Saturday, May 19, 2007

I didn't get to meet General Petraeus

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, Commander of Multi National Forces—Iraq, gives a speech in honor of Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger. Photo by Caleb Schaber

It was one of those days where I was stuck in the florescent holding cell other wise known as the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in Baghdad's Green Zone. Occasionally they throw me a bone and let me go outside and play.

“Tomorrow, we are going to go to Camp Victory to see Command Sgt. Maj. Mellinger's Change of Responsibility Ceremony,” a Major at CPIC tells me.

I never heard of the guy and was not even aware what he did.

“You might get to talk to General Petraeus if you go,” he continued.

OK, I am in, I say and make plans to wake up at 0600 on a Saturday. We got to drive across Baghdad down what is termed "the most dangerous road in Iraq," in the daylight, to Camp Victory, which is sort of a death wish in retrospect. I put in my ear plugs, just in case we hit a IED or EFP in our armored bus.

We arrived late, which was bad all around. We had probably 20 journalists, mostly Iraqis, who had to scramble to put up their cameras. The ceremony had started when we walked in.

I tried to get some pictures and footage, but it was mostly a goatfuck, I had been to the Palace before, and I am allowed to walk around their unescorted. This time I was there I had to ask permission to move more than three feet and that really doesn't make me happy. I had a few Specialists giving me shit because I moved four feet and tried to get a picture. So I got another soldier that outranked that Specialist, who only outranks Privates, so I could do my job and take pictures.

After the Ceremony, General Petraeus walked by me but did not give us any interviews. We did, however, get to talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger.

For more information on Mellinger, I have another article I wrote.

I had asked several people I know if they had any questions for Petraeus. Starrman said: Ask him if he thinks a timetable for troop withdrawal would be a benefit or not.

Crow emailed me the following:

“You might ask him why he thinks so many soldiers and command staff that have formerly served there have made recommendations for withdrawal.”

“Another question might be whether the"surge" strategy was his recommendation to address the military situation there, or if the decision was made at another level. If it was his recommendation, was this influenced by political factors?”

And –W emailed me this: “Ask him if he can keep a straight face when listening to the civilian leadership of the war, and how he resists decking them when the opportunity arises.”

Well, those questions are left unanswered, of course I did ask a few to Mellinger. He said, for instance, in regards to Crow's first question about former military officials criticizing the war, that he didn't think that any of them had knowledge of Iraq and challenged me to give him a name so he could comment further. I didn't have one. You can see his reply in the video. If I get a chance to talk to Patraeus, I will try and find some answers to your questions. That is my job, you know.

It was an honor to meet both CSM Mellinger and CSM Hill. They are the representatives of the Non Commissioned Officers in this war and are both very down to earth men.

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