IamA 9.5 year combat veteran from both Iraq and Afghanistan Wars AMA!
I joined the US Army September 2004 as an 11B (Infantryman). I was stationed in Germany for most of my career, and from there Deployed to OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) '06-'07 and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) '09. During my deployments I earned the Bronze Star with Valor Device and two Purple Hearts along with the Combat Infantry Badge. My deployment to Iraq recently had a special on it on the season "Against the Odds, the Battle for Ramadi" and also had a book written on it called "A Chance in Hell". After making the rank of Staff Sergeant the DOD (Department of Defense) selected me to become a recruiter in California where I served and got out of the Army in April 2014. My choice to leave the Army was due majorly in part to the huge downward turns the Army and Military at large are making. Everything from budget, leadership, care for Soldiers/Families, to even the ROE (Rules of Engagement) have been declining progressively for the last 6 years. These changes made it ever harder on myself to make the moral right decisions and stand for those decisions as the higher echelons of command fought back.
Sometimes they are from vote fuzzing: http://www.reddit.com/wiki/faq#wiki_how_is_a_submission.27s_score_determined.3F
Sometimes they come from fat fingers or a cat landing on the keys. Sometimes they come from someone who is owed ten bucks from someone else named DeFusco. Sometimes they come from a black hole beyond Arcturus. Sometimes they come from the nightmare corpse-city of R'Lyeh. Sometimes they're coming from inside the house.
Don't sweat it.
Interesting, I like your reasoning. I was taking the approach of just not liking what I said about my military experiences. I guess there are alot of other reasons out there :)
What is the proudest moment of your life?
When I brought my squad home from Afghanistan without losing one guy. The Soldiers were my brothers, but I also saw them as my kids, and losing one would have killed me.
I assume you've worked in a variety of multi-national organizations. From an American military point of view, are there any stigmas you have for other nations have with respect to their forces,? Meaning, what are the stereotypes you have of other nations military good, bad or whatever? (Canadian veteran here, served in Afghanistan from 08 to 09... particularly interested in what you would say about us!)
After Afghanistan I was stationed at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Germany, where I trained with every country in NATO and the Russians. For the NATO allies, I find that most are still learning the tactics and structure that we have in the US Army, except two countries. The British and Canadians I would place on equal playing fields with us, as their structure and tactics are the same or close to ours. The only force I trained with that scared me would be the French Foreign Legion, who are just brutal mercenaries that have brutal tactics. I can say that while we may criticize tactics of other countries, we do respect them. In Afghanistan we had Romanians on our little Combat Outpost, we respected them for being out there with us, and that respect carried over to any country going out there and aiding us with our mission in those countries.
Ever had the chance to train with Aussies? (Thoughts if any? )
Yes I did, and I am still jealous to this day that they go to the field or deploy with beer in their packs. :) They are a bunch of good Soldiers, and I never noticed a difference in their tactics while having beer on them.
Why don't you like the French Foreign Legion?
Not a matter of not "liking" but a matter of them being the fiercest force I have ever trained with.
Have you ever trained alongside or interacted with any other special forces units? Or was The FFL the only one?
I have trained with American SF, British SF, Canadian SF, Afghani SF, and Iraqi SF, along with the FFL.
Among the SF, who was the most impressive?
I dont know, all I can recall is that they were all very tactically sound and well trained.
I was wondering a few things, what did you get the bronze star for and if it's not too personal, what injuries did you get to receive 2 purple hearts?
On November 13, 2006 I was on an escort mission in the city of Ramadi, Iraq. My Bradley Fighting Vehicle was the second from the last vehicle in the movement, and was struck by an IED. The IED was a triple stack of 155mm rounds with a Propane Tank. The IED struck the fuel tank below the turret, which instantly soaked the entire interior of the Bradley with diesel fuel. The fire that started in the crew area, started to cook off the ammunition in the back. I managed to climb out of the drivers hatch and go to the top of my Bradley to try and pull out my Commander (Platoon Leader) and my best friend (gunner). I managed to pull out the Lt but could not find my gunner. When I found him on the ground outside the Bradley, covered in fire, I went back into the burning Bradley, while also being soaked in diesel fuel to find a fire extinguisher and a weapon to protect us from the follow on attack. My Lt put the fires out on my best friend, after I tossed the Fire Extinguisher to him, and we were medevac. I suffered a level two concussion, with 1st-2nd degree burns and battery acid burns to my face and hands. My Commander suffered smoke inhalation, and my best friend suffered 3rd degree burns to 95% of his body. He died a month later from those wounds.
That was also the second purple heart I received. I was injured a month prior to that in another IED blast. My injuries are mainly burns coupled with severe concussions.
Does the Bradley suck or did you like it?
I love the Bradley, and I think the Army is being short sighted to discontinue the Bradley. It saved my life numerous times, and thousands of others as well. Even a SEAL team that we were called in to save from an ambush were thankful that we rolled in with Bradleys.
Also, I was thinking of going into the military (I strive to be a 160th SOAR Pilot) and also was thinking of going into the military academys, any thoughts on that or advice for me? also on a lighter note...How was the food? :P
The branch of service, coupled with the concept of enlisted or officer are big questions to answer. What is your answer with these two questions first.
As for food, garrison is good plus you can eat wherever you like not just the chow hall. Deployed, food is anything edible for combat jobs. So we live by the motto "eat now, taste later"
Army, Officer is what I want, pilot (as said) for 160th, as for the food that's my motto in my high school cafeteria lol.
Well, officer life is much different from the enlisted life, and being a pilot is even more different from normal officer. I really dont know much about that career.
Generally how do Iraqis view the United States?
The Iraqis I met were very scared, but grew over time to like us and trust us. The kids were the first to trust us and like us, but after some time the adults grew to accept us as well. We tried to always respect the populace, and aid them wherever we could, and that helped I believe. I would like to think that that mindset has not changed since 2007.
Everything from budget, leadership, care for Soldiers/Families, to even the ROE (Rules of Engagement) have been declining progressively for the last 6 years.
How have the ROE been declining? I absolutely agree that the VA care for soldiers has been appalling in many parts of the country.
When I first joined and deployed to Iraq, the ROE was very simple and very beneficial to the Soldiers Safety and ability to accomplish the mission. The ROE would allow planes and artillery to bomb what it needed to bomb in order to save American Soldier's lives, or to kill Enemies.
The ROE that started to change at the end of 2009 and continues to this day has cost American Soldier's lives and compromised their safety and their ability to accomplish the mission we are giving them. Planes and Artillery can no longer safely aid or save American Soldiers who need help. Especially since the ROE is published and made public knowledge even to our enemy, who then takes this knowledge and uses it to their benefit.
Would you like to know more about the exact ROE?
Yes, I would like to know more about the exact ROE, particularly if they say you can't call in air or artillery any more. That's appalling.
The new ROE as of 2009 stipulated that no bombs or artillery could be called if civilians were within a certain distance from the target. This distance was so large that it critically limited the support we had. Plus Taliban saw this as "bring your family to work day". You can imagine the trouble of calling in bombs with the Taliban having kids and woman around them, while you are pinned down and surrounded.
This is dead right. My biggest problem with Afghanistan was the choice to send in a conventional force. For the very beginning of the war we had surgical forces there who had the Taliban on the run. Our Delta and Special Forces are trained to accomplish the task of surgically removing the "bad guys" without hurting the civilian population.
The minute you call in the conventional force, you just brought a bull into the China Shop, so to speak. The conventional force is trained to use "Violence of Action" in the response to a threat, not surgery.
Absolutely agree. I wonder if the civilian administration and the top brass just think, "I have a hammer. Let me pretend the problem is a nail."
It is either that or my theory: Every General wants a legacy to make him stand out from the other hundreds of Generals. They are willing to do things that make no sense to get there, ie. The general that made the beret mandatory cover for the entire Army instead of just Special Units. The General that changed our uniforms to the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) from the old forest greens (BDU Battle Dress Uniform) and contracted those uniforms through the Chinese instead of America. The same uniforms that failed every field test, for lack of EVERYTHING, and still managed to be issued to everyone as the new uniform. The General that decided that we needed to send in the Regular Army into Afghanistan, and the General's who gave testimony to Congress that Soldiers are willing to take a pay cut.
One infallible sign of an organization that has been around too long is when the top management starts thinking about their legacy instead of their mission.
AMEN! Then those leaders only keep on those below them who help with that goal, while firing or forcing out those that are looking out for their subordinates well being.
Why did they make berets mandatory for the entire Army? Did that make the soldiers easier targets?
Thanks for your service
The beret thing was changed again in 2012 and made to be just for formal occasions. The beret was never worn in combat areas, but only in garrison, and was extremely annoying as it did not protect your face from rain or sun, and it took two hands to put on your head when leaving a building, so good luck leaving a store or carrying some papers. The General thought the beret looked good, even though it was already used by airborne units, special forces, and rangers.
that people confuse the military with the police.
I made this mistake...and after I read this conversation I changed my point of view about the military.
And to defusco67: Thanks for your service!
I hope you get along with the normal life. I believe in you! A childhood friend of mine was in afghanistan too. He was really fucked up. Nowadays he have a job, found a new girlfriend and quit drinking.
I dont have the guts to join the army, but a culture needs carpenters too ;)
Everyone has a purpose in this life, including carpenters. Nothing wrong with that, nor should it ever be looked down on. I know I will not.
The old saying is, "We break things and kill people." That is what the military is for. It is not the Peace Corps, not the police force, not the Red Cross, not the Diplomatic service. When a country needs a military response, it better have brave people who can deliver one.
As an old Infantry quote goes: "When the World burns it's the Infantry who has to put it out with Blood."
I meant the blaming. The ones that decide to unleash the military are the ones to blame. Or at least it isnt as easy as blaming military forces for war.
Its fucking complicated. It starts when one ape crushes the skull of another ape just to get his banana...
Yes, is complicated. But in the military it gets much simpler. Protect your fellow soldiers and if possible try not to get killed. In that order. If - when - you have fucking stupid orders, the same goals apply.
Exactly that order, good call there
Why did you decide to join the army instead of pursuing any other career?
I believe in the need to serve my country, and although I tried to do follow the career my family pushed for (college, pilots license), I was not happy. It was this unhappiness that made my father consent to me following my feelings. I love this Country (not necessarily the government) and I believe that the beating heart of America is in the Volunteer spirit. I am now pursuing a career in law enforcement, not because Infantry can only do that, but because I love to protect my fellow citizens and I love to serve.
All I can say is that I appreciate the amounts of effort you have put into your work and that I am happy that you like your occupation. Good luck with your future law enforcement career.
Thank you, I think I will also re-new my private pilots license that I earned back in High School, and continue to fly for recreation as I loved it so much back when I was younger.
Serious question and I'm having a hard time saying it nicely while keeping my meaning: I can't help but see recruiters as pretty predatory, with their incomplete truths and promises that aren't backed up by the nature of the contract, and most of all their focus on 18 and 19 year olds. Every recruiter pitch I have seen makes my skin crawl and reminds me of a sober guy hitting on a drunk girl. The power imbalance married to the friendliness seems designed. Is my perception off, and why? Im sure it can't be the whole story.
Let me try and explain this the best way I can (I agree with you): First off in recruiting there are two major types of recruiters: Volunteers and Volun'tolds
Of these two types there are two sub types for each: Volunteers -> Professional (that is their job in the military) Unprofessional (they hold a different job but are on recruiting by assignment). Volun'tolds -> Yes Sirs (do whatever is ordered of them for the sake of their career) Think for themselve'rs (the ones that hold their own morales and only do what they believe is good or ok)
Recruiters are forced to make a certain mission for the military. This mission is based on the people leaving the military and the need to fill these slots. Now the guidance of what is allowed in the military has drastically changed since 2006 (anyone with all limbs could join). Right now if you are High School Graduate you must score above a 60 on the ASVAB (not percent, but a flat score since 30 is passing) in order to barely get any jobs in the ARMY. If you are a High Schooler 17 or 18 you can just pass the ASVAB and have jobs available. The reason for age is mainly on the certainty of job retention. So recruiters tend to target the younger since the odds of them gaining a job and enlisting are drastically higher than their graduate counterparts. Recruiting School is literally a marketing college class, where we are taught the methods of there is no way to accept a no, and you can gain a commitment from anyone. Just attend a "Time share" presentation and you will know the method we are taught. We are taught to analyze the market for where the prospective leads are and approximate how many are left in certain areas.
Now the Volun'tolds who are thinkforthemselv'ers are the ones getting in trouble for being brutally honest and accepting "No" as an answer. These types tend to be the Combat Arms jobs, since we know the reality these kids face, and dont want a disillusioned youth serving next to us on our next deployment. The other types of recruiters will tell whatever they have to to gain the lead, and make the quota they are given. They have to or else they will be punished, and their personal time removed.
does that make sense?
Thank you for such a detailed answer! You've given me a lot to think about from new angles.
I was a recruiter for my last assignment, and it was there I got in trouble. The rule I broke was nothing, but since the command was looking for a reason to bust me (ie I was ruffling feathers with my honesty) they gave me max punishment. I was a very successful recruiter in my zipcodes since I gave a damn about the kids, and was brutally honest with parents and the kids. If someone said No, I said good. If a kid was interested, I answered all questions and gave him time to think about it.
I have basically centered my values as a Soldier with a couple phrases:
"Deeds not Words" "If I can sleep with myself, then I am ok" "Treat others as I would like to be treated"
Between those three, I can usually navigate the struggles of being a Soldier/Leader/Civilian. Sometimes those choices I made broke laws or Rules, but as long as I knew that what I was doing was morally right or by those quotes, I knew I was good.
I would say that the military teaches you to think on your feet. Where other freeze or get stuck, the military teaches to move forward with a decision. The difference between enlisted and officer is along those lines as well. Officers are trained to make the right decision in accordance with a book, while enlisted make the decision that experience dictates. An officer might stumble in those areas that books dont cover, and that stumble gets people killed, while an enlisted makes a decision (regardless of right and wrong) and sticks to it, thus no stumble.
I would argue that leaders need to have that personal relationship with their subordinates, while also remaining professional in order to better lead those individuals, while the rules state that leaders are not too.
How do you square "treat others as I would like to be treated" with your day job?
Good AMA by the way
I treat my fellow Soldiers with respect, just like I expect to be, and when I was deployed I tried to do the same for the populace. I would have to admit that the rule did not apply to the enemy, who would treat me far worse than I treated them. Thank you by the way
As a friendly Canadian neighbour, thank you for doing this AMA and thank you for your service. I hope it's ok if I ask a few questions.
From all of your military experience, what was the most eye-opening thing you have experienced?
What can I do to help a recovering vet? Any pointers or no-nos?
The biggest eye opener I learned in the Army is this: No matter what you do, you can be the greatest Soldier with all the highest evaluations and awards, if one leader has it out for you, for whatever reason, your career is forfeit.
As for helping a veteran, be there as a friend, and give that support they need through sacrificing your time and personal needs. Dont expect they are messed up, as we do not want to be labeled messed up, and dont assume we cant do certain things due to PTSD, as it is different for each of us.
I've always wanted to ask this, but I don't know any soldiers that have deployed. What do you think about the "casual" depiction of war that goes on in video games? I personally don't really care, but it would be interesting to see how someone who's actually served thinks of it.
I have never really given it much thought, if anything my fellow Infantry brothers and I only talk about two things: 1) how real the game is versus our experiences 2) how we suck at those games, yet do the real thing
Do you believe we had a right to invade Iraq? BTW, I have friends in the military so I know the toll it's has on your family and friends so thank you for your service.
I think that hind-sight is 20/20 and now I think that the reasons we went in were wrong, but once you start something you are duty bound to see it through. Sadam was a terrible person, and I saw first hand the cruelty that he held against the Kurds.
Thank you, my family definitely paid a price for my service.
I think it was a totally unjust and multinational corporation driven war for more secure access to natural resources. That being said, the best outcome of the war which would justify, to me, any lies told to get us into the war would be the freedom of the Kurd's in Northern Iraq and their continued freedom from militaristic despots, and their sectarian/religious genocides, a la Saddam.
please do reply if you feel strongly in disagreement and why, or have any input to the statement.
I have met Kurd's and fought beside them to drive the Al Queda out of Iraq, and what they had to endure was just pure evil at the whims of Saddam. I agree that we needed to be there to get them peace and to stop the genocide.
I am someone wanting to join the army and be a Infantryman after high school. Do you encourage or discourage other people joining and being on the frontlines having seen what its like?
I always encourage people to serve, as I believe everyone should if able (not necessarily the military but serve in anyway they can). In this case, and the want to join the infantry, I would recommend not to. The war is closing, and Infantry are then without a job. You have to understand something about Infantry, you train and train and train, the only time you get to prove you know your job (the only time you get to do your job) is when you deploy. Every Infantryman craves that first deployment, the chance to do his job that he signed up for, and after that deployment he doesnt always wish to go back. I will say that there is a 1 year itch most Infantry get, where after a year from the deployment they kind of want to go back, to prove again they still have it.
With the wars coming to an end, you will never get to prove your job, and instead be training, unless the budget cuts go through, whereas instead you will be the "detail" guys. You will detailed to rake leaves, paint curbs and parking lots, since you have no job.
Did you have any close calls? If so, explain.
My MOS (job) in the Army was Infantry Riflemen/Driver/Gunner/Team Leader/Squad Leader. The Infantry are the heart of the fight, and as such have been on the front-lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was personally blown up 4 times, and shot at more times than I can count. The worst time was my 3rd IED (Improvised Explosive Device) where I was hospitalized for a long time to recover from the burns and injuries I suffered.
Have you communicated with anyone that served with Bergdahl since his release?
I have not directly communicated with anyone who served with him, although I was deployed when he went missing, and my unit was on alert for him, and did some special missions to try and locate him.
Was he thought to be a deserter during the time you were searching for him? Was there resentment about that?
It was unclear what happened, we were told that he just walked off. Being told that did not make sense, so we thought maybe there was more to it, but those details will come out as the investigation goes on.
Do you believe Iraq has any hope of ceasing the constant cycle of sectarian violence in the foreseeable future? Why?
I do not believe they will. My reason for such is because of the division the country faces. The only way the country will be at peace will be due to one group ridding the entire country of the others. I do not believe that any outside influence could help in creating peace since the country and culture of the people dates back to before western civilization.
Any awesome stories?
9.5 years worth, give me a genre and I will do my best
What was the funniest moment in those 9.5 years?
I would have to say when I pranked my Team Leader as a Private and got him in trouble for smoking in the motorpool. I basically let the Halon System, which is an anti-smoke system in the Bradley go off on him while he was trying to hide and smoke in the motorpool, which is a big NO NO.
Hahaha that's funny! But we're there any repercussions that got him (or you, for that matter) in trouble?
He was punished, but nothing serious. He was removed from the team of Mounted (Soldiers running the vehicles) and gained a new Team Leader.
How prevalent is sexual assault among the U.S. soldiers?
I have only encountered it twice in my career (9 plus years).
Was any action taken towards the individuals committing it? If so what happened?
Yes, they were dishonorably discharged at the least.... I am not sure what else they were given as punishment as they were walked away in handcuffs.
How does the life of an American soldier in Germany look like?
Do you live in your base? If so, where does your family live? Can you freely explore the country?
Single Soldiers live on the base, while married Soldiers can live on or off base. Being a Soldier in Germany is an amazing experience that I highly recommend. The travel and chance to see Europe is once in a lifetime, even if you only go out on the "4 day passes". The culture in Germany is amazing and very friendly to Americans, while the history and nightlife could take anyone a lifetime to fully enjoy. I will say that European based Army Units train harder than their sister units stateside do, and as such they play harder in their free time as well.
Do you like cute, fluffy seals?
LOL I would say they are cute, and nice. I would never own one, or have a stuff animal of one.
What can we do to help those in the military?
Be sincere with your thanks, and give time/energy to help those in your communities. If they need help finding a job, transportation, whatever, try and aid them. You will find that veterans dont forget favors, and tend to hold themselves to the standard of "owing" that individual for that nice gesture. Be supportive and give from the heart, is what I basically think it comes down to.
My little community is good about supporting vets. I hope that others reading this will reach out. Thanks for doing the AMA.
thank you for the support, please continue the work
Do you have a theory on the overwhelming amount of incompetence present in practically all of the positions of power (private, military, gov't)?
I believe that we as a country are becoming more and more materialistic, instead of being a people of moral character. We have forgotten to teach our children that it is far greater to be a person who is average in wealth but great in giving and looking out for their fellow countryman. Instead our children are taught in school and college about getting that good paying job instead of following passion, and caring for the next person. "Be a doctor so you can be successful" instead of "be a doctor so you can help people, and do pro-bono work with families that are down on their luck."
How many neighbors know their neighbors these days? How many co-workers know where their co-workers live and how their families are doing? There was a time that to both of these answers it was a majority of Americans did both.
Be a st question but is something I've always wondered, how do you guys not lose your hearing if you're in the middle of a firefight? I have been around when an AR went off and I had hearing protection but it was still so loud that I had to walk away. If everyone in your squad is shooting without hearing protection how do you guys deal with the noise and not burst your eardrums?
Often times the squad is not wearing hearing protection, but I can say that recently (since 2009) we have gained some nice hearing protection that cancels out loud sudden sounds while allowing talking level sounds to be heard. The old days (my old deployments) we would go deaf in a firefight, and have the hearing come back over time. Most Infantry and probably Soldiers as a whole suffer some sort of hearing damage or tinnitus.
Thank you for doing this AMA. I have a question in regard to PTSD/PTSI Do you think that more psychological preparedness in training and pre deployment, would be beneficial in the fight against post traumatic problems?
I do not think that anything can prepare the mind for the trama it encounters during a deployment. This being coupled by the difficult situation that each person suffers in their own way, while even being exposed to the same exact situation. PTSD, I believe, derives from the individuals ability to make reason, rationalize, or deal with a given situation. If the person can manage to come to terms that what happened, happened, and could not have gone any other way because we cant change the past, then progress can be made. The pain will always be there, the scaring will be there forever, but the manageability of it will be better. PTSD has effected every brother I have from my service, and with each one I can explain where it comes from (not the events), and with each it is how they have dealt with what they saw/did/experienced. The questioning of self is big issue as well, whereas a Soldier wonders if they did something different, could things have been better.
I know that it is not always popular, but religion helps. Having faith in something bigger, giving meaning to chaos and assigning the reason for things to happen to make something bigger than self, gives tons of help and aid to Soldiers who suffer from PTSD.
Does that explain it? or at least my thoughts? please ask or clarify if this does not or raises more questions.
Thank you for that honest and heartfelt response. I am 52 and the son of a Vietnam veteran. He didn't cope too well with his experiences and I look back and wish I could have done something for him. I see the issue from a different perspective as you can imagine, but would like to see a resolution to the injury, both physical and emotionally. I hope that you and your comrades find a peace or reconciliation within. Thank you again
Thank you, and I am always amazed meeting Veterans from that generation. They have always been so supportive of my generation, they truly wish us better experience coming home than they received. So many still suffer, and with the suicide rate of veterans being higher than any other figure (if memory serves), help needs to come. Thank you for your fathers service, for without his, mine would not be possible. Thank you also for your support.
How do you see the Danish army? have you ever worked with them ?
I trained with them, but I could not say that they are in the top 5. They were comparable to most of our European Allies.
Who are the top 5?
French Foreign Legion, Canadians, English, Romanian, and possibly Kurdish.
What is it like for you to see the latest headlines about ISIL terrorists moving through the country essentially taking it over?
It is frustrating to see the hard work falling apart, and that goes back to my disagreement with how things have been handled. But that opinion is at this moment and time will only tell where and how things will be in the future, and maybe it will all straighten out.
When I meet someone in the military I'm tempted to say "Thank you for your service." I would think that soldiers would appreciate that but what is something a person can do for a soldier that would result in the soldier thinking "Wow, I really feel thanked!" In other words, what's a gesture that a soldier would really appreciate? Thanks.
If that Soldier is out of the military, help him with a job or offer to buy him a drink or a meal. The gesture that actually takes time or money goes farther than words. While the first couple years the words meant something, trying to find a job for the last two months has shown me alot more. Lots of businesses advertise that they hire Veterans, but here are Veterans applying to the advertisement, and being turned away. There is still a stigma that Soldiers are not trained in other things other than shooting/dying and that the PTSD is a deterrent.
Basically, give that random act of kindness, one that truly says that you are thankful.
How many years do you think it will be before the US is involved in another conflict that involves deploying a conventional army (not like a single threat that a SF unit could take care of)?
I believe that we will have another Conventional Conflict within the next 10 years. Things are becoming unstable and with growing threats comes the need to flex muscles which usually are done through conventional means, not SF means. I hope I am wrong and that this prediction takes far longer.
How realistic are films like line survivor? Like the sleeping in a bush and contact issues with base camp? Assuming you've seen it.
Also. Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart. What you do means a lot.
Lone Survivor and Restrepo are dead on. I just got the courage to watch Lone Survivor, and I was impressed at how they portrayed it. I would say that it was very realistic, everything from the tactics and movement, down to the Taliban actions and the townspeople. Radio out there always sucks, and it is a life or death situation when it comes to communications out there. We are in the Taliban home terf, and they have the home field advantage, we go wrong place, we are under their mercy (or lack there-of). I never was in a situation that bad, but I have been in very hairy situations similar to that. Being surrounded in Afghanistan with no radios is scary, and it comes down to luck if you get out with your guys or not.
How have you been treated back home? I know many people disagree with the actions in the mid-east and sometimes even forsake Soldiers for it. Have you ever been targeted for this? If you have, how did you deal with the situation? My father was a soldier and my grandfather aswell and I am considering enlisting.
I am from a very conservative area of California, weird I know, which has given me tons of support. Support being very prevalent, but jobs more scarce.
I am going to continue here til there are no more questions :) I was away for dinner when you wrote.
The typical attitude is that of doing our job, and taking the fight to the enemy. We may not always agree with how the war was started, but we sure as hell want to see it through, correctly. As for the Taliban, they are poorly equipped, but they have rock hard tactics. Where-as the Al-Queda are numerous in their attacks, they usually are less deadly, the Taliban are few in attacks but usually more deadly when they occur. They make the situation to meet their advantage, and get the jump on us.
As for the training gap in SF versus normal Infantry, I will give this comparison:
Lets place Special Forces, Rangers, and normal Infantry on the same mission and compare the needed men for that mission: Normal Infantry 120 men, Rangers 30 men, Special Forces 5 men.
Does that kind of explain it? Those five are trained to do the jobs of 120 men, and have the knowledge to overcome anything they come up on.
If I could walk away from this AMA with one piece of wisdom from a 9 year vet, who has seen more than a 17 year old can even comprehend, what would your wisdom be?
Do what you are passionate about in life, money will come later from following that. Life is to short and precisous to be wasted trying to find a career that you are "ok" with in order to be "successful". Success is not measured in money, but in your true happiness. Follow your passions and eventually you will be so good at that passion, you will be making good money.
Also never trust what the media or government say beyond face value. Look up stuff for yourself, look into source documents and subject matter experts to draw your own conclusion and the truth from what is out there.
The first thing I did when I got from Iraq, was marry my girl friend and start a family. I had dated her for three years and was putting the marriage and family aside because, I wanted to live a life before being tied down. War can show you how short life can be, and missing out on love and family is such a waste.
:) sound good?
Hi, thank you so much for your service and I appreciate you doing this AMA.
There was a lot of talk about whether or not the US would pull out of Afghanistan this year (and if not this year, when). When that news is swirling around, how does it affect troops?
The troops mainly wish that this was not published and shared with the enemy, for they do base their tactics on what we are doing. Going or staying we just want to get the mission accomplished and go home.
Have you seen Generation Kill? And if yes, what did you think of it?
I watched a couple minutes of it and turned it off. From what I saw it was complete inaccurate at least to the perspective of an Army Soldier, and made me mad to watch. The only two movies I have seen and agreed with are Restrepo and Lone Survivor
The ethnic/social mix of the infantry appears to be different from the Army as a whole. More white and rural. Is that true? Do the infantry soldiers notice this? Is there any resentment?
I have not noticed this as I have served with every race, probably more with latino than any other while serving in the Infantry. I think it is different per unit, and it could easy look one way or another depending where you are at.
What was the scareist moment of your combat duties?
I do not know which is scariest, but I have had to many close calls in which others died, and I did not. I think the scariest was a sniper shot that missed when I was wearing just normal clothes and was out of my gear in Afghanistan. That put some fear in me.
What do operations look like now in Afghanistan or looked like when you were on your way out? I keep hearing the need for Spec Ops, small unit deployments, from all military branches, to continue to carry out missions. What are we specifically doing more of now to combat terrorist activity?
When I was there, we were stretched thin. An average Combat Outpost only contained 40 Infantry Soldiers, and was 15minutes away from the nearest air support (15min can be a long wait in a firefight). This was the situation with sending Conventional Forces into Afghanistan, instead of Special Forces. With Special Forces, the ground covered was only in an area where there was a target or enemy movement. S.F. could move in undetected and surgically remove the threat without being seen. With Conventional, we are trying to cover as much land as possible with the hopes of randomly finding or ambushing the enemy, instead of the other way around. Instead of set targets and surgical strikes, we mainly do massive operations and movements, that hope to lead to surprises. The use of small units is the same as saying lets just let S.F. do their job. I do not see the need to train every Soldier in the Conventional Army into being S.F., otherwise why have a Conventional Army?
Does that make sense? I can sometimes get tied up in explaining things :)
Does the Army have many domestic work opportunities for soldiers returning home? Not so much assistance with finding a job as actually providing a job (e.g. post- natural disaster rebuilding, etc.) Thank you very much for your service. We really don't do enough to show that we mean it.
For Soldiers returning home from being in the service, none that I know of. We have one program called, Troops to Teachers where Soldiers can go from enlisted to being teachers, but that is the only and closest thing I can think of. Thank you for your support.
Is all the death and destruction worth it?
Death and destruction is never worth it, but sometimes necessary for good to prevail. Sometimes you have to go out there and meet evil with the same force and tenacity that evil blows your way, and for those moments the Infantry stand ready.
Thank you for your service.
I have a few questions about equipment. Was your primary weapon an M4? If so, did you like it? Did you wish you had something else?
What were the most useful non-weapon items? (I've heard moist towelettes come in handy.)
When I joined the M4 was something new, so I used the M16A4, but as the war continued and I progressed the M4 took over as the primary rifle. I have used in combat every weapon system an Infantry Platoon is assigned. I did like the M4, not necessarily the maintenance. I think now that l look back, it was the laziness thinking that and not objective analysis.
Thank you for all of your responses!
One more question, did you have an optic on your M4? If so, any thoughts?
I had the ACOG, which I loved since before that all my optics needed batteries, and the ACOG does not need such things :)
If you were to deploy again, would that be your preferred optic?
I would say yes, they are always designing new and better things, so until I see something better, the ACOG is my sight of choice. Let me correct that by saying, if it was Afghanistan I would. Iraq I might go to something for close-quarters.
What was the highlight of your career? Was it whilst on ops or not? What were your hobbies and aspirations outside of the army whilst you were in, ie; travel, woodwork... whatever?
The highlight of my career was being given the opportunity to raise, train, and lead men into combat. Watching a young Soldier grow into a leader take on his own group of men, has been the highest honor and sense of accomplishment.
My hobbies include but are not limited too: flying, photography (35mm), federal budget research, and fish (breeding molly, guppy, and platty). I also love to travel and see historical places where amazing things happened. While in Europe I traveled a lot and saw some amazing things.
did you or any USA solder you know ever sleep with Iraq or Afghanistan woman ?
No and no. We rarely encountered any Afghan women, and the ones we encountered in Iraq were just trying to live their lives. We are more concerned about security and our lives than to even talk or do anything like that with the populace.
Are there some things that are taboo to talk about / ask someone who's seen combat?
Asking an Infantryman if he has seen combat, or been shot at is taboo. Infantryman's job is to be on the front-line, get shot at, get blown up and be the instrument that we define combat as. Other than that, it is a fair question to ask someone.
I've always wondered specifically about "have you ever killed anyone".
I'm in the Coast Guard and the O6 on base loves doing PR events. We frequently get middle school and grade school classes coming by. We tell them about how we stop drug runners and save lives "all the time", then ask if they have any questions. One question ALWAYS comes up... "Have you ever shot/killed anyone?". We chuckle about it because the only use of force we have done is shooting warning shots or disabling fire, but I always think about how it would have felt if I had seen combat and someone mature actually asked me that.
As an Infantryman, we also get asked the same, and it is Taboo, since as I said before, we are the front-line... we are the combat people envision. I always answer the same, "I have had to do what I had to do"
What do you think the future holds for Iraq?
I think that another Dictator will take charge of Iraq and install another regime to control the sectarian tribes and violence. The cycle will continue much like with Sadam Husein.
As a non-American non-military guy, can you explain what your medals are, and what they are for?
I have earned around 29 medals throughout my career in the Army. I will list them, and let you chose a couple to ask about, as there are just to many for their own individual reasons :) (This list is in order of precedence, or from highest to lowest)
Bronze Star with Valor Device 1 Purple Heart 2 Army Commendation 5 Army Achievement 5 Naval Unit Commendation 1 Army Superior Unit 1 Amy Good Conduct 2 National Defense 1 Afghanistan Campaign 1 Iraq Campaign 2 Global War on Terrorism 1 Non Commission Officer Professional Development 2 Army Service 1 Overseas Service 3 NATO 1
Combat Infantry Badge
Why do you think suicide is so prevalent among military personnel? And what do you think can be done to combat this?
I think suicide is so prevalent because Soldiers struggle daily to deal with the losses they suffered through the wars, and those losses are not just in American Lives, these losses are also in their lives. With so much loss, and very few out there who can relate, coupled with the loss of support from their brothers, a Soldier can find himself alone with no-one to turn to for that support, and that is a scary place to be.
Besides the obvious changes in the VA system, I think there needs to be a move to reunite these brothers with each other, to form support for each other in everyday life. There needs to be a better way of acclimating veterans to civilian life, than just dumping them out.
Are there soldiers who become addicted to combat?
I dont think it is the combat per-say, but more the adrenaline. I have a person theory that everyone who suffers from PTSD gains an addiction to something. This "something" does not always have to be adrenaline or alcohol or drugs, but it could come out in other ways, such as sex.
What made you choose 11B over a safer MOS? The added risk, almost guaranteed trauma, and crummy post-army career prospects don't seem to speak much in its favour.
I have always had this drive to do jobs where I know without a doubt that I made a difference. I also have a thing where I need to know I am human, so doing any job where I push a button and people die is out of the question for me. I need to see the person I am shooting at, and I need to feel that so I know that I am still human. I do not enjoy it, not at all, and it is that feeling of pain that lets me know I am human still; that killing is not comfortable. So by being Infantry I would never doubt, within myself, that I did everything I could and that I made a difference in the world I was at.
How do you feel about all these allegations against the military sexual harassment , VA scandal etc... Also how do you feel about the government of Iraq losing control of the country to terrorist who were kicked out of Al Qaeda for being to violent?
The sexual harassment needs to be addressed, I have not personally seen it or encountered it, but I see and know it is a problem. I agree that this needs to be changed. The VA has been a growing issue from long-ago probably from post WWII, and it is up to this generation to make that stand and institute the change. As for Iraq, it is frustrating to see that fall the way it is going, but I believe that things will correct themselves soon.
I haven't read the AMA threads, so forgive me if this has been asked elsewhere... what is the current Rules of Engagement anyway? Or is that "opsec" and whatnot?
I can not say the current, as they are numerous and tend to change per the situation where the Soldier is at. I can say they are strict and that they limit our Soldiers in what they do to protect themselves and severely limit their ability to accomplish the mission.
Do you agree completely with the reasons for the war? Do you really think the US should be involved in that mess? Was there a moment in your career you felt morally wrong with what you were doing? I hope none of this was taken offensive, I am just wondering.
I personally do not agree with the entirety of the war in Iraq, but at no point in my service did I ever feel morally wrong, since I never did anything that I thought morally wrong. I protected the weak against those who would do harm against them, I helped open schools, hospitals, businesses, and made an entire city able to function after being shunned into hiding from the threats of bad men. The same in Afghanistan.
Do you think Washington was doing the right thing morally or for the security of the States' resources, financially or otherwise?
For which conflict?
Which other branch do you joke on the most Sgt? Surely you've heard a few Army jokes ;) - Fellow Airman
Well, I must say that Army Soldiers joke on everyone but their is a pecking order of loyalty.... I will share it with you sense you are Air Force. First an Infantryman is loyal to his Team, then Squad, then Platoon, Company, Battalion, Brigade, Division, MOS (Job), Army, Army/Air Force. To better explain this pecking order, let me give this example:
Two Soldiers are trash talking each other, while they are in the same platoon but different squads. Suddenly a guy from a sister platoon (same company) comes over and starts trash talking, the two Soldiers unite and trash talk the new guy from the sister platoon. Then a Soldier who is a Tanker comes over to trash talk these three Infantrymen. The three unite and start trash talking this new tanker. Then a Marine, Navy, Air Force guys walk in the bar, the four Army let the Air Force guy join them as they trash talk the Marine and Navy guys out of the bar.
Yeah, I joke on my marine, army, and navy buddies every day. I love the stereotypes too because most of them are true.
In the Infantry there are two types : 1) the ones that barely passed the ASVAB and Infantry was the only choice. 2) the ones that scored so high they qualified for anything, but chose Infantry
Haha, it doesn't help that I'm a ground linguist lmao...
yea, that would not help :)
Is it true soldiers follow the book when they are on camera , but when not they act like extreme brutes?
This is not the case, often Soldiers dont know when they are on camera. Soldiers are fearful of the repercussions of breaking the ROE, like killing innocent people.
Do guys in the infantry come to the realization at some point that they are risking their life for a country that really does not care? I can see volunteering and thinking you are doing the right thing. But then as you learn about the world maybe you come to the realization that your sacrifice is not worth it?
We do not go into conflict thinking about whether or not the country knows, we go into conflict with this mindset: First, that we are going to die. Knowing that, it is very simple what we must do. We are there for the brother to our left or right, and we are going to give our utmost for them before we die.
It is only when we return home that we start contemplating those other thoughts and feelings about the country and whether or not it was worth it.
Thank you for your service! How was your day? (Hopeful future US military member, 14 years old)
:) thank you, I have spent the last 4.5 hours on this answering the questions, and I think it is worth it. As my psychologist would say, getting the story out and talking about the experiences helps in the recovering and processing of the pain.
How has your day been?
Were soldiers in Afg informed of the horror that could befall them if they were taken prisoner by the Taliban? I have read of Russian soldiers being made into concubines by their captives. Would Bowe Bergdahl have known of his possible plight before he walked off his post?
I think every Soldier knows what might happen, or most likely happen if they are captured. I know many Soldiers who kept an extra bullet on them in the case that it was their last, so they dont get captured. I think Bergdahl knew this, but for whatever reason left anyway.
Thank you for your service. If you didn't join the military, what would you have done instead?
Been a pilot or a teacher
Have you ever met Estonian soldiers if so what you think of them ?
I think I met some while running training in Germany, but I cant recall any details. I do remember training Soldiers from Georgia (the country not state).
In you're honest opinion, was it worth it? It being the money, resources and obviously the lives that were lost to achieve basically nothing.
I do think it was worth it for both Countries. After seeing first hand the effects Sadam had on his people, and the Al Queda's terror they inflicted on the innocent people in Sadam's absence, the need to protect the innocent was great. Afghanistan was worth it as a means to show the Taliban that we were willing to hunt them down and make them answer for the crimes they committed. Now that being said, I do not agree with the handling of the two all the way, from bring in Conventional Forces to Afghanistan and the turn over of ROE and control without security in both countries.
From an outsiders perspective, that's the feeling I have of both cases. I'm not saying nothing should have been done about Sudam, but when you get rid of a tyrant like him, quite often the aftermath is so much worse. (I expected the same thing, or even worse to come from Libya once Gadaffi was executed).
I think you are not to far off in that opinion, as I expect the same.
I wonder why I am receiving such down votes... is it something I said?
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