I am not a Combat Veteran
Published on July 31, 2008 By greywar In War on Terror

     I am not a Combat Veteran or at least I don't consider myself to be. This might come as a suprise to some of you who know I went to Iraq (heck I even blogged about right here at JU) but I assure you that I am not a Combat Vet in any way. I also don't refer to soldiers who experiences in Iraq paralell mine Combat Vets either. I save it for the deserving. Let me explain:


    I spent 6 measly (and boring) months on a large sprawling airbase in Balad, Iraq. Previous to that I had spent about 6 months in Texas doing intelligence missions at all hours of the night. Before that I had done the intel thing in Texas for over one year straight. Which was harder on me mentally and physically? Iraq or Texas?

   Texas was harder by a longshot folks and my experience is statistically the norm and not the exception. Most soldiers who deploy to Iraq rarely if ever leave the FOB's even in vehicles. Usually when they need to go to another FOB they go by aircraft (which is ridiculously safe). Most people don't really understand how many non-comat troops we have there compared to the actual trigger pullers.

    Simply being in Iraq (technically even Kuwait is part of the "war zone" and Kuwait is like a goddamn beach resort) shouldn't make you a Combat Vet. it certainly didn't make me one.

    Sure, the base was shelled on a daily basis when I got there (usually several one day maybe none the next and so on..) but the shelling was being done by the military equivalent of the Keystone Kops. Not only did they have problems even landing a shell inside the massive base but they had even worse luck getting a shell to explode if it somehow happened to make it inside the fence.

    Firefinder radar coupled with nearly automated counter-battery fire ensured that as time went on any "experienced" insurgents got whacked and were replaced with idiots of even less skill and training. By the time I left the insurgents were lucky to get 3-4 shells inside out perimeter a month and almost none of those ever went off (and none killed anybody).

     The Air Force (a fine para-military organization much like the Boy Scouts and the support Army) had built up such a lovely recreational area on Balad that we were ashamed to be photographed there. It is hard to tell "war stories" when you have 2 dozen photos of yourself in front of a giant swimming pool next to the Starbucks.


    So when my kids ask me : "Daddy, what did you do durring the War?" my answer will be somthing like: "I kept people from giving Colangelo candy so he wouldn't have a psychotic episode." While that may be a vital function it certainly isn't war duty (it was also a role I filled in Texas so it wasn't even unique to Iraq).

    There are lots of folks who went to Iraq and Afghanistan who are actual Combat Veterans (and not all are in combat arms MOSs either) but most folks who go do not and did not fall into this category. The door kickers, early Stryker units, Marines in the seige of Fallujah, and other soldiers who were shot at routinely by folks who could actually see them while they were shooting are real Combat Vets.

    Using the term on REMFs like me simply dilutes the meaning of the phrase so make sure that if you claim it for yourself that you actually deserve it. When you find someone who does deserve it, give them the respect that they deserve as well.



And because pictures are fun:




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on Jul 31, 2008

I would consider serving in a warzone to be combat service.  Though I suppose that those who do have bullets whizzing past their heads are at much greater risk. 

on Jul 31, 2008

I would consider serving in a warzone to be combat service. Though I suppose that those who do have bullets whizzing past their heads are at much greater risk


Most folks do. Thats the problem.

Conflating people like me with people who get shot at creates a massively unfair equality between actual combat vets and chumps like me (and the other several thousand chumps on Balad) or even worse, the guys in freakin' Kuwait wearing civilian clothes and playing volleyball by the concert stands.

on Jul 31, 2008

What is that, the north side of Balad near the PX?

I got shot at occasionally. Shelled plenty. I wouldn't say I've seen combat and especially nothing resembling a real firefight.

A few of the rocket and mortar monkeys are shooting better now, but not in Balad. The closest I came to being hit was a guy bouncing a bunch of mortars off T-walls 50 yards away and the occasional rocket passing overhead.

The real nasties are still EFPs and LBIEDs. Big surprise.

on Aug 01, 2008

The last time I looked at it, the ratio for shooters to support was about 1:40.  In other words, it takes 40 support troops to keep one shooter in beans, bullets, and gas.  The problem is that the enemies of us do not respect that ratio and keep trying to involve the 40 into the mix.  They know that it is hard to kill the shooters, they are trained to shoot back...and do it WELL.  The support troops, not so much.  But there must needs be REMFs to keep the battle flow flowing, and whether they are "combat" veterans or not, they deserve credit for being there.  Even the REest of the REMFs are at risk.  But you make a good point.  There is a difference.  What the shooters do for a living, the rest of us just dabble in as a part time diversion.

on Aug 02, 2008
I am appalled and highly offended that you would be so cruel as to impugn the integrity of those valiant men, of course I am writing about my beloved Keystone Kops. To equate them to the bozos (No insult meant to Bozo the clown) that are left in the war zone is an insult. An insult I tell you, an outrage! Not once has a Keystone Kop ever worn a vest made by DuPont chemicals.
on Aug 06, 2008

I think Greywar has forgotten what life was like without beer.

on Aug 10, 2008

This is a question I've wrestled with myself.  Being a Desert Storm vet, I was in a war.  I was never in a firefight, nor did anyone I knew die there.  A few weeks in January, we did have our nightly SCUD alert, but truth be told, if I wasn't the night shift radio operator, I wouldn't have even known about most of them.  Of course, when the SCUD alert messae told us it was coming our way, we did get everyone into the bunkers and to MOPP4.  5 of us stayed in the TOC until the last minutes, then joined the others in the bunkers.

Our records say we're combat vets, but like you, I think of a combat vet as someone who has been in a fire fight.  One thing I've noticed though, very few of the people I consider combat vets don't seem to have any problem considering me one.  On the other hand, people like me and you usually don't.


On a side point. Most civilians seem to think that everyone in Iraq gets hit by the enemy every day.  People say that there are no "front lines" and the "combat arms" and "support" troops all have it the same nowadays.   Judging by the number of battalians that haven't lost a troop, and those that only lost 1 or 2, my guess is, most troops who have served in Iraq don't know anyone who was killed there. 

When I've pointed this out, people get mad at me. They insist that every troop in Iraq has lost several comrades in arms.  But when I crunch the 4,000+ against the hundreds of thousands of Army, Air Force Navy and Marines... I stand by my findings.



on Aug 10, 2008
I think people who aren't around the military a lot don't understand or realize that there are a LOT of different jobs and not all "combat zone" deployments are the sleep in the dirt, constantly under fire kind.

It seems like most people who truly are *combat* vets are the least likely to go around crowing about it.

I asked my husband if he considered himself a combat vet. He said, "I guess." LOL. He has a combat medic badge (EARNED, and it means something if you know the requirements for being awarded the CMB), so *I* do consider him a combat vet, but it's not like it's something that comes up in everyday conversation.

Parated: My husband lost people he knew. Had to sort through pieces of people he knew. I don't think it's best to assume that everyone who served in Iraq had an easy time.
on Aug 10, 2008
Parated: My husband lost people he knew. Had to sort through pieces of people he knew. I don't think it's best to assume that everyone who served in Iraq had an easy time.

When did anything I said even imply that I was assuming that? I was merely pointing out a misconception many people have about service in Iraq. Of course, many of the battalions have lost 60 or 70 of their friends, and others they know well.

It kind of suprized me to get this from you, since we have IM'd about it a few times. I doubt there is anyone who would consider your husband anything but a combat veteran.