Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Meet Major K

Major K is an intellgence officer with the American Infantry Brigade in which Coporal Glenn Watkins served and died. This is from Major K's blog:
April 17, 2005

Ladies & Gentlemen, We got 'em!

I am finally able to post this one because I now have reasonable certainty that we have all off the scumbags involved in the killing of CPL Watkins in custody. They all went down without a fight when we burst through their doors in the middle of the night. We got the first 2 about a week ago and have since rounded up the others. I hope that CPL Watkins is pleased with us as he looks down from above. These cowards are going for a nice long stay in Abu Ghurayb Prison. It took a while to drill down the details but the wait was so worth it. Most of the time, I hate being the Battalion Intelligence Officer, as I am an infantryman by training and most of my experience. Times like these, however, it is a great job, as not only do I head up the detective work that goes into catching these guys, but I get to go through the door with the assault team on the raid that bags them. The bigger fight is far from over, however, and after another 28 hour shift on the job, I conked out for about 3 hours to be awakened by fresh developments from informants. I woke, worked again for another 20 minutes to provide guidance to my staff and then conked back out. That was a few days ago. We are back to the grind looking for other scumbags, like the ones that killed a guy from our sister battalion here on the FOB. I hate RPG's. Back to Work!

Read more from Major K here: http://strengthandhonor.typepad.com/

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cpl. Glenn Watkins

This is a follow-up post to my last regarding the tragic death of Cpl. Watkins. I found this information on Red2Alpha's blog 'This is Your War'. I can't recommend his blog to highly. His writing style is unique and riveting and offers a different perspective than some of the other Soldier's Blogs I've been following. Here is Red2Alpha's account of the Memorial Service for Cpl. Glenn Watkins.
Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saying Goodbye

The memorial for CPL Glenn Watkins was held on the dusty basketball court near Battalion Headquarters. Bars of sunlight stabbed through the steel grey layer of clouds, shifting with the winds aloft.

C for Charlie sat on rough wood bleachers, in front of us sat Alpha Company on folding metal chairs. I felt like and intruder, like walking in on a family fight at your friends house. This was Alpha's private grief and I wouldn't have wanted all these outsiders watching as I said goodbye to one of my buddies. For the most part it was a good memorial, the Battalion Commander, LT COL. Tall, spoke, the Chaplin, Major Blessing, and two of CPL Watkins buddies - both of whom were visibly upset. What bothered me most. Though, was all the pomp that went with it. It could have been much simpler, a formation, the field cross, and some words about the man. This was to parade ground, it was somebody's idea of how to have a memorial, like a movie set and we were all just actors in the scene. The video cameras and photographers didn't help either. To me it cheapened the man's life and all he sacrificed by extending an extra year so he could serve with his old friends in Alpha. CPL Watkins was married, with four children. And he stayed here, in Iraq, so he could be with his old unit... And paid for it with his life. Think about that next time you have to stay late at the office or some other bullshit that you think is a burden to do in your safe civilian life.

Nobody spoke in the crowd, which is unusual for a group of Grunts. Usually somebody will make some kind of comment on something. I thought a lot about my reasons for being here, about my Dad, and Wendy. I wondered, if I were him would I stay an extra year? I tried to feel something for this Soldier that I had never met. I did feel a nameless loss, there was and empty place in my chest for the loss his family feels but I was never really sad until the end when the Alpha

Company 1SGT called roll.
"PVT Smith!"
"Here First Sergeant!"
"SGT Jackson!"
"Here First Sergeant!"
"SPC Alpert!"
"Here First Sergeant!"
"CPL Watkins!"

Everyone stands at attention, in the quiet a flight of Blackhawk helicoptors peels off to the north.
"CPL Glenn Watkins!"
I can feel my throat tighten up and tears come to my eyes.
"CPL Glenn James Watkins!"

At the end, we all stood and waited for or turn to saulte the memory of the man, embodied in the field cross. A pair of dusty desert boots, at the base of his M-203, muzzle down, helmet placed on the stock. Watkins dog tags fluttered and clanked in the breeze. We all saluted the cross and photos of him at the base, some knelt and bowed their heads in prayer, others left something, spent casings, notes, pictures. I had nothing to offer, though I wanted to leave something. Instead, as it came to be my turn, I promised to not forget this man or those he left behind.It's the least I can do."Everybody's acting like we can do anything and it don't matter what we do.

"Maybe we gotta' be extra careful because maybe it matters more than we even know." - PVT Eriksson, from the movie 'Casualties of War'

Update: Red2Alpha closed his blog not too long after the above post for personal reasons.

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
When they come I will stand my ground
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid
Thoughts of home take away my fear
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears
Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me
Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a Germans gun
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

Where before many more have gone

Joseph Kilna McKenzie: Lyrics

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Ultimate Sacrifice

As the great redeployment in Iraq has taken place new soldiers are blogging. One of them, an administrative officer runs a blog called 365 and a Wake Up, in reference to the year long deployments currently in practice. (The General Staff is cuurently reviewing that policy and may make the deployments six months instead of twelve to make it easier on the troops. Interestingly the Marines do seven month deployments)

The following story is about a soldier who volunteered for a second tour. I found it quite moving.
The day before yesterday a roiling thunderclap shook my office. As I walked outside to get a fix on the situation I watched an ugly black cloud stack up like a black adder on the distant horizon. It was an ugly column, like some giant fingernail was ripping a ragged line in the hazy sky and revealing a ribbon of twilight. As the black smoke rose ever higher it started to dissipate and I walked back inside.
A few minutes later one of the runners came in from the TOC to pass along bitter news, one soldier had been killed and four others were wounded by a VBIED. I sprinted back outside and climbed up onto the roof hoping to trace the ashen column to its base, desperately needing to connect with the tragedy that was slowly unfolding. But by time I was up on the roof the ebon column had melted into the low haze that blanketed Baghdad in a long grey shawl. I stood up there for several minutes scanning the horizon before clambering down.
Later that day the frenzied initial reports coalesced into a picture of the event and the soldier who had been killed was identified as Corporal Glenn Watkins. The best way to describe CPL Watkins is by retelling a little story about the man. I was one of the first troops in my unit to arrive here in Iraq. The unit that we were replacing had spent a year in Southern Baghdad, and by time we arrived they were utterly spent. During those early days I made it a point to talk to as many soldiers as I could to get a feel for the AO (Area of Operations). I figured any institutional knowledge they would be willing to pass along would save my troops a lot of agony in the long run. The troops were more then happy to oblige – they were willing to do just about anything to guarantee a quick ticket back home. In conversation after conversation I listened to a few vital tips liberally salted with stories of the adventures they planned to embark on when they got home.
It was only weeks later that I found out that not everyone was desperate to get home - there was one Corporal had volunteered to stay another year in Iraq. That Corporal was Glenn Watkins. After hearing so many of his comrades talk about their respective homes in incessant detail I was shocked by this piece of news, and made a mental note to ask him about it if I ever bumped into him.
Two weeks ago I finally had the chance to ask him once why he decided to spend another year in Iraq. He replied by flashing a quick smirk and then saying in a conspiratorial voice “Sir - someone’s got to teach these guys the ropes”. Corporal Watkins didn’t have to stay in Iraq, he had already served with honor and distinction. But stay he did, taking the time to teach our troops the hard lessons of survival so they wouldn’t have to pay for those lessons in blood. He will never again enjoy the freedoms he secured for others, but I know that his reward isn't here on this sad little ball of dirt.


I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan's Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

William Butler Yeats