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War stories: You need to be able to recognize BS (addendum & update)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, July 19, 2007

One of the things that, for whatever reason, seem to come out of any conflict are BS stories that those with little or no experience in or with the military are prone to believe, a) because they don't know any better and b) because, in some cases, they want too.

Brian Faughnan, of the Weekly Standard, sent an email around highlighting a story in The New Republic, entitled "Shock Troops" which supposedly details true events within the unit in which the author serves. Naturally, the author's name is a pseudonym so he won't get in trouble with his chain-of-command. The stories he relates, however, just don't ring true. Let me share them with you. Story 1:


My first and only reaction to this was "oh, that's just pure BS".

A) no one would make fun of, say a severely injured or disfigured soldier. So note the fact that it is conveniently a contractor. B) a man in that situation would have probably decked the loud-mouthed provocateur, so the victim is conveniently a female. C) there isn't an officer or NCO worth their salt who would have allowed such an incident to get past the third line before that soldier would have been physically removed from the mess hall.

Or, as one active duty vet commented at Blackfive:
Ridiculing an IED victim in front of them and NOT getting their ass stomped into a mudhole and walked dry immediately? c'mon, not likely.
And an Army officer serving on the FOB in questions reports:
In the 11 months I've been here I've never once seen a female contractor with a burned face. In a compact place like this with only one mess hall I or one of my guys would certainly have noticed someone like that. There are a few female contractors, I think maybe a dozen, but none fit the horrific description given in that article. Further, I've personally seen guys threatened with severe physical harm for making jokes of any kind about IED victims given the number of casualties all the units on this FOB have sustained. It is not a subject we take lightly. Gallows humor jokes do get told, but extremely seldom and never about anyone they actually know or are in the presence of.
Got it? Story one: BS.

Story 2:


Again, you're asked to believe that a bunch of privates or at least low ranking enlisted, are out by themselves without NCO or officer supervision and are allowed to romp through a mass grave and play with the body parts of children. If you believe that, then I can only say you want too. This is pure fantasyland. Most officers and NCOs are family men who have children. Do you suppose they'd sit still for a minute and allow some idiot to prance around with a child's skull on his head?

Same officer from the same FOB where the author is supposedly serving:
Given the friends in the S-2 shop of my battalion and how often I talk to them about what's going on in our AO and AI I can also tell you no reports whatsoever have been sent up - or down from MNCI - about a mass grave of any kind. We find bodies all the time, sure, but graves? None.
Story 2? BS.

Story 3:


Again we have a lower ranking enlisted man who has complete and utter control of his vehicle, driving carelessly on multiple occasions, without any NCO or officer stopping him. In a word, nonsense. Secondly, as Blackfive notes:
Another states that the driver in the article would have been beaten by his own troops for putting them in danger of IEDs.
And, again quoting the officer at FOB Falcon:
The part about running over the dog, in my opinion, is somewhat plausible, but I doubt the PL or CO of that individual would let them do it more than once if they valued the lives of their men at all. The vehicles we drive are all top heavy and violent swerving to hit a dog is not advisable.
And then there's that little problem of the bad guys hiding IEDs in the bodies of dead animals to contend with. Again, troops in combat areas don't screw around with their lives to do dumb-ass things like this and, as the one said, if this idiot had kept it up, his own buddies would have held the equivalent of the old "blanket party" for him to make their point.

Story 3? BS.

Of course if you want to believe them and have no real context or experience with which to sort through this type of nonsense, these just become examples of what you expected in the first place. You probably thought "Platoon" was real too.

This joker who's writing for TNR is writing trash for the crowd that wants this sort of crap to be true. The good news is, this isn't 1969 and he can't throw his garbage out there and expect it to go unchallenged. Another reason why I love the New Media and thank goodness for Milblogs.

Addendum: I was thinking about this as I sweat my rear off mowing the lawn the last couple of hours.

These sorts of stories have been around since armies have existed. But in reality, they're no different from urban legends. For instance the story about the one-armed man with a hook for a hand who killed lovers on lover's lane. As the story goes, a couple heard a noise, immediately started the car and took off. When they stopped, the driver looked up and there hanging on the window was a hook.

When I was younger I heard that very same story about Skyline Drive which was the "lover's lane" in my hometown. It went from a general legend to a specific place. Of coure when challenged the teller said it happened a long time ago, the police had kept it quiet and the people who it happened too had moved away. Funny how that works.

Within the military these stories circulate among a certain type. Usually they're lower level enlisted as well as guys who are in MOSs which don't see much of what really goes on beyond the wire. In VN they were called REMFs. Since there are no real rear areas (except Kuwait, I guess) I'm not sure what these folks are called but let's just leave it at more susceptible to believing fantastic stories like this (mainly because they have no idea how these things would really go down if true). There's also the need among some of them to impress others. And they mistakenly attribute being jaded, cruel and brutal with being brave. Somehow they think that these stories make them look tough and demonstrate how casually they handle the concept of life and death. So they internalize these stories and make them personal. They go from being "Hey, this is no BS, I heard ..." stories to "Hey, this is no BS, I was there ..." stories.

But with most of them, their lack of experience in situations like that and thus their belief that these are plausible stories, have them retell them and, as I've said, make them first person. But usually they tell them among a group just like themselves, who have no more of a real frame of reference than they do, or to civilians who have none. If you think about it that's precisely what Jesse MacBeth did. He was fine as long as he was telling his BS stories to that select group, but when he elevated it to where people who would know better saw his little song and dance, the giant BS flag was hoisted.

I think that's precisely what has happened here. I'm going to be interested to follow this one.

UPDATE: Michael Goldfarb updates the story with reactions and other blogs coving this. Some very good points made on some of the other blogs.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Good work.

People need to rebut this crap. It’s John Kerry comparing our troops to Ghenghis Khan all over again. No more Winter Soldier lies!

The leftist media are trying to destroy America’s faith in the military just as they did in Vietnam, but fortunately all they’ve done so far this time is destroy American trust in the media, thanks at least partly to the work of blogs in exposing the truth.
Written By: TallDave
What’s more, this kind of garbage usually originates with media that will not show the photos of the Fallujah contractors hanging from the bridge, Daniel Pearl, WTC and 911 photos because is might be prejudicial to the perpetrators. But malign the U.S. military—by all means.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
Personally I find the third story even more ridiculous than you make it out to be. As callous and insensitive as you want to imagine our soldiers to be, we’re talking about helpless animals that the vast majority of families in this country keep as pets. One particular driver of a Bradley ? Maybe. One in which the entire crew would take delight in repeatedly killing family pets ? Preposterous.

All you need to know about the plausibility of this story can be found in the reaction people are having to Mike Vick. People love dogs. There is no way in hell that took place. None. Zero.
Written By: deadrody
URL: http://
Which is to say nothing of the liklihood that a Bradley could be more nimble than a dog or sneak up on one sleeping in the road. You would be hardpressed to do that with a car, let alone a very large, very heavy, very loud armored vehicle.

The entire thing is disgusting fiction.
Written By: deadrody
URL: http://
But some people eat this stuff up. Mmmmmm. Good.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Come on, Glasnost and Erb... Tell us how you knew this sort of thing happened, how this is proof of the eeeeeevils of this country and it’s military...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
McQ, why work that hard? Just point out that no specific units were mentioned, no names given, no dates given. This is just rank gossip-mongering, with details thrown in "for vermismilitude" as the old saying goes.

As for REMFs, that may still be in use, but the more common term in Iraq is fobbit, derived from "one who never emerges from their burrow in a forward operating base."

Written By: Casey Tompkins
McQ, why work that hard? Just point out that no specific units were mentioned, no names given, no dates given. This is just rank gossip-mongering, with details thrown in "for vermismilitude" as the old saying goes.
Because, as I mentioned, the author is anonymous to us, but TNR knows who he is, who the unit is, etc. So the implication is this is all true ... that’s why.
Written By: McQ
" Most officers and NCOs are family men who have children. Do you suppose they’d sit still for a minute and allow some idiot to prance around with a child’s skull on his head?"

I know it is an oversight that you didn’t mention that most enlisted, many of whom also have children, also would not put up with that.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"I’m going to be interested to follow this one."

Good luck falling down the memory hole, McQ, because that’s exactly where you’re going. The slime is out there for the bottom-feeders of the left, and nothing you say will change the fact that TNR knows - dammit, they’re The New Freakin’ Rebublic, you Jeebus freak homophobe Rethuglikkan! - that our military is composed of BushBot baby-killing Jinjis-Khan bloodthirsty poverty level freaks.

Fake But Accurate. It’s not just for CBS anymore.
Written By: Christopher
URL: http://
Fake But Accurate. It’s not just for CBS anymore
Or the BBC!
Written By: meagain
URL: http://

Story 1 - It ain’t a ’chow hall’ in the Army. It’s a D-Fac (dining facility) or for old farts like me a mess hall. Poser.

Story 2 - The word Helmet isn’t used much any more. The common term today is Kevlar. If you have worn one, you know there ain’t nothing fitting on top of your head. The Kevlar has a crown web inside to support and spread the weight of the helmet over your entire head. Anything in it, especially pointy things like teeth, would focus the entire weight onto one point of your cranium. Painful for long time wear. Poser.

Story 3 - You already mentioned the bad guys hiding IEDs in dead animals. How, exactly, does a sleeping dog look different than a dead one? Running over one, stupid, and does not lead to a long life. I have chased coyotes in a Hummer (non-armored) and you ain’t catching one, let alone getting close enough to run one over. Heck, I chased Jackrabbits on a motorcycle and ain’t nobody running one over. Poser.

This is winter soldier and Mr. Kerry again.

Written By: Mike
URL: http://
The replacement for REMF is ’fobbit,’ referring to those soldiers who never leave the FOB.

Not endorsing it, just pointing it out for your information.
Written By: Andrew
URL: http://
Thanks Andrew ... stay safe and send us links to your Denver Post columns.
Written By: McQ
This is clearly the delirious wetdream of a FOB-dwelling private. A pogue.

"Pogue" is the term for non-combat arms soldiers.

My dad called them REMFs, we call them fobbits: it’s someone who never leaves the wire. We call them FOBs, he called them firebases..... The more things change...
Written By: J
URL: http://
I’m sure you must be right. There’s no way a bradley could kill a dog. Our soldiers, kill poor little doggy? No way..
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs
Retief concentrates on the dog thing, while completely ignoring that a Bradley would be in extreme danger of throwing a track hitting concrete barriers and buildings.
(This is forgetting the fact that, while moving, a Bradley is almost - but not quite - as finely maneuverable as a semi towing a double-wide, swerving to hit dogs is not quite impossible, but the rest of the crew would string you up for trying after they finish cursing from all the bruises.)

Anyone driving a Bradley in that fashion more than once (maybe twice if his NCO thinks the royal a**-chewing he got from the first time straightened him out) would likely be yanked from his seat, given administrative punishment, and spend the rest of his enlistment as an E-2 cracking track before his CO writes the fateful words: Not Recommended for Re-Enlistment in his record and he gets his General Discharge.

F***ing off is one thing, everyone in uniform has some method of f***ing off. F***ing with the equipment you and your buddies depend on to keep you alive while on patrol is something quite different, and it is not even tolerated a little bit.
Written By: Brian Epps
There’s no way a bradley could kill a dog.
You can’t be serious. You want to compare a stationary car with a living dog?
Our soldiers, kill poor little doggy? No way
Let’s link to soldiers killing a stray dog that could be used as a booby trap, and soldiers burning a dead dog that could be used to hide an IED. Those bastards!

Also, did you notice that the soldiers didn’t want to get close to the live dogs? Why is that, do you think?

Retief — you’re an idiot.
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
JWG are you asking for more video of soldiers shooting dogs pointlessly? Really? Here you go. Go look at the Iraq page on live leak and you’ll find plenty of shots of soldiers playing with Iraqi dogs too. And plenty of erratic driving.

Brian Epps, if our Bradleys are so delicate that they can’t safely drive over a curb, we really are up a creek.
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
JWG are you asking for more video of soldiers shooting dogs pointlessly? Really? Here you go.
Pointlessly? Shooting a dog that appears to be a stray in a war zone is pointless? Idiot.
if our Bradleys are so delicate that they can’t safely drive over a curb
Are you trying to act like Erb now? The fact that you substitute a concrete barrier with a curb verifies your stupidity (or maybe I should say "Erbidity").

Nice work.
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
"Brian Epps, if our Bradleys are so delicate that they can’t safely drive over a curb, we really are up a creek."

I would bet good money that you have absolutely no experience with tracked vehicles.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

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