A solider friend from Iraq

I had a friend over the other day for a few hours. He's a soldier in the Australian Army and was deployed in Iraq recently. I'll just summarise the salient points:

  • He wasn't deployed as an infantryman, which means that he did not see any combat at all. His role did take him near a combat zone, and shots were fired in his direction, but that was about as bad as it got for him.
  • He found the American soldiers to be very polite, calling him "sir" (not in terms of rank but as a way of being polite).
  • Morale amongst Australian troops is good. Aussie troops don't really discuss the issue of the war's morality and just get on with their job.
  • Morale amongst American troops is mixed. In some places it is fine, in other places it is not. Public opposition to the war is having an effect on many of these soldiers.
  • American soldiers do not seem as "professional" in their weapons handling. He once had to instruct an American Major on how to clear her M4 carbine. In the process of clearing her weapon he noticed sand falling out of the barrel.
  • The Steyr AUG used by Australian troops is not suitable to use in a desert environment. It dusts up too easily. Most Aussie infantrymen want M4s.
  • British troops complain that American troops think they're Australians.
  • He had heard about the Blackwater Baghdad shootings. He says that most of the guys who work as private contractors are "cowboys" and "wankers" who go on about how good they are. He did meet some decent ones though.
  • Many non combat troops do not wear uniforms in public.
  • No amount of training can ever prepare a soldier for real combat. Basic training and exercises, while important, cannot reproduce real combat experience.
  • He found his deployment wonderful and would do it again.

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