Sunday, May 07, 2006

Breaking Down Walls

The past week I have been surrounded by 18-50 year old Sunni Iraqis and have lived to tell about it. In this racially profiling type of world that we live in these men are terrorists hell bent on the destruction of the Western world, but in my new world I have a different view of these guys. Who are these Iraqis you may be asking? My new best friends.

I changed jobs last week after my previous mission was handed over to civilians. I am currently working guarding my base and am surprisingly enjoying myself. I work with 3 other American soldiers and a handful of Iraqi army soldiers (IA). Part of my day is spent controlling the flow of traffic in and out of the base and the rest of it is spent hanging out with the Iraqi soldiers learning Arabic, drinking tea, and smoking hookahs. I joke around with the IA saying that we should call it school instead of work since we spend the majority of our day learning from each other.

I am not a big fan of my new job but the interaction with the IA and local Iraqis more then make up for the dullness of the work. I have met numerous local civilians in my area who are more concerned with getting rid of the terrorists in their neighborhoods then they are with their own safety. Each time they give us information to the whereabouts and activities of terrorists in our area they risk not only their lives but also the lives of their family. I work in an area where the IA are locally born and raised and the civilians do what they can to help the Americans root out the bad guys, and all of this in a Sunni town.

I know a lot of people would caution me not to put my complete trust in my new friends, and while I believe they are somewhat right, I would say that they would have to come to Iraq and see these guys for themselves. I have only been around the soldiers for a week and already I have wrestled with them in a guard shack, been beaten in an arm wrestling contest, shared food off the same plate, and smoked out of the same pipe with them. I joke around with them in Arabic and call them my brothers and they always reply in English with a resounding “Yes, very good.”

Because of the obvious language barrier with some of the IA our conversations are limited until one of the interpreters has time to translate for us. Most of the time the soldiers want to know if we have wives and children back home. When I tell them I don’t they want to know why and then question me about my age. I explain to them that if I didn’t spend the better part of the last 4 years in Iraq then I might have a better chance at finding a “Madame” as they say. They find it fascinating that we are able to date for long periods of time and can have more then one girlfriend before getting married. I guess I better get started finding a wife and having kids because if I come back here then I will be better able to relate. “Yes we don’t make enough, and yes my baby needs food too, and yes the wife wants new shoes and a purse too. Life is tough but we do what we can right?”

They are just as eager to bring me anything that I might need as I am to do the same for them. One soldier even invited me to dinner with his family and I look forward to going as soon as I am able to. They have the same gripes and complaints that American soldiers do: they are underpaid, underappreciated, and definitely know how to do things better then their commanders do. They complain about their food, clothes, and rules they have to follow. All soldiers are the same apparently.

Not everything about the IA in my area is hunky dory though. Most of the soldiers don’t like the Kurds or Shiites. They think the Kurds should leave Iraq and get their own country and are wary of the Shiites because they remember the long war against Iran that their fathers fought. They are extremely nationalistic and tend to look down upon foreigners in their country. However, I do encourage them by making fun of the Turkish workers here who can’t seem to fix things properly the first time and have to keep coming back again and again for the same problems.

Overall I enjoy spending my time learning about the Iraqi soldiers’ culture and lives. I enjoy their acceptance of my soldiers and I and am thankful that I am able to see them with my own eyes as people with cares and needs. They aren’t crazed terrorists like the media would have you believe. They want to make the most of the opportunity that they have right now. They realize that now is the time for them to decided their own fate and they are acting accordingly by showing bravery and courage in the face of certain danger. They are our allies and although they don’t agree with us on everything they do agree with us on one key point; freedom is the best answer and if Iraq is ever going to be truly free then they have to get rid of the terrorists in their towns and make a stand while they still can. Their future is in their own hands and from what I have seen so far I would say that their future looks bright.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a very, very interesting blog, Sgt. Boggs. Like many of your friends we too would caution you not to be too trusting but we have confidence that you will never go to an unsafe place on your own. You do seem awfully trusting though. We get so little insight into what those in the Iraqi Army really are thinking and doing that it was an extremely informative blog. Good luck in your new job and please remember, safety first. Is the language dificult? Let's hope that by the time you are married with children you won't have to be going back over there. Unless you are on the fast track.
A&N

Chelsea said...

I'm glad you're making friends Tim, but no more pipes (and whatever that hoo-stuff is)! They're bad for you! Not to mention it will be more difficult finding a wife if you're stinky :)
If I didn't say it, your mom would! Miss you and be safe

Gypsy said...

I echo A&N, great insight into some of your interaction with the IA Soldiers. It's a wonderful sign of progress, hearing about everyone working together... If you manage to have dinner with your newfound friend please be safe and take good care...preferably not going alone. I'm just a worry wart, and it takes a lot for me to trust someone. I guess you have a heightened sense of PERSEC and am sure you'll handle yourself just fine.

PS Happy Belated Birthday wishes to you t.f. All the best now and always!

JohnD said...

Thanks Tim!
Glad to hear boredom isn't getting you down.
And thank you for showing the Iraqis that more Americans are like you than what they see from the terrorists. The simple day to day activities that you can share with them must really teach them that we really are brothers.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sgt. Boggs,

First let me say I'm sorry I evidently insulted you previously. Although I find you to be somewhat arrogant, I believe that you mean well. I find your blog and the other military blogs very interesting when they reveal scenes and experiences from Iraq.

When you say the Iraqis you're meeting complain about the terrorists, who is it that they identify the terrorists as?

I also want to commend you for trying to learn the language. actually it shocks me that there isn't an effort by the U.S. Army to teach the troops any Arabic. It isn't that hard to learn a little Arabic. A little bit of a language goes a long way.

Crazy Politico said...

Great write up. I think that because of our skewed news folks believe that everyone in Iraq is out to get you guys, when it appears from every first hand account I get it's completely opposite.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for serving.

Courtney said...

Great post as always!

Melinda said...

It's okay to "trust but verify" in my book. I think it's the one-on-one interactions that soldiers have with the IA and the local people that will keep the human face on this for both sides. You have to profile to survive; it's just good common sense. But, to keep everyone grounded, it's imperative to relate to each other as fellow soldiers, men and human beings.

Keep safe at your new job & don't worry about finding a Mrs...all in good time. :)

The Ugly American said...

Great post Tim!

I am curious why Elizebeth finds you arrogant. Perhaps she could answer?

Elizabeth said...

Ugly,

It relates to a previous conversation.

Luv2Box said...

Thanks for the post Boggs! Great story on how you are interacting with Iraqi soldiers and how relatively well the transition is going. Please know that you are so very much admired and respected for all that you are doing - boring job and all! Stay strong until you are home safe!

Heralder said...

Good post Boggs. It's nice to see not everyone hates us.

Bag Blog said...

I've read several of your blogs and looked your picture over carefully. You write intelligently and thoughtfully. And I am wondering why doesn't this guy have a madame :)

Do you ballroom dance by any chance?

Anonymous said...

I personally know 15 girls who will be lined up to apply for the position of Boggs'es madame on the day he arrives home. No time to ballroom dance for Boggs.
Signed,
One of those 15

Anonymous said...

oh timmy tim tim.. you are quite the ladies man...

proud fan said...

Absolutely wonderful post!!! I would like to post it on my blog with a link back to your blog if that is alright with you. Wonderful insights!

jac0825 said...

Its great to hear the Iraqis are making progress along side our soldiers in uniform. Helping people help themselves is what America is all about. Know that us waiting for you at home are grateful for your sacrifice and service.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! It's nice to hear news of relationships forming in Iraq despite all that is going on around you. Be Safe and keep up the good work.

T. F. Boggs said...

Thanks for the comments, I appreciate all of them. If anyone wants to post anything of mine on their site then that is fine with me. All I ask is that you include a link back to my site.
And don't worry about me, I'll be safe.

t.h. snure said...

Hey Tim,

A belated Happy Birthday... as usual I am behind on gifts, I just ordered my wife's yesterday and her birthday was at the beginning of April.

I've read your last couple of posts and the ensuing commenting. You seem to have ammassed a great following, too bad some of them don't get it.

I would add to your sister-in-law and caution you on the pipes, some of what they put in those may give the army some problems. I'd hate to see you get in trouble over something like that.

As for those 15+ ladies lining up, if you'd like, I can do some interviews for you and pare down the list some before you get back. It did take me a long time to find the right one, but you have to admit I did really good.

Uncle Todd

tanksis said...

Sgt.,

This post is most definitely one that serves to inspire. People of different countries, different cultures, duffferent religions learning that when you get down to it, we're basically all the same. It all goes back to that empathy thing--making an effort to understand one another. I am so happy to hear that your new job is providing you with yet another opportunity to experience some positivity over there, and that you choose to share those stories with us.

One thing--I think Elizabeth has a crush on you. Imagine that:-) I might have one on you, too, but I'm already someone's "madame". But you are one heck of a guy from what I can sense by your musings and you are certain to be a good catch.

Stay safe, soldier.

bmcworldcitizen said...

This post is most definitely one that serves to inspire.

Absolutley. This does give one hope. Boggs and Co. are the silver lining on a very grim and dark cloud for the majority of Iraqis.

Keep up the good work.

Courtney said...

Tim,

I propose you start a reality t.v. dating show with all these women. Then you could marry one at the end and get tons of money. Hey- you might even get your wedding paid for. It's the logical thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps auction him off on ebay? Better idea- -all Boggs fans email or write Mel Gibson, get him to do Mike Yon's soon to be out book on The Battle for Mosul - -to star - -you got it- -this great new American Idol- - Sgt. Timothy F. Boggs. Okay girls - -anyone out there got Mel Gibson's personal email or snail mail address? Post it please. We can do it Sgt. Boggs - -and maybe you marry the one of us that convinces Mr. Gibson? Seriously - promote a great book and a great soon to be box office star all at one time!
Stay safe Tim

Anonymous said...

Hey tim,
Come down to florida state and i know i can line up some girls for a war hero. Make sure you bring a purple hearts for both of us, we wont have to pay for drinks. Keep up with the great posts. Stay safe my friend.

-Mark
p.s. i have a crush on you too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sgt. Boggs,
I hate to tell you this but I don't have a crush on you at all. I am smitten with you. Smitten is an old term used by us older ladies. Oh to be 10 years younger - -okay 15.
N of A&N

Elizabeth said...

I do think Boggs is kind of cute, but too young for me...I also prefer people who can take constructive criticism without losing their temper.

But, that often comes with age.

Frimel said...

tim! good to see that all goes well still. as usual, it was a great post, and it truly is refreshing to see the positive interaction that is taking place between the citizens of two countrys. i remember a time, long ago, when stories like this managed to slip out here and there, but anymore it's only the negatives that make it to the masses. maybe that's what sells and people dont care too much about hearing all sides of a situation before judging any longer...but that just gets into government, politics and the justice system, and ill leave that business to you to discuss...

anyways, take care, and thanks for being out there, there are quite a few of us back here in the states that do appreciate it.

T. F. Boggs said...

Frimtastic,
Great to hear from you buddy. How did you hear about my blog?
I am glad to see that you seem to be doing well. Shoot me an email when you get the chance, I can't seem to find your email address.
As far as me finding a "madame" you have all figured out my real reason for having a blog: to meet women. Now with that understood I will start writing romance posts. Up next I will post a blog about a lonely soldier meeting a mysterious woman from the middle east and his subsequent adventures while falling in love with her and bridging the divide between two cultures. Stay tuned!

Frimel said...

tim, i have several email addresses for you and i have no idea which one is your primary. OU, mil, or hotmail? let me know which one or maybe ill just send an email to all three. later bud.