Monday, December 18, 2006

Schoonmaker on the Reserves

Some of my readers may have seen the Comments made Dec 14, 2006 BY Gen Peter Schoomaker in his Statement before the Commission on National Guard and Reserves.

He said "The changed conditions of warfare have greatly affected our armed services with the significant and sustained demands for Army forces across the globe continuing to exceed the strategy set by the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review. As it currently stands, the Army is incapable of generating and sustaining the required forces to wage the Global War on Terror and fulfill all other operational requirements without its components - active, Guard, and Reserve - surging together. Fifty-five percent of our Army is in the reserve components, and while our armed forces have made drastic changes adjusting to the post 911 strategic environment, our mobilization policies have not.

As you know, the Army is steadfast in its determination to transform the total force from a Cold War structured organization into one best prepared to operate across the full spectrum of conflict; from full-scale combat to stability and reconstruction operations, including the irregular war that we face today. This effort includes modernization, modular conversion, rebalancing our forces across the active and reserve components, and a force generation model that provides for continuous operations. Through the Army Plan, we are driving change at an unprecedented pace across the force - Active, Guard, and Reserve -to provide the Combatant Commanders with a broad and necessary set of capabilities required to protect the Nation today and tomorrow."

What he has stated correctly is that our policies of the past Reserve and Guard forces were flawed and insufficient for todays needs. But what was not said was that Individual soldier reserve benefits of Retirement, medical, training, insured employer support, remain exactly the same as they have existed since WWII. The Reservist and Guard Soldier is asked to accept more departures from Family (same burden as active bretheren), jobs, and deployments without projected end just as if we were Active Duty soldiers. We are not paid the same - take the travel, lodging, and costs just to attend drills and AT. We have civilian jobs but can we really expect success in a civilian career with more deployments - who in their right mind will hire a Reserve or Guard soldier? Equally the lack of medical care, funds and support to train properly, lack of Fulltime personnel assigned to our units to sustain even minimal administrative, operational and logistics tasks creates enen more burden upon soldiers in Reserve environment. There is insufficient legislation to insure we are not discriminated against in Civilian workplace, and retirement benefits - well live to 60 before you see the first check - thanks to continued Pentagon resistance.

If I was to suggest some things to consider: (king for a day) Many of these would be common practice in a Business setting for fulltime versus part time employees.

1. Open the door wide to Reserve and Guard soldiers that want to join the Active force - say a 5 year term appointment - there are a lot of soldiers out there that would love to be Active duty... they revert back to Reserve / Guard status at the end of tour. Near impossible for mid-level soldiers to transfer part time to fulltime and back. (One Army)

2. Improve efficiency in training Guard and Reserve in IDT - supporting training doesn't mean leave the entire burden of planning, resourcing and scheduling to a part time chain of Command. Do more than offer just a range, etc... for IDT as well as deploying units.

3. Double or triple Fulltime staffs at Reserve and Guard units. As a former Mil-Tech I can tell you much is not done for soldiers in administrative tasks and planning suffers with lack of manpower at Reserve unit for 28 days every month.

4. Retirement Benefits - offers such as the 1 Year earlier retirement for each year in Combat Zone are a great start - also consider 1 Year earlier for every 2 years served beyond 20 Years for Guard and Reserve.

5. Offer either tax break, reimbursement or vouchers for soldier costs to attend drills at IDT location. Consider more mandays for IDT - MUTA 6 drills for up to 60 assemblies a year instead of the current 48. If your really serious about training - offer vacation training packages in Summer and over holidays which carry pay and benefits or promotion boost.

6. Pay for Bi-annual Medical and Dental visit with accompaning Mobilization status review - make it required for continued Reserve Membership. (this will not be cheap, however no one has a handle on who is available without it)

7. Family Support - nice that there are so many great volunteers, but more resources should be available to Family Support groups other than one contractor 3 states away to collect paperwork as a program. How about giving them postage funds as a start?

8. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve - starting with the Federal Government (one of the largest Reserve and Guard employers) consider incentive and/or tax breaks for hiring an active Guard or Reserve member. Legislation to prevent discrimination for Veterans and Guard and Reserve soldiers is needed.

9. Many Guard and Reserve Soldiers opt out because their civilian live change (Move, new job, changed location, etc) We lose many good soldiers because they cannot take a leave of absence from Drills when truly needed - they will unsat out, leave at end of ETS because they have no other viable option. (IRR is not a complete solution to this problem)

10. Rigorously rid the force of any admin policy or practice that continues the separation of Active forces from Guard and Reserve soldiers.

- Issue a DD214 for departing Guard and Reserve Soldiers

- Grant access to Military MWR facilities on an equal basis to Active and Reserve

- Training ranges, facilities, logistics - one force

- Pay for travel/ training opportunities - eliminate separate systems for training - offer both components training necessary to maintain job skills, etc using one standard.

- Fulltime or Parttime - promotion when you meet the criteria - equal rank for equal skills and education.

- reinvent Active duty mentoring for Reserve units... Marine Corp model for Reserve units.

Of course none of the changes I would seek would be cheap, but we offer 50K a soldier to gain each new soldier to the force while really not addressing the 500K soldiers assigned to the Guard and Reserve - change won't be easy... but keeping just 10000 Reserve and Guard soldiers for the mission is cost effective in comparison. I'm speaking here about the Army Reserve and National Guard, but I'm sure Navy, Marines and Air force reserve components can have similar corrections completed to gain more from this force.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Training Iraqi Military and Police

Recently I reviewed an article in the Army Times describing the need to improve the quality of soldiers assigned to the Iraqi Military and Police training missions. The article inferred that comments from the current Commander related that quality of instructors in the past was somehow deficient. It was based on comments attributed to Brig Gen Dana Pittard, Commanding General of the Iraq Assistance Group.

Well, he is blunt.... some of the problems he notes are recurring and its not good to hear that our efforts in 2004-2005 were somehow not up to grade (In his opinion). He makes good points that the effort must be supported as the priority of effort for our forces in Iraq. He is calling the right program to alert the military establishment to support the effort. However his criticism is a little too directed at Reserve Soldiers in his note that that is who he has fired and insinuates that they are somewhat to blame.

As a Reserve soldier assigned to Iraq to the task of training Iraqi Military I have to note: The truth is I didn't ask for my assignment - an active duty force sent me to MNSTC-I to be a part of the burgeoning effort there to get the Iraqi Secuity forces established. Active Duty staffs planned the deployment of about 700 individual soldiers from a Reserve Training Unit with 30 days or less training to a warzone. My peers from the Army Reserve were similarly thrown into the most austere and unsupported conditions imaginable to get programs, training, installations in place to train the Iraqi Army and Police. My biggest obstacles to getting resources for Iraqis was a prevalent attitude to take care of Coalition needs despite any requirements the Iraqi forces or their mentors at the time had. I had the opportunity to cross paths with many coalition units as the Iraqi Installation Plans officer responsible for the stationing of all Iraqi Military and police units in Iraq.

I could go on at length to describe the challenges - the picture above is one from the early days in country when we used a standard Chevy Suburban (No armor) and AK-47s to get around an do our mission. We were not an intrinsic supported element of any coalition unit in theater and ranked slightly above our Iraqi counterparts for assistance in supplies, equipment to do the task of building capable Iraqi forces from the ground up. We recieved the greatest support from Foreign coalition partners (Polish, Ukranian units in MND-SE) because they had no preconcieved notions of doing anything but supporting rebuilding efforts.

Now with 20-20 hindsight, the new commander of the Iraqi Assistance Group will do a better job - I hope so .... and I hope he is better supported to what has now become a main effort... lets hope it is not too late. In his interest to gain support to the task, he should tred lightly on the efforts of those embattled predecessors that pioneered the effort that he manages today.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nice to be recognized

Well - I was suprised the other day to get a call - here I have been retired for 6 months and I got a packet with my retirement award in the mail. Also included were a retirement certificate and an American Flag.

Those of you that have served any length of Time in the Army Reserve know just how slow or non-existant the awards programs are in overworked and understaffed Reserve Units and I was no exception. Thats not to take away from the award and the considerable effort exerted by the FTS personnel... not at all... after all I served as a Military Technician for 18 years and I can testify how much work is piled on the few fulltime personnel in a typical reserve unit. I 'm merely expressing my pleasant reminder of the brotherhood that is a Reserve Unit when I see the package arrived and I opened it.

I was given an Legion of Merit for 24 years service which is quite an honor. As always- dear readers, it caused me to reflect back upon how it came to pass that that stupid 2LT (Butterbar) actually progressed in his career to the point that the Chief of The Army Reserve signs his retirement award in recognition for a job done well. Sometimes it seemed painful, lonely, adventurous, exasperating but above all it was service to country and that meant more than any ribbon can really convey.

I wish to use this forum to note that many do not get awards that are more deserving. Some recieve awards based upon flawed criteria, some are never submitted. In every case I have known, the award is not the sought commodity for the soldier.... we all seek the longer lasting and more satisfing thanks for serving... in good times and bad.

Next time you see or talk with a soldier... just that little comment - thanks for serving, appreciate your sacrifice, etc... means more than any medal/ award/ ribbon..... after all, we work for this great country and the genuine appreciation expressed by the american public is more powerful than a room full of generals with buckets of decorations.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Goodbye to strategy

Recieved this in an E-Mail and found it to be very compelling. It speaks many truths about former leader's actions in my opinion.

US Strategy in Iraq
Honors Convocation
Newberry College
9 November 2006
Mitchell Zais

Many of our faculty and staff have asked me my views about the current situation in Iraq. A few students have also asked. So I thought I would take this opportunity, two days before Veterans' Day, to provide you with some insights as seen from the perspective of a combat veteran who served as the Commanding General of US and allied forces in Iraq. I also served as Chief of War Plans in the Pentagon and have spent considerable time studying national security affairs, including a fellowship at the National Defense University. So while it's true that everyone has opinions about Iraq, I would argue that not all of those opinions are equally well-informed.This talk will address our strategy in Iraq. I won't talk about what the next steps should be, what the long-term prospects for peace in Iraq are, or how we can best get out of the quagmire we are in. Those might be other talks. For today I'm going to focus on strategy

Let me begin by saying that most of our problems in Iraq stem from a flawed strategy that has been in place since the beginning of the war. It's important that you understand what strategy is. In military terminology there is a distinction between strategy, operations, tactics, and techniques. Strategy pertains to national decision-making at the highest level. For example, our strategy in World War II was to mobilize the nation, then defeat the Nazi regime while conducting a holding action in the Pacific, then shift our forces to destroy the Japanese Empire. Afterwards, our strategy was to rebuild both defeated nations into capitalistic democracies in order to make them future allies. An example of an operational decision from World War II would be the decision to invade North Africa and then Italy and Southern France before moving directly for the heart of Germany by coming ashore in Northern France or Belgium.

Tactics characterize a scheme of maneuver that integrates the different capabilities of, for example, infantry, armor, and artillery. A technique might describe a way of employing machine guns with overlapping fields of fire or of setting up a roadblock.

Our strategy in Iraq has been: 1. fight the war on the cheap; 2. ask the ground forces to perform missions that are more suitably performed by other branches of the American government;3. inconvenience the American people as little as possible, and 4. continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that they have been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the Army and Marines who are doing all of the fighting.No wonder the war is not going well.

Let me explain how the war is being fought on the cheap. From the very beginning, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who thankfully announced his departure yesterday, has striven to minimize the number of soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Instead of employing the Colin Powell doctrine of "use massive force at the beginning to achieve a quick and decisive victory," his goal has been "use no more troops than absolutely necessary so we can spend defense dollars on new technology."Before hostilities began, the Army Chief of Staff, Eric Shinseki, testified before Congress that an occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Shinseki made his estimate based on his extensive experience in the former Yugoslavia where he worked to disengage the warring factions of Orthodox Serbians, Catholic Croatians, and Muslim Kosovars.Shinseki also had available the results of a wargame conducted in 1999 that involved 70 military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials. This recently declassified study concluded that 400,000 troops on the ground were needed to keep order, seal borders, and take care of other security needs. And even then stability would not be guaranteed.Because of his testimony before Congress, Rumsfeld moved Shinseki aside. In a nearly unprecedented move, to replace Shinseki, Rumsfeld recalled from active duty a retired general who was more likely to accept his theory that we could win a war in Iraq and establish a stable government with a small number of troops.

The Defense Department has fought the war on the cheap because, despite overwhelming evidence that the Army and Marine Corps need a significant increase in their size in order to accomplished their assigned missions, the civilian officials who run the Pentagon have refused to request authorization from Congress to do so. Two Democratic representatives, Mark Udall from Colorado and Ellen Tauscher of California, have introduced a bill into Congress that would add 80,000 troops to the end-strength of the active Army. Currently, this bill has no support from the Defense Department.

When I was commissioned in 1969 the Army was one and a half million. Despite the fact that we're engaged in combat in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, and committed to peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Sinai, and on operational deployments in over 70 countries, our Army is now less than one third that size. We had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf war than we have in the entire Army today. In fact, Wal-Mart has three times as many employees as the American Army has soldiers. As late as 1990, Army end-strength was approximately 770,000.

With fewer than a half-million today, defense analysts have argued that we need to add nearly 200,000 soldiers to the active ranks. Today, the Army is so bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq that fewer than 10,000 soldiers are ready and able to deal with any new crisis elsewhere in the world. And because the Army is so small, after only a year at home units are returning to Iraq for a second and even a third 12-month tour of duty. Let me add a parenthetical note here explaining a difference between our services. Army tours of duty in Iraq are for 12 or 13 months. For Marines it's normally six months. For Air Force personnel it's typically four months. So when a soldier says he's going back to Iraq for his third tour, it means something totally different than when an airman says the same thing. Because the active force is too small, the mission of our National Guard and reserve forces has been changed. Their original purpose was to save the nation in time of peril. Today they serve as fillers for an inadequately sized active force. This change in mission has occurred with no national debate and no input from Congress.

We have fought the war on the cheap because we have never adequately funded the rebuilding of the Iraqi military or the training and equipping of the Iraqi police forces. The e-mails I receive from soldiers and Marines assigned to train Iraqi forces all complain of their inadequate resources because they are at the very bottom of the supply chain and the lowest priority.We have fought the war on the cheap because we have failed to purchase necessary equipment for our troops or repair that which has been broken or a worn out in combat. You've all read the stories about soldiers having to purchase their own bulletproof vests and other equipment. And the Army Chief of Staff has testified that he needs an extra $17 billion to fix equipment. For example, nearly 1500 war-fighting vehicles await repair in Texas with 500 tanks sitting in Alabama.

Finally, we are fighting this war on the cheap because our defense budget of 3.8% of gross domestic product is too small. In the Kennedy administration it averaged 9% of GDP. The average defense budget in the post Vietnam era, from 1974 to 1994, was about 5.8% of GDP. If we are in a global war against radical Islam, and we are, then we need a defense budget that reflects wartime requirements.A second part of our strategy is to ask the military to perform missions that are more appropriate for other branches of government.Our Army and Marine Corps are taking the lead in such projects as building roads and sewage treatment plants, establishing schools, training a neutral judiciary, and developing a modern banking system. The press refers to these activities as nation-building. Our soldiers and Marines are neither equipped nor trained to do these things. They attempt them, and in general they succeed, because they are so committed and so obedient. But it is not what they do well and what only they alone can do. But I would ask, where are our Department of Energy and Department of Transportation in restoring Iraqi infrastructure? What's the role of our Department of Education in rebuilding an Iraqi educational system? What does our Department of Justice do to help stand up an impartial judicial system? Where is the US Information Agency in establishing a modern equivalent of Radio Free Europe? And why did it take a year after the end of the active fighting for the State Department to assume responsibility from the Department of Defense in setting up an Iraqi government? These other US government agencies are only peripherally and secondarily involved in Iraq.Actually, it would be inaccurate to say that the American government is at war. The U.S. Army is at war. The Marine Corps is at war. And other small elements of our armed forces are at war. But our government is not.

A third part of our strategy is to inconvenience the American people as little as possible. Ask yourself, are you at war? What tangible effect is this war having on your daily life? What sacrifices have you been asked to make for the sake of this war other than being inconvenienced at airports? No, America is not a war. Only a small number of young, brave, patriotic men and women, who bear the burden of fighting and dying, are at war.A fourth aspect of our strategy is to fund Navy and Air Force budgets at prewar levels while shortchanging the Marine Corps and the Army that are doing the fighting.This strategy, of spending billions on technology for a Navy and Air Force that face no threat, contributes mightily to our failures in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld is a former Navy pilot. His view of the battlefield is from 10,000 feet, antiseptic and surgical. Since coming into office he has funded the Air Force and the Navy at the expense of the Army and Marines because he believes technological leaps we'll render ground forces obsolete. He assumed that the rapid victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan confirmed this belief. For example, the Defense Department is pouring billions into buying the newest fighter aircraft, at $360 million each, to take on a non-existent enemy Air Force.But, for pilots like Rumsfeld, war is all about technology. It's computers, it's radar, and it's high tech weapons. Technologists have a hard time comprehending the motivations of a suicide bomber or a mother who celebrates the death of her son in such a way. It's difficult for them to understand that to overcome centuries of ethnic hatred and murder it will take more than one generation. It's hard for them to accept that for young men with little education, no wives or children, and few job prospects, war against the West is the only thing that gives meaning to their lives.

But war on the ground is not conducted with technology. It is fought by 25-year-old sergeants leading 19-year-old soldiers carrying rifles, in a dangerous and alien environment, where you can't tell combatants from noncombatants, Shiites from Sunnis, or suicide bombers from freedom seeking Iraqis. This means war on the street is neither antiseptic nor surgical. It's dirty, complicated, and fraught with confusion and error.In essence, our strategy has been produced my men whose view of war is based on their understanding of technology and machinery, not their knowledge of men from an alien culture and the forces which motivate them. They fail to appreciate that if you want to hold and pacify a hostile land and a hostile people you need soldiers and Marines on the ground and in the mud, and lots of them.In summary, our flawed strategy in Iraq has produced the situation we now face. This strategy is a product of the Pentagon, not the White House. And remember, the Pentagon is run by civilian appointees in suits, not military men and women in uniform. From the very beginning Defense Department officials failed to appreciate what it would take to win this war.

The US military has tried to support this strategy because they are trained and instructed to be subordinate to and obedient to civilian leadership. And the American people want it that way. The last thing you want is a uniformed military accustomed to debating in public the orders of their appointed civilian masters. But retired generals and admirals are starting to speak out, to criticize the strategy that has produced our current situation in Iraq.But, if we continue to fight the war on the cheap, if we continue to avoid involving the American people by asking them to make any sacrifice at all, if we continue to spend our dollars on technology while neglecting the soldiers and Marines on the ground, and if we fail to involve the full scope of the American government in rebuilding Iraq, then we might as well quit, and come home. But, what we have now is not a real strategy - it's business as usual.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Long December

Recently there has been a lot of talk about increasing the training mission in Iraq as part of the solution towards getting the US out of the country. Additionally in recent new has been the results of IG inspections from the Principle organization charged with building the Iraqi Military and Police - MNSTC-I.

I was assigned to the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. This organization has the task of providing the personnel to train the Iraq Military and Police. In 2004 - 2005 it was capably led by LTG Petraeus but was not supported to the extent necessary to completetly do the job needed.... we started with soft skin vehicles, AK47 rifles as US M16s and M4s were not available for issue, few other resources. Reserve soldiers made up most of the manpower and at the time most were thrown into the breech with little preparation for the momentous task of national security apparatus building.

Despite the huge challenge and much to the credit of LTG Petraeus belief in Reserve soldiers (treated exactly like our active duty brethren) the command started the process for establishing an Iraqi Military and Police force even before the Iraqi government was permanently established.

There were errors, (missing weapons??) and problems in accounting... but really not many given the danger, lack of clear guidance from other US agencies, minimum resources. Everyone assigned toiled through every obstacle, traveled to every corner of the country and worked hand and hand with the Iraqi at the local and national level to establish facilities, training institutions, logistics basics, medical clinics, equipment. With no blueprint, few guidelines the work was carried out honestly, with Iraqi interests at heart and sometimes despite objections from Coalition units when we attempted to give the Iraqi's parts of "coalition stuff" to get them established. The MNSTC-I crew fought to provide enough to start the Iraqi military on its path towards self sufficiency before that was in vogue.

The Hindsight visonarys are picking at the accountability, noting the defects from comfortable secure parlors after the fact. Few of them cared for our work when in progress aside small soundbites of information. We fought our own forces when our attempts to get Iraqi military equipment that overstepped preconcieved and shortsighted limits.

Its good to hear that LTG Petraeus will provide the doctrine for the future forces put into such a demanding scenario in his role at the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavonworth. I'm sure he will be far more polished in stating the need for applying adequate resources to the nationbuilding task early in the engagement. I look forward to seeing his product and hope his detractors and supporters alike will applaud its application and move beyond investigating minor issues of procedure done by true "action officers" on his staff in MNSTC-I.

Folks that served in MNSTC-I knew they were part of history, believed in their work and served honorably under every demand thrown at them. Just as all other soldiers in Iraq past and present are doing. We need to listen to those that have been there, learn what is needed and apply the resources to get the job done.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Winds of change

Well its official - congress is heading for change in leadership and composition

The new members will no doubt bring in their idealist concepts and better plan for making all American's happy. A lot of placation was in the offering in the election slogans... seemingly overnight everyone wants us out of Iraq.

The sad thing is that our press has convinced us that we can't possibly win in Iraq. Somehow the 2800 lives lost were all the result of a deception at the executive level without American consent. Well, thats not entirely honest.

When I went to Iraq to serve in 2004 - 2005, there was an honest desire to serve my country, do my duty and succeed in the plan to change the country and in time the region. I was there to see the true excitement in the Iraqi citizen's eyes when they voted - we could go nowhere without seeing the purple thumbs waving. We were making a difference, but the press was already downplaying our success.

Now the accepted attitude visible in election results, voiced with increased furvor is that we must exit or find a way out of the war in Iraq.

Sure, everything got complicated with the Civil Strife. It is a slow process evident in the Iraqi government assumption of security in their own country. There is a continued regrettable loss of life from other patriots that are serving in Iraq today. Reports of ethnic strife get more press life than ever before as a testament to a failed democracy.

I go on record now as stating - we do need to move the Iraqis to increase their gait toward the responsible government necessary for a fractured country, but we can't do that from this shore. We must find effective tools to aid these new legislators in Iraq to do what is best in their country just as we expect of our own freshman legislators. We don't do it here by leaving our congressmen on uncontrolled warzone streets with no assistance. We have a sound law and order structure established to make it easy for transition in the US.

If our new congressional leaders consider the task at hand and focus effective efforts at transitioning the country of Iraq rather than abandoning the new Iraqi legislators our soldier's and countries sacrifice will amount to something we will be proud of.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Soapbox rantings

Well its been awhile and my mind is back to working my civilian job after deployments to Iraq and Louisianna for Hurricane Katrina.

I am suffering through another flu/crud/cold/ fever/ crap illness and I reflect on the continued resistance by the Active Military establishment to provide improved retirement/ medical care for Reserve and National guard. Legislation again is struck down based on Pentagon resistance for earlier retirement, improved medical care.

Meanwhile I have to take leave from my civilian job to get seen at VA facility 70 miles away on their schedule to determine what is causing my illness - so it dosen't happen. Whats that - what about the medical care your got from the Army when you departed Iraq? Well - when my group came back we turned in gear, had a few near worthless general briefings and three days later were sent to home. No Medical screening except a questionaire, no medical care information for return home - fortunately the VA sent a packet and many of us at least registered with the VA at home.

Meanwhile - the legislation which did get approved this year is a significant increase in pay for the Generals and senior members of the Pentagon - sound familiar?

Monday, August 14, 2006

These Vets are home or not

It was an interesting weekend. On Saturday my Legion Riders and I went to a VA Home in Spring City, PA to assist the activities directors in having a "pub night" for the residents. We arrived at the appointed time and I was struck with how quiet and peaceful the setting was. After some preparation we retrieved residents and wheeled them down to the area of the party where they could have chips, near beer etc...
I had my motorcycle vest which identified me as an Iraqi veteran and several residents commented how grateful they where that I served. I found this so strange that here were veterans of the second world war - talking with them I learned that they served as pilots, seamen, soldiers in some of the greatest battles of the century...exploits that were really to save the world.... and in their reduced state they thought enough to thank me...I was moved. They quietly lived their lives after WWII and made this country what it is today... Can we hope that OIF/ Desert Storm Vets will be equal to the task in the same measure?

On Sunday I attended the party of my former XO who is back for a few days from Iraq. He serves in the North in a very remote location. We talked and e-mailed when I was over in Iraq and I sensed that he really didn't get what conditions were like over there... They really do defy description in many respects. Well now he has 5 months in country under his belt...he is getting ready to head back and I am so anxious about his return. Don't know why... but I don't envy him the return and I told him that it would be a tough return. It struck me how the period over there changes people - not bad or good - just to be a little more retrospective and appreciative - watching life here for the precious two weeks that he is home... I wish him well and look forward to his return when we can really party and raise a glass to surviving Iraq.... good luck Mike

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stan's Year in Iraq

While in Iraq - I had a good friend of my Son stationed near by - he worked in clearing IEDs. A dangerous job... a part of what I found a in my year in Iraq.

First Post

Being a little older member of this community, the Bloging concept is intriguing. Imagine posting your thoughts as a kind of therapy for the days toil.

I read many of the Blogs from soldiers going through the experience in Iraq and I'm reminded of the year I spent there. Days with a mixture of boredom, heat, terror, and occasionally pain. I can honestly say that there were few good days except those when we would get out and see lots of kids managing to do OK in that environment.

While I was there I had the opportunity to see much of the country in my position. I realized there was a basic beauty in the country, its people and land that the war was destroying. The Concrete walls, garbage and debris was covering what once must have been lovely. Against this backdrop we would drive to sites which often were shells of the former granduer where families had taken up refuge...former palaces, country homes, government facilities which now had cows, kids, goats, trash in residence. When we would arrive - we usually were greeted with suspicion by the older residence, but the kids would swarm out within minutes to see if we had any treats for them. They were always the highlight of the trip, reminding us of our own left at home. We couldn't imagine the similar circumstance in our own country....

I made a windows slide show set to music which represented that year in Iraq... I hope to link it here shortly...