January 09, 2006
The armor I wore was a big improvement over any other armor I've seen before. But it was still hot, heavy, and contributed to heat and fatigue casualties. So what's better? Losing one man to a gun shot wound or losing five to heat stroke?
The other night my husband and I caught an episode of that show Over There. The plot in a nutshell was that the Americans had captured an insurgent who knew information about where stolen missles were. At the end of the episode, the insurgent agrees to tell the Special Forces officer where the missles are (on a farm) as long as the Americans promise not to kill the farmer and his family. Long dramatic pause as the officer promises...cut to the next scene of the farmer feeding his goats and his farm getting blown to bits from an air strike.
Naturally, I got wrapped up in the moral dilemma of the issue. Why would the director of this show have the officer promise and then just blow up the farm? What was the underlying agenda behind this move? I turned to my husband and asked him, "Would that really happen?", meaning would someone be able to so easily renege on a promise like that and just blow up a family of civilians. The answer I got was not what I expected...
My husband said the scene was complete horse manure because you don't just call in air strikes on some random farm where you think there might be missles just because some prisoner told you so. He said Iraqis were notorious for lying about weapons caches: they'd have a beef with a neighbor and then run to the Americans claiming the neighbor was a terrorist just to get him in trouble. Husband said what would really happen would be that they'd raid the farm looking for the missles. If you just aerial bomb the farm, you have no idea what you just blew up. Maybe the missles were there, maybe they weren't, so you're no closer to knowing you're safe.
I fell for it. I fell for the tug-at-your-heartstrings nonsense that the director of Over There wanted me to. Hook, line, and sinker. But that's because I'm a dumb civilian, just like the majority of people watching this television program. The writers sent me right down the garden path towards Moral Dilemma, so I completely missed the tactical errors. I don't have the military training to notice the things my husband noticed about this show.
I can't help but think that the people at Daily Kos have gone down the same garden path. They've never worn any body armor, but if someone says it saves lives, well then coat the soldiers from top to bottom in it. Make their bodies bulletproof and none of them will die. The only problem is that soldiers don't just stand out in the street trying not to die. They need to move around, run, jump in and out of HMMWVs and Blackhawks, and react to whatever comes their way. They can't be standing there like the un-oiled Tin Man because they're weighted down in body armor.
I used to joke with my husband online in Iraq that he needed to sleep in his body armor. I told him I was going to make him kevlar pajamas to keep him safe. Then he got home from Iraq and put his body armor on me, vest and helmet. I had it on for maybe two minutes and I felt like I was being crushed. He wore it every day for 13 months.
Sometimes we civilians think we can see things as clearly as our soldiers do. We think we know what's best for them, or we think we can see the Moral Dilemmas just as well as they can. I'm just not sure we have the knowledge and experience to make that call. Our hearts can be in the right place -- as I'd like to believe this Kos writer's is -- but sometimes all the empathy in the world doesn't match up to experience.
Usch, I can't believe I walked right into that stupid tv plot.
January 06, 2006
You know what? I have no idea how many more years my husband has in. Officers don't have ETS dates really, they stay until they renounce their commission. I know if my husband goes to the career course, he tacks on more time, and since he started taking tuition assistance to get his MBA, he tacked on more time for that as well. But I really have no idea when he could get out of the Army if he wanted it. Some days he fantasizes about getting out and working in the civilian world...other days he fantasizes about retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He's staying in until he doesn't want to do this job anymore.
And I too have heard the "brainwashing" thing, most notably from my German co-worker back when our friend got his torso ripped out in Mosul. Here's what I wrote back in 2004:
I printed out this article at work and mentioned to my co-workers how amazing I thought it was that LT A intends to stay in the Army despite his injuries. They retorted that he must be really brainwashed, that he wasn't "fighting for his country" but for lies, and that someday I would see just how brainwashed people like my husband really are. I had to leave the office, I was so disgusted. I can't believe someone would say that to my face, completely unprovoked. I'm proud of our friend for standing up for what he believes in; if they disagree, they can politely nod and keep their opinions to themselves, like I do all the freaking time here at work. What is wrong with these people?
My husband and I aren't looking any gift horses in the mouth: we know we've got a good thing going here. He makes great money for a 25 year old, plus we pay no rent, no utilities, and have free health care. If he can do better in the future, we'll consider it, but for now we think ourselves pretty darn lucky to have the resources we have.
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