Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An outsider's Point of View

Sometimes the observations of an outsider speak very eloquently about our soldier. This article was done by a French Soldier stationed with 101st soldiers in Afganistan. He provides an interesting point of view I think is worth reading

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors ! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the ennemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

Well said - happy Thanksgiving to US troops stationed wherever in the world

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Camp Cropper Pictures

I stumbled upon Time Magazines site with pictures of Camp Cropper. For those of you that read this Blog, you know that my daughter is stationed at that installation with her Reserve unit.

A glimpse inside of a detention facility with some of Time magazine's photos and comments. They can be found here -,29307,1856440_1793043,00.html

Camp Cropper Time Photos

I saw some of the Iraqi run facilities and can assure readers that the site as pictured at Camp Cropper is significantly better for the inmates. The incapacity of the Iraqi Justice system to adjudicate the release or process for these inmates is however somehow our fault.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Army History in the making?

Seems that someone in The Army’s center for Military History is unhappy with the receipt of military reports, files and misc stuff that makes up an operational history of events for units in OIF/OEF.

In fact I remember being required to complete a unit historical report for my Battalion's actions in Iraq that took a couple of days to prepare and probably went into some dust bin somewhere – apparently the files did not make it to CMH . Wonder who has them….

Army historian says war records 'just not kept'
An Army historian today told a government declassification group that the Army is not enforcing its record-keeping policies and that it is not receiving adequate records from military units in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Records are just not kept," Dr. Richard Davis of the U.S. Army Center of Military History told the Public Interest Declassification Board at its third open meeting of the year. "As of October 2005, not one Army unit returned one record."
Davis said the units often "wipe" their hard drives when they return to the U.S. leaving little to no record of what occurred and making it difficult and sometimes impossible to write an operational history of events. He said the Army needs to stop relying on the units to provide the records and must instead go and pull records -- he said they have deployed records collectors to Iraq and Afghanistan to begin gathering records.

So it sounds like the problem isn't that the Army needs better record-keeping rules, it's that it needs to bother enforcing them. To give unit leaders carte blanche to simply erase entire histories of their tours without consequence or recourse -- as Davis suggested -- is mind boggling. How will Americans ever know what has occurred during this time of war? Is that the point? Somebody upstairs needs to take a look at this.

It sounds like a pretty lame solution “Somebody upstairs needs to take a look at this.” It will never be fixed with that dynamic offer… I’d suggest you let warfighters do their thing and some staff weenie for the center for Military history deploy forward to collect the pertinent materials they seek… get exactly what they need rather than rely upon hard working soldiers to support the CMH mission.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Classic Staff Officer Moments from IRAQ

I have heard a few of these classic staff officer comments over the years - Thought I'd share them.

Staff officer quotes:
"I may be slow, but I do poor work..." MAJ (USAREUR)

"The 'L' in CENTCOM stands for leadership..."

"Whatever happened to good old-fashioned military leadership? Just task the first two people you see."

"Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress."

"When all else fails, simply revel in the absurdity of it all." LCDR (CENTCOM)

"Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity." LTC (CENTCOM)

"Other than the fact that there's no beer, an early curfew, and women that wear face coverings for a reason, Kabul is really a wonderful place to visit." LTC (CENTCOM)

"It was seen, visually." LTC (EUCOM) during a Reconnaissance briefing

"Let me tell you about the benefits of being on a s! taff..." "This should be a short conversation." LtCol to Lt Col (EUCOM)

"If you want to take down a country, gimme a call. We'll get it done." GO/FO (EUCOM) to a gathering of US Ambassadors

"Hello gentlemen. Are we in today or are you just ignoring my request?" GS-15 (DSCA) in an email to EUCOM staffers

"After seeing the way this place works, I bet that Mickey Mouse wears a EUCOM watch." Maj (EUCOM)

"Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams." Maj (CENTCOM) on the daily thrashings delivered to AOs at his Command

"South of the Alps and East of the Adriatic, paranoia is considered mental equilibrium..."

"The chance of success in these talks is the same as the number of 'R's' in 'fat chance...'" GS-15 (SHAPE)

"His knowledge on that topic is only power point deep..." MAJ (JS)

"I finally figured out that when a Turkish officer tells you, 'It's no problem', he means, for him." Maj (EUCOM)

OSD will continue to drive this cart into the ground long after the wheels have been sold on E-bay." MAJ (JS) on the progress of FIF

"Please don't laugh. This is my job." Maj (EUCOM) from Protocol, explaining in great detail the approved procedures for dropping off VIPs

"If we wait until the last minute to do it, it'll only take a minute." MAJ (EUCOM)

"The only reason that anything ever gets done is because there are pockets of competence in every command. The key is to find them...and then exploit the hell out of 'em." CDR (CENTCOM)

"Working with Hungary is like watching a bad comedy set on auto repeat." LCDR (EUCOM)

"Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?" CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vs. sea

"We are condemned men who are chained and will row in place until we rot." LtCol (CENTCOM) on life at his Command

"Right now we're pretty much the ham in a bad ham sandwich..." GO/FO (EUCOM)

"One of the secrets to maintaining my positive attitude in this job is this: I complete no tasker before its time..." MAJ (EUCOM)

"I guess this is the wrong power cord for the computer, huh?" LtCol (EUCOM) after the smoke cleared from plugging his 110V computer into a 220V outlet

"OK, this is too stupid for words." LTC (JS)

"When you get right up to the line that you're not supposed to cross, the only person in front of you will be me!" CDR (CENTCOM) on his view of the value of being politically correct in today's military
"There's nothing wrong with crossing that line a little bit, it's jumping over it buck naked that will probably get you in trouble..." Lt Col (EUCOM) responding to the above

"Great! What we really need are some more 0-5s around here..." MAJ (EUCOM) on the release of the list of 0-5 promotables

"Don't ever be the first...don't ever be the last... and don't ever volunteer to do anything...." CDR (EUCOM) relating an ancient Navy truism

"Are you sure they aren't writing about us? Hell, at least we should jump on that wholesale desertion thing..." Maj (CENTCOM) on the following report from a newspaper: "(The Iraqi military was crippled by)...a multitude of erratic orders and strategic miscalculations, while its fighting units barely communicated with one another and were paralyzed from a lack of direction...these woes were compounded by incompetence, poor preparation, craven leadership and the wholesale desertions of thousands of soldiers..."

"We have no position on that issue. In fact, your position IS our position. Could you tell us what our position is?" CDR (TRANSCOM) at a policy SVTC

"Never pet a burning dog." LTC (Tennessee National Guard)

"A staff action is like getting an out of state check, countersigned by a fraud on a phony ID: some of the time it clears, but most of the time, you're screwed." Lt Col (USAF)

"I need intelligence, not information." Maj (EUCOM)

"Ah, the joys of Paris: a unique chance to swill warm wine and be mesmerized by the dank ambrosia of unkempt armpits..." LCDR (NAVEUR)

"'Status quo,' as you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in...'" Attributed to former President Ronald Reagan

"We are now past the good idea cutoff point..." MAJ (JS) on the fact that somebody always tries to "fine tune" a COA with more "good ideas"

"The hardest thing about having a third child is switching from 1-on-1 to a zone defense." MAJ (EUCOM)

"Nobody ever said you had to be smart to make 0-6." Col (EUCOM)

"I haven't complied with a darn thing and nothing bad has happened to me yet."

"The first question I ask myself when tasked to do something that's not obviously and overwhelmingly in my own best interest is, 'Exactly what happens if I don't do it?'"

"Accuracy and attention to detail take a certain amount of time." "No need to tip our hand as to how responsive we can be." CDR (EUCOM) in a passdown to his replacement

"I seem to be rapidly approaching the apex of my mediocre career." MAJ (JS)

"I just realized that this War on Terror might take a little longer than we thought, so I am developing a new system of hanging charts on walls to solve our problem and win the war! ." LTC (EUCOM) after a review of long range Counter Terrorism (CT) plans

"None of us is as dumb as all of us." Excerpted from a brief (EUCOM)

"Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." LTC (JS) on OIF coalition-building

"It's not a lot of work unless you have to do it." LTC (EUCOM)

"I'm gonna have to leave work early today and probably stay home tomorrow. I'm fighting off a cold and I want to beat it before I start my leave in two days." MAJ (EUCOM)

"Creating smoking holes gives our lives meaning and enhances our manliness." LTC (EUCOM) at a CT conference

"Interagency is a process, not a noun. Anonymous (EUCOM)

"Eventually, we have to 'make nice' with the French, although, since I'm new in my job, I have every expectation that I'll be contradicted." DOS rep at a Counter Terrorism Conference

"Everyone should have an equal chance, but not everyone is equal."

"I am so far down the food chain that I've got plankton bites on my butt."

"You can get drunk enough to do most anything, but you have to realize going in that there are some things that, once you sober up and realize what you have done, will lead you to either grab a 12-gauge or stay drunk for the rest of your life."

"Once you accept that a dog is a dog, you can't get upset when it barks." Lt Col (USSOCOM), excerpts

"That guy just won't take 'yes' for an answer." MAJ (EUCOM)

"Let's just call Lessons Learned what they really are: institutionalized scab picking."

"I can describe what it feels like being a Staff Officer in two words: distilled pain." CDR (NAVEUR)

"I hear so much about Ft. Bragg. Where is it?" "It's in the western part of southeastern North Carolina." LCDR and CPT (EUCOM)

"Mark my words, this internet thing is gonna catch on someday." LTC (EUCOM)

"You're not a loser. You're just not my kind of winner..." GS-14 (OSD)

"He who strives for the minimum rarely attains it." GS-12 (DOS)

"I'm tired of waiting on somebody who I know is just going to ignore me once they arrive." Lt Col (EUCOM), while waiting to start a brief for a visiting VIP

"If I'd had more time, I'da written a shorter brief..." Derived from
the writings of Mark Twain

"Vision without funding is hallucination." Maj (EUCOM)

"I work at EUCOM. I know bullshit when I see it." LTC (EUCOM) in a game of office poker

"You only know as much as you don't know." GO (EUCOM)

"I'm just livin' the dream..." EUCOM staffer response to the question, "How's it going?" or, "What are you doing?"

"I'm just ranting...I have nothing useful to say." LTC (EUCOM)
"Why would an enemy want to bomb this place and end all the confusion?" GS-14 (EUCOM)

"How soon before we can give this guy a medal, a good OER, and send him on his way?" GS-12 (EUCOM) referring to his boss

"Your Key Issues are so 2003..." CPT (CJTF-180) in January 2004

"USCENTCOM commanders announced today that they intend to maintain their presence in Qatar 'until the sun runs out of hydrogen,' thus committing the US to the longest duration deployment in human history. When asked how they planned to maintain the presence in Qatar for a projected length of 4 to 5 billion years, planners said we're working on a plan for that. We don't have one yet, but not having a plan or an intelligent reason to do something has never been much of an impediment for us in the past; we don't foresee it being a big show stopper for us in the future either.' Among the options that were being discussed was an innovative program to "interbreed" the deployed personnel. 'We are going to actively encourage the military members in Qatar to intermarry and raise children that will replace them in the future. Sure, it may be a little hard on some of our female service members, since there currently are about 8 men for every woman over there, but we expect that to be OBE as the sex ratios will even out in a generation or two. In any case the key to the plan is to make these assignments not only permanent, but inheritable and hereditary. For example, if you currently work the JOC weather desk, so will your children, and their children, and their children, ad> infinitum. We like to think of it as job security.'" CPT (CJTF-180)

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm the only one that matters in here." COL (CENTCOM)

"No matter how hard this Command beats me down, I am still able to get it up." Maj (EUCOM)

"I keep myself confused on purpose, just in case I am captured and fall into enemy hands!" GO/FO (CENTCOM)

"Does anybody around here remember if I did anything this year?" LTC (EUCOM) preparing his Officer Evaluation Report support form

"This is all happening because we had the sympathetic detonation of a
stress grenade." Maj (EUCOM) after an insignificant issue became a theater focus because somebody used the "Reply all" function

"I'd be happy to classify this document for you. Could you tell me its classification?" GS11 (EUCOM) in an email ! from the Foreign Disclosure office

"Nothing is too good for you guys... and that's exactly what you're gonna get..." LTC (EUCOM) describing the way Army policy is formulated

"The only thing that sucks worse than being me is being you..." LTC (EUCOM)

"Why should I worry? Nobody here outranks me by that much." MAJ (SOCEUR) briefing a group of 0-6s
"I have to know what I don't know..." Col (CENTCOM) during a shift changeover briefing

"No. Now I'm simply confused at a higher level..." Foreign GO/FO when asked if he had any questions following a transformation brief at JFCOM

"'Leaning forward' is really just the first phase of 'falling on your face.'" Col (MARFOREUR)

"I've heard of 'buzzwords' before but I have never experienced a 'buzz sentence' or a 'buzz paragraph' until today." Ma(EUCOM) after listening to a JFCOM trainer/mentor!

"We've got to start collaborating between the collaboration systems."

"Our plan for the Olympics is to take all the ops and put it in the special room we have developed for ops." GO/FO (EUCOM)

"Did you hear that they're canning Bob Edwards on NPR?" "Why? Did they catch him standing up for the National Anthem or something?" COL to CDR (EUCOM)

"We're from the nuke shop, sir. We're the crazy aunt in the closet that nobody likes to talk about ..." Lt Col to GO/FO (EUCOM) in briefings

"We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." Anonymous, but classic...

"He cloaked himself in an impenetrable veneer of terminology." Lt Col (JFCOM) describing the Jiffiecom alpha male

"There are more disconnects on this issue than CENTCOM has staff officers." GO/FO (EUCOM)

"Is that a Navy or a Marine admiral?" MAJ (EUCOM)