CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Chester Responds to a Critic

Friday, December 03, 2004

Chester Responds to a Critic

One reader has taken issue with the account I gave of my time at Al-Qadisiyah that I posted two nights ago. See: War Story I'd like to offer a detailed response to this reader. Here goes:
Dear Sir, I see from the web site you were at Camp Edson. I remember Hwy 8 very well. I must protest your war story however. I can see you have quite the groupie "hanger ons".
Friend, say what you wish about me, but please know that you are doing little to advance your opinion by insulting my readers. I correspond with quite a few and the ones that email me are uniformly intelligent, polite and interesting. Several are Viet Nam vets. Careful.
None of which made any comments that did any kind of justice to your piece. It wasn't the war story that I was hoping.[sic]
Sorry your expectations were violated. Regular readers know that I was a staff officer. My stories are like this one -- not a lot of blood and guts. You should ask yourself sometime if the experiences of troops who were in support units is valuable at all from a historical perspective. Since that's all I have, that's what I wrote about. Feel free to post your own experiences at your own blog. If they're interesting and well-written, I'll link to them.
Also, you mentioned in a previous post -something about reservist [sic] being usually used for some kind of "rear guard",(protecting FOBs or some trash) which really pissed me off.
I have just spent 30 minutes looking through my archives for the post that you mention. I remember it. What I said was something along the lines that reserve combat units often get less than premier jobs. Not because they can't do them, but because the actives get put there first. I'm talking about Marine units -- I am not as familiar with Army reserve units -- you don't say what service you are/were in. You are completely mischaracterizing what I wrote. It would be silly of me to say that reservists aren't skilled, or some such nonsense, for no other reason than that I happen to be one myself. Not active reserves, but my name is on that list in the Pentagon computer somewhere. They can reach out and grab me anytime. I've never insulted reservists on this site. I've worked with a great many who were equally or more professional and competent than active-duty Marines. 2nd Bn, 23rd Marines, a reserve unit, was attached to the 1st Marine Regiment during the invasion. From what I understand they routinely beat the other units in various training tests before the war.
I didnt say anything based on others who had thought so highly of your site including my father.
Glad to hear he's a reader! Hope you'll both continue.
However, just letting you know, there were some "reserve" Marines killing a**holes left and right
Again, I've never said otherwise. Reservists are skilled and valuable and hard-working on the whole -- just like everyone else.
when guys like you were reading fiction ,
Polished off Heart of Darkness in about two hours one night. Heart of the Matter was more like 20 pages a day for two weeks. While deployed, I also read Command in War by Van Creveld since I worked in a headquarters, and re-read "Combat Service Support in Desert Shield/Desert Storm" since that's what I was doing. Took a look at Rommel's Attacks too, but didn't finish it. PME is continuous. Was Chesty wrong to read "Lee's Lieutenants" while campaigning in Korea? Was Patton wrong to read the Koran while on his way to invade Morroco? or was he wrong when he re-read Caesar's Gallic campaigns and secondary literature on William the Conqueror's battles while in Normandy? Before the deployment, General Mattis published a reading list -- much of it about the British campaign in Iraq in WWI. Would it have been wrong to read about this while deployed? Did you take a CD player with you? Did you ever listen to music while deployed, at war? Did you ever think of reading anything instead? Absolutely nothing wrong with listening to music -- I had that too. But how can there be anything wrong with professional reading?
watching movies
Glad to see you making such excellent use of old stereotypes. Didn't have time for many of these til I was back in Kuwait and we were waiting for flights. I took a couple of DVD's with me -- all comedies, cause I thought they would relieve stress.
and making sure they get to chow on time.
Did you ever eat chow at all while deployed? If so, you have a support Marine to thank. Did you ever drink purified water, use a temporary structure, drive on an improved road, have fuel to be stored, live in a base camp, or have obstacles needing reduction? You're welcome. 7th Engineer Support Battalion did all of these things and more. I never said my experience was sexy or that I am Audie Murphy. I've never made myself out to be anything more than what I was -- a staff officer helping to run a battalion. When Hugh Hewitt called me, I told him I had only been a lieutenant and never in a firefight. His producer will vouch for that. You have no idea how depressing it can be to work on a battalion staff, especially in a support unit, in the midst of a major war, when your own first choice for a specialty was the infantry. The number of times I had bad luck in getting the assignment I wanted was one of the secondary reasons why I didn't stay in. I would have given a kidney -- or an arm -- to be in a combat unit. Even on the staff. That's what I joined for.
If thats not accurate to your experience, then I apoligieze, [sic]
Gee, thanks.
but as far as war stories goes- like I said,thats[sic] not a real war story.
See above re: importance of support troop experiences.
And when others like me come to this site and read... Think of this as the edited version to what they really want to say.
They are welcome to say whatever they wish. My email address is in the sidebar and the comments are open to all. Reservists often get bad-mouthed a great deal by active-duty Marines. In fact, there are really three kinds of stereotypes that we are witnessing via your post: 1. You think I have spouted a common stereotype about reservists -- that they aren't up to snuff. You are wrong. 2. You hold an equally wrong stereotype about support troops -- that we don't do any work and are all a bunch of useless softies. In this you are either inexperienced, naive, or both. And wrong. 3. Are you enlisted? If so, then we have another great stereotype in play: you seem to buy into the idea that officers are useless in general. Wrong again. Anyone who's been around the block knows that there are good reservists and bad, good active duty Marines and bad, good officers and bad, good support troops and bad, etc, etc, etc. If you didn't like my story, fine. I don't have many others so you don't have much to worry about. But don't insult my readers or combat service support professionals. It only makes you sound small-minded. Besides, we all know the warfighters get the spotlight and are the prima-donnas -- and rightly so.

9 Comments:

Blogger Sando said...

If I want blood and guts I'll turn on John Wayne. I turn to AofC for pertinent analysis of the war we are engaged in and for a look ahead at bigger fish to fry. This 'hanger on' thinks your stories and analysis are spot on.

December 3, 2004 at 11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chester,

As an ex Australian infantry soldier I loved your story - the wanker who complained about it just doesn't get it.

Every member of our (UK, Aust, US etc etc) armed forces involved in Iraq and elsewhere deserve to have their stories told.

Told long and often - Fallujah is truly St Crispins Day ....

Regards

Sgt Pete

December 4, 2004 at 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this will help ...

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Sgt Pete

December 4, 2004 at 4:44 AM  
Blogger Craig Preston said...

Chester, keep telling those kind of war stories. I like detail and all aspects of a military operation have a bearing on the outcome. Here in Taiwan I can only get CNN (wish Fox would broadcast here) so must depend on the blogs to get news that isn't all gloom and doom. Thank you for all your input.

December 4, 2004 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Wow.

Been up all night with a dying Golden Retriever at the doggie hospital. I think I'll ramble more than usual, here.

Over 250,000 folks have been through the Iraqi theater this time around. There are, therefore, over 250,000 different, unique war stories. For the overwhelming majority who did their duty, and did it a little better than they thought they might, they are all worth telling and hearing.

I train National Guard and Reservists at FT Hood, on their way to Iraq. Most are pretty sharp, many are outstanding, and none of them have to be there. One unit we trained took so much to digital command and control that they helped the active duty division that they augmented get the most out of it. These units will be put where they're needed, and probably start out in the "rear" while they get aclimated and up to speed. Read the news, and tell me where the "rear" is, please.

I was in the first Gulf War as an Air Defense headquarters battery commander. Not much for me to do. A lot of our soldiers were attached out to units way up at the front. The battalion commander and I did a lot of mail runs. We'd go find individual guys and give them their mail. It was wonderful to see their eyes bug out, when their home-unit battalion commander brought them a letter or little box that they otherwise wouldn't get for quite a while.

I saw some really eye-opening stuff in the division rear area. The 3d Armored received their initial shipment of desert boots. There were about half as many pairs of boots as there were soldiers in Spearhead. They all got locked up until they could be issued to the frontline guys first. Lord help anybody in the rear wearing tan footwear.

The guy with an M-4 poking his head around the corner of a doorway where someone has been shooting at him from is the tip of the spear. The shaft of that spear goes all the way back to Fort Hood, Yuma and Holloman AFB. One of my coworkers runs her family support network better than any I've ever heard of. Their husbands helped secure and take Fallujah, and they had less to worry about beyond their mission, due to her hard work. She's got a war story worth hearing, too.

I think anyone who thinks that the only war stories come from within an M-1 or an AMTRAC hasn't really been there, or wasn't paying attention. I'm a geek who wears slacks to work, where I train soldiers and staffers how to use the new computers to get the job done better. My story doesn't compare well with that exhausted guy smoking a cigarrette, but it is just as real. I contribute. So do the guys running fork lifts, grading roads, sorting mail and parsing through After Action Reports in Kansas. We do it *for* that guy, so that he *can* grab a butt.

Every war story counts. As I read Chester's, it never occurred to me to think, "Well, he didn't shoot anybody." Other people did, and they did it better and looked forward to going home because of war stories like Chester's. And Marisol's. And Marc's. And....

I come here first, when I boot up in the morning. That's not an accident, it's my privelage.

Peyton

December 4, 2004 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger jbrookins said...

I don’t get this guys email at all. I’m Special Forces enlisted currently an Active Guard member (AGR). He seems to be upset about something but danged if I could tell what exactly. He didn’t think your war story was good enough? What a dumb***. With out support nobody can do their job. Without someone keeping an eye on the big picture grunts can’t concentrate on their objective. Hell we wouldn’t know what the next objective is. There are apparently some who still don’t understand it’s about the team. Nobody wins a war alone.

Each war story whether it be from a combat troop or a staff Officer offers views that we all can use to see the bigger picture. That’s damned important.

Keep up the good work.

December 4, 2004 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Mr. Brookins:

I think his panties were in a bind before he ever found The Adventures. He apparently is/was a Marine Reservist who felt slighted (not neccessarily by Chester).

Chester's head popped up on his radar screen as a convenient target for an indirect vent.

That's how it reads to me, though far from sure.

Likely, he has good reason to feel slighted and under-appreciated. I just don't think Chester was the source. But he chose to pick the bone with Chester. (shrug)

If you like, E-mail griper, I can share a story or two with you. Not much blood & guts, no headshots, but very real nonetheless.

In any event, thank you for your service, whatever it may have been.

Regards,
USMC_Vet
1985-1993

December 4, 2004 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Peyton:

Air Defense? HAWK by any chance?

(Brace yourself, E-mail Griper...War Story commencing in 3-2-1..)

I was in 2nd LAAM Bn in the Gulf War, and I know what you mean by 'not much for me to do'. When SoDamn Insane flew his fighters to Iran, there's not much left for a medium altitude anti-aircraft missile battalion to do beyond a hell of a lot of guard duty.

Before he did that though, a little before the Khafji action, he tried screaming two MiG's at low level down the coast toward Saudi Arabia. Bravo Battery, 2nd LAAM had hard locks on them and, needless to say, quite anxious to score the first HAWK kills of the war.

...but...Control from the AWACS put the kabosh on that idea as eventually a Saudi F-16 pilot was quietly guided in behind them. Splash One. Splash Two. Saudi Arabia gets the first Ace of the war.

In retrospect, one cannot argue with the move considering the precarious nature of the Arab / American-British alliance at the political, strategic and operational planning levels ("The Generals' War" by Gen. Bernard Trainor illustrates this masterfully). The regional hosts needed to know that they were indeed participating. But you did not want to be around anyone in 2nd LAAM Battalion when you argued that point at the time.

My most vivid memories were that and of crossing the burm into Kuwait and witnessing un-Godly destruction...

...Oh, and one other good one. I had pulled another 20+ hours of work/guard duty combo. 30 minutes after finally getting to sleep cacooned within my sleeping bag, I was rudely awaken to a sight resembling an alien being in my face, screaming muffled, unintelligible commands and vulgarities from behind a gas mask. Bleary eyed and more than a little disoriented, I realized it was an unamused Staff NCO in full MOP-4, arms flailing and screaming.

I had slept through the first scud attack to come close to our position.

December 4, 2004 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Howdy, USMC-Vet!

My unit during the Gulf War was Short-Range Air Defense, SHORAD. Vulcans and Stingers. Our guys had absolutely no sitings of enemy aircraft, but they did learn that a Vulcan's 20mm cannon is really hard on BMPs, BRDMs and trucks.

At the start of the war, I was still in Germany. My then-wife had deployed on Christmas Eve. (Going to Christmas dinner in dress blues and everyone wishing you "Merry Christmas" while your wife is on a plane to a war is surreal.) She'd waited for four hours for a phone, and called me at 4:00 am Germany time. She mostly wanted to know what I thought was going on, as I could watch CNN and she couldn't. In the background at her end of the line, I heard, "BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!" She said, "Oh, the Patriots are going off, I have to mask up." Click, brrrrrrrrrr. Safe in our living room in Germany, 4 in the morning, listening on the phone to a maniac shooting ballistic missiles toward my wife. Very, very weird.

December 5, 2004 at 6:46 AM  

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