So what? So here I am at the end of another year long deployment. So what; what does it mean, what is there to learn or take away?
I have no deep thoughts or introspection on what it all means. I can articulate what I know.
I know that we will not leave Iraq having to shoot our way out. Who would have imagined this two years ago? Certainly not three years ago. While the Iraqis might not have any parades in our honor as we leave most will realize that their lives are indeed better than they were under Saddam. They know this. We know it too. Anyone who says otherwise needs to shut up and go there and see for themselves.
Three years ago we all thought that Iraq was "lost" and that we'd have to fight our way to the southern border in order to leave. Death tolls were at their highest. But that isn't Iraq in 2009. Nor will it be Iraq in 2010. Our military will be able to walk out Iraq with a sense of gratitude from the Iraqis; both for what we have done for them and for leaving.The way ahead is going to be harder for them than under Saddam Hussein because the days of an "entitlement society" are quickly fading.
I know that the future of Iraq is far from clear. Iraq is far more vital to the region than most Westerners realize. Iraq is strategically, economically, culturally and religiously important to the Middle East and the world. There are many who have an interest in seeing Iraq go their way. Iraq will continue to be the center of a tug-of-war for all of the above reasons for generations to come.
I know that the hardest part of the deployment is on the family. Reconnecting, even in the strongest of relationships takes time and patience. We, as Soldiers, return home into a pattern established by the ones we leave behind. For a while we are intruders into the status quo. Establishing new patterns takes time.
I know that I am neither a great or terrible leader. Many times I tried to make the decisions for the team that were in the best interests of everyone. Other times I found myself having to yell at people for no other reason than they pressed my buttons in the right order. I also learned that leadership can be lonely. With very few peers around the FOB I had to choose relationships carefully. Although I would do anything for my Soldiers and defend them against abuse by "Big Army" I never got close enough to them to call any of them friends. I know that a majority of that was my doing.
Finally, we did our jobs. There are less heroes, but no one wants that distinction anyway. I cannot tell you that we worked hard because that simply wouldn't be true. None of my guys should feel that their time was wasted - although many could. There is a lot of down time in this "phase" of the war. The Iraqis are taking care of their own security and are reacting to critical incidents in their own way. As the army and police do the jobs that they have been training to do there is less of a role for us. In the next twelve months there will be a rapid off ramping of personnel and equipment from the country.
Iraq will cause confusion and consternation as they stubble into their future. Iraq - a deployment - leave an indelible mark on you. There are moments that are difficult to explain except to someone else who was there. I suppose, in closing, that this blog at least shared some of those moments.
That's all there is; no grandiose epiphany because I don't think one exisits . That's it. Thanks.