Electronic Blackouts and Fearing the Worst

One of the reasons my posting to this blog is sporadic is that Internet connectivity has to be available for me to post. Most of the time it is, but when an event occurs that may result in bad news for families at home, the military implements an electronic blackout, shutting down all communication channels that soldiers routinely use to contact their loved ones.

In the event of a mortar attack, the first email that comes from headquarters is implementation of the blackout. Off goes the Internet. Off go the commercial phones in the AT&T phone trailer.

A blackout occurred after our aircraft crashed -- and it probably saved many family members unnecessary grief. If one or two soldiers had been able to call home after the crash, their own families would have been reassured. But the families would have called other families in the unit and told them about the crash -- and those families might have begun to fear the worst.

Since all of the crew members were okay, families would have been alarmed for no reason.

So far, blackouts have lasted as little as a few minutes and as long as a few days. Knowing this, I have taken a rather minimalist approach to keeping in touch with my family -- only conversing with them over email about once a week and calling about once a month. I just would not want to establish a pattern that would cause alarm for no reason if I decided to break that pattern.

In this kind of work, I think random contact with home is best. This way home does not fear the worst when they do not hear from us.

I am sure I will hear your opinion on this subject.

-- Written 4/11

By Bert Stover |  April 28, 2006; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Asad, Iraq
Previous: American Forces Network (AFN)* Propaganda | Next: A Search for the Missing


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I will surely pray for all service members welldoing and the ability to get in touch with their folks back home/

Posted by: Dr.Q | April 28, 2006 12:54 AM

Thanks for the info. It's great to hear it from someone with his feet on the ground.

It's time to wind this thing down and bring you all home safely.

Take care

Posted by: Saludos | April 28, 2006 07:45 AM

Bert- No matter how infrequent the communication may be, it is always great to hear from you. HAPPY 30TH on the 30TH!!!!!!!!

Posted by: L | April 28, 2006 08:07 AM

It's really interesting how the propaganda thing works, for example the soldier yesterday who stated on this blog that the UN authorized the invasion of Iraq. Did Cheney or Bush ever actually say that? They have a way of implying untrue things without ever actually saying them. Not that they don't ever lie; of course they do, but take this nonexistent connection between Osama and Saddam. Without saying that there was a connection, Bush mentioned them in the same sentence thoroughout 2003-2004 and it worked! A majority of Americans came to believe an absurd fairy tale. If the polling is accurate, a majority of service members in Iraq still believe it. Thus the unprovoked invasion of a foreign country halfway around the planet was transformed into an act of self-defense because we were attacked (by someone else).

Then there was Colin Powell at the UN. According to the US media, his presentation was "comprehensive," "masterful" and "left no doubt" that Iraq had all kinds of weapons that threatened us. Watching the presentation, I could not help but laugh out loud. It's not really very funny because a lot of people have died partly as a result of Powell's lies. But anyway, it was so ridiculous. He produced a set of diagrams of the "mobile chemical weapons factories" and a log of related truck movements, proving absolutely NOTHING. He could just as well have stated that the trailers were occupied by Martians and that the truck movements proved it because they were supplying the hungry Martians with with Martian provisions. But again: it worked!!! Propaganda is amazing. It all boils down to Goebbels's famous maxims:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie."

"The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over"

And Bush added this, along the same lines:

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

And again Goebbels:

"Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play."

Take care. Come home soon. Do the right thing.

Posted by: Cipote | April 28, 2006 09:02 AM


you got a problem with gays?

what do they have to do with che?

haters rear their heads more each day

so what you say, Anti Che?

Posted by: dave | April 28, 2006 12:10 PM

Good point, dave.

Che is a blog-blathermouth; he causes me to scroll down (ad nauseum). However, the Anti Che is a homophobe. In four lines he has offended me more than che ever did in four hundred.

Posted by: Tom Canick | April 28, 2006 01:33 PM

Keep your chin up, kiddo. No matter what the politics of this war are, you are important as a human being, and honorable as an American soldier, doing your job with courage and compassion, being thoughtful about what you say - not because of how it might reflect on you - but because of how it might impact others. Take care. You're in my prayers.

Posted by: Marcia | April 28, 2006 02:57 PM

Che & Anti-Che need to find new hobbies, especially anti-Che...

The comms blackout is a necessary evil. No Warrior should have a set schedule for communicating because mission & lines to the phone & computer cannot be controlled.

Trying to establish a routine time for communicating only disrupts your entire family, friends, significant other connection and causes undue stress & anxiety. Leaving a voice message is sometimes better than nothing...

Wasn't so long ago access to phones & computers was a scarce luxury.

You go Bert. Stay safe

Posted by: RW7 | April 28, 2006 02:58 PM

If a few dozen Congressmen had to worry about missing calls from family members in Iraq, this war would be over faster than you could say: "seven deferments".

We should reinstate the draft, but only for the children of politicians.

All the supposed deadly threats menacing America, like Iraqi WMD, would just evaporate overnight. Suddenly, diplomacy would be the key to solving every problem.

No-one would have to die just so the US government can look big and tough to other governments.

The price of lording it over the rest of humanity would no longer be worth paying. Not with IMPORTANT people's lives at stake.

"Bear any burden, pay any price," sounds great when the burden is paid by others and the price is paid in the base coin of ordinary, unconnected citizens.

Posted by: OD | April 28, 2006 04:12 PM

"We should reinstate the draft, but only for the children of politicians." - OD

Wow, what a great idea...think it'll fly? ;-)

Bert, I'm amazed (and somewhat perplexed) you're allowed to be as open and honest as you are - and devoid of the propaganda. (Hmmm, do the powers-that-be READ the Washington Post, never mind the blogs? One wonders....)

I'm sure a solid career in journalism awaits you at a major venue - hopefully the WP knows what they have here!

Keep safe ~

Posted by: Maureen in Mass | April 28, 2006 05:28 PM

Bert, I have to say that anytime I hear from my husband, whether it's email or phone calls, it makes my day. I do get frequent emails from him, but I understand that there are times when he is too busy to email or a sandstorm is messing up communication. I know that if I dont hear from him not to panic but I also get that sigh of relief when I log on and see that he has contacted me. I am just greatful that email and phone centers are available to you all. It comes in particularly useful when I need to discuss something with my husband or just to say "Hey call and talk to one of your sons they are having a particulary bad day or week." Just keep up the blog, I look forward to it and you all stay safe.

Posted by: military wife | April 28, 2006 06:20 PM

I am absolutely not trying to take away one iota from the real feelings of lonliness and apprehension felt by our military families when they are separated and in harm's way, but...

I was just thinking...

It's too bad the hundreds of people wrongfully and illegally held by our government at Guantanamo and in secret prisons in other countries haven't gotten the chance to e-mail or call their families in about five years, even the ones still being held after the our government declared them "not enemies," and even the ones sold to the US military by human traffickers in Afghanistan. I wonder how they and their families feel.

Posted by: Cipote | April 28, 2006 07:19 PM

That's "loneliness" in the previous post and by the way, Mr. "anti-che," che is a pain in the neck but you are a total loser, "BIG TIME" as our eloquent Maximum Leader Dick Cheney says. Did you think that your vile contribution would be welcomed? Don't bother to answer.

Posted by: Cipote | April 28, 2006 07:24 PM

Bert: Your blog has been very interesting and I enjoy reading it. This is the first time I completely disagree with you.

As the wife of one of your fellow pilots, I cherish every word I hear from my husband. Nothing about what you are doing is regular so you do not have to go out of your way to ensure you do not set patterns. Every word your friends and family hear from you whether a phone call or an email is reassurance that for one more day you are okay. Everything could change tomorrow but for today you are safe. If you think you are saving them unnecessary worry, you are crazy. We worry every single day for your safety whether we hear from you or not and any reassurance we can get is valued.

I hope you will rethink how often you contact your loved ones. Know they are worried regardless and just hearing a quick hello from you is great reassurance.

Posted by: Concerned wife | April 29, 2006 12:34 PM

Amazing, a limerick that rhymes with Che, could stir up so much discontent. (assuming that because of his earlier post)

My name is che

I like to say

I go hip-hip hooray

My name is che

It was not aimed at the homosexual community who have coined the term "Gay" to express their sexuality, Gay once meant happy, and so happens to rhyme with Che', does it not. Either way if your offended get over it, I am sure its not the first time and it's probably not the last. With that being said, how many times do we have to ask "Che" not to spout his trash on a blog site intended to connect 224th members with their families. Those soldiers and all the others around the world are defending your right to free speech; we just want Che to exercise that right someplace else. I say again we don't care about Che's BullSh*t. Bert however is a very patient man, I think that he can block Che's IP address at any time if he chooses, at the moment I guess he chooses not to. By now you are wondering why I keep saying "we", I say this because I am actually deployed with Bert here in Iraq and in the past have posted under a different screen name (maybe you can figure out who). All of you are correct I need another hobby; getting shot at almost every night is not much fun and browsing this web site is one of the few hobbies we do have. To: Mr. Tom Canick, Dave, Cipote, Che, God willing I will be home in 10 months or so, at that time I invite you to leave the safety of your home and in person voice your dissatisfaction with me at our home coming. That's assuming you have the metal (you know what I mean) to face someone coming out of a 12 month deployment in a combat zone. If you do not possess the metal then I will understand. However I will not apologize for exercising my freedom of speech, for I am here fighting for that right. So Mr. Tom Canick, Dave and Cipote, you know where to put the cork. Che, take it somewhere else !!!!!!

Posted by: Anti-Che or maybe not | April 29, 2006 01:42 PM

Funny, we now know why you cut and paste so much, learn to spell, and no where did I read anti-che was anti-gay, he just said you were. Must have hit a sore spot with you(hahaha)it must be tough to be a pimply faced teenager still hiding in the closet.(hahaha) Oh my gosh, what would all your friends think. Better try to sound more like a hetrosexual male by attacking his wife/girlfriend. On the other hand, we can see who you really are now that you are actually writing something of your own.

Posted by: ouch | April 29, 2006 08:00 PM

I, like concerned wife, have to disagree with you. We at home worry over your safety every second of every minute of every day that we cannot see or touch you. When we do hear from you either by one-line email or phone call, we can take a breath and realize that just for that second 'you are okay' for now! In my opinion, the more communication with family, the better! I'm sure your family would agree with me! You should NEVER take for granted any time that you can communicate with your loved ones! It IS what keeps us going over here!

Posted by: SBP | April 29, 2006 10:53 PM

Bert, We at home live for emails and phone calls. I sleep with my cell phone just in case my sweetie calls at a different time that he normally would. Despite this, I actually missed a call and had to wait a week for the next one. It was torture.

As for all this Che and Anti-che crap. OMG...Che has a mental problem. We should all agree with that. But the more you voice your opinion about him/her the more he/she post. Ignore it and maybe it will go away.

And to bring up with girlfriends/wives are doing while the our boyfriends/husbands are away is just stupid. a) personally I am not. b) they could be doing the same thing you are suggesting c) trust that both parties are staying true and d) I don't think any party in this conversation mentioned a significant other so its a mute point.

Bert...hang tough. we are behind you 100%!

Posted by: Cali-Girl | April 30, 2006 02:46 AM

Listen to Neil Young's new album Living with War at this site:


Posted by: cIPOTE | April 30, 2006 08:22 AM

Wow!!! You guys are bored (not Bert and his cohorts in Iraq). I'm referring to Che and his blogging buddies who have resorted to psycho-analysis of another blogger who use the politiclly incorrect term "gay". What is wrong with you people? Upset by the littlest things. The word gay, when used incorrectly makes you somewhat teary?

Anyhow...Bert I have had no experiences that are remotely similar to your current situation. I beleive, however, that there is no easy way to keep your loved ones at ease. Call them regularly and they know you are ok. Miss a call and they might suffer a heart attack from fright. Don't call regularly and they won't be alarmed by disruption of pattern. The second you hang up the phone or type goodbye on the email, your family builds their worry exponentially until the next correspondence, when ever that may be.

Its a tough situation and I don't envy you or your family/friends for have to go through it all. Keep in mind thought that there are a great many people who are in support of you and your "collegues" in Iraq. Be safe and find a way to make the best of it.

Posted by: Bill | April 30, 2006 09:03 AM

Bert, I also had to reiterate what "concerned wife", "sbp", and "cali-girl" say about communicating as often as time permits you. I worry about my husband and your whole unit all the time. I too carry my cell phone everywhere with me just in case he calls. When I am home my cell phone and house phone are both always near me, whether I am outside, in the shower, or in bed, just in case. Any form of communication is better than none at all. The concern and worry we have for our loved ones is ALWAYS with us whether you call or email once a week or once a month. So,for that brief moment when we are talking or reading an email the fear and worry subsides momentarily, only to return afterwards and stay with us until the next time we hear from you. So my advice to you is never pass up the opportunity to communicate with home.

Posted by: military wife | April 30, 2006 12:59 PM

Dear Military wife,

Please keep voting republican(hahaha)and you will see your husband going to Iran,Venezuela and God knows where.

Yours truly,

Posted by: Che | April 30, 2006 01:57 PM

This is the way that our generals sell us out!

Take note that the generals are key players in investment companies like Globesecnine (Newbold is co-founder of Globesecnine) and Anthony Zinni is a board member of Veritas Capital (along with a who's who of former US military leaders). Wall Street helps fund these groups and they may have figured, finally, that Rumsfeld is bad for the military and business. US intelligence agencies like the CIA are always involved overtly or covertly in the investment/stock trading business, and likely have involvement in these investment firms. They are saying something too: revenge is sweet.

With rebellion in the military and corporate ranks, and the potential for more indictments of Bush administration's insiders (Karl Rove?) in the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson CIA case, one has to wonder how this group of people could possibly manage the day-after realities of an Iranian assault.

The USA is operating as if it really is an unchallenged superpower. What kind of superpower has increasing poverty, homelessness, unemployment and can't even rebuild one of its premier cities -- New Orleans -- after a hurricane? What kind of superpower refuses to make concessions, to negotiate and treats other nations like China and Russia as inferior entities? What nation is the Paper Tiger now? It never had to be this way.

For the rest of this article please go to:


Posted by: che | April 30, 2006 05:16 PM

Happy B'day Bert! My Son will also be 30 soon. Keep each other safe and come home in one piece!

Posted by: Pate's Dad | April 30, 2006 08:15 PM

There's always snail mail

Posted by: mac | May 1, 2006 10:02 AM

I hope you were able to celebrate your 30th in some way. I thought about you a lot yesterday.

Posted by: Russ B. | May 1, 2006 12:44 PM

Back in the bad old days of Vietnam when all we had was snail mail, they used to deliver the mail to the ship whenever we got close enough to a port for the COD to fly in. It wasn't unusual to get a whole month's worth of mail at once. I used to read the last postmark first, just to make sure everything was alright at home, often to read something like "your son has his cast off now"...and have to tear into all the other letters to find out what happened.

Communication is important. My last deployment one of the guys from the squadron was transferring out and I gave him some stuff to drop off with my wife when he got back to the base. When he and his wife walked up to my house in base housing (he was in his dress uniform for some reason) she panicked and refused to let him in. He had to go back to his house and call her and calm her down. That is when I finally understood that while I was having fun flying every day, she was at home wondering when she was going to get "the call." Your family really does need to hear from you as often as you can manage, even if only by "snail mail."


p.s. I wish che would get a life, or at least lose this url.

Posted by: martid83 | May 2, 2006 07:49 PM

there will allways be a reason for mail not to arrive on time. In the old days couriers were delayed once in a while. Now a days power loss makes for emails to be read as soon as power is restored. My prayers are never delayed.

Posted by: Dr.Q | May 8, 2006 06:31 PM

why not just drop in on one of the many Internet Cafes in all the towns and cities? It's not like we're unwelcome in Iraq and regarded as invaders, is it?

Some of my buds are disabled but reupping to go back. Keep safe, and don't buy the higher up spin.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 11, 2006 05:34 PM

Bert -

I wholeheartedly agree with the other family members here. I constantly worry about my husband - whether he contacts me or not. But I certainly cherish every communication from him because the sad reality is - he IS in a very dangerous situation and, God forbid, may not come home.

Also, as worthy as your service to country is and as honorable as your desire to protect your family may be, keeping emotional distance from your spouse cannot be good for your marriage. Contacting your spouse 52 times in a one year period (once a week) is not going to go far in nurturing a marriage.

I am sorry if that sounds like a lecture! It simply breaks my heart to see good marriages die slow deaths due to military deployments. It hardly seems fair for the servicemember and his/her family.

Stay safe, Bert. Thank you for your posts. I enjoy reading your perspective!

Posted by: Army_Wife | May 13, 2006 04:58 PM

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