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.

22 July 2006

We lost another soldier tonight. Over the course of 10 months, that brings our unit's total losses to 50. You can look at the number 50 and draw many conclusions. By the time we leave South Baghdad, we will have averaged one per week. When we board the plane to leave this place, we will have lost about twice as many soldiers this time around than we did in "major combat operations" in OIF I [Operation Iraq Freedom I]. Fifty — that's almost two platoon's worth of soldiers.

Each one affects you in a different way. The first four were hit and killed in one instant back in October. It was a shock to everyone and unexpected to say the least. Forty-six have followed since that first day. I don't want to say you become immune to them, but the shock effect subtlety diminishes each time.

It's a large brigade and an even larger Army. Most times you never knew the soldier, other times it's a familiar name who you recall seeing him in the mess hall or in the gym. You did not know them very well, but their absence is recognizable. Other times it's a name you know from another unit; maybe he served with you in a previous assignment, or maybe you went to basic training or college with him. Other times it's a good friend, who you work with, who you spend your weekends fishing with, or went out on the town with trying to talk to every woman at the club.

Sometimes it's not someone in your unit but when you pick up a paper, the Army Times or Stars and Stripes, you see a list of names and there he is, one of your former squad leaders in a previous assignment.

Fifty. Ten months ago I would have told you there was no way we could lose 50 soldiers, no way, no chance in hell.

We can't take a week off from work to mourn, just an hour to attend a memorial ceremony, and you can attend if you are not out on a mission, running a TCP or guarding a gate.

The memorial ceremony is scheduled for late in the week.

24 July 2006

Monday, the start of another week. Mondays have tended to go by rather quickly. We have a company meeting each Monday; all the platoon sergeants, platoon leaders, the first sergeant, the XO and I sit down and go over the what we have coming up, what deadlines we have to meet and make any coordination that must be done.

We also hash out any maintenance problems the company may be having, as in what equipment needs to be fixed and what parts need to be put on order. I would love to say that it's an exciting and interesting process; however the word best describing this would be "tedious." But at least when it's internal to the unit, you don't have to worry about translations.

When we conduct these meetings we try to keep them short, when it's 118 degrees outside and you cram 12 people into a small room, you tend to do your best to get the meeting over with as soon as you can.

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