Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Brigade Home? Can I Have a Word, Please?

An interesting spin in the media today: "The last major combat brigade, Stryker Brigade, is exiting Iraq." 100 or so left to tie up loose ends, and they'll be out soon.  It's not sitting well with some of my soldier babies. Brian's facebook update, today, read:
“its peculiar, how FOX news is reporting the last combat brigade has left Iraq, yet here we are, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team-3ID, still way in Iraq.”

I've been reading through other reports that insinuate that they're all coming home. A disclaiming word here and there, the last "major" combat brigade is coming home. And, "the base has had 18,000 troops deployed to Iraq in 2009 and the brigade is the last of them."

The base. The last of the troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord, in Washington State. That's one base. My kid is a combat engineer, serving in a combat brigade from another base, and he's still there. His replacements are flying in, and will serve their (probable 1-year) tour.

What are they, chopped liver?!

No, they're not chopped liver; they have simply been assigned new titles: Support and Assistance Brigades (or some such). 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq to "support and assist" the Iraqi military. How does that assistance come into play? Brian's company has been "assisting" the Iraqi military for the last year. I asked him what that means; are they just a burly menacing background presence, like bouncers or bodyguards? His answer:
"we lead all the missions still, sometimes with an Iraqi army truck, or Iraqi police truck with us to put an Iraqi face on our missions"
Leading the missions. That is supportive. And at some point, "support and assistance" has to translate into "we got your back" when combat situations occur, and they will.

When that time comes, our Combat Engineers from our Combat Brigades will support and assist by engaging in combat. There will still be fighting, and there will still be American lives lost, and we shouldn't play down that fact. I'm not celebrating until my kid is out of there, and I will continue to ache for the families whose soldiers are still serving. I'm sick of war. I'm sick of Iraq and Afghanistan, and listening to body counts.

When it all comes down to it, I guess I just need to shout out that there may be a new name on this operation, and a new title on our combat brigades, but we can't forget that we still have 50,000 troops there.

I want to remind you that as the rest of the country celebrates the homecoming of Stryker Brigade, there are hundreds of families, as I write this, in a state of dread, gearing up to say goodbye to their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mommy, or daddy, for a year, and to put them on a plane to Iraq.

Our work is not done.


  1. Some of us know that the government often changes titles/names of things to promote its current agenda. Most people don't listen to the media and government speeches closely enough to discern those subtle differences in phraseology. This was a very good post to wake people up to the fact that the war in Iraq is far from being over.

  2. Ah, the military spin. I hated this shit before; I hate this shit now. *sigh* Give them all my respect.

  3. It's stuff like this (and this spin has been in the planning for a long time now as the Daily Show pointed out back in 2009) and all of the stonewalling and misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance of the VA in taking care of veterans, on top of the Afghan situation worsening on top of all the reminders of 9/11 that changed life forever...

    I'm trying to have a sabbatical from news and politics for a bit, just for the sake of mental health. It's too overwhelming. I wish there was something more I could do, but at this point I think I'm driving myself even crazier with guilt and obsessing over it all.

    As the navy song goes, I wish Brian a happy voyage home. I look forward to a blog post of him gorging himself on spaghetti and taking a much needed break from hell's sandbox. And of course all the hugs and appreciate that can be squeezed in by proxy for those of us stuck on the sidelines in these wars that keep dragging on forever and classic SNAFU style.

    Hang in there, cyber-hugs sent, and you already know we got your six for whatever you might need.

  4. Lori, I was listening to NPR the other morning and it definitely sounded like they were saying that we were withdrawing the last of the combat troops from Iraq that day, or this week, or something. That surprised me, as I hadn't realized that an enormous withdrawal had been going on and that we would not be fighting over there anymore! I even thought, Oh, good, that must be why Brian is coming home and must also mean that nobody will be going back. Very strange. I can't believe they're doing another "Mission Accomplished" thing. It's all so messed up, which is a complete understatement but is the best I can come up with since the situation seems so confusing and upsetting.

  5. Amen. My friend was there at the ceremony, and saw the last "combat troops" roll across the border, followed my news cameras. She and her unit stayed in Iraq, and will be replaced in a month or so by fresh soldiers (at the end of her year-long deployment).

    She struggled with an appropriate term to define her ongoing mission, and eventually came up with "well-armed tourist".

    Thanks for the reminder, and I will never forget our troops and their families until every last one comes home.


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