There are certain days that I absolutely love being a commander. The day you promote anyone; the day you laterally transfer a young specialist and make him a corporal for actions in Fallujah; the day you hear your boss tell you that you and your troops are doing a great job; the day the commanding general of the Marine Division presents combat patches to your soldiers; and I’m looking forward to the day when they all get off the plane and walk into the arms of their loved ones back home.
There are, however, days when you really want to throw in the towel. Today, like many of late, is one of those. Over the past few days, I relieved a non-commissioned officer for failing to keep proper supply accountability of the unit’s equipment. It prompted a complete inventory of all the unit’s stuff with soldiers running to and fro calling off serial numbers. I’m also in the process of charging another soldier for disobeying orders. Finally, I have a soldier who is charged with sexual harassment. On top of all these soldier issues, the unit is in turmoil as we once again move from one location to another and have to re-establish relationships. The challenge is that we are not sure that those relationships are to stay or if they will go based on other unit changes. It’s tough to tell your soldiers you don’t know, when they ask you what are they going to be doing next. Finally, it is tough to tell them that they have been extended because the next rotation is delayed. Such is life in Iraq. The feeling of pure chaos in which there is no escape.
As I think about the pure chaos that continues all around me, there are, for whatever reason, constants that bring you back to realizing that all is not loss and hopelessness. One is knowing that my wife, family and friends are safe at home; next is the reassurance my faith brings in a daily time of reflection; third, is the knowledge that somewhere out there, this will end and I will return back to the United States; finally, that even though being here is not fun at times, serving in Iraq is the right thing to do.
We arrived here in September and have had the joy or misfortune to be a part of military operations in Fallujah, facilitate the first free national elections, and now the rebuilding of Fallujah. I can tell you that the level of violence has gone from daily shelling and killings to the once a month indirect fire and the occasional, ineffective roadside bomb. I can see it not only in the soldiers, but also in the Iraqi solders and people, that this oppressed area is finally breathing again; from the kids who wave at you when you drive by to the woman who cries when you say you will help find her lost son.
It is known as the joy of command; the privilege to lead the fine sons and daughters our nation provides. Offering the little hopes and rays of sunshine that in a cruel, cruel world, a person in uniform cares. I’ve seen over and over again; so when I get frustrated by it all, I am reminded of how I am proud to lead those who care.