During the summer of 2005, Sergeant Millard, who served as an assistant to a general in Tikrit, attended a briefing on a checkpoint shooting, at which his role was to flip PowerPoint slides.The audio from WSI repeats the story, although it omits the 18 year age and adds the names of the general and colonel. Eight seconds of Millard's testimony in which he quoted the colonel about "hajis" has also been erased from the War Comes Home audio. However, Veterans for Peace reported it as others heard it on the live broadcast and recorded it.
“This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun,” he said. “This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that’s a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3. And they briefed this to the general. And they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, ‘If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn’t happen.’”
Last July, SFC Jeff Nuding, who is proprietor of Dadmanly milblog, wrote a deconstruction of Millard's story based upon it being written in The Nation, that is more than worth the read:
I can’t dismiss the anti-war voices in The Nation piece, but I can quickly surmise that many of the soldiers interviewed are anti-war careerists, who have attached themselves to groups like Code Pink or Iraqi Veterans Against the War (IVAW). I can also state with absolute conviction that among those who make the most damning assertions about US military conduct have no first hand basis for their assertions.
Sergeant Geoffrey Millard is one such soldier who makes claims beyond his experience in The Nation piece. Millard was assigned to the Rear Operations Center (ROC), 42nd Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Speicher in Tikrit. I also served with the 42nd, I am familiar with the ROC at Speicher, and know two officers who served in the ROC during the same period as Millard, one of whom I would say I have a casual acquaintance (and great respect). I served as his First Sergeant for a brief period when he was the HHC Commander.
After redeployment, I had a chance to get reacquainted with spent some time explaining to me what his section did, how they interacted with the Division HQ and the other 42nd ID Commands. Among other duties, the ROC tracked the convoys that exited and/or entered the FOB. Their mission included the tracking of IEDs and VBIEDs in the Area of Operations, supervising the proper submission and quality control of convoy paperwork – there’s always paperwork for everything -- and keeping command and staff informed of recent trends, updated threat assessments, and so forth. SGT Millard served as a staff NCO in an administrative section in the rear – what combat soldiers would correctly (if harshly) ridicule as a “Fobbit.” (I was a Fobbit too, though I complete about a dozen convoys off the FOB.)
In The Nation piece, Millard even reinforces the obvious distance from which he offers criticism of our military, as the “clicker” for a Command Powerpoint presentation on an unfortunate checkpoint shooting of a family. His beef in that instance? That a Colonel, briefing staff officers and commanders at what sounds to be like a weekly Commander’s brief, made the comment that “If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn’t happen.”
If that passes for scandal to anti-war types, we’ve come quite a ways from My Li.
Based on what I know of the 42nd in Tikrit and our Command structure, the Colonel Millard uses as example for US military callousness is likely a Brigade Commander, most probably from Artillery or one of the Infantry Brigades. These were some no sh**, can the nicety type commanders. But discipline is discipline, they knew the public relations and “hearts and minds” importance of their missions, and took extraordinary effort to prevent the kinds of unfortunately incident briefed in Millard’s powerpoint slides. The fact itself that they briefed the incident in detail speaks volumes about how important the command viewed these setbacks, as setbacks, to be avoided however possible.
What Millard didn’t add to this little anecdote was what happened next, based on this incident and others like it in theater: revised Rules of Engagement, follow-up training and briefings by Commanders and NCOs, and changes in procedures for Convoy drivers, truck commanders (TCs), and gunners. I know, because our guys bitched like hell every time some incident or another caused yet another command directive: Wave them off (or for a while, throw small stones at windshields), point the barrel of the M2 at them, and lastly, fire a warning shot on the pavement in front of the vehicle.
Sometimes that meant the round glanced back into the engine block, disabling the vehicle entirely – not good, now you have a broken down vehicle in your way – or even into the vehicle and causing injuries to driver or passengers.
Iraqi drivers obey a coda of traffic laws known only unto themselves, if at all, in peacetime. Adding the stresses and threats of insurgents,
and Coalition Military, Iraqi Army, and Iraqi Police into the mix, they only get worse. So yes, for local commanders, if the locals would exercise a little more care and prudence, Commanders at all levels wouldn’t have any such incidents for which soldier correction would be required. VBIEDS, US
Just as at our FOB (Danger) down the road about 20 kilometers, FOB Speicher received its share of mortar and rocket attacks, the overwhelming majority of which were completely ineffective without causing any injuries. Yet SGT Millard, endearing himself to his anti-war audiences, makes it out like some Vietnam redux, only worse, with “pops of machine gun fire and the bangs of mortar rounds exploding all hours of the day and night.”
Our FOB was tiny in comparison to the square mileage of Speicher, so the net effect of any rounds impacting this great big patch of desert with great amounts of open space had to be even less intimidating.
Look, we had soldiers who were spooked by what little we experienced at Danger. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting poor Millard can’t be suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) -- if not from close physical contact with Cindy Sheehan, then from whatever he witnessed at Speicher (or was told about, or heard about in FOB gossip). But I would bet a month’s wages that, pressed top back up his claims, Millard like most of the other voices The Nation selected, they “heard about this kind of sh** from lots of guys.” (Especially after making themselves celebrities in the anti-war industry.)
Read it all.
For an interesting on-line discussion between Sgt Geoff Millard and a SFC Holmes who served with him, go here and scroll down.