Friday, March 26, 2010

5 years ago today

It was 5 years ago that we loaded up our armored vehicles and headed to Baqubah, Iraq. A warm spring day in Iraq and we had the task of going to look at several police stations, District police facilities and a couple potential military facilities. The day was going to be a long one – Easter Weekend in Iraq. We had lived a charmed life so far in the deployment up to that point. On the ground since September 2004 and few exciting incidents other than the daily impersonal bombings, mortar and rocket attacks in the IZ.

That all changed it seems the day I earned the Combat Action Badge. Easter Sunday, 27 March 2005 – 5 years ago. It was that day after an curiously inauspicious day in Baqubah that on our return – someone detonated a large IED aimed at taking us out… suddenly it got to be personal and direct.

Never before that day did we feel like anything other than invincible and immune from attack… after all we had led a charmed life…laughing as we drove past IEDs, charging through the streets of Baghdad, Ramadi, Mahmudiah and other towns with the chip on invincibility on our shoulders. We could not be concerned with the danger as we were completing our often overwhelming job of emplacing Iraqi Military Facilities. Afterall, we started our tour using Nissan Patrol SUVs with the windows down, cruising Route Irish when it was really dangerous…now we were armored. We were American Soldiers with all the answers and swagger we could muster…. until that day someone took it personal.

That day was the first of several ever more direct actions for our members in MNSTC-I. We had 5 months left in country and it suddenly became serious in a manner that I marvel at even to this day.

Ours was not a unique story…many had a far more dangerous task, many had it far safer… we all served honorably from our unit that went to Iraq. What I’m sure of, based upon the experience, is that we also were all changed by the trip and events…. 5 years ago.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gay service in the Military

I was a soldier for 24 years in a variety of assignments. Over the course of my career I came in contact with lots of different military personnel, and I never identified any one by their sexual preference while in the line of duty.

We discuss the concept of allowing gay soldiers to serve “openly”. The word "openly" bothers some people. To my knowledge we've never allowed a heterosexual soldier to practice his/her sexuality "openly." Nor should we allow a gay soldier to practice his/her sexuality “openly”.

When soldiers are off duty, they are allowed to pursue their own lives and interest within reason. And I am a fervent believer that what they do behind closed doors is their business. I don’t see the need to consider such activities as if we will suddenly be faced with some “open” sexuality issue within the ranks. As I have said in previous posts, I really don’t care what religion, hobbies, activities, music, party affiliation, color of underwear, etc… a soldier has or enjoys… it’s a matter of professional competence that determines who shares my foxhole.

It’s time to stop letting the media and special interest groups making soldier service by gays an issue. I’d say welcome all physically and mentally qualified people into the armed forces. I don’t need to know nor do I require you to proclaim your sexual preference. Don’t ask, don’t tell – replace it with doesn’t matter.

Practice your soldier skills, do them well, and we’ll get along just fine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alcohol in the Warzone

In the Marine Times this week is an article by Rick Maze – he describes comments by Senator Jim Webb regarding the alcohol policy in the warzone. The policy – known as General Order Number 1 is a policy of no alcohol, pornography, etc… that has been in force for deployed soldiers everywhere since at least 1991. As noted in the article found here

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent who now chairs the Senate panel that oversees military personnel policy, seemed to endorse the idea of letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.

We know that our soldier are highly stressed. Jim has taken a shot at the military’s sacred cow of moral righteousness – embodied in the general order. As he said

One thing worth investigating, Webb said, is whether a ban on alcohol consumption in the war zones — which he said is primarily a nod to host-nation sensitivities — should be lifted.

Well I agree with Jim to consider lifting the ban, but I believe the ban on alcohol is more an outright effort of the Defense Departments senior leadership to restrict any basic freedom not meeting a highly refined puritanical ideal embodied by a few high ranking members.

Soldiers are men and women - a few drinks in off hours, away from host nation members would go a long way towards reducing the burden they carry