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.
Just finished watching a couple episodes of "The Simpsons: Season 6." I have been watching the show in my trailer before calling it a night, since my roommate has been on leave over the last week and I haven't had to worry about keeping him up by watching DVDs.
Capt. Alex Pickands occupies the other half of my trailer. He left to go back to Tennessee on leave about 10 days ago; I expect he will be back in another week or so, depending on the travel time.
Alex is one of two lawyers we have assigned to the brigade. He has the difficult job of working on operational law. He advises our commander on the rules of war, teaches soldiers the rules of engagement and prosecutes soldiers who break the law. Alex arrived at our unit about a month ago from division headquarters. He has also been deployed since September.
Alex works in an adjacent office, so I never feel uneasy about walking over to ask him for a cigar or to steal a cup of coffee. When I do, he refers to me as Chief Wiggum, and I respond by calling him Lionel Hutz (Springfield’s greatest attorney). I am lucky to have Alex as a roommate; we both have a slight case of OCD, so our room is always very clean, kept like new recruits at basic training.
Back in the office after another meeting at the TOC (tactical operations center), which is our brigade headquarters. Everything on our battlefield is tracked there. We just moved into this TOC last week; the old TOC was too small for the number of soldiers working there. The new facility is huge, and looks exactly like the picture of military headquarters in the movies.
Inside the TOC we have numerous plasma-screen TVs and some large projections screens, the kind Dr. Evil would use to demand large sums of money. During the nearly four months it took us to build the new TOC, it earned the nickname Death Star. However, those of us with a sense of humor called it Spaceball One.
As much as I joke about the TOC, once inside, the time for joking is over. All of our soldiers understand the important work that occurs there, from tracking the battle to ensuring MEDEVAC helicopters are en route to a scene when necessary. The TOC is a serious place, and it’s all business for the soldiers working inside.
Soldiers who work inside the TOC don’t get out much on patrols or missions, but their job is no less important. The six-inch view from the TOC is a big-picture view; soldiers there are constantly solving problems to help their counterparts on patrol. The hours are long and stressful, and at times, filled with boredom followed by moments of near insanity. Working in the TOC requires the ability to make decisions coupled with an enormous amount of temperance.