Samples of posts from combat personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan offering their perspectives from the front lines. [Editor's Note: Some of the entries contain graphic language and content.]
- Related Link
Started by Sgt. J.P. Borda, this site aggregates more than 1,500 milblogs and is searchable by country, branch of service, language, gender and more.
- The Sandbox
Developed by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, The Sandbox highlights a different milblog post each day.
- Glossary of Terms
A glossary of military slang and common acronyms put together by blogger "dreadcow."
Rules of Engagement
"Sgt. Axel was ready, certainly, zeroing in on the two human silhouettes with a long-barreled machine gun of raw destruction, but the Iraq War has become so PC, so cluttered, so trigger-shy five years into the war, that any round fired -- no matter how justified or understandable at the time of the incident -- yields paperwork inquiries and scrutiny more fitting of a Senate Judiciary Committee report," writes "Lt. G," recalling the night he was faced with the choice to fire on potentially innocent men -- or place U.S. soldiers at risk of an IED attack.
Escalation of Force
"Down the road in front of us, an old dude pedaled towards us on a bike. I gave him the closed fist hand signal to stop. He didn't. I gave him the Iraqi hand signal for Stop. He didn't." Infantryman "The Usual Suspect" illustrates the challenges faced by soldiers struggling to distinguish between insurgents and innocent civilians.
The Sons of Iraq
Army infantryman "Toy Soldier," whose Stryker unit is currently serving in Baquba, weighs the pros and cons of his unit's cooperation with a local Sunni militia, the "Sons of Iraq." Pointing out possible ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) among the group's leadership, as well as a close brush with friendly fire that he attributes to the militia's lack of training, Toy Soldier concludes that while working with the Sons "is a good idea in theory, I believe it ultimately undermines our mission here, which is to get the Iraqi Government to stand on [its] own two feet." The essay comes in four entries: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
and Part 4
The Troop Surge IS Working...
"I am an Infantryman, and my job is to find the enemy and either kill or capture him. Well, lately there have not been many opportunities for me to perform my job." Writing in September 2007, this 25-year-old team leader with the 82nd Airborne assesses that the surge is proving effective in his area of Baghdad, where he attributes renewed street traffic at local markets to a drop-off in gun violence and car bomb attacks.
Channeling the TV character, "Semper Gumby is Latin for 'Always Flexible,'" jokes this American tactical trainer embedded with the Afghan National Army. "Dealing with Afghan civilians requires a Gumby-like flexibility, too. Nothing will screw up your timeline like an Afghan who suddenly decides that his 50 goats need to be on the other side of the road. Gumby is vigilant, yet flexible to deal with capricious Afghan conditions while on combat patrols."
In other posts, this blogger discusses his admiration for the work of Afghan civilians to rebuild their country and vividly describes evening in an Afghan town, seen through night-vision goggles.
"Being in a guard tower … causes your mind to wander," writes a member of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan, recalling two moments -- including having an Afghan child searched for explosives -- that he sees as telling of his combat experience. "You'll think about things that have happened since being here, think about what's left, and daydream about going home and imagining how weird some of the daily activities back home will be once we get settled back in, so different than what we've become used to here and do routinely, like the two are some parallel universes."
His blog also features interesting photos of the elaborately decorated trucks seen on the roads of Afghanistan, as well as a description of driving a Humvee on patrol.
Hope is Not a Method
"HATE….ANGER….PRIDE….SADNESS….PRIDE…..SORROW…..FEAR…..PRIDE….these are the emotions that have been swirling through me today like a F***ing tornado as my family took my oldest son to the airport today and put him on a plane to start his journey that will take him into war," writes Army 1st Sgt. Troy Steward in this Jan. 3, 2008 entry. "I have been on multiple sides of the deployment fence. I have been on the [one] where I am deploying of course, I have watched my soldiers deploy without me and now I am bidding my son goodbye as he gets ready to deploy into the horrors of war. It would be different if he was just deploying to a war that I had no knowledge of, and I could only relate the common things that are seen in all wars but instead I am seeing him walk into the very place I just left."
Steward also documented his visit with Doonesbury author Garry Trudeau to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and a Fisher House center for wounded veterans and their families, in two entries: here and here. And in another, he describes breaking the habit of looking for IEDs while driving.
The Other Side of the Desk
"I will always remember that day in 2004 when I sat on the business side of a Lieutenant Colonel's desk as he 'invited' me to go to Iraq with his battalion. Now, as a company commander in the Utah National Guard, one of my duties has been to send others to fight the war in Iraq." In this post, an Iraq veteran describes some of his men's reactions at being deployed to Iraq -- and his own at watching them go.
In an older entry, written while he was still in Iraq, he described what it was like to live on a forward operating base (FOB) that was a frequent target of indirect fire.
"You people have no idea how scared I am that the people closest to me won't recognize me when I come home," writes 24-year-old infantryman "dreadcow" while between deployments to Iraq. Noting that his upcoming deployment has already been extended from 12 to 15 months, dreadcow criticizes the Army's stop-loss policy and its effect on troops and re-enlistments: "I don't owe anybody anything. Nothing. I've paid my debt to king and country."
The Answer to the Question
"I have a lot of mixed reactions when I tell people that I re-enlisted into the Navy Reserves and that I will now be going on active duty to serve my country in the war efforts. Some people thank me for my service, some people tell me that they would NEVER want to do what I'm doing." In this post from January 2008, blogger "Navy Gal" discusses her motivation for ending a nine-year hiatus from active duty, while she awaited an assignment. On March 22, 2008, she received that assignment
and expressed both fear and excitement about her deployment to a location in Iraq nicknamed "Mortarritaville."
A Long-Past Due Introduction
"Remember those roadside bombs you hear about? Our job is to go looking for them ..." In several entries, blogger "Teflon Don" describes his job as a combat engineer and describes a mission with explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) soldiers to clear roads of IEDs
. Teflon Don also has a more personal entry of note, in which he describes the exhilaration he feels during combat
: "There's something about looking directly at an artillery shell and seeing it vanish with a sharp crack and rush of dust and debris that changes you."
Dogs and Ponys
"If you've been in the military or hell if you work some where that has 'Big Bosses' you will know what I'm talking about. You know that when the head cheese comes around, a General, Congressmen, Regional Managers, whatever it may be, you know that things get dumb," writes an infantry squad leader in this post about a traffic control point he and his man were ordered to create in the middle of a highway -- placing them under the threat of vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) -- for a photo op with a general. "I understand the Army side of it, and the political side of it. It's a game and you just have to play it. My problem with it is that the pawns have names, families and lives. Why do something for the sake of just doing it to show face when it doesn't have any tactical value?"
It's Been Almost Three Years Since I Returned Home From Iraq ...
"I was diagnosed (officially) this summer with PTSD, but I've been able to avoid most of the things that trigger problems," writes former public affairs Spc. Rebecca Burt, now out of the Army, in a discussion of the difficulties she faces readjusting to civilian life. "The state decided to make the highway out front of my home into a 4-laner; they have been blasting to break through the rock and have their big machinery going pretty much 24/7. ... If I hear the blasts when I'm awake, I get really jangled; uptight and on edge like a mini-adrenaline rush. They keep catching me unawares, like when I'm walking the dog or carrying groceries; I haven't hit the dirt, but my heart jumps into my throat and takes hours to slide back down where it belongs, and a few days to relax back to normal."
In 2003, Burt described being caught in a rocket attack that killed one U.S. soldier and wrote a follow-up entry about the condition of the building in the attack's aftermath.