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Help the little guy

"Help the little guy" Continued...

Issue: "Big bucks ministries," July 28, 2007

The next day, following a long patrol which ended after midnight in roasting 120-degree heat inside a tank, the lieutenant got a summons from his superiors: Why had his soldiers removed their body armor during the patrol? Once safe, the troops did so for some brief relief from the heat, the lieutenant explained. But how did the brigade know about them removing the armor at all, he asked?

"The UAV operators told the watch officer. The watch officer told the brigade deputy commander," was the answer. In other words, the brigade used the same UAV they had denied the tank company to help kill insurgents to spy on its troops instead.

Such petty turf wars are frustrating troops-and Egland. "'You don't tell us what you need, we tell you what you will do,'" he said. "That's the mindset." Now the deadly Iranian weapons, once mostly concentrated in one area, have spread all over Iraq.

Another case of inertia involved denying powerful green hand-held lasers to troops manning checkpoints. They can shine the lasers at the windshield of an oncoming car, stopping its driver, and can thus avoid firing on innocent civilians who mistakenly run the checkpoint. One high-profile tragedy could have been prevented, Egland says, two years ago when a car carrying an Italian journalist on its way to Baghdad's airport did not stop, and troops opened fire, killing the driver.

Though several units began requesting the lasers, Egland wrote, the army took six months to deliberate and then declined because the lasers were not "eye-safe"-that is, they could cause damage if aimed for long periods directly at the eye. "The safety officials debated as if the alternative to the laser pointer, a slug from an M-16 rifle or .50 caliber machine gun fired into a car approaching a checkpoint too quickly, could not cause damage."

Ideally, Egland wants intelligence and ideas filtering up from combat troops, not trickling down. That is opposite to how the military works now, but he hopes to make some inroads-and says Petraeus understands the need to change.

For now, Egland will stick to volunteering for Troops Need You. That's hard to do juggling work and family responsibilities-he is a father of two sons, a 21-month-old and a 5-month-old-but he is used to slim possibilities.

Three years ago, on a mission in Afghanistan, he bought a blue sapphire engagement ring for his future fiancée-when he did not even have a girlfriend. Weeks later, he met his wife Ania through a Christian dating site in California. Five days later he proposed.

Now Egland does not mind volunteering with no pay for Troops Need You. He is tens of thousands of dollars in debt at the moment-his book has sold about 2,000 copies-but he has a purpose. "It's all right, man," he said. "We need to win in Iraq. I want to be able to look back and say, 'I did everything I could to win.'"

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