BAGHDAD – Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
For the past couple days the remainder of our unit moved out of their tents and into new trailers. Our new accommodations are small, two-person trailers, about 12 ft. by 12 ft., but they certainly beat living inside a tent.
The trailers are similar to the tents in one respect — most of us won't spend much time in them. Still, I am lucky to be able to sleep in here most nights, compared to the many soldiers in our brigade who are spending tonight at a checkpoint or patrol base without the comforts of air conditioning or a mattress. They are using slit trenches for bathrooms rather than the Porta-Johns and shower trailers we have, and they sure as heck don’t have access to laptops to write their journals in.
I am writing this entry having caught up on about half the work I've missed today. The large part of today was spent in a meeting with one of our units, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police.
There were no cameras at this meeting, which is one of many that we go to on a daily basis. As a staff officer, meetings occupy a good percentage of my time. At every level in the Army, meetings are necessary to plan and accomplish missions, but meetings like these are a little bit different than most.
The meeting with our Iraqi counterparts lasts nearly four hours. The fact that it consumes a large portion of our time is not unusual. When planning out our day, for anything that involves a meeting or discussion with an Iraqi we double the amount of time we'd expect it to last with an American.
This is not because of some strange custom, but because every word spoken is spoken twice. Imagine having each word of a conversation in a board meeting or a chat with a friend repeated. It takes a lot of patience from both the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, and is a credit to them and the many translators who work for us.
Sometimes the daily meetings are with Iraqis, other times they are internal meetings. It’s not the same as charging a hill — the only fight going on is between you and your bladder. But getting our forces, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police on the same sheet of music, so we all understand what we are doing, is vital to securing Iraq. Every word spoken (and spoken twice) at these meetings is another small step toward the goal of turning this country over to the Iraqis.
Helping the Iraqi police become capable of performing on their own is a mission that will not be completed overnight. As I said in my last entry, our leaders have figured out we are not killing our way out of this war, and that the Iraqi police and army are the key to us finishing this fight and coming home from Iraq for good.
It's helpful to compare how we are training the Iraqi police here to how we train our police at home. Think for a moment about the training required to become a state trooper in Vermont (I say Vermont because I watched "Super Troopers" last week). The state trooper goes through an academy for a number of months then off to a station where their training continues. It’s an intense, lengthy process, and Vermont's trooper-trainees do not have to fight an insurgency at the same time.
We are producing dedicated Iraqi forces. Are they NYPD cops with 20 years on the job? Of course not. But they are improving every day.