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.


February 08, 2008

Name: Gruntshit
Posting date: 2/8/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Clarkston, Washington
Milblog: The Angry American

Framed_gruntshit_ashura_1_3 The last couple of days have found us pretty busy. Today we were able to take a break and tend to maintenance with the vehicles and other annoying shitty admin things that have to be taken care of. The Iraqis are celebrating Ashura right now. I don't know if "celebrating" is the right term, maybe "mourning" the Ashura. Essentially the Ashura is "a major festival, the tazia (ta'ziyah). It commemorates the death of Husayn (also spelled Hussein), son of Imam 'Ali and grandson of Muhammad, on the 10th of Muharram, AH 61 (October 10, 680), in Karbala, Iraq. The event led to the split between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, and it is of central importance in Shia Islam." Like on any Iraqi holiday the streets and Mosques are decorated with the colors of Islam: Green is Islam, Red is Sacrifice, White is Purity, and Black is for Martyrdom.

Framed_gruntshit_ashura_2 Our balls-to-the-wallage began with going out and taking pictures of billboards, to make sure that there were not any anti-ISF, or anti-coalition sayings on them. This kinda prompted me to start taking more pictures of billboards, but that is for another post. The downside to this was driving up and down the main roads, which in recent days became a hotbed for EFPs. It snowed and hajj got all nutty and broke out the EFPs he had in the shed or something.

After we drove around taking pictures of signs we went and investigated some houses next to where an IED was found. The houses were just squatter shacks, built of mud bricks. I met some kids there who were actually not that annoying, and very lovable. I seldom feel this way but I really wanted to take them home. Maybe it was because they were about my daughters' ages.

Damn the Groundhog Dayness of this place, because I know we did some other shit, but since I didn't write it down I can't even remember what. We did go out and try to give money out to local businesses, and engage the population, and hand out tip cards. We secured an area and waited forever for someone to come out and do a meet-and-greet, but lo and behold, said someone was running late, so we waited an hour for nuthin. But I got to meet the dude with the coolest mustache in all Iraq. I had seen him walking as we drove by about a month ago, and I was totally stoked by his muchacho mustache, a mustache that screams "I'm a fucking bad ass." After talking to him in minced English and Arabic, this guy ended up being a pretty bad ass dude, in a good way.
Ah, now I remember what we did. We went and looked for supposed militia members renting out supposed houses, and my guys came across some old-school jet fighter helmets and flight suits in one house. It turned out the guy that lived there was once a fighter pilot in Saddam's army, back in the day.

Lately the militia has been threatening the locals, and people who are actually trying to help Iraq and make it better. We went to investigate this on the day before Ashura. People had the decorations up and the neighborhood was friendly enough. Our mission was to get out and talk to the people. You can always tell when you're in a militia-rich environment because the people will tell you, "No meester, no militia here, this is a good area." They will also tell you, "Everything is fine, I cannot talk to you." After they tell us repeatedly at every house on the block that there is no militia, you see these:


Yup, no militia here!


Another big indicator is if we try to get a young male alone to talk to him and his family starts freaking out.

The people are either affiliated with the militia in some form or another, or scared to death of them. You won't ever really find a guy willing to rat out the militia, because they know that if they are caught they are going to end up in some remote location with their head missing.

Muqtada called for a ceasefire among the Jaysh Al Mahdi, to "clean house" as some have put it. Other news sources report that he is trying to get on board and make positive changes in Iraq. Hey, I'm all for it. It's been quiet for the most part. It's frustrating because the militia is the major problem we have in our area. Some will tell us "Fuck the Mahdi!", or spit at the name of Muqtada, but you can't always tell if they mean it or if they are hiding something. Maybe they are part of a militia splinter cell and just don't like Muqtada for trying to make Iraq a better place.

One thing for sure is that the Iraqi people fear the militia, and if they would just take a stand against it and help us maybe we could make bigger gains in defeating them. Shit, the Sicilians are starting to unite against the Costra Nostra. From what I understand the Jaysh Al Mahdi was formed in order to protect the Shiia from Sunni violence, but what it boils down to is that they actually bully and terrify their own people. I hope that one day we can just work together for the common good of Iraq, because I think that it has every possibility of being a great nation.

That's about it, other than receiving a lil' info about a possible IED and going to investigate it as if we were some form of EOD*. I hate that shit: "Um, ya we have a possible IED at such and such grid and we are going to investigate it." Does it say EOD on my fucking shoulder patch? No. Why don't you have the experts look for that shit. The only time I seem to find the damn things is after they blow up on my fucking truck.

No, it's not that I'm not looking, cuz I am. I look so hard that when I redeploy it will be months before I'm driving down the interstate not looking for them. It's that they hide the fucking things real good, not to mention that in my mind everything is a possible IED because it doesn't look right, and if it were up to me I'd make EOD clear every five feet of road in front of me and we would never make it anywhere on fucking time...

* EOD: Explosive Ordnance Disposal


Excellent story! Thanks for sharing. Did you see the Shi'ite pilgrims beating themselves to a bloody pulp as part of Ashura? I never understood that, but I'm not a religious man in the first place.

That's a classic picture of Muqtada tagged on the wall. He must be some sort of pop sensation where you are at. Good thing the ceasefire got extended, hope that keeps problems in your area at bay. Again, thanks for the story.

To Be honest with you my knowledge of what your life must be like there is just about zilch. But your blog I came across somehow while I was looking at the news. Yours caught my eye because I grew up in Pullman WA. I would visit my great grandmother (while living with my grandmother)every weekend. I do not have any members of family or friends that are in the service at this time so thank you for your pics. and experiences you write about. I hope you will be home with your family soon. Even though I'm just a small town girl I know that what you are going through is greatly appreciated! I hope you are told that once in awhile. Any who keep safe bye for now...

It's nice to know that someone out of the ol' running group got famous! Miss ya, bud...keep in touch.

You said; "Um, ya we have a possible IED at such and such grid and we are going to investigate it."

Like how? Look for wires? People watching out for Joes? Or just really loud noises, followed by screaming and yelling, and raining body parts?

I was security for a Navy EOD group way back. HATED just standing there, wondering if this was just a ruse to get us to just stand there, so a sniper could get a few of us.

Oh, yeah, and it takes a long time before you stop automatically checking second stories, rooflines, and open windows. Or did they include that in the de-brief?

Thanks for taking care of this for the rest of us. Hope the ceasefire is permed.

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