Sunday, January 29, 2017

Introducing Mitch Utterback - Former SF Officer and War Reporter

I'd like to introduce a good friend, and former team-mate Mitch Utterback. We served together in Iraq during the period this blog was interesting. Mitch has just returned from the front-lines of Mosul after being embedded with some of the very units he helped advise.

If you're interested in seeing what's really going on, keep your eye on Mitch - where other reporters simply reprint hearsay and misrepresentations, I think we'll be seeing a lot of on the ground reporting from a guy who knows what it's like to be in combat.

Nuff said, check him out in his own words, and follow him below:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catching up

I had lunch with my old Team Sergeant this week. It was good to see him and we spent a good deal of time discussing where everyone was and what they were up to. Some times I really miss the camaraderie and all the cool stuff like jumping out of planes and shooting shit.

When he told me about all crap he was dealing with though I remembered why I'm out. I think there is something fundamental wrong and broken in the Officer/Enlisted class structure, but I don't really have a recommendation to fix it.

Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and it will be the 5th anniversary of the day we got on a plane in Baghdad and left Iraq. I thought this year I would finally get to writing about the Battle of Basrah (or BOB as we affectionately called it), but I guess it was too soon.

The following is the last entry from my journal while in country, and nicely illustrates the kind of characters we had on our team.

Word comes at 0730 that we are supposed to be SUPCEN at 1000. We are all on the bus, in uniform, at the same time as our morning meeting. Smith comes be-bopping over in PTs and our Team Sergeant flys off the bus to intercept him. We can't hear the dialogue but there is a lot of animated hand waving and we can see Rod's forehead getting red. But Smith is used to this and he is back in less then 5 mikes and in uniform. Rob, our jester provides a voice over of the conversation from the bus and has us all cracking up - “Don’t be mad at me for being 10 minutes early to the meeting!"

Friday, March 22, 2013

The B Team

The following is a concept pitch I was working on with a publisher, but it went nowhere so I am just going to put it out there for your enjoyment. This is a work of fiction.

The scene opens with the team’s convoy of vehicles under heavy machine gun and RPG fire, driving at full speed through the streets of Basra during the Battle of Basra 2008. Three American Humvees with their Iraqi partners in Chevy pickups bear down on an insurgent safe house, fighting their way thru the burnt out buildings and wrecks of Iraqi vehicles. Winding their way thru the battle-scarred streets they find their target – the convoy splits and forms a perimeter that nothing can escape, everything trying to get in or out gets killed. As the insurgents frantically call for help on their Motorola, the Iraqi paramilitary troops – the “Black Scorpions” – along with their American Advisors, burst through the door, taking out the security, racing thru the house to clear it of fighters. The Americans with them begin looking thru the house, looking for any sign of the insurgent leader. There is shouting everywhere, somewhere in the house a woman is wailing, and the acrid smoke from the gunfire hangs in the air. Outside, forces are on the move trying to surround this small band of men, but they have hit too hard and too fast, the insurgents were not ready and as the first elements engage the cordon of vehicles, a newly trained Iraqi Private is following a trail of blood upstairs and into the room where the women are. Realizing it leads behind a cabinet, he quickly shouts out in Arabic, “ihna, ihna, ta’al inha!” and men quickly pour into the room. The lone American with them says something in Arabic and two Iraqis pull back the cabinet to reveal a cutout and the murderous leader hiding, in woman’s dress and crying, as he is thrown to the floor and cuffed. Cut to the front of the building as he is rushed out and pushed into a waiting Humvee. In perfect coordination the vehicles move out of the cordon and into convoy at full speed, just as more fighters are arriving only to be cut down by the steady, melodic rupture of the 3 .50 caliber machine guns on the American vehicles...

12 months earlier, as the sun rises across the edge of the Great Plains an unlikely group of warriors gather in the shadow of Pikes Peak. Their silence and hard stares are punctuated by the vapor of their breath and the occasional shuffle of feet on the dew dressed grass of Fort Carson. Strangers with little trust for each other, this group of mis-fits and stone-cold killers could little expect that they would play a pivotal role in the battle for legitimacy of the struggling Iraqi Government.

Over the next year as they face trial and misfortune, they slowly come together, take what was looked upon by others as the worst mission on the deployment and throw themselves into showing all their doubters that they had the goods, and along the way turned the regional Iraqi SWAT team into a critical element in the fight for Iraq’s future.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update and such

Well it has been a long time old friends. After getting prodded, cajoled, threatened, etc I am going to try to get to this a little more often. More often than never I suppose is setting a low bar for myself, but what the hell it's my blog.

For anyone who is interested, things have been pleasantly normal for the most part. I have had a few health problems not least of the shoulder for which I had surgery in 2008, but most of you already new that. I have also been diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease from what I can only guess was expose to all the crap in the air in Iraq. Sounds worse than it is and seems easily treatable. I also came down with some bad abdominal issues late last year - I had been having some trouble during Iraq and upon my return, but then I also had to go to India for work about a month before things got really bad.

So after a long slog and nothing clear coming from any of the tests, the docs says I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nice, what part of me isn't irritable? No matter. Enough blabber, next up I am going to work a little humor related to my Bosnia tour. I figure I few posts on that shitshow should warm me up for some Iraq stories. And I'll trust CI Roller will keep me honest about it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gathering Storm 2008

February - March 2008, Basra, Iraq - news headlines that didn't get much coverage until after the fact.

- Growing violence in Basra, security situation in question.

- Criminal gangs taking control of commerce in port city.

- British forces deny increase in violence.

- Iraqi police in Basra rumored to be told to "stay in barracks" by militia.

- Women in Basra beheaded for "immodesty" for not wearing hijab.

- Children playing soccer executed for "playing games of the infidel."

- Street markets empty, people fearful of going out.

While pressure built on Prime Minister al-Maliki to act to contain the violence, the British operation in Iraq since PM Blair left office amounted to little but a PR operation to hide the fact that they had failed the people of Basra. Moving the British draw-down forward was a critical political consideration in London, and so Coalition forces tried hard to avoid having to act.

The factions took over entire units of the police force, and maneuvered their members into key positions in the government and state-run Southern Oil Co. Some also beat and killed unveiled women in a city once regarded as a liberal, intellectual center. And all are implicated in smuggling millions of dollars' worth of oil, while the city is bereft of basic services such as electricity and clean water.

The vicious rivalry has resulted in periodic gunfights. But British officials say 90% of the violence is directed against them.

That, they argue, is the key difference between Basra and Baghdad. If British troops were taken out, what would be left is a mafia-style conflict for economic and political leverage, rather than the sectarian killing that is tearing Baghdad and other areas.

"This is Palermo, not Beirut," said one senior British officer, who asked not to be identified.
The clouds had gathered and were heavy with vengeance and anger. The storm was about to break and rain down hell on the city of Basra, as it's people huddle in their homes and begged for someone to help them......

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Infidels - Whoomp

This Easter I am quite happy to be at home for a quiet day with the wife and kids. Last Easter was very different, and it was the start of a series of events that led to a big drop off in my writing. Actually, it all begins a few days before Easter, but that will wait, because since it is Easter I want to recount what it was like for us last year.

We had recently made a big capture and a significant haul in XXXX[insurgent group] ordinance to include rockets, mortars, ammo, etc. - but the real shocker was the plates and explosives to make over 200 EFPs. This was a major blow and threatened to undo a lot of back-channel bridge building that we had been working on for months. But our message was clear - come into the open and join the political process, or we will continue to support and encourage Iraqi Forces to hammer you. Losing the EFPs was really bad for XXXX[insurgent group], because they were provided by Iran, and losing them means answer to their Iranian masters.

But more later, the point for this story is we had surprised them, and there had been no response. Odd really, because they usually made a show of tit-for-tat. Our catch was a big deal on our side, so much so that we were responding to RFIs from Gen P, plus having to deal with all the fighting over who should get credit for the intel, for the catch, etc. Fact is we were happy to let our conventional Brothers take as much credit as they wanted, the real issue was ensuring our Iraqis got credit so that we could boost their profile and get them more funding.

Quick backstory - the MOI felt that the unit we were training was too politically independent, too close to the Americans, and they didn't like the outspoken General in command. The Ministry had been trying to starve them of beans and bullets to make them complie. Our hope was to get them enough, what I call fuck you money, and top-line press coverage that the GOI would be forced into better support.

So what did this mean for your faithful correspondent? Lots of fucking paperwork, RFIs from Group, RFIs from the Iraqis, RFIs for the 101st, RFIs from the S2 who was blind to our original reasons for the mission. And several, shall we say, "sit-downs" in the family style, with CO over just exactly where did I get my info.

From my journal entry of that day:

23 MAR 2008 - Easter
There has been quite a bit of interest in the HVI and I spend most of the day trying to get back to people and tie different threads together, go thru his XXXX, DOCEX and such. I spent hours answering RFI from people I couldn't get to return my e-mails putting this all together, and now everyone is trying to either cover their fourth point of contact, or claim it was their idea. Ugggghh, I need to lie down because I have a massive headache and am tired.
I was in my rack about 45 minutes, I was in that nether state between wake and sleep when


a concussion I more felt than heard jarred me up and I was on feet and moving before my concious mind was able to catch with what was going on.


These coming in close to each other, usually it was a WHOOMP......WHOOMP.....WHOOMP, you could almost picture the hajji dropping one, grabbing another, holding....drop, WHOOMP. But there are at least two tubes firing, I can't see a damn thing, but I know my route well by now. I peer in the bunker -


- damn it there must be three tubes firing. Some of the guys are in there, the Capt'n and my Linguist. "Terp M", as we called him, is already on the phone - I think to myself he's come a long way. He finally realizes I need him talking to people right away instead of running around like a .. well you get it.


God damn, these guys staying out there, I hope there's some birds in the area to smoke 'em. Usually these pop a few and run so we can't a fix, but these coming consistently, the TOC's gotta have a fix on 'em.


Shit, these sound closer than usual (they weren't - it turned out they firing 81mm at us instead of the 60mm they usually did). Capt'n - "GOD DAMN, SOMEBODY WANTS TO KIIILL ME!!!!" We can't help but laugh. The barrage went on for a long time, turned out not be the only one in Iraq at the moment, but we did get hit with the most, and for a tiny little firebase - it was a significant message that they pissed the fuck off....and they were only getting started.

We found out later that at almost the same moment, the Green Zone was getting well wishes from Iran.

Happy Easter Infidel.