Centcom electronic media arranged for me to interview, via email, SFC Charles M. Grist to get his views on a variety of issues, the gem of a quote is in the title and it was his answer to my question about what he would say to the President of the United States of America.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles (Chuck) Grist is a Veteran of both the Vietnam war and of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Presently he is: Observer-Controller/Trainer, 3-347th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 87th Division TS (First Army); Mobilized (COTTAD) effective February 1, 2007.
Decorations, Service Medals, Badges
Bronze Star Medal
Army Commendation Medal (5 awards)
Air Medal (2 awards)
National Defense Service Medal (3 awards)
Combat Infantryman Badge (Vietnam)
Combat Action Badge (Iraq)
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Vietnam Service Ribbon
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device and numeral “3”
Overseas Service Ribbon
Humanitarian Service Medal (Hurricane Andrew)
Army Achievement Medal (2 awards)
NCO Professional Development Ribbon with numeral “3”
Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon (4 awards)
Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (3 awards)
Army Service Ribbon
In my mind, truly a hero who has given and continues to give, selflessly to our country.
First I would like to thank SFC Grist for his service and for this interview as well as a big thank you to Centcom for arranging this interview for me.
Spree: I understand from reading your own site that you are training military members that will soon be in the war zone, is that correct?
SFC Grist: Yes
Spree: What is the attitude of these men and women that you are training, regarding Iraq?
SFC Grist: Many are being deployed for the first time, but there are also quite a few who are returning for a second or third tour.
They are focused on their missions and the need to prepare physically and mentally to take care of each other.
They are motivated and determined to complete their mission.
Spree: How do you go about helping them prepare mentally for shipping out and into a battle zone?
SFC Grist: The soldiers among them who are experienced are the greatest assets. The newer soldiers depend on them for their expertise and their ability to prepare them for either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Those of us who are instructors have prepared the training to relate to the particular country in which they will serve. We use the current tactics, techniques and procedures of the enemy so that the soldiers can understand as closely as possible what to expect.
We also make ourselves available for "pep talks", counselling and helping to prepare them for the mental challenges of the battlefield.
Spree: These days, quite a bit of the American Public forget the Iraqi people are human beings, not just "the Iraqi's. Can you tell us your experinces with these people to bring them to life, so to speak, instead of just statistics?
SFC Grist: If you look at my blog, you will see a recent piece on the "Sergeant and the Shiites". It talks about an incident in which I visited with some Iraqis and came to know them as just regular guys.
During my tour in 2004, my job was to protect a civil affairs general who routinely dealt with civilian ministries and other civilian activities. During these encounters, my team and I had a great opportunity to meet Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. The greatest lesson I learned was that people everywhere want the same thing: to love their wives and children, provide them with a safe home, work a decent job that will support that family and to live in peace.
When I left Iraq, I left Iraqi friends behind, not just "Iraqis". These are people who thanked us for helping them and who cried real tears as we said goodbye.
I was saddened because I could return to a safe, peaceful country; my Iraqi friends had to remain at home to continue their fight for peace. There are millions of good and decent people in Iraq. We turned their world upside down by removing their leaders and dismantling their government. They deserve our help in making things work.
Spree: I also want to touch a bit on the politics that is happening in Congress at the moment. First: How do you feel about the "non binding" symbolic resolutions?
SFC Grist: I think its all political in nature and has no effect on the conduct of the war.
Spree: Do you agree with General Petraeus that these resolutions encourage the enemy?
SFC Grist: Absolutely. When the United States negotiated a "peace with honor" in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese only waited until we were gone before they unleashed their final assault on South Vietnam. The NVA outlasted the will of the American people. If we give up in Iraq or if we allow the insurgents to defeat us politically, the enemy (the fundamentalists throughout the world) will see this as proof that America can be beaten.
Spree: Do they demoralize our troops in any way?
SFC Grist: The soldiers are aware of the debate, but they are too busy taking care of each other. As the old saying goes, "There is no place for politics in a foxhole."
Soldiers are too involved in being warriors.
Spree: Please feel free to elaborate on your view of our politicians in regards to the war on terror?
SFC Grist: It is easy for some politicians to say now that they shouldn't have voted for the war. They have the luxury of sitting back and playing armchair generals.
They saw the same intelligence as the administration and they came to the same conclusion at the time. The fact that some of that intelligence was flawed is something that President Bush and his administration have to deal with. While I do not agree with all the decisions made in this war, I have never believed that the administration intentionally mislead anyone. There are no absolutes in war. Our intelligence was flawed prior to our defeat at Pearl Harbor.
Even General Eisenhower prepared for the possibility that the Normandy invasion would fail by preparing a speech for that possibility. War is fluid and ever-changing. Sometimes intelligence is good (remember we got Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq) and sometimes the intelligence is wrong.
Spree: What was your first reaction on 9/11 when you found out we had been attacked on our soil?
SFC Grist: I was a police detective standing in the Seminole County courthouse in Sanford, Florida, teaching a new detective how to get an arrest warrant issued.
The county employees came running out and said a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. My first thought was that a terrible accident had just taken place. Then the thought of terrorism flashed through my mind. By the time we returned to the police department, the second plane had struck and I knew then that the first war of the 21st century had begun.
Spree: Do you think it will happen again?
SFC Grist: Unfortunately, with everything being done by our intelligence community, such an attack will probably happen again, whether here or abroad.
We should be thankful for the efforts of the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities because they have kept the terrorists on the run since 9/11 and, so far,they have prevented another attack.
Spree: The Gathering of Eagles, along with Rolling Thunder, other military members, supporters and family, will all be gathering at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on March 17, 2007 to make sure that the anti-war protestors do not deface the wall and to show support for the troops overseas.
Will you be there? What do you think about that effort?
SFC Grist: I cannot be there because I am still involved in troop training. It is people like Rolling Thunder and the vast community of military supporters throughout America that warm the hearts of every veteran. I applaud their efforts and thank them for their support.
Spree: My next question is about the new coverage. What do you think of how the news covers Iraq?
SFC Grist: I think the media does not cover enough of the "good news" about the war: the schools and hospitals that receive our help, the millions of dollars spent throughout Iraq to better the lives of the Iraqi people or the individual acts of selflessness done each day by American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Another story from my blog tells about Sgt. Christopher Cummings who not only completed his regular tour, but spent his off-hours making prosthetic devices for Iraqis without arms or legs. Cummings also taught Iraqis at a local hospital how to make these devices, ensuring that his own expertise would continue after he left. These are the kind of stories that are not being told.
Spree: Do they accurately portray everything from what you have witnessed and are privvy to?
SFC Grist: Absolutely not. You can see many examples of this on my blog at www.AmericanRanger.blogspot.com.
Spree: What are your thoughts on the new security plan being implemented in Iraq at the moment?
SFC Grist: Time will tell, but I am a soldier and I must have faith in my leaders. Even so, I have heard nothing but good things from other soldiers about the new military leadership in Iraq and elsewhere.
Spree: In your personal opinion, having been there and in the position you are in now, do you believe that Iraq can be stabalized where it can sustain and defend itself and become a partner to fighting the war on terror?
SFC Grist: I believe that it can, but it will be up to the Iraqis to make it work. We can give them the tools, the training and the inspiration, but they are the only ones who will ultimately build the new Iraq. They are the ones who must decide to resolve the sectarian issues that continue to divide them.
Spree: If you could speak to Congress and the Senate right now, what would you say to them?
SFC Grist: The war in Iraq may or may not have been part of the original war on terror. It is now. The jihadists and Islamic fundamentalists have decided to make it the central battleground in their efforts to turn the world into a dismal and unforgiving place.
If we lose in Iraq, this brutal enemy will move their war into the streets of Europe, the Middle East and America. We must find them, kill them or bring them to justice. There must be no safe place for these animals anywhere on the face of the earth.
Spree: If you could speak to the President, what would you say to him?
SFC Grist: As an American warrior, I would say to any President: Send us to war to win or don't send us...
Spree: Is there anything you would like to say, in your own words that I have not covered here? If so: Please make whatever statement you would like, covering any area I have missed or did not ask you about and it will be printed in full.
SFC Grist: Whether you support the war or not, continue to support your soldiers. Each day they face a ruthless and determined enemy on your behalf. Do not ever confuse the war with the warrior. They are doing their jobs and doing them magnificently.
To those who are leading me and my fellow soldiers, I would ask that they not allow Pakistan, Iran or Syria to become the Laos and Cambodia of this war.
The North Vietnamese used those two countries to build training camps, store supplies and remain in safety. They were not called invaders, but when America decided to remove them, there were those who said America was the invader.
The Sunni insurgents and their camps are safe inside Syria; the Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army use safe areas in Iran; the Taliban and Al Qaeda sit peacefully in their camps in northwestern Pakistan. All these safe havens continue to produce new insurgents who are killing American soldiers.
These camps must be removed, one way or the other. We will never end these struggles as long as our enemy has a place to hide, train and rebuild.
Remember this quote from George Orwell: "War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil."
Spree: I would like to thank you very much for this interview, I find the American people like to hear from our troops and most importantly...THANK YOU for your service in protecting our rights and our country.
[End of interview].
I would encourage everyone to go to SFC Grist's website American Ranger and go through his posts. They are informative and gives us a wonderful perspective.
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