Monday, July 30, 2007

No more access to Blogs

Hearing recently that many DoD employees are being denied capability to open blog sites - more of the Mil Blogging restrictions coming to the Military community unfortunately.

This is a shortsighted myopic design that is likely the result of older generational bias against the tremendous tool that is the internet. Instead of harvesting the energy and opportunity present in the supportive communications from the Military community we have silenced yet more voices to the delight of the Non-DoD and thus criticaly skewed liberal bias.

I can't prove the shutdown, but I fear it is truth to DoD employees....As I have noted here before

Military Blogs are being monitored for content – this should come as no surprise… it makes absolute sense that any entity will monitor information flow, opinion, content and will exploit such information whenever possible. In the current conflict that we face it is a sure bet that US, International and enemy personnel monitor all information sources to include Blogs.

Some blogs have stated that this monitoring is somehow a restriction of Blog site freedom of speech… an draconian suppression of the “truth”. I recently experienced the phenomenon with this blog of receiving such monitoring. I will say, there is some intimidation being felt as a mil-bloggers when a military agency “contacts “ the Blog site and offers an alternate point of view or a link to their site. You may have noted the addition of Military sites to several Bloggers lately as they are contacted by such monitoring efforts. The Military establishment efforts are clumsy and becoming increasingly indefensable if an attempt at restricting the reading of opinion - what is next - the shutdown of the opinion page in the Army times?.

I have no doubt that the Defense establishment has likely shut down access to Blog sites as they have acknowledged was done for MySpace, You Tube... It may be done again under the radar of the press this time as a heavy handed local policy or enforcement of the DoD warning that includes a section specifically about blogs.

What is disturbing to me is the sense that opinion, comments on subjective matters such as unit morale, comments regarding the Iraq War in general and other individual opinion topics may be subject to censure. My Fellow Mil-Bloggers all have different views and opinions – the sum of which would paint a pretty accurate picture of soldier and Military oriented public opinion.

We should allow them the right to voice opinion and comment with the caveat that the views expressed are their own on matters of their own choosing when security is not compromised. Commanders should insure that local PAO efforts do not sanitize information within this policy to the point of being the "party line" merely for the sake of conformity to Senior Leadership views. I think we would find that credibility of the Military establishment as a whole will be supported by a free exchange of comment from the soul of its inner workings.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Homeless Veterans

This last weekend I participated in a Motorcycle poker run which was organized to provide funds for Homeless Veterans. I really did not know the scope if the issue with homeless veterans and always assumed that veterans were a cross section in society and were homeless at the same rate as everyone else.

I decided to read into the issue and found the statistics a little discomforting as a soldier and thought I’d share some with you in the hopes that we all work to never leave a former soldier behind. From the Veteran’s Administration site (

The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation's homeless veterans are mostly males (4 % are females). The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.

23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
17% post Vietnam
15% pre Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
Service needs:
45% help finding job
37% finding housing

In these statistics one out of every three homeless men has worn a uniform and served this country. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999 provides that roughly 1 in 4 of all homeless people in America are veterans.

As a former soldier these statistics tell me that we have former brothers and sisters that served that need our help. The statistics bear out that we may not be doing enough for some veterans. The VA has some programs to assist veterans, but are they adequate for the surge that will follow the latest war…. I don’t know – at the moment I do a little bit – if all of us veterans did the same I know we would be following the soldier creed – I will never leave a fallen comrade - and perhaps we can make a difference.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

5th Deployment or bust?

If you read the accounts - Army Reserve Sgt. Erik Botta has been sent to Iraq three times and to Afghanistan once and he is going to court because he thinks that's enough.

"This has nothing to do with protest of the war ... I have nothing but respect for the people on the ground," Botta said Friday, one day after he filed his petition in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. "But I feel I do need a fair decision and a fair review." Botta , 26, of Port St. Lucie, contends in his petition that the Army's refusal to exempt him from deployment "constitutes unlawful custody." Botta argues the Army did not consider the length and nature of his previous tours "to assure a sharing of exposure to the hazards of combat."

Sounds pretty daunting for the Army dosen’t it – 5 deployments for this soldier – but wait a minute…. I had to ask how long were the deployments – after all not all are equal in terms of sacrifice…

Botta was deployed to Afghanistan for about seven months in 2002. He then had three deployments to Iraq - about a month in 2003, three months in 2004 and 15 days later that year. That is a grand total of 10 months boots on the ground. Frankly two of the tours to Iraq are about equal to an annual training cycle for reserve soldiers….

Most Army Reserve and National Guard units deploy for 12-15 months consecutively to a combat theater – while I applaud Sgt Botta’s service, he has not done the share that many Reserve and Guard soldiers have in extended deployment. His argument for educational deferment I can see – till the end of the Semester. Many serve as required – with similar issues – it’s a sacrifice to be a soldier – Erik – you haven’t had it all that bad.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The book has come out

In August 2004 I was one of the 98th Division Iroquois soldiers call up to deploy to Iraq as part of MNSTC-I. I went to work with the soldiers mentioned in the book Iroquois Warriors in Iraq published by the Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The book was put together by Steven Clay. As noted in the forward to the book:

Prior to 2004, a US Army Reserve institutional training division had never deployed overseas to a theater of operations, nor were they designed to function as unit trainers and combat advisors. The author highlights the challenges faced by the 98th Division as it trained for and deployed to Iraq for this unusual mission. Among those challenges were how to train and prepare for the mission, who to send, how to integrate reservists into the new Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), and whether to deploy the 98th as a unit or as a collection of individual soldiers.
Throughout the turbulent period of 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, the soldiers of the 98th Division added to the proud legacy of the US Army Reserve. Iroquois Warriors in Iraq tells the story of the history of the 98th Division (IT), it is a compelling narrative of the earliest phases of the Army’s efforts to build the Iraqi armed forces,

Steve did a good job laying out the state of affairs that we as Reserve soldiers faced with the lack of information and a quick deployment to all manner of conditions and challenges. In the book he illustrates several individual 98th Division Soldier’s incredible contributions to the MNSTC-I mission with an honest and frank narrative that pulls no punches. The reading is focused on one Reserve Unit deployment, but provides some insight into the flexibilities and capabilities of a well led organization in a combat theater. I know many of the contributors and their stories are true and really encapsulate the year we spent in country.

Steve provides a fair analysis of the deployment and concludes the book with sound conclusions in chapter 8. He has some great ideas that he floats in this chapter. I particularly like the thoughts on greater infusion of the active and reserve component. As he notes many of today’s senior Active Duty Leadership has more knowledge of the Navy and Airforce as a result of joint assignments that they posess of 2/3rd of the Army in the Reserves and National Guard.

The last note here is the quote attributed to Gen Petraeus

I think they should be justly proud of what they did. In some cases they did missions for which they were completely suited; in other cases, just like everybody else in Iraq, they did missions that were not familiar to them and they responded admirably in each case. . . . To say we couldn’t have done it without . . . the 98th would be a huge understatement, so they ought to look on this episode in their history with pride.12

Yes, I’m proud of the work done by the 98th Division Reserve Soldiers and all those that preceeded and have served since – Thanks to Steve Clay – one story of Reserve Component success has been told.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mortaritaville - song from Iraq

I heard the song linked here the first time (Mortaritaville) while I was with MNSTC-I in the IZ in fall of 2004 - that song struck a chord with me as a Reservist in Iraq and I have the MP3 file of the song that I pulled off the network over there. We listened to it in our shop and when on the road in thin skinned vehicles...

It was recorded by JR Schultz and Nick Brown a couple National Guard soldiers in the IZ in the fall of 2004 at FOB Warrior. They were with the 1/153 inf from the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Brigade. I asked them permission to share it with a wider audience - As fellow soldiers stationed in Iraq I appreciate the sentiment in the song and I felt compelled to add some of my pictures from Iraq to complete the sentiment. That result can be seen on you tube - Mortaritaville the movie

Their site says
"We started writing songs while serving in Iraq with no predetermined ambitions beyond pleasing family and friends. However, as our music was passed around, we were thrilled to find that everyone seemed to enjoy it. We are not professional singers, songwriters, or musicians. We represent the average soldier serving in Iraq."

These guys just sell these CDs off the web at their site Iraq Songs and don't do any promotion to speak of so it always helps to get a little assistance from those who enjoy the music. They said
"Turns out, sounds like you were one of the first to get your hands on the song, we recorded it in the IZ in the fall of 2004 at FOB Warrior. We were with the 1/153 inf from the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Brigade. I know our music has made it's rounds with e-mail and file sharing and I really think most people would like to know where they could hear the rest of our music. I recently ran into an electrician and after talking to him a while, learned he did some private contract work in Mosul, Iraq in 05-06. Out of curiosity, I asked him if he'd ever heard "Mortaritaville" and he actually had it on his iPod."

As in every conflict - sometimes the songs that come out speak volumes about the truths of service - Motaritaville gives a little bit of what did I get myself into message and reflects that even in the uncertainty of a war zone we can still laugh at ourselves as soldiers... Hats off to these soldiers for sharing with us.