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.


June 28, 2007

Name: Charles
Posting date: 6/28/07
Stationed in: LSA* Anaconda, Iraq
Hometown: Quinton, VA

Three weeks down, only sixty-one to go! I was here before, in 2004-2005 for OIF II, and in the first few weeks of this deployment two things strike me:

1.  Iraq in 2004 still had a "Wild West" sort of feel to it -- temporary buildings, very sporadic communications, few creature comforts, not a lot of institutional "garrison" rules. Now, three years on, the machine that is the U.S. military has consumed one and all within massive facilities and massive support infrastructure. In spite of the move to embrace counterinsurgency warfare and put combat forces into neighborhoods, the big bases continue to get bigger and more comfortable.

I had a friend recently call LSA Anaconda "Poguedishu", and he was right in a sense, but I'm not complaining. If an infantryman who kicks in doors seven days a week for fifteen months can go have a cappucino or an ice cream cone and buy something at the PX, good for him. When the first Burger King arrived at then-FOB Speicher in 2004, it offended my sensibilities, but no longer. It's the least we can do. As long as they can continue to hire drivers to truck the stuff in, go for it.

2.  The entire AO* is much, much, much more dangerous! I knew that from watching the news, but now that I'm here again the reality hits home. Balad always received mortar and rocket fire, but now it's a constant rain of projectiles. One of the helicopter battalions received multiple mortar rounds in its central area the other day, with five wounded and multiple vehicles damaged. It was a miracle no one was killed. At Speicher in late 2004, we went weeks at a time without indirect fire. I'm afraid that this simple fact argues against optimism for the outcome.

LSA: Logisitics Support Area
AO: Area of Operations


It's the same in Baghdad with the projectiles.
You keep safe!!

LOL. At San Diego, you could tell who had just flown over to the Real World. At sunset, they would lower the flag, and fire a cannon salute.

The new guys, just back from country, would hit the pavement, duck, or just stand there like a deer in the headlights. We'd laugh, and goof on 'em. But we still remembered what it was like the first time WE heard it.

Awkward Haaaarrrrr.

Part of me agrees with you, it is the least we could do. Then I consider that the creation of such massive infrastructure provides targets for the raining of projectiles into these bases.

Then consider the statement: "...hire drivers to truck the stuff in...". The logistics costs to provide Cappucino and Burger King must be astronomical. How many combat soldiers are needed to protect these 'supplies'? What are we charging our soldiers for these comforts? What is the profit margin for the contractors involved? Are the American Taxpayers subsidizing these contracts? God Bless KBR, for they shall inherit the earth.

Does it bother any of you soldiers that the U.S. is making these huge complexes to house you in, including the U .S. Embassy? Does the idea seem a little too permanent to you?
Did we do this in Korea or VietNam?
Something to ponder!

I say HOORAY if you've got a sturdy roof over your head. I don't begrudge you one iota if you're fortunate enough to get a Burger King or a cappucino while you're over there in that pressure cooker. Stay safe, we love y'all.

OK, I haven't had close contact with the US Army since 1981. The lingo has changed. Will someone tell me why the term Pogue?
I love THE Pogues, but I doubt if that has anything to do with this term. When you post again,, explain (unless its something that cannot go on these pages) Thanks from an old lady who's been out of the loop a long time - and loving every minute of retirement!

John and Maureen: Regardless of whether or not the U.S. pursues a counterinsurgency strategy (and we are now, maybe too late), a significant military force in a country means bases. What do you think the Services of Supply built to support U.S. forces in Europe and the Pacific? Whether these facilities are permanent or not, the fact remains that U.S. forces serving in Iraq "outside the wire" of protected bases now experience more days of continuous combat operations than did soldier in WWI or WWII, who generally served a week or so "in the line" and then were pulled out for rest and refit. So, creature comforts on the bases are necessary for health and morale when those folks do get a chance to rest. The climate and conditions here demand it. And if the taxpayers weren't subsidizing this work by a contractor, they'd be subsidizing military members to do them.

Ina: the term "Pogue" has come to be military slang for rear-echelon support personnel who don't venture out of secure areas. As SPC Freeman pointed out during another post, the term itself is a bit inappropriate for the current conflict, as we all suffer the indirect fire, regardless of job, and a lot of us leave the bases for supply missions that end up being combat missions!

Wikipedia points out that in Irish Gaelic pogue means "kiss", and describes pogue in its current usage as a "retronym/backronym", and says that it is the pronunciation of the acronym "person other than a grunt". I think rather that it may be related to the famous Irish "pogue mahone", which means "kiss my ass" or "kiss my rear". Perhaps it started as a reference to the rear echelon and the phrase was shortened to just "pogue".

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