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Posted on Dec 28, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Letters from Iraq 6: Light infantry, HOOAH!

By Russ Vaughn

Everyone,

Sorry I have been remiss, but we have been busy and I haven’t made time for writing. Please accept my apology. I appreciate all of the letters, emails and packages that some of you have sent. The surplus goods get passed around to other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and a few of the American civilian convoy drivers that are short on basic needs. One fight, one team.

I talk to a few civilians on my dally rounds. Some work for the Department of State or for private auditing companies. They are working hard to make sure your money is properly used by the Iraqi people for reconstruction (that is why there is a delay in disbursement of allocated funds). Reconstruction is going at a steady but moderate pace. It is a lot better than the pessimists are saying and a bit slower than the most optimistic would have you believe. Things are going forward gradually with as little waste as possible in our sector. At night the locals appear to have plenty of electrical power. On a recent night flight over northern Iraq I saw a lot of well lit cities. Rebuilding is moving forward. Tenacity and continued support will make a difference.

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There are a lot of humanitarian missions going on. Most of the missions go unnoticed by the Press. The troops build roads, sewers, schools, set up medical clinics, and help local farmers with crop planning and veterinary services. We do this in Iraq and Afghanistan . In fact we do it all over the world on a regular basis. The doctors and dentists go out and set up day clinics. They help the local heath officials treat a wide variety of ailments. Basic hygiene goods are in short supply for the teams to hand out to the locals. If you donate to a program that sends goods to these teams or NGO (Non Governmental Agencies) groups that work here please donate over the counter medical supplies like Neosporin, tooth paste, tooth brushes, combs, body soap, and feminine products. No other country in the world donates like we do, yet little is shown of American generosity by the Arab media.

Combat and convoy missions are still the priority. The average soldier carries seventy or more pounds of gear into battle and the vehicles they ride in carry more armor and gear than they were originally designed for. The HUMVEE suspensions show the strain. Their engines and transmissions scream on acceleration under the load. The heavily laden soldiers march silently under their burden. I happened across two soldiers standing in line at the chow hall, one looked to the other and asked “Are you tired?” The other soldier replied, “Of course I am. I am always tired. I am in the 101 st , what did you expect?” And so it goes around here.

Everyone has a gearing up ritual. A weekly news magazine did a story on troops playing music to get psyched up as they don their accoutrements (I know some that do). Wise troops do not wear synthetic T shirts or synthetic under wear and in some units if you wear synthetics on a convoy you receive an Article 15 (non judicial punishment). The reason is that current sport type synthetics make burns worse; the material melts to your skin increasing damage. Oddly cotton is best. Good sox are important, especially to the Infantry. My personal preference is the standard issue wool boot sox. Depending on supply and unit, the uniform you wear will either be DCU’s, ACU’s, or the Armor crew flame retardant uniform. Belts or suspenders hold up the pants. Riggers belts are the most popular because they are comfortable and can be used for a number of purposes.

Most troops get standard issue desert combat boots. Tankers add optional zippers up the side of the boot making extrication easier. The infantry put on knee pads which invariably slide down to the shins. Elbow pads are optional. That takes care of the light weight stuff.

letter7.jpg
Soldiers provide cover for Iraqi security forces.
From Photo by
Spc. Jeffrey Alexander, December 21, 2006.
This photo appeared on
www.army.mil.

The ballistic vest is next. The vest can weight around 35 pounds to more than 50 depending on configuration (with full ammo pouches mine weighs just over 45 pounds). Some people use various combinations of neck, shoulder, or lower abdomen ballistic coverings. The choices are a balance between mobility, protection, and piece of mind.

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