Thursday, June 07, 2007
Our Alpha Company Soldiers conduct missions out of two Combat Out Posts (COPs): COP Warrior and JSS Pathfinder. (JSS--Joint Security Site-- is the next level COP, where our Soldiers live and work with Iraqi Army and Police; we still generically refer to them as COPs.) Army Rangers and Navy Seals often camp out with our Soldiers at these COPs. With temperatures reaching the 120s (and it isn't even officially summer), daytime patrols are especially challenging. The body armor, Kevlar helmets, and knee and elbow pads intensify the misery. Because these COPs are so close to the river, the high grass and palm trees give one the feel you're in a place like Vietnam. Venture out a bit, and you're clearly in the scorching Middle East.
Depending on the mission, Soldiers can head out at any time, and sometimes stay out for several hours. Some larger missions require them to be out for several days. These places are bustling with activity. During our visits I regularly see Iraqi police and soldiers bring to Pathfinder IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and other weapons they've either found, confiscated, or which citizens have turned over to them--all making the area that much safer for our Soldiers to maneuver. Our military employs civilian interpreters who are an essential element in working with our Iraqi counterparts. Some of these interpreters are American, but most of them are from Iraq.
The Army Times recently reported that less than half of all Soldiers and Marines (polled) in theater during 2006 believed that noncombatants deserved to be treated with respect. I understand this is shocking for many folks back home, and I find it unacceptable--however, many of of our Soldiers struggle with this challenge, complicated by the fact that we cannot identify our enemies as they can identify us (uniforms, military vehicles, fixed positions, etc.). It is something I regularly discuss with Soldiers as we stay with them.