This post first appeared on the LA Daily News' Friendly Fire Blog. I've re-posted it here for reasons that will be self explanatory. -RCJP
If you want to burst the enthusiasm of soldiers in Iraq, few words can do it like these two: Commo Blackout.
It means two very significant things, and, in the death-as-commodity environment of Baghdad that I knew in 2005, it was hard to judge which was worse. On the one hand, it meant all instant communication with the outside world was cut off. No Internet, no phones. Mail was delivered, but it took days any way.
The other thing it meant was that somebody was dead, or pretty close to it. Commo Blackout is the Army's way of keeping parents and spouses from being informed of a soldier's death by a passing comment in a grocery store, or via a reporter arriving at a door step ahead of the Notification Team.
There's a lot just about any Joe can complain about with regard to the Green Machine, but the dedication to supporting families is not really one of them. They honestly do the best they can, and inconveniencing troops for a couple of days so the most solemn ceremonies can be conducted as best possible is not even a question.
Of course, as soldiers, when you've survived another day, it's hard not to curse at prety much all involved when you walk to the phone trailer and find a scribbled note on the door, one that effectively says: "you're wife's just gonna have to wonder if you're alive, 'cause somebody else's is about to find out that her husband ain't."
I bring this up because an interesting trend has recently developed on my personal blog, Reasons to Believe. I've been posting a lot there lately, because over in the other Valley, my little town of Monrovia has been having a gang war in recent days. Certainly nothing akin to Baghdad, but enough to give me strange tickles, and make sure the personal protective systems for my family are in full working order, just like I would before a patrol in combat.
Anyway, while the traffic for my blog has spiked significantly, I've been getting a lot of referrals from Google, many of which are searches for those same two words. They all lead to this post: Things That Go Boom, Things That Do Not.
Now, two years seperated from the war zone, my heart sinks at that thought. Somewhere, somebody is getting the worst news possible. Somewhere not far away, someone else thinks she might. At some Army post in the south, or maybe Texas, a new bride who goes to bed worried each night hasn't heard from the love of her life for a week. Her nervous query has been met with a polite, stilted re-assurance from the head of the Family Readiness Group, "ah, don't worry, they're probably on a Commo Blackout." Knowing she already asks enough silly questions about the strange system in which she finds herself, she decides to figure that one out on her own.
My post, I assure you, supplies no solace.
I wonder if her silent world will awaken with a ring of the phone. Or, a knock at her door.