Friday, October 26, 2007

My Baby in AIT

My daughter graduated High School last June and shipped to OSUT which is Basic Training then advanced individual Military skill training (AIT) immediately following. She started her military career journey at Basic training on 2 July.

I wrote about my daughter’s progress before – so this is an update – she completed Basic Training several weeks ago and is now in the middle of AIT. She has mastered the routine and hours of school, hands on training, numbing succession of topics for her specialty (Military Police) and has changed in a remarkable way as a result.

I am a product of the same system and yet I still marvel at the transformation of my little Girl into a soldier… she is certainly team oriented and seems to be making comments about her platoon, squad and their activities. She has morphed from the Mall Girl into a GI Jane of sorts, stronger, leaner and more determined to exceed…. I talk with her and realize that she is growing in maturity, poise, confidence to an extent that is never realized by many people…. She has gained it in 15 weeks in the Army.

She has a little more freedom and privileges now in the latter stages of her training. She can have a cell phone in off duty hours and can call more often. She is not aware of the changes that have occurred to the extent that I see them in her demeanor and attitude.

She has grasped that she is part of a special group of patriots that serve their country…the soldier. She is developing an evolving sense that she is gaining personally while having the honor of serving her country. She answered a calling that she heard as a whisper when she signed up, but now knows well - she is Army Strong.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pictures from Iraq

They are now a little dated - but I have had several requests for the links for the two windows media files that I assembled that tell a little about my time in Iraq.

The pictures are nearly entirely my own... I felt the music complimented the mood at the time very well.

My own video of my time in Iraq

A more humorous look at Iraq

I heard the song (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.

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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Active to Reserve and Back

At The AUSA convention LT Gen Stultz says The Army Reserve “is very, very healthy” as it celebrates its 100th birthday next year, but the component faces some key challenges. LTG Stultz is the commanding general of the Army Reserve.

He noted that The Army Reserve has surpassed recruiting and retention goals which was expected and necessary for the the growth of the Army Reserve. He noted the quality of Reserve Soldiers which those of us in the system knew about for years despite the challenges of the tiered readiness systems of the past.

As reported in the Army Times he is attributed as discussing the dynamics of the recruitment effort between active and reserve components:

The Reserve has about 191,000 soldiers, but it is authorized an end strength of 205,000… We lose more than 7,000 soldiers who’re choosing to go to the active component . We’re not getting that much back.” In the past, more soldiers opted to switch from the active Army to the Reserve, but that trend is now reversed.

This is not to be unexpected in today’s environment – the ability to test the waters for Reserve soldiers has never been greater that it is today. In years past the typical Reserve soldier was virtually unable to go on to active duty as strength limits, grade caps and other obstacles prevented such movement in all but a handful of cases. The Osmosis of soldiers from the Reserve to the Active component is likely to be good for the longer term for the Reserves as those soldiers are a live representation of Reserve Soldiers everywhere long after the current conflict is over. The effect is similar to the benefit of Active Component soldiers coming to Reserve Assignments in the past.

We will see more Active duty soldiers coming into the Reserves eventually…. As a soldier that made the transition from Active Duty to Army Reserve in the eighties I was quickly corrected in my attitude about how dedicated and rigorous the Reserve service ethic was. The units were poorly equipped and funded, but the soldiers had a lot of dedication… that is reflected today in the outstanding service offered by the Reserve Component – Army Reserve and National Guard.

The growth of the Reserve component and the planned improvements in Fulltime staffing, equipment, active component attitudes will be enhanced by a continued exchange of soldiers in the future… easily traversed avenues for transfer between active and reserve components should be planned and available to sustain the partnership born in the current conflict from necessity. It is in the interests of the Army, as a whole, to maintain the more harmonious relationship fostered by need and grow a healthy force to provide for our defense in the future.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reserve Component Mobilization

There is a new policy setting the total mobilization period for reserve-component units and/or individuals to 12 months. Previously, deploying RC Soldiers would spend as much as 18 months on active duty away from home. This included a 12-month tour in the combat zone, post-mobilization/pre-deployment training, and post-deployment recovery periods. Under the new policy, both the post-mobilization/pre-deployment training and the time a unit spends with actual boots on the ground in the combat zone must be no more than 12 months total (post-deployment recovery and end-of-tour leave is not included in the 12 months). The new policy requires units to conduct as much training as possible at their home stations prior to actual mobilization in order to maximize the amount of time they are available to the combatant commander.

Perhaps anticipating my concern at hearing of this training shift there is information regarding just how the training will be planned. First Army – the U.S. Army’s lead organization for training and mobilization of RC units developed models for both pre- and post-mobilization training. The new training models shift many individual and squad/platoon level collective tasks, formerly done after mobilization at First Army’s mobilization training centers, to homestation training executed throughout the year prior to unit mobilization.

This may brief well – but are the resources, allocations of range time, dollars available to complete this training. A perennial issue of the past was the difficulty for Reserve Component organizations to get ammunition, equipment, facilities to conduct training such as weapons qualification, land navigation, unit functional and METL training, Combat Lifesaver training and medical screening. FBCB2 equipment is an example – are we teaching basic land navigation with map and compass or providing the tool used in Iraq to navigate? I hope the latter for that was not done prior to my deployment and my life depended on learning GPS and then FBCB2 in combat conditions.

The plan also calls for earlier alert and more intensive pre-mobilization training also allow units to build more cohesive teams prior to mobilization. Post-mobilization training will focus more on complex, higher-level collective training and an ARTEP (Army Training and Evaluation Program) exercise that tests and validates a unit’s readiness to deploy for combat. Great idea if the unit has an ARTEP standard – MNSTC-I bound Training Division soldiers had no such document prior to our deployment so it may have to be accepted that adaptation may be needed. Adding ARTEP training requirements to a fulltime IDT mission set will be difficult unless additional drills are authorized.

For planning, these are good initiatives, and if resourced with knowledgeable trainers (not non-deployed/able soldiers from another Reserve unit) will provide a much more efficient training model for Reserve units. Accordingly if applied to consistent training standards for both pre- and post-mobilization training, fair and realistic validation of unit or individual readiness will foster a better partnership between the receiving organizations and the better trained soldiers arriving in theater.

I realize I’m a little old school – but I hope it isn’t a mandate pushing more requirements on Reserve units without an equal resourcing of the Fulltime personnel, facilities and equipment needed to complete the task to the First Army Standard.

Monday, October 01, 2007

U.S. Didn't Track Weapons

Once again there is the continued witch hunt regarding the accountability of weapons within MNSTC-I as noted in the Associated Press Report: U.S. Didn't Track Weapons For Iraqis written by By Richard Lardner. In the article the issue that has been known of the thousands of rifles, pistols, sets of body armor, vehicles and radios, along with millions of rounds of ammunition, had been delivered to Iraqis which could not be accounted for.

As I have said previously in this Blog that we were pushed to deliver an equipped Iraqi Army and security force from Scratch (thanks to decisions made in March 2004). In the headlong push to arm Iraqi forces we did not adequately keep good records. For what its worth, there still is no regulatory guidance for just what exactly is the prescribed standard for such accountability. What we know in hindsight is that an accountant today cannot reconstruct with the records what happened to 190,000 weapons according to one audit.

An October 2006 audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction said there was "questionable accuracy" and "incomplete accountability" in the way MNSTC-I managed weapons. Again – the luxury of detailed recordkeeping in a war zone with a foreign military is not an easy task by any standard.

What I like is the response from Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton

He expected the inspector general would find that there were too few people to handle the enormous influx of weapons and money into the country. One of the greatest irritants to me was watching the Pentagon cooking along at full strength while we in Iraq were running on a very thin personnel shoestring.

MG Eaton preceded Gen Petraeus and has made an accurate but overlooked observation.

I stated in my Blog previously that in MNSTC-I we were pressed to do many things quickly, not with quality…. Americans, Politicians and the Press all expected performance that continues to prove elusive. As MG Eaton says further in the article

There have never been enough people, and there has never been enough bureaucratic support and effort to do this thing properly

And I have noted before that Gen Petraeus said many times in country to those of us on his staff “this experience is like building an aircraft that is already in flight."

The 20-20 hindsight of those that were not there is not really in focus in my mind... It should be filtered through the effort and intent.