Postcards from Tradocia

the unsung war

One of the best parts of Ace Combat 5 (and its predecessor) is its super-cool briefing sequences. They’re hyper-kinetic and monstrously high-tech-looking, and are accompanied by rousing, dramatic music. Of course, every mission is crucially important to the fictional war effort, and the briefer’s voice is inevitably full of gravitas and martial drama. The missions are never “fly around this area and probably do nothing,” or “go shoot down this blimp” (a real Air Force mission – I’ll tell you all about it someday); rather, the fate of the world is always on your shoulders.


Somehow I thought that Iraq would be like that. Even though my job is relatively menial and support-oriented, I had stirring visions of Signal soldiers running wire with focused looks chiseled into their sweat-drenched faces, while their comrades pounded six-foot ground stakes into the earth, each mighty stroke of the sledgehammer a furious blow for freedom! Frequencies would be plugged into the GRC-226 radios with deft fingers flicking across the rubberized keypad, while the SEN operators would be a blur of motion, hammering commands into the switchboard keypad and whipping the two-prong patch cable from terminal to terminal, affiliating phones with practiced precision – all for victory!

Needless to say, I dramatized convoys and helicopter rides even more in my overactive mind – when I leave the gate or fly over the wall, I think afterwards that it should be accompanied by a soundtrack (Ride of the Valkyries, maybe, a la Apocalypse Now), but disappointingly, it’s not. Each time, I expect some sort of dramatic feeling, but instead all I feel is a slight twinge of nervousness washed over with a cool focus on my surroundings.

In games and movies, it’s always “this is it, our fate rests on you” or whatever. In reality, and especially in this war, which is waged as much on TV and in the newspaper and in the hearts and minds of Iraqis (and Americans), it’s a progression of tiny actions, an aggregate push in one direction or another that will never culminate in the proverbial Götterdammerüng, the climactic final battle where it’s all or nothing. History may judge this a great victory someday, but it won’t have been achieved in one mighty blow.

Maybe I’m just a fan of the melodramatic in all things, including war.

4 Comments

  1. Reski's Mom

    Reski’s mom’s daughter and I just sat down to dine and I inquired as to what the Air Force folks actually do over in Iraq. You just answered my question – shoot down blimps! Thank you. Take care of you and keep up the great Journalism.

  2. Seth

    Alex,
    Your writing is indeed good. It sounds like you have more time than you can imagine to write things such as this post. You did an excellent job of talking about being bored out of your skull and making it interesting and fun to read. A subtle talent, sir. I have heard from other vets that most of a soldier’s service is vast deserts of boredom punctuated by rare action. Your position may make the action even more rare. We back here are glad that it keeps you safe, but I understand the desire for more. Good luck and fight the good fight…against relentless ennui.
    Seth

  3. Lola Barnes

    great blog-you’re an excellent talented writer–re yesterday’s insect and marvelous blog, do you remember once when you, your mom, bryce and i were driving to detroit and stopped at a rest stop and saw a cicada aka locust–fun–lots of love and prayers, g and g

  4. Spike

    “should be accompanied by a soundtrack (Ride of the Valkyries, maybe, a la Apocalypse Now)”

    ROFL.

    War is cricket. A game lasting all day but containing onlu 7 minutes of excitement, a game so boring seagulls land on the pitch.

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