E-mailed NOV 04, FOB Marez, Mosul

Shamrocks and Buddhas and saints. Oh, my.

Dog tag chains are loaded down with tokens of safety and home, despite regs and policies forbidding anything but the issued tags showing name, SSN[1], blood type and religious preference. Plus an Army Values tag, but I never meet anyone who wears that, just as I rarely meet a soldier who hasn’t successfully internalized basic ethics and honorable behavior.

My personal necklace includes a blue, bone-shaped aluminum tag, extruded by a PetSmart kiosk with my dear wife’s address and phone number on it. It rides there because I trust my immediate posterity to those around me in this detachment—and nobody else. They’ll get the word through, if it comes to that.

My chain is also strung through a small, enameled medallion that was given me by the 7th POG[2] commander, Colonel Larsen, on the Green Ramp at Fort Bragg. It is inscribed on one side with the names of the Seventh’s battalions, and on the other with a rendering of a musical angel and the words “Archangel Gabriel Patron of PSYOP Soldiers Protect Us.”

PSYOPers have our own patron saint!  Isn’t Gabriel the guy with the big horn?  Apropos, that is.

I am not Catholic. But if I hadn’t run out of them (after forgetting to pick one up for the LT), I would also have the signet pendant distributed by the USACAPOC[3] Chaplain, a specialized rendition of the patron saint of paratroopers. “Saint Christopher (please, if you’re not too busy) Protect Us” (even if you didn’t make the canonical cut).

Said CAPOC Chaplain also made the rounds at Green Ramp while we were waiting for our C17, where it was impossible not to notice that he is kind of a badass. A six mile-a-day runner, six-foot-three or so with a bullet head and cannonball shoulders, he wears both an army Special Forces tab and a navy SEAL[4] qualification badge. And he’s a full colonel. Remarkable what you can accomplish with God on your side. And if you don’t believe that, you argue with him; I’ll take a pass.

The inside of our vehicle, an M1114 “up-armor” HMMWV, is a veritable jeepney junkyard of colorful offerings and tokens, a rolling fortress of ecumenicalism. Onward, Christian soldiers, Buddhist brothers, Celtic cousins!

We have a laminated shamrock in the window, rosary beads by the radio stack. There are Chinese Buddhist charms sprinkled around my TC’s seat, courtesy of my dear wife and her faithful sister, and Thai Buddhist talismans fluttering in the hot, dusty wind around SGT Bannock’s gunner hatch.

Bibliologically speaking, we have a small New Testament that holds my gloves in place behind the Blue Force Tracker amp, and a CAPOC[5] Bible (a New Int’l Version that includes the CAPOC Prayer) next to the Combat Lifesaver bag.

We may be short a copy of the Dhammapeda, but there’s a translation of the Q’uran, just in case. We have no Book of Mormon. Perhaps there’s a gap there.

It’s amazing we have room left for bullets. We train regularly to secure alleys, patrol streets, hand out our products and convoy with the kind of bristling, aggressive posture that discourages Ali Baba from taking us on. We take our already-armored truck and festoon it with extra chicken plates and push bumpers. But you never know—some of these divine types might be good to get our backs.

The general attitude on the ground is that when your number’s up, it’s up. But that sure doesn’t prevent us from trying to rig the system. When it comes to force protection, you can never be too careful.


“USACAPOC” is an acronym for United States Army Civil Affairs and PSYOP Command; “CAPOC” is its common abbreviation. The CAPOC Prayer referred to above was penned by the sitting CAPOC Chaplain. It reads as follows:

Almighty God,

You are the builder of all nations and You alone have the power to influence all things. Hear our prayer, oh Lord. We know that we can do no good apart from you. Without You, we would build nothing of substance and only influence in error.

Lord, give us courage and compassion that we may know and discern what is right and the wisdom to do with love that which is just. In times of weakness, remind us of our duty; instill in us a sense of honor, and help us never to stray from Your path.

We ask that You sharpen our minds that we may think clearly and strengthen our bodies that we may complete our missions. Give us agility and perseverance to deliver the message of freedom to oppressed peoples.

We pray that You defend us against our enemies and that your presence be felt across the battlefield. For it is for You that we do battle, for apart from You there is no freedom and there is nothing for which to fight.

In Your mercy, be with our families when we cannot. Protect them with Your presence and bring us to a safe and happy reunion. For You are the Author of Peace, and unto You be all the praise and power and worship and glory forever.

In the name of Jesus Christ we humbly pray.


[1] Social Security Number; also functions as military serial number.

[2] PSYOP Group. Composed of constituent POBs (PSYOP battalions). The POBs are made up of POCs (PSYOP Companies), aka TPCs (Tactical PSYOP Companies) if they ride around in speaker trucks.

[3] United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.

[4] Sea, Air and Land: the special operators of NAVSPECWAR (Navy Special Warfare). Hard guys with hard jobs.

[5] Civil Affairs and PSYOP Command; an abbreviation for “USACAPOC” (see above).



  1. Yeowch. Six-three, SF tab, SEAL qual, still runs six miles a day *and* he’s a full Bird? AND has G-d on his side? Uh-uh. I ain’t arguing with him about *nothing*.

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