Friday, 17 June 2011

Forwarded from a Combat Veteran/ Viet Nam to a non-combat Veteran/ Viet Nam Era

The Old Gringo's best friend, then as now, sent this screed from a soldier who must be some kind of grandson of Marquis de LaFayette.....a symbol of everything fine about French People.....who is serving and actually exposed to front-line combat situations in Afghanistan.    The Froggy watches the Yank and writes down his observations.    It becomes clear that Froggy is not Kermit, nor is he arrogant nor is he predictable in his views.    He is blunt.    For those with combat and/or close support experience, you will all know that Froggy is a true, professional soldier.   He is also a good and fair man.   See his words and share them....

       The Old Gringo runs this so that OROGs can show family members with frontliners and forward support people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

French view of American Military 
by Jean-Marc Liotier 
American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman 
The US often hears echoes of worldwide hostility against the application of its foreign policy, but seldom are they reached by the voices of  people who experience first hand how close we are to the USA. 
In spite of contextual political differences and conflicting interests that generate friction, we do share the same fundamental values - and  when push comes to shove that is what really counts. 
Through the eyes of that French OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) infantryman you can see how strong the bond is on the ground. In contrast with the Americans, the French soldiers don't seem to write much online - or maybe the proportion is the same but we just have fewer people deployed. Whatever the reason, this is a rare and moving testimony which is why I decided to translate it into English, so that American people can catch a glimpse of the way European soldiers see them. Not much high philosophy here, just the first hand impressions of a soldier in contact - but that only makes it more authentic. 
Here is link to the original French if you want to double check. Article, <> 
( <> ) and here is English translation : 
"We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. 
To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events". Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company. 
They have a very strong American accent - the language they speak seems to be not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they themselves admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other. 
Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins at places like Waffle House and McDonalds - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans. 
Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the postage parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the heart of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. 
Each man knows he can count on the support of their whole people who provide them through the mail all the things that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. 
Every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention. 
And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seems to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. 
On the one square meter tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight focused in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump. 
And combat? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short. 
(This is the main area where I'd like to comment. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Kipling knows the lines from Chant Pagan: 'If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white/remember its ruin to run from a fight.  /So take open order, lie down, sit tight/And wait for supports like a soldier./ This, in fact, is the basic philosophy of both British and Continental soldiers. 'In the absence of orders, take a defensive position.' Indeed, virtually every army in the world. 
The American soldier and Marine, however, are imbued from early in their training with the ethos: In the Absence of Orders: Attack! Where other forces, for good or ill, will wait for precise orders and plans to respond to an attack or any other 'incident', the American force will simply go counting on firepower and SOP to carry the day. 
This is one of the great strengths of the American force in combat and it is something that even our closest allies, such as the Brits and Aussies (that latter being closer by the way) find repeatedly surprising. No wonder it surprises the hell out of our enemies!) 
We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe. 
To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America's army's deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owed this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers". 
      We have to remember that, when the Old Timers would go back to Normandy and travel through the countryside and small towns of the province of Brittany it was difficult for them to receive and accept all the free beer, food, back-slapping, tears of gratitude, kisses, hugs, wine, stories about interaction between the French people of that area and the GI's, etc.      The response of those people to the American presence and contribution seems to be genetically imprinted in perpetuity.

      It's a good day to be the Old Gringo, honorably discharged, USArmy  (even if the Yankees think they won the war).
 Thank everyone for their time and attention.