time to squeeze into the tight confines of our HMMWVs, conduct radio checks, line up the trucks, and head out into the madness of Baghdad traffic. 

COMMUTE

This is one of the most dangerous part of the day; simply driving the five or six blocks to our assigned IP station. When we first arrived at the Combat Outpost, it was right at the beginning of "the Surge". The Shia-led Iraqi government had convinced Moqtadr Al-Sadr to go into hiding in Iran, and most of his Mehdi Army followers were laying low.

Now, all bets are off, and Al-Sadr has released letters calling for increased attacks on Coalition forces. We've seen a sudden increase in IEDs in our area, particularly of the most lethal kind -- the Explosively Formed Projectile. Along with those Iranian-manufactured IEDs, there has been a rash of RPG and sniper attacks, along with Sunni contributions, mostly consisting of car bombs in local markets.

Bouncing over the gravel of the Entry Control Point and out into the mad traffic of a Baghdad morning is like crossing an invisible boundary marker -- on one side is relative quiet and orderliness, and on the other, a post-apocalyptic urban wilderness where literally anything can happen. Sidewalks erupt in a geyser of flame and smoke, bullets crack and echo from the buildings -- and most of the time it is the police shooting, which is how they direct traffic. Sirens blare, horns blow, and dilapidated busses, vans and trucks jostle for position. Kids sell gasoline by the side of the road, old men in kaffiyahs walk amidst the stalled traffic selling everything from breakfast pastries to hand towels. Through it all is the very conscious thought that, at any given moment, there could be a blinding flash and you would wake up minus a pair of legs, or worse, not wake up at all.

We pay a lot of attention to crowd densities and traffic patterns. When we first got here, we liked it when the streets were empty and no one was around; it felt safe and clear. Now we know that things are the safest when a certain amount of people are out and about. There is definitely a  "normal" number. Not too many, mind you, because then the target itself could be the people around you. And if there is a sudden quiet disappearance of locals, it's time to watch out.

We did a lot of training on how to spot an IED before we came here, in Germany and Kuwait, but one minute in Baghdad and you realize it is essentially worthless. There is just so much trash and wreckage strewn everywhere, and all of it looks suspicious. You  end up having endless discussions with yourself, analyzing, rationalizing, making little deals with Fate. "Well, that car looks out of place, but there is an old guy leaning against it, and there are those five kids just ten feet away from it, so it's probably okay." A lot of the time you just sort of hold your breath a little bit and hope for the best. And this happens every ten feet or so. And then again. And again. It gets a bit tiring after a while.

THE IP STATION

If all goes well, we get to our IP station without anything blowing up beside us. We pull inside, close up the gate, and settle in for another fun-filled day. For me, this consists almost solely of standing behind a metal gate and assessing everyone that comes through it. Are they an IP? Do I know them? Are they a civilian? Do they have a hidden weapon?

If I don't know them, or don't trust them, or sense that something is out of place, I search them. In five months at this station, I have only found hidden weapons on Iraqi Police, usually guys from the Ministry of the Interior who I don't know, and who don't know (or want) to identify themselves and the fact that they are armed before I check.

We recently found out that a Mehdi Army sniper team was targeting me at the gate, so now we keep out of sight and behind closed doors. This is fine from a Force Protection angle, but it means that I now spend six to eight hours a day standing in the sun, in full gear, about five feet behind said gate, waiting and watching it for someone to open it and spray me with an AK from close range. Think about that for a second. Imagine spending every single day for five months, eight hours a day, sweating your ass off in 65 pounds of gear, in the sun, watching a faded blue door. Being bored to tears, yet having to remain vigilant at the same time. You can't open the door, or look outside, because someone within the surrounding 300 meters, hidden behind a window curtain, might put your eye out with a big freakin' bullet.

I never thought you would be able to put the words "boring" and "lethally dangerous" together, but I was wrong. Last week, the 82nd infantry unit that shares our patrol area was attacked right in front of this gate, with a RPG. Two soldiers were wounded, one severely. One of our own sergeants was winged by a sniper two months ago, in the guard tower of this station. He's okay, although he will be shitting into a colostomy bag for a while.

Anyway, the threat is real.

We'd like to go out and do more combat patrols, but the powers that be want us to do it with the Iraqi Police. Problem is, they don't have any gas. Yep, somehow the country that is sitting on about 20% of the world's oil supply does not have enough gasoline to provide to their cops so they can go out and patrol a five block neighborhood. Gee, I wonder if those rumours about corruption in the Iraqi government are true?

So we sit. I practice my Arabic. We buy local food for lunch, and enjoy the delicacies of falafel, mutton kebab, lamb tikka, and dysentery. Drink chai, and smoke cigarettes. Talk about how much we miss home, or who in the platoon is getting on our last nerve today. Wave at the Apaches when they fly low overhead. Wait for something to blow up.

Every couple of days, something does. Blow up, I mean. It's usually one of our patrols in the area. When that happens, we reluctantly load up in our HMMWVs, and drive a block or two, and then sit and watch while a HMMWV crackles and burns and rips itself apart with self-destructing ordnance -- all the grenades and anti-tank rockets and stuff "cooking off" from the flames.  Fortunately, so far at least, no one has been killed in these attacks, and usually no one is even there when we pull up, so we just "secure the area" and let the truck burn.

The other day's Big Boom was an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) attack on a passing convoy, less than 100 meters from my gate. That was fun. This was the same unit that got attacked, also with an RPG, in front of the station a few nights ago. They're newly arrived here, and are a bit too aggressive. They've had a number of "Escalation of Force" incidents where they have lit up civilian cars that have approached them a little too quickly. In all of the cases, it has turned out merely to be innocent civilians. No weapons, no nothing. Just families trying to get home before curfew. Sounds like the locals may be trying to get payback on them.

Most of the time, though, it's just hot and sweaty and pointless and really, really boring.

COMMUTE "HOME"

Finally, my squad leader and/or platoon leader comes out of the police station, nudges the drooling SGT who is about to lose it from the heat and tedium, and announces that it's time to go "home". Load the trucks. Drive out into the insanity. Watch the garbage by the side of the road. Eye passing fuel trucks and buses and big semi trucks with suspicion. Joke on the radio about lines of dialogue from obscure movies.

Sometimes we do a little bit of patrolling before we go back to the Outpost, checking up on the static IP patrols. Most of the time they aren't where they are supposed to be. Funny how they don't have enough gas to conduct joint patrols, but they do have enough to disappear on personal errands. I would give anything to be able to stick GPS transmitters and electronic bugs in their trucks, and see what they're really up to. 

RELAX

On most FOBs, there are a couple of things that folks can do in their spare time. The larger FOBs, like Anaconda, or Liberty, or the IZ, have MWR centers with Internet cafes, game rooms, libraries, phone centers, etc. They have coffee shops, and hookah shops, sometimes restaurants, the occasional movie theater. Hell, Balad has an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Places to chill out and feel a little more human.

In the Termite Mound, I have my cot. The cot is everything. It is my living room, my dining room, my den, the computer room, and, oh yeah, a place to sleep. My forearm fits nicely in the space between my cot and the one next to mine. We eat our evening meals sitting on our cots. Play our PSPs. Listen to our Ipods. We had to box up all TVs and Xboxs and such when we left Shield, but almost everyone has some sort of small gadget to pass the time.

We file back in from the motorpool, lugging our dusty weapons. Strip out of the greaseslicked bodyarmor. I stick the Ipod headphones in immediately. Clean my rifle for the five-gazzilionth time. Trudge downstairs, and pick up the single cooked meal of the day. Trust me, I'm not complaining, it's a hell of a lot better than eating MREs for every meal, which is what we did for the first month in this blasted building.

The rest of the evening is split between watching a pirated DVD on my laptop, playing my PSP, and waiting for the evening mortar attack. Their mortar teams must not be too good, since they always miss the building itself, but they are pretty good at hitting the parking lot. In any case, the thick CRUUMP always gets your attention, if only for the split second until you realize that it is more than 50 meters away, and therefore not important. It does tend to cut short outdoor smoke breaks, however.

If you are really lucky, this evening will be your platoon's allotted time to take a shower. There are four shower stalls downstairs. Four individual shower stalls. For 600 people. Sooooooo, Shower Night is carefully scheduled, and it comes around about every six to twelve days. I say six to twelve, because if you should be so unlucky as to be out on patrol when the shower room is opened, or if the compressor pump goes down that night, well, sucks to be you. You'll have to wait until the schedule rotates around to your platoon again.

Think about that one, too. Desert heat. Body armor. Combat zone exertions. Dirty, gutted building. Six hundred folks in elbow-rubbing proximity to each other. One shower every 1-2 weeks. I won't be able to smell a damn thing for six months after I get out of here.

About midnight or so, the lights turn off and the noise dies down enough that you can go to sleep. Unless you are one of those folks driven by stress and frustration to the point of furtively masturbating within the clammy confines of your sleeping bag, which seems to be de rigueur for stress relief here. Oh well, gotta do what you do. After almost eleven months in Iraq, no one seems to give much of a shit about social morays anymore. Except some of our female IPLO cops. One was walking along the Puptent Gauntlet the other night, and stopped to stare at someone who was particularly "involved in the moment".  She half gasped, half laughed, and turned to say something to the guy next to him -- only to discover that he was similarly engaged.

She left last week.

So, there you have it. This has pretty much been my experience, every day, for the past seven weeks. 

Tomorrow it will be the same, as will the day after it.

And the next.

And the next.

It gets so that, at the end of the day, I don't even want to write about it. Hell, I don't even want to think about it. I just want to put the Ipod on and pretend that I'm somewhere tropical, with white gypsum beaches and cool off-shore breezes. Somewhere with my wife and an unlimited supply of Mezcal margaritas...

POSTSCRIPT

Last night, the dreaded Word came down -- not through normal military channels, but through Yahoo, of all things. The Secretary of Defense has unilaterally decided that every single active duty Army unit will spend 15 months in Iraq, instead of the usual 12. Effective immediately.

Period. End of discussion.

We had 59 days until we were home in Germany, safe and sound. We were literally gritting our teeth to gut out the time until we were relieved by our replacements. We don't even have to get home for morale to improve dramatically. Just to pull back to the comfort of a real FOB; one with real food and the unbelievable luxury of a shower every night would be an incredible boon. Now we have an unimaginable five months ahead of us, and, worst of all, the prospect of 125 degree summer heat in this bombed-out shopping mall surrounded by increasingly pissed-off Shia militias.

More sobering is the fact that, for some of the people in this building, this extension is a very real death warrant. People are going to die because of it, torn apart by an EFP in some shithole alleyway, or with a neat and surgical sniper's bullet punctuating their forehead, when they could have been at home raising a glass and telling war stories, their year in Iraq honorably completed.

But wait, there's more. The insurgents are getting bolder. Today, at two in the afternoon (i.e. broad fucking daylight), a couple of them attacked our building. They sprayed magazines of AK fire, and shot an RPG at the roof. It blew up on the plastic and metal cover over the central skylight. It didn't do much more than rain a bit of plexiglass down on us, and woke up yours truly from a very nice and only slightly pornographic nap, but the timing seems a harbinger of things to come. Along with the increasing mortar attacks, and the IEDs that seem to be getting closer and closer to the main gate every day.

Comments

Haven't had a chance to read the post, just damn glad to hear you are safe!

I was stuck on a ship in the middle of the oil fires for Persian Gulf 1. One of the truly less than savory units on the ship had a giant piece of poster-board with everyone name on it next to a grid with one square for each day of the deployment. Each man was supposed to mark a number in that day's box representing the nmber of times he had "relieved his stress" that day. I hope you and your boys never get that bored!

Be well,
Ben

What can we, as civilians, do on our end? I never wanted this war. I don't think we can win. I never thought trying to take
their oil was better than buying it and reducing oil use. I don't think you getting shot at there is making me safe here in America. I don't like my tax dollars going to Halliburton, either. I never, ever thought GB was presidential material. I may be a pacifist, but I am not stupid. What are our options? Voting is great, but my congresspeople don't disagree with me. Please do your best to stay healthy; and get a remote camera on the other side of that door. Or a periscope. Or a mirror. Anything!

What can we, as civilians, do on our end? I never wanted this war. I don't think we can win. I never thought trying to take
their oil was better than buying it and reducing oil use. I don't think you getting shot at there is making me safe here in America. I don't like my tax dollars going to Halliburton, either. I never, ever thought GB was presidential material. I may be a pacifist, but I am not stupid. What are our options? Voting is great, but my congresspeople don't disagree with me. Please do your best to stay healthy; and get a remote camera on the other side of that door. Or a periscope. Or a mirror. Anything!

I was elated to see a new post. I once again knew you were safe and still kicking. Then by the end of reading it I was so depressed I almost wanted to cry (this from a 50ish man even). Like Zelma, I am so pissed off that you and your “mound mates” even have to be there, that I want to scream in Bush’s face “Get a bleeping clue!”

Thanks for another glimpse of a day in the life of one of my heroes. You and all of your “mound mates” truly are heroes to all of us here in the states. Please remember that even though the majority of people now have come to their senses and realize that this war is really more about GW’s ego than anything else, we do support you and everything you are doing overthere.

Just curious. A lot of the other Sandbox posters comment on the music they listen to. What is the soundtrack like for a day in the “mound” and while you’re out and about?

That was awesome. The tedium and boredom of war is something I don't think can be emphasized enough. Also the crudeness . . .
More than anything though, the gallows humor.
I'd like to ask about what weird superstitions are cropping up, if you've any inclination to think about such things.
Also? The Extension sucks.

Great writing. One day at a time, my friend. sorry we can't nuke the mothers and get it over with.

Truely great post. Sucks about the extension. I think you are doing a great job out there and still believe you are making a positive difference. I wish more people would read posts like yours, so that they could better understand your situation. Good luck and stay safe.

Every day we read and hear about how well the surge is or is not working. We hear politicians pontificate. But your posts put a human face on what is going on and I for one appreciate the perspective.

I found your post to be alternately hilarious and horrifying. Am also very glad to hear that you are alive and well and on point with your take on the situation. Every time I watch the well-heeled neocons defending this war and this surge and this extension of duty tours on the Sunday shows I find myself fervently praying that they could be made to trade places with you. They sit in their expensive suits with their perfectly coiffed hair enjoying the air conditioning and coffee and the civil discourse of their fellow pundits and they claim to know what this war is really about, they claim to "support the troops" and pontificate about the need to "stand firm" and "not surrender". And they're full of crap. Keep up your splendid posts and stay safe.

It doesn't change, nice ending to know they decided you need another ninety days to finish the surge (or allow them the time to fix whatever their problem is). Very nicely put, the entire write up and the new name for the termite mound, you are doing a fine job and thanks for taking the time to tell us what is really going on, pirated DVDs, does Hollywood know? They should be sending y'all first run DVDs free... write next time you are wound up tight...

Thank you for your writing. I don't know what else to say, but I want you to come home safe.

Can you spell FUBAR?

One nice thing about the Vietnam war was the draft. When your two years were up you were sent home. How does it feel to be collateral damage? Good luck. Love your writings.

Glad you're safe. I'm thoroughly depressed. My son is about to join you in the sandbox and now I know how awful it really is. I pray for your safety.

I thought Bush said things are going better.

Like everyone else, I was glad to see the post. I am disgusted by the condtions you are existing in. You put a face on the 90 day extension which was promoted as a morale builder when I hard about it on the news. Yea, sure.

It's a far cry from Glen Helen!Missed you-glad you are OK. You honor us with your vivid honest writing .Here we are trying to make the USA a better place for you to come home to. Love you like my son SGT.

I'm glad to see the post, glad you're still writing and that the internet cooperated long enough to get it posted. Prisoners can't be treated as poorly as we are treating the soldiers who we expect to go out and work every day. As the parent of a soldier, I have a huge investment in seeing you all home safely, but I'd like to send a lot of our politicians over to spend some time in the Termite Mound, especially once the temperatures go back up over 100. I have no vested interest in seeing them home safely, but maybe then they'd understand what we are putting our soldiers through and get off their collective butts to work out a solution and bring everyone home.

Like everyone, I too was glad to see a post from you... Sgt. Batty, "he is always fun to read, very descriptive".... I think someone said before me, I'm completely depressed...And I am... For you, for being so naive, for thinking "thank gosh it's not me" We need someone just like you talking to whomever/whatever it will take to get you and your commrades home... And not 90 days later... Not damn fair! I'm so sorry...

Your posts just echo with the kind of detail that perhaps we don't want to think about, perhaps we just forget too easily: what 'life' is like in war. I can only hope that someone in your government, someone of will and with any kind of legislative power, reads what you write and does something about this bloody, stupid, endless conflict. Good luck Roy, keep safe.

Uhmm, ah, it sucks to be you? Seriously, I remember how ff_n much it sucked to be me, wayback. Loved the two simple categorys system: Shit that kills folks, Shit that keeps us alive.

Remembered how much street patrols sucked. Remembered hearing the Doors singing, "People are strange" ringing in my ears. ". . . When you're strange, when you're strange." while walking through town. Remembered traffic, and reading the locals, and being both terrified and bored out of my freaking gourd.

Hoping, after a while, for something, anything, to happen, anytime soon. And then being even more terrified when it did.

Oh, yeah, here's the punch line. I did it, as a kid, because my government told me if I did, you wouldn't ever have to.

Great writing. The reality is exactly what we need instead of 18% Dicks' lies about winning.

Takes me wayback to Nam, the P.I. Westmoreland, a small aircraft hanger, a formation and a bunch of us humming, "Yes we are winning. Yes we are winning. Westmorland tells me sooooo." to the tune of 'Yes Jesus Loves Me'

Always felt weird when I got back and couldn't go around corners in the city untill I scoped the second floor windows down the block.

Well, Cheu Hoy! Oh yeah, it sucked to be us, then too.

Dear Sergeant Batty: if you are shrugging into your body armor with grenades in the pockets, please don't shrug too hard. Your posts are always the best, compelling and funny to read, conveying really "photographic" images in words, and also always very moving, even in or maybe especially in the little, mundane details (a forearm's width between your cot and your neighbor). I'm going to think about you every day for the next five months, that is a promise, and in these thoughts, I will be picturing you on a white sand, turquoise water beach, in a simple deck chair, wearing goofy flowered swim trunks, your wife sunbathing in the sand next to you, the palm trees whispering above. Until our moron leaders see fit to get you and all the other young Americans out of the suck and into the safe on no more war. Every day. Till the picture is real. Keep writing and keep your dukes up -- we need your kind in this world.

Hang in there...maybe you can get a mannequin or something to stand near where you stand so that when the Haj pops in, he'll shoot that first.

Thank you.

Great Blog. Glad you are OK.

Troy- You got me. I am a mom of a baby in diapers, my third, and it's never been a chore I minded much- until now. I find myself doing Col. Wilhelm Klink imitations with your catchy term "Schwabin' die Nutzen" now every time I use a baby wipe for it's intended purpose. Baby loves it!

Anyway- great writing! Thank you for your perspective, your hard work and your service to our country.

Thank the Lord you are safe, Sarge! I've been checking every few days and was quite worried when nothing from you showed up. Your depression is so understandable. G-d bless and save you. If you can, try to write more. It is a great gift to all your fans here at home.

I have to chime in and say I have been anxiously awaiting a new post from you. Too bad our president can't read. Take care good buddy

Sgt Batty: I was glad to find a post from you when I checked today. I wait impatiently for word that you are well and usually enjoy most of that you write. You are very talented and portray your life there so well that I literally can feel as though I am living it.

The sentiment in your postscript however is difficult to encounter. I happened by the Tanker Brothers milblog the other day and saw a very different sentiment expressed by Master Gunner on the extension to 15 months. Both MG and CT are on deployment in Iraq so they will also be extended.

I wish you well and have you in my prayers. Hope you get back to the FOB soon for the food and hot shower - nothing on earth can feel so good. Stay safe, Batty.

A day in the life....life being the key-word. The visual is clear and plays out like a movie. The words that repeat in my head are, "man, thanks for doing this", "glad I'm not there", and "where do I send the tequilla?"

Roy: Your story of one day and the atmosphere you live in paints an amazing picture of this horrid war. This is new territory for someone like me, who only has the outsider's view of opposing just about everything GWB does, for moral, and other reasons. You have put a human face and a wonderfully vivid account to the otherwise very impersonal picture we get from the media. Thank you!

Morning mai tais, roaring surf, cool salt breeze, the Ventures blasting 'Pipeline', curvaceous tan lines, boat drinks Roy.

Batty - Been away from the Sandbox for a while myself but VERY glad to hear some word from you.

Sucks to go from reasonably short to 90 days and a wakeup overnight. You can bet the neocon suits in five sided funny farm on the Potomac and at 1600 PA Ave. won't be sweating their balls off this summer or losing sleep when a mortar round or an RPG lands closeby.

Appreciated your classification of mission essential shit: shit that helps kill people and shit useful when someone is trying to kill you. Very basic but absolutely true.

Stay safe. Understand your current situation mitigates against writing often. Write when you can even if abbreviated. Let us know you're safe.

Barb sent me the link to your blog. Excellent writing Sgt. Batty! I'm a fourth gen Canadian military brat with many relatives still serving. You have put a very human face on this conflict for your readers, even those who have gone numb from years of non-stop CNN. Stay safe, keep posting. We're reading here at home. You are in our thoughts.

So glad to see you are still at it, Roy...you Nexus 6 models are the best ever! And your writing rocks...if you ever want yet another place to trumpet from, I will give you a blog at our website in a heartbeat! Stay safe, and get a new short-timers t-shirt! This family of veterans will be watching for your posts!

You write memorable posts. Your maturity and sense of humor are very impressive and I’m sure the people who work with you day to day are glad to have you. If I could come down there myself and install more showers I would. I actually have a part time job in a big shopping mall. Next night I’m there I’ll try to imagine it bombed out and full of 600 troops. Thanks for doing a hard, dangerous and unpleasant job so that people in the USA can be protected.

Wow, I must say this is a great read! I could imagine what the soldier's world look like.

-Luigi

Thanks for the incredible detail in this piece. The vivid imagery makes the scene you are experiencing come to life for the rest of us. I could not imagine going through the things that you are, but know that those of us back home are very grateful for all that you and your fellow soldiers do to protect this country.

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